Friday, 28 October 2016

Review : A Suitable Lie by Michael J Malone

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of Michael J Malone's exciting new psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, blog tour this week.  With much thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for involving me in the tour and for a copy of the book, in exchange for an honest review.

A Suitable Lie

Publisher : Orenda Books
15 September 2016 (paperback)
Copy : Paperback - Received from publisher as part of tour for honest review

The Blurb

Some secrets should never be kept…

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match … and she loves his son like he is her own.  When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. Desperate for that happy-ever-after, he ignores it. A dangerous mistake that could cost him everything.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Dark, a touch sadistic but utterly brilliant and heart-wrenching at the same time, Michael J Malone's psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, kept me gripped and page turning until the very end.

So much goes on within this plot it is quite exhausting, but it is so well written I flew through this book in two sittings.  Dealing with the subject of domestic violence can be difficult to read about but it seemed even more intense somehow because the stereotypical roles have been reversed, which was refreshing and a mark of genius by the author.

The subplots run alongside the main fantastically and enhances the involvement of the reader into the mind set of the main character, Andy.  Through the characters of Sheila and Malcolm, who are dealing with their own trauma's in life, Andy is able to glean strength from them. 

I was surprised at how perfectly the author cast and developed every character within this novel, from the main ones of Andy and Anna, to those mentioned in passing, for example, Malcolm's father.  As a reader I felt the author had known these people a long time.

At times when reading, I found myself clutching at my heart or head, thinking 'No!'  I wanted to jump into the page to stop or change what was happening I got so engrossed.

This book deserves the same kind of huge recognition as the likes of The Girl on the Train and I hope and expect to see it on a best-sellers list.  I can also easily envisage it as a very good three part drama or even film, it kept playing out that way in my head.

With this book shooting straight into my Top 5 of the year so far I can do nothing less that award it the highest rating and enthuse to everyone who loves a brilliant, dark, psychological thriller to get a copy of this book immediately.

I am thankful and honoured to have been part of the blog tour for this brilliant book.  Great work Michael.

Follow the Tour

Check out other reviews of A Suitable Lie by following the tour.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Review : US by David Nicholls

Published by : Hodder
7 May 2015
Copy : Paperback - Reviewer purchased

The Blurb

Douglas Petersen understands his wife's need to 'rediscover herself' now that their son is leaving home.

He just thought they'd be doing their rediscovering together.

So when Connie announces that she will be leaving, too, he resolves to make their last family holiday into the trip of a lifetime: one that will draw the three of them closer, and win the respect of his son. One that will make Connie fall in love with him all over again.

The hotels are booked, the tickets bought, the itinerary planned and printed.

What could possibly go wrong?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Dare I say, I was not a huge fan of One Day by David Nicholls, so I wasn't sure how I would get on with this novel, but I am glad to say it was very enjoyable.  I laughed out loud frequently at the directness with which the story was delivered by main character, Douglas, sensible scientist. 

Douglas speaks directly to the reader, giving us his version of his life, in what I assume is meant to be an effort at dissecting it for himself, to see where it all went 'wrong' after his wife tells him she thinks she is going to leave him.  I found Douglas a very likeable character and could often see his point of view.  I can't say I found Connie, his wife or Albie, his teenage son as endearing, but then again we were only told the story from the side of Douglas.  Even so, on occasion Douglas freely admits he can, with hindsight see mistakes he made, particularly with regard to his reaction to things during Albie's younger years, so he does indicate that perhaps Connie and Albie did put up with some trying behaviour.

As the family travels around Europe on a Grand Tour of the Art Galleries, the scenes and situations they find themselves in are equally amusing and frustrating.  Douglas has gone to great lengths to try and make the trip perfect, which of course is just a recipe for disaster, especially as he does seem to have issues with control.  Eventually of course he realises he can not control everything, especially when the people he wants to conform are artistic and ever so more free-spirited than he, but is it just too late?

I found the book very easy reading and really enjoyed the short, sharp, snappy chapters.  I also thought the degree of 'then' and 'now' was spot on.  Finding out about how Douglas and Connie had come to be a couple and the history they shared helped pixelate just how they had reached breaking point in their marriage. 

My only negative comment would be sometimes I found a little too much time was spent depicting artwork in the galleries, I felt it a little unnecessary and it didn't add anything to moving the plot along.  Having said that, I thought the descriptiveness of the countries as they were travelled through was wonderful.

I really was unsure as to where the ending would go but I think Nicholls got it bang on and the very last sentence did leave me smiling.

US by David Nicholls receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :


Thursday, 20 October 2016

Blog Tour : The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of Agnes Ravatn's exciting new novel, The Bird Tribunal, blog tour this week.  With much thanks to Karen at Orenda Books for involving me in the tour and for a copy of the book, in exchange for an honest review.

The Bird Tribunal

Published by : Orenda Books
1 September 2016
Copy : Paperback - Received from publisher as part of tour and for honest review

The Blurb

Two people in exile. Two secrets. As the past tightens its grip, there may be no escape… TV presenter Allis Hagtorn leaves her partner and her job to take voluntary exile in a remote house on an isolated fjord. But her new job as housekeeper and gardener is not all that it seems, and her silent, surly employer, 44-year-old Sigurd Bagge, is not the old man she expected. As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough… Haunting, consuming and powerful, The Bird Tribunal is a taut, exquisitely written psychological thriller that builds to a shocking, dramatic crescendo that will leave you breathless. 

The Very Pink Notebook Review

For the first few pages of this book I was really unsure how I would fare with it, I struggled a little with the style.  However, once I relaxed into it and let the narration take over, unhindered, I quickly became intrigued.

Although not a great deal of 'action' happens at the beginning, the two (and only) characters, Allis and Bagge, are such complex and intense people you want to find out how the simplest of things are processed in their very strange minds.  Just the day to day dance between the two is deeply immersive to the reader.  In a sense I felt I was intruding on an exceptionally long term of foreplay, even through the most mundane of day to day tasks.

Alongside this is the yearning to know the history of the characters.  We quickly ascertain Allis, a well known TV personality, has fled from the disgrace of infidelity (on her part).  It is more difficult to find out what is going on with Bagge however, because we only ever see his story through the eyes of Allis.  Allis is given glimpses of a dark side of Bagge, his mood swings, his strange dreams of The Bird Tribunal, the sly comments from the old women at the local store, but Allis only wants to believe in the gentle side she sees emerge.

I was intrigued what the title of the novel would relate to and when I did discover it I thought it was absolutely fascinating.

I also loved learning the story of Balder, which is punctuated throughout the novel and thought it was very cleverly interwoven to help enhance the story of Allis and Bagge.

If you asked me in which era this book is set I would struggle to identify it.  I felt as if it should be much older than what it is, given Allis is a TV personality and Bagge makes a comment regarding the house being over 100 years old built in 1890's, this steers it to be quite recent.  To be honest though it could probably be set at any time because both characters have chosen to remove themselves from the outside world, to create their own.

With its unusual writing style, I was inclined to use the words intriguing and fascinating a lot in the review and in summary these are the two I would use again, along with unnerving and enthralling.

This beautifully translated (Rosie Hedger) English Pen Award winning book receives :

About the Author

Agnes Ravatn (b. 1983) is a Norwegian author and columnist.  She made her literary debut with the novel Week 53 in 2007.  Since then she has written three critically acclaimed and award-winning essay collections: Standing, Popular Reading and Operation Self-discipline, in which she recounts her experience with social media addiction, and how she overcame it.  The Bird Tribunal won the cultural radio P2's listener's prize for this novel, a popular and important prize in Norway, in addition to The Youth Critic's Prize.  The Bird Tribunal was also made into a successful play, which premiered in Oslo in 2015.

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Sunday, 16 October 2016

Review : My Husband's Wife by Amanda Prowse

My Husband's Wife: The Number 1 Bestseller (No Greater Courage)

Published by : Head of Zeus
14 July 2016
Copy : Reviewer purchased

The Blurb

Once a week, Rosie Tipcott counts her blessings.

She goes to sit on her favourite bench on the north Devon cliffs, and thanks her lucky stars for her wonderful husband, her mischievous young daughters, and her neat little house by the sea. She vows to dedicate every waking hour to making her family happy.

But then her husband unexpectedly leaves her for another woman and takes the children. Now she must ask the question: what is left in her life? Can Rosie find the strength to rebuild herself? More importantly, does she even want to?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Amanda Prowse has written yet another beautiful, moving and heartfelt novel with My Husband's Wife, making me once again think, laugh and shed a tear. 

With the most wonderful main character, Rosie Tipcott, we are taken on a true journey of the heart.  I have to say, Rosie is one of my most favourite characters from any book.  I loved her wholeheartedly.  She is so happy with her lot in life, even though she doesn't have massive riches or a fantastic glamourous job, she loves what she has and in her eyes her world is just where is should be.  How lovely and refreshing to meet anyone like that, real or fictitious!  

When the love of her life, husband and father of her two adored daughters, Phil, leaves her for a rich and highly successful women (who, of course, we hate), Rosie thinks she should question her outlook on life.  But ultimately she can't question what she loves and that was the life she had, as her husband's wife and mother to her children.  That was her dream and she achieved it.  Amanda has managed to really capture the true feelings of anguish and torment that Rosie endures in the months and all that transpires with Phil and his new mistress, with real finesse.   

Many might question why this would be enough for a person, being a wife and mother - is it realistic someone would be like that?  But Rosie didn't have that life growing up.  Her mother left when she was born and she was raised by a good and decent single parent father.  After her husband leaves, and she finds herself in receipt of a letter her mother wrote when she left, Rosie starts to see similarities in her mother and fathers relationship and her own with Phil and she is forced to re-evaluate the way she has always viewed her past, and look at her childhood more closely. 

The relationship Rosie has with her father and step-mother is an amicable one and it is quite moving how the revelation of some truths helps to rebuild it to something more between them all.  One particular gesture by her step-mother at the end of the book did actually make me cry.

Although a deeply emotion book it was never too intense or hard going and had some brilliant scenes of comedy - particularly the opening scene with her daughters, Naomi and Leona.  It has been written with a light hand and I flew through it, enjoying every minute I spent with Rosie in her world.  Even in some of the most dramatic scenes for Rosie, there was a hint of humour (I will never carry a bowl of coleslaw to a party...) and that made her even more relatable and real.  The other characters within the book were also well portrayed and I loved how some of them behaved in the complete opposite way to which I was expecting them too. 

All of this goes on in the small sea-side town of Woolacombe.  With brilliant and vivid imagery I could practically taste the salt on my lips and the wind blustering through my hair up on Rosie's bench.  I felt the location matched the character of Rosie perfectly.  Sitting snuggled in the coast line of Devon is it unassuming and content, like Rosie, and blossoms in the summer with the influx of tourists, it lighting up with excitement when it has people to entertain.  For Rosie, her world lit up whenever she was with her family, they are her tourists.  During the cold season the town still sits and waits, the beauty the same, waiting, waiting for the tourists again to arrive.       

Rosie was a character I really rooted for and I was so happy with the ending, it was a perfect fit for her.

The beautiful My Husband's Wife by Amanda Prowse receives :


Friday, 14 October 2016

Review : A Home in Sunset Bay by Rebecca Pugh

A Home In Sunset Bay

Published by : Carina
9 February 2016
Copy : Ebook - Reviewer purchased

The Blurb

Enough is enough! The always perfect Laurie Chapman had jumped in her car and raced as fast as she could from London heading to Sunset Bay and (she hopes!) the open arms of her estranged sister…

Mia Chapman loves running Dolly’s Diner in the picture-perfect coastal Cornish town of Sunset Bay. Now that her and Grandma Dolly’s dream is finally a reality Mia has never been prouder! Until Laurie suddenly turns up on her doorstep…

How can she forgive the sister who walked away?

Once upon a time Mia and Laurie were best friends. Back together after so long, the time has come for the sisters to figure out what went so wrong all those years ago – and whether they can ever put it right!

The Very Pink Notebook Review

This is the first of Rebecca Pugh's novels I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

After a long stint of reading darker, psychological thrillers this was a welcome breath of salty Cornish sea air.  I loved the beautifully descriptive ability of Rebecca's to really capture every sense, I felt fully placed in situ of the novel.

Mainly based around the adorable, Dolly's Diner, a restaurant inherited by main character Mia, I could really envisage the place (and smells of coffee, milkshakes, fries and doughnuts) and picture the staff waiting on the tables.  More than once I found myself wishing it was a real place.

Aside from the lovely imagery within her writing, the author also gives us a beautiful story of family.  Two sisters, once so close who have grown apart and living very different lives are suddenly thrust back together when the elder sister, Laurie, runs away from the heartbreak she suffers in London.

The story explores the bonds of sisterhood, sibling rivalry, the tricky concept of parental favouritism and good old fashioned romance. 

It is a gentle tale, one by which you will want to curl up with a mug of hot sweet tea, under your softest and favourite blanket and thickest cosiest socks on a cold winters evening, and it is guaranteed to warm you through and through... and I am pretty sure this is just what the author had in mind when she wrote this.

A Home in Sunset Bay receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Review : The Mountain in my Shoe by Louise Beech

The Mountain in My Shoe copy

Published by : Orenda
30 September 2016 (paperback)
Copy : Paperback - Received from publisher for honest review

The Blurb

A missing boy. A missing book. A missing husband. A woman who must find them all to find herself …
On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she’s leaving, he doesn’t come home. Neither does Conor, the little boy she’s befriended for the past five years. Also missing is his lifebook, the only thing that holds the answers. With the help of Conor’s foster mum, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband’s secrets and a future she never dared imagine in order to find them all.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

The Mountain in my Shoe is a wonderful story focussing on relationships.  The author looks at many different relationships, good and bad in family and friends, all done with great sensitivity. 

The two main characters we meet are (adult) Bernadette and (child) Conor.  A good portion of the story is narrated by Bernadette.  Bernadette is a women who at first seems content and thrives on being a dedicated home-maker, she recalls with nostalgia her early years with her husband, Richard, but this starts alarm bells for the reader, because we can see through her descriptions she is actually living in fear and her husband clearly has a compulsive need to control her.  We discover they have been unable to have children much to both their devastation.  When Bernadette finally decides to leave Richard he fails to come home from work.

It is interesting because apart from in past context, when Bernadette is recalling a memory or when she is sharing with her friend, Anne, we never get to see Bernadette and husband, Richard, in any scenes together which helped to create the growing isolation Bernadette is feeling.  In her search for meaningful relationships Bernadette finds herself as part of a volunteer programme in which she befriends a child in care - Conor.

I loved the character of Conor.  He is eternally optimistic despite his sad and unstructured childhood.  I liked the uncomplicated and childish narration that he presented.  When it is discovered Conor has failed to return from school, the reader is kept in the know about what is going on through Conor's version of events but kept in the dark enough that we are not told until the end if the two disappearances of Richard and Conor are linked. 

The combination of the two narrators keep the pace of the book moving along keenly.  Added to this we also get to read documents from Conor's lifebook, which gives a rich and varied account of Conor's history from various people who have been a part of his life, including his mother.  It was a unique way of building up a portrait of a character and I really enjoyed it.

The author makes good use of the surrounding to represent the characters too.  Bernadette lives in a cold, soul-less, unappealing home, she mentions this many times, and this it transpires is the life she has been living.

Although I wasn't sitting on the edge of my seat with the thriller element, it kept me gripped and engaged enough.  It was the two beautifully developed characters that drew me in - I felt real warmth and affection for them. 

The Mountain in my Shoe receives :

Many thanks to Karen at Orenda for an advance copy of the book



Monday, 10 October 2016

Review : Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Published by : Atlantic Books
1 January 2013
Copy : Paperback - Reviewer purchase

The Blurb

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

I didn't really know anything about this book until a trailer for the film caught my eye.  As per my usual rule, I will not watch the film until I have read the book and for this one in particular I am glad I stuck to it.

Wild, is a poignant, gritty and ultimately uplifting memoir from American, Cheryl Strayed.  The book has been written by Cheryl herself with the aid of her notes from the hike and the memories to which she holds dear.  I loved this book, it is a real warts and all account.  She does not try and hide the complete and utter devastation she suffered or caused.  She in no way tries to glamourise or legitimise anything that was done to her or she did to others and this made me have a lot of respect for this author. 

The book, I felt, has been written with real clarity from a hindsight perspective, which for the sake of the memoir is a good thing.  She has picked out and sewn together a brilliant, flowing and logical account of what happened, both within her life prior to, and on the actual months of hiking the PCT.

I relished meeting the colourful (and not so colourful) characters on her journey, the vivid (but not boring) descriptions of her landscapes and the equally amazing and dire conditions she found herself experiencing on this, her journey of a life time.  Often I found myself desperate to read on just to know she made it to her next postal point so she could collect her next box of supplies.

This is a book about not quitting.  About not listening to those who think you can't do something.  It's about the amazing things our bodies and minds can be pushed to do, when we think it would never be possible in a million years.  Would I want to do the things Cheryl did in order to get to this point in her life where she needed such clarity?  Never.  But will I ever think I can't do that again?  Not so much.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed receives a Very Pink Notebook ...


Saturday, 8 October 2016

Review : If I Forget You by T.C.Greene

If I Forget You (Paperback)
Published by : Corvus - Atlantic Books Ltd
01 September 2016
Copy - Paperback - Received from Atlantic Books in exchange for honest review

The Blurb

When Margot and Henry meet, they fall deeply in love.  And then they lose each other.

But Henry can't forget Margot and Margot is haunted by her memories of Henry. They live in each other's minds.

Twenty-one years later, they meet, by chance, on a Manhattan street. And that's where their story truly begins...

If I Forget You is a beautiful exploration of what it means to find the person you are destined to be with, but then spend a lifetime apart

The Very Pink Notebook Review

When any book lands on my doorstep and has the beautiful New York skyline on its cover I am always going to be excited to read it.  If I Forget You did not disappoint me.  A story centred solely on the love story of Margot and Henry, it was gentle but not kitsch. 

T. C. Greene has written in present tense, which puts the reader really up close and personal with the two characters and as I read further along I became more and more involved with them, entangled in their rush of emotions.  The story starts in the present day, when a chance encounter between the two stirs up so much emotion in them it just can not be left.  We are then given chapters, interchanging between past and present, from both points of view - which I liked very much - and we discover the delicious history the two have together.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from the plot.  As I read I thought the book was just going to tell of the love story, a pattern of longing and circumstance, so was quite pleased with the twist in the tale at the end.

I have to say, I loved Henry, but did not care so much for Margot, but I think this is what made it a captivating love story rather than a cringe-worthy one.  I liked that they were flawed characters and the realism that sometimes 'real life' does get in the way of love. 

Beautiful prose paired with exceptional and vivid imagery of New York I thoroughly enjoyed getting embroiled in the world of Henry and Margot, and their love story.

If I Forget You receives a hearty :

With much thanks to Alison at Atlantic Books for a review copy of this book