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#TuesdayBookBlog APPLES NEVER FALL by Liane Moriarty (@MichaelJBooks) (@PenguinUKBoos) Family relationships, secrets, mysteries, and a lot of tennis #Booklaunch

Hi, all:

I bring you a novel that is officially launched today, 14th of September, by an author who has become even more popular and well-known recently thanks to the adaptations to the TV of her novels. I’ve read a few of her novels, and I can’t say I’m not surprised. And here comes her latest one.

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty 

#1 New York Times bestselling author Liane Moriarty is back with a novel that looks at marriage, sibling rivalry, and the lies we tell others and ourselves. Apples Never Fall is the work of a writer at the top of her game.

The Delaney family love one another dearlyit’s just that sometimes they want to murder each other . . .

If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father?

This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings.

The Delaney family is a communal foundation. Stan and Joy are the envy of all of their friends. They’re killer on the tennis court, and off it their chemistry is palpable. But after fifty years of marriage, they’ve finally sold their famed tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. So why are they so miserable?

The four Delaney children—Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke—were tennis stars in their own right, yet as their father will tell you, none of them had what it took to go all the way. But that’s okay, now that they’re all successful grown-ups. Well, that depends on how you define success. No one in the family can really tell you what Troy does, but based on his fancy car and expensive apartment, he seems to do it very well, even if he blew up his perfect marriage. Logan is happy with his routine as a community college professor, but his family finds it easier to communicate with his lovely girlfriend than him. Amy, the eldest, can’t seem to hold down a job or even a lease, but leave it to Brooke, the baby of the family, to be the rock-steady one who is married with a new solo physiotherapy practice . . . which will take off any day now.

One night a stranger named Savannah knocks on Stan and Joy’s door. She says she chose their house because it looked the friendliest. And since Savannah is bleeding after a fight with her boyfriend, the Delaneys are more than happy to give her the small kindness she sorely needs. If only that was all she wanted.

Later, everyone will wonder what exactly went on in that household after Savannah entered their lives that night. Because now Joy is missing, no one knows where Savannah is, and the Delaneys are reexamining their parents’ marriage and their shared family history with fresh, frightened eyes.

https://www.amazon.com/Apples-Never-Fall-Liane-Moriarty-ebook/dp/B08PG6CKZJ/

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Apples-Never-Fall-Liane-Moriarty-ebook/dp/B08PG6CKZJ/

https://www.amazon.es/Apples-Never-Fall-Liane-Moriarty-ebook/dp/B08PG6CKZJ/

Author Liane Moriarty
Author Liane Moriarty

About the author:

Liane Moriarty is the Australian author of eight internationally best-selling novels: Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, Nine Perfect Strangers and the number one New York Times bestsellers: The Husband’s Secret, Big Little Lies and Truly Madly Guilty. Her books have been translated into over forty languages and sold more than 20 million copies.

Big Little Lies and Truly Madly Guilty both debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list – the first time this was ever achieved by an Australian author. Big Little Lies was adapted into a multiple award-winning HBO series with a star-studded cast including Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. Hulu is adapting Nine Perfect Strangers into a limited series starring Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy for release in 2021.

Her new novel, Apples Never Fall, will be released in September 2021.

Liane lives in Sydney, Australia, together with her husband, son and daughter. You can find out more at www.lianemoriarty.com and www.facebook.com/LianeMoriartyAuthor

https://www.amazon.com/Liane-Moriarty/e/B00459IA54/

My review:

I received a NetGalley ARC copy of this novel from Penguin Michael Joseph UK, which I freely chose to review.

This is the fourth of Liane Moriarty’s novels I read, and I’m sure it won’t be the last one. She has become well-known, justifiably so, through her writing, and more recently thanks to the TV adaptations of a couple of her novels (Nine Perfect Strangers is available already, and although I’ve only watched a bit of it so far, it doesn’t look bad at all).

If I had to characterise her writing, based on the books I’ve read so far, I’d say she excels at creating lively and totally credible ensembles of characters (sometimes small communities, sometimes neighbours, sometimes complete strangers thrown into a common setting, or, as is the case here, a family and their close contacts), dropping —bomb-like— a mystery in their midst, and observing what happens. The mystery side of the story has the added benefit of getting readers hooked into the story at the beginning, when we don’t know much about the characters yet, because as things progress, and although the author is good at keeping her hand hidden (red herrings, twists and turns, and deceptive appearances are skilfully employed), we get more and more involved with the characters and learn things that sometimes end up being much more interesting than the original mystery. That, of course, depends on the reader’s taste, and I’m a sucker for psychologically complex characters and for books centred on the connections and relationships between individuals going through difficult circumstances. Those types of books that don’t seem too heavy on plot, but they are like ducks on a pond: there is a lot going on under the surface, invisible to the naked eye. One has to be prepared to get wet and go diving.

The description above is quite comprehensive, and as I want to avoid spoilers, I won’t go into a detailed account of what happens. Joy Delaney, a woman in her sixties, a tennis player and a coach, and mother of four children, disappears on Valentine’s Day, after having an argument with her husband, without telling him anything and only sending an unintelligible text to her sons and daughters, which mentions going off-grid. We soon learn that a few months earlier they had a house guest staying with them, a young woman called Savannah, and the novel alternates the two timelines, both chronological: one following on from Joy’s disappearance, and the other going back in time to show readers what happened to all the members of the Delaney family after Savannah came into their lives. The story is narrated in the third person, but from different characters’ points of view, mostly the members of the family (well, not so much Stan, at least not in the beginning), but also from others who don’t play a major part, like friends of the family, neighbours, and also the two police officers investigating the disappearance. This provides us with a choral view of events, and we get very different pictures and perspectives of the family and their relationships as if we were watching them through a kaleidoscope.

This is a long book (and quite a few reviewers have commented that they felt it could have been edited much more tightly, but I enjoyed the pace and the amount of detail, so I won’t complain), which I would describe as a domestic drama/mystery, and there are lots of issues explored: how our perspectives, goals, and priorities change with time and age; changes in the role of women and their own perceptions of themselves in recent generations; who gets to define success and how much of an impact our upbringing has on our sense of self; domestic violence; anxiety; migraines; sibling-rivalry; the world of professional sports, tennis in particular; long-term relationships and marriages; empty-nest syndrome and the toll of retirement… Even COVID-19 makes an appearance. Personally, I was a bit skeptical of the inclusion of the coronavirus in the novel, but although I don’t think it was necessary, I feel it adds a little something to the story, so it’s fine with me.

The six members of the Delaney family provide readers with plenty of room for thought. I was much more intrigued by the parents than I was by their children (although I developed a bit of a soft spot for Amy and quite liked Logan, oh, and some of their partners as well), especially because of their relationship, which we get to learn plenty about. They had not only been successfully (?) married for over fifty years and had four children, but they still played tennis together (doubles) and won and had run a successful business together too. What a challenge! Unsurprisingly, we discover there are some cracks and secrets between them, lies (some they tell each other and some they tell themselves), some skeletons hiding in cupboards, and quite a few things still left unsaid. Although Joy is the centre of attention, for evident reasons, and she is quite a character, I grew fond of Stan as well, and the author does a great job of making us understand why the characters are who they are and do what they do, even when they do pretty unforgivable and appalling things. Savannah is also fascinating, though extreme, and although I am not sure I’d say I identified with any of the characters, I was hooked from the beginning by their interaction and had to keep reading to find out what glued them together and who they really were and would end up becoming.

I have mentioned that the story is told in two timelines, which eventually converge, and it is narrated in the third person from a variety of points of view. The changes in the timeline are clearly marked. As I have read an ARC copy of the book, I am not sure if the formatting of the final version of the novel will be very different from the version I read, so I can’t say if the different points of view will be evident to the naked eye. In any case, I had no problem working out whose perspective I was reading, so I don’t think readers need to worry unduly about that, although I advise them to keep their eyes open and not get distracted. Everything is there for a good reason, even if it might not appear important at the time.

The author’s writing is deceptively simple: she does not overdo her descriptions or use complex words but knows how to insert small details and motifs that create a vivid and compelling picture of the characters, their environment, and their personalities. Even the dog has her own mind. Moriarty knows how to drop hints and sow doubts in our minds, is an expert in leading us down the wrong path, and she takes her time building up the characters, the background, and maintaining the suspense. The reveals are well-timed, and although this is not a page-turner in the usual sense, dedicating plenty of time to exploring the characters’ motivations and going on detours to learn more about the past, the action flows well, and everything fits in beautifully at the end. Even though it does not lack a sense of humour, I found it, in general, more understated when it came to light content and funny scenes than some of her other novels, with many more quietly amusing moments than those that make one guffaw.

I enjoyed the ending and its several twists, although more than one big ending, this is a book that takes its time to tie all the loose threads, so although there are aspects of the novel (more to do with what will happen next than with the actual mystery) left to the reader’s imagination, I particularly recommend it to those who feel frustrated when any aspects of the story aren’t fully explained.

In sum, this is a good example of what Moriarty’s stories are like, full of psychologically well-drawn characters, an intriguing mystery, and a novel for readers who don’t mind taking time to learn about the relationships and interactions within a family or a community, particularly when there are plenty of secrets and lies to uncover. And those who love tennis will appreciate it even more.

Thanks to Michael Joseph/ Penguin Random House UK and the author, thanks to all of you for reading, and if you’ve enjoyed it or know anybody who might, feel free to like, share, comment, and always keep smiling and stay safe!

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book promo Book review Interviews

#Bookreview and interview THE CHRISTMAS TOWN by Donna VanLiere (@donnavanliere) A delightful story about a place we’d all like to call home

Hi all:

I know I’ve been resisting talking about Christmas related subjects, but the truth is that I’d been hiding an ace up my sleeve. A few weeks ago (it was in October) I read a book with a Christmas theme, from an author, Donna VanLiere, who writes a lot of Christmas stories. And yes, I must admit I loved it. When I got an e-mail from Justine Shaw, her publicist, reminding me of the launch of the book and offering an interview with the author, I thought I’d reserve it for an appropriate time. As the author has also been very busy touring with the book I only just got the questions back, so, right in time, here I bring you…

Review and interview The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere
The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere

The Christmas Town by Donna VanLiere  A delightful story about a place we’d all like to call home

Donna VanLiere, New York Times bestselling author of the timeless The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Hope, is back with this moving and uplifting story about finding love, hope, and family in unexpected places.

Lauren Gabriel spent many years of her childhood in foster homes, wishing her mother would come back for her and be the family she needs. Now twenty-years-old, she still longs for a place that she can truly call home. Her work as a cashier is unfulfilling, and at Christmas it’s unbearable with the songs and carols and chatter of Christmas that she hears throughout the day.

When Lauren ends her shift one night, she finds herself driving aimlessly in order to avoid returning to her lonely apartment. And when she witnesses a car accident she is suddenly pulled into the small town of Grandon, first as a witness but then as a volunteer for the annual fundraiser for Glory’s Place, a center for single mothers and families who need assistance. Could this town and its people be the home she has always longed for?

Just in time for this year’s holiday season, Donna VanLiere is back with a moving and uplifting story about finding love, hope, and family in unexpected places, in THE CHRISTMAS TOWN (St. Martin’s Press, Oct. 18, 2016, $16.99)

My review:

My review is based on a free advance copy from St Martin’s Press via NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion or the review content.

OK, I’m not a big fan of Christmas. There, I’ve said it. The fuss, the mad rush to buy presents, the obligation to be happy… But there are certain things about Christmas I don’t mind, like the crafts fairs that pop up everywhere, some of the songs (although not when played continuously 24/7) or the books (and movies, but, especially the movies, I prefer them around the right time of the year. Watching a Christmas movie in August is a no-no).

Despite that, I could not resist requesting this book when I read the description, as I do like stories where a community gets together and people find a true home. And I’m happy I decided to read it.

The Christmas Town is fairly short, full of surprises (well, some not so surprising, but pleasant nonetheless), and it has a big heart. You have memorable characters (some very recognisable, like the woman who insists on using British expressions nobody understands, or the tall, dark and handsome romantic hero), some unique, like Ben, the young man who works at a grocery store and wins everybody’s heart by offering them personalised messages with their shopping. You have a great setting, and a suitably seasonal story, with auctions, personal objects, songs, and social media confusing things.

The story is told from several characters’ points of view (in the third person), although the main character is Lauren Gabriel, a young woman with a difficult childhood but full of dreams and hopes, despite her disappointments. She ends up in Grandon, a charming small-town, and although there are heartaches on the way… Well, this is a Christmas story, but I won’t spoil it for you.

There is humour, characters you’d love to know in real life, complications, chance, music, miracles and family. And a great sense of community. The story also touches on some sad issues (Lauren’s difficult childhood and her relationship with her estranged parents, children’s illnesses and disabilities, financial worries) but all dealt with a light touch.

If you want a light and heart-warming read with endearing characters and a place you’d love to call home, and you don’t mind Christmas (or even if you do) I recommend it. Ah, and don’t miss Ben’s messages. Priceless!

Links:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-Town-Donna-VanLiere-ebook/dp/B01DJ0XZ72/

https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Town-Donna-VanLiere-ebook/dp/B01DJ0XZ72/

Here a bit of information about the author:

Author Donna VanLiere
Author Donna VanLiere

Donna VanLiere is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author and gifted conference speaker. She has published fourteen titles including The Christmas Shoes and The Christmas Blessing, both of which were adapted into movies (starring Rob Lowe, Kimberly Williams-Perry and Neil Patrick Harris) and garnered big ratings for CBS television. LifetimeTelevision adapted The Christmas Hope (starring Madeline Stowe) and premiered it December 2009 to stellar ratings as well. Donna’s non-seasonal novel, The Angels of Morgan Hill, has captured the same warmth as her Christmas books and continues to please loyal and new fans alike.

Donna is the recipient of a Retailer’s Choice Award for Fiction, a Dove Award, a Silver Angel Award, an Audie Award for best inspirational fiction, a nominee for a Gold Medallion Book of the Year and was recently inducted into the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges Hall of Excellence joining such luminaries as Coretta Scott King, Hugh Downs, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale and Senator John Glenn. Donna is an in-demand conference speaker having appeared at countless women’s and family events, including select Women of Faith and Extraordinary Women conferences.

Donna lives in Franklin, Tennessee, with her husband, Troy, and their children, Grace, Kate and David.

Learn more at www.DonnaVanLiere.com

Interview: 

As I mentioned earlier, author Donna VanLiere agreed to answer some questions, and here they are.

Thanks very much for taking time from your busy schedule to answer a few questions. It’s an honour to have you as a guest on my blog.

You’ve written about other things too, but many of your books are seasonal, with a Christmas theme. What made you choose Christmas in particular?

Christmas is about hope and joy and the greatest story ever told. I feel like all of our stories are birthed out of the manger story. For me, it’s quite easy to develop a story around Christmas because for many people Christmas is difficult. I want each of my stories to be filled with characters who are like people you know, not cookie cutter characters. I want the reader to know that despite hard circumstances that hope is alive.

I love The Christmas Town. The setting (Grandon, a place where I’d love to live), the characters, the stories… Do you have a favourite?

I can’t choose a favorite among the Christmas stories because I love all of the characters!! My favorite book I’ve ever written is one called The Good Dream. It’s set in 1950 in East Tennessee and is about a single woman and a little boy and their journey together.

It’s difficult to choose, but Ben’s character is somebody we’d all love to meet. Can you tell us a bit more about his creation?

Ben bags groceries at the local supermarket. He is a pure, sweet soul who never meets a stranger. Several months before Christmas he decided he wanted to do something to make a difference as he bagged groceries. No one knew, not even Ben himself, how that one idea would inspire the townspeople.

Is there any specific message you’d like to send your readers?

We never really understand how important we are to someone else’s story. Our own story isn’t just about us. It’s about so many others around us. Just like in The Christmas Town you are not just a bag boy or a cashier or a waitress or a parks & recreation employee. You are an important character in someone else’s story.

Thanks so much to Donna VanLiere for answering my questions and for giving us this story that made even me (a bit of a grinch) feel more of the Christmas spirit. And thanks to you all for reading, and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!

 

Categories
Book reviews

#Bookreview HOLDING by Graham Norton (@grahnort) Not a genre novel but an interesting story #TuesdayBookBlog

Hi all:

I keep trying to catch up on recent reviews, and here I bring you one that I must confess I was curious about because of the writer.

Holding by Graham Norton
Holding by Graham Norton

Holding by Graham Norton  (Author) 

It’s funny and wonderfully perceptive’ Wendy Holden

‘Poised and perceptive’ the Sunday Times

‘It is beautiful and yet devastatingly sad’ Daily Express

‘A considerable achievement … one of the more authentic debuts I’ve read in recent years … in such an understated manner, eschewing linguistic eccentricity … in favour of genuine characters and tender feeling…this is a fine novel.’ John Boyne, Irish Times

‘Deeply accomplished…brilliantly observed’ Good Housekeeping

‘An undercurrent of black comedy accompanies the ripples that ensue – but with a pathos that makes this deftly plotted story as moving as it is compelling.’ Sunday Mirror

‘Strenuously charming…surprisingly tender’ Metro 

‘Heartwarming and observant’ Stylist

Graham Norton’s masterful debut is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets and loss.

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of­ two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former­ love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.
Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters and explore – with searing honesty – the complexities and contradictions that make us human.

 

A Note From the Publisher

HOLDING is not the novel I planned to write, at least, not at first. But following the old adage to write about what you know, Ireland seemed a good place to start, especially rural Ireland. I did have in mind a cast of characters living in and around a small village where their lives would reflect the priorities and concerns – land, marriage, religion – that are so present in that area still.

I found as I wrote more about the characters of Duneen that each of them had in some way become suspended in time – due to grief, due to unhappiness, due to fear of failure – and that they were all holding on to their own secrets.

I am hugely excited that HOLDING is now heading out into the world, and would love to hear what you think. Please do let me know on Twitter@Grahnort using the hashtag #readholding. I will be watching!

 

See all 6 formats and editions

 

 

 

 

Not a genre novel but an interesting story

Thanks to Net Galley and to Hodder & Stoughton for offering me a free copy of this novel.

I have several confessions to make. Yes, I know who Graham Norton is, although I don’t watch his television programme often, and I don’t follow Eurovision (even when Sir Terry Wogan hosted the UK version of Eurovision, and I was a big fan of his, I didn’t watch it), although I sometimes catch bits of his radio programme on Radio 2. So, although I suppose I had expectations, they can’t compare to other people’s.

I haven’t read any of his autobiographical books, so I didn’t have anything to compare this novel to, other than the many books I read by other authors.

I must also confess that I had a look at other reviews before writing mine and I will mention them, although not in detail.

This novel is in many ways the Irish equivalent (if there is such a thing) of the small town thrillers that are very common in the US. We have mysteries, we have a dark underbelly (well, not quite so dark), we have secrets, and we have many people whose lives are not as they appear to be. The book is listed under General Fiction and Mystery (Crime, Thriller) but I’m not sure how well it fits in the second one, at least stylistically, not so much from the story point of view.

The story is told in the third person but from the point of view of quite a few of the characters in the novel. If one had to choose a protagonist, perhaps it would be P.J. Collins the large Sergeant who lives alone and always expects people to laugh at him because of his weight. When bones are unearthed at a local building site, suddenly some excitement comes into his life. Because the owner of the farm where the bones are found left to never return many years back, the suspicion is he might be the one buried there, and suddenly two women who had fought over him start thinking about him again. Of course, due to the nature of the crime, police officers from Cork come to take charge and there is general disruption. And of course, things get complicated.

I didn’t find it difficult to follow the different points of view as they tend to be clearly demarcated and the characters are very different, although I thought that in the last chapter before the epilogue the switches were a bit fast and not so well demarcated, and some people might not enjoy the head-hopping.

I’ve noticed that several of the reviews commented that the portrayal of small town Ireland seemed timeless, and it is true that other than mentions of DNA tests, mobile phones and i-Pads, there isn’t much that could not have fitted in any other era (although we assume it’s contemporary). Memories of the past by several of the characters appear more vivid at times than the present era and ring truer.

Although the characters do not appear to be very sophisticated or complex, there is enough background history to create a picture in the minds of the reader, although some might result very familiar to habitual readers (adulterous husband, unhappy married woman who drinks too much, three unmarried sisters still living together, the town’s busybody…). My main problem with the characters was that I never felt I truly connected with any of them and I’m not sure if that is perhaps because all of them seem to be observing themselves rather than living or feeling. They are all lonely, even the ones who are in relationships, and seem frozen (as the writer notes in his comments), unable to move on because of some loss long ago (be it real or imagined). It brought to my mind Carson McCullers’s The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, not because of the style or setting, but because of the feeling of the characters (although far less dark).

I read in some of the comments that there was humour. Perhaps it was my frame of mind when I read it (although I don’t think it was particularly dark) and some of the characterizations and the events could be funny in their own right, but combined with the characters and their circumstances I would not recommend it as a funny story.

There writing is fairly descriptive and the pace leisurely rather than the frantic pace of thrillers, and for me, there was more showing than telling at some points of the story that also gave it a more contemplative style than is usual in modern mysteries.

The plot was well built and the story and the details are interesting (with some minor surprises although the general gist is not that difficult to guess). It also ends on a more positive note than the rest of the novel anticipates but I won’t comment on it not to spoil the story.

Overall it is an interesting novel, easy to read although it perhaps doesn’t sit easy either as a thriller or a cozy mystery (none of the characters is weird or peculiar enough and the mystery itself is more realistic than in these kinds of stories) and that makes it a bit more challenging to recommend to genre readers.

Thanks to the publishers, the writer and to NetGalley for the novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and please, like, share, comment and CLICK!

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