The Suspect

The Suspect

The Suspect by Fiona Barton (Psychological Thriller)

Fiona Barton (The Child) has written another intriguing psychological thriller that’s hard to put down.

Two teen-aged British girls disappear while on a post-graduation trip to Thailand. Newspaper reporter Kate Waters takes an interest in learning more after meeting the girls’ parents. Kate’s own son is on a gap-year trip, and she can relate to a mother’s worry, especially when the travelers do a poor job of keeping in touch. Little does she realize how personal her interest will become once she travels to Thailand to flesh out her story.

Three characters narrate the novel in alternating chapters — one of the missing girls, Kate, and Detective Inspector Bob Sparke of the London police. Through their eyes we experience the seedy side of Bangkok, the angst of parents waiting for news they may not want to hear, and the damage that dogged commitment to career can wreak on families. Interesting twists keep the ending from being predictable even though one must wonder at the coincidence that brings all of the characters together in the first place. Barton’s enjoyable writing style keeps it all moving along, creating a book that’s likely to keep you reading later into the night than you may have intended.

Four and a half stars.

This reviewer received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley with a request for an honest review.

The Suspect will be released on January 24, 2019, and is available for pre-order.

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The Child

The Child

The Child by Fiona Barton (Suspense)

The skeleton of an infant is unearthed at a London urban renewal site, and the lives of several women who don’t know each other are about to become intertwined. Each woman has a stake in the outcome of the ensuing investigation, albeit for different reasons, including the reporter who seeks to answer the question of who buried the newborn there and why.

We hear the story from their various points of view, which gives the reader intimate knowledge of each woman’s background and the basis for her concerns about the discovery. The tale has enough twists and unexpected turns to keep the reader involved in figuring out what’s going on, and the ending provides a satisfying conclusion that gives all aspects of the story a reasonable resolution.

My one complaint is that one character’s POV is in first person, while all of the others are in third, and I found that transition jarring at times. To me there was no good reason for singling her out that way. However, that was a minor distraction, for the author writes well and the plot and pacing kept me interested throughout. I cared about how it would all play out, and while some readers may anticipate the big reveal, I did not and was sufficiently surprised to enjoy the final twist.

Grandma gives The Child five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reveiws received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Child will be released on June 27, 2017 and is available for pre-order.

The Idea of You

The Idea of You

The Idea of You by Amanda Prowse (Contemporary Fiction)

This tale is meant to be a tearjerker as we witness the heartbreak of forty-year-old newlywed Lucy who wants a baby with a terrible fierceness but cannot carry a pregnancy past the first trimester. Between chapters dealing with the here and now, we read Lucy’s poignant messages to a baby girl, her thoughts on what she and her daughter would be doing together if that were only possible.

Meanwhile her husband, Jonah, is supportive, but he is already father to Camille, a seventeen-year-old who lives with her mother but now comes to stay with Lucy and Jonah for a while. When Camille and Lucy don’t get along, Jonah seems to side with his daughter, and Lucy begins feeling isolated in her own home and eventually in her marriage.

A rather predictable event takes place, along with a somewhat surprising revelation, both of which turn Lucy’s marriage even further on its ear. It’s now up to her to either “put on her big girl shoes” as her chauvinistic jerk of a boss likes to say, or watch her marriage dissolve.

For me, this felt too much like a tearjerker for tearjerker’s sake. Miscarriage is not an unknown to this reviewer, and it’s nothing to make light of, but life goes on. It must. Unfortunate things happen in a lifetime, and how we handle them is the real test of character. Lucy’s continuous, obsessive dwelling upon what was not to be made it difficult to regard her as the strong, resilient woman she supposedly is, and I almost quit reading. Jonah was not a sympathetic character; I probably liked Camille better than anyone. At least she was a naïve teenager who had reason to be immature, and watching her grow was the best part of the story.

Grandma gives The Idea of You three stars. 3 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Steps

The Steps

The Steps by Iveta Redliha (Thriller)

This interesting book explores a topic not often encountered in novels: the possible psychological effects of surrogacy on the surrogate mother, the parents who have contracted her services, and the child. Leonora is a selfish young woman who is paid to bear a child for Kurt and Nellie. They move her into their house in order to keep it all secret, and it’s not long before the housekeeper, Greta, realizes what a conniving brat Leonora really is.

Reyna is a young woman whose mother has just died under unusual circumstances, leaving Reyna a run-down property she never knew her mother owned. As she struggles to understand it all, she meets a young man she finds simultaneously attractive and frightening. How this will all tie together is part of the book’s allure.

Iveta Redliha is a Latvian writer, and this work has been translated into English with mixed results. Most glaring is the frequent lack of “the” or “a/an” and unfortunate word choices not normally used in conversation or even story-telling, revealing reliance on a thesaurus without really understanding the vernacular. On a formatting level, it lacks quotation marks, using dashes to indicate dialogue.

Fortunately, the story itself was intriguing enough to keep me reading in spite of these distractions. The author is a good storyteller and a promising writer. With some publishing help for an English-speaking audience, this book could be a success.

Grandma gives The Steps four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Mother’s Promise

the-mothers-promise

The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth (Women’s Contemporary Fiction)

The lives of four women – a single mom with cancer, her fifteen-year-old daughter, an oncology nurse, and a hospital social worker – intertwine in unexpected ways in this complex tale exploring family, friendships, marriage, and motherhood.

Alice has stage three ovarian cancer, and she fears for her daughter, Zoe, who suffers from crippling social anxiety disorder that renders her almost helpless without Alice as her safety net. Zoe’s father has never been part of her life, and she has no relatives other than a totally unreliable alcoholic uncle. Kate and Sonja, Alice’s nurse and social worker, respectively, seek to help. But their own lives are beginning to fall apart for personal reasons, and as the story unfolds, each woman learns things about herself and others that will change her life and her relationships forever.

The story is narrated from the points of view of each woman, and we get to know them intimately. We experience Zoe’s paralyzing fear of everyday things, we share Alice’s losses, we ache with Kate and feel her longing, and we begin to understand Sonja’s inability to make a decision that may seem simple but never is. Their lives come together in believable, if unexpected, ways, and each character finds new strengths within herself to do what must be done. This well-written and knowledgeable book is fascinating, satisfying, and absorbing.

Grandma gives The Mother’s Promise five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

The Mother’s Promise will be released on February 21, 2017 and can be pre-ordered.

Finding Charlie

Finding Charlie

Finding Charlie by Katie O’Rourke (Women’s Contemporary Fiction)

Finding Charlie explores an unusual theme from the points of view of several different characters:  Why would the mother of two little girls decide to walk out on her family and never come back, and how has that affected those girls, their relationships to each other, their self-esteem, their ability to trust and relate to others and to her?

Nineteen-year-old Charlie and her twenty-five-year-old sister, Olivia, have been raised primarily by their father; their mother, Maria, walked out of their lives thirteen years ago without explanation. Now Charlie herself has disappeared without a clue, except for the admission of a friend that he left her behind in a Las Vegas hotel.  Even Charlie’s long-time, joined-at-the-hip best friend, Carmen, hasn’t heard from her, and that’s without precedent.

First Olivia, then Charlie and Maria, alternate narrating the story in this multi-layered look at complex family relationships. I thoroughly enjoyed their differing perspectives on the same events, especially those of the two sisters and how they viewed Olivia’s role as surrogate mother to Charlie. Backstory through reminiscences helps to flesh out their relationships and childhood experiences, while current events unfold to explain what has become of Charlie. I thought character development was outstanding.

At the same time, I believe this book would have benefited from tighter editing. Unnecessary sequences involving characters and events who have no influence on the plot or outcome are just filler material. For instance, we learn details about the condition and treatment of one of Olivia’s physical therapy patients, but we never see the woman again and the episode has no relevance to the bigger story. Carmen is suffering from an eating disorder that puts her in a treatment facility, but again, with no real impact on the story itself. The book also includes a number of invectives about environmental issues, hypocrisy in the Catholic church, the injustices of Medicaid policies, and treatment of migrant workers, none of which moves the story forward. While I appreciate books that want to bring up important topics, these vignettes just float through and then are gone. They feel like the author using the characters to express her personal opinions on issues of interest to her.

Grandma gives Finding Charlie four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.

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Claiming Noah

Claiming Noah

Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp (Women’s Contemporary Fiction)

Two baby boys are born through in vitro fertilization — one to Catriona and James Sinclair, who are the genetic parents, and one to Diana and Liam Simmons who receive the extra embryo donated by the Sinclairs. Then, one of the babies is kidnapped, and everyone’s life changes.

I enjoyed this book for many reasons. The premise itself is intriguing and immediately caught my imagination: Where was this headed? The characters are well-developed, and they act like real people. Nobody is too good to be true; no one is intrinsically evil. The author knows her stuff, whether medical or legal. And the pacing is just right, moving the action along while still allowing the reader time to learn to care about everyone involved.

The story is told, alternately, from the points of view of Catriona and Diana, giving plenty of opportunity to personally experience each mother’s joys and losses. The story itself had enough suspense to keep me reading “just one more chapter,” until I read the entire book in one day. I had my theories and my opinions of what I hoped would happen, but was never sure that it would be so.

The topic of IVF and all of its personal, social, medical, and legal ramifications is ripe for discussion, making Claiming Noah a great choice for a book group.

Grandma gives Claiming Noah five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy from the publisher via Net Galley, in return for an honest review.

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