Little Lies - Liane Moriarty

Little Lies by Liane Moriarty- BRILLIANT!

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Little Lies is one of the best novels I’ve read in ages- I was hooked throughout and couldn’t put it down! I’ve read The Husband’s Secret and What Alice Forgot and though I thought they were both very, very good (particularly The Husband’s Secret– I should re-read and review it some time…) I think Little Lies beats them both!

Set in Australia (like the other two of her novels I mentioned previously), we learn at the beginning of the book about a raucous parent quiz night at a local primary school which actually leads to a parent dying- but we don’t know which one. The story is told from different perspectives and reveals what happened in the months leading up to the night.

The characters are all very different kinds of people (apart from most of them being parents) but each are very believable, interesting characters – if not all very likeable! My favourite characters are Madeline, as she’s so fiery, excitable and completely loyal to her friends, and Jane as she’s been through a lot and deserves a much happier life but is still such a nice, caring person.

The story has some dark undertones to it but at no point is it overly bleak, and that’s another reason I loved this book. It was believable but didn’t use shock tactics when there was no need and didn’t overplay the upsetting parts when it could have. There is a (very small) element of romance in the storyline, but not in a cringey way, and the parents’ bitchiness and gossiping is incredibly amusing- I’ve no idea if this is what parents of school children are really like but it is very entertaining to read about all the same! There was an interesting blend of tragedy and comedy throughout, andthe story keep you guessing until right at the very end as to what really happened that night, with some clever twists that I didn’t see coming. Moriarty effectively builds the tension and adds a strong sense of mystery which kept me completely immersed in the book!

This book is great at making you think about the way that appearances can be deceiving- you never know what someone’s home life is really like unless you’re always there with them.

Little Lies is a clever, intriguing novel packed with scandal and secrets that would make a fantastic summer read- but which has a lot more substance than the usual ‘beach’ chick-lit!

Let me know what you think of this or any of Liane Moriarty’s novels- she’s fast becoming one of my favourite authors!

Rating: 5/5

** I received Little Lies in a GoodReads giveaway (I was SO thrilled I won an advance copy!) but the novel is out to buy in the UK on 31st July! **

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Deadly Bonds by L.J. Sellers

Book review: Deadly Bonds by L.J. Sellers

Deadly Bonds by L.J. SellersDeadly Bonds is the latest in a series of nine crime novels by L.J. Sellers starring Detective Wade Jackson, and is the only one I’ve personally read. I was interested to see if this can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, even if the reader doesn’t know any background or previous storylines about the characters.

The story follows the investigation by Jackson and his team into the murder of young mother Amanda Carter, whose young boy Benjie was found hiding in fear at the house where she was killed, and the separate investigation into the death of well-known college football player Logan Grayson. The two narratives intertwine as the story continues, which I really enjoyed and found interesting.

L.J Sellers seems to be really skilled at creating three-dimensional, interesting characters and Jackson is certainly one of them. His own daughter Katie has run away from home and, in trying to deal with this, we see that he doesn’t always handle things as well as he should. He is a flawed character, trying to make up for what he sees as his failure with Katie by looking after Benjie, the victim Amanda Cater’s little boy, and this only makes me like him more as a character- he recognises that is not perfect but he is trying to make amends, and he continues to try to do so with his own daughter where possible. Add this to the fact that he seems to be a talented, experienced Detective and I found him really likable as a character.

In contrast, his colleague Evans is a lot less experienced. She has been trained by Jackson and is eager to prove herself. She can be a little reckless and takes risks on a couple of occasions, but at the same time is a brilliant Detective. Both her and Jackson seem to work well together and are convincing as a team.

The novel seems well-researched and is skilfully written to move along at just the right pace, keeping me interested throughout; it doesn’t seem rushed but at no point teeters on dull. Having never read any other of her Detective Jackson books, I found that the few details I needed to know were concisely explained as I read through it and I had no problems understanding what was happening as the storyline was quite self-contained. The plot kept the tension high and the added inclusion of traumatised little boy Benjie, and other characters who pulled at my heart strings, meant I really cared about the outcome of this novel, something that I don’t always feel.

Overall, Deadly Bonds is a really enjoyable detective novel and I would definitely want to read others in the series. Highly recommended!

Rating: 4/5

** I received an advance copy of this book for review- Deadly Bonds will be published on August 26th **

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby – review!

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A Long Way Down is told from the perspective of 4 individuals who all meet on New Years Eve on the rooftop of a building. Martin is a disgraced daytime TV star who has recently been released from prison for having sex with a 15 year old girl – a girl who, he claims, looked older than 15 and told him she was older than 15. Maureen is a mother of a young boy called Matty who is disabled and has brain damage – he is in a vegetative state but is the only person she has for company and she seems very lonely. Jess is having a hard time at home, with her missing older sister and parents who, she believes, love her sister more than her and rejection from Chas, the boy she likes. Finally JJ is an Australian pizza delivery man who has just been dumped by his girlfriend and whose band and life in general doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. They are all there on that rooftop for the same reason- to jump off it. They decide to delay the big jump until Valentine’s Day, reasoning that if they still felt like killing themselves after this point then they could go ahead and do it when they meet up again then.

As the novel continues the 4 characters become what could be defined as ‘friends’ – though Martin is quick to play this down in his self-important, snobby way – and their journey trying to rediscover each of their own purposes in life are at times funny and poignant.

I really enjoyed reading A Long Way Down from start to finish. For a book with such a serious subject matter, the storyline never seems unnecessarily glum or depressing, though there are points that really made me feel quite emotional. I felt empathy for all the characters in different ways, despite feeing that Martin had somewhat brought it on himself and Jess was being incredibly over-dramatic and rude at times. JJ is a likeable character but he also seems to have enough to live for really – in my opinion it is only Maureen who seems to have a ‘good enough’ reason to be depressed, and JJ touches upon this when he first meets the other 3, as he makes up an incurable illness as he is suddenly aware that his reasons for wanting to commit suicide don’t seem as tangible as other people’s. It’s like a bizarre game of ‘who has the worst life’, as the following quote from JJ demonstrates:

It wasn’t like people were being competitive, exactly, but there was a certain amount of, I don’t know what you’d call it…marking out territory?… I’d been dumped by a girl, and my band wasn’t going anywhere. Big fucking deal.

The writing style is easy and often very humorous, in true Nick Hornby style, and I (and a few friends who also read it) raced through the book! When we discussed the story we had a lot to comment on and it made me realise that, although it’s a humorous novel which is often classed as ‘lad-lit’, there are a lot of deeper, more meaningful points to discuss and we found that it’s the type of book that everyone can relate to in one way or the other! A Long Way Down was an easy to read novel that provided many laughs whilst also proving to be thought-provoking and emotional, and I really enjoyed it!

I know they’ve made a film based on the book and I’m really not sure what to think – if I’m being honest I thought the trailer made the film look awful, but it’s hard to tell from a trailer alone. I will probably give it a watch sometime and compare the two; though I’m sure the film won’t beat the book I would be interested to see if/how they’ve changed any of the storyline or characters.

Have you read A Long Way Down? What did you think?

Rating: 4/5

An Intimate Murder

‘An Intimate Murder’ & ‘The Ugly Man’ reviews

I’ve got 2 quick crime reviews for you, both of which I enjoyed in different ways and one – ‘The Ugly Man’- is a short story, so a bit of a change to what I usually read. I always think it’s interesting with shorter stories how effectively they are written given the shorter length.

An Intimate Murder

An Intimate MurderAn Intimate Murder by Stacy Verdick Case is a fun, witty detective story. This is the 3rd novel in the Catherine O’Brien series, and although I haven’t read the first 2 I felt that there was no requirement to have done so; the characters are easy to work out and the storyline seems to be self-contained.

An Intimate Murder follows the protagonist Catherine, a Detective, and her partner Louise, as they try to solve a double homicide. When Catherine loses her temper with the bloody-thirsty press and ends up berating them, this leads to a very unflattering article being published about the Police Station. As a punishment, Catherine and Louise end up saddled with local journalist Jane, who wrote the article in question, in the hope that Jane will see that the Police Force aren’t really so unreliable and unruly. They are instructed by their Chief to allow Jane to shadow them as they try to solve the double murder, and aren’t given any choice in the matter. This leads to frustration and enlightenment as Jane learns just how tough solving a murder can be- and Catherine and Louise learn that there are sometimes advantages to having ‘journalists’ around!

At times the novel seems very American – particularly with regards to the style and the characters’ names (Chad, anyone?) and colloquialisms- but, although this can usually grate on my nerves when reading, in this case it didn’t bother me too much, and the storyline certainly kept me entertained throughout with the touches of humour that lighten up the serious subject matter. The narrative moves quickly enough that it doesn’t get at all stagnant and, though she was a little annoying at times, by the end of the novel I had really warmed to the main character Catherine; her witty thoughts and remarks made me laugh out loud on several occasions! She’s certainly not a boring, run-of-the-mill detective, as can be the norm for so many crime novels!

In my opinion, the fact that Jane the journalist got permission from the Mayor’s office to shadow the detectives as they worked, with the Chief allowing this to happen, felt quite unrealistic to me- never mind how rude or abrupt Catherine had been to the press or what a crazy, untruthful article Jane had published about the police department. That being said, the presence of Jane’s character does add to the story, setting up some amusing situations and, again, makes the novel stand out from other ‘samey’ detective stories that often saturate the market.

Overall I enjoyed reading An Intimate Murder; it was a simple but entertaining crime novel that didn’t try to be anything it’s not, and I liked that about it. I am now tempted to read the first 2 novels to see how they measure up, and to read more about the likeable character of Catherine O’Brien and her partner Louise!

Rating: 3/5

**This was an advance copy for review, but the novel will be published 7th October 2014**

The Ugly Man (short story)

20140719-111449-40489770.jpg The Ugly Man by P.D. Viner many only be a short story at 116 pages but it certainly packs a punch!

The story follows journalist Patty Coleman, who travels to a small village to report on the murder of a well-loved local barmaid. Whilst there she speaks to locals who witnessed the murder and who all swear that a local man called ‘Mark Radix’, also knows as ‘The Ugly Man’ due to his deformed facial features, walked into the pub and killed her. The case may seem clear cut but as Patty becomes more and more intrigued, is she is in danger of becoming a victim herself…?

Viner manages to make the reader feel real sympathy for ‘The Ugly Man’ and draws attention to the awful way he was treated by everyone because of his appearance. There is quite a lot of distressing and upsetting parts to the story and the reader then feels a whole mix of emotions towards him as the story continues, not knowing what to think; this is quite unnerving and adds to the suspense throughout.

I enjoyed the twists and turns along the way; as the novel is a short there isn’t as much time as in other books to build up to the crescendo at the end but Viner still manages it really well and kept me hooked until the end!

I’d give this 4/5, definitely worth giving it a read when it’s out on August 1st– it seems you can pre-order on Amazon for free here so why not give it a go?!

I Can't Begin to Tell You

I Can’t Begin To Tell You… (about how great this book is!)

(…yes, I am sorry about that pun in the title, I know it’s cringeworthy… but this soon-to-be-released novel from Elizabeth Buchan is well worth a read!)

I cant begin to tell you cover

I Can’t Begin To Tell You by Elizabeth Buchan tells the story of various characters during the Second World War as they try to come to terms with wartime existence and, each in their own ways, fight for freedom and hope. It touches upon relationships between family members and how these are tested when allegiances between the Germans and the allies were brought into question, and also the contribution, no matter how small, that so many different people had towards the war effort. Without giving too much away, it is really refreshing to read a novel that centres on military intelligence and espionage and in which the majority of the protagonists are women – and strong women at that, who may in some ways be flawed but are all the more admirable for it! Let me hear a cheer for strong women!

The novel completely drew me in from the moment I picked it up, and Elizabeth Buchan’s fantastic writing immersed me completely in wartime life, with its ups and many downs. I felt that the novel flows really well and the language she uses fits the tone if the novel really well.

I always find books about life during the war really interesting, particularly when it focuses on narratives that are a little different. Life for Kay, Tanne, Mary and the many other characters fits into this category as a book that offers something different, particularly as it takes the reader outside of the usual London setting (although part of the novel is based there, and it’s still very interesting) to Denmark. It made me consider what life was like for those in a Nazi-occupied country, as well as for those in Britain.

Though at times the pace slowed a little, and some parts I had to re-read to make sure I understood what I’d read properly, the narrative continued to engage and interest me. Buchan includes interesting, believable characters and really opened my eyes to the undercover, understated fights
against dictatorship and repression by ordinary (and not so ordinary) people during the Second World War.

I hugely enjoyed reading the wonderfully written I Can’t Begin to Tell You, particularly as it addresses the choices women were forced to make during wartime, both in England and Denmark. It was really interesting to be read about the way war affects relationships, both romantic and familial.

I’d definitely recommend this novel, and am looking forward to reading more of Buchan’s novels as a result of this!

Have you read any of her novels? Does this sound like a book you’d like to read? Let me know!

Rating: 4/5

*This was an advanced copy I received for review but I Can’t Begin to Tell You will be published in the UK on 28th August 2014 in hardback.*

My To Read Book Pile

Book Haul/ To Read list!

I’ve got a stack of books I’m really looking forward to reading (see image below), so I thought I’d share them with you (along with their pages on GoodReads):

My To Read Book Pile

  • Elizabeth is Missing – Emma Healey
  • A Question of Identity – Susan Hill
  • Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy – Helen Fielding
  • This One is Mine – Maria Semple (advance copy from publisher)
  • The Silkworm – Robert Galbraith
  • The Book of You – Claire Kendal (advance copy ordered from NewBooks magazine)
  • The Emperor Waltz – Philip Hensher (advance copy from publisher)
  • Little Lies – Liane Moriarty (advance copy from publisher)
  • The Marriage Plot – Jeffrey Eugenides

This looks like a great mix of genres and styles – I’m particularly looking forward to reading The Silkworm, the second book by Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling writing under a pseudonym) as the first was such an enjoyable, well-written classic detective story. I hope the second one is as good, if not better!

Elizabeth is Missing from UEA’s Emma Healey has had so many fantastic reviews from critics and readers alike, I can’t wait to see if it lives up to the hype – I hope so!

A Question of Identity is one of the Simon Serrailer series by Susan Hill and I always enjoy these, even if I have read some of them out of the intended order!

Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy is one I’m looking forward to reading because…well, why wouldn’t I look forward to it? Though I’ve heard there are some shocks in this novel, I’m still really looking forward to reading more about Bridget!

This One is Mine sounds like a really interesting book, described as ‘a modern-day Anna Karenina set in Los Angeles about a woman who deliberately upends her life.’ No idea what to expect but looking forward to getting stuck in.

The Book of You is a novel I ordered in hardback from NewBooks magazine, who offer their subscribers the chance to order new or unreleased books at just the P&P charge (£3.50)! Even with the paperbacks it’s a good deal but The Book of You is a new hardback so that, coupled with the fact that I love a good psychological thriller, means I couldn’t resist ordering it!

The Emperor Waltz dips into the Roman Empire, 1920’s Weimar and 1970’s London and sounds truly fascinating!

Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is one I’m very excited about! I was lucky enough to win an advance copy from the publisher and I can’t wait to read it as I’m such as Liana Moriarty fan. I’ll just have to see if it draws me in as well as her other novels have done! On GoodReads it seems to have the title down as ‘Big Little Lies’ but on the proof copy I’ve got it just says ‘Little Lies’ so I’ve no idea really…!

Finally The Marriage Plot was published a good few years ago now but I picked it up in a charity shop after having wanted to read it for ages. I’d also like to read Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides as well, as I’ve heard from a friend that it’s brilliant.

Have you read any of these? I’d love to hear your opinions!

Until you're mine

Until You’re Mine by Samantha Hayes – a page turner and mind-twister…

Until you're mine

This is a fairly quick review of Until You’re Mine by Samantha Hayes because it’s such a gripping thriller full of surprises that I don’t want to give anything away!

Here is the blurb on the back cover:

“Claudia seems to have the perfect life. She’s heavily pregnant with a much-wanted baby, she has a loving husband, and a beautiful home.
And then Zoe steps into her life. Zoe has come to help Claudia when her baby arrives.
But there’s something about Zoe that Claudia doesn’t like. Or trust.
And when she finds Zoe in her bedroom, Claudia’s anxiety turns to real fear…”

Until you're mine book coverThe book is told from multiple perspectives- Claudia’s, Zoe’s and detective Lauren’s. It’s easy enough to read – the language is quite simple and not overly descriptive but gives the reader enough to make them feel really immersed in the story – and the characters are likeable. You do feel for Claudia, who will be pregnant and alone with her husband’s twin sons, apart from the new nanny Zoe who seems in many ways a little strange. You also feel for Lauren the detective as she has her own issues and family problems. Finally, you don’t quite know what to make of Zoe, the new nanny, who seems too good to be true- and this is the gripping part of the novel! You know something isn’t quite right, but what you think you know isn’t what you are going to find out…if you know what I mean (that didn’t make an awful lot of sense, but read it and you WILL know!)

There are some scenes in this novel which are a little gruseome (not a lot, just a little!) and some of the storyline is pretty messed up. Not awfully so, but enough to make you think, “wow…there are some desperate people out there!”

Plus, it doesn’t pretend to be anything that it’s not – it’s an entertaining thriller with a good twist!

Until You’re Mine kept me completely hooked. If you’ve read it, please let me know what you thought!

Rating: 4.5/5

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier book cover

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier – review

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier book coverThe Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier follows a naive quaker girl, Honor Bright, who leaves Bristol for a new life in America with her sister Grace, who is going to marry her fiancé and start a new life there. When her sister dies of yellow fever on the journey over, Honor finds herself alone in a strange country with no family or friends. She encounters Donovan Mills, a ruthless, rude and arrogant slave-catcher who takes a shine to Honor and who, for some reason, she in turn finds quite attractive. She ends up staying with his local milliner Belle Mills, who becomes good friends with and soon finds out is Donovan’s sister. Honor learns more about the slave trade in America through Belle, and about the ‘Underground Railroad’, an illegal, covert network of people who help rescue and smuggle away slaves trying to get to Canada and to their freedom, of which Belle is part of. Though certainly not a fan of the idea of slavery, due to her Quaker background which advocates equality for everyone, Honor does not take particular action to help them until later into the novel.

Feeling lonely and vulnerable, Honor goes on to marry Jack Haymaker, a local dairy farmer, and becomes part of his unwelcoming family that includes his judgemental mother Judith and his whiney sister Dorcas. They do not want her to become involved in the Underground Railroad in any way but Honor finds that the more she learns about the people who are struggling for their freedom, the less detached she can feel from their situation.

“I have a bed and enough to eat and kind people about me. God is still with me. For these things I am grateful and have no reason to complain” – Honor Bright.

Although Honor does feel more affected by the slaves and their plights as the book goes on, the focus seems more on other aspects and storylines, such as her marriage to Jack, her background as a Quaker and her love of quilting. Because of this, the descriptions of the slaves on the run seem to be almost a side story, tucked away from the main narrative. We learn how those who help slaves on an almost daily basis- such as Belle- cope and feel about it, and how brash and determined slave catchers such as Donovan are, but we never get to hear much about the ordeal that slaves themselves have to go through, and their deeper feelings.

We don’t learn a great deal about Honor’s husband Jack Haymaker, who is also a Quaker, apart from some of the history with his father, and so he seems, as a character, fairly undeveloped. Like Honor he is not in favour of slavery but equally does not wish to go against the recently passed ‘Fugitive Slave Act’, which makes it illegal to help a runaway slave. He is emphatic that Honor should not become involved in the Underground Railroad, and the reader has no real reason to feel that this would be a problem until Honor suddenly becomes so upset that Jack will not let her help them that she runs away herself. It seems bizarre that Honor feels even an ounce of attraction for someone as vile as slave-catcher Donovan whilst also wanting to help slaves escape herself.

None of the characters in The Last Runaway really drew me in, though my favourite was by far straight-talking Belle who became good friends with Belle, somewhat surprisingly as their personalities seem so at odds with each other. Similarily Mrs Reed, a free black woman who is also part of the Underground Railroad, is a strong, opinionated character who risks her safety to help others.

Perhaps it was the Quaker upbringing but I felt Honor was just a little too one-dimensional and drippy; when she was staging her silent protest I felt like screaming at her to do something useful to help the runaways instead of refusing to speak, despite the fact that her Quaker beliefs led to her refusal to speak.

“It is less distracting in the silence, she said. Sustained silence allows one truly to listen to what is deep inside. We call it waiting in expectation.” – Honor Bright

Honor seems an imperfect and submissive protagonist, despite her helping the slaves more and more as the novel went on, but she evidently does have a strong conscience that leads her into her acts of kindness towards those who need her.

I do feel like Tracy Chevalier had really researched before she wrote The Last Runaway; the descriptions of the landscape, social anxieties and Quaker beliefs were really interesting, particularly regarding the way slavery was part of everyday life in America. Despite this, I really can’t quite make up my mind about this book! I was really interested in the subject matter- I haven’t read many novels that touch upon slavery and Quaker beliefs/ lifestyle- and the fact that it was nice and easy to read meant it didn’t require tonnes of concentration. The characters were just a little wooden for my liking, which was a shame as themes of slavery and the Underground Railroad were actually very interesting: I only wish Chevalier had developed these further.  I’ve heard her other books are brilliant so I hope to read a few soon and see if I prefer them – particularly Girl With a Pearl Earring.

This novel, although worth reading if you have time, left me feeling unsatisfied and a little disappointed.

Rating: 2.5/5