ARC Book Review: I Let You Fall by Sara Downing

My thanks to Sara Downing (the author), TCK Publishing (the publisher) and Maria (Author Support Specialist at TCK Publishing) for sending me an ARC of I Let You Fall. Links to the author, publisher and the book can be found at the bottom of this post.

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A thought-provoking, poignant paranormal love story, I Let You Fall takes you on an emotional rollercoaster of journey. 4 / 5

Summary (from Goodreads)

On a summer night in London, art teacher Eve Chapman finds herself in a hospital emergency room. She watches surgeons desperately operate on a young woman with a terrible head injury. But when the bandages are removed, Eve is horrified to find her own body on the operating table.

Trapped in a coma, Eve struggles to cope with the fact that no matter how hard she tries, her family and friends cannot see or hear her. But then she meets Luca Diaz, a handsome and comatose lawyer who can see her. He takes Eve under his wing and teaches her how to use her new abilities to help the living.

As the weeks pass, Eve struggles to find a way back to her body and to Nathan, the man she loves. But the more time she spends with Luca, the more she wonders if her old life is worth going back to at all.

Favourite Quote

“Eve decided then and there that she would be very different if she got back into her body. She would be that person who looked up and smiled, that person who struck up conversation, just because.”

(From I Let You Fall by Sara Downing, page 143)

Review

I Let You Fall is a poignant paranormal love story.

Eve Chapman is an interesting character and her story is a fascinating one. She isn’t special, nor is she extraordinary. She’s just an ordinary woman, an art teacher in a school, who’s in a relationship with Nathan, and who thinks she has a full and meaningful life. But when a serious accident befalls her, something quite extraordinary happens.

Eve finds herself in the hospital to discover her conscious, spiritual self has been separated from her physical body – and that is in a coma. Unseen and unheard by all those around her, she has to cope with being invisible to everyone, which is made all the more difficult when she can see how her being in a coma places a great stress and worry on those she loves.

However, a meeting with Luca, a man who has also been separated from his physical body, changes her outlook, and the things he has to say will reveal some truly wonderful things. Thought-provoking and emotional, the journey Eve goes on is staggering as she explores a world in-between.

One of my favourite parts of how the story was told was it was done from both the viewpoint of Eve in her spirit form and Eve in the coma. I thought this was cleverly written and added an extra depth to the storytelling. The very heavy topics of death, loss and grief are sensitively handled and perfectly balanced with compassion, comfort and understanding.

At the same time as Eve’s story is unfolding, other stories are also playing out, weaving in and out of each other. This really is a heart-warming story of connection, interconnection and re-connection.

I Let You Fall is a quick read, but be warned, it’s an emotional rollercoaster of a story.

Rating

Links

Sara Downing’s website

TCK Publishing

I Let Your Fall on Amazon

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Quick Review: Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Summary from the back of the book:

In 1960s Nigeria, a country blighted by civil war, three lives intersect. Ugwu, a boy from a poor village, works as a houseboy for a university lecturer. Olanna, a young woman, has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos to live with her charismatic new lover, the professor. The third is Richard, a shy Englishman in thrall to Olanna’s enigmatic twin sister. When the shocking horror of the war engulfs them, their loyalties are severely tested as they are pulled apart and thrown together in ways that none of them imagined…

My thoughts:

A beautifully written, powerful and heartbreaking story, bringing the realities, the human story, of civil war to the fore. This was such a moving read, a very difficult read at times given the subject, as well as an educational one. I had heard of Biafra, but knew very little about it, and I’ve come away from this book feeling like I’ve learned a lot.

The author’s style is poetic, lyrical and conveys so much. There is one line from the book that I can’t forget:

The world was silent when we died.

This is a book that will stay with me for a very, very long time…Highly recommended.

Rating:

Book Review: The Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean Pendziwol

Quick Review (read on for full review)

A beautifully written, emotional story, full of secrets, love, loss, sacrifice and sisterly devotion. A wonderful read. 4 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

Elizabeth grew up in a lighthouse, inseparable from her enigmatic twin sister Emily.  Their father, the lightkeeper, kept a journal of his observation and their daily life.  When those journals are discovered on a shipwrecked boat, many decades later, Elizabeth is living in a retirement home and her eyesight is failing.  She enlists the help of a troubled teenager, Morgan, to read to her, and an unlikely friendship grows between the two.  But as Morgan reads on, Elizabeth discovers that the past revealed is not as she remembers it, and that the journal may contain answers to unexplained events that have haunted her all her life…

Favourite Quote

“War and death can silence the strongest of men.”

(The Lightkeeper’s Daughters by Jean Pendziwol, page 174)

Review

I really enjoyed this book.  It’s beautifully written – almost poetic at certain points – and the narration moves deftly between Elizabeth and Morgan, and the diaries entries written by Andrew Livingstone, Elizabeth’s father.  It’s an emotional story, one full of mysteries, as well as love, loss, sacrifice and sisterly devotion.

The descriptions of the lighthouse, Porphyry Island and Lake Superior were so rich that they brought the setting of the story to life.  I quite easily felt as if I was there, walking along the rocks.  Indeed, I think it was the location itself that pulled me first into this story, the characters second.  The isolated life the family lived on the island was a perfect place for the keeping of secrets, cut off as they were from the rest of the world by the moody and often dangerous waters of the lake.

The friendship that grows between Elizabeth and Morgan is wonderful to read.  In a way, the one needs the other to work through this difficult period each of them is going through.  These two characters are so well-defined, and the language they use to express themselves filters into that, ensuring they come across as real and believable. The relationship between Elizabeth and her twin sister Emily, is inspiring, enduring and heart-breaking at times.

It’s worth mentioning that there is one part of the story (I’ll not mention it, for fear of spoilers) that felt too unlikely in its coincidence, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.  This is the only negative I found with this book.

I was thoroughly surprised by how much I enjoyed The Lightkeeper’s Daughters, and would happily read more from this author. Highly recommended.

Rating

Book Review: The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen

Quick Review (read on for full review)

Strange and heartbreaking, with an unforgettable main character in Judith.  This story will stay with me for a good while yet. 4 / 5

Summary (from inside cover)

Judith and her father don’t have much – their house is full of dusty relics, reminders of the mother she’s never known.  But Judith sees the world with the clear Eyes of Faith, and where others might see rubbish, Judith sees possibility.  Bullied at school, she finds solace in making a model of the Promised Land – little people made from pipe cleaners, a sliver of moon, luminous stars and a mirror sea – a world of wonder that Judith calls The Land of Decoration.  Perhaps, she thinks, if she makes it snow indoors (using shaving foam and cotton wool and cellophane) there will be no school on Monday…

Sure enough, when Judith opens her curtains the next day, the world beyond her window has turned white.  She has performed her first miracle.  And that’s when her troubles begin.

With its intensely taut storytelling and gorgeous prose, The Land of Decoration is a heartbreaking story of good and evil, belief and doubt.

Favourite Quote

The Land of Decoration is full of quotable passages.  I narrowed it down to two favourites:

*

‘That’s because Something and Nothing are more closely related than people think,’ God said.

(The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen, page 195)

*

God said: ‘My ways are unsearchable.’

I said: ‘It’s convenient being unsearchable, isn’t it?’

(The Land of Decoration by Grace McCleen, page 245)

Review

The Land of Decoration is on the surface, a simple tale of young girl trying to make sense of her life and the world around her.  She’s bullied at school, her father is distant, and outside of school and home, her only real contact with the world is through her neighbour, Mrs Pew, and the members of the congregation she and her father are part of.

However, look beneath the surface, and you will find the story is far more complicated and multi-layered than it first appears.  The book covers a number of difficult issues: grief and loss, bullying, faith and the lack of it, persecution and prejudice, child-parent relationships, fear and anxiety over things beyond our control…and that sometimes bad things do happen in life that can’t be prevented or satisfactorily explained as to why they happened.

Judith is an intriguing main character.  She’s ten years old and so naïve and innocent, and as a narrator she is unreliable, quite simply because she doesn’t necessarily understand what is going on around her – but this is something she is yet to grasp.  However, that doesn’t mean that she is not perceptive and intelligent.  It’s clear from the outset that she is a lonely, isolated girl and that she stands out as different.

One of the things that helps her get through life, is her model world of The Land of Decoration.  As I read how she built it, I couldn’t help but smile at her imagination and creativity and the wonder and possibility she could see in everything.  What everyone else sees as rubbish, she sees as magical – though not in the strictest sense, but rather as transformational.

I never really knew what was going to happen as the story unfolded.  I had a few suspicions but nothing concrete, and so  each new plot twist was unexpected. In places, it was very hard to read, and in some places, it was heartbreaking.  The ending especially was hard to read.  I’m not going to lie and say at times this wasn’t a strange book.  To hear a young girl speak of Armageddon and The End Times is a little unsettling.  However, on a lighter note, one of my favourite parts of the book was when Judith discovers that people we look up to can’t always lives up to our expectations.

My biggest criticism of the book was that in my opinion, the story should have ended with the penultimate chapter.  I found the last chapter a little jarring and wonder if it might not have made a better section at the back of the book, perhaps with some other similar material, if it had to be included at all.

The lasting question this book has me wondering about is: who was Judith actually talking to?  I’ve no doubt that this story is going to stay with me for some time yet.

This was a slow read, but there is so much going on and so much to think about, that it had to be.  I recommended to those who are looking for a book told from an unusual perspective.

Rating


Sammi Loves Books Reading Challenge 2019 – I’ve chosen this book for challenge #10 in the list: A book you wouldn’t usually read

Book Review: The Other Me by Saskia Sarginson

Quick Review (read on for full review)

An emotional, gripping read that deals with identity and family secrets.  Well worth a read.  4 / 5

Summary (from back of book)

Eliza Bennett has the life she’s always dreamed of.
She’s who she wants to be, and she’s with the man she loves.

But Eliza is living a lie. Her real name is Klaudia Meyer.
And Klaudia is on the run. She’s escaping her old life, and a terrible secret buried at the heart of her family.

This is the story of Eliza and Klaudia – one girl, two lives and a lie they cannot hide from.

Favourite Quote

His history has changed my lie, swollen it to new proportions, making it huge and grotesque.  Guilt twists up from the past, flooding through my veins, marking me out as my father’s daughter.

Review

I’m not sure what I was expecting from this book when I picked it up, or when I started reading it. Perhaps a novel that was more of a thriller, I think.  Something darker…a crime, maybe.  What I found instead was an emotional, gripping read that deals with identity and family secrets.

At first, I was unsure about the story.  A few chapters in, I couldn’t be certain I wanted to continue reading it.  But, I don’t like to leave a book I’ve started to read unfinished.  So I pressed on, and I’m so pleased I did.  I hate to think I almost missed out on this.

Klaudia has a difficult childhood.  Her father has a history she doesn’t really understand because they don’t talk about it, and that makes it difficult for her at school.  What she thinks she knows is influenced by the rumours she hears and other peoples opinions – but is it the truth?

As soon as she get’s the chance, she leaves home to create the life and identity she’s always wanted; so that she can be the person she’s always felt inside.  But leaving home doesn’t mean she can leave the past behind.  In fact, she becomes haunted by it.

This was beautifully written and the issues that arise in the story are sensitively dealt with.  The different time periods are brought to life vividly, and the different POV’s add depth and richness to the tale.  I sometimes felt frustrated by the choices Klaudia / Eliza made and a few of the plot twists were expected, but all-in-all, I found this to be a surprisingly captivating read.

I thought long and hard over what rating to give the book; whether 3.5 seemed to measly; whether 4 seemed too generous.  However, I opted for 4 / 5, purely because I enjoyed the book far more than I thought I would during those opening chapters.

This is the first work I’ve read by the author, but I can see me checking out more of her books in the future.

Rating

Book Review: The Little House by Philippa Gregory

Summary (from Goodreads)

A contemporary psychological thriller in the style of Ruth Rendell, from one of today’s most versatile and compelling storytellers.

It was easy for Elizabeth. She married the man she loved, bore him two children and made a home for him which was the envy of their friends.

It was harder for Ruth. She married Elizabeth’s son and then found that, somehow, she could never quite measure up…

Isolation, deceit and betrayal fill the gaps between the two individual women and between their different worlds. In this complex thriller, Philippa Gregory deploys all her insight into what women want and what women fear, as Ruth confronts the shifting borders of her own sanity. Laying bare the comfortable conventions of rural England, this spine-tingling novel pulses with suspense until the whiplash double-twist of the denouement.

Favourite Quote

Their very generosity to her and concern for her had told her that she was a stranger, and unwelcome.

Review

This was a gripping read that kept me reading until the very last page and left me feeling chilled to the bone afterwards.  This is perhaps one of the best psychological thrillers that I have read to date.  Philippa Gregory conveys just how easy it is for what appears to be kindness to be used to manipulate someone who is more-or-less alone in the world.  What unfolds is just so hard to read and some passages are simply harrowing.

The characters are superbly imagined.  Ruth is talented and successful in her own right, but the only family she’s got – her selfish husband and his overbearing and controlling parents – are not interested in her work.  They are only interested in his successes.  She is nothing more to them than add-on to the family; there to serve a purpose.  I really felt for Ruth, and was moved and upset by the evil treatment she received at the hands of the people who should have cared for her the most.

As for the ending, I’ll try and explain my thoughts without letting any spoilers out.  The first thing that happened, had to; there was simply no other course of action for Ruth to take if she wanted things to change.  However, I was surprised – and perhaps a little disappointed – in what that led to, though I can understand why things turned out as they did.

All-in-all, I can’t recommend this dark sinister tale highly enough.

Rating

4.5 / 5

 

Book Review: Winter’s Fairytale by Maxine Morrey

This book review may contain spoilers.Summary (from Goodreads)

Step into a winter wonderland and fall in love in the snow this Christmas…
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

A few weeks before Christmas and a sudden blanketing of snow has closed the roads and brought public transport grinding to a halt, stranding Izzy miles from home and in desperate need of rescuing.

That doesn’t mean she’s looking to bump into Rob and spend a cosy weekend holed up in his swanky flat watching London become a winter wonderland! Because Izzy and Rob have history…

Six months ago, they were standing in the vestry of a beautiful country church, while best man Rob delivered the news that every bride dreads on their big day.

But at the time of year when anything is possible, can Rob and Izzy let go of the past and let Christmas work its magic? Or will this be one holiday wish that Izzy lets walk right out of her life…

Favourite Quote

But it is silly to miss people when they’re standing in front of you, because it feels like they’re already gone.

Review

I chose this book as one of my reads for the Festive Reads Fortnight reading challenge.   The fun, whimsical cover caught my attention and persuaded me to give this contemporary romance a go. This is a really Christmassy story; not only is it set around Christmas but it has plenty of Christmas elements thrown in too.

Winter’s Fairytale is a fun little romance, though there is nothing new here.  The pretty, hardworking girl gets the rich, handsome boy. You know that is going to happen even before you begin reading, but it’s how they get there where the entertainment is to be found.

Sometimes I liked Izzy and Rob and sometimes I found them a little annoying and exasperating on occasion – mainly because they make so many assumptions about each other, but there were a few other issues too. However, it didn’t stop me from reading the book through to the end.

I liked Rob’s family.  His sister Jenny was my favourite character in the book.  She was great, as was her husband-to-be, Mike.  Now their story would have made a really great tale to read; a real winter fairytale.

The story is very well-written, and there is plenty of humour to be found, whether in the situations the characters find themselves in or in the dialogue.  A light-hearted romance with a happy ending, making it an enjoyable festive read.  I would read more by this author.

If you want an easy-to-read romance with a winter theme, you might like this story.

Rating

3.5 / 5

I downloaded a copy of this book for free via the iBooks store.

Book Review: Angelology by Danielle Trussoni

angelology-front-cover

Angelology is the first book in the Angelology series by Danielle Trussoni.

Summary:

Evangeline has spent the majority of her life behind the walls of a convent, living a life of contemplation and prayer.  Her mother died in Paris when she was small, and only a few years later, she was given into the care of the sisters at St Rose Convent in New York by her father.  When she is old enough, she decides to become a nun at the same convent.  But, a chance meeting with a visiting historian has lasting consequences and turns her life completely upside down.

Secrets abound, and Evangeline and her family are caught up in them.  And as the truth unravels, Evangeline finally uncovers who her parents were and what they did…

Favourite Quote:

It’s funny how the past is so often judged sacred while the modern world is held in suspicion.

Review:

So, this is going to be a mixed review.  Let’s look at what I didn’t like to begin with.

First off, I feel like I should have liked this book more than I did.  I love paranormal fiction especially if it is blended with a nice dose of mystery and history too.  However, I think I’ve realised that I do not like my paranormal fiction to have a literary bend; to me, it makes the story too…heavy.  And I’m guessing it is that which is responsible for my feelings towards this book.  It was a heavy read, and that made it a slow read.

The other big problem I had with this story was the ending.  So, I had made it through the heavy, slow-paced 640+ pages, the driving force behind which was to finish the book and reach a satisfactory conclusion, only to be given the foundation of the next book in the series instead.  I had no idea this book was part of a series, so you can imagine that this was a major stumbling block to my enjoyment of it (which I freely recognise is more my own fault than that of the author’s).

And so to the good points of the book.  The characters.  They were great.  It was easy to like the good characters (Evangeline and Verlaine) and dislike the bad ones (Percival Grigori).  Also, if you like rich, fluid detail in your prose, you will love this book.  It is packed full of vivid descriptions, of settings, of people, of their thoughts and feelings.  The story was fresh and on the whole, engaging, which kept me reading until the end.  The mythology and lore that is wrapped up in the narrative is interesting and helped to create a fascinating premise, I only wished I enjoyed reading it more.

The next book in the series is Angelopolis.

Rating:

two-stars

Book Review: Fingersmith by Sarah Waters

fingersmith front coverLondon, 1862.  Sue Trinder is a young fingersmith or thief.  Orphaned at birth when her mother was hanged for murder, she was raised by Mrs Sucksby, a baby farmer.  All her life she has lived with Mrs Sucksby and Mr Ibbs in a house in Lant Street, a house full of other rough and ready thieves.  One night, a man known to them as Gentleman, who also goes by the name of Richard Rivers, comes to see them.  He has a proposition to make; an opportunity for Sue to make their fortune. All she has to do is pretend to be a lady’s maid and persuade her new mistress to marry a rogue.

It sounds simple enough.  But this plan is elaborate and complex.  It has to be if they are to get their hands on Maud Lilly’s fortune and keep it…

And what of Maud Lilly?  Another orphan, she was raised in the madhouse where her mother died and left their by her uncle until he could find a use for her.  He is a reclusive man, who remains at Briar cataloguing his vast library of erotic books.  Maud’s job, when she is old enough, is to help him, and, when he has guests, to read passages to them for their enjoyment.

Maud Lilly knows nothing of the world beyond what she saw in the madhouse as a child and what she has since encountered at Briar.  Is it any wonder that she craves freedom, and is willing to marry Richard Rivers to obtain it.  Only, as secrets are revealed, it seems there is much more at stake than money…

This is the first book by Sarah Waters that I have read, though I will say that I had watched the TV adaptation of the book before reading it.

The atmosphere that the author manages to create around the story is intense and mesmerising, especially in the second half of the book.  The plot is complex and full of twists and turns, and as we are given both Sue and Maud’s perspective of what is going on, offered tantalising glimpses of the truth behind the lies.

The pace of the first quarter of the book was slow as all the foundations for what was to come needed to be laid, but when it started gathering speed, it never relented until the end.  The characters were well-crafted and the use of language was employed cleverly to help set the tone in each of the locations visited.  The descriptions – of thoughts, feelings, smells, sounds, and places – are rich and bring Victorian England colourfully to life, perhaps too colourfully, I would imagine, for those of a sensitive nature.  But, in my opinion, this only added to a realistic portrayal of the people and the times.

Fingersmith has everything a Victorian suspense story requires: a madhouse, a prison, orphans, thieves and pickpockets, not to mention a view of the seedier side of life in the latter half of the nineteenth century.  The grim, rough streets of inner city London are juxtaposed with that of the rich and well-to-do, as we are taken from Lant Street to Briar, a grey and gloomy mansion set in its own estate in the country.  And yet, though these places are worlds apart, misery and villainy are to be found in both.

After reading this, I will certainly be adding the other novels by Sarah Waters to my “must buy” book list.

Short Story Review: Real Lies by Liana Brooks

When a dead body turns up in La Jolla Cove, Kristin’s Saturday morning lie-in is ruined.  As rescue divers, Kristin and her partner are called out to recover the body.

Only, when they are out on the water, things suddenly and unexpectedly change…

Real Lies is an interesting short story, perfect for a coffee-break or lunch-time read.

The author manages to get a lot into the short space of the story, including enough description to set the scene and enough characterisation that the reader can imagine Kristin and what is going on around her.  I am usually quite good at predicting twists in storylines but the one in this short story came as a total surprise.  I didn’t see that coming at all.

This was a very quick read with a great twist.  I recommend giving this a read; the twist on its own will make it worth it.

I downloaded a copy of Real Lies by Liana Brooks for free from Smashwords.