Saturday, 27 September 2014

The French For Christmas

Evie used to LOVE Christmas, but this year she can’t wait for the tinsel and presents to be a distant memory. 

When her best friends offer the use of their cottage in the beautiful French countryside, Evie jumps at the chance. With her soon-to-be-ex-husband, celebrity chef Will Brooke, plastered over the news with his latest ‘love interest’, leaving the country seems like the perfect plan. 

Armed with her French grandmother’s tattered notebook of recipes, Evie is determined to ignore Christmas altogether and bake herself back to happiness. 

And when Evie meets her next-door neighbour – the très gorgeous doctor Didier she finds a very willing taste-tester. But is it possible that he could be interested in more than just her Tarte Tatin

With snow falling, a special Réveillon dinner and a little Christmas magic in the air, could Didier even be the one to thaw Evie’s heart? Or will a visit from the ghost of Christmas past change everything? 

I've not read any of the "French" books before so wasn't sure what to expect. It certainly isn't your average chick lit. I don't think I will give too much away to say that the main character lost a baby, and this is portrayed so vividly that I had to choke back tears (on public transport too!). The issue of the loss is dealt with very sensitively and there are lots of insightful musings by the main character on this topic and life in general.
I loved the references to cooking and for me that made the book - at the end I was in a will she won't she tussle and couldn't decide which way it would end. I'll leave that for you to discover.
This title is yet to be published and I read it courtesy of NetGalley.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Help for the Haunted

I'm a guest reviewer today over on Shaz's Book Blog where I'm reviewing Help for the Haunted by John Searles.

It begins with a call one snowy February night. Lying in her bed, fourteen-year-old Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation: helping 'haunted souls' find peace. And yet something in Sylvie senses that this call is different from the others, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church's red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep, only to wake to the sound of gunfire.
As the story weaves back and forth through the years leading up to that night and the months following, the ever-inquisitive Sylvie searched for answers and uncovers secrets that have haunted her family for years . . .

I’ve never read any books by John Searles, but I was attracted to the book by the  quote on the cover from Gillian Flynn – the author of “Gone Girl”, which I absolutely loved reading.
This is a difficult review to write, because I am not one for giving out spoilers on books, and so much of what I want to write could give the game away.
It’s true to say the book is a part psychological thriller and part a story of the paranormal, I must  admit to being a little scared of reading this book at night. The author writes to great effect – letting your mind run wild on its own, as he hints at what’s happening, rather than penning outlandish tales of the paranormal. The quality of the writing is superb, I so love a book when you just make no effort to read it, it’s like you’re really there. Searle’s writing just flows, you feel for his characters and I even got a little protective over some of them. Unusually for a thriller the author really takes time to give the characters dimension.
The story is told back and forth through the years, a style which is so often over used by author’s these days. However, in this case it actually added value to the story. Once you got used to the style and where the book was going it was as easy to go the past as continue into the future.
I had a few theories of my own about how this book would end. I’ve read a lot of books where I have been disappointed to have guessed the ending – not so with this book. It kept me guessing right to the end, and I was actually gasping out loud as the story unfolded towards the end of the book – always the sign of a good book for me!

So, if you like Gone Girl I would give this a read. I’ll definitely be looking for more books by this author.
I'd like to thank Sharon for inviting me to guest review on her blog and Kirsteen at Little Brown for sending the copy of the book.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Life after Life

What if you had the chance to live your life again and again, until you finally got it right?

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath.

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.

What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, Kate Atkinson finds warmth even in life's bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here she is at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.
In my last post I wrote about how The Luminaries had taken me sooo long to read. Life after Life is another lengthy book, but I learnt my lesson about reading books on the Kindle that skip around through time. So, I bought the paperback as well as the download. Well, if I am honest I bought the book by mistake as I had forgotten I had downloaded it to read at a later date!

Anyway, I love books that have alternative endings, alternative times like the Time Travellers Wife, so I was really looking forward to this book. I started off with the paperback, switching to the Kindle when I was travelling. This enabled me to skip back to parts of the book to check/review previous chapters.

It's I'm sorry to say another book I nearly gave up on. The main character dies several times in the book, in many different "what could have been" scenarios - think Sliding Doors. About three quarters of the way through I was beginning to wish she just died and stayed dead. I think the author was a little self indulgent in how many different scenarios she wrote, as some differed minutely from others. 

What I did enjoy was the social history side of this book. The book is set partly in WW2 and the retelling of the main characters war efforts were particularly interesting.
I do know of another reader who did give up on this book - so pleased I made it to the end.
If you really want to read a well written book with a "life after life" scenario then I point you towards the excellent Replay by Ken Grimwood (1944-2003), read it you won't be sorry.

I'm only just starting out on the book blog road and I have too many books to read to make the blog look any better right now - but in time I will expand.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

The Luminaries

Image of The Luminaries
It is 1866, and Walter Moody has come to make his fortune upon the New Zealand goldfields. On arrival, he stumbles across a tense gathering of twelve local men, who have met in secret to discuss a series of unsolved crimes. A wealthy man has vanished, a whore has tried to end her life, and an enormous fortune has been discovered in the home of a luckless drunk. Moody is soon drawn into the mystery: a network of fates and fortunes that is as complex and exquisitely patterned as the night sky.
The Luminaries is an extraordinary piece of fiction. It is full of narrative, linguistic and psychological pleasures, and has a fiendishly clever and original structuring device. Written in pitch-perfect historical register, richly evoking a mid-19th century world of shipping and banking and goldrush boom and bust, it is also a ghost story, and a gripping mystery. It is a thrilling achievement and will confirm for critics and readers that Catton is one of the brightest stars in the international writing firmament.

I normally read at least 40+ books a year. This year as Shelfari helpfully tells me "I'm behind my pace". This is the book that did that to me, it took soooo long to read.
I know it is an awarding winning book - however IMO....
This book is so long that I nearly gave up on reading it to the end. The first half is the retelling of the same story from the different viewpoints of each of the characters, which I don't think quite works in a book of this length. If you could read it over a few days then you would remember who said what, also, reading it on the kindle meant I couldn't retrace what I had read easily either. 
The beautiful writing is what kept me going, akin to Wilkie Collins.  After I reached half way I couldn't put it down as the story had picked up by then. 

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The road between us

When I finished this amazing book after a few minutes I just began to sob, as the complexities of what I had just finished reading all sank in. I’m not going to outline the plot because the book blurb does that but just to say that two stories one set in 1940’s and one in 2012 seem so unconnected at first, then there are tenuous links and then they rush together at the end, with the full impact of them combining and hitting you.
To read the book is almost effortless, it’s like a story being told to you by an old friend. It has an almost autobiographical feel to it, like the author really lived and saw these scenes he describes. The writing is captivating, even though at times the storyline is gruesome and too vivid and gory to want to read, you do read it because it draws you in. I found myself thinking about the book when I wasn’t reading it. 
I couldn’t put this book down and read it over 4 days whilst travelling to and from work – which is my usual reading time, but then in the evenings too as I couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.
I’ve never read anything by this author before, but I am now going to search out his other work, because if it is as good as this, it should not be missed.