Three Wishes by Liane Moriarty: terrific comedy thriller

 

They say trouble always comes in threes. . .
For sisters Lyn, Cat and Gemma Kettle, the year they turn thirty-three is no exception.
Sensible Lyn is struggling to balance being a mother, wife and businesswoman without losing her mind. Cat, whose perfect marriage is the envy of all her friends, never suspects that her husband has been hiding a secret that will tear her life apart. Directionless Gemma changes jobs and boyfriends every few months and has just met a new man who could be the one to unlock her hidden past.
Through everything, the bonds of the sisters are strong enough to withstand whatever life throws at them. That is until the night of their thirty-fourth birthday dinner, when home truths are revealed and things are said that can’t be taken back . . .

My mini review:

A great book with an excellent understanding of the tugs of love and hate that run through families and which are both appalling and highly amusing. The relationship between the triplets, Lyn, Cat and Gemma is excellent and I loved all three of them – both together and apart. They all had fabulous stories to tell, and the plot lines were gripping.

The only place I felt let down was the career resolution for Cat which is now so cliched (and totally unrealistic …) that it makes my skin itch – another career should have been found and surely wouldn’t have been too hard to do! Otherwise, a great 4-star read.

Anne Brooke Books

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Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty: first-class psychological thriller

 

Yvonne Carmichael sits in the witness box. The charge is murder. Before all of this, she was happily married, a successful scientist, a mother of two. Now she’s a suspect, squirming under fluorescent lights and the penetrating gaze of the alleged accomplice who’s sitting across from her, watching: a man who’s also her lover. As Yvonne faces hostile questioning, she must piece together the story of her affair with this unnamed figure who has charmed and haunted her. 

This is a tale of sexual intrigue, ruthless urges, and danger, which has blindsided her from a seemingly innocuous angle. Here in the courtroom, everything hinges on one night in a dark alley called Apple Tree Yard.

Review:

It’s a very different book from the recent TV series (which I also loved). This is far darker and more dangerous and deeper, and I much prefer it! I enjoyed the fact that the main character, Yvonne, is neither particularly likeable, nor particularly honest, but her voice is just so strong that she becomes an absolutely gripping character and I couldn’t put the book down.

The writing is both detailed and precisely fitted both to the characterisation and the flow of the story which makes for a first-class read. Doughty is now on my reading list and I will definitely be getting more of her books.

Anne Brooke Books

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult: no “Mockingbird’ alas

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.
What the nurse Ruth, her lawyer Kennedy, and Turk the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

 

My review:

On the whole, this book is a disappointment especially as usually I really love Picoult’s books. This is definitely not her best and not even her most far-reaching work. The trouble is that the author has been so taken up by the nobility of her cause (campaigning against racism) that she has forgotten to write a novel. Most of the first three-quarters of the book could have been better expressed by means of non-fiction, and I felt that the material was being forced into a novelistic form which it definitely did not fit. As a result, Ruth is very dull and irritating and needs a good shaking every now and again – she repeats herself constantly and I ended up skipping her sections in order to read the sections on Turk or Kennedy, which were better written by far.

It’s a great relief when the court scenes finally arrive in the last quarter of the book, and Picoult actually starts writing the novel rather than beating us over our heads with her cause. From then on in, I enjoyed the story, and it raced through to the dramatic (and, yes, a wee bit laughable) end. Ruth of course remains unbearably smug, but I loved the way things turn out for Turk. He at least is a great character.

I hope Picoult will remember to let the story and the characters (not the cause, please!) take centre stage for her next novel – a return to form would be appreciated!

Anne Brooke Books

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh: a poetic and powerful story

The Victorian language of flowers was used to express emotions: honeysuckle for devotion, azaleas for passion, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it has been more useful in communicating feelings like grief, mistrust and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.
Now eighteen, Victoria has nowhere to go, and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. When her talent is discovered by a local florist, she discovers her gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But it takes meeting a mysterious vendor at the flower market for her to realise what’s been missing in her own life, and as she starts to fall for him, she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, and decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.
The Language of Flowers is a heartbreaking and redemptive novel from author Vanessa Diffenbaugh, about the meaning of flowers, the meaning of family, and the meaning of love.
My review:

This is a powerful and poetic story about a young woman trying to find her place in life. Victoria’s relationship with flowers is a fabulous metaphor for how she sees the world and the people in it. The exquisite prose and the sympathetic main character drive the story along and the time-shift scenes between then and now are superbly done. The only reason it didn’t get 5 stars was because I thought the ending was too weak and it was too obvious that a lesson was being learnt – whereas I’d have preferred the character’s fantastic voice to remain as gripping as it had been up until the final chapter. Still, a great novel and I shall look out for more from this author.

Anne Brooke

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty: a fabulous and gripping read

This is a brilliant piece of women’s fiction and I absolutely loved it. I’ve not read any Moriarty’s novels before but once I started this one I couldn’t put it down. Yes, the time between Cecilia discovering THAT letter and actually opening it might be a tad too long for my taste, but I kept on reading, particularly because I was getting to know the other characters well too. There are some wonderful twists and turns in this book, and it includes moments of comedy and moments of great sadness.

The contrast between the terrible tragedy from the past and how people simply have to keep living their lives and dealing with all the hundred and one everyday situations which keep cropping up is excellently described, and I really felt for all the characters. In fact I was thinking about this book and the people in it even when I wasn’t reading it – which in my view is always the mark of a great novel. Other things I enjoyed were the voice of Janie (the deceased daughter) and how her story weaves in and out of the present day crises. How the situation is understood and resolved by all the characters is both gripping and moving, and the section at the end where we see onward into people’s lives and how characters have turned out is simply wonderful and I very much appreciated this unexpected epilogue.

Yes, this book is very good indeed and I highly recommend it. I’m looking forward to my next Moriarty novel already.

Anne Brooke Books

Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont by Elizabeth Taylor: a bleak but incisive novel

mrs-palfrey

A subtly written book that’s very sharp about human nature. I was however hoping for something more light-hearted and vibrant, but those sections were few and far between. The picture of advancing age, vulnerability and approaching death, as well as the small but significant betrayals of family and friends, is essentially a grim one. It left me feeling very bleak.

3 out of 5 stars

Anne Brooke Books

I See You by Clare Mackintosh: Gripping Crime Novel

mackintosh-i-see-you

This novel has excellent pace and very good tension throughout. The female characters are very well rounded, and there is good development during the story. I also loved the fact that the violence was not centre-stage, but the focus was on the psychology of crime. The ending is totally fabulous and I really enjoyed THAT twist.

The only down sides to this book were the fact that the men weren’t very well developed, and also the general cliche of women being victims of sexual crime – surely there are other crimes to explore! Anyway, that aside, this is a gripping read and I will be putting this author on my list.

Anne Brooke Books