Friday, 20 October 2017

Review : Close to Me by Amanda Reynolds

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Published by : Wildfire (Headline Publishing Group)
27 July 2017
Copy : Paperback - Won in competition run by author

The Blurb

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.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

The premise of this book is domestic noir at its darkest and it feels very claustrophobic.  Jo Harding remembers little of the last 12 months of her life, prior to her fall down the stairs.  But she does remember sending her son off to university, knowing her daughter had gained full time employment following her graduation.  Those are good things.  Things were good - weren't they?  Those are the things she remembers but her instinct, her gut feelings are pushing her to come to other conclusions - but how can she when the ones with the answers to her questions, seem reluctant to share them with her.  Jo finds herself doubting her husband, her children but most of all herself.

Of course truths can't stay buried and we follow Jo on her journey of discovering what twelve mysterious months really are hiding.  Jo is determined in her quest and by some direct digging and inadvertent clues she slowly starts to piece together the mixed up jigsaw of her life.  Unsurprisingly as reality starts to transpire Jo is left wondering if she actually wants to learn truth and she realises that the year was a long one.

This is a deeply complex family story.  Personally I didn't find any of the characters particularly likeable, their actions and reactions are all questionable.  To a degree that did make it a little hard to really bond to the story because I wanted to be rooting for Jo but couldn't.  I also felt that the story could have moved along a little quicker, some of the chapters I felt didn't really move the plot along, but summarised what you already knew.

That said I still enjoyed this book.  I really did want to know what 12 months and the family members, including Jo herself were hiding and I kept reading with gusto.

Close to Me by Amanda Reynolds receives a Very Pink Notebook rating :




Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Review : Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

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Published by : Transworld Publishers (Penguin Random House)
2 May 2017
Copy : Hardback - Reviewer purchase

The Blurb

In the last days before her death, Nel called her sister. Jules didn’t pick up the phone, ignoring her plea for help.

Now Nel is dead. They say she jumped. And Jules has been dragged back to the one place she hoped she had escaped for good, to care for the teenage girl her sister left behind.

But Jules is afraid. So afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of knowing that Nel would never have jumped.

And most of all she’s afraid of the water, and the place they call the Drowning Pool . . .

The Very Pink Notebook Review

One of the things that stands out in this book is the sheer amount of characters and not merely secondary ones, they all have their own voice by way of their own chapter.  I have to admit, if I had a break in reading this book sometimes I would have to go through and remind myself of who was who - but each characters is needed, none are superfluous to the plot and it is quite a feat on behalf of the author to have been able to create so many unique voices in one book, ranging from a young teenage girl, to a grieving mother, to a senior gentleman.

Protagonist, Jules, is forced to return to her childhood home following the death - suspected suicide - of her sister Nel.  Nel leaves behind one daughter, a trail of destruction and a lot of loose ends.  Jules find herself needing to tie up those loose ends with explosive consequences.

As I mentioned the book is structured in the hugely popular chapter by character voice and this moves the highly complex plot along at a good pace.  You quickly learn Jules home town is a place full of secrets.  A small town whereby everyone thinks they know everyone else, that there couldn't be anywhere to really hide anything - turns out there are plenty and all the inhabitants have hidden things at some point, either out of fear, stupidity, self protection or trying to protect others.  But a small town can only hold so many secrets before it starts straining at the seams and once the dams burst there is no stopping what happens next.

That is this book.  It sort of unravels slowly starting with the newest information and slowly unpicking the rest.  Recent events start to link to past ones like a connect the dots.  Many authors may have struggled to pull it all together because as well as having an awful lot of characters this novel also has an awful lot of plot.

Hawkins uses 'excerpts' from Nel's contentious research about the history of the towns 'drowning pool' to give the reader the necessary history, it also gives nice little breaks from the narrative of the present day situation.  The Drowning Pool is the central location in the novel and it is nice that it is almost given it's own voice.

With so many threads to pull together it could have easily have been difficult to produce an ending to tie them all up in a satisfactory manner, but this is achieved, the plethora of unanswered questions all get a conclusion.

It was a pleasure to read such a hyped book and not be disappointed.






Monday, 16 October 2017

Review : The Children by Ann Leary

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Published by : St Martins Press
06 July 2017 (paperback)
Copy : Received from publisher

The Blurb

Charlotte Maynard rarely leaves her mother's home, the sprawling Connecticut lake house that belonged to her late stepfather, Whit Whitman, and the generations of Whitmans before him. While Charlotte and her sister, Sally, grew up at "Lakeside," their stepbrothers, Spin and Perry, were welcomed as weekend guests. Now the grown boys own the estate, which Joan occupies by their grace--and a provision in the family trust.

When Spin, the youngest and favourite of all the children, brings his fiancé home for the summer, the entire family is intrigued. The beautiful and accomplished Laurel Atwood breathes new life into this often comically rarefied world. But as the wedding draws near, and flaws surface in the family's polite veneer, an array of simmering resentments and unfortunate truths is exposed.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

The Children by Ann Leary is a family tale of history, resentment, love and all the myriad of emotion that comes when two families are formed together as one.  The question is - no matter how much you think you know one another, do you ever really?

Charlotte and Sally Maynard grew up with their mother and step-father at the family estate, The Lakehouse.  When Whit dies suddenly the will states his wishes are for the girls to be able to continue to reside in the family home.  One son, Perry is free and clear about his resentment towards his father's 'second' family.  But Spin, who was only a baby when his parents separated has never known any different and is used to being doted on by everyone who knows him.  How lucky is he?

The protagonist in this novel is Charlotte.  Almost hermit like Charlotte has been coasting along in life, undisturbed.  That is until golden boy Spin, arrives home with a new women in tow, Laurel.  Her outlook on life comes to affect everyone in the family, forcing them to stop burying their heads in the sand and face up to the issues they have long been trying to dismiss.

This is one of those books, a dark, domestic thriller that leaves reading with one dubious eye.  It has a good, solid story, plenty of intrigue and will leave you wondering if you do really know those you think you do best...

The Children by Ann Leary receives an enjoyable read :






Thursday, 12 October 2017

Review - They All Fall Down by Tammy Cohen

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Published by : Transworld
13 July 2017
Copy : Paperback received from publisher

The Blurb

She knows there’s a killer on the loose.But no-one believes her.
Will she be next?

Hannah had a normal life – a loving husband, a good job. Until she did something shocking.

Now she’s in a psychiatric clinic. It should be a safe place. But patients keep dying.

The doctors say it’s suicide. Hannah knows they’re lying.

Can she make anyone believe her before the killer strikes again?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

They All Fall Down has the most intriguing of opening pages - the type I can envisage being used as 'great example of opening chapters' in writing classes.  It is both shocking and sad and leaves so many unanswered questions you cannot wait to turn the page.

Written in chapters by character voices it moves along at great pace and with an abundance of strong and unique viewpoints.  Protagonist, Hannah, is residing in a high suicide risk psych ward.  You don't know what has brought her to this point and do not learn it for sometime.  So along with the 'Is there a killer on the loose?' question you are also exploring the history of Hannah, and just - what did she do?

During this investigation you learn about her husband, mother, sister and their turbulent past and through Hannah's eyes you are taken on a dark and worrying journey into how vulnerable those in hospital can be.  With a host of unreliable narrators, the author nicely drip feeds the plot with red herrings a plenty to keep you guessing.  At one point near the end I thought I was about to suffer the most disappointing of endings, but then comes the final, killer twist and there was certainly not a whiff of disappointment in sight.

A clever and intricate plot, backed up with complex characters and smooth writing makes They All Fall Down a great read.





Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Blog Tour : The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for The Man Who Died by Antti Tuomainen.  With thanks to Karen and Anne at Orenda Books for involving me and providing me with an early edition.


The Man Who Died new front (1)
Published by : Orenda Books
10 October 2017 
Copy : Ebook - Received from Publisher

The Blurb

A successful entrepreneur in the mushroom industry, Jaakko Kaunismaa is a man in his prime. At just 37 years of age, he is shocked when his doctor tells him that he’s dying. What is more, the cause is discovered to be prolonged exposure to toxins; in other words, someone has slowly but surely been poisoning him. Determined to find out who wants him dead, Jaakko embarks on a suspenseful rollercoaster journey full of unusual characters, bizarre situations and unexpected twists. With a nod to Fargo and the best elements of the Scandinavian noir tradition, The Man Who Died is a page-turning thriller brimming with the blackest comedy surrounding life and death, and love and betrayal, marking a stunning new departure for the King of Helsinki Noir.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Although dark in topic, a man discovers he has days to live due to being slowly poisoned over the course of some time, Tuomainen has written this novel with a comedic punch and I thoroughly enjoyed that.  Providing us with a likeable and amusing protagonist, Jaakko, we are taken on his journey as he races against time to find the culprit of his eventual murder and also and very importantly how he comes to terms emotionally with his own impending death.

Written and interpreted flawlessly, this pacey novel will keep you glued to it.  I finished it in two sittings, after the first two chapters completely hooked me.  So much happens in them that you are kind of left with mouth gaping.  In only a few pages your mind is swimming with questions and suspicion.  And naturally things just get worse.  As well as trying to work out who wants him dead he has a nasty competitor for his business leap up on his doorstep who provide plenty of extra trouble.

With twists and turns a plenty Antti Tuomainen has penned a cracking noir novel.  This isn't the first book by this author I have read, so I had high hopes, but I have to say it is my favourite.  In this book he has found a unique balance for the reader in taking very dark matter and lightening it up without taking away the intrigue or integrity.

I could not recommend this book highly enough.

About the Author

Antti Tuomainen

Finnish Antti Tuomainen (b. 1971) was an award-winning copywriter when he made his literary debut in 2007 as a suspense author. The critically acclaimed My Brother’s Keeper was published two years later. In 2011 Tuomainen’s third novel, The Healer, was awarded the Clue Award for ‘Best Finnish Crime Novel of 2011’ and was shortlisted for the Glass Key Award. The Finnish press labelled The Healer – the story of a writer desperately searching for his missing wife in a post-apocalyptic Helsinki – ‘unputdownable’. Two years later in 2013 they crowned Tuomainen ‘The King of Helsinki Noir’ when Dark as My Heart was published. The Mine, published in 2016, was an international bestseller. All of his books have been optioned for TV/film. With his piercing and evocative style, Tuomainen is one of the first to challenge the Scandinavian crime genre formula, and The Man Who Died sees him at his literary best.

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Find other reviewers reactions to this book.

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Monday, 10 July 2017

Review : Don't Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon

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Published by : Corvus Books
6 July 2017
Copy : Paperback ARC review copy received from publisher

The Blurb

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...

The Very Pink Notebook Review

I was a huge fan of Holly Seddon's first thriller, Don't Forget to Breathe, so was really excited to hear another book was on it's way and I was not to be disappointed.

At first glance I could see similarities between this novel and the first.  It focusses on two female lead characters and the narrative is also given similarly in the voices of both. In this case, non-identical twins, Robin and Sarah, in both the present day and in historical flashbacks.  Both have strong and unique back stories which makes you question the reliability of the narration.  It leads you on a twisting and turning path so you are never quite sure - what is the truth?

Starting at the beginning, the twins life as they knew it was torn apart when they were teenagers when their parents decided to separate.  The family was best friends with another family, and both decided they wished to be with each other respective partners.  Robin was left with her dad, her effective step-mother, Hilary, and Callum, Hilary's son but who Robin and Sarah were best friends with for years, and with whom she develops a closer bond than to her own sister.  Sarah was taken by her mother and step-father, Drew, and quickly relocated to Atlanta.  Robin and Sarah maintained contact, but neither were truthful about what was really going on in their lives.

Fast forward the years and Robin, a once well known guitarist in a hit band, finds herself so scarred by what has happened in her life she no longer leaves the house.  Instead she spies on her neighbours and makes sure she does 10,000 steps around the house every day.  She hasn't seen Sarah until the day she turns up on her doorstep amidst her own troubled world and looking for the sister who can help her.

As the two try and heal wounds from their past and present day lives, they slowly reveal the truth about what happened to them all those years ago and things start to make sense for the two sisters.  They must learn to grieve for what they lost and let go of old hurt and resentment.  But they are not the only ones involved in their past and eventually doesn't the past always catch up with you?

With plenty of suspense, Holly Seddon has managed to create a claustrophobic read, with powerful characters and plot, and in true Holly style, if you were a teen of the 90's (as I was) she floods you with nostalgia as she nails the music and popular culture of the time.  As the reader you long to know what they are hiding and Seddon drip feeds this in via short and snappy chapters.  In the author's effortless and flowing style she gradually ratchets up the pace until the very end when she executes a real 'I did not see that coming' killer twist.

With moments of real compassion and emotion, mixed with some gritty and dark scenes this is a must read.

Without a doubt Don't Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :



 About the Author

Holly Seddon is a full-time writer, living slap bang in the middle of Amsterdam with her husband, James, and a house full of children and pets.  Holly has written for newspapers, websites and magazines since her early 20's after growing up in the English countryside, obsessed with music and books.  Her first novel Try Not to Breathe was published worldwide in 2016 and became both a national and international bestseller.  Don't Close Your Eyes is her second novel.

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Review : The Bursar's Wife (A George Kocharyan Mystery) - by E.G. Rodford

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Published by : Titan Books
25 March 2016
Copy : Paperback received from Publisher

The Blurb

Meet George Kocharyan, Cambridge Confidential Services' one and only private investigator.  Amidst the usual jobs following unfaithful spouses, he is approached by the glamourous Sylvia Bookers.  The wife of the bursar of Morley College, Booker is worried that her daughter Lucy has fallen in with the wrong crowd.

Aided by his assistant Sandra and her teenage son, George soon realises that Lucy is sneaking off to the apartment of an older man, but perhaps not for the reasons one might suspects.  Then an unfaithful wife he had been following is found dead.  As his investigation continues - enlivened by a mild stabbing and the unwanted intervention and attention of Detective Inspector Vicky Stubbing - George begins to wonder if all the threads are connected...

The Very Pink Notebook Review

One in a series of George Kocharyan, private investigator, novels I enjoyed George's world.  I really liked the mainstay characters of George, Sandra and Sandra's teenage son, Jason and the relationships between them.  George, being a private investigator, you would assume to be a confident man but in reality he isn't, suffering still from the blow of his wife leaving him which has lead him to question his ability in most aspects of life.  But this isn't portrayed in a sad (annoying woe is me way) it is done very comically.  As are a lot of the things in this book, which given some of its subject matter is very dark, turns it from what could be a real stomach turning drudge, into something very readable.

The plot is very thick and complex and the author has woven the threads together in a well paced and clear manner.  It is difficult to try and review the storyline without giving anything away so I won't try and say anything more than the blurb, apart from by the end you do feel as if there has been a real journey for George in many ways, not just with the investigation and piecing together the case he is working on but in his family and private life too.

Sandra and Jason both provide extra light for the dark side of this book and I do not think the story would work anywhere near as well without them, and I am glad they will be returning in further novels within the series.

With its dark comical narration and plot that twists and turns this is an enjoyable read and as such gets a Very Pink Notebook rating of :

About the Author

E.G Rodford is the crime-writing pseudonym of an award-winning author living in Cambridge, England.  Rodford writes about the seedier side of the city where PI George Kocharyan is usually to be found.



Friday, 30 June 2017

Tour and Review : The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater blog tour.
With thanks to Sarah Harwood at Penguin Random House for an advance copy of the book and for involving me in the tour.

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Published by : Penguin Random House
29 June 2017
Copy : Hardback received from publisher

The Blurb

Her daughter disappeared four years ago. . .
Since her daughter went missing four years earlier, celebrated photographer Kurtiz Ross has been a woman alone. Her only companion her camera. Since Lizzie disappeared, she has blamed and isolated herself, given up hope. Until, out of the blue, an unexpected sighting of Lizzie is made in Paris.

Could this lead to the reconciliation she has dreamed of?

Within hours of Kurtiz arriving in Paris, the City of Light is plunged into a night of hell when a series of terrorist attacks bring the city to a standstill. Amid the fear and chaos, a hand reaches out. A sympathetic stranger in a café offers to help Kurtiz find her daughter.

A stranger's guiding light

Neither knows what this harrowing night will deliver, but the other woman's kindness - and her stories of her own love and loss in post-war Provence - shine light into the shadows, restoring hope, bringing the unexpected. Out of darkness and despair, new life rises. New beginnings unfold.

Dare she believe in a miracle?

Set during a time of bloodshed and chaos in one of the most beautiful cities on earth and along the warm fragrant shores of the Mediterranean, Kurtiz discovers that miracles really can happen . . .

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Carol Drinkwater is a seasoned writer, but this is the first of her work I have had the pleasure of reading - it will not be the last.

Written with a confident hand, the story of The Lost Girl, concerns Kurtiz (or KZ as she is affectionately nicknamed) a mother and a career women, who during the peak years of her career went on an assignment to return home to a destroyed life when her daughter goes missing and her husband falls apart.

The reader is taken into the novel four years later, on the night Kurtiz finds herself in Paris, awaiting news from her estranged husband, Oliver, as to whether he has tracked down the daughter many have written off as dead.  But it is a night that does not go to plan when Paris, and Kurtiz, finds itself under siege by a serious of terrorist attacks, one at the venue Kurtiz is hoping Oliver has been reunited with the long lost Lizzie. 

By chance Kurtiz has a brief encounter with Marguerite, an elderly lady who in her hey day was a small time, but well known actress.  Marguerite takes to Kurtiz and as the tragic events of the night unravel the two are forced together where Marguerite's story is told.  I really enjoyed the structure of this novel, which could have easily become quite confusing but does not, where the memories of Marguerite are punctuated with the present day and the plight of Kurtiz, and also the history of Kurtiz, as she tries to look back and work out why Lizzie would have disappeared in the first place, as she tries to track down her husband and potentially her daughter.

As you may well assume, the title of the novel - The Lost Girl - would refer to quite literally the lost girl - Kurtiz's daughter, Lizzie.  But as you progress you realise it is applicable to all three of the females in the plot.  They were all once young women, finding themselves in situations they did not anticipate and dealt with these in very different ways.

I didn't particularly warm to the character of Kurtiz, even at the end, when I feel the author tried hard to explain the reason she made the choices she did, the things she did, or didn't do so that you felt some sympathy for her.  The same can be said of Marguerite initially, although I did warm to her as the story progressed and I could really imagine her, as an elderly women, glamourous in every way and remorseful of her behaviour as a young, naïve and inexperienced young girl.

The setting for the 'memories' of Marguerite are beautiful and wonderfully enticing, I could really imagine standing looking over Charlie's land as the scent of rose petals and jasmine drifted on the air and it really did make me feel wistful for Marguerite.

In a way the overall plot is a little on the unbelievable side, I won't say why because I do not want to give anything away, however, if you are happy to wave a hand of 'I don't care' to really enjoy a story taking you on a journey of womenhood and motherhood then you will thoroughly enjoy this.

The Lost Girl by Carol Drinkwater receives a highly recommend Very Pink Notebook rating of :


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  About the Author


Carol Drinkwater is a multi-award winning actress who is best known for playing Helen Herriot in the BBC television series All Creatures Great and Small.  She has since written 21 fiction and non-fiction books, including four memoirs set on her olive farm in the south of France, which have sold over one million copies worldwide.  The Forgotten Summer ('page-turning' - Daily Mail), a novel set on a vineyard in Provence, was published by Michael Joseph in 2016.  Carol lives with her husband Michel Noll, a documentary filmmaker, in their farmhouse in the French Riviera.

You can find more information at www.caroldrinkwater.com or on Twitter : @Carol4OliveFarm.

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Friday, 23 June 2017

Review : Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeleine

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Published by : Black Swan
(Paperback - 15 June 2017)
Copy - Received from Publisher

The Blurb

I closed my eyes as I tried to pick apart every flavour, because nothing had ever tasted so good before. It was like tasting for the first time. Like discovering colour . . .

It is 1919 and the war is over, but for Emeline Vane the cold Norfolk fens only are haunted by memories of those she has lost. In a moment of grief, she recklessly boards a train and runs from it all.

Her journey leads her far away, to a tiny seaside village in the South of France. Taken in by cafe owner Maman and her twenty-year-old son, Emeline discovers a world completely new to her: of oranges, olives and wild herbs, the raw, rich tastes of the land.

But when a love affair develops, as passionate as the flavours of the village, secrets from home begin blowing in on the sea wides. Fifty years later, a young solicitor on his first case finds Emeline's diary, and begins to trace a story of betrayal, love and bittersweet secrets that will send him on a journey to discover the truth...
 

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Every now and then a book comes along whereby when I finish it I think to myself - I will read that again and again - some examples for me include Little Women and The Great Gatsby, more recently Gone Girl and I Let You go.  Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeline has just added itself to that list.

Now I must admit the cover of this book, well, it didn't enthral or entice me into reading it.  I found it a little dull and twee and was worried the book would be too, perhaps more something my mother might enjoy.  THIS WAS NOT THE CASE AT ALL.

Inside the reader finds a joyful, pleasure in the beautiful and quite frankly, mouth-watering, story of Emeline Vane.  Disappearing in a puff of mystery when she was just 19, in 1919, she is presumed long dead by the family of 1969 which is our starting point.  With the family eager to be able to sell the derelict manor house sitting on prime real estate to a developer they must seek proof she is actually dead.  They enlist the help of small time solicitors Hillbrand and Moffat and the case falls newbie Bill Perch.

Written between two narrators, Bill Perch in 1969 and Emeline Vane in 1919, the world of Emeline is slowly unravelled explaining to the reader the events leading up to her disappearance and pieces together what happened afterwards.  As Bill Perch's investigation continues he begins to feel a bond and obligation to Emeline Vane to discover the truth - he believes she is still alive - going against what he is being paid to do.  Thus not only do we go on Emelines adventure but Bill's as well.

There are a whole host of quirky characters within this novel, who open both narrators eyes and I loved them all, particularly Emeline's 'boss' Clemence, with her warm and wise motherly love for the town which she cooks and lives.  The author's use and descriptions of recipes and ingredients are so passionate and vivid you can almost smell the tomato's and garlic roasting.  I loved the stories behind them and, at this point, Kudos must go to Madeline for her research of the traditions and cultures of the cuisine of the time.

Although this is tale told gently and with amazing locations and settings the mystery is kept really strong throughout.  It keeps you wondering and turning the pages and I was desperate for Bill to discover what happened to the scared 19 year old who gave up everything she knew in order to have a real life.

It was totally absorbing to read about the women's world of the time and I think if I was Bill Perch I would have been inclined to through caution to the wind and do exactly the same as what he does!  This was one of those books whereby you near the end, but still so much is to be discovered and I loved the ending - I wished there had been more of it, a longer scene between the two final characters that went deeper and into more detail.  The final sentence by Bill really made me smile.  For me it would have been the perfect place to end - I personally didn't really feel the epilogue was really necessary.

Beautifully paced and written with a gentle hand I can not recommend this book highly enough and as such Where the Wild Cherries Grow by Laura Madeline receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :

About the Author

After a childhood spent acting professionally and training at a theatre school, Laura Madeline chose instead to focus on studying English Literature at Newnham College, Cambridge.

She now writes fiction under three different psuedonyms.  Laura lives in Bristol, but can often be found visiting family in Devon, eating cheese and getting up to mischief with her sister, fantasy author Lucy Housom.

Laura can be found on Twitter @esthercrumpet.

  

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Tour and Review : Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to showcase the new psychological thriller by Sarah Stovell
Exquisite
With thanks to Orenda Books for involving me in the tour and an early copy of the book.

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Published by : Orenda Books
15 June 2017
Copy : Paperback Received from Publisher

The Blurb

Bo Luxton has it all—a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops. Or does it?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Meet Bo, writer - talented and successful.  Meet Alice, writer - unpublished and unconfident.  These are the two fascinating female leads in this well crafted, beautifully written psychological thriller, Exquisite, by Sarah Stovell.

A story with many rich themes; obsession, love, passion, revenge, betrayal, fear to name but a few, we follow the lives of these two damaged women who's paths cross with devastating consequences.

It is always difficult to review a good psychological thriller without committing the cardinal sin of letting out plot spoilers.  This particular thriller isn't typical in the massive twists and turns sense.  You know what is going on but you never sure just how far it is going to go.  It doesn't have moments where it points the finger at every character that comes into contact with the protagonist leaving you thinking - what if?  What it has is two fantastically unreliable narrators leaving you thinking what the hell is going to happen next...

Neither Bo nor Alice are massively likable, but I found that only added to heightening the tension as I wasn't quite sure who I wanted to root for, at least for two thirds of the book, then it became glaringly obvious.  It is a very claustrophobic atmosphere that is created by Madeline, cleverly developed along with the intensity of the relationship between the two characters.

The author has used environment and setting to its absolute max in this novel.  Bo is set in the vast, but isolating and quiet Lake District.  A place that can have such beauty but also can hold grave danger.  Bo, we gather, has experienced severe trauma in her lifetime and she longs for an ordinary life, a content life where she can keep everything in her hornet's nest buried deep.  She loves being a mother but has vowed to never be like her own.

Vibrant and chaotic Brighton is the home of Alice.  The girl who experienced a terrible childhood with her mother also but had the luck to be placed with a good foster family who encouraged her to go to University where she discovered her creative side, and is seeking an environment to flourish in.  Being taken on my Bo, from her writing perspective is all she could wish for.

Of course for anyone who reads this who is also a writer at heart this book is doubly enthralling.  It is interesting to see the story of the successful and the aspiring.  With the two different view points I particularly liked the way this tied in in the last third of the novel.

This book has great pace, writing and structure.  It is a real page-turner with dare I say it - exquisite - use of imagery regarding the Lake District.  And the ending - just ... chilling...

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell receives a Very Pink Notebook review of :


About the Author

Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart.  She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University.  Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.

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Saturday, 10 June 2017

Review : This Family of Things by Alison Jameson

The Very Pink Notebook is pleased to review
This Family of Things, a beautiful literary work by Alison Jameson. 
With thanks to Rosie Margesson of Transworld Publishers for the ARC copy.

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Published by : Transworld
8 June 2017
Copy : Paperback - Provided by Publisher

The Blurb

On his way back up from the yard Bird had seen something white and round – a girl who had curled herself into a ball. Lifting her was like retrieving a ball of newspaper from out of the grass or an empty crisp bag that someone had flung over the ditch. She seemed to lack the bones and meat and muscle of real people. She felt as if she was filled with feathers.

On the day Midge O’Connor comes hurtling into Bird Keegan’s life, she flings open his small, quiet world. He and his two sisters, Olive and Margaret, have lived in the same isolated community all their lives, each one more alone than the others can know.

Taking in damaged, sharp-edged Midge, Bird invites the scorn of his neighbours and siblings. And as they slowly mend each other, family binds – and the tie of the land – begin to weigh down on their tentative relationship. Can it survive the misunderstandings, contempt and violence of others?

A poignant and powerful study of the emotional lives of three siblings and the girl who breaks through their solitude.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

I must admit the first chapter of this book left me a little flat, I wasn't quite sure where it was going to go, what the hook was, or the intrigue.  But I loved the fluid, poetic style of writing so I continued on with an open mind.  And I am so glad I did.

This is a beautiful book.  It searches deep into the human soul and takes you on an emotional journey with four people who are very ordinary and in search of nothing, but everything at the same time.  Now, being more a reader of psychological thrillers I had to get over the urge to think things might take unexpected turns or twists, because this is not that sort of book.  Instead you just need to read, absorb and enjoy the story about the lives of the characters.  There are no hidden agenda's just the exploration of the way the mind works in one man and three women who have all kept themselves in relative isolation for one reason or another.

Although the main protagonist is Midge Connors, the story involves Bird, Margaret and Olive Keegan, three siblings, in equal measure.  The story looks closely at the relationships the four manufacture between each other and the relationship they have with themselves.  Midge arrives in the Keegan household after Bird discovers her in a heap on his driveway, following being ejected from the car in which she travelled with her violent father.  Once the two meet, although they try to forget about each other, a bond has been forged and they are drawn to each other.  But each has their own demons and life throws many obstacles in the way of a happy existence - the question is whether they are strong enough people to withstand what fate puts in their way.  In the meantime the two sisters, Margaret and Olive are also assessing the option of love in their lives, something they have both held back from for various reasons, instead only choosing to trust in one another.  The question they must ask is : Are they too old to change?

This is a true tale of love, hate, discovery, loss and empowerment.  I enjoyed the journey of each of the characters and it was told in gentle, heartfelt and emotive fashion with beautiful use of language and imagery.  I really liked the structure of the novel it helps to really define quite a long timescale and compartmentalise the stages in the characters lives.

This is a novel that will tug at your heartstrings and make you think.  Sometimes it will leave you scratching your head, wishing the characters to make a different choice, but ultimately it will leave you feeling like you have read a really good book. 

This Family of Things by Alison Jameson receives a Very Pink Notebook Rating of :  



About the Author

Alison Jameson grew up on a farm in the Irish midlands, a secluded and beautiful place that continues to inspire her work.  She is the bestselling author of This Man and Me, which was nominated for the IMPAC Literary Award, and Under My Skin.  Her third novel, Little Beauty, was published by Doubleday Ireland in 2013.  An English and History graduate of University College Dublin, she worked in advertising for many years before becoming an author.  Home in Dublin where she lives with her husband and son.


Thursday, 1 June 2017

Review : Friends and Liars by Kaela Coble

The Very Pink Notebook wishes a fantastic publication day to
Kaela Coble for Friends and Liars.

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Published by Atlantic Books (Corvus)
01 June 2017
Copy : Paperback received from publisher

The Blurb

It has been ten years since Ruby left her hometown behind. Since then she's built a life away from her recovering alcoholic mother and her first love, Murphy. But when Danny, one of her estranged friends from childhood, commits suicide, guilt draws Ruby back into the tumultuous world she escaped all those years ago.

She's dreading the funeral - and with good reason. Danny has left a series of envelopes addressed to his former friends. Inside each envelope is a secret about every person in the group. Ruby's secret is so explosive, she will fight tooth-and-nail to keep it hidden from those she once loved so deeply, even if that means risking everything...
 

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Friends and Liars, the debut novel by Kaela Coble, follows the web of lies and deceit woven by a group of childhood friends, Ruby, Murphy, Ally, Emmet and Danny who promised each other they would always be honest.  But when one of the friends suddenly dies, the past is not going to stay buried.  Forced together for the funeral deceased Danny leaves one final act of love or is it hate?  In five letters - each addressed individually to the members of the group (or The Crew as they liked to call themselves) their biggest secret is revealed - but how does Danny know all of these?  And why is he forcing them to face what they have worked so hard to keep hidden?

These are all questions that are investigated throughout the course of the novel.  The reader is mainly given the viewpoint of Ruby to journey with both in 'now' and 'back then'.  Ruby is the one that got away, the one who left and never looked back.  However, the voices of the only other female of the original group Ally, and Steph the girlfriend of one of the boys is also introduced to give a better all round picture.

And that is how this novel seems to work, it starts as a murky picture with lots of unclear edges, and gradually as each secret is slowly revealed you start to build up a full picture of what life was like for the group as they grew up and eventually went their separate ways into adulthood and thus come forth the secret revelations, the fall outs of those and the eventual acceptance that you never really know everything about anyone.

Coble holds the suspense well but gives you enough snippets to keep you engaged and wanting to know more.  The big secrets are Ruby and Murphy's so these of course are the last to be revealed, but you are given hints and indications as to what they might be (some red herrings, some not) from quite early on.  The writing flows nicely with good dialogue and use of environmental description of the small town in which they group up and to which Ruby has had to return to the funeral, in helping to heighten the constant feeling of entrapment finds herself in now she has returned.

What I also liked about this novel was the use of the characters past to help paint the picture as to why things happened.  Sometimes in novels this is used briefly but by the 'now' and 'back then' alternating chapters you get to see whole scenes played out and you need this to really understand why the group were so needy for 'The Crew' to be just that.  They all needed the extra support of one another, but as a teenager, was it all just too close and intense?

I loved that the opening and final chapter is written from the viewpoint of Danny, looking around at the others from his place beyond the grave and I liked his very distinct style, it fits perfectly with his character as is portrayed throughout.  The tone for the start and then the end, I really enjoyed, a very satisfactory ending.

Friends and Liars is an enjoyable read and I would recommend it heartily.  Therefore it receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :


About the Author

Kaela Coble is a member of the League of Vermont Writers, a voracious reader, and a hopeless addict of bad television and chocolate.  She lives with her husband in Burlington, Vermont, and is a devoted mother to their rescued chuggle, Gus.  Friends and Liars is her first novel.




Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Review : Don't Wake Up by Liz Lawler

Don't Wake Up

Published by Bonnie Zaffre
18 May 2017
Copy : Ebook from Readers First

The Blurb

Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table.

The man who stands over her isn't a doctor.

The offer he makes her is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she's unharmed - and no one believes her horrifying story. Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, she begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind.

And then she meets the next victim.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

This novel has one of the most eerie opening chapters I think I have read.  It takes, what I would assume to be most peoples fear, and lays it bare on a page.  Alex Taylor, hospital doctor, wakes up and finds herself on an operating table - as if that is scary enough on it's own, she finds this isn't an accident, she is there for a reason, someone is very upset with her and wants to make her pay.

Of course, Alex - for reasons unknown to her - is set free from this horror and finds herself being discovered by a search party.  Lucky her.  What is not so lucky is no one believes her story about her abduction and as her world gradually unravels she even starts to question her own sanity.

This is certainly a punchy opener and it would be impossible for the novel to continue in such a explosive way, but it certainly continues at a pace and with the same eerie darkness.  Having said that it is not grotesque or gruesome, it more just plays on common fears and it makes you live out what would be a pretty nasty dream.

Alex quickly realises that although she was freed from her ordeal it is far from over and her abductor has not finished with their work.  What continues is a women, with no support on her theory of what happened, finding herself getting deeper and deeper in a situation she can not control.  A game of cat or mouse where she is most definitely being used as the play thing.

When the big reveal comes I was quite surprised, the author does well to cast reasonable doubt over most of the characters and I was constantly wondering if it was maybe him or her, or if indeed Alex did imagine it all.  If I was being brutally honest, maybe the truth when it came to light was a little on the far fetched side of the radar, but to be honest, I enjoyed the journey of getting to the truth that didn't bother me and I thought the author went to great lengths to try and give the reason for what happens. 

Coble uses common fears to really pump up the heartrate in this novel, which is clever.  I certainly found the use of locations really did put me on edge, the use of hospitals and their maze like nature really helped with the atmosphere of the novel, mirroring the maze of puzzles that work through Alex's mind and therefore the readers. 

If you enjoy a gritty thriller then you will enjoy Liz Lawler's Don't Wake Up and it receives a Very Pink Notebook rating of :






Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Tour and Review : Troll by D.B. Thorne

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the Troll by D. B. Thorne
blog tour.  With thanks to Kate at Atlantic Books (Corvus) for involving me in the tour and for an advance copy of the book.

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Published by : Corvus Books
01 June 2017
Copy : Paperback provided by the publisher

The Blurb

Years ago, Fortune gave up on his daughter, Sophie, after a troubled adolescence.  Now she's gone missing, vanished without trace. And after weeks of investigation, the police have given up on her, too.

Driven by guilt, and a determination to atone for his failures as a father, he takes on the search himself. He soon finds that his daughter had been living in fear of a vicious online troll who seemed to know far too much about her. Could Sophie's disappearance be linked to this unknown predator? Fortune is about to discovers that monsters which live online don't always stay there...  

The Very Pink Notebook Review


If you want a psychological thriller of epic proportions then Troll by D. B. Thorne is a must read.

This novel starts unsettling and bit by bit gets darker and more twisted, but in a very real and also moving way.

Told in a two-fold narrative, the story is pinned together by Fortune, a 54 year old successful businessman, but failed father and husband and Sophie, Fortune's daughter who is missing, presumed dead.

It is difficult to try and review this book because I do not want to give anything away, so all I will say is the author has done an amazing job of deconstructing and reconstructing a very intricate and complicated plot in a way that will make it impossible to put down (Case in point - I read this in one day!)  It is so clever and well thought out, I would love to know, from a writers perspective, how the author went about planning and plotting for this one because I am not sure I would have known where to start.

I also said that although dark, this is a moving book.  And it really is.  It looks at the dynamics of dysfunctional families, the relationships between husband and wife, parents and children, in a deep way. 

The novel tackles several difficult themes - again I won't mention specifics because I do not want to hint or reveal anything, but just to say they are handled well, so you can feel the power of them but you are not left with a stomach turned.  Again, this is done through excellent writing by D. B. Thorne.

With it's clear and clever structure, flawless writing, strong characters and excellent use of locations this is definitely one of the best psychological thrillers I have read this year and I will certainly be making a point of picking up the other books by this author.

Troll by D. B. Thorne receives nothing less than a Very Pink Notebook rating of :


About the Author

D. B. Thorne has worked as a writer for the last 15 years, originally in advertising, then in television and radio comedy.  He has written material for many comedians, including Jimmy Carr, Alan Carr, David Mitchell and Bob Mortimer.  He was a major contributor to the BAFTA-winning Armstrong and Miller Show, and has worked on shows including Facejacker, Harry and Paul and Alan Carr : Chatty Man.  Troll is his fourth novel.

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Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Tour and Review : Two Lost Boys by L. F. Robertson

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the Two Lost Boys by L. F. Robertson
blog tour.  With thanks to Philippa at Titan Books for involving me in the tour and for an advance copy of the book.

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Published by : Titan Books
16 May 2017
Copy : Paperback provided by Publisher

The Blurb

She knows he's guilty, but guilty of what?

Janet Moodie has spent years as a death row appeals attorney. Overworked and recently widowed, she's had her fill of hopeless cases, and is determined that this will be her last. Her client is Marion 'Andy' Hardy, convicted along with his brother Emory of the rape and murder of two women. But Emory received a life sentence while Andy got the death penalty, labeled the ringleader despite his low IQ and Emory's dominant personality.

Convinced that Andy's previous lawyers missed mitigating evidence that would have kept him off death row, Janet investigates Andy's past. She discovers a sordid and damaged upbringing, a series of errors on the part of his previous counsel, and most worrying of all, the possibility that there is far more to the murders than was first thought. Andy may be guilty, but does he deserve to die?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

Two lost boys is a well written legal drama.  Being a big Grisham fan I was really happy to be asked to review this title and it did give me the nostalgia of reading a JG novel.  It is what it says, it is a legal drama, and we are taken through it via female protagonist Janet Moodie. 

Moodie is living a lonely life following the death of her husband and flying of the nest by only son Gavin.  She has retreated to a quieter world, away from the city and death row and stares that make her feeling guilty about her husbands suicide.  What the reader is left with is a very simple women who is just trying to recover from a massive trauma. 

I think it is her own life upsets which compels are to tackle the case of Marion 'Andy' Hardy.  She is convinced that although guilty for sure of some part in his crime the truth has not actually come out.  She is convinced his past is the key to his way out of a death penalty.  And that is what the book investigates.  The reader is merely on the journey with Moodie and fellow investigator Dave as they try and delve into the family history and events that could have made Andy the person he is today. 

This is not a story that is going to set your world alight with twists and turns.  But, if you enjoy reading about the structure and routine that goes into the legal world in something such as a death penalty appeal, then you will enjoy this book.  It's writing flows easily and clearly, it keeps a steady pace and you really do get a good feel for the characters.  It really is quite a sad and morose story.

On occasion I did find some of the chapters a little repetitive and wasn't quite sure how they had moved the plot forward, but on the whole I did thoroughly enjoy the tale told my L. F. Robertson in this book.  The ending I at first found a little flat, but as the day wore on I realised it was a very realistic ending and, actually, I quite liked that.

Two Lost Boys by L. F. Robertson receives a solid :


About the Author

L. F. Robertson is a practising defence attorney who for the last two decades has handled only death penalty appeals.  Linda is the co-author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Unsolved Mysteries, and a contributor to the forensic handbooks How to Try a Murder and Irrefutable Evidence.  She has had short stories published in the anthologies My Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes : the Hidden Years and Sherlock Holmes : The American Years. 

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Thursday, 18 May 2017

Tour & Giveaway - Reconciliation for the Dead by Paul E. Hardisty

Book Giveaway

To celebrate the upcoming publication of
Reconciliation for the Dead (Claymore Straker Series 3) by Paul E. Hardisty (Orenda Books) 
The Very Pink Notebook is hosting a giveaway!

To get your hands on a copy of this gritty thriller click on this link and retweet the pinned tweet - Simple!  A winner will be selected at random on publication day (30 May 2017) and notified via twitter.

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Published by : Orenda Books
30 May 2017
Copy for Competition : Provided by Publisher

The Blurb

Fresh from events in Yemen and Cyprus, vigilante justice-seeker Claymore Straker returns to South Africa, seeking absolution for the sins of his past. Over four days, he testifies to Desmond Tutu’s newly established Truth and Reconciliation Commission, recounting the shattering events that led to his dishonourable discharge and exile, fifteen years earlier. It was 1980. The height of the Cold War. Clay is a young paratrooper in the South African Army, fighting in Angola against the Communist insurgency that threatens to topple the White Apartheid regime. On a patrol deep inside Angola, Clay, and his best friend, Eben Barstow, find themselves enmeshed in a tangled conspiracy that threatens everything they have been taught to believe about war, and the sacrifices that they, and their brothers in arms, are expected to make. Witness and unwitting accomplice to an act of shocking brutality, Clay changes allegiance and finds himself labelled a deserter and accused of high treason, setting him on a journey into the dark, twisted heart of institutionalised hatred, from which no one will emerge unscathed. Exploring true events from one of the most hateful chapters in South African history, Reconciliation for the Dead is a shocking, explosive and gripping thriller from one finest writers in contemporary crime fiction.


Praise for Paul E. Hardisty

‘A solid, meaty thriller – Hardisty is a fine writer and Straker is a great lead character’ Lee Child

‘A trenchant and engaging thriller that unravels this mysterious land in cool, precise sentences’ Stav Sherez, Catholic Herald

‘Just occasionally, a book comes along to restore your faith in a genre – and Paul Hardisty does this in spades’ Sharon Wheeler, Crime Review

This is a remarkably well-written, sophisticated novel in which the people and places, as well as frequent scenes of violent action, all come alive on the page...’ Literary Review

‘Hardisty doesn’t put a foot wrong in this forceful, evocative thriller … the author’s deep knowledge of the settings never slows down the non-stop action, with distant echoes of a more-moral minded Jack Reacher or Jason Bourne’ Maxim Jakubowski


About the Author

Canadian Paul E Hardisty has spent 25 years working all over the world as an engineer, hydrologist and environmental scientist.  He has roughnecked on oil rigs in Texas, explored for gold in the Arctic, mapped geology in Eastern Turkey (where he was befriended by PKK rebels), and rehabilitated water wells in the wilds of Africa.  He was Ethiopia in 1991 as the Mengistu regime fell, and was bumped from one of the last flights out of Addis Ababa by bureaucrats and their families fleeing the rebels.  In 1993 he survived a bomb blast in a café in Sana's.  Paul is a university professor, visiting professor at Imperial College, London, and Director of Australia's national land, water, ecosystems and climate adaption research programmes.  His debut thriller was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger and Telegraph thriller of the year.  He lives in Western Australia.