Book Review: Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll

Publisher:  Macmillan  |  Publication date: 21st May 2015  |  Edition: Paperback (review copy)

Luckiest Girl Alive Photo

Book Summary


HER PERFECT LIFE IS A PERFECT LIE. . . Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll is an audacious, page-turning debut thriller that will appeal to fans of Gillian Flynn, Paula Hawkins and Jodi Picoult.

Ani FaNelli is the woman who has it all: the glamorous job, the designer wardrobe, the handsome and rich fiancé. But behind her sharp edges and meticulously crafted facade lies the darkest of pasts . . .

When a documentary producer invites Ani to tell her side of the chilling and violent incident that took place when she was a teenager at the prestigious Bradley school, she hopes it will be an opportunity to prove how far she’s turned her life around since then. She’ll even let the production company film her lavish wedding, the final step in her transformation.

But as the wedding and filming converge, Ani’s past threatens to come back and haunt her. And as her immaculate veneer starts to crack, she is forced to question: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for – or, will it at long last, set Ani free?

The review 2

While reading this book, I’ll freely admit that most of the starring cast got my hackles right up. Boy, did they succeed in making my skin crawl at times!

So, where to start! What if everyone believed you were to blame for something cruel and dark that happened a long time ago? What if you couldn’t change the public opinion of your character, no matter what the vile circumstances you’d experienced building up to the event? Would you feel contempt for everyone that ever hurt you? Or would you transfer that energy into becoming a ball-busting, secretive manipulator, allowing you to achieve the superficial goals that have become important to you?

Years later, what if you were contacted by the makers of a documentary giving you the opportunity to tell your side of the story? Would you come face-to-face with the people that affected your life and made you what you are?

Well, these are just some of the choices offered to Ani (also known as TifAni in her youth). Ani has reinvented herself after bad things happened in the past, despicable things that no fourteen year old should have to confront. While Ani wears a prickly smile she continues to walk the path where she remains affected by such things into adulthood. Keeping up appearances is her specialty, which is a pretty dangerous pastime, as things that are shook vigorously before being bottled-up tend to go BANG, eventually.

Ani tried hard to fit in to the clique as a teenager. Now, she has the prowess to impress and control as a woman and entertains a strange relationship with her fiancé, Luke, who says he loves her for her ‘quirkiness’. In return, she quite likes his bank balance. The date of their HUGE wedding looms and her diet regime is on her mind to the degree that it might as well be etched on her forehead. The film makers have asked if they can record the big day as part of their documentary, and Ani and Luke have opposing ideas about the offer…

As the story progresses you will discover exactly why Ani is the Luckiest Girl Alive, and the menace that drives her onwards and upwards. Despite experiencing emotional challenges, Ani is no weakling. With snappy-sharp writing that contends with many sensitive subjects (confidently, but not always delicately), it identifies the signs of those heading toward self-destruction, although the signs are largely ignored until sometimes it’s just too late.

From the off, there’s an odd, looming suspense that accompanies this book. I stumbled over the first few chapters wondering what I’d got myself into, but it didn’t take long for me to find Ani’s journey compelling, and I just loved seeing her arrive at her final destination, no matter how unlikeable she first appeared.

Rating: 4/5

My sincere thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this pretty unique book for review – @LouiseBuckley

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Black Wood, by S J I Holliday

Black Wood

Crime story, filled with dark secrets and suspense…

Publisher: Black & White Publishing | Published: 24th February 2015 | Version: Kindle (own copy)

Set in the quiet Scottish town of Banktoun, it’s not difficult to know everyone’s business. But despite the gossips, it soon becomes clear that the locals don’t really know the real truth about each other and this town is a perfect breeding ground for a few secrets…

The story’s timeline flicks backwards and forwards between the past and the present. Childhood friends Jo and Claire have been through much together, although an incident in the Black Wood some twenty years earlier has affected them in different ways; Jo is not fully recovered psychologically and although Claire’s trying to get on with life, her wheelchair is a constant reminder of that day.

Soon, Jo’s already troubled life is turned upside down in more ways than one when she is convinced she has recognised someone from her past. Everyone tells her to forget it, including Claire, but Jo can’t walk away from this new arrival in town.

More tension is added to the story when ladies walking alone are being targeted by a menacing presence ski mask / balaclava. The small, local police force is struggling to track the offender down and local chief, Davie Gray, is making slow progress with his enquiries.

The story builds slowly to quite a crescendo before taking quite a sinister turn. And all the time Jo is close to snapping the fragile bonds with her closest allies. Still, she is determined to confront the past that’s returned to haunt her, in more ways than one and regardless of the consequences.

It appears the writer has endeavoured to torment Jo throughout this story and I so desperately wanted to discover what had caused this fictional character to behave like she did. It may sound harsh, but despite everything that happened to the poor girl I still had such a hard time liking her!

As I found myself striding deeper into the book it was clear more things than meet the eye have happened in the Black Wood over time. Subtle clues are littered throughout the story at intervals but I didn’t spot them all. In fact, I didn’t know who to trust right up to the end, as most of the town seemed to be hiding something!

It has atmosphere, suspense and kept me in the dark.  Good stuff.

Rating: 4/5 for atmosphere | 3/5 characters | 5/5 for the ending = overall 4/5

You can follow the author on Twitter: @SJIHolliday