CAN YOU HEAR ME? – Elena Varvello

Can You Hear Me? is that kind of light read you’d enjoy reading through by the beach. It’s not an action-packed thriller. But even though it focuses less on the thriller element, this book really did it for me because it tackles important matters such as mental health.

The book has got that moody atmosphere (think THE ROANOKE GIRLS by Amy Engel), except here we’re taken into the mind of a sixteen year-old as he describes the unfortunate atmosphere around him – his father’s mental illness, to be exact – and the aftermath his family has to live through.

The story unfolds at a slow pace, and when it does, I found that the turn of events in the second half of the book really just depends on the reader himself/herself. For instance, at some point, the author focuses on the boy’s infatuation with one of the characters – which might just be an aspect of how a parent’s mental health can affect a child, but as I said, some aspects of the book do depend on the reader’s personal opinion.

The ending was a satisfying one. It was less about unraveling a mystery and more about a coming-together of all the pieces of the story into a conclusion of the aftermath of the main character’s father’s emotional state.

All in all, this book still remains a fun read to dive into if you’re looking for something light and that’s not very heavy, dark or intense.

***Thank you to Quercus and Elena Varvello for providing me with a ARC of CAN YOU HEAR ME? in exchange for an honest review***

So what do you guys think about this book? Do you feel like it’s up your alley?

Let’s discuss in the comments!

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YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS – Michelle Sacks

What’s more thrilling than reading about a couple moving all the way towards a Scandinavian country to settle in a new beautiful house on a captivating nature reserve in Sweden, only to find out a nightmarish future is in store for them?

You Were Made for This starts with a beautiful scenery that is a little red wooden house on a nature reserve bordering Sweden’s oldest town, Sigtuna, where a perfect family of three is living the perfect life.
And yet since the start, in the midst of all the perfection, you can’t help but feel like something’s not right within this family.

As you get to know this couple, you can’t help but ask, ‘what is the matter with these people?’ Their behaviors often are inexplicable and odd. That leads to the conclusion:
You will have a hard time liking the characters in this book – especially this couple. But that doesn’t omit the fact that their personalities remain addictive and fun to read about.

This family’s secret, however, will soon threaten to come to light after the visit of a close friend, who will eventually overstay her welcome in a way that will trigger the family’s lifestyle in the most heart-thudding way.

Michelle Sacks takes domestic thrillers to a deeper level. She doesn’t waste any of the reader’s time for we found ourselves already starting to plunge into the characters’ backstories early on in the book, along with the complex psychology that shapes each one of them.

In this debut novel, our couple seems to have it all, but things are more than what they seem…
Merry has a hard time having a normal relationship with her baby son; there’s something inside her that keeps her from giving him motherly love.
In terms of her life as a wife, she can’t help but sense as if she’s being imprisoned in this house where she feels tortured and pressured to keep up the act of being the perfect doting wife.

When it comes to Sam, the man has a history of secrets and indiscretions.

Readers stumble upon deeply unsettling scenes as Merry searches for ways to hurt her baby, towards whom she feels no empathy or emotional connection.

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The readers will find themselves inside a series of events that revolve around affairs and toxic friendships.
If you cannot stand unlikeable fictitious characters, this isn’t the book for you. On the other hand, if you feel otherwise, you will find this read engrossing and compelling.

This book will work perfectly for fans of BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, and also for readers who enjoy unlikeable characters and families with dark secrets.

Readers should proceed with caution if they are sensitive to certain subjects (child abuse, explicit scenes, etc).

***Thank you to Little Brown and Company and Michelle Sacks for providing me with a copy of YOU WERE MADE FOR THIS in exchange for an honest and unbiased review***

BLACKOUT – Ragnar Jonasson

Fellow crime readers, brace yourselves for one of the most brilliantly written crime novels of all time.

I’ve been meaning to read Nordic Noir for quite a while and I think Ragnar had made a fantastic job with this read.

It’s universally known that Iceland is one of the safest places on earth, so how shocking would it be to have a work of crime fiction where the most unspeakable things occured in its whereabouts?

Synopsis:

BLACKOUT stars with an atmospheric scene featuring an American tourist driving around the roads in the Northern Iceland area. The passing scenery with the captivating fjords and dark green hills was anything but not enjoyable, when he pulled at the side of one street to witness a brutally murdered man lying next to a building site, on the safe grounds of Skagafjordur.

This is an Ari Thor thriller, but from an entirely different angle, an intriguingly fascinating character of a woman named Isrun investigates the same crime, independently.

The cast of BLACKOUT is an easily relatable one – most of it at least. The reason behind this is that the author divulges to the reader the background of each character – one that is anything but perfect.

Despite the somewhat brutality and violence of the crime in question, the book does have a kind of soft edge to it; a moody and comforting side that describes the Nordic Noir genre perfectly.

What also drew me to this book was that the reader might experience a sudden shift of emotion towards our characters and mostly the victim of the crime at hand, the moment we become aware of where they come from.

It was fascinating to see how all these people seem to be intimately connected to the story’s main perturbational element.
It’s important to note that the discoveries throughout and mostly at the end of the book, spark something inside the reader that leaves with a feeling of a book hangover, with a highly sought after element, especially in the crime genre.

What are your thoughts about this book? Do you feel like it’s the kind of read you’d want to dive into?
Let’s discuss!

OUR KIND OF CRUELTY – Araminta Hall

Our Kind of Cruelty

What happens when a male unreliable narrator is the sole protagonist of a dark psychological thriller?

The answer is right within this riveting novel’s pages.

Sypnosis:

The book revolves mainly around the concept of obsessive love and a surplus devotion between our characters Mike and Verity. This couple plays a twisted game called The Crave.
This is how this game works…

Verity is approached by a suitor at a bar, they begin to flirt and when things look like they’re going the distance, she tugs her silver eagle necklace and Mike comes to her rescue. V and Mike take each other as their reward afterwards.

Although after Mike’s infidelity, Verity marries another man.
This will utterly shatter him, but Mike can’t help but be convinced that V’s endeavors are part of The Crave, and that the rules of this game have certainly changed because this time, someone has to die.

Throughout the last pages, things take a dark turn and the novel becomes more addictive than ever, with that just-one-more-page effect.

My full thoughts:

The story’s events are told from Mike’s perspective, and we become aware of the damaged childhood he comes from and how his upbringing brutally affects the intriguinly dark manner in which he thinks.

As we leaf through the pages, we begin to acknowledge that the author really pushes boundaries and creates a newer layer of dark and disturbing by challenging the thriller genre in the most original way.

Our Kind of Cruelty is more of an exploration of the crooked human psychology than it is an unraveling of a mystery, and also more about the anticipation of what’s going to happen next in our protagonist Mike’s journey.

This psychological thriller is perfect for fans of Patricia Highsmith and gripping thrillers such as Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates.

The book does have a slew of explicit scenes (abuse, affairs, etc), so do proceed with caution.

Have you read Our Kind Of Cruelty?
Do you think it’s up your alley?

Let’s discuss in the comments, fellow readers!

THE GIRLFRIEND – Michelle Frances

THE GIRLFRIEND is a debut psychological thriller that will take you on an addictive and unforgettable ride through one of the most twisted relationships you’ve ever read.

Michelle gives us a close look into the perfect bond that is mother-son relationship between Laura and Daniel.
Then comes Cherry – a dedicated observer and clever plotter.

This domestic drama focuses mainly on the battle between two strong women who are good, but would also manipulate their way into getting what they want…
Laura lives in a big house, is married to a rich husband and is devoted to her loving son. She has the perfect life.

But what secrets lie behind those closed doors?

Cherry comes from a poor family, and – despite her intelligent mind – her background has kept her from achieving the life she wanted. But she worked hard and got herself an average-paying real estate job, where she meets Daniel, Laura’s son – and Cherry’s ticket to the life of her dreams.

Not long afterwards, sinister occurences start to take place.

A horrific accidentAn unforgivable lie

What lengths will Cherry go through to build the new life she deserves?
What will a strong mother like Laura do to protect her son?

Michelle pulls us into this domestic thriller with such a riveting style of narration that makes it such an addictive page-turner where the reader becomes obsessed with these unstoppable women and their next move.
The novel reeks of an unsettling tense atmosphere that progresses steadily into the most heart-sinking ending.

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THE SITTAFORD MYSTERY – Agatha Christie

On a snowy Friday afternoon in Dartmoor, Newly installed tenants Mrs Willett and her daughter Violet, along with four other people they invited to tea, host an evening of “table-turning” – a séance, during which, a spirit announces that Trevelyan, the residence owner, is dead. Major Burnaby, Trevelyan’s friend decides to visit the Sittaford village to check on him, where he appears to find the prediction has come true. Emily Trefusis, engaged to Trevelyan’s nephew, uncovers the mystery along with the police.

One of the most entertaining things about an Agatha’s novel is the fact that it tends to contain purely different characters – each one with their own set of personality.

Emily Trefusis, for instance, certainly caught my attention in this book. Her character is observable and easily likeable. She expresses true devotion towards her fiancé Jim as Inspector Narracott makes the decision to arrest him for the murder of Mr. Joseph Arthur Trevelyan. Emily believes in Jim’s innocence and finds his character beautiful even though – in the eyes of others – they completely differ from one another: While she’s highly confident and is mentally stable, Jim is an overly-anxious man who gets emotionally disturbed so very easily.

What exactly lies inside the separate cottages of the Sittaford village? What do their inhabitants hide? Is the installment of the Willetts in Sittaford connected to the crime?
Who killed Mr. Trevelyan?

Agatha delves deep in the psychology of the characters and makes that all intentions and occurrences are justified, in a chilling way that satisfies the reader.

THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 – Ruth Ware

“You’re fine, I told myself. You’re completely safe. We’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean – no one can get in or away. It’s about the safest place you could possibly be.’

Travel journalist Laura Blacklock is offered a trip on the luxurious cruise liner The Aurora Borealis, which will hopefully allow her to recover the horrifying experience of a break-in that traumatized her to the core.
One night, Laura is woken by a scream and she looks over her window to witness a body being thrown overboard from the cabin next door. But the records show that no one ever checked into that cabin, and no passengers are missing from the boat.
THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 begins with an atmospheric dream scene where a woman is sinking below the surface of the ocean’s dark waves.

Laura’s character can be considered relatable in her unusual conduct, clumsiness and occasionally reckless decisions. It’s easy to sympathize with her as she goes through the most traumatic experiences in her life – a break-in that has traumatized her to the core and the panic attacks, followed by the witnessing of a body being thrown from the cabin’s window next to hers on the luxurious cruise liner in the middle of the night.

As Ruth Ware, with impeccable style of writing, takes us into the Scandinavian waters, the reader becomes engaged and eager to discover what the protagonist’s next step is going to be.

Will she bring herself to divulge what she had seen? Are Laura’s confessions not true, given what happened to her in the past? Is Laura trapped on this cruise ship with a murderer?

The build-up is extraordinarily structured and neatly plotted and I absolutely think this book is worth the read!