Lockdown Literature – What I’ve Been Reading Pt. 2
“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.”
I’ve already shared a few reviews of some of the books I’ve been reading during lockdown, so I thought I’d continue with them…
Right Behind You (Rachel Abbott) ⭐⭐
Jo Palmer’s peaceful and happy life is about to end.
Ash – the man she loves – will be arrested by the police.
Millie – her precious daughter – will be taken from her.
She will lose her friends. She will doubt her sanity. Someone is stealing everything Jo loves, and will stop at nothing. But right now, Jo is laughing in her kitchen, eating dinner with her family, suspecting nothing. There’s a knock on the door. They are here.
I’ve read a few of the DCI Tom Douglas thrillers by Rachel Abbott and I’ve always enjoyed them, they have such original storylines.
The first few chapters of this were great. The tension was building, I felt anxious about Millie and sympathised with Jo. Then…nothing. There was a LOT of detail about a seemingly unrelated case and I found myself skimming pages, it all felt like padding. Up until the final couple of chapters, I felt like nothing really happened, and the things that were meant to be dramatic or tense were just lacking in something. A lot happened in the last few chapters but I found it quite far-fetched and didn’t feel particularly believable. The ending was left open which would usually frustrate me but unfortunately I just wasn’t particularly bothered.
Queenie (Candice Carty-Williams) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Queenie Jenkins can’t cut a break. Well, apart from the one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That’s definitely just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Then there’s her boss who doesn’t seem to see her and her family who don’t seem to listen (if it’s not Jesus or water rates, they’re not interested). She’s trying to fit in two worlds that don’t really understand her. It’s no wonder she’s struggling. She was named to be queen of everything. So why is she finding it so hard to rule her own life?
The story explores racism, mental health, dating and relationships through the eyes of 26-year-old Queenie Jenkins. I think it is brilliantly written, with bold humour and cringey moments which contrast perfectly with the serious, darker issues raised.
If I’m honest, it took me a while to warm to Queenie, though I really liked Darcy and Kyzaike. With the exception of Queenie’s grandfather, there was not a single decent man in this book which I found interesting. There were a few things I wish had been explored further –
I’d seen a few reviews comparing this to Bridget Jones’ Diary, and while yes, there are some hilarious dating moments, this book is much darker, and deals with much more than BJD.
The Good Samaritan (John Marrs) ⭐⭐⭐
*Trigger warning: suicide*
She’s a friendly voice on the phone. But can you trust her?
The people who call End of the Line need hope. They need reassurance that life is worth living. But some are unlucky enough to get through to Laura. Laura doesn’t want them to hope. She wants them to die.
Laura hasn’t had it easy: she’s survived sickness and a difficult marriage only to find herself heading for forty, unsettled and angry. She doesn’t love talking to people worse off than she is. She craves it. But now someone’s on to her—Ryan, whose world falls apart when his pregnant wife ends her life, hand in hand with a stranger. Who was this man, and why did they choose to die together? The sinister truth is within Ryan’s grasp, but he has no idea of the desperate lengths Laura will go to…
Because the best thing about being a Good Samaritan is that you can get away with murder.
This book was absolutely bizarre. I’m still not totally sure if I liked it or not! There was a lot of potential in this story, and while I think it managed to hit the right notes in some of it, other parts were completely ludicrous. The characters were all pretty grim. I found myself pitying Laura in a few parts, but as I have no idea what was true and what wasn’t, I also despised her. I felt awful for Ryan, but the way he acted with Effie, Laura’s daughter, made it really difficult to sympathise with him. I didn’t feel like the ending was particularly satisfying – it seemed like there were a lot of loose ends and a few rather convenient conclusions. Parts of it were extremely disturbing and upsetting, but it is a really original and unique book.
When You Disappeared (John Marrs) ⭐
*Trigger warning: rape, abuse, miscarriage*
When Catherine wakes up alone one morning, her husband Simon is gone. Catherine knows Simon must be in trouble. He wouldn’t just leave her. He wouldn’t leave the children.
But he can’t hide forever, and when he reappears twenty-five years later, Catherine will finally learn who he is…and wish she’d stayed in the dark.
Well, this book was pretty horrible. I was intrigued enough to see it through but I kind of wish I hadn’t. The narrative switches between Catherine and Simon, and their story jumps around a lot – it was hard to keep track sometimes – present day, 25 years earlier, 3 years earlier, 10 years earlier etc.
Simon is probably one of the worst characters I’ve ever encountered, there was absolutely nothing about his story I enjoyed – he wasn’t even one of those characters you love to hate, he was just…awful, and got worse as the book went on. A lot of secrets were revealed, particularly towards the end of the story, and I could see where it was going, and when it got there, it was as miserable as I expected. I hugely sympathised with Catherine, she had an absolutely horrendous time of it, and I was impressed at how she managed to come back from everything she faced.
The ending frustrated me, it was predictable and really unsatisfactory. I’ve now read three books by John Marrs – I really enjoyed Her Last Move, which is why I persevered with this one and The Good Samaritan, but I don’t think I’ll be picking up any more books by him.
The Lies You Told (Harriet Tyce) ⭐⭐⭐
When Sadie moves back to London, she’s determined to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. She needs to get her daughter settled into a new school – one of the most exclusive in town. Next, she’s going to get back the high-flying criminal barrister career she sacrificed for marriage and motherhood.
But the school doesn’t welcome newcomers. The other mothers are fiercely competitive, and Sadie immediately finds herself on the outside.
In chambers, she’s given the junior brief on a scandalous, high-profile case. It’s an opportunity to prove herself again, but will she let a dangerous flirtation cloud her professional judgement?
And when the tide turns at the school-gate, will Sadie’s desire to be accepted prevent her from seeing clearly – and recognising the threat that she’s inviting into her home?
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this. The format is similar to Blood Orange – the main storyline with a sub-plot of a criminal trial, and there was an awful lot going on in this book. I warmed to Sadie and her daughter Robin, and was interested in the reasons behind their move back from America. There was a lot of backstory about the house and Sadie’s mother, but this part felt a bit unnecessary, it didn’t really make any difference to the story.
I guessed fairly early on who the culprit was – there aren’t that many characters in the story, but it felt a bit far-fetched and I didn’t really believe it, particularly the motive behind the events. I was invested in the sub-plot, the criminal trial, and would love the characters involved in that to be a little more fleshed out, particularly Freya.
I think it’s quite an ambitious story, with a unique plot, it did feel a bit too busy at times, but I think it’s worth a read, particularly if you’re a fan of domestic thrillers. I also had a LOT of fun recreating the cover for a photo!
This book was sent to me for review
Little Disasters (Sarah Vaughan) ⭐⭐⭐.5
She is a stay-at-home mother-of-three with boundless reserves of patience, energy, and love. After being friends for a decade, this is how Liz sees Jess.
Dark thoughts and carefully guarded secrets surface—and Liz is left questioning everything she thought she knew about her friend, and about herself. The truth can’t come soon enough.
*Trigger warning: post-natal depression, post-natal anxiety, SIDS, alcoholism*
If I’m honest, I’m a bit undecided on this book. I thought it was a thriller, it’s really not, it’s more domestic fiction. The story follows Jess, Liz and their friends and family after a terrible incident means Jess’ baby daughter ends up in hospital.
The book explores a great deal about post-natal depression, anxiety and OCD, and I think for the most part it does this well, and sensitively. There were a few parts I found quite upsetting to read.
I think there were far too many characters in the book, which meant a lot of them felt a little flat, and there were too many random little backstories which didn’t really do anything to drive the story forward.
I think it was a good read, though not a particularly easy one – I read it in a day, but the pace was slow at times, despite the fact the plot was so full. The “twist” near the end was predictable, and the very end felt a little far-fetched.
Playing Nice (J.P. Delaney) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Pete Riley answers the door one morning to a parent’s worst nightmare. On his doorstep is Miles Lambert, who breaks the devastating news that Pete’s two-year-old, Theo, isn’t Pete’s real son – their babies got mixed up at birth.
The two families – Pete, his partner Maddie, and Miles and his wife Lucy – agree that, rather than swap the boys back, they’ll try to find a more flexible way to share their children’s lives. But a plan to sue the hospital triggers an investigation that unearths disturbing questions about just what happened the day the babies were switched.
I’ve read all of J.P. Delaney’s books, and I have always admired the unique concepts he comes up with. This story intrigued me from the beginning. I wouldn’t really describe it as a gripping thriller, but it got under my skin. The story alternates from Pete and Maddie’s perspectives, and I enjoyed the inclusions of case notes throughout the book – I found them really interesting.
I thought the characters were well developed, though I found Pete to be a bit too perfect, he did irritate me sometimes. There were a few parts of the story I wish had been explored further, for example the baby monitor Miles gave to Pete, and I’d have liked to have known more about David. I felt like I was waiting for something huge to happen, but the parts that I think were the “twists” weren’t particularly shocking. A few parts of it felt like they’d been included for the shock factor, such as the chapter set in the park towards the end – I didn’t find it quite as believable as the rest of the story. Overall though, it’s a really good read, it’s well paced and I enjoyed it.
NetGalley review copy
Red, White & Royal Blue (Casey McQuiston) ⭐⭐⭐.5
What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?
Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of the President of the United States is handsome, charismatic, genius – marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has an ongoing feud with Henry, the Prince of Wales. After an altercation between the pair, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.
Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagrammable friendship grows deeper, and soon they find themselves in a secret romance. Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colours shine through?
Fun and entertaining, this book is perfect escapism. It’s a light-hearted read for the most part, but there is a lot more depth to it than I expected. It took me a while to warm to the characters, but I think that was because I listened to the audiobook and I really wasn’t a fan of the narrator.
It’s very much a YA novel, though some of the sex scenes were a lot more graphic than I’d expected (always awkward when you’re playing the audiobook out loud and someone walks in…) It’s a pretty predictable read, with some suuuuper cheesy dialogue and some too-good-to-be-true characters, but I did find it enjoyable and I can see why it’s such a popular read!
What have you been reading lately? Have you read any of these?