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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

#CJSReads2017 REVIEW: The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty

The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty
Atria Books

A well written, great read for those who like the slower feel of a contemporary novel.  Unfortunately, this book was touted as a nail biting psychological thriller - which none of us felt this was - and it impacted our ratings.  Keep reading below for our thoughts!



Synopsis from Goodreads:

“I am the housekeeper, the hired help with a messy past who cleans up other people’s messy lives, the one who protects their messy little secrets.”

When Anne Morgan’s successful boyfriend—who also happens to be her boss—leaves her for another woman, Anne finds herself in desperate need of a new job and a quiet place to recover. Meanwhile, her celebrity idol, Emma Helmsley (England’s answer to Martha Stewart), is in need of a housekeeper, an opportunity which seems too good to be true.

Through her books, website, and blog, Emma Helmsley advises her devoted followers on how to live a balanced life in a hectic world. Her husband, Rob, is a high profile academic, and her children, Jake and Lily, are well-adjusted teenagers. On the surface, they are the perfect family. But Anne soon finds herself intimately ensconced in the Helmsley’s dirty laundry, both literally and figuratively. Underneath the dust, grime, and whimsical clutter, everyone has a secret to hide and Anne’s own disturbing past threatens to unhinge everything.

For fans of Notes on a Scandal and The Woman UpstairsThe Housekeeper is a nuanced and nail-biting psychological thriller about the dark recesses of the human mind and the dangerous consequences of long-buried secrets.

Jessica's Thoughts:
3.5 / 5 Stars

I give this book 3.5 stars. This is mainly influenced by how the description was misleading. I was expecting a huge thriller with some crazy twists. "a nuanced and nail-biting psychological thriller about the dark recesses of the human mind and the dangerous consequences of long-buried secrets." This book wasn't all that much of a thriller. 

Anne Morgan’s boyfriend (and boss) leaves her for another woman, She then finds herself in desperate need of a new job and some new surroundings. Meanwhile, her celebrity idol, Emma Helmsley (England's Martha Stewart), is in need of a housekeeper, an opportunity which seems too good to be true. 

With her many books, a website, and her blog, Emma Helmsley advises her many followers on how to live a balanced life in a hectic world. Her husband, Rob, is a high profile academic, and her children, Jake and Lily, are well-adjusted teenagers. They appear to be the perfect family. But Anne soon finds herself in the Helmsley’s dirty laundry, and realizes that underneath the dust, grime, and whimsical clutter, everyone has a secret to hide and Anne’s own disturbing past threatens to unhinge everything.

While it sounded great and I was expecting a page-turning, could not put it down thriller, it was still an enjoyable book. You could consider it a slow burn, but it felt like it was taking forever. There was a slow build and you began to pull back the layers of the story and their secrets, but it didn't have that nail-biting effect on me. Still a good read and very well written!

Follow Jessica on Goodreads or Instagram

Sam's Thoughts:
2 / 5 Stars


The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty was not what I was expecting.  This novel, although marketed as a thriller, read, instead like a piece of contemporary fiction.  I continuously felt like I was waiting for something big to happen. 

Let me break it down…

The novel focuses on Anne Morgan.  A woman who has it all:  a successful, handsome boyfriend and an elite job in a restaurant.  Until, all of a sudden, she doesn’t.  After her boyfriend leaves her for someone else, Anne ends up becoming a housekeeper to one of her idols, Emma.   Emma writes a lifestyle blog that Anna religiously follows.   Perfect on the surface, as Emma begins working with the family, she begins to find all their secrets and realizes that even the most prominent families have things they want buried…. 

This one suggested it its synopsis on Goodreads that it is “nail biting”.  This was not the case.  It is not a psychological thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat.    It is very slow paced and truly, not a whole heck of a lot happens.    I must, however, applaud Dainty for her writing skills; although the plot missed the mark for me, I was engaged in her writing style.    I had no problems getting through this book; it just was not what I was expecting.

I was also a fan of the characterization; I really like Anne and Emma.  I loved the development between Anne and the family as she begins to obsess over them.  I also loved her struggle to find her identify of her birth father.   It was these little “extras” that kept me reading, long after I stopped hoping something exciting would happen. 


If you are wanting a thriller that will keep you flipping the pages and on the edge of your seat, this will not be your choice.  However, if you want a well-written piece of fiction that will engage you, then, by all means, The Housekeeper would be a solid selection.    Overall, I gave it a 2/5 stars on Goodreads.  

Follow Sam on InstagramTwitter, Goodreads and her Blog!
My Thoughts:
2 / 5 Stars

Anne is a chef, happy in her job and in her relationship with the restaurant's owner, Anton. When Anton admits to an affair, her world crumbles around her. She loses her boyfriend and her job in one short night and doesn't know what she is going to do. Following the blog of Emma Helmsley (England's Martha Stewart), she finds they need a housekeeper. Feeling as if she needs to stay away from the restaurant business for a while as to avoid any awkwardness, she applies and is hired immediately. As she pours her heart and soul into the family and their house, she feels herself becoming a part of the family and not just someone who works for them. But the closer she gets to them, the more secrets she learns and in return the more
she lets them learn about her. Eventually the past comes to the surface, secrets come out and she has to make a decision.

This book states on the back that it is a "nail-biting psychological thriller". I didn't find it to be either. It read completely as a contemporary novel to me instead. I enjoyed Anne as a character and understood her need for organization and being a part of something that made her feel useful. The family nuances were intriguing and realistic. The relationship between Anne and the Helmsley's was well built and you could understand Anne's point of views in wanting to protect them over time. However, the pace was a bit slow for me. I didn't feel like anything really happened until about half way through and even then I found myself losing interest and my mind wandering. 

I was told by other readers that this wasn't really a thriller so I went in not expecting the suspenseful psychological thriller that it appeared to be in its blurb. However, I still felt a bit slighted that it wasn't. Please note that as a contemporary novel that builds on the slow build of complicated relationships that happen through the wants of both parties but for different reasons, it is well written. While this didn't quite hit my book love button, for those who do cater more to contemporary fiction novels, this would be a good read for you. I just happen to prefer my books a bit more fast paced and with a bigger punch.




Monday, February 27, 2017

Author Interview: John Hunt - Doll House

The man behind Doll House is no other than John Hunt.  You've seen #CJSReads2017 scream about his creepy book all over our social media.  See my 5 star review here.  

John was nice enough to take time out of his busy schedule to do a Q&A with me.  For those who haven't read his book yet - go get it! NOW!  It's that perfect type of creepy without going overboard and keeps you glued to the pages.

Scroll down and take a peep 👀 at the person behind the book!!




Name: John Hunt
Age: Early 40’s
From: Brampton, Ontario, Canada

Books written, blurbs: I have an author page on Amazon. It contains all the anthologies I have had short stories published in. Here is the link: https://www.amazon.com/John-Hunt/e/B01MUHIIOA


What does your writing process look like?

Most of my ideas start out as a scene in my head. I’m very visual that way. Sometimes the scene is the ending, sometimes a random moment in the middle and other times a conversation in my head. I once had a scene playing in my head about urinal etiquette. If there are three urinals, and one person is using the one furthest from you, do you use the one beside him or leave the buffer urinal in the middle. Buffer. Always leave the buffer. So, that’s how they all start out and some of them continue to live and some of them die off. 


What is the most difficult part of your writing process? Your writing Kryptonite?

Finding the time. I usually wait for my kids to be in bed or preoccupied before I bring out the Macbook. I have no other issues. Once I start, I slip into that zone quite easily. 


How many hours a day do you write?

When I am on a tear and the story is just pouring out of me, I can write non-stop for hours. Sometimes I just refine ideas, make them useable and problem solve. I have gone weeks without writing but that would be because of work and family life not from a lack of desire. So, the answer to that is: it depends. 


Do you have any strange writing habits?

All writing habits are strange, I think. The whole process is for the purpose of creating a very large and believable lie. The only thing other people find weird is that I love to listen to music while I write. 


What is your least favorite part of the writing / publishing process? Favorite part?

 Editing. Once I’m done with a book I just want to let it go and move on to something else. But I can’t, because a lot is wrong with the first, second, fourth and even the final draft. The publishing part was painless for me. They did a lot of the work. The editing though, ugh!

My favourite part was when a copy of my book showed up at my house with only my name on the top. My favourite part is people enjoying what I wrote. When you write something, you think it is good, you think it is worthy to be read but you never really know. It was like throwing yourself out there for everyone to look at and hoping no one snickers behind their hands. I am overwhelmed and blown away with all the positive support. 


Is there one particular subject you would never write about as an author? What is it?

I don’t know. My stories haven’t taken me to that place yet. I’m sure I’ll find out at some point. 

Is there a type of scene that's harder for you to write than others?

Because I see most of the scenes in my head, I cringe all the time when I write. All the time. I know I grind my teeth because I sometimes have a headache afterwards. So the whole beginning of Doll House, when Olivia is taken, I was cringing while writing it. All of it. 


Does a big ego help or hurt writers?

I have no idea. You do need confidence or a belief what you wrote is good enough to share otherwise you never would get published. 


What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

I started reading DRAGONLANCE books when I was young. Like grade six or seven. Since then, language has always had power over me. 

How many unpublished/half-finished books do you have?

 Two. The plot is solid on both of them. It reads in a nice linear fashion and it all makes sense only they are projects I wrote at the beginning of my writing. Just reading the first paragraph makes me cringe because they don’t just need editing, they need a complete overhaul.


How long does it usually take you to write a book?

Depends. I do write quickly, or so I’ve heard. I wrote Doll House in under a month? If I count all the time I spent on the first draft then that would be accurate. The editing though…sheesh, did I mention I dislike editing?


What inspired you to write such a dark book?

 Well, like I said, most of my stories start out as scenes in my head. This one started out with Jen, in her home, dealing with a terrible incident that unmoored her from reality. That scene started it all and it all flowed from there. 


If you could cast the characters of Little Girl Lost for a movie, who would play your characters?
I wish! So, Olivia would be played by Jennifer Lawrence, Harry by David Harbour from STRANGER THINGS and the Jackal? Josh Brolin. Bam!


Do you read your reviews?  Do you respond to them, good or bad?  Any advice on how to deal with the bad?

 Yes. I read all of them. If the reviewer would like a response, I do my best to accommodate. I learn from all of it. Bad reviews, if the reviewer explains why and how I can approve, I am grateful to them. It is all a learning experience for me. If there is no explanation then I assume what I wrote didn’t resonate with them or I didn’t relay my intent effectively. Once again, I try to learn from it. I don’t take anything personally from people who don’t know me personally. Good reviews, hell, I am just excited someone liked it. 


If you didn't like writing books, what would you do for a living?

I actually have a full time job. Writing is something I have to do because the monotony or the lack of opportunity to be creative in my job was driving me crazy. 


What's the best money you ever spent as a writer?

My sisters bought me a Netbook. It was awesome and they got it for me when I was hacking out stories on a crusty desktop so that computer they bought me was awesome. I am in a single income household so I never really had any extra money. But one time, I did and my wife was kind enough to agree to buy a Macbook and it was the best purchase for my writing ever!


Have you ever gotten reader's block?  How did you get out of it?

I’m assuming you mean writer’s block. When I have a story in mind, I don’t get writer’s block. I have times when I need to solve a plot problem but I just mull it over until it is resolved. 



Do you google yourself?
I’ve only ever googled myself after this book came out. My publisher told me to do it to see where my book would be available so I could add the links to my sites. 


As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

I have never thought of it. I am a huge fan of Superman, so if I wouldn’t get hit with copyright infringement, I would like to use that ‘S’. 


What are you working on now? What is your next project?

I have a story in mind about a boy, a dog and a robot. And a mass murderer drawing closer to them. I haven’t started it yet but it is forming. 

What literary character is most like you?

I have no idea. 


What authors have inspired you?

My favourite authors are Stephen King and J.K Rowling. Stephen King is a god. I suspect if he had decided to write literary fiction, his desk would have collapsed from all the Pulitzer’s. I am so glad he chose horror. J.K Rowling is a master at tying together seemingly random events into a cohesive plot. Genius. My favourite book is the OLD MAN AND THE SEA by Ernest Hemingway though. Every sentence was perfect to me. As a side note, Joe Hill’s POP ART from 20th CENTURY GHOSTS blew me away. It was so unbelievable yet so well written that I believed. 


What's one piece of advice you have received that has always resonated with you?

I never received any advice from anyone. I read books about how to write and I took what worked for me and tried to use it. Stephen King’s ON WRITING was one of them. Elmore Leonard’s 10 RULES OF WRITING was another one. I read so many of these though. I’ve been fortunate enough to receive more than enough encouragement but most of this stuff, other than the books I read, I figured out on my own. I try to be analytical and self-aware about my faults. I’m not always successful, but really, whoever is?




You can stalk him here  😀:

Big big thank you to John for taking the time to speak with me.  I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more about him.


#CJSReads2017 REVIEW: The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer
Melville House

An absolutely beautiful and atmospheric read touching on fanatics, family relationships, spiritualism and what people will do to endure.  Highly recommended by all 3 of us, get your hands on this book and take the same journey we did.  It's worth the read.



Synopsis from Goodreads:

She is the missing girl. But she doesn't know she's lost.Carmel Wakeford becomes separated from her mother at a local children's festival, and is found by a man who claims to be her estranged grandfather. He tells her that her mother has had an accident and that she is to live with him for now. As days become weeks with her new family, 8-year-old Carmel realises that this man believes she has a special gift...

While her mother desperately tries to find her, Carmel embarks on an extraordinary journey, one that will make her question who she is - and who she might become.

Jessica's Thoughts:
5 / 5 Stars

When I picked up this book, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I went into it hearing rave reviews, and I was not disappointed! This book is about newly single mom Beth and her one constant, gnawing worry: that her eight-year-old daughter, Carmel, who has a tendency to wander off, will one day go missing.

All of Beth's worst nightmares come true one day while they're at a popular outdoor festival. After being separated in the crowd, Beth is on the terrifying roller coaster that is trying to find her daughter. After a man claims he is her grandfather and that she needs to live with him for awhile (claiming her mother was in an accident).

Carmel is now in a situation that is keeping her on her toes and learning more about herself.

This book jumps between Beth and Carmel's perspectives. Which is a style of storytelling that I've always loved. It helps the story keep quick pace, and answers questions as you go. It's a slower build kind of thriller but it keeps you hooked the entire time!

I highly recommend this emotional ride of a thriller!

Follow Jessica on Goodreads or Instagram

Sam's Thoughts:
4 / 5 Stars

Kate Hamer, although I struggle with the pace of her novels, is a master storyteller.    She has an uncanny ability to weave a plot and a narrative style that is downright enchanting. 


The novel is told in alternating chapters between mother, Beth and her eight-year-old daughter, Carmel.   After Carmel goes missing, kidnapped by a man claiming to be her grandfather, Beth must work through her own guilt and struggles with the hope of finding her daughter alive.    In the meantime, Carmel tries to adjust to her new life where she is called Mercy and is dragged along to religious conventions and healing ceremonies to share her “gifts”. 

I didn’t particularly feel as if this one fit in the category of “mystery”.  There isn’t much mystery to it.  We know immediately who has taken Carmel.  We are privy to the fact that he believes to be using her for religious gain and we know her whereabouts throughout the story.  Instead, with the Beth chapters as she searches for her daughter and Carmel’s worry and precocious nature, I felt as if this one could have been categorised as a contemporary drama.

This one ended up being a little long for my taste; call me a sucker for a fast-paced narrative but I have to admit, this one held my interest.  I was completely sucked into the plight of Carmel and her interactions with her fanatic captors.  

Follow Sam on InstagramTwitter, Goodreads and her Blog!
My Thoughts:
5/ 5 Stars

As a single mom, Beth constantly worries about her daughter, Carmel - who is precocious and likes to wander off. She's afraid that one day Carmel will get lost and Carmel resents constantly being watched over all the time. But then one day Carmel does get lost during a festival that she wanted to go to. Thus begins the journey for both mother and daughter.

I'm not sure what I expected to get from this book, but what I ended up getting was more than I had bargained for in the best possible way. It's not the quintessential thriller you would expect - little girl goes missing, mom goes crazy. What it ends up being is a journey of both Carmen and of her mother. Told between both of their points of views from chapter to chapter, we see each go through a roller coaster of emotions, mental gymnastics and the process of them trying to deal with their new unexpected and unwanted situations. The author builds such an atmospheric read and really puts you in the mind of the of both child and mother. There's little dialogue and more narrative of surroundings, imaginations, emotions and the thought processes of both main protagonists. Extremely well written, beautiful prose and a compelling read that pulls at your heart strings. Highly recommend. 5 beautiful shining red stars.




Sunday, February 26, 2017

Review: The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty

The Housekeeper by Suellen Dainty
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Atria
Publishes 2/28/17

Thanks to Atria for this advanced copy in return for my honest review.  Contemporary lovers, come get this book!
    

Anne is a chef, happy in her job and in her relationship with the restaurant's owner, Anton. When Anton admits to an affair, her world crumbles around her. She loses her boyfriend and her job in one short night and doesn't know what she is going to do. Following the blog of Emma Helmsley (England's Martha Stewart), she finds they need a housekeeper. Feeling as if she needs to stay away from the restaurant business for a while as to avoid any awkwardness, she applies and is hired immediately. As she pours her heart and soul into the family and their house, she feels herself becoming a part of the family and not just someone who works for them. But the closer she gets to them, the more secrets she learns and in return the more she lets them learn about her. Eventually the past comes to the surface, secrets come out and she has to make a decision.

This book states on the back that it is a "nail-biting psychological thriller". I didn't find it to be either. It read completely as a contemporary novel to me instead. I enjoyed Anne as a character and understood her need for organization and being a part of something that made her feel useful. The family nuances were intriguing and realistic. The relationship between Anne and the Helmsley's was well built and you could understand Anne's point of views in wanting to protect them over time. However, the pace was a bit slow for me. I didn't feel like anything really happened until about half way through and even then I found myself losing interest and my mind wandering.

I was told by other readers that this wasn't really a thriller so I went in not expecting the suspenseful psychological thriller that it appeared to be in its blurb. However, I still felt a bit slighted that it wasn't. Please note that as a contemporary novel that builds on the slow build of complicated relationships that happen through the wants of both parties but for different reasons, it is well written. While this didn't quite hit my book love button, for those who do cater more to contemporary fiction novels, this would be a good read for you. I just happen to prefer my books a bit more fast paced and with a bigger punch.

View all my reviews

Friday, February 24, 2017

Review: The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher - RELEASE DAY!

The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Bookouture
Happy Publishing Day! 2/24/17    



Bookouture can seem to do no wrong. I have yet to read a book published by them that I didn't like. My bookheart is full and happy!

This contemporary book is told through the eyes of two women. Maggie, newly married to Nico and competing with his first wife who passed away only a couple years ago. Her integration into his family is not going as well as she would have liked. Lara, married to Nico's brother, Massimo, is quiet, withdrawn and a prisoner in her own marriage. However, on the surface, everything looks perfect. Who would believe the things that happen behind closed doors? Maggie, in clearing out some of Nico's ex-wife's things, comes across something that sheds new lights on the family. She has to decide if it's worth the truth coming out or if it's better to protect the new family she is now a part of.

Overall, I thought the author did a fantastic job putting you in the head of Maggie and Lara. The first part of the book where Maggie was continually self-depreciating and insecure was a tad bit grating but watching her grow as a character was a highlight. As revelations became apparent, you felt for both women and I found humor and support in non-nuclear families throughout. Seeing past the outside layer of marriage, parent/kid relationships of all generations is sometimes hard to do. It certainly easy to take things strictly at face value and only see what you want to sometimes. Maggie's mother was probably my favorite character with all her gumption and wonderful one liners. Would I recommend? Absolutely.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

#CJSReads2017 Review: Bad Little Girl by Frances Vick

Bad Little Girl by Frances Vick
Bookouture
Releases today 2/22/17!

Bookouture is on FIRE with all these great releases! Bad Little Girl is no exception. The prologue sucks you in and then it slow burns you to a thrilling ending.  Sam, Jess and I are lucky to have read so many fantastic thrillers already this year.  Bookouture is definitely the publisher to keep an eye out for.  Read below for a synopsis and our reviews!



Synopsis from Goodreads:

‘I’m not safe – you have to help me…’

Little Lorna Bell is from a notorious family on a rundown estate. Everyone thinks she’s a nasty piece of work. The schoolchildren call her a thief. But Lorna’s hair is matted, her shoes pinch her feet and school teacher Claire Penny can’t help herself; some kids just need a bit more support, a bit more love, than the rest.

As the bond between teacher and pupil grows stronger, Claire sees Lorna’s bruises, and digs to uncover the disturbing tale behind them. Heartbroken, Claire knows she has to act. She must make Lorna safe. Just when Claire thinks she has protected Lorna, a chance encounter brings enigmatic stranger Marianne Cairns into their lives. Marianne seems generous and kind but there is something about her story that doesn’t quite add up. Why does she feel so at home, and why is Lorna suddenly so unsettled?

Claire has risked everything to save Lorna. But what can save Claire from the shocking truth?

An utterly unputdownable and darkly compelling read that will have fans of The Girl on the Train, The Sister, and Gone Girl absolutely hooked.

Jessica's Thoughts:
5 / 5 Stars

Typically when books are compared to The Girl on the Train or Gone Girl, I become a little skeptical. Only because those are both such amazing reads and crazy thrillers. I definitely was not disappointed by Bad Little Girl! I could not put it down!

Without giving away any spoilers or too much of the plot, we follow Claire Penny, a teacher at a school and her desire to help a student, Lorna Bell. Vick does an amazing job developing the characters and helping us really connect with them. Characters you love and characters you love to hate. Another great release from Bookouture

Follow Jessica on Goodreads or Instagram



Sam's Thoughts:
5 / 5 Stars

Bad Little Girl, the newest Bookouture suspense by Frances Vick, was unputdownable.    I don’t often agree with books that align themselves with Gone Girl and Girl on the Train, but for this book, I’d have to make an exception.  From the unreliable characters to the fast paced plot, this one had my eyes glued to the pages.  Bad Little Girl was undeniably addicting.

From the first pages, I felt a connection to the protagonist, Claire.   Vick does an amazing job at making her extremely relatable.   As a teacher, I was able to understand Claire's plight.  As she continuously tries to do the right thing for Lorna, tensions rose and I

found myself filled with anxiety and anger.  I felt Claire’s desperation and watched the story unfold in horror.  I don’t want to give away any of the plot, but trust me, there are a few characters in this story that you will love to hate. 

My only complaint, and it was a small complaint, was that the passing of time was not always clearly noted throughout the chapters.  There were sometimes some significant jumps in time that I found hard to follow. 

Overall, I’d have to give this one a 5/5 stars based on the entertainment value alone.  Looks like another homerun for Bookouture.  


Follow Sam on InstagramTwitter, Goodreads and her Blog!
My Thoughts:
4 / 5 Stars

Claire is a teacher who brings Lorna under her wing as she notices Lorna is having trouble fitting in. Lorna is from a poor family, lacks any hygiene or good manners but Claire knows it's just because of her upbringing. Her mother and her mother's boyfriend hit her and yell at her in public. Lorna cries from the shoes that don't fit her feet and from the lack of attention she receives at home. No one will listen to Claire that Lorna needs help. Why can't anyone else see the bruises on Lorna's body and the pain in her eyes. As years pass, Lorna and Claire develop a mother/daughter type bond and they take off to take Lorna away from the abuse. Here Marianne enter their lives on a chance encounter that rapidly goes south. Bonds shift and now it's a matter of who will win this wicked game. 

Bookouture is on FIRE with all these great releases! Bad Little Girl is no exception. The prologue sucks you in and then it slow burns you to a thrilling ending. For me, the book was less about the title and more about Claire and her grief, saviour complex and lack of self esteem. The slow burn comes from the build up of Claire and Lorna's relationships over years which ultimately culminates into a fantastic ending! The last quarter of this book really did it for me. Kids with no moral compass? CREEPY. Sign me up!