Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

No Further Questions – Gillian McAllister

Psychological Thriller

Well the fabulous Gillian McAllister is back with another book that will make you think. Whilst this isn’t quite such an obvious moral dilemma as in her first two books, it constantly begs the questions ‘What would I do?’ and just as importantly, ‘How would I feel?’

There’s a trial, oh how I love a fictional trial, all the drama and none of the boring bits. There are two sisters; Martha and Becky. Martha is married to Scott and they had a daughter Layla who died at just eight weeks old. When Layla died, Becky was in charge informally employed by her elder sister as a nanny while she was in Kos setting up a base for a charity schooling refugees.

The prosecution say that Becky is responsible for Layla’s death. Becky is pinning her hopes on the trial to answer the questions about what happened to her daughter that fateful night. And don’t let us forget the mother of the opposite sides. What a position to be in. How does a mother comfort both daughters in such a situation.

As in all of her previous books Gillian McAllister makes statements about society as a whole. Yes the trial is concentrated on the night in question but what the media want to know is why Martha wasn’t there. The same question isn’t directed to Scott because as this book demonstrates, men are seen as irrelevant in this type of scenario. To be fair, Scott also feels guilt at being away, but he’s not held accountable by the public in the same way.

We learn all this from the narration by the two sisters, alternated throughout this gripping book. We hear about their views of themselves, their relationship with each other, their memories, their fears and of course their view of the court case. The endless wishing and hoping makes this book an exhausting read at times, but oh so worth it, I simply wasn’t prepared to part with it for a moment.
The characterisation is spot on with neither sister presented as flawless individuals, both are complex, like you are I. But of course a court case has lots of other characters to explore, , the ex-husband of Becky, their son Xander, the nosy neighbour and the Defence and the Prosecution, both strong women who look at the evidence and present it to the jury in a different way. I particularly liked the Judge and his faithful dog Rumpole, even he is given a bit of a back story to bring him to life.

I can’t stress quite how powerful a read this is. Like Martha I didn’t want to believe Becky was guilty as charged, but sifting through the same evidence as the jury even given fonder memories of the pair augmented by those of their brother Ethan, how could it be anything but. The power comes from a family breaking apart, the loss of Layla to them all, their divided alliances and the feeling that nothing will ever be the same again makes it a sad read too.

I now have to say a huge thank you to Penguin for allowing me to read a copy of No Further Questions. This review is my unreserved, and unbiased, thanks to them and Gillian McAllister for another memorable read. Even better the eBook is at available at an absolute bargain price at the moment, so don’t miss out.

First Published UK: 2 July 2018
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US (Audible only)

Previous (brilliant) Books by Gillian McAllister

Everything But The Truth
Anything You Do Say

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2017

Go To Sleep – Helen Walsh


Contemporary Fiction

Well… this is quite a difficult review to write because this read made for quite uncomfortable reading even though it is now over a quarter of a century since I had my first child but here goes!

Rachel is looking forward to giving birth to her first child. She’s probably not quite ok with being a single mother but she’s prepared, or so she thinks. She’s bonded with her bump and looking forward to welcoming her child into the world complete with a doting grandfather and his second wife. Ok, being the product of a one night stand isn’t ideal but having weighed up the odds, she’s decided not to inform the father who has a chance of a new life away from Liverpool.

In these early chapters we learn more about the baby’s father who she first met as a teenager. Reuben was black and Rachel believes that this was why her father didn’t like him, you see this is a book that is as much about Rachel’s life before a baby, as after and as the book roll on, this is something I appreciated more and more. This background gives the reader real context to her struggle with life after Joe is born.

Before Joe is born, Rachel works as a support worker for truanting children supporting them helpfully back to school or if not into alternative training so she’s no pushover, but has a life dealing with truculent teenagers prepared her for life with a helpless baby? This beginning showing a woman passionate about her work coupled with a splash of jealousy about the woman who is standing in for her during her maternity leave, gives us a great insight into Rachel’s character and what she feels is important in life. Rarely do we hear about the doubts a woman has stepping away from the workplace in such an honest way and better still the points made are done with subtlety.

Labour begins, in fits and starts and Rachel contacts the hospital, she’s turned away, she’s not far enough gone to be admitted. So we got to this bit and my long-buried memories surfaced…
I take out my mobile, ring the hospital. The voice that greets me tries to be reassuring but never gets beyond dismissive:

How far apart? You’ve had how many?

Suffice to say labour isn’t as Rachel imagined and then baby doesn’t sleep. The language fits perfectly with the frustration she feels with the gap between what she imagined life would be like, and the reality.

Evening. The lights turned down low, the ward calm and ordered, all the babies washed and fed and winded, all of them ready for sleep; all except Joe. Joe fights it, struggles, bleats. Unable, unwilling to settle, champing on my chafed and throbbing chest, he writhes and burns  and gets angrier and angrier. I am so tired now – desperately achingly tired.

This is an incredibly brave book to write, far from the sentimental picture usually portrayed of early motherhood. Life with a child that doesn’t sleep can be like hell on earth. I remember one awful night when I threatened to throw my daughter out of the window, words said in pure frustration and I hasten to add, not acted upon, but it is tough to be in charge of an infant in the dead of night who won’t be consoled. The author accurately portrays this and although I was horrified at some of Rachel’s actions as she was clearly suffering with postnatal depression as well as exhaustion, my judgement was tempered.

I’m glad I read this book long after the event, and perhaps this book should be given out to young women who believe that a baby will fit into their lives like a beautiful accessory but then, nothing can quite prepare you, so perhaps those of us can read with a wry smile, is the best audience after all.

Go to Sleep was my fifteenth read in my Mount TBR Challenge 2017, so I’m still on target to hit 36 books purchased before 1 January 2017, this one having been bought in April 2015 so fits the bill!





First Published UK: 2011
Publisher: Cannongate Books
No of Pages:  320
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US


Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Last Anniversary – Liane Moriarty

Contemporary Fiction 5*'s
Contemporary Fiction

I couldn’t resist another book by Liane Moriarty after having really enjoyed the three I’ve read previously and in The Last Anniversary we are introduced to the most colourful array of characters, each distinctive and ranging in ages from babies to the eldest resident of Scribbly Gum who is ninety. Now I don’t know about you but the name of the island, derived from the name of a native tree, meant this book already deserved a read without a seventy year old mystery of an abandoned baby to spice things up.

All Liane Moriarty’s books have been very different but what they all have in common is superb writing which draws on everyday observations of life at its best and bleakest. In this readable tale we have the enduring ‘Munro Baby Mystery’ which has put the island of Scribbly Gum on the map, bringing tourists to their guided tour with good food to sweeten the suspected horror which occurred all those years before and every year on the anniversary of the day when Connie and Rose found the abandoned child they named Enigma, a special evening is held with entertainment and food, the food features quite largely in this book so it is probably a good idea to have some on hand to avoid saliva spotting the pages/screen.

With a large family Enigma has two daughters, three grandchildren as well as a couple of great-grandchildren you would have thought that Connie would have left her house to one of them when she died, but she didn’t, instead she chose to leave it to Sophie Honeywell a former girlfriend of Thomas, who is flighty and perhaps a little shallow and has a propensity for blushing, all quite unlike a stereotypical woman approaching her forties. In anything but the most expert of hands this character would be irritating but I didn’t get very far through the book before I was rooting for Sophie, hoping desperately that the family would welcome her and that she wouldn’t do anything stupid.

Sophie’s girlfriends become quite deranged. There is a frenzied debate. It’s brains versus brawn! But solicitors can be brawny! Gardeners can be brainy! Aunt Connie was clearly referring to the gorgeous gardener. Aunt Connie’s opinion is no longer relevant. She must not sleep with either of them. She must definitely sleep with both of them…..
Sophie’s girlfriends are starting to annoy her, just a bit.

Although on the surface this is a lighter book than The Husband’s Secret or Little Lies, there are plenty of issues explored, many to do with parenting, and there are plenty of examples right across the spectrum from Sophie who was adored from the moment she was born, to Grace who tells a truly jaw-dropping tale of her childhood and of course we have Enigma who was too young to remember her parents and instead had the substitute two teenagers to mother to her while they found their way in the world.

Callum still hasn’t turned the television back up. ‘I can’t believe you’ve never told me this’
‘It’s not that interesting. I don’t know how your parents disciplined you.’
My father roared at me and my mother chased me round the house brandishing whatever she happened to have in her hand…..’

This isn’t a book to examine to closely for realism but it is a wonderful tale to lose yourself in with something for everyone, romance and mystery can be a winning combination especially when served with a healthy dollop of truisms.

He still remembers how he felt watching her cry her heart out at her dad’s funeral. Margie was always such a Daddy’s Girl and it made him want to punch something because there was nothing he could bloody well do to fix it for her.

At times I laughed especially as Sophie stored up funny anecdotes for her friends, and at other times I found I had a serious lump in my throat as the emotion all got too much for me!

If you haven’t read any of this author’s books which in my opinion are all worth five stars here are my reviews:

The Husband’s Secret
What Alice Forgot
Little Lies