Monday, 29 June 2015

Girl in the woods - Aspen Matis - not about the walk



What the publisher says

Girl in the Woods is Aspen Matis’s exhilarating true-life adventure of hiking from Mexico to Canada’a coming of age story, a survival story, and a triumphant story of overcoming emotional devastation. On her second night of college, Aspen was raped by a fellow student. Overprotected by her parents who discouraged her from speaking of the attack, Aspen was confused and ashamed. Dealing with a problem that has sadly become all too common on college campuses around the country, she stumbled through her first semester—a challenging time made even harder by the coldness of her college’s “conflict mediation” process. Her desperation growing, she made a bold decision: She would seek healing in the freedom of the wild, on the 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail leading from Mexico to Canada.

In this inspiring memoir, Aspen chronicles her journey, a five-month trek that was ambitious, dangerous, and transformative. A nineteen-year-old girl alone and lost, she conquered desolate mountain passes and met rattlesnakes, bears, and fellow desert pilgrims. Exhausted after each thirty-mile day, at times on the verge of starvation, Aspen was forced to confront her numbness, coming to terms with the sexual assault and her parents’ disappointing reaction. On the trail and on her own, she found that survival is predicated on persistent self-reliance. She found her strength. After a thousand miles of solitude, she found a man who helped her learn to love and trust again—and heal.

Told with elegance and suspense, Girl in the Woods is a beautifully rendered story of eroding emotional and physical boundaries to reveal the truths that lie beyond the edges of the map.



What I thought

Firstly let me say this is compellingly readable, I couldn't help but keep turning the pages to discover what happens to Aspen on her journey whilst hiking the PCT trail in the USA.

I love walking and travel and hoped this might provide some insight on what its really like to undertake a really long trek, alone.

BUT and this is a huge but, I don't think I have ever in my life failed to engage with any person as much as the author of this book!! She is quite young, 19 when the book begins, she has led a strange sheltered upbringing which she is obviously desperate to break away from, but - Oh my, this is one self centred, self pitying, inconsiderate, messed up girl.

She is her own worst enemy and I had very little sympathy for her, even when the "awful catastrophic event" occurs. She allows being raped by a fellow student at college to dominate and define her life. I wanted her to say, ok it's happened, draw a line under it, don't allow this to ruin you. But she manages to allow herself to become a professional victim, she lets this one thing define her, every person she meets her first thought is about telling them "I have been raped" and she seems to use this one fact as an excuse to be a complete pain in the neck.

Then she sets off to walk this massive hike, to help herself get over it, and continues to put herself in compromising position, after difficult situation over and over and blames everyone else, her parents, her brother, the other long distance walkers and continues to pigeonhole herself as "the girl who was raped" not the girl who walks.

I had hoped it would be more about the walking and the practicalities of taking a long distance hike, but I got very little sense of place at all from the book. The characters who populate this long distance trail all appear to be misfits and wierdos, and I had to wonder if they are all as dislikeable and twisted as they seem on paper or if its this crazy girls warped view of the world which painted them this way.

I finished the book, was glad she managed to mature a little by the end and find some kind of closure, but I certainly won't be rushing to walk the Pacific crest trail in a hurry, I won't dash out to find anything else written by this woman and the book has failed to inspire me in any way whatsoever, apart from to thank heaven that although I consider myself to be pretty self centred I never have, and never will be, as totally messed up as this misguided young woman whom I could not admire or even empathise with but did pity.

I recieved an advance copy of this book from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Follow You home - Mark Edwards - tightly woven and tense



The Blurb


It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime, a final adventure before settling down.

After a perfect start, Daniel and Laura’s travels end abruptly when they are thrown off a night train in the middle of nowhere. To find their way back to civilisation, they must hike along the tracks through a forest…a haunting journey that ends in unimaginable terror.

Back in London, Daniel and Laura vow never to talk about what they saw that night. But as they try to fit back into their old lives, it becomes clear that their nightmare is just beginning…

Follow You Home is a chilling tale of secrets, lies and deadly consequences from the author of #1 bestsellers The Magpies and Because She Loves Me.

My Review

Finished this last night - amazing - completely blew me away. Can this author get any better than this? Nope I don't think so.

This book is a terrifically fast paced psychological nightmare, which had me tensing my muscles, shouting out loud and reading until the wee small hours, I just didn't want to stop devouring it.

This author makes difficult relationships seem the norm, and in this respect, his creations Daniel and Laura, a loving couple travelling together around Europe on the holiday of a lifetime before settling down to domesticity and parenthood, appear rather too cozy and normal. But as expected all is about to change when their train journey through Romania is about to go wrong - very VERY wrong. They end up wandering through a dark forest miles from civilisation, looking for help but what they find is beyond both their comprehension.

What follows is a battle to stay sane against all odds, when returning home the unfortunate pair, realise that despite trying oh so hard they are unable to put the suppressed events which shattered their trust in each other, behind them. Something has followed them home and despite seeming impossible things are only going to get worse.

An amalgum of lies and secrets, things get so crazy and complicated I almost thought at one point that I was going to say "He's gone TOO far this time" but although it pushes against the boundaries of belief it never for one minute becomes too far fetched. It's knitted together so cleverly and tha author ties every loose thread neatly into tight knots, yet still manages to save a stunned gasp for the very ending. Fabulous, huge thanks to Mark Edwards for allowing me this privileged advance read via Netgalley.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Quality of Silence - Rosamund Lupton



The Blurb


On 24th November Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby arrived in Alaska.

Within hours they were driving alone across a frozen wilderness

Where nothing grows

Where no one lives

Where tears freeze

And night will last for another 54 days.

They are looking for Ruby's father.

Travelling deeper into a silent land.

They still cannot find him.

And someone is watching them in the dark.

My review

I found this to be a real page turner, even though the storyline is very far fetched. It’s basically a human interest/ love story with a chilling twist.
It’s about Yasmin, who brings her deaf 10 year old daughter Ruby with her to Alaska, they are on their way to be re-united with Ruby’s Dad, the love of Yasmin’s life. Ruby hero worships her Father, a wildlife photographer, he treats her as an equal, communicating with sign language and an innate depth of understanding that brings them closer than Ruby feels with her Mum, who sometimes pressurizes Ruby to conform to the person Yasmin wants her to be.
But the dynamics are about to change. 

On arriving in Alaska Yasmin discovers that her husband is missing after a dreadful accident, and the police believe he is dead. Refusing to believe he is dead, she tells Ruby he is stuck in the snow and ice and off they set to try and find him. Careering chaotically into the frozen wastes of Alaska with no thought but “He can’t be dead” and “Who will look for him if we don’t?” Thrown together in this situation Ruby and Yasmin have to rely on each other for strength and its hard to work out which of the 2 is the stronger. Then there is the insidious realization that in this huge vast freezing wasteland they are not alone after all.

What follows is a cleverly constructed story with lots of contemporary, topical subjects, including coping with deafness and bringing up a deaf child, ice road trucking, wildlife photography, asylum seekers, CB radio, prejudice, and fracking. Bundle them all together and you get a story that’s unusually different and thought provoking.
I loved Ruby for me she is the best child narrator since Jack in Room. About half the book is written first person in her unique voice, one we are never likely to hear vocalized as she never speaks, communicating via sign language and text to voice apps on her laptop. I loved the way she “sees” words in colours and shapes and empathized with her, even if her unusual childhood has led to a wry precociousness which I found easy to overlook.
Ruby is an engaging and unlikely heroine, Yasmin is pretty darned unbelieveable, I know you’d go to the ends of the earth for a loved one but she must be some kind of superhuman because I sure as hell couldn’t tackle what she does.
A lot of the story is set in the cab of a massive heavy haul truck on ice roads, but it doesn’t get boring, we are treated to flashbacks in Yasmin’s and Ruby’s lives and there are some really great characters I wanted to learn more about, like Coby, and Adeeb.

Overall it’s a thoroughly enjoyable read, tense and chilling in more ways than one, with just a touch of the soapbox in the protestations about fracking, although it certainly made me think twice about this subject.

My thanks go to Netgalley for my review copy.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

First one Missing - Tammy Cohen - takes you places you don't want to go.



The Blurb ....

There are three things no-one can prepare you for when your daughter is murdered:

- You are haunted by her memory day and night

- Your friends and family fear you are going mad

- Only in a group with mothers of other victims can you find real comfort.

Welcome to the club no one wants to join.


My review

First one missing is the second book I've read by the popular and competent author Tammy Cohen. She weaves a powerful, taut psychological suspense novel about the aftermath of having a child murdered. She takes a pretty taboo subject and lets us into the minds of everyone whose lives have been tainted by this awful occurrence.

Megan Purvis, the eponymous first one missing, was snatched and abducted at the age of just seven and the discovery of her body on Heathland in London is just the beginning of a spate of dead bodies over the space of several years, all little girls of similar age, all murdered and left in the same area.

The serial killer is sought by the police, whilst the families of the dead girls fall apart piece by piece.

Truly psychologically chilling this book takes you places you never want to go, feel things you never want to exeperience and even get inside the heads of paedophiles and murderers.

At various points throughout the book I suspected almost everyone of being the murderer yet when the final reveal comes it's a shock and a revelation cleverly plotted and hinted at through the book.

If you love twisty emotional domestic noir thrillers with great characters and bursting with emotion you'll enjoy this latest offering by Tammy Cohen (who has also written as Tamar Cohen)

My thanks to Netgalley for my advance ebook copy.

Monday, 15 June 2015

A brutal trade by Faith Mortimer - dark murder in sunny Cyprus



The blurb:

A BRUTAL TRADE - A Diana Rivers Thriller by Faith Mortimer

Even on a small island the darkest secrets can’t stay buried forever…

It began like any normal day in Cyprus…except it wasn’t…the body of a woman brutally murdered and discovered in a shallow grave changes all that.

It is only days later when amateur sleuth, Diana Rivers and old flame, Chief Superintendent Adam Lovell discover a second female victim…only this time the discovery is even more chilling and shocks the island inhabitants.

Joining forces with local policeman, Sergeant Yiannis Loukiades, the three embark on a journey which takes them on the fringes of humanity. Disturbing secrets are unearthed. They are on the hunt for killers who will stop at nothing in their hunt for one vital woman.


As the bodies mount up, the detectives ask themselves one question. What is the reason for the women’s’ deaths and their horrific mutilations?

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Diana finds herself exposed to great danger…in the sights of a lethal individual who’ll put a stop to her meddling. Each move could be deadly… vicious in its outcome…can the team bring a halt to this brutal trade?


My Review

I was lucky enough to read my review copy of a Brutal Trade whilst on holiday in Cyprus, although I needn't have been there to picture it as the author draws on her in depth knowledge as an ex-pat resident of the mediterranean island to set the scene.

It's not your typical beach read however, as its a gritty thriller following the efforts of the local police aided by author and amateur sleuth Diana Rivers, to unravel a series of gruesome murders and a mystery surrounding organ donations, medical misdemeanours and organised crime. It made me look over my shoulder a few times as I wandered the streets of Paphos and Limassol.

This is the first in the Diana Rivers series that I've read and although its number 7 in the series it is so well written that you can easily get into the story and read it as a stand alone, although it does make you want to find out what's gone before.

The victims of this crime are Asian illegal immigrant workers tempted to Cyprus with the promise of steady work and a good income but many fall prey to a gang of criminals with more on their minds than having their housework done!

The book begins with the discovery of the gory, partly dismembered body of a young woman and swiftly draws you into the investigation to discover who is behind this and other similar crimes and why. If you like lots of action, excellent characters and a great setting you won't go wrong with this mystery thriller, which focusses on a taboo and unpleasant subject, that repels your moral sensibilty yet makes you need to read on and discover more. My thanks to the author for providing a copy for me to review.