Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Skeletons - Jane Fallon

About the book…
Jen has discovered a secret. It's not hers to share, but is it hers to keep?

If she tells her husband Jason, he might get over the shock but will he forgive her for telling the truth? She might drive a wedge through their marriage.

If she tells someone else in Jason's family - the family she's come to love more than her own - she'd not only tear them apart but could also find herself on the outside: she's never really been one of them, after all.

But if she keeps this dirty little secret to herself, how long can she pretend nothing is wrong? How long can she live a lie?

Jen knows the truth - but is she ready for the consequences? 

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About the author… 
Jane was born in Harrow in North London and later moved out to Buckinghamshire where she attended St Bernard's Convent School in Slough before moving back up to London to read history at University College.

Her first real job was working as a 'Girl Friday' in a small Theatrical and Literary Agency - (the same job that Rebecca has in 'Foursome'). As soon as she walked through the door she fell in love with the idea of working in drama in some capacity.

After three years she left to pursue a career in TV, starting as a freelance script reader and then working as a script editor on various shows including EastEnders where she was made a producer in 1994. The following year she started work producing a new low budget show for BBC2 - 'This Life'.

Several other shows including 'Teachers' and '20 Things To Do Before You're 30' followed before she suddenly got brave enough to have a go at trying to fulfil her life long ambition to write a novel in 2006.

Skeletons is her fifth novel.

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My thoughts…
I recently won a signed copy of Getting Rid of Matthew in a competition on twitter. What nostalgia, it brought back happy memories.  I just love all of Jane Fallon's books — she has the fantastic ability to bring to life, ‘real life!'  It’s a little like voyeurism looking into the lives of people who could, very easily be my own family or friends.

When I heard she was bringing out her fifth book Skeletons in March of this year I literally couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.  I was on the list for a proof copy to review from Penguin but saw it up on Netgalley and couldn’t wait.  Although, if Penguin still wanted to send me a paper copy I’d just love them forever.

Jen, the main character in this novel is ‘living the life’. Family, or rather her husbands extended family provides everything she needs in life — his parents are closer to her than her own, his sisters her best-friends. Everything is perfect. Which is why, when she discovers a secret that could potentially rock that life she decides to do something about it.

Jane Fallon takes us on an emotional journey as Jen battles to make the right decisions.  Trying to protect the family and in doing so discovers things about her own family she didn’t know.  Every turn of the page was with anticipation.  It really was a roller-coaster of a book.  Climbing to the summit only to plunge again, then to rise again with each chapter. Jane developed such good characters, whose lives and emotions were so vivid that I felt real empathy and emotion for them.  I liked and disliked the right people, although, as was Jane’s intention my opinions of them changed throughout the novel too. I often found myself silently berating, praying, wishing and hoping for different outcomes as the book developed.

The best type of books in my opinion are books that make me think. This book had me thinking long after the final page. Is it better to turn a blind-eye to keep the status quo or should you  unlock a can of worms and hope for the best.  Jen, like many people I know in real life did what she did for the good of other people, never once thinking about the consequences of her actions only those of the people around her.  Who suffered the most do you think? People only see what we want them to see and do we ever know the whole story?

Another brilliant book, that wasn’t just a ‘nice’ read — it wasn’t predictable although at times I found myself predicting what was coming next, more often than not wrongly!  It’s funny how you can see things without seeing, perhaps we should all take a step back and evaluate our own lives — or perhaps not, I for one am happy in my bubble. I cannot wait to get a paper version of this book, to hear what other people thought and to re-read it again to see if I still feel the same about each of the characters.

I highly recommend this book, Thank you Jane Fallon, don’t leave it so long until your next novel!!

The Happy Endings Book Group - Jane Tara

About the book…
Once a month, seven very different women come together to discuss books. They all love a happy ending, but have lost sight of how to get their own. Paige misses glimpsing the magic in the world. Sadie doesn't see the beauty inside people. Amanda wonders what she ever saw in her ex husband. Tilda literally can't see herself. Michi can't bear looking at her family, while Clementine is blind to what's right in front of her. And Eva looks for romance in all the wrong places.

But things are about to change ...

Meet the women of the Happy Endings Book Club as they celebrate Christmas, and themselves, in London, Paris, Vienna, New York, Sydney … and in love. 

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About the author… 
Jane Tara spends most of her time wandering the world and writing. She has over twenty children's picture books published in Asia, and has written travel articles for many publications worldwide.

She has lived in Tokyo, London, Vienna, New York and various parts of Australia. She recently transformed her itchy feet into ITCHEE FEET, which publishes travel books for kids.

Jane is the author of FORECAST and the sequel, TROUBLE BREWING. Her latest novel, THE HAPPY ENDINGS BOOK CLUB

Jane lives with her partner Dom and their four sons in Sydney, Australia.

Contact Links: 
Visit Jane Tara's Blog

My thoughts…
I had an copy of this book from Netgalley in return for an honest review.  I was drawn to the book firstly by the gorgeous cover and secondly by the fact that I'm a member of a book group and thought it would be interesting to see if there was any comparisons.
Jane Tara has hit the nail on the head with this book - a book club isn't just about the books.  In fact the books are the smallest part of a book group.  It's about a bunch of people from different walks of life who initially come together to share the same interest but through the meetings become friends supporting, listening and advising each other. 
Each member of The Happy Endings Book Club is at a different stage in their lives. All looking to move forward.  The book loosely weaves the women together, each having a chapter or so within the book to tell their tale and thanks to Jane Tara's vivid descriptions I got to travel the world with them.
Some characters I got, understood, liked and felt empathy for others I didn't - a bit like real life really.  The thing that stood out for me was that despite the fact the women were all different characters, trying to work through different scenario's in search of their own 'happy ending' when things got too much they turned to The Book Group for stability - knowing they had the support of their fellow members.  A book club is somewhere to escape reality.
Overall I enjoyed this book at 182 pages it was a quick read for me and perfect for an afternoon curled up with coffee and the cat.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Apple Tree Yard - Louise Doughty

About the book… 
‘Don’t tell them about Apple Tree Yard, don’t tell them about us. No one has any way of knowing. Nothing is written down’.
Yvonne Carmichael has worked hard to achieve the life she always wanted: a high-flying career in genetics, a beautiful home, a good relationship with her husband and their two grown-up children. Then one day she meets a stranger at the Houses of Parliament and, on impulse, begins a passionate affair with him – a decision that will put everything she values at risk.
At first she believes she can keep the relationship separate from the rest of her life, but she can’t control what happens next. All of her careful plans spiral into greater deceit and, eventually, a life-changing act of violence.
Apple Tree Yard is both a psychological thriller and an insightful examination of the values we all live by and the choices we make, from an acclaimed writer at the height of her powers.

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About the author… 
Louise Doughty is the author of seven novels, including Apple Tree Yard, published by Faber & Faber UK. So far, rights have sold in fourteen territories worldwide. Apple Tree Yard is her first novel since Whatever You Love, which was shortlisted for the Costa Novel Award and long-listed for the Orange Prize for Fiction. She has won awards for radio drama and short stories, along with publishing one work of non- fiction, A Novel in a Year, based on her hugely popular newspaper column. She is a critic and cultural commentator for UK and international newspapers and broadcasts regularly for the BBC.

My thoughts…
I'm a member of a book group and this book was chosen by the host of our next meeting which will be on Tuesday 7th January.  I'll be very interested to hear if everyone shares the same thought as me.

I swing between chick lit and psychological thrillers, two extremes which equally satisfy. As I had read quite a few christmassy themed chick lit novels in December I was craving grit and looking forward to reading Apple Tree Yard.  

It didn't disappoint, I was hooked from the first page.  The book begins towards the end of a court case at The Old Bailey.  The narrator is in the person in the dock, just realising their fate.  At this stage it's not known who or what this case is about but I couldn't help feeling deep empathy - Louise Doughty's description of the accused had my heart beating faster and I was only on the prologue!

Through a series of flashbacks  Louise takes us back to where it all began when super confident Yvonne Carmichael first meets the man who takes control of her totally, her life and her every waking thought. She wasn't consciously unhappy with her life yet the speed at which she is sucked into an affair suggests to me sub-consciously she was.   

Louise Doughty's research was clearly very thorough and her writing style dragged me straight into Yvonne's life as if she was someone I knew yet a chapter later I didn't know her at all.  Hat's off to you Louise.  As I progressed through the book I read faster and faster devouring each chapter trying to second guess where the story was going. For every bit I understood there was twice as much I didn't which kept me glued.

I don't think I've ever come across an author who describes a scene in such detail then suddenly ends it in a short sentence to change direction at the same time keeping me glued to the page. Superb!

I was saddened when the pages ran out on this book - but Louise left me thinking.  I would lay down my life for my family - or would I?  

I highly recommend this book and I will be seeking out more from Louise Doughty.