Tag Archives: contemporary

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. Review 

Oh wow! My hearts still pounding in my chest. What a shocker of a novel! 

I first came across Clare Mackintosh when I read an interview with her in Writers Magazine. I liked the sound of her thriller genre novels and I’ve been waiting to read them for ages. My only regret being that I waited so long! 

I Let You Go is Clare’s debut novel and it focuses on a hit and run incident. There are several perspectives in the novel and I’m going to be a bit shady about the entire plot because there are a couple of massive twists that I do not want to spoil for anyone! 

I really enjoyed this novel, it was a page turner without a doubt. I couldn’t put it down, the storyline gripped me and changed my view of British thriller writing irrevocably. It seemed like everything I thought was true was wrong! There were so many twists and turns that it made my head spin but in a good way! 

I can’t wait to get stuck into Clare’s second novel I See You because if it’s anything as good as this one I’ll find myself literally thrilled! 

The Queen of Wishful Thinking by Milly Johnson. Review 

I’ve loved Milly Johnson’s novels since I picked up a sample of Its Raining Men in Waterstones, Meadowhall a few years ago. I was really excited to receive my copy of The Queen of Wishful Thinking from the publishers Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review. 

As usual I really enjoyed the book. This one deals with a lot of sensitive issues, as is expected with the romance/chic-lit genre it focuses on two people who are unhappy and find happiness with each other. But it also deals with the more serious issues of infertility, abortion, infidelity and euthanasia. I also love that there are funny anecdotes at the beginning of several chapters which are extracts from The Daily Trumpet as usual posting hilarious misprints. Being a Yorkshire lass myself I found the one about a 12 year old called Beyoncé-Jane particularly funny, because I know for a fact that there’s probably kids called that in S.Yorks. 

Anyway, back to the storyline; Bonnie is in a loveless marriage with Stephen who controls everything about their lives, to top it off she’s also unhappy in her job, until she unexpectedly lands a job at a new antique store called Pot of Gold and gets more than she bargained for when she falls for her boss Lew. Lew is having problems of his own with his golddigger wife who is fast becoming unrecognisable. Having just recovered from a heart attack, Lew just wants a quiet life. And his feelings for Bonnie are developing as well. 

Alongside the love story, as aforementioned there are lots of other issues going on, but it all comes together very nicely. Milly has a skill of putting together novels which make you equal parts laugh along with the characters and fall apart with them as their world comes crashing down around them and they struggle to pick the pieces up. But friends are on hand, support is there and these friends go to outrageous lengths to protect their own. 

And of course in the end they all get to live happily ever after which is the best part about all of Milly’s novels! 

Mr Gandy’s Grand Tour By Alan Titchmarsh. Review 

I’ve always had a (not so) secret love for Alan Titchmarsh’s novel ever since I read Only Dad many years ago. Mr Gandy’s Grand Tour is such a lovely little read and very refreshing after the two tomes I’ve read recently! 

Mr Gandy is suddenly (if tragically) released from his unhappy marriage around the same time as he is forced into early retirement. Inspired by a book he finds about 18th century young gentleman going on the Grand Tour (modern day gap year), he decides to embark on a tour of Europe of his own, much to the disgust of his eldest son who views it as him squandering his inheritance. 

What Mr Gandy finds, is not only beautiful hotels, culture filled cities and art, but also friendships and love. Alan Titchmarsh writes surprisingly profound messages about love and life and often gives you a good laugh as you go along! 

I really enjoyed this short novel particularly the travel parts, as I’m in Italy myself at the moment it was great to see Mr Gandy’s views and actually be able to picture them myself! 

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay. Review. 

I read The Bronte Plot last year and really enjoyed it, so it made sense to give The Austen Escape a try, and it did not disappoint. 

Katherine Reay writes novels about American’s who love English Literature. As the title may give away, this one is about all things Jane Austen. 

Mary is an engineer for a start up company called WATT, she loves her job and she’s in love with a colleague Nathan who never seems to look at her that way. On top of that she’s beginning to fear that the new hardcore CEO Karen is going to fire her. Unrequited love and fear of losing her job come to a head when her latest project becomes a failure and she snatches up the opportunity to visit Bath, England with her friend Isabel who is writing her dissertation on Austen’s novels. Cue adults playing dress up at an old regency style house and many shenanigans going down. 

But things take a sinister turn as well and then a very unexpected one. The plot twist is cleverly laid out. One of those that makes you go ‘doh!’ For not realising it was obvious what was going on all along. 

The novel is well written, it’s very light and fun, it’s not by any means a serious book but that doesn’t stop it from being enjoyable. Sometimes light and fun is exactly what a reader needs! I love the play on the historical literature in a modern day setting as well and it’s definitely inspired me further to visit Bath! Another lovely read from author Katherine Reay. 

The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen. Review. 

The Unseen is on the Man Booker Prize shortlist and attracted my attention because I like to read books about other countries & cultures. 

Set on a fictional island called Barrøy just off the coast of the mainland of Norway, it focuses on the family who lives there, also called Barrøy. There is Martin the grandfather still grieving the loss of his wife and struggling to come to terms with the shift of power as he becomes weaker and his son stronger. Hans, son of Martin is a sailor-cum-farmer who wants to make the island and their life better. Maria, his wife is distant and silent, with dreams of her own. Ingrid the daughter is confused, growing up unsure if her life should be as a girl helping her mother in the kitchen and knitting, or out helping her father & grandfather with the nets and fishing. Finally, there’s Barbro, sister of Hans who can’t move from the island over due to some kind of disability which prevents her from reading or learning as fast as the others. 

The novel is beautifully written and interesting. While nothing exactly dramatic happened in the book, well, depending on how you look at it. There is a calm serenity to the everyday life of the islanders. From the way they never exactly fit in with the mainlanders, to the way they struggle on lending, struggling through brutal winters and terribly dry summers. Sometimes the biggest drama is things like Hans not wanting a lighthouse to be built on the island. 

The intricacies of daily life are what make this novel truly fascinating. It’s no surprise it has been shortlisted for the prize. 

The Betrayals by Fiona Neill. Review 

As always Fiona Neill’s books have a way of gripping you from the get go. She writes about the simplest things, but also the most complicated. She writes about life, family life with all its everyday complications and The Betrayals is no different. 

Two families, brought together by friendship. Lisa and Rosie have been friends for years and when Lisa’s boyfriend Barney auditions for the same play as Nick, he gets introduced to Rosie and everything falls into place. Lisa and Rosie even give birth to their baby girls Ava and Daisy around the same time. It’s perfect. 

But things get complicated, after a disastrous holiday in Norfolk the two families are torn apart forever. 

Daisy is battling OCD, all of them have stressful jobs and are struggling to cope but there’s more going on in the background than meets the eye. 

Some may view this book as anti climatic but I think what it is, is realistic. Passion, fear, hate, fear of disaproval can all seem like huge things in our own minds. It’s easy to blame ourselves and fear it’s something we did that made everything go wrong, especially when you’re a child. That’s why this book has such an impact because it’s life inside our minds which is the truest and most scary place of all. 

Big Little Lies by Lianne Moriarty. Review 

I really like Lianne Moriarty’s books, I’ve read The Husbands Secret & Truly, Madly, Guilty and liked their style of constant build up with the big reveal at the end. Big Little Lies follows the same pattern. 

In the beginning the reader is immediately aware that there has been a murder at the school trivia night but we don’t know ‘whodunnit’. Instead we are taken back to a few months before the evening and introduced to the characters. The novel mostly focuses on three friends, Madeline who is obsessed with clothes and makeup and a typical girly girl who you can’t help but love, Celeste who’s stunningly beautiful and stunningly rich but nice with it, and Jane who’s much younger, only just moved to the area and lives up to her name as the ‘plain Jane’. I’ve been watching the TV show so of course I wanted to read the book even more and of course there’s differences, the show got rid of some characters like Madeleine’s daughter Fred. 

Each family has their secrets and lies. Madeline is suffering through fights with her teenage daughter who seems to prefer her father and stepmother. Celeste is hiding the horrors of her real family life behind the rich, beautiful facade. As for Jane she’s got a whole heap of baggage not least that her son Ziggy is being accused of bullying. 

I must admit that I didn’t find this novel as engaging as the others I’ve read by this author but I don’t know if that was partially because I’ve seen the beginning of the series and so sort of knew what half of it was about, but I found the characters likeable and the plot was great! Of course the end was a huge shock in line with Lianne’s usual way of writing. There’s not one but two major twists and the ending leaves shock waves rebounding through the reader.