Thursday, 27 February 2020

Review: Family for Beginners by Sarah Morgan

I discovered Sarah Morgan after reading her recent Christmas book, A Wedding in December, which I absolutely loved, so I was thrilled to receive an early copy of her latest, Family for Beginners.

Family for Beginners is a clever romcom spin on Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca. Flora was raised by an aunt who never really wanted her. As a result, she has always longed for a traditional family of her own. When Flora falls in love with widowed Jack, who has two daughters, it seems as if all her dreams are about to come true. But Jack's eldest, the teenage Izzy, makes it clear their family is doing just fine without Flora - and she'd quite like to keep it that way! And the more Flora learns about Jack's late wife, the saintly Becca, she begins to realise it will be impossible to compete...

Despite the themes of grief, loss and abandonment, Family for Beginners is a lovely, uplifting, heart-warming story about relationships between family and friends. The main viewpoints are Flora and Izzy, and we get a terrific insight into two women who, ordinarily, could have been good friends. There is humour, when Izzy's various schemes to trip up Flora backfire spectacularly, as well as sweet and sexy romance. The gorgeous holiday home, overlooking the water in the Lake District, is virtually a character in itself. 

Sarah Morgan is a genius at creating flawed, realistic characters we can all relate to. As much as I loved Flora, I think poor Isabel was my favourite as she struggled to deal with the guilt she felt after her mother's death. The characters are so real, so perfect, so cleverly drawn, I think Family for Beginners is Sarah Morgan's best book yet. One of my favourite reads this year!

Thank you to Sarah Morgan and HQ for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Friday, 21 February 2020

Review: The Boy from the Woods by Harlan Coben

Harlan Coben is famous for his edge-of-your-seat thrillers, usually in a domestic setting, where old secrets threaten to tear a family apart. This story is slightly different. I think it is now my favourite of all his books but please don't make me choose!

Hester Crimstein is a seventy-year-old defence attorney who is also famous for her own television show (something like Judge Judy). Her grandson, Matthew, is worried about a girl who has gone missing at school - a girl that nobody likes and whom everyone picks on. Hester asks Wilde (a family friend who is also a private investigator) to look into the case for her. Wilde is a very interesting character: a man who was found living 'feral' in the woods as a child. Although incredibly smart, he's not been able to adjust to 'normal' life and still lives in a self-contained 'pod' in the forest. As he investigates the girl's disappearance, another teenager goes missing - and a human finger is posted to the parents...

My favourite character was the ass-kicking Hester but I did love Wilde and his intriguing backstory, and was rooting for him to have his own happy ending. Harlan Coben is a master at writing fast-paced thrillers so I was chomping down on my nails for a large chunk of the book, and his twists are always second-to-none. I read a lot of crime fiction, so it's a big deal for me when I can't guess the ending. I shall definitely be re-reading to see how he fooled me. Utterly brilliant and thoroughly recommended for all Harlan's fans, and readers of authors such as Linwood Barclay and Lee Child.

Thank you to Harlan Coben and Cornerstone (Century) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Review: A Conspiracy of Bones (Temperance Brennan #19) by Kathy Reichs

Kathy Reichs is one of my favourite authors. I've read all of her Temperance Brennan books, so I was thrilled to get my hands on an early copy of the latest one in the series, A Conspiracy of Bones.

As the title suggests, this story is all about conspiracy theories! Temperance's old boss and mentor has recently died and she doesn't get on with his replacement, Margot. After a very public falling-out, Tempe finds herself sidelined but can't resist doing an investigation of her own when she disagrees with the findings of Margot's latest case - a faceless corpse found in the woods. Tempe is convinced that the victim was a believer in conspiracy theories, but who is he really? And which was the theory that got him killed? 

Tempe has recently recovered from an aneurysm and is suffering from blackouts and migraines, which adds to the eerie tension - including a super-spooky bit where she may or may not have been abducted. Tempe is helped by former detective Erskine 'Skinny' Slidell, now working as a private investigator, "a combination of bluster and paunch and bad polyester". I loved his sarcastic comebacks when Tempe tries to tell him how to do his job.

The only thing that stopped this book getting a five-star rating was that sometimes I found it hard to get my head around all the different conspiracy theories. There were a lot of explanations when I'd rather Tempe had been out there chasing down bad guys. I did enjoy the author's notes at the end of the novel, explaining how she had been inspired to write this story.

Tempe fans will love A Conspiracy of Bones but if you've not read the series before, you'll find it makes more sense if you've read some of the author's earlier books. If you are familiar with this series, make sure you read the novella First Bones from her anthology The Bone Collection or, like me, you'll spend the first few chapters wondering when and how her boss died! 

Thank you to Kathy Reichs and Simon and Schuster UK for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.

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Two Nights by Kathy Reichs (this one is a standalone story)

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Review: Feathertide by Beth Cartwright

I was attracted to this book because of the beautiful cover - fantasy novels always have the best covers!

Feathertide is the story of Marea, who is born in a brothel and not allowed to leave - her mother worries that she will be made of fun of or stolen away. Marea, you see, is covered in golden feathers like a bird, although she cannot fly. When Marea reaches her seventeenth birthday she goes in search of her mysterious father in the City of Murmurs, a strange, half-flooded city of canals and little bridges (Venice?), where she meets a prophetess and a mermaid, and learns of the strange bird men who live on floating islands and only appear with the mist...

I'm not sure whether Feathertide is supposed to be a YA novel but I think it would appeal more to younger readers. Clever and imaginative, it is a slow-burn story that picks up just past the halfway mark when Marea begins to make friends in her new home. Feathertide has a touch of romance and a sprinkle of fairytale magic, and is a coming-of-age story - covering the pain of first love and of learning to accept who you are. 

Thank you to Beth Cartwright and Del Ray (Ebury) for my copy of this book, which I requested from NetGalley and reviewed voluntarily.I was attracted to this book because of the beautiful cover - fantasy novels always have the best covers!