#BookReview: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo @HQstories @JillSantopolo

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About the Book

Two people. One choice. What if?

Every love story has a beginning…

11th September 2001. Lucy and Gabe meet in New York on a day that will change their lives – and the world – forever. As the city burns behind them, they kiss for the very first time.

Over the next thirteen years they are torn apart, then brought back together, time and time again. It’s a journey of dreams, of desires, of jealousy, of forgiveness – and above all, love.

And as Lucy is faced with a devastating choice, she wonders whether their love is a matter of destiny or chance.

…what if this is how their story ends?

My Thoughts

The cover of The Light We Lost caught my eye first, and then when I read the synopsis I knew I had to get hold of this book. I was so happy when NetGalley approved me to read it.

The Light We Lost begins with two people, Lucy and Gabe, who meet on 11th September 2001 in New York. They experience that day together just a few miles away from where the twin towers fell, and the instant attraction they had to one another was heightened by being so close to such an horrific event. The book is then told from the viewpoint of Lucy, in short chapters as she looks over her relationship with Gabe, and all the things that have happened in their lives since that day.

‘The air was clear, the sky was blue – and everything had changed. We just didn’t know it yet’.

There is a real sense running through this book of fate and destiny. Lucy and Gabe do get together after a false start and everything in their relationship is passionate, every emotion is heightened and they fall so hard for each other. There was a sense of everything being on fast forward and it made me wonder about the nature of how we meet our partners. The idea that meeting on such a tragic and distressing day could give a real sense of needing to live in the now, of not being able to wait and see.  Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11 so clearly, it’s seared into all of our memories so it’s entirely possible to see the affect it would have on two young people who met on that day, who saw it from their rooftop.

‘There is an element of peace in believing that we’re only players on a stage, acting out stories directed by someone else.’

There was such a sense of yearning running through this book and from very early on it gave me the feeling that something awful was going to happen. The way it is told, with Lucy going back and forth in time in the way she tells her story, gives the feeling that something has already happened and we, the reader, just don’t know what it is yet. This book made me feel so many emotions – it made me feel hopeful and happy, it reminded me of that awful day in 2001, it made me cry, and it made me want to reach out through the pages to give Lucy and Gabe some advice, to make them see what is important in life.

There is so much love between Gabe and Lucy but it’s often so raw, and intense it’s still complicated and messy and not always how they want it to be. The novel explores how we have different relationships with different partners over the years, and there is a real sense of how it must be if you feel that you met the right person for you at the wrong time in your life.

This book is beautifully written, and it’s gorgeous to read. It’s one of those books that you want to read slowly and savour but at the same time you don’t want to be pulled out of this world. I felt such a connection to this novel, and I feel really quite bereft now I’ve finished reading it. I think this is a story that will stay with me, and this is one of those rare books that I’m sure I will re-read in the future.

The Light We Lost is out now!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

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Photo Credit: Charles Grantham

Jill Santopolo received a BA in English literature from Columbia University and an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She’s the author of three successful children’s and young-adult series and works as the editorial director of Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers group. An adjunct professor in The New School’s MFA program, Jill travels the world to speak about writing and storytelling. She lives in New York City.

(Bio taken from: penguinrandomhouse.com)

#BookReview: The People at Number 9 by Felicity Everett @Ittymay @HQStories

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About the Book

‘Have you met them yet, the new couple?’

When Gav and Lou move into the house next door, Sara spends days plucking up courage to say hello. The neighbours are glamorous, chaotic and just a little eccentric. They make the rest of Sara’s street seem dull by comparison.

When the hand of friendship is extended, Sara is delighted and flattered. Incredibly, Gav and Lou seem to see something in Sara and Neil that they admire too. In no time at all, the two couples are soulmates, sharing suppers, bottles of red wine and childcare, laughing and trading stories and secrets late into the night in one another’s houses.

And the more time Sara spends with Gav and Lou, the more she longs to make changes in her own life. But those changes will come at a price. Soon Gav and Lou will be asking things they’ve no right to ask of their neighbours, with shattering consequences for all of them…

Have you met The People at Number 9? A dark and delicious novel about envy, longing and betrayal in the suburbs…

My Thoughts

This book intrigued me from the moment I first saw the cover and I simply had to read it. I love books about neighbours and the things that can go wrong between people who live next door to each other. I think it’s because we all have neighbours and they can be varying degrees of nice or nosey or rude – The People at Number 9 takes the idea of envy and ramps it up to make a brilliant read.

This book is centred around two couples – Sara and Neil, and the family who move in next door – Lou and Gav. Sara is the most intriguing character for me because initially she invites Lou in and seems perturbed that Lou doesn’t openly admire her kitchen, when most people do. I immediately thought I knew exactly the type of person she was but it quickly becomes apparent that Sara is more the kind of person that just wants to be accepted and admired. She is very drawn to Lou and to Gav and increasingly wants to be more like them. I couldn’t make my mind up whether Sara was easily led a lot of the time or whether she was one of those people who has somehow never really formed a sense of who she is and so latches on to whoever she’s around.

Sara becomes fixated with people very easily and doesn’t seem to let go. There is a moment where she talks about her first crush but rather than it being a moment of reminiscing it seems she’s still holds tightly to the memory and the wish that she had done things differently.

Gav and Lou seem to be the opposite type of people to Sara and Neil – they are bohemian in their lifestyle and very laid back. They have chilled out parties in their home, and they don’t worry that the decor isn’t super modern. Sara seems enthralled by them from the off. Lou and Gave seem quite lax about their children, which concerns Sara, leading her to step in to help.

Lou seems happy to have Sara be her new best friend, and as time moves on I started to feel that Lou was taking advantage of Sara’s good nature but at the same time I was uneasy about Sara – it also felt like she was pushing herself into Lou’s life as much as she could. It did feel like Gav and Lou were quietly mocking Sara for wanting to be like them whilst being perfectly happy to let her run around after their children.

It fascinated me noticing how Sara begins to talk more like Gav and Lou, she begins to feel jealous of their other friends and it’s like she believes she has a monopoly on them. Neil is in the background in this novel but gradually he seems to become more transfixed by the new neighbours too, and also a bit bemused by his wife’s behaviour and new attitude to things. It felt like we, the reader, could see an overview of the lives of these characters but the characters themselves were so enmeshed in their world that they could only see the tiny details. As the tension in the book builds it felt like I was watching a car crash in very slow motion, and I was powerless to look away as I read on to see if my suspicions would be proved correct.

This is one of those books where none of the characters are particularly likeable, and yet you find yourself drawn to them and you want to know more. This is a novel that is so much about envying what others have, about being insecure in your own skin, about being caught up in the new and shiny and forgetting about all the good that was already there. This book takes things to a level that wouldn’t happen to most people but it remains grounded in reality. I’m sure everyone who reads this book will see elements of people they know in these characters.

The People at Number 9 is quite a slow-burn novel and yet it feels fast-paced at the same time – I read it in two sittings as I didn’t want to put it down. It’s not an edge-of-your-seat thriller but there is a real undercurrent of uneasiness that runs throughout this novel. I loved this book and definitely recommend it.

The People at Number 9 is out now.

I received a copy of this book from HQ Stories via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author

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Felicity Everett grew up in Manchester and attended Sussex University. After an early career in children’s publishing and freelance writing, which produced more than twenty-five works of children’s fiction and non-fiction, Felicity’s debut adult novel The Story of Us was published by Random House in 2011. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her family.

#BookReview: SweetPea by C.J. Skuse #SweetPea @HQStories @CeeJaytheAuthor

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About the Book

The last person who called me ‘Sweetpea’ ended up dead…

I haven’t killed anyone for three years and I thought that when it happened again I’d feel bad. Like an alcholic taking a sip of whisky. But no. Nothing. I had a blissful night’s sleep. Didn’t wake up at all. And for once, no bad dream either. This morning I feel balanced. Almost sane, for once.

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.
Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.

A kill list.
From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge.

Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…

My Thoughts

I received SweetPea in the post as a total surprise and I was immediately drawn to the stunning cover design and wanted to know more about the book. I was then intrigued by the synopsis and the idea of a serial killer being described as a girl-next-door type.

Rhiannon is such a brilliant character; she’s so funny and sarcastic and her observations of the people around her are just so darkly amusing. There were so many times in the book that I was properly laughing at something she had said. I love the way she writes a kill list at the start of her diary entries about the people that have annoyed her on that particular day, it’s brilliant. It becomes so easy to understand her annoyances, and some of the things that annoy her are the exact things that annoy me, and that was unnerving when you then remember that this is a woman who deals with her issues with people by killing them. I actually stuck lots of sticky notes to highlight my favourite Rhiannon quotes but when I looked through the book to quote some here they’re mostly too crude or sweary to share! I did really identify with her hatred of all things to do with hen parties – that bit made me giggle. Also, I don’t want to quote it here in case it causes offence to anyone but personally as someone who suffers from a neurological condition I have to admit that I properly burst out laughing at her ‘movers and shakers’ idea for the newspaper she worked for.

A quote I will share is this one because it made me laugh so much and when I tried to read it out to my husband I couldn’t get my words out for laughing:

I didn’t cut off the penis this time. It’s not a trophy thing with me. That would be stupid, like the burglars who always leave the taps on in Home Alone. Besides, where would I put them all? We’ve only got a two-bed flat. It was hard enough deciding where to put the dehumidifier.

This is what makes the book so brilliant – Rhiannon has such an hilarious and sarcastic way of saying things that really appealed to me.

The way Rhiannon tortures her school bully is horrible to read, and the way she goes after men to kill them isn’t exactly pleasant either but because as the reader you’re in Rhiannon’s head and therefore are seeing her reasoning it’s almost as if you forget that she’s actually a psychopath. You get totally wrapped up in what Rhiannon is saying and then you pause and realise that she, aside from being a serial killer, actually comes across as a really normal woman, and someone that you could see yourself being friends with it is so deeply unsettling.

Rhiannon as a character does have depth to her too, it’s not all witty retorts and evil thoughts and deeds. She survived an horrific and brutal attack when she was a young child and whilst that is never given as a reason for her turning out the way she has, you can see a child-like side to her at times. She’s obsessed with her Sylvanian Family and spends a lot of time making her doll’s house perfect and no one is allowed to touch it. It seems odd for a grown woman to be so fixated but it felt to me like it was a lingering effect of the damage that had been done to her.

I read the final two thirds of this novel in one go because I just wanted to know what was going to happen and how it would all turn out for Rhiannon. Her behaviour escalates throughout the novel, and at the same time there is are snapshot of a slightly more normal side of her emerging too so it becomes impossible to put the book down as you just want to know which side of her will win out. It’s a weird thing when you don’t want someone to get caught and yet you know she’s unhinged and has murdered people – I couldn’t see how the book was going to end. I won’t give any spoilers but I thought the ending was perfect for the story.

This is a darkly funny novel that really gets under your skin; Rhiannon is like Bridget Jones mixed with Psycho – she’s such a unique character and someone I won’t forget for a very long time to come. SweetPea is a laugh-out-loud funny novel about a very sarcastic and witty psychopath… and if that doesn’t make you want to read it I don’t know what will! This is the first book that I’ve read by C.J. Skuse but it absolutely definitely won’t be the last.

Sweet Pea is due to by published on 20th April in the UK and I highly recommend you pre-order your copy now!

I received a copy of Sweet Pea from the publisher HQ in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author

C.J. SKUSE is the author of the Young Adult novels PRETTY BAD THINGS, ROCKOHOLIC and DEAD ROMANTIC (Chicken House), MONSTER and THE DEVIANTS (Mira Ink). She was born in 1980 in Weston-super-Mare, England. She has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Children and, aside from writing novels lectures in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. C.J. is currently working on adult novel SWEETPEA for HQ/HarperCollins (out April 2017).

C.J. loves Masterchef, Gummy Bears and murder sites. She hates carnivals, hard-boiled eggs and coughing. The movies Titanic, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Ruby Sparks were all probably based on her ideas; she just didn’t get to write them down in time. Before she dies, she would like to go to Japan, try clay-pigeon shooting and have Ryan Gosling present her with the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

You can find C.J. Skuse on Facebook or on Twitter CeejaytheAuthor

 

#BookReview: Good as Gone by Amy Gentry @unlandedgentry @HQStories #BlogTour

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About the Book

Eight years ago, thirteen-year-old Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night.

In the years since, her family have papered over the cracks of their grief – while hoping against hope that Julie is still alive.

And then, one night, the doorbell rings.

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when I was offered a copy of Good as Gone to review for the blog tour as it sounded like such a gripping read, and I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed. I read this in one sitting as I just got lost in the novel for an entire afternoon!

I’m always intrigued by novels where someone has gone missing and then seemingly returns years later. It’s one of those things that you can barely even imagine and yet it has happened in real life too. In this novel I was immediately curious as to where Julie had been, and if this even really was Julie that had come back. I would imagine that if your child had been missing for all those years and someone who looked just like her came to your door you wouldn’t immediately question if it really was her because you would so badly want it to be. In Good as Gone it felt believable to me that the family accepted Julie back so quickly and didn’t question the situation, but as a reader I was quickly wondering if this really was going to be a happy ending for the family and it really made the book a gripping, rollercoaster of a read that I was so unsure and unsettled by Julie.

As we begin to learn more about Julie and where she might have been in the intervening years and what might have happened to her I found I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages, I simply had to know how it was all going to turn out.

My favourite thing about this book was the chapters by all the different people and how each chapter gives a clue and gradually a picture is built up about what has happened. It was great how the reader has much more information than the family and we are there in each setting and trying to understand whether this person was Julie or if that person was, but we also see the family trying to come to terms with what has happened, and they start uncovering secrets that have been held in the intervening years and have to deal with the fallout from that. I found I was trying to put the pieces together from the start and some things I got wrong and others I got right, it was very cleverly written.

I definitely recommend this book – it’s a gripping, absorbing rollercoaster of a thriller that will keep you turning the pages long into the night. Go buy a copy now, you won’t regret it!

I received a copy of this book from HQ Stories in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Exclusive content from Amy Gentry:

What was your inspiration for writing the book? How has working in women’s shelters influenced Julie’s story?

For about a year, I volunteered as an on-call emergency room advocate for victims of sexual assault. When assault victims turned up in the emergency room requesting a forensic exam (aka rape kit), I would dispatch to the hospital to provide in-room advocacy and resources from the shelter. Thus I spent lots of time, often in the middle of the night, with survivors of sexual trauma in the immediate aftermath of their assaults. I was asked by women to sit in the room with them during the forensic exam, even hold their hands. I sat in hospital rooms with students, strippers, mothers, grandmothers, homeless prostitutes, veterans, political campaigners, athletes, you name it. The stories of abused and assaulted women were very real and vivid to me as I wrote the parts of my story that dealt with those topics. I became especially alert to the ways in which victims of these crimes struggle to protect themselves in the wake of trauma, often making choices which might seem to an outsider to be the wrong ones because they may hurt others or lead to the victim herself being retraumatized. Yet I came to understand how important that sense of choice can be for helping victims preserve a sense of agency and personhood that has been violated during the assault. Demanding that victims look or act a certain way, either before or after their assault, is one way we discredit victims and perpetuate rape culture. I also talked to many police and other first responders, and came to understand how flawed and human these professionals are in their own, often biased, responses to sexual assault victims. There is no such thing as a perfect victim, because people behave erratically in the wake of severe trauma; but for some reason we seem to demand perfection of sexual assault victims. This is really the underlying theme I wanted to explore with Good as Gone.

 

About the Author

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Amy Gentry lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two cats. After graduating in 2011 with a PhD in English from the University of Chicago, she began a freelance writing career, writing book reviews, cultural criticism, and, for one strange and wonderful year, a fashion column. She frequently reviews fiction for the Chicago Tribune Printer’s Row Journal, and her writing has appeared in Salon.com, xoJane, The Rumpus, the Austin Chronicle, the Texas ObserverLA Review of BooksGastronomica, and the Best Food Writing of 2014GOOD AS GONE, her first thriller, is set in her hometown of Houston, Texas.

Bio taken from the author’s website: amygentryauthor.com 

 

Follow the rest of the blog tour at these lovely blogs:

Good as Gone blog tour

#BookReview: The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

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About the Book:

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

It all started that night in the woods.

Cass Anderson didn’t stop to help the woman in the car, and now she’s dead.

Ever since, silent calls have been plaguing Cass and she’s sure someone is watching her.

Consumed by guilt, she’s also starting to forget things. Whether she took her pills, what her house alarm code is – and if the knife in the kitchen really had blood on it.

Bestselling author B A Paris is back with a brand new psychological thriller full of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

My Thoughts:

The opening of this book properly gave me the creeps. The idea of driving down a dark lane on a rainy night, knowing you’re in the middle of nowhere, and then seeing a car parked up, or possibly broken down in a lay by, is really unnerving to me. Cass sees the car and is unsure what to do, she stops and tries to see if anyone is in the car. It felt like the opening to a horror movie and I was really on edge wondering what was going to happen next, whilst at the same time being nervous to read on. Cass makes the decision that I think a lot of people on their own on a night like that would make, and that is to drive on, but this decision has consequences that no one could forsee and it sets this novel up brilliantly!

The following day Cass’s husband tells her that a woman has been murdered in the lay-by and she can’t bring herself to admit to being there. Cass then becomes convinced that someone may have seen her that night and may now be watching her. She starts receiving strange phone calls and becomes increasingly anxious. The problem Cass has is like the old adage… just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. As a reader you’re aware that some of what Cass is anxious about is genuine because we’re in the know but other things we can’t be sure if she’s being paranoid.

The Breakdown is a book that’s fast-paced and easy to read but at the same time it does ramp up the tension, and it genuinely had me on edge at times. It was a book that I didn’t want to put down though because I really wanted to know what was going to happen and I read it in one sitting. This book does require suspension of disbelief at times, and I did work out the ending quite early on, but it’s such an engrossing read and it has many twists and turns that will have you second-guessing yourself all the way through. The ending is satisfying and does tie everything up nicely.

The Breakdown is out now and I highly recommend buying a copy!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#BookReview: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney @HQstories @alicewriterland

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About the Book

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:

1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

 

My Thoughts

This book was impossible to put down! I started reading it late in the evening and I got so engrossed that I was unaware of anything until four hours later when I finished the final chapter!

I love an unreliable narrator and you certainly get one of those in this novel! Amber Reynolds is in a coma so straight away you can’t be sure if she’s remembering things correctly, or if she’s remembering but not being honest and this is what hooked me in. The way we’re told three things about her and one of them is that she sometimes lies is genius!

This is a hard book to review because I really don’t want to give anything away. I will say that I was never sure who to trust in this novel at any point. Amber’s husband Paul behaves oddly, Amber’s relationship with her sister is strange but I could never quite put my finger on what was going on. The title Sometimes I Lie seems apt for quite a few characters, not just Amber – they’re all quite unreliable.

The way this novel is written hooks you in very quickly and it will keep you hooked all the way through. It’s very fast-paced and gripping, and easy to read. There are twists and turns as the book goes on and they will make your head spin! I can usually guess what’s going on in thrillers these days as I read so many of them but this book got me, I had no idea. The final third of this book left me feeling like I didn’t know which way was up and I loved it!

Sometimes I Lie is an original take on the thriller genre and won’t want to miss out on reading this brilliant, twisty, intense novel! It’s due to be published on 23 March and I highly recommend that you pre-order your copy now! Sometimes I lie is available from here.

About the Author

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Alice Feeney is a writer and journalist. She spent 16 years at the BBC, where she worked as a Reporter, News Editor, Arts and Entertainment Producer and One O’clock News Producer.

Alice is a Faber Academy graduate from the class of 2016. She has lived in London and Sydney and has now settled in the Surrey countryside, where she lives with her husband and dog.

Sometimes I Lie is her debut thriller and is being published around the world in 2017.

(Author information taken from: CurtisBrown.co.uk