Thursday, 18 September 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Bonkers, My Life in Laughs by Jennifer Saunders

She's been in two of the most popular double acts in TV history. As the Saunders out of French and Saunders, she gave the world one of its longest-lasting, most loved comedy partnerships. And in Ab Fab's Eddie and Patsy she created two hilarious monsters we've taken to our hearts.
Bonkers is the story of how it all came about. Or at least the bits she recalls. The rest she made up. Either way, it's all here; the stories, the characters, Dawn, Joanna and, playing herself throughout, Jennifer. 

Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 279

I adored this book from start to finish. I'm not usually a big fan of autobiographies but I didn't want this one to end. I felt like I had met Jennifer Saunders for a glass of wine and a chat.
I am a big fan of French and Saunders and Absolutely Fabulous ad this book showcases how naturally funny and talented Jennifer Saunders is. I loved learning about how these shows came about and were developed over many years.
I was also quite shocked to discover that Jennifer Saunders is actually very shy but she is most comfortable when performing in front of a large audience.
Bonkers covers Jennifer's childhood, training, TV success, marriage, breast cancer, becoming a mother, dealing with the ups and downs of fame plus the odd rant or two.
It's beautifully honest and poignant whilst also being brilliantly funny. If you are a fan of this lovely lady then I would definitely give it a read.


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

BOOK REVIEW: If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful I Never Would Have Let You Go by Judy Chicurel

If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful I Never Would Have Let You Go is set on a fictionalised Long Island in the summer of 1972 in a close-knit working class community whose young men have been hard hit by the Vietnam war, and whose young women, including narrator Katie, face challenging decisions about the future.

Publisher: Tinder Press
Pages: 272 
Date: 30th October 2014

If I Knew is a stunning debut from Judy Chicurel. Set in a Long Island community in the summer of 1972, the book follows Katie who has just finished school. It is a real mix of the possibilities of the future ahead mirrored with the young men returning from Vietnam to the small-knit town. They  have seen the future and it is terrifying. Katie likes Luke who has just returned from the war; she liked him before he went but will she be able to fully understand the person he has become?
The aspect of the book that stood out the most to me was the dialogue; it was so well written, I felt like I was eaves-dropping on conversations. Judy Chicurel brings her characters to life through the dialogue; it feels effortless and natura
l.
The book very much captured the feeling of change that took place at the time. Elephant Beach is a small community and I felt that it was used almost to embody the naivety of some people and the insular way in which they viewed the world.
Judy Chicurel is extremely talented, this is an accomplished debut and one that I would highly recommend.

Many thanks to Georgina for sending me copy of this book to review, If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful I Never Would Have Let You Go is published on 30th October by Tinder Press.  

Friday, 12 September 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Mallory's Oracle by Carol O'Connell

Detective Kathy Mallory. New York's darkest.
You only underestimate her once.
The soul of a thief.
When NYPD Sergeant Kathy Mallory was an eleven year old street kid, she got caught stealing. The detective who found her was Louis Markowitz. He should have arrested her. Instead he raised her as his own, in the best tradition of New York's finest.
The mind of a cop.
Now Markowitz is dead, and Mallory, the first officer on the scene. She knows any criminal who could outsmart her father is no ordinary human. This is a ruthless serial killer , a freak from the night-side of the mind.
The courage of a hero with nothing to lose.
And one question troubles her more than any other: why did he go in there alone?

Publisher: Headline
Pages: 272  

I'm always on the look out for a new crime series and I think I may have found it, Mallory's Oracle is the first in the series of Mallory novels by Carol O'Connell.
Kathy Mallory is a New York detective but her talents lie in technology not out on the streets. She was taken in at the age of eleven by NYPD detective Louis Markowitz. Louis and his wife Helen raised Kathy and set her on the straight and narrow but Mallory still harbours some demons and is always prepared to bend the law if she feels it is the right thing to do.
When Louis Markowitz is murdered, Kathy is first on the scene. She has no idea why her father went after a suspect alone and how he was outwitted, he was the smartest man she knew. Mallory is given indefinite leave to get over her father's death but she has no plans to stay at home with her feet up. Instead she embarks on an investigation of her own to catch a ruthless serial killer.
Mallory's oracle was a really good read. Kathy Mallory is a well-crafted character, she is not necessarily likeable but she is damaged enough to be interesting to the reader. I feel like I have only scratched the surface of this character and I think we will find out more and more as the series develops.
This book requires you to pay attention, I felt a little bombarded by characters and suspects at the beginning but once I had a handle on it all I was really interested to find out how it all fitted together.
The New York setting is perfect; it provides a gritty and realistic backdrop to the story. In this book we meet characters from all types of backgrounds and it showed that murder doesn't just affect the down-trodden.
Mallory's Oracle is a great read, I am looking forward to the rest of the series.

Many thanks to Caitlin at Headline for sending me a review copy. 

Monday, 8 September 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Where Love Lies by Julie Cohen

Lately, Felicity just can't shake the shadow of uncertainty that has pervaded her life. Her husband Quinn is the kindest person she knows and loves her peculiarities more than Felicity feels she deserves, But suddenly it's as if she doesn't quite belong.
Then Felicity experiences something extraordinary: a scent of perfume in the air that evokes memories and feelings that have been settled deep within her for a long time, untouched and undisturbed. As it happens again and then again, the memories of a man Felicity hasn't been seen for ten years akso flutter to the surface, And so do the feelings of being deeply, exquisitely in love, or is it something else?

Publisher: Transworld
Pages: 368 pages

Where Love Lies is an excellent read, Julie Cohen has written a dark and interesting drama. Felicity is married to Quinn, a newspaper editor, she works from home as a childrens author and they live in a picturesque cottage in a tiny village. Everything is perfect but Felicity has changed and she has begun looking at life very differently. She has always been a little different, one of the many things that Quinn loves about her but her behaviour has become a little concerning. Felicity keeps experiencing episodes where she can smell the scent of Frangipani and this in turn sets off memories of a past relationship with her first love. At the end of these episodes Felicity is left feeling euphoric with love but not with her husband. She leaves the marital home to take some time to explore these feelings; she knows she is hurting Quinn but she also feels like he deserves so much more than her. What is causing these episodes and can she ignore them for the sake of her loving husband?
It's hard to review this book without giving the plot away and I don't want to as it's such a good one. Julie Cohen throws in some particularly good plot twists though, one at the end literally made me gasp out loud.
Felicity is a very complex character, I was still undecided by the end of the book as to whether I liked her or not. She has no control over the episodes she is having but I didn't necessarily agree with the way she dealt with it. I think this was partly because I felt quite protective of Quinn who was an extremely likable character. I felt as though he was constantly treading a thin line between protecting Felicity and giving her room to be herself.
Where Love Lies is an emotional read, you can really feel the turmoil that Felicity is in and her confusion as to why. Feelings are a huge part of the book, Julie Cohen explores what they mean and how they affect us, the ones we should and shouldn't have plus the ones we miss having.
Where Love Lies is a hard hitting drama with an excellent plot, Julie Cohen knows how to shock and enthrall her readers from the beginning to the end.

Many thanks to Transworld for sending me a review copy. 

Friday, 5 September 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

It was all just a terrible misunderstanding.
Feelings got hurt.
Then everything just spiralled out of control.
Jane hasn't lived anywhere for longer than six months since her son was born five years ago. She keeps moving in an attempt to escape her past. Now the idyllic coastal town of Pirriwee has pulled her to its shores and Jane feels as if she finally belongs. She finds friends in the feisty Madeline and the incredibly beautiful Celeste, two women with seemingly perfect lives and their own secrets.
But at the start of a new term, an incident involving the children of all three women occurs in the playground, causing a rift between them and other parents. Minor at first, but escalating fast, until whispers and rumours become vicious and spiteful, and truths blur into lies. It was always going to end in tears, but no one thought it would end in murder...

Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 452

Liane Moriarty is fast becoming one of my favourite authors; I have read three of her  books now and I think she is a fantastic storyteller.
Little Lies focuses on three mothers, Celeste, Jane and Madeline. Their young children all attend Pirriwee Public School, they become good friends but all three women have secrets that will have huge consequences for the whole community.
The story was set up so well by Liane Moriarty, we know from the very beginning that someone has been murdered at the school trivia night but we don't know who; who by or why. The book goes back in time to build up the events until, that fateful evening. It's very clever as I felt as though I was on the edge of my seat from the very beginning. I was not disappointed  by the ending of the book; it was not what I was expecting at all. Liane Moriarty likes to shock her readers and she does it so well.
In all three of her books the author has written about small, close-knit communities. It was a fantastic idea to set this book in a school community as so many readers will be able to identify with it. The author shows the competitiveness, superiority, cliquishness and tensions in the playground and that is only the parents, not the children. Celeste, Jane and Madeline have no choice but to enter into this world which brings out the best in some and very worst in others.
I don't want to give anything away  about this fantastic book but the plot is gripping and shocking in places; Little Lies is a well thought out book that you will not be able to put down.

Many thanks to Katie at Penguin for sending me a review copy, Little Lies is out now. 

Monday, 1 September 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Off Key by Mark Robertson

Charlotte has supported Kyle's precarious musical career for three years. Now she thinks it's her turn. When Kyle doesn't want to play the breadwinner she looks to a future on the other side of the Atlantic.
Saxophonist Kyle has no money, no career and has now lost the love of his life. Can an autistic twelve year old boy and an alcoholic 'has been' be his salvation?

Publisher: Matador
Pages: 316

Off Key was quite a different read for me; I rarely read books written by men and it focuses on a Jazz musician; a genre of music that I am not too fond of! However, I very much enjoyed this book and the characters that Mark Robertson has created.
Kyle is the main focus, he's down on his luck from the very beginning. He's been supported  by Charlotte for more than three years and she's finally had enough. I have to say that I didn't feel a huge a
mount of sympathy for Kyle in the beginning as it seemed as though he had pushed Charlotte into walking away.
Off Key follows Kyle as he tries to deal with his lot in life. . He meets Harry, a fellow musician who has turned to alcohol to deal with his woes. I liked Harry's character and he raised different questions about dealing with disappointment and frustration. Not every musician is successful and famous, what do you do if you can't do what you love? If your dreams are never going to become a reality?
The author knew that I didn't like Jazz music when he sent me the book so that was pretty brave in a way. However, Off Key is brimming with information about music and Mark Robertson's passion for music and performing are clear to see within the story. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book but don't be put off as it really is about so much more; love, dreams, friendships, struggles and loyalty. Off Key is Mark Robertson's first book and it is a debut I would recommend.

Many thanks to Mark for sending me a copy of the book to review. 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Bellman and Black by Diane Setterfield

As a boy, William Bellman commits one small cruel act that appears to have unforeseen and terrible consequences. The killing of a rook with his catapult is soon forgotten amidst the riot of boyhood games. And by the time he is grown, with a wife and children of his own, he seems indeed to be a man blessed by fortune. Until tragedy strikes, and the stranger in black comes, and William Bellman starts to wonder if all his happiness is about to be eclipsed. Desperate to save the one precious thing he has left, he enters into a bargain. A rather strange bargain, with an even stranger partner, to found a decidedly macabre business.
And Bellman and Black is born...

Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: 25th September

I was a huge fan of Diane Setterfield's first book, The Thirteenth Tale so I was extremely excited to see that she had written a new one. Bellman and Black is a fascinating read; it is dark and mysterious, leaving you feel quite unsettled but in a good way.
William Bellman is the central character and at the beginning of the book he is just a boy. A boy who kills a rook with his catapult, showing off to his friends. This one small act has consequences when he becomes an adult. The folklore surrounding rooks is a big part of the book; these birds remember everything and can foresee death and tragedy. The details of the folklore meant that I didn't question this aspect of the book at all. I just felt that William Bellman was going to be punished for taking the rook's life, even though he had no idea that his actions would have any kind of consequences.
In the first part of the book we see that William Bellman is a good man and particularly hard working. He goes from being an apprentice at his uncle's mill to running the whole business. He has a loving wife and several beautiful children. The second part of the book sees the downturn of Bellman's life; those close to him start dying and only his daughter is left. He makes a deal with the mysterious Mr Black to save her. Mr Black has been appearing at the funerals of all those Bellman has lost; Bellman has no idea who he is or where he has come from but he does know that if he does as Black says then his daughter will survive. So Bellman sets up Bellman and Black, a mourning emporium. He sells nearly everything to do with death, he is effectively profiting from other people's losses. Bellman is so relieved that his daughter has been spared but he begins to question who exactly Mr Black is and why has nobody else seen him?
Bellman and Black is described as a ghost story and it does have that Victorian/gothic feel to it. However, I think it would be better described as a mystery as this is not a tale about things that go bump in the night.
Diane Setterfield's writing is extraordinary, I felt like she drew me into the story from the very first page and then weaved a wonderful fictional world around me. As I said, I felt that the idea of the rooks was entirely believable and I couldn't stop reading as I wanted to know what would become of William Bellman. He is such a good character and I completely loved the idea of a mourning emporium, it was the perfect fit for the Victorian period.
Bellman and Black is an excellent read that showcases Diane Setterfield's many talents for storytelling.

Many thanks to Orion for allowing me to read a review copy via Netgalley. 

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