Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Thoughts on the book: SUCH A FUN AGE by Kiley Reid

Author: Kiley Reid
Read: February 2020
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

I don't need you to be mad that it happened. I need you to be mad that it just like ... happens.

Book Description:

Alix Chamberlain is a woman who gets what she wants and has made a living showing other women how to do the same. A mother to two small girls, she started out as a blogger and has quickly built herself into a confidence-driven brand. So she is shocked when her babysitter, Emira Tucker, is confronted while watching the Chamberlains’ toddler one night. Seeing a young black woman out late with a white child, a security guard at their local high-end supermarket accuses Emira of kidnapping two-year-old Briar. A small crowd gathers, a bystander films everything, and Emira is furious and humiliated. Alix resolves to make it right.

But Emira herself is aimless, broke, and wary of Alix’s desire to help. At twenty-five, she is about to lose her health insurance and has no idea what to do with her life. When the video of Emira unearths someone from Alix’s past, both women find themselves on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know about themselves, and each other.

What attracted me to this book:

Sometimes I avoid hype books, and other times I am irresistibly drawn to them – this one was snatched up in a bad case of FOMO and bookstagrammademedoit. I liked the sound of a social satire on class and race, one that would challenge my own prejudices and misconceptions. Plus, it was a group read with some great bookish friends, and I can never resist those!

My Musings:

I admit that it took me a little while to get into the story. As you know, there is an incident in a grocery store where Emira gets accosted by the security guard, who thinks she has abducted little Briar, who she is babysitting at the time. Whilst this incident provides the fulcrum of the story, it takes some time to set things in motion.

From chatting to other readers, my initial disconnection may have had something to do with living in Australia and not being familiar with the social complexities of Northern USA. For example, here no one would even blink an eye if a twenty-five year old woman decides to do odd jobs like babysitting instead of choosing a very concrete career path straight out of college. There was also the generational gap – I am a long way past my twenties and thirties, and some of those agonising insecurities are thankfully also in the past. However, as the story progressed I was feeling more and more intrigued and itching to discuss some of the finer points with my reading group.

So here is my recommendation to you – find yourself some buddies to read this book with. Our discussion, which involved people from various backgrounds, ages and nationalities, was such good value! Reid really knows how to stoke the embers that made different opinions flare, highlighting some of our own beliefs, preconceptions and if I am honest, also prejudices I may have lived with for so long that they no longer stood out until challenged by our chat. Don’t you love it when books do that? I appreciated that Reid never once bogged her book down with preachy overtones or overly contrived wisdoms, but chose humour and characters you could either love or hate, which prompted me to form my own opinions. Is there a right or wrong? Our discussion showed that we each took something very unique away from the story, and I can’t ask for more than that. There were certainly enough themes to choose from that most of us could relate – apart from social class and racial issues the story revolved around the intricacies of transactional relationships, motherhood, friendship, trust, loneliness, career and many more.

Whilst I initially had trouble bonding with the characters, I found that I related to parts of them. Emira’s odd jobs and lack of career path in her twenties, Alix’s sense of isolation after moving away from her friendship group, even little Briar, who reminded me of my daughter as a toddler. Briar was by far my favourite character and immediately stole my heart. Oddly, I also felt an almost visceral dislike for Kelley, the root of which I am not entirely sure of yet.


All in all, SUCH A FUN AGE delivered all the things that made me pick it up in the first place, despite some slight cultural differences that may be the reason it didn’t blow my mind as it has with other readers. However, it initiated a fantastic discussion that made me reflect  on my own ingrained beliefs and prejudices, which is always the sign of a good read. Best read in a group or with a reading buddy!

Monday, 17 February 2020

Book Review: THE LIFE WE BURY by Allen Eskens

Author: Allen Eskens
Read: February 2020
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

No one can change the sound of an echo.

Book Description:

College student Joe Talbert has the modest goal of completing a writing assignment for an English class. His task is to interview a stranger and write a brief biography of the person. With deadlines looming, Joe heads to a nearby nursing home to find a willing subject. There he meets Carl Iverson, and soon nothing in Joe's life is ever the same. Carl is a dying Vietnam veteran-and a convicted murderer. With only a few months to live, he has been medically paroled to a nursing home after spending thirty years in prison for the crimes of rape and murder.

As Joe writes about Carl's life, especially Carl's valor in Vietnam, he cannot reconcile the heroism of the soldier with the despicable acts of the convict. Aided by his skeptical neighbor, Lila, Joe throws himself into uncovering the truth. Thread by thread, he begins to unravel the tapestry of Carl's conviction. But as he and Lila dig deeper into the circumstances of the crime, the stakes grow higher. Will Joe discover the truth before it's too late to escape the fallout?

What made me choose this book:

This was definitely a #bookstagrammademedoit read - it came highly recommended by various bookstagram friends. I am so grateful to them, because I loved it!

My Musings:

THE LIFE WE BURY is one of those books that has been sitting on my TBR pile forever. It came highly recommended from several of my bookstagram friends, and I don’t know why it took me so long to pick it up and read it! It’s my bad, because I knew very soon into the narrative that this reflective and compelling tale was also one heck of a fast-paced thriller that would easily make it onto my favourites list!

Without delving too much into the story (you can read the blurb for that), I immediately warmed to the character of Joe Talbert, who is a sweet oxymoron: on one hand he allows himself to get repeatedly screwed over and manipulated by his alcoholic mother, and on the other hand he can drop a six-foot giant with a few well aimed martial arts moves without losing his stride. But most of all, his heart is in the right place. Deep down his family will always come first, which is why he gives his mother bail money even if it costs him his college fund. He also risks losing his job and future prospects by taking in his autistic brother to get him away from his mother’s abusive partner. He is the only one who is prepared to listen to Carl Iversen’s story, when most people shy away from the “monster” who has been convicted of murdering a young girl. Over the course of the book I fell more and more in love with Joe, and feared for him when things started to go wrong.

Although some suspension of disbelief was required, the mix of sentimental reflection on Carl’s situation and the fast-paced scenes of the thriller element made for compelling reading late into the night. Each and every character was so well drawn that I could picture them vividly in my mind, and the atmospheric setting further contributed to a heart-pounding read. There were a few scenes that literally had me hold my breath! The story flowed effortlessly and it was impossible not to become emotionally involved.

After turning the last page I know that it won’t take me long until I will delve into the next book featuring these characters, who almost seemed like people I have met in real life. There’s nothing better than finding a series to get addicted to, and this one now has me well and truly hooked. Eskens is a writer I want to read lots more of! I highly recommend this book to lovers of fast-paced thrillers that also prompt reflection and tug on your heartstrings.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Book Review: THE OTHER YOU, by J.S. Monroe

Author: J.S. Monroe
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Read: February 2020
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ

Book Description:

You are waiting for your husband to join you on holiday. But when he arrives, you know it's not him...

This clever, twisty psychological thriller explores identity and pretence, paranoia and the disturbing notion that we are all, at some level, impostors.

My musings:

I’m usually not overly fond of books that immediately slap you in the face with a whole line-up of coincidences and rather unsubtle clues to introduce their often quite farfetched premise. It makes me feel like I’m getting set up on some disastrous blind date where the allegedly handsome young man turns out to be a thrice divorced 70 year old with a gambling habit and a penchant for twirling his wiry moustache. So it was with some trepidation that I entered a story where the main character is a “super-recogniser” (or facial profiler) for the police (who knew such a thing even existed?), who has lost her gift in a tragic accident. She coincidentally lives with a rather creepy (but reportedly handsome) guy whose worst fear is that his life will be stolen by his doppelganger, and who is suddenly acting weird. Hmmm, yes. Totally believable. “Not impossible, though”, said the other little voice in my head. “This is FICTION remember?” Oh yes, suspension of disbelief, my old foe, you got me once again!

Once I allowed myself to go with the flow, however, I found I quite enjoyed the story that unfolded. I certainly learned a lot. There were facts about super-recognisers who never forgot a face (I am on the other end of the spectrum I’m afraid), and the way police use them for spotting faces in surveillance footage. Interesting! Then there also was the fascinating statistics about your odds of having a doppelganger somewhere out there, which led me down a google rabbit hole looking up photos of random strangers who look identical. S.J. Monroe spun quite a tale out of all these little morsels, and I was soon engrossed. Had it not been for whiney Kate, who annoyed me, I would have really loved the way the story played out, blindsiding me several times and still offering a satisfying surprise at the end.

Like in his previous novel, FORGET MY NAME, J.S. Monroe likes to explore the often unrecognised possibilities of our amazing brains, and uses these facts to spin an intricate web. Once again he offers us a long list of characters who may or may not be trustworthy, and it is up to you to figure it all out. After twists and turns galore, I had some of it worked out, but other plot elements came out of nowhere. It’s one of those books where you need to dive in, suspend disbelief, and let yourself be carried away with the flow of the story. I found it entertaining and often fascinating, and will be left wondering if I am the one in 135 people who has a doppelganger out there. Like having a twin. This could be fun! Or not .....

Thank you to Netgalley and Head of Zeus for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Saturday, 8 February 2020

Blog Tour and special extract from the book THE OTHER YOU, by JS Monroe


Author: JS Monroe
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Expected publication: out now

I am delighted to take part in the Blog Tour for J.S. Monroe's thriller The Other You, where nothing is quite as it seems! Make sure you visit the other blogs taking part in this tour for special author interviews, Q & A's and extracts from the book. My review will follow soon.

Book Description:

Kate used to be good at recognising people. So good, she worked for the police, identifying criminals in crowds of thousands. But six months ago, a devastating car accident led to a brain injury. Now the woman who never forgot a face can barely recognise herself in the mirror.

At least she has Rob. Young, rich, handsome and successful, Rob runs a tech company on the idyllic Cornish coast. Kate met him just after her accident, and he nursed her back to health. When she's with him, in his luxury modernist house, the nightmares of the accident fade, and she feels safe and loved.
Until, one day, she looks at Rob anew. And knows, with absolute certainty, that the man before her has been replaced by an impostor.

Is Rob who he says he is? Or is it all in Kate's damaged mind?

About the author:

J.S. Monroe read English at Cambridge, worked as a foreign correspondent in Delhi, and was Weekend editor of the Daily Telegraph in London before becoming a full-time writer. Monroe is the author of six novels, including the international bestseller, Find Me.

Buy Links:

Amazon / iBooks / Kobo / GooglePlay 

Follow J.S. Monroe:

Twitter: @JSThrillers
Facebook: @JSMonroeFindMe

Follow Head of Zeus:

Twitter: @HoZ_Books
Facebook: @headofzeus
Instagram: @headofzeus

Website: www.headofzeus.com


Sleep soon starts to lap at her own consciousness, but something’s preventing her from dropping off. What Rob said about doubles last weekend has been on her mind all week. She hasn’t been able to forget it, his words chasing her through her days of painting and nights of restless dreams. And I’ve already met mine, a long time ago. What must it be like to actually meet your double? And when did Rob encounter his? Where? We’ve all got a double out there somewhere, watching, waiting. Shadowless. It’s revealed an unexpected side of him. A new insight.

She turns over, her interest piqued all over again. She remembers being fascinated by identical twins in primary school. The teacher used to tell her off for staring at them in class. Maybe it was an early challenge to her powers of recognition. Spot the difference. And there was this French-exchange girl at secondary school who apparently looked just like her. That had freaked her out.

She lies there, sleepless, her thoughts running loose and wild. What if that French girl were to suddenly come back into her life, discover her on Instagram, decide she’d like a piece of Rob… What was it he said? It’s well within the bounds of probability for all of us to be found by someone with an exact physical likeness. Would Rob be attracted to her? The woman would have a fight on her hands if she tried it on with him. Kate smiles at the ceiling. It’s a preposterous thought. But then she recalls Rob’s tone of voice, how serious he’d been, and her stomach tightens. He’ll take over my life, me, you, the house, my company, all that I’ve achieved, everything’s that’s precious to me. Imagine living with that sort of fear. And what if it became reality? She shoves the idea to the back of mind.

Secretly, she’s thrilled that Rob has been so honest with her, admitted to such fragility. It’s a sign that he trusts her, no longer feels obliged to be the strong one all the time. She will ask him about it again when he’s unwound from London. Diplomatically, of course. Tomorrow they’ll walk the coast path and swim, have coffee at their favourite cafΓ© overlooking the harbour. She starts to drift off to sleep, warmed by the prospect.

And then she’s awake again. Her eyes spring open in the darkness, the sound of blood pulsing in her ears. Rob always insists that he sleep on the right side of the bed. He’s a creature of habit, of quotidian routine. Tonight he’s lying on the left. Should she prod him? Check he’s not been replaced by his double? Relax. She’s being silly. It’s just another sign that Rob’s loosening up, going with the flow a bit more. She rolls over, searching for sleep again. He might be helping her to recover, but she’s doing him some good too.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Book Review: THE GOOD TURN by Dervla McTiernan

Author: Dervla McTiernan
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Read: January 2020
Expected publication: 24 February 2020
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

Book Description:

Police corruption, an investigation that ends in tragedy and the mystery of a little girl's silence - three unconnected things that will prove to be linked by one small town.
While Detective Cormac Reilly faces enemies at work and trouble in his personal life, Garda Peter Fisher is relocated out of Galway with the threat of prosecution hanging over his head. But even that is not as terrible as having to work for his overbearing father, the local copper for the pretty seaside town of Roundstone.
For some, like Anna and her young daughter Tilly, Roundstone is a refuge from trauma. But even this village on the edge of the sea isn't far enough to escape from the shadows of evil men.

My musings:

Dervla McTiernan’s Cormac Reilly series is one of my favourite police procedurals and I was very excited to get the opportunity to read her latest novel. I am happy to say that it lived up to all my expectations!

The book starts with a kidnapping, and a shooting – from here follows a taut and nerve wrecking police procedural that had me on the edge of my seat until the end. As with previous books, I was reminded how much I like the main character, DI Cormac Reilly, who embodies the type of person you would want on your side. He is motivated, fair and with a strong sense of justice that will see him fighting for the right cause even when all the odds are stacked against him. I was happy to see that his young colleague, Peter Fisher, also had a starring role in this book, and he lived up to his mentor’s high standards. I loved all the inter-personal dynamics that came to play here, especially between Peter and his father, who is also in the police force but has chosen a very different path from his son.

As usual, the plot was clever, multi-faceted and compelling, which makes for the best kind of crime story. I’m not going to say any more – as with every mystery, the less you know in advance the better! If you have loved the previous books in the series, or are looking for a new series to fall in love with, then I urge you to pick up this book and let yourself be swept up in its story. I look forward to seeing Cormac Reilly back again in the next instalment and hope that McTiernan continues to star different characters from this Irish crime fighting squad.

Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.