Tag Archives: 4/5

Book review: Seven Days in May by Kim Izzo

13 Jun

kim izzoAs the First World War rages in continental Europe, two New York heiresses, Sydney and Brooke Sinclair, are due to set sail for England. Brooke is engaged to marry impoverished aristocrat Edward Thorpe-Tracey, the future Lord Northbrook, in the wedding of the social calendar. Sydney has other adventures in mind; she is drawn to the burgeoning suffragette movement, which is a constant source of embarrassment to her proper sister. As international tempers flare, the German embassy releases a warning that any ships making the Atlantic crossing are at risk.

Undaunted, Sydney and Brooke board the Lusitania for the seven-day voyage with Edward, not knowing that disaster lies ahead. In London, Isabel Nelson, a young woman grateful to have escaped her blemished reputation in Oxford, has found employment at the British Admiralty in the mysterious Room 40. While she begins as a secretary, it isn t long before her skills in codes and cyphers are called on, and she learns a devastating truth and the true cost of war. As the days of the voyage pass, these four lives collide in a struggle for survival as the Lusitania meets its deadly fate.

I love reading novels that shed light on events and periods of history that I know little about. The sinking of the Lusitania is one such event – I knew very little about the circumstances and theories surrounding the tragedy when I started this novel and I learned a lot from reading it. Kim has certainly done her research and evocatively brings to life both the ship itself and the activities of the British Admiralty in Room 40, some of which are still shrouded in mystery today.

Kim has created three excellent and very different female characters to lead Seven Days In May; Sydney and Brooke are rich American heiresses but as different as two sisters could possibly be. Sydney’s belief and active participation in the suffrage movement contrast sharply with her sister’s desire to be the leading light of New York society and Izzo sets up an excellent friction between the two which plays out throughout the story.

We also meet Isabel Nelson as she takes up a new post, working for the Admiralty in London. Izzo uses Isabel to give us a tantalising glance at the inner workings of the war effort. I’d never heard of Room 40 but have always been fascinated by the code breakers of World War Two and was surprised to learn of this predecessor. Isabel is also hiding her own secret past and this added another layer to the intrigue of the story.

Key issues of the time, particularly women’s rights, are brought to life through Isobel, Sydney and Brooke and this makes Seven Days in May a very readable and even relatable novel. I’ve enjoyed both of Kim’s previous novels but the combination of mystery, social history and the tension of an impending disaster make this my new favourite of her books.

Starting in January 1915, the story moves chronologically, charting the days to that fateful day in May and then following the aftermath of the sinking. Chapters are narrated in turn from  the viewpoints of Sydney, Isabel and Edward – the man Brooke is engaged to and the reason that the sisters are crossing to England. Edward is also an interesting character  who didn’t appeal to me much at first but I warmed to him as the novel progressed.

Building on rich historical detail, Izzo also packs plenty of drama and romance into this story which took me through the full range of emotions. The scenes from the sinking were just heartbreaking and I read with my heart in my mouth waiting to see which of the passengers survived. Seven Days in May is a gripping historical fiction read from Kim Izzo, perfect for fans of Gill Paul and Hazel Gaynor.

4/5

Seven Days in May is released on 15th June in paperback and ebook formats from Harper Collins.

Find out more about Kim and her writing at: http://kimizzo.com/wdp/

I’d like to thank Emma Dowson for providing a review copy of this book.

Book review: Come Sundown by Nora Roberts

7 Jun

come sundownLove. Lies. Murder. A lot can happen… COME SUNDOWN

Bodine Longbow loves to rise with the dawn. As the manager of her family’s resort in Western Montana, there just aren’t enough hours in the day – for life, for work, for loved ones. She certainly doesn’t have time for love, not even in the gorgeous shape of her childhood crush Callen Skinner, all grown up and returned to the ranch. Then again, maybe Callen can change her mind, given time…

But when a young woman’s body is discovered on resort land, everything changes. Callen falls under the suspicion of a deputy sheriff with a grudge. And for Bodine’s family, the murder is a shocking reminder of an old loss. Twenty-five years ago, Bodine’s Aunt Alice vanished, never to be heard of again. Could this new tragedy be connected to Alice’s mysterious disappearance?

As events take a dramatic and deadly turn, Bodine and Callen must race to uncover the truth – before the sun sets on their future together.

Nora Roberts is one of my favourite authors that I’ve discovered since becoming a blogger and over the last seven years I’ve read many of her novels. They always hook me from the first page and hold me gripped as I read, whether I’m reading about the search for a mythical gem on a sun-soaked island or about love and drama in a thriving city. Come Sundown is no exception and is filled with great characters, romance, drama and suspense – another sure fire hit for Nora!

The story takes place in the beautiful setting of Montanna where we meet Bodine Longbow and her family. Bodine is the manager of her family’s very successful five star resort which sits alongside the family ranch. I loved Bodine from the very start; she’s a great business woman, a successful and caring boss and loves her family and friends. The descriptions of the resort, ranch and Montanna are just wonderful and if there are any horse-lovers reading this review, you will love this book!

But within the picturesque beauty hides a shocking secret. The novel opens with a short prologue set in 1991 as Alice makes her way home to her family after a long absence. Alice doesn’t make it home that night and what happens to her gives the story a series of shocking twists and turns.

The contrasts between Alice’s story in the past and Bodine’s in the present are stark and some parts of this novel were difficult to read and I couldn’t predict what would happen (although I enjoyed developing my theories and trying to guess!). As a murder is discovered on resort land, past and present collide and I could not put this book down until I found out what the outcome would be!

Nora sets the pace brilliantly. I found myself swept up in Bodine’s story and her developing romance with childhood crush Callen and also holding my breath every time the narrative moved back to what happened to Alice. Come Sundown is dramatic and tense. wild and romantic; a sweet and suspensfull mix of a page turner.

4/5

Come Sundown is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats from Piatkus.

Find out more about Nora and her writing at: http://www.noraroberts.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

 

Book review: Pieces of Happiness by Anne Ostby

6 Jun

pieces of happinessI’ve planted my feet on Fijian earth and I intend to stay here until the last sunset . Why don’t you join me? Leave behind everything that didn’t work out!

When recently-widowed Kat writes to her four old school friends, inviting them to live with her on a cocoa plantation in the South Pacific, they swap icy pavements and TV dinners for a tropical breeze and an azure-blue ocean. Leaving behind loneliness, dead-end jobs and marriages that have gone sour, they settle into the Women’s House, surrounded by palms and cocoa trees; and locals with the puzzling habit of exploding into laughter for no discernible reason.

Each of the women has her issues to resolve, and secrets to keep. But together the friends find a new purpose, starting a business making chocolate: bittersweet, succulent pieces of happiness. As they embrace a new culture that views ageing so differently from their own, will they learn to accept and forgive: to discover the value of friendship, and a better way to live?

Pieces of Happiness is a beautiful look at female friendships, growing older and the healing powers of chocolate and sisterhood. I love stories like this and Anne Ostby’s second novel to be published in English is a brilliant example of its kind and sensitively translated. The book has just been released in hardback format with the gorgeously summery cover seen here.

The novel opens with a series of letters from Kat in Fiji to four of her best friends from her schooldays. Now in their sixties, it’s clear that there has been a lot of water under the bridge for the group of friends and Kat’s letters immediately had me intrigued about both author and recipients. The story develops beautifully, moving between past and present to delve into the secrets and worries of Kat’s friends now and how their lives brought them to this point. I loved looking back and meeting Sina, Ingrid, Lisbeth and Maya both now and as their younger selves and finding out what happened to them, seeing how their relationships and friendships changed over the years.

There’s a wonderfully hopeful message about the ability of friendships to endure and grow with you and the book beautifully captures the ability of special female friendships to survive all manner of bad and good weather and still fundamentally stay rooted. Each woman has her own set of worries and issues to address and the individual story lines in the present added interest and covered so many issues that are relevant to us all; getting older, ill health, worries about children, making time for ourselves and living up to our hopes and dreams.

Glamorous Lisbeth  has been living the high life since marrying the catch of the town but as we scratch beneath the surface we see that her fairy-tale is not as happily ever after as it sounds. Maya makes the journey to Fiji with a secret illness to face. Ingrid has had enough of being the sensible one and wants to let her alter ego, the wonderful ‘Wildred’ out and single parent Sina, struggling with her wayward son is broke and not sure how to move forward. Kat has recently lost the love of her life. I was captivated by the drawing together of the group and how their ‘house of women’ developed through the story.

Ostby adds a further layer to the story with shory chapters in the form of prayers from the point of view of her housekeeper Ateca. These chapters were just wonderful and gave a whole new perspective to the story and the characters. I loved being able to see each woman from the viewpoint of an outsider and I thought this technique and the different cultural filter that Ateca sees everything through gave the excellent depth and allowed me as a reader to really get to know the characters.

The descriptions of scenery and Fijian life are luscious, colourful and atmospheric – they made me want to pack my bags and seek out adventure. Regular readers will know that I have a bit of an obsession with the sea and I absolutely loved the descriptions of it in this book.

Sina can hear it. With her face turned towards the sea she can hear Fiji welcoming her. A rush of sand against sand, a rhythm of water and moonlight and promises she can’t decode.”

I highly recommend Pieces of Happiness as a thoughtful and uplifting reading escape this summer whether you’re heading off on holiday or curling up in a nice cosy reading spot at home!

4/5

Pieces of Happiness is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats from Doubleday.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Book review: Spandex and the City by Jenny T Colgan

23 May

spandex and the cityLOCAL GIRL SWEPT OFF HER FEET

Mild-mannered publicist Holly Phillips is unlucky in love. She’s embarrassed beyond belief when the handsome stranger she meets in a bar turns out to be ‘Ultimate Man’ – a superpowered hero whose rescue attempt finds her hoisted over his shoulder and flashing her knickers in the newspaper the next day.

But when Holly’s fifteen minutes of fame make her a target for something villainous, she only has one place to turn – and finds the man behind the mask holds a lot more charm than his crime-fighting alter-ego.

Can Holly find love, or is superdating just as complicated as the regular kind?

I’m on a bit of a roll at the moment with quirky, geeky romantic books, the latest of which Spandex and the City looks at what it might be like to date a superhero! Jenny T. Colgan will be very familiar to many readers as the author (minus the T.) of hits such as The Little Beach Street Bakery  and The Little Shop of Happily Ever After. Having read and enjoyed jenny’s other books I was so pleased to see that she is taking her writing in a fun new direction and I very much enjoyed this book which is witty, action packed, quirky and romantic.

Holly is a twenty-six year old publicist who works at the Mayor’s office. Whilst out drinking with a friend one night she finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes the target for a villain who is targeting the city. Holly is rescued by ‘Ultimate Man’ and it’s the start of an intriguing relationship! Holly is a fun character with a penchant for sarcasm and she is a bit of a magnet for trouble! Colgan gets the mix of insecure twenty something, pop culture references and dating disasters just right and this makes for an engaging and surprising read.

I loved that I was wrong footed a number of times as I read and the pleasure Jenny T Colgan gets from the fantasy elements of her story just bounces off the page. There’s dastardly twists, implausible situations and excellent comic timing but underneath all of that there’s also a little bit of a message about our society and the way that technology is influencing our lives.

If you love rom-coms but would like to try something different; dream of having your very own superhero or if you’re just looking for a fun escapist read this summer then Spandex and the City could be just the book for you!

4/5

Spandex and the City is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Orbit

Find out more about Jenny and her writing at: https://www.jennycolgan.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a copy of this book.

Book review: The Returning Tide by Liz Fenwick

9 May

returning tideTwo sisters and one betrayal that will carry across generations . . .

In wartime Cornwall, 1943, a story between two sisters begins – the story of Adele and Amelia, and the heart-breaking betrayal that will divide them forever. Decades later, the effects of one reckless act still echo – but how long will it be until their past returns?

The Returning Tide is something a little bit new for Liz Fenwick; her first departure into historical fiction. The novel is a time slip set partly in the present and partly during World War Two. It’s also set across two continents with characters from England and America which adds an extra dimension to the puzzle of how past and present are connected.

Liz’s trademark Cornish and coastal settings are of course breathtakingly present and add beautifully to the poignancy of the story with the natural beauty of England’s coast contrasting sharply with the wartime events of the story. I love wartime historical fiction and I was fascinated by the story that Liz uncovers in The Returning Tide having never given much consideration to coastal defences during the war. The story is all the more striking for being partly based on the recollections of one of Liz Fenwick’s relatives.

In the present we meet Lara who journeys to Cornwall from Cape Cod following the death of her beloved grandfather to find out more about her English family connection and solve the mystery of his final word the name ‘Adele’. In Cornwall Peta is preparing for her wedding which will take place in the family home: Windward. As the preparations play out, her grandmother recalls an earlier wedding and the heartbreak it caused her. As she dwells on the events of the past we go back with her to relive them and I was completely swept up in this story which has romance, adventure and drama. Love, heartbreak and family mysteries woven into it. 

Liz has created a complex and varied plot that kept me guessing as to exactly what had happened between twins Adele and Amelia. Told partly in letters between the two, Liz writes with emotion and I felt like I really was reading history. I part read and part listened to the audio version of this book and it is as beautifully narrated in the audio version as it is written. I do hope Liz decides to write more historical fiction as these were my favourite parts of the book. As past and present come together there is both regret and hope in this bittersweet story and I thoroughly enjoyed reading as the actions of the past and the full truth were finally revealed.

4/5

The Returning Tide is out now in paperback, audio and ebook formats from Orion.

Find out more about Liz and her writing at: http://lizfenwick.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book.

 

 

Book review: The Real Liddy James by Anne-Marie Casey

3 May

9781848548343Liddy James is forty-four, fit, and fabulous. A top divorce attorney, a bestselling author, and a mother of two, she glides effortlessly through the courtrooms and salons of Manhattan. Despite her own devastating divorce from her first love Peter, Liddy has formed a modern family with him and his new partner, Rose, to raise a truculent teen and Liddy’s adorable, if fatherless, six-year-old. With her impoverished childhood far behind her, to the outside world Liddy’s life is perfect.

Until it isn’t.

When a series of domestic and professional glitches send her carefully-tended world spinning towards meltdown, Liddy decides it’s time she and the boys retrace her family’s history and take some time off in Ireland. But marooned in the Celtic countryside things still aren’t what they seem, and Liddy will have to negotiate some surprising turns in the road before she’s willing to admit that even she might have forgotten just how to be The Real Liddy James.

The Real Liddy James is such a good read! As regular readers of my reviews will know, I love New York and I’m always fascinated and intrigued by the lifestyles of rich New Yorkers. The Real Liddy James gives us a fly on the wall look at Liddy and her life. If you’re a fan of Lauren Weisberger, Candace Bushnell and Allison Pearson’s  I Don’t Know How She Does It then you’ll love this book!

Liddy is a top divorce lawyer; a partner in a boutique firm specializing in making sure marriages and their break ups are legally sound. This is a world of muliti-million dollar deals, second and third houses and Liddy is a celebrity in her own right with a ‘ superwoman’ brand, a book and television appearances.

I found Liddy as a character fascinating and was surprised how my feelings for her changed as the book went on. Liddy is divorced and mother to two sons; the teen Matty and six year old Cal. Liddy’s is a complex life and the charm of this book is that we get to delve into all of her secrets and thoughts. As she tries to maintain her perfect façade there are many poignant and reflective moments as well as a lot that are just funny – I loved the dark humour in this story and the fact that Liddy isn’t afraid to laugh at herself.

Liddy maintains her life with an impressive list of lifestyle coaches, town cars, personal shoppers, housekeepers, a Manny and on top of this manages to maintain a good relationship with her ex husband and his new partner Rose. I thought Rose was a great character too, initially showing a much softer and nurturing side in stark contract to Liddy but as the story progressed, like Liddy, developing into a much fuller and complex character. I enjoyed both characters because there was a lot that I could empathise with in their experiences of relationships and motherhood despite our very different lifestyles!

As a series of events conspires to tip the balance of Liddy’s existence into the not quite so calm and controlled zone, Liddy begins to take a long look at herself and who she has become. Told in sections that take a past, present and into the future look at Liddy’s life, we begin to get an insight into what makes her tick and how she came to be the women she is today. What I found interesting was that my initial assumptions about all of the characters were challenged as the story played out and it wasn’t only Liddy who got to review who she really was.

Between Rose and Liddy, Anne- Marie Casey makes observations that felt spot on and perceptive about love, motherhood, relationships and work and how to juggle them all. A thought provoking, funny and entertaining read.

4/5

The Real Liddy James is out now in paperback, ebook and audio formats from Hodder.

Find out more about Anne-Marie Casey at: http://www.annemariecasey.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Book review: Not the Only Sky by Alyssa Warren

27 Apr

not only the sky‘Wait. Patient. Now. Not long. Good girl. Wait here. Brave girl. Think of it as a vacation.’ ‘Back in a jiffy.’

Big Bend, population 500, South Dakota, 1988. Eight-year-old Tiny Mite lives in a ramshackle farmhouse next to her grandfather’s crashed airplane and the pine tree where she trains as a spy. Goddamn is her favourite word. Taking pictures with her camera made of aluminium foil and a tin can is her new big thing. She lives with Bee, her apocalypse-obsessed grandmother and Luvie, her hard-drinking great-aunt. And then there’s her mother Velvet, beautiful and desperate, still in love with her high school boyfriend who she left to have a brief fling with Tiny Mite’s absent father.

One night, Tiny Mite hears a cry, but it’s not what she imagines. And nothing will ever be the same. Six years later, Clea won’t let anyone call her Tiny Mite anymore. Luvie has fallen in love with a pastor, and Bee’s health is failing. Velvet is gone, and nobody except Bee, who can’t bring herself to turn her back on her daughter, will even mention her name.

Containing a wonderfully engaging and eccentric cast of characters who live long in the memory, this is the story of mothers and daughters, people bound by blood and geography, moments captured and lifetimes lost, and things never quite turning out as expected.

Not the Only Sky was a wonderful surprise to read; I’d expected a quirky read, something a little different, but what I found was not just quirky, but beautiful and heartfelt with characters that jumped off the page and will stay with me. Together with the thread of mystery that runs through the story, this all added up to a really excellent read.

Starting in 1988 and told in three parts over a decade, Not the Only Sky is the story of Tiny Mite/Clea and her family. In the first part of the novel we meet Tiny Mite and her family.  Tiny lives with her Mum, Velvet, her grandmother Bee and Her great aunt Luvvie in an old farmhouse deep in rural South Dakota. The town she lives in is small in a huge state and Big Bend is very much a forgotten corner of the world with run down shops, a dwindling population and a fair amount of poverty.

I love stories like this that tell of small town life and are populated by quirky but usually lovable and strong female characters. Tiny and the women that surround her certainly fit the bill; all are eccentric in different ways, slightly broken but still fighting and finding a way forward. Eight year old Tiny’s inner dialogue is just brilliant – I could have read her thoughts all day and in the tradition of Scout Finch and Swan Lake, Tiny has a a wonderfully unique take on the world.

So too does Tiny’s grandma Bee; deeply religious with a basement full of food stored for the apocalypse and a conspiracy theory for everything, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know her character. Bee in particular has a complex line to tread, trying to keep her family together despite their individual difficulties. Not the Only Sky is very much a novel about the complexities of human relationships, particularly those of mothers and daughters and Alyssa Warren does a brilliant job of showing that there is often disparity between our thoughts and feelings and our actions and this gave me a lot of empathy for all of the charcters.

The story pivots around a day in 1988 that brings about huge change in the life of the family and is constructed in a very clever way so as to keep the reader guessing what happened to Tiny and Velvet that day. As the narrative jumps to 1994 then 1998 and moves between Velvet’s and Tiny’s (now known as Clea) stories, I was gripped!

I’m a big fan of books that follow a character through a number of years of their lives and I loved reading as Clea grew up and wishing wholeheartedly for a good outcome for her. With a timeless mix of old and new, heartbreak and hope, family ties and new beginnings, wise words and eccentric philosophies, Not the Only Sky is an excellent debut from Alyssa Warren and I’m very pleased to have discovered a wonderful new author.

5/5

Not the Only Sky is released today in paperback and ebook formats by Black and White Publishing.

Find out more about Alyssa Warren and her writing at: http://www.alyssa-warren.com/book/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Book review: All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg

12 Apr

all grown upAndrea is a single, childless 39-year-old woman who tries to navigate family, sexuality, friendships and a career she never wanted, but battles with thoughts and desires that few people would want to face up to.

Told in gut-wrenchingly honest language that shimmers with rage and intimacy, All Grown Up poses such questions as:
- What if I don’t want to hold your baby?
- Can I date you without ever hearing about your divorce?
- What can I demand of my mother now that I am an adult?
- Is therapy pointless?
- At what point does drinking a lot become a drinking problem?
- Why does everyone keep asking me why I am not married?

Powerfully intelligent and wickedly funny, All Grown Up delves into the psyche of a flawed but mesmerising character. Readers will recognise themselves in Jami Attenberg’s truthful account of what it means to be a 21st century woman, though they might not always want to admit it.

All Grown Up is an interesting and thought provoking read. For me, it wasn’t the most comfortable of reads at times but I did enjoy it. The novel tells the story of Andrea – a complex character if ever there was one. I felt like I’d been through the wringer after spending time in Andrea’s head and, a week after finishing reading, I’m still not sure what my feelings are for her! The readers reaction to Andrea is a key premise of the book. There are scenes that might shock, her language and narration of events is no holds barred blunt and she presents a version of the truth that begs for discussion and analysis.

My feelings for Angela veered from admiration to dislike and from empathy to pity. Andrea is happy on her own but through her narrative in All Grown Up  shows how she feels that society conspires to tell her that she’s taken a wrong path, that her choices aren’t right and that she should feel bad about them. For a large part of the story, Andrea does feel bad; about her relationships, her art, her family and friends. Even her apartment conspires against her! 

My initial reaction to Andrea was to be sympathetic – I could understand the pressures and frustrations that come with parents and friends thinking that you should be doing particular things with your life at certain points and I have strong feelings that a woman should be able to be single and childless if she wants. I found myself getting a little annoyed with Andrea because she didn’t seem to know what she wanted really and her choices seemed to be making her so unhappy.

The story is put together in chapters that jump around in time to slowly reveal the big picture of Andrea and those close to her. Two threads in this picture really interested me; Andrea’s relationship with her Mother and with her friend Imogen. Andrea’s mum was actually my favourite character – I thought she was strong, independent and willing to stand by her choices and fight for her family. 

But it was the relationship between Andrea and Imogen that intrigued me most. Not so long ago, I was on the Imogen side of this relationship having just had my first son and trying very hard to maintain a friendship with a friend who actively disliked children and had a very physical revulsion to motherhood in general. Andrea’s reaction to Imogen helped me to take another perspective on this particular friendship dilemma – I love how books can do that!

At the heart of All Grown Up is the big question ‘what makes us adults?’ and I think Andrea represents a lot of the questions that we ask ourselves as we try to be grown ups. Andrea doesn’t necessarily have the answers but in reading this book I’m sure many will recognise situations and mindsets that are familiar – a great novel to debate with friends.

4/5

All Grown Up is out now in hardback and ebook formats from Sepent’s Tail.

I’d like to thank the publisher for sending me a review copy of this book.

Book review: The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

3 Apr

The Cows (2)COW [n.]
/kaʊ/

A piece of meat; born to breed; past its sell-by-date; one of the herd.

Women don’t have to fall into a stereotype.

Tara, Cam and Stella are strangers living their own lives as best they can – though when society’s screaming you should live life one way, it can be hard to like what you see in the mirror.

When an extraordinary event ties invisible bonds of friendship between them, one woman’s catastrophe becomes another’s inspiration, and a life lesson to all.

Sometimes it’s ok not to follow the herd.

The Cows is a powerful novel about three women – judging each other, but also themselves. In all the noise of modern life, they need to find their own voice.

When the bright yellow proof of The Cows arrived at my door, I got very excited. I’d heard good things about Dawn O’Porter’s young adult novels and I couldn’t wait to see what she’d written for adult readers. With it’s bold proclamation #DONTFOLLOWTHEHERD and striking yellow and black cover as well as a promise that everyone would be talking about this book in 2017 I jumped straight in!

I wasn’t disappointed. Dawn has written a novel that is frank, honest, funny and a page turner; The Cows might shock you, it might surprise you and it will certainly give you plenty to talk about. My first thought on finishing the book was that I wished the rest of my book group had read it because I really wanted to talk to someone about it and I can just imagine the fun we’d have discussing it.

The Cows tells the stories of Cam, Tara and Stella; three women who don’t know each other at the start of the book but who are all connected by the end of the story. All three live in the vicinity of London but that’s the single uniting factor as the story begins. Cam is a very successful lifestyle blogger, famed for her feminism and for her honesty. She’s passionate about her choice to be on her own with no ties and no intention of having children.

Tara is a TV documentary maker and single mum with a six year old daughter and Stella is a PA to an award winning photographer and struggling to deal with the grief that cancer has caused in her life. Three very different women with very different stories, none of which map directly to my own but I found that I could empathise on a number of levels with all of them at different points in the book. Through Cam, Tara and Stella and their friends and families, Dawn examines what it is to be a woman in 2017.

Set in a social media world where a person can go from unknown to ‘trending’ in 60 seconds, no topic is off limits. From motherhood to masturbation, the scope is wide and that’s what I loved about this story which brings to the fore so many of the judgments that we make about ourselves and others every day and puts them under the microscope.

Dawn also managed to tick the elusive box of making me stop in my tracks with heart-stopping surprise as I read. No spoilers here but it was brilliant to have that moment of shock as I read and as an avid reader it’s a rarity that I don’t see something coming!

The Cows has a life affirming message about taking even the worst of situations and turning it around to make something good. I felt like Dawn O’Porter had given me a push and said ‘get on with it’ when I’d finished reading – and I will!

4/5

The Cows is released on 6th April in hardback and ebook formats by HarperCollins.

Find out more about Dawn and her writing at: http://www.dawnoporter.co.uk/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

Book review: The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman by Mindy Mejia

17 Mar

last act Hattie

No one keeps more secrets. No one is better at hiding them.

Eighteen-year-old Hattie Hoffman is a talented actress, loved by everyone in her Minnesotan hometown. When she’s found stabbed to death on the opening night of her school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of the community.

Sheriff Del Goodman, a close friend of Hattie’s dad, vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more secrets than answers: it turns out Hattie played as many parts offstage as on. Told from three perspectives, Del’s, Hattie’s high school English teacher and Hattie herself, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman tells the story of the Hattie behind the masks, and what happened in that final year of her life…

Wonderfully evocative of its Midwestern setting and with a cast of unforgettable characters, this is a book about manipulation of relationships and identity; about the line between innocence and culpability; about the hope love offers and the tragedies that occur when it spins out of control.

I don’t normally read and review crime books – it’s not a genre I have a huge love for,  but something about the cover of The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman drew me in and when I read the synopsis, I couldn’t resist. I do love an American High School story and the title and synopsis had echos of an old favourite of mine, Twin Peaks and The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer. 

There are three very strong character voices in this story; Hattie, Sheriff Del Goodman and Peter, Hattie’s school English Teacher. The chapters move between the murder investigation in the present, set in 2008 and the months leading up to Hattie’s death starting back in August 2007. The moves between characters and backwards and forwards in time give the story good pace and set up many questions, intrigues and mysteries as the novel progresses – I was certainly hooked!

Hattie is a wonderfully complex and well-written character. She’s an amateur actress and has plans to move to New York as soon as she’s finished high school. But for Hattie, acting isn’t just something she does on stage; she sees her whole life as a series of different roles and ‘acts’ accordingly. It’s a clever premise and the psychology of Hattie is one of the most gripping parts of the story-line, throwing up many questions about how we see ourselves and how others see us (or want to see us).

Sheriff Del was my personal favourite character in the book. In many ways he comes across as the ‘typical’ Midwestern small town Sherrif but I liked his shrewdness and his dry humour and I liked that we get to see underneath the tough exterior as we move through the book, particularly through his relationship with Hattie’s parents. His interactions with his young deputy, Jake, are brilliant and their competitiveness made me smile.

Finally, Peter – a city boy transplanted to his wife’s farm as she cares for her dying mother. Peter was the character that I liked least – possibly because he came across to me as very selfish but also because he seemed to think himself above most things! The three different narrative voices make for great reading though as we get different perspectives on events and I enjoyed piecing the time line together and trying to work out who had killed Hattie.

As well as reading this book, I listened to parts of it via the Audible version and I have to say that it is one of the best narrations I’ve listened to this year. Each character has a separate narrator and whilst they jump off the page, hearing them tell their story really increased the impact of it. If you’re a fan of audiobooks I’d certainly recommend giving the audio version a try.

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman is a clever and compelling thriller that will keep you guessing to the final pages!

4/5

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman is out now in Hardback, ebook and audio formats from Quercus.

Find out more about Mindy Mejia and her writing at: http://mindymejia.com/

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.