Book Review : Blind Side: gripping thriller crossed with love story

Blind Side by Jennie Ensor

Why I read:  intriguing thriller set in London.

Book blurb: “Can you ever truly know someone? And what if you suspect the unthinkable?

London, five months before 7/7. Georgie, a young woman wary of relationships after previous heartbreak, gives in and agrees to sleep with close friend Julian. She’s shocked when Julian reveals he’s loved her for a long time.

But Georgie can’t resist her attraction to Nikolai, a Russian former soldier she meets in a pub. While Julian struggles to deal with her rejection, Georgie realises how deeply war-time incidents in Chechnya have affected Nikolai. She begins to suspect that the Russian is hiding something terrible from her.

Then London is attacked…

Blind Side explores love and friendship, guilt and betrayal, secrets and obsession. An explosive, debate-provoking thriller that confronts urgent issues of our times and contemplates some of our deepest fears.

 

My review

An exciting read Blind Side combines a thriller and a love story.  One night Georgie makes a mistake and sleeps with her friend Julian who reveals he is in love with her.  Shortly after in a London bar she meets Nikolai, a Russian ex-soldier, and as she starts dating him she begins to suspect he has dark secrets.  What follows is a unique, gripping psychological thriller of  friendship, guilt, betrayal, obsession and love.

I really enjoyed following Georgie as she discovers more about Nikolai, unravels new truths and secrets and their relationship develops. It had me hooked from the start.  Most of the story is told through Georgie’s eyes but we are also given insights into the mind of Georgie’s stalker as his obsession escalates.  All 3 of the main characters Georgie, Nikolai and Julian  were really well written and realistic.  Their actions and motives were believable.  The story is full of twists and turmoil making it a great psychological thriller.    What impressed me most was the way numerous issues surrounding their relationship and the 7/7 attacks in London were explored and added a real depth to the story.  Issues such as racism, terrorism, fear, different classes and immigration are woven throughout the story making it a thought-provoking read.

Overall I’d give it a solid 4 stars for an exciting psychological thriller with real depth.  A brilliant debut I look forward to seeing what the author writes next.

I’d recommend to fans of: psychological thrillers, complicated love stories, suspense, mystery.

****

I received a free copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.  

Paperback, 336 pages
Published February 28th 2017 by Unbound
ISBN 1911586009
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Book Review : The Good Samaritan – Prime November Pick

The Good Samaritan by John Marrs

Why I read:  Thriller.  Amazon Prime pick for November

Book blurb: “She’s a friendly voice on the phone. But can you trust her?

The people who call End of the Line need hope. They need reassurance that life is worth living. But some are unlucky enough to get through to Laura. Laura doesn’t want them to hope. She wants them to die.

Laura hasn’t had it easy: she’s survived sickness and a difficult marriage only to find herself heading for forty, unsettled and angry. She doesn’t love talking to people worse off than she is. She craves it.

But now someone’s on to her—Ryan, whose world falls apart when his pregnant wife ends her life, hand in hand with a stranger. Who was this man, and why did they choose to die together?

The sinister truth is within Ryan’s grasp, but he has no idea of the desperate lengths Laura will go to…

Because the best thing about being a Good Samaritan is that you can get away with murder.”

 

 

““For the more vulnerable out there, once the darkness falls, so do their barriers. Night-time is their enemy, because with fewer visible distractions there’s more opportunity to dwell on how hopeless their lives have become.”
― John MarrsThe Good Samaritan

My review

A fast paced thriller  The Good Samaritan is a tale about Laura,  a help-line volunteer who encourages her callers to commit suicide.  Most of the book is duel narrative between Laura and Ryan the husband of a woman who commits suicide who suspects Laura’s involvement in her death.    Its a true roller coaster as they take each other on, pushing the limits to unravel each other.  The main characters are complex, multi-layered and well written.  Laura is a deeply unlikable character and unreliable narrator.  Sections narrated as her is a glimpse into a truly disturbed mind.  But it was also hard reading Ryan’s grief and the stages he goes through after loosing someone he cared about to suicide.   Although some of his actions I just could not agree with I sympathised with why he was driven to them.   I don’t want to give away any of the plot as its filled with many twists and turns. Its original, clever and griping,  a really exciting read.

I felt the author captured the feelings of despair, the vulnerability of a depressed mind and the isolation of depression really authentically.  I’ve battled with depression and suicidal thoughts for many years and although each persons battle is individual this book portrayed the downward spiral of this illness really well.    I could easily relate to the people who called Laura at the End of the Line and that she got such pleasure from their pain was sickening.  Being inside her head was a horrifying place to be.  As many of the topics in this book are potentially triggering I’d recommend reading it only when in the right head space.

The dark nature of this book, with a killer targeting victims of depression pushed me to my limits whilst reading.  But I enjoy unsettling reads and this book brought it by the bucketfuls. Its horrific and disquieting but I couldn’t stop reading.  I wanted to know how it all ended.    However the author didn’t tie it all up at the end but like life left speculation and possibility of what else could happen.

Overall I found the book a fast read, brutally dark and full of exciting and clever twists.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: fast paced reads,  psychological thrillers, serial killers and dark unsettling topics.

***1/2

Kindle Edition, 390 pages
Expected publication: December 1st 2017 by Thomas & Mercer
ASIN B0728K48N8

Book Review : White Bodies – psychological thriller about twin sisters

White Bodies by Jane Robins

3 star read

Why I read:   Dark, psychological thriller with unreliable  narrator

Book blurb: “Felix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple: young and in love, a financier and a beautiful up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless façade, not everything is as it seems.

Callie, Tilda’s unassuming twin, has watched her sister visibly shrink under Felix’s domineering love. She has looked on silently as Tilda stopped working, nearly stopped eating, and turned into a neat freak, with mugs wrapped in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. She knows about Felix’s uncontrollable rages, and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister’s arms.

Worried about the psychological hold that Felix seems to have over Tilda, Callie joins an internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. However, things spiral out of control and she starts to doubt her own judgment when one of her new acquaintances is killed by an abusive man. And then suddenly Felix dies—or was he murdered?”

 

 

My review

A dark, twisted psychological thriller about two twin sisters obsession with each other. When Tilda meets Felix, charming but with controlling tendencies, Callie becomes fearful for her safety.    Callie narrates so we see the story unfold through her eyes and observations,  occasionally delving into the past to shed more light on their entwined lives. I found the relationship between the twins fascinating  and it kept me hooked throughout the book. With its themes of love, manipulation and violence.  Jane Robins writes the sisters characters brilliantly, neither are particularly likeable, they are flawed, weird and interesting to read about.  Tilda’s narcissism and Callie’s compulsion to consume things that belonged to Tilda demonstrate how their mental states distort their reality.  Which creates a dark book full of clues, red herrings, twists and suspense that keep you reading and guessing.

Overall White Bodies is an enjoyably unsettling page turner.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: psychological thrillers, unreliable narration, twisting storylines and sibling relationship drama.

***

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

297 pages
Published September 19th 2017 by Touchstone
ISBN  1501165089

 

Book Review : The Amoeba-Ox Continuum

The Amoeba-Ox Continuum  by Trent Portigal

Why I read:  Science fiction and detective novel combined

Book blurb: ” Natalie Chaulieu has a new assignment. A series of deaths in an old workers’ utopia has caught the attention of the central government and she has been chosen as the liaison between the government and the investigation team. On arriving, she is struck by a world more brilliant and poetic than she has ever known, but as the case progresses it becomes clear that the deaths are intimately connected to the utopia, which is itself suffering a slow decline. As the investigation continues Natalie is forced to question whether the brilliance and poetry are worth saving, and, if so, at what cost…

 

 

My review

An intriguing sci-fi  which centres around Natalie Chaulieu as she  investigates a series of deaths in a workers utopia.   The story is told through Natalie’s eyes as she poetically describes and reflects upon what she finds within this strange world and what caused the deaths.     Her reflections and contemplation are often interestingly bizarre, for instance Natalie categorises the people she meets as insipid amoebas with the occasional ox thrown in.   There’s plenty within to apply to current society as well as: Puppeteers who depict mindless violence,  officials who avoid charges through their status, traditions around Death, poverty, workers conditions etc.  and plenty of witty commentary on them.   Although I loved the weirdness of the book I occasionally got a bit lost and had to re-read sections of Natalie’s thoughts on what was happening.   Overall its a strange and unique story with plenty to keep you entertained.

***

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Paperback, 184 pages
Expected publication: December 1st 2017 by Roundfire Books
ISBN 1785356917

Book Review : The Unremembered Girl – Prime October Pick

The Unremembered Girl by Eliza Maxwell

Why I read:  Thriller.  Amazon Prime pick for October

Book blurb: “In the deep woods of East Texas, Henry supports his family by selling bootleg liquor. It’s all he can do to keep his compassionate but ailing mother and his stepfather—a fanatical grassroots minister with a bruising rhetoric—from ruin. But they have no idea they’ve become the obsession of the girl in the woods.

Abandoned and nearly feral, Eve has been watching them, seduced by the notion of family—something she’s known only in the most brutal sense. Soon she can’t resist the temptation to get close. Where Henry’s mother sees a poor girl in need, his father sees only wickedness. When Henry forges an unexpected bond with Eve, he believes he might be able to save her. He doesn’t know how wrong he is.

Eve is about to take charge of her own destiny—and that of Henry’s family. As both their worlds spin violently out of control, Henry must make an impossible choice: protect the broken young woman who’s claimed a piece of his soul, or put everyone he loves at risk in order to do the right thing.”

 

“The stray thought occurred to him that if it weren’t for women, in all their cloaks of unfathomed mysteries, men would lead very boring lives.” ― Eliza MaxwellThe Unremembered Girl

My review

A fast paced thriller  The Unremembered Girl  is a tale about a dysfunctional family living in the backwaters of Texas and what happens to them when they encounter a feral girl Eve.  The story mostly focuses on Henry, his views and the decisions he makes and his relationship with Eve.   We are fed bits and pieces of information as the family discover more about  Eve.  There were many twists and turns and just as you think things can’t get any worse something else is thrown into the mix.

There’s a lot of dark and unsettling themes running throughout the book including human trafficking, child abuse, sexual abuse, alcoholism and murder.  Most are just there as an under layer never fully explored.  The book is filled with sadness and tragedy with a few hopefully moments thrown in. The plot jumped around a bit but  the language and writing style was easy to understand and skim through so it was a quick read.   The setting for the book was really well written and you got a real feel for small town politics and values and got drawn into the swampy Texas scenery.  I’m normally a fan of doom and gloom but the book lacked the full emotional dimensions to pull me totally  in.

Eve was extremely damaged, and I felt the family did not do much to understand her.  It seemed more they wanted to shelter and protect her. Eve does not say much and throughout seems to just be a pretty one dimensional “damaged girl”.    Henry was a much better written character and you see many layers to his thoughts as he battles with decisions of what is best for himself, his family and for Eve.  Henry’s mother Caroline was a likeable character, a women holding a family together.

There was some unrealistic romance  which to me seemed more of Henry having an obsession with Eve.  With a seemingly instantaneous “love connection” sprouting from out of no-where. The author seems to be trying to tell this as a love story, but it just  felt like Eve was a prop for Henry to try and save.

Overall I found the book a fast read but the sheer amount of tragedy just made me feel sad.   Its not a book for the faint-hearted  but there are few dull moments as the plot keeps hurtling along.  I  settled between 2 and 3 star rating.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: fast paced reads, dark tragedy themes.

**1/2

 

Kindle Edition, 334 pages

Expected publication: November 1st 2017 by Lake Union Publishing

Book Review : The Growing Season – thought provoking dystopia

The Growing Season – by Helen Sedgwick

4 star read

Why I read:  Science fiction and dystopia with strong feminist themes

Book blurb: “Now anyone can have a baby. With FullLife’s safe and affordable healthcare plan, why risk a natural birth?

Without the pouch, Eva might not have been born. And yet she has sacrificed her career, and maybe even her relationship, campaigning against FullLife’s biotech baby pouches. Despite her efforts, everyone prefers a world where women are liberated from danger and constraint and all can share the joy of childbearing. Perhaps FullLife has helped transform society for the better? But just as Eva decides to accept this, she discovers that something strange is happening at FullLife.

Piotr hasn’t seen Eva in years. Not since their life together dissolved in tragedy. But Piotr’s a journalist who has also uncovered something sinister about FullLife. What drove him and Eva apart may just bring them back together, as they search for the truth behind FullLife’s closed doors, and face a truth of their own.

A beautiful story about family, loss and what our future might hold, The Growing Season is an original and powerful novel by a rising talent”

 

 

My review

A beautiful, thought provoking book.  Exquisitely layered with hope, sadness, heart-break, love, family, science-fiction and dystopia.  Set in the near future where a  bio-tech baby pouch has been invented and is owned by a private-for profit FullLife Company who have exclusive rights to the pouches. This pouch is marketed to allow anyone to experience pregnancy and as an end to female equality issues.   A journalist discovers that there are problems with some of the babies being born from the pouches which is being covered up by the FullLife Company.   A mix of characters try to figure out what is happening and causing babies to die in the pouches, as there is a lot at stake both financial and society wide.

This book explores many ethical dilemmas around women’s roles, equality,  family, life and death.  This is done in a wonderfully thought out and caring way that forms part of the book and the characters views.    The pros and cons of the science and how this impacts on society are explored which I enjoyed as science ethics really interests me.  Earlier parts of the book run a little slow but the last section makes up for this.  The thriller part of the novel runs slim, a lot of pages are devoted to backstories of the characters and their views, and exploring the ethics around the technology.  To me this added to the book,  giving emotion and making it a really thought-provoking read.  Some themes reminded me of the Handmaiden’s Tale with its look at how conceiving babies is a woman’s role but how the pouch could transform that.  But The Growing Season is a wonderfully original novel that deserves a place amongst the must-reads of dystopian fiction.

Sedgewich writes in a passionate, evocative prose that is very captivating.  The characters are all human, fleshed out with flaws and strengths, errors and achievements that allow you to connect with them.  At times I got a little confused with who’s story I was reading as characters would switch around within chapters so you do need to pay attention.

It is a book I will read again, for the hope contained within the pages for a better future and the beautiful tale of love and heartbreak.

I’d recommend to anyone who likes: Strong female characters, science fiction, dystopia, feminism, science ethics.

****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

ebook
Expected publication: September 7th 2017 by Vintage Digital
ISBN 1473548756 (ISBN13: 9781473548756)

Book Review – They all Fall Down – Mental Health Psychological Thriller

They All Fall Down  by Tammy Cohen

Why I read: Psychological thriller set in a psychiatric clinic.

Book blurb: “She knows there’s a killer on the loose.
But no-one believes her.
Will she be next?

Hannah had a normal life – a loving husband, a good job. Until she did something shocking. Now she’s in a psychiatric clinic. It should be a safe place. But patients keep dying.

The doctors say it’s suicide. Hannah knows they’re lying. Can she make anyone believe her before the killer strikes again? .”

My review

A psychological  thriller set inside a psychiatric clinic.  Hannah is admitted into a clinic and is convinced that someone is killing off the other patients.  She believes her life is in danger and is trying to convince others that everything is not right.  Throughout the novel she discovers why she is here and about the clinic she resides in.   The book has 2 other main narrators, Hannah’s mother and a woman who works in the clinic, who add their own views and twists to the story.

This book has all the ticks for a good thriller, a few different suspects, an unreliable narrator and plenty of plot twists to keep things interesting.   The main story is told through a number of different narrators who all have their own voices and put a different spin on what is happening throughout the story.   It was  gripping with some brilliant twists and very cleverly written.  I loved hearing about Hannah’s story, how she ended up where she is and seeing that despite this she still had the strength within her to go on challenging what was around her and walking her path to recovery.

Tammy Cohan handles mental health really well.  She portrays various mental health disorders in a largely realistic but also sympathetic manner.  Its a difficult subject handled well in the context of a thriller.   I suffer from depression myself and could relate to some elements.  The grey areas between being unwell and in recovery.  How the illness impacts on your life and can cloud the way you see things.

Overall its a very good book, well written with interesting characters and plenty of clever plot twists to keep you reading.

I’d recommend to people who enjoy: psychological thrillers, mental health, well-written female characters.

****

I received a free advanced reader copy via Netgallery in return for an honest review.

Paperback, 384 pages (I read an ARC pdf)
Published July 13th 2017 by Doubleday
ISBN 0857524623