Book Review: A Bend In The Willow.

abendintheIf you’re anything like me, you will want to give your child an extra long hug after reading A Bend In The Willow by Susan Clayton-Goldner.

This beautifully written tale tackles some very difficult subjects but I was left with an overall feeling of hope.

Part of that is in the almost poetic prose which gives the darkness its light.

Switching between past and present, it really plays a tune on the heartstrings and I had tears streaming down my face as I read the final chapter.

Here’s the blurb:

Willowood, Kentucky 1965 – Robin Lee Carter sets a fire that kills her rapist, then disappears.

She reinvents herself and is living a respectable life as Catherine Henry, married to a medical school dean in Tucson, Arizona.

In 1985, when their 5-year-old son, Michael, is diagnosed with a chemotherapy-resistant leukemia, Catherine must return to Willowood, face her family and the 19-year-old son, a product of her rape, she gave up for adoption.

She knows her return will lead to a murder charge, but Michael needs a bone marrow transplant.

Will she find forgiveness, and is she willing to lose everything, including her life, to save her dying son?

Robin Lee/Catherine’s voice came across loud and clear throughout the novel – and it changed as she did, perhaps losing some of her southern-ness as she moved to reinvent herself away from her bluegrass roots.

There is no doubt parts of it are hard to read, almost relentlessly so, but it is compelling and definitely deserves my first five star rating of the year.

Just make sure you have your hankies at the ready.

Format: Kindle.

Price: 99p.

My rating: Five stars.

With thanks to Tirgearr Publishing (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for my honest opinion.

Book Review: Whatever Happened To Vicky Hope’s Back Up Man?

cover101215-mediumAh, to be 21 again. When the world feels like it is spread before you – and 30 seems like some distant planet requiring an epic journey to reach.

For Laura Kemp’s creation, Vicky Hope, it arrives all too quickly – and while she has certainly had her share of adventure, she is really not where she thought she’d be (how many of us are?).

The breakdown of her long-term relationship (on her birthday) also leaves her homeless and means heading back to a single bed in her childhood home.

After a lot of soul searching she begins a quest to find her two former best friends but while there is a lot of water under the bridge, it might not be that easy to confine it all to the past, as she soon discovers.

Whatever Happened To Vicky Hope’s Back Up Man is a charming tale, funny in parts, sad in others but enjoyable throughout.

Here’s the blurb:

Twenty-one and insecure, Vicky Hope comes up with a plan on the eve of travelling the world with her high flying friend, Kat Lloyd: if she isn’t married by the time she’s thirty, she’ll marry her geeky best mate Mikey Murphy.

Fast-forward eight-and-a-bit years, Vicky, now Vee wakes up on her 30th birthday in Brighton, expecting a proposal of marriage from her arty boyfriend Jez. Instead he tells her their relationship is over and she has no choice but to return to her parents’ home.

Devastated and alone in her childhood bedroom, she decides she has nothing to lose and tracks down her two old mates.

With shock, she discovers Mikey, now Murphy, is a successful app designer driven by his tragic upbringing. Kat, or Kate, never made it – but she hides a devastating secret, which threatens the happiness of all three.

I’ll admit, when I first read the synopsis, I thought it would be a straight-forward, breezy read but it’s so much more than that – and all the better for it.

Laura Kemp has nailed what it feels like to be 21 and 30 (or how I vaguely remember them) as well as the complications that often come with friendships – especially when so much has changed in the intervening years.

Add in a fantastic plot and you have a proper page-turner.

Format: Kindle (out now).

Price: £2.48.

My rating: Four and a half stars.

Thank you to Aria (via NetGalley) for the ARC. All views are my own.

My Top Five Books Of 2016.

Just in case you are looking for a last minute Christmas gift, either for yourself (go on, you deserve it) or a loved one, I thought I’d recommend my top five books from my favourite genres of women’s fiction/romantic fiction this year.

In the past I have often stuck to the authors I know and love but, thanks to NetGalley, I’ve not only been able to pick up some familiar favourites but also find some lovely new authors to add to my ‘must read’ list.

Picking just five (ok, six) from the 17 I’ve reviewed this year was tough because I enjoyed them all but I was lucky enough to get my hands on some truly standout novels, which I happily recommend.

1 – Joint first place goes to Joanna Bolouri and her (rather sweary) book The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year and Isabelle Broom with A Year And A Day. I don’t give out five stars lightly but I loved these two from start to finish (literally from the first sentence in A Year And A Day). The fact I still occasionally think about the characters many weeks after I finished them made picking them as my top choices very easy.

 

2 – One Christmas In Paris by Mandy Baggot. I always know I’m going to enjoy a book by this author but I feel she added something a little bit extra this time.

3 – Mistletoe On 34th Street by Lisa Dickenson. This book made me snort. You might not think that’s a good thing but to me it was the sign of a very funny and enjoyable read.

4 – Snowflakes On Silver Cove by Holly Martin. The first book I actually reviewed this year. Even though it’s a Christmas novel, I bought it in January and it made me feel festive all over again. Holly Martin was new to me at that point but I have since devoured all of her books.

5 – Miss Wrong And Mr Right by Robert Bryndza. There are some fabulous characters in this book, including a hilarious Hungarian gran, who I think should have her own series.

Thank you so much to all of the authors (and their publishers) for letting me review their books. As a would-be writer I have nothing but respect for anyone who can pen an entire novel, let alone of the quality I have been privy to this year.

I’ve already read some amazing books set to be published in 2017 and I can’t wait to share them.

What has been your favourite book of 2016? I’m always looking for more things to read.