Our House by Louise Candlish

Hello Kittens! I have an intriguing read for you from British author Louise Candlish this week. Our House is Candlish’s 13th novel and it comes out in just under two weeks. I’ll admit that I struggled with this one originally. In fact, I became frustrated with the characters halfway through and took a break to read The Broken Girls. I came back to it and am really glad that I stuck with it until the end. I changed my mind to such an extent that I just put another of Candlish’s titles on my TBR list.

Title: Our HouseOur House

Author: Louise Candlish

Author website: http://www.louisecandlish.com/

Publisher: Berkley

Publish date: August 7, 2018

ISBN: 9780451489111

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

Fiona and Bram Lawson are living an enviable life in a posh neighborhood in London with their two sons, Harry and Leo. At least, that’s how it appears to outsiders. But, of course, there’s more to this couple than meets the eye. Bram is a mild alcoholic with a roving eye and a moral compass that can’t seem to find true north. When Fiona finally kicks him out, allowing for a generous custody arrangement known as a bird’s nest, she puts the last bit of trust she can muster in Bram to the test. As she returns home from a weekend away and discovers a family moving in to her house, she cannot wrap her mind around how a mistake like this could have been made. As she learns about the real depth of Bram’s betrayal of her family, she depends on family and neighbors to see her through the most difficult struggle of her life. It’s easy to see this story as a condemnation of Bram, but nearly every character in this story ends up being severely flawed in one way or another.

The story begins at the end, just as Fiona begins to unravel schemes that have been building for months, and we spend the next 400 or so pages figuring it out with her. The story alternates between Fiona’s and Bram’s perspectives in the present day and the past. One unique feature that I really enjoyed was that the present-day Fiona is telling her side of the story on a popular podcast called The Victim, and the reader gets to experience the transcripts and online reactions to Fiona’s story as it is told. This was the first story that I’ve seen take the phenomena around real-life suspense stories like Making and Murderer and Serial (plus so many others) and run with it. It was charming and added a new dimension to the story, because you got to see a fictional audience reacting to the story, asking some of the same questions that I was as a reader.

I struggled a little with maintaining a suspension of disbelief in the middle of the story as Bram’s actions grow more despicable and desperate, while Fiona seems to be far too forgiving. I do not generally like stories that present women as weak and overly trusting of loathsome men for the sake of “love”, as I think it normalizes that cycles of violence that so many women find themselves trapped in in real life, but this book was an exception. Before all is said and done, Fiona finds her strength, albeit in less-than-ideal ways. The ending redeemed this storyline for me, and I’ll be trying additional titles from Candlish in the future. If you like suspense and some really vile characters, give this one a try.

Disclaimer: I received this title from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

The main thing that stops this one from the coveted fifth glass of lemonade is the presence of some cursing and the death of a child.

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

Hello Kittens! This week’s creepy tale should cool you off if you’re mired in the heat like we are down South. This one gave me the major heebie-jeebies. I was reading it on a dark and stormy night and ended up yelping out loud when thunder clapped just as I read, “There was someone in the field.” It was way creepier than it sounds, okay? I was actually in the middle of Our House by Louise Candlish when this library hold came in for me. It was perfect timing because I needed an emotional break from the characters in Our House. I ended up devouring this book in 3 days. This was my first title from Simone St. James, but I am officially a fan now, so I’ll be looking for more from this Canadian author in the future.

Title: The Broken GirlsThe Broken Girls

Author: Simone St. James

Author website: http://www.simonestjames.com/

Publisher: Berkley

Publish date: March 20, 2018

ISBN: 9780451476203

Buy the Book: Amazon, Barnes and Noble

From the first few pages, The Broken Girls draws the reader into a creepy world where something dark is stalking girls in the woods of Barrons, Vermont. This story follows the trend of the last few years of dividing its storyline between two time periods in the same place. We meet Katie, Roberta, CeCe, and Sonia in Barrons in 1950. All four girls are students at Idlewild Hall, a boarding school that takes girls who are unwanted by their families or other boarding schools. These are tough girls whose pasts are already haunted, but they are in for more of the same at Idlewild, because something sinister lives there too. “Do not let her in again!

Then we fast forward to 2014 and meet Fiona Sheridan, a freelance journalist who has her own tragic history at Idlewild. The school was already closed down when the body of Fiona’s sister, Deb, was found there, but it is no less haunting for her 20 years later. When Fiona learns that the property has been purchased and that the new owner intends to renovate the school and re-open it, she knows she has to act. So much of what happened to her sister is unresolved for Fiona, that she has to keep digging to figure out what happened, and she just so happens to stumble upon the rest of the story of Idlewild in the process.

All of these women have survived terrible things, but as the story vacillates between 1950 and 2014 all of their stories will come to a point, revealing many long-held secrets.

The pacing of this story was excellent, and the plot twists were superb. I truly had no idea how St. James was going to tie all of the threads together, but she did a wonderful job. It’s difficult to pinpoint the real villain in the story, and there is an incredibly creepy ghost influencing the story throughout. The suspense in this novel was taut and the historical details added a new level of intensity midway through that kept the story moving when it might otherwise have stalled. It reminded me of…nothing. It was truly a unique read for me, and that was a very pleasant surprise.

Disclaimer: None needed. I got this title from my library.

My rating:

lemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_iconlemonade_icon4 glasses of lemonade= a book you could recommend to a book group or anybody who reads.  You might find controversial subject matter, but it is handled delicately.

There are a few things that might trouble a reader in this story, namely, ghosts, rape, children born out of wedlock, grisly murders. Nothing graphic and not overly descriptive of the worst parts.