Review: The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola

The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola at first glance might appear niche in terms of its subject matter, which concerns folklore and fairy tales from the Isle of Skye crofting community. However, there is far more to this story than initially meets the eye so stop and take a look, don’t pass it by!

Story keeping enthusiast Audrey Hart has a keen, inherited interest in Skye folklore and is employed by the reclusive Miss Buchanan to document the folk tales from the somewhat evasive and tight-lipped locals readying them for publishing.

During her time at Lanerly, Audrey discovers the body of a girl washed ashore. Local girls are disappearing. The crofting community is cautious and untrusting. Is this the magic of the stories at work or something more present and sinister?

Woven into the folklore are stories of missing girls and the history of how Audrey’s mother came to be on the Isle of Skye and how she met her sad demise.

The Story Keeper is a period novel, dating back to the 1850s. The writing is incredibly descriptive. It’s dark, brooding and atmospheric which enhances the mood of the story hugely. I wasn’t expecting twisty so I was surprised that towards the end the plot had me gripped and turning the pages ever quicker.

This one is not my usual read by any means and I wouldn’t necessarily have chosen it whilst bookshop browsing but I do feel I’d have missed out if I’d passed it by. I really enjoyed it. It’s well written and unusual and perfect if you’re looking for something a little different.

So it’s four slightly eerie, dark and moody stars from me. Thank you Headline and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this novel prior to publishing (July 2018)  I’m sure it will be a big hit.

 

Review: Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

Cross Her Heart is the new psychological thriller by best selling author of Behind Her Eyes, Sarah Pinborough. It’s due for release in May 2018 and let me just start by saying that it completely delivers.

It’s Lisa’s story. Lisa is the polite, friendly, unassuming and slightly over protective Mum of Ava. Ava is sixteen, thinks she knows everything and is at a time in her life when the world holds opportunity and the potential for love and excitement.

Although the mother / teenager relationship initially appears pretty standard there’s much hidden. Multiple narrators in Lisa, Ava and Lisa’s friend Marilyn tell the story. Lisa’s story is also divided into three timelines, Before, After and Now. It sounds complicated but it’s honestly not and the story weaves seamlessly from one timeline to the next.

In the here and now, keen swimmer Ava heroically rescues a child in a near drowning incident and secrets hidden deep in the past are upended, revealing a tragedy that ripped friendships apart and completely changed lives.

The three main characters are completely credible. They are both vulnerable and strong, feisty and at the same time helpless and each carries their own burden. Intriguingly, the male characters in this story are mostly abusive or untrustworthy which brings into question the motivation of the only one who isn’t.

It’s a gripping story of women and struggle, of love and friendship, of secrets, betrayal and lies.

The story questions stereotypes of poverty and extreme abuse versus stability, normality and relative prosperity.

I give it five stars because it’s original, disturbing, harrowing, twisty and complex. Don’t miss it!

Thanks to Netgalley and Harper Collins UK, HarperFiction for the opportunity to preview this book prior to publishing date.

Review: The Songs Of Us, by Emma Cooper

Rarely does a book come along that is as unique and mesmerising as The Songs Of Us. It’s reminiscent of (and in my humble opinion right up there with) Me Before You by Jojo Moyes and Cecilia Aherne’s PS I Love You.

The story is about the aptly named Melody and her propensity to involuntarily sing completely appropriate songs at entirely inappropriate moments. It’s about coping with loss, wading through the treacle of heartache and moving on with life. It’s a story about the wonderful sibling bond between Melody’s two angsty and troubled teenage children Flynn and Rose that proves the love of family conquers all.

The Songs Of Us is a completely unique and skillfully written tale. The book is littered with references to and lyrics of popular songs that most readers will recognise and with that in mind is a ready made soundtrack to what would undoubtedly make an unusual and touching film. The songs are cleverly written into the fabric of the story and never feel as if they’ve been shoehorned in.

What makes this book so special is Emma Cooper’s ability to make you laugh out loud in one upbeat and hilarious chapter and then have you crying silent, desperate tears in the next.

If it had been a hardback I’d have hugged it at the end. It was however a digital review copy so hugging was tricky. Thank you to Netgalley and Headline for the opportunity to review such a terrific book prior to general release.

The Songs Of Us is out in September 2018. Make a note and buy this one. I’m giving it five gently glittering and slightly tearful stars.

 

 

Review: The Girl I Used To Be by Mary Torjussen

A traumatic event in hard working, practical, wife and mother Gemma’s past comes back to haunt her in Mary Torjussen’s latest novel The Girl I Used To Be.

Gemma and Joe Brogan are in a bit of a rut. With her business struggling to stay afloat, husband Joe the stay at home parent and the feeling she’s missing out on motherhood Gemma is frustrated and questioning the future.

A chance encounter with a friendly face results in estate agent Gemma foolishly confiding her innermost thoughts. It soon becomes clear she has said too much.  With a photo of a stolen kiss, a photocopied receipt and an incriminating video clip in play the story takes a sinister turn as Gemma is blackmailed, tormented and stalked.  To make matters worse, the one person she’s desperate to turn to is the one person who will be hurt the most. Gemma realizes she must deal with the situation unaided until she finds an unlikely ally connected to the past.

The Girl I Used To Be is a thought provoking and simple story, beautifully written and linking back to tragic events that changed lives and families forever. It’s completely believable, it could happen to anyone and that’s why it’s so utterly readable.

I enjoyed this one just as much as Mary Torjussen’s previous novel Gone Without A Trace and therefore give it five sparkly golden stars out of five. Thank you Mary for another terrific read, I look forward to the next one!

With thanks to NetGalley and Headline for the advance copy of this title.

Review: The House of Hopes and Dreams

The House of Hopes and Dreams by Trisha Ashley

I’ve chosen the latest Trisha Ashley novel as the subject of my first review here at Off On A Tangent. I’m a big Kindle fan and I love the ease of use and simplicity of a reading app. However, on this occasion I was drawn to the hardback version of The House Of Hopes And Dreams where the pretty front cover very much sums up the look and feel of the story. It’s a bright and fresh cover showing a slightly quirky young lady in dungarees and DMs holding a stained glass window pane as she stands in front of a unique looking country house alongside some packing boxes and a cute little dog.

I have read pretty much every novel from this author because they tend to be the light hearted, funny and engaging read I crave after a busy day or when I have too much other stuff galloping around my head. Trisha has a way of telling a story that is ‘curl-up-on-the-sofa’ comforting.

Childhood friends Angel and Carey find themselves at a time in their lives when their friendship matters more than ever. As is customary with a Trisha Ashley novel the main characters are warm and likeable and the plot is completely believable.

The story follows Carey and Angel as they rekindle their friendship and renovate Carey’s run down inherited country residence, Mossby. The story cleverly weaves back to days long past with excerpts from the diary of celebrated stained glass worker Jessie Kaye revealing the story behind the secrets of the big house.

As they uncover clues to the mysteries of the house, strengthen bonds and friendships and become part of the village community will the unwanted attentions and actions of less pleasant characters interfere with the potential of a happy ever after?

Written in an engaging, witty and fresh style this is Trisha at her best so I give it a resoundingly cheery five stars. A proper feel good story for spring. For more about Trisha and her books visit her author’s page at Penguin (https://www.penguin.co.uk/authors/trisha-ashley/1078235/)

 

 

Books, books and even more books!

Hello everyone. Sorry it’s been so long, life (and ice hockey) got in the way there for a little while. Now that Spring has sprung, the daffodils are swaying in the breeze and little lambs are gamboling on thawing hillsides it’s time for a fresh start and to resurrect my blog. This time I’m reviewing books.

Each individual book means something different to each person who reads it. The stories I love most provide an escape and a distraction. I especially enjoy women’s fiction, psychological thrillers, rom-coms, historical fiction and autobiographies. My faves are stories that take me to another place and that are so unputdownable I don’t want to leave. I love a story that captures my attention and imagination and if there’s a clever twist or an unexpected ending I’ll be clapping like an excited child. I like characters that are three-dimensional and real, that I can love or hate and I’m drawn to quirky and different.

So here we are in March 2018 and I have 557 ‘read’ books on my Kindle. So far this year I’ve read 23 and we’re only 12 weeks in. I may read a lot but I choose carefully and therefore savour each and every word. Occasionally I’ll listen to an audible book whilst chilling in the bath with a glass of wine but mostly I read in bed, in the wee small hours when my dear friend insomnia comes calling.

If I love it, I’ll review it. If I like it, I’ll review it.  If I hate it, I’ll say nothing because if there’s one thing I’ve learnt whilst dabbling with writing fiction myself it’s that you can’t please everyone.  I also realise that authors put a huge chunk of their heart and soul into each and every story so it’s not up to me to pull it apart, it’s up to me to say so when I love it.

So although I have a mahoosive list of books I can’t wait to get my hands on, I’m also going to review a handful of my favourites from the 557. Get yourself a cuppa, snuggle in, and join me on my journey into fiction …..

 

 

Best Day Ever – a true story

My two friends and I stepped out of the taxi and into the warm spring sunshine. Architecturally stunning Sofitel St James stood proudly before us. As our luggage was unpacked from the car by the driver an immaculately dressed doorman with a trolley approached. ‘Welcome’ he said ‘Please follow me, Francesco is waiting for you’.

Entering through the familiar entrance and into the wonderfully scented foyer, wedding co-ordinator Francesco stood waiting. After a swift check in, he escorted us up to a beautiful and stylish suite. The three of us grinned at each other and Francesco watched as we took in the rooms and the little touches; the gift of a pretty silver photo frame, a stunning cake to enjoy with little china plates, silverware and linen napkins laid out on a glass topped table together with a bottle of champagne on ice and several glasses. Francesco left us to enjoy. We freshened up and popped down to the St James Bar to meet with some of the guests.

With all the arrangements taken care of by the unobtrusive and expert staff, we three simply relaxed with drinks and some bar snacks as we gradually welcomed more of the wedding party. My fiancé and the rest of the family arrived and were whisked away to their rooms to get ready and when it was time; us girls withdrew to the suite to prepare.

Once the registrars had completed their paperwork and it was nearing five o’clock, Francesco arrived promptly once more to take my two handsome sons and me down to the ceremony room. Every detail had been completed with the utmost care so as the doors opened my focus was entirely on my fiancé. The flower arrangements were stunning and as Tansy Aked and her fabulous Too Darn Hot band began playing When I Fall In Love my heart almost burst and happy tears formed in the corners of my eyes.

With the ceremony complete the doors swung open to where guests were arriving for the reception. The most delicate and delicious canapés were served with champagne as guests mingled happily until with a flourish the main doors were opened to reveal our reception suite. It was perfect in every way; the tables set exactly how I’d imagined with the most beautiful candelabra flower arrangements on each one. The band launched into the first of three sets of West End Theatre tunes, the singers took to the stage and the celebrations began.

Having enjoyed the attentions of the head chef just a few weeks previously at the menu tasting my new husband and I reveled in the fact that our guests were about to enjoy some wonderful culinary delights. As expected the beef fillet was sublime, the abundant desserts a triumph and the table of cheeses and port exceeded every expectation. We smiled at each other as our nearest and dearest nodded appreciatively as they feasted on each course and the wine flowed.

The magical evening I hoped would never end slowed and guests took a final drink or a coffee before disappearing to their rooms or making their way home. My husband and I retired to our suite and as we sat amongst the thoughtfully scattered rose petals on the bed we sipped one final glass of champagne and reminisced about our magical five star London wedding day.

Finally settling to slumber in a super comfy bed overlooking Waterloo Place our happy thoughts turned to the sweetest of dreams and the continuation of our happy ever after.