Book Review: Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse

Hannah had promised herself she would not become her mother, she would be independent and successful in her own right and avoid turning into her mother. However, one day she meets successful businessman Mark in a New York park and they embark on a whirlwind romance. The pair marry and return to London to live in a beautiful townhouse and on the surface their life seems perfect. But after Mark disappears on a business trip to America, Hannah starts to question her husband’s life and she soon realises her husband is not the person she thought he was.

I’ve read Lucie Whitehouse before, I read The Bed I Made a few years ago and loved it. Its one of my favourite books, I think the story is utterly gripping and I really liked her style of writing. If you haven’t read The Bed I Made, I thoroughly recommend it.

Before We Met reminds me Gone Girl, it looks at a marriage and questions how much you really know about the people closest to you. I don’t think this is comparable to Gone Girl. Gone Girl held my attention from the first page and I could not put the book down, I wanted to know everything about the characters despite disliking them and I was gripped by the story. I find the characters in Before We Met difficult to like but I think that’s the point in stories like this. It is a good story but its slightly predictable. I think the predictability is because of Gone Girl, I’m second guessing the story because I’ve read something similar. I think the central storyline is interesting and it does make you wonder how much you know about the people in your life. In terms of writing, Whitehouse’s style is really easy to read and the story flows really nicely.

I think The Bed I Made is a better book than this one but I don’t think it’s a Gone Girl wannabe, I think there has been a wave of that type of story and its difficult for any book with a slightly similar story to avoid being compared with the bestseller. I think this is well written and is probably better than most of the other stories released following the success of Gone Girl. Its good book and well worth picking up if you’re after some new reading material but I would recommend The Bed I Made more.

Have you read this? What do you think?


Book Review: Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell

One day during an intense heatwave in London in 1976, Robert Riordan pops out for a newspaper but he never returns. His disappearance forces his estranged family to come together to find him. Robert, a recently retired, happy father of three adult children shows no signs to his wife, Gretta he is unhappy or considering disappearing. Gretta is a devoted mother but slightly eccentric. His son, Michael is a history teacher facing divorce because his wife has found herself and new friends. His eldest daughter, Monica is experiencing marriage problems while his youngest child, Aoife has exiled herself in New York and is very much out of sight, out of mind.

O’Farrell establishes four narratives to take you on the search for the missing father which could have resulted in a confusing and tangled web of storylines but O’Farrell created well-developed characters each with a unique voice and personality. The characters are struggling to manage their own problems while dealing with the issue which united them. Gretta seems strangely happy that her family rallied to her side while her children are preoccupied with life. Michael is rather angered at his lack of professional success. Monica’s husband’s children have made their dislike of Monica apparent. Aiofe is trying to hid either her illiteracy or dyslexia whilst maintaining her feud with Monica.

The central plot, for me, wasn’t anything special and I felt very little attention was paid to Robert’s disappearance, the event which brings the family together but I think this was deliberate on the part of O’Farrell. I felt this gave the book a little bit of mystery, is he genuinely missing or was the disappearance a ploy to reunite his children. I felt the character’s personal stories were engrossing and soon the disappearance became a distant memory because I wanted to understand the characters. This book is a real page turner, I couldn’t wait to read the book and find out their secrets.

I can’t recommend this book enough, it’s fantastic and I found impossible to put down, I read it in one night!

Book Review: The Thing About December by Donal Ryan

Ryan’s first novel, The Spinning Heart, was easily the best book I read last year. It was beautifully written and the story was engrossing. Ryan’s second novel, its set in the same village as its predecessor, during the Celtic Tiger boom years. The story follows Johnsey Cunliffe, a socially akward and isolated twenty-four year old who can’t deal with the environment changing around him. Johnsey is left alone on his family farm in rural Ireland after the death of his parents. He has no friends except two friends of late parents. he’s bullied daily and some greedy property tycoons are eager to snap up his valuable farmland.

I found The Thing About December incredibly moving and I felt the story stayed with me a long time after I finished reading it. It’s definitely not light-reading, the story is engrossing and quite upsetting. There is some humorous moments, particularly Johnsey’s monologues but the sadness outweighs any comic relief. Ryan’s writing is exquisite, he captures country life beautifully and his writing has a real sense of local identity and attachment to the village. He conveys Johnsey’s loneliness and isolation perfectly, he doesn’t ask the voter to feel sorry for Johnsey but it’s incredibly heart-breaking. I like the structure of this novel, each chapter is a month of Johnsey’s life as an independent adult. I think this structure helps the reader appreciate the journey Johnsey is on following the death of his mother.

I can’t recommend this book enough, the story is powerful and the writing is beautiful but I don’t think it’s the easiest read because it is a tear-jerker.

Have you read The Thing About December? What did you think?

Book Review: The Moment by Claire Dyer

Fern is rushing through Paddington station in the morning rush hour to meet a friend while Elliot is rushing through Paddington station at the same time to get to Wales to see his father but the two bump into each other. Fern and Elliot used to be a couple at university but since their breakup twenty-five ago they’ve never seen each other until this particularly morning. Both are shocked to see each other and both spend the day reminiscing about their relationship and days gone by. They decide to meet up later that day but both of them know this meeting could change their lives forever. The Moment is a “what if” story, Fern and Elliot question what their lives would have been like if they never parted.

I felt think this book instantly pulled me in and griped your attention because I wanted to know about this couple’s history. Despite the complete story happening in one day, I feel you learn everything about the characters, I think this is helped by the flashback sections being told by both character’s perspective. The flashbacks highlight how different people perceive a situation, in some cases Elliot and Fern remember events almost identically but differently in others.  Dyer’s writes fantastically, the fact she managed to cram in twenty-five years of memories into a day of thoughts is incredible, she has enough detail to tell the story but she doesn’t go over the top with thoughts and feelings. I also enjoyed the references to 1980s pop culture, I thought it helped set their relationship in the context of time and it appreciated the importance of culture. I think some romance stories tend to skim over culture and society. I think the ending will divide readers because there is no real conclusion but I won’t give any spoilers!

I enjoyed and I think it’s worth a read and I think there is something for everyone in the story.

Book Review: Amelia Grey’s Fireside Dream by Abby Clements

Amelia Grey envisions her future in a country housewife in a beautiful, cosy cottage with her husband Jack but in reality she’s a teacher living in a tiny one bedroom flat in London but then her dream comes true. Or, does it? Her dream cottage turns out to be a far from idyllic money vacuum which consumes every waking moment, pushing their marriage to breaking point.

Abby Clements isn’t an author I had read before and I have to say I don’t know if I would read anymore. Its a lovely story, I’m drawn to books set in the countryside during autumn and winter so it was a winner for me in that respect. I felt the story started off great, I enjoyed learning about Amelia through her friends and I think Clements is great at setting the scene, her writing is very descriptive and I could visualise exactly what she was trying to portray. My favourite part of the story was the short passages describing the history of certain aspects of the cottage and I would’ve liked more of this. My only issue with the story is the other threads which never seem to intertwine with the rest of the story. There’s Amelia’s friend whose expecting a baby and this causes Amelia and Jack to question their future with or without children but I felt this was an unnecessary diversion from the main story. Then there is Amelia’s mother and half-sister. I felt these stories were rather underdeveloped and I felt they didn’t do anything to improve the central plot. I think the story was interesting enough without adding in other secondary characters. I would have preferred the story to have focused on Jack and Amelia’s experience renovating a house with more sections on the history of the cottage and the objects left behind by the previous owners.

I don’t think this book will suit everyone. I think there are people who will find the story a little unrealistic and maybe a little annoying and a little too predictable but if you’re after an easy read on a rainy afternoon, this is perfect.

Have you read Amelia Grey’s Fireside Dream? What did you think?

Book Review: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

The Rosie Project is the story of Don Tillman and his quest to find the perfect woman to marry. Don is a middle-aged professor who believes married man live longer than unmarried man. Don Tillman decides the best way to find his future wife, is to design a questionnaire which will help him find his ideal wife because his social skills are somewhat challenged. One day, Rosie Jarmen walks into in his office and he immediately discounts her as a potential wife because she fails to meet his standards. However, she doesn’t want to be his wife, she wants his help in finding her real father but love ensues.

I felt this book was really enjoyable to read, I immediately connected with the characters and felt engrossed in the story. Don’s social awkwardness is written perfectly, it’s not over the top, it’s endearing and quirky. The story is quite predictable but it’s easy to get lost in the book and before you know, you’re on the last page. It’s a charming comical story with a slight emotional undertone and I think this is begging for Hollywood film adaption. I don’t think I would read this again because I do prefer books which are slightly less predictable but it’s well worth a read.

Have you read The Rosie Project?

Book Review: You Knew Me When by Emily Liebert

You Knew Me When by Emily Liebert is a story of childhood friendship in a small town. Katherine Hill and Laney Marten grew up together in a small town in New England, both had dreams to leave for the big city and become high flying somebodies but only one achieved her dream. Katherine left New England for New York and became a cosmetics executive while Laney became a mother and stayed in the town she grew up in. Katherine and Laney are reunited when a local neighbour and friend passes away, leaving a house to the once friends. The house forces the two women to revisit the disintegration of their friendship.

The novel is the story their friendship through the years and the impact of different life choices on their relationship. Liebert doesn’t just tell the story of the two friends meeting after many years apart, she’s cleverly constructed the narrative of the chapters to change from Laney’s perspective to Katherine’s perspective and Liebert also often uses flashbacks. I liked the use of flashbacks because it allowed me to understand the once closeness of the two childhood friends and this was a good juxtaposition to the freight relationship they have as adults.

I think Liebert’s writing stops this novel becoming just another story about friendship, her writing is quite refreshing. In my opinion, Liebert’s writing style is perfect for this type of story because she captures different emotions perfectly. Her writing really pulls you in and also makes you think about how you would feel if you were in that position. I also liked the vivid descriptions of the two main characters, Leibert developed the characters really well and it almost feels like you know the women personally. When I seen this book, I thought I wouldn’t like it, I thought it would be tear-jerker and overly sentimental but it is not like that at all. It’s quite witty and sharp and I think this adds a sense of realness to the story. I really recommend this book, I think the story is interesting and the writing is fantastic.

Book Review: The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan

Donal Ryan’s debut novel is easily the best book I’ve read this year. The Spinning Heart is set in a small Irish village in the period following the disastrous economic downturn of 2008. I think part of the appeal of The Spinning Heart is it’s location. Ireland flourished during the boom years but the recession had devastating consequences for the country.
The Spinning Heart is a relatively small novel at 159 pages but a lot is packed into those pages. The Spinning Heart isn’t a straightforward account of life in Ireland since the recession. The book has twenty one chapters, each chapter is devoted to one character’s life in Ireland post-Celtic Tiger. It might seem overambitious to have twenty one narrators but all the characters are connected through  the closure of a local builders and this means there are no loose ends. Each narrator has a very distinct voice and position within the wider situation in Ireland but by combining all the stories within the same town, the book is provides an incredible insight into the impact of the recession in Ireland. I find some novels with multiple narrators eventually fall into the trap of the different characters becoming very similar and a little confusing but this is not the case here. Ryan gives each character a “voice” through the use of local dialect and turn of phrase and there is no chance of muddling the characters.

Ryan’s writing captures life in a small community at the brink of social and economic destruction beautifully. I think its incredible how he managed to develop a story so perfect in so few pages without any lack of detail or character development. I particularly like how he managed to develop the characters well enough for the story to flow but managed to avoid unnecessary information, his writing is concise and descriptive. It’s just an outstanding novel.

I cannot recommend The Spinning Heart enough and I’m eagerly awaiting Ryan’s next work.

Have you read The Spinning Heart?

Book Review: I Heart Christmas by Lindsey Kelk

I Heart Christmas by Lindsey Kelk with title

Every Christmas, I trawl Waterstones for new Christmas books, not for gifts, for me to read to get in the festive mood (not that I need any help!). I already have a quite a few Christmas paperbacks but I always look for new releases. At Christmas I look for really cheery, humorous Christmas stories.
I Heart Christmas is latest instalment of the Angela Clarke series by Lindsey Kelk. I didn’t realise this book was part of a series, I don’t usually buy random books from a series because I like to start at the first book. However, it didn’t matter that I hadn’t read any other books because the story is easy to pick up.

Angela Clarke loves Christmas, she’s planned her perfect Christmas in New York. She’s planned everything from the tree and dinner to treats from Marks and Spencer to remind her of home and everything seems to be perfect until her life starts to change. Firstly, she gets promoted then she moves house and just when she thinks life is hectic enough, her friends and family turn up on her doorstep.

I really liked this book. I read it over two days because I found very easy to keep reading, I thought it was charming and humorous, especially the air vent situation. I really liked how festive it is. Some Christmas books aren’t that Christmassy but this is really festive and I loved the descriptions of New York. The characters are very easy to like, I particularly liked the passages involving Angela friends, Louisa and Jenny.

I thought this book was really enjoyable and I intend to read more Lindsey Kelk’s books.

Have you read any of the I Heart series? What do you think?