Monday, 24 February 2020

Book Review: MAGPIE LANE by Lucy Atkins


Title: MAGPIE LANE
Author: Lucy Atkins
Publisher: Quercus Books
Read: February 2020
Expected publication: 2 April 2020
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ all the stars!


Let me introduce you to my second 5-star read for 2020 – TA DA! 

Book Description:


When the eight-year-old daughter of an Oxford College Master vanishes in the middle of the night, police turn to the Scottish nanny, Dee, for answers.
As Dee looks back over her time in the Master's Lodging - an eerie and ancient house - a picture of a high achieving but dysfunctional family emerges: Nick, the fiercely intelligent and powerful father; his beautiful Danish wife Mariah, pregnant with their child; and the lost little girl, Felicity, almost mute, seeing ghosts, grieving her dead mother.
But is Dee telling the whole story? Is her growing friendship with the eccentric house historian, Linklater, any cause for concern? And most of all, why was Felicity silent?

Roaming Oxford's secret passages and hidden graveyards, Magpie Lane explores the true meaning of family - and what it is to be denied one.

What attracted me to this book:


MAGPIE LANE was like my own personal formula for reading bliss. A nanny in an old spooky English manor house in Oxford. Family secrets. A disturbed child who may or may not have some connection to the weird noises and shadows flitting about in the house at night. Characters who ALL have something to hide. All the very things I just LOVE in a mystery!


My musings:


Dee is a middle-aged woman with some secrets in her past that have seen her live a life looking after other people’s children. She has stayed with many different families and cared for children of all ages and backgrounds, but none has ever got under her skin the same way Felicity has, this pale, mute and unhappy daughter of Oxford’s latest Don.

I immediately loved Dee, from the very moment she shares her self-deprecating humour:

“It may be my functional approach to fashion, but people seem to assume that I’m in charge.”

The picture was painted. A somewhat plain but keenly intelligent middle-aged woman wearing drab clothes to roam the grey streets of a wintry Oxford, wielding an umbrella. I soon realised that I, too, had misjudged her, because Dee was not only smart, but also fiercely loyal to her latest little charge. Not an easy job when you are pitted against Felicity’s father, the arrogant Nick, and her trendy Danish stepmother Mariah.

It wasn’t long until the plot thickened. Nick and Mariah have a dark secret they are determined to keep hidden. Felicity is traumatised. The house, too, has secrets it divulges only at night, in its moving shadows, its silent whispers, its doors that open and close at random, and the spooky little priest hole in the attic where a rotten smell seems to linger. Even Oxford itself, described as: "...a place of dust motes, vaults and arm-span alleys, of angle-poised lamps and dimmer switches, of creaking floorboards and whispers in oak-panelled libraries.” You can see why this was totally irresistible for me! If you are not a fan of the supernatural, don’t despair, because Atkin is always willing to give a perfectly rational explanation for all the things that spooked hell out of me.

Let’s also talk briefly about the unique POV the story is told in. Dee, the nanny, is being interviewed by police who are trying to establish the whereabouts of Felicity, Dee’s young charge, who has disappeared from the house whilst Dee was in London and the girl was in the care of her stepmother. As Dee tells the story of how she came to be the nanny, the full picture slowly emerges in flashbacks and confessions until .... well, that’s something you have to find out for yourself.


I really can’t divulge any more without giving things away, so let me just say that this book was a perfect for me. If you like an atmospheric setting, a creepy mystery and characters that are as mysterious as the setting itself, then you can’t go wrong with this one. Good spooky mysteries are hard to find, and it doesn’t get any better than this. I look forward to reading all the author’s previous books now!

Summary:


In summary, I loved everything about this book. It read like it had been written specifically for me, with all the ingredients that make for perfect reading bliss. If you, too, are a fan of atmospheric, spooky thrillers with whispers in the night and characters who all harbour dark secrets, then this book should definitely be on your radar!


Image result for 5 stars

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

Book Review: INHERITANCE OF SECRETS by Sonya Bates

Author: Sonya Bates
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Read: February 2020
Expected publication: 20 April 2020
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2


Book Description:


A brutal murder. A wartime promise. A woman on the run.

Juliet's elderly grandparents are killed in their Adelaide home. Who would commit such a heinous crime - and why? The only clue is her grandfather Karl's missing signet ring.

When Juliet's estranged sister, Lily, returns in fear for her life, Juliet suspects something far more sinister than a simple break-in gone wrong. Before Juliet can get any answers, Lily vanishes once more.

What secrets did Karl Weiss have that could have led to his murder? A German soldier who migrated to Adelaide, Juliet knew Karl as a loving grandfather. Is it possible he was a war criminal? While attempting to find out, Juliet uncovers some disturbing secrets from WWII Germany that will put both her and her sister's lives in danger ...

Gripping. Tense. Mysterious. Inheritance of Secrets links the crimes of the present to the secrets of the past and asks how far would you go to keep a promise?


What attracted me to this book:


A present day mystery with family secrets and a connection way back to WWII? Yes, please, I’m in! As soon as I read the description of INHERITANCE OF SECRETS I knew that I had to read it.


My musings:


The story starts with the murder of two elderly people in their Adelaide home. Juliet is heartbroken and unable to understand why anyone would want to harm her grandparents, a couple loved by everyone for their warm personalities and generosity. It’s not long though until she realises that her grandparents had not been victims of a random attack, but had been specifically targeted by ruthless killers, and the reason may lay in her grandfather’s past ....

After hooking me immediately with her opening scenes, Bates slowly unravelled her story with the help of dual timelines – one in the present, as Juliet is trying to come to terms with her grandparents’ death and avoid becoming a target herself; and her grandfather’s experiences during WWII that ultimately brought him into the path of the killer. Dual timelines can sometimes be problematic, but Bates strikes a perfect balance here, with the past and present day storylines being equally as compelling as each other. I immediately felt for Juliet, who is not only trying to come to terms with her beloved grandparents’ brutal death, but also finds out that her sister may be somehow involved, her mother is not contactable and her lover is more concerned with his work than supporting her through her grief.


Part mystery, part historical fiction, part fast-paced thriller, INHERITANCE OF SECRETS had something for everyone. I found the history of post-war Australia and the immigrants’ plight to settle into a new life as interesting as the wartime events that ultimately lead to Karl’s arrival in Australia. Bates draws both her setting as well as her characters vividly, and I really enjoyed her writing style. As the granddaughter of a man who was a soldier in WWII on the Russian front, and a prisoner of war for many years later, I related to the theme of secrets that are never revealed because the memories are too painful – even to close family.


Summary:


Even if you are not usually a fan of historical fiction, the thriller and suspense component in Bates’ novel will appeal to a wide range of readers across multiple genres. Despite some suspension of disbelief being required in parts, I really enjoyed this very readable novel spanning two different timeframes from WWII to the present,  and look forward to reading more from this author in future.



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.




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.




Summary:



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

 

Title: THE OTHER YOU
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



Extract:



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

Title: THE GOOD TURN
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.



Monday, 3 February 2020

Book Review: THE OTHER MRS by Mary Kubica


Title: THE OTHER MRS
Author: Mary Kubica
Publisher: Park Row
Read: December 2019
Expected publication: 18 February 2020
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2


Book Description:


Sadie and Will Foust have only just moved their family from bustling Chicago to small-town Maine when their neighbor Morgan Baines is found dead in her home. The murder rocks their tiny coastal island, but no one is more shaken than Sadie.

But it’s not just Morgan’s death that has Sadie on edge. And as the eyes of suspicion turn toward the new family in town, Sadie is drawn deeper into the mystery of what really happened that dark and deadly night. But Sadie must be careful, for the more she discovers about Mrs. Baines, the more she begins to realize just how much she has to lose if the truth ever comes to light.

My musings:


If you have ever read any of Mary Kubica’s books, you will know that she is a master at creating the illusion of ordinary, believable characters who go about their daily lives, until something extraordinary happens, like a splash of icy water in your face on waking. She knows just the right bait to get you hooked, to lull you into a false sense of security, make you step right up to the edge of the abyss – still trusting, believing the lies – and then push you off the edge! By the time you realise your mistake and get the slightest inkling of suspicion, you are already doomed.

I am going to keep this really short, because every psychological thriller relies on embarking the journey into the unknown, and I am not about to spoil this treat for you! Let’s just give you a small hint that it will soon become obvious to you that the ordinary family that just moved next door in this peaceful Maine neighbourhood may harbour a few secrets. From here on follows the same twisty roller coaster ride I have come to expect from this author, and I enjoyed every crazy turn. I admit that the ending didn’t totally surprise me, and it was probably my only disappointment with the story, but this may have something to do with my oversaturation with psychological thrillers last year.


In summary, if you like a twisty psychological thriller full of surprises and don’t mind a bunch of unlikeable characters who are all a bit tainted, and are able to suspend disbelief, then this one should be on your radar. Even though PRETTY BABY is still my favourite Kubica book, I found this one an entertaining read. Mary Kubica is firmly cemented on my list of auto-buy authors and I look forward to seeing what the author comes up with next.


Thank you to Edelweiss and Park Row for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.


Saturday, 25 January 2020

Book Review: IN FIVE YEARS by Rebecca Serle

Title: IN FIVE YEARS
Author: Rebecca Serle
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Read: January 2020
Expected publication: 10 March 2020
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ all the stars!


“Love doesn’t require a future.” (Rebecca Serle, In Five Years)


Book Description:


Where do you see yourself in five years?

When Type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan is asked this question at the most important interview of her career, she has a meticulously crafted answer at the ready. Later, after nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal, Dannie goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan.

But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.

After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, at the brink of midnight, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than merely a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.

That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.

My musings:


Welcome to my first 5-star read of 2020!I have just turned the last page of IN FIVE YEARS and tears are streaming down my face. What an emotional roller coaster rode this book has been!

It’s difficult to review a book that has managed to connect with me on a very deep emotional level without giving away all the whys and hows that would spoil things for other readers. You know from the blurb that main protagonist Dannie, a lawyer and all-around super organised person who is always in control of every situation, falls asleep on the eve of her engagement to David and has a dream. In the dream, she is in a strange apartment, with a strange man, at a date five years in the future. It all appears so real to her that when she wakes up she still feels shaken. Who is the stranger? Why was she not with David? The dream continues to haunt her for the next four and a half years, casting a dark shadow on her life whenever she thinks about it, even though she tries very hard to dismiss it. Until the moment she meets the man from her dream in real life...


I will leave it at that. But make no mistake, it’s all a lot more complicated than this premise may seem. Also, don’t mistake the book for a romance, because even though love features in it (in its many forms), the main story is about friendship. It’s also about the things we can control and the ones we can’t, destiny, and about taking things in the right context. As I a m writing this, I know how lame it sounds and how badly I am expressing myself here – sorry!  Take it from me when I say that the story will surprise you, steal your heart and make you cry. As someone who likes to be in control of my own fate, I found a lot of gentle wisdom in its pages that made me pause and reflect. And even though I am a lot older and a very different personality to Dannie, her character really resonated with me and I felt ALL the emotions.


Summary:


If you like books that steal through your defences, make you think, surprise you and let you feel a million different emotions, then this book may just be right for you. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for when I picked it up, and I’m glad I dove into it blindly because it took me totally by surprise and carried me in its wake. A book that can elicit such deep emotion will always get five stars from me. I can’t wait to read more from this author!


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


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Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Book Review: SHEERWATER by Leah Swann


Title: SHEERWATER
Author: Leah Swann
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Read: January 2020
Expected publication: 23 March 2020
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2


Book Description:


Ava and her two young sons, Max and Teddy, are driving to their new home in Sheerwater, hopeful of making a fresh start in a new town, although Ava can't but help keep looking over her shoulder. They're almost at their destination when they witness a shocking accident - a light plane crashing in the field next to the road. Ava stops to help, but when she gets back to the car, she realises that somewhere, amongst the smoke, fire and confusion, her sons have gone missing...

My musings:


Before you pick up this book, make sure you understand the meaning of: “beautifully written, propulsive, tense, gut-wrenching and unputdownable” in the blurb. Especially the “gut-wrenching” bit. Or shall I say “gut-punching”? Because after finishing it this morning, I still feel strangely winded and hollow.

Let me also make it clear that you should not make the same mistake I made, and pick this up thinking it is mainly a mystery. I was somewhat puzzled when the “mystery” component was pretty much obsolete by the second part of the book. Instead, choose this book knowing it is about relationships, parenthood, trauma, domestic abuse (in all its shapes and form) and the unravelling of the human psyche into darkness.

You will get a taste of what is to follow from the very opening pages, when a small plane crashes into a field next to the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Ava and her two small children are the first on scene. Ava feels the same dilemma any mother in that situation would face – she has children in the car, should she stop or just drive on and call for help? With her rescuer background, she cannot resist the compulsion to render assistance. Instructing the boys to stay in the car and look away, she sets off to give first aid. And thus her fate is forever changed.

Swann writes beautifully and lyrically, conjuring up the stunning scenery of the Victorian coastline with her words. This is a two-sided sword, because her horrific scenes are just as vivid and unescapable as the tranquil ones (which are thankfully thrown into the mix every now and then to give the reader breathing space). Her characters are well drawn, their emotional baggage relatable, their plight unimaginable. With an uncanny insight into the human psyche, she teases out her characters’ darkest secrets, slowly and gradually, so that the picture we may have formed initially soon begins to unravel. It is very difficult to discuss this book without spoilers, so I will keep it brief. I had a lot of assumptions challenged. I was duly terrified when all the clues led to the inevitable finale, and yet I was not prepared for it.

Relationships feature strongly in this novel. Ava and Laurence’s marriage, which we gradually learn more about as the story progresses. The mother-daughter relationship between Ava and her mother. Motherhood. Brotherhood. Fatherhood, as seen through the eyes of Laurence, which will hold some surprises. Friendships in the most unexpected places. Dysfuntional, some of them.


Yes, I will leave it here because as much as I would like to blurt out some of the details that absolutely sucker punched me, I will not spoil it for you. Read it with a buddy, one you can call in the middle of the night when you have read the last page and need a friend as much as a 1800 helpline. 


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.