Vivian’s Couch: Michael Obiora

Good morning readers, and happy Valentines day to you all. I’m having a wonderfully lazy morning watching films in bed with Lola and writing you this lovely review. I was tempted to review something romantic to fit the theme of today but instead decided to bring you something a little more real. Instead I’m bringing you something gritty, honest, shocking and a sophisticated read. Perfect for a lazy Saturday morning.

Kieran Ledley is the world’s most expensive football player, he is also one half of glamour couple “Kier-rissa,” and his step-brother is about to be released from prison. Freddie Abani is the MP for Woundham, who was touted as London’s potential first black Mayor – until the summer riots. Rupal Advani is a former policewoman and is now a marijuana addict. Gemma and her struggling filmmaker husband Pete Newman, are trying to save their marriage. Vivian Moses is a therapist, and they all have her in common.

So the premise is overall simplistic, the book tackles the different stories of a group of people including the World’s most expensive and sought after footballer and a former police officer who is finding it difficult to move on and is turning to drugs to relieve the stress. It also features a couple who’s relationship is in its last lease of life and an MP who is seeking to become London’s first black mayor however is struggling to come to terms with his father leaving him when he was younger. It’s a diverse bunch but they all have one thing in common and that is Vivian’s couch. A therapist who is also dealing with her own internal struggles.

What I really liked about this is that it gets straight into the actions, it doesn’t wait or hold back at all. We are immediately thrown in and have to quickly adjust to the pace of this well thought through story. We are introduced to the characters one by one by their sessions with Vivian, each dated differently as to add different time zones and to allow us to get to know the characters and their back stories. It’s very much a documentary style book allowing us to have an almost crude insight into the lives of the people who find themselves spilling their secrets to Vivian. By mixing the lives of both ordinary people and celebrities, it allows for an extensive look how different choices, good and bad lead to our current situations in life.

In terms of characters each is laden with many different characteristics; Vivian is strong on the outside but we learn that she is also dealing with her own demons due to addiction and a terrible relationship with her now ex-husband. Gemma and Pete are contrasting in almost every way possible, she is possessive and jealous whilst he appears to have lost the will to live causing immense friction. Kieran is struggling with his life in the limelight and being pulled in every direction whilst trying to hide from the increasing media attention. I could go on, each is well presented and thought through to make the interweaving stories as real as possible.

I think the main reason I enjoyed this book so much was because although ultimately a fiction book it really felt like each of the stories could be on going right now. It felt like a glimpse into a secret world and I felt I could relate many of the stories told to events happening in the harsh modern world that we currently live in. Another thing to note is that I really liked the cover, it is simple and yet striking, it really gives an insight into what the book is going to cover which was lovely. The theme of diversity was really strong throughout but handled incredibly well to help bring the city to life.

This is not a happy story, but instead a real reflection of modern day life, and I loved it for that.

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The Dead Game: Susanne Leist

Afternoon readers, another review for you today! This one has been sat waiting to be written up for a number of weeks now, but I wasn’t quite sure how to put pen to paper. It happens sometimes, I just don’t know how to put into words how I felt about the book.  This doesn’t happen too often but I am sure other book bloggers will agree that it can take time to get out of the rut a book has created and move onto finally piecing together a review. It has happened before and it doesn’t reflect on the quality or enjoyment of the book it’s just that it needs a bit of extra thinking. However, here we are with a brand spanking new review! ENJOY! 

Linda moves to a small town to live a quiet life. She opens a bookstore and makes new friends. Life is simple–that is until the dead body washes up on shore. Linda is horrified to find that dead bodies and disappearing tourists are common for this town. As soon as the sun sets, the residents are stalked by dark shadows. But this is only the beginning. Linda and her friends receive an unsigned invitation to a party at the deserted house on the hill. They are pursued through revolving rooms and dangerous traps, barely escaping with their lives. Two of their own remain trapped in the house. Or so they think. They must embark on a difficult journey, chased by unnatural creatures, not knowing whom to trust, to uncover the one controlling everyone in town.  Who are The Dead? Are they humans or vampires? Or a combination of both? They are led down a path with many twists and turns. Will they be able to identify the true leader of The Dead? Will they be able to destroy him? More mysteries pop up as others are laid to rest. Will there be an end to this game? Or will a second book be needed? The Dead Game has begun.

This book follows the seemingly unassuming town that looks just perfect from the outside. However, under the surface, dark forces are coming to power and they threaten to turn the town on its head sending the people that live there into disarray. With tourists disappearing and bodies turning up all over the place it is only time before the whole town is overthrown. Mix in a haunted house and you have a fully fledged supernatural mystery that packs a punch of horror.

There were lots of things that I liked about this book; firstly the author is obviously incredibly creative and imaginative. The book had so many different ideas and parts woven into one another I’m surprised she managed to get it all in! The descriptions of the town are well written and the locations help to cement the story as believable. I liked the horror/mystery genre that the book took on as it advanced and I thought the way the vampires were introduced was very well done; for a long time it isn’t a prevalent feature and therefore it focuses more on the story. A few minor issues for me; I felt that there were too many characters that at times I couldn’t keep up. I really like characters to be well developed and built up so that the reader can really relate to them and get involved in the storyline. For me, because there were so many characters, the author didn’t get a chance to really develop the personalities, back stories or quirks and that left me feeling a little disappointed. Additionally keeping track of all them gave me a minor headache at times and that’s just the characters, we haven’t even started to mention all the creatures that are so frequently introduced.

I think the problem for me as a reader was that the plot-line as described in the blurb sounds brilliant; however it is just too much for one book. Rolling so much into one book made for difficult reading and although it comes from a very creative and inventive author by adding too many elements the plot gets muddled and instead of being sat on the edge of your chair, you’re still piecing together the events from the last chapter. Additionally for me the POV changed too much and by frequently switching between characters you end up wondering who you are. I am probably too much of a nag about this, but wading through characters really irritates me, as it’s so easy to just stick to a couple and really, (really) explore the potential of those characters. Todd and Linda are well written but their dialogue is often stilted and it creates an edge that you can’t quite ignore.

Right, so after all of that, I really liked the premise of this book; it had everything going for it to create a really engaging exciting and inventive horror/mystery/supernatural tale. For me, honestly, the book needs work. It’s still enjoyable and I would definitely read other books from this author because I see potential, and nothing excites me more than an author with the makings of a brilliant book. My advice, and take it as you wish, is to sit down and really plan out what you want the reader to feel. Don’t just tell a story, disclose the secrets of your characters and indulge in exposing their personalities. Flesh then out and focus the book around them rather than including them in your plot line.

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The Back Road: Rachel Abbot

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Afternoon bloggers. Another review from the list I am currently working my way through, recommended by friends of mine. This one comes from the rather wonderful Rachel Brown; a work colleague, friend and generally lovely person, this lady never fails to put a smile on my face, so thank you for recommending another wonderful book. Unfortunately, I’m currently not feeling particularly well, and although this could be a mix of travelling home every weekend, not getting enough sleep and not eating particularly well, I am having a weekend off for some Lizzy time so lots more reading will be done and I cannot wait!

 A girl lies close to death in a dark, deserted lane. 

A driver drags her body to the side of the road. 

A shadowy figure hides in the trees, watching and waiting.

The small community of Little Melham is in shock. For Ellie Saunders, last night’s hit and run on the back road could destroy everything she has. She was out that night, but if she reveals where she was and why, her family will be torn apart. She is living on a knife-edge, knowing that her every move is being observed. Ellie’s new neighbour, former Detective Chief Inspector Tom Douglas has moved to the village for some well-deserved peace and quiet, but as he is drawn into the web of deceit his every instinct tells him that what happened that night was more than a tragic accident. As past and present collide, best-kept secrets are revealed and lives are devastated. Only one person knows the whole story. And that person will protect the truth no matter what the cost. The Back Road is an electrifying thriller that will keep you guessing to the very end.

Slight admission; I actually listened to this book on audible rather than reading it. Mumma B realised that she had logged a number of credits on Amazon and sent over her details for me to have a little wander around and I thought it would be the perfect time to get hold of some of the lovely books recommended. It was a different experience but I really enjoyed it and have since downloaded a couple more. The story revolves mainly between two female characters, Ellie and Leo, who are thrown together by their solicitously polygamist father. Ellie’s mother is vivaciously opposed to this and raises Leo with appalling hate and anger especially after the mysterious disappearance of their father. Leo, once old enough leaves, and only returns to the house once her stepmother has died. Returning to the house, which Ellie now resides in, the two, must work to re-build their relationship. However, both have demons haunting them; Ellie currently is being stalked by a man who thinks that she is in love with him and Leo is incredibly wary of trusting people, especially men. Leaving yellow roses and calling and texting at all times in the day Ellie’s stalker starts to unravel the world that Ellie has created. As Leo becomes suspicious, the little village is rocked by a terrible crime. A young girl is hit on the back road; the problem is that, as the police begin to piece together what happened that eventful night, different characters are going to have to reveal secrets they never thought they would have to disclose based on their whereabouts that night. The story weaves deftly, bringing characters together whilst disclosing their fears, secrets, lies and deceit brought about by the terrible hit and run.

This story definitely packed a punch of action mixed with spine tingling scenes of mystery. The author keeps her cards close to her chest at all times making the reader piece together each part of the story piece by piece. For a long time we have no idea of the stalker or the mysterious hit or run characters and unlike some authors who let the reader know before the characters this was not the case in this instance. The characters are strongly built and wildly contrasting, especially Leo and Ellie which allowed for interesting scenes and conversations between the two especially about relationships. The novel features many shocking events including sabotage, abduction, domestic abuse and affairs but they are built in slowly so they don’t seem too over the top or unbelievable. I also liked the contrast between the past story of Abby (the girl that is in the hit and run) and the past story of Ellie and Leo. The contrasts and similarities were an interesting sub-plot. Supporting characters are vividly written especially Max and Tom, which helps to make the story more about the village than just the two main characters and allows a romantic subplot to evolve. The writing is strong and unfaltering and builds tension throughout; when I got towards the end I was finding it difficult to concentrate on anything else and sat for hours listening on. The story is saturated with a depressive feel however it helps to really convey the pain that the characters are feeling.

Few problems; Ellie at times is frustratingly naïve and weak and this does start to grate on the reader. I found myself wanting to shake her and say, open your eyes and look at what is going on. I know it’s written to evoke those emotions but it started becoming a little too clichéd especially relating to the claims of an affair that Max is having, (or not having?) The writing also isn’t terribly descriptive; I would have liked more description into the village and the characters. Although their personality traits were well formulated I was picturing them from my own imagination rather than being given an idea of what they were like visually. Additionally I found that Abbot kept going back and summarising past points, as if saying, don’t miss this important bit of information, but I didn’t and I kind of guessed what was happening because of this. I’d rather be kept in the dark and then hit with it, rather than being constantly fed information.It created a rocky feel between Aboot keeping her cards to her but feeding out little summaries. Additionally, the ending is a little wishy-washy and although it’s supposed to make you keep thinking after the book is finished I didn’t get that exhilarant feeling for some reason. 

Overall, this is a book with many twists and turns focusing on some very interesting and thought provoking events. The characters are well balanced and the tension is sustained throughout. A few complaints but definitively worth a read!
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Thoughful Thursdays

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Hello readers, a very happy Lizzy today, it’s been a very good week, and I am feeling pretty happy this morning. As it is Thursday, I have another question for you! Today’s question is:

What is a genre you rarely read (but wish you did?)

Mine are biographies. I rarely read them but almost always enjoy them when I do. I love reading into other people’s life however I never really have the time. Onto you readers! 

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The Promotion: Jacke Wilson

Morning Little Bloggers! Hope you have enjoyed the numerous posts this morning. I finally looked through the whole of my email inbox and have realised that I have so many more books to review, more than is physically possible, so I am getting my head down and getting those books read and reviewed! (If you are waiting for a review I am getting round to it I promise!) The first thing to say is that I have already reviewed ‘The Race,’ another book by the brilliant Jacke Wilson which you can check out here: mylittlebookblog.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/the-race-jacke-wilson/ and then secondly, you should check out his brilliant blog here: http://jackewilson.com. I am constantly checking out his new posts and I think you should too! Anyway onto the review!

“I should have jumped at the promotion, of course.…Even as Jennifer the office manager sat in the chair across from me, all smiles and positive energy, I elided the two developments…What I did was worthless and yet the firm was eager for me to do more.” The Promotion: A Novella is the deadpan cri de couer of a lawyer trapped inside a Kafkaesque firm, tasked with recruiting new attorneys even as he himself slides into obsession and madness.

Seeing as this is not my first encounter with Jacke Wilson’s work I knew that I was going to be taken on an incredible journey, and one way to really sell the book to you, is that since I read it on the long train from Stoke-On-Trent, to the glass city of Milton Keynes a couple of days back, I have not stopped thinking about this book. Questions stem from how I feel about it? The ending? The main character? What really happened?  See, this is a book that makes the reader think. If you are looking for a book that hands the plot to you on a plate, turn away now; this depends wholly on the interpretation of the reader. But for now, down to the basics. The book is an incredibly quick read, with only five chapters and ninety-four pages, you could, like me, get this read in a couple of hours! The books main setting is in a law firm; we follow the no-named protagonist, who becomes obssessed with a case that has him riled. As he struggles to balance the commitments of the new promotion, with his obsession with the cold-case that has suddenly come to life, we see the difficulty the main character has in balancing sanity and passion. See, our lone hero is obsessed with passion, with the frenzy, with fervor, and this case has him excited, desperate to see it through. The question is, how will he deal with the sudden realisation, through this case, that his life may not be worth that much after all?

One of the things that I loved most about the book was Wilson’s ability to create so much content in such a short amount of space. We see the main protagonist build, and build to a peak, before seemingly spiralling out of control, unable to deal with the facts he has been told. The mix of trouble and depression contrasted with anticipation and promise is built up astonishingly well. The dialogue is sarcastic and funny, but has a deep sense of a struggle, and of anxiety which gives the book a deeper meaning which kept me turning the pages till the very last sentence had been read. The book is told in a first person narrative, and although we never learn the storytellers name we do learn a lot from him; in a job that  appears to be draining everything from him, he is given the promise of a promotion, however this brings about the knowledge of a new case that takes hold of the mind of this said person, and leads him on a path of utter self-destruct. In the description above it describes it cleverly as Kafkaesque, and it definitely has links with Kafka’s work such as ‘The Metamorphosis.’ The writing lulls the reader into a false sense of securtiy before snapping back and drawing them back into the storyline. Although there is no clear climax point, the story builds and builds before sudden turmoil takes hold, leaving the reader to gather their own personal thoughts on what the writer is trying to convey. Additonally, we are introduced to a number of different characters, with extremely contrasting character profiles which the reader can easily distinguish between and they all add additonal feeling to the narrative. As in all of Wilson’s work the writing is beautiful balanced between dialogue and description and is smooth in the telling which makes for a very easy but sophisticated read.

What I loved most was that the main character is obsessed with passion and passionate people; he wants people to remember him, he wants his job to matter, he wants to make a difference. However, throughout we are subjected to the utter lonliness and gloominess that comes from this constant search for something passionate and real. One way to look at it, is as a mid-life crisis, that occurs when the protagonist realises that he has nothing to show for the life he has created, and maybe this is a message to us all; what the message is you will have to decide for yourself! Whether passion, is, the ultimate gift, or whether it is something that is ultimately inobtainable. I’m going to leave this review here as not to give anymore away; I think this book needs to be interpretated and will be interpretated differently by every single reader! So go on, get a copy, give it a read and let me know what you thought it is definitely, definitely worth a read!!