The Harpy, Megan Hunter
Genre: General Fiction, Literary Fiction.
Edit: its out now in US but not in UK til 3rd September 2020
I love quirky, unusual reads and this book promised that.
The writing was mostly beautiful, but at times I felt it was a bit overdone, almost took away from the intent by the wordy descriptions. Even of simple things like the pasta sauce….and that for me took away the richness and importance of other parts.
I didn’t like Jake, not that we really got to know him. Right from the fist I felt he had more remorse about being caught out than for the actual affair. He was concerned too about the effects of an action on Vanessa, the lady he cheated with, when I felt it should be Lucy he worried about.
Lucy is strange, I feel her childhood wasn’t happy, with a father that beat her mother and she seemed to accept it, leading Lucy to feel that it was usual in a marriage. Then there’s her childbirth problems, that left her with some deep issues. I felt that maybe she still had an underlying Post Natal depression that wasn’t recognised.
Of course The Harpy – she was fascinated by them as a child, ( I too adored Greek and Roman mythology) and that’s persisted as an adult. Now though it feels a bit as if she identifies herself as one, doing the punishment to a man who has done wrong. Her mother described them that way, and Lucy’s depression/grief over the affair has turned inward and it feels as if she things The Harpy – her alter ego perhaps – has the answers and can make everything right.
We can see that though she appears confident and happy, she’s very much not so. Her inner thoughts are rambling much of the time, making excuses and wondering why she isn’t reacting as others do, as TV shows have taught her. She’s almost playing a role, trying to fit who she thinks she should be rather than just Being. I really felt sad for her.
Its a story that had me wondering why, how, who, what would happen if, and of course what really happened at the end. Its very disquieting in parts, but it gave me lots to think about. Its a shortish read but even so parts felt unnecessary, the minutiae of food, chores, day to day stuff that seemed superfluous. I began to skip over sections, to get to what was actually happening. Quite a discomforting read, no particularly nice characters.
Stars: Three, its a strange read at times, not really my usual genre but I like to dip out sometimes into something different. Its not a story I’d reread, though I’m glad I read it.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Just My Luck, Adele Parks
Genre: Mystery and thrillers, women’s fiction.
Sigh…women’s fiction. C’mon, its 2020 not 1920.
Anyway, what a read this was, full of the very worst in people. Until the win the six have been friends for 15 years, though there are cracks at times, and Lexi has discovered something about one of them that she finds difficult to deal with. I would too. The characters are very real, warts and all, but TBH I only liked Lexi and Toma, the rest were selfish, vain, money obsessed. Toma had gone from being a hardworking family man to the depths of depression after his loss, and Lexi helps him crawl out, start living again. I rally liked him.
Jake her husband was not the man she saw, not the guy she fell in love with. I guess we all change along the way but while Lexi is all about helping others – hence her work in citizens advice – Jake is just money and self orientated.
The friends have fallen out, and then soon after their long held winning numbers come up. Jake and Lexi insist they’d dropped out, they insist it was just a tiff and they were still in. Who’s right? Who knows.
Complicating matters are their kids. Jake and Lexis daughter Emily is best friends with the Heathcote’s daughter, Megan, and the Pearson’s son Ridley is her boyfriend. We see much of the events after the win through Emily’s eyes, and she is a typical teen, spend, spend on big brands. Their son Logan is a bit younger, happy that he can have some new games.
Jake also can’t wait to get his hands on the cash and start spending. His greed shows right from the start when they ring in and one of his first questions is how soon can they get the cash. He seems to mostly want others to see how rich he is, to show off his new Lamborghini, throw a huge party, buy expensive new clothes, he’s all about flashing the cash.
We see quickly how the money brings problems, not just with their friends but themselves, it affects Lexi’s job as the CA office is inundated with people wanting help – or help in the form of money. Emily gets problems at school as Logan and Megan turn against her. The trio have been friends since childhood, don’t have other friends and it hits her hard.
Things get worse, trust is shattered and events quickly go downhill, showing how different Lexi and Jake have become. For me Jake was an awful man, I guess he must have been different when they met, Lexi is such a lovely person its hard to see what they have in common. Then the action ramps up, and the twist at the end has me rethinking things once more. I guess no-one is quite who we think they are.
Stars: Four, a gripping story, a bit predictable at times but then throwing in some curve-balls that had me rethinking.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Dear Child, Romy Hausmann
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers,
Well, I didn’t know what to expect but was seduced in by the description. I just had to know how things played out.
It was one of those reads where just as I thought I’d got things worked out another facet was thrown in to the mix. It was very complex, very multi dimensional.
It felt very real, I could feel Lena’s horror, feel the anguish Lena’s parents felt, understand why her dad was so angry. Yet I also got annoyed at him when he kept charging in, on an “ I know best, somebody needs to do something” I guess any loving parent in their situation would get frustrated at what they see as lack of progress.
I could feel Lena’s terror, both in the cabin, when she realised just how dire her situation was, and when she escaped. You’d think relief would come from being home, but of course she’s got some real PTSD issues going on. She really was in a bad place.
Then there’s the children – how on earth do kids ever recover from something like this? On the face of it Hannah seems to have adjusted better, although she’s a little strange she is very intelligent, and that caught me out. At the end we could see just how programmed to ignore horror she had become, even when it was right in front of her.
I just wondered what would happen to her, would she ever get past the things she’d seen? I loved seeing so much from her POV, her thoughts, her complex explanations for every little thing, the way she cited statistics and facts so thoroughly, the way everything is black and white to her, her complete obedience, devotion and acceptance of everything Papa said. I felt she’d woven a world in her head that overlapped the real world and she genuinely found it hard to tell what was real. I loved when she talked about whispers – how she described her speech and mouse voice, or when she’s really insistent, the Lion voice. I could visualise her doing that. I felt Lena did so much to try to make these poor kids lives happy. I’d say normal, but that was impossible.
I guess what I had in my mind was that terrible story a few years back where some poor girl had been kept like that for 24 years, and she and the kids she had were living underground all that while. I remember then thinking how on earth can anyone pick up life after that? The characters in this book felt real to me and made me have the same feelings, wondering what kind of life they would/could lead after their escape.
Stars: five, a fantastic read, riveting and gave me much to think about.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
The Forgotten Sister, Nicola Cornick
Genre: General Fiction (Adult) , Historical Fiction
I didn’t realise this was a historical/contemporary story, thought it was a straight historical one but it wasn’t an issue, as I really enjoy those kind of reads too. This reminds me very much of Susanna Kearsely’s reads, stories I used to devour but somehow haven’t read for ages. Having dipped back into the genre maybe I’ll look for more.
Anyway, the story is in an alternate chapters past and present format. I’ve always felt a bit sorry for historical Amy Robsart. Back then ladies were married off for family and political allies, were just pawns in the scramble for power, and poor Amy ended up married to a fiercely ambitious man who became a favourite of the Queen. Childless, she was left languishing on his rural estates or shipped off to stay with others, while he courted the realms of power and intrigued with Queen Elizabeth 1.
Present day Amy seems in the same trap, married to a man who seems to spend more time with his childhood friend Lizzie than he does with her. Its not as simple as that though, and the parallels from the past enmesh with the present day characters. I wanted to say to Amy, shout at him, rage, don’t let him get away with it but of course it doesn’t work like that.
There’s some great characters here. I really liked Lizzie, Arthur and Johnny, but found it hard to warm to Amy and her sister Anna. Amy seemed weak, passive and her sister Anna was angry against the world after their mother died. As for Dudley, well, sadly there are a host of selfish characters like him in all walks of life, he really was shallow and obnoxious. Its difficult to write much about the actual story with giving away details that may spoil it for some.
The supernatural element added an extra frisson of excitement and danger, and was played out in a very believable way. I’m kind of open minded about supernatural events, think back to earlier periods in history where electricity would seem like magic, where a camera that could reproduce likenesses would be seen as mysterious, and maybe its just that we don’t yet fully understand everything in our world. Then read this book with that mindset and you’ll really enjoy it if you like this kind of romance, very gentle and subtle but wrapped up in a delicious historical mystery.
Stars: Four and a half, a really fun read, merging past and present perfectly.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
What’s Left of Me is Yours, Stephanie Scott
Genre: General Fiction (Adult)
What a haunting read, an uncomfortable subject, an unimaginable tragedy for all concerned. Its told in alternating time spans, and that allowed me to really get to know the characters. Of course the Japanese legal system is different too, and it was interesting seeing the whole culture and legal ramifications of the events as they happened.
I didn’t think I’d like this when it started, it felt slightly stilted by I was soon pulled into the story and it felt so incredibly real. Who was to blame for what happened? Everyone I guess except for Sumiko. Its hard to read a story where love has such tragic actions, and greed can be manipulated in that way. I was desperately hoping that maybe, just maybe, there’d been a mistake, that events weren’t as they seemed by no, sadly there was no happy ending, just a beautiful and tragic love story, that ended hurting so many.
Its not a story I would reread I don’t think. At least not for some time, but beautifully written and one I’m glad I chose. The sorrow from the events will stay with me for a long time I think, showing what flawed characters we humans are. Things could have been so different if only…..
Stars: 5. An amazing, tragic read, so full of emotion but where there’s no happy ending, just shadows of an unimaginable love.
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The Wives, Tarryn Fisher
Genre: Mystery & Thrillers, Women’s Fiction
Moan: women’s fiction – why alienate potential readers? Men write books enjoyed by women and men alike, and they read the same.
Wow, this book taught be a lot about myself. Am I just gullible? Or are the story lines that good? I like to think its option two 😉
I never realised how easily I accept what I’m told, and as the story expanded, as Thursday discovered more about the other wives, I finally began to question all the things I’d accepted as fact. It wasn’t until then I realised I had just believed every word I’d been told. When the cracks in the story appear it was hard to know who was telling the truth, and it devolves into quite a dark and twisted story. It made me think of that phrase “its only paranoia if they’re not out to get you”
Its hard to say much without spoilers so I’ll try to keep it simple. I don’t understand that multiple marriage thing, the way Thursday is so blindly accepting of crumbs of Seth’s time, and when the reason for the third wife came out, given their own past I was so angry. And then of course the story gets more complex and I’m wondering, was it really like that, did things really happen that way.
Even when the story gets to the point where you’re wondering just who is telling the truth, there are still more revelations and secrets to come out, things get ever more complex right up to the end. I kept thinking – its getting late, I’ll just read a bit more, and a little more, and finding myself getting closer to the end, so then it was – may as well finish now 😉 That’s a hallmark of a good story for me, when I’m so absorbed by the characters and actions I just don’t want to put it down until I know whats going to happen.
Its a gripping read, had me totally hooked into the story. Its also incredibly sad in a way, with innocent people getting caught up in the actions of (imo) a selfish person. Was the family situation to blame? I tend to say no, lots of folk have difficult childhoods, but who really knows.
I found the ending sad in a way for all of them and yet curiously satisfying in what happened. My two least liked people got a form of punishment for their actions – IMO – of course. Karma.
Stars: five, a cracking read, had me hooked, but in a way also incredibly sad that peoples lives could get changed by the actions of another person.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
My Husband’s Lie, Emma Davies
Genre: General Fiction (adult), Women’s fiction
I thought this sounded interesting, I like to have a range of different genre books on the go, so I can dip as suits my mood. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t the deep suspense, drama, thrill I was expecting.
I enjoyed the first half, meeting the family, being with them on their exciting move and new work venture, and of course meeting the other book characters. Anna and Rob, and Tilly, what a wonderful family, I’d love to live near them. I’m glad Anna wasn’t as full of Faith as Rob, but had her doubts, was unsure, it made her more real. We expect curate’s wives to follow their husbands beliefs even now, and that Anna was her own person was wonderful.
It was when The Secret came to light that things actually went downhill for me. I felt Thea’s reactions at first were as expected but the way she fell apart, blamed poor Drew, her mother, her friends….it all just felt to OTT for me. Nothing has changed, just her knowledge. Yes, I could see that others knowing, especially those close to you with who you think you share everything, hurts. However the motivations, it wasn’t done to escape blame, but to try to save her being hurt.
What came over far better for me was the bullying, both adults and children, and the way it was handled. We’ve all known people like the girl’s headmistress, like Leo’s mum Stacey, like the shop gossips. Small towns and villages can be a gem but when a rumour takes roots it spreads rapidly and folk quickly take sides. That part felt incredibly real.
I guess for me I just felt the story wasn’t what I expected, it was good, but not what the title and blurb suggested. I also had the problem of Thea, I just felt like she over-reacted, and when she took to her bed, left the girls to Drew, went on a giant sulk I just wanted to say Get Over Yourself, Grow up. Her kids needed her, she knew her actions would hurt them. She knew Drew acted in what he thought was her best interest, he got it wrong ( IMO) but he was trying to help. She irritated me, even though she’s not real, because there are people who would act exactly as she did. Real First world Problems 😉
I thought the ending was great, the little drama that happened was good but superfluous for me, it didn’t actually need that, the ending worked out well even without that.
Stars: Four, a story that started well for me, right up to the revelations that sent Thea off into a kind of madness, throwing blame around and acting like a child. Her poor mum had lived through it, protected her and now Thea is throwing blame out for everything to everyone it seems.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
The Silent Treatment, Abbie Greaves
Genre: General Fiction ( Adult)
I really didn’t know what to expect, the description is tantalisingly vague. All I could think was Why? Why didn’t Frank speak to Maggie? Did she speak to him? Had they rowed? What on earth had happened to carry this on for so long?
Well, that answer comes slowly, little by little as we learn about Maggie and Frank’s life together. Its clear they adored each other right from the start, from that first meeting up to now, even though he’s not speaking – and I was just so intrigued the more I read.
They were so close, one of those couples who were really perfect together, who complement each other. They had some setbacks in life but it seemed to bring them closer, so where, how, why did it all go so very wrong?
My first though was that maybe one of them has an affair or something, but it quickly became clear that neither would do that, and I just couldn’t think of what could have prompted such a long silence, especially when it doesn’t seem to be an angry or resentful lack of communication, not held out as a punishment, but simply a lack of speech, and I found it such a puzzle.
Its a beautiful story, very easy to read and engrossing, very moving, very emotional and yes, like other readers it did make me cry.
Yet the big question of why, which maid it such a mystery also began to frustrate me. The more I read the less I understood, until pretty close to the end, and I did find that a bit disheartening, wondering if when all was reveled it was going to be anti climatic.
I did feel the last section wrapped up a little too quickly, after that long, drawn out story of questions, it felt as if I was given the answer I’d been waiting all through the story for, quickly followed by a tidy, neat wrap up. It felt a bit too slick after the way the main story was so carefully drawn out, as if the two didn’t really work together. This is one of those books I enjoyed, am glad I read but which I doubt I’ll reread. ,G
Stars: Four, a moving, easy to read story but I felt there was a disparity between the main part being so slow to reveal and suddenly , story out, reasons disclosed and bam, neat ending. I needed a little more than a quick, slick conclusion.
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Killing Beauties, Pete Langman
Genre: Historical Fiction
I liked the sound of this, fiction but about real people, and in a period that intrigues me, but which I know little of. Sadly the story just wasn’t a great fit for me.
I’m not sure why, perhaps its because I failed to really connect with the characters, perhaps its just that events seemed muddled at times. I need to empathise with someone in a story, but though the setting felt real the characters just didn’t ,and I wasn’t really concerned with what happened to them.
Kudos to Pete for taking on bringing female spies into the public eye, sadly historically women were treated badly, as secondary to men, and even now the word Spy evokes a man, rarely do we think of female spies. They existed, though, did a hard and dangerous job, even more dangerous because women then were really regarded as unimportant, disposable.
I might come back to this another time, its a well written book, and I’m guessing well researched, certain historically it feels accurate. We’re in the throes of Covid19 when I’m reading this, and it may well be my issues, the unsettledness we’re all feeling that have affected how I felt about this story. Possibly in a different time I’ll get more from it?
Stars: Two, a good story for others but I failed to connect with it.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Dear Enemy, Kristen Callihan
Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Romance
I love Kristen’s VIP series, have re read those several times and they still make me laugh – and cry….but her other books just don’t quite live up to those for me. This one was the same, it was good, great banter, Kristen excels at that, which had me giggling like a loon every now and then, but somehow it didn’t have the VIP magic.
I never like it when a guy dates a sister – or vice versa, and her its an integral part of the story but I just didn’t – even when everything came out – understand just why Macon ever dated the horrible Samantha.
Delilah coming to work for Macon was…a little contrived in terms of real life, but this is fiction so jut go with it. In reality would a chef/PA really be worth all that money? She might be the greatest chef- but is untried as a PA. Somehow though if you can suspend belief, and just accept it has happened it makes for a great story.
The characters are good, I love an evil, selfish character like Samantha, loved Macon in his early unpleasant days, that means when we learn his history it puts a different slant on what seemed like pure vicious nastiness.
I loved the way it finally came together, how Delilah was such an open, natural lady, always ready to help anyone, with a humorous quip at the ready for when its needed and yet also has a very serious side under that humour.
Its a great read, I’m just spoiled by VIP. Maybe its time for yet another re-read of those, Sunshine and Chatty-girl’s ( aka Gabriel and Sophie) story is the best IMO!
Stars: Four, a great read, just suspend belief in the reality of certain plots and go with it. Its worth it.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers