Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Burning Embers - Hannah Fielding

About the book...

Coral Sinclair is a beautiful but naïve twenty-five-year-old photographer who has just lost her father. She's leaving the life she's known and traveling to Kenya to take ownership of her inheritance – the plantation that was her childhood home – Mpingo. On the voyage from England, Coral meets an enigmatic stranger to whom she has a mystifying attraction. She sees him again days later on the beach near Mpingo, but Coral's childhood nanny tells her the man is not to be trusted. It is rumored that Rafe de Monfort, owner of a neighboring plantation and a nightclub, is a notorious womanizer having an affair with her stepmother, which may have contributed to her father's death.
Circumstance confirms Coral's worst suspicions, but when Rafe's life is in danger she is driven to make peace. A tentative romance blossoms amidst a meddling ex-fiancé, a jealous stepmother, a car accident, and the dangerous wilderness of Africa. Is Rafe just toying with a young woman's affections? Is the notorious womanizer only after Coral's inheritance? Or does Rafe's troubled past color his every move, making him more vulnerable than Coral could ever imagine.
Though the afternoon sunshine was beginning to fade, the air was still hot and heavy. Coral was struck by the awesome silence that surrounded them. Not a bird in sight, no shuffle in the undergrowth, even the insects were elusive. They climbed a little way up the escarpment over the plateau and found a spot that dominated the view of the whole glade. Rafe spread out the blanket under an acacia tree. They ate some chicken sandwiches and eggs and polished off the bottle of cordial. They chatted casually, like old friends, about unimportant mundane things, as though they were both trying to ward off the real issue, to stifle the burning embers that were smoldering dangerously in both their minds and their bodies.
All the while, Coral had been aware of the need blossoming inside her, clouding all reason with desire. She could tell that he was fighting his own battle. Why was he holding back? Was he waiting for her to make the first move? Rafe was lying on his side, propped up on his elbow, his head leaning on his hand, watching her through his long black lashes. The rhythm of his breathing was slightly faster, and she could detect a little pulse beating in the middle of his temple, both a suggestion of the turmoil inside him. Rafe put out a hand to touch her but seemed to change his mind and drew it away. Coral stared back at him, her eyes dark with yearning, searching his face.
The shutters came down. “Don’t, Coral,” Rafe whispered, “don’t tease. There’s a limit to the amount of resistance a man has.”
“But Rafe…”
A flash of long blue lightning split the sky, closely followed by a crash of thunder. Coral instinctively threw herself into Rafe’s arms, hiding her face against his broad chest. She had always had a strong phobia of thunderstorms. Now she knew why the place had seemed eerie, why there had been no bird song or insect tick-tocks, no scuffling and ruffling in the undergrowth. Even though the skies when they entered the valley had not foretold the electrical storm that was to come, just like with the animals, her instinct had told her that something was wrong. But she had been too distracted by the turbulence crackling between her and Rafe to pay attention to the changing sky.
Rafe, too, was shaken out of his daze and turned his head to see that the sun had dropped behind the mountain. Dense clouds had swept into the valley and were hanging overhead like a black mantle.
“Where did that come from? No storm was forecast for today?” he muttered, jumping up.
There was another tremendous peal of thunder, lightning lit up the whole glade, and again another crash. Then the heavy drops of rain came hammering down against the treetops, pouring down through the foliage.
A wind was starting up. Without hesitation, Rafe folded the blanket into a small bundle and tucked it under his arm. He slung the hamper over his shoulder, and lifting Coral into his arms, he climbed his way up to the next level of the escarpment where a ledge of rock was jutting out and found the entrance to a cave where they could shelter. Coral was shivering. She tucked her face into his shoulder, her fingers tightly gripping his shirt. She was completely inert, paralyzed by fear. They were both drenched.
There was no way they would be able to get back to Narok tonight. Coral knew from her childhood that storms were always long in this part of the country, and through her panic she prayed that he wouldn’t be piloting that little plane back in this howling gale. At least here they were protected from the storm. It was not yet completely dark. Rafe looked around, still holding her tightly against him. Coral couldn’t herself as she sobbed uncontrollably.
“Shush, it’s all right,” he whispered softly in her ear. “It’s only a storm. By tomorrow morning it’ll all be over.” He brushed her tears away as more fell. “I’m going to have to set you down for a moment, Coral. I need to light us a fire and get you out of those wet clothes.”
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About the author...

Hannah Fielding is an incurable romantic. The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was now. Today, she lives the dream: she writes full time, splitting her time between her homes in Kent, England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breathtaking views of the Mediterranean. 
To date, she has published two novels. Burning Embers is a vivid, evocative love story set against the backdrop of tempestuous and wild Kenya of the 1970s, reviewed by one newspaper as ‘romance like Hollywood used to make’. The Echoes of Love is a story of passion, betrayal and intrigue set in the romantic and mysterious city of Venice and the beautiful landscape of Tuscany.
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Tuesday, 13 January 2015

The Girl On The Train - Paula Hawkins

About the book...
A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people's lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

A compulsively readable, emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller that draws comparisons to Gone Girl, The Silent Wife, or Before I Go to Sleep, this is an electrifying debut embraced by readers across markets and categories.

About the author...

Paula Hawkins worked as a journalist for fifteen years before turning her hand to fiction.

Born and brought up in Zimbabwe, Paula moved to London in 1989 and has lived there ever since. The Girl on the Train is her first thriller.

My thoughts...
I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review by Alison Barrow at Transworld in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.

There was a quite a buzz going on in anticipation of this book, the proof copies had brilliant covers, a true marketing genius - I just knew I had to get my hands on one and read it before its launch on January 15th 2015. Although, I usually find that a book doesn't entirely live up to all the hype, falling short in some small way - too long, too short, not liking the characters or the plot too easy to unravel - not in this case! The Girl On The Train has to be one of the most brilliant books I've read in a long time - I started it one evening, had visitors and was just willing them to go so I could carry on reading - eventually finishing it at gone half past two in the morning.  I literally could not put it down. Then I couldn't go to sleep, my mind was buzzing, going back over the plot, trying to pick out the clues I'd missed - one small problem, I was on a days first aid course at 9.30 the next day and after very little sleep turned up five minutes late and knackered

The story is told from three peoples perspectives, Rachel, Megan and Anna.  Each chapter told by one of the women, some chapters written in the present others going back in time.  Rachel is the lead character, who commutes to London on the same train, day and night, with the train always stopping for signals at the same place each day - allowing her to glimpse into the houses that back onto the train line.  Each chapter is like a series of polaroid pictures that have been jumbled up, some don't even belong in the pack.

Paula uses the voices of the women to narrate a story that is packed so full of twists and turns it is unclear what is fact or fiction or what really is meant to throw us off the scent until the final few pages.  Reading this book was like trying to look through the clouds, every time they appeared to be clearing and I thought I had a handle on the plot another storm brewed and it was like a hurricane had landed.  Time to sift through the debris again.

Nothing, including the three women is what it seems, their lives are intrinsically woven together by a common denominator - but how?  Dreams, perceptions, reality and  memories are melded together with everyday issues such as infidelity, marriage, death, divorce, infertility, alcoholism and ultimately murder.  Add to that the neurosis and trauma that comes with each of them - yet these sub stories aren't what the story is about, but they do impact upon and influence the story.  It really is no wonder my mind wouldn't switch off! The same story told by different people also adds to the cauldron of life as Rachel knows it.

The pacing of the book for me was just perfect, a bit like a train, slowing to allow the clues to be given and speeding back up so as not to give me quite long enough time to decipher them, Paula created characters that evoked many emotions and feelings, that changed throughout the book - nobody and nothing was what they seemed, three perfect examples of putting a face on for the world - once the guards went down the true characters emerging.    I went full circle with the lead character Rachel many times, from ambivalent, to strong dislike then pity and round we went again and again until I understood her and her story. I didn't really feel anything for Megan for most of the book and initially strongly disliked Anna, thinking her as arrogant and manipulative.  Behind every one of the women, there are other characters that impact upon their behaviour and characteristics - nurture or nature is a question I've asked myself many times as over a week after reading this book I am still trying to make peace with the story.

This book is quite simply a work of art, the longer you study it, the more emerges from the story - it's impossible to believe this is a debut novel and I cannot wait for book 2.  Paula Hawkins I'm sure will be an author I'm reading for many years to come.  I highly recommend you order this book now - don't be the one person amongst your friends who hasn't read it!

Monday, 12 January 2015

To Fall In Love Again - David Burnett

About the book...
Drew Nelson did not plan to talk with anyone that morning. He did not plan to make a new friend. He certainly did not plan to fall in love. He resisted all of Amy’s attempts to draw him out− at the hotel, at the airport, on the airplane− giving hurried responses and burying his face in a pile of papers. It was only when the flight attendant offered coffee, and a muscle in Amy’s back twitched as she reached for it, and the cup tipped, and the hot liquid puddled in Drew’s lap that they began to talk. 

Earlier in the year, each had lost a spouse of over thirty years. Drew’s wife had died of a brain tumor, Amy’s husband when his small airplane nose-dived to earth, the engine at full throttle − an accident, it was ruled.
They live in the same city. Both have grandchildren. They are about the same age. Consciously, or not, they both are looking to love again.  But relationships do not exist in vacuums. Drew is wealthy, and Amy is middle class. Amy is “new” in town – she and her husband moved to Charleston twenty-five years ago – while Drew’s family has lived there for three centuries. Drew lives below Broad, a code word for high society, old families, power, and money. Amy’s home is across the river.

Class warfare may be less violent than it was in the past, but when Drew invites Amy to the St Cecelia Ball, battle lines are drawn. In a city in which ancestry is important, the ball’s membership is passed from father to son, and only those from the oldest families attend.
Family, friends, co-workers all weigh in on their relationship and choose sides. Allies are found in unexpected places. Opposition comes from among those who were thought to be friends. Though they are gone, even their spouses − through things they have done and things they have said − wield influence in the conflict that follows.

Amy begins to suspect that Drew is one of them, the rich snobs who despise her, while Drew concludes that Amy neither trusts him nor cares for him. As each questions the other’s motives, their feelings for each other are tested, and Drew and Amy are challenged to consider if they truly want to fall in love again.


About The Author...
I live in Columbia South Carolina, with my wife and our blue-eyed cat, Bonnie. I enjoy traveling, photography, baking bread, and the Carolina beaches.
We have traveled widely in the United States and the United Kingdom. During one trip to Scotland, we visited Crathes Castle, the ancestral home of the Burnett family near Aberdeen.
My photographic subjects have been as varied as prehistoric ruins on the islands of Scotland, star trails, sea gulls, and a Native American powwow.
I went to school for longer than I want to admit, and I have graduate degrees in psychology and education. I was formerly director of research for our state education department. 
We have two daughters and three grandchildren. To Fall in Love Again is my third novel.


My thoughts...
I was part of the cover reveal for this book and loved the sound of it so signed up to post a review as part of the blog tour organised by JB at Brook Cottage Books.

The story begins at a nursing home where the lead character Drew's wife dies from a brain tumour but not before making him promise not to spend the rest of his days alone, but to find love again -a promise he reluctantly agrees to but, really doesn't ever envisage being able to keep.

That is until he meets Amy, on a journey home.  She too is widowed but her husband died on the day she filed for divorce!  An unlikely friendship begins, they couldn't be more different in almost every way, from their backgrounds to finance and class. Yet, they have a connection a bit like a magnetic pull.  

I thought David described the reactions of Drew and Amy's friends and family upon hearing of their relationship with accuracy.  Whose friends and family aren't going to be protective when faced with a situation outside of their comfort zone? Especially when you have to remember that both characters are older, not in their youths - alone, when they should be enjoying their retirement and grandchildren.  Nobody likes change and it is being dragged out of their comfort zone and ignorance from both sides that fire them up, causing more than a little stress and tension.  This is not helped by Drew and Amy themselves, who each have their own doubts and insecurities, not seeing how a relationship could really work - they are so different on the surface.

The author takes us on an emotional journey, as time and time again Drew and Amy come up against objections and reasons not to pursue a relationship. Ultimately having to decide  if they really are ready to fall in love again.  The time just flew by whilst reading this book, I particularly loved Amy, outwardly she was feisty and strong but like all people who have had a few knocks her true, gentle side was well hidden and Drew seemed the perfect, gentleman to break through her armour.  At times I could have shook the pair of them, so many misunderstandings on both parts. 

This is the first book I've read by David Burnett but I'm sure it won't be the last.  This book highlights the highs and lo's of having to begin a new relationship, later in life.  David created characters that had depth and were not superficial in any way, I really did care about them and their reactions and that of their friends and family seemed to be pitched just right.  It's a breath of fresh air to have a romance that doesn't follow the usual format, the fact that the characters were older and everything didn't just fall into place was very realistic.  The fact they had so many people on the side lines that genuinely cared for them enhanced the story for me, if you were married for thirty years and then took up with almost your complete opposite wouldn't you hope your friends would put up a fight - just in case you really had lost the plot?

If you haven't read David Burnett I urge you to visit Amazon and download this book now!

Sunday, 11 January 2015

New Years Eve at The Ritz - Nikki Moore

About the book...
The second short story in the fun & flirty #LoveLondon series from exciting new chick lit author Nikki Moore!

New Year, New Love… or Old Love, New Start?
Everyone keeps telling Frankie Taylor that a new year is a time for new beginnings. She's not so sure. Single for six months, she's been more than happy on her own, thanks very much!

At least, that's what she thinks until she receives a note on New Year’s Eve inviting her to follow the clues, and her heart, across Knightsbridge.

But who's behind the romantic adventure? Old flame Christian who she loved for years and was always there for her, or new admirer and work colleague Zack, who has the habit of turning up in all sorts of unexpected places?
There's only one way she's going to find out…

About the author...
Nikki Moore lives in beautiful Dorset and writes short stories and touching, sexy romantic fiction. She's thrilled to be published by Harper Impulse, the digital first romance imprint of Harper Collins. 

Be My Valentine, a collection of poignant short stories by Nikki and other Harper Impulse authors was published on 13 February 2014 and has received four and five star reviews. Her debut novel Crazy, Undercover, Love was published by Harper Impulse on 24th April 2014 and will be available in paperback on 25th September but can be pre-ordered via Amazon now. 

On 21 February 2014 her short story 'A Night to Remember' was published in digital and print editions of the Mills & Boon / RNA anthology Truly, Madly, Deeply, edited by author Sue Moorcroft. Best-selling authors including Carole Matthews, Katie Fforde and Adele Parks feature. Nikki's short story in that anthology has been bundled with stories by Katie Fforde and Heidi Rice in a shortened ebook available from 1st April.

Nikki's was a finalist in several writing competitions from 2010 onwards, including Novelicious Undiscovered 2012. A member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, she has contributed to their magazine 'Romance Matters,' has far too much fun attending the annual conferences and has also chaired a panel and taken part in a workshop at the Festival of Romance.

She posts about three of her favourite things - Writing, Work and Wine - on her blog and believes in supporting other writers as part of a friendly, talented and diverse community so she often features other authors and new releases on her blog.

You can follow her on Twitter @NikkiMoore_Auth or find her on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/NikkiMooreWrites and she invites you to pop in for chats about love, life, writing or reading ... she is an avid reader so loves to talk about books!

My thoughts...
I read Book 1 in the #LoveLondon series - Skating at Somerset House and loved it so much I immediately headed for Amazon to download this - Book 2.  I didn't read the blurb so I wasn't sure if it was going to have the same characters from the first book or not and had no idea what it would be about - other than a wild guess from the title ;D I just knew it was would be good and her publishers have once again provided a cover that is an explosion of colour, perfect in every way for the title.

The book starts with Frankie having a minor panic attack in the hairdressers, she's in a rut and wanting to change her life, beginning with a new hairstyle - trouble is she didn't give any specific instructions and Davey her hairdresser and friend cuts all her locks off - he loves it, she's not so sure.  

Frankie spends Christmas with her dad, returning to her flat, to a pile of post and amongst it an invitation for a New Year's Eve date - in the form of a scavenger hunt - follow the clues and the mystery date would be revealed.  She's not feeling the love, goes so far as to hide the letter and plans an evening at the local pub with pal Davey.  But, curiosity gets the better of her and after re-reading it, phones a friend for advice - the friend tells her what she really wanted to hear - to go for it.  Opting for the attitude, what has she got to lose? She really has no idea who it could be from, only perhaps her last boyfriend, Christian - if not him who? 

Nikki once again has created a character that is instantly likeable, she's laid-back and a bit ditzy - as she sets off I feel for her, chasing her tale because she's running late - as is the 'norm' apparently.  Life seems a bit grey for Frankie and I really cared, wanting her to find a bit of magic so willed her to take up the invite.  As she follows each clue, memories are revisited, allowing Frankie to analyse her feelings about her relationships, both romantic and platonic.  Making her question, how does she feel when she's spending time with them, who makes her feel the best? What is the most important factors in a relationship?

As the title would reveal the last clue takes her to The Ritz and her mystery date is revealed - I loved the clues and the thought processes they evoked.  I loved taking the journey with her, watching as each step strengthened her character,  allowing her to realise what was missing in her life and what was important to her happiness.  She was a different person by the time she arrived at the Ritz and had decided who she would like it to be waiting for her, she has narrowed it down to only two possibilities who were as different as chalk and cheese. 

This is a lovely read that delivers more than you'd expect from such a short story.  Nikki has written a book that not only delivers on the romantic front, after all, every girl wants a happy ending, especially at New Year.  But, she also made me smile, ahhh a lot and got me thinking, I love a bit pf pampering and gloss, what girl doesn't?  But, who would I have chosen?

I highly recommend this short story and a bit like in the last book where I visited Somerset House, I'm now off to The Ritz for dinner - Nikki  bring on No'3 - Valentine's on Primrose Hill, I can't wait.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Married to Measure - Talli Roland

About the book...
When Serenity Holland proposes to her long-time boyfriend Jeremy, she’s certain ‘forever’ is a perfect fit. As the wedding train steams forward, though, Serenity starts to wonder if they really are an ideal match. From a crusty old ring to a dilapidated house she’s left to renovate on her own – not to mention the appearance of Jeremy’s clingy ex-fiancée – engagement feels more like disengagement. 

Even worse, wedding planning’s like a bad hangover as Serenity juggles the wishes of family and friends with her bossy mother-in-law-to-be, resulting in a Frankenwedding nothing like the simple ceremony she envisioned. 

Can Serenity knit her relationship back together and fashion a celebration that suits, or will ‘I do’ become ‘I don’t’?

About the author...
Talli Roland writes fun, romantic fiction. Born and raised in Canada, Talli now lives in London, where she savours the great cultural life (coffee and wine).

Despite training as a journalist, Talli soon found she preferred making up her own stories--complete with happy endings. Talli's debut novel The Hating Game was short-listed for Best Romantic Read at the UK's Festival of Romance, while her second, Watching Willow Watts, was selected as an Amazon Customer Favourite. Her novels have also been chosen as top books of the year by industry review websites and have been bestsellers in Britain and the United States.

To learn more about Talli, go to www.talliroland.com or follow Talli on Twitter: @talliroland. Talli blogs at talliroland.blogspot.com

My thoughts...
I was offered an ecopy of this book by Talli in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.

It all seemed like a good idea for our lead character Serenity Holland to propose to her long term boyfriend Jeremy at the time but..... let's just say his acceptance starts a domino chain of events that sees them both running in opposite directions, never seeming to be on the same page or room for more than a few minutes at a time.

This was a hugely entertaining read that had me 'oh noing, you've got to be joking, cringing and laughing iin equal measures.  Anybody who has ever arranged a wedding will understand exactly what I mean as soon as you read this book. It is wonderful, yet disastrous at the same time.

Jeremy's intentions were good, he had done the right thing and bought his and Serenity's dream home, in a good location from an auction with a view to 'doing it up' before the wedding.  Enter his parents - they decide they want to buy a property in England, do so at speed and want Jeremy to 'do it up - NOW - if not sooner!

Serenity and Jeremy had quite firm ideas about how and where they would like to get married should the event ever happen - that is until you throw in two sets of parents, one set with more money than sense, some friends and an ex girlfriend.  

Talli bounced me up and down through the high and lows of this emotionally charged story with an ease only an author confident with their audience is able to.  The exuberance and hype for this wedding literally oozed off the page.  Only, not quite from the right quarter.  Everyone had their thoughts and ideas about every aspect of the wedding and they weren't shy in voicing them, in some cases acting upon them.  Watching Serenity was like watching someone on a roller coaster, going full pelt downhill with absolutely no way of getting off whilst at the same time Jeremy was firmly ensconced at his mothers and seemingly unaware of the drama's unfolding. 

I think Talli does a fabulous job of portraying a bride to be who is slowly sinking, lower and lower as every aspect of her wedding and life is took over and controlled by her friends and soon to be family - she is unable to voice her opinions for fear of upsetting people so goes for the easy option of saying nothing!  Thank god for her parents, who are the antidote to the wasp like qualities of her future-in-laws.  The 'parents' are as different as chalk and cheese, although both want the best for their children, just coming at the situation from different angles. 

I laughed out loud on more than one occasion, at the chaotic, shenanigans that is Serenity Hollands life, I willed her to 'man up' and could quite cheerfully have throttled, Jeremy for his laid back, blinkered outlook - he really was oblivious to 95% of everything going on around him - so very typical of most men today.  Laughing at the 'Why didn't you say?' 'why should I bloody need to?' moments was like watching snippets of real life - it is SO TRUE - men don't see what's under their noses!!

I loved how Talli pushes the characters and us, the readers over the edge, just pulling back before everything goes totally per shaped.  Support comes in the end from an unexpected source and the old cliche 'a problem shared is a problem halved' springs to mind. A thoroughly, enjoyable read with characters that will definitely evoke emotions.  Love them or hate them, you'll feel something about each and every one of them. This is a story that at times is just what it seems a story, far fetched from real life yet equally reminiscent of real life too.  Marriage, house moves and meeting the in laws for the first time are all very stressful situations in their own right.  Put the three together and I can see why Talli used to shout up  'It's wine o'clock' on a daily basis - she must have been writing this book ;D

Saturday, 3 January 2015

The Life I Left Behind - Colette McBeth

About the book....
Six years ago, Melody Pieterson was attacked and left for dead. Only a chance encounter with a dog walker saved her life. Melody's neighbour and close friend David Alden was found guilty of the crime and imprisoned, and the attack and David's betrayal of her friendship left Melody a different person. She no longer trusts her own judgment, she no longer trusts her friends. In fact, she no longer really has any friends. She’s built a life behind walls and gates and security codes; she’s cloistered herself away from the world almost entirely.

And then, soon after David is released from prison, Eve Elliot is murdered in an attack almost identical to Melody’s. With the start of a new police investigation, Melody is suddenly pulled from her ordered, secluded life and back into the messy world around her. But as she learns more about Eve's murder, Melody starts to wonder if perhaps David hadn’t betrayed her after all...if perhaps the killer is someone else entirely, someone who’s still out there, preparing to strike again.

Narrated alternately by Melody and by Eve’s lingering ghost, The Life I Left Behind is a taut thriller and an intimate look at two young women bound together in ways neither of them could ever have predicted. Colette McBeth has proven once again that she is a master of suspense.

About the author...

Colette started her career as a trainee reporter at The Journal in Newcastle before moving to the BBC where she was a news correspondent for 10 years.

She has reported on the One, Six and Ten O’Clock News and her record for talking live on air is 45 minutes non-stop. Throughout that time she promised herself she would write the story that had been swimming around in her head since she left university. In January 2011 she enrolled on the Faber Academy Writing a Novel course and began writing Precious Thing, finishing it on maternity leave with her third child.

Colette lives in West London with her husband and children and iThe Life I Left Behind is her second novel and whilst writing it dreamt of being beside the seaside.
My thoughts...
I was given an advance proof copy of this book by Georgina Moore at Headline in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give.  I had devoured Colette's first novel Precious Thing, staying up late then setting the alarm for early the next morning so I could finish it off before work. Shortly after I had read it I met Colette at a book launch for another author's book and she told me about the book she was writing writing - I have literally drummed my fingers, impatiently waiting to get my hands on it since then. 

The two main characters in this book are Melody and Eve, both were attacked and left for dead in very similar circumstances.  Both happen to look quite similar and outwardly both appear to have been attacked by the same person.  There's only one main difference one died and one survived.  

The book begins when Eve's body is found by a dog walker, what we don't know at the time is the tenuous connection between the two women.  The detective in charge of the case is Victoria Rutter, her ex-boss was the person in charge of the original case where a friend of Melody's was charged for her attempted murder and it's shortly after his release that Eve's body is found. Victoria is nothing but thorough and her gut instincts hold her back from making rash, impulsive decisions - despite pressure from her soon to be retired ex boss.

What a book, for such a lovely, gentle, person Colette has a disturbingly, dark imagination.  She did it again, gave me a book I couldn't put down.  The story is told from both Eve and Melody's perspective and very quickly I forgot that one of them was actually dead.

Initially I wasn't sure how I felt about half the narrative coming from a 'dead person'. It would have been so easy for Eve's narrative to have come across as far-fetched but Colette didn't over milk her part in the story. She was never seen or heard from the grave, something I would have had difficulty with, she just dissected the original case layer by layer, revealing inaccuracies and facts missed.
After the first couple of chapters the story gathered momentum and moved like a rapidly, flowing river that suddenly hits a wall, forcing me to hold my breathe and read faster and faster, then just as quickly receding to calmer moments. The characters growing and evolving at the same pace until the veneer that held them together shattered allowing their true selves to emerge.

Colette gave us characters that on the surface appeared to blend into the background, were not striking in any significant way, until the story about life before the attacks on both Melody and Eve begins to unfold through information drip fed to us by Eve through transcripts and by memories and feelings that evolve in Melody's mind as she re-visits her life pre her attack trying to fill in the blanks about how, why she came to be left for dead. Time and information attaching itself to her life a shield, bolstering her character, enabling her to fight back.

The book is full of tension. My opinions forming and changing with every twist about Melody's friends and family and Melody herself as I tore through the pages.  Nobody, it appeared was exactly as they seemed.  The stress felt by Melody caused by the second attack, Eve's murder was palpable, the facts stacking up only to be shattered in an instant.  I felt I was walking the tight rope with her as her character appeared to crumble and her true day to day existence emerged. 

As ever with a thriller I try to guess who-dun-it and as the facts stacked up I thought I had it in the bag only for another twist to emerge forcing my opinion to change. I did briefly guess the murderer only to dismiss the idea as ludicrous, swinging back and forth many times between others. This book really was a thrilling read, with more victims than Melody and Eve - the psychological effects of the case putting me on the wrong foot, time and time again. 

This book has left me with a few questions. Who can you trust, who is the victim, the person attacked or everyone around them, do we ever really know our friends, are they always showing their true self? Is it right to chase justice or should we turn a blind eye if it doesn't directly affect us - would Eve still be here if she hadn't, seen one small, seemingly insignificant object?

Colette played ping pong with my mind, dragging me back and forth out of my comfort zone into the heart pounding, breath holding, silent pleading, finger crossing world that only ever occurs when your imagination has been over worked and pulled tight with psychological tension.  

She has once again struck gold for me, an addictive read, with characters that emerged and grew along with the story, each tied together by the crime and the victims, yet each having their own story and their own reasons for not showing their true cards. Friendships, solid and tenuous affected by life events and communication or sometimes lack of it. Even DI Rutter has her reasons not to take the easy route, wanting justice at the same time as a conviction.

In the end who would have thought that a childhood game would have such a life changing and important role when murder was on the menu, saving a life not once but twice?  I highly recommend The Life I left Behind as well as Precious Thing, two very cleverly, but different reads by the hugely talented Colette McBeth - NEXT!!