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review 2018-09-19 21:15
The Wife Before Me - Laura Elliot

 

 

Before Elena Langdon's mother is lowered into her final resting place, she senses someone staring at her.  As Nicholas Madison offers his condolences to Elena, she's captivated by his handsome looks and charm.  Still grieving the death of her mother, she learns Nicholas is also grieving the death of his wife.  Soon their relationship blooms and they become inseparable.

 

Elena is so happy to have fallen in love with a man who's so thoughtful and attentive to her every need.  However, when she inquires about his dead wife, his personality turns frightful and grim.

 

The Wife Before Me is dark and disturbing.  There is nothing unique about the story line which I've read many times however, the author saturates the pages with lots of unforseen situations which kept me turning the pages for more.  At times some of the scenes were so brutal causing my body to wince.

 

As the story is told in different perspectives, it smoothly moves from the past to the present.  I was able to understand and get a feel of the characters as they expressed the mindset they were in at that time.

 

Betrayal, manipulation and lies drip on every page in The Wife Before Me by Laura Elliot.  Because the subject matter in this book is quite disturbing, I did enjoy it and look forward to reading more of Ms. Elliot's books.

 

Thank you Netgalley and Bookouture for an ebook ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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review 2018-08-10 19:48
A blend of psychological (noir) thriller with domestic drama, with a conflicted
Saigon Dark - Elka Ray

Thanks to the publishers, Crime Wave, for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This novel is a thriller that takes place within the domestic sphere and one of its unique features is that it is set (mostly) in Vietnam. The main character is a paediatric surgeon, Lily, whose family escaped to the United States when she was a child, and after studying Medicine decided to go back and work there. Although she is a successful professional, her personal life is not a happy one. Her husband, another doctor from a similar background to hers, has left her, and her youngest child, a little girl, suffers from a rare genetic condition, and she does not know how well she will develop. Tragedy strikes; the character seems unable to react rationally due to the pain and makes one disastrous decision after another. We all know that secrets have a way of coming back and biting us, and although Lily is quite lucky, not even she can escape the consequences of her actions, or can she? (I am trying not to reveal any spoilers).

The novel is told, in the first-person, from the point of view of Lily, and as was the case with a recent novel in the same/similar genre I read and reviewed, that might be a problem for some of the readers. It is impossible not to empathise with Lily, and although some of her reactions are bizarre, the author is very good at getting us inside her head and making us understand her disturbed mental state. Perhaps we think we would never do something like that, but we can understand why she does. Personally, I did not sympathise with her (or even like her very much) and at times felt very frustrated with her. I had to agree when one of the other characters told her that she was selfish, blind to other’s needs, and she never thought of anybody else. This is all the more evident considering her privileged existence in contrast to that of the general population, and how much of what happens is a direct result of her actions and her decisions, whilst others are victims of the circumstances with no options to escape. She seems to realise this towards the end, when even her son is more together than her, but all that notwithstanding, the action of the novel is gripping, and it is impossible not to feel curious about what will happen next and wonder if fate and karma will finally catch up with her.

The novel moves at a reasonable pace, at times we seems to be reading a standard domestic drama (about child-rearing and the relationship with her new husband), whilst at others it is an almost pure thriller, and we have blackmailers, red herrings, betrayals, and plenty of suspects. I think those two elements are well-combined and are likely to appeal to fans of both genres, although those who love hard thrillers might take issue with the amount of suspension of disbelief required to accept some of the events in the novel.

The ending is fairly open. Some questions (perhaps the main one) are resolved, but some others are not, and this might be frustrating for readers who prefer everything to be tied up in the end. There is a hint of some insight and growth in the character, but perhaps not enough considering the hard lessons she’s gone through.

There is some violence (although not extreme), serious issues are hinted at (domestic violence, poverty, bullying), and I particularly liked the realistic setting, and the way it depicts Vietnam, Hanoi and Saigon, the big social differences, and the expat scene.

In sum, a blend of psychological (noir) thriller with domestic drama, intriguing and heart-breaking at times, which takes place in an unusual and fascinating setting, recommended to those who don’t mind first-person narration and slightly open endings and who prefer their thrillers with more drama and less emphasis on procedural accuracy.

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review 2018-07-24 17:30
life in Georgian England
Behind Closed Doors: At Home in Georgian England - Amanda Vickery

It's about living in Georgian England and what the household politics would probably have been like.  The life and times of people from a few sources, the accounts books (apparently women did the household accounts and the men did the estate books); diaries; merchant accounts and letters mostly.  It was interesting to see where the roots of the tradition of a parlour in Ireland was, and this was where I had problems with the book.  The period traditions were treated as alien things, not things that have echoed down the ages and some of the commentary about furniture failed to see how and why someone might want to, in a house that is largely their husband's, a space of their own, even if it was only a desk.  And where someone might decide to, when faced with someone who didn't respect their space (which would probably have been often in a world where women were regarded as ornaments rather than people) they would have procured things for themselves that would have been seen by the men as wrong to use, whether that was style or size.  A desk suited to a small woman would have been difficult for a large man to use.  I didn't see the author see subversion in these things, or see the widow buy many tea pots because her husband belittle her "tea habit".  Humankind hasn't changed much, just the decorations.

 

The author also attests that yellow isn't seen in heraldry and therefore isn't caught up in symbolism.  Yellow and gold were inter-changable in heralry (for the most part, it's a little more complicated than that but it is largely thus) and were given a lot of the same attributes and two minutes with a reasonable heraldry book would give you this information, hell two minutes with the Heradry Society website and their introduction to Heraldry PDF (page 10) would tell you what you need to know about yellow/gold (sweet they have rules for same-sex marriage crests...https://www.college-of-arms.gov.uk/resources/same-sex-marriages, their wages are a joke and actually if you examine them are the same as they were in 1831 only translated from £Sd to Decimal, I'd much rather be a herald in Ireland than the UK); yes I know too much about the topic.

 

Honestly this is the only way to really test a book, to test what you know against it and then see where there are flaws and then determine if you trust the rest, I don't know any better.

 

It's not a bad read, a little dry in places but interesting to show how people of a different time lived.

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review 2018-07-21 14:39
An unsettling page turner recommended to lovers of first-person narratives.
The Party - Lisa Hall

Thanks to NetGalley and to HQ for providing me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

This is an unsettling novel. It starts with a woman, Rachel, who wakes up after a New Year’s Eve party not remembering what has happened and feeling quite vulnerable, and as she tries to get her bearings and find out what went on, while keeping face (as she’s in one of her neighbours’ houses and feels more than a little embarrassed), she comes to realise that something horrible has taken place. The author’s use of first-person narration immerses the readers in Rachel’s mind and makes us share in her fear, confusion, and contradictory feelings. There is physical evidence that something has happened to her, but she cannot recall what, or who might have done the deed.

The story moves between the immediate aftermath of the story, in chronological order, and interspersed chapters that share the events prior to the party, always from the protagonist’s point of view, but they don’t reach into the faraway past and only takes us a few months back, giving us some background that helps us understand why the people closest to Rachel (especially her husband, Gareth) react as they do to the events.

In the present time, somebody starts playing with the protagonist, in a game of cat-and-mouse (which sometimes takes on gaslighting characteristics) and manages to make her doubt herself and everybody around her, from mere acquaintances to those closest and dearest to her.  The first-person point of view works well at making readers feel the claustrophobia, paranoia, anxiety, and sheer terror of not knowing who to trust and seeing your whole life crumble around you.

The book, which fits into the domestic noir category, uses well some of the tropes of the genre, including the protagonist who feels trapped and not taken seriously by the police and therefore has to do her own investigating. There are also plenty of red herrings and a number of credible suspects that make us keep turning the pages to see what will happen next, although readers of thrillers will probably guess who the culprit is (I did).

On the negative side, personally, I did not feel a connection to the characters, particularly Rachel. I empathised with her circumstances, and with the terrible crime she has survived, but I did not feel there is enough information provided about her to create a credible individual. One of the other characters at some point talks about her belief that she is a strong woman, and I wondered what that was based on, as we are only given snippets of her current life and her recent past, and nothing that makes her come alive (What does she like? What did she do before she got married? Does she have any passions, apart from her relationships? She has a friend but other than calling her for support, there is no indication of what that friendship is based on). She does things that are morally questionable, but that was not my issue (I have long defended unlikable main characters, but I still need to feel that they are real, somehow). I wondered if this was intentional, trying to make sure that everybody would be able to identify with Rachel and her plight, rather than making her too distinctive and individual, but, for me at least, the opposite is the truth, and we know enough about her to make her different from us, but not perhaps to make us feel as if we know who she is. This would not bother me so much in a standard plot-driven thriller, but when the book depends so closely on the protagonist’s voice and on her sense of identity, it didn’t gel for me. There were also some things that I thought readers who are not fond of first-person narratives might find annoying (like the character looking at herself in the mirror as a way of providing us a description, something that is frown upon in general writing advice, and a leaning towards telling rather than showing in the bulk of the writing).

The novel moves at a good pace, it creates doubt and hesitation in the readers’ minds, and it has a good sense of timing. And the ending will probably satisfy most fans of the genre. It also touches on an important and, sadly, topical subject, although it does not cover new ground. It brought to my mind C.L.Taylor’s The Fear and I noticed the author, Lisa Hall, had reviewed that novel. I have not read the author’s previous books, but I am curious to see how this compares to her other novels.

A page-turner I recommend to lovers of domestic noir, particularly those who enjoy claustrophobic and unsettling first-person narratives.

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text 2018-07-20 06:11
When Should I Call an Emergency Electrician?

If your bathroom is flooding, you know you need to call an emergency plumber. If your bedroom ceiling has collapsed, it’s obvious you’ll need a builder straight away. But with electrical faults, it’s hard to know if you need to call an emergency electrician, or whether you can just light some candles and call them in the morning. And because calling out tradespeople in the middle of the night – or for any unplanned event – can become very expensive, you don’t want to call your sparky unless you absolutely have too. Use this guide to help you decide if your situation is desperate – or if it can wait.

 

  • Exposed Wires

If you’re seeing exposed wires, you can be sure that something isn’t right. This means that the plastic casing around the wire is broken, and you can actually see the copper wiring within. Whether you’ve accidently dislodged something, or come across them while renovating something else, not only are exposed wires damaging the equipment they are supposed to be powering, but they are also posing a significant fire risk. On top of that, if you touch the wire, you could be at risk of electrocution. As you can see, it’s best to call out an emergency electrician.

 

  • Water Damage

We should all know by now – water and electricity don’t mix. If you’re facing an emergency plumbing situation, and there is a chance that your cables may be damaged at the same time, then you could be in serious trouble. Even if you’ve turned your power off, if water has gotten into your wires then it can become extremely dangerous when turned back on.

 

  • Smoking Sockets

Smoking sockets are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this electrical issue. There are so many things that could be going wrong here, and it’s all happening behind the wall where you can’t see it. The first thing you need to do is stop using that outlet – unplug and turn off anything that is still connected, and then turn it off at the switchbox. After that, you should immediately call out an emergency electrician to investigate the cause of the smoke – it could be anything from a large electrical surge to a fire beginning within your walls.

 

  • Acrid Smells

Generally, smoking sockets will come with a foul smell – however a smell without smoke is still a serious problem. If you can smell something like burning plastic or rubber, it may mean there are damaged wires within your home, which could very quickly become a fire if they aren’t dealt with quickly and professionally. If you can tell where the smell is coming from, shut the power off in that area, and call an emergency electrician right away.

 

  • No Power

This isn’t necessarily the job for an emergency electrician, so it’s worth doing a bit of research first. Power outages can be caused by anything from a storm to trees falling on power lines. Call your domestic electrician first,and check if there are other houses on your street with no power. If you can’t find an answer there, then you might want to call out an expert if you need power straight away.

 

Calling an emergency electrician can be an expensive solution to a simple problem – especially when a lot of issues are small hassles rather than a hazard. However, if it is serious, then it can get very dangerous very quickly. For that reason, if you’ve noticed one of the problems on this list within your home, then we recommend calling for backup straight away. You’re better safe than sorry.

 

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