Review: Lullaby by Leila Slimani

Image result for leila slimani lullabyWhat I Thought:

“The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.” That is the first line of this book. I was horrified and hooked. We know right from the start that there is no happy ending and we also know who is guilty. What we want to know is why.
Lullaby is shocking because it’s the nanny who has harmed the children. Louise is the perfect nanny: quiet, conscientious, and always going above and beyond what’s required of her role. She makes herself invaluable to a mother who is desperate to get back to work and find the person she once was. In fact, Louise is so perfect that the parents find themselves prepared to overlook certain things that become increasingly odd, all for the sake of peace and keeping her in the role so they can fulfill their own needs outside o the children. Lullaby explores the dynamics within a family unit and also those of gender, race and class.
This is no ordinary domestic noir: the book is short in length, has short chapters and has prose that is precise, clipped and even blunt, but not a word is wasted. However, from what was such a promising start that lured me straight in it gradually went downhill for me, with an ending that was particularly frustrating.

Verdict:

Despite there being lots to like about this book, I became more confused towards the end as to what drove Louise to do what she did. In fact the more we learned about Louise’s past the more confused I became as to why the hell she did what she did. Well written and I liked the style but I got no closure from this book and it left me with a sense of being duped.
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Review: The Fear by C.L. Taylor

Image result for the fear c l taylorWhat I Thought:

This is one of those read-in-on-sitting type books: short chapters, alternating viewpoints, past and present narratives. All the ingredients of a gripping page-turner.

Lou Wandsworth had an affair with her Karate teacher, Mike, when she was fourteen, which ended when they were arrested in France. Eighteen years later, Lou has been unable to move on properly with her life; with short-lived relationships having become her staple and a past that even her best friend doesn’t know anything about. But it’s not about to stay like that for much longer. After her Father’s death, Lou has to move back to her childhood home which exposes not only long-buried feelings but also the revelation that Mike may be up to his old tricks with 13-year-old Chloe Meadows.

What follows is a game of cat and mouse as Lou attempts to bring Mik to justice after all these years, but what neither of them reckons on is there being someone else in the mix who is just as out for revenge.

Verdict:

A gripping, fast-paced read that will have you questioning what is really going on and a race to the end to see if just desserts are served after all.

 

NB/ I received a copy of this book from Avon Books in return for an honest review. The book is launched in the UK on 22/03/18.

 

Review: Bring Me Back by B A Paris

bring meWhat I Thought:

Last year I read TheBreakdown and absolutely loved it so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this. I’m sorry to say that I was left disappointed… There are a handful of reviews already out there all raving about this Bring Me Back, so much so that I had to question whether I had even read the same book as everyone else. It’s not a bad book, that much I will say, but I found myself bored by the repetition and, what I felt was, unnecessary padding.

The prologue lulled me into a sense of intrigue and high hopes that ultimately failed to deliver. Finn and Layla are driving home through France on their way back from a skiing trip, when a stop to use the bathroom at a rest area on the motorway results in the disappearance of Layla. Originally suspected of murder and then released, Finn continues on with his life only to meet and fall in love with Layla’s sister Ellen. Twelve years after her disappearance, and shortly after Finn’s proposal to Ellen, Finn starts receiving messages of sightings and is the recipient of strange goings-on that would only mean something to the three of them – Finn, Ellen and Layla. Is Layla alive after all? And if so, where has she been all these years?

Maybe I read too many of these types of books but the red herrings weren’t fishy enough for me and the outcome became obvious to me very early on so it almost became a let-down to be proved right as I love a good shock ending. The plus points are that there are unreliable narrators and despite (in my view) a middle that sagged between a good start and a good ending, I still turned the pages fairly quickly.

Verdict:

Lots to like and will no doubt be a roaring success like her previous books, but it didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

NB/ Thank you to Netgalley and HQ for my copy of this book which I chose to read in return for an honest review.
This book will be available to buy on 8th March 2018.

Blog Tour: Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

9781509855582What I Thought:

Many years ago I read a book called Room by Emma Donaghue and fell in love with a small boy. A few weeks ago I read Only Child and fell in love with a different little boy. There was a time when I couldn’t read books narrated by children, as I would find myself cringing at anything that didn’t feel authentic. Room changed that, and now I have a new hero that goes by the name of Zach.

The book opens with Zach and some of his classmates hiding in a cupboard with their teacher as a gunman runs rampage through their school. Zach continues with his story in the aftermath of the massacre as he, his family and the community try to make some sort of sense of the events of that day. Zach is a wonderful character: perceptive, sensitive and very engaging. Despite narrating the chaos and confusion felt by himself and those around him, it was a pleasure to be in his company as he navigated his own unfamiliar emotions and witnessed the alien ones of those closest to him. Being narrated by a child gives the story the wide-eyed, innocent view of the world that only a child could which adds to the heartbreak in a way that a cynical or jaded adult wouldn’t be able to.

This is such an incredibly powerful book and not just because of the subject matter. I am stunned that this is the author’s debut novel as it is written with the assuredness and keen eye of someone who has many more books under her belt. Only Child wrecked me. Several times. My heart broke for the characters in this book. And despite the subject matter, nothing felt gratuitous or shoe-horned in for dramatic effect which is why I’m sure it had such the impact that it did.

Verdict:

This book is a triumph. It crushes you and lifts you back up, it breaks your heart but leaves you optimistic, it holds a mirror up to society and forces you to look beneath the surface at what’s really going on. It will be a long time before I forget Zach and his family. Zach is a special boy and this is a special book – one which I cannot recommend highly enough.

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NB/ Thank you to Jess for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. I read the book voluntarily and opinions are my own. For other reviews of this book, please head over to these other fantastic blogs:

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Review: The Chalk Man by C J Tudor

41xo7gTk+kL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_What I Thought:

A group of school friends in the 80’s makes a gruesome discovery while following strategically placed chalk men through the woods. Now in their 40’s, the gang are reunited by the very thing that they had left firmly behind in their past.

Eddie, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and Nicky are such wonderfully depicted, fully fleshed out characters that could have been hand-picked straight from my childhood playground. Being of a similar age to the main characters, this book was a glorious trip down memory lane from wham bars to BMX’s, although I loved the fact that it was subtle (I read a book last year that was set in the 80’s and got so fed up of having shoulder pads and ra-ra skirts and the like rammed down my throat in every sentence that I ended up abandoning it).

The story flips between 1986 and 2016 as old memories are stirred and the chalk men drawings they thought they had left behind thirty years ago reappear to taunt and cajole them. This is a chilling and creepy book but yet it has such warmth and humour. I really felt that the author had a great understanding of and affection for her characters which gave them the vibrancy and dimension that I always long for in a book (I don’t need to like a character, but make me feel something about them).

Since reading this book I have seen a few reviews likening it to (or even claiming that it is a direct copy of) Stephen King’s books IT and The Body (or Stand By Me for film buffs). Having read neither, I didn’t get this while reading so I can’t comment on the similarities if indeed there are any. I have also read other reviews that claim this is “horror” but I’m afraid I can’t agree. It certainly isn’t scary – maybe creepy, but not what I would class as horror. To me, it felt like a right of passage tale of a group of friends with a chilling edge. There is a mystery to be solved (both in the past and present day) and a few unexpected revelations which kept me invested and guessing to the very end.

Verdict:

I absolutely loved this book! I raced through it not only because I wanted to know what had really happened back in 1986, but also because I wanted to be in the company of such a fabulous cast of character. It also had one of the best laugh out loud lines I’ve read for ages: “Whip me, Mildred!”

Massive thumbs up!

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Review: Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan

34466492What I Thought:

When I read this book back in the summer, it was both shocking and unsurprising (that is, the content is shocking but unfortunately I wasn’t so surprised). What I didn’t realise, however, was how closely life would mirror art (or is it the other way round?) so soon after reading it. Seldom does a book I read become so topical so suddenly and in such a huge way.

James Whitehouse, a junior minister in the British Home Office, seems to have it all. Educated at Oxford, James is privileged, handsome, well-off and a close friend of the prime minister. Married to Sophie, whom he met at Uni, and father to Emily and Toby, he appears to have the perfect life from the outside. However, one night he finds himself having to confess to Sophie that he had an affair with his assistant, Olivia. The affair is finished, he says, but he had to confess as the tabloids have got hold of the story and are about to announce it to the world. Shocked and upset, just as Sophie is coming round to this revelation,  James is arrested. Olivia has filed a charge of rape against him.

The book is narrated in turn by James, Sophie and Kate, who is prosecuting James and seems to have an agenda of her own. James claims he’s innocent, Kate is determined to bring him down and Sophie wants to believe James and stand by her husband, preferring to believe his version that Olivia consented. We, in effect, are the jury as we try to piece it all together and work out who is telling the truth.

But that’s not all: there’s another story unfolding as well. This one is set in the early 90’s when James, Sophie and Tom (the current prime minister) were at Oxford. This is integral to the plot as it helps us to gain insight and also adds a layer of mystery to the plot.

Verdict:

Topical and shocking. I predict big things for this book in 2018. Would make a great read/debate for book groups too.

Review: Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister

A1KeMQs1M0LWhat I thought:

This book started off great guns: I started the book one night before bed “just to see how it is…” and found myself flipping the pages furiously and unwilling to put it down. It was less than halfway through that I then noticed my interest waning and by three quarters I could happily have abandoned it and moved on… but I still liked the idea of the plot and really wanted to see how it would all resolve itself.

Set in a sliding-doors fashion, the first chapter follows Joanna on her night out with friend Laura, from her selfie with a stranger through to unwanted attention from a man that leads to them leaving the club early. Walking back along the canal side, and still upset from her earlier ordeal, Joanna hears quickening footsteps behind her and a split second decision makes her do something that will have long-term consequences for so many. The following chapters are then alternate between reveal (she confesses) and conceal (she runs away).

Such a great idea for a book and one I was looking forward to enormously to see how the consequences of our actions can affect us so utterly. It should have been great. But I got bored: bored of Joanna, whom I found it was difficult to empathise with, bored of the plot which didn’t seem to go anywhere for a huge chunk of the book and bored of waiting to find out how it would all pull together. If in fact, if it had pulled nicely together at the end (by way of a twist or something jaw-dropping) it would quite possibly have redeemed itself but I found the ending to not only be convenient in an attempt to wrap it all up but a bit of a damp squib.

I feel my main issue is that I couldn’t connect with Joanna or any other members of the cast, at all. It wasn’t simply that I didn’t like her; I couldn’t “get” her in either the reveal or conceal stories. That made it difficult to invest in the book overall as I was not engaged.

Verdict:

Not a bad book, just not a great one. I haven’t read Everything But The Truth (McAllister’s first book) yet but I do have a copy and I have heard great things so I wouldn’t be put off reading this at all.

Great concept, not so great execution.