Contemporary

All posts in the Contemporary category

And So It Begins – Rachel Abbott

Published November 25, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

So this is how it ends. It is clear to me now: one of us has to die.

Mark and Evie had a whirlwind romance. Evie brought Mark back to life after the sudden death of his first wife. Cleo, Mark’s sister, knows she should be happy for him. But Cleo doesn’t trust Evie…

When Evie starts having accidents at home, her friends grow concerned. Could Mark be causing her injuries? Called out to their cliff-top house one night, Sergeant Stephanie King finds two bodies entangled on blood-drenched sheets.

Where does murder begin? When the knife is raised to strike, or before, at the first thought of violence? As Evie stands trial, the jury is forced to consider – is there ever a proper defence for murder?

And So It Begins is a darkly compulsive psychological thriller with all the hallmarks of a Rachel Abbott bestseller – a provocative dilemma, richly-layered mystery, knife-edge tension, and brilliant characterization.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Becky Hunter and Wildfire Publishers for sending me a copy of Rachel Abbott’s latest stand-alone novel in exchange for an honest review. The aim of the new imprint from Headline according to publishing director Alex Clarke is to publish books that “spread like wildfire,” and with an objective like that, it definitely sounds like something I want to be part of! I was lucky enough to be part of the blog tour for Rachel’s previous novel (the seventh book in her DC Tom Douglas series), Come A Little Closer and really enjoyed my first experience of reading the author’s work so jumped at the chance to try something new, especially when the initial rave reviews from my fellow bloggers came flooding in. Ultimately, I was delighted to find And So It Begins to be an even more enjoyable experience than Come A Little Closer and really believe the author has found a very special niche within the psychological thriller genre.

Rachel Abbott, author of And So It Begins, a stand-alone thriller and courtroom drama.

As with most novels in the genre, it really helps for future readers if I’m as annoyingly vague as possible because with this particular book, believe me, I’m going to have to be. It’s a fascinating and compelling story of a couple, Evie and Mark who fall in love, have a baby and move in together relatively quickly. To anyone on the outside, they appear to be the picture of matrimonial bliss with Mark’s high-flying career as a talented, sought after photographer, a gorgeous baby girl and a stunning, opulent house with sea views. The thorn in their side initially appears to be Mark’s sister Cleo whom for many years had taken on the role of care-giver with her younger brother Mark and is incredibly protective of him, including his relationship with women which so far has been demonstrably shaky over the past few years. Then one night, Sergeant Stephanie King is called to the extravagant house and finds two bodies on a bed, covered in blood. What has happened? Furthermore, can people on the outside ever know what really goes on between a couple in the privacy of their own home?

I know it probably doesn’t look anything like this as the story is set in England (!!) but when I read about the house that Evie and Mark live in with views of the sea on just one side, making it feel quite isolated, I immediately pictured the house from Sleeping With The Enemy, one of my favourite ever films starring Julia Roberts.

Well. What can I say? Since Come A Little Closer, I feel Abbott’s writing has got a whole lot murkier – in a good way! I was immediately entranced by the synopsis and the promise of a mystery that would take the entire novel to unravel – this is obviously the best kind of course and I wasn’t disappointed. Instantly, I needed to know what on earth happened to this couple where we find them in such a horrendous situation and piece by piece, the answers are gradually revealed with more surprises than you could have ever imagined. I think what really sold this book to me however was the inclusion of the courtroom drama, adding a different dimension and layer to the author’s style and it had me captivated throughout, right to that final, tantalising moment where the jury pronounce their verdict.

As with all my favourite thrillers, And So It Begins focuses on a multitude of characters – Evie, Mark, his sister Cleo and Sergeant Stephanie King and each individual brings something fresh and intriguing to the narrative, making you wonder exactly what is going on and who exactly you can trust. Everyone has their part to play and story to tell and it’s certainly a book that you might find difficult to put down once you become invested. This was definitely the case for me and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Advertisements

One More Chance – Lucy Ayrton

Published November 16, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Dani hasn’t had an easy life. She’s made some bad choices and now she’s paying the ultimate price; prison.

With her young daughter Bethany, growing up in foster care, Dani is determined to be free and reunited with her. There’s only one problem; Dani can’t stay out of trouble.

Dani’s new cellmate Martha is quiet and unassuming. There’s something about her that doesn’t add up. When Martha offers Dani one last chance at freedom, she doesn’t hesitate.

Everything she wants is on the outside, but Dani is stuck on the inside. Is it possible to break out when everyone is trying to keep you in . . .

What did I think?:

One More Chance landed on my doorstep courtesy of Millie Seaward and the team at Dialogue Books, a new imprint from Little, Brown publishers that “source, nurture and publish writing talent – and reach audiences – from areas currently under-represented or not covered by the mainstream publishing industry. This will include people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, the LGBTQI+ community and those with disabilities.” 

I thoroughly support this initiative and a huge thank you to Millie and Dialogue for providing me with a copy of this gripping debut novel in exchange for an honest review. As soon as I realised this was a story set inside the British prison system, and specifically focused on the life of female prisoners, I knew it was a book I had to pick up. There’s been a lot of negative press recently about the state of British prisons and generally, it’s a topic I’m very intrigued by, both here and in other countries. I was delighted to discover an instantly compelling narrative with characters that felt completely authentic and I sped through it in no time at all.

Lucy Ayrton, author of the novel One More Chance.

This is the story of Dani, who has spent a fair few spells in prison after recurrent drugs-related offences. However, when we currently meet her, she becomes desperate that her current stay in jail is going to be her last. For Dani has something now to fight for – her young daughter, Bethany who has been taken away from her and placed with foster parents. Dani is determined to get her back but before this can happen, she has to resist any drama within the prison system (which is harder than it initially appears) go through a drug programme service so that she can “get clean,” and reduce the risk of re-offending in the future and finally, prove she can have a career and a way of providing for her baby on the outside. Things start to look up for Dani when she gets a mysterious new cell-mate, Martha who insists that she can help Dani get to her daughter. However, is it really is easy as that? Will Dani be able to resist temptation and keep out of trouble or will the thought of Bethany prove too difficult to pass up?

Notorious H.M. Prison Holloway in London, one of the largest female jails in Europe where our character Dani is incarcerated. It was closed in 2016 as part of the government’s overhaul of the prison system.

For what I expected from this novel, One More Chance ticked all the relevant boxes. It was a fascinating insight into the world of female prisoners and felt remarkably gritty and genuine. The author, Lucy Ayrton, is Communications Manager of a prison charity and much of this story was inspired by women she met and talked with on visits, particularly within the Holloway Mother And Baby Unit. This really comes across in the narrative, you can feel the characters bouncing off the pages with their authenticity. These people feel very real and believable and although they may have issues, it’s impossible not to feel some sort of sympathy for the situation they find themselves in.

Our female lead, Dani in particular is wonderfully interesting and I really enjoyed getting to know her. She drove me absolutely crazy with the decisions she made sometimes but in the end, I just felt a great deal of pity for her, especially the inner turmoil she experienced in being apart from her daughter. Dani often felt she needed to put on a front, especially in a system that promotes violence and the importance of never showing your fear but I could sense her vulnerability and appreciated the emotional roller-coaster that rocked her childhood and adolescence life.

One More Chance is a page turning and at times, eye-opening read about the world of female incarceration from an exciting new voice in fiction that really understands what she’s writing about. I’m looking forward to seeing what Lucy Ayrton does next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The Stranger Diaries – Elly Griffiths

Published November 14, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A dark story has been brought to terrifying life. Can the ending be rewritten in time?

A gripping contemporary Gothic thriller from the bestselling author of the Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries: Wilkie Collins and MR James meet Gone Girl and Disclaimer.

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers…

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to the lovely people at Quercus Books, not only for hosting a fabulous Word-Of-Mouth Bestsellers Evening which I was delighted to attend with my blogger bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages but for kindly providing me with a copy of Elly Griffiths new stand-alone novel to check out and review prior to its publication this month. Elly Griffiths is probably best known for her archaeologist Ruth Galloway series of books that began with The Crossing Places back in 2009 and currently boasts ten books, the most recent, The Dark Angel published earlier this year and the eleventh in the series, The Stone Circle due to be released in 2019. For some reason, she’s always been on the edge of my radar, particularly this series which I know is well loved with Val McDermid herself calling it “my favourite series.” However, I just haven’t managed to get round to reading anything – occasionally when I know I already have so many books to catch up on in a crime series, it can be a little daunting and slightly intimidating!

Now I have FINALLY experienced what a great writer Elly Griffiths is, I have immediately put the first Galloway book on my wish list with a view to reading it in the very near future. The Stranger Diaries has everything you might want from a thriller, including great characterisation, an exciting and unique plot and an ending you just don’t see coming. I was instantly entranced by the mystery, delighted by the thought of a story within a story and although there were plenty of red herrings thrown in the readers way, never guessed what was really going on which came as a very welcome surprise when I reached the tantalising finale.

Elly Griffiths, pen name for Domenica de Rosa, British crime novelist and author of The Stranger Diaries.

The Stranger Diaries follows our female protagonist, teacher Claire Cassidy who teaches English at a local school and a creative writing course on the side. Currently, she is also hard at work on a biography of the famed Gothic author R.M. Holland who also shares a strong connection with the school, having a study in the uppermost parts of one of the buildings. Holland was perhaps most famous for his short story The Stranger and his tragic life when his wife fell down the very steps that lead to his study within the school, her ghost still reported to haunt the building.

The tension and terror increases exponentially when a teacher’s body is found murdered with a quote from Holland’s famous story beside her and it’s not long before the suspicious deaths start to pile up, revealing strange parallels and comparisons to The Stranger. DC Harbinder Kaur is tasked with investigating and cracking the case however her job becomes infinitely more difficult when Claire starts to find messages in her diary that she hasn’t written. More importantly, these are messages written in the same hand that wrote the notes at the crime scenes of Claire’s murdered acquaintances.

Shoreham By Sea, Sussex, England – setting for The Stranger Diaries.

When I first picked up this book at the Quercus event I was instantly intrigued by that fascinating synopsis. Notes in a diary written by a stranger? Chilling! I was overjoyed to discover once I began reading that this teaser of the situation our main character finds herself was a mere prelude to a wonderfully Gothic and nail-biting story. The inclusion of The Stranger short story that Claire teaches in her course and how it ties in with the contemporary narrative was magical to read and brought a beautiful sense of atmosphere and drama to the proceedings. The novel is told by three different characters – Claire herself, her teenage daughter Georgie and Detective Harbinder Kaur who were all written perfectly with their own separate personalities and completely believable. I didn’t particularly warm to any of them on the initial meeting but what’s wonderful about Elly Griffiths writing is that you really feel you get to know them on a deeper level as the story continues and they become more “real.”

I’m definitely not going to be fearful any more of finally starting this talented author’s other series of books, namely the Galloway and Mephisto series! Furthermore, I’m hugely grateful to Quercus for giving me the opportunity to experience Griffiths’ gripping writing in a stand-alone novel. It’s easy to see why she has such a legion of fans and I’m so pleased to call myself one of them.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Talking About The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd with Chrissi Reads

Published November 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Twenty years ago, Dennis Danson was arrested and imprisoned for the brutal murder of a young girl. Now he’s the subject of a true-crime documentary that’s whipping up a frenzy online to uncover the truth and free a man who has been wrongly convicted.

A thousand miles away in England, Samantha is obsessed with Dennis’s case. She exchanges letters with him, and is quickly won over by his apparent charm and kindness to her. Soon she has left her old life behind to marry him and campaign for his release.

When the campaign is successful and Dennis is freed, however, Sam begins to discover new details that suggest he may not be quite so innocent after all.

But how do you confront your husband when you don’t want to know the truth?

The winner of the Daily Mail First Novel Competition, Amy Lloyd’s The Innocent Wife is gripping psychological suspense from a brilliant new voice in crime fiction.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: What were your expectations for this book? Did it live up to them?

BETH: I didn’t really have any expectations to be honest! I’ve read quite a lot of either psychological or domestic thrillers recently so I was hoping (as I always do with this genre) that it would be something a bit unique and would keep me engaged throughout. First of all, I did think this novel had a really interesting premise, especially in the beginning when Samantha is writing to Dennis in prison but unfortunately, I don’t really feel that it hooked me in the way I wanted to be hooked. It’s a quick, easy read but I didn’t really connect to any of the characters.

BETH: How do you think this novel compares to other books in the genre?

CHRISSI: Sadly, I don’t think this book stands out in its genre. It has brilliant moments, but I was left a little underwhelmed by the story. It didn’t grip me right from the start which I usually expect from books in this genre. For me, it was an okay read but I don’t think I would remember it months on when I read so widely in the genre.

CHRISSI: Did you find this book predictable in any way?

BETH: I’m afraid so. It was pretty obvious to me from the start what was going to happen in Samantha and Dennis’ relationship and how it would then develop as they got to know each other a bit better. Sadly, I did anticipate the slight twists and turns in the narrative so I was never surprised or shocked about the direction the story took.

BETH: Did you find Samantha relatable? What advice would you give her if you were her friend?

CHRISSI: I personally didn’t relate to her. I think she’ll be relatable to many in a way because so many people have dysfunctional relationships and that’s certainly what Samantha’s relationship is like with Dennis! If I was Samantha’s friend I think I’d encourage her to seriously think about the company she kept!

CHRISSI: Was the relationship between Samantha and Dennis plausible?

BETH: Not for me, I’m afraid to say. I can understand that Samantha had insecurities and vulnerabilities and she became quite carried away with the idea of a relationship with Dennis but I think the reality of what that relationship was going to be like hadn’t really dawned on her until she was trapped in that situation. However, I didn’t quite understand why when she had initial misgivings about the relationship she didn’t use that opportunity to remove herself and that was slightly frustrating. I guess it wouldn’t have made a good story if she had, right?! Personally, I’m not very good at suspending my disbelief and although the author has artistic license to do whatever she wants to do with her own narrative, I couldn’t find it believable enough to become invested in the relationship of her characters.

BETH: What did you think of the ending? Were you surprised/satisfied?

CHRISSI: I was a little disappointed by the ending. I don’t really want to spoil it, so I can’t say too much, but I wasn’t satisfied. I felt like it was incredibly rushed. I was left with some questions and found myself re-reading it to try and get my head around it. In my opinion, that’s not a sign of a great ending.

CHRISSI: At which point in the book were you the most engaged?

BETH: There were several points where I was quite intrigued. Firstly, the beginning where Samantha was first communicating with Dennis and the story had the potential to go in any direction. Secondly, where she first meets Dennis at the prison and I was curious to read about their initial reactions on meeting and communicating with each other and lastly, the ending which was quite fast-paced until the eventual climax.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: It would depend on the plot. I think the premise of this book was interesting, it just wasn’t an amazing read for me!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Probably!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Lullaby – Leïla Slimani, Sam Taylor (Translator)

Published October 22, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect caretaker for their two young children. They never dreamed they would find Louise: a quiet, polite and devoted woman who sings to their children, cleans the family’s chic apartment in Paris’s upscale tenth arrondissement, stays late without complaint and is able to host enviable birthday parties.

The couple and nanny become more dependent on each other. But as jealousy, resentment and suspicions increase, Myriam and Paul’s idyllic tableau is shattered…

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads for loaning me her copy of Lullaby (also published as The Perfect Nanny) to read after she had finished it. This is another one of those books that has been everywhere with mostly rave reviews and when it was picked for The Richard And Judy Late Summer Reads book club here in the UK, I knew I had to finally give it a shot. Lullaby is a work of translated fiction which is also another bonus for me as I’m trying to expand my horizons and read more translated work, and was originally published as Chanson douce in French back in 2016, winning the Prix Goncourt. By the time I finished this book, I was kicking myself for not having picked it up sooner. This was a remarkably short but powerful piece of fiction at just over 250 pages and I fair flew through the pages in less than 24 hours.

 Leïla Slimani, author of Lullaby.

It’s no spoiler to say that Lullaby has one of the most astounding opening lines I’ve ever come across in a novel:

“The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.”

Already, the reader is fully aware that this story is NOT going to end well but the sheer might of this opening line propels us into a narrative that explores exactly how our characters get to this life-altering point and what could have potentially precipitated such a heinous act. It’s the story of an ambitious couple, Myriam and Paul and the nanny that they employ, Louise to look after their two young children whilst they spend more and more of their waking hours at work, building a life for their family. It follows a woman whom when we first meet her is already teetering on the brink of a precipice emotionally and financially and how events in her past and present collide together to push her off the edge of that cliff into complete turmoil. Could these events have been predicted? If the couple had spent more time with their children and not left so much of the responsibility and parenting to Louise would things have been different? Possibly, possibly not. This is a fascinating insight into a troubled individual with devastating and heart-breaking consequences for all parties concerned.

The Perfect Nanny? Julie Andrews as the inimitable Mary Poppins.

As I mentioned before, this is an incredibly short, engrossing novel that it took me no time at all to whizz through and I was completely absorbed every minute I spent reading it. I’m sure that staggering first line must chase away any residual hesitancy you might have as well? It certainly did for me. That was an incredibly savvy ploy by the author/editor to pull a reader into a novel and I can only applaud them for it, it worked a treat and before I experienced the story for myself, it was all anybody could talk about initially online. Lullaby feels quite literary in its execution so don’t be expecting major plot twists and turns, that’s not what this novel is all about. It does everything it needs to do quietly, intelligently and thoughtfully and I can certainly see why it’s been praised so highly. As I reached the “final bow” of the narrative, I have to admit to a slight tinge of disappointment at the ending at first. However, the longer I’ve sat thinking about it, the more I understand that it was pretty perfect the way it was and certainly fits the entire tone of the novel. I really don’t believe this needs any bells, whistles or exciting, unexpected moments – the story runs on a lot deeper level that that and it was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 4):

four-stars_0

Book Tag – Shelfie By Shelfie #12

Published October 10, 2018 by bibliobeth

Image edited from: <a href=”http://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/frame”>Frame image created by Jannoon028 – Freepik.com</a>

Hi everyone and welcome to a brand new tag – Shelfie by Shelfie that I was inspired to create late one night when I couldn’t sleep. If you want to join in, you share a picture (or “shelfie”) of one of your shelves i.e. favourites, TBR, however you like to organise them, and then answer ten questions that are based around that particular shelf. I have quite a large collection and am going to do every single bookshelf which comprises both my huge TBR and the books I’ve read and kept but please, don’t feel obliged to do every shelf yourself if you fancy doing this tag. I’d love to see anything and just a snapshot of your collection would be terrific and I’m sure, really interesting for other people to see!

Here are the other Shelfies I’ve done: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6  7 8 9 10 and 11.

Anyway – on with the tag, it’s time for the first shelf of my second bookshelf and we’re looking at the bottom part of the image i.e. not the top shelf with the monkey bookends (which was covered in Shelfie by Shelfie 11!).

And here are the questions!:

1.) Is there any reason for this shelf being organised the way it is or is it purely random?

Like the top shelf, some of these books are mine but most of them are Mr B’s. He’s read through a lot of these titles but is determined to keep them even if there’s no chance he’ll read them again in the future. Well, with my book collection I can’t really complain, can I?! 😀

2.) Tell us a story about one of the books on this shelf that is special to you i.e. how you got it/ a memory associated with it etc.

Ahhh, I do have a special book on this shelf. It’s one of the very first books I bought Mr B when our relationship had just started and it’s because he’s a big fan of the Perry Bible Fellowship cartoons by Nicholas Gurewitch. The book is called The Trial Of Colonel Sweeto And Other Stories and is a collection of some of his best comic strips. I actually emailed the author to ask if there was a collection available so I could buy it for Mr B and he sent me the loveliest email back. For this reason I’ll always treasure this book a little bit. I’ll just slot in an example of one of my favourite cartoons – beware, they’re slightly mature so perhaps not appropriate for very young readers!

3.) Which book from this shelf would you ditch if you were forced to and why?

Sadly, that would have to be NW by Zadie Smith. I’ve tried a few of Zadie Smith’s books now and I don’t know what it is but I just don’t get on with her writing style. I can appreciate she’s a good writer of course but something just doesn’t gel with me. Mr B is a bit more of a fan so the only reason this is still on my shelves is that he still has to read it.

4.) Which book from this shelf would you save in an emergency and why?

It would be Lord Of The Flies by William Golding. It’s one of my favourite classics and I need to save it from this shelf anyway as it should be on my favourites shelf – oopsie!

5.) Which book has been on this shelf for the longest time?

Hmmm. *goes off to take a closer look.* Okay, I think that would be Teach Yourself Complete Italian (part of the Teach Yourself range). Mr B bought it for me just before we visited Rome (and Italy) for the very first time. I had all good intentions of starting to teach myself as I’m slightly obsessed with Italy but for some reason, have just never got around to it!

6.) Which book is the newest addition to this shelf?

I think that would be Waiting For Doggo by Mark Mills. I believe I won this one in a Goodreads giveaway and still haven’t had the chance to get round to reading it yet. I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve read it yourself?

7.) Which book from this shelf are you most excited to read (or re-read if this is a favourites shelf?)

In The Light Of What We See by Sarah Painter. I keep looking at this book and meaning to put it on my TBR and…you’ve guessed it, it keeps getting pushed further and further back.

8.) If there is an object on this shelf apart from books, tell us the story behind it.

There’s a few objects on this shelf that I’ve removed so you can see the books a bit better but the item I’ll talk to you about is this little creature here:

Mr B and I picked up this strange, grinning skull as a souvenir from a well needed holiday to Mexico in April. We don’t normally buy souvenirs on holiday but there was something about this skull that we both loved and we were both determined to have it!

9.) What does this shelf tell us about you as a reader?

I know you’re probably a bit worried now you’ve seen the skull and the cartoon book…… BUT hopefully it says that I’m a reader of many tastes, even if they venture to the odd and quirky.

10.) Choose other bloggers to tag or choose a free question you make up yourself.

I won’t tag anyone but if anyone wants to do this tag, I’d be delighted and I’d love to see your shelfie.

For other Shelfie by Shelfies round the blogosphere, please see:

Chrissi @ Chrissi Reads FAVOURITES shelfie HERE and her Shelfie by Shelfie 2 HERE.

Sarah @ The Aroma Of Books Shelfie 1A, 1B, 1C 1D and 1E

Dee @ Dees Rad Reads And Reviews Shelfie HERE

Jacquie @ Rattle The Stars Shelfie HERE

Stuart @ Always Trust In Books Shelfie #1 HERE and #2 HERE.

Jennifer @ Tar Heel Reader Shelfie #1, 2, 3, 4  5, 6, and 7

Paula @ Book Jotter Shelfie #1 HERE.

Gretchen @ Thoughts Become Words Shelfie HERE.

Kathy @ Pages Below The Vaulted Sky Shelfie by Shelfie #1 HERE.

Jenn, Eden and Caitlynn @ Thrice Read Share A Shelfie HERE.

Nicki @ Secret Library Book Blog Shelfie by Shelfie HERE.

CJ @ Random Melon Reads Shelfie by Shelfie HERE.

Thank you so much to Chrissi, Sarah, Dee, Jacquie, Stuart, Jennifer, Paula, Gretchen, Kathy, Jenn, Eden, Caitlynn, Nicki and CJ for participating in Shelfie by Shelfie, it really means the world to me. Hugs!

If you’ve done this tag or you’re one of the people above and I’ve missed out one of your shelfies please let me know and I’d be happy to add you to Shelfie by Shelfies round the blogosphere!

COMING SOON on bibliobeth : Shelfie by Shelfie #13

Talking About Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon with Chrissi Reads

Published October 8, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:
1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

What did WE think?:

CHRISSI: We both read The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by the same author. How do you think this book compared?

BETH: I really enjoyed The Trouble With Goats and Sheep but for some reason, it wasn’t a five star read for me like I know it was for so many other readers. I wasn’t expecting to be completely blown away by Three Things About Elsie at all. I knew I would probably enjoy it as I thought with her first novel, Joanna Cannon had a very engaging writing style and wrote fantastic characters but I still wasn’t prepared for how much I would end up enjoying this. It was an emotional. poignant and stellar piece of fiction that had a huge impact on me.

BETH: Without spoilers, how fitting did you think the title of this book was?

CHRISSI: I thought it was a very fitting title to the story. Throughout the story, we know two things about Elsie and there’s something else about her too…which I can’t spoil. I think the title was a good match and there was lots of reference to it within the story which was a lovely touch.

CHRISSI: What feelings did this book evoke for you?

BETH: SO many feelings. In her first book, Joanna Cannon chose to focus on two young girls as protagonists, with Elsie she has gone to the other end of the spectrum and we see the lives of Florence, Elsie, Jack and many others in a retirement home. I loved the relationship between Florence and Elsie in particular but also liked that this novel had a hint of a mystery about it regarding the re-emergence of a character from their past and why it evokes such feelings of fear in Florence as a result. This novel also touches on memory loss and dementia which was quite hard to read about and heart-breaking in points but ultimately, I think the author handled it very sensitively and it was an intensely moving read for me.

BETH: Did Florence’s failing memory change your understanding of events at Cherry Tree? Does it make her a less reliable narrator?

CHRISSI: I do think that Florence’s failing memory did make her a less reliable narrator for sure. I wasn’t sure if she was talking to herself, remembering things wrong or hiding secrets that she wanted to keep locked away. The story really did unravel slowly, with a very mysterious element, it took me a while to understand what was going on.

CHRISSI: Did you feel engaged with the story all the way through?

BETH: I honestly did. I adored the way in which we got little throwbacks to Flo and Elsie’s past as the mystery of the new resident at the retirement home continues to unravel but I think my favourite parts about this novel were the little pearls of wisdom that Joanna Cannon throws in, some of which really spoke to me on a personal level and I even tweeted about, I felt so strongly at the time! For example: “Sometimes you go through an experience in life that slices into the very bones of who you are, and two different versions of yourself will always sit either side of it like bookends.”

BETH: What do you think makes Florence ultimately realise that she HAS lived an extraordinary life, in the end?

CHRISSI: I think when Florence is lying reminiscing about what she does remember of her life, her memories with Elsie make her realise that her life has been quite remarkable. She is forced to think of secrets that she’s kept hidden. It is her interactions with Elsie that makes her think about her life and all of the events that have happened to her.

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character? If so, who?

BETH: I loved all the characters to be honest, even the ones who were meant to have a more malevolent side to them! Obviously, I had a soft spot for our leading lady Florence and often wanted to be there having a chat, a cup of tea and some Battenberg cake with her but I also really enjoyed the character of Jack who is so supportive to Flo that it made my heart burst a little bit. Handy Simon is also a fabulous character and I found myself really rooting for him to find happiness all the way through the novel.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I’m not sure. Personally, I don’t think I gel with this author’s writing style. It’s nothing against Joanna Cannon’s writing. I can see and appreciate that she’s a talented writer. It just doesn’t work for me. I found this book to be a little drawn out and I lost interest in it. Don’t get me wrong, there were some lovely moments within this story and some very quotable moments. I was extremely busy when I was reading it (so may not have invested as much in it as I wanted to) and I enjoy a faster paced story. I feel really bad because I know so many people love this book. However, we can’t love them all and the blogosphere would be very boring if we all agreed.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S
CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):
3 Star Rating Clip Art