The Primrose Path by Rebecca Griffiths

The Primrose Path [review]

The Primrose Path by Rebecca Griffiths

[Synopsis]

As a teenager, Sarah D’Villez famously escaped a man who abducted and held her hostage for eleven days. The case became notorious, with Sarah’s face splashed across the front of every newspaper in the country.

Seventeen years later, Sarah’s attempt to build a normal life for herself in London has failed. When she hears of her kidnapper’s impending release from prison, fearful of the media storm that is sure to follow, she decides to flee to rural Wales under a new identity, telling nobody where she’s gone.

As Sarah settles in to her isolated new home and gets to know the small community she is now part of, it soon becomes creepily apparent that someone is watching her. Meanwhile, back in London, her mother makes a shocking discovery – something she fears will put Sarah’s life in danger. She must urgently find her missing daughter before it’s too late…

[My Review]

The Primrose Path begins as a fairly slow burner of a story and, bit by bit, develops into a really page turner, filled with mystery and suspense and that slow realisation that nothing is quite as it seems. The synopsis makes it sound like it’s all about the crime that happened to Sarah, but actually the story is about so much more than just that, and not at all like the many other crime/ thriller novels out at the moment about missing people.

The writing in this novel is fantastic; Rebecca Griffiths strikes the perfect balance between including plenty of description, without being too one winded. She really paints the scene in the reader’s head, including details such as what someone is eating, how they’re eating it and the feelings they have whilst eating it. All this information is given that at times seems surplus to the story, but all contributes to really helps the reader understand, and want to read more about, the characters – who themselves are indeed complex and mysterious. No one is perfect – everyone has their own flaws and negative traits.

There are actually very few characters that aren’t hiding something; their secrets ranging from the small to the devastating. I loved this about The Primrose Path; the way some people aren’t quite what they seem, whilst others are exactly who they profess to be. I reached the end of the end of the book and gave a smile of satisfaction with the twists and turns of the book’s journey.

The first half of the book definitely starts more slowly, taking its time to introduce characters. This is a good job, really, because there are lots of different people, with different relationships and links to each other, to get your head around, and it took me a little while to do this myself. Because of this, I did wonder if I’d soon lose interest, but once the characters are a little more established the story ramps up a gear, and you begin to understand the secrets lurking beneath the surface… Or you think you understand, anyway! Though saying this, the story never seems to need to rely on dramatics or crazy stunts to keep the reader interested; Griffith’s skilled writing does that without any help! Make sure you keep reading on and I’m sure you’ll find yourself sucked in as I did!

I’d definitely recommend this novel – it slowly draws you in, leaving you feeling, at the end, that you haven’t wasted a moment reading it. Entertaining, atmospheric and raw.

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Little Brown Book Group UK and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review

Only Ever You by Rebecca Drake

Only Ever You [review]

Only Ever You by Rebecca Drake

[Synopsis]

Jill Lassiter’s three-year-old daughter disappears from a playground only to return after 40 frantic minutes, but her mother’s relief is short-lived–there’s a tiny puncture mark on Sophia’s arm. When doctors can find no trace of drugs in her system, Jill accepts she’ll never know what happened, but at least her child is safe.

Except Sophia isn’t. Someone is watching the Lassiter home in an affluent Pennsylvania suburb, infiltrating the family’s personal and professional lives. While Jill struggles to balance building her photography business with parenting high-spirited Sophia, and David is distracted by pressure to make partner at his law firm, both of them are holding on in a marriage that’s already been rocked by loss.

Three months after the incident at the park, Sophia disappears again, but this time Jill and David become the focus of police and media scrutiny and suspicion. Facing every parent’s worst nightmare a second time, Jill discovers that someone doesn’t just want Sophia for her own, she wants to destroy the entire family.

Only Ever You

[My Review]

I am a sucker for thrillers, and there seems to be lots of this ‘missing children’ subsection coming onto the market at the moment. I feel like this is a solid effort and a really enjoyable novel to read, but also feel that this is a tricky book to give a rating to; on the one hand the story and writing kept me really intrigued and wanting to read on, but on the other it didn’t feel quite as well crafted as some other similar novels, and the characters didn’t strike a chord with me quite as much.

I have to say, I really like Rebecca Drake’s writing. The novel feels well crafted and put together, with parts that left me feeling a whole range of conflicting emotions. I didn’t love Bea as a character; I felt she was a bit annoying at times but I still felt a huge amount of sympathy for her and what she must be going through despite this, and despite the fact that I’m not a mother myself. I feel that this is a testament to Drake’s skilful writing. The way the police and people around Bea and her husband David react seems quite realistic, sadly, and I feel that the narrative in this way rings true.

There are clues and hints throughout the novel, and though parts are quite predictable it still left me guessing until the end, with elements that surprised me. The second half of the novel definitely ramps up the tension and I felt real hatred for one character in particular as the novel went on! There’s no need for crazy action sequences or ridiculous twists; this novel relies on a slow build-up of tension and drama into a satisfying crescendo that isn’t too unbelievable.

I didn’t necessarily feel that this was a stand out novel in this genre, having read so many brilliant examples over the last few months, but I enjoyed reading it anyway and would recommend this as an easy to read, but very entertaining and suspenseful novel.

[Rating: 3.5/5]

* Many thanks to St Martin’s Press and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review *

Flawed by Cecilia Ahern

Flawed [review]

Flawed by Cecilia Ahern

[Synopsis]

You will be punished…

Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.

But then Celestine encounters a situation where she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found flawed.

In her breathtaking young adult debut, bestselling author Cecelia Ahern depicts a society where perfection is paramount and flaws lead to punishment. And where one young woman decides to take a stand that could cost her everything.

Flawed (Flawed, #1)

[My Rating]

This is a very different kind of novel than the others by Cecelia Ahern; that’s to be expected as it’s a young adult title and her other novels are mainly all variants of the ‘women’s fiction’ genre. I’ve read a few and really enjoyed them, so wasn’t sure what to expect from this one, billed as a dystopian young adult novel (and I don’t usually read much YA) but I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed Flawed!

The novel is pretty fast moving, setting up the world in which Celestine and her family live in and presenting a lot of information to help you understand how they live their lives; there’s a lot to get your head around right from the off but it’s all easy to read and understand. We don’t know when this world is existing; there are mentions of modern-day technology such as mobile phones etc so we know it’s likely to be present day or in the future, but either way, it’s really interesting to read about. You can imagine living in a world like that (not that you’d want to) what with our current society’s preoccupation with perfection, though not to that extent, of course! It really made me consider how I’d react in the situation that Celestine found herself in on the bus: I feel that, without a doubt, I’d have helped the old man, but it’s all about context I suppose. Everyone is so scared of being classed as flawed, for obvious reasons, it must make otherwise good people behave in horrible ways, so you can kind of see both sides!

Throughout the book, Cecelia Ahern seemed to hint and refer to key historical moments and I enjoyed reading parts of the story and thinking, “Ah – that is very similar to/ reminds me of that incident/ event”. She includes humour and parts that are more light-hearted whilst still retaining the threatening feeling of Celestine’s world.

I am really pleased that there will be a sequel, titled Perfect; it looks like there’ll only be two parts to this series and, although I feel like this could definitely be made into a longer series, sometimes it’s nice to just have a few really good quality books that don’t drag the story out for too long, and I think this will be one of those gems! I certainly enjoyed Flawed and am looking forward to reading the concluding novel, which is billed to come out in 2017.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Harper Collins UK and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review

WWW Wednesdays

WWW Wednesday [25 May 2016]

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Sam at Taking On a World of Words.

Visit her blog to take a look, and get involved too if you can, even if you don’t have a blog yourself- as she says, you can leave your answers in the post comments- and I’d love to see your answers too!

The three W’s are:

  1. What have you finished reading?
  2. What are you currently reading?
  3. What will you read next?

 

What have you finished reading?

 

The People V O.J. Simpson – Jeffrey Toobin – I FINALLY read this and really enjoyed it. I don’t read much non-fiction so it was a nice change and I find the whole case surrounding OJ really intriguing anyway. Read my review here.

The Weekend Wives by Christina Hopkinson – this surprised me and wasn’t just a fluffy piece of women’s ficton, like I expected (sorry!). Read my review here.

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave – wow, I absolutely loved this novel. So full of the atmopshere of the 1940’s (or as I imagine it to be, anyway!). All the hype is definitely worthwhile! Read my review here.

What are you currently reading?

Only Ever You by Rebecca Drake

Flawed by Celia Ahern

The Primrose Path by Rebecca GriffithsWhat will you read next?

The Primrose Path by Rebecca Griffiths

What have you been reading recently? Any exciting books you’re looking forward to reading next?

If you do your own version of this tag please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to read your answers too!

Why not add me as a friend on Goodreads!

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

Everyone Brave is Forgiven [review]

Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave

[Synopsis]

From the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Little Bee, a spellbinding novel about three unforgettable individuals thrown together by war, love, and their search for belonging in the ever-changing landscape of WWII London.

It’s 1939 and Mary, a young socialite, is determined to shock her blueblood political family by volunteering for the war effort. She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin.

Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.

A sweeping epic with the kind of unforgettable characters, cultural insights, and indelible scenes that made Little Bee so incredible, Chris Cleave’s latest novel explores the disenfranchised, the bereaved, the elite, the embattled. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is a heartbreakingly beautiful story of love, loss, and incredible courage.

[My Review]

Everyone Brave is Forgiven is a book to immerse yourself in; to lose yourself in completely as the scene and characters take you back to 1940’s wartime Britain, a devastating era but one that truly fascinates me- I love reading novels set during the Second World War despite- and I suppose partly due to- their poignancy.

The way each character is crafted is fantastic. Mary is a wonderful character who I instantly warmed to despite coming from a very priveleged background, and Alistair is also a really likeable guy. Some of the other characters I really didn’t like, but it’s a testament to Chris Cleave’s writing that you can dislike them hugely (Alicia, for example, is a real pain) but still understand some of where they’re coming from, as products of their time and background, and why Mary and other characters may still be friends with them regardless.

The novel begins at the outbreak of war, so we never really get to know the characters and what their lives were like before this huge event happens. We do, however, see how the longer the war goes on, the more their lives all change, and we see Mary become even more headstrong and independent. She was one of the few characters that seemed to realise that just because someone doesn’t have white skin, it doesn’t make them a bad person, despite her family and friends seeming to feel that black people are a ‘lesser race’ than white. Mary’s forward thinking is truly a beacon of light amongst such hatred and nastiness; without her, I’d have read the novel feeling utterly hopeless. Often I would feel really surprised and let down when a character that I thought wouldn’t utter such racism- for example, Simonson after reading Hilda’s letter to Alistair, commenting upon Mary’s association with the black community in London, saying; “Niggers are niggers, there’s no consortable kind” and announcing her a ‘fallen’ woman and ‘lost’- did. This makes you consider the fact that this was such a widespread attitude at that time that there were people who might have been otherwise nice people, but bought into this racist ideology.

There were plenty of other parts that really shocked and saddened me throughout, but all of it is written in such a way that it’s not overly dramatic or exaggerated, it’s just how things were. There’s also a persevering element of hope that many of the characters cling onto. They themselves don’t necessarily do anything out of the ordinary for that time- going to fight, helping with the war effort, teaching, entertaining- and the story, though containing lots of drama and danger, is actually describing the lives of many people during WW2, something many of us can’t really imagine today. It’s such a wonderfully written novel full of humour, positivity and emotion that, despite being fairly long, I enjoyed every minute, savouring it and not wanting it to end!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review

The Weekend Wives by Christina Hopkinson

The Weekend Wives [review]

The Weekend Wives by Christina Hopkinson

[Synopsis]

Weekend wife n. 1 a wife whose husband works away and only comes home at the weekends. 2 a wife who misses her husband when he’s gone, but wants him gone when he’s at home.

Emily’s vision of country life was building dens with the children, walking a glossy hound and cosy nights in by the fire. But her kids are more interested in their smartphones, the family dog has ‘issues’ and she’s permanently freezing. And when husband Matt is home, he still seems worryingly distant.

Sasha and her husband Ned used to have a great connection, but nowadays the only connection between them is via Skype. And when a woman from Ned’s past comes with news that threatens the perfect life she’s built for her children, Sasha feels further from her husband than ever before.

Tamsin’s husband might be away during the week, but he’s never truly gone. He seems to know her every move, which is fine, sort of – until her first love reappears in the most mysterious of ways…

The Weekend Wives

[My Rating]

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from The Weekend Wives by Christina Hopkinson. At the beginning, or at least within the first 50 pages or so, I didn’t feel overly impressed. The characters seemed really vapid and annoying and the story wasn’t interesting me at all. However, I carried on with it, and was soon hooked!

Christina Hopkinson has managed to craft really likeable, intriguing characters in this novel that you can’t help but rarher like. We learn more about not just Emily, Tasmin and Sasha, but about their families and everyday life too, and it makes for a refreshing and entertaining story. There seems to be lots of shrewd observations on relationships and family life- especially as a ‘weekend wife’- with all its problems and many challenges, without being too downbeat or negative. I ended up really liking all 3 women, and I felt very sorry for Tasmin whilst really hating her husband John!

The element of mystery that was wound into many of these narratives kept me guessing throughout and meant there was lots of simultaneous storylines going on which I really enjoyed. The novel addressed some serious issues (which I won’t go into here to avoid giving too much away) and I felt that the author presented them really well, considering the fact that some of them were tricky subjects. She managed to blend humour with serious subjects both skilfully and sensitively, resulting in a novel that I really enjoyed reading and would have happily read a lot more of!

I raced through this novel at a rate that surprised me; it’s not very long- my copy is just over 300 pages long- but I didn’t expect to get through it as quickly as I did! I would definitely recommend this novel for readers who fancy something fun, fairly easy to read and surprisingly thought-provoking.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to NewBooks magazine/ nudge-book.com for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review

The People v O.J. Simpson [review]

The People VS OJ Simpson[Synopsis]

Called by The Wall Street Journal “the pick of the litter” among books on the O.J. Simpson criminal trial, this is the definitive commentary on the most famous trial of this century.

The People VS O.J. Simpson

[My Review]

Everyone – unless you never used to follow current affairs back in the 90’s or you’ve very young- remembers the trial in which O.J. Simpson was accused, tried and ultimately adquitted of murdering his ex girlfiend Nicole Brown and her friend Ron Goldman in 1994. All the evidence pointed to Simpson’s guilt- in fact, ridiculously so- and so it was a shock to many when, in 1995, he was found not guilty. I had heard about the case and knew a fair amount about it…or so I thought.

Turns out, there was so much I didn’t know about! In The People VS. O.J. Simpson, author Jeffrey Toobin completely opened my eyes to just how much manipulation of the jury and the American legal system Simpson’s lawyers managed during this trial. It’s a real eye opener, and it’s packed full of facts and information about the whole rigmarole, starting from when the murders happened leading through to Simpson’s ultimate acquittal- and even afterwards, including the civil lawsuit the victim’s families filed against him afterwards (something I wasn’t really aware of)!

The level of detail in this book is astounding. At times I felt there was almost too much to take in; the book certainly could, in my opinion, have benefited by being cut down by about 50 pages or so. Despite usually being a really quick reader this took me ages to read- it’s a pretty long book and there’s a lot of detail to take in! However Toobin managed to include information about the jurors, the prosecutors, the defense team and Simpson himself, leaving the reader feeling like they’ve really learn a lot- the majority was hugely interesting stuff, too.

One of the key themes in this novel is, of course, race and racial relations between the Police and the black community in America at the time. Though Toobin is evidently completely convinced of Simpson’s guilt, he manages to convey a fairly even, balanced presentation of the murders and subsequent trial. He effectively shows how the Police’s past behaviour towards black residents in the area ultimately damaged what should have been an ‘open-and-shut’ case. He doesn’t seem to really blame the jurors for ruling against what the prosecution wanted, either, due to errors in the presentation of the case and the slick expertise of the defence team. All topped off, of course, by the celebrity effect- and how someone famous can change the way even the most level-headed people act.

I don’t tend to read a lot of non-fiction, but I really enjoyed this. Like many others I am planning on watching the incredibly popular TV show (I’m a bit behind the times, I know, but I missed it when it was initially on TV!) so really wanted to read this beforehand. I’m really interested to see how it translates onto the screen- it’ll be truly gripping, I’m sure, judging by how interesting this book was!

Definitely recommended, particularly for fans of true crime!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Black Eyed Susans [review]

Black Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin

[Synopsis]

As a sixteen-year-old, Tessa Cartwright was found in a Texas field, barely alive amid a scattering of bones, with only fragments of memory as to how she got there. Ever since, the press has pursued her as the lone surviving “Black-Eyed Susan,” the nickname given to the murder victims because of the yellow carpet of wildflowers that flourished above their shared grave. Tessa’s testimony about those tragic hours put a man on death row.

Now, almost two decades later, Tessa is an artist and single mother. In the desolate cold of February, she is shocked to discover a freshly planted patch of black-eyed susans—a summertime bloom—just outside her bedroom window. Terrified at the implications—that she sent the wrong man to prison and the real killer remains at large—Tessa turns to the lawyers working to exonerate the man awaiting execution. But the flowers alone are not proof enough, and the forensic investigation of the still-unidentified bones is progressing too slowly. An innocent life hangs in the balance. The legal team appeals to Tessa to undergo hypnosis to retrieve lost memories—and to share the drawings she produced as part of an experimental therapy shortly after her rescue.

What they don’t know is that Tessa and the scared, fragile girl she was have built a fortress of secrets. As the clock ticks toward the execution, Tessa fears for her sanity, but even more for the safety of her teenaged daughter. Is a serial killer still roaming free, taunting Tessa with a trail of clues? She has no choice but to confront old ghosts and lingering nightmares to finally discover what really happened that night.

Shocking, intense, and utterly original, Black-Eyed Susans is a dazzling psychological thriller, seamlessly weaving past and present in a searing tale of a young woman whose harrowing memories remain in a field of flowers—as a killer makes a chilling return to his garden.

Black-Eyed Susansblack_eyed_susans_detail_web_

[My Review]

Black Eyed Susans is a creepy, intriguing read which has had a lot of hype, so I was excited to finally read it and see if it’s as good as I expected.

It was a fairly simple book in many ways; the narrative is quite straight forwarded, focussing on Tessie who was a victim of a serial killer in 1995- but he didn’t kill her, she made it out alive- but with memory loss. It’s not hugely fast moving because it keeps returning to the past and we already loosely know the outcome of what happened in court because we have seen the results in the present day narrative. However, the story doesn’t need to be hugely fast-moving with action in every scene because Julia Heaberlin creates a great atmosphere and air of mystery throughout. Plus as the present day narrative continues Tessie learns more and more about what really happened to her.

The novel can be a little confusing at points because it goes back in time to 1995 when it all actualy happened, and to the court case surrounding it, but then returns to the present day with Tessie wondering what happened to her friend Lydia, who exactly the other victims were, and, of course, who the killer really was. Someone’s serving time on death row for it, but is it the right person? The chapters are clearly marked though with the dates, so you just need to make sure you notice what time period you’re in- not too tricky really!

The writing is easy to read and avoids being too cliché, though the author does use a lot of metaphors and similes. The story really drew me in; I loved the way it slowly revealed more and more, with a few surprises thrown in along the way, and didn’t at all rely on violence to keep the reader hooked. In fact, there’s very little described violence- some is inferred, but it builds suspense rather than gore.

I really enjoy reading books about serial killers- real life or fiction, I love them!– because they just intrigue me so much. This novel doesn’t reveal much about the serial killer until right near the end when you find out who it is. Because of this, there’s a lot of mystery surrounding what happened and why, and this kept me gripped.

I’d recommend this book to fans of this genre as it’s got a great storyline and I felt it was pretty original too, unlike some other novels springing up in this genre!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Keep You Close by Lucie Whitehouse

Keep You Close [review]

Keep You Close by Lucie Whitehouse

[Synopsis]

When the artist Marianne Glass falls to her death, everyone insists it was a tragic accident. Yet Rowan Winter, once her closest friend, suspects there is more to the story. Ever since she was young, Marianne had paralyzing vertigo. She would never have gone so close to the roof’s edge.

Marianne — and the whole Glass family — once meant everything to Rowan. For a teenage girl, motherless with a much-absent father, this lively, intellectual household represented a world of glamour and opportunity.

But since their estrangement, Rowan knows only what the papers reported about Marianne’s life: her swift ascent in the London art world, her much-scrutinized romance with her gallerist. If she wants to discover the truth about her death, Rowan needs to know more. Was Marianne in distress? In danger? And so she begins to seek clues — in Marianne’s latest work, her closest relationships, and her new friendship with an iconoclastic fellow artist.

But the deeper Rowan goes, the more sinister everything seems. And a secret in the past only she knows makes her worry about her own fate…

Keep You Close

[My Review]

This is the first book I’ve read by Lucie Whitehouse- I have heard a lot about Before We Met but haven’t yet had the chance to read it. So, when I got the chance to review Keep You Close I jumped at it!

This is exactly the sort of novel- psychological thrillers- that are so ‘in vogue’ right now, and I love– but they tend to either be a bit samey and bland, or they’re amazing! Happily, I feel like this fell into the latter category!

The story isn’t particularly fast moving; instead Whitehouse focuses on defining the characters so we feel like we’re really getting to know Maron and the Glasses family (and Marianne too, but posthumously, mainly through memories as from the very start of the novel she’s dead). Because of the information we learn about the characters, the ‘action’, so to speak, happens quite slowly, but I enjoyed the way it unfolds as you continue reading.

It’s one of those stories where you’re never quite sure who is as they appear, which I love. I also really enjoy novels which switch from the present to the past and back again; I know plenty of readers who really hate this style but personally I enjoy this way of discovering more and more detail as the novel goes on, with some things in the current narrative incomprehensible until we go back into the past to find explanations. Many characters seem to have their own agenda, and this all adds to the mystery surrounding Marianne’s death and the consequent ‘incidents’.

There are surprises and twists which kept me eagerly reading on until the last page, when I put down the book in satisfaction.

Definitely recommended for fans of this genre- or anyone looking for a enigmatic, absorbing read- I’ll certainly be reading more by this author!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Bloomsbury and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.