Books

The Au Pair – Emma Rous

Laura was the au pair to Edwin Mayes at Summerbourne whilst she takes a break from her A Levels after some personal events which have left her isolated and alone.

Being holed up in a big house with a delightful little boy to mind seems the perfect remedy. Gorgeous scenery and plenty of space to gather oneself as well as entertain a little inquisitive boy on the Norfolk coast.

Trouble is Laura doesn’t know what she is walking into when she joins Edwin and his parents, Dominic and Ruth at Summerbourne.

Slowly Laura learns that Edwin was in fact a twin.

That twins have been at Summerbourne before and there is some in the village that say the house and twins are cursed.

Seraphine Mayes is mourning the loss of her father, she feels adrift in the world now. Her twin Danny spends a lot of time traveling and her older brother Edwin is not around too much.

Her father’s death has hit her bad and living alone at Summerbourne, the family home she starts to go through some possessions.

She finds a photograph of her mother, holding only one baby – but which one – Seraphine always thought there was something different about her?

Is Laura the key to the past? And will the answers unearth too many secrets and even more lies?

This is an interesting read – whilst it has all the hallmarks of a dark thriller it has something light about the setting of a country home in Norfolk, vast stretches of beach, the sea. It could not have worked but it has combined both for an interesting story, told between two points of view, Laura and Seraphine – you get to see the secrets discovered and can see them happening first hand all at the same time.

I was drawn into it, it kept me reading and whilst some may say it has weak points and perhaps some of the plot was a bit too unbelievable, for a debut novel this was a worthy read. Emma Rous is an author we need to be watching out for in the future.

Thank you to the publisher via netgalley for the opportunity to read this novel. 

The Au Pair is out on kindle now and published in paperback on 11 July.

Books

The Guilty Party – Mel McGrath

Four friends escape for a weekend, to celebrate a birthday.

But celebrations at a music festival for a previous birthday were marred by being witness to a rape.

None of the four did anything to help.

The woman found dead in the river, now has an identity.

Can any of the four feel guilty about not helping? Or did they know more than they have said?

The celebrations at the weekend away are told chronologically going forward..

The celebrations at the music festival are told sequentially going backwards from the witness of the crime.

I found this book very dark and depressing in places and this made it a bit of a slog to get through it. The characters were not likeable, whilst I think that added to the story in some ways it did mean that you never felt any particular empathy and certainly no sympathy with any of them.

An interesting concept as a plotline which kept me hooked to the story as it unfolds forward and backwards, you start to see what each person might have done and what role they may have played. But ultimately they didn’t do anything or did they?

This author is new to me, and whilst perhaps this wasn’t a book that ticked all the boxes for me, I would be interested to read what else she was written.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

The Guilty Party is published on 7 March. 

 

Books · Jottings

January Roundup

 

2019 has begun and we are already a month down. I hope if you have had snow you are safe, well and warm and if you haven’t the same sentiment applies! I am warm and we had a fluttering of snow but as for being well, I am shaking of the remnants of a chest infection and thank my GP, the wonder that is the NHS and antibiotics who made feel a lot better when I really didn’t know I was that ill.

As for the books that kept me going in January – it was a mixed bag and only one of them was an actual book – Sara Sheridan – Russian Roulette. I enjoy the adventures of Mirabelle Bevan and whilst I may not blog about the series anymore, do feel free to search the blog for the ones I have spoken about and you may well find another series to get into. Great for Murder Mystery fans.

More murder and more mystery came with the second book in another series Anthony Horowitz – The Sentence is Death. The author is in fact a character in the book and lets you into his ‘real’ life. If you know the name, you will know his oeuvre. It sounds confusing but actually is the least confusing thing about the mystery.

With murder there comes guilt. But what if the guilt was you witnessed a crime? Mel McGrath – The Guilty Party explores this concept but who is telling the truth? A very different sort of thriller, not the best I have read but interesting nonetheless.

I started 2018 reading Jennifer Wells and I started 2019 doing exactly the same. What on the fact of it seem ‘sagas’ they are in fact much more than that. Jennifer Wells – The Secret, this year’s read was no different. During the 1920s, a dancer is taken to a house to rest. In 1942 a nurse visits the same house. Surely the two things cannot be connected?

A new author to me was Helen Rolfe – The Little Cafe at the End of the Pier. Previously released as short novellas, this is the whole book (and my prefered way of reading said stories). As living somewhere with 2 piers, I felt drawn to the story and the food that was being served at the Little Cafe. If this is the quality of the writing, I will certainly be back for more.

A while since I have read any Rachael Lucas but I was drawn by the cover of this one Rachael Lucas – Finding Hope at Hillside Farm. Hope can be found in many forms at Hillside Farm but for its owner Ella and her horses, it is going to change her life forever.

Finally a book which I flew through in less than 24 hours, okay so I was aided by the fact the constant coughing kept me awake but so did the book too. In fact I recommended it to my friend as she was having a tough time and she flew through it too. So I heartily recommend Christie Barlow – Love Heart Lane. A book which will definitely make it onto the books of the year and it only being January is a feat I know but also the joy that I get to go back and visit Love Heart Lane later in the year. The book is already on preorder!!

So that was January…how was yours?

 

 

Books

The Rumour – Lesley Kara

Joanna and her young son Alfie move to Flinstead, to move out of London, to be near Joanna’s mother. For a better life for Alfie.

Joanna is the new mum at the school gate, she needs to make friends. So she mentions something that she has heard…..

There is a child killer living in Flinstead.

How does Joanna know? It is only a rumour?

Isn’t it?

Then why is she suddenly being followed by someone on Twitter that seems to be adding truth to this rumour?

Joanna’s almost off the cuff remark, sets a chain of events that makes everyone doubt everyone else.

But is the rumour true?

This book asks lots of questions:

Can a child killer become a reformed adult? Who is really the victim, when the killer released can be given a whole new life and protected? Does the public need to know where these criminals are? What if you are wrongly accused of being that killer? How does that affect a town, a person? So many questions – but does the book have the answers or do we as readers make our own conclusions.

This is an interesting debut novel and difficult to write a review of, because you could perhaps give something away, start a rumour about a possible plot line and outcome and then the books is ruined for all.

It has twists and turns and emotions running right through it, that you can feel yourself caught up in the gossip, though I confess I made the correct assumption but still I had to see what happened, I wanted those various questions answered  – right up to the final line……..

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. This would make an ideal book club read – it raises so many questions. 

The Rumour is out on 27 December 2018. 

 

Books

The Disappearance – Annabel Kantaria

Audrey plans a once in a lifetime cruise around the Greek Isles as a 70th birthday present to herself. She asks that her two children – Lexi and John to come away with her.

Lexi and John reluctantly accompany her. But when she goes missing they then start questioning the relationship they have with each other, their deceased father and their mother.

Intriguingly we know that Audrey is missing right from the first page of the book – as we read on we are waiting until we get to that point in the story.

In dual time narrative, we are taken back to another ship and another time. One where Audrey is bound for India, where she meets the man who becomes her husband. When the world and its values were a very different place.

How does Audrey’s past have anything to do with the present and possibly the future?

I found this novel riveting, not just the background to Audrey who I felt sorry for from beginning to end but the well drawn characters of Lexie and John. Lexie has poured her heart and soul into wanting a child. That is her main focus, so much so that it is eating away at her relationship with everyone. My opinion of her changed as she tried to deal with her own personal grief as well as that of looking after an aging mother.

John on the other hand, I disliked from the start and nothing he did made me feel any different. Working himself into an early grave no doubt and trying to maintain a facade that was slowly crumbling. But the hope of an inheritance when his mother dies……

So when did Audrey go missing on that cruise and the ultimate question – did she jump or was she pushed?

There is only one way to find out and that is to read the novel.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. Even if it has taken me a while!

I had not heard of this author before and certainly would be interested to see what else she has written. 

Books

Hush Little Baby – Joanna Barnard

From the blurb on the back of the book we know that baby Oliver has broken his arm. What we don’t know is how, why and who?

And so these page turning book begins as you see a family slowly disintegrating.

Sally, Oliver’s mother, is devastated that her baby has been taken away from her, it must have been an accident. He is all she had, the only person on her side.

Sally was out all night, the discovery of the broken arm happened when she returned home.

Richard, Oliver’s father, cannot understand what is happening, but he cannot see what is going on under his nose. He knows of course how to bring up children, he already has one with his first wife.

Richard was in all night, but discovered the broken arm.

Martha, Oliver’s stepsister, is lost. No one is paying her any attention, it is all about Oliver and she needs to find a release. Will her choices, drive the family further apart or will it bring them together.

Martha, might have been there all night, but was she paying attention?

One of them knows the truth, the rest is all lies. Told from the these three characters perspective we watch as the disintegration becomes deep, distressing and disturbing.

The book is rather unsettling to read, there is so many topics covered; postpartum depression, self harm, drug abuse, bullying, infidelity, but there’s something voyeuristic in watching what happens as you turn the pages. It made me feel uncomfortable with what was happening but I had to keep reading.

A gripping novel, that does not perhaps fit nicely into the thriller category because of the topic but certainly morbidly fascinating in wanting to know the truth as the plot twists to perhaps the obvious conclusion? Will we have any answers when we get to the end of the novel?

An interesting second novel and for me much better than the first, something that can be difficult to achieve. An author to look out for, as I think the books are going to get better and better.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book. 

Hush Little Baby is out now

Books

May Roundup

I have to say that May has been the month of the kindle only two of the eight have been actual books I can hold in my hand. The rest have been ebooks downloaded from netgalley to get ahead of the reviewing game and enjoy some really good books.

So as well catching up with netgalley requests, I found myself going back to something familiar and picked up the next book I have not read in the Agatha Raisin series, M.C. Beaton – Agatha Raisin and a Spoonful of Poison. I am still a few behind in this series, so I know I have some back up reading whenever I need it.

I also caught up with Fern Britton – A Good Catch, which was different from her more community focused novel as this was very much about getting the right man at whatever cost.

I have to confess to reading a lot of women’s fiction this month, but felt I needed a bit more of a thrill and that is why I picked up the current B.A. Paris – The Breakdown. A second novel which was as gripping and thought-provoking as the first. What would you do?

Sometimes it is nice to know the author that you are reading, not necessarily personally but the familiarity of the writing. although in this case I have seen the author speak. Emylia Hall – The Thousand Lights Hotel is her latest novel and takes you away to Italy, to another life and what you are searching for. Beautiful!

I have finally finished the Willow Cottage series of books, which was released initially in four parts. Bella Osborne – Summer Delights: Willow Cottage, publishing series of books seems to be very popular I do much prefer reading the whole novel. That way I can really absorb myself in the book.

Finishing a series of books is always good,because all the loose ends and unknowns are cleared up and there is enough unknowns left for you to know that their stories will go on long after the author has stopped writing and we have stopped reading them. Therefore I was excited to return to Penwith and Phillipa Ashley – Confetti at the Cornish Cafe. The final part of the trilogy does all the things I have mentioned and it was great to catch up with all the characters.

Quite a lot of my reading seems to be books that are set in Cornwall and that was no different with Liz Eeles – Annie’s Lovely Choir by the Sea. A debut novel which managed to give you a character you could love to hate. I look forward to seeing what else this author writes.

Regular readers of my blog will know that I do take part in many crafts, one of the most popular is paper crafting which is something I have never really got into, but I know many that have. Despite that I was drawn to the new novel, Carole Matthews – Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses which had so much packed into it, it was another novel which I couldn’t be torn away from.

How was your May? I hope you enjoyed what you were reading, is it moving towards a more summery feel?

Books

The Breakdown – B. A. Paris

Driving down a road in the middle of the storm is what Cass promised she would never do, but she will get home quicker that way.

That is until she sees a car at the side of the road. A woman is in the car.

What does Cass do? Stop and make sure she is okay? Drive by?

What if your actions, the choice you make, the guilt, then haunt you.

It is this catalyst which the rest of the story is based on and has us as readers launched head first into Cass thoughts and feelings as she begins to break down from what she knows is reality.

Strange phone calls, objects not in the right place, parcels arriving, all point Cass towards dementia, she might be too young but her mother died of it and she has never told her husband this. Her husband even starts to question her sanity. It seems Cass is very much on her own with this guilt, this belief.

As Cass life begins to unravel slowly, ironically the pace of the book picks up. It is a page turner, because whilst you feel so much sympathy for Cass, I did reach a couple of points where I thought she really did have dementia. The author could have taken the plot any number of ways and it was this that kept me reading.

The niggles about the story never went away for me and I guessed fairly early on who had to be behind it but the writing was so good that I even began to doubt the author was going to take us in that direction. Could you breakdown all actions separately and see them as isolated events, or were they all part of a very cleverly weaved plot. The only way to know was to keep on reading.

An excellent thriller, certainly nothing like her debut novel and if this is the quality of writing and work for that notorious ‘second’ novel then I cannot wait for what the author writes next.

Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for the opportunity to read this book.

The Breakdown is out now.

 

 

 

Books · Jottings

January Roundup

First month of 2107 gone. Done, dusted, put away. Surely it can only get better, brighter and warmer!

An average sort of month for reading, behind on my goodreads challenge already. which made me panic unnecessarily, because it is only the first month. However, I have throughly enjoyed all that I have read in January.

I caught up with Emma Burstall – The Cornish Guest House, I am a big fan of Emma’s work and probably should have read this when it first came out. Trouble is with authors I really like I tend to not want to read their books immedieatly as when you have done, you are bereft. I feel much the same about reading a Lucinda Riley novel.

Caught up in the hype of the new BBC Drama adaptation of Louise Doughty – Apple Tree Yard and having heard the beautiful Emily Watson be interviewed more than once, I had to read the book before it started on television. Gripping and so far the television is very much in the vision of the book I had when I read it.

What also was brought to life for me was Deborah Burrows – Ambulance Girls. A new author to me and I was asked whether I wanted to partake in the blog tour for the book. The setting is London in the Second World War, and the focus is on those that stayed behind and risked their lives while the bombs were reigning down. However there was a lot more depth to this book and I am looking forward to more in the series.

If you want comfort, easy reading then I normally turn to an author I know will provide that. Which is why I picked up Debbie Macomber – A Girl’s Guide to Moving On. It was one of a series which I did not realise, but it did not detract from the story. The book fulfilled what I wanted it to, but if you asked me to tell you what it was about I probably would struggle.

I have been rather request happy on netgalley in the last month, which is why I was suddenly at the recommended 80% feedback and now I am not. Like a child in a sweetshop looking at all the bright colours I was hooked by so many, and I think some might be of a similar ilk. However I started with Karen Clarke – The Beachside Sweet Shop. If the rest are as good as this, it will be great and I get my feedback percentage back up.

I have also picked up a book from my shelf that has been hanging around for a while which has been in complete contrast to everything else I have read this month Essie Fox – The Somnambulist. I am late to the Essie Fox party but that must mean I have a few to catch up on and enjoy.

So that was January – and I finish it reading another one of my requests from netgalley, which I can feel is going to be a stand out book.

 

 

Books

Paula Daly – Top Tips for Budding Writers

 

My latest review was the latest book from Paula Daly – The Trophy Child. Whilst I have participated in the blog tour for this, I was a bit remiss in not publishing the fact but the lovely people at Penguin Random House and of course Paula herself has sent me some ‘tips for budding writers’ to support my review which was published on this blog on the 27 January.

Without further ado, I hand over to Paula:

Full disclosure: I could not have found the time to write when I had a full time job and a young family. Some people do. I am not one of them. I’ve read accounts of people getting up at four in the morning, writing a thousand words before work, to pursue their dreams of becoming a published author, but when my kids were small the best I could do was get a meal on the table each evening, and make sure they had clean uniforms to wear.

I started writing when, after a move to France, I was able to work part time when I returned to the UK. I have three children and my youngest would have been around three at the time. For me, the key to getting the words down on paper was carving out a decent amount of time in which to write. Say, an hour or so. So I got super-organised with everything else that needed doing around the house. Everything that could be done outside of that hour I did fast and efficiently, to protect the writing time. Then I would pick my youngest up from nursery, put him in front of the TV with some toys, jigsaws and a drink, and I would write in the next room for as long as I was able to.

Now that my kids are teenagers everything is easier. And now that I’m a fulltime novelist I no longer have to slot writing in around a day job. But I do employ a number of tricks to maximise my writing time. Here are my five top tips:

1)                          Plan your meals weekly and shop for groceries online. This whole process takes me twenty minutes per week using the Tesco app. I used to find grocery shopping for five frustrating and a colossal drain of my energy. Now I can have it delivered to my kitchen towards the end of my writing day. So I get the word count done and all I have to do is put the stuff away.

2)                          Don’t answer the phone. My extended family know that I don’t answer the phone if I’m working. I screen calls and if it’s not one of the kids, or their school calling, I don’t pick up. Relatives don’t think writing is a proper job and think you can stop and have a chat whenever you like. You can’t. Call them back when you’ve finished. Or else better still, call them and put them speakerphone when you’re doing something mindless like folding washing. Two birds etc.

3)                          Have a notepad handy. When I first started writing, I was bursting with ideas but I couldn’t get these ideas down on paper until my allotted ‘writing time’. So I would write notes all day: when the vegetables were boiling, when the kids were in the bath, when I was outside school waiting for them to come out. What I found was, when I did finally get down to writing, it felt more like I was taking dictation, as I had all of my ideas already formed.

4)                          Lose the guilt. To make a real go of this you’re probably going to have to put your writing before your kids a little more. And what I mean by that is, you may have to get rid of some of the extra-curricular activities. My youngest quite liked football and wanted to join a team…but we refused. I didn’t want to spend my weekends, rising early, driving thirty miles to stand in the freezing rain, when I could have been reading a book in bed instead. Because to be a writer you must read a lot. And you need the time to do it.

5)                          Once the kids are of an age when they can be left to play alone, tell them you’re writing and you’re not to be disturbed. They won’t care. Really, they won’t. And they won’t become damaged by your not spending ‘quality time’ with them either. Most kids don’t actually like quality time and would much rather be pleasing themselves than doing an activity that you deem to be a good use of their time.

Thanks to Paula, I hope it has inspired some people out there. If it hasn’t then remember all that hard work of Paula’s has gone into creating some cracking good reads – do check out The Trophy Child.