Turner: The Extraordinary Life and Momentous Times of J M W Turner by Franny Moyle published 25 October 2016

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This book is a bit of a change for me. When I was studying at the Open University for my degree in Art History I read several biographies of artists, but the last couple of years I haven’t read as many non fiction books as I used to.
This book is suitable for all readers, even if you don’t have much knowledge of art you will have heard of Turner.
Joseph William Mallard Turner (1775 – 1851) is one of England’s most well known artists. He was part of the movement called Romanticism, a pre-cursor to Impressionism, and is most well known for his oil paintings which depicted the realism of nature. Turner lived in an interesting period of history, both politically and culturally. The Grand Tour of Europe, popular in the eighteenth century, was no longer popular due to the polital changes in Europe, in particular the revolution in France. In England there were also a revolution but of the Industrial kind. In 1775, the year of Turner’s birth, the Royal Academy of Arts was opened in London encouraging English art and artists. Turner attended the school at the Royal Academy and at the age of fifteen became the youngest artist to have his works on public display. However, in later years, the Royal Academy withdrew its support of Turner and condemned his later experimental work and referring to him as mad. By the end of his life Turner was living under an assumed name, with a widow, which was scandalous in nineteenth century London. He became seen as eccentric, mad and was penniless.
This biography grips the reader from the first page; it opens with Turner’s death in sulubrious circumstances, which makes you want to know more. It is a balanced biography, that not only looks at Turner the artist, but also looks at him as a man and the influences on his life, the contemporary art scene, and the political and cultural history of the period.
It is a well written enjoyable read; you don’t need any knowledge of art or the art world to enjoy this biography. My only complaint was that there were no images of his work to reference in my kindle version, I’m not sure if there are in the physical book, it would have added to the understanding of his paintings. I have to say I’m glad I read this and I will not be leaving it so long before I pick up another biography of an artist.

What We Didn’t Say by Rory Dunlop published 6 October 2016

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Jack and Laura met at university when he was her tutor. Move on several years and they are married and living in London. Jack is now working as a psychotherapist and Laura as a journalist. However, Jack begins to believe that Laura is having an affair which results in the breakdown of their marriage. This novel is a document of that breakdown in the form of a diary written after the event by Jack, with Laura injecting some of her views throughout. This diary shows how a catalogue of misunderstandings and things left unsaid can lead to the breakdown of a marriage.
This is a unique novel in the way that the narrative is in the form of a diary with Laura’s comments when she has a different view. It is well written and the reader is taken on the journey with Jack and Laura as their marriage falls apart. The characters are very aimiable so the reader begins to care about the outcome. This is an emotional read but there is also plenty of humour and sarcasm.

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins published 2015

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Rachel takes the same train to London every morning. When the train stops at set of signals she looks into the houses that back on to the tracks. She pays particular attention to one house and its residents. She imagines the life of the couple whom she calls ‘Jason’ and ‘Jess’ who seem very much in love and happy. But one morning she sees something that shocks and upsets her. This becomes important to Rachel when ‘Jess’, real name Megan, goes missing and ‘Jason’, real name Scott becomes the prime suspect in her disappearance. Rachel now has a reason to become part of their lives and tell the police what she saw. But how reliable is she as a witness, and are there other reasons she wants to be part of their lives.
I have to say that I picked up this book with trepidation as most of the people in my book club didn’t like it. It seems to be a book that people either love or hate. I have to say I loved it. I thought it was well written and, pardon the pun, it picked up momentum as it went along like a train.
Rachel is an interesting choice as the main narrator as she is an alcoholic, with an active imagination. This gives the narrative an unreliability so you are never sure what she says is true or a figment of her imagination. There are two other narrators; Megan, who goes missing, and Anna, who is married to Tom, Rachel’s ex-husband. Through Megan we get he back story and he events that led up to her disappearance. Anna gives a different outlook on Rachel’s character and what Rachel was like before her divorce.
This book has a smoke and mirrors effect, you’re never quite sure who or what to believe as all the characters have hidden agendas. There are plenty of twists and turns with a brilliant conclusion. I only hope the film is as good as I am going to see it with my daughter next week.

A Mother’s Confession by Kelly Rimmer published 28 October 2016

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Olivia is recently widowed after her husband, David, commits suicide. From the outside they seemed to have the perfect marriage. David is a local business owner and a member of the Town Council with hopes of becoming Mayor one day. Olivia is the local vet and their family seems complete with the arrival of baby Zoe. But behind closed doors David subjects Olivia to years of physical and verbal abuse.
Ivy, is David’s mother. She idolised her son all his life, put him on a pedestal. No one in her eyes was ever good enough for her son. She does not believe her precious son could ever do any thing wrong, or hurt anyone even when the evidence shows otherwise. Two women, both grieving, both with secrets, who would do anything to protect their child.
Ivy and Olivia are the narrators in this novel. Through Ivy we see how David grew up and became the man he was. Olivia’s story is one of survival at the hands of her abusive husband and how she tries to put her life back together.
It is well written and deals sensitively, but with honesty, the difficult themes of domestic violence and suicide. It is hard to read in some places, especially when Ivy realises what’s going on but lives in denial as she sees her son through rose tinted glasses.
The characters are well developed and realistic in their emotions and actions surrounding the issues of domestic violence and death. I have to say Ivy really annoyed me at times in her smothering of David and her denial to the reality of the situation. I do feel she had some responsibility for her son’s actions. By the end I had no sympathy for her at all.
This is an emotional read that covers the full scale of human emotions; death, domestic violence, love and forgiveness. I do suggest that you have a box of hankies at the ready when you read this book.

Fractured by Catherine McKenzie published 4 October 2016

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After writing the best seller The Murder Game, Julie Prentice moves to Mount Adams Cincinnati to start a new life after being stalked. After an incident at a party she finds herself persona non grata with most of the neighbours. She does however become friends with neighbour John Dunbar who lives opposite Julie. They bond over their morning runs, and when Julie suspects that her stalker has returned it is John who is there for support. But is it the stalker or one of her new neighbours? Tensions begin to rise and one incident with John sets off a chain reaction that results in a tragedy.
This book is split between two timelines, the present day and the year leading up to that day. The author uses this to drip feed information both to the build up and the aftermath of the tragedy. This grabs the reader’s attention as we don’t find out what actually happens until the last few pages.
The narrators are Julie and John which gives two different perspectives to the build up to, and the tragedy that both are involved in.
The Characters are well developed and are typical of many residents in any neighbourhood, they all have their problems behind closed doors but put on a facade to the neighbours. There are many complex relationships between the characters, and this adds to the tension of the book.
This is a well written thriller with a great plot. Tension builds throughout the book and there are many twists and turns to get you thinking.

The Chocolate Lovers’ Club by Carole Matthews published 21 April 2016

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Lucy, Chantal, Autumn and Nadia, The Chocolate Lovers’ Club, are back in the fourth book of the series.
Lucy is busy planning her wedding to Aiden ‘Crush’ Holby but it has to be on a budget. She is also missing working at Chocolate Heaven, now owned by ex boyfriend Marcus.
Chantal’s divorce is nearly finalised and she is embarking on a new realatonship with Jacob. After some unexpected news, Chantal has to re-evaluate her life.
Autumn’s future is looking bright. She is finally going to meet Willow, the daughter she gave up for adoption 15 years ago and her relationship with Miles is going very well.
Nadia has some big decisions to make after falling in love with James, a farmer who she met at Christmas whilst in the Lake District. Should she follow her heart or stay with her friends in London.
All four have big decisions to make, but they have each other for support. This is a book about love, relationships but most of all the importance of friends.
Returning to The Chocolate Lover’s Club is like putting on your favourite pyjamas; familiar, comfortable, reassuring and most of all happy. This is the fourth book in the series, and I think it is the best. I love the way the characters have developed and matured over the course of the boooks. This book sees them all at a similar crossroads in their life, all are considering marriage and considering their long term future, even if that means moving away.
This book made me laugh and cry in equal measure. By the last chapter I had tears rolling down my face, in happiness and sadness. I really hope this is not the last book about these four wonderful women, I would love to know what happens next.
What can I say, this is an excellent read and I highly recommend this book and the previous three in the series. Thank you Carole Matthews for another brilliant book.

Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypole White published 27 September 2016

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Marianne Stokes left England at the age of seventeen after an accident that triggered her manic depression and a suicide attempt. Thirty years on, Marianne is living in North Carolina with her husband Darius and daughter Jade. She runs a successful recording studio and also helps vulnerable young women. After a car accident, where a woman looses her born child, Marianne’s mental health spirals out of control and she decides that she needs to go back to England and face the secrets and daemons of her past. What she didn’t expect was to bump into Gabriel, her first love, and now the vicar of Newton Rushford. Once there Marianne begins to spiral out of control and emotions are heightened as she faces up to the decisions she made as a teenager and their subsequent consequences.
This is a difficult read at times as it deals with bipolar and the effect it has not only Marianne it also those a round her. The subject is dealt with compassion, but at the same time brutal honesty. The characters are complex, all have their own issues from the past that they need to deal with. There is a varied cast from Gabriel the Vicar to Jade who had an abusive childhood before she ran away and Marianne took her in.
It is a well written emotional novel, but there are also humour and hope. It will certainly stay with you long after you finish the last page.