Why Did You Lie? by Ysra Sigurdardottir

imageA journalist on the track of an old case attempts suicide. An ordinary couple return from a house swap in the states to find their home in disarray and their guests seemingly missing. Four strangers struggle to find shelter on a windswept spike of rock in the middle of a raging sea. They have one thing in common: they all lied. And someone is determined to punish them…

So I think I have found one of my favourite books of the year.  A complete surprise, as it’s not an author I’ve read before and I didn’t know what to expect, but I think it’s fair to say I have been completely blown away.

It starts with the characters, all of whom are so well drawn I felt I knew them by the end of the book.  Each of them felt different and real.  They had complex personalities, habits and quirks (good and bad), something I think it’s hard to do when there are multiple narrations going on at the same time.  And each was dealing with curveballs unexpectedly thrown at them by life (or nature in the case of those trapped on the spike of rock), making their stories interesting outside of the murder plot.

Then there is the setting – I am not sure I’ve read a book set in Iceland before – but the cold, the snow, the sea, all made it feel claustrophobic and not somewhere I would want to be trying to escape a killer.  It felt dark and oppressive, especially when you add in the police’s attitude – it can only be described as misogynistic, meaning women weren’t being listened to and assumptions to behaviours were being made.

And finally there was the way the story was told.  Each chapter laid out a different part of each characters story but they were all taking place within a few days of each other, which threw me off at first until I realised what was happening; more importantly it means it’s hard for the reader to put the pieces together.  You have to ask yourself what has happened, what is to come.  I did finally figure it out (a game I always play with this type of book) but it wasn’t far from the end and it felt like a lightbulb going of.

O.k. so that maybe wasn’t so finally as I need to add that Why Did You Lie? is well written, very well translated, and has a great pace.  I could not put it down and – almost a week later – am still thinking about it.  I’ll be looking for more books by Yrsa Sigurdardottir, even if I may never be able to pronounce her name.  Loved this book – highly recommended.

Emma

Please note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

Tuesday Intro: Fractured

imageOnce again, I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

Today I’m reading Fractured by Catherine McKenzie, an author who is fast becoming a favourite of mine. Here’s what it’s about…

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Julie Prentice and her family move across the country to the idyllic Mount Adams district of Cincinnati, hoping to evade the stalker who’s been terrorizing them ever since the publication of her bestselling novel, The Murder Game. Since Julie doesn’t know anyone in her new town, when she meets her neighbor John Dunbar, their instant connection brings measured hope for a new beginning. But she never imagines that a simple, benign conversation with him could set her life spinning so far off course.

After a series of misunderstandings, Julie and her family become the target of increasingly unsettling harassment. Has Julie’s stalker found her, or are her neighbors out to get her, too? As tension in the neighborhood rises, new friends turn into enemies, and the results are deadly.

and here’s how it starts…

Today

John

6:00 a.m.

I’m still not certain what it was that made me begin my daily morning vigil at the front windows.

Something innocuous, I’m sure. That’s what I’ll say later today, surely, when I’m asked. Whatever the cause, the effect is that it feels like my days have always begun this way. Me in my boxers, coffee mug in hand, staring out the window at the neighbor’s house. And that my days always will begin this way, although I know neither is possible.

The coffee in my mug is strong and bitter. A plume of steam rises from it, circling the rim. We haven’t turned the heat on yet, so the hardwood floor is cold beneath my bare feet. As I catch a draft from the window that needs caulking and the skin on my arms turns to gooseflesh, I think about how important these moments of silence are to me. The time it takes for me to make a cup of coffee and drink it.

These are the moments I have to consider. To watch. To plan.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Emma

 

The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne

imageA 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?

I had heard a lot about The Ice Twins before I bought it – which was quite a while ago if I’m honest – and I had also read The Fire Child, S. K. Tremayne’s second book, which I’d enjoyed.  This meant I had high expectations for this book even before I’d crack the spine, not always a good thing as it’s much easier to be disappointed.  I have to say, however, that I wasn’t. This is a good book and better than The Fire Child in many ways.

It’s better because the characters feel more solid and real, the husband a little less unrealistic in his behaviour, and because it’s spookier.  I know this isn’t a ghost story but it has elements that definitely lend itself to that, especially whether there are one or two twins living in the remote farmhouse with Sarah and Angus.  They are identical so if there were two, how would you tell?  And what about the toys that keep appearing, the way that children at school respond to Kirstie / Lydia?  It’s a great set up and S. K. Tremayne does a great job of keeping you guessing as, slowly, secrets are revealed.

This is one of those books where nothing is as it seems, no one is telling the truth and no one is quite as perfect as they may initially appear.  At the heart of it all though is a distraught little girl who can’t seem to get anyone to believe her.  But then, to do that, her parents would have to face some hard realities.  I loved all the “is she / isn’t she” Kirstie or Lydia questions and the twists and turns the book took.  I couldn’t decide if I liked Sarah or Angus or if they were right, wrong, good or bad.  Add to that the remote setting, with the harsh conditions and the not so trusting locals and it really did make it a page-turner.

I can see why so many people raved about it when it was released and think I am now one of them.  I would recommend this book, especially as the nights draw in as it’s the perfect time for something a little spooky, and liked it a lot.  Enjoy!

Emma

Weekly round-up:25th September, 2016

Hi all – welcome to what looks like is going to be a very rainy Sunday in my neck of the world. It’s not exactly what we wanted for the Victorian Fun Day we are going to today but we’ll head out anyway…it’s an excuse to wear my new pink wellies so I’m not complaining (too much!). And I suppose we have to get used to more rainy days now the seasons are getting ready to change *slight sigh*.

Plus, it’s been a pretty decent week up until now. Weather wise the sun has been shining and work wise I’ve been nowhere near as crazy busy. I’ve actually had proper time to spend with my family and do “me things”, including actually starting exercising again for the first time in a long time.

Blog wise I got my usual four posts up (I have decided this might be my magic number ). I wrote two reviews for what ended up being a mixed book bag for me this week. The first book The Highway by C. J. Box, a new to me author with a quite back catalogue I will now have to try and catch up on as I really enjoyed this book. It has a serial killer, a strong female lead, twists and turns and something I didn’t see coming that made the story stand out for me.  Unfortunately it was followed by a book that just didn’t work for me – Girl Number One by Jane Holland. On paper this seems my type of book with an unsolved murder and a young woman at the heart of it – and at the heart of a string of other murders. I wanted to like it but it couldn’t get away with the characters.

Reading wise, I read The Kind Worth Killing by Peter Swanson, which has been on my reading list forever and I really enjoyed.

imageOn a night flight from London to Boston, Ted Severson meets the mysterious Lily Kintner. Sharing one too many martinis, the strangers begin to play a game of truth, revealing intimate details about themselves. Ted talks about his marriage and his wife Miranda, who he’s sure is cheating on him. But their game turns dark when Ted jokes that he could kill Miranda for what she’s done. Lily, without missing a beat, says calmly, “I’d like to help.”

From there, Ted and Lily’s twisted bond grows stronger as they plot Miranda’s demise, but soon these co-conspirators are embroiled in a game of cat-and-mouse–one they both cannot survive–with a shrewd and very determined detective on their tail.

I also read Why Did You Lie?  by Yrsa Sigurdardottir which was clever and kept me guessing throughout.

imageA journalist on the track of an old case attempts suicide. An ordinary couple return from a house swap in the states to find their home in disarray and their guests seemingly missing. Four strangers struggle to find shelter on a windswept spike of rock in the middle of a raging sea. They have one thing in common: they all lied. And someone is determined to punish them…

 

I only picked up one book (because my pile of library books is still threatening to fall over), a review copy of Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. I love her books and am excited to start this one.

imageRuth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

And that’s it for my reading week.  Like last week, I thought I would finish this post with a song. I watched Pitch Perfect this week and this song was in it, reminding me of a version I had listened to non-stop a few years ago and thought I would share.

 

Enjoy and let me know how your week went and what you read.

emma x

This week, I’m linking in with Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and her Sunday Post and with (a little early) Katherine at Book Date for It’s Monday, What Are you Reading? Head over to see what other bloggers have read, written about or just added to their shelves.

The Sunday Post

Girl Number One by Jane Holland

30824457As a young child, Eleanor Blackwood witnessed her mother’s murder in woods near their farm. The killer was never found.

Now an adult, Eleanor discovers a woman’s body in the same spot in the Cornish woods where her mother was strangled eighteen years before. But when the police get there, the body has disappeared.

Is Eleanor’s disturbed mind playing tricks on her again, or has her mother’s killer resurfaced? And what does the number on the dead woman’s forehead signify?

On the surface Girl Number One has everything I look for in a book.   It starts with a murder and the body count stacks up from there – though not too much and not in a gory way, which I find hard to handle nowadays.  In the middle of it all, and seemingly the target of the yet to be caught serial killer, is Ellie – a newly qualified teacher who has moved back to the Cornish village she grew up in.  In part, she has moved back to be near her dad but also so she can face her demons – when she was six she saw her mother murdered in the same woods she now goes running every day.

It is whilst she’s out running that she comes across girl number three, a young woman lying dead in the exact spot her mother was murdered.  Unfortunately, by the time the police arrive the body is gone and, because of events in Ellie’s past that are never clear, the police don’t believe her.  It’s only when the second body turns up that they start to realise she isn’t making things up and she might just be in danger.

All in all, then, the book starts really well.  The tension mounts as Ellie tries to get the police to believe her – at the same time as trying to figure out the answers herself.  There are friends who might not be as friendly as she thinks, nosey neighbours, and village locals who seem like they have something to hide.  It’s no wonder Ellie starts to doubt everyone around her – and I did too.

Unfortunately, after building up the tension, the book didn’t seem to know where to go.  Ellie’s behaviour stops seeming to fit with a damaged and frightened young woman and she makes some very bad choices in who to spend time with.  It stopped making sense for me at this point and I started to get annoyed, especially in a couple of places where she literally thinks someone is the killer and then gets pretty personal with them seconds later.

I always struggle to enjoy a book if I don’t like the central characters and this started to happen here.  I just didn’t warm to Ellie, didn’t feel the risk surrounding her, and – as she is pretty much the only main character in the book – I have to admit that I did start to switch off a little.   And, unfortunately, none of the other characters were strong enough to take my eye off being irritated with Ellie.  The other thing that distracted me was the police – I really didn’t understand why they didn’t want to give her the time of day at the beginning.  Maybe understanding that would have helped me.

That doesn’t mean it was bad book.  It wasn’t.  The story was a good idea and there were some good twists – I still wasn’t sure which of two main characters were the killer till close to the end (though my suspicions were right).  It just needed a little more finessing and tightening in the middle and I think then – for me – it would good from a good book to a great one…meaning I liked but didn’t love this one.

Emma

Note: I received a copy of this book from Net Galley in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

 

Tuesday Intro: Call for the Dead

imageOnce again, I’m linking up again with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. In really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week, after reading a lot about John Le Carre this last week or so, and realising I’ve never read any of his books, I’ve picked up Call for the Dead, the first featuring his most famous character George Smiley.  Here’s what it’s about…

25345317After a routine security check by George Smiley, civil servant Samuel Fennan apparently kills himself.

When Smiley finds Circus head Maston is trying to blame him for the man’s death, he begins his own investigation, meeting with Fennan’s widow to find out what could have led him to such desperation. But on the very day that Smiley is ordered off the enquiry he receives an urgent letter from the dead man.

Do the East Germans – and their agents – know more about this man’s death than the Circus previously imagined?

And here’s how it starts…

When Lady Ann Sercomb married George Smiley towards the end of the war she described him to her astonished Mayfair friends as breathtakingly ordinary.  When she left him two years later in favour of a Cuban motor racing driver, she announced enigmatically that if she hadn’t left him then, she never could have done; and Viscount Sawley made a special journey to his club to observe that the cat was out of the bag.

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Emma

The Highway by C. J. Box

25586477

It was Danielle and Gracie’s secret. A teenage adventure. A 1,000 mile drive along the spine of the Rocky Mountains to visit Danielle’s boyfriend in Montana. Their parents were never to know.

But now the girls have simply vanished.

The only person who knows they’re missing is Danielle’s boyfriend. He persuades his father – a disgraced, suspended cop – to search for them.

But he too simply disappears.

Now it’s up to rookie cop, war widow and single mother Cassie Dewell to find them. Her investigation will introduce her to FBI’s Highway Serial Killer Task Force, compel her to confront a spate of roadside sexual mutilations and murders, and lure her towards a darkness greater than anything she could ever have imagined.

I love discovering a new author – or at least new to me (C. J. Box has been around a while and has quite a back catalogue) – and new characters that I immediately like and want to get to know more.  There is a feeling of real satisfaction when you do either but both is a real win in my book and it’s how I felt reading The Highway which I really enjoyed.

The story itself is pretty simple – two girls go missing and a serial killer is on the loose.  He is convinced he has a fool proof plan, picking up women in truck stops.  He just doesn’t count on a renegade cop with nothing to lose picking up his trail.  Make that two renegade cops as Cassie is almost as willing to go rogue as her mentor Cody Hoyt.  Both are like dogs with bones, willing to stop at nothing and suspicious of everyone – rightly so it turns out.

I loved Cassie’s doggedness and her need to do the right thing, even if that wasn’t always in line with the law of the land.  At the same time, she isn’t rock-hard, invulnerable.  Often in these books the female detectives don’t have a family or boyfriend and so nothing to connect them to real life.  This can make them hard and unlikeable.  Not so the case with Cassie – she has a life in the form of a little boy.  It meant Cassie was connected to the world and so it made her more human.

I also loved the setting for the story – Montana, a place I’ve always wanted to go and where the rugged and harsh landscape added to the sense of tension and dread as Cassie and Cody searched for the girls.  It also added to a sense of danger, not just for the girls but for the detectives.  It is a place, as described, where people are loners and don’t welcome outside interest, especially not from law enforcement.

It all made for a really cracking piece of crime writing, well-paced and well written and, as said at the beginning, I really enjoyed reading it. I will definitely be reading the follow-up, which I have read is even better, and am definitely recommending this book.  Liked it a lot!

Emma

 

 

This Week, Next Week: 18th September, 2016

Wow! Another week gone…and where? I really have no idea. I know quite a lot of time has been spent travelling for work but I feel I must have done something else. Other than reading and watching TV though I’m not sure I did.  It’s not completely from lack of trying more from circumstance and bad planning. So I had a class in fiction writing yesterday but had managed to book a hair appointment in for the same time – unfortunately the class had to go as my hair was seriously too long – and then I tried to go to a heritage market, only to find that I had the wrong day!  Here’s hoping to a more interesting week this week.

Blogging wise, I posted four times including two review – Blind Side by Jennie Ensor which was a much more complex story than I had expected when I first got sent a copy. It’s a thriller set against the tense backdrop of the 7/7 bombings and cleverly done. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins which, I am pleased to say, did live up to the hype. It’s a well written and fast paced piece of crime writing with lots of twists and turns. I also wrote about my occasional daydreams of writing fiction for the Book blogger hop: novel ideas.

 

Unfortunately with so much travelling I didn’t get much blog visiting done or add any other books to my to read list. Probably a good thing as I’m behind on my book reading. Any thing I should have read or posts I’ve missed?

So instead of ending this weeks post with a list of books added to shelves I thought I’d end with a song which has been pretty much on repeat on my long drives this week. It’s a few years old but I find the message one I need to remember. Enjoy and have a good week.

Emma

This week, I’m linking in with Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and her Sunday Post and with (a little early) Katherine at Book Date for It’s Monday, What Are you Reading? Head over to see what other bloggers have read, written about or just added to their shelves.

The Sunday Post

Book blogger hop: novel ideas

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I’m joining in with Billy at Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer‘s book blogger hop again this week, where they post a question which you and other bloggers answer, hopping from blog to blog to see people’s answers. This week, the question is…

Have you ever wanted to write a book? If so, what genre would you choose? And…have you been successful in writing a book?

And my answer is yes (to the wanting to) and no (to the ever been successful at it).

I wonder if there is any of us out there who haven’t thought about it – what it would be like to be writing vs. reading words – and it crosses my mind every now and then.  Currently it’s a now phase as I’m taking a short course in fiction writing which is fun.  I don’t know if anything will come of it but I figured why not – plus it’s free so I’ve got nothing to lose but my pride!

The big thing of course if as much as I or anyone else might want to write you still have to have a talent for the written word plus dedication and ability to get over any fear of rejection – all pretty big things.  If, however, it turns out I do have these then I would definitely try to turn my hand to writing.  Leading to the next part of the question…what genre?

Whilst I would like to say I would look to write a piece of profound literary fiction that blew people’s minds and was talked about long after I shuffled off this mortal coil, in reality I would probably write something that involved death murdering kind.  My favourite genre is crime fiction and it is a formulae I feel I know well.  I definitely couldn’t write something humourous or historical because humour is hard to get right on paper and historical fiction scares me in that it has to be accurate or you have people like me picking it apart.

So, crime fiction it is, assuming I can overcome all other obstacles.  What about you? Do you write or would you like to? What do you (want to) write about?

Emma

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

23364977Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

Commuting is one of the worst things on the planet, I am convinced of it, and anyone who has had to live through a long commute – be it by train or car – will no doubt know the feeling of drifting off into your own world, imagining what it would be like to live in the houses you pass or live the lives of the people you see.

This seems even more reasonable for Rachel when you start to see just how miserable she is and how far her life has gone of the rails (no pun intended!).  She has no job, drinks too much and rents a room from a friend because – after she and her husband separated – he kept the house she loved.  Add to that said husband is now remarried with a perfect wife and a baby and it’s no wonder she daydreams about a life she could be living.  A life she is convinced “Jess” and “Jason” live.

These aren’t their real names but ones she has created for a couple she sees most days on her trip into London.  She has also created a vision of the perfect life they are living.  She wants to be Jess, be loved by Jason.  Then she sees in the local paper Jess is missing and decides she wants to try help find her. Unfortunately, her drinking makes her an unreliable witness and her erractic behaviour further dents her credibility and make people wonder if she is really trying to help or has some other motive.

It makes for a really good set-up to a really good story, made even better as it’s told not just by Rachel but also Jess and the new wife. With alternating chapters and the past and present slowly been revealed it seems all three women have more in common than they might think. It was like peeling layers of an onion as each secret was revealed and the story took another twist or turn. I have to say each secret made me like the women a little less though I did have some sympathy for how they needed up in their present situations. I just wouldn’t want to be their friends.

Normally not liking central characters would put me off a book but in this case because they were still compelling and there were some many twists and turns as secrets were revealed I couldn’t stop turning pages. It helps that it was well written and had a good pace. I understand now why so many people said they couldn’t put it down. I have to say that I have now joined these ranks and if – like me – you put off reading it because of the hype – I would recommend picking it up after all. I liked this a lot.

Emma x