Monday, 29 September 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

When a tragedy breaks a family apart, what can bring it together?
The Birds seem to be a perfect family: mother, father, four children, a picture-book cottage in the country.
But when something happens one Easter weekend, it is so unexpected, so devastating that no one can talk about it.
The family shatters, seemingly forever.
Until they are forced to return to the house they grew up in. And to confront what really took place all those years ago. 

Publisher: Atria Books

My lovely friend Kim at Still Reading recommended  this book to me and she had no idea that I was a huge Lisa Jewell fan. This book for me was both heartbreaking and mesmerising. Lisa Jewell weaves a story that is very difficult to read at times but the characters were so compelling and realistic that I couldn't put it down.
The Bird family has Loreli as its matriarch and she has always been a little eccentric and a compulsive hoarder. When tragedy strikes the Bird family, Loreli's eccentricities go into overdrive until there is literally no room in the house for anyone but her. She has built new walls and corridors from the items she has hoarded. The image of this ethereal woman all alone, estranged from her family is utterly devastating. Lisa Jewell shows the reader how the situation has arisen and how family secrets can have truly awful consequences.
The book is mainly told from the children's points of view and jumps back and forth between the past and present. Megan, Beth,, Rory and Rhys were close as young children, all connected by their mother, yet they are virtually strangers now; almost driven away by the woman who gave life to them.
The hoarding aspect of the book was fascinating; I have watched several programmes about this obsession and I felt that Lisa Jewell showed the devastation it can cause and the many reasons behind it. The fact that Loreli's house is a beautiful cottage in the Cotswolds almost compounds the damage. Through her hoarding she gradually loses the only thing she has left, her beautiful home, the last member of her family.
The House We Grew Up In is a thought-provoking and poignant read. I felt as though it was a lot darker than Lisa Jewell's previous books. It felt a little more grown up and personally I am a big fan of this new direction in her writing.
I can't recommend this book enough but you will definitely need to set aside some time as you won't be able to put it down.

Many thanks to Atria Books for allowing me to read a review copy via Netgalley.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Fabulous Fridays

This week on Fabulous Fridays I have made a list of 'thrillers' that I have enjoyed. I would really like to read more of this genre but I struggle to find authors that I enjoy, some of them are too predictable and some are too complicated and I lose interest. These ones however were just right, if you can recommend anymore then please let me know in the comments below. If you click on the title of these then you will be taken to my original review.

Have a lovely weekend

Dot
xxx

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes, Harper, August 2013, 416 pages- The Girl Who Wouldn't Die. Kirby is lucky she survived the attack. She is sure there are other victims less fortunate, but the evidence she finds is...impossible. Hunting a serial killer who shouldn't exist.
Harper stalks his shining girls through the years- and cuts the spark out of them. But what if the one that got away came back for him?

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Phoenix, January 2013, 496 pages-  Who are you?
What have we done to each other?
These are the questions Nick Dunne finds himself asking on the morning of his fifth wedding anniversary, when his wife Amy suddenly disappears. The police suspect Nick. Amy's friends reveal that she was afraid of him. He swears it isn't true. A police examination of his computer shows strange searches. He says they weren't made by him. And then are the persistent calls on his mobile phone. So what did happen to Nick's beautiful wife?

The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison, Headline, November 2013, 384 pages- Todd and Jodie have been together for more than twenty years. They are both aware their world is in  crisis, though neither is willing to admit it. Todd is living a dual existence, while Jodie is living in denial. But she also likes to settle scores. When it becomes clear their affluent Chicago lifestyle could disintegrate at any moment, Jodie knows everything is at stake. It's only now she will discover how much she's truly capable of...

Poppet by Mo Hayder, Bantam, February 2014, 528 pages- The Maude is outside. It wants to come in.
It wants to sit on your chest.
The mentally ill patients in Beechway High Secure Unit are highly suggestible. A hallucination can spread like a virus. When unexplained power cuts lead to a series of horrifying incidents, fear spreads from the inmates to the staff. Amidst the growing hysteria, AJ, a senior psychiatric nurse, is desperate to protect  his charges.
Detective Inspector Jack Caffery is looking for the corpse of a missing woman. He knows all too well how it feels to fail to find a loved one's body. When AJ seeks Caffery's help in investigating the trouble at Beechway, each man must face a butter truth in his own life. Before staring pure evil in the eye.

The Killing Place by Tess Gerritsen, Bantam, January 2011, 448 pages- Something terrible has happened in the snowbound village of Kingdom Come, Wyoming. Twelve, eerily identical houses stand dark and abandoned. The people who lived in them appear to have vanished, seemingly into thin air.
Maura Isles is driving through the area with a group of friends when they find themselves trapped in a snowstorm. They stumble into the abandoned village to take shelter. Their nightmare has only just begun.
Days later, Jane Rizzoli flies to Wyoming to search for her missing friend. A crashed vehicle has been found with four badly burned bodies still inside. Can one of the corpses be Maura's?
Jane's hunt for the truth leads her to Kingdom Come. Where the person who was watching Maura now lies waiting for her...

Before I Go To Sleep by S.J Watson, Black Swan, January 2012, 384 pages- Memories define us.
So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep?
Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love- all forgotten overnight?
And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.
Welcome to Christine's life.


Monday, 22 September 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Rose Garden by Marita Conlon-McKenna

Molly's perfect life comes crashing down following the unexpected death of her husband David. With her hopes for happiness in a heap and an old Irish country house to maintain, Molly has no idea how she will survive. As a search for a buyer begins Molly becomes drawn to the restoration of the long neglected and overgrown walled rose garden...
Working in Cassidy's Cafe, Gina dreams of having a place of her own. When Norah Cassidy gets ill she is soon full of plans to take over Kilfinn's much loved village cafe, but Norah's family have other ideas.
When Kim suddenly finds herself heartbroken and homeless, her Aunt Molly's invitation to come and stay with her seems to good to refuse. Maybe a move to the country is exactly what she needs.
Molly, Kim and Gina each look for a new beginning and just as the first rosebuds begin to appear in her garden, Molly begins to accept the green shoots of a new life...

Publisher: Transworld
Pages: 464

Marita Conlon McKenna is a new author to me but I very much enjoyed her latest book The Rose Garden. This author has written nine other books which is very exciting as it means I have lots to add to my TBR pile. When you google this author, names such as Maeve Bincy and Cathy Kelly pop up but I felt that Marita was not as twee, her book had a more modern feel to it.
The Rose Garden is about new beginnings and a big old house, two of my favourite things in a book. Molly bought Mossbawn with her husband David; the big Georgian house was intended to be a beautiful family home for them to raise their two daughters in and then potter about in their retirement. But now Molly is facing an unexpected future without David, how is she going to keep hold of the house and should she really stay now she is on her own?
Kim is Molly's niece and they have always had a strong bond, When Molly invites her to stay, she jumps at the chance. Having recently lost
her home, her job and her boyfriend, Kim is in desperate need of a fresh start. Once settled in, Kim can clearly see that Molly is in trouble; she doesn't want her aunt to lose her beautiful home and sets about doing all she can to help.
Gina lives in the same small-knit community as Molly. She has worked at Cassidy's Cafe for years but when her boss is taken ill, her future and job are in jeapordy.
All three women have encountered huge changes in their circumstances and are brought together for different reasons but hopefully for all of them, they can start planning a brighter future.
The characters in this book were just lovely, the author linked the three women but I felt as though they each had their own strong, independent storyline which kept you interested throughout.
The Rose Garden was a very gentle ad lovely read, I fell in love with Mossbawn and could clearly picture the house in all its charm. It's so lovely to have found yet another author to enjoy, I highly recommend The Rose Garden, Marita Conlan-McKenna is a real talent.

Many thanks to Transworld for sending me a copy of this book to review, The Rose Garden is out now. 

Friday, 19 September 2014

Fabulous Fridays

I have decided to do a new feature on a Friday called Fabulous Fridays! I used to love the lists on Amazon that people had compiled of books that they had enjoyed and I would often add to my TBR pile after looking through them. Sadly they don't have them anymore so I have decided to start compiling my own on here on a Friday, just in time for you to have a little browse for the weekend! Each week will have a different theme and I shall give you the blurb of the book and then if you are interested you can click on the book title which will take you to my review. Some of them will be recent releases and some will be a lot older. 
This week on Fabulous Friday I have gone with the idea of drama; so these books are not particularly light hearted but they all have a gripping story line and most are packed with emotion and a few twists and turns!

Have a lovely weekend

Dot
xxx

Black Heart Blue by Louisa Reid, Penguin, May 2012, 288 pages
"They tried to make me go to my sister's funeral today. In the end I had to give in... I'd been walking in her shadow for sixteen years and I liked its cool darkness. It was a good place to hide."
Rebecca's twin sister Hephzibah was beautiful and daring. She was the one who always wanted more. The one who wouldn't listen. Now she's gone. Rebecca is alone.
While there were two of them, they stayed silent about their home life. But Rebecca, who knows the truth about how her twin died, suddenly finds herself keeping too many secrets. Hephzibah dreamt of escape, but failed. Could Rebecca be the one to find freedom?
Original and unforgettable, Black Heart Blue is not just Rebecca and Hephzibah's story. It is a story about all of us: a story about the lies we want to believe, the truth we sometimes can't accept, and having the courage to discover the difference.

The Lies You Told Me by Jessica Ruston, Headline Review, June 2013, 368 pages
When Klara was a child, her mother vanished from her life. All she has left is a handful of stories, passed down from the father who raised her. Klara believes she has long ago come to terms with her mother's disappearance, but then she receives a note and key from someone who calls themselves 'N.R'. These lead her to a storeroom, full of the remnants of her mother's past, and to the diary she kept all those years ago. Within its pages, Klara discovers a woman who doesn't quite match the portrait her father has painstakingly painted for her, and a story that leads her to question everything- and everyone- she thought she knew...

Dear Thing by Julie Cohen, Black Swan, May 2014, 400 pages
Claire and Ben are the perfect couple. But behind the glossy facade, they've been desperately trying- and failing- to have a baby for years. Now, the stress and feelings of loss are taking their toll on their marriage. Claire's ready to give up hope and get on with her life, but Ben is not. And then Ben's best friend, Romily, offers to conceive via artificial insemination and carry the baby for them.
Romily acts in good faith, believing it will be easy to be a surrogate. She's already a single mother, and has no desire for any more children. Except that being pregnant with Ben's child stirs up all sorts of emotions in her, including one she's kept hidden for a very long time: Ben's the only man she's ever loved.
Two mothers and one baby who belongs to both of them, which only one of them can keep. 

Some Day I'll Find You by Richard Madeley, Simon & Schuster, July 2013, 416 pages
James Blackwell is handsome, sexy, with an element of mystery about him. He's a fighter pilot- every girl's dream. At least that is what Diana Arnold thinks when her brother John first introduces them. They marry in haste, one summer morning in 1940, and Diana is still wearing her wedding dress when her new husband and John are summoned back to base to fly their next, terrifying mission.
Then fate delivers what is the first of its cruel twists; James, that very day is show down over Northern France. Diana is left a widow- and pregnant with their child.
Ten years later, living in the South of France with her new husband and a daughter who will never know her real father. Diana is content and flourishing in the Proven├žal sunshine. Until one morning, sipping her coffee in the town square, she hears something that makes her blood run cold: the voice of someone who will set out to torment her and blackmail her, and from whom there can only be one means of escape...

The Son-in-law by Charity Norman, Allen & Unwin, March 2014, 400 pages
On a sharp winter's morning, a man turns his back on prison. Joseph Scott has served his term. He's almost lost everything: his career as a teacher, his wife, the future he'd envisaged. All he has left are his three children but he is not allowed anywhere near them.
This is the story of Joseph, who killed his wife, Zoe. Of their three children who witnessed the event. Of Zoe's parents, Hannah and Frederick, who are bringing up the children and can't forgive or understand Joseph.
They slowly adjust to life without Zoe, until the day Joseph is released from prison...

Tempting Fate by Jane Green, Penguin, September 2013, 416 pages
When Gabby first met Elliot she knew he was the man for her. In twenty years  of marriage she has never doubted her love for him- even when he refused to give her the one thing she still wants most of all. But now their two daughters are growing up Gabby feels that time and her youth are slipping away.  For the first time in her life she is restless. And then she meets Matt...
Intoxicated by the way this young, handsome and successful man makes her feel, Gabby is momentarily blind to what she stands to lose on this dangerous path. And in one reckless moment she destroys all that she holds dear.
Consumed by regret, Gabby does everything she can to repair the home she has broken. But are some betrayals too great to forgive?

The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh, Tinder Press, June 2014, 288 pages
He is wearing a pair of plain blue swimming shorts, otherwise he is naked before her. He is muscular, but graceful with it, balletic. He is shockingly pretty...
Each summer, Jenn and her husband Greg return to Deia, on Mallorca's dramatic west coastThis year, the arrival of Emma, Jenn's step-daughter and her new boyfriend Nathan threatens to upset their equilibrium. Beautiful and reckless, Nathan stirs something unexpected in Jenn. As she is increasingly seduced by Nathan's youth and the promise of passion, the line between desire and obsession begins to blur.

Little Lies by Liane Moriarty, Penguin, July 2014, 464 pages
It was all just a terrible misunderstanding.
Feelings got hurt.
Then everything just spiralled out of control.
Jane hasn't lived anywhere for longer than six months since her son was born five years ago. She keeps moving in an attempt to escape her past. Now the idyllic coastal town of Pirriwee has pulled her to its shores and Jane feels as if she finally belongs. She finds friends in the feisty Madeline and the incredibly beautiful Celeste, two women with seemingly perfect lives and their own secrets.
But at the start of a new term, an incident involving the children of all three women occurs in the playground, causing a rift between them and other parents. Minor at first, but escalating fast, until whispers and rumours become vicious and spiteful, and truths blur into lies. It was always going to end in tears, but no one thought it would end in murder...

Remember, just click on the book title to read my review, I hope some of these take your fancy. 


Thursday, 18 September 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Bonkers, My Life in Laughs by Jennifer Saunders

She's been in two of the most popular double acts in TV history. As the Saunders out of French and Saunders, she gave the world one of its longest-lasting, most loved comedy partnerships. And in Ab Fab's Eddie and Patsy she created two hilarious monsters we've taken to our hearts.
Bonkers is the story of how it all came about. Or at least the bits she recalls. The rest she made up. Either way, it's all here; the stories, the characters, Dawn, Joanna and, playing herself throughout, Jennifer. 

Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 279

I adored this book from start to finish. I'm not usually a big fan of autobiographies but I didn't want this one to end. I felt like I had met Jennifer Saunders for a glass of wine and a chat.
I am a big fan of French and Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous ad this book showcases how naturally funny and talented Jennifer Saunders is. I loved learning about how these shows came about and were developed over many years.
I was also quite shocked to discover that Jennifer Saunders is actually very shy but she is most comfortable when performing in front of a large audience.
Bonkers covers Jennifer's childhood, training, TV success, marriage, breast cancer, becoming a mother, dealing with the ups and downs of fame plus the odd rant or two.
It's beautifully honest and poignant whilst also being brilliantly funny. If you are a fan of this lovely lady then I would definitely give it a read.


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

BOOK REVIEW: If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful I Never Would Have Let You Go by Judy Chicurel

If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful I Never Would Have Let You Go is set on a fictionalised Long Island in the summer of 1972 in a close-knit working class community whose young men have been hard hit by the Vietnam war, and whose young women, including narrator Katie, face challenging decisions about the future.

Publisher: Tinder Press
Pages: 272 
Date: 30th October 2014

If I Knew is a stunning debut from Judy Chicurel. Set in a Long Island community in the summer of 1972, the book follows Katie who has just finished school. It is a real mix of the possibilities of the future ahead mirrored with the young men returning from Vietnam to the small-knit town. They  have seen the future and it is terrifying. Katie likes Luke who has just returned from the war; she liked him before he went but will she be able to fully understand the person he has become?
The aspect of the book that stood out the most to me was the dialogue; it was so well written, I felt like I was eaves-dropping on conversations. Judy Chicurel brings her characters to life through the dialogue; it feels effortless and natura
l.
The book very much captured the feeling of change that took place at the time. Elephant Beach is a small community and I felt that it was used almost to embody the naivety of some people and the insular way in which they viewed the world.
Judy Chicurel is extremely talented, this is an accomplished debut and one that I would highly recommend.

Many thanks to Georgina for sending me copy of this book to review, If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful I Never Would Have Let You Go is published on 30th October by Tinder Press.  

Friday, 12 September 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Mallory's Oracle by Carol O'Connell

Detective Kathy Mallory. New York's darkest.
You only underestimate her once.
The soul of a thief.
When NYPD Sergeant Kathy Mallory was an eleven year old street kid, she got caught stealing. The detective who found her was Louis Markowitz. He should have arrested her. Instead he raised her as his own, in the best tradition of New York's finest.
The mind of a cop.
Now Markowitz is dead, and Mallory, the first officer on the scene. She knows any criminal who could outsmart her father is no ordinary human. This is a ruthless serial killer , a freak from the night-side of the mind.
The courage of a hero with nothing to lose.
And one question troubles her more than any other: why did he go in there alone?

Publisher: Headline
Pages: 272  

I'm always on the look out for a new crime series and I think I may have found it, Mallory's Oracle is the first in the series of Mallory novels by Carol O'Connell.
Kathy Mallory is a New York detective but her talents lie in technology not out on the streets. She was taken in at the age of eleven by NYPD detective Louis Markowitz. Louis and his wife Helen raised Kathy and set her on the straight and narrow but Mallory still harbours some demons and is always prepared to bend the law if she feels it is the right thing to do.
When Louis Markowitz is murdered, Kathy is first on the scene. She has no idea why her father went after a suspect alone and how he was outwitted, he was the smartest man she knew. Mallory is given indefinite leave to get over her father's death but she has no plans to stay at home with her feet up. Instead she embarks on an investigation of her own to catch a ruthless serial killer.
Mallory's oracle was a really good read. Kathy Mallory is a well-crafted character, she is not necessarily likeable but she is damaged enough to be interesting to the reader. I feel like I have only scratched the surface of this character and I think we will find out more and more as the series develops.
This book requires you to pay attention, I felt a little bombarded by characters and suspects at the beginning but once I had a handle on it all I was really interested to find out how it all fitted together.
The New York setting is perfect; it provides a gritty and realistic backdrop to the story. In this book we meet characters from all types of backgrounds and it showed that murder doesn't just affect the down-trodden.
Mallory's Oracle is a great read, I am looking forward to the rest of the series.

Many thanks to Caitlin at Headline for sending me a review copy. 

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