Posted in Reviews

73. The Party House by Lin Anderson

On the rare occasion I write a book review, I focus on the parts of the story I enjoyed and stay away from those I didn’t because I know that a lot of hard work goes into writing a book and I don’t need to dwell on the less enjoyable bits.

But that approach to writing reviews has meant that sometimes I can’t write anything at all if I can’t think of anything positive to say.

For some reason, I decided that today I would write a Totally Honest review about my latest read, and not sugarcoat my thoughts on it. So read on to see how that worked out…

The synopsis

Devastated by a recent pandemic brought in by outsiders, the villagers of Blackrig in the Scottish Highlands are outraged when they find that the nearby estate plans to reopen its luxury ‘party house’ to tourists.

As animosity sparks amongst the locals, part of the property is damaged and, in the ensuing chaos, the body of a young girl is found in the wreck. Seventeen-year-old Ailsa Cummings went missing five years ago, never to be seen again – until now.

The excavation of Ailsa’s remains ignites old suspicions cast on the men of this small community, including Greg, the estate’s gamekeeper. At the beginning of a burgeoning relationship with a new lover, Joanne, Greg is loath to discuss old wounds. Frightened by Greg’s reaction to the missing girl’s discovery, Joanne begins to doubt how well she knows this new man in her life. Then again, he’s not the only one with secrets in their volatile relationship . . .

My thoughts

I had been looking forward to reading The Party House, but unfortunately in the end I didn’t find it worth the wait.

There was very little going on for about 90% of the story, which consisted of the two main characters, Joanne and Greg, who had hardly any chemistry together, lying to each other, alluding to secrets which aren’t revealed until near the end of the book, and having a lot of sex (which gets referred to as “coupling” which is a word I never want to read again.)

Things picked up a little towards the end, but the action sequence was over and done with before it really got started.

Even the reveal of who was behind the murder felt skimmed over, as we only learn their identity while Greg is telling Joanne in a handful of sentences. Though it is worth mentioning that I thought the killer and their motive was a point in the book’s favour.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.
Posted in Reviews

72. Anything You Do Say by Gillian McAllister

The Synopsis

It’s the end of a night out and Joanna is walking home alone. Then she hears the sound every woman dreads: footsteps behind her, getting faster. She’s sure it’s him–the man from the bar who wouldn’t leave her alone. So Joanna makes a snap decision. She turns, she pushes. Her pursuer tumbles down the steps and lies motionless, facedown on the ground. Now what? 

If she calls the police right away, she can save the man’s life. Yet doing so puts her own innocence at risk, as she waits for judgment on a charge of assault and the hope that her husband and everyone she loves will stand by her. But if she runs and goes home as if nothing has happened, no one will ever know. No one saw her do it, and it’s only up to Joanna to keep quiet…forever.

My thoughts

I loved the idea behind this story as soon as I read the synopsis. I hadn’t come across the Sliding Doors concept in a book before, and since that’s one of my favourite films and Gillian McAllister one of my favourite authors, I knew I had to read it.

After the initial set up and Joanna’s indecision as to whether to report or hide from what she has done, the story splits up into two timelines, handily titled as Conceal and Reveal.

Each timeline is as developed as the other, and the author does the dilemma at the heart of the story justice, putting Joanna through the mill in both versions of events in such a way that the reader can’t help but feel sympathetic towards her.

What I like about Gillian McAllister’s writing is that her characters change as the story progresses, and she does that brilliantly here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.
Posted in Reviews

62. Titanic Day by Day: 366 days with the Titanic by Simon Medhurst

The synopsis

After the Titanic sank on 15 April 1912, the story hit the headlines worldwide. Details of the tragedy were displayed on the front pages of every newspaper and magazine, and were talked about in every home.

The events that happened on that fateful night should never be forgotten. In this unique book, each page is filled with information for every Titanic enthusiast, whether seasoned or a beginner. For each day of the year, there are births and deaths of passengers and crew alongside relevant newspaper articles from the time. These are details of true-life events as seen by the eyes of the world in 1912.

Also included are Titanic facts and Titanic survivor quotes. This allows the reader to discover more about the tragedy as it unfolded before the eyes of witnesses, and to delve into the British and American inquiries to see what really happened.

Simon’s great-grandfather Robert Hichens, one of the six quartermasters of the Titanic, was at the helm when the ship hit the iceberg. He survived on lifeboat number six. His experience on Titanic is one of hundreds recounted in this book, passengers and crew alike.

Titanic Day by Day has a worldwide appeal to all ages because of the wealth of information and facts within. The book can be picked up both for casual reading or used every day of the week and enjoyed. It is distinctive in the way that it covers facts and information on Titanic’s passengers and crew in a daily format. With the information displayed throughout a full year, this allows for a uniquely straightforward exploration of details about the people who perished in the waters of the Atlantic and those that survived. This will keep their stories alive for generations to come.

My thoughts

Written by a descendent of one of the Titanic’s quartermasters, this was such a fascinating read, perfect for history and Titanic buffs alike.

Each day of the year has its own page with some facts about the Titanic, details on the passengers and crew who were born or died on those dates, and quotes from some of the survivors, all of which combined to bring the human element of the story into focus.

The quotes were quite poignant on occasions, particularly those detailing the sinking itself, while others covered the inquiries which took place afterwards.

A brief moment of respite, however, came with a short quote from Fifth Officer Lowe when asked at the inquiry what icebergs were made from, and he replaced “Ice, I suppose, sir.” (Some other of Lowe’s answers are as blunt in a similar manner if you check out the enquiry transcripts online, but given what he had just gone through and then being asked questions about it in such detail so soon after the event, perhaps he can be given a pass for being so to-the-point.)

It was interesting reading the different accounts of what happened that night, but what Medhurst does well is presenting the facts as they are with no agenda or overlaying narrative, and lets the reader experience the story of Titanic for themselves.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Posted in Reviews

52. The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett

The synopsis

Open the safe deposit box. Inside you will find research material for a true crime book. You must read the documents, then make a decision. Will you destroy them? Or will you take them to the police?

Everyone knows the story of the Alperton Angels: the cult-like group who were convinced one of their member’s babies was the anti-Christ, and they had a divine mission to kill it – until the baby’s mother, Holly, came to her senses and called the police. The Angels committed suicide rather than go to prison, and Holly – and the baby – disappeared into the care system.

Nearly two decades later, true-crime author Amanda Bailey is writing a book on the Angels. The Alperton baby has turned eighteen and can finally be interviewed – if Amanda can find them, it will be the true-crime scoop of the year, and will save her flagging career. But rival author Oliver Menzies is just as smart, better connected, and is also on the baby’s trail.

As Amanda and Oliver are forced to collaborate, they realise that what everyone thinks they know about the Angels is wrong, and the truth is something much darker and stranger than they’d ever imagined.

My thoughts

The Alperton Angels was darker than I was expecting from the blurb, but it was just as easily readable as Hallett’s previous work.

Told via interview transcripts, text messages and emails, the case is slowly unravelled by true crime writer Amanda Bailey and her exhaustive list of contacts, and at first seems to make less sense the more you read.

There are false leads, lies and obstructions, and Janice Hallett is a genius at keeping the reader guessing until she wants us to know the truth.

I did not expect this book to go the way it did, which only reiterates how well Hallett tells a story.

Rating: 5 out of 5.
Posted in Reviews

48. The Nothing Man by Catherine Ryan Howard

The Synopsis:

At the age of twelve, Eve Black was the only member of her family to survive an encounter with serial attacker the Nothing Man. Now an adult, she is obsessed with identifying the man who destroyed her life.

Supermarket security guard Jim Doyle has just started reading The Nothing Man–the true-crime memoir Eve has written about her efforts to track down her family’s killer. As he turns each page, his rage grows. Because Jim’s not just interested in reading about the Nothing Man. He is the Nothing Man.

Jim soon beings to realize how dangerously close Eve is getting to the truth. He knows she won’t give up until she finds him. He has no choice but to stop her first …

My Thoughts:

I was intrigued by the premise of this story from the start.

It’s told through Eve’s memoir and Jim’s point of view, and you wouldn’t have known that the memoir chapters weren’t real because they read like any other true crime book.

I can’t say I cared much for Jim’s personal life; he was horrible to his wife, and while he was involved in his grown daughter’s life, I felt she could have been anybody else’s child because he barely had any meaningful interaction with her.

Although, I’m wondering while I write this, if that was maybe sort of the point? That because he was unsatisfied with his security job and his home life, and angry that Eve is on his tail, he’s lashing out at everyone because he misses his good old days.

Whatever the reasoning is, the story was solid and addictive, and I really enjoyed the author’s writing.

Rating: 4 out of 5.