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The Woman Before Me
The Woman Before Me
by Ruth Dugdall
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

5.0 out of 5 stars Gritty, award winning Crime thriller., 16 Feb 2014
This review is from: The Woman Before Me (Paperback)
Rose Wilks’ story is at the very heart of this novel. Through her ‘Black Book Entries’ written for her partner while she is in prison, we learn that she had the hardest of family backgrounds. Her mother was depressive, her father cold and adulterous, her brother self-seeking and taunting. After her mother’s suicide, she was sent by her father to live miles away with an aunt. She soon settled in and became very fond of Aunt Rita but when her aunt died Rose was devastated and all alone in the world. Through her work in a hotel she met barman Jason, newly separated from his wife but still desperately in love with her. Rose adored Jason and a tentative one-sided relationship began. When he was sacked from work he moved in with Rose and she soon became pregnant, giving birth to a son, born early after an argument between Rose and Jason which led to him pushing her over and her womb rupturing.

Her son Joel was very early and small and spent his entire short life in the neo-natal high dependant unit, where he sadly died within a few days. She was heartbroken, for it was Joel, her newly born son who she hoped would keep Jason in a family relationship; a relationship she’d wanted all her sad life. Jason adored Joel, but said he could never love Rose. Whilst in hospital she met Emma who had also just given birth to a son she had named Luke. Coincidentally Emma was Jason’s ex-wife. After they were both discharged from hospital they met accidentally whilst shopping and a friendship was forged with Rose becoming a trusted friend and frequently asked to baby-sit. She loved to fantasise that Luke was her own precious son Joel.

Then one terrible night a fire swept through Emma’s house and Luke died from smoke inhalation. Three days later Rose was arrested and taken away, as the investigation suggested that she had started the fire. In due course she was tried and found guilty of manslaughter and imprisoned. Cate, a probation officer, was assigned to her case four years later to compile her report ready for Rose’s release on parole. Further threads of the story are revealed by the reports Cate read and the interviews she conducted as she worked towards presenting her finding to the Parole Board.

What happened next is both thrilling, devastating, unexpected and gut wrenching. As both sides of the story are revealed I couldn’t help feeling the most empathy with Rose. I just adored her character and was railing against the harshness of her treatment. Not in a million years would I have foreseen how the conclusion of the story played out. It was quite brilliant.

All the best ingredients went into this award winning crime novel. Ruth Dugdall described familiar and well beloved scenery in Suffolk, the setting of this excellent novel, and she worked in the probation services within a prison with vulnerable and complicated prisoners, just like Cate, one of her leading characters. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and will certainly be looking out for others by this very talented author.

The Fixer: A Justice Novel
The Fixer: A Justice Novel
Price: £1.49

4.0 out of 5 stars The Fixer: Deadly & daring she delivers Justice, 15 Feb 2014
Teri Woods has chosen in Lydia a lead female character that is a clinical psychologist, just like she is herself. This enriches her carefully crafted characterisation of Lydia and her patients although in general her characters are all wonderful and this is a really good debut crime novel.

Working out of her practice in Olympia, Washington, Lydia accepts a client called Savannah who reveals herself as an ex-foster sister, once saved from abuse by Lydia when she was very young. She is deeply troubled and trusts Lydia implicitly, calling urgently for help but initially unwilling or unable to verbalise what is troubling her.

As a series of baffling murders mounts in Seattle, so Lydia offers her help to Mort, the leading detective in a case where the victims are linked by their place of work. At the same time Mort is also helping his journalist son with another case that has curious similarities with the local spate of murders. It would appear that a female assassin dubbed as ‘The Fixer’ would take on cases where the police are powerless and ensure justice is done. She is lethal, careful, choosy, invisible and a mistress of disguise and the art of vanishing into thin air.

The story reveals itself in a series of consultations and crime case interviews. The plot is intriguing and the action thrilling and well paced. There are many twists and turns within the investigation and the climax of the story is both dynamic and totally unexpected. I really enjoyed this novel and look forward to reading others to follow in this new series.

Price: £5.03

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Truth from the Killing Fields, 2 Feb 2014
This review is from: Wake (Kindle Edition)
The setting of this wonderful novel takes place over five days from Sunday 7th to Thursday 11th November 1920, the day the Unknown Soldier reached his final resting place back in the homeland, after its recovery from the war fields of France. It follows what happens within those five days to three strangers: all women who have lost their men, whose lives will be seen to be inextricably linked.

Ada has been married for twenty-five years, but is now lost to her husband because she cannot accept that her son has indeed fallen and that she will never see him again. She ‘sees’ him everywhere. He will haunt her life until she can find a way to let go of her grief. If only she knew how and where he had died she may find inner peace. Not knowing his final resting place is killing her.

Hettie is a dancer at the Palais Ballroom in Hammersmith. She dances with men for sixpence a dance, much to the horror of her family. Although her brother Fred has returned from War, he is withdrawn and lost after his return from the trenches. Hettie meets the wealthy Edward Montford, but although they are attracted, she cannot connect with him: he seems so lost, so troubled. When he reveals a secret to her she is understandably lost for words.

Evelyn Montford works in the Pensions Office in Camden Town sorting through the stories of hardship and requests for help from ex-servicemen. Her fiancé Frazer set off to France never to return, the baby she expected miscarried because of her work in the Munitions factory. She punishes herself and will not allow any joy into her life. Working alongside her is Robin, an amputee ex-serviceman who treats her kindly despite her distant, aloof behaviour. When she stumbles on a request for help to track down Edward Montford, her adored brother, she at first refuses to help Rowan Hind, who served under her brother’s command. But then she is overcome with curiosity and visits Rowan’s home, learning a story that she wished she’d never meddled in.

Three women seeking closure, seeking answers, seeking a revelation that will set them free. Gradually their stories and the ties that link them together emerge as the moving ceremony attended by thousands draws to a close and they take the first steps towards their new lives without the burden of grief.

I loved this powerful, serious novel and I was enthralled by the turn of every page. I loved the imagery and the careful use of words and phrases, especially as used for the title and the revelation of the dictionary meanings of ‘Wake’
1) Emerge or cause to emerge from sleep
2) Ritual for the dead
3) Consequence or aftermath.
This encapsulated the novel and I urge you to read it. It’s a real gem.

A February Bride (Year of Weddings Novellas)
A February Bride (Year of Weddings Novellas)
by Betsy St Amant
Edition: MP3 CD
Price: £6.76

3.0 out of 5 stars A Valentine's Day Wedding, 30 Jan 2014
This is the third novella in the ‘A Year of Weddings Novella’ romance series. It tells the story of Allie Andrews who jilted her fiancé Marcus, running out of the bridal venue at the last minute and leaving the love of her life at the alter even though she adored him and wanted to spend her whole life with him.

Marcus is absolutely heartbroken. He cannot understand the reason for her actions but carries on with his life, hoping to put his bad luck behind him. They only meet for the first time since the fiasco of their wedding months later when Marcus’s sister Hannah, Allie’s best friend, asks Allie to be her bridesmaid at her impending Valentine’s Day wedding.

Throughout the time before the wedding they are thrown together, especially when Marcus is asked to perform the duty of Best Man. As the arrangements are made and they are forced to work together by their mutual love of Hannah the attraction sizzles between them, they share a kiss and both harbour secret hopes for a reunion. But Allie remains haunted by her family and their past. The wedding dress reminds her of all the women in her family who have worn the dress at their doomed Weddings. She cannot bear the thought of hurting Marcus further down the line should their marriage fail. She cannot move on from her grave concerns as to whether she can break the bad luck symbolised by a tear found on her bridal gown on her wedding day.

With Valentine’s Day fast approaching what will happen to Marcus and Allie?

Although I enjoyed reading this novella I was really frustrated that these two adults could not talk about their problems and because of that their reunion was delayed. Everyone else recognised they were made for each other and such a close relationship should not have been plagued by such a blatant lack of communication. It beggars belief that she felt unable to tell her family, her friends or her ex-fiancé what was bothering her.

The Memory Book
The Memory Book
Price: £3.49

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Compassionate and thought provoking novel, 30 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Memory Book (Kindle Edition)
This is a truly wonderful heart-warming story of Claire Armstrong, diagnosed with early on-set Alzheimer’s Disease and determined to make and keep her gorgeous memory book bought for her by her husband Greg, so that she would not forget the joys of her life and her wonderful and well-loved family: people who she loved with a fierce passion and were her whole life. It continues with her journey into the fog and frustration of AD, forgetting the simplest things in her life like the name of her three-year old daughter Esther, where to collect her milk from in the morning, which house in the row belonged to her family and how to answer a mobile phone which she held out in her hand. Funny, Sassy, highly creative and intelligent and full of natural resourcefulness, Claire can not understand why the people who love her so much and are trying their best to care for her and keep her safe also appear to be holding her captive and will not set her free. Her Mother, who has moved into the family home to help keep it running smoothly, and who she thinks is too controlling and remote, especially puzzles her.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the novel, aside from the moving storyline, is the truly marvellous characters Rowan Coleman has created. Each character is unique and skilfully crafted with their own stories, motives and nuances, sometimes told through their entries and memorabilia or mementos added to the memory book. They are so reasonable, well rounded, natural and likeable and as their back-stories unfold so their characters became even more vibrant and endearing. Their perspectives within the story bring added respect to their role as carers. I particularly loved her eldest daughter Caitlin, who, despite problems of her own, has so much understanding and empathy for her mother.

As Claire struggles to keep herself together, so her heartbreak continues in such an affecting way. ‘I open my eyes each morning and tell myself who I am, who my children are and what is wrong with me’. But true to her wonderful, fiery self she finds ways to help her family cope with her early onset degenerative AD and prepare for the future.

I adored this novel and literally couldn’t put it down. It is surely going to be one of the best novels I read in 2014.

One Night at the Jacaranda
One Night at the Jacaranda
Price: £2.06

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Racy, realistic and one to relish, 16 Jan 2014
This is a really wonderful debut novel from Carol Cooper. Based in and around London, several lonely characters decide to find fun, friendship and maybe more by going to the Jacaranda club and indulging in a bit of speed dating. Armed with their score sheets and whatever lists of questions they've made that they'd like to find the answers to, they begin their quest: three minutes with each of the other participants of the opposite sex. There's a doctor, newly single and desperately missing his young son, a lawyer who feels well past her sell by date, a chirpy charity worker with his heart definitely in the right place, an ex-con trying to rebuild his fractured life, a raunchy nanny who married her boss, and even more. In amongst them is a reporter determined to make some copy from her night out and write a revealing expose. But do they tell the truth about their lives? Not a bit of it. Elaborate and well-embroidered stories emerge and by the end of the night each of the participants must make their decisions, of course all based on little white lies, hunches and physical attraction, and submit their preferences online.

This light-hearted scenario belies the sadness that lies beneath the various truths that unfold after that night at the Jacaranda. The ex-con is innocent, left to take the blame and incarcerated for a crime he didn't commit. The charity worker has a darker secret, he is life-limited having already had a cancerous testicle removed only to find that the cancer has already spread and nothing more can be done for him. Even the reporter, there under false pretences, is in a stale and cripplingly controlling relationship. As each story develops each wonderfully woven character embarks on another journey, a journey of discovery.

Carol Cooper uses her expertise as a doctor, a mother and an observer of life: all to excellent advantage. She writes with understanding, empathy and compassion. Her characters develop into people you really care about and want only happy resolutions for. The good news is, that once you have invested in this novel, you really are rewarded with a lovely ending. Here I'm going as far as to say, this novel deserves a sequel. There is more than enough excellent material with which to continue with what happens to many of the carefully developed characters. I'll be writing my own endings in my head for days to come!

In conclusion I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and recommend it as well written, heart-warming, involving and with plenty of interest to keep the pages turning. It's an absolute gem and I wholeheartedly look forward to reading more from this talented new author.

The Doll's House
The Doll's House
Price: £5.49

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping psychological thriller, 13 Jan 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Doll's House (Kindle Edition)
I was really keen to read `The Doll's House' having hugely enjoyed `Red Ribbons' and I was not at all disappointed in this second novel featuring the endearing partnership between Detective Inspector O'Connor and psychologist Dr Kate Pearson. This time a body is found floating in a Dublin Canal, brutally stabbed but finally drowned in its icy waters. When a second body appears in the canal not far from the first only days later, links are soon established between the victims linking them to Clodagh's family, the Hamiltons

Meanwhile Clodagh, recovering from the recent death of her mother, is seeking help from a hypnotist. She is a recovering alcoholic with frightening gaps in her childhood memories, determined to begin a life of sobriety and rebuild her fractured relationship with her own daughter. Having lost her father to a drowning accident as a young girl she wants to find out about her past and to try to understand why her own relationship with her mother always felt cold and awkward.

With the clock ticking away and danger of the state of mind of the daring murderer deteriorating, enquiries continue. With every new piece of chilling evidence gathered, so the case gathers new menace until finally a dramatic and surprising conclusion is reached. This novel is a real page-turner with its ending revealing intimate details influencing the lives of Dr Pearson and D I O'Connor. I can't wait for Louise Phillip's next novel!

A Christmas Gift for Rose  HB
A Christmas Gift for Rose HB
by Tricia Goyer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.32

4.0 out of 5 stars Heartwarming romantic novel, 18 Dec 2013
On the threshold of adulthood and with her sights set on an expected Amish marriage to Jonathan, two events rock Rose's world. Jonathan decides to volunteer for service in the War, a shaming and humiliating no-no for an Amish pacifist. Rose can't believe he would bring shame on his family, but he feels he must support the British, signing on and training for medical support duties with no need to come to arms. Then, in the wake of Jonathan's return and their reconciliation, her mother discloses a family secret that turns her world up side down. In despair she confides in Jonathan and he decides the best way to prove his love for her is that he must leave town to try to make Rose believe in herself and in his love for her.

I really enjoyed this gentle and heart-warming love story, which had its conclusion on Christmas day. The story itself was based on a true story told to author Tricia Goyer. Her knowledge of Amish family life and duties shines through and helps explain the huge amount of distress caused to Rose by these two main events. The characters are brought to life skilfully and little touches like using the story of `Heidi' to serve as a parallel to Rose's predicament were a lovely touch.

The Truth About You
The Truth About You
by Susan Lewis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £3.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely story with Family at the heart., 10 Dec 2013
This review is from: The Truth About You (Hardcover)
Lainey Hollingsworth grew up in England, leaving Italy with her Italian mother when she was a baby-in-arms. Until her mother's death she had never returned. With her beloved step-father in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease she can find no answers to the question of her paternity, so Lainey books a holiday in the little town near where her mother lived as a girl.

With her marriage and family life in chaos when another long-held secret is revealed, Lainey is forced to face the shocking truth without the support of her husband Tom. She journeys with her children, stepson and a friend of each of them to a beautiful villa in Umbria. With the help of newly made Italian friends she begins a search for her roots, unprepared for what she will eventually learn: a second family secret revealed which turns her whole world on its head.

This is a very powerful and emotional novel with Susan Lewis at her best when writing about family problems and dynamics. Her timeless and involving style, her characterisation and her wonderful descriptions make this a novel not to be missed.

Finding Mother (The Guernsey Novels Book 2)
Finding Mother (The Guernsey Novels Book 2)
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely ate it up, a wonderful story of finding roots., 9 Dec 2013
Brought up by her lovely, caring, adoptive parents on the island of Jersey, in her adult life Nicole has built herself a wonderful life with a caring husband, a fabulous home and a `to die for' job.

However her world starts crumbling when she discovers her husband has been unfaithful to her. They separate and Anne sets off to visit her parents in their villa in Spain with a heavy heart. There she breaks the news that she would like to find out more about her roots. Mindful of the hurt this may cause them, she is delighted when they back her in her quest to find her birth parents, and there begins the story of Nicole's 'other' family, who still lived on the island of Guernsey.

She visits her mother's home on the island and meets her grandmother, gradually feeling relaxed and at home and finally coming to understand why her mother gave her up for adoption. When she meets her father and her stepbrother and stepsister the picture is complete.

With her elderly, frail grandmother needing home visits from the local doctor, Nicole also finds a friend of her own age in the doctor to help her through this confusing time in her life. Her grandmother becomes very fond of Nicole and piece-by-piece her grandmother's own story unfolds the reveal a shocking family secret unknown even to her mother.

This is a beautifully written, powerful and emotional story full of gorgeous descriptions and very complicated issues to be worked through. The contemporary love stories are tender and warm. The novel is written with understanding and empathy and is a very rewarding read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and found it a most compelling story. Best of all I absolutely loved the ending of it.

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