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.