What I Read: February & March 2020

Beth O’Leary: The Flat Share

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time. 
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window… 

I can’t believe I enjoyed this book so much that it will go on my favourite book ever shelf! It’s a romance book! Who am I? I don’t even recognise myself any more. The best kinds of books are those that surprise you with their perfection. I was expecting this to be a cheesy light read. It was and it wasn’t. The characters were more complex than I had expected and so was the plot.  This was an adorable fluffy chick-lit book that also deals with some heavy material like emotional abuse, gaslighting, and stalking. The book is told from the alternating perspectives of Leon and Tiffy, as they get to know each other by sharing their thoughts on those sticky “post it“ notes, (fun to read!) and by leaving food for one another! If you are looking for a romance book which will make you smile, laugh, and root for the characters to get their “happily ever after” endings, I recommend you add this one to your list.

5/5

C.J. Tudor: The Other People

Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window. She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’ It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy. He never sees her again. Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead. Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them. Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter. Then, the car that Gabe saw driving away that night is found, in a lake, with a body inside and Gabe is forced to confront events, not just from the night his daughter disappeared, but from far deeper in his past.His search leads him to a group called The Other People.

The plot, although not complex, is too complicated to explain. There are multiple threads, voices, and timelines, but all are seamlessly woven together. There are lots of characters to keep track of in the beginning, but hang in there and you will be rewarded with a great story. Part ominous fairy tale with some paranormal elements, part mystery, part thriller, I wasn’t sure where the plot will take me but C.J. Tudor delivered once again with a gripping, thrilling, dark and creepy book that just keeps you hooked from beginning till end. The storyline is full of unexpected twists and turns that was so cleverly plotted that totally sucked me right in. The only reason I didn’t give it five stars is because of the supernatural bit at the end, even though it made sense and fits into the story, it’s just my personal preference.

4.5/5

Celeste Ng: Little Fires Everywhere

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s. 

You should start this book expecting what it is; slow-moving, lots of character portraiting, complex family dynamics and small-town politics. There’s several stories going on in here, but the book begins with literal fires lighting up the Richardson household and the knowledge that the youngest daughter, Izzy, the wild card, has disappeared. Presumably because she is guilty. Then we move back from there. We start to get a portrait of the events leading up to this dramatic fire. Further back, we get the past stories of almost every character who comes into this book. I love how this book explores so many themes – such as motherhood, race, friendship, community, children-each one a little fire that slowly burned into an explosion. I didn’t think I would enjoy this type of book because I usually don’t but they way Celeste wrote this really kept me invested until the end. The only thing I didn’t like was the ending but mainly because I expected something else, maybe a more happy ending?

4.5/5

Lesley Kara: The Rumour

When single mum Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another and now there’s no going back . . .Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realizes what it is she’s unleashed?

It is one of those novels that makes you suspect everybody and shows us how an innocent rumour can cause so much pain. There were a lot of characters so I did get a bit confused trying to remember who they all were. Also I couldn’t really connect with any of them. I have to admit, the story was a bit rocky, it went fast through some pages and slowed a bit in some but on the other hand there were plenty of twists and red herrings. The book was more like a thriller and a drama rolled into one which definitely made it better. The best thing about it was that I didn’t see the ending coming. I suspected everyone of being the child killer, everyone that is except the person who it actually was. And the author didn’t stop there, she had one final surprise that left me with my jaw dropped! However, I wouldn’t put it on my shelf of 5-star books, as I didn’t get those nail biting moments but I will definitely follow Lesley Kara in the future.

3.5/5

Peter Swanson: Rules for Perfect Murders

(US)Eight Perfect Murders

Books are time travel. True readers all know this. But books dont just take you back to the time in which they were written; they can take you back to different versions of yourself. 

Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack—which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders”—chosen from among the best of the best. But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookshop in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller. The killer is out there, watching his every move—a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal’s personal history, especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife. To protect himself, Mal begins looking into possible suspects—and sees a killer in everyone around him. But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake. Suddenly, a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead—and the noose around Mal’s neck grows so tight he might never escape.

I have to say, I’m one of the biggest fans of Swanson’s writing since reading The Kind Worth Killing years ago, but I wasn’t impressed with this one. This one had a slightly different feel to it than the author’s previous novels. First, I think you should read all the books mentioned on the list before you start reading this one because there are some major spoilers about each of them. I felt like the in-depth discussion into these novels halted the flow and pacing of the actual story.  Also there was too much talk and not enough action for long stretches. Aside from this, I thought the final 50% was well done and I found myself glued to this book. Swanson pulls his trademark twists and turns, which is always a pleasant experience. Another positive thing is that I finally read a book a that doesn’t involve a missing child or unstable female and that actually it’s not as much about who and why they did the killings but about more about the narrator and the power that the narrator has.

3.5/5

Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen: You are Not Alone

Thirty-one-year-old Shay is a market researcher. From a very young age, Shay realized that numbers affected the way people saw each other. She then started keeping track of stats in data books (her version of a diary).  She’s single, recently lost her job and now lives with a roommate that she is secretly in love with and has to endure his girlfriends giggles in the next room making home the last place she wants to be. One day, while waiting for a train,Shay witnesses a young woman, Amanda, jump in front of an oncoming train. Shay is horrified and can’t stop thinking about the woman. She ends up going to a memorial for Amanda where she meets her friends, The Moore Sisters. Cassandra and Jane become very interested in Shay which flatters her. Shay is not in a great place in her life and the attention makes her feel good about herself again. But what do the sisters really want from Shay? And can she stay one step ahead of them.

I am a huge fan of Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. I loved their previous novels An Anonymous Girl and The Wife Between UsSo of course, this book was immediately added to my “to be read ASAP” list. And it didn’t disappoint.

The novel is told from multiple points of view and alternating past and present timelines. The story is divided into three parts, with each part serving a purpose. I enjoyed reading from Shay’s data book, the opening to each one of her chapters, where she writes down crazy stats, and makes her character more believable. The book is fast paced and intriguing with short chapters finishing with cliffhangers which makes it very hard to put down. This book played like a movie in my head. I could easily imagine the successful Moore sisters and lonely Shay in a big city like New York. Some parts of the book made me question everything I read. I changed my mind several times on who the evil person of this book was because nothing was as it seems. I really loved the twist at the end, and even though I was on the right track I wasn’t quite there.

The only thing I didn’t like and I still have hard times to believe is why Shay didn’t question the sisters’ motives more, because she’s such a rational and smart person. Towards the end I got so annoyed with her and the way she’s blinded by everything that sisters do. But I guess that could be explained with the fact that she met them at times when she was very vulnerable. Also, without giving any spoilers away, what happened to Daphne, the Moore sisters’ friend? Her story was important through the novel but she was left out from the ending.

Overall: It was a smart, exciting, riveting, entertaining page-turner. I had a great time and highly recommend this to the die-hard thriller and mystery fans.

4.5/5

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