Book Review: The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

This is a review I started to write about 2 months ago. Somehow didn’t find the time or the energy to complete it. That is no reflection on the book though.

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I’ve read Lisa Jewell’s books before and have loved some of them. The blurb on Netgalley had me hooked and I just had to request it.

You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses.

You’ve known your neighbours for years and you trust them. Implicitly.

You think your children are safe.

But are they really?

Clare and her daughters Grace and Pip have had to move from where they lived a happy normal life. Clare and her girls are carrying a secret. Her husband and their father has done something that has scarred and scared all of them. They hope, or rather Clare hopes that a change of scenery will give them the peace and the anonymity to go about their lives.

They move into a house with a communal garden. It feels a like a very nice place to live in, with an interesting mix of people living there. Home schooling Adele with her rather cool and popular husband, Leo, and their daughters, Rhea who has lived here for years and carries the burden of her own past and memories. The social worker mother who seems to be more concerned about her charges in her professional capacity rather than her own daughter.

Grace and Pip make friends, at least some semblance of it and find their own place in those communal garden. Grace more than Pip seems to fit it better. Pip on the other hand still wants to cling on to her old life. Her yearning for her dad and the life that they left behind is beautiful portrayed in the letters she pens him. I found Pip’s letters extremely touching and moving.

The once welcoming communal gardens take on a different persona when Pip discovers Grace bloodied and unconscious in a dark corner of the communal gardens.

What follows is an absolutely brilliant piece of work by the author. She keeps us guessing and wondering while revealing layer by layer, each of the characters. I think this is what I loved about Jewell’s writing, the characterisation. So real, so relatable. Each of the characters were so well defined. Just like how that seemingly harmless communal garden harbours deep, dark secrets, so do the people who live there.

A book I would definitely recommend. One I enjoyed reading thoroughly even with worries surfacing that this could happen to any of us, any of our children.

Rating 4/5

About the Author
Lisa Jewell (born 19th July 1968, Middlesex, London) is a popular British author of chick lit fiction. Her books include Ralph’s Party, Thirtynothing and most recently 31 Dream Street.

Book Review: The Girl You Lost by Kathryn Croft

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Simone Porter and her husband Matt lead a normal busy life as a journalist and a doctor today, but eighteen years ago, fate had dealt them a cruel blow, the pain of which they still felt.

Eighteen years ago, their six month old daughter, Helena, was stolen from the park. Simone, a teenager herself and Matt a medical student had been exhausted and Matt’s other had come to help them out by taking Helena to the park, when she gets stolen. All efforts at tracing Helena came to no good and slowly Simone and Matt rebuilt their lives, but the grief remained with them.

So, eighteen years since then, Simone gets approached by a young woman who claims that she was Helena, Simone is completely thrown off balance. Simone and Matt don’t know what to think but before they can progress further, even ascertain if the young woman was indeed, their daughter, Helena or Grace as she is called, disappears, again. For the second time in their lives Simone and Matt are plunged into the same feelings of loss and helplessness.

Simone needs to know what happened. She can’t just let her daughter, if it was her daughter, disappear a second time. Refusing to be a silent spectator, Simone follows leads, hunts down information as best as she could. As she investigates, what emerges is beyond what she could have ever imagined.

An absolutely gripping, nail-biting psychological thriller. Keeps you guessing till the very end. I wish I could say more, but that would totally spoil it for you. Do read this if you like psychological thrillers, which keep you at the very edge of your seat.

My Rating: 4/5

Thank you NetGalley and Bookoutre for the review copy of this book.

About the Author
Kathryn Croft is the bestselling author of The Girl With No Past, which spent over four weeks at number one in the Amazon chart. Her first two novels, Behind Closed Doors and The Stranger Within, reached number one in the psychological thriller charts.

Her fourth novel, The Girl You Lost, will be published on 5th February 2016, and is now available for preorder on Amazon. 

After six years teaching secondary school English, Kathryn now writes full time and has a publishing deal with Bookouture. 

Book Review: The Secret Life of Winnie Cox by Sharon Maas

It is 1910, South America. Winnie Cox is living a privileged life as the daughter of sugarcane plantation owner.

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Winnie and her sister want for nothing. Everything they want is there for them. Servants at their beck and call, they don’t even realise the inequalities that exist around them. She gets small glimpses of a life very different to theirs however things come to a head when she meets George, a young man who does not fit the bill by any standards for someone like Winnie. George is a post office boy, a ‘darkie’. Winnie face to face with a reality that until then had been unknown to her. Not just that, she discovers the truth about people close to her. The people she had considered blameless had a side completely unknown to her.

The story follows the Winnie’s story at a time and place where racial prejudice and social inequality reigned. When falling in love with someone inappropriate would mean the end of you. The tale of two people bound by love, separated by society. How far is Winnie willing to go?

The story is not just about Winnie, it is about that time in history when things where literally ‘black and white’, when breaking social boundaries meant ostracism and heart break.

A beautifully written book, one which transports you to the place it is set in – which I absolutely love, as most of you who read me must know. As with all of Sharon Maas’ books, they evoke such strong imagery of the settings. I’ve learnt so much of British Guyana since I’ve started reading her. It captivated me so much that I’ve even gone and read up about it. I love it when books do that to you, when the place the story is set in, is more than just a setting, it’s so vibrantly described that it is a character in its own right.

My Rating: A 4.5/5 read for me. The story, the plot, the twist, the setting, everything was perfect. I can’t wait to pick up the next Sharon Maas book.

About the Author
Sharon Maas was born in Georgetown, Guyana in 1951, and spent many childhood hours either curled up behind a novel or writing her own adventure stories. Sometimes she had adventures of her own, and found fifteen minutes of Guyanese fame for salvaging an old horse-drawn coach from a funeral parlor, fixing it up, painting it bright blue, and tearing around Georgetown with all her teenage friends. The coach ended up in a ditch, but thankfully neither teens nor horse were injured. Boarding school in England tamed her somewhat; but after a few years as a reporter with the Guyana Graphic in Georgetown she plunged off to discover South America by the seat of her pants.

A powerful story balancing the different points of views, the circumstances that existed and the struggles, both Winnie and George’s and the communities that
bore the brunt of the racial and social discrimination.

Her first novel, Of Marriageable Age, was published in 1999 by HarperCollins, and is set in India, Guyana and England. Two further novels, Peacocks Dancing and The Speech of Angels, followed.

Book Review: Time to Die by Caroline Mitchell

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I came across Caroline Mitchell’s writing when I picked up her first book, ‘Don’t Turn Around’, which I absolutely loved, so when I saw this book on Netgalley, I had to request it.

Detective Jennifer Knight is on the trail of a serial killer who calls himself Raven. Raven is no run-of-the-mill serial killer, he is guided by dark forces, a tarot card reader and there is a method in his madness which is spine chilling. Jennifer is not just a detective, she has some special psychic powers herself. As the investigation progresses, Jennifer knows that Raven has a target and it is her. Jen has to use all of her powers to protect herself and her family.

The second in the Jennifer Knight series, this book does not disapppoint. Another un-put-downable book from Caroline Mitchell. The author keeps the narrative fast and full of suspense. To be honest, I kind of figured it out towards the end, but even that did not detract from the book. A thriller, through and through.

I’m not a big fan of paranomal themed books, however, Caroline weaves in the paranormal element so well, that I love them. She builds up the atmosphere of the unknown, the terror and the ruthlessness so very well, I almost don’t want the book to end, even though I’m desperate to know how it all turns out. I have also enjoyed the characters. Jen in particluar is a protagonist, who I end up rootimg for. I know for a fact that I will be looking forward to picking up the next in the series.

Rating: 4/5

About the Author

Caroline Mitchell is the author of Amazon best selling true story ‘Paranormal Intruder’, and her recent debut crime novel ‘Don’t Turn Around’.

Originally from Ireland, she now lives with her husband, four children and two dogs in a pretty village on the coast of Essex.

Book Review: The Truth according to Us by Annie Barrows

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It is 1938, and Layla Beck has been cast adrift into the world by her father when he cuts off her allowance to punish her for refusing to marry the person her father picked for her.  He has arranged for her to work with the Federal Writer’s project and earn her living.

Layla gets sent to Macedonia, West Virginia, far removed from the life she is used to. Macedonia is a quiet little town, and she has the job of writing the history of Macedonia.

Willa Romeyn lives in Macedonia, with her sister Bird, aunt Jottie and father Felix. She also has two rather eccentric aunts who ‘almost’ live with them, although they both have husbands and homes of their own. There is nothing Willa likes more than ‘finding out’. She loves finding out stuff, secrets..

Layla finds herself lodging with the Romeyns and before she knows it, drawn to the whole family. Layla herself is an object of curiosity for the Romeyn, and indeed the whole town, and definitely so, for curious Willa.

As Layla delves into the history of Macedonia, she finds out more than just that, and like Willa, finds out that sometimes things are better left unknown, that every story has multiple facets to it. Just like the librarian tells her, history can be anything you want it to be. The truth, according to us, is what it ends up as.

A interesting book, in the style that it is written. Narrated from the points of view of twelve year old Willa, Layla and Jottie, it maintains momentum and interest throughout. Part of the story progresses through letters, a style that I have come to love. It gives stories that extra charm, when authors pull it off – it really worked in this case. I love the letter exchanges between Layla and her uncle in particular. I really liked the characters, each different and memorable. I particularly loved Willa’s uncle Emmett.

I requested this book on Netgalley based on the fact that the author has co-authored ‘The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I loved. While this wouldn’t be in the same league, it was a good read, and one that I would recommend, if you like this style of writing.

My Rating: 3.5/5.

Thank you Netgalley and the publishers for the review copy of this book.

About the Author

Annie grew up in Northern California, and graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, with a degree in Medieval History. Unable to find a job in the middle ages, she decided upon a career as an editor, eventually landing at Chronicle Books in San Francisco, where she was in charge of “all the books that nobody in their right mind would publish.” After earning an M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Mills College, Annie wrote (as Ann Fiery) a number of books for grown-ups about such diverse subjects as fortune-telling (she can read palms!), urban legends (there are no alligators in the sewer!), and opera (she knows what they’re singing about!). In 2003, Annie grew weary of grown-ups, and began to write for kids, which she found to be way more fun

Book Review: The Way We Were by Sinéad Moriarty

Every January, for the last few years, I’ve been doing a blog marathon (primarily on the other blog) with friends. It’s normally great fun even if can never really complete it. Every year I promise myself that next year, I wouldn’t take part, especially on days when I struggle to post. But it’s become a tradition now, and a tradition that’s become rather hard to break.

So here I am, posting on either of my two blogs, every day, for the whole of this month. Or so I hope. I also plan to get through all my reviews pending from last year during this month. Lets see how many of my plans actually materialise into action. Fingers crossed.

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Alice and Ben are a regular couple with two daughters. Pre-teen Holly is an almost angelic eleven-year-old while fifteen year old Jools is a different story. Alice has her hands full balancing her work as a GP and her family.

Ben is a busy surgeon who has been feeling a little restless with his life. He yearns for more challenges at work and when offered a chance to go to Eritrea for a surgery, he grabs it. It looks like the perfect solution to his problem. A few jobs here and there to break the monotony. Alice, of course, is not thrilled, neither is Jools because Ben would miss her sixteenth birthday, but the prospect of a big present wins her over and Ben is off.

Unpredictable as life is, Alice and the girls get the news that Ben has been killed by a landmine. The life that Alice has known for the last nineteen years has come to a sudden halt. Her partner, the love of her life is gone. The girls are lost as well. Each of them finding ways of coping, and not always the best of ways. Their little family was in danger of being cast adrift. Alice had to find the strength in her to stay strong and focussed to give her girls the stability they need.

Three years have passed and finally Alice and the girls seem happier, they made their peace with what happened, Alice has also to met a wonderful man who has asked her to marry him. Not just that, the girls are happy for her too.

Of course nothing in life is that simple. She gets the news that Ben was not killed. He is alive and coming back to them.

Once Ben is back, he and the girls expect every thing to go back the way they were. What about Alice. Can her emotions be turned on and off at will? After all that she went through she now has to find the strength to deal with this change.

A book that I absolutely loved. I loved the storyline, loved the characters, and loved the way the author handled it. You feel for every character, even the less nice ones. There are no black and whites, so many dilemmas and so beautifully narrated. I especially loved the girls Holly and Jools. Holly reminded me of my own little girl.

A book that had me in tears, that had me rooting for every character, even when they all wanted conflicting things. A book with a complicated storyline, but laced with just the right amount of humour and fun. It is narrated from Alice, Ben and Holly’s points of view and helps us see the whole picture. It is of course more than about just the four of them, it is about their extended family and close friends, a book that brings it all together in a beautiful way. A book that I would recommend wholeheartedly.

My rating: 4.5/5.

Funnily enough this is the first book of the author’s that I have read. She certainly goes on my list of authors to read more of. As if I didn’t have a long enough list already!

Thank you NetGalley and the publishers for the review copy.


About the Author

Sinéad Moriarty was born and brought up in Dublin. She grew up dreaming of being an author and is now a successful author with several best selling titles to her name.

Book Review: A Sister’s Promise by Renita D’Silva

I had read ‘The Forgotten Daughter’ by Renita D’Silva and had loved her writing, so when I saw ‘A Sister’s Promise’ on Netgalley, I absolutely had to request it.

Got approved for it, read it and then started this review which sat in my drafts for ages. Sigh. End of the year clean up showes me this and a bunch of others which needed completing. This had to be one of the first to be completed and published, given how much I enjoyed the book.

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Puja and Sharda are two sisters, who grew up together in India. With personalities like chalk and cheese, they were different but close while growing up. They promised to be with each other, support each other through life, however life had other plans for them. Circumctances forced them apart, far apart. Sharda is living in India with her daughter Khushi while Puja lives in the UK with her son Raj. She has cut off ties with her family, and her son has never been to India, never met his mother’s family. Puja lead an ordered, controlled life in the UK, where emotions had no place. When she receives a phone call from her sister Sharda, her life is turned upside down. She has to make a decision from which there is no turning back. Will she find it in her to honour the promise she made her sister? Will the bond they shared as children be stong enough to bing them together again?

Set mainly in India, it resonates with flavours and colours of the place and the emotions that the characters go through. I especially loved the descriptions, be it of the food that Sharda cooks or the emotions, you can almost taste the food and you can feel the pain, the sadness and the joys. Their childhood is so beautifully portrayed.

A beautifully narrated story of two sisters, of human emotions that come close to destroying the bond between them, and the strength of emotions and shared lives. I’ve always loved books which transport you to the place where they are set, and this book does that so very beautifully. This is not the first book b Renita D’Silva and will certainly not be the last. I can’t wait to lay my hands on her next book.

My Rating: 4/5.

About the Author

Renita D’Silva is the auther of 4 books, ‘Monsoon Memories’,’The Forgotten Daughter’,’The Stolen Girl’ and ‘A Sister’s Promise’. Her books evoke vivid imagery of India and food and makes for very compelling reads.

Book Review: The Other Me by Saskia Sarginson

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Eliza Bennett is living the life she’s always dreamt about, doing something she loves with a man she loves. However she’s hiding a terrible secret that could bring her dream life down like a pack of cards. 

For one, she isn’t who everyone thinks she is. She is actually Klaudia Meyer. She’s adopted Eliza Bennett as her new name. Klaudia, she no longer was, in her own mind. And Eliza she would have stayed, until life forced her to face the truth.

Klaudia has had a difficult childhood, being the only daughter of Otto and Gwyn. Otto is the school caretaker, and an object of fun for her school mates. With his German background, the easiest jibe to fling at him was, ‘Nazi’. His obsession with religious carvings don’t help matters. By the time she becomes older, all she wants is to run far far away from her childhood home. Also lurking was the growing suspicion that maybe the school kids weren’t too far off with their jibe of ‘Nazi’. Klaudia knew that she needed to get away, and Leeds seemed far enough. 

When she moves away from home, she chooses a new name for herself, Eliza Bennett, inspired by Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennett. She constructs a new identity for herself and was perfectly happy until life threw everything into disarray.

The story weaves back into the past, with Otto and Ernst’s life in Nazi Germany. Ernst narrates the tale of life in war time Germany. It makes for a heartbreaking read. It is unbearable to read of life in such situations, where people are pitted against people. Neighbours, friends, all forced to turn against each other, and the power of words, campaigns, and slogans which gave people the thrust to do things they would have never done otherwise. Things that would come to haunt them later. 

A moving tale of a girl who doesn’t know the truth of her past, of ghosts of the past haunting not just the people who lived through things, but also  generations which come later. 

A poignant read, one which I will stay with me. A good, haunting read, especially Ernst’s part of the book. A 4/5 read for me. This is the first book I’ve read of this author, and I know that it’s not going to be the last.

Thank you, Netgalley and the publishers for the review copy of the book.

About the Author

Saskia grew up in Suffolk and now lives in London. She is the mother of four children, including identical twin girls. She has a B.A hons in English Literature from Cambridge and an M.A in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway. She’s worked as a Health & Beauty Editor,freelance journalist, ghost-writer and script reader. As well as writing and reading, she loves tango dancing and dog walking.


This book is available at Amazon(UK)

Book Review: The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert

The title hooked me in. There was something about the title. Actually, it’s just that mention of cake, and even the fact that I don’t even like coconut cake didn’t deter me. I love fiction based on food, or even non-fiction, for that matter. As you can see, I’m not too choosy and the blurb sounded interesting, and that was enough to get me to request for this book at Netgalley.

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Lou runs a little French restaurant, Luella’s in Milwaukee. She’s living her dream, she’s finally been able to save money and open her own restaurant. While not wildly popular or anything,they are struggling, just about able to make even, but that doesn’t stop Lou from dreaming big and working hard to reach there. The only person who doesn’t seem to take her seriously is her fiance Devlin. He seems to think that she needs ‘rescuing’ from her ‘hard’ life. As it turned out, Lou certainly didn’t need rescuing by Devlin, and walking in on her fiance unexpectedly had more than one unsavoury outcome.

Al is a brutal restaurant reviewer who is known for his harsh take downs of the restaurants he reviews. Originally from Britain, he is just about tolerating Milkwaukee and writes under a psuedonym. He gets an anonymous invite to review Luella’s, and lands up there on a day when Lou was at her worst. Needless to say, Al’s review was nothing to write home about. The review drives Lou to the pub to drown her sorrows where she runs into Al. A dare ends up with Lou offering to show Al the culinary delights of Milwaukee which involved some really delicious sounding food (the descriptions had me drooling). During this time, Lou’s restaurant is facing closure, while Al’s column is gaining in popularity.

So what happens when Lou finds out who Al really is? You have to read to find out.

A charming, cute story. One that you know the outcome of, and yet want to read on, just because the writing is so captivating, the characters so engaging, that you want to read on, you want to know what happens next, knowing fully well, that there is little that will surprise you. I loved the characters, particularly Lou’s protective friends.

A simple story, but really well narrated. A book that made me want to taste all that Lou shows Al, made me want to visit Milwaukee, and made me want to know how it all ended – even though I could easily predict the ending, but the journey to get there was absolutely delicious! The author even did the near-impossible, she made me want to try a slice of coconut cake!

A book I would definitely recommend. Great for a holiday read, a quick, easy and fun read. A 4/5 read for me. I know I would love to read other books by this author.

Thank you Netgalley and the publishers for the review copy of this book.

About The Author
Amy Reichert earned her MA in Literature from Marquette University, and honed her writing and editing skills as a technical writer (which is exactly as exciting as it sounds). As a newly minted member of the local library board, she loves helping readers find new books to love. She’s a life-long Wisconsin resident with (allegedly) a very noticeable accent, a patient husband, and two too-smart-for-their-own-good kids. When time allows, she loves to read, collect more cookbooks than she could possibly use, and test the limits of her DVR.

This book is available from Amazon(UK).

Book Review: The Sudden Departure of the Frasers by Louise Candlish

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Christy and Joe Davenport can’t believe their luck. They’ve managed to buy a house in the sought-after Lime Park Road. It is another thing that buying the house might mean that they would have to live on milk and bread, but it is their dream home, their ‘forever’ home. Just the perfect place to raise their yet-to-be-born kids. What makes it even better is that the previous owners had renovated it to such high standards that Christy and Joe could just move in. The house is in such a wonderful condition that they are amazed that the previous owners left so quickly. Why would someone sell their house and love away right after they had renovated it to such high standards?

However, something isn’t quite right. Frosty neighbours, and some rather weird conversations, leads Christy to deduce that something had happened on Lime Park Road which made Frasers leave so suddenly. Nobody seems to know where they went, and nobody seems willing to tell her what happened. All she knows is that everybody seemed to love Amber, and yet, nobody would say much more than that. Something had gone terribly wrong and Christy knows she has to find out. It is just too intriguing for her to not find out. Of course, it doesn’t help that she has lost her job and has plenty of time on her hands to go digging.

The story is told from Christy and Amber’s point of view. As we read Christy’s confusion , we read Amber’s time at Lime Park. I loved the way the story is made to progress. You, as a reader, know that tiny bit more that Christy and it is interesting to read how the events unfolded.

This was one of the few books where there was something unknown which I hadn’t managed to guess. A book I thoroughly enjoyed. I loved the way the author created the characters. Amber for instance, sounds amazing at the start and through the story, you see layers being peeled off to reveal the true Amber. Christy, is just a regular, normal person. A person who comes across as quite dull and boring, in comparison to her glamorous and exciting predecessor. Christy’s curiosity is so understandable, and so real. I can quite imagine myself in her situation, wondering and obsessing about Amber, especially when there are little clues littered about. Although I have to say, I would hate to live in a house which is so dominated by my predecessor, where people still refer to the house as ‘Amber’s house’ despite the fact that Amber has sold and left the place months ago. That I guess is the power of the character, who stays on, in people’s minds.

An interesting, and quite a different story, with a little unknown until the very end. A book I would definitely recommend. A 4/5 read for me. A great book for a quick, pacy and intriguing read. This is the first book that I’ve read of this author, and I know it wouldn’t be the last.

Thank you Netgalley and the publishers, Penguin UK – Michael Joseph for the ARC of this book.

About the Author
Louise Candlish is a bestselling author of nine novels, including two 2013 releases, The Disappearance of Emily Marr (a moody emotional mystery) and The Island Hideaway (an intense shot of Sicilian sunshine).

This book is available from Amazon(UK).