14.1.19

BOOK REVIEW: The Adults by Caroline Hulse

Meet the Adults.
Claire and Matt are divorced but want their daughter Scarlett to have a 'normal; family Christmas with them all together.
Claire brings her seemingly eligible new partner Patrick.
Matt brings his extremely patient girlfriend Alex.
Scarlett brings her imaginary friend Posey.
He's a rabbit.
Together the five (or six?) of them grit their teeth through Organised Fun Activities, drinking a little too much after bed-time, oversharing classified secrets about their pasts and, before they know it, their holiday is a powder keg that ends- where this story starts- with a call to the police...
But what happened? They said they'd all be adults about this...

Publisher: Orion
Pages: 403

The Adults could be classified as a festive read as it is set over the Christmas period but I read it in January and still enjoyed it so don't be put off now that you've taken down your tree and eaten the last mince pie.
The Adults follows Claire and Patrick and Matt and Alex as they embark on a rather tense festive trip away. Claire and Matt are divorced but they want to give their daughter Scarlett the treat of them all spending Christmas together plus Scarlett's imaginary friend Posey who is a rabbit.
So they all set off to The Happy Forest determined to have a good time or at least not to kill each other. However, the book opens with the transcription of a 999 call requesting an ambulance to the holiday park as a guest has been shot with an archery arrow so maybe things haven't quite gone to plan.
The Adults is a highly entertaining read, it is full of awkward situations and underlying tensions constantly threatening to spill over.
I loved the idea of The Happy Forest setting, it is very much
an exaggerated version of Centre Parcs and I'm sure many readers will identify with the humour in this.
Caroline Hulse sets a good pace from the very start and it was interesting to get different character's perspectives on events taking place. There is a lot of humour within the story and many experiences that are easy to relate to and empathise with. The Adults is an easy-going and entertaining read, it was a great start to my 2019 reading.

Many thanks to Orion for sending me a copy of The Adults to review.

7.1.19

BOOK REVIEW: Transcription by Kate Atkinson

'Think of it as an adventure, Perry had said right at the beginning of all this. And it had seemed like one. A bit of a lark, she had thought. A Girls Own adventure.'
In 1940, eighteen-year-old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the  comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of these years have been relegated to the past for ever.
Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence. 

Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 333

Kate Atkinson is fast becoming one of my favourite authors. I was a huge fan of Life After Life and A God in Ruins so I was very excited to read her latest book. Transcription is wonderful. I really took my time with it as I read it over the busy Christmas period but I'm glad I didn't rush as I enjoyed it so much from start to end.
The main character is Juliet Armstrong, she's terribly British, no-nonsense and I was very fond of her by the end of the book. At the age of eighteen, Juliet is recruited by MI5 to work as a typist, transcribing the conversations between British Fascist sympathizers . As these things often played out, Juliet is soon given other duties and quickly finds herself at the centre of a tangled and dangerous web. We re-join her in 1950 where she is now working as a producer at the BBC. She thinks the war is long behind her but the past comes knocking on her door looking for answers and retribution.
I find Kate Atkinson's writing so compelling, it is wonderfully nostalgic as she discusses London during the war but she does not shy away from the horrors either. Atkinson covers bombings, murders and loss in such a clever way, her descriptions are sympathetic and full of emotion but also somehow matter of fact. Reading accounts from the war and talking to relatives who lived through it, I think she has it spot on. People were surrounded by tragedy during those years and it must have come to feel like some bizarre form of normality.
The espionage element of the book is fantastic and brilliantly subtle. There are so many instances where you are holding your breath as you just don't know what the outcome will be. Transcription is full of humour too, Atkinson slips it in in the most unexpected of places and she will have you laughing out loud.
I always get to the end of this author's books and want to shout about them from the rooftops! Transcription is wonderful, it is captivating and skilful,  you will not be disappointed.

2.1.19

Book Review: Winter by Ali Smith

Winter. Bleak. Frosty wind, earth as iron, water as stone, so the old story goes...
When four people, strangers and family, converge on a fifteen-bedroom house in Cornwall for Christmas, will there be enough room for everyone?

Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 322

I have such mixed feelings about this book so I apologise in advance for the incoherent review. I've not read anything by Ali Smith before but this caught my eye in a bookshop recently so I thought I'd give it a go.
I loved the author's use of language, her choice of words is exquisite. Some of my favourite parts of the book were past recollections by the main characters. I really appreciated the rich imagery she created and the very comforting and no
stalgic feeling it brought with it.
Some parts of the book were a little too abstract for me. There's a floating head which I found quite easy to go along with but then there was a floating cliff face which suddenly appears in the dining room and this totally lost me. I've thought a lot about it but I truly cannot understand it's purpose.
The characters are a mixed bag, none of them could be described as likeable but they are interesting. The family is highly dysfunctional but this obviously just adds interest to the story.
So as you can probably tell, I'm not too sure what I made of this book, on the one hand I enjoyed Ali Smith's writing style and use of language but on the other hand some of the concepts sadly went over my head.

12.12.18

BOOK REVIEW: One Day in December by Josie Silver

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn't exist. After all, life isn't a scene from the movies is it? But then, through a misted up bus window on a snowy December day, she sees a man she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there's a moment of pure magic... and then her bus drives away.
Laurie thinks she'll never see the boy from the bus again. But at their Christmas party a year later, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is of course, the boy from the bus.
Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life. But what if fate has other plans?
Following Laurie, Sarah and Jack through ten years of love, heartbreak and friendship, One Day in December is an up-lifting, heart-warming and immensely moving love story that you'll want to escape into forever. For fans of Jojo Moyes, Lucy Diamond and Nicholas Sparks. 

Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 432

One Day in December is such a lovely book, it is perfect to read during the festive season but would still be enjoyable at other times too.
Laurie and Jack see each other through a bus window and there is an instant connection but the bus drives off and Laurie is left searching for 'Bus Boy' as she affectionately thinks of him. A year passes and Laurie has given up hope, it comes as such a shock when her best friend Sarah introduces her to to her new boyfriend and suddenly Bus Boy is standing right in front of her. But now he is Sarah's , Laurie must hide her true feelings
in order to support Sarah who is like her sister. We follow Laurie, Jack and Sarah for the next ten years as feelings, friendship and the boundaries of love are thoroughly tested.
Josie Silver has created truly wonderful characters. It felt at times like I actually knew Laurie, Jack and Sarah. I laughed with them, shed a tear and there was more than one occasion where I wanted to thoroughly shake them.
One Day in December is a modern tale of love, it looks at the decisions we make in life and love. Laurie and Jack are meant for each other but fate and bad decisions keep them apart. As the time goes on, you do begin to wonder if they will ever get back to each other again. So much has happened and so many people have been hurt, can any good come of Laurie and Jack.
One Day in December is so well done, if you are looking for a warm, uplifting read then I can highly recommend it.

4.12.18

BOOK REVIEW: The Corset by Laura Purcell

Dorothea and Ruth.
Prison visitor and prisoner.
Powerful and powerless.
Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.
When Dorothea's charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted to have the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person's skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches. The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations- of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses- will shake Dorothea's belief in rationality and the power of redemption.
Can Ruth be trusted?
Is she mad or a murderer?

Publisher: Raven Books
Pages: 394

I was such a huge fan of The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell and I was so excited when I heard about her new book The Corset. I was also a little worried as I wasn't sure if she would be able to follow such a fantastic debut but I needn't have worried as The Corset is excellent.
Dorothea and Ruth are our focus. Two women from very different walks of life but with a very similar determined and focused nature. Ruth is an inmate of Oakgate Prison where she is on trial for the murder of her mistress Kate Metyard. Ruth does not deny the charge, she goes so far to say that she has killed others too. Yet she says she killed them all through her powers as a seamstress. She tells Dorothea how she sowed such misery and despair into these ladies garments that she killed them. Dorothea has never met anyone like Ruth before, is she mad, evil or both?
Dorothea is fascinated by phrenology which is the belief that the shape of your skull determines personality traits and so on. Ruth is a challenge for Dorothea as she does not have the skull of a murderer. Dorothea has so many questions for this tragic creature, despite what she says she has done, Dorothea is determined to help her.
Laura Purcell shows herself yet again as a master of suspense and tension. This book creeps up on you and before you know it you are soon wrapped up in the story and the dark tragic world that Purcell has created. Ruth has had such a tragic existence, each time you think she might get a break, something comes along and knocks her back down. Ruth is the embodiment of the female lower classes in the Victorian era. These women were so vulnerable and powerless, often taken advantage of and abused. Dorothea on the other hand is still in a vulnerable position but her wealth and social position does buy her a little more power, she is able to take more control of her own destiny.
I cannot recommend The Corset enough, it is one of my favourite reads of 2018. Laura Purcell weaves such rich details and imagery into her books which makes them very difficult to put down, I can guarantee that you will be thinking about them long after the last page.

30.11.18

BOOK REVIEW: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

'I seen a child killed...
He strangled it, up by the horse.'
When Billy, a troubled young man, comes to Private Eye Cormoran Strike's office to ask for his help investigating a crime he thinks he witnessed as a child, Strike is left deeply unsettled. While Billy is obviously mentally distressed, and cannot remember many concrete details, there is something sincere about him and his story. But before Strike can question him further, Billy bolts in a panic.
Trying to get to the bottom of Billy's story, Strike and Robin Ellacott- once his assistant, now a partner in the agency- set off on a twisting trail that leads them through the backstreets of London, into a secretive inner sanctum within Parliament, and to a beautiful but sinister manor house deep in the countryside.
And during this labyrinthine investigation, Strike's own life is far from straightforward: his new found fame as a private eye means he can no longer operate behind the scenes as he once did. Plus, his relationship with his former assistant  is more fraught than it has ever been- Robin is now invaluable to Strike in the business but their personal relationship is much, much more tricky than that...

Publisher: Sphere
Pages: 649

This book is huge and I didn't want it to end! I could easily have sped through it but I took my time as I think it will be a long wait for the next instalment. In the last book, Strike and Robin's partnership was in tatters and we were left wondering if Robin would walk down the aisle with Matthew. Robert Galbraith picks the story up and tells the reader what has happened and then we fast forward a year and follow Robin and Strike in the present day. The detective agency is doing well after they caught the Shackwell Ripper but both of their personal lives leave a lot to be desired. Strike is then visited by a disturbed young man called Billy who wants to tell him about the murder he witnessed many years ago. Strike could easily dismiss him as mentally unstable but Strike cannot ignore this desperate man's pleas for help. Robin and Strike begin their investigation, their most complex so far. They are soon tangled in a web of lies and corruption reaching Westminster and the upper echelons of society.
This book obviously explores the world of British politics in that we see Robin go under cover in Westminster but I also think that the author is making a comment on the current political climate we live in. Galbraith highlights the huge gulf in society between the poor and the increasingly wealthier upper classes. Politics in the UK are often led by people who come from incredible privilege and opportunity, people who have no idea about how a vast proportion of the population have to live.
Galbraith also uses the book to show the growing population of young people who are disillusioned with the current situation  but who are sadly ill equipped to make a significant change. I loved this aspect of the book and you do not have to agree with the author to see how relevant it is.
Strike and Robin are both highly vulnerable in this book. Both of them know that they are unfulfilled in their personal lives, carrying huge amounts of emotional baggage whilst being terrified of their feelings for each other and what the future may hold.
Lethal White is a fantastic read, I think it's length is justified and I did not get bored at any point. Robert Galbraith has created a series of book that I will visit again and again. Lethal White demonstrates the author's skill in creating fantastic characters and an excellent and captivating plot. I highly recommend this book and all the others in the Strike and Robin series.

16.11.18

BLOG TOUR AND GIVEAWAY: The Winters by Lisa Gabriele

I'm on the blog tour today for The Winters by Lisa Gabriele, this is a wonderful, modern re-working of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. I also have a copy to give away so please read on and visit the other blogs taking part too!
After a whirlwind romance, a young woman returns to the opulent, secluded mansion of her new fiance Max Winter- a wealthy senator and recent widower- and a life of luxury she's never known. But all is not as it appears at the Asherley estate. The house is steeped in the memory of Max's beautiful first wife Rebekah, who haunts the young woman's imagination and feeds her uncertainties, while his very alive teenage daughter Dani makes her life a living hell.
As the soon-to-be second Mrs Winter grows more in love with Max, and more afraid of Dani, she is drawn deeper into the family's dark secrets- the kind of secrets that could kill her, too.

Publisher: Harvill Secker
Pages: 324

The Winters is a fantastic re-telling of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. It is dark, edgy and fast-paced, a really well thought out and modern adaption.
Rebecca is one of my favourite books so I was not sure what to expect from Lisa Gabriele's version but I was very pleasantly surprised. I tried not to keep making comparisons but instead I just enjoyed seeing how she used the characters and ideas in a modern setting. Setting it in the Hamptons was a great idea; it is a place full of glamour and wealth, a whole new world for the new Mrs De Winter to navigate.
Gabriele brings an excellent air of tension, mainly through the character of Max's daughter Dani. This tension and intrigue kept me reading on and on because I was desperate to know that would happen when it all finally came to a head and the author certainly did not disappoint!
The Winters is a book that I can highly recommend, it is clever and compelling and I think it will bring a modern audience to this classic and enthralling tale.

Many thanks to Harvill Secker for sending me a copy of this book to review. They have also kindly offered a copy to GIVEAWAY! Simply leave a comment below by midnight on Tuesday November 27th and I will draw a name at random. ONLY OPEN TO THOSE IN THE UK! 

BOOK REVIEW: The Adults by Caroline Hulse

Meet the Adults. Claire and Matt are divorced but want their daughter Scarlett to have a 'normal; family Christmas with them all togeth...