Follow You Home by Mark Edwards

imageIt 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…

Where to start with Follow You Home – there are so many twists and turns it is hard to describe it without spoilers, which I always want to avoid.  It starts with a mid-30’s couple travelling across Europe and making the mistake of falling asleep on a train as they head into Romania.  This mistake leads to missing passports and their being thrown off the train into a dark night with no phone, no map, and no way of knowing where they are going. 

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne

34604719Eleanor, 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.

I am a big fan of ghost stories, where things go bump in the night and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and that is what The Upstairs Room promises with it’s tale of a young family and their lodger who move into a house that fills all but one of the adults with dread the moment they walk in the door. 

My Sister by Michelle Adams

51W0o7zGjYLTwo Sisters:

You don’t get to choose your family.

She thought she’d never go back home.

But there’s something in her sister’s voice she just can’t refuse.

And hasn’t it always been that way?

What her sister asks, she does . . .

When Irini gets a call from her sister Elle in the early hours of the morning to tell her their mother is dead, Irini isn’t sure what to do or how to respond.  It’s not like she knows her mother…she hasn’t seen or spent time with her since she was three year old and she’s now in her mid-30s.

She hasn’t spent much time with her sister either.  When they were little, they were separated.  Irini went to live with an aunt.  Elle stayed with their parents.  Why was never clear and, now, for Irini, it seems it might be getting too late to ask.  Spurred on by her boyfriend, she decides to attend the funeral, visiting her childhood home in Scotland at the same time to try and uncover the truth.

So far, so good in the interesting plot stakes.  This was a book I liked the sound of for just that and which hooked me in pretty quickly.  Unfortunately, it didn’t hold my attention as the story continued.  In part, it was the characters.  I really didn’t like Irini or Elle.  I found Irini confusing.  She said one thing, did another.  I get that this was supposed to be because she was under Elle’s thrall but I couldn’t see what that was myself.

Irini talks about how charming her sister is but I never saw it.  I saw a woman with issues, who was demanding and controlling and who gets her way because people are scared of her.  I also saw a damaged woman that nobody had ever seemingly taken the time to help.  This is a hard one for me because a bit part of the plot twists here were based on Elle being mentally ill.

I know I read a lot of novels where there is a character that could be described as a psychopath or a sociopath but when a characters behaviour is down to what is basically stated is a mental health condition I start to feel uncomfortable.  I work in the mental health field and this just has stigma written all over it.  I have to say, I don’t think this is Michelle Adam’s intention I think it was just poorly thought out from that perspective.

Perhaps if it had been handled in a different way I would have felt more comfortable reading as the book went on but I just didn’t.  I also didn’t quite get some of the plot twists.  Was Elle evil with a master plot or a disturbed young woman?  And was their a plot at all against Irini?  At times it felt there was, at others not, and in the end I was left confused and slightly disappointed in the outcome.

For me, the book needed to go all out and didn’t.  That said, this is a debut so maybe I shouldn’t be as harsh.  It wasn’t all bad, with a good first third before I started to flag and at times I could see a flash of what could be something great.  I don’t know enough about editing to say whether that was at play here but in my head this could have been tightened up and potentially shone.

All in all, then, I liked it, just not a lot – though from the reviews on goodreads I am in the minority here so don’t let me put you off (you can read the first chapter free on Amazon here if you wanted to see what you think).

Emma x

liked-it-a-little

Source: Publisher
Publisher: Headline
Publication Date: 20th April, 2017
Format: ebook
Pages: 384
Genre: mystery / crime
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The People at Number Nine by Felicity Everett

32600066Have you met them yet, the new couple?

When Gav and Lou move into the house next door, Sara spends days plucking up courage to say hello. The neighbours are glamorous, chaotic and just a little eccentric. They make the rest of Sara’s street seem dull by comparison.

When the hand of friendship is extended, Sara is delighted and flattered. Incredibly, Gav and Lou seem to see something in Sara and Neil that they admire too. In no time at all, the two couples are soulmates, sharing suppers, bottles of red wine and childcare, laughing and trading stories and secrets late into the night in one another’s houses.

And the more time Sara spends with Gav and Lou, the more she longs to make changes in her own life. But those changes will come at a price. Soon Gav and Lou will be asking things they’ve no right to ask of their neighbours, with shattering consequences for all of them…

I think we’ve probably all met people like Gav and Lou in our lives, even if they aren’t our neighbours, couples who just put us and our relationship to shame because of their vibrancy.  I know I have, being caught in their glow for a while and felt wonderful and worthless at the same time.  Or at least, I did in my younger days. Haven’t been burnt before I am more wary of the perfect now but still, you never know if it could happen again.

Which makes me very sympathetic to Sara at the beginning of this and not surprised she falls into Lou’s orbit and into Lou’s world without giving it much thought.  Lou is attractive and flaky, passed off as creative, as is her husband Gav, an artist who lives in his own world a lot of the time.  For them, housework is the last thing on the list of life to dos, as is childcare – which Sara starts to pick up so they can be free to create.

If it sounds like a one-sided relationship, it is, right from the start.  You as a reader can see it – and possibly her husband Neil too – but Sara can’t.  All she sees are her own imperfections, which she wants to fix, and the boring-ness of her own life, which she tries to fix too.  Along the way, she sheds her clothes for newer, free-er, ones, her friends for newer, hipper, ones and seems on the way to shedding her husband too before it all starts crashing down on her.

To see the crash is painful because you know it’s coming but there is also a frustration here for me, something which started about halfway through the book and didn’t quite leave me.  The first is why does it take her so long to realise that Lou and Gav aren’t perfect; the second is why on earth doesn’t her husband tell her before it’s all too late and lives are about to be destroyed?  I really did just want to give Neil a good shake.

For me, and when I started reading the book, I think I thought he would be more of a catalyst – the rub that created the tension – but he wasn’t.  He went along, almost blindly it seemed.  As you only hear Sara’s voice, it’s hard to know his thoughts, but this is how she describes him.  Which brings me to the final frustration.  This was all in Sara’s voice, which became  bit repetitive for me and meant I had one view point of everyone’s behaviours.

She painted a picture of Gav and Lou that was great, good, then pretty awful but what was true?  Were they really taking the mick or were they simply oblivious?  I couldn’t decide how much they were manipulating Sara and how much she was just unhappy and needing a change.  Her level of self-awareness wasn’t great and so, as a result, neither was mine.

Frustrations aside, there are pluses to this book. The writing is good, building the tension in the first half (though this does fall off), as is the idea.  There were twists and turns that kept me reading and I can picture the suburban scene and the life people are living there and have no wonder they may want a change.  I do wish it had been better executed, that that tension had stayed with me and the characters better developed.  All in all, though, it didn’t wow me.  I liked it but didn’t love it.  Sorry!

Emma x

liked-it-a-little

Source: Library
Publisher: HQ
Publication Date: 6th April, 2017
Format: ebook
Pages: 320
Genre: contemporary fiction
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

 

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

29938032Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full-blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life.

Soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own—curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey’s place, yet he’s denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves–until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment and accidentally learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? What about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn’t sure. Jet-lagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself, so how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met?

After reading The Kind Worth Killing last year, which was my first book by Peter Swanson and one of my favourite of 2016, I set myself a mini-challenge for 2017 – of reading at least one more of his books.  As it was due out, I decided Her Every Fear would be the one and was rather excited to finally pick it up a couple of weeks ago.

The description above (from Goodreads) is rather long and goes a long way to explaining the story, so I won’t repeat it here and maybe spend a little time instead talking about how the book is written and the characters.  It starts with Kate’s story, her anxiety as she moves to Boston and her thoughts / feelings as she settles in to the apartment of a cousin she’s never met.  Walking around the strange flat, opening drawers, skimming across shelves, she can’t get a feeling for him at all, immediately setting her to wonder and pushing her imagination into overdrive.

And she does have an imagination, one that sees danger everywhere.  Just seeing a friend knock on her neighbours door convinces her that neighbour is dead, and when she’s proved right, she spirals.  Her behaviour, which seems erratic from the moment you meet her, becomes more so as she starts to lock herself away from a city she hasn’t even had time to explore and begins to suspect her neighbours and he cousin.  She feels claustrophobic and so did I.

The fist third of the book is Kate’s story and it was easy to fall into.  I can’t say I liked Kate (I didn’t) but I understood some of her behaviours as her past was revealed.  Then it jumps to Corbin, her cousin. I have to say, I found the switch to Corbin’s voice jarring after spending so long with Kate and it pulled me out of the story a bit…I’m not sure I ever really got back into it.

You hear about Corbin’s arrival in London but not much more before you move back over a decade to when he was a student, also in London, and a series of events that set his life on a trajectory he couldn’t have imagined and definitely didn’t want.  His past doesn’t paint him in a good light and does lead you to question whether he is Audrey’s killer.  In Corbin, I found another unlikeable character…leaving me struggling to connect with the book.

Strangely, I did quite like Alan, whose voice you hear through chapters interspersed throughout the book.  He’s an odd one and definitely suspect.  But there was something about him that drew me to him and made me warm to him, hoping he wasn’t the killer.  There is another voice too (not saying whose – spoilers), which sheds more light on Corbin’s story and helps bring everything to a conclusion.

I have to say, for me, that (the conclusion) couldn’t come soon enough because I was tired.  The book felt long. The story – for me – dragged for the second half and the characters – as mentioned above – just didn’t do it for me.  Their fates, I felt blah about and this made me sad.

I so wanted to like this book and, no matter how many times I think back to it, I have to say I just didn’t.  It wasn’t badly written and the story had some great twists but not caring about the characters meant that even these weren’t enough to save it for me.  I know from other reviews I am in the minority here but it just wasn’t for me  – I liked it, but only a little!

Sorry!

Emma

liked-it-a-little

Source: Library
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: 10th January, 2017
Pages: 353
Format: ebook
Genre: crime, mystery
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lauras by Sara Taylor

32969152I didn’t realise my mother was a person until I was thirteen years old and she pulled me out of bed, put me in the back of her car, and we left home and my dad with no explanations. I thought that Ma was all that she was and all that she had ever wanted to be. I was wrong. As we made our way from Virginia to California, returning to the places where she’d lived as a child in foster care and as a teenager on the run, repaying debts and keeping promises, I learned who she was in her life-before-me and the secrets she had kept even from herself. But when life on the road began to feel normal I couldn’t forget the home we’d left behind, couldn’t deny that, just like my mother, I too had unfinished business.

When Alex is bundled into the car in the middle of the night, it’s without warning – or so she feels.  Maybe, though, it had been coming a while.  Her parent argued – loud and often – and her mother had a tendency to disappear for days on end, only to the return without explanation.  So, when they set off together this time, Alex is confused but also a little excited, figuring out that – at last – she will get to understand where her mother goes and what she does when she’s gone.

I’m not sure I ever go the answer to that but, if what the two did over the course of two-ish years on the road, hiding from their father, it was basically live out of a car or cheap motels and look up people they once new.  If I sound a bit dismissive, I’m sorry but – after 300 or so pages it is how I felt.

I know in between there were some pretty interesting episodes (bit of a spoiler here but helping a young girl escape her religious family, staring an abusive ex-boyfriend down in the street and fulfilling long-ago made promises to now dead friends).  I really enjoyed these, found the people I met here interesting and different and myself fully involved.  But in between there was a lot of time on the road, a lot of eating gas station snacks and a lot of Ma smoking and not telling Alex much.

Somewhere in here was a story about Alex’s sexuality – or lack of it – and they didn’t want to be known by a gender and I wish this has been more front and centre and really explored.  This book is about journey’s – Ma’s journey to fulfil promises and Alex’s to understand Ma but it’s also his/her journey to understand themselves…I just didn’t think this was done as well as it could have been.  At the risk of sounding cynical it felt like a plotting device rather than a real part of the character and ths story.

All put together, for me, it felt messy.  I wanted so much more and I feel like Sara Taylor can write well enough to deliver that, she was maybe just trying to cover too much ground and say too many things.

It wasn’t all bad (though I realise reading back that my frustration is coming through) – like I said the things that happened when they arrived at each destination were absorbing and Taylor’s writing and characterisation at these points drew me in.  And the idea was one I loved, one I wanted to like more than I eventually did.  It’s a shame as I started with such high hopes but in the end, this was a book I liked a little not a lot.

Sorry!

Emma

liked-it-a-little

Source: Netgalley
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: 6th April, 2017 (paperback)
Pages: 292
Format: ebook
Genre: contemporary fictionAmazon US
Buy now: Amazon UK / Amazon US

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Days Gone by Randall Silvis

30014133Thomas Huston, a beloved professor and bestselling author, is something of a local hero in the small Pennsylvania college town where he lives and teaches. So when Huston’s wife and children are found brutally murdered in their home, the community reacts with shock and anger. Huston has also mysteriously disappeared, and suddenly, the town celebrity is suspect number one.

Sergeant Ryan DeMarco has secrets of his own, but he can’t believe that a man he admired, a man he had considered a friend, could be capable of such a crime. Hoping to glean clues about Huston’s mind-set, DeMarco delves into the professor’s notes on his novel-in-progress. Soon, DeMarco doesn’t know who to trust—and the more he uncovers about Huston’s secret life, the more treacherous his search becomes.

Two Days Gone is one of those books that looks like it would be perfect for me on paper.  It starts with a brutal murder – always a good sign – and then goes straight onto the manhunt for the supposed perpetrator, the husband and father of the murder victims.  I say supposed because it isn’t clear he (Thomas Huston) is the killer and those who know him well say it isn’t in his character to have behaved in such a way.

Tracking him down is a detective that both knows and admires him, considers him as close to a friend as he has.  And that is saying something because DeMarco doesn’t have any friends, or family for that matter.  He is a man who lives alone and works alone and seems to do everything in his power to make people dislike him.  In Thomas though he had seen a kindred spirit, someone who maybe wasn’t as happy on the outside as he appeared.

This feeling seems to make it easy for DeMarco to decide Huston has killed his family, at least until the evidence stops adding up and he starts finding people lying to him everywhere he turns.  Determined to find the truth, he digs deeper into Huston’s life than he might otherwise, discovering secrets about his friend and author and also truths about himself.  It isn’t always pretty and I found both DeMarco and Huston hard to like as a result.

This dislike meant that I couldn’t root for either of them.  I do struggle when I can’t connect to characters and this was definitely the case here.  Their fates, which as a reader I should have been invested in, didn’t really mean much to me and,  as a result, I found I didn’t much care for the outcome of the story.  This is a shame and it wasn’t the case all the way through.  Initially, I was drawn in.  Both men have tragedy in their pasts and this made them vulnerable, characters I should feel for.

However, as the book went on I became frustrated with their behaviour.  I understood Thomas’ confusion at the beginning but not his actions at the end.  Silvas does his best to explain it but for me it didn’t fit with the picture of Thomas he had drawn.  I also didn’t understand DeMarco.  I got why he was angry, why he was a loner, but I didn’t understand why he didn’t act at certain points in the investigation, other than to keep the plot moving forward.

For me, it was the final third that left me disengaged.  Up until then, the story had alternated between DeMarco and Huston, with chapters focusing on Huston’s state of mind as he tried to make sense of what had happened.  It meant the plot slowly unfolded and there were twists and turns to keep me interested and turning pages.  Then Huston disappeared apart from as part of DeMarco’s story and the detective’s story was the only one I was reading.

I kept expecting to hear from Huston again and when I didn’t I felt disappointed.  The same was true of the ending which, for me, didn’t ring true.  Like I said earlier, this was a shame but for me this was a book that started well, showed promise but didn’t deliver.  I liked it but only a little – sorry!

Emma

liked-it-a-little

Source: NetGalley
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: 10th January, 2017
Pages: 400
Genre: Mystery, Crime
Format: eBook (Kindle)

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

 

The Missing by Caroline Eriksson

32875064An ordinary outing takes Greta, Alex, and four-year-old Smilla across Sweden’s mythical Lake Malice to a tiny, isolated island. While father and daughter tramp into the trees, Greta stays behind in the boat, lulled into a reverie by the misty, moody lake…only later to discover that the two haven’t returned. Her frantic search proves futile. They’ve disappeared without a trace.

Greta struggles to understand their eerie vanishing. She desperately needs to call Alex, to be reassured that Smilla is safe, or contact the police. But now her cell phone is missing too. Back at her cottage, she finds it hidden away under the bedsheets. Had she done that? Or had someone else been in the cottage? But who, and why?

As Greta struggles to put the pieces together, she fears that her past has come back to torment her, or she’s finally lost her grip on reality…

The Missing is one of those books that seems to have been written just for me with the mysterious disappearance of a father and daughter and the woman who loves them desperately trying to figure out what has happened to them, at the same time as holding onto her sanity.  Because she has secrets, lots of them it turns out, which mean going to the police or calling anyone else for help doesn’t feel like an option.

It starts innocently enough, a trip across the lake to an island that locals call Malice because legend has it people disappear from it never to be seen again.  Just like Alex and Smilla.  Greta, though, isn’t from the area.  She doesn’t take it seriously.  Until she wakes up from a nap and knows instantly that they aren’t there.  Days of frantic searching lead to nothing but a run in with a gang of youths who are more than a little threatening and who seem to think Greta has stolen from them.

Left on her own in a remote cabin, Greta starts to see things in the water, in reflections in mirrors and windows, and in the eyes of the few people she comes across.  She loses track of time and what is real and what isn’t.  The past, the things she has lived through, the secrets she has kept, all seem to come flooding in.  As they do, tensions build and Greta’s behaviour becomes more and more erratic.

Along the way, I found I had great sympathy for Greta, though I didn’t necessarily warm to her.  She has had a hard life and one that seemed almost destined for her to end up where and how she was.  There was just something missing for me.  I wanted to feel more strongly about her.  Instead, I felt like an outsider looking in. It meant that, even though the book was well written and well translated with lots of twists and turns I found myself easily distracted from it. For me, it wasn’t a page-turner. Though I didn’t dislike it, I just wasn’t connected. A shame but this one is a like not a love review.

Emma

liked-it-a-little

Source: Purchased
Publisher: Amazon Crossing
Publication Date: 1st January, 2017
Pages: 201
Format: eBook (Kindle)