Snap By Belinda Bauer – A Review

Publisher: Bantam Press

Publication Date: 17th May 2018

I heard the synopsis for this book on somebody’s YouTube channel and thought it sounded intriguing. When it came up on Netgalley to request I was straight in there!……Sadly I was rejected *cue sad music*. So I quietly fumed to myself (OR took to twitter to complain a little bit, obvs).

When one of my good bookish pals saw the physical copies being offered to bloggers on Twitter she alerted me quick smart and I jumped right aboard that train with my hand in the air shouting ‘Me! Me! Me! Pick me!’

Not only did I bag myself a copy of the book (Thank you Becky Short!) I became involved in a little blogger game of Snap (hence the Ace of Hearts playing card in the picture of the book up there), and managed to win myself a copy of another Belinda Bauer book to boot! So it all worked out ok in the end, and all was right with the world.

Anyway enough of me being a Billy bragger…..let’s get on with the review.

This book opens with 3 children stranded in a lay-by in their broken down car. Their mother had told them to sit tight and she’ll be back soon….their mother never comes back.

The three children are Jack, and his sisters Joy and Merry (love that name!). Their lives are irrevocably changed that baking hot August day and Jack is forced to grow up very quickly, thrust into the role of guardian for his two sisters, despite none of the authorities knowing they are living alone and in poor conditions.

Jack has to learn a life of petty crime in order to survive. Stealing food and items to sell for money.

One night Jack breaks into a house and finds a sleeping woman, pregnant Catherine While and stumbles across what he believes is a connection to his mother.

Catherine and her husband Adam are excitedly looking forward to the impending birth of their baby, but the sudden appearance of Jack in their lives, making bold claims threatens to derail their marriage and their lives.

Jacks quest to find out what really happened to his mother and seek justice is a complicated one but Jack is a determined young lad and isn’t willing to be ignored.

Told from the perspective of Jack, Catherine and new DCI in town John Marvel, this book is fast paced and a real page turner (cliche I know).

I read it in a couple of sittings over one day. It’s one of those stories that pulls you along and leaves you wanting to know more. The characters in this book are larger than life and I absolutely loved DCI Marvel. Curmudgeonly, straight talking and perpetually grumpy. Jack is such a lovely character too. Even though he’s cashing in on other people’s belongings he’s doing it for all the right reasons. To keep his already fractured family together and keep his sisters out of the care system.

The writing is very atmospheric and the opening chapter centred around the baking hot day, with the children sat waiting in a stuffy, airless car was so realistic you could almost be there with them.

This was one of the most enjoyable thrillers I’ve read in a while.

I would definitely recommend getting your hands on it.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat. Xxx

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Marlena By Julie Buntin – A Review

Publisher: Picador

Firstly I’d like to say huge thanks to Picador and Grace Harrison for the proof of this book.

I have to hold my hands up and say I didn’t really know what to expect with this novel. I am not a fan of teenage ‘angsty’ stories. My least favourite protagonist would be a teenage girl and this book has two….but I’m becoming much more willing to give books a go these days because I’ve discovered some blinkin corkers this way. I’m glad to say this book was no exception.

15 year old Cat has just moved to a new town with her mother and brother Jimmy, following the breakdown of her parents marriage.

Her mum is struggling somewhat with being suddenly single and bringing up her two teenage children alone. She uses alcohol as a crutch and can be found comatose in bed most nights.

Lonely Cat finds herself fascinated with Marlena across the street. She lives with her drug dealing father and her somewhat neglected younger brother after their mother ran out on them. Cat gravitates towards Marlena, this interesting, cool girl who seems troubled and wayward.

The girls form a quick intense friendship, soon spending the majority of their time together often getting into scrapes and regularly ditching school to hang out around the neighbourhood, drinking and taking drugs. Marlena slots easily into their family and their home, desperate to belong.

Whilst Cat is more of an experimenter with drugs, alcohol is her main vice. Marlena however begins to rely heavily on drugs to get her through the day. She finds herself having to sacrifice more and more of herself in order to obtain the drugs she craves from her dealer.

When Marlena is found dead in the woods near their home, drowned in 6 inches of freezing cold water, Cat’s life is irrevocably changed forever.

Looking back on their intense but brief year of friendship, a now adult Cat is obviously still scarred by events and still using alcohol as a crutch just to see her through the day. She wonders what exactly happened to Marlena in those woods, could she have done more to save her friend? Was she in some way to blame?

I really enjoyed this book and it’s gritty rawness took me a little by surprise. It was a coming of age novel which I expected but it was also oh so much more. It was achingly sad and poignant. This friendship between two vulnerable girls who are essentially both lonely, doubting themselves and where they fit in. Struggling to find their identities in a small town.

Cat abandoned by her father who is far too caught up with his new young mistress and Marlena, also abandoned by her neglectful father, lured into his world of drugs without a mother figure in her life. Their friendship is intense and all too brief.

I haven’t read The Girls by Emma Cline but I have it on my shelves and this book has been likened to that.  If you’ve read The Girls and enjoyed it then you need to get your hands on Marlena.  I would highly recommend this book as a great summer read, intense, raw, visceral and thoroughly gripping.

See you all soon.

Bookish Chat xxx

The Dissent Of Annie Lang by Ros Franey – A Review

Publisher: Muswell Press

Publication Date: 8th April 2018

If you’d have told me 18 months ago that I’d be regularly reading historical fiction I’d have laughed in your face. But I’m so glad my little mind has been expanded by some great historical tales. This book would have completely passed me by otherwise and that would have been a real shame.

So what’s it all about?

In 1920’s Nottingham we meet our protagonist the spirited Annie Lang. At a young age her mother dies leaving Annie, her brother Fred and her older sister Beatrice in the soul care of their father.

Not a man to be without a woman he takes Miss Higgs the harmonium player from their deeply religious Grandfathers Mission as his wife and the children’s new mother.

Right from the outset Annie doesn’t get along with her stern, controlling step-mother. Miss Higgs appears to enjoy wielding her power over the children and her husband too, with her pious, righteous ways.

Her position of harmonium player at the mission is filled by Mildred Blessing and Annie is a little besotted with her (and her fancy shoes). When Millie disappears one day along with more local girls, Annie is plunged into a life of confusion and loneliness.

Fast forward 6 years later and Annie is just returning from studying in France to find her brother Fred has been committed to a mental hospital in her absence suffering from nervous exhaustion. From this point onwards we follow young Annie unravelling the mystery of just where Millie Blessing disappeared to and what is going on behind closed doors at home.

I just loved the character of Annie, she’s tenacious and determined and a plucky heroine in her own right. She’s astute and definitely ahead of her time.

I also enjoyed the character of Miss Higgs, despite her obvious failings as a motherly figure. She had such hidden depths. Potentially a little misunderstood (although that could be more to do with my forgiving side!). I’d have loved to have known more about her.

The first half of this book for me was scene setting. Drip feeding little nuggets of information to pave the way for the second half of the book which really picked up a pace! Action packed and eventful, I was enthralled. There were a couple of heart in mouth moments, and who doesn’t love that feeling?

There’s a definite ‘girl power’ vibe towards the end of the story which again is ahead of its time.  Empowering, beautifully written and so engaging.

This book would be perfect for anyone who enjoys a good family drama with a mystery to unravel.

Thank you to Anne Cater and Muswell Press for the opportunity to read and review this book.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xxx

About the author:

Ros Franey grew up in the Midlands where this book is set. She is a maker of award-winning documentaries, including two films about the Guildford 4 which, along with the book she co-authored Timebomb, contributed to the quashing of their case. This is her second novel. She lives in Camden, North London.

Larchfield By Polly Clark – A Review

Publisher: Riverrun

This book is the reason I love the Twitter and Instagram/Bookstagram community. Without them I might not have had this book on my radar. When I read the review of a very trusted internet pal and fellow blogger I knew I had to get my hands on Larchfield. It sounded very much up my street and boy was it!

I don’t think I can do the book justice as much as Reading Selfishly did in her review here. This lady has all the words and ain’t afraid to use them!

I’ll try and assimilate some thoughts for you though! Otherwise what’s the point in me being a blogger eh?

1930’s Scotland and the poet W H Auden or Whystan Auden has just arrived at Larchfield a boys school to take up a teaching post for which he feels ill equipped. He has however taken his leave of London and is hoping to stay a fresh chapter of his life.

Fast forward to modern day and writer Dora and her husband Kit have just moved to Helensburgh after purchasing the lower level of a huge house known as Paradise. Dora is heavily pregnant and subsequently goes on to give birth to a daughter called Beatrice. Kit is a busy architect and Dora finds herself alone most of the time with the new baby. Kit and Dora have also become embroiled in a land war with their upstairs neighbours who are much respected in the small village. Dora finds herself more and more ostracised and isolated by her neighbours in the surrounding area and struggles to feel accepted into the local community. With all eyes on her, Dora feels judged by not only her local community but by healthcare professionals who question her parenting skills and the choices she makes for baby Beatrice.

Feeling incredibly alone, she takes herself off to the beach one day and finds a message in a bottle. Tossed into the sea seemingly decades earlier by an equally lonely Whystan Auden.

It simply reads: ‘I am a young man with light brown hair and a book of poems. Telephone Helensburgh 120 and ask for Wystan’.

Dora dials the number and from this point in her world collides with Wystan’s. Dora can seemingly visit for brief periods with Wystan at Larchfield and avail herself if his advice. An academic and poet herself, Dora uses her link to Wystan as the catalyst to start writing again.

I wasn’t really sure at first whether the meeting of their two worlds was spiritual, magical, paranormal or whether it was symbolising Dora’s declining mental health. In any event their relationship was beautiful.

Wystan is an adorable character and I felt greatly for his loneliness and the fact that he feels like he is an interloper at Larchfield and out of his depth teaching wise. He never really seems to settle and is often wistful for a life above reproach and judgement.

There is an incident nearing the end of the book where Dora leaves Beatrice in the car outside a shop. This leads to her spending some time in a mental facility. She has to make a decision about whether she should follow Wystan or return to her real life.

This book is everything I love. A dual timeline narrative, the claustrophobic life of a small community and the hugely different life in a bygone era. I’m always fascinated by the lengths people went to to disguise their sexuality and am often appalled by how homosexuals were treated back in the day.

The writing is just stunning and all characters are so real and fleshed out that I found it easy to empathise with them. This is the kind of book that remains with you long after you’ve closed it.  (It also inspired me to do some Googling with regards to WH Auden too).

Just beautiful, highly recommended.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat xx

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough – A Review

Published by: HarperCollins

Publication Date: 17th May 2018

Oh man I am going to find it so incredibly difficult to review this book beyond ‘Read it! Right now!’. But of course I’ll try to put together some coherent thoughts and feelings like the true profesh book blogger that I am.

You see, the problem with this type of book is that it is mighty hard to not let any plot points slip and I am NOT about the spoilers people. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

So what can I tell you good people without ruining your enjoyment of this book once you’ve got your hands on it (and you will get your hands on it so help me god). Well….the story is told from the perspective of 3 women. Lisa, her daughter Ava and her best friend and work colleague Marilyn. Right from the off we are aware that Lisa is a very protective mother, she smothers Ava and seems to live in a heightened state of anxiety surrounding her daughters safety and well-being. Ava is a typical teenager, living through the usual trials and tribulations of teenage life. Friendships, boys, school work, home life and trying to gain some independence from her mother.

When small events that cannot be explained start to occur, Lisa becomes worried. We as readers know that there is something or someone in her past she is trying to free herself from and that she feels is drawing closer to her.

From here, events start to unwind and Lisa and Ava’s lives start to unravel.

This book hooked me in right from the outset. There isn’t a single negative I can think of. Characters, plot lines and plot twists, pacing, all perfect. I felt as if I was racing effortlessly through this story, eager to discover just what the actual hell was occurring!

A story that grabs you and drags you along, snappy chapters told by alternate characters, some of which leave your jaw on the floor.

Pinborough’s writing is superb (as was the case with Behind Her Eyes) intricate but not overly convoluted plot lines make for a cracking reading experience. I’m trying to think whether I guessed any of the plot twists but……..nope I didn’t! Columbo I ain’t! When the secrets are revealed of course you can go back over everything and pick it apart and work it out for yourself but nothing is ‘staring you in the face’ obvious and I love that. I love being hoodwinked!

If you fancy a heart in your mouth thriller then you need Cross Her Heart in your life. I can thoroughly recommend it.

As always big thanks to HarperCollins for the advanced review copy of this book.

See you soon.

Bookish Chat. Xxx