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The One That Got Away By Annabel Kantaria

The One That Got Away‘The One That Got Away’ is the latest book by Annabel Kantaria.

Everyone has one. An ex you still think about. The one who makes you ask ‘what if’? Fifteen years have passed since Stella and George last saw each other. But something makes Stella click ‘yes’ to the invite to her school reunion. There’s still a spark between them, and although their relationship ended badly, they begin an affair. But once someone gets you back, sometimes they’re never going to let you go again…

This is the first book that I’ve read by Annabel and it was a great introduction to the author.

The story is about first love and first heartbreak as Stella never got over George Worsley when he left her at 18. Unknown to her, he always thought of her even though he married and in her eyes moved on. So when the invite arrives for the high school reunion, they both jump at the chance to see each other and immediately there’s an instant attraction and as much as Stella doesn’t want to, she falls for George and they begin a passionate affair which later becomes a marriage. The pair then decide to leave London and start a new life in the countryside with the intention of starting s family, but things don’t go to plan as George begins to suffer from memory loss as well as troubles with his work.

Cleverly, this story is written from both perspectives and gives us a great insight to the different personalities and their approaches to life. George is a cocky character, he’s used to women falling for him and being the centre of attention, but with Stella, he has to clamber for her attention as she plays aloof with him and doesn’t want to be too keen.

Unbeknown to George, Stella is delighted with George’s return and can finally move on with her life plan. But, she keeps it cool with him, not wanting to appear too keen and also aware that she’s having an affair with a married man.

I loved the dual narratives in the story, they gave great insights into the relationship.

But, as well as that, as George becomes unwell and with his memory loss, we see a once confident man become unsure and vulnerable whilst Stella seems to bloom in their new life. As the story progresses, we begin to see a darker side, as George begins to doubt his own sanity and begins to wonder if his new wife, is the person that he was led to believe.

With short and engaging chapters that really keeps the reader on their toes, ‘The One That Got Away’ is an intriguing tale of love and deceit, that shows that the first love is not always the right love.

You can pre-order The One That Got Away from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 21st September 2017.

Keep You Safe By Melissa Hill

Keep You Safe‘Keep You Safe’ is the latest book by Melissa Hill.

Every mother faces impossible choices. Vaccination is one of the hardest. For single mum Kate O’Hara, there was no decision to make. Her daughter Rosie is one of a small percentage of Irish children who can’t be vaccinated against measles. All Kate can do is hope that her little girl is safe. For mummy blogger Madeleine Cooper, it was a leap of faith she wasn’t prepared to take when she and her husband declined controversial measles jabs for their daughter Clara. All she can do is pray that it’s the right decision. But when classmates Clara and Rosie both become sick will Kate pay for Madeleine’s choice?

For those who know Melissa Hill, they would have enjoyed her romantic and fun stories of love and friendship. But, with her first book with HQ, Melissa has gone a little bit darker with her writing and writes about most parents fears, when their child becomes seriously ill.

The story is seen through the eyes of mothers Kate O’Hara and Madeleine Cooper, who’s daughters become ill with measles. The possible consequences that both girls were never given the MMR Booster, a vaccination against various illnesses including measles. As Madeleine’s daughter recovers from the illness, Kate’s becomes worse and it suddenly becomes a situation where her daughter is fighting for her life.

The two women are complete polar opposites. Kate is a single mother after her husband suddenly died. She’s struggling to make ends meet as a single parent, but her daughter Rosie is her priority. Unfortunately, Rosie wasn’t able to get the MMR vaccination as she was allergic to it, so Kate lives in constant fear that her daughter will become ill. Meanwhile, Madeleine is the ultimate yummy mummy, with her outspoken views and popular blogs, she voices her views on parenting, which others may not always agree with, but that doesn’t bother Madeleine. She’s confident and occasionally unorthodox. Like Kate, her daughter Clara was also not vaccinated, but that was because, Madeleine and her husband Greg were worried about the side effects, as some people believed that the vaccine could cause Autism.

Essentially the story is a battle of morals and ethnics. As Clara becomes better, Rosie gets considerably worse and all fingers of blame point towards outspoken Madeleine as they decided not to get their children vaccinated.

It’s heartbreaking to read both mothers sides of the story as they are both in their own types of hell. Kate is praying that her daughter gets better whilst also reluctantly disliking Madeleine for having a healthy daughter. But she is also tortured, that her daughter may possibly never fully recover and the only way, she can pay for her treatment is to take Madeleine and her husband to court.

Whilst, the tables have turned for Madeleine, she is delighted that Clara is safe and well but she is also guilt ridden at the thought of poor Rosie. As well as that she has become a public hate figure for her outspoken opinions on not vaccinating her daughter.

This story is realistically and cleverly written and really does tug at heartstrings. With having both sides of the story with two hugely different personalities, where Kate shies away, Madeleine embraces the spotlight. The story is so vivid in parts, that you really get a clear understanding of the torture that both mothers are going through and at the end of the day, the both share a common ground of just wanting to keep their children safe.

Riveting from the very start, ‘Keep You Safe’ is a completely different story from Melissa. Tackling issues and dilemmas that all parents face and face, this book was an emotional roller coaster I kept me gripped and will most definitely raise a lot of questions in book clubs.

You can pre-order Keep You Safe from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops 21st September 2017.

The Watcher By Ross Armstrong

The Watcher‘The Watcher’ is the latest book by Ross Armstrong.

Lily Gullick lives with her husband Aiden in a new-build flat opposite an estate which has been marked for demolition. A keen birdwatcher, she can’t help spying on her neighbours. Until one day Lily sees something suspicious through her binoculars and soon her elderly neighbour Jean is found dead. Lily, intrigued by the social divide in her local area as it becomes increasingly gentrified, knows that she has to act. But her interference is not going unnoticed, and as she starts to get close to the truth, her own life comes under threat. But can Lily really trust everything she sees?

‘The Watcher’ is a peculiar book, with an intriguing plot line and an even stranger lead.

The story is seen solely through the narrative of Lily Anna, a quiet, reclusive character who spends most of her days, watching her neighbours and imagining their lives. She lives in the well to do part of the estate, whilst other people live in poverty. She’s unintentionally snobby and keeps her distance from the poorer residents. But when an old friend called Jean is found dead, she begins her own investigation and finds herself beginning to question her own sanity.

The story is quite fast paced and with even though it flows solely through Lily’s narrative, there’s rarely a dull moment as she constantly speculating and investigating.

She regularly has a conversation with someone called ‘you’ and I found this to really keep me on my toes, as I guessed my way through the story wondering who ‘you’ was.

The story is eerily atmospheric and creepy from the beginning and is very much reminiscent of Hitchcock’s ‘Rear Window’ as Lily watches everything from the sanctuary of her window with only her husband, Aidan for company. The pair of them create stories about their neighbours but Lily invests most of her time and imagination in it. As she looks into death of her neighbour, she finds herself in danger, but she’s fearless and is determined to prove that her friend was murdered despite the circumstances.

Cleverly written with quite an unreliable and unstable lead character, ‘The Watcher’ is an intense story that made for unsettling reading. Filled with questionable characters and situations that made gripping reading, this book makes you wonder what really goes on behind closed doors.

You can pre-order The Watcher from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 21st September.

99 Red Balloons By Elisabeth Carpenter

99 Red Balloons’99 Red Balloons’ is the first book by Elisabeth Carpenter.

When eight-year-old Grace goes missing from a sweetshop on the way home from school, her mother Emma is plunged into a nightmare. Her family rallies around, but as the police hunt begins, cracks begin to emerge. What are the secret emails sent between Emma’s husband and her sister? Why does her mother take so long to join the search? And is Emma really as innocent as she seems? Meanwhile, ageing widow Maggie Taylor sees Grace’s picture in the newspaper. It’s a photograph that jolts her from the pain of her existence into a spiralling obsession with another girl – the first girl who disappeared.

’99 Red Balloons’ is Elisabeth’s debut novel and it was a book that consumed my attention one afternoon.

The story is about every parents nightmare, when their child is suddenly snatched from their lives, never to be returned and the parents are then to spend the rest of their days, wondering and hoping that their child will return to their lives, safe and sound.

Right from the start in this atmospheric book, we are drawn into the innocent world of a little girl, when a strange man approaches her. She is puzzled and scared of this man and has always been warned against strangers. But once he assures her that he’s acting on behalf of her mother, she trusts and warms to this stranger, who she naively thinks that her safety is his only concern.

The story flows between three main characters, the little girl who has been kidnapped. Stephanie, who’s little niece Grace is taken one day and follows her as the family deal with being the subject of the police’s investigation as well as they count every passing minute as they fear that Grace maybe in danger. The story also follows an older woman called Maggie, who’s granddaughter disappeared over twenty years ago, which resulted in her own daughter, Sarah taking her life. Maggie is convinced that the recent kidnapping has a lot of similarities with Zoe’s disappearance and we see this elderly woman become obsessed with the case and begin her own investigation.

The story is really cleverly and realistically written, that it feels like your own child has been taken, as the plot really explores the emotions of the nightmare and tensions that it can have on a family. The story flows quickly between the characters, each chapter flowing seamlessly into each one and leaves the reader gasping at each turn.

The inclusion of Maggie’s perspective was also really smart. The story is primarily seen through the eyes of younger characters, so Maggie’s narrative was interesting. She’s old, frail and has nearly given up on life but the recent disappearance has given her a new sense, driving her on to finally put her own ghosts to rest. There was also a deep sense of poignancy in the chapters with the child, as before your eyes, you see the child stripped of their innocence and having to face the harsh reality ahead.

Riddled with suspense, dodgy characters and situations that makes everyone a suspect, this book was impossible to put down.

If you’re looking for an atmospheric and intelligent thriller that pulls you centre stage into every parents nightmare when a child goes missing, then ’99 Red Balloons’ is a must read for you.

You can buy 99 Red Balloons from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

You, Me, Everything By Catherine Isaac

You, Me, Everything‘You, Me, Everything’ is Catherine Isaac’s debut novel.

Sick of her boyfriend Adam’s lying and cheating, Laura throws him out only months after giving birth to their son. While she brings up William with the help of her mum, Susan, Adam moves to France to follow his dreams. But ten years on, Susan is battling a debilitating disease, aged just 53, and she convinces her daughter that William needs his father in his life. So, in their first trip abroad in years, Laura and ten-year-old William set off to spend the summer at Chateau de Roussignol, in the sunlit hills of the Dordogne, where Adam now lives. Laura is determined is to make Adam fall in love with his own son. But the problem isn’t only that he’s an unwilling participant in this game. It’s that Laura is tormented by a secret of her own, one that nobody – especially William – must discover.

If you haven’t heard of Catherine Issac then I’m sure you’ve heard of her other writing name, Jane Costello. Jane has written nine novels, all filled with humour and charm that make for the perfect escapism read.

In her first book, writing as Catherine Issac, although there is the sharp injection of Jane’s humour, there is also a beautiful tenderness to this love story that made the book a struggle to put down.

In this story, we meet single mother Jess and her son, William who head off to France as Jess wants William to bond with his father. Even though, Adam broke Jess’s heart, she wants them to have a relationship and spend more time together despite the distance.

Jess isn’t entirely happy about this situation, but goes ahead with the plan, more so to keep her mother happy. Her mother, is terminally ill with Huntington’s disease, an illness that is rapidly taking over her body and one of her wishes, is that William has a relationship with his father.

The story is written in the first person and is seen solely through Jess’s narrative. She’s a kind hearted woman, who never really got over the heartbreak that Adam caused her and tries to hide her resentful feelings from William. Meanwhile, William is wildly curious about life and loves nothing more than sharing random facts. I loved the scenes with William and Jess, where they argued over ownership of the iPad and he battled with his occasionally embarrassing mother.

The main subject of the story is Jess’s mothers ongoing battle with Huntington’s Disease and regularly flashes back to when Jess was a teenager and her mother began to show symptoms of the illness. What’s terrifying to read is that in all the advancements in medicine and technology, there is no known cure for the illness and once contracted, the illness has a 50/50 chance of being passed onto a child. Catherine has thoroughly researched the illness and provides background information for those who have never heard of it.

To say that this story is beautifully written would be an understatement and it’s no surprise that it’s already being adapted for film.

It’s gentle, flows at a lovely pace and for every tearjerking moment, there’s a gentle joke to lighten the mood.

A story that stays with you long after you reached the final page, ‘You, Me, Everything’ is an enchanting tale about love, new beginnings and most importantly, hope.

You can pre-order You Me Everything from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 20th September 2018.