Book Review: The Map Of Us.

mapofusHow can someone tell such a mighty story using so few words? That’s the question I asked myself after finishing The Map Of Us by Jules Preston.

There are well over 100 chapters but some are only a couple of paragraphs long. I still felt like I knew the characters as well as if they’d had entire books dedicated to them. And even the shortest chapters, maybe especially the shorter ones, packed a punch.

You really need your wits about you to keep up as the tale spans generations of the same family and broadens out to include others who are all, in some way, linked.

Here’s the blurb:

Violet North is wonderfully inconvenient. Abandoned by her family and lost in an imagined world of moors and adventure, her life changes in the space of just 37 words exchanged with a stranger at her front door.

Decades later, Daniel Bearing has inherited his father’s multi-million pound business, and is utterly lost. He has no idea who he is or where his life is headed.

When Violet’s granddaughter’s marriage falls apart, Tilly, always adept with numbers, compiles a detailed statistical report to pinpoint why. But the Compatibility Index Tilly creates has unforeseen consequences for everyone in her world.

Tilly and Daniel share a secret too. 10.37am, April 22nd.

Soon, a complex web of secrets and lies is exposed and an adventure begins with a blue typewriter…

There’s an energy to this book that almost propels you along. It feels exciting. It feels new, which is no mean feat.

I’ll admit the fact it had a typewriter on the front just like the one I was bought for ninth birthday was the reason I was tempted by this book but, memories aside, it didn’t take long to be completely gripped by this quirky, beautiful and fantastically told story.

It seems to start off small and then bloom. There’s a story within the story, which led to me almost forgetting that it was all fictional and not just some of it.

I can’t seem to find much info about Jules Preston (maybe I’m looking in the wrong place?) but this appears to be his debut, although it feels too accomplished for that. I have certainly put him on my one to watch list.

Format: Kindle.

Price: 99p (via Amazon).

My rating: Five stars.

 

Advertisements

Book Review: Falling Short.

fallingshortThe cover caught my attention and the blurb lured me in but it was the quality of the writing that gripped me to the end.

Lex Coulton has been described as a “true new talent” and, after reading her debut, Falling Short, I think that quote is spot on.

Even in the first few pages the book felt markedly different – in a good way.

There are two central characters, Frances and Jackson, who both have strong and believable voices.

Parts of their story made my heart actually hurt while others made me laugh out loud but afterwards I realised the strangest thing…I wasn’t sure if I really liked either of them.

Here’s the blurb:

School-teacher Frances Pilgrim’s father vanished when she was five, and since then other things have been going missing too: car-keys, promotions, an endless roster of unsuitable boyfriends . . . And now here she is, thirty-bloody-nine and still losing things. 

Frances needs someone to talk to. Ideally to Jackson: fellow teacher, dedicated hedonist, erstwhile best friend. Only they haven’t spoken since that night last summer where they had too many glasses of Merlot (oh, large, please . . .) and things got complicated.

But now she has a much more pressing problem. Her mother Mary, whose odd behaviour Frances has long put down to eccentricity, is slowly yielding to Alzheimer’s, leaving Frances with some disturbing questions about her father’s disappearance, and the family history she’s always believed in.

As the new school year begins, and Mary’s behaviour becomes more and more erratic, Frances realises that she might just have a chance to find something for once. But will it be what she’s looking for?

Maybe not ‘liking’ them is the wrong way to describe it, it was more that there were elements of their characters I found frustrating, intriguing and confusing – just like in real life, I suppose.

People are complicated and I think part of Lex’s talent is writing characters who don’t feel like characters. Both Frances and Jackson felt like real people, people who don’t follow a linear path, who make mistakes, who live lives that ‘fall short’ and perhaps do things differently to how I would.

It didn’t detract from how well the story read, if anything it made it more interesting. I will say that by the end I was willing for good things to happen to poor Frances (I won’t spoil it by saying more).

Maybe it won’t be for everyone but I found her writing exciting and I’m looking forward to what comes next.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £4.99 (on Amazon).

My rating: Five stars.

With thanks to John Murray (via NetGalley) for the ARC in return for an honest review.

I was lucky enough to interview Lex ahead of publication for my Behind The Book series. You can read it here.

Book Review: A Vicarage Reunion.

cover130912-mediumIt is unfortunately still something of a taboo so the fact that miscarriage plays such a big part in Kate Hewitt’s latest book, A Vicarage Reunion, feels like an important step to me.

Having experienced two early pregnancy losses, I was drawn to this novel – the second in this series – but what kept me reading was the fact it’s a brilliantly told story, with barely suppressed emotions, which I knew had to come out eventually.

Here’s the blurb:

Welcome to Thornthwaite, a quaint village tucked up in England’s beautiful but rainy Lake District… where homecomings and surprises await the four Holley sisters…

Esther Holley, the eldest in the family, has always had her life firmly in control until a miscarriage knocks her off course. Two months later, still emotionally spinning, she separates from her husband Will, a sheep farmer and man of few words and moves back in with her parents.

Life as a singleton thirty something living in her parents’ house is miserable, but Esther is determined to re-boot her life, including going on a few unfortunate dates. She’s shocked when tight-lipped Will shows up on her doorstep determined to woo her back. They’ve been married for seven years, but Will wants to return to the beginning, dating and getting to know each other again.

New challenges face them as they start over–and new chances too. Can Esther and Will save their marriage, especially when faced with the hardest decision of all?

While it might be too raw to read if you’ve just experienced it, nearly seven years after my first loss I found the book comforting. Obviously everyone grieves differently but I could relate to the way not just Esther but also Will were dealing (or maybe not dealing) with what happened.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure about Esther at first but the more I got to know her, the more I liked her – and in the end I desperately wanted her to have a happy ending.

The miscarriage was a catalyst for them splitting up but I also felt it helped them to understand each other better. They had settled into a rut after years of marriage, as can so easily happen, but this was their wake up call.

Despite the fact I haven’t read the first book (yet), I was able to easily understand the family dynamics at the vicarage and really enjoyed meeting the engaging cast of characters.

I thought the whole story was exceptionally well written and can’t wait to read more.

Format: Kindle.

Price: £1.99.

My rating: Five stars.

With thanks to Tule Publishing for the ARC (via NetGalley) in return for an honest review.