Book review: Sea of Memories by Fiona Valpy


Book Cover

Title: Sea of Memories

Author: Fiona Valpy

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Publication date: 1st March 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

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.

My review:

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.

Studious Saturday: Three Bookish Things Book Tag

studious saturdays

 

I was tagged by Bibi who you should definitely follow if you aren’t doing so already because her blog is beautiful! I thought long and hard about some of these answers and I think I have finally managed to pick my top three:

Three Read Once and Loved Authors

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris – This book is incredible and Heather Morris is excellent at storytelling. This was her debut and she hasn’t written anything else but if she does I would be one of the first to read it. Find my thoughts on it here.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – I still remember how this book made me feel even though it has been more than a year since I last read it. It is raw and heart breaking but so worth reading. I haven’t read anything else by this author but I should really look into some of her other books.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein – It’s no secret to anyone who knows me well that I love dogs and the first person narrative by Enzo here really attracted me to this book. I’d really like to read Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog next.

Three Titles I’ve Watched But Haven’t Read

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I am a huge fan of this show and was blown away by the ending of the second season but for some reason I still haven’t read the book. It’s on my TBR list but it’s not the usual kind of book I would pick up due to the heavy subject matter so I’m waiting for the right moment when I feel ready to start it.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel – I loved the movie but I’ve also seen lots of negative reviews on the book which makes me question if it is worth reading.

The Bourne Series by Robert Ludlum – Matt Damon feels perfect for the role of Jason Bourne and I thought the movies were exciting and very well executed. However, I have read some passages of the books by Robert Ludlum and I find his writing style and unusual choice of words unappealing so I won’t be reading the series.

Three Characters You Love

Allan Karlsson – Anyone who has read The Hundred Year old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared will probably understand why I picked Allan in this category. His quirks and intricacies are delightful and it was a joy following his long and extraordinary journey.

Emma Clifton – You may wonder why I chose Emma over Harry here but bearing in mind how masculine Jeffrey Archer’s novels are, it was refreshing and surprising to read a strong and determined female character.

Robert Langdon – The situations this character gets himself into during Dan Brown’s series are quite incredible and I was in awe of his knowledge and perseverance, especially in Angels and Demons.

Three Series Binged

The Four Streets Trilogy by Nadine Dorries

Divergent Series by Veronica Roth

The Clifton Chronicles by Jeffrey Archer

Three Unpopular Bookish Opinions

This is probably the most unpopular opinion for any bookworm but here goes… I don’t have a bookcase or any physical books in my current home! I know – it’s certainly unusual and might seem blasphemous to other readers but unfortunately it’s true. I live in a very small flat which, quite literally, does not have any space for a bookcase even though I love paper books over ebooks. For now, I make do by reading everything on my kindle and hope to one day live in a much larger place with plenty of space for several bookcases.

I can’t watch others bend a book backwards on its spine. It makes me feel so uncomfortable, especially when they then straighten out the page they want to read by running their hand over the inside of the spine!

I have to agree with Bibi on her tag that I also have lots of trouble with DNFing a book. Once I start reading a book I have to finish it otherwise I feel that I am disrespecting the author who has put so much effort into writing it.

Three Goals for the Year

I hope to achieve my Goodreads challenge of reading 50 books this year. Unfortunately I’m currently 5 books behind schedule but I have been reading a lot lately so I feel it’s still possible!

I’m usually very open to new genres but there are still many genres that I haven’t yet explored and would like to. Sci Fi falls into this category and I already have a few books in my TBR pile that I hope to read this year.

Living in Spain means that I spend most of my time speaking Spanish so this is perhaps the reason I only read in English. However, there are many contemporary Spanish authors who I would like to discover and I hope to do so by the end of this year.

I tag:

You! If you are reading this and would like to do this tag then please do so! I love reading other people’s choices and this tag is especially fun so I recommend it to anyone interested. Thank you to Bibi for tagging me and to anyone who is reading this and have an amazing weekend!

Book review: Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer


Book Cover

Title: Kane and Abel

Author: Jeffrey Archer

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Publication date: 4th September 2008

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

“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.”

My review:

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!

Book review: Friend Request by Laura Marshall


Book Cover

Title: Friend Request

Author: Laura Marshall

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Sphere

Publication date: 27th July 2017

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Synopsis:

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…

My review:

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.

Book review: The Map of Us by Jules Preston


Book Cover

Title: The Map of Us

Author: Jules Preston

Genre: Romance

Publisher: HarperImpulse

Publication date: 4th May 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Synopsis:

Violet North is wonderfully inconvenient. Abandoned by her family and lost in an imagined world of moors and adventure, her life changes in the space of just 37 words exchanged with a stranger at her front door.

Decades later, Daniel Bearing has inherited his father’s multi-million pound business, and is utterly lost. He has no idea who he is or where his life is headed.

When Violet’s granddaughter’s marriage falls apart, Tilly, always adept with numbers, compiles a detailed statistical report to pinpoint why. But the Compatibility Index Tilly creates has unforeseen consequences for everyone in her world.

Tilly and Daniel share a secret too. 10.37am, April 22nd.
Soon, a complex web of secrets and lies is exposed and an adventure begins with a blue typewriter…

My review:

It’s not often that I come across a book with such a distinct style of writing so I was pleasantly surprised with the choppy and quirky narrative. However, it wasn’t quite for me; the story line was monotonous and the characters  too flat for my liking.

Around halfway into the book the reader starts to understand the direction the story is following and the characters’ plot lines begin to intertwine. I enjoyed Tilly’s story and the Compatibility Index that she ultimately designs to explain why her marriage is failing. Looking back, I also think that the author revealed the link between Tilly and Violet in a very clever way and it was a joy following Tilly in her adventure to pursue her grandmother’s tales.

This was an uplifting and inspiring book and I wish that I was more patient at the start rather than rushing to understand from the beginning how the characters are connected. I recommend it to anyone who is looking for something different and is able to look past the short chapters and unconventional writing style.