Monday, 29 February 2016

Feature Week : New Book Special - I Sent You a Letter by Lucy Dawson

I am thrilled, here at The Very Pink Notebook, to be running my first Feature Week.  This is where the spotlight falls onto one author for the whole week. 

The book and author in question is the very talented Lucy Dawson with her fantastic new novel - I Sent You a Letter, published by Corvus Books.  The book, available from 3rd March 2016, has proven to be a firm favourite of mine so far this year, so I am excited to be able to dedicate this blog to its publication date this week.

Visit back, or sign up by email for special posts throughout the week, including a guest post from Lucy Dawson herself.
If you want to find out more about Lucy or Corvus Books you can find them :
@lucydawsonbooks /
@CorvusBooks /

And if you are dying to know more about I Sent You a Letter, here is a little teaser for you :

book cover of 

You Sent Me a Letter

Published by : Corvus Books
3 March 2016

The Blurb

At 2 a.m. on the morning of her fortieth birthday, Sophie wakes to find an intruder in her bedroom.  The stranger hands Sophie a letter and issues a threat: open the letter at her party that evening, in front of gathered family and friends, at precisely 8 p.m., or those she loves will be in grave danger.

What can the letter possibly contain?

This will be no ordinary party; Sophie is not the only person keeping a secret about the evening ahead.  When the clock strikes eight, the course of several people's lives will be altered forever.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Review : Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

You won't be able to put it down.
Just remember to breathe.

Published by : Corvus
7 January 2016
Copy : Hardback - Reviewer purchased
The Blurb
Alex is sinking. Slowly but surely, she's cut herself off from everything but her one true love drink. Until she's forced to write a piece about a coma ward, where she meets Amy. Amy is lost. When she was fifteen, she was attacked and left for dead in a park not far from her house. Her attacker was never found. Since then, she has drifted in a lonely, timeless place. She's as good as dead, but not even her doctors are sure how much she understands. Alex and Amy grew up in the same suburbs, played the same music, flirted with the same boys. And as Alex begins to investigate the attack, she opens the door to the same danger that has left Amy in a coma...
The Very Pink Notebook Review
I found this debut novel from Holly Seddon a thoroughly enjoyable read.  The writing flows easily and on the whole I liked the pacing of the story.  The narration is split (chapter by chapter) between Alex and Amy and the story of 'what happened to Amy' reveals itself in both present and past tense accounts. 
I guessed 'who done it' quite early on and from speaking to other friends who have read it, so did they, however, we all agreed that did not spoil the book, as the 'guess who?' element is only part of the plot, rather than the all. 
For me, I was just as intrigued and interested, if not more, in Alex's character than what happened to Amy.  I would happily read a whole novel about the life of Alex, I wanted to know more about her history - Holly I need a prequel!  I thought the way Alex's alcohol addiction was depicted, so measured and accepted, was sad but quite fascinating.  Alex has lost control of her own life, her health is suffering, she seems incapable of helping herself, yet when she meets Amy, locked in a coma and unable to fight for herself, Alex discovers the determination to try and help Amy which makes you realise maybe Alex hasn't given up after all. 
The story looks at the devastation and subsequent aftermath a tragedy will bring.  From how Amy's parents cope, to her boyfriend at the time - Jacob - and his search for closure, and the friends who were left behind, some scratching their head wondering if they ever really knew Amy and some feeling guilty for knowing too much.
Overall, I found this book to be well researched, structured and thought-provoking.  Being a teenager in the 90's myself I loved all the nostalgic references to music and trends and the closing chapter moved me no end.  I felt well and truly satisfied as I closed the book, no mean feat!
A great debut novel, and I am looking forward to reading more from Holly Seddon.
As such, I give this book... four pink notebooks :

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Review : The Tea Planter's Wife by Dinah Jefferies

Two newlyweds : practically strangers,
deeply in love,
and each hiding a secret from the other...

Published by : Penguin
3 September 2015
Copy : Paperback - reviewer purchased
The Blurb
Nineteen-year-old Gwendolyn Hooper steps off a steamship in Ceylon eager to begin her new life as a married women.  But the husband who greets her is distant, secretive and brooding.  Laurence is forever away working, leaving his young English bride to explore the vast tea plantation alone.  Wandering into forbidden places, Gwen finds locked doors, trunks filled with dusty dresses, a tiny overgrown grave - clues to a hidden, unspeakable past.
Gwen soon falls pregnant and her husband is overjoyed, but in the delivery room she is faced with a terrible choice - one she must hide from Laurence at all costs.  When the time comes to reveal the truth, how will he ever forgive what she has done? 
The Very Pink Notebook Review

The Tea Planter's Wife is the first of Dinah Jefferies books I have read and it will not be the last.  The opening chapter had me intrigued and from the very first page I found the writing so vivid with description I felt transported into the very room in which the scene was set.  This, I found, would continue throughout the entirety of the novel.

Set in Ceylon, we are given a beautiful array of colour and smells to indulge in and Jefferies research is second to none. Through elegant storytelling, the reader is swept back to the 1920's and placed inside the head of Gwendolyn, young, newly-wed and very much in love with both her husband, Lawrence, and the idea she has of being a perfect wife and mother.  Over the course of the novel, which stretches over nine years, we watch a na├»ve and innocent young soul turn into an adult, to the harsh realisation that life very rarely turns out the way we plan it.
Witness to much cultural unrest in Ceylon in general and within the tea business they own themselves, Gwen is stubbornly set against many of the attitudes she comes across.  She often takes a stand against the wishes of Nick McGregor, her husbands right hand man, when it comes to the labourers who work on the land.  These incidents, for me, seemed to be markers to indicate Gwen's growing confidence in herself and who she is within the house-hold. 
Although the setting and the tea plantation is important to the story, the juicy part of the plot is what happens within the house-hold.  What has gone on in the past - Lawrence's secret - and what goes on once Gwen herself arrives.  Secrets, deeply personal and tragic for both characters, lie bubbling underneath the surface and ultimately prove too big to keep hidden.  I was kept enthralled right up to the very last chapter as the discoveries were made, and deeply moved by how the plot unfolded.
Alongside the main story I enjoyed the sub-plots and colourful secondary characters.  I felt each one was well developed and necessary to help the character of Gwen blossom.  From the way cousin Fran helped you understand a little of Gwen's fun side, to the obnoxious nature of her sister in law, Verity, forcing Gwen to 'man up' and the flirty American Caroline who makes no secret of the fact she once believed she should have been the tea planters wife, I found them all quite fascinating.
All in all I love this novel.  Although the themes of the story are sad, the setting being so lush and vivid stops it being dark and depressing.  It moves along at a good pace and I found I did not want to put it down.  I didn't want to leave the colourful scenes and intriguing plot and characters (as such I read this book in two days).
Dinah Jefferies has skilfully created a wonderful work here and I whole heartedly recommend this book.  As such it receives five pink notebooks :