Tuesday, 13 April 2021

The End Of Her

The End of Her by Shari Lapena

Hardback, 352 pages

Published July 23rd 2020 by Bantam Press

adult-fiction, arc-or-review, books-i-own, crime-thriller-mystery, read, read-in-2020, realistic-fiction
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

It starts with a shocking accusation...

Stephanie and Patrick are recently married, with new-born twins. While Stephanie struggles with the disorienting effects of sleep deprivation, there’s one thing she knows for certain – she has everything she ever wanted.

Then a woman from his past arrives and makes a shocking accusation about his first wife. He always claimed her death was an accident – but she says it was murder.

He insists he’s innocent, that this is nothing but a blackmail attempt. But is Patrick telling the truth? Or has Stephanie made a terrible mistake?

How will it end?

As soon as I read the blurb to Shari Lapena’s latest Psychological thriller, The End of Her, I was excited to grab a copy and give it a read. Lapena is a highly regarded author and I was elated to get the opportunity to read some of her work. 

The story centres around Stephanie and Patrick Kilgore whose lives are turned upside down when Erica Voss, the best friend of Patrick's late first wife creeps into their lives, claiming that he was to blame for his first wife's death. 

The first section of the book mainly focuses on Stephanie (side note: it is weird reading about a character who shares your name!) who is suffering from insomnia following the birth of her two daughters. This becomes very interesting when there begins to be some mysterious happenings and Stephanie starts to doubt her own memory and thoughts. Sleep deprivation has the potential to be a great basis for confusion and psychological play which Lapena did use to her advantage at the beginning of the novel but I think it had the potential to go even further - for me, this section of the book, right at the beginning, was the psychological highlight of the whole novel. 

The death of Patrick's first wife is intriguing enough to hold your attention throughout the whole book and there is definitely a sense of intrigue and wonder about what really happened. The mystery is fuelled by the character of Erica who is manipulative and firmly regards herself a force to be reckoned with. Her actions implicate several other characters which is, at points, interesting but frankly, I simply found her to be too frustrating at points. Lapena did a fine job of creating a highly dislikable character. I did find the subplot of her relationship with a second family to be very intriguing but was let down at the lack of progression and explanation regarding them.

Overall, the book is an easy to read thriller which manages to hold attention. It's a perfect book for anyone who wants a quick, entertaining read, however I would have personally preferred more depth and development. I wasn't overly surprised by the ending and I think it will be one of those 'marmite' endings for readers. Whilst this isn't a particularly memorable book, its an easy, enjoyable way to pass the time. 

Sunday, 11 April 2021

We Need To Talk About Kevin

We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Paperback, 468 pages

Published May 9th 2006 by Serpent's Tail
(First published April 14th 2003)

abuse, adult-fiction, books-i-own, classics, contemporary, crime-thriller-mystery, desperate-to-read, mental-health, read, read-in-2020, realistic-fiction, too-much-hype, serpents tail
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

Shortly before his sixteenth birthday, Kevin Khatchadourian kills seven of his fellow high-school students, a cafeteria worker and a teacher. He is visited in prison by his mother, Eva, who narrates in a series of letters to her estranged husband, Franklin, the story of Kevin's upbringing. For this powerful, shocking novel, Lionel Shriver was awarded the Orange Prize for Fiction. 

We need to talk about Kevin is yet another one of those books that I have been wanting to read for a long time, and I'm only half pleased that I've finally gotten around to reading it. Again, this is one of those books that , dramatically hyped up in my head, mainly due to my own intrigue over the subject manner, but also due to the multitudes of positive reaction land awards) that the book has received. 

I  have very mixed feelings after reading this book, which makes it quite difficult to both rate and review! The truth is, it took me more than one hundred pages to really get into the story and that is due to the author's writing style. The book consists entirely of letters, written from Kevin's mother, Eva, to his father, Franklin, following the event of a school shooting that was committed by their son. I usually enjoy the epistolary style of writing but despite the honesty of the content of the letters, they didn't seem 'real' and so I found it difficult to connect with the writer. For me, the writing was just too much - it felt as though most sentences were unnecessarily prolonged with adjectives, long-winded and made reading seem laborious.  I couldn't help but feel as though the author was often just trying to make use of as much of her vocabulary as possible. There is somewhat of a 'twist’ at the end of the book, but the writing style itself allowed me to figure it out within only a short amount of reading.

The actual substance of the book was undoubtedly impressive. The story explores a lot of issues, the main one being motherhood and the trials and tribulations that it can entail. Granted, the main event of this book is a horrific crime that, thankfully, most parents won't have to experience, but there are so many concepts and ideas shared by Eva that are accessible to all - this book is very philosophical at points and certainly gives you a lot to think about. I can't deny that I kept thinking about this book long after I closed it.

I found this book very uncomfortable to read and, as strange as it sounds, this was its star quality. Despite my obsession with all things true-crime, this book - mostly the final section - is probably one of the most disturbing pieces of writing that I've read. The unease that the story conjures really emphasises the complexity of the whole situation. It is very effective.

Overall, this book was a bit hit-and-miss. Whilst I was sorely disappointed by the beginning of the book, I am glad that I stuck with it. I really did struggle through the arduous first portion of the book, but by the midway point I felt much more compelled to pick it up. By the end of the book I even (slightly!) began to regret that the book was ending. The philosophical aspect of this book is very well thought out. I haven't read many fictional books that have been able to make me think quite so much and I am thankful for that, I've now considered things about motherhood and parent-child relationships that I most likely wouldn't have if it wasn't for this book. Despite my issues with the waiting style, I would recommend reading this book simply for the experience - I can see why the book gained awards and it's reputation as a modern book of significance.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Every Move You Make

Every Move You Make by Deborah Bee

Paperback, 512 pages

Published 20th August 2020 by Bonnier Books

abuse, adult-fiction, arc-or-review, better-than-expected, books-i-own, crime-thriller-mystery, mental-health, read, read-in-2020, realistic-fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

He'll be waiting . . .

Clare James turns up at a police station. She says she's been kept prisoner in her home - abused and tortured. Her every move watched, controlled, questioned.

Now she's escaped.

But when they police arrive at her house, everything is in order. Her story doesn't add up and her husband is missing.

Clare says she's the victim, but what if she's not? What if the stories she tells aren't her stories at all . . .

I think I've found my new favourite genre of book this year - the psychological thriller - and this book has definitely helped with confirming my suspicions! I really enjoyed this book from the beginning and continued to do so right until the very end. 

Every Move You Make tells the story of Clare who we're instantly introduced to as she stumbles into a police station after running for her life. Clare claims to have been domestically abused by her partner, Gareth and is placed in a women's refuge whilst an investigation into both the alleged abuse and Gareth's subsequent disappearance begins. This book is an exploration of the complexity of domestic violence and the true turmoil it causes - not only when the abuse is actively happening but also in the aftermath - particularly during the time when allegations are first made. 

Of course, this being a psychological thriller, as a reader you are always wondering if things are really as they seem, particularly regarding Clare's allegations and Bee does a fantastic job at making you wonder! I have to admit that I truly didn't know what to believe until actual the conclusion of the story. There are enough twists and revelations in the book to keep you on edge and to stay gripped. This really was a page turner and I just kept wanting to read more and more. The story and the hard-hitting subjects fascinated and intrigued me and I also wanted to know more about each character in the book, each distinctive and well formed.

There are several points of view explored in this book, not only Clare's, but also the views of Sally and DS Susan Clarke. In my opinion, Clare was the most effective narrator, perhaps due to being the most troubled - her narrative also included the internal voicing of Gareth, her tormentor, giving us flashbacks into her past and an insight into her deep psychological state which was utterly heartbreaking and difficult to read at points. 
I really enjoyed reading the chapters that focused on Sally, Clare's roommate at the women's refuge. We get to know a lot about Sally, her past and her troubles which also become an important focus in the story. I think Sally will resonate with a lot of female readers with her down-to-earth personality and her straight forward talking. The relationship that develops between Sally and Clare is beautiful to observe, showing a real kinship between two troubled ladies. 
DS Susan Clarke is the Detective Sergeant in charge of Clare's case and a long-time friend of Sally. I felt that her character had a very authentic and headstrong personality, but unfortunately I also found her quite stiff, unempathetic and unlikeable at many points. However, as aforementioned, these features of her personality gave her a feeling of being a 'real' person and actually strengthened her character. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book - I loved the fact that I had a perpetual feeling of unease and wonder about the real story and I just didn't want to put it down. I was impressed by the characters, their individual personalities and flaws. The story was of a good pace and I never felt bored - the only things I could criticise is how fast that the story was wrapped up at the end, though the fast pace did emphasise the tension and desperation of all involved, and I did find Gareth's character a little too OTT - I think his character could have been more believable as an 'average man'. Despite these two issues, this really was a fantastic book exploring the intense, damaging and harrowing subject of domestic violence alongside showing the true value of friendship and community. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

A Lie For A Lie Book Tour & Review

Welcome to my part in Julie Corbin's 2020 book tour for her new novel, A Lie For A Lie!
If you haven't already, I urge you to check out the previous stops, encourage you to follow the tour as it goes on and of course, pre-order this fantastic new story. 

Today, I'm going share my review of this book with you. 

Thank you to Myrto @ Hodder for the opportunity!

A Lie for a Lie by Julie Corbin
Paperback, 352 pages

To Be Published 15th October 2020 by Hodder & Stoughton

abuse, adult-fiction, arc-or-review, blog-tour, books-i-own, crime-thriller-mystery, death, mental-health, read, read-in-2020, realistic-fiction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

We all tell lies, don't we? Most of the time, they're harmless. But every now and then, we lie without thinking about the consequences.

As a school nurse, Anna Pierce is a well-respected and trusted member of the community. So when she is accused of hitting a pupil, the reaction is one of shock and disbelief.

The pupil is Tori Carmichael - Anna's mentee and a troubled child known for bending the truth.

With her career and reputation on the line, Anna is determined to clear her name. But before she can, the worst happens: Tori is found dead.

Suspicion mounts against Anna, who says she didn't do it. 
But if she isn't the killer, there is someone out there who is ....

When I was offered to read A Lie For A Lie, I jumped at the chance. Despite being a bestselling author, I was yet to read a book by the acclaimed Julie Corbin and this was certainly a fantastic introduction. The premise of the story sounded very intriguing and neither the story nor the author let me down. 

A Lie For A Lie tells the story of Sister Anna Pierce, a seemingly perfect school nurse whose life is turned upside down when she is accused of hitting one of the children that she mentored - a troubled girl named Victoria ('Tori') Carmichael. Unfortunately, when things seem like they can't get any worse, Tori is found dead in her home. This book explores the time from when Anna is accused and all of the trials and tribulations that follow.

Despite the often 'heavy' subject matter of this book, I found this an easy read from the start - something which was very welcome. The writing is simple yet very well done - the descriptions of the setting, mainly a large boarding school in Scotland, gave me a great sense of where the characters were and a good sense of atmosphere without ever feeling over-explicatory. The characters were written equally as well, having multiple layers and depth and personality.

There are a lot of different emotions and relationships explored within the story and I think that this is one of the main places where the book excels. Relationships between teachers and students, husband and wife, parent and child, teenagers, siblings and even more are all explored with great care and consideration, none falling short. I really was impressed by the authenticity the relationships depicted. 

As aforementioned, there are a lot of 'heavy' subjects discussed in this book including but not restricted to abuse, family separation, bullying and self harm. I was particularly affected by reading about the family separation issues in this book, the explanation and exploration of the the subject seemed so heartfelt and, honestly, heart wrenching at times. It's a subject that is written about frequently, but I have to admit that I related to Corbin's depiction of it more than I have with any other piece of writing regarding it. I admire the author for writing about several difficult topics with great understanding.

A Lie for a Lie is an easy to follow story which becomings increasingly complex with twists and turns around every corner. I had lots of thoughts and ideas of what the real story was but I was left guessing right until the very end. It consists of simple but highly intriguing writing which is a pleasure to read and, if you're like me, will keep you up until the early hours of the morning, desperate to find out more! It is so refreshing to read a book where you're left wondering until the last page.