Only Child [review]

Only Child - Rhiannon Navin

Title: Only Child
Author: Rhiannon Navin
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

[Synopsis]

Squeezed into a coat closet with his classmates and teacher, first grader Zach Taylor can hear gunshots ringing through the halls of his school. A gunman has entered the building, taking nineteen lives and irrevocably changing the very fabric of this close-knit community. While Zach’s mother pursues a quest for justice against the shooter’s parents, holding them responsible for their son’s actions, Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and art. Armed with his newfound understanding, and with the optimism and stubbornness only a child could have, Zach sets out on a captivating journey towards healing and forgiveness, determined to help the adults in his life rediscover the universal truths of love and compassion needed to pull them through their darkest hours.

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[My Review]

This novel provoked such a mix of emotions as I was reading it. The story itself is unique in its narrative – about a school shooting but seen through the eyes of a first grade child (year 2 for us here in the UK) – and the effects afterwards on not just him but his family and the wider community.

This is such a topical subject, with a worrying number of school shootings having already happened and another awful shooting very recently in Florida. It really makes you think about what a devastating effect this has on everyone. The novel starts so shockingly, with the shooting unfolding at the school and Zach hiding in a closet with his classmates and teacher. That alone gave me the chills and had me riveted. Even though Zach perhaps doesn’t quite understand the seriousness of the situation, I could feel the tension through the pages, ensuring I was hooked from the very beginning – and continued to be so long after the shooting ended.

The characters in Only Child are great because no one is perfect. Even those killed during the shooting are not perfect, though – as Zach points out – people tend to remember those killed in a much more positive way than when they were alive – for example, Zach’s brother, Andy, who suffered from ODD (‘oppositional defiant disorder’, which I wasn’t aware of before googling it as I read this novel) and was, as we see through Zach’s memories, not particularly nice to Zach (or his parents) a lot of the time. Zach’s mother and father, suffering from such grief, are also nowhere near perfect – in their behaviour before, during, and after the shooting – but no one is perfect, and who’s to say how you should behave when something like this happens to you? There is no proper way to behave, is there? Only Child really highlights this, as well as how hard things can be for the child who’s still alive. It’s devastating to read Zach’s naive take on things – of course, as adults reading, we can work out what’s really going on but his innocence shines through the pages and makes me really feel for him. This is a powerful book for making you think and empathise with what other people are going through – I feel for their community, and indeed the parents of the shooter too, so much.

I cried countless times and thought, yet again, how lucky I am to live in a country that doesn’t have the same level of gun culture as America – but how incredibly sad and devastating it is that people over there – both the kids at school and their friends and families – ever have to deal with this kind of thing. Poignant, moving and powerful, this is a must-read and an amazing debut from Rhiannon Navin. I look forward to seeing what’s next from her.

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Pan Macmillan and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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The Year that Changed Everything [review]

The Year That Changed Everything - Cathy Kelly

Title: The Year that Changed Everything
Author: Cathy Kelly
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group

[Synopsis]

Three women celebrate their birthdays . . . 30. 40. 50. But their milestone birthdays marks the start of a year that will change everything . . .

Ginger isn’t spending her 30th the way she would have planned. Tonight might be the first night of the rest of her life – or a total disaster.

Sam is finally pregnant after years of trying. When her waters break on the morning of her 40th birthday, she panics: forget labour, how is she going to be a mother?

Callie is celebrating her 50th at a big party in her Dublin home. Then a knock at the door mid-party turns her perfect life upside down . . .

Full of warmth and wisdom, this is a story about finding happiness on your own terms from international bestseller Cathy Kelly.

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[My Review]

The Year that Changed Everything is a feel-good novel about three women, all with the same birthdays but each 10 years apart, and each with their own problems. It addresses various themes, including (and I don’t feel that including these ruins the plot as you know or can easily see what’s coming with these themes pretty early on): body image & positivity, post-natal depression, betrayal, family life and much more, all wrapped up in this positive, warm read.

The characters are all convincing and enjoyable to read about, and I liked seeing their progression throughout the book. Some elements are quite predictable/ a tiny bit cheesy, but really you expect a little of that with this kind of read (or I think so anyway), and Cathy Kelly still manages to get the balance just right, between being a heart-warming story and not being too cloying in its message. Her novels often get it just right, to be honest – you know you’re going to get a great story with Cathy’s work, and this is another example. It’s a celebration of female resilience and friendship, which in my eyes is always a winner.

The Year that Changed Everything is  definitely well-written escapism – perfect for a lazy weekend read when you want something feel-good and warming, but with added feeling!

Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.


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The Sunday Lunch Club by @julietstories [review] #sundaylunchclub @simonschusteruk @BookMinxSJV

The Sunday Lunch Club

Title: The Sunday Lunch Club
Author: Juliet Ashton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

[Synopsis]

The first rule of Sunday Lunch Club is … don’t make any afternoon plans.

Every few Sundays, Anna and her extended family and friends get together for lunch. They talk, they laugh, they bicker, they eat too much. Sometimes the important stuff is left unsaid, other times it’s said in the wrong way.

Sitting between her ex-husband and her new lover, Anna is coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy at the age of forty. Also at the table are her ageing grandmother, her promiscuous sister, her flamboyantly gay brother and a memory too terrible to contemplate.

Until, that is, a letter arrives from the person Anna scarred all those years ago. Can Anna reconcile her painful past with her uncertain future?

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[My Review]

The Sunday Lunch Club is a charming, fun read about an extended family who meet together every few weeks for Sunday Lunch Club. The book mainly revolves around these lunches and how various characters interact together (though there is some of the narrative which covers time in between the lunches). Though there are some serious issues at play here, the book manages to stay fairly light-hearted and fun, but with an added layer of emotion which Juliet Ashton does so well.

There are funny moments and heart-warming parts which will leave you feeling all warm inside and the characters have their own quirks, with everyone from the seemingly ‘sensible one’ Anna – who I really warmed to, and would happily have read more of – through to Neil, who at times I quite disliked due to his cattiness, but by the end of the novel had also warmed to! Some parts I could have guessed at, but there are some surprises too, with an element of mystery in some of the characters’ stories.

Most of the narrative is told through Anna’s eyes, and she brings just the right level of calmness to situations despite dealing with her own problems – or perhaps not problems but ‘surprises’! It’s a unique family set up, with each of Anna’s siblings as individual and different as you can get, but this makes The Sunday Lunch Club so much more of an interesting read – and there’s bound to be at least one character which you think, “I know someone a bit like that!”

This was just what I fancied reading – light-hearted, happy and wholesome. The perfect Sunday-in-your-pyjamas-with-a-cuppa read.


Many thanks to Simon & Schuster – Books and the City for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

The Sunday Lunch Club is out in the UK on 19 April.

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WWW Wednesday [21 February 2018]

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. 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? 

Everything Is Lies – Helen Callaghan [my review here]
The Last Mrs Parrish Liv Constantine [audiobook] [my review here]
The Year that Changed Everything – Cathy Kelly [my review to follow]
The Sunday Lunch Club Juliet Ashton [my review to follow]

What are you currently reading? 

Only Child – Rhiannon Navin
Emma in the Night – Wendy Walker [audiobook]

What will you read next?

The Dark Lake - Sarah Bailey

I’m on the blog tour (my review will be up 5 March) for The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey, so that will be next on my list!

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!


DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

Everything Is Lies [review]

Everything is Lies - Helen Callaghan

Title: Everything Is Lies
Author: Helen Callaghan
Publisher: Michael Joseph

[Synopsis]

No-one is who you think they are

Sophia’s parents lead quiet, unremarkable lives. At least that is what she’s always believed.

Everyone has secrets

Until the day she arrives at her childhood home to find a house ringing with silence. Her mother is hanging from a tree. Her father is lying in a pool of his own blood, near to death.

Especially those closest to you

The police are convinced it is an attempted murder-suicide. But Sophia is sure that the woman who brought her up isn’t a killer. As her father is too ill to talk it is up to Sophia to clear her mother’s name. And to do this she needs to delve deep into her family’s past – a past full of dark secrets she never suspected were there . . .

What if your parents had been lying to you since the day you were born?

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[My Review]

Everything Is Lies is an intriguing read that took me by surprise – the synopsis doesn’t really give much away, and so I didn’t have any expectations about what was to come (and therefore, in this review, I’m going to avoid giving anything away that can’t be worked out from the back cover. Keeps it interesting!).

There are two main narratives in play here – one set in the present day and told through the eyes of Sophia, who heads to her parents’ house one day to find her mother has seemingly hung herself – but not before stabbing her father. Distraught, Sophia starts to uncover things she never knew about her mother which means all might not be as it seems… We then go back in time to the 80’s, and into the journals that her mother Nina has written. Through these we see what exactly happened all those years ago as it all intriguingly unfolds right in front of our (and Sophia’s) eyes…

Although this is, ultimately, a mystery/ thriller, I found that I could imagine a lot of it actually happening, particularly the storyline set in the past. I don’t want to give much away but Helen Callaghan writes in a way that makes you realise how easy it actually could be to find yourself in a situation like Sophia’s mother Nina, especially if you’re young, impressionable and have grown up without too much love and attention from your parents. This makes it all the more chilling, really, and I think I enjoyed this storyline more than the present day one, as it was just so engaging and gripping; it’s like a car crash – you know it’s all going to go wrong for Nina somehow, but all you can do is buckle in and watch everything unfold… I liked the way Sophia pieced everything together in the present-day storyline, though, and how it all came together.

Everything Is Lies is a well-written, gripping peek into a different world – of depravity, control and influence – which kept me turning page after page.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Michael Joseph for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

Everything Is Lies is out on 22 February!

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

The Last Mrs Parrish [audiobook review]

The Last Mrs Parrish - Liv Constantine

Title: The Last Mrs Parrish
Author:  Liv Constantine
Publisher: HaperCollins
Format: Audiobook

[Synopsis]

Some women get everything. Some women get everything they deserve. 

Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn’t have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.

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[My Review]

This is an compelling read (or, as I listened on audiobook, ‘listen’) which I put on whilst doing some DIY and ended up getting really drawn into.

It’s quite a far-fetched plotin many ways, but if you suspend your disbelief you’ll no doubt get into the plotting and sneakiness of certain characters. The synopsis gives away quite a lot of what this book is about already, so you know Amber is trying to get herself fully embedded into Daphne’s life – she wants her life for herself, in fact. We know this from early on, so I’m not spoiling anything here, but what we don’t know is what exactly happened in Amber’s life prior to this, and whether she’ll get her comeuppance (something I desperately wanted to happen throughout!).

Read by Suzanne Elise Freeman and Meghan Wolf (I have to admit that, embarrassingly, I just assumed it was the same person narrating throughout until I came to write this review), the american accent is spot on, with that drawl I always imagine (probably incorrectly!) of the American upper classes – or those trying to fit in there, anyway! I listened to it on a faster speed though, as I’m impatient and the pace of narration is quite slow to start with.

I warn you – this is a story jam-packed with characters you won’t like – some worse than others admittedly. Almost everyone has their faults, some far bigger than others, but there are definitely some surprises along the way! There are very few likable people here… when someone is plotting cold-heartedly to steal someone else’s husband and break up a family, you know they’re a ‘questionable‘ character, shall we say!Almost everyone has their faults, some far bigger than others, but there are definitely some surprises along the way! Usually that would make me struggle to keep interested in a story, but I feel that it just works here – it’s a story all about indulgence, superficiality and the never-ending struggle to be ‘top dog’. It’s also a story about just how much goes on behind closed doors that outsiders can’t see.

This is a really easy novel to race through on a lazy weekend, whether reading or listening, and it’s good fun too!

[Rating: 3.5/5]

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Still Me [review]

Still Me - JoJo Moyes

Title: Still Me
Author: JoJo Moyes
Publisher: Michael Joseph

[Synopsis]

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She is thrown into the world of the superrich Gopniks: Leonard and his much younger second wife, Agnes, and a never-ending array of household staff and hangers-on. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her job and New York life within this privileged world.

Before she knows what’s happening, Lou is mixing in New York high society, where she meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. In Still Me, as Lou tries to keep the two sides of her world together, she finds herself carrying secrets–not all her own–that cause a catastrophic change in her circumstances. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?

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[My Review]

I was so excited about reading the third novel about lovely Louisa Clark, following on from Me Before You  and After You [read my review here]. Because there obviously isn’t the EMOTIONAL DRAINAGE of Me Before You (which I absolutely bawled at), I knew that this would be less emotionally charged – the second novel was really enjoyable but definitely less of a crier than the first, and this one felt like another marked change as Louisa moves to New York!

The story still has its ups and downs, with relationship problems and other issues making life tricky for Louisa, but there’s definitely a lighter feel to the story. I enjoyed reading about her experience in the Big Apple and, having never been there myself, it made me want to go even more! Louisa is trying to find herself, as Will wanted her to, and following in Will’s footsteps, as he once moved to New York too. There’s poignant moments and funny moments, and some strange sitations for Louisa to deal with too.

I felt like this was an easy, entertaining read. It perhaps didn’t have that spark that the other two, especially Me Before You, had – it felt more like a light-hearted, fun read (though there were some sad moments which I definitely felt myself feeling emotional at) and it was a very enjoyable read, but perhaps not as amazing as I’d expected it to be, partly just because some elements of the story were a little predictable.

I still hugely enjoyed reading it though, and it’s a nice end to this brilliant series. Louisa’s character,  although (or perhaps because) rather silly at times, will always be someone I’ll happily read more about! I just still miss Will!


 

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The Dark Angel [review]

Dark Angel - Elly Griffiths

Title: The Dark Angel
Author: Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Quercus Books

[Synopsis]

Dr Ruth Galloway is flattered when she receives a letter from Italian archaeologist Dr Angelo Morelli, asking for her help. He’s discovered a group of bones in a tiny hilltop village but doesn’t know what to make of them. It’s years since Ruth has had a holiday, and even a working holiday to Italy is very welcome!

So Ruth travels to Fontana Liri, accompanied by her daughter Kate and friend Shona. In the town she finds a medieval shrine and a dark secret involving the war years and the Resistance. To her amazement she also finds Harry Nelson, who is enduring a terrible holiday at a resort nearby. But there is no time to overcome their mutual shock – the ancient bones spark a modern murder, and Ruth must discover what secrets there are in Fontana Liri that someone would kill to protect.

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[My Review]

The Ruth Galloway series is like returning to an old friend. I’m always excited for a new release and I know it’s going to be a great read. The Dark Angel reinforced this feeling!

I love the combination of archaeology and crime that runs at the core of this series, and The Dark Angel is no different. What is different, however, is that this book is not set mainly in Norfolk, as many of the previous novels are, but instead a lot of the narrative takes Ruth (and Kate) away to Italy! Though I love reading about Norfolk locations (some real, some made up) it’s actually quite refreshing to have the action relocated to sunny, exotic Italy – Fontana Liri, to be exact – and to meet some different characters as well as the favourites we’ve grown to know and love. In fact, I almost wish we saw a bit more of the old favourites in this book, but as I said it’s always nice to have a change! Ruth is a great character, as always, and still so solid, sharp and, ultimately, very believable; I never think she is overly dramatic about things and I feel like I can identify with her thoughts and feelings as she’s often so normal, despite not being normal – ie. brilliant – at her job. I also liked reading more about Nelson and his strong views; I do like him despite definitely not agreeing with everything he says or does. He’s not a perfect love interest and sometimes he’s quite annoying!

Something I always think about this series is that it’s never rushed. Take Ruth and Nelson’s relationship (or non-relationship, really), for example – they’ve been faffing around each other for years and years, and although there have been moments where you think ‘This is it! They’re finally going to get together‘, we’ve yet to see it properly happen- and this no doubt reflects ‘real life’ a bit more. There aren’t always happy endings or people abandoning their partners to run away into the sunset with other people. I won’t give anything away about The Dark Angel, but could it finally be time for Ruth and Nelson? That’s always something I wonder before I pick up a new book in this series – it keeps me guessing!

There’s exciting/ tense elements to the narrative which keep it interesting and it’s easy to read; Elly Griffiths has such an enjoyable way of writing. I always expect an intriguing and well written read story, which I definitely got in this novel, along with plenty of interesting archaeological details. A great read which only adds to this brilliant series!

[Rating: 4.5/5]

Many thanks to the Quercus Books for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

WWW Wednesday [13 February 2018]

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. 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? 

Still Me – JoJo Moyes [review to follow]
Fragile Lives: A Heart Surgeon’s Stories of Life and Death on the Operating Table – Stephen Westaby [my review here]

 

What are you currently reading? 

Everything Is Lies – Helen Callaghan
The Last Mrs Parrish Liv Constantine [audiobook]

What will you read next?

Either:
The Year that Changed Everything – Cathy Kelly
The Sunday Lunch Club Juliet Ashton

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!


DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

 

The Wicked Cometh [review]

The Wicked Cometh

Title: The Wicked Cometh
Author: Laura Carlin
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

[Synopsis]

The year is 1831. Down the murky alleyways of London, acts of unspeakable wickedness are taking place and no one is willing to speak out on behalf of the city’s vulnerable poor as they disappear from the streets.

Out of these shadows comes Hester White, a bright young woman who is desperate to escape the slums by any means possible.

When Hester is thrust into the world of the aristocratic Brock family, she leaps at the chance to improve her station in life under the tutelage of the fiercely intelligent and mysterious Rebekah Brock. But whispers from her past slowly begin to poison her new life and both she and Rebekah are lured into the most sinister of investigations.

Hester and Rebekah find themselves crossing every boundary they’ve ever known in pursuit of truth, redemption and passion. But their trust in each other will be tested as a web of deceit begins to unspool, dragging them into the blackest heart of a city where something more depraved than either of them could ever imagine is lurking…

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[My Review]

The Wicked Cometh was a mixed bag for me. Firstly, I loved the way this book was written. It evoked a real sense of time and place, and you could imagine being there with Hester as she navigates and lives among the shady characters of murky 1800’s London. The narrative is easy enough to read and the characters are interesting. I liked the element of mystery that hung over the novel, too.

There are some good twists and turns that kept me wanting to read on, with the first part of the story setting the scene really well, transporting me there in my mind. It’s the second half, however, where the action ramps up a bit more, and I was glad of this as I felt some of the story tended to drag things out a bit.

This was the main problem I had with The Wicked Cometh: the pace and the length of time the story spent on certain things instead of advancing the plot as I wanted it to. I should make it clear that I don’t mind a book that has a slower pace, but I felt like this lost its way at times. I think at times there were a little too many characters to keep track of. who I didn’t really care enough about. I found myself losing interest a little as the novel took so long to get anywhere. As the second half of the story approached I did get more into the narrative, and found myself caring more about what happened.

Saying that, I definitely appreciate the really skilled writing in this novel and would recommend it to fans of historical fiction who don’t mind a book that tends to go more ‘around the houses’. However, whatever novel you prefer, Laura Carlin’s writing is sure to fire up the imagination, painting a vivid picture of 19th century London for whoever reads this!

[Rating: 3/5]

Many thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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