Ali Land’s debut novel Good Me, Bad Me has as its narrator a distinctive female voice, one that grabbed this reader from the very beginning as she telAli Land’s debut novel Good Me, Bad Me has as its narrator a distinctive female voice, one that grabbed this reader from the very beginning as she tells her story of escape and survival. This is a perspective which is fast becoming a trend going by my recent reads: victim lit or, perhaps more appropriately, survivor lit. I have a feeling that this is one book that’ll spark debate and it is ripe for wide-ranging, and heated, book group discussions. If you have the stomach for its subject matter.
Where Good Me, Bad Me works best for me is where Annie/Milly tells us about what it was like living with her mother and the new life she has with her foster family while she waits to testify at the upcoming trial. Her voice demands that we listen to her and it’s fascinating to hear about her coping mechanisms while adjusting to a new home, a new (albeit temporary) family, a new school at which she’s bullied, the tentative moves she takes towards making friends, preparing for and having sessions with her foster father/counsellor and giving testimony during the trial. It’s interesting to see which battles she picks to fight and when she decides to bide her time and save her strength. Her reasoning of her current situation and past and the mental manoeuvres she undertakes to function and keep her mother’s voice at bay were interesting and, of course, you’re never entirely sure how much to trust her or her version of people or events.
I have to admit that I was less convinced by the fact that she’s homed with a specialist trauma psychologist, Mike, who doubles as her counsellor, and his family. I could understand that her case warrants someone with his skill-set because of the severity of the trauma she’s been through, but I still didn’t believe that she’d necessarily be placed with him. And that’s before we see that his family might not be the best environment for her in this delicate transitional period. It’s easy to say that teachers, and by the same token counsellors and social workers, can sometimes be the worst people at seeing what’s going on in their own lives, despite being able to spot the signs in the classroom or consulting room, but I struggled at times to accept that this was where Annie/Milly had ended up and that Mike is so blind to what’s going on, although obviously it made her situation and the story all the more compelling and involved as a result. But she is fighting on all sides with very little help or support: the sessions she has with Mike seemed pretty superficial to me and she had very little external contact or help, except for Joan, who accompanies her into court but is otherwise little present, and her art teacher, whose behaviour seems flighty at best and erratic or irresponsible at worst.
Good Me, Bad Me is a book you’ll want to talk about. I know I do. And there’s a great deal to talk about here: why a female serial killer is a less common but more unnerving prospect; how someone in a position of trust and/or in a caring profession can abuse that position; how we can prevent or protect children (and their parents) from becoming victims; where victims survive alive but damaged, whether that damage is lasting and irreversible, and how that manifests itself; the effects of a child’s separation from its parent(s), and vice versa; the bonds between mother and child, and especially the push and pull between mother and daughter; family loyalties and the betrayal of those; the search for a surrogate family and all the competing considerations that decide what is in the best interests of the child; the public front a family puts up and the difference between that and how it functions behind closed doors, and how that can sometimes mean a child is moved from the frying pan into the fire, or vice versa, as perhaps happens here; old school bullying and its younger sibling, cyber bullying; the whole nature versus nurture debate, whether we are a product of our upbringing or inherit traits from one or both parents, and if we can forge our own way in life or make better choices than our parents, once independent of that influence; and the battle between good and bad, or right and wrong, in everyone and how we justify or rationalise our choices.
The outcome of the trial and the way in which her new home life works out don’t come as a massive surprise but I’d still recommend reading Good Me, Bad Me for Annie/Millie’s voice and her thoughts and behaviour as a survivor, the mental gymnastics she has to play in her new life with all the fresh challenges that brings, and the promising new author behind it all that is Ali Land.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. ...more
As soon as I started reading TWHIC, the voice reeled me in. It consistently rings true throughout the book even as the action becomes more sensationalAs soon as I started reading TWHIC, the voice reeled me in. It consistently rings true throughout the book even as the action becomes more sensational. A lonely and confused teenager, in need of some attention and desperate to be friends with a more popular pupil at school, recognises someone who shares an interest in her crush. Where things felt uncomfortable before, from this point on, the story takes a much darker and more sinister turn and becomes a compulsive read. This is the book from the shortlist where I keep thinking about the main character, Yasmin, and wondering how she's doing since I closed the pages of the book on her. TWHIC got under my skin. It's a touching, unsettling, funny, poignant, sad and deliciously creepy contemporary novel . LOVED it....more
If, like me, you’ve ever longed for a romantic heroine who didn’t have perfect skin, an exciting job in the city, hardly any flaws and was totally lovIf, like me, you’ve ever longed for a romantic heroine who didn’t have perfect skin, an exciting job in the city, hardly any flaws and was totally lovely but inexplicably couldn’t find anyone to love her, then it might be time to download Five Go Glamping and escape to the countryside for a few hours.
Five Go Glamping has a terrific relatable heroine who’s stuck in a rut at work and at home. Fiona Delaney’s plan might not be working but she does have a cutting sense of humour and more resourcefulness that she realises and, with such a great group of friends around her, she might just discover that letting loose in the country is exactly what she needs. And that’s when she might start having as much fun as the reader who goes glamping with her and her friends. This was a fun and fast, refreshingly different read about friendship, life, our perceptions and prejudices of other people, and how easily we can get stuck in a life that isn’t making us happy, and what we can do about it....more
Kim Curran's latest book is a clever, yet disturbing, fast-paced chase through not only a dystopian London of the near future but the omnipotent sociaKim Curran's latest book is a clever, yet disturbing, fast-paced chase through not only a dystopian London of the near future but the omnipotent social network that is GLAZE. It's her third novel and I think it's her best yet. (It's a stand-alone book and not part of the excellent Shifter series, which currently comprises SHIFT and CONTROL. DELETE, the third book of that series, is out in August.)
GLAZE is Petri Quinn's story: she's 15 years old when we first meet her, which means that she's counting down the days, hours and seconds until she can get hooked up to GLAZE, the social network of the moment. Petri's desperation to get connected is compounded by the fact that she's a bright girl who's been put up a year at school. Which means, everyone she's in class with is already 16 and already 'hooked up'.
Petri's a terrific character: her voice is strong and I took to her from the very first page. She's the only child of a single parent and has had to be relatively self-sufficient because of her mother's work demands. They have a slightly distant relationship with each other, as a result. Petri's a bright girl, but not one who shouts about it. All she wants is what a lot of people want: to fit in, to be a part of things, if not the centre of them, and for the dreamy, cool kid in her year to notice her. And she'd really like to be 'hooked up' to GLAZE. And all credit to the girl, despite her mother working as a high-level Executive for the company behind GLAZE, Petri hasn't tried to use that to get connected early.
Kim Curran cleverly shows both the good and bad in being on a social network in GLAZE, especially one as pervasive as this one is. She shows the uses and benefits of having so much information and so many resources readily available and easily accessible before showing how it all could be open to misuse and abuse by the authorities, by the company responsible for designing and running it, by other interest groups and by its users.
If you're concerned about the way the current media presents (or, depending on your view, moulds and makes) the news before feeding it to us, and how statistics and information are manipulated to suit what 'they' want to tell us, then GLAZE feeds right into those concerns. It might also make you reconsider just what you share and who you connect with when you next use any of our existing social networks.
As well as being a timely look at how connected we all are, GLAZE is also a thrilling and unnerving look at how much of our lives are lived and shared online; how much information we give out about ourselves, our family and our friends, complete with locations and photos, and for some people, even with a running commentary of their day-to-day experiences and routine. It's also an important reminder of what is important: giving your time over to family and real friends and spending quality time with them; making genuine connections with people; looking up and noticing what's going on in your immediate environment and the wider world; questioning what you consume, especially when it comes to information; and, ultimately, being unafraid to forge your own way sometimes, even if that goes against what the majority are doing, because it might just be the better path.
If that all sounds deep, then that's because GLAZE gave me a lot to think about, both while I was reading it and for these past few days since having finished it. But that didn't stop GLAZE from being an exciting, fast-paced read; a technological thriller that I'd recommend anyone, who lives even a little bit online, to read. ...more
Surrounded by Water* is an interesting debut but it's also one that stays with you thanks to Stephanie Butland's fine writing. She's writes beautifullSurrounded by Water* is an interesting debut but it's also one that stays with you thanks to Stephanie Butland's fine writing. She's writes beautifully, delicately about grief, and deals with it compassionately, but she's also a cracking storyteller. And here she shows us that no matter what we may believe, even those closest to us can have sides to them we never knew about, secrets they've been hiding which may only come out once they're no longer around to protect us or any others affected by them. Surrounded by Water* is an impressive debut novel and I'm looking forward to what Stephanie Butland writes next.
*Published as a paperback under the title Letters to my Husband....more
After having enjoyed Jane Odiwe's Searching for Captain Wentworth, I jumped at the chance to read Project Darcy even before knowing anything more abouAfter having enjoyed Jane Odiwe's Searching for Captain Wentworth, I jumped at the chance to read Project Darcy even before knowing anything more about it other than the title and that the cover promised further Time Travels with Jane Austen. One of the highlights to me of Odiwe's previous book was how she'd imagined Jane Austen to be, as well as her contemporaries and the characters from her books and their possible real-life inspiration. This holds every bit as true for Project Darcy and I had a great deal of fun reading not only Odiwe's take on Jane Austen and her circle of acquaintances and their surroundings but seeing how she used fragments of well-known speeches and letters from Jane Austen's books to show how and where Jane Austen's inspiration might have come from. I liked the fact that having a twenty-first century heroine slip back in time allowed Odiwe to take a few more liberties than she might otherwise have done in scenes between the heroine, Ellie, and her eighteenth century beau. I also enjoyed figuring out who the modern-day counterparts to Jane Austen's characters were and seeing how they behaved now that they were in a more contemporary setting and circumstances.
The Gallery of Vanished Husbands is set in two very different and often conflicting worlds: the conservative Jewish community in which the main characThe Gallery of Vanished Husbands is set in two very different and often conflicting worlds: the conservative Jewish community in which the main character, Juliet Montague, is brought up and the art world of 1960s London which she falls into but then manages to carve out a role for herself.
Each chapter in the book begins with the description of a painting of Juliet and it's fascinating to see how these then come about and how they chart a stage of her new life. I enjoyed having these as markers throughout the novel and looked forward to seeing what each new painting would signify in Juliet's life, and how she was growing emotionally, while always being aware that that first painting of her was still `missing' from this new collection she was building up. That missing piece will take her and her children from London to California on a quest to find not only that first painting but the husband who stole it.
This is a fascinating story about a truly remarkable and unusual woman - how could she be anything less with a name like Juliet Montague? She's a woman who not only falls outside her own society's narrow norms but also challenges those in the wider, more liberal, society she moves in. (It's important to remember that it was a society where the Pill was only available to married women and the sexual revolution was still in its early stages.) Juliet is by no means perfect but I liked her all the more for being flawed. It's what makes her human and believable as a character. She may be attractive or, at least, she has the type of face that artists want to paint and she certainly attracts people around her; she's bold, brave and hard-working, but she also makes mistakes and I did sometimes have to question if the new life she was making for herself was also the best one for her two children, an issue that's reflected by the impact her new life has on them and their differing reactions to it. But most of all, I wanted Juliet to win through because I hated how restrictive her life could have been and loved how she refused to quietly accept her fate but instead chose to seize life and follow her passions.
The Gallery of Vanished Husbands is a wonderfully warm and touching novel about one woman's emphatic refusal to accept the position she's left in or put in by others and the passionate claim she stakes on a very different life for herself. It's about a woman who refuses to hide away and live quietly, no matter how much society wishes it. It's about a woman who insists upon being seen and being present in her everyday life, rather than solely existing in the portraits capturing moments in her life. And, above all, it's about saying Yes! to life. I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Gallery of Vanished Husbands and am very much looking forward to seeing where Natasha Solomons will take me in her next book....more
I really enjoyed this book which tells Elizabeth and Darcy's story in Pride & Prejudice from Darcy's point of view. It's not something we get muchI really enjoyed this book which tells Elizabeth and Darcy's story in Pride & Prejudice from Darcy's point of view. It's not something we get much insight into in the original but this offers a version which felt true to what we know and doesn't jar when spliced together with text from Pride & Prejudice. Nancy Kelley's clearly taken trouble to make the language and turns of phrase she uses ring true and there are some lovely touches throughout that show the care and attention she's paid to making this take on such a well-loved and well-known story work. I particularly enjoyed that this opened up not only Darcy's own character and let us into his thoughts and feelings but showed us more of two of the lesser but nonetheless interesting characters from Pride & Prejudice, namely, Darcy's sister, Georgiana, and her co-guardian and Darcy's good friend, Colonel Fitzwilliam. It was so good to see more of these two characters and have them fleshed out enough to make me want to know more about them. (And I believe Nancy Kelley continues their stories further in her second book Loving Miss Darcy.) This is certainly one Pride & Prejudice inspired novel which I have no hesitation in recommending to fans of the original. It's a clever take on the story from the hero's point of view that's been really well-done and is a pleasure to read. ...more
An excellent, fast-paced read for children which is set on an island during the summer holidays. Jessie's grandad lives in a lighthouse and he's filleAn excellent, fast-paced read for children which is set on an island during the summer holidays. Jessie's grandad lives in a lighthouse and he's filled her head with tales of pirates and smugglers, so she heads off with her trusty dog and two new friends on a hunt for treasure. I really enjoyed this quick read and would love to read more of Jessie's adventures on and around Beacon Island. ...more
I've enjoyed Trevor Forest's children's books in the past and this one was no exception. I really liked the idea behind The Wishnotist. We all have wiI've enjoyed Trevor Forest's children's books in the past and this one was no exception. I really liked the idea behind The Wishnotist. We all have wishes we'd like someone to magically realise but how many of us have really thought them through properly?
Trevor Forest's The Wishnotist is happy to grant wishes but she does have a nasty habit of taking your wish literally or putting her own twist on it, so that someone's wish fulfilment doesn't answer all their prayers but instead becomes a burden or living nightmare. How she goes about making people's wishes come true is amusing and worrying and sometimes even downright scary and will definitely help kids to see that having their wish come true might not necessarily be the answer to all their worries. This was a great read and I really liked the main character and his family. They felt real and normal. I liked how he went through his wishes trying to decide which one to choose and how he tried to steer the Wishnotist away from the kids he liked and had as friends. I also liked that the resolution was satisfying and more realistic than the more obvious ending would have been. All in all this was a very satisfying and fun read and I'd recommend it to children of all ages. ...more
I have to admit that I *almost* gave up on this because the story seemed to hurtle along way too quickly, abruptly whisking the characters off to a GrI have to admit that I *almost* gave up on this because the story seemed to hurtle along way too quickly, abruptly whisking the characters off to a Greek island at the end of Chapter 1. However, by this point, I already liked and felt for the main character of Kizzy Dean and was intrigued by the arrogant Greek lawyer, Andreas Lazarides, she meets in London. (If you want to read 'had the hots for' instead of 'intrigued', then that's your prerogative.)
The characters each come to the story with a lot of personal and emotional baggage and the book touches on serious subjects but, ultimately, this is a fast and furiously sexy read with two appealing and attractive central characters, and you really do feel as if you are caught up in the passionate and tempestuous storm that strikes whenever they're together. This is Rachel Lyndhurst's debut novel and I will definitely be looking out for more from her....more
Helen Marshall needs to raise a large sum of money and fast if she's to have any chance of saving her parents' farm back in England. Working as a gophHelen Marshall needs to raise a large sum of money and fast if she's to have any chance of saving her parents' farm back in England. Working as a gopher to the Contesa in Ibiza town isn't going to get her there but marrying her stepson just might and he's ready to make Helen an offer she wants to refuse, if it wouldn't solve all her problems with a cool £1million for a mere three-month-long "marriage of convenience". Wilful, headstrong and used to getting his own, playboy Riccardo Almanza doesn't have any plans to settle down. He just needs to get married to win a bet and settle an old score. But Riccardo gets more than he bargained for when he raises the ante with some extra contractual terms of his own.
I knew from having read her previous two books that Rachel Lyndhurst was incredibly good at writing a very sexy read and she's done exactly that here. The way she describes Riccardo Almanza's lifestyle and the world that he inhabits is wickedly indulgent. She'll have you salivating over the luxurious homes, yachts, cars, clothes and even the food and drink that all form the trappings of his billionaire lifestyle but she'll also have you finding it hard to resist the demands Riccardo himself makes for your attention. He's a very physical character and most definitely an alpha male. Happily, Helen Marshall may have seemed like a pushover when they first met but she has strengths of her own and Riccardo isn't going to have it all his own way. This is an indulgent and fast-paced sizzler of a read with some real Spanish heat to it. ...more
After having read and really enjoyed Rachel's first book,Kidnapped by the Greek Billionaire, Rachel and I chatted to each other on Twitter and by emaiAfter having read and really enjoyed Rachel's first book,Kidnapped by the Greek Billionaire, Rachel and I chatted to each other on Twitter and by email about the Welsh-Italian hero and the locations of a South Wales valley town and Portofino in Italy, two nationalities and locations close to both our hearts, while she was still writing this, her second book, The Devil to Pay. So I was excited when I was finally able to read the final product and have it live up to all my expectations.
Rianna Peters lives in a town in the South Wales valleys that's not dissimilar to towns near me. To support her family, she not only works as an accountant at the local quarry but also holds down a weekend job in a local grocery store. It's here that she first meets Daniel Bracchi, Mining CEO, and the man potentially about to wreak huge changes to both Rianna and her hometown. Their first encounter doesn't go that smoothly but she catches Daniel's attention - even if she wishes the ground had swallowed her up! - and shortly after they next meet at the quarry, her life suddenly shifts into a whole different gear.
She's whisked away from everyone and everything she knows to go and plead the case for the quarry's future in front of the Board of Daniel's company. And they're meeting in the glamorous upmarket resort of Portofino on the Italian Riviera. Rianna has a week to prepare her presentation and while she's certainly spirited, hard-working and capable of rising to the challenge, things would be so much easier, if she wasn't also having to fight her growing attraction for her new boss. Meanwhile, Daniel's finding it hard to control the effect Rianna's having on him and is starting to wonder if he even wants to.
As in her first book, Rachel's created a great sense of place for both her locations, whether gritty Valleys town or glamorous Italian resort, and terrific, strong characters in Rianna and Daniel. Despite their vastly different backgrounds and upbringing, they feel like real people each with their fair share of family problems, heartache and past disappointments to deal with and watching them come together makes for a really satisfying read. When they clash, which they frequently do, there's a real energy to it. There's a clear physical attraction and when they spar or fight with one another, it's almost as hot as the later sex scenes. Rachel's great at adding heat to scenes and she's written another brilliantly pacy and sexy read in The Devil to Pay.