I received a copy of this book from Pan Macmillan via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
‘A Nearly Normal Family’, has all the atmosphere, detail and intrigue of a Nordic Thriller, but the pace, moral questions and twists of an excellent courtroom and family drama. The protagonists are pushed to their limits, making them unreliable, so that even when you think you know, you probably don’t, giving this story the edge and mystery of a psychological thriller.
Told from three points of view, the father (a Pastor), the mother( a Lawyer), and the daughter (a clever, rebellious teenager). The events surrounding the murder are revealed, through each character’s point of view
The father is severely tested, his control of the family threatened and his moral beliefs challenged. What will he do for his daughter who he believes in totally? The daughter uses her intelligence to fuel her rebellion against her parents and their beliefs. She has secrets, one of which has damaged her, but is she capable of murder? The mother’s point of view is left until the end and reveals an unexpected twist. All lie and have secrets, making them unreliable protagonists.
The pace of this story is good, even though it is detailed, it doesn’t sacrifice ease of reading for content and this makes it addictive. The characters are believable, and their actions and motives realistic. You are forced to consider how you would act in similar circumstances.
The daughter has considerable insight, and this makes you question whether does she have severe mental health issues, or is manipulative and uses her personality to achieve her aims.
The final scenes reveal an uncomfortable truth that makes you question what has come before. The perfect ending to this atmospheric, crime based twisty thriller.
Librarian Martha Storm has always found it easier to connect with books than people, though not for lack of trying. She keeps careful lists of how to help others in her notebook. And yet, sometimes it feels like she’s invisible.
All of that changes when a mysterious book arrives on her doorstep. Inside, Martha finds a dedication written to her by her grandmother Zelda, who died under mysterious circumstances years earlier. When Martha discovers a clue within the book that her grandmother may still be alive, she becomes determined to discover the truth. As she delves deeper into Zelda’s past, she unwittingly reveals a family secret that will change her life forever.
I received a copy of this book from HQ in return for an honest review
Martha feels like a lot of us do, invisible to those around her, despite all her well-meaning efforts to be helpful, always putting others first. She is comfortable in the library, feels safe there. Books are easier to understand than people. The library setting is one that will appeal to most book lovers, it offers endless possibilities, just by opening the cover of one of the books.
Receiving a mysterious gift from her much loved, deceased grandmother Zelda, Martha is confused, but intrigued. Is there perhaps some mistake about Zelda’s death? She puts her fears aside and sets out to solve the mystery of the book, whose stories trigger memories of the past.
The story moves from present to past, illuminating Zelda’s life and Martha’s childhood. Martha journey to find the truth is emotional and empowering, she discovers a devastating family secret, but also learns that she is can do anything, as long as she believes in herself.
With vivid characters and a female lead who is easy to care about, this story enthrals and shows that there is a little magic, even in the ordinary. A lovely read for those who love to dream.
When Maisie Meadows finds herself single
and jobless on New Year’s Day, she resolves that this will be the year she
focuses on bringing her scattered family back together. Romance is all very
well, but it’s the people you grew up with that matter the most.
But a new job working at an auction house
puts her in the path of Theo, a gorgeous but unattainable man who she can’t
help but be distracted by. As their bond begins to grow, Maisie finds herself
struggling to fulfil the promise she made to herself – but the universe has
other ideas, and it’s not long before the Meadows family are thrown back
together in the most unlikely of circumstances…
Can dealing with other people’s treasures help Maisie to let go of the past, and teach her who she ought to treasure the most?
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
What a lovely story. Maisie the youngest child in a dysfunctional family is the star of this gently paced, characterful story. Her attempts to recreate the ‘perfect family’, are spectacularly unsuccessful, as she is let down by her latest lover and loses her job as well.
The auction house job is a new start, and it feels right, but the serendipitous change in circumstances and career, and the part tea set she uncovers have a profound effect on her life and those close to her.
Maisie is a realistically flawed but easy to empathise character, her motivation for good is strong, but her foundations are rocky. Was life really as ‘rosy’ as she remembers? Is having a tidy house, the only way she can live her life, which seems so out of control. Is her secret, a true reflection of who she really is?
There are so many levels to this story, a potential romance, that is fraught with misunderstanding. A little magic, that Maisie hopes to use to bring her family together. The outcome is not what she expects, but is believable and hopeful. A multi-generational theme, that adds depth to the story and shows how the present reflects the past, and the lessons to be learnt.
It’s easy to lose yourself in this book. Character-driven, it makes you believe in the story, and want the best for Maisie and her friends. The setting is authentic, and relatable and gives the book its unique twist.
Gentle romance, quirky characters and a wealth of emotion and regret, all make this story a lovely interlude in everyday life.
Guest Post – Jenni Keer
Love for Auctions
Thank you for inviting me over, Jane, to talk about the fascinating backdrop to my latest novel The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows, which is set at Gildersleeve’s – a fictional auction house in north Suffolk.
When I was playing about with ideas for my second book, I started thinking about environments I already had a good knowledge of (partly because I had a deadline for this book and was a bit panicky about how much research time I would have). Amongst other things, auction houses sprang to mind. My husband has an antique furniture business and we have been attending auctions at T. W. Gaze in the picturesque market town of Diss, Norfolk, for over twenty years. Over this time, I have seen the auction evolve and grow, and it has always been one of my favourite places to visit. It seemed the perfect setting for a story and much of the plot grew from this seed.
The highly knowledgeable Elizabeth Talbot (you may have seen her on the TV) was very generous with her time and I had several visits behind the scenes and the opportunity to quiz her about various aspects of the business – all of it was fascinating but only a fraction made it into the book. James Bassam, the modern design expert, also gave me his time and expertise, and this helped me to make Theo a much more rounded character. I learned a lot about Scandinavian furniture, studio pottery and post-war glass – so Theo now knows all those things, too.
If you have never been to an auction, I would encourage you to go. I hope I manage to get across some of the tension and excitement of bidding in a busy saleroom, but much of the fun is to be had in wandering around on viewing days and looking at the myriad of items coming up in the weekly sale. You truly never know what you are going to come across. I asked Elizabeth about the most bizarre objects they’d had pass through their hands and she said if it’s legal to sell it, they’ve probably had it – including a coffin (which gets a mention in the book).
Going back a couple of hundred years, most towns held regular auctions and they would have been a thing for all. Sadly, by the middle of the twentieth century, they were not so commonplace and had become the preserve of the dealers – who bought items at auction and sold them on to the general public. But more recently, largely thanks to the TV and the internet, auction rooms have become more accessible again and, although I appreciate they remain intimidating places to some, I hope those who read Maisie Meadows might be tempted to give them a go. Even Maisie had never been to an auction until she started working at Gildersleeve’s, yet instantly falls in love with the variety and energy her new workplace affords.
I suspect if my husband’s profession hadn’t taken us to the auctions, I would never have discovered the thrill that is a live auction, but it’s often the highlight of my week. Much of the furniture in my house has come from Gaze’s over the years, when we’ve been looking for stock but “accidentally” purchased things we fell in love with. This is the downside – you stumble across things you never knew you needed until you see them. Consequently, we have pieces of unusual glass, dinner services (that’s my bad – I can’t resist pretty china), too many bicycles, pieces of art, garden furniture, Scalextric, ceramic clock faces, and a box of 500 old keys… to name but a few of our impulse purchases.
All of my experiences fed into my plot and I loved writing about Gildersleeve’s and its eclectic staff. I knew I wanted the plot to centre around a very unusual tea set that had been separated, so an auction house was the perfect place to start Maisie’s journey. Early on in her new job, she stumbles across a teapot that she recognises from her past – so much so that it sends prickles up her arm. Why has it ended up an auction? And is there more to this curious teapot than meets the eye?
I hope you have fun following Maisie as she tries to reunite both the tea set and her own scattered family. Thank you for having me over, and for the delicious cup of virtual coffee.
Jenni Keer is a history graduate who embarked on a career in contract flooring before settling in the middle of the Suffolk countryside with her antique furniture restorer husband. She has valiantly attempted to master the ancient art of housework but with four teenage boys in the house, it remains a mystery. Instead, she spends her time at the keyboard writing women’s fiction to combat the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere with her number one fan #Blindcat by her side. Much younger in her head than she is on paper, she adores any excuse for fancy-dress and is part of a disco formation dance team.
The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker was published in January 2019.
The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows is out in July 2019.
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Faye Townsend has planned the perfect summer trip for her family. But returning to the small seaside town her husband grew up in does not go to plan, the rain pours and the long days become stifling. And then the unthinkable happens…
Her husband Jake and her six-year-old son Dylan go for an early morning walk along the beautiful, windswept clifftops. They don’t come back.
As the hours tick by, Dylan’s red baseball cap is found on the beach and Faye finds herself being questioned by the police. They want to know everything about the man she married – is Faye ready to face her husband’s dark past? Or will she have to confront her own secrets first?
And just how far will a mother go to save her only child?
I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
The suspense builds quietly, from the first line and ends abruptly, leaving you wanting more, what happens next? Then you’re in the midst of a family holiday, a surprise that seems to be missing the mark?
The family scene that the author describes, from Faye’s point of view, seems familiar, ordinary, even relatable, but the house is creepy, and everyone is tense, and Faye sees someone outside. You are on tenterhooks waiting for something to happen.When it does, it seems straightforward, but it isn’t, and then you’re gripped, and it’s impossible to put down.
The characters are complex, they have so many layers, They all have secrets. There is an unidentified male point of view, that draws your thoughts in one direction, but then the plot twists, and you’re no longer sure.
The twists are subtle but believable, it’s like walking in a maze. I loved how the plot gradually revealed salient details, using flashbacks to Lainey and Jake’s past, but is the point of view reliable?
What you suppose is the final twist, poses a moral dilemma, but from my point of view is satisfying, but then there is a further revelation that ends this riveting story in an unforgettable way.
A Walk in Wildflower Park was originally published as a four-part serial. This is the complete story in one package. Life’s not always a walk in the park…
Anna thought she’d found The One – until he broke off their engagement exactly a year before their wedding day. Hoping new surroundings will do her the world of good, she moves into a place of her own on the edge of gorgeous Wildflower Park.
With the help and friendship of her neighbour Sophie (a stressed-out mum whose children a regular source of newly-invented swear words and unidentifiable sticky surfaces), Anna quickly settles in and pledges to focus on her career, but a handsome new colleague seems determined to thwart her attempts at every turn. And when she receives a text from a mystery man, it looks as though an unlikely romance is on the horizon…
Is Anna about to be swept off her feet by someone she really shouldn’t be falling for? Or could this be the new start she needs and deserves?
I received a copy of this book from Avon Books UK via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Anna’s engagement is over, and she decides life without men is the way forward. Moving into a new flat with its own private park is a step in the right direction. There, she plans and schemes with her best friend Sophie, mother of two and pregnant with a third, whose life is not what she imagined.
A difficult male colleague who threatens Anna’s career provides the initial conflict and humour. There’s also a mystery texter who makes her wonder if she’s really sworn off men, and her ex refusing to stay out of her life. The wildflower park is a source of solace as Anna faces her past and tries to forge a future she can live with.
Ambition, angst, conflict, humour and romance are major themes in this story
As the story progresses, Anna’s relationship problems continue. Liam her ex, seems to be regretting his decision, but does she really want to go there again? Hudson is an enigma and proves a supportive friend, and the face behind the text is revealed.
There are some interesting twists in this book, which alter Anna’s perception of certain people in her life. There are many laugh-out-loud moments, especially for those who have looked after young children.
The characters develop in a pleasing way. The plot deepens but still keeps its secrets the end.
Heavily pregnant Sophie’s life implodes. Her story has the perfect mix of emotion and humour, especially when, Sophie and Anna discuss the state of her marriage. There are some touching scenes with Bill, humour with Maurice(the cat) and Anna wonders if she really is cut out for the single life.
Anna undergoes significant character development in this story. Illustrated by scenes with her ex Liam, Hudson, her attractive work colleague, and Connor, the man she met by mistake. She’s in a quandary, should she hold out for her soulmate, settle for what’s available, or go it alone?
A new opportunity forces her to face her past fears. Then, the story takes a darker turn. Even though like me, you may have suspected this development, the clues are there, the final events are suspenseful and menacing, and give this story another unexpected dimension. adding depth and interest.
Anna’s character develops further as the actions of others and changes in her career make her face her demons. I love this character and it’s good to see her discovering her true self. Sophie’s story is also resolved in a satisfying way, and she provides her share of angst and laughter as the story draws to a close.
Romance isn’t neglected, Anna finally realises where her heart lies but she faces significant conflict before she finds her true soulmate and her happy-ever-after.
This is a lovely, contemporary story about family, friends and career, with romance, humour and mystery, a very enjoyable read.
Scotland, 1950s Walter MacMillan is bewitched by the clever, glamorous Jean Thompson and can’t believe his luck when she agrees to marry him. Neither can she, for Walter represents a steady and loving man who can perhaps quiet the demons inside her. Yet their home on remote Loch Doon soon becomes a prison for Jean and neither a young family nor Walter’s care can seem to save her.
Many years later, Walter is with his adult children and adored grandchildren on the shores of Loch Doon where the family has been holidaying for two generations. But the shadows of the past stretch over them and will turn all their lives upside down on one fateful weekend.
The House by the Loch is the story of a family in all its loving complexity and the way it can, and must, remake itself endlessly in order to make peace with the past.
I received a copy of this book from John Murray Press – Two Roads via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
Walter witnesses a tragedy as a young boy at the side of the loch, close to his home. It haunts him, throughout his life, even though he could do nothing to stop it. Years later, his family gather at the loch, and once again it is the scene of a tragic event, this time personal, and he wonders if it is his fault and if his family will ever recover.
The setting is beautiful, yet unforgiving, an addiction for Walter, that threatens everything he holds dear.
A multi-generational story, Walter recalls his younger days, his marriage to Jean and their lives at the loch. Addiction and mental health issues irrevocably alter the family, and their effects resonate across the generations. The story’s ethos is predominately sad, but at its conclusion, there is a reckoning, a chance for redemption and a way forward for those left.
The characters are flawed, and therefore believable. Some are self-destructive, but whether the root cause is from nature or nurture, or both is part of what this story explores. The plot is complex, hiding its secrets until the end, The story is engaging and draws you into the family, how they interact and what it means to keep a family together.
Forgiveness, justice and understanding are all important themes. The emotional journey, the characters travel is poignant and often filled with a sense of hopelessness. Ultimately, it is the courage, love and tenacity of the family members, that gets them through the darkness, to survive and make the family stronger.
Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak themselves, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night: trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges, as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice.
In rural Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine – a pressurised oxygen chamber that patients enter for “dives”, used as an alternative therapy for conditions including autism and infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos’ small community.
I received a copy of this book from Hodder and Stoughton via NetGalley in return for an honest review.
A tragic event at an alternative medicine site leaves two dead, and others severely injured. This story is about the court case that follows over a year later, through the testimonies and thoughts of the people involved at the time, the story explores what really happened and whether the person in the dock is truly guilty.
The courtroom scenes are detailed and enthralling, seen through multi-points-of-view they illuminate the actions, emotions and motivations of the people at the time of the accident and before. All have secrets, tell lies and many have a motive, but are they guilty? The perception is whilst their lies may be insignificant in abstract, they may form part of a conspiracy against justice and the truth.
The people undergoing treatment are vulnerable and deserve protection. The crime is shocking, as are the revelations that follow. It is not easy reading, but there is nothing gratuitous, everything is a piece in the puzzle or an insight into a character’s personality.
Parenting a child with a disability, maintaining your personal identity, as an immigrant, the role of women in society, abuse, culture clashes, society’s expectations and norms, and alternative medical treatments are themes of this complex, well-researched story. They interweave with a pacy, twisty, sometimes controversial plot. Making this story an addictive mix of courtroom drama, family secrets and psychological thriller.
The ending has a final twist, not unexpected, but still shocking. The sense that the guilt should be shared is paramount and is the perfect end for this thought-provoking novel.
The story is original and complex, the characters are well thought out and believable, The courtroom scenes are realistic, but did I enjoy reading it?
The overriding ethos is dark, and almost lacking in hope, showing the worst side of humanity. Also, there is a level of repetition because events are examined from multi-points- of-view. So, the jury’s still out for me. It’s down to personal preference. If you like a mix of courtroom drama and psychological thriller, you should give this a try.