Month: January 2018

‘Don’t Close Your Eyes’ by Holly Seddon #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

don't close

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Robin and Sarah weren’t the closest of twins. They weren’t even that similar. But they loved each other dearly. Until, in the cruellest of domestic twists, they were taken from one another.

Now, in her early 30s, Robin lives alone. Agoraphobic and suffering from panic attacks, she spends her days pacing the rooms of her house. The rest of the time she watches – watches the street, the houses, the neighbours. Until one day, she sees something she shouldn’t…

And Sarah? Sarah got what she wanted – the good-looking man, the beautiful baby, the perfect home. But she’s just been accused of the most terrible thing of all. She can’t be around her new family until she has come to terms with something that happened a long time ago. And to do that, she needs to track down her twin sister.

But Sarah isn’t the only person looking for Robin. As their paths intersect, something dangerous is set in motion, leading Robin and Sarah to fight for much more than their relationship…

I seem to be giving almost everything I read four-star reviews at the moment. These are all books I’ve really enjoyed reading, but where something just isn’t quite there. Something stops me from loving the book. And this is one of them.

The premise is really clever – twin sisters, forced apart by circumstances beyond their control, a series of events that cause them to lose contact and to struggle in adult life. The book comes from both viewpoints and is told from the present day and with flashbacks to the past. Sarah and Robin are well-drawn characters and the twists and turns towards the end are clever and surprising.

But I didn’t feel that their past was explored deeply enough. There was a lot more room here to go more deeply, to really get to know that twins and what made them tick. The present day sections around Robin went on for too long and didn’t really add very much to the narrative – I wasn’t convinced by the need for the whole storyline about what she witnesses watching the neighbourhood through her window. And while there are events in the book that explain why Robin is like this, it isn’t clear enough that they have, in fact, affected her in this way.

Sarah’s story, however, seemed a little rushed, and hers was the story that I found more interesting – so that was quite frustrating. And I thought it was too coincidental that all the different strands came together so neatly at the end. And while I appreciate that I read a review copy, there were quite a lot of errors that were very irritating.

It is a good book though, and a very enjoyable one, and I’d read more by the author. This could easily have been a five-star read for me, with a few tweaks and with some cuts here and there and some additions in other places. Really very good, but not outstanding.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy

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And the winner is(n’t)! #CoverReveal #humor

Can’t wait to read this! Released on 1st February – a new book from a very funny writer.

Barb Taub

Mwa! To the best blog readers in the world!

Thanks so much to everyone who stopped by my blog last week and voted, commented, tweeted, emailed, and (anonymously) left that note through my letter slot with your thoughts about the sample covers for my new book.

The results? There really wasn’t a clear winner, probably because each of the covers had flaws.

So what did I learn? From your comments and suggestions, I’ve put together a new cover that I’m pretty happy about. But more than that, I was overwhelmed with your thoughtful, wonderful, helpful ideas.

You’d think I’d just be grateful for each and every one of you.

You’d think.

Those who know me, of course, realize that instead I’m going to take shameless advantage of all that help and goodwill and ask for more. MUCH more.

My new book is coming out on 1 February. (Details are below) …

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‘Keepers’ by @sacha_black #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT #BookReview

#RBRT Review Team

I read and reviewed ‘Keepers’ for Rosie’s Book Review Team.

Keepers

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Saving the world is easy: all Eden has to do is die. 

Seventeen-year-old Eden East’s life is perfect… until her soul is bound to her worst nightmare. Then her parents are brutally murdered, and everyone’s a suspect, including her best friend.

As her world spirals out of control, a charismatic Siren, from a past she can’t remember, returns offering help, hope, and a heap of distractions.

Eden must put aside her grief to solve the mystery of her parents’ murder. In a race against time, can she break the binding to her enemy before he destroys her and her world?

Three lives.
Two murdered parents.
One deadly choice.

This is the first in the Eden East Novels series and the first of the author’s novels. Eden is a Fallon – a royal Keeper whose role it is to ensure Balance in the world of Trutinor. The Keepers have different powers and are either Elementals, Shifters, Sirens or Sorcerers. Eden, an Elemental, is destined to be bound forever to another Fallon – a Shifter for whom she feels no attraction. But it isn’t up to her. Things change when Eden’s parents are murdered, and when Trey, a Siren who was Eden’s close childhood friend, reappears after a long absence, and confuses Eden further. They are forced together as they try to find the killers and avoid a fate that could have far-reaching consequences.

The author builds her world compellingly. There are some really well-crafted scenes here and the dialogue is, on the whole, authentic. Eden is a strong yet sympathetic main character and it’s always great to have strong female leads, whatever the genre. And Eden is also a character that a reader will care about – her strength is balanced well with her vulnerability, which adds depth to the narrative.

The writing is technically sound, and the plot has enough intrigue, mystery and surprises to hold the reader’s attention.

There were a few places where I felt the writing could be tightened a bit, and where the focus was too heavily on Eden’s reactions and feeling. There were also lots of characters that it was sometimes hard to keep track of. I do have a problem with fantasy books in that I always find the characters’ names and the names of imaginary places distracting– but I do appreciate that this goes with the territory. The definitions of the terms and traditions/conventions of Trutinor were also very long.

That said, this is a solid first novel from a debut author, and Eden has great potential for future books in the series.

4 stars

‘The Lie of the Land’ by Amanda Craig ‘FridayReads #BookReview

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Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

Quentin and Lottie Bredin, like many modern couples, can’t afford to divorce. Having lost their jobs in the recession, they can’t afford to go on living in London; instead, they must downsize and move their three children to a house in a remote part of Devon. Arrogant and adulterous, Quentin can’t understand why Lottie is so angry; devastated and humiliated, Lottie feels herself to have been intolerably wounded.
Mud, mice and quarrels are one thing – but why is their rent so low? What is the mystery surrounding their unappealing new home? The beauty of the landscape is ravishing, yet it conceals a dark side involving poverty, revenge, abuse and violence which will rise up to threaten them.
Sally Verity, happily married but unhappily childless knows a different side to country life, as both a Health Visitor and a sheep farmer’s wife; and when Lottie’s innocent teenage son Xan gets a zero-hours contract at a local pie factory, he sees yet another. At the end of their year, the lives of all will be changed for ever.
A suspenseful black comedy, this is a rich, compassionate and enthralling novel in its depiction of the English countryside, and the potentially lethal interplay between money and marriage.

At the heart of this book is a really, really great story. The situation that Lottie and Quentin find themselves in is symbolic of the times we live in and the realities of the messed-up housing market – Lottie and Quentin are privileged, yes, and spoilt in some regards, but they are property rich and cash poor, and when their marriage breaks down and they find themselves out of work, they can’t afford to live in London anymore. They rent out their house and, with their twins and Lottie’s son Xan, they move to a rented cottage in Devon. But there is a reason the rent on their cottage is so cheap, and a mystery about the former occupant that leads them into danger.
Their life in Devon provides an opportunity to explode the myth of the false idyll of country life. It’s hard work, and it’s cold and damp and the shops are too far away. The local economy is based on zero hour contracts (as so much of the work in this country now is) and most of the time life seems fairly miserable. But Lottie slowly finds herself relaxing and enjoying her new life, away from the social hothouse of the capital.
Lottie has the potential to be a warm and sympathetic main character, but she is little too perfect to feel truly real. Quentin does behave badly, and he deserves her anger, but she surely must have some faults of her own? Xan is lovely, a real strength of the narrative, and twins Stella and Rosie are really well-written, as are Quentin’s parents. Quentin, who I should have hatted, I actually warmed to, although he does verge slightly on the stereotypical.
There is a strong cast of supporting characters, but again I did find some of them too perfect – health visitor Sally , for example. And I couldn’t quite believe in the denouement at the end.
I also found the use of present tense quite off-putting, especially as there were a few times when the tenses did seem all over the place.
That said, I really did enjoy reading this, which is, I suppose, all that really matters. It’s a great book to curl up with and sink into – and despite the fact that some of it seemed hard to believe, I can’t fault it for sheer enjoyment. I became involved in the characters’ lives despite myself and it was a book that I looked forward to picking up at the end of each day. So while it isn’t a perfect book, it is a very good one indeed, and I will definitely read more of the author’s work.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy.

‘Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy’ by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

Option B

Amazon.co.uk   Amazon.com

From Facebook’s COO and Wharton’s top-rated professor, the #1 New York Times best-selling authors of Lean In and Originals: a powerful, inspiring, and practical book about building resilience and moving forward after life’s inevitable setbacks.

After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. “I was in ‘the void,’” she writes, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.” Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It is a muscle that everyone can build.

Option B combines Sheryl’s personal insights with Adam’s eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity. Beginning with the gut-wrenching moment when she finds her husband, Dave Goldberg, collapsed on a gym floor, Sheryl opens up her heart—and her journal—to describe the acute grief and isolation she felt in the wake of his death. But Option B goes beyond Sheryl’s loss to explore how a broad range of people have overcome hardships including illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters, and the violence of war. Their stories reveal the capacity of the human spirit to persevere . . . and to rediscover joy.

Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. Even after the most devastating events, it is possible to grow by finding deeper meaning and gaining greater appreciation in our lives. Option B illuminates how to help others in crisis, develop compassion for ourselves, raise strong children, and create resilient families, communities, and workplaces. Many of these lessons can be applied to everyday struggles, allowing us to brave whatever lies ahead. Two weeks after losing her husband, Sheryl was preparing for a father-child activity. “I want Dave,” she cried. Her friend replied, “Option A is not available,” and then promised to help her make the most of Option B.

We all live some form of Option B. This book will help us all make the most of it.

I don’t read ‘self-help’ books very often, to be honest. But I’d read about the death of Dave Goldberg and knew about Sheryl Sandberg, so I was interested to read this.

I was initially sceptical though. Sandberg is a privileged woman; she has wealth, and opportunity, and surely her experience would be far removed from that of normal, ordinary people? I was worried that the book might be one of those that preached from a position of power and privilege, telling ordinary women how to cope, when the author has no idea at all of the everyday struggles that those women (and men) face every day. Add grief and loss to that, and could Sandberg really understand? (Check out Ivanka Trump’s highly insulting, ridiculous and just plain weird ‘Women Who Work – Rewriting the Rules for Success’ and marvel at the complete ignorance of normality).

But Sandberg is fully aware of her privilege. She knows that she is lucky and she understands that other women (I say women because it is still women who are more vulnerable, at least financially, after the death of a partner) will have more to face than she did after a loss like this. And this self-awareness and acknowledgement really made me warm to her. I also couldn’t help but be affected by the sheer honesty and rawness of her grief. I lost my mum before I was forty. I know that isn’t comparable to the loss of a husband. But grief is something we feel a little bit ashamed of at times; we don’t like to let it show, mainly, I think, because we’re worried it will make other people uncomfortable. So to read an honest account of an intelligent, secure and focussed woman falling to pieces through grief was, perhaps selfishly, rather comforting. Her description of her husband’s funeral was heart-breaking. And her emotions are real – she’s a real person, with real feelings.

I liked her, and I respected and admired the way she cared for her children and acknowledged their pain. So I felt far more open to hearing what else she had to say.

I know that Sandberg’s wealth will be a sticking point for many. I know that she can afford childcare, and she doesn’t have to worry about a mortgage. And she has a supportive family and a supportive boss – things that lots of other people don’t have. But that doesn’t mean that some aspects of this book can’t be helpful to more ‘normal’ people. As already mentioned, just reading someone else’s account of grief can help when you have suffered a loss – acknowledging that your feelings are normal and understandable and understood can be a great help. And reading about other people who have suffered horrific things but who have managed to build useful and fulfilling lives is extremely inspirational. And there is advice here that doesn’t hinge on having money – writing a journal, for example, and looking for positive things in even the bleakest of times is helpful for anyone.

There were a few places where things got a bit spiritual, which didn’t do it for me, but these were few and far between. What I really liked were the anecdotes about Sheryl’s own experiences and how she helped herself and her children not only to grieve, but to begin to move on, without forgetting their father – simple things like beginning new family routines and traditions while not forgetting the old ones, for example.

It’s well written too, and thoroughly researched. Definitely worth reading, and recommended for anyone going through a hard time and trying to cope, whether through a death, redundancy, anxiety and depression – there are things here that can help.

4 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the review copy

Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #contemporary cultural fiction All The Tomorrows by @nillunasser

My review of ‘All the Tomorrows’ for #RBRT

Rosie Amber

Today’s team review is from Alison, she blogs here https://alisonwilliamswriting.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Alison has been reading All The Tomorrows by Nillu Nasser

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Jaya is trying to make her arranged marriage to Akash work. She loves him, but he is cold towards her. When she discovers his affair, her reaction is horrific and extreme. Her recovery sees her grow in strength and she discovers her own mind, though she is haunted by her past and restricted by the constraints society places on women. Akash, however, is sent on a downward spiral, into the depths of the city, experiencing degradation, cruelty and shame.

This is an exceptional story; it covers so many human emotions – betrayal, loss, friendship, love, redemption. Jaya and Akash are beautifully drawn and it is easy to sympathise with them both. The other characters are realistic and three-dimensional, Jaya’s sister Ruhi, and Akash’s friend Tariq, in particular. And the…

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