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Welsh Annie (Wetherby)
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Yellow Room
Yellow Room
by Shelan Rodger
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effortless and elegant, 21 July 2015
This review is from: Yellow Room (Paperback)
I have a copy of Twin Truths nestling on a shelf somewhere (in very good company), but this was my first time reading Shelan Rodger's work. not sure quite what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't such a level of beauty in the writing, coupled with acute observations about life that can pierce you to the heart. The characters are very real and (some are) very flawed and damaged: however the causes of their frailty are more about a perception of reality, and how that can shape you as a person. There are many things about this lovely book that will long stay with me - it's full of the most vivid images, both intimate and on a larger scale, but perhaps most striking is the layering of secrets - lies, deception, self-delusion, misleading others...

The writing is effortless and elegant, quite beautiful in its precise selection of words but surprisingly easy and comfortable to read - except in its subject matter at times. There is love in this book, sometimes evident (I adored Chala's relationship with her father in all its phases), sometimes difficult to sustain, often difficult to show. The Kenyan scenes are sometimes harrowing and difficult to read, but also so vividly described that you can feel and smell the tension, and appreciate the stark contrasts between exceptional beauty and desperate ugliness.

I guess it's quite unusual to single out for praise the postscript to the book which sets out its inspiration. It pulled together my thoughts after I'd reached the end - around secrets, "spaces in togetherness", the issue of identity, the Kenyan backdrop. It also includes a stunning sentence that sums up the book perfectly:

"Secrets are like scars that heal over a wound that never quite disappears."

This is a book that defies categorisation, and it was certainly quite a departure from my usual reads - but I'm so glad to have had the opportunity to experience it.


Beyond the Sea
Beyond the Sea
by Melissa Bailey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.09

5.0 out of 5 stars Sensitively written, achingly real, 19 July 2015
This review is from: Beyond the Sea (Paperback)
When I started reading this book, I was rather expecting a psychological thriller, based on the emphasis on Daniel in the book's description - but this book wasn't really that. Or more precisely, it was actually a lot more than that. I wasn't expecting the rawness of emotion around Freya's loss of her husband and son, sensitively written and achingly real. There's a point in the book where Freya explodes in anger for her husband's part in her son's death, harrowing to read, full of passion, horribly wonderful when her emotions have been managed so tightly with pills and wine.

The setting is perfect - the isolated lighthouse, the cottage alongside that was once their family home, the wild beauty of the scenery, the sea in which Freya swims capable of turning wild in an instant. I loved the mythology that gives the book its haunting quality, the stories of Beira and the Ceasg - not overdone, the elements well chosen to enhance the story. And the Daniel story was well done - a little mysterious, heartbreakingly sad, but also sinister and threatening. And I liked Freya's remaining family and friends - her sister's wry humour and inability to form a meaningful relationship, her mother's good intentions, gentle Callum and ancient seer Torin. The letters from the 1650s found in a sea jar, written by a sailor lost at sea with Cromwell's navy, his isolation every bit as extreme, give the book an added dual-time element that I really enjoyed.

A lovely read from a talented author - and very much recommended.


A Sister's Promise
A Sister's Promise
Price: £1.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A treat for the senses, 17 July 2015
A Sister's Promise was published by one of my favourite publishers, Bookouture, on 2nd July in paperback and for kindle, and it's the first time I've read a book by Renita D'Silva. I'm sure a lot of my regular readers will know how I love travelling to India: if you're not lucky enough to be able to book a similar trip, this book will transport you there with its vividly drawn backdrop affecting and sometimes overloading all your senses (in the same lovely way that India itself can). The writing is quite beautiful - wonderful descriptions, metaphors and similes that make you gasp - very unusual and so easy to read.

The story itself is wonderfully character driven, very emotional, beautifully told and totally absorbing - the story of two sisters who, for a number of reasons, find themselves taking very different paths through life. Relationships are at its centre - I loved Puja's drawing together with her son Raj, Sharda's love for daughter Kushi, and the beautifully described early relationship with her husband. The characters hit the page fully formed and totally believable and three dimensional - the good, the weak and the bad. The descriptions of cooking - central to the relationship story - give the story a depth of taste, smell and colour that I've rarely come across.

This was a thoroughly beautiful read, with some very clear messages about love, loyalty and betrayal. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to anyone who loves their books filled with emotion and likes their reading to uplift and transport them to a different world - I'm off to look at the other books by Renita D'Silva, hoping they'll be just half as good as this one.


Rexel JOY A4 Journal - Blissful Blue
Rexel JOY A4 Journal - Blissful Blue
Price: £5.33

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice item - but not worth the price, 7 July 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The item I received for review had a “blissful blue” cover - a very nice blue, a light royal blue that would be entirely suitable for an office environment. It has a good substantial feel, textured but not shiny, and wipes clean - it looks and feels like a quality item. I liked the elastic to keep it closed, and also the page marker ribbon, both nice additions. The paper is good quality - no leakage when using a fountain pen - and is lined, but doesn’t look like child’s writing paper. The niggle I have (hence the three stars - is the pricing. I have purchased similar items on-line and from stationers at a fraction of the price, and can’t imagine any situation where I’d pay over £10 for a “useful” item like this. If I was paying that sort of money, I’d want it to be more individual - I might be aware I was using a quality item, others most certainly wouldn’t notice. I think I’ll stick with Paperchase…


The Girls
The Girls
Price: £6.02

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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.


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

3 of 3 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: £4.49

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 2 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.


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