Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Headmaster's Wife by Thomas Christopher Greene

Arthur Winthrop is a middle-aged headmaster at an elite prep school in Vermont. When he is arrested for an act that is incredibly out of character - walking naked through Central Park in the snow - the strait-laced, married headmaster confesses to a much more serious crime. 
Arthur reveals that he has had a passionate affair with a scholarship student called Betsy Pappas. Betsy is a fickle and precocious teenager. When she switches her attentions to a classmate, Arthur's passion for Betsy turns, by degrees, into something far darker. Now Arthur must tell the truth about what happened to Betsy. But can Arthur's version of events be trusted - or is the reality much more complex and unnerving.

Star Rating
I received this book from the publishers for an open and honest review. 

This novel is split into three parts: Acrimony, Expectations and After. The first part of the story is told from Headmaster Arthur's point of view as we find out about his illicit affair with a teenage student Betsy Pappas. This section of the book was fast paced, exciting and believable full of dark, obsessive undertones which hold the reader's interest The two other parts are narrated in the third person and tell the story from a completely different angle with a shocking change of plot direction. 

At the end of the first half Thomas Christopher Greene hits the reader smack in the face with a shocking, and unexpected revelation. It is impossible to give even a brief description of this turn of events without ruining the surprise for the next reader. All I will say is that it left me gasping in shock and consequently the story became a very different one. This shock revelation was reminiscent of one of my favorite movies of all time 'A Beautiful Mind'. If you haven't seen this film I highly recommend it and will attach trailer below. 

The second part of this novel tells the story from the wife's point of view and leaves the reader wondering which one is true. Unfortunately my interest seemed to dwindle towards the end and it felt as if the author was losing focus too with it's very abrupt ending. 

Where this story works well is in it's exploration of the effects of psychological damage. It was interesting to read about grief from different perspectives and the havoc it can cause on people's emotional states of mind. 


The Professionals by Owen Laukkanen

 Four friends,caught in a terrible job market, joke about turning to kidnapping to survive. And then, suddenly, it's no joke. For two years, the strategy they devise works like a charm - until they kidnap the wrong man. 
Now two groups are after them - the law, in the form of veteran state investigator Kirk Stevens and hotshot young FBI agent Caria Windermere, and an organized crime outfit looking for payback. As they criss-cross the country in a series of increasingly explosive confrontations, each of them is ultimately forced to recognize the truth: the real professionals, cop or criminal, are those who are willing to sacrifice everything...

Star Rating

I received this book from the publishers for an open and honest review. 

This debut from Owen Laukkanen was first  published in the US in 2012 receiving rave reviews from critics and readers alike. When the lovely Alison from Atlantic Books sent me this novel to review she promised me I was in for a thrilling read and this is definitely the word I would use to sum up Laukkanen's writing which will leave you gripped from start to finish. 

The story starts in the thick of action with the kidnapping of Martin Warner of 15 Linden Park. 

' "Whoever you're looking for, I'm not the guy."
Warner felt like he was going to be sick.
"Your kids are fine, Martin. Sit back and relax." '  

We soon discover the group behind the kidnappings - four friends struggling to find work in the depths of the recession. What started as a joke soon becomes real life for the friends when they begin kidnapping rich business men and holding them to ransom. This plan seems to be working for the group until the day they choose the wrong guy - Beneteau.

'He turned his face in Sawyer's direction and flashed a bloody grin. You just made the biggest mistake of your lives.'

Without realizing their mistake, the group kidnap the husband of Patricia Benetau who is connected to the mob. Very quickly the strategy that has worked for two years goes horribly wrong and the friends are forced to go on the run, not only from the organized crime outfit but also from Stevens and Windermere two likeable FBI agents assigned to the case. 

What ensues is a fast paced thrill ride of car chases and shoot outs as the friends try to escape their ill fate. The story keeps you gripped as characters are caught and injured and new characters are introduced. Laukken develops the action quickly through the use of short chapters which will keep you captivated throughout. As the story develops, more and more problems arise for the group of friends leaving the reader wondering if they will ever make it out alive. 

'Stay calm, he told himself. Be professional. Get through this.'

The FBI agents Stevens and Windermere grow closer as the investigation deepens. He is happily married and she has a boyfriend, however this does not stop them from sharing some moments of cringe worthy flirting amidst the chaos around them. Unfortunately it is this unnecessary subplot that knocked off the 5th star when rating this novel. I can see why Laukkanen decided to include it as I predict the adventures of these two FBI agents will become a crime series however this small part of the story did not work for me. 

This novel has one of the most thrilling endings I have read in a long time and was almost like watching the final scenes of a blockbuster movie. This is an excellent debut novel that all crime fiction lovers will not want to miss!

'They were now in the middle of something huge, something disastrous.
What a rotten world we have created.'

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Geography Of You & Me by Jennifer E. Smith

Owen lives in the basement. Lucy lives on the 24th floor. But when the power goes out in the midst of a New York heatwave, they find themselves together for the first time: stuck in a lift between the 10th and 11th floors. As they await help, they start talking...
The brief time they spend together leaves a mark. And as their lives take them to Edinburgh and San Francisco, to Prague and to Portland they can't shake the memory of the time they shared. Postcards cross the globe when they themselves can't, as Owen and Lucy experience the joy - and pain - of first love.
And as they make their separate journeys in search of home, they discover that sometimes it is a person rather than a place that anchors you most in the world.

Star Rating

I received this book from the publishers for an open and honest review. 

Having recently read a lot of crime and dystopian novels I fancied taking a YA romace novel with me on my recent trip to Spain. There is nothing better than sitting by the pool in the sun with a good book and this was certainly an easy holiday read that I finished very quickly.
The Geography Of You & Me tells the story of Owen and Lucy who find themselves stuck in a lift together between the 10th and 11th floors. This chance meeting sparks off a strong bond between the pair but this is cut short due to differing circumstances. Both Owen and Lucy, for different reasons, leave New York and travel the world sending postcards back and forth in a desperate attempt to keep their new friendship alive. 
What I liked about this novel was the detailed relationships between the protagonists and their parents. In particular I could empathise with Owen whose mother had passed away. It became evident that Owen was desperate to spread his wings and live his own life but felt tremendous worry/guilt about leaving his dad alone. 
'The geography of the thing - the geography of them was completely and hopelessly wrong'
Throughout their travels, both Owen and Lucy met new potential partners but there is always, at the back of their minds, a bond pulling them back together. This novel tackles the highs and lows of long distance relationships and leaves the reader with an overwhelming hope that they will find a way back to each other.  
'She couldn't stop thinking about the straggler, the missing beat, the odd one out. The single speck in the emptiest part of the sky. She hoped that wherever he was, he'd be okay, that little bird.' 
Throughout the novel the reader is transported to a variety of places as Owen and Lucy travel around the world. Even though the characters are on other sides of the world, they are still drawn to each other and this comes to a crescendo during chapters 25-34 where Jennifer E. Smith uses one liners to portray Owen and Lucy's thought process as they really begin to miss each other. This part of the novel was almost film-like and I could see the movie in my mind flashing backwards and forwards between the two characters.
This is a lovely story full of love, loss and hope. Jennifer E. Smith writes well and the chapters flow quickly making this a very easy read. I would have liked there to have been more descriptions of the places Owen and Lucy visited, particularly as I have visited some of these countries myself. However this is a character driven novel that would make a brilliant romance movie and I would highly recommend it for a quick summer read!

'Even before he flipped it over to find the note, he was thinking the very same thing: that he wished more than anything that she was here, too. And just like that, his heart - that dead thing inside of him - came to life again.'