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.




Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Review : Don't Wake Up by Liz Lawler

Don't Wake Up

Published by Bonnie Zaffre
18 May 2017
Copy : Ebook from Readers First

The Blurb

Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table.

The man who stands over her isn't a doctor.

The offer he makes her is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she's unharmed - and no one believes her horrifying story. Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, she begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind.

And then she meets the next victim.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

This novel has one of the most eerie opening chapters I think I have read.  It takes, what I would assume to be most peoples fear, and lays it bare on a page.  Alex Taylor, hospital doctor, wakes up and finds herself on an operating table - as if that is scary enough on it's own, she finds this isn't an accident, she is there for a reason, someone is very upset with her and wants to make her pay.

Of course, Alex - for reasons unknown to her - is set free from this horror and finds herself being discovered by a search party.  Lucky her.  What is not so lucky is no one believes her story about her abduction and as her world gradually unravels she even starts to question her own sanity.

This is certainly a punchy opener and it would be impossible for the novel to continue in such a explosive way, but it certainly continues at a pace and with the same eerie darkness.  Having said that it is not grotesque or gruesome, it more just plays on common fears and it makes you live out what would be a pretty nasty dream.

Alex quickly realises that although she was freed from her ordeal it is far from over and her abductor has not finished with their work.  What continues is a women, with no support on her theory of what happened, finding herself getting deeper and deeper in a situation she can not control.  A game of cat or mouse where she is most definitely being used as the play thing.

When the big reveal comes I was quite surprised, the author does well to cast reasonable doubt over most of the characters and I was constantly wondering if it was maybe him or her, or if indeed Alex did imagine it all.  If I was being brutally honest, maybe the truth when it came to light was a little on the far fetched side of the radar, but to be honest, I enjoyed the journey of getting to the truth that didn't bother me and I thought the author went to great lengths to try and give the reason for what happens. 

Coble uses common fears to really pump up the heartrate in this novel, which is clever.  I certainly found the use of locations really did put me on edge, the use of hospitals and their maze like nature really helped with the atmosphere of the novel, mirroring the maze of puzzles that work through Alex's mind and therefore the readers. 

If you enjoy a gritty thriller then you will enjoy Liz Lawler's Don't Wake Up and it receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :






Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Tour and Review : Troll by D.B. Thorne

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the Troll by D. B. Thorne
blog tour.  With thanks to Kate at Atlantic Books (Corvus) for involving me in the tour and for an advance copy of the book.

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Published by : Corvus Books
01 June 2017
Copy : Paperback provided by the publisher

The Blurb

Years ago, Fortune gave up on his daughter, Sophie, after a troubled adolescence.  Now she's gone missing, vanished without trace. And after weeks of investigation, the police have given up on her, too.

Driven by guilt, and a determination to atone for his failures as a father, he takes on the search himself. He soon finds that his daughter had been living in fear of a vicious online troll who seemed to know far too much about her. Could Sophie's disappearance be linked to this unknown predator? Fortune is about to discovers that monsters which live online don't always stay there...  

The Very Pink Notebook Review


If you want a psychological thriller of epic proportions then Troll by D. B. Thorne is a must read.

This novel starts unsettling and bit by bit gets darker and more twisted, but in a very real and also moving way.

Told in a two-fold narrative, the story is pinned together by Fortune, a 54 year old successful businessman, but failed father and husband and Sophie, Fortune's daughter who is missing, presumed dead.

It is difficult to try and review this book because I do not want to give anything away, so all I will say is the author has done an amazing job of deconstructing and reconstructing a very intricate and complicated plot in a way that will make it impossible to put down (Case in point - I read this in one day!)  It is so clever and well thought out, I would love to know, from a writers perspective, how the author went about planning and plotting for this one because I am not sure I would have known where to start.

I also said that although dark, this is a moving book.  And it really is.  It looks at the dynamics of dysfunctional families, the relationships between husband and wife, parents and children, in a deep way. 

The novel tackles several difficult themes - again I won't mention specifics because I do not want to hint or reveal anything, but just to say they are handled well, so you can feel the power of them but you are not left with a stomach turned.  Again, this is done through excellent writing by D. B. Thorne.

With it's clear and clever structure, flawless writing, strong characters and excellent use of locations this is definitely one of the best psychological thrillers I have read this year and I will certainly be making a point of picking up the other books by this author.

Troll by D. B. Thorne receives nothing less than a Very Pink Notebook rating of :


About the Author

D. B. Thorne has worked as a writer for the last 15 years, originally in advertising, then in television and radio comedy.  He has written material for many comedians, including Jimmy Carr, Alan Carr, David Mitchell and Bob Mortimer.  He was a major contributor to the BAFTA-winning Armstrong and Miller Show, and has worked on shows including Facejacker, Harry and Paul and Alan Carr : Chatty Man.  Troll is his fourth novel.

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