Saturday, 25 June 2016

Soft in the Head by Marie-Sabine Roger

As someone who enjoys the written word, and has done for many many years, this book spoke to my inner bookworm. It is very much the whole purpose of World Book Night, which is trying to get non-readers to read or those that hardly do to read more.

It is also about the sheer amount of magical worlds, wisdom and knowledge that remains hidden from illiterates.

It is certainly about people stereotyping certain individuals and thereby curbing their learning experience. Assuming that low ability also means incapable of taking anything on board.'You're too stupid to learn, so why would I waste time teaching you.'

This is exactly the type of experience Germain has had in school. Faced with ridicule and zero expectations, he has learnt not to venture into realms he doesn't understand. Even his friends are comfortable with the status quo, so it comes as a surprise and a subliminal threat when Germain starts to venture outwards and upwards.

Margueritte becomes the mother-figure Germain never had, but has always wanted. They are two lonely people living in solitude who become friends. It only takes one person to believe in the abilities of another, to give the less confident the courage to go beyond their imagined boundaries. She teaches him in a such a subtle way that he doesn't realise what is happening. In the end he snatches the reins from her and his journey becomes one of  personal independence, strength and development.

I was a little confused as to why the setting was in France with characters with French names, and yet the general language was clearly very street English at the beginning, although it did subside after a while. Do the French even know what chavs are? Then I remembered it has been translated from the French language, so the translator (Frank Wynne) has probably just used the English equivalent of the situational language setting.

Overall it is a poignant story, and a good read, hidden within something seemingly unobtrusive. By the way I really like the idea of a four-eyed story.

Buy Soft in the Head at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The original title is La TĂȘte en friche and there is also a film based on the book called My Afternoons with Margueritte.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

The overall message or moral of the story is about the media. The way it has evolved from reporting the facts and the news, to a tabloid like mentality.

It's like living in an ocean filled with sharks waiting for someone to bloody the water. It's no longer about the truth and more about attracting the most readers with whatever means necessary.

Reputations are tarnished and accusations are printed without giving any thought to guilt or innocence. Good deeds are picked apart and made to look nefarious.

This is exactly what happens to Scott. He just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time or where the boy is concerned the right place at the right time.

The moment when Scott finally talks to the press was a bit like the nutty professor explaining quantum physics to someone without any scientific knowledge.

Scott is vilified by the media, despite going above and beyond to save a child and himself. The plane crash is turned into a huge conspiracy. From the irrational. the less probable solutions and the more probable possibilities.

If you think about it that is exactly what happens when a plane crashes now or most disasters for that matter. Social media and the media in general become like a busy hive of misinformation, accusations and theories.

Why is the story so compelling? Not because there is a mystery, there isn't really. It's sort of like a stroll through the woods on a warm sunny day with an occasional rain shower.

I spent three quarters of the book wondering who was taking care of the darn dog, just saying. The three-legged canine kept popping up now and again in the back of my mind now and again..
It was an interesting read.

Buy Before the Fall at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Sweet Breath of Memory by Ariella Cohen

Today is my turn on the Blog-tour for Ariella Cohen's debut adult novel Sweet Breath of Memory. It  is an interesting journey of grief, memories, guilt and friendship.

About the author

Ariella is a graduate of Columbia University, the Hebrew University and the University of Michigan Law School.  Although she makes her home in New England, her dream self resides in County Mayo, Ireland.

Sweet Breath of Memory is her debut novel and she's hard at work on the sequel. Ariella believes in the healing power of cat purrs, champagne, Vivaldi and almond cookies.

To read more about Ariella Cohen go to ariellacohenauthor.wordpress.com
Follow @ariella_cohen or @Kensingtonbooks on Twitter

About the book

With its tree-lined streets, vibrant downtown and curbside planters of spring bulbs, Amberley, Massachusetts, seems a good place for Cate Saunders to start over. It's been two years since her husband, John, was killed in Iraq and life has been a struggle. Her new job as a caregiver doesn't pay much, but the locals are welcoming. In fact, Cate has barely unpacked before she's drawn--reluctantly at first--into a circle of friends.

There's diner-owner Gaby, who nourishes her customers' spirits as well as their bodies; feisty Beatrice, who kept the town going when its men marched off to WWII; wise-cracking MaryLou, as formidable as Fort Knox but with the same heart of gold; and, Sheila, whose Italian grocery is the soul of the place. As Amberley reveals itself to be a town shaped by war, Cate encounters another kindred spirit--a Holocaust survivor with whom she feels a deep connection. When revelations about John's death threaten Cate's new-found peace of mind, these sisters-in-arms' stories show her an unexpected way forward. And Cate comes to understand that although we suffer loss alone, we heal by sharing our most treasured memories.


Review
At the very heart of it this story is about friendship. Strong supportive relationships between women, regardless of their ages and backgrounds. They share bonds through pain, loss and tragedy.

The reader learns about their personal stories and how the bonds between them became so strong in the first place. The main character is welcomed into the folds of this unusual small town. Enveloped by the care, the concern, the questions and the emotions of all these close-knit women.

Cate has been fighting an inner battle of guilt and grief since the death of her husband. He died in combat, or so the powers that be say. She is convinced that there is something fishy about his death. Her own personal guilt about not being able to help him or be there for him when he needed her the most, is what fuels her quest for answers.

Cohen integrates quite a few historical, political and socio-economic issues of our era into the story. One of those is the blanket of silence over the deaths of soldiers in recent wars. Loved ones are looking for answers, and the way veterans and widows (ers) aren't supported sufficiently after their service to their country is over.

Then there is Miriam's story, which becomes the inspiration for Cate and her writing. The tragic tale of a war refugee, a Holocaust survivor and a woman who has lost everything. Cate starts finding single pages of a journal written by Miriam or rather the pages find her. The pages tell the tale of her tragic journey from the Lodz Ghetto all the way to Amberley. She describes the horror of war, of the Holocaust and of the death she managed to escape.

The underlying element and moral of  Cohen's story is allowing ourselves to feel compassion for others. Learning to recognise how similar we are and yet how different our reactions are to grief, loss, anger and sorrow.
An interesting read.

Buy Sweet Breath of Memory at AmazonUK, Waterstones or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Blog-Tour: Sweet Breath of Memory by Ariella Cohen

Looking forward to the Blog-Tour for Ariella Cohen's Sweet Breath of Memory.


So you can follow the blog-tour and read what my fellow bloggers  have to say about Sweet Breath of Memory by Ariella Cohen, just click on the links below:

10th of June beingannereading.blogspot.co.uk/
12th of June bookishjottings.wordpress.com
17th of June mmcheryl.wordpress.com and here
19th of June metlinereader.wordpress.com
20th of June withloveforbooks.com/
21st of June skysbookcorner.blogspot.com
23rd of June rachalesreads.com
24th of June booksandboardies.com
26th of June bibliobeth.com
27th of June luxuryreading.com
28th of June thebookmagnet.blogspot.co.uk
29th of June reviewedthebook.co.uk/
  5th of July lindasbookbag.com
  6th of July leslielindsay.com
  7th of July jaffareadstoo.blogspot.com
  8th of July havebookswillread.wordpress.com

To read more about Ariella Cohen go to ariellacohenauthor.wordpress.com
Follow @ariella_cohen or @Kensingtonbooks on Twitter

Hope to see you here on the 17th for my stop on the tour and my review.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Sleep Tight by Rachel Abbott

Abbott’s writing is maturing like a fine wine. The plotting is very meticulous and well thought out. The story takes the reader along the entire perimeter with a twist in the path there and a barrier in the plot there. In the end all the threads link together to create the entire jigsaw puzzle.

The author has a keen understanding of the mind, behaviour patterns, thought processes and personality of a stalker, who evolves into a controlling abusive partner.

He seems like the perfect husband and the adoring father to outsiders. Inside the life of his victims it is an entirely different story.  Robert is controlling, obsessive and almost compulsive in his need to dictate the behaviour of his loved ones.

Olivia, like many others in those types of domestic abuse situations, doesn’t comprehend at first that Robert is actually being abusive. Her opinion changes when he decides to teach her the one lesson most likely to frighten her into a lifetime of submission.

Kudos to the author for picking a hot topic and crime, that happens all too frequently in our society nowadays, when a parent takes the worst revenge ever. Something so viciously wicked that it is hard to fathom.

The cat and mouse game between the wife and husband is drawn out like a laborious chess game. A game that seems to have nothing more than a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.

Seemingly arbitrary there is a sub-plot with the male lead detective and a burglary. That happens to be the neatly constructed storyline for the next book featuring Tom.

Without revealing the extremely well planned ending, I just want to say that although the reader slowly figures out where it is all going, the trip to get to that place is a very good read.

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the author.

Buy Sleep Tight at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Read the following by Rachel Abbott:


Kill Me Again by Rachel Abbott

Rose-tinted glasses come to mind when I think of Maggie and the way she perceives her husband and his actions.

In fact she is quite naive, despite being someone who deals with the absolute scum of the earth for a living. Surely a job like that should make you at least a tiny bit streetwise.

Then again perhaps her reluctance to get the police involved is an indication of criminal thinking rubbing off on her.

I mean she has a clear choice. She either calls the police and her husband could end up in trouble or she stays stumm so he doesn't. What about the safety of her children, what about her safety?

Usually Abbott writes female characters with a lot more intelligence and survival instinct. Maggie seemed way too naive and innocent, despite her job.

Although DCI Tom Douglas has appeared in other books by Abbott, this novel can be read as a standalone. New readers might find it interesting to read other books by Abbott to follow the detective and his colleagues.

What I like about Abbott is the way she doesn't shy away from uncomfortable topics, the way she doesn't pick the atypical premise or scenario, and yet still manages to get the point across.

Buy Kill Me Again at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Back Road by Rachel Abbott

Midsomer Murders meets dark stalker thriller.
It has the quaint feel of a crime in a village setting where everyone has their nose in your business. There is a layer of darkness spun by the psychological mind games played throughout the story.
Past secrets, rumours and suspicions of the present are cleverly intertwined to create a fast paced interesting read.
Sometimes it felt as if there were too many sub-plots and threads being played out at the same time, but the author managed to pull off the balancing act and bring it all together neatly in the end.
The constant harping on about Leo and her supposed hatred for men was a little over the top. I can absolutely understand why she might think that way but it was woven into a lot of conversations, which made the point seem completely redundant in regards to her past experience and at the same time it seemed like a taunt various characters were using.
Overall I can honestly say that since reading her first book that this author has honed her craft and it is evident in her work. It is both well written and well edited with a solid plot.
I really enjoyed it and wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to others.
I received a free copy of this book for my review.
Buy The Back Road at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Read the following books also by Rachel Abbott:

Saturday, 11 June 2016

The Man Who Wanted to Know by D. A. Mishani

This is the story of a crime within a crime or rather the repercussions of a crime. The way crime leaves more than just the actual victim in its wake.

The scene between Avraham and Ilana is pivotal for the investigation and his own insight. She questions his motives, which really rattles his cage. In turn he realises that she doesn't really belong on a pedestal.

In fact she agrees with the decisions made by Saban. The conversation shatters this imaginary image he had in his head, of his ex-supervisor and himself. It makes him doubt his gut intuition as a detective.

I have to say the story progresses a wee bit like someone fishing in a huge lake waiting for a fish to nibble. I'm not sure any fish gets caught to be completely honest, which is probably the charm of this book.

It has a conclusion, and yet it still seems as if the fisherman is still casting away. It's hard to explain, perhaps it was the topic in general. I think Mishani was trying to create the kind of atmosphere that exists for victims of rape and their loved ones.

There is a before and an after, except the after never really goes away. It hangs around like a lingering smell, pushed to the back of the victim's mind. Even if the rapist is punished, and in our society that isn't a given, it doesn't change the facts. The punishment also doesn't take all the casualties into account.

The author leaves the reader with the same feeling of frustration and sense that somehow nothing has really been resolved.

Buy The Man Who Wanted to Know at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Subject 375 (The Project #1) by Nikki Owen

I thought this book was a breath of fresh air with an innovative premise. It highlights an important issue in our society, how our misconceptions about autism and  other syndromes on the spectrum still define the way we treat people who fall into those categories.

It was a bold move on Owen's part, to create a character with Asperger's, and weave this quite complex and fast paced psychological thriller around it. I enjoyed and was intrigued by the choice. Authors tend to stay away from awkward or characters 'deemed' different by society.

It not only gives an insight into the mind of a person with Asperger's and in doing so may help others understand the difficulties they deal with on a daily basis. In this case the prison setting exacerbates the Asperger's, which in itself is quite an interesting read.

I think the most fascinating parts of the story are the ones dealing with both the limitations and advantages of Maria's Asperger's. The moments when the reader gets a really vivid insight into the mindset, the decision process, the fears and the very distinct processes she applies to her surroundings and people.

Maria finds herself accused, convicted of and imprisoned for murder. She is convinced of her innocence and confused by all the events that have brought her to this point. Initially she is confined to solitary, a grave mistake on their part, especially in combination with her syndrome.

A cat and mouse game ensues between Maria, her mind and whoever is sitting in the interview/therapy room with her. Suddenly everyone is part of her 'imagined' conspiracy theories. She starts to doubt her innocence, perhaps she really is a brutal killer. Maybe everyone is right and she is losing touch with reality. Or are her theories not just figments of her imagination.

An unusual friendship blossoms between Maria and an inmate. Unusual because her social filters and skills usually make such a connection difficult.

Maria's biggest battle is with herself, there is no doubt about that. She can't trust her instincts, her perceptions or any interactions she has with any person. Any one else would probably go completely insane, so I guess there must be something really special about Maria, right? I'll leave you to find that out for yourself.

Buy Subject 375 (The Project #1) at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read The Killing Files (The Project #2)
Read the original Blog-Tour for Subject 375 formerly known as The Spider in the Corner of the Room.

The Killing Files (The Project #2) by Nikki Owen

This is the second part of the series The Project by Nikki Owen. The first part is Subject 375 (it was called Spider in the Corner of the Room, but has been renamed).

I think to get a clearer idea of the whole concept and Maria's story I would suggest reading the first book. It will put the story and characters into perspective.

What I initially found really interesting about the premise was the fact the main character has Asperger's Syndrome. The first book focuses on this aspect of Maria a little more than the second book does. Her reactions, emotions, her social anxiety and the way she reacts to her surroundings is described really well.

In this book we discover the extent of the conspiracy, and just how deep this web of lies extends. Maria starts to question everything and everyone.

Sometimes it isn't evident whether Maria is in the middle of a dream, a hallucination or is actually having a real life experience. Enemies are friends, friends and loved ones are enemies or is it just possible that no one can be trusted at all.

I didn't feel as if this was as strong as the first book, perhaps because it doesn't have the same focus in regards to the Asperger's, and in general just overall.

It is still an eclectic mix of medical experimentation, conspiracy theories and murder with a side-dish of an autism spectrum disorder.

Buy The Killing Files at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Subject 375 The Project #1 (The Spider in the Corner of the Room) by Nikki Owen.

Friday, 3 June 2016

The Girls by Emma Cline

The Girls is based loosely on the Manson cult and murders, well as close as Cline could possibly get without it being a word for word re-enactment of the events.

Even down to small details like one of the girls ( Manson girl Susan Atkins) forgetting her knife or the group picking the house because the owner (in the Manson murders that person was Doris Day's son Terry Melcher) hadn't kept his promise to Russell.

The owner wasn't in, so they killed the people who were there instead.

Let me be clear, using the Manson scenario isn't a criticism, far from it, it just helps to put the story or the source into perspective. In fact I think it explains the mind-frame of these girls really well.

For me this book isn't just about the complexity of girlhood or about the deep layer of the anger that is hidden behind the eyes of most young girls or women. This book is also about guilt, shame and the power of wanting to belong.

Young people are easily caught up in the nefarious confines of cult thinking and behaviour. In the midst of discovering themselves, sexuality and independence. Mixing all those things with drugs, alcohol and raging hormones. The majority of them are trying to escape either the mediocrity of their lives or the pain of it. It makes them an easy mark for dangerous people like Manson or in this case Russell. On top of that one has to take this specific era into consideration.

From the very beginning the involvement of Evie in the cult and the horrific murders is played down, mostly by herself. In the end her presence at the murders comes down to one decision and literally to circumstance. Throughout the book her guilt is questionable. Is it though?

Isn't her knowledge of the event and the perpetrators equal to being just as guilty. She knew who it was for months, as the police searched for answers and for the killers. Regardless of her age, and the fact she was threatened by the killers, does this not make her just as guilty?

I believe she thinks she is. Even after many decades, spending her life as an insignificant fly on the wall, burying her needs and desires in an attempt to go unnoticed. After all those years she still believes she deserves to be punished and fears the repercussions of her actions. Makes you wonder about the real level of her knowledge and involvement.

I think this is a fairly accurate portrayal of many of Manson's followers. The ones who just slipped away into obscurity, after Manson and his murderous acolytes were found and put on trial. The cult followers who knew just as much as the others, knew who had committed the murders and were never brought to justice.

It's interesting to read how Evie gets drawn in by the supposedly mysterious and exciting group. Everything is covered in a thin layer of unicorn glitter. Even when she is nothing more than a pimped out hooker, she still craves the attention and the sense of belonging.

On the other side we have the underlying message by Cline about girls and women. How the majority of us simply melt into the personalities society wants us to inhabit. We bury our real emotions deep inside and let the anger simmer away just below the surface.

From a very young age that anger at the injustice of being downtrodden, being caged and treated like a sub-human is swallowed by nearly all of us. As women we learn to live with and accept being the victims of other people's desires, needs, violence and power plays. We become complacent and used to it. It's the norm, how dare we speak out, right?

Even at fourteen Evie feels all those things. It's the subconscious bond between the girls in the group, actually even those out of the group. The difference being that Connie and May vent their anger towards Evie, whereas the girls in the group take her into the inner sanctum and they then vent to others outside of the group.

Cline's debut novel is an eye-opener and I expect we will hearing more from this fresh and innovative thinker. I really enjoyed the read.

Buy The Girls at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The Cauliflower by Nicola Barker

This book probably won't fit the image of anything you expect it to be. It is speculative and experimental fiction. I'm not a stranger to the more speculative, new and experimental fiction.

In fact I enjoy out of the box reads, you just never know what you're going to get. A box of chocolates scenario.

Because this is probably way out of a lot of readers comfort zone it may be worth mentioning what I think Barker is trying to convey with her unusual narrative.

It's the fictional life-story of the Hindu guru Sri Ramakrishna and his relationship with faith. More specifically also the way others experience faith.

I think perhaps readers who are interested in the process of finding, living and experiencing a relationship with faith will enjoy the funny banter and situations.

To be completely honest it just didn't do it for me. I felt it was just too much, too many characters and scenarios. It was literally raining words. Less is sometimes more. Any semblance of sanity, reason or logic is lost within those words.

Sounds strange, right? Well, what it comes down to is that I didn't experience this story as the piece of literary genius others have experienced this read as.What I will say in regards to that is sometimes when you get an Emperor's new clothes situation - sometimes the Emperor is simply naked - the end.

Buy The Cauliflower at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Although the relationship between Mallory and Rider is the main focus of this story, for me the selective mutism is the more pivotal message and storyline.

Watching her find the voice she knows is deep inside of her, and her battle to externalize what she has kept hidden inside for so long.

Rider and Mallory have a bond no one can really understand. They have lived through horrific child abuse and comforted each other throughout the fear and pain.

Relationships built in an atmosphere of terror and oppression can either create a huge chasm or a bond as tight as super glue. The problem with that is feelings of guilt, because someone ( a child) in that situation feels guilty for not being able to save the other person (child), subsequently they will see it as their life-long goal to do so. Saving someone can become equal to loving that person.

This is the misconception Mallory and Rider have to work through. Mallory needs to learn how to save herself instead of relying on others to do it for her. She needs to recognise that she is no longer the frightened child hiding in the closet. She is out of the closet, she is brave and she finally learns how to roar.

As I mentioned before the selective mutism element of this story was pivotal and well-written. We see her taking one step or speaking one word after the other, slowly evolving from the non-speaking mouse to the Mallory capable of telling everyone how she feels.

Armentrout uses the topic of child abuse without feeling the need to embellish with overly graphic details. She makes her point without gratuitous scenes. Not that horrible and unbelievable abuse doesn't happen. It does, and far more often than any of us would care to believe. Armentrout creates powerful imagery with minimal detail, which in turn places more emphasis on the emotional aftermath.

I enjoyed the read. It gives an interesting insight into how children have to deal with life after abuse.

Buy The Problem with Forever at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.