The Other Side Of The Wall by Andrea Mara

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 Length: 402 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal buy link for Amazon

What they say:

When Sylvia looks out her bedroom window at night and sees a child face down in the pond next door, she races into her neighbour’s garden. But the pond is empty, and no-one is answering the door.

Wondering if night feeds and sleep deprivation are getting to her, she hurriedly retreats. Besides, the fact that a local child has gone missing must be preying on her mind. Then, a week later, she hears the sound of a man crying through her bedroom wall.

The man living next door, Sam, has recently moved in. His wife and children are away for the summer and he joins them at weekends. Sylvia finds him friendly and helpful, yet she becomes increasingly uneasy about him.

Then Sylvia’s little daughter wakes one night, screaming that there’s a man in her room. This is followed by a series of bizarre disturbances in the house.

Sylvia’s husband insists it’s all in her mind, but she is certain it’s not – there’s something very wrong on the other side of the wall.

The Review: I was very lucky to have read an earlier form of this book, as I’m blessed to share online space with Andrea Mara (a freelance journalist whose blog is the brilliant officemum.ie) in the Imagine Write Inspire writing group (come on, I had to!) , led by the most lovely Carmel Harrington, and was blown away that this was a debut. Enough about that, however. This book starts as every thriller should, in the middle of the night, with our lead character woken with a jump. After some time she looks out to see that there’s a child’s body floating in the pond next door, only, on further investigation, there isn’t. And so begins Sylvia’s story, where a series of happenings are making her wonder if there’s something going on with the new people next door, or whether it’s all in her mind.

We have multiple point of views here, as well as following Sylvia on her daily passage as a working mum. The author of this book has, as this is her forte, presented us with various mothers, there’s Sylvia, but there’s also Kate, who is a stay at home mum. I loved the lighter relief of their everyday routines, and the issues that arose with partners, relatives and work but was quickly reeled into the plights of various characters. I felt you were immersed time and time again in the everyday before a new build up started-something beginning to niggle at you before suddenly you were presented with a shock.

I was gripped by the back stories of the various characters (there’s a lot of jumping in terms of timelines, but I enjoyed the way it was done) and in particular that of Kate and her brother, Miller, which was the story that took over my mind both times (I couldn’t review until I had read it in its current form) I put the book down. I’ve probably told you before that my brother has AS and so every time I read about a character who is a little different it takes hold. The treatment of Miller really got to me and I started to feel that whatever we might learn he had done was justified (I know, I know!).

The storytelling was perfection, the descriptions excellent, and I’m always a sucker for multiple point of views and the fact that there were multiple mysteries to be solved too meant this suited me down to the ground. This book isn’t gory but there is the possibility of a few grimaces along the way, the idea of what one character does to another human being being a tough one to stomach. I will say that there was in particular one loose end that I would have enjoyed being tied up a little neater but it niggled at me at the time and then was quickly replaced with memories of other things that had happened. All in all a very atmospheric, memorable thriller (not listed as this on Amazon, is under sagas, literary and fiction?!) that rose to an excellent climax and is beyond beyond (done purposely!!) recommended.

Rating: 5/5

Author interview: Lynda Renham: Perfect Weddings

thumbnail_pKTCLgh8_400x400LyndaRenham

Please note that clicking on the images will lead you to the buy links or the author’s image will lead you Lynda’s website where you can view her huge selection of books! Enjoy

The Interview: First off, Lynda, a huge welcome and congratulations on a truly enjoyable book (read the review here.) I have to tell you that from the very start I was sucked into Amy’s world. Can you tell us about Amy in your own words?

Thank you very much for inviting me onto your blog. I’m very happy to be here.

‘Every bride wants a perfect wedding and that includes Georgina Winters. Amy Perfect is the crème de la crème of wedding planners so who best to plan Georgina s wedding… except the man Georgina plans to marry is the same man who jilted Amy three years ago. Will her plan to give Georgina the most imperfect wedding backfire on her? Is this the chance for Amy to win back the love of her life, or will insufferable Ben Garret put a spanner in the works?’

How Amy overcomes the difficulties of overcoming a weight issue to seeing her ex love marry someone else makes for interesting and hilarious reading, I think. I wanted love to rule Amy’s head and her heart but to also show how integrity really mattered to her.

I always want to know did you know what would happen in the book from the start or did your characters take control and guide the story?

I only have a vague idea. My characters pretty much take over. Chardonnay, for example was only supposed to have a small part in the book and yet suddenly she came back into the novel at a time I wasn’t expecting her to.

Did you enjoy writing a wedding story? Did you need to do much research?

Yes I did enjoy writing a wedding story. But I also enjoyed writing ‘A Christmas Romance’ as I love Christmas too. I did so some research on best man speeches and that was fun to do.

How did you feel about the change in Amy?

Oh, it had to happen. But I’m not going to say too much else we’ll give the game away.

There were a lot of brilliant side characters, I loved Rosie and Georgina too! Can you tell me were there any in particular that grabbed you and wouldn’t let go?

Yes, Chardonnay was one. I found she kept hovering at the back of my mind, pushing for a bigger role. I also found Lucy grabbed me and she is rather overlooked I think but I did like her personality. The way she handled Amy I found very funny.

And lastly, have you any plans at the moment for your next book?

Yes, I am writing it at the moment. It is the second book in the Little Perran series and follows on from ‘A Christmas Romance

Thanks so so much for being here, Lynda, it’s been a pleasure and I look forward to hearing more from you in the future and hopefully seeing you here again, in fact I have the review for ‘Rory’s Proposal’ for you all tomorrow which I look forward to sharing!

Thank you for having me on your blog. I have enjoyed it.

About Lynda

‘Perfect Weddings’

‘Perfect Weddings’ Amazon.com

Facebook

Twitter @lyndarenham

Website

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The Girl You lost by Kathryn Croft

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What they say: Eighteen years ago your baby daughter was snatched. Today, she came back.

A sinister and darkly compelling psychological thriller from the No.1 bestselling author of The Girl With No Past.

Eighteen years ago, Simone Porter’s six-month-old daughter, Helena, was abducted. Simone and husband, Matt, have slowly rebuilt their shattered lives, but the pain at losing their child has never left them.

Then a young woman, Grace, appears out of the blue and tells Simone she has information about her stolen baby. But just who is Grace – and can Simone trust her?

When Grace herself disappears, Simone becomes embroiled in a desperate search for her daughter and the woman who has vital clues about her whereabouts.

Simone is inching closer to the truth but it’ll take her into dangerous and disturbing territory.

Simone lost her baby. Will she lose her life trying to find her?

The review: First off thanks so much to Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review. You’ll remember I shouted Kathryn Croft’s praises from the rooftop when I reviewed ‘The Girl With No Past.‘ I really really enjoyed her latest book ‘The Girl you Lost,’ though it was tougher going. It began with every parent’s worst nightmare, the snatching of a baby from a park. This is followed closely by the meeting of Helena/ Grace and I was HOOKED. The book flew by, the percentages on my Kindle increasing swiftly, and my wish to find out what would happen, whether Grace really was Helena and who had taken her, was more of a craving. There were numerous cases that arrived on Simone’s doorstep as she started to look into her new-found ‘daughter’ and I loved that her occupation, a reporter, lent itself to her ability to investigate and wondered which were linked and which weren’t.
I really liked Simone, and another character who I was glad was a ‘goodie(!)’ that I can’t name or it will have to go on the ‘spoiler’ side of things. There were actually a lot of characters, at times slightly difficult to keep up with, but that was, I suppose the nature of the book. I trusted no-one, sure that there was a hand being kept close to someone’s chest. My lack of trust paid off at times and my judgement failed elsewhere, as I zipped through. The length on Amazon said 318 pages, and it is some testament to this book if it truly is that length, because it felt shorter (not short, mind, just shorter!)
Now, the downsides. If you remember correctly there was a moment in The Girl With No Past that I found slightly memorable solely because it was tough going. There are more moments such as that in this book, in fact I winced at one point. There’s sexual attacks in the story that I found to be quite graphic, more by what is insinuated than what is ‘shown,’ and the book is narrated, not only through Simone’s voice, but also that of a predator which at times I found a bit harsh, or maybe grating, I can’t really tell which. While the book took me along with it, there were some scenes teetering on the ‘that’s a bit too much of a coincidence”s side, including the ending, which I’m afraid I guessed, just a little bit before, though I didn’t know it was possible.
So there you go. Enjoyed it even though it messed with my head, and I definitely recommend for those of you who don’t mind the violence I described above. In summation, I will continue to follow Kathryn Croft’s books to see where she goes next.
Rating: 4/5

Bout of Books 15 readathon (Come on, join in!)

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So to start off, where better to find out about the Bout of Books 15 than from the bout of books blog itself?!

They say: You were going to read that week anyway, right?  Read with us.

The Bout of Books Read-a-Thon was created by Amanda @ On a Book Bender on a complete whim in August 2011*. It took on a life of its own and was such a hit that Amanda decided to do it again and turn it into a somewhat regular occurrence.

  • Bout of Books is a week long read-a-thon, usually from 12:01am on a Monday through 11:59pm on a Sunday in whatever time zone you are in.
  • It is low pressure, meaning participants are only asked to push themselves to read more than they normally would during any given week. There is no competition between readers.
  • How much time a reader wants, and can commit, to read, tweet, or network with fellow bloggers is left to individual preference. All challenges and giveaways are optional.
  • Networking with fellow bloggers is actively encouraged, though never required.
  • Use Twitter to post updates throughout the read-a-thon. Everyone will be tweeting with the #boutofbooks hashtag.

So, anybody with me here?

They say as many or as little as you want, so I’m going to aim for three and if I get more read than that happy out and if I don’t I’ll just slink away in defeat(must get three read, must get three read!)!

It started up yesterday, Monday 4th Jan 2015, but entry is open until the end of Tues 5th Jan 2015.

Anyhoo, here’s my three and I’ll keep you updated daily to let you know how I’m doing.

My three books are The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells by Virginia MacGregor, (Available for preorder now, and thanks so much to the publisher for the advance copy, I cannot tell you how happy I was to get this after reading and adoring What Milo Saw) I started this last night and am hooked already!) Friends like these by Hannah Ellis, which looks like a nice, easygoing read and The Green Hills of Home (which is substantially shorter, a bit of a cheat you might say, especially given how much I adore Ms. Bennet’s writing, but as I said I’ll top up if I get the chance to!) Happy Reading!!

Berni:)

DAY 2!

Am nearly 50% into The Astonishing Return of Norah Wells by Virginia MacGregor, because it’s just that good. I was actually irritated with my husband last night that he wanted to spend quality time and watch a movie, I swear I would have finished it! So it’s about two mums ‘The Mum who left’ (Norah )and The Mum who stayed (Fay). The Mum who stayed kept everything together when the mum who left walked out six years ago but now the mum who left is back.  The story is told from the viewpoint of the two mums, the husband and the two children, one of who calls the mum who stayed ‘Mummy.’ By the way it sounds like I’m giving you spoilers but it’s pretty much all in the blurb. I have been on the edge of my seat numerous times, and can’t wait until tonight to get to the other half!!

 

DAY 3

It bothered me a little that I hadn’t mentioned yesterday that I had a bit of a lull before the 50% mark, the pacing was a bit up and down for me but am now up to 80% and the surprises have been brilliant, and excellently done. I’m really enjoying and still not sure as to how it’s going to end. The telling of the story from an overseeing voice at times is magnificently done, I’m sure other authors, had they seen that it could have been done this way, could have tried to do it for the whole book, but I don’t think it would have worked, the different characters points of views put with this voice work gorgeously.

DAY 4

Am finished and now cannot wait to write the review (and yes, I do realise this is a review of sorts!) This book had it all, the tension, the surprises, I cried, I laughed, and at one point I laughed through tears, which a book has never caused me to do before.

 

DAY 5

20% into ‘Friends like these’ and I’m really enjoying it. Is light and bubblegummy, perfect for the time of the week. It starts with Marie, in a pharmacy looking for a pregnancy test just weeks after she ‘caught her ex boyfriend in bed with some dumb blonde.’ There’s been few mix-ups and ‘oops’ moments so far and it’s flying along. The protagonist is a tad negative, but as you probably know by now I generally find it difficult to warm to a lead and instead empathize with their best friend, so at least I’m sticking to my normal reading pattern!;) Will keep you posted!

 

DAY 6

So in ‘Friends Like These’ Marie is losing her best friend who is moving to New York. She feels she has nobody else and as the story goes on we’re meeting more and more possible friends and boyfriends for her. There are some very funny scenarios, including Marie ending up in an Overeaters Anonymous type club which she actually thinks is speed dating and a ‘Hangover’ type morning after. I finished up at 58% (went to see the new Star Wars movie, which was AMAZING!)

DAY 7

Finished Friends Like These. It absolutely flew by. I beyond enjoyed it, though I found it hard to connect with Marie sometimes, and there were times I found that there was so many things happening, and this, coupled with the range of characters got a little bit confusing. A fun read, light, funny and fluffy. Review to come. I’d love to say I got into The Green Hills of Home then, but I actually started to write a new short story tonight so happy out:)

Conclusion: Obviously I didn’t even get to my quota of three books, but I enjoyed the week, in particular I liked that I had a definite plan in place, plus I loved reading reviews from other bloggers.

 

 

Another Heartbeat In The House-nominated for The Irish Book Awards Best Popular Fiction Category

AnotherHeartbeatInTheHouse
What they say:

Two women living a hundred years apart. One home that binds them together.

When Edie Chadwick travels to Ireland to close up her uncle’s lakeside lodge, it’s as much to escape the burden of guilt she’s carrying as to break loose from the smart set of 1930’s London.

The old house is full of memories – not just her own, but those of a woman whose story has been left to gather dust in a chest in the attic: a handwritten memoir inscribed with an elegant signature . . . Eliza Drury

As she turns the pages of the manuscript, Edie uncovers secrets she could never have imagined: an exciting tale of ambition, hardship, love and tragedy – a story that has waited a lifetime to be told. . .

‘A delightful story, rich, engrossing and vividly told’ Rachel Hore

‘A compelling, atmospheric story brimming with period detail about two feisty, independent heroines who will steal your heart’ Cathy Kelly

‘With a marvellously evocative setting, strong and believable lead characters and a pacey plot, Another Heartbeat in the House is a thoroughly compelling love story’ Liz Trenow

 

The Book:

When I received a request to inform readers of the presence of this book among the other gems in The Irish Book Awards 2015 in The Best Popular Fiction category, I was very excited as I’d noticed it when I first rummaged through the contents of the Awards (I’m a big fan and vote and look forwards to them every year). I had previously heard of Liberty Silk, and the gorgeous cover of ‘Another Heartbeat in the House’ was so beautiful that, coupled with the eloquent blurb, I downloaded to my Kindle for future reading straight away!

You can vote for it in the Best Popular Fiction category here
Note: Voting closes at midnight 20th November 2015. Only one vote per email address is accepted.
About the author
Kate Beaufoy

 

Kate Beaufoy has an MA in French and English literature from Trinity College, Dublin.  She began her career as a professional actor – winning a Dublin Theatre Festival Best Actress award – before becoming a full time writer. As Kate Thompson she has had a dozen novels published, including the Number One bestseller The Blue Hour, which was shortlisted for the RNA award.

Kate’s novels have been translated into French, German, Greek, Italian, Czech and Dutch. She has contributed to numerous newspapers and magazines in Ireland and the UK, written and broadcast for RTE, and is regularly invited to participate in literary events across the media.

As Kate Beaufoy her first novel – the critically acclaimed Liberty Silk – spent four weeks on the Irish Times bestseller chart.   Another Heartbeat in the House – charted last summer and, inspired by William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, it tells the story of the woman who became governess to his children and who may have been the prototype for literature’s most enduring and engaging heroine, Becky Sharp.

Kate lives some of the year in Dublin and some on the West coast of Ireland. She is an advanced-level scuba diver, a wild swimmer, a keen practitioner of Bikram yoga, and the fond keeper of a bewitching Burmese cat.

 

Bride Without A Groom by Amy Lynch

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What they say: Single, coupled-up or married, this laugh-out-loud summer read is the perfect anecdote for the wedding season!

Rebecca has chosen the most luscious, five tiered, wedding cake. The engagement ring that she has selected is celebrity inspired. The wedding singer is on speed dial. He doesn’t usually do Michael Bolton, but as it’s for a first dance he’ll make an exception. Father Maguire is checking dates for the parish church as we speak. The deposit on the white sand honeymoon is paid for in full on Barry’s card. She has fallen for an ivory lace couture gown that is to die for. The down payment may require her to sell a left kidney, but it will be worth it. Isn’t that why you have two?

There’s one teeny tiny problem. It’s nothing, really. No need to panic! It’s just that Barry has yet to propose. Says he’s not ready! He can be a bit of a kill joy that way. It’s time to face the harsh reality – Rebecca is a bride without a groom!

 

The Review: To start, I promise I will try to get through this without too much gushing, as I really, really enjoyed this book. So here we go! Bride Without A Groom starts with the pre-empting of a proposal that doesn’t come, followed by the dramatics of one who believed their happy ever moment had arrived only to have their hopes shot down and stamped out. We quickly find out that one of the reasons for the hysterics is that our lead, Rebecca Browne, has already organised the planning of the bulk of the wedding, down to the tiniest details.

Rebecca reminds me of a mixture of Elle (Legally Blond), Becky Bloomwood (Confessions of a Shopaholic) and Cher (Clueless), in that she’s what would traditionally what would be viewed as selfish, and yet you can’t not like her (see note *), you just clickety clack along with her (my impression of high heels there, NOT a train), as aghast as her when things don’t go her way.

Her boyfriend, Barry, is what some people may call gutless (I would be one of those people) and yet you can easily jump between empathizing (sympathising!) with him and not liking him at all. This is consistant with the characters in Bride Without a Groom which are generally done very well, and play their part in leading you to various conclusions or just surprising you.

This book felt like it was made for me, or maybe it was just built for my generation. It is set in Dublin and so we quickly hear names such as Brown Thomas’ (large exclusive department store) and Dundrum Town Centre (large exclusive shopping centre). On the entertainment front we hear of Fair city (Irish version of Eastenders which is a british soap opera where nothing goes the way of the always unhappy residents of Albert Square), Legally Blonde, Dirty Dancing, Patrick Swayze and Michael Bolton and Top Gear (Barry not Rebecca), with a hilarious letter sent when she realises The Young and The Restless is due to be cancelled. A point to note is that although the settings and backdrops are mostly Irish, this book is definitely translateable, I think it could be popular anywhere in the world.

One thing I would say to you would be in terms of character development, as in the journey the character goes through to get to a point whre ethey might figure something out that changes themselves. There is none. None at all. But, before this bothers you, look at the bottom of this review. I’ll give you a hint, the rating I gave it was 4.75/5. So I took off .25/5 for that fact, because I was waiting for a certain something to happen and it didn’t, and it bothered me just a little but I would assume that there will be a sequel and if there is it doesn’t really matter (if there isn’t, yes, it will continue to bother me just because I’m like that!). To date this is possibly one of my standout books for 2015. When someone’s looking for a commercial, light read that will make them laugh and keep them interested, this is a serious contender (for the right person, mind, again, see my note marked *)

Rating: 4.75/5

*This is a marmite one. If you look at the reviews on this you’ll see it’s a love it or hate it type of book and people seemed to find Rebecca to be a love her or hate her type of character. The people who didn’t like it/ her went for it tooth and nail, but to be honest if you take a look at the cover, blurb and the first few pages you’ll know. I love it. I cannot gush about it enough and as I read it I had at least three people in mind who would flip for it. It is pure unadulterated chick lit at its best!

 

 

Make a Christmas Wish by Julia Williams

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What they say: A HILARIOUS and JUST-A-LITTLE HEARTBREAKING FESTIVE TREAT for anyone who’s looking for a little bit of MAGIC this CHRISTMAS TIME!

Last Christmas, when Livvy was knocked down in the supermarket car park she certainly wasn’t ready to actually be dead! For months now she’s floated on the edge of the afterlife, generally making a nuisance of herself.

And she’s not ready to go just yet! She’s furious about the new woman in her husband’s life and she’s worried about her beloved son who doesn’t seem to be adjusting to life without her at all.

This Christmas, Livvy is given one last magical chance to make everything right. Will she take it and give her family the perfect Christmas?

Perfect for fans of CAROLE MATTHEWS, TRISHA ASHLEY and JENNY COLGAN.

 

The review: First off thanks to Netgalley for this book in return for an honest review. I had heard a lot about this book before I started, there were big fans out there so that would be something to bear in mind here.

In Make A Christmas Wish we’re introduced to Livvy, who has died in an accident after hearing about her husband having an affair. The way things work is explained to her by her spirit guide Malachi, who appears in the form of a black cat. She is told that she has unfinished business and so cannot pass over to the other world. The unfinished business is seemingly obvious but, in a nice touch, the glaringly obvious is turned on its head throughout the book. Livvy was a strong character and though her faults were plenty, you still had to feel for her, especially in finding out HOW she died. If you are looking for something along the life of ‘The Dead Wife’s Handbook’ by Hannah Beckerman, which was more of a mother looking in to her family’s new life, with no say in what was happening, then this is not it. Livvy is bitter and resentful and rather than watching her family to see what’s happening she’s doing her best to turn things upside down so she can get back to them and to what she remembers her old life to be. There are some hilarious moments in this, with the hauntings very well done. We see her life as flashbacks and meet their son, Joe, who had Asbergers initially through a series of notebook entries, which was a lovely touch.

We also meet her husband, Adam and his new girlfriend, Emily, and I think this was where my problem with the books started. As I said the book was in flashbacks, mostly to show how Adam ended up having the affair. The wish to keep us surprised meant that I empathized with the ‘wrong’ characters here. I couldn’t take a liking to Emily and Adam and continued to feel bad for Livvy. Whatever happened they both still came off as selfish to me. As well as this, somewhere along the line the book which, already out of the ordinary, turned a little bit too wacky and beetlejuicy for my liking. In a converse way, if you like things turning a bit crazy and spooks and beings everywhere, then go for this book! It’s also quite a funny book and had I liked the characters more, there’s a chance I could have loved it.

All in all a tough one to judge. I wasn’t a fan, and watched the percentages go by on my Kindle (never a good sign) but plenty more will love it, and it is a different type of Christmas book.

Rating: 3/5