Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott

Stranger Child [review]

Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott

[Synopsis]

One Dark Secret. One act of revenge.

When Emma Joseph met her husband David, he was a man shattered by grief. His first wife had been killed outright when her car veered off the road. Just as tragically, their six-year-old daughter mysteriously vanished from the scene of the accident.

Now, six years later, Emma believes the painful years are behind them. She and David have built a new life together and have a beautiful baby son, Ollie.

Then a stranger walks into their lives, and their world tilts on its axis.

Emma’s life no longer feels secure. Does she know what really happened all those years ago? And why does she feel so frightened for herself and for her baby?

When a desperate Emma reaches out to her old friend DCI Tom Douglas for help, she puts all their lives in jeopardy. Before long, a web of deceit is revealed that shocks both Emma and Tom to the core.

They say you should never trust a stranger. Maybe they’re right.

Stranger Child (DCI Tom Douglas, #4)

[My Review]

Stranger Child by Rachael Abbott was this month’s book choice. I was really pleased it had been picked as I have wanted to read this for a while, and it’s just thy sort of book I always find myself really getting into- so I wanted to see if it was as good as I expected.

We all felt that this novel was really fast paced and engrossing; everyone in our group really enjoyed it, and the people who don’t tend to read psychological thrillers like this said that they would definitely read more of her work and of the genre too, which was brilliant!

The characters were interesting, and some of them were not quite as they appeared which is always fun to read! All them made us want to read more about them, even though some were actually really horrible characters! They all seemed quite realistic and convincing, which is something I really like about her writing; though we might not in any way agree with all their actions, we can understand why some of them may have behaved the way they did. There were twists and turns, and the storyline moved along at just the right pace, leaving us wanting to read more. Tom Douglas seems to be a likeable, interesting protagonist who you’re really rooting for and I can certainly see how Rachel Abbott has built up a whole series around him!

This is actually the 4th book in the DCI Tom Douglas series; the lady who picked this novel had read others but the rest of us hadn’t. We didn’t feel like this had any negative effect whilst reading it though- it just made us want to read more! There is a new novella called Nowhere Child, out at the moment, which appears to be a sort of sequel to Stranger Child. So if you enjoyed this, check Nowhere Child out – I know I will!

[Book Club Rating: 5/5]

Next month:
[Synopsis]

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler‘It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon…’

This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that summer’s day in 1959. The whole family on the porch, half-listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before.

From that porch we spool back through the generations, witnessing the events, secrets and unguarded moments that have come to define the family. From Red’s father and mother, newly arrived in Baltimore in the 1920s, to Abby and Red’s grandchildren carrying the family legacy boisterously into the twenty-first century – four generations of Whitshanks, their lives unfolding in and around the sprawling, lovingly worn Baltimore house that has always been their home…

A Spool of Blue Thread

Have you read Stranger Child? If so, what did you think?
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Jonathan Livingston Seagull [September Book Club]

Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard BachI’m sorry that this book club post is so late… I guess I just was so underwhelmed by the book so I wasn’t hugely motivated to write the post. I tend to pick books to review on here that I think I’ll enjoy, so usually my posts are positive just because of that reason. I don’t really pick or accept books for review which don’t appeal to me in some way, so usually, even if it wasn’t amazing, I’m usually looking forward to writing my review.

In this into I’ve kind of given away my general feeling on this book already, but oh well!

[Synopsis]

This is a story for people who follow their hearts and make their own rules…people who get special pleasure out of doing something well, even if only for themselves…people who know there’s more to this living than meets the eye: they’ll be right there with Jonathan, flying higher and faster than ever they dreamed.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is no ordinary bird. He believes it is every gull’s right to fly, to reach the ultimate freedom of challenge and discovery, finding his greatest reward in teaching younger gulls the joy of flight and the power of dreams.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

[Our Book Club Review]

Well. To me I felt this was one of the most overly-pretentious, self-important, boring book I have ever read. I know people say it’s full of ‘life-lessons’ but it was so preachy and dull and just didn’t draw me in at all.

I had no problems with the overall premise; that Jonathan was a seagull who doesn’t follow the pack and instead flies free in his quest for perfection, even when all his peers sneer at him… that’s all great. I just found it really boring to read. The symbolism of the story wasn’t at all subtle and I didn’t really enjoy it. My feelings were echoed by everyone in the group, which I was surprised about as there are so many positive reviews and people who worship this book, so I thought at least one of the 6 of us who were there would have felt it ‘spoke’ to them too. But I’m afraid there wasn’t. The pictures also seemed a little pointless, though at least meant there were a few pages without any text on.

It’s great to be optimistic and want to better yourself, of course, but we all felt it could have been conveyed in a more interesting way. I’m sure there’ll be plenty of people who feel we’ve missed the point of this book, and to be honest we probably have. It’s probably the kind of book where, if you read it at a certain significant point in your life, then it really speaks to you, but sadly within our book club it didn’t. This reminded me of our experience with another reading group choice- The Alchemist– where the hype around a book just didn’t transfer to our enjoyment of the book.

Someone from our group did, however, give one positive- at least it only took 45 mins to read.

[Rating: 2/5]


 

Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott[Next Month’s Choice: Stranger Child by Rachel Abbott]

One Dark Secret. One act of revenge.

When Emma Joseph met her husband David, he was a man shattered by grief. His first wife had been killed outright when her car veered off the road. Just as tragically, their six-year-old daughter mysteriously vanished from the scene of the accident.

Now, six years later, Emma believes the painful years are behind them. She and David have built a new life together and have a beautiful baby son, Ollie.

Then a stranger walks into their lives, and their world tilts on its axis.

Emma’s life no longer feels secure. Does she know what really happened all those years ago? And why does she feel so frightened for herself and for her baby?

When a desperate Emma reaches out to her old friend DCI Tom Douglas for help, she puts all their lives in jeopardy. Before long, a web of deceit is revealed that shocks both Emma and Tom to the core.

They say you should never trust a stranger. Maybe they’re right.

Stranger Child (DCI Tom Douglas, #4)

This looks like my kind of book! It wasn’t my choice this month but I have heard a lot about this book and, although it’s number 4 in the DCI Tim Douglas series, hopefully we won’t need to have read the others to enjoy it!

Have you read either of these books? If so, what did you think?

The Book Of You - Claire Kendal

The Book Of You by Claire Kendal [August Book Club]

The Book Of You - Claire KendalThe Book Of You by Claire Kendal was August’s book club choice- and it was my turn to choose this month!

[Synopsis]

Clarissa is becoming more and more frightened of her colleague, Rafe. He won’t leave her alone, and he refuses to take no for an answer. He is always there.

Being selected for jury service is a relief. The courtroom is a safe haven, a place where Rafe can’t be. But as a violent tale of kidnap and abuse unfolds, Clarissa begins to see parallels between her own situation and that of the young woman on the witness stand.

Realizing that she bears the burden of proof, Clarissa unravels the twisted, macabre fairytale that Rafe has spun around them – and discovers that the ending he envisions is more terrifying than she could have

The Book of You

Our Book Club Review:

I’d bought this in hard back when it came out and never got round to reading it for one reason or another, so thought this was the perfect opportunity to actually get it read, because it looked really good!

I really enjoy psychological thrillers- I know they’re having a BIG moment at the moment following success of novels such as Gone Girl or The Girl On The Train, but I don’t care if they’re seen as gaining too much coverage- they’re popular because lots of people enjoy them!

This was a great example of a fast paced, atmospheric novel that kept all of us hooked until the end. One member of the group said that they took a while to get into it because of the way it’s written (mostly diary entries) and the way that it jumps around a bit, time-wise. However all the rest of us said we were hooked from pretty much the beginning.

The characters were all interesting and made us want to read more, but some felt that many of the decisions Clarissa made were not overly realistic. I’m not sure about this myself, because I don’t think anyone can judge how they’d react in a situation, especially and disturbing or threatening one, without going through it themselves. I’d hope I would react and behave in a certain sensible way- but who knows? That was something the book really prompted us to consider as we read it. It was also effective at making us think about how people can’t properly be judged as ‘good’ or ‘bad’- it’s not always that black and white. I don’t mean this in reference to Rafe the stalker, but with regards to other characters who made mistakes and didn’t always seem as good as gold. We all said we enjoyed the way it made us think a bit about human nature.

Overall we all enjoyed this novel, some more than others, but no one hated it. I personally loved it and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys this kind of genre.

Rating: 4/5

Have you read The Book Of You? If so, what did you think?


Next month:
This was picked by a colleague, I’ve never heard of it to be honest (I probably should have!) so I will be interested to see how I, and everyone else, finds it.
[Synopsis]

This is a story for people who follow their hearts and make their own rules…people who get special pleasure out of doing something well, even if only for themselves…people who know there’s more to this living than meets the eye: they’ll be right there with Jonathan, flying higher and faster than ever they dreamed.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull is no ordinary bird. He believes it is every gull’s right to fly, to reach the ultimate freedom of challenge and discovery, finding his greatest reward in teaching younger gulls the joy of flight and the power of dreams.

Jonathan Livingston Seagull
Orange is the New Black

Book Club: Orange Is The New Black

Orange is the New BlackWhen my friend picked Orange Is The New Black as July’s Book Club choice, we all said we’d try and separate the book from the hugely popular TV series which was based on Piper Kerman’s true story. There were a few of the group who had never seen the TV programme so we didn’t want to exclude them with talks of the show, just as much as we didn’t want the show to affect our reading of the book.

Synopsis:

With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before.

But that past has caught up with her.

Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424 — one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system.

From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance.

Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there.

Orange Is the New Black

At first, I kept imagining the characters as they appeared on TV, wondering whether the people in the books were TV characters but with a different name. But, as I continued to read, I forgot about the TV series and became immersed in the book itself, as did others in the group.

We all said we really enjoyed reading Piper’s story. She seemed like a genuinely nice person and the entire story made us all question whether America’s punishments really fit the crime? She had to live for years under the threat of prison before she actually started her prison time, and that in itself must have been horrible. We all felt like that would almost be worse than being in jail- the not knowing.

A few members of our book group commented that they didn’t think they would ever be able to deal with a prison sentence the way Piper did. The characters are all interesting to read about, although some only pop up for a paragraph or two and then we don’t see any more of them. I suppose that’s how it is in prison though – sometimes you only see someone from afar and don’t really interact with them, whilst other people you grow to know so well. I did sometimes feel that Piper was a little too aware of how she didn’t ‘fit in’ there because of her race and how she’d been brought up, but she made the best of it and tried to get involved with prison life where possible without causing trouble. The TV series (I know we’re not supposed to be comparing, but it’s bound to happen) is so entertaining but reading this made me realise how much the series was dramatised! There were a lot of things I expected to happen, from watching the show, that didn’t, and I’m glad because this is, after all, real life, and it felt like that (even though she was in a position that a lot of us will never be in).

Overall I’d say this is well worth a read, especially if you’re interested in the prison system as I am! I love anything to do with prisons, which sounds strange but I just find them really intriguing.

Rating: 4/5


Next month:
 The Book Of You - Claire KendalThe Book Of You by Claire Kendal

The Book of You

A terrifying psychological thriller about obsession and power, perfect for fans of Gone Girl and Before I Go to Sleep.

Clarissa is becoming more and more frightened of her colleague, Rafe. He won’t leave her alone, and he refuses to take no for an answer. He is always there.

Being selected for jury service is a relief. The courtroom is a safe haven, a place where Rafe can’t be. But as a violent tale of kidnap and abuse unfolds, Clarissa begins to see parallels between her own situation and that of the young woman on the witness stand.

Realizing that she bears the burden of proof, Clarissa unravels the twisted, macabre fairytale that Rafe has spun around them – and discovers that the ending he envisions is more terrifying than she could have imagine.

This was my choice so I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone thinks!
I bought The Book Of You a while ago in hardback and have had it on my bookshelf for a while, so I’m glad I’m finally going to get round to reading it at last!

If you read it too let me know how you found it! 🙂

Buy with Amazon

The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

Book Group: The Alchemist by Paul Coelho

Sorry this post has taken a while – we only met for book group last Wednesday and things have been super busy recently so I’ve only just had the chance to write this post!

The Alchemist
The Alchemist by Paul CoelhoThe Alchemist by Paul Coelho was picked by a fellow reading group member who said that she’d actually already read it a few years ago and had been completely blown away by it. She felt it really spoke to her, in part due to personal issues going on in her life at the time. We were all pretty excited to read it, thinking we’d be enlightened by what it would tell us, etc etc, and I’m always up for a story that might make me re-evaluate my life! Plus it’s a really short novel so I thought even if I disliked it, it wouldn’t be too hard to finish…I read the first half and was, quite frankly, incredibly bored. I struggled to pay attention and my mind kept wandering. I thought, perhaps I need to read this in a quiet room, away from any possible distractions.I tried this- it didn’t work.I don’t usually give up on books unless I really am not enjoying them, but had it not been for this being a book group choice, I would have given up on this.

As it was, I carried on to the end and unfortunately my opinion didn’t change. I’m all for reading new styles of writing or something a little different, but I honestly have never struggled to concentrate on a book so much, and I never usually have a problem with this. I didn’t mind the ending really, but it didn’t make up for the rest unfortunately!Having spoken to fellow book club members, they felt largely the same, apart from 2 people – one of whom picked the book, who still enjoyed it but not as much as the first time she’d read it, and another member who found it really wonderful and enjoyable. The rest of us ranged from thinking it was ‘OK’ to really not enjoying it. I feel I sit somewhere in the middle- it’s not the worst book I’ve ever read, and maybe one day I’ll give it another go as it’s so short, but it definitely didn’t speak to me in the way it seems to have done for so many others!It isn’t that the story is particularly slow or uneventful. Things DO happen, and the messages that the main character learns are all largely positive and will no doubt be enlightening for many people, but the story just didn’t interest me and I couldn’t connect with this book or with these messages that the author was trying to get across. I feel kind of like I should have found it amazing since so many people loved it, and I don’t know if it was because it is written in the style of a ‘fable’ or some other reason I can’t put my finger on, but I feel so disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this as much as other people did… I guess that’s why everyone has different tastes though- it makes life interesting!

Some of his other novels look brilliant however, so I’ll still be giving those a go when I get time 🙂

Better luck next time…!

Rating: 2/5

** Have you read The Alchemist? What did you think? I’d love to know your thoughts on this novel as it really seems to divide people! **


 The next book group choice is The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman:

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip PullmanSynopsis:

This is a story. In this ingenious and spell-binding retelling of the life of Jesus, Philip Pullman revisits the most influential story ever told.

Charged with mystery, compassion and enormous power, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ throws fresh light on who Jesus was and asks the reader questions that will continue to resonate long after the final page is turned.

For, above all, this book is about how stories become stories.

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found

Book Club: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found
So, here’s the next Reading Group post-  sorry it’s taken ages, we had a while to wait until the next meet!

This month’s book was: Wild by Cheryl Strayed. I hope you enjoyed the novel if you read along too, or at least found it interesting to read!

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Synopsis:

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.
Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

Cheryl Strayed Quote

Image: sheknows.com

I don’t often read autobiographies/ memoirs, so this was a nice change for me! This is not a book about hiking as such, but more about the emotions and experiences Cheryl went through when undertaking this enormous challenge. None of us in our book group had read this before and we all have varying interests, genre-wise.

The novel had a great mix of her internal thoughts and feelings, description about her surroundings along with her troubled past which led to her ‘breakdown’. We all felt like we understood her a lot more by the end of the novel, although there was still a lot of decisions that she had made that frustrated us! However I can’t imagine the state of mind she must have been in after losing her mother, so I don’t know how I could ever react in that same situation, and this feeling was echoed by most of the group.

In some ways I really admire Cheryl Strayed in it and in other ways I really dislike her. I have massive respect that she had the balls to go out and do this with next to no training or knowledge about the trail (which in all honesty is pretty stupid), and I can’t imagine the pain she must have gone through losing her mother and how that must have affected the decisions she made. However, I really felt sorry for her ex-husband, who seemed so lovely and who she really seemed to treat quite badly, and this made me less sympathetic towards her at some points. I also wanted to scream at her for a certain point in the novel when she becomes addicted to a substance with her then-boyfriend – it just felt SO STUPID, but hey – again I can’t imagine her frame of mind at the time what with everything she’d experienced.

This wasn’t a particularly fast-paced novel but it kept me wanting to read on despite the slower pace. A few others in the group felt it was a little slow/ devoid of action at times but I didn’t struggle to continue reading it at all personally. I feel like sometimes it’s nice to read something that doesn’t feel the need to rush the reader through its narrative. Even the more mundane descriptions of her bag and hiking gear were concise enough that you didn’t feel bored reading them.

I’d like to see the film version to see how they’ve adapted it. A few people also said they’d be really interested in seeing the landscapes that we read about in the book, as it’s hard to picture them properly sometimes, so I might try and get hold of it soon to watch!

I would certainly recommend Wild to most people I know, whether they have an interest in hiking and/or the Pacific Coast Trail or not, as I’m not hugely interested in either yet really enjoyed reading it.

The resounding conclusion from everyone else in the book group was “an enjoyable, entertaining read!”

Rating: 3.5/5


The Alchemist by Paulo CoelhoEdit: We decided to change Next Month’s Book as Otrich had some themes that might upset some members of our group.

So the next month’s book group choice will now be: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.

Synopsis:

Paulo Coelho’s enchanting novel has inspired a devoted following around the world. This story, dazzling in its powerful simplicity and inspiring wisdom, is about an Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago who travels from his homeland in Spain to the Egyptian desert in search of a treasure buried in the Pyramids. Along the way he meets a Gypsy woman, a man who calls himself king, and an alchemist, all of whom point Santiago in the direction of his quest.

No one knows what the treasure is, or if Santiago will be able to surmount the obstacles along the way. But what starts out as a journey to find worldly goods turns into a discovery of the treasure found within.

Lush, evocative, and deeply humane, the story of Santiago is an eternal testament to the transforming power of our dreams and the importance of listening to our hearts

Have you read either of these novels? If so, what did you think?

Book Club: Wrongful Death by Lynda LaPlante

IMG_0262-0Wrongful Death (Anna Travis, #9)

Synopsis:

Six months after the body of Josh Reynolds, a London nightclub owner, was found and determined by police and coroner to be a suicide, DCS James Langton tasks DCI Anna Travis to review the case. Reynolds died from a single gunshot wound to the head, the gun held in his right hand. But details are emerging that suggest someone else may have fired the gun… As soon as she wraps up the case, Langton tells Anna, she can join him at the FBI Academy in Virginia for training. Meanwhile, a Senior FBI Agent, Jessie Dewar, crime scene expert, is seconded to Anna’s team as part of her research and immediately the competence of the original investigation team is questioned.   

So, we met the other night and discussed Wrongful Death by Lynda LaPlante. This is the first book club book I’ve posted as such on this blog, but I will be posting one each month. Read on to the bottom for next month’s book too!

Wrongful Death is, in my opinion, a mix of really enjoyable elements, and really irritating aspects that got on my nerves. I’ve never read any Lynda LaPlante before but know that she’s very popular and a lot of her work has been made into television programme, so I was looking forward to reading her new novel, Wrongful Death, when it was picked as this month’s book club choice. No one else had read any of her work apart from the lady who picked it. 

Firstly, this is a fairly long novel, weighing in at 512 pages. Not exactly huge, but I felt it was a little slow at the beginning and at certain points in the story which maybe made it feel a bit longer, and everyone agreed that it took a while to get into – and a while to finish! 

Lynda LaPlante obviously knows a lot about Police and Detective work, and as a Police Procedural novel it seemed very detailed and thorough. The problem was that at some points it felt a little too detailed when it came to added info, such as what Anna (the main Detective) was wearing or eating. I didn’t feel that we really needed to know the exact colour of her lipstick, or the starter, main course and drink she ordered in a restaurant. A good amount of detail is fine in my opinion, but there’s no need to waffle on for this long! Others may well disagree but most of the book clube members felt that it cut have been cut down by a good 100 pages without detriment to the story! 

That being said, the attention to detail is excellent and you feel like you’ve really got to experience how police investigations get carried out (even though it’s a fictional story obviously) which we all really enjoyed reading about. I sort of guessed who ‘did it’ before the end but the conclusion was complicated enough that there was loads I hadn’t figured out too. The very end of the novel divided opinion among us; some quite liked it and others weren’t sure; it’s not a typical Crime novel ending, that’s all I’ll say here!

This was the first book I’d read in this series and my first impressions of characters might be a bit skewed. I found the main Detective Anna to be quite an annoying character, and I’m not sure if that’s how she’s meant to come across or if it’s just in this book; she grated on my nerves a bit throughout and I didn’t like the way she treated certain characters. Similarly Dewar was a pain in the a*se but to be fair she was obviously supposed to be!

There were also other characters that seemed just too clichéd. Whether they were Jamaican with dreadlocks and wearing a Rasta hat, or a gay Policeman flinging his arms around and repeatedly saying ‘Girlfriend’, there were some characters that really jarred with me simply because they were such a stereotype

However, I did enjoy reading this novel. The plot was quite intricate and although we all read the middle section- where Anna and Langton go to America and Langton goes after Fitzpatrick- with some impatience as we wanted it to get back to the main plot, it still flowed quite well and kept us all reading on. I see from other reviews that people who have read previous novels in the series also had some issues with Wrongful Death, so maybe LaPlante has changed her writing style a bit- though Sandra who picked this novel said that she hadn’t noticed a significant change from the last novel to this one, so who knows?! 

Overall, this is entertaining enough, but don’t expect it to be as succinct or fast-moving as some other reads in this genre, and remember to take some characters with a pinch of salt! 

Rating: 3/5  


** Next month’s book: Wild: From Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail **