Monday, 17 June 2019

Review | The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter

Published by HarperCollins on June 13, 2019

I've never read any books by Karin Slaughter before though she was always one of my mum's favourite authors and came highly recommended. I also don't really like to start reading in the middle of a series and The Last Widow is the ninth book in the Will Trent series. However, the blurb for this book sounded so compelling that I simply could not resist. It definitely did not disappoint and now I am eager to get my hands on all the earlier books.

At the beginning of this book we meet Michelle Spivey who is out shopping with her eleven year old daughter. When a van stops beside her daughter, Ashley is aware and runs away from any trouble however it is Michelle they are after and she is abducted, and nobody has a clue who by or where to. She simply vanishes. Honestly, the first chapter alone had me hook, line and sinker and I devoured the first 100-150 pages of this book on a near two hour train journey that flew by as I was so engrossed.

Slaughter's style of writing, her pacing, descriptions and characterisation build up the story brilliantly and had me engrossed as the events were made easy to picture and I was truly gripped. I had a bit of a niggle with a chunk of this book as, as we met different characters, there was a bit of repetition as we see scenes from both sides and therefore things like whole conversations were repeated. This meant, as the chapters alternated between different characters there was a lot of toing and froing back and forth which wasn't particular easy to keep up with although I can't say it stopped me in anyway from being fascinated by the events and eager to discover more. Later in the book I could also see why this had been done and thought that it added to a more-rounded storytelling which probably was vital with such in-depth, highly researched plotting.

A month after the abduction of Spivey, Will Trent and Sara Linton find themselves caught in the middle of it all and this leads to Sara also being abducted and held prisoner and Will heading undercover in the midst of what was a shocking yet scarily believable story that was truly riveting. I enjoyed getting to know Will and Sara as they were new to me and I found them quite fascinating for different reasons. With every chapter of The Last Widow, the tension soared and the short timeframe that the book is set over not only added to the urgency of the events in the book but also the urgency I had as I desperately turned the pages of this heart-pounding, dark political thriller which is one of the most disturbing books I have read in a long time.

The Last Widow is action-packed and pulsating and my perfect introduction to Karin Slaughter as now I want every single one of her other books. This was a truly intense read that never let up. I've never read a 450 page hardback so quickly before but I was so drawn into the story and the characters that I never wanted to stop reading despite some of the heart-stopping truths that were revealed. Now I can see why Karin Slaughter is so highly revered - The Last Widow is mindblowingly good.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Review | Somewhere Close to Happy by Lia Louis

Published by Trapeze on June 13, 2019

Somewhere Close to Happy gave me all the emotions! I'd heard great things about Lia Louis's debut novel and it did not disappoint. This book made me laugh and cry, cheer and despair and root for Lizzie and Roman all the way.

When we meet Lizzie, she is sad and confused. She has just received a letter dated December 4, 2005, from Roman, her old best friend, written twelve years ago on the day he disappeared from her life with no explanation. Straight away I was intrigued by the story of Lizzie and Roman and couldn't wait to discover more.

Lia Louis structures this novel beautifully, with chapters dated from 2005 to present day, and old messages between Lizzie and Roman in between chapters to really show their friendship and help the reader understand why this letter from Roman becomes so important to Lizzie. The way the author feeds us the backstory of Lizzie and Roman made it easy to see how they had made an impression on each other's lives and therefore made it easy to care for their characters and follow their story with ease, with a sense of hope for a happy ending for the two of them.

This is a truly tender book that has all the makings of heart-warming women's fiction but also draws upon feelings of grief, of pure, raw emotion and of mental health and anxiety, something which I wholeheartedly believe should be written about more in fiction. The author writes honestly and sensitively about mental health and this was, in a way, heartening to see as mental health issues affect so many men and women yet there can still be a stigma about it and talking about it. In Somewhere Close to Happy, as the chapters move back and forth between teenage Lizzie and adult Lizzie, she is open and honest about her struggles and about Roman's struggles and their friendship is moving and empowering.

Although Somewhere Close to Happy is a book about Lizzie and Roman and their compelling story, my favourite character in this book was probably Lizzie's best friend, Priscilla. Though she had her own troubles, she was such a joyous character and a great friend - loyal, kind, caring and supportive. She made me laugh throughout and I loved her friendship with Lizzie. All the characters in this book were interesting and memorable and because of this, whilst the author does justice to the story of Lizzie and Roman, she has also ensured that they aren't the only characters I'm thinking of now the book is sadly finished.

I could truly rave about Somewhere Close to Happy all day. It's such a thought-provoking, brilliant debut novel. I seriously cannot wait to read more from Lia Louis.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Review | Sleep by C.L. Taylor

Published by Avon on April 4, 2019

C.L. Taylor never fails to deliver excellent thrillers with twists and turns that get under your skin. I know the moment I pick up one of her books that it's going to steal the rest of my day and that is perfectly fine when the book is as good as this one is.  Sleep is the best book I've read in ages.

When we meet Anna she has been involved in a car accident in which Anna was the only one to walk away, for the most part, psychically unscathed. Mentally, however, she is racked with guilt and struggling to sleep and constantly feels like someone is out to get her. The grief she feels has never made her feel so alone, and so, in a bid to escape from a world that now holds such bad memories for her, she moves to a remote Scottish island to work at the Bay View Hotel.

I loved the setting to this book. From the moment Anna sees the job advertisement to work in a secluded Scottish hotel, my eyes lit up at the thought of what this could mean for the book and it did not disappoint. The tense atmosphere and the isolation of staying somewhere stormy, with torrential rain, limited signal and wi-fi, a cut off from the rest of the world - this all made for a chilling and spine-tingling read that had me absolutely hooked. The way the author writes this setting is eerily good and the book was so readable for me because I had such a vivid picture and feel for the location and the claustrophobia within.

Another thing I loved about this book was the characters, especially the people staying at the hotel. Everybody has their secrets and honestly I trusted absolutely no-one, which made the mystery within this book even more gripping. Whether you guess the culprit rightly or wrongly, I found it difficult to read this book without changing my mind after every few chapters. I loved getting to know all the characters in this book and discovering the secrets they were trying so hard to keep.

Every book C.L. Taylor writes has a different feel about it to the last one and what I like is that, although I never know what is to come next, one thing that always remains is just how damn compelling every book is. Honestly from the second I picked this book up I wanted nothing more than to be left alone to devour it. Like Anna, sleep was not an option. I loved every single twist and turn in this thriller and the author once again doesn't let us down with another riveting, twisted novel.

Sleep is a book you're going to need to cancel all plans for. It is exceptionally gripping. I found it impossible to put down.

Friday, 24 May 2019

Review | My Mother's Daughter by Ann O'Loughlin

Published by Orion on May 16, 2019

I've been a big fan of Ann O'Loughlin ever since I read her debut novel The Ballroom Cafe back in 2015. Ann's books are emotional, moving and truly compelling and it is safe to say that her latest book, My Mother's Daughter, is no different.

At the beginning of the book, we meet two women who are going through some very tough times. In Ireland, we meet Margo. She is grieving after the death of her husband, Conor, and is crippled by loneliness. The one shining light in her life is her daughter, Elsa, but then a letter arrives and Margo is terrified that the contents may tear apart the lives of both her and Elsa.

In the USA, we meet Cassie. Cassie has just split up from Charles, her husband, who is refusing to pay for child support and is demanding a paternity test, leaving their daughter Tilly unhappily caught in the middle. For Cassie, the answer is obvious. She knows they were in love young and that Charles is 100% the father, so they get a paternity test done to prove this, except this one test sends Cassie and Tilly's lives into disarray.

Ann O'Loughlin never fails to produce thoroughly thought-provoking fiction and always creates realistic and authentic characters and from the moment I'd read the first couple of chapters and been introduced to Margo and Cassie, I knew that this was the case in My Mother's Daughter. Their stories are captivating and I absolutely loved reading how they intertwined. This story really brings home the love between a mother and her daughter and the unbreakable bonds between them and I really felt the warmth in the relationships between Margo and Elsa and Cassie and Tilly, despite the struggles life was throwing at them.

One thing I particularly loved about this book were the many themes delved into. Ann O'Loughlin is such an honest writer and her storytelling is so easy to become emotionally invested in. Ann's portrayal of grief, of mothers-and-daughters, of friendship and relationships, of all of these things is so genuine and encapsulating. In particular, for me, Margo's grief in this book is so believeable and I really felt for her because you can see how much losing her husband has affected her life. Living in the home she and Conor had loved so much, but living in it now without him, this has such an impact on Margo and how everything has changed yet around her it is exactly the same.

I had the odd little niggle with aspects to this book at times, such as the dialogue which I found sometimes didn't give justice to the scene. It's hard to explain without spoilers, but for me on occasions there were moments and scenes that were shocking or quite emotional but the dialogue didn't fully represent that. However, this is just a minor issue with a book that for the most part was wonderfully compelling and for me the best kind of books are the ones that make you think and My Mother's Daughter fit the bill quite beautifully.

Poignant and touching, the chapters vanished so quickly as I was reading My Mother's Daughter as I always wanted to know more and never could find the right time to put the book down. I read this in one afternoon as the writing flowed so effortlessly and the twists interweaved within the plot grabbed a hold of me until I simply had no other choice but to read to the end to see how things would turn out for Cassie and Margo and all the supporting characters who made this book so fascinating. They are not characters who are forgotten instantly when the last page is drawn - these characters and this story will stay with me for a long time.

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