Saturday, 30 August 2014

Liberty Silk by Kate Beaufoy

A beautiful story taking in three generations of women, each trying to find their own place in the world.

Jessie and Scotch marry at the end of the First World War and have a fabulous honeymoon travelling in Italy and France.  Scotch is a talented artist but realises that he cannot provide the luxurious lifestyle that Jessie has grown up with.  Jessie is abandoned and has to reinvent herself to be able to survive.
Lisa La Touche moves to Hollywood to become an actress during the Second World War.  Longing for a life of glamour, she finds the reality less palatable and has to make difficult decisions that impact on the rest of her life.
Cat is a talented photographer, travelling the world to capture gritty images of war and poverty, but a serious illness brings her closer to her family and she uncovers her secret history.

Kate Beaufoy carefully weaves the stories together, using elements of her own family history which are fascinating.  I was particularly engrossed with Jessie’s story, the fashionable circle of people that surrounded her and the sadness contained within her life.  I wasn't as engaged by Cat and found her story less interesting but she is a necessary part of the story.
The extensive research behind this book is clear, the detail is lovingly written and this makes it a really good read.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK, Transworld for my review copy.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas

I’ve loved everything Louise Douglas has written previously and I had great hopes for this book – thankfully I wasn’t disappointed as it is a great read! 

Annie grew up in Matlow, the daughter of a miner.  Whilst in her teens she was in love with local lad Tom, who was imprisoned for the manslaughter of an old lady.  She is now married to William, the local police chief who has a reputation for being incorruptible, and although she has an affluent lifestyle her days are repetitive and tedious, consisting of cooking, the school run and caring for her frail mother-in-law.   Annie is troubled by the news that Tom has served his time and is back in the area insisting he is innocent.  Despite her initial reservations, Annie is drawn to Tom and seeks to find the passion that is so lacking in her life.

Set in the 1980’s miner’s strike the atmosphere of the book is bleak and claustrophobic.  Being from that area and living through the strike, I thought it was very well written and captures the despondency and hopelessness of the whole situation.  It’s a gritty read and all the main characters are seriously flawed; Annie in particular is not a sympathetic character, she’s childish and self-absorbed.  The only character I felt any warmth towards was William’s mother who has flashes of clarity amidst her increasing confusion and bewilderment of senility.
All the threads are skilfully brought together and culminates in a shocking ending.

It’s a fantastic book, more serious in tone and scope than her early novels, and I look forward to her next one.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK, Transworld for my review copy.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Little Lies by Liane Moriarty


I loved this book!  It’s clever, tightly structured and I couldn’t put it down.

The story starts with a tragedy at a primary school social event but then goes back to the events leading up to this climax and introduces us to the parents and children in the wealthy Australian suburb.  The reader knows something horrific has happened but you have to be patient whilst the story unwinds.

Jane is the young single mum of Ziggy; new to the area and slightly out of her depth she is quickly adopted by the feisty and loyal Madeline who is an established mum at the school and her friend, the beautiful but rather insular Celeste.  However, the first day of school goes badly wrong for Ziggy and the consequences impacts across the whole school community.

More than a whodunit, it looks at relationships, friendships and loyalties.  I thought it was brilliantly written, switching between a gossipy style where the dialogue is sparklingly witty but also at times heartbreakingly sad.   The “mommy mafia” are truly horrific, as a teacher I would hate to come across any of them!  I had every sympathy for the inexperienced teacher Miss Barnes, who finally gets to be herself at the Audrey and Elvis event when she lets her hair down!  I particularly loved Madeline who is well aware of her own shallowness but she is the perfect foil for the reclusive Jane.  

I haven’t read anything else by this author but will certainly looking at her earlier books.
All I can say is read it now, it’s brilliant.

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin UK for my review copy.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

A Place For Us (Part 1) by Harriet Evans


This is the first of four instalments and thankfully I don’t have too long to wait to be able to get my hands on the next part!  It comes out later this month and it’s already on my Amazon wishlist.

Martha is preparing for her eightieth birthday party and sends out invitations including a cryptic comment about an important announcement.  The parties at Winterfold are legendary but the once close-knit family appears to have become more scattered of late.  The story is told with chapters written from the perspective of different characters which reveals their own secrets.

It’s a slow build that gradually discloses the cracks in the seemingly perfect lives of the Winters.  There are a lot of characters involved, which I found a bit muddled at first, but despite that I was desperate to read on and find out more about Martha’s announcement and it ends on a real cliffhanger.

I haven’t read anything by Harriet Evans for a while (I loved A Hopeless Romantic) and this has spurred me to find a couple of books that have been languishing for ages on my kindle.  I will definitely read on as the rest of the series becomes available.

Thank you to Netgalley and Headline for my review copy.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Quarter Past Two on a Wednesday Afternoon by Linda Newbery


Teenager Rose disappears from the garden during a summer afternoon.  There are no answers and no peace for her parents Sandra and Don Taverner and younger sister Anna.
In the present, Sandra seems to be unravelling at the prospect of finally moving home and losing the last point of connection with Rose.  

The gradual unveiling of the family secrets by moving backwards and forwards in time shows how snap decisions and thoughtless actions create family drama and tensions in the future.

The author skilfully portrays the hurt and pain of not knowing and the impact this has on all involved.  At first I found Anna, now in her thirties, to be an unsympathetic character, as she appears selfish, a bit of an outsider who is unwilling to commit.  However as the story unfolds and the reader is able to see the damage that Rose’s disappearance has done and the effect of continuous guilt and remorse, this drives her need to find answers and to resolve her ambiguous feelings towards Rose.

I don’t feel able to say much more without spoiling the slow build for others.  An emotional and thought-provoking read.

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK, Transworld for my review copy.

Friday, 15 August 2014

What Would Mary Berry Do? by Claire Sandy

Marie Dunwoody is a domestic disaster.  Her ignominious failure to produce a suitable showstopper cake for the school summer fete and the regular humiliation of comparing herself to perfect neighbour Lucy, sets Marie on a mission to do better next year and so she buys a recipe book by Mary Berry. 
Life isn’t easy in the Dunwoody household.  Husband, Robert is having a difficult time at work and the only way to outdo his competitive colleagues is to emulate Paul Hollywood and become a baker extraordinaire.  A new slick dental surgery threatens Marie’s livelihood and there’s the teenage traumas of Angus and their besotted neighbour “goth girl” Chloe being helped along by the twins, Rose and Iris.
Can cake conquer all?  Does Mary have all the answers?

I really enjoyed this.  It’s a light and frothy read, perfect now GBBO is back and for all fans of Jenny Colgan.  The various baking disasters and triumphs, new friendships and the exploits of Marie’s children and employees make it a great summer read.

Thanks to Netgalley and Pan Macmillan for my review copy.