Day of the Accident by Nuala Ellwood / Blog Tour

Day of the Accident by Nuala Ellwood

 

38470184Publisher: Penguin

Publishing Date: 21st February 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

They say you killed…But What If They’re Wrong?

Sixty seconds after she wakes from a coma, Maggie’s world is torn apart

The police tell her that her daughter Elspeth is dead. That she drowned when the car Maggie had been driving plunged into the river. Maggie remembers nothing.

When Maggie begs to see her husband Sean, the police tell her that he has disappeared. He was last seen on the day of her daughter’s funeral.

What really happened that day at the river?
Where is Maggie’s husband?
And why can’t she shake the suspicion that somewhere, somehow, her daughter is still alive?

Rating: five-stars

 

When Maggie wakes up in a hospital after being in coma for ten weeks, her world is immediately shattered when she’s told that her beloved daughter Elspeth was killed in the tragic car accident they were both involved in. Moreover, her husband has left and nobody knows where to find him. Maggie has no memory of the accident and is left with thousands of unanswered questions, with no home and no family, to find the truth about what has happened on that fateful day – and here come the rollercoaster journey, full of twists, turns and dark secrets.

The character of Maggie was well developed and not too straight – forward. I must admit, there were moments that I felt her love to her daughter is too overwhelming, that she doesn’t leave little Elspeth place for breath. Then, her character has made me think so, so much, and I wasn’t too happy with my thoughts, to be honest, because too often I’ve seen myself in Maggie, submerged in her world of books, dreaming of being let alone – and then it happened and what wouldn’t she do to have her daughter back – so be careful what you wish for. Those pangs of conscience must have been unendurable, I am not sure I could live with them, and yes, I love my daughter with my whole heart but I appreciate her even more now, and you can be sure I’ll put any book away to play with her – I don’t want to regret anything, like Maggie did. The bond between Maggie and Elspeth was special and brilliantly captured though, as I have already mentioned, there were moments that it felt too overwhelming, too possessive, too disordered. You can’t help but feel sorry for Maggie but also be uncertain about her. She was complex and complicated character, suffering from severe anxiety and still not being able to come to terms with an event that happened many years ago and resulted in Maggie being sent away for three years. In the story, she takes us back into her past, telling about her relationship with Sean and her joy of being a mother, and slowly unravelling the events that she’d love to forget but that burdened her so much. But there were moments that I felt uncertain about Maggie, about her intentions, if they were really so crystal clear, and I think it’s only natural that I was asking myself if she really was so innocent?

Interspersed through the book, between some of the chapters, were letters from a daughter to her mother. They were heartbreaking in the way the little girl was telling her mother how much she loves her and how she misses her, how lonely and frightened she is. And it was incredibly shocking, and also intriguing, to see how suddenly the letters changed in tone, how the child’s attitude changed when the reality hit and the girl realised that – perhaps – her mum is not going to come and save her.

So, this book. Because the final twists really surprised me – I, of course, have been trying, guessing, suspecting when the things started to become more and more complicated and simply the elements didn’t fit to the puzzle – and it doesn’t happen often, that the story was successful in surprising me, for this it deserves the 5 stars that I am gladly giving. But there is also much, much more that made me like this book so much. It simply had me hooked. Glued to the pages. Involved. From the very first page to the very end, I raced through it. There were moments that I simply didn’t know whom I can trust, if Maggie is really as innocent as I’m thinking, if I’m going crazy perhaps, as suddenly nothing seems as it seemed a second ago, and I loved how the author played with my mind – when I though I am close to truth, that I worked it all out, the story usually too me in a totally different direction.
“Day of the Accident” was realistically and vividly written drama mixed with mystery, full of tension and plotted in a complex, well – thought way and it kept me on my toes. You know, there are books that you simply keep reading, waiting for the final and for the secrets to be revealed but it was not such a book – it makes you think overtime, wondering, trying to work out what has happened, why and what is still to happen. It was emotionally charged and fast – paced story, full of lies, secrets and turns. It’s really well written, it’s full of emotions and poignant moments. It deals with some heavy and difficult issues, yet it doesn’t feel depressing – it’s sad, that’s for sure, as there are many tragic events but it’s also chilling and captivating. Highly recommended!

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Blast from the Past by Cathy Hopkins

Blast from the Past by Cathy Hopkins

 

43320539Publisher: Harper Collins

Publishing Date: 21st February 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

On a trip of a lifetime to India, Bea is given an unexpected fiftieth birthday present – an hour with a celebrated clairvoyant. Unlucky in love, Bea learns that her true soulmate is still out there ̶ and that he’s someone she knew in a past life.

Returning home, Bea revisits the men in her life and can’t resist looking up a few old lovers – the Good, the Bad and the… well, the others. As Bea connects with the ones that got away, she suspects that her little black book has remained shut for a reason. But one man out there has her in his sights.
They say love is blind and maybe Bea just needs an eye test…

Funny and wise, this is the perfect read for anyone who believes in finding love, no matter what their age.

Rating: three-stars

To celebrate her 50th birthday, Bea and two of her best friends travel to India. It’s not your usual trip, as they usually avoid the touristy places, and enjoy it very much. At the end of the trip the befriended three exchange their birthday presents and one of Bea’s is an hour reading with India’s most popular and celebrated clairvoyant. To say that she’s sceptical would be an understatement but nevertheless she goes there with an open mind and is told that her true soul mate is out there somewhere and she only must find him. Moreover, they have met in the previous life already – the only thing Bea has to do now is to recognise him in her present life.

And here the book takes us on a bitter – sweet, funny and poignant journey as Bea decides to revisit the men that were significant in her life and to reconnect with her past loved ones. Some of them are single, some not, some of them changed, some of them didn’t and she’s in for all sorts and kinds, and we together with her. What she doesn’t know is that there is a man who’s desperately in love with her – is it one of the past lovers? The chapters told from Bea’s point of view were interspersed with some told by the mystery man, and let me tell you, the author didn’t make it too easy for us to guess who it was. There was a character that I wanted Bea to end with together but I couldn’t be sure that it’s going to happen, and I really liked this feeling of uncertainty and unpredictability.

The retrospections of Bea’s previous relationships were so very well written. It was simply like it is in real life, with all the ups and downs and all kind of relationships and how Bea felt about them. It was realistic and genuine and also entertaining – some were truly disastrous, also in a funny way, but also in a more serious way, and I liked how well the author mixed them all together and perfectly balanced humour with sadness and seriousness.

Sadly, this time, the book felt a little too flat for me, and very repetitive. I had a feeling that we’re repeating the same thing, over and over again and that we’re not moving forward. I liked the idea of reincarnation, it was something totally new and refreshing but I couldn’t engage with it somehow and it didn’t keep my attention as much as I thought it’s going to. It simply felt too slow – but, having said that, I must also admit that this book was full of warmth and brilliant characters and I liked the message that it’s never too late to find your true love. What was so exceptionally brilliant and unique in the book was the idea of past life and the way the author explored this topic – even if I couldn’t fully get into it. No matter what your thoughts on it, it was written in a special, well – researched way and I had a feeling that Cathy Hopkins isn’t trying to convince me there is a past life and it’s possible to meet your soul mate again, no, she’s giving me a choice to believe in it or not. I’ll be honest, I still don’t know what to think about it but it was great to read about it, about the possibilities and oh well, there is something in it, right, those feelings of deja vu that we’re experiencing, seeing people for the first time in our lives and thinking that we know them for ages.

Altogether, “Blast from the Past” is a book about second chances, about grabbing life by the horns, having fun and about not being afraid to have dreams. It was warm, uplifting and with some sad moments as well, and I’m sure we all be able to find something we can relate to in this story. Even though it may not be my favourite Cathy’s novel, I still enjoyed it whole – heartedly, it was refreshing and unique. Recommended!

 

Happiness for Beginners by Carole Matthews

Happiness for Beginners by Carole Matthews

 

41828647Publisher: Sphere

Publishing Date: 21st February 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 464

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 30.05.2019)

 

Synopsis:

Molly Baker is living her best life.

Thirty-eight years old, she lives on the twenty-five-acre Hope Farm in Buckinghamshire, surrounded by (mostly) four-legged friends and rolling hills. There’s Anthony the anti-social sheep, Tina Turner the alpaca with attitude, and the definitely-not-miniature pig, Teacup.

Molly runs the farm as an alternative school for kids who haven’t thrived in mainstream education. It’s full on, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. So when the well-groomed Shelby Dacre turns up at Hope Farm asking to enrol his son Lucas, Molly isn’t fazed.

But Lucas is distant and soon Molly realises he might be more of a handful than she anticipated. And then there’s the added problem that his dad is distractingly handsome. Molly has her beloved farm to think of – could letting Lucas and Shelby in be a terrible mistake, or the start of something wonderful?

Rating: four-stars

 

Molly Baker is a shy, single and also lovely and welcoming woman, running Hope Farm in Buckinghamshire, which she inherited from her beloved Aunt Hettie. It doesn’t bother her that she lives in an ancient caravan, with neither TV not shower, the main thing is that her animals and students are happy. Students – because the farm is also an alternative school for children with learning difficulties, autism, behavioural problems. One of the new students, Lucas, finds a way to Molly’s heart – his father finds this way as well but because of their totally different life styles it’s a recipe for a guaranteed heartbreak, right? Also, Molly’s farm, that is so much more to her than only a farm, it’s her home, a place to live and to bring happiness, is facing being closed down for good. Will she manage to save the farm and her heart?

I haven’t mentioned any lovely covers lately and this one deserves a standing ovation. It’s gorgeous, and I love this beautiful yellow colour – you can feel spring in the air only by looking at this cover, and the little flowers dotted around are so lovely. And it is as uplifting and full of warmth as the book itself.

I loved Hope Farm, it was simply my kind of heaven, even with all of its inconveniences. OK, I’d maybe need a TV and a good internet connection but I so could live with the rest, just like Molly. I know it is said one shouldn’t work with children and animals but I work with both and I am still going, so it can’t be that bad, right, and so I immediately connected with Molly and could resonate with her on all levels. I also feel the best in my wellies and I always smell of dogs and horses treats. The assortment of animal at the farm was absolutely perfect, and their personalities were very, very well captured by the author.
But Hope Farm was not only about animals, and here comes the great idea – it was to help children who couldn’t find help anywhere else, it was their last chance saloon – they, usually already excluded from schools, could come to the farm and learn how to be around animals, some practical skills as well, and also learn from animals and about them being so good at simply being there. I totally loved all of the animals on the farm, they were all so special, and well, yes, it weren’t only the pupils that had problems but the animals as well. The children react to animals, learn to bond with them, to open to them and to develop the so much needed self confidence, and it was incredibly important for them, and it was really well described by the author.

I immediately fell for Molly. Immediately. Her love and passion to the things she has devoted herself to was overwhelming and palpable. She really knows what her animals of all shapes and sizes need, and her students as well. She was so chilled and relaxed and I really could get her reluctance to engage with other people. Her side – kicks Bev and Alan were also special, absolutely loveable and it was impossible not to like them. The story is told from Molly’s point of view and her narration is flowing, it’s chatty and honest, and the short chapters are what I really like in Carole Matthews’ books.

I always appreciate the fact that Carole Matthews tries to touch upon more serious issues in her books as well, of course with this gentle touch of humour. This time she’s factoring children with learning difficulties and dealing with grief – through Lucas, still grieving for his dead mother, feeling neglected by his father, lonely and mobbed at school. Molly tries to come through to Lucas, get him to open up and quickly she finds herself involved not only in his life but also this of his father’s, the famous soap opera actor Shelby Dacre. The relationship between Molly and Lucas, and actually between Molly and all of her charges, was so genuine and heart-warming and it was a real pleasure to read about them.

Even though you know from the very beginning that the book is going to end with a happy end, it is still full of moments that are going to make your heart stop beating, and you’re going to keep everything crossed for Molly and her charges. Because – of course – life is not a bed of roses for Molly and her farm, and she’s struggling financially, but there is also one small problem of finding a new place for the farm. Why? Read for yourself, you’re really going to fall for Molly and Hope Farm.

This book would be perfect if it weren’t so slow. I loved this story, and the characters – it was warm, funny and uplifting but not too sappy but I had a feeling that it doesn’t move, that we stay in one place, that the one idea has been taken and written on thousand different ways. As much as I enjoyed reading it, I simply wished for something to happen, for something refreshing to arrive and take us by surprise. And this time I missed the depth a little.
However, altogether, “The Happiness for Beginners” was a funny, uplifting and overflowing with charm story, full of the feel – good factor that I know I can expect from Ms Matthews’s books. Carole Matthews is simply a natural storyteller. She has a way with words and she describes her characters in such a way that you quickly feel like knowing them all since childhood, and not only the main characters, but also the secondary ones as well. She makes them relatable, genuine and realistic. The book was emotional, it was funny and poignant at the same time, a great mix of laughter, tears, emotions and feelings. You won’t want to miss it!

 

The Good Friend by Jo Baldwin

The Good Friend by Jo Baldwin

 

42259888Publisher: RedDoor Publishing

Publishing Date: 7th February 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 320

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 21.02.2019)

 

Synopsis:

The pain still lies deep within me. I’ve learnt to ‘manage’ it over the years, but today it feels stronger, throbbing like a toothache, yet in the pit of my stomach.

Heavenly Creatures meets The Hand That Rocks the Cradle in this exciting debut novel about friendship, love and jealousy.

Once upon a time they were best friends. They were all friends. So when Jenny moved to Australia to focus on her swimming career, she not only lost Kath, but her soul-mate Tom. It was for the best. Or so they said. Now, eight years later, Jenny seeks out her childhood friend and heads to rural France where Kath has settled. At first the women fall back into a close relationship, but before long strange and malicious behaviour leads Jenny to realise the truth: that Kath has played a clever game all along to manipulate and control those around her. And Jenny is her biggest victim.

Set against the glorious backdrop of the Languedoc lavender fields, The Good Friend is a beautifully written psychological drama about love, lies and a dangerous obsession. Because once the truth is revealed, there’s no going back…

Rating: three-stars

Jenny and Kath were inseparable best friends but then Jenny moved to Perth, Australia, to focus on her swimming career. She had to leave everything and everyone she loved behind: Kath, but also her boyfriend Tom. It was supposed to be different but life is a bitch and they lost touch, but they still kept hearing about each other, and so Jenny knows that Kath and Tom married and have a little girl. Few years later, as Jenny is considering retirement, she travels to the South of France to reconnect with Kath and Tom, who are setting a guest house there. Jenny decides to stay for longer and help them with the opening. At the surface it looks like the friends simply fall back into easy friendship, as they left it, but soon Jenny starts to realise that there is much more to Kath and her marriage than meet the eye. Also, her old feelings to Tom start to resurface – how is the summer going to end?

The story jumps between past and present so that we slowly learn about the relationships between the friends and slowly a full picture of their personalities start to emerge. I couldn’t feel any connection to the characters. They felt a little too wooden for my liking and to be honest I really didn’t like what was happening between Jenny and Tom. It was obvious what has happened in the past and why Tom is now with Kath but I simply couldn’t see anything to justify what was happening. For the sake of old times? I was missing chemistry, connection there to be honest. I’m not sure if it was the author’s intention but you simply can’t help but immediately feel sympathy and antipathy to the two main characters. Tom was a rather flat character, there was no colour in him and he couldn’t make up his mind. I think that out of the three characters it was Kath that was the most expressive and interesting, even if she was also the most irritating probably, but there was life in her, she was unpredictable and sharp and this made her stand out. The tension between Jenny and Kath was really well captured, even though they didn’t want to see it or to admit that it’s there, hanging in the air, especially at the beginning of Jenny’s visit, and the fact that Jenny and Tom start to realise that their old feelings rekindle didn’t help as well.

What I missed was the other perspective, as I really couldn’t get the motives, what was hidden behind the “you and me for ever” – jealousy? Was that it? There was also a sentence told by Jenny hinting at the fact that perhaps she was the one that was plotting, when she said if only Kath knew what a friend she was, and so I was wondering if perhaps the last few pages are going to change the perspective totally. They didn’t. So I’m really left hanging somewhere in the air, not knowing what it was all about. And please forgive me but I didn’t get the end – can somebody pretty please literally explain it to me?

Altogether “The Good Friend” was a very slow moving story. I did enjoy the part in France, loved the descriptions of the guest house, but I desperately wanted for something to happen and for it to go somewhere, especially with the author hinting that something is going to happen/has happened. It was a dark family drama touching upon mental issues as well. It was full of wonderful descriptions of the rural France, its weather and fantastic market and fresh baguettes, and the writing style was light, easy to follow and engaging. There was a lot of potential in this story that – I have a feeling – wasn’t fully used. It was filled with tons of emotional baggage and it told a story of lies and jealousy, about manipulation and toxic friendship.

 

The Good Friend by Jo Baldwin / Blog Tour (Guest Post)

Hello guys, the lovely Jo Baldwin, author of “The Good Friend” that is set in the wonderful France during one hot summer and touches upon such issues as toxic friendship, mental health and betrayal and which is full of darkness and tension, has written a brilliant Guest Post for her blog tour stop today. She’s chosen three brilliant things to write about – thank you so much, Jo! –  so put your feet high and enjoy and then treat yourself to the book!

 

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GUEST POST

  1. Books that helped shaped me/my writing

 

I am drawn to stories in which strong, yet complex, characters – usually women – form strong bonds with friends or siblings. When I was a child, my mum passed onto me her copy of Little Women by Louisa M Alcott, and until I could read the words, I would spend hours poring over the beautiful full-colour illustrations, wishing that I could be part of the March family and share in their lively experiences. I grew up with three older brothers, so there was always a part of me that yearned for a sister.

Setting is also very important for me in a novel. When I was 20, I spent a year working as a teaching assistant in a small town near Provence. While there, I read all of the novels by the French author Sébastien Japrisot. My favourite was L’EtéMeutrier (One Deadly Summer), a psychological and suspenseful tale, which unravels slowly during a sultry and oppressive summer heat wave in 1970s southern France. The setting is like another character and serves to build tension and drive the characters to near-madness in this captivating story, which had me on the edge of my seat. I loved the main character Elle. She is so multi-layered – manipulative and seductive, yet fragile.

East of Eden by John Steinbeck is another novel that I first read in my twenties and which has stayed with me. Again, it’s the dry, dusty heat of California which affected me greatly when reading this story. As a reader you get a great sense of location and space, and how the setting itself plays an important part in developing the characters’ behaviours. There’s so much sadness in this story but it’s a powerful tale – a retelling of Cain and Abel. All of the main characters are compelling and complex. I remember reading it for the first time and being so shocked by the pure evil nature of Cathy. Again, another strong female character, but this time, one who destroys those around her.

  1. Researching The Good Friend

It was fairly easy to research the setting of The Good Friend as I have spent a lot of time in the Languedoc during the past 16 years. There’s a small lake close to our family house, which is idyllic to swim in during the summer months, but it can seem murky and uninviting out of season. For the sake of research, I decided to bite the bullet and take a swim in it one cold grey autumnal day so that I could experience it as if I was Kath, one of the main characters in my novel. As soon as I jumped in and felt the reeds lashing at my ankles, I shrieked with pure fright. It felt as if I was swimming in a pond full of eels. The sensation was truly horrible, but it helped me to get inside Kath’s head and experience what she felt when she looked down at Jenny swimming in the soupy green water.

3. My writing process

I don’t have an enormous amount of free time in which to write as I work most days as a freelance marketing consultant. However, I keep Friday as a writing day and try to make it as productive a day as possible.

First I go to an early morning yoga class and try to clear my head of mundane thoughts, so that I can draw on something more inspiring than what to cook for dinner. I’m home by 9.15am and usually put a wash on, before making a coffee and taking it to my desk, where I try to work undisturbed until my sonreturns home from school at 3:30. If I’m struggling to find the words, I’ll reach for a novel from one the many bookshelvesaround the house and read a chapter to see if it can stimulate my thought buds. If that doesn’t work, I make another coffee and hang up the washing. I keep several notebooks around one, even one by my bed, so that if I think of a plot detail or a sentence that’s been bouncing about in my head, I can write it down quickly before I forget it. There’s nothing more frustrating than coming up with an idea then forgetting about it half an hour later, because I didn’t jot it down!

Jo Baldwin

18 Feb 2019

 

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If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

 

40965397Publisher: Orion

Publishing Date: 21st February 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 369

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 15.10.2019)

 

Synopsis:

Audrey’s family has fallen apart. Her two grown-up daughters, Jess and Lily, are estranged, and her two teenage granddaughters have never been allowed to meet. A secret that echoes back thirty years has splintered the family in two, but is also the one thing keeping them connected.

As tensions reach breaking point, the irrevocable choice that one of them made all those years ago is about to surface. After years of secrets and silence, how can one broken family find their way back to each other?

Rating: five-stars

 

“If Only I Could Tell You” by Hannah Beckerman introduces us to two sisters, Jess and Lily, separated by a secret and guilt for almost most of their lives. They both have children of their own now: Mia and Phoebe, sixteen – years – old cousins who were never allowed to meet. After Audrey, mother of Jess and Lily, has been diagnosed with cancer, she’s been living with Jess and she’s desperate to find out what has happened in the past, why her daughters are estranged, and to bring the family together again. Will she be able to do this? Has she enough time? Which secrets are still to come out into the open?

It was not the highly appraised and advertised twist that made this book so special – it’s relatively easy to guess. But what makes this book special and unique is the way it was written, author’s way with words, descriptions and the beautifully captured relationships and family dynamics and the story itself. It’s unbelievable how beautifully Hannah Beckerman touched upon issues and themes that feel so very personal and difficult.

We are introduced to Jess and Lily and their families: Jess is a single mum to Mia, and Lily is a successful businesswoman with a husband and a daughter Phoebe. There is also their mother Audrey. Then the author takes are on a journey, jumping between past and present, telling us what has happened as far as in June 1988. What I really appreciated was the fact that the big secret hasn’t been kept till the very end, that it was revealed at the right moment when we were still desperate to know what has happened. Though I must admit that I couldn’t believe that Jess was able to keep her grudge for so long – a grudge, that, let’s be honest, was not worth it. It was really difficult for me to imagine that it really could happen, and her obstinacy made me feel desperate. I was also probably expecting that something really, really out of this world has happened on this day but – unfortunately – the revelation didn’t shake nor shocked me. Yes, my biggest problem was with Jess. I simply couldn’t get over the fact that she was so stubborn, cold and fierce. It annoyed and exasperated me, especially as I a) guessed what it was she was so angry about and b) it wasn’t dramatic enough for me to agree with her decisions. This one moment of misinterpretation has broken so many lives – I understand she was only 10 years old then but she had enough chances to clear the air throughout the years. Yes, learning the truth has helped me a little to fell for Jess, but only a little, it was really hard for me to warm to her, though I of course understood her sorrow. I felt much more empathy to Audrey, Lily, Mia and Phoebe to be honest, though all the characters were really well developed and they had depth to them.
However, it is a story about how the long – held grudges can affect feelings and whole relationships, breaking their whole family and the author has captured and described it brilliantly. She has got into her characters’ heads, as we got incredibly broad and detailed insight into Jess and Lily’s lives – she didn’t make the lives of the characters easy. They all had their share of sorrow, sadness and unhappiness in their lives.

There is a lot of grief and sadness on this book but it doesn’t mean that it’s depressing – on the contrary, I’ve never lost hope when reading this novel, and even though I’ve finished it in tears, there was still light in me. Simply, the author has gorgeous ways with words and how she describes how loss and grief affected the characters was beautiful and uplifting. She writes about different kinds of loss, not only when we lose someone literally but also when life choices drive us apart – and this all written in a tender, understanding way without judging. There were many layers in this story and I couldn’t wait to unravel them all.

Altogether, “If Only I Could Tell You” was a tender, gentle tale with a family at its core. It was heart – breaking. It was unbelievably honest and genuine in perception. There was so much depth to this book, it was clever, complex and touching upon such tender issues as love and loss, forgiveness, grief and family. The characters felt very real, and it doesn’t happen often when I experience so much feelings and emotions towards them. It was a powerful and moving story, exploring unconditional love, and it will make you think – the moral dilemma that you’ll never want to contemplate by yourself will make you think and understand even more what real love is. It describes the bonds between mothers, sisters, granddaughters and cousins in a poignant, honest and realistic way. Highly recommended!

 

The Secretary by Renée Knight

The Secretary by Renée Knight

 

40611138Publisher: Doubleday

Publishing Date: 21st February 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 304

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery, Suspense

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

Synopsis:

Look around you. Who holds the most power in the room? Is it the one who speaks loudest, who looks the part, who has the most money, who commands the most respect?

Or perhaps it’s someone like Christine Butcher: a meek, overlooked figure, who silently bears witness as information is shared and secrets are whispered. Someone who quietly, perhaps even unwittingly, gathers together knowledge of the people she’s there to serve – the ones who don’t notice her, the ones who consider themselves to be important.

There’s a fine line between loyalty and obsession. And when someone like Christine Butcher is pushed to her limit, she might just become the most dangerous person in the room . . .

The eagerly anticipated new thriller from the No.1 bestselling author of Disclaimer.

Rating: four-stars

 

Christine Butcher is married, has one daughter. She’s just been offered a job as a PA to Mina Appleton who, together with her father, is running a family business. Christine’s job becomes her life as Mina starts to be more and more demanding on her time and dedication, which takes its toll on her private life. After 18 years of work, Christine’s loyalty is going for a full dress rehearsal, as Mina is accused of partaking in some unethical transactions and taken to court, together with her secretary and driver. Now it’s time for Christine to ask herself how far she’s willing to go and whom shall she protect: Mina or herself?

The way the book was written was really risky. I mean, there was a secret, a hint that something has happened, mentioned in every chapter, and every single one of them ended with a cliff hanger. It is OK to know that there is some kind of mystery but there are limits of course, and it can always go wrong – the reader can simply lose interest, as sometimes too much is too much. And yes, to be absolutely honest, I was scared and I started to feel impatient and desperate at one moment, but then the mystery was solved – and I’d say, at the perfect moment, so the book was saved. And as much as I liked the first part of the story, I think the second part, the court room drama that it turned out to be, was even better.

This book is told from Christine’s point of view only, and while sometimes you can miss on other people’s narrations, it was not the case here, it was more than enough. It’s a kind of diary/not diary but describes Christine’s job, her relationships – also this with Mina – her life in a very detailed way and we see the way her attachment to Mina progresses and how this relationship shifts and changes – it was full of dramas, secrets and lies. I was completely invested in Christine’s story, and in her character as well. She was not your normal, usual heroine. She was elusive, incredibly loyal but she seemed not to know where her priorities should be. And I loved how thought – provoking it was because let’s be honest – was Christine only a victim to her boss’s manipulations? To be honest, I am not absolutely sure if she was so innocent but here I arrive at the fact that the book lacked a little in depth and character development that I’m going to tell more about in a moment. I don’t think that Christine was a pleaser and doormat, she was only desperate to make herself indispensable to her boss, to be part of her life perhaps, and she agreed with catering to her every whim and need. Sometimes it looked like she was one step ahead of Mina, anticipating her needs before they were even articulated. Mina was a very driven and ambitious character, thinking that the whole world should resolve around her and that she’s untouchable. She was manipulative, cold and egoistic and knew how to get what she wanted. It wasn’t easy to connect with those two women, to be honest, as I couldn’t relate with their behaviour, the way they were, and while I perhaps could get Mina’s greed and desire to be more profitable without caring how it’s going to happen, I simply couldn’t understand Christine and her unwillingness to set boundaries. Mina’s acceptance and prise was what kept Christine going. But they both were the strength that has pushed the story forward because you may not agree with them but they were fascinating character, and their relationship even more.
However, I missed more on the “why” – why was Christine the way she was? Why wasn’t she able to say no? What was it that attracted her so much to Mina? So much that she was able to sacrifice everything for a – theoretically – totally strange woman? What was her motivation? But other than that, this book was an excellent page turner, a great case study, a brilliant look into person’s personality. It was part a psychological thriller, and part a court room drama, and the tension there, and the feeling of uncertainty, were really well captured. It was a slow burner, but so well written, so full of insight into the characters’ heads, and with a truly brilliant ending that was an absolute surprise.

Altogether, “The Secretary” was a gripping story about misplaced loyalty and power games, about manipulation. Also, my favourite kind of read, full of questions and understatements and it’ll make you ask yourself questions. Thought – provoking and gripping, another brilliant story from the author of “Disclaimer” – truly recommended.

The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood by Susan Elliot Wright

The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood by Susan Elliot Wright

 

410pdykqsvl._sx324_bo1204203200_Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 21st February 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 384

Genre: General Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback (out on 19.09.2019)

 

Synopsis:

What has happened to Cornelia Blackwood?
She has a loving marriage. But she has no friends.
Everyone knows her name. But no one will speak to her now.
Cornelia Blackwood has unravelled once before. Can she stop it from happening again?

From a supremely talented storyteller, The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood is a powerful novel of motherhood, loss and loneliness and how we can make damaging choices when pushed to our emotional edge. A paperback bestseller with her debut novel, The Things We Never Said, and nominated for an RNA Award in 2014, Susan Elliot Wright has written a truly important novel that explores the dark depths of psychosis with honesty and sensitivity.

Rating: four-stars

Cornelia (Leah) Blackwood loses her husband Adrian in a car accident. After his funeral, she finds something on his computer – something that makes her start to doubt in Adrian’s loyalty and fidelity and something that is going to change her life. But before it happens, she goes on a quest and investigates to find more. She befriends Cass, a young woman that Leah somehow becomes obsessed with, and her little son Lucas. Is this friendship a casual one or is Leah hiding something from Cass?

The story goes back and forth, from past to present and while it feels a little slow, especially at the beginning, it then steps up the momentum. I also never felt confused and always knew where we are. The story is told mostly through Leah and we slowly get to know her and her background history – how she’s met Adrian, how they got married, through the ups and downs of their life together. The past intertwines with the present, hinting that something has happened previously, something bad and wrong, something that caused Leah to lose her credibility and friends. There came a point when I guessed what must have happened and what’s going to happen but it didn’t spoil the reading for me, it rather kept me hooked and made me feel as if I was getting a chill up my spine, predicting the worse to happen.
I fell for Leah, to be honest. Her story was like one tragedy happening upon another one and seeing her surviving all of them was incredibly uplifting, and it took almost till the end to reveal why she’s getting the treatment that she’s getting. The story of Leah was somehow heart – breaking, and the author has done such a great job in capturing and describing her feelings of loss, despair and desperation. She has by any means found words to bring it to us so that the pain was palpable and you couldn’t help but fell for Leah and feel sympathy for her. While you’ll probably have problems with accepting Leah’s choices, you will also understand why she made them. Her wanting something that she couldn’t have has filled her every waking moment yet it didn’t feel too overwhelming for me as a reader, too repeating, and the author has always revealed the right amount of information in the particular moment, leaving me wondering and wanting more.

This is a book that tackles some serious and heavy issues with tons of gentleness and sensitivity. It’s heartbreakingly and brutally honest in explaining how it feels to be grieving and to be mentally ill. The author has really has done her research and she deserves a standing ovation for writing with so much feeling and understanding, without judging. This novel was sad, it was tragic, it was full of tension and the feeling that something’s going to happen. Yes, I guessed the outcome, but still I was glued to the pages and drawn into this story.

Altogether, “The Flight of Cornelia Blackwood” was deeply emotionally charged and it’ll leave you thinking and wondering. It was a well – kept mystery, filled with enough red herrings, twists and turns. It was a captivating, heart – breaking story of grief, love and desperation. The author deals with postpartum psychosis in a very gentle, sensitive way and gives her character a chance after a chance. It was a hugely emotional read but I wouldn’t call it depressing – it was simply sad but without it being too overwhelming a feeling. Susan Elliot Wright has written it in a no – nonsense way, brutally honest and well, it’s a read that’s going to take your breath away, to make you stop and think – just my favourite kind of read, even if I wouldn’t classify it as the easiest read. Highly recommended!

 

The Book of Love by Fionnuala Kearney

The Book of Love by Fionnuala Kearney

 

Sr-QHuzS.jpg largePublisher: Harper Collins

Publishing Date: 7th February 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: General Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

One love. Two people. Twenty Years.

From the moment they met, Erin and Dom loved each other too much, too quickly. Everyone said it wouldn’t last. But they knew differently.

A wedding present, a notebook, brings them together through the good times and the bad. On the blank pages of their love story, they write down everything they can’t always say – the secrets, the heartbreak, the highs and lows. It’s where they see the best and worst of each other.

Falling in love is easy but staying in love is where the story begins…

Rating: five-stars

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Erin Fitzgerald and Dominic Carter got married in 1996 – they loved each other unconditionally and they’re expecting a baby. Erin’s father gives them a leather bond book – The Book of Love – to write down what they can’t tell each other face to face. Each letter should end with a message of love. They’re sceptical at first but then the book turns out to be pivotal source for their communication, to be a significant part of their lives.

You can’t help but immediately fell for the characters, for their fates, for their feelings, emotions and unconditional love, and so, very quickly, you find yourself on incredible roller coaster ride through their lives, through the years they have to learn by themselves what life really is about. I experienced everything with them, I could feel their pain, hurt, uncertainty, love, hope and grief. The book offers us everything, through ups and downs, screw ups, struggles, heartbreaks and changes in relationships. All the characters are so well fleshed out, they’re not perfect, they’re full of flaws and secrets and they make mistakes but this only make them much more realistic and relatable. They’re simply human – and after reading tons of books in my life I’ve learnt that it doesn’t always work out for authors to create their characters this way, which only made me appreciate them even more. Each character in this book, no matter if the main or the background one, was authentic and genuine, in every detail and every gesture. The relationships between them – and there were plenty of them, not only this of marriage, but also of being a parent, sibling, friend – were real.

The story begins in 2017 and takes us back and forth through years, starting in 1996, and all those years are testimony of love. It moves smoothly between the timelines, and with ease, and there was maybe a moment or two when I shortly felt a little confused but quickly I was finding myself again on track. And I love the way it was written, as it really was full of surprises. When I was thinking that I know where I’m standing, where the story is going, then bang, and it was pushed in totally different direction.

The end made me really tearful. Such love, as this of Erin and Dom, it doesn’t happen often, I think. You can love but there was such a special bond between them, a bond that was palpable through the pages and that I envied them so much. However, this bond doesn’t mean that they didn’t have problems communicating, because they did, there were things they couldn’t tell each other face to face, and here comes The Book of Love, the gift Erin’s father gave them at their wedding. Sometimes it’s hard to speak up, to tell what’s bothering you for fear what the other half may think of you and so Erin and Dom settled to write their deepest, most intimate thoughts in the book for each other. And it turned out to be a cathartic, emotional experience for both of them, and for us, readers, as well. What makes this book so exceptional is the honesty it’s written with. Love is not only bed of roses, love can hurt, love means loss and grief and sadness, and the book mixes those moments perfectly with joy and humour and believe me, no matter how you’re going to feel at the end, how much of a snotty mess you’re going to be, it’ll be an uplifting read that will restore your faith in love and friendship.

Lately we are literally flooded with descriptions of the books that shout “that final twist!” and that usually leave you lukewarm. Probably those that don’t need such kind of advertising, that speak for themselves, are the best kind of twists – here, in this gorgeous story, I haven’t seen the final twist. It just came and hit me hard on my unexpecting head and left me a) speechless and b) in tears – and this is what I call TWIST.

Fionnuala Kearney can write in such a gorgeous way – her writing style is flawless and effortless, of high quality and so chatty that when you start reading you simply can’t put the book away. She captures all the insecurities and fears and the book is going to make you nod with understanding and agreement, to roll your eyes, laugh and cry. She, as not many out there, can describe human nature and the complexity of it with tons of sensitivity and understanding. “The Book of Love” was incredibly beautiful and brutally honest story of love, marriage and family. It has broken my heart, to mend it and to break it again. It was about forgiveness, showing how true love can knit people together in the face of disaster, tragedy but also happiness. Be prepared that you’re going to be emotionally invested from the very beginning till the end. It was powerful and moving, uplifting and heart – breaking, mesmerising and enduring and I raced through the pages, though it is this kind of book that you also don’t want to end. It was a complex and epic tale full of real people, real stories, real feelings. Deep and intelligent and so cleverly written, for sure my certain contender for the best read in 2019. And after reading it. this is what I call book – hangover. I loved it – mightily.

 

The Escape by Clare Harvey / Blog Tour

The Escape by Clare Harvey

 

 

41519370Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Publishing Date: 24th January 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

A compelling wartime drama for fans of Lucinda Riley, Rachel Hore and Katherine Webb

Clara works as a translator for a Nazi-run labour camp for French workers. One winter morning in early 1945, Clara passes a group of exhausted British prisoners of war who are being force-marched westwards. The following day she receives an urgent message to contact the local priest. He is harbouring a group of escaped British prisoners of war in the manse: can she help?

London, 1989.  Monica is a 19-year old photography student in London, in thrall to her older boyfriend, a journalist called Quill. In November the fall of the Berlin Wall is all over the news. Quill asks Monica to come with him to Germany: before they leave, Monica’s grandmother gives her an old postcard of the village she was born in. Monica hopes that working together in Berlin will help cement the cracks in her relationship with Quill, but one night his behaviour spills over into violence, and Monica ends up fleeing through the rubble of the Berlin wall and into the East. As she travels further, she begins to suspect she’s being followed by the Stasi. If she goes on, she worries that she’ll be taken into custody and be accused of spying; if she turns back, it means returning to Quill.

At last her grandmother’s photograph offers the solution. She tells people that she is going to find her family in the East. The Catholic church, and the manse, opposite where her grandmother once lived, are still standing. And the secrets of the past begin to be revealed.

my-review

“The Escape” by Clare Harvey follows two different timelines and two women, sharing a history. Detta lives in a small village in Germany. The war is coming to an end and the Russian Army is on their way – to free people, but also it is rumoured they’re cruel and nothing and nobody is safe from them. One day, Detta passes a group of force – marched British prisoners. The following day, her help is needed – a day that is going to change her life for ever.
Miranda is a photography student and finds herself in Berlin in 1989 at the Wall fall. A granddaughter of Detta, she finds an old postcard of the village where her grandmother was born. Detta sends her on a mission there but Miranda is in danger – as she flees from an abusive relationship into the east, she starts to suspect she’s being followed by the Stasi. Why? Is she going to be able to help her grandmother?

This novel was brilliantly written and researched. The author can so incredibly well capture all the feelings and emotions, especially in those parts that take place during the war – fear, uncertainty, not knowing what’s going to happen and what the future brings, they’re all so very well written. While the times of the Berlin Wall fall are not so much in my area of interest, I’m always happy to read books set during the World War II, and even more gladly when there is Poland as setting involved. “The Escape” is mostly set in Germany, in and around Berlin, a little town in Poland also plays crucial role in it. It focuses on very dark and sad period of time in our history, and truly, the descriptions were heart – wrenching and tugging at the heart – strings, but this book is also full of hope and not at all depressing. It is moving, yes, but the author has managed, despite the topic being a serious and difficult one, to make it light and also uplifting.

This book was a slow burner. A very slow burner, and I’ve already found myself really irritated a few times, waiting for it to eventually kick off, for the story to finally start rolling. I’ll be honest with you – if I weren’t reading this novel for a blog tour, I’d most certainly put it away. It was only around the middle, after Miranda started searching and Detta’s story began to unravel, that I found myself glued to the pages, racing through them, desperate to see what has happened. I’d much more liked Detta’s plot to this of Miranda – I understand, after reading the author’s guest post on research, why Miranda was needed, she was like a significant tool to Detta, but I somehow couldn’t warm to her and to her story. I just felt there is no connection between us and also, she could be more fleshed out for my liking. Detta, however, was another story. There was a depth to her and she had really something to tell, and her tale was heart – breaking, full of loss but also hope. Sure, Miranda’s story was also interesting – the war is over but is there peace at all? As the two narratives interweave, the plot slowly starts to unravel, and there is a real sense of uncertainty, tension, of not knowing what’s going to happen and what has happened in Detta’s past.

Altogether, “The Escape” was a thought – provoking tale, full of questions what if and what would you do, how would you behave. It’s full of moral lessons without being patronising and the authors handles all the topics with care and gentleness. It was sensitive and compelling, and beautifully written and, as it was my first book by Clare Harvey, I’m already looking forward to read her previous novels, because “The Escape” was a great enough piece of historical fiction. Recommended.

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