Monday, 11 March 2019

Review | The Newcomer by Fern Britton

Published by Harper Collins on March 7, 2019

The Newcomer is an enticing, evocatively written book which had me fascinated from beginning to end with interesting characters and an effortless flow to the writing that made it an ideal escapist read.

Early in the book we meet Simon and Penny and Angela and Robert. Simon is the parish vicar but he is leaving for a year and Angela is his replacement. Whilst the book then focuses on Angela and the job she is doing, it is also the people she meets that charm the reader as instead of simply following along with Angela's story, we get to know many other characters along the way in The Newcomer and they are a bundle of energy each with their own battles. The characterisation in this book is great.

Fern Britton transports the reader with ease to the beautiful Cornish village of Pendruggan with atmospheric descriptions of the setting and the full-of-life characters. It's an ideal read to take you away from real life and make you feel part of a different community for a while, invited in on the gossip shared between Mamie and Queenie, eyes opened for clues on the perpetrator of the cruel letters Angela receives, interest brewing at the attitude of Audrey and if she will soften towards the reverend or indeed anyone at all. The close-knit village feel in this book was full of warmth and positive energy and I really enjoyed getting to know all the characters.

Angela is a very driven and persevering character and as she faces many challenges during her time in Pendruggan, as the reader I was there rooting for her all the way. There are moments of sadness, humour, heart-warming friendships and a touch of the green eyed monster throughout the obstacles put in front of Angela and this made for an entertaining book as every chapter was fresh and engaging and every character (well, maybe except Audrey) was easy to care for and will a happy ending for.

Whilst I found myself really engaged in the characters created by the author, because of this I did wish we could have heard a bit more about how things were going for Simon and Penny as even in the short time we hear from them at the beginning of the book, I very quickly became invested in their story so I would have liked to have learnt a bit more and seen how things progressed for them. However, this didn't take away from what was a truly captivating book.

Though this was the first book by Fern Britton I have read, I do have a few more from the series already waiting for me on my bookshelves and my Kindle so I am looking forward to reading more from the author as The Newcomer was a lovely, absorbing read that beautifully encapsulated both the Cornwall setting and a close-knit village community. I will miss the characters.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Review | The Classroom by A.L. Bird

Published by HQ Digital on September 16, 2018

I bought this book purely based on the cover – I hadn’t even read the blurb when I one-clicked this onto my Kindle. So covers do sell books! The premise for The Classroom based simply on the cover and its tagline had me intrigued enough to make this my first read of 2019 and the storytelling didn’t disappoint in keeping me engrossed from the first page to the last.

The book is mostly told from the perspective of two main characters – Kirsten and Miriam. Kirsten and her husband Ian are parents to five-year-old Harriet. As Kirsten so desperately wanted a child and went through several years of IVF before Harriet was born, she is quite protective over her daughter and is struggling with the idea of Harriet starting school.

Miriam is a teacher at Harriet’s school, and the introduction of a breakfast club at the school suits Kirsten, as a busy working mum, perfectly. She can drop Harriet off at school earlier and watch how comfortable she feels under the care of her new teacher Miriam, and though there is something a bit off about Miriam, Kirsten is content that her daughter is safe at school.

What I especially liked about The Classroom was how it always kept me guessing. I found a lot of the characters’ actions to be unpredictable and this meant I began every chapter on tenterhooks, obsessed with finding out what was going to happen next. This was definitely the case when I reached Part 2 of the book as I raced through this part much quicker than I had even realised, eager to know what was to come.

This book had me divided – I just did not know whose side to pick as I had very conflicted feelings about both Miriam and Kirsten and in fact some of the other supporting characters too. They were interesting characters to read their side of the story from, as though neither of them were characters you’d really want to befriend in real life, I could understand some of the motives and actions for both of them and so this added to the suspense of the storytelling as not only did I not know how the book would end, I also didn’t know how I wanted it to end either.

Whilst I definitely enjoyed reading my first book from A.L. Bird, there were a few aspects of the storytelling that niggled me a bit but can’t really be mentioned much because of spoilers. I felt like there were a few dramatic scenes in the book that were kind of half started and then we were just told the rest of what had happened rather than being able to picture them and imagine them actually unfolding. Quite a few aspects of this book were pretty unbelievable, and so maybe if those scenes had been developed fully, I would have found them less distracting and been able to really buy into the tension that was lingering on the pages.

Despite this, I can’t say The Classroom wasn’t an absorbing book to read. I was engrossed and fascinated by every chapter, always with bated breath anxious to find out how everything would turn out in the end. I loved that I genuinely had no clue how the book would end. I didn’t know whether the story of the book could lead to any possible satisfying ending, but it was definitely a thought provoking one!

Monday, 4 March 2019

Review | A Version of the Truth by B P Walter

Published by Avon on February 7, 2019

Firstly I have to admit that I found A Version of the Truth to be a slowburner of a novel. To begin with it seemed unnecessarily wordy, slow and not at all like I had expected given all the excitement I had seen on social media which had had me so desperate to read it. But, if anybody else is finding it similar to me, struggling to get into the book after the first 50 or so pages, I would wholeheartedly recommend continuing the read as whilst at first I feared this wasn’t going to be the gripping, page-turning book I was craving, by the end I was wondering what to do with myself next as I’d grown so obsessed with the story that I’d finished it in one afternoon. The book may have taken a little time to warm up for me but once it did, I couldn’t get enough of it.

The timeline of the book alternates between 1990 where we meet Holly, a new student at Oxford University, and 2019, where we meet Julianne, whose son Stephen greets her with a horrific discovery he has made about her husband. I loved the way we were introduced to Julianne, right away we hear the news about her husband and this had me involved and interested in her straight away wondering if everything was as it seemed and what the outcome would be. The beginning to Holly’s perspective is mostly the reason why I didn’t connect with the book straight away as I found it took a bit longer to get to know her, but by the time I did I was very engrossed by both timelines and the little details that tied them together.

B P Walter’s debut novel had a wonderful way of building tension with the clever and sinister plot and the intertwining of the two timelines. The way Julianne and Holly’s paths were connected had me glued to the pages and the author’s storytelling, which was dark and ominous, ensured that this book was one that would remain in my thoughts long after I’d finished it. Once the book really began to pick up, the flow between the two timeframes was seamless and appeared skilfully written – nowhere near as stilted as it could have been given the almost thirty-year difference in time between both parts.

A Version of the Truth was undeniably disturbing to read and often realistic to a very unsettling degree. Whilst the book covered some shocking incidents, I found that what made the book even more uncomfortable, yet addictive, to read was just how scarily believable a lot of it was. From perceived political and economical power to the treatment of women, the divide between different levels of class and wealth, to judgments around sex and sexuality, this book mostly consists of characters and events that you could only wish didn’t exist in this world – but unfortunately a watch or read of the news proves otherwise. I could truly imagine each aspect of this book and that’s what made it all the more chilling and unputdownable.

A Version of the Truth got under my skin. It was menacing, disconcerting and truly compelling.

Many thanks to Sabah Khan at Avon for sending me a copy of A Version of the Truth to review.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Review | The Party by Lisa Hall

Published by HQ on July 12, 2018

The Party is Lisa Hall's third book. I haven't read the others yet so I didn't know what to expect from this one but it was a highly compelling, mind consuming and thoroughly absorbing read.

Rachel wakes up after a New Year's Eve party in a world of confusion as she feels uncomfortable about the events that she can't seem to remember. We try and piece the harrowing night together along with Rachel and as she discusses the party with the other guests, the book has an unsettling feel about it which had me eager to learn more.

The guest list for the party was that big it made for a book full of suspects and it was very engrossing following Rachel as she tries to come to terms with the events of a night she doesn't remember but somehow cannot forget. I had my suspicions early on and they proved true in the end but not without a few changes of heart in between. I definitely didn't warm to the majority of characters and disliked quite a few of them so it wasn't difficult to suspect more than just the one possible culprit, which made The Party very intriguing to begin with.

It seemed every character in the book had their own secrets to keep and it was fascinating following Rachel as she tries to uncover the truth of what happened that night as along the way we begin to find out the secrets people were so desperate to keep. Because there was so many characters of little help to Rachel, this was a book where I felt like nothing was as it seemed and I really enjoyed that element to the book as I just didn't know who to believe and at times whether anybody at all could be trusted. Although it felt at times that nobody seemed to believe that anything sinister could have happened to Rachel, the more I read the more I thought that everybody at the party was far more concerned with protecting themselves than even considering that Rachel needed help after her traumatic ordeal.

Lisa Hall's engaging storytelling was made very easy to be lured into and with each shifty character more questions were raised and although the sheer amount of secrets and hidden truths in this book meant that as a reader I still had unanswered questions after turning the final page, I quite enjoyed that element as it left me still thinking about The Party days after reading it. This was a memorable book with one of those endings that had me itching for more pages yet overall I think it worked well in its mystique. I would definitely recommend the read and will be reading more from Lisa Hall in future!

Many thanks to HQ for sending me a copy of The Party to review.

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