Mother, Mother I've been reading psychological thrillers like they are going out of print recently. I think it's to do with the fact that I wasn't rea...moreMother, Mother I've been reading psychological thrillers like they are going out of print recently. I think it's to do with the fact that I wasn't reading as much as I normally did for a long period, and a good psychological thriller has the ability to really grab me and keep me reading no matter what. Told in the alternating POVs of the middle Hurst child, Violet, and the youngest, Will, Mother, Mother is an intimate, frightening look at how a family can go so very wrong on the inside, whilst maintaining a fairly regular appearance to the outside world. Josephine, the mother, is a control freak, and Zailckas makes that clear from the very beginning - there's no attempting to hide her obvious narcissism, but it is the way it manifests and emerges further through the story that kept me reading. I wanted to see what lengths she would go to to keep her perfect world perfect. As a character she is obviously disturbing and very unlikeable, but it's very well disguised, and I even started to doubt myself part way through - was Josephine really a nasty bitch, or was it all in MY head? As a character it's difficult to empathise with Will, but I felt that was done purposefully to show the level of control Josephine had over him, and the effects of isolation on an a child - without a chance to interact with the outside world on a regular, normal basis, he withdraws further and further into himself and falls heavily under his mother's control. Violet, on the other hand, I found far more interesting, particularly as her story started to emerge fully in the second half of the book.I do wish that there had been more focus on Douglas, and perhaps even a POV of his own, as his story was more told through the eyes of Will and Violet, but it was intriguing to see how a relationship such as that of Douglas and Josephine can go so terribly wrong.Zailckas' choice to reveal her main characters' weaknesses right from the beginning pays off in Mother, Mother - by allowing the reader to know them from the first page, it made for compulsive reading, and as I mentioned earlier, it actually started to make me wonder if the characters really were as they were insinuated, or whether I was missing something obvious.However, there are a few things that I struggled with - firstly, there is a terrible secret that is revealed towards the end of the book (I don't consider this a spoiler, because it's an obvious part of the plot) but by the time I made it that far into the story I was immune to really being shocked by it considering Josephine's earlier behaviour. Connected to that, having the main characters flaws laid bare in the early part of the story perhaps removed some of the gasp-out-loud moments - I was expecting things to go wrong all the time.Mother, Mother is a psychological almost-thriller that kept me reading like a car crash - at times I wanted to look away, but my mind kept being drawn back into the story.(less)
Carla Buckley's latest novel, The Deepest Secret, poses not only the question about how well do you know the people around you, but also that the line...moreCarla Buckley's latest novel, The Deepest Secret, poses not only the question about how well do you know the people around you, but also that the line between right and wrong isn't always clearly defined. I was exited to read it after I enjoyed Buckley's The Things That Keep Us Here in 2012, and interested to find out more about Eve's son's condition.
Xeroderma pigmentosum (or XP) is a genetic disease in which the sufferer's ability to repair damage caused by UV light is deficient - in other words, XP sufferer's cannot step into sunlight or any other type of UV light such as halogen bulbs without suffering burns, and subsequently skin cancers. Eve and David's son Tyler was diagnosed with XP as a baby, and their whole lives have been adapted to keeping him safe - from nighttime birthday parties through to asking all their neighbours to use non-Halogen globes in their homes and having all the street lights in their cul-de-sac turned off.
Such is Eve's obsession with keeping her son safe, that her husband has taken a job in another state, travelling back and forth every weekend to spend time with his family, and starting to feel very disillusioned with his life. What makes this relationship stand out from all the standard 'troubled marriage' story lines however, is the obvious fact that he still loves his wife - he has regular flashbacks to what she was like when they first met, the beginnings of their relationship, and how she lived before Tyler's diagnosis.
Eve's best friend Charlotte, who is her complete opposite, also lives in the cul-de-sac, and many of the residents are on friendly terms with each other, attending Tyler's birthday party and obliging Eve's requests, but there are also a few rebels who refuse to go along with her security measures. Tyler's nightly forays reveal a few of their secrets to him, but there's not actually that many revelations about the neighbours themselves - more their reactions when another child vanishes in the night.
Although I'm not always keen on alternate POVs, they work well for The Deepest Secret - it very much suits the underlying theme of the novel to see events from multiple perspectives.
Eve is admirable in her dedication and sacrifice to her family, but it also means that she doesn't really have her own personality - it has been pretty much absorbed by her determination that Tyler will remain well and have as fulfilling a life as possible. And although it's easy to feel sympathy towards Tyler due to his condition, his frustration with his life makes him rather unpredictable and unlikable.
But what I did particularly enjoy about The Deepest Secret was the main theme of the storyline - that although people have very definite ideas about what is right and wrong when they are removed from the situation, when they are in the middle of it, it's very difficult to make that distinction. Buckley's storytelling made it easy for me to see why Eve did things in a certain way, and although I appreciated the realism of the ending, it did feel a little rushed and not completely logical to me.(less)
I came across The View on the Way Down quite randomly on my Amazon Recommended page, and the cover was the first thing that caught my eye. Coupled wit...moreI came across The View on the Way Down quite randomly on my Amazon Recommended page, and the cover was the first thing that caught my eye. Coupled with the slightly sparse synopsis, I was intrigued - and the rest, as they say, is history.
At the beginning of the book, I thought The View On the Way Down would probably be one of those sweet coming-of-age stories - Emma is fourteen years old, her parents are practically divorced but still sleeping in the same bed, and her older brother has disappeared. Emma is lonely, has self-confidence issues and a dedication to God. And that's when I started to feel a little uncomfortable - did I pick up a religious book by mistake? Insert spoiler here because I think it's important for people who don't enjoy religious books - Emma's religion is a plot device only, and gradually plays less and less of a role in her life.
The View on the Way Down is told in multiple POV's and formats, which actually surprised me when it happened - although the synopsis actually suggests otherwise, I went into this book thinking it was told completely from Emma's perspective, but all the family members have their say, and there is also one part told completely in letters which worked extremely well.
The characters are realistic and varied - it was easy to sympathise with Emma, who struggles to make friends and whose family pretty much imploded when she was too young to understand what was happening, and now lives in the fall out without realising why her father isolates himself and her mother throws herself into being the perfect housewife. None of the characters are perfect, and all have dealt with the death of one of the brothers, Kit, in their own very personal way.
I'm always a little wary of books that say they will break your heart in the synopsis. I'm a pretty tough nut to crack and although The View on the Way Down didn't have me in floods of tears, it was certainly very touching and in parts, quite emotional to read as the characters deal with grief, guilt, blame and forgiveness, particularly in the final third of the book.
The View on the Way Down isn't a happy ending book - it's a realistic look at family dynamics and grief, and how they effect each person as an individual and as a group. And although there are parts that are incredibly sad and even difficult to read, there is also an element of hope that made it a satisfying, well-rounded story that was a pleasure to read.
The Mistake is told in alternating POV with flashbacks to Jodie's childhood and her courtship with Angus and her relationship with her teenage daughte...moreThe Mistake is told in alternating POV with flashbacks to Jodie's childhood and her courtship with Angus and her relationship with her teenage daughter, Hannah.
After Hannah is injured in a car accident, Jodie finds herself back at the hospital where she gave birth 25 years earlier, completely unknown to her family, friends and Angus. When a well-meaning midwife discovers that Jodie adopted out her first child, she takes it upon herself to try and reunite mother and daughter with disastrous consequences. As Jodie and Angus try to preempt the police investigation into the baby's adoption, the national media grab hold of the story and twist it from the search for an adopted child into a murder investigation.
Jodie is a difficult character to like - she is reserved, composed and almost cold. She had no compulsion to reunite herself with her first-born child and instead seems to prefer burying her head in the sand rather than facing the truth. But as the story progressed, I felt more and more sympathy for her - as the media, the public and even her friends and family being to doubt and accuse her of some incredibly cruel things. As Jodie withdrew from life, hiding behind her perfect life veneer, it was hard to imagine how this story would end. And the ending was not what I ever imagined.....
Ms. James writes a compelling story - with real, flawed characters that have more than their fair share of personal demons and obstacles to overcome. Interspersed with media reports, flashbacks and some incredibly emotional scenes, The Mistake is a story that will keep you guessing right until the very last pages.
I love Diane Chamberlain books – they’re my guilty pleasure. Ms Chamberlain writes excellent family dramas without getting caught up in legalese or cl...moreI love Diane Chamberlain books – they’re my guilty pleasure. Ms Chamberlain writes excellent family dramas without getting caught up in legalese or clichéd love scenes – they are simply stories about families going through challenging times that either stick together or fall apart. So when I saw The Good Father on NetGalley I knew I had to read this book.
Told in alternating POV by Travis, Robin and Erin, this is a story about lost love, illness and most importantly, about what it means to be a parent. Travis’ love and dedication to Bella, despite all the challenges that life throws at him (with quite a bit of force) is nothing less than admirable, and with his determination to do the best he can in difficult circumstances whilst always putting Bella first made me as a reader fall just a little bit in love with him.
Robin and Erin’s stories, and the way that they are interwoven with Travis’ story are done very well, but my one and only criticism of this book is that I found Robin to be quite cold and distant given the circumstances. But perhaps this was intentional – as the book progressed I found my respect for her growing, especially after reading more about her upbringing and the difficult choices she was forced to make. My heart, almost literally, broke for Erin – her story is incredibly sad but also brings a very important aspect to the book.
Beautifully and engagingly written with realistic, understandable and loveable (well except for the bad guys) characters, after reading The Good Father I’m not going to call Diane Chamberlain my guilty pleasure anymore - I’m going to call her my favourite adult family-drama author.
It's been a long time since I've listened to an audiobook - I love them but it needs to be exactly the right book with exactly the right narrator othe...moreIt's been a long time since I've listened to an audiobook - I love them but it needs to be exactly the right book with exactly the right narrator otherwise I wander off into dreamland and then miss parts of the story. But this is an excellent choice for an audiobook - an emotional, captivating story with neutral but engaging narrators.
The plot of The Things That Keep Us Here is pretty straightforward - an outbreak of bird flu causes panic as the disease reaches the US, and Peter and his graduate student end up living back in the family home with Ann and her daughters. As the crisis deepens they make the decision to effectively barricade themselves inside the house and avoid the outside world in attempt to not expose themselves to the disease. The main focus of the story, however, is the emotional reactions of Ann, Peter and to a lesser degree, their daughters. As Ann struggles between despising and feeling sympathy for the student, her first priority is for the health and happiness of her daughters - keeping them isolated from potential disease carriers, fed, watered and maintaining a sense of normality in an increasingly desperate situation. When events outside the house start to force their way inside, both Ann and Peter start to take more risky decisions and actions.
I felt a connection with all of the characters, especially Ann who is haunted by her own personal demons - she appears cold and unemotional but is simply keeping all her feelings inside so as not to upset other people. Her determination to protect her children through the crisis pushes her into situations that she finds disturbing and difficult, but still maintains the facade of a loving, kind mother. The personalities of Peter and their daughters shine through in the writing without needing an explicit explanation.
The world-building is done mainly via media excerpts - which is completely in line with the story as the family's isolation means they have no access to information about what is happening in the world, and this builds tension as I also had to try and imagine exactly what was going on outside their home.
The Things That Keep Us Here ends with a real climax - the kind where you just can't tear your eyes (or in my case, ears) away, and I certainly hadn't expected the story to play out as it did.
My only negative point was the epilogue - although it did round out events in the book quite well, it did lack some of the information I wanted to complete the story.
I believe this would also captivating read on paper - I'm tempted to buy the paperback version and re-read it myself!
A Greyhound of a Girl is the story of Mary, her mother, her grandmother and a ghost. I loved Mary - her cheeky attitude made me smile over and over ag...moreA Greyhound of a Girl is the story of Mary, her mother, her grandmother and a ghost. I loved Mary - her cheeky attitude made me smile over and over again. Her mother, Scarlett was also endearing with her particularly enthusiastic way of speaking.
As a ghost story, this isn't a scary or creepy book, and nor is it aiming to be. Instead it is a sweet tale of a girl and her family, and her family's past. With flashbacks to the childhoods of Mary's mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, the interaction between the characters at different stages of their lives was enchanting and was easily imaginable as real scenes being played out across the span of years.
The pacing of the book is relaxed, with a large amount of dialogue, which fits perfectly with the story. I read this book over 3 or 4 hours and ended with a smile on my face - it really is a sweet, feel-good story, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone!
I don’t remember how I found this book, perhaps on a random wandering through Audible a few months ago. In early 2011 I was listening to a lot of audi...moreI don’t remember how I found this book, perhaps on a random wandering through Audible a few months ago. In early 2011 I was listening to a lot of audiobooks, but after a few ‘boring’ experiences I stopped. I did try and listen to this one a few months ago but wasn’t in the right state of mind. This time around however, I was hooked.
The subject of pologymst cults has always held a fascination for me. I’m not good at sharing anything, so I’m intrigued by the concept of sharing your husband, your family, everything in your life, without questioning whether it is right or wrong to do so.
The characters in The Chosen One were the highlight for me – Kyra in particular is completely imaginable as a real girl, who just wants to experience life, love and books, but is bound by the beliefs of her family to a life of isolation and subservience.
The story is engaging and enthralling – the mother characters in particular held my fascination with their unwavering belief that life as ‘one of the wives’ is normal and morally right.
The ending is quite abrupt but I felt that was fitting to the book – there was never going to be a neat, happy ending with this one.
As for the Audible version – I thought the narration by Jenna Lamia was great, she really did sound like a 13 year old girl! (less)