He Said/She Said

He Said/She Said

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack. She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, it is not only the victim’s life that is changed forever. Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear, and while Laura knows she was right to speak out, the events that follow have taught her that you can never see the whole picture: something, and someone, is always in the dark.

Thoughts:

I have really enjoyed Erin Kelly’s books in the past, so when Beth badgered me to read this one, it didn’t take me long to decide to bump it up my TBR. I had seen so much buzz around it in the blogosphere that I was somewhat nervous to read it. That hype monster gets books all too often.

He Said/She Said is about a couple Laura and Kit. Kit is an eclipse chaser and travels around the world to be present at each eclipse event, if the weather permits it. Laura starts to become more interested in Kit’s hobby and begins to travel with him. It is at a special eclipse festival in 1999, that Laura and Kit witness a terrible event. Laura sees more than Kit, but Kit sees enough for it to haunt them years later in their lives. The story alternates between Laura and Kit, both in the present time and events in the past. In the present, the couple have changed their names and have no presence on social media. Laura is suffering from anxiety following the awful situation and the aftermath. Slowly, the truth about what happened in 1999 is revealed…

It’s so hard to review thrillers when you don’t want to give too much away for those that haven’t read it. I loved the fact that the truth was slowly drip fed to the reader. I was desperate to know what had happened to Kit and Laura to make them so fearful of being found. I thought Erin Kelly used the slow reveal sublimely. It certainly kept me turning the pages.

I, in no way, predicted the ending. It was one that actually made my eyes widen! If you’re looking for a decent thriller that’ll keep you guessing, then try He Said/She Said. 

Would I recommend it?:
Of course! 4.5 stars

A simply excellent thriller!

Her Husband’s Lover

Her Husband's Lover

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

She stole her husband. Now she wants to take her life.

After the horrors of the past, Louisa Williams is desperate to make a clean start. Her husband Sam is dead. Her children, too, are gone, victims of the car accident in which he died. 

Sam said that she would never get away from him. That he would hound her to death if she tried to leave. Louisa never thought that he would want to harm their children though. 

But then she never thought that he would betray her with a woman like Sophie. And now Sophie is determined to take all that Louisa has left. She wants to destroy her reputation and to take what she thinks is owed her – the life she would have had if Sam had lived.

Her husband’s lover wants to take her life. The only question is will Louisa let her?

Thoughts:

Pre-blogging days, Julia Crouch was one of my favourite psychological thriller authors. With Her Husband’s Lover, Julia cements herself as a favourite of mine in the genre. I was absolutely gripped by this story and couldn’t put it down. It’s so gritty! Just what I love in a psychological thriller.

Louisa Williams has had a pretty horrendous past and she’s desperate for a fresh start. Louisa’s husband is dead. He died in a car crash. Sam was chasing Louisa and their two children when the crash occurred. Louisa always thought that Sam would never hurt her, but he betrayed her with a woman named Sophie. Sophie is determined to take what Louisa has left. She wants the life she should have had if Sam had lived.

This really was an amazingly crafted psychological thriller. Julia Crouch has such a way of creating such terrible characters. I don’t mean badly written. I mean shockingly awful people that are easy to dislike. I love those sort of characters. I actually said out loud ‘Oooh, she’s a messed up woman!’ I had to remind myself that it wasn’t real! So sucked into the story.

The two female characters Louisa and Sophie are incredibly well written. I can’t say that I liked any of them, but I loved to read from their points of view. Their interactions with each other were intense and their relationship was completely toxic as you might expect. I don’t often like a dual point of view that goes from past to present but Julia Crouch creates such a great narrative in this story.

I couldn’t stop turning the pages. It’s a fairly long read but it doesn’t take long to get through it because there’s twists and turns all the time. I didn’t know who to trust. Some scenes made me incredibly uncomfortable. There’s plenty of shocking moments and nothing is first what it seems.

The reason why Julia stands out in this heavily populated genre for me is her writing style. Julia Crouch doesn’t shy away from gritty, raw and quite disturbing stories. This is certainly all of those things and much more besides.

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

If you love unreliable characters then this is the thriller for you!

Gone Without A Trace

Gone Without a Trace

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

No one ever disappears completely…

You leave for work one morning.

Another day in your normal life.

Until you come home to discover that your boyfriend has gone.
His belongings have disappeared.
He hasn’t been at work for weeks.
It’s as if he never existed.

But that’s not possible, is it?

And there is worse still to come.

Because just as you are searching for him
someone is also watching you.

Thoughts:

I remember Beth being really gripped by this book when she visited a few months back. She immediately told me that I needed to read it. So being the good bookworm sister that I am ( 😉 ) I bumped it up my to be read list. It didn’t take me long to devour at all.

Gone Without A Trace centres around Hannah. We first meet Hannah when she is on her way back from a successful business trip. Hannah is extremely happy because she thinks she’s going to be promoted very soon. As she arrives home, her life is turned upside down. Her long-term boyfriend Matt has moved everything of his out of the house. His number is no longer in her phone, photos have gone and emails have been removed. There is no trace of Matt around the house. Hannah is confused as everything seemed okay in their relationship. Hannah is determined to find Matt… Then text messages start coming in and strange things happen in her house. We’re left wondering whether Hannah is losing her mind or whether something darker is going on.

I was immediately gripped by this story. I wasn’t sure whether to trust Hannah at first. She’s not the most likeable character. Her behaviour becomes obsessive and she begins to suffer in her every day life which becomes very frustrating for the reader. There were points where I wanted her to pull herself together and there were moments that I felt sorry for her. A lot of the relationships in Hannah’s life were difficult. I was particularly intrigued by her love-hate relationship with her friend Katie. It came across as very toxic.

The story seems to plod along at the start with Hannah attempting to find Matt. It really started to pick up pace when the strange things started happening. There is a bit of a twist which I wasn’t expecting! I loved that I didn’t expect it. I know it has divided some readers, but I thought it was an interesting take on the story. I don’t want to spoil it for any readers, so I’ll stop talking about it now!

Overall, I thought this was a really interesting, well paced read. It’s not flawless, but it’s enjoyable and an incredibly easy to read book.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A decent psychological thriller. Worth picking up!

The Girls

The Girls

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

California. The summer of 1969. In the dying days of a floundering counter-culture a young girl is unwittingly caught up in unthinkable violence, and a decision made at this moment, on the cusp of adulthood, will shape her life….

Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat.

Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.

And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways.

Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?

Thoughts:

I had heard SO much about The Girls that I was somewhat apprehensive to pick it up.I didn’t know much about this book before I read it. I just kept seeing it all over the place. I have since learnt that this book is based on the Manson murders in 1969. I thought that I would enjoy it, but I’m always worried when a book is discussed so much. I worry it’s too hyped and my expectations will be too high. Therefore, I left it a little while. I finally got around to reading The Girls about a week ago. I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think it’s a book that I’d re-read, as beautifully written as it is.

The Girls centres around a girl named Evie who is desperate to be noticed by her peers. Evie notices the girls, some girls who have long uncombed hair and dirty dresses. They immediately intrigue Evie. The story is packed full of sex, drugs and teenage runaways but it’s also much darker than that. Russell is mainly at the edge of the story. It is Suzanne, the leader of the girls, who captivates the main protagonist, Evie. Evie finds Suzanne alluring and is easily led to Russell’s ranch. At the ranch, Evie can become much more grown up and seek revenge against her mother who isn’t letting Evie be herself.

I liked how the narration was split between fourteen year old Evie and middle aged Evie looking back on her life. I wish there had been more about middle aged Evie as I was left with quite a few ‘What If’ questions. Perhaps this was the author’s intention. I felt like the narrations weren’t as connected as they could’ve been, which was a shame.

I found The Girls to be a disturbing read. It unsettled me at times. Emma Cline’s writing really is brilliant. She sets the scene wonderfully and creates the perfect atmosphere for the story. The Girls is an engaging read which kept me turning the pages right from the start.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Definitely an interesting one! Some darker content, so be aware of that!

Dark Places

Dark Places

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Sharp Objects
Gone Girl

Synopsis:

Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered in “The Satan Sacrifice” of Kinnakee, Kansas. She survived—and famously testified that her fifteen-year-old brother, Ben, was the killer. Twenty-five years later, the Kill Club—a secret secret society obsessed with notorious crimes—locates Libby and pumps her for details. They hope to discover proof that may free Ben. Libby hopes to turn a profit off her tragic history: She’ll reconnect with the players from that night and report her findings to the club—for a fee. As Libby’s search takes her from shabby Missouri strip clubs to abandoned Oklahoma tourist towns, the unimaginable truth emerges, and Libby finds herself right back where she started—on the run from a killer.

Thoughts:

I had heard that Dark Places was one of Gillian Flynn’s best books. It definitely didn’t beat Gone Girl for me which is a book that chilled and shocked me. Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy Dark Places, Gillian Flynn is amazing at creating such unlikeable characters that keep you turning the pages, despite being angry, frustrated or annoyed with them. It just didn’t quite match Gone Girl for me.

Dark Places centres around Libby Day. When Libby was younger, her mother and sisters were killed. Libby’s evidence put her 15 year old brother in prison. Libby has been getting by in life, but not really doing anything much with her life. Libby comes across the Kill Club which is a secret society obsessed with crimes. They find Libby and want her to give loads of details to them about her brother, Ben. They are convinced that they can get proof that Ben didn’t kill his family. Libby starts to question things that she’d never questioned before which leads her onto a hunt to find out the truth once and for all.

Gillian Flynn really is an incredible writer. I really think her books stand out in the genre because her stories are so dark. She’s also great at keeping you guessing. I really enjoyed the use of flashbacks in this story. I thought they were well crafted and incredibly gritty. Be prepared for some strong language and violence. Dark Places is absolutely littered with that!

I didn’t guess what had happened in Dark Places. However, I have to admit to feeling a little disappointed by the ending. I felt like the story dragged on a little bit in places and the ending just left me thinking ‘Oh..’ rather than being shocked.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Despite some disappointment, Dark Places didn’t take me long to read at all. Perfect to read if you’re into dark thrillers.

Banned Books #37 The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

banned books

Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month, Beth and I read The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

The Kite Runner

First published: 2003
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2008 (source)
Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group.

Synopsis:

Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had.

The unforgettable, heartbreaking story of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant, The Kite Runner is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It is about the power of reading, the price of betrayal, and the possibility of redemption; and an exploration of the power of fathers over sons—their love, their sacrifices, their lies.

A sweeping story of family, love, and friendship told against the devastating backdrop of the history of Afghanistan over the last thirty years, The Kite Runner is an unusual and powerful novel that has become a beloved, one-of-a-kind classic.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: This book was first published in 2003, which is fourteen years ago (I can hardly believe it!) but in the grand scheme of things I don’t think attitudes have changed that much in that time. I am however interested as to why it took five years to appear on the banned books list (2008) if it was published five years earlier and some people obviously had a problem with it. Hmm…interesting. If anyone has any ideas I’d be intrigued to know! So let’s start to talk about some of the reasons why it has been challenged/banned. Firstly, offensive language. Well, I’m not too easily offended but I can’t really remember any instance of foul language in this novel – if there was, I have clearly forgotten. It certainly wasn’t over-run with expletives in any way, shape or form, I would have remembered that!

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I can’t believe this book was published almost fifteen years ago. I don’t really understand why it was banned several years after it was published. That’s a bit odd to me. To be honest, when we were thinking of the books for the challenge this year, I wanted to read this one to work out why it made the banned/challenged list. I’m still a bit stumped. The language wasn’t that offensive. I guess the sexual content could be a bit much for some, but I don’t think this book is necessarily aimed at younger readers.

How about now?

BETH: In my opinion, there is no reason on earth why this book should be challenged or banned in 2017. When I read our banned books, I tend not to look at the reasons they were banned until I come to write these answers, I like to try and figure it out myself while I’m reading the story. When I was reading it, I was struggling to be honest and the only thing I could come up with was the ONE sexual scene which is not overly graphic (but is still quite horrific, I have to admit) and then I thought, perhaps there was a bit of a problem with the religious aspects? This isn’t my view, I hasten to add. Reading the last reason though has me completely stumped. Unsuited for age group?? I’ve been struggling with trying to research this on the web but I don’t think this book is actually aimed at younger readers anyway. The violence and sex scene may be inappropriate for youngsters but I think older teenagers would get a lot from a book like this. 

CHRISSI: I really don’t think it should be challenged or banned in 2017. There is definitely a lot more explicit content out there. I think Young Adults could gain a lot from this book. I think it’s incredibly educative and something that shouldn’t be challenged at all. I certainly think it has a place in a high school/college library, with just a recommendation that their is some sensitive content within the story (some violence/sex scene).

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I’ve actually read this book before and have written a longer review of it on my blog. I gave it five stars when I read it three years ago and I give it five stars today. It’s a hugely important and emotional story about friendship, family and war that taught me a lot when I first read it and reminded me of a lot of things I had forgotten when I read it for a second time. Everyone should read it!

CHRISSI: This isn’t the first time I’ve read this book. It was interesting to read it back once more. I initially gave this book five stars, but I would say it’s a strong four for me as a reread. I think it’s so beautifully written and an incredibly emotional, moving read. I think it’s such an important book!

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Talking About ‘Miss You’ with Bibliobeth

Miss You

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Tess and Gus are meant to be. They just haven’t met properly yet. And perhaps they never will . . .

Today is the first day of the rest of your life is the motto on a plate in the kitchen at home, and Tess can’t get it out of her head, even though she’s in Florence for a final, idyllic holiday before university. Her life is about to change forever – but not in the way she expects.

Gus and his parents are also on holiday in Florence. Their lives have already changed suddenly and dramatically. Gus tries to be a dutiful son, but longs to escape and discover what sort of person he is going to be.

For one day, the paths of an eighteen-year-old girl and boy criss-cross before they each return to England.

Over the course of the next sixteen years, life and love will offer them very different challenges. Separated by distance and fate, there’s no way the two of them are ever going to meet each other properly . . . or is there?

CHRISSI: Did you judge this book by its cover? I can imagine it’s one you wouldn’t pick up if you saw it in the shop!

BETH: Do you think just because you’re my sister you know me? Haha, of course you’re right, I have to be honest. This cover would immediately make me scrunch up my face in the way that you know so well and I wouldn’t necessarily pick it up because of that. I’m not the biggest romance fan in the world and it has to be told in just the right sort of way to touch this cold, cold heart. No cheesiness here please! But, as you know, I have been completely wrong about covers in the past… Me Before You by Jojo Moyes is a classic example!

BETH: How do you think that this book compares with others in the genre?

CHRISSI: Interesting question! As you know, I have read quite a lot of this genre, so I feel like I’m well informed to answer this question. I think it fits nicely into the genre, but it’s not necessarily a book that I think stands out. Don’t get me wrong, it was easy to read and I enjoyed it, but it’s not one that will stay with me for a long time.

CHRISSI: Both Tess and Gus experience bereavement in this novel. Discuss how the different characters deal with this situation.

BETH: Both Tess and Gus have lost someone important in their lives. With Tess, it is her mother who died of cancer and with Gus it is his older brother who died in a horrific skiing accident on holiday. They both deal with their loss in very different ways and I think a lot of that is bound up with how close they were with their respective loved one. With Tess, it’s her mother so of course she feels the loss keenly but has to get on with things as she has a younger sister, Hope to bring up and look after. This completely ruins any plans she had for university but she is incredibly strong as a character and just gets through it. Gus on the other hand, feels constantly guilty for the loss of his brother, Ross. He feels he is in some way to blame for the accident as he “let” Ross go off on his own down a dangerous slope. Coupled with this is the fact that Ross has constantly bullied and belittled him throughout their lives prior to the accident so they didn’t have the best or most loving relationship which he also feels some residual guilt for.

BETH: Which character’s point of view did you enjoy reading about the most?

CHRISSI: My answer would have to be Tess. I really enjoyed reading about her story. I think the main reason for this is the relationship Tess has with her younger sister. I called Asperger’s before it mentioned it in the story. I have children with both low functioning autism and high functioning autism (Asperger’s) in my class and I could recognise the traits immediately. I loved how, even though Tess struggled with not following her dreams, she was there for her sister. I was rooting for Tess from the start and hoping she found some happiness for herself.

CHRISSI: Discuss how Kate Eberlen structured this novel.

BETH: I really enjoyed the structure of this novel. It’s told in dual perspectives so one chapter is Tess’ point of view and the next is from Gus. It also starts in the late nineties when they are both eighteen years old and ends in the present day. I really enjoyed this as I am a similar age to the characters and enjoyed the nostalgic feel that the author brought when talking about certain things in the nineties that I remember very clearly! I also loved how we got hints of the “tall man,” or “tall woman,” aka Gus/Tess when they almost met so many times during the narrative.

BETH: Do you believe that some things are just meant to be or is everything just chance?

CHRISSI: That’s a hard one for me to answer. I’d like to think that things happen for a reason, but then sometimes awful things happen and I can’t justify that with ‘things happen for a reason.’ So to answer, I think I believe in coincidences. But who knows? Ooh, look at you with such a tricksy question!

CHRISSI: Did your initial impressions of this book change by the ending?

BETH: I’m afraid it did and I’m sad to say, not in a good way 😞. I did love that what I expected to happen did happen which pleased me for the characters sake but unfortunately, it did feel slightly cheesy by the end and they were way too quick to say the “three magic words,” which made me believe in them and their relationship a little less. Apart from that though, I was really enjoying their story up to that point!

BETH: Would you read another novel by this author?

CHRISSI: I think I would. I did enjoy reading it and it didn’t take me long to read at all.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Yes! 3.5 stars

CHRISSI: Yes! 3.5 stars