The Betrayals by Fiona Neill

the betrayalsI think I might put this book on my list of favourites for this year. It wasn’t at all what I expected, and yet at the same time it was.

I don’t even think the betrayals are the driving force in this story. The deterioration of Daisy, the codependency of her brother Max, and of course the triggers, they are what propel the story forward with quite a lot of force.

First of all kudos to the author for the in depth research and description of the obsessive compulsive disorder. It controls and rules Daisy, her life and to a certain extent the lives of those around her. Like many other disorders, it has become somewhat of a blasé throwaway phrase that people mention in a jokey kind of way. The truth is it can control and take over your entire life, and indeed people who suffer from severe OCD are often unable to cope with the demands of everyday life, due to their condition.

I enjoyed the perfect imperfections of the characters and the story. In general life isn’t an ice cream sundae with a cherry on top. It tends to be more like a melted mess that drips faster than you can eat it.

The lives of two families are changed forever when Nick and Lisa decide that lust is stronger than loyalty. Their spouses and children are less than thrilled. In fact Daisy believes their betrayal is the trigger for her OCD and every other problem in her life. To be more specific she believes Lisa is the root cause of her problems, and what Daisy thinks Max thinks too.

It’s interesting how Daisy suffers from selective memory and fixates on her father and his mistress. Memory and in particular false memories and the way our brain works in relation to memories is Nick’s speciality, which makes some aspects of the plot all the more ironic.

It really is an engrossing read, perhaps more so because the complete disintegration of families and relationships is so commonplace, and it leaves many victims in its wake. Neill writes a compelling plot with relatable characters.

Buy The Betrayals at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

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The Wife – To Have and to Hold (Book 1) by M.L. Roberts

the wife part1This definitely has a Dr. Foster feel to it, and if you haven’t seen that particular programme then be prepared for a paranoid and vengeful woman, and the close scrutiny of a marriage.

Marriage, relationships and friendships are at the forefront of this story. The story starts after specific events, which lead to the deterioration of her mental health and her marriage. The reader remains unaware of what those events are specifically until the author starts to reveal some of the details towards the end of this book.

It’s hard to feel a lot of empathy for Ellie. because she seems so unstable. She is jealous, paranoid and isn’t adverse to the occasional bouts of stalking. She doubts everything her husband says and does, perhaps with good reason though.

Roberts describes the charismatic husband really well. The charmer, the kind of man women want attention from, even if it is just the faintest of touches or a short moment of eye-contact. I think they thrive on the energy, the heavy feeling of lust and danger in the air. The short culmination of spiked desire, albeit only in a brief second of imagined abandonment. Michael is that type of man. The kind of man who holds the attention of the room, and enjoys every second of it. You have to be a strong woman or partner to accept this particular vice or personality trait. Why? Well, because he will only ever belong to you completely when there is only the two of you and no other person to stroke the ego of the prettiest peacock in the room.

No wonder Ellie is driven to distraction, especially after the damage her marriage has already incurred. It’s interesting to note, and yet absolutely the norm, that as a woman she is expected to forgive, forget and go back to being the happy little wife. Regardless of the pain, horror and irreparable damage to her life and well-being she has had to endure.

The author writes a good game. In book one the nails are being slowly driven into the coffin one by one, whilst the reasons for her obsessive and paranoid behaviour are revealed at a calculated pace. Some characters look guiltier than others, however there are always three sides to every story. Her side, his side and somewhere in the middle is the truth. This is a four part series and I am looking forward to reading the next book For Better, For Worse.

Buy To Have and to Hold -The Wife (Book 1) at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @AuthorMLRoberts @michellebetham @HarperImpulse

Order:

The Wife – Book One: To Have and to Hold

Pre-order:

The Wife – Book Two: For Better, For Worse

The Wife – Book Three: In Sickness and in Health

The Wife – Book Four: Till Death Us Do Part

Blog-Tour: Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica

I am delighted to be taking part in the Blog-Tour for Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica. I am partial to a wee bit of Kubica, because she writes the kind of story that messes with your head. There is no definitive line between good or bad guy. Kubica explores the grey areas no person wants to acknowledge. The wasteland between black and white, and the darkest depths of human nature. In Every Last Lie she turns a spotlight on despair, grief and the emotional quagmire of an unexpected tragedy.

About Mary Kubica

Mary Kubica holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and American Literature from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She lives near Chicago with her husband and two children.

Mary Kubica’s first book, The Good Girl, was one of the first psychological thrillers to the market. It has been optioned for TV by Anonymous Content, the production company behind the TV series True Detective and films Winter’s Bone, Babel and Being John Malkovich.

Follow @MaryKubica @HQStories @HarperCollinsUk

Visit Mary online at www.marykubica.com, on Facebook at MaryKubica

Buy Every Last Lie

About the book

She always trusted her husband…Until he died.

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed.

But when Maisie starts having nightmares, Clara becomes obsessed that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident.

Who wanted Nick dead? And, more importantly, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out the truth – even if it makes her question whether her entire marriage has been a lie…

Review

Kubica likes to twist the truth and stretch the lies to create the kind of read that makes you doubt and wonder whether everything is as it seems. Her characters are always balancing precariously on the boundary between good and evil. Grey areas are her forte instead of the usual black or white ones.

Clara is in the stressful and tiring months of taking care of a new baby. She has a picture perfect family, even if she is a wee bit too tired to notice at the moment. So exhausted that she doesn’t notice her husband and young daughter haven’t returned home. She is completely overwhelmed by the news of their accident and unable to process that she will never see Nick again.

Her grief is overridden by the suspicion that Nick was murdered and she is determined to prove it. The niggling doubt in her mind or rather her refusal to accept the official truth makes her seem unreliable and possibly unstable. All the doubts and disbelief are compounded by the nightmares Maisie starts having, and the things she has to say about the night of the accident.

What I liked the most about this particular Kubica story was the obsession. Clara is completely consumed by the thought that her husband was killed, as opposed to the accident just being a careless quirk of fate. She doesn’t care about the facts, the possible scenarios or plain old common sense.

It is an incredible mixture of emotional turmoil. Kubica has combined the various stages of grief with the constructed frame of a psychological thriller, and the result is an unexpected pleasure. Clara is like us, faced with the normal banality and difficulties of life. A hungry baby and a distressed young daughter, an empty bank account and the responsibility of taking care of her elderly relatives.

It could happen to any of us, which is why this read will probably resonate with a lot of readers. It combines the fears we have and perhaps even the realities we have had to endure. When a tragedy occurs it sends most people into a tailspin, some never completely recover from them. It only takes one moment of distraction or recklessness to change many lives, and I suspect that thought is the one which will remain with most readers after reading Every Last Lie.

Buy Every Last Lie at AmazonUK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Read Pretty Baby, Don’t You Cry and The Good Girl by Mary Kubica.

The A to Z of Everything by Debbie Johnson

A to ZIf my mother did this my sister and me, then I would conjure up her spirit to tell her what a fool she is. My sister and I would both find this process a complete waste of time, and one that would probably end with one or the other in jail. (Makes note not to buy this book for my mother)

I would however do this for my daughters if I felt they needed to reconnect and be there for each other after my death. Not that I would ever let things become so bad that I wasn’t speaking to my children on a regular basis.

Blood is thicker than water, however blood doesn’t mean you automatically have to be friends. In fact the reality is that many take a step back from family members because they are related but don’t like them.

Andrea has planned everything in fine detail. She wants Rose and Poppy to reunite and become the friends they once were. She wants them to support each other and get over the problems that keep them apart.

Poppy and Rose used to be as thick as thieves until something ripped them apart. Now they are like strangers, and Poppy doesn’t even know her nephew.

Rose is just as guilty as Poppy, as far as I am concerned. It takes two to tango and yet Rose places all the blame on Poppy. Of course it is more of a betrayal if it is your sister, but come on now blaming one person is ludicrous.

The idea itself is quite an interesting one. You don’t know what you’ve lost until it is gone forever. It is all about taking people for granted and letting relationships get to the point of no return. Both women have to learn to put the past behind them and to move forward with a clean slate. It is an emotional and honest read, possibly because it is a realistic scenario.

Buy The A to Z of Everything at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @Debbiemjohnson@HarperImpulse or @HarperCollinsUk

Autopsy of a Father by Pascale Kramer

AutopsyFather 2I think it is fair to say that Kramer manages to sneak into your head-space and then lets the events unfold in front of you like a slideshow of personal memories.

Family can give you the best experiences in life, but also the worst. Parental relationships can be the foundations of your identity, however the flip-side of the coin can also be a dysfunctional relationship that means there is no foundation of identity at all or a lack of one.

Although the relationship between Ania and Gabriel takes the main stage in this story, it is so much more than a daughter’s autopsy of the relationship with her father.

Kramer rips a plaster off of the pus filled boil of immigration. She has chosen the suburbs of Paris to point a spotlight at this and the underlying racial tensions in France. To be completely fair, to France that is, it is a topic of contention in quite a lot of western countries at the moment. An issue that has swayed elections and given fodder to the right-wing. We are living in an era where we have to be very careful that we don’t repeat mistakes of the past.

Gabriel is a well-known and admired journalist until he decides to publicly support a group of young French men, who ruthlessly murdered an innocent African immigrant. The victim was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Gabriel is vilified for his xenophobic rant. He loses his job, and his neighbours and fellow villagers aren’t afraid to show him how displeased they are by his opinion.

The former left-wing intellectual has suddenly taken on an anti-immigrant stance, which is sort of hypocritical considering that his wife was Iranian. His family structure sort of mirrors that of his home country. His half French and half Iranian daughter embraces her dead mother’s culture and religion. He loved his wife, and yet he rejects his daughter. He used to embrace the diversity in his country and now he rejects anything but the French culture.

Ania is unaware of all of this. The two of them have a fractured relationship. She never lived up to his expectations and he never accepted her shortcomings. The two of them are strangers bound by nothing more than blood. Ania isn’t really bothered by the lack of interest, at least that is what she tells herself. What really gets her goat is when her father treats his grandson, her son, with the same disinterest. I think most readers will be able to comprehend the difference. You get used to the indifference or the negative qualities your parents have and accept them as part of their eccentricities, however we react like protective parents when our children are subjected to the same personality flaws.

There is a moment in the story when Gabriel and Ania are in the same train compartment, and yet he pretends he hasn’t seen them. Almost as if he doesn’t want to associate himself with the two of them in public. Are these the actions of a xenophobe or of a man ashamed of his past actions? Is this realisation the reason he commits suicide?

In a way the story ends without any definitive answers. There is no clarification between Ania and Gabriel, and no resolution in general. Of course that is the reality of life and relationships, sometimes conflicts aren’t resolved.

Aside from the parallels Kramer draws to the political situation in France, which is quite cleverly done in the context of a family setting, I really think she portrayed the relationship between daughter and father well. The dysfunctional side of family, the distances that grow between people, and the hard and hurtful truth that usually remains unspoken.

Buy Autopsy of a Father at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @bellevuepress

The Choir on Hope Street by Annie Lyons

choirThis is a story of support and friendship, and how the smallest of lights can become a beacon of hope in the darkest of times. The members of the group are as different as can be, and yet they all have at least one thing in common.

The Choir brings them all together, and although the main reason is to save the hall, they really enjoy being a group. It’s like a home away from home.

Two women strike up the unlikeliest of friendships, even if it is more of a tenuous one at first. Both of them are struggling to cope with problems in their private lives, whilst trying hard to maintain their composure and the outside façade.

Natalie finds her supposedly perfect life in sudden disarray when her husband suddenly decides to change the parameters of their relationship. Caroline is struggling to connect with her mother, with whom she has always had a strained relationship. Dementia is a cruel companion, an illness that takes no prisoners and leaves no family member unaffected.

Lyons knows exactly how to portray the reality of relationships, which is especially evident in the ‘thought bubbles’ of the characters. You can say one thing, but think an entirely different one. The relationship between the two women is like a tug-of-war of emotional support. They are both frightened to admit that they need someone in their corner.

As always it is a story readers can relate to. Nearly everyone tries to remain strong in difficult situations. Admitting that you need a friend or support can be tantamount to a sign of weakness for some. The truth is everyone needs help now and again. Maybe everyone needs a song too.

Buy The Choir on Hope Street at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @1AnnieLyons or @HQStories visit annielyons.com or connect with Annie on Facebbook

Read Life or Something Like it or Not Quite Perfect by Annie Lyons.

The Sunset Gang by Warren Adler

sunset gangWarren Adler is perhaps best known for The War of the Roses. His work is infused with his special brand of dark wit, hard-hitting truths and sense of humour.

The Sunset Gang is a collection of ten stories revolving around the retirement village called Sunset Village. The feature connecting them all, aside from retirement and old-age, is the fact they are all Jews.

It is the cotton which connects and threads through all the stories. Their language, identity, lives and where their stories start and end.

Yiddish is about the way the ancient language helps two people to discover themselves and their love of life again. It felt as if the kinship and brother/sisterhood was the message in this story. Conversing in Yiddish reignites something buried deep inside them. Perhaps something others could and should discover too.

Itch is, as many of the stories are, a testament to how lonely advanced age can be, even after an eventful and full life. Thrust suddenly into the strange schedule of a retirement community many find themselves missing the days of old and friends, who have since passed away.

An Unexpected Visit is an excellent example of how parents and children grow apart when both are adults. Suddenly life is so busy that families grow apart. In this case a visit with his father helps a son to re-evaluate his own life and priorities.

The Detective, this story is painfully true and it happens more often than people might think. It is all about compassion, empathy and more importantly how pride can be a huge obstacle when it comes to survival.

God Made Me That Way, same attracts same in this tale. It is probably karma when these two elderly people cross paths. Their mutual affinity for the opposite gender places them in the strange category of con-people or thieves of the heart.

The Braggart doesn’t just apply to older generations, it is the truth for many people. Successful careers and money may sound great, but they aren’t a replacement for genuine emotions and children who care enough to keep in touch.

The Demonstration is perhaps the most poignant from a political point of view. A man determined to stand up for his people. To not sit by silently and do nothing. It is about anti-Semitism, racism and hatred.

The Angel of Mercy is actually both sad and very mystical. If there is one thing that hovers over a retirement village it is definitely death. Mrs Klugerman seems to not only know when death is hovering over certain people, she also seems to be able to heal. Either way she catches the attention of someone under their own shadow of death.

Poor Herman, they do say that everyone meets twice in their lifetimes. In this case the strong embers of young love have been buried beneath the mediocrity of a more suitable lifestyle and partner. When they meet again after many decades the two of them reconnect as if they were teenagers again.

The Home is a situation many of us will possibly face, although the majority of us won’t want it to happen them. After a lifetime of being in control and being considered the head of the family one is suddenly considered a problem. An inconvenience that is too old to make decisions and unable to take care of themselves. A scary thought.

I enjoyed the humour, the Jewishness of it all and the fact each story spoke to me. Adler excels at describing every day situations and emotions. I liked the way the author managed to make excellent emotional, moral and even strong political points in the midst of such touching stories.

Buy The Sunset Gang at Amazon Uk or go Goodreads for any other retailer.

Connect with @WarrenAdler on Twitter or www.facebook.com/warrenadler or visit www.warrenadler.com