The Sight of You by Holly Miller

The Sight of You by Holly Miller

In The Sight of You, Joel has prophetic dreams and this should be completely unbelievable, but somehow it’s not. It’s written in such a way as to make it seem perfectly plausible. Mostly, he keeps this information to himself as he is wary of the reactions of others, but it is seriously affecting his mental health.

Naturally, he has avoided serious relationships as he only dreams about people he loves, and the dreams always come true – both good and bad – unless he can alert the person involved without giving too much away. His family don’t know, and just think he’s weird.

He falls in love with Callie, but dreams about her death. He knows when it happens, but not how or why, so can do nothing to prevent it. Callie does not want to know, and he can’t stay with her if only he knows, so what can they do? What would you do in this situation; would you want to know what the future held?

The Sight of You is Holly Miller’s debut novel and shows her to be a very talented writer. Told from the alternating viewpoints of Joel and Callie, with well rounded, believable characters and the unusual background of nature conservation, this is not a typical romance novel. The relationship between Joel and Callie is really great without being overly sweet or slushy; they just seem to bring out the best in each other. It will certainly take you on an emotional roller coaster of a journey.

I really enjoyed the way Holly Miller has taken such an unusual idea and turned it into a wonderful and insightful story. I’ve read that they are going to make The Sight of You into a film. I think it will work really well, and look forward to seeing it on the big screen.   

Thanks to Bookends and Hodder for a copy to review.

Summerwater by Sarah Moss

Summerwater by Sarah Moss

Set over the course of one day at the height of summer in a run-down Scottish cabin park in the Trossachs, Summerwater is a short novella (not so easy to tell when reading on a kindle) that gives us access to the innermost thoughts of the inhabitants of six of these cabins – one from each in the morning and another in the afternoon.

With so many different viewpoints, it is almost like a series of linked short stories and does feel a bit disjointed at times. The stream of consciousness style of writing gives the reader a unique insight into every thought and feeling that passes through the character’s mind; in some cases we get the same situation from both partners, and the difference in their thoughts is very revealing.

Anyone who has ever taken a similar holiday in Scotland will be familiar with this type of weather; it’s par for the course. What I found strange was that very few of them ventured out, allowing themselves to be stuck indoors, as you don’t go to Scotland for the weather. One lady goes running, a teenage boy goes for a trip in his kayak, and the elderly couple go out in the car; otherwise everyone else mostly stays indoors. The writing emphasises the claustrophobic feeling of being trapped and shut in.

By being party to the thoughts of each of the characters, we learn that they watch each other, but there is very little interaction between them. There are some Ukrainians in one cabin having parties and playing loud music late into the night; also an ex-soldier camping in the woods. We do not hear what they are thinking which only adds to the suspicion and the tension.   

Each of the characters has a distinct voice, but some of their thoughts are a bit insular and depressing. Between each chapter is a short piece on the natural world surrounding the park; perhaps a reminder that the humans are not the only creatures living there.

I have not read anything by Sarah Moss before, but will definitely try some of her earlier novels as the quality of the atmospheric prose more than made up for the abrupt and unsatisfying ending.

Thanks to Picador and NetGalley for a copy to review.  

It Started with a Secret by Jill Mansell

It Started with a Secret by Jill Mansell

Every year I look forward to reading the latest book by Jill Mansell, and It Started with a Secret was no exception – enjoyable escapism and a lovely Cornish setting.

When Lainey and Kit lose their jobs at a French chateau, they apply for a live-in position with a wonderfully eccentric family in Cornwall, but have to pretend to be a couple when they are really just good friends. This causes a few misunderstandings, but by then the family have come to rely on Lainey and Kit, and so they are forgiven.

There is a lot of humour in the stories of Majella’s internet dating, Sir Richard’s obsessive fans, and Seth’s weird mother to name but a few. There are also some truly awful characters, but I’ll let you discover them for yourself.

Jill Mansell writes believable characters who inhabit a world so realistic you almost forget you are reading a novel. I read somewhere that St Carys encapsulates everything that Jill loves about Cornwall (she created it initially for a previous book, Meet Me at Beachcomber Bay) without all the downsides; it certainly sounds idyllic.

I definitely recommend It Started with a Secret, and if you have not read anything by Jill Mansell before you have her extensive back catalogue to look forward to.

The Detour by Jennifer Ammoscato

The Detour by Jennifer Ammoscato

Michael lives a very ordered life; a computer coder, somewhere on the autistic spectrum, he has everything organised just how he likes it. His routine is thrown into complete disarray following the death of his mother. In her will, she asks that Michael drive, with her ashes and her pug, Puddles, across the country to Lebanon, New Hampshire, where she was born. To say that this is well out of Michael’s comfort zone is a huge understatement but, driven by guilt at not having been there when she passed away, he makes the necessary preparations and sets off on his epic adventure.

It is wonderful to watch as Michael’s confidence in his own abilities grows, and he realises that he can cope even when things don’t go quite according to plan. His best friend, Savannah, who lives in New York, is really worried about him – he video calls her every evening to reassure her all is well.

The Detour is well written with believable characters, lots of humour and a nice surprise of an ending (you’ll have to read it for yourself). I enjoyed the road trip element, reading about all the places Michael stopped along the way and how the journey helped him come to terms with his mother’s death.

One slight criticism would be that the artwork on the cover could have been a lot better; it  really didn’t do the book justice.

Thanks to the author for a copy of The Detour that I review as a member of Rosie’s Book Review Team #RBRT

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

The Jane Austen Society by Natalie Jenner

The Jane Austen Society is a fictional account of how the society came into being, in the Hampshire village of Chawton, just after the second world war.

This is where Jane Austen lived for the last few years of her life, and where she wrote some of her best known works. Love for her writing brings this diverse group of people together; most of them live in the village, with the exception of the American movie star, Mimi, and her friend from Sothebys. They are all suffering in one way or another and find solace in Jane Austen’s writing.

The pace is slow to begin with, as we are introduced to all the characters and their backstories, but picks up after the reading of Mr Knight’s will when the society’s task becomes more urgent. It does not help that Jane Austen was in no way as popular then as she is now.

While you do not need to have read the works of Jane Austen to make sense of this story, it would certainly enhance your enjoyment as there are echoes of some of her stories in the relationships in the book. The period detail is good on the whole, but there are some jarring words and phrases that would definitely not have been used in Chawton in the 1940s.

The Jane Austen Society is beautifully narrated by Richard Armitage, whose skill makes it easy to differentiate between the many characters. I had not read anything by Natalie Jenner before, but will definitely be on the lookout for her next book.

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