Month: January 2017

‘Behind Her Eyes’ by Sarah Pinborough #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

 

Don’t Trust This Book

Don’t Trust These People

Don’t Trust Yourself

And whatever you do, DON’T give away that ending…

‘Sarah Pinborough is about to become your new obsession’ Harlan Coben

Louise

Since her husband walked out, Louise has made her son her world, supporting them both with her part-time job. But all that changes when she meets…

David

Young, successful and charming – Louise cannot believe a man like him would look at her twice let alone be attracted to her. But that all comes to a grinding halt when she meets his wife…

Adele

Beautiful, elegant and sweet – Louise’s new friend seems perfect in every way. As she becomes obsessed by this flawless couple, entangled in the intricate web of their marriage, they each, in turn, reach out to her.

But only when she gets to know them both does she begin to see the cracks… Is David really is the man she thought she knew and is Adele as vulnerable as she appears?
Just what terrible secrets are they both hiding and how far will they go to keep them?

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Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

This was the first book I read in 2017 and it got the reading year off to a fabulous start!

Through the eyes of both Louise, struggling and unhappy single mum, and glamorous and seemingly together and accomplished Adele, the author draws you into a story where you soon realise that you don’t know who to believe or who to trust. But this is much more than a mysterious, dark love triangle – there’s a massive twist that I guarantee you really won’t see coming.

Aside from the very, very clever twist, the writing itself is excellent. The characters are well-developed, believable and Louise is relatable and really likeable. The dialogue is convincing and the situations and settings are authentic however strange the story becomes.

A remarkable book, enjoyable and compelling – do read it!

5 stars

 

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a review copy.

It’s a jungle out there – watch out for the vanity presses #wwwblogs #amwriting #selfpublishing

I had a phone call the other day from an elderly gentleman who was trying to find an agent. I explained the process to him and then he said that he’d already published a book, but he still couldn’t get an agent. Digging deeper, it seemed that he was under the impression that if he had a book out on Amazon, an agent would come calling.

He’s published with a small press. I took a look on Amazon. His book has been out for almost three years. The blurb and the cover are terrible. He has zero sales and zero reviews. Getting a little bit cross now, I decided to dig a bit further.

It turns out that he paid money to a vanity press that seems to masquerade as a publisher. This organisation states on their website that they open to submissions. They give the impression that they are looking for books to publish.

Digging even deeper I discovered that what they do once you’ve sent your submission is to ask for the full manuscript (and your hopes are raised). They then come back and give you some flannel along the lines of how they love your work, think you have real potential, but the economy and the market and blah, blah, blah, so they want to publish you but they need you to make a financial contribution.

Further investigations revealed that this contribution can be anything from £1500 to £3000.

So, a vanity press then.

(I’m not naming the company in question here as they apparently have a tendency to send out emails from their lawyers to anyone who criticises them and I really don’t have time for that rubbish).

Now I understand that no one is holding a gun to anyone’s head while you give them your bank details. But still – this seems unethical at the very least. And to do this to an elderly man is downright cruel.

So lovely writers, please be careful and remember that you shouldn’t be paying a publisher, they should be paying you. If they ask you for money, they’re a vanity press. If you’re happy with that, then that’s up to you (though why you would pay someone to do something you can do yourself, I don’t know) but please be very, very sure about what you’re getting yourself into. It’s very easy to get carried away, and unfortunately there are people out there who are only too happy to exploit that.

burglar

 

‘When Breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?

Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

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Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

I’ve read some of the other reviews of this book and really wonder if they read the same book as me. If you’re looking for a misery memoir, a warts and all revelation of how harrowing it is to go through cancer and all that entails, then this isn’t for you. Those books have their place – my mother died from cancer and it was helpful sometimes to read other people’s accounts and to know that they were feeling as I did. But I wish I’d had this book back then.

Because this is more than a memoir or an account of illness and death. The author doesn’t list in too great detail what happens to him because it’s not supposed to be about that (which is what I think a few of the other reviewers have missed). This is about a man who, before he knew he was ill, strove in his studies and in his work to get at the meaning of life, at what it means to be human, and what it means to die. And then, somewhat ironically, just at the brink of achieving one of his goals in life, he was diagnosed with lung cancer – cancer that killed him at the age of thirty-seven.

A brilliant, eloquent and sensitive man, Paul Kalanithi continued to strive throughout his illness, to find meaning in what life meant, what made it worthwhile, and to understand when it was enough, when it was time to stop. This is what he had always wanted to do for his patients and this was how he lived his last days.

A really unusual and beautiful book. I was sobbing at the end – and any book that can cause such a powerful reaction is something very special indeed.

5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley for providing a free review copy.

Even when it’s hopeless, you might still get butter in First Class! #travel #India #Inaguration

Barb Taub

Two frogs fell into a pail of milk…

They paddled for hours, until one finally gave up and drowned. The other kept paddling, until he felt something solid under his feet. The paddling had churned the milk to butter, and he was able to leap out of the pail. [image credit: Exceptional Existence ] https://youbeunstoppable.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/inspirational-stories-1-two-frogs-in-the-milk/ They paddled for hours, until one finally gave up and drowned. The other kept paddling for a few more minutes, until he felt something solid under his feet. The paddling had churned the milk to butter, and he was able to leap out of the pail.
[image credit: Exceptional Existence ]


My flight leaving New York yesterday was late taking off, shrinking my three-hour layover in Abu Dhabi to less than 25 minutes. A gate attendant said passengers travelling to Bangalore would have try to rebook on the next flight—the following day.

etihad-uniform [Image credit: Superadrianme]

People might call me a lot of things but “fit” has never been one of them. Still… I had two old friends, a fantastic trip planned, and a serious amount of really great food waiting for me in Bangalore. I started to run, even as the PA system announced “Final…

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‘Ardent Justice’ by Peter Taylor-Gooby #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview #RBRT

I reviewed ‘Ardent Justice’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

#RBRT Review Team

Could you hate someone enough to kill them? And what if they deserve it? Ade is a tax-inspector. She hates the City of London. She hates the endless corruption, the bland assumption that tax is for the little people. She hates the casual sexism, the smug self-assurance, the inviolability of the men she deals with, and the cold certainty that nothing you can do will ever touch them. Then Webster tries to rape her, and she hates him enough to try to kill him. She finds herself in the world of the rootless, marginal street homeless who live meagre lives in the shadow of the office blocks that house the rich. She meets Paul, an Occupy activist who works with homeless people. Ade and Paul become modern-day Robin Hoods, getting involved in various attempts to expose the scale of fraud in the City and help the poor and dispossessed, but the power of money to influence government and control the media defeats them. As their love for each other grows, they find real fulfilment in fighting for the rights of ordinary people, such as Gemma, a homeless single parent. Then Webster comes back into Ade’s life and it’s payback time. Ardent Justice is a gripping feminist thriller, endorsed by Polly Toynbee, the leading Guardian columnist. It tells the story of Ade’s struggle against the City and for her own integrity, and of her love for Paul, and of how hard it is to live a morally good life in a corrupted world. It has been inspired by Zoe Fairbairns and Lionel Shriver and will appeal to fans of character-led thrillers. Profits will be donated to Shelter, the housing and homelessness charity.

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Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

There are a lot of positive things to say about this book. The research that has obviously been done into the workings of the financial institutions is excellent. The idea behind the storyline is excellent. The characters have real potential to be excellent. And the sentiments behind the story are great too. What this novel says needs to be said and it’s refreshing to read a book by a novelist who isn’t afraid to say it.

For me, however, the potential is never fully realised. The characters could be amazing – inspiring and compelling. But we never really get to know Ade that well. She has really strong ad well-thought out motivations for the way she acts and thinks, but these need to be developed more fully. And more detail about Paul, the Occupy campaign itself and his work with the homeless would add a deeper layer to the narrative.

I also felt that the revenge that the two enact was a little naïve, if I’m honest. Yes, it’s true that the money that corporations and big businesses get out of paying would be better spent on the NHS and schools etc. but is it realistic to think that even if these taxes were collected, this is where the money would go? The NHS isn’t underfunded because there isn’t enough money – it’s underfunded for political and ideological reasons.

There are also issues with the dialogue which is unrealistic at times, and I felt that the characters needed further emotional depth in order for the reader to care about them.

I really want this novel to work – and I really think that it can. It does need development though and the depth that the subject deserves. I hope that Mr Taylor-Gooby decides to work on his novel further and makes it into the story that it can be.

three stars

Wonderful Whitby #wwwblogs

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The Scottish Sun

At the beginning of December (seems such a long time ago now) Gary and I went up to York for the weekend. We couldn’t miss the opportunity to go to Whitby – both of us being fans of Bram Stoker’s brilliant ‘Dracula’. I has visions of a dark and windswept, eerie ruin, perched on a cliff, and I wasn’t disappointed. And I wasn’t disappointed by the lovely seaside town of Whitby either.

Whitby Abbey has a long and fascinating history, but I’ll stick to the bits that concern Dracula for the purposes of this post.

Bram Stoker was staying in Whitby in July 1890. At the time he was the business manager of the actor Henry Irving, and they’d just finished a tour of Scotland. Stoker was planning a new novel and he had a week to relax before his family joined him.

One day he discovered a book in the public library about a 15th Century prince who supposedly impaled his victims on wooden stakes – Vlad the Impaler, or‘Dracula’ which means ‘son of the dragon’ (Vlad was the son of Vlad Dracul).

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While in the town, Stoker would no doubt have heard about the shipwreck five years earlier of a Russian ship, the Dmitry, that ran aground below East Cliff. This became the ‘Demeter’ in Stoker’s novel – the ship that carries Dracula from Transylvania. Walking around these beautiful ruins, it’s easy to see how they inspired such a gothic classic. The wind really does whip past you, and it’s very, very quiet. The sky was overcast – and it wasn’t hard to imagine the scene with a full moon above, a bat flitting past…

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The Dmitry (Frank Meadow Sutcliffe)

Through the churchyard (where naughty locals will direct you to Dracula’s grave!) you find the top of the famous 199 steps down into the town. In the novel, the Demeter runs aground on Tate Hill Sands. All the crew are dead, including the captain who is lashed to the helm. A black dog leaps from the ship and runs up the 199 steps to Whitby Abbey.

We walked rather more slowly down them (and a lot more slowly back up later after a fish and chip lunch!). At the bottom of the steps you arrive in the beautiful town with its winding streets; independent shops abound here – selling books, antiques, clothes, and  jewellery made from jet, the fossilised remains of trees from the Jurassic period only found along a seven and a half mile stretch of the North Yorkshire coastline centred around Whitby.

Cross over the bridge and you can walk along the harbour side. It was mild for December but even so, we weren’t tempted by the whale watching trips (although plenty of people were). Instead we took a gentle stroll down the West Pier. From here you can glimpse the Whalebone Arch – a monument to the dangers faced by the local whalers.

Back by the harbour we ate the best fish and chips I’ve ever had, in a lovely little café/bar – ‘The Moon and Sixpence’. If you’re ever in Whitby, do go there.

Having eaten too much, we climbed the 199 steps back up to the abbey. Wherever you are in Whitby, it seems to brood over you and it’s easy to see how it inspired Stoker’s classic tale.

But Whitby itself certainly isn’t scary. And its unusual mix of literary history, culture and a traditional seaside vibe makes it a lovely place to visit.

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‘The Food of Love’ by Amanda Prowse #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

A loving mother. A perfect family. A shock wave that could shatter everything.

Freya Braithwaite knows she is lucky. Nineteen years of marriage to a man who still warms her soul and two beautiful teenage daughters to show for it: confident Charlotte and thoughtful Lexi. Her home is filled with love and laughter.

But when Lexi’s struggles with weight take control of her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart, leaving the whole family with a sense of helplessness that can only be confronted with understanding, unity and, above all, love.

In this compelling and heart-wrenching new work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse, one ordinary family tackles unexpected difficulties and discovers that love can find its way through life’s darkest moments.

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Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

This book has all the elements for an emotional and absorbing read, and judging by the majority of reviews, many readers find this to be the case. But it really didn’t work for me. I have issues with the writing itself, and with the actual story.

Freya lives in a suburb of London with her perfect family. She is a freelance food writer, her husband Lockie is a freelance photographer and they have two teenage daughters – Charlotte, a together, accomplished musician about to take her A ‘levels and Lexi, a fifteen-year-old dyslexic who they discover has anorexia. First of all, the sheer perfection of Freya’s life at the beginning was irritating. Her relationship with her husband was sickly sweet. Her job as a food writer was a little too easy (as any struggling freelancer will recognise) and the fact that she was a food writer was a little too neat – oh, of course, her daughter has an eating disorder because her mum writes about food all day! I do understand that the writer was showing that the perfection was superficial, that the veneer of the perfect life was soon eroded, but it just felt very unrealistic.

Life with a teenager with serious issues isn’t like this. In reality it’s a horrible, emotional, exhausting struggle and that just didn’t come across here. The realities were glossed over. The book is set in the UK and as a parent who has experienced the NHS dealing with mental health issues, I know that treatment doesn’t happen this quickly, that everything has to be fought for. And although I’m no expert, I’m pretty sure that the battle many people have with anorexia isn’t dealt with this easily. This is an important subject, and I did feel that the author should have researched more thoroughly.

There were elements I did like. The writing is good on the whole, although the dialogue was very unnatural at times, and I was surprised to find so many unnecessary and off-putting dialogue tags in a professionally produced (and presumably professionally edited) book. It does veer towards the schmaltzy at times, but Freya’s emotions and frustrations did come across really well, and I did feel sympathy for her.

There is a good story here, and one that has the potential to be great. However, it all felt a bit rushed, a bit easily resolved. Aside from Freya, the emotions of the other characters, their reactions to the situation and their difficulties weren’t developed fully.

I do hate to be negative, because I do think the author cares about her characters and that there are good intentions here, but this is gritty subject matter, and requires a lot more depth than it’s given here.

three stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a free copy for review