Friday, 21 November 2014

BLOG TOUR: Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NG

I am very excited to take part in the blog tour for Celeste Ng's book Everything I Never Told You. This is the author's debut and she is clearly off to a good start as it is brilliantly written and executed. Here's the blurb: 
Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; a girl who inherited her mother's bright blue eyes and her father's jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue - in Marilyn's case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James's case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the centre of every party. But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in 1970s small town Ohio. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting.When Lydia's body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia's older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it's the youngest in the family - Hannah - who observes far more than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened.
When I read the above blurb I made the presumption that the book was a thriller/mystery which in many ways it is but it is a lot deeper than that, the questions asked by the author are far more interesting than a 'whodunnit'.
We know from the beginning of the book that Lydia is dead, her body is found in the lake by the Lee's house. The reader has no idea what happened though and the rest of the book looks into the events that led up to Lydia's death. Lydia's parents James and Marilyn both have very definite ideas of what they want for Lydia's future and they are purely selfish, borne out of their own frustrations. Marilyn wanted to be doctor but she met James and became pregnant, she tried again after her first two children but again found herself to be expecting. Due to this she never finishes medical school so she puts her career aspirations on to Lydia, going as far as buying her a stethoscope for her thirteenth birthday. James on the other hand has done well in his career, he has tenure as a college professor but he is deeply unhappy as he has never gained the popularity that he has yearned for. The colour of his skin made him an outcast at his school and he has never got over this. He wants Lydia to be the popular girl, surrounded by friends, being picked for teams and having a full social life. Lydia is so young to have these pressures from her parents plus she has the normal pressures of being a teenage girl, a fact that seems to have escaped both parent. 
I hugely disliked Marilyn and James and I think this is probably the author's intention but my main issue with them wasn't necessarily their treatment of Lydia but more their complete lack of regard for their other two children. They seem indifferent to Nath and Hannah most of the time even though both are clearly lovely children and high achievers also. Nath has just got into Harvard and is clearly relieved to be leaving the family home, Hannah is the quietest yet she knows the most but they don't think to ask her. Hannah knows what happened to Lydia and this made me feel incredibly sad too as it seemed such a big burden for her to be carrying around. 
Celeste Ng writes confidently and the book had an excellent pace. I think that all of the questions she raised in the book are credible, she looks at race, inequality of the sexes, ambition and parental responsibility, all of which effectively lead to Lydia's death. This book really made me think about the role of the parent, you always want the best for your child and for them to do well in life but there is a fine line between that and pushing them into being somebody they're not. Lydia wants to please both Marilyn and James which ultimately is impossible, she does not have their support to just be Lydia.
I would highly recommend Everything I Never Told You, it is well written and thought provoking. Lydia's character was particularly poignant and one that will stay with me for a long time. 
Thank you to the lovely Emily at Little Brown for inviting me to take part in the blog tour. Everything I Never Told You is available now. 

Monday, 17 November 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Supernatural Enhancements by Edgar Cantero

Everybody loves a ghost story...
The heir to Axton House and his companion are delighted to find themselves living in one.
With it comes nightmares, a secret society and a curse.
A ghost may soon be the least of their worries.
Part ghost story, part cerebral mystery, this is a dazzling and wholly original supernatural adventure. 

Publisher: Ebury
Pages: 368

The Supernatural Enhancements is one of the quirkiest books I have read and I very much enjoyed its originality.
A has just inherited Axton House in Virginia from a second cousin twice removed who he has never met. His cousin has just killed himself by jumping out of the window of the house, just like his father had done at his age.
A and his mute companion Niamh travel to Axton House to discover just what they're taking on. It becomes clear, very quickly that the house is haunted. A's cousin was involved in some kind of secret organisation and nobody wants to talk about what has occurred at the house over the years.
Edgar Cantero cleverly tells his story through a mixture of diary entries, transcribed tape recordings, coded messages and shaky home video footage. This quirky nature of the book is what makes it so good as you become part of the action. You have no choice but to start looking for clues and asking questions.
A and Niamh are both interesting characters but I liked Niamh in particular. As a mute character it is interesting that she has the most to say. She communicates by scribbling down messages. These messages demonstrate her close friendship to A and how protective she is of him; they make a very entertaining partnership.
If you are looking for a classic haunted house story then this is not for you. I didn't find this book particularly scary; more eerie and unsettling. Cantero does build up tension and you are expecting things to go bump in the night; there is not a ghost hiding in every dar corner though so when events do occur they have more of an effect.
The Supernatural Enhancements is a clever and interesting read. I enjoyed the way the book was put together as much as I enjoyed the story; I would recommend this book.

I reviewed this book via Netgalley.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

BLOG TOUR: The List by Joanna Bolouri

I am pleased to be part of the blog tour for The List by Joanna Bolouri, the lovely Emma has organised this tour in conjunction with Quercus, you can check out her blog here. This List is a really fun read, definitely worth checking out:

Phoebe Henderson may be single but she sure doesn't feel fabulous. It's been a year since she found her boyfriend Alex in bed with another woman, and multiple cases of wine and extensive relationship analysis with her best friend Lucy have done nothing to help. Faced with a new year but no new love, Phoebe concocts a  different kind of resolution.
The List: ten things she's always wanted to do in bed but has never had the chance (or the courage!) to try. A bucket list for between the sheets. One year of pleasure, no strings attached.
Simple right?
Factor in meddlesome colleagues, friends with benefits, getting frisky al fresco and maybe possibly, true love and Phoebe's got her work cut out for her. 

Publisher: Quercus
Pages: 400

The List by Joanna Bolouri is a lot of fun and a book that I would highly recommend. I felt as though I worked out quite early on what was going to happen but in some ways I enjoyed the book more because of this as I could just sit back and enjoy what was happening.
Phoebe Henderson has been single for over a year after walking in on her boyfriend Alex in bed with another woman. It is the new year and Phoebe has decided that she needs to do something drastic, so she enlists her friend Lucy to help her compile The List. The list is made up of ten sexual acts that she has always wanted to do. However, she can't do these things on her own (well not all of them) so she ropes in her best friend Oliver to help her complete her mission. Will the list change Phoebe's love life and will her friendship wit
h Oliver survive this year of unadulterated pleasure?
I liked Phoebe a lot; she 's a similar age to me and works in advertising sales for a newspaper, the exact job I did seven years ago. She was funny, likeable and a bit feisty at times, I think a lot of readers will identify with her. Oliver is a fantastic creation, I had a crush on him as soon as he appeared in the book and this just grew as the story developed.
Joanna Bolouri's writing style is witty and face paced; the book is quite long at 400 pages but I didn't get bored at any point.
If you are on the look-out for a fast paced fun read then I urge you to buy a copy of The List, you might even learn a thing or two!

Many thanks to Emma for organising a fabulous blog tour and to Quercus for sending me a review copy. Check out the top of my blog to see who's next on the blog tour!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Daughter by Jane Shemilt

The night of the disappearance
She used to tell me everything.
They have a picture. It'll help.
But it doesn't show the way her hair shines so brightly it looks like sheets of gold.
She smells very faintly of lemons.
She bites her nails.
She never cries.
She loves Autumn, I wanted to tell them. She collects leaves, like a child does. She is just a child.
One year later
Naomi is still missing. Jenny is a mother on the brink of obsession. The Malcolm family is in pieces.
Is finding the truth about Naomi the only way to put them back together?
Or is the truth the thing that will finally tear them apart?
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 390 

Daughter by Jane Shemilt is so good, I devoured it in one day, staying up until 2am to finish as I couldn't bear going to sleep without knowing what happened.
Jenny is a GP married to Ted, a neurosurgeon; together they have a daughter Naomi and twin boys Theo and Ed. Life requires a lot of juggling but Jenny feels as though she is just about managing, that is until Naomi goes out one night and doesn't come back. Naomi is just fifteen; as the police begin their investigation Jenny is made to question just how well she knows her daughter, when did she start keeping secrets and why?
A year later and Naomi is still missing. The family is devastated and each member has dealt with it in a different way. Jenny is not giving up though, she is desperate to know the truth about what happened to her beautiful little girl, however terrifying that may be.
The author, Jane Shemilt is a GP and is married to a professor of neurosurgery, Daughter is her debut novel and I was very impressed. The story and the characters very much resonated with me, I am married to a doctor and this is the first fictional book I have read that really 'got' what that is like and how it impacts on family life. Jenny and Ted are both in stressful jobs and have a huge amount of responsibility. However much they try, this cannot always be left in the doctors surgery or operating theatre; it infiltrates their marriage and family life. I think the author really highlights the role of the working mother, I felt like she was questioning the way in which women often bear the brunt of responsibility. Jenny and Ted both have demanding careers yet Jenny is still expected to do the majority of the parenting. Is th
at right? Is Jenny somehow responsible for what happened to Naomi? Would she still have gone missing if Jenny had been a stay-at-home mum?
I thought that Daughter was very realistic, as a mother of a young daughter it made me feel physically sick at times as the idea of being in Jenny's shoes terrified me.
Shemilt's writing is superb, she layers the tension and intrigue until you are on the very edge of your seat. The ending knocked me sideways, I re-read the last few pages several times as I couldn't believed what had happened.
Jane Shemilt is an author to keep an eye on, Daughter is a brilliant and accomplished debut, I hope she's already working on the next one.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes

One day, sitting in traffic, married Dublin mum Stella Sweeny attempts a good deed. The resulting car crash changes her life.
For she meets a man who wants her telephone number (for the insurance, it turns out). That's okay she doesn't really like him much anyway (his Range Rover totally banjaxed her car).
But in this meeting is born the seed of something which will take Stella thousands of miles from her old life, turning an ordinary woman into a superstar, and, along the way, wrenching her whole family apart.
Is this all because of one ill-advised act of goodwill? Was meeting Mr Range Rover destiny or karma? Should she be grateful or hopping mad?
For the first time real, honest-to-goodness happiness is just within her reach. But is Stella Sweeny, Dublin housewife ready to grasp it?

Publisher: Michael Joseph
Pages: 544
Publication Date: 6th November

Blimey a lot of people are talking about this book, I was a little frightened to start it. I am a massive fan of Marian Keyes so I was shocked to see a fair amount of negativity surrounding this book in the book blogging world. However, the majority of it seemed to be in the formatting of the proof. It was a little messy and I could see why people got annoyed but I didn't think it was the worst proof copy I have ever read. The formatting paled into insignificance for me though as overall I thought that this book was tremendous.
The main reason I love Marian Keyes is that she writes about real issues, she doesn't sugar-coat and she shows that not every story has to have a happy ending. It doesn't have to have an awful ending just to shock etc but it can have a realistic finale where the main character doesn't get everything they want.
Stella Sweeny is a great character she she is pretty ordinary and then two extraordinary things happen to her; she gets extremely ill but then her illness somehow turns her into a best-selling author travelling the US on several book tours. We meet Stella after all this though when she's down on her luck and back in Dublin. The book then shows exactly how she's got to that point.
A large portion of the first part of the book involves Stella being in hospital and I thought that this was portrayed very well. Marian Keyes showed everything from the sheer terror of being so ill, the boredom of being stuck in hospital and the consequences for the family unit when one person has a debilitating illness.
Stella has a love interest in the book but I don't want to spoil the plot by giving too much away. But I will say that I very much developed a crush on this character as the book progressed and I felt myself getting angry with Stella when she did something that could jeopardise their relationship.
The Woman Who Stole My Life, in my opinion, is a fantastic book. A lot of reviews have said that it is very different to Marian's other books but I can't agree. I felt that it was distinctively Marian Keyes; not in a boring and predictable way but in such a way that you know you are in the safe hands of an excellent author. The book is dark in places but it is realistic and this is balanced out with brilliant humour and wit.
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, don't let the negativity about the formatting put you off as it is just the proof copy and you would be a fool to miss out on the finished product.

Many thanks to Michael Joseph for letting me review this book via Net Galley. 

Saturday, 25 October 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Christmas Party by Carole Matthews

Louise Young is a devoted single mother whose only priority is providing for her daughter Mia. Louise has a good job in a huge international corporation and she's grateful for it. The only problem is her boss who can't keep his hands to himself, but Louise can handle him. What she really doesn't have time for is romance- until she meets the company's rising star, Josh Wallace.
Louise usually says no to evenings out, but she's decided to let her hair down tonight. It's the office Christmas party, she has a pretty dress to wear and she's looking forward to some champagne and fun. She's completely unaware that others around her are too busy playing dangerous games to enjoy the party- until she's pulled into those games herself...
Romance is in the air and secrets are about to be uncovered. It's going to be a night to remember at The Christmas Party.

Publisher: Sphere
Pages: 413 

If you are on the lookout for a festive read then look no further than The Christmas Party by Carole Matthews. This book was so good, it's full of believable characters, dangerous liaisons, mince pies and plenty of champagne to go round.
The main character is Louise Young, she has just got a job at Fossil Oil as personal assistant to Tyler Benson. She is overjoyed as it means she can begin providing properly for herself and her young daughter Mia. However, her boss' wondering hands are beginning to prove a problem and he is the one person she will definitely be trying to avoid at the Christmas party.
Tylers' wife Kirsten has had enough of his wondering eye and she's dreading the Christmas party this year. Kirsten has been a loyal and supportive wife but her patience is wearing thin. An unexpected guest at the party turns her world upside down, can she carry on being the perfect corporate wife when her first true love has just returned?
At the top of the Fossil Oil tree is Lance Harvey and his beautiful wife Melissa. Lance is getting older and it is becoming harder to fight off the younger and more able competition. Melissa has also been attracted to some of the younger competition; when her latest affair goes wrong she begins to wonder whether she should carry on supporting her erratic husband or strike out on her own?
The majority of the book takes place at the actual Christmas party and this was my favourite part. Carole Matthews got the atmosphere spot on when you put a group of overworked and unhappy people and a free bar together. There were many comical moments during the party and these really kept the pace of the book going. I think that this might be Carole's raciest book yet; the Christmas party provided many opportunities for couples to get to know each other better.
I liked the way that Carole kept the momentum going once the party had finished. We get to see the consequences of everyone's actions and it was good to see some get their just desserts.
The Christmas Party is a fabulous, festive read. It is also Carole's 25th book which alone is a truly marvellous achievement. If you are new to Carole's books then this would be a great place to start and then you will spoilt for choice with all of her other titles.

Many thanks to Sphere for sending me a copy of this book to review, The Christmas Party is out now! 

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

BOOK REVIEW: The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House by Stephanie Lam

It's 1965 and eighteen year old Rosie Churchill has run away to the beautiful  but run-down Castaway House in the sea-side town of Helmstone. But when she uncovers a scandal locked away in the walls of the old house, she comes to realise that neither her own troubled past nor that of the house will stay buried for long...
In 1924 fresh faced Robert Carver comes to Castaway House to spend a languid Summer in the company of his much wealthier cousin, Alec Bray. But the Brays are a damaged family, with damaging secrets. And little does Robert know that his world is about to change forever.
As Rosie begins to learn more about Robert, the further she is drawn into the mysterious history of the house, and their stories, old and new entwine.

Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 504

The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House is Stephanie Lam's first book and it is a corker. At 504 pages, it is a book that you can really get your teeth into; the writing is extremely alluring and I was quickly engrossed in the events at Castaway House.
Stephanie Lam flits between the two main characters, Rosie Churchill in 1965 and Robert Carver in 1924. I really enjoyed having both a male and female narrator; it very clearly defined the two time periods of the book.
Rosie has run away from home and is hiding away in Castaway House. The house has been converted into now decaying flats but Rosie can see how beautiful the house must have been. Rosie has several secrets of her own but she discovers that her new home has many skeletons in the cupboard. As she begins investigating, Rosie uncovers scandals and secrets from the past that are still affecting those in the present.
Robert Carver spent the Summer of 1924 at Castaway House. It belonged to his wealthy cousin Alec Bray and Robert is looking forward to spending time with Alec and taking advantage of the sea air. However, upon his arrival, Robert is shocked to discover that Alec has taken a wife. Clara Bray is a glamorous and mysterious character. She has brought many secrets to the house and Castaway seems to be full of scandal and damaged relationships. Robert's Summer at Castaway House is not what he expected at all and it will alter his future forever,
The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House is an enticing andMy Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier on several occasions.
mysterious read. Although the story is different, I felt that it reminded me of
I found both parts of the story interesting and I felt that Stephanie Lam tied them together very well. She lays down very subtle clues throughout the story and I enjoyed working out what had happened and how the characters were linked. Not that this book is predictable, the twists at the end took me completely by surprise and provided an excellent ending.
I very much hope that Stephanie Lam will write more books and I urge you to read her brilliant debut.

Many thanks to Katie at Penguin for sending me a review copy, The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House is out now. 

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