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The Blurb:

We’ve all seen him: the man – the monster – staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime. But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him? Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming. Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil. But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms. Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows.

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My thoughts:

First, let me warn anyone who is thinking of reading this, that the blurb on the back cover – as above – is somewhat misleading. Second – I’m in two minds about this one. I definitely think Fiona Barton can write, and the characters were all well drawn and fleshed out.

There are two timelines – 2010, which for the purposes of this novel is the present day, and 2006, which is when the little girl that Glen Taylor was accused of abducting, disappeared. The vast majority of it actually takes place in 2006, with the 2010 storyline concentrating on a journalist called Kate who wants to get Jean’s story.

The chapters are told from separate points of view – ‘The Widow’ – Jean Taylor; ‘The Reporter’ – Kate; ‘The Detective’ – Bob Sparkes who was in charge of the original investigation and is still haunted by the matter years later; and ‘The Mother’ – Dawn, the mother of the abducted child. I liked Bob and I quite liked Kate, but Jean and Dawn both left me cold.

At times the book was very suspenseful, but at times it did drag slightly as there seemed to be a lot of back-and-forth, and did-he/didn’t-he, with the same ground being trodden over. But despite that, I did quite enjoy this book and would almost certainly read more by Fiona Barton. It doesn’t have the twists and turns of a book like Gone Girl, but for my money it’s better written than Gone Girl (and as with every other psychological thriller which has been released since that book, this one has been compared to it – ignore the comparisons, it’s totally different).

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Year of first publication: 2016

Genre: Psychological drama

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This was an audiobook narrated by Kate Rawson. The three main characters are Maddie, Jess and Lauren, who meet when they all join the local Fatbusters club in an effort to lose weight. They all have different reasons for being there, but they become firm friends and support each other not only through their weight-loss journey but also through other tough times.

Make no mistake, although this book is definitely chick-lit and the cover suggests that it might be a light and fluffy read, the story covers such subjects as bereavement and domestic violence. It is an easy read in that the writing flows so well and the story moves along at a good pace, but it certainly has depth as well.

Lucy Diamond writes female friendships extremely well, and managed to bring together three very different but all very likeable women, as well as an interesting ‘supporting cast’. Maddie was my favourite character but I also really liked Jess and Lauren and found myself rooting for all three.

This is the second book I have read (listened to) by Lucy Diamond and I have enjoyed both of them. I look forward to trying more of her novels.

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A year after her husband Zach’s death in a horrific road crash, Lizzie Carter finally feels able to visit the accident site and leave flowers for him. However when she gets there she sees that someone else has left flowers for him with the name ‘Xenia’ in a note, and she wonders if he had another woman in his life. As Lizzie digs deeper into Zach’s past to try and find out who Xenia is, she discovers all sorts of things which make her question whether she ever really knew him at all.

Interspersed with the chapters narrated by Lizzie in the present day, are chapters from Zach’s diary which start from around the time he and Lizzie met. It is clear from both narratives that Zach has anger issues, and is a sociopath. Lizzie starts to question whether or not he is even dead, or whether he has faked his own death and is now stalking her.

I listened to this as an audiobook, and it was narrated by Penelope Rawlins (Lizzie) and Daniel Weyman (Zach). I thought they both did a good job. Unfortunately however, I did not really enjoy the book. I had previously read Lie With Me by the same author, and enjoyed it, despite it being far-fetched. Based on that, I thought Remember Me This Way would be a good book to pass a few hours while I was out running, but I actually almost gave up on it. The main issue was that there were no redeeming characters at all, except for Lizzie’s dog Howard! I have no issue with unpleasant characters but these were just frustrating. Lizzie herself was a wet blanket who was seemingly incapable of seeing what was staring her in the face and who got walked over not just by her husband, but also by her unbearably selfish sister. The character of Onnie – the teenage daughter of an old friend of Zach – was annoying beyond belief, and I just wanted to shake them all into sense.

I didn’t give up on it and in the end it did keep my fairly occupied, but after it had picked up a bit in the second half, the actual ending turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. I think I am bit fed up of the glut of books about people who turn out not to be who their nearest and dearest thought they were. How many people in recent books have married people with dark secrets in their past? I sometimes feel as though I am reading the same story over and over again, so maybe I need a break from these kinds of stories for a while.

Unfortunately, and based on this book, I would probably not be interested in reading/listening to anything else by this author.

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I’ve never read anything by Jane Fallon before, but there must be something about her book covers that appeals because I have no less than three of her books on my shelves! I’m not a big fan of chick-lit, because it’s generally utterly predictable and fairly bland, but I had a feeling this would have a bit more bite to it, and I was right.

Tamsin and Michelle have been best friends forever, and would do anything for each other. So when Tamsin gets a hint that Michelle’s husband Patrick is cheating, she asks her good friend and work assistant Bea to proposition him in  a ‘honey trap’ situation so that she can catch Patrick out. However – and as we discover from the very first page – things don’t go to plan.

The first third of the book is narrated purely from Tamsin’s point of view, and if I’m honest, it took me a while to get into and I was starting to feel a bit blah about the whole thing. Then the narration starts to switch between Tamsin and Bea, and it picked up a lot. Considerably in fact, to the point where I found myself waiting for when I could pick the book up again.

Some parts are completely predictable and if I’m honest, some the characters are pretty stereotypical – Patrick is a bit of a pantomime villain, while Michelle is almost sickeningly sweet. I found it difficult initially to warm to Tamsin, but she grew on me throughout the book. There is a lot of humour though, and ultimately a lot of heart in this book. It’s a fairly undemanding read, and the ending did surprise me, but in a good way.

Overall I’m glad I stuck with it and I am looking forward to reading more  by Jane Fallon.

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This was my most recent ‘listening while running’ audiobook, and the first book by Lucy Diamond I had read/listened to in any format.

There are four main characters – best friends India, Eve, Jo and Laura. They are all at a leisurely lunch to celebrate India’s birthday when they witness a horrific crash. The emotions it stirs up in each of them causes them all to take stock of their life. India is devastated to hear about one of the young victims of the crash, which strikes a chord with her due to her own personal history; Eve, always calm and in control, finds herself unsure of how to deal with the worrying lump she has found in her breast; Jo uncharacteristically jumps headlong into a new relationship which moves at lightning speed; and Laura, who has wanted a baby for years, feels the maternal pull more deeply than ever. As life changes for each of them, the one constant is their friendship and support for each other.

I liked this book more than I probably expected to. I think I was expecting a fluffy chick-lit novel, and while this is definitely aimed at a female readership, it actually wasn’t fluffy, and it addressed real life problems – health issues, past sorrows, changing relationships and new families – in a respectful way. I find it hard to choose a favourite character as happily all four women were very likeable.

The audiobook is narrated by Clare Wille, who did a good job of bringing all the characters to life and making them all distinctive. I don’t think the ending brought too many surprises, but it was satisfying and appropriate to the story which had gone before. Overall, this was a pleasant surprise and I would definitely read or listen to more books by Lucy Diamond.

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Another audiobook (and possibly the first one I was tempted to give up on, which gives you a clue as to how this review might go!) The story revolves around Della, whose mother Kitty passes away at the beginning of the book, and Della ends up inheriting itty’s vast collection of cookbooks. She decides to open a bookshop selling just second-hand cookbooks, despite her husband Mark and her brother Jeff telling her it won’t work. As odious as both of these male characters turned out to be, it pained me to agree with them. She wanted to open the shop in a sleepy little village, selling exclusively second hand cookbooks, with the focus more on socialising than buying. I’m not a genius but it doesn’t need one to know that in real life, this is a business model destined to fail.

Although the title would suggest that the book is mainly about the bookshop, it’s actually mainly about Della’s personal life. She has a husband who is quite frankly awful, and a brother who is so supercilious that I dare any reader not to want to give him a slap. The only decent member of her family was her daughter Sophie, who was intelligent and independent despite having a doormat and a lying know-it-all cheat as parents.

Della also discovers some secrets in her own past, which were the best parts of the book, by virtue of the fact that they were more tolerable to read about than the rest. Naturally the bookshop itself is a roaring success, and of course Della finds happiness, because she finds another man to love her and loses weight.

The narration by Gabrielle Glaister was fine, despite some huge pauses in-between paragraphs and chapters, which made me wonder if I had accidentally pressed pause on the playback, but I would be happy to listen to another audiobook with this narrator (although not by this author).

I have looked at other reviews of this book, and they are largely extremely positive, so if this is the sort of book that appeals to you, don’t let my review put me off. I think I probably picked a book in a genre that just doesn’t appeal to me, but at least I now know what kind of thing to avoid!

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Joe Clarke, a married father-of-two wakes up in bed with Bella, the beautiful young intern at his office, and realises that he  must have been unfaithful to his wife Penny. This is disconcerting because (a) Joe is certainly not the unfaithful type, and (b) he can’t remember anything about his infidelity or how he ended in Bella’s bed. From this opening, the story goes on to relate the consequences of Joe’s infidelity, and the unravelling of his life. Added to all that is the reappearance of his horrible college ex-girlfriend – who died a few weeks earlier…

I have read and enjoyed Mike Gayle books before – in fact he is one of those authors that I would confidently buy a book by, because I know I am going to enjoy it. Except…while i can’t say I hated this one, it definitely was not up to his usual standard. It seemed to just go round in circles – Joe and Penny would come close to making up and then drift further apart, over and over again. I felt like telling them to make up their bloody minds one way or the other! I also felt that the ghost aspect of the story was a slant that didn’t quite work for me. The whole thing reminded me of the film Sliding Doors meets the tv show Life on Mars – but it wasn’t as cleverly done as either of those.

It was fairly undemanding – I listened to the audiobook and the narrator David Morley Hale, did do a good job. I also liked the three friends of Joe’s – Van Halen (yes really!), Steve and Paul and was far more interested in their interactions than the ones with his family (don’t get me wrong, I liked and understood Penny’s character, but their story just seemed to go round in circles).

I would read another Mike Gayle book, but only because I have enjoyed other novels by him. Had this been the first book I had tried by him, I wouldn’t pick up another one.

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