Can’t Wait Wednesday : The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

CWW

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is: The Villa by Rachel Hawkins – here’s why:

TheVilla

From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins comes a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set at an Italian villa with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.

As kids, Emily and Chess were inseparable. But by their 30s, their bond has been strained by the demands of their adult lives. So when Chess suggests a girls trip to Italy, Emily jumps at the chance to reconnect with her best friend.

Villa Aestas in Orvieto is a high-end holiday home now, but in 1974, it was known as Villa Rosato, and rented for the summer by a notorious rock star, Noel Gordon. In an attempt to reignite his creative spark, Noel invites up-and-coming musician, Pierce Sheldon to join him, as well as Pierce’s girlfriend, Mari, and her stepsister, Lara. But he also sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Mari writing one of the greatest horror novels of all time, Lara composing a platinum album––and ends in Pierce’s brutal murder.

As Emily digs into the villa’s complicated history, she begins to think there might be more to the story of that fateful summer in 1974. That perhaps Pierce’s murder wasn’t just a tale of sex, drugs, and rock & roll gone wrong, but that something more sinister might have occurred––and that there might be clues hidden in the now-iconic works that Mari and Lara left behind.

Yet the closer that Emily gets to the truth, the more tension she feels developing between her and Chess. As secrets from the past come to light, equally dangerous betrayals from the present also emerge––and it begins to look like the villa will claim another victim before the summer ends.

Inspired by Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and the infamous summer Percy and Mary Shelley spent with Lord Byron at a Lake Geneva castle––the birthplace of Frankenstein––The Villa welcomes you into its deadly legacy.

Expected publication : January 2023

Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins

Posted On 13 January 2022

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My Five Word TL:DR Review : Idyllic island is anything but.

RGs

Okay, there are two sides to this review because whilst I enjoyed this in a number of respects there are other issues, I think primarily where I misled myself, that prevented me from absolutely loving it.  In fact that’s not totally true, I think on reflection I was really enjoying this until certain events occurred that stopped me in my tracks.  I also really think I was expecting something different, perhaps something a bit more sinister – and I had no reason to have such expectations other than my own overactive imagination.

I think for this post I’m not really going to discuss the plot much other than to say that a group of relative strangers head off to a remote paradise for an adventure.  Unfortunately, not everyone is being totally honest and before you can crack open a coconut things are going very wrong.

What I really liked about this.  There’s a lovely sense of tension almost from the get go.  You know something is going to go wrong and that suspense and uncertainty about what form this potential mishap – or, lets face it, disaster – will take is enticing.  So, even though the build up is slow in some respects it allows you to get a feel for the characters all the while knowing that something is lurking.  I really think Hawkins manages to prod you into that ‘I got a bad feeling about this’ state of mind.

The setting is great.  I mean it feels strange to call it a ‘locked room’ mystery because this is an island but the description works because basically it’s self contained.  No escape!  The island is mysterious.  It has a history that makes it both intriguing and macabre.  In one respect it’s a paradise with idyllic coves, crystal water and sandy beaches, on the other there’s the dark unwelcoming jungle with it’s claustrophobic feel, creeping vines, poisonous creatures and stifling humidity.

The characters themselves are, on reflection, really well done.  At first I was tempted to say that I didn’t like any of them but really this isn’t entirely true.  For the most part I liked Lux  although her later actions changed that, I mean really Lux, could you be any more hypocritical!  Anyway, that little tease aside, things clicked into place for me with all of them when I came to the realisation that they’re all pretty shallow not to mention excessively entitled. In that respect, as soon as they gathered on this island you could see the way certain threads were going to develop – it was inevitable.  On top of that some of them are very much motivated by revenge and in fact take this to whole new depths which you could be forgiven for saying are definitely over the top.

The story definitely takes inspiration from other novels, it initially put me in mind of The Beach in that a bunch of young people wanted to find that special unspoilt place.  It has elements of Lord of Flies in that the group splinters into factions and things start to go wrong pretty quickly.  But, all that being said this is it’s own beast.  I didn’t put together all the different pieces here and certainly didn’t see that ending coming at all.

In terms of criticisms.  I actually enjoyed this but I found the ending a bit surprising and not at all what I expected – which could be a good thing really (in fact I think this style is very on trend at the moment with books and films going in a slightly different direction than you would normally think).  Having given this considerable thought the only thing I would say is that similarly to Hawkin’s The Wife Upstairs, this is the sort of story where you need to adjust your expectations.  It’s not totally believable, there are little plot holes, the characters are fickle and also a little overblown, like the author took the worst aspects of them and magnified them – but, now I’ve had time to consider that what comes across for me is that this is very much a novel with tongue firmly planted in cheek.  Not everyone is likable here and equally not everything is realistic.  I mean, would people really act like this – let’s hope not.  Although truth is often stranger than fiction, so, be afraid.

I have to say that I’m very curious to see what this author comes up with next and given the way she writes I think next time around I’ll have a much better idea of what to expect  – although maybe I should completely go into the next read with no knowledge whatsoever – maybe not even read the description.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 3.5 of 5 stars.

Can’t Wait Wednesday : Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins

Can't Wait Wednesday

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly meme that was originally created by Breaking the Spine.  Unfortunately Breaking the Spine are no longer hosting so I’m now linking my posts up to Wishful Endings Can’t Wait Wednesday. Don’t forget to stop over, link up and check out what books everyone else is waiting for.  If you want to take part, basically, every Wednesday, we highlight a book that we’re really looking forward to.  This week my book is : Reckless Girls by Rachel Hawkins

Reckless Girls

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Wife Upstairs comes a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set on an isolated Pacific island with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.

When Lux McAllister and her boyfriend, Nico, are hired to sail two women to a remote island in the South Pacific, it seems like the opportunity of a lifetime. Stuck in a dead-end job in Hawaii, and longing to travel the world after a family tragedy, Lux is eager to climb on board The Susannah and set out on an adventure. She’s also quick to bond with their passengers, college best friends Brittany and Amma. The two women say they want to travel off the beaten path. But like Lux, they may have other reasons to be seeking an escape.

Shimmering on the horizon after days at sea, Meroe Island is every bit the paradise the foursome expects, despite a mysterious history of shipwrecks, cannibalism, and even rumors of murder. But what they don’t expect is to discover another boat already anchored off Meroe’s sandy beaches. The owners of the Azure Sky, Jake and Eliza, are a true golden couple: gorgeous, laidback, and if their sleek catamaran and well-stocked bar are any indication, rich. Now a party of six, the new friends settle in to experience life on an exotic island, and the serenity of being completely off the grid. Lux hasn’t felt like she truly belonged anywhere in years, yet here on Meroe, with these fellow free spirits, she finally has a sense of peace.

But with the arrival of a skeevy stranger sailing alone in pursuit of a darker kind of good time, the balance of the group is disrupted. Soon, cracks begin to emerge: it seems that Brittany and Amma haven’t been completely honest with Lux about their pasts––and perhaps not even with each other. And though Jake and Eliza seem like the perfect pair, the rocky history of their relationship begins to resurface, and their reasons for sailing to Meroe might not be as innocent as they first appeared.

When it becomes clear that the group is even more cut off from civilization than they initially thought, it starts to feel like the island itself is closing in on them. And when one person goes missing, and another turns up dead, Lux begins to wonder if any of them are going to make it off the island alive.

Expected publication : January 2022

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

Posted On 11 February 2021

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My Five Word TL:DR Review : Twisted reimagining of a Classic

WifeThe Wife Upstairs was, without doubt, one of my most anticipated reads of the year so far, mainly because I talked myself into thinking this was a retelling of Jane Eyre.  As it is I would say that this is a story that takes inspiration from that classic story and updates it for a modern audience including a few twists along the way.  Okay, I won’t deny that I actually enjoyed reading this (even though it wasn’t a straight up retelling) – Jane Eyre it isn’t, and I also had one or two issues that I had to put to one side, but even with those provisos, like I said, I enjoyed this.

Our main character, appropriately called Jane, is a dog walker for the rich housewifes who live in the gated community of Thornfield Estates.  She is running from her past and a little down on her luck when we first meet her but within fairly short order her situation changes when she makes the acquaintance of wealthy, handsome widower Eddie Rochester.  With almost indecent haste Jane finds herself living in the most impressive mansion on the estate and with the most eligible (and wealthy) bachelor to boot.  Of course, the rose tinted glasses soon come off as the rumour mill runs amok.  And the rumours are not about the latest little minx to snag herself a wealthy man, they are instead about the disappearance of said ‘wealthy man’s’ wife under suspicious circumstances and his almost ridiculous rush to start afresh, millions under his belt and a new woman tucked up in his mansion.

I wouldn’t call this a retelling because for the most part the story is pretty much it’s own beast – apart from some very surface similarities such as people and place names.  That being said both books do share one particular thing in common – missing first wives.

This is a book of secrets, lies and deception which does make it difficult to say too much without giving away spoilers although readers familiar with the original may be able to guess at certain elements – although, even with some educated assumptions there is still a twist along the way.

Firstly, let’s take a look at the characters.  Many of them are less than likable or morally a little ‘grey’.  Jane for example is no angel.  She’s not above stealing pieces of jewellery that catch her fancy, she has no love for the wealthy wives she mixes with and she is always weighing up the best way to speak or behave in order to manipulate people.  Refreshingly, she is very open in terms of the information she shares with the reader and so we are well aware of her scheming and duplicitous ways, and yet, in spite of this, I began to feel a certain attachment to her or at least became worried about her safety at certain points.  Mr Rochester, seems to be perfect, although we clearly don’t get to observe what’s taking place in his head instead learning about him through gossip and the rumour mill.  Much like Jane, Eddie seems to have enjoyed a most welcome push up the ladder when he met and married Bea (the late Mrs Rochester) and of course the disappearance of both Bea and her best friend during a boozy boat trip, which left him sitting very pretty, is looked at with suspicion.  Again, Eddie is one of those characters that I found myself veering from disbelief, to dislike to almost (but not quite) sympathy. Bea herself was also something of a rags to riches character creating a successful company that made her famous and wealthy beyond her wildest dreams, but again, she isn’t perfect.  Nothing is exactly how it first appears with  these characters, in fact between the three of them they really do test your patience at times and I couldn’t help but find myself thinking that they really did deserve each other.

The story itself is entertaining.  We have a number of jaunts down memory lane as a means to find out more about the characters both present and missing and we soon learn that everything wasn’t quite as rosy as might first appear.  Now, I did have a slight problem with one of the key elements here but it’s something I can’t really discuss and to be honest I was able to put it to one side and not let it affect the read.   On the whole I really enjoyed the writing and found this easy to read.

In terms of criticisms.  Well, not much to be honest.  I think, personally, I went into this one expecting it to be a retelling but when I look back at the description, etc, it never really professes to be so, in fact it says ‘a delicious twist on a gothic classic’ and to be honest it delivers in that respect.  So, firstly, don’t be expecting a modern day retelling of Jane Eyre.  Secondly, the setting is completely different.  This isn’t gothic at all and isn’t trying to be.  Think more Desperately Rich Housewives – and you’ll be somewhat closer to the mark.  Finally, the characters have a different twist, none of them are completely blameless but some are definitely guiltier than others.

So, with all that in mind, I had a good time with this one.  It was fast paced, easy to read and it kept me coming back for more.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating – between 3.5 and 4 stars (7 out of 10) but will probably err on the side of 4 rather than 3 because I did find this easy to get on with.

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Posted On 7 January 2012

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Just finished reading Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins which is a funny, lighthearted, easy to turn the pages novel which is about a witch named Sophie and the adventures she embarks upon when she enrolls at a new school.  To be honest I probably wouldn’t have picked this particular book up because ‘schools for supernaturals’ have been a bit overdone for me personally in more recent times, but, firstly this was a Christmas present from by BBB (best book buddy) and secondly – if by bbb really rates this then I must read!  Anyway, I’m all for the recommendations these days and getting out of my comfort zone.

Sophie is a witch.  Her mother, however, is not.  And she has been brought up with a very ‘normal’ existence, well as normal as it can be when they both spend much of their time hopping from one state to another in order to hide Sophie’s abilities, usually after one of Sophie’s spells have gone wrong (or more to the point been witnessed).  However, Sophie has finally blown it – she’s used a spell which has gone disastrously wrong – and now she’s got to go to a school for supes, where frankly, although she’s a witch she’s totally out of her league because she knows relatively little (or nothing) about this world.

Hex Hall (Hecate Hall) is a school not only for witches, warlocks, werewolves, fairies and even vampires attend.  Bit of a mixed bag then and straight away (after one particular incident on Sophie’s first day) you couldn’t help but wonder to yourself just exactly how all these different elements were going to get along!  And, in that respect things get out of hand fairly quickly.  Sophie gets embroiled into a few different scenarios straight away, she develops an obvious crush on the school ‘hottie’ (who is boyfriend to the school ‘meanie’), she gets stalked by a luminescent green ghost (that only she appears to see), she gets into trouble with a few of her fellow witches after turning down their so-sweet offer (not) to join their coven and she manages to antagonise the ‘were’ element on her first day. Not looking good for Sophie.  However, she manages to make friends with the school vampire and together they have their own little most-unpopular-everybody-hates thing going on.  On top of that, Sophie really is at a disadvantage, she has no idea about the world that she actually belongs to.  She knows nothing of the history, myths or dos and don’ts.  On top of that she has a few nasty surprises in story about her own family (which makes her even more disliked) and she also learns about a couple of groups that actively stalk and kill her kind.

To be honest, if you read this type of story, I don’t think Hex Hall will bring anything new to you.  Idon’t particularly think there were any surprises involved but what I really did like was the way the story was told.  It’s quick, pacy and entertaining.  Sophie is quite an engaging character and has some very amusing thoughts.  Her vamp friend Jenna is also probably one of the best characters with her overwhelming love of pink (who would have thought! A pink loving vampire!!) and also I like the setting.  I know that schools have been a bit overdone of recent but this is quite an unusual school after all.  We also have the ‘mean girl’ element to the schools – although to be honest I don’t think they were as horrible as some characters I’ve read about before and in a way I actually felt sorry for them eventually.

In round up, this was a light, fun, self-indulgent read which I enjoyed and will definitely carry on with the next two to see how Sophie’s story develops. It did put me in mind of Ally Carter’s school for spies – in terms of the humour, the fact that I liked the characters and that it’s quite fast paced.

Criticisms – the only thing that puzzled me slightly was in relation to Archer – who was a bit of mixed bag.  He’s the school crush, he’s gorgeous, he’s a bit dangerous, but actually beneath the surface he doesn’t come across as bad.  And, I liked his character which is what made it so difficult for me to believe that he was going out with the school super-meanie – it sort of made him a bit fickle.  Just going out with the best looking and overlooking her character flaws?  Maybe I’m just being really unrealistic there.  The other thing I would also mention is that there is a bit of a cliffhanger ending which can be irritating for some (although I don’t really mind).

Anyway, all told, a very entertaining read and luckly for me no wait necessary for book 2 and 3.  As usual I’m late to the party but sometimes there is a bonus to being late!

Rating -A

Hex Hall

Hex Hall