Throwback Thursday: The Likeness by Tana French

throwbackthursday

Throwback Thursday is a meme created by Renee at It’s Book Talk to share old favourite books rather than just the new shiny ones. This is a great idea to bring back to life some much-loved books. Please feel free to join in.

My choice for this week is:

This is taken from my review in 2010.


Image result for the likeness tana frenchWhat I thought:

The story is narrated by Cassie Maddox, a Detective in Dublin’s Domestic Violence Unit. She is called out to the scene of a crime in a derelict cottage in the countryside early one morning where a young lady has been stabbed to death. It doesn’t take Cassie long to work out why she, personally, has been summoned – the dead girl is the spitting image of herself. Not only that, but the girl is ID’d as one Lexie Maddison which is the invented name that Cassie had been given several years ago on an undercover job. The girl, by the looks of all the evidence that is presented to the team, has been living as Lexie Maddison for the last 3 years in Dublin and nobody knows where she came from or who she really is.

Lexie had been living in an old manor house in the village where she was found for just 6 months with 4 of her student friends (one of whom had inherited the house from his deceased uncle). After considerable persuasion, Cassie agrees to become part of a plan to infiltrate the manor house and out the killer. By telling the 4 house-mates that Lexie didn’t die that night, Cassie then spends the next week preparing for her new role by watching videos of the 5 housemates together, learning all about Lexie’s life, mannerisms, and her friends and then she is ready to step into her new life…….

I was on the edge of my seat wondering if Cassie could pull it off and if one of the housemates had anything to do with her death or whether it is someone from Lexie’s unknown past come back to find her or even someone thinking that they had murdered the original Lexie (from Cassie’s undercover role). One thing is for sure though: the housemates are hiding something.

I just loved this book, I found that I couldn’t and put it down, nor did I want to. Despite the size of the book, I never once felt like it was too long; on the contrary, I could have gone on reading for several hundred more. I became like Cassie – so engrossed in Lexie’s life that I felt like I knew the housemates and was living there with them. I love a god thriller, but this felt like more than that to me – it is a psychological thriller and even had shades of The Secret History by Donna Tartt  (which is one of my all-time favourite books) or Red Leaves by Paulina Simons (another great college thriller).

The characters in this book are brilliantly drawn: Detective Frank Mackey (Cassie’s undercover boss) is perfect for his role (and I have heard that French’s next book Faithful Place will be narrated by him which I am excited about) as are the characters of the housemates (posh, lying around listening to classical music and reading 18th century poets for relaxation).

Verdict:

A genuine page turner!

 

Have you read this or any other books by Tana French? Which ones do you recommend?

Throwback Thursday: The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino

throwbackthursday

Throwback Thursday is a meme created by Renee at It’s Book Talk to share old favourite books rather than just the new shiny ones. This is a great idea to bring back to life some much-loved books. Please feel free to join in.

My choice for this week is: The Devotion of Suspect X by Keigo Higashino and copied from my review in 2011.

 

suspect xWhat I thought:

What a strange yet strangely appealing book from this Japanese author, Keigo Higashino. I have read several novels by Japanese authors over the years and they have all had similar styles in that they have been sparsely written with barely a word wasted, yet they have all packed an almighty punch (without even trying it somehow seems). The Devotion of Suspect X is a clever crime book. There is a murder but no blood and guts, a crime but no evidence. The killing takes place in the first few pages of the book and we all know straight away who did it: what happens immediately afterwards is what keeps the reader on their toes.

The story is centred around Yasuko, a single mum who works in a lunch-box shop and whose unsavoury ex-husband tries to worm his way back into her life. Within pages, said ex-husband is dead and entering from stage left is strange next-door neighbour Ishigami, who is a genius mathematician with rather a large crush on Ysasuko. On the case of the body dumped in an oil drum by the river is Tokyo  Detective Kusangi who vents his frustrations about the case to friend Yukawa who happens to be a genius physician and who knew Ishigami at University. What follows is clash of the geniuses: not in an action-packed, race-against-time way, but more like a battle of brains over a quiet game of chess. While this was a great way to help the reader unravel what happened, I have to admit that about ¾ of the way through the book I started to become a little bored with the perpetual cat-and-mouse game between Yukawa and Ishigami: I remember sighing and uttering “get on with it” at one point. However, not long after I was rewarded with an almighty wallop at the end that I didn’t see coming. And then, just as I’d relaxed again, I was left staring at an ending that made my mouth go into this shape….. O

Verdict:

Quirky, surprising and rewarding.

 

Have you read this or any other fiction by Japanese authors? What did you think?

 

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: The Roanoake Girls by Amy Engel

roanoakeWhat I thought:

Firstly, that cover! It’s so pretty (although I was amused once I’d received it to realise that it is the material that my parents living room curtains were in the 90’s). Secondly, I saw a quote from author Sarah Hilary that likened it to Flowers in the Attic for a new generation. I was obsessed with that whole series back in the 80’s. Sold!

The story of the Roanoake girls begins with sixteen-year-old Lane’s arrival at her Grandparents large, rambling Kansas estate in the height of summer after the death of her mother who ran away from this very house many years before. Cousin Allegra, also 16, has grown up in the house after her own mother died when she was a baby. Both are stunningly beautiful, like their mothers and aunts before them, and both are damaged. The intense summer heat is the perfect setting for this claustrophobic and stifling tale and the remote, strange atmosphere of the house all add to the unfolding macabre and twisted narrative.

Lane narrates most of the book, both 10 years ago and in the present day when she returns to the house after a long absence after learning of Allegra’s disappearance. This, and the voices of other Roanoake girls from the past (all of whom either died or ran away) that are interspersed throughout is a great vehicle for allowing the read to piece bits together slowly. I wouldn’t call this crime fiction, or even a thriller, but it certainly has the forward momentum of one. With believable and flawed characters: those who crave love, those who take advantage, and those who are damaged by lack of it.  With deeply disturbing issues at its heart, The Roanoake Girls is not always a comfortable read, but it is a compelling one.

 

Verdict:

This is a dark and disturbing read, but once it gets you in it clutches you are as powerless as the Roanoake girls to resist its lure. Strangely addictive and deliciously twisted, I really enjoyed this book despite the content. It will certainly stay with me for a long time.

Thank you to Hodder & Stoughton for my copy of this book which I chose to read and review honestly. This book will be released in the UK on 7th March 2017.

On reading a book that gets 5* from everyone else, and you didn’t like it…

What are they seeing that I’m not? What am I missing? What’s wrong with me?

I’m actually not one for sticking to books I don’t get on with, and I’m usually the first to tell people to “move on” when they’re not feeling it. As every bibliophile knows, life’s too short to read all the books we’ve already got our beady eyes on (or are currently stacked sky high on our bookshelves) never mind all the shiny new ones that will distract and entice us in the process.

But then sometimes there is that one book that everyone is raving about and giving 5-stars to. And you keep reading for a while, scratching your head and wondering what it is that you’re not seeing. This has happened to me recently with Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent. It looks great, it sounds right up my street, people with similar book tastes to me are singing its praises, it’s been picked as a Richard and Judy book… so why can I not get past 50%?

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To be fair, it’s not a bad book at all. I didn’t hate it, I just got bored. I thought Lydia (the mother) was a good character and at the start of the book I really thought I was going to love her (as a character, not a person) but she was the only one that I didn’t feel was a bit two dimensional. I couldn’t get to grips with Laurence at all.

So, I have some questions for you:

  1. Do you give up on books that aren’t working for you or do you plough through to the end?
  2. Have you every gone to the end and been really glad you did or do you wish you’d listened to your gut?
  3. Do you find that you feel more obliged to read something through to the end if it’s a review copy?
  4. And finally: have you read this and if so, do you think I should give it another go?

I would love to know what you think.

 

 

The Killing Game by JS Carol

kliing-2What  I Thought:

This book should come with a warning sign on the cover: Do not start if you have other plans for the day. The term un-putdownable is banded around fairly frequently in book reviews (yep, guilty) but this one really is!

Set over just 4 hours in an exclusive Hollywood restaurant frequented by the A-list elite, their Agents and top PR, a lone gunman with a bomb strapped to him walks in one lunch hour and takes the 25 patrons and staff hostage. After making them strip to their underwear to heighten the sense of fear and humiliation, he then begins his games by killing unexpectedly and at random, his opening line upon entering having been “From this moment on I am God.”

The book is very clever at painting the picture of the Hollywood set in all its ugly glory (behind many a successful star is someone who has plotted, manipulated and orchestrated with them and behind every news story is a team of people who will go to any lengths to get exclusives, not caring who lives or dies along the way). Yet inside the restaurant, these sometimes shallow and narcissistic people are just the same as anyone else – they have their own worries, grief, hopes and dreams.

The book is set in half hour timeframes over the course of 4 hours and the narrative is fast and furious with each short chapter ending on a cliffhanger that makes it impossible to put down. Not only that but as you are left dangling off the edge of that particular cliff, the next chapter flits to another part of the story so there becomes a point where you are dangling off about 3 cliffs simultaneously ensuring you can never put the damn thing down! Crafty.

 

  Verdict:

Seriously good! Thrilling, exciting, shocking and so absorbing that when you finally come up for air it’s a bit of a surprise to find you are sat on your own sofa in your own home. Lock the doors, turn your phone off, put the fire on and your feet up (snacks recommended as you are unlikely to want to move for the next few hours) and get ready for the ride!

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