The Turning Point by Freya North

A couple of days ago I finished this book and it’s one of those rare novels that leaves you with long lasting thoughts about it, it is so beautifully written with characters that really get under your skin. I purchased this book after hearing Freya North talk about it on The Wright Stuff, I am very glad that I did as this is a brilliant book.

The story is of Frankie and Scott. Frankie is an author of children’s books and has recently moved with her children to Norfolk. As she’s trying to settle in to her new life in a different part of the country she struggles to write and feels under immense pressure. She enjoys walking on the beach with her children but struggles to feel a part of the community and engage with those around her.

Meanwhile, Scott lives in Canada and is a musician. He’s concerned about his daughter Jenna who has epilepsy yet is starting her adult life wanting to go to university and be just like everyone else despite her illness.

It is during meetings in London that Frankie and Scott’s paths meet and they are amazed by how quickly they connect with each other and how powerful  their feelings for each other are. Family members are quick to warn Frankie of the ridiculousness of a long-distance relationship and introducing a man into the lives of her children but she can’t ignore it and what develops is a really special relationship despite the distance. The likes of Face Time enabling them to get a real sense of each other’s lives, the odd shared week together in each other’s houses meeting each others friends and family and it is clear to everyone that what they have is real but can it last? Will one of them have to move? But how can they when their children both need them?

What I absolutely loved about this book is that it felt very real. Sometimes when you read books about people falling in love it can seem full of cliches or a bit cringe-worthy but there was something special about the connection between these characters that made it not feel like that at all, it all came across as very natural.

The relationship between Frankie and Scott could teach us all a lot, they had so much respect for each other’s positions and were full of wise words for each other that can really reflect upon our own lives such as Scott encouraging Frankie to appreciate what is around her and everything she has rather than worrying that they are so far apart. It made me stop and think and reflect about how I am always looking ahead in my own life- wanting to move, wanting to be well, the children be older and so forth that maybe I should  take Scott’s own advice and appreciate what I have at the moment.

There were moments within this book that completely had me drawn in so much that I wasn’t aware of what the time was or anything that was on my mind and I think this is the sign of a really clever author. I was so lost in their worlds that I would think about them after I’d finished reading. I was moved and admit to having shed a tear at one part of this book too and really did feel the emotion that Frankie was going through, it just felt so very real.

This is a book which moved at quite a slow pace, no huge drama and action and instead a gentle introduction to two very wholesome characters. This worked so well, perhaps that was what made it seem so real- them sending photos to each other of what they were having for dinner, the gentle encouragement and interest in each other’s work… if it was full of dramas it would have overshadowed what was most important within this- the relationship growing between two people.

I loved reading this book and miss it now! I enjoyed being whisked away to a different world so I could switch off from my own woes and instead lose myself in Frankie and Scott. I left me thinking about my own life and taking some of the morals of the story on board. I am definitely going to be looking out for more of Freya North’s books that I haven’t read yet so I can enjoy reading more from this talented author who has a very special way of creating very beautiful characters and settings.

No Place to Hide by Susan Lewis

I finished this book a couple of days ago and really enjoyed reading it. Although Susan Lewis has written several books, this is the first of hers I have read and it definitely won’t be the last! This book was very thought provoking with brilliantly created characters that had me drawn in and wanting to know what happened right from the beginning.

The story is of Justine who has moved to America, to an area where her Grandmother used to live. It is clear that she is trying to start her life afresh with her little daughter Lula and that there is something about her past that she is hiding from. There’s an air of mystery- why is she still desperate to talk to her husband yet won’t? who are these other children she thinks about but won’t talk to anyone about and hushes Lula when she tries to bring them up in conversation?

As Justine settles into her new life and creates friendships she also looks into the life of her grandmother and questions why there seems to be a sense of mystery about her too- town members tend to say they know exactly who she was but don’t want to say any more. As Justine questions the generations before her own it also makes her think about her own parenting and the lives that she has influenced.

What was really special about this book was the whole family and relationship issues which ran throughout. There were so many interwoven- that of Justine and her mother, her mother and her grandmother, her own relationships with her children, her friendships and that of other people looking in on them. It made for very interesting reading and meant that I, as a reader, thought about how events affect all family members and how this can then be passed on through generations and that you can learn from it to do better yourself.

Another part of this book that I found really interesting was the fact that the other side of a story was told. Without giving away spoilers, it is often the case that books talk about victims’ families and how they move on after big events but we often forget what it must be like for the families of those who carry out the life changing events; how do those families get over it? How do they cope with the judgement and the emotions that they suddenly find themselves facing through no choice of their own? It certainly made me think about that side of things which I have never really given much thought to, definitely a fresh take on a story which made this book so insightful.

I really felt like i went on a journey with this book- that is very cliched I know, but throughout it you really get to know the character of Justine and what her life was like. As she relives the events of her life it just makes you get to know her more and more and you’re willing her to be able to move on and find happiness and it’s so moving to see how she changes throughout and how her relationship with new friends and old as well as her mother unfold.

There’s plenty going on within this book- the mystery of what Justine is hiding, the mystery around her grandmother, the awkward relationships, the questioning of parenting skills and the causes of behaviour… it’s all so deep and so many twists and turns yet it is written beautifully.

I really enjoyed reading it, I love it when characters are so well written like this one so I can’t wait to now read more from Susan Lewis. This book certainly helped to transport me into a different world to forget my own woes which is exactly what I love in a book. Five stars from me!

While my Eyes Were Closed by Linda Green

I read this book within a couple of days, I found that i was drawn in right from the beginning and Linda Green kept me turning the pages right up until the end.

During a game of hide and seek in the park with her daughter, Lisa closes her eyes and takes a phone call. When she then opens them again, ready to seek her daughter Ella from her hiding place, she can’t find her. Lisa soon goes from wondering what her husband will say when she took so long to find her daughter from her hiding place to suddenly realising that she isn’t anywhere within the park…

The search soon escalates from other people in the park to the police being involved and a national search.

Lisa’s family, we soon learn, are far from perfect. Lisa’s relationship with her oldest daughter Chloe seems strained although we don’t find out why until towards the end of the book. Her son struggles to understand how his little sister is missing and her husband worries that Lisa is pushing him away. The larger family around them- Ella’s grandparents and uncle struggle to deal with not knowing where she is and we soon get a real sense of family dynamics which is cleverly created.

When reading this book I was drawn in right away, I wanted to know what had happened to Ella but also about the other themes running through the book which I cannot got into much detail about otherwise it’ll spoil the book for others but there was enough going on to make this a really deep book.

There are some difficult moments, some challenging issues raised but they’re treated carefully, it’s never too deep or too heavy to make it uncomfortable to read and I think that’s a very clever skill to have.

I read this within a matter of days and really enjoyed doing so. I recommend it for anyone looking for a book that’s fast-paced but not too dark. Definitely a good one to read on holiday I think!

The Woman Who Upped and Left by Fiona Gibson

After reading quite a few intense books and going through a stressful few weeks myself I was ready to read something that was a little less “edge of the seat” and a little more “sit back and relax” and this book was just that. I enjoyed picking up this book and losing myself in the pretty chaotic world of Audrey and now I’ve finished it I’m going to be going straight over to Amazon to see what else of Fiona Gibson’s I can read.

The story is about Audrey who is mother to a teenage son Morgan who seems to spend his days wrapped around his girlfriend Jenna in their house. Audrey is a dinner lady and also a carer to Mrs B. She spends her days looking after other people, picking up her son’s girlfriend’s thongs from her bathroom floor and rushing off on last minute trips to various motorway service station hotels to spend the night with her boyfriend Stevie.

When Audrey wins a prize as Dinner Lady Of The Year she gets the chance to spend a week in a grand hotel learning French cookery skills from a ‘celebrity’ Michelin starred chef. This is so far removed from her every day life that it is the perfect break and Audrey begins to get more confidence and see what is important in her life.

I really liked the light hearted element to this book. There were some deep issues that went alongside it too which made it a really well formed book but the humour was brilliant. The awkward rope tying incident, a cake being described as ‘too cakey’, the son being incapable of operating a washing machine… there were lots of moments that were brilliantly funny and quite probably very true to life too for some people!

The characters were well formed, I really liked the relationship between Audrey and her son. How she was desperate for him to make something of his life and to find a job or go on a course rather than spend his days in bed or wrapped around his girlfriend. I liked that over time she began to realise that she barely ever complimented him on anything and instead was just focusing on what he wasn’t doing. Over the course of the book their relationship changed and it was still very realistic to the teenage son-mother relationship of real life. The conversations between them were often full of tension which felt very real.

Audrey I thought was great. Trying to help people all the time, she seemed to be stuck in a routine of just running around after others and was forgetting to do things for herself. I liked her scatty nature but also how caring she was, supporting her son and his girlfriend when they needed her.

Although whilst reading this book I was usually laughing along with the very naturally flowing humour I was also infuriated by Stevie and Morgan at times, the way they just expected Audrey to do whatever they wanted as the drop of a hat made me feel cross! I think that is a sign of a well written book- if it enables the reader to feel such strong emotions! It meant i was able to get into Audrey’s head and know just how frustrating it must have been as a mother to try to motivate your son but then risking more tensions within your relationship.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It was just what I needed to read whilst having stressful days myself. It was perfect to pick up and lose myself in for a while and I can’t believe I’ve not read any other books from this author before, I will definitely be seeking them out now.

I would recommend this read to anyone looking for something that provides some escapism, humour and a read that will take you on a journey.

The Sisterhood by Emily Barr

The sisterhood Emily Barr.
I am a big reader and read a wide variety of books and don’t have a particular genre that I like, what I do like about a book is how much of a page turner it is and this book by Emily Barr certainly had me constantly turning the pages!

This book tells of two very different women; Helen and Liz.
Helen grew up in rural France living in a huge chataaeu with a bizarre relationship with her parents who were very withdrawn from her. She lives in a cottage within the chataeau’s grounds and spends her days wondering what to do with her life. She is extremely innocent, has never had a boyfriend, has never had a job and lacks friends.

Liz grew up in England, brought up by her father. Now in her late 30s, a school teacher, plenty of friends and a long-term boyfriend she couldn’t be more different to Helen.

Things change though, Liz’s world comes crashing down as her boyfriend announces he is leaving her- for another man. A result of which means that Liz gets very drunk, ends up sleeping with someone who is far from ‘ideal’ and then a few weeks later realises she is pregnant.

Helen’s life is also about to be turned upside down as she rummages through her parents bedroom and finds, hidden in the back of the wardrobe, a box. Inside this box is a photograph of her mother holding a new born baby and it is clear to Helen that this baby isn’t her. On the back of the photograph is the name ‘Elizabeth Greene’. Realising that her mother has a secret Helen decides she wants to work out what exactly this secret is and who is this baby?

Instead of confronting her parents Helen sets out to track down the lost baby and decides that if she can find her and bring her to her mother then at last she will have achieved something in her life.
And so Helen, niave and very innocent, sets off to find this long-lost sister ignoring that there may be some clues that her own mother could give her or that uncovering the past may cause problems.

As Helen tries to carry out her mission Liz’s world falls apart even more as this French stranger turns up in her life and begins to obsess over her.

I don’t want to give away any more of the story as it will ruin it for you but I can safetly say that it is extremely compelling and ever so slightly sinister too.

I felt as though I knew both characters very well. I could really relate to both of them and would question what I would do if I was in their situation. I wouldn’t consider myself to be anything like them so it just shows that the way that Barr writes this story is really very clever as I was drawn in by both of them. I would get frustrated and concerned with Liz and also excited and determined like Helen.

This story is written in a way which makes you not want to put the book down at all. At the end of each chapter I couldn’t help but keep going and I never was able to guess what was going to happen next. I couldn’t have predicted the ending and I definitely would get lost in this book every time I picked it up.

I haven’t read anything this compelling before. It has a bit of a dark side to it but only in a subtle way which made it even more interesting as at first glance I thought it may be another ‘chick lit’ read but it is far from that!

I can’t recommend this book enough, it’s the best book I have read this year so far! Definitely recommend it!

After The Party by Lisa Jewell

lisa jewell2

I just finished reading this book earlier and thought I should review it now whilst it’s still fresh in my mind. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it has left a lasting impression upon me. It is written in such a careful, delicate way that it draws you in and makes you want to read more to find out what happens.

I first stumbled across Lisa Jewell when a friend of mine lent me her book The Truth About Melody Browne. I really loved the book and so recently decided to look up some more of her work to see what else she had written. After having really enjoyed the first book I was worried that this wouldn’t live up to my expectations but I am pleased to say that it did.

The story

The story tells of Ralph and Jem. They met eleven years ago, fell in love, lived together, had a family together and been through various life events. When we first meet the pair Ralph has vanished. He hasn’t picked his children up and he appears to have just disappeared into thin air. Lisa Jewell then tells the story of their relationship and all of the events over the last eleven years which lead up to Ralph going away.

After the birth of their second child, Ralph suddenly announces one day that he is going to go to America to meet up with an old friend. Jem is stunned and infuriated. Why should he just be able to have a week away from the sleepless nights, the difficult disciplining of a three year old? Why should he think it okay to just walk out and leave her to deal with it all? What would he say if she suddenly announced that? But Jem lets him go and keeps her resentment to herself. Whilst Ralph is away things happen to both him and Jem.

Ralph finds a strange peace with his friend’s girlfriend Rosey who teaches him things about himself he wasn’t aware of. He wants to return home to Jem to be a better person, to try harder and to make more of an effort to be a better father and partner. Jem, however, realises that she quite enjoys playing a single mother for the week, she meets a new friend, a single father who makes her question her life and wonder if there is something more for her out there.

Upon Ralph’s return he is all confident about their relationship and acts in the way he believes he should but Jem just finds it bizarre and cannot understand it especially as she has been questioning her life. Jewell takes us on a journey, she goes through the emotions they are both feeling, talks about the events that occur to the couple as they both struggle to save their relationship and wonder where it all went wrong. When did the carefree, in love couple go? At what point did things change? Was it when they had children? Was it when Ralph went away? Will they be able to save themselves?

The characters

The characters are fantastically formed. You get to know them so well that you feel as though they are real life friends.Jem I could relate to very well. She is trying her best to be a good mother and also start working too despite her baby still being very young. Jewell tells of her struggles with patience as she tries to please everyone and the way she describes her is so very fitting that I am sure many mothers with young children can relate to her… from the middle of the night breastfeeding to trying to persuade her daughter to clear up her cereal bowl which she has thrown on the floor in a tantrum. As Jem begins to question her life I too began to question it and wonder what would be best for her. I felt as though I was really seeing things through her eyes, it was amazing how well she was created.

Ralph came across as a struggling character, one who really wanted to do better and was struggling coming to terms with situations. He did seem quite like a pathetic man at first, how he ducked out of responsibilities but then he began to grow on me as I saw how much he tried to make things better and how he tried to make sense of it all. It was great how I felt like I could relate to both of the main characters.

The other characters that were in the book were well formed too.

Opinion

This novel is not packed with action but it is packed with emotion and information. I felt as though I had gone on a journey with this book, that as well as going on the journey with Jem and Ralph I also experienced a bit of a change in myself. It did make me think about my own relationship, how having children has also changed myself and my husband and whether that is a good or bad thing or whether it doesn’t even matter at all. I could relate so well to their situation that it was compelling.

I think it is a beautiful skill for an author to have to create characters that you can relate to and this certainly is the case. I really did feel as though I knew them inside and out by the end and was slightly moved by it all.

There were some points in this book that made me smile with knowing, other parts made me laugh, others made me feel frustrated, sad, concerned… it was a rollercoaster book which reflects the lives of the characters and the fact that these emotions came out with me and not just the characters really make me think that this book is cleverly written.

There are lots of twists and turns in this book and it is very believable. It is the kind of book you read and you think that could be me. That could be a friend I know. It wasn’t trying to be something it wasn’t by having a dramatic story line or a huge amount of drama, instead it was written in a believable way in a pace which was extremely well fitting for the story.

I never second guessed what was going to happen. There were times when I thought I knew what was about to happen but then it never did and so it was really intriguing. I wondered how it would end and genuinely didn’t know what the outcome would be, I stayed up late reading on as I wanted to know what happened and now I have finished it I feel a little sad that it’s over!

I really enjoyed this book. If you like something with well formed characters and lots of emotion then you will love this.

The Exclusives by Rebecca Thornton

This is a book that made me think about my own school years and the intensity of friendships during those times and how they can still play on my mind so many years on. This is a clever book to conjure up these thoughts within myself that’s for sure. I enjoyed reading it, I found the style of it- writing both in the present and then going back to the past- worked really well enabling me to get a good insight into the main characters which then had be really drawn in.

Josephine has just been awarded head girl at her prestigious boarding school. She’s on track to win the scholarship for a guaranteed place for Oxford and all she can really think about is ensuring that she achieves that but there’s more to Josephine than hard work. She is struggling with her mother’s illness and worries that she too could develop it- paranoid schizophrenia and this paranoia alone is enough to make her question if it is indeed developing. Her father has a powerful position working for the Prime Minister so she is under pressure to ensure his reputation remains in tact… thank goodness she has a best friend who she can rely on…

Freya and Josephine are like sisters, they do everything together and their families are equally as supportive of them both but something happens one night and it causes their friendship to spiral out of control which leaves both girls vulnerable and making some really poor choices that results in them both being completely out of their depths.

The problems that arose due to this time still affects them both many years later during their adult years.

What was brilliant about this book is that there was a sense of mystery which hung throughout as we didn’t know what had happened between the friends to cause such a rift. This mystery wasn’t so big that it meant we couldn’t understand the story but it was gradually hinted at and bits of clues given which makes you think about why it was so dramatic. I think it was just the right level of intrigue to keep you wanting to keep reading without it feeling like an important part of the story was missing.

What this book did was make me think about what it’s like as a teenager under pressure and how to everyone else it may look like you’re acing everything and heading straight to Oxford but that actually, underneath it all, there can be some very big struggles going on which people don’t realise and this book captures that really well. It also captures the insecurities of the teenage years, how much you really rely upon your friends and that when a friendship starts to become strained it can really affect everything as feelings of jealousy, mistrust, sadness and anxiety arise which as a teenager can be very overwhelming and this book really describes that well.

The characters within this book are drawn up well. Freya and Josephine are the two main characters and I really did get a proper sense of them. At moments in the book the paranoia of Josephine was really powerful as i began to question Freya’s motives too. I wanted to bang their heads together and get them to start talking to each other and sort it out… but of course teenagers are too proud to do that! The best relationship within this novel is that of Josephine and her father. I found it very touching. It wasn’t a close one but it was a steady one, when things went wrong her father was there and supportive throughout it all and I thought it was very tender.

I enjoyed reading this book because I wanted to know what was happening so I kept turning those pages but also because it made me think about my own teenage years and how influential friendships can be upon your whole futures.

This is Rebecca Thornton’s debut novel and I’m looking forward to her writing book two as I’d love to know what else she has up her sleeve.