#TuesdayBookBlog ‘The Girl He used to Know’ and ‘On the Island’ by Tracey Garvis Graves #BookReview #Romance

Today I’m reviewing two novels by Tracey Garvis Graves, whose debut novel, On the Island (2012) spent 9 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. The novel has been translated into twenty-nine languages, and is in development with MGM and Temple Hill Productions for a feature film. I read the novel earlier this year and I enjoyed it so much that I also bought her second novel, The Girl He Used To Know (2019), which I enjoyed even more! Her books are romantic, but the romantic couples have highly problematic relationships, so there’s plenty of angst, before we get to the happy ending! Which is fine by me, I quite like some authentic, controversial and thought-provoking, romantic turmoil.

On The Island by [Tracey Garvis Graves]

From the Blurb

When thirty-year-old English teacher Anna Emerson is offered a summer job tutoring T.J. Callahan at his family’s holiday home in the Maldives, she accepts without hesitation: a tropical island beats the library any day.

T.J. has no desire to leave town, not that anyone asked him. He’s almost seventeen and if having had cancer wasn’t bad enough, he now has to spend his first summer in remission with his family instead of his friends.

Anna and T.J. are en route to join T.J.’s family in the Maldives when the pilot of their seaplane suffers a fatal heart attack and crash-lands in the Indian Ocean. Marooned on an uninhabited island, Anna and T.J. work together to obtain water, food, fire and shelter but, as the days turn to weeks then months and finally years, Anna begins to wonder if the biggest challenge of all might be living with a boy who is gradually becoming a man…

****

My Review

This novel starts with a bang until they reach the island, and then it slows down, as the unlikely couple are stranded on a desert island for literally years, and in the meantime, the teenager becomes a man and they fall in love.

Their time on the island is at first traumatic. They both experience illness, hardship and emotional anguish due to the isolation and harshness of a life with no amenities at all. Their situation is challenging and it’s very well described. I felt claustrophobic on the island too! Their love helps them get through the worst, but is it real, or is it a product of their unique situation? 

The next part of the novel, back in civilisation brings even more challenges. They’ve broken too many rules and taboos and their family and society’s demands strains their relationship to breaking point, more than once.

The difficulties they face and the way in which they gradually overcome the negative forces around them, as well their own  traumas, was nerve-racking, although we’re ultimately given a believable and happy ending, no spoiler there, because it’s the way they reach their happy ending that concerns readers of romantic fiction.

The characters grow in age and evolve emotionally throughout the novel, and their love is constantly tested. It’s an emotional rollercoaster from beginning to end, which I admit I love! 

****

The Girl He Used to Know: A Novel by [Tracey Garvis Graves]

From the Blurb

Annika Rose likes being alone.
She feels lost in social situations, saying the wrong thing or acting the wrong way. She just can’t read people. She prefers the quiet solitude of books or playing chess to being around others. Apart from Jonathan. She liked being around him, but she hasn’t seen him for ten years. Until now that is. And she’s not sure he’ll want to see her again after what happened all those years ago.


My Review

I loved this novel, so much. There was plenty of angst, too, but Annika was so easy to love. She reminded me of other heroines on the spectrum, such as Eleanor Oliphant, which I loved and reviewed here, another favourite which I reviewed here, The Cactus, and The wonderful,  Kiss Quotient, reviewed here.   

The Girl He Used to Know is a heartbreaking and uplifting second chance romance. Annika is an unusual, loveable heroine, who faces many challenges due to her brutal honesty and lack of social skills, which Jonathan finds it hard to cope with, in spite of his efforts. Johnathan is a worthy hero, but there are heartbreaking pitfalls to their happy ending. The story is told from both characters’ first person point of view, so we get to understand the characters as if we knew them intimately.

Especially for readers who enjoy uplifting romantic novels with plenty of angst and complex characters.

****

 

 

 

#TuesdayBookBlog ‘Little Disasters’ and ‘Anatomy of a Scandal’ by Sarah Vaughan #BookReview

Today I’m reviewing two novels by Sarah Vaughan, who read English at Oxford and worked at the Guardian as a news, health and political correspondent, until she turned to writing fiction. I’ll be reviewing her two most recent novels, Anatomy of a Scandal (2019) and Little Disasters (2020).

Anatomy of a Scandal: soon to be a major Netflix series by [Sarah Vaughan]

My Review 

Anatomy of a Scandal is a brilliant legal thriller which also deals with #Metoo issues, as well as political corruption, marriage, family drama, among other contemporary topics.

A charismatic politician is charged with the rape of his former mistress and the reader witnesses the subsequent events unfold through the eyes of his wife and the female prosecuting lawyer. Will his political friends, including the PM, save him or will this be the end of his political career?

It’s written from the point of view of several characters, one, Kate, his wife, is the only first person narrator, the other points of view are narrated by the author in third person.

It’s so well written and engaging that once I started I was drawn in and hooked from page one to the final line. The pacing is perfect, as the action is packed from beginning to end.  

However it’s not just an interesting and engaging novel, it also brings up ethical issues faced by many of the characters, particularly regarding consent in sexual relationships and the consequences of lack of consent, infidelity in marriage, and political corruption. The topics brought up, and the political context, seem relevant to contemporary politics and politicians in the UK, which made the novel even more engaging.

I highly recommend it to lovers of thought provoking legal thrillers. It’s set mainly in London, and partly in flashbacks at Oxford University. 

Anatomy of a Scandal will soon be released as a miniseries on Netflix, more information here.  I can’t wait to see it!

****

Little Disasters: the compelling and thought-provoking new novel from the author of the Sunday Times bestseller Anatomy of a Scandal by [Sarah Vaughan]

My Review

Little Disasters is a compelling family drama. Once I started reading the novel and the traumatic events narrated, I couldn’t stop. The story gradually unfolds with plenty of unexpected twists and diversions right to the last chapter.

Liz finds herself in an impossible situation when Jess brings her 10-month old baby to the ER with a skull fracture while Liz is the resident pediatrician on duty that night in the ER.

Liz’s sympathies are torn, but following the hospital protocol, social services must be involved, and that is where the rift begins between friends, and the drama begins for Jess and her family.

It’s a heartbreaking and brutally honest representation of a group of young mothers and fathers coping with full time jobs, marriage, and our increasingly complex lifestyles which sometimes lead to helplessness and desperation. It brings home eloquently the challenges of raising a family and parenting.

I listened to the audio version on Scribd which was brilliantly read by three different narrators, but I also enjoy reading through the chapters on my kindle.

Amazon US Link

Amazon UK Links

Colouring by my granddaughter, Elsa.

 

 

#FridayReads My Husband the Stranger by Rebecca Done #BookReview #Amreading

What you would do if your husband became another person overnight?

When Molly married Alex Frazer, she knew it was for ever. Theirs would be the perfect future.

In sickness and in health.

However, after a night out with his twin brother, Graeme, a terrible injury leaves Alex with permanent brain damage. In a single moment the man she married is transformed into someone new. Someone who has forgotten how to love her. And someone Molly isn’t sure she can ever love again.

From the blurb of My Husband the Stranger, a contemporary family drama by Rebecca Done.

My Husband the Stranger: An emotional page-turner with a shocking twist you'll never see coming by [Done, Rebecca]

My Review

My Husband the Stranger is an intense family drama and love story narrated by Molly and Alex, in two timeframes, before and three years after, Alex’s accident, which led to serious physical and emotional changes.

The reader receives a great deal of insight into both characters and their relationship, but there is a third dark and troubled character, Alex’s twin brother, Graeme.

It’s a contemporary domestic drama, which contrasts Alex’s dysfunctional family and Molly’s supportive parents. Other important topics brought up are parenting, sibling rivalry, friendship and the hardships of contemporary life.

My Husband the Stranger is also and overall a love story. Molly loves Alex, but she’s having financial and emotional difficulties coping with her husband’s changed and unpredictable personality, after his accident.

Molly literally has to learn to live with a new man and cope with a depressing job in a small town, far away from her family and friends in London.

Molly is the strongest and most admirable person in the novel. Her caring, determined and patient character ensures her struggle, against all odds, to preserve her marriage and help Alex through his long and challenging recovery.

The conclusion was satisfactory and feel-good, which surprised me because there was a lot of suspense and tension throughout, so I kept expecting a dark twist, which never came.

In spite of the lack of surprising plot twists, the novel had a steady pace and the prose flowed smoothly. I listened to the whole novel over two days, because I was invested in the characters and the storyline.

I will definitely be looking out for more novels by Rebecca Done.

The narrators of the audio version were excellent. 

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****

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#FridayFictioneers ‘The Escape’ #FlashFiction

It’s Friday, time for another Friday Fictioneers Flash Fiction story featuring Alice Pendragon and her family!

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting the challenge and for this week’s photo prompt.

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

The Escape

Alice looked up at the starry sky, not daring to look down at the street, four storeys below. She held on to the window ledge and moved slowly towards the next balcony, climbed over the railing and slipped inside the apartment.

Silence, although someone must have put the freshly cut leaves in the glass bowl on the kitchen table.
‘Can I help you, dear?’
Alice turned. A grey-haired lady wearing a woollen shawl smiled pleasantly.
‘Your neighbour kidnapped me. Could I use your phone?”
Her kidnapper burst through the door.

He nodded at the elderly lady. ”Sorry boss.

Then he pointed his gun at Alice.

****

To be continued…

My ‘Alice’ flash fiction written for the Friday Fictioneers Challenge can be read as standalones, but if you’re interested in reading previous stories of Alice’s adventures, here they are!

A quick recap of the three previous episodes: Alice and her mother, Marsha, caught Kevin on a date with another woman. When Alice confronted her father, she discovered the woman was her father’s half-sister, Clara, who was in serious trouble. Three weeks ago Alice was kidnapped, and last week the kidnappers made their demands. This week Alice tried to escape and failed.

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#TuesdayBookBlog ‘Us’ and ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls #BookReview #Amreviewing @Audible

Today on I’m reviewing One Day and US, contemporary literary fiction, written by David Nicholls.

I read ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls about eight years ago, when it first came out. It was before I started reviewing the books I read.

One Day by [Nicholls, David]

I loved everything about One Day, especially the way the plot was structured, taking one day every year for twenty years, starting on the day Dex and Em meet in their final year at Edinburgh University.

Those who haven’t seen read the book have probably seen the film, so although there may be few spoilers to disclose, I’ll just say that it’s not until the final devastating scene that we discover the importance of the day.

I cried at the end, at the injustice and absurdity of the ending, and the pain and loss of the characters I had come to know so well. Although they were both infuriating at times!

I know some readers thought it was slow and repetitive, and I agree that Dex and Em seemed to be going round in circles and taking one step forward in their lives and two steps backwards, for years, but unfortunately, such was the story of their lives.

I recently discovered that the author, David Nicholls had written another novel, which is humorous and poignant, so I decided to give it a go, and although I guessed it would be emotional, I wasn’t prepared for an even more devastating ending than One Day.      

Us: A Novel by [Nicholls, David]

When I finished listening to ‘Us’ on Audible, I was sitting in my garden, watching my grandson playing with his father, my son. They looked up in surprised as I rushed into the house, grabbed a tissue and ran upstairs.

’I’m OK,’ I managed to mumble on my way out. ‘I’ve just finished a novel’, and they carried on with their game, while I cried for a few minutes in the privacy of my bedroom, because it’s all right to cry at the end of a film, but it’s too personal to let people watch you cry when you finish reading a book.

Nobody dies at the end, although I thought they might. In fact it’s an optimistic, albeit not happy ending, in the traditional sense, but it’s very emotional.

US is a perceptive, sensitive and humorous account of the birth, life and death of a 25 -year- old relationship, told in the first person by Douglas, the husband. Douglas, Connie, his wife, and Albie, their son, are the main players in the story.

I found neither Connie nor Albie likeable. Mother and son were both selfish and I thought Connie also lacked integrity, but I’d have to include spoilers to explain why.

The family dynamics were unhealthy. Douglas’s relationship with his rebellious and artistic son was strained, and part of this strain was due to the mother and son tandem, which purposefully excluded Douglas. Consequently, it is when father and son are eventually alone that they are able to reach an understanding and mutual respect.

One of my favourite parts was the description of the family holiday around Europe, to France, Germany, Italy and Spain, especially the museums they visited and the people they met on the way. I’ve been to many of the places mentioned, and their descriptions and adventures brought back memories of my own trips.

US is a very perceptive, honest and realistic representation of contemporary family life. Many controversial issues, such as parenting, sex, drugs, the social and professional pressures of modern life, marriage, etc. are brought up.

I’m still trying to figure out why I was so upset at the end, because it is a hopeful ending of second chances and new beginnings, unfortunately, a new beginning, means there has to be an ending, too.

Overall, it’s much more optimistic, dynamic, and feel good than One Day, especially due to Douglas’s sense of humour and attitude.

US is also one of the best novels I’ve read so far  this year.

By the way, the narrator on Audible, David Haig, was fabulous. I really felt I was listening to Douglas tell me his story.

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****

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#FridayFictioneers ‘The Ransom’ #FlashFiction #100words

It’s Friday, time for another Friday Fictioneers Flash Fiction story featuring Alice Pendragon and her family!

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting the challenge, and to Courtney Wright. for submitting the photo prompt by a photographer who prefers to remain anonymous.

The Ransom

‘Alice! Are you alright?’

Alice held her throbbing cheek, too dazed to speak, and heard her father’s distorted voice coming from the kidnapper’s phone.

‘Her pretty face is still in one piece, for now, Kevin,’ said the kidnapper.

‘What do you want from me?’ asked Kevin.

‘My boss just wants to see his girlfriend.’

Kevin watched Clara wipe her tears.

‘Clara drowned,” said Kevin. ‘We all saw it on the news.’

The man laughed. ‘We found the pair of worn shoes by the cliff, but we know she faked her death.’

Clara gasped.

‘My boss wants his money back.’

****

To be continued…

I’ve made a few minor changes to clarify where the speakers are, as a result of a few comments: Alice and the kidnapper are together and Kevin and Clara are on the other end of the line.

My ‘Alice’ flash fiction written for the Friday Fictioneers Challenge can be read as standalones, but if you’re interested in reading previous stories of Alice’s adventures, here they are!

A quick recap of the two previous episodes: Alice and her mother, Marsha, caught Kevin on a date with another woman. When Alice confronted her father, she discovered the woman was her father’s half-sister, Clara, who was in serious trouble. Last week Alice was kidnapped, and this week the kidnappers have made their demands.

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#FridayFictioneers ‘Brooklyn Heights’ #FlashFiction #100words

It’s Friday, time for another Friday Fictioneers Flash Fiction story! 

Last week, Alice and her mother caught Kevin on a date with another woman. When Alice confronted Kevin, she discovered the woman was her father’s half-sister, Clara, who is in serious trouble.

This week something dreadful will happen to Alice as a result… 

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting the challenge, and Jill Wisoff for today’s photo prompt, which led me directly to this weeks’ 100-word story.

PHOTO PROMPT ©Jill Wisoff

Brooklyn Heights

 

Alice pulled her bound arms and stretched her neck towards the window.

The last thing she remembered was meeting Clara, hers father’s step-sister. Then came gunshots, cries, darkness and finally silence.

‘Who are you?’ She screamed as a masked man pulled the duct tape off her mouth and freed her arms.

‘Where are my parents?’

‘Right here,’ he said handing her the phone. ‘You have ten seconds to tell them you’re alive.’

‘Mom, Dad, tell Bill I’m on the top floor of a low-rise in Brooklyn Heights.’

The man grabbed the phone. ‘That was mistake,’ he said, as his fist smashed into her face

****

To be continued…

All my ‘Alice’ flash fiction written for the Friday Fictioneers Challenge can be read as standalones, but if you’re interested in reading previous stories of Alice’s adventures, here they are!

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#FridayFictioneers ‘Clara’ #FlashFiction #100words

It’s Friday, time for another Friday Fictioneers Flash Fiction story. 

Kevin has been behaving strangely since he  was kidnapped and rescued by Alice and Billy.

Last week, Alice and her mother caught Kevin on a date with another woman. This week he has some explaining to do… 

Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields for hosting the challenge, and Yarnspinnerr for today’s photo prompt, which led me directly to this weeks’ 100-word story.

PHOTO PROMPT © Yarnspinnerr

Clara

“I’m listening, dad. Explain.”
“Alice, this is Clara. We met many years ago, before you were born.”
Alice folded her arms over her chest and stared at her father, ignoring the stylish woman by his side.  
“I was in Mexico, with my mother, looking for my father.”
“Nice try. Did you forget your father died when you were a baby?”
“The truth is he left us and returned to his native Mexico.”
Alice shivered. “Mexico?”
“He had another family there.”
Alice’s arms fell to her side. “What?”  
“Clara is your aunt, my stepsister.”
Alice’s head spun.
“Clara needs our help, Alice.”
****

 All my ‘Alice’ flash fiction written for the Friday Fictioneers Challenge can be read as standalones, but if you’re interested in reading previous stories of Alice’s adventures, here they are!

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#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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#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.

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

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