Thursday, 28 July 2016

Review: The Girl With a Clock for a Heart by Peter Swanson

George Foss never thought he'd see her again, but on a late-August night in Boston, there she is, in his local bar, Jack's Tavern.

When George first met her, she was an eighteen-year-old college freshman from Sweetgum, Florida. She and George became inseparable in their first fall semester, so George was devastated when he got the news that she had committed suicide over Christmas break. But, as he stood in the living room of the girl's grieving parents, he realized the girl in the photo on their mantelpiece - the one who had committed suicide - was not his girlfriend.

Now, twenty years later, she's back, and she's telling George that he's the only one who can help her...

Boy meets old flame -his first love in fact- and she urgently needs his help. I'm hooked.

George is a kind of anti-hero, an average Joe thrown into circumstances far beyond his comprehension, and this isn't this first time that it's happened to him. He spends the majority of the novel being overwhelmed, queasy, paranoid or terrified - but then wouldn't we all be if we were in his shoes!?

It's a fast paced book, and I raced through it in a couple of hours. True to form there's an obvious baddie, an ambigious female character, danger, and plenty of twists and turns to keep you reading. It's a different kind of thriller to others I've read this year - and a very welcome change in tone and content. However - what kind of ending was that!? I was expecting at least another chapter and I turned over to find a load of blank pages, for a while I was convinced that my copy of the novel was somehow missing a chunk. I don't know if a sequel is planned, but this girl needs closure and you can't leave it like that!

Frustrations at the ending aside I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the impending film adaptation!

Monday, 18 July 2016

Review: Florence Grace by Tracy Rees

The second book in the Quercus Summer reading scheme is Florence Grace by Tracy Rees. I absolutely loved her debut novel Amy Snow, so I was really excited to read this! And I wasn't disappointed. Quite the oppsite in fact - Tracy has surpassed herself!
Florrie Buckley is an orphan, living on the wind-blasted moors of Cornwall. It's a hard existence but Florrie is content; she runs wild in the mysterious landscape. She thinks her destiny is set in stone.

But when Florrie is fourteen, she inherits a never-imagined secret. She is related to a wealthy and notorious London family, the Graces. Overnight, Florrie's life changes and she moves from country to city, from poverty to wealth.

Cut off from everyone she has ever known, Florrie struggles to learn the rules of this strange new world. And then she must try to fathom her destructive pull towards the enigmatic and troubled Turlington Grace, a man with many dark secrets of his own.

Avid readers will know the feeling - that moment when you read the blurb for a novel and know instinctively that you're going to love it. Such was the case with Florence Grace.

From the opening page I was transported utterly into Florrie's world; I was with her for every step of her journey and I was sad to have to leave her at the end. She is an incredibly likeable character, one who isn't afraid to speak her mind, one who refuses to be beat into submission by society and its conventions.

The landscape, the people, the lifestyle - in London Florrie couldn't be further from her homeland, and yet she is a survivor. She weathers the storm that is the Grace household and begins to forge her own path in Victorian society.

The plot is full of surprising twists, with events and revelations that quickly turn the story on its head. I love Tracy Rees' writing style, and although her novels are on the long side I race through them in no time at all.

I became oddly fond of all of the characters in this book, both the good and the bad. Old Rilla was full of pearls of wisdom, some of which I may well adopt for myself. Hawker was small yet foreboding, Aunt Dinah a force to be reckoned with. I especially loved Sanderson, and the contrast between he and his brother couldn't be starker. Light and dark, day and night; he is as fair and open as Turlington is dark and brooding. But as we learn even the kindest of people have their own secrets to bear, their own dreams and disappointments.

This is far more than just a love story, it is a coming of age story, a story of family, of friendship, and of finding your place in the world.

Florence deserves happiness, and that was all I wanted for her by the novel's end. Her transformation from country bumpkin to city darling is apparent, and yet we never lose sight of the true Florrie, the girl beneath it all who longs for nothing more than to run barefoot across the moors. This is her story, and I enjoyed every minute of it with her. My novel of 2016 so far.  

*Thanks to Quercus Books for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a review!*

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Review: The Last Kiss Goodbye by Tasmina Perry

The Last Kiss Goodbye is yet another wonderful novel from Tasmina Perry. In fact, I think it's my new favourite.
Everyone remembers their first kiss. But what about the last?

1961. Journalist Rosamund Bailey is ready to change the world. When she meets explorer and man about town Dominic Blake, she realises she has found the love of her life. Just as happiness is in their grasp, the worst happens, and their future is snatched away.

2014. Deep in the vaults of a museum, archivist Abby Gordon stumbles upon a breathtaking find. A faded photograph of a man saying goodbye to the woman he loves. Looking for a way to escape her own heartache, Abby becomes obsessed with the story, little realising that behind the image frozen in time lies a secret altogether more extraordinary. 

I enjoyed Tasmina's last novel, The Proposal, so I was looking forward to reading this. Dual narrative seems to be Tasmina's style, with one strand set in the present and the other in the past detailing events of a decades old mystery - in this case the disappearance of Dominic Blake. Abbey, a thirtysomething archivist with a troubled marriage throws herself into her work. During the course of putting together an exhibition she happens upon a photograph that takes her breath away, and sends her on a journey into the past.

Dominic Blake is immediately loveable, and knowing from the outset that he and Rosemary are hurtling towards heartbreak and separation lends their story more poignancy. As is always the case with dual narrative stories I preferred the one set in the past to the present - but this is simply because I'm a sucker for historical fiction. Both narratives work well together, and share one common character in Rosemary Bailey. Feisty and headstrong in her youth, not much has changed when Abbey tracks her down decades later. I didn't know right up until the last few pages how the story was going to end, and when I got there it was just perfect!

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend The Last Kiss Goodbye; I loved it so much that I passed it on to my mum to read, and she couldn't put it down!

*Thanks to Bookbridgr for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a review!*