Title: The Coordinates of Loss
Author: Amanda Prowse
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication date: 25th September 2018
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ✰
When Rachel Croft wakes up on her family’s boat in Bermuda, it’s to sunshine and yet another perfect day…until she goes to wake her seven-year-old son, Oscar. Because the worst thing imaginable has happened. He isn’t there.
In the dark and desperate days that follow, Rachel struggles to navigate her grief. And while her husband, James, wants them to face the tragedy together, Rachel feels that the life they once shared is over. Convinced that their happy marriage is now a sham, and unable to remain in the place where she lost her son, she goes home to Bristol alone.
Only when she starts receiving letters from Cee-Cee, her housekeeper in Bermuda, does light begin to return to Rachel’s soul. She and James both want to learn to live again—but is it too late for them to find a way through together?
I decided to read this book after finishing Anna by Amanda Prowse which I really enjoyed. Needless to say, it didn’t disappoint. She chose a very complex subject matter and explored it through Rachel and James’ relationship after their son Oscar disappears at sea. Grief is a particularly difficult topic to discuss which I believe she handled well with a lot of carefully chosen words and phrases. Most notable of all were the different stages of loss that Rachel struggled through which I felt were especially well documented through the first person narrative.
Character development plays an important part in books written in this style and I must say that we saw all characters grow through expressing their thoughts and reflecting on the past. Cee-Cee was a very pleasant character, often driving the plot forwards and supporting Rachel with the healing process. Her empathy and kindness is so comforting and she quickly became my favourite character.
The Coordinates of Loss is an emotional and poignant book, perfect for readers who are after a true to life story and are keen on exploring family dynamics. However, it should also be noted that this book lacks a fast-paced plot and does not provide any relief until the very end, which is something I believe many readers may also be looking for.
Many thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.
Title: The Family Next Door
Author: Sally Hepworth
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 22nd March 2018
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
The small suburb of Pleasant Court lives up to its name. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbours, and children play in the street.
Isabelle Heatherington doesn’t fit into this picture of family paradise. Husbandless and childless, she soon catches the attention of three Pleasant Court mothers.
But Ange, Fran and Essie have their own secrets to hide. Like the reason behind Ange’s compulsion to control every aspect of her life. Or why Fran won’t let her sweet, gentle husband near her new baby. Or why, three years ago, Essie took her daughter to the park – and returned home without her.
As their obsession with their new neighbour grows, the secrets of these three women begin to spread – and they’ll soon find out that when you look at something too closely, you see things you never wanted to see.
I feel hesitant posting this review after reading other readers’ thoughts on this book and I think I might be one of the only ones to give it an average rating. This is a quick and engrossing read, similar to other domestic thrillers with confident and headstrong female leads. The story line follows three neighbours from Pleasant Court, a suburb in Australia, who each hide their own secrets, unaware that a huge discovery is about to be made by their new neighbour Isabelle. The pace is steady and secrets are revealed with purpose and in the right doses throughout the book. Despite my initial concerns, the subject matter related to each secret is heavy but unpredictable and very well analysed by the author who delves into each character, narrating their story with close attention to detail.
My main issue with this book is the interaction between the neighbours which I found to be very superficial and gossipy. Some of the themes discussed were dark but this was usually portrayed in the narrative where characters’ thoughts were revealed, unlike the conversations at the suburb which often felt superfluous and repetitive. I understand that perhaps this is also telling of the different ways we hide information from our peers compared to our thoughts when we are alone, but the dialogue left me feeling disappointed and sometimes even irritated. I could not relate to Isabelle or any of the other women and was not impressed by how uninteresting their husbands were portrayed either.
Overall, this book fell a little flat for me and made me question some of the characters’ decisions which I don’t believe was always intended. However, the pace was good enough to draw me into the world of Pleasant Court where relationships are tested and important topics such as parenthood, marriage and mental illness are discussed. It is a quick and entertaining read and perfect for anyone looking for a domestic thriller narrated from a woman’s perspective.
Title: Sea of Memories
Author: Fiona Valpy
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication date: 1st March 2018
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
When Kendra first visits her ailing grandmother, Ella has only one request: that Kendra write her story down, before she forgets…
In 1937, seventeen-year-old Ella’s life changes forever when she is sent to spend the summer on the beautiful Île de Ré and meets the charismatic, creative Christophe. They spend the summer together, exploring the island’s sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, and, for the first time in her life, Ella feels truly free.
But the outbreak of war casts everything in a new light. Ella is forced to return to Scotland, where she volunteers for the war effort alongside the dashing Angus. In this new world, Ella feels herself drifting further and further from who she was on the Île de Ré. Can she ever find her way back? And does she want to?
From the windswept Île de Ré to the rugged hills of Scotland, Sea of Memories is a spellbinding journey about the power of memory, love and second chances.
Sometimes we all come across a book by chance without realising how special and remarkable it would turn out to be. This was one of those books. Looking back I honestly can’t remember why I chose to read it but I am glad that I did. From the very first page we are immediately transported to another world, the wonders of Île de Ré beautifully portrayed and a life that appears almost perfect. All characters are superbly refined and it was a pleasure joining Ella and Christophe in their adventures on the island during their youth and their struggles after the war. Do not be fooled by the synopsis which hints the usual war romance – the themes explored in this book are heavy but addressed with a lot of care, from friendship to heartache and bravery. Ella’s courage upon volunteering for one of the most dangerous negotiations during the war was impressive and very commendable and was perhaps my favourite part of this book.
The dual story line between past and present day was very well executed, an impressive skill in my opinion when considering how difficult it is to master without hindering the natural flow of the plot. I found myself intrigued in Ella’s story and was anxious to learn how her life developed post-war but I admit that the present day interactions between Ella and Kendra were also engaging. Here we discover Ella’s difficult relationship with her daughter and the reason she turns to her granddaughter Kendra instead when requesting for her story to be written. I would have liked a more complete introduction to Kendra because it felt as if she was only written into the novel to tell Ella’s story but I am sure that there was more to her character that could have been explored.
My principal complaint about this novel is a very specific part at the Île de Ré towards the end of the book which involves Ella, her first love Christopher and her husband Angus. Without giving too much away, this particular incident felt forced and odd for Ella when looking back on all the heartbreak and difficult moments in her life. I almost felt inclined to discard this moment and only consider the positives of the book but I felt this scene too important to overlook when rating the book. Overall, I adored the setting and characters in past day and, had there been a deeper focus on present day, this book would have most likely received 5 stars from me.
Title: Close to Home
Author: Cara Hunter
Publication date: 14th December 2017
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
HOW CAN A CHILD GO MISSING WITHOUT A TRACE?
Last night, eight-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from a family party. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying.
DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows the nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew.
That means someone is lying…
And that Daisy’s time is running out.
Introducing DI Fawley and his team of Oxford detectives, and a Richard and Judy Book Club pick for Spring 2018, Close to Home is the new crime thriller series to get addicted to.
What a thriller! I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, desperate to find out who took Daisy Mason because I was honestly not convinced that any of the suspects were responsible. Well paced and stimulating, the story line had me engrossed until the end and despite paying close attention to the details that were gradually disclosed, I was still unable to guess who the abductor was. I found the manner in which the story line unfolded with the reveal of each element of the night Daisy went missing particularly commendable and the author admirably paces each reveal to build up the tension and simultaneously keep the reader guessing. Many authors lack this ability and yet it is a crucial technique in mystery novels, one which Cara Hunter handles with ease.
The character building in this book is excellent and the first person narrative from DI Adam Fawley adds to the charm. More often than not writers decide to develop an inexperienced or flawed detective which I find frustrating so I was pleased to discover that DI Fawley does not fall into this category. Even the parents, who are often mediocre characters in other books with missing children settings, were curious and added an extra dose of anticipation as the story unfolded. The most baffling character in this book is Daisy – we get a sense of her charm and intelligence in the beginning of the book but it is not until the final chapter where her brilliance shines.
I often find thrillers of this kind predictable so I was completely blown away by how original and unexpected this ending was. The author saved the best till last in a plot twist so astonishing that I was tempted to go back and find the hints leading to the big reveal. Needless to say, I picked up the second book in the DI Fawley series soon after (review to follow shortly) and it did not disappoint. I will be closely following this series and any other future books by this author.
Title: Kane and Abel
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication date: 4th September 2008
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
“They had only one thing in common… William Lowell Kane and Abel Rosnovski, one the son of a Boston millionaire, the other a penniless Polish immigrant – two men born on the same day on opposite sides of the world, their paths destined to cross in the ruthless struggle to build a fortune.”
I must admit that I love Jeffrey Archer novels. After finishing The Clifton Chronicles saga my hands were immediately itching to pick up another Jeffrey Archer novel and get lost in the web of mystery and deception he weaves in all his books. I find it so intriguing how he delves into his characters’ minds, decorating each with a unique voice and ultimately creating an original yet plausible scenario that leads to a domino chain of events. I must say that this book was no exception and I even thought that it was his best book to date.
William Kane and Abel Rosnovski are born miles apart and lead completely separate lives until fate brings them together. I immediately took a liking to Abel after following his treacherous journey through Poland, Russia and Turkey and was amazed at the little details that Archer included here to further emphasise the difficulties Abel faced in comparison to William Kane who led a much simpler life. By far the most gripping part of the story is when their paths cross and their strong-willed and powerful personalities clash causing an almost never ending rivalry. Some readers may not enjoy the pace and narrative that follows and I appreciate that it is perhaps too flat depending on taste but I devoured the remaining part of the book in almost one sitting.
On a final note, the ending of this book is so intense with emotion, providing a very satisfactory close to an exhaustive contest, that I almost wanted to immediately start the next book in the series, The Prodigal Daughter. Deciding to leave it for a later stage was perhaps a better idea as I enjoyed reflecting on this marvelous book for several days. Have you read any family sagas with a similar style to Jeffrey Archer’s novels that you can recommend? If you have read this book or any others by this author I would love to hear your thoughts!
Title: Friend Request
Author: Laura Marshall
Publication date: 27th July 2017
My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
When Louise Williams receives a message from someone left long in the past, her heart nearly stops.
Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook.
Maria Weston has been missing for over twenty-five years. She was last seen the night of a school leavers’ party, and the world believes her to be dead. Particularly Louise, who has lived her adult life with a terrible secret.
As Maria’s messages start to escalate, Louise forces herself to reconnect with the old friends she once tried so hard to impress. Trying to piece together exactly what happened that night, she soon discovers there’s much she didn’t know. The only certainty is that Maria Weston disappeared that night, never to be heard from again – until now…
I enjoyed this book and the unexpected turn of events at the very end. The author makes an excellent effort to continuously surprise us with the steady pace and the well developed characters. I liked the in-between chapters with the reveal of how each character has transformed from the horrid events at the school leavers’ party in 1989 to today. I found that I didn’t care much for any of the characters and was suspicious of nearly all of them, an easy mistake to make when the author exposes how each one was involved in the turmoil of that night. However, each character is unique enough to suggest that they could all be involved in the game played on Louise, creating a tense and uneasy atmosphere that only escalates with each chapter.
The author explores controversial current topics that surround society nowadays with ease and a lot of focus. I especially admired the discussion on bullying, fitting in and the notion of how we change (or not) as we grow up. However, the emphasis on Facebook was sometimes too overstated and I felt that the story was exciting enough even without it. I realise that it may be an unpopular opinion because many of us enjoy books where life on social media is analysed, but I personally did not find it as engaging as other readers may do.
Friend Request is a gripping read that kept me guessing until the very end. The final chapter was completely unexpected but very satisfactory and upon reflection makes a lot of sense when considering Maria’s character and the difficult events she lived through. I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for an exciting psychological thriller, but perhaps not to those readers who do not enjoy the mean girl vibe that is prominent throughout this book.
Title: The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae
Author: Stephanie Butler
Publication date: 19th April 2018
My rating: ★★★★★
Ailsa Rae is learning how to live.
She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that – just in time – saved her life. Life should be a joyful adventure. But . . .
Her relationship with her mother is at breaking point.
She knows she needs to find her father.
She’s missed so much that her friends have left her behind.
She’s felt so helpless for so long that she’s let polls on her blog make her decisions for her. And now she barely knows where to start on her own.
And then there’s Lennox. Her best friend and one time lover. He was sick too. He didn’t make it. And now she’s supposed to face all of this without him.
But her new heart is a bold heart.
She just needs to learn to listen to it . . .
This was a simply marvelous read and I thoroughly enjoyed discovering the courageous and quirky Ailsa Rae. The author has developed a very likable character in Ailsa and it was a pleasure joining her in her adventures such as learning to Tango, discovering love and finding her father. Despite the tough subject matter, the author explores Ailsa’s courage through her positive stance in receiving her new heart by fearlessly throwing herself into all life has to offer. I especially liked her dedication to her blog and the connection she developed with her followers, basing each decision on their comments but also enjoyed her persistence and willingness to make her own decisions as her confidence grew.
Seb plays an interesting part in this book and I enjoyed seeing his friendship with Ailsa flourish. Although their mutual condition of post-operation recovery originally unites them, it soon becomes clear that there is a romantic touch to their relationship that they are keen to explore. However, I still don’t believe that the romantic part of this book overrides the other predominant themes and I would struggle to mark this book as romance only.
For me the most appealing part of the book is the need to find your true self and live life to the fullest. The author took a very difficult subject and presented this concept beautifully through Ailsa’s character which made this book even more engaging and enjoyable to read. I think I will remember it for a very long time and I am glad to have stumbled across it.
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