The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney – book review

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The blurb….

Emma
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.

Book Review

 

My review….

Wow! What a read! haven’t enjoyed a book since than Girl on a Train.. this kept me gripped so much that I completed it in 24 hours! I really enjoyed it – the tension continued throughout – and I liked the double narrative – ‘ Then’ – Emma’s story – ‘Now’ Jane’s story. The two women had very distinct personalities; they each went through similar experiences but their reactions were different. One example is the Sushi restaurant they are taken to by Edward – I found I related much more to Jane’s reaction than Emma.

Both women were recovering from a recent trauma – Emma having an intruder in her flat in the middle of the night and Jane – after losing a still birth.

The house appears to offer a place of recovery – the clean lines and uncluttered space is reflective of a monk’s cell – austere but with its own sense of serenity. The technology in the house is designed to intuitively support the needs of the occupants – shower settings are automatically adjusted each time to the person’s preferences.

However, the technology becomes oppressive – Jane finds services are withheld until she completes on going psychological tests – each of the questions are moral debates and add to the tension as the questions become more intrusive. The house also completes health checks and monitors overall wellbeing into a quantifiable score – Jane is expected to adjust to improve her scores.

The book blurb linked this with Girl on a Train (which I also loved) and Fifty Shades of Grey… (which almost put me off – I despised that book because it was so awful!) Yet, Edward Montford is a controlling character – JP Delaney understands dominant controlling behaviour and uses it very effectively. Edward has power – his designs have made him wealthy, he is good looking and he is also a perfectionist – which makes him quite an interesting character. I agree that there are also similarities between Girl on a Train… but I don’t want to spoil the read for you – so I won’t say why here.

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The story unravelled at quite a pace – I loved the way the two characters experiences were similar and the way they engaged in a relationship with Edward – kept the tension. Edward had exacting standards – the conditions of living in the house were a huge list of rules – and the women sought to meet those exacting standards.

The plot twists were interesting – and the tension built nicely – I could not put the book down! The conclusion was satisfying – I won’t say any more as I don’t want to spoil it for you!

The only negative thing I can say about this book is that I hate it when they use Americanisms… this is set in London, the story is English why then, does Jane refer to her bangs rather than her fringe? Surely American readers would be able to look it up – if they don’t know what a fringe is?

J.P Delaney is a skilful writer, although Good Reads describes them as

J. P. Delaney is the pseudonym of a writer who has previously published best-selling fiction under another name.

I also note there is another book written under this name… which is great news! Clicking on Amazon as soon as I have finished this review.

The book is going to made into a film.. please leave it in London not New York like The Girl on the Train… !

Overall – five gold stars – ten out of ten -quite brilliant!

 

The Darkest Hour – Barbara Erskine Book Review



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This is Barbara Erskine’s thirteenth tale – so I was expecting ghosts and time travel and I was not disappointed – in her usual style there are two stories running together in different times. I have read a couple of her novels – Hiding in the Light being one of my favourites so I was thrilled to spot this in Waterstones last weekend.

We have the story of Evie trying to make her name as a War Painter during the Battle of Britain. She has an arrangement with a neighbour called Eddie who has enough connections in the Art World to help her to achieve fame and fortune. However she meets Tony a pilot stationed at nearby Westhampnet and they fall in love. Of course no romance had a smooth course and this one has twists and turns that are only unravelled in the present day where Lucy is researching Evie’s life story for a biography – after her husband purchases one of Evie’s paintings. Sadly Lucy’s husband is killed in a hit and run accident which makes Lucy determined to complete the book. She makes contact with Evie’s family – who fall into two categories, those willing to help and support her book and those who are hostile. (There appears no room for middle ground!). Lucy is given access to a lot of Evie’s possessions including Evie’s home and art Studio – we begin to follow Evie’s story back through time and in Lucy’s research.

We have several ghosts – but these won’t keep you awake at night, Erskine writes novels that are more about unfinished business than hammer house horror.

If you want to read for yourself, best stop there and come back in case I spoil the story for you! 

I started this book as soon as I came back from the bookshop – I was immersed immediately and could not put it down – I found Lucy a likeable character and found Evie’s life interesting as she struggled with farm tasks and painting. What attracted me to this novel was that she had written about my local area, Lucy’s art gallery was based in Chichester – and the Battle of Britain played out across the Sussex Downs with several small airfields locally were the back drop for Evie’s tale.

I found the plot and storylines plausible but then midway through the book I found my enthusiasm waning.

I think I was frustrated – Evie’s section of the tale was getting repetitive, I lost count of the number of times Evie and Tony could not meet, wrote notes to each other saying they could not meet, only for them to meet briefly and the whole thing repeat itself. Her life was dull, milking cows, and painting – she only went out once and that was when she met Tony. Rachel (her mother) was more real, but I found the wailing haunting really odd, as was the woman living in the house in the present day.

Evie never really came across as a full bodied character – she was passive, it was hard to relate to her. I thought it might have been better if we could have had some of her diary entries written in the first person – I needed to understand how she ticked, what she felt – it was all in the third person so she never really came alive.

When she was laying with Tony in the thunderstorm was the closest we had to understanding Evie she was wildly exuberant, it would have been nice for them to have spent more time together, so that the depth of their feelings was understandable. Maybe even meetings where they felt soul to soul – instead they simply met and fell in love. Tony creeping in the house at night to her upstairs bedroom was odd, it did not seem likely that Evie’s father would have tolerated that for one minute – I imagine any man would take that as an insult to his household. Tony would have been a bit of a cad for doing that sort of thing. Why did it have to be sex, why not the pictures or a local dance?

There were other elements of the story that I began to struggle with:

Lucy’s story was more interesting, but she was also passive. Other supporting characters drove the story, dealt with the ghosts, dropped research into her hands – everyone was rallying round her and she really did not do much to bring the story together, in the end I was irritated by her. I thought that Caroline had more substance, I knew what motivated her, she had passion whereas Lucy seemed to drift through her research as she drifted through everyone else’s home.

I also found it odd that despite Lucy’s husband dying in the first few pages, she never misses him and falls in love quite easily! (I’m not telling you who – read it and see!)

Yet, I enjoyed it because I read it solidly for a week – there was enough of a mystery to keep me guessing and it did all come together.

I believe I learned quite a lot from this book – the story itself was very good – I love two stories and unravelling mysteries. I also like to believe that ghosts have unfinished business!

I would recommend it to my friends, they may not have the same reservations – I would love to hear from other readers about how they found it.

Hiding from the light

I can recommend Hiding from the Light – I thought it was one of her best. About the Witch-finder General – a haunted cottage and of course Witches and ghosts!

Book Review – Little Lies Liane Moriarty

Another gripping page turner
Another gripping page turner

Liane Moriarty is a genius!

The sign of a good book is when I think about the characters even when I am not reading, Maddie, Jane and Celeste felt as real as my own friends.

Liane Morriaty creates believable characters – Maddie was my favourite, maybe the one I can relate to the most because she loves a bit of drama! she is far from perfect, a bit of a stirrer, but has the best of intentions.  The characters seem to struggle with the similar issues, big and small, grappling with modern family life. The school gate mothers were so true to life here in the UK I enjoyed a giggle as I could pinpoint a Renata alongside the blonde bobs! My school yard experience seems not quite as unique as I thought, I spent many a terrifying time quaking in my boots waiting for my children to come out of school!

I have to admit the story telling gave me a little headache at first, you flit through so many characters, it seems to hop from one to another but this is put to good use as the tension builds and grows until I found myself reading well into the early hours! The observations that come from minor characters give more depth to the main characters, you get to see them through different eyes.

What could be more hilarious than fighting men wearing Elvis Costumes while a host of Audrey’s gaze on?  Murder might not be a usual occurrence at a school event, but its the humanity that Liane weaves into her tales that makes all her books such gripping reads, ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. We might dislike some characters, they may behave in unreasonable ways, judgemental attitudes, bullying that occurs not just among the children. Domestic violence is tackled with understanding and realism, constructed in such a way that it is credible, it helped me to understand why domestic victims have mixed emotions.

It does reach a satisfactory conclusion, we do discover who the murderer is, and more importantly who the victim is, and I am smug enough to report that I guessed correctly! (Perhaps its written so well that the clues are easy to follow!) The loose ends are tied up so neatly, that I found myself smiling as I read the end; although somewhat disappointed that I had lost a host of wonderful entertaining friends.

I cannot recommend this book enough, alongside the Husband’s secret, What Alice Forgot and the Hypnotist’s love story.

If you haven’t discovered Liane Morriaty yet, then I am envious! She is a tremendous writer, I am sure it won’t be long before we see one of her books on film.

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