Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Girl in His Eyes – Jennie Ensor #BlogBlitz

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

Well here is an author who isn’t the slightest bit afraid of delving into a subject that is a difficult one to say the least!

Laura has lost her way, in part because of the things her father did when she was young, the things that she has never told anyone about and certainly not her mother. Laura is therefore stuck in an uneasy relationship with both parents, not close but as their only child far from estranged. But each time she goes back, she is drawn back to the past.

On one visit her mother informs her that her father is taking a friend’s young daughter swimming, to give her confidence and to keep her out of trouble. Laura senses danger for the child but can’t quite bring herself to believe that her father would hurt another child, after all he did what he did to her, because he loved her so much. Well that’s what he said at the time, and young minds are impressionable, and once the thought is there it is very hard to dislodge.

Jennie Ensor has made this story even more dramatic by not overplaying her hand. As a reader I felt and could relate to the emotions of all the women far better because whatever had happened they were doing the best they could under challenging circumstances. It accurately illustrates that young girls do not, and can’t understand in the way that an adult does. You also have moral dilemmas because even if Laura is willing to reveal all and let her father take the consequences, where does that leave her mother?
The book gives a voice to all of the key characters adding yet another layer of realism to the story. We hear from Laura’s father too, the character who it would have been all too easy to turn into a caricature, but yet again Jennie Ensor while never provoking sympathy for the man has added some subtlety here too.

A disquieting read which is pleasingly resists the sensationalist statements. I’d go so far to say that it is a rare author who can turn this subject matter into a read that both puts texture to lurid headlines and yet has a positive ending. It is so rare to read a book on this subject that isn’t about how lives have been ruined and nothing but misery for the victims ahead and so while the subject matter is a tough one I think that this is a book which is as much about the characters as the ‘issue’ at its heart. Since the author has written from experience it has a level of realism that so many other’s books written miss.

In short I was left with the feeling that this devastatingly difficult subject has been handled with care. The characters have been created to produce a truly thought-provoking novel.

I’d like to thank Bloodhound Books and the author Jennie Ensor for inviting me to be part of the Blog Blitz celebrating the publication of The Girl in His Eyes; A book with a moral dilemma at its heart, and yet one that so many young girls and women face, and what better way to explore it than in the hands of Jennie Ensor who has already proved herself to be a fearless author with her debut novel Blind Side.

First Published UK: 18 September 2018
Publisher: Bloodhound Books
No of Pages: 353
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Jennie Ensor lives in London and has Irish roots. During a long trip overseas she obtained a Masters in Journalism and began her writing career as a journalist, covering topics from forced marriages to accidents in the mining industry. Her debut novel BLIND SIDE was published by Unbound in 2016. In January 2018 her short story ‘The Gift’ was placed in the Top 40 of the Words and Women national prose competition. Her poetry has appeared in many UK and overseas publications, most recently Ink Sweat and Tears.

You can follow the author on:

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Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Before I Let You Go – Kelly Rimmer

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

Now I do sometimes struggle with what’s known as ‘women’s fiction’ and more so when a book has a message, this falls into both categories but despite some reservations, there was lots to enjoy and think about.

Lexie and Annie are sisters, and in the middle of the night, after two years with no contact Annie rings Lexie asking for help. Annie is an addict and she’s pregnant. Annie is also very ill and needs to go to hospital but if she does she could be charged with child endangerment because of the drugs she’s taken.

Here lies the message with the author urging the reader to see that this isn’t the right approach for the law to take over addiction, which we are reminded frequently, is an illness and therefore if helped the women can turn their lives around and care for their children.  Personally I think this is a far from black and white issue but I will say no more on the subject, if you want to ponder on this further, this is the book to make you do so.

That off my chest the book takes us back to the girl’s childhood which includes loss and moving to a cult. This part is told through Annie’s eyes in a journal she writes to her therapist and it’s not only incredibly moving, expertly creating a whole world of confusion for the young girl which felt realistic. Through Annie’s journal which we read excerpts from throughout the novel we learn more about her descent into drugs, this too with no personal experience of the matter also felt highly authentic. Kelly Rimmer knows how to tell a story convincingly and I defy anyone not to have their heartstrings pulled by Before I Let You Go.

Lexi is a doctor, the older sister who had the same upbringing but her approach as a child was different and of course even siblings do not necessarily have the same reactions to each other. Lexi had always cared for Annie and the bond between the two is again created in full technicolour.

Before I Let You Go is an emotional read and I have to admit even though I despised the choices she made, in many ways I felt far more of a connection with Annie than Lexie. Lexie was just a little too perfect for me and I could see how being her younger sister would cause some ‘issues’ To make matters more complicated Lexie is planning to marry Sam, another doctor and someone else that had good person running thorough his core like a stick of rock. Lexie’s need to be independent causes issues between the couple, and if I were Sam I would probably have stated my case far earlier and more strongly than he did.

So a book about relationships in the main those between siblings and their parents viewed through the interesting angle of life in a cult. As much as I struggled with the message at times, I would have ripped your arm off if you’d tried to remove this book from my hands before I’d finished it. In the world of books it can be good to read a book that arouses strong emotions, even when they aren’t positive ones, and believe me, I was irritated by all the characters more than once!

I am very grateful to the publisher Headline Review who allowed me to read a copy of Before I Let You Go ahead of publication. This unbiased review is my thank you to them.

First Published UK: 27 February 2018
Publisher: Headline Review
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Beauty of the End – Debbie Howells

Psychological Thriller 3*s
Psychological Thriller
3*s

After her debut novel The Bones of You this author has chosen to provide us with another original idea as a premise for her second novel The Beauty of the End.

“I was fourteen when I fell in love with a goddess. Goddesses have that effect, even on teenagers such as I was. Being plump or uncool has no bearing on the ability to fall in love—and my fate was sealed.”

Noah Calaway is still haunted by the love of his life, his first love, April Moon. As he is cocooned from the world in the present day in his remote English cottage, writing a novel, he receives a phone call from an old friend Will. Will tells Noah that April is in hospital suffering from the overdose, but worse, she is accused of the murder of a man and will be arrested if she surfaces from her coma. Since Noah was a lawyer, and because he still loves April he races to the hospital where she is recovering and seeks to find out as much as possible about her life since he last saw her. He is convinced that April would never have resorted to violence, there must be another explanation.

This is a fairly slow-moving tale told in multiple time-lines between 1989 when Noah was fourteen and the present day. Told mainly from Noah’s viewpoint, he charts the ups and downs of their relationship until they parted when she left him shortly before their wedding. In amongst Noah’s narrative we have excerpts from a teenage girl having therapy; how Ella is related to the story is a mystery though.

This isn’t a book that rattles along, with the information drip-fed and the characters almost without exception either unlikable or plain weird, it did take a while to take shape but fortunately the rewards of sticking with both the pace and the characters is rewarded as the seeds sown early on in the book bear fruition.

The writing has a lyrical edge to it giving an almost dream-sequence feeling to some parts of the book which competed with the mystery angle of the murder, why April left Noah and who on earth is Ella? Lyrical it may be but the writing doesn’t flinch from packing an emotional punch every now and again with some painful truths being revealed.

“We were butterflies. Some of you fly, the rest of us get our wings ripped off. My wings had gone before I knew you. And I’m not sure wingless butterflies have anywhere to go.”

Although I was keen to understand what had happened, both in the years Noah and April had been apart as well as the investigation that Noah undertook, I’m not sure that I was fully engaged in the story itself partly because the latter parts of the story were a little bit too far-fetched which knocked my belief in the entire novel. This is definitely at the more literary end of the thriller selection of books and incredibly sad. In conclusion, if you are in the mood for a slow-burner with many layers, you can do far worse than to read this book.

I’d like to thank the publishers Kensington Books for allowing me to read a copy of this book which has led to this unbiased review.

 

Published UK: 14 July 2016
Publisher: Kensington Books
No of Pages 352
Genre: Literary Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US