Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Literary Fiction

Lost Daughter – Ali Mercer -5* #Review @bookouture @AlisonLMercer #LiteraryFiction #Family #Secrets #MentalHealth

If you think photos aren’t important… wait until they’re all you have left of your child.

Your life isn’t perfect, but you’re still happy. Your husband has stuck by you and he’s a good dad. Your daughter Becca makes your heart explode with love. And then, in the time it takes to say ‘bad mother’, there’s no longer a place for you in your own family. Your right to see your child has disappeared.

Life goes on in your house – family dinners, missing socks and evening baths – but you aren’t there anymore. Becca may be tucked up in bed in Rose Cottage, but she is as lost to you as if she had been snatched from under your nose.

Everyone knows you deserve this, for what you did. Except you’re starting to realise that things maybe aren’t how you thought they were, and your husband isn’t who you thought he was either. That the truths you’ve been so diligently punishing yourself for are built on sand, and the daughter you have lost has been unfairly taken from you. Wouldn’t that be more than any mother could bear?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Losing your child is every parents’ nightmare, losing your child because of something you did, leaves you with a lethal cocktail of grief and guilt, and makes you wonder if you can carry on.

Lost Daughter’, follows Rachel’s tragic tale of being cut out of her teenage daughter’s life, because of one lapse of judgement. Written in a multi-point of view format, with flashbacks to the past, and more recent past, the story follows Rachel, and later Leona and Viv, as they try to live with themselves after being estranged from their children.

All three stories are unique, the women are from different generations, but they share a bond of guilt and loss. Two of the three main female characters in this story, Rachel and Viv are easy to empathise, they do have flaws, but that makes them believable. Leona is the hardest character of the three to empathise, but she does have redeeming features. The story has some surprising twists as the women’s lives’ become woven together.


Complex and poignant the plot engages you. This story is an emotional rollercoaster, you feel anger at the women’s acceptance of their fate, frustrated that they seem in a cycle of despair and guilt, and hopeful that through sheer determination, they are able to move forward and live rather than exist.

As a footnote, the only thing I found hard to believe is Rachel’s forgiving attitude to her self-absorbed, judgemental husband, but clearly, he is an authentic character because I disliked him so much.

Advertisements
Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Literary Fiction, Suspense, Thriller

The Porpoise – Mark Haddon @ChattoBooks @mark_haddon #LiteraryFiction 4* #Review #PublicationDay

‘I really am so very, very sorry about this,’ he says, in an oddly formal voice… They strike the side of a grain silo. They are travelling at seventy miles per hour.

A newborn baby is the sole survivor of a terrifying plane crash.

She is raised in wealthy isolation by an overprotective father. She knows nothing of the rumours about a beautiful young woman, hidden from the world.

When a suitor visits, he understands far more than he should. Forced to run for his life, he escapes aboard The Porpoise, an assassin on his tail…

So begins a wild adventure of a novel, damp with salt spray, blood and tears. A novel that leaps from the modern era to ancient times; a novel that soars, and sails, and burns long and bright; a novel that almost drowns in grief yet swims ashore; in which pirates rampage, a princess wins a wrestler’s hand, and ghost women with lampreys’ teeth drag a man to hell – and in which the members of a shattered family, adrift in a violent world, journey towards a place called home.


Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Random House UK, Vintage Publishing – Chatto & Windus in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

I didn’t know what to expect when I started this book. I like literary fiction because if written well, it explores ordinary lives and finds the extraordinary. Characters have to be realistic and complex for this to work.

This is a different type of literary fiction, the characters are not ordinary, but rich, hedonistic and seemingly living outside the moral code ordinary mortals abide by. There is also large sections of the story where the characters are mythical, and you are unsure whether this an alternative reality, a story, or a journey back in time. These characters mirror many of the contemporary players.

The main focus of the story is an abused child, powerless with no voice, and no one to protect her, from her father, and his immorality. Reading what happens to Angelica evokes a myriad of emotions; anger, disgust, and sadness the most prevalent. This story is worthwhile reading because it gives her voice, and shows as she matures she attempts to take her life back into her control. Outsiders so-called heroes profess to help her escape but they don’t, she is ultimately the strength in this story.

There is an adventure, suspense and great storytelling in ‘The Porpoise’, it perhaps helps, to have some knowledge of the older stories that are weaved into the contemporary tale, but I didn’t, and I was still intrigued and motivated, to see what happens next.

Just dive in and let the stories absorb you. If you try to understand everything in this book, you will spoil the storytelling experience. Looking for something different to read? This is for you.

Posted in Book Review, Contemporary Fiction, Family Drama, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Saga

The Butterfly Room -5* #Review – Lucinda Riley @panmacmillan @lucindariley #saga #family #literary #fiction #historical #secrets

Posy Montague is approaching her seventieth birthday. Still living in her beautiful family home, Admiral House, set in the glorious Suffolk countryside where she spent her own idyllic childhood catching butterflies with her beloved father and raised her own children, Posy knows she must make an agonizing decision. Despite the memories the house holds, and the exquisite garden she has spent twenty-five years creating, the house is crumbling around her, and Posy knows the time has come to sell it.

Then a face appears from the past – Freddie, her first love, who abandoned her and left her heartbroken fifty years ago. Already struggling to cope with her son Sam’s inept business dealings, and the sudden reappearance of her younger son Nick after ten years in Australia, Posy is reluctant to trust in Freddie’s renewed affection. And unbeknown to Posy, Freddie – and Admiral House – have a devastating secret to reveal . . .

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

‘The Butterfly Room’ takes you on an atmospheric, emotional journey full of memorable characters and sensual experiences.

Posy Montague spent her early childhood in Admiral House, her most cherished memories are catching butterflies and playing make-belief with her father. He is the driving force in her life, her mother fading into the background when he is around until she discovers something that shatters the illusion.

Moving between Posy’s often difficult childhood years, and her current life in Suffolk, Admiral House is a constant, but its crumbling glory means Posy has to accept, change is inevitable.

Posy’s life journey explores many themes, notably family life and dysfunctional families, women’s position and role in society, love, romance, relationships and money. Posy is a complex girl and woman, with a self-deprecating sense of humour and quirky personality, often associated with only children brought up in adult households.

This story is an effortless read. You are drawn in by the quality characterisation. What happens to the family matters, even though they are flawed, often selfish, and in some cases completely unlikeable. The plot is layered, revealing its secrets gradually until you are spellbound, yet completely unprepared for the final revelations. The last part of the book is suspenseful and poignant as the domestic drama intensifies.

The ending is hopeful and satisfying as Posy and her family finally realise what truly matters in life.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Romance -Dark and Steamy

Cape May – 4* #Review Chip Cheek @orionbooks @wnbooks @ChipCheek @PoppyStimpson

September 1957

Henry and Effie, young newlyweds from Georgia, arrive in Cape May, New Jersey, for their honeymoon. It’s the end of the season and the town is deserted. 
As they tentatively discover each other, they begin to realize that everyday married life might be disappointingly different from their happily-ever-after fantasy.

Just as they get ready to cut the trip short, a decadent and glamorous set suddenly sweep them up into their drama – Clara, a beautiful socialite who feels her youth slipping away; Max, a wealthy playboy and Clara’s lover; and Alma, Max’s aloof and mysterious half-sister.

The empty beach town becomes their playground, and as they sneak into abandoned summer homes, go sailing, walk naked under the stars, make love, and drink a great deal of gin, Henry and Effie slip from innocence into betrayal, with irrevocable consequences that reverberate through the rest of their lives…

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Orion Publishing – W&N Books via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

Told from Henry’s point of view, this story explores his honeymoon with Effie as they discover marriage isn’t quite the fairytale they believed. Disillusioned they are swept away by a glamorous trio of people who they meet in the deserted jet-set resort. What follows changes their lives forever, and explores a way of life that is far removed from the clean, wholesome ideal of 1950s North America.

There are obvious and deliberate similarities between this story and ‘The Great Gatsby’. The glamour, the importance of money, the innocence of the young couple, and the ethos of desperate sadness.

Henry’s innocence and naivety, and the lack of reality he feels in Cape May make him easy prey. Full of sexual innuendo and passion, which highlight the differences between the young couple and their new friends. Most disturbing is the way Clara, Max, Alma, and ultimately Henry and Effie, treat other people’s houses and possessions. They are similarly careless of people’s feelings.

Whilst you may be taken in by their glamour, and their risque way of life, especially against the staid historical background of 1950s America. They also appear shallow, immoral and pathetic as they strive for something decadent to give them their next high.

Even though the characters are not likeable, the story is. I like its authenticity, sensuality and insight. The ending is poignant and full of lost opportunities for happiness. There is an undeniable question of what if they’d honeymooned on Florida?

Posted in Book Review, Literary Fiction

They Call Me The Cat Lady – 4* #Review – Amy Miller @bookouture @AmyBratley1 #LiteraryFiction #FridayReads

You’ve seen me on the street. You’ve walked past my house, and pointed, and wondered. The cat lady. All on my own, with only my five cats to keep me company. Did no-one ever tell you that you can’t judge a book by its cover?

Everyone in town knows Nancy Jones. She loves her cats. She loves her tumbledown house by the sea. She loves her job in the local school where she tries to help the children who need help the most. Nancy tries hard not to think about her past loves and where those led her…

Nancy never shares her secrets – because some doors are better kept locked. But one day she accepts a cat-sitting request from a local woman, and at the woman’s house, Nancy sees a photograph, in a bright-red frame. A photograph that opens the door to her painful past…

Soon Nancy doesn’t know what frightens her the most: letting her story out or letting the rest of the world in. It’s impossible to find companionship without the risk of losing it. But can Nancy take that risk again?

A heart-wrenching and heart-warming story of love lost and found, and of second chances.

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

People who seem to prefer animals to humans are often seen as eccentric. Nancy looks after cats and names them after people she has loved. She volunteers and is always there to help out in the community, but still many see only what she chooses to show and so she’s ‘the cat lady’.

This is not the first time a story has been told about a woman with secrets, whose past has made her introverted, and trusts animals more than people who judge and are intrusive. This story is notable because of its sensitive treatment of Nancy and her broken life. It sees her grow and learn to trust and have the courage to face heartbreak again.

This journey of self-development is hopeful and Nancy realises that she deserves to feel happiness and love again. She is courageous and easy to empathise and this gentle story is worth reading to escape for a little while.

Posted in Book Review, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

The Botanist’s Daughter – Kayte Nunn – 4* #Review @orionbooks @KayteNunn #paperback #Botany #HistoricalFiction #Timeslip

A buried secret…

Present day: Anna is focused on growing her new gardening business and renovating her late grandmother’s house. But when she discovers a box hidden in a wall cavity, containing watercolours of exotic plants, an old diary and a handful of seeds, she finds herself thrust into a centuries-old mystery. One that will send her halfway across the world to Kew Gardens and then onto Cornwall in search of the truth.

A lady adventurer…

1886: Elizabeth Trebithick is determined to fulfil her father’s dying wish and continue his life’s work as an adventurer and plant-hunter. So when she embarks on a perilous journey to discover a rare and miraculous flower, she will discover that the ultimate betrayal can be found even across the seas…

Two women, separated by centuries. Can one mysterious flower bring them together?

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Orion Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.

My Thoughts…

A lovely timeslip novel containing some unusual themes, which give it a uniqueness and quirky appeal.

An unexpected find when updating a house bequeathed to her by her beloved grandmother sets Anna on a mystery tour that reveals family secrets and takes her on a much-needed journey of self-discovery.

Elizabeth pushes against society’s conventions in Victorian England. When her much-loved father dies, she feels duty-bound to fulfil his dying wish This is not the selfless act it appears, as she has always wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps.

Both stories are engaging, and courageous in their own way. Elizabeth’s is perhaps the bravest and for me the most absorbing, because she sets out to visit Chile in South America, with only her maid, after living a sheltered, if unconventional life in Cornwall.

The story focuses on botany and botanical art and discoveries in great detail, this is fascinating and gives the story an authentic feel. The geographical descriptions likewise are well done and bring the settings to life. This is important in a story like this where the main protagonists are motivated out of their comfort zones to discover the truth. You have to experience what they do to believe it could happen.

The dual time perspectives are well- written and the links and crossover between past and present well grounded and believable. Neither of the female protagonists is perfect, they are flawed, but you are invested in their story’s and want it to end well.

Although easy to read, the pacing is slow in parts. The plot’s vivid imagery holds your interest, and the ending is worth waiting for.

Posted in Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Literary Fiction

Swallowtail Summer – Erica James – 4* #Review @orionbooks @TheEricaJames #SwallowtailSummer #FamilyDrama #Friendship #Norfolk #Holidays

They thought they were friends for life – until one summer, everything changed . . . 

Linston End on the Norfolk Broads has been the holiday home to three families for many years. The memories of their time there are ingrained in their hearts: picnics on the river, gin and tonics in the pavilion at dusk, hours spent seeking out the local swallowtail butterflies. Everyone together.

But widower Alastair has been faced with a few of life’s surprises recently. Now, he is about to shock his circle of friends with the decisions he has made – and the changes it will mean for them all. For some, it feels like the end. For others, it might just be the beginning . . .

Amazon UK

I received a copy of this book from Orion Publishing via NetGalley in return for an honest review.


My Thoughts…

When you look at a group of friends what do you see? The answer is you only see what they want you to. Rather like a swan in the water, the surface may seem smooth and easy going, but underneath the water, there is a furious paddling of feet, and turmoil, hidden from the casual observer.

‘ Swallowtail Summer’ is like this, three friends who have known each other since they were young, spend holidays together at a beautiful house in Norfolk, later they include their wives and eventually for some of them their offspring, but then someone dies and the following year even though they know it will be different they are unprepared for how different.

The beginning of the story introduces the characters; shows how they interact with each other and reveals some of their motivations. Even though this is a lot to assimilate and is slow-paced, it’s worth persevering, as it makes the rest of the book easier to follow. Allowing you to appreciate the complex characters and their diversity and secrets.

It is interesting to see how the characters interact, and how the group dynamics remain largely unchanged until Orla dies. This life event forces the group to change. The story’s essence is, will the friendships and family relations survive the need to change?

All of the characters are realistically flawed and many are not likeable, but this doesn’t detract from the story, just makes it more realistic. One of their favourite holiday activities is to search for Swallowtail butterflies. Their elusive quality equates to the finiteness of happiness, love and youth. It makes the story an interesting, but poignant read, with a lovely Summertime, feel.

Published 18 April 2019