Saving Max By Antoinette van Heugton

Title: Saving Max

Author: Antoinette Van Heugten

First Published: 28th September 2010

Publisher: Harlequin

Blurb:

Max Parkman – —autistic and whip-smart, emotionally fragile and aggressive— – is perfect in his mother’s eyes. Until he’s accused of murder.

Attorney Danielle Parkman knows her teenage son Max’s behavior has been getting worse—using drugs and lashing out. But she can’t accept the diagnosis she receives at a top-notch adolescent psychiatric facility that her son is deeply disturbed. Dangerous.

Until she finds Max, unconscious and bloodied, beside a patient who has been brutally stabbed to death.

Trapped in a world of doubt and fear, barred from contacting Max, Danielle clings to the belief that her son is innocent. But has she, too, lost touch with reality? Is her son really a killer?

With the justice system bearing down on them, Danielle steels herself to discover the truth, no matter what it is. She’ll do whatever it takes to find the killer and to save her son from being destroyed by a system that’s all too eager to convict him.

Review:

I really enjoyed ‘Saving Max’ much more than I thought I would. This was a book I came about by accident really, hadn’t heard anything about, had not read any reviews, and had not seen anyone talking about it. I had never heard of the author, or any of her other books, books that I will now be checking out!

The primary aspect which attracted me to ‘Saving Max’ was that it was a book about a boy with Autism. I find Autism a fascinating disorder, and mixed with murder, well that is not something you come across so often. If you are worried that this is a book that reflects negatively on people with Autism and associates their behaviour with violence please don’t. The author has dealt with this issue in a sensitive yet realistic way. People with Autism can be violent, but more often can be violent to themselves, rather than others and this is captured well.

Max is a teenager who is struggling with life and when his mother finds out he is planning to commit suicide their psychiatrist sends them to a specialist hospital. Here Max’s behaviour begins to dramatically change and the son Danielle once knew is gone. When Max is found next to another patient, both covered in blood and Max the only one still alive, we witness the frantic love of a mother attempting to save her son and prove his innocence. But has her son changed so far beyond the boy she once knew?

Once we get to the murder trial we are thrown about in all directions, and completely gripped. The novel becomes so bizarrely dramatic that it is just hard to believe but so fascinating! I absolutely loved it. It just had so many twists and turns and moments where you really don’t know what has happened.

If you are wanting a light read, do not read this. If you are wanting a gripping, hard hitting, drama filled, crime novel with a mental health aspect this is perfect!

Antoinette van Heugten is a skilled writer and story teller. An author everyone must add to their collection!

5 out of 5

Gone Girl By Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl

Author: Gillian Flynn

First Published: 2012

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Blurb:

On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media–as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents–the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter–but is he really a killer?

As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet? (From Goodreads, 19th November 2013)

Review:

I was disappointed with ‘Gone Girl’ after everyone saying it was a fantastic mystery thriller, and it being voted for so many awards in 2012.

Nick’s wife has gone missing, and soon Nick becomes the main suspect. Nick initially seen as an amazing husband but soon this persona begins to unravel. But did Nick kill his wife?

The premise was one that enticed me, and from what everyone was saying I thought ‘yes, this is going to be a book that I will love’.

However, the first half of the novel bored me, but was saved with the twist in events during the second half. I am glad I kept going with ‘Gone Girl’ and would advise others who feel the same as me, just keep going! The second half is fantastic and a real page turner. There are a lot of shocks, and a lot of suspects. A psychological mind warp that makes you really wonder about the nature of people.

‘Gone Girl’ is a well planned and laid out thriller which does keep you guessing and shocking you throughout. But I cannot give ‘Gone Girl’ a high rating due to the slow first half, which nearly caused me to give up.

3 out of 5

Sister By Rosamund Lupton

Title: Sister

Author: Rosamund Lupton

Publisher: Piktus Books

First Published: 2010

Blurb:

When her mom calls to tell her that Tess, her younger sister, is missing, Bee returns home to London on the first flight. She expects to find Tess and give her the usual lecture, the bossy big sister scolding her flighty baby sister for taking off without letting anyone know her plans. Tess has always been a free spirit, an artist who takes risks, while conservative Bee couldn’t be more different. Bee is used to watching out for her wayward sibling and is fiercely protective of Tess (and has always been a little stern about her antics). But then Tess is found dead, apparently by her own hand.

Bee is certain that Tess didn’t commit suicide. Their family and the police accept the sad reality, but Bee feels sure that Tess has been murdered. Single-minded in her search for a killer, Bee moves into Tess’s apartment and throws herself headlong into her sister’s life—and all its secrets.

Though her family and the police see a grieving sister in denial, unwilling to accept the facts, Bee uncovers the affair Tess was having with a married man and the pregnancy that resulted, and her difficulty with a stalker who may have crossed the line when Tess refused his advances. Tess was also participating in an experimental medical trial that might have gone very wrong. As a determined Bee gives her statement to the lead investigator, her story reveals a predator who got away with murder—and an obsession that may cost Bee her own life. (From Goodreads, 22nd October 2013)

Review:

Sister is a fantastic novel with beautiful prose. Rosamund Lupton’s writing is fantastic, with attention to detail that pulled me in instantly.

Imagine your sister dying and it being pronounced a suicide. Imagine that not sitting true with you. Imagine everyone ignoring you, and telling you to just ‘get over it’ without taking you seriously when you believe your sister to have been murdered. Imagine the frustration. Imagine the loneliness. All of this is conveyed fantastically in Sister.

Out of the multiple psychological thrillers I have read, Sister is one of my favorites. There are so many aspects, so many possibilities, whilst the understanding of human nature is spot on.

However, someone I know who tried to read Sister disliked it due to the descriptive writing. If you are one of those who do not get pulled in with fantastically descriptive and technically impressive writing style then Sister is not for you. If, like me, these aspects pull you in, along with the edge of your seat genre Sister is perfect reading. Especially for this time of year.

4 out of 5

Never Coming Back By Tim Weaver

Title: Never Coming Back

Author: Tim Weaver

Publisher: Penguin Books

Published: 29th August 2013

Blurb:

A SECRET THAT WILL CHANGE LIVES FOREVER

It was supposed to be the start of a big night out. But when Emily Kane arrives at her sister Carrie’s house, she finds the front door unlocked and no one inside. Dinner’s cooking, the TV’s on. Carrie, her husband and their two daughters are gone.

When the police draw a blank, Emily asks missing persons investigator David Raker to find them. It’s clear someone doesn’t want the family found.

But as he gets closer to the truth, Raker begins to uncover evidence of a sinister cover-up, spanning decades and costing countless lives. And worse, in trying to find Emily’s missing family, he might just have made himself the next target … (From Goodreads, 20th August 2013)

Review:

When I read the blurb of this novel I was very excited. I thought this is the sort of novel that I will enjoy. However, when I started I was slightly confused, the crime scene presented within the first few chapters did not match the blurb I had read which lead me to be slightly confused. But soon things begin to come together and the mystery of the family that went missing comes into focus.

The first half of the book confused me slightly due to the shifting of narrators, but once you get used to this you begin to enjoy the different points of view and stories taking place. However, in the second half of the book the narrator is David Raker alone, which lead me to being slightly confused about the actual reasoning for the switching narration in the first half.

Despite these issues I had at the beginning I loved this book! I loved the mystery, and it wasn’t a ‘who’s done it’ style of novel which can become slightly ‘samey’ once you have read a few. No, ‘Never Coming Back’ is a novel which builds up the layers as you go through the book. We learn more about the lives of all the characters and the entanglements they have to one another. Why has Emily’s family gone missing? Why is there a trail of bodies that do not connect? What do all these people know that has resulted in their deaths?

I loved this mystery, though I was slightly disappointed in the reasoning behind all the murders and why Emily’s family were taken. But I must admit that this is the first murder mystery I have read that came to this conclusion, which for me made it unique. But I must confess I haven’t read that many books of this genre despite my enjoyment of them.

I have never read any of Tim Weavers novels and thus this was my first David Raker novel. But through glimpses of what had happened, or what I assumed happened in Tim Weavers previous David Raker novel ‘Vanished’ it has made me add Tim Weavers previous novels to my wish list. This is a author that I have already recommended to my friends and family.

Despite the slightly negative comments I had at the beginning I still loved this novel and found that once I got a few chapters in I did not want to put the novel down! The small chapters made it even harder to put the novel down, and I found myself finishing the novel at 2am after getting engrossed when I picked it up from the half way point.

4 out of 5

Accidents Happen By Louise Millar

Title: Accidents Happen

Author: Louise Millar

Publisher: Atria

First Published: 1st April 2013

Blurb:

Kate Parker has weathered unimaginable horrors—her parents died in a traffic accident on her wedding night, and her husband, Hugo, was murdered in a tragic break-in gone wrong. All she has left is her young son, Jack, and determined to make a better future for him, she attempts to pull her life back together. But are she and her son safe? (From Goodreads 27th June 2013)

Review:

I was slightly hesitant after I began reading and thought ‘am I reading another OCD book right after reading Addition??’ but soon I realised that this was a completely different style of book with some anxiety traits focused on but not OCD. Kate’s adult life has not been easy, and now living alone with her son Jack all she wants is for both of them to be safe, but is Kate focusing too much on her anxieties? Determined to show her in-laws that she is trying to get better for her sake and Jack’s sake she begins to deal with her anxiety. Meeting an acclaimed Scottish Statistician she begins to take a journey towards normality. Her life is getting better, her love life is beginning to heat up, but can it all be too good to be true?

I really enjoyed this book, I found it to be a bit slow at the beginning but by the last quarter it picked up speed, and a lot of speed! This is a psychological thriller that leads you along gently before erupting into pure edge of the seat action.

My best advice for this novel is keep with it. It may seem a bit slow and anxiety focused to begin with but soon you learn more and more about Kate’s life and why she is the way she is, then the pace quickens and quickens before going off into a sprint.
4 out of 5

Stop Dead By Leigh Russell

Title: Stop Dead

Author: Leigh Russell

Publisher: No Exit

Publication Date UK (paperback): 30th May 2013

Blurb:

Detective Inspector Geraldine Steel returns in an exhilarating case of grisly murder in London When a successful businessman is brutally murdered, the police suspect his glamorous wife and her young lover. Then the victim’s business partner suffers the same gruesome fate and when yet another body is discovered, seemingly unrelated to the first two, the police are baffled. The only clue is DNA that leads them to two women: one dead, the other in prison. With a steady stream of bodies arriving at the morgue, can D.I. Geraldine Steel find the killer before the killer stages another deadly attack? (From Goodreads, 27th April 2013)

Review:

Stop Dead is the fifth novel in the Geraldine Steel Mystery Series. However, this is the first Leigh Russell novel I have read thanks go Real Readers and have added the first four novels to my ‘to read’ list. These novels can be read as stand alone novels, but I think if you have read the first four you will have more insight into Geraldine.

Having moved to London and successfully solved her first case in the city it isn’t long before a new case presents itself. A wealthy man is found dead in a car parking lot of a housing estate, sustaining horrific injuries to his temple and genitals. His now widowed wife, and her toy boy are the prime suspects, especially to Geraldine’s young colleague Sam. Sam’s younger years allows her imagination to fuel her believes and not focus on the evidence. Sam for me was an infuriating character, but as time goes on you begin to like her, and realise there is people like her which we all know. Someone who needs some guidance and help, but has sharp mind.

As the novel progresses we see Geraldine methodical way of going through the crimes that are piling up, a second then a third body. The third completely unrelated to the first victims, except from the way he is murdered. This third victim takes the novel on a very different focus and an understanding of the frustrations of Geraldine.

This is a well written novel, but in some cases a bit too clinical, and methodical. I am a psychological thriller type of person and like the understanding of the protagonists mind. We do see some of Geraldines mind and life but not as much as I would like, I feel it was an attempt to make her more human and relate to the readers but it didn’t work.

However, that is really my only main complaint. As you near the end you get an idea of who the murderer may be but you can not be sure until you are told.

A novel that will keep you flipping the pages until you get to the end.

I can only give this a 3.5 out of 5 as it didn’t feel as human as I like my books to be, but it’s still a book I would recommend!

Somebody Else’s Kids By Torey Hayden

Title: Somebody Else’s Kids

Author: Torey Hayden

Publisher: Harper Element

UK Publication Date: First Published 1981

Blurb:

“Were all just somebody else’s kids…”

A small seven-year-old boy who couldn’t speak except to repeat weather forecasts and other people’s words…A beautiful little girl of seven who had been brain damaged by terrible parental beatings and was so ashamed because she couldn’t learn to read…A violently angry ten-year-old who had seen his stepmother murder his father and had been sent from one foster home to another …A shy twelve-year-old from a Catholic school which put her out when she became pregnant…

“What do we matter?”
“Why do you care?”

They were four problem children-put in Torey Hayden’s class because no one else knew what to do with them. Together, with the help of a remarkable teacher who cared too much to ever give up, they became almost a family, able to give each other the love and understanding they had found nowhere else. (From Goodreads, 17th February 2013)

Review:

I have read several Torey Hayden books and have enjoyed them all! In this story we meet several children all with their unique problems. You learn to love them and frantically go through the pages to see what happens next. One of the things though is you don’t always know what happens. Torey was a real teacher, the children real. And after the year is over life goes on and her class moves on too. These novels are filled with heart and understanding. You will be touched by them and once you have read one of Torey’s novels you will be hungry for more.

An author I highly recommend. And this book is yet another fantastic novel. Invest in Torey Hayden!

4 out of 5!

Confinement By Gabriella Murray

Title: Confinement

Author: Gabriella Murray

Publisher: Self Published

UK Publication Date: 3rd January 2011

Blurb:

Set in an experimental hospital for the criminally insane in the 1950s, CONFINEMENT is loosely based on the author’s one year residency in a psychiatric center, when lobotomies and other equally cruel treatments were rampant, and when the highly-experimental “Insulin Therapy” was in vogue.

Duffino, an attractive girl in her early 20s, is sent to a mental hospital when she refuses to defend herself at trial for the highly publicized, gang-related murder of her boyfriend’s rival. Refusing to speak, Duffino is ordered locked-up until she’s willing to talk.

The richness of the story unfolds with Duffino’s relationship to the other inmates, all in for violent crimes, including her obese roommate, Charlotte, sentenced for murdering a nun. Charlotte becomes obsessed with Duffino, and will not let up until she speaks.The inmates slowly come to learn why they did the crimes they did, as they make us question the true nature of guilt.

Between the horrifying treatments, the group therapy sessions, the flashbacks to violent crimes, the question of whether Duffino will talk, and the constant hope of escape‘ (From Amazon.co.uk, 25th January 2013)

Review:

Compared to other reviews I have read I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Some people complained of typos but I think the author has edited the book as I didn’t not notice many if any typos.

On to the novel. Written from the perspective of Charlotte – a long term patient who was brought up in a convent before she murdered her room mate which landed her in hospital. Before Duffino even arrives Charlotte is obsessed with her and her story which is filling the newspapers. She decides then and there that she will cure Duffino and will make her speak again.

The novel focuses on Charlotte’s obsession on curing Duffino and her and Duffino’s journey within the hospital. The author has created an interesting book with a good story line which includes enough background knowledge of the 1950s experimental insulin therapy procedures.

The story flowed well, and after the end of one chapter I was kept awake even later as I needed to move onto the next. This novel pulled me through quickly. I am very interested in mental health and psychiatric history. I think having some knowledge of the history of psychiatry and a knowledge of mental illness meant that this book made more sense to me and the relationship between Charlotte and Duffino was the driving force of the plot.

The one thing that I disliked is the cover. I’m sorry it just doesn’t appeal to me.

This is book one in the Love and Madness Series.

4 out of 5

A Cold and Lonely Place By Sara J. Henry

Title: A Cold and Lonely Place

Author: Sara J. Henry

Publisher: Crown Publishing Group

UK Publication Date: 5th February 2013

Blurb:

Troy Chance returns in another riveting novel from the author of the critically acclaimed Learning to Swim

   Freelance writer Troy Chance is snapping photos of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival ice palace when the ice-cutting machine falls silent. Encased in the ice is the shadowy outline of a body–a man she knows. One of her roommates falls under suspicion, and the media descends. Troy’s assigned to write an in-depth feature on the dead man, who, it turns out, was the privileged son of a wealthy Connecticut family who had been playing at a blue collar life in this Adirondack village. And the deeper Troy digs into his life and mysterious death, the murkier things become. After the victim’s sister comes to town and a string of disturbing incidents unfold, it’s clear someone doesn’t want the investigation to continue. Troy doesn’t know who to trust, and what she ultimately finds out threatens to shatter the serenity of these mountain towns. She must decide which family secrets should be exposed, what truths should remain hidden, and how far her own loyalty can reach.
   A Cold and Lonely Place, the sequel to Learning to Swim, follows Troy on a powerful emotional journey as she discovers the damage left by long-hidden secrets, and catches a glimpse of what might have been. (From Goodreads, 22nd January 2013)

Review:

Firstly I will say this is the novel which follows ‘Learning to Swim’. I did not know this and thus have the answers to some of the questions that must come up in ‘Learning to Swim’ so I would advise you read that first. You do not need to read it first to understand ‘A Cold and Lonely Place’ but I think it would add extra understanding to some characters.

I read ‘A Cold and Lonely Place’ just as the weather turned from Autumn to Winter and that added to the atmosphere within the novel. Finding a body frozen in the lake of a small town brings a lot of questions that stir the small town. Troy is a freelance journalist who is caught in the story as her flatmates boyfriend is the body in the ice. She begins to investigate the life of the victim and tells his story through feature articles for the local newspaper. She is not investigating his death, but his life.

An interesting novel that shows the curiosity we have in others and the morals writers must decide to follow or ignore when dealing with others privet lives.

This novel brings a good amount of twists and turns without being too fast moving or too slow. It gripped me and the descriptions of the environment were beautiful. I enjoyed it and enjoyed the fact we were not investigating the murder but in fact the life.

A novel for those who are interested in mystery but want a slightly slower pace compared to many others in the genre.

4.5 out of 5.

My Dead Friend Sarah By Peter Rosch

Title: My Dead Friend Sarah

Author: Peter Rosch

Publisher: Createspace

UK Publication Date: 1st April 2012

Blurb:

Mere months into recovery, Max, an alcoholic with twisted control issues, meets Sarah – the same woman that for years he’s habitually dreamt will die after a botched abduction. “Doing the next right thing,” a popular AA phrase he’s picked up in the rooms, means befriending Sarah long enough to warn her and hope she takes him seriously. But when Sarah falls in love with Max, his newly sober thinking drives him to choose his overly devoted wife, and he abandons Sarah – even when it condemns her to death. When Sarah goes missing, the NYPD suspects Max’s dream may have been a pre-crime confession. The truth, all of it, lurks inside of Max, but only by drinking again does he recapture the nerve and clarity vital to free his wife, sponsor, and himself from a life imprisoned by lies. (From Goodreads, 22nd January 2013)

Review:

When I read the blurb for this novel I was excited. I thought this would be a book I would love. However I was wrong. And it pains me to say so. I so wanted to enjoy this book and pushed myself to keep going but it just never clicked for me. Reading through other reviews and the authors note at the back it seems that he is a ‘Marmite’ type – either love it or hate it.

At the beginning we meet Max –  he is being questioned by police about the disappearance of Sarah. A disappearance he forced them to take note of before it happened. Max has placed himself in a sticky situation and is now caught in a situation making him rethink his sobriety and life in general.

We take a step into the past, alternating between Sarah and Max, but both are talking from slightly different time points. Both characters have their faults and prolificacy to lie. Max begins to stalk Sarah after he see’s her and recognizes her as the woman from a long standing dream. The build a relationship over a month, which Max puts off, guilt ridden or lying to his wife.

Max lives a life of an alcoholic, visiting AA meetings and lying to those who care for him. We see more of this side of Max in the second part of the novel which is entirely from Max’s point of view. I preferred this half of the novel but was not overawed by it. We wonder about Sarah, what had happened? Will they find her body? Who did it? but to be honest I just felt we were dragged around as Max got himself more and more inebriated and he isolates himself once again.

For me it lacked the excitement the blurb had placed in me, it fell short. I wanted a case, with twists and turns, looking for Sarah, but what I felt I got was the quick spiral back into alcoholism and very little adventure or intrigue.

I’m sorry I didn’t get it.

2 out of 5.