Tag Archives: Sarah Pinborough

Mini Reviews of Recent Reads – Sep 2018

Would you believe it, I’m behind on my reviews again?! 😮

Here are two mini reviews of books I’ve read recently.


Artemis by Andy Weir

artemis

Like many other people, I adored Andy Weir’s debut novel, The Martian, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this second novel, despite then leaving it languishing unread for almost a year!

WELCOME TO ARTEMIS. The first city on the moon.

Population 2,000. Mostly tourists.

Some criminals.

Jazz Bashara is one of the criminals. She lives in a poor area of Artemis and subsidises her work as a porter with smuggling contraband onto the moon. But it’s not enough.

So when she’s offered the chance to make a lot of money she jumps at it. But though planning a crime in 1/6th gravity may be more fun, it’s a lot more dangerous…

Overall, I enjoyed Artemis.  I thought that the story was interesting, and I loved the complexity of it as what begins as a reasonably straightforward job for our protagonist, Jazz, escalates out of her control.  Whilst the initial set up takes a little time, I thought that once the action really got underway that the story was great, and it allowed Weir to incorporate the little snippets of science that was partly what made The Martian so brilliant (in my opinion).

I did struggle with Jazz’s character, however.  A woman in her mid-twenties, some of her speech (and definitely her humour) brings to mind a teenage boy more than a young woman.  I liked her determination and drive to achieve her goal, but I was confused as to why someone who is clearly very intelligent refuses to utilise all of the skills at her disposal.  I can understand that she has been told of her “potential” all of her life and that she may have found this irritating to the point where it pushed her the other way, but I couldn’t quite reconcile these two facets of her character.  I also wasn’t sure why she felt the need to promote herself as promiscuous, when her actions don’t actually seem to match this behaviour.

As with The Martian, Artemis is both brilliantly written and funny, and there were some pithy one-liners that made me chuckle.  A great story, but one that was a little let down by Jazz’s character for me personally.


Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

cross her heart

I loved Behind Her Eyes with its WTF ending – it was a brilliantly original novel, and I’ve been really looking forward to reading Cross Her Heart since its release in earlier this year.

Lisa lives for her daughter Ava, her job, and her best friend Marilyn, but when a handsome client shows an interest in her, Lisa starts daydreaming about sharing her life with him too. Maybe she’s ready now. Maybe she can trust again. Maybe it’s time to let her terrifying secret past go. Then her daughter rescues a boy from drowning and their pictures are all over the news for everyone to see. Lisa’s world explodes, and she finds everything she has built threatened. Not knowing whom she can trust, it’s up to her to face her past to save what she holds dear.

Pinborough writes excellent (if not always likeable) characters, and the three ladies – Lisa, Ava, and Marilyn – at the heart of this story are no exception.  I particularly liked Ava, and I thought that she epitomised what it is to be 16 years old, with all of the angst and secrecy that implies.  Lisa, on the other hand, I didn’t care for, even though it was clear that there was some traumatic experience in her past, and it took me until later in the novel to start to sympathise with her.  Until then she just came across as a tiresome worrier.

Cross Her Heart is told in three parts, with the first part setting the scene and introducing the characters.  Whilst the pace picks up in parts two and three, I did find the first part to be a little slow as it takes a long time for the first big revelation.  It’s hinted at repeatedly, but the reader doesn’t find out what happened until much later in the book, and I did find that this made the pace a little slow initially.

Whilst Cross Her Heart didn’t quite blow me away in the same way as Pinborough’s previous novel, I still enjoyed this, and I’ll be looking out for her next offering.

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Mini Reviews of Recent Reads – Part II

On Friday, I posted the first part of my Mini Reviews of Recent Reads.  There were too many to include in a single post, so here is part two!


Snowblind by Ragnar Jonasson

snowblind

Siglufjorour: an idyllically quiet fishing village in Northern Iceland, where no one locks their doors – accessible only via a small mountain tunnel. Ari Thor Arason: a rookie policeman on his first posting, far from his girlfriend in Reykjavik – with a past that he’s unable to leave behind. When a young woman is found lying half-naked in the snow, bleeding and unconscious, and a highly esteemed, elderly writer falls to his death in the local theatre, Ari is dragged straight into the heart of a community where he can trust no one, and secrets and lies are a way of life. An avalanche and unremitting snowstorms close the mountain pass, and the 24-hour darkness threatens to push Ari over the edge, as curtains begin to twitch, and his investigation becomes increasingly complex, chilling and personal. Past plays tag with the present and the claustrophobic tension mounts, while Ari is thrust ever deeper into his own darkness – blinded by snow, and with a killer on the loose. Taut and terrifying, Snowblind is a startling debut from an extraordinary new talent, taking Nordic Noir to soaring new heights.

Jonasson’s Dark Iceland series, which starts with Snowblind, is one that I’ve heard a lot about from fellow bloggers, and I found it to be an enjoyable read.  I particularly liked the setting of a small Icelandic town which is likely to get cut off from the rest of the country in heavy snow, and I thought that Jonasson evoked the bleak landscape and the claustrophobic nature of the town really well.  This is enhanced by the “small town” feel, where everyone knows everyone else, which makes Ari’s assignment all the more difficult as he has to overcome the difficulties of being an outsider.

This isn’t a twisty thriller of a novel and fits more in the classic detective genre, and I’m really looking forward to picking up the next novel in the series, Nightblind.

Rating: ★★★★☆


The Sudden Appearance of Hope by Claire North

the sudden appearance of hope

Listen.

All the world forgets me. First my face, then my voice, then the consequences of my deeds.

So listen. Remember me.

My name is Hope Arden, and you won’t know who I am. We’ve met before – a thousand times. But I am the girl the world forgets.

It started when I was sixteen years old. A slow declining, an isolation, one piece at a time.

A father forgetting to drive me to school. A mother setting the table for three, not four. A teacher who forgets to chase my missing homework. A friend who looks straight through me and sees a stranger.

No matter what I do, the words I say, the people I hurt, the crimes I commit – you will never remember who I am.

That makes my life tricky. But it also makes me dangerous . . .

The Sudden Appearance of Hope is the tale of the girl no one remembers. But this gripping story – of love and loss, of hope and despair, of living in the moment and dying to leave a mark – is novel that will stay with you for ever.

I loved North’s previous two novels, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August and Touch, and I pre-ordered this title ahead of it’s publication in May last year, but didn’t get around to reading it.

I thought that North did a brilliant job of capturing what it might be like to have no one remember you for more than two minutes.  It’s a strange and highly original concept, and I enjoyed reading about Hope’s exploits as she uses this to her advantage.

I think that the best part of the novel was the idea of Perfection – an app that prompts the reader to improve themselves in order to achieve… perfection.  An assessment of what you’re eating, reminders to go to the gym, what to wear are all covered.  Except that the idea of perfection presented here is one of conformity to a certain standard – rich, beautiful, glamourous, gorgeous people, and it’s a little difficult to tell those who’ve achieved perfection apart from one another.  I thought that North brilliantly poked fun at the idea of conforming to this supposed ideal, thus promoting individuality in the process.

This didn’t quite live up to the previous two novels for me personally, but it was an enjoyable read, and offers the reader a unique scenario to get to grips with.

Rating: ★★★★☆


Rattle by Fiona Cummins

rattle

A psychopath more frightening than Hannibal Lecter.

He has planned well. He leads two lives. In one he’s just like anyone else. But in the other he is the caretaker of his family’s macabre museum.

Now the time has come to add to his collection. He is ready to feed his obsession, and he is on the hunt.

Jakey Frith and Clara Foyle have something in common. They have what he needs.

What begins is a terrifying cat-and-mouse game between the sinister collector, Jakey’s father and Etta Fitzroy, a troubled detective investigating a spate of abductions.

Set in London’s Blackheath, Rattle by Fiona Cummins explores the seam of darkness that runs through us all; the struggle between light and shadow, redemption and revenge.

It is a glimpse into the mind of a sinister psychopath. And it’s also a story about not giving up hope when it seems that all hope is already lost.

I went into Rattle expecting a lot of dark gory unpleasantness.  Perhaps because of this expectation, I didn’t think it to be all that gruesome.  There are hints, and some unpleasantness is implied, but I didn’t find this to be a particularly uncomfortable read.

I thought that the characterisation was excellent.  The psychopath, Etta Fitzroy, Jakey, Clara and their families are all well developed, and I loved that no one, even the bad guy, was purely good or bad.  The novel is told from multiple perspectives, and in this way we see not only the investigation and the frustration of not being able to find the two missing children, but also the affect that this has on their families.

I also enjoyed the ending of the novel.  It took me by surprise, and that’s always a good thing.

Rating: ★★★★☆


Tall Oaks by Chris Whitaker

tall oaks

For fans of Twin Peaks and The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, this brilliant debut is dark yet hilarious, suspenseful and sad.

Everyone has a secret in Tall Oaks . . .

When three-year-old Harry goes missing, the whole of America turns its attention to one small town.

Everyone is eager to help. Everyone is a suspect.

Desperate mother Jess, whose grief is driving her to extreme measures.

Newcomer Jared, with an easy charm and a string of broken hearts in his wake.

Photographer Jerry, who’s determined to break away from his controlling mother once and for all.

And, investigating them all, a police chief with a hidden obsession of his own . . .

In Chris Whitaker’s brilliant and original debut novel, missing persons, secret identities and dangerous lies abound in a town as idiosyncratic as its inhabitants.

I was intrigued by Tall Oaks when it was first published last year – fellow bloggers raved about it, and it appeared on many “Best of 2016” lists.  Plus, I loved The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair, so I had high expectations of this, given that it’s recommended for fans of that novel.  And it definitely lived up to those expectations!

Whilst it is about a missing child, this isn’t really a police procedural, although one of the many perspectives that we see in the novel is that of Jim, the local sheriff and his investigation into the whereabouts of Harry.  And even though the disappearance of the child touches upon the lives of everyone in the small community, that isn’t the sole focus of the novel.

There are some great characters here, and, like many others, I am now a fully paid up member of the Manny Romero fanclub!  A foul-mouthed, gangster wannabe teenager who is admirably un-PC, I wasn’t sure what to make of him at first, but by the end of the novel he was my favourite character in the novel, and one of the best characters I’ve come across for quite some time.

Whitaker has plotted an extremely clever novel, and I didn’t see the ending coming at all.  This is, quite simply, brilliant, and I can’t wait to read Whitaker’s second novel, All the Wicked Girls, which I’ve just received a proof copy of!

Rating: ★★★★★


13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

13 minutes

I was dead for 13 minutes.

I don’t remember how I ended up in the icy water but I do know this – it wasn’t an accident and I wasn’t suicidal.

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you’re a teenage girl, it’s hard to tell them apart. My friends love me, I’m sure of it. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to kill me. Does it?

The cover describes this novel as “Mean Girls for the Instagram age”, and I think that’s an accurate description.  The three Barbies, as Natasha, Hayley and Jenny are known, were very much like a British version of the trio in Mean Girls.  They are slim, blond, beautiful and popular.

The novel focuses largely on Rebecca, who was once close friends with Natasha and Hayley when they were younger, and has felt stung ever since they abandoned her when they were 11 or so.  Following Natasha’s close call with death, she becomes friends with Rebecca again, not knowing who she can trust following the incident that resulted in her being pulled from the river by a passing stranger.

I thought that Pinborough captured exactly what it’s like to be a teenage girl, and everything that goes along with that.  And whilst you might think that this is a YA novel given the age of the protagonists, I didn’t think that was the case, and I think that anyone who enjoys a thriller will love this.

Whilst it didn’t quite have the shock factor of Behind Her Eyes, these are plenty of twists in the novel, and if I suspected the what, I absolutely had to keep reading to find out the how and the why.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

behind-her-eyes

Rating: ★★★★★

I’ve said on a couple of my recent blog posts that some of the books I’ve read have been difficult to review without giving away spoilers.  They all pale in comparison to Behind Her Eyes, however – this is without a doubt one of the most difficult books to review without giving anything away.  As such, I’ve decided to use the Goodreads synopsis of the novel, rather than trying to write my own:

David and Adele seem like the ideal pair.  He’s a successful psychiatrist, she is his picture-perfect wife who adores him.  But why is he so controlling?  And why is she keeping things hidden?

Louise, David’s new secretary, is intrigued and drawn into their orbit.  But as Louise gets closer to each of them, instead of finding answers she uncovers more puzzling questions.  The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong.  But Louise can’t guess how wrong – and how far a person might go to protect a marriage’s secrets.

Pinborough does character really well.  The three main characters – David, Adele and Louise – are all brilliantly realised.  And I loved Louise!  I’m not sure that this was the intention, but in some ways she reminded me of Bridget Jones!  I mean that in the way that Bridget Jones is easy to relate to – she’s a normal person that you see elements of in the real world (although usually not all in a single person!)  Like Bridget, Louise is carrying a couple of extra pounds, she drinks too much and smokes too much, but she gets by and finds things to laugh and smile about despite life not turning out quite the way she’d hoped.  She’s easy to empathise with, and this really helped to draw me in to the story.

Behind Her Eyes has everything that a psychological thriller should have, yet also goes a step further and delivers something that is a little different from the norm.  And the #WTFThatEnding marketing campaign is completely accurate.  I had to reread the last chapter because I struggled to accept what I had read the first time.  Throughout the novel, it’s clear that something isn’t quite right, but whatever I was expecting, it wasn’t this.

Behind Her Eyes is the first novel of Pinborough’s that I’ve read, and it won’t be the last (not least because I have 13 Minutes sitting on by TBR pile!)  A brilliant novel, and one that I expect to be a big hit when it’s published on 26 January 2017.  In the rather crowded field of psychological thrillers, I think that it can be difficult for an author to make their work stand out, but Pinborough has managed it with Behind Her Eyes.

Many thanks to Jaime Frost for providing an ARC for review.