Category Archives: Women’s fiction

Review: Your Life for Mine (Karen Clarke)

Your Life for Mine opens well: a text to a woman, on her birthday, saying this was the last birthday she would ever be alive to celebrate.

Alas, the rest of the book does not quite live up to the promise of this opening. There are likely spoilers galore here.

Beth, the birthday girl and recipient of the message, is a walking ball of anxiety. Her boyfriend therapist is annoying when she relays the message to him. She wonders if this has anything to do with “what happened to her” when she was a child – and that “something” isn’t laid out until we’re a third of the way into the book.

I found this book VERY annoying, mainly because of Beth, who seemed to need intensive therapy, and because the author holds back the good details until halfway through the book and then in the last 20-ish pages. No one acts like a real person would act, and the impetus behind the would-be murder is not credible at all. Nor is the end, for the would-be murderer.

Didn’t like it, wouldn’t recommend it unless you had nothing else at all to read. The only good thing about this book is that it is a fast, fast read: 80 minutes for me, even without skipping Beth spiraling into yet another meltdown about something like a spoiled child.

Two out of five stars: one for writing and another for there at least being some cohesiveness in the story, despite the ridiculous motives.

Thanks to HQ Digital and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: The Good Sister (Sally Hepworth)

The Good Sister starts off slowly – to be perfectly honest, it starts out slowly for the first third of the book. However, if you hang on, the rest of the book will definitely be worth your attention.

Rose and Fern, fraternal twins, grew up with a sociopathic abuser of a mother. Fern, who clearly is autistic (most likely Aspberger’s) is protected both in her youth and in her adulthood, by Rose. Fern of course lives a fairly regimented life until she finds out that Rose cannot get pregnant. Fern decides she’ll show her love for her sister by having a baby for her. The narrative is provided from the point of view of Rose, via her journal, and Fern, via her simply living her life.

That’s the basic storyline, and it doesn’t really take off until Fern has to start varying her routine, given that her routine has not thus far allowed her to do things like go and dates and such. We also find out that Rose is not quite the doting and caring sister we think her to be based on the opening of the book.

There’s a lot to like in this: it’s a psychological thriller, without a doubt, has some good twists, and has one of the main characters afflicted with a condition without taking that character into some weird place, which happens all too often. The writing is good, and there are no major plot holes. If the front end was a tad speedier, I’d give it five stars, but it still is a solid four star read.

Thanks to St, Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the review copy.

Review: Little Bandaged Days (Kyra Wilder)

Little Bandaged Days follows Erika, mother of two, moving to Geneva, Switzerland with her husband.

The books takes a rather strange construct, with Erika identifying and interacting with other people by using their initials – including her children. I suppose this is some kind of experiment about Erika pushing people away, but it got fairly annoying the deeper into the book I made it. These sorts of literary experiments can be done well and give a good payoff at the end, but this book fell short for me.

Erika doesn’t know the language, and makes no effort at all to learn it. She allows herself to become more and more isolated from the world in which she finds herself, and while I get it’s supposed to be about a woman slowly losing her grasp on her own mental health, I just can’t feel terribly sorry for anyone who knows they need to change x in their lives in order to have a better life, but makes zero effort to change anything at all to get to that betterment, or at least make progress on it.

This popped up for me in the mystery/thriller category, but it’s clearly a general/women’s fiction novel. It reads as if someone stepped up for a dare of writing about a woman spiraling into mental illness with the extra challenge of not naming names.

I did not like the ending, which I will not spoil, and this really sums up my review of this book: didn’t like it. Clearly, it was not for me. Sorry.

Two stars out of five.

Thanks to Abrams and NetGalley for the review copy.

Little Disasters – Sarah Vaughan – review

Note before starting: when I first saw this, it was being billed as a psychological thriller. It doesn’t fall into that category at all. This is more of a non-genre drama with a hint of mystery thrown in.

Liz is a pediatrician working in the ED (that’s the ER, for US readers) when her friend Jess arrives with her 10-month old, who she says has been vomiting. After tests are run, it’s clear the child has a skull injury. Liz has some reservations about the story Jess is telling, and Jess is acting suspiciously. Something doesn’t add up, but Liz rightfully recuses herself from further examination and treatment.

What follows is a story told both in the present and the past, revolving around four women who took a childbirth class at the same time. Liz and Jess are the primary focus, and what we mostly see are glimpses into the lives of the career working woman Liz, and the stay at home, but clearly suffering from postpartum depression, Jess.

As the story winds on, and the authorities and Liz try to puzzle out what really happened, and whether Jess (or Ed, her husband) beat the child or whether it could be just a serious accident, Liz maintains Jess would never hurt her child, but others are not quite so sure.

The ending is one I found completely unexpected but also completely unrealistic, and quite frankly, I felt cheated by it. I’m just not a fan of a bad guy who shows up completely out of nowhere, either because they’ve not been introduced or because they have been introduced, but their actions in the narrative never hint at their actions in the end.

More forgiving readers than I will not mind this. As for me, it takes my rating to 2.5 stars, rounded down to 2.

Thanks to NetGalley and Atria for the reading copy.