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

Go To Sleep – Helen Walsh

 

Contemporary Fiction
3*s

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!

mount-tbr-2017

 

 

 

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

The Trophy Child – Paula Daly

Psychological Thriller 4*s
Psychological Thriller
4*s

Bronte is just ten years old but she has a punishing schedule of piano classes, harp lessons and because her mother Karen Bloom is worried about the way she reads aloud, she also needs to fit in some drama classes to help that out. Of course she also has extra homework to ensure that she excels in every subject, but things in the Bloom household hide more than the obvious maternal pushing of Karen.

Noel Bloom is a doctor who seems to also be keen on alcohol, or maybe this is a mask for avoiding his home life aka known as Karen. Noel had left his first wife Jennifer when Karen became pregnant with Bronte. Jennifer now lives in a nursing home due to her MS which means that Noel’s first daughter Verity, now a feisty teenager lives with him too. Oh and there is Karen’s son from a previous relationship, a relationship she doesn’t want to discuss. Ewan now in his late teens is something of a disappointment to Karen and she is determined that Bronte will be far more successful.

So far so good, we have all met a Karen, a woman who imagines that the other mothers are lazy and misguided, a woman the is focussed on getting the best for her daughter no matter the cost. Then something happens which turns everything on its head and life for the Bloom family will never be the same again!

Paula Daly is at her best when she is creating characters we love to hate. She has made Karen a figure that can’t be pitied, so what emotions are left? She is also far better than many writers at creating convincing characters of the children. Although for a good part of the book Ewan was only partially visible, he too comes into his own later on, with a convincing performance that works to round the stereotypical view painted by his mother of a no-hoper.

As the plot begins to unfold the cracks in the family really begin to show and with each member taking a stance, I wouldn’t want to have lived there as they circled and protected in equal measure. Because underneath the plotline this is a story about relationships too. Modern blended families provide a wealth of complex bonds, that between Verity and Bronte being my favourite of the entire book. Two sisters who have had very different upbringings, have different aptitudes and different mothers are nonetheless siblings.

But best of all this book features the return of DS Joanne Aspinall, one of my favourite characters who first appeared in Just What Kind of Mother Are You? And she has a much larger part to play this time. She is running an investigation that involves the entire Bloom family, and she will get her answers. She also provides much of the witticisms that appear in The Trophy Child which despite the seriousness of the subject, gives the book a real jaunty feeling at times.

All in all a totally compelling read which had me engrossed, madly guessing the outcome from the very first page, all whilst giving me the impression that I was part of the investigation, if only I could sort out those red herrings from the clues that gave the answers. How did I do? Pretty badly, as usual although I had one strand cracked early on, Paula Daly was just far too wily for this amateur detective.

I would like to thank the publishers Grove Atlantic for giving me a copy of The Trophy Child. This review is my thank you to them and the incredibly talented Paula Daly.

First Published UK: 26 January 2017
Publisher: Bantam Press
No of Pages:  352
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Paula Daly

Just What Kind of Mother Are You?
Keep Your Friends Close
The Mistake I Made

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Ignoring Gravity – Sandra Danby

Contemporary Fiction 4*'s
Contemporary Fiction
4*’s

I first read some excerpts of this novel on Sandra Danby’s blog and when she got news that this was going to be published she kindly offered me a copy to review, thank you Sandra.

This is Rose Haldane’s story, she is a journalist at the Herald her articles being chiefly of the filler type on beauty products and female medical issues, but Rose has ambition despite her boss’s determination to not only get her name wrong but put her down at every opportunity, even more so when she insults him in front of the team.

Six months after Rose and Lily’s mother Diane dies, they go around to their parent’s home to go through her things for their father John. Going through a box on top of the wardrobe they find some diaries, a flick through these shows that Rose was adopted. This is a huge shock to both women they realise that their differences of opinion on so many subjects are because they are not sisters at all.

Sandra Danby writes a tale that is as much about relationships as it is about Rose’s search for her parentage, a search that quickly becomes an obsession. The relationship between Lily and Rose is subtly altered by this new information and while Lily is trapped in a cycle of longing for a baby Rose is placed in the unenviable position of replacing her mother as a sounding board, a job she feels unequal to not least because Diane and Rose had an uneasy relationship. Could the fact that she was adopted explain this?

Both Rose and Lily are likable characters whilst not being of the sickly sweet variety and combined with a pace that was just right for this kind of tale made for an enjoyable read. The discoveries made by Rose, her relationship with her colleagues as well as a newly-fledged romantic liaison felt entirely realistic. I loved Rose’s desperation to find out more both through the diaries and by interviewing friends of her mother, again a reaction that felt natural. Even better the author allows the reader to put themselves into the character’s shoes, thereby allowing the reading to feel smooth without endless emphasis on how Rose is feeling, what she is thinking etc.

With the contrast between her mother’s life in the sixties and Rose’s in the present day along with a number of twists and turns this was an emotional and enjoyable tale and one that I am grateful to have had the opportunity to read. If this sounds like a tale you would enjoy Ignoring Gravity was published yesterday 21 November 2014 at a bargain price in e-book format at Amazon. The physical copies of this book will be available in January 2015.

I was delighted to hear that Sandra Danby has been working hard with the next two books in this series underway. The next book in the ‘Rose Haldane: Identity Detective’ series, Connectedness, is a sequel to Ignoring Gravity, in which Rose Haldane travels from Yorkshire to Malaga, Spain, in pursuit of the birth child of controversial artist Justine Tree. Connectedness will be published in 2015, followed by the third in the series Sweet Joy in 2016 and I for one am looking forward to these.

Links

Watch Sandra Danby talk about Ignoring Gravity at You Tube:
Watch the book trailer for Ignoring Gravity at You Tube
Link up with Sandra Danby via Twitter: @SandraDanby
Or if you prefer at Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sandradanbyauthor

Sandra Danby Author - photo Simon Cooper

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

Just What Kind of Mother Are You? – Paula Daly

Psychological Thriller 5*'s

Psychological Thriller
5*’s

This is Paula Daly’s debut novel, and boy is this one disturbing tale about a missing child which I had on my TBR for sometime before I read her second novel Keep Your Friends Close.  Having had a taste of the author’s superb writing I dusted off this one and settled down to immerse myself in an extreme domestic drama.

Linda Castillo is your typical harassed mother, juggling children, work and along with the other day to day chores that need to be attended to. When Linda’s daughter Sally is ill and off school, Linda forgets to tell Kate Riverty that her daughter Lucinda won’t be able to stay over as planned. With the sleepover cancelled without warning the consequences are high because Lucinda goes missing and no-one realises until she doesn’t turn up at school the next day.

This is a heart-stopping start to what is one of the most accomplished of all the psychological thrillers I have read this year. What makes it so powerful is that it is only too believable. Linda is a well-rounded, flawed, but only in the way we all are, mother. Kate on the other-hand is a highly organised mother who can’t understand the laxity shown by lesser mortals after all she has two high-achieving children, she is involved on school committees and throws dinner parties for the worthy and the good; Kate was only invited once and soon dismissed when it became clear that she didn’t belong.

The search is led by DC Joanne Aspinall who is a highly likeable and practical woman, someone who knows what life is all about and her interactions with all the other characters were some of my favourite parts. Meanwhile with the sting of being publicly blamed for Lucinda’s disappearance, and fearing even her husband blames her, Kate starts her own investigation determined to help find out what happened to Lucinda. The tale is interspersed with some truly creepy thoughts from a man who is interested in young girls while the main narrative is shared between DC Aspinall and Kate Riverty.

This is one of those books I really couldn’t put down, so it was lucky I was lying by a pool with the only interruptions coming in the form of a new drink being delivered. Even better the ending wasn’t a disappointment which is always a danger after such a terrific build-up.

So to sum up, a devastatingly good plot, perfect timing to create the upmost tensions and characters that you believe in, results a book that no one who loves a good psychological thriller should miss.

I thoroughly recommend this and Paula Daly’s second novel Keep Your Friends Close if you like books that make you question what you would do in the same situation.

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Mother, Mother – Koren Zailckas

Psychological Fiction 3's
Psychological Fiction
3’s

Society has high expectations of mothers so is it any wonder that some women expect their offspring to advertise how good they are at it?

The story of Josephine, is told through the eyes of her two youngest children, Violet and William. Rose, the first-born has left home a year earlier having packed up her belongings and moved away with a boyfriend. The family is understandably confused, after all Rose was the perfect daughter.

The reader only has to start William’s first entry in the book to realise the relationship he has with his mother probably isn’t the healthiest for a twelve-year-old boy, but William has autism and suffers with seizures which means that his mother has decided it is best if he is home-schooled.

Violet on the other hand is a rebel, unwilling to behave the way her mother wants and one evening events come to a head, William is hurt and Violet is removed from the house for everyone’s safety.

The plot is interesting and I enjoyed reading the different viewpoints of the two siblings; it is well-known that especially in dysfunctional families two children remember events in very different ways but the author didn’t really exploit this although the fact that all three children had reacted in different ways to get their mother’s approval was endlessly underlined in case the reader missed the point.

For me the underlying problem with this book is I felt removed from the action, I didn’t particularly empathise with either Violet or William which meant that I was left with a feeling of unease but nothing stronger. Koren Zailckas raises the stakes with Josephine’s behaviour which in turn builds the tension towards the conclusion and although the ending rang true it meant that the book finishes on quite a depressing note. If I had connected with this book more I can see that it might have been like Herman Koch’s the Dinner in which despite being shocking lingered, but Mother, Mother just didn’t quite hit the right note for me.

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

Until You’re Mine – Samantha Hayes

Psychological Thriller 5*'s
Psychological Thriller
5*’s

Blurb

Claudia seems to have the perfect life.
She’s heavily pregnant with a much-wanted baby, she has a loving husband, and a beautiful home.
And then Zoe steps into her life. Zoe has come to help Claudia when her baby arrives.
But there’s something about Zoe that Claudia doesn’t like. Or trust.
And when she finds Zoe in her bedroom, Claudia’s anxiety turns to real fear…
Goodreads

Warning this is not a good book to read while you are pregnant! If you are pregnant buy it for when you are cradling your baby in your arms during those sleepless nights ahead.

This is a book starts with the description of a young girl sprinkling her tiny-tears doll with ‘magic dust’ to bring her to life, when the girl has no live baby in her arms by the time she is twelve, she throws her doll onto the fire in disgust.

This book is dominated by mothers; mothers-to-be and women who long-to-be-mothers, step-mothers and mothers of teenagers. Underlying each page is the feeling that there are untold truths and half-told lies. The quest for the truth left me with a sense of unease, a longing to know what was going on while fearing what the next page would reveal. In short a great psychological thriller that made my heart race, gasp out loud shortly followed by a sharp intake of breath.
Samantha Hayes has an eye for detail in her descriptions particularly Claudia’s home with the worn stair carpet and locked study door. Zoe’s interactions with Claudia and her best friend Pip have an authentic feel, with the truths and lies exchanged with reddening faces and quivering limbs. This is a fast moving story which had me in it’s grip from the first page to the very last revelation.

If all that has enticed you to buy this book it was published in the UK 20 June 2013 but I’ve been advised that it is not out in the US until April 2014.

This was a hard book to review as there was very little I could add to the blurb without potentially ruining the story for anyone hoping to read this themselves. A good indication of how quickly you are into the action. For a couple of quotes from this book please see my Teaser Tuesdays post.

Previous books by Samantha Hayes

Blood Ties

Blood Ties

January 1992. A baby girl is left alone for a moment. Long enough for a mother to dash into a shop. Long enough for a child to be taken.

Thirteen years later, solicitor Robert Knight’s stepdaughter wins a place at a prestigious London school for the gifted. The only puzzle is his wife Erin’s reaction. Why is she so reluctant to let Ruby go? Doesn’t she want what’s best for her? As Erin grows more evasive, Robert can’t help but feel she has something to hide, and when he stumbles on mysterious letters, he discovers she has been lying to him. Somewhere in his wife’s past lies a secret; a shocking secret that threatens to destroy everything… Goodreads

This book grabs you from the start, it is every mother’s worst nightmare to have their child abducted but everything is not as it seems. The story covers the moment when a mother realises her baby is missing and then moves forward 13 years.

This book covers a lot of sensationalist subjects but it in a realistic way. One of the best books I’ve read this year, would certainly recommend it. (I gave this 5 stars when I reviewed it on Amazon)

You may detect a bit of a theme in Samantha’s subject matter here and my preferred reading. For years when my children ask what I am reading and I tell them they ask ‘does it have dead or lost children in it?’

Unspoken
Unspoken
A secret is about to destroy a family in Sam Hayes’ breathtaking follow-up to BLOOD TIES…

Mary Marshall would do anything for her daughter Julia. A devoted grandmother to Julia’s children, she’s always been the rock her family can rely on. Until now. Mary has a past Julia knows nothing about, and it’s come back to haunt her. Julia’s husband Murray French is walking a tightrope. A solicitor struggling with an alcohol problem, he’s about to lose his wife and his children to another man: someone successful, someone they deserve. Someone who’s everything he’s not. Can he ever get his family back? Just when Julia thinks life is starting to turn around, she stumbles upon the brutalised body of a girl she teaches. And as the terrible present starts to shed light on her mother’s past, Julia realises her family’s nightmare is only just beginning…
Amazon

I enjoyed this book written from the viewpoint of a couple, Murray and Julia, on the verge of divorcing, and Mary Julia’s mother.

Mary is found mute by her daughter who visits for Christmas Day and the story revolves around what happened to cause this. Running parallel to this we learn about a local girl who Julia finds badly hurt nearby. The local GP David steps into help with Mary and Julia falls for him.

I’m not going to ruin the story, although a lot of it is fairly obvious I found myself eager to find out exactly what happened to all concerned. Some parts of the story are not convincing at all but still well worth a read.
I gave this one a 4* review on Amazon

Someone Else’s Son

Someone Else's Son

What would you do if your teenage son was stabbed to death in the school playground? That’s a question chat-show host Carrie Kent can well imagine posing to any one of her studio guests. Her daily morning TV show deals with real life in all it’s grubby glory – from underage sex to benefit swindlers, cheating partners to DNA testing. It’s a million miles away from her perfect, polished existence…But when she gets a call to say that her beloved son Max has been murdered, Carrie and her ex-husband Brody will have to enter a world of poverty, fear and violence if they want to find out what really happened. And when the shocking truth is finally revealed, will they be able to live with it…? A tense and powerful emotional thriller that asks: Do we ever really know our children? Goodreads

Carrie Kent is mother to Max, but more importantly in her eyes she is a chat show host which is a cross between Jeremy Kyle and Crimewatch. One day Max dies and the book revolves not only why he died but what was his life like before he died, Carrie needs to know because she hadn’t a clue while he was alive. Carrie realises that she has become just like the guests on her show when she had always felt so superior to them, now their worlds have collided.

Neither of the two mothers in this book are characters I could remotely sympathise with and, unfortunately, they appeared very two dimensional tabloid creations. There are also so many threads that don’t seem to go anywhere, I was sure that there would be some big revelation around why Brody and Carrie divorced but this never really happens, there is one paragraph where the reader is left to assume that the marriage broke down for good but again there wasn’t enough depth.

The story itself is good, there are elements that are realistic however the ending let it down as it was so unbelievable. The portrayal of Max and Dayna is thought provoking, they both felt themselves to be different from everyone else and both suffered because they weren’t part of the crowd.

In this one like her previous books Samantha Hayes tells an emotional tale this one just wasn’t quite as convincing.

I gave this 3*’s in my Amazon Review

Tell Tale
Tell Tale

What do you do when there’s no way out and nowhere left to hide? A woman stands on a bridge, the water rushing below, the wind catching her skirt. In a few seconds she will jump, plunging more than 200 feet to the bottom. Who is she? And why is she desperate to take her own life? Nina Kennedy is afraid. A man is following her, threatening her family, toying with her sanity. What does he want? And how long will it be before he strikes? Eight-year-old Ava sits waiting for her daddy. But, like the others in the children’s home, she knows her father will never come. The home is a place of whispers and shadows. But no one dare tell the truth. Until now …Goodreads