Review: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

behindWhat I thought:

You’ve probably heard the hype. Even if you haven’t read it yet, you must have heard of the brilliant #WTFthatending hashtag that’s been all over Twitter. What a fantastic piece of marketing, as if you’re anything like me and love your Psych Thrillers, I am in no doubt that that would have got your attention like it did mine. The minute I saw it, I HAD to have this book!

This is an incredibly hard book to review, without giving anything away and I really don’t want to do that as the surprise(s) are what finish this fabulous book perfectly. What I can say is that Behind Her Eyes is a book about a marriage that might not be all it seems on the outside. The book is narrated, in turn, by Adele (wife of David) and Louise (has a drunken snog with David and ends up befriending Adele). Who knows about whom? Who has a hidden agenda? Who do you believe?

Unsettling, mind-boggling and at times frustrating, this book had me scratching my head throughout. Just when you think you have it nailed, the rug is whipped from under you again and you are left wondering what the hell is going on. Who is good? Who is bad? Who is telling the truth?

And now to that ending: I read a recent interview with Sarah Pinborough where she explained that she didn’t want to cheat the reader, so although the ending sort of blows your mind, there are subtle clues dotted throughout. I still challenge you to guess though.

Verdict:

The blurb on the back of the book warns the reader not to trust this book. Sage advice. If you’re somewhat jaded by the sea of “you won’t see the ending coming” promises in this genre at the moment, I promise you that this time: YOU WILL NOT SEE THE ENDING COMING! I’m tellin’ ya!!!

Have you read this yet? What did you think? I’m dying to know.

blog-24

Dead Scared by S J Bolton

In three words:

Cambridge, nightmares, scared

 

 

What I thought:

Just over a year ago I discovered S J Bolton’s books, starting with Sacrife which I absolutely loved. Since then I have gone on to read three more of her books and this latest book is every bit as good as all the others.

Dead Scared is the second book featuring Detectives Lacey Flint and Mark Joesbury and this time they are in Cambridge investigating an unusually high number of student suicides at the University over the last 5 years. Lacey is sent undercover to live as student Laura Farrow at the Universtity and only days into her “new life” she discovers that the suicides aren’t quite what they first seem. The students, usually female and pretty, are killing themselves in increasingly violent ways after complaing of nightmares and being terrified for weeks  beforehand. Lacey/Laura delves deeper into the lives and histories of the student deaths with the help of University Psychiatrist Evi Oliver (who is apparantly a character from Blood Harvest which is the only obe of Boltons books that I haven’t read yet – to be rectified VERY soon!). Evi is the person who alerted the police to her concerns about the high suicide rate in Cambridge and soon finds that  not only is she suffering from nightmares herself but strange and very scary things are starting to happen to her in her own home too.

Despite this being the second book to star Flint and Joesbury, I don’t think that it is at all necessary to have read the first in the series, Now You See Me. There are a few references to things that happened in that first book but I was really pleased to note that Bolton didn’t give away any of the plot that would spoil it for readers who haven’t picked that one up yet. Also, the way that this book ends means that surely there is a next in the series to come. YES!

Verdict: Highly recommended. I found this book absolutely fantastic and had trouble putting it down. It had me hooked from page one (which has been something pretty rare recently as I have struggled to get into a few books), and it was an intelligent and fast-paced thriller with genuinely creepy moments and if you are of a nervous disposition I would heartily recommend that you don’t read this book alone in the dark….

 

  Have you read any of S J Bolton’s books. If not, are you going to?

 

(Source: I received a copy of this book for review from Netgalley)

Divergent by Veronica Roth

In three words:

Dystopian, violent, bravery

 

 

What I thought:

Up until about a week ago I hadn’t even heard of this book. Then I saw that it had won both Best YA book and Best Book of 2011 on Goodreads as voted by the members. I was curious about this book that hadn’t reached my radar yet and upon reading the reviews discovered that it was being hailed as the new Hunger Games (which is one of my all-time favourite books). A day or so later I happened to be in a bookshop (what are the chances? Okay, I jest, I am almost a permanent fixture in bookshops) and saw a copy of Divergent staring out at me from the shelves and I just had to have it.

Before I comment on my thoughts I will briefly outline the plot for those, like I was, are unfamiliar with it: This is a world sometime in the future and set in a city that I believe was once Chicago (as the now-abandoned Sears Tower is based there). Every person in this city belongs to one of five factions: Abnegation (selflessness), Erudite (learning), Amity (kindness), Candor (honesty) or Dauntless (bravery). Beatrice Prior (or Tris as she becomes known) is a member of Abnegation and the book starts with the day that she and every other 16 year old from all factions undergo a test to see which faction they will belong to from then on: if they chose a faction other than the one that they were born into it means betraying their families and potentially never seeing them again). However, Tris’s test doesn’t turn out quite as she had expected as her results mean that she could choose one of 3 factions. She is told in confidence that this is because she is a Divergent but she must not tell anyone, even her family, as this is an extremely dangerous thing to be. On the day of the choosing ceremony, Tris abandons her family to join the Dauntless faction and that is where the adventure starts.

I thought the idea of this was brilliant and I was excited to find out about the factions and how Tris’s choice to join Dauntless would affect her. However, the more I read the more disillusioned I became: I never felt that I got a proper sense of the city or why it was like that or why the factions had come about and I would have liked to have learnt more. Also, as the book moved along I became more and more frustrated at why each person would only fit into one of the factions; afterall I don’t know anyone who is honest but can’t be kind or intelligent with it or brave but can’t be honest etc. I would expect that the majority of people would fit into more than one category – I certainly would; in fact I think I could fit into all of them (except Dauntless ironically – particularly after reading what they had to go through).

As well as some other minor annoyances, I did have one huge dislike too and that was the violence that went on for chapters and chapters. Each faction had to train its new recruits to pass an initiations (and those who fail are kicked out and become known as factionless and have to live on the streets), and despite knowing that the Dauntless faction was all about bravery, I found most of their training completely over the top and unsavoury to read. Fighting each other until someone passes out, throwing knives at each other, almost killing someone to test their mettle: I accept that some of this may have been necessary to show us what they recruits had to go through but for it to go on for so long and to be so brutal left a really bad taste in my mouth.

I would really have liked to know more about the other factions and how the city came to be like this but we got little information about anything outside the Dauntless compound until the end. Is this just in one city? Are there other cities exactly the same with their own compounds and set of factions? None of that was even addressed, never mind answered. I know this is the first book in a trilogy so maybe some of this will be answered in the future books, but even a little teaser or snippets of info would have been good.

Despite my little rants, I sort of enjoyed this book. I understand that it is the debut novel written by a 23 year old and that has to be commended. I hope that the books become tighter and more polished as the series continues and I am curious enough to want to read them to see what happens.

Verdict: Some major disappointments and it certainly is no Hunger Games (not in my mind at least). Aside from my ramblings though, it is still a fast-paced adventure story and should appeal to the masses.

(Source: I bought this book myself)

 

Perfect People by Peter James

In three words:

Creepy, chilling, thought-provoking

 

 

What I thought:

The first thing that attracted me to this book was the cover: It looked eerie and intriguing. Perfect People is a stand-alone thriller which was a perfect place for me to start with Peter James’ books as I have yet to pick up one of the Roy Grace series (more on that later).

According to the blurb, this book has been 10 years in the planning. When the idea first came to James about writing a book about designer babies, it was just that – an idea. Now it is a reality. That makes reading this book all the scarier – we may just be looking at our future.

John and Naomi Klaesson live in California and have lost their 4 year old son to a rare genetic disorder which made them watch him die a slow and horrible death. Still young and desperate for another child, the Klaesson’s opt for paying a huge sum of money to geneticist Dr Leo Dettore who has promised them that he can prevent this child from being born with the same disorder that killed their son. What soon become apparant is that Dr Dettore can also offer them so much more scope in “designing” their next child.

This book poses so many questions and will undoubtedly make you think about what you would do in the same situation. Being faced with the option to make your child more empathetic (but would that make them a playground bully target?) or allow them to survive on only a few hours per night like many CEOs and politicians do (but would that mean that they may have sociopathic tendancies?) what would you decide? These are the dilemas that also face the Klaessons when going through page after page of tick-box options. The Klaessons are normal people, they have normal jobs, they live in a normal house and they only thing they really want is a disease-free child…but does that mean that they can’t be tempted by anything else?

What makes this book so compelling is that it becomes apparant pretty early on that something isn’t quite right. It’s so difficult for me to be say anything more about the plot as it really would spoil it, but what I will say is that with fairly short chapters that have a tendancy to end at a point where you can’t possibly put the book down, then this makes for one migthy page-turner.

Verdict: An amazing thriller. One that will make you question what you would do, one that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up and one that has sufficient twists to keep you on your toes and not get too comfortable…

 

As I said earlier, this is the first Peter James book I have read (call myself a crime fiction fan? Pah.) I have been meaning to read one for ages after I saw Peter at the Theakstones Crime Awards in Harrogate in 2010. Despite already haveing a legion of fans, he is also incredibly polite on Twitter and Facebook and really seems to interact with his readers. I am going to make a special effort to read the Inspector Roy Grace series really soon – they have been on my radar for so long and after popping my cherry with Perfect People I have a feeling I am in for a real treat.

 

(Book source: Thank you to Midas for sending me my copy of this book for review).

 

 

The Retribution by Val McDermid

In three words:

Revenge, murder, pyschopath

 

What I thought:

I first discovered Val McDermid’s Tony Hill & Carol Jordan series about 7 or 8 years ago and I have been a dedicated fan ever since. The Retribution is not only the latest in the series of seven books but it also reintroduces one of the serial killers from a much earlier book The Wire in the Blood – the evil and twisted Jacko Vance. To be honest, I could barely remember a thing about that book so it wouldn’t make any difference to reading this book out of sequence if you haven’t read McDermid’s earlier ones yet.

Jacko Vance is clever – brillianlty clever and charming to boot. He has spent the last 16 year behind bars for the murder of a teenage girl (although he murdered many, many more but the prosecution couldn’t prove it). In The Retribution, Vance escapes from jail (no spoiler – it’s in the blurb) and is hell bent on payback to those who landed him in prison in the first place, including both Tony Hill and Carol Jordan. At the same time, another serial killer is on the lose in Bradfield killing prostitutes and Detective Carol Jordan’s team set out to track him down.

The fact that both these stories are running in tandem with each other means that not enough time was devoted to either. The prostitute killer felt almost like an afterthought and his ultimate capture was bordering on eye-rolling. The sotry of Jacko Vance’s escape and revenge would have been more than enough to keep us on the edge of our seats and, at times, I was. Waiting to see who would feed Carol Jordan’s cat (it will make sense when you have read it, I promise) had my pulse racing overtime and trying to figure out who was next on his hit-list was great stuff. Jacko Vance is such a brilliantly evil character that despite his psychopathic nature, I wanted to spend more and more time in his company in the book; I had to know what he was thinking and planning on doing next and loved seeing how he doesn’t see anything wrong with himself, just everyone else. However – and it’s with a heavy heart that I write this, being such a fan – I felt that this book wasn’t on a par with others in the series. In fact,  Beneeth the Bleeding (two books earlier) was also somewhat lacking and I wonder if Tony Hill and Carol Jordan are finally running out of steam….. or maybe McDermid is?

Despite my overall enjoyment of the book, I was left with a feeling that the ending was rushed and that the prostitute killer had almost been forgotten and that Hill and Jordan were not acting completely in character. As for the end….it felt so implausable that I almost saw the character involved as a charicature of themselves, complete with moustache-twirling “mwahahahahaaa”. The book also ends very abruptly, almost like the end of a chapter than the end of a book and it left me with a feeling of “now what?” rather than satisfaction.

Verdict: A really good read, just not a great one. I felt a little short-changed which is disappointing as I always look forward to the latest book in the series so much. Will I read the next? Absolutely!

 

(Source: I recieved my copy of this book for review from both Little, Brown and also Netgalley – thank you)

 

Day 39 – A book I expected to hate but loved

Love me, love me not, love me…

When I was younger I read and loved Agatha Christie books but that was probably as near as I got to crime fiction until James Patterson which I used to read in a single sitting on holiday. Then back in about 2004, our chosen book club book was layed out on the table and I remember picking it up tentitively and wrinkling my nose at the title. That book was The Torment of Others by Val McDermid.

I remember being almost so sure that I wouldn’t enjoy it (it sounded gory and hardcore and the cover wasn’t as nice as the new one shown below) that I nearly didn’t even buy it that night. Once home, however, curiosity got the better of me and I ended up flying through the chapters, completely enthralled by the twisted tale before me. It was brilliant!

The Torment of Others wasn’t the first book in McDermid’s Tony Hill & Carol Jordan (it’s the fourth I think) but it didn’t matter. Once I had read that book, I went right back to the beginning and read them all in order, pretty much back to back (just like I did when I discovered Gerritsen’s Rizzoli & Isles series). McDermid is one very clever author – I love the twists and turns, not just of the stories themselves but of the killers minds; I loved being alongside Tony Hill as he tries to fathom out their motives and what they’ll do next.

 

  Have you ever expected to dislike a book and had a pleasant surprise?

 

Day 35 – The longest book I have ever read

Count how many pages…

I’m not really one for long books. I wish I was – there are so many I want to read! It’s the size that puts me off even picking most of them up: what if it takes too long to read when there are so many other books out there waiting to be read? I am easily distracted by things that drop through my letter box and books that have been on my shelf for a long time can be overlooked.

I would love to read more though including Charles Dickens (David Copperfield, Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend to name just a few), Gone With the Wind, The Passage, The Crimson Petal and the White, Quincunx, Shantaram, Shogun and A Suitable Boy are all on my shelves, staring sadly at me every time I pass them.

Despite saying that, I have read some long books and I almost always love them when I do (although part of me wonders if I love them so much becasue I am so rapturous of  having got through them!). The longest book I have read so far is The Count of Monte Cristo which I loved. Swashbuckling, dramatic and thrilling!

 

  Which is the longest book you have read and was it worth it?