Thursday, 15 June 2017

Book review: The Program - Suzanne Young (The Program #1)

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in.

And The Program is coming for them.

My opinion.
I remember a fellow book blogger raving about this book a couple of years ago. Both the title, the cover and blurb stood out to me back then and apparently left an impression, because when I accidentally stumbled upon 'The Program' at the library, I just knew I had to read this.
I'm not sure it completely lived up to my expectations of it. Meaning that reading the book didn't really have the same impact on me as I thought it would - or as hearing about it when it first came out did. 
That being said, the story is pretty brilliant. Not only does it raise the issue of mental health, it also pinpoints one of the main issues surrounding mental health: it's not talked about enough. Whether this has to do with shame, misconceptions, fear or the lack of trust, the topic is still too much of a taboo.
In Sloane's world The Program controls everything and with the threat of taking all their memories away, it suppresses Sloane, or anyone else, showing true emotions and honesty. So with the notion of The Program facilities, the yellow scrubs and horrible pills, this story is set in a different reality... but to me, this reality created by the Program is in a way an enlargement of how people struggling with mental health issues or depression may feel suppressed, stigmatized or scared to show honesty.
It's a powerful message, mixed with a touching story about how some connections run deeper than remembering anecdotes, how remembering a feeling can be just as powerful as remembering certain truths. How people can still find their way back to each other despite obstacles thrown in their way. 
So even though I don't feel the typical post-reading-YA-series-addiction, I'm really happy I read this book and I'll be very tempted to pick up the next books in the series to find out more about what happens to Sloane and James after The Program. 


Thursday, 1 June 2017

Book review: Annie's Lovely Choir by the Sea - Liz Eeles (Salt Bay, #1)

Prepare to be whisked away to the Cornish seaside, where clear blue skies, crashing waves, and a welcoming choir await you. 

Annie Trebarwith has no family to tie her down, and she likes it that way. But when a letter arrives, unexpectedly inviting her to visit her great aunt Alice in her family’s ancestral home, curiosity gets the better of her and she travels to deepest Cornwall to meet the family she’s never known. 

Salt Bay is beautiful and Tregavara House imposing – but there’s no phone signal and some of the locals, like the gorgeous but brooding Josh, are incredibly grumpy. But Alice’s poor health compels Annie to stay, so to keep herself busy she relaunches the Salt Bay Choral Society

Annie is surprised to see how much the choir means to the community, and she even starts to break through Josh’s surly exterior. As she begins to put down roots in Salt Bay, Annie soon realises that there’s a lot to be said for finding the place where you belong after all… 

My opinion.
A commitment phobic heroine who detests the countryside... Not particularly traits I can relate to so I have to say I was a bit hesitant at the start of this. But all of a sudden I found myself, hours later and more than half of the story finished, apparently completely fallen in love with the Salt Bay and it's inhabitants - I hadn't been able to put the book down.
I was drawn to Liz Eeles' Salt Bay from the moment Annie arrived. It sets the scene for a wonderful, tight little community where - in the end - everyone looks out for one another. With a loud, bubbly Aussie best friend and an Aidan Turner look-alike neighbour, the countryside is proving a lot more interesting and surprising than Londoner Annie would have thought. As she gets to know the people in Salt Bay better, the sense of family and community is really strong and is bound to rub off on her... right?! How could you not love a place like Salt Bay...
Love, friendship, family, loss, grief and hope all come together in this lovely read.
Not the most original or memorable of stories, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Annie's Lovely Choir By The Sea. A fun, relaxing read that had me blink away a couple of tears at the end.
There might be a bit much title for me, to be honest, but the cute summery cover makes up for the blurb-like-title.


Monday, 10 April 2017

Book tour: Spring at Blueberry Bay - Holly Martin


Welcome to beautiful Hope Island where the sea sparkles, the daffodils are blooming and a blossoming romance is just around the corner…
Bella has always had a sunny outlook and caring nature, despite recently falling on hard times. When she finds a handsome homeless man on her doorstep, her kind heart tells her she must help him. So, she invites Isaac into her cottage and into her life in ways she could never have imagined…
But Isaac is not what he seems. He’s keeping a huge secret from Bella, yet he never expected to fall for this open, generous and charming woman. 
Bella can’t ignore the chemistry between her and Isaac, but she’s had her trust badly broken in her past. Will she run when she learns the truth about Isaac, or will he be the one man who can help Bella believe in love again?

My opinion.
She has done it, yet again. What an amazing new novel Spring at Blueberry Bay is. I mean, sure, the cover is colourful and inviting, but nothing prepared me for the brilliant novel inside. Ok, maybe having read all her other a-mazing books should have given me a clue ;-)
As always, Holly Martin keeps surprising her readers. She never goes for the expected. Her characters, their jobs, hobby's and interest, the setting of the novel,... Each and every time, Holly goes all out to re-invent love stories. Her novels are truly unique, refreshing and always memorable.
Spring at Blueberry Bay had me laughing out loud more than once, and had me crying - also more than once. Bella hasn't had an easy past, and through the course of this novel, she goes through some ups and downs coming to terms with her family history and its effect on her relationships. Both the heartbreak, the passion, the fear and the blissful happiness are tangible. I almost felt exhausted going through all these different emotions wit her! ... But that could also be because I refused to go to bed before I finished this fabulous read.
Isaac is everything you'd wish in a (book-)boyfriend. He exudes passion, tenderness, trust and loyalty, and he is so, so sexy - I know, all in one guy?!!
I fell in love with Hope Island, with Isaac, Bella and her family. Fingers crossed we get the revisit them, soon.


Holly lives in a little white cottage by the sea. She studied media at university which led to a very glitzy career as a hotel receptionist followed by a even more glamorous two years working in a bank. The moment that one of her colleagues received the much coveted carriage clock for fifteen years’ service was the moment when she knew she had to escape. She quit her job and returned to university to train to be a teacher. Three years later, she emerged wide eyed and terrified that she now had responsibility for the development of thirty young minds. She taught for four years and then escaped the classroom to teach history workshops, dressing up as a Viking one day and an Egyptian High Priestess the next. But the long journeys around the UK and many hours sat on the M25 gave her a lot of time to plan out her stories and she now writes full time, doing what she loves.
Holly has been writing for 7 years. She was shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance. Her short story won the Sunlounger competition and was published in the Sunlounger anthology. She won the Carina Valentine’s competition at the Festival of Romance 2013 with her novel The Guestbook. She was shortlisted for Best Romantic Read, Best eBook and Innovation in Romantic Fiction at the Festival of Romance 2014. 

Follow her on Twitter @hollymauthor

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Book review: Holding - Graham Norton

Graham Norton's masterful debut is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss.

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn't always been this overweight; mother of­ two Brid Riordan hasn't always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn't always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke - a former­ love of both Brid and Evelyn - the village's dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community's worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters, and explore - with searing honesty - the complexities and contradictions that make us human.

My opinion.
I'm always a bit apprehensive when a tv-personality publishes a book. Did they get published because they're already famous? Or do they actually have a talent?
I needn't have worried with Graham Norton's debut. With Holding, he shows a wonderful insight in his characters. He introduces us to a quiet little Irish village where everyone knows everyone, and all their stories are intertwined somehow. But do they really know each other as well as they do? 
Although there's a lot of different players in this story, I feel like Graham Norton really took the time to let his readers get acquainted with each and every one of them. So much so, that this - to me - read more as a 'dark' drama than a murder mystery. The body and the questions and buried secrets it uncovers almost take a back seat to the emotional drama those villagers endure.
I was intrigued until the very last page and although it's been a while since I've finished the story, I find myself thinking back on Duneen and it's inhabitants quite often.
If Graham Norton was to venture in the world of fiction-writing again, I'd definitely be one of the first in line to read it.
Pleasantly surprised!


Thursday, 6 April 2017

Book review: The Coal Miner's Daughter - Maggie Hope

Afbeeldingsresultaat voor coal miner's daughter maggie hope

Growing up in poverty, one of six siblings, Hannah Armstrong never thought she’d know anything other than her little mining town. But then she falls for Timothy Durkin, a wealthy Oxford student…

Following her heart, Hannah sacrifices everything she holds dear and follows her new husband to Oxford. But will her new life of luxury be everything she expected - or will she find that once a coal miner's daughter, always a coal miner's daughter..?

My opinion.
When we first meet Hannah and her family, she's only a little girl. But hers is not a carefree childhood. She has to take care of household tasks, help out with the younger siblings and make sure the older ones have a bath and meal waiting for them when they get back from a hard days work. And hard work it is. The miner's village is under constant stress of poverty, (failed) union strikes, cuts in hours, jobs and wages.
As the story goes on, we watch Hannah grow into a smart, resourceful woman. Through hard work and determination, she manages to "escape" to the city and find a good job. But with her family at home still struggling very much to make ends meet, nothing is ever sure.
The way Maggie Hope told this story and was able to write a main character from, say, the age of 10-18 is masterful. We saw Hannah as a child, a young girl in her teens and finally a grown up in her own right. But these changes were fluent and she's growing with every chapter you read, without it ever feeling out of tune with the story, or out of character: Hannah stays Hannah. Beautifully done. Very subtle.
I am very sorry for the person or team who designed this cover... but I absolutely hate it. I would probably haven't even looked twice at this wonderful read, just because of it's cover. It makes it look "cheap" and... it doesn't even fit in with the story, where there are 6 Armstrong children, all of them dark haired. The cover simple doesn't do this book justice.
And nor does the blurb actually (which just gets part of the story wrong(!!)). Both cover and blurb missed the mark completely.

I truly enjoyed reading this novel and I would definitely try another one of Maggie Hope's books.


Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Book review: Postmortem - Patricia Cornwell (Kay Scarpetta #1)

A serial killer is on the loose in Richmond, Virginia. Three women have died, brutalised and strangled in their own bedrooms. But there is no pattern. Dr Kay Scarpetta, chief medical officer, now fears for those who will follow.

My opinion.
A horrific killer that strikes faster and in more horrific ways with each new victim he claims. Why is he doing it, and who's going to be his next victim?The investigation is closing in on Kay and the police, the pressure to solve this case is coming at her from all corners and all the while her judgment and professionalism are being questioned. The rush and pressure keeps you glued to the pages, although the details of the crimes this killer commits are nauseating and disturbing. With sexual assault, I must say I wish Patricia Cornwell had been a bit less... "rich" with her descriptions.'Postmortem' feels like a classic thriller. With suspense, surprise and a strong character in Kay Scarpetta, this book has all the ingredients of a great thriller.That being said I did have trouble connecting to Kay. I'm curious to find out more about her in the following books of this series, but as far as 'Postmortem' book goes, the disconnect meant that there was something missing that would make this book unforgettable. That and the really um.. "vintage" computer problems ;-) 


Monday, 6 February 2017

Book review: The Sunrise - Victoria Hislop

In the summer of 1972, Famagusta in Cyprus is the most desirable resort in the Mediterranean, a city bathed in the glow of good fortune. An ambitious couple open the island's most spectacular hotel, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots work in harmony. Two neighbouring families, the Georgious and the �zkans, are among many who moved to Famagusta to escape the years of unrest and ethnic violence elsewhere on the island. But beneath the city's facade of glamour and success, tension is building. 
When a Greek coup plunges the island into chaos, Cyprus faces a disastrous conflict. Turkey invades to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, and Famagusta is shelled. Forty thousand people seize their most precious possessions and flee from the advancing soldiers. In the deserted city, just two families remain. This is their story.

My opinion.
In 'The Sunrise' Victoria Hislop introduces us to a wide range of characters. At first glance they seem worlds apart but as the book continues their stories come together and intertwine. When troops invade sunny Cyprus, class and ethnicity, greed and status don't seem to matter as much anymore to the main characters. When the country and world politics are more divided than ever, the lines and walls that kept them separate before start to crumble down. 
The characters, their stories and the gorgeous resort of Famagusta are all incredible rich. There's so much detail and depth, but for some reason I felt as if you were kept on the outside, looking in from afar, instead of getting sucked into the book.
Against the backdrop of, at first, paradise on earth and a civil war afterwards, the characters go through a roller-coaster of emotions. But to me the description of those felt clinical and stand-offish.
I enjoyed it, but I'm afraid I will have forgotten Famagusta and it's inhabitants in a few weeks. I, however, highly recommend Victoria Hislop's earlier book 'The Return'. It's been years(!) since I've read it and I still remember the intensity and passion.


Friday, 3 February 2017

Book review: The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion

Meet Don Tillman. Don is getting married. He just doesn't know who to yet. But he has designed a very detailed questionnaire to help him find the perfect woman. One thing he already knows, though, is that it's not Rosie. Absolutely, completely, definitely not.

My opinion.
Don Tillman is awkward. Let's be blunt. But there's never been a character that stole my heart as fast as Don did. He's confused - rightly so, when you've seen his perspective - by the (social) world around him. Yet he's accepting and sober about how he fits into that world. Simply said: he doesn't fit in, and never has. But the social isolation doesn't get him down. He gets confronted with his flaws on a daily basis, yet he's still confident in all his talents and although he has had every reason to give up on people, he's still the most loyal friend.

This has just become one of my new favourite books. I loved every single page of it. It was endearing, funny, romantic, emotional,... 
I literally missed my train reading this - I was so engrossed I just forgot about the world around me.
Has this been optioned? 'Cause this has Benedict Cumberbatch written alllll over it.