Stacking Shelves: 18th November, 2017

STSsmallOnce again, I’m joining in with Tynga at Tynga’s Reviews and Marlene of Reading Reality for Stacking Shelves, where you share the real and virtual books you have added to your shelves in the last week.

Over the last fee weeks, I have been working really hard to catch up on my reviews of ARCs, which I have finally done.  I have nothing overdue (yay!).  Which meant I felt perfectly justified in requested more books from Netgalley this week… 

The Birthday Girl by Sue Fortin

imageThe Birthday Girl is one of those books that is hard to review because, once you get past the initial idea, there are too many secrets and too many twists and turns – making the risk of spoilers just too great.

So, what can I tell you about it? It starts with an invite, three friends (Carys, Zoe, and Andrea) being invited by a fourth (Joanne) to go away from the weekend to celebrate Joanne’s 40th birthday; as it’s Carys’ too, they can celebrate that as well.

What could sound better? Well, for Carys, pretty much anything as she and Joanne aren’t on the best of terms – though it isn’t clear why at first – and neither, it turns out are Joanne and Andrea. In fact, Zoe, is the only one who seems to be getting along with everyone and excited for the weekend. 

Lie to Me by J. T. Ellison

Lie to MeWhen Ethan Montclair wakes up one morning to find a note from his wife Sutton saying that she is leaving and for him not to look for her, he swings from disbelief to anger to fear – for her (she has been suffering from depression) and for him (what will people think?).

He calls round her friends then a lawyer before finally calling the police, who immediately start to question Ethan’s version of his supposedly perfect life – especially when Sutton’s friends suggest that things were not quite as good as they might have seemed.

As the questions start to mount up the lies start to unravelling.  The friends were right and Ethan slowly begins to reveal the truth – or at least his version of it.  And that is what makes this book so good.  Nothing is as it seems – no one is who them seem.  For a woman (me) who likes an unreliable narrator, this book is a perfect fit.

Tell Me No Lies by Lisa Hall

29603168

Don’t. Trust. Anyone.

It was supposed to be a fresh start.

A chance to forget the past and embrace the future.

But can you ever really start again?

Or does the past follow you wherever you go…

When Steph and her husband Mark move to their new house it’s also for a new start.  Pregnant with their second child they are trying to rebuild their marriage after a number of rocky years.  Steph had post-natal depression after the birth of her son, Henry, and Mark responded by having an affair.  Now he promises it is over and things will change.  Only Steph isn’t so sure, especially when Mark up and leaves her for months to work abroad.

Once he is gone, she is left alone with her increasingly negative thoughts and with only her two neighbours, Lila (who reminds her of her best friend living in New York) and Laurence (who she is more than a bit attracted to).  Both seem perfect, friendly, and want to be helpful.  And both seem to be around just when she needs them.

And she needs them a lot because not long after Mark leaves, bouquets of dead flowers start to arrive on her front step, leaving Steph in no doubt her past has caught up with her. The problem is no one else seems to believe her, especially as her behaviour becomes more erratic and she becomes more paranoid.  And that’s because it’s happened before, after Henry was born.

The problem for me was that no one believed her.  Not one person tried to help till the very last pages and when they did she turned them away. And when they didn’t believe her, she didn’t do anything about it but write in her diary.  She didn’t go to the police with her evidence.  Didn’t try to investigate.  Didn’t wonder why her neighbours were there just when she needed them.  And didn’t try to get away.  Half way through this book I wanted to shake Steph and tell her to wake up and see what was happening because to me, as a reader, it was obvious.  By the end I had given up.

I really wanted to like this book.  I’d read some great reviews.  They nearly all included comments about a surprise ending and, I suppose, for this style of book, it was different.  It did leave things open and left you wondering what would happen next.  I can actually see it making a great TV show with a cliff hanger to lead you into season two.  For me, though, it just didn’t do it for me.  I do think it was well written and the characters well drawn but I couldn’t suspend disbelief in the story long enough to really enjoy it.  A shame really but, in the end, whilst I liked this book I can’t say I loved it – sorry!

Emma

 

Witness by Caroline Mitchell

30637470To Rebecca it was a brave decision that led to her freedom from domestic abuse. To Solomon it was the ultimate betrayal.

It’s been ten years since Rebecca’s testimony saw Solomon locked away. Enough time for the nightmares to recede, the nerves to relax; enough time to rebuild her life and put the past behind her.

Then one day a phone rings in her bedroom—but it’s not her phone. Solomon has been in her home, and has a very simple message for her: for each of the ten years he has spent in jail, Rebecca must witness a crime. And, to make matters worse, she has to choose the victims.

Fail to respond and you get hurt. Talk to police and you die. Ready to play? You have sixty seconds to decide…

As the crimes grow more severe, the victims closer to home, Rebecca is forced to confront a past she had hoped was gone forever.

After reading some really good reviews for Caroline Mitchell’s last book I couldn’t resit picking up a review copy of her latest novel, due to be released next week.

Witness starts with a bang – a dark room, a terrified woman, and a dead man lying on the floor – and it doesn’t really stop until the final pages, where Solomon (who has just spent ten years in prison for murdering said man) tries to exact his final revenge on Rebecca (his one time fiancé and one time terrified woman).

It’s a clever story, a twist on the domestic thriller, with Solomon determined to make Rebecca (or Becky as she is now known) pay for putting him in prison.  His approach is ingenious.  She will be a witness again, but this time, a silent one to increasingly violent crimes inflicted on people she knows and cares about.  Determined to keep her family safe, and unware of her past, Becky goes along with his demands, convinced she can find a way out.

However, as the crimes continue and escalate that way out seems harder to find and Becky, who is still fragile despite the new life she has built for herself, gets drawn in and becomes increasingly erratic in her behaviour.  As she does, Solomon, who seems omnipotent and always one step ahead, becomes more vindictive.  Page by page the tension increased to the inevitable confrontation.

I found myself turning the pages at a pace, needing to know what happened next.  I also wanted to know how Becky would find a way out and just how far she would go.  Which is where I have to say I had a slight problem with the book.  I know Becky wanted to save her family but as the crimes become more vicious I also wanted her be a human being and maybe do more to save the victims.  It meant that I wasn’t sure I liked her…and I wasn’t sure at times if maybe she and Solomon didn’t deserve each other.

What saved her in my eyes was her diary entries, which gave an insight into her life with Solomon and the abuse she suffered and which interspersed chapters told by Rebecca (in the fist person) and describing Solomon’s actions (in the third person).  It made her future actions make sense.  It also made me really dislike Solomon.  It was a good way to tell their story then and now and develop them as characters.  A couple of secrets revealed during the diary were really good ones and I didn’t see them coming.

Unfortunately, I did guess the ending – the final twist in the tale – though not till the last third.  I always hate it when that happens as I feel I am reading just to prove myself right. However, here it meant my opinion on the characters changed again and left me feeling a little more ambiguous about both Becky and Solomon as a result.

It also changed my opinion of the book.  Till then, I’d probably say I liked it.  It was well written and, like I said, a clever idea in a genre I read a lot (and can be hard to be original in I think).  Because of the way I felt at the end, however, I’m ending by saying I liked it a lot – a recommended read.

Enjoy!

Emma

Note: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

The Exit by Helen Fitzgerald

22614273Some people love goodbyes…
23-year-old Catherine is mainly interested in Facebook and flirting, but she reluctantly takes a job at a local care home after her mother puts her foot down – and soon discovers that her new workplace contains many secrets. One of the residents at the home, 82-year-old Rose, is convinced that something sinister is going on in Room 7 and that her own life is under threat. But Rose has dementia – so what does she actually know, and who would believe her anyway? As Catherine starts investigating Rose’s allegations, terrible revelations surface about everyone involved. Can Catherine find out what’s really going on?

Reading more Helen Fitzgerald has been on my to do list ever since I read The Cry many moons ago – it was a book I really enjoyed.  Then I saw The Exit on the shelf on my local library and saw my chance to check off that to do list.  Cracking the spine, it all started really well and I found myself turning the pages, completely drawn in.

Catherine is a totally self-involved, self-centred twenty something.  I don’t remember much about being twenty (it was a long time ago!)  but I do remember that my thoughts, feelings, wants and desires were the centre of the universe and so it is here.  She tends to do what she wants, regardless of the consequences or the hurt she might cause and lives her life out on Facebook.

Saying that, she has a controlling mother who she is basically rebelling against in so many ways (mainly by being disorganised and disinterested in a career and life in general) and this goes a long way to explaining her behaviour so I found myself easily forgiving her as the story progressed.

Then I started to warm to her as she came to get to know Rose in the care home where she finds herself working and her initial instinct to do as little as possible, including helping the people she is being paid to help, is overtaken by her actually like them.  It happens slowly but it happens.

I also warmed to Rose, a clever, independent woman fighting against the effects of Dementia and trying to get heard – something she is finding impossible given her condition.  In fact, she’s not just trying, she’s desperate.  Something is wrong in the care home but no one will listen to her.  Catherine might be her last chance and the only way she seems able to tell what she knows is through drawing pictures no one else understands.

Which is when it all started to go a bit wrong for me.  Because as much as I liked both women, and thought they were very well drawn, I really struggled with just how slow on the uptake Catherine was, even when her own mother is affected.  Surely, I thought, you’ll figure out that Rose isn’t completely crazy now?  But she didn’t, believing everyone else instead.  There was one particular incident for me that I just couldn’t get my head round her ignoring.  And, whilst Catherine, seemed able to suspend belief that something bad was definitely happening I just couldn’t.

Unfortunately, it was that that put me off the book.  Which was a shame because until then I was really enjoying it.  I thought it was well written and a clever idea for a story.  It was also pretty dark, which I like in this type of book (which I think classes as a domestic noir / thriller), with some pretty twisted supporting characters.  There were some good twists and turns and plenty of red herrings.  If only I had skipped the offending chapter then this would have been a very different review.

As it was I was left disappointed. All wasn’t lost because of all the positives I’ve mentioned but it means I liked vs. loved this book.  Not sure it’s one I’ll be recommending – sorry!

Emma

 

 

 

The Mistake I Made by Paula Daly

 We all think we know who we are. What we’re capable of.

Roz is a single mother, a physiotherapist, a sister, a friend. She’s also desperate.

Her business has gone under, she’s crippled by debt and she’s just had to explain to her son why someone’s taken all their furniture away.

But now a stranger has made her an offer. For one night with her, he’ll pay enough to bring her back from the edge.

Roz has a choice to make.

I think this books should have been called the mistakes I made because, seriously, Roz makes a lot. Even for this genre, the domestic thriller, her bad choices and wrong decisions are off the charts. The woman seems to have no sense. When one of those decisions is to sleep with a man she barely knows for money, you know things can’t go well. And they don’t. Instead of making her life better, Roz’s life begins to spiral even further out of control. If I hadn’t of been reading and needed my hands to hold the book I’d have been hiding behind them, not wanting to watch.

That said, I still kind of liked Roz and wanted everything to work out for her in the end. Thats’s because nothing came from a bad place and all her decisions were to help her and her son survive. Paula Daly does a good job of drawing her sympathetically and letting you see inside her head, her thought processes. As a character, I found Roz well written and really detailed. The same wasn’t always true of the other characters and some were a little flat or two dimensional, especially the man offering the money.

For me, though, that was o.k. because it was only a little and the story still moved at quite a pace and there was plenty to distract me. There were lots of twists and turns in the books and moments of tension. What I really liked though was that the book didn’t go down the route of a big climax where people are trapped or chased or put in mortal danger. The ending was more subtle and layered, more morally vague, and I thought more real as a result. I think, reading goodreads, this has disappointed some people but I didn’t feel that way. I thought it was a nice change.

It’s why the book has stayed in my head since I finished it last week and why I would read more Paula Daly. I liked this one and would recommend it.

Enjoy!

Emma