What Was Lost [blog tour review + author post] @domepress

What Was Lost bc

Today I’m excited to be a part of the blog tour for Jean Levy’s debut novel What Was Lost. Read on for my thoughts and for a special guest post from Jean herself!

Title: What Was Lost 
Author: Jean Levy 
Publisher: Dome Press

[Synopsis]

How would you live if you had no memories? And what if you were suspected of a terrible crime?

Sarah has no memories. She just knows she was found, near death, on a beach miles from her London home. Now she is part of a medical experiment to see whether her past can be retrieved.

But bad things seemed to have happened before she disappeared. The police are interested in her hidden memories too. A nice man she meets in the supermarket appears to have her best interests at heart. He seems to understand her – almost as if he knows her…

As she fights to regain her memories and her sense of self, it is clear that people are hiding things from her. Who are they protecting? Does Sarah really want the truth?

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[My Review]

What Was Lost is a gripping novel which caught my attention right from the start. Sarah doesn’t know what happened to her to make her lose her memories and she doesn’t remember a lot about her previous life ‘before’ the day that she was found, with amnesia, on a beach. From there on, the story creates a sense of confusion in that the people around Sarah, who are supposedly ‘looking after her’, don’t always seem to be nice people. This made me wonder if they could have their own agendas, and this adds to the sense of mystery surrounding Sarah’s case.

The plot is entertaining and, though I’ve read various books over the years about amensia, this describes the way Sarah tries to piece her ‘lost’ memories together in a way that I feel is convincing and realistic (not that I’m an expert, obviously). Sarah is an interesting character – though I don’t agree with all of her choices, I did empathise with her and really wanted to find out what had happened to her, just like she herself was desperate to know. With the police also very interested in what had happened (for reasons you’ll find out in the book), this added an extra sense of mystery and made me wonder, along with the police and doctors, whether Sarah’s memory had been lost because she wanted to forget something… and, most of all, whether Sarah is a reliable character or not?

What Was Lost is beautifully written; I feel like as a reader I got right inside Sarah’s mind, and Jean Levy’s writing strikes just the right balance between being flowing and descriptive, but also exciting and fast-paced. It’s a fairly long read, but it never felt like filler… only thriller! (sorry.) Some parts of the story moves along much more slowly, but this means you feel more of what Sarah might be feeling at that time, whilst at other points we find out a lot about what happened back then, through Sarah’s experiences and various ‘flashback’ chapters, which adds a level of excitement to the story.

[Rating: 4/5]

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


[Author post]

‘…it really did all begin with an apple.’

After several years of academic writing, which I didn’t much enjoy, I decided to write a novel. Well, I’d had stories in my head all my life. They were full of people who did interesting things, found themselves in difficult situations. Heroes would save them. Sometimes, the hero was a version of me, but not a very realistic one. There were good people and bad people, and the bad people were always defeated, occasionally converted to goodness by the good people. My novel would be about such people.

I wrote words, chapters. I discovered, almost immediately, that there is a chasm between the unreal world of fiction and the occasionally real world of science. And writing fiction when you’ve spent years writing about genetics, biotechnology, psychology and medicine is not just a case of opening a new folder and writing a first paragraph. There are considerations: characters, locations, timelines, plots, narrative sequencing. And that’s just for starters. So, I shelved my emergent novel and went back to college to study literary things. And it was very interesting. Especially the assignments. One early assignment required the first three chapters of a novel. A novel? Surely not the one on the dusty shelf. I had been 50,000+ words into that and didn’t want to revisit the first three chapters, not just yet. Not in my state of literary naivety.

Our tutor offered advice: start at the beginning and write about what you know. I thought back to a beginning. And a clear image of that chart of letters in Primary School popped into my mind: A is for Apple. I could remember it clearly. An interesting thing, this remembering. So, I decided to write about memories, about keeping them and losing them. And that’s when Sarah began. She was living alone, following some kind of trauma which had erased her memories back to the time she was nine years old. I had no clear idea about the nature of the trauma. I’d work that out later. The important thing was how this loss of her past was influencing her life. Then, out of the blue, just a few pages in, she had an encounter with a guy in a supermarket. It was an apple-related incident. And suddenly, with her nine-year-old’s experience and her adult physiology, Sarah was smitten. But the three chapters ended there. Next assignment, Oscar Wilde and Dorian Gray, and Sarah joined the other 50,000+ words on the dusty shelf.

By now it was becoming clear that the English degree wasn’t going to be enough. I needed to investigate psychonarration, free indirect discourse, non-linearity, Genette’s treatise on narrative discourse, getting published. I took a course in Creative Writing and wrote a lot. For the main assessment I needed to submit 35,000 words of linear narrative so I turned to the dusty shelf, removed Sarah from half way down the pile, and worked out what had caused her to lose her memory. But, having done that, I couldn’t stop thinking about her and the guy in the supermarket. So, when the course finished I wrote Sarah’s story. She became a successful writer of children’s books, who had forgotten how to write. In fact, she had forgotten everything except those first nine years. It was a great story. I called it Malus. I prepared to submit it to agents. That in itself is a revelation. Diplomas and degrees do not guarantee adulation. They declare technique not imagination.

Anyway, the fates did send me an agent and introduced me to the weird and wonderful world of publishing. And the rewrites began: the third-person omniscient narrator became Sarah’s first-person narrative … everything was now through Sarah’s eyes. A great improvement. Then some non-linear sequences were called for. Another undeniable improvement. More of this, less of that. A new title. How do these people know this stuff? But they do.

The result is What Was Lost. It’s still a story about Sarah and the guy in the supermarket. And it still all begins with an apple.


[About the Author]

Jean Levy Headshot 2Jean spent several years in genetics research before abandoning the laboratory to pursue a career in academic publishing both in Holland the UK. She has been a database trouble-shooter, an editor, and a writer for publishing houses, pharmaceutical companies and the EU. She has degrees in Botany, Pathology, Philosophy, English, Law and Creative Writing and is currently completing a doctorate in Linguistics.

In her spare time she has campaigned for the environment and read a lot of books, the most memorable being Alice in Wonderland, Pride and Prejudice, everything by Margaret Atwood and Jeanette Winterson, and a few things by Sebastian Faulks, Calvino, Ian McEwan, David Mitchell and Shakespeare.

She currently lives in a converted barn in the South Downs with her husband and a
Heritage Plant Collection, accumulates Christmas tree decorations and aspires to writing
multi-genre fiction, travelling on the Orient Express and seeing the Northern Lights.


[Follow the Tour]

WWL Blog Tour Poster

 

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The Life Lucy Knew [review]

The Life Lucy Knew

Title: The Life Lucy Knew
Author: Karma Brown
Publisher: HQ Digital

[Synopsis]

Lucy is about to discover everything she believes to be true about her life…isn’t.

After hitting her head, Lucy Sparks awakens in the hospital to a shocking revelation: the man she’s known and loved for years—the man she recently married—is not actually her husband. In fact, they broke up four years earlier and haven’t spoken since.
The happily-ever-after she remembers in vivid detail is what her doctors call a false memory: recollections Lucy’s mind made up to fill in the blanks from the coma.

Now she has no idea which memories she can trust and she must make a difficult choice about which life she wants to lead, and who she really is.

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[My Review]

The Life Lucy Knew is an interesting read which centers around a topic I always find really interesting: amnesia. Main protagonist Lucy wakes up from an accident believing her life to be very different to how it was when she had the accident, and we follow her as she tries to make sense of it all and coax her memory back.

I liked that this novel was fairly believable, as I wasn’t sure when I started it if we’d suddnely find out someone had done something awful to ‘trick’ her etc (like some other novels I’ve read on this kind of subject) bu, actually, the characters were pretty convincing and three-dimensional, and Lucy herself was likable (though at times her actions could be really frustrating… I suppose she is suffering with a head injury though so I can kind of let her off most of it!)

The pace is fairly steady and at times perhaps could have moved along at a bit quicker pace, but I liked Lucy’s attempts to try and rediscover the relationship between her and her husband (though she doesn’t remember them getting married) Matt.  The narrative jumps between present day and the time ‘before’ – though we’re sometimes unsure if these are memories Lucy remembers now, which therefore may not be very reliable anyway, or ‘true’ memories.

I don’t feel that this novel is anything hugely exciting or particularly different but it is a fun, quick read which would be ideal for the summer, or for when you fancy something enjoyable but relaxing.

[Rating: 3.5/5]

Many thanks to HQ Digital 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!

 

Close To Me [review]

Close To Me - Amanda Reynolds

Title: Close To Me
Author: Amanda Reynolds
Publisher: Headline

[Synopsis]

Close To Me is a gripping debut psychological drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty’s bestselling The Husband’s Secret, Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go, and Linda Green’s While My Eyes Were Closed.

She can’t remember the last year. Her husband wants to keep it that way.

When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia-she’s lost a whole year of memories. A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?

She can’t remember what she did-or what happened the night she fell. But she’s beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought.

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[My Review]

Close To Me is an intriguing read that kept me guessing. It’s not exactly what I was expecting – I thought it would be more focused on why and how Jo fell down the stairs, but actually that ‘occurrence’ sort of acts as a starting point for other aspects – and in a way, the more interesting aspects – of the story: her and husband’s Rob’s relationship, and the relationship between her and her children and those around her, too.

Close To Me is less of a thriller-type story, instead focussing on the family dynamics between characters, and despite being a crime/thriller addict I found I really enjoyed finding out more about the life Jo led before her accident. The characters themselves are interesting and well-developed – though that’s not to say I liked all of them straight off. Obviously, Rob’s views and opinions on many things really grated on me, but we’re obviously not supposed to like him anyway! Jo, however, was a tough cookie  to crack – she seemed a bit unreasonable at the start, but as the story develops I warmed to her and started to understand more of why she was behaving the way she was. It’s unclear throughout the novel whether she is a reliable narrator or not, and there are parts which made me think strongly in one direction, and parts which turned me the other way, and I really enjoy books that do this.

The writing is great, and really skilful, and though the story itself – a wife losing her memory and unsure if she can trust those around her, particularly her husband – isn’t  particularly different or original, it is written in an engaging, enjoyable way and so I found myself engrossed in the story!

A recommended read, particularly if you like interesting character development and a good dose of drama!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Headline and Netgalley 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!

One Small Act of Kindness [audiobook review]

One Small Act of Kindness - Lucy Dillon

Title: One Small Act of Kindness
Author: Lucy Dillon
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

[Synopsis]

What can you do to make the world a better place?

Libby helps a stranger, and transforms her life in the process.
Libby and her husband Jason have moved back to his hometown to turn the family B&B into a boutique hotel. They have left London behind and all the memories – good and bad – that went with it.

The injured woman Libby finds lying in the remote country road has lost her memory. She doesn’t know why she came to be there, and no one seems to be looking for her.

When Libby offers to take her in, this one small act of kindness sets in motion a chain of events that will change many people’s lives…

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[My Review]

One Small Act of Kindness strikes just the right balance: sweet without being too cloying, touching without being overly sentimental story, and featuring some really likeable characters who I’d happily read more about.

The narrative features some of the typical elements of this genre, yes, with romances and budding romances (I saw some parts coming a mile off, but again I feel that’s just something that comes with the territory and I didn’t mind this) but importantly it manages to avoid being overly cheesy or ridiculous. The plot is believable and has some more serious parts, but also plenty of light-heartedness mixed in there. It’s well written, sweet and with a plot that moves along at just the right pace whilst still providing plenty of character development.

Without giving too much away, main character Libby seemed really lovely and a bit of a saint with what she’s had to put up with, whilst Alice is suffering from memory loss and can’t remember the person she was before the accident, but is equally likable as she tries to piece together the parts of her life from ‘before’. Other characters enter the scene and either really charmed me (human or non-human – I loved Sir Bob) or made me want to throw things at them (but, either way, equally well written by Lucy Dillon), and made me want to continue reading on (or, in this case with the audiobook, listening on).

I enjoyed trying to piece together Alice’s memories as the novel went on, and felt the amnesia part of the story was convincing (well-researched, I assume) and intriguing. I finished One Small Act of Kindness feeling satisfied and uplifted

The audiobook was well read, with a great narrator (though the Welsh accent was quite amusing; I’m not sure why seeing as I’m awful at ‘doing’ accents myself) and it’s an ideal story to be enjoyed on audiobook. Some books, I feel, really work in audio format and some just don’t, and often in that case I abandon them early on – this was really enjoyable!

The only other book I’ve read by Lucy Dillon (so far) is All I Ever Wanted, and I was really taken by that too [read my review here], so I think I can safely say Lucy Dillon is a winning writer for me in the ‘chick-lit/ romance/ women’s fiction’ genres; I’ll certainly be reading more by her in the future.

[Rating: 4/5]

The Final Minute by Simon Kernick

The Final Minute- a first class thriller!

The Final Minute

The Final Minute by Simon Kernick is a fast paced novel with a wide range of different, interesting characters that combines action with suspense.

Synopsis:

‘It’s night, and I’m in a strange house.

The lights are on, and and I’m standing outside a half-open door.

Feeling a terrible sense of forboding, I walk slowly inside.

And then I see her.

A woman lying sprawled across a huge double bed.

She’s dead. There’s blood everywhere.

And the most terrifying thing of all is that I think her killer might be me …’

A traumatic car-crash. A man with no memory, haunted by nightmares.

When the past comes calling in the most terrifying way imaginable, Matt Barron is forced to turn to the one person who can help.

Ex Met cop, turned private detective, Tina Boyd.

Soon they are both on the run…

 

The Final Minute by Simon KernickThe novel is really easy to read and although a lot happens it wasn’t too hard to follow, and so I raced through it!

The story seems to focus more on Matt Barron, the guy who has lost his memory and is being chased down by ‘questionable’ characters, than Tina Boyd who is the main detective that this new series is about.

The character development was really good; I actually didn’t feel like we really learnt much about Tina Boyd as a detective, only snippets from her past but I suppose this is setting the future books up to reveal more about her character as the series goes on. I also gather that she has appeared in previous books by Simon Kernick and so is semi-established, and therefore I imagine those who have read these novels already know a little more about her, but she now has her own series (of which this is the first book!). Tina seems like quite a maverick and continues to help Matt even though she knew his history and that he had done questionable things, and it was quite refreshing to read about a dynamic, talented female ex-detective.

Also interesting is the way the novel makes you doubt the main character Matt, who seems to have had a shady past. Kernick makes you wonder sometimes if he’s actually a good guy or not, but ultimately you are rooting for him to survive until the end of the novel, which at times seems less than certain! Kernick makes you think though about the fact that people can make mistakes but if they’ve served their time the question is whether you should just forget about their past issues?

You read the story from different perspectives which I really enjoyed; it jumps mainly between Matt and Tina’s narratives but we also see some of what the ‘baddies’ are doing which really keeps the reader on their toes throughout.

I would recommend this novel to those who already love thrillers and also to anyone wanting to get into this genre- it’s fast paced and exciting whilst also being well-written; it doesn’t veer into trashy like (in my opinion) many other books in this genre tend to do an awful lot!

 

Rating: 4/5