Tuesday 17 February 2015

Review ~ Hopelessly Devoted to You by Jill Steeples.

Title: Hopelessly Devoted to You.
Author: Jill Steeples.
Publisher: Carina.
Genre: Contemporary Romance.
Publication Date: August 14, 2014.
Source: Netgalley.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

Meet Ruby’s fiancé, Finn. He’s gorgeous, thoughtful, successful and adoring – pretty much anyone could ever want in a man.

In fact, he’s perfect. The catch? He’s just not perfect for her. But when Ruby finally plucks up the courage to come clean, Finn’s so furious that he misses his footing as he runs down the stairs – and suddenly, it’s not just his heart that’s broken!

When Finn wakes up, he can’t remember a thing. Not that Ruby dumped him – not even that they were ever engaged! It’s on the tip of Ruby’s tongue to come clean, but somehow, it never seems to be the right time... And as the weeks pass, she sees a new side to Finn. Arrogant and a shameless flirt, he’s irresistibly bad, and the chemistry between them is explosive!

It’s not that Ruby’s lying… she’s just withholding the truth. And seeing as things are going so well, perhaps there’s no need for Finn to have his memory jogged… The trouble is, there’s every chance that Finn might remember for himself!

Hopelessly Devoted to You is quite an original contemporary romance novel, with a beautiful cover and an interesting story to go with. It’s the first Jill Steeples book I’ve read and I loved her fresh, bubbly writing which keeps the story entertaining and the plot here was really fascinating. The main character Ruby’s wedding to her perfect fiancé is quickly approaching and whilst Finn is the guy so many women would consider themselves lucky to marry, Ruby is trying to gain the courage to break it off as she’s not in love with him. As she finally breaks the news to Finn, an argument ensues followed by Finn tripping down the stairs, ending up in a coma which results in a change of personality and the kind of memory loss, when he wakes up, that sees him forgetting all about their last conversation. The author writes some thought-provoking themes in a fairly light-hearted, amusing manner which is the reason why I read this book in less than a day.

I had mixed feelings on this book and even writing this review almost a week after finishing it, I’m still not that sure what I think about it. I really liked the beginning. When we meet Ruby, she’s contemplating breaking up with Finn and her indecisiveness was kind of comical and I thought she’d be a character I’d really connect with. However, I soon began to find her indecisiveness turn to cowardice and though I’m sure she meant no harm, to leave it this late to tell her husband-to-be she has never been in love with him, felt harsh and unfair. Once Finn wakes from his coma, with no knowledge of what Ruby had previously told him, her feelings towards Finn appeared to change and I found her panic at the prospect of him remembering funny to read and whilst I didn’t really like her character, I still found this book a really easy read.

I genuinely liked the sound of the concept, else I wouldn’t have chosen to read it, but I’m just not so sure how I felt about it after I’d read it. Finn seemed purely lovely and okay, that should never be the basis for a marriage if you’re not in love with them, but I couldn’t really buy into Ruby feeling more for Finn after his fall down the stairs, when he was rude and cutting and honestly a bit of an arse. Sure, she liked his new accent but how she could like his personality with an attitude like that, I just didn’t understand. Maybe it’s just me but I didn’t really get it – if I was going to break up with someone and then I kind of caused them to end up in hospital, yes I’d feel guilty but the moment they started acting the way Finn did, I really don’t think I’d stick around, let alone think maybe there is a future there. It’s not that I disliked the author’s writing (actually, I’ve since bought one of her previous books), but I just could not understand either character’s motives or see how a chance at a relationship for them both should even have been considered. I didn’t understand the sudden change in feelings and I much preferred reading nice Finn.

The issue with actually rating and reviewing Hopelessly Devoted to You is that whilst I was not keen on the way the concept worked, I still really enjoyed reading the book. It was an effortless read and a unique story that was difficult to stop reading – I don’t think I ever did, in fact, not until the end. I liked the beginning and in a strange kind of way which doesn’t really make sense considering my feelings on the main story, I enjoyed the end too. It did get better for me, especially when it became a little tense waiting to see if Finn’s memory of that event would come back or if Ruby was going to get the kind of ending she was hoping for. Hopelessly Devoted to You is a fun story filled with twists and a little bit of suspense. The two main characters will leave an impression on you, whether it’s a good or a bad one, and the book provides a charming, captivating turn of events that will ultimately have you questioning what you would do in their position.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

Monday 16 February 2015

Review ~ My So-Called (Love) Life by A.L. Michael

Title: My So-Called (Love) Life.
Author: A.L. Michael.
Publisher: Carina UK.
Genre: Chick Lit.
Publication Date: February 9, 2015.
Source: Netgalley.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

Meet Tigerlily James: romance cynic, North Londoner and die-hard margarita fan.

Tigerlily James has been a member of the Young and Bitter Club ever since she was dumped on Valentine’s day. By her fiancé.

Surviving on a diet of cynicism and margarita-fuelled ‘Misery Dinners’ with her best friends, she’s become a romance free zone…and that’s the way she likes it. Until an invitation for The Ex’s wedding arrives. Suddenly in need of a plus one, Tig has little choice but to bin the takeaways, ditch the greying underwear collection…and start pretending to view the opposite sex as something other than target practise.

Then, she meets Ollie – ie. the perfect solution. No sex. No strings. Fake boyfriend. The only catch is that she has to pretend to be his girlfriend for three whole months.

Dating without the heartbreak: the best idea Tig’s ever had, right? Wrong!

I’ve spent most of February reading disappointing books and losing my interest in picking up a book altogether, but thankfully, My So-Called (Love) Life was a wonderful reminder of why I love to read. This book made me smile, it made me swoon and laugh and want to crawl right into the lives of these characters. It helped me forget about my problems and it made me happy. I really loved this book and I want to read it all over again.

Tigerlily is the protagonist here and she is a fabulously entertaining, likeable character. Tig spent most of her life with Darren, a complete jerk who dumped her five days before their wedding for the most ridiculous reason going. So months later after she receives an invite to his wedding - why? - the only option is of course to down half a bottle of wine. She soon finds herself confiding in the new, chaotic barman Ollie, who is freaking gorgeous by the way, and leaves that night with a fake boyfriend. Perfect.

OK – the story sounds kind of crazy but this is a brilliant, uplifting book. I loved the characters. Tig and Ollie are actually some of my complete favourite book characters and I adored the interaction between them, the banter and the flirting and the honesty and the way they had each other laughing almost constantly really added some sparks to this novel which in turn brightened up my mood. Tig was an endearing character who always puts a brave face on things, despite her inner battles with self-confidence and chasing her dreams. I think she’d be easy to relate to for a lot of readers and I loved seeing her spirit and her character grow, with the help of her friends and Ollie.

Tig, Ame and Dana are best friends who each have individual issues which are letting their friendship suffer. When they get on the same page and focus on what makes them get along so well anyway, they’re such a laugh to read. Their friendship is very real, with honesty even at the most brutal of moments, the caring side to each of them but also they’re the kind of friends who aren’t afraid to give each other a kick in the right direction when it is needed. It’s just genuine. I mean, there’s only so many times you can listen to someone complain about the same issue without them ever trying to do anything to fix it. There comes a point where you have to be frank and tell them what you really think. A.L. Michael represents a very real kind of friendship perfectly.

Then there is Ollie. I think I fell completely in love with a character in a book and I’m not ashamed to say so! Ollie was funny and kind and beautiful and thoughtful and way too bloody perfect on the outside for Tig to comprehend, but as far as temporary fake boyfriends go, he was a pretty fine choice. I could never quite work out if he was going to come out with some groundbreakingly shocking info about his past to make him not the kind of guy most women would love to ‘know’ themselves, but it was fun finding out. I really, really loved reading the chemistry between Ollie and Tig and it was sweet to see him showing Tig parts of a relationship she never got to see with her twattish ex-boyfriend. I wasn’t jealous at all.

My So-Called (Love) Life was one of those books I just happened to read at the right time which completely lifted my mood and made me feel and smile and want to start reading again. It’s a fun, spirited story gorgeously told yet with so many moments to laugh at in a book that is light-hearted but also relevant and meaningful. I dare you to read this book without a huge grin on your face and without being completely taken in by at least one of the wonderful characters. My So-Called (Love) Life was just the kind of feel-good book I needed to read.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

Friday 13 February 2015

Stella Newman's Favourite Valentine's Dinner.

Stella's Favourite Valentine's Dinner
by Stella Newman

Valentine’s Day is all about love – and my greatest love is pasta, so on February 14th I know what I’ll be cooking. But which recipe to choose? Trying to pick one’s favourite pasta is like trying to pick one’s favourite child – impossible.

Susie, the heroine of my second novel, Leftovers, believes that pasta is like medicine - there’s a perfect one for any given malady. For example: your ex ran off two months ago with that girl he used to sit next to at work, and you’re still feeling a dull pain inside? Conchiglie with bacon, cream and peas – soothing, comforting, and with little bursts of sweetness hidden in the shells, to relieve the heartache. Or, it’s a Tuesday night, you’ve worked late, you’re tired and mildly jaded? Fusilli (little twirls of excitement) with pesto (easy, so you don’t have to labour over a hot stove) and Parmesan, which is a wonder drug, a panacea in dairy form.

Using the theory above, the decision-making becomes easier. Personally I wouldn’t go down the aphrodisiac route – asparagus and oysters don’t do much for me, in fact the only aphrodisiac that does is liquor. And pasta and liquor don’t make the best bedfellows (apart from Penne alla Vodka, but it’s really not that tasty.)

No - I’d opt for the classic feel-good, guaranteed-to-make-you-happy option: macaroni and cheese. Come on! It’s February, it’s cold outside, who doesn’t like melted cheese? Besides, if you’re in a relationship with someone who’s worth half their salt they won’t judge you for wanting to eat loads of carbs and fat.

It’s a special occasion, so the dish would have to be considerably luxed up. I’d push the boat out and use at least 3 cheeses, including a strong Cheddar. For extra decadence there’d be a baconish scenario –pancetta or lardons. And I’d sprinkle the top with crunchy garlic-buttery breadcrumbs for texture, colour contrast, and a final ‘ta da’ flourish.

And as for dessert? It would have to be warm chocolate brownies with vanilla ice cream. I love brownies so much I wrote a book about them. If you’d like to make the world’s best brownie, as featured in Pearshaped – then you can find my recipe here (but do make sure you use Bourneville, it really makes all the difference.)

Happy eating!


Title: The Dish.
Author: Stella Newman.
Publisher: Headline.
Genre: Women's Fiction.
Publication Date: February 12, 2015.

Purchase: Amazon UK

Love is on the menu. With a side order of lies.

When Laura Parker first crosses forks with Adam Bayley, she's only after one thing: his custard doughnut. But when she takes a closer look she sees a talented, handsome man who outshines the string of jokers she's been dating.

There's just one problem. Adam's job means Laura has to keep her job as restaurant critic for The Dish, a secret. Tricky for someone who prides herself on honesty.

Can the truth be put on ice long enough for love to flourish?

And how can you expect your boyfriend to be honest if you're not quite telling the truth yourself?

Stella Newman. Fiction has never tasted so good.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Review ~ Fragile Lies by Laura Elliot.

Title: Fragile Lies.
Author: Laura Elliot.
Publisher: Bookouture.
Genre: Women's Fiction.
Publication Date: February 13, 2015.
Source: Netgalley.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

His name is Michael Carmody.
He is a writer and a father.
His son is lying in a coma, fighting for his life.

Her name is Lorraine Cheevers.
She is an artist and mother.
An illicit affair has destroyed her marriage.

Michael is desperate to find the couple who left his son for dead, a victim of a hit and run.

Lorraine is desperate to start a new life for her and her daughter.

Michael and Lorraine are about to cross paths – damaged souls, drawn to one another.

They don’t know that their lives are already connected.

They don’t know the web of lies surrounding them.

They are each searching for the truth. But when they find it, it could destroy them both.

I love the synopsis for Fragile Lies. It’s simple, powerful and effective. It really drew my attention to the book and I was looking forward to reading a book full of suspense and twists but sadly, I really struggled to get into it. Fragile Lies was such a slow-burner of a novel, but I don’t even think slow-burner is the right word because it never seemed to get going for me. I struggled to keep myself interested in the novel and if it wasn’t for those little hints of intrigue and all the strong themes Laura Elliot has woven into this story, I would not have finished it as quickly as I did. I wanted to love this novel and I’d heard so many great things about this author before Fragile Lies, so much so I already had her previous books waiting on my Kindle. But this book wasn’t for me.

The prologue was thought-provoking and hinted at some of the themes Fragile Lies was about to explore, from adultery to lies and ill health. It sets the tone for the rest of the book and they were all weaved together well to create this story. My issue was with the characters. Michael is in a bad way after his son Killian is involved in an accident, leaving him in a coma. Lorraine is beginning a new chapter in her life, along with daughter Emily, after the breakup of her marriage. It’s not that I expected to love the characters, I don’t need to like the characters to like a book but I just didn’t even care about them or what was happening. I sympathised with Michael occasionally over his desperation at his son’s accident but that was it. There were more characters introduced but everyone just whined about their problems and I wasn’t bothered. I didn’t care about the affair or the other emotions explored. I was in anticipation of the connection between Michael and Lorraine but then was left disillusioned.

I liked the short chapters when Michael is talking to Killian and we really get to learn about the mentality of both characters and see some of Michael’s motives. I enjoyed it when the chapters were short and more to the point because there were moments when things dragged a little bit and the short chapters gave enough detail and kept the intrigue going too. Intrigue is the main thing which kept me going throughout Fragile Lies – I felt there was surely the promise that things might go too far, thing might kick off and that would get interesting. I’m not normally put off with a slower writing style but here… it was so frustrating because the story would have something that would grab me and I’d think this was the moment things were going to step up but then it faded. Nothing stole my attention and I carried on reading to get to the resolution but the ending felt like it had something missing too. If I’m honest, I found the book to be quite dull overall.

Fragile Lies is ultimately something a little different from a lot of books out there at the moment. It’s an intricate tale of choices and the consequences that come with them. There’s the odd tense moment and it’s a compelling concept, even though it didn’t really work out for me. Fragile Lies is a very character driven story and well, if you don’t like the characters, you’re not going to get much out of the book and unfortunately this was the way it went for me.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Review ~ Me & Mr J by Rachel McIntyre.

Title: Me & Mr J.
Author: Rachel McIntyre.
Publisher: Electric Monkey.
Genre: Young Adult.
Publication Date: January 29, 2015.
Source: Netgalley.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

Fifteen-year-old Lara finds her soulmate. There’s just one problem – he’s her teacher.

Lara's life has changed radically since her father lost his job. As the eldest, Lara tries to keep upbeat, and the one outlet for all her problems is her diary where she can be open about how dire everything is at home, and worse, the fact that she’s being horrifically bullied at school.

And then a shining light comes out of the darkness – the new young and MALE teacher, Mr Jagger. The one person who takes Lara seriously and notices her potential. The one person who is kind to her. The one person who she falls madly and hopelessly in love with. The one person who cannot reciprocate her feelings … can he?

Me & Mr J is the fascinating story of the life of Lara Titliss, a fifteen year old girl with an unfortunate surname, writing in her diary about her frankly dismal life. Lara has generally quite an upbeat outlook in her diary or at least brings a lot of humour regardless of the situation she’s in. I’m not a huge fan of books told in diary form but I really connected with Lara’s character and it was interesting getting into the mind of the teenager, as scary a prospect as that can be. I really loved this book – it covered a subject which was always set to divide people but told in a way that actually had me thinking about the real-life impact of the story being told and it all felt quite plausible, regardless of the circumstances. Me & Mr J is powerful, moving, emotive, funny and thought-provoking all in one, and I raced through it, eager to know how it would all end.

This novel covers two big themes, bullying and a student/teacher relationship, but bravely and intelligently links them together. We see straight away that Lara is bullied at school, pretty much just because she has ginger hair and her mum is a cleaner. I left school only a few years ago and pathetically, this is more than enough to cause someone to be bullied. When Lara is describing the bullying, some of the awful things the people at her school and the boy’s school were doing to her, it disgusted me and moved me all at the same time. I could probably relate to her situation a hell of a lot more than I like to think and it made me sad, seeing the way she was being treat and how she couldn’t do something normal like slip to the toilet or get the bus home without being cornered. Not that she didn’t have enough going on in her life as it was, without the whole school turning against her. I’m amazed she made it to school at all, knowing what she was letting herself into. The author wrote the bullying angle so realistically and I could picture it all happening, and sometimes it might feel a little extreme but believe me that doesn’t mean these things don’t happen. I loved Lara’s voice in this book – her telling of the daily occurrences was compelling. At times she did react and say stuff back to the bullies and at other times she would sit back and take it but that’s all perfectly normal and to me, believable. Stand up for yourself or stay quiet and they’ll soon leave you alone are two of the most common pieces of advice you would receive if you’re being bullied but neither work all that effectively.

Another common piece of advice… talk to someone. A teacher, a friend, a family member… Anyone. Lara feels like she has nobody to talk to about the bullies but soon her new nice, caring, understanding teacher Mr Jagger catches her eye and she finds someone who will give her the time of day. Mr Jagger is the only person who tells her how intelligent she is and tries to get her to respect herself and believe in herself. Lara wants to escape the bullies and spending more time with her new teacher seems like the best option, except she very quickly becomes enamoured with him. This was such a bold thing to write about and I think credit to the author’s characterisation because a student/teacher relationship is so, so wrong and yet I found it difficult accepting that, in the book, because I loved both Lara and Mr Jagger and so yes I knew it was completely wrong but I still wanted happy endings for both these characters. I don’t even care how bad that sounds, this story just had me so involved in these characters lives, wishing for a world where bullies doesn’t exist and people could just be happy and let’s face it, if Lara wasn’t being bullied, she would have wanted to spend all her time with her friends and not her teacher, however cute he was.

An uncomfortable topic to read maybe but I really, really enjoyed Me & Mr J. It covers grim subjects but it’s not a wholly depressing book. There’s some sweeter moments and some humour and just a really good story. Teenage girls are always going to make mistakes but what can they take from those mistakes? I loved the ending, it was a fitting way to end the story, but I guess with so many strong and memorable characters it was hard for me to feel completely satisfied with the end as there were some people I’d like to know how things turned out for and some loose ends to be tied up. But honestly, a book hasn’t moved me and messed me up like this one did for a long time! Such a stunning debut novel and I can’t wait for more from this author.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

Monday 9 February 2015

Author Interview ~ Kerry Fisher.

Today I'm really excited to be sharing my interview with the wonderful Kerry Fisher! Kerry's debut novel The School Gate Survival Guide was one of my favourite reads last year and now she's here to tell us a bit more about it and what's coming next.

Hi Kerry – thanks for joining us! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I write funny, contemporary fiction about ‘real’ women with ordinary lives, who struggle with relationships, children, finances and all the millions of things women need to do to stop their lives descending into chaos! Outside of writing, I am mum to two teenagers, wife to a very tolerant man and owner of a naughty Lab/Giant Schnauzer. And I love cooking!

Can you give us a little insight into your debut novel The School Gate Survival Guide, for those who haven’t read it yet?

It’s a funny novel about school gate snobbery – the story of cleaner, Maia, who receives an inheritance to send her children to a posh private school but has no money to live the lifestyle of the parents. It’s about the gulf between her life of brooms and bailiffs and some of the other mums whose biggest disaster is a delayed Ocado delivery or a smudged pedicure.

When I read The School Gate Survival Guide, what stood out for me was the fantastic host of characters. How much fun were those characters to write and what inspired them?

Clover – the trust fund hippy – was great fun to write – she’s got a generous heart, a fondness for bad language and a total disregard for what anyone thinks about her. Clover is the woman I’d be if I wasn’t worried about embarrassing my children. Maia, the cleaner, is feisty and funny with her observations about what makes up a middle-class life. The kernel of her character came from when I lived in Italy in a very hand-to-mouth fashion, working three different jobs and always worrying about money. I never stood up to my bosses because I needed the work too badly.

Have you had any feedback from your readers about their own school-gate experiences?

The most frequent comment is that they know a ‘Jen1’ – the stuck-up woman who looks down on everyone else, even judging people by the sort of biscuits they bring to a coffee morning. I also often get asked ‘Where can I find a Mr Peters?’ – the gorgeous Head of Upper School.

I’m really fascinated by your journey from being a self-published author to becoming a traditionally-published author. How much does being traditionally-published differ from being self-published?

A major difference is that when I was self-published I only had my own expectations to meet. I have a greater sense of responsibility now as my publishers have had so much faith in me, I would hate to let them down. Being traditionally published has led to an unhealthy obsession with Amazon rankings!

Without the know-how of Avon, HarperCollins behind me, I don’t think I’d ever have managed to get The School Gate Survival Guide stocked in Tesco, Asda and WH Smith. The same goes for foreign rights – my agent has sold my novels to Germany and Brazil and the thought of trying to accomplish that on my own makes me want to hide in a wardrobe.

However, it’s not a question of writing the book and handing it over to the publishers to do the rest, though undoubtedly, it’s a real support to have my editor to discuss ideas with and to benefit from her knowledge of the publishing world. I’m still working just as hard – if not harder - at marketing but being able to say that The School Gate Survival Guide is published by HarperCollins gives me more confidence to approach libraries, writing festivals and book shops.

One thing that hasn’t changed is how embarrassing I find it when people I know tell me they are reading my book!

Now The School Gate Survival Guide is published by Avon; Harper Collins, I would assume you get to hear a lot of feedback from your readers and excitedly spot it sitting out on actual shop shelves. I’ve also just spotted it’s picked up over 200 five star reviews on Amazon UK. What’s the one thing you love the most about being a published writer?

Without a shadow of a doubt, hearing from the lovely readers who take the time to contact me on Facebook or write reviews on Amazon/Goodreads. I had one woman write to tell me she has rheumatoid arthritis but for the time she was reading my book, she got so involved in the story that she forgot about her pain. I was really touched by that.

What advice would you give to any aspiring writers reading this?

Unless you are a genius, you’ll need to learn how to write a novel – take creative writing courses, go to workshops, listen to authors speak. Commit to writing a certain number of words every day. Accept rejection is part of the process (It was part of my process for five years!) Come to terms with the fact that you’ll have to believe in yourself for a long time before anyone else does – that might include friends and family. Don’t take it personally. Be generous-spirited and network like mad anywhere that you can meet other authors and agents.

I’m really looking forward to your second book being released later this year.

Hot off the press news is that my new novel is going to be released on 21 May but the title is yet to be confirmed. When I was writing it, I thought of it as the story of whether one woman’s marriage can survive her best friend’s divorce but more broadly, it’s a novel about how our lives never turn out the way we think they will when we project forward aged twenty!

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m just coming to the end of book three – it’s a story about how keeping a secret can be worse than telling the truth. The main characters live in fear of being judged by others and their secret becomes bigger and more toxic as it passes down the generations.

Do you get a lot of time to read in between your writing? Any great books you’ve read recently that you can recommend?

I don’t watch TV (except Downton!) so I sit in the kitchen with the dog reading most nights while my teens watch all manner of rubbish. I’ve read some fabulous books - most recently, The Judas Scar by Amanda Jennings, The Lie of You by Jane Lythell, The Missing One by Lucy Atkins, The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman, Mesmeris by Karen Coles, The Broken by Tamar Cohen…

You’re about to wake up to a tweet from an author to tell you they’ve read and loved The School Gate Survival Guide. Who’d be the dream author to send you that tweet?

I am a huge fan of all JoJo Moyes’ books – she’s brave and versatile in the subjects she covers. I saw her speak at the York Festival of Writing and she was so down to earth and modest despite her huge success. I would be absolutely thrilled if she loved my book.

Title: The School Gate Survival Guide.
Author: Kerry Fisher.
Publisher: Avon.

Purchase: Amazon UK

Maia is a cleaner for ladies who lunch. With mops and buckets in tow, she spends her days dashing from house to house cleaning up after them, as they rush from one exhausting Pilates class to the next.

But an unusual inheritance catapults her and her children into the very exclusive world of Stirling Hall School – a place where no child can survive without organic apricots and no woman goes a week without a manicure.

As Maia and her children, Bronte and Harley, try to settle into their new life, Maia is inadvertently drawn to the one man who can help her family fit in. But is his interest in her purely professional? And will it win her any favours at the school gate?

A hilarious, straight-talking read for anyone who's ever despaired at the politics of the school run.

Sunday 8 February 2015

Review ~ The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne.

Title: The Ice Twins.
Author: S.K. Tremayne.
Publisher: Harper.
Genre: Psychological Thriller.
Publication Date: January 29, 2015.
Source: Netgalley.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars.

Purchase: Amazon UK

One of Sarah’s daughters died. But can she be sure which one? A terrifying psychological thriller that will chill you to the bone.

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past – what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

I’d been really excited to read The Ice Twins ever since the moment I first saw it mentioned on Twitter. Photos of the proof copy on Twitter showed a great teaser which had me instantly desperate to get my hands on it:

I am Kirstie
I am Lydia

I am confident and loud
I am thoughtful and quiet

I lived
I died

Or did I?

I was massively intrigued by this. Just the thought of it… Being a parent of identical twins, having one of them tragically die so young and then the doubts over which twin it was that had died. It’s a horrific yet completely fascinating premise and the publisher has promoted this book wonderfully – there’s always somebody talking about this book online and every time I saw one of the teaser images for it, I really, really wanted to know whether it was Kirstie or Lydia who had died. I loved the fantastic concept to The Ice Twins and I was sure this was going to be a pretty incredible novel. But instead, I found it to be very disappointing – a novel with tons of promise of which none of it was ever delivered.

Sarah, Angus and Kirstie (or could it be Lydia) are a pretty dysfunctional family, still badly affected by the devastating loss of the other twin. Any sympathy I might have had for them never really surfaced because they’re both pretty unlikeable from the start, a couple I couldn’t imagine had ever been happy, both who have made bad choices with seemingly little regret. The Ice Twins mostly tells us Sarah’s perspective, and her life is turned on its head, again, when her surviving daughter asks her why she’s calling her Kirstie, when Kirstie is dead. That line was quite a powerful moment in the book, my expectations were high, but I soon felt deflated with the rest of the novel. Angus was not an easy character to trust but I never really found myself that suspicious of him either because his character felt flat and lifeless. I thought he needed a lot more development and maybe hearing more from his side would have done that, although I can’t say I would have cared enough about his feelings if the book was told in that way.

The twin creeped me out. Shortly into the book, the family move to a lighthouse keeper’s cottage set in Torran Island. This uproots the daughter and when she goes to her new school, I felt for her a bit because she was judged and found it impossible to make any friends. Most of the time though, I felt she was weird and whether she was Kirstie or Lydia, I wasn’t too enamoured with the thought of either of them. There were a few side characters who added little to the story, nothing that relevant or that made much sense anyway. The character I actually liked most was the dog, which was a kind of pitiful turnout really but that’s not me saying the author’s characterisation was that bad, the dog did genuinely have more personality than most of the cast with his reaction the strange circumstances this family were faced with. When the family moved to the desperately uninviting home set in such treacherous conditions, I actually worried more for the dog than I did the one remaining twin, Sarah or Angus.

The setting was very eerie and I liked the descriptions of the weather and the location. The writing was atmospheric and I would have loved to have seen a bit more of that, to give this book a more chilling edge that I found lacking. However, it was an aspect I enjoyed and the author makes sure you get a vivid picture of the strange place the family have moved to, especially with the inclusion of photos that broke up some of the chapters. I liked this idea. I don’t think it’s too common in fiction and it really added something extra to this book and left me considering what Angus’ motives were for moving his family to such an uncomfortable, cut-off area. The build-up of the setting was my favourite part of this novel.

It took me a little while to get into this story but once I did, I found it difficult to put down because I was in anticipation of some strongly delivered twists, strongly delivered twists which never really surfaced. I’m not saying there were no twists, this book had plenty of them, but I found them all a little dull and uninspiring. I was waiting to find them creepy, chilling, terrifying and everything of that kind but I didn’t. I’m surprised at that because I really expected to love this book. I read it in two settings and was sure that something would hit me and make me think that The Ice Twins was more than just an intriguing concept, but that’s as far as it went for me. The main twist towards the end was a bit of a letdown in my opinion. I didn’t guess it, as like a lot of this book it was unpredictable, but I had been expecting something a bit more shocking and this book could have been so much more than what it was. I didn’t mind that I had to suspend belief at times, in fact I would have taken suspending belief more if it brought some entertainment but I found it all just a little odd and lacking. There is a lot to talk about with The Ice Twins, so much more than I can say in a review where I don’t want to spoil anything. I think it would make an ideal book club pick and that everyone would differ in opinion. Personally I was left disappointed.

Review also posted on Goodreads | Amazon UK

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