#TuesdayBookBlog ‘The Missing Wife’ #BookReview by Sheila O’Flanagan #amreading

Today on #TuesdayBookBlog I’m reviewing The Missing Wife, suspenseful, contemporary women’s fiction by Sheila O’Flanagan.

My Review

One day, insecure and shy Imogen vanishes into thin air without a trace. Everyone is shocked, especially her doting husband. Nobody knows where she is or why she has gone, but Imogen has a plan. As the novel unfolds, we gradually discover why she left and where she’s going.

Imogen embarks on a journey of self-discovery and liberation. I don’t want to include spoilers, so I’ll just say it was easy to sympathise with Imogen’s need to break away and go back to understand her past searching for answers to her present predicament and as a way towards her future. Drama unfolds as she finds out the truth about her past and starts to live a new life,  but not everyone is willing to let her move on.

Various family dramas unfold and eventually collide in the end when Imogen will have to decide who she is and where she wants to be, and prove to herself that she’s strong enough and ready to move forward on her own.

I enjoyed reading about Imogen’s geographical and emotional journey of self discovery. In spite of some very unpleasant events and circumstances occurring throughout her life, on the whole it was a feel-good read and an  optimistic take on a very dark family drama.

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The One by @JohnMarrs1 #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview #amreading #TheOne

Today I’m thrilled to tell you all about one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, The One by John Marrs.

Now and again I read a book, and I’m aware that this is a personal and possibly non-transferable feeling, which blows me away, because it’s perfect; the writing, the characters, the plot, and the themes it opens up to me, all merge into one perfect whole, leading to a unique experience as a reader, and a writer in my case.

The One is a brilliant book. I wish I hadn’t read it so that I could read it all over again, and this is why…

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My Review of The One by John Marrs

The One is an ingenious, well-written, moving and thought-provoking novel, which is a perfect read for anyone living in our contradictory, contemporary century.

Marrs proves you can write an engaging, fast-paced thriller which is also great literature, not a single word is out of place.

The One has an original plot and engaging characters. Marrs is a master story-teller, creating varied characters and surprising readers by withholding information until the last minute, so we are constantly on our toes.

There are 103 short and enticing chapters which are perfectly contrived. Each chapter is told in the third person, from one of the five main characters’ point of view. Each chapter begins exactly where the character’s last narration took off and ends with a bang, so the reader is looking forward to, and has to wait for a few chapters, for the character’s next appearance.

The characters are constantly at a crossroads, and such as life itself, when one hurdle is overcome, another bomb is dropped.

The transitions are smooth and regular, so it’s easy to follow the story line, which is completely unpredictable and perfectly contrived. There are surprises, twists and turns in every chapter right up to the final bang!

The themes dealt with are timeless, universal issues which affect us all, such as the nature of love, and the difference, or not, between infatuation, love and sex, determinism versus environmentalism, the virtues, or not, of genetic engineering and scientific advances which may affect the way we live and love profoundly, the role of social media in creating or recreating our views of ourselves and our world… Readers are constantly provoked by controversial themes and complex, unexpected situations.

Some reviewers have described it as dark, but I don’t agree. It is true that there are dark themes, scenes and characters, but there are also inspiring, positive moments and people. The One shows the many facets of human nature and the difficulties of balancing the punches life throws at us with our principles, and that’s not dark, it’s reality. Overall, I felt there were a lot of decent people and good vibrations in the novel’s universe, in spite of the darkness.

It stands out as one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

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Blurb

How far would you go to find THE ONE?

One simple mouth swab is all it takes. A quick DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.

A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one other person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love. Now, five more people meet their Match. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

Amazon UK buy link.

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About John Marrs:

John Marrs is a freelance journalist based in London, England, who has spent the last 20 years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines.
He has written for publications including The Guardian’s Guide and Guardian Online; OK! Magazine; Total Film; Empire; Q; GT; The Independent; Star; Reveal; Company; Daily Star and News of the World’s Sunday Magazine.
His debut novel The Wronged Sons, was released in 2013 and in May 2015, he released his second book, Welcome To Wherever You Are.
In May 2017 came his third book, The One. It was chosen as the book of the month for BBC Radio 2’s Book Club.
The Wronged Sons was re-edited and re-released in July 2017 under a new title, When You Disappeared.
And his fourth book, The Good Samaritan, is set for release in November 2017.

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Betrayal by @MartinaCole #BookReview #TuesdayBookBlog #amreviewing #crime

I spotted Betrayal, last month while in the UK, in the WH Smith Bestsellers shelf. I liked the cover and the blurb, so I decided to buy a copy. I had never read any books by Martina Cole, and I really didn’t know what to expect, other than a crime thriller with some romance.

In fact, I was surprised because Betrayal was a very hard book for me to review. The theme, setting and characters were challenging. I can’t say I enjoyed it, because it was both an emotional as well as a disturbing experience, although the violence and crime is rarely graphic and never gratuitous. Overall, I’m glad I read it.

I was lucky enough to read Betrayal on holiday, by the beach!

My first and main challenge was that I didn’t like or feel any type of affinity to any of the characters, at all. Although it takes place mostly in and around areas of London, such as Brixton, which I am familiar with, the events and characters were so removed from my own experiences or even comfort zone  that they could have happened on another planet.

On the other hand, the author does a great job of presenting and building disquieting and troublesome characters in such a way that the reader feels empathy, and I could almost, and it’s a big almost, sympathise with them, at times.

It was a bit like a simplified version of The Godfather in a London council estate. We are introduced to the life and times of Aiden O’Hara, head of his family of hard-up and neglected, young delinquents living on a council estate, who end up becoming rich and influential drug dealers controlling all the merchandise coming into London from Jamaica and Columbia.

Almost all of the characters fall into one or several of the following categories: heavy drinkers, drug users, drug dealers, murderers, prostitutes, pimps, and many of them are often violent and mentally unstable. None of the main characters has a regular or normal job or education, as they are all directly or indirectly part of the mob. There are a few characters who appear fleetingly, such as police officers, actors, singers, politicians, and health professionals, who are part of the mainstream, but they are all corrupt. It’s a world I find difficult to understand or grasp, which is why this novel was an eye-opener, albeit a disturbing one. It reveals a world I know exists, but mostly avoid and rarely interact with.

Although the O’Hara family was tight and supportive, and even seemed happy at times, most of their lives were traumatic, to say the least. I did feel sympathy for many of the characters because they were practically forced to embrace a life of crime. As a teacher, I have occasionally dealt with similar youngsters and their families, and it made me question how we fail as a society due to the insufficient funding and intervention of social services, formal education and training, and psychological or careers counselling.

There was a brave, yet weak, attempt to convince ‘clever’ Aiden to pursue his studies, but if they were to keep the family together, delinquency or poverty were their only options. If he had pursued a more traditional approach to exploiting his astuteness and earning a living, there would have been a novel, too, because Aiden is a worthy character for any novel, however, it would have been a very different novel.

There were many disturbing events throughout, but the last chapter was so dramatic, that I felt shocked almost to tears, and that’s thanks to Martina Cole’s ability to bring me into the novel and feel as if I know and care about the characters.

I have mixed feelings about the final chapter, the epilogue. I understand the need for closure after such a dramatic ending in the previous chapter, but it felt like an anticlimax and somehow justified all the violence and crime which had taken place before and would continue to take place in the future.

Betrayal has 126 short chapters, which in some cases were too short and slightly disjointed. The first half of the novel was excellently executed, but it dragged a little in the middle and there was a lot of telling and repetition, and some confusing head hopping in the POV in the second half. Overall, I believe it would have benefitted from more thorough editing.

On the other hand, I also think it could have been longer, because the premise is ambitious, as it covers almost 40 years and three generations of O’Haras. Some characters and events would have needed more depth and it could have become a more powerful novel. I think the author has the talent to write a masterpiece as well as a fast and easy to read bestseller, and I hope that one day I’ll have the pleasure of reading it.

Overall it was an engrossing read, mainly because the main characters, especially Aidan, his mother, and some of his siblings, were so vividly portrayed. The reader is immersed in the characters’ criminal world, which might not be to every reader’s liking, but will not leave any reader indifferent, which is why I gave it four stars.

Especially for lovers of organised crime thrillers and intense family sagas, set in the UK.

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Martina Cole is the acknowledged queen of crime drama with more than twenty novels to her name, of which over a dozen have been No.1 bestsellers.

Several of Martina’s novels have been adapted for the screen, including The Take and The Runaway which were shown on Sky 1 to remarkable reviews. In addition, Two Women and The Graft have been adapted for the stage; both were highly acclaimed when performed at the Theatre Royal Stratford East, which also staged Dangerous Lady in 2012, celebrating twenty years since Martina’s debut novel was published.

More about Martina Cole here

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#TuesdayBookBlog ‘Close To Me’ by Amanda Reynolds @AmandaReynoldsj #BookReview #amreviewing

Today on #TuesdayBookBlog I’m reviewing Close To Me, a gripping psychological thriller by Amanda Reynolds.

 

Close to me is a gripping psychological thriller and family drama. It is a difficult book to review without including any spoilers, but I’ll do my best.

I read it over a few days, finishing it late one night, because I had to find out what happened in the end. When I completed it, I literally couldn’t sleep, because I had been so wrapped up in the characters and the story, that I found the events both absorbing and unsettling.

The writing and especially the characterisation and plot impressed me so much that it even led me to rethink my own life, and the lives of so many women in their fifties, readjusting to their new situation after their children leave home. I’m about the same age as Jo, the main character, and although my life is nothing like hers, I couldn’t help thinking, what if? How well do we really know our children, our husbands? Or our close friends and colleagues? Even ourselves?

Jo thought she had an ideal family. A doting husband who was an actuary in London, earning a high salary, a comfortable lifestyle, two wonderful, adult children, and she was a stay-at-home mum, who was devoted to her family and her part-time volunteer work.

One day, after having a domestic accident, she forgot everything that had happened during the previous year of her life. Her husband convinced her children that she shouldn’t be informed of what had happened, until she remembered on her own, which, by the way, he hoped would never happen.

Jo gradually pieced together the previous year, which had been her ‘annus horribilis’, without her family’s help, leading to an unexpected and devastating finale.

The story is told from Jo’s point of view, starting with, ‘The day of the fall’, and moving backwards and forwards from that point in time, until her life is finally pieced together, ending with ‘Three months after the fall’.

Jo’s drama, is not unique in many aspects, but the suspenseful way in which the plot is gradually unveiled, and the final twist, leads to a unique reading experience.

Especially for readers who enjoy intense, thought-provoking and suspenseful, psychological thrillers.

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Find out more by visiting Amanda Reynold’s webpage.

Follow Amanda on Twitter.

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Have you written a great psychological thriller? Let me know about it.

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#TuesdayBookBlog ‘Lie To Me’ by Jess Ryder @jessryderauthor #BookReview #Amreviewing

Today on #TuesdayBookBlog I offer you my review of Lie to Me, a gripping new psychological thriller by Jess Ryder.

Meredith was told her mother had abandoned her and her father as a result of her mental health problems. One day, when she’s helping her father move, she discovers a video recording her mother made of herself when she was four years old. Her father refuses to give her any details, so Meredith embarks on a journey in search of her mother, which leads her straight into an unsolved murder which took place over thirty years ago.

Although the murder mystery is central to the plot, Lie to Me is also a family drama, where lies and mental illness have overwhelmed the parents of a young child in need of answers and in search of the truth.

The plot was believable and well woven, with plenty of twists and turns and a few red herrings, too! The ending wasn’t shocking, but it was unexpected and intriguing. The murder mystery is finally, albeit tragically and distressfully, solved, and Meredith, who was stuck in an emotional and professional rut, is able to move on in a completely new and exciting direction.

The use of present and past tense and first and third person narrator was cleverly done. The events which occurred in 1984 were narrated in the past tense and third person, while the events which occur in the novel’s present time are narrated in the present tense, in the first person, by Meredith. This clearly defines present and past, and the use of the present tense adds pace and suspense.

The characters were realistic and well-rounded, and they all had plenty of flaws, the main ones being dishonesty and selfishness. Meredith sometimes annoyed me for being too indecisive, her ex-boyfriend was too ambitious, Cara too naive, Isobel too manipulative, and Jay too keen to take advantage of others. Her father seemed like a reliable and caring man who spoiled his relationship with his daughter by failing to tell her the truth, or even face it himself.

I listened to the audio version, which helps give each person a unique tone and voice.

Especially for lovers of gripping psychological thrillers.

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Lie to Me was published on 19th April by .

Follow Jess on Twitter @jessryderauthor

Visit Jess’s Web page 

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#TuesdayBookBlog ‘Mogul’ and ‘Tycoon’ by @JoannaShupe #amreading #amreviewing

Thanks to a long weekend, an almost ten-hour car trip, and a few hours waiting in hospitals, visiting a relative, I’ve finished the Knickerbocker Series. I had already read books one and two, which I reviewed here last week.

Now I’ve completed book Three Mogul and Tycoon a novella.

I loved Mogul, and Tycoon was included too, as a bonus.

The novels are set mostly in New York at the end of the 19th century. The knickerbocker Club series includes strong-willed, independent women, and powerful men who pull the ropes in NY society of the time. Intriguing plots and plenty of twists and turns to keep readers turning pages.

Mogul is book three, but they can be read as standalones. A rich heiress, Lillian Davies, and a journalist who has worked his way up to become the owner of three major newspapers, Calvin Cabot, become involved in dangerous dealings with the Chinese Mafia, which leads to many exciting chapters.

It so happens that Lillian and Calvin had been married and later had their marriage annulled, sparks fly as they’re forced to work together leading and face their unsolved issues as they preserve their own integrity and that of the people they love.

It was wonderful to be immersed once again in 19th century New York and Joanna Shupe’s clever and enthralling story. 

Especially for lovers of historical romance, set in New York in the Gilded Age.

I also enjoyed Tycoon, my only objection being that it was too short! I would have loved to know more about the enchanting Clara Dobson, who grabs a stranger’s arm at Grand Central Station, in New York, pretending to be his wife, and asks him to help her. Fortunately for her, the man is Ted Harper, a gentleman, owner of one of the biggest banks in New York, and a member of the prestigious, albeit secret, Knickerbocker Club. On their two-day train journey to St. Louis, their mutual attraction will grow. Ted will gradually discover who she’s running away from and she’ll discover who Ted really is, too. 

A great short read for lovers of historical romance.

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Knickerbocker Club Series buy links US

Knickerbocker Club Series buy links UK

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Joanna Shupe has always loved history, ever since she saw her first Schoolhouse Rock cartoon. While in college, Joanna read every romance she could get her hands on and soon started crafting her own racy historical novels. In 2013, she won Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart® Award for Best Historical. She now lives in New Jersey with her two spirited daughters and dashing husband.

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#TuesdayBookBlog ‘Strawberry Sky’ by @JanRuthAuthor #Amreading #Amreviewing

Today I’m posting my 5-Star review of Strawberry Sky, by Jan Ruth, a contemporary British family drama.

Reading Strawberry Sky was a pleasure. It was like meeting old friends once again. It is the third and final novel in the Midnight Sky series.

Strawberry Sky is more fast paced than Midnight Sky and Palomino Sky, and as I already had the background and setting, I was quickly involved, once again, in the two sisters, Laura and Maggie’s, complex lives.

The same engaging characters we’ve already met in books one and two, make their appearance once again with an important new addition, Enid, a motherless teenage girl, who applies for a job at their farm bringing both positive and negative consequences.

After a series of unfortunate mishaps and ups and downs, it would seem that James and Laura, are finally on the road to a ‘rosy future’ of marriage and children, renovating the house, their ambitious refurbishing project, and Laura’s design business, but once again, things will not be so easy.

Overprotective Maggie, will make some unfortunate decisions, while her troublesome daughter, Jess, and her ex-boyfriend and father of their child and his violent acquaintances, will continue to wreak havoc in the family.

In spite of their love and supportive relationship, James and Laura will have to face plenty of issues, including James’s pain due to his spinal injury which occurred in book two, and Laura’s obsession with pregnancy, not to mention the constant complications caused by Jess’s behaviour.

The best part of the writing is the characterisation. The proof is that I feel as if I know and the characters and it was sad to say goodbye. I’ll miss Laura’s generosity and optimism, and James’ patience and insight, in spite of his gruffness! I won’t miss some of the others, such as Jess or Maggie!

It’s a satisfactory and realistic ending to the series, because there are no perfect endings; life goes on, we fall, we get up, we survive, we struggle…

Especially for lovers of intense family drama, set in the stunning Welsh countryside.

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About Jan’s Books:

She writes contemporary fiction about the darker side of the family dynamic with a generous helping of humour, horses and dogs. Her books blend the serenities of rural life with the headaches of city business, exploring the endless complexities of relationships.

JAN RUTH’s real story began at school, with prizes for short stories and poetry. She failed all things mathematical and scientific, and to this day struggles to make sense of anything numerical.

Her first novel – written in 1986 – attracted the attention of an agent who was trying to set up her own company, Love Stories Ltd. It was a project aiming to champion those books of substance which contained a romantic element but were perhaps directed towards the more mature reader and consistently fell through the net in traditional publishing. Sadly, the project failed to get the right financial backing.

Many years later Jan’s second novel, Wild Water, was taken on by Jane Judd, literary agent. Judd was a huge inspiration, but the book failed to find the right niche with a publisher. It didn’t fall into a specific category and, narrated mostly from the male viewpoint, it was considered out of genre for most publishers and too much of a risk.

Amazon changed the face of the industry with the advent of self-publishing; opening up the market for readers to decide the fate of those previously spurned novels. Jan went on to successfully publish several works of fiction and short story collections and after a brief partnership with Accent Press in 2015, has returned to the freedom of independent publishing.

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