Don’t worry its just me! here to chat about what I have been reading over the past month!
Ever since my post about the dramatic change I made from book-phobe to a completely obsessed with reading- never seen without a book, always carrying a book in her bag- book lover (which by the way if you missed it you should totally go read it while you’re here) I have been itching to write this post. I’m just so excited to revisit these books again.
I don’t know about you all, but when I close the last page of the book and remove the bookmark from its well-loved pages I feel a strange swell of sadness. For me every book I finish still feels like a major accomplishment (which will make sense to those of you who read my other blog post (seriously…. go check it out))
Also, I feel like this goes without saying but I’m going to be talking about characters and storyline within this blog- I will avoid spoilers to the best of my ability.
If you are an avid book review reader I do apologise if this post is somewhat disappointing as I have never written anything like this no do I really know what people write about in this sort of expression. For the past few months, I have been OBSESSED with reading Crime Fiction and Thriller novels all with strong female main characters (i mean we all love a strong independent woman) so these books are within that genre, and I’m not even sorry about it because I love these women and their stories so damn much!
Let’s jump in, shall we?
‘The Girl Before’ By JP Delaney
Enter the world of One Folgate Street and discover perfection . . . but can you pay the price?
‘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’
THIS BOOK. GUYS. IM STILL NOT OVER IT!
Firstly the twist at the end is just amazing. I did not see it coming, It is so cleverly written that you could never in your wildest dreams predict this twist! I think the only thing I struggled with (which in all honesty is probably because I have not been reading for a super long time) would be the way the author structures speech. I found myself getting a little lost and re-reading lines sometimes to double check I was applying the lines to the correct character. But like I say- that was probably more me than the book itself.
What drew me to this book in the first place was how one of its main conflicts in the storyline is technology. If your house is smarter than you are, can you trust it to keep you safe? Is anything ever really private if your house can track everything from your calorie intake to your sleeping patterns, stress levels and social interactions? Can you trust your home, which is smarter than any human, to keep your secrets? Moreover, how do you know it doesn’t have secrets of its own?
What’s interesting is that this is a technology that (probably) is available somewhere already. Smart homes are not a futuristic invention of the imagination, they are already here, and technology, really, has already moved on. But what about if you cross minimalism architecture with an extremely technologically advanced A.I system. (yes it’s smarter than your TV, Watch and that app that controls your lights)
Moreover what if that entire property was self-contained? What if your home was so smart it had no keys? It just unlocked itself when it ‘saw’ you coming?
Welcome to One Felgate Street.
The book focus’ on two main characters – Emma and Jane. Janes story unfolds in the present day, generally, the reader only knows as much as Jane knows as the plot twists and turns (there are some exceptions to this near the end of the book) Whereas Emma’s story takes place in the past. Emma is ‘The Girl Before’ (pardon the cheesiness, I am obviously enjoying writing this far too much)
Both women have just been through some trauma and are struggling through its aftermath, in need of a fresh start. The book opens the first two chapters with both women (in their respective timelines) viewing properties with an estate agent, but having no luck finding something suitable. This is when their estate agent(s) warily place One Felgate Street on the table, a house with some serious history and meticulous application process – and of course, both women fall in love… but it’s not as simple as that.
One Felgate Street is a Minimalist architectures dream but its beauty comes with a price- and when both women get past the invasive tests set by the owner, they put everything on the line to live there, even their privacy, relationships and possibly even their safety. What starts out as a beautiful new home filled with light, possibility, reflection and healing- soon becomes a dark, cold, cage holding the women like mice in a testing chamber. It soon becomes apparent that the Owners intentions with his tenants are far much more than simply scientific.
When it comes to the characters themselves, this book does a good job of showing their conflicts and emotional journeys. both characters have a clear arc which they follow through the book and are well fleshed out.
But Delaney wants to keep you guessing- just when you think you know the characters they do something completely out of the blue, or one woman will discover something about the other which COMPLETELY changes the way you view them. Although it moves the story along efficiently and delivers some important plot points and many unanticipated twists in the storyline, I don’t think this decision is always so great- only because it starts to feel like certain things are out of character and like the reader is being kept at arm’s length away from the characters themselves, never really knowing them intimately.
For example, at the end of the book, there is a scene in which you learn something about Jane’s motive which really changes the way you view the entire book, it would change the reasoning behind everything she had done up until that point and really, I didn’t think it made sense. To be honest it still confuses me a little now- However, it definitely makes me want to revisit this book and see if actually, upon re-reading it, it does make sense, and maybe the book is set up like that on purpose, for you to re-read it and understand it on an entirely different level upon doing so.
With so many interesting key themes such as PTSD, A.I, miscarriage and stillbirth (not a spoiler), Sexual Harassment, mental illnesses like narcissism and sociopathy/psychopathy as well as some well thought out plot twists that you won’t see coming. All tied together with high emotions, complex characters and some really quite intense intimate scenes (which I was definitely not expecting when deciding to read this on the bus) this book is an amazing read. It completely took over my life for about 2 weeks. I couldn’t put it down.
If bees did truly have knees, my friends, this book would be all over them.
You can find ‘The Girl Before’ on Amazon here.
‘The Dead Ex’ by Jane Corry
‘Vicki’s husband David once promised to love her in sickness and in health. But after a brutal attack left her suffering with epilepsy, he ran away with his mistress.
So when Vicki gets a call one day to say that he’s missing, her first thought is ‘good riddance’. But then the police find evidence suggesting that David is dead. And they think Vicki had something to do with it.
What really happened on the night of David’s disappearance?
And how can Vicki prove her innocence, when she’s not even sure of it herself?’
This one took me a little while to get into mostly because I didn’t LOVE the characters until the middle of the book, and even then I don’t think I really cared or connected with them as deeply as I have with other books. But of course, all that is completely unique to the reader and depends on their conditioning and experiences in life. You may fall in love with these ladies instantly, I just never found that deep connection, this isn’t to say the characters aren’t written or developed well.
‘The Dead Ex’ follows several female characters (each chapter jumping to a different character) across a number of years. At first the characters have little to no interaction, and actually one of the reasons I struggled with this book at first was because I couldn’t figure out how they were relevant to each other, and why I needed to know these characters in relation to the main plot point of the story. but I stuck it out, and I am glad I did.
The book is separated into three parts, each one building upon the previous to create a huge amount of backstory (covered from multiple perspectives) and build up serious ‘who done it’ vibes. But what I loved the most about this read was the real world issues it challenged.
The big one is the E word- Epilepsy. Vicki, the leading lady of this story lives with Epilepsy and it made for a really interesting character choice. It gave the character a whole range of new conflicts and educated the reader a little whilst doing so.
Before this book, there were so many sides to this illness that I had never even considered and actually its an eye opener as to how much it affects Vicki’s day-to-day tasks. for example, she can’t have many of the household appliances that most of us probably use every day and take for granted- for if she were to have a seizure whilst using them it could be fatal or cause a serious injury. The illness also affects her memory which is a huge plot point in the story when she is under a microscope for her ex-husband’s murder but even she doesn’t know if she did it. Was she really capable of that? There actually comes a point when I as a reader sat there thinking ‘oh god, she actually could have done it, and she doesn’t even know’. That thought itself is heartbreaking, knowing how much Vicki loves her ex still, after everything (and that says a lot because he is, pardon my language, a complete dick)
On top of all this, the Epilepsy also cleared the way for another hugely important theme and moral issue within the justice system- using illness to convict someone of a crime they might not have committed.
When the police come to Vicki about her ex-husband’s disappearance they are clearly already suspicious of her and ask her straight out where she is keeping him.
This suspicion initially is based on some of her intense, stalker-like tendencies since the divorce, she rings him just to hear his answerphone, she goes back to her old hometown to revisit places they went to, really she is just a woman nursing her heartbreak, and battling mental illness as well as epilepsy. Still, her behaviour does seem suspicious and lands the suffocating police spotlight solely on her.
There comes a point, however, when the police seem to be unable to find any evidence and start to move along, and Vicki can breathe again once more. This is until they discover that her condition affects her memory, in court, this would be a huge weak point in Vicki’s alibi and (probably) be enough to sway the jury.
It is suggested that the Police go to huge lengths to support this theory, even to the extent of hiding evidence that could prove elements of her alibi true, making the ‘E-card’ play significantly weaker. As the investigation continues, they start tieing her to other crimes too, threatening her with life in prison for crimes she knows she did not commit. but will anyone believe her?
The Dead Ex carries even more strong themes within its seams which we as readers can identify with much more personally- some of the main contenders’ being heartbreak and grief. As I have already stated through the book Vicki is still getting over her ex, David- who is a bit of a womanizer (did I mention he is a douchebag?)
We explore her heartbreak in-depth learning about her views on the relationship and how she felt like her whole life was leading up to her meeting him. She had that intense sort of love, almost on the Bonnie and Clyde level. I had so much empathy for her, I felt how fiercely she loved him- with nothing held back. How he changed her world. What’s heartbreaking is this all has to be written in past tense- for it had a rather abrupt end. And now a new Mrs Goudman takes her place- his mistress now a wife. you can’t help but feel her heartbreak with her and adopt her hate for Tanya as your own. All the time knowing that Vicki is better off without him, but at the same time somewhat glad that now, no one else can have him either.
The only challenge I had with this book is its pace- it moves along very VERY quickly, with chapters jumping backwards and forwards to different timelines and perspectives constantly, making it hard to keep up. As a reader, you really have to make sure you are paying attention to what you are reading and the dates the chapters take place. At times I found myself struggling to keep up.
Furthermore, some of the twists it has in store are slightly predictable but I think in this case it’s actually not a bad thing because it has you playing the detective. Making your own theories and feeling a sense of achievement learning that one of them is correct, rather than being disappointed that you saw a twist coming.
With so many characters being covered (i can’t really talk about the others without giving the story away) it tests the reader’s loyalty to the characters and makes you pick a side, who do you want to end up happy?
As I flew from chapter to chapter I found that as characters unravelled my favourites constantly changed, one moment I was all for Vicki’s story, then suddenly Scarlettes chapters became my favourite. Really- I couldn’t put this book down- it waits until the very end to deliver its final punch. At one point I thought it was going to have a really horrible ending with no characters ending up happy until it all changed just pages before its end.
If you love a good crime thriller and prefer reading a faster-paced story that’ll keep you wanting more- this is the book for you. And GUESS WHAT?! you can find it here!
I worry that due to me having absolutely no self-control when talking about these books that this post is now getting slightly too long so, I am going to wrap it up here despite having one more book I wanted to talk about. (Feel free to let me know in the comments if you feel it would have been too long or not) I will definitely be following up this post with one dedicated to the last book which is one of my absolute favourites!
And yes you will have to wait to find out what book it is!
I hope you all enjoyed my first attempt at reviewing some of my favourite reads this month! I welcome all constructive criticism! I have really loved writing this one!!
That’s all for now!!
– Whitney –