Viral [review]

 

[Synopsis]

So far, twenty-three thousand and ninety six people have seen me online. They include my mother, my father, my little sister, my grandmother, my other grandmother, my grandfather, my boss, my sixth year Biology teacher and my boyfriend James.

When Leah Oliphant-Brotheridge and her adopted sister Su go on holiday together to Magaluf to celebrate their A-levels, only Leah returns home. Her successful, swotty sister remains abroad, humiliated and afraid: there is an online video of her, drunkenly performing a sex act in a nightclub. And everyone has seen it.


Ruth Oliphant-Brotheridge, mother of the girls, successful court judge, is furious. How could this have happened? How can she bring justice to these men who took advantage of her dutiful, virginal daughter? What role has Leah played in all this? And can Ruth find Su and bring her back home when Su doesn’t want to be found?

[My Review]

Viral by Helen Fitzgerald is a shocking and very topical novel that really made me think about the effect that the internet, and today’s ‘instant share’ culture has on society.

The story is fast paced and Fitzgerald creates some brilliant, convincing characters. You really feel for poor Su; although many will see her as naive and stupid (which she was!), she certainly didn’t deserve to have this happen to her, and it made my blood boil reading about the experience she had in Magaluf. I won’t give too much away about the storyline as I don’t want to ruin it for those who don’t know much about it.

Viral certainly doesn’t paint this kind of drinking culture in Magaluf in a positive light- though we all know what goes on there to a certain extent, it’s so shocking that the bar reps encourage this kind of behaviour, and that there are so many young men willing to participate without thinking about what they’re doing at all, it seems. Her sister really fails on looking after her, and it could be easy to blame her for this, but I blame the others involved. 

I really enjoyed reading about her determined mother’s efforts to bring the people in the video to justice, and though it all got pretty strange and crazy towards the end I still really enjoyed reading every minute! You feel like you really get to know the family as the novel goes on too, as we read more of their backstory. 
I’d really recommend this novel- it’s easy to read and very entertaining. Just try not to think too much about the content because it will hugely sadden/ piss you off! 

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review. 

Exposure [review]

I’m in Thailand at the moment, so apologies if I don’t respond to everything for a while- I’ll probably have limited access to wifi! 
I’ve scheduled some posts to go out while I’m away though -I’ll be doing a post with photos and what I read when I get back!

  
[Synopsis]

London, November, 1860: the Cold War is at its height. Spy fever fills the newspapers, and the political establishment knows how and where to bury its secrets. When a highly sensitive file goes missing, Simon Callington is accused of passing information to the Russians, and arrested. His wife, Lily, suspects that his inprisonment is part of a cover up, and that more powerful men than Simon will do anything to prevent their own downfall. She’s knows that she too is in danger, and must fight to protect her children. But what she does not realise is that Simon has hidden vital truths about his past, and may be found guilty of another crime that carries with it an even greater penalty.

[My Review]

Exposure by Helen Dunmore is a vivid, aborning story. It’s about spies and secrecy, but it’s not a thriller. It’s more of a slow but beautifully written tale about a family and their struggles, together and apart, as they come to terms with what Simon has been accused of.

Helen Dunmore writes beautifully, as ever. Even when there isn’t a huge deal going on, I was completely absorbed into the story and didn’t really want it to end. You get a real sense of the family’s upheaval and despair, and the unfairness of Simon’s past coming back to haunt him in a certain sense. The characters, though not all likeable, are interesting to read about and seem realistic and convincing. I really liked Lily as a character- she was strong, supportive and got on with it even when times were hard.

The fact that the novel centres around the Cold War and British intelligence, adds therefore has a real sense of mystery to it, but as I mentioned before, this novel isn’t really about just that. It’s about the way Simon and his family react to his arrest, and similarly the way Giles doesn’t. It’s interesting that what Giles was actually doing is surrounded in so much secrecy, only adding to the tension.

This may not be a novel for readers who only enjoy fast paced, thrilling tales- I am someone who loves these, but I still hugely enjoyed Exposure, as more of a slow burner of a tale. Highly recommended.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

Our Endless Numbered Days

Our Endless Numbered Days

Our Endless Numbered Days

Today I’ve got a review from my mum, who loved this book so much she was more than happy to write a review for me to post here!

[Synopsis]

Peggy Hillcoat is eight years old when her survivalist father, James, takes her from their home in London to a remote hut in the woods and tells her that the rest of the world has been destroyed. Deep in the wilderness, Peggy and James make a life for themselves. They repair the hut, bathe in water from the river, hunt and gather food in the summers and almost starve in the harsh winters. They mark their days only by the sun and the seasons.

When Peggy finds a pair of boots in the forest and begins a search for their owner, she unwittingly begins to unravel the series of events that brought her to the woods and, in doing so, discovers the strength she needs to go back to the home and mother she thought she’d lost.

After Peggy’s return to civilization, her mother learns the truth of her escape, of what happened to James on the last night out in the woods, and of the secret that Peggy has carried with her ever since.

Our Endless Numbered Days


[My Mum’s Review]

What an extraordinary book this is. I am still thinking about it many days after finishing it. 

It is narrated by a young girl who is 8 in parts and 17 in others and we only know what is happening through her eyes. Her Mother is a professional pianist and her father, much younger, is a retreatist – he, with a group of friends make plans for survival in a post-Apocalyptic World. Bewildering tensions and arguments happen and then her father takes her for a “holiday” in Die Hutte, a remote shelter somewhere in the Bavarian Hills. He tells her that everyone else in the World is dead and they stay there for 9 years.

We know that she survives because the narration switches between her back at home with her Mother and surviving in the hut with her father. What happens to her fathers mental health and how Peggy (or Punzel) manages to cope with this strange, harsh life is told is told in such simple terms, and so subtly that the layers of darkness under her understanding of the World has even more effect.

The clues are all there to what has happened but it wasn’t until after I finished the book that I started to recognise them and rethink what I had read. 

For me, parts of the ending was unexpected but if you guess what has happened it doesn’t detract from a beautifully woven, mesmerising story.

[Rating 5/5]

After You Die by Eva Dolan

After You Die [review]

After You Die by Eva Dolan
[Synopsis]

Dawn Prentice was already known to the Peterborough Hate Crimes Unit.

The previous summer she had logged a number of calls detailing the harassment she and her severely disabled teenage daughter were undergoing. Now she is dead – stabbed to death whilst Holly Prentice has been left to starve upstairs. DS Ferreira, only recently back serving on the force after being severely injured in the line of duty, had met with Dawn that summer. Was she negligent in not taking Dawn’s accusations more seriously? Did the murderer even know that Holly was helpless upstairs while her mother bled to death?

Whilst Ferreira battles her demons, determined to prove she’s up to the frontline, DI Zigic is drawn into conflict with an official seemingly resolved to hide the truth about one of his main suspects. Can either officer unpick the truth about mother and daughter, and bring their killer to justice?

After You Die

[My Review]

A few things drew me to this book. Firstly, I’m a sucker for well written crime/ Police novels, and I’d heard- from my mum, actually- that Eva Dolan is a really good writer whose work fits perfectly into this category. Then, of course, there’s the fact that it’s set in Peterborough, which is my hometown (well, homecity actually). I was intrigued to see how I’d enjoy it, and hopeful that I’d find a new favourite author and series. I’m pleased to say I found both!

Firstly, the writing in After You Die is really great. Well-crafted sentences are woven into an intriguing and fast-paced plot. Dolan includes just the right amount of grittiness without it being too much, though the content is pretty harrowing at times!

I really enjoyed reading about the characters. Di Zigic seems a really likeable Detective that I can imagine wanting to read more about, though he definitely works too much and therefore neglects his family a bit- the usual trait of those in his profession, it seems! Nevertheless he continued to be a sharp, intelligent character whose journey to solving the case is a really interesting one. His team are equally enjoyable to read about, with fiery Ferreira being a bit too hot-headed at times but providing an excellent aide to Zigic.

As I mentioned before, some of the content surrounding the crime and the events leading up to it is quite gritty, but I feel it’s done well throughout. It may not have made Peterborough look like the safest, quietest place to live in the world, but it made for excellent reading!

I’ll certainly be reading the first 2 novels in the DI Zigic and DS Ferreira series, which are titled Long Way Home (1) and Tell No Tales (2).

A sharp, engaging crime read which I’d highly recommend.

[My Review: 5/5]

** Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review **

After You Die is out now.

The Poison Artist [review]

The Poison Artist by Jonathan Moore[Synopsis]

A tale of desire, obsession, and deadly mystery, with echoes of Vertigo

Dr. Caleb Maddox is a San Francisco toxicologist studying the chemical effects of pain. After a bruising breakup with his girlfriend, he is drinking whiskey at the speakeasy House of Shields when a hauntingly seductive woman appears by his side. Emmeline whispers to Caleb over absinthe, gets his blood on her fingers, and then brushes his ear with her lips as she says goodbye. He must find her.

As his search begins, Caleb becomes entangled in a serial murder investigation. The police are fishing men from the bay, and the postmortems are inconclusive. One man vanished from House of Shields the night Caleb met Emmeline. When questioned, Caleb can’t offer any information. But he is secretly helping the city’s medical examiner, an old friend, understand the chemical evidence on the victims’ remains. Caleb’s search for the killer soon entwines with his hunt for Emmeline, and the closer he gets to each, the more dangerous his world becomes.

The Poison Artist is a gripping literary thriller about obsession and damage, about a man unmoored by an unspeakable past and an irresistible woman who offers the ultimate escape.

The Poison Artist

[My Review]


The Poison Artist
by Jonathan Moore was a strange and compelling psychological thriller, which seemed to have a deeper element to it than is typical of some other books in this genre.

I loved how atmospheric this novel was; you’re never quite sure who is trying to help Caleb and who isn’t, and this leaves the reader feeling suitably unnerved. As the story went on you get the feeling that all is not as it seems, and you feel Caleb’s desperation and confusion with him as he sinks lower and lower.

We find out more and more about Caleb’s past, and I really liked how the author slowly revealed this with hints and clues. There is a strong air of mystery throughout, and the world around Caleb seems kind of warped and almost dream-like.

Caleb as a character I actually quite disliked. I found him hugely self-pitying, self-absorbed and felt awful for his ex girlfriend- yes, she may have broken up with him, but it took him no time to become obsessed with this other woman, Emmeline, and start comparing how he feels about each of them. I feel that this shows what a great author Jonathan Moore is, by creating a character that had a lot of (I felt) negative traits, but who you still really want to read more about.

This is a fairly creepy, atmospheric novel that I would really recommend to anyone wanting something a little different to read- I haven’t read anything quite like this and I really enjoyed it!

[My Review: 4/5]

** Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review. **

The Poison Artist will be released in the UK on March 10th 2016.

The Widow [review]

The Widow by Fiona Barton[Synopsis]

When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen…

But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.

There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.

Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.

The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…

The Widow

[My Review]

I didn’t know what to expect when I started this novel; I didn’t know much about it previously but what I saw from the synopsis really intrigued me so I was eagerly anticipating reading The Widow.

It had me hooked from the very first page- and by first page, I mean the ‘Dear Reader’ section that comes before the story has even begun. Fiona Barton speaks about her past as a journalist and how this career, which involves a lot of ‘watching people’, inspired this story.

Firstly, Fiona Barton’s writing is just brilliant. The story is so full of suspense, and is crafted in a way that slowly reveals more and more as you immerse yourself in it. I couldn’t stop reading as I tried to guess what the widow really knew about her husband, and I truly savoured every word!

The characters are crated so well, they’re incredibly believable and really make you want to read on. ‘The Widow’, Jean Taylor, was a hard one to figure out – but I guess that’s the beauty of the story. You see various points of view including the reporter, Kate, and DetectiveSparkes, and this gives you an insight into how other people percieve Jean and what they might be thinking about her. I really enjoyed reading the differing viewpoints and stories, and learning more of what exactly Jean knows- or doesn’t know.

I would highly recommend this book. It’s a well written, brilliant story which leaves you thinking about it after you’ve finished. A brilliant debut and an author I’d certainly like to read more of in the future!

[Rating: 5/5]

The Widow will be published in the UK on January 14th 2016.

* Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing an ARC of this book in return for an honest review *

Dead Secret [review]

Dead-Secret-Ava-McCarthy
[Synopsis]

Two quick shots. One for him. One for you.

After the death of her three-year-old daughter, Jodie has nothing left to live for – or almost nothing.

She has one task to fulfil before she takes her own life. And that’s to kill the man she holds responsible for her daughter’s death – her seemingly perfect husband, Ethan.

But Ethan is hiding more than just his true nature. And as more horrifying secrets from his past emerge, Jodie’s strength will be pushed to the limit…

Dead Secret

[My Review]
Dead Secret by Ava McCarthy combines suspense, mystery and action to create a really great debut novel. I was so impressed at Ava McCarthy’s writing throughout this novel; although I don’t have children myself the writing made me put myself in her shoes and imagine what she must be feeling. Jodie’s desperation at times was really powerful and I truly hated her husband the more I read about how he treated her. McCarthy portrayed this behaviour in what I imagine is a very convincing way, and managed to create realistic characters that I wanted to read more about, and cared what happened to. I felt that the ending was also well-written, satisfying and quite plausible too.

The storyline moves along at a good pace and really kept my interest- I didn’t want to put it down! It had enough twists and turns to surprise me, without straying too far into unbelievable territory.I can’t say much more as I don’t want to ruin any of it for future readers!

Overall I am hugely impressed with Dead Secret and am looking forward to reading more by this author- if other work is anywhere near as good as this one then I’m sold! 🙂

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

Dead Secret is published on January 14th.

The Life And Death of Sophie Stark [review]

Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North[Synopsis]

Gripping and provocative, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark tells a story of fame, love, and legacy through the propulsive rise of an iconoclastic artist.
“It’s hard for me to talk about love. I think movies are the way I do that,” says Sophie Stark, a visionary and unapologetic filmmaker. She uses stories from the lives of those around her—her obsession, her girlfriend, and her husband—to create movies that bring her critical recognition and acclaim. But as her career explodes, Sophie’s unwavering dedication to her art leads to the shattering betrayal of the people she loves most.

Told in a chorus of voices belonging to those who knew her best, The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is an intimate portrait of an elusive woman whose monumental talent and relentless pursuit of truth reveal the cost of producing great art, both for the artist and for the people around her.

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark

[My Review]

This was an interesting and quite unique story. It’s told from various perspectives, all people who knew Sophie in some way, but never from Sophie herself. There are friends, ex-partners and her brother to name a few, and all have a different tale about her to tell.

Sophie herself I found a bit irritating to start with. I know she’s supposed to be elusive and enigmatic, and I’m sure I’m probably in the minority with this, but I thought to myself as I read: if I knew her and she was my friend/ girlfriend/ whatever, I’d get seriously annoyed with what seems to be flakiness- or perhaps just eccentricity. However as I read on I realised what seemed to be selfishness and coldness was actually her unsettled way of ‘being’, if that makes sense! She seems to burst into people’s lives like a whirlwind, but still manages to remain quite surprising and, at times, very confusing. I warmed to her a bit more as the novel went on, but I still didn’t care that much about her. However, she was interesting to read about- and that’s the main thing, after all!

Despite this, Anna North’s writing is really absorbing and certainly kept me reading on. She really tells a story really well, despite this novel being quite fragmented in the way that each section is told by a different character.

This is an original and well written novel which includes some great descriptions that had me picturing the place, person or situation perfectly.

[My Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the pubisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

The Darkest Secret [review]

Before I start the review, HAPPY NEW YEAR! I hope everyone had a fantastic Christmas. My birthday is actually on New Year’s Day so this time of year is always eventful!

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood
[Synopsis]

When three-year-old identical twin Coco goes missing during a family celebration, there is a media frenzy. Her parents are rich and influential, as are the friends they were with at their holiday home by the sea.

But what really happened to Coco during her father’s 50th birthday weekend?

Set across two weekends – the first when Coco goes missing and the second, at the funeral of Coco’s father, where at last, the darkest of secrets will be revealed…

The Darkest Secret

[My Review]

I was so excited to read The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood because I read and reviewed The Wicked Girls and loved it (read my review of it here). Therefore I entered this with high expectations!

This novel is a hugely enjoyable, intense story about many things, including families, relationships and responsibility. The characters are wonderfully crafted, and Alex Marwood is really skilled at developing three dimensional, convincing people that you want to read more about- even though a lot of them were utterly despisable people!

It’s interesting that the reader is presented with the story from various points of view; this way we learn more about Claire’s feelings. Although at the beginning of the novel I really disliked her, I actually felt really sorry for her as the novel went on which I was very surprised about!

Sean and many of his friends are bloody horrible! As I read on I really felt like I got to know the characters well (though I did get a little confused sometimes with remembering who exactly was who,a nd who was related to who! I think that’s partly because so many people were linked, in so many ways, to others!) It’s surprisingly, and utterly, engrossing to read about these abominable people and their shallow, indulgent lifestyles, and I feel that this novel is more about the how and why rather than what actually happened (though this does provide a mysterious undercurrent to the story). I think because of this I felt that The Darkest Secret was a little less gripping than the brilliant The Wicked Girls, but I still hugely enjoyed reading it! This novel also had more of a dry humour to it, which I loved.

The novel flits between two different timescales; one is set in 2004, right before and during the disappearance of Coco, and another focuses on the ‘present day’, when Milly (or Mila as she likes to be known) agrees to take Ruby, Coco’s twin, to their father’s funeral. Slowly, everything that happened that weekend unravels and the half sisters discover just how many lies were woven.

I would really recommend this novel. It’s  an intriguing, atmopsheric and engrossing story which I became really immersed in!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher for a copy of this novel in return for an honest review