REVIEW: INTO THE WATER, BY PAULA HAWKINS

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
 
Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.
 
With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.
 
Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

My Thoughts: After the body of Nel Abbott is found in the water, the police conclude that she jumped. But her sister Jules and her daughter Lena, a troubled teen, are not convinced.A short time before her mother’s death, Lena’s best friend Katie had died, also in the river, and Lena is keeping a big secret about the events leading up to Katie’s death. Lena and Katie’s brother Josh are holding what they know close, pretending ignorance.

Because of the history of the Drowning Pool, with suicides ending up there, and then, as Patrick Townsend had been known to say, the river took care of “troublesome women,” some of the women in the English village of Beckford are starting to speculate. Like Jules. And like the psychic Nicki. What stories are the women telling Nel, who is writing a book about the history of the river? Her focus is on how the women are punished, even though the men were also behaving badly.

Years before, Patrick Townsend’s wife Lauren, the mother of Sean, a police officer, died in that river. What had happened? Had she been troublesome? Why does Sean blank out suddenly, and why does he tug at his arm, where someone cut him at some point? What memories are he suppressing?

What really happened between the teacher, Mark Henderson, and Katie? What does Lena know?

Into the Water was a convoluted tale with many red herrings, too many characters, and a lot of confusing elements. At the very end, in the last lines, we finally realize what must have happened to at least one of the dead women. But was there more to the story? I could have enjoyed the story more if it had fewer narrators, but the themes of crime and punishment did keep me intrigued. 4 stars.

***

REVIEW: HE SAID, SHE SAID, BY ERIN KELLY

In the summer of 1999, Kit and Laura travel to a festival in Cornwall to see a total eclipse of the sun. Kit is an eclipse chaser; Laura has never seen one before. Young and in love, they are certain this will be the first of many they’ll share.

But in the hushed moments after the shadow passes, Laura interrupts a man and a woman. She knows that she saw something terrible. The man denies it. It is her word against his.

The victim seems grateful. Months later, she turns up on their doorstep like a lonely stray. But as her gratitude takes a twisted turn, Laura begins to wonder—did she trust the wrong person?

15 years later, Kit and Laura are married and living under new names and completely off the digital grid: no Facebook, only rudimentary cell phones, not in any directories. But as the truth catches up to them, they realize they can no longer keep the past in the past.


My Thoughts: Alternating narrators that take us back and forth in time reveal the buried secrets and lies of He Said/She Said. Kit and Laura have lived in various parts of England, have followed many eclipses over the years, and at the present time, Laura is expecting twins.

Kit and Laura were caught up in the eclipse at Lizard Point, Cornwall; it was their first together, but what happened to Beth, a stranger, during the festival will change their lives forever. A series of disasters in the aftermath of a trial would lead to years that Kit and Laura lived off the grid, afraid to be photographed or shown on social media. Who and what was behind their fear? Were they each equally frightened, or was there more to the story?

Just when I thought that I truly understood what was happening with each of the primary characters—Laura, Kit, and Beth—a new revelation would come forth, changing how I viewed that character.

Danger came at them from every corner, but the source of it was just another secret well-hidden until the final pages. Who would be the biggest liar of all, and how would the darkest secrets ultimately derail their lives? 5 stars.


***My e-ARC came from the publishers via NetGalley.

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE PEOPLE AT NUMBER 9”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a recent download:  The People at Number 9, by Felicity Everett, ” a compelling and easily readable tale of our times…”

 

 

 

Beginning:  Sara’s gaze drifted toward the window.  It was dark outside now, and she could see her own reflection superimposed like a hologram on the house across the road.  Their curtains were half-closed but the cold blue flicker of the TV could just be seen.  She imagined Gavin lounging in the Eames chair with a glass of red, Lou lolling barefoot on the sofa.

***

56%:  Ezra stared at her and she wondered whether he had read her manuscript yet, or if he even knew who she was.  She glanced at Lou, for for moral support, but her friend had started leafing through Sara’s resources file and didn’t seem to be listening.

***

Synopsis:  Meet the new neighbours. Whose side are you on?

Have you met the People at Number 9?

Sara and Neil have new neighbours in their street. Glamorous and chaotic, Gav and Lou make Sara’s life seem dull. As the two couples become friends, sharing suppers, red wine and childcare, it seems a perfect couples-match. But the more Sara sees of Gav and Lou, the more she longs to change her own life. But those changes will come at a price.

***

What do you think?  Does it grab you?

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “INTO THE WATER”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a recent download from an author I enjoy.  Into the Water, by Paula Hawkins, is an addictive new novel of psychological suspense. 

 

***

Beginning:  LIBBY (THE DROWNING POOL)

“Again!  Again!”

The men bind her again.  Different this time:  left thumb to right toe, right thumb to left.  The rope around her waist.  This time, they carry her into the water.

***

56:  She put the spoon down and took a couple of steps towards me, her hands on her hips, her expression all concerned, like a teacher who’s about to tell you how disappointed they are with your attitude in class.

“What do you mean?” she asked.  “What’s my fault?”

***

Synopsis:  A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.
 
Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.
 
With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.
 
Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

***

I’m very excited to finally have this book.  What do you think?  Do you want to read more?

***

REVIEW: NOT A SOUND, BY HEATHER GUDENKAUF

When a tragic accident leaves nurse Amelia Winn deaf, she spirals into a depression that ultimately causes her to lose everything that matters—her job, her husband, David, and her stepdaughter, Nora. Now, two years later and with the help of her hearing dog, Stitch, she is finally getting back on her feet. But when she discovers the body of a fellow nurse in the dense bush by the river, deep in the woods near her cabin, she is plunged into a disturbing mystery that could shatter the carefully reconstructed pieces of her life all over again. 

As clues begin to surface, Amelia finds herself swept into an investigation that hits all too close to home. But how much is she willing to risk in order to uncover the truth and bring a killer to justice?


My Thoughts: As we begin Not a Sound, we are swept back to the moments before Amelia’s life changed drastically. It was an ordinary night serving as a nurse in the ER, tending to injured and battered women, collecting evidence, and offering comfort.

As she walks the latest patient to her car, another car comes screeching through the parking lot and slams into Amelia and her patient.

Two years later, we awake to another scenario. Amelia with her kayak and her dog Stitch. She runs and kayaks along the river near her home, a simple A-frame cabin. Everything she had before is gone. Her hearing, her husband, and her home. After the tragedy, she had turned to drinking, and her husband tossed her out.

Today she has a job interview at the cancer unit. Not as a nurse, but as a clerk scanning files. It is a start.

But finding a body in the river that day changes everything again. Not just a body, but a friend, another nurse who also worked with sexual assault victims. Amelia is immediately caught up in the case, and before she knows it, she is in the midst of another catastrophe.

Her best friend Jake is a cop, and he is wonderfully supportive, but even he is getting tired of the clues she brings to him. She thinks she has found another suspect for him, but then someone else rings the alarm bells. By the time she is really on the right track, she is in serious danger.

Why is Amelia’s husband David acting nice all of a sudden? Who has planted a bottle of wine on her counter at home? How did a bottle get into her drawer at work?

Finding out who is trying to sabotage her might just bring her face to face with a killer. A wonderfully captivating novel that kept me glued to the pages. 5 stars.


***I received an e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “A MOTHER’S CONFESSION”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a book I have had waiting patiently since January 2017:  A Mother’s Confession, by Kelly Rimmer, an emotionally gripping and gut-wrenching read about love, loss and the strength of a mother’s love.

 

 

Beginning:  (Olivia)

Most of the time, people try to avoid talking about what happened.  Even when their conversational acrobatics fail and the subject arises anyway, they stay within the very narrow subject of warning signs…specifically, warning signs that I somehow missed.

I get it, I really do.  If there were warning signs and I missed them, that makes this my fault.

***

56:  As a mother, you’re biologically programmed to look for the best in your children.  It’s how we bring out their strengths—how we protect them from people who would criticize and cut them down from a very young age.  Who hasn’t become defensive when another parent has accused their child of something terrible?

***

Synopsis:  Your husband took his own life. Tell the truth and destroy what’s left of your family. Or keep a secret that will tear you apart. What would you do?

Olivia and David were the perfect couple with their whole lives in front of them. When beautiful baby daughter Zoe came along, their world seemed complete.

But now David is dead and Olivia’s world is in pieces. While she is consumed with grief, her mother-in-law Ivy is also mourning the loss of her son. Both women are hiding secrets about the man they loved. Secrets that have put the family in danger.

Something was very wrong in Olivia and David’s marriage. Can Olivia and Ivy break their silence and speak the truth? A mother should protect her child, whatever the cost… shouldn’t she?

***

What do you think?  Would you keep reading? 

***

REVIEW: A SEPARATION, BY KATIE KITAMURA

This is her story. About the end of her marriage. About what happened when Christopher went missing and she went to find him. These are her secrets, this is what happened…

A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it’s time for them to separate. For the moment it’s a private matter, a secret between the two of them. As she begins her new life, she gets word that Christopher has gone missing in a remote region in the rugged south of Greece; she reluctantly agrees to go look for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she’s not even sure if she wants to find him. As her search comes to a shocking breaking point, she discovers she understands less than she thought she did about her relationship and the man she used to love.

MY THOUGHTS:  In the mind of the unnamed woman who goes to Greece to search for her husband are the conflicting thoughts about their lives together and about what broke them apart.

She is propelled forward by the insistent voice of her mother-in-law, Isabella, but once she arrives in Greece, she is puzzled by the state of her husband’s hotel room. While he was not a neatnik, he was also not the sort of man who would leave this kind of disarray. After she has the staff box up his things, she stays on at the hotel for a while longer. She asks some questions, she ponders what she does know, and she considers the possibilities.

Then Christopher’s body is found. He had died due to blunt force trauma.

Now she is not quite sure how to feel, since they were unofficially separated, and there were issues of infidelity.

Why does she not tell anyone that the two were separated? What does Isabella say and do that will somehow make her decision for her?

My thoughts had me wondering why the story is told from the perspective of the unnamed wife. Does the fact of her namelessness reflect how unimportant she was to him? Could there be more to the story? By the end, we never find suitable answers to these questions, nor do we see a satisfactory resolution. We see characters adrift in a state of limbo.

The writing style, with the passive voice and the absence of quotation marks, kept me detached and uninterested in what might unfold as the days and weeks went by. A Separation could have been a compelling story, but for me, it was only okay. 3 stars.

***

REVIEW: SWEET WILLIAM, BY BERYL BAINBRIDGE

 

When dull professor Gerald leaves London for the United States, his fiancée, Ann, is a bit afraid and sad to see him go—never has he looked so handsome and masculine as when he’s about to board the plane. But a few days later at a religious service, Ann is beckoned to sit next to a stranger with yellow curls and a nose like a prizefighter’s. Her heart inexplicably begins to race; she feels like she has the flu. This stranger, William McClusky, tells Ann in his Scottish accent that he is a playwright who will be interviewed on TV the very next day. Furthermore, he promises to have a television dropped by her house so she can watch him! From this first bizarre seduction, Ann is infatuated, and in the days following, William begins to take over her life.
 
In the throes of the affair, Ann gives up her BBC job, helps a friend get an abortion, encourages adultery, and writes a break-up letter to her fiancé. Her engagement to Gerald had been rushed, after all, and was designed to serve her mother’s desires more than her own. With William, on the other hand, everything feels different. But is this new man really who he says he is? Is he a genius or a fraud, a compassionate soul or a cheater? Perhaps William is simply a means by which Ann can play out her dangerous fantasies and finally take part in the swinging sixties. Only one thing is certain: Now that she’s with him, there’s no turning back.
MY THOUGHTS:
Was Ann a victim of the times? Did she throw herself into the affair with William to prove something to herself, to show that she was “with it”? Or might she have been rebelling a bit against her mother’s life choices?It was hard for me to understand how this young woman could be so blinded by William, since it was clear to this reader that any charms he had were absent by the end of the first week or so. I just could not see anything “sweet” about this William. Furthermore, he very quickly took control of Ann’s life until she had nothing to depend upon but him, and his fickle ways often left her alone.

His behavior was “crazy-making.” I have known men like that. When the woman questions his behavior, or tries to get a straight answer out of him, he turns it around on her, making her believe that she is wrong or delusional.

I had a hard time continuing to read Sweet William, as all of the characters were unlikable in one way or another. I suspect that the author’s goal was to stir up a variety of emotions, maybe even laughter at the idiocy of the times and these characters. The book was well-written, but I did not enjoy it. 3.5 stars.

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “SWEET WILLIAM”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is an e-book that has been relaxing on Pippa, my Kindle, since December 2016.  Sweet William, by Beryl Bainbridge, is an ironic investigation into the art of self-deception and the repercussions of sexual freedom, a blend of black comedy and social satire that showcases the wit of award-winning author Beryl Bainbridge, and affirms her status as a mainstay in twentieth-century British literature.
 

 

Beginning:  In the main entrance of the air terminal a young man stood beside a cigarette machine, searching in the breast pocket of his blue suit for his passport.  A girl, slouching in a grey coat, as if she thought she was too tall, passively watched him.

***

56%:  ‘Where do you think he’s gone?  Where’s he gone?’

‘Perhaps he’s looking at graveyards,’ said Pamela.  ‘He likes graveyards, doesn’t he?’

***

Synopsis:  When dull professor Gerald leaves London for the United States, his fiancée, Ann, is a bit afraid and sad to see him go—never has he looked so handsome and masculine as when he’s about to board the plane. But a few days later at a religious service, Ann is beckoned to sit next to a stranger with yellow curls and a nose like a prizefighter’s. Her heart inexplicably begins to race; she feels like she has the flu. This stranger, William McClusky, tells Ann in his Scottish accent that he is a playwright who will be interviewed on TV the very next day. Furthermore, he promises to have a television dropped by her house so she can watch him! From this first bizarre seduction, Ann is infatuated, and in the days following, William begins to take over her life.
 
In the throes of the affair, Ann gives up her BBC job, helps a friend get an abortion, encourages adultery, and writes a break-up letter to her fiancé. Her engagement to Gerald had been rushed, after all, and was designed to serve her mother’s desires more than her own. With William, on the other hand, everything feels different. But is this new man really who he says he is? Is he a genius or a fraud, a compassionate soul or a cheater? Perhaps William is simply a means by which Ann can play out her dangerous fantasies and finally take part in the swinging sixties. Only one thing is certain: Now that she’s with him, there’s no turning back.

***

I’m eager to read this book, and wondering why I’ve waited so long.  What do you think?

***

REVIEW: THE HOUSEKEEPER, BY SUELLEN DAINTY

When Anne Morgan’s successful boyfriend—who also happens to be her boss—leaves her for another woman, Anne finds herself in desperate need of a new job and a quiet place to recover. Meanwhile, her celebrity idol, Emma Helmsley (England’s answer to Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey), is in need of a housekeeper, an opportunity which seems too good to be true.

Through her books, website, and blog, Emma Helmsley advises her devoted followers on how to live a balanced life in a hectic world. Her husband, Rob, is a high profile academic, and her children, Jake and Lily, are well-adjusted teenagers. On the surface, they are the perfect family. But Anne soon finds herself intimately ensconced in the Helmsley’s dirty laundry, both literally and figuratively. Underneath the dust, grime, and whimsical clutter, everyone has a secret to hide. And Anne’s own disturbing past soon threatens to unhinge everything…

MY THOUGHTS:
In the beginning, The Housekeeper seemed to be a book about one young woman’s love gone wrong, and how she found a way to start over as a domestic helper for a famous blogger and her psychologist husband.

But soon we are swept up into a gradual process of enmeshment, as the Helmsley family come to expect more and more from Anne, while making it seem as though they are doing her a favor by making her feel like family. But Anne does not notice the subtle expectations, since she admires Emma and Rob and the life they have created, and being a part of it all feels so good.

When Anne has some memory flashes, it seems natural that she would ask her boss, the psychologist, for his opinions. What will happen next? Will the horrors of her childhood change everything about the life she has recreated?

I was blown away by how the story played out, and could not stop reading it. I was furious with Emma and Rob, and how they played on Anne’s need for family. They seemingly brought her into the cozy circle that was developing between them, when, in fact, they were using her to carry out the façade of the perfect family/professional couple. She did a good job of glossing over their imperfections by keeping their lives running smoothly, and what they gave her in return was betrayal.

Skillfully wrought, the story aroused emotions, kept me engaged, and left me with much more to think about. In the end, there was a sense of closure that I didn’t see coming, and it felt good. A 5 star read for me.

***