Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Review : Amnesia by Michael Ridpath

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Published by Corvus (Atlantic Books)
04 May 2017
Copy - Paperback from Readers First


The Blurb

Alastair Cunningham wakes up in hospital with almost total amnesia. But he knows that something terrible happened in his past, something that haunts him still. A young family friend, Clémence is called in to help rekindle his memory. Retreating with Alastair to his remote cottage, Clémence finds a peculiar manuscript hidden away from prying eyes. Reading the prologue, she discovers a murder by someone very much like a young Alastair. The victim? Clémence’s grandmother, Sophie. Could this kindly old man truly be a killer? Clémence becomes determined to find out what happened all those years ago, even if she must risk everything to do so…


The Very Pink Notebook Review

This book starts in the thick of the action, immediately drawing you in and encouraging you to read on. Within the first few chapters the author establishes, very confidently and clearly, the two main characters, Clemence and Alastair who develop a clever and sometimes amusing, relationship.

Trying to regain his memory and piece together his life becomes a novel within a novel as the two read a seemingly autobiographic manuscript they find back at the cottage.  The reader is taken back to Alastair's life as a young man at University and the relationships he develops there which result in long reaching consequences.  A truly tangled web of deceit is woven involving love lost, money and murder.

At first it seems clear, the reader is being told the true story via the novel, but several elements do not quite make sense and Clemence is not convinced things are as straightforward as the book suggests, and indeed they aren't, thus you are then taken on a blind excursion of discovery to find out just what piece of vital evidence has been taken away and why and by whom...

The use of the environmental setting, dark and brooding Scotland in winter, seems to be the perfect backdrop for the tone of the novel, as in looks can be deceiving. The beauty of Scotland can draw you in but be lethal if not handled correctly. Well written and paced this novel is gripping and enticing.  I had my suspicions about half way through of what may happen at the end and although it did there was also so much I did not see coming!  I have to say, the final two pages of the novel were brilliant and I loved what the author has done - it certainly made me smile. 

I will most certainly be reading more from Michael Ridpath.

Amnesia receives a must read Very Pink Notebook Rating of :


Monday, 24 April 2017

Review : Everything But The Truth by Gillian McAllister

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Published by : Penguin Random House
09 March 2017
Copy : Paperback - Reviewer Purchase


The Blurb

It all started with the email.

Rachel didn't even mean to look. She loves Jack and she's pregnant with their child. She trusts him.

But now she's seen it, she can't undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.

Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn't Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

My purchase of this book followed lots of hype and rave reviews on Twitter and I do love a debut novel, especially in the domestic noir / psychological thriller genre. 

Everything but the Truth isn't a read with one eye story, but it is an intriguing insight into how quickly people can jump into a life with someone they barely know and the subsequent consequences.  Protagonist Rachel finds this out after falling pregnant by relatively new boyfriend Jack and as it comes to light that Jack may not be quite who he seems, Rachel has to question - is anyone perfect?  And along comes the debate about how much of someone's past should and can be brushed over.

Rachel wrestles with many issues over the course of this book, but essentially they all boil down to 'relationships'.  The relationship between herself and her mother.  The relationship she has as a doctor with patients.  Her own romantic relationships.  They are cleverly woven in and out of the main plot of discovering Jack's past.  Told from only the viewpoint of Rachel we learn about her own chequered history, which certainly muddies the waters about her reliability about what she is perceiving and although this isn't a book that goes at staggering speed or has big epic scenes, it is a real page turner.  The issues it deals with are very possible and does make you question - what if?  It is confidently written and the characters are well rounded and developed, all of them with their own flaws, they could easily be people you could know in your own life.

Everything but the Truth is a well plotted and enjoyable debut novel.

The Very Pink Notebook therefore gives this book :

 



Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Review : A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys

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Published by : Doubleday
23 March 2017
Copy : Paperback received from Alison Barrow

The Blurb

It was a first class deception that would change her life forever

1939, Europe on the brink of war. Lily Shepherd leaves England on an ocean liner for Australia, escaping her life of drudgery for new horizons. She is instantly seduced by the world onboard: cocktails, black-tie balls and beautiful sunsets. Suddenly, Lily finds herself mingling with people who would otherwise never give her the time of day.

But soon she realizes her glamorous new friends are not what they seem. The rich and hedonistic Max and Eliza Campbell, mysterious and flirtatious Edward, and fascist George are all running away from tragedy and scandal even greater than her own.

By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and life will never be the same again.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

This novel is a drama suspense of which I thoroughly enjoyed.  With beautiful, languid story-telling, I was completely absorbed into the world of Lily Shepherd, on passage aboard the liner, Orontes, to a new adventure to Australia.  Lily, herself 'tourist class', is somewhat caught in the middle of a class war on board.  She is given a glimpse into the world of First Class by the scandalous and morally outcast socialites, The Campbells, whilst also learning passengers may sit on the same class level aboard the great ship are not all seen as equals.  Add to this the tumulus background rumbling of a World War on the brink of an imminent break out, the ground on which these characters find themselves are truly unsteady waters.

Lily is somewhat naïve to the world and you find yourself loving her for it, it makes her an honest narrator, if not always reliable given her limited knowledge of the world.  This novel is about so many things but what stood out for me was the personal journey of Lily who grows and has her eyes opened to the harsh realities of the world more in three weeks than she has her entire life.

Lily is more than a likable character, she is lovable.  I found myself wanting to protect her from the harsh reality of life.  She is still so childish in many ways which only goes to highlight the complex lives of the other people on board.  If only they had lived such a sheltered life as Lily, maybe they would be better for it.  Although we learn Lily is running and mourning her own drama, compared to the others it seems so innocent. 

Lily is truly like a central orb in this novel from which everyone rotates, all wanting and needing her for their own selfish gain.  However, Lily is not as weak as she may exude, after all she has chosen and made happen this adventure many would only dream about.

At the end of the book the author notes mention the novel is inspired by the real life diary of a young female passenger who really did embark on a personal journey to Australia and the novel is richer for it.  Beautiful vivid imagery combined with a powerful plot and complex yet likeable characters make this book a compelling read. 

And by the way, you may think you see that twist coming, but you really haven't...

A Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys gets a Very Pink Notebook Review of :





Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Tour and Review : Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the tour for Sherri Smith's psychological thriller Follow Me Down.  With thanks to Philippa Ward at Titan books for involving me in the tour and for an advance copy of the book.

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Published by : Titan Books
21 March 2017
Copy : Paperback - Received from Publisher as part of blog tour


The Blurb

THEY SAY ONLY THE GUILTY RUN

Mia never intended to go home again, but has no choice when her twin brother goes missing.  Back to the people she left behind, the person she used to be, and the secrets she thought she'd buried. 

Her brother Lucas, a popular teacher, has disappeared on the same day as the murdered body of one of his students was pulled from the river.  Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas's affair with the teenager, and unable to reconcile the media's vicious portrayal of Lucas with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.

All the while, she wonders, if he's innocent, why did he run?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

If you like gritty psychological thrillers combined with the dynamics of messed up families then this is a book for you.  Follow Me Down is a very dark and twisted tale and when I say twisted I mean it, in every possible sense.

The reader is thrown right into the story from the first page, when protagonist Mia, a Chicago based pharmacist, receives a call from the police alerting her to the fact her twin brother Lucas, popular school teacher who still lives in the small minded town they grew up in, is missing.  However, not only is he missing, he is wanted.

Smith has cleverly filtered the story through the mind of Mia, you are in her head and go on the journey of discovery as solely seen through her eyes.  The problem with her eyes is they are often tainted by abuse of prescription drugs and alcohol - unreliable narrator alert.  Obviously Mia is convinced of her brother's innocence, or is she?  Even as an unreliable narrator, the author manages to pass every conceivable idea through Mia's mind, who tries to weigh up the probability of these things happening.  She then starts piecing together parts of the puzzle that is the situation and finds things and people in the small town are not always what they seem.  Slowly, and a little crazily, she starts to form a picture of what was going on right up to the day the body was discovered and her brother went missing. 

As I said, there are so many twists and turns in this book you can get quite dizzy, but that is brilliant because every possibility is really quite feasible and I had absolutely no clue as to where this ride was going to end, and what a well executed ending it was, with all ends tied up, some of them somewhat messily for the characters.

This novel has a host of unlikeable characters and this may be a little controversial, having seen some other reviews, but I actually didn't dislike Mia at all.  I also loved their narcissistic mother Mimi as well.  In fact, in the end I really felt quite sorry for her.

This book has a complex plot that Sherri Smith has managed to deconstruct and deliver in an easy, fast paced and exciting novel.  I would highly recommend it to psychological thriller lovers that like their work on the dark side.

Follow Me Down receives a highly recommend Very Pink Notebook rating of :


Follow The Tour


About The Author

Sherri Smith spends time with her family and two rescue dogs, and restores vintage furniture that would otherwise be destined for the dump.  She lives in Winnipeg, Canada, where the long, cold winters nurture her dark side.  Follow Me Down is her first thriller.


Thursday, 23 March 2017

Tour and Review : Six Stories by Matt Wesolowski

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for the new book by Matt Wesolowski, Six Stories.  With thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for involving me in the tour and for an early copy of the book.

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Published by : Orenda Books
30 March 2017 (Print)
Copy : Paperback - Received from publisher

The Blurb

1997. Scarclaw Fell. The body of teenager Tom Jeffries is found at an outward bound centre. Verdict? Misadventure. But not everyone is convinced. And the truth of what happened in the beautiful but eerie fell is locked in the memories of the tight-knit group of friends who took that fateful trip, and the flimsy testimony of those living nearby.

2017. Enter elusive investigative journalist Scott King, whose podcast examinations of complicated cases have rivalled the success of Serial, with his concealed identity making him a cult internet figure.

In a series of six interviews, King attempts to work out how the dynamics of a group of idle teenagers conspired with the sinister legends surrounding the fell to result in Jeffries' mysterious death. And who's to blame… As every interview unveils a new revelation, you'll be forced to work out for yourself how Tom Jeffries died, and who is telling the truth. A chilling, unpredictable and startling thriller, Six Stories is also a classic murder mystery with a modern twist, and a devastating ending.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

The first thing that caught my eye with this book was the artwork.  At first glance I thought I was looking at the scratchings of an audio recording, but on closer inspection it transpires to be a wide angle shot of very tall trees and their reflection, but this is all very deliberate and once you read this book you discover why.

Just from the blurb the setting, Scarclaw Fell, made my skin crawl.  The author instantly creates such a chilling atmosphere I actually felt physically cold while I was tucked up under my duvet reading.  The great outdoors of the Fell - it's brooding darkness and wildness, it temperamental and ever-changing mood is the perfect environmental setting.  For me, the place entirely matched the themes of this book.

The body of a teenage boy, Tom Jefferies, is discovered a year after he went missing on a trip to Scarclaw Fell.  What follows is a case of discovery, but in a fairly unique way.  The reader is not taken on the journey via the police investigation, which by the time we enter the story is already done and dusted.  It is not the story of Tom's family trying to find out what happened to their son.  It is not a journalist, the story and its potential sensation has already been put to bed.

Instead it is a pod-caster, Scott King, who just enjoys pulling together information of mysterious events of cases that have been closed.  What the reader is then presented with are the facts of the night - through the eyes of people involved and or close to the deceased.  Meaning - extremely unreliable narration - which is the for the reader, or listener should I say, to decide how much is accurate when almost everyone closely involved had an agenda and at the time was an angst ridden teenager.  But don't get me wrong this isn't one of those frustrating novels that you can't find an anchor point to cling on to because we have the neutral insight of Scott King himself.  The voice of King summarises the facts giving opinions from both sides of the coin, always leaving the reader / listener to draw their own conclusion.

The unusual penmanship of the novel with its original structure and style, I didn't know if I would get on with at first.  Could I read a book in the style of a script of a pod-cast?  Would it get annoying?  The answer no, I quickly realised it didn't matter.  What you have is a really good story, told really well.  With the multiple viewpoints the script is kept varied and pacey even though it is the same story told by six different voices and always moving the plot forward.  I enjoyed the summary sections at the beginning and the end of each pod-cast by King and being taken to the present day with Scarclaw Fells owner and body finder Harry. 

For me this novel reminded me of The Blair Witch project, where things not happening and dark issues being alluded to but not shown in graphic detail are actually more frightening than anything else.

I loved the ending of this novel and felt it stayed true to the author's intent.  Six stories is a distressing tale looking at extreme ends of teenage group dynamics and parenting issues to name but a few of the things it touches on, whilst telling the story of what happened to Tom Jefferies on that fateful night in 1996.

Six Stories get a highly recommend to read Very Pink Notebook Rating of :


  

Follow the Tour

Orenda - SIX STORIES Blog Tour




Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Review : The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to present
The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse
Review on publication day. 
With thanks to the author for an ARC of the book.

The Idea of You

Published by : Lake Union
21 March 2017
Copy : Paperback - Received from Author

The Blurb

With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter dares to hope that she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

But the reality of becoming parents proves much harder than Lucy and Jonah imagined. Jonah’s love and support is unquestioning, but as Lucy struggles with work and her own failing dreams, the strain on their marriage increases. Suddenly it feels like Lucy is close to losing everything…

Heart-wrenching and poignant, this latest work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: what does it mean to be a mother in today’s hectic world? And what if it’s asking too much to want it all?

The Very Pink Notebook Review

The Idea of You is yet another poignant and moving novel from best seller Amanda Prowse.  The beauty of this author's writing is that is so very real.  Amanda has a knack of taking an issue and pin-pointing the beating heart of it, she then writes a true and heart-rending novel around it.

This book is another case in point.  Motherhood.  This is something many people are able to take for granted.  They try for a baby, have a good pregnancy, have the baby and off they are on the road of parenthood.  But Amanda stops, with The Idea of You, to look at those not so lucky, the one's who can't just go through the natural course and rhythm of conceiving, carrying and delivering a child.  She unravels the emotional upheaval this can create, the distress and misery grief can cause when one hope after another is dashed and how this can filter out and tarnish every inch of life. 

Protagonist Lucy is in an emotional minefield throughout the course of the book.  Her longing for a child with husband Jonah threatens to overrule everything, as her heartache and sorrow of not being able to successfully carry a child becomes ever more the reality of her world.  On top of this she undertakes a stressful job, having been highly successful within her career and is trying to cope with her new role as a step-mother to a teenager girl who has issues of her own.  As a main character I did not overly warm to Lucy, but that is hardly surprising given how strung out the poor women is.  Sometimes she seems tightly wound, and that is because she is, for good reason.  Amanda has skilfully and very realistically managed to demonstrate how very good relationships can fall apart over, what may seem trivial things, but that are huge if not discussed, or if the people trying to deal with them are already so emotionally stretched they can't see the wood through the trees.  If communication breaks down, then nothing works.

This novel, sensitively written, looks at the issue of motherhood in full circle, which I really enjoyed.  Although told from the point of view of Lucy, the author has cleverly dealt with all aspects of motherhood throughout the other characters in the book with each mother in the book representing a different aspect or dilemma.  I always enjoy the pace and fluidity of this novelists work, it makes her books so easy to read and digest even though they are very often dealing with controversial and emotional subjects.

Never to be disappointed with a new novel by Amanda Prowse, The Idea of You receives a highly recommend Very Pink Notebook rating of :





Friday, 17 March 2017

Tour and Review : Parallel Lines by Steven Savile

The Very Pink Notebook is thrilled to be part of the blog tour for new crime novel 'Parallel Lines' by Steven Savile.  With thanks to Philippa Ward at Titan Books for involving me in the tour and for an early copy of the book.

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Published by : Titan Books
14 March 2017
Copy : Paperback - Received from publisher

The Blurb

How far would you go to provide for your child?


Adam Shaw is dying, and knows he’ll leave his disabled son with nothing. His solution? Rob a bank. It’s no surprise that things go wrong. What is surprising is that when another customer is accidentally shot, no one in the bank is in a hurry to hand Adam over to the police. There’s the manager who’s desperate to avoid an audit, the security guard with a serious grudge against the dead man, and the woman who knows exactly how bad the victim really was...


Eight people, twelve hours, one chance to cover up a murder. But it’s not just the police they have to fool. When many lives intersect, the results can be explosive.

The Very Pink Notebook Review

As soon as I read the first paragraph from the blurb of this book, I knew I had to read it.  I have a disabled son myself and as any parent, not just those with children with special needs knows, thinking about their future should anything happen to you is one of the most important, but scary, things you have to do as a mother / father.  It is also one of the most common things that is avoided until something shakes you up to take a stand. 

But what if that shake up call comes sooner than you expected and gives you little time to get their future covered?  What if, like the majority of the population you do not have a lifetime of funds to leave, especially when your child has disabilities?  A child who will never be able to earn their own living and the cost of having them cared for never reduces.  Your options aren't vast.

This is the crux of the book.  A desperate dying man, driven to desperate measures.  Now, I was expecting this book to be a mixture of both the heist and of protagonist Adam's life, with son Jake.  I was wrong and somewhat surprised, but not disappointed.  Apart from a few scenes at the beginning, which are essential, the novel doesn't leave the boundaries of the bank robbery.  And it works brilliantly. 

The author keeps the reader in close so the intensity of the situation is never lost.  Every character involved in the robbery has their own agenda and Savile has cleverly written on so many levels it manages to capture beautifully the dark side of human nature; when an opportunity for revenge for a life long grudge materialises will you take it?  Can money really buy silence?  If one descents from the pack should they be sacrificed?  It sets your mind thinking about a whole host of moral dilemma's.

Although this is a highly intense novel it does have some bits of dark humour which I enjoyed.  This is managed because it is written from the viewpoint of all eight people in the bank.  Each has their own little mini-story which lays the foundation for how the plot weaves together.  Savile has injected just the right about of personality into each so that one is not stronger or weaker than the other, they are just all very different.  By using this style the pace is kept moving along quickly and the variety compels you to keep turning and turning those pages, meaning you can not put the darn book down!

This is one of those novels screaming out to be transferred to screen, the writing is excellent, the characters are dynamic, the plot strong and it just leaves you asking yourself what you would do if you found yourself in the same situation (and I don't just mean in the situation of the protagonist either...)

I really can not recommend this book highly enough - but be warned, read it on a day you can just sit and read because you will not want to put it down.

Parallel Lines by Steven Savile gets a Very Pink Notebook rating of :