The Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel [REVIEW]

Hello internet! I could regale you with a really long post about where I’ve been and what I’ve been up to (all in good time, my bookish chums) but for today we’ll settle for another Review That Brought This Page Back From The Dead.

That’s right. You heard me. I read another one of THOSE BOOKS. The kind that I loved so much I had to revive the blog for it. And it came out only a few days ago so it’s brand spanking NEW.

Are you ready? Awesome.

A friend of mine at Waterstones lent me a proof of this book but I think I might buy myself a copy in hardback because I enjoyed it so much.

So, what was so great about it? I’ll tell you…

the roanoke girlsTitle: The Roanoke Girls

Author: Amy Engel

Paperback: 288 pages

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Language: English

ISBN-13: 978-1473648371

Publication Date: 9/03/17

Info:

Beautiful.
Rich.
Mysterious.

The Roanoke girls seem to have it all. But there’s a dark truth about them which is never spoken. Every girl either runs away, or dies.

Lane is one of the lucky ones. When she was fifteen, over one long, hot summer at her grandparents’ estate in rural Kansas, she found out what it really means to be a Roanoke girl. Lane ran, far and fast. Until eleven years later, when her cousin Allegra goes missing – and Lane has no choice but to go back.

She is a Roanoke girl.

Is she strong enough to escape a second time?


Okay, I’ll preface this review by saying that there might be a little bit of a spoiler here, because I’m going to find it difficult to talk about the book without it – but I’ll do my best to avoid it where possible and I’ll talk about everything in the most general terms possible.

The Roanoke Girls is one of the best books I’ve read in a really long time. It’s beautifully written, with Engel’s brilliant writing style pulling you right in from the get-go. The atmosphere of the whole novel is fantastic; it’s dark, brooding, close, hot… All the kinds of things that make the reader feel as claustrophobic as the characters involved. This is the first adult novel by an author who has written Young Adult previously (another genre I love), and I’ll be watching any further novels she writes with serious interest.

What I liked:

1. The writing

Engel’s writing is excellent. You get a sense very quickly of the claustrophobic heat, the sticky, sweaty, lazy Kansas summer. The weather is a great tension-builder, as everybody has a short fuse but is also often too hot to react violently – so they internalise how they feel. And it builds and it builds and it builds…

I love when an author uses pathetic fallacy to properly illustrate their novel, and Engel does a fantastic job of that here. The dialogue is great, too, because like the weather and the old family house, everything is layered. Nobody ever seems to say what they mean (or if they do you’re screaming for them not to), which leaves the reader to infer what they can from what is being said. I love when authors don’t overdo it, and Engel’s novel is short enough to prove that she’s mastered the art of telling us just enough. We readers like to be assured we’re not stupid and left to work stuff out for ourselves.

2. The setting

As I mentioned above, the setting is a big part of why I loved this book. I don’t know a whole lot about Kansas as a state (I lived in North Carolina when I was in the U.S.), but I know all I need to. The vast expanses of nothing, the farmland and dust and heavy air… All perfect for building a dark, psychological novel. Ace.

3. The ‘secret’

Here’s where the spoiler comes in. I’ll try to say nothing except that I am fascinated by the morbid (it’s why I love the darkest crime novels!) and the subject of Engel’s novel is no exception. This novel isn’t really for the faint of heart, yet the subject is dealt with in such a way that it’s not especially gruesome and there’s enough outrage fostered by the protagonist, Lane, about it all that it’s never fully romanticised either – which could have been a sticking point. So, really, I think it’s flawless. And I even guessed the Roanoke ‘secret’ the second I opened the book. Yep. It’s one of those where that doesn’t matter. We all know how much I love when that happens.

4. The length

Another thing I mentioned before is length. This book sits at just 288 pages and I think not a single one of those pages in unnecessary. This is clean writing at its best. We don’t sacrifice beautiful prose, description, characterisation, and yet we get everything from the novel that we need. I was fully, wonderfully immersed in the world Engel built for me and at the end I didn’t want to leave. In my opinion, the best books always leave you wanting that little bit more (while being satisfied). The Roanoke Girls is, in this respect as in many others, perfect.

What I didn’t like:

Nothing?

Yep. This is another one of those books. It’s been over a month since I read the novel too and I still feel this way, which isn’t always true. I mean, I tore through it in less than 24 hours (and this had zero to do with me borrowing my colleague’s proof copy on a deadline, I swear). The evening where I was reading the finale, my giant (60kg) dog Xena literally climbed onto the kitchen counter and ate an entire bowl of garlic bread. I was sitting directly opposite her and I didn’t notice.

I was literally so engrossed my giant-ass dog pulled a Houdini and I didn’t notice. I think that says more about this book than any of my other words can. So I’ll end with this: read this book. It’s not long, it’s a great price even for a hardback, it’s beautifully designed (c’mon just look at that cover), and it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Do it.

Rating:

 328e5-rating

(Duh…)

Pretty Is – Maggie Mitchell [REVIEW]

So, as you may have noticed, I haven’t been around a whole lot for the last year. Mostly this is down to laziness (& being busy with other things, sorry!), so you’ll have to excuse me for suddenly reappearing. As mentioned in my last post, I’ve been writing and editing away, and in October I started working for Waterstones. I LOVE IT.

So while I haven’t been reviewing, I have certainly still been reading. And buying too many books (far, far too many). But this week, I finished a book that just made me stop. I had to review it. I got the proof of this book through work, and before that I’d been trying to get my hands on it for a while. Even the blurb had me entranced.

Yes, this book is so good it has prompted me to revive the blog. IT’S THAT GOOD. Guys, I can’t even stop thinking/talking/obsessing about this book. Why? Well, let me tell you.

Pretty Is coverTitle: Pretty Is

Author: Maggie Mitchell

Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Orion

Language: English

ISBN-13: 978-1409152682

Info:

Lois and Carly-May were just twelve when they were abducted by a stranger and imprisoned in a cabin in the woods for two months.

That summer, under the watchful gaze of their kidnapper, they formed a bond that would never be broken.

Decades later, both women have new lives and identities. But the events of that summer are about to come back with a vengeance.

Lois and Carly-May must face the truth about their secret, shared past…

What really happened in the woods that summer?


Pretty Is is one of those rare books that captivates you from the start. From the first line I knew I was sold, and that my excitement about the book had been for good reason. It’s a haunting, powerful debut psychological thriller by an author I will watch with interest. This novel is about being haunted by the past, about friendship and hated and fear, and love. It’s beautifully written, carefully crafted, and generally just epic.

What I liked:

1. The prose

Mitchell’s prose is, in my opinion, absolutely flawless. The novel features beautiful description, managing to create a precise image of the cabin in the woods with what seems like such litle effort. I could picture in my head the characters, the setting, the heat of the summer… It was visceral, and beautiful, and yet realistic.

Mitchell’s imagery is stunning, too. This is the sort of novel where I often sat, enraptured, for good long minutes, mulling over just a few paragraphs. I don’t really know what it is, what exactly makes this writing good, but I know it is. It’s like the words sit on your tongue, you can almost taste them, and you have ultimate faith in the author to convey what it is they want to say.

Perhaps one of my favourite things about this novel is something that I often shun in other novels. The metaphor we are presented with, the idea at the core of the novel that Lois and Carly May are the earth and the moon revolving around some sun that no longer exists… It’s perfect. Beautifully executed, understandable without being heavy-handed. And not just a metaphor for the sake of a metaphor. It’s novels like this, when the writing just makes it, that I love infinitely.

2. The characters/their voices

This novel is pretty much entirely character-driven (I don’t really like that phrase, but it does the trick) and as such we need a strong protagonist. Well, Mitchell gives us two. Lois and Carly May are both so different, and yet they share certain elements in their personalities which compliment the narrative. Lois describes how the girls became alike that summer when they were 12, how they spent so much time together in such strange circumstances that they almost became one person – and years later both women struggle with this, with the boundaries of their own selves, and with their different reinventions of themselves. Mitchell captures this complicated sense of identity perfectly, and their character voices are so distinct I could have basically identified them from a few words alone. It’s amazing – definitely a lesson in characterisation and voice, my writerly friends!

The way the novel is narrated almost gives us this rose-tinted glimpse at an event that was at its heart a very traumatic experience. And because we get this duel narrative, and the way the story is told, we as readers have to bring our own experiences to the novel as well. This novel has serious layers. When they are abducted, both girls are aware of what normally happens to children like them – and yet they don’t seem afraid. Or not as afraid as they should. We get the impression that they are almost afraid to be afraid, and then later that they have come to see the experience as a kind of gift. After all, Zed chose them.

So the reader brings their own fears/nerves/disgust etc to the story, giving it another layer beyond what has actually been writen. We bring ourselves to the novel, our expectations of the story, just as Lois and Carly May had their own expectations that summer. And this novel just destroys these expectations, leaving a raw, haunting narrative behind.

3. The method of telling the story

This is really very clever. Adult Lois is a writer, and part of Pretty Is is taken from her novel about her experiences in the cabin with Zed and Carly May. The fun thing is that we are made very aware of the fact that Lois’ novel is just that – a novel. A fiction. She says that she draws from her memories of that summer, but we know that some of it is fiction. And Lois – Mitchell – never tells us which parts are true and which are not.

So not only do we have two somewhat unreliable narrators when we see into their POVs, but a LOT of our impressions of the girls and their abductor are drawn from this fictionalised account of that summer. What is true? What is false? This just adds to the psychological twisting we get here, never really knowing what to believe. It’s so clever, I’m only mad I didn’t think of it! Very cool.

4. The story

This novel does not have a lot of plot. It’s not what I’d describe as an action-packed thriller at all, but that’s precisely what I loved about it. There is enough story/plot to carry it, with enough threat in the modern day that there’s a driving force behind the characters’ actions. But beyond that, the unconventional nature of their abduction is what drives the characters forward, this burning need to understand what happened and why it happened to them. Lois and Carly May are so caught up in what wasn’t, what didn’t happen that what actually happened instead haunts them, torments them, and consequently informs their lives as adults. They couldn’t just get on with their lives.

You almost get the sense that if what had happened to them had been what they were expecting, even if that was terrible, then the characters might have been able to move past it. But they couldn’t. And this is so powerful. Instead of being a story about “Here is a character who is tormented by their abuse/abduction/trauma but uses it to their advantage when something bad happens later”, this is a novel that explores the fine line between love and hate, and the confusion caused by it all. It is a story about synergy, and loss of innocence.

What I didn’t like:

Literally nothing. This book took me two weeks to read purely because I didn’t want to finish it. I tried to read as little as possible, stretch it out. I would have loved for it to be 1,000 pages long if the same story could have been told in such a way. Of course it couldn’t, but this book was so close to perfect I can’t even explain it. I want to turn back to the beginning and start all over again – but I won’t because I’m going to be lending my copy to as many people as possible in the next few weeks. I NEED SOMEBODY TO TALK TO ABOUT THIS GENIUS.

Basically, this review is a babbling mess because I just have so many thoughts about this novel. Somebody please read it??? I literally cannot understand how this book doesn’t just have 4/5 star reviews. (Maybe it’s just that I love stories that don’t answer all the questions they ask – and I think the main thing here is I LOVE books with unreliable characters because you can read a lot into them, which some people don’t always do like I do? Who knows…)

Rating:

328e5-rating

(As if you had to guess)

Back from the Dead?

Hi internet-land!

It’s been a long summer. A long, long summer. I finished two jobs, started another one (in a BOOK STORE), went through a break-up, started a novel from scratch, went on two holidays, and have been dealing with a poorly dog. So, uh, I haven’t updated. And for that I’m sorry! But for those of you who are still out there, rest assured that I’m not dead, just dealing.

And I’m still reading. So very soon I’ll get started on the backlog of reviews I have for you all. And now I’m working fewer hours I might start posting two a week (not to get too ahead of myself or anything…) just to clear my brain of all the book thoughts I’ve been having! (So, so many book thoughts).

So look out for updates, gang. They are coming. 🙂 Thank you all for your patience.

The Ice Twins – S. K. Tremayne [REVIEW]

I didn’t get around to posting this review last week because things got very hectic, but rest assured I’m still here! I could probably review this book in five words: I wish I’d written it. Simple as, really! But I suppose I’d better go into a bit more detail, hadn’t I?

ice twinsTitle: The Ice Twins

Author: S. K. Tremayne

Hardcover: 384 pages

Publisher: HarperCollins (29 Jan. 2015)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0007563035

ISBN-13: 978-0007563036

Info:

One of Sarah’s daughters died. But can she be sure which one? A terrifying psychological thriller perfect for fans of THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN.

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past – what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?


This is a taut, delicious, psychological thriller that explores the impact that grief, and fear, can have on the average person. This novel is about relationships, about family, about the past and the future converging. And, you know, twins.

What I liked:

1. Twins

I’ve always been fascinated by twins, especially identical twins. And the idea that even the parents might not be able to tell their own children apart? A chilling idea in itself. And the very twin-ness of the book is what makes it so creepy – mirrors and reflections in dark windows, a little girl who is so connected with her dead sister that even she doesn’t know who she is. This book has CREEPY in spades. Tremayne has done a fabulous job of creating this dual-ness, right down to one parent favouring one twin and the second parent the other, creating this dynamic of paranoia, of favouritism, of a sort of danger that is around every corner when emotions are toyed with.

Angus and Sarah can’t tell their daughters apart, and so when one of them dies, how do you move on from that? This is the basic question, and one the novel does deal with. But the fall-out from that is more complex, and the novel also explores why everything has happened and has you on the edge of your seat while doing it.

2. Remote location

The setting in this book is chilling. Isolation is the perfect addition to the creepiness of twins – and you put a family on a remote island, cut off from the world by a dangerous rolling tide, after suffering a great loss, and this novel is what you get. Dark, confused, delicious… The fictional island off the Scottish coast is brooding, the weather tempestuous, providing a perfect backdrop for such a spooky story.

3. Narration

The novel is narrated by the two Moorcroft parents, Sarah and Angus – Sarah in first person and Angus in third. The narration, in my opinion, is virtually flawless. The characters are well-developed, their voices distinct enough that one can easily tell them apart, but not too distinct – for spoilerific reasons. I won’t go into it too much, but the very ending of the novel was the thing that threw me the most, and I did not see it coming. Not one bit. Fantastic! Usually I can’t say that, so that’s awesome in my book.

4. EVERYTHING.

Okay, yeah, this is one of those novels. I could gush and gush about everything I liked, but finding something else to say? Not so easy. Oops. All I can say is that I read this book in less than two sittings, didn’t sleep and didn’t eat until I was done. I devoured it.

And the hardback is only £5 on Amazon right now, so you should go and buy it so we can talk about it. Please?

Rating:

328e5-rating

The Crossing Places – Elly Griffiths [REVIEW]

I’m only going to write a shortish review this week, because my head is reeling from a bit of a rollercoaster time and honestly I can’t get my words out! But here’s a book I’ve enjoyed recently. Bonus: It’s the first in a series so you can read it without worrying about that!

crossingTitle: The Crossing Places

Author: Elly Griffiths

Paperback: 288 pages

Publisher: Quercus (6 Aug. 2009)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1847249582

ISBN-13: 978-1847249586

Info:

A child’s bones are discovered near the site of a pre-historic henge on the north Norfolk coast, and the police ask local forensic archaeologist Ruth Galloway to date them. Are these the remains of a local girl who disappeared ten years ago?

DCI Harry Nelson refuses to give up the hunt for this missing child. Ever since she vanished, someone has been sending him bizarre anonymous notes about ritual sacrifice, quoting Shakespeare and the Bible. He knows Ruth’s instincts and experience can help him finally put this case to rest.

Then a second child goes missing, and Ruth finds herself in danger from a killer who knows she’s getting ever closer to the truth…


Although I had my reservations about Ruth as a character when I started reading the novel, one thing that won me over with this book was setting. And, actually, the atmosphere that just seeps out of it. And, to be fair, the plot. So, actually, pretty much everything else. I don’t always love present tense, but the manner in which Elly Griffiths writes is such that her setting – the desolate Norfolk coast, haunting and haunted – truly comes alive.

Things I liked:

1. Setting

I love books where setting plays a key role, and it’s something I do often try to achieve with my own writing. Griffiths has created an atmosphere that is at once spooky and captivating. I want to go there exactly as much as I want to avoid getting stuck on those mud flats at high tide, which leaves me with an interesting attitude towards the book as a whole. I devoured it. And it makes me want to go back to Norfolk.

2. The plot.

I have a thing where I’m reading a lot of books about missing children right now (also fuelled by my own writing), and that’s partially why I read Griffiths’ novel. I think that if you get the balance right, having a missing child can be such a haunting plot device. One that keeps you thinking about the novel long after it’s over. Needless to say, Elly Griffiths did her job, and I’m still freaked out by the ending.

Things I didn’t like (at first)

1. Ruth

That’s horrible. I didn’t dislike her, I just wasn’t sure that I could stick with her for a whole book. But my love for the setting and the deftness of the unravelling plot made it much easier for me to forget any caution I had about Ruth and, you know what, I think I’ve grown to – well, if not LIKE her, then I respect her.

And I’ll be reading the next Ruth Galloway book. So I think Griffiths has done her job. And you should give this a read and then tell me how I can give my novel as much atmosphere as this one.

Rating:

66775-4star

Three Day Quote Challenge

I was Tagged by Sue coletta to participate in the Three Day Quote Challenge. This one is real easy and fun. Here are the rules:

1. Thank the person who nominated you. (Thank you, Sue!)
2. Post your quote.
3. Pass it on to three others.

Here’s the quote:gloria

I’m not sure if I have three friends who haven’t done this yet. But, here goes nothing:

1. Jenny in Neverland

2. The House of Muses

3. Caroline-Writes

Have fun! [And stay tuned later for my review of The Crossing Places by Elly Griffiths.]

Little Face – Sophie Hannah [REVIEW]

I bought this book back in March after having Sophie Hannah recommended to me by Claire McGowan. I love psychological thrillers and domestic noir, and I’ve been trying to read more of it lately. I had quite high expectations for this novel – considering how often I’d seen Sophie Hannah’s name floating around – and I wasn’t disappointed! I read the whole thing in only a couple of days and spent a lot of the time I wasn’t reading thinking about it. Fabulous.

lfTitle: Little Face

Author: Sophie Hannah

Paperback: 368 pages

Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks; New Ed edition (24 Aug. 2006)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0340840323

ISBN-13: 978-0340840320

Info:

She’s only been gone two hours.

Her husband David was meant to be looking after their two-week-old daughter. But when Alice Fancourt walks into the nursery, her terrifying ordeal begins, for Alice insists the baby in the cot is a stranger she’s never seen before.

With an increasingly hostile and menacing David swearing she must either be mad or lying, how can Alice make the police believe her before it’s too late?


So why did I like this novel?

1. The police element & POV:

The police element is something I wasn’t actually expecting, although it is completely logical. Sophie Hannah not only shows us what is happening from Alice’s perspective, we also get a unique insight into the police investigation through Simon and his colleagues. A surprisingly ineffective police search, really, considering a baby’s life could have been at risk. This made me side more with Alice, which was an interesting tool because otherwise I might have judged her more for her actions, her indecisiveness and her inability to TELL THE TRUTH. Overall, an excellent addition to the story.

2. Tense:

I don’t read a lot of books that are written well enough in present tense. But Hannah has achieved a good balance here. Often with present tense, the way I know it’s well-written is that I don’t notice it. But one thing I found while reading Little Face was that, not only did I not notice the present tense until well over half way through – I also found myself channelling it in my own writing! Note to self: it’s actually difficult to write in past tense when you’re reading present tense. Oops. But the tense lends itself to a sort of immediacy that past tense might not otherwise achieve.

3. Plot/Story

A baby goes missing? Fairly obvious. But a baby is allegedly swapped…? BOOM. Awesome idea. So the shock factor of the initial premise is what drew me to this book. I demanded to know how this could be possible. Conspiracy? Changelings? Lies? The premise is a great one. And for the most part the execution is very well done; I spent most of the time gripping the edge of my seat because OH MY GOD WHAT NOW?? The idea is a lot of fun, and it’s nothing like anything I’ve read before.

What I didn’t like:

1. David

And this isn’t to say he’s badly written. I was supposed to dislike him, and I did! The only thing I wish is that Alice’s husband got more of what was coming to him. After all she suffered through, I wanted him to pay! But more than anything that’s a testament to his horribleness and the fact that Hannah has written him so well that I actually HATE him. (Yep. Hate.)

2. The Ending

I say this about a lot of books I’ve really enjoyed, and some of it is probably to do with the fact that I don’t want the books to end so the ending is always going to disappoint in one way or another. But there was something about this ending that left me feeling a bit unsatisfied. Perhaps it’s simply because, well, the outcome could only really have been one of two things – there was no real surprise. And that’s perhaps not the point of the novel, but I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t more of a reveal.

Having said that, I can’t for the life of me think what would have improved the ending (in terms of tangible ideas), so I’d suggest you taking my thoughts with a grain of salt. Because I definitely enjoyed the book. I devoured it. I just, I suppose, didn’t want it to end!

This novel is a deliciously dark look at suburban nightmares, a very readable psychological thriller with a police twist. And I am definitely going to be reading more by Sophie Hannah in the future.

Rating:

66775-4star

Evil Games – Angela Marsons [REVIEW]

I received a free copy of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

First off, Happy Publication Day to the lovely Angela Marsons (@writeangie). Today is the day that Evil Games is actually available, and while I’d like to say it was no coincidence that today is Evil Games Review Day – I’d be lying. It’s just a happy accident.

However, you going out and buying Evil Games, and Silent Scream (#1 in the Kim Stone series) will not be an accident if I have anything to do with it.

This novel is fantastic. Actually cracking. It’s one of those books I almost shouldn’t review because I only have positive things to say about it. But, you know what? I love Kim Stone so much I’m going to write this review anyway. And then you lot are going to go away, buy these books, read them, and we’re going to fangirl over them for the rest of the year. Deal?

Okay then.

Evil GamesTitle: Evil Games

Author: Angela Marsons

Format: Kindle Edition

File Size: 3425 KB

Print Length: 349 pages

Publisher: Bookouture (29 May 2015)

Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.

Language: English

Info:

When a rapist is found mutilated in a brutal attack, Detective Kim Stone and her team are called in to bring a swift resolution. But, as more vengeful killings come to light, it soon becomes clear that there is someone far more sinister at work.

With the investigation quickly gathering momentum, Kim finds herself exposed to great danger and in the sights of a lethal individual undertaking their own twisted experiment.

Up against a sociopath who seems to know her every weakness, for Detective Stone, each move she makes could be deadly. As the body count starts to mount, Kim will have to dig deeper than ever before to stop the killing. And this time – it’s personal.


So why do I love this novel? Evil Games is everything Silent Scream promised – and more. We’ve got a fantastic cast of characters, all uniquely built and crafted; we’ve got a stunning plot; we’ve got emotion; we’ve got LACK of emotion; we’ve got sociopaths – I mean COME ON GUYS, what more can you want? Seriously.

I’m actually glad I gave the first novel a 4.5 star rating because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to explain why this novel is so great. It’s the fact that, well, it’s actually better! The plot is ace, the characters are becoming some of my favourite in crime fiction, and what I thought might be a limiting factor in later books (Kim’s tragic past) has proved me wrong by being something that can be used and enjoyed (I don’t think that’s the right word…) again and again.

Onto the specifics:

What I loved:

1. Barney

Okay, this is a lame starter but it’s true. One of Kim’s flaws (strengths?) is her emotional distance from other characters in the book. It’s what makes her vulnerable, but also what gives her a unique insight into the job she does. Thing is, it can be sad watching a character turn away everybody in their life and guard their deepest secrets – but Angela Marsons has found a way around that. And his name is BARNEY. Kim’s budding relationship with Barney is perhaps what I was craving in the first book. And although this might just be the crazy dog-lover in me, I think it really completed her character, rounded her out and made her even more awesome. I love that Kim now has somebody/something to care for, and it gives her more responsibility as a character.

2. Bryant

I said last time how much I loved Bryant, and that absolutely has not changed. He is the light to Kim’s dark, the warm to her cold. He is friendly, soft, kind and perhaps a little bit naïve – all the more reason than he and Kim complete each other (especially considering Kim’s endless pessimism). I love Bryant. I hope in the future he can have a big ‘personal’ part in one of Kim’s cases.

3. The bad guy.

Angela, A++++ on this one. Our baddie Alex is fabulous, somehow managing to be terrifying and yet super-duper interesting. Alex is the kind of nemesis I love to write and love to read even more. And I get the feeling that Marsons liked writing her (who wouldn’t?) and that totally bled through onto the pages. At once creepy and moreish, Dr Alexandra Thorne is a force to be reckoned with.

4. Plot/sub plot balance.

I wish I was this good at sub plot. Honestly. This novel is so tightly plotted it had me in awe the whole way through. Although not entirely unpredictable (this isn’t really what this novel is going for, I don’t think), I felt like Marsons was in complete control throughout. I love that feeling. And I think this will only get better with each Kim Stone book we see!

So, all in all, I think you’ve got the message. GO OUT. BUY IT. READ IT. TALK TO ME ABOUT IT.

Please. I’m begging you. We need to fangirl, you and I.

Rating:

328e5-rating

Crimefest 2015, Birthday & May Book Haul

Yes, I’ve been promising this post for a week now. What can I say? I’ve been busy. So, last week (14 – 17 May) I attended Crimefest 2015 in Bristol with some of my fellow Criminals (MA students). A few of us travelled down on Thursday morning and met up with another few when we got there, and we even bumped into our tutors Claire McGowan, Bill Ryan and Laura Wilson (although we were very grown up and did our best to mingle on our own (in a smaller pack) without their help).

What can I say about the weekend? Only that it was one of the best ever. I got to meet a bunch of down-to-earth yet freakishly awesome authors, discover a whole load of new talent; I got a bucket (suitcase) full of free books, bought another handful (or six) of books whose authors were speaking on the panels; I even got some other free swag when our newbie pub quiz team did better than expected! It was seriously the bomb. If you’re ever considering going to one of these literary conventions, although I can’t speak for them all I’d say GO FOR IT! I had such a fantastic weekend and was absolutely gutted to have to come home at the end of it. So, here is some photo spam of the amazing haul from the Crimefest weekend!

Crimefest 10 - 2015 Crimefest 9 - 2015

The convention was hosted in the Bristol Mariott Hotel. A lovely, grand building that was the perfect space for such a great event. When we gathered in the King’s Room for the pub quiz, one of our group commented that it would have made for a perfect murder mystery setting – and I had to agree!

Crimefest 4 - 2015

Speaking of pub quiz, we managed to win ourselves several free books (shown below with a few I also bought), and we were given goodie bags as well! At the pub quiz I also managed to win myself DVDs of Broadchurch and The Missing (I’ve somehow managed to have not seen either yet, so no spoilers please!) and an audio book version of Elizabeth George’s Believing the Lie – 22 hours of play time that I am hella excited to listen to! It’ll be my first full audio book experience.

Crimefest 1 - 2015 Crimefest 2 - 2015Crimefest 3 - 2015Here, then, is the full glory of the Crimefest Haul! That awesome canvas bag came with four free books in it, and the rest I either grabbed free on the book swap table or bought with my own precious pennies. The lanyard is the coolest one I’ve ever had, and it came in that evidence bag. Everything was so crime-y I could have cried. ❤

And I even managed to get a few books signed, too. All but one are personalised, and Elizabeth Haynes wrote a lovely message (not pictured because my camera screwed up). I also just realised that my signed copy of A. K. Benedict’s The Beauty of Murder has somehow escaped all of these photographs, which is silly because it’s such a gorgeous book. Oops! (Don’t worry, you’ll see it when I get around to reviewing it!)

Crimefest 5 - 2015 Crimefest 6 - 2015

And to top off the week, we also managed to meet the ever-chill, awesome, walking-around-like-one-of-the-mere-mortals Lee Child. He just wandered over and we had a good chat, about writing festivals and writing, and the fact that our entire class had a conference call with him during one of Bill Ryan’s seminars last semester. So, that happened.

Crimefest 7 - Litty Jenny Lee Child & Chris - 2015

Which led to this reaction at the end of the long weekend:

Crimefest 8 - 2015

Anyway. It was amazing. And I’m sure you’re all bored now.

So, then my birthday happened and I turned 24. I’d mentioned a few crime-y books I wanted, so of course my friends obliged (and scarily enough I have another £50 to spend on Amazon and another £10 to spend in Waterstones, so this isn’t even the end of the birthday haul!) I’m very excited about all of them, especially The Ice Twins and Cemetery Girl.

Birthday 2 - 2015

So, yeah. Basically I now have 50+ crime books (not even counting any of the other genres or proofs/ARCs) on my TBR shelf. I guess I’d better get reading!

Sorry for the picture heavy post, gang. But it’s not my fault – honest! I you all have a lovely rest of your Sunday, and a lovely bank holiday if you’re in the UK.

Before I Go To Sleep – S. J. Watson [REVIEW]

I’m sorry lovely people, I’ve been slacking recently! I spent the weekend at Crimefest15 in Bristol, and then celebrated my birthday, so have had very little time for typing up my thoughts. Stay tuned for a post all about Crimefest, along with an appropriate Book Haul post as well, but for now I’m going to get myself a bit more caught up with book reviews.

It’s an older book today, one I’ve had sitting on my shelf for a while. Another one (like Gone Girl) that I’m kicking myself for not having read it sooner. Oh well, better late than never!

BIGTSTitle: Before I Go To Sleep

Author: S. J. Watson

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: Black Swan (2 Jan. 2012)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0552164135

ISBN-13: 978-0552164139

Information:

Memories define us.

So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life.


BIGTS tells the story of Christine, a woman who wakes up every morning with no memory of the last 20+ years, who has to be told every morning that the man beside her is her husband, that she had an accident, that she is happy. Christine can’t help being afraid. And it turns out, she’s been keeping a journal. She’s been meeting a doctor. Both in secret from her husband, Ben. She has been living a whole other life he doesn’t know about, and she is forced to question what this means. Is she who she thinks she is?

And in the front of her journal is a note in her own handwriting. It says, “Don’t trust Ben.” But is Christine’s journal reliable? Is it truthful? And why does it seem like Ben is lying to her?

Before I Go To Sleep is a masterful story told in the first person, demonstrating clear voice and clean style – and developing tension and a sense of foreboding from the very first words. There’s a lot to be enjoyed in this novel, from Christine’s own determination despite her uncertainty to Ben’s unwavering devotion, despite the lies he tells her… The novel is a heady mix of scary, tense, and heartbreaking, and consumed an entire two days of my life. I gave them gladly. ❤

What I liked:

1. Christine’s Voice

I think one of the things Watson has really achieved with this novel is creating a character who we are simultaneously fearful for and frustrated with; I admired Christine’s strength, but often found myself cursing her condition as I began to piece together the clues that she couldn’t see. Watson’s writing is fabulous, igniting in just a few words the feelings of memories just out of reach, of the claustrophobia and tension that seep into everyday activities when you don’t know yourself never mind the man you are living with. I was proud for Christine when she was courageous, and sad for her when I saw the life she could have lived if not for her memory loss. So heartbreaking.

2. The Twist (No spoilers!)

I know a lot of people have felt pretty ambiguously about this one, but I’m going to have to disagree. Yes, I saw it coming. But that happens to me a lot, so it’s not something that often upsets or frustrates me – especially if the execution is there. Because I ended up reading this book so quickly, I felt that the pace moved forward at such a rate that I didn’t have time to contemplate whether I was annoyed that I’d figured out the ending, I just sat back and enjoyed watching the threads unravel and Christine make her own discoveries. And yes, there were also a few elements I wasn’t expecting as well, which was nice.

What I didn’t like:

1.The Ending

Although I’ve said that figuring out the twist early didn’t bother me, I will say that something about the ending didn’t sit 100% right with me. I think perhaps this is personal taste though, because I admire endings with a particular haunting quality. And this novel was just too… convenient? I guess? In the end, everything is perhaps a bit too positive. I liked my tortured characters to stay tortured, if only a little bit, and although a lot of people might prefer a more upbeat ending, I don’t. Still, it’s not something that hugely coloured my reading, so I suggest you give it a shot anyway!

All in all, this was a great read. It was quick, fun, fairly pacey and unpredictable enough in places that I wasn’t 100% spoilered by my brain. Overall, I’d recommend!

Rating:

4-5 star

P.S. I haven’t seen the film. Is it any good?