Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Review - Necessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain

Necessary LiesNecessary Lies by Diane Chamberlain
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to rad - 3 days

Publisher - PAN

Pages - 335

Blurb from Goodreads

North Carolina, 1960. Newlywed Jane Forrester, fresh out of university, is seeking what most other women have shunned: a career. But life as a social worker is far from what she expected. Out amongst the rural Tobacco fields of Grace County, Jane encounters a world of extreme poverty that is far removed from the middle-class life she has grown up with. But worse is still to come. Working with the Hart family and their fifteen-year-old daughter Ivy, it’s not long before Jane uncovers a shocking secret, and is thrust into a moral dilemma that puts her career on the line, threatens to dissolve her marriage, and ultimately, determines the fate of Ivy and her family forever. Soon Jane is forced to take drastic action, and before long, there is no turning back.


My review

The book starts in present day, well 2011, and gives a brief cover on an event and then takes us back to 1960, North Carolina in America. Jane Forrester is a new wife, new graduate and looking to have a career. An anomaly for her time but desperate to have a career and help people she gets a job as a social worker. Jane is rich, married to a doctor and wants for nothing, her clients are struggling to survive, need help but are proud people. Jane finds herself drawn to one family in particular in a small rural community. Jane needs to keep to what is best for the community, the people and keep her personal feelings at bay or risk more than her job.

Aw this is a great story with sad and very real issues that were a "normal" part of society for the poorer people and how they where exploited. Forced sterilizations, women seen as outcasts for wanting something more than a baby, racism, in these days you take so much for granted and often forget the horrors inflicted upon previous generations.

The book focuses on relationships between the rich and the poor, societal attitudes, the love between families and how a look at human nature and just how good and bad it can be. The story is mostly told from the view point of Ivy, 15 years old and one of Jane's new clients, poor and limited education. The other is told from Jane's, both are from first person narrative and skillfully shows the stark differences between the world they inhibit.

I found it hard to put down and was really drawn in to the tale from the first few pages. Ivy is a great wee character and my heart went out to her for trying to take so much on her shoulders. Jane is a likable character but she annoyed me at times with some of her actions and even her docile attitude in regards to her husband at times. That said it reflects well the way a woman lived and was expected to live in the 1960s. It is a thought provoking book and certainly makes you think about society back when, if you didn't fit into what was deemed acceptable you could loose so much. At the end there is an authors note with some of the reading she undertook whilst preparing and writing this book, I aim to read some of them too as it is such a shocking and interesting subject. The chapters are named so you know who is talking, although they are so distinctive you would know without it and they are fairly short so you can dip in and out. Overall I really liked it so 4/5 for me this time. I of course will read this author again, I really enjoy her writing style and have read her before.

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Thursday, 17 October 2013

Review - Scarlet Women by Jessie Keane

Scarlet Women (Annie Carter #3)Scarlet Women by Jessie Keane
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 4 days

Blurb from Goodreads

She was a madam in a brothel, then a gangster’s moll. Now Annie Carter owns the East End of London, and God help anybody that crosses her.…

It’s 1970 and there’s a killer on the loose in London.

When gang boss Annie Carter gets a call, suddenly it’s personal. A close friend of hers is the latest victim, and another is in the frame for the murder.

With the hated Delaney gang still causing trouble, and NY mob boss Don Constantine Barolli’s family making no secret of the fact that they hate her, she senses a feud blowing up in all their faces very soon.

To save her old friend, Annie has to try to find out who’s been targeting the girls. Before long she’s diving head-first into the seedy underbelly of the streets.

How long before the killer strikes again? And who will the next victim be?


My Review

Annie is back home in London and ready to establish her businesses and as head of the Carter cartel. Before she can cut her teeth into all that needs done she gets a call that her friend has been killed and her associate is the prime suspect. Annie is torn between fixing her business, finding out who killed her friend, keeping the Delaney's at bay and keeping her mind off Constantine Barolli. Before too long Annie is in the deep of it and could lose everything she has worked so hard for and her life is in danger. You can't tread on so many toes without making enemies and Annie has many, could this be the end for Annie Carter?

The book starts on a cliff hanger, Annie is in a life threatening situation, death is imminent and she goes over the recent past to how she got here. She has a blast from the past she needs to try and protect which brings her to the wrong side of the Delaney twins. The police aren't looking for anyone else for her friends murder but Annie knows they have the wrong guy and that is just scratching the surface. There is lots going on in this book and a lot of action to keep your interest however this book feel a bit short for me compared to others in the series. For example in the last book Annie went through hell with her little girl yet in this book she is passed off to others whilst she deals with business. I just felt that whilst she wouldn't want her in the path of what was going on, you wouldn't just put her to the side to deal with all the dangerous stuff she does throughout this book.

The issues with the silver fox Don from America also annoyed me a little, it was very, I felt, almost teen angst. Not how an established woman like Annie would react really and especially, how it transpires much later in the book. I just felt Annie's character flipped around a bit which annoyed me a bit, otherwise though the story was quite good and does draw you in. I sincerely hope in the next installment we see some faces that have seemingly left the story reappear, one can only hope. Still a good read and it does cover a bit of history of the previous books so you could pick this up and read as a stand alone but I would suggest going back and reading the others in order, 3/5 for me this time though.

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Friday, 11 October 2013

ARC - The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

The Dead Wife's HandbookThe Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 3 days

Publisher - Penguin

Pages - 435

Blurb from Goodreads

A poignant and touching portrayal of love and loss told from a wonderfully original perspective.

Rachel and Max met eleven years ago. They were the perfect couple - best friends, lovers and partners - and when their daughter, Ellie, came along they thought their family was complete. The last thing they expected was that one celebratory night out would change their lives forever.

But fate had other plans.

Now Max is doing his best to adapt to his new life without Rachel - he might forget which day Ellie needs her sports kit and the name of her favourite teacher but he's trying his hardest - and the last thing he wants is more change.

Lonely and alone, Rachel is stuck in a place between worlds. Grieving everything she has lost and everything she won't experience, she has no choice but to watch helplessly as her family face a future without her. But what Rachel doesn't realise is that love is so strong that the one thing that will break her heart may become the one thing she wishes for more than anything.


My Review

The story opens up with a powerful line from Rachel, our main character leaving you with no delusions that she is in fact dead. What follows is Rachel's thoughts, feelings and views as she watches her family, when permitted, trying to recover from her sudden departure. Alongside this Rachel is going through the different stages of grieving, for the life she had and that which she will never have. We get to see her family through her eyes as they also try to recover and deal with a life without Rachel. Max is devastated trying to come to terms with the loss of his wife, Ellie their wee girl and Rachels's mum who has already suffered a big loss. The family deals with it in different ways and we get to view this as and when Rachel does.

This story is very different from anything I have ever read, initially I didn't think I would like it. Rachel is in a place between our world and where you imagine spirits would go after they die. There isn't a how or why, we are given as much info as Rachel is which is nothing. At first I thought this was a cop out by the author, but actually it added to the "realism" of the story. We don't know what happens to us when we pass and Rachel is there with as much understanding as we have, learning as we do with her.

She gets to "visit" her family with no seeming pattern to it, access is when it is given. Rachel is limited in many ways which adds to her anger, loneliness and frustration.

This is a lovely, sad and heart breaking story that hits you on subtle levels provoking big reactions, deep thoughts and emotions as you can't help, well I couldn't, but think about people you have lost. A very powerful book, not because of the tale itself which is very different and well put together story but because of the chain of thought and emotions it may evoke from you. I think it is a fantastic debut novel, done in a unique way and I would be happy to read this author again. 4/5 for me this time and thank you to RealReaders for an ARC of this book and introducing me to a new author. This book is available for release on 13th of February 2014.

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Monday, 7 October 2013

Review - Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

Ketchup CloudsKetchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 1 day

Publisher - Indigo

Pages - 306

Blurb from Goodreads

Secrets, romance, murder and lies: Zoe shares a terrible secret in a letter to a stranger on death row in this second novel from the author of the bestselling debut, My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.

Fifteen-year-old Zoe has a secret—a dark and terrible secret that she can't confess to anyone she knows. But then one day she hears of a criminal, Stuart Harris, locked up on death row in Texas. Like Zoe, Stuart is no stranger to secrets. Or lies. Or murder.

Full of heartache yet humour, Zoe tells her story in the only way she can—in letters to the man in prison in America. Armed with a pen, Zoe takes a deep breath, eats a jam sandwich, and begins her tale of love and betrayal.


My review


Zoe is writing to death row prisoner, Stuart Harris to confess her terrible sin, she killed someone too. In her letters, Zoe, initially tells Stuart a little about herself and why she is writing and ends with the admission she too has killed someone. The letters that follow stay in the same style, some personal information and a bit more about what lead to the murder as well as some of her family issues.

Zoe is a young girl and her writing reflect this to begin with, as the story progresses, I felt something changed and she seemed to mature a bit. The letters act almost like a diary, glimpses into what happens on the particular day she is writing about, all building towards what happened the day she murdered someone. We are introduced to her family, friends and the object of her affection(s). The issues a young teen goes through, heartache, embarrassment, family problems, teen angst and more. From the first chapter I didn't want to put the book down, I wanted to know the how, where and when. Then as the story builds I wanted to know more about the family and why there was such a divide.

I can't honestly tell you why I loved this story so much and I don't think it will be a 5 star book for everyone. There is something endearing about Zoe, she is young, acts very stupid at times and I suppose her antics at times we can all relate too, if we can remember that far back! Her family play parts throughout the story but Dot I need to single out because she is just a little sweetie who doesn't have a huge impact on the main story but I feel she brings a certain something to it and I just loved her!

The story keeps you in the dark for a lot of it, Zoe only letting you know what she is really to tell you. As she reveals more of herself she gets more familiar with her letter recipient, watch for how she addresses him as the letters progress.

It is a great wee bittersweet tale that covers friendship, lust, love, murder, family and secrets. You don't think when you start this book that there will be a great deal to it, as I did, however I devoured it in almost one sitting. I should add this is a young adult book, however I am not in that class and I loved it so don't be put off by the genre tag. This is my first dance with this author but I enjoyed this story so much I am going to get her first book, 5/5 for me this time.

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Review - Under The Dome by Stephen King

Under the DomeUnder the Dome by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 7 days

Publisher - Hodder & Stoughton

Pages - 877

Blurb from Goodreads

There's a reason why Stephen King is one of the best selling writers in the world ever. He knows how to write stories that suck you in and are impossible to put down. The New York Times describes it as a 'relentless tidal pull' and Stephen King has done it time and time again with stories like The Shawshank Redemption, Misery, The Green Mile and The Stand.

In Under the Dome, he has produced another riveting masterpiece. The end of every chapter hooks you into the next, drawing you inside a psychological drama that is so rich, you don't read it, you live it.

It is the story of the small town of Chester's Mill, Maine which is inexplicably and suddenly sealed off from the rest of the world by an invisible force field. No one can get in and no one can get out.

The normal rules of society are suddenly changed and when food, electricity and water run short, the community begins to crumble. As a new and more sinister social order develops, Dale Barbara, Iraq veteran, teams up with a handful of intrepid citizens to fight against the corruption that is sweeping through the town and to try to discover the source of the Dome before it is too late . . .



My Review


A small town, Chester's Mill is going about its everyday business when a massive dome encases and surrounds the whole town. When everyone realizes what has happened they start to assess the damage and tend to the wounded. It isn't long before chaos follows, the rules of civilization go out the window and murder, deprivation and power come into play. How long will it last, who will survive?

I had this book for ages, since it came out, on my tbr list. I hadn't read it as it got so many mixed reviews from "it reminded me of when he did the stand", to "It was so crap I couldn't finish it". Now as you may have noticed, the The Dome has started on TV and I couldn't wait to find out what happened next so I bumped the book up. Don't read it for this guys, the only things the same is the town, dome, some of the character names and Big Jim. All other relations, connections and pretty much the story line goes in a totally different direction but anyway, I digress.

We have our first kill on page 20 so the story kicks in really quickly, the actual Dome happening is very graphic and bloody. The town descends into anarchy quite quickly to be honest and "the police" becomes a law unto itself. There are a lot of characters in this wee town and at 877 there is a lot going on, relationships, deceit, problems, skulduggery and murder. There are chunks of the book that are a bit long, some people hated that, I found it added to the atmosphere and picture of what was happening although it made for slow reading at times.

It is graphic, there is sex, murder, lies and some parts of it did have faint echoes of The Stand for me, a group of people cut off from civilization as we know it, no Government or real police within the actual town. It shows the many sides, some wonderful, strong, brave and some dark, evil and nasty sides of human beings and how quickly things can turn without social boundaries and civility. Not up in my top 10 Stephen King books but I still quite enjoyed it, I was disappointed with a few things and the ending irked me a bit but it is what you prefer as some people loved it, 3/5 for me this time.

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Thursday, 3 October 2013

ARR - Coconut Badger by Mark MacNicol

Coconut BadgerCoconut Badger by Mark MacNicol
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Time taken to read - 2 days

Pages - 249

Blurb from the back cover

Tam suffers from panic attacks avoiding potential triggers like attractive women and confrontations. After an approach from a local widower he is introduced to a technique turning him from zero to hero. Tam's life is transformed with men fearing him and women lusting after him - but has he made a pact with the devil?

My review

Meet Tam, our main character, a young lad from a Glasgow scheme with a big problem: panic attacks, shy and no self confidence. Not exactly the qualities you need to survive the life in a scheme or get the girl of your dreams. After an embarrassing and violent attack, help comes in the form of Pat, an older bloke from the estates who knows a thing or two about surviving Glasgow. Soon he is teaching his young protege some techniques that totally changes his life. All is great in the beginning but soon Tam finds himself in deeper than he imagined and with life changing consequences.

I had never heard of this author but I am always keen to give everyone a go, especially when the story takes place in a city I know. Tam is a character that goes through quite a transformation, however the reader gets to follow him through it in a way that I believe many could sympathize with, if you lived in a scheme at any point. I went through phases of rooting for him, to disliking him and back again. Pat is a character, love him or hate him he definitely brings the story, and the murky dark happenings to life. There are some other key characters, however one who isn't a huge part but I loved his name and is worthy of mention is Wan Brick.

The story itself is quite violent in parts, certainly graphic and conjures quite the picture in your head, like a movie I could visualize it playing out. I think it would make for a great movie, which according to MacNicol's website it is in the pipelines.

There is quite a few layers to this story, it isn't just violence, sex and drugs although to be fair there is all of that in the mix so be warned. However it is also a story of personal growth, consequences, love, lust, friendship, betrayal and honor to name but a few.

The story does have quite a bit of Glaswegian patter and dialogue when the characters are conversing which some non Scots may find hard to follow. Phrases, which added to my enjoyment to be fair, as it was like days of old or visiting old friends. Weesht meaning be quiet, Awright - Ok? and Hawnle - handle - look after yourself. I think an excerpt at the back with translation may be a good idea for future publishing would help for the non Scottish readers.

The chapters were fairly short in between, which if your a follower of my reviews you know I love. Especially when you don't have a lot of time to read as your studying or just busy in general so not getting a lot of time to read, this helped me fly through the book. I really enjoyed this book, there are a few twists that I didn't see coming, one of which actually had me exclaim, was so glad I wasn't on public transport! A really good debut novel, I hope that there may be another in the works on the early life of Pat, I would love to read that. Enjoyable, good paced, hooks you in and evokes quit a few emotions, 5/5 for me this time and I would certainly read this author again. Thanks so much to Mark for introducing me to his work, this book is available to buy in paperback for £7.99 from his website www.markmacnicol.com and the ebook is, at time of posting £0.99 you can also follow him on twitter @markmacnicol


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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

October Pre-loved giveaway - The Cry by Helen Fitzgerald

This book is in immaculate condition and could be given as a gift, the spine is uncreased and as it was the day I bought it.
You can read my review here if you wish, I loved it and give it a 5/5 http://www.alwaysreading.net/2013/09/review-cry-by-helen-fitzgerald.html

As always the competition runs until the end of the month, please enter using the rafflecopter below. Additional entries can be achieved by any of the extra options however the only mandatory option is the address one. This means I can send the book once the competition has ended and not need to chase winners up or, as in the past, people have not claimed the prize within 48 hours and lost it.

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