Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Review: Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee by Mary G. Thompson


AMY, CHELSEA, STACIE, DEE BY MARY G. THOMPSON (2017)
Chicken House • 292 pages

Six years ago, cousins Amy and Dee were abducted. They were never recovered and no trace of them was ever found - that is until Amy suddenly returns home, alone and unable to tell anyone where Dee is or what happened to her. Amy’s unexpected homecoming gives hope to her family, but she’s a different person after spending most of her teen years in captivity, and she’s not sure if she can ever fully go back to her old life. Amy is someone she left behind when she was 10 years old and in the years of her absence, she became Chelsea and Dee became Stacie. But why has she come back now? Who took them in the first place? And where is Dee?

This story is full of questions before you even turn the first page, and the protagonist leading the story is unwilling to give any answers no matter how hard she’s pressed. Thankfully, as readers you find yourself more in on what’s happening than the rest of the characters, which I for one didn’t mind in this case. I’m all for unreliable narrators if they’re done well and if it fits with the story arc, but I’m glad Mary Thompson chose make this more of a thriller than a mystery. The basic premise of the story gives you some idea of where this is going from the outset, so I didn’t find it a surprising read exactly, but I did enjoy the execution of it. It’s not light reading, but it’s effortlessly written and despite having a strong idea of why Amy and Dee were abducted from very early on, I wanted to know more and enjoyed my time I spent with the story. With Amy’s first person narrative I was worried at first that it might be a mild YA sort of thriller, but it’s surprisingly accessible to both teens and adults alike.

Before anything else, I will say that I think this book is for a certain type of reader. To say I enjoyed it is one thing, but I liked how it was handled as opposed to what it represents. There are trigger warnings for this book, certainly, so if you’re uncomfortable reading about child abuse, rape, and imprisonment then you may find this book is not for you. I have a rather strong disposition when reading about such topics, but it’s harrowing and disturbing nonetheless. In that sense, it feels odd to say I liked it, but I did. I devoured it in a couple of days because I was interested in the psychological elements to the plot: how Amy/Chelsea deals with returning home, how her absence and sudden reappearance shifts the dynamics of her family. It felt like a genuine story; you hear about such horrific true events on the news and this came across as a believable account, which deals with the whole arc of Amy’s life, including how she was before, during, and after the event.

There’s little else I can say without giving away some major plot spoilers, but like I said, if you enjoy psychological thrillers with disturbed characters then I would recommend this. I for one am very glad to have had the opportunity to read this gritty little novel, so thank you to The Bookbag for providing me with my copy. 

Overall rating: 3.5 stars

My copy of Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.
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Sunday, 5 February 2017

Review: Dare to Remember by Susanna Beard


2017  288 pages • Legend Press

Lisa Fulbrook’s best friend is dead – the victim of a brutal attack who fell to her death from her own apartment window. Lisa was there, she too was a victim of the attack that killed her best friend, and she is left with the physical and emotional scars to prove it. Traumatised by the events, Lisa flees to a country village to help settle her frightened mind. But what happened that night still torments her; she is plagued by vicious flashbacks and questions surrounding why she and her best friend Ali were targeted, because the one thing Lisa does know is that she can’t remember what really happened that fateful night. How did their assailant know them? Was it planned? More importantly, why were they attacked?

As I began to read Dare to Remember I had set myself up for reading a psychological thriller which the marketing for this book suggests it is. However, as the story went forward I found that it more of a psychological crime drama than a thriller. It’s still a page turner in the sense that the mystery behind Lisa’s story is gradually being pieced together, but this is a book that deals with the characters and not just simply the shock and awe factor. If you want a book where you feel the protagonist’s frustration and her own personal inner torment then I think this is something you might want to check out.

This is the kind of story that unravels gently and I found that whilst I was reading to find out how and why the crime took place, I was also reading to find out how Lisa dealt with moving on with her life in the aftermath of such a traumatic event. She moves to the country, she sees her therapist, and she starts to make friends in her new life all while trying to recover and remember details from her past. It’s a story that opens your eyes to how acts of terror and violence can affect people’s lives and how everyone deals with their own troubles in their own personal way. You experience Lisa’s psychological turmoil through a first person narrative that is taut and controlled. The prose allows suspense and intrigue but there’s a truth that lies beneath it all which gives the story credibility.

Susanna Beard, a debut author nonetheless, wrote this novel with care and control which subtly explores how although we may try and move away from what terrifies us, negativity still manages to seep its way in to our lives. This is the ying and yang of human life and how we cope with both the good and bad events which fall in to our paths and help to shape us. I felt this message flow strongly throughout this book – it’s full of raw emotion and frustration all woven around a mystery. If you enjoy thrillers with unreliable narrators I think you’ll enjoy this, but if you also prefer stories which focus on more character development then I also think this is worth checking out.

Overall rating: 3 stars

My copy of Dare to Remember was sent to me by The Bookbag and my review originally appeared on their website.
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