Tag: Four Stars

Katerina by James Frey

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I haven’t read any of Frey’s previous novels and only when looking at other peoples reviews of this book did I realise there was massive controversy surrounding his book A Million Little Pieces. I have read this book ‘blind’ in that I haven’t read any of his previous work nor did I know about the controversy prior to reading Katerina in the hopes that my review is accepted as totally unbiased.

katerina

To start with I found the strange sentence construction and lack of punctuation difficult to follow and not easy to take in, but the more I read, the better I got at ‘getting’ it. It’s James Frey’s unique writing style and he has every right to write and punctuate, as an artist, as he wants. It’s raw and passionate and at times so gut-wrenchingly sad and pathetic. It’s full of profanities (don’t read if you don’t like unnecessary swear words – it’s full of, and punctuated by, the f-word) but I strangely got to like it and felt his anger, disgust, hate, fear and love pounding through.

It’s written over two timelines and two countries – Paris in 1992 and Los Angeles in 2017. Jay is a disillusioned, non-conforming young student in America and decides to sell unwanted personal items and make fast money from drugs to fund himself in Paris, France. We go back and forth from Jay in Paris to Jay’s present day and really just learn his background, his strengths, weaknesses – oh, the weaknesses!!! loves, life and beliefs, and, of course, meeting Katerina. It’s a roller-coaster of a young life which I read with loathing and longing in equal measure.

It’s written like a memoir and after the furore I’ve now read about Frey’s earlier ‘memoir’ novel A Million Little Pieces, it feels like this is ‘the real thing’ or at least has put some reality into the fiction. I thoroughly enjoyed Katerina and now need to read the very controversial Million Little Pieces.

james frey

James Frey’s Amazon profile

James Frey on Goodreads

 

 

 

 

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My Husband’s Lies by Caroline England

Four Stars

My Husband’s Lies is the story of seemingly ‘normal’ people on the outside, but scratch below the surface and we have some problem relationships, flakey marriages and unhinged individuals.

My Husband's Lies

The book’s opening chapters introduce each of the ‘cast’ at Nick and Lisa’s wedding. There are quite a lot of characters introduced at once and you do have to remember them as couples as well as individuals, so attention is required from the beginning.


Caroline England has a lovely writing style and has woven interesting and topical plots for each of her characters. Very quickly this becomes a book which is difficult to put down as the ends of several chapters have cliff hangers. Many issues are explored – adultery, deceit, sexuality and, of course, the husband’s lies – but seeing both sides of the story seems to help negate blame, probably because the characters are so likeable.

From the start, when a guest at the wedding is about to jump from a hotel window, there is a feeling of doom, ‘this can’t possibly end well’ throughout the book but I certainly didn’t expect the explosive and shocking ending served to us. On finishing I felt bereft, I needed to know more, but ‘more’ doesn’t matter in the context of this whopping finale.

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Caroline England’s Website

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Caroline’s Amazon author profile

 

 

 

Fear by Dirk Kurbjuweit

Four Stars

At the front of this book is a ‘Dear Reader’ and a short explanation of how this book came about. It’s loosely based on a true story but, of course, we don’t know which parts are fact and which are fabrication to bolster a sinister fictional story.

The book has been translated from German and has an unmistakable precise, clipped, Germanic feel. It is also compared with We Need To Talk About Kevin and I can see some similarities, but this is not so depressing.

Fear

This is one of those stories that starts at the end, we know what the outcome is. In this case, we are told in the first chapter that Randolph’s father has been sentenced to imprisonment, at the age of seventy-seven, for shooting in the forehead at point blank range, Randolph’s basement neighbour, Dieter Tiberius.

The story then goes back and forth in time from when Randolph and his family first moved in to their apartment above Dieter, and back further to give us a view of Randolph’s childhood with a father he was scared of who ‘collected’ guns and was a master marksman.

At first, Randolph, Rebecca and their two children, have a good relationship with Dieter. Dieter bakes cakes and biscuits and even leaves plates of them on their doorstep. All goes well until the day Rebecca meets Dieter in the laundry room and he makes a lewd comment about her underwear. Then the accusations start that he hears them sexually abusing their children. Randolph needs to clear their name before social services are called in to remove their children.

Much of the book, although there are many facets to the story and characters, is of Randolph’s struggle with the brick wall legal system in trying to prove their innocence and that Dieter Tiberius’ is guilty of slanderous assaults on them.

I really enjoyed the book. The characters are well developed and interesting to read about. There is an element of tension with the promise of doom running all the way through – this can’t possibly end well. This is a realistic, sophisticated and grown-up version of the usual psychological thriller.

 

Copy Cat by Alex Lake

Four Stars

Sarah Havenant is a little mystified when an old school friend sends her a message on Facebook asking which account to send her a friend request. Sarah only has one Facebook account so she searches for herself and finds two of her.

Copy Cat

At first, Sarah thinks one of her friends is playing a joke because all the photos on the fake page are of her close family and even within her own home, but these aren’t pictures Sarah’s taken and she hasn’t even seen them before.  It’s got to be someone close until, one by one, her friends and even her husband, think she is doing this to herself.  Things escalate, threats start, even one of her children goes missing, but still it appears that she’s losing her mind, she’s even beginning to question her own sanity. Throughout, Sarah feels certain that it is one particular friend doing all this to her but she can’t find proof and she can’t think of a good reason why she or anyone else would do this. Then one of the most terrifying things happens, imprisoned with no one looking for her she just about gives up on life.

Copy Cat is a fast paced chiller of a story, a good puzzle for the reader because there doesn’t seem to be any good reason for the terrible things happening to Sarah Havenant. The characters are well developed and we meet each one in turn getting a good handle on their personalities and traits.  The ending did seem a bit rushed, or more that everything exciting was crammed in to the last few pages giving an unrealistic ending. This is the first of Alex Lake’s novels I’ve read and I would be happy to read her earlier two or any future ones in the pipeline.

Alex Lake’s Amazon Author Page

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Web of Scars by Farah Ali

Four Stars

If you like your psychological characters to be absolutely psychopathic nutcases, then you’ll love reading about Hester in Web of Scars.

Web of Scars

The opening chapter is of a car crashing down a cliff side with Frances being the only survivor. Her friend and fellow passenger, Rosie, is dead and so is Rosie’s daughter, Nilah.  After so much heartache, injury and relationship deceit, Frances leaves her husband and goes to live in her grandmother’s house which she has recently inherited.  She tries to start a new life for herself with the comfort and familiarity of her childhood neighbours and village, continuing to write her series of children’s book for income. Things really start to take off when Frances hires Josh and Hester to tend the enormous garden.  Josh is a lovely quiet local man with an unfortunate stammer and Hester is a vile and evil individual – except she’s sure to have Frances only see the good in her.

Lots of things mysteriously start to go wrong for Frances and we, the reader, get to see Hester’s cruel and vicious ways.  But why? Who is Hester, why is she so cruel and what has any of this got to do with Frances?

Written in third person, each of the chapters have the individual characters’ viewpoints and a full picture emerges around their relationship to and with Frances.  This gripping story gives a climatic end, allowing the reader to breathe again for the final concluding chapter.

Farah Ali’s Amazon author profile

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Four Stars

This is quite a slow burner of a book, so much so that I felt I didn’t want to carry on with it when I was about 25 – 30% of the way through – but I’m so glad I did.

Best Day Ever

The scene is being set during the first three quarters of the book – yes, that’s a lot of scene setting but it is worth the wait to get a very satisfying ending. Paul is a narcissistic psycho with an ego the size of Greenland. He is a big ‘I am’ and I quickly came to dislike him. He brags about what a lovely little wifey he has got and what beautiful little boys he has, when in fact, his children are scared of him and his wife has no life because he’s such a control freak and has isolated her from all her friends and family. The major part of the book is a car ride from their marital home to their lakeside second home where he is planning ‘the best day ever’ for his lovely wife, Mia. Paul reflects over parts of his life during that car ride giving the reader an insight into his childhood and relationships with family and past girlfriends. There are lots of little hints in the narrative, such as – “I never did get the blood stain off the band” (watch band) to tease us into thinking he did something really bad in the past.

The final quarter or so of the book becomes tense and fast paced. Things start to unravel so we see the true Paul and the strong Mia emerge. I felt a bit disappointed with the ending as far as Paul is concerned (I wanted nasty things to happen to him,) but after reading the author’s notes at the back of the book, there’s a hint of the possibility of a second book with Paul’s character.

Kaira Rouda

 

Kaira Rouda’s website

Kaira Rouda’s Amazon profile

 

 

Deceit In May by Roz Ryszka-Onions

Four Stars

This is a fluid and easy to read suspense story set mostly in the south of England.

Deceit In May

Keira is clearing and selling the family home she shared with her parents. She’s too sad to stay there after first her mother, then father, were shot in an apparent suicide pact. The story begins with her just moving in to a waterside home when a neighbour, Toby, turns up on the doorstep with a much welcome cafetiere of coffee. The two get on amazingly well and quickly become friends. A few days later when out shopping, Nathan introduces himself to Keira and the two very quickly start dating. Keira likes both Toby and Nathan and there is an obvious battle taking place in her head and heart which one of them she wants to be with, not to mention the jealousy between the two men.

Very quickly after moving in to her new home, Keira feels uneasy following a series of unusual events – banging on her door, damage to the property, and even items going missing from inside the house. After nearly being run off the road, she realises that these incidents are part of a serious scare tactic, possibly relating to her parents’ deaths which she starts to question as being a suicide pact.

Keira doesn’t know what she is mixed up in and the story becomes very fast paced with a good few tense and gripping moments to keep the reader captivated.

Her past is part of a conspiracy she knew nothing of which goes to the heart of British aristocracy, businesses and politics. By the end of the book, with a little help from a private investigator, the bad guys have been sorted from the good, leaving Keira to set up home and live safely with her man.

This is the first book I’ve read by Roz Ryszka-Onions and I’m surprised that I’ve not seen her several books or her name mentioned on the many social media sites, pages and groups which I frequent. Her writing style is easy to read, flows well and is quick paced – well worth picking one up.