Here We Lie by Sophie McKenzie

24956951When a family holiday turns tragic and a member of their party is found dead it seems an adverse reaction to over the counter medicines is the culprit, that or a faulty batch having being bought.

That’s what everyone thinks, including the police. Everyone that is but Emily. She thinks it’s murder and is convinced she knows who is responsible and why. Unfortunately, no one but her ex-boyfriend wants to believe her, not even her fiancé Jed.

If anything, it’s Jed’s reaction that pushes her to try and find out the truth. He is steadfast in his disbelief, though as the prime suspect is a member of his family it’s maybe no wonder. The more Emily digs, though, the more it looks like she is right and the more she finds herself in danger.

I’m being a little vague here because the death at the beginning was a nice twist and I don’t want to give it away. It’s one of the first of many, some more believable than others, that kept me on my toes and turning pages. It wasn’t what I expected and I liked that. I also liked the story itself, though there were a few places where I think it dragged a bit, getting bogged down in details of Emily’s life I didn’t need.

Emily is the main character and tells the story of what is happening in the present in her own voice. She’s likeable if a little woolly on her decision making at times – I can’t see why she would be with Jed in a month of Sundays for example, and well written. We get alternate glimpses of the past through chapters on her and her siblings’ childhood and also through a potentially unreliable narrator – thirteen year old Dee Dee’s video diary. They show not everything is as rosy in her life as Emily thought it was.

Dee Dee comes across as a “typical” confused teen, Jed a stereotypical older man with control issues. Unlike Emily, they weren’t as fleshed out and neither were the other main characters (Emily’s brother and sister who are actually pretty important to the story). I would have liked to care for them more but I didn’t get the chance and that did leave me a little frustrated as I got to the end.

Saying that, I still enjoyed the book. It wasn’t the best written I’ve ever read and, like I mentioned, it did get lost in details sometimes, but it was a good story and kept me interested. The ending wasn’t one I saw coming and was actually a little sad. Everything was tied up nicely but not everyone got the answers they wanted. Because of this, I would say I liked but didn’t love the book – there is something here though that I think readers of crime fiction will enjoy.

Emma

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The Well by Catherine Chanter

Iimagen the not so distant future, the world is falling apart. In the UK there has been years of drought, impacting the economy and the way people treat each other. Religious worship is on the rise as people search for answers and government policy is becoming dictatorial. Into the chaos step Ruth and Mark, a middle-aged couple who move to the countryside in search of a new life.

Living and working on a farm has always been Mark’s dream and Ruth goes along with it, hoping it will save them and their marriage. Arriving at The Well, though, she realises is isn’t just for Mark, it is for her. It couldn’t be more perfect. And it couldn’t be more fertile. Whilst the rain refuses to fall in the rest of the country, at The Well it falls most nights. When it doesn’t the land draws nourishment from the natural streams that runs through it’s property.

Lost in their own private oasis, the couple are slow to realise just how much their good fortune is rubbing their neighbours up the wrong way, and drawing attention they don’t need from the wider world. As government agencies start to become interested and worshippers appear at their gate, Ruth and Mark begin to fall apart, each responding differently but each pretty badly to the situation and neither seems to realise the other is struggling. When the sisters arrive things go from bad to worse and death follows.

All this is told from Ruth’s perspective with a sense of doom for things that have already happened, tragedies lived through and decisions made that cannot be undone. It’s a mix of past and present, with Ruth gradually piecing things together. It is all just a bit depressing, a vision of a world where things have gone wrong and nobody knows quite how to make them right again. The world of The Well is a microcosm of what is going on everywhere and you know it can’t end well. Which it doesn’t.

Given that Ruth was under house arrest when the story starts this isn’t a surprise. How the story unfolds is – the slow deterioration of her marriage and her mind before the final rush towards disaster, the lack of understanding of just what is happening and unwillingness to face facts. And the kindness of strangers, showing the world isn’t always all bad.

My library has this book categorised as crime and there is a murder but it feels like more than that. It is about how a lot of people are hanging on by a thread and how it doesn’t take much for that thread to snap. And it is a warning about how easy it is for the world to fall apart thanks to the vagaries of nature, especially if we keep destroying the planet the way we are.

Given the subject matter, I can’t say that this is a book everyone will enjoy, though I did. It’s well written, with great characterisation (even if I didn’t completely like anyone, I did feel for the most) and I would think would be something any fan of dystopian fiction should give a go.  An excellent debut – liked it a lot!

Emma x

Tuesday Intro: 24th November, 2015

Once again this week I’m linking up 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. I really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

imageThis week, I’m reading The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. It’s young adult so not my normal read but I am trying to step outside the box with my reading a bit more and it looked interesting when I saw it on the shelf at the library.

Here’s what it’s about…

What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

And here’s how it starts…

On the day we’re the last people to see indie kid Finn alive, we’re all sprawled together in the Field, talking about love and stomachs.

“I don’t believe that, though,” my sister says, and I look up at the slight tension in her voice. She gives me a half-annoyed nod of reassurance in the sunshine, then shakes her head again at Henna. “You always have a choice. I don’t care if you think it’s love –and by the way, NOT a word you should throw around so easily –but even if that, even if that word, you can still choose to act right.”

What do you ink? Would you keep reading?

emma

Library Check Out: October

As you may know now, I am a huge fan of the library and, this year, have been doing a library challenge.  I really don’t know how my bank balance would cope without free books or how guilty I would feel about the books I’ve tried and failed  to read over the years if I’d paid for them all. I probably don’t do enough though to really sing the praises of the library and show just how wide a range of books you can get.

Last month, River City Reading started a new linky – Library Check Out – and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to start highlighting and promoting library books so, this month – a few days late, I must admit – I’m joining in. The idea is to list books you’ve read, books you’ve loaned out, books you returned unread and those on hold so here goes….

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Compared to other months my library reading has been quite low, mainly I think because of moving house. It’s meant a new library and less time to browse the shelves.

(clicking on the titles should take you to my reviews)

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Currently On Loan

Next month should hold more reads as I already have four books out on loan ready to read.

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You can read overviews of them all here.

For books returned and books on hold, I have none. I must admit I rarely reserve books, just turn up and see what’s on the shelves. Not reads usually do occur but not this month so it’s been quite a good one in that regard.

How about you…have you been using your library? what have you read?

Emma

Interested in what others are reading head over to River City Reading to find out.

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Eeny Meeny by M. J. Arlidge

17860826So, I’m rather behind in this series of books featuring Detective Inspector Helen Grace – four books behind I think.  In fact, I have to be honest and say I hadn’t heard of them until seeing a review of the latest on Debbish.com.  After that, I seemed to see the posters everywhere – and so, spurred on, I went and got the first book – Eeny Meeny – from the library.

I’m really glad I did, although it’s quite a dark book.  Helen Grace is a complicated character and not a particularly nice one.  She has, it turns out as the book progresses, got lots of baggage and her ways of coping aren’t ones most people would look to.  Still, by the end, I couldn’t help but like her. She is loyal to her team and knows how to say sorry when she messes up.

The story is just as dark as Helen herself and quite clever I thought.  There is a serial killer on the loose, a female.  This in itself is unusual but her method of killing is stranger still, because she doesn’t actually kill anyone.  Instead, she kidnaps two people, locks them in a room with no food and no water, just a gun with one bullet in it.  Their choice is for one to kill the other so at least one survives or for them both to die.The question for the survivors is whether being alive is the better option.

And the question for Helen is why?, especially when she realises that she knows nearly one of each pairing.  There has to be a link to her past but what is it?  This, for me, was the only part of the book that disappointed me a little.  Not the final reveal of who the killer was but that, after building up the tension for the most of the book and it being a real cat and mouse game, Helen seems to figure it out within a few pages, without the help of her team.  A team that had been involved all the way through.  I felt it was a bit of a cheat.

Overall though, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the book.  It was well written and a real page turner. I thought it was a clever idea for a story and the plotting (other than the little bit I just mentioned) was well done, with some great twists and turns and red herrings.  For the starter to a series, the characters were well drawn and interesting and I am looking forward to see how they develop going forward, especially Helen given the ending.  Definitely worth a read – I liked this a lot!

Emma

A Mother’s Story by Amanda Prowse

imageWhen newly weds Jessica and Matthew find out she is pregnant, it’s unexpected but not unwelcome news.  They had planned on waiting a while until they had children – they’re only in their early 20’s – but it isn’t like they didn’t want them and, with good jobs and a nice home, a baby feels like a perfect addition to their pretty perfect life.  Unfortunately, once their little girl is born, things are not as perfect as they had hoped as Jessica struggles to come to terms with motherhood and those around her struggle to understand just what is happening.

A Mother’s Story opens with Jessica being admitted to hospital, where she is treated with a mix of kindness and complete disrespect and disdain by the nurses, before returning to her wedding day and telling the story of her and Matthew’s courtship and the early days of their marriage through to her admittance.  Each chapter gives a snapshot of their lives before ending with a diary entry, written by Jessica and set in the present.  It paints a much darker picture of her life than the chapters would suggest.  And it shows just how deep a depression she is in as she is diagnosed with and tries to recover from post natal depression.

This isn’t something I have experience of myself and I don’t know anyone directly who has but I work in the mental health field and I know it is not only common but can be debilitating at a time when women are supposed to be at their happiest.  I think Amanda Prowse does a really good job of presenting the condition sympathetically and explaining it without being overly factual in a work of fiction.  I did feel for Jessica, although as a couple, she and Matthew are quite sickeningly happy and possibly a little too perfect for me.  I think, though, that part of the idea of this was to show that post natal depression can happen to anyone and it can be completely life changing and out of a person’s control.

Even with this, I did enjoy it, though not as much as the first (and only other) Amanda Prowse novel I’ve read – What Have I Done.  This might be because I listened to vs. read the book and found the narration a little off-putting at times – it was done by Prowse herself and her voice just didn’t seem to fit for me or have enough range when the different characters were speaking.  I stopped more than once for a few days before continuing because I did want to know how it ended.  Which mean that, overall, I would have to say I liked vs. loved this book.  Still, worth a read (vs. listen!).

Emma

 

Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbo

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Olav is a fixer, in that he fixes people’s death. And he’s good at it. He works for one man, Hoffman, though he thinks of himself as a contractor able to pick and chose his jobs. When Hoffman asks him to kill his wife, Olav realises things aren’t that clear cut. Especially when he falls in love with said wife, Corina, and decides to rescue her instead. Now both have prices on their heads and Olav sets out to find a way out of the mess he’s created.

Despite presenting himself as someone who isn’t that smart (and seeming to believe it), Olav is a pretty clever guy, giving Hoffman a run for his money and coming up with a fairly novel solution to his problem. It’s a solution that involves a bit of bloodshed but nowhere near as much as I would normally expect from Jo Nesbo. This was a nice surprise and not at all unwelcome as I don’t seem to have the stomach for blood and guts I once did and Nesbo’s Harry Hole series can be rather gruesome.

The other thing that was different is that this was a fairly simple story. Normally, in the Harry Hole novels there are plots and sub-plots and red herrings galore. Here, the story was all about Olav and, other than some flashbacks to his childhood, what he was doing to save himself and Corina. I liked this and I liked Olav. He was an interesting character and well drawn, unlike Croina and everyone else in the book who were two dimensional at best and who I didn’t care for one way or the other.

Part of this might have been down to the fact that this was a short book, coming in around 200 pages. In fact, it didn’t feel like a novel but a novella or long short story. I didn’t mind this as at all but hadn’t expected it. If I’d have bought the book instead of getting it from the library I might have felt a little cheated. Thankfully I hadn’t paid £12.99 so I was able to accept it for what it was. A good story, and a solid one that I liked a lot but didn’t love. Still, worth a read.

Emma

The Boy Who Could See Death by Salley Vickers

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I picked this collection of short stories because I liked the title and I liked the cover. I hadn’t read anything about it and nothing by Salley Vickers but I was quite looking forward to reading it once I had a bit of a Google. Unfortunately, none of the ten stories were as good as I had hoped.

That doesn’t mean they were bad, just that they left me feeling flat. I can’t say I actually enjoyed any of them, which is a shame as some of the ideas did intrigue me, including that of the title story, in which a young boys entire life is basically ruined because he can see when someone can die, and how, and so no one wants to look him in the eye.

I think the problem was they were all in the third person and I struggled to care for any of the characters. I felt that I was been told about them and their lives, not that I was living in their worlds. The stories were also very short for the most part, with one running to only nine pages, which probably didn’t help me relate. Instead, I felt rushed and a couple seemed to end before they’d even begun. Disapointing but not one I can recommend.

Emma

Library Love: Library Challenge Update

I am a huge fan and user of my local library and, earlier this year, I signed up for Sheila at Book Journey’s Library Challenge. There weren’t any check-ins or requirements other than committing to reading a certain number of library books and supporting your local library as a result. I went for 30 books and, halfway through the year, I’m feeling slightly chuffed to be just over halfway towards my goal. You can find the full list of books here but, as I’m six months in I thought I would pick and share my favourite six books to date…

1. Stone Mattress: Nine Tales by Margaret Atwood. To be fair, Margaret Atwood can do little, if anything, wrong in my eyes and this collection of stories were no expection. A real mix of dark tales.

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2. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. I had heard a lot of positive comments on this book before I read it and had half expected to be disappointed as a result because my expectations were high. Thankfully I wasn’t. Instead I got completely lost in a post-apocalyptic future where people still performed Shakespeare and had hope.

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3. The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. A book I first read 25 years ago and was happy to see has stood the test of time and memories. A dark and compelling tale.

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4. Lives of Girls and Women by Alice Munro. This was the first Alice Munro I had read (I’ve just finished my second) and I wish I’d discovered her sooner because I love the way she tells a story and how she writes powerful female characters.

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5. Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. Another I’d heard a lot about and wasn’t disappointed by. A different take on a detective story (if you can call it that) and an insight into what it might be like to have dementia.

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6. Claire DeWitt and the Bohemian Highway. I picked this because of the title and the cover – a guitar pick – with no idea what to expect. I loved every minute of it and Claire DeWitt is one of my new favourite characters, a complete one-off.

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With a big stack of books from the library still to read, I should make my goal no problems. Hopefully there will be some more great reads in there!  Wish me luck.

Emma

Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro

8456717Too Much Happiness is a collection of short stories written by Alice Munro in 2009. I know short stories aren’t everyone’s cup of tea (there was an interesting discussion about them recently on The Socratic Salon) but I really enjoy them – when they are done well, and these were.

Alice Munro has a way of drawing me in from pretty much the first sentence and painting pictures of people and places that feel very real to me. I was amazed throughout this book just how quickly I became involved in the stories and attached to the characters.

There are 10 stories in this collection and all but one, Too Much Happiness, are set in Canada sometime in the past (between the late 40s and 70s I think). And all, bar one, are pure fiction as far as I can tell. Too Much Happiness is the one that isn’t.  Instead, it is based on the last days of Russian mathematician and novelist Sophia Kovalevsky.

This is the longest of the stories too. When I started it, I wasn’t sure if I was enjoying it and it didn’t seem to fit with the rest of what I’d been reading. In retrospect, though, it is one of the ones that has stayed with me most and it does follow the same themes of women trying to make their way in a world they seem slightly out of sync with. They are looking for their place in it, often after an important life event, and their expectations of themselves and others seem to change as they get older.

The other story I couldn’t let go of was Child’s Play, a tale of childhood cruelty and how this can be hard to let go of. There is a twist in the tail of this one that made me stop for more than a second.  This story is about 30 pages, as are the rest, making them easy to fit in and read in bursts. As well as childhood, the stories deal with domestic abuse, infidelity, ruined friendships, mothers and sons, bereavement, and love. None are easy subjects and some are pretty uncomfortable reading. All are handled well, even the most disturbing, though – making me think back through my own life and ask questions of the world around me. They are all well worth a read. Highly recommended!

Emma