Sunday, 19 April 2015

Things we have in common - Tasha Kavanagh - creepily enjoyable




The Blurb:


Yasmin would give anything to have a friend… And do anything to keep them.

The first time I saw you, you were standing at the far end of the playing field. You were looking down at your brown straggly dog, your mouth going slack as your eyes clocked her. Alice Taylor.

I was no different. I’d catch myself gazing at the back of her head in class, at her thick fair hair swaying between her shoulder blades.

If you’d glanced just once across the field, you’d have seen me standing in the middle on my own looking straight at you, and you’d have gone back through the trees to the path quick, tugging your dog after you. You’d have known you’d given yourself away, even if only to me.

But you didn’t. You only had eyes for Alice.

My review:

There's something weird about how I came to choose this book - I read a rave review somewhere. Afterwards, thinking it over, I really thought the review had been from a trusted friend whose online bookclub I'm a member of, so I thought "well if she thinks its that good I'm sure I'll love it"

It's probably not one I'd have picked as it's more of a ya theme than I normally choose. But what I found is a very well written, complete page turner of a book.

The narrator is a real misfit, misunderstood teenager, Yasmin 15, overweight, full of angst, grieving for her father who died a few years ago and desperately lonely. She doesn't fit in at home where her Mum and her new partner try to do what's best for all of them, but in the throes of a new relationship their exasperation with Yasmin slips through, alienating her further. They take her to a weight loss specialist then Yasmin comes home and secretly tucks into hidden packs of hobnobs and chocolate.

Throughout the book I wondered when someone was going to identify that she is clearly on the verge of some other mental health condition, maybe borderline aspergers or something, as she fantasises and frets and whispers and obsesses, but they are all so fixated on the fact that she is fat they overlook her other needs.

She is so unlikeable in many ways, so unrelateable to, and yet I found a real sympathy for and huge empathy with her.

At school she has few friends, she is ostracised and bullied, but she has a massive crush on a fellow pupil, the pretty and popular Alice. When Yaz spots a man watching Alice, she becomes convinced Alice is about to be abducted and begins an elaborate fantasy where this happens and she alone rescues Alice, winning her admiration and friendship and becoming a much loved heroine.

Beginning a lengthy internal monologue with the man she suspects of being a kidnapper, it becomes increasingly more apparent that Yasmin is as unreliable a narrator as they come. It seems she is unable to separate fatasy from relaity and her musings begin to take on a horribly fascinating life of their own spilling over to affect her family and everyone she meets whilst she remains as lonely as ever.

Then she is offered the chance to build an unlikely and unhealthy relationship of sorts and seizes it with both hands, transferring all her affections and fantasies elsewhere .... with consequences.

This book reminds me very much of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time it's written as well if not even more engagingly.

The end made me give a little shriek, as in "Nooo you can't possibly leave me dangling here" It's quite unexpected, shocking yet incomplete, yet it's very celever becuase it made me take over Yasmins internal monologue as I wondered and pondered what would happen next, after I put the book down, the story continued to play out in my head.

A very clever, creepily enjoyable book ideal for everyone who is or ever has been a teenager with any kind of issues Oh and theres a sweet adorable little dog to make you go awww, too.

So, whoever it was who reviewed this, and made me want to read it, thank you. I hope I make someone else want to read it because it really is different and thought provoking.
Thankyou too, Netgalley for my e-galley.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Bones of you - Debbie Howells - tense psychological thriller



The Blurb

A stunning, wonderfully assured psychological thriller that evokes Gillian Flynn and Alice Sebold, The Bones of You revolves around a young girl’s murder and one woman’s obsession with uncovering the secrets in an idyllic English village.

I have a gardener’s inherent belief in the natural order of things. Soft‑petalled flowers that go to seed. The resolute passage of the seasons. Swallows that fly thousands of miles to follow the eternal summer.

Children who don’t die before their parents.

When Kate receives a phone call with news that Rosie Anderson is missing, she’s stunned and disturbed. Rosie is eighteen, the same age as Kate’s daughter, and a beautiful, quiet, and kind young woman. Though the locals are optimistic—girls like Rosie don’t get into real trouble—Kate’s sense of foreboding is confirmed when Rosie is found fatally beaten and stabbed.

Who would kill the perfect daughter, from the perfect family? Yet the more Kate entwines herself with the Andersons—graceful mother Jo, renowned journalist father Neal, watchful younger sister Delphine—the more she is convinced that not everything is as it seems. Anonymous notes arrive, urging Kate to unravel the tangled threads of Rosie’s life and death, though she has no idea where they will lead.

Weaving flashbacks from Rosie’s perspective into a tautly plotted narrative, The Bones of You is a gripping, haunting novel of sacrifices and lies, desperation and love.


My review:

A very accomplished taut psychological thriller about the murder of a young girl.

Kate is the main adult narrator, she is a gardener who also looks after horses and lavishes her affection on them now her daughter Grace is flying the nest and husband works away a lot. She was befriended by a lonely teenager Rosie who is found murdered in the woods nearby. Kate is devastated, and with more time on her hands than usual begins to worry about how Rosies Mum Jo is coping with the tragic loss of her eldest daughter and offers her support. She soon gets drawn in to the affairs of this fractured family with handsome enigmatic father Neal revealing a vicious cruel side beneath his immculate public persona as a news reporter and younger daughter Della silently seeking support and Jo maintaining a calm exterior whilst everything around her crumbles, and flashbacks of her past reveal a lifetime of abuse and neglect, no wonder she turns to the bottle to cope.

Alongside Kates story is a thread in Rosies voice, speaking posthumously, it makes the book seem to be trying to be like the lovely bones and although it could have been told without this slightly supernatural element, by the end I saw why the author had done it and even shed a tear on the final page.

There is a creeping sense of dread throughout the book as you know something unpleasant is going to be revealed and there are a couple of real twists towards the latter part of the story. But it keeps you guessing and, you will suspect almost every character in the book at some point as little red herrings are scattered before you.

I liked Kate, she is like a dog with a bone and won't give up on Rosies memory. There are a couple of characters in the book, one in particular who is there almost from the start, whom I really wondered why they were there as they seemed rather superfluous, although I was kept wondering whether they would have a bigger part to play than they actually did. I wonder if they were also red herrings?

Overall an excellent book, very enjoyable and one I would highly recommend, especially if you did enjoy the lovely bones, as the author has, I'm certain, tailored this very engaging thriller firmly in the direction of that market, very effectively, even the title remaining true to form. Yet it stands alone as a gripping read.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

The Faerie Tree - Jane Cable - Exceptional readability



The Blurb:


How can a memory so vivid be wrong?

I tried to remember the first time I’d been here and to see the tree through Izzie’s eyes. The oak stood on a rise just above the path; not too tall or wide but graceful and straight, its trunk covered in what I can only describe as offerings – pieces of ribbon, daisy chains, a shell necklace, a tiny doll or two and even an old cuckoo clock.
"Why do people do this?" Izzie asked.
I winked at her. "To say thank you to the fairies."

In the summer of 1986 Robin and Izzie hold hands under The Faerie Tree and wish for a future together. Within hours tragedy rips their dreams apart.

In the winter of 2006, each carrying their own burden of grief, they stumble back into each other’s lives and try to create a second chance. But why are their memories of 1986 so different? And which one of them is right?

With strong themes of paganism, love and grief, The Faerie Tree is a novel as gripping and unputdownable as Jane Cable’s first book, The Cheesemaker’s House, which won the Suspense & Crime category of The Alan Titchmarsh Show’s People’s Novelist competition. It is a story that will resonate with fans of romance, suspense, and folklore.

My Review:

I recently took part in the blog tour for this book, the author wrote a great article about writing books with women readers in mind, however I hadn't finished reading the book at the time, and I have been a little nervous in case I ended up disliking it.

I worried unnecessarily, following her superb debut novel The Cheesemaker's House the Cheesemakers house, Jane Cable's writing skill has matured and become even more well rounded.

I must admit I especially loved her debut novel because of the setting of Northallerton which is on my local patch so it held special meaning to me. The Faerie tree is set mostly in Cornwall, somewhere I'm not very au fait with at all.

But this unusual romantic story grabbed me right from the very start, when recently widowed Izzie, out Christmas shopping with her teenage daughter Claire, spots a homeless man in a shop doorway whom she thinks she recognises from her past, this change meeting is the catalyst for a change of direction for Izzie and Robin who is indeed someone she thought she'd never see again.

A real mystery unfurls regarding whose memories of the past we believe, between Robin and Izzie it soon becomes apparent that one is a less reliable narrator than the other, but whose memories are we to believe and why do they differ so much?

Thrown back together after a long time apart is this perhaps a second chance at love? Both have had their problems, both have suffered grievous loss of a loved one, both have immersed themselves in grief, suffered stress and from depression, has Robin been homeless too long to commit to any kind of relationship or has Izzie hit the bottle once too often?

I was also a little concerned about the possibilty of a supernatural element to the story, with paganism and the eponymous Faerie tree being at the forefront of the story but this is not some airy fairy tale, it is firmly grounded in reality, with a gritty realism seldom found in romantic fiction. I loved every word and just can't recommend this heartwarming, top quality, romantic novel, highly enough, it oozes with exceptional readability and charm.

My thanks to The publishers Matador and Netgalley for my review copy.
You can purchase yours at Amazon  and many good booksellers

A Place called Winter - Patrick Gale - epic historical drama



From the Blurb:

In the golden 1900s, Harry Cane, a shy, eligible gentleman of leisure is drawn from a life of quiet routine into courting and marrying Winnie, eldest daughter of the fatherless Wells clan, who are not quite as respectable as they would appear. They settle by the sea and have a daughter and conventional marriage does not seem such a tumultuous change after all. When a chance encounter awakens scandalous desires never acknowledged until now, however, Harry is forced to forsake the land and people he loves for a harsh new life as a homesteader on the newly colonized Canadian prairies. There, in a place called Winter, he will come to find a deep love within an alternative family, a love imperiled by war, madness and an evil man of undeniable magnetism.

My Review:

This is the first book by Patrick Gale I've read, the historical aspect is what attracted me to it, together with rave reviews from a few friends whose judgement I trust implicitly, Anne on Random Things .... and Karen's My reading Corner .

I have to admit it wasn't quite what I was expecting but I did love it, the storyline flowed so naturally and there are some really great characters together with some exceptionally dislikeable ones. In fact I must admit, unlike many others I was a little impatient with the main protagonist, Harry who had such great propensity for putting his trust in the wrong people time after time and also for rather letting down those who didn't totally deserve it, although I didn't wish him ill of his naivety.

However Harry's story is well worth reading, it jumps back and forth in time, beginning in the middle when he is in a mental institution but as yet we don't know what drove him to this place. As he looks back over his life, from the early years as a substitute father to his brother Jack, then as husband and father himself, we watch helpless as he makes foolish choices and ends up having to take a rather momentous decision, to emigrate and leave behind the family he loves, deemed a kind of punishment for making a rash and foolish attachment he nevertheless sees this as an opportunity to break free from the constraints of domesticity and sets off alone to the far reaches of Canada as an early 20th century settler claiming land and becoming a homesteader.

He adapts pretty well to this huge change of circumstacnces and meets many unique characters all of whom help shape his destiny, but will he ever finally get the chance to be the man he really wants to be?

The characters and story ensure the reader becomes deeply absorbed in the book and in turn I loathed Troals (The Troll) of whom Harry is warned before he even leaves England yet still decides to take at face value and I loved many of the other characters including Ursula the cross dressing Cree.

Fabulous storytelling coupled with immaculate sense of place and descriptions to die for, make this stand head and shoulders above many books set in similar historical settings and definitely one to recommend. My thanks go to Netgalley for providing my ebook to review.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Blog Tour - The Faerie Tree - Jane Cable

I'm delighted to be part of the Blog Tour for the new book The Farie Tree by Jane Cable whose wonderful "The Cheesmakers House" was a favourite of mine. In fact I'm rounding off the tour today.



I particularly enjoy books written by women, primarily for women readers and Jane has addressed this subject in her exclusive article for this blog tour.


WRITING WITH WOMEN IN MIND - Jane Cable

In the days when I had an agent he told me that men never read books by women and women read books by everyone. Sweeping generalisation it may have been, but rubbish it was not. I thought about my own other half’s reading habits and realised that just about the only female novelist he regularly downloaded was Kathy Reichs (although he has recently confounded me by buying a cut price suite of Hilary Mantel for his Kobo).

So as a woman writer, am I necessarily writing for other women? I think so, yes. Although a large number of men have enjoyed The Cheesemaker’s House – despite it being a romance, which over 80% of the male sex pretend never to read. But was it written for them? Probably not.

It is said that as a writer you need to work with your typical reader in mind. For me, that reader was probably my mother; intelligent, young at heart, and bored to tears with predictable boy-meets-girl romances. But not someone who wanted to work too hard at a novel either – after all, reading is meant to be a pleasant pastime and not a chore. If she found herself making lists of who the characters were and how they fitted together then she knew it was time to give up on a book.

It’s one thing to recognise writing with a particular woman in mind but quite another to analyse how I write with women in mind generally. I am not an overly analytical author; I see myself as more of a storyteller, really. There’s a pressing urge to share the characters who populate my head and to make their stories so compelling that a reader will want to follow them to the end of the book – and miss them when they’ve finished reading it.

That’s probably the main way in which writing for women, by women, differs; the narrative is driven by the characters and not the action. We are generally so much more interested in other people than men are. You only have to think about the differences in the conversations men and women have on their nights out or around the water cooler to realise that.

Although a good half of The Faerie Tree is written from the point of view of a man, that man is necessarily filtered through the eyes of a woman and so will doubtless appear more credible to female readers than male. However much you watch men and try to see the world from their point of view, a woman writer can never write a man as a man would. Neither can a man create a 100% perfect female character.

That’s not a criticism – it’s a fact. I write about gay men, straight men, mothers, elderly ladies – I have been none of the above. But as a writer I have imagination and, I hope, keen listening and observation skills. As a woman I am fascinated by people and take time to understand them. It’s what we’re comfortable with – it’s what we do.

Here is a lovely photo of Jane and her Mother.



I'm delighted to say I'm reading the Faerie Tree right now - watch this space for my review as soon as I've finished reading it.

Order your copy now from Waterstones or through Matador's own website



Monday, 23 March 2015

Because she loves me - Mark Edwards - Mind blowing mess with your head stuff



From the blurb ....

When Andrew Sumner meets beautiful, edgy Charlie, he is certain his run of bad luck has finally come to an end.

But as the two of them embark on an intense affair, Andrew wonders if his grasp on reality is slipping. Items go missing in his apartment. Somebody appears to be following him. And as misfortune and tragedy strike his friends and loved ones, Andrew is forced to confront the frightening truth.…

Is Charlie really the girl of his dreams—or the woman of his nightmares?


My thoughts ....

Definitely a five star read, this one! A completely compelling and totally terrifying tale of obsession and jealousy and how far one person will go to get the person of their dreams.

I read and really enjoyed Mark Edwards debut novel The Magpies when it was first released but this one blows it right out of the water. It's as tense and taut a psychological chiller as I've ever read, full of red herrings, great characters, and all the twists and turns us afficionados of the psychological thrills genre crave.

Told by Andrew Sumner whom we meet when he thinks he's had a bad time - he is leaving hospital after weeks of gruelling and worrying treatment on his eye following a detached retina. But things begin to look up for him when this leads to an inadvertent encounter with the enigmatic and beguiling Charlotte aka Charlie with whom he begins an intense affair and soon falls head over heels in love with.

Andrew is one of those lucky fellas whose life is filled with women, his best mate's a girl, he's close to his wheelhair bound sister Tilly, even her carer and his cleaner are young attractive women, and he has even managed to remain friends with a couple of his exes, but maybe this isn't as fortunate as at first it would seem as this triggers some insecurities in Charlie and the jealous side of her nature this reveals, worries him.

He has a right to be a worried man, if he thought things were going badly when he first had his eye complaint, he ain't seen NOTHIN' yet! Little things begin to ring alarm bells, someone seems to be stalking him and his friends, things go missing, and accidents begin to happen, all around him. But surely this can't have anything to do with Charlie? She's the woman of his dreams and he really loves her.

What happens is a nightmare and what at first seems to be a little run of bad luck builds to a crescendo of such proportions that his sanity and perhaps his very life are threatened.

What a mind blowing, mess with your head, chilling story this is. I loved it - right to the very last sentence. Bravo Mark Edwards you scared, thrilled and entertained me with your magnificent writing.

Monday, 9 March 2015

The Lie - CL Taylor - tense and toxic


The blurb...

I know your name's not really Jane Hughes...

Jane Hughes has a loving partner, a job in an animal sanctuary and a tiny cottage in rural Wales. She's happier than she's ever been but her life is a lie. Jane Hughes does not really exist.

Five years earlier Jane and her then best friends went on holiday but what should have been the trip of a lifetime rapidly descended into a nightmare that claimed the lives of two of the women.

Jane has tried to put her past behind her but someone knows the truth about what happened. Someone who won't stop until they've destroyed Jane and everything she loves...

My thoughts

This exciting and fast paced chiller, focussing on toxic friendships, kept me glued to the storyline and turning the pages well into the night.

It's a dual time story, I DO love this kind of book, although the 2 storylines are set over a relatively short period, now, and 5 years ago. I must admit I liked the now part best of the 2 and wish there had been a little more of the storyline set in the present, but the main focus is on the past as there was so much going on, it gets quite frantic in some parts.

Take 4 girls, friends since university, all really different, all in their own ways flawed by their pasts and their own personality failings. Send them off on holiday together, to somewhere remote and frankly weird, and you're just asking for clashes and fallings out. But this goes far beyond a few arguments over the sun tan lotion, this leads to a terrible cataclysm, which none of them could have foreseen.

First we meet Jane who has a job she loves, working in an animal sanctuary, she has a great relationship with her fella and things are going well – but she hasn’t always been Jane, 5 years ago she was Emma and when she was Emma something happened which she just wants to forget about and move on – hence the name change, but someone won’t let sleeping dogs lie and she begins to be haunted by cruel texts and messages taunting her and threatening to blow her cozy world apart.

Back when she is Emma, her friends are Daisy, rich privileged, pretty Daisy who has always been there when Emma needs some moral support.

Al, recently broken up from a long term gay relationship, hurt and bitter.

And Leanne, part of this group of 4 girls, who Emma feels the least kinship with, bubbly and exciteable she can be rather pushy.

Ostensibly to help Al recover from her broken heart, the group plan a holiday and instead of their usual beach, booze and party shindig end up going to a mountain retreat in Nepal, only to discover that what should be the holiday of a lifetime begins to turn sour very rapidly.

It was extremely hard to warm to any of these women, I just kept thinking "Thank goodness they're not in my social group" there wasn't one of them I had much sympathy for, not even the main protagonist really I just wanted to give her a good shake to and ask her WHY for heavens sake, are you friends with these complete wasters? I think they all treated her and each other despicably, which formed the main point of the story but didn't sit easily with me. There’s a lot of bullying and sheer nastiness goes on and I'd have ditched each and every one of them before it got this far!


The storyline, however difficult to relate to, just kept me entertained and interested all the way through and I enjoyed this tense, dark, mysterious novel almost as much as the authors outstanding debut novel “The Accident”

Friday, 6 March 2015

Burnt paper sky - Gilly MacMillan - Excellent read


The Blurb

Rachel Jenner turned her back for a moment. Now her eight-year-old son Ben is missing.

But what really happened that fateful afternoon?

Caught between her personal tragedy and a public who have turned against her, there is nobody left who Rachel can trust. But can the nation trust Rachel?

The clock is ticking to find Ben alive.

WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?

Burnt Paper Sky is a gripping psychological thriller about a missing child and how the public can turn on a mother following a single, momentary mistake.


My thoughts

You make a tiny error of judgement which results in your 8 year old son going missing, does this make you a Bad Mother? The world begins to think so as Rachel struggles to cope with her beloved Bens disappearance on top of the stress of a broken marriage and family secrets which leak out to haunt her. Finding out who her friends are and are not leave her feeling desperate and isolated.

Jim Clemo the police officer in charge of the investigation around the missing child is stressed too, his new relationship with a young colleague is going well but he wants to conceal it from his superiors at work. We are treated to his story about the case as a series of interviews with a police psychologist following the event so we know something has left him badly shaken but is it the case itself or his own failings which have left him so affected he can no longer sleep?

We follow Mum Rachel's story as events happen, coping with the unthinkable, the loss of a child, alone without a husband to lean on she is barely keeping her head above water when the power of Social media steps in and in this high profile media case "Joe Public" seize on someone to vilify and blame and Racehl becomes a pariah overnight. Hounded by the press, the public crucifying her online and her friends and family begin to show their flaws too. With nobody to rely on but herself, she needs to find an inner strength to cope or go under. She never stoaps believing that Ben is still alive and it is this convction which keeps her going.


This is a very tense missing child thriller which will keep you on the edge of your seat, an extremely well written debut which grips and shakes the reader. For my own personal tastes there is a touch too much emphasis on the police side of the investigation but that is purely my own failing I just can't get away with detective stories, I'm certain many readers will find this adds to their enjoyment. An excellent read. My thanks to Netgalley and Little, Brown Books for my advance copy.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Normal - Graeme Cameron - darkly humorous and quirky


The blurb:

He lives in your community, in a nice house with a well-tended garden. He shops in your grocery store, bumping shoulders with you as you pass him and apologizing with a smile. He drives beside you on the highway, politely waving to let you into the lane ahead of him.

What you don't know is that he has an elaborate cage built into a secret basement under his garage. And the food that he's carefully shopping for is to feed a young woman he's holding there against her will--one in a string of many, unaware of the fate that awaits her.

This is how it's been for a long time. It's normal...and it works. Perfectly.

Then he meets the checkout girl from the 24-hour grocery. And now the plan, the hunts, the room...the others. He doesn't need any of them anymore. He needs only her. One small problem--he still has someone trapped in his garage.

Discovering his humanity couldn't have come at a worse time.

My thoughts
 
Really enjoyed this quirky book but not quite up to 5 stars for me, found it a little too far fetched but loved the laugh out loud dark humour throughout.

Narrated by a serial killer who keeps a girl captive in a cage in his purpose built cellar, you could be forgiven for expecting it to be a different take on Room Having read that its dark and horrible what I didn't expect was to be laughing so much. The storyline really kept ME captivated, as the narrator develops from sociopathic mass murderer to socially responsible, misunderstood, love-lorn sweetie almost overnight by dint of meeting the right girl.

Its almost too much to believe in, nay it IS too much to believe, but if you can suspend your disbelief and just go with it its a really entertaining and lively, quirky thriller with some great characters.

I loved Annie and felt she was actually the turning point for our reluctant heros change of heart. Erica is one seriously mixed up chick, and Rachel - well she is just plain weird, I'd have liked some input in her voice so we could get to know her motivations.

What I didn't really get from it was much emotional involvement, perhaps thats because the narrator is obviously so far FROM normal that his emotions are flawed and skewed, but I did thoroughly enjoy reading it and it had me fascinated and coming back for more.

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Harlequin for my review copy.


Monday, 16 February 2015

One step too far - Tina Seskis - terrifically gripping

Having searched fruitlessly for my original review for this book I loved when I read it nearly 2 years ago I have decided I can't have put it on my blog at the time and just posted it on Goodreads, so in case you missed it first time around here is my review of the exceptional One step too far.


The blurb

No one has ever guessed Emily’s secret.

Will you?

A happy marriage. A beautiful family. A lovely home. So what makes Emily Coleman get up one morning and walk right out of her life—to start again as someone new?

Now, Emily has become Cat, working at a hip advertising agency in London and living on the edge with her inseparable new friend, Angel. Cat’s buried any trace of her old self so well, no one knows how to find her. But she can't bury the past—or her own memories.

And soon, she’ll have to face the truth of what she's done—a shocking revelation that may push her one step too far. . . .

My thoughts

The tagline "the book everyones going to be talking about" nearly put me off this book but I thought it did sound pretty interesting and decided to give it a whirl. I'm really glad I did I absolutely loved it.

Its romantic fiction with lots of twists and turns, a psychological chiller with enough twists and whys and what's and who's to keep you guessing and second guessing all the way through - a real page turner.

It tells the story of identical twin Emily, on a train, running away from what would seem to be the perfect life and changing her identity, seeking anonymity and escape but from what or why is not clear and the book keeps us wondering and guessing. Emilys alter ego is Cat and she soon finds some rather seedy digs in London and is taken under the tender wing of Angel, herself an escapee from a difficult past. The 2 young women become firm friends but their troubled backgrounds are perhaps not the best basis to build a new life on and despite giving both the ability to accept and tolerate each others flaws an foibles they lurch from drama to crisis together, eventually becoming reliant on drugs and living an increasingly erratic lifestyle.

We are taunted with glimpses of both girls pasts, but never quite enough to work out why Cat would walk out on a much adored husband and a son she obviously still loves deeply. Her twin is shown to be a very unreliable and unlikeable character, her family rather dysfunctional and her own past obviously conceals some deeply traumatic event which has caused her inability to cope and just run away.

Yet it's only when tragedy occurs once more that Cat/ Emily is forced to confront her past and we discover exactly what has gone on that she couldn't cope with and its truly, deeply disturbing.

A fabulous debut novel which I think would appeal to lovers of books by Diane Chamberlain and who enjoyed books like The Playdate: A Novel or The Rose Petal Beach it's womens fiction at its very best, human interest drama, well written, teasing and puzzling with exceptional characters you'll feel as though you really know. HIGHLY recommended!

I let you go - Clare Mackintosh - devious and cunningly clever thriller



The blurb:

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn't have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray's world is shattered. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape her past, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of the cruel November night that changed her life for ever.

DI Ray Stevens is tasked with seeking justice for a mother who is living every parent's worst nightmare. Determined to get to the bottom of the case, it begins to consume him as he puts both his professional and personal life on the line.

As Ray and his team seek to uncover the truth, Jenna, slowly, begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .


My thoughts:

WOW - I am completely blown away by this brilliant, heartstopping, thriller. So much that I REALLY don't know how to review it adequately without giving too much away.

I must begin by saying it begins slowly, but if you read it please, please stick with it, as friends in my online book group advised me to when I complained that it was a little slow paced, that I like fast paced thrillers, rollercoaster rides ... but I stuck with it despite a few misgivings and - it - is - AMAZING.

The slow beginning is I think quite deliberate, it almost lulls you into a sense of false security. Very sad at the beginning, it tells the story of Jenna, wracked by nightmares of the hit and run which killed little Joshua running away to remote Wales to try and rebuild her life. It almost seems too easy, she begins to put the past behind her and makes new friends, even meets a special someone - surely this book is just a competent piece of chick lit? Oh no it isn't ... The past isn't always that easy to put behind you and, BANG almost half way through the book there is a real shock factor, that OMG moment I had been told about but still wasn't expecting when it came. The whole story suddenly spins on its axis and we realise that things haven't been quite what they appeared and things are about to get much MUCH darker.

Very much a book of 2 halves, the latter part is taut, violent and brain numbingly, deliciously twisted. This is one of the cleverest thrillers ever, the author has left no stone unturned, I really can't say too much about the actual story as it will spoil it but every loose thread is deftly caught up and woven immaculately into this cunningly inventive novel and I loved the single faint thread of possible ambiguity right at the end.

Ohh I'm getting frustrated here I'm really not doing this amazingly, enjoyably, dark and devious book justice - Please please do read it if you like the twisty psychological chillers I enjoy. I can almost guarantee you'll love it too.

Thankyou to all the members of THE Book Club whose recommendations enticed me to read this fabulous debut novel.
 

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

The Ice Twins - S K Tremayne - chilling and creepy




The Blurb ....


A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past – what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

My review

Finished this last night - yet another book I galloped through and enjoyed reading even though the storyline was pretty implausible.

I'm finding that authors recently seem to be pushing the boundaries of credibility more and more in order to come up with ideas which are unique and original. This book is certainly pretty unique, very readable and completely entertaining.

It's the story of identical twins Lydia and Kirstie and as the story begins we know that 7 year old Kirstie is the surviving twin whilst Lydia died recently in a horrible accident. Mum and Dad, Sarah and Angus decide they need a fresh start, and fortuitously inherit a run down old cottage on a remote Scottish Island so up sticks to head off there to start a new life and try to recover from their overwelming grief.

But life on an island is a far cry from their former life in London and predictably things begin to go wrong. Especially when they enrol Kirstie into the little local school and on her first day she throws an almighty Wobbly claiming she isn't Kirstie at all but Lydia and it was Kirstie who died. The twins were so identical even their parents couldn't tell them apart visually but character traits which helped give the girls different identities begin to emerge which suggest that possibly the surviving twin is Lydia - or is she?

Parents begin to take sides against each other, Sarah begins to doubt Angus, and even her own grasp on things starts to slip and as things get out of control we wonder are both twins somehow still present? and was the accident really as blameless as it first appeared. Is this a case of split personality, haunting, or just a very confused and grieving child unable to come to terms with the loss of her beloved twin sister?

The story is creepy and menacing and sucks you in and drags you along for the ride. The bleak remote setting on Skye is well painted and atmospheric and the story simmers with barely concealed hostility and tension, with concealed past events which keep emerging to throw red herrings into the turbulent sea which contains Torran Island. This chilling tale is told with spontaneous magnetism which makes it a captivating read.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

The Crooked House by Christobel Kent - a survivors tale



The Blurb....
Alison is as close to anonymous as she can get: with no ties, no home, a backroom job, hers is a life lived under the radar. She's a nobody; she has no-one and that's how she wants it.

But once Alison was someone else: once she was Esme Grace, a teenager whose bedroom sat at the top of a remote and dilapidated house on the edge of a bleak estuary. A girl whose family, if not happy, exactly, was no unhappier than anyone else's - or so she thought.

Then one night a terrible thing happened in the crooked house, a nightmare of violence out of which Alison emerged the only witness and sole survivor and from which she has been running ever since. Only when she meets academic Paul Bartlett does Alison realise that if she's to have any chance of happiness, she has to return to her old life and confront the darkness that worked its way inside her family and has pursued her ever since.

My Thoughts
I thoroughly enjoyed this rather twisty tale about Alison, a young woman who maintains a low profile, keeps herself to herself and is a survivor, literally.

She survived the unthinkable, surviving a horrific event, in her teens which would make the strongest of us crumble. When she went by a different name, when she was Esme, living in the crooked house in a remote rural location her family were cruelly and brutally slaughtered, whilst she cowered praying not to be dsicovered. But to say she esacped unscathed would be a lie. Witnessing such an awful events is bound to leave a mark. Little wonder as an adult she finds it difficult to make friends, to trust people and maintain a relationship. Her judgement can be flawed and whilst holding it together outwardly she can be a little flaky, and who can blame her.

When she finally meets a man she feels she can trust and is given the chance to return to the place she lost everything, she thinks maybe its time to face her demons, but going back can be as hard as moving forward and she begins to doubt her own memories, who can she trust if she can't even trust herself?

The crooked house is a creepy place set in a very tight knit rural location called Saltleigh where the locals mistrust incomers and seem to close ranks together.

Its a clever and twisty psychological thriller, a real page turner. My only small gripe is there are quite a lot of secondary characters to get to grips with and I did get rather confused especially in the middle of the book, when I wasn't sure who was who and who did what to whom any more!

I did like Alison/ Esme and felt sympathy for her, even when at one point she seems to be losing the plot a bit. I just kept thinking how could anyone go through what she had without being a gibbering wreck and admired her fortitude.

It's gripping and exciting and will probably appeal to anyone who enjoyed Broadchurch on tv as it has that same small town closed shop feel.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

The Kind Worth Killing - Peter Swanson - Devious thriller



The Blurb

From the author of the acclaimed The Girl with a Clock for a Heart--hailed by the Washington Post as crime fiction's best first novel of 2014"--a devious tale of psychological suspense involving sex, deception, and an accidental encounter that leads to murder that is a modern reimagining of Patricia Highsmith's classic Strangers on a Train

My thoughts

A very enjoyable devious thriller, told from several points of view.

Ted who is waiting in an airport lounge when he is approached by the enigmatic Lily. Having a few drinks together he reveals to her that having recently discovered his wife's infidelity he feels like killing her and this notion sets off a whole plot for murder.

But all of those involved in this warped tale aren't what they would at first seem to be, some harbour shady little secrets and some are downright liars.

There is more than one murder and the plot is good and convoluted enough to satisfy the most twisted mind yet easy enough to follow. The characters are all loathsome and pretty darned evil, although I kind of admired one of them in their single minded, totally amoral, determination. I wouldn't like to meet any of them but that's far from a complaint its praise indeed to be able to create characters with hidden depths of nastiness.

Its very clever and a real page turner, great for thriller lovers who adore dirty little secrets and psychological twists.

Thankyou Netgalley and Faber & Faber for my copy.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Second Life - S J Watson - Intriguing and chilling




The blurb:

Julia’s life is comfortable, if unremarkable, until her sister’s brutal murder opens old wounds. She finds solace in her sister’s best friend, Sophie, but when Sophie reveals the extent of her sister’s online life, Julia becomes convinced that the truth about her death lies deep in the dark, sordid world of online chatrooms and internet sex.

What begins as Julia’s search for the truth about her sister quickly turns into an exploration of herself and her own desires. After all, the internet is her playground, and why be just one thing when you can be as many as you like? What could possibly go wrong? After all, it’s only cybersex, isn’t it? No one’s going to get hurt.

But then she meets the dark and mysterious Lukas in an online chat room, and things begin to get very dangerous indeed.



My Review:

The eagerly awaited second novel by the author of the hugely acclaimed Before I Go To Sleep was always going to have a bit of a hard time meeting expectations, following in the footsteps of such a brilliant and much hyped debut novel and it was with some trepidation I began to read this psychological thriller, but I worried needlessly as it turned out to be a gripping and enthralling read.

Julia is the main protagonist, a middle aged Mum with a bit of a past and a few character flaws who is devastated to learn of her younger sister Kate's death. She sets out to discover what really happened in Paris to Kate and as she delves into the murky side of internet dating her sister appears to have been part of begins to build a secret life of her own.

Devoted to her teenage son Connor and her reliable and loving husband Hugh she is nevertheless a bored housewife and when temptation presents itself her addictive personality rises to the surface once more and threatens to undo her carefully woven life.

I was intrigued by the cleverly constructed web of mystery and concealment and rash moves followed by even worse decisions. The book is pretty slow to begin with and for the first 40 or 50 pages I began to wonder if it was going to grab me at some point or not .... Then it abruptly seized me by the jugular!

It begins like a dog quietly gnawing on a large and unwieldy bone, then suddenly the bone is being gnashed and crushed and shaken from side to side and theres no way you're going to get that tasty chunk of cartilage out of Rovers jaws. I felt like that with this book.

It's a very cleverly constructed twisting storyline that intrigues and chills and even when Julia makes some really stupid moves I could kind of see why she did and even though I didn't agree with lots of the things she did, it didn't at any point become unbelievable. I did find her husband a little too easy going, the fact that he has a lot of stuff going on at work being little excuse for his placid attitude towards Julia, especially given her background which is gradually revealed. However I forgive the author this because this thriller did what it says on the tin - it thrilled me as I read on far later into the night than is good for the bags under my eyes!

The ending is not so much ambiguous as indecisive, but its actually not the ending thats important as much as how we get there

A confident and sometimes brazen publication guaranteed to give anyone who has considered using internet chat sites to hook up with a potential mate a sleepless night. Highly recommended and destined I'm sure to be another huge success for S.J. Watson

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher Randomhouseuk/Doubleday for my advance copy of yet another outstanding novel.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Keep Quiet - Lisa Scottoline - moral dilemma thriller


The publishers blurb:

After picking up his sixteen-year-old son, Ryan, from the cinema one evening, Jake Buckman decides to let him practice driving home along a seemingly quiet street. It is a decision that will alter the lives of their family for ever, as Ryan hits a jogger, who does not survive. What follows is not a clear-cut hit and run, but a split-second decision by a father who will do anything to protect his son.

But just how much can a parent sacrifice to protect their own child?

And how will Ryan cope with the consequences of his actions?

My review

"Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive" 

An old saying which sums up this book perfectly, as Jake will discover when he makes a split second decision to protect his teenage son Ryan which sets his life on a downward spiral of terrifying repercussions. When Jake allows Ryan to drive his car at night he doesn't think for one second it will lead to them covering up a fatal accident in order for them both to avoid a prison sentence and keeping it hidden from his wife Pam, who's high powered job as a judge would be compromised too, but one lie begets another and the backlash is so great it seems as though nothing will ever go right again in Jake's life.

I have to be honest and admit the style of writing isn't up to the literary standard I've come to expect from recent psychological thrillers I've read, the characters are very 2 dimensional and unlikeable and the dialogue is stilted, repetitive and downright annoying. So much so, that about 30 pages in I began to think to myself "I may not finish this" .... "I think I'll stop reading it" but the storyline is so fast paced, so relentless, that there wasn't a point I felt I could give up at. I kept on turning the pages to find out what would happen next and before I knew where I was, I was at the end having read the lot in a couple of sessions!

Which is after all the point of a book - to captivate you and keep you wanting to read on. So I forgive the lack of refinement and finesse and applaud the exciting storytelling and sheer gripping entertainment value.

It will be loved by any fans of this authors previous books, I would liken the writing to that of Val McDermid or Linwood Barclay and feel this book wil also appeal to readers who enjoy their books.

A tense and exciting domestic moral dilemma thriller with little depth but tons of compelling drama.

My thanks to Bookbridgr and the publisher Headline for my review copy.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Hourglass Factory - Lucy Ribchester - a Victorian mystery



From Goodreads:

1912 and London is in turmoil...The suffragette movement is reaching fever pitch but for broke Fleet Street tomboy Frankie George, just getting by in the cut-throat world of newspapers is hard enough. Sent to interview trapeze artist Ebony Diamond, Frankie finds herself fascinated by the tightly laced acrobat and follows her across London to a Mayfair corset shop that hides more than one dark secret. 
Then Ebony Diamond mysteriously disappears in the middle of a performance, and Frankie is drawn into a world of tricks, society columnists, corset fetishists, suffragettes and circus freaks. How did Ebony vanish, who was she afraid of, and what goes on behind the doors of the mysterious Hourglass Factory? From the newsrooms of Fleet Street to the drawing rooms of high society, the missing Ebony Diamond leads Frankie to the trail of a murderous villain with a plot more deadly than anyone could have imagined.


My thoughts

The Hourglass factory is set in an era I enjoy reading about, historical fiction set in the early 20th century can immerse the reader in a plethora of sights, sounds and smells and this book sets the scene nicely. It's 1912 and in Fleet street London, budding reporter Frankie George is battling to make her voice heard in the male dominated world of newspaper journalism. When she is sent to get an interview and photograph of Ebony Diamond a suffragette trapeze artist she enters a world of corset manufacturing, circus tricks and secrets.

Its a jolly good old romp through Victorian London at a time of great change, a mystery coupled with social commentary.

What I was hoping for was something a little like Tipping the Velvet sadly it failed to meet expectations on that score, it reminded me more of Silent in the Grave which isn't necessarily a bad thing but it meant my expectations had to be adjusted somewhat.

If you like this kind of Victorian mystery you'll probably enjoy the Hourglass Factory. However for me the characters were just a little 2 dimensional and the book deliberately tries to be a little provocative without the real depth and grit I prefer in my historical fiction.

My thanks to Netgalley for providing my advance copy for review.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Disclaimer - Renee Knight - a cleverly constructed maze of a book


From Goodreads:

A remarkable debut in the vein of Before I Go to Sleep—and already an international sensation—Disclaimer is a brilliantly conceived, deeply unsettling psychological thriller about a woman haunted by secrets, the consuming desire for revenge, and the terrible price we pay when we try to hide the truth

Finding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction, The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day she became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew—and that person is dead.

Now that the past is catching up with her, Catherine’s world is falling apart. Her only hope is to confront what really happened on that awful day . . . even if the shocking truth might destroy her.


My thoughts:

If you like your books convoluted this is one twisty turny tale that won't disappoint.

With secrets galore gradually being unpeeled, layer upon layer and red herrings scattered throughout, it kept me guessing and gasping like all the best of psychological chillers.

This is the story of Catherine, a successful documentary maker, who upon finding a novel beside her bed, reads it, only to discover it is based on her past life - a past she has kept firmly concealed, until now when her secrets threaten to erupt and change her life.

It's also the story of retired teacher Stephen Brigstocke a confused and shambling ruin of a man, dealing with loss and loneliness, their lives collide and cause Catherine to face her demons, but can she maintain her carefully constructed life and how much of it is based on lies?

I loved the storyline, cleverly written beginning with you as the reader not really understanding anything, and desperate to be let in on what it is Catherine has kept hidden and why, then as bits and pieces are revealed about Catherines past, sometimes they provide a lightbulb moment and sometimes a shadowy hint like a badly developed negative with a fleeting shadow cast across it and frequently reavealing something rather different than you expected.

One minute I pitied one character, then my perception changed and I scorned them, my sympathies lay with one person then I doubted my loyalties were in the right place.

Perhaps it was a little difficult to really get inside the characters and feel kinship with them as much as I like in a book, but possibly this is part of the nature of the book based on secrets and concealment. The backbone of the story is after all about hoe keeping something deliberately hidden can have huge consequences almost as great as the thing you were trying to hide in the beginning.

I found it a real attention grabber, which I just wanted to read a little more and then a little more still. Until I was quite suddenly at the end and even the ending didn't disappoint. A satisfying and cleverly constructed maze of a book.

My thanks to Random House publishers and Netgalley for allowing me to be one of the privileged few to read this in advance of publication.

Monday, 29 December 2014

The Book of Strange New Things - Michel Faber - an alien environment for me



From Goodreads:

It begins with Peter, a devoted man of faith, as he is called to the mission of a lifetime, one that takes him galaxies away from his wife, Bea. Peter becomes immersed in the mysteries of an astonishing new environment, overseen by an enigmatic corporation known only as USIC. His work introduces him to a seemingly friendly native population struggling with a dangerous illness and hungry for Peter’s teachings—his Bible is their “book of strange new things.” But Peter is rattled when Bea’s letters from home become increasingly desperate: typhoons and earthquakes are devastating whole countries, and governments are crumbling. Bea’s faith, once the guiding light of their lives, begins to falter.

Suddenly, a separation measured by an otherworldly distance, and defined both by one newly discovered world and another in a state of collapse, is threatened by an ever-widening gulf that is much less quantifiable. While Peter is reconciling the needs of his congregation with the desires of his strange employer, Bea is struggling for survival. Their trials lay bare a profound meditation on faith, love tested beyond endurance, and our responsibility to those closest to us.

My thoughts:

I dithered about whether to read this book or not. The subject matter is so far outside my normal comfort zone I wasn't sure I'd be able to relate to it in any way but I LOVE the authors previous books.

I seldom read science fiction - I am an atheist who is totally incomprehensive of any form of religious belief - I prefer my books to have a female protagonist. This book ticks none of my boxes, its about a Christian man, Peter who flies off to a recently colonised planet, to preach his religion to the alien inhabitants.

When I told my partner a little about this book which was keeping me reading 'til the early hours he shook his head and asked "You gotta be kidding - why on Earth would YOU read something like that???"

I found myself lost in an alien environment - although I could accept the aliens, the setting and the people, I floundered in the dark to understand how anyone can live their life by a belief as strong and pretty unshakeable as this.

So why did I love it? It has to be the authors innate ability to grab your imagination, throw you into a situation you'll never be comfortable with and with a few well placed words make you feel as at home as you do in your own bed.

The narrator of the story, Peter, is a pastor, a reborn Christian who together with his beloved wife Bea, looks after the congregation in their Church in England. Their devoutness shines from them in their longing to convert every soul they meet to Christianity, their piety is equalled only by their love for each other, which is why they feel their relationship will be strong enough to survive a lengthy separation and as we meet the couple, Peter is setting off on a journey of immense proportions. He has been employed by a major Corporation at a very generous stipend, to fly to another solar system and be the preacher to an indigenous population of alien beings.

He relishes this new challenge and discovers upon arrival that the population of "Oasans" not only accept but relish his teachings, calling his Bible "the book of strange new things".

Meanwhile back at home, Bea is struggling without Peter, her rock. The world is going through a series of disaster after disaster, which compare sufficently with events that we have witnessed to be believable but which become so frequent and so intense that society begins to crumble. Her letters to Peter become more desperate and cynical but he feels so removed from everything he can hardly imagine what she's going through. He tries to share with her the wonders he is experiencing but fails to be able to put it into words.

What happens to a relationship, when the one abiding concept which brought you together becomes the thing which is now driving you apart?

I did struggle with the religious aspect of the book, I knew I would, unlike the aliens I am unable to just accept, I don't get religion at all and never will. But what I did love were the aliens themselves. The way they speak, the descriptions of their homeland and the workers at the USIC base from where Peter is based were all painted so beautifully I was there!

Michel Faber is immaculate at creating vivid characters and placing them in situations you'd never before considered yet being instantly at home there - as in The Crimson Petal and the White, which paints a graphic picture of Victorian prostition yet was so intensely real to me. I grieve for some of the characters still, 5 years after reading it, now thats what I call skilled penmanship!

Above and beyond everything in the book of strange new things, is the story of a long distance relationship, a situation I could relate to and the resultant crisis of faith, which I couldn't, and it was the picture of this happening from both sides in the couples correspondence with each other that really grabbed me.

The details of the world we know falling apart so quickly was so intense and horribly believable that I almost wanted to find it was all in Beas imagination, sadly it isn't and one of the things which happens which eventually causes her to turn away from religion was so harrowing, I almost stopped reading the book at that point, not far from the end.

When Peter uncovers the Oasans enigma, my heart broke for these small gentle, accepting and trusting alien people.

If you, like me, aren't sure about the religious aspect but something about this book, or my review, tempts you I'd recommend giving it a go, it's well worth the effort (the actual reading is effortless) it's left me with lots of questions and is still in my mind 3 days after I finished it, I felt I needed some time to reflect before reviewing, but overall I'm SO very glad I read it it's good to break free from the mould and succumb to something different once in a while and this was a really great book to round off my reading for 2014.