Sunday, 22 April 2018

Book Review & Blog Tour: HER GREATEST MISTAKE by Sarah Simpson


Author: Sarah Simpson
Publisher: Aria
Read: March 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟


I am thrilled to take part in the blog tour for Sarah Simpson's riveting debut novel Her Greatest Mistake, a suspenseful psychological thriller exploring dysfunctional relationships and the dark corners of the human psyche. For excerpts, author interviews and more, make sure to stop by other blogs participating in this blog tour (schedule attached).

Book Description:


Do we ever know what goes on behind closed doors?

Eve and Gregg were the perfect couple, with the perfect marriage...which has become the perfect lie. Gone is the charming, attentive Gregg - instead Eve wakes up each morning beside a manipulative and sinister man who controls his wife’s every move.

So Eve flees her immaculate marital home to keep herself, and young son Jack safe. Yet no matter how careful she has been, she knows Gregg will be relentless in his pursuit of his missing family. And that one day, when she's least expecting it, he will find them...

What was Eve’s greatest mistake?

Marrying Gregg? Leaving him? Or leaving him alive…?

My musings:


Wow! This book certainly packed some punch!  I was not surprised to find out that the author has a psychology degree and vast experience in working with patients with mental health issues. Simpson’s insights into what makes a psychopath tick and how dysfunctional dynamics are being sustained in a marriage are insightful and take this story to another level altogether.

Eve, our main protagonist, is a successful psychologist with parents, friends and colleagues who love and value her. All that changes when she meets Gregg, falls in love and gets married. It doesn’t take long for the cracks to appear as the marriage slides into a game of power and control in which Eve finds herself ensnared. Have you ever looked at a domestic violence situation and wondered why the victim stays with her partner? Have you ever blamed her for her own situation? Be honest! Eve is aware of what is happening to her, and yet she allows herself to become estranged and isolated from all her support people until she is solely at the mercy of her controlling spouse. How could this happen? Over the course of the story, Simpson carefully explores Eve’s insights into her own situation, and they will shock and surprise you.

But this is not simply a book about marriage and abuse, because Simpson has spun it into a riveting thriller that picks up pace as the story moves along, right up to its explosive finale. Because it is now twelve years later, and Eve has made a new life for herself and her teenage son, away from Gregg’s clutches. Gregg appears to have disappeared off the face of the earth, and Eve prays that it will remain so. Until a note is slipped into her briefcase, and she is forced to relive the trauma of her marriage all over again. Will she ever be able to break free from Gregg’s clutches?

I admit that it took me a little while to get used to the narration style, which is mainly Eve “talking to” Gregg as she recaps the events that led up to her current situation. It’s an unusual style I’m not usually fond of, but as the story progressed I found that it was befitting this tale of power and abuse and helped to explore the dynamics that drive these characters. Once I got into the story, it carried me with it like a runaway train, depositing me firmly into the midst of troubled minds – that of the abuser and the victim. Fascinating? Yes. Disturbing? Definitely! Some passages evoked an almost visceral response of anger and disgust that made me want do away with Gregg myself. It always reflects the skill of a writer to be able to kindle such sparks in the minds of her readers!  

Summary:



Without any further ado, and for fear of giving something away that would spoil the suspense for other readers, just let me say that I really enjoyed Simpson’s debut novel and look forward to reading more from this talented author. Her insights into the dynamics that sustain dysfunctional relationships and her experience in exploring the dark corners of the human psyche provided additional depth to this suspenseful thriller that is often lacking in similar novels. Highly recommended to lovers of the genre who enjoy character driven stories of suspense that focus on relationship dynamics.


About the author:



Sarah Simpson has a first-class honours degree in Psychology and has worked in a neuro-psychology department at a Brain Rehabilitation Hospital. When she first graduated she formed a mental health consultancy and worked as a psychologist within the family court system of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire. Three years ago she moved to Cornwall with her husband and three children, and runs her own practice in Truro. Her Greatest Mistake is her first novel, and she is currently working on the second.

Twitter: @sarahrsimpson
Facebook: @sarahsimpsoncornwall

Facebook: @ariafiction
Twitter: @aria_fiction
Instagram: @ariafiction 


Links to buy:


Amazon: link
Kobo: link
Google Play: link
iBooks: link




Thursday, 19 April 2018

Audiobook Review: THE SILENCE BETWEEN BREATHS by Cath Staincliffe


Author: Cath Staincliffe
Narrator: David Thorpe
Read: April 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2

Book Description:



Eight people, one deadly secret.

Passengers boarding the 10:35 train from Manchester, Piccadilly to London, Euston are bound for work, assignations, reunions, holidays or new starts, with no idea that their journey is about to be brutally curtailed.

Holly has just landed her dream job, which should make life a lot easier than it has been, and Jeff is heading for his first ever work interview after months of unemployment. They end up sitting next to each other. On board customer service assistant Naz dreams of better things as he collects rubbish from the passengers. And among the others travelling are Nick with his young family who are driving him crazy; pensioner Meg and her partner setting off on a walking holiday and facing an uncertain future; Caroline, run ragged by the competing demands of her stroppy teenage children and her demented mother; and Rhona, unhappy at work and desperate to get home to her small daughter. And in the middle of the carriage sits Saheel, carrying a deadly rucksack . . .


My musings:


Hmmmm ... I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to review this. For me, the book consisted of a few quite distinctive parts, of which I enjoyed some a lot more than others. I don’t want to give spoilers, so I cannot go into details, but will try to explain what I mean without touching too much on the plot:

The book started off with a strong sense of intrigue as the author offers up multiple POVs of different passengers on a train bound from Manchester to Euston. I love glimpses into people’s lives, and thought that Staincliffe did a great job in giving the vital snapshots of the backgrounds of her characters that led to them all being in the same place, at the same time. Despite the short timeframe in which to establish her characters, Staincliffe managed to conjure them all up very vividly for me, and I felt invested in just about every one of them – not an easy task! The confined space of the train made for a brilliant claustrophobic setting, and anyone who has ever been on a train or a plane before will be able to imagine the entrapment experienced if a dangerous situation is added to this mix. At one point the tension mounted to such an extent that I literally held my breath, thinking how brilliant this books was, and how I admired this author’s writing style!

Just as the tension and suspense peaked, an event occurred that dispelled this build-up in an instant and totally changed the story. Without the suspense, the following chapters became more a study of human behaviour, at times brutal, graphic and quite disturbing. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind that, seeing how Staincliffe’s writing fully captured the stark emotional impact of events occurring, and she writes exceptionally well. Here we had tension of a different kind, the sort that leaves a bit of a bitter taste in your mouth as your emotional attachment to some characters is being tested – this is so hard to write without spoilers!!!!!

Now to the third part of the book, in which the tension is now gone completely, and the story focuses on characters’ emotions rather than events. I enjoyed it, but missed the hair-raising tension that had made the earlier part of the book great for me. After such a strong build-up, I felt somehow deflated, with the different POVs now serving more to fragment as earlier they had held the threads together. Perhaps that makes no sense, but picture a map of paths all intersecting in one huge roundabout, only to separate again into different meandering ways, some petering out into nothing and some not exiting at all. Get the picture?

Ok, I’ve given enough obscure hints now. I think that the author has written a great contemporary novel that is very poignant for our tumultuous times. There is an element of suspense, but most of the story focuses on people and their emotional responses to the events occurring. I thought Staincliffe delivered an excellent drama with true to life characters that made me wonder how I would react in their place. Warning – some scenes may be very graphic for some readers. 


Credit goes to David Thorpe for an excellent narration that lent authenticity and individuality to each character.






Friday, 13 April 2018

Book Review: THE PERFECT MOTHER by Aimee Molloy


Author: Aimee Molloy
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Read: April 2018
Expected publication: 3 May 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟1/2


"Bad things happen in heat like this."

Book Description:


We all want different things. Francie wants to be the perfect mother. Nell wants to escape the past. Collette wants to spend more time with her family.


All Winnie wants is to have her baby back.

When Nell suggests a night out in Brooklyn to her new mums club, the others jump at the chance. But the evening takes a tragic turn when single mother Winnie learns that her six-week-old son Midas has been kidnapped.

As the investigation hits a dead end, Nell, Collette and Francie make it their mission to succeed where the police are failing and bring baby Midas home. But as Winnie and those around her come under scrutiny from the media, damaging secrets come to light and friendships are pushed to the limit.

Because people will do almost anything to protect the ones they love . . .

My musings:


This book really should come with a WARNING! Do not even think about picking it up if you have any work, chores, kids, pets or other things demanding your attention any time soon, because it is utterly addictive and un-putdownable. Luckily I read it on my day off, or I doubt I could have gone to work without having to have the book surgically removed from my hands. As it was, I got nothing done until I could find out what was going on, and had to come up with some pretty inventive excuses as to why I was holed up in a dark house on a beautiful sunny day, surrounded by mess and one very peeved off ignored dog.

Anyway, let’s talk about The Perfect Mother. It’s a long time since I was a first-time mother of a newborn, but I remember it well. The mixture of utter bliss and terror, the absence of a manual to operate this little creature that had suddenly taken over our lives. We did not have a website to sign up for support but formed out own little group of new mums in our small town, meeting regularly to hang out and discuss our babies. I could picture it all so well, and it brought back quite a few memories. In Molloy’s book, the mothers all have one thing in common – each and every one of them gave birth in May, thus their group’s name of “The May Mothers”. They meet regularly in the local park, comparing notes, sharing food, supporting each other. Friendships are forged. Secrets are exchanged. There is even a father in the group, nicknamed Token (for “token male”) by the women, who all secretly think he is gay but no one is game to ask. Spring turns to summer, and a heatwave sends all the new mums a little bit crazy. Someone suggests a night out at a local bar for some “time out” from their babies, and it seems like a good idea at the time. Except that on the night, something goes terribly wrong, and one of the newborns disappears out of his cot whilst being looked after by the babysitter.

Molloy tells her story through multiple POVs, letting different new mothers share their most innermost thoughts, fears and theories about baby Midas’ disappearance and their role in the event. It’s a style that is often difficult to pull off, as there is usually at least one character who is less engaging than the rest, or the different POVs serve to make the story disjointed. Have no fear, because this is not the case here! Molloy is a master at characterisation, and I could relate to each and every character in her story. Feisty and confident Nell, who faces having to go back to work when her infant is only ten weeks old. Francie, the Southern girl with the crying baby that never sleeps. Collette, trying so hard to juggle a writing assignment with the demands of her new baby. And the beautiful mysterious Winnie, baby Midas’ mother – BTW where was she in the hours her baby went missing? And what is she hiding?

Each and every one of the women has secrets, which are gradually revealed layer by layer, like slowly unwrapping a mystery gift in a pass-the-parcel game. Simply ingenious! I also liked the author’s take on the role internet, social media and TV play in the book, turning the baby’s disappearance into a media circus with fingers pointed at the mothers themselves for daring to enjoy a single night out away from their babies. The whole story certainly sucked me in, and you would have had to forcefully wrench the book out of my hands to stop me from reading! 

Summary: 


The Perfect Mother is the perfect binge read, a page-turner to be consumed in day, a weekend, a journey. Make sure to put some time away for it, as it will demand your full attention. Brimming with interesting plucky characters embodying modern motherhood, it’s a tense and addictive mystery, revealing its secrets deliciously slowly, like the many layers of a Russian doll, until you find out the hidden answers inside. Molloy’s book was one of the most compulsive and entertaining reads so far this year, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a clever domestic thriller brimming with intrigue.


Thank you to Netgalley and Hachette Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Book Review: THE DEATH OF MRS WESTAWAY by Ruth Ware


Author: Ruth Ware
Publisher: Random House UK, Vintage Publishing
Read: April 2018
Expected publication: 28 June 2018
My Rating:🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

"Seven for a secret
Never to be told."


Book Description: 


When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother, it seems like the answer to her prayers. She owes money to a loan shark and the threats are getting increasingly aggressive: she needs to get her hands on some cash fast.

There's just one problem - Hal's real grandparents died more than twenty years ago. The letter has been sent to the wrong person. But Hal knows that the cold-reading techniques she’s honed as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a stranger's funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her.
Hal makes a choice that will change her life for ever. But once she embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life…

My musings: 


Stop Press! Lovers of character-driven, atmospheric thrillers with a spooky setting, listen up! You’d better put May and June on your calendars, because this is when Ruth Ware’s latest book The Death of Mrs Westaway will be released, and it’s a pearler! Ever since reading The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game, Ware has been firmly embedded on my favourite authors list, and I was doing a little happy dance around my house when I received a copy of her new book from Netgalley.


For me, The Death of Mrs Westaway has all the hallmarks of a fantastic read. Ware is a master at characterisations, and has created another charismatic main protagonist and a great cast of supporting characters who immediately drew me into the story. I once followed a thread on a book blogging site, discussing whether people could visualise characters’ faces when reading or whether they remained shadowy featureless shapes. For me, this depends very much on the author’s writing skill, and I am happy to say that Ware falls squarely into that category. It’s in the small details, the casual observations, the little quirks that make her characters come to life, and the book played out almost movie-like in my mind, each fictional person as real to me as flesh-and-blood people I have known for years.

Hal, the mousy bespectacled girl who is constantly being underestimated by those who first meet her played a wonderful lead, and I immediately warmed to her. Left destitute, with loan sharks threatening her after the sudden death of her mother, young Hal has her back against the wall and we feel her desperation as she is looking for a way out of her seemingly hopeless situation. When a letter arrives to tell her that she has been named as an heir to part of the late Mrs Westaway’s estate, it offers a perfect way out – even if it means lying about her true identity. Would I consider doing this in her situation? Would you? Don’t you just love an ethical dilemma in a suspense story? To see what Hal decides to do you will have to read it for yourself ....

Aside from the characters, there is Ware’s hallmark claustrophobic setting that characterises all her novels. From the isolated house in the forest in her debut novel In a Dark Dark Wood, to the luxury yacht in The Women in Cabin 10, to the rustic beach house in The Lying Game – I loved them all! In The Death of Mrs Westaway the setting is a spooky, Gothic English manor house which has seen better days, and which harbours a dark secret. As the Westaways come together under its crumbling roof, the tension is sure to mount, and there is a constantly growing thread of menace and danger that had me eagerly turning the pages for more. I can see why comparisons with Agatha Christie’s writing have been made, because this is a very character driven novel, relying on the interactions between people and the things left unsaid to create almost unbearable suspense. As with her characters, Ware knows how to introduce small, seemingly innocuous elements into her setting that serve to ratchet up the tension, such as the dilapidated boathouse on a weed-choked lake, the mournful cawing of the magpies and the dark staircase to the small attic room Hal is being put up in during her stay at the house. I also loved the unusual element of Hal’s tarot cards to add to the breadcrumb-like trail of clues left for the reader, which made for a very unique feature in this outstanding novel!


Summary:


Ware has done it again and created a cast of vivid characters coming together in an eerie claustrophobic setting where past secrets are bound to raise their ugly heads and family skeletons are aired in her latest tense psychological thriller. 

The Death of Mrs Westaway is sure to be one of my favourite reads of 2018, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to all lovers of the genre!

Image result for 5 stars

Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.


 




Monday, 9 April 2018

Audiobook Review: WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE by Gunnar Staalesen


Author: Gunnar Staalesen
Read: February 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Book Description:



September 1977. Mette MisvΓ¦r, a three-year-old girl, disappears without trace from the sandpit outside her home. Her tiny, close middle-class community in the tranquil suburb of Nordas is devastated, but their enquiries and the police produce nothing. Curtains twitch, suspicions are raised, but Mette is never found. 

Almost 25 years later, as the expiration date for the statute of limitations draws near, Mette’s mother approaches PI Varg Veum, in a last, desperate attempt to find out what happened to her daughter. As Veum starts to dig, he uncovers an intricate web of secrets, lies and shocking events that have been methodically concealed. When another brutal incident takes place, a pattern begins to emerge. Chilling, shocking and full of extraordinary twists and turns, Where Roses Never Die reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost crime thriller writers.


My musings:



I profess I love Nordic thrillers, so was very excited to “accidentally” discover this series when scrolling through monthly deals on Amazon – and what could be more intriguing than an old cold case nobody has ever been able to solve? Even though I entered the series at #18, I had no problem at all connecting with the characters or following the story. Initially, PI Varg Veum appeared like your stereotypical flawed detective – a loner who drinks too much and struggles with his demons. I found out later that this was due to the death of his long time partner earlier in the series for whom Varg is still grieving. However, Varg has neither lost his taste for solving crime, nor his talent at following obscure clues to get his answers. When he is being approached by Maja MisvΓ¦r to look into the disappearance of her three year old daughter Mette over twenty years ago he goes right back to scratch, looking at all the people who lived in the small housing commune in Nordas where Mette grew up. With a background in social welfare, Veum has a nose not only for liars but also for bringing things to light that have remained hidden in the original police investigation.

I love mysteries that reveal small seemingly insignificant clues as the detective unearths them, letting readers draw their own conclusions. This Hansel-and-Gretel like trail of evidence eventually gets results, revealing dark secrets that have been hidden by members of the commune for a quarter of a decade. Staalesen has a talent for portraying all of his characters with such depth and insight that I was totally enthralled by the events that unfolded, and could picture them clearly in my mind.


How could I have not come across any of Staalesen’s work before? Containing all the elements I love in Nordic crime fiction – the atmospheric setting, the dark, gloomy undertones of hidden secrets and menace – this made for a fantastic read. Where Roses Never Die is a perfect example of why I am such a huge fan of the genre. With just good detective work, the book may lack the popular features employed by many contemporary crime writers (the unexpected twist, the unreliable narrator, etc), but it makes up for it in atmosphere, excellent character development and a multi-layered plot. Very highly recommended to all lovers of Nordic crime – I will definitely look up other works by the same author, and with 17 previous novels and number 19 published late last year, it will keep me entertained for a long time to come yet.