The Quality of Silence by Rosamund Lupton

imageOn 24th November Yasmin and her deaf daughter Ruby arrived in Alaska.

Within hours they were driving alone across a frozen wilderness

Where nothing grows

Where no one lives

Where tears freeze

And night will last for another 54 days.

They are looking for Ruby’s father.

Travelling deeper into a silent land.

They still cannot find him.

And someone is watching them in the dark.

Arriving in Alaska, Yasmin isn’t greeted by her husband as she expected but by the state police and bad news.  There has been a fire in the remote village her husband has been staying in as part of his job as a wildlife photographer.  No one has survived, including him.  Ruby knows something is going on but she isn’t sure what because she is deaf.  Reading lips where she can, though, she knows it isn’t good and she knows it is likely something to do with her dad because he isn’t there to greet him.

The news of his death is something neither she or Yasmin believe.  He understands the wilderness, he would have survived.  He had called them after the fire struck.  They need to get to him.  And so they head out, initially hitching a lift with a long distance lorry driver before getting behind the wheel themselves, braving the brutal landscape and a winter storm, and trying not to be too afraid of the headlights that dog them – keeping pace but never getting too close.

It’s all pretty incredible and somewhat unbelievable and I now know more about ice truckers than I ever wanted or needed to.  But it was also kind of fun – the chasing through the ice and Yasmin and Ruby’s battle to survive – and I enjoyed the book as a result.  I liked Yasmin and Ruby and wanted them to succeed – I thought Ruby, especially, was well drawn.

I thought the book was well written despite (or in spite of) the leaps in logic it had to make (a woman who has never driven an eighteen-wheeler manages to make it hundreds of miles without any training and just one conversation with a trucker?) and kept me interested and turning the pages. It might not be for everyone but if you can suspend belief, it is worth a read – liked this one.

Emma

Note: I received this book from blogging for books in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions about the book are my own.

The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

imageOnce upon a time, Ani (pronounced Ahh-nee not Annie) was TifAni, a teenager who desperately wanted to fit into the high school her parents couldn’t really afford to send her too, even after “the event that changed her life”. Now, she could afford to buy the school – or at least her fiancé Luke could – thanks to his old money roots and job in finance.

Ani worked hard to find a man like Luke, and her job at a top women’s magazine (with it’s access to high fashion clothes she could never otherwise afford). She still works hard – dieting, exercising, maxing out her credit cards, and pretending to be someone she’s not. All for a ring on her finger, and a need to escape a past she is too embarrassed to face. That is until a TV crew approach her to make a documentary about.

Despite Luke’s objections she agrees to take part because it will allow her to show everyone what she has become, that she is not the girl they thought her to be. Who that girl is is unclear. I thought she was a mean girl – she is a mean woman so it made sense – but it’s more complicated than that, and darker than I expected.

The cover of this book says for those who liked Gone Girl (yes, another one!) but I can’t see it myself. This isn’t crime fiction and only a little bit of a thriller or suspense. More than anything, it is a book about a woman finding her way back from a series of events no one could have predicted and which changed her whole life, not for the better. I liked this about the book.

I wish I could have liked Ani as much but I just didn’t. I understood why she was the way she was but I could find nothing redeemable about her. She was nasty to everyone, including herself. And, as a smart woman, I couldn’t understand why she hadn’t ever sought help to fight her demons. As the main character and the only voice you hear, this made it hard to read at times, especially as the other characters are under developed.

This means I liked but didn’t love the book. It wouldn’t stop me reading another book by Jessica Knoll though or recommending the book because, as a debut, it’s still pretty good.

Emma

Little Girl Gone by Alexandra Burt

imageWhen Estelle Paradise wakes up, she finds herself in a hospital bed with no memory of how she got there.  The doctors tell her she’s been in a car accident.  And she’s been shot.  And her daughter, Mia, is missing.  Nothing makes sense and nothing adds up.

In an effort to keep her out of prison (and possibly save his own reputation), her husband has her admitted to a psychiatric hospital where Estelle struggles to try and figure out the truth of what happened to her and her little girl.

At first, all she remembers is the crying.  Mia cried (or cries) a lot and Estelle was struggling to cope.  Her husband relocated for work and she moved into a new home in an effort to save them money.  It is entirely possible it all became too much for her. Slowly, though, with the help of her doctor, memories start to come back and, it seems, Estelle might not be as guilty as everyone thinks after all.

To a degree, I can’t say I cared too much – because I just couldn’t warm to Estelle.  I wanted to.  In fact, I needed to because she was the only constant through the book and this was her story, but it just wasn’t happening for me.  It is a shame really but not every reader can like every character so I wouldn’t not recommend reading it because of this because there are a lot of positives.

Alexandra Burt does a great job of leaving you guessing through most of the book (which is quite long at just over 450 pages) just what has happened to Mia and just what Estelle’s role in it is.  The ending has a clever twist, though it does meander a bit too much at the point it’s revealed.  That said, this is a debut novel, and so I can forgive this because I thought it was well written and clever.  I just wish I could have liked Estelle as it means I liked vs. loved this book.

Have you read it – what did you think of Estelle?

Emma

p.s. this has also been released as Remember Mia

The Memory Man, a short story by Helen Smith

23624909Pages: 50

Reading time: about 30 minutes

Making her way through a dark cafeteria in what may well be an even darker warehouse, Sarah comes across Valerie, asleep in a chair and wrapped in a blanket. Next to her, a dead body…which they put in a disused fridge whilst they try to decide what to do.

Neither is sure. It is dark. They are scared. And they have no idea how they got here. No memories at all in fact. Which means they aren’t sure what is outside the door and at the end of the corridor. Valerie decides to try and find out, leaving Sarah alone and afraid, only to come back with strange stories and fragments of memories that may or may not be hers and a name that may or may not be the dead mans.

The where and the why are a nice twist in this story, which was well written with good pace. It packs a lot into its 50 pages. For some reason, I had in my head that it would be a crime story but it is more supernatural and spooky and I liked that. Sarah and Valerie and the Memory Man himself were interesting and there was so much not said, building the tension. I really wanted to know how they had ended up in the room and what would happen to them, which meant that for me, the story ended a little too soon. I would have liked a few more pages and a little more plot. Still enjoyed it though and would recommend to anyone with half an hour to spare.

Emma

After Anna by Alex Lake

image

A girl is missing. Five years old, taken from outside her school. She has vanished, traceless.

The police are at a loss; her parents are beyond grief. Their daughter is lost forever, perhaps dead, perhaps enslaved.

But the biggest mystery is yet to come: one week after she was abducted, their daughter is returned.

She has no memory of where she has been. And this, for her mother, is just the beginning of the nightmare.

I seem to have read quite a few books recently involving children, I’m not sure why.  I haven’t sought them out but they have been catching my eye.  There have been a real mix, from ones I just couldn’t get into like The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer to those I loved like The Wrong Girl by Laura Wilson.   This sits somewhere in between.

There are real pluses to After Anna.  The story itself is different from others I’ve read and not what I expected.  It is more a thriller than crime for a start – the police here are secondary to the parents (Julia and Brian), how they react when she goes missing and when she returns.  And there is a good twist at the end – one I thought I saw coming, then decided I was wrong, only to find out I wasn’t after all.  I had a few problems with how Alex Lake got there, including a character who pops up after only being mentioned in one chapter near the beginning of the book, but I thought overall it was clever.

The main downside for me was the characters themselves.  I really couldn’t care for any of them.  I found Julia selfish in the extreme and Brian weak.  That was Lake’s intention for Brian I’m sure – you are told often enough that Brian doesn’t have a backbone – but I can’t believe they wanted Julia to come across the way she does.  For me, it meant I ended up with no one to root for and so I didn’t care about either Julia or Brian or, as a result, about what happened to Anna herself.  Instead, I found myself turning pages to get to the end rather than because I couldn’t wait to read what happened next.

It’s a shame and I might not be in the majority here as the book is getting good reviews on goodreads and Amazon but it just didn’t do it for me.  Liked it, but not as much as I’d hoped. Have you read it? What did you think – have I missed something?

Emma

 

Blood Sisters by Graham Masterton

image“In a nursing home on the outskirts of Cork, an elderly nun lies dead. She has been suffocated. It looks like a mercy-killing – until another sister from the same convent is found viciously murdered, floating in the Glashaboy river.

The nuns were good women, doing God’s work. Why would anyone want to kill them? But then a child’s skull is unearthed in the garden of the nuns’ convent, and DS Katie Maguire discovers a fifty year old secret that just might lead her to the killer… if the killer doesn’t find her first.”

The fifth in the Katie Maguire series (and the fifth I’ve read), I was looking forward to reading Blood Sisters. As with the other books, I was drawn straight into the action with a murder (the nun) and a mystery (the skull). There was less gore this time round, which I think I’ve mentioned before is becoming my preference with the books I read, and I’ve noticed this has been the case in the last few novels. 

I think it’s because Katie is a more rounded character now and her world more solid so there is less need. I have come to like her a lot as a person, though she doesn’t always seem to have the best judgement, and I find the descriptions of what it is like for her to be a woman in the Irish Garda interesting – I can’t believe it is as sexist in real life as Masterton makes out but if it is it’s shocking that this is the case in this day and age!

I would like to see other characters filled out more and was a bit disappointed with Katie’s boyfriend John’s development. He has been in most books since the first one and I can’t get a bead on him – though I can’t say I like him as much as I do Katie and can’t necessarily see what she sees in him (which is where I think her judgement is most questionable).

I was also slightly disappointed in the ending. It involved very little detecting on Katie’s part and I did feel a little bit like Masterton had run out of steam and didn’t know where to go. A shame really as otherwise a good story and good book. Liked (didn’t love) it.

Emma