Friday 29 March 2019

Review | Paper Dolls by Emma Pullar

Published by Bloodhound Books on March 21, 2019

I loved the look and sound of Paper Dolls instantly and knew it was a book I really wanted to read. The cover's brilliant and really drew me in, and Emma Pullar is a new-to-me author so I was looking forward to seeing if the book was as good as I thought it would be.

Paper Dolls is quite the character driven book. In alternating chapters, we meet three flatmates, Mike, Kerri and Bea, who are each frustrated in their lives and their careers. Mike is struggling to get and hold down a job he really wants. He is judged and turned down for roles he feels he is perfect for, and it is making him bitter and skint. Kerri is a journalist but she is yet to get her name to a hard-hitting story that could make her career. Until, one day she is led to something that could change everything. Bea is a writer of supernatural stories. She would love to be an author but never quite makes it, but when she gets a new agent, who is eager for a crime novel, things could be about to change...

The book begins with a dark and gruesome scene that sets the tone for the rest of the book, though the violent scenes from then on are few and far between. The way Paper Dolls is written - the way the chapters are set out - made for a compelling serial killer thriller as the chapters in between build up the suspense and the tension and the further into the book, the more it become an edge-of-the-seat, nail-biting read.

In all honesty to begin with, although straight away I was curious as to how things would develop with the serial killer, I struggled to invest much in the three flatmates stories. I wasn't drawn to them straight away, nor did I find any of them particularly fascinating characters, but the more I read of Paper Dolls, the more this began to change thanks to the author's wonderfully descriptive style of writing that I found thoroughly engaging from page one. Every scene in this book, every smell and sight and action, everything was written so vividly I could picture every moment unfolding in front of me. Every sentence lingered and had my imagination in overdrive because the scene was told in such an expressive way.

With every chapter the book got better and better. One more chapter was never enough as more things came to light and more clues were left as to what was to happen next. The pace and tension kept on rising and the more it did, the more hooked I became to the level that I set my alarm two hours early so I could finish the book undisturbed - weary-eyed but completely satisfied.

As far as the serial killer went, it was kind of unnerving being able to in a way get to see and sort-of-understand their motives. But as their list of victims increased, and the names became more familiar, I was always on the lookout for who could be next and wondering how long it would be before everything unravelled. The author keeps us on our toes with the serial killers' short, tension-filled chapters and whilst as I got further into the book I became more interested in Mike, Kerri and Bea, I was always eager to be back watching the serial killer in suspense, intrigued by what was going to happen next.

Paper Dolls is a sharp and incisive thriller, dark and intriguing. A true cancel-all-plans kind of read.

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.

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.

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.  

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.

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.

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