Then. Now. Always by Isabelle Broom

Then. Now. Always by Isabella Broom


33842324Publisher: Penguin

Publishing Date: 20th April 2017

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 416

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Hannah can’t believe it when she’s offered a trip to sunny Spain with her best friend and dreamy boss . . . what’s the catch?

Twenty-eight year old Hannah is ready for an adventure. She and her colleagues are in Spain for a month to film a documentary, and it’s a dream come true. Not least because Hannah will get to spend long summer days with Theo, her boss (and crush). If only Tom (Hannah’s best friend and cameramen) and Claudette (the presenter) would stop getting in the way…

Then things become even more complicated when Nancy, Hannah’s half-sister arrives. What on earth is she doing here?

For once in her life, can’t Hannah just have one perfect summer, free of any drama?

Rating: three-stars


Oh my, mea culpa, it took me over two months to sit down and write this review. I think I know why it took me so long – “Then. Now. Always” by Isabelle Broom is getting raving reviews, and really guys, I started reading this book with so many expectations but quickly found myself almost in desperation wondering if I am reading the same book as other people, singing prizes. Don’t get me wrong – I adore Isabelle Broom, and her debut novel was absolutely brilliant, but I just couldn’t get this newest release, and it made me so sad, as I had so much hope and wanted to love this story so much. But – Isabelle Broom is the ultimate person to turn to when you need to get into holiday mode – she sets her books in the most gorgeous settings and she brings them easily and effortlessly to life. “Then. Now. Always” is set in Spain, in a beautiful, gorgeous town, full of sunshine, adventures and secret places.

So guys, between you and me, there was one thing that almost made the book totally kaput for me. And it was the main character – it is really hard to love a book when the main hero is driving you crazy. Hannah was at the beginning, and through almost the whole story, a pathetic, feeling sorry for herself person who didn’t know what she really want. She was unhappy with everything and everybody surrounding her. I admit, it was a risky move from the author to make her character fall in love with her boss but I am sure it was a very conscious move. We know about this crush immediately, so I tried to be patient with Hannah but there came a moment when I couldn’t stand wondering what Theo would say or if he’s thinking about her at the same moment she’s thinking about him, anymore. I liked how this played out however, it was not too cheesy, too fairy – tailish.
Then I couldn’t grasp how come people stick with Hannah for so long, with her being so needy and whinge-y and stubborn. She didn’t want to hear what other people have to say, and the way she was around Tom… well, she just him took for granted, the same as so many other things in her life. The bickering with her half – sister Nancy was annoying and her saying one thing and then doing the other as well. Hannah wanted to spend one summer without any dramas but let’s be honest, wasn’t she the one who has created all the problems? I just couldn’t get past the fact that the characters were supposed to be adults but behaved like children.

What saved the book for me was the ending. It was not obvious and it was not predictable and I really liked how it turned out. It was different to all the endings. I actually think that if it weren’t the weak characters, the book would be perfect. But OK, let’s stop with moaning and focus on the good things. It was a great story offering a huge piece of escapism. The events in this book were likeable and there were tricky situations aplenty to make this plot as twisty as the Spanish roads. The author so flawlessly handles the complex story that it was a real pleasure to read. I also appreciate the fact that Isabelle Broom tried to make out of a supposedly lightweight novel a much more emotional and complicated story. Right at the beginning we have this being in love with your own boss situation, which I could feel in my bones is going to end in tears, then she adds a bit of half – sibling rivalry, and while Hannah’s sister Nancy was very one – dimensional and predictable, and Hannah’s reactions were, in my opinion, much too exaggerated, and the two girls behaved like spoiled, immature teenagers, showing their shallow sides behaving in a really awkward way, this element added some depth and was well captured.

Altogether, this book gives you what you can expect: gorgeous setting of Mojocar, twists and turns, adventures and unconventional romance. It is quick – paced and there is enough of drama to keep you on your tenterhooks. There is this added bonus of Mojocar’s history and traditions, myths and legends that I enjoyed very much. A story about building bridges and forgiving and I am really sorry it didn’t work for me – I really, truly wanted it to work! However, I am already looking towards Isabelle’s next book, I’m sure it’s going to be (another) cracker!

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry / Blog Tour

Good morning! I am so, so THRILLED to start this Friday with a review of Jane Corry’s Blood Sister as a part of her new, epic blog tour. Having read Jane’s previous novel I couldn’t wait for her new release, and believe me, guys – this book is dark but not too dark, full of lies and secrets that are not too overwhelming – it is just a perfect book for one sitting. Why only one? Because when you start reading it, you won’t be able to put it down!

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

32874095Publisher: Penguin

Publishing Date: 29th June 2017

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 464

Genre:  Mystery/Psychological Thriller

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

From the author of the Sunday Times bestseller MY HUSBAND’S WIFE

Three little girls set off to school one sunny May morning.
Within an hour, one of them is dead.

Fifteen years later, Alison and Kitty are living separate lives. Kitty lives in a care home. She can’t speak, and she has no memory of the accident that put her here, or her life before it.

Art teacher Alison looks fine on the surface. But the surface is a lie. When a job in a prison comes up she decides to take it – this is her chance to finally make things right.

But someone is watching Kitty and Alison.
Someone who wants revenge for what happened that day.
And only another life will do…

 

Rating: five-stars

Having read and absolutely loved Jane Corry’s previous novel, My Husband’s Wife, I was incredibly excited to read her new release, Blood Sisters. This book has completely drawn me in – I actually read it on one Sunday, forgetting about the world going around and reality. It was full of surprises, and I love when a book is able to surprise me in a way Blood Sisters did, with its complex plot, the unreliable narrators that you weren’t sure if you should trust, and playing games with our minds.

The story is a slow burner, so be prepared that the first part may feel a little too long or as if there is almost nothing happening there – and I’ve already started to panic, guys, it made me feel so, so scared! However, with the second part the story gains incredible tempo, there are many twists and turns on the way and really you won’t be able to put the book down. When you think that everything is clear already, that we know all we should know, the author throws another surprise and everything changes.

The story was told in two alternating perspectives by the half – sisters Alison and Kitty, taking us on a journey to their past and present. Alison is an art teacher, Kitty is living in a home as she’s severely disabled, with a brain damage and she doesn’t remember what happened to bring her to this home in the first place. The connection between Alison and Kitty is quickly explained and throughout the story we start to learn more about the secrets that bond them together.

Alison is an artist and a teacher, and she applies for a job in an open prison for art classes for the inmates. Alison was relatively hard to “breach” and to warm into, to be honest, as she was so very introvert, but I also could understand her, especially as more and more facts about her were unravelled. It just seemed as if Alison was all the time holding back and keeping something for her. On the other hand, her half – sister Kitty was like and open book, not holding her thoughts back from us. It was incredible how deeply the author has managed to get into Kitty’s head. She has so brilliantly and realistically captured Kitty’s frustrations when she couldn’t express herself, when the only thing that came out of her mouth, instead of words, were sounds and babbles. However, and I really don’t know if this makes me a really bad person, I couldn’t help the feeling that Kitty deserved what’s happened to her. There, I said it. Sure, I sympathized with her, I pitied her but still I couldn’t help thinking that she was asking for what’s happened – and I think she will never change. But of course, Kitty’s story was also heart – breaking and it was exceptionally emotional to see how frustrated she was, fighting to grab hold of her flyaway memories, to communicate with the outside world. Jane Corry has so well described how the brain damage affected Kitty and her behaviour, but also how it affected the closes to her.

The author has written the characters in such a great way. There was a depth to them and even though they were not all likeable, you still want that everything will turn well for them. You also never know who to trust, as they were all telling so many lies to protect themselves – it may sound scaring but believe me, this complex web of lies was superbly created and it just sucks you in, and you are desperate to know what actually has happened.

This book was perfectly written, with realistic and diverse characters, with sharp dialogues and the plot was complex and intriguing, panning out in a way that was totally unpredictable. It was fast – paced (even with the beginning being on the slow side – I know it sounds weird but well, it is so), there was not a single flat moment, it kept me all the time on my tenterhooks. Blood Sisters was an incredible tale of sibling rivalry, misunderstandings, abuse, lies and secrets. Jane Corry has also included a lot of her experience from working in a prison, as you really have a feeling that she truly knows what she’s writing about, that she knows the prison and its secrets inside out. It was fascinating to see how it all works there.

I liked that the chapters were short and dynamic, and they often ended on the cliffhanger, and I had to resist, more than often, to turn the next few pages only to see the first few sentences of the following chapter to see what is going to happen there. They are also guilty for me reading the book in one day only – I think you also know that syndrome of “only one more chapter” and then finishing the book on one breath almost. It really felt as if I were a witness to the events, as if they were happening next to me, so realistic and distinctive was the narration.

I loved how the whole story was created – it was complex and complicated but not in a way that would do your head in, when you don’t understand anything. There were many clues and tips at how the characters are connected and it was slowly untangling the whole web of secrets, discreetly and gently adding more and more of them – but I have never felt overwhelmed with them or confused. We are aware that things have happened in the past and the author takes us on a slow, but fast – paced, journey full of tension and questions that leads to a great grande – finale. It was really like taking one step forward and three steps back, getting answer to one questions and getting few new questions instead, and it was bloody, bloody brilliant! There is really so much more to this book than meet the eye! It is dark, it is disturbing but it is a great read about guilt and about what are we able to do to protect are closest ones, written in a very vivid way, effortlessly bringing all the small and big things to life. Highly recommended from me!

FOLLOW THE BLOG TOUR:

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The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis

The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis

 

32708427Publisher: Penguin

Publishing Date: 1st June 2017

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 416

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

There’s trouble in paradise. . .

For as long as she can remember, Jemma has been planning the perfect honeymoon. A fortnight’s retreat to a five-star resort in the Maldives, complete with luxury villas, personal butlers and absolute privacy. It should be paradise, but it’s turned into a nightmare.

Because the man Jemma married a week ago has just disappeared from the island without a trace. And now her perfect new life is vanishing just as quickly before her eyes. After everything they’ve been through together, how can this be happening? Is there anyone on the island who Jemma can trust? And above all – where has her husband gone?

Rating: four-stars

Tina Seskis is a new author to me, although I’ve of course heard about her novels before – however, The Honeymoon is my first read by this author. And judging by the feelings it caused in me, I’ll sooner rather than later treat myself to Ms Seskis’s whole backlist, as this book was truly something different, something refreshing and unexpected.
This review may come as raw and not well organized but it is because I live in fear that I’m going to let something slip and spoil the reading for you, and this I would never forgive myself. It isn’t easy to tell you then why this book was so special and so please, just do trust me when I say that this novel is going to entice you and will probably put you off planning a holidays to the Maldives. Joking. Nothing will put me off. Or, maybe…?

In The Honeymoon we follow Jemma, freshly married and on her honeymoon in Maldives. Sadly, the holidays doesn’t turn out to be such relaxing and full of love as you could expect – Jemma’s husband has gone missing. We are then introduced to other characters, Jamie and Dan and get to know that Jemma has past with both of them. The story is told mostly from Jemma’s point of view, and we quickly start to doubt in her, she’s a truly unreliable narrator and she knows how to mess with our minds. It’s only much later that the other characters’ points of view are being used – however, I think they don’t explain much. Jemma’s story is told jumping between the past and the present and we get a chance to learn about her life, her background, her history and what happened in the lead – up to the honeymoon. Jemma was not the most likeable person, to be honest. She seemed really not to know what it is she wants from her life, she behaved as if everything and everyone should dance to her tune. She was frustrating, and I really couldn’t warm to her. She was spoilt and behaved like the worst sort of princess and truly, those feelings of dislike made you feel uncertain and you start to wonder what really happened, IF something really happened, and if it’s truth that Jemma doesn’t remember the night that her husband disappeared. Does she have anything to hide? Or the other characters are the ones that hide something? Because all the other characters felt also so very untrustworthy, guys, to be honest, but it only made the reading even more exciting and suspicious. But altogether, the author has brilliantly described her characters.

There is not any of this overwhelming tension in this novel but you still have a feeling that any time something can happen but you have no idea what – and I had many assumptions but, of course, I was far, far away from the truth. You know, you can often see books being advertised having incredible twist but you can see this twists coming almost immediately. This time, however, this twist was unexpected, unforeseen, and so shocking that I really didn’t know what to do with it. I loved what the author has done when writing about Jemma’s husband missing. I can bet anything that you’ve also assumed who her husband is – in fact, I skim – read the first part of the book once more, just to make sure that I haven’t missed anything – it was so brilliantly done!
The only thing that bothered me a little was the fact that the book was relatively slow, there was not a lot happening and just too often it felt a little bit to repetitive. Yes, I do understand that for this kind of a story the pace was actually right but it was the repetitiveness that slowed it down even more.

The descriptions of the little Maldivian island were so incredibly vivid, so easily brought to life and it was so easy to imagine the heat of the place, to feel the hot sun on your skin. However, even though it was a real paradise, there was a claustrophobic feeling to it – maybe because it was so isolated? Or maybe because Jemma felt this way?

It is slow burning and the author brilliantly builds the tension, right from the very first page and she keeps us guessing to the very end – it doesn’t happen often and the more I enjoyed the book. It sucks you in and you can’t help but start thinking why did Jemma’s husband disappeared – and there were plenty of possible scenarios, and it was brilliant to discover them and be kept in uncertainty.
The whole story is split into four parts, with the chapters jumping between past and present. It is full of surprises, red – herrings and dead – ends. Addictive and haunting, a novel about regrets, secrets, mistakes and misunderstanding. As usually, I had my own suspicions, but they changed so often and of course I was wrong. Yes, I guessed who but only when it was revealed to us, so this and the circumstances were like a bolt out of the blue and it made my stomach somersault – and I am sure it’s going to stay with me for a long, long time to come.

So this book, guys. Seriously. It had me hooked and it had me race through the pages because I desperately wanted to know what’s going on and what’s going to happen. This claustrophobic feeling was overwhelming, because just imagine – one small island and SOMETHING has happened there, right? I mean, Jemma’s husband must be somewhere, no? Then the end. So controversial and to be honest I am still not sure what to think about it, but it MADE me think, and wonder, and consider. I can bet anything that nobody will work this end out. I am not sure if there were any clues leading to this end, to be honest, or if the author so masterfully has pulled wool over my eyes. It was so clever and so tricky. A story about obsession and revenge, resentment and jealousy, about messy relationships and family dynamics. The author has created a great psychological thriller that kept me on my tenterhooks till the end. Shocking and thought provoking – recommended from me!

The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

 

32599703Publisher: Penguin

Publishing Date: 23rd February  2017

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 198

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

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

Joni, Trina, Deb and Eden.

Best friends since the first day of school. Best friends, they liked to say, forever.

But now they are in their thirties and real life – husbands, children, work – has got in the way. So, resurrecting their annual trip away, Joni has an idea, something to help them reconnect.

Each woman will write an anonymous letter, sharing with their friends the things that are really going on in their lives.

But as the confessions come tumbling out, Joni starts to feel the certainty of their decades-long friendships slip from her fingers.

Anger. Accusations. Desires. Deceit.

And then she finds another letter. One that was never supposed to be read. A fifth letter. Containing a secret so big that its writer had tried to destroy it. And now Joni is starting to wonder, did she ever really know her friends at all?

Rating: 3/5

I love stories about friends, about women that have something in common, whose stories intertwine, so already it was a great starting point for me when I spotted “The Fifth Letter” by Nicola Moriarty. The synopsis sounded also really intriguing, what with the fifth letter being found, so with the friendship and the little mystery promised to be weaved into the pages, full of hope and enthusiasm I started to read this novel.

There were four friends and Joni was the main character, the story was told from her point of view. I often had problems, even deep into the story, to separate Deb, Eden and Trina from each other – their stories just mixed with each other. They were also not too convincing in the things they did and said and the way they were around each other just didn’t ring true for me. However, it was great to see that they were all so different and each of them had their ups and downs, different expectations and led different lives.

The writing style was engaging though there were too many flat moments for my liking and sometimes it dragged a little too much. The mystery, well, it was there but I can’t say that it kept me on my tenterhooks, that I couldn’t wait to see who’s written this letter and why. Sure, I was trying to guess and with every new hint I changed my mind and in the end it turned out that I didn’t guess at all, so it was a nice surprise, but it was not a life – changing letter and so there was almost none tension for me. The secrets in the letters were, well, some of them were really disturbing but also not such that kept my breath away. I just expected something different, a bit more from this book. I was waiting for a big bang probably, for the secrets to turn out dirty, filthy and dangerous and I just had a feeling that the book isn’t sure if it wants to be a women’s literature, domestic drama, mystery or psychological thriller – and it could be any of them, guys, as the author touches upon a very wide range of issues in this story, as already mentioned before. There was a surprise revealed every few chapters and I just kept going with the story. The end is very neatly wrapped up, it makes sense though guys, let’s talk a little about the fifth letter. After such an introduction and the whole drama you would expect it to be incredible, to be something very special. While in fact it was, well, I think the weakest part of the book. It just didn’t sit with me, the motivation of the writer was somehow childish and just, after so many years, unbelievable. For me, at least.

So for me the book lacked in something and it annoys me to say that I don’t know exactly what it was. It was a nice enough read but not the one that wow – ed me, that I could say oh wow, it is so special. It had its moments but mostly I had a feeling that the friendship between the girls was too forced and imposed on them. The letters were interesting, that’s true, but the outcome was not as life – changing as you could expect from the premise. There were some surprises on the way, and each character had her own story but I missed the depth to them, they just seemed to me as if they really didn’t care about each other. So yes, the story had tons of potential and it just made me feel so sad that it didn’t work the way I hoped for. However, I am sure that with every new book Nicola Moriarty will get better and better and personally I can’t wait for her next novel! All in all, I enjoyed this story, really. If you’re a fan of a light mystery with lies and secrets and messing about this is for sure a book for you. “The Fifth Letter” is a story exploring friendship, loyalties, family dynamics and probably teaching us that sometimes it’s better to let the skeletons stay in the closet as it showed that sharing secrets doesn’t often do good. It is a book with an edge to it and with some more serious undertones but altogether it is an easy, relatively light – hearted novel.

Book of the Month: January & February + Q&A with Alice Peterson

Oh guys! Oh my word! I know, I know, it’s almost the end of March and I am posting about my favourite books in January and February only now! Mea culpa, really, but you know that life is a bitch, all the time getting in the way. I have so little time to read right now, moreover, not only have I a little time for it but I started to read so, soooo slowly – WHY??? OK. Whatever. Here are the two of my most favourite books this year and if you scroll down a little, there is also a Q&A with Alice Peterson – this lovely girl found some time in her tight schedule to answer my questions about one of the most special books in the world – “A Song for Tomorrow”. THANK YOU SO MUCH, Alice!

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So let’s start with January. It was a really good bookish beginning to the year but there was one novel that made me laugh out loud, that made me cringe, that made me cheer the characters on and also made me feel inspired by the main character! It was “My Sweet Revenge” by Jane Fallon, a story that I’ll be getting back to many, many times – though I’d love to be able to read it for the first time over and over again! Here you can read my review.

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So. And then there came February, bringing with one of my most anticipated releases this year. Alice Peterson belongs to my top favourite author but with “A Song for Tomorrowindexshe has overdone herself – this book is an absolute gem, a book like no other that turned me into a a weepy mess but that was also full of hope. Please, read my review of this heart – breaking novel here and if you haven’t read the book yet, do this immediately! Also, here is a link to my Alice Martineau’s favourite song “IF I FALL” – it’s is beautiful. The first things my daughter says when we get into the car is that she wants to hear the songs of this beautiful lady – she means Alice.

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Q&A with Alice Peterson

  1. “A Song for Tomorrow” is a book full of incredible emotions – how hard was it to write this novel? To put all those feeling into words? To do Alice justice?

For each book I write, I put my heart and soul into all my characters, but this book is different in that my main character Alice is inspired by the singer Alice Martineau, who was born with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). In some ways, it was easier writing about Alice Martineau than a fictional character as I was able to talk to her family and friends, her boyfriend, her music manager, her vocal coach, her consultant, and people who live with CF, so I got to know Alice from every single perspective. I remember her father, David, saying to me with a twinkle in his eye, ‘you will know things about our Alice that I don’t know’. At times it was emotional writing the story because it was true. I found describing the mother’s point of view particularly poignant. I wanted to do Alice justice because she was a wonderful inspiring person but I also wanted to do her justice for her family and friends. I wanted them to feel the book truly celebrated her life and talent in the way she deserved.

  1. Alice is a true inspiration – did she inspire YOU in some ways?

Oh yes, in every way. CF is a genetic life-shortening condition that slowly, through repeated infections, destroys the lungs, but never once did Alice moan or feel sorry for herself that this was the pack of cards she’d been dealt. Nor was she some saint who sweetly put up with it. She was one of those people who turned her life experiences into something positive – which was her music. Alice also knew her time was short (life expectancy with CF in the 1990s was 31) so she lived life intensely – and by that I mean she threw herself into friendships and relationships. Clearly Alice had a huge heart and capacity to give, and people fell in love with her. Central to A Song for Tomorrow is the love story between her and Tom and this part of the book really inspired me. It made me realize the strength of having someone by your side. Alice’s success in becoming a signed recording artist with Sony (her album, Daydreams, was released in 2002) wasn’t only down to her own ambition – she was helped so much along the way with the unconditional love and support of her parents, her brother, her close friends and her boyfriend.

  1. Alice, what happened with Tom? I need to know – please, do tell us.

The lovely Tom has married and had children, but he remains close to Alice’s family. He still flies planes too!

  1. How much fiction and how much truth is in the story?

Alice in my book is very much Alice Martineau. I shall never forget Alice’s brother, Luke, reading the book for the first time and saying ‘Alice walks off the pages’. So, the heart of the book is true – Alice’s journey to become a singer when faced with the obstacles of living with CF. We also kept Alice’s medical condition, the love story and her family as close to the truth as possible. The surrounding characters, including the anti support group, are entirely fictional – as are many of the events that take place.

  1. I am sure there are many such inspirational people like Alice in the world – why did you choose to base your book on her and her story?

You’re right, there are many inspirational people out there, but as a writer you have to strongly identify with someone so this is why I chose to write about Alice. I read about her in a weekend magazine back in 2002. Immediately I was drawn to the headline: Alice Martineau – beautiful, talented and on a triple transplant list. There was a picture of a twenty-eight year old woman sitting on some garden steps attached to an oxygen machine. I admired Alice’s ambition to be a singer when she was attached to machines keeping her alive. I also connected to Alice’s courage when faced with overwhelming adversity since I too live with a chronic autoimmune condition. I understand the emotional and psychological impact an illness can have, not just on the individual but on an entire family. It’s their story just as much as Alice’s.

  1. Which of the books that you’ve written means most to you and why?

That’s a hard question! They all mean so much to me in different ways. If I had to choose, I’d say A Song for Tomorrow, just because it’s so closely based on truth, and I have greatly enjoyed working on the project with Alice’s family and friends. But By My Side is also close to my heart. And then there’s my own personal story, Another Alice – which is important to my family… Sorry, can I have three?

A Song for Tomorrow, Simon & Schuster, February 9 2017

www.alicepeterson.co.uk

www.cysticfibrosis.org.uk

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

Hi guys, and happy Wednesday! Hope you are all doing great and that spring is also knocking at your door. Today I am absolutely thrilled to be a part of Beth Underdown’s blog tour and share my review of her debut novel “The Witchfinder’s Sister” with you. It is a debut but one that doesn’t read like debut at all, and you can be sure that this book will make you shudder…I loved it, and the atmosphere that author has created – it doesn’t happen often that it’s so brilliantly captured!

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown

31378911

 

Publisher: Viking

Publishing Date: 2nd March 2017

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Historical Fiction, Adult Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

‘VIVID AND TERRIFYING’ Paula Hawkins, author of The Girl on the Train

The number of women my brother Matthew killed, so far as I can reckon it, is one hundred and six…

1645. When Alice Hopkins’ husband dies in a tragic accident, she returns to the small Essex town of Manningtree, where her brother Matthew still lives.

But home is no longer a place of safety. Matthew has changed, and there are rumours spreading through the town: whispers of witchcraft, and of a great book, in which he is gathering women’s names.

To what lengths will Matthew’s obsession drive him?
And what choice will Alice make, when she finds herself at the very heart of his plan?

Rating: 4/5

“The Witchfinder’s Sister” by Beth Underdown must be the most unusual, unique book I have ever read – I think I haven’t read fiction based on the witch – hunting before. I mean, everybody heard about Salem, and we know about women being burned alive or hung but I am not sure if I ever came across this subject in adult historical fiction. Or I simply don’t remember anymore. Whatever – “The Witchfinder’s Sister” was a captivating, intriguing and also haunting read, a brilliant story based on a real event. Told from Alice, Matthew Hopkins’ half – sister’s point of view, the story begins in a very intriguing way, with a woman being imprisoned, but we don’t know by whom nor why…

This novel is not only a reconstruction of what happened in 1645 but it perfectly mixes fiction with reality. The story of Alice and Matthew is gripping, full of dark secrets, twists and turns, it is unpredictable and I was almost all the time scared that something is going to happen to Alice. The author also adds an element of suspense and family drama, slowly revealing the secrets and letting the elements of the puzzle to fall into places. The characters were portrayed in a great way. It was so clear that Matthew was a man obsessed – however I missed what made him behave this way. Was it something particular that happened? His mission was to accuse as many women of being witches as possible and he wasn’t afraid to tell lies, manipulate and betray to succeed. It was amazing how the author described him during the questionings, as a companionable, almost having compassion man of honour, convincing everybody that what he’s doing is done in the most fair way, and also convinced himself that he wields all the power of the world in his own hands. The author has managed to write him in the most incredible way possible, I think, as there were moments that he appeared embarrassed with the things he was doing, scared and also vulnerable – even though it was only a mask! There were also moments that he was the best brother possible to Alice and in the next second he was giving her the cold shoulder again – so very complex, not straightforward. What made the character of Matthew even more fascinating was the fact that he really actually existed, and also the trials took place and were documented. Alice was a great counterbalance to Matthew’s character. She was kind and open and she, as it so often happens in historical fiction, was ahead of her times, but not too much ahead. She didn’t believe in witches and she wanted to help those that were accused by her own brother. However, as much as I appreciate how brilliantly she was developed, I still missed the connection between me and Alice. She sometimes felt like a mimosa and there was something in her, I don’t know what, a weaker side perhaps, that just made her feel a little only two dimensional.

This book is exceptionally well researched. All the details about the period, or the events, about the way people were living, dressing or eating, but also the description of the nature and landscape in the 17th century, were so vivid and so realistic, and so easily brought to life by the author. What was also amazingly described – even though I know it worked that way – was that you could have accused each and every woman of being a witch, there was no hiding place from this. The more ridiculous reason, the better, and the way people reacted to a woman being accused of witchcraft – amazing. It was probably because they were relieved it’s not their wife/sister/mother/daughter. The brainstorming really worked well then, and it was enough to be a little different, lonely, have some mental problems or using herbs to be reported as being a witch.

There were moments in this book where the story dragged on a little, and it was rather on the slow side, but with so many information and awful things happening there was no need for this to be extremely quick. The writing style is great, there is something in it that just pulls you in. The story about the witch hunting and trials is told with a real passion. The author also brilliantly captured the atmosphere of the times she’s written about. However, I’d missed more of the hunting itself. No no no, I am not a bloodthirsty vampire looking for sensation or something, it’s just that there were moments that the story dragged on too much, or that I felt as if we are staying in one place and not moving. There was a lot about other things, about Alice’s private life, a lot about Alice and Matthew’s background, and in between we get some mentions that some of the women were arrested, but that’s all. And then suddenly it comes to a trial and that was that.
But the author wonderfully writes about the emotions. You could almost feel the tension and fear, the uncertainty when not knowing what the next page is going to bring – it was really vivid and it felt truly realistic. Beth Underdowned has created a dark, exceptionally good historical thriller (is there even such a genre?), and if it is her debut novel than I really can’t wait for more books to come. The claustrophobic atmosphere of the 17th century England and the uncertainty of what’s to come next were palpable through the pages, brilliantly created. Story created around a story, such a brilliant and unique idea, moreover so well put together and with a great outcome. And I love the last sentence of this book, where Alice breaks to us that she’s found her new place in Salem… Can you imagine…? Highly recommended!

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My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon

My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon

 

31942576Publisher: Penguin UK – Michael Joseph

Publishing Date: 12th January 2017

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 416

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

I want to make my husband fall back in love with me.

Let me explain. This isn’t an exercise in 1950s wifeydom. I haven’t been reading articles in old women’s magazines. ‘Twenty ways to keep your man’. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

I want him to fall back in love with me so that when I tell him to get the hell out of my life he’ll care. He won’t just think, ‘Oh good’.

I want it to hurt.

Paula has had Robert’s back since they got together as drama students. She gave up her dreams so he could make it. Now he’s one of the nation’s most popular actors. And Paula’s just discovered he’s having an affair.

She’s going to remind Robert just what he’s sacrificing. And then she’s going to break his heart like he broke hers. It will be her greatest acting role ever.

Revenge is sweet. Isn’t it?

Rating: 5/5

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Oh guys, “My Sweet Revenge” was one of my most anticipated releases in January… heck, this year! Since reading Jane Fallon’s “Strictly Between Us” I’ve just fallen in love with this author, her writing and her sharp – observed, funny stories. This book is really a brilliant, sharp read, that keeps you asking what would you do in Paula’s situation. I personally don’t think I’d be able to plot such a plan and this is probably why I enjoyed this book so much. It was something new, something fresh and different.

So yes, OK, we could discuss the main character’s motivations and blaming her for wanting to lose weight to win back her husband back, or to blame her for wanting to lose weight at all, as she should be happy exactly as she was, bla, bla, bla, but I’m not going to blame Paula at all. Probably it’s not politically correct to try to lose weight, succeed and feel better in the new body nowadays but I found myself cheering Paula on, clapping and being glad that she succeeded and to be honest, she was like inspiration for me. If she could do it, then I can do this as well! Her resolve was inspiring and genuine, her attempts to lose weight, especially at the beginning, not only comical but also so realistic, and her desperation and doubts soon turned out into a full commitment, and I totally admired it in her. I think some may say that Paula deserved what happened to her, with totally forgetting about herself and turning into an unhappy woman who needed to search the net to find something to speak to with her husband, but I am not the one who thinks so – I think that it is normal that people, even those who love each other incredibly and crazy, and it was not Paula and Robert’s case – would eventually drift a little apart and live in their own worlds – but not taking it to such extremes as Paula and Robert, of course. Robert, on the other hand, oh boy, Robert, he was such a self – centred and narcissistic bore but it made me hollow laugh to see how happy he was with himself when, in fact, he was a ageing “star” of a soap – opera.
I absolutely appreciated the fact that Paula was honest with us, she didn’t beat around the bush and I immediately felt at ease with her. Her narrative and the way she perceived the events made me grin, shake my head and roll my eyes at Robert’s antics and lies. She tells us her and Robert’s history and it is quickly clear how much she has sacrificed for her husband, and why did she change so much and is not the glamorous woman on his side as would probably be expected – instead she’s working at the bakery. But this is the next thing that I loved in Paula – the whole glamour, the flashes, red carpets or the skinny minnies that were working with Robert didn’t intimidate her, she was happy with her life and didn’t need the false praises to feel better. No, she was realistic and down to earth. Intelligent and perceptive.

All the characters I loved or slowly started loving to hate. They were brilliantly drawn, they were entertaining and they all felt so realistic. Their interactions were funny and sharp and Jane Fallon has this wonderful talent to show their true faces while they themselves are trying to hide them. Even the background characters, such like Paula and Robert’s daughter Georgia, or Robert’s sister Alice, the self – obsessed one who reckoned she’s an actress, even though she was anything but, brought so much life and were like a breath of fresh air. And how well the author portrayed Saskia! She was shallow, self – obsessed, focused on her looks only, hilariously serious about herself but also with some surprises up her sleeve which made her unpredictable and so much more interesting! Or let’s take Josh, who, as the show producer, eventually took matters in his hands – the idea of re – writing the script and making Saskia and Robert screen characters unlikeable was brilliant!

I absolutely loved how the story, that already was quick – paced, has suddenly gained even more speed with the unexpected part 2! It was such a surprise for me to turn the page and see that it has a new narrator, and it added not only tons of new details but also complicated the story and we got twice as much mean manipulations, which was brilliant! By mean manipulations I don’t mean anything life – endangering although Jane Fallon touches lightly upon the moral and ethics limits but in my opinion she also comes out on top. There was nothing so controversial that made me gasp, she only makes the characters’ lives complicated but nothing very bad is happening and I wouldn’t say that it turned into nastiness nor anything similar.

I was really hooked from the first page and didn’t want this book to end. “My Sweet Revenge” is a bittersweet story with strong and solid characters, with laugh out loud moments and many twists and turns, and you really can’t be sure what to expect and – and it was the best! – who to trust and which information is true, the author has really messed with her readers! Revenge is for a sure a dish best served cold – but this book is not only about revenge. It is about finding happiness, finding yourself, about changing and not being afraid to live life like you want it, about gaining self – confidence, and I thoroughly enjoyed this addictive, witty novel – it had all what I’m looking for in a great book. It was clever, witty and there were the so much appreciated by me last minute revelations. Highly, highly recommended!

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