Friday, 28 February 2014

Cloudland - Joseph Olshan

CloudlandCloudland by Joseph Olshan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

'A stunning literary thriller set in rural Vermont from the much praised author of Nightswimmer and Clara's Heart

Catherine Winslow, taking a walk during an early spring thaw, discovers the body of a woman leaning against an apple tree near her house in the Upper Valley of Vermont. From the corpse’s pink parka, Winslow recognizes it as the latest victim of a serial killer, a woman reported missing weeks before during a January blizzard. Once a major reporter for a national newspaper, now a household hints columnist, Catherine is disturbed and galvanized by her discovery and with the help of her neighbor, a forensic psychiatrist, as well as a local detective, starts to research the River Valley murders.

At the same time, her younger lover from an excruciating, failed love affair resurfaces after two years, trying to manuever his way back into her affections. As she delves into the murders, she realizes that certain friends and acquaintances may actually be suspects or even worse.'

Cloudland is a thriller/mystery novel set in rural Vermont which centres on Catherine Winslow previously a reporter for major newspaper now living in a remote location and who writes a household hints column for a magazine. Out walking one morning during an early spring thaw she discovers a body of a woman leaning against an apple tree. The woman appears to be the latest victim of a serial killer who was reported missing some weeks earlier during a blizzard. Catherine discovers the killer appears to be modelling his murders on a rare unfinished Wilkie Collins novel a copy of which she has and finds is missing from her library. With the help of her neighbour a forensic scientist and a local detective she starts to research the River Valley murders.

Although well written with beautifully descriptive passages of Vermont and New England scenery I felt that this fell short on reality. I could not really accept that Catherine Winslow would be confided in and included in the process of police investigations given that she had no real criminal experience or expertise outside her job as a reporter some years previously. I couldn’t accept her recklessness in deliberately putting herself at risk despite advice not to, I couldn’t connect with her she seemed flat and not a good fit for a central character. There was something missing for me in this novel, it was good on suspense but just didn’t deliver on so many levels with underdeveloped characters, unanswered questions and an unfinished ending in so much as it was not made clear if the person was the serial killer or not. Then there were little things that I felt annoying and a distraction such as the pig she has living in the house – a bit off putting really and added no value to the storyline. Her character was confused, she was presented as an intelligent woman and yet she appeared to make silly decisions that put her in jeopardy.

Difficult to rate really as some of the descriptive writing was so beautiful but the plot and delivery were lacking in realism. I am glad I persevered with this and read it to the end but felt a bit cheated in the outcome so therefore could only give this a 3 star rating. I am not sure if I would read another novel by this author based on Cloudland.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Swimming Pool Summer - Rebecca Farnworth

Swimming Pool SummerSwimming Pool Summer by Rebecca Farnworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

'Frankie hasn't had a proper relationship for years. But though she tells everyone this is how she wants it, secretly she's in love with her best friend Patrick.

Tor didn't think she could have a baby, but now she is pregnant by her younger lover. Could this mean the end of a romance that has started to mean more to her than she expected?

Leila seems to have it all - a happy marriage, a beautiful daughter and a successful career. But Leila is harbouring a secret that could destroy her marriage forever.

On an idyllic Greek island, the three women try to keep their secrets hidden. But emotions are running high, and when an unexpected guest arrives, events start to spin out of control.'

Set on the Greek island of Zakynthos in a villa 3 friends meet up for a holiday with respective partners, each hiding a secret when they arrive. Leila who is happily married to Tom has a young daughter Gracie and what appears have the perfect marriage is hiding a secret affair, Tor in a relationship with Ed 10 years her junior finds out that against all the odds she is pregnant and Frankie hiding her secret love for her friend Patrick. Patrick is also invited to the villa and arrives with his new girlfriend Candy and best friend Matt which all collide to make this an enjoyable chic lit novel.

This novel is a predictable in the outcome but the author is successful in creating atmosphere through descriptive writing to allow the reader to ‘taste’ the Mediterranean in the book. The characters are believable and likeable, their problems real and identifiable allowing the reader to connect with them through their journeys through allowing them to tell the story themselves in alternate chapters which in turn allows the reader to connect to each character in turn.

Although not a revolutionary plot line this does what it says on the tin; it’s a good value summer read with no real surprises but a feel good factor at the end when everything turns out right for them all. 

Monday, 24 February 2014

Guest Review - Caedmon's Curse - AJ Nuest

Caedmon’s Curse – AJ Nuest – Harper Impulse
3.5 of stars

I received a copy of this book from the publishers via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

“For two years Prince Caedmon suffered in the dungeons of Seviere’s keep, leaving him with more than just lash marks lacing his back. He now retains the secret behind the key, and is the only one who understands its grim connection to his beloved Rowena. Torn between telling her the truth and risking their future, he agrees to join her perilous quest. But their enemies to the north are not the only menace determined to see them fail and, to prove his love, he must conquer the demons of his past.

Join Caedmon and Rowena as they rediscover a love bound by fate, and struggle to unravel the significance behind Caedmon’s Curse, Book III in The Golden Key Chronicles.”
 At the end of Candra’s Freedom, we see Rowena travelling alone, heading for Seviere, believing this is the place that holds the key to returning her memories. Determined and fearless, she as yet has no plan as to how she will go about her aims. She is soon joined by Caedmon who, instead of taking her back to Austiere against her will, agrees to join her in her quest, despite his horror of Seviere after his two years of imprisonment and torture he suffered there.  Together, through trials and unforseen hardships they arrive at Seviere, but it seems the battle has only just begun.

This is a fast paced third instalment, I found myself racing through it. I again don’t want to give too much away but Rowena comes to realise she does indeed love Caedmon, even though she cannot remember that it was this love that brought her to his world in the first place. She recognises him as a truly caring person, something she has little experienced in the two years Caedmon was imprisoned.

Together they vow to complete their quest to restore Rowena’s memories and bring peace to Austiere. This is a tale of love, rebellion, betrayal, finding friends in those you believe to be enemies, and enemies in those you believe to be friends.

I’m looking forward to reading the final book in the quartet, Braedric’s Bane in the near future.

I would like to thank Janet once again for featuring on The Book Corner. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Guest Review - Candra's Freedom - AJ Nuest

Candra’s Freedom – AJ Nuest, Harper Impulse
3.5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

This is the second in a series of 4 novellas continuing the tale of Rowena and Caedmon, two years after Rowena’s Key ended.

Rowena still cannot remember anything after she lost all of her memories, which were wiped when she crossed the veil from her world into Caedmon’s. Caedmon, the only person who can help her regain those memories has been held prisoner in Seviere, the enemy of Austiere.
However, Rowena has been busy whilst Caedmon has been away. Determined to win her freedom and flee the her castle prison Rowena has been training to fight it out it in the Gautlet, a physical battle of wills where the winner receives land and the means to pay for a life away from court.

The story details Rowena’s hardships, how she has gained the respect of the guards through her fairness and her fighting skills. Whilst she cannot recall how she arrived at the castle, she is determined not to be curtailed by it.

Caedmon, on being released, finds out how badly she has been treated and is determined to protect her. Rowena, still believing Caedmon is her enemy, wants nothing to do with him and fights her growing attraction to the prince.

She has become a warrior in their time apart and will fight for her freedom, he will do whatever it takes to keep her near him and safe.

I enjoyed this second instalment greatly. Rowena’s character has developed in such a positive way. She shows how she has become a determined fighter, not just a woman who is bound by the term sorceress. She has faced fear and violence and is determined to be a free woman, rather than give into the pressures of court. She is also determined not to rely on a man and fights the attraction to Caedmon which confuses her.

This is less of a love story and more of a tale of empowerment and determination, the search for freedom and ultimately being able to trust once more.

I couldn’t wait for part 3, Caedmon’s Curse, so I read this straight after.  That review to soon follow this…

Another wonderful review from Janet, I am very thankful to all her hard work. Thanks again, Janet!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Just a girl standing in front of a boy - Lucy- Anne Holmes

Just a Girl, Standing in Front of a BoyJust a Girl, Standing in Front of a Boy by Lucy-Anne Holmes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

'My love story may not be the sort you read about in books or see in films . . . Love stories have glorious highs and ghastly lows. But when it comes to my own life, I'd have to say, you can keep your fabulous highs and I'll happily steer clear of the terrible lows.' 

After a rocky start in life, Jenny Taylor, 27, star receptionist at the local doctors surgery, has things all worked out thanks to 'The Smiling Fanny Manifesto' - a list of 10 daily things she must do to keep the blues at bay. But her life is turned upside down when she meets aspiring musician Joe King. And reliable boyfriend Matt proposes. And then her mum leaves her dad and moves into Jenny's flat determined to 'bond'.

This was the first book I have read by Lucy, and I am so glad I did. I have felt let down lately by some chick lits, I felt they haven't delivered in a way that I wanted. This was certainly not one of those books!

I found this extremely easy to get into and once I got into it I didn't want to put it down. It had me laughing and crying throughout.

Jenny Taylor AKA fanny is a very likable character and I fell in love with her from the start. I felt that she was a character you could relate to well. All characters introduced in the story are well thought out and developed. They l have a valid reason for being there and have their own personalities. Jenny's mum turning up was a bit of a shock, but I felt it worked well and she adapted to Jenny and her friends lives.

This book illustrates love in the real world and that it is not always as it seems, this brings reality to the book, but Lucy writes it in such a way that it has you routing for the characters. This is ' real' love.

The way the book is written is brilliant, it has taken me a while to find a book that flows so well and has you wanting to not put the book down. It has the right mix of humour and sadness and still manages to pick you up.

This is not your average romantic chick lit and I would advise everyone to read it, it is funny but real.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending me this copy for an honest review.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Blackout - Emily Barr

Blackout (Quick Reads 2014)Blackout by Emily Barr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A tense and chilling Quick Read from the queen of psychological suspense.
You wake up in a strange room, with no idea how you got there.
You are abroad, in a city you have never visited before.
You have no money, no passport, no phone.
And there is no sign of your baby.
What do you do?

This was my first experience of Emily Barr, I must say this is one reason Iove quick reads as it allows you to discover new authors.

This story although short, I felt had substance to it and very cleverly jumped from the present day back to a year ago. This I felt was done expertly as the story was so short.

I did not feel that the story was rushed or unfinished, something else I find was cleverly done by the author.

I don't want go give much away as the story is so short.

I would recommend this quick read yo anyone, it can be read in one sitting and has you questioning your own thought about what is going on. I would read other books by Emily on the strength of this short story.