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.

Tuesday 6 November 2018

Review | The Rest of Me by Katie Marsh

Published by Hodder on July 26, 2018

The Rest of Me is a relatable book that will make you want to keep your family close - a sincere reminder to live every moment of your life and not let it pass you by. True to form, Katie Marsh's fourth novel delivers an emotion-charged, heartfelt and honest story that had me wrapped up in its every word.

This is a thought provoking book from the start, with an important message weaved in throughout. At the beginning of the book, Alex is donating a kidney to her husband Sam. Whilst she gives Sam his health back, Alex struggles to get back on her feet and is faced with difficulties at work, difficulties keeping her family on track and difficulties facing the demons from her past.

Alex is really easy to identify with. She writes to-do list after to do-list and is always busy, always trying to be productive. But as she spends her time working, her family's lives are changing around her. Sam has a new lease of life after his kidney op and is realising an ambition of his. Their teenage daughter Jenna is growing up faster than her mum and dad can keep up with and is obsessing over an older boy. And their youngest Izzy is obsessing over her love of Arsenal football club, with secrets she is keeping from everybody. The family felt really authentic and all of them had traits you could relate to. As the lives of all four characters are changing, the book is full of moments that made me laugh and smile and moments that made me stop and think and feel every emotion along with Alex, Sam, Jenna and Izzy.

The book is told from the perspectives of both Alex and Izzy, written in alternating chapters interspersed with Alex's various to-do lists. Whilst Alex's life feels like it is falling apart, and her daughter Izzy is going through some tough times of her own, I loved the contrast between their chapters. Izzy was so optimistic and exited about her future, about football, that it was so easy to root for her and her dreams. Her voice was very different to Alex's and Katie Marsh excelled in writing from the perspective of both a mother and young daughter. Their are tender links between the life of Izzy and the life of her mum's when they were a similar age, and I found this to be really fascinating and touching.

I loved every moment spent reading The Rest of Me. Katie writes with sensitivity and a refreshing honesty. It was easy to become engrossed in the book as it was so believable and the characters felt so real and true to life. I was rooting for the entire family throughout and unlike a lot of other novels of a similar genre, I was never entirely sure how things would work out for them all come the end. The Rest of Me is an inspiring book that shows the value of truly living in the moment and making peace with the past.

Many thanks to Hodder for sending me a copy of The Rest of Me to review.

Monday 5 November 2018

Review | The Cliff House by Amanda Jennings

Published by HQ on May 17, 2018

The Cliff House is beautifully atmospheric right from the start and this lured me into the prose and had me engrossed in the book from page one. Amanda Jennings' fourth novel is a one-more-chapter kind of read and when I did have to put the book down I couldn't wait to pick it back up again. All of Amanda's books have differed in style but I love how each time I pick up one of her books I am completely taken in and each one feels even better than the last one. The Cliff House drew me in as the haunting Cornwall setting came to life on the pages.

The author delivers a powerful portrait of grief within the characters of Tamsyn and her mother, brother Jago and grandfather. Each one of them is experiencing grief differently and it is thought-provoking and at times chilling to discover the depths to the grief and obsession observed within the pages of this brilliant book. From wanting to make the missing piece of their family proud, to wanting to keep their memories and dreams alive, and all the little intricacies in between, the characters in this book and their feelings are very believable and well drawn.

The Cliff House itself is central to the obsession and longing in this book. To sixteen year old Tamsyn, the house on the cliff's edge, which she keeps a close eye on through her binoculars, is the place which reminds her of her dad, who she is grieving for. It is a place where she feels like she is close to him, but it is also the place where the Davenports live, and they fascinate Tamsyn. To Tamsyn, they are the perfect family. When she meets Edie Davenport, she can't understand why she isn't made up with her life. She's living in this fantastic property with her two alive-and-well parents, and though they befriend each other, Tamsyn cannot see the imperfections in the Davenport's lives that Edie sees.

I loved how the lives of Tamsyn and Edie intertwined and how as the reader I could observe the Davenport family along with Tamsyn whilst picking up on the not-so-perfect things about them that she doesn't seem to notice. The author shows that whilst you may think you know what other people's lives are like from the outside, everybody feels things differently and Tamsyn's impression of the Davenport family from obsessing over them wasn't the same as it felt actually living as a member of the family in the Cliff House.

Tension is evocatively built in this novel and it was an absolutely fascinating book which lead to the bags under my eyes as I spent a few nights awake thinking about everything I'd read. There was a haunting feel to The Cliff House. I couldn't get enough of the Cornwall setting and how the author builds it up so vividly that you feel the crashing of the waves and the lingering of the ravens as you read it. The suspense builds beautifully throughout and with it, the anticipation to see how everything ends also crept up on me as I was running out of pages in the book left to read. As with all of this author's books, I would highly recommend the read. The Cliff House is a lingering, unsettling and breathtakingly good book.

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

Friday 2 November 2018

Review | Truly, Wildly, Deeply by Jenny McLachlan

Published by Bloomsbury on March 8, 2018

Jenny McLachlan is my go-to author for heartfelt and uplifting young adult fiction and Truly, Wildly, Deeply was just the book I was hoping for. I loved this book right from the start as we meet Annie who is a spirited and funny character. Annie has cerebral palsy and so one thing she really craves is her independence. That's why she is looking forward to college, a place which gives her her freedom and less rules and instructions. She can't wait for new adventures to begin. After all, Annie doesn't see herself as the "disabled" name she is called because of her cerebral palsy and use of a wheelchair. Annie doesn't let anything hold her back.

I loved Annie and her will for adventure. She is a character that took me no time to warm to. She's strong, sassy and independent, and she definitely has no interest in falling in love. But then she meets Fab.

Fab was the sweetest character. He was so energetic and entertaining and some of the things he did and came out with made me laugh throughout. Annie was certain she was not going to fall for him, not going to "be his girl" as Fab would say. She saw relationships as a way of losing your independence. She didn't want to be Fab and Annie. She wanted to be Annie. But as the reader I could easily see why she would be drawn to Fab and his full-of-life character as he was a joy to read about.

Jenny's characters are always entertaining and I loved the cast in this book too. Not only Annie and Fab but their college friends and Annie's mum were also great characters to read. I enjoyed the relationship between Annie and her mum who had a great bond and understanding of each other. A lot of teen books are full of drama and conflict between the protagonist and their parents but Truly, Wildly, Deeply showed a much more refreshing and positive side to family, which I enjoyed reading about. I also loved Annie's group of college friends who weren't huge parts to the story but added humour throughout.

There was nothing for me to dislike about Truly, Wildly, Deeply. It was a sweet story with diversity and a cute contemporary romance. I haven't read Wuthering Heights which is mentioned a lot in this book, so sometimes I was a little lost by the references, but the author kept me engaged throughout. Full of comedy, adventure and all the feels. Truly, Wildly, Deeply had me smiling from beginning to end.

Thursday 1 November 2018

Review | Darling Blue by Tracy Rees

Published by Quercus on November 1, 2018

Darling Blue is the first book I have read by Tracy Rees but I am determined that it wont be my last. It was a mesmerising, beautifully written novel with an eye-catching blurb that delivered in the 500+ pages that followed.

In Darling Blue, we meet Blue herself on her 21st birthday. In a grand party, Blue's dad Kenneth makes a big speech declaring his plan to rid her of her single status. He tells all the guests at the party that anybody who wins Blue's heart with an anonymous love letter could have her hand in marriage. Blue doesn't stay mad at her dad for long, after all, nobody is really going to send her a letter to try and win her heart. If anybody was interested, they would approach the matter normally, surely. But it doesn't take long at all before Blue receives her first love letter.

I loved the unusual concept of this book. It had me fascinated throughout. As soon as I saw the blurb, I knew I wanted to read the book and it did not disappoint one bit. It was absolutely captivating and a surprising read which kept me up long into the night reading. The pacing and the building of the characters and their stories was spot on, moving and engaging with the perfect amount of drama that had me absorbed all the way through.

Darling Blue is not simply the story of Blue. We also follow two other leading characters in Midge and Delphine. I warmed to Midge straight away. When we meet her, she is feeling a little bit disillusioned with her marriage to Kenneth, but she fears being pushed aside and losing everything - her husband, her step daughters and her home - if she speaks up. In contrast to Midge, Delphine, rather than feeling left behind in her relationship, has felt the suffocation of hers. All three of these women have their flaws and they are not cookie-cutter, overly likeable people, which kept me interested in their stories.

The book is set in the 1920s and I loved the setting. It was evocatively written. From the beginning, the feeling of being by the river, of seeing and hearing the ducks helped me both relax into the book and picture it vividly, as it was an appealing setting to me. The authors descriptions were subtle but attentive and a lot of the details were told really beautifully. The atmosphere and the representation of life for different women in the 1920s were both also portrayed well by the author who delivered a well-rounded and very strong book.

Darling Blue was a book I didn't want to put down. I enjoyed every chapter and was sad when it came to an end. I am looking forward to reading more from Tracy Rees.

Many thanks to Ella Patel at Quercus for sending me a copy of Darling Blue to review.

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