Book review: London Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning

London Belongs To Us 
by Sarra Manning

26177619

Publication: 02/06/2016
Paperback / eBook
Publisher: Hot Key Books, Bonnier Zaffre
★★★★

The first time I heard about this book was during my first week at Bonnier Zaffre and most of my colleagues seemed excited about this new title by author Sarra Manning. Oh, okay – I thought – another book about London, another girl-meets-boy  book in which they will discover the marvellous city they live in. And well, no need to say I was -obviously – completely wrong.

London Belongs To Us tells the story of seventeen-year-old Sunny, who has always been a little bit of a pushover. However, when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she know she’s got to act. The story presented in the novel presents the reader with a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill… and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.

Along the way Sunny will meet a whole host of characters she never dreamed she’d have anything in common with – least of all the handsome (and somewhat vain) French ‘twins’ (they’re really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it’s the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone – from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers – is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

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I started reading Sarra’s novel when I was having my hair done in a terrible, terrible place near Kilburn Park station. I had forgotten my book at home but luckily, I was carrying my eBook reader with me and I remembered I had London Belongs To Us ready to be discovered. And what a marvellous read!

As someone who has moved to London from another country, I am fascinated by this city and I find really interesting to discover new things about it. The main character of this novel is young, funny and loves London more than anything else. Her enthusiasm for the city is contagious and the way in which she tells the story is brilliant!  I loved that each chapter in the book began with the name of a place in London followed by a description of its history because it was very interesting to learn more about it.

I also liked to see London’s diversity playing a key role in the book – because if there’s something great about the city, that is its diversity and also the respect that flows throughout its streets – and how the author succeeds in making London a character itself.

I was trapped from the very beginning and laughing out loud all the way through. The plot is fast-paced (the whole story takes place within 12 hours) and is full of fantastic descriptions of people’s feelings. The writing is exceptional – I am already looking forward to reading some other books written by the author – and the characters are adventurous and engaging.

I gave it four stars because I didn’t find the end as satisfying as I’d have loved to. There was something missing there! However, that’s just how I felt about it: some people have told me that the ending didn’t disappoint them and that they really liked it!

I guess you’ll have to read it in order to find out.

May you all have fun with Sunny around London!

Book review: Maestra by L.S.Hilton

Maestra
by L.S. Hilton

9781785760037

Publication date: 10/03/2016
Hardback
Publisher: Zaffre Publishing
★★★★

I first heard about Maestra on my way to work. It was a normal day and I was on the bus checking my emails when I came across my daily subscription to The Pool. I guess it was the red cover what made me open the article and author interview, I don’t know… but I recognised the book because I had seen adverts on the tube and it appeared to be all over the media. I suppose I decided to read it because I wanted to know why people kept talking about it. Was it really that good? What was I missing? And also because my current employer told me I should give it a go. And so I did. I bought the e-book on a Thursday night and devoured it in less than a week.

The book tells the story of Judith Rashleigh, an art-lover and assistant who works in a prestigious London auction house. Her dreams of breaking into the art world have been gradually dulled by the blunt forces of snobbery and corruption. To make ends meet, she starts working as a hostess in one of the West End’s less salubrious bars. Desperate to make something of herself, she learns to dress, speak and act in the interests of men. She learns to be a good girl. However, after uncovering a conspiracy at her action house, she is fired before she can expose the fraud. In desperation, she accepts an offer from one of the bar’s clients to accompany him to the French Riviera. But when an ill-advised attempt to slip him sedatives has momentous consequences, Judith finds herself fleeing for her life. 

Now alone and in danger, all Judith has to rely on is her consummate ability to fake it amongst the rich and famous – and the inside track on the hugely lucrative art fraud that triggered her dismissal.

 

————-

I’ve never been an avid reader of crime fiction / thrillers, I tend to read non-fiction titles, YA and women’s fiction so this was the first time I met a character like Judith. And I never came across such a story before, no kidding.

I felt like the book, in the very first pages, uncovers the story little by little. Judith narrates it and I felt very close to her in the first chapters: working as an assistant, trying to develop herself, describing rush hour and struggling to get the life she knows she’s always wanted. Feelings of distance and fear started to grow as I kept on reading. I didn’t understand Judith and her morally complex personality but her wicked intelligence made me want to keep reading and discover what was going to happen.

Her story is full of explicit sex and murders – I was surprised because the main character doesn’t seem to have feelings of remorse or sadness. She is a dark, dark character but that’s her best quality too. She doesn’t disappoint, in fact, she surprises the reader every so often that I kept asking myself: ‘What is she going to do now’?

L.S. Hilton sets her story in Europe and it’s beautiful to travel from place to place, including London, Italy and France. Her descriptions are vivid and there’s moments where you cannot wait to turn the page in order to discover what’s going to happen. It is an incredibly addictive story that has many layers. However, some of those layers are truly unrealistic and exaggerated. So be prepared to feel sceptical about what happens to our protagonist.

I must confess I don’t like Judith – nor her tastes or ambitions – And that’s one of the greatest things about her: she doesn’t need anyone to like her, not even the reader. She has great psychological depth, though:  she is vivid, unrelenting, scary and leaves destruction behind her.

And the twists, oh! the twists in the book are magnificent. There’s no way the reader can be prepared to discover what happens in the story. The world of art is fascinating, the fraud and corruption and the murders make this story a delicious dark thriller that will ‘shock and please in equal measure’.

This little red book is a must read and I am looking forward to discover what happens next. Does Maestra live up to the expectations? In my opinion, it does. The book is, however, strong in graphic sexual content and if this is likely to perturb you, then be prepared. I would suggest to read the book with an open mind and you won’t be disappointed.

Now, now… can someone bring me Maestra‘s sequel?