Talking About Last Letter Home With Bibliobeth!

Last Letter Home

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

On holiday with friends, young historian Briony Andrewsbecomes fascinated with a wartime story of a ruined villa in the hills behind Naples. There is a family connection: her grandfather had been a British soldier during the Italian campaign of 1943 in that very area. Handed a bundle of letters that were found after the war, Briony sets off to trace the fate of their sender, Sarah Bailey.

In 1939, Sarah returns with her mother and sister from India, in mourning, to take up residence in the Norfolk village of Westbury. There she forms a firm friendship with Paul Hartmann, a young German who has found sanctuary in the local manor house, Westbury Hall. With the outbreak of war, conflicts of loyalty in Westbury deepen.

When, 70 years later, Briony begins to uncover Sarah and Paul’s story, she encounters resentments and secrets still tightly guarded. What happened long ago in the villa in the shadow of Vesuvius, she suspects, still has the power to give terrible pain. 

CHRISSI: What were your initial impressions of this book? Did it hook you from the start or did it take you a while to get stuck into the story?
BETH: I have to admit, like a lot of books in the past (and very recently!) I judged this book by the cover again. WHY do I keep doing that?! I thought it looked like a bit of a fluffy, contemporary romance which is a genre I’m not really into but I was willing to give it a chance, especially when you told me that you thought I would enjoy it and that it had a historical edge that reminded you of one of my favourite ever books, The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. However, I do have to be honest and say I wasn’t initially hooked by the beginning. When a narrative flows across two time periods, I often find myself preferring the historical tale and this was the same initially speaking, for Last Letter Home too.
BETH: In one of the very first scenes, Briony in contemporary times is trolled for some remarks she makes on feminism on a TV show. How do you think this affects her self esteem initially in trying to find information out about her mysterious grandfather?
CHRISSI: I think initially, Briony was really knocked by the after effects of the TV show. It takes her a while to get over how she was treated in the aftermath. Trolls are evil and can totally affect your self-esteem and self-worth, so this was utterly relatable. I feel like Briony was quite unstable at the start of the story and deeply affected. However, getting stuck into finding out more information about her grandfather draws Briony out of her shell and begins to give her some self belief. She has determination, that’s for sure.
CHRISSI: Do you think the dual timeline worked for this story?
BETH: At the beginning, it took a little while for me to get into it. I kept getting the main character in the contemporary time period, Briony messed up with Sarah in the historical period and it took me a little while to get their stories and who they’re involved with in the present time straight in my mind. However, once I had got this sorted, I really enjoyed how the dual time periods told such a fascinating story (from BOTH women’s points of view) and there were certainly secrets revealed that I wasn’t anticipating.
BETH: Were you aware at any points of the men “not to trust” and the men “who could be trusted,” in the narrative? Was it interesting to see the parallels between Briony and Sarah’s own lives?
CHRISSI: I’m always wary of characters in books which might say something about me. I was sure that Paul could be trusted as he seemed to be such a sweetheart. I loved reading about his interactions with Sarah. I really enjoyed the dual narrative of this story. It was interesting to see how Briony and Sarah shared many qualities with one another. They were both persistent, driven characters in their own time. I also liked how both story lines had elements of betrayal and deceit within them.
CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite narrative?
BETH: The historical narrative was hands down my favourite narrative. Although its not as overtly romantic as The Bronze Horseman, I can really see why you made that connection. I felt so awful for Sarah and her love interest in the novel, the strange triangle she found herself in and how other people’s attitudes at the time affected how she should be behaving/where she should be looking for a husband. I only wish we had heard more about her younger sister, who I found an incredibly intriguing character.
BETH: Sarah and her younger sister both have to deal with death at quite a young age – how do you think they cope with this as individuals?
CHRISSI: Good question! Sarah definitely dealt with the death in the family better than her younger sister. Sarah became really supportive towards her family. Sarah’s sister very much closes herself off from talking about death. She appears to be coping less well but I can’t say too much without spoilers! 🙂
CHRISSI: Did you feel like the chapters based during WWII were realistic?

BETH: I did. It wasn’t overtly graphic but it felt really authentic. It was simply the story of how normal people cope in extraordinary circumstances when food is reduced, danger is prominent and they are forced to live their lives they may not necessarily have imagined living them. One of the stand on scenes in the entire novel for me has to be when Paul is sent away to Italy as part of the war effort and has to witness a very difficult event, something that ends up changing his life forever.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I think it would depend on the subject matter. I did really enjoy Rachel Hore’s writing and the story was interesting, but she wasn’t an author that I’d read automatically when her book released.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars

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The Liar’s Room

The Liar's Room: The addictive new psychological thriller from the bestselling author of THE HOUSE

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Penguin Books UK

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The House

Synopsis:

ONE ROOM. TWO LIARS. NO WAY OUT…

Susanna Fenton has a secret. Fourteen years ago she left her identity behind, reinventing herself as a counsellor and starting a new life. It was the only way to keep her daughter safe.

But everything changes when Adam Geraghty walks into her office. She’s never met this young man before – so why does she feel like she knows him?

Then Adam starts to tell her about a girl. A girl he wants to hurt.

And Susanna realises she was wrong. 
She doesn’t know him. 
BUT HE KNOWS HER. 
AND THE GIRL HE PLANS TO HURT IS HER DAUGHTER…

Thoughts:

I was excited to get my hands on a copy of The Liar’s Room after really enjoying Simon Lelic’s book The House. I actually think this book was a much stronger read than The House. It was clever, manipulative and so easy to read. I raced through the book eager to find out what was going on. This book has definitely made me quite the fan of Simon Lelic’s writing!

The Liar’s Room has so much going on within its pages. It centres around Susanna and her new client Adam. Susanna has a secret that goes back so many years. She has reinvented herself, not realising that her new client knows more about her than he initially lets on. Adam talks about wanting to hurt a girl. Susanna soon realises that the girl is her daughter, Emily. Susanna is determined to protect her daughter. Adam takes Susanna on a trip down memory lane and she finds out that she is closer to him than she had ever expected to be!

This is one of those books that is SO hard to review without spoiling it, so apologies for my vagueness. I will say that this book has some utterly fascinating characters. I was so eager to find out the truth between lies. I had moments of not really trusting many of the characters and I love that. I adore an unreliable narrator/characters. I thought this book had them in abundance.

With a seemingly simple plot, a counsellor and a client, Simon Lelic really wove a tangled web. The story was incredibly intense. I loved how the characters were trying to get the upper hand at points. It really was quite the battle. I also really appreciated how there were journal entries within the story from Emily. I thought this was a clever touch and really added to the story.

I am excited to read more from Simon Lelic in the future. He has a compelling writing style and his books keep me guessing.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A wonderful thriller! It definitely didn’t go where I expected!

Talking About ‘The Party’ with Bibliobeth!

The Party

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Martin Gilmour is an outsider. When he wins a scholarship to Burtonbury School, he doesn’t wear the right clothes or speak with the right kind of accent. But then he meets the dazzling, popular and wealthy Ben Fitzmaurice, and gains admission to an exclusive world. Soon Martin is enjoying tennis parties and Easter egg hunts at the Fitzmaurice family’s estate, as Ben becomes the brother he never had.

But Martin has a secret. He knows something about Ben, something he will never tell. It is a secret that will bind the two of them together for the best part of 25 years.

At Ben’s 40th birthday party, the great and the good of British society are gathering to celebrate in a haze of champagne, drugs and glamour. Amid the hundreds of guests–the politicians, the celebrities, the old-money and newly rich–Martin once again feels that disturbing pang of not-quite belonging. His wife, Lucy, has her reservations too. There is disquiet in the air. But Ben wouldn’t do anything to damage their friendship. Would he?

CHRISSI: I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but what were your initial impressions of this book from its cover?

BETH: I have a confession to make. I do that judgey thing and judge a book by its cover. I have been proved wrong in the past – for example, I really didn’t like the cover of Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and as you know Chrissi, I adore that book. What can I say? I think a cover really sells a book and if you can market it “prettily,” you’re onto a winner (with me at least!) I have to admit for this cover? I just found it a little bit dull and unfortunately, it didn’t inspire me to read the book at all. In fact, if I saw it in a bookshop I wouldn’t pick it up on the basis of this cover alone. Luckily what was inside proved to be much more fascinating in the outside so time and time again, I must not judge!!

BETH: What did you make of Martin’s relationship with his wife, Lucy?

CHRISSI: Oh good question! I felt a bit sorry for Lucy actually. I feel like she always came second for him. He was far more concerned with his friendship with Ben than his relationship with his wife. She must have seen his neediness for his friend and wondered why that wasn’t there in their relationship. I felt like she was so loyal to him despite him constantly pushing her boundaries.

CHRISSI: How can we tell Martin is an unreliable narrator?

BETH: From the very beginning. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that when we first meet Martin, he is being questioned in a police station. That isn’t to say he’s done anything wrong, there was an “incident” at a party and he is being asked what he knows. We soon find out what’s gone on in due course. As a reader, it does make you think what could have happened though, especially with the evasive way he is answering some of the questions…..
Then we get more information about his childhood and his relationship with the host of the party and the way he talks to and reacts to certain people makes him all the more intriguing.

BETH: Can money buy you happiness? Does being part of a wealthy elite change the way the Fitzmaurices behave to others not in their circle?

CHRISSI: I don’t think money can buy you happiness. I think it can help your life and help to reach the goals you may have for yourself. I definitely felt like the Fitzmaurices behaved in an incredibly entitled manner. They were obsessed with the power money held over others. Martin certainly enjoyed the high life when he was with Ben. I don’t think they were very kind to others in a lower class than themselves.

CHRISSI: To what extent did the narrative structure (where the bulk of the plot takes place over the course of one evening with flashbacks to the past) heighten the tension?

BETH: I love narratives like this. We hear about the present time, where as I mention, Martin is being questioned about what happened on that night, then it flits back and forward from the present day, to episodes where Martin is at school and as a young adult. As a reader, I wanted to get back to the questioning parts to try and get a clue about what exactly had happened but at the same time I wanted to get back to Martin’s past too as there’s definite clues there about his relationships and the reasons why they end up the way that they do.

BETH: Did you anticipate where this story would lead? Were you surprised by the outcome?

CHRISSI: I wasn’t really sure where this book was going to go. I did love the element of mystery. I also loved how I thought I was steps ahead and knew what was going on, but I wasn’t always right. For me, the ending was a little abrupt and it left me wondering what was going on or going to happen.

CHRISSI: Does this book fit into a genre?

BETH: This is such a hard question! On Goodreads it’s defined into quite a few categories – mystery, thriller and contemporary to name a few but I think it falls quite nicely into literary fiction too. It certainly has aspects of all of these genres, the intrigue where we don’t know what’s going on, a modern setting and a thrilling plot where we’re never quite sure of our characters’ motives.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I did enjoy reading it, even if it felt a little slow in places for me.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars

In The Dark (DI Adam Fawley #2)

In The Dark (DI Adam Fawley, #2)

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Penguin Books

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Close To Home

Synopsis:

A woman and child are found locked in a basement room, barely alive…

No one knows who they are – the woman can’t speak, and there are no missing persons reports that match their profile. And the elderly man who owns the house claims he has never seen them before.

The inhabitants of the quiet Oxford street are in shock – how could this happen right under their noses? But DI Adam Fawley knows that nothing is impossible.

And that no one is as innocent as they seem . . .

Thoughts:

I really enjoyed Cara Hunter’s Close To Home, so I was super happy to be accepted to read this book. I intended to read it before its release date but balancing teaching and blogging is hard! I’m glad I got around to reading it though as it’s another solid read from Cara Hunter. Just so you know, you don’t need to have read Close To Home in order to read this book. It will merely enhance your reading experience if you do.

The second instalment of the DI Adam Fawley series is an absolutely gripping story. We learn more about Adam Fawley, but it’s mainly the story of Vicky and a child who are found locked inside a basement. Both the child and Vicky are starved and traumatised. Vicky won’t speak about what has happened to her. The owner of the house, Dr Harper, is denying knowledge about Vicky and the child. It is a race to find out who they are, what exactly happened and why. Coupled with that, there’s the information that the house backs onto the home of missing woman Hannah. Could there be a link between the two?

There are so many characters in this story, but it is easy to follow their story. I loved following the investigation into what had happened to the women and the child. I had loads of ideas along the way, but I’m happy to say that I didn’t guess the twist at the end. The whole police team are fascinating and I thought Cara Hunter wrote about the investigation incredibly well. I could feel the pressure the team were feeling.

I love how Cara Hunter gave a fresh take on a story by including news reports and transcription of interviews. I’ll be honest and admit that crime fiction usually isn’t my thing, but there’s something about Cara Hunter’s fresh take on crime fiction that really does capture my attention. I love the twists and turns along the way in her books. It keeps me interest and turning the pages.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Another cracker from Cara Hunter!

The Last Piece Of My Heart

The Last Piece of My Heart

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Jessie Jefferson

Synopsis:

Meet Bridget, a successful travel journalist with ambitions to turn her quirky relationship blog into a novel. But, after numerous rejections from publishers, she accepts an alternative proposition: Nicole Dupre died leaving behind a bestselling novel and an incomplete sequel, and the family need someone to finish it. Bridget is just thankful to have her foot in the publishing door. But as she gets to know Nicole’s grieving family, and the woman behind the writing, Bridget’s priorities begin to change …

Thoughts:

I’m a bit of a fan of Paige Toon if you hadn’t noticed already. Her books are always so easy to read and I feel like they have more depth than your average piece of women’s fiction/chick-lit. Paige’s books are often filled with amazing characters and very strong female leads. I can’t really ask for more in a book like this one.

As with all of Paige’s books, characters turn up that you meet in other books. This time, we learn more about Bridget. Bridget is a travel-writer and she’s used to travelling the world. Bridget’s focus at the moment is her blog, where she’s recounting stories of meeting up with her ex-boyfriends to get the pieces of her heart back that she left with them. Bridget is back together with her first love and she’s determined to give all of her heart to him. Her agent likes her writing style and says it’s similar to another writer, Nicole. Unfortunately, Nicole has recently passed away. They want Bridget to write Nicole’s sequel to her highly successful book. If Bridget is successful, it will open the doors to her own book being published.

Bridget travels to Cornwall to meet Nicole’s husband. Nicole’s husband Charlie shows her the notes that she wrote for her sequel. Through reading Nicola’s notes, Bridget learns more about how she wanted the sequel to go.
Bridget finds that there are lots of similarities between her and Nicola, including feelings towards her husband, Charlie…

I absolutely warmed to Paige’s characters straight away. Bridget was fun and adventurous and often made me smile. Charlie was sweet and adorable with his baby daughter, April. I grew to love them both. Paige Toon sure knows how to write beautiful male characters. Charlie’s determination to bring up April made my heart swell. He was clearly struggling with juggling childcare, work and his grief. His story touched my heart.

This book is a great beach read and perfect for fans of women’s fiction. It has light humour but also a lot of depth between its pages. Yes, parts of it were predictable, but that really didn’t affect my enjoyment.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Charlie and April stole my heart!

Almost Love

Almost Love

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

When Sarah falls for Matthew, she falls hard.

So it doesn’t matter that he’s twenty years older. That he sees her only in secret. That, slowly but surely, she’s sacrificing everything else in her life to be with him.

Sarah’s friends are worried. Her father can’t understand how she could allow herself to be used like this. And she’s on the verge of losing her job.

But Sarah can’t help it. She is addicted to being desired by Matthew.

And love is supposed to hurt.

Isn’t it?

Thoughts:

I really like Louise O’Neill’s writing, because she pushes some very controversial subjects. Her stories are known for not being the most light and fluffy books that you could read. I’m always expecting a lot when I pick up a book by Louise, whilst I enjoyed this book. I didn’t think it was as good as her other books. Before you go into this book, be aware that you’ll possibly really dislike the main character. She’s awful.

Almost Love centres around Sarah who falls in love with an older man. He is a parent of a child that Sarah teaches. Even though he doesn’t treat Sarah well, Sarah is still drawn to him. Her friends and family try to get her to stay away from him, but there’s just something about him that keeps pulling her in.

I wasn’t a fan of Sarah, if I’m totally honest. I don’t often ‘like’ characters in Louise O’Neill’s books, but that doesn’t usually affect my enjoyment of the book. It did with this one. I just thought Sarah made idiotic decisions. The man that she is obsessed with completely uses her. She knows he will never love her but keeps going back to him to be used awfully. I think I could have felt some compassion for Sarah if she was nice to others in her life. She treats her friends, her father and her boyfriend awfully. I really didn’t like her attitude towards others.

What I do think that Louise O’Neill did well, is to show how easy it is to make the same mistakes over and over again. It’s easy to ignore advice even if the people mean well and are thinking of you. I can imagine that many people can relate to this relationship. This book is raw and I expect true to life for many.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

I thought this book was going to be a 5 star read for me, but it didn’t move or affect me as much as I usually expect with a Louise O’Neill book.

Some Kind Of Wonderful

Some Kind of Wonderful

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

Lizzy and Ian have been a couple since their first day at university. Now, after celebrating a decade together, everyone thinks they’re about to get engaged. A romantic escape to Dubai is the perfect moment, but instead of the proposal Lizzy hopes for, Ian reveals he’s not sure he even wants her anymore.

Lizzy is heartbroken. But through the tears, she realises this is her chance to seize the opportunities she missed as Ian’s other half. But what does she want? How much of her is really Lizzy, and how much was Ian’s influence? Determined to discover who she is at heart, Lizzy sets out to rediscover the girl she was before – and in the meantime, have a little fun . . .

Thoughts:

This is a tricky one for me to review. I used to predominantly read this genre, but began to branch out a lot more when I started blogging. I still enjoy a book like this. It’s a comfort read often and it’s familiar. I’ve read a lot of Giovanna Fletcher’s books, as you can see in my previously read section. I’m usually onto a winner when I read one of hers. However, I felt like this one lacked a bit of sparkle that her books usually have, which was a shame. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still utterly readable, it’s just not her best in my opinion.

The story centres around Lizzie who is on a dream holiday with her boyfriend Ian. She’s been with him for many years and is sure this is going to be the holiday in which he proposes. However, Ian ends up breaking up with Lizzie throwing her life into turmoil. She moves back in with her mother and her mother’s partner. We learn more about Lizzie’s family (her crazy pregnant sister) and her Dad. Lizzie realises that being with Ian for so long, changed her life. She wants to rediscover who she really is with the help of her new friends and old friend Connie.

I liked Lizzie as a character. She was a little obsessed with marriage at the start of the book, but I feel like she grew so much over the course of the story. I also appreciated how this book didn’t seem to be that focused on the romance. It was more about self-love and I think that’s an interesting departure. Giovanna’s books usually have a beautiful love story all wrapped up, but this one left Lizzie’s love life quite wide open.

I think there are some amazing characters in this story that many readers will resonate with. It’s a great beach read and definitely one to read if you’re looking for a gentle read in this genre.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Not my favourite book by Giovanna but still an enjoyable read!