Review: The Girl Before by J P Delaney

girl beforeWhat 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.

Verdict:

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?

Review: Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips

FIERCE-KINGDOM-by-Gin-Phillips-smallWhat 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.

Verdict:

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.

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.

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He Said / She Said by Erin Kelly

he-saidWhat 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.

Verdict:

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.

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

good-meWhat I Thought:

This book is predicted to be one of the highest ranking books of 2017 and probably will be. Hot on the tails of Gone Girl, Girl on the Train etc. books with bold claims of following in those footsteps – cue eye rolling.

Milly’s mother is on trial for multiple child murder. This is one of those huge shocking murder cases, that hits the headlines and stays there. Milly (previously Annie until her name change) is now in the care system, with foster parents. She has a new identity, a new school, and new life. Milly is placed with a Psychologist foster father who turns out to have a rather dysfunctional family –  wife Saskia and their daughter Phoebe who takes an instant dislike to Milly. Milly tries her best to fit in but Phoebe and her mean-girl friends make school life as unpleasant for Milly as possible. But Milly has another agenda – she wants to stay with her foster family, which means keeping quiet about Phoebe’s bullying. Slowly we get a sense of the kind of depraved life Milly had, as a victim of her mother’s abuse. How much has Milly been influenced by her upbringing and can she escape the past?

Milly’s voice is distinctive and we start to wonder just how badly affected she has been by living in her childhood house of horrors. She battles with her good self and her bad self throughout the book which leaves the reader wondering how this will manifest in her new life. Does the apple really fall that far from the tree? Nature versus nurture has been a debate for eons and this story has us questioning what they think they know at regular intervals.

 

  Verdict:

It’s certainly a thought-provoking topic and one that would probably go down well with book clubs. Are we a product of our environment or are we predisposed to behave in a certain way. The ending, despite being fairly shocking, wasn’t actually a massive surprise. I enjoyed this book for the fresh new angle and voice but I’m not sure I could rave about it. It felt slightly two-dimensional to me, but I suppose that could have been intentional given that it was narrated by a teenage girl who had never been loved or cared for and therefore probably didn’t know how to emote other than in a bystander kind of way.

Thanks to Michael Joseph and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book in return for an honest review.

Have you read this yet? I would love to know what you think?

 

 

Day 8 – A book that blew me away

You’ll never see it coming….

I rarely come across people who have also read The Magus by John Fowles but when I do we all agree on one thing – it’s a masterpiece.

This is one of those books that you can never get comfortable with; as soon as you think you have it sussed Fowles rips that rug out from under you and leaves you scratching your head and wondering how the hell he could have fooled you again. The Magus is full of twists, turns, psychological games and suspense – it’ss brilliant!

There are many, many books that I love but this is one that totally blew me away. I know it’s long (about 700 pages) but it is so worth it, I promise you. I would love to see more people read this book – it’s one of my all time favourites (in my Top 3) and I am dying to hear what other people think of it.

  Which book has blown you away?