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Don’t Say A Word by AL Bird – a review BLOG TOUR

Recently I had a week over in Finland, and was very excited to receive a bumper crop of books through the post on my return. One of said bumber crop was the latest novel by author AL Bird, Don’t Say A Word, and I’m very pleased to be taking part in this blog tour.
Jen is working as a legal secretary and devotes her life to looking after her son Josh. When she gets asked by her boss to help out on the case of Rhea Stevens she sees it as a good opportunity to further her career. However unfortunately it soon seems that the case is a little too close to home. When Jen receives cards from people in her past, she begins to fear both for herself and her son.

I very much enjoyed this novel. It’s obvious from the beginning that something has happened which makes Jen go into hiding. What this is becomes clear as the story unfolds, but there is a twist that I really didn’t see coming.  I have to say it was this bit that really made the story stand out amongst others for me.

I really liked the ending and whilst I am not one for giving spoilers away I felt it made a nice realistic end to a novel rather than just the ending that people would want. I did feel that some of the actions of the main character of Jen weren’t really in keeping for a person who had been through what she had. I also felt that there were a few too many characters that were involved in the final ‘reveal’ which did make it a bit confusing but this was a very minor irritant.

Most of the story is told from the viewpoint of Jen. We get a lot of her internal thoughts and feelings which gives us a real sense of the fear and claustrophobia that Jen is feeling.

I really enjoyed this story and would like to thank HQ publishers for my preview.

This is the second novel by AL Bird, my review of her first novel is here https://acrimereadersblog.com/2016/04/07/the-good-mother-by-al-bird-a-review-blog-tour-2/

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Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land – a review

imagesI was given a copy of this via netgalley.

Good Me, Bad Me centres around a young girl called Milly. She has recently moved in with a foster family and has been given a new identity. This is because she is awaiting the trial of her Mother, a serial killer. Milly is looking forward to being able to put what has happened behind her, and start a new life. Only her foster parents and the head teacher at her school know who she really is. However her foster sister Phoebe isn’t quite so keen on having yet another foster child staying with them, and soon starts to cause trouble. Milly also begins to realise that it isn’t always that easy to stay hidden, especially if people don’t want you to.

The publishers blurb for this book states that Good Me, Bad Me is ‘set to be one of the most extraordinary, controversial and explosive debuts of 2017’. Normally I think you should take this kind of sellers advert with a pinch of salt. However this time I completely agree, this was a superb book that I read pretty much in one sitting on the train to Birmingham.

The story is completely gripping. Milly has had a truly horrific childhood, with a single mother who was clearly deranged. She then had the hardest decision to make that any child could, to give her mother up to the police, or let her continue her murderous ways. Her Mother may have been a serial killer but Milly still loved her.

This is a story that will keep you thinking about it for days afterwards. The writing in it is seamless and the pace keeps you turning the pages (or clicking the button in the case of a kindle) There are parts where you feel that you are actually inside Milly’s head which is not a particularly nice place to be. Despite the sympathy you feel for her and her life there is something about Milly that makes the reader a bit uneasy. As the story unfolds you get drawn deeper into the family and realise that secrets are clearly everywhere. One of the bits I enjoyed most was the way the novel Lord of the Flies was referenced. I remember reading this at school although unlike the children at Milly’s new school I didn’t take it as an instructional manual for how to behave. The mob mentality is clearly evident throughout the novel and you realise just how cruel children can be,

This was an excellent and very disturbing book that will stay with you long after you finish it. I would thoroughly recommend Good Me, Bad Me and think it is definitely going to be in the running for debut novel of the year before the year has even begun.

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Beside Myself by Ann Morgan – a review

Beside Myself by Ann Morgan is her first novel, The story focuses on Helen and Ellie who are identical twins but with very different personalities. One day as a game they decide to swap places and both are pleased when they manage to fool their mother. However things start to go wrong when Ellie refuses to swap back. Having previously always been the submissive one Ellie seems to relish in becoming the more popular Helen and Helen fails to find anyone who will believe that they have swapped. This leads to Helen suffering behavioural problems at school and becoming more ostracized from her family. The book switches from the twins when young, to ‘Smudge’ now an adult and barely surviving on her own.
This wasn’t my usual type of thriller, there were no murders for a start but it was interesting and for the most part I enjoyed it. The idea of swapping twins around and the outcomes of this was fascinating. It is almost the perfect nature versus nurture experiment. Can being the favourite child really give you a better start in life?
I must admit there was a bit of me that did find some of it all a bit unbelievable at the start, surely a mother would notice the difference between her two children? Surely Helen wouldn’t have shut up until someone listened?
Yet what I thought was really good was the portrayal of Helen’s breakdown. After the swap Helen is lost and you can see clearly how someone so marginalised and un-cared for easily falls into the self destructive path she took to try and get some attention. She felt as though she was disappearing so desperately wanted someone to notice her, hence the drug taking and acting up in school. I felt that this was a really good depiction of someone suffering from mental health issues without any family support.
On the less positive side it did take me a while to get into the way the story was told as it skipped about a lot between the timelines covering current Helen, young Helen and middle Helen as she starts to grow up and build her life. However once this clicked with me, it gave the story an almost frantic feeling, which mirrored the way Helen lived. There was a lot of description which I must admit to skipping over a bit as I just wanted to get to the story but that’s just a personal preference.
It was quite a hard read, not just because of the way the story was written but also the subject matter which was quite dark. At times you almost feel like you are actually the one getting a bit manic. Although I thought the ending was a little bit of a let down overall I enjoyed this book and thought it was a good debut novel.

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Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberley McCreight – a review

I downloaded this on a whim whilst in a pub trying to avoid football, and it certainly beat watching sport. Reconstructing Amelia is Kimberley McCreights debut novel. The story centres on single mother Kate and her daughter Amelia, a pupil at the expensive Grace Hall school. Kate is called to the school as Amelia has been suspended for cheating. By the time Kate arrives Amelia is dead, seemingly having jumped from the roof. However a few days later Kate receives a text which suggests that Amelia did not kill herself. Kate soon starts to realise that she didn’t know her teenage daughter as well as she thought.
The story is told through a variety of viewpoints, including both Kate and Amelia. The story flits between flashback scenes depicting Kate’s life before Amelia, and her search to find out the truth about what happened to her daughter. As well as the more standard narrative of the characters, we also get to read emails, social media pages and text messages, all of which begin to throw light on the true life that Amelia was leading.
amelia I thought this novel was excellent. It was a quick read that was helped along by the use of different media. Reading text messages and email conversations gave quite an intimate feel to the book, and meant that the swopping from character to character was actually alot clearer than it can sometimes be in books using multiple viewpoints.
Reconstructing Amelia was quite a disturbing read that made a nice change from the usual detective fiction I favour. Its main theme of school bullying was particularly unsettling and made more so by the use of social media. It shows just how horrid teenagers can be and was a good depiction of the downside of today’s technology obsessed generation. Whilst to a normal adult it would seem easy to just turn off a phone if being sent anonymous texts, or to cancel their facebook account if getting abuse, to a teenager this would be unthinkable. It means that school bullying is no longer confined to the playground, it enters a child’s home and follows them everywhere.
This book is also about family, and the relationship between mother and daughter. Whilst the mother thinks she is working to support her daughter and that they are close, all the daughter really wants is the time to talk. I felt that despite knowing the outcome of the story right at the very beginning you were rooting for both the characters. Although at times I wanted to scream at them both ‘just talk’. The use of some of the language was a bit annoying in parts, but I think that is more of a personal issue as I am highly irritated by the over- and incorrect use of the word ‘like’. Its not always like something, it often just is or isn’t, but I’m aware that is unfortunately how a lot of teenagers seem to talk now.
Although it’s an adult book, I would suggest that it would make a great teenage read too. Throughly recommend this to anyone and it certainly made a welcome distraction from the football.

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Dead Gone by Luca Vesta – a review

I have a habit of buying books a bit like I buy wine, in bulk. It’s a money saving thing really as if I had to go into Waterstones and only buy one book at a time I’d end up wasting hours trying to decide which one, and time is money after all! Dead Gone was therefore a book I added on impulse to a pile I bought before my operation. Despite not having heard of the author before, the front cover had a recommendation by Mark Billingham and if it’s good enough for Mark its good enough for me.
deadgone

Set in Liverpool this is the debut novel by Luca Vesta. The story starts with the disappearance of Jemma as she walks home one night. Her boyfriend seems to be distraught, however things are not always what they seem. Her family and friends are at first sceptical as Jemma has gone missing before. Yet as time goes on they begin to realise things are not right and suspicion starts to point at the boyfriend. Alongside this story, bodies are being discovered with notes attached describing experiments carried out in the 1920s.
I enjoyed this book and thought the subject matter of the story was fascinating especially the references to varying psychological experiments. A few years ago I went to some ‘fun’ lectures about criminal psychology which discussed alot of the unethical work that was done during the 20s, and therefore the idea that someone could try and recreate the experiments nowadays was both interesting and scary.  The writing itself felt quite punchy, short sentences added to the pace and kept me turning the pages. The descriptions of the killings are pretty atmospheric and you can feel the terror the victims go through.
One slight issue I had with this novel was that I wasn’t struck on the lead detective. As usual in detective fiction he had lots of issues having recently lost his parents and his wife. I felt that there was a bit too much concentrating on this rather than the actual crime. Personally I’m one of those people who is more interested in the story than the background so at times I found this a bit distracting, which wasn’t helped by my lack of patience as I just wanted to get on with the search for the murderer.
I found the setting of Liverpool to be very interesting as it’s a city I’ve visited a few times and enjoy. To anyone who knows the city the descriptions of places are obvious, but they manage to walk that fine line between describing too much detail and not setting the scene properly.
Overall I would say this was a very good debut novel that is well worth a read and I will definitely be looking out for future novels by Luca Vesta next time I’m bulk buying in Waterstones.

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