Review – Viral

ViralViral by Helen Fitzgerald

Published February 2016

Faber & Faber

 

 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh my….WOW!!

“What if the worst thing you did went viral?”

What a question! I don’t want anything I do to go viral.

Heck I don’t even know where to start with my review. This was one helluva book!!

 

From the first sentence I was shocked and pulled into this story. I won’t tell you what the first sentence was but if you’ve read the entire book description you probably have an idea.
Actually both the very first sentence and the very last sentence of this book are shocking – but in very different ways.

There are also some situations that may trigger some very emotional responses. At times this was a dark and often disturbing read. However, the author also has an excellent sense of humor that somehow makes you able to get through the book without becoming completely depressed. Honestly I would be horrified one moment and laughing out loud the next. I felt it was the perfect mix of mystery, suspense and humor.

At the beginning of the book so far 23,096 people have seen Su Jin (or just Su) online performing a sexual act in a nightclub. These people include her mother, her father, her little sister, her grandparents, her boss, her teachers, her boyfriend and thousands more. The numbers are rising very quickly as she watches the video over and over.

Su and her sister and two friends are on holiday to Magaluf to celebrate their A-levels. Only Leah returns home. Her sister Su remains behind. She doesn’t want to go home until some other video has gone viral, when another “fresh sorry soul” has replaced her on the first page.

Su was adopted as a baby after being left on the doorstep in Seoul. Attached to the basket was a note from her birth mother in Korean that said “She is Su-Jin. I am 17, please look after her.” Ruth Oliphant and Bernard Brotheridge adopted her after years of trying to conceive their own child. One month after they brought Su-Jin home, Ruth discovered she was pregnant.

Very close in age Leah and Su got along very well when they were young. However, once puberty hit Leah had no use for Su and treated her quite terribly. Su tried to remain hopeful that they would one day be as close as they once were.

“I am prudish, virginal Su. I’m the one who usually stays at home to study or, if I do go all out the one who distributes water and buys the chips and calls the taxi. I don’t feel the need to swear, and I don’t like it when others do, unless it is the only accurate way to convey the information”.

Su is an excellent student and has wanted to be a doctor since the age of three. After working hard she’s accepted to the best medical school in the country, Edinburgh university. Leah is the wild child. She gets drunk often, does drugs, swears constantly, and isn’t picky about who she spends time with.

The girl’s mother Ruth Oliphant- Brotheridge is a very successful court judge. Happily married to a wonderful man and father Bernard. Ruth often finds it easier to relate to her adoptive daughter than her biological daughter.

When Leah comes home without her sister her mother is extremely angry at her for many reasons. Most of all that she was not looking out for Su. Naturally Ruth is very worried about Su and wants her to come home.

However her anger at the people who took advantage of her daughter continues to grow, threatening to overtake her. She wants to bring justice to all those involved.

We’ve all watched those viral videos. I prefer to stick to the cute, funny and heartwarming ones. People have become famous because of ONE video going viral. However, it’s not always a good thing.

The one moment in your life that is so horrifying that you don’t even want to think about? Imagine that moment played out for everyone to see. Where everywhere you go you wonder who saw it. The guy at the grocery store? Your co-workers? Your friends? Virtually anyone. One event can change everything in a person’s life. Even if everything is going perfect something can happen and boom! Everything you’ve known is completely different and you’re suddenly someone else altogether.

This is a dark and gripping story that I read in just two sittings. I found the story easy to follow and found the characters to be well-developed. I could feel the love and sometimes the hate between the characters, the fierceness of Ruth wanting to protect and get justice for her daughter really resonated with me. I can’t even imagine myself as a mother in this situation.

I thought I knew how the book was going to end but I ended up being surprised and I am quite happy with how it all came together.

I have read one of this author’s other books “The Cry” and really enjoyed it. I am certainly looking forward to more from Helen Fitzgerald.

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Review – I Liked My Life

I Liked My LifeI Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

Published January 31, 2017

St. Martin’s Press

 

 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I more than just liked, “I Liked My Life”, I LOVED it!!

From the very first sentence I was hooked!

Madeline (Maddy) tells us…..

“I found the perfect wife for my husband” and “Recruitment is the least I can do”

You see Maddy is not among the living anymore, but she’s not exactly gone either. She is somewhere not here. Her life is just out of reach. At first she wonders if she’s in purgatory.

“The Last World sits unceremoniously like a movie screen below me. There’s no spirit offering guidance”

She senses that this isn’t her last stop. She feels like there is a world beyond where she is right now, but she doesn’t see a path yet. There is just space and time….

So for now she’s going to make the best of it. And that’s where finding someone perfect for her husband, Brady comes in. However, she’s not just looking for someone to make her husband happy. She’s looking for someone to help her teenage daughter, Eve too. She doesn’t feel like she can move on or find peace until she fixes things for her family.

Then Maddy spots Rory. Cool, calm, level-headed, lovely and she even likes to cook. Rory has the patience of a saint, from what Maddy can see. However, Rory has a lot going on in her life and has suffered through her own devastating loss. Maddy feels that Eve and Rory will be able to relate to each other. She’s convinced that Rory is perfect for Brady and Eve and that they are perfect for her.

“This woman is my chance to make things right. My family deserves more than I left them”

*** Possibly very minor spoilers ahead. Usually things that are already mentioned in the description or within the first few pages of the book.***

 

Maddy was a devoted and loving wife and mother. So what could possibly have made her take her life?

When we first meet Maddy’s daughter, Eve, we can see right away how hard she is grieving. She’s thinking about the fact that it’s Mother’s Day but that it’s no longer a holiday for her. She’s also thinking about how bad her father is at this parenting thing without her mom there to tell him what to do. Eve and Brady have been at each others throats lately and without Maddy there to smooth things over, things only seem to be getting worse.

Eve spends a lot of time on her own. Her friends don’t know how to deal with someone who is mourning the loss of a parent. They either ignore it or go completely overboard. Her friend, Kara is a drama queen who even made a spectacle of herself at Eve’s mother’s funeral, crying as if she lost her own mother. Eve also feels incredibly guilty about how she thinks she treated her mother. She feels horrible about every time she may have forgotten to say thank you or every time she interrupted her and so many other things she may have said or not said to her mother. She wonders if it’s her fault.

She doesn’t know how she’ll make it without her mother.

Then there’s Maddy’s husband, Brady. Brady is lost in his own grief (and glasses of bourbon). He cannot believe Maddy is dead, that she jumped off a building. He had no idea that anything was wrong. Even the last text she sent him was benign, something about how to fit everyone for Easter dinner. Why would she ask about dinner and then kill herself? Psychologists try to tell him that suicide can often be impulsive, especially in cases like Maddy’s, but Brady calls bull on all of that.

But why did she do it? How could she leave them?

Brady is so caught up in what he’s going through that he’s not aware of how much his daughter is suffering, and how much she needs him.

Brady and Eve attempt to work their way through a grief so unimaginable. At times they are almost positive they can feel her presence. Brady thinks he hears her laugh and Eve even feels like her mother’s comforting her at times. When Brady finds Maddy’s journal, both him and Eve cling to it, hoping they will find the answers in her private thoughts.

I really enjoyed this book. I thought how the story was told from multiple points of view worked very well. I LOVED how Maddy “communicated” with people from her perch/eye in the sky. Finding out how everything came to the point it did. The characters and relationships felt very genuine. Oh did this book ever make me emotional. A few times I had to stop reading just to go hug my daughter….or call my mother. But it wasn’t all sad, there were many lighthearted moments. Both Eve and Maddy were quite witty, with some great one-liners. I grew very attached to these characters and their stories. There was a lot going on and although some parts were unexpected, I thought it all fit together very well.

In my opinion, this was a fantastic novel. A story about love and loss, life and death, and above all healing and forgiveness. One of the best debut novels I’ve read.

Please hurry and write more for me to read, Abby Fabiaschi. I can’t wait!

 

Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing an advanced readers copy of this book for me to read in exchange for my honest review.

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Review – The Girl Before

The Girl BeforeThe Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

Published January 24, 2017

Ballantine Books

 

 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Girl Before is a psychological thriller that is getting a lot of attention. The movie rights have even been sold to Universal with Ron Howard to direct. I didn’t know any of that when I first read the description for the book. I just thought it sounded like an entertaining read.

“Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.”

One Folgate Street in London, is a high-tech minimalist house with so many cool amenities and features that you would figure the rent would be sky-high. But the rent is actually very reasonable.

So what’s the catch? Well there’s no catch really…

Except for….THE RULES!!

Tenants are required to follow very a list of very strict rules. Things like no pets, paying rent on time, no loud noise after 11pm, take out the garbage. You know, things like that…

NOPE…not at all like that.

There are over 200 rules that tenants MUST be abide by in order to live in the house.

To say that the owner/landlord of One Folgate Street is picky about who lives in the house is an understatement. To say that he’s a bit particular about his rules for the tenants is putting it mildly. The rental application is extremely long and includes many bizarre (and impossible) questions.

“A person close to you confesses in confidence that they ran someone over while drunk. As a result they have given up drinking for good. Would you feel obliged to report it to the police?”

Is it worth it to live in such a beautiful high-tech home? This home with its awesome hidden gadgets. A house cleaner comes weekly. The lights, heat and cooling will set to tenants personal preferences. The shower will also adjust to their personal settings. Even the air in the house makes you feel better with its ultrasonic – mood enhancing waveforms.

“Imagine a hospital where the structure itself becomes part of the healing process, or a home for dementia sufferers that actually helps them to remember. This house might be simple, but it’s ambition is extraordinary.”

Just don’t forget…..the RULES. The main one? NO CLUTTER! Everything has its place, usually out of sight. So no pictures, no plants, no ornaments, no books….wait NO BOOKS???? (OMG!!! that’s just wrong!)

The owner, Edward Monkford is the architect who built the house. He also lives a minimalist lifestyle. He will not rent unless he finds the perfect tenant. But his need for control goes so much farther than that. And yet… some people are drawn to the “tormented genius”. But who is Edward really? What happens if someone does break the rules?

Emma and her boyfriend, Simon are looking for a safe place to live after a recent break-in. However, their budget is a bit tight and everything is either horrible or too expensive. Then the agent shows them One Folgate Street. She explains the lengthy process for application. Simon is hesitant but Emma feels like the place might be exactly what they need. The rules make her feel secure. She wants to reinvent herself, bring order to her life, to change and be a better person.

The house may change her, but will it be for the better?

We then meet Jane. After a devastating loss, Jane is looking for new place to live. She wants to make a new start and hopes that One Folgate Street is the place to do it. But it’s not long before some strange things start happening. Jane learns some of the dark history of the house and is determined to find out more, especially what happened to the previous tenant.

The house may be inexpensive and full of high-tech gadgets, but the walls of the house are also full of secrets. Where is the previous tenant? and is Jane in any danger?

“That’s all anyone’s looking for really, isn’t it? Someone to take care of the mess inside our heads?”

This book may not be for everyone. There is a lot of sex. Some of the characters “turn-ons” may be “turn-offs” for some readers. It wasn’t really my thing and I could have done without those parts. However, it didn’t really interfere with my enjoyment of the rest of the book.

The chapters alternate between THEN and NOW and are narrated by Jane (NOW) and Emma (THEN). I flew through the pages. Occasionally I had to flip back to double-check whether it was Emma or Jane but most of the time I was able to keep up. The story may have been hard to believe and far-fetched at times, but I decided to try to go with the flow and enjoy it…

In the end I really liked this novel. I was pulled and it got right inside my head. I had to know what was going to happen! A thrilling story about a house I would NEVER want to live in, (seriously I could not handle any of the rules) but I sure enjoyed reading about it.

 

P.S Put your shampoo away

Thank you, Ballantine Books for providing an advanced copy of this book for me to read in exchange for my honest review.

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Review- The Fall of Lisa Bellow

The Fall of Lisa BellowThe Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo

Expected publication: March 14, 2017

Simon & Schuster

 

4.5 Stars

I came across this book by chance. I was actually searching for another book and this one popped up. I thought it sounded really interesting.

As the book opens we meet Meredith Oliver age thirteen. Meredith is in the eighth grade, she tells us how it’s all downhill after grade five.

“In fifth grade you were still friends with everyone, whether you liked it or not because it was easier for the adults that way”

The playing field was even and the same things happened to everyone. But by sixth grade the playing field drastically changed. Meredith has spent the last two years since trying to find her place.

All of this is made so much harder by Lisa Bellow….

Lisa Bellow and Meredith Oliver are not friends. They actually don’t like each other much at all.

One afternoon after school Meredith decides to stop at the local sandwich shop. She really wants a root beer. However, when she sees Lisa Bellow in the shop placing an order for moment she debates walking away. But when Lisa catches her eye through the glass, Meredith figures it will look weird if she leaves now, so she walks in. Two minutes later a man enters the store with a gun and orders the girls to the floor.

Both of their lives are forever changed.

Meredith is terrified… positive she’s about to die. But the next moment the man is gone and she’s alone on the floor. The man has left ….but he’s taken Lisa with him.

In the aftermath of Lisa’s abduction the community rallies together, Meredith retreats into herself. She rarely speaks to anyone. Her mother, Claire doesn’t know how to get through to her. She knows she’s still lucky that her daughter is not the one missing, she’s right down the hall in her bedroom…..yet she’s not.

How does a family go on after something like this happens?

A story about a missing girl but also the girl left behind. We also see how the families are affected by this devastating crime. How they relate to each other as they try to deal with what has happened. Each individual copes in their own way, ways very different from what we might expect.

This is a well-written and interesting story that was easy to follow. The characters realistic and well-drawn, flaws and all. I was fascinated with how Meredith coped in the aftermath of what had happened. I found Meredith’s mother, Claire especially intriguing as I tried to understand some of her actions. As the mother of a teenage girl this was a terrifying read in many ways.

The Fall of Lisa Bellow is a novel about a horrible crime and the aftermath of that crime. But it is also about family, love, friendship, loss, anger, guilt, and forgiveness. A dark yet beautifully written coming of age story. I am absolutely looking forward to reading more from Susan Perabo.

Thank you NetGalley, Simon & Schuster, and Susan Perabo for providing an advanced readers copy of this book for me to read in exchange for my honest review.

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