Book Review: Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas

Blurb

SHE CAN RUN

Libby Hall needs to hide, to escape from everything for a while. Which is why the house swap is a godsend. The chance for Libby and her husband Jamie to exchange their tiny Bath flat for a beautiful haven on the wild Cornish coast.

BUT SHE CAN’T HIDE

But before they can begin to heal their fragile marriage, Libby makes some disturbing discoveries about the house. And soon the peace and isolation begin to feel threatening. How alone are they? Why does she feel watched?

BECAUSE SOMEONE KNOWS HER SECRET

What is Jamie hiding? Is Libby being paranoid? And why does the house bring back such terrible memories? Memories Libby’s worked hard to bury. Memories of the night she last saw her best friend alive… and what she did.

Plot

Last Seen Alive is about a young couple, Libby and Jamie, and the struggles they’re going through in life (aren’t we all?). There are aspects of the plot that we’re confused about here. Libby is holding secrets, and there’s mention of something that happened back when she lived in Thailand for a few months.

Libby gets a leaflet through the door from another couple, asking residents to get involved in a house swap. The letter explains that their daughter needs life-changing surgery in the hospital in Bath.

Libby jumps at the chance for a week away in Cornwall, and accepts the offer. Very quickly, their relaxing Cornish holiday starts to go wrong. Jamie is poisoned, some bloodied underwear is found in the garden, and who is the strange man following them around? The house is creepy, just too empty and un-lived in. Everything looks to perfect.

Their trip is cut short, to their relief, and they return to Bath. But their bank accounts have been emptied, other accounts have been opened in Libby’s name, and items start to arrive in the post, including a backpack and a blonde wig. And then they find a dead man in their garden, of which Libby is the ultimate suspect.

Can she convince the police that they’ve been away in Cornwall all week, or is she being framed by someone?

Book Review

I felt like there was a bit of a lull in Last Seen Alive whilst the couple were in Cornwall. My reading of it slowed down, and I couldn’t visualise where it was going.

Until the flashback to Libby’s time in Thailand and OMG COULDN’T PUT IT DOWN FROM THIS POINT. Everything changed, everything started to make sense. So what did happen in Thailand all those years ago, and why is Libby only paying the price for it now?

It’s really hard to write this review without giving away too much about characters that I can’t tell you about (otherwise the plot gets ruined) or about what the hell happens in Thailand. Just trust me, it’s worth buying, the book is good.

I read half of this book in one sitting once I reached the shocking twist that no one saw coming (see Jenny’s review here). I absolutely would love to read some more of Claire Douglas’ books. Last Seen Alive is definitely one for any thriller fans, and will leave you thinking about it for days afterwards.

Grab your copy of Last Seen Alive from Waterstones or read an extract here!

 

Books similar to this one:

Best Day Ever, Kaira Rouda

Then She Was Gone, Lisa Jewell

 

 

Photo header credit: https://www.deadgoodbooks.co.uk/

 

Book review of The Stand, Stephen King

It’s Stephen King’s 70th birthday, so what better excuse to post a book review of The Stand, arguably his best book.

This book review of The Stand will demonstrate why it is a must-read, and you’ll be promptly adding it to your Waterstones’ baskets by the time I’m done. It won’t contain any spoilers, for those King fans that haven’t yet attempted this piece of art.

The Stand was first published in 1978 and then re-worked and re-published in 1990 as an uncut edition. And I’m glad King wasn’t too worried about the monstrous size of his novel. It’s a huge one, yet people still read it through to the end, multiple times.

book review of the Stand - front coverGeneral Plot

In The Stand, the ‘villain’ is portrayed as a disease, a sickness, that goes by the name of Captain Trips. King, in the magical way he has, makes us fear this disease so much. It wiped out 99.4% of the population. Seriously, read this book, and try not to flinch when someone sneezes on the bus.

Captain Trips was created accidentally by humans. When the scientists behind it became ill and gradually died, one fled the lab out of fear. He passed Captain Trips on to his wife and child. When the three of them died, they passed it onto the police and coroners, and so the majority of the population was quickly gone.

But something scarier (if that’s possible) emerges from the illness. Randall Flagg is pure evil. He visits the sick, ill, weary, and weak in their dreams, and encourages them to meet him.

But where there is pure evil, there is plain purity, and this comes in the form of Mother Abagail. She’s luring in the good and honest people to create an army that will fight the evil of Flagg.

It becomes obvious very quickly that these groups of people have survived for a reason. Why were they, the remaining 0.6%, immune to Captain Trips when it so violently killed everybody else?

Structure

As with all King novels, there is a whole host of characters, with wives and children, and backgrounds. It takes a while to become confident in who is who, but as always with King, not only does he achieve success with the number of characters, but they’re all incredibly real. You feel sympathy for them, you relate to them, and they’re so three dimensional. I’m yet to experience this with any other writer. You feel as if you have experienced the end of the world with them.

The characters are sort of introduced one by one, and then they gradually meet, until they either pick a ‘side’: that of Mother Abagail, or the evil Flagg.

This is one that needs to be read multiple times. Every time you’ll take something away from this novel that you never noticed within it before. You’ll either love it or hate it. You’ll get 100 pages through or will read all 1300 10 times in your lifetime.

Top Tip: If you don’t think you’ll get through it all, read the cut edition from 1978 first. It’s about 300 pages shorter.

Pick a copy up now for £8.99 at Waterstones

 

Header photo credit: http://theunlikelybookworm.com/

See more book reviews: https://www.dreamofhome.co.uk/category/the-library/ 

Best Day Ever, by Kaira Rouda

New Release….

A loving husband. The perfect killer?

‘I wonder if Mia thinks I have a dark side. Most likely as far as she knows, I am just her dear loving husband.’ 

Paul Strom has spent years building his perfect life: glittering career, beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in the suburbs.

But he also has his secrets. That’s why Paul has promised his wife a romantic weekend getaway. He proclaims this day, a warm Friday in May, will be the best day ever.

Paul loves his wife, really, he does. But he also wants to get rid of her. And with every hour that passes, Paul ticks off another stage in his elaborately laid plan…

Behind Closed Doors meets Liane Moriarty in this creepy, fast-paced psychological thriller with a twist you won’t see coming!

Plot

Paul Strom is just a traditional, romantic guy who wants to treat his wife to the Best Day Ever, right?

Wrong.

Paul plans to take his wife Mia away for a weekend. The Stroms are a well-off family, and they own a lake house on a gorgeous site near to Lake Erie (yes, we will discuss the irony of that name in a bit).

They have two gorgeous boys, aged 6 and 8. They own a huge home, the biggest in the street, in Columbus. And they have an au pair who looks after the boys whilst Paul and Mia go for a romantic weekend away.

But whilst they’re away, things seem tense. Is it just tiredness, stress, work related, or down to Mia’s recent illness? Secrets begin to emerge and the Best Day Ever quickly becomes one of the worst.

Best Day Ever Review

Best Day Ever is set just under a 24-hour period, and the first person narration is provided by Paul. The chapters are set into time zones, beginning at 9am and continuing until 6am the next day. Very early on we learn a few details about Paul’s past. His mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and accidentally killed herself and Paul’s dad whilst leaving the car running in the garage. Paul and Mia have been happily married for around ten years. He feels they’ve both been stressed and run down recently, and that they need to take a break, without the children.

Paul is a very cocky and obnoxious man. He is very vain, and everything comes down to appearances. He’s constantly wanting to appear richer than he is, more successful than he is. When they arrive at the lake, he spies his neighbour’s house: the Boone’s.

“I stop in front of the Boones’ cottage. All of the lights are on, it seems, in every room of the place. They are entertaining people from our neighborhood, no doubt, wining and dining them at their grand historic cottage…I turn the corner onto Laurel Street and our cottage is glowing with light too. There are two people on the screened-in porch. They sit in the two chairs that face the sofa. The furniture is old and rather embarrassing” (p. 132).

We know from previous scenes that two of his credit cards have been declined. They seem to have suddenly run out of money, but why? He has compared himself to his neighbours, whose house, even though they both live in cottages in the nicer part of the camp, is ‘grand’ and ‘historic’ but his is embarrassing and old-fashioned. He talks about replacing the outside furniture.

Rather quickly, we begin to question Paul’s reliability as a narrator. We can tell straight away that there is something not quite right. He’s lying to his wife, which he also tells us early on:

“I must recollect everything I’ve uttered to my wife about Caroline, and the Thompson Payne office in general over the past few months. Then, like for one of Sam’s first grade projects, I must sort what has been said into one pile and what hasn’t been into another. This is an important exercise, done on my terms, not hers” (p. 41).

Paul has these psychopathic tendencies that rear up frequently throughout the book. It also seems that he can’t read people’s emotions very well:

“Embarrassed, that’s the emotion” (p. 140)

Mia, his wife, even states to a neighbour that Paul’s “emotional intelligence is a bit lacking.” He says things because he thinks it is what people will expect: “I think that is a thing a guy would say to another guy” (p. 142).

We hear from Mia’s perspective in the epilogue at the end of the novel, but until then Paul is our only narrator. Paul depicts her as whiny, and a bit of a worrier. We know from Paul that people like Mia, though he isn’t sure why: “Mia is a person many want to befriend” (p. 132).

As an unreliable narrator, we quickly disregard anything he tells us, and so understand that Mia is liked by people because she is a genuinely nice person.

Rouda is very clever in the way she has portrayed Paul. We thoroughly dislike him, and yet it doesn’t stop you from reading the book. He often acknowledges and talks to the reader, asking them not to share his secrets with his wife, as if we know them. As if they live next door and we might spill the beans. This is a very clever literary technique.

Themes

As I mentioned before, the lake town they visit is called Lake Erie which only adds to the strangeness this small town exudes. Paul seems to think that the place is lovely but the people and the neighbours are out to get him. His neighbours don’t talk to him and he can’t understand why. He hates going to the Lake during the busy summer months because it fills with idiots. He likes the place, but not the people.

When Mia and Paul go out for lunch, Paul mentions the lighthouse that sits on the rocks leading boaters to safety, away from land. If the lighthouse is leading them to safety, back into the water, Rouda is insinuating that the land is dangerous. Whilst we know this for boats, could she also be applying it to the people on the land? The town is even described as a ‘dry’ place, and the vegetables seem to be wilting in the grocery shop.

Mia also finds safety and comfort in the sky. She enjoys stargazing, and has a phone app that tells her which constellations she can see. People are constantly trying to find a way to escape the land, to somewhere much further away.

I read Best Day Ever in about 3 days. It was gripping, and even comical in places. We can see straight through our narrator, and you’ll find yourself asking, Are you really going to do that? Do you really think that? Very cleverly written, and one any thriller fan should read.

4/5

Book available to buy from….
Amazon.co.uk    Amazon.com   Google Play   Barnes and Noble   iBooks   Kobo   Waterstones   HarperCollins

About the Author
Kaira Rouda is a USA Today bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary women’s fiction and sexy modern romance novels that sparkle with humor and heart. Her women’s fiction titles include Here, Home, Hope, All the Difference, In the Mirror and The Goodbye Year (April 2016) Her bestselling short story is titled, A Mother’s Day. Kaira’s work has won the Indie Excellence Award, USA Book Awards, the Reader’s Choice Awards and honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest International Book Awards. Her books have been widely reviewed and featured in leading magazines.

Her sexy contemporary romance series set on Indigo Island includes: Weekend with the Tycoon, Book 1; Her Forbidden Love, Book 2; The Trouble with Christmas, Book 3; and The Billionaire’s Bid, Book 4. Each of these novellas can be read as a stand alone, or enjoyed as a series. Her new series is set in Laguna Beach and includes: Laguna Nights, Book 1; Laguna Heights, Book 2; Laguna Lights, Book 3, and Laguna Sights.She also helped launch Melissa Foster’s The Remington’s Kindle World with her bestselling novella, Spotlight on Love and in the Dare to Love Kindle World, The Celebrity Dare.

Her nonfiction titles, Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs, and Real Your For Authors: 8 Essentials for Women Writers, continue to inspire.

She lives in Southern California with her husband and four almost-grown kids, and is at work on her next novel.

Find the author on the following sites…
Website   Facebook   Twitter   Pinterest   Google+   Goodreads   Amazon Author Page

Other Women’s Fiction books by the author…

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The Pact by Jodi Picoult

The Pact is described as a ‘love story’, but it seems to me more a tale of grief and loss.

Blurb

The Pact: For eighteen years the Hartes and the Golds have lived next door to each other, sharing everything from Chinese food to chicken pox to carpool duty– they’ve grown so close it seems they have always been a part of each other’s lives. Parents and children alike have been best friends, so it’s no surprise that in high school Chris and Emily’s friendship blossoms into something more. They’ve been soul mates since they were born.

So when midnight calls from the hospital come in, no one is ready for the appalling truth: Emily is dead at seventeen from a gunshot wound to the head. There’s a single unspent bullet in the gun that Chris took from his father’s cabinet–a bullet that Chris tells police he intended for himself. But a local detective has doubts about the suicide pact that Chris has described.

 

The Pact book front cover

Plot Summary

How does one 17-year-old end up dead when she seemed to have the perfect life? She had a great boyfriend, was intelligent and doing well at school, and had a lovely ‘normal’ family, in a lovely neighbourhood. So why did Emily want to kill herself?

Chris and Emily have known each other since forever. Chris was at the birth of Emily when he was six months old, and since then, they have never been apart. Everyone had hoped that they would end up together. Their parents had hoped for it since the day they were born, so when they finally got together at the age of 13, the Golds and the Hartes couldn’t have been happier!

Until their daughter ends up dead, with Chris the only one who knows what actually happened. Was it his fault? Could he have stopped what happened? Or was he the instigator?

The two families are ripped apart when Chris is arrested for first-degree murder. The remaining story follows his trial and how he will survive without Emily, the love of his life.

Review

The main story of The Pact follows two parallels: then and now. ‘Now’ is centred around the death of Emily, the aftermath, and Chris’ trial. ‘Then’ starts with Emily and Chris’ relationship up until the night she dies. Picoult is very clever in the way she conveys Emily. She is a character we never meet, or hear from directly, but we only know her through other characters’ perceptions.

We finally discover the truth as the narrative of the past leads up to Emily’s death in the final 50 pages of The Pact. Don’t worry, there are no spoilers in this review though!

The characters are *mostly* likeable. There are the parents of Chris and Emily, Gus and James, and Melanie and Michael. As with all novels, Picoult explores the relationships between the couples after the death of a child. One parent copes differently to another and they drift apart.

Rather more unusually, Picoult follows the backstories of both the prosecution and defense lawyers, S. Delaney and Jordan McAfee. Jordan is defending Chris, whilst Delaney is trying to prove that he killed Emily.

The issues that Picoult observes are wide and varying, including mental illness, suicide, love, suffering and sex/sexual abuse. She also looks more deeply into relationships and how our lives are affected by them.

Also unusually, she narrates the entire trial. It’s not just a typical brief trial scene with a verdict, but around 100 pages of prosecution, defence, judges, witness statements, etc. It was truly enthralling and a heart-in-my-mouth moment.

The Pact was a brilliant book, and a brilliant read, though slightly cliched in places (but who doesn’t love a bit of cliche?).

4/5

 

Buy a copy now for £8.99

 

Other books similar to this one

Then She Was Gone, Lisa Jewell

The Little Friend, Donna Tartt

My Current To-Read List

This week I made a new resolution that I would treat myself to one new book each month, so here is a breakdown of my current to-read list, and books I’m planning on buying soon!

I don’t know about anyone else, but if you wanted to purchase everything on your current to-read list, you would spend about £1000. I’ve decided to treat myself to one £10 book each month to actually read some current books. For someone who loves reading as much as I do, I never buy bestsellers, or new releases, and end up being way behind. I watched Stranger Things a year after it came out and I wanted to talk about it but all the hype had died down by then. I’ve read books ten years after they came out (The Little Friend). Now I want to go back even further and read The Secret History!

So I’m trying my hardest to buy one new release each month. Here are some books that I would love to buy over the coming months. Not all of these are new releases, but books that I’ve been wanting to read for so long.

Last Seen Alive

She can run

Libby Hall needs to hide, to escape from everything for a while. Which is why the house swap is a godsend. The chance for Libby and her husband Jamie to exchange their tiny Bath flat for a beautiful haven on the wild Cornish coast.

But she can’t hide

But before they can begin to heal their fragile marriage, Libby makes some disturbing discoveries about the house. And soon the peace and isolation begin to feel threatening. How alone are they? Why does she feel watched?

Because someone knows her secret

What is Jamie hiding? Is Libby being paranoid? Why does the house bring back such terrible memories? Memories Libby’s worked hard to bury. Memories of the night she last saw her best friend alive . . . and what she did.

This book has a huge rating of 4.2/5 on Goodreads and 4.7/5 on Waterstones’ website. It’s a new release, and it’s HUGE. This is the one I’ll be ordering at the end of this month.

Now £2 off

We Were Liars

We are the Liars. We’re beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury. We are cracked and broken: a story of love and romance, a tale of tragedy. Which are lies and which is truth?

Technically a re-release and not a new release, but I’m still excited to get my hardback copy!

I See You

I See You is added to my current to-read list.

It is the photo I’m looking at. It’s cropped close to the face but you can clearly see blonde hair and a glimpse of a black strappy top. Older than the other women pimping their wares, but such a grainy photo it would be hard to give a precise age.

Except I know how old she is. I know she’s forty.

Because the woman in the advert is me.

When Zoe Walker sees her photo in the classifieds section of a London newspaper, she is determined to find out why it’s there.

There’s no explanation: just a grainy image, a website address and a phone number. She takes it home to her family, who are convinced it’s just someone who looks like Zoe. But the next day the advert shows a photo of a different woman, and another the day after that.

Is it a mistake? A coincidence? Or is someone keeping track of every move they make…

I love a great mystery/thriller novel, and I have a feeling that this one won’t disappoint.

Buy for £5.99

Nadiya’s British Food Adventure

Now with her own prime-time BBC2 cookery series, Britain’s favourite Bake Off winner presents her latest cookbook, featuring mouth-wateringly delicious recipes from the programme.

Nadiya Hussain was crowned the nation’s winner of 2015’s Great British Bake Off. Famed for her fantastic cookery skills and adventurous flavour choices, she sets off on a journey around the country to meet some of the finest growers, producers and pioneers behind the best of modern British food.

Inspired by her exploration, Nadiya has created over 120 easy and enticing new recipes that mix the local ingredients she encounters with her very favourite flavours: a nod to her Bangladeshi roots. Her reinvented classics capture the diversity of twenty-first century Britain – of tastes and culinary influences that shape what we love to cook and eat today.

I’m trying to get more adventurous, and try out some new recipes so this is the next on my cookbook list.

Now £6 off

The Secret History

The Secret History on my current to-read list

Truly deserving of the accolade Modern Classic, Donna Tartt’s cult bestseller The Secret History is a remarkable achievement – both compelling and elegant, dramatic and playful. Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. When they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever.

Now £2 off

 

So there’s my current to-read list. This lot should keep me occupied for the next five months! Have you read any new releases that you loved?

 

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