Friday, 23 September 2016

Review : Another Love by Amanda Prowse

Another Love

Published by : Head of Zeus
01 April 2016
Copy : Hardback - Reviewer purchase

The Blurb

In the early years, she was happy. Romilly had worked hard for her stunning, modern house in one of Bristol's most fashionable suburbs. She adored her gorgeous, gap-toothed daughter and her kind and handsome husband. Sure, life was sometimes exhausting - but nothing that a large glass of wine at the end of the day couldn't fix. But then, as deep-buried insecurities surfaced, everything started to unravel. A glass of wine became a bottle; one bottle became two. Once, Romilly's family were everything to her. Now, after years of hiding the drinking, she must finally admit that she has found another love...

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Amanda's statement 'I write stories for women about women.' was what first drew me to her books.  I am yet to be disappointed in reading one of her novels because that statement could not be more true.  Whenever a new Amanda Prowse book comes out I can not wait to find out what thread the story is going to weave around, but one thing is always guaranteed; it is going to be emotional.  Another Love is no different.

Focusing on the world of Romilly, her husband David and daughter Celeste I immediately loved this family.  Amanda has created a family we all know, they are in love, they work hard in their professional careers to provide a beautiful home and a stable life to their much loved child, daughter Celeste.  But, as with most relationships, you never know what really goes on behind closed doors.

Romilly has an addiction, one that waggles itself underneath the noses of so many on a daily basis but that they control.  But for Romilly that addiction slowly turns itself into an illness, it snakes inside of her and takes hold so tightly she gives herself up to it - Romilly is an alcoholic.

This novel takes us through the torrent of emotions of being an alcoholic, via Romilly's narration and also on the flip side through what it is like for those who find themselves living in a home with someone who has an addiction - in this case via daughter Celeste.  I loved the chapters being written from the two viewpoints, even though sometimes it did leave me quite emotionally drained.

It was quite alarming, how Romilly's addiction grew from simple and to be honest quite, run of the mill, random binge drink sessions in University (I think the majority of drinkers have all done that in the past), to the glass of wine looked forward to at the end of the work day with dinner.  How quickly the glass turned to half a bottle and then a bottle.  How the drink with dinner turned into a little afternoon tipple.  I felt sad at those people in Romilly's life who thought it was all fun and games to encourage her to drink, really for their own amusement - whether they realised or not they were pushing her further into alcoholism I am not sure.

I didn't know how far into this illness Romilly would find herself, but Amanda has not held back and we are taken as far as we can go, I am sure all screaming for her to stop in our head, but knowing and understanding that she will not.  I like that Amanda did not do it by halves, it made it feel all the more real, which is one of this authors real talents as a writer, she is not afraid, she does not hold back.  The characters are flawed and those flaws are the basis for her brilliant novels.

I liked that the alcoholic in this novel was Romilly and not David.  It would have been easy to have made the female the one left picking up the pieces, fighting to keep the family together, to keep her daughter shielded.  It was - I think - a fresh take, a more unique story this way.  Another Love is a perfect title for this novel.

As a big fan of Amanda Prowse and her work I am always a little tentative when starting a new novel, hoping it will be as good as previous.  There was no disappointment with this book.

Another Love gets a Very Pink Notebook rating of :

Monday, 19 September 2016

Review : I See You by Clare Mackintosh

I See You (Hardback)

Published : 28 July 2016
By : Sphere
Copy : Hardback - Reviewer Purchase

The Blurb

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it's there. There's no explanation: just a grainy image, a website address and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it's just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.
Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make . . .

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Clare Mackintosh gave us a killer debut novel with I Let You Go, so I was thrilled to discover a second book was to follow with relative speed.  As most fans of I Let You Go, I wondered how the author would deal with second book syndrome and I have to say, pretty damn well.

I was lucky enough to be present at an event with the author earlier in the year, where she read us the first chapter of I See You, leaving the audience salivating after just a few minutes.  And that is how I felt at the end of almost every chapter.  It gripped every part of my imagination, it made me feel uneasy - how true our weakness for 'routine' in our lives is and how this can make us so very vulnerable, I could not stop turning the pages. 

Based on main character Zoe, we are entered into a dirty underworld whereby women's identities are literally put up for sale - but not to their knowledge.  When Zoe sees a picture of herself in an advert she has no clue as to why but with steely determination to discover why, we are taken on a journey which puts everyone as a potential suspect in the web she slowly unravels. 

Along with her on this journey is Kelly, a somewhat disgraced Police Officer who has been put on Neighbourhood Policing but is itching to get back into more serious crime.  She comes across Zoe's call by chance and with nothing to go on but gut instinct she also suspects something more sinister is going on than meets the eye.  Eventually she manages to get assigned to the case with DI Rampello and I enjoyed the pairing of the two officers.

Kelly also has an interesting back story of her own, which gave a good interlude to the main plot.  It demonstrates she isn't always inclined to play by the book, which, when everyone else is doubting Zoe and her version of events, Zoe finds she really needs.

Again, what I love about Clare Mackintosh as a writer is she does not bog you down in police procedure, but gives you just enough to keep you engaged and flying along the plot with speed.  It must be one of the hardest things as a writer, to get that balance right. 

For the most part the story is seen from the eyes of Zoe and the police team, but sporadically we hear another voice.  The voice of the perpetrator.  Menacing and cold it sent chills down my spine and I had absolutely no clue who that person was until it was revealed right at the very end.  It left me very unsettled, a sure sign of a good book.

This is another complex novel which Clare Mackintosh has managed to deliver so it is both thrilling and effortless to read.  I couldn't get enough of it and I am already on tenterhooks for book number three!

I See You gets a Very Pink Notebook rating of :


Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Blog Tour and Review : Horse Flesh by Tina Sugarman

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of Tina Sugarman's exciting new book, Horse Flesh, blog tour this week.  With much thanks to Authoright for involving me in the tour and for a copy of the book, in exchange for an honest review.

Published by : Clink Street Publishing
1st September 2016
Copy : Paperback - provided by Authoright in exchange for an honest review

The Blurb

Enter the highly competitive world of Standardbred horse racing, in this exhilarating debut from an insider. The story, however, goes far beyond that and touches on universal themes that every reader will recognise.

You’ll be thrust into the front car on a roller coaster ride, through triumph and disaster, that begins on page one. You’ll feel every twist and turn of the story in the pit of your stomach. You’ll laugh and cry with the rough, tough guys who put on the show, rain or shine. You’ll empathise with the women who give this world a heart.  You’ll meet the cheaters who use horses as pincushions, who want to win at any price.  You’ll get to know the equine athletes who give their all, whatever challenges life throws at them. Last, but not least, you’ll feel the overwhelming sense of community that pervades this world, despite the sharp edges of a highly competitive sport. If that’s not enough, there’s a backstory that will keep you on the edge of your seat, which takes you on a journey from Ontario, Canada to the Rockies, the US, the Caribbean and even the UK. The icing on the cake is an ending full of surprises that will leave you feeling well satisfied.

The characters leap off the page: a brilliant harness horse driver whose drug habit risks costing him everything, his cousin, a trainer who refuses to compromise her integrity, a mysterious individual known only as the Scorpion, lurking in the shadows, pulling the strings, the Director of Racing trying desperately to clean up the industry, his mentor and best friend who has his own agenda, a low life groom who knows too much for his own good, the Canadian Mountie who inadvertently gets involved, with unforeseen consequences, a veterinarian caught between two worlds, young horses unaware of what’s in store for them and trainers whose livelihoods hang by a thread, who face a Hobbesian choice if they are to survive. These are just some of the players in a story where passions run high and where the distinction between right and wrong, good and evil, is always blurred.

Fascinating, fast paced and with shocking twists and turns until the very last, HORSE FLESH is a breakthrough debut novel set to entertain not only horse and racing enthusiasts, but fiction fans looking for a fresh next read.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

When I first received my copy of Horsh Flesh, I must admit, I was a little overwhelmed at the size of it - weighing in at 703 pages I did wonder how the story was going to keep me gripped for the duration!  I needn't have worried though, I flew through the book quickly, completely absorbed by the plot and fantastic characters.

There are an awful lot of characters in this book and sometimes I did struggle to keep up with the names of who was who and what they were to the story at the start, but the more involved I got I realised how necessary each one was as the very intricate story-web was weaved.  The author very cleverly left little snippets of information about each character when they had been absent from the plot for a while to remind you who they were and draw them back in which was most helpful and never tedious.

I liked the pace of the book it raced along even though the time-span requires coverage of years.  Sugarman copes with this well, by clearly marking out the seasons and varying special events, e.g new year.  Little summaries of the characters personal lives are dropped into keep you up to date with the movement in time and I never once struggled to keep up to speed.

The plot is centred around the cut-throat world of Standardbred horse-racing in Canada and completely annihilates any sugar-coated idea you may harbour about this racing world.  The 'good guys' it seems are far out-weighed by the scheming and selfish ones who treat the animals as nothing but horse-flesh (and there we have our title!) and will do anything - literally - to try and win races.  The welfare of the animals do not even register on the radar of a lot of those involved and even when standards and measures are put in place to try and protect the horses, it just causes worse and even more underhand and devious acts to take place.

Alongside the racing world we are also drawn into the underbelly of drugs and top gangsters - those who do the dirty work and the top dogs - who with the mere making or receiving of a phone call can end or saves lives, which eventually all ties in with the racing circuit.  How Tina Sugarman ever kept track of all the plot lines and threads and got them to all weave in and tie up is quite literally a stroke of genius.  Also, not only is this a brilliant book, but it is one of my favourite book covers to date.

Although lengthy and not particularly set to a classic structure I found this book easy to read and enthralling.  I think it helped that I like horses and find the racing world - well I used to find the racing world - somewhat enigmatic - so I was drawn in by the cover and blurb, but even if horses are not your thing if you like a gripping and meaty saga then this book will be a treat.

I give horse flesh a brilliant :

Follow the Tour

Check out other reviews of this book by following the tour.

About the Author

Tina Sugarman has been involved with Standardbred horse racing in Ontario for nearly two decades, spending summers on a horse farm a few kilometres from Mohawk Raceway, the premier harness racing track in Canada. She lives in Poole, Dorset with her husband and their maine coon cat, Juliette and enjoys driving their hackney mare, Mango, in the New Forest.  She still takes a keen interest in the sport. HORSE FLESH by Tina Sugarman (published by Clink Street Publishing September 1st, 2016) is available to order from online retailers including Amazon and to order from all good bookstores.