Tag: Four Stars

A Girl Made of Air by Nydia Hetherington

It’s hard not to have Erin Morgenstern in mind while reading this book, with fairy tale and folklore interspersed throughout the story.

Mouse is born to Marina who finds herself taken in by a travelling circus. Unwanted and unloved, she is taken under the wing of Serendipity Wilson who teaches her from a young age to become a funambulist, taking to the highest tightropes at the very top of the Big Top.

Being a circus, the characters are weird and wonderful in equal measure, and Mouse being such a quiet little thing, can move around the periphery of people and relationships without being noticed, least of all by her parents. The whole story is centred around who and where a grown up baby is. Starting at the circus, learning about Mouse’s parentage, and ending up in New York, is one hell of a journey for a little girl, then young woman, to process and come to terms with. Serendipity Wilson with her bright orange hair, is a constant through the story and in Mouse’s life.

A story well written and well told, although I did get moments of ‘where is this going’ around the middle of the book, but overall, I’m glad to have learned the story and journey of Mouse and Serendipity Wilson.

Dead Inside by Noelle Holten

four-stars

 

Out of nowhere and starting with a bang, Dead Inside is Noelle Holten’s debut novel and begins a new police procedurals series.  Holten is a former Senior Probation Officer and has used her skills and experience in creating this gripping crime thriller.

DDead InsideC Maggie Jamieson has been reassigned from homicide to a new team dealing with domestic abuse.  More is actually learned of her move from homicide in the second book in the series, Dead Wrong, after convicting “The Chopper” of several murders. Lucy Sherwood works for the probation services and works closely with the police, especially when the violent men Lucy is working with start to pile up in the morgue.  There are quite a lot of characters, which throws in red herrings for who-dun-it, but all play a necessary role.

Dead Inside is a quick read and so compelling that I immediately followed on with book two – which is even better!

 

 

 

 

Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar

four-stars

 

Katherine is late for work on the first day of new ownership of the magazine where she has worked for twenty years as an editor. She jumps into a taxi only to find Lily has also got in beside her.

Precious You

Katherine makes a mental character assassination of Lily, and as the journey progresses it becomes clear that Lily is starting her internship at the same magazine. As the days progress Lily succeeds in trashing everything Katherine does at the magazine and piece by piece takes apart her life, her home and her man.

This is a car crash of a book. Both Katherine and Lily are dreadful, damaged characters and you can see the devastation to come to Katherine’s life from a mile off. Even though the outcome is obvious the reading is compulsive. This is certainly one of those unputdownable books and a great debut.

 

 

 

SHE by HC Warner

four-stars

She is a book of two halves. First we start with Ben and how shattered he is when his long-term girlfriend, Charlotte, leaves him.  He was about to propose but she didn’t get to know that.

She

Then in a whirlwind romance he meets Bella, she quickly becomes pregnant and they marry, but everything is on her terms. Bella, the ‘She’ doesn’t come over as a very nice person and I’m sure if it wasn’t for the baby, their relationship would not have lasted. She’s rude to his parents and he’s no longer allowed to see his friends. The brass neck of the girl makes for perfect poolside reading. Part two, and the story flips to Bella’s version of events. I can’t say it made me like Bella any more but one or two things slipped into place. There’s quite a bit of repetition of events with living Bella’s slant and perspective, but this just confirmed what a schemer she is.

I found She to be a cleverly plotted book and quite refreshing in its unusualness.

 

 

Five To One by Chris Chalmers

four-stars

Five To One

The book opens with a helicopter coming down to land on Clapham Common at five minutes to one on a sunny lunchtime. There are too many people around and the pilot realises he’s got it wrong the moment the tail rotors clip trees just out of his sight. The story then introduces several sets of characters who are strangers to each other, but who are all connected by being on Clapham Common at five to one when the helicopter crashes. We delve into the lives of four sets of ordinary people who have extraordinary things happening in their lives which climax with the helicopter crash.

Chris Chalmers’ writing is modern, engaging, flows well and he is a great observer of people. Humour, even at the darkest of times, is liberally scattered throughout the book – confident and sassy.

Chris Chalmers

 

Chris Chalmers website

 

 

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd

four-stars

This is a curious yet compelling book. From being a small girl, Lauren Pailing has visions of parallel lives in other dimensions when shards of light or sunbeams strike near her.

The First Time Lauren Pailing Died

At the age of thirteen, Lauren knows that she has died in an accident but she is conscious enough to open her eyes and recover from her injuries. She carries on her ‘life’ while at the same time her parents hold her funeral.

I found it a bit confusing to start with so just keep on reading for the parallels of life to fall into place. Through each of Lauren’s lives ran the same theme of a close friend of her father having gone missing and this held a strong bond and focal point to her memories of friends from other parallels and her own parents.

I could see plot holes throughout several lives, not just Lauren’s but others around her too, but it was such a fascinating concept that I just had to keep reading to see what happens.  A book with fabulous imagination as well as truly likeable characters.

 

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

four-stars

 

This is a most unusual and bizarre concept.  Seth wants a family.  He is legally married to Thursday but she unfortunately can’t have a baby.  He had divorced Tuesday because she’s a high flying lawyer and doesn’t want a family, but he still lives with her on Tuesdays.  Monday is pregnant with Seth’s baby and Seth believes he has the perfect life – three wives who know almost nothing about each other and sees them in rotation.

The Wives

The narrator of the story is Thursday.    I realised a few chapters in that the reader does’t know her name but that doesn’t matter, all is revealed later.  The ‘wives’ don’t know each others names, and know only very basic things about each other – just how Seth wants it. Unexpectedly, Thursday finds out the name of Monday and can’t help but trace her identity on social media. When she meets Monday/Hannah, she sees bruises on her arms and becomes suspicious of Seth.

I found The Wives to be unorthodox and totally gripping. A romantic suspense perfect to read poolside or on the beach.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

four-stars

Twelve year old Edward Adler is the sole survivor of a plane crash. The book switches between being on the plane in the hours running up to the crash, and Edward living with his mother’s sister and her husband. There is a marked difference between Eddie before the crash and Edward, as he is now known, after the crash. Everyone says he’s lucky – lucky to be alive – but Edward feels far from lucky having lost his parents, brother and his whole life as he knew it.

Dear Edward

The time with the passengers on the plane has a feeling of doom – the weather is awful, the turbulence is bad – but knowing something about several of the passengers gives emotion and realism to the eventual tragedy. I recognised many of the similarities of the true plane crash of Air France flight 477 in 2009 in this story, which added to the authenticity leading up to the disaster.

Edward finds difficulty in conveying his feelings to his new family, and his only friend is Shay, the girl next door who he trusts and confides in completely.

A compelling story which kept me gripped when reading about being on the plane, and fascinated in Edward’s progress, both physical and emotional, after losing everything.

 

Silence of The Girls by Pat Barker

Four Stars

Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize For Fiction 2019, Silence of The Girls has a barbaric and graphic start as Achilles enters the city walls and conquers Lyrnessus, home of Briseis. She was queen of the land and is taken as a war trophy by Achilles to serve as his personal slave.

The Silence of The Girls

Achilles is a complex character while Briseis is an astute and perceptive character.

Briseis narrates her story of her life with Achilles, Patroclus, Agamemnon and other Greek warriors, and gives perspective from slave women during the war years of Troy. The second part of the book takes more narration from Achilles and, after a particularly personal grief, becomes more dark and depressing.

This is a very readable re-telling of the Trojan war, or rather the effects on the women during the war.  Excellent writing with some stunning scenes and poetic moments.  If you enjoyed Madeline Miller’s Song of Achilles, you will probably love this one too.

 

 

This Is Gomorrah by Tom Chatfield

Four Stars

This is not my usual kind of story at all but the blurb of the book sounded so intriguing, I just had to read it. Just to give you a slight idea of the Dark Web – it is over 500 times bigger than the web as most of us know it and is 99% of the internet you can’t Google. It’s not illegal to access and you can’t ‘accidentally’ find yourself in there.

This Is Gomorrah 1

Azi is a hacker working on the Dark Web in his garden shed. He sees himself as mostly a good guy hacker, he doesn’t exploit companies or hold their data to ransom but he’s capable of severe meddling. After seeing some serious terrorist related information passed to him by an internet ‘friend’ he is within minutes visited by unknown people who persuade him to arrange to meet his friend Munira, and leave the country. For a while in the book I was unsure who were the good guys and who were bad, so I just kept reading with an open mind and accepted it as told until it more fully unfolded. I don’t want to say more about the actual story, but I did find it quite gripping, also amazing, and wondered where the story would end up.

It has a dual storyline with Azi and Munira in the main but also Kabir in Syria trying to make his escape. It also occasionally goes back to Azi’s childhood when he first started his passion for computers. I’ve been around since “dial up” using a 3.1 machine, in fact before then I used a Vic 20 without internet access, so sympathised with Azi in his frustrating early days – kids today don’t know how good they’ve got it.

This Is Gomorrah is well worth a read and think it might suit men and those with computer and internet knowledge more than others – though I enjoyed it so give it a go. It’s well written and Tom Chatfield has certainly got a technological, streetwise and astute mind.

 

 

Thin Air by Lisa Gray


Four Stars

 

Jessica Shaw is a private investigator. She specialises in missing persons and while trawling through online pictures of various missing people wondering which job to take up next, she receives an email with a picture of a three year old with the message ‘your next job’. Jessica recognises the little girl as herself, and with a little bit of investigation realises that she was once that missing person.

Thin Air

The investigation which she obviously has to take up, makes her feel her whole life was a lie and she just has to find out what happened to her murdered mother, who the man was who brought her up, and who her real father is. Someone from the past wants to keep things in the past, and as Jessica faces things head on she unwittingly puts her life in danger.

This is a very intriguing storyline – not knowing you’re a missing person – and it is cleverly written with a dual story of a very brutal murder of a young student. The two stories seem to be separate, and so many years apart, but all is revealed at the end.

 

 

 

Katerina by James Frey

Purplefourstars

I haven’t read any of Frey’s previous novels and only when looking at other peoples reviews of this book did I realise there was massive controversy surrounding his book A Million Little Pieces. I have read this book ‘blind’ in that I haven’t read any of his previous work nor did I know about the controversy prior to reading Katerina in the hopes that my review is accepted as totally unbiased.

katerina

To start with I found the strange sentence construction and lack of punctuation difficult to follow and not easy to take in, but the more I read, the better I got at ‘getting’ it. It’s James Frey’s unique writing style and he has every right to write and punctuate, as an artist, as he wants. It’s raw and passionate and at times so gut-wrenchingly sad and pathetic. It’s full of profanities (don’t read if you don’t like unnecessary swear words – it’s full of, and punctuated by, the f-word) but I strangely got to like it and felt his anger, disgust, hate, fear and love pounding through.

It’s written over two timelines and two countries – Paris in 1992 and Los Angeles in 2017. Jay is a disillusioned, non-conforming young student in America and decides to sell unwanted personal items and make fast money from drugs to fund himself in Paris, France. We go back and forth from Jay in Paris to Jay’s present day and really just learn his background, his strengths, weaknesses – oh, the weaknesses!!! loves, life and beliefs, and, of course, meeting Katerina. It’s a roller-coaster of a young life which I read with loathing and longing in equal measure.

It’s written like a memoir and after the furore I’ve now read about Frey’s earlier ‘memoir’ novel A Million Little Pieces, it feels like this is ‘the real thing’ or at least has put some reality into the fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed Katerina and now need to read the very controversial Million Little Pieces.

james frey

James Frey’s Amazon profile

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My Husband’s Lies by Caroline England

Four Stars

My Husband’s Lies is the story of seemingly ‘normal’ people on the outside, but scratch below the surface and we have some problem relationships, flakey marriages and unhinged individuals.

My Husband's Lies

The book’s opening chapters introduce each of the ‘cast’ at Nick and Lisa’s wedding. There are quite a lot of characters introduced at once and you do have to remember them as couples as well as individuals, so attention is required from the beginning.


Caroline England has a lovely writing style and has woven interesting and topical plots for each of her characters. Very quickly this becomes a book which is difficult to put down as the ends of several chapters have cliff hangers. Many issues are explored – adultery, deceit, sexuality and, of course, the husband’s lies – but seeing both sides of the story seems to help negate blame, probably because the characters are so likeable.

From the start, when a guest at the wedding is about to jump from a hotel window, there is a feeling of doom, ‘this can’t possibly end well’ throughout the book but I certainly didn’t expect the explosive and shocking ending served to us. On finishing I felt bereft, I needed to know more, but ‘more’ doesn’t matter in the context of this whopping finale.

caroline-england-2

Caroline England’s Website

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Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit

Four Stars

At the front of this book is a ‘Dear Reader’ and a short explanation of how this book came about. It’s loosely based on a true story but, of course, we don’t know which parts are fact and which are fabrication to bolster a sinister fictional story.

The book has been translated from German and has an unmistakable precise, clipped, Germanic feel. It is also compared with We Need To Talk About Kevin and I can see some similarities, but this is not so depressing.

Fear

This is one of those stories that starts at the end, we know what the outcome is. In this case, we are told in the first chapter that Randolph’s father has been sentenced to imprisonment, at the age of seventy-seven, for shooting in the forehead at point blank range, Randolph’s basement neighbour, Dieter Tiberius.

The story then goes back and forth in time from when Randolph and his family first moved in to their apartment above Dieter, and back further to give us a view of Randolph’s childhood with a father he was scared of who ‘collected’ guns and was a master marksman.

At first, Randolph, Rebecca and their two children, have a good relationship with Dieter. Dieter bakes cakes and biscuits and even leaves plates of them on their doorstep. All goes well until the day Rebecca meets Dieter in the laundry room and he makes a lewd comment about her underwear. Then the accusations start that he hears them sexually abusing their children. Randolph needs to clear their name before social services are called in to remove their children.

Much of the book, although there are many facets to the story and characters, is of Randolph’s struggle with the brick wall legal system in trying to prove their innocence and that Dieter Tiberius’ is guilty of slanderous assaults on them.

I really enjoyed the book. The characters are well developed and interesting to read about. There is an element of tension with the promise of doom running all the way through – this can’t possibly end well. This is a realistic, sophisticated and grown-up version of the usual psychological thriller.

 

Copy Cat by Alex Lake

Four Stars

Sarah Havenant is a little mystified when an old school friend sends her a message on Facebook asking which account to send her a friend request. Sarah only has one Facebook account so she searches for herself and finds two of her.

Copy Cat

At first, Sarah thinks one of her friends is playing a joke because all the photos on the fake page are of her close family and even within her own home, but these aren’t pictures Sarah’s taken and she hasn’t even seen them before.  It’s got to be someone close until, one by one, her friends and even her husband, think she is doing this to herself.  Things escalate, threats start, even one of her children goes missing, but still it appears that she’s losing her mind, she’s even beginning to question her own sanity. Throughout, Sarah feels certain that it is one particular friend doing all this to her but she can’t find proof and she can’t think of a good reason why she or anyone else would do this. Then one of the most terrifying things happens, imprisoned with no one looking for her she just about gives up on life.

Copy Cat is a fast paced chiller of a story, a good puzzle for the reader because there doesn’t seem to be any good reason for the terrible things happening to Sarah Havenant. The characters are well developed and we meet each one in turn getting a good handle on their personalities and traits.  The ending did seem a bit rushed, or more that everything exciting was crammed in to the last few pages giving an unrealistic ending. This is the first of Alex Lake’s novels I’ve read and I would be happy to read her earlier two or any future ones in the pipeline.

Alex Lake’s Amazon Author Page

After AnnaKilling KateCopy Cat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Web of Scars by Farah Ali

Four Stars

If you like your psychological characters to be absolutely psychopathic nutcases, then you’ll love reading about Hester in Web of Scars.

Web of Scars

The opening chapter is of a car crashing down a cliff side with Frances being the only survivor. Her friend and fellow passenger, Rosie, is dead and so is Rosie’s daughter, Nilah.  After so much heartache, injury and relationship deceit, Frances leaves her husband and goes to live in her grandmother’s house which she has recently inherited.  She tries to start a new life for herself with the comfort and familiarity of her childhood neighbours and village, continuing to write her series of children’s book for income. Things really start to take off when Frances hires Josh and Hester to tend the enormous garden.  Josh is a lovely quiet local man with an unfortunate stammer and Hester is a vile and evil individual – except she’s sure to have Frances only see the good in her.

Lots of things mysteriously start to go wrong for Frances and we, the reader, get to see Hester’s cruel and vicious ways.  But why? Who is Hester, why is she so cruel and what has any of this got to do with Frances?

Written in third person, each of the chapters have the individual characters’ viewpoints and a full picture emerges around their relationship to and with Frances.  This gripping story gives a climatic end, allowing the reader to breathe again for the final concluding chapter.

Farah Ali’s Amazon author profile

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Four Stars

This is quite a slow burner of a book, so much so that I felt I didn’t want to carry on with it when I was about 25 – 30% of the way through – but I’m so glad I did.

Best Day Ever

The scene is being set during the first three quarters of the book – yes, that’s a lot of scene setting but it is worth the wait to get a very satisfying ending. Paul is a narcissistic psycho with an ego the size of Greenland. He is a big ‘I am’ and I quickly came to dislike him. He brags about what a lovely little wifey he has got and what beautiful little boys he has, when in fact, his children are scared of him and his wife has no life because he’s such a control freak and has isolated her from all her friends and family. The major part of the book is a car ride from their marital home to their lakeside second home where he is planning ‘the best day ever’ for his lovely wife, Mia. Paul reflects over parts of his life during that car ride giving the reader an insight into his childhood and relationships with family and past girlfriends. There are lots of little hints in the narrative, such as – “I never did get the blood stain off the band” (watch band) to tease us into thinking he did something really bad in the past.

The final quarter or so of the book becomes tense and fast paced. Things start to unravel so we see the true Paul and the strong Mia emerge. I felt a bit disappointed with the ending as far as Paul is concerned (I wanted nasty things to happen to him,) but after reading the author’s notes at the back of the book, there’s a hint of the possibility of a second book with Paul’s character.

Kaira Rouda

 

Kaira Rouda’s website

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Deceit In May by Roz Ryszka-Onions

Four Stars

This is a fluid and easy to read suspense story set mostly in the south of England.

Deceit In May

Keira is clearing and selling the family home she shared with her parents. She’s too sad to stay there after first her mother, then father, were shot in an apparent suicide pact. The story begins with her just moving in to a waterside home when a neighbour, Toby, turns up on the doorstep with a much welcome cafetiere of coffee. The two get on amazingly well and quickly become friends. A few days later when out shopping, Nathan introduces himself to Keira and the two very quickly start dating. Keira likes both Toby and Nathan and there is an obvious battle taking place in her head and heart which one of them she wants to be with, not to mention the jealousy between the two men.

Very quickly after moving in to her new home, Keira feels uneasy following a series of unusual events – banging on her door, damage to the property, and even items going missing from inside the house. After nearly being run off the road, she realises that these incidents are part of a serious scare tactic, possibly relating to her parents’ deaths which she starts to question as being a suicide pact.

Keira doesn’t know what she is mixed up in and the story becomes very fast paced with a good few tense and gripping moments to keep the reader captivated.

Her past is part of a conspiracy she knew nothing of which goes to the heart of British aristocracy, businesses and politics. By the end of the book, with a little help from a private investigator, the bad guys have been sorted from the good, leaving Keira to set up home and live safely with her man.

This is the first book I’ve read by Roz Ryszka-Onions and I’m surprised that I’ve not seen her several books or her name mentioned on the many social media sites, pages and groups which I frequent. Her writing style is easy to read, flows well and is quick paced – well worth picking one up.

 

Should You Ask Me by Marianne Kavanagh

Four Stars

This is an unusual and quirky story set in wartime 1944 with two past timelines giving the personal lives of Mary and William.

Should You Ask Me

William was injured earlier in the war and now has a desk job as a police officer in a sleepy town in Dorset. His back story is just a couple of years earlier but he has a lot of hang-ups and carries a lot of guilt about his survival over others during his time serving in the Army.

Eighty-six year old Mary’s back story is the book’s main storyline and when two bodies are unearthed during the war, she feels compelled by past knowledge and guilt to hand herself in as being responsible for the bodies.

The way Mary tells her story to William, the police officer taking her statement, is a work of art. She goes off at tangents (all relevant to the plot) and rambles her way through what happened all those sixty-two years ago, irritating William by her long-winded way of telling who the bodies are and how they died. There is not a moment of boredom for the reader, it is a cleverly crafted book full of nostalgia and pathos, but annoys the life out of William with her whole week in giving her statement.

This is a beautifully written book, quite unusual in its style of telling, and certainly one I will recommend to my friends.

Marianne Kavanagh

 

Marianne Kavanagh’s website

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After She’s Gone by Maggie James

Four Stars

This is an emotionally overflowing novel from the start. Written from the perspective of Lori, sister to Jessie, daughter of Dana Golden, we learn of their slightly disfunctional family set up. Dana split from her husband some years ago and has now moved Jake Hamilton and his son Spencer in to their home. The story begins with sweet sixteen year old Jessie not coming home. She’s never done this before and her mother, Dana, is seriously worried something bad has happened to her. Lori is also worried but tries to keep a calming atmosphere around her mother.

After She's Gone

Meanwhile, step-brother Spencer wakes on the floor of an unknown room feeling very groggy and unable to remember anything of the previous night. There has been a spate of fires in properties around the city and as Spencer is gradually coming round, he smells smoke and realises he needs to get out now. As he is leaving, from the corner of his eye he glimpses an arm on the floor near him. Upon closer inspection he realises it is the dead body of his step-sister Jessie.

Spencer knows this looks bad for him. He can’t remember any of last night, his step-sister is dead on the floor and he has scratches, like from fingernails, on his back.

Lori is struggling with grief of losing her little sister and trying to hold things together for her mother who is in a fragile state, and she’s only holding it together because she has a loving and understanding boyfriend, Ryan. Lori suspects almost each person in turn and by the last few chapters of the book we, the reader, know who the murderer is, but Lori is in much danger.

Maggie James has an easy flowing style of writing. She writes as you would think and speak which gives a feeling of realism to her characters – you could actually know and mix with these people. Her stories are brimming with tension and there’s always something going on to keep the interest level up. After She’s Gone is no different and is certainly a compelling and action packed read.

Maggie James

 

Maggie James website

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The Gift by Louise Jensen

Four Stars

The gift of life. A heart donated to a dying young woman, Jenna, gives her her life back. But what about where the heart came from, someone had to die to be able to donate it, and what about their family.

The Gift

“Oh Jenna. That’s completely unethical. How did you trace them? I’m going to have to report this, you know” “You know it isn’t encouraged . . . it can be incredibly distressing for everyone”

With the internet and social media it is very easy to find almost every accident and death and trace who they were and where they are from. Jenna has been experiencing dreams and visions which seem so very real to her, although they have actually happened. Some of the visions are a bit scary and she feels that her donor, Callie, was being chased, was in danger and that the accident she was killed in might not have been an accident.

There’s a lot of speculation of whether cells have memory and Louise Jensen has given us a good fictional story based on Jenna’s donated heart having memory of its life when it belonged to Callie. There are some amazing stories out there – just Google it – and this is a clever concept to use to write about the unfolding of a crime.

Louise Jensen

 

 

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