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 – Tomorrow’s Kin – Hard sci-fi

Tomorrow’s Kin by Nancy Kres, Book 1 of the Yesterday’s Kin Trilogy

Why I read:  Aliens and intriguing biology based sci-fi in the blurb.

Book blurb: “Tomorrow’s Kin is the first volume in and all new hard SF trilogy by Nancy Kress based on the Nebula Award-winning Yesterday’s Kin.

The aliens have arrived… they’ve landed their Embassy ship on a platform in New York Harbor, and will only speak with the United Nations. They say that their world is so different from Earth, in terms of gravity and atmosphere, that they cannot leave their ship. The population of Earth has erupted in fear and speculation.

One day Dr. Marianne Jenner, an obscure scientist working with the human genome, receives an invitation that she cannot refuse. The Secret Service arrives at her college to escort her to New York, for she has been invited, along with the Secretary General of the UN and a few other ambassadors, to visit the alien Embassy.

The truth is about to be revealed. Earth s most elite scientists have ten months to prevent a disaster and not everyone is willing to wait.”

My review

A first encounter sci-fi story.  Dr Marianne Jenner discovers something unusual in the human genome and receives an invite to visit an alien Embassy ship which is floating over New York Harbour.  Here she discovers how her work relates to the aliens and an imminent disaster that is threatening the planet.

There was plenty of science in this book to keep me entertained, from genetics, physics, ecology etc. and aliens with possibly shady motives to give me the conspiracy theory thrill.  I loved that this book didn’t just focus on the action of the first encounter, it explores the after-effects and unexpected changes to the eco-system and the planet afterwards and humans reactions to this. Its a bit of a slow-burn but very well thought out. There are some large time leaps which can be a bit dis-orientating but they are needed to cover the timescale and show the impact within the book. An enjoyable read with some interesting ideas about the effects of aliens coming to earth and  reactions towards it.

I enjoyed that the star of this book is not a “hero”. Dr Marianne Jenner is a scientist, a mother, an “average” person with no spectacular super-hero traits to set her apart. She makes mistakes, loves, works hard and is a believable character. Not all the characters are as well thought out and some of the lesser characters feel a little stereo-typical.  The main story is told through Marianne’s perspective but there are sections seen through other people such as her children and others involved in the story.  This adds some variety and a depth of views to the story.

Even though there was plenty of science I still found it an easy read and read it over two days.  I’m intrigued to see what the next book in the trilogy brings.

Recommended to: fans of stories based on science, hard sci-fi, ecological, aliens and alternative futures.

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

****

Hardcover, 288 pages  (I read an ARC PDF)
Expected publication: July 11th 2017 by Tor Books
ISBN0765390299

I used my furry friend as a book rest to read most of this out in the sunshine:

Book Review – Wylding Hall – Spooky Acid-Folk Tale

Wylding Hall – by Elizabeth Hand

Why I read:  Book club pick

Select Quote “ But there was a feeling we all had that we were in a magic place, and we wanted to make the most of it. And we were young, so our powers of recovery were remarkable. We could drink all night, smoke till the house was spinning, do the odd bit of windowpane or blotter, busk at the pub if we needed a bit of ready cash for groceries, and still pop up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and hop down to the living room, strap on our mighty axes, and get to work. ”

Book blurb: “When the young members of a British acid-folk band are compelled by their manager to record their unique music, they hole up at Wylding Hall, an ancient country house with dark secrets. There they create the album that will make their reputation, but at a terrifying cost: Julian Blake, the group’s lead singer, disappears within the mansion and is never seen or heard from again.

Now, years later, the surviving musicians, along with their friends and lovers—including a psychic, a photographer, and the band’s manager—meet with a young documentary filmmaker to tell their own versions of what happened that summer. But whose story is true? And what really happened to Julian Blake??”

My review

A haunting story about the disappearance of Julian Blake, lead singer of an Acid-folk band.   “When he was young, Julian was almost unearthly; he was so handsome, it was difficult for me at first to keep my eyes from him. Spooky beautiful.”  Jon.  The band are sent by their manager to Wylding Hall, an old gothic house which is remote and in disrepair in order to create their album without distractions but strange events unfold.  Some years later the people involved meet with a film maker to tell what happened at Wylding Hall.

The story has an interesting structure and is set out in the form of interviews with the various people who were present at the time including the musicians, manager a psychic and a photographer.  This tells the tale from many different points of view with each person giving their own thoughts and opinions of what happened in Wylding Hall.  However sometimes you couldn’t distinguish which character you were reading as some were similar.

It beautifully entwines music, spookiness and  subcultures as the main tale is set in the 70s folk scene.  I loved the British feel and references that speckled the book.   There is a sprinkle of folktales that add to the creepiness.  The atmosphere of the book is more of a mild subtle spookiness, than horror. Personally I would have preferred more creepiness and some more explanation and horror at the end as it is quite ambiguous.  Although I found the end a bit disappointing it was still a wonderfully written tale.

I really wanted to listen to this bands music – especially their haunting folk sounds played out in the garden. So I wish there was an audio-file to accompany the book to further set the atmosphere.

Its a nice quick easy read at under 200 pages, giving a  70s twist on the traditional gothic ghost story.

Id recommend to fans of band bibliographies, gothic ghost stories and mystery.

****

 ebook, 176 pages
Published February 17th 2015 by Open Road Integrated

 

Book Review: Shattered Minds – Futuristic cyber-punk thriller

Shattered Minds  by Laura Lam

Why I read: Near-future technological thriller staring a female “Dexter”.  I was intrigued by the “brain-mapping” ideas and cyberpunk themes.

Book blurb: “She can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons.

Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.

Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.

To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever. “

The book is a stand-alone novel set in the same world as False Hearts.  (I haven’t read False Hearts so I don’t know if there are any spoilers for that book within this one).

My review

In a dark and malevolent futuristic world, a drug-addicted ex-neuroscientist Carina satisfies her urges to kill within drug-fueled dreams.   Within her mind sections of data are planted which she can only unlock by recalling her early memories.  So she bands together with a group of hackers in order to take down an evil corporation.   The writing is fluid and vivid, often darkly violent and brilliantly portrays a frightening high technology near-future. I loved the blend of crime, psychology, sci-fi and futurism.  The world-building and technology are awesome.

Carina was an interesting character, she had a hard edge with violent compulsions she struggles to control but also a softer more likeable human side.  She fights against her addictions and her past so she can expose Sudice Inc.  These many facets to her personality made her a believable “bad girl”. Its certainly a book for people who enjoy complex female leads.  Dax (her love interest) is a trans-male hacker and another fascinating well -written character.   I enjoyed how their story played out.

The narrative jumped around between different people, past and present to unfold the complicated story.   I had to pay attention to the heading at the start of each chapter to ensure I knew whose perspective it was written from and where on the timeline it was occurring.  So  it took a bit longer for me to read.  But don’t let you put this off.  Its well worth the attention.

Recommended if you enjoy: strong female characters, technological sci-fi, futuristic crime fiction, cyber-punk elements.

****

I received an ARC from Netgallery in return for my honest review.

ISBN: 9781447286905

Hardcover, 384 pages   (NB I read a pre-release PDF version)
Expected publication: June 15th 2017 by Pan Macmillan

You can read an extract of the book on the publishers website  

My little Jackshund dog decided I needed a reading break in the middle of this book:

 

 

 

 

Book Review: All the Birds in the Sky – Quirky beautiful fantasy

All the Birds in the Sky – Charlie Jane Andres

Why I read: I read a wonderful review of this book on Helen’s Bookshelf .   Helen’s description:  “its odd and unusual and truly is a wonderful gem of a book” sent it to the top of my to-read pile.

Book quote: ”“When Laurence was old enough to do what he liked, he would be old enough to understand he couldn’t do what he liked. ” ― Charlie Jane Anders, All the Birds in the Sky

Book blurb: “Childhood friends Patricia Delfine and Laurence Armstead didn’t expect to see each other again, after parting ways under mysterious circumstances during middle school. After all, the development of magical powers and the invention of a two-second time machine could hardly fail to alarm one’s peers and families.

But now they’re both adults, living in the hipster mecca San Francisco, and the planet is falling apart around them. Laurence is an engineering genius who’s working with a group that aims to avert catastrophic breakdown through technological intervention. Patricia is a graduate of Eltisley Maze, the hidden academy for the world’s magically gifted, and works with a small band of other magicians to secretly repair the world’s ever growing ailments. Little do they realize that something bigger than either of them, something begun years ago in their youth, is determined to bring them together—to either save the world, or plunge it into a new dark ages.

A deeply magical, darkly funny examination of life, love, and the Apocalypse “

 

My review

A quirky book with touches of humour and imagination running through-out it really was a magical read.   Its a book about friendship and love, magic and science and the end of the world. Two outcasts who grow up together, grow apart and then come back together again.    One a witch who talks to birds and the other a mad scientist who at the start invents a 2-second time machine.  The book tells the tale of their lives, their friendship and adventures in an imaginative near-future setting.  Sometimes hopeful and entertaining and sometimes sad and thoughtful its a book that reflects life.

I  enjoyed the blend of magic and science that ran throughout this quirky book.  Some parts of the plot were hard to follow or see how they fit together but this added to the whimsical quality that the book has.  Both of the main characters were likeable and believable.  I enjoyed the charming dumbness and realness of Patricia and Lawrence and this had me shaking my head at them or willing them along.  I’m not a big fan of romance novels but there was enough other elements that this book was readable for me.

I  struggled with the writing style.  There was a young tone, almost as if reading a book aimed at children/ young-adults although the story itself is billed for adults. It also seems to be written to appeal to a hipster crowd which could date the book quickly.  However I did like the quirkiness which ran throughout the book and the ideas and overall weirdness was enough to keep me reading to the end and still overall enjoying the book.

I don’t think its a book for everyone.  You have to suspend your belief and just go with the flow and enjoy the story.   I’d recommend if you enjoy magic realism and lighthearted romance/tales of friendship.

****

  

One of the dogs helping me write the review whilst we sit out in the garden:

 

Paperback, 432 pages
Published January 26th 2016 by Titan Books
WINNER OF BEST NOVEL IN 2016 NEBULA AWARDS
FINALIST FOR BEST NOVEL IN THE 2017 HUGO AWARDS

You can read the fist few chapters of this wonderful book at Tor.com 

 

Book Review: Spanky – a fun Daemonic read

Spanky by Christopher Fowler

Why I read:  Who can resist reading about a daemon called Spanky…..

I loved the original cover when I first read this book in the 90s so had to include this.  (The e-book is more modern):

Book blurb: “23-year-old Martyn has a dead-end job, a miserable family, few friends, and no love life. Then he meets a Spancialosaphus Lacrimosae, his own personal demon. Spanky’s friendship brings confidence, the good life, a better job, a girlfriend. But Spanky is a demon, and Martyn has a price to pay.

My review

A fun twist on the Faustian Pact.  The story has the soul and greed of 80/90s London, the cravings for an expensive perfect life filled with wine, women and wealth. It reminded me of my first delightful horror reads as a teenager, very tongue-in-cheek but with some cringy descriptions of women.   Darkly British humour, some graphically violent passages, a sprinkling of sex, and social commentary are all mixed together to form an entertaining cocktail that was a quick and easy read.

Martyn’s short-sighted naivety made him hard to have sympathy for but certainly fit into the plot.  I loved  the daemon Spanky, in my head he was a cross between Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp, all delicious swagger, a true cheeky bad-boy. Definitely the star of the book.  Is it wrong that I was rooting for the deamon to win?

I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys fun, light-heart 90s British horror.

I received a free ARC of this book via Netgallery and Random House Publishing Group in exchange for my honest review.

***

20170513_104107

 

352 pages    Ebook    ISBN: 9780399180439 Expected Pub Date: 20 Jun 2017

We had some glorious weather in London last week so I couldn’t resist going out for a coffee and sitting outside to read this fun book.