Friday, 28 August 2015

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

"A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn't have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray's world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh.

Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating..."


I was expecting big things from I Let You Go and whilst Part 1 was interesting, it meandered along for me but then, boy does it start to deliver.


I cannot tell you what aspects the book covers as I don't want to risk giving anything away which might spoil the fabulous journey that Mackintosh takes you on. However, I will say that those areas that are covered are done so with exceptional style. There are aspects which are brutally told but they ring true as opposed to great big alarm bells ringing to tell you this is entirely made up fiction. 

I recently read a book written by a criminal barrister and felt that was a highlight; someone who had written about what they know. The same can be said here as Mackintosh used to be a police officer and moved into CID herself. At the back of the book, there is a piece written about where the ingredients that created the cocktail, I Let You Go, were sourced from, which I really liked. There is only one point of the book, towards the very end, after everything comes to light, that I felt simply wasn't true to life and was there purely to allow there to be one last bit of drama. I can't say which bit as it will destroy the story for you. It didn't put me off, and certainly didn't take any enjoyment of the book away, but I do feel it was there more for gratification purposes more than anything else. 

The thing I liked most about the first part of this book was the descriptions of Penfach and the beaches that begin to change Jenna's life. Oh, and perhaps Patrick the vet and Beau!

As Part 1 of the book draws to a close, the first twist hits you in the face. It's definitely a 'Gone Girl' style twist that will probably make you gasp. What follows is a gripping piece of fiction that will keep you guessing. I had all sorts of ridiculous theories flying around my head and I had to keep reminding myself to slow down and concentrate on the words on the page in front of me. My eyes couldn't devour the words quick enough and my brain tried desperately to process the information and deal with the constant shocks thrown at it. Ultimately, everything begins to make sense as all the pieces that had been drip fed to you throughout clamber together as though someone has held a magnet to the page. 

The only thing I didn't really like was the epilogue. It kind of worked but didn't quite fit with the brilliance of the rest of the novel. 

I have seen reviews complain that the only reason the twists and shocks are possible are because key information, known to the characters in advance (as opposed to something which just happens to them along the way), is held back from the reader and that the reader is therefore 'played'. I didn't feel that at all. Yes, it's true that the reader is not aware of certain information but that is what makes the book (surely?!). There are plenty of books around that work like this; threads run parallel to each other and it's not until they overlap that the reader can necessarily connect the two or more and put together the bigger picture. Without the 'withholding of information' there wouldn't be a book to speak of. And more to the point, the reader is fully aware that there is more to the story than meets the eye so I personally don't see the problem. 

I Let You Go is compared to Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train on the back cover and I can certainly see why. Fans of these two books would definitely enjoy this and for me it was certainly up there with the best. For me, more gripping than The Girl on the Train.

An absolutely outstanding debut novel. It's not often I struggle to move on and pick up another book to start but I Let You Go leaves me wondering what I could possibly read that could comes close to comparing.


Thank you to the publisher for a copy of I Let You Go in exchange for an honest review.

I Let You Go is available now and I highly recommend you grab yourself a copy as soon as possible. The paperback is currently cheaper than the Kindle version on Amazon...

                    

Sunday, 23 August 2015

The SW19 Club by Nicola May

"What would you do if you were told you could never have children

Faced with this news, Gracie Davies is at an all-time low. But with the support of some new Wimbledon friends, an unorthodox therapist, her hippy-chick sister Naomi and Czech call-girl Maya, she sets up The SW19 Club and begins her rocky journey to inner peace and happiness. 

Add in a passionate fling with handsome landscaper Ed, a fairytale encounter with a Hollywood filmstar and the persistence of her adulterous ex, life is anything but predictable…"


I first discovered Nicola May back in the day when she was a self-published author.  At the time, I commented that her writing was publishing house quality and that I was amazed she had not been picked up by one of the big publishers.  Well, finally, someone has had some sense - well done to both Accent Press and Nicola!

The SW19 Club might look, from its cover, like a walk in the park but it really is a rollercoaster ride of emotions.  It is packed full of heartbreak but is also an exceptionally uplifting read.  Although the subject matter is heartbreaking, focusing on miscarriage and the struggles to have children, it certainly is not a dark book that will leave you wallowing in misery.  

Whilst the prologue leads you into the powerful sadness of the book, it is short and then you instantly jump six months forward.  The underlying theme remains and becomes slightly more prominent, in the guise of the SW19 Club later in the book, but Nicola May has a fabulous style of writing and there are plenty of characters and other parts to the story that ultimately makes it quite a light read; as Gracie battles with her reality, she also meets new friends and fancies along the way.  I don't think I would mind being swept off my feet by a Hollywood filmstar ;)

The SW19 Club is clearly a book that is written from the heart.  The short and punchy chapters will keep you turning the pages and I did not find it predictable at all and was left waiting until the final moments to discover who, if anyone, Gracie would choose for her future and when it comes, it is perfect and left me with tears streaming down my face.


Thank you to Nicola for sending me a copy of The SW19 Club.  Congratulations again for your Accent Press contract.  

The SW19 Club is out NOW and it is a bargain on Kindle, at the date of this blog post, for only £2.99.

             

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde


"Seth and his little brother Henry haven’t had the most stable of upbringings. Their father has been in and out of jail; their mother took off years ago and hasn't been seen since. Life is constantly uncertain - but a twist of fate could be just what they need.


August stopped drinking the day his son died. While on a journey that’s very close to his heart, a breakdown leaves him stranded in a small town and at the mercy of the local mechanic - Seth and Henry’s father.

But then August is presented with an offer he doesn't expect: take the two boys with him for the summer, and pay no charge for the repairs. 

As the unlikely trio set out on their road trip, the most unlikely, unforgettable friendship begins to take shape.

Take Me With You is a moving, thought-provoking story that fans of Jodi Picoult, Susan Lewis or Diane Chamberlain will love, or the perfect read for those looking for something special to curl up with."



Catherine Ryan Hyde is not an author I had come across before until this book dropped through my letterbox recently; thank you to Transworld/Black Swan for sending me the copy because without you I may never have stumbled across what turned out to be such a beautiful book.

In fact, the book was so beautiful that at the outset I found myself constantly wanting to cry and I knew early on that I would regret reading it in public on the train to work. Take Me With You is the sort of book that you need to set hours at a time aside to read because you will not want to put it down.

Quite simply, it is tender, endearing and the most touching, heartfelt book I have read in some time.

I liked the first part of the book the best when Seth and Henry are young and I wished we never had to leave this part of their lives. Then, just as you think it cannot get any more heartbreaking...it does. The final parts of the book bring everything together in a rewarding way and although I never wanted it to end, the ending is ultimately uplifting.

The places they visit and the sights they see are breathtaking but actually what outshines all of that is the relationships between August, Seth and Henry. Those relationships are just beautiful and my absolute favourite relationships were August and Henry (as a young boy) and the relationships with Woody!

Take Me With You is not just a story of August, Seth and Henry's literal journey across America but it is an emotional journey that will change each of their lives forever and it is a book that will stay with me long after I turned the last page.


Thank you to Transworld/Black Swan for sending me a copy of Take Me With You which is out NOW.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Death by Dangerous by Olly Jarvis

"Death by Dangerous is a compelling legal thriller set in Manchester and Bradford. 

John Anderson is one of the North West's most dedicated and successful prosecution barristers. His career is going from strength to strength and he is on the verge of becoming Queen's Counsel. But the life he once knew suddenly comes crashing down following a fatal road traffic accident...Recovering from his injuries, he has no memory of the collision. Was he responsible for the death of a child? Who was his female passenger? 

Facing charges of causing death by dangerous driving, the professional and personal life he once knew now lies in tatters. Depressed and taking refuge in alcohol, Anderson refuses, in the face of so many unanswered questions, to accept his guilt. He becomes convinced that the gangster he was prosecuting at the time of the crash is in some way involved. The mystery deepens as his search for the truth draws him into Manchester's sordid criminal underworld. 

Shunned by his former colleagues, Anderson finds help from an unlikely source, enabling him to confront his prejudices and re-evaluate his past life. He embarks on a journey of self-discovery and, ultimately, the path for his own redemption. Anderson knows that defeat means deliverance to a prison full of violent criminals he has prosecuted over the years. He now has to find the strength to fight the most important trial of his life."


Death by Dangerous is an incredible fictional debut from Olly Jarvis and moments after turning the last page I am already desperate for him to release his next book. 

This book is a fast-paced legal thriller. Olly Jarvis is a criminal barrister - he has written about what he knows and his experiences have culminated in an intoxicating adrenalin-fuelled rollercoaster ride.

There are "mystery chapters" interspersed with the main thread and I was completely in the dark until the final pages when all becomes clear and every piece of the jigsaw fits perfectly in to place.  The ultimate answer is drip-fed to you in an exciting series of twists and the odd rogue clue dropped in to lead you up the wrong path but eventually the full story unravels. When it does, there isn't a sense that anything has been missed or forgotten and the ending could easily lead into a second book or a series following John Anderson. 

Ultimately the story should make you stop and think; how appearances and relationships can be deceptive, how your life can change in the blink of an eye and how terrifyingly difficult it could be to come back from that change. 

Death by Dangerous is an addictive read - every time I was forced to stop, I found myself desperate to read just one more chapter (although it never was just one more).  The writing is superb (as you would expect from a barrister) and you won't be able to turn the pages fast enough.  I cannot wait to see what Olly Jarvis releases next!


Death by Dangerous is OUT NOW!

Thank you to Sarah Taylor at Troubador Publishing for a review copy of Death by Dangerous in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Summer at Tiffany's by Karen Swan

"A wedding to plan. A wedding to stop. What could go wrong?

Cassie loves Henry. Henry loves Cassie. With a Tiffany ring on her finger, all that Cassie has left to do is plan the wedding. It should be so simple but when Henry pushes for a date, Cassie pulls back.

Henry's wild, young cousin, Gem, has no such hesitations and is racing to the aisle at a sprint, determined to marry in the Cornish church where her parents were wed. But the family is set against it, and Cassie resolves to stop the wedding from going ahead.

When Henry lands an expedition sailing the Pacific for the summer, Cassie decamps to Cornwall, hoping to find the peace of mind she needs to move forwards. But in the dunes and coves of the northern Cornish coast, she soon discovers the past isn't finished with her yet . . ."



It was delightful to revisit Cassie and Henry and the old gang. Whilst I would love to have re-read Christmas at Tiffany's before embarking on this new journey (to refresh my memory and re-immerse myself in their world), I couldn't bear to wait and found myself driving in as soon as the book dropped through my letterbox. 

There came a point where I thought I knew the ending but the journey that takes you there is as winding as the roads down to Cornwall and I found myself doubting myself constantly as there are so many forks in the road making you feel like you could end up literally anywhere. However, the story is delightful and engrossed me fully; I absorbed the book in one weekend and it left me with a massive smile on my face. 

Christmas at Tiffany's is a hard act to follow and I'm not guaranteeing this sequel will live up to its predecessor but it's a lovely opportunity to revisit those much loved characters and see what they are doing now! 

I don't think there is a particular need to have read the first book, however it might help you understand the turmoil Cassie experiences - I don't deny it can be frustrating and it might be even more so if you don't fully appreciate her history. 

Karen's writing, as always, conjures up vivid images in your mind so that you get to really live the book rather than just sit and read some words on a page.  As always, I eagerly await Karen Swan's next masterpiece.

Thank you to Pan Macmillan for the ARC of Summer at Tiffany's in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Too Charming by Kathryn Freeman

"Does a girl ever really learn from her mistakes?

Detective Sergeant Megan Taylor thinks so. She once lost her heart to a man who was too charming and she isn’t about to make the same mistake again – especially not with sexy defence lawyer, Scott Armstrong. Aside from being far too sure of himself for his own good, Scott’s major flaw is he defends the very people she works so hard to imprison.

But when Scott wants something he goes for it. And he wants Megan. One day she’ll see him not as a lawyer, but as a man ... and that’s when she’ll fall for him.

Yet just as Scott seems to be making inroads, a case presents itself that’s far too close to home, throwing his life into chaos.

As Megan helps him pick up the pieces, can he persuade her he isn’t the careless charmer she thinks he is? Isn’t a man innocent until proven guilty?"


I am a bit behind the times, as this was released in 2013, but what an incredible debut from Kathryn Freeman!

The characters are likeable (and in Scott's case, absolutely to die for loveable) and the chemistry is the most explosive I've seen in a while. I loved that Scott wasn't a "what you see is what you get" man and I also loved discovering the other side to him, even if it was a frustrating journey that made me want to smack Megan several times over.

I adored his relationship with Megan's little girl and the moments with Megan's parents also brought a smile to my face. All in all, I adored it - it (well let's not kid ourselves, Scott) had my heart and soul hooked and I never wanted to put it down.

The only slight disappointment was the end - when it came, it was too quick and is the sort of ending that screams out for an epilogue and in the absence of that, I would love to revisit these characters in the future to see where they ended up.

The writing is outstanding; I feel like I lived every emotion with Megan and Scott and often found myself holding my breath as the chemistry and tension was so strong. I cannot wait to discover more of Kathryn Freeman.

I understand that Kathryn is just about to release her third book with Choc Lit (out August 13th) and it is bound to be another scorcher.


Thank you to NetGalley and ChocLit for the e-copy of Too Charming in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne by Andrew Nicoll

"A woman murdered. A crime unsolved. A mystery that has lasted a century. 

A hundred years ago, the true story of the brutal murder of Miss Jean Milne in a small seaside town captured the imagination of the whole country. A wealthy spinster who lived alone in a crumbling mansion, Miss Milne appeared to be the very model of respectability. But, behind the facade, Miss Milne was living a secret life. 

For a century, her murder has gone unsolved. Why was this quiet spinster tied up in her own home, tortured and brutally murdered? Who could have committed such a heinous crime in this quiet little town? 

Now, using newly-released evidence from police files, eye witness testimony hidden for a century and long forgotten newspaper reports from the scene, Andrew Nicoll has brought the case back from the dead to reveal the secrets of the little town where Jean Milne was murdered - the little town where he has spent his life. And the evidence has revealed that the quiet spinster found tied and tortured to death was not all that she seemed. 

Set in the heart of one of the wealthiest communities in the world, at the very height of the British Empire, it's a shocking tale of class division, money, sex, lies, betrayal and murder. 

And, at last, after a hundred years, the curious death of Miss Jean Milne may finally have found a solution."


I loved the sound of this story and jumped at the chance to take part in the blog tour! When I first started reading, I was momentarily panicked into thinking I had made a big mistake and that I was going to hate it but I was wrong.  It took me a few pages to settle into the rhythm and the style of writing but once I was settled, I was hooked.

The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne really is a mystery - the fact that this book is based on true events makes it all the more captivating.  

Andrew Nicoll has done an exceptional job of turning facts into fiction; the style, pace, characters and narrative are all absolutely perfect and the book remains enthralling until the last.  Nicoll has created a sense of the time and place of Miss Jean Milne so well - he appears to have stayed true to the right facts at the same time as highlighting the gaps that really should have been filled and investigated at the time.

I did not guess the twists and turns that Nicoll was going to take us on during this journey but when it happens, it is so immersing, it certainly could be real.  I felt that this book was completely as it should be - there didn't feel like there were any gaps and everything felt like it was perfectly wrapped up for the reader.

If you google it, there is plenty of information available on the real life mysterious murder and even the case files are available following a Freedom of Information request.  It is a shame that we cannot categorically know the truth of what happened to Miss Jean Milne but Nicoll gives you a version of events that certainly could be true...



The Secret Life and Curious Death of Miss Jean Milne is out NOW.  

Thank you to Black and White Publishing for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara

The blossom is out in the little Cornish harbour town of St Felix
But Poppy Carmichael's spirits aren't lifted by the pretty West Country spring. Inheriting her grandmother's flower shop has forced her to return to Cornwall, a place that holds too many memories. 
Poppy is determined to do her best for the sake of her adored grandmother, but she struggles with the responsibility of the more-shabby-than-chic shop. And with the added complication of Jake, the gruff but gorgeous local flower grower, Poppy is very tempted to run away... 
The pretty little town has a few surprises in store for Poppy. With new friends to help her and romance blooming, it's time for Poppy to open her heart to St Felix and to the special magic of a little flower shop by the sea!
Let Ali McNamara, author of the much-loved From Notting Hill with Love...Actually, bring some sparkling sunshine into your life


This is a book you should judge by its cover; the cover is utterly gorgeous and what follows is the most perfect holiday read for summer 2015.  Cornwall is the place to be this year, whether that be for television programmes (dare I mention the Poldark word...), holiday destinations (people are flocking in the hope of seeing Poldark!) or book settings, and Ali McNamara is bang on trend as The Little Flower Shop by the Sea is set in a fictional harbour town in Cornwall, called St Felix.

It has been a while since I was really captivated by a book and felt not only that I didn't want to, but also that I couldn't, put it down.  The Little Flower Shop by the Sea has that magical and magnetic draw to it - I really couldn't put it down! It made me smile, laugh and cry on more than one occasion.

There is a real array of wonderful, and not so wonderful, characters.  My favourite has to be Miley; the descriptions and sentiments that come with Miley are wonderful - she is one special little lady.  I found myself grinning at the page when she was around.

The ease with which I could picture every scene as though I was there is a credit to Ali McNamara's wonderful writing style.  I feel like I have just returned from a holiday in a little harbour town in Cornwall, where I met the most wonderful people and saw the most wonderful things.

There is a magical element to the book, but it is carried out in the most perfect way.  Every turn that Ali McNamara chooses to take her audience down is perfect and when you turn the last page, you will be left utterly satisfied.  The only thing you will most definitely want is more and I feel there is definitely scope for Ali to come back and visit St Felix and Poppy in the future and I, for one, hope she does!

To a degree, this book reminded me of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh which is also based on the Victorian meaning of flowers.  I think there is something really special about books which cover this topic.

I haven't read an Ali McNamara book since Breakfast at Darcy's which I loved and her latest offering lived up to my expectations and then outshone them.  The Little Flower Shop by the Sea is a lovely tale of sunshine, old and new friends, love, friendship, magical places and new beginnings.

The Little Flower Shop by the Sea is out on 30 July 2015.  

Thank you to NetGalley and Little Brown Book Group for the advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Letters to my Husband by Stephanie Butland

"Dear Mike, I can’t believe that it’s true. You wouldn’t do this to me. You promised.

Elizabeth knows that her husband is kind and good and that he loves her unconditionally. She knows she hasn’t been herself lately but that, even so, they are happy. 

But Elizabeth’s world is turned upside down when Mike dies in a tragic drowning accident. Suddenly everything Elizabeth knows about her husband is thrown into doubt. Why would he sacrifice his own life, knowing he’d never see his wife again? And what exactly was he doing at the lake that night?

Elizabeth knows that writing to Mike won’t bring him back, but she needs to talk to him now more than ever . . .


How much can you ever know about the people you love?"


I found Letters to my Husband quite emotionally draining in the first instance.  A lot of the first section is a little repetitive in that there does not feel like there is any light at the end of the tunnel.  Then, once the 'secret' was revealed, I felt a little disappointed that was the turn the book was going to take, although I am not really sure what else I had expected.

I continued to read because the writing itself is good and I was intrigued enough to know what was ultimately going to happen, but I just couldn't adore such a book filled with such unrelenting sadness.  However, at the same time as being sad, it is not the tear jerker that I was expecting.  Unfortunately, I just didn't feel even a glimmer of hope or inspiration.  

I want to stress that this doesn't mean I wouldn't consider reading a Stephanie Butland book in the future, however I found that Letters to my Husband did not have that uplifting element that would have made all the difference to me.

Letters to my Husband is out NOW.  Thank you to Transworld Publishers for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

You, Me and Other People by Fionnuala Kearney

"The stunning debut novel from Fionnuala Kearney - already a Top Ten Irish Times bestseller

THEY SAY EVERY FAMILY HAS SKELETONS IN THEIR CLOSET . . .

But what happens when you open the door and they won’t stop tumbling out?

For Adam and Beth the first secret wasn’t the last, it was just the beginning.

You think you can imagine the worst thing that could happen to your family, but there are some secrets that change everything.

And then the question is, how can you piece together a future when your past is being rewritten?

For fans of Liane Moriarty, Jojo Moyes and David Nicholls."


This book follows Beth, Adam and Meg and the tangled web that is their family and be prepared because it is messy.  Once the first secret is out, there is no controlling the rest which will eventually tumble out.

I have to admit that I do not really know how I feel about this book.  I didn't not enjoy it but I just didn't adore it in the way I thought I would and I didn't come away from it wishing there were more pages to fill my life.

I did love the moments of Adam and Noah together, and Noah as a character was very special.  I wish we had the opportunity to see more of him.

Due to work circumstances, about half way through the book I took a week long break and when I returned to it, it just never felt the same.  I did want to return to it, but it hadn't left that burning impression on me that left my longing to return to the page the moment I had put it down.  Following on from that 'break', I enjoyed reading but the storyline could have swung one of two ways and I found myself not really fully invested in caring which direction it was going to take.  I wanted to really know what I wanted from the characters and the storyline, and whilst I cared enough to continue reading, I wasn't invested enough to pine for one outcome over the other.

I liked the alternating chapters resulting in the reader gaining both Beth and Adam's perspective of the situation and Kearney portrays the characters' emotions exceptionally well; I think she really gets them spot on.

Kearney is clearly an accomplished writer and I would not hesitate to read one of her books in the future.  You, Me and Other People is Kearney's debut book and I am sure there will be plenty more to come.  

You, Me and Other People is OUT NOW.  

Thank you to NetGalley and HarperCollins for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.