Review: Summertime by Vanessa Lafaye

Summertime

I received a copy of Under A Dark Summer Sky by Vanessa Lafaye via Netgalley.  This book is published in the UK as Summertime.

Published in the UK in May 2015, I had not actually heard of this book before I saw it on Netgalley, but I was immediately drawn to the (US) title and cover.  I had no idea what it was about, but decided to give it a go.  And I’m very glad I did!

Although set in a fictional seaside town in the Florida Keys with fictional characters and a fictionalised plot, this book is based on true events, and I learnt quite a bit from this story!  For example, I had no idea that veterans returning from the utter horror and grimness of the First World War were treated so badly, neglected and failed so spectacularly by the government.

A very atmospheric novel with wonderful, flawed yet likable characters, the themes of the novel are manyfold, but the main focus is on prejudice, cruelty and love.  We see the strength of the human spirit, maintaining a dignified and decent outlook in the face of hideous racial prejudice and cruelty; the cruelty of the human race and the cruelty and devastating nature of the weather; love in many forms – between brother and sister, man and wife, parent and child, the love of home.

This novel affected me quite deeply, bringing on a recurring nightmare I have occasionally, and it is a novel that will stay with me for quite a long time.  This is Vanessa Lafaye’s first novel and I will be waiting with baited breath for her second!

Finding a place on my favourites shelf, I gave this book a wonderful 5 stars.

5stars

 

It’s been a while!

Yeah, it’s been a while … excuses, excuses, blah blah!  Here’s a book review! 🙂
The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
Publisher:  Penguin Books UK
Publication Date:  29 August 2013
My Rating:  4/5
{from GoodReads}
My
Darling Cecilia
If
you’re reading this, then I’ve died . . .
Imagine your husband wrote you a letter,
to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his
deepest, darkest secret – something so terrible it would destroy not just the
life you built together, but the lives of others too. Imagine, then, that you
stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive . . .
Cecilia Fitzpatrick achieved it all –
she’s an incredibly successful business woman, a pillar of her small community
and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home.
But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and
Tess barely know Cecilia – or each other – but they too are about to feel the
earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s devastating secret.
It took me
a little while to be gripped by this story, but once I was familiar with the
characters there was no putting it down. 
A very interesting look at family dynamics and putting on appearances …
and the consequences when appearances can no longer be kept up!
Engaging
characters and an intriguing storyline with interesting sub plots keep your
attention.  A little predictable,
perhaps, and maybe lacking in a male voice, but an enjoyable read
nonetheless. 

4/5
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley

Book Review: The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell
Publisher: Random House UK, Cornerstone
Publication Date: 18 July 2013
My Rating: 5/5

Meet the Bird Family

All four children have an idyllic childhood: a picture-book cottage in a country village, a warm, cosy kitchen filled with love and laughter, sun-drenched afternoons in a rambling garden.

But one Easter weekend a tragedy strikes the Bird family that is so devastating that, almost imperceptibly, it begins to tear them apart.

The years pass and the children become adults and begin to develop their own quite separate lives. Soon it’s almost as though they’ve never been a family at all.

Almost. But not quite.

Because something has happened that will call them home, back to the house they grew up in – and to what really happened that Easter weekend all those years ago.


Lisa Jewell has written a wonderful novel here, a fascinating insight into a damaged family.  The characters come alive on the page, faults and all.  No perfect, goody-two-shoes characters here, and they are all the more likeable for this.  The story switches between the past and the present, and we slowly begin to understand the full tragedy of what happened one Easter Sunday, and the rippling effect it had on the whole family.  
At first I found the switching back and forth between the past and present a little confusing, but I quickly got into the flow of the book.  It is one of those books that quietly gets its’ claws into you and you find yourself drawn back to it at every free moment.  The author has a wonderful writing style and although the story deals with tragedy and mental illness, there is a sense of warmth and comfort  running through it.  
A 5 star read! Highly recommended.
Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy via NetGalley

Book Review!

Like This For Ever by S. J. Bolton
Publisher:  Random House UK
Publication Date:  11 April 2013
My Rating:  3/5

Keep telling yourself it’s only fiction… As you read this heart-hammering thriller from the queen of London’s crime scene. 

Bright red. Like rose petals. Or rubies. Or balloons. Little red droplets.

Barney knows the killer will strike again soon. The victim will be another boy, just like him. He will drain the body of blood, and leave it on a Thames beach. There will be no clues for detectives Dana Tulloch and Mark Joesbury to find. There will be no warning about who will be next. There will be no good reason for Lacey Flint to become involved … And no chance that she can stay away.

Keep telling yourself it”s only fiction.

This is the third instalment in the Lacey Flint series, and I was very excited to read it.  The first two books were gripping psychological thrillers, and I had high hopes for more of the same.  Unfortunately, it didn’t quite live up to my high expectations.  The first half of the book seems to drag and failed to capture my attention (I wouldn’t describe it as an “unputdownable page turner”), but the second half does pick up speed and rolls along much more quickly than the first.  Lacey is a very interesting character, and I like the awkward relationship between her and Joesbury, but I felt there was not enough Lacey in this instalment.  Once again, one of Lacey’s colleagues is suspicious that she is actually the killer, and I found this ‘reprise’ a little tiresome.

Having said all that, there are some great twists and turns in the story, and it is ultimately a very good read.  It sets things up quite nicely for further instalments and I will now doubt find myself reading the next in the series!  I just hope the author shakes things up a bit and doesn’t cast Lacey as the suspect next time!

Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.

Review: The Village by Nikita Lalwani

The Village by Nikita Lalwani
Publisher: Random House
Publication Date:  9 July 2013
My Rating:  3/5
The Village follows a small BBC film crew as they attempt to make a documentary about an open prison in India, where the inmates (who are all guilty of murder) live with their families and are allowed to work outside the confines of the prison.  The scene is set in the opening pages beautifully, with vivid descriptions of the hot, dusty village.  The snapshots and vignettes of village life are fascinating and intriguing. 
As the story develops, the main characters reveal themselves to be fairly unlikeable.  Ray, the main protaganist, has some strong moral and ethical beliefs, but fails to make herself heard above the outspoken Serena, and the attempt to redeem herself in the conclusion feels rushed and anti-climactic.  
I had high hopes for this storyline.  The concept of an open prison built on trust is an interesting premise, and the ethical dilemmas encountered by the film crew are real and troubling.  It is well-written but tends to skim the surface rather than delve deeper into the issues, resulting in a somewhat underwhelming though thought provoking novel.