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A Dark and Twisted Tide: Lacey Flint Series, Book 4
A Dark and Twisted Tide: Lacey Flint Series, Book 4
by Sharon Bolton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 9.09

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Twisted and mind-boggling, 13 May 2014
There are only a handful of crime writers whose new books instantly go to the very top of my wish list, and Sharon Bolton is one of them. After reading all three books in the Lacey Flint series, as well as an e-book short story, I’m convinced that no matter what she writes about or how she does it, I’m going to end up loving it. All of her books are so well-researched, so twisted and mind-boggling and so well-written that it’s impossible not to be captivated by them. A Dark and Twisted Tide is no exception.

Bolton’s ability to grab your attention within seconds and to keep up this suspense, this tension throughout the book is one of the reasons why I love her work as much as I do. As our killer and his/her soon-to-be victim make their appearance at the very beginning of the first chapter, the reader cannot help but wonder what is about to happen, why is s/he doing it. And of course Lacey can’t stay out of it either. A Dark and Twisted Tide pretty much continues from where the previous book ended, with Lacey leaving her team and joining the Marine Unit in the hope of a quieter, less stressful life. But someone has other plans. After discovering the first victim during her early morning swim in the Thames and a handful of (seemingly) practical jokes it becomes obvious that someone is keeping a close watch on her. And, once again, the killer will make sure that Lacey is very much part of his/her twisted game.

I had my suspicions about the killer throughout the book and right before the end I thought I’d be right but, once again, the ending completely took me by surprise and I didn’t see it coming at all.

The only reason why I decided to give this book 4.5 stars instead of 5 is that I still miss that intensity, that terrifying white-knuckle ride quality that I fell in love with in the first two books. A Dark and Twisted Tide is just as brilliantly written and just as twisted as Now You See Me and Dead Scared were but its focus shifts to Lacey and Lana’s personal lives in the first two thirds of the book, making the investigation seem a bit slower and less intense. I do love Lacey and I still think she’s one of the most interesting and most complex fictional detectives I’ve read about but for me the last two books in the series still lack something the first two had.

Other than that, it’s a brilliant read every crime reader needs to pick up (along with the first three books in the series). It’s a dark, sinister tale with a unique main character and plenty of twists to keep you guessing until the very last page.

Wedding Night
Wedding Night
by Sophie Kinsella
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Too far-fetched, 3 April 2014
This review is from: Wedding Night (Hardcover)
I adore Sophie Kinsella. She’s one of those very few people whose work I’ve loved since my early teens and whose books go to the very top of my reading list the minute they are published. I’ve read every single one of her novels and, with the exception of one, I loved every one of them. She has a great sense of humour which is there in all of her books, and her characters always manage to grow on me. Needless to say, my expectations for this book were very high. But I didn’t love it. In fact, I was a little bit disappointed.

As I just mentioned, one of the reasons why I love her books so much is the fact that they’re unbelievably funny. And not just ‘make you smile’ funny, but ‘laugh-out-loud and silently choke to death on public transport while trying not to snort with laughter’ funny. Her main characters always remind me a little bit of Bridget Jones. Sometimes they’re a bit clumsy, in some ways we can all relate to them – and they’re all hilarious. Some of her stories are a bit far-fetched but that’s part of the package and it never really bothered me before.

But what I realised after reading one of her previous books, Remember Me? (the other one I didn’t really like) is that far-fetched stories like these can easily turn into ones that are over-the-top. I think – for me, at least – there’s a very fine line between the two and Wedding Night happened to fall into the latter category. It’s similar to how I feel about movies. You know comedies that are absolutely hilarious and make you literally cry with laughter? And then there are the ones that start out brilliantly but after a while the plot becomes a bit… forced and instead of being hilarious, the characters’ clumsiness and/or general behaviour just becomes unrealistic and off-putting? I’m pretty sure I’m not explaining this very well but that’s how I felt about this book. There’s only so much far-fetched plot you can take before you realise that a) it’s not even funny anymore and b) the reason why everything is so unrealistic and exaggerated is to make the book funnier but it’s not working.

Another thing that didn’t really help was that I couldn’t connect with the characters. It usually never happens with Kinsella’s books but this set of characters didn’t work for me for some reason. I loved the idea of the dual narrative and it definitely made the book more interesting, but I can’t say I particularly liked Lottie and Fliss. Or any of the male characters either.

Having said that, the book did have it’s funny moments. It did make me laugh a few times and all in all, I still wanted to find out what happens to Lottie. And even though Wedding Night didn’t become my newest favourite book, Kinsella is still one of my favourite authors and I’ll still pick up her next novel in a heartbeat.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
by Matthew Quick
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Pure genius in every possible way, 19 Mar 2014
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock has been recommended to me by an increasing number of people in the past few months and after hearing so many great things about it, my expectations were very high. Since it left such a lasting impression on the book blogger community and all those people whose taste I absolutely trust, and since I generally like books dealing with suicide or mental illness, I decided to give it a go. Now, after reading the book, I can’t thank all these people enough for their constant nagging – because it was simply amazing.

I loved this book for so many different reasons, I don’t even know where to begin. Perhaps the best place to start is the narration and our main character, Leonard. On the surface, Leonard is your average eighteen-year-old secondary school student with an average life. Okay, maybe the fact that his mother abandoned him and, as it turns out later on, doesn’t have the faintest idea about what he’s going through and how tough his childhood has been isn’t so average. On the contrary. But other than that, he seems like any other guy his age. Until he starts talking. Through Leonard’s story we learn that, in fact, he couldn’t be any more different from everyone else. I loved his unique voice and his way of storytelling. And while he’s just a young guy trying to get through his school years, his attitude and his way of thinking, his thoughts about adulthood couldn’t be more mature. His anger and his thoughts about not wanting to grow up – because adults just don’t seem to remember how to be happy – reminded me of Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye (one of my favourite classics of all time) and I loved Leonard just as much as I loved him.

Apart from Leonard’s voice and how special he truly is, another thing I loved about this book is the message the author tries to convey. The novel as a whole might be quite dark and grim (and yes, it made me blink back a few tears here and there), but his message about life and happiness is so optimistic and so cleverly, subtly woven into the story through Leonard’s letters from his older self. Speaking of the letters: it really confused me at first and I didn’t really know what to make of it – I thought it would be something cheesy but once I realised who’s writing these letters, I thought it was beautiful.

I also loved the picture the book paints of society and adulthood. As I said, it’s quite dark and I think quite similar to The Catcher in the Rye in the sense that both main characters loathe adulthood and the fact that adults just go with the flow without enjoying life, working their butts off and forgetting how to enjoy the little things in life.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is pure genius in every possible way and everyone should read it. Now.

Don't Stand So Close
Don't Stand So Close
by Luana Lewis
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 10.49

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, twisted, and very addictive, 15 Feb 2014
This review is from: Don't Stand So Close (Hardcover)
I have a soft spot for psychological thrillers so I fell in love with Luana Lewis’s story the minute I read the synopsis. I had very high hopes for Don’t Stand So Close and luckily, it didn’t let me down. I loved it from start to finish and I’m not exaggerating when I say I read the first hundred pages in one sitting.

One of the reasons why it’s so difficult to put it down is that you have no idea who’s lying, who’s manipulating who and who the (real) victims are. Blue turns up at Stella’s house with an innocent enough story but once she’s inside, it turns out things are more complicated than they seem. Both of them are acting strange. Stella has been cocooned inside her home with symptoms of agoraphobia and anxiety, and been on heavy medication for years so she’s clearly not the most reliable character you’ll ever find. Blue says she knows Stella’s husband but she keeps changing her story all the time. You have no idea what’s going on and you want to find out who’s telling the truth so desperately that by the time you manage to put the book down for a few minutes, it’s midnight and you realize you forgot to have dinner. And lunch. It’s very addictive!

Another thing I particularly enjoyed about how the story is built up is the fact that it runs on three different levels. It all starts at Hilltop, Stella and Max’s Buckinghamshire home, in the present. The following chapter describes a scene between patient and therapist, and the next one takes place two years earlier when Stella was an ambitious and ever so effective employee at Max’s psychiatric clinic. I loved how Stella’s past (the scenes at the clinic), Blue’s past (the ones between patient and therapist) and their present (the scenes at Hilltop) intertwined – it’s such a clever way of telling the story and it makes it even more captivating, if that’s possible. We get a glimpse into both women’s past and their present together. It gives us an insight into what Stella was like before her life fell apart and, chapter by chapter, Lewis unveils the truth about Stella’s phobias and why her life took such a dramatic turn all these years ago.

Suspenseful, dark, chilling – Don’t Stand So Close is a twisted, brilliantly written story which is guaranteed to render you speechless. I absolutely loved it and I can’t wait to see what the author comes up with next!

Mother, Mother
Mother, Mother
by Koren Zailckas
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 13.59

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the most suspenseful, chilling novels I've read lately, 16 Jan 2014
This review is from: Mother, Mother (Hardcover)
Mother, Mother is typically one of those books which left such a great impression on me that I have no idea where to even begin. I've always been a big fan of psychological thrillers and suspense - both in terms of films and books - so even though I went into this book not knowing what to expect, I was secretly hoping it would render me speechless. And render me speechless it did. I finished reading it in late December and, without exaggeration, it's been on my mind ever since.

There's something very disturbing about the story, something which makes it impossible for you to put it down. You get a sense that there's something very, very wrong with Josephine. You don't know what she's capable of, why she's acting the way she does and this sense of unease, uncertainty is one of the reasons why it's such a compelling story and why it has such an impact. Zailckas manages to keep you in constant suspense and make you feel a deep sense of unease until the very end. You keep wondering how far it could go, how far Josephine (who really is the master of manipulation) could take things before the unthinkable happens and whether anyone realises how powerful she is before it's too late.

I loved every single detail from the brilliant writing to the intriguing storyline, the beautiful ending and the characters. All of them are so well-rounded and so frighteningly real that it makes the story even more daunting. I don't think I can do this book justice but I really hope you'll give it a try. Mother, Mother is a truly unforgettable story and probably one of the most suspenseful, chilling novels I've read lately. I absolutely loved it and I can't recommend it enough.

The Bunker Diary
The Bunker Diary
by Kevin Brooks
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

5.0 out of 5 stars It's sad, it's cruel, it's chilling, but it's so beautiful at times, 14 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Bunker Diary (Paperback)
Have you ever read a book that completely broke your heart but you still loved every second of it? That's how I felt about The Bunker Diary. It's sad, it's cruel, it's chilling, but it's so beautiful at times.

The idea behind the story reminded me a little of the Saw movies. Random people thrown into an empty building and being surrounded by security cameras everywhere they go. They're pieces in a sick mastermind's even sicker game and we have no idea why or what they might have done to deserve this. The Bunker Diary is something very similar. A young guy - our main character and narrator - called Linus is kidnapped and wakes up in an underground bunker. And then day by day, six other people arrive. They don't know each other, they have nothing in common, and they have no idea why they're held captive. All they know is that their captor's cameras follow their every step twenty-four hours a day and their conversations are being tapped. And that's it.

How do you get out of such a place? How do you survive? How on earth did you end up there, anyway?

Needless to say, the book is just impossible to put down. I literally read it in one sitting, biting my nails all the way to the end. I had no idea how they would get out of there or why they were kidnapped in the first place and I was desperately looking for answers. And when it all came to an end, I didn't know what to think. I was waiting for an explanation, a neatly wrapped up story and what I got was its exact opposite. Nothing's explained and nothing's wrapped up. Linus's last diary entry (which made me cry buckets) is very clear and straightforward in terms of the group and their chances of survival but we don't know anything about their killer and his motives.

This ending really bugged me at first but despite being left in the dark, it's kind of beautiful in its own way. And so is Linus's and Jenny's friendship, which was one of my favourite things about this story. I just loved how a guy who's been trying to find a meaning in life for such a long time and never really had a loving family finds a true friend under the worst circumstances one can imagine. It's such a beautiful element in an otherwise chilling and gruesome story.

Although I would have loved to have answers to all those questions that are going through your head when you're reading the story, I still found it utterly brilliant. Linus and Jenny will no doubt stay with me for a long time and when I feel strong enough I will definitely read their story again. If you're not easily offended and you're looking for a fast-paced thriller, do pick it up. If you're anything like me, you're going to love it.

Cruel Summer
Cruel Summer
by James Dawson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.19

5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely fantastic!, 10 Jan 2014
This review is from: Cruel Summer (Paperback)
I've heard a million wonderful things about this book even before I picked it up so I was pretty sure I was in for a treat, but I would have never predicted how much of a nail-shredder it actually is and how much I fell in love with it by the end. If I had to sum it up in a nutshell, I would say Cruel Summer is like a modern, young adult version of Agatha Christie's timeless classic (and one of my favourite books of all time), And Then There Were None . It's just as twisted, just as gripping as Christie's book and is a definite must-read for adults and younger readers alike.

When I started reading the book it seemed a little slow paced compared to what I was expecting but once you get through the first couple of chapters it all makes sense. Every little detail from the characters' past is relevant to the plot and what they're going through at the moment and - as much as I dreaded it - it never gets dull. Not for one moment. In fact, once you realize that all of these characters all had a lot to lose and could have easily killed Janey you just won't be able to put the book down. I raced through the second half of the story in no time and couldn't get it out of my head ever since.

Cruel Summer is simply brilliant, I literally can't fault it. It could have gone wrong on so many levels. The narration - by a budding gay actor, Ryan, who tells the story as if they were in a horror movie in which he's the main character - could have got terribly cheesy. It could have been too cliché, the romance element too easy to predict. But it wasn't any of these. Not only is Dawson's writing so excellent and effortless that he makes you feel as if you were there with them on the beach but the way the whole story is built up is just brilliant. It's one of my favourite young adult books and I can't recommend it enough. Absolutely fantastic!

by India Knight
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars One of the most forgettable books I've read this year, 6 Nov 2013
This review is from: Mutton (Paperback)
Following one of Clara's remarks from the book, namely that "bluntness is the best solution: there seems so little point in shilly-shallying about with announcements" let me get right to the point: Mutton was a huge disappointment. Being in my mid-twenties I might not be the book's ideal target audience but that doesn't alter the fact that the book is miles away from being hilarious (as it's supposed to be) and if this really is an accurate portrayal of women in their forties (I highly doubt it) then it's even more depressing than I thought.

I wasn't familiar with Knight's books before I picked Mutton up but I've always enjoyed books with a similar subject matter. I read Sue Townsend's The Public Confessions of a Middle-Aged Woman when I was in my late teens (again, I was hardly the right target audience and yet...) and it's been one of my favourite novels ever since. It had me crying with laughter, which was definitely not the case here.

I suppose the biggest problem here is that almost every aspect of the book is just... `meh', and there's nothing that would make up for the lack of wit or accuracy. Clara - the main character and narrator - isn't particularly amusing or interesting. Gaby is downright irritating, to the point where you just want to grab her by the shoulders and shake her. Right until the end - when a famous writer is thrown into the crazy world of the two women and the book gets mildly entertaining for about twenty pages - there isn't much of a storyline either (apart from Clara's dilemma about having Botox).

I really wanted to enjoy this one but it didn't work for me at all. It's dull, unrealistic and sadly - harsh as it may sound - one of the most forgettable books I've read this year.

A Tap on the Window
A Tap on the Window
by Linwood Barclay
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 15.12

5.0 out of 5 stars As addictive as chocolate, 4 Nov 2013
This review is from: A Tap on the Window (Hardcover)
I fell in love with Linwood Barclay's writing about a year ago, so seeing A Tap on the Window among bookshops' `soon to be released' titles was almost like an early Christmas present. Although I've yet to read the majority of his previous books, I simply cannot recommend him enough.

Having read No Time for Goodbye earlier I already knew I was in for one hell of a ride but the author's ability to grab you within the first few pages of the book still managed to take me by surprise. If you think you can read this before going to bed, one chapter a day, think again. Barclay's books are as addictive as chocolate - once you start reading them it's literally impossible to stop. I've always considered myself a slow reader but I probably read the first half in one sitting.

Initially I was a bit worried about the plot because, as it turns out, the girl who goes missing and who seems to be at the centre of things is the local mayor's daughter and politics in crime fiction has never been my thing. At all. Luckily, I shouldn't have worried - the book doesn't really feature any power struggles or political scandals, after all. Phew.

One of the things I love about Barclay's books and the way he builds up his stories the most is that they're like puzzles. You end up reading four hundred pages desperately looking for clues and answers, not having the faintest idea what's going on and getting more clueless by the second. And then a small piece of the puzzle clicks into place and you go...

Oh my God. No way. NO WAY.

Which is also the time when things start to get interesting. Secrets are revealed, guns are drawn and a mad race against the clock begins. Brilliant set-up and such a strong ending. I absolutely loved it.

by Matt Greene
Edition: Paperback

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars It's not simply a story of a boy with a serious illness. It's so much more than that., 27 Aug 2013
This review is from: Ostrich (Paperback)
Writing about people suffering from serious illnesses is a difficult thing to tackle but Matt Greene does a brilliant job in his début novel. Ostrich tells the story of Alex, a young boy who has brain tumour and suffers from epilepsy which, despite the fact that he's smart and seems to be among the best pupils at school, inevitably makes him feel like an outsider. Through the course of the book Alex undergoes brain surgery, falls in love (even if he doesn't know this at the time), gets behind the wheels of his dad's car for the first time, albeit illegally, analyses internet porn, tries to get to the bottom of his hamster's odd behaviour and, with the help of his friend Chloe, devises a plan to find out what happened to his parents' marriage. At first glance, it may seem like a simple story, a bitter-sweet saga of a young boy and everything he goes through in his early teens. It's only when you read the last lines that you realize Ostrich is in fact a lot more complex than you have imagined.

I've always loved coming-of-age novels and this book was no exception. Although it took me a short while to get used to the language (Alex is very fond of science, grammar, and using lots of brackets, you see) and Alex's narration, it was impossible not to be charmed by his personality and his witty remarks. And this is one of the reasons why I loved this book. With hindsight, it's quite a sad story but without being sloppy or making you reach for your tissues every two seconds. In fact, Alex's jokes ("I can swear in sixty-seven different languages. But I can apologize in only three, which means I could get beaten up in sixty-four countries." is one of my favourites) and all the hilarious things he and his friend Chloe are up to make for quite an entertaining read. I do love a tear-jerker, don't get me wrong. But books which can address difficult subjects while bringing a bit of humour into the plot always feel a bit more special - and that's how I felt about Ostrich as well. It's not simply a story of a boy with a serious illness. It's so, so much more than that.

The other thing I particularly enjoyed about Greene's novel is that it really makes you think. You read the last line, close the book and know that Alex's story will stay with you for a long time. It's also one of those books that, when you get to the very last chapter and find out how it ends, makes you re-evaluate everything and see everything and everyone in a new light. It also makes you want to go back and read the whole thing all over again. And the more you think about it and all those little hints you missed along the way the more you realize how complex the story is.

Even though Alex's tics slightly annoyed me in the first few chapters, he changes a lot by the time his story comes to an end and by the time I finished reading it, I couldn't have loved him more. I don't usually re-read books but I'm a hundred percent sure I'll pick up Ostrich again. And I hope you will too. It's a beautiful, unique, thought-provoking and yet funny story I absolutely adored and I'm glad I had the opportunity to read it.

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