Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Review : Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

33224064

Published by : Transworld Publishers (Penguin Random House)
2 May 2017
Copy : Hardback - Reviewer purchase

The Blurb

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help.

Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.

But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.

And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

The Very Pink Notebook Review

One of the things that stands out in this book is the sheer amount of characters and not merely secondary ones, they all have their own voice by way of their own chapter.  I have to admit, if I had a break in reading this book sometimes I would have to go through and remind myself of who was who - but each characters is needed, none are superfluous to the plot and it is quite a feat on behalf of the author to have been able to create so many unique voices in one book, ranging from a young teenage girl, to a grieving mother, to a senior gentleman.

Protagonist, Jules, is forced to return to her childhood home following the death - suspected suicide - of her sister Nel.  Nel leaves behind one daughter, a trail of destruction and a lot of loose ends.  Jules find herself needing to tie up those loose ends with explosive consequences.

As I mentioned the book is structured in the hugely popular chapter by character voice and this moves the highly complex plot along at a good pace.  You quickly learn Jules home town is a place full of secrets.  A small town whereby everyone thinks they know everyone else, that there couldn't be anywhere to really hide anything - turns out there are plenty and all the inhabitants have hidden things at some point, either out of fear, stupidity, self protection or trying to protect others.  But a small town can only hold so many secrets before it starts straining at the seams and once the dams burst there is no stopping what happens next.

That is this book.  It sort of unravels slowly starting with the newest information and slowly unpicking the rest.  Recent events start to link to past ones like a connect the dots.  Many authors may have struggled to pull it all together because as well as having an awful lot of characters this novel also has an awful lot of plot.

Hawkins uses 'excerpts' from Nel's contentious research about the history of the towns 'drowning pool' to give the reader the necessary history, it also gives nice little breaks from the narrative of the present day situation.  The Drowning Pool is the central location in the novel and it is nice that it is almost given it's own voice.

With so many threads to pull together it could have easily have been difficult to produce an ending to tie them all up in a satisfactory manner, but this is achieved, the plethora of unanswered questions all get a conclusion.

It was a pleasure to read such a hyped book and not be disappointed.






Monday, 16 October 2017

Review : The Children by Ann Leary

26114644
Published by : St Martins Press
06 July 2017 (paperback)
Copy : Received from publisher

The Blurb

Charlotte Maynard rarely leaves her mother's home, the sprawling Connecticut lake house that belonged to her late stepfather, Whit Whitman, and the generations of Whitmans before him. While Charlotte and her sister, Sally, grew up at "Lakeside," their stepbrothers, Spin and Perry, were welcomed as weekend guests. Now the grown boys own the estate, which Joan occupies by their grace--and a provision in the family trust.

When Spin, the youngest and favourite of all the children, brings his fiancé home for the summer, the entire family is intrigued. The beautiful and accomplished Laurel Atwood breathes new life into this often comically rarefied world. But as the wedding draws near, and flaws surface in the family's polite veneer, an array of simmering resentments and unfortunate truths is exposed.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

The Children by Ann Leary is a family tale of history, resentment, love and all the myriad of emotion that comes when two families are formed together as one.  The question is - no matter how much you think you know one another, do you ever really?

Charlotte and Sally Maynard grew up with their mother and step-father at the family estate, The Lakehouse.  When Whit dies suddenly the will states his wishes are for the girls to be able to continue to reside in the family home.  One son, Perry is free and clear about his resentment towards his father's 'second' family.  But Spin, who was only a baby when his parents separated has never known any different and is used to being doted on by everyone who knows him.  How lucky is he?

The protagonist in this novel is Charlotte.  Almost hermit like Charlotte has been coasting along in life, undisturbed.  That is until golden boy Spin, arrives home with a new women in tow, Laurel.  Her outlook on life comes to affect everyone in the family, forcing them to stop burying their heads in the sand and face up to the issues they have long been trying to dismiss.

This is one of those books, a dark, domestic thriller that leaves reading with one dubious eye.  It has a good, solid story, plenty of intrigue and will leave you wondering if you do really know those you think you do best...

The Children by Ann Leary receives an enjoyable read :






Thursday, 12 October 2017

Review - They All Fall Down by Tammy Cohen

32800760

Published by : Transworld
13 July 2017
Copy : Paperback received from publisher

The Blurb

She knows there’s a killer on the loose.But no-one believes her.
Will she be next?

Hannah had a normal life – a loving husband, a good job. Until she did something shocking.

Now she’s in a psychiatric clinic. It should be a safe place. But patients keep dying.

The doctors say it’s suicide. Hannah knows they’re lying.

Can she make anyone believe her before the killer strikes again?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

They All Fall Down has the most intriguing of opening pages - the type I can envisage being used as 'great example of opening chapters' in writing classes.  It is both shocking and sad and leaves so many unanswered questions you cannot wait to turn the page.

Written in chapters by character voices it moves along at great pace and with an abundance of strong and unique viewpoints.  Protagonist, Hannah, is residing in a high suicide risk psych ward.  You don't know what has brought her to this point and do not learn it for sometime.  So along with the 'Is there a killer on the loose?' question you are also exploring the history of Hannah, and just - what did she do?

During this investigation you learn about her husband, mother, sister and their turbulent past and through Hannah's eyes you are taken on a dark and worrying journey into how vulnerable those in hospital can be.  With a host of unreliable narrators, the author nicely drip feeds the plot with red herrings a plenty to keep you guessing.  At one point near the end I thought I was about to suffer the most disappointing of endings, but then comes the final, killer twist and there was certainly not a whiff of disappointment in sight.

A clever and intricate plot, backed up with complex characters and smooth writing makes They All Fall Down a great read.





Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Blog Tour : The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen.  With thanks to Karen and Anne at Orenda Books for involving me and providing me with an early edition.


The Man Who Died new front (1)
Published by : Orenda Books
10 October 2017 
Copy : Ebook - Received from Publisher

The Blurb

A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists. With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, marking a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Although dark in topic, a man discovers he has days to live due to being slowly poisoned over the course of some time, Tuomainen has written this novel with a comedic punch and I thoroughly enjoyed that.  Providing us with a likeable and amusing protagonist, Jaakko, we are taken on his journey as he races against time to find the culprit of his eventual murder and also and very importantly how he comes to terms emotionally with his own impending death.

Written and interpreted flawlessly, this pacey novel will keep you glued to it.  I finished it in two sittings, after the first two chapters completely hooked me.  So much happens in them that you are kind of left with mouth gaping.  In only a few pages your mind is swimming with questions and suspicion.  And naturally things just get worse.  As well as trying to work out who wants him dead he has a nasty competitor for his business leap up on his doorstep who provide plenty of extra trouble.

With twists and turns a plenty Antti Tuomainen has penned a cracking noir novel.  This isn't the first book by this author I have read, so I had high hopes, but I have to say it is my favourite.  In this book he has found a unique balance for the reader in taking very dark matter and lightening it up without taking away the intrigue or integrity.

I could not recommend this book highly enough.

About the Author

Antti Tuomainen

Finnish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labelled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. The Mine, published in 2016, was an international bestseller. All of his books have been optioned for TV/film. With his piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and The Man Who Died sees him at his literary best.

Follow the Tour

Find other reviewers reactions to this book.

man who died blog poster 2017.jpg







Monday, 10 July 2017

Review : Don't Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon

32768286

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

25734118

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.

34213592

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 :


Follow the Tour


  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.

Follow the conversation : #TheLostGirl