Psychological Thriller

Sticks and Stones by Jo Jakeman

sticksstonesWithin a week, I have read two brilliant debut novels featuring violence and abuse.

I’m not going to lie, I need a break. If anyone can recommend me something light-hearted please, I am all ears. Thanks!

Without further ado, let’s have a look at Sticks and Stones.

Firstly, I would like to consult GoodReads for their quick summary of Sticks and Stones:

How far would you go for revenge on your ex?

Imogen’s husband is a bad man. His ex-wife and his new mistress might have different perspectives but Imogen thinks she knows the truth. And now he’s given her an ultimatum: get out of the family home in the next fortnight or I’ll fight you for custody of our son.

In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable. Something that puts her in control. But how far will she go to protect her son and punish her husband? And what will happen when his ex and his girlfriend get tangled up in her plans?

Sticks and Stones is a deliciously twisting psychological thriller from an exciting new voice.

Sticks and Stones starts with Philip’s funeral.

Amongst those paying their respects are Imogen, Philip’s estranged wife, Naomi, his girlfriend and Ruby, his ex-wife.

The plot is about how Philip happened to end up in a funeral casket. We know who died but we don’t know how and why.

Sticks and Stones is narrated by Imogen with occasional flashbacks from other two women. The beginning is on a slow side, but the story starts picking up around mid-way. I became extremely involved then and literally could not put this book down.

The gripping tension is skilfully sustained throughout certain parts of the story, and the outcome can go either way. I almost wish I didn’t know who was at the funeral! 🙂 Knowing about it though did not prevent me from enjoying the entire story!

What I loved about this book are those three female characters and the unlikely friendship they form.

They all endured some form of an abuse and could find a common ground whilst sharing their stories. Because of that, they can start letting go of their pasts and heal.

Then there is Philip’s character. A broken man full of anger, who is still living in some sort of an emotional childhood. A narcissistic master manipulator preying on those women, who don’t have anyone to turn towards to in times of distress.

I also saw in this book an anti-revenge message.

In all honesty, I am sick of books about revenge. Many books glorify revenge, yet they omit to deliver the after-revenge story. Revenge may certainly bring a temporary feeling of satisfaction but in the long run, it never heals the underlying problem. I’m not saying that justice cannot be served, all I’m saying is that forgiving someone is for our own sake to start the healing process, not for theirs to make them feel better. They even don’t have to know that we have forgiven them…

We can see how revenge starts destroying one character in the book. On the other hand, another character starts exploring forgiveness and starts healing.

“It’s the easiest thing in the world to hold a grudge, but it takes a strong person to forgive.”

I hope you will enjoy Sticks and Stones as much as I did. It’s a wonderful psychological thriller and I will be on a lookout out for Jo Jakeman’s next book.

Possible triggers: domestic / partner abuse and abuse in general.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to the author, Jo Jakeman, and the publisher, Random House UK, Vintage Publishing.

Verdict: Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple  (4/5)

Mystery

The Lying Kind by Alison James

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Side note: I have a writing ‘pet project’ that is kind of centered around mystery / crime. That’s why I’m dipping into this genre a bit this year and I must say, I am thoroughly enjoying it so far! 😊

The Lying Kind tells an engaging and mysterious story of a missing girl. It is a crime investigation set in London and its surrounding areas told from Detective Rachel Prince’s perspective as she leads the investigation.

The crime aspect of this story held my curiosity till the end. I think it was obvious who did it from quite early on but what really kept me interested was the why and how. I also appreciated that the story centred around the police aspect of such investigations. It wasn’t just about the thrills and chases but also the long desk-based hours that go into these cases.

Having lived near Bermondsey myself, a London area where Detective Rachel Prince’s flat is, I could identify many places. I also happened to suffer from knee (ACL) problems and that made me relate to the main character on different level as well.

Okay, let’s move on to the Detective Rachel Prince’s character, shall we?

Oh man… where do I begin? 😊 I didn’t like her, yet I felt empathy towards her. I found here character quite flawed yet fascinating… a piece of work but quite an interesting one. 😊

Clearly, her character has some serious unresolved issues, which we get glimpses of throughout the book. It seems that her escaping reality via being a workaholic and channelling her problems via hostility towards certain women is her way of coping.

She flirts with any ‘attractive’ man out there, yet she judges any woman out there who puts some effort into her appearance. It seems she believes that ‘looks’ are fake and overrated yet she falls for exactly such thing in men. I wonder if she addresses some of her issues in the next instalment of this series as it would be quite interesting to follow her growth and to learn more about her.

On a side note, I thought there was a bit of chemistry between her and her work partner, who happened to be ‘not attractive enough’ to be her type, eye roll, which they may be unaware of it or are just denying it.

Overall, a very interesting detective story with a not so likeable main character, who I found interesting and wanted to know more of. I am honestly looking forward to reading book 2 when it’s out.

*** I received a free copy of this book from the publisher/author via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ***

Verdict: Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple   (4/5)

Mystery

Kin by Snorri Kristjansson

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*** ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review ***

A book is either meant for you or not. After diving into Snorri Kristjansson’s Kin, it became apparent that Kristjansson’s must have written Kin for me … obviously! 😊

It had everything I look for in a book. Flawed characters, dysfunctional family dynamics, a delightful mysterious story, a few twists and it was narrated in a language that resonated with me. I normally binge on books, but I slowed this one down as I did not want it to end.

Kin is set around 970 in Norway. Expect no epic Viking battles or raids. The story is centred around Viking warlord Unnthor Reginsson after he retires from the longboats and settles down with Hildigunnur in a remote valley. It’s a tale about their five children. Helga, their adopted daughter, her three brothers Karl, Bjorn and Aslak and her sister Jorunn. It is mainly narrated from Helga’s perspective but sometimes the narrative switches to her other siblings, their spouses and children.

The flow of the story is gentle at first. We are introduced to Unnthor’s family via their large gathering. We see how dysfunctional they are as a unit, get to know the characters and catch a glimpse of how hard life must have been around that time.

And then somebody gets murdered. From that moment onward, the pace picks up and the fun begins. Pretty much everybody has a potential to be the killer. And I had so much fun guessing who it could be!

Helga is strong main character that guides us throughout the story:

“If no one will fight for his life . . . Her jaw tensed. I’m going to have to do it myself.”

Hildigunnur raised her to be observant and crafty. And she truly lives up to her mother’s expectations. Her thoughts give us useful insights until the mystery is finally resolved.

Kin ends in a way that you want its sequel immediately. I NEED Kin’s sequel NOW!

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes mysteries / crime stories with a sprinkle of Norse mythology and who enjoys reading stories full of flawed characters.

Verdict: Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple Hot Beverage on Apple   (5/5)