Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Bad Apple by Zoje Stage

Bad AppleBad Apple by Zoje Stage
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Seven-year-old Hanna has never spoken a word.

She is a sweet but silent angel in the eyes of her adoring father, but with Mummy, things are different. Suzette loves her daughter but difficulties with babysitters and teachers over the years have put a strain on their relationship and her sanity.

Then Hanna speaks for the first time, to Suzette alone, and what she says is chilling.

Suzette wants to write it off as a scary joke, but she’s becoming increasingly frightened by Hanna's little games. Could she be in danger from her own child? And when it's her word against her daughter's, can she make her husband believe her?

A twisty, darkly compulsive psychological thriller/horror tale realistically creepy and deeply disturbing.

This is written alternately between Suzette (the mother) and Hannah (the child) which chronicles the events between a mother and a very manipulative little girl whose blatant refusal to speak drives a wedge between them. Hannah was a normal baby but when she reached the age to be able to speak she simply refused to do so. Her parents tried everything with her and took her to countless doctors and hospitals for tests but they could find nothing wrong with her. Her inability to speak lead to problems in schooling her and (what they perceived to be Hannah's frustration to communicate) consequently her bad behaviour around other children meant that she eventually was considered to be too much of a handful and schools didn't want her. Suzette took on her schooling at home but eventually she felt she couldn't cope with her and being trapped in the house with a frustrated and often manipulative child was taking its toll on Suzette with constant battle of wills and tantrums. That is until daddy comes home, at which point this wilful child turns into a smiling, loving angel who has all his attention and his indulgence. Like most fathers they find parenting so easy as they only see their children for a fraction of the day while the mothers may have had the day from hell. Suzette is left feeling pathetic and whingey that she can't cope with her child.

Suzette is also at a disadvantage as she has health problems and through a combination of pain and lack of sleep finds Hannah a handful and is constantly questioning her parenting skills. Hannah is quite menacing and we glimpse an insight into a childs' mind and how they can misunderstand actions and signals and pull these round to justify their bad behaviour. Once we know there is nothing mentally wrong with Hannah (or at least nothing she has been tested for) the child takes on a more chilling and calculated persona. Every little victory for her is a loss for Suzette. Eventually Hannah does speak but it's frighteningly like she is possessed. Zoje Stage is careful to keep Hannah's 'voice' as childish as possible which only adds to the creepiness of the whole situation.

Daddy of course does not at first believe there is anything amiss with his perfect angel of a child, who overall appears to be very advanced for her age. I found the researching on the internet by a seven year old a bit of a stretch but to enjoy this you have to accept a few leaps of faith. Suzette although weakened by her illness does become genuinely afraid of her daughter and I could see how this could manifest itself in rational mothers. But she has to accept she is the adult and take control of the situation.

I felt there was a shift of power when Suzette does become as manipulative as Hannah when she has to convince daddy that the best course of action would be to take Hannah away from the family home. By now the situation has gone on too long and Hannah has targeted Suzette as the focus for all her misfortunes regarding her obsession with her father and Suzette is afraid for her life. Strangely I got the impression that although Suzette had suffered at the at the hands of her daughter she does really still love her but doesn't like her which allows her to become removed from emotion. Suzette is happy that she is no longer in the house and both her and her husband have more time for each other and with their loyalties no longer divided they are returning to a time when there was no Hannah, they find they are more at peace without her.

It is a disturbing look into the mind of a child that is wilful and manipulative and shows what can and sometimes does happen when a child is given too much attention and is allowed to 'control' and run the show. I know of a lot of children who are given rein to do what they please and have little boundaries which make them difficult to handle and although Hannah did have these she was able to play off one parent against the other like a game, a game which she very much enjoyed that gave her power.

A good read that was well executed by the author. Initially I was convinced that there was some mental problem with the child but as I read on (and being a somewhat spirited child myself) I could see perfectly the opportunities that Hannah had to get her own way and gain attention from a doting father, and unfortunately for her, the consequences that bought out the monster in her that in the end she couldn't control - or could she?

There's a sequel in there somewhere I'm sure and I'd love to read it. 5 stars from me.

Sunday, 17 February 2019

With or without you by Shari Low

With or Without You.jpg

Have you ever made a life-changing decision and then wondered if you made the right one...?

When Liv and Nate walked up the aisle, Liv knew she was marrying the one, her soul mate and her best friend.
Six years later, it feels like routine and friendship is all they have left in common. What happened to the fun, the excitement, the lust, the love?

In the closing moments of 1999, Liv and Nate decide to go their separate ways, but at the last minute, Liv wavers. Should she stay or should she go?

Over the next twenty years we follow the parallel stories to discover if Liv's life, heart and future have been better with Nate... Or without him?


Ah, so she had full facts. She was, in truth, surprisingly alert and sharp for
someone who had brain surgery three days ago. ‘Yep, I did that too,’ I said, returning
her smile.
‘That’s amazing.’
‘You wouldn’t be saying that if you’d seen me. Did they
mention that I did it in
my extra large knick
knacks because I couldn’t climb over in my fishtail frock?’
Her chuckle interrupted the conversation between the two elderly dears in the next
beds, who were now listening intently... as was a new arrival to the
‘Well, there’s a mental picture that may stay with me for the rest of the day.’
A man’s voice. My face
flush was instant, and deepened when I turned to see a
doctor, standing directly behind me. I’ve always maintained that real
life doctors
don’t lo
ok like the strapping hunks on medical dramas, and generally that’s true.
Richard didn’t have the chiselled jawline or the piercing blue eyes that would make
patients and staff melt at his surgical shoes, but he did have slightly unkempt black
wavy hair th
at curled over the stethoscope that was slung around his neck, somewhat
tired, potentially intoxicating green eyes, and a cheeky grin.
If this guy was in
Grey’s Anatomy
, he’d be the tall, medium
attractive one who
played the heart
throb’s sidekick, but who
always got the girl because he had a
twinkling eye, a great smile and the kind of charm that could take a patient’s mind off
most non
threatening ailments.
His comment was perfectly delivered, more amused than leery, bringing much
hilarity to everyon
e in earshot, and much mortification to me.
‘Richard Campbell, neurosurgeon,’ he said.
‘Liv Jamieson,’ I replied. ‘Palliative care. Late for work and about to dash off,’ I
added, before turning back to Francine. ‘I’m so glad you’re okay
and that I got to
meet you.’
Her infectious smile was back. ‘You too.’
Over the next few weeks, Francine made it back to full health and was discharged.
Meanwhile, the good doctor and I would bump into each other with slightly
suspicious regularity, until Chloe confessed t
hat she was trying to set me up with him
because I ‘needed a happy distraction to stop me moping about Nate’. She was right.
After Francine had been taken to hospital in the early hours of New Year’s Day, I’d
told him I definitely wanted to go through with
the split. It was the right thing to do.
We’d agreed not to call each other for the first couple of weeks and we’d both stuck
to that. So far. The seventy
five per cent certainty about my decision had dropped to
sixty per cent, and if it went below fifty
I was calling him.
Richard called me before that happened, at the beginning of May, when I was five
months into life as a singleton. In a stunning pivot of hypocrisy about the whole
doctor/nurse relationship disapproval, I’d accepted his suggestion of a d
ate. It had
taken a while, but I’d eventually relaxed and realised that the best thing to get over the
end of a relationship was the distraction of a cute doctor with a cheeky sense of
humour. I loved that he was a charmer and took nothing, except his work
, seriously. I
loved that it was easy and it hadn’t strayed into deep and demanding. Most of all I
loved that he was the complete opposite of Nate in every way.
Our shifts clashed, so we didn’t see each other more than twice a week, but it was
enough. It w
as uncomplicated. Fun. And not to be crude about it, but the sex...
‘Chloe, he talks the whole way through,’ I blurted, in the kitchen after the first
time he spent the night.
‘In that case, I’m so glad I was working. I’d have had to play a bit of Vengaboys
full blast to block the sound. Did it freak you out?’ she went on.
‘A bit.’ Okay, so here’s the thing. I could add up the total of my sexual partners on
one hand. Two of them were short
term things when I was a teenager. Another was an
unfortunate one
ight stand, thanks to vodka overload during Freshers Week. I spent
the next four years at uni avoiding some guy called Jeremy who’d been intimate with
my anatomy.
Then there was Nate, for eight years.
All in all, I wasn’t exactly widely experienced in such
‘But did you like it?’
‘More than a bit,’ I replied, as she roared with laughter.
‘Who’d have known you had an inner slapper?’ she’d teased, before she headed
off, clutching a cream cheese bagel.
That seemed like so long ago now. Five months, thre
e days to be exact. Not that I
was counting. Okay, I was, but only to take my mind off the fact that nerves were
twisting my stomach into a knot the size of a melon.

Wednesday, 13 February 2019

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Nine Perfect StrangersNine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The retreat at health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum House promises total transformation.

Nine stressed city dwellers are keen to drop their literal and mental baggage, and absorb the meditative ambience while enjoying their hot stone massages.

Miles from anywhere, without cars or phones, they have no way to reach the outside world. Just time to think about themselves, and get to know each other.

Watching over them is the resort's director, a woman on a mission. But quite a different one from any the guests might have imagined.

For behind the retreat's glamorous facade lies a dark agenda.

These nine perfect strangers have no idea what's about to hit them . . .

I really enjoyed this unusual story about 9 strangers who all end up booking into a health and wellness resort for different reasons and who all end up getting far more than they bargained for.

With a wide cast of characters with their own reasons for wanting to transform their lives (a claim that Tranquillem House offers) they embark on a journey that they hadn't anticipated during which they endure 10 cleansing programmes, daily smoothies, spa and therapy treatments along with personal exercise classes and five days of compulsory silence, this is shaping up to be a little more than most of the 'guests' expected.

Good likeable relatable characters with generous helpings of humour keep this novel ticking along nicely. We learn about all nine characters and their reasons for choosing the retreat and what they expect to get from it. Tranquillem House (set in Australia) is situated miles from anywhere and having had to surrender all electronic devices when they entered, our nine guests find themselves cut off from the outside world. The resort is run by a Russian called Marsha who turns out to be a ruthless woman who's own near death experience has led her to change her life and who believes she has the power to change others' lives (whether they like it or not).

While the calming programme seems innocent enough Marsha has a sinister agenda to which her unassuming guests will be subjected to.

Lovely characterisation of all of the nine participants make this a really realistic and enjoyable story and as it progresses the lives of these characters come to the fore. Good doses of humour and wit in this tale along with the madness of Marsha force these people together where unexpected bonds are made and dramatic transformations occur.

Loved the idea and the novel, well written and insightful with steady pace that makes it an easy read. I will never look at health spas and wellness centres quite the same again! Well worth 5 stars

Monday, 11 February 2019

No One You Know by Michelle Richmond

No One You KnowNo One You Know by Michelle Richmond
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Her sister was murdered. The killer was never found. Until now…

All her childhood Ellie Enderlin had lived in her sister’s shadow. But then Lily was murdered and their family changed forever.

Now, decades later, Ellie comes into possession of Lila’s lost notebook and has a chance to finally discover the truth about her sister’s death. But her search for justice will lead her to uncover her sister’s darkest secrets…

I really struggled with this novel. I always try to finish a book and give an honest review but I only managed to get to chapter 13 and then had to put it away. To be honest the storyline was so flimsy which alone made it hard to keep going. The main character Ellie is searching for who killed her sister Lila many years previously. Lila's college professor (after meeting with Ellie and pumping her for information) writes a book about the murder and then makes assumptions on who the killer is. Lila is a maths student and has kept a journal with complicated maths calculations and theories and this is so overworked in the chapters that I did manage to read that made it too tedious to bother with. Too wordy and mathematically intense for me - sorry this only gets a 1 star rating.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 8 February 2019

Strictly Between Us by Jane Fallon

Strictly Between UsStrictly Between Us by Jane Fallon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Tamsin and her best friend Michelle have been inseparable since they were teenagers. Even now they spend all their time together, along with Patrick, Michelle's handsome husband.

So when Tamsin hears a rumour that Patrick is having an affair, she is furious. Unwilling to ignore it, Tamsin plots a scheme to catch Patrick in the act, using her assistant Bea as live-bait. It should be fool proof.
After all, Tamsin can trust Bea with anything. From her daily coffee order to fetching her dry-cleaning, writing reports and doing all the filing - Bea does everything with a smile on her face.

Except Tamsin never considered Bea might have her own agenda.

And if she does, then Tamsin really needs to watch her back . . .

Really enjoyed this clever, funny, entertaining chick lit by Jane Fallon. The characters were beautifully drawn with all their faults and insecurities that allow the reader an insight into their relationships and friendships. Peppered with lies, cheating, dishonesty and a sprinkling of revenge and jealousy this was a great read.

Told initially in the POV of Tamsin we learn initially all about her and develop an understanding of why (in part) she feels compelled to involve herself in her best friends marriage and expose cheating, lying Patrick, and the hazards of doing so. Part two of the novel you hear other characters 'speak' which allows the 'penny to drop' but also gives the reader choices of who to side with. This change of 'voice' in part two then pivots the pace to race towards the (not entirely expected) ending.

Hugely entertaining, great believable relatable characters, revenge and jealousy with a little romance thrown in for good measure, what's not to like? Intriguing and well woven plots, plenty of little surprises it has to get 5 stars - Jane Fallon is up there with the best in Chick lit writers.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 25 January 2019

All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker

All Is Not ForgottenAll Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everything seems picture-perfect in the town of Fairview, Connecticut, until one night the unthinkable happens: a young woman, Jenny Kramer, is brutally attacked at a local party. In the hours immediately thereafter, Jenny is given a controversial drug to medically erase her memory of the violent assault. But in the weeks and months that follow, as she heals from her physical wounds, she wrestles with her raging emotional memory.

Jenny's father, Tom, becomes obsessed in his quest for justice though her mother, Charlotte, struggles to pretend this horrific event did not touch her carefully-constructed world. Soon the fault lines within their marriage and their close-knit community emerge from the shadows, where they have been hidden for years. Meanwhile, Jenny remains haunted by what she can and cannot remember. . .and her attacker is still on the loose.

Dark and thought provoking thriller that explores experimental treatment that will erase memories of an horrific rape that a girl suffers when she is attacked at a party.

Believing that she is doing the right thing, Jennys' mother makes the decision to let her daughter who was attacked have the drug (previously used on trauma patients) to erase her memory of the attack. Jenny's father is conflicted, he wants the attacker found and if her memory is wiped all hope of that happening is gone. He is also wracked with guilt that he couldn't have protected her and feels it is his duty to find this man. Because treatment must be given within hours of the attack for it to be effective it leaves very little time for her parents to think things over or speak to any other professional. Believing it is the best course of action, Jenny's mother pushes for it to be done.

However, the treatment does not completely rid Jenny of the experience and her emotional and physiological memory of the incident are still living on in her body which causes her to have extreme anxiety and depression. She does have additional counselling through a support group where a psychiatrist works with victims. While she is being counselled her father is unravelling and crazed with finding her attacker. Her mother is coping the best way she can by convincing herself they can put this behind them.

It is a deep and dark psychological novel highlighting the effects of decisions made and consequences that propel people down specific paths in life. It is brutal in its honesty and frighteningly real in its portrayal.

The narrators identity is not revealed until late in the book and although not entirely surprising it was not immediately obvious.

It kind of has the 'be careful what you wish for' warning - sometimes its' not good to tamper with events but the appeal of having all the trauma taken away from you must be tempting. Its worth remembering that the brain is complex and 'quick fix' experimental solutions may have long term unpredictable consequences.

Lots of curve balls to send you down blind alleys in this book with good pace and plenty of suspense. Although the writer takes pains to tell us that the drug does not exist it makes you wonder how close we are to developing something similar and what the consequences would be should it ever be used.

Have to give this one 5 stars for its originality and spellbinding story telling.

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

A Winter Kiss on Rochester Mews by Annie Darling

A Winter Kiss on Rochester MewsA Winter Kiss on Rochester Mews by Annie Darling
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

But on Rochester Mews, two unlikely lovebirds are struggling to find their festive cheer.

Star baker Mattie has hated Christmas ever since she had her heart broken on Christmas Eve. The only thing she hates more is the insufferable Tom, who has rubbed her up the wrong way since she started running the tearoom next door to his bookshop. So when Mattie and Tom are left in charge in the frantic festive days before Christmas, it might be cold outside but things are sure to heat up.

Can a bookshop full of romantic novels, a life-sized reindeer and a mistletoe kissing booth persuade two scrooges to fall in love with Christmas… and each other?

Romantic heart-warming rom-coms don't come a lot better than this one. Funny, poignant, good likeable characters and a real feel good factor at the end. Mattie Smith a successful patisserie chef has been running the café in London since she left Paris when her heart was broken at Christmas. She hates Christmas and the endless season of good will, she has no time for men in her life and always wears depressing black outfits. Next comes Tom, and academic who has worked in the bookshop part of the business called 'Happy Ever After'. Tom appears to be as dull as dishwater, dresses much to old for his age and is aloof and stand offish.

When the flat above the premises becomes vacant Mattie and Tom find themselves flatmates. The novel expands the personalities of both these characters and the sub characters who are just as interesting but all together they work well in this story. Through various trials and tribulations we get our happy every after ending.

It's all you could want from a romantic rom-com and is well written although at times a little frustrating as is always the case with these novels. If you want to have a romantic escapist afternoon or two this is just the medicine you need. Perfect festive reading with plenty of comic moments and a satisfying conclusion. 4 stars

I would like to thank the publisher for sending this in exchange for an honest review.