Friday, 30 June 2017

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine - Gail Honeyman - captivating

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine - Gail Honeyman

My thoughts

This is one of those books which is pretty hard to categorize. It turned out to be not quite what I was expecting - but in a good way. I read a description which called it a laugh out loud comedy and this very nearly put me off! Yes it has some hilarious moments but mainly it is deeply emotional, with some quite dark moments and I was unable to completely put aside the fact that Eleanor is the way she is, as a survivor of something quite dreadful which is a very dark layer to the book.

Eleanor is a wonderful quirky character, she never quite fits in, she won't conform, she sees the world differently to most people and behaves in unusual ways, reacting to everyday occurrences with bewilderment and inappropriate attitudes, she is lonely and isolated and in some ways is like an elderly woman in others like a newborn, very innocent and childlike. Her social graces aren't just lacking they are practically non existent.

Anyone who has ever worked in a large office based organisation will recognize Eleanor, she is the hard working, slightly weird spinster whose eccentric manner of dress and speech and mannerisms makes us roll our eyes, but its all right because she just gets on with her job and we don't HAVE to include her in our conversations, we don't have to sit with her in the canteen and we certainly don't have to get to know her!

Eleanor's life centres around her unfulfilling job, with colleagues she just can't seem to figure out, who don't include her and often mock and even bully her. Then she goes home to her non existent social life, to spend time in her shabby single flat furnished with cast offs, pour a glass (or three) of vodka and waits for the weekend to disappear before returning to her desk to do it all over again. I bet there are far too many of us who can relate to ALL of this!

But we mustn't forget her weekly phone call to Mother, nasty Mother, sly Mother, loathsome Mother, but she is Eleanors only relative and above all else she is a dutiful daughter.

But Eleanors life is about to change and it's all because of a man! She is ready to fall in love, when she comes across her perfect man and gradually begins to blossom.

Yes, this is romantic fiction but it is also one of the most profound books I've ever read too. I defy anyone to read this and not warm to Eleanor after an initial bafflement and frustration at her idiosyncrasies. I laughed, groaned, smiled and sobbed in equal measure as Eleanor tore my heart to pieces and made me feel guilty for not being more tolerant to people who don't follow my rule book.

There aren't enough superlatives in my vocabulary to describe how utterly captivating and delightful I found this book to be. So just read it - I'm sure it won't disappoint.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Review - the Upstairs Room - Kate Murray-Browne - unsettling

Review - the Upstairs Room - Kate Murray-Browne

A macabre, chilling and unsettling debut novel, The Upstairs Room is a contemporary take on the classic "young couple move into a new home that turns out to have something sinister lurking upstairs".

Eleanor and husband Richard have found their new family home for themselves and their 2 young daughters. They know it will be a struggle financially to buy in a desirable area of London so they settle for an older property that "needs a bit doing" well frankly it needs quite a lot of renovation and redecoration but they're young and enthusiastic and it can be a project for them to enjoy together.

Bit it becomes more of a money pit than they imagined, and in order to keep their heads above water they rather reluctantly sub-let the basement to a young woman lodger and into the periphery of their lives comes Zoe. However living in this gloomy and outdated home soon makes Eleanor in particular begin to feel distinctly uneasy, in fact she begins to be frequently ill and fears its the house affecting her health.

Plans to renovate are soon shelved and even redecorating the dark and outdated decor is beyond their means and the rooms remain gloomy and the unnerving scribble which adorns in particular an unused attic bedroom with the name Emily scrawled repeatedly together with disquieting drawings has to remain. Eleanor begins to find this writing concealed elsewhere in the house too.

Whilst Eleanors life crumbles and Richard grows ever more distant, obsessed with planning and pointlessly plotting the elaborate restoration project which seems doomed to never happen. Their lodger Zoe's life seems to be taking a turn for the better, she gets a new job, OK it's not very stimulating and her lodgings aren't quite the chic city apartment she dreamed of but when a new man enters her life and romance seems likely, she feels quite settled ... or does she? Is the house somehow influencing everyone who lives there?

It certainly seems to be having an adverse effect, even on the little girls, whose increasingly difficult behaviour becomes almost the final straw for struggling Mum Eleanor.

All the way through the book is a creeping sense of unease and terror and the puzzle of whether it is in fact the house to blame, or the people within it?

Its creepy and scary and gives you that lump in your throat which gulping hard just can't quite shift.

I did consider the ending a little rushed and not quite as explosive as I hoped but the whole book is filled with creeping menace and subtle insinuations and its a real page turner that's sure to entertain and really makes you think how you'd react in some of the situations. The subtly flawed characters and the macabre location combine to create an engaging work of psychological horror.

The Blurb

Eleanor, Richard and their two young daughters recently stretched themselves to the limit to buy their dream home, a four-bedroom Victorian townhouse in East London. But the cracks are already starting to show. Eleanor is unnerved by the eerie atmosphere in the house and becomes convinced it is making her ill. Whilst Richard remains preoccupied with Zoe, their mercurial twenty-seven-year-old lodger, Eleanor becomes determined to unravel the mystery of the house’s previous owners – including Emily, whose name is written hundreds of times on the walls of the upstairs room.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Review - He Said She Said - Erin Kelly - darkly convoluted

My review of He Said, She Said by Erin Kelly

Wow - wonderful twisty read, blew my socks off. 

It's not often that I finish a book and can't really find words to write a review straight away. But I loved this book so much I had to take a step back and examine what I thought or just babble away senselessly. 

Its delightfully different and darkly convoluted. It actually took me a little while to get into it at the beginning as it's deliberately written in several voices from different viewpoints and jumps back and forth several years and it does take a while to get into the rhythm, but when you do boy does it grab you and just won't let go!

We begin our tortuous journey by being introduced to a young couple, Laura who is pregnant and her partner Kit who is heading off across the seas to witness an eclipse. For that is what this young couple do as a hobby, they are eclipse chasers and travel all over the world joing festivals and celebrations and watching eclipses. They've always travelled together but heavily pregnant Laura is staying home this time whilst Kit goes off. It's immediately apparent that something untoward has happened in their past to make them distrustful of strangers, paranoid and both trying to keep a very low profile.

As we whip back and forth over about 15 years, we discover that at one such festival the pair witnessed a shocking and unpleasant event in addition to the eclipse. They stumble across a degrading and violent sex attack and Lauras determination to ensure justice is brought to bear makes her act somewhat rashly and utter words that are set to haunt her.

Back and forth in time we go whilst the noose tightens, events grow more complicated. I began to mistrust folk, then evidence is presented that made me change my mind, again and again until I didn't know who I could believe any more.

This is an extremely clever psychological twister and illustrate that when everything hinges on what he said and what she said, just a few tiny words can make a vast difference to how we perceive things.

There are so many smoke screens and distractions I didn't see a couple of things coming til they smacked me in the face and even then when I thought smugly I'd sussed everything out along comes another curved ball for me to deftly duck.

Clever, crafty and conniving, a terrific heart stopping novel tackling taboo subjects and with some delightfully unreliable narrators and a final kick up the bum that has my cheeks still smarting!

The Blurb

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack. She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, it is not only the victim's life that is changed forever. Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear, and while Laura knows she was right to speak out, the events that follow have taught her that you can never see the whole picture: something, and someone, is always in the dark. 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Blog Tour - The Lucky ones - Mark Edwards - Review

BLOG TOUR - The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards

I'm thrilled to kick start the blog tour for this brilliant book with my review.

I'm fairly certain that if I start my review by saying Mark Edwards has a truly warped mind, he would take this as the huge compliment it is intended to be!

How he dreamt up this twisty thriller I can't imagine. He gets deep inside the malformed psyche of a devilish serial killer to take the reader on a vivid and skin crawling journey of terror.

Let me briefly introduce you to the authors work, whose page you can find here. He writes brilliantly different and terrifyingly unorthodox psychological thrillers, which have included Because She loves me, Follow you home and The Devils work. You can follow the links to read each of my reviews of his previous work and you just might come away with the idea that I'm already a big fan of this talented writer and you wouldn't be far wrong. So its always with a sense of worried anticipation that I open the pages of a new work by an author I've consistently praised - Like, "Wow I'm looking forward to this" Coupled with "OMG what if I really hate this one?"

I shouldn't have had any doubt, I really shouldn't. This cunning and capricious thriller enthralled me as much as his previous novels have.

Meet Ben Holland, you can probably relate quite well to him, he's just an ordinary bloke, a newly single Father of an eleven year son and things just never seem to go quite right for him. We've all had that feeling, right? That if only things could improve a little, life would be loads better? But they never seem to, they only seem to get worse.

Of course his marriage breaking down was probably the catalyst for Ben, finding your wife in your own home shagging another bloke is just never going to have a happy ending. Ben needs a clean break so he takes himself and his beloved boy Ollie away from city life and back to the sleepy Shropshire village of Ben's childhood. Only things are never quite the same when we try to go back are they? He moves into a rented house and ends up with the neighbours from hell. His attempts at freelance work don't take off as hoped, he has money worries, his Mum is terminally ill, he no longer has a soulmate and he's lonely, his relationship with Ollie seems to be floundering, he feels as though his life has, quite frankly, turned to shit.

But things are about to suddenly improve! Yayy, Ben IS one of the lucky ones after all.

Gradually his problems disappear, one by one. The turning point is finding work, he is so lucky to be offered some well paid freelance work that gives him the chance to feel in control of his life again. Then his noisy and aggressive neighbours from hell are no longer his neighbours and things are gradually and subtly looking up for him.

But maybe it's not all down to karma. Perhaps "not so divine" intervention is taking place. It's almost as though a guardian angle is watching over him. Well someone certainly is!

Meanwhile police investigator Imogen Evans is transferred from the Met to, usually tranquil, Shropshire tasked with finding a warped serial killer who is targetting seemingly random victims.

As Imogens case develops and Ben's life improves we are treated to glimpses of a warped mind at work and it becomes evident that Ben is on the radar of something dangerous and deadly and things speed up, so much that I was flicking the pages so fast they nearly caught fire.

This terrifying and gripping story is the perfect blend of gritty crime thriller and psychological chiller to delight readers of both genres. Read it, love it, but pray that you're not one of "The Lucky Ones".

The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards is published by Thomas & Mercer on 15 June 2017 as an £8.99 paperback original.

The Blurb

It was the happiest day of her life. Little did she know it was also the last.

When a woman’s body is found in the grounds of a ruined priory, Detective Imogen Evans realises she is dealing with a serial killer—a killer whose victims appear to die in a state of bliss, eyes open, smiles forever frozen on their faces.

A few miles away, single dad Ben Hofland believes his fortunes are changing at last. Forced to move back to the sleepy village where he grew up following the breakdown of his marriage, Ben finally finds work. What’s more, the bullies who have been terrorising his son, Ollie, disappear. For the first time in months, Ben feels lucky.

But he is unaware that someone is watching him and Ollie. Someone who wants nothing but happiness for Ben.

Happiness…and death.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Exquisite - Sarah Stovell - Review and Blog tour

Exquisite – Sarah Stovell – Review and Blog tour

I’m so chuffed (do people still SAY chuffed these days?) to be part of the blog tour for this truly exquisite book!

Certain to appeal to all keen readers and budding writers because its two lead characters are both authors, and absolutely guaranteed to enthrall those discerning folk who do pick it up and read it  owing to the wonderfully sublime writing and clever characterization within the pages.

Bo is the first woman we meet. In her forties, she is already a successful, popular, published author with a string of books to her credit. Living in the tranquil and idyllic Lake district with her older husband and their two daughters, she is self-assuredly living the dream every fledgling writer fantasizes about. Every now and then she holds a creative writing course to help new talent emerge.

Isn’t she just the perfect role model for a struggling, younger, would be author to admire?
That emerging writer turns out to be Alice. She hasn’t yet had the breaks Bo had, she is stuck in a dead end job, living in a grotty Brighton flat shackled to a kind but feckless, would be artist, boyfriend, whose talents as a painter are obscured by a haze of drugs and alcohol as he fritters his life and parties his days away.

When the two women, both so very different but with a strong shared passion for writing, meet, a spark ignites between the two and they seem destined to become unlikely but inevitable best friends. Something smoulders from that spark and the conflagration which follows is sure to mean someone will get burnt, but who?

As we discover snippets of both womens pasts, it’s clear they are both damaged goods, with a theme of failed Mother/ daughter relationships blighting both their pasts, yet this is something else which binds them ever closer. 

The storyline is sinuous, weaving gently around the reader then tightening its grip. I was lulled into a sense of security then gradually realized everything wasn’t as it first appears to be and there is something pretty sinister going on, which in turn scared me, made me angry and then made me wonder if I’d misinterpreted everything! 

As the story of this toxic relationship develops it’s clear that someone is manipulative and can’t be fully trusted and my sympathies veered between Bo and Alice, although I found I related much more closely to one than the other. Which one will YOU empathize with I wonder?

The story is narrated first by one woman, then the other and at the outset it seemed as though I was reading the same chapters twice as events are told by Alice then Bo, until suddenly tiny discrepancies creep in and its grows clearer that one of these voices is somewhat unreliable …. and then the shit hits the fan … and the OMG moments become almost too much to bear!

A stunning and immaculately fragmented tale of twisted perfection.

The Blurb....

Bo Luxton has it all—a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops. Or does it? Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Review - The Darkest Lies - Barbara Copperthwaite

My Review

Another terrific twisty tale from the writer who is becoming my go to author when I want to be certain of a damn good chilling read and a guaranteed shiver down my spine.

A different take on the psychological thriller with two unique viewpoints and so many smokescreens to blind me to the truth I could smell the smoke on my clothes.

Melanie waves goodbye to her young teenage daughter Beth one evening as she heads to her best friends house, little knowing that a living nightmare is about to begin and the next time she holds her daughters hand she will be in a coma, following a brutal attack which left Beth for dead lying in the dark and lonely fenland of Lincolnshire. Why on earth was she even there at the dead of night? 

There are so many mysteries surrounding this crime its almost difficult to keep track of them but the authors skill makes the story flow so deliciously you hardly notice you’re being sucked deep into the story until you’re so wrapped up in it, it feels as though you’re living it.

The remote watery location of the Lincolnshire fens is full of atmospheric description this is where Beth has birdwatched and enjoyed the scenery all of her young life. It soon becomes evident that everyone, but EVERYONE in this close knit community has secrets. In a series of flashbacks it’s immediately apparent that Beth has been hiding something. Then we hear Melanies voice as she speaks to her unconscious daughter and watch her crumble and stumble towards self destruction in her desperation and grief.

There is husband and Father, Jacob, what is he hiding? Many, many characters, childhood friends and neighbours and amongst them there is nobody Mel feels she can really trust, she begins to harbour suspicions as she takes on a quest to uncover her daughters attacker and unwittingly uncovers a whole can of squirmy worms 

as she jumps to conclusions, lets her grief blur her judgement and make ill advised rash decisions.

Threaded through the book is a dark voice, an unnamed nasty character, who keeps piping up and you just know they have more to hide than anyone but you don’t know who – or even why!

The author delves deeply inside the mind of a grieving, angry and confused mother and takes us on a journey we never want to go on! And surprises the reader, over and over again and just when you think you’ve had that OMG moment, along comes another!

A wonderful thrilling read, very original and different, exciting and scary.

I recently took part in the blog tour for this fab book and you can read the first chapter here.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Book Review - Broken Branches - M. Johnathan Lee

Review - Broken Branches M. Jonathan Lee

This is a sinister psychological chiller with an eerie creeping sense of stomach turning unease.

I thought it was going to be your traditional "couple buys spooky old house" story but it goes somewhat deeper than that.

We certainly have a young family, living in a creepy old cottage known as Cobweb cottage, overlooked for centuries by a huge old tree. Ian and his wife Rachel with their little boy Harry moved into the home owned by Ians family for generations, following a family tragedy.

It soon becomes clear that the tragedy which brought them here is not the only bad thing that's happened, but quite where the rot began is yet to be uncovered.

Ian and Rachel are barely speaking any more. His work from home is beginning to suffer and his days are structured around waiting for his beloved son's return from nursery and the energy and love he injects into this rather glum and morose household and his rather frantic and disorganised, desperate research into his family history and attempts to uncover what is behind rumours of a curse.

Things are increasingly disjointed, Ian's actions grow ever more hectic and the couples relationship falters and all the time it's very clear there is an underlying factor we are as yet unaware of. Is Ian losing his mind? or is Rachel?

Are the broken branches the threads of his past woven into his family tree or are they the actual branches of the tree which overshadows all events in this creepy old cottage? Or are they perhaps the threads of insanity threatening to overwhelm Ians mind? You'll have to read this book to find out.

There isn't much light in this book, like the branches of the oppressive tree which shadows Cobweb cottage, it is dark and destructive and peppered with grief and tragedy.

It is sad and shocking and when I stumbled upon one concealed truth which left me reeling, close to the ending I thought that was what had been lying in wait to shock me, then the author throws one final curved ball on to the playing field and blew my head to bits! A gripping, slow burning, shocker which left me with a lump in my throat.

Find out more about the book here

The Blurb

'Family curses don't exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don't think so.'

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

Blog tour The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker a #Randomthings #BlogTour

Blog tour The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker a #Randomthings #BlogTour Hello blog readers and book lovers. Today I am joining in t...