The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen published 27 September 2016

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Welcome to Sycamore Grove in North Caroline, a small town with characters you would find in any American town. But behind the white picket fences there are secrets a plenty. Lance is left bringing up his two children after his wife left ten months ago. His neighbour Zell helps with the children to fill a void in her life. Jencey returns to Sycmore Grove with her two girls after leaving in a hurry over ten years ago. Bryte, was Jencey’s best friend at school, is not as happy as she should be about her return as she worries about the her family now Jencey has returned. Cailey is forced to take on the role ofthe adult and look after her brother during the summer as her mother has to work.
During the sweltering heat of summer these characters are brought together after an accident at the community pool and slowly their secrets begin to come out into the open.
This book reads very much like an American drama, rather like Desperate Houswives. On the outside everyone seems very happy and leading ordinary lives but behind closed doors tensions are running high. The plot delves into the darker side of suburban life and also shows how important the community spirit is during times of trouble.
The characters are the narrator so we see contrasting views to the events of that summer. The multi layered narrative helps the story flow seamlessly and keeps the reader’s attention: every chapter is seen from a different point of view.
I would not have normally picked up this type of book but I really enjoyed it. It is a heartwarming tale, that shows the importance of community and friendship.

The Light Between Oceans by M.L.Stedman published 2012

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Tom is the new lighthouse keeper on the remote Janus Island off the shore of Australia. When he marries Isabel they live a solitary existence on the Island only getting leave every three years. The only blight on their relationship is Isabel’s desperation for a child. One morning a small boat washes up on the shore, the man is dead but a small baby is still alive. Tom knows he should let someone know but Isabel sees it as a gift from God and wants to keep the baby. Their decision sets off ripples of consequences that not only effects them but also her family in Partaguese and with Hannah, the baby’s real mother. This is a novel of decisions, consequences human nature, and the blurred lines between what is wrong and right.
This a haunting read that will stay with you long after you finish the book. I found that it made me question what I would have done in that situation. This would make it an ideal book for a book club as I think there will be many different opinions as to what people would do. I have to say I read this is part of a book club I am in, and I’m glad I chose it.
The storyline is innovative and intelligent. It is very atmospheric in it the descriptive writing with a lot of historical detail of the early twentieth century and how the lighthouses were run. There is a lot of scope for the development of the characters that are well drawn with attention to their history that helps us understand why they do what they do and why; their attract the empathy of the reader.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, its one of those where you are desperate to get to the end to see what happens but at the same time you don’t want the book to end. I have to say I was left bereft by the time I finished, with a mix of emotions and thoughts going through my head. It really does get to your heart. I know the film is coming out soon and I hope it does the book justice. I will go and see the film and will have a huge box of tissues at the ready.

The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards published 13 September 2016

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Sophie starts what should be her dream job at Jackdaw Publishing after having 4 years off to bring up her daughter. Sophie has some history with Jackdaw Publishing as she was friend’s at university with the owner’s granddaughter Jasmine. Unfortunately it is not what she expected; her assistant Cassie seems to be out to undermine Sophie. Sophie discovers that her predecessor left suddenly and hasn’t been seen since. Events begin to spiral out of control and when her husband, Guy, and daughter, Daisy become part of the disturbing events Sophie realises that she has made a mistake and begins to fear for her own life. Why is Sophie being targeted and could it be linked to her time at university? Sophie needs to find out before she looses her job and family.
This is the first book I have read by Mark Edwards and it certainly wont be the last. This is a brilliant psychlogical thriller, so good that I read it in one day including during Formula 1 qualifying and I’m a huge Formula 1 fan. The plot is cleverly thought out with fantastic twists and turns. The characters are very realistic and readers will identify with them. Nearly all are untrustworthy with something to hide, so the reader is left with suspicions of their motives and left wondering just who is trying to frighten Sophie.
It is a dark and chilling read especially when Sophie’s daughter is brought into the equation and used to frighten her. In our time we have all had a ‘bad day at the office’ but nothing compared to Sophie’s.
A compelling read that will grip you and hold on tight until the last page.

The Girl From The Savoy by Hazel Gaynor published 8 September 2016

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This is a story of life, love,hope and death. It is beautifully written with a lot of detail given to both characters and setting. 1920’s London is brought vividly to life; it is the era of The Bright Young things, all living life to the full after the devestation caused by World War 1. There are three narrators, Dolly a maid at the Savoy who dreams of a life on the stage, Loretta a debutante who was a nurse during the war but is now a star of the stage and Teddy, Dolly’s former boyfriend who went to war and returned with shell shock. All three characters have come from different backgrounds but all have been forever touched by the horrors of the war. The characters all bring different aspects to the story so the readers interest is kept throughout. Their common ground is that no matter where you come from, and what experiences you have had, everyone wants to better themselves. Life and death are a theme that runs through the novel and the two main characters, Loretta and Dolly really symbolise that; Dolly the rising star just starting out in life and Loretta the dying star at the end of her career.
I found Teddy’s story really sad. The letters between him and Dolly are very poignant and give an insight into the thoughts and feelings of both the soldiers on the front line and their loved ones back home.
Overall I really enjoyed this book, I loved the historical detail and the characters. A good easy read.

The Secret Wife by Gill Paul published 25 August 2016.

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1914 Russia, Dmitri Malma is in a military hospital in St Petersburgh after being injured on the front line. Whilst there he meets and falls in love with Grand Duchess Tatiana, the second eldest daughter of Tsar Nicholas, who is working as a nurse with her mother Tsarina Alexandria and older sister Olga. Romance blossoms quickly but with the start of the Revoltion events take a catastrophic turn for the worse. Dimitri is called back to the front line and Tatiana and her family are placed under house arrest.
2016 Dmitri’s great granddaughter Kitty Fisher finds herself on a plane to America after finding out that her husband has had an affair. Kitty decides to go to the cabin left to her by her great grandfather on the shores of Lake Akanabee. Whilst there she finds an oval pendant, encrusted with jewels, which leads her to find out about the mysterious Dmitri and the secret that has been buried for nearly 100 years.
This book is in one of my favourite genres, with the dual storylines, one historical and one contemporary. The Romanov’s and their history is a topic used by many authors in their novels due to the mystery surrounding the events of their death. I liked the fact that Gill Paul chose Tatiana as the main protagonist rather than Anastasia who most authors choose. The story of Tatiana and Dmitri is based on fact as Tatiana did fall in love with a cavalry officer called Dmitri and there was talk of a marriage between them after the war.
This is a beautifully written novel with lots of historical detail. The prose flows smoothly between both timelines, and really pulls the reader into the story. The characters are engaging with a versmilitude about them, you really care what happens to them. This is a very haunting and intelligent novel that will draw on all your emotions, be prepared to be consumed in this beautiful romantic, yet tragic story.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen 83 1/4 Years Old published 25 August 2016.

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Hendrik Groen decides to write a diary of his life in his care home. He plans it as an expose of how the care home is run as well as his feelings at being old. Hendrik introduces a wide range of memorable characters from the business like care home director to his close friends in the Not Dead Yet Club. Through a twelve month period we follow Hendrik and his friends growing old disgracefully and Hendrik’s thoughts on old age.
This is a bit written with great wit,it is poignant yet very funny. At time it reads like a manifesto of how to grow old disgracefully. There are many anecdotes on life and death, in particular euthanasia as well as discussions on current events, making this a very relevant novel.
The characters, especially his close friends in the Not Dead Yet, are very endearing and face old age in their own unique way whilst facing the reality of dementia, diabetes, bladder problems and general aches and pains.
This is a book that, although about being old, will appeal to readers of all ages. There is a lot of sarcasm and humour that will have you crying with laughter, but there is an underlying message about the facts of growing old and how treat our ageing population.
I highly recommend this book [I have got it for my dad as he and his friends will love it]. With Christmas around the corner it would make a great present.

The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent published 1 September 2016

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Fran and her husband Nathan seem to be the perfect family on the surface. They have two lovely children and have just moved to a large farmhouse at the edge of The Fens, where Nathan grew up. One night Fran wakes to find Nathan has not come to bed. She decides to go and look for him and is devestated in her discovery. In the coming days Fran’s world is turned upside down. Just how well did she know her husband, and what were the real reasons he wanted to return to The Fens? Fran will end up questioning every aspect of her marriage.
I have read many of Cristobel Kent’s other books, mainly her Sandro Cellini crime novels set in Florence and a couple of her other books set in Italy. This is the first book of hers I have read set in England and I had high hopes. It is an intelligent book with a brilliant plot with so many twists and turns my head was spinning. Needless to say I didn’t work out the ending. I found the characters very affable and realistic. Fran’s character did make me think just how well do we really know someone when we get into relationships and how we trust what they tell us. I had empathy for her situation and the trust she had put in her husband. The book was well written, my only complaint was that on occasion the timeline jumped around and I wasn’t quite sure where I was, it was all a bit confusing. Overall I did enjoy the book, it was a compelling read, as are her other books but maybe not as good as some of her others. I highly recommend her Sandro Cellini novels.

The Minaturist by Jessie Burton published 2014

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Nella arrives in Amterdam at the age of 18 as the wife of merchant Johannes Brandt. As a wedding gift he gives her a a beautiful cabinet that is a miniature re-creation of her new home. Nella enlists the services of the Minaturist to create furniture and objects to fill the cabinet. But when the pieces arrive they are exact replicas of the objects and people she lives with, how does the Minaturist know so much about not only the house but also the people who live there and their secrets. Is the Minaturist trying to help Nella and give her an insight into the people she lives with or destroy them?
Every now and then as an avid reader a book comes along that really stands out from others you have read and The Minaturist is one of those books. It is so beautifully written with the most wonderful characters. The narrative flows with ease and is well plotted and deals with complex issues like race, sex, marriage, class and religion in 17th Century Amsterdam. It is beautifully atmospheric and immerses the reader in the smells, sights, and sounds of Amsterdam. It is a book full of surprises both in plot and characters, things are never what they first seem and there is an air of mystery surrounding the characters. This is a delightful book to read and hard to believe it is Jessie Burton’s first novel. This book has everything; historical detail, suspense, mystery, love and romance. I cannot recommend it enough, I would have given a 10 rating if I could, it is sublime.
Since reading the book I have found out that the BBC will be turning it into a drama in 2017, I just hope hey do it justice.

My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry published 25 August 2016

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This is a book of two halves that centres around four main characters. In the first part we meet Lily and Ed who are just back from honeymoon in Italy. Ed works for an advertising agency but wants to be a full time artist. Lily is a newly qualified lawyer preparing to take on her first criminal case. The client is Jo Thomas, convicted of killing his girlfriend in a scalding bath. Lily is trying to get the conviction overturned and lay blame on the boiler company who have had problems with thermostats. There is something about Jo that Lily is dangerously drawn to and him to her. The final protagonist is Carla, the daughter of their neighbour whom Lily and Ed look after on Sunday’s when her mother has to work.
For the second part we move on 12 years. Lily and Ed are having problems; Lily is a successful lawyer and Ed a struggling artist. At this time both Jo and Carla come back into their lives with devestating consequences.
The book is narrated in alternating chapters by Lily and Carla. In the first part Carla gives the reader a chance to see a child’s view of the lives of adults, where things are a lot more literal. Both narrators are very plausible and give different viewpoints on complex relationships and events. All four characters have their flaws; Lily in putting work before family; Ed with his drinking and artistic temperament; Jo and his criminal past and Carla who blames everyone else for what happened to her and her mother. All are believable, if not a times likeable.
There are so many emotions in this book, it is a real roller coaster. Twists and turns are also in abundance so you are kept on your toes. It is well written, with a good storyline that grabs the reader and holds on to them throughout. At times I felt it did drag a bit hence my rating, however it is a must for thriller fans.