The House Share by Kate Helm #BookReview

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The Hunting Party meets Our House in this gripping, claustrophobic new locked-room thriller.

When you’re sharing a house with seven murder suspects, you can’t lock the danger out.

Immi think she has found the perfect new home in central London: a shared warehouse with luxury accommodation, a rooftop terrace and daily yoga, all with a surprisingly affordable price tag. The Dye Factory is a ‘co-living’ community, designed to combat the loneliness of big city life.

But soon after she moves into her new haven, Immi realises that it’s not quite as idyllic as it appears. No one seems to know who is behind this multi-million pound urban experiment. And her housemates may be hiding a dangerous secret.

Then, as a series of pranks escalates into something much darker, Immi is left questioning whether, in this group of strangers, she can ever really be safe . . .

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star three and a half

When I saw this novel come up in my emails I was excited right away. I live for locked-room type thrillers, so this one was impossible to resist.

The House Share was quite an enjoyable read even if I have to admit that the start of the novel reminded me of a similar book I read (down to the girl finding an advertisement and an offer to move she can’t refuse). When you start comparing it to a million dollar bestseller… it’s not the best thing to do. This story turns into a completely different direction quickly though so I was happy it made its own stamp in the end.

I don’t know why I always assimilate locked-room thrillers to be novels with people in the same room or in the same remote location with nowhere to go. The House Share differs from that precut format as Immi can walk in and out of the Factory to her job and lead a fairly normal life, the only thing is she’s bound to stay there – if she is chosen as a resident after a trial period – because of the contract that comes with the residency.

At the surface all of it seems golden and the opportunity Immi and Dex get to live at this place is enough to make anyone quite jealous (well not me but then I’m not into healthy stuff or want to be part of a ‘community’ and I can’t contribute any skills like Immi’s sewing clothes). Co-living has never looked so good, there are several perks and benefits to be found over four different communal floors: Play, Retreat, Nourish and Focus. They even have two pets there, Edward and Bella, so even I would get a little excited.  

The other residents or Dyers as they call themselves (the Factory used to dye animal skins there… yes it was a veritable slaughterhouse) all have secrets to keep and Immi and Dex both have secrets of their own.  

There’s a lot of mystery surrounding all of the characters living in the building. There’s the beautiful and vain actress Camille, laid-back IT guy Zoum, healthy Ashleigh, queen bee Bernice and slick Lucas but I couldn’t figure out who the true culprit behind everything was. To add to this great cast of not to be trusted characters was also Hanna, the housekeeper, who seemed to live there and always be around except when you need her.   

I didn’t find any of these people particularly likeable but I did get invested in Immi and Dex, the underdogs of the show. Even though I didn’t know excactly what their backstory was, what they had done that was awful and needed to be kept a secret, I made up my mind right away that I wanted to stick up for them. Did they stumble into a cult, were they even safe there now that people were starting to get hurt? How can they escape when they have no money and nowhere to go?

The tone of the novel was full of menace and you don’t know anything until the end and that end is nothing like you imagined it would be. Some might find it all a bit unbelievable, I thought it was quite clever. I only wished I could have cared for the characters more and that the ending wasn’t dropped on the reader so out of the blue, it makes a great twist but it made all of my sleuthing a total waste of time. You are warned, just (try to) relax and enjoy the show.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley. This is my honest opinion.

 

 

 

 

 

The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney #BookReview #AudioBook

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Abbie wakes in a hospital bed with no memory of how she got there. The man by her side explains that he’s her husband. He’s a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative startups. He tells Abbie she’s a gifted artist, a doting mother to their young son, and the perfect wife.

Five years ago, she suffered a terrible accident. Her return from the abyss is a miracle of science, a breakthrough in artificial intelligence that has taken him half a decade to achieve.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives – and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together for ever? And what really happened to her, half a decade ago?

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Yes I read a sci-fi novel which is already quite extraordinary news but not only that is new, it was also the very first audiobook I ever completed. I did listen regularly to a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime adaptation of How To Stop Time but I feel that doesn’t really count as the same thing, so I’m quite proud of myself that I finished listening to the 128 files of The Perfect Wife. So how was my experience? I’m not going to lie, it was a bumpy ride. It took me two months in all but the first 50 files were the most difficult, I listened very irregularly and only 3-4 files in one go but after that I really got the hang of it and listened to the rest in only two weeks or so. It helped that each file and chapter was a soundbite of app. 7 minutes, so I could really listen to it in small doses if I wanted to (I started to really enjoy listening during my half an hour lunch break).

The narration of the audiobook was ok but the woman’s voice with Abbie as a robot was very softly spoken, I did miss some energy and power there sometimes to really keep my attention afloat. Maybe a robot can’t be so vivacious and energetic as the Abbie I came to know in the flashbacks of the past, that might explain why, but she felt insecure and in doubt of herself, not really what I think a robot would be or what I felt the original Abbie was.

The sci-fi part of it all was quite enjoyable and a future like the one presented in this story wasn’t even very hard to imagine. I liked the general plot idea and it was developped quite well although I would have enjoyed if it was a bit more fast-paced and with more happening in the past. Something was definitely off I but couldn’t really pinpoint what it was. Abbie doesn’t trust her husband in the present and he did seem a little controlling to me from the start but is he a murderer? Did he really love Abbie so much he wanted to recreate her as an Abbie-bot, or does he have another motive? There was a big and slow lead up to the final conclusion. The author has a delicous twist in store at the end and I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard it. That alone is quite the exception. It made me all the more happy I persisted and didn’t give up at first.

So to conclude I’d say from one novice sci-fi reader to another: The Perfect Wife is totally readable and enjoyable as a novel to dip your toes into the genre.

I listened to a free copy of this novel via Titleshare, courtesy of the publisher. This is still my honest opinion.

Dear Child by Romy Hausmann #BookReview

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A windowless shack in the woods. Lena’s life and that of her two children follows the rules set by their captor, the father: meals, bathroom visits, study time are strictly scheduled and meticulously observed. He protects his family from the dangers lurking in the outside world and makes sure that his children will always have a mother to look after them.

One day Lena manages to flee – but the nightmare continues. It seems as if her tormentor wants to get back what belongs to him. And then there is the question whether she really is the woman called ‘Lena’, who disappeared without a trace over thirteen years ago. The police and Lena’s family are all desperately trying to piece together a puzzle that doesn’t quite seem to fit.

250.000 copies sold in Germany – 5th bestselling paperback in Germany in 2019

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I really enjoy reading these types of books and yes I know books like Room, The Good Girl, The Marsh King’s Daughter and others talk about abduction, imprisonment and abuse, which is always hefty and disturbing to read but they also happen to really touch me to my core if done right. Dear Child was perfect and pulled at my heartstrings straight away. I fell into its pages from the start because it hits you full on with little snippets about what happened at the cabin, sending shivers down my spine. Fortunately the tension does let up after a little while because much more than a story about the time in the cabin is it a storyline about the aftermath, how everyone reacts, how the media doesn’t leave you alone, and how you are free then but not free in your head, it’s about the enormous trauma it causes. The main character struggles to trust, to enjoy, to be herself when her identity was demolished to the ground from the minute she found herself waking up in that cabin. She had to be someone else or suffer the consequences, so who is she now?

Dear Child is narrated by 3 different characters and keeps you guessing about what happened all those years ago and who took Lena. It’s quite a complex story and I loved how the author added another layer to it. It made me rather confused and puzzled about Lena though, some of just didn’t add up, she seems to be keeping something to herself but I couldn’t see how this piece of the puzzle fit into the greater picture, there was a sizeable mystery aspect woven into the story. Her father doesn’t recognize her in the hospital for instance which was beyond strange because he does recognize her daughter Hannah as his grandchild right away and she seems to have seen her grandfather at a garden party on one of the secret outings that her father didn’t know about.

I loved the determination of Matthias, Lena’s father, but also really liked to follow Lena’s daughter Hannah. Hannah is a young girl who knows everything about everything, she can give full definitions of the most complex terms and processes. In other ways she lacks emotions and she is quite chilling. Her view of reality is – understandably – very distorted. Sometimes I didn’t even know she was talking about things that weren’t real because I only had Hannah’s reality, only when I read further along I would then realise that it was her imagination and that would knock me back again.

The person I loved most in the end though was Lena and I only realised just how much when I was almost turning those last pages. The strength she had, the things she did for her children and how she made their life better, how she told them about the constellations and bedtime stories, preparing them for the moment they would be able to step into the real world, how my heart bled for her and how she was still busy working on a future when she couldn’t even tell if it was night or day.

The last part of the novel took a very unexpected turn, it turns into a real thriller there that made me sit up straight, and it gave the answers to all the much sought after questions I had stored in my head. I didn’t think it would happen again but my heart bled once more when I read about the reasons why this had happened. Although you wouldn’t say so, the story has so much to do with love, love for your wife, your father, your daughter, your children,… sometimes love knows no limits and this book shows the darkest sides but also the deepest and bestest side of love.

A dark and gripping story with a great twist! Well crafted and memorable!

I received a free ecopy of this novel from the publisher, QuercusBooks, via Netgalley. This is my honest opinion.

The High Moments by Sarah-Ella Ozbek #BookReview

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Scarlett makes mistakes – over and over again.
She’s not perfect, she has a tricky relationship with her mother and is desperate for people to like her.

She repeatedly goes back to the people that hurt her, no matter how badly.
She moves to London with no plan (of course), but manages to land a job at a modelling agency. Finally, she’s getting her life on track, but the fashion industry is a murkier place than she had imagined.

She changes herself to please others.
Just as she starts to find her place, Scarlett’s life begins to spiral. But at least people know her, she is starting to become someone. And surely it’s better to be someone – even if it’s someone you hate?

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I find myself in a mood recently where I like to alter dark thrillers with uplifting fun novels and this bright colourful cover made me think I was holding just that. I can’t say I was exactly right with my assumption.

So I’m afraid to say I’m not a fan. I don’t really like reading novels where people throw themselves into destruction for no good reason and this one had such a negative vibe with nothing to act as a counterweight. You can forgive some people for not seeing clearly or for making mistakes because they just don’t get that some people are bad news but I wanted to slap, shake and yell at Scarlett, the main protagonist, so many times. I know she’s young but surely everyone knows that drugs are bad news and you don’t just jump in that ugly puddle? And do you just trust any guy you meet right away?

The High Moments offers an insider’s look into the world of high fashion and particularly the modelling of haute couture. It is clear where the author found the inspiration but whereas The Devil Wears Prada was focused on poor-girl Andrea Sachs who learns new skills fast and is climbing the upward hill, The High Moments shows you the other side, pretty much how you should not do it. The story is a downward spiral of mistakes, all because Scarlett Willems is so desperate to be liked. At the start of the novel I was rooting for her to go to London and to make it, and it was looking good because she did get an opportunity to be someone but then she just follows around the wrong kind of people. Ugh I know when you are young you don’t always see who you have in front of you but still it was painful to watch and I was sure that Scarlett knew that it was all fake and there were no real friendships to find there. All the clichés you think you know about the fashion industry, the sex, drugs and rock & roll (but especially the first two) are very much true. I used to think it was only the models who did this but it turns out that it includes everyone, even the models’ agents snort the night away. Scarlett is only too happy to join the club.

She’s also very hung up on this bad boy kind of type but from the first time I met him I didn’t hold much hope that he would be a good guy underneath it all, even though it is an often used plot devise in romance novels. But then this is not a romance novel, obviously :-).

I kept on reading mostly because I wanted to see Scarlett take a turn and free herself of the bad influences. I wanted to see the girl she was in the first pages of the novel. She was in so deep that I did wonder how she was going to pull this off. The ending is somewhat satisfying but by that time all my sympathy for her was drained down so much that my heart didn’t really jump up and down like it should have when she was forced to see what she was doing to herself.

The novel isn’t perfect, the characters could have been developed more and Scarlett’s naivety isn’t particularly charming. But if you like to set your teeth into a gritty, unflinching novel about what happens behind the curtains of a modelling agency though, this will leave you wide-eyed.

Maybe there’s a lesson to be learned here though and that is that you have to be your own self and not let others decide who you are.

I received a free proof copy of this novel from the publisher and BATC. This is still my honest opinion.

 

Same book, different cover #12

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I might have stopped doing these post but I did continue to collect covers of books I read or are on my readlist. So I’m finally back today with 5 new book covers to pick and choose your favorite one. This is just for fun so there are no wrong answers! OK, I’ll go first, then it’s up to you:

Forget My Name by J.S. Monroe

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Hmm difficult because it feels basically like it’s the same cover, although it’s not because if you look closely you see the woman is not in the window of the second cover. It took me a minute to even notice this to be honest. Anyway, I think I’ll go for the first one because in this case the woman feels even more intriguing.

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

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I love the first cover! The last one feels too clinical and makes me think it’s more of a sci-fi read and the second cover is very dark but also makes me think of a chase in the woods and the novel is a locked-room mystery so that doesn’t really give the right impression for me.

Never Tell by Lisa Gardner

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I choose the second cover here. The first one makes me think I’m going to read a memoir of a ballerina or something. I also really like the tagline which flows so naturally into the book title.

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton

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I love the first and second cover most of all. The third cover is okay but I’ve seen this figure plenty of times on covers already, and it doesn’t even appear in the novel at all.. it should be a clay effigy if they want to do it right. The fourth novel looks like an ’80s novel, that one doesn’t attract me at all.

Watching from the Dark by Gytha Lodge

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I prefer the second cover again. I totally get the first cover, although I had to think it through. It’s the spyhole in a door, right, or am I seeing things now? I think I’d like it more if it didn’t have these colours, it gives me more of a YA fantasy vibe. The second cover isn’t really so special, but I still like it, and also the typesetting feels better in this one.

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So that’s it. Tell me your thoughts! If you can’t get enough, check out Battle Of The Books #1 – #2#3 – #4 – #5#6 – #7#8#9#10#11

Also don’t forget to check out the Secret Library Book Blog where Nicki holds a book battle with some AUDIObooks 🙂

The Switch by Beth O’Leary #BookReview @OLearyBeth @QuercusBooks

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Eileen is sick of being 79.
Leena’s tired of life in her twenties.
Maybe it’s time they swapped places…

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.

Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?

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Have I got the book for you this week! If you’re looking for something uplifting, a read you can really relax into, then you don’t need to search any more, The Switch is the perfect remedy to cure #lockdownloneliness!

I’m not going to lie, I did go into this with high expectations. I loved Beth O’Leary’s debut novel The Flatshare so much, it being one of the biggest surprises of last year for me, so where does this leave this novel? Maybe it’s not as swoonworthy as The Flatshare because a lot of the story’s progress is about developing friendships whereas in the first novel you felt the excitement for a blooming romance (through notes) between two people but I have to say that I was invested in the characters again and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.

The author chose another format and a completely different story to tell in her second novel, not about two strangers of the opposite sex this time, but rather two main characters Eileen and Leena (well actually also Eileen but lucky the author gave her a nickname here) with about 50 years of an age difference and she made the right move to choose a very different relationship.

So, the women in this novel step into each other’s lives while still very much being themselves and I must say I really love these type of tropes (I’m still a fan of The Holiday starring Cameron Diaz) and the novel gave off a little bit of that vibe of the movie. It was refreshing to see 79-year old Eileen dipping her toes into the world of online dating in the bustling city and to see her granddaughter Leena at the same time in the rural countryside trying to take the local neighbourhood committee serious, to get invested there and roll with the slow life, as well as take care of her mum who she hasn’t been in contact with after her sister died.

The story had enough drive on both sides and I was never bored, even if the neighbourhood watches issues were not really crucial to start with, but it’s more about the people instead of the issues of course and getting to know them and the feeling that they are looking out for each other. If I’m really honest I think for once that I liked the part of the older Eileen with her multiple love interests maybe a little bit more – she’s far from a cliché for her age – because it’s always interesting how someone deals with being dropped into a totally different world, although Leena and grumpy next door neighbour Arnold were quite entertaining too and it was so nice to see them both softening up to each other.

The Switch is a story of one closely knitted community and another community that is about to be changed forever. A few of the themes involved in this novel are love and friendship, reconnecting with people, being forgiving, and especially finding yourself again or should I say accepting that you can’t sometimes be the person you were but that you are a new you.

Beth O’Leary has proven with this sequel that she’s definitely here to stay and her name belongs to be mentioned in the lists with Lucy Dillon, Jojo Moyes and so many others. She’s a brilliant author and if you want a novel to give you a warm fuzzy feeling and a satisfactory smile then I definitely recommend both of her novels. I hope we don’t have to wait too long for her third one now :-).

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Quercus Books via Netgalley. This is still my honest opinion.

Here to Stay by Mark Edwards #BookReview

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A beautiful home. A loving wife. And in-laws to die for.

Gemma Robinson comes into Elliot’s life like a whirlwind, and they marry and settle into his home. When she asks him if her parents can come to stay for a couple of weeks, he is keen to oblige – he just doesn’t quite know what he’s signing up for.

The Robinsons arrive with Gemma’s sister, Chloe, a mysterious young woman who refuses to speak or leave her room. Elliot starts to suspect that the Robinsons are hiding a dark secret. And then there are the scars on his wife’s body that she won’t talk about . . .

As Elliot’s in-laws become more comfortable in his home, encroaching on all aspects of his life, it becomes clear that they have no intention of moving out. To protect Gemma, and their marriage, Elliot delves into the Robinsons’ past. But is he prepared for the truth?

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Wowzers! Now this is a bloody good book. I really didn’t expect to like it so much, but I had such a great time reading this, it was so satisfying!

It didn’t start off with a bang though but rather average which means I liked the first part of the novel well enough but Elliot is playing the part of a very naive guy much longer than I thought possible as (even) I could see it a mile coming that Jeff and Lizzy, Gemma’s parents who happen to stay with them for a few weeks, were not the in-laws to dream about. I don’t know what gave it away exactly, their nosiness, trying to suss whether Elliot was wealthy (asking questions about money is so not done, is it not), the fact that they have no respect for his home, or the worst of all, that one of them complains about the cat (how dare they!) and possibly locked the cat flap. There were so many triggers that I’d have my guard up in a flash but Elliot has a bigger heart than I have, there’s no doubt about that. All three of these examples out of so many more would make me pack up their bags and tell them to go fly. Easier said then done though come to think of it. What if your house guests don’t want to go?

The novel really switches gears when it finally dawns on Elliot that something is off and he finally gets that it might be a bit of a problem to get rid of them. The real fun starts then! The Robinsons feel right at home and with nowhere else to go, why wouldn’t they stay?

I never ever in a million years imagined it would be so difficult to get someone out of your house. I wondered how accurate that was because it felt quite unbelievable and I would have asked around if it wasn’t for this lockdown (imagine that being the case in this novel!) but I accepted it for that time being and I googled it after I finished the novel. It seems I wasn’t the only one interested in that answer and I found a (US) post that confirms it, the police can’t do much if they play it right and it can be pretty difficult to evict an unwanted guest

I felt for Elliot and held my breath more than once, not least because I was scared the cat would get hurt in the process (I can’t even recount how many times I said ugly words out loud while reading!) and wanted nothing more than the Robinsons (well Jeff and Lizzy at least, I felt pity for the younger daughter Chloe) getting a piece of their own cake. Oh how I wanted the repulsive people that they were to get theirs. I refuse to feel guilty and actually find it quite funny how worked up I got about them. It was great to hate them so much and to follow the power plays going on because luckily and thankfully, Elliot isn’t prepared to just roll over and give up the rights on his own house. This unsettling and threatening vibe that something or someone is going to have to give is driven to the max towards the ending and there was more than one surprise in store in those final chapters that made me punch the air and left me lost for words all in the matter of turning a few pages.

Here to Stay is a terrifying novel that makes you appreciate your own family that little bit more than before. You don’t want to imagine this scenario coming true! Here to Stay has a wicked plot that was brilliantly executed and his next novel, The House Guest sounds like your next perfect nightmare.

Last bit of advice from me after reading this: choose your in-laws wisely to avoid all risk.  

I bought a hardback copy of this novel at the Capital Crime Festival in 2019 (and Mark Edwards happens to be the first author I ever met, so I couldn’t be happier now). This is my honest opinion.