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The Ice Cream Girls - Dorothy Koomson

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Author: Dorothy Koomson / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 25 April 2013 / Genre: Modern & Contemporary Fiction / Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group / Title: The Ice Cream Girls / ISBN 13: 9780751551525 / ISBN 10: 0751551525 / Alternative EAN: 9781847443649

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      06.07.2014 16:41

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      A must read book

      I has never heard of this book or the author before I came across it in a cheap book shop. I am so pleased that I picked this book up, bought it, and got reading. The book is about two teenagers that got drawn in by a teacher. The girls were not friends and generally just tolerated each other because of their love of their controlling teacher. Not to give too much away but something happens and the teacher is killed. Both girls are main suspects in the very high profile case which got lots of media attention. The story follows both of the girls lives and how differently they turned out. Both of the women''s lives were significantly effected but one much more than the other. This book is written so well I could not put it down as soon as I started reading it. There are flash backs which are really interesting and it really does show how contrasting things can be as a result of different circumstances. As this book moves through it becomes clear that everything was not as it seemed. I must say that I did manage to guess the ending but maybe that it the nice thing. There are subtle suggestions if you look out for them in the story and so it does asll really make sense. I definately want to read more from this author if Dorothy Koomson has written other books to this level. I am aware that since I have read this book there has been a television dramatisation made about the ice cream girls. I chose not to watch the television program because i didn''t thin it could compare to this book. Thus book is definately in my top 10 of all books.

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      05.10.2013 19:08
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      An uneasy triangle - two schoolgirls and one of the masters. It doesn't merely end in tears...

      FIRST THINGS FIRST

      Although I had never heard of the author before, I read a couple of very glowing reviews of this book online, and by sheer coincidence I found a newly-processed copy at my place of work (in a college library) later that day. Not being a great TV watcher, I was also completely unaware until then of the recent three-part dramatisation on the small screen. If the distinctly lukewarm reviews I have seen of that are anything to go by, the book seems to be far superior, one reason being that the televised version substitutes its own ending. It was apparently one the author did not care for.

      THE BOOK

      Serena Gorringe and Poppy Carlisle were never really friends - but they have one thing in common. As teenagers and schoolmates, they were both attracted to one of their teachers, Marcus Halnsley, a scumbag with no redeeming features whatsoever. To his colleagues and the rest of his pupils who only know him casually he is a very good, well-respected and greatly admired master. He is also good at putting on an act. Divorced with one small son, he has evidently put his family days behind him and only a few people - in fact, perhaps only the two main characters themselves - are aware what an obnoxious, predatory individual he has become. He delights in callously and unashamedly exploiting both girls for sex and playing one off against the other, telling each one at different times that she is the new love of his life and he is going to dump the other.

      The title of the book, by the way, comes from a photograph he takes of them in provocatively skimpy swimsuits on the seafront at Brighton, eating ice creams. These snaps include one of them eating each others' ices, and one of them kissing each other on the lips. Both of them find this utterly distasteful, but such is the brute power he exerts over them that they are afraid to refuse to pose as he tells them.

      This is where I have to choose my words with great care in order to avoid a spoiler. Before long Marcus gets what he so richly deserved. There is a horrific incident, the aftermath of which scars their lives for ever. They then find themselves hounded by the media, especially after the sleazy pictures are published and they are branded 'the ice cream girls' for posterity. We find out what everybody thinks has happened in the first few pages, thanks to a couple of (fictional) news cuttings reporting the incident.

      Part of the story is told in flashbacks, alternating with present day events. Successive chapters are told by Serena and Poppy, each in the first person, so the reader is faced with an often conflicting version of events. It is a fairly unusual way of telling the story - but a very effective one.

      Twenty years pass. By then Serena is happily married to a kind, charming husband and they have two delightful young children. Poppy has led a very different, far less charmed life. However, Serena is still haunted by what happened when she was only nineteen. One day, she fears, it will all catch up with her. Her worries increase when she is pulled over by the police for a minor traffic offence, and even more so when she fears she is being stalked. Her husband is unaware of her past, and when he finds out, their marriage is briefly threatened and comes within an inch of total destruction. Meanwhile Poppy considers herself to have been a victim of circumstances beyond her control. Once she is at liberty and in a position to set the record straight, as she sees it, she is determined that the truth will out.

      In effect this is a psychological crime story, and also a searing story of exploitation and sexual abuse. Fear not - there is no gratuitous sex or violence, something which has become all too prevalent among less skilled writers in this day and age, and it is much to Koomson's credit that she portrays the story sensitively enough to move the reader and not put him or her off with unnecessary gore.

      Oh - there is a superb, very unexpected twist at the end. I for one certainly didn't see it coming.

      IN CONCLUSION

      The book is very well written, and the characters all come alive. Naturally Serena and Poppy are always in the frame, but the others - the smooth-talking but repellent Marcus, the parents, siblings, Serena's husband, and various officers of the law (I won't be too explicit, as again I don't want to give too much away) are all vital flesh and blood creatures.

      I have to admit that there was a stage halfway through the book where I felt the story was beginning to go nowhere. The book is almost 500 pages long, and as is the case with so much modern fiction, I felt that a little of it could have been pruned to make a tauter, leaner story. But I knew enough by then to realise that it was going to get exciting, so I was never tempted to put it aside or, worse still, peek at the last two or three chapters in advance. I'm very glad I didn't.

      WOMEN'S FICTION?

      Most of the reviews I have seen online already, I suspect, have been written by women. I trust I'm not the only man who's read it, as while it does largely deal with women's issues, I certainly don't think its appeal is restricted to a female readership.

      THE AUTHOR

      Dorothy Koomson (born 1971) has written extensively for newspapers and magazines. She lives in Brighton, where most of 'The Ice Cream Girls', her seventh published novel, was set.

      LAST WORD

      In an afterword she makes a very valid point in that, if the reader suspects someone he or she cares about is in an abusive situation, as Serena and Poppy were, then try to help. Even just a gentle nudge, or offering non-judgemental support, is better than nothing.


      [Revised version of a review I originally posted on ciao]

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        10.05.2013 10:59
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        A fabulous book!

        I have owned this book for quite some time. In fact, I bought it when it first got released into paperback and then I put it on my shelf of 'unread' books and then just never got around to picking it up. Before buying this I had read one of the authors other books and had really enjoyed it. I just simply always got distracted by other books first and it was only because, a TV series of this book recently came out and I wanted to read the book first. I picked it up straight away and devoured it during some time off work.


        The author:
        Dorothy Koomson is an English author who has now written eight books. She has previously written for women's magazines and newspapers and published her first book in 2001 with the Cupid Effect. Her third novel, my best friend's girl, was selected to be a Richard and Judy summer reads book club and did amazingly well.
        All of Koomson's books are well researched and have thought provoking and usually intense subject matter that make them a strong read.


        The plot:
        Serena Gorringe and Poppy Carlisle are two young, naïve girls when they both fall under the charms of Marcus Halnsley. When a crime is committed and they are the only two who are witness to it, their lives are turned upside down. Dubbed the 'Ice cream girls' by the press due to how glamorous the two teens seem they were soon dealt with by the courts.
        Years later, Poppy is keen to set the record straight about what really happened whilst Serena what's nothing about her past to come to light to those who don't know the details. However, some things will not stay buried and when their secret comes out again, everything will become a living hell again for them both and those around them. Can the past really stay in the past or does it need to be dealt with so that everyone can move on from it?



        Characters:
        I found I really took to both of our main characters because they were normal teenage girls who simply fell for somebody that they probably shouldn't have but, also couldn't help having feelings for. However, I felt that they were then both manipulated and used by Marcus and he was the one who should have not done what he did.
        I liked how the book flipped between past and present and we were able to get a feel for them as people from years ago and also now, so that we could understand their personalities and what they had become like. I think both girls were vulnerable and scared during their time spent with Marcus and this shone through in how the author portrayed their thoughts and feelings.
        Marcus came across as the horrible, vile person he was and I liked how the author managed to get this across fully in the book with the words she used and small scenes she used in the flashbacks.
        Overall, the characters were extremely well thought out and written and I think had these characters not have been as strong; the book would just not have worked as well at all.


        Price:
        When I bought this book in Tesco, it was when they did a brief spell of doing 'buy one get one free' on the books and you simply paid for the higher priced book. At the time, I bought two that were both priced at £6.99 so I paid pretty much £3.50 for each which is a really good deal for a brand new book. You can still get this book in major book shops but, will pay the full RRP. If you look around online you should be able to find it cheaper than that though although I do think it is well worth its full asking price!



        Overall opinion:
        A fabulous book that dealt with a strong, emotional and turbulent storyline, it was well written and researched. I thoroughly enjoyed the book from the first page and once I started reading, I simply did not want to put it down.
        I was also gripped by the fact that I wasn't really sure what had actually happened until the very end and this really added an edge to the overall storyline. I can say that the book made me cry at times simply due to how strong some of the emotions came across and I think the author had an excellent way of getting these across which considering this is a book, is sometimes hard to do for some other writers.
        I am of course going to be recommending this book and really think that if you enjoy an emotional and moving read, this will appeal to you. On another note, I did go on to watch the TV series of it straight after finishing the book however; I didn't really feel it did do it justice, not because of the acting, but more that I felt it strayed too far away from the original storyline. I know it was only based on the book, but I feel they should have really instead made it more exact as I think this would have blown the viewer away more than by changing parts of the story. So maybe if you did see the series, but, haven't read the book, go away and read it now and see how much better the book is!

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          15.08.2012 18:47
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          Tells the tales of two girls whose lives are linked by a tragic event in their youth.

          This is the first novel by Dorothy Koomson which I have read, I can say firstly that it will not be the last! The Ice Cream Girls was recommended to me by my sister and I read it in the space of five days, the story became more gripping as it went on!

          This fictional novel is told from two different perspectives, with the chapters alternating between the two main characters, Poppy and Serena. The novel is set in Brighton, when both the main characters are around 38 years old, however it focuses heavily on the story of their teenage years, when they both began a sexual relationship with the same older man, who was intially Serena's school teacher. Both girls were underage when this relationship began and over time they find themselves both engaged in a destructive and abusive relationship triangle with an extremely controlling man. I wont go into much more as it may spoil the story, however both girls bear witness to a life changing event which leads to much public and press attention. Twenty years on from that event, Poppy sets out on a mission to set the records straight about exactly what happened that fateful night, which leads to hers and Serena's paths crossing once again...

          This novel was incredibly gripping, heightening in intensity as the story went on. It left me debating constantly throughout about which character was being portrayed as the sincere and honest one and which wasn't, as both characters believe their own version of events wholeheartedly. I think the author also did incredibly well to deal with such a sensitive and difficult subject matter, it definitely made for some tough reading in parts, however the story was brilliant and I think it will raise people's attention to the prospect of abuse within relationships once they have read it, which can never be a bad thing.

          5/5!

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            11.11.2011 12:51
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            A must read

            The Ice Cream Girls


            I have read a few Dorothy Koomston books, usually they are a great read and fairly light hearted. The Ice Cream Girls is Dorothy Koomstons 6th book so far.

            The story focuses around Poppy and Serena, both young girls back in 1989 when Marcus, a teacher, died. Both were accused and thrown into the media spotlight and the hype surrounding it. At trial, Poppy was found guilty and sentenced to custody; Serena was acquitted and released. Serena got on with her life, married and had children. All of a sudden, her life is thrown into disarray when Poppy is released after her sentence. Poppy is determined to clear her name and make Serena confess to the murder. The past, which Serena thought had stayed where it should, was coming back to haunt her. Serena had kept the past events buried and now, by resurfacing, they threaten everything.

            I picked up this book from my sisters bookshelf, while recovering from an intense year of university! I didn't want anything challenging, just a light read. I selected this book, based on that premise, it looks like a light hearted read, as was the last book I read by the same author. I'm ashamed to say, that I judged the book by it's cover! What I hadn't expected, was a gripping exploration of some very dark themes which kept you hooked from the very first page.

            The way this novel is written kept me guessing right to the end. The story flits between 1989, when Poppy and Serena are very young; and now, when they are adults, and Poppy has been released from prison and Serena is married with a job and young family. There is a combination throughout of modern day world, the past, and what might have happened, based on 18 years of speculation but which has been buried. Also, as well as alternating between decades, the narrative, which is told in the first person, switches between Poppy and Serena. This did not make the narrative of the plot hard to follow, quite the contrary, I thought it made the plot flow very well, and each character complemented the other, while telling of their unique perspective of the matter. When all was revealed, what I really liked was that I hadn't been able to guess the ending! Never would I have guessed that things ended the way they did!

            Having studied criminology, I was fascinated by the institutionalisation which was brought to the fore here. Although Poppy is out of prison, she takes a long time to even begin to adjust to life outside. This is most likely down to the length of time that Poppy spent in prison, but also, having entered prison at the age of 18. I was interested by how she drew parallels between life outside and her life inside, which should, theoretically, be two dramatically different paths.

            During this novel, I most liked the character of Serena. Although she had been found not guilty, it seemed to me as though there was a huge question mark over that. She had not made peace with the events even before the murder, and I think this is what made her come across to me as somewhat cagey. It feels as though the surface of Serena has merely been scratched, until the resolution with her sisters. At this point, I think it was clear exactly why her acquittal felt slightly uneasy.

            This was an absolutely brilliant book. I could barely put the book down from start to finish! I just had to know what happened next. It's a gripping book, but interspersed with some dark themes, and does become quite sinister.

            The RRP of this book is £6.99, although is available on amazon for £4.47. However, having been a book from my sisters collection, it most likely came from tesco as part of their offer for 2 for £7 or £3.86 per book!

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              24.08.2011 12:57

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              Fantastic read, well written and thought provoking, makes you want to befriend the characters!

              I was hooked on this book! Having read only one of Dorothy Koomson's books before, (Marshmallows for breakfast) which I thought was ok, when I came across The Ice Cream Girls in my local charity shop I thought I'd give her another try. I'm glad I did. I literally couldn't put this book down, I was so engrossed in the story I read it in a couple of days.

              The Ice Cream Girls is based on two girls, Poppy and Serena, as teenagers they both fall for their teacher which leads to dramatic consequences. The story is told by both girls, speaking about the present and past, one girl wants to forget the past and the other wants to tell the truth about the past. The story unwinds and leads up to the day of the dreaded events which caused one girl to go to prison and the other to carry on living their life, but the real truth comes out in the end.

              The book is written in an easy to read style, you can put it down (although I had trouble doing this!) and pick it up and get straight back into it, the characters are realistic and I found myself feeling for the girls.

              A definite page turner I would recommend.

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              15.07.2011 16:54
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              Fantastic book!

              I'd read some really good reviews of this book and was really pleased when it turned up on the shelves of my local library a couple of weeks ago. As you'll no doubt have guessed from my recent reviews, I've been reading a lot of chick lit lately and fancied a swap to something a bit less fluffy.

              THE PLOT

              As teenagers, Poppy and Serena both had underage relationships with teacher, Marcus. When he was later found dead, they were accused of and tried for his murder. Dubbed 'The Ice Cream Girls' thanks to a photo of them eating ice cream which became notorious during the trial, Serena is found not guilty while Poppy is sent down. Fast forward twenty years and Poppy is about to be freed from jail and convinced that Serena was really the guilty party, she sets about trying to clear her name and rebuild her life. With Serena having always maintained her innocence too, who's telling the truth? And how easy will it be for Poppy to pick up the pieces of her life after a twenty year absence for normal life and a murder conviction hanging over her head?

              MY THOUGHTS

              From the very start, I was hooked. Serena's husband knows nothing about her past and with Poppy intent on finding her and exposing what she believes is the truth, I was intrigued how Serena would continue to keep it from him. In amongst the present day events of Poppy's release from jail and Serena's fight to keep her enviable life together in the wake of that, there are lots of flashback scenes of Poppy's time in prison, the trial and of course, the girls' relationships with Marcus. These are not particularly done in chronological order and seem more like the kind of random flashbacks that would be much more likely to happen in reality so in that sense they're realistic and serve to drip feed information about Marcus and the nature of both the relationships. I always find books that do this rather fascinating as you don't get the information all in one go and it keeps you wondering what came next. As you might expect, the vast majority of the flashbacks involving Marcus are building up to what happened on that fateful night so it definitely makes you want to keep reading.

              In terms of the characters, I actually liked both Poppy and Serena, despite what they were being accused of. Given the nature of the plot, I was fully expecting to dislike them but the author writes the narrative in such a way that they don't come across at all how you might expect. The narrative flips about between the two girls and they tell things from their own perspective. There is one chapter from Marcus', which briefly puts some of his perspective across. Speaking of Marcus, he was not a character that I liked and without giving too much away that might ruin things , the flashbacks involving him made me feel a good deal of sympathy for the teenage Serena and Poppy. These flashbacks are of course from the girls' perspectives and therefore entirely one-sided but it's obvious in the present day chapters that being involved with him have had a lasting effect on them - and not just the fact that he died - so for me, this seems an accurate reflection of his character and it's not pretty.

              RECOMMENDED?

              I read this book in two days, which is unusual for me and is an indication of how much I enjoyed the book. I was compelled to keep reading to get to the bottom of what really happened that night - who killed Marcus? With both Serena and Poppy strongly protesting their innocence in their respective narratives, there's no real clues for most of the book, which helps to build the interest and intrigue. At this point I feel the need to highlight that this book isn't (in my opinion) intended as a murder mystery or even as 'whoddunit?'. All in all, It's a really interesting read with some gritty and quite dark moments.

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                04.07.2011 20:28
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                A pleasant surprise, worth a read!

                The ice cream girls! After reading a few reviews over on Dooyoo, I was determined to give this book a read after so many positive reviews appeared.
                From the first page I was hooked. It takes a lot to get me interested in a book so I was thrilled when I was able to happily stay up late into the night enjoying being absorbed into a book.
                The time flew by whilst reading Ice cream girls and before I knew it, it was over.
                It took me about a week to read this book which is actually fantastic for me!

                The Ice Cream Girls, by Dorothy Koomson is widely available at most big stores and common bookstores.
                I grabbed a copy from Tesco for around £4.99, it is also sold in:
                Whsmith for £6.00
                Amazon for £4.50
                Waterstones for £10.39
                It may be worth purchasing the book online for cheaper or second hand if you are unsure.
                The cover of the book gave me the impression the story was going to be about best friends, which really isn't my sort of book.
                However, I couldn't have been more wrong and this just shows once again to not judge a book by its cover.

                The two main characters are Serena and Poppy. In fact, the whole story is based around these two girls.
                The chapters are set out not in numbers, but alternating between Serena and Poppy's story and perception on the event. The chapters also flick between past and present events, piecing together bits of questions you gather throughout the book.
                However I didn't find the story hard to follow at all and was quite surprised at how easy it was to switch between readings about two different people.
                From the first page, the story grabbed me in. The story begins with a little dip into the future of the book, giving a taste of what is later to come.

                Both girls are young, innocent school girls- both tricked into believing someone who should be a trusted reliable adult loves them enough to spend the rest of their lives with them.
                Throughout the book, the events both girls had to go through builds up an emotional of sympathy for both girls. The abuse they receive from the hands of a school teacher they think they share a loving relationship with is upsetting yet gripping.
                Poppy and Serena don't share a relationship together of any sort besides the fact that they share a lover. They hold hatred for each other from the lies the man has given both of them, so when a sudden terrifying event happens, both believe the other is responsible.
                Poppy and Serena are just 18 when their lives are suddenly turned around.

                Poppy is sent to prison, whilst Serena is living her almost perfect life outside.
                Serena has it all- A good marriage, a happy family and a good job. But her guilt over what happened that day is affecting her mentally and emotionally, and when Poppy is released from prison, her fears over what might happen next end up becoming the start to a new beginning.
                Throughout Poppy's time at prison, the author keeps you guessing and believing she is innocent, believing the other girl did the crime yet questioning whether the other girl was also capable of the event either.
                Poppy's character and actions are reflected by her time in prison, this brings along a sense of sympathy and makes you feel sorry for the character as she has spent the best part of her life locked away for something we are made to believe she didn't commit.
                When Poppy is released from prison, the story really starts to heat up as the past convictions and accusations of the press begin to rise once more.
                Serena's relationship with her husband and sisters are really put to the test as the hidden secret of her past affects her present life.

                The girls are branded 'the ice cream girls' from a picture published in the newspaper at the time of the event. The picture holds a sickening and very sad story behind it which unfortunately was hidden; letting readers believe the girls were twisted and capable of such a terrific event.
                The relationship between Serena and Poppy holds a huge thick and sticky atmosphere. Throughout the time they spend together when Poppy is released from prison, gets you constantly guessing what really happened on that day, and who was really to blame.
                Throughout the story, the relationship between both characters and their families are tested and it really makes you question your own family and what you would do in that same situation.
                I wasn't sure whether to expect a sudden twist at the ending, but I sure did get one. The author surprised me with her twist of events and I really couldn't have guessed it throughout reading the book.

                Overall, I really am pleased with this book. It pleasantly surprised me and I am really glad I read it as it has given me the push to try new reads in the future.
                I am used to reading the Jodi Picoult books which I find excellent, but because I really didn't think I would enjoy reading 'the ice cream girls' it has made me want to try different authors and storylines.
                I would recommend this book to everyone, it really will surprise you and it is definitely worth the read.

                Thank you for reading, I also post on Ciao

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                  17.03.2011 17:30
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                  A gripping read from first to last page, as you build the story to discover who killed Marcus.

                  The first thing to say about this book is that it is absolutely brilliant; one of those books that grips you completely and totally immerses you into the lives of the characters. I certainly didn't want to have to put it down and do anything as sensible as going to sleep or cooking tea!

                  I had no initial expectations about the book at all. I had no experience of the author, the title gave nothing away and the cover appeared calm and relaxing, just two girls arms with hands touching and part of their dresses showing against a pale sky and beach background. The colours of various flavours of ice cream are cleverly used in these illustrations with a gentle vanilla spine. This is not the cover that I'd expect of a normal murder type story; I imagine dark blues and blacks and dramatic covers for this type of book, so immediately there is a form of twist to the story. The blurb also makes no mention of murder. It tells us that the main characters witness a tragic event and that twenty years on they are both dealing with it in different ways.

                  However, from the first page it becomes clear what type of book it is, as a clipping from a 1989 newspaper article is used to introduce Serena, the first of the two main characters in the book. We learn that Serena, aged 19, along with Poppy, has been dubbed by the press as 'The Ice Cream Girls' because of a photograph that has been released of the two girls together eating ice creams. Serena is accused of killing her popular history teacher, aided by Poppy and is due to appear in court at her trial for murder. The pair has claimed that there was an accident when he was stabbed, but the press claim that there was also evidence of torture.

                  The book is written in a really interesting style whereby each chapter is written from the perspective of either Serena or Poppy in the first person. Within each chapter the majority of the story is about the present time (2009) and if there is no date provided you soon come to assume that you are in the present. At frequent intervals though a date will be given between the paragraphs and Serena or Poppy will be thinking back to their past and narrating episodes from it; much of this will be from the 1986 to 1989, the time when the Ice Cream Girls were involved with Marcus, their teacher. It then reverts back to the present at the next paragraph break. I didn't find this confusing at all and really enjoyed the fact that the story was developing in so many different ways i.e. form Poppy and Serena's present experience and their past. The very last chapter however, is written from Marcus's perspective.

                  The chapters are generally quite short, which is great as you can easily allow yourself to read to the end of a chapter and not have to stop part way through and try to find your place again. The story also moves on really quickly - not a chance that you'll become bored at all.

                  The first couple of chapters, after the initial newspaper report, are all about Serena's present life with her husband and two children, so it is immediately clear that she was never charged with the murder and you soon come to realise how important her 'normal' family life is to her, but that the dark secrets that she is concealing are having such a detrimental effect on her life as well.

                  In the third chapter Poppy is introduced, again with a newspaper report. It similarly outlines the background to the case, but also adds that although Poppy's fingerprints are found on the knife, she is claiming that later, after the accident Serena went back and murdered him, framing Poppy.

                  "The sky isn't a square patchwork quilt. Sometimes with two or three black bars running down it, sometimes with wire mesh upon it. The sky is vast and deep and capable of smothering me".

                  This is the first sentence written as we enter Poppy's account of the mystery of the Ice Cream Girls and it is also repeated near to the end of Poppy's story. This metaphor helps us to understand that she has just been released from prison where she has served a twenty year life sentence for the murder of Marcus and is beginning to realise what the real world is now like.

                  By the end of the book you will have been heartbreakingly led through the story of how the girls met Marcus and the lives that they led with him and their own families in the late 1980s, Poppy's life in prison and Serena's as a free woman. Ultimately Poppy is desperate to clear her name as she claims throughout that she didn't do it and Serena on hearing that Poppy has been released is desperate for life to continue as it is with Poppy not finding her. It was so enlightening to see how their experiences had impacted on their relationships with other people and their environment. I really felt that I came to know them both intimately and after a Poppy chapter I was rooting for her and then a Serena chapter would have me thinking more positively about her.

                  I was so convinced that both of the girls were truthful, but knew that someone had 'done it' - (and who could blame them) - so I was absolutely riveted until I found out what really had occurred. I had no idea what the outcome would be, although I had several suspicions, but I was left with a surprise at the end, which is always the sign of a first class book. The author must have carried out a significant amount of research to make the book so believable and to understand the effect that abuse, false accusations, prison sentencing, lies and adjustment can have on a person's core character.

                  At the end of the book is a list of fifteen questions for a reading group to consider. I don't belong to a reading group, but had a quick scan through to see if I had considered many of the questions while I was reading and they really are quite thought provoking. It would make an excellent book for a book club as there are so many aspects of the story line that could stimulate a great deal of discussion, particularly thinking about how different characters have dealt with the situation, not just the main ones, but their families and friends.

                  I can't recommend this book highly enough. It is easy and quick to read and should appeal to a wide audience. It more than deserves 5 stars and the many quotes on the inside of the cover would indicate that I am not the only person with this opinion. I can't wait to read one of the other 5 books that are listed at the back that she has previously written.

                  **Further information**
                  Author: Dorothy Koomson
                  Publisher: Sphere, Great Britain
                  Date of Publication: 2010
                  ISBN: 978-0-7515-3982-0

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                    27.12.2010 23:10
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                    A story that will draw you in and keep you there.

                    As someone who has always been an avid ready of Dorothy Koomson, starting with 'The Cupid Effect' many years ago, I was excited to come across 'The Ice Cream Girls' when browsing the book shelves in the supermarket one evening. I immediately took it and paid, and headed home to read, wondering if this book would have the same effect on me as all the others did. What I have always found with Koomson's writing, is that it pulls you in from page one, something makes you want to read on. Whether it's a line that makes you laugh, or one that surprises you. And this book, proved no different.

                    I won't go in to telling the plot of the book, it would ruin it for a future reader. What I will say, is that this book centres in Serena and Poppy, two girls whose lives have been entwined for a long time, and not for a nice reason. They each blame each other for the event that sent their lives into a tailspin as teens and has affected them ever since. To know more, you need to read.

                    Moving on, I find this book is deal with very well. Koomson always clearly researched the issues she deals with a great deal, and obviously makes sure she knows what she's talking about. No straightforward love story with a bit of tension thrown in. Her books always go so much deeper and this one is no different, and that's what I love about it.

                    This story has points that bring me to tears, because it's so easy to think about how different these women could have been, and how different their lives could have turned out, if not for what happened. And perhaps just as importantly, the events which led to it. What is equally as intriguing is the way its written, finding out what exactly happened a little at a time, and not all at once. It gives something to keep you hooked. You don't want to put the book down at any point. You just want to keep reading to find out, what happened. Who really is the one in the wrong? Why do these two hold so much fear and hatred in regards to each other. It's not a story of friendship. It is a story about finding out the truth. A

                    And here's the thing, the truth will surprise you, and you'll not put this book down until you find it out! So go out and pick a copy up now.

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                      15.11.2010 16:49
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                      Un-put-downable!

                      Having read some great reviews online for 'The Ice-Cream Girls', I added this to my reading list and checked it out on my last visit to the library. Don't be fooled by its sweet looking cover or its innocent sounding title - this book is one great psychological thriller that also deals with some quite complex and adult themes.

                      The story starts with Serena, who on the face of it has a perfect life - big house, doting husband, great kids, a good job. However things are not always what they seem. Flicking through the newspaper one morning, Serena is horrified by one of the articles she comes across. A young lady called Poppy is about to be released from prison after serving a sentence for murdering her teacher, Marcus. Serena and Poppy's past are intricately linked and despite all the hard work Serena has done over the years to keep her past buried, it all starts to unravel around her. To this day Poppy adamantly denies she had anything to do with Marcus's murder and is determined to make Serena confess and clear her own name.

                      The story is split into chapters and each one is told by either Serena or Poppy and alternates between the present and the time when they were still at school. This has the potential to be confusing but it was easy to keep track of who and when each chapter was focussed on. The girls, developed a crush on Marcus, their History teacher, and he took advantage of their naivety and vulnerability, playing them against each other for his attention. The events of the next few months would change their lives forever. As their relationships developed Marcus became more controlling and even violent, but then blamed his behaviour on the girls. Serena and Poppy soon realise that they have to end their relationship with Marcus but when they try to do so, things take a nasty turn and Marcus ends up dead. With Poppy and Serena denying killing Marcus what exactly did happen that fateful evening?

                      **My thoughts**
                      I found this utterly gripping and un-put-downable! I managed to read this in the space of 3 days and it would have been sooner if I didn't have to go to work! It was well-paced and for me was a real page-turner.

                      I immediately felt a connection with Serena and was impressed by how she'd turned her life around. When it looks like the past is about to rear its ugly head I almost felt angry at Poppy for stirring things up again. It took me a little longer to feel a connection with Poppy. Had I done so earlier I think I would have sympathised with her and understood her need to clear her name. Serena is portrayed as motherly and sweet, whilst Poppy's stint in prison has hardened her and she's feisty and has a fire in her belly. As the story develops we learn that Poppy used to be very timid and when she was sentenced to prison she quickly had to toughen up.

                      Marcus was a character I totally loathed! Whenever he came up in the story my blood would boil and my skin would start to creep. I found his actions to be deeply disturbing and in some ways I was relieved when he was murdered as I thought he'd got what he deserved. I very rarely feel such strong negative emotions towards a character, which I think is a testimony to how well he is written.

                      The story not only focuses on Serena and Poppy, but also how the events of the past have affected their immediate families. For me Poppy's parents coldness towards her on her release from prison almost made me cry. They allowed their daughter to move back home but wouldn't talk to her, excluded her from family activities and denied her contact with her younger siblings who could barely remember her. I found this to be heart wrenching and in some ways it would have been easier if they'd just disowned her as then at least Poppy would know where she stood.

                      As Poppy and Serena battle it out, one fighting to clear her name and one to protect her family, but both adamant they had nothing to do with Marcus's death, a third possibility comes up, but only if you're paying attention! This short storyline is weaved so intricately into the story that it would be easy to miss. I didn't and guessed who'd done it by the time I'd got half way through but I still devoured the rest just to see if I was right (I was!) Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be looking out for this authors work in the future. Recommended!

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                        12.10.2010 15:24
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                        The tale of two people with differnet lives connected by one night

                        Serena has a good life, she is married to a Doctor and has two children, the only problem is her past. She is haunted by events from her teenage years and struggles to live her life without her husband knowing what happened.

                        Poppy has a very different lie, she has served the last 20 years in prison for murder and believes she was wrongly sent down as she did not kill a man. She is determined to get justice when she is released and sets about making plans.

                        Poppy and Serena are connected by their past, they both fell for Marcus, a teacher who loved to get young girls and treat them badly. He would be all nice and warm to them and sleep with them but he also had a violent side when things did not go his way and he would beat them both. The girls both claim that it was not them who murdered Marcus and they both believe it was the other each other.

                        Poppy now has to try to get Serena to confess to killing Marcus but it is not going to be an easy task as she is prepared to do anything to protect her family from this being revealed. Can Poppy get the confession she needs to be able to move on with her life or is Serena telling the truth and what will it cost her?

                        I have tried hard to give a good plot summery for this book but it was quite hard as the book is split into different parts. We have the lives of Poppy and Serena told separately and then we also have the memories which the girls both have taking us back to the time when they were with Marcus. What I have described about the plot may seem a bit basic and simple to some but believe me there is so much more to the story and much more to discover and new characters to get to know, it really is a lot better than I have made it out to be.

                        The main character for me was Serena at the beginning of the book, she was described in a good way and I felt I got to know a good amount about her life, she was a good mom and a loving wife but struggled to live with her secret. I loved how this was written and described to us and I found the small details like her hiding the knives every night interesting and a different take on the story. Serena was a good strong woman and I had a hard time finding something I did not like about her. The one think I did find was the fact she never told her husband Evan about her past.

                        Poppy was not featured as much as Serena at the start of the book but when she was she was another good character and so very different from Serena, they had very different lives and lifestyles and I enjoyed the complete diverse nature of both women. She was shown to be a normal woman who believed she was wrongly convicted of murder and this gave us a good insight into the way she thought and felt about things. I enjoyed how the relationship between her parents was after she was released and how she felt about life in general in this new strange world.

                        The times when the characters would take us back to being with Marcus made for interesting reading at time, I did think it got very heavy when they talked about the beatings and I had trouble trying to work out how man could be so low but I could not stop reading as I wanted to find out what happened. I think the use of the memories was very good and there were not too many of them for use to loose track of the story in the present day.

                        Even though the book is spilt this way it is still very easy to follow and understand. It has been written in such a way it is easy to read and enjoy. I loved the details which went into describing characters and places and found this did help me set a good mental picture of the story and the places it visited. I was intrigued by the inclusion of the beach hut as this to me seemed a little unnecessary and slightly strange at times.

                        We had some very good support characters and there was just enough information and detail about them for us to get to know but not for them to be able to take anything away from the main story. I did at times feel sorry for Serena's husband Evan as he was lied to for so many years and I understand why he acted like he did and I think this showed that the story was normal and not unbelievable. We also had one woman featured a few times who was suffering from domestic violence and I think this was handled with great sensitivity and care.

                        Dorothy Koomson wrote this book and the paperback edition which I have has a total of 467 pages. It was published by Sphere and has a retail price on the back cove of £6.99. I paid the full price for this book but only as it was in a buy one get one free offer in Tesco and the offer is currently still running. I think the book is worth a price of around £5.

                        I thoroughly enjoyed the book and was not expecting the little twist at the end. It had me gripped at times and I was not able to stop reading. It is very engaging and has great easy to get to know character. It is not a light hearted read but it is also not overly heavy, a good bedtime reading book in my opinion.

                        If you would like to know more about the book or author you can find it at www.dorothykoomson.co.uk

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                          15.09.2010 13:58
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                          Melts sooner than I'd like

                          I had read a review in a magazine about this book and went out and bought it after doing so. I must say I was slightly disappointed, I felt that the writing left me unable to really connect with the characters especially Poppy. I was expecting a gritty read and to have a book that I couldn't put down instead I found myself skipping through pages just to get to the end to find out what happened. Dorothy is a good author ( I have read some of her other books and throughly enjoyed them) but I just felt something was lacking with this novel, the emotional connection perhaps that with such a gritty and hard hitting story line should have been paramount throughout.

                          Dorothys descriptions of the characters were ok but I just felt it wasn't believable enough and you only got to 'hear' from Marcus' character at the end. The twist at the end I also felt was quite predictable and on the whole I felt let down by this novel, the hype it seems was indeed that.

                          The title and content are supposed to be ironic I get that, with the connatations of ice cream and sweetness contrasted to the dark storyline of abuse. Some parts of the book were gritty and Dorothy describes some of the scenes with the girls when they are young very well but on the whole I just felt I couldn't connect with the characters and the novel was abit wishy washy which is a shame as it touches on issues such as abuse that need to be addressed in novels such as these and I guess one advantage is that it reaches the more 'rom-com' readers of books and invites discussions on topical issues.

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                          06.09.2010 14:55
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                          Another fantastic book from Koomson

                          Dorothy Koomson never fails to impress me with her excellent and sensitive writing on difficult subjects, and The Ice-Cream Girls is not exception.

                          It visits the lives of two women 20 years after a tragic event that both witnessed. Both, as young girls were convicted of killing a teacher but only one was sent to prison. Through clever use of memory and flashbacks, Koomson slowly builds a picture of exactly what happened 20 years ago and how the lives of each woman was impacted by this - their relationships with their families in particular, is approached in a very moving manner.

                          I have to say that this is not my favourite of Koomson's books - that would be 'My Best Friend's Girl', but never the less this is well worth a read. As always, Koomson has created likeable characters that we can relate to and used them as a tool to provide different perspectives of emotional topics such as rape and domestic violence. Do not be fooled by the innocent looking cover - prepare for an emotional journey when you open this book! Here is an author who continues to produce gripping and thought provoking books that will not fail to move and entertain you.

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                          06.09.2010 12:54
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                          Interesting read

                          Hunting around for some holiday reading in my work Swap Box led me to The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson. The pastel coloured cover and the title both seemed to tie in with idea of holidays so I happily packed it in my case. I suppose I was expecting a chick-lit book but I hadn't read the blurb and what I got was a much more sophisticated read with an excellent storyline.

                          Poppy Carlisle and Serena Gorringe were teenagers who became entangled in the murder case of a well respected local teacher. A photograph of them merrily eating ice-cream and looking glamorous earned them their nick-name of The Ice-Cream Girls and everyone had an opinion on what had actually transpired. The teacher had been tortured and killed and when the case went to court one of the girls was found guilty and was sent to prison.

                          Years passed and lives continued but what effect had this tragic incident had on all those concerned and was justice really done? Is it possible to live through such a scandal and come out unscathed or will the past always be ready to rear its ugly head?

                          This is the first book by Dorothy Koomson that I have read and I was immediately drawn in by her writing style. I found this book incredibly easy to read and finished it within a couple of days as it was so intriguing that I didn't want to put it down.

                          Both of the main characters, Poppy and Serena, were well observed and believable. I found that they were presented in such a way that sometimes you felt sympathy for them, occasionally you were frustrated with them and at other times they were quite dislikeable. This was excellent as you were never sure where your sympathies should really lie and I frequently changed my mind about who I would want to find out was guilty.

                          The story is told alternately from the perspective of Poppy then Serena in the first person. This helps the reader understand both girls' lives and also gives a unique insight into their experiences and how it has affected them and also their families. This technique also helps the reader understand the relationship between The Ice Cream Girls.

                          Although this was a gripping book with an air of mystery it did not take me long to draw my own conclusion about the actual circumstances of the teachers death which turned out to be correct. However this did not detract from my enjoyment of the story as eventually the final outcome becomes rather an insignificant detail amidst the turmoil of Poppy and Serenas lives and after so long will it actually have any bearing?

                          This book also proved to be quite thought-provoking. It made me consider prejudice, intimidation and imprisonment and how quickly someone's life can be altered forever. There are so many issues raised that this book becomes a good read on many levels. Some of the incidents could have been quite harrowing to read but they are written so well that there is no excessive descriptions just a considered account of what has happened.

                          I would certainly recommend this book and I have now got another Dorothy Koomson book on my shelf waiting to be read and I hope it is as enjoyable.

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