Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Good Me Bad Me – Ali Land

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller
4*s

Well this is definitely a book with a different premise to anything I’ve read before. Annie’s mother is a serial killer and after the last killing she decides to go to the police and tell all. To protect her Annie is given a new name, Millie Barnes and sent to live with foster parents Mike and Saskia and their own teenaged daughter Phoebe.
This is a book that drags you into the action straight away with much of Milie’s narrative addressed to her mother, the reader is given an insight into what may have happened before she arrived at her foster home, but for the most part nothing specific is actually expressed.

As well as being a foster father of many years, Mike is also a psychologist who works with Millie as she prepares for her mother’s trial as a key witness. Odd as it may seem the foster family have their own problems which are revealed to us through Millie’s eyes.

Millie has clearly been damaged by her upbringing, she has problems forming bonds, struggles to react appropriately and is essentially living a lie. Maybe a necessary one but beyond Mike and Saskia and her new headmistress, no-one knows the truth about why she is being fostered and her absences for preparation are papered over with more acceptable excuses. As I was reading this book, the idea that a young fifteen year old who has taken the huge step of revealing the horror that occurred behind closed doors is then left with limited people who understand something of what she’s going through, and what she’s preparing for. And then there is the fact that this is her mother, that bond is still there, not completely severed.

This was a masterful piece of writing and although Millie’s narrative felt a little disjointed at times as it reflected her disordered thoughts for me, that just added to the sense of horror which fortunately is solely down to the writing rather than graphic images of what happened which are mostly referred to but not expressly discussed. Ali Land does a fantastic job of adding the tension by interspersing memories with an every day life which is quite frankly anything but normal.

With the main protagonist being the daughter of a serial killer the theme is that of nature over nurture rears its head in the most twisted way – what happens if a child has both sides of the coin loaded against her – can Millie by having reported her mother escape the pattern that her early life has set in place – after all we can all imagine what her future holds if she isn’t able to pull free.

The characters are a mixed bunch although the cast is relatively small, which suited the style of book and of course Millie’s background. With Millie obviously and understandably disturbed, Saskia seemed off-the wall and Phoebe a nasty cow. Mike was kind but he appeared to be Millie’s entire support system and there were some indications that he wasn’t looking after her for entirely altruistic reasons. Plus how can a man working in mental health not see that his wife is in bad need of help?

I can’t say I enjoyed this book, because that is entirely the wrong word. I was unsettled by what I was reading, I was unnerved by many of the characters and I read the entire book with a never-ending feeling of dread – was it a good read? Yes, not only was it an inspired premise, this book also captured the way teenagers behave, understandably given her background working as a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Nurse she has created a true to life replicas in her younger characters. So in conclusion this book is set firmly on the pile of books I’m glad I’ve read, and in all honesty I don’t think I’ll be able to forget Millie’s sad tale for some time to come.

I’d like to thank the publishers Michael Joseph for my copy of Good Me, Bad Me which will be published next week. This review is my unbiased thanks to them.

First Published UK: 12 January 2017
Publisher: Michael Joseph
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Uncategorized, Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (January 3)

Friday Finds Hosted by Should be Reading

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

So, come on — share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!

On Monday I went to the cinema. Now I’m sure many of you do this quite regularly but it is a rare occasion for me, mainly because I’m not a big film lover and so I’m not good at sitting still for over 2 hours to watch one! However back in November I saw an advert for Saving Mr Banks and knew that this was one film I wanted to see! My companion of choice agreed to join me despite not knowing that Mary Poppins was a book!! I quickly filled him in that it wasn’t just one book but a whole series and the film was about the author P.L. Travers. Sadly, I live on an island with one cinema and when I checked the schedules it wasn’t showing here. Christmas preparations took over and whilst not forgotten the film was put to the back of my mind and then on Monday said companion got an email saying it was showing for that night only, oh the excitement!! So off we set in the wind and the rain, bought our drinks and popcorn and I sat down to a great film (and yes it made me cry!)

Saving Mr Banks

Now this is a tale of how my book collection is so large because I then wanted to re-read the original book (really I want to re-read the whole series but I do have some self-control) but decided that I wanted one with the illustrations in as I remember it from childhood. These were not books that I ever owned but I remember borrowing them from multiple libraries over the years. As the kindle version doesn’t have the illustrations Mary Poppins by P.L. Travers is winging its way to my bookshelf.

Mary Poppins

It doesn’t stop there because I now want to know more about the author so also ended up buying Mary Poppins, She Wrote: The Life of P.L. Travers by Valerie Lawson

Mary Poppins She Wrote

In addition to this new passion for all things Mary Poppins I came across a review for The Shuttle which was written by one of my favourite authors from childhood, Frances Hodgson Burnett, who wrote The Secret Garden and A Little Princess which I re-read countless times. As this was free on Amazon I just had to have it!

Layout 1 (Page 11)

Blurb

The Shuttle was first published exactly a hundred years ago and was begun in 1900 but frequently abandoned while its author, Frances Hodgson Burnett, wrote several other books (including, most famously, The Making of a Marchioness). It is about American heiresses marrying English aristocrats; by extension it is about the effect of
American energy, dynamism and affluence on an effete and impoverished English ruling class. Amazon

From Amazon Vine I have a copy of Mother, Mother by Koren Zailckas which is due to be published on 16 January 2014
by HarperCollins
Adobe Photoshop PDF

Blurb

Meet Violet Hurst -16 years old, beautiful and brilliant. So why is she being accused of being a danger to herself and others?
Meet her brother Will Hurst – the smartest and sweetest twelve-year old boy around. But does he really need all that medication he is being told to take?
Meet oldest sister Rose – the one who got away. She disappeared one night in her final year of school, never to be heard from again.
And then meet their mother – Josephine. Perhaps it will then all start to make sense.
An electrifying debut novel about a mother’s love gone too far Amazon

And my favourite publishing house, Random House UK, have given me a copy of The Last Winter of Dani Lancing by P. D. Viner which was published in September 2013.

The Last Winter of Dani Lancing

Blurb

Something very bad happened to Dani Lancing.
Twenty years later, her father is still trying to get her to talk.
Her best-friend has become a detective, the last hope of all the lost girls.
And her mother is about to become a killer… Netgalley

Doesn’t that sound like an amazing read? I am looking forward to getting stuck into my latest haul as well as deciding which of all the best books of 2013 lists I really want. Did I mention that my resolution for 2014 is to get a new bookshelf? (it is the only option!)

What books have you found that have made their way to your TBR’s?

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

Family Likeness – Caitlin Davies

Contemporary Fiction 5*'s
Contemporary Fiction
5*’s

This is a book which has all the ingredients mixed together to tell a great story. In the 1950’s Muriel is taken to a home by her mother. Muriel is of mixed race and just four years old. Through Muriel’s narration we follow her through her time in the home through to adulthood and the birth of her daughter Rosie. Rosie also narrates part of the book. She is angry on behalf of her mother, she wants her mother to have been wanted, not to have been brought up in ‘care’ and when Rosie wants something she goes and gets it.

Rosie has been a teacher at a cross-road in life. She gets herself employed as a nanny to a busy businessman who is travelling abroad leaving Rosie in charge of Ella and Bobby. Here we see another side to Rosie, the side that cares about the poor young girl who has no mother, the girl who doesn’t get on with her teacher and the girl who is angry and resentful that her family is no longer complete. Rosie takes the children to Kenwood where both Ella and Rosie share an interest in Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of a Navy Captain and a West Indian woman. Here is another mixed race child whose life was dictated by her colour. Rosie wants her mother to read her files, to know where she came from but doesn’t appreciate that Muriel doesn’t share that same need.

This is an interesting look at families of all shapes and sizes and although this is underpinned by the issue of colour there is far more to this story, this story applies to all families. If you like well written books, with characters who matter after you have turned the last page, try this, a definite five star read.

Family Likeness
The Ghost of Lily Painter

Historical Fiction 5*'s
Historical Fiction
5*’s
Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Bad Mother – Isabelle Grey

Women's Fiction 3*'s
Women’s Fiction
3*’s

Bad mother or bad decision?

I’d been looking forward to reading the Bad Mother as I’d found Isabelle Grey’s debut novel, Out of Sight really enjoyable, but unfortunately, although interesting in places, this book didn’t quite deliver.

Tessa owns and runs a B&B which she inherited from her maternal Grandmother Averil along with a dolls house that has always been kept for show. Tessa is already going through a hard time following the gradual separation from her husband Sam whilst coping with two teenage children, Mitch and Lauren, when a family secret is revealed that causes Tessa to question who she is.

The story is intriguing and it raises a number of good points about how we define who we are but far too many of these simply do not come to a satisfactory conclusion. I also had problems with the characterisation in this book; Mitch the seventeen year old son simply did not strike me as a credible character, him describing what he was doing and why meant that I always felt one step removed from his thoughts along with being convinced that’s not how boys of that age think! The main theme of this book is mothering; with distracted, addicted and absent mothers featuring the key to the whole story is Averil’s mothering. As a reader, and a mother, I was left pondering can one decision make you a bad mother?

I left the book wondering what comes next as there were a number of loose ends, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as that is what life is like sometimes.

Read my review of Out of Sight from Goodreads below:

Out of SightOut of Sight by Isabelle Grey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Isabelle Grey’s first book drew me in from the first page, and even better, continued to do so until the last page. The story starts in 2005 with Patrick’s parents visiting him, his wife and son. Patrick’s mother is an anxious woman and the description of her behaviour hits the mark exactly, the tensions that spread to those in her orbit were so accurately described it was painful to read.

In 2011 a woman in France meets Patrice and falls completely in love with him. Again the emotions of all involved are completely believable so that I really felt I got to know the characters. The pace of this book is perfect.

Fantastic writing with the right amount of intrigue I’m looking forward to Isabelle Grey’s next novel The Bad Mother.

View all my reviews

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Safest Place – Suzanne Bugler

Contemporary Fiction 4*'s
Contemporary Fiction
4*’s

Suzanne Bugler’s books all concentrate on family relationships, her descriptions so good that each time I read one of her books it feels like I am peeking through the windows on someone else’s life.

In the safest Place starts with Jane persuading her husband to live their dream, this couple’s dream is to live in the country. Once Jane decides that she wants to move and once broached she quickly escalates her wishes to a full blown campaign to make the move happen. The couples two children, a quiet son Sam and a younger daughter Ella are promised an idyllic life but the dream soon becomes a little troubled as reality encroaches.

I don’t read Suzanne Bugler’s books for an action packed read, her books are far more about observing people and their relationships, however I was surprised that it took quite so long for the event to happen that is to change everything for all of them. The relationships are well observed, mother to teenage son, the envy Jane hopes to inspire to her London friends to that she feels towards her new friend in the country .the sadness of a marriage under strain and the way Jane feels like a teenage daughter when conversing with her own parents are all perfectly drawn.

Suzanne Bugler is an expert on mothers of all types as illustrated in her previous two books This Perfect World and The Child Inside

The Child InsideThe Child Inside by Suzanne Bugler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another great book from Suzanne Bugler. Unlike Laura in This Perfect World Rachel, the protagonist of The Child Inside, isn’t one of the yummy mummy’s. Rachel has spent her life on the periphery of everyone else’s life wanting to be part of the group but instead had the role of the observer in life.

Giving birth to a still-born daughter ten years previously caused Rachel to draw her husband Andrew and son Jono close to her. Poor Jono has been Rachel and Andrew’s shield against the world and the centre of theirs. Suzanne Bugler’s descriptions of the cloying and suffocating result are so realistic it is almost painful and as a reader we observe Jono struggling with growing up and fighting against his parents. Rachel is then drawn back to the past and the death of a friend of a friend who died aged sixteen, following her mother and trying to involve herself in her life. As Rachel’s interest in the past increases her marriage disintegrates further. Rachel can’t let go of the past but thinks she has found a way to live her life….

As in This Perfect World the author’s words bring the scene’s to life. Her observations on how cruel, selfish and unkind the human race can be are captured perfectly creating dark and compelling stories. I can’t wait for the next one!

View all my reviews

or for Suzanne Bugler’s debut A Perfect World

This Perfect WorldThis Perfect World by Suzanne Bugler

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a thought-provoking read!

This book is well written and very engaging.

Despite not liking the protaganist Laura at the start of the book it was a compelling read. The stories of life in the playground were uncomfortably realistic as were those of the “school mums.” I am sure we all know or have known people like these.

The book is really about the consequences of our actions, Laura has to atone for her actions as a child and in the process quesitons her current life.

This is not an easy book to read but I was engrossed and wanted to find out why Laura’s parents were so keen for the girls to be friends.

Looking forward to the next book by Suzanne Bugler

View all my reviews

If you enjoy Suzanne Bugler’s books you may also enjoy books by Heather Gudenkauf

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Lies You Told Me – Jessica Ruston

Women's Fiction 5*'s
Women’s Fiction
5*’s

Jessica Ruston’s latest book grabbed me the moment I turned the first page with the postman delivering a package to Klara. Klara doesn’t immediately open the package but once she does she finds a key and a mysterious letter telling her that the sender had kept it safe for her mother for the last 24 years. The letter was simply signed N.R.

Klara has not seen her mother since she was a very young child, one day she left and a few years later her father broke the news that she had died while in America. Full of grief he hadn’t wanted to discuss her mother with her, is Klara about to discover the truth?

This is quality woman’s fiction, theories about memories; what makes them, what triggers them and questions about how reliable they are. The feelings of being the odd one out, with different examples walking through the pages of this novel and the deep seated need held by all of us to know who we are and where we come from.

The writing and the pace of the revelations meant that this book made an impression outside the story held within it. The characters were so real I felt I knew some of them, probably because I have met versions of them, and the story though emotional wasn’t without its moments of wry humour, some of the older generation are really horrendous , nuggets of truth aplenty this is certainly a book I will recommend to my friends.