A solid second book in The Raven Cycle, held back only by slow plot development

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle #2) by Maggie Stiefvater
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So I’ve surpassed my good reads target for 2017 and now I’m trying really hard to continue on with series I’ve started this year trying where I can to progress them and keep myself engaged before too much time passes and I lose touch with the characters and plotlines. I read The Raven Boys a few months ago and having heard really good things about the second book in the series it made sense to delve into The Dream Thieves and spend some more time with Blue and her Aglionby boys.

Book 2 is a direct continuation from The Raven Boys and picks up immediately from where we left our characters but what becomes clear about this book is that it is going to be focused on Ronan Lynch, the darkest and most dangerous of the group of Raven Boys. With the reveal at the end of The Raven Boys that Ronan was able to take things from his dreams and bring them into the real world, we were left wondering just how this would link into the story of Gansey’s search for Glendower the lost Welsh King.

To be honest this book didn’t progress Gansey’s search for Glendower by much. This book is really about Ronan exposing his secret to his friends and then exploring how it links to his past and his father’s death and coming to terms with how to use and control the power that he has. All of this is done against the ticking timebomb of people who are trying to find the mysterious Greywarren an object which is allegedly linked to the gift Ronan has.

Initially, I struggled to gel with the book, for the first few chapters I considered putting it down and coming back to it later but slowly I kept going and then bit by bit I realised I was working my way through it and actually fairly quickly. I became more engaged by Ronan’s story and actually one of the characters I probably wasn’t meant to like became my saviour, Kavinsky. Kavinsky was like a breath of fresh air. He was a little bit dangerous, lurking around on the sidelines and then suddenly he became a vital part of this book and any chapters which featured Ronan and Kavinsky shone for me. I am sure I was not meant to like him quite so much but against the lack of plot movement in this book he was a shaft of light.

I am still struggling a little with Adam’s character as the books progress, he has gone from being quite a stand up trustworthy guy to being dark and a little isolated from the other boys. His ongoing need to do everything alone and to raise himself from the circumstances of his birth is beginning to grate a little. Yes he does work towards redemption towards the end of this book but I found I didn’t enjoy reading about him as much this time around.

I am still in love with Gansey, he didn’t feature as strongly in this book as the search for Glendower took a back seat but he is still the father figure, the one watching out for everyone and I love that he and Blue are starting to draw together and any time they were together on the page was lovely. But can we just take a moment to talk about Noah, and that kiss! That was one of the really standout moments in this book for me.

I enjoyed this book but I couldn’t give it a 5 star rating because for me Ronan’s story was almost a standalone book that could have been read apart from the Glendower story. I’m hoping that book number 3 will return to the central story and will allow our characters to be more evenly featured in the narrative.

A very special book about a bond of sisterhood and survival

One by Sarah Crossan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As I sit and think about how to put into words my feelings about this book I am still somewhat stunned by it, having just read the final pages. I am trying to think about the last time a book left me feeling quite so emotional and quite so bereft now I have finished it. It’s hard to imagine that I only picked it up 24 hours ago and yet it has left such an indelible mark upon me that it may be one of the best books I’ve ever read.

The winner of The Carnegie Medal One by Sarah Crossan was somewhat of a revelation to me when I picked it up last night. I had picked it up in my local library having heard nothing about it and glancing at the blurb on the back had established it was a story of conjoined twins and their lives together. Finding it in the teen section I had expected a contemporary light-hearted read so you can imagine my initial surprise when I opened the pages to find that the book is written entirely in free verse. I have never read a book written in this style before and I initially wasn’t sure whether it would detract from my enjoyment of the story or if I’d struggle to immerse myself.

I found very quickly that this was not the case, yes the pages are generally very short, although it came in at 434 pages I literally flew through it, I read it in a day but I wasn’t sitting consistently reading so I reckon you could do it in just a few hours. The style of writing is engaging and draws you in, it isn’t rhyming prose but the way it is written is carefully structured to draw out the important parts of the story and to allow you to focus in on certain phrases and emotions making it a powerful and impactful read.

The story is that of Grace and Tippi, conjoined twins who are about to start high school for the first time. Told from Grace’s perspective we learn about their life together, the way that the world views them, the challenges they face and the most important thing of all – how they are two people with two different personalities and beliefs, not just one. Their story of beginning school for the first time and the way this makes them feel is heartfelt and this along with the story of the struggles their family face just to keep them cared for medically and the impact this has had upon each member is heartbreaking. It is the ongoing struggle the girls face to lead normal teenage lives that build the foundation of the book and their strength together that hits home.

The girls are clearly beginning to struggle medically and are scared to think about what this might mean for their future and this book takes us on that journey with them. All the time you root for these girls, you want them to be happy because as they say in the book being conjoined twins isn’t the worst thing in the world. Surely there are many worse things that could happen to a person than being joined to the person they love most in the whole world?

I cannot recommend this book highly enough, I know I’m going to bore everyone for the next year or so recommending this one as one of those very special books that will remain with me forever. I am so very glad I didn’t allow it’s format to sway me not to read it. I am so pleased that I took the time to delve into the world of Grace and that her story has been recognised by so many as worthy of recognition. Sarah Crossan has delivered a very clever, touching and inspiring book. I’d give it more stars than 5 if I could.

A great fun contemporary read about falling in love unexpectedly

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Dimple Met Rishi was one of the breakout Young Adult contemporary books of this summer. Everyone who is anyone has been reading and raving about this novel over the past few months. I felt it only proper to read it before the summer drew to a close.

This is a novel about family values and culture versus the need to break out and find yourself and your own voice. Dimple is about to go off to college to study her love of coding but her family are keen for her to make an arranged marriage and become a good wife who will be there to support her husband and family. Dimple is independent and strong-willed and while she loves her family she loves coding more and she is not ready to give up her dreams just yet. She is surprised when her parents agree to her attending a summer coding programme at San Francisco University and she heads off determined to give it her all and win the coveted prize at the end of the programme, hence showing everyone that she is as good as she thinks she is and has a bright future.

On her first day Dimple is thrown when a young man comes up to her and tells her he is her future husband. You see Rishi has already been told all about Dimple, he’s going to the summer programme at SFU for the sole purpose of meeting the girl his parents have told him he is going to marry at the agreement of all their parents. The only problem is that no one told Dimple!!

This story was really funny, from the time when Dimple meets Rishi we fall in love with Rishi immediately. He is in a really difficult position as he likes Dimple, a lot, and he has been told that she is aware of their marriage and so when he finds she has no idea he has to backtrack and pretend that it doesn’t matter to him and he enters that dreaded ‘friend zone’. He’s such an endearing character, he’s instantly likeable and you feel for him as he is trying to be the devoted Indian son, making a marriage and going off to study a subject he doesn’t necessarily love in order to provide for his family in the future.

The way in which Dimple and Rishi impact each other’s lives is lovely, from a misunderstanding they grow into friends and from friends into a relationship which will change their lives for the better. They are each other’s biggest cheer squad, they learn about what it means to see life through the other’s eyes. Dimple to learn that complying with her cultural values needn’t mean giving up her dreams and Rishi in living his own dreams doesn’t mean he cannot be a good son and make his family proud.

This was such a quick book to read, the chapters are all quite short and snappy and we flick from Dimple to Rishi’s perspective every page or so to ensure we are aware of both points of view throughout. It’s nice to see how they each view their blossoming relationship and how they help each other to grow throughout the narrative.

It’s a great contemporary summer read, funny and emotional and with great characters leading the story.

Liane Moriarty’s book is a wonderful mystery about friendship

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

HBO are about to launch a brand new, star-studded miniseries later in February based on this book by Liane Moriarty. Starring such big Hollywood names as Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and Shailene Woodley it is clear that the budget for its adaptation to the small screen hasn’t been insignificant. For a show to attract such a myriad of stars as it has there must be something significantly strong in the book for it to have found such attention.

The last book I read by Moriarty was some years ago now and was The Husband’s Secret, I remember it as being an okay read but it didn’t blow me away and so this book has been on my e-reader pretty much since it’s release and it was only my incessant need not to let the series begin without my having read the content upon which it is based that pushed it to the top of my list.

Based in a small, highly affluent seaside suburb in Melbourne, Australia it follows the lives of three women. Madeline is a mother of 3, happily married to her second husband she is preparing for her youngest daughter beginning to start Kindergarten. Making the whole transition worse is the fact her ex-husband’s child with his new wife is going to be in the same class and there’s just nothing Madeline hates more than the hippy-dippy lifestyle of the woman was replaced with. Also, we have wealthy and beautiful Celeste, mother of twins and wife of a successful businessman is also preparing to send her boys to school however it’s clear that behind the veneer of Celeste’s perfect life is a secret that she keeps from everyone around her.

Finally, we have Jane, a young single mother who has just moved to the area and has to transition her little boy into the school along with mothers and children she doesn’t know. On the first day of school, Ziggy is accused of bullying another child and she finds herself ostracised by the other mums and judgements made about her parenting. Jane though hides a secret also about the father she has never told Ziggy about and it scares her that perhaps the things her little boy is accused of could be true.

From the very outset of the book, we are aware that there has been a murder committed at a trivia night held to raise funds for the school. The book is written through the moths and weeks leading up to the crime and each chapter has interspersed snippets from police interviews with different members of the school community after the crime. From these, we are given tantalising glimpses of what happens but never the full picture as each person has their own perceptions of the evening’s events based on whom they have aligned themselves with in the bullying furore.

The book really pulls you on through the chapters, the mixture of chapters being told from each different lead characters perspectives means we get to share each of their stories and their friendship from each angle. The characters are well written and maybe because I know who is going to be playing each role in the series I could really see them clearly in my mind and you can see the actresses chosen really bringing their role to the screen perfectly. The police interview snippets are a really clever writing tool because it lets us see that no two people ever view the same situation in the same way and that what we observe from afar is not always the truth behind people’s actions. We also learn that bullying and cliques and name calling are something that we don’t leave behind in the school playground, even as adults people use these to give themselves power and status and the parallels between the adult’s worlds and those of their children is profound.

I did manage to guess one of the big reveals at the end of the book from around half way however it didn’t spoil the ending as I couldn’t have foreseen the murder itself and the way in which it took place. The book really did keep you guessing about that right up until the moment itself as there were various ways it could have played out. The fallout from the crime was handled very well and brought together characters that we hadn’t anticipated would find affinity with one another and taught us that absolutely everyone has secrets they don’t wish to share in life and sometimes it’s the things we don’t share that are the most powerful things about us.

I am now literally on the edge of my seat waiting for the television adaptation, I have a feeling it’s going to be a huge hit for HBO and for people who have not read the book they will fall in love with it as there is glamour and friendship and enough backstabbing to bring the screen to life. I know that now I will be watching with a clear indicator of what the ending will be but I still cannot wait to relive Madeline, Celeste and Jane’s journeys on screen.

 

Jodi Picoult delivers an outstanding and thought provoking novel which touches our social conscience

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I hadn’t read a Jodi Picoult novel in quite a while, I had loved the initial releases on which she made her name such as My Sister’s Keeper and Nineteen Minutes but I had become hardened to the moral dilemma format of her stories and had begun to find them samey, in fact, the last book I read was the ones that saw her writing with her daughter as they were a complete departure from the norm. Advertising for Small Great Things really captured my imagination though.

This is the story of Ruth, a 40 something Black Labour & Delivery nurse with more than 20 years experience in her job. A single parent working hard to raise her honour roll son to be able to fulfill his potential and gain entry to a good college. She is called in to assist in the post delivery checks for a couple on her ward and is shocked when during her examinations the father demands that she not touch his newborn and asks to speak to her supervisor. It quickly becomes apparent that the father, a white supremacist, has elected to have her removed from the child’s care because of the colour of her skin. Barred from touching the child she is angry and upset at the lack of support she received from her colleagues and disgusted by the beliefs of the father. She carries on with her job though until she finds herself, in an emergency, left alone with the child as he recovers from a circumcision. When the child stops breathing she is faced with a choice, does she assist the child and break the guideline she’s been given not to touch him or does she ignore the fact the child is in distress.

Picoult has picked a very difficult topic for this novel, it is one the author admits she has been longing to write for some time since she read a story about a black undercover police officer being shot in the back by his colleagues during an altercation despite having the designated marker highlighting him as police clearly showing. Race issues in the United States have been igniting more and more often recently as people question the way police officers treat people of African American heritage.

In this book, Picoult brings it to the fore in a story where Ruth is charged with the murder of the newborn she has been told she cannot touch because of her race when the father of the child deems her responsible for his death. From there we find ourselves seeing events through the eyes of all the different characters in turn. Ruth, who has always seen herself as part of the hospital team, a good mother and with a son with wonderful prospects suddenly finds herself on trial for nothing other than her race, she begins to question everything she’s stood for and the steps she’s taken to ensure she ‘fits in’. Turk, the father of the baby leads us through his journey into the world of white supremacy, his relationship with his wife Brittany who shares his beliefs and the violence that always bubbles just below his surface. Finally, we view events through the eyes of Kennedy, Ruth’s lawyer who is undertaking her first murder trial and has to tread a careful line of not making the courtroom case entirely about race as that is not how the system would view as appropriate.

It is a book that I found quite difficult to read because some of the chapters shine a light on a hard truth, that race equality is something that although we believe we have made progress with is still, and may always be an issue right across the world. One chapter highlighted it best for me when Kennedy visits a store and finds herself faced with hair products for black people and states that she has no idea how these work or that they ever existed because the only shampoo or hair commercials we ever see on TV are for white people. Similarly how when 80% of the celebrities in movies are white then that means that so often the movies on screen do not represent the world as black children know it. Whilst this is the case how can we ever claim that equality exists?

Having a break from the novels of Picoult perhaps allowed me to really reach into this one with such enjoyment. Really when you strip everything away the old tried and tested format she has become famous for was the basis for this story and that hadn’t changed so perhaps if I’d come to this directly from one of her other more recent books I wouldn’t have found it quite so fresh and engaging. It is brilliant then that I’ve had that break and it felt like catching up with a long lost friend as I slipped back into her writing style.

This book is one that will cause you to question yourself, your own approach to race and as Kennedy says in the book force us to admit that really we are all still a little racist as the system is built that way. It challenges the way you look at the subject, it forces you to look at the extreme beliefs of Turk and Brittany and question how this level of hatred can still exist. It also has the most wonderful ending, the most unexpected twist and this for me was such a wonderful gem of a way to end the book. I don’t want to say too much as it would ruin it for other readers but when the event happens you catch your breath and silently punch the air, you suddenly see the whole truth and it’s appropriate and a twist that will make it stand out from other books for me in months and years ahead.

Absolutely wonderful and very very highly recommended.

A missing person thriller from Emily Barr, did she keep her story on track or did it go off the rails?

The Sleeper by Emily Barr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Emily Barr is an author I used to read very regularly several years ago but after finding a lull in her story lines I had taken a break for a while and it was only when I saw The Sleeper advertised that I felt I wanted to try one again. The cover and the story outline on the jacket grabbed my attention and drew me in.

This is the story of Lara and her husband Sam, they have relocated from London to Cornwall in a bid to slow life down and start a family but after IVF has failed and their savings have run out Lara finds that actually she isn’t fulfilled by her marriage and she craves escape from her quiet domestic life in Cornwall and agrees to take a job in London, to which she will travel each Monday by sleeper train and return each Friday by the same method. Her husband Sam doesn’t want her to go, preferring to have her close by but Lara persuades him and she begins a 6-month contract in the city.

Some months later she finds herself loving life away from her husband, she likes the challenges of her job, the big city life and most of all she has found herself a lover Guy, a fellow traveller on the weekly sleeper train. She is suddenly making plans to leave her husband and begin a new life with Guy, just as soon as they both tell their respective spouses. Before they have the chance, however, Guy’s body is found on board the sleeper train and Lara has vanished and everyone is left with no other conclusion than she must be responsible for his death. The only person who seems to think Lara isn’t responsible is her quiet, introverted neighbour Iris who has only met Lara a few times but has reason to suspect her friend was hiding secrets in her past that may explain her disappearance.

This book was a really difficult one to immerse myself in initially and that is because I didn’t particularly like Lara at the outset. She is portrayed, I found, as a selfish individual. She has a loving and attentive husband who is providing her with a wonderful lifestyle and yet she doesn’t seem happy, she is chasing escape from him and intends on doing so whether or not he wants her to. Once she begins her commute to London she almost finds him an inconvenience that she has to deal with each weekend, putting on a front and pretending to be happy. She has fractured relationships with almost everyone in her life and family and at times I found her personal skills to be somewhat lacking. She seems devoid of emotion and I didn’t enjoy the first section of the book because I just couldn’t gel with her at all. From the point where she if offered the job in London to the point she disappears the book is told firmly from her perspective and this meant there was no escaping her.

Moving into the second section of the book we move to Iris as the narrator as she takes on the mystery of who murdered Guy, the man Lara was sleeping with and the potential explanation for where Lara has gone. Iris is a more sympathetic character but again we immediately realise things aren’t quite right. She also has a partner with whom she lives and things are clearly not well in their relationship either, she has had a lottery windfall and yet she is hiding it from her boyfriend and making plans to leave, perhaps without telling him. Her fascination with Lara and her life is unusual if not only in the fact that they had only met a handful of times and yet so convinced is she that her friend is innocent she travels to London and starts digging up Lara’s past in order to prove it. Iris is much easier to have sympathy with as a character and in this section of the book we realise the reasons for her strange relationship and find ourselves understanding her lifestyle and the need to perhaps break away from the home in which she lives.

This book really was a bit of a mixed bag, there were great points where I’d be pulled in by the narrative and the mystery and I’d be right on board, desperate to find out what was going to happen and then there were those moments I’d be scratching my head and thinking why the author had possibly thought this plot twist was a good idea. There is so much going on by the end of the book that the eventual conclusion is a bit underwhelming. It’s all so sordid and strange and inappropriate. In fact, it leaves the whole book feeling like a bit of a muddle. We had all these stories early on in the book that seem to be cast aside in favour of a new direction that we never fully go back and address some of the plot created at the start. We never pay more than a backwards glance to Lara’s poor husband nor the wife of the man killed on the train. It seems a bit of an investment on the author’s behalf to create them at all if only to ignore them later.

I wanted to love it, I wanted to say that I had rediscovered a wonderful author but instead I found that what had stopped me reading her novels was still the same issue I had with them now. In pursuit of a twisted, word wide mystery Emily Barr is still taking her plot lines a few steps too far, in their complexity she is losing the readers empathy for her heroines who are often self centered and not particularly endearing. I think it may be another while before I read her books.

 

Does Truly Madly Guilty live up to the wonderful Big Little Lies legacy?

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a mixed relationship with Liane Moriarty, I’ve read 4 of her books now (including this one) and I find that it’s a bit of a love/hate situation, to be honest. I had recently read Big Little Lies, in order to ensure that I’d read the book before I viewed the TV series, and I loved it. I had high hopes, therefore, going into Truly Madly Guilty and was keen for more of the same.

This book is centered around a family barbeque which is attended by 3 couples and their families and the event that takes place at that barbeque will change everyone’s lives forever. The book narrative is written from the perspective of events following the barbeque and also on the fateful day itself. We also are given perspectives from each of the different people who attended the barbeque that day and each of their recollections help to build up to the revelation of what went on that day.

Liane Moriarty books have become synonymous with this type of storytelling, they always have a mystery at their heart and focus on the relationships between the characters and how the events of the book have impacted their lives and Truly Madly Guilty falls into this format nicely. In the case of this book, we follow best friends Clementine and Erika and their husbands and the neighbours of Erika, who hosted the fateful barbeque that day.

This was where my main issue with this book arose and that is that none of the characters in this book had particularly redeeming qualities about them, aside from Erika’s husband Oliver who was a stand out good guy throughout and a thoroughly decent human being. Everyone else seemed to be thoroughly self-involved and harboured terrible communication issues. Erika, for example, is somewhat of a control freak. Having grown up the daughter of an extreme hoarder she has latched onto Clementine and her family as a safe haven from her manic home life. From childhood she has longed for stability and as a result, she is a somewhat inflexible and judgmental character.

Clementine, on the other hand, didn’t fare any better as a character from my perspective. A musician with 2 young children she is focused wholeheartedly upon an upcoming audition with a prestigious Sydney orchestra. She seems unhappy with her role as a mother and often hands over care for the children to her husband, Sam, whilst she focuses upon preparing for her big audition. Her parenting style is relaxed and she is instead driven by her art. She has been friends with Erika from childhood but we learn in the book that she has always felt Erika was forced upon her by her mother, who felt sorry for Erika, and therefore she feels resentful that she has missed out on other friendships she could have formed and instead had to spare the feelings of her poor friend with the crazy mother.

The mystery, or events at the barbeque, that form the central plot of this book are revealed approximately half way through the book although all of the clues and if, like me, you are good at second guessing it will probably not entirely shock you. I knew from probably 3 or 4 chapters before where it was going and therefore I felt a little let down that there wasn’t more to it. I also began to wonder that if we were only 50% of the way through then where on earth was the other 50% going to take us.

This meant that once I reached the big reveal I found the second half of the book a little slower. It became very much about the feeling and impact the events of the barbeque had upon each of the characters, the guilt that they all carried and how it began to eat up their lives and become something they couldn’t move past, hence the book’s title Truly Madly Guilty.

I liked this book but was disappointed after the amazing Big Little Lies, Moriarty had raised the bar with that novel and on this occasion, she failed to live up to that expectation. This wasn’t a bad book it just failed to evoke as much sympathy for its characters as it’s predecessor and nor did it make me want to spend any further time with them, such as was the case with Madeleine, Celeste and Jane from Big Little Lies.

A marvellous summer read from my favourite author

The Sunshine Sisters by Jane Green
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I always get really excited when there is a new Jane Green book released, I have become used to having a shiny new story from one of my favourite authors on my book stand ready just in time for summer reading and this year didn’t disappoint with the release of The Sunshine Sisters in June.

This book is, like all Green’s books, a tale of family. It begins with an actress Ronni Sunshine preparing to end her own life due to illness. She is frail and in pain and has been storing painkillers and despite the reservations of her three daughters she has made her decision and she wants to choose how she leaves her life.

From this point the book goes back in time and follows the lives of Ronni’s 3 daughters Nell, Meredith and Lizzy. We follow the girls from their childhood with their famous B-list actress mother and learn quickly that their relationship with her is strained. Their mother is narcissistic and focused so much on her own career she fails often to pay attention to her children. She criticises them and her personality overshadows them and over the years she drives them away and sows seeds of disharmony between them. Nell, a single mother, chooses to run a farm near to her mother but is lonely and finds it difficult to form relationships. Meredith has moved to London and struggles with her self-image and is planning to marry a man she doesn’t love. Meanwhile, Lizzy, the youngest, is a celebrity chef who is cheating on her husband and is a risk taker who spends little time considering other people.

This book is about the journey the girls go through as they are called home by their mother for her to share news of her illness and about how they each have to face the demons of their relationship with Ronni. Ronni wants nothing more than to reunite her girls before she passes away and that is the fundamental story of this book, the desire of a mother to bring her girls together to support each other in a way she never did.

I read this book so quickly, I literally did it in under 2 days and I loved every single second of it. I though each of the characters brought something different to the story and the way their points of view were told was really engaging. Nell was strong and capable on the outside but scared of carrying the huge burden of her farm alone and lacking anyone to share her troubles with who would be there for just her. Meredith was the gentlest of the 3, second guessing herself all the time, scarred by a mother who always told her she wasn’t good enough and settling for a man who showed her the slightest bit of attention she was my favourite of the sisters and I longed for her to be happy and find acceptance.

Lizzy was the most complex of the 3, she was ballsy and most like her mother with a confidence in herself the other two sisters lacked. She had a different relationship with her mother and has forged a similar career where she is in the public eye and as a result she is repeating many of her mother’s mistakes. She was the one it was hardest to like but the one who Ronni had to all appearances the most loving relationship with but she was inherently a good person.

The emotion in this book was outstanding, Ronni is a character we want to hate. She’s portrayed as a pretty awful mother and yet in this book we learn that there are things about our parents we will never know until it’s too late. I also loved the quote from this book that I think bears relevance to all of our lives…..

“It doesn’t matter how many years go by, how grown up we think we are, how much we presume we have changed or evolved, when we are back in our childhood homes, we become exactly who we have always been”

That is the crux of this story that although we may move away and grow we will at some point come home and when we do family will be the only people who shared that experience with you of growing up in your home and only there and with those people can you make your peace with yourself and with those you love.

Another incredible and touching novel this is Jane Green at her absolute best, it’s just an incredible book and absolutely one of my favourite reads this year, it deserves every one of it’s five stars.

A wonderful time spent with one of my longest term favourite authors

I Found You by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa Jewell is one of the 5 authors whom I’ve read for the most number of years now, along with Jane Green and Mike Gayle and a few select others. I’ve been reading her novels from those very early ones like Ralph’s Party and I love it when a new one is released and yet somehow I Found You, which was released in 2016, slipped through my To Be Read pile last year.

Jolted into realisation by the recent release of her 2017 novel ‘Then She Was Gone’ I immediately decided to rectify the situation and delved into I Found You immediately. Since the 2015 release of The Girls, Jewell’s books have taken a slightly different turn. They have become more steeped in mystery and the stories unravel themselves still with the same emotion and wonderful characters as she has always written but they are darker and more mysterious than her earlier novels which were more frothy and lighthearted. Perhaps this change in tone had made me miss this one on my kindle but either way, I knew that the quality of the author should be recommendation enough.

This is a story that begins with 40-something single mum, Alice, finding a man sitting on the beach across from her home, he is lost and has no memory of who he is or where he has come from, he cannot remember anything. Alice takes him into her home and takes care of him and helps him to feel safe whilst he waits for his memories to return. She is kind and warm and her children name the stranger Frank and slowly over the days he stays he becomes part of their home.

Elsewhere a young Ukranian woman waits for her husband to come home from work. Married just a few weeks they are still madly in love and deliriously happy. She is new to the country having moved after their honeymoon and she relies upon her husband Carl to do everything. When he fails to come home she finds it difficult to get the police to take his disappearance seriously and when eventually they do she is shocked to find that her husband’s passport is fake and her husband doesn’t exist.

All these people are tied up in a mystery that took place in Alice’s home town in 1993 and the story keeps flitting back to the story of the holiday town in the summer of that year, a mystery that was never solved and the people who left that town scarred for life. It’s how this story links to the mysterious man with no memory and the missing husband that forms the basis for this story.

This book grips you from the outset, it’s short snappy chapters mean you fly through it so quickly as it’s ever so easy when you think of stopping to say, “Just one more chapter, I can manage just one more”. Suddenly you’ve read another 5 and those dishes you swore you’d wash are still sitting by the sink. The characters are really well written and actually the mystery of who Frank is and where he has come from and is he the mysterious Carl who never came home keeps you hanging on through most of the book.

Your mind will spin through all the possibilities of how Frank has come to be in Alice’s home, some you will want to believe to be true, others you will pray are not. You will flit between feeling compassion for him and understanding Alice’s need to care for him and wanting to slap her for being so stupid and bringing someone she doesn’t know into a home with 3 children when really he could be anyone and has said himself he feels he has done bad things. The chapters move between different perspectives and from present day to the fateful year of 1993 and just when you think you’ve go it all figured out you realise you have it all wrong and need to keep going because this book has more secrets yet to reveal. There is that conflict as a reader because you like ‘Frank’ and he is clearly in distress and being wonderful to Alice but there is always that doubt that he could be something sinister and it’s a really difficult thing to not let yourself go and be on his side from the outset.

The setting for the book as also wonderfully atmospheric, the little seaside town which draws tourists in the summer and has beachside cafe’s and little pubs it seems the perfect place but as we learn it was home to a terrible tragedy and this book takes us slowly up to the point where we have it all unfold and it’s touching and devastating and is tackled beautifully by Lisa Jewell.

This was a book I completed in just a little over a day, I couldn’t put it down, I loved it. I really felt like I rediscovered an old friend in Lisa Jewell, one who you haven’t seen for years but whom the minute you see you feel like you’ve never been apart. A solid 4 star read.