Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read

Twin Truths – Shelan Rodger #BlogTour

I was thrilled to be asked to be part of the blog tour for Twin Truths because for those of us who aren’t part of this special type of twosome, there is something fascinating about twins. Fortunately the author Shelan Rodgers agrees with me and has written a little post about the phenomenon.

Twin intrigue

Why are we fascinated by twins? Especially identical twins. No matter what they look like, they never go unnoticed; there is something magnetic about them, something that makes us want to stare and see inside them. Is it because we are brought up on difference – the idea that everyone is unique, individual, different – and the physical similarity of identical twins challenges all that? What would it be like to exist ‘in duplicate’? The very idea plays havoc with our preconceptions about personal identity. And if two people are the same on the outside, what about the inside?

In Her, a memoir by Christa Parravini, Christa says she and her identical twin ‘were like an apple sliced in half: two halves of the same fruit, one with more seeds, one with fewer.’ The idea of a connection so strong that single selves no longer exist also exerts a strange and compelling pull. How often do people seek completion through someone else? How often does love fail because we are looking for ‘our other half’? As if we were born with half of ourselves missing. As if we were part of a divine jigsaw puzzle and just need to find the piece that fits and makes us whole. In reality, we are born and die alone – unless we are twins. Even if they die alone, twins are born together and, whatever happens in their lives, their shared beginning intrigues us, makes them different to the rest of us.

And their shared beginning, their shared genes turn them into a readymade social experiment. Nature versus nurture. If they turn out to be very different on the inside, despite being exposed to similar paths and experiences, does that mean that nature has the upper hand? What about the ones who are separated at birth and live completely different lives, yet turn out to be uncannily similar in some of their habits and behaviours? Twins fascinate us, I think, because they enable us to speculate about the whole question of what it is that shapes us, what it is that gives us our sense of personal identity.

But what do they think about all this? Both my brother and sister have fraternal twins and I asked my 18-year-old nephews (separately) what it was like to be a twin. I realised from their independent answers that this was a bit like asking someone with two legs what it is like to have two legs! For them, it is simply the norm, there is nothing exceptional about it – it is other people who treat them like a riddle, constantly comparing them, as if they were looking for clues. And yet, for all their rationalism, it was apparent in different ways with each of my nephews, that there is a connection, a sense of responsibility for the other, an empathy or awareness of the other, which – however normal for them – is something beyond the norm for someone who is not a twin.

Jenny and Pippa, my ‘paper twins’, are very different and yet they complete each other, much like Christa Parravini and her sister Cara. When Cara dies of an overdose, Christa writes that it ‘is impossible for surviving twins to differentiate their living body from their twin’s; they become a breathing memorial for their lost half.’ And so it is for Jenny, when her sister disappears. They drew me in, as twins, from the moment they were born in my head. Whether you are a twin or not, I hope you enjoy them!

My Review

Psychological Thriller

I’m clocking up the books about twins this year and I’m pleased to say that this powerful novel really did have a surprise in store for me.

Pippa and Jenny are identical twins and as children their lives were firmly entwined but at the point the story opens we meet Jenny far away from home, and Pippa. Jenny has gone to Argentina to teach English to the locals and I have to say, at first I struggled to warm to this young woman who seemed oblivious to others. Jenny is also in therapy although she seems to prefer to play games with the therapist than actually engage but then this is not so different to her interactions with her English friends, none of them know the truth about Jenny either.
This first section of the book was written in an engaging style even though to be honest I had my doubts about whether this was really ‘my kind of book.’ I am so glad I didn’t put what turned out to be a perceptive and intelligent novel aside.

In the second part of the novel we meet Pippa who gives us the background to Jenny’s trip to Argentina by taking us back to childhood. There we find what is at times an upsetting tale, but the interesting part is how the two girls reacted. Even though they were twins the way they reacted was entirely different and almost certainly that reaction led to their adult lives. Whereas Jenny’s tale jumps around in a somewhat disjointed fashion, imitating Jenny’s life, and mindset, Pippa’s story is far more linear, full of emotion alongside the almost memoir style of her story. It doesn’t hurt that Pippa is a booklover and so I’m drawn to this shy and thoughtful young woman, whilst her sister is brash Pippa goes for the almost invisible option in life.

In part three the book undoubtedly gains its psychological thriller but it does far more than that – with this not just being incredibly clever on the surface but opens up some of the bigger questions we all have about identity, love and loss even if we aren’t half of a twin.

Twin Truths can be hard to read in parts but it is truly that overused phrase, a multi-layered story. The assured writing altering during the course of the novel and yet still absolutely clear that it comes from the same pen. It is a clever writer who can purposely write a book that makes you question the veracity of what you are being told and yet convincing you of other elements at the same time. It is rare that this genre has that almost poetic style of writing which I love, but in this book with its ribbon of sadness it lifted the novel, there was simply so much to admire.

This haunting tale has embedded itself on my memory, not bad at all especially since I was really unsure about the content and the characterisation in the opening few pages.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Dome Press for providing me with an advance copy of Twin Truths, this unbiased review is thanks to them and the author Shelan Rodgers for an intriguing and beguiling read.

First Published UK: 15 March 2018
Publisher: Dome Press
No of Pages: 256
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Shelan’s life is a patchwork of different cultures and landscapes; she was born in northern Nigeria, growing up among the Tiwi – an aboriginal community on an island north of Darwin, and moved to England at the age of eleven. She then travelled to Buenos Aires after graduating in Modern Languages from Oxford, and stayed for nine years. Then another chapter in England, followed by six years in Kenya on flower farms by Lake Naivasha and the lower slopes of Mount Kenya.

Now, Shelan lives in Andalucia, Spain. She has learnt in and outside many classrooms around the world, teaching in some of them too. Her professional career has revolved around international education, learning and development, with an emphasis during her time in Kenya on anti-discrimination.

Shelan’s first book, Twin Truths, was published by Cutting Edge Press in 2014, followed by Yellow Room, also in 2015.

As of 2017, The Dome Press acquired the rights to these two titles and Yellow Room was released in October 2017, with Twin Truths following in March 2018.

Social Media & Links

Twitter: @ShelanRodger

Don’t forget to check out the other posts on this blog tour!

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

An Act of Silence – Colette McBeth

Psychological Thriller

Colette McBeth provides us with a nuanced and multi-layered tale in this story which could be plucked from the tabloids.

Linda Moscow is a former Home Secretary who resigned under a black cloud and of course had her disgrace splashed all over the red-tops. Imagine her horror when her son, Gabriel, a stand-up comedian, turns up in her kitchen informing her he is supposed to be presenting himself to the police in a few hours in connection with the death of a woman. Yes, Linda loves her son, can she trust in her son’s innocence? This strand of the novel is one that begs the reader to ask ‘What would I do?’ After all from what she is told Mariela who Gabriel shared the night with has been found dead on the allotment behind his house, for him it appears she was simply another notch on his crowded bedpost, tales of which have kept his face in the public eye ever since he became a famous comic. And then there is the secret that Linda has been nursing over the years.

I loved the way we learn more about each of the characters through their own narration and through other people’s eyes. When wisely used, this is one of my favourite ways for a story to unfold as I firmly believe it is how we learn about each other in ‘real’ life. The time jumps backwards and forwards as different details are revealed stretching way back into the past.

In the background there is the all too familiar story of sexual abuse by those in authority. Relieved of her ministerial duties Linda has joined with a journalist to investigate such abuse of young girls by those in positions of authority and is busy tracking the women down through social media to expose the truth.

Colette McBeth uses the various characters to examine relationships, most prominently in this case one between mother and son and what should be seemingly rock solid bonds can be stretched to the limits. How past experiences of guilt and betrayal colour apparently unrelated conflicts in the future and how interference from others can cast an insidious shadow on the way we view those that we are closest to.

Because of the nature of Linda’s quest to reveal the truth about historic sexual abuse, this is quite a sad book which made it a harder read than many in the psychological thriller genre however the plentiful twists and turns and action scenes meant that the book falls short of being a depressing tale about abuse. In fact by choosing two diametrically opposite characters, the child victim and the politician the author was able to make much wider statements about neither label coming close to summing up an entire person, each having far more layers and depth to them.

An Act of Silence lives up to its title, sometimes it is the unsaid that can cause far more strife than any words spoken aloud.

I’d like to thank Colette McBeth for giving me a copy of An Act of Silence when we met at a Headline blogger event earlier this year, this review is my unbiased thanks for a stunning, involved and intelligent novel that despite somewhat unlikeable characters really got under my skin.

First Published UK: 29 June 2017
Publisher: Wildfire
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Colette McBeth

Precious Thing
The Life I Left Behind

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Tattletale – Sarah J Naughton

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller

I love unusual settings in books and this one was stunning. Set in a renovated church which has been altered and now houses vulnerable or adults in need, the stained glass windows divided between flats giving different colours depending which part of the building you are in. Jody lives in a flat in the building as did Abe, the young man who has been found in a pool of blood at the bottom of the stairs. Now in a coma, his next of kin Mags (Mary Magdalene) has been summoned back from her job as a lawyer in Vegas to the UK as she is his next of kin. Mags and Abe are not close and Mags doesn’t endear herself to the nurses caring for Abe or Jodie, in large part due to her remoteness to Abe.

This is a cleverly layered psychological thriller which demands careful attention. The main mystery is was Abe, as the police believe, suicidal? Or was he pushed over the bannisters? Jody doesn’t believe her boyfriend would leave her, they’d just returned from a night out and he was checking the door was closed properly against intruders, he had no reason to kill himself.

Mags doesn’t know what to think. She didn’t know Abe but it is clear early on that the two shared a difficult childhood where the rule of divide and conquer meant the two were locked in a life of self-preservation. The obvious consequence being was that if the other was the focus of the negative attention, all the better. What happened in their early life is slowly revealed over the course of the book giving a rich background to both characters. All the more important as we only view Abe through the eyes of those around him.

Jody comes across as a fairly passive character, her devotion to Abe unstinting and she is willing Abe to recover although the prognosis is, at best, bleak but she is also damaged by her past and to boot has received a caution for falsely crying rape. What the truth of Jody’s past is another mystery.

There are some really tough scenes to read in this book and although they are integral to the plot, it does make for difficult reading at times. On balance although we hear from both Jody and Mags in depth with some excerpts which I initially attributed to completely the wrong character, this is a plot led book. The rights and wrongs of the way this plot develops giving the reader an opportunity to question the morals of the tale, which for me overshadowed to a large extent, the characters that are behind it. While I felt sympathy for the damaged inhabitants of the church building, I also felt distanced from them, this is in part due to the problem with unreliable narrators, whether that unreliability is understandable or not!

This doesn’t have the fast pace of some psychological thrillers and I did find it took me a while to ‘place’ the characters in the early part of the book until their individual voices developed. While the narration of the other inhabitants of the church adding their details to those of Jody and Mags builds to give a fuller picture of the critical moments in the plot, for a while it just felt as if the story was becoming ever more murky, but full credit to the author, the pulling together of these stories was exceptionally well done. Sarah J Naughton has produced a psychological thriller with a unique feel.

I’d like to thank the publishers Orion, for allowing me to read a copy of Tattletale, the first book for adults by Sarah J Naughton, ahead of publication on 23 March 2017.

First Published UK: 23 March 2017
Publisher: Orion
No of Pages: 336
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

White is the Coldest Colour – John Nicholl

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller

This was one of the hardest book I’ve read in a long-time purely because of the subject matter, child abuse by a suave, determined paedophile who is in a position of power. Fortunately though, having been written by a former Police Officer and Social Worker it is impeccably researched and backed up by his professional experience.

Dr David Galbraith is the first character we meet, he is a child psychologist and the ring-leader of a paedophile ring, and he has an obsession with an eight year-old boy. I won’t deny that the details in the first chapter nearly had me set the book aside but fortunately the rest of the book doesn’t go into the details of the abuse rather it is an exploration of Dr Galbraith’s character viewed by the reader through his interactions with his PA, wife and young daughters as well as those with his patients and their parents, guardians and carers. These different faces that this arrogant and determined man shows the world with his innermost thoughts relayed to the reader that kept me gripped. In this respect it is rare to find a book that goes beyond the text-book definitions, John Nicholl has gone a step further and produced a ‘real-life’ monster resulting in a truly sinister character.

Fortunately we have some good characters in this book to balance out the evil Dr Galbraith. From these viewpoints we see the background to both the investigation and the multiple agencies involved when there is a suspicion of child abuse. Watching from the side-lines, so to speak, of these good people making decisions which will directly impact one young child, the tension ramps up to an almost unbearable level. Of course, as a reader we have pieces of the puzzle that these men and women don’t.

If you like your reads to be set at a fair old pace, this is a book that ticks that box without a doubt. Despite my initial reservations about the subject matter and the feeling of discomfort that lingered even when the book was set aside for real life, I was desperately keen to pick it up again and find out what was going to happen next which meant that I read some of this in short snatches in-between other activities. I know some of you read like this most of the time but I prefer to settle down with a book only when I have a reasonable stretch of time to do so – it really is a measure of quite how compelling the different stories within this book were that I over-rode that rule.

Leaving aside the despicable Dr Galbraith the other characters were well-drawn although if I were being hyper-critical some of the police et al lacked some depth probably because to focus too much on these would have interrupted the pace of the book. However even those viewed purely through Dr Galbraith’s eyes were realistic, his wife and PA particularly so because they were being seen through a distorted lens, a great achievement.

I am really glad I read this book although it will take me quite some time before I will forget some of the disturbing views it explored and I really appreciated the fine line the author trod to ensure that this didn’t become gratuitous. White is the Coldest Colour was published in April 2015 and I bought my copy after reading a number of great reviews by fellow bloggers.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Daddy Love – Joyce Carol Oates

Adult Fiction 1*
Adult Fiction

I am a big fan of Joyce Carol Oates but I simply can’t finish this book. The first few chapters were repetitive with a young child Robbie,being abducted in a busy car park at a mall, this appeared to be a lecture on good parenting skills with the ‘Mommy’ describing how she educated her mature five year old boy.

The next part was equally unappealing; meeting Reverand Chester Cash as he preaches…. and preaches. There was nothing in the writing that engaged me and after slogging through the first quarter I have decided that it is simply not for me.