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.

 

 

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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

the-idea-of-you-aiysha-reads

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.

 

 

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.

 

Bookouture · fiction

Revenge by Nigel May

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If you keep dangerous secrets you’ll pay the ultimate price…

In the South of France, playground of the rich and famous, world renowned chef Dexter Franklin is organising a night to remember. As he opens the doors to his exclusive restaurant for the first time, he’s handpicked a list of guests, as hot and dazzling as the St Tropez sun itself:

Mew Stanton: Fashionable, beautiful and a notorious TV chef, Dexter’s ex-girlfriend has all the ingredients for success. As her books fly off the shelves, a secret from her past is about to surface with explosive consequences. 

Holly Lydon: Ex girlband star who has fallen on hard times. Forced to make ends meet she’s having to sleep her way to the top. Now she’s making headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Rosita Velázquez: Brazilian actress extraordinaire and girlfriend of Dexter’s brother, Leland. When she’s in town everybody needs to know about it, but this is one show-stopping entrance she’ll live to regret.

Three women have a past with Dexter and a grudge to bear against him. As fireworks ignite in the jet set capital of Europe, there’s murder on the menu. Who will be served their just desserts?

The sun is setting in the South of France. Pour yourself a glass of champagne and sit back for a read of revenge, regrets and shocking revelations that will have you hooked to the very last page.

This is the first book that I’ve read by Nigel May as it was one of the books I was helping to represent at the literary agency I was working for. This is by far one of those drama-filled, very character-drive and action-packed book that you can’t seem to put down and you even miss your tube stop (happened to me) because of it!

Revenge has a deep element of mystery woven throughout. It begins by Dexter Franklin sending invites to a whole host of versatile characters to her newest restaurant opening in the hear of St.Tropez. Determined to make the eve of the restaurant opening a success, he invites the right mix of people. The five characters which the entire book focuses on all have a hidden past which gets pulled to the forefront as we’re told why they’re each invited by Dexter.

Though each character is distinct in their own ways, they each have had encounters with each other and a past that begins to piece the present plot into making much more sense. I thought focusing on five charters might get a bit confusing and messy but trust me, it was put together so eloquently and because the characters were unique, it worked very well. The chapters were Nigel goes back into the past to explore the characters past adds to the present and also allows us to get a better understanding of each of the five characters – as nobody is perfect, no matter how much they may appear to be on the surface, everybody has skeletons hidden in the closet.

Throughout Revenge, there is a real sense of tension building up and towards the end of the book, Nigel indeed, finishes with a big bang. Nigel has a talent for taking universal themes: love, betrayal, dreams, desires and weaving these ideas seamlessly through well-developed characters and plot.

I can’t wait to see what else comes from Nigel May. I’d recommend Revenge for anyone who is prepared to jet off to St. Tropez for some action-packed tension and drama.

Revenge was published by Bookouture in 2017.

 

 

Avon · fiction · Women's Fiction

If Ever I fall by S.D Robertson

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Is holding on harder than letting go?

Dan’s life has fallen apart at the seams. All he’s ever wanted is to keep his family together, but everything seems beyond repair and, try as he might, he can’t turn back time.

Maria is drowning in grief. She spends her days writing letters that will never be answered, unable to connect with the real world.

In the face of real tragedy, can this couple find a way to reconcile their past with a new future? And is love enough to carry them through? 

I’d heard so much about this book that I knew I had to get my hands on it. It’s been a long time since I’ve been touched by a genuine, emotionally-gripping and beautifully written story and it was effortless to read. The story reveals and centres around a broken family that are trying to get through the storm of loss and devastation.  This is achieved by having three very distinct narrative threads and it did take a while to understand that all three were deeply connected to one another.

There is Maria who writes letters to Sam as a way of dealing with the tragic loss that she is struggling to come to terms with. She also writes these letters as a means to explore her marriage with Dan and to also calm her OCD. Each time Maria writes a letter to Sam, the plot moves forward in time, which allows the plot to unfold.

Then there is Dan and each time we meet him, the time is going backwards leading up to a very specific, tragic event (that would be every parent’s nightmare) that happened a couple of years ago. In the book we get to see how both Maria and Dan deal with this tragic event, but in their own  unique ways. We also see how this event alone has strained their marriage and their family dynamics, as everything from that point onwards feels as though it is falling a part.

There is also a man named Jack who is suffering from severe amnesia and is being looked after by a retired Dr. Miles in a remote part of Wales. Jack tries to regain his memory and does sometimes gets flashes of memory but fails to understand how they’re connected to himself. I thought the exploration of amnesia through Jack’s character was very insightful as I knew very little about the illness and it helps to bring awareness to the severity of it.

Towards the end of the book, these three separate strands come together by looking at the tragic event itself, as Dan relives the devastation (not going to say what happens, but it would be most parents’ nightmare to have to go through this.) As the threads are woven together, everything begins to make perfect sense.

This is a touching book that explores the complexities of a nuclear family and how a family can cope with loss. This book also focuses on marriage and the complexities of a marriage fizzling out when children are involved. I thoroughly enjoyed reading every part of it as the plot and characters was well developed and I love losing myself in other people’s lives to take the pressure off of focusing on my own life so much, and this book allowed me to do just that.

If Ever I Fall was published on 9 February by Avon.

 

 

 

 

 

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.