Review | Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters by Anita Kushwaha (@MsAnitaKushwaha)

Happy UK and US publication day!

Secret Lives of Mothers and Daughters by Anita Kushwaha book cover

Thank you to the author and HarperCollins Canada for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Veena, Mala and Nandini are three very different women with something in common. Out of love, each bears a secret that will haunt her life—and that of her daughter—when the risk of telling the truth is too great. But secrets have consequences. Particularly to Asha, the young woman on the cusp of adulthood who links them together.

On the day after her eighteenth birthday, Asha is devastated to learn that she was adopted as a baby. What’s more, her birth mother died of a mysterious illness shortly before then, leaving Asha with only a letter.

Nandini, Asha’s adoptive mother, has always feared the truth would come between them.

Veena, a recent widow, worries about her daughter Mala’s future. The shock of her husband’s sudden death leaves her shaken and convinces her that the only way to keep her daughter safe is to secure her future.

Mala struggles to balance her dreams and ambition with her mother’s expectations. She must bear a secret, the burden of which threatens her very life.

Three mothers, bound by love, deceit and a young woman who connects them all. Secret Lives of Mothers & Daughters is an intergenerational novel about family, duty and the choices we make in the name of love.

My take:

Tackling difficult and emotional themes such as the immigrant experience, mental health and identity, Secrets Lives of Mothers & Daughters is a moving story of the affection, obligations and traditions which maintain and break family bonds.

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Romantic Fiction Bookclub launch and amazing competition! #RNA60 #RomFicBookClub @RNATweets @0neMoreChapter_

How would you like to win 60 books?!

RNA60 romantic fiction bookclub on facebook launch win 60 romance books competition with One More Chapter

As part of their 60th anniversary celebrations, the Romantic Novelists’ Association has set up The Romantic Fiction Book Club on Facebook. The group is for readers who love romantic fiction and authors of novels which feature romance. If that sounds like you, you can request to join here.

To get the group off to a flying start, the lovely people at One More Chapter have donated a whopping SIXTY books to be won by one very lucky reader. And 60 runners up will also win one signed romance novel each, donated by RNA members.

Please note that the competition is open to UK residents only (sorry!).

Here are a just few of the gorgeous books you could win: Read on for details on how to enter!

Review | Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau

High drama in an evocative setting. 4/5 stars.

Dreamland by Nancy Bilyeau

Thank you to Endeavour Media for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

The year is 1911 when twenty-year-old heiress Peggy Batternberg is invited to spend the summer in America’s Playground.

But the invitation to Coney Island is unwelcome. Despite hailing from one of America’s richest families, Peggy would much rather spend the summer working at the Moonrise Bookstore than keeping up appearances with New York City socialites and her snobbish, controlling family.

But soon it transpires that the hedonism of Coney Island affords Peggy the freedom she has been yearning for, and it’s not long before she finds herself in love with a troubled pier-side artist of humble means, whom the Batternberg patriarchs would surely disapprove of.

Disapprove they may, but hidden behind their pomposity lurks a web of deceit, betrayal and deadly secrets. And as bodies begin to mount up amidst the sweltering clamour of Coney Island, it seems the powerful Batternbergs can get away with anything… even murder.

My take:

Although I felt Dreamland got off to a slow start, once the action moves the Coney Island, I found myself becoming increasingly gripped by events. Stick with it!

The descriptions of the area are very atmospheric. I found the period details, particularly the clothes (for some reason!), highly evocative and the author clearly did a lot of research. Setting the story during a heat wave is also a great touch as it adds pressure to all the characters and brings a bit of madness to a already tense situation.

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Review | Relatively Strange (Strange series 1) by Marilyn Messik

A captivating blend of the everyday and extraordinary

Relatively Strange by Marilyn Messik book cover

Thank you to the author for providing me with an e-copy of her book.

The blurb:

“I was five when I discovered I could fly, sixteen when I killed a man. Both events were unsettling in their own way.”

It’s hard to know what’s normal, if you’re not, and it takes Stella a while to realise she’s in the definitely ‘not’ drawer. But we are who we are and we make adjustments to fit in – most of the time – and it’s only when she finds she’s not quite as unique as she thought, that things begin to acquire a whole new dimension.

Forced to call on resources she didn’t know she possessed and thrust headlong into the violence of a situation for which nothing could have prepared her, Stella is suddenly face to face with the stark reality of medical experimentation and its horrifying consequences.

But in a world of uncertainties, one thing’s beyond doubt – this hero stuff really isn’t her. Normal, or as near as damn it, is what she wants and if that means smothering her instincts and adjusting her expectations well, so be it. At least she’ll then know should she slip off the wagon occasionally, it’ll be through choice, not chance and to suit herself. Isn’t it a fact though that just when you think you’ve got yourself sorted, life turns round and bites you?

My take:

I’m not sure I’ve ever come across such a perfect book title! And that’s possibly because I haven’t read anything quite like Relatively Strange before. I struggle to describe it, but I think the best I can do is to use a Marvel analogy (and I appreciate I may lose those of you who have no interest in superhero comics or movies, sorry!). Imagine an X-Men character with all their amazing powers, born into a “normal” London-based family in the 1950s, wrote an amusing, highly-personal memoir covering episodes from the first twenty-something years of their life. That’s close to what you get in this book, although it still doesn’t do it justice!

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Review | The Festival Murders (Francis Meadowes 1) by Mark McCrum

A good start to a new mystery series. 4/5 stars.

The Festival Murders by Mark McCrum

Thank you to Black Thorn for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

At the start of one of the English summer’s highlights, the annual literary festival in the pretty little country town of Mold-on-Wold, famous critic Bryce Peabody is found dead in his bed at the White Hart Hotel. At first it seems as if fifty-something Bryce might have succumbed to a heart attack, but the forensics team soon uncover evidence of something more sinister.

Bryce had made many enemies in the past, with his scandalous private life and scathing reviews. Could it be that one of the many writers he insulted in print has taken a bitter revenge? Or perhaps there’s a more personal reason? Unable to help himself, crime writer Francis Meadowes, who is also staying at the White Hart, is drawn into a role he knows only from his own fiction, that of amateur detective.

My take:

This is an entertaining whodunnit. Francis Meadowes gradually becoming the centre of the story, in the role of crime-writer-turned-sleuth, worked well because it gave him a plausible reason to know the details of police procedure. When pondering the circumstances of the murders he tries to imagine they are in one of his plots, particularly when it comes to drawing up a list of suspects. This reminded me slightly of Castle – if any of you are familiar with that TV series – although Francis is far more low key and self-effacing than Richard Castle!

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Review | This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

Strange and beautiful. 5 stars.

This is how you lose the time war by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone book cover

I got a copy from my local library. Please use your library as much as you can!

The blurb:

Among the ashes of a dying world, an agent of the Commandant finds a letter. It reads: Burn before reading.

And thus begins an unlikely correspondence between two rival agents hellbent on securing the best possible future for their warring factions. Now, what began as a taunt, a battlefield boast, grows into something more.

Except discovery of their bond would be death for each of them. There’s still a war going on, after all. And someone has to win that war. That’s how war works. Right?

My take:

This book contains so many elements which appeal to me: it’s essentially an epistolary novel while also a sci-fi tale of time travel multidimensional malarkey and an improbable romance struggling to survive against the odds.

The result of this genre mash-up is beautiful, poetic, epic… I run out of adjectives! And this short but perfectly formed book is a particularly staggering achievement given that it’s a collaboration between two authors, one that is completely seemless.

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Review | Gone (Dr Bloom #1) by Leona Deakin

A promising series opener which sadly faded towards the finish. 3/5 stars.

Gone by Leona Deakin book cover

Thank you to Random House and Transworld for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Four strangers are missing. Left at their last-known locations are birthday cards that read:

YOUR GIFT IS THE GAME.
DARE TO PLAY?

The police aren’t worried – it’s just a game. But the families are frantic. As psychologist and private detective Dr Augusta Bloom delves into the lives of the missing people, she finds something that binds them all.

And that something makes them very dangerous indeed.

As more disappearances are reported and new birthday cards uncovered, Dr Bloom races to unravel the mystery and find the missing people.

But what if, this time, they are the ones she should fear?

My take:

Gone is the opening installment of a new series which features an intriguing heroine. And Dr. Augusta Bloom comes as a breath of fresh air if you feel you’ve read about enough brilliant detectives with apparently obligatory issues with drink, drugs or family. The good doctor is instead a PhD psychologist, specialising in psychopathy, who collaborates with the police and, all in all, appears to be a fairly together individual who is still good at her job!

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Review | The Family by Louise Jensen

Another suspense-packed page turner from Louise Jensen. 4/5 stars.

The Family by Louise Jensen book cover

Thank you to HQ for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

ONCE YOU’RE IN, THEY’LL NEVER LET YOU LEAVE.

Laura is grieving after the sudden death of her husband. Struggling to cope emotionally and financially, Laura is grateful when a local community, Oak Leaf Organics, offer her and her 17-year-old daughter Tilly a home.
 
But as Laura and Tilly settle into life with their new ‘family’, sinister things begin to happen. When one of the community dies in suspicious circumstances Laura wants to leave but Tilly, enthralled by the charismatic leader, Alex, refuses to go.
 
Desperately searching for a way to save her daughter, Laura uncovers a horrifying secret but Alex and his family aren’t the only ones with something to hide. Just as Laura has been digging into their past, they’ve been digging into hers and she discovers the terrifying reason they invited her and Tilly in, and why they’ll never let them leave…

My take:

I’ve read and reviewed all of Louise’s previous books (The Sister, The Surrogate, The Gift and The Date) and I’m very pleased to say that in The Family she has produced yet another page-turner. In fact, trying to find something original to say has proved almost impossible as this book is more of her winning formula. Safe to say: if you have enjoyed all/any of her previous psychological thrillers, you should put The Family on your Christmas list!

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Review | Bone China by Laura Purcell

Another creepy dose of gothic madness and melancholia. 4/5 stars.

Bone China by Laura Purcell book cover image

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last…

My take:

I’ve read and enjoyed Purcell’s previous two books. The Silent Companions is a masterclass in creating an oppressive atmosphere and a big spooky house for characters to rattle around in. I didn’t feel The Corset was quite as successful, but it was another entertaining story with plenty of twists and turns. Continue reading…

Review | The Girl Who Used To Be Me by Lynn Forth

Another dose of literary sunshine. 4/5 stars.

The Girl Who Used to Be Me by Lynn Forth book cover

Thank you to the author for providing me with an e-copy of her book.

The blurb:

After a passionate fun-filled affair, Kate is abandoned by Rob, her first love.

Six years later, she is stuck in a dead-end job and trapped in a toxic relationship.

She escapes to the Costa del Sol where she meets flamboyant Reen with her bright clothes, her sparkling eyes and a penchant for pink plastic flamingos.

Kate falls for Troy, Reen’s sexy son, and embarks upon a new phase of self-discovery. Is she finally becoming the girl she longs to be?

But when Rob comes back into her life unexpectedly, what will she do?

My take:

I enjoyed Lynn Forth’s first two novels – Love in La La Land and Love, Lies and Café au Lait – very much and so was delighted to be asked to read and review her latest book: The Girl Who Used to Be Me.

Her first two books whisked us away to Los Angeles and Nice, and this time we’re given more sunshine as the main character, Kate, escapes to the south coast of Spain. In fact, this is a great example of the cover of a book setting the tone perfectly for what you will find inside, and who doesn’t want to be with that girl overlooking a beautiful beach, arms outstretched to the sun?

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