Monday, 10 July 2017

Review : Don't Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon

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Published by : Corvus Books
6 July 2017
Copy : Paperback ARC review copy received from publisher

The Blurb

Robin and Sarah weren't the closest of twins. They weren't even that similar. But they loved each other dearly. Until, in the cruellest of domestic twists, they were taken from one another.

Now, in her early 30s, Robin lives alone. Agoraphobic and suffering from panic attacks, she spends her days pacing the rooms of her house. The rest of the time she watches - watches the street, the houses, the neighbours. Until one day, she sees something she shouldn't...

And Sarah? Sarah got what she wanted - the good-looking man, the beautiful baby, the perfect home. But she's just been accused of the most terrible thing of all. She can't be around her new family until she has come to terms with something that happened a long time ago. And to do that, she needs to track down her twin sister.

But Sarah isn't the only person looking for Robin. As their paths intersect, something dangerous is set in motion, leading Robin and Sarah to fight for much more than their relationship...

The Very Pink Notebook Review

I was a huge fan of Holly Seddon's first thriller, Don't Forget to Breathe, so was really excited to hear another book was on it's way and I was not to be disappointed.

At first glance I could see similarities between this novel and the first.  It focusses on two female lead characters and the narrative is also given similarly in the voices of both. In this case, non-identical twins, Robin and Sarah, in both the present day and in historical flashbacks.  Both have strong and unique back stories which makes you question the reliability of the narration.  It leads you on a twisting and turning path so you are never quite sure - what is the truth?

Starting at the beginning, the twins life as they knew it was torn apart when they were teenagers when their parents decided to separate.  The family was best friends with another family, and both decided they wished to be with each other respective partners.  Robin was left with her dad, her effective step-mother, Hilary, and Callum, Hilary's son but who Robin and Sarah were best friends with for years, and with whom she develops a closer bond than to her own sister.  Sarah was taken by her mother and step-father, Drew, and quickly relocated to Atlanta.  Robin and Sarah maintained contact, but neither were truthful about what was really going on in their lives.

Fast forward the years and Robin, a once well known guitarist in a hit band, finds herself so scarred by what has happened in her life she no longer leaves the house.  Instead she spies on her neighbours and makes sure she does 10,000 steps around the house every day.  She hasn't seen Sarah until the day she turns up on her doorstep amidst her own troubled world and looking for the sister who can help her.

As the two try and heal wounds from their past and present day lives, they slowly reveal the truth about what happened to them all those years ago and things start to make sense for the two sisters.  They must learn to grieve for what they lost and let go of old hurt and resentment.  But they are not the only ones involved in their past and eventually doesn't the past always catch up with you?

With plenty of suspense, Holly Seddon has managed to create a claustrophobic read, with powerful characters and plot, and in true Holly style, if you were a teen of the 90's (as I was) she floods you with nostalgia as she nails the music and popular culture of the time.  As the reader you long to know what they are hiding and Seddon drip feeds this in via short and snappy chapters.  In the author's effortless and flowing style she gradually ratchets up the pace until the very end when she executes a real 'I did not see that coming' killer twist.

With moments of real compassion and emotion, mixed with some gritty and dark scenes this is a must read.

Without a doubt Don't Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :



 About the Author

Holly Seddon is a full-time writer, living slap bang in the middle of Amsterdam with her husband, James, and a house full of children and pets.  Holly has written for newspapers, websites and magazines since her early 20's after growing up in the English countryside, obsessed with music and books.  Her first novel Try Not to Breathe was published worldwide in 2016 and became both a national and international bestseller.  Don't Close Your Eyes is her second novel.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Review : The Bursar's Wife (A George Kocharyan Mystery) - by E.G. Rodford

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Published by : Titan Books
25 March 2016
Copy : Paperback received from Publisher

The Blurb

Meet George Kocharyan, Cambridge Confidential Services' one and only private investigator.  Amidst the usual jobs following unfaithful spouses, he is approached by the glamourous Sylvia Bookers.  The wife of the bursar of Morley College, Booker is worried that her daughter Lucy has fallen in with the wrong crowd.

Aided by his assistant Sandra and her teenage son, George soon realises that Lucy is sneaking off to the apartment of an older man, but perhaps not for the reasons one might suspects.  Then an unfaithful wife he had been following is found dead.  As his investigation continues - enlivened by a mild stabbing and the unwanted intervention and attention of Detective Inspector Vicky Stubbing - George begins to wonder if all the threads are connected...

The Very Pink Notebook Review

One in a series of George Kocharyan, private investigator, novels I enjoyed George's world.  I really liked the mainstay characters of George, Sandra and Sandra's teenage son, Jason and the relationships between them.  George, being a private investigator, you would assume to be a confident man but in reality he isn't, suffering still from the blow of his wife leaving him which has lead him to question his ability in most aspects of life.  But this isn't portrayed in a sad (annoying woe is me way) it is done very comically.  As are a lot of the things in this book, which given some of its subject matter is very dark, turns it from what could be a real stomach turning drudge, into something very readable.

The plot is very thick and complex and the author has woven the threads together in a well paced and clear manner.  It is difficult to try and review the storyline without giving anything away so I won't try and say anything more than the blurb, apart from by the end you do feel as if there has been a real journey for George in many ways, not just with the investigation and piecing together the case he is working on but in his family and private life too.

Sandra and Jason both provide extra light for the dark side of this book and I do not think the story would work anywhere near as well without them, and I am glad they will be returning in further novels within the series.

With its dark comical narration and plot that twists and turns this is an enjoyable read and as such gets a Very Pink Notebook rating of :

About the Author

E.G Rodford is the crime-writing pseudonym of an award-winning author living in Cambridge, England.  Rodford writes about the seedier side of the city where PI George Kocharyan is usually to be found.



Friday, 30 June 2017

Tour and Review : The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater blog tour.
With thanks to Sarah Harwood at Penguin Random House for an advance copy of the book and for involving me in the tour.

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Published by : Penguin Random House
29 June 2017
Copy : Hardback received from publisher

The Blurb

Her daughter disappeared four years ago. . .
Since her daughter went missing four years earlier, celebrated photographer Kurtiz Ross has been a woman alone. Her only companion her camera. Since Lizzie disappeared, she has blamed and isolated herself, given up hope. Until, out of the blue, an unexpected sighting of Lizzie is made in Paris.

Could this lead to the reconciliation she has dreamed of?

Within hours of Kurtiz arriving in Paris, the City of Light is plunged into a night of hell when a series of terrorist attacks bring the city to a standstill. Amid the fear and chaos, a hand reaches out. A sympathetic stranger in a café offers to help Kurtiz find her daughter.

A stranger's guiding light

Neither knows what this harrowing night will deliver, but the other woman's kindness - and her stories of her own love and loss in post-war Provence - shine light into the shadows, restoring hope, bringing the unexpected. Out of darkness and despair, new life rises. New beginnings unfold.

Dare she believe in a miracle?

Set during a time of bloodshed and chaos in one of the most beautiful cities on earth and along the warm fragrant shores of the Mediterranean, Kurtiz discovers that miracles really can happen . . .

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Carol Drinkwater is a seasoned writer, but this is the first of her work I have had the pleasure of reading - it will not be the last.

Written with a confident hand, the story of The Lost Girl, concerns Kurtiz (or KZ as she is affectionately nicknamed) a mother and a career women, who during the peak years of her career went on an assignment to return home to a destroyed life when her daughter goes missing and her husband falls apart.

The reader is taken into the novel four years later, on the night Kurtiz finds herself in Paris, awaiting news from her estranged husband, Oliver, as to whether he has tracked down the daughter many have written off as dead.  But it is a night that does not go to plan when Paris, and Kurtiz, finds itself under siege by a serious of terrorist attacks, one at the venue Kurtiz is hoping Oliver has been reunited with the long lost Lizzie. 

By chance Kurtiz has a brief encounter with Marguerite, an elderly lady who in her hey day was a small time, but well known actress.  Marguerite takes to Kurtiz and as the tragic events of the night unravel the two are forced together where Marguerite's story is told.  I really enjoyed the structure of this novel, which could have easily become quite confusing but does not, where the memories of Marguerite are punctuated with the present day and the plight of Kurtiz, and also the history of Kurtiz, as she tries to look back and work out why Lizzie would have disappeared in the first place, as she tries to track down her husband and potentially her daughter.

As you may well assume, the title of the novel - The Lost Girl - would refer to quite literally the lost girl - Kurtiz's daughter, Lizzie.  But as you progress you realise it is applicable to all three of the females in the plot.  They were all once young women, finding themselves in situations they did not anticipate and dealt with these in very different ways.

I didn't particularly warm to the character of Kurtiz, even at the end, when I feel the author tried hard to explain the reason she made the choices she did, the things she did, or didn't do so that you felt some sympathy for her.  The same can be said of Marguerite initially, although I did warm to her as the story progressed and I could really imagine her, as an elderly women, glamourous in every way and remorseful of her behaviour as a young, naïve and inexperienced young girl.

The setting for the 'memories' of Marguerite are beautiful and wonderfully enticing, I could really imagine standing looking over Charlie's land as the scent of rose petals and jasmine drifted on the air and it really did make me feel wistful for Marguerite.

In a way the overall plot is a little on the unbelievable side, I won't say why because I do not want to give anything away, however, if you are happy to wave a hand of 'I don't care' to really enjoy a story taking you on a journey of womenhood and motherhood then you will thoroughly enjoy this.

The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater receives a highly recommend Very Pink Notebook rating of :


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  About the Author


Carol Drinkwater is a multi-award winning actress who is best known for playing Helen Herriot in the BBC television series All Creatures Great and Small.  She has since written 21 fiction and non-fiction books, including four memoirs set on her olive farm in the south of France, which have sold over one million copies worldwide.  The Forgotten Summer ('page-turning' - Daily Mail), a novel set on a vineyard in Provence, was published by Michael Joseph in 2016.  Carol lives with her husband Michel Noll, a documentary filmmaker, in their farmhouse in the French Riviera.

You can find more information at www.caroldrinkwater.com or on Twitter : @Carol4OliveFarm.

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Friday, 23 June 2017

Review : Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine

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Published by : Black Swan
(Paperback - 15 June 2017)
Copy - Received from Publisher

The Blurb

I closed my eyes as I tried to pick apart every flavour, because nothing had ever tasted so good before. It was like tasting for the first time. Like discovering colour . . .

It is 1919 and the war is over, but for Emeline Vane the cold Norfolk fens only are haunted by memories of those she has lost. In a moment of grief, she recklessly boards a train and runs from it all.

Her journey leads her far away, to a tiny seaside village in the South of France. Taken in by cafe owner Maman and her twenty-year-old son, Emeline discovers a world completely new to her: of oranges, olives and wild herbs, the raw, rich tastes of the land.

But when a love affair develops, as passionate as the flavours of the village, secrets from home begin blowing in on the sea wides. Fifty years later, a young solicitor on his first case finds Emeline's diary, and begins to trace a story of betrayal, love and bittersweet secrets that will send him on a journey to discover the truth...
 

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Every now and then a book comes along whereby when I finish it I think to myself - I will read that again and again - some examples for me include Little Women and The Great Gatsby, more recently Gone Girl and I Let You go.  Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeline has just added itself to that list.

Now I must admit the cover of this book, well, it didn't enthral or entice me into reading it.  I found it a little dull and twee and was worried the book would be too, perhaps more something my mother might enjoy.  THIS WAS NOT THE CASE AT ALL.

Inside the reader finds a joyful, pleasure in the beautiful and quite frankly, mouth-watering, story of Emeline Vane.  Disappearing in a puff of mystery when she was just 19, in 1919, she is presumed long dead by the family of 1969 which is our starting point.  With the family eager to be able to sell the derelict manor house sitting on prime real estate to a developer they must seek proof she is actually dead.  They enlist the help of small time solicitors Hillbrand and Moffat and the case falls newbie Bill Perch.

Written between two narrators, Bill Perch in 1969 and Emeline Vane in 1919, the world of Emeline is slowly unravelled explaining to the reader the events leading up to her disappearance and pieces together what happened afterwards.  As Bill Perch's investigation continues he begins to feel a bond and obligation to Emeline Vane to discover the truth - he believes she is still alive - going against what he is being paid to do.  Thus not only do we go on Emelines adventure but Bill's as well.

There are a whole host of quirky characters within this novel, who open both narrators eyes and I loved them all, particularly Emeline's 'boss' Clemence, with her warm and wise motherly love for the town which she cooks and lives.  The author's use and descriptions of recipes and ingredients are so passionate and vivid you can almost smell the tomato's and garlic roasting.  I loved the stories behind them and, at this point, Kudos must go to Madeline for her research of the traditions and cultures of the cuisine of the time.

Although this is tale told gently and with amazing locations and settings the mystery is kept really strong throughout.  It keeps you wondering and turning the pages and I was desperate for Bill to discover what happened to the scared 19 year old who gave up everything she knew in order to have a real life.

It was totally absorbing to read about the women's world of the time and I think if I was Bill Perch I would have been inclined to through caution to the wind and do exactly the same as what he does!  This was one of those books whereby you near the end, but still so much is to be discovered and I loved the ending - I wished there had been more of it, a longer scene between the two final characters that went deeper and into more detail.  The final sentence by Bill really made me smile.  For me it would have been the perfect place to end - I personally didn't really feel the epilogue was really necessary.

Beautifully paced and written with a gentle hand I can not recommend this book highly enough and as such Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeline receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :

About the Author

After a childhood spent acting professionally and training at a theatre school, Laura Madeline chose instead to focus on studying English Literature at Newnham College, Cambridge.

She now writes fiction under three different psuedonyms.  Laura lives in Bristol, but can often be found visiting family in Devon, eating cheese and getting up to mischief with her sister, fantasy author Lucy Housom.

Laura can be found on Twitter @esthercrumpet.

  

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Tour and Review : Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to showcase the new psychological thriller by Sarah Stovell
Exquisite
With thanks to Orenda Books for involving me in the tour and an early copy of the book.

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Published by : Orenda Books
15 June 2017
Copy : Paperback Received from Publisher

The Blurb

Bo Luxton has it all—a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops. Or does it?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Meet Bo, writer - talented and successful.  Meet Alice, writer - unpublished and unconfident.  These are the two fascinating female leads in this well crafted, beautifully written psychological thriller, Exquisite, by Sarah Stovell.

A story with many rich themes; obsession, love, passion, revenge, betrayal, fear to name but a few, we follow the lives of these two damaged women who's paths cross with devastating consequences.

It is always difficult to review a good psychological thriller without committing the cardinal sin of letting out plot spoilers.  This particular thriller isn't typical in the massive twists and turns sense.  You know what is going on but you never sure just how far it is going to go.  It doesn't have moments where it points the finger at every character that comes into contact with the protagonist leaving you thinking - what if?  What it has is two fantastically unreliable narrators leaving you thinking what the hell is going to happen next...

Neither Bo nor Alice are massively likable, but I found that only added to heightening the tension as I wasn't quite sure who I wanted to root for, at least for two thirds of the book, then it became glaringly obvious.  It is a very claustrophobic atmosphere that is created by Madeline, cleverly developed along with the intensity of the relationship between the two characters.

The author has used environment and setting to its absolute max in this novel.  Bo is set in the vast, but isolating and quiet Lake District.  A place that can have such beauty but also can hold grave danger.  Bo, we gather, has experienced severe trauma in her lifetime and she longs for an ordinary life, a content life where she can keep everything in her hornet's nest buried deep.  She loves being a mother but has vowed to never be like her own.

Vibrant and chaotic Brighton is the home of Alice.  The girl who experienced a terrible childhood with her mother also but had the luck to be placed with a good foster family who encouraged her to go to University where she discovered her creative side, and is seeking an environment to flourish in.  Being taken on my Bo, from her writing perspective is all she could wish for.

Of course for anyone who reads this who is also a writer at heart this book is doubly enthralling.  It is interesting to see the story of the successful and the aspiring.  With the two different view points I particularly liked the way this tied in in the last third of the novel.

This book has great pace, writing and structure.  It is a real page-turner with dare I say it - exquisite - use of imagery regarding the Lake District.  And the ending - just ... chilling...

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell receives a Very Pink Notebook review of :


About the Author

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart.  She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University.  Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.

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Saturday, 10 June 2017

Review : This Family of Things by Alison Jameson

The Very Pink Notebook is pleased to review
This Family of Things, a beautiful literary work by Alison Jameson. 
With thanks to Rosie Margesson of Transworld Publishers for the ARC copy.

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Published by : Transworld
8 June 2017
Copy : Paperback - Provided by Publisher

The Blurb

On his way back up from the yard Bird had seen something white and round – a girl who had curled herself into a ball. Lifting her was like retrieving a ball of newspaper from out of the grass or an empty crisp bag that someone had flung over the ditch. She seemed to lack the bones and meat and muscle of real people. She felt as if she was filled with feathers.

On the day Midge O’Connor comes hurtling into Bird Keegan’s life, she flings open his small, quiet world. He and his two sisters, Olive and Margaret, have lived in the same isolated community all their lives, each one more alone than the others can know.

Taking in damaged, sharp-edged Midge, Bird invites the scorn of his neighbours and siblings. And as they slowly mend each other, family binds – and the tie of the land – begin to weigh down on their tentative relationship. Can it survive the misunderstandings, contempt and violence of others?

A poignant and powerful study of the emotional lives of three siblings and the girl who breaks through their solitude.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

I must admit the first chapter of this book left me a little flat, I wasn't quite sure where it was going to go, what the hook was, or the intrigue.  But I loved the fluid, poetic style of writing so I continued on with an open mind.  And I am so glad I did.

This is a beautiful book.  It searches deep into the human soul and takes you on an emotional journey with four people who are very ordinary and in search of nothing, but everything at the same time.  Now, being more a reader of psychological thrillers I had to get over the urge to think things might take unexpected turns or twists, because this is not that sort of book.  Instead you just need to read, absorb and enjoy the story about the lives of the characters.  There are no hidden agenda's just the exploration of the way the mind works in one man and three women who have all kept themselves in relative isolation for one reason or another.

Although the main protagonist is Midge Connors, the story involves Bird, Margaret and Olive Keegan, three siblings, in equal measure.  The story looks closely at the relationships the four manufacture between each other and the relationship they have with themselves.  Midge arrives in the Keegan household after Bird discovers her in a heap on his driveway, following being ejected from the car in which she travelled with her violent father.  Once the two meet, although they try to forget about each other, a bond has been forged and they are drawn to each other.  But each has their own demons and life throws many obstacles in the way of a happy existence - the question is whether they are strong enough people to withstand what fate puts in their way.  In the meantime the two sisters, Margaret and Olive are also assessing the option of love in their lives, something they have both held back from for various reasons, instead only choosing to trust in one another.  The question they must ask is : Are they too old to change?

This is a true tale of love, hate, discovery, loss and empowerment.  I enjoyed the journey of each of the characters and it was told in gentle, heartfelt and emotive fashion with beautiful use of language and imagery.  I really liked the structure of the novel it helps to really define quite a long timescale and compartmentalise the stages in the characters lives.

This is a novel that will tug at your heartstrings and make you think.  Sometimes it will leave you scratching your head, wishing the characters to make a different choice, but ultimately it will leave you feeling like you have read a really good book. 

This Family of Things by Alison Jameson receives a Very Pink Notebook Rating of :  



About the Author

Alison Jameson grew up on a farm in the Irish midlands, a secluded and beautiful place that continues to inspire her work.  She is the bestselling author of This Man and Me, which was nominated for the IMPAC Literary Award, and Under My Skin.  Her third novel, Little Beauty, was published by Doubleday Ireland in 2013.  An English and History graduate of University College Dublin, she worked in advertising for many years before becoming an author.  Home in Dublin where she lives with her husband and son.


Thursday, 1 June 2017

Review : Friends and Liars by Kaela Coble

The Very Pink Notebook wishes a fantastic publication day to
Kaela Coble for Friends and Liars.

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Published by Atlantic Books (Corvus)
01 June 2017
Copy : Paperback received from publisher

The Blurb

It has been ten years since Ruby left her hometown behind. Since then she's built a life away from her recovering alcoholic mother and her first love, Murphy. But when Danny, one of her estranged friends from childhood, commits suicide, guilt draws Ruby back into the tumultuous world she escaped all those years ago.

She's dreading the funeral - and with good reason. Danny has left a series of envelopes addressed to his former friends. Inside each envelope is a secret about every person in the group. Ruby's secret is so explosive, she will fight tooth-and-nail to keep it hidden from those she once loved so deeply, even if that means risking everything...
 

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Friends and Liars, the debut novel by Kaela Coble, follows the web of lies and deceit woven by a group of childhood friends, Ruby, Murphy, Ally, Emmet and Danny who promised each other they would always be honest.  But when one of the friends suddenly dies, the past is not going to stay buried.  Forced together for the funeral deceased Danny leaves one final act of love or is it hate?  In five letters - each addressed individually to the members of the group (or The Crew as they liked to call themselves) their biggest secret is revealed - but how does Danny know all of these?  And why is he forcing them to face what they have worked so hard to keep hidden?

These are all questions that are investigated throughout the course of the novel.  The reader is mainly given the viewpoint of Ruby to journey with both in 'now' and 'back then'.  Ruby is the one that got away, the one who left and never looked back.  However, the voices of the only other female of the original group Ally, and Steph the girlfriend of one of the boys is also introduced to give a better all round picture.

And that is how this novel seems to work, it starts as a murky picture with lots of unclear edges, and gradually as each secret is slowly revealed you start to build up a full picture of what life was like for the group as they grew up and eventually went their separate ways into adulthood and thus come forth the secret revelations, the fall outs of those and the eventual acceptance that you never really know everything about anyone.

Coble holds the suspense well but gives you enough snippets to keep you engaged and wanting to know more.  The big secrets are Ruby and Murphy's so these of course are the last to be revealed, but you are given hints and indications as to what they might be (some red herrings, some not) from quite early on.  The writing flows nicely with good dialogue and use of environmental description of the small town in which they group up and to which Ruby has had to return to the funeral, in helping to heighten the constant feeling of entrapment finds herself in now she has returned.

What I also liked about this novel was the use of the characters past to help paint the picture as to why things happened.  Sometimes in novels this is used briefly but by the 'now' and 'back then' alternating chapters you get to see whole scenes played out and you need this to really understand why the group were so needy for 'The Crew' to be just that.  They all needed the extra support of one another, but as a teenager, was it all just too close and intense?

I loved that the opening and final chapter is written from the viewpoint of Danny, looking around at the others from his place beyond the grave and I liked his very distinct style, it fits perfectly with his character as is portrayed throughout.  The tone for the start and then the end, I really enjoyed, a very satisfactory ending.

Friends and Liars is an enjoyable read and I would recommend it heartily.  Therefore it receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :


About the Author

Kaela Coble is a member of the League of Vermont Writers, a voracious reader, and a hopeless addict of bad television and chocolate.  She lives with her husband in Burlington, Vermont, and is a devoted mother to their rescued chuggle, Gus.  Friends and Liars is her first novel.