#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)

#Bookreview – Bring Me Back by B.A Paris (@HQStories)

bring me backA young British couple are driving through France on holiday when they stop for gas. He runs in to pay, she stays in the car. When he returns her car door has been left open, but she’s not inside. No one ever sees her again. 

Ten years later he’s engaged to be married; he’s happy, and his past is only a tiny part his life now. Until he comes home from work and finds his new wife-to-be is sitting on their sofa. She’s turning something over in her fingers, holding it up to the light. Something that would have no worth to anyone else, something only he and she would know about because his wife is the sister of his missing first love.

As more and more questions are raised, their marriage becomes strained. Has his first love somehow come back to him after all this time? Or is the person who took her playing games with his mind?  

Published 8th March by HQ (UK)

I’ll admit – I wasn’t a massive fan of B.A Paris’s debut novel, Behind Closed Doors – I had a couple of issues about some aspects of the topic which made me a bit uncomfertable and struggled to believe some of the characters actions. However, I did appreciate how compelling the author’s writing was and really liked her style, so think it was a case of that particular book just not being the best fit for me personally. So, I was keen to read Bring Me Back – B.A Paris’s third novel.

I’m glad to say I liked this one a whole lot more! Again, I was struck by just how easily B.A Paris’s writing is. Right from the beginning the story flows, effortlessly gripping the reader and tugging them along chapter after chapter in a chilling frenzy to discover the truth.

The story starts with a flashback to twelve years ago, when in a remote service station, Finn’s girlfriend Layla disappears without trace. But is all as it seems? Is this a tragic but random situation or does Finn know more than he’s letting on? Fast forward twelve years and with still no trace of Layla, Finn is now engaged to her sister Ellen. Life seems to be moving on, but when mysterious Russian dolls begin appearing, could a ghost from the past be about to put the couples plans for a happy ever after in jeopardy?

I LOVED the way B.A Paris constructed this story, with alternating chapters of flashbacks to the past and increasing tension in the present. Every chapter seemed to reveal just enough to hold my interest and throw in a twist to keep me frantically turning the pages. I had no idea where this book was going, with all my theories being quickly debunked one after the other.

I was completely on board with the characters this time, and thought they were incredibly believable and convincing. Finn was conflicting in his personality with the right amount of charm and hints of a controlling menace giving him an unpredictability which was perfect to create suspense and intrigue. The contrast between the two sisters, Layla in the past and Ellen in the future is also stalk, and I particularly felt Ellen’s nervousness and vulnerability seeping from the pages.

There’s lots of twists and turns throughout this book, constantly keeping the reader on their toes. But I couldn’t have predicted the final twist in my wildest dreams, it came completely as a surprise and while it is an intriguing and genius concept, the one criticism I have about this book is that the ending felt a little bit rushed and tied up to quickly, meaning the absolute shocker of a twist lost a bit of impact and authenticity. I wanted to believe in it more than I did.

Overall though, Bring Me Back is a belter of a book and one fans of psychological thrillers are bound to enjoy. It’s easy, compelling, unpredictable, and has a hook to ensure you don’t put it down until you’ve devoured the whole thing. I’ll be adding B.A Paris to my list of reliable authors not to miss and luckily for me I have her second novel, The Breakdown, sitting on my shelf ready to get stuck into.

(I read an advance readers copy courtesy of the publisher)

#BlogTour #BookReview – Hiding by Jenny Morton Potts (@rararesources @JMortonPotts)

hiding bt

 

 HidingA gripping psychological thriller with chilling twists, from a unique new voice. 

Keller Baye and Rebecca Brown live on different sides of the Atlantic. Until she falls in love with him, Rebecca knows nothing of Keller. But he’s known about her for a very long time, and now he wants to destroy her.

This is the story of two families. One living under the threat of execution in North Carolina. The other caught up in a dark mystery in the Scottish Highlands. The families’ paths are destined to cross. But why? And can anything save them when that happens? 

 

Firstly HUGE apologies for my late posting of this review! I messed up on the dates for posting and then had some technical nightmares.

But where the hell do I start with this book?! I had no idea what to expect when I began reading this, the synopsis not giving an awful lot away and the author being new to me. I couldn’t have prepared myself though for the intense roller coaster of a ride it was going to take me on though – not a chance.

The book begins with ten year old Rebecca, the youngest of three siblings and being brought up by clearly reluctant grandparents following the death of her parents in a car crash years ago. It’s very clear early on that something strange is going on in the sinister old house in remote Scotland, and that the set up with the siblings and their Grandparents not altogether a happy one, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was other than a creeping sense of unease.

Then the following chapter switches to a few years into the future – this time to the USA where we join Keller Baye as he prepares to witness his father’s execution after years on death row. I’m not going to lie, I had absolutely no idea how the two situations where connected and became a little confused. It was such a sharp change of setting and narrative – but incredibly intriguing. I needed to know what the hell was going on!

And the author keeps the reader guessing right the way through the book, as it flips between Rebecca’s life in Scotland and Keller’s life in the USA. With snatches of a traumatic and unhappy childhood and some seriously disturbing scenes, as we learn slowly about Keller’s past and what connects him to the family in Scotland. It’s pretty gory at times – my stomach churning more than once, and a little bit violent. This is a gritty read, but while I found it a bit confusing to begin with, by around 25% of the way through I found myself absolutely gripped.

The pace of this book is fast! The author constantly throws twists and shocks at the reader, keeping me on my toes right until the very end. I also thought she wrote the character of Keller incredibly convincingly, meaning that he was terrifyingly sinister and unpredictable throughout.

I wasn’t all that sure I was going to enjoy this book when I started – finding the two stories confusing and a little complicated. But man, am I glad I stuck with it. Once it falls into place, this book is unputdownable. Even the ending left me wanting more. Highly intricate and tense, this is a book, and a villain, I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

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About the author 

Jenny MortonJenny is a novelist, screenplay writer and playwright. After a series of ‘proper jobs’, she realised she was living someone else’s life and escaped to Gascony to make gîtes. Knee deep in cement and pregnant, Jenny was happy. Then autism and a distracted spine surgeon wiped out the order. Returned to wonderful England, to write her socks off.
Jenny would like to see the Northern Lights but worries that’s the best bit and should be saved till last. Very happily, and gratefully, settled with family.
She tries not to take herself too seriously. 

Social Media Links –  

www.jennymortonpotts.com 

https://twitter.com/jmortonpotts 

www.facebook/jennymortonpotts  

#BookReview – Everything Is Lies by Helen Callaghan (@michaelJBooks)

everything is liesNo-one is who you think they are

Sophia’s parents lead quiet, unremarkable lives. At least that is what she’s always believed.

Everyone has secrets

Until the day she arrives at her childhood home to find a house ringing with silence. Her mother is hanging from a tree. Her father is lying in a pool of his own blood, near to death.

Especially those closest to you 

The police are convinced it is an attempted murder-suicide. But Sophia is sure that the woman who brought her up isn’t a killer. As her father is too ill to talk it is up to Sophia to clear her mother’s name. And to do this she needs to delve deep into her family’s past – a past full of dark secrets she never suspected were there . . .

What if your parents had been lying to you since the day you were born? 

Published 22nd February 2018 by Michael Joseph Books  

Dear Amy was one of the first books I read last year, and I absolutely loved it, and so I was incredibly eager to read Helen Callaghan’s latest novel – Everything Is Lies. When I began reading I was delighted to realise it was a duel time frame narrative, as in the present Sophia discovers her quiet and reclusive parents dead in what appears to be a murder/suicide while the secrets of her mother’s past are revealed in the notebooks she’d compiled in the months leading up to her death. I LOVE a duel narrative, it’s probably my favourite writing style to read as I find myself gripped between the switching stories of the past and present and desperate to know how they connect.

Everything of Lies starts exceptionally well – Sophia’s grisly and deeply shocking discovery grabbed my attention and with sympathetic storytelling, drew me in emotionally. Her distress, horror and trauma was palpable and connected me to her immediately. When Sophia begins to suspect that all is not as it seems and discovers her mother’s notebooks, I was hooked by the tale of a young, impressionable girl who finds herself involved in a cult led by a failed rock star. I settled down for the duration, as page after page flew by almost without me realising.

What made this book so compelling was just how convincing it is. The cult is sinister and weird yes, but subtly so and it was incredibly easy to imagine just how easily a lonely young person lacking in self esteem and confidence could find themselves wrapped up in it, not realising what was going on around them until they are so involved and reliant, there’s no way back. I also thought the character of Aaron, a narcissistic, deluded control freak, was well crafted as he relies on his past fame as a rock star to lure in vulnerable people. Again, he was convincing and it was easy to see why he would at first appear so alluring.

I often find that when reading duel timelines, it’s the sections from the past I find the most intriguing and enjoyable. Surprisingly though, it was the present that really caught me attention and drove this book, as Sophia seeks the truth about her parent’s horrific demise and at the same time, finds herself in danger. While I did enjoy reading her mother’s experiences of the cult, I felt that around the middle it lost pace a bit and wasn’t as tense as I would have liked it. On the other hand, the present galloped along and while I did see a major plot twist coming and predicted it correctly quite early on, I still found myself gripped as the truth is revealed.

Everything Is Lies is one of those books that are so easy to read, you find yourself halfway through before you’ve even looked up. Helen Callaghan certainly has an engaging and evocative writing style which manages to emotionally involve readers in her convincing characters and their stories. While I would probably have liked a little more tension and pace during some aspects of this book, on the whole it was a gripping and satisfying read. Recommended.

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

#BookReview – The Chalk Man by C.J Tudor (@cjtudor @michaeljbooks) #Chalkman

chalk manIn 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy little English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code; little chalk stick figures they leave for each other as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing will ever be the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out his other friends got the same messages, they think it could be a prank… until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader. 

Published by Michael Joseph January 2018 (UK) 

I’d heard a LOT about this book before reading it. Bloggers and reviewers were raving about it. When I asked what I should read next on Twitter and Instagram recently, the response was almost unanimous – this one! So, not being one to argue, I picked it up, curious to see what the fuss was about and also with a little apprehension. I mean, when everyone tells you how good something is there’s always the worry that it won’t live up to expectation, right?

Well, it wasn’t after too many pages that I could see why The Chalk Man had proved such a popular choice. C.J Tudor instantly grips the reader, with a shocking scene of murder on the first page and a tantalising way of leading the reader on to “just one more chapter” with constant twists and unanswered questions. This is a book that once you start, there’s just no way you’ll be able to put it down.

I loved the alternating chapters of past and present. Being an child of the eighties myself, I particularly loved the chapters set in this decade, and felt the sense of time was perfectly captured. I loved the dynamics of Eddie’s gang of friends, could imagine them vividly racing about on bikes and making dens in the woods. The chalk drawings are absolute genius. I could completely relate to the idea behind the coded messages between the friends, yet also found them disturbingly creepy!

The atmosphere of this book was vivid – expertly  told from a naive adolescent perspective, casting doubt as to whether dangers were always real or the result of an overactive imagination. This cleverly distracts the reader, meaning the twists are unexpected – yet make perfect sense.  The chapters in the present are equally gripping although I probably did favour the past slightly, but only for the haunting atmosphere found there. There were a couple of moments throughout the book which genuinely shocked me and made me jump, while the twists keep on coming right up until the very last page. This is a very clever and original book, full of atmosphere and suspense meaning that “one more chapter” turned into the entire book very quickly.

An atmospheric, unnerving and constantly surprising book with a haunting nostalgia that’s irresistible. I can see why The Chalk Man is so popular – it’s certainly deserves it.

 

#BookReview – The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty (@CJ_Daugherty @Fictionpubteam) #EchoKilling

The echo killingFifteen years ago her mother’s killer got away. Has he finally struck again?

MURDER SHOCKS PEACEFUL NEIGHBOURHOOD

A woman in her thirties. Found naked and stabbed on the kitchen floor. Discovered by her twelve-year-old daughter after school.

As top Savannah crime reporter Harper McClain stares at the horrific scene before her, one thought screams through her mind. This murder is identical to another murder she has witnessed. Her mother’s murder…

For fifteen years, Harper has been torn apart by the knowledge that her mother’s killer is walking free. And now, it seems he’s struck again. There are no fingerprints. No footprints. No DNA. Yet still, Harper is determined to discover the truth once and for all.

But that search will come at a cost…and it could be one she isn’t yet ready to pay. 

Published January 2018 (Ebook) and March 2018 (Paperback)  

Hold The Front Page! There’s a new crime series in town, and this is one you will not want to miss!

When Crime reporter,  Harper McClain, takes a sneaky look at a murder scene, she’s suddenly hurtled back fifteen years to her own mother’s murder. Everything about it tells Harper that the similarities between the two murders, over a decade apart, are far from coincidental. But the police disagree, dismissing her suspicions outright. Taking it upon herself to prove them wrong, Harper begins her own investigation. But what connects the two murder victims and why has the killer struck again after fifteen years? In a desperate bid to get to the truth, Harper must cross professional boundaries, test friendships to the limit and reconsider everything and everyone she’s close to.  And with someone desperate to stop Harper revealing the truth, put her own safety in jeopardy too.

Wow! what an absolute gripper of a book this was! Right from the first page I was hooked by the snappy, clean writing and the twisty, fast paced plot. It’s an intriguing premise – a murder which appears to be identical to one committed years ago, giving two mysteries for the price of one as past and present collide and overlap, and we join Harper as she aims to solve the complex case. Add in the personal and emotional involvement of the crime reporter turned sleuth, and The Echo Killing becomes an even more intense and fascinating roller-coaster of a read.

 

The plotting and pace of this book is immaculate. At just over 440 pages, it’s not short and I wondered if Daugherty could maintain the momentum set in the early chapters. I needn’t have worried though, there’s no dips or fillers – the plot is constantly moving forward, with many twists and turns. As Harper digs deeper, more and more unanswered questions are thrown up and I was desperate to know the answers. I was compelled to keep on reading as “one more chapter” quickly turned into me devouring the entire book in a few hours.

But what really made this book for me was the character of Harper herself. Fresh, feisty, smart, impulsive, brave, flawed and determined, I absolutely loved her. Part of me was in awe, while the other part wanted to put my arms around her as both her ferocity and vulnerability shines from the page. Giving Harper a deeply emotional involvement in the case worked so well, allowing extra layers of her personality to show and develope and ensuring I was right on side with her throughout the book. There’s also a nice dose of romance too in the form of Detective Luke Walker, which is both passionate and captivatingly tender – the chemistry between them is sparking! yet it never becomes slushy or out of place in the story, adding to rather than detracting from the atmosphere of this suspenseful book.

So, as you can tell, I pretty much loved this book. There’s one aspect that remained unsolved, and I’d have loved to have had that wrapped up, but as The Echo Killing is book one in a series, I’m assuming it’s still to come. One thing’s for certain, I’ll be looking forward to more from Harper McClain in the future.  A brilliant start to a fresh new crime series which I’m happy to recommend!

 

#BookReview – Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon (@boroughpress) #threethings

3 thingsThere are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.
84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she
waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to
light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly a
man who died sixty years ago?
From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you
many things, but here are three of them:
1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo. 

Published January 11th 2017 by Borough Press  

I haven’t read Joanna Cannon’s best selling debut, The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, and so I went into this book with no expectations at all. What I got in return was an intensely poignant story, which left me an emotional  ball of aching sadness mixed with hope, joy and inspiration.

Three Things About Elsie tells the story of best friends since childhood, Florence and Elsie, who now live in sheltered accommodation for the elderly. It begins as Florence take a fall, and as she waits in her apartment to be found, begins reminiscing on a past tangled in her deteriorating memory. It’s a past shrouded in a secret come back to haunt her, and a mystery to solve – if only Florence could rely on knowing if what she remembers is real or not. Thank goodness Elsie is around to help with her remembering…

I loved this book right from the start. Joanna Cannon’s writing style is beautifully accessible yet filled with nuance and depth which I really connected with very early on. The mystery of the secrets of Florence’s past had me intrigued, as did the question about the identity of the new resident of the sheltered accommodation which was causing Florence so much distress. While these elements kept me eager to find out the truth, however, this isn’t what made the book so absolutely stand out brilliant for me.

Joanna Cannon’s depiction of the frail and confused Florence is exquisite.  I have a lot of experience of  Alzheimer’s and dementia, having worked with the Elderly for many years, until not so long ago. However, it wasn’t until my own Grandmother was diagnosed  that I fully understood how this illness takes a person little by little, and saw from a different perspective how society treats the elderly – how carers and health professionals can fail to see the person with a whole life of experiences before this point.  I was immediately impressed with the way she presents Florence as a person, and  conveys the dehumanisation she feels as an elderly resident in sheltered accommodation perfectly. There was one particularly beautifully written passage where she observes the loss of the right to change your mind, which I found incredibly poignant and thought provoking.

I also thought the author expressed the jumbled incoherence of tangled memories with stunning sensitivity and frankness. Again, reminding me so vividly of my own Grandmother, who would mix a number of different stories from her own past. As a family, we could pick out elements of different stories she shared with us before, along with other bits we would now never really know. But to outsiders, it must have just appeared absurd gibberish, and as Florence tries to share something with her carers, the frustration of not being able to make yourself understood and believed was stark.

The most important thing though which I took from this book was, no matter how seemingly ordinary and small a life is, the impact you make on the people around you will continue to live on and spread down the years. As Florence reminisces and explores her past, we see with touching poignancy how her tiniest actions cause ripples in the lives of the people around her, without her ever knowing.

I could go on and on about how wonderful I found this book, as I related to observations, sentiments and scenes throughout. It felt personal to me, what I took from it and after I finished the final page I sat in silence for a long while thinking. About how we feel about the elderly, about my own grandmother and about the fact that every life has impact and one simple action can never define a whole person. I can not do the book justice with my review though, so you’ll just have to take my word for it that you should read this book yourself.

(I read an advance proof courtesy of  the Amazon Vine program.)

 

#BookReview – The way Back To Us by Kay Langdale – @Hodderbooks

The way back to usSince their youngest son, Teddy, was diagnosed with a life-defining illness, Anna has been fighting: against the friends who don’t know how to help; against the team assigned to Teddy’s care who constantly watch over Anna’s parenting; and against the impulse to put Teddy above all else – including his older brother, the watchful, sensitive Isaac.

And now Anna can’t seem to stop fighting against her husband, the one person who should be able to understand, but who somehow manages to carry on when Anna feels like she is suffocating under the weight of all the things that Teddy will never be able to do.

As Anna helplessly pushes Tom away, he can’t help but feel the absence of the simple familiarity that should come so easily, and must face the question: is it worse to stay in an unhappy marriage, or leave? 

Published August 10th by Hodder & Stoughton (UK)  

It’s taken me forever to start this review. I had no idea where or how to begin. The Way Back To Us is such a touching  book, written with aching honesty and raw emotion, it feels as if nothing I can say can go anywhere near conveying how good it is.

I do not have a disabled child, and can not come close to knowing how it feels. I do work with families of severely disabled young adults though and what I can say is that I saw them in Anna. The weariness of the daily struggle and fight against the system, the intrusiveness of strangers flitting in and out of your life and making decisions, the loss of identity and becoming a ‘case’, the constant need to defend and justify oneself and the brutally honest fact of the unfairness of it all. I’ve seen it on the faces of others and I think that in this book, Kay Langdale gets it absolutely perfectly right.

The Way Back To Us tells the story of a family under incredible strain, and I found I had intense admiration for both Anna and Tom, parents of Teddy who lives with a life limiting and progressive illness. However, this is an incredibly frank account of the reality of  life with a disabled child, Anna and Tom are both flawed and while it’s easy to say “I wouldn’t be like that”, Kay Langdale manages to paint their faults in a way that the reader can understand and empathise with. I felt Anna’s frustration and anger at everyone, and felt Tom’s yearning to feel at ease. These character’s actions and feelings are not always pretty, but they are real and true.

The true star of this book though for me was Issac, Anna and Tom’s older child. The book includes chapters written from his perspective, and I found his voice utterly heart breaking. He takes on the responsibility of everyone’s happiness, silently watching out for his mother, always thinking of ways to include his brother, never asking for anything for himself. When the focus is on one child, out of necessity as it is in this story, it’s easy to forget the role that siblings play. I won’t lie, Issac made me cry, the quiet linchpin and peacemaker of the family with more wisdom than his years should allow.

The Way Back To Us is a beautifully told story of a fragile family searching to bring themselves back together as one. I took a lot from this book – Anna’s bristling at certain terms will definitely stick in my mind. I think the thing I take most of all though is a reminder that we can never know what other people are going through, defensiveness is a survival mechanism and the real barriers come from misunderstanding and miscommunication.

 

 

 

 

 

 

#BookReview – Broken Branches by M. Johnathan Lee – @HideawayFall

Broken branches‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse. 

Published July 27th by Hideaway Fall (UK) 

 

 

I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Broken Branches – the blurb gives very little away, neither does the cover. I wasn’t even one hundred percent certain what genre this book would fall into! Was it a ghost story? A thriller? However, I was intrigued by this mysterious little book and wanted to give it a shot. I finally managed to read it a few days ago and despite some initial misgivings about whether this book was going to be something I’d enjoy, I ended up really liking it and kicking myself a little at not getting around to it sooner.

Broken Branches tells the story of Ian, current owner of the creepy and mysterious Cobweb Cottage. It’s been passed down the family for generations – always to the eldest living child of the former owner. However, Ian’s family history isn’t a happy one and has been beset by tragedy after tragedy – believed by many to be the result of a curse. As Ian decides to delve into the family’s murky past and solve the mystery of the curse, he finds himself drawn into a dark spiral of obsession and paranoia. Is he about to become the next victim of the relentless curse?

Right from the start this is a story that grips you, with beautifully atmospheric writing casting an eerie and foreboding spell. It’s told mainly from Ian himself, but in two time frames – both as a child growing up at Cobweb Cottage and as the current owner- a husband and father of a small son himself. I liked the opportunity to have glimpses into the family history from a more naive and uncertain younger Ian, and then fitting everything together with older Ian piece by piece.

The author does an amazing job of setting the scene, diverting attention and leading the reader down a path right until the very end, before turning everything completely on its head. There’s an unsettling and suspenseful tension throughout with a deliciously Gothic air that had me glued to the pages. Broken Branches surprised me – both in how much I actually enjoyed it and by the story, which took a turn I wasn’t expecting in the slightest and caused me to gasp out loud. A short book, this one is ideal for the coming dark autumn evenings, to curl up beside a warm fire with – although it may leave you jumpingly unnerved as the wind whistles outside!

(I read an advance proof courtesy of the publisher)

#BookReview – The Silk Weavers Wife by Debbie Rix (@Bookouture)

the silk weavers wife‘On the way back down the grand staircase to the hall, her eye was caught by a portrait, hanging in a particularly dark corner of a landing. It was of a young woman, seated at an easel; she was painting a silk moth, its eggs nestling on a mulberry leaf.’

1704: Anastasia is desperate to escape her controlling and volatile father and plans to marry in secret. But instead of the life she has dreamed of, she finds herself trapped in Venice, the unwilling wife of a silk weaver.

Despite her circumstances, Anastasia is determined to change her fate…

2017: Millie wants more from her relationship and more from her life. So when her boss Max abruptly ends their affair, she takes the opportunity to write a feature in Italy.

Staying in a gorgeous villa, Millie unexpectedly falls in love with the owner, Lorenzo. Together they begin to unravel an incredible story, threaded through generations of silk weavers.

And Millie finds herself compelled to discover the identity of a mysterious woman in a portrait…

Published July 19th 2017 by Bookouture (Uk) 

When I read historical fiction, what I really, really want is to be completely transported to another time and place. I want rich and evocative description, an epic journey of discovery, awe inspiring battles against adversity and a romance to sweep me away. The Silk Weavers Wife fits the bill pretty damn well!

Switching between past and present, the book tells the story of two women in the midst of a metamorphosis. In the 21st century, Millie is 38 and in the midst of a messy affair with her married boss and her dreams of a family of her own are starting to fade. Rewind four hundred years, and Anastasia has been denied marriage to her true love by her cruel and violent father and forced into a loveless marriage to pay off a debt.

I absolutely adored the sections set in the 1700’s as Debbie Rix brings to life the sights and sounds of  early eighteenth century Italy – transporting the reader effortlessly between the rural tranquility of Lake Garda and the bustle and noise of Venice. Anastasia is everything you want in a heroine – brave, passionate and determined to be independent. Given the time and her gender, Anastasia might easily have accepted her fate, but she can not be contained, and inspired by the silk moths she observes while a prisoner in her husbands home, she sets about a metamorphosis into an educated, self sufficient woman of talent, with a strong sense of loyalty.

Millie is somewhat of a contrast. Her trap is of her own making and I found it frustrating that despite being an intelligent woman, she was settling for being the mistress of the unbearably arrogant Max. But whether the prison is enforced or self inflicted, this book is about finding the courage to make changes and transform your own destiny, and ties together nicely the stories of both women.

In both past and present, I found the backdrop of the Italian Silk industry fascinating and absorbing! From the larvae of the silk moth to the exquisite finished pieces of silk, I was intrigued. I can only imagine the dedication and work that went into creating such beautiful material using ancient processes and thoroughly enjoyed learning a little about it.

I enjoyed The Silk weavers Wife, in particular Anastasia’s section, and found myself completely absorbed and enchanted while reading about her life. I also thought the romantic element was done very well, both in past and present, and was enough to sweep the reader up in without overshadowing this gorgeous story. With beautiful descriptions, a brave and inspiring heroine and the fascinating glimpse into the ancient art of silk making, I savoured this book and looked forward to a chance to pick it up again. A winner for me.

(I read an E-copy courtesy of the publisher and netgalley)