Thursday, September 20, 2018

"Our House"

Our House”
Written by Louise Candlish
Review written by Diana Iozzia

Our House 
          “Our House” is a seemingly intricate and complex thriller about a married couple who has separated. We readers are introduced to Bram and Fiona, who have agreed to a Bird’s Nest custody arrangement. New to me: a bird’s nest custody agreement allows the children to stay in their family home, but the parents leave intermittently, according to the times they’ve agreed upon.

          Fiona was away for a little girls’ holiday. She returns home to:
1.   An empty house
2.   A new couple moving in
3.   Her children and her separated husband are now missing

This book is told in three perspectives: Bram’s, Fi’s, and a third person narrator. I was intrigued by the premise when I received the advance reader’s copy. I am also partial to English psychological thrillers, so I was eager for that plus point as well. In addition, I was a bit worried that this would be a typical, “My husband’s kidnapped my children, because he’s upset with me” thriller, and I was incorrect.

Fi’s perspective is full of red herrings, which progress the story in an interesting matter. Her voice and narrative style is interesting to read. It is told through prose, but it is structured as a podcast reading. There are also comments at the bottom of every section of the podcast that say #VictimFi, which allows random users to comment their thoughts on her story. I think this could have been portrayed in a better way, because I did not enjoy the comments. I often found myself not viewing them, because they did not add anything to the story.

     To continue, we sympathize with Fi. She’s scared, she’s confused, and she wants her beautiful home back. However, we barely see anything of her that isn’t explaining how confused she is. We sometimes see a bit of narrative flashback, explaining how Bram was always kind of hot-headed and serious. She also explains a few of his previous indiscretions as we read along.


          Yes, yes. He’s the antagonist. Can we just call him a villain? He does nothing positive or kind in the story, ruins his family’s lives, and acts quite terribly (if you read on, I’ll explain further in the spoiler-friendly section).

          Bram’s perspective is told as a suicide letter, written in a Microsoft Word document. Rather than a letter, it’s basically just a third of the book, so that would be a very long suicide letter, really. He explains why he’s done what he’s done.

          We severely despise Bram, or well, you’re supposed to. There’s no reason to sympathize with him, other than he’s pondering suicide. So therein it lies that it’s a bit sad because of that, but if you’re the villain of the story, are we supposed to sympathize with you? Bram’s perspective is the only perspective that really moves along the story line. We hear all of his crimes, mostly as they’re committed. We also are burdened with his begs of sympathy and forgiveness.

Spoiler – Free Conclusion

          “Our House” was longer than I imagined, and took me much longer to read it than I thought. I personally did not enjoy it as much as I had hoped I would, so take that with what you will. There are some good metaphors, some odd descriptions, (annoyingly) repetitive mentions about the neighborhood and town, and an interesting enough resolution. I would rate this a 3 out of 5 stars, because it did not ‘wow’ me and it wasn’t any more exciting than other thrillers I’ve read.

(Do not read on if you are avoiding spoilers)
          My goodness gracious??  This is what he’s hiding from? This absolute idiot of a character, Bram, decided he was upset with his marriage. He was drunk. I personally do not understand why so many books make alcoholics the villains. Can’t we have a nice, wholesome, recovering alcoholic for once? Not every alcoholic commits murder.

          Moving on; Bram has a few past crimes and commits a few ones in this. During his drunken drive, he becomes angry with road rage, running a car off the road. He is spotted, and eventually becomes the pawn in a game of blackmail, due to one of the passenger’s death.

          Lots of blackmail, lots of explanation on how Bram sold the house illegally to a couple to receive the money for blackmail. Bram cheated on Fiona with basically everyone. Jolly.

          What I did not suspect is Mike / Toby. Mike is the main blackmailer of Bram. Toby is Fiona’s new boyfriend. Mike and Toby are revealed to be the same person. This pay-off is not the greatest plot twist. Plot twist again; Bram cheated on Fi with Fi’s best friend, Merle. Fi kills Mike / Toby. Merle helps her cover it up.

          In the last scene, we have a bit of an ambiguous ending. Did Bram actually kill himself? Dunno. (Don’t really care either.)

Spoiler Conclusion

          The plot twists were not interesting. They did not add to the story, or make me really like the end of the book. I think this is a pretty decent thriller, but I do not usually enjoy reading about blackmail in my thrillers. Read it if you’d like. You’re not missing too much if you don’t.

Thank you to Berkley Publishing Company for an advanced review copy.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

“She Was the Quiet One”

“She Was the Quiet One”
Written by Michele Campbell
Review written by Diana Iozzia
She Was the Quiet One 
          “She Was the Quiet One” is a thriller that follows four perspectives, Bel and Rose Enright and Sarah and Heath Donovan. Heath and Sarah have just become the dormitory heads for an elite private boarding school. Bel and Rose are quietly troubled orphans who will be staying in the dorm that Heath and Sarah preside over. Heath and Sarah are recovering from some writing scandals in Heath’s career, in which he plagiarized an unpublished manuscript by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Rose tries to protect her sister, Bel, who always ran on the wrong side of the tracks. Heath and Bel begin an elicit, teacher-student relationship, but this continues to spiral downwards even more. Without giving the final spoiler away, we discover in the first chapter, that one of the twins will not make it out alive. Which one? How does the title relate to the characters? What can we infer from the title?”

          The twist is predictable, but I enjoyed the journey. The characters are intriguing, sympathetic yet unsympathetic. I had never read a book by Michele Campbell before, so I was not sure what to expect. In different ways, I like her writing style. The dialogue is very natural, and you can tell there is thought into which characters speak in certain ways. There is a large amount of descriptive language, making you very able to imagine this book in your head. I imagine the audiobook would be intriguing.

          Although I predicted the plot twist, I still enjoyed the book. I think this is a pretty good book for the second book by Michele Campbell. I’ll be sure to catch the first.