Saturday 27 June 2015

The Other Child - Lucy Atkins

The Other Child is the second book I've read by Lucy Atkins and after reading the blurb I was really looking forward to reading it.

Tess has met leading paediatric heart surgeon Greg through her photography work and after a whirlwind romance Greg is offered his dream job back in his home country and Tess falls pregnant. Not wanting to leave her behind Greg proposes and Tess and her nine year old son, Joe, move to the suburbs of Boston.

Right from the outset unsettling things start to happen, noises that seem to be coming from within the house, standoffish neighbours and Tess can't shake the feeling that she is being watched. Greg always seems to be at work and is becoming more and more distant. It becomes apparent that Tess doesn't know as much about Greg as she first thought and when she starts to question his background he becomes very evasive.

I truly wanted to love this book but for me it fell short of the psychological thriller label it's been given. I didn't find myself engaging with the character of Tess as much as I wanted to and there were a few times throughout the book when she really frustrated me. She was too easily fobbed off with Greg's excuses for not wanting to open up about his past for my liking. Surely if someone had the questions Tess did she would have forced the issue more, especially considering her circumstances. I actually felt more for Greg's character and by the end the majority of my sympathy was with him.

I won't say don't read this book as it is an entertaining read but I will say that if you're looking for the type of story that will have you frantically turning the pages to find out what's coming next, this one doesn't really make the grade.

With kind thanks to NetGalley and publishers Quercus Books for the review copy.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Ticket - Peter Dudgeon

Ticket is another cracking read from Peter Dudgeon, the author of Chance.

This gritty thriller tells the story of Paul Ranson, who has unwittingly become a man wanted for murder after he buys a total stranger a train ticket. Whilst he has no recollection of the crime he soon works out that the police will have no option but choose him as their prime suspect. Suspecting that he was drugged, Paul decides that his best option is to run and try and work out who has set him up.

Over the course of the novel we're introduced to different characters, in various scenarios and varying amounts of time "before the ticket". Some novels that are written in this way can confuse the reader but not this one. The order in which we're introduced to these other characters is done superbly and the author then skillfully pulls all the threads together and neatly combines them to give a satisfying ending.

Although this was a good read I found that I didn't enjoy it as much as his second novel, Chance as I didn't feel the writing was as polished but that, surely, is a testament to how much this author's writing has progressed and that's why I'm looking forward to Peter Dudgeon's next offering "Circle" due out this autumn.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Every Breath You Take - Bianca Sloane

Every Breath You Take certainly took my breath away! I started this book last night before I went to bed and I finished it today as I simply had to know how it ended.

Natalie Scott is in her late twenties, with a good job, close friends and now she's met the perfect man in Jason. The first half of the book concentrates on the story of how they meet and fall in love. You could almost be lulled into a false sense of security and think that you were reading an everyday chick-lit story (sorry chick-lit fans, no offence intended) until Joey Green arrives on the scene and things take a dramatic turn.

Joey has known Natalie since school when they were both classed as social outcasts so naturally they were drawn to each other, but when Natalie leaves for college she realises that there's a whole world out there just waiting for her and she doesn't need Joey anymore. The only problem with that is that Joey has a psychological disorder and he won't take no for an answer. He follows her everywhere, taking pictures, making notes and even threatens any man who looks like they are getting close to her.
In his mind no-one will ever know or love Natalie like he does and nothing is going to stop them from being together.

The second half of this book is dark and disturbing but it will have you chewing your fingernails down to the quick. The author has a deftness for building suspense and tension, leaving you wondering what's coming next. It's hard to write too much more about it without giving the plot away, but what I will say is that if you like your psychological thrillers dark, they don't come much darker than this!

Friday 19 June 2015

Gull Harbor - Kathryn Knight

Gull Harbor is a clever blend of mystery, paranormal, suspense with a touch of romance.

Claire Linden is a medium who has just arrived in the small town of Gull Harbor to rid the Llewellyn's house of their hostile ghost. Within hours of arriving she catches sight of her ex-boyfriend Max Baron, who, having dumped her on graduation day she was in no hurry to confront.

When she arrives at her new temporary home she is greeted with stones being thrown at her, face down photographs and random piles of leaves throughout the house. Claire soon discovers that the unhappy spirit is called Maria but she speaks no English so things aren't going to be easy.

Claire works hard to build Maria's trust so that she can help her but at the same time Max is trying to win back Claire's trust. As the story unfolds secrets are shared and it's clear that danger is on the horizon.

I really enjoyed this book and the way in which the characters were written and developed throughout. I found myself feeling Claire's frustration with the language barrier between her and Maria, wanting Max to come clean about why he dumped Claire, why her father had disowned her and who was the "bad man" Maria kept referring to. The writing style kept me engaged and I wanted to read on at the end of every chapter. While the story unfolded well I would have liked a little more explanation into the bad man towards the end of the novel, but that's just my humble opinion.

Kathryn has written two other novels (Silver Lake and Divine Fall) and I think that both of these will soon be added to my TBR pile.

With kind thanks to Kathryn Knight for the review copy.

Sunday 14 June 2015

1979: short story collection - Steve Anderson

1979: short story collection is an anthology of thirteen coming of age stories set in America.

The protagonist's in each story are experiencing the confusion, angst and exhilaration of adolescence. Each story is a novel in miniature, full of characters that could easily be expanded and developed and written in such a vivid way that I'm sure readers will find themselves being transported back into their own childhoods when they had, or witnessed similar encounters.

The writing is picturesque and despite never having been to America, I felt as if I was there alongside them. Stone Quarry is a particularly good example of this. Seth, Pauly, Dewey and Toad have a sheet of corrugated tin roofing and decide to take it to the top of Chester Hill and use it as a sled. The journey down is a scree field of broken shale so it's not going to be a smooth ride but the boys bravado is greater than their common sense. The description of their perilous downhill journey is full of adrenaline and gives them a great story to tell afterwards.

Steve Anderson has a great ability to get into his young character's heads and capture both their language and observations in exactly the right way. I loved the story of Shelly, drifting around a pool on her lilo, minding her own business and trying to keep her ear dry to prevent another ear infection, when she hears a commotion behind her. Turning round to see what's going on a boy asks if he can use her raft as he "ain't got no legs". The boys request is met with mockery and disbelief that someone would fake a medical condition (when she has a "real" one) just to try and get her lilo  because they were too lazy to swim around. So imagine how she feels when she comes face to face with the same boy later and finds out that he was telling the truth.

All in all I enjoyed reading these stories and they're great if you only have snippets of time to lose yourself in a story. I hope that there are more stories and maybe even a novel in the pipeline.

With kind thanks to Steve Anderson for the review copy.

Friday 12 June 2015

Alone But Not Lost - Bob Summer

Alone But Not Lost is a tense, dark and disturbing psychological thriller in which we meet Sin, a young woman living on the edge of sanity.

Self-imprisoned in her own home, fully equipped with alarms, camera's and the very latest security equipment, Sin trusts no-one and lives with a constant fear of intruders and outside threats including her step-father who she finds out has just been released from prison.

Why does she live like this, in a big house inherited from her abusive mother, with no contact with the outside world apart from her handyman Hawk and an internet chat room. You don't have to read far into the novel to find out courtesy of Sin's childhood diary which is safely hidden away in her treasured bag Toesy.

Sin's story is told by cleverly intertwining her past and present and it's uncomfortable reading in places but necessary to enable the reader to get underneath Sin's skin and fully understand her mental state. The tension is palpable and you can feel Sin's anguish building throughout the novel.

I thought this was an addictive read which left me wanting more when I reached the end, but luckily, if like me you don't like having to wait for the sequel, The Edge is available for you to dive straight into.

With kind thanks to author Bob Summer for the review copy.

Sunday 7 June 2015

2:17 AM - Eyes in the Dark

2:17 AM - Eyes in the Dark is a short story translated from German into English that's well worth a read.

Danielle is on a night out with her friends Kendra and Barbara when a man sends across a drink for her and the nightmare begins.

The first thing she notices about this man is his eyes, pale, almost white and piercing.

But once she's seen them they're not easy to forget and the man is everywhere. . . . . .or is he?

This short story will certainly get you thinking. Can you really believe everything you see or do your eyes really play tricks on you?

Kind thanks to the author Kathrin for giving me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Those We Left Behind - Stuart Neville

Those We Left Behind is the compelling story of two brothers who tragically lost both their parents at a young age, got bounced around the care system and then were convicted of the murder of their foster father.

Ciaran Devine was just 12 years old when he made his confession and he's now being released back into the community after seven years and anxious to meet up with his older brother, Thomas, who was released two years earlier.

DCI Serena Flanagan was involved in the original investigation and always harboured doubts that Ciaran was the killer, believing that Thomas was responsible but despite getting close to Ciaran it was never enough to get him to change his statement.

Once the two brothers meet up again it becomes clear that Ciaran, despite being almost twenty, is still immature and completely under Thomas' control, looking to him for everything and unable to do things for himself.

Ciaran's probation officer Paula Cunningham also believes there was more to the original case and reaches out to Flanagan for help.

The story that follows is cleverly told by interspersing flashbacks to the developing relationship between Ciaran and Flanagan before he was sentenced, the consequences suffered by the son of the man he killed and a glimpse into Flanagan's struggle to balance her return back to work after cancer treatment with her family life.

This is the first novel I've read by Stuart Neville but it won't be the last. Neville's ability to intertwine all the threads of what is overall a complex and disturbing story is second to none. The characters are well formed and you can feel for all of them at some point during the novel. I especially liked Serena Flanagan who was a truly believable protagonist and I'm already looking forward to the next book in the series.

My thanks to NetGalley and Random House UK, Vintage Publishing for my review copy.

Saturday 6 June 2015

Summertime - Vanessa Lafaye

Summertime is the story of a group of former American soldiers set in the small town of Heron Keys, Florida in the 1930's and based on actual events, although the names, places etc have been changed.

I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book via Goodreads and their First Reads giveaways and when it came through my letterbox I couldn't wait to read it.

The historical note at the beginning of the book was a nice touch as it explains the background  to the story, how racial tensions were running high during this time, how the First World War veterans had ended up in this small town after being denied bonus payments from the Government and how this was a fictionalised account of actual events.

The opening chapter introduces us to Missy, who is a nanny for the Kincaid's, bathing their baby Nathan outside under the shade of a tree in the oppressive heat. When she pops into the house to get some ice, leaving Nathan unsupervised, she's hears the Kincaid's dog barking furiously and assumes that another wild eyed man had entered the garden in search of food. How wrong she was. The sight that greets her on her return to the garden is the stuff of nightmares, as camouflaged by the mangroves is a crocodile with his large snout grasping the end of the basket containing baby Nathan.

The book then goes into the build up to the annual Fourth of July celebrations but a fight breaks out and a white woman is brutally beaten and fingers automatically point to the coloureds. All the time this is happening the storm is quietly brewing in the background and we find out about the locals and the veterans.

 The story very cleverly manages to sit across several genres ranging from romance, history, crime and thriller, so there's a little bit of something for everyone.

I found that I wanted the hurricane to hit so that I could find out the fate of each of the characters and the build up to this is superbly written and you can feel the tension through each word you read.

Although I ended up enjoying this book, there were times at the beginning where things were moving a little too slowly for me and I found myself questioning who was who. Overall though it was a good read and thanks to the author's note and further reading at the end I went off in search of finding out about this little known event.