Archive for the ‘Transworld’ Category

Review: The A to Z of You and Me – James Hannah

The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah

The A to Z of You and Me by James Hannah
Publication date: 12 March 2015
Publisher: Doubleday
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780857522641
Length: 272 pages
Genre: Contemporary
Age group: Adult
Source: Curtis Brown Book Group
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 4.5 Stars

Ivo fell for her.
He fell for a girl he can’t get back.
Now he’s hoping for something.
While he waits he plays a game:

He chooses a body part and tells us its link to the past he threw away.
He tells us the story of how she found him, and how he lost her.
But he doesn’t have long.
And he still has one thing left to do…

The A to Z of You and Me has been on my wish list ever since I first read about it in the publisher’s catalogue last year and it was, understandably, one of my most anticipated books of 2015. The synopsis doesn’t give away too much and, for some reason, I always thought it was a young adult novel – but with so many YA cancer stories out there,  finding out that Ivo is, in fact, an adult was definitely a pleasant surprise.

The A to Z of You and Me centres around Ivo, a forty-year old man slowly dying of kidney disease. Ivo is lying in bed, on his own, in his local hospice and is waiting for death. To keep his mind occupied and take his mind off his increasing pain, his nurse Sheila (lovely Sheila, possibly my favourite character in this book) comes up with a game. She challenges Ivo to name a body part for each letter of the alphabet and think about a story or a memory he associates with each of these words. It is through these memories that we get to know Ivo and who he really is. It is through these flashbacks that we first hear about his friends, his girlfriend – and only love – Mia, his illness and all those events that lead to the present day.

I loved the fact that the author didn’t want to create a perfect, flawless character. It’s clear that Ivo has made some wrong decisions in his life which might have lead to where he is now, but he’s not looking for sympathy. The book doesn’t try to be sentimental – and that’s what makes it different.

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Review: The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Publication date: 15 January 2015
Publisher: Doubleday
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780857522313
Length: 384 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 5 Stars

You don’t know her. But she knows you.

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar. Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

With its intriguing premise and Transworld’s reputation for publishing some of the best thrillers I’ve ever read, The Girl on the Train was one of my most anticipated novels of 2015 – and it completely blew me away. Hawkins’s debut took the blogosphere by storm and it has every right to be at the top of the charts. It’s so brilliantly written, so unpredictable and so full of twists and turns that I read the second half in one sitting and would willingly give it 6 stars if I could.

One of the (many) reasons why it stood out for me is its narration. Rachel, our main character and narrator, is alcoholic. She’s had drinking problems for quite a while and she even lost her job because of it. And why it’s interesting, as far as the story is concerned, is because she’s unreliable. She often drinks herself to a state where she completely blacks out and has no memory of what she’s done when she wakes up the next morning. Add this to a story where she is the only witness and you’ll have no idea what to believe.

All the characters are brilliantly – and very cleverly – written, in a way that makes it impossible for you to know who to trust or who to believe. Not just Rachel, but everyone has their own version of events and they are all acting suspiciously in one way or another. I love books with unreliable narrators and The Girl on the Train was no exception.

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Review: The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes – Anna McPartlin

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin
Publication date: 1 January 2015
Publisher: Black Swan
Format: Paperback
ISBN: 9780552773744
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Contemporary
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 4 Stars

Here is a truth that can’t be escaped: for Mia ‘Rabbit’ Hayes, life is coming to an end…

Rabbit Hayes loves her life, ordinary as it is, and the extraordinary people in it. She loves her spirited daughter, Juliet; her colourful, unruly family; the only man in her big heart, Johnny Faye.

But it turns out the world has other plans for Rabbit, and she’s OK with that. Because she has plans for the world too, and only a handful of days left to make them happen.

Here is a truth that won’t be forgotten: this is a story about laughing through life’s surprises and finding the joy in every moment.

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes was my last read of 2014 and I couldn’t have found a better book to end the year with. I laughed, I cried, and it completely broke my heart at times – but it’s one of the most beautiful stories I’ve read in a long time.

Anne McPartlin’s sixth novel tells the story of Rabbit, an Irish journalist and single mother to twelve-year-old Juliet, who is losing her fight against cancer. Through a series of flashback episodes we get to know Rabbit as a young girl and follow her journey throughout the years, from her early teens through adulthood. We get to know her family and friends, who have been with her every step of the way, and who are there in the hospice, holding her hand, when Rabbit’s journey comes to an end. We learn about her best friend, Marjorie, and her first – and only – love, Johnny Faye. We get a glimpse into the often chaotic, but always entertaining, days of the Hayes family and Rabbit’s relationship with her daughter.

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Review: A Dark and Twisted Tide – Sharon Bolton

A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton


A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton
Publication date: 8 May 2014
Publisher: Bantam Press
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780593069189
Length: 448 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository
My rating: 4.5 Stars

Former detective Lacey Flint quit the force for a safer, quieter life. Or that’s what she thought.

Now living alone on her houseboat, she is trying to get over the man she loves, undercover detective Mark Joesbury. But Mark is missing in action and impossible to forget. And danger won’t leave Lacey alone.

When she finds a body floating in the river near her home, wrapped in burial cloths, she can’t resist asking questions. Who is this woman, and why was she hidden in the fast-flowing depths? And who has been delivering unwanted gifts to Lacey?

Someone is watching Lacey Flint closely. Someone who knows exactly what makes her tick…

There are only a handful of crime writers whose new books instantly go to the very top of my wish list, and Sharon Bolton is one of them. After reading all three books in the Lacey Flint series, as well as an e-book short story, I’m convinced that no matter what she writes about or how she does it, I’m going to end up loving it. All of her books are so well-researched, so twisted and mind-boggling and so well-written that it’s impossible not to be captivated by them. A Dark and Twisted Tide is no exception.

Bolton’s ability to grab your attention within seconds and to keep up this suspense, this tension throughout the book is one of the reasons why I love her work as much as I do. As our killer and his/her soon-to-be victim make their appearance at the very beginning of the first chapter, the reader cannot help but wonder what is about to happen, why is s/he doing it. And of course Lacey can’t stay out of it either. A Dark and Twisted Tide pretty much continues from where the previous book ended, with Lacey leaving her team and joining the Marine Unit in the hope of a quieter, less stressful life. But someone has other plans. After discovering the first victim during her early morning swim in the Thames and a handful of (seemingly) practical jokes it becomes obvious that someone is keeping a close watch on her. And, once again, the killer will make sure that Lacey is very much part of his/her twisted game.

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Review: Don’t Stand So Close – Luana Lewis – Plus a Giveaway!

Don't Stand So Close by Luana Lewis

Title: Don’t Stand So Close
Author: Luana Lewis
Publication date: 13 February 2014
Publisher: Bantam Press (Transworld)
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780593072301
Length: 320 pages
Genre: Psychological thriller / Suspense
Age group: Adult
Source: Publisher
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | The Book Depository

In a nutshell

What would you do if a young girl knocked on your door and asked for your help? If it was snowing and she was freezing cold, but you were afraid and alone? What would you do if you let her in, but couldn’t make her leave?

What if she told you terrible lies about someone you love, but the truth was even worse?

Stella has been cocooned in her home for three years. Severely agoraphobic, she knows she is safe in the stark, isolated house she shares with her husband, Max. The traumatic memories of her final case as a psychologist are that much easier to keep at a distance, too.

But the night that Blue arrives on her doorstep with her frightened eyes and sad stories, Stella’s carefully controlled world begins to unravel around her…

My thoughts

I have a soft spot for psychological thrillers so I fell in love with Luana Lewis’s story the minute I read the synopsis. I had very high hopes for Don’t Stand So Close and luckily, it didn’t let me down. I loved it from start to finish and I’m not exaggerating when I say I read the first hundred pages in one sitting.

One of the reasons why it’s so difficult to put it down is that you have no idea who’s lying, who’s manipulating who and who the (real) victims are. Blue turns up at Stella’s house with an innocent enough story but once she’s inside, it turns out things are more complicated than they seem. Both of them are acting strange. Stella has been cocooned inside her home with symptoms of agoraphobia and anxiety, and been on heavy medication for years so she’s clearly not the most reliable character you’ll ever find. Blue says she knows Stella’s husband but she keeps changing her story all the time. You have no idea what’s going on and you want to find out who’s telling the truth so desperately that by the time you manage to put the book down for a few minutes, it’s midnight and you realize you forgot to have dinner. And lunch. It’s very addictive!

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Review: Like This, For Ever – S.J. Bolton

Like This, For Ever – S.J. Bolton

Title: Like This, For Ever (Lacey Flint #3)
Author: S.J. Bolton
Publication date: 11 April 2013
Publisher: Bantam Press (Transworld Publishers)
Format: Ebook
ASIN: 9780593064153
Length: 400 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Netgalley
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon UK | Amazon US | The Book Depository

Synopsis

Bright red. Like rose petals. Or rubies. Or balloons. Little red droplets.

Barney knows the killer will strike again soon. The victim will be another boy, just like him. He will drain the body of blood, and leave it on a Thames beach. There will be no clues for detectives Dana Tulloch and Mark Joesbury to find. There will be no warning about who will be next. There will be no good reason for Lacey Flint to become involved … And no chance that she can stay away.

My thoughts

After reading and absolutely enjoying three (or four, if you count If Snow Hadn’t Fallen, a Lacey Flint short story) books by S.J. Bolton, I think it’s safe to say that no matter what she comes up with, I’m going to end up loving it. Needless to say, Like This, For Ever was a great read full of twists and turns, which kept me guessing right until the end.

Perhaps what I enjoyed the most about this book – apart from the obvious, i.e. trying to figure out what on earth is going on and who the murderer is – is the narration. Unlike the previous books in the series, most chapters in Like This, For Ever are narrated by an eleven-year-old boy (who happens to be Lacey’s neighbour) called Barney. Telling the story from a kid’s point of view can be quite tricky but Bolton pulls it off and both Barney’s and the adult characters’ narratives sound totally believable. (I’ve read a few books in which kids of Barney’s age sounded like adults and way too mature for their age, which eventually ruined the whole story for me – Like This, For Ever is definitely not like this.)

Is it the best book of the series, though? No, for me it wasn’t. What I was missing from this story is the creepiness and the ability to scare the living daylight out of you from the very first page, something which the first two books in the series were quite heavily relying on, something in which the author is brilliant at, and something which, despite the fact that they gave me a few sleepless nights, I absolutely loved. I’ve seriously never been as freaked out as when I was reading the previous two books. Like This, For Ever just didn’t have this effect on me for some reason. It might be down to the fact that a) I found this story a bit more predictable than the previous ones. While the first two books had me at a loss and I hadn’t the faintest idea who was guilty and who was innocent, I managed to recognise some of the red herrings quite soon in this one. Mind you, I still had no idea who the killer would be and it did surprise me when I read the last chapter – I would have never guessed. But I figured out who some of the innocent ones were (no matter how shifty their behaviour was) surprisingly fast. Or b) this book is centred around children and teenage boys, which obviously makes the whole issue a lot trickier (after all, you can’t have the same amount of brutality in a book about Jack the Ripper – one of the most notorious serial killers of all time – and one in which young boys are being murdered, unless you want to piss everyone off), I don’t know. All I know is that while I enjoyed the investigation part, loved Lacey and Mark’s subplot and once again, the killer’s identity took me by surprise, it just wasn’t haunting enough to keep me up till the crack of dawn as the previous books did.

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Review: Dead Scared – S.J. Bolton

Cover of Dead Scared by S.J. Bolton

Title: Dead Scared (Lacey Flint #2)
Author: S.J. Bolton
Publication date: April 26, 2012
Publisher: Bantam Press (Transworld Publishers)
Format: Hardback
ISBN: 9780593064153
Length: 378 pages
Genre: Thriller
Age group: Adult
Source: Purchased
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | Awesome Books | The Book Depository

Synopsis

When a Cambridge student dramatically attempts to take her own life, DI Mark Joesbury realizes that the university has developed an unhealthy record of young people committing suicide in extraordinary ways. Despite huge personal misgivings, Joesbury sends young policewoman DC Lacey Flint to Cambridge with a brief to work undercover, posing as a vulnerable, depression-prone student.

Psychiatrist Evi Oliver is the only person in Cambridge who knows who Lacey really is – or so they both hope. But as the two women dig deeper into the darker side of university life, they discover a terrifying trend… And when Lacey starts experiencing the same disturbing nightmares reported by the dead girls, she knows that she is next.

My thoughts

Christ, why is it that every time I try to write about S.J. Bolton’s books I’m at a loss for words (and then end up writing a whole novella)? There are so many things I’d love to say, yet, I don’t want to give anything, not even a tiny hint, away in the hope that you’ll pick them up and read them. Because what I can’t possibly emphasize more is that they are brilliant, unputdownable and are guaranteed to chill you to the bone.

Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the first book in the series and an accompanying e-book short story, I couldn’t wait to pick up Dead Scared and find out how Lacey Flint’s story continues. While I’m normally quite wary of sequels and am often disappointed by them after a brilliant first book, this one was just as twisted, haunting and well-written as Now You See Me and If Snow Hadn’t Fallen were and completely lived up to my expectations.

A good story, for me, is made up of three things. Firstly, and most importantly, I have to feel safe in the knowledge that I’m in the hands of a great writer. In these cases, the writing is so effortless and so engaging that I know for certain that nothing can and will go wrong, that it will all be neatly wrapped up in the end, it won’t leave me feeling puzzled or wanting more. A good book also needs to leave a lasting impression. These are the books that, once I finish them, I don’t feel like reading anything for a couple of days or even a week, purely because the characters are still with me long after I finished the last chapter and I’m still reliving what I’ve been reading in the past couple of days.  Thirdly, an exceptionally good book for me is so intriguing, so full of twists and turns that it makes me want to keep on reading despite the fact that it’s half past three in the morning and I have to get up in just a few hours. Dead Scared ticks all these boxes. If there’s an author who knows how to keep you reading long after your bedtime and – sorry for putting it like this – scare you shitless with such ease and without excessive violence, it’s definitely S.J. Bolton. And I mean this in the best possible way.

One of the things I enjoyed the most about this particular book (and the whole series, for that matter) is the fact that it keeps you on the edge from start to finish. There are no dull moments in the story, no unnecessary facts or background information that is unnecessary for solving the mystery. There are a great deal of red herrings to make sure that you’re taken by surprise when the case is solved and the killers’/killers’ identity is revealed and an even greater amount of foreshadowing which makes it an unputdownable white-knuckle ride. And a terrifying one at that. Despite the fact that many people claim its opposite, it’s definitely not a character-driven book, if you ask me. The appeal of this novel lies not with its intricate background stories and complex characters but its twisty, edgy, unpredictable plot. Mind you, it doesn’t mean the characters are shallow or one dimensional. Quite the opposite, actually. They still remain absolutely believable, common, everyday people we can all relate to – which makes the story itself feel so much more creepier and much more real. Another thing I’ve already mentioned in my review of the first book and something I particularly like about Bolton’s books is the fact that you can feel how much research went into writing these stories which, again, makes them a lot more real and frightening. While we had detailed descriptions of the Jack the Ripper myth and all his/her victims in Now You See Me, the author gives a thoroughly detailed account of how these suicides (or murders?) are committed in Dead Scared. And this is where I’m going to be very vague because revealing how people are killing themselves (or are being killed) would mean revealing the whole mystery behind the book, but let’s just say all these details and the fact that it’s all so well-researched makes it so much harder for us to separate fiction from reality.

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