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Welsh Annie (Wetherby)

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The Girls
The Girls
Price: £6.17

5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully done - and quite perfect, 2 July 2015
This review is from: The Girls (Kindle Edition)
I'm a massive fan of Lisa Jewell's books - every one better than and different from the one before. And now we have The Girls, published by Century in hardcover and for kindle on 2nd July - again something very, very different. Lisa creates such wonderful characters - I loved young Pip, writing her heartbreakingly sad and beautifully illustrated letters to her absent father. My heart ached for her mother Clare, just about coping with life, working out what her future might hold. I wanted to be part of Adele and Leo's family, living in their shabby chic home, home schooling their three children - but I do think I'd find the youngest, Willow, too exhausting. Every character is beautifully drawn, even the lesser ones - Leo's revolting father (Adele's description, not mine), Tyler and her mother, the elderly lady with her history and floppy rabbit on a lead, Pip's father in his socks and wetsuit. These are all people you live with - and know as well as your own family - as you read.

As well as creating characters, she creates such vivid settings, and images that will stay with you. The garden square itself becomes absolutely real - its geography totally clear, in all its detail, and through all your senses. And the image of a family's former home, destroyed and blackened, is perfectly shocking and intricately detailed.

And then there's the story - and what a story, a historic mystery and a current one touching the lives of everyone who lives around the gardens. It becomes impossible to trust or believe anyone, as the good and the less-than-good are all touched by suspicion. And the ending... what an ending, beautifully done, and quite perfect.

This was a quite lovely read. I haven't said it in a while, but unquestionably one of my top books of the year. You'll love it too - I guarantee it.

My thanks to netgalley and the publishers for my advance reading e-copy.

by Sara Marshall-Ball
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A compelling read with a disturbing edge of darkness, 1 July 2015
This review is from: Hush (Paperback)
How wonderful to be the first review - sometimes it's rather good to feel you've discovered something a little special that you can tell others about.

I usually read pretty quickly, but this really isn't a book to be rushed - it's taken me a couple of days to read, and that's an indication that this is a book to be savoured. It deals with what appears an unfamiliar subject in selective mutism as the result of a trauma, but it also has among its themes the more familiar ones of families and the secrets they keep, bullying and its consequences, nature and nurture, relationships and their many differing problems, and the healing power of love.

The story is told in alternating chapters. "Then" takes us back to Lily and Connie's childhood and the unspoken trauma that sees Lily unable or unwilling to speak, sent to live with her grandparents, shunted around medical professionals who fail to protect or help her. Connie meanwhile battles on - victimised brutally by her schoolmates because of her perceived wrongdoing, ignored by her cold mother, separated from her sister. "Now" takes us to the present day - Lily and Connie in adulthood, their relationships, their states of mind, their feelings towards their parents, their families, each other.

If it's not sounding particularly attractive from all that, I have to say it was a really compelling read with a disturbing edge of darkness. It was also quite beautifully written - poetic, emotionally authentic, with beautiful descriptions, and relationships described with absolute perfection. The relationship between Lily and Richard is mesmerising, the kind of love we should all experience - he even tells Lily bedtime stories, thoroughly beautiful ones that will break your heart.

I really enjoyed this book - never simply a love story or a coming-of-age tale, certainly not the "beach read" of its marketing (sorry Myriad!) and not a thriller in any conventional sense, but a book I'm delighted I had the opportunity to read.

My thanks to publishers Myriad Editions for my paperback copy.

You, Me and Other People
You, Me and Other People
Price: £4.38

5.0 out of 5 stars Mesmerising and absorbing, 29 Jun. 2015
I thoroughly enjoyed this book - the story of a couple whose marriage is breaking down, their pain as they try to move on with their lives and the secrets hidden over the years. As it begins, Beth is seeing a therapist (these scenes are wonderfully written), coming to terms with Adam's betrayal, trying to rebuild her life. She has supportive friends, and a mother who cares deeply but believes nothing heals like a good manicure: her daughter Meg shares her hurt and anger.

At outset, you won't think much of Adam either - I certainly didn't. He's really, really selfish - he doesn't wants to stop sowing his wild oats, but even as he continues to do so really can't see why his actions can't be forgiven. The secrets he's kept through the years start to surface, affecting everyone around him - and we realise he's really only human and that imperfect humans make mistakes that can perhaps be forgiven.

It's a wonderful read, real people feeling emotions that you feel with them - you cringe as Adam makes himself increasingly unforgivable, cheer for Beth when things start to go right, and other parts of the story will make you cry. This is an immensely accomplished first novel, a totally mesmerising and absorbing read - I can't wait for her next.

My thanks to netgalley and publishers Harper for my advance reading e-copy.

Rimmel London Kate Lipstick Summer - Pink Rose
Rimmel London Kate Lipstick Summer - Pink Rose
Price: £5.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not good enough - and that perfume!, 26 Jun. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This review is of shade 34, pink rose - but I'm afraid the colour didn't suit me at all, a bit candy floss coloured, but maybe ok for someone younger. The packaging is fine - fairly bland, black/grey with "Kate" and a heart in red. The first thing that hit me on opening was the smell - sorry, I guess it should be "perfume". But it smells like sickly children's sweets - really not pleasant. It applies quite well - good coverage, quite creamy - but by the time I returned from a supermarket shop, it had totally disappeared. I don't usually buy at this kind of low price, and I doubt I ever will - not good enough really.

Four Sides to Every Story
Four Sides to Every Story
Price: £1.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful writing, totally enchanting..., 24 Jun. 2015
Every so often, it's lovely to be surprised by a book - to like it so very much that you really want to tell people about it. Especially those people who might think they wouldn't like it. Because, I'll be honest, I had my doubts - I'm not a massive fan of magic and fairy tales, and don't read many stories featuring fairy godmothers. But - having escaped into it for the last couple of days - I have to tell you that this book was a little gem, beautifully cut and polished, and sparkling in every way.

I first discovered the author through a Christmas novella, The Little Book Of Lost Hearts, which I'd thoroughly enjoyed - and then, sadly, forgot that the author had promised a new book based in Fools Castle during 2014. As Valerie-Anne says, life got in the way (as it does), but Four Sides To Every Story - published for kindle on 24th June - takes us back to Fools Castle at last, this time with Nettie's brother Sawyer centre stage.

I'm not going to tell the story beyond the description above, because I'd like you to discover it the way I did. But this really is a book with a bit of everything. There's magic of course, and some of the loveliest little details - floating above gravel so as not to hurt your feet, the ability to restore clothing damaged in the tumble drier, and how lovely it would be to glow from within like lovely Lily. There's a rugged hero in Sawyer - not the curmudgeon I originally thought he was, but a man who's experienced real tragedy in his life, and has a damaged soul. He also has just the right amount of designer stubble and dishevelment to make him thoroughly fanciable, and he writes books... and he's doing his utmost to be a good father. Then there are the children - especially wonderfully drawn Lexie - who somehow know Lily is a little different. Then there's the terrifying mother-in-law, there's Sophie who's definitely up to something, and the homely housekeeper with a heart of gold. There's romance galore, and misunderstandings, and heartbreak - and a quite brilliant ending that had my heart in my mouth and a tear in my eye.

I was right in what I said when I read this author before - she writes quite beautifully, with wonderful descriptions and a gentle humour. Don't be put off by the hint of magic and fairytale - it's really perfectly judged, and quite enchanting. A lovely, lovely read - and thank you to Valerie for remembering my earlier review and giving me the chance to read it before everyone else.

Midsummer Dreams (21st Century Bard)
Midsummer Dreams (21st Century Bard)
Price: £2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sheer enjoyment..., 17 Jun. 2015
Now here's a turn-up for the books - today I'm reviewing a lovely book published by Choc Lit, not because they've asked me to, but because I really wanted to!

This book was sheer enjoyment from the first page to the last. Alison May is quite wonderful at bringing characters to life - I particularly adored Helen, and my heart ached for her as her dream moved further and further from her grasp. Alex is equally adorable - immoral and irreverent, but quite wonderfully funny and so immensely likeable. Emily, however, is eminently slappable - but she has her reasons for being that way. As for Dom(inic) - quite perfect! And it's not just the main characters, the lesser ones are fantastic too - Theo, the wonderful Tania, Nick who attends lectures in his underpants...

You don't really have to know much about A Midsummer Night's Dream, it won't stop you enjoying it - but being an ex English student I know the play well, and this is such a clever re-telling of the story with a 21st century twist.

And as for the writing - it really sparkles, gentle humour, a little slapstick along the way, and the odd very unexpected tear in the eye. Wonderful stuff - don't overlook this one whatever you do, you'll be missing a few hours of unadulterated fun and enjoyment - I really loved it.

My thanks to netgalley and the publishers Choc Lit for my advance reading e-copy.

Recipes for Melissa: The heartbreaking story of a mother's goodbye to her daughter
Recipes for Melissa: The heartbreaking story of a mother's goodbye to her daughter
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wiping away a tear..., 14 Jun. 2015
"Perfect for fans of Rowan Coleman, Lucy Dillon and JoJo Moyes" says the blurb on Amazon, and I really can't argue with that. A tad lighter than Rowan Coleman maybe - but I do understand the comparison. This book also reminded me of another I've recently read - The Wedding Cake Tree by Melanie Hudson. But I think that's just a sign that I'm reading a little too much chick lit and women's literature at the moment - this book is original, different and a really good read.

The journal itself is a lovely idea - recipes coupled with memories, a generous and well-judged lightness and humour, and a big secret hidden within its pages. I love the way the recipes are used to trigger memories, and Melissa's progress towards remembering and accepting is quite perfectly handled. The difficulties around her adult relationship are well drawn and real, wholly understandable, and I really liked the way things were worked through. I particularly loved her father though - their relationship is wonderful, but I really enjoyed his agonising attempts to build a relationship of his own.

Beautifully written, a light read in many ways but with a real depth of emotion, and characters you really care about. I really enjoyed it (she said, wiping away a tear - with a smile - while remembering some of the very best bits...).

My thanks to netgalley and publishers Bookouture for my advance reading e-copy.

Letting in Light
Letting in Light
Price: £0.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely read, 13 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Letting in Light (Kindle Edition)
Four and a half really - almost a five. Believe it or not, I've been struggling a little with my reading recently - too much time on Twitter and Facebook, not enough time with a book in my hands. But when I picked up Letting In Light, I could tell I'd found something a little special.

I'll be really honest and say that you can tell it's a first novel - the opening section on the first aid course was a tad overlong I thought, although it's a necessary introduction to the key characters and their lives. But when Ellie moves to Rowan Hill the story really starts, the characters and setting come alive, and the writing gets into its stride too. Rowan Hill is wonderfully described - the lodge, the house, the outbuildings ripe for conversion, the woods and the rough bench on top of the hill with the magnificent view.

The author has an easy to read style, really enjoyable, with excellent powers of description - I love the passage she quotes above, but some of my equal favourites are some of the more mundane where she engages the characters in activities and brings them so vividly to life. I want to spend New Year's Eve flying paper planes from the hilltop, walk through the woods, be part of the wonderful community at Rowan Hill - in fact, having read the book, I really do feel I have been part of it all.

The characters are really well drawn - Ellie had me at her side (and on her side) throughout, I loved both Will and Finn, and some of the lesser characters like Alice and Prudence are quite wonderful. The secrets and revelations are so well handled, and help to make the book something a little different - and I totally loved the whole theme of following a dream and making it happen.

I'm so sorry I left the book so long Emma - it really deserves its ongoing success, I wish it a very happy book birthday, and I hope it won't be too long until we're able to read your next. I loved it.

Lady of Asolo
Lady of Asolo
Price: £1.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A lovely read..., 7 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Lady of Asolo (Kindle Edition)
Lady of Asolo By Siobhan Daiko was published for kindle in November 2014, and in paperback in February this year. I was thoroughly delighted when author offered a copy for review via THE Book Club on Facebook - it just looked so perfectly "me". I always love timeslip novels - dual time stories, but where characters move between two periods, historical and modern. Not only that, but I'm also a total pushover for anything with a historical Venice connection. If I'd provided a specification, the author really couldn't have done better.

With dual time or timeslip stories, what can let them down is when one story grabs you more than the other - the shifts can become more of a wrench. That never happens here, both stories being equally strong and appealing. In the modern story - set in 1989 - Fern has undergone a recent traumatic experience, and is recovering on holiday with her eccentric aunt. I know some readers didn't particularly take to her, but I thought her slight coldness was wholly realistic given all she'd experienced. Luca too, I thought was perfect - a full-on Italian romantic hero wouldn't have worked anything like as well. I really liked his understated approach, the care he took not to frighten Fern off - overall, a perfectly handled love story.

The historical story, set in early 16th century Italy has plainly been meticulously researched. Based on some real characters, some introduced by the author, the court of Catherine Cornaro is vividly recreated, with wonderful bits of detail about the food, the clothing and the entertainment. The author's descriptive powers are quite excellent - together with Fern/Cecilia, we move in a world that we can see, feel and touch. I really liked the detail about the art - Fern is an artist, and Cecilia is learning from her lover. I actually went on to read more about Giorgione and to look at his painting The Tempest - and was quite fascinated to learn about the female figure that x-rays have revealed has been painted out.

I really liked the way the time transitions were handled - images in mirrors, the whispered cries of "Lorenza", the hint of a smell of burning, the piece of charred wood. I guess you either accept that this moving between times is able to happen or you don't - but this was so well done that I signed up to it completely. I did particularly like the matter-of-fact acceptance of Luca's mother - after all, she was used to falling asleep to the sound of a medieval lute player at her own villa.

The shifts in time are quite seamless, the stories complementing each other perfectly, both with strong heroines and strong romantic leading men. I did wonder if I might be uncomfortable with the erotic content that touches and affects both the heroines - but not at all, I thought is was very tastefully done and really nothing you wouldn't allow your mother to read.

I really enjoyed this book - a lovely escape from everyday reality, well written, meticulously researched, wonderfully romantic with strong characters and a page-turning and dramatic story. On Amazon it says that those who enjoy the work of Barbara Erskine, Pamela Hartshorn and Susanna Kearsley should also like Lady of Asolo. I'd add two more of my timeslip writing favourites, Christina Courtenay and Rachel Hore, and also beef up that comment that you "should also like" it - you'll most definitely love it, as I did.

The Versions of Us
The Versions of Us
by Laura Barnett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.09

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The intricate texture of lace..., 5 Jun. 2015
This review is from: The Versions of Us (Hardcover)
The Versions Of Us by Laura Barnett was published on 4th June by Weidenfeld & Nicolson in hardback and ebook formats: the publishers are calling it their biggest book of the year, the book the whole publishing industry wanted to buy. There was also some unprecedented news ahead of publication - that the television rights have been optioned by Trademark Films who are convinced it will make "a compelling television drama".

I read this book two months ahead of publication,something I never usually do and originally reviewed it on my blog as "one to look forward to". Because having read the book, there's no way I couldn't talk about it. In terms of structure, emotional impact, originality and sheer readability, I thought it was quite wonderful, and I can wholly understand why the publishers were so convinced that they had something really special.

I can imagine there will be readers who will worry about this one - a love story told three ways, the three different courses their lives could take, a bit of a reading challenge maybe? I have to say I found it quite effortless - I've seen reviewers who've mentioned making notes to keep track, but I far preferred to throw myself in and trust the author. She has a wonderful touch - this whole book has the intricate texture of lace. Every divergence and convergence is meticulously planned, those life and (particularly) death events that can't be escaped whichever path you take, the high and lows of every life. If the author planned this one out with post-it notes, it must have been an enormous wall. I'd love to ask her how she wrote it - story by story, or in that wonderfully organic way the reader approaches it. Hopefully I'll get the chance nearer the release date.

The whole book might not have been as mesmerising had Eva and Jim been less fascinating characters. I wasn't a fan of David Nicholls' One Day - comparisons are inevitably being made - but this is an infinitely broader canvas, a far longer timescale, more opportunity to flavour it with period detail, and quite crucially better developed characters giving the book a far greater emotional depth.

I loved this book - you can tell, can't you?

My thanks to Orion Books (W&N) for my advance reading copy.

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