Thursday, 26 March 2015

Book Review - The Gospel According to Drew Barrymore by Pippa Wright

The Gospel According to Drew Barrymore
The Gospel According to Drew Barrymore
Published: 26th March 2015
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Pages: 406
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Friendship is like a shark: it has to keep moving forwards to survive.

Esther and Laura have been best friends since they were seven. Quite a bit has changed since then . . . They've swapped school for full-time employment, boyfriends for bugaboos, experimental hair-dye for salon-preened locks - and their friendship has evolved just as much. But they remain close, knitted together by the bonds of time . . .

So when Esther is told that Laura has gone missing, she immediately leaves her husband and small child for San Francisco and begins to trace her friend's last movements. All she has is an email from Laura: 'I'm channelling Drew Barrymore, as ever. The Gospel, right?'

In trying to understand why Laura has disappeared, and what on earth Drew Barrymore has to do with it, Esther needs to look back. Back at the secrets woven into their friendship and the truths she's avoided facing for so long
The Gospel According to Drew Barrymore is the story of friendship between Laura and Esther who have grown up together. Drifting in and out of each other’s lives for many years these two share an unbreakable bond. So when Laura goes missing without a trace, Esther fearing the worst drops everything and flies to Napa to search for her best  friend.
The story flips backwards and forwards between Esther’s search for Laura in the present day and flashbacks of their shared history when they tend to look at Drew Barrymore’s latest film to get them out of their current fix, quoting to each other “What would Drew do?” Being of a similar age to Laura and Esther I loved the references to the Drew Barrymore films and they brought back many memories of when I watched the same films.
I found it really hard to like either Laura or Esther. We only see Laura through Esther’s eyes but what we see is someone who is completely selfish and has no regard to the feelings of those around her. She seems to only be concerned with Ester’s friendship when it is some benefit to her.  I also found Esther to be a little weak, often changing her plans or left waiting because Laura has decided to do something else and never standing up to her friend.
The story flowed well and quick enough for me to keep interested is the story and what had happened to Laura. This was my first time reading a book by Pippa Wright and I would definitely pick up another in the future. If you’re looking for a book with a refreshingly honest look at long lasting friendships then give this a go.
Thank you to Pan Macmillan for sending me a copy to review. I would give this book a rating of 4/5.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Book Review - Secrets of the Tower by Debbie Rix
Secrets of the Tower by Debbie Rix
Published: 20th March 2015
Publisher: Bookouture
Pages: 400
Available in Paperback and on Kindle
Two women, centuries apart, bound together by the secrets of one of the most iconic buildings ever created.

Pisa, 1999
Sam Campbell sits by her husband’s hospital bed. Far from home and her children, she must care for Michael who is recovering from a stroke. A man she loves deeply. A man who has been unfaithful to her.

Alone and in need of distraction, Sam decides to pick up Michael’s research into the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Immersing herself in the ancient city, she begins to piece together the mystery behind the creation of the tower, and discovers the woman who history forgot…

Pisa, 1171
Berta di Bernardo, the wife of a rich merchant, sits in her chamber, dressing for a dinner party. A gathering that will change the course of her life and a young master mason, Gerardo, forever.

A strong, intelligent woman, Berta’s passion for architecture also draws her closer to Gerardo. As she embarks on a love affair, her maid Aurelia also becomes spellbound by the same man. Yet for Berta, her heart’s desire is to see the Tower built, and her determination knows no bounds…


Secrets of the Tower by Debbie Rix is the story of how the Tower of Pisa came to be designed and the mystery surrounding who designed it. It is told from two viewpoints, one in 1999 and one when the tower was being designed around 1172. It is the perfect mix of old and new perspectives which although separate stories, together uncover some of the mystery of the tower and the passionate people behind it.

The story begins in 1999 with Sam, who has just learnt her husband has been unfaithful. She then gets a call to say he has had a stroke while in Italy researching the history of the tower. In turmoil she heads off to Italy to nurse her nurse her husband but soon finds herself caught in the mystery of the tower. When she meets Dario Visalberghi a man with local connections they begin to find some clues to the mysteries surrounding the tower.

The second viewpoint is mostly told from the perspective of Berta di Bernardo, the wife of wealthy merchant Lorenzo Calvo, who being the daughter of an architect has an interest in the buildings being designed in Pisa. She meets and falls in love with Gerado di Gerado a young carpenter and with her wealth and influence helps to further his career within Pisa. We also hear some of the story from Gerado and also Aurelia, Berta’s young maid.

I really enjoyed reading this book, the writing style made it easy to follow and it flowed well between the two viewpoints. I did prefer the historical aspect of the book more than the modern day setting. I think this was because there was more background story to the characters and their love triangle kept the story from purely being about the buildings.

The thing I loved most about this book was the love of Pisa that came through from all the characters, it seems to capture all their hearts, Berta’s most particularly. The passion for the city was in all the Pisans, wanting to it be seen as the most beautiful city in Italy was very inspiring and has made me want to visit this city even more.

Even though the backdrop to this book is the mystery of the tower this is essentially a tale of love in its many forms. Gerado is intoxicated by Berta and her beauty and wealth but also has a simpler, deeper long lasting love for Aurelia, but which woman will he choose to be with? Sam has to deal with infidelity in love and decide if she can forgive her husband or whether she should be swayed by the handsome Dario.

I’m surprised to learn that this is Debbie Rix’s first novel as I found it well written, very absorbing with realistic characters and the research which she must has done to have such detail in the book is outstanding. I cannot wait to see what she writes next as I’m sure it will be as brilliant as Secrets of the Tower. I give this book 5/5.

I would like to thank Bookouture for the advanced copy of this book.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Book Review - From Liverpool with Love by Lyn Andrews

From Liverpool With Love
From Liverpool With Love by Lyn Andrew
Published: 12th March 2015
Publisher: Headline
Pages: 368
Available in Hardback and on Kindle
In 1920s Liverpool, Jane, her little brother Alfie and their mother Ellen have faced the horrors of the workhouse together. But when Ellen dies, two very different paths open up for the siblings.

Jane is sent to work in the Empire Laundry and builds a new life for herself with the neighbours who take her in. She finds solace there and the promise of a happy future when she falls for Joe, their eldest son.

But Alfie absconds from the workhouse and embarks on a life of crime. When their paths cross once more, Alfie turns on his sister. His plans will jeopardise every happiness she hoped for...
From Liverpool with Love is the latest novel from the hugely successful Lyn Andrews and it is another brilliant family saga. Set in the back streets of Liverpool this novel focuses on the Shaw family and particularly young Jane Shaw.
As the novel begins Ellen Shaw has decided she can no longer cope after the death of her husband Eddie and has to move into the local workhouse Brownlow Hill. After entering the workhouse Ellen is separated from daughter Jane and young delinquent son Alfie.  As the years pass the family face a number of tragedy’s but hardworking Jane is given a chance to start her life again when she is offered a job on the outside in the local Empire Laundry. Here she meets the owner James Davenport and Jane’s life takes a turn for the better, until Alfie shows up once more.
As with all Lyn Andrews novels I was instantly hooked on this story, her writing style is so comforting and just makes you want to keep reading. This novel deals with the hardships of the Shaw family including grief, poverty and separation but I didn’t find it depressing at all.
Jane is an instantly likable character, she is hard working and positive and always tries to see the best in people, even brother Alfie who seems to be a lost cause. I felt a little saddened when every time she seemed to gain a little happiness something would come along and ruin it for her. I’m glad that eventually she was able to find a happy ending, even though this was somewhat predictable.
From Liverpool With Love was another great novel from Lyn Andrews with just enough drama to keep me interested. A perfect read for a rainy afternoon. I give this novel 4/5 and look forward to Lyn’s next offering.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Book Review - A Place for Us by Harriet Evans

A Place For Us
A Place for Us by Harriet Evans
Published: 15th January 2015
Publisher: Headline Review
Pages: 448
Available in paperback and on Kindle
From international bestselling author Harriet Evans, an engrossing new novel about a woman who, on the eve of her eightieth birthday, decides to reveal a secret that may destroy her perfect family.
The day Martha Winter decided to tear apart her family began like any other day.

When Martha, a wife and mother of three, sits down one late summer’s morning to write out the invitations to her eightieth birthday celebration, she knows that what she is planning to reveal at the party could ruin the idyllic life she and her husband David have spent over fifty years building…

But she has to let her family know what she and David have sacrificed. She can’t live a lie any more.

The invitation goes out far and wide, calling her three children and their families back home to Winterfold, their rambling house in the heart of the English countryside. They are Bill, the doctor; Florence, the eccentric academic; and Daisy, the child who never fit in. As the story unfolds, each character reveals the secrets, joys, and tragedies they are wrestling with through the confines of the family. What will happen when Martha finally tells the truth?
Harriet Evans seems to be one of those authors that I’ve heard about but never managed to actually read, so when given the chance to read her latest novel I decided to give her ago. A Place for Us has previously been released in e-book form in four parts over four consecutive months. I’m glad I was able to read this all is one go as parts one and two definitely left me wanting to see what would happen next.
A Place for Us is centred on Martha and David Winter and their extended family who are spread across the globe. Martha is about to turn eighty and decides it’s time to tell her family some truths, so she summons her family home for a party to celebrate and get everything out in the open. Their three children Bill, Daisy and Florence and their two grandchildren Cat and Lucy make their way home for the party wondering what is going to happen when they arrive home.
Bill their eldest son has stayed close to the family home Winterfold and is the village GP. He’s struggling to make second wife Karen happy. He daughter from his first marriage is struggling in her job in the fashion section of a newspaper, she longs to be a proper writer. Daisy the eldest girl and is away doing charity work in India. Her daughter Cat, who was raised at Winterfold by Martha and David is currently struggling with life in Paris and is hiding a big secret from her family. Florence is Martha and David’s youngest daughter and she is highly academic and working as a University lecturer in Italy. We are also introduced to Joe Thorne who is working as a chef in the local pub and has his own connections to some members of the family.
A Place for Us is told through the eyes of many characters, each having their own chapters, with so many characters I was initially a little concerned as each chapter introduced us to yet another character. However Harriet Evans has done a remarkable job of making each of these characters have a distinctive voice making their individual stories easy for me to follow.  My favourite characters were Joe and Cat, probably because they are a similar age to me and I could relate to their feelings. I also felt the Cat probably had the most to deal with after Martha’s revelation and it was interesting to see how she coped.
I really enjoyed parts one and two of this book, the introduction of all the characters and their situations was well done and helped build a picture of this family. I’d really love a home like Winterfold myself, it seemed like such a comforting place to be. I loved the way it was like a beacon to them all. They’re all off living their lives all apart but are all drawn back to Winterfold when their lives become in crisis, as if its walls provide them with a security blanket.
In the aftermath of Martha’s confession there is a lot of devastation in the family as other secrets become known. The thing which I didn’t really enjoy was all the flashbacks into David’s early life, they added a little to the story but I felt annoyed by them because I wanted to find out how to family were coping and the flashbacks detracted from that too much for me.
I felt A Place for Us started off really well but for me the middle part was too padded out with flashbacks and I just lost the pace of the book a little.  I will definitely read more from this author as I loved her characters. I’d rate this book 3/5 as I liked it but it didn’t wow me.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Book Review - The Torn Up Marriage by Caroline Roberts

The Torn Up Marriage
The Torn Up Marriage by Caroline Roberts
Published: 5th March 2015
Publisher: Harper Impulse
Pages: 299
Available on Kindle
Why do we hurt the ones we love, and can there ever be a way back?
“The Torn Up Marriage” is about betrayal, complacency, love and loss, and that key instinct to protect your family. But what happens when you tear that family apart? Kate and Michael are about to find out as they cope with the crushing fallout of his affair, whilst trying to protect their two young children. This powerful and poignant novel captures the explosiveness of everyday life and what it is to be human; to make mistakes.
Set in the historic town of Alnwick, Northumberland, with its stunning backdrop of castles, moorland hills and coastline, this relationship story of love and family takes you in a rollercoaster ride of emotions along with Kate and Michael.
Michael’s mother’s battle with breast cancer shatters them all, yet shows them how precious life, love and family is. Can they find a way back and fight for their battered yet enduring love?
So, what would you do if it happened to you? Could you betray? Could you forgive?

The Torn Up Marriage is the tale of a marriage break up following an affair and how the two sides deal with the fallout from the betrayal. It details all the stages you would expect to go through after a break up including telling the parents, friends, getting back out in the world socially and the eventually meeting of the new partner.

The book starts with Kate making dinner and everything seeming normal but as the paragraphs unfolded you could actually feel her tension as she waits to confront her husband Michael about having an affair. I was totally gripped by this first chapter, it is exactly how I would imagine that scene playing out in real life and the build-up of tension as Kate wonders exactly how to start that awful conversation is just brilliant, I could actually feel my heart racing and was wondering what exactly Michael would do.

As Michael admits that yes he is having an affair and eventually packs his bags to move in with his mistress, you can feel Kate’s world crumble around her as her marriage is ripped apart. The story goes on to detail how both Kate and Michael deal with the break-up. Kate with her anger, loss and humiliation and the difficulty of trying to keep an everyday normal routine going for her two young girls when all she wants to do is drown her sorrows in a glass of wine. Michael with his guilt of ripping his family apart, watching the confusion in his daughter’s eyes’ as they think daddy’s left because he doesn’t love them anymore.

This is a book which deals with everyday emotions when life gets hard, it doesn’t sugar coat them either, some of these scenes are ugly, especially watching Kate turn to the alcohol more and more. They way this book was written sometimes had my stomach in knots with a feeling that something really bad would happen.

The thing I liked most about this book was the way the children were written about. Charlotte and Emily were such lovely innocent little girls that ended being so confused about what was going on and it wrenched at my heart to see them sad. This was very realistic to me and I’m glad it wasn’t glossed over.

The Torn Up Marriage is a book which had me emotionally involved right from the start and I really felt I was right there experiencing all the emotions myself. If you want a book that will really make you question what you would do in a similar situation this is it. Would you stay or go? Would you ever forgive? Would you be tempted in the first place?

I thought this book was brilliantly written and the emotions were spot on, cannot wait to read more from this author.  I would give this book 5/5, simply for the pure emotion it conveys.

Thank you to Harper Impulse for sending me an arc copy to read.