Friday, 4 July 2014

Summer Shorts: The Long Fall by Julia Crouch, A Single Breath by Lucy Clarke & The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh.

A summer page-turner from Julia Crouch, The Long Fall is a tale of innocence lost wrapped up in a murderous revenge plot.

1980: Aspiring writer Emma writes in her journal of having left her small-town life -and her small-minded parents- behind. She’s better than that; better than them. Emma plans on living a life full of adventure. She’s gone travelling to broaden her horizons, and as such she plans on her time abroad being culturally rich and populated with interesting characters with whom she’ll have much more in common than the boring folk back home. However, travelling on her own is not all Emma’s cracked it up to be, especially since, at eighteen, she isn’t exactly worldly wise. A devastating incident in Marseille derails Emma, changing her outlook on life and leaving marks on her soul that will last a lifetime. But Emma is a survivor. She carries on, and in Athens, with is relentless sun, dusty streets, strong alcohol and readily available supply of drugs, she finds her travelling feet:  courtesy first of a boy with beautiful eyes, and then with a girl who looks just like Emma, so much so that they could be twins.

But Emma’s story doesn’t have a happy ending. Emma’s life is one that ends with a murder.

2013:  Kate doesn’t believe in happy endings, she gave up on them long ago.  She knows that she at least, doesn’t deserve a happy ending, not after what she did. And yet, to the world at large, it looks like Kate has the perfect life, along with the perfect husband, one who has, in the past, been mistaken for George Clooney. Kate knows all about pasts; what she doesn’t know is that hers is about to come back to haunt her in a case of revenge from beyond the grave.

An absorbing page-turner, The Long Fall is perfect holiday reading. The mystery of the story isn’t too taxing, and the myriad twists and turns are predictable enough, but this is nonetheless a gripping read with a host of multi-layered characters and a compelling travel journal in which Crouch really captures the essence of Emma’s character, the places she visits, and the people she meets.

If you love the combination of travel and mystery in Emily Barr’s books – then The Long Fall by Julia Crouch is one to put right at the top of your summer reading list.



 The Long Fall by Julia CrouchPublisher: Headline.  Release date: June 19th 2014.   Ages: Adult   My Rating: 4/5.  Source: Received from publisher for review.  

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When her husband, Jackson, drowns as sea, Eva is devastated. Her life as she knows it, all the hopes and dreams she had for her future with her wonderful husband, are gone – just like that. Eva doesn’t know where to go from here; she doesn’t know what to do next – she just knows that she can’t go back to the home, to the life that she shared with Jackson. So she leaves. She goes to Tasmania, where Jackson grew up, and where his family – Jackson’s dad and his estranged brother Saul – still live. Eva is hoping to get to know Jackson’s family, she’s hoping she can share stories about her husband with them; she’s hoping she can find some solace in their shared grief. Nobody back home gets it – the loss that Eva feels, the love she and Jackson shared – but surely his family will; surely surrounding herself with other people who loved Jackson will help Eva come to terms with her loss.

However, things don’t quite go to plan in Tasmania. Jackson’s father offers little in the way of consolation to the grieving widow, and so Eva makes her way to the remote Wattleboon Island, where Jackson’s brother Saul lives. Here, though, Eva meets a wall of resistance; a wall built on secrets and lies.  Why is Saul so unwilling to share details of his brothers past? And, why, when Eva wears him down and he does eventually speak of Jackson, does Eva feel like Saul is talking about a complete stranger? Because the Jackson that Saul speaks of is definitely not the man that Eva married.  Then again, Eva and Jackson married after a whirlwind romance, and little by little, as she spends more time with Saul, Eva wonders if she ever really knew her husband at all.

Similar to Lucie Whitehouse’s Before We Met in that it warns against marriages made in haste and built on lies, A Single Breath starts of blisteringly well as we wonder of Jackson’s secret past and what exactly it is that he was keeping from Eva. I admit that I was hooked by this premise – who doesn’t want to find out all about a bunch of deeply buried secrets, after all – but after such a great start, I felt that the story really dipped when Eva reached Wattleboon, where day after day she doesn’t really do a whole lot at all apart from hanging out on the beach –fun to do, not so much fun to read about unless it’s in On the Island by Tracey Garvis-Graves. The pacing, then, in this novel is uneven, because the twists when they do happen happen all at once, and they just don’t work, or at least they didn't for me.  After such a slow build up, the reader needs a truly shocking pay-off, and that just didn’t happen here. It could have been great, it could have been dark and twisty and brilliant, but instead, A Single Breath was all a little too predictable for my tastes.

Don’t get me wrong, A Single Breath is a well-written, partly-absorbing read but I guess overall, it wasn’t really for me. I’d recommend Clarke’s debut Swimming at Night (a.k.a The Sea Sisters) which I read and enjoyed last year – over this one.


 A Single Breath by Lucy ClarkePublisher: Harper.  Release date: March 27th 2014.   Ages: Adult   My Rating: 3½/5.  Source: Received from publisher for review. 

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A controversial tale of illicit love in a sultry summer setting, The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh has been the subject of something of a marketing blitz ever since its release back in February. It may be everywhere, but does this tale of a middle-aged woman falling for her stepdaughter’s seventeen year old boyfriend live up to the hype?  Does The Lemon Grove truly feed into middle-age fantasies, or is it simply a seedy tale for the masses to read on their kindles this summer?

Well, a little bit of both, I guess.

Jenn and her husband Greg (a little bit overweight, a little bit boring) rent a villa in Majorca every year with Greg’s daughter, fifteen year-old Emma, joining them. This year, Emma has begged to bring her boyfriend, seventeen year-old Nathan along. Emma, you should know, always gets her way.  The relationship between Jenn and her step-daughter is fractious at best, and so Jenn doesn’t think twice about hooking up with Emma's all-too-willing boyfriend. Soon, Jenn and seventeen year old Nathan are doing the wild thing up against walls and in bathroom stalls. Romance, this is not. Rather it is an empty, soulless affair of an aging woman trying to recapture her youth at any cost.

What is interesting about The Lemon Grove is not the affair itself, but Jenn’s motivations for partaking in it. Jenn feels young, she feels attractive – by all accounts Jenn is an attractive woman who takes pride in her appearance. Next to Emma, though, in the first flush of womanhood and enviable curves, Jenn feels old, and saggy and wrinkly. Emma has what Jenn has lost forever – youth.  But, hey, at least Jenn isn’t completely past it, as she proves when she hooks up with Nathan here, there and everywhere. Then again, Nathan isn’t picky. He’s a seventeen year old boy, and boy oh boy, is he a seventeen year old boy with an appetite – I’m not talking food guys!

My impression on finishing this book was ‘Is that it?’ The Lemon Grove ends on an ambiguous note that left me wanting more – and not in a good way. Walsh’s sparse prose works perfectly with the soullessness of the affair, adding tension to the story, but in the end this book all just felt a little bit empty and lacking to me -kind of like Jenn and Nathan’s affair.

Not really worth all that hype then, in my opinion.
 

 The Lemon Grove by Helen WalshPublisher: Tinder Press.  Release date: February 27th 2014.   Ages: Adult   My Rating: 3/5.  Source: Purchased.  

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1 comment :

  1. ChristinaBookAddict4 July 2014 at 19:27

    I'm sorry you didn't love Last Breathe. I thought it was pretty entertaining, but you are better at figuring out those plot twists than I am! I do think the pacing could have been better though---you are definitely right there! I was also curious as to what you thought about The Lemon Grove….it sounds like I should skip that one. I love the cover though!

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