The Stars are Fire by Anita Shreve

the starsIn our day and age the problems Grace encounters might seem conventional and the way she deals with them completely normal. In 1947 her attempts to be independent and raise her children as a single mother would have been frowned upon. In that era the wife was still very much considered to be property of said man. Women were still coming into their own and starting to throw off the chains of their servitude.

Grace has no idea that her marriage isn’t like every other marriage. Gene is her first sexual experience and her first encounter with what she believes to be love.

When Gene disappears in the midst of a terrible fire she gets the opportunity to discover new emotions and real love. She also experiences friendship with both genders and the kindness of strangers.

Faced with a life of abuse, neglect and anger she has to make a choice to either stay and be silent or refuse to endure a life lived on the terms of a bully.

Kudos to Shreve for adding historical facts and for the authentic feel of the story. Grace was and is every woman, regardless of the era.

Buy The Stars are Fire at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer

Don’t Close Your Eyes by Holly Seddon

dont closeThere are plenty of hot topics in this psychological thriller, however I think there was one in particular that resonated more with me. Possibly because in this story it is the root and cause of everything else, all the other problems to come, and perhaps also because it is so commonplace nowadays.

Divorce, separation, custody battles and enforced patchwork families. That doesn’t mean some families don’t manage amicable arrangements, however the emotional trauma still remains the same. Depending on how vicious and vindictive things get the emotional damage is unmeasurable.

For the twins, Robin and Sarah, the moment they are ripped apart is the beginning of the end. The reader meets two happy little girls in the past and then moves forward to encounter two unhappy women in the future. The paths the two of them take are completely different. Robin finds fame and enough anxiety to fill a house, whereas Sarah creates a family, but is ousted by her manipulative husband.

It is fair to say that all is not what it seems, as the layers of this story are slowly torn away like someone peeling an onion. The anger, abuse and hate ripples through the two families over the years. It leaves victims in its wake.

Seddon confronts the reader with quite a few uncomfortable truths, and yet simultaneously she spins a web of fear, deceit and mayhem around them. It is done in such cunning way that you don’t see the twist coming until it nearly smacks you in the face.

Buy Don’t Close Your Eyes at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @hollyseddon and @Atlanticbooks

Read Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon

Blog-Tour: Don’t Say a Word by A.L. Bird

I do ‘love me some A.L. Bird’ so it is my absolute pleasure to kick off the Blog-Tour for the amazing Don’t Say a Word by A.L. Bird. Get ready for another tense and captivating read.

About the Author

AL Bird lives in North London, where she divides her time between writing and working as a lawyer. The Good Mother is her major psychological thriller for Carina UK, embarking into the world of ‘grip-lit’. Don’t Say a Word is her new psychological thriller from HQDigital, an imprint of HarperCollins. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London, and is also an alumna of the Faber Academy ‘Writing a Novel’ course, which she studied under Richard Skinner. She’s also a member of the Crime Writers’Association.

For updates on her writing, you can follow her on Twitter, @ALBirdwriter, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ALBirdwriter or by visiting her website, at www.albirdwriter.com

Buy Don’t Say a Word

About the book

A happy child.

Every parent knows the world can be scary. Lawyer Jen Sutton knows it better than most. And she’ll go to any length to protect her son from what – and who – lies outside their front door.

A loving mother.

Some might say she’s being over-protective. But isn’t it a mother’s duty to protect her child from harm?

A family built on a lie.

Jen has kept her secrets safe. Until the postcard arrives, signed by the one person she hoped would never catch up with her… and her new case begins to feel a little too close to home.

One thing is clear: Jen has been found.

Now, she faces a choice. Run, and lose everything? Or fight – and risk her son discovering the truth.

Don’t Say a Word is the electrifying new psychological thriller from AL Bird – perfect for fans of CL Taylor and Sue Fortin.

Review

It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you. In a nutshell that is both the life motto and curse Jen lives by and with. She is convinced her past is right on her heels and ready to implode her new life. She is hiding from a vengeful, abusive ex, and someone who used to be both her closest confidante and her nemesis at the same time. Chloe is with Jen 24/7. In her head, on her mind and featuring in quite a few flashbacks. Jen feels as if she is hemmed in by the paranoia and the gut feeling that retribution is waiting just around the corner.

So when a case at work starts to ring a few alarm bells she puts it down to her heightened senses and her instincts. All she ever thinks of is her son and keeping him safe. These coincidences are exactly that, aren’t they? And that is precisely why Jen is always in a constant state of anxious apprehension. She knows the fear will always follow her around like a little black rain cloud.

There is a chapter in this book that really annoyed me, not from a plot point of view, but because it is the painful truth. The way some children fall through the system. The kids with no voice, the ones no one ever listens to, because they are invisible. Then the way the system or rather those enforcing the system, become nothing more than highly judgemental morality police. They judge based on ticked boxes, theoretical knowledge and false assumptions.

Be prepared for the kind of read that makes you query the characters, the truth and perhaps even the systems our society uses to keep our children safe. Whether we like it or not there is a level of indifference, which in turn explains why abuse and domestic violence are still so prevalent in the 21st century.

Sometimes I think Bird takes pleasure in screwing with our brains. Nothing is ever what it seems in her stories. The lines between the good and the bad guys are always skewed. Fifty shades of grey instead of clear black or white. The reader is often suddenly blind-sided by the unexpected twists and turns.

Don’t say a Word is a ride on the wild side with barely any space to take a breath and exhale. Bird combines her experience of the real world with her innate talent for creating fascinating reads.

Buy Don’t Say a Word on Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.


Follow @ALBirdwriter and @HQDigitalUK

Read The Good Mother by A.L. Bird.

Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

good-meThe age old question arises in Good Me, Bad Me. Does nurture win over nature? Can the environment change what years of nature have defined and formed?

It’s actually quite interesting that Annie has become Milly. In a way the two names and identities are a symbol for the two sides warring within her.

Annie represents the old life, the life filled with abuse, pain and killing. Milly represents the new life, a family with no ties to her dark past and the possibility of a normal life.

I have to admit I wanted Bad Me to come out to play more often when it came to Phoebe. After all those dark years with her mother Milly is then subjected to the horrors of high school bullying. On a level, which would break even the hardest of people. Good Me tries really hard to keep Annie at bay, but ultimately she peeps out now and again to defend herself.

Throughout the book we see Milly struggle with her emotions. She is happy to finally be free of the horror and yet at the same time her greatest desire is to see her mother again. Is that evidence of her inner conflict and her inability to comprehend the destructive nature of their relationship or is it an indication of something more nefarious?

What Land does really well is make the reader feel sympathy for someone who might not be worthy of it, but then the world isn’t really made of black or white scenarios. It’s the shading and the grey that makes for the unusual exceptions in life. Milly is most certainly an exception to the rule.

The other aspect Land excels at is the question of guilt. To what degree is Annie the victim and to what degree is she as guilty as her mother? Will the child raised by an abuser and killer possibly follow the same path in life or will she gladly settle into obscurity and a normal life.

This book will probably make readers sit on the fence and watch with bated breath as the story unfolds, and yet in the end they still might not be able to decide whether Good Me or Bad Me wins. I know who I am rooting for and it probably isn’t the one you think it is or the one I should be rooting for.

Well done to the author for the fascinating read.

Buy Good Me, Bad Me at Amazon uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra

onlyBec Winter is back from the missing, the disappeared and possibly the dead. Well technically she is still possibly all those things, because the woman calling herself Bec Winter is an imposter.

At first becoming the missing girl is just a means to an end and a welcome opportunity to distance herself from her real identity and life.

However the more she learns about the young girl’s disappearance the more she feels as if she needs to find out the truth about what really happened.

Did a predator pick her off the streets? Was she taken by someone she knew? Does someone know more than they have previously admitted to?

As fake Bec becomes more comfortable in the role of the ‘returned’ daughter she starts to get a real notion of how it was before the real Bec disappeared. Of course she also comprehends that the one person who really does know for certain that she is a fake is probably the person responsible for real Bec’s disappearance. Will they just ignore her charade or is she a walking risk factor?

Snoekstra manages to bring the creepy and the crazy in equal measure. Nothing is as it seems, and hey prepare to feel uncomfortable at times. Aside from the twist in the story, the author does bring some of the desperation of families in this situation to the table. Those willing to accept a fake instead of having to accept reality.

Buy Only Daughter at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old by Hendrik Groen

hendrik.jpgAlthough the story is witty and infused with a strong layer of sarcasm, it also made me quite sad to think that in the end our lives are reduced to such banality. One is treated with a lack of dignity and compassion, which quite frankly is simply appalling.

The identity behind the pseudonym Hendrik Groen has been a bit of a mystery for the last few years. I can imagine quite a few old age pensioners being eyed suspiciously by inhabitants and management teams in care homes. The Volkskrant seems to be think it is a particular gentleman nearly a few decades shy of being an octogenarian.

The truth is it doesn’t really matter because Hendrik Groen is nearly all of us when it comes to being an elderly person in western society. In quite a few European countries the birthrate is now so low that in a few decades there will be more elderly citizens than younger ones. There couldn’t be a better reason to re-evaluate the way the older generations are taken care of.

In that sense I believe Groen’s diary is making some very valid points, albeit ones mixed with a good portion of irony, humour and current events.

There is a special emphasis on euthanasia and having the choice to die. Dying with Dignity has become a hot topic in the UK, with many people campaigning to allow the terminally ill, the incurable and those who don’t wish to live in constant pain, to be able to choose to die. Giving them a voice and a choice before they become too ill to be able to make a decision.

With the story being set in Amsterdam (original language Dutch) it is laden with references to Dutch traditions, holidays, food and places, which I personally enjoyed because I used to live in the German/Dutch border region.

I hope, if I am ever unfortunate enough to end up in care home that treats me like a number and a potential profit margin, I will have the good fortune of making a band of friends like Hendrik’s gang of rebels.

I wonder what he will write about in his second diary?

Buy The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Watching Edie by Camilla Way

watching edieOne of the most interesting elements of this story is the fact the author hasn’t created a black or white situation.

There are many shades of grey, and in this case those shades relate directly to whether the characters are good guys or bad guys. The truth is, there is no clear answer to that question.

The reader feels sympathy with Edie, because of the hard situation she finds herself in. She is a single woman, who is about to become a single mother. When the baby does eventually arrive she is overwhelmed and clearly needs a friend.

Heather seems like the great alternative to a support system, despite the troubled past she and Edie share. Seems like the perfect solution. Edie needs help and Heather wants to help. Does she really want to help though?

Heather has a tendency to stalk, get violent and blackout. She is creepy and clearly unstable. Would you want her to take care of your newborn baby?

Throughout the book Edie has flashbacks to a time when she and Heather were friends and also to some terrible event that ended said friendship.

What it comes down to is who you think is guilty of the greater crime or wrong-doing. There are things that are unforgivable or so inhumane that they leave a deep dark stain on anyone involved in them. Some wrongs can never be righted.

Watching Edie will make you question everything and everyone. It is a nicely paced and well-developed psychological thriller, and despite the fact the reader can probably guess the traumatic secret the two of them are hiding, it is still a compelling read.

Buy Watching Edie at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.