Sunday, 1 September 2019

Review | Home Truths by Susan Lewis

Published by HarperCollins on August 22, 2019


The opening chapter of Home Truths throws the reader right into the deep end knowing that at the end of chapter one everything will have changed in the lives of Angie Watts and her family. This is no slow burner - right away, I was engrossed in the devastating beginning to the novel and the aftermath of a brutal start had me eagerly turning the pages to discover what was to come next. Susan Lewis does not disappoint one bit in her latest novel which tugged at the heartstrings and delivered a current, relevant story - one that had me absorbed all the way through.

Angie and Steve are very much loved up but the stark realities of their life are getting them down and Steve is at the end of his tether when the gang their son Liam is involved in puts their youngest in danger. Determined to have it out with Liam, despite Angie begging him not to, Steve inadvertently puts his own life in danger - and Angie never sees him again.

It's been a while since I cared for a character liked I did for Angie. After the horrific death of her husband, Steve, and the circumstances surrounding his death which have led to the disappearance of her eldest son, Angie's life heads on a downward spiral of grief, debt and the overwhelming desperation of trying to keep her family afloat in such difficult times. Without feeling unrealistic, Angie and her family had absolutely everything thrown at them during the course of this book and it was so thought-provoking, I genuinely thought of nothing but these characters even when I had put the book down.

The beginning of this book is more about Angie's and her daughter Grace's struggles with money than anything else, and whilst this wasn't what I expected given the first chapter, I found it to be very sobering and important to read about. Despite how bad things were getting, Angie really struggled to open up and ask for help but without being preachy, this book helped highlight that sometimes we really do need to share our problems with those around us because though everyone is battling their own demons, some people would do anything to help. Angie shows this herself through her charity work - she's a kind, caring character despite life's hardships and this makes her easy to root her.

I love Susan Lewis's style of writing. She has such a way with words. It didn't matter what she was writing about, I was so wrapped up in every line and couldn't get enough of this book. Despite the dark topics approached in Home Truths, this did not feel like a grim read because the author could lighten things with her descriptions and the emotions she packed into her writing. The pacing of the book was just right for me and allowed myself to be drawn right in. I think a lot of readers may feel the same as there are many themes in this book which are relatable and could strike a chord. Overall I found Home Truths to be totally gripping and utterly compelling.




Monday, 24 June 2019

Review | Bring Me Sunshine by Laura Kemp

Published by Orion on June 27, 2019


Bring Me Sunshine by Laura Kemp is a fresh, funny and uplifting novel - an ideal summer's read to put a big smile on your face. From the first chapter I knew I was going to love this book. It had such a refreshing feel to it with laugh-out-loud humour and characters that were crafted so well that I didn't need any time at all before I cared for their stories.

Charlotte Bold loves plans and structure and routine to her day. She lives for a quiet life. She's comfortable in London with her traffic updates radio job, her friends and her boyfriend and the safe knowledge of what she's having for tea that night. Any upheaval is a no-go. Except, when she is moved on from her job and pushed to apply for a new station, Sunshine FM in Wales, Charlotte's worst nightmare is presented to her. A fresh start means change - and change is scary.

Charlotte is maybe not the character you expect, as she lacks a lot of confidence for someone who works in radio. But I loved this about her as through the book, it's so easy to root for her to grow in confidence and fight through her anxieties. When Charlotte arrives in Wales, the author perfectly depicts the stark contract between there and London through Charlotte's eyes. The steamed up, rainy windows faded and the surprisingly beautiful pier is revealed, and maybe, despite the wet and windy weather, Mumbles doesn't seem so bad after all. Laura Kemp describes the seaside location beautifully and it sounds enticing and picturesque and an ideal setting for a sunshiney read.

There is a lot to like about this book. I really warmed to the characters, not just Charlotte, but the supporting characters too. One character I really liked was Del, who, whilst maybe known for not really being good at anything, was certainly good at stepping in to help make Charlotte feel comfortable in her first day presenting at Sunshine FM. Del contributed to a lot of the laugh-out-loud funny moments in this book for me, but as with all the main characters, there were also parts to his character and story that were thought-provoking and deeper than his on-surface humour appeared.

Whilst Charlotte struggles from the start of her time in Wales, with crippling nerves and fears and zero confidence and her London friends not around to help, working at Sunshine FM shows her that she is not alone. This book delivers new friends and second chances and a truly heartwarming story that kept me engaged throughout. Warm and witty, Bring Me Sunshine was an absolute joy to read.



Monday, 17 June 2019

Review | The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter

Published by HarperCollins on June 13, 2019


I've never read any books by Karin Slaughter before though she was always one of my mum's favourite authors and came highly recommended. I also don't really like to start reading in the middle of a series and The Last Widow is the ninth book in the Will Trent series. However, the blurb for this book sounded so compelling that I simply could not resist. It definitely did not disappoint and now I am eager to get my hands on all the earlier books.

At the beginning of this book we meet Michelle Spivey who is out shopping with her eleven year old daughter. When a van stops beside her daughter, Ashley is aware and runs away from any trouble however it is Michelle they are after and she is abducted, and nobody has a clue who by or where to. She simply vanishes. Honestly, the first chapter alone had me hook, line and sinker and I devoured the first 100-150 pages of this book on a near two hour train journey that flew by as I was so engrossed.

Slaughter's style of writing, her pacing, descriptions and characterisation build up the story brilliantly and had me engrossed as the events were made easy to picture and I was truly gripped. I had a bit of a niggle with a chunk of this book as, as we met different characters, there was a bit of repetition as we see scenes from both sides and therefore things like whole conversations were repeated. This meant, as the chapters alternated between different characters there was a lot of toing and froing back and forth which wasn't particular easy to keep up with although I can't say it stopped me in anyway from being fascinated by the events and eager to discover more. Later in the book I could also see why this had been done and thought that it added to a more-rounded storytelling which probably was vital with such in-depth, highly researched plotting.

A month after the abduction of Spivey, Will Trent and Sara Linton find themselves caught in the middle of it all and this leads to Sara also being abducted and held prisoner and Will heading undercover in the midst of what was a shocking yet scarily believable story that was truly riveting. I enjoyed getting to know Will and Sara as they were new to me and I found them quite fascinating for different reasons. With every chapter of The Last Widow, the tension soared and the short timeframe that the book is set over not only added to the urgency of the events in the book but also the urgency I had as I desperately turned the pages of this heart-pounding, dark political thriller which is one of the most disturbing books I have read in a long time.

The Last Widow is action-packed and pulsating and my perfect introduction to Karin Slaughter as now I want every single one of her other books. This was a truly intense read that never let up. I've never read a 450 page hardback so quickly before but I was so drawn into the story and the characters that I never wanted to stop reading despite some of the heart-stopping truths that were revealed. Now I can see why Karin Slaughter is so highly revered - The Last Widow is mindblowingly good.



Friday, 14 June 2019

Review | Somewhere Close to Happy by Lia Louis

Published by Trapeze on June 13, 2019


Somewhere Close to Happy gave me all the emotions! I'd heard great things about Lia Louis's debut novel and it did not disappoint. This book made me laugh and cry, cheer and despair and root for Lizzie and Roman all the way.

When we meet Lizzie, she is sad and confused. She has just received a letter dated December 4, 2005, from Roman, her old best friend, written twelve years ago on the day he disappeared from her life with no explanation. Straight away I was intrigued by the story of Lizzie and Roman and couldn't wait to discover more.

Lia Louis structures this novel beautifully, with chapters dated from 2005 to present day, and old messages between Lizzie and Roman in between chapters to really show their friendship and help the reader understand why this letter from Roman becomes so important to Lizzie. The way the author feeds us the backstory of Lizzie and Roman made it easy to see how they had made an impression on each other's lives and therefore made it easy to care for their characters and follow their story with ease, with a sense of hope for a happy ending for the two of them.

This is a truly tender book that has all the makings of heart-warming women's fiction but also draws upon feelings of grief, of pure, raw emotion and of mental health and anxiety, something which I wholeheartedly believe should be written about more in fiction. The author writes honestly and sensitively about mental health and this was, in a way, heartening to see as mental health issues affect so many men and women yet there can still be a stigma about it and talking about it. In Somewhere Close to Happy, as the chapters move back and forth between teenage Lizzie and adult Lizzie, she is open and honest about her struggles and about Roman's struggles and their friendship is moving and empowering.

Although Somewhere Close to Happy is a book about Lizzie and Roman and their compelling story, my favourite character in this book was probably Lizzie's best friend, Priscilla. Though she had her own troubles, she was such a joyous character and a great friend - loyal, kind, caring and supportive. She made me laugh throughout and I loved her friendship with Lizzie. All the characters in this book were interesting and memorable and because of this, whilst the author does justice to the story of Lizzie and Roman, she has also ensured that they aren't the only characters I'm thinking of now the book is sadly finished.

I could truly rave about Somewhere Close to Happy all day. It's such a thought-provoking, brilliant debut novel. I seriously cannot wait to read more from Lia Louis.




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