Talking About ‘The Couple Next Door’ with Bibliobeth!

The Couple Next Door

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

Synopsis:

Your neighbour told you that she didn’t want your six-month-old daughter at the dinner party. Nothing personal, she just couldn’t stand her crying.

Your husband said it would be fine. After all, you only live next door. You’ll have the baby monitor and you’ll take it in turns to go back every half hour.

Your daughter was sleeping when you checked on her last. But now, as you race up the stairs in your deathly quiet house, your worst fears are realized. She’s gone.

You’ve never had to call the police before. But now they’re in your home, and who knows what they’ll find there.

What would you be capable of, when pushed past your limit?

CHRISSI: What was your first impression of this book?

BETH: I was really pleased to see The Couple Next Door on Richard and Judy’s Summer Book Club this year, I’d heard a little bit about the book and it falls into a genre that I really like to read so I was excited to get started. It was an incredibly quick read and I surprised myself with how quickly I managed to read it but the story was quite gripping and that urged me to keep on reading instead of putting the book down.

BETH: Anne initially blames Marco for their daughter’s disappearance. Do you agree with her?

CHRISSI: I think Anne and Marco were equally to blame, as Anne agreed to leave the baby. It wasn’t as if Marco forced her to go next door. Anne had her own mind and could’ve said no. She decided to go with Marco to the party, so no… I don’t agree with Anne.

CHRISSI: Which characters, if any, do you sympathise with in this novel?

BETH: This is a really difficult question because, to be honest, I don’t think the whole novel had a hugely likeable character in it for me. That’s not a bad thing at all as I often find myself enjoying books more if there’s an unreliable narrator or a character that is written in such a way that it makes it difficult for you to like them or understand their motivations. This is certainly true of The Couple Next Door. The main couple in the novel leave their baby in the house alone to go to a party next door, taking just the baby monitor with them and taking turns to check on her every so often. At the end of the night, she has disappeared. Obviously this is a terrible thing to happen and I did automatically sympathise with the situation they found themselves in but also found I blamed them a little for what had occurred.

BETH: How do you think Anne’s struggles with post natal depression play into her feelings about the loss of her daughter?

CHRISSI: I think Anne’s struggles with post natal depression really do play into her feelings about the loss of her daughter. Anne is obviously struggling with her mental health and that’s going to affect how she feels about the loss of her daughter. Anne really starts to struggle with her emotions and really question whether she did something wrong, whilst checking on her daughter. I was actually questioning it too. I found Anne’s post natal depression made her a really unreliable narrator.

CHRISSI: Discuss the moral dilemma around the decision to leave the baby in the house next door.

BETH: As I mentioned in the previous novel, Anne and Marco have left their baby behind while attending a party at their next door neighbours and the worst possible case scenario has happened – their daughter has disappeared. It did seem to be more of a dilemma for the mother, Anne to leave her child behind. The host of the party next door Cynthia made it quite clear that her baby was not welcome at the party and Anne’s husband, Marco did a good job of persuading her that everything would be okay. After all, they had the baby monitor and they would keep going back to check on her. Obviously the chances of anything like this happening to your child are very slim but you just need to look at the famous Madeline McCann disappearance to understand that while unlikely, parents shouldn’t even dare take the chance of assuming that “everything will be fine.”

BETH: Did you enjoy the twists and turns in this novel?

CHRISSI: I did. I like a thriller to have twists and turns and The Couple Next Door certainly delivered. I loved the pace of the story and even though I kinda guessed where it was going, it didn’t ruin it for me!

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in its genre?

BETH: I felt it compared very well. I enjoyed the plot, disliking the characters, the slight twists and turns and how everything was wrapped up at the end. It was certainly fast paced and kept me reading and as a mystery and thriller it does what it says on the tin. I loved how everything was slowly revealed and although I’m afraid I kind of guessed where it might be going I still enjoyed the story as a whole.

BETH: Would you read another novel by this author?

CHRISSI: I would. I enjoyed the writer’s style and thought it was a gripping read!

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Small Great Things

Small Great Things

How did I get it?:
It was a gift!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
My Sister’s Keeper
The Storyteller

Synopsis:

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.

It is about opening your eyes.

Thoughts:

I have read so many books by Jodi Picoult now, and whilst I do enjoy her writing, it was getting a little same-y for me. Therefore, it was with some trepidation that I picked up Small Great Things. I had heard good things about it across the blogosphere, but that happened with some of her books that I didn’t get along with too. I always try and give an author another chance, especially if I’ve liked their previous books at some point. I’m pleased I read Small Great Things because it was a fantastic, gripping read.

Small Great Things centres around the death of a baby named Davis. He was only a few days old when he became unwell on a maternity ward. Ruth Jefferson was his nurse, until the baby’s father, Turk, stated that no African-American nurses should look after his child. Ruth is understandably hurt. When Davis stops breathing, Ruth is unsure what to do, does she touch the baby and try to help him or does she leave him and follow orders? Ruth finds herself blamed for the tragic death and the hospital does nothing to protect her.

As with many Jodi Picoult books, the story is told through different characters. I always find this really interesting, but find myself favouring one or two characters instead of others and this was certainly the case for this book. I loved reading from Ruth’s point of view in particular. I immediately felt for her.

I am always impressed with how thorough Jodi Picoult is with her subject matter. She clearly researches well and puts thought into her books even if the formula is often incredibly similar. This particular book kept me thinking about racism and feeling unjust. Jodi really is a fantastic writer and this book is one of her best in recent years, in my opinion.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A surprise for me! I really enjoyed this book. A controversial, but interesting read.

The One-in-a-Million Boy

The One-in-a-Million Boy

How did I get it?:
I received it from my Mr B’s Reading Year subscription!

Synopsis:

The story of your life never starts at the beginning. Don’t they teach you anything at school?

So says 104-year-old Ona to the 11-year-old boy who’s been sent to help her out every Saturday morning. As he refills the bird feeders and tidies the garden shed, Ona tells him about her long life, from first love to second chances. Soon she’s confessing secrets she has kept hidden for decades.

One Saturday, he doesn’t show up. Ona starts to think he’s not so special after all, but then his father Quinn arrives on her doorstep, determined to finish his son’s good deed. The boy’s mother is not so far behind. Ona is set to discover that even at her age the world can surprise you, and that sometimes sharing a loss is the only way to find yourself again.

Thoughts:

I hadn’t heard of this book (somehow, I have no idea how!) before it was sent to me as part of my reading year birthday present from my Mum and sister. I’m glad I got the chance to read it though. It’s not one that will particularly stand out for me, but it was a decent read and I’m pleased I read it.

The One-in-a-Million Boy centres around a boy scout who was assigned to help an older lady. The older lady in question is 104 year old Ona Vitkus. Ona has rejected so many boy scouts as not good enough but she almost immediately connecting with ‘the boy’. He’s different compared to others his age. Ona and ‘the boy’ start to get to know each other through tea and biscuits. ‘The boy’ asks if he can ask her some questions and Ona starts to reveal more about her life. ‘The boy’ is obsessed with the Guinness Book Of Records. They discuss things that can get you into the book and hatch a plan to get Ona into the book. This gives Ona a new lease of life. One day, ‘the boy’ doesn’t turn up at work and Ona feels let down, like she was with the other boy scouts. However, his father Quinn turns up in his place and continues his son’s chores.

I loved how this book had so many things going on, but at the same time it didn’t feel rushed or overly crammed with information. It’s about family. It’s about a woman’s incredibly long life. There’s sadness, but there’s hope as well. It really is a mixed bag. It has some absolutely fantastic characters who you immediately take to and want things to turn out for them all.

I enjoyed Monica Wood’s writing style. I found this book incredibly easy to read and appreciated the different formats and points of view involved.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A touching read!

The Book Collector

The Book Collector

How did I get it?:
Beth and I bought it from Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights

Synopsis:

Alice Thompson’s new novel is a gothic story of book collecting, mutilation and madness. Violet is obsessed with the books of fairy tales her husband acquires, but her growing delusions see her confined in an asylum. As she recovers and is released a terrifying series of events is unleashed.

Thoughts:

Beth and I were recommended this book during our reading spa at Mr B’s Emporium in the summer last year. Beth read it and absolutely adored it, but she wasn’t sure if I would like it. It’s an odd book, a really odd book and she wasn’t sure if it was just a little too out there for me. However, I thought it was brilliant. Oddly brilliant, but still!

It centres around Violet who was 19 years old and an orphan when she meets Lord Archie Murray. They fall for each other quickly. Soon, Violet and Archie are married and they have a son called Felix. Archie is an incredibly controlling man who appears to be hiding something. Archie is obsessed with his book collection, especially a book of fairy tales that he keeps hidden away. Violet is curious to know why he hides it away. What is it about the book? Violet is struggling with the change in her life after giving birth to Felix. Violet starts to hallucinate and harms Felix whilst trying to protect him from ‘creatures’ that are crawling on him. As a result of this, Violet is locked up in an asylum. Violet meets some other women who believe there’s something odd about them all staying at the asylum. Violet begins to question everything.

This book really is quite creepy. It’s incredibly atmospheric and you find yourself questioning who is stable. The characters all seem unhinged in one way or another. Then there’s the inclusion of the character Clara… well, she certainly stirred up the story! The story becomes mysterious as some of the women in the asylum go missing. Then, of course, there’s the fairy tales that run throughout the whole story. There’s a link between them, but I won’t spoil it.

The Book Collector is a short read but it certainly packs a lot of punches throughout it. It’s compelling, disturbing but incredibly easy to read!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I was surprised by this book. I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did!

Talking About ‘Lying In Wait’ with Bibliobeth

Lying in Wait

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

Synopsis:

The last people who expect to be meeting with a drug-addicted prostitute are a respected judge and his reclusive wife. And they certainly don’t plan to kill her and bury her in their exquisite suburban garden.

Yet Andrew and Lydia Fitzsimons find themselves in this unfortunate situation.

While Lydia does all she can to protect their innocent son Laurence and their social standing, her husband begins to falls apart.

But Laurence is not as naïve as Lydia thinks. And his obsession with the dead girl’s family may be the undoing of his own.

CHRISSI: What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: I thought it was a unique premise for crime fiction. From the very beginning, we know exactly what happened on the night of Annie’s murder even down to whom was responsible for the crime. The novel follows how the murderer(s) try to cover up their tracks to resist detection over a number of years. We get multiple perspectives across two very different families (the perps and the victim’s family) across an extended period of time. It was a different way to approach a novel in this genre and I enjoyed being part of the author’s little secret as we saw the repercussions of the crime on many different people including the murderer themselves.

BETH: Discuss the relationship of Lydia with her son Laurence.

CHRISSI: Ooh, good question. I think Lydia’s relationship with Laurence is incredibly intense. Lydia has a hold over Laurence. He is her everything. Lydia’s relationship with her son grows stronger over time and I think it becomes more damaging over time too. The relationship is certainly not healthy. As a reader, we get to see the cracks in the relationship grow over time. The ending as well… phew!

CHRISSI: Liz Nugent is a radio and TV scriptwriter – do you think that affects the way that she writes her novels?

BETH: I wasn’t actually aware of that but looking back on it, it really comes across in the way that she writes. You can almost imagine each scene as being part of a movie or play and I would love to see it being adapted for film! It wouldn’t be hard, the author has provided everything in such clear detail and although I wouldn’t say it is necessarily “action-packed,” there is no need at all for this story to have a fast pace. It’s almost like a character study and is slowly chilling.

BETH: Many of the characters in this novel are not particularly likeable. Do you need to be able to empathise with characters in a book to enjoy it?

CHRISSI: Definitely not! I actually think it’s fun not to like characters. Maybe that’s a little warped of me? I don’t know. However, I absolutely loved hating some of the characters, especially Lydia, the mother. She was completely warped but I loved reading about her. Lydia’s narration was fascinating to me. The way she thought…wow!

CHRISSI: Discuss how the author structures the novel to build the tension.

BETH: I think it helps the novel to have the story told from multiple perspectives. From Lydia and her son Laurence (who were especially fascinating to read about) to Karen and the effect that her sister’s murder has on the entire family. You would come to the end of a particular perspective and there may be a slight cliff hanger but then perspectives switch and you read from someone else’s point of view. This means that the reader has to wait a little while before resuming the original thread they were reading and believe me, the wait is always worth it!

BETH: What was most enjoyable about this book for you?

CHRISSI: It’s hard to pinpoint what I enjoyed about this book. I didn’t read the synopsis before going into it, which I like to do with books like this. I just like to read it and see how it unfolds. I think the characters were fascinating, I enjoyed the multiple narration and I loved how messed up it became. I have to say, I think Laurence and Lydia made this book for me.

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in its genre?

BETH: Easily rises to the top of the pack in my opinion. I wasn’t sure how much I was going to like knowing everything about a murder at the beginning of the novel but the author manages to make this story so compelling with such fascinating characters that I was utterly hooked for the entirety of it. I’m actually really keen now to read Liz’s debut novel, Unravelling Oliver which I’ve heard great things about but if it’s anything like this one I know I’m going to love it.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would! I am also intrigued to read her debut novel, because I found her writing style to be incredibly engaging.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith

Follow Me Down

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Macmillan

Synopsis:

Mia Haas has built a life for herself far from the North Dakota town where she grew up, but when she receives word that her twin brother is missing, she’s forced to return home. Once hailed as the golden boy of their small town, Lucas Haas disappeared the same day the body of one of his high school students is pulled from the river. Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas’s affair with the teen, and unable to reconcile the media’s portrayal of Lucas as a murderer with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.

All the while, she wonders, if he’s innocent, why did he run?

As Mia reevaluates their difficult, shared history and launches her own investigation into the grisly murder, she uncovers secrets that could exonerate Lucas—or seal his fate. In a small town where everyone’s history is intertwined, Mia will be forced to confront her own demons, placing her right in the killer’s crosshairs.

Thoughts:

This book’s synopsis immediately grabbed me. It won’t be a surprise to many, to know that I really enjoy a thriller. I have read so many in the genre so I feel that every single time I pick up this genre, it has a lot to live up to. I really enjoyed Follow Me Down. I didn’t find it overly predictable or cliche like so many thrillers are becoming.

Follow Me Down centres around Mia who hasn’t had the easiest of childhoods. She struggles with an addiction to pills. Out of the blue, Mia receives a phone call from the police. Her twin brother, Lucas, is suspected of killing a teenage girl. He’s gone missing which certainly makes him a person of interest. Mia is convinced that her brother is innocent, so goes back to her small town to try and clear his name.

I really liked Mia from the start. I loved her determination to prove her brother’s innocence, despite some evidence not being stacked in her favour. I also really appreciated how Mia wasn’t a perfect, flawless character. Mia was carrying a lot of trauma from her childhood and was really trying to make life better for herself.

The reason why I haven’t given this book a four star rating is because it got a little slow towards the middle of the story. Don’t get me wrong, it was easy to read, but nothing really kept me gripped besides my desire to find out whether Lucas was guilty or not. The pace does pick up towards the end, so I would definitely recommend staying with it. I enjoyed Sherri Smith’s writing and I wouldn’t hesitate to pick up another book from her!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes- 3.5 stars

A decent thriller. It may not be the most fast paced, but it’ll keep you guessing!

The One by John Marrs

The One

How did I get it?:
I received it from the publisher. Many thanks to them! This does not affect my opinion of the book!

Synopsis:

How far would you go to find THE ONE?

One simple mouth swab is all it takes.

One tiny DNA test to find your perfect partner – the one you’re genetically made for.

A decade after scientists discover everyone has a gene they share with just one person, millions have taken the test, desperate to find true love.

Now, five more people take the test. But even soul mates have secrets. And some are more shocking – and deadlier – than others…

A psychological thriller with a difference, this is a truly unique novel which is guaranteed to keep you on the edge of your seat.

Thoughts:

I was very intrigued to be sent this book through the post.

1

The One centres around a Match test which is a test where your DNA determines who you should be in love with. It’s an interesting concept that’s for sure. Is true love really something that can be determined by Science? I’m sure many scientists (I’m looking at you, Beth) would be interested by that. It’s a premise that really intrigued me and made me think. The story follows the connections made between matches. Some of the connections are confusing to our characters and some people are matched that really surprise others. For example, a man happily engaged to a woman finds himself to be matched with another man.

There are loads of twists and turns within the story and connections that you discover along the way. The characters are so complex and there are some rather shady characters. The story may have a scientific aspect but it’s more about the emotions, so if Science scares you, then don’t be put off by this book.

I first wondered why this book was billed as a psychological thriller, but it really is. I don’t want to say anything else about the plot because I don’t want to ruin it. Like any good thriller, it’s worth not knowing a lot before you jump into the story. There are more genres that this book falls into though. There’s romance and a slice of crime.

I have to admit, at the start I was very confused as there are quite a few characters and even though each chapter is character named, it took me a while to get into their story and work out who was who. As soon as I grasped it though, I was gripped by their stories and wanted to find out their secrets. In this book, every character has a story of their own to be told and I loved exploring them.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

An intriguing idea!