Monday, June 24, 2013

Book Review: Jojo Moyes - The Last Letter From Your Lover


I have only recently started reading Jojo Moyes' books - I've no idea why I was so late to that particular party, but I got there eventually with the purchase of Me Before You a few months ago. I devoured it, I adored it, I cried at the end, then I cried again because I had finished it. You know something is good when you actually miss it, and that's how I felt after reading Me Before You. I picked another of her novels up a few weeks ago, the 2010 release The Last Letter From Your Lover.

Image Source: booktopia
As always, I'll start off with the back cover:

"Know this at least: somewhere in this world is a man who loves you... 
A man who has always loved you and, to his detriment,
suspects he always will."

1960. Jennifer Stirling lives a life of luxury with her wealthy husband. On paper, she has it all. In reality, she's dangerously devoted to another man who is asking her to risk everything...

2003. Ellie Haworth works as a journalist for a national newspaper and is in love with a charming writer. On paper, she should be happy. In reality, her career is foundering and the man who holds her heart belongs to someone else...

When Ellie stumbles upon a set of passionate love letters from the 1960s, both women's lives entwine. And as she pieces together the fragments of the past romance, what she unearths dramatically transforms her life, and Jennifer's in the process.

The book starts off in the present day, from Ellie's point of view. She's involved with a married man, running away from all the problems in her life, and refuses to believe that she is anything other than blissfully happy. When she discovers a love letter from the 1960s, it has such a profound effect on her that she resolves to get to the bottom of it.

From about page 20 on, we are taken back in time to the 1960s to the life of Jennifer Stirling and her husband Laurence - a wealthy, successful, glamourous couple. Jennifer has just woken up from a car accident that left her with a damaged arm and a head injury that rendered her unable to remember great chunks of her life. To the outside world, Jennifer and Laurence are the perfect couple. But all is not well - along with Jennifer's partial memory loss, there are a circle of people who seemingly don't want her to remember every detail of her life before the accident, a husband who is losing his patience at her inability to just accept the here and now and stop asking questions, a housekeeper who knows more than she's letting on - and Jennifer is left feeling like a huge part of her life is missing.

When she stumbles upon letters written with more passion and love for her than she could ever imagine her husband showing, she is determined to find out more about who wrote them, what happened to him, and why they aren't together.

I LOVED the way this book was written. I loved that the majority of the book was entirely devoted to Jennifer's story, and the romance was so beautiful and passionate. I loved that we weren't jumping from the 60s to the 00s every second chapter - because Ellie's story, while the catalyst for later events, is not the main point of this book, and to be honest, I didn't find her very likeable. I adored Jennifer and her lover. The longing they had for each other in their encounters had me in tears more than once.

I don't want to say too much in case I spoil it, which I would hate to do, because it's truly such a beautiful story to watch unfold - but I can say that I picked this up at 12 pm today and couldn't put it down until I had every last page read. Not too many books do that for me anymore - I've some on my reading list that I'm dreading trying to get through.

An utterly timeless love story - make sure you have tissues for the end.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Book Review - The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood


I haven't done a book review here in a while, so I thought I'd do one on this, one of the books I bought last month.

Alex Marwood is the pseudonym of a press journalist currently living in London. The Wicked Girls is a crime/thriller, was published in 2012, and if you haven't read it, you need to put it on your must-read list. Now.

Back cover spiel:

The noise was overwhelming, the feral, chanting voices of strangers wanting justice.


Twenty-five years ago two little girls were imprisoned for murder. Now journalist Kirsty Lindsay is reporting on a series of sickening attacks on young women and her investigation leads her to cleaner Amber Gordon.

For Kirsty and Amber, it is the first time they have seen each other since that dark day when they were children. Aware of the danger they are in and with new identities - and families - to protect, they will do anything it takes to keep their wicked secret hidden...

When I initially started reading this book, it took a while to get into it. I think I was trying to guess what was going to happen, which is a really bad habit of mine. Once you relax into it, it gets absorbing pretty quickly. Both female leads are strong characters, and they're so well-developed, I felt like I really knew them both by the end of the book. It's difficult to write a really comprehensive review without revealing a load of spoilers, but I'll try and give you some idea of what to expect from it. 

What lengths would you go to to protect the ones you love? What would you do if you were getting on with your life, and suddenly had to deal with the worst event in your past all over again? That's what happens to Amber and Kirsty.

While we already know from the cover that the two girls committed a terrible offence all those years ago, we don't know the circumstances or the actual events surrounding that fateful day - until all is slowly revealed in short flashback chapters. It left me feeling slightly different about the whole lot - I didn't have sympathy for either, initially, but that had changed a little bit by the end.

Would things have turned out differently if both girls had been given exactly the same opportunities to get their lives back on track after that horrific day? One of the women had to fight for everything she had, while the other seemed to have a little more encouragement. One was punished, while the other one was not only punished, but expected to know and do better. Both women ended up with very different outcomes at the end - begging the question, as I put forward in my synopsis of the book on Goodreads (there's a button over there on the right sidebar if you want to be my friend there), are we a product of our genes, or our environment?

Who knows - but it is a very scary prospect to think of something in your past rearing its ugly head right out of the blue. I think that's what was the most frightening thing for me (not that I've a load of skeletons, but y'know) - the actions of an unrelated person brought the past mistakes of both these girls right back to haunt them. The tension bounces off the page, and I felt sick for the characters more than once. 

An absolutely brilliant piece of writing, and unlike another popular crime novel that everyone seems to be reading at the minute, this one has an ending worthy of the rest of the book.

Highly recommended.