The Widow by Fiona Barton

The Widow by Fiona Barton

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 Publisher: Bantam Press

Publishing Date: 14th January 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Genre:  Literature/Fiction (Adult), Mystery, Thriller

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 25th August 2016)

 

 Synopsis:

‚The ultimate psychological thriller’ Lisa Gardner

We’ve all seen him: the man – the monster – staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime.

But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him?

Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming.

Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil.

But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms.

Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows.

Rating: 4/5

 

There was so much buzz about „The Widow” on Twitter that started last year, and I was really desperate to see what it is about. I haven’t read any reviews before I started to read this book, as „The Widow” is a debut novel by Fiona Barton and I wanted to see for myself if the book is going to live up to my expectations, to make a picture of it by myself. And did it pass? Yes and no.

I was curious how Fiona Barton has plotted this novel because, let’s be honest, there is something clichéd in it already from the beginning – it is about the child gone missing, and wherever a child is involved, it’s for sure going to be an emotional, heart – wrenching story, but will it be enough to make the novel outstanding? Lately there are many books published, many psychological thrillers, casting missing children, police officers that don’t want to give up on the case and having a help from a journalist, then we have parents that are very easy to suspect – and „The Widow” has it all as well. And I was really hoping there is going to be something that will take me totally by surprise.

I had a feeling that some of the subplots were opened but then they faded away and were not mentioned again, or that some of them were left open, just like with the crippled driver for example, and the feeling that not everything was explained can’t leave me. And I think that killing the accused in an accident (it’s not a spoiler, we know this from the very first page of the story) was choosing a soft option. Also, I was a little deceived by the synopsis, and by author’s note at the beginning, as both promised we are going to get answers to who are the women/men „gripping the other halves’ arms on the courtroom stairs”, who stand behind the accused – I still have those questions. I didn’t find an answer to them.

But nevertheless, this book has me hooked. Literally hooked. It aroused all kind of emotions in me – there were tears, there was compassion, hopelessness, hope, despair and loathing. It also offered a different angle – we usually hear from the victim or from the family of the victim, and here the plot focuses on the one who’s accused to commit this crime and his wife – so here we have the way out of the „clichéd”.
Almost all the characters were so unpleasant! Ok, at the beginning I didn’t know what to think – yet – and so mostly I had compassion with almost all of them. But when the action started to untwist, when the author started to add new info, new suspicions, new explanations I started to change my mind, and truly, I began to suspect almost all of the characters. Ms Barton has managed to pull me in in the tangled web of lies, deception, secrets and alibis and I really started to believe that any of the characters was capable to commit this crime. She has also managed to draw me into their lives, and I wanted to see what’s going to happen, what they feel and whether they’re telling the truth. And also, she has made the characters complex, gave them many layers, and unpeeling, unwrapping those layers was incredibly gripping.
I am in two minds about the journalist Kate, who wouldn’t stop at anything to get the information she needed for her article. On the other hand, that’s the way the journalists probably are. Also, the author gave Kate’s character incredible authenticity, and she also brilliantly and sharply portrayed the way the present journalism works, their priorities and their part in competition with other social medias. Then we have the widow herself, Jean, and I think she was one of the most complicated characters I’ve come across and I really didn’t know what to think about her. There were moments that she felt so pathetic, and her life sounded so awful that I felt for her, but then I turned the page and she showed herself as a cold person without any feelings, to change into a doormat in the next second. There was never one face to her, and I am sure it was intended by the author, to show as many faces as possible, so that we’ll never be sure what’s going to come next and what we should, in fact, think about her. But deep inside I think that Jean was not as delicate and weak as she wanted people to see, and her strength was that she was able to play people as she liked – they see this face of her that she wanted to show them.

What I also enjoyed very much is the fact that the story is told from many different points of view. We can hear from Jean, from Kate, from the mother of the missing girl and from the police detective’s mouths, which gives us a truly complete, but also variable, insight into where we are and what is happening. The jumping between past and present didn’t make me feel confused, it only added much more tension to the whole story. I guess that with such controversial topic the book doesn’t need a „wow – moment”, doesn’t need any more fireworks, but nevertheless I was waiting for something bigger to come and hit me on the head – and by „bigger” I mean a surprising end, which wasn’t – but maybe it’s my fault that I was banking on such ending like this one. Maybe not literally like this one, but more or less (more in this case) I guessed this twist.

This is a very fast paced story with many twists and turns and it touches upon some very controversial topics, and I think that this was one of the thing that kept me so glued to the pages – it was awful, it was cruel and I will never be able to embrace this. The author has a great power to draw you into the story, to make you a part of the characters’ world and you are just like the detective, you want justice for Bella. It was a great debut, and the author has shown that she’s not afraid to touch upon controversial, painful issues – I will be looking forward to Fiona Barton’s next book. Recommended!

Wickham Hall by Cathy Bramley

Wickham Hall by Cathy Bramley

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 Publisher: Corgi

Publishing Date: 14th January 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Genre:  General Fiction (Adult), Contemporary

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 Synopsis:

Holly Swift has just landed the job of her dreams: events co-ordinator at Wickham Hall, the beautiful manor home that sits proudly at the heart of the village where she grew up. Not only does she get to organise for a living and work in stunning surroundings, but it will also put a bit of distance between Holly and her problems at home.

As Holly falls in love with the busy world of Wickham Hall – from family weddings to summer festivals, firework displays and Christmas grottos – she also finds a place in her heart for her friendly (if unusual) colleagues.

But life isn’t as easily organised as an event at Wickham Hall (and even those have their complications…). Can Holly learn to let go and live in the moment? After all, that’s when the magic happens…

Rating: 5/5

I can’t express how much I was waiting to finally read Wickham Hall by Cathy Bramley! I usually don’t wait for her series to come out as a full – length novel but read them part by part, immediately after they are released, so I really have no explanation why I waited this time. But no matter, no matter…! When the book arrived, I couldn’t stop looking at it – really. The cover is so gorgeous, only looking at it made me feel better :) But this what is between the cover is even better than the cover, Cathy delivers a wonderful, warm, lovely story – again! There may be thousand of uncertain things in your life, but one is for sure – when you pick Cathy Bramley’s book, you are for a real treat.

Just like Cathy’s previous books, Wickham Hall, that was firstly published as a series, is divided into four parts, and each part is in charge of a season – and it worked out brilliantly in this book, as there is always at least one big event to be organized in the Hall, and the plot focuses around it. It suits the book totally, and we have not only Christmas party, but fireworks night or Summer Fairs.
Cathy is a champion of creating delightful plots, worlds and characters, and it was not exception with Wickham Hall. I immediately felt at home when I started reading this novel, felt comfortable and in the right place. Holly Swift, Cathy’s new protagonist and main character, is just charming. She is on the normal level, a girl from the neighbourhood, a lovely, friendly person, but she can also stand for herself, when situation requires. I loved Holly’s internal dialogues, I couldn’t have enough of her dilemmas, she was so funny and this all only made me like her even more. She was so down to earth, genuine and honest in everything she did. Also, she had the biggest heart in the world and tons of patience in her, which we could see and appreciate when Holly’s mother Lucy was introduced to us – Lucy and her hoarding issues. It was also a point in the book that was brilliantly tackled by Cathy, with a lot of understanding and gentleness, and it quickly became clear why Holly is as she is: meticulous, clipboard kind of girl, with everything planned in advance. I also loved Holly’s enthusiasm about almost everything, loved her fresh ideas, and she was really the kind of girl that I’d love to have as my own, personal best friend.
And let’s talk about Ben. We can’t NOT talk about him. Move over all of my previous bookish crushes, now it’s Ben. For me, he was perfect. No, he himself was not perfect, he had his flaws, but from the very first scene we meet him (mmmmm…) I was sold. I was smitten. I was under his spell. And it didn’t change. A guy with his own dreams and plans that he wasn’t afraid to chase, a guy with talent, sexy as hell, with a brilliant sense of humour, leather jacket and able to organize the best dates in the world. Hello? And the sweeping romance was so, so sweet!
There is a great bunch of characters in this story, because we are talking not only about Holly, her mum and her best friend, but also about the owners of the Wickham Hall and all the staff members there, and they were all so true to life, so genuine in this what they were doing and saying, and I adored them all – even though I had a little clash with Lady F. some time during the story. They all add tons to the book – in the sense of their own stories and personalities. They were all so welcoming and so warm, and just made me feel like a part of their one, big family.

The plot moves seamlessly and the story is just flowing, and the author’s storytelling is incredibly engaging. Cathy always finds lovely settings for her novels, but this time she has exceeded herself. Wickham Hall and its surroundings, together with the village, were beautiful. The descriptions of those places were so very vivid, I didn’t have any problems to picture all of them in my mind, and Cathy created a truly special place.

I may sound like a very ungrateful reader, but I am really already waiting for Cathy’s next novel – I just can’t have enough of her writing and I hope she will be writing books for many, many years to come – she just pulls you into the story with her wonderful, vivid descriptions and you feel so, so welcome. Wickham Hall was the best example of her talent, easy, enjoyable read that had a depth to it. It made me laugh, it had moments that had me feeling a little nostalgic, it was fast paced, and when one secret was revealed the next was already waiting for you So and I loved the whole story, from the beginning to the end – a truly brilliant book, highly recommended!

Strictly Between Us by Jane Fallon

Strictly Between Us by Jane Fallon

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 Publisher: Penguin UK – Michael Joseph

Publishing Date: 14th January 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Genre:  General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

  Synopsis:

Tamsin and Michelle have been inseparable since childhood. Even now they spend all their time together, along with Patrick, Michelle’s handsome husband.

Except Tamsin’s brilliant assistant Bea (without whom Tamsin’s life would fall apart) has heard a nasty rumour that Patrick is playing away. Determined to uncover the truth, Tamsin devises a honey-trap to test his resolve, using Bea as bait. But she never counted on Bea having her own agenda . . .

Struggling to untangle the web of deceit, Patrick seems to be constantly one step ahead. Can Tamsin reveal the truth to Michelle without ruining everyone’s life along the way?

 Rating: 5/5

Well, really, can somebody explain to me how come I’ve never read any Jane Fallon’s novels before? I am so impressed with Strictly Between Us that I am absolutely going to treat myself to her previous books – quickly!

I immediately felt like a part of the book, like the part of Tamsin’s world – the story was mostly told from Tamsin’s point of view, especially at the beginning, and then the author allows all the other significant characters to speak – and this is the moment (the beginning of part 2) where the book truly took off, gained incredible speed and I couldn’t put it down. Through the first person narration I felt as if the tale was told directly to me, and only me, and thanks to this way of narration I was able to learn the deepest thoughts of the characters, their own points of view and the way they were perceiving the same situations.

I can’t write much in this review, as this book is so written that by slipping one unwary word I’d let you know the whole plot, so no way! But let me just tell you that you are going to be totally surprised, and that everything will look different, that you’ll change your mind about the characters lots of times! The only person that I disliked from the beginning and didn’t change my opinion about was Patrick – he was false, arrogant and just the type that you just want to slap hard. Altogether the characters were fantastic, true to life, behaving like real people, full of flaws, making mistakes and then trying to make up for those mistakes, usually only getting caught in the tangle of lies.

I am not judging the characters, I am only prizing the way the author has made them complex and genuine in their actions, and how she complicated their lives. I am always full of prizes for authors who choose the most difficult ways for their characters, who are not afraid to ask uncomfortable questions and who put the characters in very awkward, controversial positions, and are still able to pull everything off , to write a story that ends in a satisfying way – it must be the hardest job, and yet Jane Fallon has done it brilliantly. I am still impressed with all the twists in this novel, all the unexpected turns, and the way the plot has taken, taking me more than once, twice, hundred times by surprise, catching me off – guard and totally blind – siding me at the end of Part One.

This book has a brilliant and controversial plot, exploring friendship and relationships, and to what lengths we are able to go to protect our friends, and how long is it by rights protection? It was incredibly quickly paced, and you really can’t be sure what’s going to happen when you turn the page. And the ending! Oh my word, the end! I would never guess it, and I felt so, so sorry for Tamsin!

I think the reader shouldn’t judge the characters and just go with the flow. The book is full of cheating, lying and dishonesty, and normally those are things that we say WTF? But this novel is written in such a brilliant way, believe me, that even with all those things you can fell for the characters, you can cheer them on or you want them to be severely punished. I think the most important thing is that we don’t have to agree with the things the characters make, with their decisions, and yet we still agree with them. Even though their decisions were controversial, I found myself really getting them and supporting them.

So really, all in all Strictly Between Us can be seen as a comedy of errors, very easy to read and – as it starts rolling – unputdownable. It was a truly thought – provoking, plot – driven story with a confident voice – recommended!

Match Me if You Can by Michele Gorman

Match Me if you Can by Michele Gorman

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 Publisher: Avon

Publishing Date: 14th January 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Genre:  Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 Synopsis:

Three friends upcycle their exes through London’s most popular boyfriend recycling website, but haven’t bargained on the consequences of the exchanges they make.

Perfect for fans of Sophie Kinsella and Lindsey Kelk.

Meet best friends Catherine, Rachel and Sarah. Yet to find Mr Right, they’ve been settling for Mr Right Now. But when Catherine, London’s finest matchmaker, gets the girls to join her dating site where they can recycle their ex-boyfriends, they soon realise that anything could happen.

Rachel’s office romance James was a big fat mistake and she’s more than happy to upcycle him… Or is she? Homebody Sarah hasn’t had a date in years but when her transformation finds men falling at her newly-pedicured feet, will her popularity be worth the sacrifices she’s making? And Catherine falls asleep more often on her desk than on a man, so when she builds the perfect partner who ticks all her boxes, surely it’s a recipe for love . . . not disaster?

There’s someone for everyone, right? These best friends are about to find out for themselves . .

 Rating: 4/5

 

The first thing that drew my attention was the title of this book – Match Me if You Can – it’s fantastic, I personally love it and it really stands out from the crowd. Then the premise – it’s brilliant, just brilliant, and I don’t think I have ever came across such concept before. I mean, recycling exes – how clever and unique is this?

But in fact the story itself has not much to do with recycling exes. I was expecting a very different story, full of awkward, embarrassing, funny situations regarding this recycling, I was hoping for dates, dates, dates like you wouldn’t believe, but I got something totally different. Michele sticks to her proven and safe concept of three friends living together under one roof, living their own lives. Catherine is the one with the dating business that she started with her ex – husband, Richard. She’s happy with the arrangements, as Richard lets her have a carte blanche, but the situation changes when he sells his shares to his fiancé Magda – a VERY young fiancé, let’s add. Catherine, by the ways of expanding business a little, is also giving a one – to – one tutorials with some special clients, clients who can’t find The One. Then we have Rachel, a young architect who’s working together with her ex on their first project. And by working together I of course mean that they must compete against each other! Who is going to win this project and probably get a promotion? And meet Sarah, whose mum passed away few years ago, leaving Sarah and her brother in charge of their younger sister, Sissy. Sarah doesn’t have time to think about herself and she’s putting all others before herself.
Out of all those three women I think it was Sarah that I fell mostly for. It was incredibly touching to see how she looks after her younger sister, how seriously she takes this responsibility. In all those everyday problems she forgets about herself and she feels the most comfortable in a tracksuit and without any make – up, and she doesn’t even bother to start thinking about finding a boyfriend. I liked her most out of the three friends – I have a feeling that even though there was a lot about Catherine, I still don’t know her too well, and Rachel was the most immature and shallow. Nevertheless, I really appreciate that all the three girls were so different, as it made the story this bit better, and they really complemented each other.

But back to recycling. To be in a chance to join RecycLove, you must sign with your ex – so yes, it’s a website with a twist, ha! The former couple must answer questions about each other, rating them from 1 to 4, which is not visible to the public, and they write each other recommendation, which is visible. And this is what I missed so, so much, because there are only two couples doing this evaluation and the rest of the book concentrates on the girls’ private lives. So yes, more than about dating and slashing the exes right and left, this is a story about learning something new, about discovering who you truly are and what you really want from life, about finding the right balance between work and private life.

This book is written in the typical Michele’s way – first she introduces all the characters to us, and then slowly and continuously takes us deeper and deeper. Each of the chapter is then told from one of the characters’ point of view, my favourite way BTW, as we then know what all of them are thinking. And, in fact, we have three stories bundled into one book – and as much as I’d SO like to have a book about dating, and only dating, I really appreciate what Ms Gorman has done with her characters, how she allowed us to follow them on their journey through their lives, dealing with obstacles and searching for happiness.

What I also like in Michele’s latest releases is the fact that her heroines are normal woman with same everyday problems as all of us, and that all of them are intelligent and ambitious and they’re not scared to change their lives to achieve what they want – which doesn’t mean that they’re going through life blasting their ways out. No, but still they manage to achieve something.

So Match Me if You Can, even though it was not this what I was expecting, was a fast – paced novel filled with vivid, realistic characters, full of friendship, hope and strong women supporting each other. Every word here sounds honest and genuine, and I couldn’t help thinking that this could happen in real life as well, oh heck, it’s for sure happening right now somewhere around the world, and Michele has created a great story. She has also managed to brilliantly balance humour with much more important issues, such as caring for a family member with disability, cancer and… yes, that having a group of reliable builders is also important :) I am a little disappointed it didn’t turn out the way I was hoping for it, but altogether I think it is the best Michele’s novel yet.

Holding Out for a Hero by Victoria van Tiem

Holding Out for a Hero by Victoria van Tiem

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 Publisher: Pan

Publishing Date: 14th January 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Genre:  Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 Synopsis:

The problem with first love is that it never truly dies…
A funny, bitter-sweet romantic dramedy set to an 80s soundtrack.

Libby London fell in love in with the 80s, came of age in the 90s, and now, in the 21st Century, she’s completely falling apart… Her New York City fashion sensibility is more ‚vintage tragedy’ than ‚retro babe’ and might just be what’s holding her back in all matters of life and love…

At least that’s what her well-meaning friends think. They’ve staged a #80sIntervention in an effort to bring Libby bang up-to-date. But how do you move forward when the one you love holds you in the past? Between her dreaded birthday party, friend’s madcap ambush, and being forced to relocate her Pretty In Pink thrift shop, Libby’s nearing the end of the rope… If her therapist isn’t quick, it could be a literal one.

Rating: 5/5

 

Holding Out for a Hero by Victoria van Tiem dropped very unexpectedly through my letterbox (as a belated Christmas present, ha!) I planned on requesting a review copy anyway so just imagine my surprise and joy when I opened the envelope and saw that this is THIS BOOK. Holding Out for a Hero is, just like Victoria’s debut novel Love Like the Movies, full of mentions of the cult – films and music from the eighties, and even though I was more likely to enjoy them few years later, I was stupidly excited when reading about them and being able to picture them in my mind or hum every song that was mentioned. Maybe this is why I could get Libby so good, and picture the way she was dressing and just being.
I knew that I’m going to adore this book after the first mention of Ferris Buller at the beginning of the book – I loved this film, and Libby, too! Also, the chapters in this story are titles of songs and movies from the 80s – things that I grew up listening to and watching, which made me feel so, so nostalgic!

I adored the idea of this book: Libby London is over thirty, but she lives and breaths the 80′s. Even her job is her 80s shop, Pretty in Pink, where she sells clothes and music from the 80s. She just came to a standstill in the 80s and that’s the end of the story. But her friends decide she should start living again and they stage an #80sIntervention – Libby is going to get a makeover, including new clothes, new hair, new make – up, new everything, and they’re going to send her on the dates, chosen by them, but based on the characters in Libby’s favourite film, The Breakfast Club. The question is, is Libby ready for such intervention? Does she need such intervention at all?

This novel was full of LOL – moments, and some of the one – liners made me snort with laughter. Really, the author, by dropping a very innocent word here or there to the dialogues made them just hilarious, and I could laugh hours later when thinking about them. Brilliant, brilliant job!
But. This book is not only laughs and happy memories of the 80s. It is very quickly clear that Libby has issues, and the more we learn about it, the more we can see that those are really serious issues that have their roots in Libby’s teenage years, and this is why she has decided to stay in the times where she was happy, ie. in the times of Like a Virgin by Madonna. What happened? You must read for yourself, I don’t want to spoil the reading for you, it would be the worst I could do. But this what happened, and its consequences, crushed my heart, I couldn’t watch Libby so broken – she was such a lovely girl, with a sunshine personality, and I wanted to see her happy.

At the beginning everything was nice and beautiful, but then, seeing Libby protesting and not feeling great in her new clothes, I started to think why do her friends want to force her to change? Why don’t they let her stay as she is, if she’s happy like this? But then I started to doubt that Libby IS happy, and guessing that there is something that is keeping her in the 80s – what is this? Relatively quickly I guessed what happened, although I doubted in my own theory occasionally, but when it was confirmed that I was right, it just broke my heart. So in reality this, what started as a super – duper light story, quickly turned out into a book with a depth, dealing also with much more important and serious issues, but still with this lovely, laugh – out – loud humour. It was just perfectly balanced.
The dates the author sends Libby on were hilarious! Yes, OK, they might have been a little too far – fetched, but on the other hand I think we should take them with a pinch of salt and just go with the flow. The anaesthetist „Brain” date, the „Athlete” date, the „Criminal” date, and let’s not forget the „Princess” date, with golfing, parrots and clubbing were so vividly described and I couldn’t stop laughing when reading.
There was also a brilliant group of characters in this book. Libby was one of them, of course, but also her friends, you could just see that they feel so comfortable in each other’s company, Libby’s therapist Dr P., who has never gave up on her, no matter what he encouraged her to keep going, and all other background characters – they were vivid, colourful and all so fresh, with their own personalities, and I loved reading about them all.

This book has all what I was hoping for – interesting plot with twists and turns, brilliant humour and darker side to it, and personally I loved it more that Victoria’s debut novel, which, BTW, was also great! I didn’t want to put this novel down for a second, I just wanted to see what’s going to happen next and what kind of date is Libby going to next. Sure, some of the situations were on the verge of absurd, the same as some of the characters, but this time it just worked with this plot and it made me laugh. Victoria’s writing style is so enjoyable and easy to follow and I didn’t have a problem to get on with her humour and hidden jokes. It’s a poignant novel about never giving up, about friendship, keeping going and healing. And this book made me feel nostalgic. Really. I just want to put on body suit, bandeau and turn on aerobic with Jane Fonda. Highly recommended (book. Not Jane Fonda. Though if you like…)

Christmas Ever After by Sarah Morgan / Book Review

Christmas Ever After by Sarah Morgan

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 Publisher: MIRA

Publishing Date: 22nd October 2015

Series: Puffin Island #3

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Genre:  Literature/Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction, Contemporary

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 Synopsis:

Skylar Tempest has never understood Alec Hunter’s appeal. So what if he’s a world-renowned historian? He’s also cynical, aloof and determined to think the worst of her. So when a twist of fate finds her spending the lead-up to Christmas with Alec and his family, she’s not expecting the season to be either merry or bright.

Alec has learned the hard way not to trust beautiful women—and Skylar is the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen. But as he watches her throw herself into his family’s festive chaos, Alec realises there is far more to this blonde bombshell than meets the eye.

With Christmas around the corner, Alec and Skylar return to Puffin Island, a tentative bond forged between them. Neither intends to fall in love but as the nights become darker, and the fire between them grows hotter, could this be the chance for Alec and Skylar to find their own happy ending?

Rating: 4/5

 

Even though Sarah Morgan has written plenty of books, Christmas in the Snow is only my second read by this author, though even with only two books under my belt I can see where this love that so many readers feel for her is coming from. Personally, I loved Maybe this Christmas that I read last year, and after hearing only lovely things about the newest release, I couldn’t wait to dive into my copy.
I knew that Christmas Ever After is the third book in the Puffin Island series and having not read the previous books I was really afraid to start this one – I was scared that perhaps I should read them in the right order. But after being assured that I can read this novel without reading the previous two, I more then happily obliged. And that’s true – despite the fact that there is a group of friends who know each other really well, who share some history, and who are connected through Puffin Island, Christmas Ever After can be easily read as a stand – alone book. Nevertheless, I will be trying to squeeze reading the earlier books somewhere between all my review copies, as Skylar and Alec’s background sounds just brilliant, and I’d love to see their interactions from earlier.

This book is fast – paced and full to brims with action – I don’t want to tell more to spoil the reading for you, but there was not a single moment flat, even with those dragging on a little passages, there was all the time something happening. The author takes us on a journey from snowy London, to the British countryside, to Puffin Island, and being in all those places with the characters felt just great. One of the best things in this book is the relationship between Sky and Alec – for me, who didn’t read the previous books, it was obvious they have a history, and that it is a very turbulent history. To say they don’t like each other would be an understatement – but the fate was throwing them together again and again, and the tension between them, and then sparks were absolutely brilliantly captured, felt so incredibly realistic and the descriptions of their emotions just touched at my heartstrings. Seeing them growing together was one of the highlights, as it was not so obvious they’ll grow together at all. Ha! And I really liked their characters. Yes, the situation with Sky’s parents and the way she let them tell her how to lead her life was one of the weakest links for me, but she turned out to be a clever woman, and her ripostes were to die for. She was so talented, I loved her ideas and the jewellery she made, and it pained me to see how self – depreciating she is, how she holds back because of her parents and controlling boyfriend. Also, I was not sure why she doesn’t like Alec so much, Alec – who, apart of being a little bitter and cynical (and he had his reasons!), was a great person, inside and outside.

As I have already mentioned, the subplot with Skylar’s parents and Richard didn’t work so much for me. I mean, no matter who the parents are, we live in 21st century, right? The way Sky’s relationship with Richard was „organized” just didn’t sit with me, it was much too far – fetched for my liking, much too impossible and somehow, it just didn’t fit Skylar and her personality. It took her really long to realise that the expectations of her family (the way she called her father „Judge” or when she reminded how they were forced to „Object” at the table just gave me shivers) and her own expectations don’t have anything in common, that she must live her life according to her own rules, but when it happened, I felt really proud of her. The difference between Sky and Alec’s families was like day and night and I fell in love with his family as quickly as Sky did – they were so incredibly warm and open, and I adored the way the were. They were the whole package, the full service, as they came not only with two labradors, but with mulled wine, mince pies, noisy younger sister and an overwhelming feeling of being welcome, and I just loved it, because they were so much like my own family.

I definitely found the part of the book taking place in London and at Alec’s parents’ house much more appealing, much more quicker, and much more funnier than when they moved back to Puffin Island – I was just so drown in Alec and Sky’s story that all the mentions of their friends, their problems just made me feel I am being pulled away from my favourite characters. Also, this was the part that dragged on too much for me, when the two were working on if the relationship can work or not, it was like watching too long tennis play, and it made me a little frustrated, this never – ending will they/won’t they, can they/can’t they, all the time comparing Sky to Alec’s ex – wife – there were too much repetitions, the scenes were being mulled over and over again, and as much as I like Sarah Morgan’s beautiful writing style, I just couldn’t stop rolling my eyes and hurrying to new information, new scene.
I also couldn’t help the feeling that Skylar’s hair were the separate character in the book, or at least that they were mentioned almost every second page – they were always in her way, they were flying in the wind, they were always fanning out on the pillow and they were the central point everywhere she put her head to.

But Sarah Morgan’s writing style is exceptional. It’s full of warmth and feeling, and her descriptions are so very vivid, bringing everything she writes about to life. It was a great, warm, light – hearted story, funny, flirty and romantic, a great read, and not only for Christmas. Even though it is a tad predictable, I didn’t reach for this book because of its unpredictability – no, I wanted to read it because I was sure it’s going to be a story that will cheer me up – and I was right. This book has also this what I adore in my novels – that under all this brilliant humour, there are also some more serious, darker issues hidden, and the author has balanced them in a great way. Add to this wonderful, snowy settings, the possibility of being snowed – in for Christmas, strong main characters and spectacular love scenes, and you’ve found your perfect read. Recommended!

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood / Book Review

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood

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 Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 7th January 2016

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Genre:  Literature/Fiction (Adult), Mystery, Thriller

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 Synopsis:

Taut, emotive and utterly compelling, an unputdownable ‚ripped from headlines’ read from Alex Marwood, author of the huge word-of-mouth bestseller, The Wicked Girls.

When three-year-old identical twin Coco goes missing during a family celebration, there is a media frenzy. Her parents are rich and influential, as are the friends they were with at their holiday home by the sea.

But what really happened to Coco during her father’s 50th birthday weekend?

Set across two weekends – the first when Coco goes missing and the second, at the funeral of Coco’s father, where at last, the darkest of secrets will be revealed…

 Rating: 5/5

The Darkest Secret was my first Alex Marwood’s book but after reading it I can certainly say that not the last. This book was a gripping, heart – breaking and very complex mystery casting a huge group of characters, full of lies, secrets and loathing, coming at a very good pace and at all the right moments. One of the most compelling and heart – breaking reads ever. I think I am going to mention my heart breaking few times here, but when I thought it couldn’t break any more, well, it did. There were a lot of jaw – dropping moments in this novel.

This story explores thousands of secrets and lies between one very complex family and its – not sure if I can call them friends – so let’s say, hangers – on. It was not only the case of searching for a missing child, it was much, much more, the book was sophisticated, intelligent, high – quality suspense novel with characters that I was continually changing my opinions about. The author has done a brilliant job of portraying the characters, of pulling the wool over my eyes and when I thought that I have the characters under control, that I know who shall I commiserate with and who is to be judged, then Alex Marwood just turned everything upside down. The characters are a group of spoiled, rich people who always get what they want, and the way they were described drew every kind of emotion of me, but mostly, as the reading went on and on, I only felt more and more loathing. Those people are really trying to the reader, they are the most selfish and self – absorbed bunch of characters that I’d probably ever came across, and I’ve no idea how did almost all of them could looked at themselves in the mirror, and still there was something incredibly fascinating in them, in their lives. Alex Marwood has just drawn a group of unforgettable characters and unforgettable plot, a powerhouse of a book. We had a very good feel of who they really are, deep inside, and what drives them to be like this. The author doesn’t make any judgment on her characters, she let the reader to decide for themselves what to think, she just brilliantly captured all the personalities and introduced them to us.

I am still impressed with the way the novel is constructed. It is set only over two weekends that are fifteen years apart, and yes, at the beginning I had a helluva of problems to eventually make out who is who, as there were so many characters introduced to us, and so confused to decode the connections and relationships between them, and I must be honest – it continued through the book when suddenly one person or the other was mentioned again, I needed to think who it is and to whom their belong , and it is a huge group of character we are talking about, what with all the couples and children. The author managed to tangle the plot incredibly, to deliver a rich, complex web of secrets, intrigues and lies. There are not many books that can make me feel so heart – broken and so shocked – this one managed it.

I was not so sure about the end but in the perspective I think it was the best ending there could be. Yes, in my opinion it didn’t give the closure but I am really not sure what the closure could be. One is sure, the end was incredibly sad and I think that each end would, in fact, come to me as surprise – everything was possible. And now, in perspective, I can see that the author was dropping hints here and there in the story, but to be honest, I didn’t even try to guess the ending.

What hurt so much is that it sounded so authentic, so realistic, the way it is dealt with, the way it is written may suggest that it really happened, or can happen, and those who suffer the most are those who has not a lot to say – children. It’s cleverly plotted, as it is truly not the disappearance of Coco that makes the book, but all those pitiful, shameless characters in all their glory. It is incredible how well did we know the characters without the author going on too deep about them – it was not necessary. It was enough how she described all those alpha and power – obsessed males with a trophy wife on their arms, the body – obsessed women who would go for anything to have a worry – free weekend.

It is truly excellent thriller. This book is a fast – paced, dynamic and incredibly moving tale taking place over two weekends set years apart with vivid characters, spot on dialogues and sharply observed, with a truly realistic sound to it. It had me hooked from the beginning to the end. Full of tension and questions that I was not sure I want to know the answer, as the truth was so painful – fantastic read, highly recommended!