What I thought:
This is one of those books where I scratch my head wondering if I have actually read the same book as everyone else. There is a lot of love for The Honeymoon so I am definitely in the minority here, however…
Where to even start? I suppose I did finish it so that’s something, but it was more to find out what this “amazing twist” was. Well, yes, it is a proper WTF moment but I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry (mainly that I had plowed on to the end to get to it).
This book had the promise of a great holiday thriller: a newly married couple on honeymoon in the Maldives and the groom disappears into thin air one night. With no way off the island, did he plan to disappear, did he commit suicide or was something more sinister at play? So here are my problems: set on a luxurious and idyllic island in the Indian Ocean and yet for all the sense of place I felt they could have been in Margate, and a couple who’s relationship I didn’t buy at all – I could never quite fathom what on earth kept them together for so long as there didn’t seem to be any spark of love (or even lust) between them.
The book is narrated mainly by Jemma who is a hugely unlikeable character with, in my opinion, no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Neither did her husband for that matter, or indeed the other couple on the island, Chrissy and Kenny. I found all the characters to be either cardboard cutouts or caricatures and couldn’t invest in them in any way. I found the narrative flat and one-dimensional, almost Janet and John at times, which may sound harsh but honestly, I just felt nothing while reading this book. Well, apart from at the end, once I got over my disgust and howled with laughter at its incredulity. It’s almost worth reading just for that but I actually feel that the reader has been cheated with the ending as any possible scenarios seem to fade to nothingness.
While I wasn’t expecting a work of great literary merit when I picked this up, I did at least expect something more than I got. I’m afraid this book left me feeling duped. I’m all for a bit of misdirection and the odd red herring but not when you realise that the entire book is one big diversion.
I’m really in the minority here and as I always say – judge for yourself; particularly as it seems to be a big hit for most. I just can’t recommend this book, sorry.
What I thought:
What an exceptionally beautifully written book Exquisite is. A psychological thriller of such deliciously sumptuous, yet so clean and crisp, prose and not a word wasted.
Narrated in turn by Bo Luxton – author, married mother to two young girls, living an idyllic life in a cottage in the Lakes – and Alice Dark – young, lively aspiring author living in a bedsit in Brighton, who attends one of Bo’s creative writing courses, Exquisite starts out as a friendship based on their love of the written word, but soon spirals into something much darker. What the reader is then presented with is two increasingly differing accounts of the same thing by each woman, it becomes clear that one or both of them is twisting the truth. We know right from the first page that one of the women ends up in prison, but what we don’t know is which one and why. This cloaks the book in tension and suspicion as we know that things won’t end well and this, along with its undercurrent of intensity and unpredictability, provides the sense of teetering on the cusp of something and never quite knowing when we’re going to fall off the edge (or be pushed).
Exquisite is a perfectly suited title of a book of such lush lyrical prose with themes of obsession, manipulation, and all-consuming passion. With gorgeous descriptions of one of my favourite places in the world – The Lake District – and strong, believable narrative, Exquisite has proved itself more than worthy of being among the best psychological thrillers I have read in some time. Debut author, Sarah Stovell, is definitely one to watch.
Have you read this yet? Are you going to?
With thanks to Karen at Orenda for providing me with a copy of this book (for which I have provided an honest review).
What I Thought:
I bloody loved this book. It put me somewhat in mind of Zoe Heller’s Notes on a Scandal (which I also bloody loved). Alternating between the voices of Olivia – successful author and TV-personality, attractive, nice houses, large family, and Vivian – bitter, jealous, lonely, plain, elderly housekeeper, The Night Visitor sucks the reader into a claustrophobic chokehold of deceit and secrets.
While Olivia Sweetman should be riding high on the massive success of her latest book, she is acting strangely fretful and on edge, and Vivian, her research assistant has mysteriously vanished at a crucial moment. With absolutely nothing in common, Olivia and Vivian’s lives have become interwoven through work, but increasingly uncomfortably and obsessively so. Set mainly in East Sussex and the south of France, the story of these two very different women is filled with symbolism, usually of the creepy-crawly variety, which was a very clever way to expose many character flaws in both parties.
There were several gasp-out-loud moments for me in this book. Not the gratuitous or macabre kind, but much more subtle and a feeling of being sucked into a vortex of manipulation and deceit. It was difficult to know who to trust at times and difficult to know who the characters themselves could trust also.
Shining a light on feminism (and cleverly done, might I add), this exceptionally well-plotted book exposes our culture and how we believe things to be. But as Vivian points out: just like the dung beetle, never underestimate someone you think is below you.
Absolutely brilliant! Creepy and compelling edge-of-your-seat reading at its best. Often disturbing and unsettling but always absorbing and engrossing. Massive thumbs up from me!
Have you read this yet? It’s a belter!
What I thought:
Despite my growing aversion to anything with “Girl” in the title (or sister, husband or missing, come to that), The Girl Before has proved that I was wrong to judge a book by its cover (or title in this case). It was a big hit!
Narrated in turn by Emma (Then) and Jane (Now), the story is centred around a unique home at 1, Folgate Street in London. Jane moves into what she thinks is her dream home (beautiful, uncluttered and a pittance for what it is) to help get over a tragedy she has just suffered. Desperate to start a clean slate, she isn’t put off sending in her application for the most beautiful house where everything is controlled by an app, despite a list of 200 psychometric questions that have to be answered. Most people, the Agent says, don’t get a look in. Only a select few ever make the cut. But once Jane is settled she finds out that Emma, the girl before, died in mysterious circumstances right there in the home.
I had many reservations about this book before reading, and having Girl in the title was only one of them. I had seen mixed reviews, with many stating that it was Fifty-Shades-of-Gray-esque which was enough to put me off all on its own. Now, I haven’t actually read Fifty Shades but I did sit through the most excruciatingly boring 2 hours of my life once when I was persuaded to watch it with a friend. I can see the parallels alright – the controlling, emotionally stunted, control freak who is the Landlord and women who apparently fall at his feet. These bits I didn’t particularly like, and in fact, I had a hard time warming to most of the characters, but yet I was gripped from the start and compelled to keep reading on.
I found this to be a real page-turner and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The chapters are short, there are unreliable narrators so you’re never really clear on what’s real and what’s not. It was pacy and entertaining and I give it a big thumbs up.
Have you read this yet? What did you think?
What I thought:
Joan and her 4-year old son, Lincoln, are at the zoo when a teenage shooter turns their afternoon of fun into a heart-stopping race for survival. Hiding in an animal enclosure as it grows dark, the story unfolds mostly from Joan’s point of view and occasionally from a few others who are also hiding.
Imagine trying to keep a 4-year old quiet and still while all the time assessing the situation for a way out. Although I don’t have children of my own, I was once (a zillion years ago) and au pair to several young children and therefore I could understand the endless chatter and make-believe and innocence of a child while all hell is breaking loose around them, and it didn’t take much imagination to recognise how utterly and fiercely a mother would want to protect her child.
While there was much forward momentum, there were also parts that dragged somewhat for me. I did feel like a lot of it was centered around Lincoln and his make-believe world rather than the developing plot. There is only so much interest I can feign in plastic toys.
I liked the fact that this isn’t your normal type of thriller and, there were genuine edge-of-your-seat moments that ensure those pages kept turning. And I actually didn’t see the end coming…
NB/ I was provided a copy of this book for review from the publisher in return for my honest opinion.
What 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.
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.
What I thought:
I am a big fan of Erin Kelly. A few months ago I read The Burning Air and l found absolutely fantastic with twists (two of them!) that actually had me gasping out loud (so rare this happens that it’s a joy when it does). It was for this reason that I was desperate to get my hands on her latest book, He Said / She Said. Maybe my expectations were too high this time around but it really didn’t have the same wallop that the first book did.
At the beginning of the book there is a letter from Kelly to her readers in which she explains that she is nervous about this book, not because of reviews and ratings etc. but because of the subject matter. He Said / She Said is about a suspected rape and the fallout from the night in question. This is not an easy topic to tackle and it raises as many questions as it answers. Kelly states that she went to watch several trials of this nature and that she was nearly swayed by a more polished and persuasive lawyer which raises its own questions. There were a few high profile cases that came to mind while reading this book, all of which have had massive media coverage and this was also tackled as a subject in the book: should the accused be allowed anonymity before being found innocent or guilty? I could go on and on about this because not only is it a really important subject that highlights the many issues of this sort of crime (not least the horrific ordeal the woman must go through again).
Now to the book itself. Narrated by Laura and Kit in turn, girlfriend and boyfriend who have gone to watch the Eclipse of 1999 in Cornwall and stumble across what looks like a rape. In testifying about what she saw and feeling pressured and angry by the accused (Jamie’s) Barrister, Laura tells a lie in court. This was totally believable. Who hasn’t embellished a story to add more impact? Laura didn’t pre-plan her response but it’s a lie nonetheless and one that follows her for 16 years. The book centres around a few different themes and here lies my problem. The tale of the attack and the court case could have been a great, thought-provoking book on its own but instead it takes the route of stalker and psychopath as Beth, the victim, won’t leave Laura and Kit alone. I understand that this was to be able to introduce twists and keep the reader guessing but for me it didn’t quite work and I really felt that the main story would have been enough on its own.
I found this a compelling and page-turning read but also a pretty uncomfortable one. The question around did Laura really see what she thought she saw was a great plot device but I never warmed to any of the characters in the book. Maybe that was intentional – not portraying Beth as the “victim” but someone who is pretty feisty and not always likable. I am curious to find out what others think about this book however so please do comment if you’ve read it.
He Said / She Said is out in the UK on 20th April and I received a copy through Amazon Vine in return for my honest review.