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Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan

 (I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

What's in a name?       My rating:  4 out of 5 

One day Ellie agrees to swap names (and clothes etc.) with her 6 year old twin Helen.  This book is about what happens when Ellie refused to swap back.

The story alternates chapters between Helen's story from that day forward, and Helen's life many years later.  It is a gritty, realistic read depicting descent into mental illness, and the struggle to survive in desperate circumstances. 

This is a harrowing and disturbing read, with little in the way of uplifting content.  It explores the question of how much other people's expectations of us shape what we do and how we act, and in doing so takes the reader into some pretty dark areas of life. 

Though too "dark" for me, this is an excellent, and well written, psychological thriller.  The ending wraps everything up well and though the book as a whole  left me fairly dejected, it has introduced me to areas of society that I know little about.    I shall certainly look out for Ann Morgan's next book, but check if the content  is a little more positive before I read it. 

Friday, 23 October 2015

Ask Him Why by Catherine Ryan Hyde

(I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

 How do you judge others?                         My rating:  5 out of 5

10 years ago, in 2003, Ruth and Aubrey's life was turned upside down by the return of their brother from fighting in Iraq with the US military, after only 3.5 months.  He was not injured.  He had refused to obey orders.  The family unit already had lots of "boundaries, with not a lot of permission to cross", and here was yet another reason for more silence.

The story is narrated by Ruth and Aubrey looking back at what happened in 2013 when they were  15 and 13 years old, and the devastating outcome of that event on the whole family.  Themes explored include how people feel they have the right to make derogatory judgements on events they have no personal knowledge of and how secrets, guilt and regrets are poisonous things that grow within a person.

The book then moves onto 2013.  Much has changed over the years for Ruth and Aubrey - but how much of the change is just  skin deep, and how are the events of the past still influencing their lives?

I loved this book.   I was immediately drawn to the characters, and their narration of events, as they saw them,  is enthralling.   The book is so well written; it draws you to compare what is happening to Ruth and Aubrey in connection to current events, and made me wonder (again) why people write such terrible things on the internet under the cloak of anonymity.  The small section on being  in the US army in Iraq is also very thought provoking.

With no sex or violence this book will appeal to a wide age group.

Written by the same author of Pay It Forward - if you loved that, I think you will love this. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Fatal Complications by John Benedict

 (I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

Can you trust your surgeon?               My rating: 4 out of 5

Luke is surprised by a few things when he attends a hospital operating room emergency.  Can he be  mistaken in his suspicions that the patient is not suffering from the complications suggested?  Anyway,  with his wife close to giving birth to their first child he has other things to think about.   

This spine tingling, and at times chilling, medical thriller provides a heart racing read.  No difficult medical terminology, and the operating scenes are not too gory.  However there are a few unpleasant violent scenes - which are appropriate to the story. 

I found it difficult to remember who some of the characters were - and there are only a few main characters! - but this did not stop my enjoyment of this unputdownable thriller. 
Highly recommended for a fast moving, exciting read. 

Saturday, 17 October 2015

The Family Divided by Anne Allen

(Book received from, and review written for,

Romance and Relationship Rifts                       My rating:  3 out of 5

Charlotte suffering from writer's block, and her recent divorce, returns to La Folie retreat for some inner healing, and finds herself helping others with their troubles.

Whilst at La Folie Charlotte meets Andy, who she describes as "rather delicious", and offers to help him research a family rift that started back in the time of the German occupation.  Is romance on the cards or will this be purely a business relationship?  Meanwhile she helps her friend Louisa who has relationship problems, and tries to solve her own problems with her mother.   

Based in Guernsey this is the 4th book in the series (and the first that I have read).  Although the first few chapters refer to things that (presumably) happened in earlier books, this is cleverly done so that new readers catch up and those following the series don't get bored.   The book gently moves through the plot, with a few cliff hanger chapter endings.  The ending is cleverly done bringing together all the threads of the story.   No violence or bad language and very mild sex scenes, with an easy to read style.

For the tourist, the book is full of references to restaurants, so do keep a note of them as they include wonderful details of the names, locations and reasons for visiting ie: seafood restaurant, stunning views etc.  In addition there are a few walks around the coast referred to, and various other things to do and see in St Peter Port and other locations on the island.   In addition there is a brief visit to the nearby island of Herm described.  

Whilst I am certain that this will be a popular book for the author's fans, for me it was lacking in action with too much chatty dialogue and inconsequential detail included.    Sadly there was little depth of information about the Occupation.  On a positive note, the chapters are short and the print and paper used in my paperback version are lovely - really enhancing the reading experience.  For me the writing style is similar to that of Nora Roberts - so if you love her, this series may be a great read for you.     

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

How to be Brave by Louise Beech

(Book received from, and review written for,

 Uplifting and Compelling              My rating:  5 out of 5

Rose, aged 9, collapses and Diabetes 1 is diagnosed.  Rose's great-grandfather is adrift on the Atlantic ocean.  This is an uplifting book about how what is important in life and survival through exceptionally hard times. 

This brilliant book commences with the diagnosis of Rose, and her mother's struggle to cope with the medical regime alone.  She needs help, as does Rose, and they find it in the amazing story of Rose's great grandfather (Colin) stranded in a lifeboat, in the South Atlantic back in 1943.  All 3 main characters are struggling to survive, and their stories have many parallels.   These 3 characters, and the others (though there are not many in the story), are wonderfully portrayed drawing the reader into their lives, thoughts and hopes, and the realisation that it is ok to ask for help. 

The boat that Colin Armitage jumped from was the SS Lulworth Hill, and there is plenty on the internet about his part of this story, but do read the book before you look it up so as not to ruin the story.  Much of the book is true (the author's daughter was diagnosed with Diabetes, and Colin is the author's grandfather), and some of it is fiction.  "In the end all you can do is believe the parts that sound right to you" as Rose says in the book. 

The descriptions of coming to terms with a Diabetes 1 are very moving, and the narration about the tests and injections stirring.   Meanwhile the struggle for survival in the lifeboat is shocking, compelling and emotional.  Yet through these two terrible struggles the author portrays positivity and warmth. 

For the tourist this is a book that will take away any stresses of travel;  it is so engrossing you will find any journey whizzes by as you avidly turn the pages.  A fantastic holiday read, and equally good for snuggling down in the safety of your sofa whilst you escape to the turbulent Atlantic seas,

I loved this book!  The mix of fact, fiction and memoir were perfect, and the stories of lives intertwined were gripping from the first page to the last.  There were few characters, so easy to follow, and those characters were very skilfully portrayed.  Despite the subject matter it was an uplifting book overall, though the hardship both on the lifeboat, and in getting accustomed to diabetes are clearly portrayed.  Hope shines through. 

With no sex or violence, though there are moments of anger, this book is suitable for all the family.  

Monday, 12 October 2015

The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra by Vaseem Khan

A Gentle, and Charming,  Detective Story                  My rating:  4 out of 5

(I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

Inspector Chopra's retirement day has arrived.  However the discovery of a body and the unexpected delivery of a baby elephant to his apartment mean that his transition into quiet retirement does not go quite as his wife would have liked.

Wonderful descriptions of life in Mumbai, including culture, monsoon problems, corruption and the everyday trials of having a tyrannical apartment Managing Committee President. 

This is the first Inspector Chopra book I have read.  I found the characters very engaging (including the elephant), and the storyline - though lightweight - strangely compelling.  A book for when you want an easy read, or to get an idea of Mumbai before visiting.  Suitable for all the family. 

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Give Us This Day by Tom Avitabile

(I received the Kindle version of this book, free of charge, from Netgalley in return for an honest independent review.)

Fast Action Thriller        My rating  5 out of 5
Can Brooke (ex FBI) work out what the terrorists are up to in time to stop them?

Based in the current time, mostly in New York, this action packed thriller starts as a US Government security operation comes to a climax - though not quite the one expected.  Brooke is torn between returning to her relaxed lifestyle in Hawaii, or the excitement of working at the highest level of national security, and meanwhile the countdown to "the attack" continues.

Included in the action are reference to hedge funds, the diversion of money to terrorists, Isis terrorist cells and security procedures.    Brooke is an engaging character that I hope will be returning in future books.  There are a lot of characters in the thriller, but when they reappear it is obvious who they are, so there is no need to try to remember their names.

This is the first book I have read by this author, and I loved it so much I have already ordered another!