How to be Human by Paula Cocozza

“He was lying on the grass in the centre of her garden. He had chosen an ostentatious spot for a doze. But she didn’t believe he was sleeping, because although his body presented itself as entirely still, his ears spiked sharply, ready to countermand his elegant sprawl.”

This is a really hard book to review without giving the plot away, which is how I like to write up the books I read.

It is about Mary, who lives alone, in a house she bought -out from her ex-boyfriend. Her neighbours Michelle and Eric are friendly enough, with their two kids; George and Flora, the babe-in-arms.

Life is not currently a pleasant place for Mary, I mentioned she had split up with her boyfriend! She is still single and her neighbours invite her to their barbecue. Are they matchmaking?

Talk turns to the local fox population, Michelle has a thing about them and seems to want to get an exterminator in, Mary isn’t so sure.

Mary has a problem of saying the wrong thing and then regretting what she has said. It’s a confidence thing. Maybe with time she will grew stronger, particularly now she has a new companion and protector. At least he will help keep her ex, who has just reappeared unexpectedly in the neighbourhood, at bay.

Mary confused me and yet I totally understood her. I empathised with her so much in many ways and then found myself thinking, why?

How do I score this book? I enjoyed it, but by the same token I found it odd. This is one you will have to decide on for yourself as to whether it is for you. I can’t compare it to anything I’ve read to give you any clues.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

3/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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Official description:
‘An intriguing and subversive debut, charged with the power of the ignored and the suppressed.’ Hilary Mantel
‘Eerie, original . . . A thrilling exploration of what makes us human.’ i
You’ve seen a fox.
Come face to face in an unexpected place, or at an unexpected moment.
And he has looked at you, as you have looked at him. As if he has something to tell you, or you have something to tell him.
But what if it didn’t stop there?
When Mary arrives home from work one day to find a magnificent fox on her lawn – his ears spiked in attention and every hair bristling with his power to surprise – it is only the beginning. He brings gifts (at least, Mary imagines they are gifts), and gradually makes himself at home.
And as he listens to Mary, Mary listens back.
She begins to hear herself for the first time in years. Her bullish ex-boyfriend, still lurking on the fringes of her life, would be appalled. So would the neighbours with a new baby. They only like wildlife that fits with the decor. But inside Mary a wildness is growing that will not be tamed.
In this extraordinary debut, the lines between sanity and safety, obsession and delusion blur, in a thrilling exploration of what makes us human.

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Sometimes I Lie By Alice Feeney

“Stars cannot shine without darkness, whispers the little girl.”

I went into this book completely open-minded, based on the opening lines of the book.
“My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me any more.
3. Sometimes I lie.”

For the size of the book, I actually read it very quickly, I was in one of my immersive moods. This was a good book for escaping the world in, in that the main character is escaping to different places in her mind while trapped in a coma.

The plot unfolds via flashbacks, diary entries and ‘here and now’ happenings. Sometimes Amber lies, but you cannot necessarily tell! Her sister, Claire, and Amber’s husband, Paul, are regular visitors at her bedside, sometimes at the same time. There are lots of undercurrents between the two of them, and it is hard to work out whether there is something going on or not, particularly as Amber doesn’t always tell the truth.
I admit to being tripped up between the two main female characters a time or two, so that meant I had to do a little backtracking, but it was worth it.
Alice Feeney manages to pack a lot of detail into her telling, which really helps you engage with the story, I could see it in my mind’s eye so vividly.
There are lots of plot twists cleverly woven into the tapestry of the story, the way they are revealed keeps you continually turning the pages as the different elements of the story come together and then something else comes to the fore as Amber’s mind whisks her down another tunnel.
I will of course have to read the entire book again to get the most from the twists and turns and tiny little bits that are there but you don’t notice and then think, Oh!
Even though I know how it ends and it ends really well let me tell you, it is definitely one to read twice and to recommend. So go read it, won’t you.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

5/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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Sometimes I Lie

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Official description:
My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:
1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.
Unnerving, twisted and utterly compelling, you won’t be able to put this new thriller down. Set to be the most talked about book in 2017, it’s perfect for fans of Behind Closed Doors,The Girl on the Train and The Widow.

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Everything But The Truth by Gillian Mcallister

“I paused, my finger poised over the email. One swipe and I could see it. I must have waited a second too long, because the iPad dimmed, and I replaced it on the table, the email and my mad moment almost forgotten.”

This book seemed like it was going to be a real mystery tale, but what was it really about?

The story gradually builds up to a really intense situation which seems to have no escape route. Rachel goes about things in such an about turn manner when she suspects her boyfriend, and father of her child, of doing something really out of range following an email that she half catches a glimpse of, in the middle of the night. This is despite her own secret which is eating away at her, following an incident at the hospital where she worked.

Rachel gradually burrows her way into the secrets that Jack has buried deep and drives such a deep wedge between them. How can they ever bring up their unborn child as a loving couple after this? Such a sad, lonely tale !

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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It all started with the email. It came through to her boyfriend’s iPad in the middle of the night. Rachel didn’t even mean to look. She loves Jack, and she’s pregnant with their child. She trusts him. But now she’s seen it, she can’t undo that moment, or the chain of events it has set in motion. Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn’t Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?

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The Girl Before by J P Delaney

“And it’s smart. It learns who you are and what your usual routine is, but anyone else, it’ll check with you to make sure they’re authorised.”

I like minimalist and the fact that the house had a lot of rules intrigued me. Plus a mysterious thriller to read, I was so keen to read this book. I imagined white rooms with stainless or brushed steel fittings and bare floors. I’m wondering about the rules though, what are they?!

The book follow two timelines, one for Jane and one for Emma. It is easy to follow as all the sections start with either “Then:Emma” or “Now:Jane”. Both Emma and Jane have had trauma in their lives (as have many people, but in their case, it is relatively recent) and need to move on. Finding somewhere suitable to live at an affordable price can be a challenge, when you need to feel secure in your home environment. Their estate agents offer to show them One Folgate Street as a final last ditch attempt to find them somewhere that fits their requirements. Both Emma and Jane are advised that the terms of the lease are strict, and unusual. Plus there is an involved application process with no guarantee that they will get through to the final hurdle, a personal interview.

Having completed the form and gone through the hoops, the tenants are introduced to the house and it’s systems. The house looks after its occupants, the occupants keep the house clutter-free and clean, and “obey the rules”.

Over the course of the book Jane’s story unfolds and Jane, in turn, unravels Emma’s story as she settles in to her new home. In doing so Jane begins to wonder if her own life is in danger and races to find out what happened to Emma in order to save herself.

I read this book in one day and thoroughly enjoyed it. It has stayed with me as snippets have popped into my mind from time to time. It reminded me ever so slightly of an old film I’ve seen, where the technology of the house comes alive and wants to stay that way.

This book is worth taking time to read. Book some time out in your diary.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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Enter the world of One Folgate Street and discover perfection . . . but can you pay the price? 

For all fans of The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl comes this spellbinding Hitchcockian thriller which takes psychological suspense to the next level

Jane stumbles on the rental opportunity of a lifetime: the chance to live in a beautiful ultra-minimalist house designed by an enigmatic architect, on condition she abides by a long list of exacting rules. After moving in, she discovers that a previous tenant, Emma, met a mysterious death there – and starts to wonder if her own story will be a re-run of the girl before. As twist after twist catches the reader off guard, Emma’s past and Jane’s present become inexorably entwined in this tense, page-turning portrayal of psychological obsession.

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Distress Signals A Novel by Catherine Ryan Howard

“She found red blotches on her neck and chest, blooming purple bruises on her arms. Her hair was thin and wispy, her eyes dull. Dead already—that was how she looked. She had found him just in the nick of time.”

I was waiting for this book to be released. Catherine blogged about her experience of writing this book and I found it very engaging. I don’t know how she found the time. Anyway on to the story… I followed Catherine’s blog as she was writing this book, so of course I was dead keen to read it. I started with a sample, so I knew how the book started and that convinced me that the book would be a good read.

Adam loves Sarah and after many years of trying has got a movie deal for a script, meaning he is no longer dependent on the woman he loves. He needs to do a rewrite and then the money is his. Sarah is off to Barcelona for a work trip so it is the ideal opportunity to get stuck into work. The deal is that they won’t contact each other, so that Adam can focus!

Then Sarah’s parents contact Adam because they unable to raise Sarah on her mobile, so they try the home number. Adam reassures them initially, then begins to wonder if something is wrong.

From this point on Adam is on a journey of discovery about Sarah’s life and what has happened to her and others over the years.

It is a book worth reading, it seems well researched and reads true. There are other threads running through the story which add a pique to the novel, to keep the mystery going.

I enjoyed reading it and anticipate that Catherine will be producing further quality novels in the future, so add her to your watch list.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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A MISSING GIRL.

A TRAIL OF SECRETS.

A KILLER WHO’S FOUND THE PERFECT HUNTING GROUND.

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Holding by Graham Norton

“…her small hand pushing open the heavy wooden door with its flaking paint, the shadow on the floor moving slowly from side to side, the work boots with dirty soles and one lace untied, the hands that had patted her on the head that very morning, now hanging limply. The creaking of the rope. That was where her memories ended. She could never see his face.”

Life in the Irish village of Duneen is very quiet until a body is discovered. I wasn’t sure what I expected, but liked the idea of reading about Irish village life, so decided to give this novel a go.

The story centres mainly around PJ Collins the sargeant who works in the village. He is overweight and just longing to make prove that he is good at something. So when a body is discovered at the new housing estate being built in the village, he thinks this could possibly be his opportunity. Brid O’Riorden and Evelyn Ross are shaken up badly when it is said that the body could possibly be that of Tommy Burke, who they both loved when they were younger. Before he left the village for good.

But then everything changes. It isn’t Tommy and the body remains unidentified. Public interest wanes and life continues in the village. PJ continues to struggle with his work and his weight, Evelyn continues to struggle with her acceptance of how life has turned out and Brid continues to try and find a way to resolve her drinking problems and sort out her marriage and family circumstances. Until further information twist events in the villagers lives again and more drama unfolds.

It was an interesting novel, with lots of depth and intrigue, some sadness and grief, and a bit of mystery, which you would expect from a crime novel.
If you like to read mystery crime thrillers, then I am sure that you will like this.

I particularly liked the bit when a sickly Abigail responded to a question, she “stuck her arm up in the air and waved her fingers from side to side as if an invisible sock puppet was saying ‘no’.” It nearly made me laugh out loud, particularly as I have been caught doing exactly that!

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother-of-two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad, Holding is a masterful debut. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters, and explore – with searing honesty – the complexities and contradictions that make us human.

A Note From the Publisher
HOLDING is not the novel I planned to write, at least, not at first. But following the old adage to write about what you know, Ireland seemed a good place to start, especially rural Ireland. I did have in mind a cast of characters living in and around a small village where their lives would reflect the priorities and concerns – land, marriage, religion – that are so present in that area still.

I found as I wrote more about the characters of Duneen that each of them had in some way become suspended in time – due to grief, due to unhappiness, due to fear of failure – and that they were all holding on to their own secrets.

I am hugely excited that HOLDING is now heading out into the world, and would love to hear what you think. Please do let me know on Twitter @Grahnort using the hashtag #readholding. I will be watching!

Best

Graham

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Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner

‘Trace. Interview. Eliminate.’ ‘Just … don’t walk,’ Harriet is saying, covering a yawn with her fist. ‘You don’t know –we don’t know –who’s out there.’

Obviously this is a crime thriller style story, which is pretty much what I was expecting.

It is written turn-style, with different character viewpoints, thoughts and experiences. Now, I don’t mind this style of writing as I feel it is a good way of getting a story across, but I know that some people really don’t like it. However, it is worth persevering as in this instance there are different ‘opinions’ about what has or is happening, so you, the reader, needs to ‘hear’ what each of the characters have to ‘say’.

Edith Hind has gone missing! Her keys, passport and phone are still at home, the door is unlatched. A broken glass is in the kitchen and a trail of blood leads through her house.

Manon is on the case, she is single, lonely and looking for someone to make her life complete.

Edith’s mother, Miriam, is questioning her relationships, with Edith her daughter; and with Sir Ian her husband. She has doubts and worries, she wants everything to be fine and normal.

There are many people involved in this story of a person gone missing. There is death and intrigue. It is not what or who you think it is. And although you think you know, you definitely don’t!

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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A MISSING GIRL
Edith Hind is gone, leaving just her coat, a smear of blood and a half-open door.

A DESPERATE FAMILY
Each of her friends and relatives has a version of the truth. But none quite adds up.

A DETECTIVE AT BREAKING POINT
The press grows hungrier by the day. Can DS Manon Bradshaw fend them off, before a missing persons case becomes a murder investigation?
Advance Praise
“The most satisfying read in ages…slyly funny… so CLEVER… so well-written. Utterly brilliant.” INDIA KNIGHT

“A cracking page-turner” WOMAN & HOME

“clever, witty… an absorbing plot with a startling twist” SUNDAY EXPRESS

“spectacular and deeply satisfying” RED

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Local Girl Missing by Claire Douglas

‘It’s been such a long time,’ he says, his eyes fixed on mine. ‘So many years. So many lies.’

I expected a crime thriller, with a darker than usual thread running through it.

Frankie is surprised to receive a call from her old best friends brother, Daniel, asking her to cone back to her old home to go with him to identify her remains, which have turned up after nearly 20 years since her death/suspected murder. He arranges an apartment for her to stay in, while they try and work out what happened to Sophie at the end.

Frankie finds it difficult being back in Oldcliffe-On-Sea, there are too many memories and she finds herself obsessing about her dead best friend Sophie to the point that she starts seeing her: on the pier, in the apartment where she is staying, at places around Oldcliffe-On-Sea.

Frankie has had a hard life, a failed marriage and failed to have children, she feels these things strongly and they affect her ability to think about men in a rational way. As she spends more time in Oldcliffe-On-Sea, she starts to drink too much and struggles to stay rational about her dead best friend, Sophie, as well.

How did she die? What happened before she died? Who, if anyone, killed her?

At one point I knew who had killed Sophie, even before their involvement in the story became clear. But then, I’m not always right about everything!

This story allowed me to think that I knew where it was heading. Then it tripped me up just before the end and sent me down a different route. Meanwhile it was still engaging enough to keep me reading and guessing about the finer details of the story until the very end. It was a good read and I think anyone who has read the likes of Redemption Road by Lisa Ballantyne (you can read my review of that book here: https://julieshort.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/redemption-road-by-lisa-ballantyne-finished-12-april-2015/) will enjoy it as much as me. That book stayed with me for a long time after I had finished reading it, and I don’t doubt that this book will too.

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

4/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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FROM THE AUTHOR OF THE SISTERS – ONE OF THE BEST SELLING DÉBUTS OF 2015 – COMES A TENSE PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLER RIPPED STRAIGHT FROM THE HEADLINES . . . Twenty years ago 21-year-old Sophie Collier vanishes one night. She leaves nothing behind but a trainer on the old pier – and a hole in the heart of her best friend Francesca. Now A body’s been found. And Francesca’s drawn back to the seaside town she’s tried to forget. Perhaps the truth of what happened to Sophie will finally come out. Yet Francesca is beginning to wish she hadn’t returned. Everywhere she turns are ghosts from her past. The same old faces and familiar haunts of her youth. But if someone knows what really happened to Sophie that night then now’s the time to find out – isn’t it? Except sometimes discovering the truth can cost you everything you hold dear – your family, your sanity and even your life . . .

A Feral Darkness by Doranna Durgin

“…as darkness thundered up the hill for her, ripping through the creek, shredding what brush remained on the island, churning a wide path up the hill, she dropped the rifle and yanked Druid’s leash, jerking him right off his feet and into the area she’d always considered part of the spring.”

Telling it from the end, I sobbed out loud and hoped no-one in the room heard, so that I didn’t have to explain why!
The story was a good one, engaging and intriguing.
Brenna links the spring on her parents farm to an old God when she is a girl of 9. Later a group of lads bring a darker force to the area, which wants to take up its own residence at the spring. Brenna must work out who is ‘with her’ and who is ‘against her’, including her mother, brother and the new dog obedience trainer at the pet store, where she is a groomer.
I found Durgin’s description of the dog ‘speak’ very realistic. My own dog also ‘speaks’ to me and some of her words are just like Druid’s or Sunny’s such as “Whoouh” 😀.
I have read other reviews where the references to Brenna’s hair are criticised as over the top. Myself, I didn’t notice these! Every author gives personal details to their characters to make them real, if you have long hair, you behave differently to someone with short hair. I’ve had both, so didn’t find Brenna’s behaviour odd, as regards her hair, or anything else.
This book was one of the most enjoyable ones I have read. It isn’t the type of book I usually go out of my way to read, I am glad I did and I recommend it to anyone who has a slight interest in ‘old gods’ and human/animal relationships.

5/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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As a child, dog-loving Brenna Fallon naívely invokes an ancient Celtic deity to save her beloved hound–and inadvertently anchors the new-found power at a spring on her family’s farm.

She doesn’t know she’s also left an opening for a far more malevolent force.

Years later, thanks to the actions of several angry young men, Brenna discovers the terrible potential of that gateway. With a devastating plague unfolding abruptly around her, she must depend on her wits, a stranger she doesn’t trust, and a mysterious stray dog who becomes more than just a faithful companion as she struggles to drive back the threat of a modern Black Death.

Welded by a desperate sacrifice, woman, man, and dog face the feral darkness together.

Subject 375 (The Spider in the corner of the Room) by Nikki Owen

‘You have to stay in here,’ she says. ‘Stay in Goldmouth. It is vital, understand? We know who you are. You need to stay put. Or Callidus will come knocking. Forget Father Reznik, you hear? Forget he was ever there. You shouldn’t have come looking in the first place. Either of you.’

What I expected:
It was the description for this book that tempted me. The fact that Maria had been incarcerated, but had no memory of the murder. 

What it was:
This book kept me engaged all the way through, even though it flits between past and present. The descriptions of what Maria is experiencing and her feelings of losing her grip are so realistic, you feel for her.  The desperation! Because of her Aspergers, Maria struggles to recognise facial expressions and to moderate her behaviours, this doesn’t help her situation while she is in prison. And, the people around her are not all they seem, she doesn’t know who is trying to help her, who is trying to hinder her. She does know that she needs to keep her journal, to write down all her thoughts, whether they make sense or not.

This is definitely a book that I would buy, I really enjoyed reading it. I will also be recommending it to my book reading friends. 

I received an e-ARC of this novel through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. NetGalley does not allow for paid reviews.

Subject 375 was previously titled The Spider in the Corner of the Room.

5/5 Stars (What this means…five-stars-applied-carefully)

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What to believe
Who to betray
When to run

Plastic surgeon Dr Maria Martinez has Asperger’s. Convicted of killing a Catholic priest, she is alone, in prison and has no memory of the murder.
DNA evidence places Maria at the scene of the crime, yet she claims she’s innocent. Then she starts to remember…
A strange room. Strange people. Being watched.
As Maria gets closer to the truth she is drawn into a web of international intrigue and must fight not only to clear her name but to remain alive.