commercial fiction · fiction · HarperCollins Publishers · Women's Fiction

The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

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COW [n.]
/kaʊ/

A piece of meat; born to breed; past its sell-by-date; one of the herd.

Women don’t have to fall into a stereotype.

Tara, Cam and Stella are strangers living their own lives as best they can – though when society’s screaming you should live life one way, it can be hard to like what you see in the mirror.

When an extraordinary event ties invisible bonds of friendship between them, one woman’s catastrophe becomes another’s inspiration, and a life lesson to all.

Sometimes it’s ok not to follow the herd.

The Cows is a powerful novel about three women – judging each other, but also themselves. In all the noise of modern life, they need to find their own voice.

So what did I think about this most-raved-about book? Loved it. Devoured in two sittings. The story centres around three women: Tara, Cam and Stella – women who don’t know each other but become connected through shared experience of what it’s actually like being in woman in the modern world. Cam is a successful, award-winning blogger, famed for her feminism and for her outspoken honesty. She’s passionate about being childless and wants to tell all the other women out there that they too have choices.

Tara is a TV documentary maker and a single mother to her six- year old daughter, Annie. Stella is a PA to an award-winning photographer and struggles to deal with the loss of her twin sister, Alice and who she is without her twin sister. Three women, different in their own ways with three different stories, which are woven together beautifully.

The novel is set in a social media world, which highly resonates with the world we live in today, where a person can go from unknown to trending in a mere 60 seconds. Dawn explores the themes of motherhood to masturbation and everything else in between that whichever female picks this book up can relate to it in one way or another.

 

This was definitely a page turner of a read. Dawn has an art for story-telling as she seamlessly weaves three different lives together beautifully, with humour and honesty about what is actually means to be a woman in 2017. Ladies, go get you copy, and don’t follow the heard. Be you! That’s the message I got and I think it’s relevant and needed now more than ever.

The Cows was published by HarperCollins in April 2017.

 

commercial fiction · fiction · Penguin Random House UK · psychological thrillers

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

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PEOPLE ARE CAPABLE OF ALMOST ANYTHING.

‘Meticulously crafted and razor-sharp. THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR lingers long after you turn the final page’ HARLAN COBEN

Fast-paced and addictive, THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR announces a major new talent in thriller writing.

You never know what’s happening on the other side of the wall.

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.

You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

A fast-paced, page turning psychological thriller with a unique story centred around the kidnapping of a baby. There are many psychological thrillers out there that focus on a baby or a child being in some kind of danger, and while this is the case in this novel, you would never guess who could possibly take a baby.

Six month old Cora has been taken from her crib while she slept in her nursery of her parent’s upstate New York home. She has been taken in the middle of the night while her parents were attending a dinner party next door.

Cora’s parents, Anne and Marco, had not intended to leave their baby alone when they agreed to attend their next door neighbours’ birthday dinner. A sitter had been booked but then she cancelled. The childless couple next door had clearly stated that this was an adult only event. Marco, keen to enjoy an evening out, persuades Anne that they should attend the dinner party but take the baby monitor with them and take turns to check up on sleeping Cora every thirty minutes.

When they eventually returned late at night, drunk on wine and irritated by each other’s behaviour at the party, Marco and Anne find their front door ajar and their daughter gone.

The novel allows the readers to discern each of the main characters thought processes, which is really interesting. We have the mother, heaping guilt on herself for her port partum depression, for not appreciating the perfect baby, for allowing her husband to persuade her to go out without their child when she knew it was the wrong thing to do. We have the father, schooled and numbed, fearful of the impact this will have on his already fragile wife and their relationship, fully aware that the police investigation will bring to light financial troubles that he has kept secret from Anne. We also have the lead detective, meticulously carrying out his investigation, aware that in cases like these, the parents are most often to blame.

Anne has wealthy parents and hope that by offering money to the kidnappers, she’ll be able to get her baby back. But there is so much more than just a kidnapping that unfolds within this novel. The Couple Next Door also explores the delicate relationship between husband and in laws, deception, lies, heart ache and lastly appreciation.

This is definitely a good thriller. Why? Well, because I was hooked all the way through the novel. The plot had little to no holes, and it moved at a good pace. The events and layers of other issues were woven seamlessly and I couldn’t get through this novel quick enough. I could never also anticipate the twists that had me absolutely gripped.

The Couple Next Door was publishing by Transworld, Penguin Random House in April 2017.

 

commercial fiction · fiction · HarperCollins Publishers · new reads

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

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Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than… fine?

I really enjoyed reading this novel and have been waiting for it to be available to review on NetGalley for months!

Quite a lot of commercial fiction is now exploring the issues of mental illnesses but yet I’m surprised it’s taken until now to finally explore loneliness and thank you to Gail for achieving this so beautifully and seamlessly through Eleanor Oliphant.

To me, the most striking thing about this book is the character Eleanor Oliphant – she is an extremely well developed character that I can imagine seeing her on the big screens. As the reader, you do live inside Eleanor’s head, which was particularly interesting to me, though she’s not a cool character or that likeable in the beginning. Despite her articulate judgements of other people and her throughs of her own nature, you can’t help but like her. Why? Well, because she’s different and she’s figuring out who she is throughout the novel. And besides, being different is good, we need to celebrate it more. You end up caring about her and as the plot unfolds, it’s easy to realise that her grating qualities are only a product of doing mechanism to a much wider mental issue. Eleanor is undeniably an unreliable narrator, but it didn’t seem to bother me because through reading the novel, I got to understand her, and she is the most important character.

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine and the most she says it, the more she ends up believing it. Eventually, she believes it so much that she can’t seem to recognise let alone deal with how her past and her relationship with her mother is affecting her adult life.

This is a beautifully written book that takes you on an emotional roller coaster. Full of kean observations of the human condition, it has a well developed plot that moves at a good pace and even takes you on a few twists and turns. Towards the end of the book, you can’t help but fall in love for Eleanor for the changes she makes. The novel really is a journey to discovery and I was truly touched by Eleanor.

Thank you to HarperCollins for allowing me to review this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine was published in May 2017.

 

 

 

commercial fiction · HarperCollins Publishers · HQ Stories · new reads

The People At Number 9 by Felicity Everett

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Meet the new neighbours. Whose side are you on?

When Gav and Lou move into the house next door, Sara spends days plucking up courage to say hello. The neighbours are glamorous, chaotic and just a little eccentric. They make the rest of Sara’s street seem dull by comparison.

When the hand of friendship is extended, Sara is delighted and flattered. Incredibly, Gav and Lou seem to see something in Sara and Neil that they admire too. In no time at all, the two couples are soulmates, sharing suppers, bottles of red wine and childcare, laughing and trading stories and secrets late into the night in one another’s houses.

And the more time Sara spends with Gav and Lou, the more she longs to make changes in her own life. But those changes will come at a price. Soon Gav and Lou will be asking things they’ve no right to ask of their neighbours, with shattering consequences for all of them…

Have you met The People at Number 9? A dark and delicious novel about envy, longing and betrayal in the suburbs…

I was super excited to read this but was quickly disappointed when I discovered a slow-moving plot and characters I couldn’t relate to. The plot focuses on a toxic friendship between two married couples, which moves from adulation at the start to disillusionment and a hard-earned self-knowledge by the closing chapters. Gav and Lou are the cool, new couple in the neighbourhood. They’re glamorous, carefree and full of their own creative importance. Sara and Neil, on the other hand, are reliable, average, middle-class couple that get sucked into the glamour and glits of Lou and Gav.

Felicity shows us the world through the eyes of Sara: her crush on Gav and Lou, her misgivings, her eventual (very slow) wake-up, which is spurred on by rejection and jealousy.

If  you are someone that needs to like the characters in the book, then this is not the book for you, as it wasn’t for me. I didn’t like the characters I was reading about – Gav and Lou were not people that I could relate to, though it was easier to relate to Sara regarding many things she experiences with her new neighbours. I found that the plot moved very slowly and there wasn’t a hook pulling me all the way through it. I stopped and started this novel a few times and decided to give one push and finish it all.

Thank you to HQ for allowing me to review this novel.

The People at Number 9 was published by HQ Stories, HarperCollins in April 2017.

 

 

Avon · commercial fiction · HarperCollins Publishers · new reads

The Escape by C L Taylor

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“Look after your daughter’s things. And your daughter…”

When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn’t.

The stranger knows Jo’s name, she knows her husband Max and she’s got a glove belonging to Jo’s two year old daughter Elise.

What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo’s own husband turn against her.

No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there’s only one way to keep her child safe – RUN.

The Sunday Times bestseller returns with her biggest and best book yet. The perfect read for fans of Paula Hawkins and Clare Mackintosh.

I read The Escape in three sittings because it really was that good! Here’s what I thought about it.

The story centres around Jo Blackmore who is un an unhappy marriage. She suffers from agoraphobia and is still grieving the loss of her first born. This loss has understandably made her over-protective of her daughter, Elise.

Quite early on in the novel Jo is approached by a strange women, Paula, in the street who claims she knows her husband, Max. This stranger makes Jo feel uneasy as she threatens Jo and her daughter; a chilling turn of events begin to unfold after this. This is certainly not the last time that Jo hears of Paula. The seed of doubt is planted in Jo’s mind, yet Max denies knowing anything about the odd woman that Jo describes to him. As the threat begins to turn into a harsh reality, life as Jo knows it becomes terrifying. Her parenting skills are questioned and the situation escalated until Jo’s own husband starts to turn against her. With no-one she can fully trust, where is Jo to turn?

A good psychological thriller will dive straight into the story and kick off with lots of action from the very first scene. Cally does exactly that with this novel. There is no sense of security as I read this – I had absolute no idea what was going to happen, I was almost always on the edge, fearing the worst but praying that things would work out for Jo. This really was an excellently written, chilling page-turner from the very beginning all the way to the end.

Jo is a fascinating and complex character and it’s very easy to sympathise with her as she does go through an awful hell-of-alot throughout the novel. Her mental health is being called into question, which sometimes allows you to doubt her, but then you’re also being swayed to doubt Max too. So, who can you really trust? Cally creates believable and realistic cases for both Jo and Max and she allows both characters’ viewpoints to come across successfully throughout the novel.

The novel also allows the readers to relate to the circumstances being explored – especially through the character of Jo. It was very easy to feel her fear, anxiety, confusion etc as the plot developed. Being without children, I tried to put myself in her situation – what would I do if I had to protect my child at all costs? I was on one big adrenaline rush reading this novel and could not highly recommend it enough. I like books that make me think, but also surprise me with great, big hooks and twists and turns.

Many thanks to the Avon team for allowing me to review this.

The Escape was published by Avon, HarperCollins on March 2017.

commercial fiction · fiction · Women's Fiction

The Idea Of You by Amanda Prowse

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With her fortieth birthday approaching, Lucy Carpenter thinks she finally has it all: a wonderful new husband, Jonah, a successful career and the chance of a precious baby of her own. Life couldn’t be more perfect.

But becoming parents proves much harder to achieve than Lucy and Jonah imagined, and when Jonah’s teenage daughter Camille comes to stay with them, she becomes a constant reminder of what Lucy doesn’t have. Jonah’s love and support are unquestioning, but Lucy’s struggles with work and her own failing dreams begin to take their toll. With Camille’s presence straining the bonds of Lucy’s marriage even further, Lucy suddenly feels herself close to losing everything…

This heart-wrenchingly poignant family drama from bestselling author Amanda Prowse asks the question: in today’s hectic world, what does it mean to be a mother?

I read this book without having actually read much about it, though knowing it was women’s fiction, that was just about all I knew. This book focuses on a couple that are trying to get pregnant and follows their journey through a few heart-breaking misscariages. I’ve not read much or thought so much about what it must feel like to have a misscarriage but Amanda captures the pain and heart-broke so beautifully through her protagonist Lucy. I really feel for Lucy because she feels a strong desire to get pregnant and every time it happens for her, she ends up loosing the baby and I can only imagine how difficult and strenuous that can be for a couple.

An extra layer of difficult is added for Lucy when her step daughter, Camille from France comes to stay for a few weeks in the holiday. Lucy struggles to form a relationship with the sixteen-year old and slowly starts to feel like an outsider in her own home. She does everything she possibly can to make Camille feel welcome and at home, but the effort and respect is not reciprocated as Lucy had hoped. When Camille meets Dex from her part-time job, we learn that she falls pregnant – and this news turns both Lucy’s and Jonah’s world upside down. Nevertheless, Lucy finds the strength to support Camille through the pregnancy, even though she has to watch another woman go through exactly what she has yearned for. This had to be the most exciting part of the novel for me because it was unexpected and gaged my interest (I only wish it came a bit sooner, as the plot started to feel stagnant half way through). I think it’s very mature and kind-hearted of Lucy to support Camille and give her all the tiny clothes (she had kept onto of her wardrobe for her own baby) to Camille.

We learn that Lucy has secrets of her own, and this ties in very nicely with the structure of the book – after each chapter, Lucy writes a small section about her thoughts and feelings about getting pregnant. But later on in the novel, we understand the reason for this as it does have a wider purpose and I thought it ties in beautifully with the wider plot – won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read it.

I liked Lucy and Jonah’s characters as I think Amanda portrays marriage realistically though them – it’s not a bed of roses and it can get quite complicated and it was nice to be given the truth rather than a fairytale. I also liked the portrayal of a woman going through misscariages and Lucy’s journey in accepting  not having a baby and finding happiness in all that she currently has. It was nice to see that  Lucy  could  nurture and mother Camille once their relationship strengthened that she realised that she didn’t need to give birth to feel like a mother after all.

The Idea Of You was published in March 2017 by Amazon.

 

 

2016 · commercial fiction · fiction · Hachette · Little, Brown Book Group · new reads · psychological thrillers

The Primrose Path by Rebecca Griffiths | Review

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This psychological thriller is about Sarah, known as Rachel, who was abducted in a high profile case some years earlier. She learns that her abductor is due to be released from prison having served his sentence and decides to protect herself by leaving her life, friends and family in London. Sarah moves to a remote part of south Wales on the edge of the Brecon Beacons as Rachel. Within this area, there are four properties that are not far distant from each other and so, in addition to Rachel, we also gradually learn about the Morgans, Dai and Idris.

I found the first part of the book which is titled “50 years before” a challenging read. It’s quite dark and I did struggle to get into the plot though the characters are well developed and each have a distinct individual voice.

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Griffiths is an exceptional writer; there is a Welsh feel to the narrative with some nice turns of phrase even though it was dark. This book doesn’t explain everything as it goes along, it allows the readers to piece each puzzle of the story together, which was more enjoyable to be able to work it out on my own. It made me feel like an involved, active reader.

The Primrose Path is Rebecca Griffiths debut novel published Sphere in 2016.