Monday, 8 January 2018

Review : Running for My Life - Rachel Cullen

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to share the review of 
Running for my Life
By runner and author Rachel Cullen
With thanks to Beth at Blink Publishing for an advance copy of the book


Published by : Blink Publishing
11 January 2018
Copy : Paperback received from publisher

The Blurb

Throughout her life, Rachel Cullen followed a simple yet effective route straight to mental health misery. Suffering from bipolar disorder, and hungry for approval at any price, she settled for flunked relationships, an ill-fitting career, and poor health to match. Whilst mindlessly seeking a utopian vision of 'normality' that she was mis-sold and so desperate to achieve, the solution seemed increasingly illusive.
Stuck in this endless cycle of disappointment with her life, and not knowing how to handle the strain of her mental illness, she put on a pair of old trainers. She'd never been able to think of herself as a 'runner', and the first time she forced herself out the door, she knew it would hurt. Everywhere. She just didn't realise how much it would heal her, too.Interspersed with Rachel's real diary entries, from tortuous teen years to eventually running the London Marathon, Running for my Life will make you laugh, cry and question whether you can really outrun your demons.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Running for my Life is a rich, colourful and brutally honest account of one women's fight to beat her mental health demons.  Written with candid details and dark humour this book is a journey about a quest to live life in the happiest and healthiest way possible.  Chronicling all the ups and downs, the good, the bad and the downright ugly along the way.

With fantastic ditties remembering fashion disasters from her youth to the very same in winter races, the author, Rachel Cullen, lays bare the realities that subsequently have taken her on a long battle with mental health.  A fight against herself.  We read about what she thinks her life should be, to the realisation; life is never like what you think it is going to be.  Whether in love or careers and that sometimes you just have to accept your imperfections.

What I found interesting with this life journey was Rachel seemingly did everything 'right'.  But, when she thought about it - right for who?  Not herself.  And she had to find the strength to admit she had come to this realisation - which thankfully, she did.

The constant throughout the ever changing life Rachel?  Running.  Of course.  In this, she found her solace, her soul-mate, her companion.  Even when she felt it had all gone wrong (which in several incidences, it had).  Whatever happened with running she always found herself going back for more and in doing so realised she had so many more capabilities and more strength than she ever knew.  And thus, some confidence was born, confidence in herself, in her worth.

And once you have that, life becomes that little bit easier and at some point you feel you can reflect and in this case, a book was born. 

Running for my Life, the journey of Rachel Cullen, receives a well deserved Very Pink Notebook :


Sunday, 7 January 2018

Blog Tour and Review : The Secrets Between Us by Laura Madeleine

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to launch the blog tour for the new release from Laura Madeleine
The Secrets Between Us
With thanks to Hannah Bright at Transworld Books for involving me in the tour.


Publisher : Transworld Books
ebook : 7 January 2018 / paperback 19 April 2018
Copy : Received from Hannah Bright as part of blog tour

The Blurb

High in the mountains in the South of France, eighteen-year-old Ceci Corvin is trying hard to carry on as normal.  But in 1943, there is no such thing as normal; especially not for a young women in love with the wrong person.  Scandal, it would seem, can be more dangerous to a young women than war. 

Fifty years later, Annie is looking for her long-lost grandmother.  Armed with nothing more than a sheaf of papers, she travels from England to Paris in pursuit of the truth.  But as she traces her grandmothers story, Annie uncovers something that changes everything she knew about her family and everything she thought she knew about herself.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

The Secrets Between Us is another sumptuous and mouth-watering offering from culinary fiction genius Laura Madeleine.

I first came across this authors work last year with 'Where The Wild Cherries Grow' and was instantly in love with her style of writing.  So I was thrilled when I started The Secrets Between Us to see that her very unique style was mirrored in this book.

With the authors tried and tested format of being written in the voice of two people; Ceci set in 1943, telling the story as it happened and Annie in 1993 investigating what happened, the two weave seamlessly unveiling the tale of Celeste Corvin / Picot (Ceci) - Annie's grand-mere and her complicated love life of the war-torn years of 1943 in a little mountain village in the South of France.

But of course, the story is not just merely the telling of a love story.  There is the side of Annie too that needs to be discovered.  Annie raised by a single mother, and always left wondering about her father, whom she never knew and her long-lost grand-mere who she had not seen since she was a child following a fight between her mother and mothers mother, Annie is lost.  With little self confidence or courage, she struggles to know who she is.  By finding her grand-mere and forcing herself on an adventure she never thought she was brave enough to take she is finally discovering her true sense of self.

Once again, Madeleine has told a gripping and engaging story in the most gentle way by infusing the most beautiful and sense-enhancing imagery into it.  This time we are tempted into this world by baking - bread of all descriptions leave you wanting to run out to the nearest baker, asking for a loaf hot out of the oven just to touch and inhale to give you the same sense of purpose as what it gives the character in the book.  It is so clever - I never knew a description of fougassette could be made so sensual - this is the genius of Laura Madeleine.

I said in my review of Where the Wild Cherries it is rare I find a book I keep because I know it will be one I return to read again and again, but in that book I had found one.  It is even rarer I find two by the same author where I will do the same.  I think the Laura Madeleine collection will be that first however.  

I think it is clear, I loved this book and as such it receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of : 

If this review as enticed you into reading this book it is on a Kindle offer of 99p for the whole month of January 2018 - I advise you take advantage!

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Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Review : Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough


Published by : Harper Collins
26 January 2017
Copy : Hardback - Reviewer Purchase

The Blurb

David and Adele seem like the ideal pair. He's a successful psychiatrist, she is his picture-perfect wife who adores him. But why is he so controlling? And why is she keeping things hidden?

As Louise, David's new secretary, is drawn into their world, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can't guess how wrong – and how far someone might go to protect their marriage's secrets.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

This book stood in my TBR pile for a while, before a tweet #thatendingWTF, sparked my attention.

Now, from some things I have read I understand this book is a little like marmite, readers are either loving or hating it.  Just like marmite, I fall into the love category.

For me, throughout the entire novel I was thinking, WTF?  How?  Why?  What?  Gripping from the outset the writing is effortless and beautifully paced.  Told from two perspectives - Adele and Louise - the plot twists and turns and thickens.  Some reviewers have stated they feel the author shows her hand too early, but for me I did not find that the case at all.  I couldn't quite fathom out the next move or twist or 'truth' and I didn't see the conclusion coming.

If  you are someone who doesn't like reality to be messed with then maybe this book isn't for you.  But if you don't mind when literally anything can happen in fiction then you are in for a corker.  I thought the basic premise of the book was really quite unique.

Usually I can say I loved / hated a main character but I just can't do it with these ones.  I found them engaging.  And for how complex the plot and timeline is I think the author has done a sterling job of keeping it clear, concise and flowing - I would love to see the planning schedule for this!  It would be difficult to elaborate more without spoilers.

I can understand why this book might not be everyone's cup of tea.  To be honest my initial reaction to the ending was indeed #WTF and I wasn't sure if that was in a good or bad way, but as I thought about it I felt the author was actually really brave to put it out there and be confident to take the risk and go with it.

So, I am certainly in camp 'Fan of this book' and as such Behind Her Eyes receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of : 

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Blog Tour & Review : His Guilty Secret by Helene Fermont

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of
His Guilty Secret
by author Helene Fermont blog tour. 
With thanks to Natalie at The Book Publicist


Publisher : Fridhem Publishing
27 November 2017
Copy : Paperback received from The Book Publicist for Blog Tour

The Blurb

When Jacques’s body is discovered in a hotel room his wife, Patricia, suspects he has been hiding something from her.

Why was he found naked and who is the woman that visited his grave on the day of the funeral? Significantly, who is the unnamed beneficiary Jacques left a large sum of money to in his will and what is the reason her best friend, also Jacques’s sister, Coco, refuses to tell her what he confided to her?

Struggling to find out the truth, Patricia visits Malmö where her twin sister Jasmine lives and is married to her ex boyfriend. But the sisters relationship is toxic and when a family member dies shortly after, an old secret is revealed that shines a light on an event that took place on their tenth birthday.

As one revelation after the other is revealed, Patricia is yet to discover her husband's biggest secret and what ultimately cost him his life.

His Guilty Secret is an unafraid examination of the tangled bonds between siblings, the lengths we go to in protecting our wrongdoings, and the enduring psychological effects this has on the innocent...and the not so innocent.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

I loved the settings of this book and enjoyed travelling from the UK, to Paris and Sweden.  His Guilty Secret follows the story of Patricia, wife of Jacques, handsome Air France pilot who dies suddenly in a hotel room in London leaving utter devastation behind his dual-led life.  Patricia, as much as she loves and was devoted to Jacques knows little things he did while he was alive didn't add up and as Jacques sister, Coco, shuts down on her when questioned she knows she must discover the truth.

The interesting thing about this book is the reader knows exactly what is going on right from the outset.  So if you are looking for big plot twists and suspense then this might not be the book for you.  What this novel does is look at the psychological minefield of grief, relationships both romantic and siblings and rivalry in personal and business domains.  It seems that while everyone was drifting along portraying an image of the ideal life, marriage and family, in actual fact, no one knows what is really going on behind closed doors.

There are some beautiful paragraphs in this book, mainly belonging to Patricia, as she tries to describe how she is coping with and trying to understand what is and has happened in her life.  They are wonderfully raw, honest and really paint the picture of how vulnerable and stripped the person left behind is after the death of a loved one.     

There are quite a lot of characters and couples in this book and I found it a bit of a shame that not one set was happy or monogamous.  They are all quite strong in opinions and quick to judge and sometimes I found this made everything a little hard to believe.  However, the author has tried hard to make clear the reasons and history for behaviour of most of them.

If you love a book that is a tangled web of lies and deceit that slowly unpicks through a psychological stand point then you will really enjoy His Guilty Secret by Helene Fermont.

A good and steady read and receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of : 

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Sunday, 19 November 2017

Blog Tour & Review : The Man in the Needlecord Jacket by Linda MacDonald

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of
The Man in the Needlecord Jacket
by author Linda MacDonald blog tour. 
With thanks to Anne at Random Things Through My Letterbox.

Publisher : Matador
1 May 2017
Copy : Paperback - Received for blog tour

The Blurb

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket follows the story of two women who are each struggling to let go of a long-term destructive partnership. Felicity is reluctant to detach from her estranged archaeologist husband and, after being banished from the family home, she sets out to test the stability of his relationship with his new love, Marianne. 

When Felicity meets Coll, a charismatic artist, she has high hopes of being distracted from her failed marriage. What she doesn’t know is that he has a partner, Sarah, with whom he has planned a future. Sarah is deeply in love with Coll, but his controlling behaviour and associations with other women have always made her life difficult. When he becomes obsessed with Felicity, Sarah’s world collapses and a series of events is set in motion that will challenge the integrity of all the characters involved.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket follows the lives of Sarah and Felicity, two women who lead very different lives but are linked by one huge thing - the attention of Coll (or the man in the needlecord jacket). 

Sarah, placid, sensitive librarian is the 'girlfriend' of Coll.  They have been together for over ten years, but have never moved in to one home, never committed to anything more than a set schedule of when they see each other and a holiday now and then.  Coll is very much the controller and Sarah is of the opinion that as a mid-fifties women her choices are limited and she should be grateful for what she has.

Felicity has just returned to the UK following the breakdown of her relationship with young Italian chef, Gianni, the man for whom she left her husband and children and comfortable life living at Deer Orchard for.  She is confident, a business women who owns her own restaurants and she wants her old life back.  She is of the opinion that as a mid-fifties women she deserves to get what she wants.

The three worlds collide when Coll, part-time artist, decides to try and use Felicity's new restaurant as an outlet for selling his artwork.  A game of cat and mouse begins for the pair, much to the devastation of Sarah, who quickly knows there is another OW (other women) on the scene.

The characters and their involvement with one another in this book are deep.  The relationship between Felicity and her soon to be ex-husband, Edward, have been explored in previous novels, however this didn't affect my ability to get a good understanding of the relationship and form an opinion, the author has done well to ensure this works.

I liked the characters who made up Felicity's family - Edward, her four children and respective partners and Marianne, Edwards new partner.  The same can not be said for Felicity herself.  Her determination to get what she wants in life means she ignores the thoughts and feelings of others - but why would that bother her - she has thought about others for all of her life, it is time for what she wants now!

It was a refreshing change to have the main characters, particularly the females, as mid-late fifties.  It was also good to have the two women coming from very different viewpoints of what it is to be a women in mid-life.  On the whole I liked Sarah, although I did want to shake her.  I believe these reactions to the characters are exactly what the author wanted.

There is no likeability in Coll.  There are several hints as to a traumatic childhood, particularly involving bullying at the boarding school to which he was forced to attend, and a suggestion is made as to him having a narcissistic personality disorder of some sort, and would explain his undeniable controlling behaviour towards those around him, but this is never really fully explored and I think I would have liked more on this.  It would have been nice to have been able to have more of an understanding of this character given how central he is to the story.

I enjoyed reading this book.  Although not a great deal happens as such it is an interesting insight in the minds of men and women as they approach mid-life and can explore their world with hindsight and knowledge - and just how different the approaches with these perspectives can be.  It is a good story about relationships - those with yourself and others - and as I have already said, it was a breath of fresh air for the characters to be more mature.

This novel is well written and nicely paced.  The characters are complex and intriguing.  For me personally, I am not sure the structure of the booked needed to be as complicated as it is - split between voices is fine and works well, but it was also in sections with titles and subtitles - I couldn't see the benefit and felt it interrupted what was a very good flow a little too much.

The Man in the Needlecord Jacket receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of : 

About the Author

Linda MacDonald is the author of three independently published novels: Meeting Lydia and the stand-alone sequels, A Meeting of a Different Kind and The Alone Alternative. They are all contemporary adult fiction, multi-themed, but with a focus on relationship issues.

After studying psychology at Goldsmiths', Linda trained as a secondary science and biology teacher. She taught these subjects for several years before moving to a sixth-form college to teach psychology. In 2012, she gave up teaching to focus fully on writing.
Linda was born and brought up in Cockermouth, Cumbria and now lives in Beckenham, Kent. 
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Saturday, 18 November 2017

Blog Tour & Review : White Out by Ragnar Jonasson

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of
White Out
by author Ragnar Jonasson blog tour. 
With thanks to Karen at Orenda Books and Anne at Random Things Through My Letterbox.

Publisher : Orenda Books
November 2017
Copy : Paperback - Provided by Publisher for blog tour

The Blurb

Two days before Christmas, a young woman is found dead beneath the cliffs of the deserted village of Kálfshamarvík. Did she jump, or did something more sinister take place beneath the lighthouse and the abandoned old house on the remote rocky outcrop?

With winter closing in and the snow falling relentlessly, Ari Thór Arason discovers that the victim's mother and young sister also lost their lives in this same spot, twenty-five years earlier. As the dark history and its secrets of the village are unveiled, and the death toll begins to rise, the Siglufjordur detectives must race against the clock to find the killer, before another tragedy takes place.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

White Out is another powerful triumph from Nordic Noir master Ragnar Jonasson and translator Quentin Bates.  With it's trademark policeman, Ari Thor and Tomas, the reader is taken to the dark depths of Iceland to try and get to the bottom of the death of young women, Asta.  

Once again Jonasson uses imagery and the enigmatic beauty of Iceland in winter to really create an almost physical atmosphere - I certainly wrapped the blanket around myself a little tighter every time I sat down to read.  This novel in particular is set in the few days lead up to Christmas, where this year Ari Thor is keen to enjoy it with his beloved and heavily pregnant lady, Kristin.  But even Christmas can't get in the way when an investigation gets under his skin and Tomas's eagerness to make an arrest on this case makes him feel uneasy about too much extra digging around.  

After the second death in the space of a few days however, both men know something sinister is at hand and can not be ignored.  Jonasson creates characters so well, and with the group involved, Thora, Oskar, Reynir and Arnor we soon learn they all have secrets they wish to keep hidden.  But it seems that at least one person is aware of each others secret and it is impossible to tell who can be trusted or what lengths they may go to in order to keep those secrets just that.

Jonasson never produces just a plain old 'who done it'.  It is always multi-layered with a touch of history, personal and paranormal aspects explored.  This always makes it impossible to try and guess the ending.  However, whereas some authors do this and then spoil the result by giving a completely implausible and outlandish ending, in these books it never happens.  The truth is completely believable and realistic and most importantly satisfying.

The final pages of White Out leave the reader as hooked as the first few, with an enticing and tantalising teaser and I for one can not wait for the next instalment of the Dark Iceland series.

White Out receives a must read : 

About the Author

Ragnar Jónasson is author of the international bestselling Dark Iceland series. His debut Snowblind went to number one in the kindle charts shortly after publication, and Nightblind, Blackout and Rupture soon followed suit, hitting the number one spot in five countries, and the series being sold in 18 countries and for TV. Ragnar was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he continues to work as a lawyer. From the age of 17, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic. He has appeared on festival panels worldwide, and lives in Reykjavik with his wife and young daughters.

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Friday, 20 October 2017

Review : Close to Me by Amanda Reynolds


Published by : Wildfire (Headline Publishing Group)
27 July 2017
Copy : Paperback - Won in competition run by author

The Blurb

She can't remember the last year. Her husband wants to keep it that way.

When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia-she's lost a whole year of memories. A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?

She can't remember what she did-or what happened the night she fell. But she's beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

The premise of this book is domestic noir at its darkest and it feels very claustrophobic.  Jo Harding remembers little of the last 12 months of her life, prior to her fall down the stairs.  But she does remember sending her son off to university, knowing her daughter had gained full time employment following her graduation.  Those are good things.  Things were good - weren't they?  Those are the things she remembers but her instinct, her gut feelings are pushing her to come to other conclusions - but how can she when the ones with the answers to her questions, seem reluctant to share them with her.  Jo finds herself doubting her husband, her children but most of all herself.

Of course truths can't stay buried and we follow Jo on her journey of discovering what twelve mysterious months really are hiding.  Jo is determined in her quest and by some direct digging and inadvertent clues she slowly starts to piece together the mixed up jigsaw of her life.  Unsurprisingly as reality starts to transpire Jo is left wondering if she actually wants to learn truth and she realises that the year was a long one.

This is a deeply complex family story.  Personally I didn't find any of the characters particularly likeable, their actions and reactions are all questionable.  To a degree that did make it a little hard to really bond to the story because I wanted to be rooting for Jo but couldn't.  I also felt that the story could have moved along a little quicker, some of the chapters I felt didn't really move the plot along, but summarised what you already knew.

That said I still enjoyed this book.  I really did want to know what 12 months and the family members, including Jo herself were hiding and I kept reading with gusto.

Close to Me by Amanda Reynolds receives a Very Pink Notebook rating :