Mini Reviews of Recent Reads

Bad Blood by E. O. Chirovici

bad blood

You can’t trust your own memories.

You can’t trust other people’s.

So how do you know what really happened that night?

One rainy night in New York, psychologist James Cobb gives a talk on the art of recovering lost memories.  Afterwards, he’s approached by a stranger: a dying man who, forty years ago, woke up in a hotel room with a murdered woman, and no memory at all of what happened.  Now, he needs to know whether he was an innocent bystander – or a killer.

Intrigued, James begins to unpick the tangled threads of this decades-old mystery. But everyone involved has a different story to tell, and every fact he uncovers has another interpretation. As his interest becomes an obsession, and secrets from his own past start to surface, he begins to suspect that someone has buried the truth deep enough to hide it forever.

I’m a huge fan of Joel Dicker’s The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair, and Bad Blood has a similar vibe, with an unsolved mystery that doesn’t involve the protagonist directly.  James takes on the case – seemingly out of something to do rather than any real interest – yet quickly becomes obsessed with working out what had happened all those years ago.  It’s not an easy task, however, as his investigation brings to light conflicting information and the unreliability of human memory.

I really enjoyed Bad Blood, but the ending left me confused.  James does ultimately solve it, and yet it seemed to me – and I say this fully acknowledging that I may have missed the big reveal – that he does so based upon information that has not been shared with either him or the reader up to that point.  I happily admit that I’m terrible at working out what’s going on in a novel before the big reveal, but I like to think that I’ve been given a fair chance, which doesn’t seem to be the case here.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

I’d really like to discuss this with someone, so please do let me know if you’ve read it – it’s driving me nuts several days after finishing it!


The Anomaly by Michael Rutger

 

the anomaly

THEY SOUGHT THE TRUTH. THEY FOUND A NIGHTMARE

A team of explorers seek ancient treasures, hidden in a secret cave.

At first it seems they will return empty handed. Then their luck turns.

But the team’s elation is short-lived as they become trapped there in the dark, with little possibility of escape.

Then events take an even more terrifying turn.

For not all secrets are meant to be found…

I really enjoyed The Anomaly – it’s a fast-paced read, and reminiscent of Dan Brown by way of Indiana Jones.  Nolan Moore is the front man for YouTube show The Anomaly Files in which he and his team seek to uncover the truth behind various conspiracy theories, with varying degrees of success.  Widely dismissed by archaeological experts, The Anomaly Files still has a loyal fanbase and their latest show may just see them make it big.

Their latest mission takes them into the Grand Canyon in the hunt for a cave discovered in the early twentieth century but that has remained hidden since, and things take a turn for the worse when they become trapped in the cave system with limited supplies.  This is such a creepy, fast paced read with great characters.  I particularly loved Nolan’s sense of humour, and whilst he is the main character, I thought that the supporting cast were brilliant too – I particularly enjoyed his interactions with Ken.

The Anomaly is a fantastic adventure story with a little dash of horror thrown in.  Recommended.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


Snap by Belinda Bauer

snap

SNAP DECISIONS CAN BE DANGEROUS…

On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them.  Jack’s in charge, she’d said.  I won’t be long.

But she doesn’t come back.  She never comes back.  And life as the children know it is changed for ever.

Three years later, Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother…

I’ve seen good reviews for Snap and for Belinda Bauer’s other novels, and when I saw that it was part of the Kindle Daily Deal recently, I just had to snap (😉) it up.  And I’m so glad I did, because I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Whilst the main mystery seems to be the missing mother of Jack and his sisters, there’s a lot more going on here, and I was thoroughly hooked by the plot and I thought that the characters were brilliant.  If you’re looking for a crime novel that plays out exactly as it would in real life then this may not be for you, but despite the rather unconventional police procedures, I thought that this was a brilliant and original read.

I am a little surprised at its inclusion in the Man Booker Prize longlist, although it’s great to see a crime novel make the cut, and I expect that the themes of familial loyalty and survival in the face of adversity have helped it here.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

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This Week in Books – 08-08-18

TWIB - logo

This Week in Books is a feature hosted by Lipsy at Lipsyy Lost and Found that allows bloggers to share:

  • What they’ve recently finished reading
  • What they are currently reading
  • What they are planning to read next

The last book I finished reading was Snap by Belinda Bauer.  I really enjoyed this, and I’ll be posting a (mini) review soon!

snap

SNAP DECISIONS CAN BE DANGEROUS…

On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them.  Jack’s in charge, she’d said.  I won’t be long.

But she doesn’t come back.  She never comes back.  And life as the children know it is changed for ever.

Three years later, Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother…


My current read is (yes, finally!) City of Lies by Sam Hawke.

city of lies

I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me…

Only a handful of people in Silasta know Jovan’s real purpose in life. To most, he is just another son of the ruling class. The quiet, forgettable friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible heir. In reality, Jovan has been trained for most of his life to detect, concoct and withstand poisons in order to protect the ruling family.

His sister Kalina is too frail to share in their secret family duty. While other women of the city hold positions of power and responsibility, her path is full of secrets and lies – some hidden even from her own brother.

Until now, peace has reigned in Silasta for hundreds of years. But when the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army storms the gates, the so-called Bright City is completely unprepared. It falls to Jovan and Kalina to protect the heir and save their homeland – but first they must make their way through a new world of unexpected treachery, a world where the ancient spirits are rising… and angry.


My next book will probably be Bitter Sun by Beth Lewis.

bitter sun

It all started when we found the body.

Then nothing was ever the same.

The Dry meets Stand by Me and True Detective in this stunningly written tale of the darkness at the heart of a small mid-Western town and the four kids who uncover it.

In the heatwave summer of 1971, four kids find a body by a lake and set out to solve a murder.  But they dig too deep and ask too many questions.

Larson is a town reeling in the wake of the Vietnam draft, where the unrelenting heat ruins the harvest, and the people teeter on the edge of ruin.

As tension and paranoia run rife, rumours become fact, violence becomes reflex.  The unrest allows the dark elements of the close-knit farming community to rise and take control.

And John, Jenny, Gloria and Rudy are about to discover that sometimes secrets are best left uncovered…


And that’s my week in books! What are you reading this week?  Let me know in the comments! 😎

The Liar’s Room by Simon Lelic

the liar's room

I loved Simon Lelic’s previous novel, The House, and I was thrilled to receive a copy of his new novel, The Liar’s Room, ahead of publication.

ONE ROOM. TWO LIARS. NO WAY OUT…

Susanna Fenton has a secret. Fourteen years ago, she left her identity behind, reinventing herself as a counsellor and starting a new life.  It was the only way to keep her daughter safe.

But everything changes when Adam Geraghty walks into her office.  She’s never met this young man before – so why does she feel like she knows him?

Then Adam starts to tell her about a girl.  A girl he wants to hurt.

And Susanna realises she was wrong.

She doesn’t know him.

BUT HE KNOWS HER.

AND THE GIRL HE PLANS TO HURT IS HER DAUGHTER…

The novel opens with Susanna greeting Adam for the first time as he arrives for his initial appointment with her, and from the beginning she feels that there’s something that isn’t quite right about the situation.  Nothing she can put her finger on, just a niggling feeling that she can’t shake, although she tries to ignore it and remain professional with her new client.  It doesn’t take long for both Susanna and the reader to realise that her instincts were spot on (oh the benefit of hindsight) as Adam quickly reveals his intentions.  His motive takes a little longer to become apparent, however, and I thought that this was an excellent set up to allow the story to gradually unfold – it had me hooked from the very beginning.

There are three elements to The Liar’s Room, which alternates between the present-day situation in Susanna’s office, flashbacks to her former life, and the dairy of her daughter, Emily.  The reader knows early on (plus it’s in the blurb 😉) that Susanna has run away from something in her former life – something that must have been quite horrific to make her leave everything behind and to reinvent herself under a new identity.  I loved the slow reveal of what had gone on before, and this was my favourite part of the novel.  Of course, it takes a little while for everything to be revealed, and it was with a sense of impending doom that I rushed through to understand what had happened, and how it was connected to Emily, Adam, and the situation unfolding in Susanna’s office.

Set largely in a single room, The Liar’s Room carries a strong dose of claustrophobia, and I couldn’t help but share Susanna’s discomfort as the meeting with Adam continued, and as it becomes gradually clearer as to why he’s there.  It’s obvious that he knows about her past, but why he is interested, and why he has gone to such lengths to arrange a meeting isn’t immediately obvious, and I didn’t make the connection until it was revealed.

The Liar’s Room is a quick and enjoyable read, and one that I recommend to fans of psychological thrillers.  Lelic tells a great story, and if I didn’t love this quite as much as I did The House, I think it’s only because his last novel was so absolutely brilliant that it was always going to be a difficult act to follow.

The Liar’s Room is available now as an eBook (£0.99 on Amazon at the time of writing this review!), and will be published in paperback on 9 August.  Many thanks to Hannah Ludbrook and the publisher, Penguin, for the early review copy.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

This Week in Books – 01-08-18

TWIB - logo

This Week in Books is a feature hosted by Lipsy at Lipsyy Lost and Found that allows bloggers to share:

  • What they’ve recently finished reading
  • What they are currently reading
  • What they are planning to read next

The last book I finished reading was The Watchmaker of Filigree Street which I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would.  I do love the cover though.

the watchmaker of filigree street

In 1883, Thaniel Steepleton returns to his tiny flat to find a gold pocketwatch on his pillow.  When the watch saves Thaniel’s life in a blast that destroys Scotland Yard, he goes in search of its maker, Keita Mori – a kind, lonely Japanese immigrant.  Meanwhile, Grace Carrow is sneaking into an Oxford library, desperate to prove the existence of the luminiferous ether before her mother can force her to marry.

As the lives of these three characters become entwined, events spiral out of control until Thaniel is torn between loyalties, futures and opposing geniuses.


My current read is Bad Blood by E. O. Chirovici.

bad blood

You can’t trust your own memories.

You can’t trust other people’s.

So how do you know what really happened that night?

One rainy night in New York, psychologist James Cobb gives a talk on the art of recovering lost memories.  Afterwards, he’s approached by a stranger: a dying man who, forty years ago, woke up in a hotel room with a murdered woman, and no memory at all of what happened.  Now, he needs to know whether he was an innocent bystander – or a killer.

Intrigued, James begins to unpick the tangled threads of this decades-old mystery.  But everyone involved has a different story to tell, and every fact he uncovers has another interpretation.  As his interest becomes an obsession, and secrets from his own past start to surface, he begins to suspect that someone has buried the truth deep enough to hide it forever.

For fans of Joel Dicker, Peter Swanson and SJ Watson, Bad Blood tells a gripping story of memory, motives, and how little we really know about ourselves.


Now, the observant among you will notice that this time last week, my next planned read was City of Lies by Sam Hawke.  It turned out not to be by next read after all, so maybe this week!

city of lies

I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me…

Only a handful of people in Silasta know Jovan’s real purpose in life. To most, he is just another son of the ruling class. The quiet, forgettable friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible heir. In reality, Jovan has been trained for most of his life to detect, concoct and withstand poisons in order to protect the ruling family.

His sister Kalina is too frail to share in their secret family duty. While other women of the city hold positions of power and responsibility, her path is full of secrets and lies – some hidden even from her own brother.

Until now, peace has reigned in Silasta for hundreds of years. But when the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army storms the gates, the so-called Bright City is completely unprepared. It falls to Jovan and Kalina to protect the heir and save their homeland – but first they must make their way through a new world of unexpected treachery, a world where the ancient spirits are rising… and angry.


And that’s my week in books! What are you reading this week?  Let me know in the comments! 😎

Blog Tour: An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

an unwanted guest

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Shari Lapena’s latest novel, An Unwanted Guest, today.  I absolutely adore mysteries where the murderer is one of a limited number of people (a la And Then There Were None) and An Unwanted Guest is a very welcome addition to this category.

We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere.  They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world.  Nobody can get in – or out.  And then the first body is found… and the horrifying truth comes to light.  There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape.  Trapped.

An Unwanted Guest opens with the various characters arriving at Mitchell’s Inn, and works as a brilliant introduction to everyone involved.  Whilst there are several characters, I thought that Lapena did an excellent job in making them all individual and with their own idiosyncrasies which made it easy to avoid confusing x with y as the story progressed.  I thought that the first night – before things really get started – was brilliantly done as you see all of the guests mingling, and start to form opinions as to who might be trouble given that you already know a little of what is to come.

The storm is already making itself known as the guests begin to arrive at Mitchell’s Inn, and it doesn’t take long for them to become completely trapped by the weather.  Whilst they have chosen Mitchell’s Inn because of its remote nature and the ability to get away from it all for a weekend, this is a little more than they had in mind, particularly with the discovery of the first body and the loss of power, and what may have initially seemed like a little adventure takes on a much darker tone.  And the guests can’t even call for help – not that help could get to them easily if it could be contacted – the hotel being so remote that there is no mobile signal or internet access.  They are completely isolated and what should have been an idyllic retreat becomes a living nightmare.

One of the real strengths of the novel for me was the way that Lapena brought the claustrophobic atmosphere to life – you can feel the growing tension that the guests are feeling as they have to band together, knowing that one of their number is a murderer.  As secrets begin to emerge, allegiances shift within the party, and there’s an element of cabin fever as they begin to distrust each other and the accusations – rational and otherwise – begin to fly.

An Unwanted Guest has an excellent plot – there are several feasible options as to “whodunnit”, and I didn’t work it out before the big reveal.  I love it when I get to the end of a novel and think “ah yes – the clues were there all along”.  I think that this is a sign of a great thriller, and that’s how An Unwanted Guest left me feeling at the end.  I also loved that even when I thought I knew everything, there was one final little twist which – and this says a lot about me – made me a laugh a little.  It was just perfect.

An Unwanted Guest was published on 26 July by Bantam Press.  Many thanks to Anne Cater and the publisher for the early review copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.

Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐


Make sure you check out the other stops on the blog tour:

An-Unwanted-Guest-Blog-Tour

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

the reason i jump

Today is one of the rare moments when I attempt to review a work of non-fiction, which I find so much more difficult that reviewing fiction.  But The Reason I Jump is such an incredibly important book, and one that thoroughly deserves being shouted about.  I hope I can do it justice.

Written by Naoki Higashida when he was only thirteen, this remarkable book provides a rare insight into the often baffling behaviour of autistic children.  Using a question and answer format, Naoki explains things like why he talks loudly or repeats the same questions, what causes him to have panic attacks, and why he likes to jump.  He also shows the way he thinks and feels about his world – other people, nature, time and beauty, and himself.  Abundantly proving that people with autism do possess imagination, humour and empathy, he also makes clear how badly they need our compassion, patience and understanding.

David Mitchell and his wife have translated Naoki’s book so that it might help others dealing with autism and generally illuminate a little-understood condition.  It gives us an exceptional chance to enter the mind of another and see the world from a strange and fascinating perspective.

The book also features eleven original illustrations, inspired by Naoki’s words, by the artistic duo Kai and Sunny.

To think that this book was written by Naoki when he was just thirteen years old is nothing short of astounding.  Using a deceptively simple question and answer structure of “Why do you…” style questions, Naoki explains what drives his behaviour and the things he says and does.  Each answer covers 1 to 2 pages, and through this method, Naoki is able to explain some of the behaviours that those around him may find baffling or confusing.

I found it to be incredibly illuminating.  As David Mitchell points out in his introduction, much of the literature on autism is written by the doctors studying it or by the parents of autistic children.  Whilst these are both valuable perspectives, I think that to have an autistic child share their own point of view is something quite different, and I expect that The Reason I Jump could provide significant insight for those with (or working with) autistic children.

It’s hard to know what to expect (beyond the obvious) in reading a book such as this, but I found it to be a surprisingly emotional read as Naoki explains some of the things he does, and why certain situations may upset him.  And I was particularly impressed by the repeated request for tolerance, patience, and understanding throughout its pages, not just for him, but for all of those with autism.

basically, my feelings are pretty much the same as yours

Tolerance and compassion don’t really seem so much to ask for, do they?

The Reason I Jump is a short yet powerful book that debunks some of the myths around autism, and attempts to explain the behaviour of those with autism from an insider’s perspective.  I think that it’s an incredibly important read, and one that I recommend to all.

Naoki Higashida has written a second book about his experiences with autism as a young adult, and Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight has also been translated into English by K. A. Yoshida and David Mitchell.

This Week in Books – 25-07-18

TWIB - logo

This Week in Books is a feature hosted by Lipsy at Lipsyy Lost and Found that allows bloggers to share:

  • What they’ve recently finished reading
  • What they are currently reading
  • What they are planning to read next

The last book I finished reading was An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena, and I’ll share my review on this next Monday as part of the blog tour.

an unwanted guest

We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape. Trapped.


My current read is The Liar’s Room by Simon Lelic which is published next month.

the liar's room

Susanna Fenton has a secret. Fourteen years ago she left her identity behind, reinventing herself as a counsellor and starting a new life. It was the only way to keep her daughter safe.

But everything changes when Adam Geraghty walks into her office. She’s never met this young man before – so why does she feel like she knows him?

Then Adam starts to tell her about a girl. A girl he wants to hurt.

And Susanna realises she was wrong. She doesn’t know him. BUT HE KNOWS HER.

AND THE GIRL HE PLANS TO HURT IS HER DAUGHTER…


I’m not 100% sure, but I think that my next read will be City of Lies by Sam Hawke.

city of lies

I was seven years old the first time my uncle poisoned me…

Only a handful of people in Silasta know Jovan’s real purpose in life. To most, he is just another son of the ruling class. The quiet, forgettable friend of the Chancellor’s charming, irresponsible heir. In reality, Jovan has been trained for most of his life to detect, concoct and withstand poisons in order to protect the ruling family.

His sister Kalina is too frail to share in their secret family duty. While other women of the city hold positions of power and responsibility, her path is full of secrets and lies – some hidden even from her own brother.

Until now, peace has reigned in Silasta for hundreds of years. But when the Chancellor succumbs to an unknown poison and an army storms the gates, the so-called Bright City is completely unprepared. It falls to Jovan and Kalina to protect the heir and save their homeland – but first they must make their way through a new world of unexpected treachery, a world where the ancient spirits are rising… and angry.


And that’s my week in books! What are you reading this week?  Let me know in the comments! 😎