Talking About ‘Love, Iris’ with Bibliobeth!

Love, Iris

How did I get it?:
It was a present!

Synopsis:

Tess has a secret – one which is going to turn her life upside down in just nine months’ time.

The only person she can confide in is her beloved grandmother. But Iris is slipping further away each day.

Then chance brings a stranger into Tess’s life.

Gigi’s heart goes out to Tess, knowing what it’s like to feel alone. She’s determined to show her that there’s a silver lining to every cloud.

As their unlikely friendship blossoms, Tess feels inspired to open up.

But something still holds her back – until she discovers Iris has a secret of her own. A suitcase of letters from another time, the missing pieces of a life she never shared.

Could the letters hold the answers that Tess thought lost for ever?

CHRISSI: I knew you would initially be unsure of reading this book. What was it that made you unsure?

BETH: Ah, you know me too well. I’m afraid to say that one again it was the cover that was initially a turn off for me. I have to be compelled to pick up a book and a beautiful cover can be the magic moment where I’ll pick it up and want to read the blurb on the back. I’m afraid with Love, Iris, if I ordinarily saw it in a bookshop, I wouldn’t even pick it up to read the back. I would (wrongly) assume that it wasn’t going to be the book for me. I’m glad that reading books with you as part of our “Talking About” series is making me pick up books that I wouldn’t normally and being pleasantly surprised as a result!

BETH: Interspersed amongst the story are Tess’ letters to her developing baby. Did you enjoy these and what do you think they added to the narrative?

CHRISSI: Great question! I did enjoy the letters to her developing baby. I think they made Tess really relatable especially to prospective mothers. You could sense Tess’ insecurities about motherhood but also her growing bond with her developing baby. I thought that was really sweet.

CHRISSI: Discuss the novel’s varying depictions of marriage. What kinds of relationships seem most likely to fail or succeed? Ultimately, do you think marriage is seen as a positive or negative in the story?

BETH: Such an interesting question. Okay, so we have various relationships in the book – we have the older generation of Iris and her husband who were very happily married compared to Gigi and Richard who have been married for years and have three grown children together but recently Gigi has been feeling unhappy and taken for granted and decides a period of separation would be a good idea. Then there is Iris’ grand-daughter Tess who is pregnant but not in a relationship and her mother Donna who has raised her as a single parent. I don’t think you can ever predict what relationships will fail or succeed to be honest and I also don’t think marriage is the be all and end all. As Gigi has shown, you can be married for years and then realise you’re not happy and personally, I supported her decision to bail out if she wasn’t content. You never know what’s going to happen in the future and how your relationship with your partner will evolve (or not evolve which is sometimes the problem!) On a personal level, I’ve been with my partner since 2002, we aren’t married and have no plans to do so and we are perfectly happy. I don’t think marriage is always necessary to ensure a successful relationship.

BETH: Tess has quite a difficult relationship with her mother, Donna. How do you think this developed as the story continued?

CHRISSI: She really did have a difficult relationship with her mother. I think it developed into a sort of understanding throughout the story. As Tess began to lose Iris, and become a mother herself, I believe it made her want to sort things out with her own mother. I think losing a close friend or family member gives you perspective and makes you want to sort out issues that could be in relationships. I don’t think Tess and her mother will be the closest, but I think their experiences brought them together.

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character? If so, who and why?

BETH: I can’t choose! I have so many favourite characters in this novel. I loved our main female leads – Tess, Gigi and to a certain extent, Iris (although I would have loved to know even MORE about her life). I felt that as characters they were all personable, easy to like and I found myself rooting for their happiness from the very start of the story.

BETH: What effect does keeping secrets have on each of the characters? What about when they reveal these secrets?

CHRISSI: I feel like both Tess and Gigi’s secret was better for them when it came to light. Tess was hiding her pregnancy and although her boyfriend was a bit of a turd about the pregnancy, her life was definitely on the up after the secret was revealed. Gigi wasn’t happy in her marriage. I think she had kept it secret for so long to keep up the happy family vibe with her children that she clearly adored. Even though it was tough for her to leave her marriage and upset her children, it was the best thing for her. No one wants to stay in a relationship like that. Life may have been a little messy for Gigi, but the future could be brighter. Iris… oh I loved that character. She kept so many secrets about her brother Tom from her family. I wish we could have known more from Iris. Secrets was definitely a common theme in this story but mainly love, family and self-discovery.

CHRISSI: Discuss whether you agree with Wilf’s entreaty to Iris that ‘love is the simplest thing in the world.’ How do the relationships in the novel support or contradict this statement?

BETH: Wow. Tough. It is and it isn’t is my answer! I think it can be very easy to fall in love with someone – after all, it doesn’t take much effort and is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. However, I think staying in love with someone can be very difficult, both of the individuals have to make a concerted effort with each other otherwise they can end up in a stagnant place where they take each other for granted, much like Gigi and Richard find themselves. Also, being in love with someone where the feelings aren’t reciprocated as strongly can be quite dangerous because you open up your heart enormously and leave yourself vulnerable to becoming very hurt.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I thought this was a great read! 🙂

Would I recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

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A Version Of The Truth

A Version of the Truth

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

Synopsis:

2019: Julianne is preparing a family dinner when her son comes to her and says he’s found something on his iPad. Something so terrible, it will turn Julianne’s world into a nightmare and make her question everything about her marriage and what type of man her husband is or is pretending to be.

1990: Holly is a fresher student at Oxford University. Out of her depth and nervous about her surroundings, she falls into an uneasy friendship with a group of older students from the upper echelons of society and begins to develop feelings for one in particular. He’s confident, quiet, attractive and seems to like her too. But as the year progresses, her friends’ behaviour grows steadily more disconcerting and Holly begins to realise she might just be a disposable pawn in a very sinister game.

A devastating secret has simmered beneath the surface for over twenty-five years. Now it’s time to discover the truth. But what if you’re afraid of what you might find?

Thoughts:

I didn’t know much about this book before I picked it up. The synopsis sold it for me, so I took up the opportunity to read it. I meant to have finished it way before now, but unfortunately work was incredibly hectic, so I couldn’t get this book out as anticipated on its release day. I’m always up for discovering new authors, especially debut authors. There’s no denying that this book is well written. I just found it to be very intense.

It centres around Julianne who is preparing dinner when her son Stephen comes to tell her that he’s found something awful. He was on the home computer when he found something among his dad’s files. Julianne is nervous to see exactly what it was. After she sees it, she realises life won’t be the same again. Her marriage starts to unravel as a secret from the past comes back to haunt them.

What I liked about this book was that it was told in a dual narrative that really worked. We heard from 1991 and the current 2019. Julianne’s story was told alongside Holly. Both girls were students at Oxford University. They weren’t particularly good friends, but they knew of each other and both wanted to keep something that happened back in 2019.

I would warn that there is some incredibly sensitive content within its pages. There’s rape and homophobia to name a few themes. Yet, there’s something about this book that keeps you turning its pages. I found it incredibly difficult to read at points. It also used some quite strong language that always makes me cringe. The writer deals with these subjects incredibly well and creates a story that’s quite the page turner!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Worth a read! Just beware of the subject matter!

The Fear

The Fear

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

When Lou Wandsworth ran away to France with her teacher Mike Hughes, she thought he was the love of her life. But Mike wasn’t what he seemed and he left her life in pieces.

Now 32, Lou discovers that he is involved with teenager Chloe Meadows. Determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, she returns home to confront him for the damage he’s caused.

But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as Lou tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that she could once again become his prey…

Thoughts:

I have been really enjoying catching up on this author’s books. I believe I am now all caught up! Yay. I was somewhat hesitant to start this book because I had seen some very mixed reviews surrounding it. I can see why it had mixed opinions. Certainly, it’s subject matter is very difficult to read about. As a teacher myself, I find it really hard to read about books that include relationships with young children/teenagers. However, there was something about The Fear that kept me reading.

The Fear centres around Lou Wandsworth who ran away to France with her teacher Mike when she was younger. Mike turned out to be as lovely as he seemed and he shattered Lou’s confidence and left her life in pieces. Now an adult, Lou finds out that Mike is involved with another teenager. She doesn’t want the same thing to happen to young Chloe, so she is determined to confront him. Mike is clever though and it’s not certain that Lou won’t the one being hurt…

There were a few points of view in this story and plenty of twists and turns along the way. I have come to expect a lot of twists when I read a C.L Taylor book and this book certainly does have twists and turns. I did see some coming, but I think that’s because I’m quite familiar with this genre and I’ve come to expect or at least anticipate some twists.

The characters are fantastic, even if Lou does make some very silly choices throughout. You want to reach into the book and tell her to get her act together. I have to say, I think Wendy was my favourite character. She’s not exactly a lovable character, but I thought she was the most interesting!

There were some inaccuracies within this story which is why I dropped half a star for its rating. I agree with other reviewers, that the social media involved in the story wasn’t around when the story was set. Other events described weren’t also around in the time period. I know it’s being really picky commenting on that, but when the story is as good as it is, inaccuracies can be incredibly frustrating. I think, aside from that, I would’ve rated it a 4 stars.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Not an easy book to read, but addictive all the same!

Talking About ‘Let Me Lie’ with Bibliobeth!

Let Me Lie

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They’re both wrong.

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.

Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to question her parents’ deaths. But by digging up their past, she’ll put her future in danger. Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie…

CHRISSI: This is the third book we’ve read from Clare Mackintosh. Did you have any preconceptions before you started reading it?

BETH: I’ve just checked and we’ve read and reviewed all three of her books in this format so I think we’re setting a kind of pattern here! As you already know, I’ve enjoyed both of her previous novels with her debut novel, I Let You Go standing out as my ultimate favourite. With Clare Mackintosh’s writing, I always know I’m going to get a compelling story, a fantastic female lead and more twists than….er….. a very curly piece of pasta! With Let Me Lie, that’s exactly what I got. I always knew I was going to eventually read it but I was delighted that Richard and Judy put it on their recent book club list as where we normally head to “talk about” most of the choices as it pushed me to read it that bit sooner.

BETH: How do you think this book compares to others in the genre?

CHRISSI: I truly think that Clare Mackintosh’s books stand out in the genre. They’re particularly twisty and gasp-y. I also think they’re quite a lot darker than some others in the genre. I definitely think Clare stands out in her own right, for the right reasons!

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character? If so, who and why?

BETH: As I mentioned in the previous answer, I always enjoy Clare’s female leads. In Let Me Lie, although Anna felt slightly more vulnerable than her previous protagonists, I still thoroughly enjoyed finding out more about her character, what she had been through in her life and as the narrative continued, unravelled the mysteries behind her parents deaths with her. I always find her characters so personable and easy to like and you do find yourself rooting from them from a very early stage.

BETH: What did you make of Anna’s relationship with Mark? Were you optimistic/pessimistic for their future and why?

CHRISSI: I always like to be optimistic if I can. With this relationship though, I’m neither one or the other. I don’t think it was an ideal relationship. They had a child very fast and although that doesn’t mean it won’t work, it’s a huge commitment and Anna was particularly vulnerable at the time. I do think they genuinely cared about one another. However, they don’t really know each other that well, they’d discover new things all the time…so who knows what the future will hold for them?

CHRISSI: Did you think the narration was reliable?

BETH: I had no idea what to think! You never know what you’re going to be getting with a Mackintosh novel, that’s the beauty of it and as a result you don’t quite know who to trust. I tried to keep an open mind and take in all the information that we were being given at different points of the novel and by different people.

BETH: What did you think of the alternative story-line with Murray and his wife Sarah? Did it add anything extra to the narrative for you?

CHRISSI: A tricky one. I did really enjoy the alternate story-line, but I think if it wasn’t there, there wouldn’t be a gap missing in the story. However, I always appreciate when mental health is addressed in literature, so I was super happy to read about this story-line. I think it was tackled sensitively and it was nice to take a break from what else was going on! I also thought Murray was an incredible character. I loved his devotion to his wife- no matter what she was going through, he wanted to be there for her.

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, at any point, did you work out what was going on?

BETH: I love a good “gaspy” moment in a thriller or crime novel. Let Me Lie definitely has that a few different times and the author is a master at leading the reader down a particular path just to trip them up when they least expect it! I tried not to think too hard about what might be going on to be honest, as I really do love to be surprised with this genre. By the end, I had my suspicions but it wasn’t until right at the end. There was still one small surprise though waiting in the wings that I hadn’t anticipated.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Definitely! She’s one of my favourite writers in the genre.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Apple Of My Eye

Apple of My Eye

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

Synopsis:

Just how far is a mother willing to go?

When a mysterious note arrives for six months pregnant Dr Eliana Hughes, she begins to doubt every aspect of her life – from her mixed feelings about motherhood to her marriage to Martin, who has become distant in recent months.

As the person behind the note escalates their campaign to out Eli’s husband as a cheat, she finds herself unable to trust even her own instincts, and as pressure builds, she makes a mistake that jeopardises her entire future.

Elsewhere, someone is watching. Someone who desperately wants a baby to call their own and will go to any lengths to become a mother – and stay a mother…

Thoughts:

This book is going to be ever so tricky to review, because it’s one where you don’t want to reveal too much about it before someone reads it. It’s definitely one to go into without knowing a lot about the plot. Trust me, you’ll find yourself fully immersed in this story before long. It’s fantastic.

Apple Of My Eye centres around Eliana who is seven months pregnant. Eliana is still suffering from horrendous sickness and she’s terrified that she’s not going to bond with her baby. She’s married to Martin and believes they have a happy marriage, until she starts receiving anonymous letters telling her that Martin is cheating on her. Eliana is close to her mother Angela. Angela is determined to protect her daughter no matter what. We also hear from a character Louise. We don’t really ever find out much about Louise but soon the story starts to come together. Eliana has to take maternity leave when an incident at the hospice she works at occurs. Life is become very intense for Eli…

That’s all I can really say without revealing what happens in this story. I really don’t want to ruin it for any potential reader. What I will say is, if you like your thrillers to be incredibly dark and twisted, then this might be one for you. I couldn’t believe how twisted some of it was. I have to admit, that I did guess a part of the twist, but I didn’t guess it too soon and it in no way affected my enjoyment as a whole. Apple Of My Eye is superbly written and so worth reading.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

An incredibly tense read. I couldn’t put it down!

The Flower Girls

The Flower Girls

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing

Synopsis:

The Flower Girls. Laurel and Primrose. 

One convicted of murder, the other given a new identity.

Now, nineteen years later, another child has gone missing.

And The Flower Girls are about to hit the headlines all over again…

Thoughts:

I have heard so much buzz surrounding this book and very rightly so. I was absolutely gripped by this thriller. I can imagine that it’s going to do very well when it releases next week. I believe it would be a good contender for a book club read as there’s so much to say about it. I’m going to keep this review as spoiler free as I can, but that’s definitely going to be tricky, so apologies if my review seems a little vague.

The Flower Girls centres around Laurel and Primrose. Laurel and Primrose were involved in an abduction and murder of a young child. One of them was convicted of the murder and the other was given a new identity. 19 years later, another young child goes missing. The Flower Girls hit the headlines again… but are they involved in the disappearance?

This isn’t a comfortable read by any means. An abduction and murder of any child is absolutely appalling. Yet there’s something about the writing and the plot that kept me compelled and turning the pages. It was really quite hard to put down once you got going. I loved how the action switched between the present and 1997- the time of the crime- it slowly revealed what had happened and I was definitely intrigued to know exactly what was going on.

I don’t want to spoil the plot, so I won’t go into it too much. Just know it’s an intense one with some very complex but interesting/fascinating characters. I am really impressed with Alice’s writing. I found it compelling, easy to read and the characters were so well developed.

The ending of the book is pretty incredible! It definitely made me feel uneasy and it has kept me thinking about the story, hours after I’d finished it. I think it’s going to stay with me for some time.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic read. I was super impressed with this book. Look out for it!

The Foster Child

The Foster Child: 'a sleep-with-the-lights-on thriller'

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

When child psychologist Imogen Reid takes on the case of 11-year-old Ellie Atkinson, she refuses to listen to warnings that the girl is dangerous.

Ellie was the only survivor of a fire that killed her family. Imogen is convinced she’s just a sad and angry child struggling to cope with her loss.

But Ellie’s foster parents and teachers are starting to fear her. When she gets upset, bad things seem to happen. And as Imogen gets closer to Ellie, she may be putting herself in danger.

Thoughts:

I had heard such amazing things about this book from my fellow blogging friends that I knew it was one that I needed to check out as soon as I could. I’m so pleased that I made time for it because it was utterly gripping yet so disturbing at the same time. What a thriller!

The Foster Child centres around Imogen who worked as a psychologist until an event made her change her job. She now works for the local authority and takes on Ellie’s case. Ellie is an orphan living in foster care after a fire killed her parents and her brother. In a strange turn of events (and perhaps making this book not for everyone?) terrible things start to happen when Ellie gets angry with someone. Very soon, the town wonders if there’s something more to Ellie than first meets the eye. Is it coincidence or are there some darker forces involved?

The story includes so much bullying and discrimination. There were some moments of bullying that really affected me. It was awful. I felt sorry for Ellie, but at the same time wondered if she was a character I should be sorry for. I’ll let you make up your own mind if you’ve read this book or aim to read it.

One thing that always makes me tear through a book at record speed is short, snappy chapters. The Foster Child definitely has this. It’s intense and often has twists along the way. I was eagerly trying to work out what the truth really was.

This book is definitely creepy and left me feeling very uncomfortable at many points in the story. I am definitely left wanting to read more from Jenny Blackhurst!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

An eerie read!