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

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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.

The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne

the fire childTremayne keeps the reader guessing when it comes to which one of the happily married couple is slightly deranged. At certain points of the story it is quite hard to decide whether David or Rachel should win the trophy for the most bizarre and crazy character.

What Tremayne does really well is describe the surroundings.You can almost see yourself walking through the majestic rooms and the countryside. The landscape, the house, the mines and also the history of the miners.

I think the reality of miners lives, both in and out of the mines, is often trivialized. In this story the author gives an accurate sense of the stark brutality and hardship of that way of life, and also the riches reaped from the work of said miners.

One of the things that peeved me was the reaction to the assault. Why the assault wasn’t enough to warrant the exclusion, which is just so typical of our society.

I would have liked to have seen more focus on the myth or reality of being a fire child, I felt as if the rest of the story overpowered that element of the tale.

The Fire Child is a mixture of mystery, a smidgen of paranormal and a large portion of important social justice issues.

Buy The Fire Child at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

behindIt happens behind many closed doors, regardless of gender, race, religion, nationality or economic standing for that matter. Physical, verbal and psychological abuse.

The insidious nature of abuse goes hand in hand with secrecy and lies. One partner is adept at pretending to be something they are not and the other partner is often too scared to speak up.

Not speaking up ends up being the Achilles Heel of the abused, because when they do finally speak out they are often not believed.

They are faced with questions like: Why didn’t you tell anyone?, Why didn’t you leave? and Why would you let someone treat you that way? A lot of fingers point in the direction of the abused, as opposed to the abuser.

Grace keeps up the pretence for her own safety and for her sister Millie. Jack keeps Grace tethered like horse or a dancing bear, the only respite being an evening of entertainment with guests now and again. He knows exactly who to use as leverage, when it comes to getting Grace to do what he wants.

During the conversations the reader or I often wondered why the guests, especially the women, didn’t find anything odd or disturbing. I know I would find that type of close and claustrophobic relationship worrying.

Kudos to the author for the last two pages, it was an excellent way to end the story. Paris combines the reality of hidden abuse with a psychological thriller, and the end result is quite a good read.

Buy Behind Closed Doors at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

The Invasion of the Tearling UK

I suggest reading the first book in the series, Queen of the Tearling, before this one. It isn’t a necessity, but it does make things a whole lot clearer. In the beginning of Invasion of the Tearling.

A lot of the fates of the characters from the first book are introduced in the first few chapters, so a new reader to this series might have a wee bit of difficulty keeping track of who, why and when.

It has one of the strangest present to past time evolution plots I have read in quite a while.The past is described as a post-apocalyptic misogynistic world, and the present is an almost medieval fantasy like world with plenty of magic, but with echoes of the 21st century.

Although the slipping from one life into another is quite interesting it doesn’t seem to have much point other than to validate family connections.

Lily’s story or rather the world she lives in is quite interesting. A world where women have no rights at all, and men are free to do with them as they please. Including abuse them when they feel like it. Sounds rather medieval, despite all the modern trappings, doesn’t it? Whereas in Kelsea’s world the women rule the roost. Although some of those misogynistic elements are reflected in Kelsea’s world, especially in certain male high-born leaders.

Overall it is a creative fantasy driven by power struggles and family secrets.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.

Crash & Burn by Lisa Gardner

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This was my first Lisa Gardner and it certainly won’t be my last. She really knows how to keep the story compelling to the very end.

Nicky is haunted by a girl called Vero. The two of them have conversations with each other all the time, or do they? Is it reality, a call from her subconscious or perhaps just hallucinations due to the complications of Nicky’s traumatic brain injury?

Nicky comes to the attention of the local police when she is found hailing help by the side of the road and her car is found at the bottom of a ravine. At the scene of the accident she screams for Vero, so the hunt is on for the missing child. When the police come up empty-handed they start to question not only the accident, they also question Nicky’s sanity. Something just doesn’t ring quite right for Wyatt and he starts taking a closer look at the husband, especially because Nicky has had multiple serious accidents in the last few months.

I really enjoyed the way Gardner kept the question about the identities very fluid throughout the book. Nothing is certain, and the reader is always second guessing who she might be. You automatically feel sympathy for Vero the child and Nicky the adult, regardless of whether they are in the past or present. For the victims of the abuse and the adult, who lives in sheer terror of the truth. Her own truth is so devastating she is literally falling apart bit by bit.

Although this is a Tessa Leoni mystery/case she doesn’t really play a major role in this story. More like the sidekick to Wyatt. The two of them do get a wee bit closer, but overall she plays more of a secondary part in the book.
I have to admit it kept me riveted till the end.
I received a free copy of this book via Netgalley.

A Year After Henry by Cathie Pelletier

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I think it is a home truth that we don’t really know how much we and our lives are impacted by certain people in our lives until we have to do without them. The death of Henry leaves ripples of waves in the lives of his family members, the local community, the people he connected with and the ones he kept hidden in the wings.

It is a year after his death and everyone is still trying to fill the gaps left by the sudden departure of Henry. His brother Larry is struggling to find his place after losing his wife and son after a nasty divorce. In his odd search for comfort he happens to find himself attracted to the one person, who has the ability to destroy what is left of his family.

Jeannie is obsessed with the secret life Henry had. She has this strange need to know why, and why that particular person. She spends her time placing the blame firmly on the living instead of on the dead.

Pelletier has also woven an important sub-plot into this story of loss, sorrow and guilt. The issue of domestic abuse and violent partners. The most important point the author makes is the way the abused is often treated like a liar, especially by other women when the abused is a woman. The abuser is more often than not a charming two-faced popular person, the type who doesn’t fit the criteria of abuser in most people’s heads.

Why is it so hard to believe someone in that kind of situation? Why does it have to happen again before someone steps in to help? What is it about abuse that make the abuser warrant more support and protection than the abused?

This is a tale of grief and how life goes on after the death of a loved one.

I received a copy of this book via NetGalley.