Talking About ‘Nine Perfect Strangers’ with Bibliobeth!

Nine Perfect Strangers

How did I get it?:

I bought it!

Synopsis:

One house. Nine strangers. Ten days that will change everything . . .

The retreat at health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total transformation.

Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages.

Miles from anywhere, without cars or phones, they have no way to reach the outside world. Just time to think about themselves, and get to know each other.

Watching over them is the resort’s director, a woman on a mission. But quite a different one from any the guests might have imagined.

For behind the retreat’s glamorous facade lies a dark agenda.

These nine perfect strangers have no idea what’s about to hit them . . .

CHRISSI: There’s been mixed reviews of this book. Did that affect your opinion going into the story?

BETH: I hadn’t actually realised there had been mixed reviews until you told me – haha! I’m a huge fan of Liane Moriarty although I’ve only managed to read a couple of her books – the incredible Big Little Lies and The Husband’s Secret (although I have Truly Madly Guilty on my shelves). I have to be honest and say that because of that, I probably look at the author’s work through rose-tinted glasses and was determined to keep an open mind, ignore the haters and try and make up my own mind about the novel as I read my way through.

BETH: I found Moriarty’s dry wit brought something a bit more interesting to this story. Do you agree?

CHRISSI: Interesting question. I think without dry wit this book would have puzzled me even more. I think it made the story more cold? If that makes sense. It wasn’t a heart-warming story. It was almost clinical for me. I hope that makes sense, I know what I mean. I felt like the way in which the book was written, didn’t really make you feel for the characters. It was almost like Liane Moriarty was making fun of her own characters.

CHRISSI: Why do you think the author chose to tell this story through multiple perspectives? How would it have changed your view of each of the characters if the story had been told through just one voice?

BETH: I always love a story told through multiple perspectives. You get a much more rounded view of the situation as it happens and a true view of each individual personality. I think if it had been told through one voice, you would have that individual bias of how just one character saw a situation and other people around them. It does make it more exciting too – especially if you’re not a fan of a particular individual but you’re keen to get back to another one’s point of view.

BETH: Who was your favourite character in Nine Perfect Strangers and why?

CHRISSI: Oh wow. This is a tough question because like I said in my previous answer to your question, I felt like I didn’t feel for any of the characters. That disengagement meant that I didn’t have a favourite character. I guess, if I had to pick I would pick Yao because I found him the most intriguing.

CHRISSI: Discuss the pros and cons of the retreat’s ban on technology and social media. What do you think the author is saying about the effects they have on society?

BETH: I’m not sure about the author’s personal views on social media and technology but I find it crazy sometimes how much they take over our lives. Obviously having blogs, we probably spend a good deal of our free time on social media. I know I post a lot on Instagram, try to blog hop every day and re-tweet other bloggers posts every day but I can also remember a time when we didn’t have the internet and I got my kicks by watching Top Of The Pops on a weekday night and recording the TOP 40 off the radio on Sunday afternoons! In a way, the fact that we have constant access to information (and funny animal videos which I have a particular fondness for!!) has isolated us slightly from those around us and I do try to restrict the time I spend on my phone and have normal, face to face conversations too. From the point of view of Nine Perfect Strangers though, it is fascinating to watch how individuals cope when these things we now take for granted are taken away from them.

BETH: I sympathise with your struggle to give this book a rating. Why do you think you’re torn in this way?

CHRISSI: I think it’s because I wanted to love it. I love Liane Moriarty’s writing and I know she is highly thought of. I also really enjoy reading her ideas. I just felt for me this book was too ridiculous and unbelievable. Not every book has to be believable, but something like this got too far fetched for me. I wanted to love it, I didn’t hate it…so I’m somewhere in-between. I think if I could have connected with the characters, then it might have been completely different.

CHRISSI: Would you ever go on a retreat like Tranquillum House? Why/Why not?

BETH: Maybe not EXACTLY like Tranquillum House haha. However, I could see myself doing something like this. I love the idea of getting away from the world and learning new techniques to relax. As long as I had a big pile of books to accompany me, I think I would quite enjoy a retreat like this. For now, I’ll take pleasure in my reading holidays to Malta with you my sister! 🙂

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Yes! I do like her writing and I’m not put off at all.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Yes! 3.5 stars!

CHRISSI: Yes?

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Talking About ‘The House On Half Moon Street’ with Bibliobeth!

The House on Half Moon Street (Leo Stanhope, #1)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Everyone has a secret… Only some lead to murder.

Leo Stanhope. Assistant to a London coroner; in love with Maria; and hiding a very big secret. 

For Leo was born Charlotte, but knowing he was meant to be a man – despite the evidence of his body – he fled his family home at just fifteen, and has been living as Leo ever since: his original identity known only to a few trusted people.

But then Maria is found dead and Leo is accused of her murder. Desperate to find her killer and under suspicion from all those around him, he stands to lose not just the woman he loves, but his freedom and, ultimately, his life.

CHRISSI: I told you when I started reading this book that it wasn’t what I had expected. Did you have any preconceptions of this book? Did it live up to your expectations?

BETH: I know you weren’t super keen on this one when we originally looked at it and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect myself. I’m desperately trying to step away from judging books too much before I give them a chance so I went into it with an open and intrigued mind. Also, even though I usually read the synopsis before I get stuck in, I tried to go into this book a little blind so that I could find out all about it myself without making any pre-judgements. In the end, I’m glad I did this as it made the story and the character of Leo more exciting for me and I was curious to see how it would continue.

BETH: What do you think you anticipated from this novel? How did your opinion change as you began and then finished it?

CHRISSI: I was NOT keen at all on reading this book. I did a you (hee hee) and judged it by its cover and the crime genre. I’m not a massive fan of the genre because it doesn’t always capture my attention. I personally feel that the genre is overpopulated and there are so many similar books. However, my opinion completely changed. I was pleasantly surprised and I feel like Alex Reeve brought something new to the genre.

CHRISSI: We’ve read books set in Victorian London before. How do you think the setting is compared to other books set in the same era?

BETH: I think the setting was definitely very evocative. Victorian London is one of my favourite settings to read about and I especially enjoy crime set in this era. However, because a lot of different works of fiction have been set within this time period, there is always a chance it can feel a bit stale. Luckily, I don’t believe this is the case with Half Moon Street. The author drops you expertly into the Victorian era with a lot of vivid descriptions of the streets and the people that walked them at this time in history. It took me right back in time, like I wanted and sits perfectly alongside other books set in this period.

BETH: Who was your favourite supporting character and why?

CHRISSI: I’m not sure it’s a ‘favourite’ as such but I was intrigued by Rosie Flowers. Yes, that really was her name. I wanted to know whether I could trust her or not and I was very interested in her history. It’s hard to pick a favourite as the characters are incredibly well rounded and developed. I think I could have easily picked a few. Maria herself intrigued me throughout, even though she had died (not a spoiler) early on in the story!

CHRISSI: Did this book capture your attention all the way through? What was it about the story that kept you reading?

BETH: I can say with complete confidence that my reason for turning the pages was most definitely the character of Leo. From the very beginning, you understand what an extraordinarily difficult life he has had and this could have made a story all of its own. When a murder is thrown into the mixture, Leo (turned amateur detective) becomes an even more endearing character who you find yourself rooting for constantly.

BETH: How do you think the author manages to capture the dark side of Victorian London?

CHRISSI: I felt like Alex Reeve really captured the dark side of Victorian London well. I definitely felt the atmosphere that I can imagine was around Victorian London. There were many elements that portrayed Victorian London effectively. The prostitution, the murders, the gore (especially the talk of the innards at the start!) the role of the men and women. It was all there in all it’s glory gory. It really struck a chord with me, that Leo knew he’d be put in an asylum if it was found that he dressed as a man.

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, what did you make of the ending? Can you see this becoming a long series?

BETH: I liked the ending! I thought I had it all figured out but not quite. Things are resolved to an extent but the reader is definitely left hanging in one respect as to what might happen next (generally speaking) in the life of our main character, Leo. It absolutely has the potential to run as quite a long series because of the strength of Leo’s character and the potential adventures that he could become embroiled in.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I would. As long as the series doesn’t go on for too long. I think it’s my problem with some crime fiction. It seems to go on for many books and my interest wanes. A trilogy is enough for my attention span! 😉

Would WE recommend it?

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

Before I Find You

Before I Find You: Are you being followed?

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Hodder & Stoughton

Synopsis:

Maggie is a husband watcher. A snooper, a marriage doctor, a destroyer of dreams, a killer of happy-ever-afters. She runs her own private detective agency specialising in catching out in those who cheat. And she is bloody good at it.

Helene is a husband catcher. A beautiful wife, a doting step-mother, a perfect home maker and a dazzling presence at parties. She has landed herself with one of the most eligible bachelors in town – handsome property developer Gabe Moreau.

Alice is just a teenager. A perfect daughter to Gabe, a kind stepchild to Helene, a tragic girl to a dead mother. She lives a sheltered but happy life, until she finds that handwritten note ‘You owe me. I’m not going away.’

All three women suspect Gabe Moreau of keeping secrets and telling lies. But not one of them suspects that these lies could end in cold-blooded murder . . .

Thoughts:

I think if you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I absolutely adore thrillers. Especially psychological thrillers. I thought the premise of this book sounded very intriguing, so I was excited to be approved for a copy. I had heard mixed things about this book. If I’m honest, I can see why it has mixed reviews, but I’m glad I read it because it was a story that captured my attention- even if it didn’t hold it all the way through.

It centres around a private detective named Maggie who specialises in catching cheating husbands. Helene is married to Gabe, a rich, successful man. She starts to doubt his faithfulness when she sees him with another woman. Helene hires Maggie to find out more. There are so many secrets and lies revealed as the story progresses and things aren’t what they seem.

I haven’t read this author before and I felt like she had a very easy to read writing style. I liked how she included a count down to an event from the very start of the book. It built tension and you just knew that something bad had happened. The characters were really interesting and well developed.

I think my trouble with this book was its pace. I like my psychological thrillers to pack a punch and move quickly.  I started to lose interest in the story. This book takes things very slow until the last few chapters where there are so many twists that you wonder if you’re still reading the same book.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Whilst it wasn’t my favourite psychological thriller, it was still a story that kept me reading!

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

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

Synopsis:

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink ever weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled existence. Except, sometimes, everything…

Thoughts:

People were going on and on about this book and I’ll be honest- I was scared of the hype surrounding it. Call me a wimp if you will, but I’m so used to hype letting me down. Really, I should’ve known it would be a good read because my dear sister and fellow book blogger Beth was nagging me to read it. I’m so pleased that I made time for it, because I thought it was a truly brilliant read.

The title itself intrigued me. I assumed before reading it that she wasn’t completely fine at all. I was right. Eleanor is a simply fascinating character. Her life consists of working and barely socialising with anyone. She’s a socially awkward character and in many ways, I felt she came across as having autism. She’s very to the point and blunt. This doesn’t exactly win her any friends. She’s such an outcast that she’s often someone that her co-workers laugh at. Eleanor drinks vodka over the weekends and isolates herself from the world. When Eleanor becomes closer to Raymond who works at her company, Eleanor’s outlook starts to change. They both help an elder man when he becomes ill in public. From then, Eleanor realises that she isn’t as fine as she thought she was. You see, Eleanor has an awful history. She wants to become happier and doesn’t want to be lonely or isolated anymore. Can she do it?

I loved that this story was a mix of melancholy and hopeful. There were some really fantastic laugh out loud moments. Eleanor seemed like she belonged in a different time period. She wasn’t up together with the modern world and why would she be? She was always alone. Gail Honeyman perfectly paints a picture of Eleanor’s isolation. Eleanor is incredibly awkward and you can see how her behaviour isolates herself from the rest of society. Please don’t think that this is a doom and gloom story though. It isn’t. It certainly becomes more hopeful. I don’t think I’ve rooted for a character as much as I did with Eleanor. She is complex but utterly wonderful. I can imagine that some readers might find her rude but her past has shaped who she is today.

I think it was perfect how more and more of Eleanor’s history came out as the story progressed. I think this was a fantastic way to build anticipation and keep the reader invested in the story. I was eager to find out what had happened to her. It’s horrific but so well written. You grow to love Eleanor so much that is breaks your heart even more when the truth is revealed.

This was an excellent debut from Gail Honeyman. Highly recommended!

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

This book is well worth the read, in my opinion! Eleanor stole my heart!

The Breakdown

The Breakdown

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Behind Closed Doors

Synopsis:

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside—the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Thoughts:

I loved Behind Closed Doors. It was such an excellent debut, that I’ve put off reading The Breakdown because I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. I’m very happy to say that it certainly did live up to my expectations. If I hadn’t been as busy as I was, I would’ve devoured this book in a day.

During a storm, Cass takes a detour through the woods to get out of the storm and be back at home. On the way, she notices a breakdown at the side of the road. Even though she is concerned, she doesn’t stop and just worries about getting home. The next day, she finds out that the woman at the side of the road has been killed. Cass can’t get her out of her head. Since that day, she’s been incredibly paranoid, forgetful and has been receiving silent phone calls. She can’t help that think the murderer might be after her…

I loved that The Breakdown had a very different vibe to it. I liked that I was kept guessing. I really didn’t know whether Cass was a reliable narrator. I did doubt her along the way. I didn’t know if we were being lead to believe that Cass was on the brink of a breakdown or whether something terrible was happening. I did guess one of the twists, but another I was quite oblivious to.

I can see why some people find Cass to be a frustrating protagonist. She’s not got much of a back bone. Yet, there was something about her that I personally found to be quite endearing.

I think this book is well worth reading, if you’re into exciting, unreliable narrators.

Would I recommend it?
Of course! 4.5 stars

I really enjoyed this book! I thought it was an utterly addictive read.

Talking About ‘Dear Mrs Bird’ with Bibliobeth!

Dear Mrs Bird

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

Synopsis:

London, 1940. Emmeline Lake is Doing Her Bit for the war effort, volunteering as a telephone operator with the Auxiliary Fire Services. When Emmy sees an advertisement for a job at the London Evening Chronicle, her dreams of becoming a Lady War Correspondent suddenly seem achievable. But the job turns out to be working as a typist for the fierce and renowned advice columnist, Henrietta Bird. Emmy is disappointed, but gamely bucks up and buckles down.

Mrs. Bird is very clear: letters containing any Unpleasantness must go straight in the bin. But when Emmy reads poignant notes from women who may have Gone Too Far with the wrong men, or who can’t bear to let their children be evacuated, she is unable to resist responding. As the German planes make their nightly raids, and London picks up the smoldering pieces each morning, Emmy secretly begins to write back to the readers who have poured out their troubles.

CHRISSI: We all know now that you’re a cover judger. (Tee hee!) What were your first impressions of this book?

BETH: Sssh, that’s a secret! Oh well, you’re right, everyone probably knows by now. To be honest, with Dear Mrs Bird, I didn’t really have any impressions of the cover, positive or negative. I thought it was an okay cover, remarkably inoffensive but something that didn’t give away much about the contents of the novel (which can both a good and bad thing!) or stands out in any way. Luckily, I had heard good things about it from my fellow bloggers and had some vague idea about the arc of the story so I was looking forward to reading it.

BETH: Author AJ Pearce incorporates charmingly old-fashioned expressions to help convey a sense of the time period. What were some of your favourite terms? Did the language help your understanding of the era and the characters’ personalities?

CHRISSI: My impression of the book was indeed that it was charmingly old-fashioned. It was awfully British. I loved how Mrs Bird described anything ‘naughty’ in the letters as ‘unpleasantness.’ I also loved the use of the word ‘jolly’ too. We don’t use jolly enough. I’m going to make it my mission to bring it back. I liked it said someone was ‘awfully lucky.’ There was a lot of ‘awfully’! Two of my favourites were ‘Right-o!’ and ‘Crikey!’ It definitely gave me a sense of the era and of the characters’ personalities.

CHRISSI: One of the major themes of the novel is friendship. Discuss Emmy and Bunty’s relationship, and all the ways they support and encourage each other over the course of the novel.

BETH: I do love a strong female friendship in a novel, especially one like Emmy and Bunty’s where they are so close that they literally become part of each other’s family. I think both girls needed the other one in their lives for strong support, humour and to confide in during the tough and dangerous times that they are living in. This is particularly evident when a crack forms in the relationship and the two girls are almost lost without the other to lean on.

BETH: Did you have a favourite character in this novel and why?

CHRISSI: I did have a favourite character. I did enjoy the friendship between Emmy and Bunty, but I have to say I liked Emmy more. I thought she was a very easy character to like. I was rooting for her throughout the story. I really wanted her to do well.

CHRISSI: Did you enjoy the pace of the story? Was it ever too slow/fast for you?

BETH: I did enjoy the pace. It wasn’t particularly action-packed and exciting but I don’t think that’s what the author intended it to be. It was about very ordinary characters doing extraordinary deeds and displaying huge amounts of resilience when placed in war-torn London and having their lives put at risk every single day. At some points it did feel slightly too “jolly hockey sticks,” and “British stiff upper lip,” but at the same time, I really enjoyed the quintessential and classic British-ness of it all.

BETH: Do you think Emmy was right to confront William after he rescued the two children? Was his reaction warranted?

CHRISSI: I could see it from both Emmy and William’s point of view. Emmy was worried about William losing his life and wondered how her good friend Bunty would deal with that if it happened. William was purely doing his job though so I can totally see why it got his back up.

CHRISSI: If you were to put this book into a genre, which one would you put it in?

BETH: I think I would put it in historical fiction, purely for the World War II aspect, the emotional accounts of the bombings and the brave efforts of so many volunteers to keep London and its inhabitants safe each night.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Yes, I liked the author’s rather gentle writing style!

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Yes! 3.5 stars

CHRISSI: Of course!

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

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

Synopsis:

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ’80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Written with Reid’s signature talent for creating “complex, likable characters” (Real Simple), this is a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it costs—to face the truth.

Thoughts:

This book was pushed on me by my sister Beth. She read it with Janel and I heard so much about how they loved it. So being the good bookish sister I am, I decided to make time for The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo. I’m thrilled that I did because I thought it was a spectacular read.

I don’t want to explain too much about the plot, because I think it’s one in which you have to get into it and discover for yourself. Also, the synopsis definitely gives you a vibe. I’d say it’s only a vibe though…the story certainly surprised me along the way.

This book is told in two narratives that sit nicely side by side. That narrative doesn’t always work for me, but for this book I thought it was exceptionally well done. We hear from a young reporter named Monique who is interviewing Evelyn and Evelyn herself. Evelyn, the beautiful, successful Hollywood actress. It goes all the way back to the beginning of Evelyn’s career in the 1940/50s. I think it perfectly captured the era or at least how I imagine the era would be. This story is so cleverly written. I loved how it was split into parts detailing Evelyn’s many husbands and that particular period of her married life. It was great to read the interactions between Monique and Evelyn too. I feel like Evelyn empowered Monique and I’m all for that.

There’s so much to get stuck into in this story. It’s full of romance and manipulation. To me, it was an excellent depiction of what Hollywood was (and still is?) like. Evelyn was a force to be reckoned with. I loved the female empowerment in this story. Evelyn is not afraid to use her good looks (and big bust!) to get ahead of the competition. She used her sexuality to push herself forward in the business and did so unashamedly. In that time period, Evelyn only really had her sexuality to use. Women certainly weren’t treated equally and sadly that can still be the case now too. Evelyn is a fascinating character because she doesn’t come across well. She’s not easy to love. She’s ruthless, willing to do anything to be successful and she plays the system well. Yet I liked her because of these flaws. It didn’t matter how cut throat she was, there was still something that I loved about her. I was rooting for everything to go well for her.

I was so impressed with this book. I didn’t expect to be as gripped as I was. Yes, Beth. You were right. I loved it!

Would I recommend it?:
Without a doubt!