Monthly Archives: January 2015

BOOK REVIEW – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

The girl on the train

Once you pick this up, you won’t be able to put it down! It’s a fast-paced thriller that never lets up and doesn’t disappoint.

Rachel travels on the same train every day, twice a day: the 8.04 in the morning, and then the 17.56 back again in the evening. It’s a drudging commute, but she manages to liven it up by having a drink or two, and creating scenarios in her head. Most particularly, Rachel focuses on the couple that live at number 15 Blenheim Road. They look like a golden, happy couple and Rachel names them ‘Jason’ and ‘Jess’, creating a contented, blissful life for them, similar to the life that she used to lead with her ex-husband Tom just down the street at number 23!

It quickly becomes clear that Rachel’s life has unravelled at quite an alarming rate! No marriage, no job, no real home. What has she got left really, other than to watch Jason and Jess, and drink herself into oblivion? Until the day that she sees something at number 15 that she simply cannot un-see! And very soon after that ‘Jess’ disappears, only her name isn’t Jess, it’s Megan, and Jason is actually Scott, and the idyllic life that Rachel envisaged for them is actually a myth.

Rachel tries to piece together what happened the night that Megan disappeared. She has a feeling she was there, but has no recollection of what happened. She’s absolutely positive it was ‘something’ but she’s not exactly a reliable witness and there are no surprises when the police don’t take her seriously. We’re left with sketchy evidence and are as eager as Rachel is to find out what’s really happened. But Rachel is determined to go to quite extreme measures to get to the bottom of the time she’s lost, which preys on her mind.

This is a multi-faceted story, told through the eyes of Rachel, Megan and Anna, Tom’s current wife and the woman for whom he left Rachel. All three are genuine and believable, purely because they are not entirely likeable all the time. They make mistakes (a lot), they have secrets (quite a few), and therefore they’re flawed and very human. It’s an eye-opening lesson that demonstrates how convoluted relationships can really get when they’re not based on truth or fact.

The cleverly structured timeline lends itself well to the mystery of the plot, and one needs to pay close attention to the dates and times to which each character is referring. This is a tightly crafted novel which leaves no questions unanswered at its conclusion, and will keep you up reading well into the night until you’ve reached the shock finale!

The Girl on the Train is published by Transworld Books/Transworld Digital.

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BOOK REVIEW – In My Lady’s Shadow by Siobhan Daiko

In My Lady's Shadow

I received a complimentary copy of this book (on request) in exchange for my honest review.

Fern is hiding out near the town of Asolo in Italy at the home of her Aunt Susan, an endearing, scatty romance writer. She’s trying to escape the tragedy of losing her fiancé Harry in a devastating fire and blames herself for his death, so she just wants to be somewhere quiet where she can focus on her favourite pastime: painting.

But all too soon, the tranquillity of her refuge is interrupted by strange occurrences. Fern can smell burning and keeps finding a mysterious piece of burnt wood. She keeps hearing someone whispering  the name ‘Lorenza’.

She then visits the nearby Asolo Castle and has a strange ‘turn’. It seems that she is experiencing life as it was in the early 1500’s in the guise of Cecelia, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Caterina Cornaro. And from then on, whenever she visits any of the places associated with Cecelia, she quite literally slips back in time and becomes her, experiencing life as it was in the Queen’s court!

Initially we meet Cecelia as a young, chaste lady’s maid, but all that changes when she meets flamboyant artist Zorzo and falls passionately in love with him. They secretly start a relationship and this daringly continues, even after Cecelia becomes betrothed to a loathsome, jealous individual.

As Fern tries to reconcile her present-day life with all that she continues to learn about Cecilia’s life, she becomes more and more intrigued to find out about her. With the help of the magnetic Luca and his mother the Contessa Goredon, she manages to research the era into which she keeps slipping and is able to discover how Cecilia’s life unfolded.

As much as she believes that she is no longer worthy of a loving, stable relationship, she finds herself falling for Luca. His sensitivity to her situation, as well as his constant strength and support are exactly what she needs and yet she still tries to convince herself that she is not allowed to be loved for who she is. She gains a better understanding of herself, and what it means to be loved, despite one’s faults, through Cecelia’s journey, which she identifies strongly with.

Daiko’s writing is beautifully evocative and one is easily able to vividly picture Italy, both now and then. In fact, I went back and re-read certain descriptions, as I was so busy racing through the book to find out what happened that I felt I had missed certain details!

I can’t wait to read her new book, The Orchid Tree, coming out in February, 2015.

Siobhan Daiko’s books are published by Fragrant Publishing.

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Book Review – Showstoppers by Helen Smith

Showstoppers

I received a complimentary copy of this book (on request) in exchange for my honest review.

Quirky would-be sleuth Emily Castles is back in another fast-paced short story mystery!

Emily is thrown into a bit of a whirlwind when she innocently delivers a letter (mistakenly delivered to her own address) to her neighbour:  dramatic, attention-seeking Victoria, who immediately has a very strange response. It seems she has been receiving odd, threatening notes pertaining to a video that she made at drama school many years previously with her then boyfriend David Devereux, who is now a well-known actor. We never discover the true nature of this video, except to learn that it isn’t actually pornographic, just an embarrassing performance piece, but Victoria is convinced that it brings bad luck to whoever watches it.

Upon learning that Emily’s work contract has ended that day, Victoria immediately invites her to come and help out at her drama school, Showstoppers, which is due to hold its year-end concert the next day. And so Emily finds herself thrown in the deep-end when she arrives at the school the next day where there is most certainly a buzz in the air! Here she meets the calm and collected Seema, who is Victoria’s right-hand running the school. Then there’s the handyman, Dizzy, and the much maligned landlord Mr Barrymore and his dog, Precious. Victoria is unable to focus on much, with her mind being on her upcoming performance in the concert, and having to focus on all her students, and is happy to hand as much responsibility as possible over to a confused Emily, including interviewing prospective new parent David Devereaux.  To be honest, Victoria doesn’t come across as the most likeable character.

Another poison-pen note has arrived, at the school this time, and Emily teams up with her neighbour, the down-to-earth, no-nonsense Dr Muriel (who happens to be one of the guests of honour at the concert), in an undertaking to discover exactly who is behind them. There’s also a cameo appearance from a policeman who we first met in ‘Three Sisters’, who seems to be quite fond of Emily. However, due to her lack of social know-how, she doesn’t have a clue!

I didn’t enjoy this story quite as much as I enjoyed ‘Three Sisters’. I found that there was a bit too much crammed into the minimal pages, not giving as much depth or detail as I would have liked, including no information given about how Victoria reacted when she discovered who the culprit actually was.  That said though, it is a short story, so one shouldn’t expect the same detail as one would find in a full length novel.

Smith has done a good job in maintaining the continuity of the characters of Emily and Dr Muriel. Emily comes across as even more of a social misfit than in the first book. She is not comfortable in the company of confident individuals, and is not really au fait with social cues. However, this works to her advantage in her attempts at detective work, as she tends to see peoples’ character flaws a lot quicker than most, which might not obvious to other more easy-going, accepting people.

One thing which I feel I must mention is a major grammatical error that was glaringly obvious to me. The use of the phrases ‘They might of misunderstood …’ and ‘Must of been …’ instead of the correct ‘They might have misunderstood …’ and ‘Must have been …’.

Showstoppers is a quick, light, undemanding read.

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