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Holding – Graham Norton

Published January 17, 2018 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Graham Norton’s masterful debut is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss.

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of­ two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former­ love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters, and explore – with searing honesty – the complexities and contradictions that make us human.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Hodder and Stoughton for approving me on NetGalley to read a copy of Graham Norton’s debut novel, Holding in exchange for an honest review. In the UK, Graham is a well respected television  and radio presenter, comedian, actor and now writer and he’s probably one of my favourite people in the public eye at the moment. That means when I heard he was writing a novel of course I was desperate to read it and at the same time a bit worried because I love him as a personality so much. In the end, I have to be honest and say I was a little disappointed with this novel unfortunately. (*hides from barrage of stones from angry Graham Norton fans*). It’s quite a cosy little mystery, yet surprisingly serious at times and I do think that a lot of people would enjoy it which is quite evident from the number of positive ratings on GoodReads. However, it just fell short for me plot-wise and wasn’t thrilling enough to make me want to keep turning the pages.

The novel is set in a small village of Ireland which rarely has anything exciting or dramatic to recommend it. Even our main character, Sergeant PJ Collins has seldom participated in any police business we might normally associate with fighting crime, chasing perpetrators down streets, apprehending burglars, solving murders etc. Duneen is a sleepy, quiet village with a very low crime rate so PJ spends his days quite sedentary, watching over the community and comfort eating in his car. It is only when some skeletal remains are unearthed by some builders on a property and are thought to belong to the previous occupant, Tommy Burke who hasn’t been seen in quite a few years that PJ finally has a case he can really sink his teeth into. Old secrets are finally dug up, in particular regarding Tommy and two women who were in love with him, and PJ begins to realise that his little village, which he thought was so calm and unassuming has a lot more to hide than he originally believed.

There were a lot of positives to be taken from this debut offering from Graham Norton and certainly a lot of things that perhaps a different demographic of reader might enjoy. For instance, I did enjoy the character of PJ, a previously quite hapless, slightly inept and “stuck in his ways” police officer who was actually a really lovely man that just hasn’t had a decent break in life. The finding of old bones and a potential murder case on his patch is really the making of him as a character and I enjoyed his determined attempts to solve the mystery and interactions with other characters in the narrative. However, I did find his character to be probably the better developed ones in the story out of a myriad of other individuals that I didn’t feel were as fleshed out as they could have been. This was unfortunate as there were a number of characters, like Evelyn and Brid that had the possibility of being very intriguing and they just felt a bit flimsy in comparison.

I’m a bit wary of saying anything too negative about this novel as for me it wasn’t a bad story by any means. It’s pleasant, chugs along at quite a nice pace and has quite an interesting mystery at its centre. As I mentioned before, its got quite a lot of positive ratings on Goodreads so perhaps I just fall into that category of reader where it just didn’t touch me as much as it obviously touched other people. Perhaps I was expecting too much, knowing and loving the wonderful personality of the man that is Graham Norton but his writing just fell flat for me which was bitterly disappointing. Maybe the plot wasn’t intricate enough, I didn’t resonate with any of the characters and the “big reveal” wasn’t as spectacular as I had imagined it in my own mind BUT it has got some amazing reviews from other readers so I’m thinking it might be wrong reader in this particular case? Let me know if you’ve read it and what you think, I’d be interested to know.

Would I recommend it?:

Not sure.

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art

Madness Is Better Than Defeat – Ned Beauman

Published August 30, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

In 1938, two rival expeditions set off for a lost Mayan temple in the jungles of Honduras, one intending to shoot a screwball comedy on location there, the other to disassemble the temple and ship it back to New York. A seemingly endless stalemate ensues, and twenty years later a rogue CIA agent sets out to exploit it for his own ends, unaware that the temple is the locus of grander conspiracies than anyone could have imagined.

Showcasing the anarchic humour, boundless imagination and unparalleled prose of one of the finest writers of his generation, this is a masterful novel that teases, absorbs, entertains and dazzles in equal measure.

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to Sceptre publishers, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a copy of this intriguing novel in exchange for an honest review. I finished this book a couple of days ago and to be perfectly honest, I’m still trying to collect my thoughts to write a coherent review about it! I’ve only previously read Glow by Ned Beauman which I did a mini pin-it review about HERE and I have to admit I wasn’t blown away, so I was interested to read something else by him as it’s perfectly obvious that his writing is stunning. Even now, I’m struggling to rate Madness Is Better Than Defeat – some parts confused the hell out of me and I felt like I had to concentrate and be completely immersed in the story without distractions, other parts were utter brilliance.

It’s also such a tough book to describe! The synopsis above pretty much says it all, two rival expeditions are sent into the jungle to an ancient Mayan temple for two completely different reasons. One expedition wants to tear the temple down and take it to New York, the other expedition wants to film a movie there so requires the temple to be fully intact. As soon as the rival teams meet each other, of course there are fireworks aplenty. It ends up with the two groups at stalemate, each refusing to submit and each person in the team refusing to leave the jungle. They end up spending their lives out there (we’re talking DECADES) – foraging for food, fighting between themselves and even making babies. However, the temple and what it holds within its walls is stranger and more bizarre than anybody could have imagined and as the jungle dwellers begin to succumb to a strange madness, there are people on the outside in New York with their own agenda for the temple who will stop at nothing to get what they desire.

A lot of this book doesn’t make any sense at all but in a way, that’s part of its charm and quirkiness. In the very first pages we are treated to a scene where a man is betting on who will win in a fight between an octopus and a diver (yes, you read that right!) and throughout the novel, we get some wonderful, snarky humour from Ned Beauman that really lifted the slower parts of the narrative for me. Some might call this book a bit of a slog and at times, I did feel that I must admit. It jumps around perspective wise and sometimes it can take a minute to get your head around which character you’re hearing from – and there are a lot, believe me. There was a huge variety in characters and they all seemed very well rounded, even those we hear from just briefly but at times, I did feel like I didn’t have a clue what was going on and it was a bit too much. However, I have to say that even at a particularly slow part, I never felt like I wanted to give up on the novel. I did want to see it through to the end, even if I finished it wondering just what on earth happened?! This novel might not be for everyone but if you fancy a unique read that’s refreshingly different from everything else out there at the moment, I would recommend Ned Beauman.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Did You See Melody? – Sophie Hannah

Published August 25, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Pushed to the breaking point, Cara Burrows abandons her home and family and escapes to a five-star spa resort she can’t afford. Late at night, exhausted and desperate, she lets herself into her hotel room and is shocked to find it already occupied – by a man and a teenage girl.

A simple mistake on the part of the hotel receptionist – but Cara’s fear intensifies when she works out that the girl she saw alive and well in the hotel room is someone she can’t possibly have seen: the most famous murder victim in the country, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder.

Cara doesn’t know what to trust: everything she’s read and heard about the case, or the evidence of her own eyes. Did she really see Melody? And is she prepared to ask herself that question and answer it honestly if it means risking her own life?

What did I think?:

First of all, thank you so much to the lovely people at Hodder & Stoughton publishers for sending me a copy of Sophie Hannah’s latest stand-alone work of crime fiction in exchange for an honest review. I have to admit, I have tried Sophie Hannah’s very early novels a long time ago and whilst I enjoyed them I haven’t felt compelled to keep up with what she’s writing. Until now. Now I’m just thinking perhaps I wasn’t in the mood when I last read a novel by her because it’s as clear as day that she writes such a compelling and fascinating narrative which it’s hard to find any fault with. It’s actually made me more determined to go search out her previous novels and catch up on a great author’s work that I’ve obviously been missing out on.

I understand that Sophie Hannah has published a number of novels as part of a series (Waterhouse and Zailer) but Did You See Melody is a stand-alone story whose synopsis instantly appealed to me (as well as the fact that I’m a bit of a stickler for reading things in order, even when it doesn’t really matter!). Our main character is Cara Burrows who travels to Arizona from England after having some family problems and checks into an exclusive spa for rest, relaxation and to get her head together and figure out what she’s going to do next. While she is there, she is mistakenly checked into a room that already has occupants – a middle-aged man and what seems to be his teenage daughter.

Next, Cara finds out about an old case involving a young girl called Melody Chapa, who was thought to have been murdered by her parents, currently serving a sentence in prison as a result. Before long, Cara realises that the girl she saw in the room could actually be Melody and, if this is the case, why exactly do people think that she is dead? Why is there so much secrecy if she is in fact alive and well? Why are her parents serving time? Furthermore, there seems to be a dangerous plot afoot that could threaten the well-being of anyone who admits to having seen Melody and Cara suddenly finds herself in very real and terrible danger.

This novel had me hooked almost instantly. Cara has her own little back story about why she comes to Arizona and what exactly she is fleeing back home and of course, I was insanely curious to find about her life and what has gone so horrifically wrong for her that she has to leave her husband and two children behind without any warning. Then there is Melody and all the mystery surrounding her situation. Desperate to understand what was going on, I couldn’t help but frantically turn the pages (and probably made it through the novel in record time as a result!). I’m also delighted that although I kind of guessed the perpetrators of the crime, I definitely didn’t envisage all the mini twists and turns that encompassed such a fascinating and exciting story. I’m so glad I gave this novel and Sophie Hannah another go, her back catalogue is now one hundred percent on my radar and I can’t wait to get started!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Blog Tour – The Way Back To Us by Kay Langdale

Published August 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

I am a mess of tears on the train. Can’t remember the last time a book broke my heart so much… (Lucy Dillon on Away from You) Perfect for fans of Adele Parks and Maggie O’Farrell.

Since their youngest son, Teddy, was diagnosed with a life-defining illness, Anna has been fighting: against the friends who don’t know how to help; against the team assigned to Teddy’s care who constantly watch over Anna’s parenting; and against the impulse to put Teddy above all else – including his older brother, the watchful, sensitive Isaac.

And now Anna can’t seem to stop fighting against her husband, the one person who should be able to understand, but who somehow manages to carry on when Anna feels like she is suffocating under the weight of all the things that Teddy will never be able to do.

As Anna helplessly pushes Tom away, he can’t help but feel the absence of the simple familiarity that should come so easily, and must face the question: is it worse to stay in an unhappy marriage, or leave?

What did I think?:

Hello everyone and welcome to my blog tour stop today for this fantastic and emotional novel by Kay Langdale. Thank you so much to Jasmine Marsh and Hodder & Stoughton for inviting me to take part in this tour and providing me with a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review. It’s no secret that I love a story that deals with difficult subjects and when I read the synopsis of The Way Back To Us I knew I simply had to be on board. In my day job, I work for Great Ormond Street Hospital where I come across a number of children who have very serious and rare diseases. Reading fiction for me is normally a great escape from the real world that I have to face but, for a change, I thought it would be interesting to read a fictionalised account of a child with a life-limiting illness. I had high expectations and I’m happy to say they were completely fulfilled – this is a moving, addictive read that had me completely wrapped up in the characters lives and even better, it was one hundred percent believable.

The Way Back To Us mainly focuses on Anna, mother of Isaac and Teddy and wife to Tom (although we hear from a number of perspectives, including the boys themselves). When Teddy was born he seemed like a normal, healthy baby until it was noticed that he wasn’t quite making those huge developmental milestones. After a barrage of tests and investigations, Teddy is diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 2 (SMA) which is characterised by progressive muscle weakness across the entire body, breathing issues, feeding difficulties and skeletal abnormalities. Teddy cannot stand or walk without help and relies heavily on his wheelchair and the constant loving care of his mother to get through every day and have some sense of normality in his life although what he can do is severely limited compared to his older brother, Isaac.

The story follows Anna as she struggles with daily life looking after Teddy and making sure he has the best possible life despite his sad circumstances. Everybody in the family is affected by Teddy’s illness, including Isaac who is often left to manage by himself completely unintentionally because of the level of care and dedication needed to look after Teddy. To add to her worries, Anna and her husband Tom’s relationship seems to have hit a new level of “broken beyond repair.” She takes all the responsibility of looking after Teddy upon herself and refuses to allow him in or admit that she needs help. As a result, their marriage is incredibly fragile and is teetering on the edge of disintegrating completely. Can Anna and Tom address the issues in their relationship and start to talk to each other again or is has what they once had as a couple disappeared for good?

The Way Back To Us was such a poignant and beautiful read. I adored the characters, especially the boys, Teddy and Isaac and really felt for all parties in their horrific situation. It’s true, I did feel like shaking Anna and Tom at points, especially when as a reader you could see everything that was going wrong and what the other person could potentially do to fix it….then they did the exact opposite! This frustration that I mention is only in a good way I assure you, it certainly motivated me to keep reading whilst praying that everything turned out well for the family in the end. The author has obviously done her research into a condition that is obviously distressing and heart-breaking and because of her meticulous plot and flawed but very “real” characters, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey she took me on and found this a hugely powerful read.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Kay Langdale was born in Coventry, England.

From a young age she loved to read and to write.

She attended Bedford College, London University, graduating with a first class degree in English Literature and then went to Oxford University where she completed a doctorate on Samuel Beckett’s prose fiction. She briefly taught twentieth century literature at St Edmund Hall, Oxford before beginning work as an account handler and copywriter at a brand consultancy.

She is married to a South African entrepreneur, with whom she has four children who are now mostly grown. Kay divides her time between their homes in Oxfordshire and Devon.

Now writing her eighth novel, Kay also works as an editor for the charity The Children’s Radio Foundation which trains young broadcasters in six countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

When not writing Kay enjoys running, ballet barre, yoga, swimming, coastal walking, learning Italian, cooking and reading. Always reading.

Find Kay on GoodReads at : https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/862970.Kay_Langdale

on her website at: https://kaylangdale.com/

on Twitter at: @kaylangdale

Thank you once again to Hodder & Stoughton for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a great time doing it. The Way Back To Us was published on 10th August 2017 and is available from all good book retailers now. Why not check out some of the other stops on the tour?

GoodReads link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35382450-the-way-back-to-us?ac=1&from_search=true

Amazon UK link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Silence-Between-Us-Kay-Langdale-ebook/dp/B01KTS4XPA/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1503341159&sr=1-1&keywords=the+way+back+to+us

This Beautiful Life – Katie Marsh

Published August 11, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The addictive and emotive new novel from Katie Marsh, perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes and Jodi Picoult.

‘I lived over half my life before I met you both, and I hope with all my heart to live many years more. You two are the reason why. Always, always the reason why.’

Abi Cooper is living her happy ending. She’s in remission and is ready to make the most of her second chance. But during Abi’s illness her family has fallen apart. Her husband John has made decisions that are about to come back to haunt him, while her teenage son Seb is battling with a secret of his own.

Set to the songs on Abi’s survival playlist, This Beautiful Life is the moving and uplifting story of what happens as Abi tries to put her family back together – and of why life, and love, are worth fighting for.

What did I think?:

Thank you so much to the lovely people at Hodder and Stoughton publishers for sending me a copy of this moving, heart-breaking novel by Katie Marsh in return for an honest review. I went into this book completely new to the author but as the story deals with the big “C,” I fully expected some tears before bedtime. However, I was very surprised to discover that whilst This Beautiful Life does have its fair share of sorrow it also comes with such an uplifting message of hope, love and the importance of a strong family/friendship network and, as a result it was a wonderful reading experience.

Our protagonist is Abi Cooper, in her late thirties and has recently gone through a gruelling round of chemotherapy to attempt to fight her recently diagnosed bowel cancer. It’s been a long, often painful and always frightening road for her, her husband John and their teenage son Seb and whilst she recovers physically, she is desperate for her family life to return to normal. However, things aren’t that simple. Both John and Seb are battling with things that they have hidden from in order to protect her and when certain things are revealed, their world is turned upside down. Abi has always prided herself on her strong relationship with both her husband and her son and the fact that they can talk to each other about anything and everything. Yet what happens to a family when the walls of communication are destroyed and there seems to be little left to fight for?

This is such a powerful story made even more emotional and poignant by the inclusion of Abi’s survival playlist of songs. Interspersed between the chapters are the titles of each song and a short paragraph about why it means to much to Abi and whom it is dedicated to. I loved the musical addition to the narrative and often had the lyrics going round my head as I was reading, it made the whole experience so much more immersive and incredibly moving to say the least. Additionally, the characters are fantastic and hugely readable – I enjoyed the fact they had flaws and were not “picture perfect,” least of all Abi herself who is fully aware of the mistakes that she makes/has made and has to atone for. It’s safe to say this story and the characters definitely got under my skin and I will be looking out for more books by this author in the future. Aaaargh, that ending though Katie Marsh? I really really wanted to know what happened next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Jane Austen At Home: A Biography – Lucy Worsley

Published June 14, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

On the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death, historian Lucy Worsley leads us into the rooms from which our best-loved novelist quietly changed the world.

This new telling of the story of Jane’s life shows us how and why she lived as she did, examining the places and spaces that mattered to her. It wasn’t all country houses and ballrooms, but a life that was often a painful struggle. Jane famously lived a ‘life without incident’, but with new research and insights Lucy Worsley reveals a passionate woman who fought for her freedom. A woman who far from being a lonely spinster in fact had at least five marriage prospects, but who in the end refused to settle for anything less than Mr Darcy.

What did I think?:

I have to admit to having a bit of a tentative relationship with Jane Austen when I was younger. I studied her novel Mansfield Park for English Literature A Level here in the U.K. and didn’t relish the process when I was doing it! However, it was only afterwards when I fell in love with Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility that I realised what a brilliant novel it actually was and it gave me a newfound respect for her writing. I now consider myself a devoted Jane Austen fan and was delighted when Hodder and Stoughton sent me a copy of Lucy Worsley’s new biography of Jane and the homes that she lived in throughout her life to celebrate the 200th anniversary of her death, bringing fresh insights into her character, family, hopes and dreams and how passionate she was about getting her work published.

Jane Austen At Home is a tremendous piece of non fiction. It’s obvious that the author is, in turn, also passionate about her subject and has carried out meticulous research in uncovering things that may have otherwise remained hidden from the general public. It was interesting to discover that a lot of things about Jane Austen were deliberately erased, like certain letters by her sister Cassandra or various tidbits of information about Jane’s personality – goodness knows why as it was perfectly obvious to me that Jane was a normal (albeit incredibly talented!) human being just like anyone else. She had multiple suitors and marriage proposals rather than being the lonely spinster that has been occasionally portrayed historically. Jane made the decision herself not to marry/have children in the end which was hugely brave at a time when marriage would have given her financial stability especially when at times her family was at risk of becoming impoverished.

I was also fascinated to learn about her work and her struggle to get published in more detail – how long it took, the difficulties she faced etc and was filled with admiration for her determination not to give up and the way she continued writing, in her own unique manner, refusing to change her style to conform with fashion. Of course, an author must draw a lot of inspiration for her characters from those around her but it was quite eye opening to discover who may have influenced some of her most beloved (and not so beloved!) characters in her real life situation. One of my favourite things about this biography was learning how much hardship Jane and her family went through i.e. being forced to move from her childhood home and sell her things, living in unsuitable places where she did not feel comfortable and constantly felt uprooted and their fight for financial security that was denied over and over again purely because they were the wrong sex.

If you’re an Austen fan like myself, Lucy Worsley has written a brilliant, captivating biography that really gets to the heart of what Jane Austen was all about as a person and as a writer. I was hugely compelled all the way through and even bitterly sad towards the end. Although we know Jane Austen died at a ridiculously young age it seems so unfair, being a writer of such promise that didn’t receive half the recognition she deserved in her lifetime. This was actually my first experience of Lucy Worsley’s writing and not only am I excited to see what she does next but I’m determined to re-visit her back catalogue. Thank you so much to Hodder and Stoughton for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The White Road – Sarah Lotz

Published May 15, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A cutting-edge thriller about one man’s quest to discover horror lurking at the top of the world.

Desperate to attract subscribers to his fledgling website, ‘Journey to the Dark Side’, ex-adrenalin junkie and slacker Simon Newman hires someone to guide him through the notorious Cwm Pot caves, so that he can film the journey and put it on the internet. With a tragic history, Cwm Pot has been off-limits for decades, and unfortunately for Simon, the guide he’s hired is as unpredictable and dangerous as the watery caverns that lurk beneath the earth. After a brutal struggle for survival, Simon barely escapes with his life, but predictably, the gruesome footage he managed to collect down in the earth’s bowels goes viral. Ignoring the warning signs of mental trauma, and eager to capitalize on his new internet fame, Simon latches onto another escapade that has that magic click-bait mix of danger and death – a trip to Everest. But up above 8000 feet, in the infamous Death Zone, he’ll need more than his dubious morals and wits to guide him, especially when he uncovers the truth behind a decade-old tragedy – a truth that means he might not be coming back alive. A truth that will change him – and anyone who views the footage he captures – forever.

What did I think?:

First of all a huge thank you to Veronique Norton at Hodder and Stoughton books for sending me a copy of this amazing novel, the first I’ve read from Sarah Lotz in exchange for an honest review. I just have to say, I’ve been really lucky recently with books, the last couple I’ve read have been absolute blinders and that includes The White Road which I can’t recommend highly enough. I have a copy of the first book in Sarah’s duology which begins with The Three on my shelves and I was unsure when I was going to get to it. However, after reading the stunning piece of work that is The White Road, it has certainly jumped up a few places on my TBR! It was a thrilling, white-knuckle ride of a novel that will be hard to forget and I’ve already started recommending it to friends and family, I was that blown away.

Our main character is Simon, who runs a website with his friend, Thierry that mainly focuses on him having to complete dangerous challenges. When we first meet him, he is exploring the Cwm Pot caves which have been forbidden to adventurous cavers for a while but Simon manages to find a rather eccentric and quite mentally unstable guide to show him down there so he can get some video footage for his site. Unfortunately, Simon barely escapes with his life but the footage he does manage to get is phenomenally successful and paves the way for another mad-cap idea – climbing Mount Everest. He has heard that there are many dead bodies up on the mountain that are never removed because of the dangers of doing so and he believes if he can get some evidence of this, his site can finally end up making a lot of money.

What I found most wonderful about this story is that we also get the perspective of a seasoned mountain climber, Juliet who is attempting to achieve her dream and climb Mount Everest amidst many of her own personal demons. This section is made all the more special by the fact that we get her diary entries that follow each day on the mountain, information on her past and why she is so determined to succeed and worst of all, the terrifying state of mind that she gets into when she believes she is not alone on her journey which leads to multiple crossings out in her diary, paranoia and hallucinations.

I’m not going to say too much more for fear of spoilers but I must urge everyone to read this book, honestly. I would have been perfectly happy if the story had been all about Simon who, although rather unlikeable and cock-sure in the beginning, really drags the sympathy out of you as you witness his struggles and, indeed abject terror when he finally realises what he has got himself into. Yet then Sarah Lotz hits it out of the park with a wonderful second perspective, narrated some years earlier of another climber, Juliet and how her experience of climbing Mount Everest affected her life. Whatever you think this book is going to be, let me guarantee you it’s not. It’s terrifying, chilling, gorgeously written and so beautifully descriptive I just kept reading certain passages over and over again. At times, I felt I was on that mountain or in that cave with Juliet and Simon. I felt their fright, their despair. I saw what they saw (or didn’t see?) and I felt cold and cramped with them when the going got tough. Please – if you read one book this year that I’ve written a review about, let it be The White Road and then come and talk to me about it as I’m still reeling from the whole experience.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

He Said/She Said – Erin Kelly

Published April 26, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Who do you believe?

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack.

She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, it is not only the victim’s life that is changed forever.

Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear.

And while Laura knows she was right to speak out, the events that follow have taught her that you can never see the whole picture: something – and someone – is always in the dark…

What did I think?:

First of all, the hugest of thank yous to the team at Hodder and Stoughton and Louise Swannell for kindly sending me a copy of He Said/She Said in return for an honest review. To be perfectly honest, I have nothing but gushing praise for this fantastic and thrilling novel! I have read one of Erin Kelly’s other books, The Poison Tree in my pre-blogging days and I remember thoroughly enjoying it but reading this, her most recent book, made me a devoted fan of her writing. Have you ever read a book that gripped you so entirely that you became really cross when you had to stop and do menial, everyday things? If this has been the case with you, dear reader, prepare yourself for not being able to do ANYTHING ELSE while reading He Said/She Said.

The story is about a couple called Laura and Kit, the latter of whom is a keen eclipse chaser and travels all around the world over a number of years to be present at each phenomenal event, weather permitting. When Kit and Laura first meet, she is aware of his eclipse obsession and begins to get in the spirit of things herself, watching her first eclipse with Kit at a festival devoted especially to the event in Cornwall, 1999. It is at this festival however, that both Laura and Kit witness something terrible. Laura is unlucky enough to witness the majority of the situation, Kit only sees the aftermath but it is something that haunts them well into their adult life together and in the present time, where Laura is pregnant. The couple have changed their names and are terribly careful to not leave any online presence – this means no photos, certainly no social media and Laura is suffering from crippling anxiety precipitated from the events that began all those years ago. However, why are they going to all this effort to hide themselves? What exactly happened in Cornwall in 1999 that has affected them so greatly?

I don’t want to go in to too much more detail but I really hope that has whetted your appetite and curiosity. It certainly did the job for me and I was hooked pretty much from the very first chapter. We hear from multiple perspectives, both Kit and Laura’s and across two time periods, the present (2015) and the past (1999). It’s a beautiful and effective way by the author of demonstrating a very slow, methodical reveal of what happened to Laura and Kit to have made them go to the extremes and terror they now live under. It’s also a fascinating character study and I loved the tricks that Erin Kelly used to make you convinced (or not so convinced as the case may have been!) about the personality of a particular individual. I also believe an audible gasp when finishing the novel has got to be a good sign, right? Yes, that happened. Now all I can do is beg you all to read this novel and discover the magic that the author weaves for yourself.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

Small Great Things – Jodi Picoult

Published April 9, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the lovely people at Hodder & Stoughton for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, apologies that it’s taken me so long to write up my thoughts on this thought-provoking and emotionally raw novel! I have to say, I loved the way Small Great Things was marketed in the initial stages. It was sent to me without a title, author, cover image or even blurb on the back. All we were asked to do as reviewers was #readwithoutprejudice. Sorry the image is a little small but you can hopefully see that it’s purely just a black and white cover with very little information about what the story might be about. This was a really new and fascinating way to read a novel and I was excited to see if I could guess the author based on the content.

Did I guess it? Funnily enough, I did! I have been a fan of Jodi Picoult for a while, in fact one of my favourite books of all time is My Sister’s Keeper which my sister Chrissi Reads and I re-read fairly recently for our Banned Books series. Saying that, I haven’t read one of Jodi’s books for a little while but it was comforting to realise once I had finished that she hasn’t lost her touch with approaching controversial topics and family dramas in an open, honest and often nail-biting way. In Small Great Things, we are thrust into the world of Ruth Jefferson, a black labour and delivery nurse who is shocked to her core when some white supremacist parents explicitly request that she should not be permitted to touch their newborn child. When the child in question becomes gravely ill and requires resuscitation, Ruth hesitates briefly and this leads to her being blamed for the child’s death which goes to court in a dramatic showdown between Ruth, her white lawyer Kennedy McQuarrie and the child’s mother and father who strangely enough have appointed a black lawyer for themselves to prosecute Ruth.

The story is told from multiple perspectives (one of my favourite devices used by an author) and we hear not only from Ruth herself but from her lawyer Kennedy and interestingly, from the white supremacist father, Turk where we get a fascinating insight into his past, revealing how he came to hold the extreme views that he does at the time of his son’s death. Of course, it wouldn’t be a Jodi Picoult book without a courtroom drama and she is one of the few authors excepting John Grisham who writes this part of the narrative  in such a compelling way, making it impossible to put the book down.

As I mentioned before, the author courts controversial topics with ease, grace and dogged determination and I always enjoy finding out the topic she will be getting her teeth into next. Without a doubt, Jodi Picoult is like a dog with a bone when she talks about racism through the eyes of her black character, Ruth and I was slightly concerned that writing as a white woman, Ruth’s voice might not feel particularly authentic but I had absolutely no further concerns once I started to read from her perspective. All the characters, even those minor ones that we rarely see were drawn perfectly and were incredibly believable, especially the villain of the piece, Turk whose back story was particularly intriguing. At times, I have to admit it may have come across a bit “Racism For Beginners,” but despite that I still think it’s a book that needs to be read and such a prominent issue both now and in our past.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

Blog Tour – My Grandmother Sends Her Regards And Apologises – Fredrik Backman

Published April 19, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The hilarious, heart-breaking new novel by the author of the international bestseller A MAN CALLED OVE.

‘Granny has been telling fairy tales for as long as Elsa can remember. In the beginning they were only to make Elsa go to sleep, and to get her to practise granny’s secret language, and a little because granny is just about as nutty as a granny should be. But lately the stories have another dimension as well. Something Elsa can’t quite put her finger on…’

Elsa is seven years old and different. Her grandmother is seventy-seven years old and crazy. Standing-on-the-balcony-firing-paintball-guns-at-men-who-want-to-talk-about-Jesus-crazy. She is also Elsa’s best, and only, friend. At night Elsa runs to her grandmother’s stories, to the Land of Almost-Awake and the Kingdom of Miamas. There, everybody is different and nobody needs to be normal.

So when Elsa’s grandmother dies and leaves behind a series of letters apologizing to people she has hurt, it marks the beginning of Elsa’s greatest adventure. Her grandmother’s letters lead her to an apartment building full of drunks, monsters, attack dogs, and totally ordinary old crones-but also to the truth about fairytales and kingdoms and a grandmother like no other.

My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises is told with the same comic accuracy and beating heart as Fredrik Backman’s bestselling debut novel, A Man Called Ove. It is a story about life and death and one of the most important human rights: the right to be different.

What did I think?:

After reading and thoroughly enjoying Fredrik Backman’s debut novel, A Man Called Ove, I was delighted when Sceptre Books offered me the opportunity to be part of a blog tour for his second novel, My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises (also known as My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry). Many thanks to them for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Before starting, I had no idea how much this book was going to affect me and I’m thrilled to say it didn’t disappoint on any level and I now have every intention of reading everything this author will ever write!

There are a number of weird and wonderful characters in this novel whom we learn more and more about as the story progresses but there are a few real stars that shine so brightly from within the pages that it becomes impossible not to fall in love with them. Our main characters are a seven year old girl called Elsa and her seventy-seven year old grandmother, both true forces to be reckoned with. Poor Elsa is not having the best of times, her parents are divorced and she feels increasingly excluded from their lives – her father with his “new” family that often seem to take precedent over her, and her mother and partner George who are just about to have a new baby themselves.

Both her mother and father although separated both go through life requiring order and perfection and Elsa’s personality is often in direct contrast to this, taking more after her grandmother who zips through life defying authority (and pretty much everyone) in an eccentric little whirl of chaos. For her grandmother, this includes smoking like a chimney in all the forbidden places, urinating with the toilet door open and throwing turds at police officers so she often gets in a world of trouble but her grand-daughter is always by her side, loving and worshipping her. Elsa is quite a precocious child who has an unshakeable habit of correcting people’s grammar and saying exactly what she thinks and unfortunately this leads to her having no friends and being constantly bullied at school. Her grandmother is her superhero and invents a fairy-tale world, The Land Of Almost Awake for Elsa to help her escape when things get a bit too much.

Tragically, Elsa’s grandmother passes away but before she dies she concocts a treasure hunt for Elsa which involves Elsa finding letters that she has placed in strategic places and delivering them to their recipient. Each letter takes the form of an apology and through each one, Elsa finds herself learning more about the important people in her grandmother’s life and indeed, much more about her grandmother herself who has amassed a multitude of secrets in her exciting and bizarre life. Making many more friends along the way, Elsa discovers that the characters in their exclusive fairy-tale kingdom may actually exist and may need her just as much as she comes to need them.

This was such a beautiful read taking me through a roller-coaster of emotions, alternately sniggering then coming close to tears. I loved the closeness of the relationship between Elsa and her grandmother and fell head over heels in love with their eccentric personalities but will also have a special soft spot for a very important dog…I’m sorry – “wurse,” who definitely had a personality all of his own and gave Elsa such comfort and support as she came to terms with the loss of her grandmother. My own rather vivid imagination was given such a treat with the creation of a fairy-tale kingdom and it was lovely to see the blurred lines between fantasy and reality as the author laid bare the people behind the fairy-tales. The humour throughout the novel was impeccable and the characters so wonderfully realised that I instantly felt that I knew them all personally. I’ll be picking up Backman’s next novel for sure and highly recommend his work for anyone that enjoys flawed, intensely loveable characters and skilful story-telling.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

The lovely people at Sceptre Books have allowed me to host a giveaway for My Grandmother Sends Her Regards and Apologises and two lucky people will win a copy of the novel. Interested/intrigued? Enter below! Good luck everyone.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

A huge thank you to everyone involved in this blog tour, I’ve had a great time doing it. Why not check out the rest of the stops on the tour where you’ll find some fantastic reviews from my fellow bloggers? My Grandmother Sends Her Regards And Apologises was released by Sceptre Books and is available from all good bookshops now.

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