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

The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

The-Cows-Dont-Follow-The-Heard-All-things-books-blog

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.

 

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commercial fiction · fiction · HarperCollins Publishers · new reads

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor-Oliphant-Is-Completely-Fine-book-review-all-things-books-blog

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.

HarperCollins Publishers · Women's Fiction

Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

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Every woman has a secret life…

When Nikki takes a creative writing job at her local temple, with visions of emancipating the women of the community she left behind as a self-important teenager, she’s shocked to discover a group of barely literate women who have no interest in her ideals.

Yet to her surprise, the white dupatta of the widow hides more than just their modesty – these are women who have spent their lives in the shadows of fathers, brothers and husbands; being dutiful, raising children and going to temple, but whose inner lives are as rich and fruitful as their untold stories. But as they begin to open up to each other about womanhood, sexuality, and the dark secrets within the community, Nikki realises that the illicit nature of the class may place them all in danger.

East meets west and tradition clashes with modernity in a thought-provoking cross-cultural novel that might make you look again at the women in your life…

I had seen the book cover of this beauty filling my twitter feed and was first attracted to read it because of the cover and the title, which immediately screamed: THIS IS A BOOK YOU WANT TO READ AIYSHA!

I’m very grateful for HarperCollins who allowed me to review this title.

Set in Southall the book explores the lives and stories of Sikh immigrant Punjabi widows through a writing class that sparks their creativity. Balli effortlessly creates a protagonist stuck in the middle of two cultures: Punjabi  and British. I immediately clicked with Nikki as I too find myself in a similar position and therefore found it very easy to relate to her struggles and desires for both independence and acceptance in both worlds.

Balli breaks the boundary between eroticism and Punjabi widows so beautifully by bringing these two ideas to the forefront and equally showing us that even older women have desires for love and sexual fulfilment. And to read these women’s stories is also hilarious!

Reading this book was effortless, the chapters explore the main plot concerning the writing class for the widows, but this then also beautiful explores the lives of some of the women in the community, especially that of Kulvinder and her past. Alongside this, we also have the  narrative of Nikki’s personal life between herself and her family and her relationship with Jason. These subplots merge seamlessly together and provide a gripping read. I believe we need more books like this, focusing on the asian community in order to crush taboos and bring life experiences and perspectives of immigrant asian women to the forefront.

A brilliant read and a fantastic cover. I’ve already recommended to friends and family.

Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows was published by HarperCollins in March 2017.

 

Avon · fiction · HarperCollins Publishers · psychological thrillers

Perfect Remains by Helen Fields

perfect-remains-800x528Devoured in three days, it was that brilliant!

On a remote Highland mountain, the body of Elaine Buxton is burning. All that will be left to identify the respected lawyer are her teeth and a fragment of clothing.

In the concealed back room of a house in Edinburgh, the real Elaine Buxton screams into the darkness…

Detective Inspector Luc Callanach has barely set foot in his new office when Elaine’s missing persons case is escalated to a murder investigation. Having left behind a promising career at Interpol, he’s eager to prove himself to his new team. But Edinburgh, he discovers, is a long way from Lyon, and Elaine’s killer has covered his tracks with meticulous care.

It’s not long before another successful woman is abducted from her doorstep, and Callanach finds himself in a race against the clock. Or so he believes … The real fate of the women will prove more twisted than he could have ever imagined.

Perfect Remains has all the right amount of ingredients for a chilling page-turning psychological thriller. It has a complex yet original plot and an intriguing lead that keeps readers hooked from the very first page.

Helen was able to really develop each of her characters, which played an integral role in the plot. The nameless killer who we meet at the very beginning was developed so beautifully and realistically. Dr. King is a university lecturer, a very normalish looking man and you wouldn’t think he would be capable of going to such extents to torture the women, (I would say) he could never really have.

The character of Luc Callanach was also very interesting due to his sordid past and saucy attitude. He became a likeable detective quite early on in the book and the relationship he shares with Ava Turner is also likeable, though I wished there was a bit more of a romantic thread there – maybe in book 2, fingers crossed!

The book is narrated by alternating chapters between Callanach and his department, and by the murderer himself as he uncovers his hidden tracks for abducting his female victims. My favourite chapters had to be (hands down) when Dr. King gets to work in capturing and torturing his victims. I also found it really creepy how he wanted them to learn German and recite German to him. What a sick guy but still couldn’t stop reading as the plot was so dark and compelling.

Helen was able to run multiple story lines at the same time, which also added more tension to the main plot. I was extremely happy when the investigation came to a close and all was solved. I’m looking forward to reading Perfect Prey and have high expectations of it.

Perfect Remains was published in January 2017 by Avon.

2016 · commercial fiction · fiction · HarperCollins Publishers · historical novel · new reads · Uncategorized

The Girl from The Savoy by Hazel Gaynor | Review

https://allthingsbooksweb.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/the-girl-from-the-savoy-book-review-all-things-books-blog-20161012_093007_hdr-2.jpg?w=663This is a dazzling historical novel that portrays the thrilling era of the 1920s. One of the main protagonists, Dolly Lane is a dreamer by nature and a maid by profession. She longs to wear fancy outfits and dance on the London stage, but the Great War has fractured her life. The memories of the soldier she loved and desperately wanted to start a life with, of secret shame and profound loss, by turns pull her back and encourage her to make a better life.

When she finds employment as a chambermaid at London’s finest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly takes a step closer to the glittering lives of the Bright Young Things. But her fortune takes an unexpected turn when she responds to a struggling songwriter’s advertisement for a ‘muse’ and finds herself thrust into London’s exhilarating theatre scene and into the lives of well-known actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry.

The two protagonists, Dolly and Loretta share the narrative, which reveals their struggles – one who is striving to become an actress and the other whose days on the stage as an actress are coming to an end. Perry becomes the integral thread that entwines the two women’s lives together. 

The Girl from The Savoy is a good read with a dynamic plot and realistic, relatable and well-developed characters. Loretta and Dolly’s story is heartbreaking towards the end and each woman’s individual story has a lot of emotional depth that will move you as it moved me.

The Girl from The Savoy was published by HarperCollins in 2016.