One evening, a wife asks her husband a question: who else would you go for, if you could?
It is a simple question – a little game – that will destroy her life.
Carly and Rob are a perfect couple. They share happy lives with their children and their close friends Craig and Jenni. They’re lucky. But beneath the surface, no relationship is simple: can another woman’s husband and another man’s wife ever just be good friends?
Little by little, Carly’s question sends her life spiralling out of control, as she begins to doubt everything she thought was true. Who can she trust? The man she has promised to stick by forever, or the best friend she has known for years? And is Carly being entirely honest with either of them?
Obsession is a dark, twisting thriller about how quickly our lives can fall apart when we act on our desires.
Perfect for fans of B A Paris and Paula Hawkins.
This book had come under my attention through Social Media - the striking cover lured me in, as did the book title. The blurb promised even more - So I was delighted to get my hands on a review copy.
I started reading this book on a bumpy flight to Glasgow - and very soon found it to be one of the most unputdownable reads of the year.
Raw, dark, twisty and unpredictable it followed the stories of two couples whose lives are thrown off track by one simple question.
"If you could have anyone else, who would it be?"
Men and women of the world - do yourselves a favour. Never answer this question if asked by your partner. Or if you do, pick a celeb you wouldn't have a hope in hell's chance of getting with,
No good can come of any other answer - as Amanda Robson's skilled debut shows.
We're used now to having books show unreliable narrators - in Obsessed there are four unreliable voices and the reader's loyalties, beliefs and sympathies will change many times during the course of the read.
Is there one person to blame for the chain of events that follows this seemingly innocent question or is everyone a little guilty? Once the can of worms is opened in this book, it is impossible to close it again.
In turns the characters switch from being likeable to thoroughly unpleasant and back again - and it's not until the final, devastating twist that the full truth emerges starkly, leaving the reader reeling.
For a debut this is remarkably accomplished. There is a gritty honesty about Robson's writing that makes the book an uncomfortable but all encompassing read.
It's one of those great books that, when you turn the last page, you just have to let the events you have just lived through vicariously rest for a bit as you come to terms with what you've read.
Obsession is available now and is published by Avon.
I received a copy of this book for review via Netgalley.
If you could change the past, would you?
This summer, get ready to believe in Impossible Things with the brand new book from international bestseller, Rowan Coleman.
How far would you go to save the person you love?
Luna is about to do everything she can to save her mother's life.
Even if it means sacrificing her own.
I recently said the mark of a good book was that you simply could not put it down and would sneak away from family and friends to read a little more. I want to add now that the mark of an exceptional book is that you need to keep taking little breaks from reading it because
1) It is so exceptionally written that you want to process what the author has said
2) You simply don't want it to end.
Rowan Coleman has a habit of getting right into the depths of your emotions with her books. We Are All Made of Stars had me sobbing at the poolside on holiday. The Memory Book had me sobbing loudly in the hairdressers while getting my roots touched up.
The Summer of Impossible Things made me cry too - and gasp, and re-evaluate things, and hope, and fear and think about love and what we would do for our family and friends. It's a book about so much - but what I choose most of all to take from it (and there is a lot to choose from) is the story of a bond between a mother and daughter and of the sacrifices each would make for each other.
Set that against the backdrop of a melting hot summer or two in Brooklyn, add a time-travel twist which brings you from the modern day to the disco era - and you have a book that comes to life in your hands.
I personally find it rare for a writer to create a sense of place so well. But with this book, while reading, I could feel the heat of the sun, hear the strains of the music, smell the bakery, feel the faded pages of the books the characters held in their hands and hear the whirr and click of the Super 8 projector.
This is quite simply a beautifully written, emotional rollercoaster of a book that I think will take the reading world by storm this summer.
'The Summer of Impossible Things' will be published by Ebury, on June 29.
I received a review copy of this book from the publishers.
A heartwarming, cosy romance from Sunday Times bestselling author Michele Gorman, now writing as Lilly Bartlett
When Emma’s boyfriend Daniel pops the question with a ring the size of a small country, she suddenly realises just how different they are. She’s the Eastenders to his Made in Chelsea. She wants a low-key wedding with close friends and family in Uncle Colin’s pub, while Daniel’s mother is expecting a society do that their high-brow guests won’t forget!
How on earth can Emma put together a celebration fit for Lords and Ladies on a shoestring budget? Not to mention the fact her cross-dressing Uncle Barbara wants to be a bridesmaid, her best mate Kelly can’t stand Daniel’s best friend Cressida, and her dad is too proud to accept any help from Daniel’s family towards the costs.
There’s three months to go until the big day. Will Emma’s happy-ever-after end in disaster?
I've been reading a lot of heavier books recently - grippy lit types with lots of twists and turns and dark moments and while I have enjoyed them, my mind was crying out for a break while I read something a bit more, well, fun.
The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square came to my attention as I know the author Michelle Gorman - although she has chosen to write this book (one of a series) under a pseudonym - one that was very cleverly marketed by her publishers - Harper Impulse.
The book promised laughs, a wedding, a sense of community - it seemed like the perfect way to rest my brain a little after reading more serious tomes - and, given that I'm writing another romcom myself at the moment - I thought it wise to check out what is out there.
Right - first of all I apologise to Michelle/ Lilly for saying this is a book to rest my brain with. What impressed me most about this book was how the structure worked so well - the characters fading in and out. It could very easily have descended into a caricature of East End living. The storyline with Uncle Barbara could well have ended up being farcical - but neither of these things happen. The characters, even those larger than life and fond of wearing frocks, are believable and more than that, likeable. (Even the grumpy Kells who didn't get on the best with her fellow bridesmaids).
The one liners in this book very genuinely had me laughing out loud. Unfortunately for spoiler reasons I can't reveal which one made me laugh the loudest - but when you reach the onion bhaji line you'll know it.
All too often authors of commercial women's fictions are mocked, or belittled - but the skill in pulling together a story that manages to switch from funny to whimsical, to poignant, to deeply touching is quite substantial.
As Nathaniel Hawthorne said: "Easy reading is damn hard writing".
As an aside, there is a storyline in this book involving relapsing and remitting MS. I found it to be one of the most accurate depictions of the illness and its impact that I have read - without slipping into maudlin territory. That in itself is to be congratulated.
But ultimately - this is a frothy, funny (genuinely funny), warm and wonderful read and I look forward to seeing what happens next on Carlton Square.
The Big Little Wedding in Carlton Square is published by Harper Impulse.
I purchased my own copy of this book.
What if the power to hurt were in women's hands?
Suddenly - tomorrow or the day after - teenage girls find that with a flick of their fingers, they can inflict agonizing pain and even death. With this single twist, the four lives at the heart of Naomi Alderman's extraordinary, visceral novel are utterly transformed.
REVIEW: I finished this novel, which was recommended on Twitter by Marian Keyes, last night.
I lay awake for hours processing it. Images and scenarios from it jumped in and out of mind. Even today, I think of "just one more thing" about it which I found remarkable. or which I want to discuss with someone.
I'd almost start a book club just so everyone could read this book and talk about it - because this is a book that begs to be talked about.
The premise is relatively simple, I suppose - as women evolve to develop a power which gives them the ability to take control of men, of armies, of governments - how will the world change?
The book is told through the eyes of four people caught in the middle of the storm that comes after 'The Day of the Girls' - the day in which this power is first activated in teenage girls. Each of these four sees The Power differently - to Allie, it is the start of a new religion - or the rewriting of our patriarchal notions of religion.
Roxy finds it at first a way to get revenge for a great injustice against her.
Margot as a way to gain power on a wider scale.
And Tunde - a young male journalist - as a way to earn him fame and recognition as a reporter of note unafraid (at least initially) to put himself at the heart of the action as women of the world rise up against their oppressors and form a more equal society.
Of course, the adage that power corrupts is there at all times bubbling away at the back of this book. But is it corruption or the desire to right old wrongs, to assert where real strength lies and to ensure the continuation of a new matriarchal religion?
This is a phenomenal book and I'm reluctant to give too much away. At times it is exceptionally graphic and upsetting - crimes committed against both men and women make for uncomfortable reading.
But for every unsettling passage there is so much to discuss. The way in which power shifts in the book is subtly done - expertly done. It is a book that jabs at all that is wrong with modern society and questions whether things would be any better if the tide was turned.
This book gripped me, utterly. It is a read that will stay with me for a long time and it's one I recommend wholeheartedly.
The Power is published by Penguin
I purchased my own copy of this book for review.
When baby Oliver breaks his arm, no-one can (or will) say how it happened.
His mother is exhausted.
His father is angry.
His older sister is resentful.
And they all have something to hide.
Review: I was nervous when I started to read this book - the premise being that a child has been hurt in an apparently non accidental sparking a social services investigation.
The mother in me wasn't bursting to read a book about a baby being hurt - but very quickly this became a book which I became absorbed in. From the early pages, where Sally's (the child's mother) experience of Post Natal Depression following the birth of baby Oliver, I was hooked. As a mother who experienced PND myself, I felt as if Joanna Barnard could see inside my mind. Her writing was raw, evocative, emotional and honest - and please, we need more honest books about the realities of motherhood and the complete shock to the system it can be to mothers!
Throughout the book - through the other primary characters of Richard (the baby's father) and Martha (the begrudging teenage half sister) Joanna Barnard deals with a number of sensitive issues - but not in such a manner that you feel this is a preachy or overdone book.
She peels away the layers of what initially appears to be a very happy marriage, in a very lovely house and uncovers the characters' pasts, their experience of the present and their hopes for the future - all the while expertly describing what happens when a child is removed from a home and the reverberations that can have not only within a family but through their entire social circle.
This is a book where you keep wondering who has hurt baby Oliver - it seems everyone could have lost their temper, lost control, at any time. Any honest parent will relate to the exhaustion, the emotional drain, the fear and the completely overwhelming nature of being a new parent.
This book is a deeply satisfying read - and one which should rightly become a bookclub favourite. There is much to like about this book, and much to discuss.
Hush Little Baby is published by Ebury
I was sent a review copy of this book by the publisher.
Publisher's Blurb: With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter thinks 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 becoming parents proves much harder to achieve than Lucy and Jonah imagined, and when Jonah’s teenage daughter Camille comes to stay with them, she becomes a constant reminder of what Lucy doesn’t have. Jonah’s love and support are unquestioning, but Lucy’s struggles with work and her own failing dreams begin to take their toll. With Camille’s presence straining the bonds of Lucy’s marriage even further, Lucy suddenly feels herself close to losing everything…
This heart-wrenchingly poignant family drama from bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: in today’s hectic world, what does it mean to be a mother?
My Review: Although I have a number of Amanda Prowse books on my Kindle and I have been following her on Twitter for quite some time, this was the first time I have read one of her books - enticed to do so by reading her own stories of pregnancy loss, which inspired this book.
I know Amanda Prowse has a huge following because she connects so well with her readers through her heartfelt honesty and ability to get to the very emotional core of a story.
I knew this this would be both an emotional and at times difficult read. While I have, thankfully, never experienced a miscarriage, I had a few scares in my last pregnancy and was able to relate to that fear she spoke so poignantly of - the wait on the examining table and the fear of what the doctor may or may not find.
This is the story of Lucy, primarily, and her new husband Jonah - and their quest to start a family of their own. Lucy is a career woman who has built a very successful life for herself but has not, until her early 40s, met the right man for, With Jonah comes a whirlwind relationship, a marriage and a desire to become a mother - to solidify her family unit.
However, she and Jonah face very many trials and tribulations in their journey. Secrets unfold - pain from the past is resurrected, ripped open and events from Lucy's past threaten her present happiness.
The arrival of Jonah's teenage daughter, Camille, from France for the summer adds an extra dimension of tension to the book - and causes the reader to think about what it really takes to be a mother, what family is and how healing can come from the strangest of places.
This is a deeply moving read - and for some, I imagine it will be difficult.
Browse doesn't shy away from the realities of miscarriage, nor the strain it can put on a relationship.
For me, perhaps, the book was a little bit overly long - but I'm sure I would be in the minority thinking that - knowing the legion of fans Mrs Prowse so rightly has.
This book once again solidifies her as one of the best women's fiction writers in the UK - guaranteed to deliver an emotional read each and every time.
I will be digging into some of her other books which are sitting on my Kindle.
The Idea of You is published by Lake Union Publishing.
I received a review of copy of this book from the publishers, via Netgalley
What if you had to choose between your children?
Then: Madeleine lived for her children. She'd always believed she'd die for them, too. But on the morning of her twins' tenth birthday her love was put to the test when a killer knocked on their door and forced her to make a devastating choice: which child should live, and which should die - her son, or her daughter?
Now: Madeleine stands silent on the periphery of her now fractured family, trying desperately to unravel why her world was so suddenly blown apart. But while everyday life continues around her, memories of everything leading up to that tragic day return in agonising flashes.
And that's when she realises her family's life still hangs terrifyingly in the balance...
I had seen a bit of a buzz building about the debut novel from Samantha King - so was eager to see if it lived up to expectations.
It's fair to say, it exceeded them.
From the first chapter - where my jaw dropped at the powerful predicament mother of two Maddie found herself in - to the last, emotional page - this book grabbed my attention entirely. The premise of the book is every mother's worst nightmare.
A gunman storms into your house, grabs both your children, forces you to choose which one to save and which one to watch die. As the book begins, Maddie, traumatised deeply by her experience, struggles to come to terms with her choice - she struggles to connect with her husband, or her surviving child. She feels like a ghost on the edge of a life that was once so familiar - and feels as if she will never be able to recover from the awful trauma which visited her house on her twins' tenth birthday.
It's hard to review this book without giving away any twists and turns - because this book twists and turns like no other. Just when you think you have an idea of what's going on, or when you think one situation is resolved, things inevitably take another twist.
All the while, we are in the head of Maddie - a woman broken by her experience, who doesn't remember large chunks of her life before or after the shooting.
This book had me gripped entirely - forsaking TV viewing for two nights to gobble it up and find out what had happened and how Maddie would cope with what she has been through. While the thrust of this book is indeed a thriller - and one which Samantha King delivers in spades, it is her writing of a mother's love, and the daily interaction of Maddie and her children before the shooting that gives this book the real grip factor.
You are with her as she makes her decision. You are with her after. You see the love she made sure her babies never doubted and it grabs you by the heart and makes this an emotional rollercoaster of a read. I highly recommend this book - it is an exceptional debut and I'm very much looking forward to seeing Samantha King's career as a writer progress.
A first class, gripping triumph of a book.
The Choice will be published by Piatkus on April 20.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.
How far would you go to find THE ONE?
One simple mouth swab is all it takes. A quick DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.
A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one other person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love. Now, five more people meet their Match. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others...
A psychological thriller with a difference, this is a truly unique novel which is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.
My test of a good book is whether or not I find myself sneaking away from my family to read "just another few pages" - The One had me sneaking away - a lot.
With short, sharp chapters the story twisted and turned through the lives of four different couples, apparently matched by the Match DNA dating agency (a brilliant premise).
Nothing is ever quite as it seems for any of our characters - and the book makes the reader question nature over nurture and the power of suggestion.
Although some of the themes in this book are quite dark, it never strays into too serious or depressing a read.
In fact it is hugely entertaining and hugely enjoyable and you find yourself invested in the characters - even the seemingly deeply unpleasant ones!
This is one to watch in 2017.
The One will be released by Ebury on May 4.
I received an early review copy of this book from the publisher, via Netgalley.
Nestled among cherry trees in a picturesque country garden, the Gingerbread House resembles an illustration from an old-world storybook. But beware! For in the fairy-tale, that's where the witch lives...
Away from the city, with no distractions, the Gingerbread House seems like the perfect place to start work on a novel. That's what former advertising copywriter Tess thinks when she goes there to live with Eleanor, her aged mother-in-law. But Eleanor is suffering from dementia, and caring for her proves tougher than Tess could ever have imagined: feeling increasingly isolated, her only comfort is wine o'clock and weekend visits from her husband. Meanwhile her teenage daughter Katia is helpless to intercede; in the end she can only watch as things fall apart and a tragedy even closer to home surfaces.
While normally I gobble up new releases by Kate Beaufoy almost as soon as they hit the shelves, I found myself putting The Gingerbread House on the long finger - I was scared to read it, you see.
The subject matter surrounds an elderly woman with quickly advancing dementia, her daughter in law, Tess, who is caring for her, and is told from the perspective of teenager Katia who watches events unfold in her granny's picturesque cottage - which she has dubbed The Gingerbread House.
Dementia is a subject I have written on myself - my last novel 'Still You' told the story of a woman with Alzheimer's. It's a topic incredibly close to my heart - and just last year I lost my beloved grandmother to this illness after a 12 year battle. So reading anything on this matter is something still very raw for me.
But so many people were raving about this book, and having read Kate's previous books (Liberty Silk is one of my all time top ten reads) I knew she is a writer that tackles tough issues sensitively.
So in I went. Initially, I will be honest, I was taken aback by the very raw, very real, very honest depiction of someone with dementia. I felt uncomfortable reading the description of the older woman, her body almost sinking into itself as the disease progressed. It was uncomfortable because it is so honest and it brought back painful memories - but it also helped tackle the taboos that do exist around this condition and the reality of life for many, many carers.
I pushed through those early pages - and I am so very glad I did. This becomes a story about love, loss, the strain of caring for an elderly relative, how strange it all seems through the eyes of a teenager. Tess is not a selfless carer - she is real. She is doing her best. But she struggles. It was so good to read of a carer who is honest - who is not painted as some saint who never gets the urge to run away from it all.
Dementia itself is depicted in all its sad, funny, gross, repetitive, tender, glory. There are some lines which are just so completely poignant that they made me catch my breath.
But it is also darkly funny. To love and care for someone with dementia, you do need to develop quite the dark sense of humour - or else you will simply crumple under the pressure of it all. I laughed out loud on several occasions.
Fourteen year old Katia makes an exceptional narrator - her voice is strong and perfectly drawn.
And as for the house itself? As with all Kate's writing - the location in which her books are set become characters just like the people who walk around them. The Gingerbread House - its dark rooms, its tatty decor, its beautiful gardens all jump off the page so that you almost feel as if you are there in the oppressive brown study, watching the David Attenborough documentaries with granny.
I will be honest - there may be some people who may find this book too honest - too raw. But for me it was like looking inside my own head, my own feelings and my own heartache over a situation I cannot control.
It also delivers a twist that leaves the reader reeling.
I highly recommend picking up this book - I sped read through it and loved it. I would, however, keep a box of tissues close by.
The Gingerbread House is published by Black & White.
I purchased my own copy of this novel.
Look after your daughter's things. And your daughter
When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn't.
The stranger knows Jo's name, she knows her husband Max and she's got a glove belonging to Jo's two year old daughter Elise.
What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo's own husband turn against her.
No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there's only one way to keep her child safe RUN.
The Sunday Times bestseller returns with her biggest and best book yet. The perfect read for fans of Paula Hawkins and Clare Mackintosh.
As a tiny, pre-review disclaimer I should say that I have known CL Taylor for about 10 years - having been a part of the same online writing community as her. We've met but once - when she shouted my name across a crowded book shop - but we are acquainted and when she wanted some help on the journalism-y side of things for The Escape, I offered my advice., PS She's lovely.
I kind of hate reading books by friends - for a number of reasons.
1) If it is rubbish it feels really awkward to either say nothing or faff your way through a positive review.
2) Sometimes my friends give me all the jealous rages and I don't want to be friends with them anymore.
Cally Taylor would give me the jealous rage with The Escape - except that she really is kind of lovely. But that does not take away from the fact she is at the top of her game with The Escape -a grippy, claustrophobic, roller-coaster ride of a thriller which swerves in directions you didn't think possible just when you think it's all done and dusted.
The book plays on that most basic of instinct - a mother's need to protect her child. And we mothers - we would do everything we can - including risk our own safety, if we think our children are in danger.
From the opening chapter of The Escape the scene is set. The threat looms large in the life of Jo and little Elise - until things spiral into any parent's worst nightmare and Jo is forced to take some pretty shocking risks.
It's hard to review books like this because there is a danger of giving away spoilers. But I will say as this book picks up speed, and moves towards the very dramatic conclusion it is almost suffocating to read. I gobbled up the last few chapters - reading them at a breathless pace, right there in the moment wth Jo - feeling her panic and fear.
Part of this novel is set in Ireland - and Cally perfectly captures the Ireland of the past and the characteristics of the present without descending in plastic paddy territory - something many readers will be deeply grateful for.
On a personal level it has been a joy to see Cally emerge as one of the UK's premiere thriller writers - but it is hard earned and deserved. Her books, including The Escape, pull the reader into an uncomfortable, shocking world where they don't know who, or what reality, to trust.
This is another cracking read - and proof that with each book she just goes from strength to strength.
The Escape is published by Avon.
I received a copy of this book as a gift from the author.
For the love of books
A good writer must be an avid reader. I'll be posting reviews of some of the books I'm reading. Disclaimer: I'm not a book blogger - I'm just a reader. These are books I've chosen to read for fun.