Saturday, 25 June 2016

You will know me - Megan Abbott - Grimy secrets


My Review:

This is the first book by Megan Abbott I’ve read, however I understand she frequently writes confidently about strained relationships between teenage girls and their mothers. That’s certainly the case with this one.

This is a twisty tale exploring just how far a caring Mother will go to protect her family from scandal and try to ensure her daughters promising future as a possible world class athlete isn’t put at risk.

Forget your usual American soccer Mom, Katie is Gymnastic Mom extraordinaire as she twists and contorts herself to divert ugly rumours affecting her sweet innocent gymnast daughter Devon and her oh so caring family man, husband, in the aftermath of a hit and run accident in which a teenage boy dies. Is she protecting them for their good or her own peace of mind and who will get sucked into the murky web of deceit?

Katie also has a geeky son Drew who wanders in and out of the narrative annoyingly getting in the way of things but providing a hint of normality now and again, as all around the family crumbles. As Mom uncovers unsavoury rumours and ugly truths her decisions become more ill-advised and destructive as it builds to a crescendo.

This is domestic Noir and disturbing thriller combined for readers who like a fast paced contemporary thriller based around family and secrets and “OMG don’t do that” moments.

It does read somewhat like a young adult novel with the teenage angst and growing pains but it’s also about relationships across the generations and being in a sticky situation which grows increasingly viscous and grimy as time passes.

Established fans of Megan Abbott will be delighted with her latest novel and I think she’ll gain many new readers amongst the increasing band of grip-lit aficionados. It reminded me somewhat of books I’ve read by Linwood Barclay and I feel it will appeal to fans of his books too.

My thanks go to The Publisher Picador at Pan MacMillan books for my advance copy.

You can visit the authors website at meganabbott.com

The Description from the publisher:

Katie and Eric Knox have dedicated their lives to their fifteen-year-old daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful. But when a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community just weeks before an all-important competition, everything the Knoxes have worked so hard for feels suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, revealing hidden plots and allegiances, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself drawn, irresistibly, to the crime itself, and the dark corners it threatens to illuminate. 

From a writer with "exceptional gifts for making nerves jangle and skin crawl," 

(Janet Maslin) You Will Know Me is a breathless rollercoaster of a novel about the desperate limits of desire, jealousy, and ambition.


When I lost you -Kelly Rimmer - love and loss



When I lost you is a love story with a difference. Molly remembers very well exactly how she feels about her husband Leo as she sits by his hospital bed waiting for him to recover from an accident which has caused a memory loss so great that he can't even remember that he has a wife!

This in turn appalls and dismays Molly, yet it also gives her a little hope, maybe if he doesn't remember them being together he won't remember that their relationship is also falling apart. Maybe she can regain the passionate love affair from their early days together, when he was her everything and she was his?

The story is told via a series of flashbacks to when they first met, to their marriage and begins to reveal just why they can no longer stay together. Molly tells the now part and Leo's voice tells the before bits. 

Leo reveals himself to be a bit of a shit to be honest, and it was really hard to like him, of course its gradually revealed why he's like this but for me thats no excuse for constantly putting his wife second and belittling her. I wanted him to be a total hero whom I was desperate for her to win back but I just kept thinking she'd be better off without him and to walk away. It turns out that she has secrets too though, is the failure of their love all down to her?

It's a really well written emotional read which keeps you absorbed, theres plenty of romance, secrets and bits of mystery and the ending is satisfying, but I'll let you be the judge of that and don't want to give anything away. 

Many thanks to Bookouture who provided me with a free copy via Netgalley to review.

The Blurb.....

Do you ever wish you had the chance to meet someone again for the first time? 

When Leo and Molly met and married, they believed they were invincible. Together they could take on the world. But Leo,a war correspondent, lives for life on the edge, and when he takes a step into the unknown, tragedy strikes and he loses his memory. Molly rushes to help him fill in the gaps and soon they start falling in love all over again. 

The trouble is, Molly is hiding something. Something big. The devoted wife at Leo’s bedside is a sham; Leo and Molly’s marriage was on the rocks long before Leo’s accident. 

The closer Molly gets to her husband the more scared she becomes that he will remember. As Leo’s memory begins to trickle back will Molly lose the man she loves for a second time? 

An emotional, heartbreaking read that will restore your faith in the power of love. 

If you like to lose yourself in Jojo Moyes or Nicholas Sparks then you will love WHEN I LOST YOU, the deeply moving new novel from Kelly Rimmer. 



Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Review - The Last One - Alexandra Oliva - tense and thought provoking



My thoughts


Wow!! I enjoyed this tantalising switchback ride of a book, refreshingly different, thoroughly contemporary with extensive appeal.

I’m sure many of us have wondered what it would be like to take part in a reality TV show. Well, our heroine Zoo throws caution to the wind and with her husbands approval sets off to do one last big challenge before settling down to be a Mum. She signs up to be a participant on an extreme survival reality TV show in the US, where surviving literally becomes the name of the game. It’s like Bear Grylls meets the Hunger games with its own unique slant.

I must admit the leading characters’ name in the blurb almost put me off – who in their right mind is called Zoo? But it soon becomes clear that the contestants are all given easy to remember nicknames according to their real life jobs, there’s also Biology and Engineer, even Waitress and Exorcist, every single persona feels authentic and as I became acquainted with them I was rooting for some and others – I just wanted them to fall off a cliff! Just like real reality shows. So, reading the book is like watching a really entertaining TV show, yet getting up close and personal with one particular contender so much that I almost felt I was part of the action myself.

Players are 12 adventurous participants who have agreed to be filmed taking part in a staged but realistic survival experience. Living rough in a forest they will have to battle to survive and demonstrate their skills, or lack thereof, to the hidden cameras concealed everywhere and a handful of production team members. A big cash incentive is on offer for the winner, together with the huge satisfaction of challenging themselves to the max, overcoming their own fears and the reward of achievement.

As filming begins it’s obvious that at the start the dangers and tests are staged for effect, but throughout the book we begin to view things in two timelines. One is everyone mucking in together and developing their own strategies to win as the show is filmed.

The second is Zoo, alone, struggling, tired, hungry and totally stressed out, she is finding it increasingly more difficult to cope with the proliferating mock ups of unsavoury and bizarre situations she is being placed in. Because we are treated to knowledge of some outside events, it’s clear that all is far worse than even she imagines, isolated from contact with outsiders she battles on gamely but when things go wrong – Boy do they spiral out of control.

Outside the forest an apocalyptic epidemic rages, the population is dropping like flies and the support network carefully put in place for the contestants is fractured beyond comprehension. Woo-hoo – bring it on!

The tension builds, the pace escalates, and I just could not put this book down. Even now, days after finishing it, I keep slipping back into the survivalist mind-set.

When I was reading the later sections, I flew rapidly from mental encouragement “Don’t worry Zoo, they’ve staged all this, it’s not really that dangerous” to shouted warnings “No, don’t DO that Zoo, it’s NOT pretend anymore”

This outstanding, ominously thought provoking and unsettling debut novel by a talented young writer is one of those rare books I genuinely couldn’t stop reading yet REALLY didn’t want to end, because I knew it would leave me with a thirst for more, I’m finding it difficult to alleviate.

It’s perfectly exciting, thoroughly entertaining and gets one great big thumbs up from me.

My thanks go to the wonderful folk at Michael Joseph (Penguin/ Random House) for providing me with a review copy in advance of publication. The hardback is out on July 14th (coincidentally that’s my birthday too – feel free to send me chocolates – Oh heck don’t be silly send me books instead they last so much longer and aren’t fattening!)

Do get your copy pre-ordered now, this is one you don’t want to miss.

The Blurb

A dazzling and unsettling novel of psychological suspense. Survival is the name of the game as one woman's mind and body are pushed to the limit.

TWELVE CONTESTANTS

When Zoo agrees to take part in a new reality TV show, In the Dark, she knows that she will be tested to the limits of her endurance. Beating eleven competitors in a series of survival tasks deep in the forest, living on camera at the extremes of her comfort zone, will be the ultimate challenge before she returns home to start a family.

A GAME WITH NO END

As the contestants are overcome by hunger, injury and psychological breakdown, the mind games, tricks and hazards to which Zoo is subjected grow dark beyond belief. This isn't what she signed up for: the deserted towns and gruesome props, the empty loneliness. Is this a game with no end? And what is happening away from the cameras' gaze? Discovering the truth will be just the beginning...

Further information and praise from Goodreads

AN ALTERED REALITY

Translated into over twenty languages, The Last One is a gripping, provocative tale of survival - of the fittest, of the best loved, of the relationships that sustain us. It's a searingly modern thriller and a timeless story of a woman's journey home.

Praise for The Last One 

'Clever in its concept and gripping in its delivery. This propulsive book is for everyone who ever thought reality television signalled the end of the world. Haunting, moving, and remarkable' Karen Joy Fowler, Booker-shortlisted author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

'The Last One seamlessly melds two of our contemporary obsessions -- the threat of global catastrophe; the staged drama of reality TV -- into a fiercely imagined tale of the human psyche under stress. An uncompromising, thought-provoking debut' Justin Cronin, author of international bestseller The Passage

'Taut, tense and at times almost unbearably real, The Last One is both a compelling read, and a terrifyingly believable evocation of survival against the odds' Ruth Ware, author of international bestseller In a Dark, Dark Wood 

'Page-turning and deeply unsettling' Rosamund Lupton, author of international bestseller Sister

'Tense and gorgeous and so damn clever. I loved every second' Lauren Beukes, author of international bestseller The Shining Girls




Sunday, 19 June 2016

Review - Baby Doll - Hollie Overton - absorbing

I've just had my main summer holiday as a "staycation" in my static caravan in the Durham Dales. Expectations of sunny days out and lots of sightseeing were squished most days by cloudy, overcast, humid stormy weather and I ended up confined indoors, reading. My first holiday read was the perfect accompaniment to that feeling of wanting to be out doing things but not able to - the story of the aftermath of a lengthy kidnap ordeal - Baby Doll by Hollie Overton a great debut novel.




My review

What an unusual and absorbing story about the aftermath of a kidnap/ hostage situation and the ongoing effects on the whole family of the victim. A very well written debut novel which has made me add this author to my list of new offerings to watch for in the future. I love discovering new authors and finding they have a real talent to entertain me.

The writing style really impressed me and reminded me very much of Jodi Picoult, as it’s very much a human interest story and story of reprisal as much as it is a psychological thriller.

We meet the eponymous “Baby Doll” a woman called Emily Riser, twin sister of Abby when, with her little daughter Sky she finally makes her escape from her captor after being held for 8 years in a dingy basement.

Returning home in her mid 20s after being feared dead since she was a teenager is just the first of many ordeals she has to cope with after putting up with dreadful abuse and torment for such a long time. The intricacies of which are not gone into in too much detail, leaving quite a lot to your imagination but still revealing enough to know that any girl who has gone through this ordeal no matter how strong willed is not going to escape unscathed.

But it’s not just Emily who has had it tough, the family who were left behind wondering what had happened to the teenager have suffered over time too and this crime has left its mark on everyone in Emily’s life. Mum Eve and sister Abby have both let themselves go, with addictions to booze, gluttony, medication and unrewarding relationships knocking their lives skew-whiff.

I swiftly became engrossed in the story of the twin sisters re-united and their love and support for each other vying with darker feelings of envy and jealousy creating an intense love/hate relationship which nobody can break, yet threatens to blow their lives apart.

The story of 6 year old Sky, made the story bear a little resemblance to the highly acclaimed Room by Emma Donoghue, and I would have liked a little more insight into Sky’s feelings after emerging from her whole life in captivity watching her mother being violated, knowing her Daddy was the man accused of kidnap. But apart from the lack of depth to this part of the story the rest is really great, the characters all have flaws and loud voices and even the secondary characters – Missy, for example, wife of the paedophile accused of kidnap and other heinous atrocities.

If you like to examine the actions of others and the causes of how events can shape and distort lives after traumatic events and how people deal with their feelings this one’s for you. If you’re looking for a who-dunnit thriller maybe it’s not quite your cup of tea as everything which happens in this book is afterwards and as a result of the main crime.

I was kindly provided with an advance reading copy for review purposes by the publisher Random House UK/ Cornerstone part of the Penguin family of publishers who offer some of the very best in fiction and I got my e-copy via Netgalley.


Publishers Description

You've been held captive in one room, mentally and physically abused every day, since you were sixteen years old.

Then, one night, you realize your captor has left the door to your cell unlocked.

For the first time in eight years, you're free.

This is about what happens next ...

Lily knows that she must bring the man who nearly ruined her life - her good-looking high-school teacher - to justice. But she never imagined that reconnecting with her family would be just as difficult. Reclaiming her relationship with her twin sister, her mother, and her high school sweetheart who is in love with her sister may be Lily's greatest challenge. After all they've been through, can Lily and her family find their way back after this life-altering trauma?

Monday, 6 June 2016

S is for Stranger - Louise Stone - confusing



My thoughts

I SO wanted to love this story. The description whet my appetite and the cover is really enticing – that shattered heart shaped lollipop and the title scrawled in pen – very intriguing. Then there are the accolades comparing it to several books I’ve enjoyed, Wow I was champing at the bit to start reading this new psychological thriller.

That’s where my excitement fizzled out somewhat. I realise that I was privileged to receive an advance uncorrected proof copy and I will give a lot of the flaws in the book the benefit of the doubt, hoping that they will be ironed out in the final edit, the grammatical errors so frequent and glaring they jarred. The jumpy and erratic nature of the storytelling I assume is deliberate, it paints a picture of a fractured mind struggling to grasp reality but I found it over confusing and annoying.

Sophie is the narrator, a recovering alcoholic, split from her husband, trying to get custody of 8 year old daughter Amy, when Amy goes missing, Sophies recall of events is erratic and sketchy and constantly changes. Ex-husband Paul is behaving suspiciously and Sophie becomes more and more frantic to find Amy. But there’s another mystery she’s also desperate to solve, what exactly happened 16 years earlier the night her best friend Bethany died, Sophies convinced it was murder others tell her it was suicide.

Sophie is the most unreliable narrator ever. Nothing is quite as it seems and everything she does is a direct contradiction of what she said 5 minutes ago. I stuck with it despite being so confused I wanted to scream – wanting to know what had happened to Amy, who was who and what was what. Oh dear me – I read it right to the very last word expecting some huge twist and was left sorely wanting.

This is one muddled and convoluted storyline where half the things which happen just seem to have no purpose. Hardly anything was resolved and even the parts which had some closure did it in a pretty unsatisfactory way

People keep suddenly appearing in the story, half of them have no relevance to the story and most of them are two dimensional. It’s a really clever idea poorly executed. So disjointed it makes it impossible to get to know the characters or feel any empathy for anyone even the missing little girl.

I’m left with a sense of turbulent confusion and an unsettling disappointment.

I received my copy via Netgalley for the purpose of reviewing and as I said earlier it was an uncorrected proof maybe in the final copy for sale it will be fine-tuned and easier to follow.

The blurb

A gripping debut psychological thriller you don’t want to miss!

‘Louise Stone is an exciting new talent to watch. S is for Stranger is full of tension and atmosphere. A hugely compelling read.’ ― Amanda Jennings, author of In Her Wake

There are two sides to every story.

But only one is true.

Sophie wished she’d paid more attention when her little daughter, Amy, caught sight of a stranger watching them. She only looked away for a second. But now Amy’s gone.

No one trusts an alcoholic. Even a sober one. The police are suspicious of Sophie’s tangled story and so is her ex-husband, Paul. Especially when new information emerges that changes everything.

But what if Sophie is telling the truth? What if her daughter really is missing? And what if that stranger at the fairground wasn’t really a stranger at all…

Perfect for readers looking for their next addictive read afterThe Girl on the Train and Behind Closed Doors.

The Sister - Louise Jensen - Nice and twisty



My Review

I loved this book, it grabbed me right from the beginning and by the end I felt bereft when I had to leave my new friends between the pages – oh and enemies too!!

Grace has been going through a tough time since the death of her best friend Charlie. Close since childhood, Charlie’s sudden death in her mid 20s left Grace and husband Dan bereft. All 3 of them were childhood bezzy mates. Now Grace is trying to get on an even keel she feels ready to open a memory box she and Charlie buried when they were 15 to see if it holds any clues as to what terrible thing Charlie seemed about to confess to just before she died.

What she does find is confirmation that one of Charles unfulfilled dreams was to trace her unknown father and Grace is determined that this is one last thing she can do for her friend and starts to try and track him down with the reluctant help of Charlies feckless and unreliable alcoholic Mum Lexie.

But all’s not well on the home front for Grace, Dan is increasingly distant and distracted and Grace feels someone is stalking her. But it’s obvious she has had some mental health issues in the past, having difficulty coping with her friends’ death and things which have happened in the past – so I was left wondering if maybe she has an overactive imagination

We zip back and forth over a 10 year period with fragments of the girls’ school years being gradually revealed. There no doubt that Charlie was a great pal no wonder Grace went to pieces when she died.

So when Anna contacts Grace saying she is the daughter of the man Grace has been trying to find -Charlies sister Grace is thrilled. Anna reaches out the hand of friendship towards Grace who accepts with an eagerness that shows how lonely she’s been. Could Anna be about to fill the huge gap Charlie left?

Soon Anna insinuates herself into Grace’s world and comes to stay in Grace and Dans cottage. However she proves not to be the bosom buddy of Graces dreams after all.

I felt so betrayed when Anna begins to make little “mistakes” which hurt Grace and Grace is so lonely and forgiving she just doesn’t want to see that Anna might be deliberately upsetting the apple cart.

Amongst many, there’s one particular thing I saw coming which really upset me as it rang so true with something I’ve experienced and I could see this thing was going to happen and I really wanted to warn Grace and even though I knew it was inevitable it made me cry when it happened. Yes it got under my skin, I felt intimately close to Grace and was rooting for her all the way through which made some of the things that happened to her really hard to read about. Yet it was compelling and scary and unputdownable, a really great psychological chiller. And isn't that cover eye catching!

This is Louise Jensens first foray into the world of penmanship and I foresee great things ahead This is a stunning, taut and accomplished debut novel. I for one, can’t wait until she puts pen to paper again and see what she comes up with next.

I was provided with a free advance copy to review from the Publishers the wonderful Bookouture via Netgalley and my thanks go to them.


The Blurb


"I did something terrible Grace. I hope you can forgive me ..."

Grace hasn't been the same since the death of her best friend Charlie. She is haunted by Charlie's words, the last time she saw her, and in a bid for answers, opens an old memory box of Charlie's. It soon becomes clear there was a lot she didn't know about her best friend.

When Grace starts a campaign to find Charlie's father, Anna, a girl claiming to be Charlie's sister steps forward. For Grace, finding Anna is like finding a new family, and soon Anna has made herself very comfortable in Grace and boyfriend Dan's home.

But something isn't right. Things disappear, Dan's acting strangely and Grace is sure that someone is following her. Is it all in Grace's mind? Or as she gets closer to discovering the truth about both Charlie and Anna, is Grace in terrible danger?

There was nothing she could have done to save Charlie ...or was there?

A compelling, gripping psychological thriller perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train, I Let You Go, and The Girl With No Past.

Watching Edie - Camilla Way - doomed friendship



My Review

This is a completely engrossing read. I did what I seldom do – received this, opened it, began reading immediately and continued until I’d read it, virtually at one sitting.

That’s not to say it’s a lightweight read either, although it’s easy enough to follow. It just grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.

It’s the story of Edie and Heather, who were friends at school, Edie was loud and confident, she’s the first one to try things, make-up, boys, drinking. Shy, plump Heather is the quieter one, she doesn’t make friends well, is a little bit of a misfit, the one people snigger at behind their hands for her non-coolness. Neither completely fit in, this pair need the closeness of a best mate. The 2 girls gravitate together. Both with fractured and difficult family lives they seem as needy as each other, but Heather perhaps more than most. Together with a couple more girls they form their own little clique which Heather sometimes feels on the outskirts of.

But when Edie meets the devastatingly handsome but wild and unpredictable atypical bad lad, Connor and falls head over heels in a doomed love affair with him Heather gets her nose pushed out. She loves Edie and doesn’t want to see her hurt so vows to try and stick around to protect her. This has repercussions which haunt the girls in later life.

I could relate to so much of the teenage angst both girls experience. Insecurities, longings and failings make them seem so human, that by the time I emerged from my reading fest I was not just shaken and shocked, I was confused - Had I been there with them? Were these real girls I’ve known?

Fast forward 16 years. We don’t know what happened to drive these 2 girls apart. We do know that Edie hasn’t made a complete success of her life, living in a poky flat she is single and pregnant and has been working as a waitress. She is also pretty isolated, has no friends to speak of, has lost touch with her family and frankly she’s daunted by the prospect of single motherhood.

Then there’s a knock on her door, and Heather shows up. Her face is the last one Edie expected to see and despite offering friendship and help she seems more scared than pleased to see her old best friend. But Heather’s made contact and isn’t about to let go easily.

What follows is a portrait of doomed friendships, obsession, secrets and guilt. Both parties are deeply flawed, events from the past unfold insidiously and ominously revealing a doomed friendship tainted by bad decisions and misplaced loyalties, between 2 girls neither of whom are the most stable of characters but both are really likeable.

My sympathy veered wildly from one girl to the other. In fact both girls gained my empathy so what could have just been a tense nail biter became also a haunting emotional expedition between past and present. Damaged girls become damaged women and its inevitable that their early years have had a huge impact on their lives, but is it just the after effects of coming from shattered backgrounds and mixing with the wrong people, or is there much more behind the girls story? Oh I think you know already there must be!

Although each girl is at times painted in varying shades of black I actually liked both of them and was rooting for first one then the other and finally for both, you can never quite decide who did what to whom, until the stunning climax, which made the final twist of the knife all the more shocking and agonising. This book left me reeling I felt as though I’d been punched in the gut and I recommend it unreservedly if you like people based, emotional stories with plenty of twists and turns. An awesome read.

I received my copy from Shelley and Louise, the Lovereading book review team, on behalf of the publisher, the excellent Harper Collins in exchange for my honest review.

Thanks Girls you picked a Good’un.

The Blurb ....

Beautiful, creative, a little wild - Edie caused a stir when she walked into Heather’s life. Back when they both had dreams for the future. Before it all went horribly, terrifyingly wrong…

Years later Edie is pregnant and alone, desperately trying to rebuild her life. But someone’s been watching her, waiting for the chance to prove what a perfect friend she can be.

It’s no coincidence that Heather shows up just when Edie needs her the most.

A dark secret lies between them and Edie’s about to learn that those who have hurt us deeply—or who we have hurt—never let us go…