Sunday, 27 September 2015

How To Be Brave by Louise Beech - BLOG TOUR

I am delighted to be today's stop on the BLOG TOUR for Louise Beech's How To Be Brave, which was published on 17 September 2015 by Orenda Books.

How To Be Brave
By Louise Beech
Published by Orenda Books (17 September 2015)
ISBN: 978-1910633199

Publisher's description
Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat where an ancestor survived for fifty days. Natalie struggles when nine-year-old daughter Rose is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and refuses her life-saving injections and blood tests. When they begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar they realise he has something for them - his diary. Only by using her imagination, newspaper clippings, letters and this diary will Natalie share the true story of Grandad Colin's survival at sea, and help her daughter cope with her illness and, indeed, survive.

My verdict
Wow, it's been difficult to write a review for How To Be Brave as there's so much I want to say. To summarise though, I loved it from start to finish. It's beautifully written, heartwarming and passionate.

Natalie and her daughter Rose are having to come to terms with Rose's diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. The painful and time-consuming regime of blood glucose testing and insulin injections have a major impact on their lives. The author has experienced this emotional turmoil herself, so it's not surprising that the writing is sensitive, yet also informative. To add to their stress, Natalie's husband Jake can't get home from Afghanistan to be with his family.

This powerful story alone would give anyone a reason to read How To Be Brave, especially if they or a relative or friend has had to deal with a similar diagnosis. But on top of this, there's the story of Natalie's grandfather Colin, who was stranded on a lifeboat at sea for several weeks in 1943, after a U-boat attack. He and his comrades were starving, thirsty and convinced they were all going to die.

When Natalie and Rose find Colin's diary, they embark on a journey to remember. Not only does this enable them to learn more about Colin's fascinating experiences, but it helps them come to terms with Rose's future.

How To Be Brave is a book about hope, courage, acceptance and love. The two story strands overlap seamlessly and the book is exceptionally well planned and well executed.

I think this is an amazing debut.

I received an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, 24 September 2015

Lullaby Girl by Aly Sidgwick

Lullaby Girl
By Aly Sidgwick
Published by Black & White Publishing (16 April 2015)
ISBN: 978-1845029500

Publisher's description
Who is the Lullaby Girl?

Found washed up on the banks of a remote loch, a mysterious girl is taken into the care of a psychiatric home in the Highlands of Scotland. Mute and covered in bruises, she has no memory of who she is or how she got there. The only clue to her identity is the Danish lullaby she sings...

Inside the care home, she should be safe. But, harassed by the media and treated as a nuisance by under-pressure staff, she finds the home is far from a haven. And as her memories slowly surface, the Lullaby Girl does her best to submerge them again. Some things are too terrible to remember... but unless she confronts her fear, how can she find out who she really is?

My verdict
Lullaby Girl is a haunting tale but won't be for all psychological thriller fans. It intrigued me enough to read from beginning to end. But it's dark and bleak, so not ideal if you want an uplifting read.

A girl is found on the banks of a remote lock in Scotland. She's injured, mute and suffering from amnesia. She's moved to a care home, where she should be safe from the media. Yet she remains treated with suspicion while she recovers, and not everyone at the home is welcoming.

The girl, Kathy, is fragile in body, spirit and mind. As the narrative switches between past and present, she gradually begins to remember snippets from her past. And then realises that her life could be in danger.

Lullaby Girl had an interesting plot. But it did leave me with a few unanswered questions. Difficult to mention most of them without giving away spoilers. But I was surprised that the police didn't take more of an active role in the case and check on her welfare.

The book is fairly well-written, but some of the dialogue irritated me a little. Kathy speaks with a slow, drawl and lisp at the start, which then vanishes by the end of the book. This may have been due to her post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, which then disappeared as she discovered who she was and took back control over her life.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

The Time in Between by Nancy Tucker

The Time In Between
By Nancy Tucker
Published by Icon Books (26 March 2015)
ISBN: 978-1848318304

Publisher's description
When Nancy Tucker was eight years old, her class had to write about what they wanted in life. She thought, and thought, and then, though she didn't know why, she wrote: 'I want to be thin.' Over the next twelve years, she developed anorexia nervosa, was hospitalised, and finally swung the other way towards bulimia nervosa. She left school, rejoined school; went in and out of therapy; ebbed in and out of life. From the bleak reality of a body breaking down to the electric mental highs of starvation, hers has been a life held in thrall by food.

My verdict
The Time In Between is certainly not light reading. It's an honest account of how a young girl decides that she wants to be thin at the age of eight. She embarks on a mission that leads her into anorexia and then bulimia over the following 12 years.

Nancy Tucker was a very bright child, striving to be perfect in every possible way. Yet despite her early academic achievements, she felt that she disappeared into the background - and believed that being perfect physically too would enable her to shine. As she spurns food, her health begins to suffer and then spirals completely out of control.  Unfortunately there's no solution or happy ending. And Nancy is left with the ultimate decision - to live or not to live.

This is a graphic and often upsetting look at how eating disorders have a major, and tragic, impact on people's lives (as well as their families). Yet it's written with sensitivity and gentle humour by Nancy herself, and is certainly a fascinating read. Nancy wasn't influenced by the media, or pictures of models, but simply thought that being thin would make her stand out from the crowd, as well as make her happy. Sadly Nancy had to discover the truth the hard way.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 21 September 2015

A Parcel for Anna Browne by Miranda Dickinson - BLOG TOUR

I am delighted to be today's stop on the BLOG TOUR for Miranda Dickinson's A Parcel for Anna Browne, which is being published on 24 September 2015 by Pan Macmillan.

A Parcel for Anna Browne
By Miranda Dickinson
Published by Pan Macmillan (24 September 2015)
ISBN: 978-1447276050

Publisher's description
Anna Browne is an ordinary woman living an ordinary life. Her day job as a receptionist in bustling London isn't exactly her dream, yet she has everything she wants. But someone thinks Anna Browne deserves more . . .
When a parcel addressed to Anna arrives, she has no idea who has sent it. Inside she finds a beautiful gift - one that is designed to be seen. And so begins a series of incredible deliveries, each one bringing Anna further out of the shadows and encouraging her to become the woman she was destined to be. As Anna grows in confidence, others begin to notice her - and her life starts to change.
But who is sending the mysterious gifts, and why?

My verdict
A Parcel for Anna Browne is a gorgeous uplifting story written with warmth and gentle humour.

Anne Browne works on reception in the offices of a major newspaper. No one really takes much notice of her, as the journalists and publishers go about their busy lives. But everything changes when she receives a gift from a mysterious benefactor. Let's face it - who doesn't love a present? Especially when it's unexpected. At first, she keeps these gifts to herself, but then her story becomes big news.

A Parcel for Anna Browne is more than just another chick lit read, as there's a mystery to solve. Who is sending Anna these gifts and why? Each present brings back memories of her not-so-happy childhood and her difficult relationship with her mother.

There are many contenders for her secret benefactor. I did guess their identity correctly quite early on, but this didn't detract from the story at all. It was like reading a fairytale, watching an ordinary woman learn to shine. This is a Cinderella story that makes you think about whether you are achieving your own potential. And if not, whether there's anything you can do to give yourself a boost towards your dreams.

A Parcel for Anna Browne is a great comfort read, an ideal book to curl up with at any time of the year, alongside a glass of wine and plenty of chocolate and cake.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Friday, 18 September 2015

The Defenceless by Kati Hiekkapelto - BLOG TOUR

I am delighted to be today's stop on the BLOG TOUR for Kati Hiekkapelto's The Defenceless, which is being published in paperback on 30 September 2015 by Orenda Books.

The Defenceless
By Kati Hiekkapelto
Published by Orenda Books (30 September 2015)
ISBN: 978-1910633137

Publisher's description

When an old man is found dead on the road - seemingly run over by a Hungarian au pair - police investigator Anna Fekete is certain that there is more to the incident than meets the eye. As she begins to unravel an increasingly complicated case, she's led on a deady trail where illegal immigration, drugs and ultimately murder threaten not only her beliefs, but her life. Anna's partner Esko is entrenched in a similarly dangerous investigation. As the two cases come together, it becomes clear that having the law on their side may not be enough.

My verdict
The Defenceless is an intriguing and atmospheric Scandi-noir novel with a tight complex plot. It's so well translated that it's easy to forget that it wasn't originally written in English.

Anna Fekete is investigating a seemingly straightforward hit-and-run accident - an elderly man has been found dead in the road after being run over by a Hungarian au pair. But as time progresses, it transpires that this isn't as clear cut as originally believed. Throw in some drug addicts and murder, and the case becomes increasingly complicated. Anna's partner Esko, meanwhile, is investigating the Black Cobras, a crime syndicate (of immigrants) trying to get a foothold in Finland.

The Defenceless' publication is very timely, with the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis in Europe. The plot focuses on illegal immigration, with refugees fleeing from conflict, and addresses some serious moral and social issues.

The author Kati Hiekkapelto has created some well-developed characters, highlighting their flaws and anxieties. As the plot progresses, Anna Fekete questions her own status in Finnish society, being an immigrant herself, having originally fled from a war zone.

This book is more than just a crime novel. It's a fascinating insight into what's below the surface of the society that we live in - every migrant/refugee has a story, so what leads them to flee a country that they know and love.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, 17 September 2015

The Girl Who Broke The Rules by Marnie Riches

The Girl Who Broke The Rules
By Marnie Riches
Published by Maze (20 August 2015)

Publisher's description
When the mutilated bodies of two sex-workers are found in Amsterdam, Chief Inspector van den Bergen must find a brutal murderer before the red-light-district erupts into panic.
Georgina McKenzie is conducting research into pornography among the UK’s most violent sex-offenders but once van den Bergen calls on her criminology expertise, she is only too happy to come running.

The rising death toll forces George and van den Bergen to navigate the labyrinthine worlds of Soho strip-club sleaze and trans-national human trafficking. And with the case growing ever more complicated, George must walk the halls of Broadmoor psychiatric hospital, seeking advice from the brilliant serial murderer, Dr. Silas Holm…

My verdict
Reading The Girl Who Broke The Rules was like coming back to an old friend. I think this book is even better than the first in the series. It can be read as a standalone. But if you haven't read the first book (The Girl Who Wouldn't Die), I suggest you read this before The Girl Who Broke The Rules to help you understand the main characters' backgrounds.

Yet again, the reader is transported between the dual locations of London and Amsterdam, following an investigation into a series of gruesome crimes. George is in London researching pornography among violent sex offenders for her PhD, but a disturbing case leads her to join Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen in Amsterdam. Women are being brutally butchered, and certain evidence leads the police to suspect that this could be linked with human trafficking.

Both George and van den Bergen's personal lives are a mess. George's relationship with her boyfriend Ad is in jeopardy and van den Bergen is paranoid about his health. George is brash and hard as nails with plenty of attitude, a consequence of her difficult upbringing, and very different to sensitive van den Bergen (who is old enough to be her father). Yet not only are they friends and work colleagues, but it's clear that they are attracted to one another too.

The writing is fast-paced and highly readable with some graphic and gory descriptions. As the story progresses, the tension builds up and the body count rises. I had no idea about the identity of the murderer, and the culprit was a complete surprise.

The ending is also shocking and totally unexpected. Be warned that it will leave you hanging. It's left me desperate to read the third installment.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Rules For Thursday Lovers by Yana Stajno

Rules For Thursday Lovers
By Yana Stajno
Published by Clink Street Publishing (16 July 2015)
ISBN: 978-1910782125

Publisher's description
When old school friends, Angie and Fiona, bump into one another at a rather drunken timeshare event aboard a barge on the river Thames, their reunion will prove to be auspicious. Bored with her life, Fiona insists they both need some excitement. Their marriages have grown stale; their previous hopes and dreams confined to the top shelf, just out of reach. Both women crave romance, not a timeshare apartment. Timesharing a lover; now that would be interesting... Auditions are swiftly convened at London Zoo, with hopefuls including a language student, an opera singer and a pickpocket. Their advert also falls into the hands of a young lawyer called Jake, a colleague of Angie's solicitor husband on a sperm-ownership case. To make sure they each play fair, the women create a list of rules by which they will court and enjoy a man of their mutual choosing. But when has love ever been fair, especially amongst friends?

My verdict
Rules For Thursday Lovers is a humorous story about two middle-aged women who want to liven up their seemingly boring lives.

When old school friends Angie and Fiona meet at a timeshare holiday event, they decide that they need some fun. Rather than take up a new hobby, the two married women rent an apartment and advertise for a timeshare lover. But obviously not everything goes to plan, as the women struggle to find a lover that they can easily share. A series of disasters lead Angie and Fiona to learn a lot about themselves, their lives and about their loved ones.

Rules For Thursday Lovers reminded me of a Carry On film. It's a bit predictable in places but this just seemed to add to the entertainment. I was surprised that Angie agreed to Fiona's idea in the first place, as the women hadn't seen each other for years and Angie didn't seem like a naturally adventurous person. She certainly surprised me bwith her enthusiasm.

Some of the subplots weren't always easy to follow and seemed to go a little off tangent until the end, when everything came together. Overall this is a funny and entertaining slightly off-beat book.

I received an Advance Reader Copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

My Everything by Katie Marsh

My Everything
By Katie Marsh
Published by Hodder (27 August 2015)
ISBN: 978-1473613638

Publisher's description
On the day Hannah is finally going to tell her husband she's leaving him, he has a stroke . . . and life changes in an instant.
Tom's only 32. Now he can't walk or cut up his own food, let alone use his phone or take her in his arms. And Hannah's trapped. She knows she has to care for her husband, the very same man she was ready to walk away from.

But with the time and fresh perspective he's been given, Tom re-evaluates his life, and becomes determined to save his marriage. Can he once again become the man his wife fell in love with, or has he left it too late?

My verdict
I loved My Everything. It's highly thought provoking - one of those 'what if' books that feels very real and touches your heart.

The night before Hannah plans to leave her husband Tom, he suffers a devastating stroke at the age of 32. Hannah has to rethink her plans - all her hopes and dreams are shattered in a moment. She feels that she can't leave Tom at a time when he needs her most.

My Everything is an intriguing and believable story that's written with great tenderness. It switches between Hannah and Tom's past and present, showing how their relationship changed over time. They fell out of love - is it possible to fall back into it? Can they, and their relationship, change again, as Tom makes that long journey back to health? Or is it time for both of them to move on?

The book is beautifully written and I didn't want it to end. This is a story about guilt, love, regret, friendship and hope. It's about pursuing your dreams and following your heart - finding out who are you and not letting others define you. It's one of those books that makes you think about your own life - whether you're achieving your own dreams and, if not, what you can do about it. You never know what's in store.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter

Pretty Girls
By Karin Slaughter
Published by Cornerstone, Random House UK (2 July 2015)
ISBN: 978-1473507876

Publisher's description
With a missing girl in the news, Claire Scott can’t help but be reminded of her sister, who disappeared twenty years ago in a mystery that was never solved.

But when Claire begins to learn the truth about her sister, nothing will ever be the same.

My verdict
I have always been a big fan of Karin Slaughter's books, but I do have mixed views about Pretty Girls.

The first quarter was a little slow for me, and also rather confusing with the different narrators. But I did find the speed of the writing picked up in the middle half of the book.

Claire's sister Julie disappeared 20 years ago and no one knows what happened to her. Claire is now happily married. But then her husband Paul is killed in a seemingly random mugging attack. As Claire comes to terms with her loss, the local police don't seem to be making any progress in the investigations. And when Claire starts delving more into her husband's life, she makes several horrific discoveries.

Overall I did enjoy Pretty Girls, although it wasn't a 'wow' read for me. The plot is graphic, dark and gruesome in places. It does become rather unbelievable, but then you just have to go with the flow and enjoy the ride. It certainly has some great twists and turns and leaves you on the edge of your seat.

I received an Advance Reader Copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.