Saturday, 23 September 2017

Maria in the Moon @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks

About Maria in the Moon

A stunning, beautifully written dark drama by the critically acclaimed author of How To Be Brave and The Mountain in My Shoe.

Thirty-two-year-old Catherine Hope has a great memory. But she can't remember everything. She can't remember her ninth year. She can't remember when her insomnia started. And she can't remember why everyone stopped calling her Catherine-Maria.With a promiscuous past, and licking her wounds after a painful breakup, Catherine wonders why she resists anything approaching real love. But when she loses her home to the devastating deluge of 2007 and volunteers at Flood Crisis, a devastating memory emerges... and changes everything. Dark, poignant and deeply moving, Maria in the Moon is an examination of the nature of memory and truth, and the defences we build to protect ourselves, when we can no longer hide...

My review of Maria in the Moon

Maria in the Moon is a story that took my breath away. This is a simply stunning and beautiful story about a woman's journey to find her true self. It's emotive, dark and challenging and I loved every word.

The story revolves around Catherine Hope, a thirty-two-year old woman who is single and shares a one bedroom flat over a takeaway restaurant.  Today she is simply known as Catherine, no longer Catherine-Maria, and she has no recollection of why she lost the 'Maria' at the age of nine. Set during the Hull floods of 2007, Catherine decides to volunteer at Flood Crisis, a helpline for individuals affected by the floods. It is while working there that her life begins to change, that she slowly begins to remember what happened to her all those years ago.

The author writes so beautifully, providing Catherine with a clear and distinctive voice. I felt like I knew her inside and out. She was so very transparent on the page, her vulnerability, her strength, so clear to see. This is her story and I was hooked on every word. What happened to her? What can't she remember? She is a likeable, quirky and energetic woman but is haunted by past events that she cannot recall. I felt so sorry for her. What I loved most about her was her empathy towards others, her selflessness. As well as volunteering at Flood Crisis, she works night shifts at the local nursing home. Although this side of her life is not shown on the page, I knew that she would be a caring and diligent member of staff, treating everyone she cared for with dignity and respect, just as she does with those who call Flood Line.

This novel is packed with many interesting and vibrant characters, all illuminating and with their own personal story. We have Fern, the girl whose flat she shares and whom writes a weekly column in the local paper, I loved her!, and then we have Christopher, the volunteer and mentor she meets at Flood Crisis, who makes her world shift, who accepts her for who she is.

This is such a stunning, powerful and emotional read. It's a dark and beautiful read about the strength of human spirit, about the strength of Catherine, and of how we use memory to shape our future and define our past. It's a story about childhood and family, and of dark secrets that cannot remain buried for ever.

As I read the final page, I knew that Catherine Maria Hope would stay with me for a long time. She will be forever in the moon. Such a beautiful story.

Maria in the Moon is published by Orenda Books on 30 September. You can find it on Amazon here.

With thanks to the publisher who sent me a paperback copy for review purposes.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Anatomy of a Scandal @SVaughanAuthor

About Anatomy of a Scandal

You want to believe your husband. She wants to destroy him.

 Gripping psychological drama for fans of A
pple Tree Yard, The Good Wife and Notes on a Scandal.

Anatomy of a Scandal centres on a high-profile marriage that begins to unravel when the husband is accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is sure her husband, James, is innocent and desperately hopes to protect her precious family from the lies which might ruin them. Kate is the barrister who will prosecute the case – she is equally certain that James is guilty and determined he will pay for his crimes.

A high-profile marriage thrust into the spotlight. A wife, determined to keep her family safe, must face a prosecutor who believes justice has been a long time coming. 

A scandal that will rock Westminster. And the women caught at the heart of it.

My review of Anatomy of a Scandal

I'll start by saying that this book got under my skin and hooked me from the very beginning. It is a slow powerful read, packed with tension, drama and strong female characters surviving and making an impact in a male dominated environment. I loved this book for its honesty, its tenacity and for female characters who would simply not give up.

Kate Woodcroft is the central character. She is a London based barrister who is assigned the difficult case of prosecuting a man accused of a sexual assault. The man is James Whitehouse, a Conservative MP. He is a powerful man, a personal friend to the Prime Minister, and a man who is rich and living the perfect life. He has the beautiful wife and two beautiful children. All of this perfection is shattered when he is accused of raping a woman who he has had a brief affair with.

We read the alternating viewpoints of James, Kate, and Jane's wife, Sophie. All of these personal stories are important to thoroughly understand what has gone on. The story is told in the present day and also from 1992, as we read the viewpoint from Holly, undergraduate at Oxford University, where James and his future wife (then an on/off girlfriend) were both students. This young woman is from a different world, from a working class background, and it is Holly's viewpoint that I found most illuminating, as it highlighted the extravagance, the sheer arrogance and unpleasantness of James and his friends from the higher classes, the elite, who studied there. Life for them appeared to be easy and one long party.

This book tackles the difficult and sensitive subjects of rape and consent, the personification of women, and of the trial process involved with a rape case. This is an intense read, a dark read and the subject matter will not be for everyone because of its sensitive nature. But I do feel that the novel explores with sensitivity and understanding, the issues of consent, and of how women who have been subjected to a sexual assault are perceived by the media and the general public.

I felt like I was in the courtroom with the victim. It's an intense read, an unsettling one, and some parts, especially within the courtroom setting that went into specific details about the alleged rape, were disturbing. This feeling of unease was further heightened, as I felt like a voyeur, hearing and seeing things that should not be seen or heard. 

The issue of rape and consent are tackled with sensitivity and compassion.

Anatomy of a Scandal is a sharp, gripping and emotional court room drama that explores sexual crime from all angles. It's an uncomfortable read, but an important one and, a read that is hugely relevant today. It simply is a stunning book.

Anatomy of a Scandal is published by Simon & Schuster UK on 11 January 2018.

With thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an Advanced Reader Copy

Thursday, 21 September 2017

In a Cottage in a Wood by @CassGreenWriter

About In a Cottage in a Wood

Her dream home will become her worst nightmare…

A dark and twisty psychological thriller from the No.1 ebook bestselling author of The Woman Next Door.

A strange encounter

Neve comes across a troubled woman called Isabelle on Waterloo Bridge late one night. Isabelle forces a parcel into Neve’s hands and jumps to her death in the icy Thames below.

An unexpected gift

Two weeks later, as Neve’s wreck of a life in London collapses, an unexpected lifeline falls into her lap – a charming cottage in Cornwall left to her by Isabelle, the woman on the bridge. The solution to all her problems.

A twisted secret

But when Neve arrives, alone in the dark woods late one night, she finds a sinister-looking bungalow with bars across its windows. And her dream home quickly becomes her worst nightmare – a house hiding a twisted secret that will change her life forever…

My review of In a Cottage in a Wood

I'll start by just saying that I absolutely loved this book. What a fantastic read. This dark thriller hooked me from the very beginning!

In a Cottage in a Wood revolves around Neve, a woman in her thirties who seems to be lost in life. Having recently broken up from her long term boyfriend, Neve is living with her sister, brother-in-law and their two children. She is working in a job that she does not love but which pays the bills. Her life dramatically changes one night when walking home alone after a disastrous Christmas works' party and one night stand. While crossing Waterloo Bridge, she spots a woman alone, who is inappropriately dressed and whom she thinks needs help. She stops to talk, against her better judgement, and offers the woman money for the night bus. But what she gets is a parcel thrust into her hand and a parting cryptic message, before the woman jumps to her death. This is when the real story begins.

The pace is deliciously slow, as we follow Neve to Cornwall. Isabelle, the woman on the bridge, made a death bed wish of bequeathing her home to Neve. The contents and everything within it now belong to her. So with nothing to lose, and with Neve seeing this opportunity as a chance to re-evaluate her life, she makes the instant decision to head to her now new home.

The contrast between bustling inner city London and the quiet of the Cornish countryside are startling on the page. As soon as Neve enters the cottage there is a definite sense of foreboding. The descriptions of the cottage are detailed, so that I felt I was living there with Neve. I also liked the clever way in which the cottage echoed Neve's feelings and where she was at that moment in time. The cottage appeared to be a cold and uninviting space, a place where Neve did not belong. The remoteness of the cottage is also heightened because Neve does not drive. She almost appears to be trapped, the cottage drawing her in, keeping her captive. But she feels she has to stay, to figure out who Isabelle was and why she took her life. It consumes her.

This is such a clever read. When Neve suspects that all is not right with the cottage she begins to question those around her. Isabelle's brother, Richard, who lives nearby and the couple whom she quickly befriends. The real question is who can she trust?

In a Cottage in a Wood is a psychological thriller that has a big twist that I honestly didn't see coming. It held my attention, was entertaining and thoroughly creeped me out. It really is  a fabulous read!

In a Cottage in a Wood is published by Harper Collins on 21 September. It can be found on Amazon here.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an Advanced Reader Copy

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

The Red Ribbon @historywardrobe @HotKeyBooks

About The Rec Ribbon

Rose, Ella, Marta and Carla. In another life we might all have been friends together. But this was Birchwood.

For fans of The Diary of Anne Frank and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.

As fourteen-year-old Ella begins her first day at work she steps into a world of silks, seams, scissors, pins, hems and trimmings. She is a dressmaker, but this is no ordinary sewing workshop. Hers are no ordinary clients.

Ella has joined the seamstresses of Birkenau-Auschwitz, as readers may recognise it. Every dress she makes could mean the difference between life and death. And this place is all about survival.

Ella seeks refuge from this reality, and from haunting memories, in her work and in the world of fashion and fabrics. She is faced with painful decisions about how far she is prepared to go to survive. Is her love of clothes and creativity nothing more than collaboration with her captors, or is it a means of staying alive? Will she fight for herself alone, or will she trust the importance of an ever-deepening friendship with Rose?

One thing weaves through the colours of couture gowns and camp mud - a red ribbon, given to Ella as a symbol of hope.

My review of The Red Ribbon

The Red Ribbon is a YA novel like no other I have ever read. This book is a poignant and gripping read about the realities of life during the Holocaust. This is an important story and one which is highly emotive. due to the subject matter.

I wasn't too sure about what to expect from this book. Although set during the horrors of the Holocaust, this story predominantly revolves around the four female central characters, Rose, Ella, Marta and Carla, in the telling of Ella's story, and this in turn reinforces the human emotions of that era, of how the Holocaust affected those living and working within Auschwitz-Birkenau camp.

This book was a real eye opener. I never knew that women were held captive, enslaved to make dresses. This is also why the novel works very well as a YA read. The sense of what is happening and the suffering tied to those atrocities is clearly evident between the lines, but the book does not go into the full details of the horrors of war. As I said, this novel is very much about the human emotions of the women and girls who were part of the camp community.

Ella is at the heart of this story. She is only fourteen- years-old and we start the book as she begins her first day at 'Birchwood' the real Auschwitz-Birkenau, within the tailoring studio. I read with fascination as there would have been a girl like Ella working at the camp, and this made the story so visceral for me. It caught my breath as I read the unfolding words. The motions of making a dress from the finest silk was not so much about creating a dress for the enemy, but rather about survival, and this is the absolute crux of this book. Learning to survive, making the most of what you have and being kind in the most difficult of circumstances.

The human aspect of this novel is its driving force. I read to revel in the human reactions, the relationships that were formed because they had to, not out of choice, and of how beauty could be present during times of great evil. This is a morality read, as what would you do under the circumstances to survive? That is the big question that is asked here.

The Red Ribbon is an uplifting story, one of hope and of how women are stronger together than being alone. This is a remarkable book and one that is of huge importance to this moment in our history.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an Advanced Reader Copy.

The Red Ribbon is published by Hot Key Books on 21 September. It can be found on Amazon here.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

The Trysting Tree by Linda Gillard

About The Trysting Tree

A century of secrets...
Four women live in the shadow of the Trysting Tree.
All have something to hide.

A man without a memory walks away from the Somme battlefield, while a young woman grieves beneath the tree that will guard her secret for a hundred years.

Ann de Freitas doesn’t remember what she witnessed when she was five. The truth lies buried in the beech wood, forgotten for forty years. Can love unlock Ann’s heart and mind?

Connor Grenville is restoring the walled garden where his grandmother, Ivy used to play. Before her death, she tried to destroy the family archive. Who was Ivy trying to protect? And why?

When a storm fells the Trysting Tree, revealing a century-old love hidden in its hollow heart, Ann and Connor begin to sift through the past in search of answers. What they discover changes everything.

“The story doesn’t start here. I need to go back. Back to a time when the beech tree still stood, when I didn’t know the truth about my family and Connor didn’t know the truth about his. Right back to a time when the twentieth century was young and the beech still kept its secrets…”

My review of The Trysting Tree

 How do I find the words to describe this beautiful book? I honestly don't think that I can do this book the justice it deserves, but I'll do my very best. The Trysting Tree is a nostalgic, romantic, and emotional read rooted firmly in reality. It is quite simply breathtaking.

The story is told both in the present day, 2015, and during the First World War in the year 1915. The storytelling is lyrical, almost poetic at times, especially in the letters that are revealed and from the beech trees in the wood where all of the characters lived. There is such an honest and raw quality to the writing, which is a constant theme throughout Linda Gillard's novels. I first fell in love with her writing having read Star Gazing, that was then shortly followed by the devouring of Emotional Geology. In each and every book we have female characters that are utterly believable and who I can relate to, and this book is no exception.

The novel really helps to shed light on the emotional impact of war, and how it altered the women who were left behind. We hear Hester's views via her journal entries, and although from over one hundred years ago, the fact that we are reading her views in this format, made them appear very relevant and modern.

Relationships are at the heart of this novel. We have the relationship between mother and daughter, both past and present. The relationship between Ann, and her mother Phoebe, is incredibly poignant. Phoebe is a woman who has struggled with motherhood, who says she is not maternal, but there is a warmth to her, and a likeability, that I couldn't shrug off. Deeply flawed, yes, but realistic, I couldn't help but like her. We also have the romantic relationships, both past and present, and although a hundred years apart, share similarities. Both encounters were a joy to read. 

The house and wood are pivotal to this story, as is the garden, for both stories. The imagery that is conveyed on the page is just magical and whimsical and echoes the romantic and nostalgic mood that has been created. The beech trees even have their own voice, and their message at the end  of the book nearly made me weep.

The Trysting Tee is such a beautiful and moving book about love, family and the devestaing events of war. It really is a must read.

The Trysting Tree was published on 11 Sept. 2016 and can be found on Amazon here.

With thanks to the author who sent me a paperback copy for review purposes.

Monday, 18 September 2017

The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club by Chrissie Manby

About The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club

In the quaint seaside town of Newbay, a beginner's cookery course is starting. And three very different students have signed up...

Liz's husband has left her for a twenty-something clean-eating blogger, and she's determined to show the world - and her daughter - she's just as capable in the kitchen. John, newly widowed after fifty years of marriage, can't live on sympathy lasagnes forever. To thirty-year-old workaholic Bella, the course is a welcome escape from her high-pressure job. Their only common ground: between them, they can barely boil an egg!

Enter talented chef Alex, who is determined to introduce his pupils to the comforts of cuisine. As Liz, John and Bella encounter various disasters in the kitchen, the unlikely trio soon form a fast friendship. Their culinary skills might be catastrophic - but could the cookery club have given them a recipe for happiness?

The wonderful new novel from bestselling author Chrissie Manby is perfect for fans of Jill Mansell, Trisha Ashley, Cathy Bramley, and The Great British Bake Off.

My review of The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club

The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club was an absolute joy to read. After devouring several dark and grizzly crime thrillers, I felt that I needed a change of tone and pace, and this book fitted the bill perfectly. It's a gentle romantic comedy that ticks all of the right boxes. I loved it!

The main themes of the novel are food, cooking, friendship and love. This is the backbone to the four main characters that we meet. We have Liz, a dental hygienist whose husband of twenty years has run off with a food blogger and lifestyle guru Brittney. Liz has a teenage daughter, Saskia, and dog called Ted. Liz has taken the breakup particularly badly, and she can't seem to get over it, although it happened a year ago. She also can't cook and lives on a diet of ready meals. We then meet Alex, a loner and cook who is down on his luck and who sets up a cookery class, which Liz joins. Two other locals also join the class, John who is an elderly gentleman and widow, and Bella, a lawyer with a heart of gold who has lost her love of cooking.

What we read is an intricate account from each of these characters. We learn why they lost their love of food, what food means to them, and why they can't cook. The cookery class that Alex runs teaches them so much more than cooking.

This book, although funny, (there are lots of laugh out moments, many of which involve Ted the dog, and the car bonnet scene made me spit my coffee out) also has many poignant and reflective  moments. It's a much deeper book than at first you might think, because you judge it on its genre and lovely cover. The inner feelings of these characters are fully explored, and I felt as if I really knew them, that I understood them. I felt so sad when I finished the book, as I had to say goodbye to them.

The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club really does have everything. It's a quick and enjoyable read, there are a couple of love themed stories, and it made me laugh. I highly recommend this book when you need a little pick me up. It's a lovely read.

The Worst Case Scenario Cookery Club is published by Hodder Paperbacks on 21 Sept. 2017. It cn be found on Amazon here.

With thaks to the publusher and Bookbridgr for the Advanced Reader Copy

Friday, 15 September 2017

Cold Blood @RobertBryndza @bookouture

About Cold Blood

She fell in love with a killer, now she’s one too.

The suitcase was badly rusted, and took Erika several attempts, but it yielded and sagged open as she unzipped it. Nothing could prepare her for what she would find inside…

When a battered suitcase containing the dismembered body of a young man washes up on the shore of the river Thames, Detective Erika Foster is shocked. She’s worked on some terrifying cases but never seen anything like this before.

As Erika and her team set to work, she makes the link with another victim – the body of a young woman dumped in an identical suitcase two weeks ago.

Erika quickly realises she’s on the trail of a serial killer who’s already made their next move. Yet just as Erika starts to make headway with the investigation, she is the victim of a brutal attack.

But nothing will stop Erika. As the body count rises, the twin daughters of her colleague Commander Marsh are abducted, and the stakes are higher than ever before. Can Erika save the lives of two innocent children before it’s too late? She’s running out of time and about to make a disturbing discovery…there’s more than one killer.

Brilliantly gripping, Cold Blood will have you hooked from the first page and holding your breath to the heart-stopping and shocking ending.

My review of Cold Blood

Cold Blood is the fifth instalment in the Erika Foster detective series by Robert Bryndza, and I loved it. It is dark, very dark, much darker than the previous books in the series, and for me, this was my favourite book so far. 

As already mentioned, for me, this book had a darker edge, and there was one great whopping surprise that completely shocked me, but made perfect sense. Once again Erika Foster is leading her team in the search for a serial killer. A suitcase is found washed up along the banks of the River Thanes, and inside is the mutilated and dismembered body of a man. What ensues is a grizzly and frankly disturbing read, as the team try to work out who the man is and who killed him.

I can't go into any details regarding plot, as I would give the game away, and I don't want to do that. But I will say that the plot is an intricate one, involving all of the usual characters. The story weaves effortlessly from present day to past events, with the link slowly becoming evident as you progress through the book. These insights into the past both  gripped and unnerved me, and at times were very uncomfortable reading, but necessary to understand the mind of a killer.

This is a dark read, that delves into the life of a serial killer. We are given a glimpse into their life and why they act the way they do. We see the grubbier side of life, drug addiction and poverty, all told with clarity, realism and empathy. 

This really is a gripping read and I honestly couldn't put it down. The story, although harrowing, was highly addictive, and I wondered if Erika would ever get to the truth. She is the backbone of the story. We care for her. She doesn't always get things right, but at the end of the day she cares about people, and about justice, and that's why I love her. She is also an unlikely heroine, in the fact that she is so vulnerable, wearing her heart on her sleeve, and once again, she has to make some difficult decisions about her personal life. 

Cold Blood is a gritty, all consuming and compelling serial killer mystery that will keep you guessing until the very end. I can't wait for the next book. 

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for an Advanced Reader Copy.

Cold Blood is published by Bookouture on 20 September. It can be found on Amazon here.