Review: Lullaby by Leila Slimani

Image result for leila slimani lullabyWhat I Thought:

“The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.” That is the first line of this book. I was horrified and hooked. We know right from the start that there is no happy ending and we also know who is guilty. What we want to know is why.
Lullaby is shocking because it’s the nanny who has harmed the children. Louise is the perfect nanny: quiet, conscientious, and always going above and beyond what’s required of her role. She makes herself invaluable to a mother who is desperate to get back to work and find the person she once was. In fact, Louise is so perfect that the parents find themselves prepared to overlook certain things that become increasingly odd, all for the sake of peace and keeping her in the role so they can fulfill their own needs outside o the children. Lullaby explores the dynamics within a family unit and also those of gender, race and class.
This is no ordinary domestic noir: the book is short in length, has short chapters and has prose that is precise, clipped and even blunt, but not a word is wasted. However, from what was such a promising start that lured me straight in it gradually went downhill for me, with an ending that was particularly frustrating.

Verdict:

Despite there being lots to like about this book, I became more confused towards the end as to what drove Louise to do what she did. In fact the more we learned about Louise’s past the more confused I became as to why the hell she did what she did. Well written and I liked the style but I got no closure from this book and it left me with a sense of being duped.

Review: The Fear by C.L. Taylor

Image result for the fear c l taylorWhat I Thought:

This is one of those read-in-on-sitting type books: short chapters, alternating viewpoints, past and present narratives. All the ingredients of a gripping page-turner.

Lou Wandsworth had an affair with her Karate teacher, Mike, when she was fourteen, which ended when they were arrested in France. Eighteen years later, Lou has been unable to move on properly with her life; with short-lived relationships having become her staple and a past that even her best friend doesn’t know anything about. But it’s not about to stay like that for much longer. After her Father’s death, Lou has to move back to her childhood home which exposes not only long-buried feelings but also the revelation that Mike may be up to his old tricks with 13-year-old Chloe Meadows.

What follows is a game of cat and mouse as Lou attempts to bring Mik to justice after all these years, but what neither of them reckons on is there being someone else in the mix who is just as out for revenge.

Verdict:

A gripping, fast-paced read that will have you questioning what is really going on and a race to the end to see if just desserts are served after all.

 

NB/ I received a copy of this book from Avon Books in return for an honest review. The book is launched in the UK on 22/03/18.

 

Review – Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Image result for sapiensWhat I Thought:

You’d be forgiven for thinking that a book with over 500 pages about humankind over the last several million years may be dry and inaccessible. Not so with this book. It is a feast for the brain! Harari has made a very complicated subject easy to understand because of his way of writing, which is engaging and clear.

Sapiens really challenges you and makes you think. For example, Harari provides some intriguing arguments about how we were all duped by the Agricultural Revolution which turned us into farmers when we evolved essentially to be hunter-foragers. We tend to assume that the agricultural revolution was a great leap forward – when actually, according to this book, it was more akin to a great disaster.

Likewise, he analyses the Cognitive Revolution which allowed mankind to develop a consciousness about life and to believe in “phenomena” such as religion and culture. The role of empires and capitalism are thoroughly discussed, and Harari gives some interesting ideas on why it was that a then-comparatively backward Europe came to dominate the globe. This I found fascinating, as we learn that while Europeans were out exploring and conquering, China and India and other great nations sat complacently back, only to find themselves at the bottom of the new pecking order.

Sapiens themselves won out over other varieties of early human (Neanderthals, Denisovans etc)  and evolved into a supreme species by first wreaking havoc on other large species as they spread across the globe and then outthinking others, engaging in shared fictions (religions, limited liability companies etc). This may make us feel powerful or triumphant but, believe me, it makes you ashamed too.

I could not put this book down. It was a refreshing respite from the majority fiction that I usually read and gave my brain a damn good work out too. Trust me when I say you will view yourself and those around you very differently once you’ve finished.

Verdict:

A fascinating, gripping, sometimes jaw-dropping read. It’s accessible without being patronising. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

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Review: The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr

Image result for ella blackWhat I Thought:

Seventeen-year-old Ella Black has a stable and relatively happy life. Most of the time. When she’s not painting or hanging with her friends, she is trying to hide the ‘bad’ side of her personality, Bella, as Bella makes her do and say things that Ella never would. All good until one day, out of the blue, her parents pull her suddenly out of school and whisk her away to Rio de Janeiro with some flimsy excuse that Ella doesn’t believe for a minute. Determined to find out what’s really going on, Ella searches through their things and discovers that her entire life has been a lie. Hurt and confused, Ella runs away, but it appears she can’t outrun the truth.

My issues with this book are many but mainly centred around Ella herself: the fact that she behaved younger than her apparent years, was bratty and spoiled and fell head-over-heels in love with someone she had never even spoken to are just some of those. The bit I had been keen to read more about was her alter-ego Bella, but even she disappeared once they arrived in Rio. Rio? The fact that Ella’s parents whisk her off there was never really explained either, it was just all very odd. As was the fact that she managed to land on her feet and get out of scrapes with remarkable speed and ease.

I read to the end was to find out what happened but unfortunately, it was a big let-down. The cover is misleading for a start, and I still couldn’t understand Ella’s actions enough to get any kind of closure. I’m left feeling a bit cheated.

Verdict:

I am a fan of Emily Barr’s books but I really can’t recommend this one I’m afraid. I know I’m not the target audience but I still know a good book when I read one and I hate to say it but this ain’t one of ’em.

 

NB/ With thanks to Netgalley for allowing me to read this book in return for an honest review.

Review: Home by Amanda Berriman

Image result for home amanda berrimanWhat I Thought:

I have thought about what I might write for this review, and have finally come to the conclusion that whatever I write will come nowhere close to doing this book justice. It was one of those books where I started to dread finishing because I didn’t want to leave them behind. It melted my heart but it also broke it.

The funny thing is, I was almost put off reading Home upon realising it was narrated by a four-year-old as I’m not a massive fan of child narrators (except the utterly brilliant Room and Only Child). However, buying Home has turned out to be one of the best bookish decisions I have ever made! Within two pages, I had warmed to Jesika so completely that I wanted to scoop her up in a big fat hug.

Jesika lives with her Mum Tina and baby brother Toby in a high-rise flat with a corrupt Landlord and unsavoury neighbours. This is a story of poverty and struggle and yet it is also a story of bravery and triumph. Some of the themes of the book are not easy to read but seeing it through the eyes of a child adds some distance allowing the book not to take a depressing or gratuitous turn. Every character in this book is so wonderfully drawn that I took pretty much all of them to heart.

There’s not much more I can say about the plot without ruining it and whatever more I do say will never truly capture the beauty and brilliance of this book. The only thing I can say with any certainty is READ IT!

Verdict:

Warning: Jesika will steal your heart. You will not want to leave her behind and you still think about her long after you have set this book down to rest. I cannot recommend highly enough!

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Review: Bring Me Back by B A Paris

bring meWhat I Thought:

Last year I read TheBreakdown and absolutely loved it so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this. I’m sorry to say that I was left disappointed… There are a handful of reviews already out there all raving about this Bring Me Back, so much so that I had to question whether I had even read the same book as everyone else. It’s not a bad book, that much I will say, but I found myself bored by the repetition and, what I felt was, unnecessary padding.

The prologue lulled me into a sense of intrigue and high hopes that ultimately failed to deliver. Finn and Layla are driving home through France on their way back from a skiing trip, when a stop to use the bathroom at a rest area on the motorway results in the disappearance of Layla. Originally suspected of murder and then released, Finn continues on with his life only to meet and fall in love with Layla’s sister Ellen. Twelve years after her disappearance, and shortly after Finn’s proposal to Ellen, Finn starts receiving messages of sightings and is the recipient of strange goings-on that would only mean something to the three of them – Finn, Ellen and Layla. Is Layla alive after all? And if so, where has she been all these years?

Maybe I read too many of these types of books but the red herrings weren’t fishy enough for me and the outcome became obvious to me very early on so it almost became a let-down to be proved right as I love a good shock ending. The plus points are that there are unreliable narrators and despite (in my view) a middle that sagged between a good start and a good ending, I still turned the pages fairly quickly.

Verdict:

Lots to like and will no doubt be a roaring success like her previous books, but it didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

NB/ Thank you to Netgalley and HQ for my copy of this book which I chose to read in return for an honest review.
This book will be available to buy on 8th March 2018.

Review: The Temptation of Gracie by Santa Montefiore

What I Thought:

Let me start by saying that I am such a huge fan of Santa Montefiore’s books. I discovered them several years ago when I found myself swept away to Italy and Devon in The House by The Sea  which still remains one of my favourites. Since then I have read many more, but I still have plenty more on my shelf (what I call my rainy day shelf – when I need a pick-me-up and know beyond doubt that a book by a certain author will be just the tonic I need).

The Temptation of Gracie is a standalone book, centered around Gracie herself, her daughter Carina and granddaughter Anastasia. It is again set in Italy and Devon and also over dual time-frames. Elderly Gracie Burton lives in Devon, where she spends her time walking her two dogs along the cliffs and helping to organise various events in the village. According to herself, and to the knowledge of her friends and even her own family, Gracie has led an unremarkable life, so when Grace suddenly announces that she is going to Tuscany to stay in a castle for a week-long Italian cookery course, it not only sets tongues wagging but has just about everyone she knows aghast at the idea. As Gracie sets off to sunnier climes, reluctant daughter and granddaughter in tow, the memories stirred up by the trip for Gracie that will have long-lasting implications for all of them.

To say any more about the plot would be to spoil the unfolding story of what happens when they arrive in Tuscany, but true to form there are secrets, revelations and romance. As with all Montefiore’s books, it is best to know little and allow yourself to be swept up in what ensues. One of the reasons I love her books is that so often when reading them, when I eventually look up, I am surprised to still find myself in my own front room. Every page is a feast of colours, smells and sensations. Everything feels so vibrant and sumptuous; from the flowers to the food to the views from the castle. I admit I am no chef, but when reading this book I immediately wanted to book myself onto an Italian cookery course in a Tuscan castle. Now that is great storytelling!

One final shout out about this book and that is the characters: they were all wonderful. However, my particular favourite was Flappy Scott-Booth – the bossy, snobby, interfering head of Badley Compton Ladies’ Book Club. She was an absolute delight to read about and added several (unintentional on her part) comedy moments. I’m desperately hoping she appears in more books in the future.

Verdict:

An absolute joy. Pure escapism at its best.

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