The Year that Changed Everything by Cathy Kelly started rather promising. Three women celebrate birthday on the same day.
It’s Ginger thirtieth when she is a bridesmaid on her best friend’s wedding. Fitted into an ugly dress she overhears her friend speaking of her very pejoratively. Devastated she runs home and decides to give up on her social life, as she only seems to be successful at her work.
On the same day Sam turns forty when her waters break. She has been trying for so long to have a child and now that it has arrived she is terrified that she isn’t going to be a good mother.
Callie is having a fiftieth birthday party, one that she didn’t want but her husband insisted on throwing. Surrounded by people she doesn’t much care for, some actual strangers she waits for the evening to end. But before it does the Gards arrive looking for her husband. He is nowhere to be found and wanted for fraud. With all their assets frozen she packs the essentials and along with her daughter runs to seek shelter, away from the curious questions of the press.
The idea of all three women sharing a birthday was a nice touch. The three plots were interesting to begin with. However I didn’t much enjoy how they story lines progressed, and was rather disappointed towards the end. Ginger story plot turned out to be rather naive and more suitable for an adolescent audience and someone that has just turned twenty, rather than thirty. Sam’s problems were easily cured at the end. Callie’s life, despite the trauma, turned out for the better. Perhaps not financially but but on all other levels. And to make matters even more fairy tale like, all three women met at the end and became good friends.
I will grant 3 coffee cups, bowls of ice cream or chocolate bars as it was an easy and pleasant read, just not very high flying.
Coffee cups, bowls of ice cream or chocolate bars rating:
In The House Wife by Valerie Keogh, Diane married a man she had known only for a few weeks. Moved to his house, to a new town where she doesn’t know anybody. No family to visit her either. She got pregnant soon after. Her beloved daughter, now 3 years old is starting a preschool. It is hard for Diane to part with the little one even for a few hours, but this is apparently what she has agreed to. She doesn’t remember doing so, but her husband says so. There are other things she doesn’t remember. Unsettling things that prevent her from having a good night sleep. Something has happened that resulted in her staying in a psychiatric ward for a few weeks. Her husband hasn’t filled the blanks in her memory. The doctors said that she should allow time for them to come back to her on their own, that this will help with her healing.
Diane is very unsettled and anxious. She is convinced that somebody is following her, or is she imagining things? Why would this strange woman follow her home and watch her pick up her daughter from the school? Has she been to the supermarket at the same time as her? Who is she? Afraid that the person only exists in her head, she keeps it to herself, not saying a word even to her husband. She feels he is distant to her anyway. They no longer share a bedroom. He goes up to his room after dinner and spends his evenings there. She sits alone in the downstairs living room and sips wine.
Once the curiosity gets to her, she tries her husband’s door when he is out of the house, but she is surprised to find the door locked. She manages to find the key and learns some secrets. Looks like her husband wants to leave her for somebody else and tries to win the custody of their daughter by making everyone believe that she isn’t fit to be a mother. Is that what’s happening or is she imagining things? Should she trust her husband? She has no proof he is doing any of that, and at times even doubts herself that she is reading the situation correctly. Maybe she is in fact on a verge of another breakdown?
3 foot prints from me.
Foot print, wine glasses or envelopes rating:
– one of the best books I read
– good read
– disappointed, I thought it was going to be better
I liked the stories, although I am not sure I would have Picked the “Death Wears a Beauty Mask” as the first one though. The characters were likeable but the story wasn’t as intriguing as I have hoped. A newly wed couple flies to see the bride’s sister Alexandra, who is a successful model. Only she isn’t anywhere to be found. The story was alright but left me wondering if the rest of the book would be just OK too.
However the “Stowaway” delivered more. A plane destined to America lands in Danubia to refuel. When the stewardess Carol discovers a passenger who should not be on board, she decides not to give him away to the Danubian police. Her decision is risky, especially when a police commissioner in charge of the search boards the plane. She keeps the secret to herself, doesn’t share it with her ex-partner Tom, who flies the plane. She is aware than by doing so she risks her job, as the company she is working for may loose a permission to land in Danubia. Furthermore if the passenger is discovered before the safely land in America, she might be even detained in Danubia herself. She puts Tom’s future at risk as well, because as a pilot he is responsible for the plane and should be aware who he has on board. However all this taken into account, pure humanitarian reasons don’t allow her to disclose the stowaways presence.
Straight after, another heartbreaking story hits us hard. In “When the Bough Breaks” a mother is grieving her lost son. She blames herself for his death, that she didn’t get the dry three brunch cut in time. She isn’t the only one who misses her little boy. A neighbour boy lost his best friend. A boy whom she wasn’t very fond of and with whom her son was spending way too much time, she thought. When she finally takes pity and reaches out to him, it turns out that in return he grants her an equally big kindness.
I liked the weirdness of the “Voices in the Coal Bin”. A husband bring his troubled wife to an old cabin in hope that the holiday stay would ease up her anxieties. But as it turns out, they weren’t us ungrounded as he had thought them to be.
In “The Cape Cod Masquerade” we meet a very likeable couple Alvirah and Willy. They have won lottery and become reach. Now with resources and time on her hands, Alvirah’s outgoing personality doesn’t allow her to stand still. She is more than happy to help their new neighbour prove her innocence after she has served time for killing her stepfather.
In “Definitely a Crime of Passion” a politician is accused of murder. His friend, an ex-president believes his innocence and under a great influence of his young bride, they take it onto themselves to prove it.
“The Man Next Door” is a scary story about a serial killer who has yet another victim in sight. To find out if she will be rescued in time, you must read it yourself. A gripping and suspenseful tale.
I liked the twisted “Haven’t We Met Before?” where a man is attempting to kill a woman claiming that she has hurt him in a past life. Leaves you open mouthed when at the end what has saved her life, has also showed that his claims might not be as insane as we have thought.
“The Funniest Thing Has Been Happening Lately” is shown form a perspective of a woman who is in grave danger from the hands of a man, who has been killing people that he believes are responsible for his daughter death years ago.
In the last story “The Tell-Tell Purr” the main character is plotting how to kill his elderly grandmother in order to get the inheritance. The turn of events was interesting and humoristic.
I don’t come across short crime stories very often, so I recommend the set. 3 magnifying glasses, keys or mobile phones from me.
In The Liar’s Wife by Samantha Hayes we meet Ella. She doesn’t socialise. She goes to work and straight back to her apartment. Same routine, every day. Until one evening she gets hit by a van while cycling home. She wakes up in a hospital to be assured by a caring nurse that her husband, Jacob didn’t leave her sight when she was in a coma. He is going to come back soon to take her to their new home. Except she is not married, she is sure of it, or has she forgotten? Has the blow to hear head caused her to loose some memories?
Once she sees him however, Ella knows he isn’t who he claims to be. She is terrified of him, but cannot tell anyone why, not even the friendly nurse. She is on her own and needs to do what he says, she needs to go with him to their new home. This is a moment when the reader thinks, no don’t go with him, there has to be another way. But she he takes her and she complies and then she spends her time trying to figure out a way to escape. To make things more difficult for her, Jacob fills the house with security cameras in order to watch her every move when he isn’t home. Her leg is in a cast and her hand is broken. Nosy neighbours are knocking on their door to welcome them into the neighbourhood. As much as she would like to ask them for help, she knows she cannot. Not only Jacob keeps her trapped inside the house, he is also blackmailing her not to seek escape.
To make things worse, Jacob arrives one evening with a baby that he has snatched from a mother when she wasn’t paying enough attention.
The book he’s its ups and downs. It is suspenseful in places. Frustrating at times. A bit confusing towards the end in relation to Jacob’s real identity.
In all the pre-Christmas hustle and bustle I forgot about my holiday read. Then I found the perfect solution, The Christmas Gift by Monica McInerney. A little gift for 50 cents.
I don’t often reach for short stories but when I do, it’s like opening a box of chocolates. Short stories have to be dosed. They are meant to be had in small quantities due to their full bodied flavour.
The first bite is The Christmas List, where we are introduced to Rosie and Dan and their beloved daughter. Amy falls really ill in her first year of school . She is diagnosed with cancer and her parents fear they may loose her. Her Mum is making Christmas lists, as she was due to host a big family gathering. She doesn’t want to cancel, even though everyone expects her to. She feels that the task of planning the venue is keeping her intact, that otherwise she would crumble to pieces. She painstakingly lists all the festive food items as she waits for the consultant to tell her if the new treatment has worked.
In The holiday it’s actually the summer holiday that the family of four are dreaming of. Sinead and Declan, together with their twin children Ciara and Adam, have been saving money to be able to spend their summer holidays in Spain. However things get tough for them financially, and they end up using their savings for everyday needs. But Grandad has a surprise that may be able to cheer the family up.
Two shorts stories for busy souls who like a winter holiday read.
Irish Book Awards is running its yearly event – to use their own words, “a national campaign which celebrates the value and joy of reading and encourages everyone to pick up more books, more often.”
An Post has become the main sponsor for the next three years.
Titles of the shortlisted books for this year are due to be published on their website on the 25th October at 7 PM. Winners will be selected on the 27th November.
I was very curious when I picked Our House by Louise Candlish. It was promising intrigue. Fi is coming back home one day to see someone else moving in. Another family, complete strangers in her house. All of their belongings are gone and are being replaced. She does a double take, checks if it is in fact her house, just like you might in a nightmare. There is no doubt, she has not made a mistake. It is her place or it used to be.However the book did not deliver what I was expecting. I was bored for a good part of it. Not much was happening for a good while. I think the reason for it was that pretty much the whole story was given away at the beginning and then we were just walked through the events in detail, which was not that exciting.
I couldn’t feel much compassion towards Bram, one of the main characters. He was being blackmailed into selling his family home. He felt horrible for causing the accident that allowed the blackmailer to have something on him. I had the impression however that he felt more sorry for himself than for the victim. He seemed to have exonerated himself by placing the blame on the other driver. Bram wasn’t let back into his lane after he tried to overtake a car, and while it is clear that this wasn’t his fault, he should not have been speeding in the first place, engaging in a race with the other vehicle. I think the horrifying outcome of the accident didn’t let me turn a blind eye on this fact, like Bram seemed to have done.
Bram tells his story through a lengthy written confession. I didn’t think that form was very convincing and suitable for his state of mind, a letter might be; not sure about a manuscript.
After experiencing moral distaste towards Bram, we are also presented with a character of his wife Fi, whom the author is describing as seeing the word in black and white, being morally unscarred. Yet what she does at the end of the book has thrown me off, even given the circumstances. Act that she is able explains to herself as understandable and even forgivable. Her conscience weights heavy but she seems able to quickly move on. Another morally ill character.
What saves the book is the very ending. It seems to send a message that no crime of this caliber is left unpunished. It is clear, strong an powerful. Finally gives the ready what the book has been missing.
I cannot say it was a good read, I really thought it was going to be better, so two house keys bunches, car horns or wine glasses.
House keys buches, car horns or wine glasses rating:
– one of the best books I read – charmed – good read
I picked The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena in a haste at the airport bookshop for my sun holiday. It was a quick and easy read but not much more. Anne and Marco go to a dinner party next door and leave their six month old baby daughter sleeping in her cot alone in the house. They take the baby monitor with them and agree to take turns to check on her every half an hour. All is fine throughout the dinner but on their return home, they find the door unlocked, the cot empty and the baby missing. They call the police, feeling guilty for leaving her alone in the house.
After that both parents become suspects in the eyes of the detective investigating the case, although he has to be very tactful as these are only suspicions and the parents may in fact have nothing to do with her disappearance. He even offers, that she might have been taken even if the parents were sleeping in their bedroom next door. Detective quickly finds out that Anne suffers from postpartum depression, for which she
has been prescribed medication and she has been drinking that night. The husband jumps with an idea that they should offer a handsome ransom, even though no call has been made asking for it and it has not been established that the baby has been kidnapped by anyone. He suggest that his wife should ask her wealthy parents for the money and they should issue a statement in the press.
I didn’t enjoy the all knowing narrator, I found it made the plot over discussed,
the reader could have easily reached some of the conclusions on their own. The plot itself was a little predictable in some places. I wasn’t convinced by the ”deal” the police have offered at the end (I don’t want to give away too much), I didn’t think that the person to whom the deal was offered have enough leverage to be offered this.
I did enjoy the final twist at the very end, it made the book come to life a bit more again and run a chill through my spine, when all the dramas were coming to and end.
It won’t be the best book or the best thriller if you choose to read it but you will be turning the pages quickly.
So, overall 3 doors, baby blankets or kitchen knives.
Doors, baby blankets or kitchen knives rating:
– one of the best books I read – charmed – good read
In The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth we visit Melbourne suburbs. We get to know a few of the families who live in the neighbourhood, which makes the book interesting and lively from the start. Essie is a mother of two girls, a toddler Mia and a baby Polly. Her husband Ben together with her mother Barbara who leaves near by, are keeping a close eye on Essie, as she went through an episode of a postnatal depression after her first daughter was born.
When a new person rents a house in their vicinity Essie is strangely drawn to her. She thinks she may even be attracted to Isabelle, and wants to know more about who she is and where she came from. Isabelle doesn’t seem to share much about herself but wants to know everything about Essie.
Ange is an estate agent who helped to find the house that Isabelle now occupies. She is a perfectionist and is not happy when she finds out that some of the personal information Isabelle has provided doesn’t check out. Despite having two wild boys of her own, Ollie and Will, Ange keeps her house tidy and her appearance immaculate in order to keep her husband Lucas close.
Fran doesn’t stop running, she is jogging any time she can. There is something weighting heavy on her conscience. Something she cannot share with her husband Nigel. He is a great dad to Rosie and baby Ava, but he was depressed after the little one was born, leaving Fran on her own, having to look after all of them.
Despite leaving so close, the women are keeping their secrets to themselves, until the problems just grow too much and start leaking out.
A lively book, an interesting read worth 3 sunflowers, telephone cords or pizza slices. A few errors that the proofreader has missed.
Sunflowers, telephone cords or pizza slices rating:
– one of the best books I read – charmed – good read