My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

3 Stars from me

Yes, 3, unpopular opinion I know. I do feel conflicted over this as it is not owing to the quality of the writing which, for the record, is excellent.

For me, My Dark Vanessa should have ended at about the 55% mark. Even up to this point I found the book a little laborious but I distinctly recall looking up to see how much of the book was left as I couldn’t believe it hadn’t ended, and it then being 58%. I truly felt the book had reached it’s natural conclusion. (I did go on to finish the book but felt it really dragged after that point.)

The subject matter isn’t great but that’s not to say it wasn’t a good story and an important story. This level of grooming and abuse goes on far too frequently and it is important that attention is drawn to the issue so that people can stop turning a blind eye out of misplaced politeness. However, having said that the books goes to great lengths to stress that both Stane and Vanessa see it more as a love story which, for me, muddies the waters massively on this being a positive message.

I would very much read something else by the same author as the depth and quality of the writing really was great, the characters were all credible and scenes and places were are well described.

Synopsis:

An era-defining novel about the relationship between a fifteen-year-old girl and her teacher

ALL HE DID WAS FALL IN LOVE WITH ME AND THE WORLD TURNED HIM INTO A MONSTER

Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher.

She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.

Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that.

Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.

Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, and as riveting as it is disturbing, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues our age is grappling with.

Degrees of Guilt by H S Chandler

5 Stars from me

Absolutely brilliant, I loved it!

Degrees of Guilt is a clever a thought provoking legal thriller / courtroom drama. It is packed full of emotion, soul searching questions and dilemmas.

There are some fabulous characters, not least of all Maria who is on trial for the attempted murder of her husband – and who is gutted that he didn’t die.

The jurors are a mixed bunch (I guess that’s the point) and I loved ‘the Tabithas’. Lottie, Cameron and Jack make for interesting reading as their characters and relationships develop. I was a little disappointed with Lottie but it gives a good example of how susceptible women (and men too I’m sure) are to the attentions of an attractive stranger when their own life is lacking a little in excitement.

Cameron… well I won’t say too much about him other than very interesting!

I absolutely loved the emotional roller coaster that this book took me on and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good thriller. Highly compelling and thoroughly entertaining.

So, was she guilty? You’ll have to read it find out!

Synopsis: ‘A compelling legal thriller – I loved it’ Katerina Diamond, Sunday Times bestseller

‘Timely, anger-inducing and very powerful – it’s excellent’ Harriet Tyce, author of Blood Orange

When you read this book, you will think you know every twist in the tale.

Maria is on trial for attempted murder.

She has confessed to the crime and wanted her husband dead.

Lottie is on the jury, trying to decide her fate.

She embarks on an illicit affair with a stranger, and her husband can never find out.

You will think you know who is guilty and who is innocent.

You will be wrong.

A gripping, sexy and twisty novel for readers who devoured ANATOMY OF A SCANDAL, APPLE TREE YARD and HE SAID/SHE SAID.

Take It Back by Kia Abdullah

5 Stars from me!

Wow. Just wow. This is one of those books which sticks with you after you’ve finished it – and not necessarily in a comfortable way!

There is an awful lot going on within these pages, the depth of the story and the message is huge even though it is dealt with in a sensitive manner. There are so many issues, all given the lightest touch, and all jostling for their time to be considered.

Just the single thread regarding Jodie is a whole massive story on its own – how anyone copes as a teenager these days let alone with a neglectful, alcoholic mother, let alone with facial disfigurement.

Our former barrister, Zara, who now works to support victims of sex crimes, is also worthy of a story of her own as she turns her back on a glittering careers, tries to fight against decades of history and family ‘rules’ in order to tread her own path, all while battling her own demons as she risks everything to support Jodie.

The accused – their story is another one worthy to stand on its own. The complexities of friendships, the weight of responsibility upon their young shoulders.

Then there is the alleged assault. The main crux of the book, it demonstrates beautifully and painfully how incredibly difficult it is to ever prove a rape/sexual assault. I deeply admire those brave souls who endeavour to do so when they are up against the men who lie, the women who lie, the jurors who have their own preconceptions and judicial system which isn’t always stacked fairly.

I am so glad I read this book.

 

Synopsis: Take It Back is a gripping courtroom drama, perfect for fans of Apple Tree YardHe Said/She Said and Anatomy of a Scandal.

The Victim: A sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, neglected by an alcoholic mother. Who accuses four boys of something unthinkable.

The Defendants: Four handsome teenage boys from hardworking immigrant families. All with corroborating stories.

Someone is lying.

Former barrister Zara Kaleel, one of London’s brightest young legal minds, takes up Jodie Wolfe’s case; she believes her, even if those closest to Jodie do not.

Jodie and Zara become the centre of the most explosive criminal trial of the year, in which ugly divisions within British society are exposed. As everything around Zara begins to unravel she becomes even more determined to get Jodie the justice she’s looking for. But at what price? 

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

4 Stars from me

This is a interesting one… On the one hand it is a straightforward tale on the fence of the ‘he said she said’ issue when it comes to rape, how does a jury ever truly reach a correct answer when only the two parties involved know the actual truth. On the other, it is an incredibly though provoking story that digs deeper into the ‘entitlement’ borne of privilege, the expectation that a wife will stand by her husband, the ‘protection’ afforded to those from wealthy, connected families and the weight of responsibility which rests upon the legal profession.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book (although very much not the subject matter!) and can easily see it being televised in a similar shocking, sensationalist style as Apple Tree Yard.

I don’t want to give any spoilers but suffice it to say I felt incredibly disappointed in Sophie, she sounded like a vibrant and intelligent young lady who should have known better!

 

Synopsis: An astonishingly incisive and suspenseful novel about a scandal amongst Britain’s privileged elite and the women caught up in its wake.

Sophie’s husband James is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart. Kate is the lawyer hired to prosecute the case: an experienced professional who knows that the law is all about winning the argument. And yet Kate seeks the truth at all times. She is certain James is guilty and is determined he will pay for his crimes. Who is right about James? Sophie or Kate? And is either of them informed by anything more than instinct and personal experience?

Despite her privileged upbringing, Sophie is well aware that her beautiful life is not inviolable. She has known it since she and James were first lovers, at Oxford, and she witnessed how easily pleasure could tip into tragedy. Most people would prefer not to try to understand what passes between a man and a woman when they are alone: alone in bed, alone in an embrace, alone in an elevator… Or alone in the moonlit courtyard of an Oxford college, where a girl once stood before a boy, heart pounding with excitement, then fear. Sophie never understood why her tutorial partner Holly left Oxford so abruptly. What would she think, if she knew the truth?