Tuesday intro: The People at Number Nine by Felicity Everett

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week, I’m reading The People at Number Nine by Felicity Everett, which it felt like I was seeing everywhere not so long ago and really peaked my interest.   Here’s what it’s about…

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…

And here’s how it starts…

Sara’s gaze drifted toward the window.  It was dark outside now, and she could see her own reflection superimposed like a hologram on the house across the road. Their curtains were half-closed but the cold blue flicker of the TV could just be seen.  She imagined Gavin lounging in the Eames chair with a glass of red, Lou lolling barefoot on the sofa. They might be watching an art-house movie together – or perhaps just slumming it with Saturday night telly. It was all too easy to conjure – the flea-bitten heath rug, the aroma of Pinot Noir mingled with woodsmoke. Even after everything that had happened, the scene still had allure.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Emma

 

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The Red Hunter by Lisa Unger

31443401Claudia Bishop’s perfect life fell apart when the aftermath of a brutal assault left her with a crumbling marriage, a newborn daughter, and a constant sense of anxiety about the world around her. Now, looking for a fresh start with a home restoration project and growing blog, Claudia takes on a crumbling old house—one that unbeknownst to her has an ugly history and may hide long buried secrets.

For Zoey Drake the defining moment of her childhood was the horrific home invasion murder of her parents. Years later, she has embraced the rage that fuels her. Training in the martial arts has made her strong and ready to face the demons from the past—and within.

Strangers to each other, and walking very different paths in the wake of trauma, these two women are on a collision course—because Zoey’s past nightmare and Claudia’s dreams for her future take place in the very same house. As Zoey seeks justice, and Claudia seeks peace, both will confront the monsters at the door that are the most frightening of all.

Red, the colour of anger and revenge, and the colour Zoey imagines inside herself as she prowls the streets of New York looking for people who need saving. It’s not all altruistic though, it’s her way of taking control of her life, something she doesn’t feel and hasn’t had since her parents were killed and she was left for dead 10 years previously. No one was ever arrested for the murders but Zoey knows who is guilty and, now, she feels strong enough to start making them pay.

On the outskirts of New York, Claudia is looking to start afresh, having left the city and moved into a run down farmhouse left to her by her father. Her plan is to rebuild and refinish the farm, creating a life away from the grind of the city for her and her daughter. Like Zoey, Claudia has a past touched by violence – her daughter, Raven, is possibly the result of rape. She has never wanted to know but it has coloured her and Raven’s lives.

As Zoey and Claudia’s stories unfold over alternating chapters it starts to become clear that violence isn’t the only thing that links them and that their lives are on a collision course, destined to intersect and putting them all in danger again. Just how this happens I won’t say (spoilers) but I will say Lisa Unger brings it all together very well, building the tension slowly and steadily until the final scenes.Read More »

The Stranger by Saskia Sarginson

Wimagee all have our secrets. Eleanor Rathmell has kept one her whole life. But when her husband dies and a stranger arrives at her door, her safe life in the idyllic English village she’s chosen as her home begins to topple.

Everyone is suspicious of this stranger, except for Eleanor. But her trust in him will put her life in danger, because nothing is as it seems; not her dead husband, the man who claims to love her, or the inscrutable outsider to whom she’s opened her home and her heart.

I was really looking forward to reading The Stranger – not just because I had enjoyed the other book I had read by Sarginson (Without You) but because the opening, which I used for last week’s Tuesday intro, completely drew me in.  I found it beautifully, though simply written and it painted a picture in my head that I still haven’t quite shaken.

The prologue (from which the intro was taken) has a young girl, a new mother, giving away her baby for adoption.  It is heart breaking.  It also suggests darker things might follow; “After all the hate, there you were.”  And, given the type of books I normally read, I have to admit I envisioned an angry and bitter son appearing years later with an axe to grind, figuratively and literally.

This wasn’t the case though and, whilst what I got was still a thriller, it was a much more nuanced and thoughtful piece of writing than I had maybe being expecting.  The prologue, rather than hinting of what was to come was rather an explanation of some of the behaviours of the central character, Ellie.  These are further explained by flashbacks to her teenage years, which show how she has become the woman she has.

Most of the story, though, takes place in the present and in Kent, a region on the front line of the migrant crisis that played out on our screens the last few years.  Migrants, their role in our lives (picking the food we eat, offering cheap labour) and our attitudes towards them (anger, distrust, general wariness as well as compassion) are front and centre in this book.  Sarginson manages to highlight these issues without being preachy and turns their plight and our response to it into a gripping read, one that kept me turning pages.

She does this by making it about human beings and about love.  Yes, this is a novel full of suspense but it is also a story with love at it’s heart (not a soppy love story but one about caring for and about people).  The question is, who does Ellie love and who is lying to her, because there are two men vying for her heart and each believes the other is the bad guy, the one she can’t trust.  It’s up to Ellie to figure it out, slowly unpicking the web of lies she has found herself at the centre of and which could end up threatening her life.

Possibly the only downside to the book is the who became clear a bit too early for me as I like to be kept guessing  BUT to make up for this there were other twists in the tale I didn’t see coming at all and which kept me reading.  And, I have to remember this wasn’t a standard domestic thriller of girl meets boy, boy turns out to be a psychopath.  It was deeper than that and better for it.  I liked it a lot and would definitely recommend it.

Enjoy!

Emma

liked-it-a-lot

Source: Net Galley
Publisher: Piatkus
Publication Date: 23rd March, 2017
Pages: 384
Format: ebook
Genre: crime fiction
Buy now: Amazon UK / Amazon US

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

All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford

29713036

You don’t have to believe in ghosts for the dead to haunt you.

You don’t have to be a murderer to be guilty.

Within six months of Pen Sheppard starting university, three of her new friends are dead. Only Pen knows the reason why.

College life had seemed like a wonderland of sex, drugs and maybe even love. The perfect place to run away from your past and reinvent yourself. But Pen never can run far enough and when friendships are betrayed, her secrets are revealed. The consequences are deadly.

‘This is about three deaths. Actually more, if you go back far enough. I say deaths, but perhaps all of them were murders. It’s a grey area. Murder, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. So let’s just call them deaths and say I was involved. This story could be told a hundred different ways.’

When Pen leaves home, taking a bus to her new life at university, her mother doesn’t even bother to say goodbye – instead, it’s her mother’s latest boyfriend that drops her at the station.  When she arrives, fellow students can’t believe she has only one suitcase – and shows a gullibility beyond that of most new students.  You know this because she tells you, writing in a journal her psychologist has encouraged her to write.  It has all happened in the past and it is her version of events – something even she admits – though she says this version is the truth.

As a reader, you have to decide if it is – the truth – or if it’s a story to gain your trust and your sympathy, both of which Pen seems to think it’s important to gain as she slowly reveals why she is visiting a psychologist and why she is writing a diary.  The reason is death – it seems to surround her.  Her college friends died and her best childhood friend is in prison after killing a police officer.  In both instances, Pen says she is an innocent bystander but – with so much death surrounding her – you have to wonder if that is the case.

As far as a plot goes, this sounded like a good one to me.  I was eager to read the book and imagined plenty of twists, turns, red herrings and questions – my type of story.      Unfortunately, I got so many twists I couldn’t keep up and, at least two weeks after finishing the book, I still am not sure exactly what I read or what I was supposed to get from the story.

The main problem for me was how it was told.  There is Pen in the present, talking to her psychologist and sharing snippets of her life (having moved back at home after the murders of her friends), the Pen of the past writing about her life in college, and the Pen of the past past, writing about her friend’s murdering of a police officer.  Then there’s the story Pen is telling her psychologist, which is different from her diary and which she admits isn’t the truth.  Confused?  I was.

Normally multiple threads don’t bother me and I like unreliable narrators.  I am used to books that hop between past and present or have more than one voice telling the story and I love having to find out the truth – it keeps you engaged as a reader.  Here though I didn’t know where I was in time and whether I was reading Pen’s diary or hearing her speak to her doctor.  Part of the reason was that there was no break in the chapters to let me know the voice had changed.  Text in italics or dates to head up the chapter would really have helped.  Instead, I kept backtracking to try and figure out where in time I was.

As soon as I start doing that I lose the connection to the book, it takes me out of the story, and that is what happened here.  I found that I really didn’t care, about Pen or what happened to her or her friends.  If I’m honest, even if it had been easier to follow, I may not have cared anywhere because I didn’t like any of them.  I really couldn’t find anything positive in their characters – they were all selfish and self-centred – or anyone to relate to.  I think I was supposed to feel sympathy for Pen and understand how her behaviour in college was impacted by the death of the policeman but it took so long to get to the “what happened” there that I couldn’t pull anything back.

For all that, it wasn’t all bad.  The first third wasn’t bad and I did find myself drawn in.  I did want to know what happened and did see myself enjoying the book.  However, as more secrets were revealed I just couldn’t keep up as I said and so my enjoyment turned to frustration, partly because I feel like there is a good story in here – I just couldn’t find it.  A bit of a shame but it happens and does mean that this one wasn’t for me – sorry!

Emma

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Source: Library
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Publication Date: 25th August, 2016 (first published 1st March, 2016)
Pages: 400
Format: ebook (Kindle)
Genre: mystery, thriller
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

29091461If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Driving along country roads at night is never fun, especially in the pouring rain, and – for a woman alone – it can be especially scary, the idea of being stranded, alone, in the dark. For Cass all these fears start to come to the fore when she pulls over to help a stranded vehicle but can’t then get herself to get out of the car to see if the woman she sees sitting in the driver’s seat needs help. The fact that the woman doesn’t call out to her or get out of her car to talk to her convinces Cass she’s ok and so, instead of doing more, she heads home….only to wake up the next morning to the news that the woman is dead.

The news is bad enough, flooding Cass with guilt as she realises she may have been able to save the woman, but it’s made worse when she finds out that it’s someone she knew. This sends her spiralling, unable to sleep and a unable to concentrate. As the days and weeks go on, Cass struggles to get her mind back on track and starts to become more forgetful still, something which could be down to the murder, the mysterious calls she’s been receiving since then (with nobody speaking when she picks up), or it could be something worse – a sign of the early on-set dementia that killed her mother.

Her husband tells her it’s stress, her best friend tells her she’s been silly but Cass isn’t so sure. Something is wrong, a killer coiled be after her. The only problem is no one will believe her. That included me as a reader, at least at times. Her behaviour was so erratic; her friends, husband, doctors, are convinced she is stressed, anxious, cracking up and it does seem to be the case. B. A. Paris does a great job leaving you guessing almost all the way to the end as to who is right, then they reveal the truth and turn the story on its head.

It’s a formula followed by a lot of authors in this genre – the fragile woman who seems to be loosing her mind, the family and friends who want to support her but don’t believe her, the strange occurrences and odd happenings, before it all becomes clear at the end. I don’t mind formulas at all though as long as they are done well, and that was definitely the case here.  B. A. Paris created an interesting character in Cass, one I couldn’t help but like and root for. She was well written, as was the book, with short chapters to keep you turning pages – which I did – and a strong plot.

When it got to the twist I had an inking but wasn’t 100% sure what was going to happen or how it would turn out. I thought B. A. Paris’ answer was clever and I was left completely satisfied. I hadn’t felt quite that way with their first book, though I had enjoyed it but this felt much more accomplished and much more confident. I am really glad I got the chance to read it – liked it a lot.

Enjoy!

Emma

liked-it-a-lot

Source: Netgalley
Publisher: HQ
Publication Date: 9th February, 2017
Pages: 352
Format: ebook (Kindle)
Genre: crime fiction

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

 

 

 

Tuesday intro: The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week I am introducing The Breakdown by B. A. Paris, whose first book Behind Closed Doors was a pretty big hit last year.  Here’s what it’s about…

29091461If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

And here’s how it starts…

Friday July 17th

The thunder starts as we’re saying goodbye, leaving each other for the summer holidays ahead. A loud crack echos off the ground, making Connie jump. John laughs, the hot air dense around us.  “You need to hurry!” he shouts.

Not much to go on I admit but what do you think – would you keep reading?

Emma

Tuesday intro: All These Perfect Strangers

Once again I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week, I’m reading All These Perfect Strangers by Aoife Clifford which I knew nothing about when I picked it up at the library other than it sounded like a book I would enjoy. Here’s what it’s about…

image

You don’t have to believe in ghosts for the dead to haunt you.

You don’t have to be a murderer to be guilty.

Within six months of Pen Sheppard starting university, three of her new friends are dead. Only Pen knows the reason why.

College life had seemed like a wonderland of sex, drugs and maybe even love. The perfect place to run away from your past and reinvent yourself. But Pen never can run far enough and when friendships are betrayed, her secrets are revealed. The consequences are deadly.

And this is how it starts…

I am sitting in the waiting room looking at the painting on the wall. It has different-sized circles splattered all over it, every single one of them red. The first time I saw it I was worried it was one of those inkblots where you have to say whatever comes into your head. Stupid, I know, but I was only fifteen. All I could see was blood, which I knew was not a good answer. I decided if anyone asked me, they would be balloons because no one could make a big deal out of that.

What do you think – would you keep reading?

Emma

Cloak and Dagger Challenge 2017

cdchallengebadge2016

During my recent wanderings around my favourite blogs, I came across a challenge that seems right up my street but I had somehow missed the initial sign-up for (it started 1st January).  Never one to be deterred by being late, however, and given it is still January, I have decided to sign-up now.  It’s the Cloak and Dagger Challenge hosted by Stormi at books, movies, reviews oh my! and Barb at Booker Ts Farm.  Here’s how it works:

  • You can read any book that is from the mystery/suspense/thriller/crime genres. Any sub-genres are welcome as long as they incorporate one of these genres.
  • You don’t need a blog to participate but you do need a place to post your reviews to link up (blog, goodreads, booklikes, shelfari, etc.)
  • You make a goal post and link it back to the sign-up page with your goal for this challenge (which is this post here)
  • Books need to be novellas or novels, please no short stories. (At least 100 pages +)
  • Crossovers into other challenges  are fine
  • The Challenge will  be from Jan. 1st to Dec. 31st (Sign up ends April 15th)

There will be a monthly link up so that others can check out your progress and look at your reviews. At the halfway mark and at the end there will be a giveaway for those participating.

As with all good challenges there are levels based on how much you read / can commit to:

  • 5-15 books – Amateur sleuth
  • 16-25 books – Detective
  • 26-35 books – Inspector
  • 36 – 55 – Special agent
  • 56+ books – Sherlock Holmes

Plus a “bonus” challenge of finishing a series (or more).

Books of this genre are my main reads, plus I’ve given myself a more challenging goodreads target this year, so I’m going to try and become Sherlock Holmes and read at least 56 books.  I’m also going to try and finish the M. J. Arlidge DI Helen Grace series plus one other tbd.

Can you tell I’m excited by this one?  Fingers crossed nothing gets in the way of my reading or I don’t suddenly decide that I’m really a romance and roses vs. murder and mayhem kind of girl.

Wish me luck!

Emma

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

25365530‘NEW N A M E .
NEW F A M I L Y.
S H I N Y.
NEW.
ME . ‘

Annie’s mother is a serial killer.

The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police.

But out of sight is not out of mind.

As her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of her past won’t let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name – Milly.

A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be.

But Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water.

Good me, bad me.

She is, after all, her mother’s daughter…

Good Me, Bad Me is one of those books that seems to have gotten a lot of hype.  They’re the type of books I normally stay away from – at least when they are first released, frightened I’ll be disappointed.  In this case, though, I couldn’t resist.  The description sounded right up my street and also a little different from my usual reads.  I have to say I’m glad I took the plunge because it was different and just what I needed after a string of not so hot books.

It starts with Milly (or Annie as she was) turning her mother into the police for child abuse and murder.  It’s a shocking opening and grabs you immediately, presenting you with an image that isn’t graphic in any way but still stays with you throughout the book.  You are left in no doubt Milly’s mom is guilty and a monster, someone who should go to prison for a very long time.

What you aren’t so sure about is Milly, who is the only voice you hear in the book, as she tries to settle with her new foster family and prepare for the court case where she will be the “star” witness.  Starting a new life isn’t easy and her foster sister, Phoebe, isn’t happy to have her around, especially as Milly takes up too much of her parents’ time.  Phoebe goes out of her way to make life difficult for Milly, who only seems to want to be friends – well, just make friends in general, she is a lonely girl.

Or at least that’s what it seems like at first because there is a darker side to Milly and, after being drawn in by her story and feeling a lot of sympathy for her, I started to feel unsure.  Slowly, secrets from her past are revealed and she does things that maybe aren’t as nice as she would want you to believe. I couldn’t tell if I was being played, if Milly was maybe a chip of the old block, or if her behaviour was a result of her wanting to fit in and be loved.

It made for a compelling read and I found Milly a compelling character, one I wanted to understand but was also maybe a little afraid of, very much like the people around her.  They wanted to be sympathetic, wanted to believe she was an innocent victim, but wondered – was she really?  Or at least I think that’s what they thought because the only voice you hear is Milly’s so you only get her take on what is said and done.  It’s her version – and the question is whether it’s the true one.

I thought Ali Land did a really good job with Milly, of creating someone you didn’t know if you liked but felt you should give a chance to because of what had happened to her.  By making her 15, going on 16, it did feel like there was a grey area there – that nagging question of why Milly maybe hadn’t done something sooner to speak out.  Some of these things are answered in the book but I won’t say because of spoilers but there are a few times when I had “lightbulb” moments, where Milly would reveal something or do something that completely changed my opinion of her.

Of course, because this is Milly’s story, you don’t get to know the other characters that well and the foster family are somewhat two dimensional as a result.  Then again, as Milly’s character starts to emerge, maybe this was on purpose, because in a way they weren’t necessarily real to her but people to be manipulated to reach an end.  Her mother was much more real, or at least a very real monster.

Seen through the eyes of Milly you see confusion, this is a woman who she loved but also hated.  You never meet her or hear from her directly but she dominates a lot of the pages.  And you see through Milly’s memories and nightmares of her just what type of woman her daughter might become.  I liked this about the book, that I kept second guessing myself about Milly.

In fact, there wasn’t much I didn’t like if I’m honest, other than maybe the final twist.  I am not sure I needed that.  I felt I had a good ending, a slightly ambiguous one that seemed to go with the Milly I knew.  So, although I was proved right in the final chapter, I would have liked to have been left with a bit of a question mark.  It’s a small thing and didn’t stop me liking the book though, which I did – a lot (if you can like a book about a child murderer, which I guess is another post entirely!).

Enjoy!

Emma

liked-it-a-lot

Source: Net Galley
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: 12th January, 2017
Pages: 400
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)