Expectation by Anna Hope

Expectation by Anna Hope

 

40611121._sy475_Publisher: Doubleday

Publishing Date: 11th July 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 322

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover| Paperback

 

Synopsis:

‘If you wished Normal People had tackled female friendship, try Expectation’ GRAZIA
‘Will resonate with approximately 99% of women’ RED MAGAZINE summer pick

Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends.

Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life?

The most razor-sharp and heartbreaking novel of the year, EXPECTATION is a novel about finding your way: as a mother, a daughter, a wife, a rebel.

FOR FANS OF SALLY ROONEY, DIANA EVANS, DOLLY ALDERTON, ELIZABETH DAY AND FLEABAG

Rating: five-stars

 

“Expectation” introduces us to three best friends, Cate, Hannah and Lissa, and follows their lives from the carefree and easy twenties, back to their troubled teens, to the harsh reality of thirties and forties. They used to share a house in East London, sharing their dreams and expectations for the future, enjoying their lives, friendship and fun. Ten years on and life hasn’t panned out as they’d like it to. Cate has recently moved to Kent with her new family, husband and a baby but she’s not sure if it’s really what she wants, especially as she feels so isolated; Hannah is trying her third round of IVF, desperate for a child, not noticing that this desire for a baby is destroying her marriage; Lissa is still trying to make it as an actress. How did they get there, wrestling with envy over each other’s lives?

It is a bitter – sweet and brutally raw and honest story exploring the highs and lows of friendship, showing different faces of this relationship.

The story flips backwards and forwards in time, changing the narration between the three women and tells, very realistically and honest, their happiest and saddest moments in their lives, showing how your point of view changes with increasing age, how you start to see the same things differently gaining experience. The author has so well captured the difference between the carefree, sunny days when they were in their twenties and had no real problems, and then when the reality brutally came and bitten them years later. I loved how the stories seamlessly intertwined together and how realistic they felt. The book is beautifully written.

I must admit that the characters were not the most likeable ones, and I actually have never warmed to any of the three friends. They were all determined in their own ways and yes, they fought for their own happiness, which is commendable, but it was at any cost. However, they were all so very well drawn, with their flaws, annoying habits but also their good points and they felt like living and breathing people, making mistakes and not always learning their lesson. Cate was the golden girl, with her First from Cambridge but because of a heartbreak she just gave up and is working in a cafe. Hannah, rejected from Cambridge, turned the disappointment into a successful career. And Lissa, the gorgeous one, convinced of her beauty and talent simply waiting for the big break that is going to make her a star. Fast forward ten years and Cate is struggling with being a mother, with a husband that she isn’t sure she loves, in a house far away from her friends and family. Hannah is on another round of IVF, not accepting the fact that life doesn’t run as smoothly as she has planned it, the strain of it all slowly starting to show in her marriage. And Lissa is still waiting for this big break, still seeking her mother’s approval, still single. None of these women’s expectations resemble this what they dreamed about, so where do they go next? As it usually happens in life, reality is a bitch – they drifted apart a little, and well, everything changes when you’re getting older, no?

I thought it’s going to be a light – hearted, easy read but there was so much more to it. There was depth and truth, with the author so beautifully exploring friendship that have ups and downs, that can have better and worse moments, about womanhood in very wide spectrum and how to live up to expectations the society and life make the women choose, and if you can live up to them at all, if it’s possible. Thought – provoking and very up – to – date, bringing great discussion topics about the gaps between reality and dream and expectations, between how your life appears to other people and how it really is for you. There is betrayal, hope, heartbreak, ugly secrets and unpleasant truths in this elegant, eloquent, bitter – sweet examination of womanhood, a compelling page turner about real female friendship, showing us how to ponder happiness and to find yourself and what makes you happy. Truly recommended!

 

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The Secretary by Renée Knight

The Secretary by Renée Knight

 

40611138Publisher: Doubleday

Publishing Date: 21st February 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 304

Genre: General Fiction (Adult), Mystery, Suspense

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

Synopsis:

Look around you. Who holds the most power in the room? Is it the one who speaks loudest, who looks the part, who has the most money, who commands the most respect?

Or perhaps it’s someone like Christine Butcher: a meek, overlooked figure, who silently bears witness as information is shared and secrets are whispered. Someone who quietly, perhaps even unwittingly, gathers together knowledge of the people she’s there to serve – the ones who don’t notice her, the ones who consider themselves to be important.

There’s a fine line between loyalty and obsession. And when someone like Christine Butcher is pushed to her limit, she might just become the most dangerous person in the room . . .

The eagerly anticipated new thriller from the No.1 bestselling author of Disclaimer.

Rating: four-stars

 

Christine Butcher is married, has one daughter. She’s just been offered a job as a PA to Mina Appleton who, together with her father, is running a family business. Christine’s job becomes her life as Mina starts to be more and more demanding on her time and dedication, which takes its toll on her private life. After 18 years of work, Christine’s loyalty is going for a full dress rehearsal, as Mina is accused of partaking in some unethical transactions and taken to court, together with her secretary and driver. Now it’s time for Christine to ask herself how far she’s willing to go and whom shall she protect: Mina or herself?

The way the book was written was really risky. I mean, there was a secret, a hint that something has happened, mentioned in every chapter, and every single one of them ended with a cliff hanger. It is OK to know that there is some kind of mystery but there are limits of course, and it can always go wrong – the reader can simply lose interest, as sometimes too much is too much. And yes, to be absolutely honest, I was scared and I started to feel impatient and desperate at one moment, but then the mystery was solved – and I’d say, at the perfect moment, so the book was saved. And as much as I liked the first part of the story, I think the second part, the court room drama that it turned out to be, was even better.

This book is told from Christine’s point of view only, and while sometimes you can miss on other people’s narrations, it was not the case here, it was more than enough. It’s a kind of diary/not diary but describes Christine’s job, her relationships – also this with Mina – her life in a very detailed way and we see the way her attachment to Mina progresses and how this relationship shifts and changes – it was full of dramas, secrets and lies. I was completely invested in Christine’s story, and in her character as well. She was not your normal, usual heroine. She was elusive, incredibly loyal but she seemed not to know where her priorities should be. And I loved how thought – provoking it was because let’s be honest – was Christine only a victim to her boss’s manipulations? To be honest, I am not absolutely sure if she was so innocent but here I arrive at the fact that the book lacked a little in depth and character development that I’m going to tell more about in a moment. I don’t think that Christine was a pleaser and doormat, she was only desperate to make herself indispensable to her boss, to be part of her life perhaps, and she agreed with catering to her every whim and need. Sometimes it looked like she was one step ahead of Mina, anticipating her needs before they were even articulated. Mina was a very driven and ambitious character, thinking that the whole world should resolve around her and that she’s untouchable. She was manipulative, cold and egoistic and knew how to get what she wanted. It wasn’t easy to connect with those two women, to be honest, as I couldn’t relate with their behaviour, the way they were, and while I perhaps could get Mina’s greed and desire to be more profitable without caring how it’s going to happen, I simply couldn’t understand Christine and her unwillingness to set boundaries. Mina’s acceptance and prise was what kept Christine going. But they both were the strength that has pushed the story forward because you may not agree with them but they were fascinating character, and their relationship even more.
However, I missed more on the “why” – why was Christine the way she was? Why wasn’t she able to say no? What was it that attracted her so much to Mina? So much that she was able to sacrifice everything for a – theoretically – totally strange woman? What was her motivation? But other than that, this book was an excellent page turner, a great case study, a brilliant look into person’s personality. It was part a psychological thriller, and part a court room drama, and the tension there, and the feeling of uncertainty, were really well captured. It was a slow burner, but so well written, so full of insight into the characters’ heads, and with a truly brilliant ending that was an absolute surprise.

Altogether, “The Secretary” was a gripping story about misplaced loyalty and power games, about manipulation. Also, my favourite kind of read, full of questions and understatements and it’ll make you ask yourself questions. Thought – provoking and gripping, another brilliant story from the author of “Disclaimer” – truly recommended.

Home by Amanda Berriman

Home by Amanda Berriman

 

38457392Publisher: Doubleday

Publishing Date: 8th February 2018

Source:  Received from publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review, thank you!

Number of pages: 352

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Jesika is four and a half.

She lives in a flat with her mother and baby brother and she knows a lot. She knows their flat is high up and the stairs are smelly. She knows she shouldn’t draw on the peeling wallpaper or touch the broken window. And she knows she loves her mummy and baby brother Toby.

She does not know that their landlord is threatening to evict them and that Toby’s cough is going to get much worse. Or that Paige, her new best friend, has a secret that will explode their world.

Rating: three-stars

“Home” is Amanda Berriman’s debut novel and I knew I want to read it as soon as I’ve received an email from NetGalley with a short extract from it. It is not the easiest book – storyline – wise – but it is also a read that will have you gripped and that won’t let you go.”Home” was not the easiest read. It made my stomach turn and I wanted to slap one of the characters with my bare hands. It was heart – breaking, probably because it was so close to reality, and I think the fact that the author handed over the narration in the little Jesika’s hands made it even more harder and it totally mess with our emotions.

Jesika, as a narrator, works brilliantly. She’s not too mature even though she knows a lot – she’s just a very sensible, vulnerable child that experiences things that she shouldn’t experience. Seeing world through her eyes is authentic and genuine and honest and you are immediately drawn in – we see things through the four – year – old girl’s perspective and those things are perfectly portrayed. We can totally relate to what it is to be a four – year – old and how it is to be a child in this grim reality where the adults not always take you seriously, how it is to be powerless, how hard it is to attract adult’s attention to what is really important. The way Amanda Berriman got into Jesika’s head and told us this story is actually breath – taking.

However, I am in minority here with my opinion, I know, and while I absolutely, totally appreciate what the author has tried to achieve with her story, it just didn’t work for me on all the levels. I am not sure what Amanda Berriman wanted to tell us here and on what should I focus. The two main storyline, the one about Jesika and her family and then Jesika and her friend Paige felt for me under – developed. They were started off but the execution has felt for me here. The subplot with Paige annoyed me incredibly, I just couldn’t believe that her mother didn’t see the obvious. There were parts in this story that I reckon were not necessary, like Jesika spending time at the foster family – I just think this book could do without it.

But even though it was a hard book to read because of the topics it touches upon, a sense of building dread because you know what’s coming, it was easy to read. The writing style is seamless and it effortlessly transports us to Jesika’s world and it is very realistic. It is not overdone, actually it is worryingly close to life and you easily imagine all the things happening. However, it is not only doom and gloom, as there are some uplifting things in the story as well – the power of friendship, of finding allies when you’re not expecting it at all.

Altogether, “Home” was absorbing, gripping and heart – breaking read with realistic characters that you quickly fell for and with very realistic topics, pointing at the importance of being open and of communication between parents and children. Written with a lot of understanding and subtlety and ultimately I think it was me, and not the book that wasn’t quite right. It was a powerful read and I can’t put my finger on what was wrong for me but it just didn’t work for me as much as I’d like it to. However, don’t let me to dispirit you, just go and read this book and you’ll see for yourself how powerful and emotional it is. I am already looking forward to Ms Berriman’s another book.

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

 

33148474Publisher: Doubleday

Publishing Date: 2nd May  2017

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 368

Genre: Mystery, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller and global phenomenon The Girl on the Train returns with Into the Water, her addictive new novel of psychological suspense.

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

Rating: four-stars

So guys. Confession time. I haven’t read “The Girl on the Train”. So there. Must be probably the last person in the world, right? However, I of course have heard tones about this book. I even have it on my never ending TBR pile and one day I am absolutely certain that I’m going to get to read it. Nevertheless, as soon as I spotted that Paula Hawkin’s dreaded second novel is to be released soon, I just knew that I have to read it. I didn’t need to read the synopsis, I just knew I. Want. To. Read. It. And maybe it’s better that it is my first book by this author as I’m not going to make any comparisons to the hugely talked about debut novel.

There are relatively many characters in this book. Each chapter is devoted to a different character. Some of them are more significant, some not so much and actually it always took me some time to think twice who the person is and what’s their story, especially when it was one of the more background characters. It was a little difficult, especially at the beginning, to focus with so many distinct points of view. But then I also started to enjoy this way of telling the story, as it really gave us a chance to get to know each of the characters, to see what makes them tick. The characters were not easy to like, but I’m starting to learn that with this kind of a book you don’t have to like them – all they need to be is to be believable, and it was absolutely the case here. With the great number of them it quickly turned out that there are many suspects and they all are going to bring many twists and turns, which only kept me glued to the pages. Each of them may play a part in the mysterious deaths of the women of the town.

The author has very vividly described the little town Beckford, I personally had a feeling that it is a gloom, grim place where the river played first fiddle. It was such a claustrophobic place, to be honest, and I was in awe how well the author has captured this atmosphere. This dark, forbidding water, named “The Drowning Pool”, was a place full of history, secrets, mysteries and a place where the witches were supposed to be sent swimming in the seventeenth century. It was not my most favourite place, however I could see its spell and could understand why Nel was so obsessed with it and the stories surrounding it, and why she wanted to unravel the mysteries.

The pace of the story was rather on the slow side but I think we can’t expect from this kind of a book to be quick. It often hinted at witchcraft and witches but it really did work here and it had me hooked, and it was also heart – breaking, guys. The author has built a tense atmosphere in this story, with characters hearing voices and creaking floorboards in the night. There are many threads in this novel, it is truly multi – layered, and the author does a great job mind – boggling and messing with you. Thousand times I was sure that I know who was the assassin and thousand times I was wrong. At the end, all of the layers are unpeeled to present us with a very satisfying, no – questions – opened finale. Well, almost no questions, because I’d have one or two about one or two of the characters. The sleepy town witnesses many scandalous turns of events and the author in a very skilled way builds the tensions and through the multiply points of view makes the things even more complicated and complex. The characters are connected, their paths cross and their relationships are strained, strong and weird. In my opinion it requires a lot of skill to achieve a satisfying conclusion with such complicated narrative with so many perspectives, and even though knowing who is who took me some time, I didn’t feel confused and with every new revelation you could see the proverbial light – bulb going on over my head, and all the elements of the puzzle were slowly falling into the right places.

I can only guess how hard it was for the author to sit and write the next book, keeping in mind the success of her debut novel. as I have already mentioned, I haven’t read this book, but “Into the Water” has put Ms Hawkins on my list of the authors not to be missed. In my opinion, this novel was a very clever, complex read. I wouldn’t say it’s a thriller, it is more a psychological mystery. The way the story was built, with the author throwing so many things at the reader, more and more and more of them, and complicate them to the point where you don’t know what to expect next, really did work here. I desperately wanted to know what’s going to happen, and which secrets are still to be revealed. There are some things that you can see coming but there are also many other that just hit you on the head and knocking your socks off. I really liked it, I was hooked and I will be recommending “Into the Water” to all of my friends.

 

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