The Last Days of Summer by Vanessa Ronan

She can forgive. They can’t forget.

After ten years in the Huntsville State Penitentiary, Jasper Curtis returns home to live with his sister and her two daughters. Lizzie does not know who she’s letting into her home: the brother she grew up loving or the monster he became.

Teenage Katie distrusts this strange man in their home but eleven-year-old Joanne is just intrigued by her new uncle.

Jasper says he’s all done with trouble, but in a forgotten prairie town that knows no forgiveness, it does not take long for trouble to arrive at their door.

I am not 100% sure what I expected when I picked up my copy of The Last Days of Summer because it’s setting isn’t one that I normally go for but the story appealed and I wanted to take a bit of a step outside of my comfort zone.  What I ended up with was a beautifully written story that had me caring about the central characters, including Jasper, a man I shouldn’t have liked at all given his past.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

28187230Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. At first, Lo’s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for—and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong…

I have waited quite a while to read The Woman in Cabin 10. Despite having loved Ruth Ware’s debut (In A Dark Dark Wood), I was anxious.  Anxious that this wouldn’t live up to the expectations I already had of her as an author able to craft a story that kept me on the edge of my seat from the opening paragraph to the final sentence.

Thankfully, my fears were unfounded (though I am refusing to kick myself for waiting so long to pick this book up, regret never getting me anywhere).  The Woman in Cabin 10 is a cracking read.  It opens strongly, with a break in at Lo’s flat that sounds more than a bit terrifying and means by the time she gets to the ship, she is tired, strung out and just a little (o.k. a lot) on edge.

Her behaviour is unpredictable, fuelled as it is by lack of sleep, too much alcohol and anxiety (something she is already on medication for).  It doesn’t make her the most likeable character, even if you understand her behaviours, and it definitely makes her an unreliable one.  It is no wonder people don’t believe her, or take her seriously, when she says someone has been murdered on the first night of the cruise or that that same murderer is now after her.

As a reader, I have to say I wasn’t too sure myself.  Had I been on board I may have taken the same tack as the head of security or other passengers and asked her how much was down to drink and drugs.  I doubt I would have scoured the ship or locked people in their cabins until land was reached.  Ware does a great job in Lo of building a character that you just don’t quite believe, even if you want to.  And then the question is why would the other passengers want to when she hasn’t done a lot to win them over.

At first, I found Lo quite irritating.  Then, I started to realise that was possibly the point.  She isn’t that likeable and she isn’t that believable.  Which means she is on her own.  She has to overcome her demons, her insecurities in order to prove that she is right and, in the end, survive.  So, it’s not just about saving the mystery woman in cabin 10.  It’s about saving herself too and moving on with a life that is, quite frankly, stuck and going nowhere because of her fears and insecurities.

With that lightbulb moment (I do occasionally have them) it felt like all was forgiven with Lo and I started to enjoy her character and root for her.  It’s a good thing too as she is not only the main character, it’s her voice you hear throughout – not liking it would have mean not liking the book.  Other passengers are slightly stereotypical – handsome photographer, wealthy man of industry, bitchy journalist, plus an ex-boyfriend (which I did find a bit odd given where they were) – and not as well rounded as I might have liked.

They are, really, a means to an end.  Characters that Lo can play off and which provide an ideal cast of potential suspects in a very Miss Marple kind of way – was it the beautiful model with the broken champagne flute in the spa or the Bear Grylls wanna be with the carving knife in the library?

Because of this guess who game I started playing, the stereotypes didn’t bother me. In fact, I enjoyed them and I enjoyed the book.  It was well written, with great pace and it was fun.  For all those reasons I liked it a lot – a recommended read!

Enjoy!

Emma

liked-it-a-lot

Source: Library
Publisher: Vintage Digital
Publication Date: 30th June, 2016
Pages: 352
Format: ebook
Genre: crime fiction
Buy now: Amazon UK / Amazon US

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas

31627176The old Victorian pier was once a thing of beauty. It’s also where twenty-one-year-old Sophie Collier vanished eighteen years ago.

Francesca has spent the last twenty years haunted by the disappearance of her best friend. But when she receives a phone call from Sophie’s brother saying that a body has been found, she knows she can’t keep hiding from what happened. With her own secrets to keep, Francesca doesn’t relish the idea of digging up the past or returning to Oldcliffe. But it is time to go back to where she grew up, and it looks like she isn’t the only one there hiding truths.

When Francesca (or Frankie as she was known as a teen) gets a call from the brother of her long lost best friend, she feels like a long-asked question has been answered.  No one ever knew exactly what happened to Sophie and her disappearance has left a whole it many people’s lives, including Frankie’s.

When the brother, Daniel, then asks her to come back to their home town to be with him when he identifies the remains, however, she pauses.  Going home is something she really doesn’t want to do – is scared to do – because, as best friends do, she and Sophie shared everything including secrets neither every wanted revealed.

Still, she goes, unable to stop herself in the end.  Whether this is to find closure or whether it is to make sure the secrets she and Sophie buried stay that way is unclear.  What does become clear pretty quickly though, with messages left on her mat and strangers following her, is that someone already knows and – it seems – they want to make Frankie pay.

With each letter, each footstep she hears behind her, Frankie starts to unravel.  And so does her story, which she finds herself reliving and retelling to an imaginary Sophie.  At the same time, through diary entries, we hear Sophie’s version of events.  Both are different and start leading to what I thought was a clever twist at the end and a great conclusion to the story.

When I read Claire Douglas’ debut novel, The Sisters, earlier this year I said that I felt I wasn’t reading something fully formed and the final reveal was one I had seen coming from pretty much the beginning of the book.  I have to say that neither are the case here.

This is a much more confident and well-rounded book and the characters are all well-formed and well-written.  The twists and turns are less predictable and the ending was one I hadn’t figured out until the final chapters when there seemed nowhere else for the story to go.  I was left a very happy bunny and with a book I liked a lot.  A recommended read.

Enjoy!

Emma

 

Her Final Breath by Robert Dugoni

24937499Homicide detective Tracy Crosswhite has returned to the police force after the sensational retrial of her sister’s killer. Still scarred from that ordeal, Tracy is pulled into an investigation that threatens to end her career, if not her life.

A serial killer known as the Cowboy is killing young women in cheap motels in North Seattle. Even after a stalker leaves a menacing message for Crosswhite, suggesting the killer or a copycat could be targeting her personally, she is charged with bringing the murderer to justice. With clues scarce and more victims dying, Tracy realizes the key to solving the murders may lie in a decade-old homicide investigation that others, including her captain, Johnny Nolasco, would prefer to keep buried. With the Cowboy on the hunt, can Tracy find the evidence to stop him, or will she become his next victim?

Returning to her role as Homicide Detective for Seattle PD after taking time off to search for her sister’s killer, Tracy finds herself faced with the death of another young woman, this time a dancer in a local gentleman’s club.  The woman, found hog-tied in a motel room and forced to strangle herself, has died a horrible death…one that exactly matches that of another dancer in another motel room.

It was a case Tracy was working on before her sister’s remains were found, one that her captain decided was a cold case and has filed away.  Now it seems he was wrong, and Tracy has a serial killer on her hands, a cold, calculating one that means the women essentially kill themselves whilst he (or she) watches.  She might also have the serial killer after her, putting her life in danger.

I really liked Tracy.  She’s a good cop, cares for her team (who like her too) and her boyfriend, Dan.  I like that she is vulnerable, her baggage (the death of her sister and subsequent relationship with her parents) making her that way, but isn’t hard or mean – something you often see in damaged female detectives.  As a character she is well-rounded and well-developed, having grown since the last book.

I also liked the plot, including that it wasn’t gory.  It was cleverly done, with lots of twists and turns and dead ends.  And if that isn’t bad enough there are the roadblocks put in the way by the captain, who – unlike Tracy – isn’t that nice, especially when one of his old cases starts to come under scrutiny.  I didn’t like Nolasco but he was a good foil to Tracy and added to the tension as more dead bodies turned up.

And, finally, I liked the writing.  Robert Dugoni is really good at setting a scene and developing characters, who have all grown since the first book and become much more real.  I was completely drawn in from the first few pages and didn’t want to put the book down.   I could feel the cold, grey, Seattle days and the seediness of the streets.   In fact, I was slightly disappointed when it was over and can’t wait to read the next book in the series.  Really, really, liked this one.

Enjoy!

Emma

p.s you might also enjoy Dugoni’s first Tracy Crosswhite novel – My Sister’s Grave

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Pages:
426 (kindle)
Published on:
15th September, 2015
Source: purchased

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

The story so far… 

Contains spoilers

After the death of his grandfather, sixteen year old Jacob visits a remote Welsh island where his grandfather lived as a boy. There, he discovers the orphanage is just as his grandfather had left it, right down to the peculiar children who lived there. 

Peculiar children are ones with skills, abilities or physical quirks that set them outside the normal world.  They can make fire with their hands, float in the air, have bees living inside them or, in Jacob’s case, can see Hollows – creatures whose only mission in life is to find and kill peculiars (of which he has discovered he’s one). 

To avoid detection, peculiar children live in loops, days frozen in time, which they relive again and again, never aging unless  they leave the loop – in which case they die within days. The orphanage was in a loop when Jacob finds it. I say was because not long after he arrives, Hollows attack and kidnap the head of the orphanage  – Miss Peregrine.  It is one of many attacks throughout peculiar dorm and, before long, Jacob and the other children are on the run and racing against time to find Miss Peregrine and a loop that can stop them dying. 

What happens next

From goodreads

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience. An army of deadly monsters. An epic battle for the future of peculiardom.

What do I think…

So I’ve been a big fan of this series, as my other reviews show, and that hasn’t changed with this book. It’s well written, has great vintage photos that add to the story, an interesting plot and well drawn characters. Key are Jacob and Emma, who find themselves in the heart of the dark world of the Hollows and all that threatens the peculiar way of life, leading to their forming some very unlikely alliances in order to save their friends.

Perhaps inevitably it all goes wrong and they find themselves in greater peril and travelling further into the loops that should in theory keep them safe but instead lead them into danger. forced to find the library of souls, where the most powerful shoulds in peculiar dorm are kept, Jacob has to use his wits to keep everyone he loves safe. If I honest, said wits seemed in short supply in the book but then again he is only 16 and under a fair bit of pressure to avoid everyone being killed. Still, he makes some pretty bad decisions. 

However this does make for a pretty fast-paced readers there is always something happening. The last in the trilogy, it felt like I was hurtling towards the end, towards a grand finale. And, of course, I was. And, because this is a young adult book, everything was also being tied up, all the loose ends were resolved and I got a pretty happy ending. It as one that seemed fitting and left me feeling satisfied, with the book and the series, both of which I liked a lot and would recommend.

Emma