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

In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware

imageIn A Dark, Dark, Wood is one of those books I have been dying to read.  Towards the end of last year, I felt like I was reading nothing but good reviews.  Plus, it sounded like my type of book.  A bit of murder, a bit of mystery, a deep dark secret.  What is there not to like?

The answer with this book is very little.  It’s a great debut – well written and compelling.  It starts with Nora (once known as Lee) receiving an email, an invite to her once upon a time best friend Clare’s hen weekend.  It’s come from Flo, someone Nora has never met and who seems determined to make this the best hen party ever.

Despite misgivings and the nagging question “why now?” Nora agrees to go to and heads off to deepest, darkest Northumberland and a house in the middle of the woods where nothing feels quite right, including the guest list.   Then, as if it couldn’t get much worse, Clare tells Nora the reason why she’s been invited.  To let her know that she (Clare) is about to marry her (Nora’s) first love.

For Nora, it feels like things couldn’t get any worse until a gun goes off in the middle of the night and she wakes up in hospital unable to remember how she got there and whether she was the one who pulled the trigger.  The hospital scenes alternate with chapters telling the actual story, helping the tension build.  It was obvious from the beginning this wouldn’t be a normal hen weekend – the question is who decided to use it to settle scores.

There are plenty of suspects here, all well drawn and a little off the wall.  Any of them could be “the one” and I decided each was guilty at one point or other.  I did guess right in the end but not before a few wrong turns – and I wasn’t disappointed in the ending (as I often am with these books).  The only criticism I have is that it was slightly dragged out a bit, with a final scene I didn’t think was needed.  This is slight though and wouldn’t stop me recommending the book – loved it!

Emma

Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US

Disclaimer by Renee Knight

imageFinding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction, The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day Catherine became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew–and that person is dead.

Now that the past is catching up with her, Catherine’s world is falling apart. Her only hope is to confront what really happened on that awful day even if the shocking truth might destroy her.

I had been wanting to read Disclaimer ever since reading some really good reviews last year.  Plus, I loved the concept – it sounded different (well somewhat – there was still a deep, dark, secret to be discovered as in the majority of books I read!).

I am pleased to say I wasn’t disappointed. This is a debut novel and well written and plotted.   The idea of a novel about a novel is  clever and shows how easily fact and fiction can be distorted. I was gripped from the beginning, with Renee Knight getting straight into the action and speeding along to a conclusion I didn’t see coming (well not till it was almost too late to feel any level of smugness for having figured out the secret).

Catherine isn’t he most likeable person and her husband made me mad pretty much from the moment he found out what was happening but that didn’t put me off because my sympathy for the person who is, technically, the bad guy.  I understood his motives, even if I didn’t agree with his actions.  It meant I wanted to know what happened to everyone involved in the end and that – as a result – I loved this book.  Highly recommended!

Emma

 

 

 

 

 

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

22206746An apparently happy marriage. A beautiful family. A dream home. So what makes lawyer Emily Coleman—a woman who appears to have everything—get up one morning and walk right out of her life to start again as someone new?

Deliberately losing herself in London, Emily quickly transforms herself into Cat. Along with her new name, she finds a new home in a shared house in North London teeming with an odd assortment of flatmates, and a new job as a receptionist.

Soon Cat has buried any trace of her old self so well, no one knows how to find her. But she can’t bury the past—or her own painful memories. As the days turn to months, thoughts of all she’s left behind begin to consume her. She cannot outrun the ghosts that haunt her, no matter how hard she tries to elude them. And soon, she’ll have to face the truth of what she’s done—a shocking revelation that may push her one step too far.

Tina Seskis is one of those authors I have always meant to read but never have – for no real reason other than there are too many books in this world and too little time. I’m glad I finally found the time for One Step Too Far though, her debut from a few years ago, because it was great.

On a gray Manchester morning, Emily boards a train to London, arriving as Catherine (before becoming Cat) – a woman who has left a not so nice boyfriend and is looking for a new job and a new life. Apart from it isn’t a boyfriend she is running away from – it’s her husband – and the memory of events she can’t quite face (which you, as the reader, start to guess at but don’t know for certain either).

Once in London, her life becomes one she would never have imagined, for better and for worse. She becomes a different person and behaves in ways she would never have thought. The life she left behind though is always there in the background. No matter how hard she tries, she can never quite erase it. And then, through a twist of fate, both the past and the present collide.

Whilst I kind of saw the ending for this coming, I still thought it was cleverly done and the book is well written. Cat is a complex, interesting character – though possibly not the smartest when it comes to decisions – and the supporting cast are nicely drawn.

I was hooked from start to almost finish with this book – the almost being the last few chapters where Cat’s life for the decade or so after the “big reveal” were spelt out.  With these type of books I like a bit of mystery at the end and to plan my own futures for t characters so I could have done without this.  Still, it’s a personal preference and doesn’t take away from a good story that is well worth a read if you haven’t come across it already – liked it a lot!

Emma

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

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A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world is shattered. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape her past, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of the cruel November night that changed her life for ever.

DI Ray Stevens is tasked with seeking justice for a mother who is living every parent’s worst nightmare. Determined to get to the bottom of the case, it begins to consume him as he puts both his professional and personal life on the line.

As Ray and his team seek to uncover the truth, Jenna, slowly, begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating .

So I’m sat here trying to write a review for I Let You Go and I don’t quite know where to start. Not because it’s not good (it is) or I didn’t enjoy it (I did) but because as soon as I start typing there are spoilers. There is such a good twist in this book, one I didn’t see coming and I don’t want to risk giving away. What I can say is, for me, it made the book and I understood why I had read so many good reviews last year.

I have to admit, I had been wondering before then what the fuss was about. Yes, it was well written and the characters were developing well but it wasn’t that thrilling for a thriller. Then, with one line, my whole perspective on what I’d been reading changed and I saw everything in a new light, just as the characters did, and my relationship with each of them changed as did how sympathetic I felt.

It felt great and reminded me why I love to read. It also felt nice to be surprised because it doesn’t happen that often. Things are generally signposted and , whilst I can see the path I was taken down in hindsight, I had no idea while it was happening. Making this a very clever book and an impressive debut. I loved it and would recommend to anyone who hasn’t read it yet!

emma x

 

 

The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

imageOnce upon a time, Ani (pronounced Ahh-nee not Annie) was TifAni, a teenager who desperately wanted to fit into the high school her parents couldn’t really afford to send her too, even after “the event that changed her life”. Now, she could afford to buy the school – or at least her fiancé Luke could – thanks to his old money roots and job in finance.

Ani worked hard to find a man like Luke, and her job at a top women’s magazine (with it’s access to high fashion clothes she could never otherwise afford). She still works hard – dieting, exercising, maxing out her credit cards, and pretending to be someone she’s not. All for a ring on her finger, and a need to escape a past she is too embarrassed to face. That is until a TV crew approach her to make a documentary about.

Despite Luke’s objections she agrees to take part because it will allow her to show everyone what she has become, that she is not the girl they thought her to be. Who that girl is is unclear. I thought she was a mean girl – she is a mean woman so it made sense – but it’s more complicated than that, and darker than I expected.

The cover of this book says for those who liked Gone Girl (yes, another one!) but I can’t see it myself. This isn’t crime fiction and only a little bit of a thriller or suspense. More than anything, it is a book about a woman finding her way back from a series of events no one could have predicted and which changed her whole life, not for the better. I liked this about the book.

I wish I could have liked Ani as much but I just didn’t. I understood why she was the way she was but I could find nothing redeemable about her. She was nasty to everyone, including herself. And, as a smart woman, I couldn’t understand why she hadn’t ever sought help to fight her demons. As the main character and the only voice you hear, this made it hard to read at times, especially as the other characters are under developed.

This means I liked but didn’t love the book. It wouldn’t stop me reading another book by Jessica Knoll though or recommending the book because, as a debut, it’s still pretty good.

Emma

The Prodigal by Nicky Black

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Exiled from his beloved Newcastle sixteen years ago, Detective Sergeant Lee Jamieson is returning home in search of the teenage daughter he’s never met. With a good promotion under his belt and his parents gone, he’s ready to return to his roots and the warm Geordie spirit he has missed so much.

Much to his surprise, his first assignment is in Valley Park, a forgotten sink estate and home to some of the worst social deprivation in the country – the estate where he grew up, and where Nicola Kelly, the wife of a renowned local villain, calls home.

As Lee and Nicola’s lives become entwined through a series of dramatic events, they fall in love and embark on a dangerous affair that will change both of their lives forever. Nicola’s husband, Micky, has few scruples, and, as he feels her slipping away, tightens his grip on her affections.

In order for Lee and Nicola to be together, Micky Kelly has to go.

I came across The Prodigal by chance after following Nicky Black on Twitter. I decided to read it because it was getting good reviews and it sounded like something I would enjoy, which I did. Nicky Black is actually two people. Their bio says they are friends Nicky and Julie and that Julie originally wrote The Prodigal as a TV script over a decade ago before Nicky turned the script into a novel because the show was never made.

It’s a good thing she did because it’s a good story with interesting characters. Lee and Nicola are strong personalities with a lot to lose as they begin to fall in love. For Nicola it might be her life given she’s married to a local gangster, Micky. For Lee, his job as he takes greater and greater risks to try and be with Nicola.

Lee’s teenage daughter, who he’s never met, and his relationship with her mother, his former girlfriend, give the story another angle and show another side to Lee’s personality. He is a good guy trying to do the right thing. And trying not to get annoyed with his fairly useless colleagues and the constraints of the system he’s working in.

I thought his colleagues could have been a little more fleshed out – they felt a little stereotypical – but that all the other characters were well drawn and so was Newcastle in 1999, a city that was changing but where there were still haves and have nots.

I could see this as a TV show and maybe it will end up on Telly after all as a result of this book. I hope so because it’s a good one. I liked it a lot and a recommended read.

Emma

Freedom’s Child by Jax Miller

23164950When I first read the summary for Freedom’s Child I have to say I wasn’t too sure as to whether it was something I wanted to read.  It’s a review copy and, as I don’t read many review books, I try to make sure they are ones I really want.  It’s hard to say why I wasn’t sure about this at first but it just didn’t appeal to me all that much.

Then I checked it out on Goodreads and saw that it was getting good reviews – plus a few not so good ones and I became intrigued.  It seemed like it might be one of those books I would either love or hate.  I have to say I loved it, though I can see why not everyone would.  From pretty much the first page, it was different and that was great – really refreshing.

Freedom is completely off the wall.  A drunk, more than a little free with her fists when it comes to the bikers that hang out at the bar she works at, and completely unapologetic about her disaster of a life.  She has lots of secrets, which she doesn’t seem to be too good at hiding – including the fact that she’s in witness protection after turning her brother-in-law in for killing her husband.  Then there’s the two children she regrets giving up for adoption, one of whom (her daughter Layla), has gone missing.

Determined to find out what has happened to her daughter, Freedom steals a motorbike and heads to Kentucky where Layla was last seen – trying to avoid her brother-in-law, recently released from prison, and the Marshalls who are supposed to keep her safe as she does.  To say her trip goes smoothly would be a lie and Freedom is partly to blame for that because she doesn’t seem to be able to make too many good decisions – in fact, most times she seems to make the wrong one – but there is something so honest in what she does that I found myself cheering her on and hoping for the best for her, even when I wasn’t sure that was where the book was going to end up.

Getting there was a real ride (sorry, had to say that given there’s a stolen motorbike) and the pace of the story never lets up.  There really isn’t a moment to take a breath and think about what has happened because something else is already happening.  That is one of the reasons I liked it – it kept me turning the pages.  Plus, I liked the style of the book and Freedom herself, despite all her flaws.  She is an original and so is this book.  I think Jax Miller (this is her debut) will be one to watch and I will definitely be reading whatever she brings out next.  Loved it!

Emma

Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review from blogging for books. All thoughts/opinions are my own.

How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst

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When Susan finds a photo of a little boy pushed through her letter box and the note on the back says it’s her son – the son she killed four years previously – she is determined to find out the truth about who sent her the picture and why.

With the help of her best friend, Cassie, and a local journalist, Nick, she begins to dig deeper into what happened on the day she woke up and was told she had murdered her baby, a day she can’t remember.

Slowly, she begins to unravel a web of lies, lies which put her and those around her in danger but lead her closer to uncovering the truth.

As you can probably tell from that brief summary, How I Lost You presents a tangled web with lots of twists, turns, and red herrings. It does get a bit confusing at times but I still found myself turning the pages to find out what happened next. It wasn’t what I expected and didn’t quite end up where I thought it would, which I liked.

I also liked Susan and felt for her as her world, one that she had worked so hard to rebuild, started to fall apart again. Nick and Cassie I needed a bit more convincing of. Nick was a little too good to be true whilst I wanted to see and hear more from Cassie. She started off as a really strong character before fading into the background and becoming nothing more than a voice on the end of a phone.

Despite this though the plot held together well with a slightly unbelievable but enjoyable ending making it all worthwhile. It’s especially impressive as it’s Jenny Blackhurst’s debut novel and I have to say I liked this book a lot – definitely a recommended read!

Emma

Tuesday Intro: 1st September, 2015

After a lovely few weeks holidaying, I’m back to blogging this week, 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.

Right now, I’m reading Freedom’s Child by Jax Miller, which I’m about halfway through.

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Freedom Oliver has plenty of secrets. She lives in a small Oregon town and keeps mostly to herself. Her few friends and neighbors know she works at the local biker bar; they know she gets arrested for public drunkenness almost every night; they know she’s brash, funny, and fearless.

What they don’t know is that Freedom Oliver is a fake name. They don’t know that she was arrested for killing her husband, a cop, twenty years ago. They don’t know she put her two kids up for adoption. They don’t know that she’s now in witness protection, regretting ever making a deal with the Feds, and missing her children with a heartache so strong it makes her ill.

Then, she learns that her daughter has gone missing, possibly kidnapped. Determined to find out what happened, Freedom slips free of her handlers, gets on a motorcycle, and heads for Kentucky, where her daughter was raised. As she ventures out on her own, no longer protected by the government, her troubled past comes roaring back at her: her husband’s vengeful, sadistic family; her brief, terrifying stint in prison; and the family she chose to adopt her kids who are keeping dangerous secrets.

Here’s how it starts, short and sweet (well, maybe not sweet)…

“My name is Freedom Oliver and I killed my daughter. It’s surreal, honestly, and I’m not sure what feels more like a dream, her death or her existence. I’m guilty of both.”

What do you think – does it sound like something you’d keep reading?

Emma