Before I Fall has been on my list of books to read for a few years now, and really only because I’d seen so many peopleReviewed at JudgingCovers.co.uk
Before I Fall has been on my list of books to read for a few years now, and really only because I’d seen so many people refer to it as ‘life changing’. A bestselling Young Adult novel that is most simply described as Mean Girls meets Groundhog Day, it was the many glowing reviews that intrigued me more than the synopsis itself.
Sam Kingston is one of the most popular girls in her high school; she has a gorgeous boyfriend, great friends, and cares more about having fun than anything else. But on the night of February 12th, Sam is killed in a car accident. The next morning, she wakes up at home like nothing has happened… before realising it’s still February 12th, and she is actually living her final day all over again. For one whole week Sam repeats the last day of her life, realising the mistakes she’s made and trying to put them right.
From reading other reviews, it seems that most people take an instant dislike to Sam, only for her to grow on them as she changes through the book. At the beginning she has that typical ‘popular girl’ attitude where she doesn’t give much thought to other people: “It’s nice that everything’s easy for us. It’s a good feeling knowing you can basically do whatever you want and there won’t be any consequences.” She smokes, drinks, cheats on exams and skips school… but, unlike others, I didn’t immediately hate her for any of these things. I used to work in a high school and have seen plenty of kids who think they’re better than everyone, and she just struck me as another one of these girls that value popularity above anything else. Irritating, yes, but a typical teen attitude. It was only as I got further into the book and realised just how cruel Sam and her friends had been to people, and learnt about all the awful things she’d done (or let happen) in the past, that I began to dislike her. I also felt extremely sad about the way she had treated her family.
The book is beautifully written and it really makes you think about the way people treat each other. If it all ended today, how would you be remembered? It’s clever and thought-provoking, and for many reasons I wanted to give it five stars. Unfortunately, the ending bothered me.
The more I think about how life for each of the characters would be after the events of the final pages, the more I feel dissatisfied with how Oliver chose to finish the story. After the book had explored seven days of Sam’s attempts to make things right in her life, I was left wondering how many of the characters would actually be better off – and I don’t think it’s very many.
I’d be interested to see how a real-life ‘Mean Girl’ might feel after reading Before I Fall; I’m sure it has the potential to make people question their actions. But I’ve been out of high school for a decade, and I still found it captivating… if not a little depressing.
“Maybe you can afford to wait. Maybe for you there’s a tomorrow. Maybe for you there’s one thousand tomorrows, or three thousand, or ten, so much time you can bathe in it, roll around it, let it slide like coins through you fingers. So much time you can waste it. But for some of us there’s only today. And the truth is, you never really know.”...more
The phrase “I couldn’t put it down” is used often in book reviews, and perhaps not always as literally as it should be.Reviewed at JudgingCovers.co.uk
The phrase “I couldn’t put it down” is used often in book reviews, and perhaps not always as literally as it should be. But The Husband’s Secret is certainly deserving of this praise; I was gripped from the first page and I flew through the book in just two sittings.
The book begins as Cecilia Fitzpatrick, a busy mother of three, finds a letter in her attic. The envelope is sealed, and has her name on it – but her husband’s handwriting instructs that it should only be opened in the event of his death. John-Paul is still very much alive, but Cecilia is desperate to know what’s inside.
The Husband’s Secret has been compared to One Moment, One Morning, as the story follows three separate women whose lives are suddenly linked. Soon after learning of Cecilia and her letter, we are introduced to the other two women: Tess, whose marriage is falling apart; and Rachel, who is heartbroken to learn that her beloved grandson will be moving to New York. As the book progresses, Moriarty explores their pasts and their individual struggles, and how the content of John-Paul’s letter impacts all three of the women in different ways.
I really enjoyed Moriarty’s writing style; there is a touch of dry humour in parts, and I was genuinely surprised by what the letter revealed – it was more distressing than I’d expected. The main characters are wonderfully ordinary in the sense that you can believe they’re real people, and the rest of the cast (Tess’ mother, and Cecilia’s children in particular) are equally well written.
The book makes you think about how even the smallest decision or action can ultimately have a huge impact on many lives, and it explores moral dilemmas that really make you question the “right thing to do”. An excellent read (and, in my opinion, far better than One Moment, One Morning!)....more
The Ice Cream Girls has been on my ‘to read’ list for a very long time. I am a big fan of Dorothy Koomson, and have heaReviewed at JudgingCovers.co.uk
The Ice Cream Girls has been on my ‘to read’ list for a very long time. I am a big fan of Dorothy Koomson, and have heard on a few occasions that this is her best work. But it wasn’t until ITV broadcast a televised series based on the book that I finally got round to picking it up.
I’ll start by saying that I really enjoyed the TV series, and therefore expected the book to be even better. I wasn’t at all disappointed, but I was a little surprised – there are some very significant plot differences between the two.
The story is told by both Poppy and Serena in alternating chapters. As teenagers, the girls were both in an abusive and disturbing relationship with their teacher, Marcus – until one night, he was killed. Both girls were tried for his murder, and Poppy was found guilty, despite always maintaining her innocence. Years later, she is finally free of prison and determined to finally set the record straight about what happened.
Nobody in Serena’s life knows about her past, and her paranoia is written brilliantly. This was one of the first things to strike me as I began the book – she hides the kitchen knives every night, can’t eat ice cream, and has visions of blood on her hands – the character is considerably more disturbed than in the television series. There is a lot more depth to Poppy, too, and we learn a lot about how prison has affected her and her family.
Throughout the book Koomson uses flashbacks to gradually reveal the truth about the girls’ relationship with Marcus, and ultimately what happened on the night he died. Marcus is a truly horrible character, and the theme of domestic violence is impressively (and disturbingly) realistic. It is clear how much research Koomson has done into abusive relationships and the feelings of the victims.
I really enjoyed The Ice Cream Girls, and taking the book on its own, I cannot fault it; it is another deserved five stars. However, I will say that for anyone who watched the televised version… the book’s twist is very different, and just slightly more predictable. In terms of shock factor, I actually preferred the twist in the television series. (But the book still wins hands-down in all other areas, I promise.)...more
I expected to love this book before I even started it, simply because I love Dorothy Koomson and generally think she caReviewed at JudgingCovers.co.uk
I expected to love this book before I even started it, simply because I love Dorothy Koomson and generally think she can do no wrong. I wasn’t disappointed. It’s been a long time since a book has grabbed me so much that I couldn’t put it down.
The Rose Petal Beach begins when Tamia Challey opens the door to a couple of police officers, who immediately walk in and arrest her husband, Scott. Scott has been accused of a horrible crime, and things soon get worse when Tamia learns that the accuser is someone very close to her. They each have a very different story, and Tamia has no idea who to believe.
The story follows what happens after the arrest, but it’s difficult to say much more about the plot as there are so many unexpected twists and turns. Koomson is very skilled at exploring the thoughts, emotions and backstories of her characters in such a way that it really feels like you know them; there are lots of flashbacks to the past, and the first person narrative switches between a few different people. We regularly get to see two different points of view of the same conversation, which is very effective, and Tamia’s downward spiral as she reflects on how her life has fallen apart is particularly well-written.
I found it very difficult to know which characters are trustworthy, which really add to the mystery of the plot. It was clear that even the characters I really liked were capable of withholding the truth, and many of the revealed ‘secrets’ later turned out to be lies. With every twist I had a new idea of what the truth might be, but when it came to the climax of the story I was completely wrong. Not even close. In fact, I’d like to read the whole thing again just to look out for the hints!
It’s hard to talk about all the things I loved when I’m so conscious of not spoiling the plot, so I’ll just say this: if you like a twisty story with lots of heartache, secrets and lies, you need to buy this book. Plus everything else Dorothy Koomson has ever written. Because I love her....more
My decision to buy Seven Days One Summer was based solely on the fact that it is set in a villa in Italy. I was about tReviewed at JudgingCovers.co.uk
My decision to buy Seven Days One Summer was based solely on the fact that it is set in a villa in Italy. I was about to embark on a two week villa holiday to the same place, and it seemed fitting to read a novel in a similar setting, so it went into my Amazon cart without hesitation.
The plot centres around a group of people – couples, divorcees, parents, children – who are all brought together for a group holiday by a man named Sam. He is the connecting factor to the guests, most of whom don’t know each other, as he decided it would be nice to share a week in the sun with all of his old friends.
The protagonist (and the voice telling the story) is Jen. She shared a night of passion with Sam many years ago, and has always seen him as the ‘one that got away’ – so she’s thrilled by the idea of catching up with him on a much-needed holiday. Her relationship with long-term lover Marcus has gone downhill, she’s bringing up their son alone thanks to his demanding job, and she’s generally not very happy with her life. Some people might think taking your family away on a holiday with the man you’ve always secretly loved is a bad idea, but not Jen.
This book has the potential for bucket-loads of drama. Throw eight strangers into a house together and you expect fireworks – we’ve all seen Big Brother – and this group of characters had more than enough issues to guarantee some would surface during a week in close proximity. With couples, exes and unrequited loves all under one roof, there was huge potential for affairs, secrets, lies and/or arguments… and yet, to my disappointment, none of it really materialised. Yes, there were a few small incidents, and yes, the characters did all ‘gain something’ from the holiday. But there was nowhere near the level of excitement I expected, and I guessed the ‘twist’ ending very early on.
The characters themselves were not particularly likeable, especially Jen, who did little to gain my sympathy. Between fantasising about Sam, flirting with the other men in front of Marcus, and judging people, she wasn’t someone that I felt deserved a happy ending. Her character seemed quite emotionally detached – mainly through a clever use of the narrative, as Kate Morris has chosen to avoid direct quotations for speech on a number of occasions. Instead, Jen would paraphrase the conversation, giving a sense that (despite the story being told in the present tense) it was difficult to get her full attention, and I thought this was an interesting way of conveying her dissatisfaction with life.
Despite not being as gripping or dramatic as I would have expected, there were aspects to the book I really liked: mainly the gorgeous portrayal of Italy. Morris does a fantastic job of setting the scene (she clearly knows a lot about Italian culture) and I am not ashamed to say that the descriptions of food had me salivating. Seven Days One Summer was very apt for my holiday, and was an easy read for lounging by the pool. Sadly, I’m left feeling disappointed that the plot didn’t live up to its potential....more
This is the first novel I’ve read by Dorothy Koomson, and despite the synopsis, I had anticipated a fairly light read.Reviewed at JudgingCovers.co.uk
This is the first novel I’ve read by Dorothy Koomson, and despite the synopsis, I had anticipated a fairly light read. What I got instead was a dark, incredible story that has easily earned itself a place as one of my favourite books.
As the story begins, Libby and her husband, Jack, have been in a car crash. Jack is OK, but Libby’s airbag didn’t deploy and she’s very lucky to have survived. While the crash could simply have been an unfortunate accident, there is an air of mystery surrounding the events of that day – because Jack’s first wife, Eve, also died in a tragic ‘accident’. And the police still aren’t sure she wasn’t killed on purpose.
Libby has always wondered whether she could live up to the love Jack felt for his first wife. She’s worried that she’d always be second best to the woman he lost so tragically early. Jack refuses to talk about Eve – but Libby’s lack of knowledge just fuels her unease. Perhaps the memories are just too painful… or perhaps he’s hiding something.
Housebound in the aftermath of her accident, Libby finds Eve’s diaries, hidden away where nobody should have found them. These pages hold all the secrets that Jack has never told her. Worryingly, there is also a chilling note from Eve: “if you’re reading this, it’s likely that I’ve been murdered.” Were the police right? Is Jack a killer?
The Woman He Loved Before is cleverly written from various viewpoints. At first, we mainly see Libby’s narrative, interlaced with flashbacks to how she first met Jack. Once she finds the diaries, Eve’s words take over. Koomson has also included short chapters of Jack’s thoughts, so we get to experience the emotions of all three main characters. The changing viewpoints allows Koomson to give us a perfect understanding of the feelings each character has, and the relationships between them. In different ways, I felt real sympathy for all three. Their reactions to the hardships in their respective lives are totally believable, and it is obvious how much thought the author has put into creating beautifully flawed characters.
Gradually discovering the truth of Eve’s life is, in my opinion, the best part of the novel. The secrets that come out of her diaries are quite dark, and I did have to take a couple of short breaks from reading it because I was feeling too depressed. With that said, the further into the book I got, the harder it was to put down. The gritty themes are handled brilliantly, and I genuinely couldn’t guess what was going to happen. At one particularly shocking point in the plot, I was so surprised I actually said, “Oh my God!” aloud. It was worth the strange looks.
I loved this book so much, I feel disappointed that it’s over. I almost wish I’d read it slower to prolong the enjoyment, but the dramatic nature of the story means that’s almost impossible. Must invest in some more of Dorothy Koomson’s books immediately....more