The girl in the Photograph

The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan

Synopsis:

The Girl in the Photograph is a haunting and atmospheric novel that tells the tales of women in two different eras – the 1890’s and 1930’s – and how their lives seem to be entwined by fate. Kate Riordan’s novel is a beautifully dark and beguiling tale which will sweep you away. It will appeal to fans of Kate Morton and Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca.

The girl in the PhotographI absolutely loved this story of Alice Eveleigh and, living 40 years earlier, Elizabeth Stanton. The two women seem in some ways to be living parallel lives and encountering some of the same problems, and I really enjoyed reading this.

The way the two stories entwine really caught my imagination, and although not a HUGE amount really happens in Alice’s narrative in my opinion, apart from her giving birth, I found it completely absorbing! I was so intrigued to find out what had actually happened to Elizabeth and her family years before, and simultaneously interested in Alice’s predicament and whether anything would develop with Tom. Having recently read some unimpressive love stories, Alice and Tom’s relationship was, in stark contrast, written without the usual cringe-worthy stereotypes or over-dramatic clichéd declarations.

The language used throughout was wonderful! For one thing, the atmosphere created throughout the book- though subtle- was spot on. I felt quite unnerved at times but the strange noises and feelings Alice experiences never seemed overdone or completely ridiculous; the sense of slight menace was often lurking in the background, and this made it all the more eerie. It becomes clear that Elizabeth was treated by doctors at that time in completely the wrong way for what was obviously post-natal depression; this was a really interesting topic and one I hadn’t read about a great deal in fiction. The story revealed the horrible circumstances many new mothers found themselves in, in a frank and honest way, showing why at times Edward could have been forgiven for the way he treated her because he simply didn’t understand what she was going through – no one did, and that was the real problem. Elizabeth’s treatment was nonetheless horrible and, at times, downright inhumane. It really struck me, when reading The Girl in the Photograph, that the way society’s attitudes towards this illness has hugely changed, thank god, and I was hugely interested in this topic which added to my enjoyment of the novel.

There’s a quote from Rachel Hore on the front cover and she is certainly someone I’d compare Kate Riordan’s writing to in a positive way. I love stories which jump around different time frames before meeting at some point in the present- or in the case of this story’s present, the 1930’s – with a feeling that the narrators are somehow linked. Despite this being perhaps a well-used format, I still really enjoy reading novels like these and particularly The Girl in the Photograph, which create such a strong atmosphere and is written so skilfully. I would definitely recommend this to others.

Rating: 4.5/5

The Girl in the Photograph

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The Gower Street Detective series- books 1 and 2

Firstly I hope you all had a lovely Christmas! I didn’t get much time to read really but did finish the following 2 books which I really enjoyed and wanted to review for you!

The Mangle Street Murders & The Curse of the House of Foskett by M.R.C Kasasian

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Both books seem to be set at the end of the 19th century and follow Sidney Grice, a personal (not private!) detective living and working in grimy Victorian London. He takes in fiery March Middleton, the daughter of someone he knew (though he doesn’t say much about this) and she ends up assisting him whilst he solves crimes! For a more in-depth synopsis check out both books on GoodReads!

Both plots are quick, clever and fast moving but not overly complicated in my opinion, though at some points I did have to stop and try to work out or remember who was who with the second novel. However the dry humour doesn’t mask the often gruesome, unnerving bits included in both novels.

It’s really the brilliant, richly layered characters that make this book so enjoyable. Sidney Grice is actually a rather dislikable character and can be very rude and cruel to the protagonist March (and pretty much everyone else!), but he is sharp and witty and quite amusing at times so I warmed to him a surprising amount. March can be just as quick witted and scathing at times and is also very sarcastic, and hers and Sidney’s dry humour bounce off one another in a brilliant way. I also love that March is not your typical female protagonist; she doesn’t care about seeming like a ‘proper’ lady and is keen to assist Sidney in his investigations despite many of the characters seeming surprised- and often downright dismissive- of her coming along to crime scenes and post mortems, etc. other characters often comment that she is not particularly attractive, which is quite refreshing as books always seem to paint female characters as beautiful or “beautiful in a certain way that they don’t realise” and this made a change from that- why should it matter whether she’s ‘beautiful’ or not when it comes to detective work? Male characters’ looks don’t seem as important so why should hers?!

I found March’s sharp responses to many characters very amusing and she’s probably one of my favourite female protagonists that I’ve read this year! She also smokes and drinks copious amounts of gin and really doesn’t seem to care, to Grice’s disgust!

The first novel is quite short at only 257 pages (Ebook) whilst the second novel is considerably longer at 357 pages and as a result of this the storyline of The Curse of the House of Foskett is quite a bit more complicated. It is definitely advisable reading these in order as, although they focus on a different murder, elements from the first cross into the second and March reveals more about her personal life as a continuation from the first novel.
There are also a few amusing references to medical or forensic developments that are yet to happen, due to the novel being set at the end of the 1800’s, and one point where i is strongly suggested that Sidney Grice is the inspiration for Dr Watson to write the Sherlock Holmes novels which was quite a nice touch!

I would strongly recommend these books to anyone who enjoys the classic detective story with a fresh, humorous twist! I’m looking forward to the third novel in the series already, though there seems to be no sign at this point of a release date!

Rating: The Mangle Street Murders- 3.5/5
The Curse of the House of Foskett- 4/5

The Last Anniversary

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty – review

Synopsis:

Sophie Honeywell always wondered if Thomas Gordon was the one she let get away. He was the perfect boyfriend, but on the day he was to propose, she broke his heart. A year later he married his travel agent, while Sophie has been mortifyingly single ever since. Now Thomas is back in her life because Sophie has unexpectedly inherited his aunt Connie’s house on Scribbly Gum Island — home of the famously unsolved Munro Baby mystery.
Sophie moves onto the island and begins a new life as part of an unconventional family where it seems everyone has a secret. Grace, a beautiful young mother, is feverishly planning a shocking escape from her perfect life. Margie, a frumpy housewife, has made a pact with a stranger, while dreamy Aunt Rose wonders if maybe it’s about time she started making her own decisions.
As Sophie’s life becomes increasingly complicated, she discovers that sometimes you have to stop waiting around — and come up with your own fairy-tale ending.
As she so adroitly did in her smashing debut novel, Three Wishes, the incomparable Liane Moriarty once again combines sharp wit, lovable and eccentric characters, and a page-turning story for an unforgettable Last Anniversary.

The Last Anniversary

This sounds like more of a typical chick-lit novel than I feel it actually is. There is certainly the element of romance but also an element of mystery too.

I really liked the characters in The Last Anniversary and I feel like character depth is one of Liane Moriarty’s strengths, in my opinion. At first I wasn’t sure about protagonist Sophie as she seemed a little selfish and vain, plus the other characters kept going on about how they loved her and Thomas being together and that she’s so ‘cute’ and ‘lovely’, which got on my nerves a bit and seemed like the author was beating the reader around the head with the fact that she’s obviously a likeable person! However I did warm to her as the novel went on. The other characters were also very interesting, especially the older ladies with their amusing comments and the relationship between Callum and Grace (though I found elements of that really quite sad!) and the characters added a lot to the story. Also, most of the characters tell the story partly from each of their own perspectives so it’s interesting to read it from other points of view.

Along with the characters, another element of the novel which I loved was the setting- Scribbly Grim Island – which I found very charming and quaint. I could picture exactly what it looks like in my mind!

I really liked the element of mystery throughout as it kept me interested and wondering what the true story of the Munro disappearance was, though I did guess the twist quite a bit before the end so was quite predictable, especially as I don’t usually guess correctly!

I wouldn’t say this is in any way Liane Moriarty’s best book (I really enjoyed all her books that I’ve read but The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot were probably my absolute favourites, though I really loved Little Lies too!) but I really enjoyed reading it!

Rating: 3.5/5

The Last Anniversary
How to be a good wife

Finally, a new review! ‘How to be a Good Wife’ by Emma Chapman

How to be a good wifeFirstly, apologies for the absence of reviews recently. I’ve just moved house and haven’t had a minute to myself, especially not to sit down and write a review sadly!

This one is actually quite a short review but then, it’s quite a short book so I think that’s OK! 🙂

Synopsis:

“I know what my husband would say: that I have too much time on my hands; that I need to keep myself busy. That I need to take my medication. Empty nest syndrome, he tells his friends at the pub, his mother. He’s always said I have a vivid imagination.”

Marta has been married to Hector for longer than she can remember. She has always tried hard to be a good wife.

But now Hector has come home with a secret. And Marta is beginning to imagine – or revisit – a terrifying truth . .

How to Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman was definitely an interesting and different novel, in my opinion. It was a difficult subject matter and I fluctuated between being really interested in the story to feeling like it was dragging on a bit to having completely mixed feelings about the ending!

The story is told from the view of Marta, wife of Hector and mother to her grown-up son Kylan, and we really see that Marta seems to have no real identity apart from in these two roles. Her insistence that she stick to the rules of the awful ‘self-help’ guide called ‘How to be a Good Wife’, which she is given by her mother-in-law, demonstrates her eagerness to be a good wife to Hector but also shows her timidness and conformity. She doesn’t seem like she’s really grown up from the quiet, troubled teenager she was when she first met Hector- or so she thinks. The book makes you question the motives of pretty much every character in it, including Marta herself, and I found that quite interesting to read. However I did feel like I was waiting for something to happen for the first half.

There isn’t that much else I can say about this book without giving too much away but, despite some parts feeling a little slow, it did keep me reading on and it had some good twists and turns along the way. I felt like this was impressive considering I didn’t really like any of the characters, including Marta herself (I just found her quite irritating to be honest and she was quite mean to her son’s fiance), and especially not her husband Hector, for obvious reasons!

The comparison on the front to ‘Before I Go To Sleep’ isn’t very accurate, in my opinion- this isn’t really the same kind of pace or style, but I suppose the main narrative is in a similar vein.

I don’t know how I feel about the ending to be honest; it’s probably quite realistic but did surprise me (though others I know who have read it said they saw it coming a mile off!). I also know a lot of life can’t be neatly tied up at the end and so this novel is probably just reflecting that, but I do kind of wish we’d found out more conclusions about certain topics.

This is a pretty short book so worth reading even if you end up disliking it. I’d be interested in hearing other reviews or opinions on this book too as I’m still a little undecided overall!

Rating: 3/5

How To Be a Good Wife

The One Plus One - cover

The One Plus One – another enjoyable read from JoJo Moyes!

The One Plus One - coverI LOVED Me Before You, another of JoJo Moyes’ books, and though I don’t feel The One Plus One is quite as brilliant as that fantastic novel, it’s still very good! It’s also a completely different type of story really to Me Before You but the characters are just as loveable which makes the story for me really.

Synopsis:

One single mum
With two jobs and two children, Jess Thomas does her best day after day. But it’s hard on your own. And sometimes you take risks you shouldn’t. Because you have to . . .

One chaotic family
Jess’s gifted, quirky daughter Tanzie is brilliant with numbers, but without a helping hand she’ll never get the chance to shine. And Nicky, Jess’s teenage stepson, can’t fight the bullies alone.

Sometimes Jess feels like they’re sinking . . .

One handsome stranger
Into their lives comes Ed Nicholls, a man whose life is in chaos, and who is running from a deeply uncertain future. But he has time on his hands. He knows what it’s like to be lonely. And he wants to help . . .

One unexpected love story
The One Plus One is a captivating and unconventional romance from Jojo Moyes about two lost souls meeting in the most unlikely circumstances.

As I said before, JoJo Moyes is so great at creating characters that you fall in love with. For example, Ed is an ideal male ‘love interest’ and seems to have it all – he’s kind, sweet, understanding and interesting and he’s also got the whole ‘brooding’ thing that women often seem to love (apologies for the generalisation…)! Plus it is mentioned a few times that he is good looking and has a good body, so it was no surprise that him and Jess end up attracted to each other. Jess is honest, determined and usually very upbeat and positive, so she is shown very positively and Nicky and Tanzie, the two kids, are really sweet. Tanzie really reminded me of the little girl in Little Miss Sunshine – anyone seen that film..? – and I thought she was a great character! And then there’s Norman the massive dog of course! Each one of them was pretty likeable and interesting in their own ways and they help to make the story really enjoyable to read.

I was pleased that Jess and Ed’s romance isn’t cheesy or played up too much and, considering there was some romance in there, it didn’t really make me cringe at all- achievement! Sometimes you can almost feel the tension on the pages there between Jess and Ed, and it kept me reading on to see if they would properly get together. I almost wish there was more about their romance in the storyline, but Moyes doesn’t rely on this to keep the narrative going. Instead the romantic storyline almost takes a backseat in some ways to the many other amusing incidents throughout the novel.

The storyline is definitely fun to read and is quite realistic overall. It’s certainly not as predictable or clichéd as other ‘chick-lit’ novels (though I don’t really class this as chick-lit, I feel like it’s got something more to it!) and addresses a range of issues in a well-handled way. It’s not all light-hearted, fluffy stuff but the story really made me laugh at points. Told from four perspectives- Jess, Nicky, Tanzie and Ed- you get a sense of how each person is feeling and see different parts of the story from different views. The four narrative strands all added to the story in their own way, though I preferred reading Jess and Ed’s perspectives personally.

I do feel that some parts of The One Plus One were a little unrealistic, particularly Ed’s sister’s reaction when Ed tells her why he and Jess have broken up. To me it is quite unbelievable- I don’t feel she would have been as encouraging of their relationship as she was in that situation, but hey, I realise it’ll be to advance the plot so it’s no massive deal to me. I won’t give any more away, just give this book a go if you fancy a light-hearted, entertaining read.

I was quite sad when it ended as I really loved the characters and wanted to read more about them!

Rating: 4/5

Have you read The One Plus One or any other of JoJo Moyes’ books? What did you think?

One Plus One