The Daughter’s Secret, Eva Holland

Another book review by me today! I was recommended this book by my mother who said it was such a good book that she read it in a matter of days which is very unusual for her and so I just had to read it too. It is a brilliantly written book which taps into the lives of a family going through an extremely difficult time. I did find that it was a page turner and, like my mother, read it in a matter of days too.

=== The story ===
Ros’ daughter Stephanie had a relationship with her teacher when she was 15. Ros didn’t know anything about it and one day woke up to find her daughter missing and over the course of time it turned out she was with her teacher. A big search operation began and resulted in the teacher going to prison for years.

The story begins with a phone call informing Ros that Mr Temperley -the teacher- has finished his sentence and will be released in eleven days’ time.

Ros has spent the last 6 years of her life trying to come to terms with what happened to her daughter and understanding why the man did it. She had just began to live a life wihout it being full of worry and Stephanie seemed to be doing well at university but the knowledge of his impeding release soon made Ros’ world spiral out of control again.

=== Characters ===
The characters within this book are brilliant. I liked Ros, the mother as she was brilliantly crafted. She had lots of excessive worries and anxieties which I think are very true of many of us. The way that her worries were explained sounded extreme and laughable to others but really capture what it is like when you live with anxieties. For example, Ros feared that the tyres on the school bus set to take her daughter on a trip were quite bare and it was raining… so she imagined all kind of horrors and embarrassed her daughter by making a fuss about it and following the coach on it’s way to the trip. Things like this may seem really neurotic to some but I’m sure many people reading will be able to relate to these worries and how difficult it can be to switch off to the worries that go through our heads especially as parents.

The teacher, Nathan Temperley , was really unlikeable and that was great. He seemed very arrogant and full of himself and almost smug at times and this made me as a reader really dislike him which I think was obviously intended. It really made me then get behind Ros with her theories about him and the way she just couldn’t get over what he had done.

I liked Stephanie too although she was difficult to warm to at first. She seemed very mixed up by what had happened and struggled to form relationships and trust people. When she gradually began to open up to her mother it was really nice to see but you could also see that she was very fragile and likely to withdraw very quickly and I think writing a character like this and have her fragility come across so beautifully is the work of a very skilled author.

=== Opinion ===
This book is written in two time sets- the present day, counting down to when the teacher will be released and then also the time when Stephanie went missing. The two time frames are interwoven with it being more like Ros’ thoughts and memories revisiting what happened and this made me really get into Ros’ thoughts and imagine what she went through. It was very cleverly written like that and when it flipped back to the present day it was always because something had drawn Ros’ attention back. This made it clear that it was Ros’ version of events and showed how she was constantly thinking back to what had happened so even though it had been six years she was definitely not able to put it behind her and move on.

I found that when reading this book I began to feel quite on edge as Ros’ anxieties came forward, not just worrying about the big things like how her daughter would cope with the release of Temperley and what they would do if he tried to contact her, but the other worries too about whether she had locked all the doors and having to recheck things. It really drew me into her line of thinking and just how tiring that must be for her. It really was cleverly written to have this effect!

Whilst reading I also imagined how I would feel if it was me and that situation and really did get me thinking. You do always just assume that once a prison sentence has been granted that a family would rebuild itself and move on but this story really shows how it affects them forever.

What I really liked about this book is that it wasn’t about the relationship between Stephanie and the teacher, it was more about how the family tried to cope and rebuild afterwards and this is something that I think is often unmentioned so was a really interesting slant on this very difficult subject area.

I couldn’t guess the ending of this book at all. I kept wondering what would happen; was Stephanie really planning on moving on or would she try and rekindle her relationship? Was Temperley going to seek revenge? Would Ros be able to move forward with her own woes? So many questions which meant that this book was a page turner and I didn’t guess the ending once so that was a relief as I hate it when it’s obvious what’s going to happen!

This is Eva Holland’s debut novel and I think it’s a fantastic one, I really can’t wait to hear more from her if her future books are going to be anything like as good as this!

Currently available on Paperback for £12.78 on Amazon

ISBN 1409157032

Thank you to Eva Holland for sending me this book as a gift. All views and opinions are my own and may be found elsewhere.

Advertisements

Plan Bea by Hilary Grossman

I was delighted to be sent this book to read and review as I had heard some really good things about it and liked the sound of it. I devoured this book within a matter of days and can definitely say that I wasn’t disappointed by it at all. This was a very good book to read for some light hearted escapism but also had enough depth and emotion to it to make it a very rich story.

=== The story ===
Anna has a very difficult relationship to her mother Bea. The only way her mother communicates with her is with a weekly phone call, if anything happens during the week (including the birth of one of her children) Anna has to wait until Thursdays to tell her mother the news. Her children Violet and Harley have very little relationship with her too and Anna finds it upsetting that her mother is so distant.

On evening, the phone rings and it is Bea. The phone call is not at the usual time so Anna instantly thinks the worst but actually it’s her mother telling her that she has met a man, Walter, and she intends to marry him and she would like Anna to help her plan the wedding.

Anna is so desperate to build a relationship with her mother that she finds herself saying yes and so ensues a big operation to plan a huge wedding with no expense spared. Bea disagrees with almost all of Anna’s ideas and rings her during important meetings at work to discuss first dance songs and what stationary she should choose. But whilst they are planning the wedding Anna learns a lot about her mother and it is clear that there are many things that she wasn’t aware of which explain why she is so adrift from them all.

=== Characters ===
I think these characters were extremely well created. At first I thought they were a bit stereotypical- one who’s very materalistic and another who’s frustrated by this but that was just the surface of the characters and as the story progressed I really got to know what they were like and there was a great depth to the two main characters that made them very believable.

Bea on the surface seems very selfish and likes to show off about what she has in life. She appears to not care about anyone else, she doesn’t mind interrupting an important meeting or making her opinion heard but then we learn more about her and realise she isn’t as happy and confident as she appears. She has put a front on as a kind of survival mechanism and is actually more vulnerable than she makes out. I thought this made her a really well rounded character but also made me think of some people I know who are the same. Bea made me remember that we shouldn’t just judge someone right away but that there is more to them than meets the eye.

I liked Anna, at first she was quite weak, just agreeing with her mother but then she grew more confident and spoke to her in an assertive way, telling her not to just give her children money for their birthdays, to spend time with them, buy them a gift instead. I liked the way she was a lot more forceful as though she wasn’t afraid of her anymore.

The characters within this book were brilliantly formed from the jolliness of Walter, the steadiness and dependable nature of Anna’s husband Cole and the honesty of the children Violet and Harley. I think they really made this story work.

=== Writing style ===
I found that this book was very easy to read with the writing style being all in the current day. There was no jumping back and forth to time periods or telling it from different points of view. Sometimes these features of a book help to create a story but it wasn’t needed here and it made it really easy to read so you could get right into the story and immerse yourself in the world of Bea and Anna.

There was no specialist topics or confusing twists and turns which could make for a book that involves lots of concentration and brain power, instead this was a book that was written really well to have you captivated and lost in this other world for a while which is exactly what I want when reading. I don’t want to feel like it’s an effort to understand.

=== Opinion ===

I really enjoyed this book because it was light hearted but there were also moment that were very moving too as some truths were revealed which made Anna understand her mother and also her own past a bit better. I thought that these situations were written so beautifully that at times they made me tearful which I think is a sign of a very good writer.

The ending has a twist to it, I did actually have a sneaking suspicion about it a few chapters before it happened but it wasn’t enough to make me know exactly what as going to happen and I still think it’s quite a big surprise. The twist does make you think about things and I wanted to reread the book to see how it all fitted together.

When reading this book I was able to escape the real world for a while and enjoy the world of wedding planning and relationships for a bit which was very enjoyable to do! I also was able to think about relationships in my own life and times when I may have jumped to conclusions or such like. It does make you think about how everyone has a back story and that how people behave is a result of those.

I loved the ending, a nice, positive way for it to go which left me feeling all warm and happy after the emotional rollercoaster of the book.

I would definitely recommend this, I think it would make a perfect holiday read.

  • Available on Amazon now for £3.32 on Kindle
    • ASIN: B016E6FS4G

The Christmas Cafe by Amanda Prowse

I know, I know, I’m writing another book review! I’m reading so much at the minute and very much enjoying doing so! I absolutely love Christmas books, there’s something really cosy about them and those that hit the mark really get me in that Christmas spirit. I was lucky enough to be sent this book by the lovely Amanda Prowse and I am so glad to have received it as I enjoyed it a lot… so much so I read it in just two days. If you like a Christmas book which isn’t just all about Christmas but has a lot more to it than that then this is for you!

The story

At the beginning of this book we meet Bea who is saying goodbye to her husband of thirty years who is dying. It’s a very touching opening scene and there’s a bit of intrigue too as when she is saying goodbye she is also apologising, she is sorry that she could never love him as much as someone else. We then fast forward a year to the next Christmas run up and see that Bea is doing her best to carry on with her life despite being on her own. She runs a cafe which she throws herself into getting up early to open up, really embracing her staff and customers and looking for special ornaments and trinkets to have on display but in the evenings she is lonely and she keeps thinking about someone from her past.Bea’s granddaughter Flora is having a difficult time. She is thirteen and going through the stage in life where she feels insecure with her friendships and it’s causing friction within her family life. Her father Wyatt asks Bea to look after her for a while. During this time the pair really bond and Bea finds herself offering lots of advice to her granddaughter and at the same time learns from her too.

Bea receives a letter from someone from the other side of the world who also runs a cafe- The Christmas Cafe and they begin to exchange emails. Bea admits some of her innermost feelings to her new Epenfriend Alex and she decides to go and visit along with Flora, for the Christmas period… but when she gets there Alex isn’t quite what she thought.

Characters

I have read a couple of Amanda Prowse’s books before and one thing I’ve found with them is that the characters are so beautifully created that they really make the book special and this is certainly the case with this book too. The characters are very well created and because the book isn’t full of dramatic action but lots of tender moments, you get to know the characters in depth.I loved the main character Bea. I can imagine that lots of people can relate to her whether they are in their 50s or not. I think she represents a lot of people who may feel as though their lives are plodding along and they don’t have much to look forward to and are past their most important years but she doesn’t make the book miserable, instead there’s so much hope. The way that she bonds with her granddaughter and offers her lots of advice is lovely but also when she realises there are good things around the corner it does offer hope to people who may feel in a similar situation. She is well created, and feels very ‘real’ which is why I imagine a lot of people would be able to relate to her which is always a sign of a very clever author.

I also loved Flora the granddaughter and I think that the author captures this age really well. How the ups and downs of the teenage years are so dramatic and the little things that happen feel like the end of the world. I think every thirteen year old (nearly fourteen!) needs a grandmother that they can confide in.

Writing style

This book is written in third person and all in the same time period. There are a few memories of the past which crop up but these are just a few lines and in italics so it’s easy to know when it is a memory. I think that this makes the book really easy to read, you’re not confused with time periods or different voices telling the story and I think this works really well for this particular book.I found the book really easy to read, there wasn’t lots of technical language and you don’t need to be an expert in any particular area to enjoy it so I think you can enjoy it in a relaxing way which doesn’t tax you at all. There is lots of beautiful descriptions of the two places in which it is set- Sydney and Edinburgh. I love the way the atmospheres are described in such a way you could really picture it. It did make me want to go up to Edinburgh for Christmas!

Opinion

I really enjoyed reading this book because it had a really lovely message behind it; one of hope. I sometimes think that Christmas books can be a bit tacky and just focus on preparing for Christmas and talking about decorations and Christmas songs but lack in depth and an actual story but this is not like that at all. With this book you get a proper story with characters that are very well crafted so you can relate to them. It’s written in a really tender way where we get to see characters change over time and their relationships develop in a really special way.

When reading this I felt like I was immersed in it, able to picture the scenes really well thanks to the brilliant descriptions and it was lovely to switch off from my own life to read this. There’s something very special about this book and I think it is that over the course of a year things can change so much so even if you think what you are living right now is how it’s always going to be then you can be very wrong so it offers hope to all as it wasn’t just Bea’s life that changed but so many of the other characters too and all for the better.

I finished this book and felt very positive and inspired by it as well as suitably festive too and wanting to visit Edinburgh! I think that this is a really well written book with beautifully created characters that are definitely relate-able. How lovely to read a book which is easy and enjoyable to read that leaves you feeling really positive at the end. I highly recommend this book.
ISBN 1784970379
paperback price on Amazon: £5.59
Kindle price £1.99