Review: Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

8427679.jpg

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
Phoenix (paperback), 2009
421 Pages

Author Website

Amazon (UK)

Amazon.com

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Libby Day was just seven years old when her evidence put her fifteen-year-old brother behind bars.

Since then, she has been drifting. But when she is contacted by a group who are convinced of Ben’s innocence, Libby starts to ask questions she never dared to before. Was the voice she heard her brother’s? Ben was a misfit in their small town, but was he capable of murder? Are there secrets to uncover at the family farm or is Libby deluding herself because she wants her brother back?

She begins to realise that everyone in her family had something to hide that day… especially Ben. Now, twenty-four years later, the truth is going to be even harder to find.

Who did massacre the Day family?

EXTRACT

I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ.

WHAT I THOUGHT

Dark Places is a really good thriller. The characters are complex and messed up. There is plenty of intrigue, tension and suspense as Libby tries to find out what really happened the day her family was slaughtered with a little help from the Kill Club. I just don’t think the novel is as good as the author’s other novels, Sharp Objects and Gone Girl. Dark Places is the weakest book. I didn’t really find Libby a sympathetic character despite what she’d gone through. She comes across as a lazy, self-indulgent person. She’s lived off money donated by people who feel sorry for her and well-wisher’s. She doesn’t seem to have any motivation to get a job and earn her own money. She spends a lot of time wondering what family memories she can flog. You find out what really happened the day Libby’s family was slaughtered near the end of the novel. I was disappointed when the truth is revealed. Dark Places is a decent thriller and I did enjoy most of it – I just feel it was nowhere near as good as Sharp Objects or Gone Girl.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Review: The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

23350847

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins
Transworld Digital (ebook), 2015
320 Pages

Author Website

Amazon (UK)

Amazon.com

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cosy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life — as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

EXTRACT

She’s buried beneath a silver birch tree, down towards the old train tracks, her grave marked with a cairn. Not more than a little pile of stones, really. I didn’t want to draw attention to her resting place, but I couldn’t leave her without remembrance. She’ll sleep peacefully there, no one to disturb her, no sounds but birdsong and the rumble of passing trains.

WHAT I THOUGHT

The Girl On The Train is a great thriller, packed with twists and turns and complex characters. There is a lot of hype about this book. I don’t pay attention to hype or use it to make judgement about books. I wanted to read this because it sounded right up my street – the kind of thriller I love. I was right. The book exceeded my expectations. I thought the characterisation was brilliant. The book is narrated from the point of view of three women; Rachel, the girl on the train who’s unemployed and has a serious drink problem which has gotten worse since her husband left her for someone else two years before; Anna, the woman Rachel’s husband left her for and Megan, the woman Rachel watches from the train and projects her happiness fantasies onto. Rachel is my favourite character, she’s so messed up, holding onto her sanity by a thread and wonderfully real. I really like the way the book moves between the viewpoints of these three women so you get to see what’s going on from different angles. This can work really well and the author pulls it off. As for the plot? I thought this was a great, original thriller. There was so much going on. This one of those books where the author makes you think about twenty different things are going on and when the truth is revealed at the end of the novel it’s the opposite of what you’ve thought all along. I absolutely love it when an author surprises me. I loved The Girl On The Train.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

Review: The Haunting by Alex Bell

28100273

The Haunting by Alex Bell
Stripes Publishing (ebook), expected publication 11 February 2016
352 Pages

Author Website

Amazon (UK)

I got this ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Some curses grow stronger with time…

People say that all Cornish inns are haunted, but the Waterwitch’s history is particularly chilling. Built from the salvaged timber of a cursed ship, the guest house’s dark secrets go further back than anyone can remember.

Emma is permanently confined to a wheelchair after an accident at the Waterwitch which took place when she was ten. Seven years later, she decides to return to the place where the awful event occurred. But the ancient inn still has its ghosts, and one particular spirit is more vengeful than ever…

EXTRACT

Here are the first three things I learned about being in a wheelchair:

1. You have to ask for help all the time
2. You actually have to ask for hep ALL the time
3. After a little while, asking for help starts to feel like getting punched in the face

WHAT I THOUGHT

The Haunting just didn’t work for me. The book has great premise and sounded like a really creepy, unsettling read. Unfortunately, the book never lives up to its potential. The book is dull most of the time and failed to hold my attention. I was bored a lot when reading it and hugely disappointed because the blurb make the book sound like a cracking read. I also had an issue with Emma’s character. She’s supposed to be 17 in the book but comes across as someone aged 10 or 11. She was much more juvenile than her years and her voice didn’t really work. I really liked the fact that she was in a wheelchair because characters with a disability are few and far between in fiction – and usually only used when an author wants the sympathy vote. The Haunting tries hard but ultimately fails.

RATING

3 STAR RATING

Poetry Review: Glasgow Zen by Alan Spence

21282082.jpg

Glasgow Zen by Alan Spence
Canongate Books (ebook), 2012
130 Pages

Poet’s Website

Amazon (UK)

Amazon.com

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

A superb new collection of haiku and other short poetic forms on the theme of Glasgow – its people, landscape, culture. As always, Spence is uniquely illuminating, witty and delightful. Incorporating some of the poems which appeared decades ago in the much sought-after collection of the same title, Glasgow Zen includes mostly new material from this highly popular and exquisite poet.

EXTRACT

GLASGOW ZEN

              On the oneness of self and universe…

IT’S AW WAN
TAE ME

Poems included:

  • Glasgow Zen
  • Jingle
  • Joshu’s Mu
  • Japanese Boxes
  • Today
  • Motorway Red
  • Rag
  • Paddy’s
  • Sing
  • Lorry
  • Song
  • Prayer Flag
  • Silver
  • Tarnish
  • Eye Of The Storm
  • Loop
  • Touching The Void
  • Same Old
  • As Light
  • Seeing Mount Fuji
  • EM
  • Football Haiku
  • The Pundits
  • Glasgow’s Full Of Poets
  • After The Japanese (1)
  • After The Japanese (2)
  • Issa
  • Ryokan
  • Santoka
  • Oracle
  • Glasgow Zen (2)
  • Coda

WHAT I THOUGHT

Glasgow Zen is a brilliant collection of poetry, a modern take on the traditional haiku form. I absolutely loved it. Some of the poems were quite traditional and others, especially the Glasgow Zen segments, Paddy’s, EM, Football Haiku, The Pundits and Glasgow’s Full Of Poets were wonderfully modern, reflecting life in a modern city. I went through a phase years ago when I really liked Haiku. I’ve bought two large collections that I’ve never got round to reading. Some other form of poetry caught my interest and my love of haiku waned. Glasgow Zen helped me discover that love again.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

Review:Grave Of Hummingbirds by Jennifer Skutelsky

27277570

Grave Of Hummingbirds by Jennifer Skutelsky
Little A (ebook), 2016
206 Pages

Author Website

Amazon (UK)

Amazon.com

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

In the remote Andean village of Colibrí, a boy discovers what appears to be the body of an angel. But in the face and wounds of the dead, winged woman, Dr. Gregory Moreno sees something even more disturbing: an uncanny resemblance to his beloved late wife that cannot be mere chance. And in American anthropologist Sophie Lawson, still more echoes of the doctor’s lost love stir…igniting the superstitions of the townspeople, and an elusive killer’s deepest desires and despair.

When Sophie vanishes, her son and Dr. Moreno must navigate the streets, politics, and mysteries of a place where tortured ghosts and strange omens exist side by side with mortals both devout and corrupt. But they may need nothing less than a miracle to save her from sacrifice at the altar of a madman’s twisted passion.

Conjuring shades of Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, or even Neil Gaiman, Grave of Hummingbirds is a mesmerizing novel of dreams and demons, beauty and blood.

EXTRACT

Deep in the Andean highlands, Gregory Vasquez Moreno prepared himself for the bloody days to come.

WHAT I THOUGHT

Grave of Hummingbirds is brilliant, dark and disturbing. I adored this book. I loved how twisted, dark and creepy it is at times. This book opens with a bang when the body of a woman is found, strangely mutilated by having a pair of condor wings surgically attached to her dead body. At first I wasn’t sure if I was reading something supernatural but this is a novel about human horror that sent shivers down my spine. I loved the remote setting of the novel which made the events even more sinister. The characters are great, as dark and twisted at times as the events that bring them together. The revelations about the dead woman and other events shocked me to my core. I can’t wait to read the author’s next book.

RATING

5 STAR RATING

 

 

Review: The Lake House by Kate Morton

27212981

The Lake House by Kate Morton
Mantle (hardback), 2015
608 Pages

Author Website

Amazon (UK)

Amazon.com

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

A missing child…

June 1933, and the Edevane family’s country house, Loeanneth, is polished and gleaming, ready for the much-anticipated Midsummer Eve party. Alice Edevane, sixteen years old and a budding writer, is especially excited. Not only has she worked out the perfect twist for her novel, she’s also fallen helplessly in love with someone she shouldn’t. But by the time midnight strikes and fireworks light up the night skies, the Edevane family will have suffered a loss so great that they leave Loeanneth forever.

An abandoned house…

Seventy years later, after a particularly troubling case, Sadie Sparrow is sent on an enforced break from her job with the Metropolitan Police. She retreats to her beloved grandfather’s cottage in Cornwall but soon finds herself at a loose end. Until one day, Sadie stumbles upon an abandoned house surrounded by overgrown gardens and dense woods, and learns the story of a baby boy who disappeared without a trace.

An unsolved mystery…

Meanwhile, in the attic writing room of her elegant Hampstead home, the formidable Alice Edevane, now an old lady, leads a life as neatly plotted as the bestselling detective novels she writes. Until a young police detective starts asking questions about her family’s past, seeking to resurrect the complex tangle of secrets Alice has spent her life trying to escape…

EXTRACT

The rain was heavy now and the hem of her dress was splattered with mud. She’d have to hide it afterwards; no one could know that she’d been out.

WHAT I THOUGHT

I’m a huge fan of Kate Morton and have read all of her books.

The Lake House is full of mystery, tragedy and suspense. The book is quite slow at first and it took me ages to get into it. It was worth sticking with in the end and it turned out to be a cracking read. My heart was in my throat for the last four hundred or so pages. One thing the author is good at is taking the reader by surprise, leading you down one path only to yank you, unexpectedly and breathlessly in another direction altogether. The Lake House is no exception. Page after page took me somewhere completely unexpected. Theo’s fate is finally revealed – and the truth is nowhere near what my dark mind expected. The Lake House is a cracking read.

RATING

4 STAR RATING

Review: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

23357458.jpg

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Penguin (paperback), 2015
388 Pages

Author Website

Amazon (UK)

Amazon.com

I read this book for the Popsugar Reading Challenge 2016. I’m doing the challenge in category order. This is my book for the ‘a YA bestseller’ category.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

EXTRACT

Is today a good day to die?

WHAT I THOUGHT

All The Bright Places made me roar and weep like a big baby. For the last fifty pages or so, I was a sobbing wreck with snot running out my left nostril. I needed a big hug when I was done. It’s safe to say that I loved this book. I’m not sure if ‘love’ is an appropriate way to describe how I feel about a book that is so dark, sad and bleak. To say this book got under my skin and will haunt me for a long time is an under-statement. All The Bright Places is incredibly, unbearably sad at times but there is also some moments of joy and a sprinkle of hope.

RATING

5 STAR RATING