Saturday, 24 January 2015

What Alice Forgot - Liane Moriarty

What Alice Forgot, eBook EPUB

Alice is twenty-nine. She adores sleep, chocolate, and her ramshackle new house. She's newly engaged to the wonderful Nick and is pregnant with her first baby.
There's just one problem. All of that was ten years ago . .
Alice has slipped in a step-aerobics class, hit her head and lost a decade. Now she's a grown-up, bossy mother of three in the middle of a nasty divorce and her beloved sister Elisabeth isn't speaking to her. This is her life but not as she knows it
Clearly Alice has made some terrible mistakes. Just how much can happen in a decade
Can she ever get back to the woman she used to be?

This is a book from personal shelf which I’m reviewing. I got this book because I was alerted by eReader on Facebook when it was at a good price. Today they have an alert on another Liane Moriarty book - The Last Anniversary for £1.19 - which I just downloaded :) 

I’ve never read any Liane Moriarty books before, but based on this one – I will be reading more in the future (now guaranteed!).
The premise of the book is that Alice has bumped her head aged 39, when she comes around she thinks she’s pregnant and aged 29.
For some reason I couldn’t get into my head that the book was set in Australia. The first reference being to the number to call for emergency services, but time and again I thought it was set in the USA, until the next reference popped up.  I’m probably just so used to reading a lot of books set in the USA.
What intrigued me most about this book is how the 29 year old Alice became the one everyone knew and seemed to hate in today’s world. How people had changed beyond recognition to her and that her own Mother was now married to her now ex-Father in law. There were also some great moments where Alice does not know about modern technology - what a “text” is for instance. At first I thought this was odd as it was only ten years ago, then I realised that the author had not set the book 10 years back from today.
One of the author’s devices for the dialogue was to use a blog written by Alice’s “Grandmother” which added a different and hilarious dimension to the book.
The other device used was to have a sub-story by Alice’s sister told through her “therapy” diary. This part of the book was actually quite sad, especially when Alice doesn’t remember what her sister has been through over the past 10 years. In fact I would say that this forms about half of the dialogue of the book and is far from a sub-story, touching on some very real issues.

Finally – imagine not remembering you had given birth to 3 children and not even knowing their names – a great plot for a book and one that will stay with me for some time.

Monday, 19 January 2015

The Girl in the Photograph - Kate Riordan

When Alice Eveleigh arrives at Fiercombe Manor during the long, languid summer of 1933, she finds a house steeped in mystery and brimming with secrets. Sadness permeates its empty rooms and the isolated valley seems crowded with ghosts, none more alluring than Elizabeth Stanton whose only traces remain in a few tantalisingly blurred photographs. Why will no one speak of her? What happened a generation ago to make her vanish?
As the sun beats down relentlessly, Alice becomes ever more determined to unearth the truth about the girl in the photograph - and stop her own life from becoming an eerie echo of Elizabeth's . . .

The book begins with a great insight into the social history of the 1930s with a young girl becoming pregnant whilst unmarried. It then continues in this vein with a glimpse of an old country estate in the 1930s told through Alice’s eyes, and in the late 1890s told through Elizabeth’s eyes.
I felt there was going to be a great story brewing – with all the deep meaningful silences from Edith the housekeeper and also Ruck the gardener who appears out of the blue in a menacing manner.
About half way through I started to lose interest, but kept going when suddenly there was a link to Alice’s grandmother and I thought it was going to have a real twist of a plot. Unfortunately for me the book then began to get loose ends tied up in convenient ways and the whole “mystical” element disappeared. We learn the big “secret” and although it is tragic, to a 21st century mind it’s all rather tame.
I have to say that the writing itself is exquisite and this kept me going with the book, as I really felt a connection to Alice at least for the first half of the story. The book alternates between the 1930s and 1890s  although I found no confusion, as there can be with this kind of narrative, as to who was talking and when it was set. This was due to the clear demarcation within the book of the character headings.

My thanks go to Netgalley and Penguin Books (UK) for supplying a review copy of this book.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Claridges at Christmas - Karen Swan

Christmas at Claridge's
'This was where her dreams drifted to if she didn't blot her nights out with drink; this was where her thoughts settled if she didn't fill her days with chat. She remembered this tiny, remote foreign village on a molecular level and the sight of it soaked into her like water into sand, because this was where her old life had ended and her new one had begun.'
Portobello - home to the world-famous street market, Notting Hill Carnival and Clem Alderton. She's the queen of the scene, the girl everyone wants to be or be with. But beneath the morning-after makeup, Clem is keeping a secret, and when she goes too far one reckless night she endangers everything - her home, her job and even her adored brother's love.
Portofino - a place of wild beauty and old-school glamour. Clem has been here once before and vowed never to return. But when a hansome stranger asks Clem to restore a neglected villa, it seems like the answer to her problems - if she can just face up to her past.
Claridge's - at Christmas. Clem is back in London working on a special commission for London's grandest hotel. But is this really where her heart lies?

This is a book from my own personal shelf which I'm reviewing.

I've read a few Karen Swan books and really liked them and I have others on my shelf to read.
I was initially drawn to this book by the cover - and bought it in paperback rather than a kindle download so I could look at it all over Christmas as I read it. There the association with Christmas and Claridges ends for most of the book! So disappointed in that aspect of it, as I like a nice Christmas read once a year. I should have known better based on her book "Christmas at Tiffany's" but you know you can't stay in Tiffany's LOL!

Putting all that aside, this is a great story. Lots of intrigue and real life drama which you can easily visualise happening. Great characters that you feel you know by the end of the book. Until the Portofino part of the book - when it travels to the realms of another world, so a nice bit of escapism.
There's lots of meaningful glances and comments that go unexplained, setting a mystery trail and one I was very surprised at when it was revealed.
I particularly liked the fashion and business elements of the book and the London references.

One niggle for me and I know I am being picky - but you do not hit "send" when you sent a tweet. Surely the author must have tweeted before.

I'm aiming to read 50 books this year so look out for lots of reviews.

Friday, 2 January 2015

The Dress Shop of Dreams - Menna Van Praag

Since her parents’ mysterious deaths many years ago, scientist Cora Sparks has spent her days in the safety of her university lab or at her grandmother Etta’s dress shop. Tucked away on a winding Cambridge street, Etta’s charming tiny store appears quite ordinary to passersby, but the colorfully vibrant racks of beaded silks, delicate laces, and jewel-toned velvets hold bewitching secrets: With just a few stitches from Etta’s needle, these gorgeous gowns have the power to free a woman’s deepest desires.

Etta’s dearest wish is to work her magic on her granddaughter. Cora’s studious, unromantic eye has overlooked Walt, the shy bookseller who has been in love with her forever. Determined not to allow Cora to miss her chance at happiness, Etta sews a tiny stitch into Walt’s collar, hoping to give him the courage to confess his feelings to Cora. But magic spells—like true love—can go awry. After Walt is spurred into action, Etta realizes she’s set in motion a series of astonishing events that will transform Cora’s life in extraordinary and unexpected ways.

I admit the title of this book had me at "dress". I love fashion and sewing, for me this book didn't deliver quite enough of either. It's not really all about the dress shop but more about her Granddaughter Cora. There is also a heavy dose of magic and not much realism so be prepared to suspend your disbelief and enter a little part of wonderland. Misunderstandings also feature strongly in the book, I had to keep reminding myself that this would surely all work out ok in the end.  Around two thirds of the way through the book takes more of a whodunnit turn and I began to enjoy it for that element.
It's probably just me but I kept thinking the book was set in America, maybe the names and the fact that I don't know of any bookshops that serve Cherry pie! Each time Oxford or Cambridge was mentioned I got a reminder that this was indeed set in England.
I would love to visit a Street that had this wonderful dress shop and a bookshop serving Cherry pie.
I'm giving this book a maybe, only because it won't be to everyone's taste due to the "magical" elements.

I'd like to thank Random House Publsihing and Netgalley for letting me have a copy of this kindle book to review.