The Assistant by Kjell Ola Dahl #BookReview

TheAssistant def

whats-it-about-2

A seemingly straightforward investigation into marital infidelity leads a PI and his ex-con assistant on a murderous trail, in a sophisticated, riveting historical Nordic Noir thriller set in interwar and prohibition-era Norway.

Oslo, 1938. War is in the air and Europe is in turmoil. Hitler’s Germany has occupied Austria and is threatening Czechoslovakia; there’s a civil war in Spain and Mussolini reigns in Italy.

When a woman turns up at the office of police-turned-private investigator Ludvig Paaske, he and his assistant – his one-time nemesis and former drug-smuggler Jack Rivers – begin a seemingly straightforward investigation into marital infidelity.

But all is not what it seems, and when Jack is accused of murder, the trail leads back to the 1920s, to prohibition-era Norway, to the smugglers, sex workers and hoodlums of his criminal past … and an extraordinary secret.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half

Kjell Ola Dahl was a totally new author to me so I went in with an open mind, even though I was a little unsure about the type of novel it was. It turned out The Assistant is quite the varied type and it is everything you think – or hope – it might be. Nordic crime? Check! Spies and lots of action? Double check! An intriguing mystery delivered in a historical setting? Why yes that too!

The Assistant contains at first chapters shifting between 1924 and 1938, and ends in 1962, but it all starts in 1924 where Jack Rivers is a driver for a man called Arvid Bjerke. He not only transports passengers but is also a runman delivering illegal cans of liquor to village shops. In the very first pages Jack is actually trying to avoid being arrested as he tries to outwit ‘the cop from hell’ Ludvig Paaske in a breathtakingly dangerous scene. Twenty pages later though with a time jump to 1938 Paaske isn’t a cop anymore but a private investigator and Rivers is quite suddenly his sidekick. It is all quite matter of fact with no explanation what happened in between so that only intrigued me more to find out how they got from sworn enemies to allies.

Good teamwork is certainly necessary when a woman asks them to investigate her husband, only to bring danger on themselves as soon as they start trailing the husband. I was invested in this novel from the action-packed opening till the earth shattering ending. In between I followed a treacherous path of twists and red herrings. This is one of those novels that were it a movie you better not look away if you want to keep up with what’s happening. There’s robbery, betrayal, narrow escapes and plenty of action and two women as memorable characters, Julie – wife to Jack’s old employer Arvid – and Amalie who plays the part of Arvid’s mistress. Both women play a magnificent role in all of it but are also characters that will make you question their sincerity and motives. Is Amalie worth being Jack’s crush or is she playing games with him? What are Julie’s intentions towards Jack? Who to trust?  

I have to admit that this was a somewhat challenging novel for me. I didn’t find the story as easy to read as the novels I finished in the weeks before with the writing style being more show than tell. I was often wondering what was going on and felt a little lost at times. I was also taken by surprise in the end that the novel suddenly went a very different direction than the route I had figured we were going. Without saying too much hopefully, I anticipated a full blown political/spy novel in the end with everything that had happened but I was way off track and shortly before the ending I became painfully aware of my mistake. My mouth nearly dropped open when I finally saw what we were dealing with! I really did enjoy the ending though which showed the true colours of all the characters. Overall I can conclude this is a great novel but I’m left in doubt that the style of writing makes this the right author for me.

I received a free paperback copy from the publisher Orenda Books to read. This is my honest opinion.

3 #AudioBookReviews with family drama

AudioBookReviews

I’m still listening to audiobooks and it’s going very well thank you (I signed up for 3 months of audible at 2,99 £ so there’s definitely more to come too). I picked a few titles that interested me but that I wouldn’t necessary pick as a first choice to read. Normally that would mean I wouldn’t get to these books in the next 10 years but now, thanks to them being on audio and being able to squeeze in 15 or 30 minutes here and there, I can review them much sooner. 

Here are 3 audiobooks with some serious family drama and a bit of mystery. I loved Everything I Never Told You most of all but do check out Hurry Home and The Wife Stalker too! 

Hurry Home by Roz Nay

HurryHome audiobook

whats-it-about-2

Alexandra Van Ness has the perfect life. She lives in an idyllic resort town tucked away in the Rocky Mountains, shares a designer loft with her handsome boyfriend, Chase, and has her dream job working in child protection. Every day, Alex goes above and beyond to save children at risk.

But when her long-lost sister, Ruth, unexpectedly shows up at her door, Alex’s perfect life is upended. Growing up, Ruth was always the troublemaker, pulling Alex into her messes, and this time will be no different. Still, Alex will help Ruth under one condition: we will never, ever, talk about the past. But when trouble befalls a local child, both women are forced to confront the secrets they’ve promised to keep buried.

amazon uk

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars_1457015858_81_246_96_2

The novel is about two estranged sisters Alex and Ruth. Alex is introduced first showing her acting in her role as a child protection social worker. She seems devoted to the job, caring while her colleague Minerva doesn’t seem to see that a child is not properly being taken care of. She is righteous and dutiful but even her boss Morris lets himself be convinced by Minerva that the child in question, Buster, is fine to stay at home with his parents. Then Ruth shows up at her home, the sister she hasn’t seen in over 10 years, since Ruth ran away from home. Snippets of the past start to trickle in and something about that past is definitely off but I couldn’t put my finger on what we were dealing with. The change of perspective by each sister was interesting. The biggest question was establishing who the reliable sister was in the story because after a while they both seem quite fitting. It wasn’t a bad story but it didn’t really make me feel excited either.  

Hurry Home is a rather slow burning mystery or family drama, which kept me entertained but the narrator of the story (Hillary Huber) didn’t make the two voices very different so I didn’t feel as much difference between the sisters as I would have liked and it made listening a bit monotonous. 

Line

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

EverythingINeverToldYou

whats-it-about-2

Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue – in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the centre of every party. But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in 1970s small town Ohio. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest in the family – Hannah – who observes far more than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened.

Everything I Never Told You is a gripping page-turner, about secrets, love, longing, lies and race.

amazon uk

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2 

Another family drama but one that touched me so much more. I really enjoyed listening to the soft spoken voice of the narrator (Cassandra Campbell) and the mystery why Lydia killed herself was quite compelling. Lydia had it all, she was a brilliant student and had lots of friends. She makes her parents proud and it’s safe to say that she’s their parents favorite child too. When her mother finds a packet of condoms in her backpack after her daughter died, it seems she didn’t know her so well after all. The author goes back to that one decisive moment in history that is the first drop in a bucket that will overflow in the end. The story behind their terrible loss takes root even before Hannah was born, with Marilyn’s longing to become a doctor herself. Things definitely took a different turn. 

Everything I Never Told You is a tragic story. It took me a few chapters to get into it, as I didn’t feel it at first when Marilyn and James meet at the university as student and professor in the beginning and their lives didn’t interest me as much, but once Lydia started telling her side of the story, I was completely sucked into it. Lydia is carrying a weight, she does everything to make her parents happy, even at her own cost. It is a story of loneliness, of being misunderstood, of not belonging neither here or there. It seems incomprehensible at the start why she would have killed herself but in the end the tragic nature that led to these deadly consequences is so clear. The story felt very real to me, the story and characters were well rounded and I recommend this audiobook with any reservations.

Line

The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine

TheWifeStalker

whats-it-about-2

Joanna and Leo seem to have the perfect relationship. Two adorable children, a beautiful house in a chic area of Connecticut – they have the kind of life people envy.

Then Piper moves to town. Piper is young, attractive, flirtatious. It’s almost no wonder Leo is tempted away…

Devastated, Joanna starts digging into Piper’s past, and discovers some very disturbing secrets – not least that Piper’s previous two husbands ended up dead. But Piper dismisses Joanna’s fears for her family as paranoia. Who is telling the truth? Joanna? Piper? The only certainty in this web of lies is that no one is who they appear to be…and no one will escape unscathed.

review-2

amazon uk

5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

Another family oriented novel with two women telling the story, the only catch being that you don’t know who is telling the truth. It’s very much a Piper versus Joanna story and with Joanne pushed out of the picture and out of the lives of Leo and her children, it was easy to be on team Joanna from the start. The further into the story the more I questioned Piper’s character too. Her past raises some serious questions and Joanne is convinced Piper wants to harm her children. Is it true? Piper is having difficulties winning the children’s sympathy and it’s clear that Stellie’s behaviour is a struggle for her but would she really harm him? How will Joanna make Leo see Piper for who she really is? I didn’t really like Leo either for putting Joanna aside so casually while she stood by him during his depression and I didn’t understand at all why they chose to tell the children Evie and Stellie that their mother is dead and not let Joanna see them. I felt that quite insensitive and unnecessary. With hindsight it all made sense though.

It didn’t help that I loved the narration of Joanna’s voice so much more than Piper’s. I just noticed that both voices were actually narrated by Julia Whelan but for some reason I thought there were two narrators.

There is also one helluva twist in this novel that I didn’t see coming at all and for that alone it deserves at least 4 stars. Pulling this off takes amazing skill. 

A novel that kept me guessing what the deal was for the longest time!

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas #BookReview

TheCheerleaders def

whats-it-about-2

There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

I was in the mood to read a Young Adult book and I bought this novel ages ago when it was in sales. I picked it up thinking it would be quite similar to A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder with another teen sleuth at the center of a murder mystery. It definitely had the same easy style of writing and they are both visually attractive, but there are multiple plotlines in this novel and the investigation of what happened in the past is also quite different between both novels.

The master sleuth of service in The Cheerleaders is Monica. She’s on the dance team at school while she might have been on the cheerleading team like her big sister Jennifer if the team hadn’t been disbanded after 5 girls of the team died. I’m not sure it matters (it doesn’t) but in all honesty, cheerleading team (from what I gained from flashbacks) and dance team (from the routines Monica shares) did feel quite similar to me.

Monica is still trying to make sense of her sister’s death. First two friends of her sister died in a car accident, then two were murdered for an unknown reason by their neighbour, and then Jennifer killed herself, no note, no nothing. It’s been 5 years but Monica still has trouble coping. She has always been convinced 5 deaths in a matter of only a few months were just too much of a coincidence. When she stumbles by accident upon some anonymous letters accusing her stepfather of not having done his job properly, and her sister’s old cell phone, she uses this device to do some digging and retrace her sister’s life in the last days. I did find it a little bit of a plothole to strike up a conversation with someone anonymous via a telephone number and doing everything possible to find out this person’s identity through every means possible other than simply calling the number with any sort of random excuse. It’s the first thing I would do or at least think about but then I guess it wouldn’t be so much fun if she had taken this shortcut. It would also mean she’d have a name but possibly not know the connection to her sister so it did maybe work out better in the end anyway. It also meant that Monica needed some extra help and she finds an ally in Ginny, another girl on the dance team who she didn’t really have much contact with before they teamed up, and I’d even say I warmed to Ginny possibly even more than to Monica.

I loved that there was so much going on, Monica has her own problems in the present and then there are various strings in the past too but it eventually remains quite focused on the murders of Susan and Juliana. I got a sense of what was going on via Jennifer’s POV but Monica was also doing her best to shed some extra light onto the friendship between the cheerleaders.

The last few chapters were packed with revelations, I did not guess the conclusion of any of the clever mysteries. There was however an imbalance as the revelation of one mystery fell a little flat for me. It was sort of shoved between the others, thus much shorter and rather matter of fact, the other two felt much more shocking and I wish it had felt the same way.

All in all I did enjoy The Cheerleaders, it had decent plotting, wasn’t shy of adding some heavier themes into the story, and I definitely want to try another of Kara Thomas’s novels the future.

I bought a paperback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

Bone China by Laura Purcell #BookReview

BoneChina def

whats-it-about-2

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr. Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the disease in the caves beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralyzed and mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try to escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

The first and only novel I read by Laura Purcell until now was an ecopy of The Corset in 2018, a novel I absolutely loved. I actually wanted to read The Shape of Darkness and was looking into buying that one but it’s still too expensive in paperback so I settled for Bone China which was released in 2019.

There’s so much that can be said about this novel but I don’t know where to even start or how to review this one. Let’s start at the beginning, with the opening chapters of Bone China introducing the character of Hester Why. That’s not her real name though so ‘why’ indeed! Why is she escaping from London and who from? I wasn’t even very far into this novel and the questions already started to pile up. I would find the answers in the second part of the story after she installs herself at Morvoren House in Cornwall where she’ll take care of an elderly lady Louise Pinecroft who is partially paralysed. The customs and standards at Morvoren House are quite different from the position she was in in posh London, and there’s an overall creepiness added by one of the staff firmly believing in fairies and changelings. Hester doesn’t believe in all that (thank goodness) but it was unsettling that spooky things did happen and that everyone in the household went along believing they had to trick changelings and cast away fairies with bible balls and salt. Who exactly is in danger here?

Ms. Pinecroft is not able to clearly communicate with Hester due to the condition she’s in so she can’t explain why she’s intent on staying in an unheated (read freezing) room where a whole collection of blue and white china is displayed, nor why she she has a tormented look of fear in her eyes when night falls and it’s time for bed. The next part of the novel couldn’t have been a bigger contrast, the shift towards the past shows Louise Pinecroft suddenly as a young and strong woman again, trying to assist her father in finding a cure for consumption (tuberculosis) which they both seem to be immune to. What happened in between the oast and Ms. Pinecroft’s current state and what her obsession is with the china collection when she wasn’t too pleased when her father gave her a tea set at the time explaining that every mistress of a house needed one surely kept me turning those pages.

I was very engaged from the start and the flashbacks to the past – both Hester’s as Louise’s  – were very compelling but the present plotline was a bit hit and miss, it raised too many questions and it all got a bit over the top fantastical with sightings and things appearing and disappearing, for me personally it didn’t have to cross the line and go that far. The superstitions – fairies are bad creatures who come to take you away – do serve a purpose in the novel though with the story building up to a shocking ending. An ending that will leave everyone pondering if there was something good to come from it after all.

Overall a very mysterious, atmospheric novel with an unsettling feeling carried over the different timelines.

I bought a paperback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

House of Correction by Nicci French #BookReview

HouseOfCorrection def

whats-it-about-2

She’s a murderer.

Everyone knows she killed Stuart Rees – why else would his dead body be found in her shed?
So now Tabitha is in prison, awaiting trial.

Coming back to the remote coastal village where she grew up was a mistake. She didn’t fit in then, and she doesn’t fit in now.

That day is such a blur, she can’t remember clearly what happened. There is something she is missing, something important… She only knows one thing. She is not capable of murder.

And the only one she can trust to help her out of this situation is herself.
So she must fight. Against the odds.

For her life.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_2_stars_1457015465_81_246_96_2 / 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars_1457015858_81_246_96_2

I read one of this author couple’s novels years ago but I didn’t find the main character of the series Frieda very likeable so the urge to pick up another novel (I have 3 more on my tbr list) was not so high until I came across House of Correction. The novel piqued my interest and with a little nudge from blog friend Sabina I bumped this one up to the top of my list.

House of Correction is a courtroom thriller that is quite different from the norm. We all know that I don’t do different very well, I can’t help it. I’m still thinking about what I just read – and I still haven’t processed everything – mainly because there’s a serious lack of investigation and even more than that it’s how the proceedings in the courtroom went. It’s actually hilarious if you can see the humour in it.

House of Correction describes everything you basically shouldn’t do if you’re on trial. The main character Tabitha doesn’t know how anything works at court and for that I can’t blame her but there were other instances where she is so daft that I cringed several times at the things she did. Seriously, when you have to ‘question’ witnesses in the stand, HOW MANY TIMES does she need to be told that you have to ask a question? I haven’t counted it but if you ask me it was several times too many.

Tabitha is not the brightest star in the sky, to say the least. She flies off the handle at several occasions, she forgets to call the Judge My Lady and calls her Madam, she calls the lawyer for the prosecution ‘the other guy’ in front of the judge, she intervenes rudely when witnesses are being questioned by the prosecution and it’s not her time to comment at all. Basically, she got on my nerves so hard and I think even I would have a better shot at it than she did. It also didn’t help that she can’t recall the events on the day of the murder at all, we were off on a bad start already because I have a low tolerance for memory loss like this.

As for the investigation, I had to wait 200 pages to know a little more about the murder itself but it was kept very vague. I still don’t know how many times the victim was stabbed, it isn’t even mentioned. A lot of questions were not even asked.

Throughout the novel – via Tabitha’s conversations in prison with her visitors – it does become clear that the victim was not an angel himself so there are several people who could have a motive but they weren’t anywhere near the murder scene, as CCTV shows. It’s a mystery and with Tabitha’s particular manner of conduct I was holding my heart that she would be convicted. She repeats it so many times that she’s innocent that it’s actually this half pity, half you got it coming, that was making me turn the pages and I was dying to know how she could possibly escape prison. I’m not going to say how it ends, but similar to the rest of the novel, I wasn’t expecting it to go like this. The ending was ok but didn’t make up for the rest and I simply couldn’t overcome the grievings I had.

Readers might find it refreshing that a main character arrested for murder is not some tough person who has her act together and has a positive attitude. This novel dons all those clichés. Unfortunately, I don’t think I was ready for this as I take what happens in courtrooms seriously and I didn’t feel she was very serious. I see that there are 60% of 5-star ratings though so I happily admit that this opinion’s entirely on me.

I received a copy of this novel in my Capital Crime thriller book club box. This is my honest opinion.

The Art of Death by David Fennell #BookReview

TheArtofDeath def

whats-it-about-2

Death is an art, and he is the master . . .

Three glass cabinets appear in London’s Trafalgar Square containing a gruesome art installation: the floating corpses of three homeless men. Shock turns to horror when it becomes clear that the bodies are real.

The cabinets are traced to @nonymous – an underground artist shrouded in mystery who makes a chilling promise: MORE WILL FOLLOW.

Eighteen years ago, Detective Inspector Grace Archer escaped a notorious serial killer. Now, she and her caustic DS, Harry Quinn, must hunt down another.

As more bodies appear at London landmarks and murders are livestreamed on social media, their search for @nonymous becomes a desperate race against time. But what Archer doesn’t know is that the killer is watching their every move – and he has his sights firmly set on her . . .

He is creating a masterpiece. And she will be the star of his show.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half

I was immediately drawn to the cover of this book, it has a perfect vibe for a dark thriller (who doesn’t love that nice extra touch of some fake blood spatters on a cover eh) and I was really looking forward to reading this novel.

I enjoyed plenty of things about The Art of Death. First off, I found that the macabre vibe of the cover was reflected in the book as well and I LOVED that. It wasn’t there all the time and it didn’t domineer the story but at times there was this extra little dark touch that made my heart pump a little faster. I didn’t realise it at the time but the story really does grow more harrowing with every new chapter. At the start of The Art of Death three bodies (yes why not three at once) are found dead in a glass case for all to see. The killer has a weird sense of seeing dead bodies as art. How he can have a huge following and fans is beyond my comprehension but what do I know. Then, however, the author has a few other tricks up his sleeve that are effectively shocking. Like getting to know the victims quite well first and then witnessing their deaths. Seriously, I don’t want to read about formadehyde for at least three books now, what a way to die! There’s also one particular scene that I read while trying to divert my eyes a little (it didn’t help) and which really stood out for me, as well as one victim that I couldn’t help root so hard for to survive!

The only issue that I had with this book was that even though it had so much going for it and however much I enjoyed the team of Quinn and Archer, it didn’t surprise me enough. I knew what was what and not even the red herrings in the story could fool me. It was just too plain to see…

Another plot and another killer and I might love his next story so definitely one to watch out for. The author and the vibe of the novel reminds me a little bit of J.D. Barker so if the plot gets a bit more clever then he could mean some serious competition in the future.

I received a copy of this book via my Capital Crime Book Subscription box. This is my honest opinion.

The House Guest by Mark Edwards #BookReview

TheHouseGuestdef

whats-it-about-2

A perfect summer. A perfect stranger. A perfect nightmare.

When British twenty-somethings Ruth and Adam are offered the chance to spend the summer housesitting in New York, they can’t say no. Young, in love and on the cusp of professional success, they feel as if luck is finally on their side.

So the moment that Eden turns up on the doorstep, drenched from a summer storm, it seems only right to share a bit of that good fortune. Beautiful and charismatic, Eden claims to be a friend of the homeowners, who told her she could stay whenever she was in New York.

They know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers―let alone invite them into your home―but after all, Eden’s only a stranger until they get to know her.

As suspicions creep in that Eden may not be who she claims to be, they begin to wonder if they’ve made a terrible mistake…

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half

After I read the brilliant novel Here to Stay (here’s my review) I bought a copy of his next book The House Guest, and then I also received it in my Capital Crime subscription box so with two copies on my shelves I felt the universe was telling me I really needed to read it soon. So 6 months later here we are ;-).

I absolutely loved the first part of the novel where we get to know the unexpected stranger Eden (it did make me smile that she turned up at Adam’s and Eve’s Ruth’s doorstep) and the tension starts to seep in because I could feel something was about to go wrong, and I wondered what Eden could be hiding. The bearded guy watching the place highly contributed to that feeling. Was he after her, was she in danger? The cut came rather too quick with Part Two of the story starting already after 58 pages and unfortunately what followed was an over the top plotline and one I personally don’t really enjoy reading about. I can’t really spell it out (although I wish it was mentioned in the book blurb) but if you know my taste you can probably guess the direction it took. There followed an action-packed part for Adam which held my attention because I love a good chase but the idea of this plotline was just a bit too far fetched even though it all fits together perfectly. It was quite spectacular in the end and not how I had envisioned a house-sitting to develop into at all.

Overall this story was okay. The House Guest was only not entirely my genre so not my favourite one if I have to choose. Oh well, I guess now that we have this subject covered, it won’t appear in the next novel so I can’t wait to read the next one!

I bought a copy (ok copies) of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides #BookReview

TheMaidens def

whats-it-about-2

St Christopher’s College, Cambridge, is a closed world to most.

For Mariana Andros – a group therapist struggling through her private grief – it’s where she met her late husband. For her niece, Zoe, it’s the tragic scene of her best friend’s murder.

As memory and mystery entangle Mariana, she finds a society full of secrets, which has been shocked to its core by the murder of one of its students.

Because behind its idyllic beauty is a web of jealousy and rage which emanates from an exclusive set of students known only as The Maidens. A group under the sinister influence of the enigmatic professor Edward Fosca.

A man who seems to know more than anyone about the murders – and the victims. And the man who will become the prime suspect in Mariana’s investigation – an obsession which will cost her everything…

The Maidens is a story of love, and of grief – of what makes us who we are, and what makes us kill.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

Michaelides’s debut novel The Silent Patient was an amazing read and merits to be called a real bestseller, and the huge #WTF twist made this book so memorable that it went straight to my top 10 of 2019 (here’s my review). You can imagine how excited I was to read his next book The Maidens and how I jumped for joy when I was approved to read an ecopy on Netgalley.

The Maidens is a solid read but maybe my expectations were a little too high as for me personally it didn’t equal the first novel. One of the things I did however particularly enjoy about this novel were the references to Greek mythology, to the legend of the goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone who was abducted by Hades (to jog your memory: the turning of the seasons is liased to Persophone) and the Greek celebration of this legend (The Rites of Eleusis because Demeter went to look for her daughter at Eleusis). The (not quite so secret) little student club was quite intriguing and I could easily imagine secret rites among this group and there being someone who wants to share a message to the world. Mariana is quite hung up on the killer being the professor Fosca but the more she became obsessed, the more I became convinced that it couldn’t be him… even though I had no clue who was leaving intriguing calling cards.

Unfortunately the author doesn’t pull the line entirely through and The Maidens themselves were ultimately not as interesting as I expected. The characters of this group were not developed so I didn’t really care much whether they could be a next victim and if you ask me to describe them I wouldn’t really know what to say. I’m in two minds at times as well though because I’m not a fan of reading about cults and rites (remember my review of The Furies) so I was on the other hand quite happy I was spared having to read such scenes.

I did love that a few characters from the first novel are named in this novel too, they are intricately woven into this plot. Don’t worry though, you don’t need the first novel, it’s just a reference made at some point but it was cool!

I quite liked the big twist in the end, he tried to pull off another one of his unexpected twists and although it was for me partially successful, it was a bit radical. I thought the book was leading somewhere but it actually takes a whole different direction in the end, which is amazing, only I don’t deal well with such startling turnarounds.

The Maidens is a psychological thriller with a gothic edge. Don’t take your eyes off the first part is the only advice I can give you and maybe you’ll be more triumphant in discovering who did it than I was.

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

Sleepless by Romy Hausmann #BookReview

Sleepless def

whats-it-about-2

It’s over, my angel. Today I’m going to die. Just like her. He’s won.

It’s been years since Nadja Kulka was convicted of a cruel crime. After being released from prison, she’s wanted nothing more than to live a normal life: nice flat, steady job, even a few friends. But when one of those friends, Laura von Hoven – free-spirited beauty and wife of Nadja’s boss – kills her lover and begs Nadja for her help, Nadja can’t seem to be able to refuse.

The two women make for a remote house in the woods, the perfect place to bury a body. But their plan quickly falls apart and Nadja finds herself outplayed, a pawn in a bizarre game in which she is both the perfect victim and the perfect murderer . . .

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars_1457015858_81_246_96_2

I know there were a few weeks of silence but a combination of not enough sleep (the cat still keeps me awake every night from around 3 am), 8 hours of work already on the computer each day and some other things filling my head (my apartment’s final delivery is coming up but there are still things that need to be solved, just to name one), well it drained my energy and made my reading and reviewing suffer. I can’t even promise to be back next week, I’ll have to see how it goes, although I do hope to feel more energized and full of inspiration to write reviews soon (it’s amazing that I had so many visitors in between though, now I feel even more guilty for not keeping up).

Anyway, I want to let you know my thoughts on Sleepless by Romy Haussman today. I was a big fan of Romy Hausmann’s first novel Dear Child so I was thrilled with a chance to read Sleepless. There’s no comparing the two novels though, this new title did have an altogether different feel to it, even though it is also themed as a psychological and mystery novel.

I was already a good portion into the story before the connections between the characters made sense, especially at first it felt quite confusing. A young girl Nelly is having an affair with a salesman who stays at her parent’s inn whenever he’s travelling but it was impossible to work out what her appearance had to do with Nadja, especially because it happened in a different time frame. I couldn’t place what happened in the past to Nelly in any context and this thread is left then as well so other then introducing another character into the story, I did not see the relevance right then but eventually it does become clear in the end.

Nadja Kulka is quite a mysterious character, she was arrested when she was only 15 for committing a terrible crime and now she’s in the heat of the fire again when she’s called for help by Laura, a friend she made while working at a Gero van Hoven’s law firm. I’m always team underdog so I liked her but with everything that happened the author managed to make me have my doubts too… Is Nadja the perfect victim or is she in fact the one orchestrating and lying most of all? Who is the real villain of the story, Laura, her husband Gero van Hoven, or Nadja, it isn’t always clear and changes a over the course of the story too.

I absolutely love novels with fascinating characters that make me want to analyse them and Nadja was the most fascinating of all. Laura was a cheat and Gero a shark (he’s a lawyer after all) who didn’t listen when his client said he was innocent, so I catalogued them as the other party from the start and there was no love lost on them but Nadja, yes she was the one worthy of trying to figure out. Haussman is at her best on the psychological front and I enjoyed this part the most again. Nadja’s childhood was addictive to read and the story also came full circle with Nelly’s story tied into the great emotional ending of the novel. The story is about sacrifice but you’ll have to read it to learn who is being sacrificed. I found it a tad unbelievable, in light of how it all started but maybe I’m too severe, who knows. Let me know when you read it so we can exchange viewpoints.

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

Layla by Colleen Hoover #BookReview

Layla def

whats-it-about-2

When Leeds meets Layla, he’s convinced he’ll spend the rest of his life with her—until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. In order to put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. And that’s just one of many inexplicable occurrences.

Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow—another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

star three and a half

It’s been a while since I read a novel by one of my favorite romance authors. Even though I’m a big fan I don’t want to binge-read her novels. Her books need to be savored like a fine wine, I enjoy drinking in her words but want to pace myself and not just have too much at once. This novel is causing some division in my head though and it’s the first novel I read that is a difficult one to form an opinion of. I confess I had not read any reviews beforehand because I know this author and I loved every single book she has written but I was unprepared for the genre of novel this was. It seems she’s venturing further from the type of novels she wrote in the past, first dabbling into a different genre with Verity (a thriller, which I really liked because it also had a cool twist) and now this one.

Layla had an important and big plot twist which involves one of those tropes I really don’t like reading about so I felt a little deflated when I first found out. Had I known this then I don’t know if I had picked it up yet and would have chosen to read another one of hers first. Maybe it is a good thing though that I didn’t know because I did come around in the end so the final verdict is that I did enjoy it and chances are you’ll probably like it even more than me.

Without going into the plot, I can say that I felt conflicted at first that Leeds spent so much time with Willow, it somehow felt quite disloyal that he started to have these sort of secret conversations and encounters and as the story progressed that feeling only grew stronger. I was happy when he finally started to think about what he was doing because I reached that point much earlier so I didn’t really like Leeds and the fact that there are chapters where he has Layla TIED UP IN HER ROOM was even more reason for me to totally dislike him. I totally changed my mind in the end though and I totally understood his actions then so I did love that the author managed to change my feelings towards Willow, Layla and Leeds completely.

Apart from the trope that demanded some suspension of my belief, it is also not my favorite novel by the author because I couldn’t feel as deeply and as emotionally as I would have if it were a straightforward love story. One where I didn’t block the feeling of wanting a romance to blossom between two people who aren’t in a relationship as much as I did here from the start. The focus of my feelings was more on disliking certain characters instead of focusing on the love aspect. It’s all a bit unrealistic for me but she did manage to write something that will surprise the reader as it is something fresh and original.

I do have Heart Bones, another novel of hers waiting on my tbr pile so hopefully that will really give me what I want to satisfy my romantic side.

I bought a paperback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.