Sunday, 28 February 2016

Review - Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan

Stunning and beautiful are two words that can be used to summarise my opinion of Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan. It’s been a very long time since a book touched me in the way that this did, a book which really did take me on a rollercoaster of emotions and which saw me crying one minute and smiling the next. I honestly do feel privileged to have been sent a copy of this superb book by Katy for review purposes and my only regret is that I wasn’t able to pick this absolute gem up sooner than I did. 

We first meet Jessica as she is wandering through an empty graveyard on the morning of New Year’s Eve to visit her mother’s grave, a place she has not been to since the funeral took place many months ago. Later the same day, after a shift on the geriatric ward of the hospital where she works as a nurse, Jessica meets Finn - a young man who she spends just one night with but who makes her feel that life is worth living again. A few months after this meeting occurs, we see that Jessica is slowly but surely getting back on her feet again having made good friends with Hannah who she met at bereavement counselling and Alex, an american who has just moved into the area. We soon see how their lives are more connected than they, or us, could ever have imagined. 

All of the characters you come across in this book have a real depth to them to the extent where I really did feel able to connect with them and how they were feeling. It quickly becomes clear that Katy has spent a lot of time thinking about each and every one of the characters she presents to us throughout the novel. She allows us to see the bigger picture and truly understand them all by giving us a thorough description of their history and what led them to be where they are today. 

It has to be said that Katy wrote a very emotional, extremely powerful and memorable tale in Out of the Darkness about grief, love and friendship. However, more than that, she also gives the reader an insight and sensitively deals with the subject of life after death. I found this to be an extremely thought-provoking theme, one which I haven’t seen discussed in all the fiction I’ve read to date, and what was really nice to see was the way she never tried to influence the reader with her own beliefs on the subject. Thanks to the way in which she handles the topic I can also very much see how this book could be a great comfort to those who are struggling with loss/grief at the time of reading it. 

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that this book fully deserves every single five star review that it receives and that it is also a book I will keep on my bookshelf and cherish forever. Thanks to Out of the Darkness, a truly gorgeous debut novel, Katy Hogan has gone straight on my list of authors to look out for and I'm really looking forward to reading her second novel. 

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Review - When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen

Having loved everything that Tammy Cohen has previously written, When She Was Bad was a book that I really couldn’t wait to get my hands on. It didn’t disappoint me in the slightest and was a truly wonderful and gripping psychological thriller that really keeps the reader glued to its pages from the very first word. It’s one of those books that demands your attention and demands to be read and I found myself completely unable to put it down.

In When She Was Bad we have two major storylines running alongside eachother and, eventually, both merge together in the most unimaginable and unpredictable way. First we have the tension that builds between a group of London colleagues - Amira, Sarah, Paula, Charlie, Chloe and Ewan. Once a close-knit, supportive and amicable team we see things change all too quickly as their kind, considerate and caring boss is replaced by Rachel who is manipulative and intent on stirring things up. Meanwhile, in the United States, is Anne who lives with her daughter and is a child psychologist. How exactly are these two connected to one of the London office workers who is tortured by their past and truly capable of murder?

In this book we have different chapters written from the perspective of different characters. You might think that this would make the book confusing and difficult to follow but this is not the case at all as Tammy does a superb job at connecting and bringing their stories together. This way of presenting the story also worked very well for this particular book as it allowed me to develop an understanding and appreciation of each of the characters which I think is really important in a book of this genre. 

As the novel progresses it becomes clear that this book has not only been carefully thought through but also extremely well researched as we see Tammy take us into the world of childhood psychology. She expertly and tactfully investigates the question of whether we have the ability to remember and are affected by events of our very early years or whether we learn to dissociate ourselves from them. 

All in all I found this to be an extremely interesting and thought-provoking read but one that was also incredibly accomplished and one which truly did have me sitting on the edge of my seat. The book even ended on a bit of a cliffhanger which has got my brain racing and wondering whether or not we will be treated to a sequel. I don’t know the answer to this but what I do know is that Tammy is an incredibly talented author whose books are consistently first-class and I really can’t wait to read her next book! 

When She Was Bad will be published in April 2016 and is very much worth a pre-order!

I would like to end this review by extending my thanks to the publishers and Lovereading for supplying me with an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Review - The Silent Girls by Ann Troup

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Silent Girls by Ann Troup, a book which I thoroughly enjoyed and which I’m delighted to be sharing a review with you for today. The Silent Girls was honestly everything I love about a book, being full of intrigue, twists and turns throughout. It kept me hooked from beginning to end and based on how much I loved this book there’s absolutely no doubt that I will be back for more by this author. 

In The Silent Girls we meet Edie as she returns to 17 Coronation Square, a house she has avoided visiting for many years but which she is obliged to return to after the death of her aunt in order to completely clear it of its contents. It’s a mammoth task and as she sets about it, and starts talking to the neighbours it becomes apparent that there was far more to her family than she ever knew before. They may not have been quite so cut off from the five murders that took place in the neighbourhood many years ago as they made out to be…

The Silent Girls was not short of tension and drama and from the very first page I was completely and utterly in love with Ann Troup’s writing style. Ann has really gone to town in this book, creating one which was beautifully detailed and incredibly descriptive. Throughout the novel this was something that allowed me to visualise and build up a picture of everything perfectly and feel fully immersed and wrapped up in the action. This is something I really appreciate in any book.

There were a number of characters in this novel and I sometimes find that, with a lot of characters, it can be hard to keep track of what each is up to. However, that is not the case with The Silent Girls as each character has a critical role to play in the unfolding mystery and Ann expertly weaves each of them in and out of the story at just the right moments. It has to be said that I particularly admired Edie’s character who clearly had a lot to deal with and sort out but who remained resilient, determined and willing to help others throughout. 

This was undoubtedly a magnificent book that was also completely unpredictable and a real privilege to read. I’m now ashamed to say that I hadn’t read Ann’s debut novel, The Lost Child, before picking this book up but can say that all the praise that she has received for her fabulous writing is very well-deserved. I really can’t wait to see what this author will treat us readers to next but in the mean time definitely look forward to catching up on her previous book. The Silent Girls is not a book to be missed!

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Review - A Home in Sunset Bay by Rebecca Pugh

I read Rebecca Pugh’s debut novel, Return to Bluebell Hill, last year and was absolutely blown away by how brilliant it was. I was therefore eagerly awaiting the publication of her second novel, A Home in Sunset Bay, which I absolutely adored. Given how much I loved Rebecca’s first book, it had a lot to live up to but it totally surpassed all my expectations. I’d even go so far as to say that if I was able to award more than five stars to A Home in Sunset Bay on the likes of Good Reads I would in an instant. 

In this book we meet two sisters. The first of these is Mia who has lived in Sunset Bay for many years and, since the passing of her grandmother, has been running Dolly’s Diner alongside Cal, Marco and Pollyanna. The second sister is Laurie who we first meet in London when it is clear that she is desperately unhappy and whose unhappiness only gets worse when she catches her other half, unashamedly, cheating on her. So Laurie packs her bags, leaves London behind and travels to Sunset Bay to see Mia who does not greet her with the open arms and warm smile that she was expecting. However, as they start to talk and the two realise there’s more to the past than meets the eye the icy atmosphere between the sisters soon melts and this is just the start of a great new beginning… 

Like her first novel, in A Home in Sunset Bay, Rebecca Pugh has gone above and beyond with the level of description in this book and what an absolute pleasure it is to read. The description really is so intricate that you can envisage absolutely everything that is going on and there were many times I felt like I was there with the characters myself. There was descriptions for quite literally everything - the food, the characters and the environment - but at no point did this ever detract from the beautiful storyline and at no point did it ever feel that there was too much description. 

A Home in Sunset Bay to me was a really magical and uplifting read which seems to be a recurring theme with Rebecca’s writing. The book really reinforced how you should never feel like you have to settle for second best or like you should stop dreaming but to instead dream big and don’t stop until you achieve what your heart most desires. It also highlighted the importance of doing what makes you happy, having no regrets and living for the moment.

In case you haven’t already guessed I absolutely loved A Home in Sunset Bay, so much so that I ended up reading it in one sitting which I haven’t done with a book in a very long time. Rebecca’s proven herself again to be a super talented author and one that is absolutely, without a doubt going to have a very long and successful career ahead of her. I'm already looking forward to reading her next book! 

Monday, 1 February 2016

Review - Behind Closed Doors by B A Paris

Behind Closed Doors by B A Paris is one of those books that I just know will stay with me for a long time. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say that it’s rather unforgettable with a plot that draws the reader in from the very start and leaves the reader wanting, desperately, to know more. It was an astounding and impressive debut novel that has left me looking forward to more by the author. 

To many people Jack and Grace would seem like the perfect couple who, having recently got married, spend their time hosting dinner parties, travelling to exotic destinations and preparing for the arrival of Millie, Grace’s younger sister who has Down’s syndrome and will soon be moving in with them. However, it soon becomes apparent that things are not as perfect as they would at first appear - there’s definitely something funny going on but what exactly is it?

Narrated entirely by Grace with chapters alternating between the past and present the reader finds out more about the less than perfect lives of Grace and Jack than any of their friends could ever possibly imagine. We discover exactly what is going on and I have to say that when I found out what was going on I was well and truly shocked. I couldn’t, and actually still can’t, believe that Jack was able to get away with what he put Grace through. I can only hope and pray that this is something that doesn’t become a reality for either myself or any other person out there. 

B A Paris has written an extremely powerful novel in Behind Closed Doors that made me feel a whole range of emotions - from anger towards Jack to upset for Grace and the predicament she was in. I wanted nothing more than for Grace to escape her domestic life which was clearly doing her far more harm than good and found myself feeling her frustration when things didn’t quite go to plan. In fact so good was B A Paris' writing and the description within the book that I could fully visualise the scenes playing out in my head.  

Behind Closed Doors delved into a subject and issue that I had never really considered or given much thought to before. In this respect it was extremely thought-provoking and really caused me to give some serious thought to how I would react if I was in Grace’s position and how I could go about helping others if they ever were. 

This was without a doubt an extremely clever novel that was entirely gripping from beginning to end. I do recommend this book and would like to extend my thanks to the publishers who very kindly sent me an advance copy of this incredible book in exchange for an honest review.