#BookReview – The Bad Daughter by Joy Fielding

bad daughterWhat first appears to be a random home invasion reveals a family’s dark secrets in this domestic ticking-clock suspense from the New York Times bestselling author of See Jane Run.

A hostile relationship with her sister and a complicated past with her father’s second wife have kept Robin estranged from her family for many years. But when her father’s new family is attacked in their house, with her father and his wife in critical condition in the hospital, she returns home determined to put her experience as a therapist to use to help mend fences and care for her young stepsister, who survived the attack relatively unscathed. It looks like a random robbery gone awry, but as Robin spends more time with her family members, she learns they all had their secrets — and one of those secrets may have put them all in horrible danger.  

Published 27th February 2018 (Ebook) and in Paperback June 2018 by Bonnier Zaffre

This is the first book I’ve read by Joy Fielding, but I really liked the sound of it – I LOVE a twisted family full of dark secrets kind-of-story, so that sold it to me. And it started off so very well! Beginning with Robin, a Councillor but clearly struggling with her own anxieties and emotions, getting a phone call from her sister to tell them her father, his wife and step sister had all been shot, I was gripped within a few pages with the hints and questions the author throws up to snare the reader. Why did Robin react so badly to hearing from her sister? Why is she clearly so anxious at the thought of returning home? And why had a whole family, including a 12 year old girl, been shot? When it’s revealed that her father’s wife is Robins own childhood best friend and she hasn’t spoken to her family in years I was hooked, and settled down to a good old dark domestic drama.

I thought the concept was excellent – with a whole host of suspicious characters looming in the small town Robin is so reluctant to return to. I really liked the character of her sister, Melanie – sharp, witty, poisonous, this is definitely a woman with a grudge. I also thought the whole small town dynamic was captured very well, giving that sense of claustrophobia and everyone knowing each others business that adds a distinct atmosphere and works so well in thrillers.

I did feel the book lost some momentum around a third of the way through though, and my attention began to wan a little. There’s a hell of a lot of dialogue and an awful lot of back and forward bickering that felt a bit repetitive. A big focus was on the interactions between the two sisters, yet it didn’t seem to move the story on as quickly as I’d have liked and meant I wasn’t compelled to keep reading the way I want to from this kind of book.

I limped a little through the middle of this book, taking a couple of days to get through. But then just when I was about to loose interest completely, the booked picked up pace, and all of a sudden got exciting again! I’d been blindsided by the argumentative sisters and hadn’t seen a shocker of a twist coming, and as the final chapters flew by I was glad I’d stuck it out in the end.

I can’t decide if the misleading focus of the sisters relationship was clever or not. On the one hand, it completely threw me when all is revealed and took me by surprise. On the otherhand, it almost felt a bit too out of the blue to be real. I still think the concept was an excellent one, and I’d definitely pick up a book by this author again, having finished on a high. Overall, a book with a lot of potential that was worth reading to the end, but for me just missed the mark a little.

(I read an advance ebook courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley)

#Blogtour #BookReview – Almost Forever by Laura Danks (@HQDigital @auradanks)

almost foreverCan love truly conquer all?

When a vicious attack leaves Paul in a coma on his wedding day, the doctors fear he will never wake up. But his fiancée Fran will never give up hope.

Fran has always known Paul is the only man for her, from the first moment they locked eyes as children to the day he finally told her he loved her. Paul can’t leave her, not now their lives are just about to begin.

Love will always find a way… won’t it 

Published 9th February 2018 by HQ Digital 

I don’t make any secret of the fact that I’m a sucker for a good love story AND a good old sob. I love books that make me emotional, whether that’s by filling me with joy or breaking my heart. So when I first read the synopsis of Almost Forever I thought it might be a book I’d enjoy. What I wasn’t expecting was just how much I did love it!

Almost Forever isn’t a huge book (It’s published digitally only but I think the print page equivalent is about 260 pages) but WOW! does it pack a whole lot in. It tells the story of Fran, about to elope with her childhood sweetheart and love of her life, Paul, when tragedy occurs and her husband to be is suddenly critically ill and in a coma. Over the following weeks as Fran sits vigil over his bedside, she recalls the past, with flashbacks to the summer in her childhood when she first met him and his family.

I absolutely loved how the past and present was intertwined to tell what in its own way is an epic love story. As Fran struggles to deal with and come to terms with what has happened, we hear the most touching tale of young love. Of course, as with any great love story, it doesn’t always run smooth and with a “will they, won’t they” set of twists and turns, I found myself desperately hoping for a happy ending and willing them to get together.

I really got behind this pair of sweethearts and was completely carried away by the sheer romantic-ness of it! And it was so very romantic, without being sickly sweet. There’s a real class and sincerity about Fran and Paul’s developing relationship which I just adored! So the contrast between the past and the upsetting circumstances of the present were all the more stark, as all that hope and possibility turns to grief and despair making for an emotional roller-coaster of a book, which had me sobbing more than once.

Almost Forever surprised me. I was ready for a bit of a weepy, but what I wasn’t prepared for was just how intense it would be. While there’s some sad topics covered, there’s an overarching feeling of strength and hope running through this book. An intelligent and sophisticated romance, I’ll be adding Laura Danks to my list of authors to look out for in the future.

(I read an advanced e-book proof courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley)

Discussion: Reviews and Ratings – Why I’m Mainly Taking The Positive Approach

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a while, kind of a discussion/explanation of my approach to reviewing books and in particular less favorable or negative reviews. Then last night I noticed an email in my junk box from an author, whose book I’d reviewed on Amazon and had mainly liked, but had a couple of issues stopping me from really loving it. Now, I’m not looking for some sort of shit storm here or a blogger v author battle. The author was very polite, kind  and not at all aggressive – thanking me for my review (and I won’t be divulging who the author was). It did make me feel a bit uncomfortable though. I’ve been worrying since that I may have upset someone and that in turn makes me feel awful. However, that’s mixed with a conviction on my part that I also have to be honest and act with integrity. It’s what I respect and admire in others, but also what I expect from myself.

I’m a very emotional person, and that reflects in my opinions and feelings towards books. This is a personal thing, I cry at things that leaves others staring at me in disbelief (Kids singing is a big one – not even my own! Thank god mine are both out of primary now and neither myself or my child have to suffer the embarrassment of my uncontrollable sobby face in assemblies) or I feel ridiculously smiley and warm and exuberant where others may just raise a small smile. Ok, so my stability is probably a whole different post and I’m risking getting off track here, but my point is to say that how I react to a book emotionally is what drives my enjoyment of a book, whether it is sadness or joyfulness. I’m not a literary expert and I’m not critically analyzing every word when I read. I just want a story that captures me, that I can connect with, that takes me away for a while, that makes me feel something.

And this brings me onto negative reviews. If you regularly follow my reviews, here or goodreads or some other place, you may notice that I tend to only write positive reviews these days. I don’t rate books on the blog, because I kind of feel my opinion is enough to let people know if the book is for them or not and rating is so very, very subjective anyway. On sites where you have to leave a rating though, in 2017 and in 28 books read and rated I haven’t given less than three stars. And three stars is a GOOD rating in my eyes. It means I liked a book enough to read it and recommend it.

This hasn’t always been the case, and in the past I’ve written some fairly negative reviews. I’ve been blogging a long time on and off and in the early days I used to get a ridiculous amount of unsolicited book post, which I felt I HAD to read, even when I didn’t like a book or would never have chosen it myself. Yes, it meant I discovered some gems I wouldn’t have read otherwise, but often it meant I ploughed through books I didn’t really want to read or wasn’t enjoying. I don’t do that now. I’m pretty confident in choosing books I’m likely to enjoy – I know my tastes and stick to them. But I’m also not afraid to just say a book isn’t for me and not continue. So, yes, I’ve started books this year that I didn’t like, but I moved on and I won’t rate a book I didn’t finish – it’s unfair. I love reading, and to be honest, forcing my way through books I didn’t like was a big factor in my stopping both reading and reviewing for a while. This is what I do for fun and I intend to keep it that way. There’s not enough time to read all the books I will adore, let alone trudge through the ones I’m not.

So while I do tend to review books positively and mainly ones I’ve enjoyed nowadays, I also want to be honest. Not every single book can be amazing, faultless and a five star read, and there has to be some explanation and balance. I will point out anything I found problematic, but I will try my very best to do it as thoughtfully as possible. And it IS only my personal opinion. Something that mattered to me may not be an issue for others. I’ll justify why I felt that way, but ultimately leave a reader to decide if this is something they can live with or not. I think I achieve this, and I’ll continue to do so despite my slight discomfort when reading that email last night.  Oh, and if I were to come across a book I felt was offensive in anyway, I would absolutely call it out. I’m not afraid to say when something’s bad or even to say I didn’t particularly like something. I’m just more adept at recognising when a book isn’t for me and calling time on it pretty early on these days.

So what about you? How do you approach reading and reviewing? Do you go into it with a critical eye? How do you feel about writing negative reviews and also, about those of us who mainly write positive reviews? I do wonder if the fact I appear to “love” every book makes my opinion less valid, but at the end of the day I’m not here for personal acclaim or to discover the next literary award winner. I’m here because I love books and love talking about books to others.