Trust in Me by Sophie McKenzie (Out this week!)

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Title: Trust in Me
Author: Sophie McKenzie
Series: N/A
Edition: ARC, 464 pages
Publication Details: September 11th 2014 by Simon & Schuster UK
Genre(s): Psychological Thriller
Disclosure? Yep! I received a copy via the publisher/author in exchange for an HONEST review.

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Julia has always been the friend that Livy turns to when life is difficult. United fifteen years ago by grief at the brutal murder of Livy’s sister, Kara, they’ve always told each other everything.

Or so Livy thought.

So when Julia is found dead in her home, Livy cannot come to terms with the news that she chose to end her own life. The Julia that Livy knew was vibrant and vivacious, a far cry from the selfish neurotic that her family seem determined to paint her as.

Troubled by doubt but alone in her suspicions, Livy sets out to prove that Julia was in fact murdered. But little does she realise that digging into her best friend’s private life will cause her to question everything she thought she knew about Julia. And the truth that Livy discovers will tear the very fabric of her own life apart.

Trust in Me was my first Sophie McKenzie read, and the first psychological thriller I’ve read for a while. I totally ate it up.

When Livy finds her vivacious, free-spirited best friend lying dead on her sofa, her life begins to spin out of control. All signs suggest that she’s killed herself, but Livy knew her too well to know for certain that she’d never do a thing like that. Or did she?

Julia’s death not only brings back the horror of Livy’s little sister’s murder years before, but also starts to turn her pre-teen daughter and husband against her. Livy only has Damian – Julia’s boyfriend whom she knows very little about- to turn to, but can she trust him?

It’s been quite a while since I’ve read a book that I just couldn’t put down. As the story unfolds, it’s clear that Kara and Julia’s deaths are related, and all signs are pointing to people close to Livy, or to Damian. Trust in Me was one of those books that I had to stay up reading to find out who the killer was.

McKenzie did an excellent job of creating, and building tension. I felt so sorry for Livy whose life was crumbling down around her and there was nothing she could do about it, and had no one to trust.

There were just enough characters involved to suspect, making it a compelling read.

However, I did feel like the book was too long. Some passages were drawn out, and although I liked getting a complete picture of Livy’s life and past, I found myself skipping ahead sometimes. The pacing was good in parts, in order to build tension, but sometimes I wished McKenzie got to the point a bit quicker.

As for Livy, I liked her for the most part. I felt for her being in such a difficult position, but sometimes I wanted her to pull herself together and stop worrying about what her family thought of her, and just get on with finding out what happened to her best friend.

As the title suggests, this book raised a lot of issues surrounding trust. Will, Livy’s husband had cheated on her years before, but they’d overcome it. Livy trusted him as much as she knew how, but when evidence suggests that not only has Will cheated again, but that he might also be involved with Julia, and her death, understandably, Livy doesn’t know who she can trust.

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

I hated that towards the end of this book it was repeatedly thrown in Livy’s face that she didn’t trust Will, but it was never highlighted that Will didn’t trust her either. He was so quick to dismiss Livy’s belief that Julia was murdered, that he made her think she was going mad. Gah! Double standards or what!

For me, Trust in Me, was a great read with only a few flaws. It reminded me a lot of the ITV drama Broadchurch. Much like with that show, at one point I was so confused as to who the killer was, I tried too hard figure it out and ruined it for myself when I did. In this, I figured it out quite a while before the big reveal which was a bit of a disappointment, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it.

Note to self: Stop thinking too much.

unicorn rating 4

Trust in Me is now available to Pre-order from Waterstones.

When Darkness Falls…

Dark Eden by Chris Beckett

arc2On the alien, sunless planet they call Eden, the 532 members of the Family shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees. Beyond the Forest lie the mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it.

The Oldest among the Family recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross the stars. These ships brought us here, the Oldest say—and the Family must only wait for the travelers to return.

But young John Redlantern will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. He will abandon the old ways, venture into the Dark…and discover the truth about their world.

Woah, was my initial reaction to this book! Not because it completely blew me away, but because it’s such an epic journey to go on. I’m just not sure how much I enjoyed that journey.

Dark Eden is a book full of questions and very little answers. It is set on what we assume is an alien planet (although it’s pretty similar to earth) where almost two hundred years ago, humans crash landed. Some attempted to get back to earth, while one man and one woman thought it was too dangerous and stayed behind, deciding to make a go of living in the blackness of Eden until they were rescued.

Fast forward a hundred years or so and Eden is inhabited only by Family, who live a simple, deprived life, in a monotonous cycle of hunting, building fires and increasing the population by ‘slipping’ with anyone who offers, and a few species of animals similar to ours but with a few extra legs and lights on their heads. Sort of.

I found everything about Dark Eden intriguing. Beckett keeps us in the dark as much as the setting itself. We’re never quite sure where or what Eden is, nor can we trust what any of the characters say or think, because they don’t actually know anything. The world-building was good, and I liked that we were left to our own devices to imagine what certain things looked like but sometimes the lack of any specific details was irritating.

History and ideas about earth have been passed from generation to generation of Family, and many things have gotten lost, which is sometimes how I felt reading the book. Family cling onto a few surviving relics such as a toy car and keyboard but they know nothing of these things. Words have also been passed down like the biggest game of Chinese Whispers, so these too have altered in time making Dark Eden a challenging read to begin with.

Family are also taught that they must stay in one patch of Eden in case Earth returns for them, because that’s what the first settlers did. No one questions it, and no one tries to make their lives better by learning new things or exploring, that is until John Redlantern does.

At the start of the book, John is respected and sought after (for his juice – eww), but his new found inquisitiveness and out-spoken nature turns people against him, and eventually he is banished, sent away from their settlement to explore Dark Eden alone.

One of the main things that prevented me from loving this book was that I found it hard to like any of the characters. John was brave and clever but came across as a bit too aloof and I never felt like I knew him. All of the women in the book were betrayed pretty badly too, and the older members of the family were all completely unlikable – probably because of their tendencies to sleep with teenagers.

But what it lacked in character, Dark Eden made up for in themes and ideas. Each chapter gave me a new outlook on life, and how we live it; how we have evolved, and how society is only as good as the people in it. Family had no forward-thinkers, no one to teach the children and no one who could use their surroundings to invent new things and evolve as race. So they were stuck but didn’t know it.

There is also the obvious ties to the Garden of Eden story. Having to rebuild humanity afresh from just two people, inevitably means incest. The original father Tommy, had sex with his children and their children, and they had sex with their brothers and sisters, which is obviously the reason why some babies are born Batfaces or Clawfeet – although that is never stated, because they are ignorant to it. There’s a lot of talk of ‘baby juice’ which is pretty gross, but it does make you think about relationships and sex in a different way.

I feel like this book could have been shorter, but it was compelling and thought provoking. I wish I liked the characters more, and at times it was infuriating but it is a science fiction story that is scarily believable.

It reminded me of a cross between The Lord of the Flies, The Knife of Never Letting Go, and even Robinson Crusoe at times. It’s quite a feat. Read it.

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure?: Yep, I recieved a copy from the publisher/author in exchange for an HONEST review!
Title: Dark Eden
Author: Chris Beckett
Details: Paperback, 448 pages
Published: April 1st 2014 by Broadway Books (first published January 1st 2012)
My Rating: 4/5

The Medea Complex by Rachel Roberts

med1885. Anne Stanbury – Committed to a lunatic asylum, having been deemed insane and therefore unfit to stand trial for the crime of which she is indicted. But is all as it seems?

Edgar Stanbury – the grieving husband and father who is torn between helping his confined wife recover her sanity, and seeking revenge on the woman who ruined his life.

Dr George Savage – the well respected psychiatrist, and chief medical officer of Bethlem Royal Hospital. Ultimately, he holds Anne’s future wholly in his hands.

The Medea Complex tells the story of a misunderstood woman suffering from insanity in an era when mental illnesses’ were all too often misdiagnosed and mistreated. A deep and riveting psychological thriller set within an historical context, packed full of twists and turns, The Medea Complex explores the nature of the human psyche: what possesses us, drives us, and how love, passion, and hope for the future can drive us to insanity.

The Medea Complex was different to what I was expecting, even though I’m not really sure what I was expecting.

Based on true stories and medical records from the late 1800s, it documents the time that protagonist Anne spends in an asylum.

The thing that drew me to this story was definitely the lunatic asylum setting. I find it fascinating how different things are today to the barbaric nature of those unprecedented, experimental medical practices of that time. Roberts did a great job of setting the scene, making me feel sorry for Anne despite her crime.

I was sucked in from the start.

I’m not always a huge fan of multiple first-person narratives but I thought in worked well in this book. Between Doctor Savage’s notes on Anne’s rehabilitation, Anne’s commentary on the asylum and what she goes through there, and Edgar’s grief-stricken behaviour, we are swept away into a world filled with intrigue, anticipation and mystery.

This is one of those books that is hard to review without giving away any spoilers so you’ll have to forgive me for not going into plot details. But what I will say is this, the last thing I was expecting was for The Medea Complex to turn into a court-room drama, but it did, and it was good!

I thought the second half of the book really picked up the pace, there are double-crossings, murders, missing persons, and you’re never quite sure what, or who to believe. On the whole, I enjoyed the narrative voice – especially the humour, considering the serious subject matter – but I did sometimes feel like there weren’t enough differences between each of the characters. I sometimes got confused about who was speaking (even though each chapter is named) which occasionally brought me out of the story.

Overall, I was impressed with this debut novel which kept me guessing, and I especially enjoyed the author’s notes detailing the characters and events that were based on fact, and where she found them. I think the work Roberts must have put in definitely paid off.

unicorn rating 4

Disclosure?: I received a free copy fro the author in exchange for an HONEST review.
Title: The Medea Complex
Author: Rachel Florence Roberts
Details: Paperback, e-book, 272 pages
Published: Published November 1st 2013 by CreateSpace
My Rating: 4/5

Blog Take-Over!

Jennifer Gilby Roberts: The Inspiration behind her latest novel After Wimbledon

Did I ever mention that I love tennis? Oh I thought so…so you'll understand how thrilled I am to hand over my blog today to Jennifer Gilby Roberts, author of Tennis Romance, After Wimbledon.

Continue reading for Giveaway details!

The Inspiration Behind After Wimbledon

JGR
Naturally, for a novel by an English writer about the Wimbledon tennis tournament, After Wimbledon was born in Australia. For the tennis fans: it is the Laura Robson of chick lit novels.

I was taking some time out after finishing my degree. Having fried my brain by studying physics, a light-hearted romance was all I was good for. I arrived in Melbourne halfway through the Australian Open and spent most of the next week hanging out in Fed Square watching the action on their big screen. That was fabulous because it was right in the middle of the city and anyone could just wander down. I even sat in the Rod Laver Arena (the equivalent of Centre Court) for one day. Since I was travelling alone, I managed to grab an odd seat right in the front row. I heard Roger Federer swear, that’s how close I was. (RFed swears!? I am shocked!)

At the same time, I was struggling with a decision. I’d been dating someone for a couple of years before I went away and had left him back home. In a twist on the classic tale, he was sure we were for keeps and I was uncertain. I was only 23 when we started dating and wasn’t expecting to get serious. Marriage was something for my thirties, if it happened at all. One morning, in a shower stall at the hostel, I broke it off over the phone. It was Australia Day, but the fireworks seemed rather out-of-place.

A few weeks later, I decided it was time to write another novel. My first, The Dr Pepper Prophecies, had been completed five years earlier. Suddenly, I had something to write about again: tennis and major life confusion. And out of those things After Wimbledon was born. The first draft contained much angst. I reckon I cut out about 30,000 words to get to the final version. I’m just counting that bit as therapy. It’s a much better read without it!

And the boyfriend I mentioned? Reader, I married him. Only happy endings here…

After Wimbledon

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After 12 years on the pro. tennis tour and four years with her sort-of boyfriend, Lucy Bennett has had enough. She wants real life… and real love.

Her life, her decision. Right? Well, no one else seems to think so. With opinions on all sides, Lucy’s head is spinning. And she’s stumbling right into the arms of long-term crush and fellow player Sam. Shame her boyfriend – his arch-rival – would sooner smash a racquet over their heads than agree to a simple change of partners.

As the Wimbledon Championships play out, Lucy fights for her life on and off the courts. The question is: what will she be left with after Wimbledon?

After Wimbledon is available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, other Amazon sites and Barnes & Noble

Giveaway!

You can win an e-copy of After Wimbledon, and many other great ebooks, in the Chick Lit Ebook Giveaway on Jennifer Gilby Roberts’ blog, 1-14 March 2014.

Find Jennifer Gilby Roberts on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, LibraryThing, Wattpad and Amazon.

I can’t wait to read this, look out for my review in next fortnight. Huge thanks to Jennifer!

New Find for Horror October: House of Small Shadows by Adam Nevill

I saw this in the review section of The Guardian this morning and thought it sounded like a pretty promising Horror novel from a British author, which is nice. Taxidermy and dolls…ugh. Also, THE COVER! Creep-tastic!

18161866 Catherine’s last job ended badly. Corporate bullying at a top television production company saw her fired and forced to leave London, but she was determined to get her life back. A new job and now things look much brighter. Especially when a challenging new project presents itself — to catalogue the late M H Mason’s wildly eccentric cache of antique dolls and puppets. Rarest of all, she’ll get to examine his elaborate displays of posed, costumed and preserved animals, depicting scenes from World War I. When Mason’s elderly niece invites her to stay at the Red House itself, where she maintains the collection, Catherine can’t believe her luck. Until his niece exposes her to the dark message behind her uncle’s ‘Art’. Catherine tries to concentrate on the job, but M H Mason’s damaged visions raise dark shadows from her own past. Shadows she’d hoped had finally been erased. Soon the barriers between reality, sanity and memory start to merge. And some truths seem too terrible to be real.

Title: House of Small Shadows
Author: Adam Nevill
Details: Hardcover, 320 pages. Published October 10th 2013 by Tor

Read the review here.