My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies, #2)

⇒Reader, don’t think for a minute that this is anything like the Jane Eyre your English-Lit teacher made you read. ⇐


Authors: Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

(3.80 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Historical Fiction / Retellings / Romance / YA

Format: Hardcover, Owlcrate Edition

Publish Date: June, 2018 by HarperCollins

Pages: 450

#MyPlainJane #TheLadyJanies


‘I am no one special,’ Jane said. ‘I am just a girl. I can see ghosts, yes, but it has only ever brought me trouble!’

Jane Eyre

Whenever a group of friends gets together to create anything, there’s a certain type of magic that happens. Things get weird, they get messy, and they get magical. I can only imagine that that’s how this process went when these three authors came together to write this second book in their Lady Janies series. And clearly, at least one of them has as much love for The Princess Bride as I do. As you wish.

Here is the Goodreads summary: You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!) Or does she? Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.


Charlotte had always known Jane to be a kind, thoughtful sort of person. Even when she was committing murder, she was thinking of others.

Reader, you will be fully immersed in this story. You will be addressed, redressed, and made as much a character as the actual characters. So much so, I was surprised to not have been handed a kettle and asked to prepare tea. No, seriously, there’s a lot of tea-making in this book (but not a lot of bathroom-going. Wonder how that works?).

How do you feel about being made a part of the story? If you’re an immersive-type reader (like I am) it can tend to be a little jarring. Yes, yes, I know my introvert is showing! Pardon me while I tuck it back in and continue…

A shudder made its way down Charlotte’s spine. There was nothing so disturbing to her as an overdue book. Possible fines. It was very scary.

Good luck to anyone who is able to pin down the exact genre for this book. Sci-fi / YA / Romance? Historic / Humor / Fantasy? Mystery / Paranormal / Retellings? Yes, yes, and yes. And add whatever else you want to throw in there – it’ll probably fit.

And I don’t mention that to make story seem unfocused. It’s not that at all. It just covers a whole lot of ground and stretches itself across the gamut of literature – past and present. Like a little ghost action with your romance? Fancy a little mystery with your historical fiction? Want a dash of comedy in your YA? My Plain Jane‘s gotcha covered. It’s the buffet of book genres!

Jane sighed. ‘You’ve been around ghosts your whole life- er- afterlife. What are you afraid of?’ Helen shook her head. ‘I think it might be haunted by the living.’

Jane Eyre and Helen Burns

Any reader worth their salt will be able to pick out tons of pop culture and political references. Got a book club? Make a drinking game out of it. Or, if I didn’t want to encourage underage drinking, I’d say offer a gift card to Target for whoever finds the most. Yes, do that one, YA audience. 🙂

This is definitely not your 9th grade literature class’s version of Jane Eyre. (Phew! But love you Ms. Willoughby!) So don’t go into it thinking that you’ll have to translate imagery and determine the ultimate meaning of Mr. Rochester’s moodiness. (You’d never guess!) Just expect the unexpected and you’ll have a good time with this book, their previous title, My Lady Jane, and their upcoming 2020 title, My Calamity Jane.


Ashton, Hand, & Meadows

Authors of the New York Times bestselling novel My Lady Jane, who met in 2012 on a book tour. They’re friends. They’re writers. They’re fixing history by rewriting one sad story at a time. (-bio adapted from cover)


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

⇒And eventually there is no one left in the world except people who don’t look at each other people’s faces… and these people are all special people like me.⇐


Author: Mark Haddon

(3.87 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery

Format: Paperback

Published July 31, 2003by Vintage Books

Pages: 226 (Paperback)

#CuriousIncident


This will not be a funny book. I cannot tell jokes because I do not understand them.


As Socrates said, “Know thyself.” Please know that I have this advice in mind when I evaluate this book. I am not a patient person. I know this about myself; I own it. There are certain pet peeves I have that will immediately set me off. Becoming a parent cooled my hot temper by several hundred degrees, but impatience still lingers beneath the surface of my otherwise sunny disposition! And now I’ll pause so all my friends can write sarcastic comments refuting that last statement. I’ll wait…

OK, moving on! The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time was not an easy book for me to read. It was frustrating, sad, maddening, and at the same time fascinating, poetic, moving, and victorious. I have never read a book like it before, and maybe I hope to never again. Not in a bad way, but because I found it to be so eccentric that anything similar might only be seen as a copy cat.

Here is what Curious Incident is all about: “Despite his overwhelming fear of interacting with people, Christopher, a mathematically gifted, autistic fifteen-year-old boy, decides to investigate the murder of a neighbor’s dog and uncovers secret information…”

Everyone has learning difficulties, because learning to speak French or understanding relativity is difficult.

I left off the end of the book’s summary. I found that description on the copyright page and thought it was a perfect summary… until the last three words. Talk about a spoiler alert! I’m glad I didn’t run into that summary snippet until after I finished reading the book. In those three words is one of the best twisty plot points, and not knowing those three words going into the book makes the development of the story even better.

I haven’t done my reviews like this in a long time, but, for this book, it seems appropriate…

WHAT I LIKED: The story was entirely absorbing. You just have to know what this kid is going to do next. Christopher is quirky and unpredictable and unreliable to his core, so it’s a trippy ride to keep up with him. The humor is so subtle that it leaves you wondering if you really should be laughing (but you do anyway, and you definitely should be because it’s funny!). And finally, it’s a really fast read. Both the writing style and the under-300 page count made it possible for me to read this book in just two days, and I do not consider myself a speedy reader at all.

I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE: Curious Incident left me feeling like a bad person! There are people naturally gifted with patience and compassion who are brilliant at relating to and caring for relatives, students, and/or friends who are on the spectrum. That’s not me. Just reading about the way they approach life makes me frustrated and angry because of my frustration. The book is chock full of behaviors that had me screaming and groaning almost as much as Christopher did. I could not relate to him as the main character on any level, and that inability to connect made reading his story more than a little irksome.

Oh, and just one other little thing: Math! I.loathe.math. It makes me sad and confused and bitter. I see numbers in an equation and I get “brain burn”. If you enjoy math, I’m truly happy for you. No, I am, seriously. The world needs people like you because of people like me – people who despise math and wish that the whole world just worked off of words and pictures instead.

I came very close to not owning this book at all. I was browsing through books at a giant library sale and I picked up Curious Incident and glanced at the unique cover. I was about to place it back on the stack when a man beside me said, “You should buy that one. It’s good. It’s different, and weird, but it’s good.” So I bought it. And even though Christopher Boone took me on a bumpy ride through Swindon and London and back again, it was totally worth the trip.


Mark Haddon

Mark Haddon is a British novelist and poet, best known for his 2003 novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. He was educated at Uppingham School and Merton College, Oxford, where he studied English. – Bio from Goodreads


The Strange Casebook (Essex Witch Museum Mystery)

⇒RELEASE DAY REVIEW: Grab some cocoa (and maybe a friend!) and dig into these six spooky stories before the next full moon! ⇐

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Oneworld Publications, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

by Syd Moore

SmellRating4

(3.65 stars – Goodreads rating)

Publish Date: October 31, 2018, by Point Blank / Oneworld Publications

Genre: Horror / Short Stories

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 106 pages

#TheStrangeCasebook  #NetGalley

The Strange CasebookI can tell you most sincerely sir, I’ve had enough of Death today.

Yes! I finally found a book that is perfect for the Halloween season! It also fits into my October Spooky Reads challenge!

The Strange Casebook is a collection of six short stories – each of them with eerily creepy aspects that fit right into dark rooms with low fires and creaky doors.

Remember those camping trips you took when you sat around the fire and tried to out-scare each other with the most gruesome or most bizarre tales of specters and ghouls? Any one of these stories would win hands down.

Yes, the screaming. I do apologise. The medication has calmed her now. She’ll not disturb us again.

From Goodreads:

Enjoy these six short spooktacular stories, inspired by Rosie Strange and Sam Stone’s work at the museum…if you dare! These stories focus on characters that interact with Rosie and Sam in the Essex Witch Museum series and take place across a number of different time frames. Whether it be Rosie’s old relatives, academic George Chin or the residents of Adders Fork – spooky incidents abound at every turn.

And the six stories:

  • Death Becomes Her: A woman joins the police force to defeat Death
  • Snowy: The widow Norah lives with a lot of discerning cats
  • Madness in A Coruña: A man visits friends in A Coruña for holiday and returns with more than just a t-shirt
  • She Saw Three Ships: What Ethel-Rose witnesses at Lillia Lodge will have her thinking twice about arriving early for holiday ever again
  • Jocelyn’s Story: Jocelyn seeks personal perfection at the risk of all else
  • The House on Savage Lane: Twins are always part of the creepiest stories!

I find myself alert to slipping ghouls, dark-backed creatures, shadows unpeeling from crevices and walls.

I enjoyed “Snowy” and “She Saw Three Ships” the best, but each of them has its own brand of oddity that makes for freakily atmospheric reading. 

Not a fast reader? No prob there either – these are short stories, remember? and you can stretch them out too; read one each night and you’re still done in less than a week.

Once we’d had her cleaned up she looked almost human.

These short stories exist as part of the Essex Witch Museum series which also includes Strange Magic, Strange Sight, and Strange Fascination. Strange Tombs will release in 2019.

But before Strange Tombs, get your hands on The Strange Casebook which releases on October 31st. Yes, Halloween! Told ya, perfect!


About the Author

Image result for author syd moore 2018SYD MOORE

Website

Twitter

Facebook

Syd Moore was a lecturer and a presenter on Pulp, the Channel 4 books program before becoming a writer. She is the author of the mystery novels The Drowning Pool and Witch Hunt.

(Bio adapted from ARC)


 

image001_1514946317787

The Hangman’s Secret (Victorian Mystery, #3)

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Crooked Lane Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

by Laura Joh Rowland

SmellRating4

(3.88 stars – Goodreads rating)

Expected Publication: January 8, 2019, by Crooked Lane Books

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Historical Fiction

Format: Kindle Edition

Pages: 304

#TheHangmansSecret  #NetGalley

The Hangman's Secret (Victorian Mystery, #3)When we’re confronted with a mystery, we feel compelled to solve it, even if it’s none of our business.

Was there ever a kinder, gentler time? You would want to think so. I know I read a lot of fiction, but I’d like to believe that an age actually existed where people were more respectful, more polite, and they valued each other.

After reading this book, it made me doubt that such a time ever existed. So many bad guys (and gals), and all of them mean, nasty, and physically violent – especially against the main character, who is a woman! Those instances left a bad taste in my mouth. But that is not an overall reflection on this book, which I enjoyed reading and felt was a suspenseful, engaging mystery!

I’m interested to hear that a hangman has met the same end that he inflicted on others. It’s as if his past has caught up with him, and fate has exacted justice.

Harry Warbrick, a London hangman, is found hanged in his own pub – hanged and decapitated. Sarah Bain and her friends are called upon to photograph the scene for the Daily World newspaper, but is it a suicide or murder?

Soon it’s the paper vs. the police in a spiteful contest to see who can solve the case first. Sarah, Lord Hugh, and Mick have previously solved two other dangerous cases, but this could be the one that could finally do them in. Plus, Sarah’s relationship with officer Thomas Barrett is also on the line and Sarah isn’t sure if their love can outlast another case.

With a laundry list of possible suspects, Sarah & Co have their hands full solving the mystery of the hanged hangman while trying to stay alive while the murderer covers his/her tracks.

But I thrill at the prospect of a new crime to solve, and all my life I’ve been attracted to danger. Fear makes me feel alive. It’s a quirk of my nature.

The Hangman’s Secret is full of action and suspense. Its characters are loyal to each other, but I found them to be a bit cookie-cutter. I enjoyed the unique friendship between Sarah, Lord Hugh, and Mick, but the three of them had so many antagonists – perhaps a few too many for my taste. 

You know how you feel when the main character has a few too many enemies and not enough allies? That’s how I felt while reading this book. Enemies to the left and right; and not just regular “bad guys” either – disrespectful, vindictive, violent, spiteful buggers.

But the pacing was good and the setting of the mystery was enough to keep me entertained. There were also enough suspects and distractions to delay the actual culprit-reveal in a satisfying way. I do wish that Sarah was a bit more assertive. Maybe then she wouldn’t get pushed around (literally and figuratively) as much as she does.

Four stars for this Victorian historical mystery!


About the Author:

Laura Joh RowlandWebsite

Facebook

Laura Joh Rowland is a bestselling author of historical mystery novels. Her newest series stars Miss Sarah Bain, a photographer in Victorian London. The latest book is A Mortal Likeness. Laura’s previous series, which is set in medieval Japan and features samurai detective Sano Ichiro, has been published in 21 countries, been nominated for the Anthony Award and the Hammett Prize, won RT Magazine’s Reader’s Choice Award, and been included in The Wall Street Journal’s list of the five best historical mystery novels. Laura has also written a historical suspense series about Charlotte Bronte, the famous Victorian author.

Laura holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Public Health degree from the University of Michigan. She is a former aerospace scientist, a painter, and a cartoonist. She lives in New York City with her husband Marty.



 

image001_1514946317787

The Getaway Girls

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Bookouture, and the author for the opportunity to read and review a free ARC of this book.

by Dee MacDonald

SmellRating4

(4.8 stars – Goodreads rating)

To be published July 30, 2018, by Bookouture

Genre: Women’s Fiction / Humor

Format: Kindle Edition

#TheGetawayGirls  #NetGalley

Getaway[Connie] should never have set off on this trip with two women she scarcely knew. She must have taken leave of her senses.

Connie McColl isn’t new to spontaneous road trips. Dee MacDonald documented Connie’s first impulsive journey from England to Scotland in her book The Runaway Wife. Now Connie is on the road again, but this time she has two more passengers, a bulky motorhome, and dreams of possibly locating extended family in a little town in Italy. What starts out as a leisurely sight-seeing trip from London to Amalfi, Italy, becomes a grand getaway as seventy-year-old Connie and her equally mature friends evade a dangerous criminal who is dead set on pursuing them along their route!

It could have been a disaster, it should have been a disaster, and it could still be a disaster. But at least they were having fun.

The Getaway Girls is a satisfying departure from my usual heavier book fare, yet it does not lack any thrills or drama. Connie, Gill, and Maggie are definitely forces to be reckoned with: resourceful, strong, and determined to live their lives to the fullest regardless of the cost.

This book has a nice, easy flow and features instantly likable characters who are full of… well, character! It is a light-hearted, enjoyable, and humorous summer read. It will make you long for the sights, sounds, (and food) of France and Italy, and may put a little wanderlust in your own heart!


About the Author

Image result for author dee macdonaldGoodreads Page

Twitter

Dee wrote – and illustrated – her first book somewhere around the age of six (and then sewed the pages together neatly down the side), but then life got in the way and she didn’t pick up that pen again until retirement and, after having some short stuff published, decided she had to write The Book.

(Bio courtesy of LBA)


 

image001_1514946317787

The Widow

by Fiona Barton
SmellRating4
(3.49 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published January 17, 2017, by Berkley Books

Genre: Fiction / Suspense / Crime Mystery

Format: Trade Paperback

Page Count: 344 pages (including an excerpt of The Child)

** Warning: Mild Spoilers**


TheWidowShe has no idea what I’ve been through. No one has really. I’ve never been able to tell anyone. Glen said that was best.

Two-year-old Bella Elliott went missing from her front garden on one October afternoon. Immediately, the police suspected that someone had taken her and they began their search for Bella and the suspects in earnest. That search eventually led detectives to the front door of Glen and Jean Taylor.

What follows is the account of the case built against unassuming Glen Taylor – its promises and missteps, its discoveries and its secrecies – told by the detective in charge of the case, the reporter who got exclusive access, and Glen’s wife (now widow) who supported his innocence relentlessly.

You see, Glen was disappearing from my life really. He was there but not there, if you know what I mean. The computer was more of a wife than I was — in all sorts of ways, as it turned out.

The primary “star” of the book is Jean (prefers Jeanie) Taylor, the accused’s wife. After her husband is suddenly killed in a freak accident, the detectives and press are hounding her to finally spill her secrets. What does she know about baby Bella’s kidnapping? Is Glen guilty of the crime? Is she also involved? Jeanie’s stalwart defense of her husband thwarts the investigation repeatedly, but everyone can tell – even the reader – that Jeanie knows more than she’s saying. And those secret things are revealed only gradually, like a slow-dripping faucet leak – building up and then eventually dropping down once the pressure is too much to take.

Jeanie is an immensely interesting and layered character. She garners sympathy because on the surface she appears to be damaged goods – the unlucky widow of an accused kidnapper and pedophile. But as Jeanie’s layers are peeled back, sympathy is replaced by anger, pity, understanding, and judgment in incongruent amounts. For some, she will be entirely relatable. For others, she will be an embarrassment to women for not being stronger, more forthright, or more independent.

It’s quite nice really, to have someone in charge of me again. I was beginning to panic that I’d have to cope with everything on my own…

Fiona Barton writes an engrossing and nail-biting novel about family loyalty wrapped in the cover of a frantic crime mystery. My personal loyalties and trust ping-ponged from character to character, often changing from chapter to chapter. Who is guilty? Who is truly innocent? 

If Glen and Jeanie did steal Bella, where is she now? Could Jeanie have acted alone and she’s just outsmarting everyone by allowing Glen to take the fall? That wouldn’t have been too far-fetched since she was desperate for a child after years of dealing with Glen’s sterility. Could that longing have pressured her into doing something terrible?

But if that was the case, why would Jeanie be wary of Glen after the first investigation falls apart and he is freed? She doesn’t want to go back to their house with him, but her loyalty compels her to do so without complaint. This is one of the moments when I wanted to slap her out of her stupor. SAY SOMETHING, JEANIE! But she doesn’t. Again.

All I keep thinking is that I’ve got to go home with him. Be on my own with him. What will it be like when we shut the door? I know too much about this other man I’m married to for it to be like before.

Barton’s supporting characters are equally as interesting: Glen with his secret porn addiction and control-freak tendencies; Kate Waters, the intrepid reporter who fights her own personal sympathies to get to the dirt of the story; and Bob Sparkes, the veteran detective who has been unable to help letting Bella’s case get too close to him.

The Widow is a book I was reluctant to put down – even when real life responsibilities were pulling at me. It sucked me in! I love an unreliable narrator, it makes the mystery even more, well… mysterious! Plus, I love a great whodunit not told exclusively from the POV of the police force. We’ve got almost everyone’s perspective here – even the grieving mother’s. It adds depth to the suspense and the action is in more places at the same time.

Readers who love an easily read crime mystery with great character development and a fast plot (that doesn’t feel rushed) will enjoy The Widow.  Although it felt good to be able to foretell certain aspects of the story (I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Glen’s accident wasn’t entirely accidental), it took nothing away from the tense build-up and ultimate “aha-moment” denouement. I would definitely recommend it to others.


About the Author

Fiona BartonWebsite

Twitter

My career has taken some surprising twists and turns over the years. I have been a journalist – senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at The Mail on Sunday, where I won Reporter of the Year at the National Press Awards, gave up my job to volunteer in Sri Lanka and since 2008, have trained and worked with exiled and threatened journalists all over the world. The worm of my first book infected me long ago when, as a national newspaper journalist covering notorious crimes and trials, I found myself wondering what the wives of those accused really knew – or allowed themselves to know. Much to my astonishment and delight, The Widow was published in 36 countries and made the Sunday Times and New York Times Best Seller lists. It gave me the confidence to write a second book, The Child, in which I return to another story that had intrigued me as a journalist. My husband and I are still living the good life in south-west France, where I am writing in bed, early in the morning when the only distraction is our cockerel, Titch, crowing.

(Bio adapted from Fiona Barton’s website)


 

image001_1514946317787

The Lying Game

by Ruth Ware
SmellRating3.5
(3.53 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published July 25, 2017, by Gallery/Scout Press

Genre: Fiction / Mystery

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 370 pages


The Lying GameTight-knit friendships are all very well and good, but they can close us off from other chances. They can cost us a great deal, in the end.

Have you ever heard that saying, “Wait for the other shoe to drop”? If on the off chance you haven’t, it just means to be prepared for something else to happen – usually something negative or troublesome. The saying invokes a feeling of dread, an anticipation that, at any minute, something will inevitably happen that will change your life for the worse.

This is the general tone of The Lying Game. That incessant feeling of something big and out of control lingering just around the corner. The BoogeyMan that lives in your own personal fear of your past catching up with you.

Isa (rhymes with “nicer”) Wilde lives in a cozy flat with her live-in boyfriend, Owen, and their 6-month old baby girl, Freya. Life is going along nicely until she gets a text: I NEED YOU. Instantly, her world is changed and she knows she has to respond immediately. There is no other choice. That’s the code they use whenever the situation is dire. This time, Isa is afraid that she knows exactly why this text was sent, and it’s something she has been dreading for 17 years.

So it’s begun…. The spell has broken — the illusion that it’s just me and Freya, off on a  seaside holiday for two. I remember why I am really here. I remember what we did.

Isa met Kate, Fatima, and Thea at Salten boarding school all those years ago. They became fast friends and bonded over a game they played together: The Lying Game. From little white lies to big whoppers, the girls fabricated their way through a semester of school, tricking everyone along the way – other students and teachers – about any and everything. They awarded each other points for each time a lie was believed. The game bonded them together, but it also had devastating consequences back then and in present day.

As Isa and her friends respond to Kate’s “I NEED YOU” text, they are each thrust back into the world they were cast away from 17 years ago as a result of their deceit. Each with a  reputation in the small town of Salten as a liar and maybe something a little more damning than that.

I want the ground to swallow me up. Why, why were we so vile? Didn’t we understand what we were doing, when we pitted ourselves against these nice, credulous, well-brought-up girls?

This is my first Ruth Ware book, and I wasn’t disappointed in her writing style or the premise of the story. However, I did spend a lot of the book just waiting for the other shoe to drop. And maybe, for me at least, that shoe took too many chapters to finally fall. The action was a little too stretched out and I didn’t feel that the resolution was satisfying enough. It was a slow burn to a conclusion that wasn’t quite fulfilling.

And although Isa was the main character, I would have loved to have the other girls be a little more fleshed out. Thea was a character that I found to be really interesting and I was interested to know more about her experiences. I wish that her character especially would have been given more focus, and it was a little annoying that more energy was given to Freya’s eating and sleeping patterns than was given to other, more interesting characters.

But three and 1/2 stars is a strong showing and readers who love a bit of mystery and a very atmospheric setting will appreciate this story where you not only have to figure out the truth about whodunit but also what was done and which liar is telling the truth.


About the Author

Image result for ruth wareWebsite

Goodreads

Twitter

Facebook

Ruth Ware grew up in Sussex, on the south coast of England. After graduating from Manchester University she moved to Paris, before settling in North London. She has worked as a waitress, a bookseller, a teacher of English as a foreign language and a press officer. She is married with two small children, and In a Dark, Dark Wood is her début thriller.


 

image001_1514946317787

Our Kind of Cruelty

by Araminta Hall
SmellRating4
(3.52 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published May 8, 2018, by Macmillan Audio

Genre: Fiction / Thriller

Format: Audiobook 🎧

Page Count: n/a (Hardcover, 288 pgs)


Our Kind of CrueltyI crave you

Relationships are hard. Yes, that’s a cliché and an understatement (especially when it comes to this particular relationship), but it would make a great tagline for this story of one couple’s complex connection.

Mike and Verity had a passion-filled romance. Then they broke up. Hey, it happens. Seriously, it happens thousands of times a day, every day, in every corner of the globe. But it’s how individuals handle breakups that makes all the difference in the world. Our Kind of Cruelty is the story of Mike’s romance with Verity, his obsession with her and their game, The Crave, and everything that happens after one fateful night he spends away from her.

We have to keep a tight hold of each other to stop the other from floating away.

OK, confession time… What was your worst breakup experience? Was it sad? Intense? Terrifying? Most people do have at least one very memorable breakup in their past. in hindsight, would you have handled it differently? Probably, or maybe not? This book made me really analyze all the breakups I’ve ever had. And that one creepy stalker situation that eventually worked itself out. Actually, I thought about my stalker situation (which wasn’t violent or physically threatening, but was definitely creepy) a lot while listening to this book. And I’ll tell you why…

Mike loves Verity. He adores her. He is obsessed with her. Over and over again he states that he needs her to help him to make decisions on this or that, or that he needs her to show him how he should respond in certain social situations. Mike believes that Verity is his true-North compass. He also believes that she is incomplete without him. That she won’t be able to function successfully in the world without him. Even when she does move on after the breakup and eventually gets married to someone else, Mike knows it isn’t real and that V is just baiting him to make their own romance stronger.

That’s a strong obsession. Delusion? Yes, you could use that word too. What separates love from obsession? Where is the line between connection and delusion? My stalker thought he knew me better than anyone else. He could tell me my favorite flower, color, car, and football team. He knew verbatim things I’d said 10 years prior. He knew about all my friends and members of my family. But we never even dated. He called it love. I called it something else entirely.

…sometimes two people need each other so much it is worth sacrificing others to make sure they end up together.

Araminta Hill has written a compelling, yet creepy, romance (eek! I hesitate to even type that!) that shows us that perception is key. The book is intelligent, sharp, and suspenseful. Written from Mike’s perspective, we are forced to see his side and feel his feelings – even though we’re screaming in our heads, “No! You’re getting it all wrong! How can you think that way?” Mike’s character is unreliable and delusional, yet he’s pitiable because of his rough background. But the things we learn about Mike – from his own account – are still unsettling and point to an undercurrent of violence that even he has never managed to understand or erase.

Our Kind of Cruelty definitely leaves you guessing at the end. Is Mike believable? Has Verity been in on it the entire time? Or is she just another unwilling victim in Mike’s fantasy romance? Hill leaves it up to you to decide. 

As for my take on it, I have decided that perceptions like Mike’s are how we end up with enough stories to fill up the ID channel 24/7. Entertaining, yet infinitely eerie.


About the Author

Araminta HallGoodreads

Twitter

Araminta Hall began her career in journalism as a staff writer on teen magazine Bliss, becoming Health and Beauty editor of New Woman. On her way, she wrote regular features for the Mirror’s Saturday supplement and ghost-wrote the super-model Caprice’s column.

(Bio from Goodreads)


 

image001_1514946317787

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

by Gail Honeyman
Rating: 
(4.35 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published May 9, 2017, by Viking – Pamela Dorman Books

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Adult

Format: Hardcover

Page Count: 327 pages


Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely FineI do exist, don’t I? It often feels as if I’m not here, that I’m a figment of my own imagination.

In horror movies, there is that one part (that may happen over and over again) where the mood changes. The scene gets darker, the music is more ominous. Maybe even all the action is just a touch slower. As viewers, we know that this is the moment when something is about to happen. The bad guy is coming.

That’s what it was like for me while I was reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. Because, of course, she isn’t. And there are bad, bad things lurking around her that definitely deserve a dark setting and ominous music.

But on the surface, Eleanor is making her awkward way through the world: sticking to her routine, correcting everyone’s grammar, and drinking copious amounts of vodka. It’s the normal life of an introvert for her – and, after all, who’s to say what “normal” is anyway?

If I’m ever unsure as to the correct course of action, I’ll think, ‘What would a ferret do?’ or, ‘How would a salamander respond to this situation?’ Invariably, I find the right answer.

I actually saw some of myself in Eleanor. While I’m (thankfully) nowhere near as awkward in public as she is, we do share some of the same introverted tendencies:  being committed to a routine that varies very little from day to day (or at least from week to week), and often having limited contact with other people for long stretches of time. Even in this modern age of technology and all the world’s advancements, there is still a lot of alone-ness going around.

Honeyman sets up Eleanor at times to be a pitiable character, highlighting her loneliness and her painfully cumbersome social interactions. But at other times, we see her as a complicated success story. No, really. She’s a survivor that really shouldn’t even be as well off as she is. And so you can forgive all of her idiosyncrasies because there’s so much depth to her as a person.

…I’d probably want to pluck out my own eyes, to stop looking, to stop seeing all the time. The things I’ve seen cannot be unseen. The things I’ve done cannot be undone.

So now, back to my horror movie analogy – you know by now that I’m not the spoiler type, so I’ll just say that Eleanor is an introvert and part of the story is her learning to function differently in society. She’s figuring it out basically alone. How to shop for clothes, how to get her hair styled, how to interact at a party, how to dance! But Eleanor has a boogyman, and sometimes the darkness creeps in. In the midst of several distinct triumphs, there are setbacks that threaten to destroy all the progress she’s made. Her secrets overwhelm her and are too scary to face.

But no one had ever shown me the right way to live a life, and although I’d tried my best over the years, I simply didn’t know how to make things better. I could not solve the puzzle of me.

Gail Honeyman writes a captivating contemporary tale about an unusual woman who is battling some tough demons. It is subtly suspenseful and Eleanor is entirely frustrating while simultaneously being entirely loveable. Reading this book was like watching a baby deer take its first wobbly steps into a wild world – awkward and fantastic.


About the Author

Gail HoneymanGoodreads

Twitter

Gail Honeyman wrote her debut novel, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, while working a full-time job, and it was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize as a work in progress. She has also been awarded the Scottish Book Trust’s Next Chapter Award 2014, was longlisted for BBC Radio 4’s Opening Lines, and was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize. She lives in Glasgow.

(Bio courtesy of Goodreads)

My (not so) Perfect Life

by Sophie Kinsella
Rating: 
(3.83 stars – Goodreads rating)

Published July 11, 2017, by The Dial Press (Random House)

Genre: Women’s Fiction / Humor

Format: Paperback

Page Count: 448 pages

My Not So Perfect LifeI’m owning my embarrassment. I’m not hiding or playing games. I lift my chin, high and resolute. ‘Here I am: Katie Brenner, Embarrassed. There are worse things to be.’

If you’re on Instagram, you’ve seen them – the people with the perfect lives. They’re always eating at the best restaurants, taking perfectly filtered pics of the most delicious-looking food, while wearing the most en trende outfits.

Their hair is styled perfectly. Their children are gorgeous. Their partners are gorgeous. Their jobs are high-paying and meaningful. In short, they are The Perfect Life People.

I’ve seen them, heck, I follow them. I’ve envied their cars, their homes, even their also-perfect friends. But I also realized that perfection is a myth and there’s always other things that a carefully cropped and filtered picture doesn’t show.

That’s the theme of this Sophie Kinsella novel: Getting past the Insta-mask and seeing people (and ourselves) for who they/we really are.

Katie Brenner has always wanted to live and work in London. She dropped her Somerset accent and exchanged her naturally curly hair for a sleek hairdo with bangs when she got her junior research assistant position at respectable Cooper Clemmow in London. She also changed her nickname to “Cat” and convinced her friends and family that she was living the high life through upbeat phone calls and a carefully constructed Instagram page. But life in London wasn’t quite as rosy as she was making it out to be.

Kinsella drops us into Katie’s life as she’s struggling to find her place in her dream city, a new job, and within a group that seems – to her – to have everything going for them. Especially Katie’s boss Demeter. We watch as Katie envies and emulates Demeter even as she judges her harshly for being disconnected, scattered, and insensitive.

I think I’ve finally worked out how to feel good about life. Every time you see someone’s bright-and-shiny, remember: They have their own crappy truths too.

A prominent theme in the book is to never judge a book by its cover. As the story progresses through Katie’s gained footholds and fumbles, we see how her revelations of this theme create a more mature young adult. But being a Kinsella character, we still also see some truly LOL self-inflicted foibles and hijinks.

My (not so) Perfect LIfe was an enjoyable quick read that reminded me that life is what you make it, and how you present yourself to the world – whether it’s fact or fiction – could have a big impact on how you ultimately view yourself.

Four happy, Somerset-accented stars for this feel-good story of revelation, family, and friendship that makes me feel so much better about posting unfiltered pics on my Instagram feed!

Get it here: Amazon, B&N, Half Price Books, Book Depository


About the Author

Sophie KinsellaWebsite

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Goodreads

Sophie Kinsella first hit the UK bestseller lists in September 2000 with her first novel in the Shopaholic series – The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic (also published as Confessions of a Shopaholic). The book’s heroine, Becky Bloomwood – a fun and feisty financial journalist who loves shopping but is hopeless with money – captured the hearts of readers worldwide. Becky has since featured in seven further bestselling books.


 

image001_1514946317787