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Sukie (South Coast)
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The Lost (Paula Maguire 1)
The Lost (Paula Maguire 1)
by Claire McGowan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

7 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lose Yourself In This Excellent Novel, 9 Mar. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Forensic psychologist Paula Maguire has returned to her home town of Ballyterrin in Northern Ireland to investigate 'The Lost' - two missing girls as well as a pile of never-solved missing-person cases.

Paula is a likeable, flawed heroine who is battling demons of her own, not least the disappearance of her own mother back when she was a child. Being home means reminders of the past lurk around every corner. Work proves a distraction though and soon she is drawn into the hunt for the two girls of very different backgrounds: Cathy, daughter of a wealthy businessman and Majella, a girl from a traveller family. Maguire is convinced there are links to old cases, as well as suspicious goings-on in The Mission, a church youth group. But nothing is straightforward and long-held tensions are still smouldering. Who is telling the truth?

I found this an enjoyable, engrossing read with a good pace and a meaty, original plot. Yes, it falls slightly into melodrama at the end but I'll definitely be looking out for the next book in this series.


Under Your Skin: The gripping thriller with a twist you won't see coming
Under Your Skin: The gripping thriller with a twist you won't see coming
by Sabine Durrant
Edition: Hardcover

27 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The body in the bushes, 26 Feb. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Warning: don't start reading this unless you have hours of spare time because you won't want to put it down. I practically inhaled this book in two sittings, I just couldn't turn the pages fast enough.

The story begins with Gaby, a daytime TV presenter, going for a run on the common near her south London home. So far, so ordinary - until she glimpses the lifeless body of a woman in some brambles nearby, the victim of a violent murder. Shaken, she calls the police to report the crime, then goes to work as normal, trying to block out the discovery as she presents her usual show.
But then the police call her in for questioning, puzzled over the way their new discoveries keep linking the murdered woman back to Gaby. It's not long before the press pick up the scent and soon Gaby's house is besieged by reporters. Paranoid and on edge, Gaby feels as if she can't trust anyone...

I don't want to write any more about the plot because there are so many excellent twists and turns that to reveal anything else might spoil it. But if you enjoyed Gone Girl, or are a fan of psychological thrillers by Sophie Hannah or Nicci French, then you will probably love this intriguing and clever novel. It's taut, it's tense, it's absolutely gripping - and it'll definitely get under your skin.


The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
by Ayana Mathis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rich and vibrant first novel, 6 Feb. 2013
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie follows the fortunes of Hattie Shepherd and her family, spanning over fifty years. Each chapter is a linked short story featuring first Hattie, then focussing on individual children, with the final story coming from a grandchild's point of view.
Hattie leaves Georgia for Philadelphia in the 1920s, and life is hard. She is a wife and mother by the age of 17, money is scarce, food is limited and laughter is hard to come by. Throughout the book, themes of poverty, betrayal and difficult decisions reoccur, and the overall impression is a bleak one. The first chapter in particular packs an incredible punch.
Mathis writes beautiful, subtle prose but I did find the novel disjointed and would have liked a more coherent thread to run through, tying the stories together in a stronger narrative arc. With tales of alcoholism, racism, gambling, mental health problems etc, the stories are all pretty depressing too, and after a while, I felt ground down by the unremitting bleakness.
This is a well-written book, capturing snapshots of different lives played out against a changing social background. As fine a work as it is, I wouldn't hurry to read it again.


Husband, Missing
Husband, Missing
by Polly Williams
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't put it down, 3 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Husband, Missing (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Gina falls hopelessly in love with Rex almost as soon as he rescues her from a mugger. After a whirlwind romance, they get married and are blissfully happy. Then he goes off on a 'boys' holiday' in Spain... and vanishes.
Shocked and confused, Gina travels to Spain to see if she can find him. Others - friends, family, police - assume he's dead but she knows different. She's sure he's alive - but where is he, and why has he gone? With the help of Jake, Rex's half-brother, Gina keeps searching - but as she does so, secrets from the past begin to emerge and she starts to wonder just how well she ever really knew her husband...

I really enjoyed this book. Polly Williams has a lovely, light, humorous touch but is equally good at conveying real angst, pain and confusion. I was hooked by the mystery of Rex's disappearance and loved all the supporting characters of Gina's family and friends. It's a pacy, tense read with a very satisfying ending. For me, Polly Williams gets better and better - I'm already looking forward to her next one.


The Rosie Project
The Rosie Project
by Graeme Simsion
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book, 31 Jan. 2013
This review is from: The Rosie Project (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Don is a professor of genetics - extremely clever and competent in his field but extremely incompetent in matters of the heart. He can't understand where he's going wrong. Why does nobody want to go on a second date with him?
As a scientist, Don is used to solving problems, so sets about The Wife Project with great enthusiasm. He puts together a lengthy questionnaire to sort the wheat from the chaff and find himself the perfect partner: a non-smoking, punctual, intelligent woman who is not overweight, not a fussy eater, fit etc. How hard can it be?
Enter Rosie, who fails at almost every criteria on the Wife Project questionnaire. She's a vegetarian, she smokes, her punctuality is abysmal and she's a barmaid. This is never going to work and Don writes her off as non-wife material within seconds expecting never to see her again.
But Rosie has a problem for which she needs Don's help and when Don agrees to assist her, he discovers that life with Rosie is never dull. In fact, he's soon experiencing strange and confusing feelings. Maybe his questionnaire isn't quite as foolproof as he thought...

I absolutely loved this book. Don is a wonderful character - quirky and unconventional, living by self-prescribed schedules for eating, exercise and work, and taking everything at face value, ie checking his clock when another characters says "Give me a minute". As such, he is unable to detect sarcasm or nuanced conversation, and finds it difficult to see the wood for the trees. As the reader we can see what's coming a mile away but the fun is experiencing Don's journey through his eyes, however difficult he finds the business of love and romance.

A beautiful, uplifting story with real heart, I found myself cheering on Don all the way. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!


How We Met
How We Met
by Katy Regan
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely friendship novel, 15 Jan. 2013
This review is from: How We Met (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Olivia died young - too young - leaving behind a group of friends bereft at their loss. Single mum Mia, Liv's best mate, is finding it hard to move on and wishes Liv was around to give her advice. Fraser, Liv's boyfriend before she died, is also struggling, in a job he doesn't love and with a new accidental girlfriend who isn't his type. Norm and Melody are arguing and Anna seems to have gone off the rails.

As a salute to their much-missed friend, Mia, Fraser and the others decide to complete Liv's 'Things to do before I'm 30' list that was left unfinished, but things don't go quite as planned...

I really enjoyed reading this book - it's one of those novels you find yourself completely immersed in, and I rooted for all the characters as they came to terms with their bereavement. Katy Regan writes with real warmth and humour, and I will definitely look out for her other books in the future.


How to Be a Good Wife
How to Be a Good Wife
by Emma Chapman
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A chilling debut, 19 Nov. 2012
This review is from: How to Be a Good Wife (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Marta lives a closeted, safe existence with her husband Hector in a small Scandinavian community. Yet something strange is happening to her, ever since she stopped taking her medication. Without the little pink pills three times a day, a fog seems to be clearing in her mind, and old memories flicker tantalisingly, just out of reach. She discovers that she is a smoker, she finds her body wanting to stretch and kick, and phrases and voices come to her unbidden. Marta's only ever wanted to be a good wife and mother, but as the dulling effect of the pills leaves her system, she starts to wonder what's true in her life... and what is false.

This is a chilling story which really gets under your skin - I felt very tense as I read it, worried for Marta and trying to figure out, as she does, what actually happened to her. It reminded me both of S J Watson's Before I Go To Sleep and The Collector by John Fowles, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about the characters since reading. The author is great at building a sense of menace with sparse, careful language, leaving plenty of gaps for the reader to fill in themselves. I don't think it's a perfect book - I felt it was paced rather too slow in the middle and then too fast at the end, and some of the repetition jarred (lots of instances of characters putting their hands on another character's back for example!) but overall, I really enjoyed reading this, and can't wait to see what Emma Chapman writes next.


Oh Dear Silvia
Oh Dear Silvia
by Dawn French
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £18.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Voices in the ward, 2 Nov. 2012
This review is from: Oh Dear Silvia (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Silvia Shute lies in a coma, unmoving and unresponsive, while her ex-husband, her sister, her lover, her nurse, her cleaner and daughter all come in and out of her room. As each person speaks to her, trying to reawaken her, remonstrating with her or pleading with her, we start to piece together how she got to be lying there, and just what sort of a person Silvia really is.

I think this is a great idea for a novel. By turns funny, moving and surprising, I was intrigued by how such a collection of characters came to be part of Silvia's life, and how they all responded to her in different ways. I enjoyed working out the truth about Silvia's situation, and how events had panned out, leading up to her injury. Dawn French does a great job in making each character's voice very distinctive and cleverly reveals their secrets and fears.
This is easy to read and often very funny, and I really like the way French tells this story in such an original way.


The Cutting Season
The Cutting Season
by Attica Locke
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Slow Season, 15 Oct. 2012
This review is from: The Cutting Season (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Caren Gray is the manager of Belle Vie, an old family home on a Louisiana plantation, which is now a tourist attraction and a wedding venue. It's a job she has mixed feelings about, given her childhood links to the place. Early one morning she's doing her rounds as usual when a horrible discovery is made: that of a young woman lying with her throat cut in one of the cane fields. The police descend on Belle Vie and everyone becomes a suspect. As Caren finds herself drawn into the investigation, secrets emerge, not only about the killer's identity but about the future of the plantation itself...

There's a lot I enjoyed about this novel: the history behind such a plantation, the long shadow cast by slavery and the uneasy dynamic between management and staff are all interesting angles that the author explores. I also thought the relationship between Caren and her ex husband Eric was well handled. There's no doubt about it that Locke is a very good writer. However, I was disappointed by the slow pace of the novel and the distinct lack (for me) of much tension. I found some of the scenes very repetitive - Caren telling Eric or Lee things we have already seen for ourselves, for example - and some of the dialogue felt clunky.

I'm sure there's a taut, tense story in here but I felt it was smothered in too much padding which left it less gripping than it should have been. Annoyingly, there were also a lot of grammatical errors and typos. I would read another book by this author but this one wasn't a hit for me.


John Saturnall's Feast
John Saturnall's Feast
by Lawrence Norfolk
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Half baked, 1 Oct. 2012
This review is from: John Saturnall's Feast (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Set in the seventeenth century, the story begins with John as a boy being tormented by villagers who claim his mother is a witch. John's mother tells him of a great feast with such vivid language that the words are imprinted on his mind but before she can explain fully the feast's significance she dies and he is forced to flee.

John finds himself at the manor of Sir William Buckland and is put to work in the hectic kitchen where his unerring sense of flavour is soon noticed by the Master Cook. John, in turn, has noticed Sir William's daughter, Lady Lucretia, who, it transpires, is connected to John's own mother. As John settles into the house, he realises that his mother was not the only person to know of the 'feast' and its great lure.

When I picked up this book, I was sure I must be in for a treat having read so many glowing reviews but unfortunately it did not leave me sated. The opening is very slow and dense, I never felt truly engaged with John's character and the storyline itself was pretty predictable. Thankfully, the novel does redeem itself with the central section of the story and all its fantastic, sensual descriptions of kitchen life; I loved reading about the amazing concoctions John and the other cooks serve up, and could really imagine these scenes in great detail. I also really enjoyed John's attempts to tempt Lady Lucy to eat - these parts of the book, for me, are the strongest and most engaging.

However, in my opinion, the final third of the novel is as weak as the first, unfortunately: war is suddenly declared (from out of nowhere as another reviewer notes) and these scenes didn't convince me and felt rushed, as did the ending. Overall, I'm afraid this was a lukewarm dish for me.


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