Then She Was Gone

Then She Was Gone

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

The Girls

Synopsis:

THEN
She was fifteen, her mother’s golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her.  And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone. 

NOW 
It’s been ten years since Ellie disappeared, but Laurel has never given up hope of finding her daughter. And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet. Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine year old daughter. Poppy is precocious and pretty – and meeting her completely takes Laurel’s breath away. 

Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age. And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back. 

What happened to Ellie? Where did she go? Who still has secrets to hide?

Thoughts:

I’m a massive fan of this genre, which you’ll know if you’ve been around my blog for a while. My sister Beth and I recently read Lisa Jewell’s The Girls and really enjoyed it so I was intrigued to read this one. Especially after Beth raved about it. I found Then She Was Gone to be such a compelling read. I couldn’t put it down and easily could have read it in one sitting if I had the time!

It follows the story of Laurel whose fifteen-year-old daughter disappeared one day. Laurel and the rest of her children were so close to Ellie and her loss affects the whole family. Ten long years later, Laurel finds out that there’s updates on the case. Unfortunately for the family, Ellie’s remains have been found. With some closure, Laurel begins to move forward. She meets a man called Floyd who brings back some joy into her life. Laurel is introduced to his girls and is struck by the similarities between his daughter Poppy and her Ellie. The truth about what happened around the time Ellie was missing comes to light. Laurel isn’t sure whether she should be trusting Floyd but she’s desperate to find out what happened.

As I mentioned, I have read so many thrillers. So many are a bit samey, but I was impressed with Then She Was Gone. It kept me turning the pages. Although I had guessed what had happened to Ellie, I was still compelled to keep reading. Desperate to see if I was right. I also didn’t know exactly how the thing I thought (sorry, no spoilers!) had happened. Therefore guessing the twist didn’t affect my enjoyment. 

I loved the narrative! It’s broken up into different parts, thinking about then and present day times. As a reader, you get to read from the main character’s point of view and I love that. I felt like it gave a really well rounded look at the story.

Lisa Jewell’s writing is exceptional. I am seriously considering checking out the other books that she’s read as I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve read so far. I love getting into the minds of her ‘bad’ characters. It’s fascinating!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

This book comes highly recommended if you’re a fan of the thriller/mystery genre!

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Together

Together

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Dear Thing

Synopsis:

This is not a great love story. 
This is a story about great love.

On a morning that seems just like any other, Robbie wakes in his bed, his wife Emily asleep beside him, as always. He rises and dresses, makes his coffee, feeds his dogs, just as he usually does. But then he leaves Emily a letter and does something that will break her heart. As the years go back all the way to 1962, Robbie’s actions become clearer as we discover the story of a couple with a terrible secret – one they will do absolutely anything to protect.

Thoughts:

Beth absolutely loved this book which she demanded that I read as soon as I could. So I bumped it up my TBR and got to reading it near enough straight away! I really enjoyed this book which was such a lovely romance with a hint of a secrecy that kept me turning the pages.

Together is a love story between Robbie and Emily. At the beginning of the book, we find out about their relationship at an older age. They’re struggling with some health issues. From then, we learn about their relationship in reverse. I loved reading about their relationship in this way. The reader gets to know about the ups and downs in their relationship and you really feel like you know them. I loved how a secret was teased from the start. I knew it was going to be a big one that could destroy their relationship. I was intrigued and it kept me turning the pages.

I won’t reveal anything about the secret, but it’s something that I didn’t see coming. I love it when an author surprised me and Julie Cohen definitely does that. I just had to keep reading to find out what on earth was going to happen. I’m happy to say that I hadn’t predicted what was going to happen. I had some ideas about what it could be but I was by far wrong.

I enjoy Julie Cohen’s writing. I found Dear Thing to be a touching read and this book was too. Julie’s writing is absolutely beautiful and her characters are so well developed. I would definitely read more from her in the future!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A lovely read! Worth checking out if you’re into contemporary reads!

This Is How It Is

This Is How It Always Is

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

Rosie and Penn always wanted a daughter. Four sons later, they decide to try one last time – and their beautiful little boy Claude is born. Life continues happily for this big, loving family until the day when Claude says that, when he grows up, he wants to be a girl.

As far as Rosie and Penn are concerned, bright, funny and wonderful Claude can be whoever he or she wants. But as problems begin at school and in the community, the family faces a seemingly impossible dilemma: should Claude change, or should they and Claude try to change the world?

Warm, touching and bittersweet, THIS IS HOW IT ALWAYS IS is a novel about families, love and how we choose to define ourselves. It will make you laugh and cry – and see the world differently.

Thoughts:

This book came into my hands from the book pusher that is Beth. She said she thought I’d really enjoy it, so of course, I pushed it to the top of my TBR. I thought This Is Where It Ends was such a touching read.

It centres around Rosie and Penn who have had many boys. They’re desperate for a baby girl. However, when Claude is born he adds to their group of boys. Claude is different though. Claude wants to be a girl. It starts with him wearing dresses and using ‘girly’ accessories. As time goes on, it’s clear Claude is serious about being a girl. It’s not just a ‘phase’. Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever they want to be. Soon problems start to occur at school and in their local community. Rosie and Penn are wondering whether Claude should change or should Claude continue being whoever they want to be. Does the world need to change?

This really is such a touching read. It is easy to fall in love with the family. I loved how Rosie and Penn accepted that Claude wanted to be Poppy. I loved that they embraced his sensitive side. Even though it was clear that Rosie and Penn were struggling with people’s reactions and what the future meant for Poppy, it was lovely that they still gave Poppy the opportunity to be themselves. The ignorance that Poppy and the family encounter, is totally believable. Even in 2017, many people still experience ignorance because of their differences.

I loved how the book didn’t try to pretend that everything was rosy for the family. It really wasn’t. The siblings suffered and struggled, although they did have love for Poppy…life wasn’t easy and isn’t that just right?

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fabulous read, I highly recommend it!

Last Seen Alive

Last Seen Alive

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

The Hero

Libby Hall never really wanted to be noticed. But after she saves the children in her care from a fire, she finds herself headline news. And horrified by the attention. It all reminds her of what happened nine years ago. The last time she saw her best friend alive.

The Swap

Which is why the house swap is such a godsend. Libby and her husband Jamie exchange their flat in Bath for a beautiful, secluded house in Cornwall. It’s a chance to heal their marriage – to stop its secrets tearing them apart.

The Hideaway

But this stylish Cornish home isn’t the getaway they’d hoped for. They make odd, even disturbing, discoveries in the house. It’s so isolated-yet Libby doesn’t feel entirely alone. As if she’s being watched.

Is Libby being paranoid? What is her husband hiding? And. As the secrets and lies come tumbling out, is the past about to catch up with them?

Thoughts:

Beth really enjoyed this book when she read it in August. She told me I had to read it ASAP. I can totally see why she wanted me to read this book as it was such an engaging, gripping read. I could barely put it down! Claire Douglas has a fabulous writing style and I will definitely try to read more from her.

Last Seen Alive tells the story of Libby and Jamie. They haven’t been married long but are having some problems. They need to get away to reconnect with one another. Libby is a teacher and has just experienced something awful at work. She finds a leaflet about a house swap and encourages Jamie to house swap with another couple in Cornwall. She thinks a getaway will help them connect once more and get away from their troubles. Immediately, things start going wrong. Libby doesn’t know if she’s just paranoid or if there’s something more sinister going on.

I thought this book was absolutely fantastic. I didn’t see where it was going and the twist was so incredibly well crafted. I loved how the story was split into parts and when the twist was revealed it was intrigued to read about what had happened in the past that led Libby to where she was. I didn’t see it coming. Claire Douglas has created such a tense atmosphere in this story. I didn’t feel like I fully trusted any character as I was so suspicious of them all.

I highly recommend picking up this book if you’re into thrillers. It’s not one to miss.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A twisty, tense thriller. I loved it!

The Trophy Child

The Trophy Child

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

A doting mother or a pushy parent?

Karen Bloom expects perfection. Her son, Ewan, has been something of a disappointment and she won’t be making the same mistake again with her beloved, talented child, Bronte.

Bronte’s every waking hour will be spent at music lessons and dance classes, doing extra schoolwork and whatever it takes to excel. 

But as Karen pushes Bronte to the brink, the rest of the family crumbles. Karen’s husband, Noel, is losing himself in work, and his teenage daughter from his first marriage, Verity, is becoming ever more volatile. The family is dangerously near breaking point. 

Karen would know when to stop . . . wouldn’t she?

Thoughts:

I absolutely loved Paula Daly’s writing as you might tell from my reviews of her previous books. She’s definitely one of my auto-buy authors. I immediately purchase a copy of her books! I thoroughly enjoyed The Trophy Child. 

It centres around a family with one hell of a pushy mother. Bronte is just ten and has a schedule of music lessons and extra curricular activities alongside extra homework set by her mother. Karen wants the best for her child, but she’s pushing Bronte far too hard. However, the relationship between Bronte and her mother isn’t the only relationship with cracks within the Bloom household. Noel Bloom is a successful doctor, but he’s drinking a lot and avoiding his home life with Karen. Noel had cheated on his first wife Jennifer when Karen became pregnant with Bronte. Jennifer is in a nursing home due to her MS. Their daughter, Verity, has to live with her Dad and Karen. Also in the Bloom household, is Ewan, a child from Karen’s previous relationship. He appears to be amounting to nothing, which results in Bronte being used as ‘the trophy child.’ Complex, you’d have to agree. The cracks are really starting to appear in the family and with an attack, disappearances and something much worse… the family really do fall to pieces, but who is to blame?

Paula Daly is a genius at creating characters. I can’t say that one was badly written within this story. I disliked Karen right from the start. I can’t stand pushy mothers and Karen really takes things to the extreme. I loved the characters of Verity and Bronte and enjoyed reading about their connection despite the difficulties that are going on in the household.

I adore when characters return from a previous book. It makes me feel entirely connected to the story. It feels like a community created by the author. I love that feeling of familiarity. Joanne Aspinall, a police officer from Just What Kind Of Mother Are You? appears in this story, determined to find out just what’s going on with the Bloom household. It was lovely to read more from her point of view.

Paula Daly is still one of my favourite writers. Her writing style is incredibly engaging. I couldn’t stop turning the pages. As I mentioned, she’s wonderful at creating such complex characters and her story lines are so well crafted. I highly recommend reading Paula Daly if you haven’t already.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic read! Paula Daly is so underrated. Pick this up if you enjoy meaty thrillers!

Talking About ‘The Betrayals’ with Bibliobeth!

The Betrayals

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

When Rosie Rankin’s best friend has an affair with her husband, the consequences reverberate down through the lives of two families.

Relationships are torn apart. Friendships shattered. And childish innocence destroyed.

Her daughter Daisy’s fragile hold on reality begins to unravel when a letter arrives that opens up all the old wounds. Rosie’s teenage son Max blames himself for everything which happened that long hot summer. And her brittle ex-husband Nick has his own version of events.

As long-repressed memories bubble to the surface, the past has never seemed more present and the truth more murky.

Sometimes there are four sides to every story.

Who do you believe?

Told through the eyes of four members of the same family, The Betrayals takes an unflinching look at contemporary family life, explores the nature of memory and desire and asks whether some things can ever be forgiven.

 

CHRISSI: Had you heard of the author before reading this book?

BETH: I have to be honest and say no, I hadn’t. Looking at the author’s back-list of books however, the cover of The Good Girl does ring a few bells so perhaps I had seen it around when it was released. I’m really pleased that Richard and Judy picked this book for their book club here in the UK as it’s definitely brought an author to my attention that I wasn’t really aware of before.

BETH: Were you aware while reading that some characters’ narratives were unreliable? If so, at what point did you start to realise this? Why do you think people mis-remember significant events?

CHRISSI: It took me a while to realise this. I think it was about half way through when I started to question every character. I can’t pinpoint an exact moment when I thought ‘Hmmm…’ but I started to become uncomfortable with some of the characters throughout the novel and as the intensity built. I think it’s interesting that people do mis-remember significant events. Perhaps we build things up in our memory or remember the parts of it that we want to, meaning that sometimes we mis-remember the parts we don’t want to remember fondly! Memory is such a strange thing to me. I can’t explain it!

CHRISSI: This is part thriller, part family drama. Explore the family relationships in the novel.

BETH: I loved the mixture of thriller and drama in this novel. Throughout it all, there’s this element of mystery and unreliable narrators (which I always adore!). The relationships are particularly fraught in this story for a variety of reasons but mainly due to the divorce between Rosie and Nick which affect both their children, Daisy and Max in different ways. Daisy and Max blame their father for what has happened and this affects their relationship with him in the present time and especially with his new fiancee, Lisa. There are so many other relationships to be explored in this novel though. We also have the relationship of Lisa with her children and her ex husband Barney which is very fragile and the relationship between the siblings and step-siblings which is difficult because of Daisy’s OCD and events that have happened between the four children in the past when Rosie and Nick were still a couple.

BETH: The strongest bond in this novel is the bond between Daisy and Max rather than between the children and their parents. Why do you think this is?

CHRISSI: I think Daisy and Max are always there for each other from their childhood. They had such a strong bond. Daisy became reliant on Max when she was completing her OCD rituals. Daisy and Max stick together despite their parent’s relationship falling apart around them. I saw Daisy and Max as a team, despite Max being frustrated by Daisy’s OCD. Max felt guilt for something he had done to Daisy and I think his guilt made him want to be there for her in later years.

CHRISSI: Discuss the portrayal of Daisy’s OCD in the novel.

BETH: It’s great to see any portrayal of mental health in novels and making sufferers feel that they are not alone is so vitally important. I am not a sufferer myself but I thought the OCD was portrayed really well and quite sensitively and it certainly made me feel more sympathetic to those people that have no choice but to live with the condition. It also taught me things I hadn’t been previously aware of like its effect on other people around the sufferer and how it can have knock on effects on health, memory etc.

BETH: Who betrays who in this novel? In your opinion which is the worst betrayal?

CHRISSI: Goodness, it’s more like who doesn’t betray in this novel! I’m actually torn between the worst betrayal. I hate when best friend’s betray, I hate when partner’s betray… basically none of it sits right with me. I actually found Nick’s betrayal to be the most heartbreaking. He lets down his wife and his children. 😦 Bad times!

CHRISSI: I found myself disappointed by the ending. Without spoilers, what did you make of the ending?

BETH: I think I texted you ARRRGH at the time of reading it? Yes, that’s exactly how I felt. I had thoroughly enjoyed the story from the very first page and perhaps my expectations were a bit high but I wasn’t entirely happy with how open ended and unresolved the ending felt to me. I understand that maybe the author wanted us to make up our own minds about what happens next and sometimes I love this in novels but in this story, it felt frustrating and I was desperate to know what happened next.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! Even though I was SUPER frustrated by the ending. It had gripped me from the start and then I was annoyed by the unresolved, open ending. Others I’m sure would love it though!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars

Talking About ‘Cartes Postales From Greece’ with Bibliobeth

Cartes Postales from Greece

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Week after week, the postcards arrive, addressed to a name Ellie does not know, with no return address, each signed with an initial: A.

With their bright skies, blue seas and alluring images of Greece, these cartes postales brighten her life. After six months, to her disappointment, they cease. But the montage she has created on the wall of her flat has cast a spell. She must see this country for herself.

On the morning Ellie leaves for Athens, a notebook arrives. Its pages tell the story of a man’s odyssey through Greece. Moving, surprising and sometimes dark, A’s tale unfolds with the discovery not only of a culture but also of a desire to live life to the full once more.

CHRISSI: Discuss the structure that Victoria Hislop uses to tell her story.

BETH: I loved the way in which this story was structured. First of all, the author uses photographs of places/people in Greece to illustrate a particular point in the narrative (and I always enjoy seeing something a bit different in a book – illustrations/photographs/emails/letters always welcome!). Not only this but as our male character A is travelling through Greece he comes across a host of different people along the way, all of whom tell him a little story as he passes through. Each of these stories is reproduced like a short story through the novel. This was a great reading experience as you could read it as a whole or read it in little portions i.e. one short story at a time.

BETH: Do you think the inclusion of photographs in a work of fiction changes your reading experience?

CHRISSI: I think the inclusion of photographs does change your reading experience. Having a photograph or a picture of some sort gives you an exact picture of what the author is portraying. Without photographs, it’s left to your imagination which can be very different. Photographs are specific and allow the author to show the reader what they really want them to see.

CHRISSI: How do we learn about A’s character through the notebook?

BETH: To be honest, I don’t think we got to learn a huge amount about A’s character through the novel. We do see the growth he goes through as a person after experiencing heart-break but I think we learn more about Greece as a country and the people that live there rather than about A directly. That was just my personal opinion of it and I felt a bit detached from him as a character because of this.

BETH: How do you think Ellie changed as a person through reading A’s postcards/journal?

CHRISSI: I think Ellie really changed as a person throughout her experience of A’s postcards/journal. She is inspired by his postcards to travel to Greece on her own. The postcards encouraged Ellie to travel and become independent. I believe they changed the direction her life was going and gave her confidence to change her path in life!

CHRISSI: You enjoy reading short stories. What did you make of Victoria Hislop’s inclusion of short stories within this book?
BETH: I certainly do and I loved the addition of short stories in this novel. It made it something quite unique and enjoyable and I loved how each short story stood on its own. Some were a little darker than others, some had a moral tale to tell but I thought it gave a beautiful picture of what Greece was like and it really made me want to visit!

BETH: Which short story stood out the most for you in this novel and why?

CHRISSI: I can’t say one in particular stood out for me. I liked how all of the stories had a message they brought with them. I read them as individual stories and appreciated them for what they were. I’m not the biggest fan of short stories, but I enjoyed these because I felt they let me get to know Greece a little bit more as someone who has never visited (but wants to!) I enjoyed reading about Greek culture, religion and lots more besides through the stories.

CHRISSI: We’ve both read a few of Victoria Hislop’s books now. Was this book what you expected from Victoria?

BETH: Yes, I think so! If I had to compare it with one of my favourite books of hers, The Thread (which I read in my pre blogging days) I have to say I think I prefer The Thread but I still think that its a quick and enjoyable read. I’m still thinking about a couple of the short stories today so they must have had an effect on me! My only criticism is that I don’t think the characters were as well developed as I would have liked. Saying this though, the short stories were brilliant and they made up for any flaws or lack of connection I felt with the characters

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would. I enjoy Victoria Hislop’s writing when I read it but sometimes I find her books a little heavy going.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Yes!