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.
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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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Review: Tangerine by Christine Mangan

33123864What I Thought:

This book had me at “If Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn, Patricia Highsmith & Daphne Du Maurier collaborated”. Sold!

It’s 1956 and Alice Shipley has moved with her new husband, John, to the sweltering, claustrophobic heat of Tangier in Morocco for John’s work. Once sociable, Alice becomes almost a recluse as she hides herself away from the crowds in her little apartment. Isolated and friendless, Alice’s self-made little cocoon is about to be blown wide open by the appearance of Lucy Mason, her ex-college roommate from Vermont. It is immediately apparent that all is not well between Alice and Lucy: what starts out as uncomfortable and strained, escalates into something far more toxic.

Narrated alternately by both Alice and Lucy, we begin to learn more about their pasts, their friendship and the incident that drove them apart a year ago. With a definite nod to Single White Female, what ensues is a tale of obsession, manipulation and deception. While not a book that hurtles along, it is certainly still a page-turner with plenty of forward momentum as the desire to discover both what happened on a stormy night in Vermont and what the outcome will be for all as Lucy tightens her net around her prey.

Verdict:

Deliciously twisty and chilling and although some just desserts were served, not everything worked out as I had expected which pleased me as it wasn’t all tied up in a neat, predictable little bow.

This is a remarkable debut: so much so that I would have guessed at a much more seasoned writer had I not known. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and heartily recommend it.

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NB/ I received a copy of this book from Amazon Vine in return for an honest review. It is released in the UK by Little, Brown on 22nd March 2018.

Blog Tour: Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

9781509855582What I Thought:

Many years ago I read a book called Room by Emma Donaghue and fell in love with a small boy. A few weeks ago I read Only Child and fell in love with a different little boy. There was a time when I couldn’t read books narrated by children, as I would find myself cringing at anything that didn’t feel authentic. Room changed that, and now I have a new hero that goes by the name of Zach.

The book opens with Zach and some of his classmates hiding in a cupboard with their teacher as a gunman runs rampage through their school. Zach continues with his story in the aftermath of the massacre as he, his family and the community try to make some sort of sense of the events of that day. Zach is a wonderful character: perceptive, sensitive and very engaging. Despite narrating the chaos and confusion felt by himself and those around him, it was a pleasure to be in his company as he navigated his own unfamiliar emotions and witnessed the alien ones of those closest to him. Being narrated by a child gives the story the wide-eyed, innocent view of the world that only a child could which adds to the heartbreak in a way that a cynical or jaded adult wouldn’t be able to.

This is such an incredibly powerful book and not just because of the subject matter. I am stunned that this is the author’s debut novel as it is written with the assuredness and keen eye of someone who has many more books under her belt. Only Child wrecked me. Several times. My heart broke for the characters in this book. And despite the subject matter, nothing felt gratuitous or shoe-horned in for dramatic effect which is why I’m sure it had such the impact that it did.

Verdict:

This book is a triumph. It crushes you and lifts you back up, it breaks your heart but leaves you optimistic, it holds a mirror up to society and forces you to look beneath the surface at what’s really going on. It will be a long time before I forget Zach and his family. Zach is a special boy and this is a special book – one which I cannot recommend highly enough.

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NB/ Thank you to Jess for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. I read the book voluntarily and opinions are my own. For other reviews of this book, please head over to these other fantastic blogs:

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Review: The Chalk Man by C J Tudor

41xo7gTk+kL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_What I Thought:

A group of school friends in the 80’s makes a gruesome discovery while following strategically placed chalk men through the woods. Now in their 40’s, the gang are reunited by the very thing that they had left firmly behind in their past.

Eddie, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and Nicky are such wonderfully depicted, fully fleshed out characters that could have been hand-picked straight from my childhood playground. Being of a similar age to the main characters, this book was a glorious trip down memory lane from wham bars to BMX’s, although I loved the fact that it was subtle (I read a book last year that was set in the 80’s and got so fed up of having shoulder pads and ra-ra skirts and the like rammed down my throat in every sentence that I ended up abandoning it).

The story flips between 1986 and 2016 as old memories are stirred and the chalk men drawings they thought they had left behind thirty years ago reappear to taunt and cajole them. This is a chilling and creepy book but yet it has such warmth and humour. I really felt that the author had a great understanding of and affection for her characters which gave them the vibrancy and dimension that I always long for in a book (I don’t need to like a character, but make me feel something about them).

Since reading this book I have seen a few reviews likening it to (or even claiming that it is a direct copy of) Stephen King’s books IT and The Body (or Stand By Me for film buffs). Having read neither, I didn’t get this while reading so I can’t comment on the similarities if indeed there are any. I have also read other reviews that claim this is “horror” but I’m afraid I can’t agree. It certainly isn’t scary – maybe creepy, but not what I would class as horror. To me, it felt like a right of passage tale of a group of friends with a chilling edge. There is a mystery to be solved (both in the past and present day) and a few unexpected revelations which kept me invested and guessing to the very end.

Verdict:

I absolutely loved this book! I raced through it not only because I wanted to know what had really happened back in 1986, but also because I wanted to be in the company of such a fabulous cast of character. It also had one of the best laugh out loud lines I’ve read for ages: “Whip me, Mildred!”

Massive thumbs up!

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