Dot Scribbles

19.9.17

BOOK REVIEW: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

For sisters Liz and Jane, coming home to suburban Cincinnati means being paraded at the Lucas family's BBQ, where burgers are served alongside the eligible men. But it's difficult to focus on re-booting their love lives when the family's mock-Tudor house starts to crumble around them. Yet as their mother reminds them, it's not every day that you meet a pair of handsome single doctors...
Publisher: The Borough Press
Pages: 544

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen is one of my favourite books and Elizabeth and Mr Darcy are at the top of my most loved characters list so I was intrigued to hear about Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld which is a modern day re-telling of this literary favourite. It in no way measures up to Austen but it is a lot of fun, just imagine Jackie Collins re-telling the story and it will give you some idea. The characters are a little more feisty, there's a lot of sex and there are several shocking twists.
Sittenfeld sets the story in Cincin
nati, Liz and Jane Bennett have returned to the family home for the summer due to their father's failing health. At the Lucas' BBQ they are introduced to Chip Bingley and Fitzwilliam Darcy, both doctors and very eligible and so begins an interesting summer for the entire Bennett family.
I very much enjoyed this book and I loved how the author put a modern twist on all the events from the original. It is a little tongue-in-cheek but on a more serious note it does explore feminism, social standing and racism; I felt that the author is almost questioning whether things have really changed that much since Austen's time?
I would recommend this book to any Pride and Prejudice fan, it is extremely witty and entertaining, a very light-hearted but clever book.

5.9.17

BOOK REVIEW: The Break by Marian Keyes

'Myself and Hugh... we're taking a break.'
'A city-with-fancy-food-sort of break?'
If only, Amy's husband Hugh says he isn't leaving her. He still loves her, he's just taking a break- from their marriage, their children and most of all, from their life together. Six months to lose himself in South-East Asia. And there is nothing Amy can say or do about it. Yes, it's a mid-life crisis, but lets be clear; a break isn't a break-up-yet. However, for Amy it's enough to send her- along with her extended family of gossips, misfits and trouble-makers, teetering over the edge. For a lot can happen in six months. When Hugh returns, if he returns, will he be the same man she married? And will Amy be the same woman? Because if Hugh is on a break from their marriage, then isn't she?
The Break isn't a story about falling in love but staying in love. 

Publisher: Michael Joseph
Pages: 576
Publication date: 7th September

I have read and loved every single one of Marian Keyes' books and I didn't think she could get any better but I was WRONG!
Amy and Hugh are on a six month break, Hugh wants to go travelling to South-East Asia  and whilst he is gone, he wants both of them to behave as though they are single. He wants them to forget about their marriage, the children they are raising and their every day lives. Amy is devastated and angry but she knows she has to let him get it out of his system. When a friend points out that it also means that Amy is on a break  and can do what she likes, she begins to look at the situation differently; what or who would she like to do while he's away?
The Break is Marian's sexiest book; it feels much more grown up than her others. Don't worry, she hasn't gone all Fifty Shades but there are plenty of sex scenes and they are brilliantly done. They in no way feel like they are included to titillate but they are integral to the story and go a long way to show how Amy is thinking and feeling. Hugh going tears her apart and the relationship she has while he is away  highlights the damage he has done and you begin to wonder if they will ever be able to be together again?
Marian Keyes, as usual gets the balance just right in The Break. The emotions are raw and passionate but I also lost count of the amount of times I laughed out loud. Not just a little chuckle but a full on belly laugh! This is why Marian Keyes is one of my favourite authors, she is still a master of this fantastic genre.
The Break is brilliant and I can't recommend it enough; the characters are well rounded, the plot will keep you gripped and the emotions are expertly explored. Do not miss this book!

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

23.8.17

BOOK REVIEW: He Said, She Said by Erin Kelly

He said it was consensual. The woman said nothing.
But Laura saw it...
...didn't she?
In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack.
She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, it is not only the victim's life that is changed forever.
Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear. And while Laura knows she was not right to speak out, the events that follow have taught her that you can never see the whole picture: something- and someone- is always in the dark...

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 404

I first heard about this book on the Radio 2 Book Club and it sounded a little different to the usual thriller so I promptly bought a copy. The theme of solar eclipses runs throughout the book, Laura and Kit witness a brutal attack just after an eclipse  but it is more than that. The solar eclipse is used as a metaphor in the book for things being hidden, either secrets or lies or for some, personality traits or weaknesses. I thought this was very clever, and it did add something extra to the book which definitely lifted it from being a generic thriller.
Laura and Kit's world has been destroyed by the event they witnessed in Cornwall. It becomes clear very quickly that neither of them are reliable narrators, for Laura especially, the truth is no longer clear in her own mind.
The book flits back and forth between the act in 2000 and the present day in 2015 which shows them still living in fear. The author gradually builds a picture of the years in-between and we begin to learn why they are so scared.
The book begins at a great pace. I found a slight lull  about two thirds of the way through but I was so glad that I persevered as the last third of the book is off the scale. There were so many twists and turns; the revelations made it all worth it.
He Said, She Said is a thriller; it will keep you on the edge of your seat but also gives you so much to think about. It looks at how we all bend the truth but questions how far you would take it. Laura and Kit's relationship is covering up so many secrets and lies on both sides. You do begin to wonder what will happen if one of them slips up, are they really strong enough to face the truth together?
I would highly recommend this book, Erin Kelly delivers an intricate and gripping plot, full of tension and surprises.

10.8.17

BOOK REVIEW: Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

Ginny Moon's painfully honest narrator is Ginny, a girl with autism living in a world that just doesn't add up. Five years ago, the police forcibly removed her from the home of her abusive mother Gloria.
Now fourteen and in her 4th Forever Home, Ginny is hell bent on returning to her mother's apartment- despite knowing how dangerous that could be- to find something she insists she hid under her bed.
Ginny will steal, lie, plan her own kidnapping and tear apart every shred of the normal, stable life she currently has, just to find what she has left a the farthest edge of forever...

Publisher: HQ
Pages: 357

Benjamin Ludwig was inspired to write Ginny Moon due to his own experience of adopting a young girl with autism. I felt that his first hand experience shone through in the book and added an extra layer of authenticity.
Ginny is in her fourth Forever Home after having been forcibly removed from her birth mother, Gloria for her own safety. Although now experiencing a safe and stable environment, Ginny is determined to return to her mother's house as she has left something under the bed and she can't rest until she has been able to retrieve it.
The whole situation is terrify
ing for Ginny's foster parents who have done all they can to keep her safe and hidden from Gloria. This brings a great deal of tension to the book and almost a feeling of helplessness as you watch the situation unfold.
I think that Benjamin Ludwig offers a very realistic  and honest presentation of the care system and of the tensions and struggles involved. The author also explores autism with care and humility. It is a large part of the book but he does not present it as the sole focus of Ginny. She is more than being an autistic girl but the author instead shows how Ginny's autism affects how she deals with and processes the world around her. I think sometimes when an autism label is applied, the person it is being applied to can almost be forgotten and I think that Benjamin Ludwig challenges that practice in this book.
Ginny Moon is a heart-breaking read and it left me with so much to think about, what a fantastic debut.

Many thanks to HQ for sending me a copy of this book to review.  

8.8.17

BOOK REVIEW: Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon

Bryony Gordon has OCD. It's the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down. It's caused alopecia, bulimia and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about the illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with warmth, humour and jaw-dropping honesty. 

Publisher: Headline
Pages: 308

Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon is one of the best books about mental illness that I have ever read. She writes with such honesty; she is not dressing the situation up but merely presenting it as it is, which in this genre is a refreshing change.
A very successful journalist, Bryony has suffered with depression and OCD since she was a teenager. She talks about the fact that there was not one single traumatic event that led to it but that it was as if she suddenly woke up one morning as a different person. She then goes on to chronicle how her mental illness has affected her daily life. Mad Girl is fascinating, as someone who has suffered with depression, I found it so reassuring and could identify with a number of her experiences. I love how she points out the way in which mental illness is stigmatised and often questioned; something that would never happen if it was an illness which presented in a purely physical way.
Bryony Gordon presents the devastating effect that depression can have but she also offers a chink of light at the end of the tunnel. She shows herself as a woman who has learnt to live with her illness and has sought the right help whilst also maintaining a very successful career and family life.
I urge you to read this book, it will make you look at the subject of mental illness in a different light.

22.7.17

BLOG TOUR: Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf

I'm on the blog tour today for Heather Gudenkauf's latest book, Not a Sound, here's the idea behind this fantastic book:

When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters- her job, her husband David and her step-daughter Nora. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, deep in the woods near her cabin, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again.
As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice?

Publisher: HQ
Pages: 352

Heather Gudenkauf has kindly written a piece about Thrillers for my stop on the blog tour:

Growing up, my initial love for thrillers came from watching Friday and Saturday night television with my dad and five brothers and sisters. My mom would spread an old sheet across the television room floor and we'd gather around a big bowl of popcorn to watch shows and movies like Kolchak: The Night Stalker, Unsolved Mysteries, The Hand, and The Sentinel (I still have nightmares about this movie). At the beginning of the evening, much to the dismay of my siblings, I'd park myself directly in front of the television set and as the suspense and tension grew I'd slowly inch away from the screen until my back was pressed against the door. As much as I loved watching scary I'd inevitably pay for it with sleepless nights with visions of all sorts of evil lurking beneath my bed.
As a child after my frequent visits to the public library I'd come home with stacks of Encyclopedia Brown, Boxcar Children and Nancy Drew books. In my teen years I discovered VC Andrews' FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC and Richard Peck's absolutely terrifying ARE YOU IN THE HOUSE ALONE? When I became an adult my dad and I started passing suspenseful novels back and forth and to this day we still swap our current reads.
Over the years I found that while each thriller writer has their own style and unique way of bringing a story to life, every gripping thriller has a few things in common: an engaging premise and characters the reader cares about.
Like most writers, I’m a collector of possible topics for my novels. I scan newspaper headlines, listen to talk radio. Interestingly, as a writer of suspenseful, domestic dramas, I am constantly asked by well-meaning people about the awful childhood I must have experienced but I'm relieved to have had a blissfully uneventful childhood with two great parents. However, it is perfectly okay to infuse life experiences into the creation of your suspense novel. For example, in my new release, NOT A SOUND, the main character, Amelia Winn, is profoundly deaf and discovers a body while paddle boarding along the river. I also have a significant hearing loss and got the idea for the novel while paddle boarding with some friends. Thankfully we found no dead bodies but did see a man digging a hole along a particularly isolated section of river and the idea behind NOT A SOUND was born.
The characters in your thriller need to capture the hearts and minds of your readers. It's important to develop characters that your readers instantly care about. Once readers become invested in what happens to those who inhabit your books, they will stick around to the very end. Early readers of NOT A SOUND said they immediately fell in love with flawed, feisty Amelia and her service dog Stitch. I hope Amelia and Stitch capture your hearts too!

I was very impressed by Heather Gudenkauf's previous book Missing Pieces so I jumped at the chance ti be part of this blog tour and review her latest book, Not a Sound
Amelia Winn is the protagonist  and I immediately liked her, she's quite feisty and determined but with a deeply caring side. Heather Gudenkauf takes the reader straight into the thick of it and we see Amelia involved in a hit and run accident which leaves her friend dead and Amelia profoundly deaf. Gudenkauf shows how she spirals after the accident, losing her job, her husband and her step-daughter Nora. She does eventually get a hold of herself and we see her two years later trying to get on with her life. She has a new job and her hearing dog, Stitch is helping her negotiate the world without her hearing. The book takes a dramatic turn when Nora discovers a body by the river; she becomes disturbed to learn that the woman murdered was also a nurse. She starts to spend a lot of time with Jake who she knows from childhood and he is now the police detective in the town where she is living. Amelia becomes convinced that she knows the identity of the killer and she becomes focused on bringing them to justice. But doing so could mean risking everything all over again.
Not a Sound is fast paced and well plotted, I loved that the author went straight into the thick of it. Once Amelia discovers the body there are so many twists and turns and Gudenkauf successfully keeps the reader guessing. 
As with Missing Pieces, the author has created very well rounded and believable characters. I found Amelia and her situation to be completely realistic. I really enjoyed the relationship between Amelia and her hearing dog Stitch. They are very much a team and the love and respect they develop for each other adds a different element to the book. 

I would highly recommend Not a Sound, there is a lot going on in the book to raise it above the standard, cliched thriller, don't miss it! 




11.7.17

BOOK REVIEW: The Summer House by the Sea by Jenny Oliver

Nestled on the Spanish coast, bustling cafe Estrella features in everyone of Ava Brown's happiest memories- her first chocolate churros, her first crush, endless summer sunshine. So the chance to spend one last summer in her grandmother's house, is one Ava can't refuse.
Once the heart of the sleepy seaside village, the cafe now feels more ramshackle than rustic. It's time to bring back some life into Cafe Estrella- and before she knows it, Ava has thrown herself into that task. A summer project her grandmother would be proud of!
But once summer is over, can Ava really say goodbye to Spanish seaside life? Or could this be the new beginning that Ava didn't realise she needed...

Publisher: HQ
Pages: 378

The Summer House by the Sea is the first book I have read by Jenny Oliver and I thoroughly enjoyed it. 
Ava Brown returns to the Spanish coast after the death of her grandmother. Planning to merely pack up her grandmother's house and come back, Ava is shocked to discover just how many memories it holds. Especially Cafe Estrella, run by family friend Flora. It has definitely seen better times and it soon turns into Ava's summer project, suddenly, going back home doesn't seem as inviting.
This is the first book I have read this year that has truly made me want to pack my bags and go on holiday. Jenny Oliver perfectly captures the holiday atmosphere in her story; the sunshine, the sea, the Mediterranean food and a more carefree attitude. 
I liked Ava's character, she is carrying a lot of baggage around from her childhood and we learn about the fraught relationship she had with her mother throughout the book. All of the characters in the book are trying to make better decisions for their futures rather than repeating mistakes from their pasts. This added a very interesting element to the story and it was satisfying to see all the characters come together to help each other out. 
This book would be a great holiday read, I very much relaxed whilst reading this and I wouldn't hesitate to read more by this author. 

Many thanks to HQ for sending me a copy of this book to review.  

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