Monday, 18 May 2015

Book Review: I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh.

Product details:
Publisher: Sphere.
Paperback, 364 pages.
Release date: Novembers 9th 2014.
Rating:  4½ out of 5.
Ages: Adult
Source: Received from publisher for review.

  A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn't have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray's world is shattered. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape her past, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of the cruel November night that changed her life for ever.

DI Ray Stevens is tasked with seeking justice for a mother who is living every parent's worst nightmare. Determined to get to the bottom of the case, it begins to consume him as he puts both his professional and personal life on the line.

As Ray and his team seek to uncover the truth, Jenna, slowly, begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating .

A truly stunning debut novel crackling with atmospheric tension and thrilling plot-twists, I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh astounds with revelation after stunning revelation in the race to a finish-line that will send shivers down your spine. 

A woman haunted by unimaginable loss and an investigate team determined to bring justice at all costs provide the backdrop to this book, which, early on, you might think is really nothing special: just another run-of-the-mill crime thriller. If this hadn’t come my way via a personal recommendation from someone whose reading taste I really trust and share (thanks, Vicki!)  that’s what I would have thought too.  This book starts with a tragic incident that sets everything in motion, but after that, the pace slows in a maybe not-to-everyone’s-taste way, lulling the reader into a false sense of security of remote cottages, and sandy beaches and rescued pets, and romantic dinners with dishy vets. And then…


I read a lot of thrillers, and I almost always predict the big twists. Far too often I find I’m left disappointed and disgruntled because of this.  It’s my own fault, I know. Don’t ever watch a movie of this type with me either, because I’ll guess the twist and blurt it out. I just can’t help myself. Anyway, the twist here, along with the big twist in Gone Girl are maybe the only two twists that have ever really, really surprised me, in a ‘well, that just left me speechless,’ sort of way. This book is just so clever and it surprised me time and time again.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot of I Let You Go, because I want you to read this book and be surprised, so I’m being intentionally (very) vague in that I’m side-stepping the plot entirely and focusing on other things.

Like the fact that before she was an author, Clare Mackintosh spent twelve years in the police force; something which adds a whole lot of authenticity to this book. I loved the fact that Mackintosh, while providing details of a very thorough police-investigation wasn’t overly technical either (I’ve read crime novels that are bogged down by technical detail, which sometimes makes for a boring read) but what I liked about Mackintosh’s writing was that she gave her characters DI Ray Stevens and his younger colleague, Kate lives outside the police force; I like that we got to spend time with Ray and his family, and I loved how no-nonsense Kate seemingly took everything in her stride.  In fact, I was intrigued by Kate maybe most of all; we don’t get to know a lot about her as our view of her is provided via Stevens, but I feel like there could be an interesting backstory there, and that maybe we could follow her as she rises throughout  the ranks with each new Mackintosh release.

I have no idea if this is the plan, just like I have no idea what Mackintosh’s next book will be, but whatever it is, I’m in.

While the first major plot-twist in this book is a doozy of epic proportions, it’s not the only trump card in this book. If fact, there is so much more to this book, which, in Part II introduces a major player in Jenna’s life, one whose narrative expands her story into a tale that is as compelling and as multi-layered as it is truly shocking and disturbing. A truly great debut, I Let You Go is hands down one of the best books I’ve read this year. If you loved The Girl on the Train, then make this your next read.

Highly recommended.

Raise Money for Teenage Cancer Trust with 'The Fault in Our Stars' themed fundraiser 'Night of Infinities'.

Penguin has teamed up with Teenage Cancer Trust to mobilise and inspire the legions of teenage fans for John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars to help raise money for the charity.

On 26th June, with John Green’s support, the publisher is inviting all fans of the book to unite in a ‘Night of Infinities’ and organise fundraising sleepovers nationwide inspired by the book.

The Fault in Our Stars was the UK’s biggest selling novel of 2014 with sales to date exceeding a million copies in the UK alone. The book which tells the story of Hazel and Gus, two extraordinary teenagers, who first meet at a cancer support group has resonated with readers of all ages.

Penguin and Teenage Cancer Trust hope that the younger end of the novel’s fan base will be inspired to help raise money to support the only UK charity dedicated to improving the quality of life and chances of survival for young people with cancer aged between 13 and 24.

John Green comments: "I worked as a student chaplain at a children's hospital about 15 years ago for five months. During that time I started wanting to write about the young people I had met there… It just took a long while for that book to become The Fault in Our Stars. From that experience, I understand the importance of charities such as Teenage Cancer Trust and the work they do in bringing young people together and helping them get the best possible care in the best possible environment. I would be delighted if fans of my book were able to translate that into tangible support for the charity.”

Charli XCX, whose song Boom Clap was released as the first single from the soundtrack album of The Fault in Our Stars film and achieved worldwide chart success, is also supporting this initiative:
“It is incredible how passionately people have responded to the book and the film. I really hope that enthusiasm drives as many people as possible to organise a sleepover and have fun while raising money for Teenage Cancer Trust which does so much for the many young people with cancer like Hazel and Gus in the UK.”

A ‘Night of Infinities’ event pack is now available to download from The pack gives you all the information you need to organise your own sleepover whilst raising money at the Just Giving page It also includes a personal thank you letter from John for taking part, tips on how to organise your sleepover (plus advice on staying safe), real-life stories from young cancer patients and lots of fundraising ideas including: making and selling Okay Cake, sponsored Karaoke of songs from the film’s soundtrack as well as nominating friends and family to take facepack selfies.

On the night itself, there will also be live online moments which will connect all the sleepovers nationwide using social media and including a dedicated radio show on W!ZARD Radio Station, the UK’s Most Popular Online Teen Radio Station set up by teen entrepreneur James Gilmore.


About Teenage Cancer Trust

Teenage Cancer Trust is the only UK charity dedicated to improving the quality of life and chances of survival for young people with cancer aged between 13 and 24. Teenage Cancer Trust funds and builds specialist units in NHS hospitals and provides dedicated staff, bringing young people together so they can be treated by teenage cancer experts in the best place for them.

Teenage Cancer Trust also educates young people in schools about cancer to help improve the speed and quality of diagnosis. Teenage Cancer Trust relies on donations to fund its vital work. Help transform the lives of young people with cancer. Visit   Teenage Cancer Trust is a registered charity: 1062559 (England & Wales), SC039757 (Scotland).


Additional information: Press Release.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Stacking the Shelves - New Books This Week!

Stacking The Shelves is hosted at Tynga's Reviews.

Here's a round up of the books I've received for review in the past few weeks. Let me know your thoughts in comments!

Click on Book Titles for more info!

All My Secrets by Sophie McKenzie || Release date: July 2015

Night Owls by Jenn Bennett || Release date:  September 2015
(US Title: The Anatomical Shape of the Heart)

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider || Release date: June 2015

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen || Available Now
Next up on my TBR. I'm excited to read this one!

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich || Release date:  August 2015

All My Secrets ARC Cover

Night Owls ARC Cover


Edgewater by Courtney Sheinmel || Release date: September 2015
Pitched as a 'YA Grey Gardens'. Sold. (Netgalley)

Persuasion (Heirs of Watson Island #2) by Martina Boone ||  Release date: October 2015
Enjoyed Compulsion a lot - especially the Southern setting. (Edelweiss)

Paulina & Fran by Rachel B. Glaser || Release date: September 2015
Described as a 'story of friendship, art, sex, and curly hair.' The arty cover caught my eye. The book itself sounds pretty good too! (Edelweiss)

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett || Release date: June 2015
One Day meets Sliding Doors - the publishers are predicting a big summer hit for this one and, if early Goodreads reviews are anything to go by, they might just be right!


Friday, 15 May 2015

Book Review: The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord.

Product details:
Publisher: Bloomsbury.
Hardcover, 384 pages.
Release date: March 31st 2015.
Rating:  4 out of 5.
Ages: 12+
Source: Purchased.

 Brimming with heartfelt relationships and authentic high-school dynamics The Start of Me and You proves that it’s never too late for second chances.

It’s been a year since it happened—when Paige Hancock’s first boyfriend died in an accident. After shutting out the world for two years, Paige is finally ready for a second chance at high school . . . and she has a plan. First: Get her old crush, Ryan Chase, to date her—the perfect way to convince everyone she’s back to normal. Next: Join a club—simple, it’s high school after all. But when Ryan’s sweet, nerdy cousin, Max, moves to town and recruits Paige for the Quiz Bowl team (of all things!) her perfect plan is thrown for a serious loop. Will Paige be able to face her fears and finally open herself up to the life she was meant to live?

Emery Lord arrived on the YA Contemp scene with a bang thanks to her pitch-perfect debut, Open Road Summer. The story of wild child Reagan O’ Neill and her country-music superstar best friend Dee Montgomery stuck a chord with readers everywhere and was a huge summer hit when it hit shelves last year. Now Lord is back, and while friendship is again a central theme in her sophomore novel, The Start of Me and You reads quite differently to Open Road Summer. This book may be a quieter, less dramatic affair than its predecessor, but this heartfelt story has characters you will root for and the slow-burn of a sure-to-turn-swoony-perfect-match friendship that will delight hopeless romantics everywhere.

Aspiring screenwriter Paige Hancock doesn’t want her life to be defined by tragedy, but ever since her boyfriend Aaron died, that’s exactly how her life has been. Paige and Aaron may not have dated for very long, but to the people of her small town, Paige is now known as ‘the girl whose boyfriend died’, forever the receiver of sympathetic looks, and sad, mournful smiles. Paige will never forget her time with Aaron, the fun they had, the bond they shared, but she’s ready to move on with her life. It’s the start of a new school year, a time for new beginnings, new challenges, and maybe, just maybe, even a new boy.

Enter Ryan Chase.  

Ryan Chase is hot in a Jake Ryan, Jordan Catalano kind of way, and just like those two ultimate (slightly dated points-of-reference but COME ON everyone has heard of Jordan Catalano, right?) crushes, Ryan Chase is forever referred to by his full name. He is never just Ryan, always Ryan Chase, as in ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe Ryan Chase knows my name,’ or, in Paige’s case, ‘Oh my God, Ryan Chase totally just bought me a hotdog,’ kind of way.

Paige has been crushing on Ryan Chase since forever. And I mean forever.  If anyone is going to help her to move on with her life, then Ryan Chase is it.

Ryan Chase is newly single – and a little heartbroken with it.

Ryan Chase may be gorgeous, but he is a nice guy with it. All the swoon.

It’s a sad but true fact that Paige doesn’t have a whole lot in common with Ryan Chase, by which I mean, they have zero, zilch, nothing very much in common at all.

You know who Paige has a whole lot in common with, though? Fellow nerd (and proud of it) Max Watson, Ryan Chase’s cousin, who we–along with all of Paige’s friends and even her English teacher- know is the perfect match for Paige. Only she doesn’t see it. I mean, our girl doesn’t see it, even after Max christens her with a literary nickname.  I mean, come on. Poor Max. He’s been Friendzoned.  But will things stay that way? Will Paige see the error of her ways?  Or will she continue to crush on so-cute-but-we-have-nothing-in-common Ryan Chase? 

Wow. I am so making this review all about boys. And this book is not all about boys. Not at all. This book is all about the girls, in fact. 

The Girls: Paige’s friends Tessa, Morgan and Kayleigh were the glue that held Paige together when Aaron died, those girls got Paige back on her feet, back to feeling normal again. They have been there for Paige through everything – and that’s a lot. I love how Emery Lord writes about and makes friendship such a focal point in her books. She just gets it so right both here and in Open Road Summer. Lord’s take on friendship is never cheesy or overdone; it’s just real, even right down to the petty squabbles that even best friends sometimes have.  And I love that. 

Special mention to Paige’s gran: This very cool lady with whom Paige shares all her secrets. Loved their bond. 

Perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, this sweet book of friendship and family, grief and heartbreak and moving on is sure to be another huge hit for Emery Lord.

Read this if you loved The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins.

Monday, 11 May 2015

I Let You Go Blog Tour: Clare Mackintosh Shares Her Reading Habits & Read an Extract of I Let You Go.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh || Release date: November 2014

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn't have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray's world is shattered. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape her past, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of the cruel November night that changed her life for ever.

DI Ray Stevens is tasked with seeking justice for a mother who is living every parent's worst nightmare. Determined to get to the bottom of the case, it begins to consume him as he puts both his professional and personal life on the line.

As Ray and his team seek to uncover the truth, Jenna, slowly, begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating .


Guest Post: Clare Mackintosh Shares her Reading Habits.
Not all readers are writers, but I don't know of any writers who aren't readers. A passion for books is surely a prerequisite for their creation? I am, and have always been, a prolific reader. I hate to interrupt a good book, and will sacrifice anything (sleep, food, the housework...) to reach the end of a real page-turner. Before I started writing books myself my reading tastes were fairly rigid. Crime novels for most of the year, and something pink with high heels or cupcakes on the cover for holidays and high days. 

Over the years, and as my own writing began to develop, my reading habits started to change. I began reading for research, as much as for pleasure, exploring crime sub-genres such as mystery, thriller, cosy crime, psychological suspense, in order to find out where my natural writing style lay. I looked at books in a different way, often going back over sections I had already read, in order to unpick how the author had fitted the plot together, or how the carefully placed clues had managed to simultaneously mislead and direct me. 

My role as director of Chipping Norton Literary Festival means I am sent a great deal of books, most of which I try to read, especially if they are appearing at the festival. This pushes me out of my reading comfort zone, with surprising results. Having for many years declared I wasn't a fan of historical fiction, or by romance novels, I would find myself captivated by a Second World War love story. Receiving books through the post is an enormous treat, and I never take it for granted. I read almost everything I receive, and if I like it I tweet about it, and occasionally write a blog post about it. More and more I take the time to review a good book on Goodreads, so that others can discover it too. Right now I'm reading an amazing science fiction book, a genre I have always avoided. 

When I am writing, particularly if I have finished the first draft and am in the hideous middle stage of the rewriting and editing process, where nothing is going right, I often suffer from reader's block. Nothing I pick up grabs me, and if I stumble on a particularly well-written novel I am too wracked with anxiety over my own agonisingly awful manuscript to read it. I have learned now that there is no point in fighting this. Instead I return to old favourites (Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, or one of Richmal Crompton's timeless Just Williams) and let the words wash over me. My reading muse will return - it always does. 


Read an Extract of I Let You Go:

When I wake, for a second I’m not sure what this feeling is. Everything is the same, and yet everything has changed. Then, before I have even opened my eyes, there is a rush of noise in my head, like an underground train. And there it is: playing out in Technicolor scenes I can’t pause or mute. I press the heels of my palms into my temples as though I can make the images subside through brute force alone, but still they come, thick and fast, as if without them I might forget. On my bedside cabinet is the brass alarm clock Eve gave me when I went to university – ‘Because you’ll never get to lectures, otherwise’ – and I’m shocked to see it’s ten-thirty already. The pain in my hand has been overshadowed by a headache that blinds me if I move my head too fast, and as I peel myself from the bed every muscle aches. I pull on yesterday’s clothes and go into the garden without stopping to make a coffee, even though my mouth is so dry it’s an effort to swallow. I can’t find my shoes, and the frost stings my feet as I make my way across the grass. The garden isn’t large, but winter is on its way, and by the time I reach the other side I can’t feel my toes. The garden studio has been my sanctuary for the last five years. Little more than a shed to the casual observer, it is where I come to think, to work, and to escape. The wooden floor is stained from the lumps of clay that drop from my wheel, firmly placed in the centre of the room, where I can move around it and stand back to view my work with a critical eye. Three sides of the shed are lined with shelves on which I place my sculptures, in an ordered chaos only I could understand. Works in progress, here; fired but not painted, here; waiting to go to customers, here. Hundreds of separate pieces, yet if I shut my eyes, I can still feel the shape of each one beneath my fingers, the wetness of the clay on my palms. I take the key from its hiding place under the window ledge and open the door. It’s worse than I thought. The floor lies unseen beneath a carpet of broken clay; rounded halves of pots ending abruptly in angry jagged peaks. The wooden shelves are all empty, my desk swept clear of work, and the tiny figurines on the window ledge are unrecognisable, crushed into shards that glisten in the sunlight. By the door lies a small statuette of a woman. I made her last year, as part of a series of figures I produced for a shop in Clifton. I had wanted to produce something real, something as far from perfection as it was possible to get, and yet for it still to be beautiful. I made ten women, each with their own distinctive curves, their own bumps and scars and imperfections. I based them on my mother; my sister; girls I taught at pottery class; women I saw walking in the park. This one is me. Loosely, and not so anyone would recognise, but nevertheless me. Chest a little too flat; hips a little too narrow; feet a little too big. A tangle of hair twisted into a knot at the base of the neck. I bend down and pick her up. I had thought her intact, but as I touch her the clay moves beneath my hands, and I’m left with two broken pieces. I look at them, then I hurl them with all my strength towards the wall, where they shatter into tiny pieces that shower down on to my desk. I take a deep breath and let it slowly out.


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