Dot Scribbles

3.8.15

BOOK REVIEW: Fresh Hell by Rachel Johnson

Debt, double basements, dastardly bankers...and DIVORCE!
'Hell is other people' and journalist Mimi Fleming is fast realising on her return to Notting Hill that there is no greater hell than the W11 neighbours with whom she shares an exclusive communal garden.
Since she's been away, all her friends have become-impossibly-even richer, thinner and YOUNGER. They're busy not just turning back the clock but also their home into palatial iceberg houses- with basement swimming pools.
But Mimi's troubles are just beginning. There's the compromising and risky mission she's undertaking to re-launch her so-called journalism career (plus an embarrassing case of mistaken identity thanks to Google) Then there's her children who will only communicate via WhatsApp. And worst of all, Mimi's fallen for someone and it's certainly not her husband Ralph.
Ralph and Mimi have already been to Notting Hell and back. But is this the end or the beginning of something new?

Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 304

I hate, hate, hate writing negative reviews but this book really didn't do it for me. It is the first book I have read by Rachel Johnson and I sadly didn't enjoy it as much as I was expecting to. Fresh Hell follows on from Notting Hell which I haven't read but I don't think you need to. The main characters are Mimi and Clare and they are really not my type of women. The book is really an exploration and comment on the super-wealthy who seem to be takingover London. There were times when I found Rachel Johnson's writing to be witty and observant but there were other times when I wasn't too sure whether she was being funny or deadly serious. The author is clearly writing about a world of which she has experience but it left me feeling rather uncomfortable; I was not sure whether Johnson was trying to make me laugh at these people or envy them.
As I said, Johnson is brilliantly observant and witty but this book just felt a little tired to me, I feel as though I have read several books with a similar idea behind them so I was a little disappointed. I will try this author again as maybe I was just unlucky with this one?

Many thanks to Penguin for allowing me to review this book via Netgalley. 

27.7.15

BOOK REVIEW: The Spider in the Corner of the Room by Nikki Owen

What to believe
Who to betray
When to run...
Plastic surgeon Dr Maria Martinez has Aspergers, convicted of killing a priest, she is alone, in prison and has no memory of the murder.
DNA evidence places Maria at the scene of the crime, yet she claims she's innocent. Then she starts to remember...
A strange room. Strange people. Being watched. As Maria gets closer to the truth, she is drawn into a web of international intrigue and must fight, not only to clear her name but to stay alive.

Publisher: Mira
Pages: 368

The Spider in the Corner of the Room was such a different take on the thriller and I really enjoyed it. It is book one of the Project Trilogy which is very exciting as we know that we will get at least two more books from this exciting new author.
Dr Maria Cruz-Martinez is a Spanish consultant who has just been convicted of the brutal murder of a priest. However, she cannot remember the murde
r even though forensic evidence has placed her at the scene. In the first chapter we meet Maria as she begins her new life in prison; terrifying for most I would imagine but someone with Aspergers it is hell. Maria having Aspergers makes her even more interesting as it makes the reader look at things differently as that is what Maria does. It is a very large focus of the book but it in no way infringes on the fast-paced nature of the story. The writing reflects Maria's Aspergers; there are times when it goes back and forth and there were times when I wasn't sure if Maria was having a flashback or if it was something she had imagined.
There is a lot going on in this book and the pace is extremely fast, you feel as though you are being taken along for a ride and you need to hang on,
The Spider in the Corner of the Room is original and well written. Nikki Owen makes it all entirely believable and you want to invest your emotions in the character and plot. I really, really liked Maria and it will be so interesting to see what happens in the next instalment.

Many thanks to the people at Mira for sending me a copy of the book to review.  

20.7.15

BOOK REVIEW: The Sun in Her Eyes by Paige Toon

Blinding sunshine...A bend in the road...
What became of the little girl with the sun in her eyes?
Amber was three when a car crash stole her mother's life. She doesn't remember the accident, but a stranger at the scene has been unable to forget. Now, almost thirty years later, she's trying to track Amber down.
Amber, meanwhile, is married to Ned and living on the other side of the world in London. When her father has a stroke, she flies straight home to Australia to be with him. Away from her husband, Amber finds comfort in her oldest friends, but her feelings for Ethan, the gorgeous, green-eyed man she once fell for, have never been platonic.
As Ethan and Amber grow closer, married life in London feels very far away. Then Amber receives a letter that changes everything:
'Before your mother died, she asked me to tell you something...' 

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Pages: 385

I knew I was in for a treat when a review copy of Paige Toon's new book popped through my letterbox. The Sun in Her Eyes (fab title) is a perfect summer read. Obviously I'm glad that I've read it but I would say that this book would be the perfect holiday read as it has a little bit of everything.
Amber's mother was killed in a car crash when Amber was just three. She was in the car at the time but has no memory of it and no real memories of her mother. Nearly thirty years after the accident, a lady who was first on the scene is trying to locate Amber  as she promised her dying mother that she would pass on her message.
Amber has moved continent since then though, she left Australia for London where she is happily married to Ned. However, Amber's father has a stroke so she flies across to the other side of the world to be with him. Whilst back home she catches up with her childhood friends, including Ethan who she once loved. Amber and Ethan spend a lot of time together and she begins to question her marriage to Ned. If Ethan had returned her feelings years ago then would she even have met her loving husband? As Amber battles with her emotions and cares for her father; the lady from the accident is trying to find her, maybe their paths will cross now she is back at her family home.
Paige Toon has written such a good story, she carefully entwines the different elements together to make a book that you won't want to put down. I had so many questions throughout; what would happen with Amber and Ethan; does Amber still love Ned; what were her mother's final words?
I liked Amber, she is no way perfect but I did feel for her when she was torn between Ned and Ethan. It was interesting to think about the people you may have had feelings for as a teenager, how do those feelings translate when you are older? Is the memory actually better than the reality?
The Sun in Her Eyes is a marvellous book, perfect for those summer days we are having.

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster for sending me a review copy.

17.7.15

BOOK REVIEW: The Playground by Julia Kelly

Eve is putting her life together again.
Her partner has walked out on her.
She's moved into a tiny flat on the outskirts of Dublin.
She has no job.
But she does have her beloved baby daughter and there's a little playground across the street. It's a tired spot for teenagers and tramps, but Eve is determined to make this new life work. Alongside her interfering lodger and a group of local mums she swings into action to make the playground the heart of the community.
But not all games are innocent- and not all friends are true. When a terrible accident is blamed on her, Eve must forge her own independence- and realise that the playground is not a place to hide from adulthood. 

Publisher: Quercus
Pages: 272

The Playground is the first book that I have read by Julia Kelly  but I very much enjoyed it.
Her writing style is quite disjointed but this just adds to the overall feel of the book. She does't necessarily want you to curl up and have a cosy time; she almost sets out to challenge you as a reader.
Eve's life is in turmoil, her partner Joe has walked out on her and their three year old daughter Addie. Her self-esteem is at an all time low and due to money worries they have had to leave their family home and move to a small flat in Bray. Eve just wants to make everything right for Addie who she loves more than life. So when an opportunity arises to improve the playground across the road, she jumps right in, not knowing what the consequences will be.
I can't really compare this book to any others I have read; I found Julia Kelly's narration original and absorbing. Eve is a fantastic character; there are times when we get almost a stream of conciousness from her which was very enlightening but almost made her seem even more vulnerable as I felt that I knew so much about her.
The Playground is a very enticing story that quickly draws you in. Julia Kelly is highly descriptive in her writing so it is easy to become absorbed in the world that she has created; I would highly recommend this book.

Many thanks to Quercus for sending me a review copy, The Playground is out now! 

14.7.15

BOOK REVIEW: Love Notes for Freddie by Eva Rice

Marnie Fitzpatrick is a reclusive sixth-former from Hertfordshire with a dysfunctional family, a penchant for Pythagoras' Theorem and an addiction to doughnuts and gin. Julie Crewe is a disillusioned maths teacher who lives vicariously through the girls she teaches, yet who once danced barefoot through Central Park with a man called Jo she has never been able to forget.
This is the story of what happened in the summer of 1969, when the sun burned down on the Shredded Wheat factory and a boy called Freddie Friday danced to the records he had stolen. This is about first love, and last love, and all the strange stuff inbetween. This is what happens when three people are bound together by something that can't be calculated or explained by an equation.
This is what happened when they saw the open door.

Publisher: Heron Books
Pages: 336

I was a huge fan of Eva Rice's book The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets  but sadly I have not read her other books so I was really pleased to be offered the opportunity to review her latest novel, Love Notes for Freddie. 
The book had two narrators, Marnie Fitzpatrick and Julie Crewe. Marnie is in the sixth form of a prestigious girls school in Hertfordshire. She is excellent at maths and when celebrating an amazing exam result she does something completely out of character which leads to her being expelled and the course of her life altered forever.
Julie Crewe is Marnie's maths teacher; teaching was not her first choice of career, she wanted to dance more than anything. This has led her to live her life through the girls she teaches so she is devastated when Marnie acts so foolishly. She wants Marnie to follow her dreams and fulfill her potential so she continues to encourage her. It is Marnie who introduces Miss Crewe to Freddie; he works at the Shredded Wheat factory but his true love is dancing. He only does this in secret though to stolen records. Both of these women love Freddie for different reasons but he becomes their main connection. All three of them have unfulfilled dreams, how can they help each other get what they really want?
Eva Rice has written a complete gem of a book in Love Notes for Freddie. Rice's writing has a magical quality to it; she can be writing about quite mundane, everyday things but the language she chooses raises it up and gives it an almost dreamlike quality.
I took to all three main characters and having the two different narrators made it a more interesting read. Eva Rice explores different aspects of love and life in this book and it left me with a lot to think about. Love Notes for Freddie reminded me how good an author Eva Rice is and I won't be missing her books in the future.

Many thanks to Quercus Books for sending me a copy to review. 

1.7.15

BOOK REVIEW: Evil Games by Angela Marsons

The greater the evil, the more deadly the game...
When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is something far more sinister at work.
With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.
Up against a socio-path who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing and this time it's personal. 

Publisher: Bookouture

Angela Marsons just gets better! I was so excited to read the second book in the Detective Kim Stone series and I was not disappointed.
Evil Games follows Kim and the team as they investigate the murder of a rapist. Initially they think it is an individual crime but then other vengeful murders take place, they just need to find the link. As Kim investigates and trusts her gut instinct, she discovers that she is dealing with a true sociopath. A sociopath who has Kim in her sights; her past is perfect for manipulation and they will not stop until they have destroyed her.
We learn so much more about Kim Stone in this book. Her past is dealt with but the main focus is how her tragic early life affects her now. It was good to learn more about her friendship with her colleague Bryant especially as she does not let her barriers down easily.
I am not going to discuss the identity of the sociopath as it would spoil the plot but that character was probably my favourite part of the book.
Angela Marsons really gets inside their head and she highlights just how terrifying their true nature is. I felt as though this character was always a couple of steps ahead of Kim Stone and  I was left wondering if she would ever be able to stop her.
As with the first book, Angela Marsons does not hold back. There are several descriptions of extreme violence and abuse. They are not always easy to read but they make the book so much more authentic and gritty.
Evil Games cements Angela Marsons as a leading talent in this genre. I am so excited by this series; there is so much more to explore with these characters and I can't wait to join them on the next case.

Many thanks to Bookouture for allowing me to read this book via Netgalley. 

22.6.15

Book Review: Before I Go by CoLleen Oakley

Her time is running out.
How can Daisy ensure that Jack will live happily ever after?
On the eve of what was supposed to be a triumphant 'Cancerversay' with her husband Jack to celebrate three years of good health, Daisy suffers a devastating blow: her doctor tells her that the cancer is back, but this time it's terminal.
Death is a frightening prospect- but not because she's afraid for herself. Terrified of what will happen to her brilliant but charmingly helpless husband when she's no longer there to take care of him, she stumbles on the solution: she has to find him another wife.
With a singular determination, Daisy searches for Jack's perfect match. But as the thought of her husband with another woman becomes all too real, Daisy is forced to decide what's more important in the short amount of time she has left, her husband's happiness or her own?

Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Pages: 320

This book is heartbreaking but such an interesting read. I have read a few books where the main character is dying from Cancer but I think this one is the most honest.
Daisy is due to celebrate being clear of cancer for three years when her oncologist delivers the awful news that her cancer has returned and it is terminal. Her life expectancy has been reduced to months and there is nothing she can do. Daisy focuses on her husband Jack and what will happen to him once she has gone. She decides that she needs to find him a new wife so that he won't be on his own. But is she really strong enough to find her own replacement and what if Jack ends up loving someone more than her?
I really like Daisy and she goes through so, so much in this book. As you would expect, her emotions are all over the place; anger, sadness, relief, jealousy are just a few that are explored. There were times that I wanted to shout at her to just enjoy the time that she has left instead of looking for Jack's new wife. But then I had to think how I would react in that situation, knowing you only have a few months left to cram in as much as you can.
I couldn't dislike Jack as he was sc
arily like my own husband. I think it's a shame in a way that we only get the one chapter from Jack's perspective as it would have been interesting to read more about his reactions to Daisy's behaviour and illness.
Colleen Oakley doesn't hold back too much on the physical effects of Daisy's cancer and it's obvious that this book has been meticulously researched. She does not bog you down with detail but instead shows you the procedures and medications that Daisy has to endure and how they affect her.
This book is obviously incredibly sad but I have to say that I was very impressed by the level of humour that the author included in the book. The funny moments mainly occurred between Daisy and Jack but they were entirely believable and much needed.
Before I Go is a book that will make you think about how you would behave in such a situation. But more importantly it makes you take stock of how lucky you are and how that can be taken away so quickly.
Colleen Oakley has written a very interesting, highly emotive debut novel and I was very impressed.

Many thanks to Allen & Unwin for sending me a review copy, Before I Go is out now! 

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