Book Review: Deeper by Robin York

When Caroline Piasecki’s ex-boyfriend posts their sex pictures on the Internet, it destroys her reputation as a nice college girl. Suddenly her once-promising future doesn’t look so bright. Caroline tries to make the pictures disappear; hoping time will bury her shame. Then a guy she barely knows rises to her defence and punches her ex to the ground. 

West Leavitt is the last person Caroline needs in her life. Everyone knows he’s shady. Still, Caroline is drawn to his confidence and swagger – even after promising her dad she’ll keep her distance. On late, sleepless nights, Caroline starts wandering into the bakery where West works. 

They hang out, they talk, they listen. Though Caroline and West tell each other they’re ‘just friends,’ their feelings intensify until it becomes impossible to pretend. The more complicated her relationship with West gets, the harder Caroline has to struggle to discover what she wants for herself – and the easier it becomes to find the courage she needs to fight back against the people who would judge her. 

When all seems lost, sometimes the only place to go is deeper. (from goodreads.com) 

The whole New Adult craze pretty much past me by, happening when I was forced to take a break from reading and blogging for a while. To be honest, I wasn’t all that desperate to get on the bandwagon. I’m not sure why, but it didn’t appeal to me all that much. but then I got a chance to read Deeper as part of a UK blog tour and decided to give it a go. Damn, am I glad I did. I really, really loved this book. 

I grew up pre-internet and was well into my twenties before it became a common thing. Sometimes this saddens me, often I’m grateful for it. Deeper only reaffirms my latter feelings. Caroline is eighteen years old, has been in a relationship with Nate for three years and when he snaps some impromptu pictures during sex, she isn’t altogether comfortable about it but she trusts him. But when she breaks up with him and the pictures surface online, the possible repercussions are staggering.  We’ve all done things we’d rather not have out there in the world. Caroline hasn’t even done anything wrong, or what millions of others have done. But once those pictures are out there in the public, she knows she’ll be judged upon them in all aspects of her life and future career. 

Deeper made me so angry at times, by how vile and disgusting people can be. In particular to women, because of course Nate isn’t treated the same even though he’s in the picture too. It also drives home how much the world has changed, how something like this can have a ripple effect through your life, even though you’ve done nothing wrong. Scary. 

However, I love how Robin York doesn’t create a victim of Caroline. She grows throughout the book and I was cheering her every single step of the way. Yes some of it is down to her new, blossoming relationship with West (which I’ll get to in a second!) but it isn’t because of him. At the end, it’s Caroline who has empowered Caroline. Bravo! 

Now to West. Phew…hot, hot, hot! Another complex character, with so many layers…part bad boy, part lost soul. I loved him. The chemistry between Caroline and West is electric, steamy and intense…and I loved it.  He’s a heady mix of strong, sexy and vulnerable. I’m not going to lie…I fell for him in a big way. 

Deeper surprised me by just how much I loved it, I wasn’t expecting to become so hooked I couldn’t stop reading. Rarely do I bother reading those extracts from the next book you find at the end…but I wasn’t ready to give up Caroline and West, so I did. And now I can’t wait for Harder, released in July. I can’t compare Deeper to other books in the New Adult genre, but I know I’d recommend it.

Published by Piatikus March 2014 (uk)  

I reviewed this book as part of Robin York’s UK blog tour. You can check out the other stops by visiting the blogs below. 



Book Review: The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

One hot summer. One week in a villa on the outskirts of Deia, a village nestling in the rugged, mountainous west coast of the island of Mallorca. One family for whom the carefully laid jigsaw of life is about to be broken.

Jenn and her husband Greg holiday each year in Deia, enjoying languorous afternoons by the pool. But this year the equilibrium is upset by the arrival of Emma, Jenn’s stepdaughter, and her boyfriend Nathan. Beautiful and reckless, Nathan stirs something unexpected in Jenn. As she is increasingly seduced by the notion of Nathan’s youth and the promise of passion, the line between desire and obsession begins to blur. What follows is a highly-charged liaison that put lives and relationships in jeopardy, and a taut narrative which percolates with enough sexual tension to make it impossible to put down. (from Goodreads.com)

The Lemon Grove came onto my radar right at a time when I was craving a holiday, during the coldest, greyest, most miserablest of Cumbrian weather. All of a sudden this book was everywhere, from my Amazon recommendations to completely overtaking my twitter feed. I couldn’t wait to get hold of a copy. 

And The Lemon Grove delivers exactly what it promises. Steamy, sexy, sultry- it’s all those things. Set in the beautiful surroundings of Deia on the island of Majorca, this book is so deeply evocative I could almost feel the heat of the Mediterranean sun and see the glint of its rays shimmering off water. Yet Helen Walsh is spare with her words, not a single one is wasted or given over to flowery description. The sharp, blunt style grabbed my attention and kept me hooked to the very end. 

But the heat doesn’t just come from the sun in this book. It’s super charged with sexual tension and attraction, amplified by the atmospheric setting. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure how I was going to react to Jenn’s relationship with her step-daughter’s seventeen year old boyfriend, but this isn’t a romance at all. It’s an intense,  raw frustration filled passion from a woman who feels taken advantage of, frumpy and past her best. Through her relationship with Nathan, Helen Walsh delivers a story of complex family dynamics, betrayals and jealousies. While I did find some of the sex scenes a bit cringy and awkward to read, it’s very brutally honest and doesn’t attempt to convince you that this is a love story. 

The Lemon Grove won’t be everyone’s taste. If you’re very easily offended you may find the sex scenes a bit graphic. While it’s intense and passionate, it definitely isn’t romantic. Personally I thought it was very good. Full of atmosphere, complex characters and evocative settings. I read it in a day and was hooked from beginning to the very clever end. 

4/5


Published by Tinder Press UK (February 2014) 





Book Review: The Invention Of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

I haven’t read Sue Monk Kidd’s best selling novel, The Secret Life of Bees, but I always meant to. When I came across this, her latest book, I jumped at the chance to give it a go. I was especially interested after recently studying the period including in part the slave trade. Set in early 19th century Charleston, The Invention of Wings is based on the real life abolitionist and feminist, Sarah Grimke and Handful (Hetty), a slave owned by Sarah’s family. Told in alternating chapters from each woman, it’s a powerful story evoking sadness, anger and yet also a lot of hope.

When 11 year old Sarah is given Handful as a present from her plantation owning parents, she knows even then that the idea of owning another human is abhorrent to her. Sarah is determined to set Handful free…but she’s female and lives in a time and place that expects nothing of women other than to marry well.

I was drawn in to both character’s lives immediately. I loved Handful’s determination and spirit and found her story, although often harrowing, awe inspiring and admired her greatly. While Sarah’s position appears to be the exact opposite, I also loved her quiet bravery and determination and the way in which she gained strength throughout the novel. It’s a novel to provoke strong emotions, and my only critique is that it felt very rushed toward the second half of the book where a lot happens very quickly, loosing some impact as a result. In an authors note at the end, Sue Monk Kidd tells us what happened to Sarah during the rest of her fascinating life, but as Handful is an imagined character, I couldn’t help but wish she’d wrote an epilogue for her and her story felt just a little unfinished. Of course this is entirely down to Sarah Grimke being a real person with a researchable history, so completely understandable.

The Invention of Wings is one of those books that provokes a huge range of emotions; Anger, sadness, pride and a real connection to and care for the two main characters. It’s a story that will stay with you long after you turn the last page.

Published by Headline (UK) January 2014

Book Review: The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

Watching someone you love disappear through Alzheimer’s disease is utterly heartbreaking. Seeing my Nan’s deterioration over the last few years has been the hardest thing I’ve been through. It’s a cruel, slow, torturous illness. Although less common, it isn’t just an illness that affects the elderly, and Rowan Coleman bravely tackles the subject of early onset alzheimer’s in this moving and beautifully written book, from both the suffers point of view as well as her family and carers.

Claire is in her early forties when she discover’s she has early onset alzheimer’s. She’s all too aware of how it all ends, having witnessed her father go through the same thing at a very young age. When her councillor suggests she makes a memory book, it becomes something the whole family get involved in.

Claire’s story is heartbreakingly sad. It seems crueller still that she’ll be be deprived of those years where she’ll see her children grow, have grandchildren and enjoy more comfortable times with her husband. Through the stories told in The Memory Book we discover what a strong, intelligent woman she was. I loved the way this was done; giving us glimpses of her life through both her own and her families point of view really lets you see the person aside from the alzheimer’s.

Having seen the deterioration of a loved one first hand, I though Rowan Coleman got those early symptoms just right. I was particularly struck by Claire’s loss of words for everyday objects, such as the remote for the TV and phone. I remember first becoming concerned about my Gran when she described a tea bag as the square thing to make a drink. I also found Claire’s sometimes wandering commentary, how the conversation she was having to herself would change track in a heartbeat, poignant and very realistically done.

But what I really liked was how this book was told from all sides, Claire, her Mother, her Husband and her 20 year old daughter. I loved and recognised all the emotions involved, from anger to frustration, concern and at times humour. I sympathised and understood all of them. There’s a strong theme of motherhood in this book, which coming from a family with four generations of very close (and at times fraught) maternal relationships, really struck a chord for me.

The Memory Book is an emotional read. For me it reminded me that while my Gran can’t remember any more, the memories I have of our relationship are what helped to shape me and are still real. And I think that this is what the books about, both in the relationship she now has with her husband and the strength we see inherited by her daughter Caitlin. Rowan Coleman took a difficult subject and with sensitivity and care has made it work beautifully.

Published February 2014 by Ebury (UK)

4.5/5

Book Review: The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

Sometimes, the minute you lay eyes on a book you just know it’s going to be a good one. That’s exactly what happened when The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman dropped through my letterbox completely out of the blue. The synopsis, the title, the colours of the cover…it all appealed to me and I knew it would be exactly my kind of book.

Rachel is at a point where she’s really happy with her life. She has a fantastic marriage, job, friends and family as well as the sweetest daughter, six year old Ellie. But then, with no warning, Rachel dies. Just like that. One minute she’s enjoying a romantic meal out with her husband, Max-the next she has heart attack. We join Rachel in her afterlife, one year on from that fateful night as she narrates us through the grieving process she sporadically witnesses her family going through, as well as her own.

We all say that should we die, we’d want our loved ones to move on. We mean it too. I don’t think many people would wish for our loved ones to constantly grieve, lock themselves away and fail to live their lives the best they can. But what if we witnessed this moving on? How would it feel to see your husband fall in love with someone else? The memory of you begin to fade from your children’s lives? Seeing the life you should have had being played out before you, minus you?  Jealous, angry, hurt? Even if rationally you know it’s right. And this is how Rachel feels as she drifts between a white nothingness interspersed with brief ‘access’ to moments of Ellie and Max’s lives as they begin to move on.

I think it’s a credit to how sensitively Hannah Beckerman writes Rachel that I was pretty much immediately on side and sympathetic to her. Rachel is already dead when the novel starts, so we never get a chance to connect with her alive. It could have gone wrong, and she could have come across as bitter and awful. Instead, I empathised with her and it made me think about how I would feel. Honestly? Probably the same.

But at the same time I felt sorry for the ones left behind and thought Max’s portrayal was especially thoughtful and endearing as he struggles between people telling him it’s time to move on and the feeling that it’s too soon. His first, tentative steps into the dating scene are filled with guilt, awkwardness and uncertainty. It’s also injected with very subtle hints of humour which bring with it a realistic and human element. This is as much Max’s story as Rachel’s, if not more. As a mother to a daughter of very similar age to Ellie, I found Rachel’s observations of her life particularly heart breaking and fully understood them. Ellie herself was sweet, if a little underestimated in her maturity. I think, perhaps, I feel this through comparing her to my own daughter rather than it being a criticism. It does go to show how well I did connect with Rachel, that I could fully put myself in her place.

The Dead Wife’s Handbook is an incredibly original and touching book. At it’s heart is a fear we all have- “Will I be remembered?” Rachel’s journey through her family’s lives in the two years following her death is both sad, yet heart warming and reassuring. It’s definitely a book I’ll remember and one I’d happily recommend.

Published by Penguin UK February 2013

 

Book Review: Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase by Louise Walters

There are three things which attracted me to this book. Firstly, it’s a book with a picture of beautiful old books on the front. Guaranteed to make a true book lover swoon. It’s main character also works in a book shop and part of the story is set there. Finally, it’s a story that intermingles past and present. My very favourite kind.

And oh how I did love it every bit as much as I hoped. Weaving the stories of two woman and spanning eighty years, this is beautifully written and at times achingly sad. Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase begins with Roberta in the present. Roberta works in The Old and New Bookshop and is fascinated by the old notes and letters she finds hidden amongst the pages of the second hand books brought into the store. But when she finds one belonging to her grandmother, Dorothea, it hints at a dark secret. One which changes the family history of which she was so sure.

I adored the war time love story between Dorothea and Polish Squadron leader Jan. It was so pure and elegantly written, I couldn’t help but fall in love myself. The alternating chapters into Dorothea’s past were probably my favourite and Louise Walters evoked the time and atmosphere so perfectly, drawing me in completely.

I also loved how Roberta’s story developed alongside Dorothea’s and was as much a journey of discovery for herself as it was to find out the secrets her Grandmother had kept hidden for so many decades. Aside from being Granddaughter and Grandmother, Roberta and Dorothea are linked by the things in their lives which remain unsaid and a fear of letting others in. This is all tied together beautiful in the closing chapters, which really are beautifully and tenderly written.

Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase is exactly the kind of novel I love. It’s deeply romantic without being over bearing, it brings the two women to life so perfectly, faults and all. It’s also subtly emotional, and I found myself with tears running down my face by the end. Despite being a début novel, Louise Walters easily blends lyrical and stark honest prose and keeps a perfect pace throughout. I absolutely loved this book and will be watching out for more from this author in the future.

5/5

Published Feb 27th 2014 by Hodder and Stoughton (UK)


Book Review: Fractured by Dani Atkins

Rachel’s life is going great. She’s about to start university, has a gorgeous boyfriend and a fantastic group of friends. The future looks good. But in one moment, it all explodes when a terrible accident changes their lives forever.

Five years later, and struggling to deal with the effects of that awful day, Rachel is on her way home to attend a wedding. But after a fall, Rachel wakes to find herself living an alternative life. One that might have been if it wasn’t for that fateful night all those years ago. But which is the real life? Even Rachel doesn’t know any more.

Phew, that was the singularly most difficult synopsis to write without giving the plot away completely and yet still attempting to make some kind of sense. I’m not sure I managed. I hope so!

I came across this book when looking for reasonably priced (cheap!) E-books to add to my newly acquired mini Kobo (after loosing my Kindle…sob) and at 99p, it fit the bill. Luckily it ended up being 99p well spent, and while not being the most life changing read in the world it was a good, engaging read with some nice twists and turns, romance and a bit of an emotional end (I teared up a bit. I am soft.)

Fractured starts with Rachel and her friends meeting for a sort of goodbye meal before they all head off to Uni. It’s a good introduction to the group, where tensions are subtly pointed at before the awful accident that changes everything. It gets a bit confusing after that, as it takes up the story five years later in a kind of Sliding Doors style. Within a couple of chapters though I had the gist, and from then on I was intrigued at how it would all pan out.

I liked main character Rachel and felt sorry for her situation. I thought she was written well with vulnerability and naivety which made her endearing. I also liked the two love interests, and thought they were characterised well without being overly stereotypical. What I did find a little strange though however, was the age of the characters. They’re supposed to be in their early twenties yet I could only see them as older, mid thirty year olds. The way they talked, acted, their lives and positions…it didn’t quite fit and annoyed me every time their age was mentioned. Perhaps the mistake was to set this five years after the life changing event. Ten would have been far more believable.

Other than that, this is a perfectly good read. It’s on the fluffy side and doesn’t require deep thinking or vast concentration, but it’s certainly kept me hooked enough to care how it all ended. This is perfect holiday reading, and well worth the price I paid (I think it’s similar on other e-reader formats and also available in paperback)

3/5

Book Review: The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty

Cecelia is the perfect wife, mother and neighbour. She prides herself on her perfection and her home and family are organised to within an inch of their perfect lives. Chaos and drama belong in other peoples lives. Or so she thinks.

Rachel hasn’t stopped grieving for the daughter who was murdered twenty five years ago. It’s still all consuming and defines her as a person. The only thing to bring any joy or purpose back into her life is her two year grandson Jacob. But when her Daughter in Law’s high powered job means that Jacob will be moving to another country for at least a couple of years, it’s just too much for Rachel to bear.

Tess has just found out her husband is in love with another woman. The betrayal strikes hard, especially as that other woman is her cousin and best friend. Taking their son back to her home town, Tess is about to take a trip down memory lane, leaving her with a difficult decision ahead. 
Three seemingly unconnected women, The Husband’s Secret starts by giving you a glimpse into each of their very different lives leaving you wondering how exactly they all fit together. I admit, I found the first three chapters a bit random as they switched to the different scenarios without anything to link them initially. However, the characterisation of each woman is so well written, I immediately felt drawn into their lives and wanted to know more. Liane Moriarty has created three very real characters with such depth and honesty I could feel every emotion leaping off the page. 
The ‘secret’ is revealed quite early on, and isn’t much of a shocker (I worked it out before it was revealed). This isn’t a tense, psychological thriller to keep you guessing. Instead, we go on a journey with these three woman over just a few days as repercussions ripple amongst the community and lives change forever. I found the contrast between two of the women particularly well written, as one falls apart and the other blossoms. The fact that the story is entirely plausible gives it even more credence and I found myself asking ‘what would I do’ quite a lot. While some of the women’s decisions may not be ones we’d agree with, it’s easy to see and understand why they act the way they do. Giving each woman a first person narrative allows for brutal honesty, sometimes uncomfortably so, but always believable so.  
I found this book an emotional and gripping read. The epilogue was particularly poignant and left me with quite a big lump in my throat. While there’s no racing plot and shocking twists and turns, I felt fully immersed in the three woman’s lives and couldn’t put it down. Heartfelt, emotional and honest throughout. Recommended.

Similar to:  Louise Douglas, Lisa Jewel, Dorothy Koomson, JoJo Moyes

Published in the UK by Penguin 2013