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: 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.

Review: The Other Woman by Laura Wilson

51YY-shSQzL._SX313_BO1,204,203,200_What I thought?

Have you ever seen the comedy series “Worst Week of My Life”? Or even “Meet the Parents” where Ben Stiller’s character just keeps getting deeper and deeper into trouble and it’s excruciating but hilarious? That’s exactly how I found this book: one minute reading through my fingers and cringing, the next wiping away a tear of laughter.

I loved it! Sophie, the central character is so believable with her keeping-up-appearances lifestyle and careful planning of the yearly Hamilton family Christmas card describing how well Alfie is doing at Uni, how well Poppy’s music lessons are coming on and their latest long-haul no-expense-spared holidays. However, when she receives one of the round robin Christmas letters sent back to her, claiming that her husband is going to leave her, Sophie’s carefully cultivated life comes crashing down around her.

Setting out to discover The Other Woman, Sophie’s actions (the first one of which made me sit bolt upright and say “oh!!!!”) sets off a chain of events that reveals itself like a comedy of errors and had me shouting “nooooooo” on a regular basis. I’m not sure if this book was meant to be funny or not but even if not deliberate, the author has a real gift for comedy. It was one thing after another and I could not turn the pages quick enough.

Verdict:

Brilliant. Read it!

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Review: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

51E9pZF3USLWhat I thought:

Having read, and loved, I Found You, not too long ago, I was ecstatic to see that Lisa Jewell had another book out and dived straight in. Another good’n!

Fifteen-year-old Ellie Mack disappears one day on the way to the library. Ellie is pretty, popular, clever, has a boyfriend and is just about to sit her GCSE’s – she has everything going for her and everything to live for, and that’s how her mother Laurel knows she hasn’t just run away. The story hops between the time that Ellie went missing and 10 years later when Laurel is only just starting to pick up the pieces of her life (now divorced from Ellie’s father and emotionally detached from her two remaining children). When she meets a charismatic stranger, Floyd, Laurel dares to hope for some sort of future – until she meets Floyd’s 9-year-old daughter, Poppy, who bears a striking resemblance to Ellie.

While harrowing in places, it’s never gratuitous and Jewell gets it spot on in terms of pace – speeding up when mystery and intrigue are at play and slowing it down in order for the reader to fully understand the impact Ellie’s disappearance has had on everyone.

Verdict:

Gripping and heartfelt, Then She Was Gone has plot and characters with depth which is something of a rarity in this genre. Big thumbs up!

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Review: Did You See Melody? by Sophie Hannah

51T2Wtx1HsLWhat I thought:

I was lured in to reading this book after having read Sophie Hannah’s very early books and loving them (and then later on, not so much). This one sounded intriguing though: Cara Burrows, on holiday from England, walks into the wrong hotel room and sees the most famous murder victim in the USA, Melody Chapa, whose parents are serving life sentences for her murder. Or does she?

Well, where to begin? I scratched my head for most of this book, wondering if it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek or even a spoof of this very crowded genre. Having since seen other reviews, it appears I’m not alone. My reading of this book was accompanied by much eye-rolling, some jaw-dropping and a spot of guffawing at its incredulity.

Cara Burrows goes half way round the world, leaving her family with no way of contacting her and spending all the family savings, to an over-the-top, luxurious American spa for a reason, that as it becomes apparent, just seems ridiculously dramatic. There is much made of Cara giving her phone to a complete stranger of a cab driver so that her family can’t contact her, and less than 24 hours later she is setting up an Instagram account and posting shots of herself to tag in her children to show she’s “OK”. This is an example of the many times I had to suspend my disbelief at a plot which felt so contrived and clunky. Cara herself is not a character I cared about or could even empathise with, and the Americans were, in the main, such caricatures I was almost embarrassed for the author.

Verdict:

This could have been a good story – the premise certainly piqued my interest but I couldn’t see past the gaping plot holes and Hannah’s attempt to stitch them together with something – anything – however tenuous, to get us to the next part of the book. I am more bewildered than disappointed if I’m honest. If this does turn out to be a spoof, then it’s a good one, if not then I can’t recommend I’m afraid.