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The Chalet By Catherine Cooper

The Chalet‘The Chalet’ is the debut novel by Catherine Cooper.

French Alps, 1998. Two young men ski into a blizzard… but only one returns. 20 years later. Four people connected to the missing man find themselves in that same resort. Each has a secret. Two may have blood on their hands. One is a killer-in-waiting. Someone knows what really happened that day.

Catherine’s debut novel is a fast paced and action packed novel that made chilling reading.

The story is written in past and present sequences leading up to the discovery of a body in the French Alps. This all happens when Ria and her husband Hugo are there, when Hugo is trying to encourage new clients with his holiday business. He’s deeply in love with his wife Ria, but Ria isn’t as committed as he is and sees the life as more of an convenience.

There are multiple narratives in the story and one of the narratives is particularly interesting as they aren’t revealed but they have a huge role in the story and throughout the story. I’m found myself trying to guess scenarios and culprits and was pleasantly that each time I was wrong, proving this is far from a predictable story.

There’s a wide range of personalities in the story and Catherine has a skill of creating multiple dislikable characters that make for sad and unsettling reading.

Chillingly written and a book that I consumed in one seating, ‘The Chalet’ is a claustrophobic and atmospheric story that was a thrilling adrenaline journey from the very beginning.

You can buy ‘The Chalet’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

If I Had Your Face By Frances Cha

If I Had Your Face‘If I Had Your Face’ is the debut book by Frances Cha.

Navigating this hyper-competitive city are four young women balancing on the razor-edge of survival: Kyuri, an exquisitely beautiful woman whose hard-won status at an exclusive ‘room salon’ is threatened by an impulsive mistake with a client; her flatmate Miho, an orphan who wins a scholarship to a prestigious art school in New York, where her life becomes tragically enmeshed with the super-wealthy offspring of the Korean elite; Wonna, their neighbour, pregnant with a child that she and her husband have no idea how they will afford to raise in a fiercely competitive economy; and Ara, a hair stylist living down the hall, whose infatuation with a fresh-faced K-Pop star drives her to violent extremes.

Over the last while, I’ve developed a bit of an interest in the Korean culture, particularly the K Pop genre and the obsession with achieving perfection physically. So, when I was offered the chance to read a book about Korea and the culture, I jumped at the opportunity.

The story is seen through the narrative of 4 women who all live in the same building. 3 of them are friends, Ara, Kyuri and Miho are friends whilst Wonna lives in the apartment below them.

Ara is a mute hair stylist, who lost her hearing in an attack, Kyuri is a room salon girl who entertains men at bars, pouring drinks and making them feel welcome as well as other job requirements, Miho is an aspiring artist who’s returned from studying in America with her boyfriend and Wonna is a terrified first time mother.

The story flows between the friendships and the neighbour, seamlessly going from each narrative only to come together neatly in the end.

The story is beautifully written with vivid descriptions of the town, the fashion and women themselves, Frances has a stunning flow with her writing that conjures up imagery with her descriptions.

The characters are wonderful to read and all flawed in their own way but all striving for perfection. Although Ara is unable to speak, she is one of the most sought after stylists. Although she appears meek, she is quick to write down her viewpoint. Kyuri is stunning, having created the perfect version of herself, she wishes for love, but sadly it is unrequited. Miho has used the death of her friend to make her art, she’s a bohemian character with a free whilst Wonna comes across as quite an unlikeable character who’s cold towards her husband, but she’s terrified of losing her baby and puts all her emotions into the baby.

I loved this story, from the vivid imagery, the characters and the dialogue, I was enthralled by it all. It was fascinating to read the extent of which women will go to achieve perfection, from the surgeries to the changing colour of the skin. It was also equally sad to read how much pressure they were under in their physical appearance as well as the traditional pressure of settling down and becoming a wife and mother.

With a cover that is my favourite of 2020, ‘If I Had Your Face’ is an unique tale. Observational and insightful, this book is a compelling debut that is culturally fascinating to read.

You can buy ‘If I Had Your Face’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Tennis Lessons By Susannah Dickey

Tennis Lessons‘Tennis Lessons’ is Susannah Dickey’s debut novel.

You’re strange and wrong. You’ve known it from the beginning. This is the voice that rings in your ears. Because you never say the right thing. You’re a disappointment to everyone. You’re a far cry from beautiful – and your thoughts are ugly too. You seem bound to fail, bound to break. But you know what it is to laugh with your best friend, to feel the first tentative tingles of attraction, to take exquisite pleasure in the affront of your unruly body. You just need to find your place.

I spent Sunday with my head in this book, only to find out at the end of that it was written by a Northern Ireland author, which I thought was a lovely surprise as I related to the book on so many levels.

The story is a coming of age tale of a young woman trying to find her place in life. It’s seen solely from the woman’s narrative with each chapter being a different year and age. The woman isn’t named in the story, although all her friends and family are, this adds an element of mystery to the story.

The story is blunt and honest and this does make for sometimes tender and surprising in parts. Susannah doesn’t sugar-coat her writing and highlights the momentous times in a woman’s life, her first period, first sexual encounter and the awkwardness and difficulties of being the third friend in a teenage friendship. Her friend’s find her strange, but I never found the character to be strange. I just saw her as an observer in life and the times that we saw her to be her happiest was when she was her best friend Rachael who’s embraced the character’s quietness and quirks.

The story is written with charm and wit and for every dark moment in the story, Susannah added a witty comment to bring the reader back. The story touches on many topics dealing with bullying, relationships and acceptance, all topics that everyone has experienced in life so it was relatable on many topics. One significant scene happens in the story and although the scene is spoken off, from that point on, I found there to be an element of sadness of tale as the character struggled with self-esteem.
I really enjoyed the ending to the story. It wasn’t predictable and the character didn’t ride off into the sunset finally content with her life, but neither is real life perfect so I found it relatable in that respect.

With a stunning cover, this book is a cleverly written and observational story about the trials and dramas of being a woman, ‘Tennis Lessons’ is a honest account of life and the difficulties that we face along the way.

You can buy ‘Tennis Lessons’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Out Of Love By Hazel Hayes

Out Of Love‘Out Of Love’ is the debut book by Hazel Hayes.

As a young woman boxes up her ex-boyfriend’s belongings and prepares to see him one last time, she wonders where it all went wrong, and whether it was ever right to begin with. Burdened with a broken heart, she asks herself the age-old question . . . is love really worth it?

On Sunday morning, I curled up on my sofa and started this book and found it impossible to put down. A touching and honest reflection and observation on the breakdown of a relationship and how it all can go tragically wrong.

The story is seen solely through the narrative of the protagonist of the story, who’s never named at the exact moment that her ex boyfriend returns to their house to pick up his stuff. It’s whilst this happens that the story then deals with the aftermath of the relationship as well as as travelling back in time to key moments in the couple’s relationship.

For me, this book really struck a chord. It literally felt like Hazel has delved into my mind and written about my own relationships and insecurities. I connected with the character on such a level that I hasn’t happened to me for a long time with an author. The loved the protagonist in this story, she’s flawed, unsure but embraces all of it with wit and warmth that made for gripping reading. It was atmospheric from the first page and the vivid descriptions of nights out in Dublin literally leapt off the pages at me. I too, have experienced the cattle market that is Coppers and Hazel’s description of it described it perfectly, I only wish I had known about this third hand when I visited.

Beautifully written, the story is observant and reflective piece on the breakdown of a relationship, when the passion and love is replaced by tension and misery and the only option is to let go. ‘Out Of Love’ is a beautiful debut that is On Sunday morning, I curled up on my sofa and started this book and found it impossible to put down. A touching and honest reflection and observation on the breakdown of a relationship and how it all can go tragically wrong.

The story is seen solely through the narrative of the protagonist of the story, who’s never named at the exact moment that her ex boyfriend returns to their house to pick up his stuff. It’s whilst this happens that the story then deals with the aftermath of the relationship as well as as travelling back in time to key moments in the couple’s relationship.

For me, this book really struck a chord. It literally felt like Hazel has delved into my mind and written about my own relationships and insecurities. I connected with the character on such a level that I hasn’t happened to me for a long time with an author. The loved the protagonist in this story, she’s flawed, unsure but embraces all of it with wit and warmth that made for gripping reading. As the story delves into her past, we are confronted with her struggles with abuse and mental health and how she has become the strong woman that she is now. It was atmospheric from the first page and the vivid descriptions of nights out in Dublin literally leapt off the pages at me. I too, have experienced the cattle market that is Coppers and Hazel’s description of it described it perfectly, I only wish I had known about this third hand when I visited.

Beautifully written, the story is observant and reflective piece on the breakdown of a relationship, when the passion and love is replaced by tension and misery and the only option is to let go. ‘Out Of Love’ is a beautiful debut that is witty and warm tale that had me laugh at the Irish charm and cry at the brutal honesty.

You can buy ‘Out Of Love’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

The Fallout By Rebecca Thornton

The Fallout ‘The Fallout’ is Rebecca Thornton’s debut novel.

When Liza’s little boy has an accident at the local health club, it’s all anyone can talk about. Was nobody watching him? Where was his mother? Who’s to blame? The rumours, the finger-pointing, the whispers – they’re everywhere. And Liza’s best friend, Sarah, desperately needs it to stop. Because Sarah was there when it happened. It was all her fault. And if she’s caught out on the lie, everything will fall apart.

This story is an interesting that is seen primarily of best friends Sarah and Liza. When Liza’s little boy Jack falls and fractures his neck, Sarah says that she was keeping an eye on him whilst Liza was looking after her new born baby. In reality, Sarah was chatting to Ella, the glamorous and mysterious woman, who everyone wants to be best friends with. Ella ghosted all the friends a number of years ago and no one knows why adding more mystery to the woman. As Sarah battles with her guilt of not properly watching her best friends’ little boy, Liza battles with her own guilt as fingers begin to point at her for not being a fit mother.

If you’re a fan of the ‘Big Little Lies’ book and series by Liane Moriarty, then I would wholeheartedly recommend this book. Set in well to do London, where all the women have nannies and staff, the story concentrates on the pressures of society as well as the ruthlessness of social media. As the women communicate through their WhatsApp groups pretending to be friends and there for one another, but instead are bitching behind each other’s back. Inclusions of WhatsApp conversations give an interesting slant to the story, as it shows the real people and their true colours. I found myself feeling sympathetic towards both Sarah and Liza as they battled with heightened emotions but also found their obsession with Ella and why she ghosted the women fascinating. Ella certainly is an interesting character, she’s elusive, with her perfect life, body and family.

Rebecca is a new author for me, but is definitely one that I will be looking into, her observation of toxic female relationships and shallow characters is well written and made for compelling reading. A thrilling story of how one simple story can spiral out of control, ‘The Fallout’ is a good dramatic story with complex characters highlighting the pressures of the society and the real struggle behind perfection.

You can buy ‘The Fallout’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.