The Guilty Mother by Diane Jeffrey @dianefjeffrey

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About the Book

She says she’s innocent.

WOULD YOU BELIEVE HER?

2013

Melissa Slade had it all: beauty, money, a successful husband and beautiful twin babies. But, in the blink of an eye, her perfect life became a nightmare – when she found herself on trial for the murder of her little girls.

PRESENT DAY

Jonathan Hunt covered the original Slade Babies’ case for the local newspaper. Now that new evidence has come to light, Jon’s boss wants him back on the story to uncover the truth.

With Melissa’s appeal date looming, time is running out. And, as Jon gets drawn deeper into a case he’d wanted to forget, he starts to question Melissa’s guilt.

Is Melissa manipulating Jon or telling him the truth? Is she a murderer, or the victim of a miscarriage of justice?

And if Melissa Slade is innocent, what really happened to Ellie and Amber Slade?

 

My Thoughts

I wanted to read The Guilty Mother as soon as I saw the cover, it really caught my eye and I’m really pleased to say that the novel more than lives up to it.

Melissa is in prison for killing her twin daughters and her appeal is about to be heard. Her first husband Simon, with whom she has a teenage son Calum is convinced she is innocent and is fighting for justice. Melissa’s second husband, the father of her twins, isn’t so convinced. Jonathan works for the local newspaper and along with Kelly, a young woman who is still learning in the journalism world, is tasked with looking into Melissa’s case.

I very much enjoyed this novel, it had me gripped from start to finish. I found reading about Melissa’s experience as a new mother to twins really believable. I can only imagine how exhausting it must be and how different it must have been to when she had her son years previously. Michael is very unsympathetic to Melissa, he misses the high achieving wife that Melissa was before and seems to make no allowances for how much life has changed since they decided to start a family together. This set up is so good in a novel though because it made me suspicious of Michael because it seems he would rather have his old wife back than have to deal with how she is now. It also made me wonder whether Melissa could have harmed her babies due to how fatigued and unsupported she was in the midst of her low mood and struggle.

It was great to have the journalist’s perspective too as we get to take a step back from being inside Melissa’s life and see it from an outsider’s point of view. Jonathan has had real sadness in his own life and as a father to two boys he can’t see how anyone would harm their own children. I enjoyed learning more about him and seeing how he tried to separate his own life experiences from Melissa’s. In Jonathan’s office is a new team member to the newspaper, Kelly, and she ends up being Jonathan’s side-kick. I loved Kelly, she’s clearly a bit green but in some ways that allows her to see things that Jonathan doesn’t see and she brings so much to his story (and to the novel).

Diane Jeffrey is an excellent writer – she explores Melissa’s story with such sensitivity whilst also keeping the novel thrilling so that you find yourself reading at every possible opportunity in order to find out what the truth was. There are twists and turns along the way and things I didn’t see coming… and the ending is brilliant!

The Guilty Mother is a novel that keeps you on your toes all the way through! I kept changing my mind about whether Melissa was guilty, and also changing my mind about who else might have done it. The story is so engrossing and impossible to put down! This is the first novel that I’ve read by Diane Jeffrey but it absolutely won’t be the last, I’m intending to buy everything she’s ever written now! I highly recommend this book!

The Guilty Mother is out now and available here

 

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#BookReviews: The Carer | How It Was | Still Lives | The Water Cure

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Here are some more reviews of books that I’ve read recently:

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How It Was by Janet Ellis

I read and really enjoyed Janet Ellis’ debut novel The Butcher’s Hook so I was very keen to read her new book. It’s different to her first book but I still very much enjoyed it. It follows Marian, who is sitting in hospital next to her dying husband. She reads him old cards that she’s found and slowly falls into recollections of their lives together. The novel meanders and it can be a little hard to follow at times as you try to work out what point you are at in Marian’s life but I realised that I had to let myself just go where it was taking me and it became easier to follow the timeline then. Marion has had such heartbreak in her life, and the way she had to hide her intense grief for someone earlier in her life was stunningly written. I felt like I was right there with Marion and could feel all of her emotions. Later as she has to deal with her teenage daughter and all the complex emotions that this entails again gave me such empathy for her. She’s a flawed person but it’s impossible not to feel for her. I enjoyed this book but it’s only now that a little time has passed and I find myself still thinking about it that I can see just how good a book it is. I definitely recommend this one!

 

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Still Lives by Maria Hummell

This is a novel that I really wanted to read and yet didn’t pick up for ages after I got it. I think maybe on some level I knew I had to be in the exact right mood for it, and I’m so glad I waited because when I finally picked it up I read it in just two sittings! It follows Maggie who works for an art gallery and is working on the opening of a huge show of work by the new girlfriend of her ex-boyfriend. Kim Lord, the artist, has created a series of pictures where she has controversially painted her own image into the infamous murder scenes of women like Nicole Brown Simpson. Kim disappears on opening night and this leads to people analysing her paintings looking for a deeper message about where she might be. Maggie who already carries a lot of pain and regret becomes further melancholy and reflective about what might have happened. I adored this book – the message running through it about how murdered women are fetishised by the media is really well done and really makes you think. There is so much in this book alongside the mystery element and I really enjoyed it. I already want to read this book again so I definitely recommend it!

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The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

This novel follows three sisters who are brought up in an abusive, claustrophobic situation on an isolated island. We hear from each of them as well as their joint voice as they describe their world. It’s clearly a really difficult life but it’s never really explained where they are or why they’re there. I wasn’t sure if this was a dystopian novel or a post-apocalyptic one, or if the whole thing was a metaphor. It’s a feminist novel but it felt quite surface level to me and I was always kept at quite a distance so couldn’t connect with the characters. I have to say though that the writing is beautiful and it is this that kept me reading to the end. Overall I’m still not really sure what I think about this novel but I did enjoy the writing enough to want to read more by the author.

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The Carer by Deborah Moggach

I’m a big fan of this author’s novels so was thrilled to finally get a copy of The Carer and I’m really happy to say that I loved it. It follows two adult children – Phoebe and Robert – as they deal with their father James’ growing care needs and his relationship with his new carer Mandy. Phoebe seems to bear the brunt of organising their dad’s care and she resents how little Robert does. Robert feels very put upon in life generally and wishes the world would leave him alone so he can write his novel in peace. Mandy is jolly and fun and brings out a lighter side of James which increasingly concerns Phoebe and Robert but they can’t openly complain because this is what Mandy is there for. The family dynamics explored in this novel are so spot on for how life is that I kept smiling, or nodding my head as I recognised people in my own life in the characters at various points in the novel. This is such an engaging read that I keep thinking about ever since I finished reading. I will definitely re-read this book in the future. The Carer is a novel that I’m sure will resonate with a lot of people and I whole-heartedly recommend it!

#BookReviews: Forget Me Not | The Evidence Against You | Through the Wall | I Confess

 

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Here are some more mini reviews of books I’ve been reading recently! This post is a bit of a mixed bag with two books that I loved and two that I thought were okay.

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Forget Me Not by Claire Allan

I have to be honest here and say that this book became a must read for me entirely based on this brilliant cover! As soon as I saw it I had to grab a copy and read it right away. I’m so pleased to say that the novel lives up to the great cover and I very much enjoyed this crime thriller. It follows the discovery of the body of a young woman who has been murdered. The novel is told from the viewpoints of Elizabeth, who found the dead woman, and Rachel, the murdered woman’s best friend. Both woman have a lot in their own lives and so when the murder happens their nerves are brought to breaking point. I loved both strands of the novel and was keen to see how it was all going to turn out. I was thrilled that I was kept guessing until the reveal happened as it’s not very often that I can’t put the pieces together in a crime novel. I did have my suspicions and I was close but I didn’t get it figured out. Huge kudos to Claire Allan for keeping me on my toes! I loved this book, it’s Claire’s best thriller to date and I highly recommend it!

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The Evidence Against You by Gillian McAllister

I’ve read all of Gillian McAllister’s novels as they’ve been published and she has gone from strength to strength, she is now one of my auto-buy authors! This novel follows Izzy whose father has been in prison for murdering her mother and now he’s about to be released, and is claiming that he’s innocent! I loved Izzy, she’s such a believable and real character and I was rooting for her the whole way through this book. The loss of her mum when she was a teenager has really affected her life and she’s never really being able to escape from the tragedy. She’s even living her mum’s life in re-opening the restaurant that her mother owned. I loved seeing Izzy’s tentative steps towards having a relationship with her dad and was really hoping he was being honest with her. I was gripped the whole way through the book and I kept changing my mind about whether I thought her dad was being truthful or not. There were surprises in store in this book, which was great! I keep thinking of Izzy and wondering how she’s doing now. I highly recommend this book!

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Through the Wall by Caroline Corcoran

I was eagerly anticipating this novel but now I’ve read it I’m still not absolutely sure what I thought of it. It follows two women – Lexie who lives with her boyfriend Tom, and Harriet who lives on her own. They live next door to each other in an apartment block and they share a wall. I loved the early part of this book as we learn more about each of these women and see what they think of each other based on what they’ve heard through the wall. Each seems to think the other has a happier life, which I thought was really interesting to read about. As the novel went on though it required more and more suspension of disbelief and I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I had been. I was expecting it to go in a particular direction and when it didn’t I felt deflated. Perhaps this is much more a reflection on me than the book though. I’d still recommend it if you like novels about obsession!

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I Confess by Alex Barclay

This book is about a couple who’ve bought and renovated an old convent and have now invited old school friends to stay to celebrate one of their birthdays. The house is in a remote location and it’s a dark, stormy night so it feels like these friends are somewhat marooned in this house so when a body is found it’s terrifying to know they are all stuck there with a murderer. This is a fast-paced thriller that is full of secrets and lies and then all of the reveals and fallout. There aren’t many likeable characters in the novel and the only person that was likeable didn’t feel fleshed out enough for me, which was a little disappointing. I Confess does require a suspension of disbelief but that makes this more enjoyable as even though it’s a murder thriller it feels like escapism. This isn’t my favourite book in the genre but having said that I did read it in one sitting so it definitely held my attention all the way through.

#BookReviews: Dirty Little Secrets | Never Have I Ever | Call Me A Liar | Our Kind of Cruelty

book reviews

Here are a new selection of my thoughts on four more of the books that I’ve read in recent months!

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Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain

This book was brilliant! I picked it up one afternoon and I literally didn’t stop reading until I’d turned the final page! It follows seven residents in a gated community in the aftermath of one of the neighbours being found dead. The neighbours seem like they’d be close-knit and yet Olive had been dead for three months before anyone realised! The novel follows each of these characters as we get to know their back stories and how well they know each other. They all have their own secrets and things they don’t want to come out but the investigation into the murder means everything has to come out into the open. This novel kept me on my toes all the way through. I couldn’t make my mind up who was most likely to have harmed Olive and what I eventually settled on was completely wrong! The end when it comes is shocking and deeply unsettling but it’s also such a satisfying end to the book. I loved this one and I’m now so keen to read more by Jo Spain! I definitely recommend this book!

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Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

I was really looking forward to reading this book and it was such a satisfying read. It follows Amy Whey who seems to have the perfect life, and she seems to be quite a perfect person. She lets her friend Charlotte host a book club in her house and one night a new neighbour, Roux, turns up and really shakes this group up by suggesting they play never have I ever and work back to revealing the worst thing they’ve ever done. Amy is immediately nervous and it’s apparent that she has skeletons in her closet. The novel then becomes a cat and mouse game as Amy and Roux try to outwit each other. I’m going to be honest here and say that while I was really drawn in by the opening to this book I did struggle with picking it back up whenever I’d put it down. Having said that there is a point about halfway through where it grabbed me and I read from there to the end in one sitting. It’s a clever thriller and something a bit different so I recommend it.

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Call Me A Liar by Colette McBeth

I really enjoy Colette McBeth’s writing so was thrilled to pick up her latest thriller. This book follows a group of work colleagues who are sent on a retreat. It soon becomes clear that this group all have secrets to hide and the pressure of being together in this enforced setting is going to cause cracks to show in people’s facades. We get to hear from each of the characters and this makes for a really gripping read as we begin to see how each of them think. This is such a tense read and you’re never quite sure of who to trust or what it might be that is really going on. It reached a point where I felt like I was trapped in this nightmare retreat with these people and unable to see a way back to the life I had before and I loved that about it.  This is such a twisty read and one that is really hard to put down once you’ve started reading.

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Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

This book is such a gripping read that I read in one sitting! It follows Mike who is in love with Verity. They had a very intense relationship and loved playing a game called Crave on nights out. Crave involved Verity getting into a situation with a random man and when she gives the signal Mike swoops in and rescues her. So now that Verity has broken up with Mike and is moving on with her life he is certain that this is just an escalation of Crave and is determined to win her back. This look at obsession is so compelling and disturbing. It was fascinating being in Mike’s head and seeing how he sees things, and sometime I felt like I was on his side but there were moments when I thought of Verity and was shocked at myself that I hadn’t considered her feelings. This book is such an incredible look at control in relationships and how what one person sees as blurred lines another sees as terrifying. This book is one I still think about now and it’s weeks since I read it. It’s one I already want to read again and I definitely recommend it.

#BookReviews: When I Lost You | Those People | The Honeymoon | The Dangerous Kind

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Here is another selection of reviews of books that I read and enjoyed over the summer this year! I’m slowly catching up on reviewing all of the books that I read now!

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When I Lost You by Merilyn Davies

This is a novel that I was so keen to read and I’m really pleased to say that it lived up to my expectations. This is a novel that centres around an infant’s death, and the pathologist who believes the baby was murdered by one of her parents then begins receiving threatening letters. The novel is told in two timelines and looks at two teenagers who are in the care system, and in the present is the case looking at the murdered baby. I found this one of those novels that I just couldn’t put down, it had me hooked all the way through. I had my suspicions at various points in the novel but it was only a little while before the reveal that I finally put everything together. This novel is a mix of police procedural and thriller and it’s such a gripping and engaging read. I’m really happy to see that this is actually going to be the first book in the series as I loved the detectives and I can’t wait to read more!

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Those People by Louise Candlish

I love Louise Candlish’s writing so this book was a real treat! You know from the start that something bad has happened on this street but you don’t know exactly what or who to. The novel then follows interviews and the perspectives from each of the neighbours and you gradually learn what has led to the awful incident that has happened. I loved this book! It takes place on a lovely, quiet street where everyone is friendly and considerate of each other. Then a new couple move in and they are selfish and seem determined to do what they want when they want no matter what. I loved how this novel made me really dislike the new couple at first (don’t we all live in fear of nightmare neighbours moving in next door?!) but as the novel went on I did feel there were times when the antagonising behaviour came from all sides and people were escalating things without realising what they were doing. This is a novel that kept me guessing and it definitely had shocks in store. I read this novel in one sitting as I just didn’t want to put it down until I knew how it was all going to turn out. I definitely recommend this one!

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The Honeymoon by Rona Halsall

I’ll be honest here and say that the stunning cover is what initially drew me to this book! I’m happy to say that the contents did live up to it though. The Honeymoon follows Chloe as she sets off on her honeymoon with her new husband Dan. She finds out at the airport that they’re not going where she thought they were going which makes her anxious but she trusts her husband so off they go! We then find out that Chloe has only known Dan a very short time and perhaps doesn’t know him as well as she thought she did! I loved this as a set up for a novel and was intrigued about Dan from the start. Poor Chloe has no idea what awaits her on this honeymoon and she soon finds herself in a nightmare situation. I was rooting for her to find a way to get through things because I really liked her. Me and my husband pretty much moved in together as soon as we met so I know what it’s like to fall in love and move at lightning speed in a relationship so I was totally with Chloe even when I was anxious about some of the decisions she made. This was a fun, gripping and very fast-paced novel, and I’ll definitely be looking out for Rona Halsall’s other books in the future!

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The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor

I had to get my hands on a copy of this novel as soon as I first heard about it as the premise is so intriguing to me. The novel is about whether it’s possible to foresee whether someone would go on to commit violent crimes by looking at convicted criminals’ pasts, and that is so fascinating! The book sees the host of a podcast looking into this when one day a woman comes into the office begging for help to find her missing friend. The book then goes back and forth in time, and explores really difficult issues such as grooming and sexual exploitation. It’s such a well written book that keeps you reading even when you might want to look away. I found this book near impossible to put down as it was just so engaging and thought-provoking. I definitely want to read more by this author and I absolutely recommend this book!

#BookReview: Fiona and the Whale by Hannah Lynn | @HMLynnauthor @rararesources

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About the Book 

With her personal life on the rocks, it’s going to take a whale sized miracle to keep her afloat.

 Event planner Fiona Reeves did not have her husband’s sudden departure on her schedule. However, she’s certain that it’s only a hiccup and he’ll be back in no time, begging for forgiveness. Fortunately there’s a distraction of mammoth proportions swimming in the River Thames. 

 Absorbed by the story of Martha the sperm whale, Fiona attempts to carry on life as usual as she awaits her husband’s return. However, nothing can prepare her for the dramatic turn of events that throws her life into ever greater turmoil. The road ahead has many paths and for Fiona it’s time to sink or swim.

 Fiona and the Whale is a poignant and often hilarious contemporary fiction novel. If you enjoy topical tales, second chances and a little bit of romance, you’ll love this new book from the Kindle Storyteller Award Winner, Hannah Lynn.

 

My Thoughts

I’ve previously read one of Hannah Lynn’s other novels (The Afterlife of Walter Augustus) and adored it so I was delighted to get the chance to read her newest book Fiona and the Whale.

Fiona and the Whale is about a 40-something woman whose husband leaves her on the very day they wave their only son off to University. Fiona is convinced it’s all just a blip and that her husband will be back. In the days following she is struggling to fill her days and leaves the TV on 24/7, which is where she hears about a sperm whale that has got stranded in the Thames. Fiona becomes fixated on Martha the whale’s plight and this leads to many new paths opening up that Fiona couldn’t even have imagined beforehand!

I loved this book – from the opening pages I just knew this was going to be a ‘me’ book and it absolutely was! Fiona is a great character, she is so believable from the start and although some of the things she did annoyed me it never stopped me rooting for her because she was so real.

The plight of Martha was heart-breaking to read about but I really appreciated how Hannah Lynn used the story of the whale to highlight the issues of what we’re doing to our oceans and our planet with our use of plastics. This novel really made me pause for thought on more than one occasion but Lynn manages to really make a powerful point without it ever feeling like you’re being preached to. She kept me in the story and on Fiona’s side the entire time, which is a real skill when you’re showing the reality of these issues. I will think of Martha the whale next time I pick something up that’s wrapped in plastic when it doesn’t need to be and I’m sure this will help me to make better choices where I can.

I also loved the issues with food waste was tackled too. I’ve been guilty of going by use-by dates even on things like vegetables in the past because I didn’t trust my own judgement to know when things were past using. Now I know better and I do better. I could totally understand Fiona’s attitude to The Dumpster Dive cafe at first, although I’d have been a little more tactful! I loved how she learnt about what leads to food being thrown away by supermarkets, and as a result I learnt some things I didn’t know either.

Along with the issues being tackled in the novel we see how Fiona deals with her husband leaving her, and how she gradually becomes more reliant on herself and starts to find happiness on her own terms. It doesn’t happen overnight but you see her slowly starting to shine again. I adored her tenacity and spirit as she began fighting for what she believed in instead of being stuck in what she had lost. I also really enjoyed her relationship with her best friend and the way they are with each other. It was so refreshing to see such a real and honest portrayal of female friendship with the ups and downs that can come with one person making big life changes out of the blue.

Fiona and the Whale is a gorgeous quirky novel, one that really feels like it’s grounded in reality but with that little bit of Hannah Lynn magic sprinkled through it. I was really moved by some of the turns this story took, and also genuinely laughing out loud at other parts of it. I completely and utterly loved this book and I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for my copy of this book and my invitation to take part in the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Fiona and the Whale is out now and available here.

 

About the author

Fiona and the Wale Hannah Lynn

Hannah Lynn is an award-winning novelist. Publishing her first book, Amendments – a dark, dystopian speculative fiction novel, in 2015, she has since gone on to write The Afterlife of Walter Augustus, a contemporary fiction novel with a supernatural twist – which won the 2018 Kindle Storyteller Award and the Gold Medal for Best Adult Fiction ebook at this year’s IPPY Awards – and the delightfully funny and poignant Peas and Carrots series.

While she freely moves between genres, her novels are recognisable for their character driven stories and wonderfully vivid description.

She is currently working on a YA Vampire series and a reimaging of a classic Greek myth.

Born in 1984, Hannah grew up in the Cotswolds, UK. After graduating from university, she spent ten years as a teacher of physics, first in the UK and then around Asia. It was during this time, inspired by the imaginations of the young people she taught, she began writing short stories for children, and later adult fiction Now as a teacher, writer, wife and mother, she is currently living in the Austrian Alps.

For up-to-date news and access to exclusive promotions follow her on

Facebook: HannahLynnAuthor

Twitter @HMLynnauthor

Goodreads: Hannah_M_Lynn

Bookbub: hannah-lynn

 

You can find the rest of this blog tour at the following stops:

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#BookReviews: Then She Vanishes | Miracle Creek | Clear My Name | The Poison Garden

mini reviews

Here is another selection of reviews of the books I’ve been reading over the summer!

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Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas

I’m such a big fan of Claire Douglas’ novels and so was really looking forward to this one – I can honestly say that it’s her best yet! Heather and Jess were best friends as teenagers until the night Heather’s sister Flora disappeared. Now Jess is accused of murder and Heather has come back to find out what has happened. This book has such great and believable characters, plus a plot that has you reading just one more chapter (and then one more and one more) until you turn the final page. It’s such an in-depth book that you want to know more about the characters but the storyline is so twisty that you find you can’t stop reading until you know how it’s all going to turn out. I loved this book and keep finding myself thinking about it and wondering how the characters are now. I definitely recommend this one!

 

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Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

This is a book that I picked up on a whim and I’m so glad I did as it’s such an excellent novel. This is a book that hinges around an horrific incident at the Miracle Submarine (a pressurised chamber that allegedly helps treat autism and infertility). It’s partly a courtroom drama but it’s also a character study following multiple people in the lead up to and fallout from the accident. You really get into the mindset of everyone and why they have done the things they did, and how they feel in the aftermath. I found this such an engrossing novel – one that I wanted to read slowly… but also quickly to know what happened. The writing it stunning and I can’t wait to read more from this author in the future! This is a book that has really stayed with me and I think it’s one that I will re-read.

 

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Clear My Name by Paula Daly

I’m such a fan of Paula Daly and have loved all her books to date and this new one is no exception! The novel follows Tess who works for Innocence UK as she looks into the possible wrongful conviction of Carrie – a woman convicted of killing her husband’s mistress. Carrie says she didn’t do it and Tess is determined to find the truth. This book really tense at times and is a definite page turner! I went back and forth over whether I thought Carrie was innocent, and I was suspicious of other people who perhaps had a motive for murder but I was never sure. This is a thought-provoking novel and one that you’ll be thinking about long after you’ve turned the last page! Clear My Name is a novel that kept me on my toes and I very much enjoyed it!

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The Poison Garden by Alex Marwood

Alex Marwood is another of my favourite authors so this book was one of my most anticipated for this year. I was thrilled when I finally got hold of a copy and am happy to say that it lived up to all my expectations! The way this book opens is so disturbing and visceral but it really sets up the story that is to follow in such a way that you don’t want to stop reading. The novel follows multiple characters and goes back and forth in time gradually building up a picture of what led to the novel’s opening but also what happened afterwards. It’s a slower-paced thriller which works perfectly as you find that you want to get to know these characters and how they became who they are. Alex Marwood’s novels always unsettle me and leave me pondering on things and this book is no different, I love how she keeps me enthralled even when I want to look the other way. Her writing is so dark and brilliant, I love it! I highly recommend this book!

#BookReviews: The Wave | The First Time Lauren Pailing Died | I Spy | The Most Difficult Thing

MINI REVIEWS

I’m back with some more mini book reviews today as I continue in my attempts to catch up on reviewing the books that I’ve read over the summer months!

 

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The Wave by Virginia Moffatt

I was really drawn to the premise of this book – the idea of a tsunami heading towards the Cornish coast leaving the people there with no real chance of escaping it is chilling but also an intriguing set up for a novel. I found this book really hard to put down. I really liked most of the characters and there were some really moving moments within the story. I did find it a little jarring at times though as I didn’t believe that people who have chosen to spend their final hours on the beach enjoying their last moments of life would then end up debating politics. It seems to me that in that situation people would be more likely to be either in quiet reflection or bonding with others as they talked about their lives – their happiest moments and their regrets. As I said before though I still found this a compelling book that I didn’t want to put down and even though we know how the story is going to end for these characters, I still spent the whole book hoping it would be different for them. I’ll definitely look out for more from this author in the future.

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The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd

This is such a fascinating novel that follows Lauren Pailing through multiple alternate lives. Each time she dies a new life begins for the people that loved her. So the further into the book you get the more strands of each version of Lauren’s life are being followed. It may sound complicated but it was actually really easy to follow each life as it quickly becomes clear where you are in each particular strand. In each of Lauren’s lives a man has disappeared and she is convinced that she needs to find him. In time versions of Lauren begin to have memories of a life she didn’t live but another version of her did and this is where the novel got really interesting for me, I loved the way the author explored how other versions of us might still be a part of us on some level. The novel explores themes of relationships, grief and parenting in such a sensitive way. This is such a stunning novel and one that has really stayed with me since I read it. I’m already excited to read whatever Alyson Rudd writes next!

 

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The Most Difficult Thing by Charlotte Philby

This is such a good novel full of intrigue and suspense! It’s part spy novel, part thriller and part family drama and this made for such a great read.  On the surface Anna is successful in her career at a magazine, she’s happily married and adores her three-year old twins but all is not quite as it seems. Her life is on the verge of unravelling and slowly we get to see who she really is but also who the people around her really are. It becomes something of a cat and mouse but you’re not always sure who the good guys are. I found this such a compelling read that was hard to put down. The ending was so brilliant and perfect in my opinion but I also feel it might divide readers! I recommend it!

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I Spy by Claire Kendal

This is another really good spy novel that I enjoyed over the summer. Holly has always wanted to be a spy but when she gets the interview she fails and has to reassess what she’s going to do with her life. Then one day she has a random encounter with a woman and child that sends Holly’s thoughts spiralling. The novel goes back and forth in time and you gradually get to understand who Holly is and what this woman has to do with her life. This is a book that takes genuinely unexpected turns at times and it kept me gripped from start to finish. I’m a fan of Claire Kendal’s previous novels but this one is now my favourite of hers. It’s such a great read and I recommend it!

 

 

Fiction #BookReviews: If Only I Could Tell You | Matilda | Daisy Jones and the Six | The Flatshare

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Today I’m sharing a few more reviews of books that I’ve read and loved over the summer months!

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Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley but after reading reviews of the book I decided I wanted to listen to the audio book as I read so I bought the audio. This is such a brilliant novel and I loved it! It’s the story of a band called The Six in the 1970s and all the ups and downs that comes with making it big. Things become even more complicated for the band when Daisy Jones joins them. The dynamics between the band members is fascinating and it all felt so real! I loved how the book is told in snippets from interviews, which meant that we see each person’s view point and how memories differ from each perspective. Some people want to be seen in the best light, to be the hero and this shows through. Others play down the part they played, seemingly wanting to be a little more distant. This book was so good that by the end it felt like I’d read about a real band and I wanted to look up their music and to listen to it! It’s the mark of a great novel when you completely forget that this isn’t a true story. I highly recommend this book, I am sure it will be in my favourite books of the year list!

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The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

This is another wonderful novel that I very much enjoyed. The story is told from the viewpoints of both Tiffy and Leon – they flat share but they’ve never met! This premise sold me on the book and I’m so pleased to say that the novel lived up to that premise. I love how these two people communicated through a chain of post it notes, and how they gradually came to know each other so well before they ever met. There is more depth to this novel than I was expecting, and some difficult issues are dealt with. It made it all feel more real to me though and I appreciated that. This is such a gorgeous novel and it’s another one that I highly recommend.

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If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

I was eagerly anticipating this novel as I adored the author’s debut and I’m so happy to say that this was everything I hoped it would be. It’s the story of Audrey and her two adult daughters. Something happened when the two sisters were on the cusp of being teenagers and it’s completely pulled the family apart. Jess can’t forgive Lily and as a result won’t let her daughter see Lily’s daughter, and Audrey never gets to have all of her family together in one place. As the secrets of the past are slowly revealed I was just so sad that this family had allowed the inability to speak openly at the time had caused such a long rift. I can understand it though because when you fall out with a family member, the longer it goes on the harder it is to ever get things back. I thought this was such a beautiful novel and it did make me cry – they were cathartic tears though and ultimately this book gave me hope. I adored it and recommend it!

 

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Matilda by Roald Dahl

I was a little too old for this book when it first came out but I had loved other Roald Dahl books as I was growing up (Danny the Champion of the World was my favourite back then!). So when my baby brother was old enough to have this read to him, there was no way anyone else was getting the chance but me (this was almost 30 years ago now)! I’m so glad I made time to re-read it recently as I loved it as much as I ever did. Matilda is such a brilliant character, one you root for all the way through the book. I remember getting absorbed in my very own copy of Oliver Twist when I was 9 and while I was nowhere near as precocious as Matilda I could identify with the way adults didn’t believe I could read at that level on my own. I loved the humour in this book, Roald Dahl had such a talent for capturing children’s imaginations but also making his books fun for adults to (re-)read too. I adore this book and now want to re-read my whole Roald Dahl collection!

 

 

Thriller #BookReviews: It Ends With You | As Long As We Both Shall Live | Twisted | The Confessions of Frannie Langton

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Today I’m sharing four more mini reviews of some thrillers that I’ve recently read!

 

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It Ends With You by S. K. Wright

I had an ARC of this from NetGalley and I’m ashamed that it languished on my shelf for as long as it did, especially as that now I’ve read it I can say it was such a brilliant read! This is a thriller following the murder of a teenager named Eva. She was a popular girl and it seems like the mostly likely suspect is her boyfriend Luke. The novel follows six characters as we look at what led up to the murder. The narrative is woven in such a way that your belief in who is innocent and who might be guilty keeps changing, it seems like more than one person had a motive. This is such a clever and engaging thriller that I devoured in one sitting! I highly recommend it and I can’t wait to see what S. K. Wright writes next!

 

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As Long As We Both Shall Live by JoAnn Chaney

This is a thriller that really grabbed me in the opening chapters! It follows Matt whose first wife was died in suspicious circumstances of which Matt was cleared. Now in the present day he’s married to his second wife but she has a fall from a cliff on holiday and now a detective is on Matt’s tail. There were elements of this novel that I really enjoyed but ultimately it wasn’t very believable and the characters just weren’t fleshed out enough for me. I don’t mind unlikeable characters but they have to be real to me and they just weren’t. I did enjoy how twisty and fast-paced this novel was though so if you’re looking for a speedy thriller this might be the one for you.

 

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Twisted by Steve Cavanagh

This is a novel where the title says it all, it is so twisted! This is a novel where you can’t trust anyone or anything and everything you think is true really might not be as you think it is. I sped through this book because I simply had to know what was going on and how it was all going to turn out. You really should go into this book without knowing anything much about it so I’m keeping this very short and vague but trust me this is such a brilliant and fun rollercoaster of a thriller and I highly recommend it!

 

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The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

This is a really interesting novel that has strong themes around how voices are silenced, and also how women are treated in this time period. I found some parts of the book were so good that I just couldn’t put the book down but other parts were much slower that meant I needed to stop and take a break from it. I’ve found that whilst I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as I’d hoped I would when I read it it, I keep finding myself thinking of Frannie in the weeks since I finished reading. This is a book that took a little time to make a mark on me but ultimately it has done so. It’s a really good historical fiction read and I can see why so many people love it.

 

Fiction Mini Reviews: Louis and Louise, Something To Tell You, The BookShop of the Broken Hearted, and Ghost Wall!

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Today I’m sharing yet more mini reviews of books I’ve read over the summer months.

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Louis and Louise by Julie Cohen

This is such an incredible book and I loved every single minute that I spent reading it. In the book a baby is born to a couple but in one chapter the baby is a boy – Louis, and in the other chapter the baby is a girl – Louise. We then see each of their lives alternating through the novel and it’s fascinating to see how similar their lives would have been a times, and how vastly different at other times. There is one chapter part-way through the novel where the male and female versions of this person merge and it is so incredibly moving. I loved the exploration of what it is to be female or male, the different things that are expected and the different way men and women see and feel things. I also adored the idea of fate that runs through the novel, the way that some things are perhaps pre-ordained for us no matter our gender or sexuality. I adored this book, and even though it’s now weeks since I read it I still find myself thinking about. I think this will be one of my books of the year so I highly recommend it!

 

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Something To Tell You by Lucy Diamond

I do love Lucy Diamond novels and this one was such a gorgeous read! Frankie’s mum recently died and she left behind a letter for her daughter. On reading it Frankie discovers the truth about her birth and who her father is. She decides to go and see him and walks right into the middle of a Mortimer family gathering. From there we follow Frankie as she tries to make a connection with her father and other family members. We also hear from other Mortimers and see how their lives are and how they feel about Frankie. Things aren’t always plain-sailing and there are some real heart-rending moments in this book but on the whole it’s a feel-good read and I very much enjoyed it!

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The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman

This is a beautiful, slow-burn novel following Tom Hope. His wife Trudy has left him taking her son Peter with her. Peter isn’t Tom’s biological son but he’s raised him and he thinks of him as his own and so is devastated to lose him. Meanwhile there’s a newcomer to the town, Hannah and she is opening a book shop. The locals are intrigued, and Tom can’t resist stopping by. He and Hannah form a bond and slowly we learn each of their histories and what has made them the way they are. Hannah’s story is incredibly moving, I wasn’t expecting it but it really did make me feel emotional. This is one of those books that slowly gets under your skin, and after you finish reading it you’ll find you can’t stop thinking abouit. I really did love this one!

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Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

This is a stunning novella, and one that I still keep thinking about. It follows Silvie who is staying at an Iron Age reconstruction in the middle of nowhere with her mum and anthropologist father. There are moments where we see what happened to an iron age girl that are visceral and heart-breaking. We then see that whilst Silvie doesn’t face the same savage life as that girl, the pain and lack of understanding that teenagers go through perhaps is such as it ever was. The writing in this book is beautiful, there is so much said in so few words. It’s a book that still goes through my mind and it’s weeks since I read it. I think it’s a book that I will re-read in the future. I recommend it!

Mystery & Thriller Mini Reviews: The Wych Elm, The Hiding Game, The Holiday, and Take It Back!

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On my blog today I’m sharing another selection of mini reviews of some mystery and thriller books that I’ve read and enjoyed over the past few months!

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The Wych Elm by Tana French

I’m a huge fan of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series so I was intrigued to read this standalone novel. I did have an ARC of this but due to not being well I bought the audio book, and I highly recommend it. The narrator of the audio is so perfect for the book! The Wych Elm is one of those books that grabs you from the beginning and then gradually weaves its spell around you! Toby is brutally attacked in his home and whilst recovering goes to stay at his family’s ancestral home with his Uncle Hugo, who has a brain tumour and needs some help around the house. One day a skull is discovered inside a tree in the garden and this leads to secrets and lies being revealed, cover-ups attempted and a family left reeling by what they discover. I loved this book and already want to re-read it. I highly recommend this one!

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The Hiding Game by Louise Phillips

This is an intriguing and interesting thriller that follows Heather, a defence attorney, as she goes back to her home town to defend a teenage nanny who is accused of causing the death of the baby in her charge. I enjoyed following Heather and learning more about her life – her mother was murdered when she was a child and she’s never really been able to move on from it. I did struggle with the novel a little though as there are a lot of characters and it was difficult to keep them separate from each other at times. For the most part this book did have me gripped though and I was definitely keen to find out whodunnit in both the timelines. I love that it kept me guessing right to the end!

 

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The Holiday by T. M. Logan

I do love a thriller novel that involves groups of old friends going away together and seeing how things unfold in that situation so the premise of The Holiday ticked all my boxes and I’m really happy to say that it lived up to all my expectations! Kate and her family are on holiday in a beautiful holiday home with three of her oldest friends and their husbands and children. Early on the holiday she discovers some texts on her husband’s phone that make her doubt his honesty and from there on the novel grips you as you wonder if he could be cheating with one of the other women in the villa. It turns out there are more secrets amongst this group of friends, which makes this such a fast-paced, gripping page-turner. I didn’t see where this was going so I loved being surprised by how it all turns out. I definitely recommend this book!

 

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Take It Back by Kia Abdullah

This is a legal thriller that is very prescient for our times. Jodie is a sixteen year old girl with neurofibromatosis and she claims to have been sexually assaulted by four muslim boys. This is written in such a way that when you read Jodie’s story you absolutely believe her but then when you read the perspectives of the four boys you believe them. The novel follows the legal case but also the way the community deals with the accusations. This book certainly makes you think and would make a good book club read as it brings up lots of issues that would make for interesting discussions. It didn’t quite hit the mark for me, it just felt like something didn’t quite sit right with me and I can’t even put my finger on what that was. I did enjoy it though and I would recommend it. I’m looking forward to reading whatever Kia Abdullah writes next.

Non-Fiction Mini Reviews: Forgiveness is Really Strange, Hard Pushed, Ask Me His Name, How To Treat People, and What Dementia Teaches Us About Love!

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Today I’m continuing with my series of mini reviews and am sharing my thoughts on a selection of non-fiction books that I’ve read over the summer.

 

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Forgiveness is Really Strange by Masi Noor and Marina Cantacuzino (Illustrated by Sophie Standing)

This is a short graphic non-fiction book that is such an incredible read. I’ve read it twice now and each time it has given me something that I needed from it. It explores the idea of forgiveness in a way I haven’t seen before – I think the short paragraphs and the beautiful illustrations really made me think and ponder. It left me with a sense that forgiving yourself is just as important as forgiving others. I recommend this book to everyone but in particular for people who have experience trauma at the hands of another and needs an easy to grasp book that can help with understanding the nature of forgiveness.

 

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Hard Pushed by Leah Hazard

This is a book by a midwife about being a midwife in an NHS hospital and it was such an interesting and insightful read. You get such a real sense of how it is to work in hospitals, how much is expected and how short-staffed they are. What I loved about this book is the way Leah Hazard really made me feel like I was seeing her work life through her eyes. Midwives are often present for a part of someone’s story but never get to see how it turned out, and so some of the stories in this book don’t have a patient’s full story. I thought this might be frustrating but it wasn’t, I was just so in the moment with the midwife. This is a really good read and I recommend it.

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Ask Me His Name by Elle Wright

This book is incredibly moving. Elle Wright has written so openly and honestly about her experience of being pregnant and then giving birth to her beautiful baby boy, Teddy, who only lived for three days. Initially I wasn’t sure this book was for me as the writing style was very chatty but once I got into the first chapter I was engrossed in Elle’s story. I can’t even imagine what it is to go through what she has. I’ve experienced miscarriage and knowing I won’t ever have a child but that is incomparable to what Elle and her husband have been through. I loved how honest she is about how she felt along the way and also how she gives such straightforward advice on what to say if someone you love is going through the loss of a baby. I also love the way she honours Teddy and continues to encourage others to speak to her about him. I have such admiration for her. This is such a moving book to read but I’m glad I read it and I recommend it.

 

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How To Treat People by Molly Case

This book is different to what I was expecting – it’s part memoir and part science. Molly Case talks about her own life, and her work life as a nurse but interspersed with those chapters are more scientific chapters about particular medical issues or the history of a condition. I have to be honest and say that while I appreciated this book it just wasn’t fully for me. I do recommend it though because it is well written and very interesting.

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What Dementia Teaches Us About Love by Nicci Gerrard

This book is such a stunning and heart-breaking read but one that everyone should pick up and read. Nicci Gerrard takes us through the stages of her father’s dementia – from the early stages right through to death. She is so honest about his symptoms and how it affected her and the rest of their family. We need to talk about about these things and this book is such a brilliant opening to starting this discussion with your own family.  I lost my mum to cancer but part of that was a brain tumour that caused her to lose who she was and who I was so I have some sense of what it must be like to have a loved one with dementia. It’s so hard to lose someone in slow motion. I remember as a child my mum had an elderly aunt who had dementia and how distressed she found it every time she visited. This was in a time when no one really talked about it and that just always makes it worse when you can’t talk and don’t know anyone else who’s experienced it. This is why we need books like this. There are facts and figures about dementia throughout the book, as well as stories from other sufferers and their families. It’s all woven together in such a way that even though it’s harrowing to think about you just don’t want to put the book down. I highly recommend this one.

Thriller Mini Reviews: Do Not Disturb, On My Life, I Know You Know, and A Nearly Normal Family!

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As I said in my mini reviews blog post yesterday I’m on a mission to catch up with reviewing all of the ARCS I’ve read over the summer so here are four more!

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Do Not Disturb by Claire Douglas

I’ve read a couple of Claire Douglas books this year and I really do love her writing. Do Not Disturb follows a family who have bought a run down guest house in Wales and decide to do it up and re-open. The locals aren’t happy and there is a sense that something bad happened in the house years before. The tension is there from the very start of this novel as the opening scene is shocking and then we go back a few weeks to find out what led up to it. In amongst all the stress of renovating Kirsty’s estranged cousin turns up with her daughter and it’s clear from the off that something has happened and that once they were close but not anymore. Whilst this isn’t my favourite novel by the author, it was still such an engrossing and fast-paced read that I just didn’t want to put down!

 

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On My Life by Angela Clarke

This book was so intense and such a brilliant read! Jenna has a perfect life with her fiance but then one day she finds his teenage daughter murdered in their home and her life begins to unravel. The evidence is pointing at Jenna and she can’t explain her way out of it. The scenes when she is being taken for questioning and her seeing her jail cell for the first time were so visceral, I felt like I was right there with her. The writing really does bring you into the prison along with Jenna and it’s intense. This is such a good book though as we see how Jenna copes, alongside her fight to clear her name. I definitely recommend this book, it’s so good!

 

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I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan

I Know You Know follows Cody Swift who is making a podcast looking to find out the truth behind the murders of his two best friends when they were ten years old. A man was convicted of the crime but he has died in prison and Cody is not convinced the police had the right man. We get to read the podcast transcripts but also we follow the parents of the two boys who were killed. I’ll be honest and say that I struggled a little with this book as I was reading it so I bought the audio book to listen while I was reading and that made it a much better experience for me. It’s an emotional book at times and it has its twists and turns. I do love Gilly Macmillan’s writing and I’m looking forward to reading whatever she publishes next.

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A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson

The premise of this novel intrigued me right away – the idea of there being a murder and then following the daughter who’s accused, her father and then her mother sounded so good. I did enjoy this book but all the way through I felt like I was being kept at a distance and couldn’t quite connect to it as much as I wanted to. That said, it is an engrossing story that makes you want to keep turning the pages to find out what happened.

Mini Reviews of Thrillers: The Child Finder, Whistle in the Dark, I Did It For Us, and The Au Pair!

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I’ve been reading so much recently and have been focusing mainly on review books as I want to catch up as much as I can before the end of the year. I haven’t felt much like writing reviews though so as a result I now have a backlog of 45 (yes forty-five! Eeek!) reviews to write up. So I’ve decided to do a series of mini reviews otherwise I might never get these reviews posted!

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The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

This is such an engrossing and atmospheric read. It follows Naomi, who is a child finder – she is called in when the police have got nowhere in their search and she takes up the reins. She’s trying to find a child called Madison and is sure she is alive, and as the search goes on Naomi feels an increasing connection to the missing girl. This book was on my TBR for way longer than it should have been but once I finally picked it up I couldn’t put it down. It’s such a brilliant novel and one I won’t forget!

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Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey

This is one of those books where I expected it to be one thing and it actually was different to what I thought I was going to get, but this was absolutely not a bad thing. I very much appreciated this book and I got so much more out of it than I was expecting. Jen’s teenage daughter went missing, and was found alive but she refuses to talk about where she’s been or what happened to her. This is so much more about how it feels to be clamouring around in the dark trying to understand what is going on in your teenager’s head. Lana has depression and she isn’t able to communicate how she feels with her mum. I suffered a lot when I was in my teens so could see things from Lana’s point of view, but it was really emotional for me to see it from Jen’s perspective and to have more of an insight into how frightening and heartbreaking it must be to see your child suffering in this way. This book was such a brilliant read and one that will stay with me.

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I Did It For Us by Alison Bruce

I had an ARC of this book from NetGalley but I decided to buy the audio book to listen to. I really enjoyed this on audio and found it so hard to put down, I was listening every chance I had. It follows Emily whose life has fallen apart after she accused her husband’s best friend of rape. She moves away to start a new life but finds it hard to settle in her apartment. Then one day a family move in and she befriends the single mum, Joanne. She then begins to worry about Joanne’s new boyfriend and whether he is all he appears to be. Emily is an unreliable narrator and I could never completely trust what she was thinking, she seems quite paranoid at times. This kept me on my toes though and whilst I worked out some of the reveal before it happened, there were still shocks in store!

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The Au Pair by Emma Rous

This was another engrossing read! Seraphine and her twin brother Danny were only a few hours old when their mother died by suicide. Now in the present day the twins’ father has died and when Seraphine is going through his things she finds a photo of her mother with one baby. This sends her on a quest to find out which of them was the baby in the photo and what happened back then. This novel is told in alternate narratives with the other perspective being the nanny Laura who worked for the Mayes’ family before the twins were born. I did find this a compelling read and was fascinated by the story and what could possibly have happened. The ending when it comes is shocking but more than that it’s incredibly moving. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to seeing what Emma Rous writes next!

My 20 Books of Summer Wrap-Up!

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The 20 Books of Summer reading challenge has now ended and I’m so happy to say that, for the first time ever, I read all of the books on my planned TBR! Woo Hoo! I’ve always managed to read at least 20 books over the summer but I have never, ever managed to stick to my planned list. I picked 20 physical books this time so it was an even bigger challenge for me so I really am proud of myself for completing it. I didn’t get around to reviewing the books I read but I do intend to review at least some of them soon.

Before I go any further, a huge thank you to Cathy at 746 Books for running this challenge. I really do love taking part each year.

Here are the books I read over the summer (in the order I read them).

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Lyrebird by Cecelia Ahern

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

A Question of Trust by Penny Vincenzi

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

The July Girls by Phoebe Locke

Still Lives by Maria Hummell

Take Me In by Sabine Durrant

Inhuman Resources by Pierre LeMaitre

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry

The Word for Woman is Wilderness by Abi Andrews

Histories by Sam Guglani

We Own the Sky by Luke Allnutt

A Keeper by Graham Norton

Nevermoor #1: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Take Courage: Anne Bronte and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis

 

I have to say that I enjoyed every single book that was on my summer TBR, which is really something! I think if I was pushed to pick my favourites I would have to say that my favourite two novels were The Goldfinch and The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, and my two favourite non-fiction books were After the Eclipse and Take Courage. It was bittersweet reading A Question of Trust with it being the final book by Penny Vincenzi but I enjoyed it so much that I now want to make time to re-read some of her other novels.

The page count for my 20 books came to 7597, which is no surprise really considering how long The Goldfinch is and A Question of Trust is pretty huge too!

The fact that this year I made time to read my planned summer TBR as well as the other books that I needed to read (books for review and blog tour books) meant I was successful at completing this TBR. I’ve never done well with TBRs – I’m one of those people that absolutely loves planning what I’m going to read, and then the minute the challenge starts I want to read everything but what’s on my list! This time I planned it better and I feel so satisfied at getting to books that had been on my TBR bookcase for quite a while. I had a couple of books on my list that I’ve put off because they felt like they might be more difficult reads (like The Word for Woman is Wilderness for example) but I found I enjoyed them so much. It reminded me that I perhaps need to make a seasonal TBR to remind me of the books that I want to read but am intimidated by.

This year’s 20 Books of Summer has been absolutely wonderful and I already can’t wait for the next one! How did your summer reading go? Did you take part in the challenge? I hope you read some amazing books. 🙂

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Review: Reunion by R. V. Biggs | @RVBiggs @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

One random, violent act is enough to change Sarah Macintyre’s life forever.

Left unsettled, and yearning for a new beginning, Sarah is unsure of what to do with her life. But one day she discovers an anonymous letter hidden amidst a pile of unopened mail.

The note, however, contains nothing more than a confusing riddle.

Intrigued and excited, Sarah’s hunger for a new life compels her to search for the author to understand the puzzle and solve the mystery.

Embarking on a journey that will shape the rest of her life and that of her family, Sarah uncovers a past of which she had no knowledge, a present she must find a path through, and a future filled with intense grief and utmost joy.

 

My Thoughts

Earlier this year I read and fell in love with Song of the Robin, the first book in the Sarah McIntyre series, so I was delighted to be offered the chance to read the follow up book. Song of the Robin is one of those really special books that has made its mark on me and I’m so happy to say that I also completely and utterly adored Reunion!

Reunion picks up right after the end of Song of the Robin. Sarah is still struggling with the assault that happened in the previous book, she feels fear about it but she’s also still having strange symptoms. She feels anxious and worried but can’t seem to express to her loved ones what exactly is happening to her. Then one day she receives a strange letter in the post and this leads to Sarah uncovering some secrets and some answers!

I loved this novel, I was under its spell from the opening page until after I turned the final page. Sarah is such a great character and I constantly root for her to be well and to be happy again. I had such a connection to Song of the Robin because of the way grief is explored, it really struck a chord with me, and whilst Reunion moves on from that story the way lost loved ones are spoke of in this book was so wonderful.

This novel follows Sarah and her family for the most part but it also has short chapters from a time in the 1700s as we follow a young woman trying to survive and avenge the trauma that has been inflicted on her family. It’s not clear initially what this has to do with the main plot but it soon begins to come clear and I loved the way we get to put it all together. The atmosphere in this book is wonderful, there is such a sense of time and place, and the people are all so real and believable.

I loved seeing more of Sarah’s friendship with Rachel, they are two women who clearly have such a strong bond. Their relationship is so true to life – the way that sometimes you can’t even tell the people closest to you how you’re feeling and they can sense you holding back but you can’t break through the walls. You get to see more of Rachel in this book and to understand why she is the way she is. I wasn’t expecting the cause of her pain to be what it was but it was so believable and my heart broke for her.

There is loss and pain in this book, things that moved me to tears at times but the overriding feel is one of healing – both physically and emotionally, but it’s also about the act of healing and this is so beautiful.

I love the way the author explores fate and destiny in this book, I’m really drawn to stories about these things. I never used to believe in fate but in my own life, a few years ago, over the course of five months the very worst thing happened to me and then the very best thing happened to me. So many people have said that perhaps it was my late mum who made sure my husband arrived in my life when he did and I take so much comfort from the thought of that. Reunion looks at how the past continues to run through us and it explores how those we’ve lost are never really gone.

There is a mystery running through this book that had me utterly fascinated. I was trying to figure out what was going on along with Sarah and her family, and was utterly gripped by the way the story unfolds in this book. It’s such a great story, and told so brilliantly.

I don’t want to say too much more because future readers should read this book as I did, without knowing too much about it going into it so you get to experience the stunning journey these characters go on for yourself.

I don’t really have the words to describe how much I loved this book (and the previous one). It’s one of those times where I connected with it so much and it now means such a lot to me and I just can’t do it any kind of justice. The first book in the series made my top books of 2019 so far list back at the end of June and I can say for sure that Reunion will be on my favourite books list at the end of the year! Song of the Robin was cathartic and comforting for me, and Reunion was incredibly moving and healing. R. V. Biggs writes such stunning and special novels – I can’t wait to read whatever he publishes next. I highly recommend this series of books, they really are so different and so beautiful.

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and my invitation to take part in the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Reunion is out now and available here.

I’ve previously reviewed the first book in this series, Song of the Robinhere.

 

About the Author

R V Biggs Author Photo

R V Biggs lives in a small ex-mining village near Wolverhampton, England, with his wife Julie, and Mags the black lab. He has four grown up children and six grandchildren.

Walking with the dog is a favorite pastime and much of the story line for his first novel was developed during these lengthy outings.

Robert worked for 35 years in telecommunications but changed career paths to a managerial supporting role within a local Mental Health NHS trust. It was during the period between these roles that the concept for Song of the Robin was born.

Robert is a firm believer that destiny and co-incidence exist hand in hand and this conviction extends to his writing. He has a passion for holistic well-being and after first-hand experience of the potential healing powers of Reiki, a form of energy therapy, took a Reiki level 1 training course to heighten his spiritual awareness. Robert’s experiences in these areas helped conceive the ideas that led to Song of the Robin and its sequel Reunion, novels with central themes of fate, love and the strength of family. His writing however is not fantasy but is set in modern times involving real people living real lives.

Twitter @RVBiggs

 

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Review: The Apartment by K. L. Slater | @KimLSlater @audibleuk

THE APARTMENT

About the Book

They say every cloud has a silver lining….

When Freya Miller is struck by tragedy, losing her husband and her home within a short time, she is burdened with many worries. The main one being where she and her five-year old daughter, Skye, are going to live. A chance meeting with the charismatic Dr Marsden changes all that. He offers the young mother the most amazing opportunity: an apartment at one of London’s most exclusive addresses for a fraction of the market rental cost. It’s an offer Freya simply can’t refuse. Within a couple of weeks, Freya and Skye are moving into Adder House and meeting the other welcoming residents. They very quickly feel part of the family.

But just when Freya truly believes all her problems are history, a series of strange, unexplained occurrences begin. It leaves Freya with the unshakeable feeling that even when their apartment door is securely locked, she and her daughter are not alone. Freya thought she’d left all her troubles behind her yet she soon realises there are problems here that are far more terrifying than before.

For behind the doors of Adder House, everything is most definitely not as it seems.

Old secrets refuse to stay buried, and someone is determined to keep a terrible past very much alive.

 

My Thoughts

The Apartment is such an unsettling novel that follows Freya and her young daughter Skye. Freya is dealing with losing her husband and is trying to get life back on track for the sake of her daughter so when she’s offered a wonderful apartment for a fraction of the rent you’d expect it to cost she jumps at the chance. Things are perhaps not all they seem though!

I loved this audio book! I was on edge from the beginning of this book – the way that Dr Marsden approaches Freya seemingly out of nowhere to offer her this amazing apartment at low rent set my nerves jangling! It seems way too good to be true and I would have run a mile! Having said that I have never found myself in Freya’s situation and I could absolutely see why she accepted this offer. She has a young child and nowhere to call home, and this apartment is perfect and in a great location for them. I really liked Freya and Skye from the off and was really rooting for them to be okay.

There is a real uneasiness in the apartment block, something just doesn’t feel right as you’re reading but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Each of the other occupants seem a little unusual, even though they are perfectly pleasant to Freya, but then that can happen when you move somewhere new and don’t know anyone. I certainly couldn’t work out what was going on or who was going to turn out to be the bad guy, The Apartment certainly kept me on my toes.

I was pleased for Freya when a young family moves into the apartment block and she becomes friendly with them. It seems like she might finally be feeling at home and that things might be all going to work out fine. Unfortunately for Freya the slightly unnerving things that have been happening ever since she moved in slowly begin to ramp up and she doesn’t know where to turn. I really felt for her because her two closest friends had been suspicious of her moving into this apartment but she went ahead anyway and is then left feeling like she can’t tell them that they may have been right.

The tension is there in The Apartment from the beginning and it slowly ratchets up in a way that is so unnerving. Then there is a point when things begin to move at a pace and I was on the edge of my seat listening and hoping that nothing bad was going to happen to Freya or Skye. It was so tense that I was holding my breath! The reveals when they come are shocking, I had my suspicions about some of the people and some of the situations but I couldn’t have imagined the entirety of what the apartment was all about. The fact that it’s based on a true story just adds to the already heightened tension that grows throughout.

Tuppence Middleton is such a great narrator and really made all the character’s voices distinctive and added to the growing sense of tension that grows throughout the novel. I’ll definitely look out for more audiobooks narrated by her in the future.

The Apartment is incredibly tense, unnerving and unputdownable! I was listening to this book in every spare minute that I had because I simply had to know what was happening and if Freya and Skye were going to be alright! I highly recommend this audiobook!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Apartment is out now as an audiobook and is available here.

About the Author

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Kim is the million-copy best-selling author of eight standalone psychological crime thrillers. At the age of 40 Kim went back to university and now holds an MA in Creative Writing. Kim is a full-time writer and lives with her husband in Nottingham. She enjoys traveling, eating out, is an avid film fan and most of all, she loves reading across genres.

 

 

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Review: Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson | @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks @annecater

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About the Book

Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016: A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.

Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and soon finds herself on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer. Little does she realise that this killer is about to change the life of her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells. Joining forces once again, Roy and Castells’ investigation takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule.

 

My Thoughts

Blood Song is the third novel in the Roy and Castells series (the first is Block 46 and the second is Keeper) and I have to say that this is a crime/noir series that goes from strength to strength. I still find myself thinking about the first book, and now we have the third one and it is every bit as good (if not even better if that’s possible!).

Blood Song is told in two timelines: it’s predominantly set in the present where a wealthy family has been brutally murdered but we also follow a timeline in 1938 Spain where a family are taken by force during the civil war, and this leads to horrendous trauma that has repercussions down the years.

This is such a compelling and engrossing novel and I keep thinking about it. The scenes set in 1938 Spain are so real, they have left their mark on me to the point that I feel the want to learn more about what happened during the civil war. I love when I read a novel and it leads me to want to learn more detail about something and Blood Song has definitely done that. Johana Gustawsson has taken real historical events in all three novels in this series and has fictionalised them whilst leaving in the important details to give readers a very real sense of a harrowing time in history.

The brutal murder of the family of Emily Roy’s team member Aliénor was harrowing to read about. I was really disturbed by one of the murders in particular, it was all too real but never gratuitous. The detail is necessary and that becomes apparent as the novel progresses. I loved learning so much more about Aliénor in Blood Song. I feel like the previous two novels have given readers so much more understanding of Emily Roy and Alexis Castells, and as Aliénor has become an increasingly important part of the team it was great to know more about her. It was awful to learn about her in such sad circumstances but it’s given me so much more of a sense of who she is and now I just want to protect her from anything that might happen in future novels!

I loved the way the bond between Roy and Castells is strengthened in Blood Song, and the way they work together to support Aliénor and to find out who is responsible for the murder of her family.  It’s so empowering to see three strong women – who each have their flaws and difficulties but use them to solve crime, to gain insight into other people – shine through in these novels. These women are some of my favourite characters in crime/noir fiction now, and this series is right up there with my most favourite ever crime/noir series.

Blood Song is a dark, harrowing and shocking novel but also one that you just can’t (don’t want to and shouldn’t) look away from. The writing is so good, as is the brilliant translation by David Warriner. You get a real sense of the location and the languages in this novel even though it’s entirely translated into English, which is no mean feat. I loved Blood Song and I already can’t wait for the next book in the series!

Many thanks to the Orenda Books for my copy of this book and to Anne for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Blood Song is out now in ebook and available for pre-order in paperback here.

 

About the Author

Johana Gustawsson

Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series, including Block 46, Keeper and, soon to be published, Blood Song, has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and their three sons.

 

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Review: Truth Hurts by Rebecca Reid | @RebeccaCNReid @TransworldBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Poppy has a secret. 
Drew has nothing to hide.

Theirs was a whirlwind romance.

And when Drew, caught up in the moment, suggests that he and Poppy don’t tell each other anything about their past lives, that they live only for the here and now, for the future they are building together, Poppy jumps at the chance for a fresh start.

But it doesn’t take long for Poppy to see that this is a two-way deal. Drew is hiding something from her. And Poppy suddenly has no idea who the man she has married really is, or what he might be capable of.

Poppy has a secret. 
Drew has nothing to hide. 
Drew is lying.
Which is more dangerous, a secret or a lie?

 

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, I loved loved loved Rebecca Reid’s previous novel Perfect Liars but Truth Hurts is even better! I literally didn’t put this book down once I started reading it – it was just impossible to!

Truth Hurts follows Poppy who is sacked from her job as an au pair late at night and she ends up in a bar wondering what on earth she’s going to do next. She gets talking to Drew and they have such a great connection and end up going home together. Drew is a mysterious and handsome man and Poppy can’t believe how lucky she is to have met him. Their romance is a whirlwind and within a month they decide to get married. Drew then suggests that they make this the beginning and that they never talk about anything in their lives prior to when they met. Poppy has a secret that she can never tell and so she agrees.

I was on edge from the moment Poppy met Drew because he seemed too good to be true but at the same time I know what it is to meet Mr Right and to fall in love very quickly so I got swept up in their story. Alarm bells did ring when he surprises Poppy with a home he’s bought for them but I could absolutely see why Poppy didn’t hear those alarm bells.

I love the idea of a romantic relationship where one partner has a secret and the other is lying and yet they have agreed never to discuss the past. It’s such a great idea for a thriller and it made this book so different to other thrillers that I’ve read before. I tried to imagine agreeing to something like this and I just can’t but at the same time I absolutely believed in Poppy and why she agreed to it.

The house that Drew buys for them to live in was the third character in this novel (and in their marriage!) and I loved this element. I could really envisage this house and could feel all the creepy things that Poppy could sense. It’s not a haunted house story but the house is definitely metaphorically haunted by what happened there before Poppy and Drew moved in. It’s a creaky old house – it’s draughty, dark and dingy and for Poppy who is home alone a lot it begins to play on her mind that there is something sinister about it.

The truths in this book were shocking when they were revealed, I genuinely didn’t guess the secret or the lie. It’s so rare for a novel to keep me guessing until all is revealed so kudos to this one for that! I love how we get little bits of the past throughout the novel, which just heightens the tension and teases the possibilities of what might have happened.

Truth Hurts is a novel that had me literally on the edge of my seat and I just had to keep reading one more chapter (and one more until I was turning the final page very late at night!). I absolutely loved this book – it’s a real page turner and genuinely thrilling! Rebecca Reid is right up there now with my favourite thriller authors and I already can’t wait to read whatever she writes next! I highly recommend this one, it’s brilliant!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Truth Hurts is out now in ebook and is due to be published in paperback on 23 January 2020 and is available here.

 

About the Author

Rebecca Reid Author Pic

Rebecca is a freelance journalist. She is a columnist for the Telegraph Women’s section, works for Metro Online and has written for Marie Claire, the Guardian, the Saturday Telegraph, the Independent, Stylist, Glamour, the iPaper, the Guardian, Indy100, LOOK and the New Statesmen amongst others.

Rebecca is a regular contributor to Sky News and ITV’s This Morning as well as appearing on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, LBC, BBC News 24 and the BBC World Service to discuss her work.

She graduated from Royal Holloway’s Creative Writing MA in 2015 and Perfect Liars is her debut novel.

Rebecca lives in North London with her husband.

 

 

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Review: In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone | @michaelJmalone1 @OrendaBooks @annecater

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About the Book

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.
For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

 

My Thoughts

I finished reading In the Absence of Miracles a couple of weeks ago now and my review has been part-written ever since because I just don’t have the words to describe how this book made me feel. It was my first Michael J. Malone book but it absolutely definitely won’t be the last (I’ve already bought a couple of his other novels to read soon!).

In the Absence of Miracles follows John who is tasked with sorting out his mum’s belongings and getting her house, the house he grew up in, ready for sale. His mum recently had a bad stroke and is now in nursing home so thing needs to be sorted as there are care home bills to be paid. One day John finds a photo that he can’t quite make sense of and the repercussions of his quest to find the truth are devastating.

I picked this book up one afternoon intending to read a couple of chapters and the next thing I knew it was a few hours later and I was turning the final page. It’s a book that pulls you in from the very start with the mysterious photo and John’s journey to find the truth keeps you in its thrall to the very end (and beyond… it’s a novel that won’t yield its grip on me!).

There is so much I want to say about this book but at the same time I want readers to have the same experience of reading this book without knowing too much (in the way that I got to read it). I will say that Michael J. Malone’s exploration of finding out painful truths about your family’s history, of uncovering long buried hurt and harm is incredibly visceral and moving. I could really identify with parts of John’s story and I could see things in him that he couldn’t yet see in himself and this gave the novel so much tension that at times I was aware I was holding my breath.

In the early chapters of the book I felt such a connection to John and felt so sorry for him having to cope with his mother’s sudden stroke and then having to go through all of her things. I cared for my mum during her final illness and had to clear her house after her death and it’s such a hard thing to do. It’s exhausting, and your brain doesn’t seem to function properly anymore. I can’t imagine that whilst going through all of this finding a box of things that don’t fit with your memories of your family at all, and suddenly you have a million questions and no one to ask them of.

John is someone that struggles with expressing his emotions. He keeps his girlfriend at a remove and as patient as she is he just can’t bring himself to fully embrace the possibility of opening up to her and building a future together. I really felt for him because he clearly loves her but he just can’t let his guard down, as if he doesn’t want to risk being hurt. I was willing John on throughout this book as I wanted him to be truly happy but I was on edge the whole time that the truth was going to damage him beyond all repair.

There is such a lot in this novel, it really packs an emotional punch but everything that happens is necessary. I found the writing incredibly intense during the more emotional scenes and it was like nothing I’ve read before.  Not a word is wasted in this book and I’m in awe of it. I don’t think I’ve ever read a domestic noir that has made me feel so many emotions – I cried reading this book, I felt angry at times and I mostly just wanted to reach into the pages and somehow make things different than they were.

In the Absence of Miracles is such a dark, disturbing and emotional novel but one that you just can’t put down. It looks at an issue that we so often turn away from in society but Malone tackles it in such a sensitive way without shying away from the reality of how people are affected. This is brave and stunning novel – one that everyone should read.

As I said at the start of this rambling review I’ve already bought some of the author’s other books and I can’t wait to read them. I’ll definitely be first in the queue to buy whatever he writes next. This book has jumped right into my top books of this year list, I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

In the Absence of Miracles is out now in ebook or available in paperback for pre-order here.

 

About the Author

thumbnail_Michael Malone

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and MarkingsBlood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritanand Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

 

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Review: Shelf Life by Livia Franchini | @LivFranchini @DoubledayUK @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Shelf Life Cover

About the Book

Ruth is thirty years old. She works as a nurse in a care home and her fiancé has just broken up with her. The only thing she has left of him is their shopping list for the upcoming week.

And so she uses that list to tell her story. Starting with six eggs, and working through spaghetti and strawberries, and apples and tea bags, Ruth discovers that her identity has been crafted from the people she serves; her patients, her friends, and, most of all, her partner of ten years. Without him, she needs to find out – with conditioner and single cream and a lot of sugar – who she is when she stands alone.

 

My Thoughts

Shelf Life is a fascinating novel that follows Ruth who is coming to terms with her fiance breaking up with her. She finds a shopping list that is the only thing left of him in their home and the novel then is told in chapters headed by each item on the list.

I loved this book. I found it was quite a meandering novel and it begged to be read slowly. I’m naturally a fast reader but I really enjoyed the fact that this book made me slow down, it made me want to take it all in and to take time to ponder what I had read.

Ruth is blindsided by her fiance deciding to end their long term relationship. She is mid-way through washing up when Neil announces that it’s over. I really felt for Ruth, I know what it’s like to have to re-evaluate life after a break up as it happened to me at the same age. It’s like a rug has been pulled from under you and suddenly you’re not sure who you are anymore, or how you relate to other people in your life.

Shelf Life is predominantly told from Ruth’s perspective but we get the occasional chapter from Neil. It’s interesting to see how Ruth feels about herself and her life, and how she related herself to Neil. Neil’s chapters are increasingly uncomfortable to read though as you get a slow realisation that he’s not the man Ruth thought he was. He inserts himself into women’s lives and seems to become the man they think they need.

There is also an occasional chapter from Alanna. This is a girl that Ruth was at school with, and later at nursing college. They then end up working together at the same care home. I found Alanna a character that I couldn’t quite work out. I got the feeling that she had been quite antagonistic through school, perhaps being part of the popular gang that Ruth was on the outside of. She seems to care about Ruth now they’re adults but I was on edge reading her perspective as I felt sure she was setting Ruth up for something. As time went on I came to quite like her but I never one hundred per cent felt sure of her. I loved this aspect of the novel though because that’s how it is in life, you can never be sure of another person’s motives even if you have known them a long time and especially if they’ve always just been on the edge of your life.

Shelf Life really captures life, and it does it in all its glory – there is humour and heartbreak all mixed in together. There are some moments in this novel that made me cringe because the descriptions are so real, and we’ve all been there, but that’s the beauty of this novel. It takes a great writer to really capture how life is and Livia Franchini is an incredible writer!

Shelf Life is a novel that I very much enjoyed as I was reading it and I’ve found that my love for it has grown even more since I finished it. I find myself thinking about it, and about Ruth, and relating it to my own life and it just won’t let go of me. It really is a novel that has so much depth and so many layers to it, some that only become apparent when you give yourself the space to ponder on it. I adored this book and I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Shelf Life is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Livia Franchini Author Picture

 

Livia Franchini is a writer and translator from Tuscany, Italy, whose work has been published in numerous publications and anthologies. She has translated Michael Donaghy, Sam Riviere and James Tiptree Jr. among many others. In 2018, she was one of the inaugural writers-in-residence for the Connecting Emerging Literary Artist project, funded by Creative Europe. She lives in London, where she is completing a PhD in experimental women’s writing at Goldsmiths.

 

 

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Review: Meditation for Children by Shelley Wilson | @ShelleyWilson72 @BHCPressBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Meditation For Children Cover

About the Book

Author and meditation tutor Shelley Wilson takes you on a magical journey to a calm and happy place that you and your child will love.

Children of all ages can learn and enjoy the benefits of meditation.

Designed to help access creative abilities through relaxation and imagination, these stories help develop the necessary tools needed at a young age for lifelong healthy habits of managing stress and anxiety while also improving learning skills.

Meditation for Children is a simple way to introduce children to mindfulness through guided visualization. Includes a handy reference guide and instructions.

 

My Thoughts

Meditation for Children is a wonderful book that parents can share with their children to help them relax and come to enjoy meditation as part of their everyday lives.

I don’t have children but I am someone who very much enjoys mindfulness and mediation so I was fascinated to read this book.

I very much enjoyed reading Meditation for Children, it’s a lovely book and I loved the way Shelley Wilson has made it a wonderful story book that can be enjoyed as such but has left space to imagine and to take some breaths to relax and to slow down. I can absolutely see how this is the perfect way to introduce a younger child to the idea of meditating, which as they grow can be such a great tool to help them cope with the stresses that go with growing up, going through school etc.

The book opens with a how to guide that explains how meditation can be helpful and also suggests ways to use the book and how to incorporate meditating into your and your child’s lives. There are then ten very short stories (that each take under 5 minutes to read aloud) that are fabulous and really help you visualise the world being described. Each story is accompanied with gorgeous illustrations that are vivid and bright and really give a sense of the world you’re about to travel in to. They all follow a similar idea of closing your eyes, slowly breathing in and out and then imagining the story that is being read to you. This is great as it will help a child know that this is a special story and as they grow older they will understand how to use the tools that meditation gives us – being able to relax and unwind.

I very much enjoyed this book and love how it makes coming to meditation easy for children but it’s clearly been properly researched and will definitely create a helpful skill that a child can use throughout their life. I can see echoes of how I was taught to meditate as an adult, and how I use it in my life now so it’s absolutely going to be a fantastic resource for children and their parents. Meditation for Children is a book that I wish I had when I was a child. Knowing how much meditation helps me in my every day life now I feel sure it would have been just as beneficial when I was younger. I highly recommend this book if you have young children in your life, it really is an invaluable book for helping your child to relax and find inner calm.

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and my invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Meditation for Children is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Shelley Wilson Author Picture

 

Shelley Wilson is an award-winning motivational blogger, speaker, meditation tutor, Reiki master, and author. Her multi-award winning motivational and personal development blog has received several awards and has been named a Top 10 UK Personal Development Blog. She resides in Solihull, West Midlands, UK, where she lives with her three teenagers.

 

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Review: Head Shot Victoria Nixon | @VictoriaNixon_ @annecater @Unbounders #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

A girl from a Yorkshire mining town is barely thirteen when her father kills himself – her brother finds him dying. At sixteen she’s spotted by a rock star and becomes an international Vogue model. Seven years later her brother kills himself in her New York apartment and her mother dies too. With no family left, her life is now one of extreme choices. Fifty years later, Victoria confronts her past and takes her readers on an unflinching voyage through her experiences as a model and beyond. Speaking frankly about loss, love, friendship and ambition, Head Shot is a book of inspiration and purpose. Packed with astonishing images by the photographers Victoria worked with, and the defiant fashions she wore throughout her career, it also bears witness to a time of unparalleled cultural energy and invention; it’s a story in which bags and shoes can, and do, sit right next to life and death.

 

My Thoughts

Head Shot is an incredible memoir; Victoria Nixon so honestly and openly looks back on her life and career. I finished reading this book a few days ago now and am still trying to find the words for this review.

My main reason for wanting to read this book was because the Victoria Nixon lost her mum at a similar age that I was when I lost my mum and I find myself drawn to books where people explore how they cope with losing their mother whilst in their 20s. The book that I got gave me what I was expecting but so much more besides.

Victoria Nixon takes us through how she came to be a model, you get to hear of the photographers she has worked with and other models she has got to know. I loved hearing about the stars of the day that she came into contact with – such as Brian Eno! There is no name-dropping in this book, all the stories Victoria shares feel a real part of her life story and so come up in an organic way. She never seemed to be affected by the showbiz life but seemed to just be enjoying her life and working hard to be a success.

It was heartbreaking to read of her father’s death when she was only a young teenager. I can’t imagine the pain of that and how it affects a person. Victoria shares her emotions and how it led to her life becoming what it did. I very much appreciated how sensitively and honestly she looks back at her father’s death, you can see how much she loved him. Sadly for Victoria she also lost her brother to suicide when she was in her 20s. This was an incredibly moving part of the book to read. The struggles Nick had had and the way his family had tried so hard to help him were very moving to read about. Victoria doesn’t shy away from discussing mental health in her book, she clearly cares very deeply about the subject.

The loss of her mother also when she was in her 20s was a shock for her and it changed how she felt about her life. I can really identify with this. I think when you’re very close to a parent and you lose them when you’re at a stage in life of being independent but also knowing that you can always go home if you need to, it’s very hard. I have such admiration for how Victoria dealt with her grief, and how she coped with all the pain life has thrown at her. She doesn’t dwell, she reflects on things but she always knew she had to pick herself up and keep going. I found her such an inspiring person to read about.

I very much enjoyed learning about the modelling industry in the 60s and 70s. I’m not really into fashion but it was fascinating to read about what it was like to be a model, and to hear about the not-so-glamourous side of things. Nixon is clearly a very driven and determined woman and she continued to push through during the difficult times. There are lighter moments throughout the book too, moments that will make you giggle and some stories that might make you raise an eyebrow.

There are photos throughout this book and I loved seeing them. They relate to stories Nixon has shared and it really brought the book to life. I love hearing the back story to an image and so this was a joy to have in this book.

Head Shot is such an incredible memoir! It’s a stunning and candid look back at a life that will leave you feeling inspired. Victoria Nixon’s passion and determination shines through and I’m so glad I got to read about her life. I loved this book so much, it’s one of the best memoirs I’ve read! I very highly recommend this!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Head Shot is out now in hardback and available here. The ebook is due for release on 15 August and can be pre-ordered at the same link.

 

About the Author

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Victoria Nixon was eighteen when she was discovered by Helmut Newton, who photographed her for Vogue . This launched her international modelling career, which led to her being named the Daily Mail ’s ‘Face of 1968’.

After modelling, she went on to become an award-winning advertising copywriter, television producer and magazine editor. In the 1990s she opened the first deli in the UK to ban plastic packaging, and in 2002 her first book, ‘Supermodels’ Beauty Secrets‘ , was published, followed by ‘Supermodels’ Diet Secrets‘ in 2004. She is cofounder and managing director of a company which designs and manufactures humanitarian aid products used worldwide

Links-http://www.victorianixon.com/

Twitter @VictoriaNixon_

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Review: Gone by Leona Deakin | @LeonaDeakin1 @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Four strangers are missing. Left at their last-known locations are birthday cards that read:

YOUR GIFT IS THE GAME.
DARE TO PLAY?

The police aren’t worried – it’s just a game. But the families are frantic. As psychologist and private detective Dr Augusta Bloom delves into the lives of the missing people, she finds something that binds them all.

And that something makes them very dangerous indeed.

As more disappearances are reported and new birthday cards uncovered, Dr Bloom races to unravel the mystery and find the missing people.

But what if, this time, they are the ones she should fear?

 

My Thoughts

I couldn’t resist this book when I read the blurb, it sounded so intriguing and I’m so glad I picked it up! Gone is a novel about four strangers who have all disappeared after receiving a card asking them if they dare to play. Psychologist Dr Augusta Bloom and ex detective Marcus Jameson are tasked with looking into one of the missing people and find that things are more serious and involved than they ever could have imagined!

Gone is such a good psychological thriller and is something a bit different. I loved following Augusta and getting her psychological insights into what might be going on. I was also really intrigued as we meet some of the families of the missing people. I couldn’t work out what they could possibly have in common so felt like I was tailing the investigation and trying to figure it all out.

I loved how prescient this novel is with the way it looks at how the game these strangers were invited to play might have been set up. It explores the idea of how people can use quizzes on social media that people fill in to find out what cartoon character they’d be (for example) can be put together with other easily discovered info on the same sites to see who would be a perfect target for this game. I’ve always been really suspicious of quizzes on FB and this book proves I’m right to be! I’m definitely not going near them now!

I loved the exploration of who the type of person behind the game might be, and also who the people who were invited to play the game were underneath. I’ve always been fascinated by psychology and this book is so much about what makes a person tick, what makes someone do the things they do. It was brilliant to see psychological ideas applied to the missing people and then as the book went on to wonder about those traits in other characters. It made for such a good read!

It turns out that nothing is quite as it seems in this novel and there is so much more underneath the surface than you see at first. I found it quite a slow-burn to begin with but this was perfect because it allowed me to be curious about what was going on before I was pulled right in to a novel that becomes an unputdownable rollercoaster of a read!

This was such a fascinating psychological thriller and I very much enjoyed it! I’m already looking forward to reading more from Leona Deakin (and also hoping we might get more about Dr Augusta Bloom in the future…!). I recommend this one!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and Anne of Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Gone is out now in ebook here and also available for pre-order in paperback here.

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Review: Bone Deep by Sandra Ireland | @22_ireland @PolygonBooks #LoveBooksTours

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About the Book

What happens when you fall in love with the wrong person?

The consequences threaten to be far-reaching and potentially deadly.

Bone Deep is a contemporary novel of sibling rivalry, love, betrayal and murder. It is a dual narrative, told in alternative chapters by Mac, a woman bent on keeping the secrets of the past from her only son, and the enigmatic Lucie, whose own past is something of a closed book. Their story is underpinned by the creaking presence of an abandoned water mill and haunted by the local legend of two long-dead sisters, themselves rivals in love and ready to point an accusing finger from the pages of history.

 

My Thoughts

Bone Deep is a stunning novel that explores the relationship between siblings, and the betrayals in romantic relationships. The novel is narrated by two characters – Mac who is determined to keep her secrets buried whilst writing a short story collection about sibling rivalry; and Lucie who arrives to be Mac’s Girl Friday and has secrets of her own.

The audio book is wonderful, I found myself engrossed in this novel from the opening chapter and it had me spellbound. I was so intrigued by both Mac and Lucie and felt equally invested in both their stories. I was also so drawn to the setting with the abandoned mill and the way it looms large over the characters in this book. Mac and Lucie are each voiced by a different narrater (Una Mcdade and Emma Hartley-Miller) which made it easy to keep track of whose story I was listening to, which I always appreciate in an audio book.

Bone Deep takes two women who are in different stages of life and also on opposite sides of the coin that is affairs of the heart. Mac is becoming confused and her past and present are beginning to get mixed in her mind, she is also obsessively writing and then withdrawing from her story about two sisters. This all melds together as the novel moves towards its final stunning conclusion. Lucie is looking for an escape after she’s done wrong by her sister and is somewhat ousted by their mother who knows what she’s done. Mac is initially kind towards Lucie, although she doesn’t feel she needs her help, but as the past pulls on her more and more she starts to see Lucie in a different light.

The pain that runs through this novel is palpable and even though Lucie has done wrong I could only feel sympathy for her. She has made a terrible mistake but she’s not the only one and yet she is paying the biggest price for it. I was willing her to face up to things and to try and make it right but she can’t help but retreat further into herself. I could see echoes of her in Mac to start with and worried that she may end up like Mac but in the end Mac’s secrets go way darker and deeper than Lucie’s ever could.

There is something indefinable about this novel – it’s heart-wrenching and yet also magical. There is so much beauty amongst all the pain and the darkness. Sandra Ireland beautifully weaves together the strands of Mac and Lucie’s stories along with the story that Mac is writing and it’s simply breathtaking – the mysteries, the connections and the ultimate conclusion! Bone Deep is a book that grabs hold of you and it doesn’t let go, even after you’ve finished listening to it. I feel haunted by it, it’s still going around in my mind and I already want to read it again! I highly recommend this book, it really is a stunning novel!

Many thanks to the Kelly at Love Books Tours for my copy of the audio book and my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Bone Deep is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Sandra Ireland

Sandra Ireland was born in Yorkshire, lived for many years in Limerick, and is now based in Carnoustie. She began her writing career as a correspondent on a local newspaper but quickly realised that fiction is much more intriguing than fact. In 2013 Sandra was awarded a Carnegie- Cameron scholarship to study for an MLitt in Writing Practice and Study at the University of Dundee, graduating with a distinction in 2014. Her work has appeared in various publications and women’s magazines. She is the author of Beneath the Skin (2016) and Bone Deep (2018), and her third novel, The Unmaking of Ellie Rook will be published in July 2019.

 

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Review: Someone We Know by Shari Lapena | @sharilapena @TransworldBooks @ThomasssHill @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

It can be hard keeping secrets in a tight-knit neighbourhood.

In a tranquil, leafy suburb of ordinary streets – one where everyone is polite and friendly – an anonymous note has been left at some of the houses.

I’m so sorry. My son has been getting into people’s houses. He’s broken into yours.

Who is this boy, and what might he have uncovered? As whispers start to circulate, suspicion mounts.

And when a missing local woman is found murdered, the tension reaches breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they’re telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their secrets?

Maybe you don’t know your neighbour as well as you thought you did . . .

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Shari Lapena’s writing so I was thrilled to receive a copy of her new novel Someone We Know and I’m really happy to say that it more than lived up to my expectations!

Someone We Know is set in a small community so when a neighbour goes missing everyone is talking about her and wondering what could have happened. Alongside this Olivia discovers that her teenage son Raleigh has broken into a couple of their neighbour’s houses and she is mortified and furious.

This book feels claustrophobic from the start, the idea of a small community is uncomfortable to me anyway (I grew up in a small town and now hate the idea of living somewhere like that) but with the break-ins and the missing woman, and the subsequent gossip about it all really made it feel like I was trapped in the neighbourhood with these people. I loved that about it though, it made me lose where I really was and I became so absorbed in the novel that I lost a whole afternoon to it!

I loved how it turns out that quite a few people in the novel have something to hide – some smaller things, some huge things and you’re constantly wondering if any of them have anything to do with the missing woman.

Shari Lapena writes red herrings so well – she misleads you and takes you down a path and then points you in a totally different direction and it’s always so brilliantly done! I had my suspicions and my thoughts about what was going on throughout the novel but I only partly clicked whodunnit right before it was revealed and I didn’t work out all of it so it was brilliant to be kept guessing throughout!

This is a novel about the secrets people hide, and how well you really know the people you think you’re closest too. It makes you question the truth that people tell and whether it’s the actual truth or their perceived truth. This is a perfect summer thriller – it’s gripping from the opening pages, it’s thrilling from start to finish and it’s a book to get lost in. I read it all in one sitting and loved it!

Many thanks to Transworld for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Someone We Know is out now and available here.

 

I’ve previously reviewed The Couple Next Door and An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena.

 

About the Author

Shari Lapena Author pic

 

Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. Her debut thriller, The Couple Next Door, was a global bestseller, the bestselling fiction title in the UK in 2017 and has been optioned for television. Her second thriller, A Stranger in the House and third, An Unwanted Guest, were both Sunday Times and New York Times bestsellers.

 

 

 

 

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Review: The Closer I Get by Paul Burston | @OrendaBooks @PaulBurston @annecater

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About the Book

Tom is a successful author, but he’s struggling to finish his novel. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone.

Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her father and her social-media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has.

When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world is turned upside down, and Tom is free to live his life again, to concentrate on writing.

But things aren’t really adding up. For Tom is distracted but also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he feels powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on.

 

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, this book! I knew I was going to love The Closer I Get as soon as I read the blurb but it was even better than I was expecting it to be!

Tom Hunter is a successful author but he’s struggling with the mounting pressure of writing his next novel in large part due to the stress of a woman who just won’t leave him alone. Evie is a huge fan of Tom’s work, she got to meet him once at a book signing and felt they had a real connection. It’s a thrill when he follows her back on social media and she believes this means something. Evie doesn’t have an easy life, she’s back living with her dad who isn’t well so when she’s hit with a restraining order her life begins to unravel.

This book is brilliant! It’s such a prescient novel – definitely one for our times! Most of us use social media and we’re used to people following us on these networks and often we follow people back but we don’t pay a whole lot of attention to who any of these people are. We assume they’re just like us. I mainly use twitter to share posts but I also use it to chat to friends and connect with people. I even met my husband on twitter so it is possible to make genuine mutual connections on there.

However, I also know what it is to have a stalker and it is utterly terrifying. My experience was pre-social media so it’s different to what happens in this book but the feeling of having someone turn up everywhere you go, someone who sits outside your house is so frightening. The feeling that you might be being watched never fully leaves you even when the situation is completely over. This has made me much more wary of social media, and forming friendships, even though I’ve used it for over ten years now.  Paul Burston has shared his experiences of being stalked in an article in The Guardian recently and how this inspired him to write this novel, I recommend reading that when you have a few minutes to spare.

Anyway, back to The Closer I get... This novel is told in alternating chapters from Tom and Evie and I loved that. It meant that I would read one chapter and think one thing and then read the other person’s perspective and could see their side too. The novel blurs the lines somewhat so that although Evie is clearly stalking Tom, the background to this leaves you with much to question and think about. This isn’t always a black and white story, it really shows the shades of grey.  It was fascinating, and unnerving, to be in Evie’s mind and to see how she viewed things along the way.

We also get to meet Tom’s best friend Emma, and their relationship was also fascinating to read about. Emma seems devoted to Tom, she is always there for him and it seemed that she might be in love with him. It is just friendship to Tom though but as the novel progresses it becomes apparent that he takes advantage of her good nature more than is fair. These parts of the book make Tom a much more rounded character but a whole lot less likeable!

I have to say that neither Tom nor Evie are particularly likeable in this novel but there are moments in each of their stories where you feel absolute sympathy for them, and moments where you question what it is you previously thought. It’s such a compelling novel with so many fascinating elements to it, this really is an incredible read!

The Closer I Get has tension right from the start, and it gets more and more tense as you read each chapter. You know it’s building to something but I defy you to predict what’s coming because every time I thought I had it worked out the rug was pulled from under me yet again! By the final pages of this novel I was literally on the edge of my seat. The denouement when it comes is shocking, and one I won’t ever forget!

The Closer I Get is such a clever thriller; it’s a true psychological thriller and it really makes you think. It’s a novel that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it. I already can’t wait to read more by Paul Burston, I’ll definitely be first in line to buy whatever he writes next!

PS. I will add a quick warning here – don’t start this book late at night if you have to be up early the next day because once you start reading you won’t be able to put this down until you’ve turned the final page! It’s a real sleep stealer (but totally worth it!)!

Many thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my digital copy of this book and the invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Closer I Get is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Paul Burston Author Photo

Paul Burston is the author of five novels and the editor of two short story collections. His most recent novel ‘The Black Path’, was longlisted for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2016 and was a bestseller at WH Smith. His first novel, ‘Shameless’, was shortlisted for the State of Britain Award. His third novel, ‘Lovers & Losers’ was shortlisted for a Stonewall Award. His fourth, ‘The Gay Divorcee’, was optioned for television. He was a founding editor of Attitude magazine and has written for many publications including The GuardianThe IndependentTime OutThe Times and The Sunday Times. In March 2016, he was featured in the British Council’s #FiveFilms4Freedom Global List 2016, celebrating “33 visionary people who are promoting freedom, equality and LGBT rights around the world”. He is the founder and host of London’s award-winning LGBT+ literary salon Polari and founder and chair of The Polari First Book Prize for new writing.

 

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Review: Looker by Laura Sims | @ljsims50 @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

The Professor lives in Brooklyn; her partner Nathan left her when she couldn’t have a baby. All she has now is her dead-end teaching job, her ramshackle apartment, and Nathan’s old moggy, Cat. Who she doesn’t even like.

The Actress lives a few doors down. She’s famous and beautiful, with auburn hair, perfect skin, a lovely smile. She’s got children – a baby, even. And a husband who seems to adore her. She leaves her windows open, even at night.

There’s no harm, the Professor thinks, in looking in through the illuminated glass at that shiny, happy family, fantasizing about them, drawing ever closer to the actress herself. Or is there?

 

My Thoughts

Looker is an incisive portrayal of a woman who becomes fixated on an actress who lives across the street from her. She sees in her everything she needs to make herself happy and she wants to be closer to that life!

I loved this book from the very beginning. I really enjoy books where we’re in the protagonist’s head for the duration of the novel. The Professor was successful at work, she was married to a man she loved and they were trying for a baby. She was on the cusp of having everything she wanted but then she miscarries and her fertility journey becomes fraught and heartbreaking. She closes herself off and then her husband leaves her. The book begins at this point but we get bits of her back story as we start to fill in the pieces to really get who this person is.

She obsesses over the actress. She watches her, she watches her home and she sometimes drifts off into fantasies about what might happen if she met her or her husband. The actress leaves unwanted things outside her house and the Professor squirrels these things away into the empty spare room of her apartment.

I began to feel that perhaps the Professor’s obsession with filling up her spare room was really her trying to fill her very empty life, and perhaps her empty uterus. She clearly has psychological problems, and really who wouldn’t after all the pain and heartbreak she has endured. The obsession with the actress is taking things to another level though and yet I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. She’s clearly lonely and has fixated on the actress as she believes she has a perfect, happy life. The Professor isn’t a particularly likeable character but she’s sympathetic at the same time. I very much appreciated that Laura Sims doesn’t go down a predictable route of the bitter woman who can’t get pregnant, instead it’s an incredible exploration of what happens when everything you wanted is slowly stripped from you and you’re left with no one and nothing left to lose.

Looker is a novel that creeps up on you. I was enthralled from the start but I gradually felt more and more uneasy about how the protagonist was behaving to the point that I was completely on edge because you just know something is going to happen. You can’t work out what or when or where but you know it’s coming. I thought when I picked up this book that it was going to go a particular way and I was so glad that it didn’t, instead Laura Sims keeps you wondering and that makes it so much more unnerving than if the Professor behaved in the way you believed she would!

This isn’t a full-on fast-paced psychological thriller and yet it’s a book that’s to be devoured in one sitting. It’s a psychological study of a character and the thriller element is knowing that she may only have developed her obsessive nature because of what she’s been through, and that means she could easily be you or someone you know!

I have to mention how perfect the title of this book is. It obviously refers to the protagonist and her obsessive watching of the actress, but the more of the novel I read the most I began to get a sense that I was the looker, that I was also intruding into the professor’s life and wanting to know more and more about her. It’s an uncomfortable realisation to suddenly feel for a moment that you might just understand the obsession, the wanting and needing to know about someone else’s life!

Looker is a brilliant, incisive and disturbing psychological novel and I loved it! I couldn’t put it down, and even now I’ve finished reading I keep thinking about it. I already want to go back and read it all again. I highly recommend this one!

Many thanks to the Tinder Press for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Looker is out now in ebook and available here. It’s due to be published in paperback on 25th July and can be pre-ordered at the same link.

 

About the Author

Laura Sims Author Picture

Laura Sims is the author of four books of poetry, and LOOKER is her debut novel. She lives in Brooklyn.

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Review: The Darkest Summer by Ella Drummond | @drummondella1 @HeraBooks @BOTBSPublicity

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About the Book

One hot summer, Dee disappeared. Now she’s back…but she’s not the girl you knew.

Sera and Dee were the best of friends.

Until the day that Dee and her brother Leo vanished from Sera’s life, during a long hot summer fifteen years ago.

Now Sera is an adult, with her own child, five-year-old Katie, and has returned to her childhood home after her husband’s death.

While she grieves, the past haunts Sera at every turn … and then Dee and Leo return to their small Hampshire village, along with Dee’s young daughter.

But Dee is silent and haunted by her demons; no longer the fun-loving girl that Sera loved. And when Sera uncovers the shocking secret that Dee is hiding, it’s clear that the girl she knew is long gone – and that the adult she has grown into might put all of them in danger…

 

My Thoughts

I have to start by saying that I loved Ella Drummond’s previous novel My Last Lie and The Darkest Summer is even better! I could not put it down!

The Darkest Summer follows Sera as she’s trying to rebuild her life after her husband’s death. She’s living with her mother and five-year-old daughter in her childhood home and can’t help but think back to years gone by and her best friend Dee whose family disappeared suddenly one summer day. Then one day she thinks she spots Dee’s brother in the street and her life is about to be turned upside down all over again.

I was gripped from the very start of this book and I just didn’t want to put it down for a second. It’s one of those books where you say just one more chapter, then one more, and one more and before you know it you’re turning the last page and it’s way past your bedtime!

The Darkest Summer is mainly set in the present day but it also flashes back to fifteen years ago in the lead up to when Dee and her family disappear. We also get a few chapters from the early 1980s following Sera’s mum, Mimi. I loved this way of telling the story as I was equally invested in all three timelines and this kept me flying through the pages as I wanted to know how the past fitted with the present and where Dee’s family had gone, and why they left without trace!

I love books that explore female friendship, it’s endlessly fascinating for me to read books like this. I really enjoyed seeing Dee and Sera as girls on the cusp of being teenagers where they still loved running wild and swimming in the lake, but were also becoming aware of their own bodies and the power they might possess. It was really interesting to see how they related to each other on meeting up again years later, and how different it can be to how you imagined it might. It was the same seeing Sera’s mum when she was a young adult finding her feet in London and trying to make it as an actress. Her friendship back then gave her an unbreakable bond to someone because of what happened but still life pulled them apart, and yet not quite! The women were so believable in this book and I keep thinking of them all, especially Sera, and wondering how she is.

I loved the setting of this book, and the way the heat of the summer emanated from the pages. I could envision it all so clearly as if I’d been there. Ella Drummond really is a great writer who writes such beautiful, evocative paragraphs. She brings her books to life and it makes them so memorable.

I was curious by what might have happened to Dee and her family, and was shocked when we finally find out. I had worked out elements of it but I couldn’t put it all together to figure it out fully. I was also intrigued by what Mimi’s story from years earlier had to do with the present day and didn’t figure that out either. I love when a novel keeps me guessing, it’s a rare thing for a book to do that but this one did!

The Darkest Summer is the perfect summer thriller read! It’s gripping, mysterious and it will keep you up way past your bedtime! I loved it and highly recommend it!

Many thanks to the Hera Books for my copy of this book and to Sarah of Books on the Bright Side Publicity for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Darkest Summer is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Ella Drummond recently signed a two-book deal with Hera Books. Her first psychological thriller, My Last Lie will be published in February 2019 and is available for pre-order now.
She lives with her husband on the island of Jersey and you can follow her on Twitter @drummondella1 and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EllaDrummondWrites/

 

 

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Review: The Hidden Wife by Amanda Reynolds | @AmandaReynoldsJ @Wildfirebks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Every marriage has its problems.
But would Julia Blake really have just walked out of hers, leaving no trace?

Max Blake knows more about his wife’s disappearance than he’s letting on.
That’s what the police think anyway. But with no body, the case is growing cold…

One young journalist thinks she can find out the truth.
But the more time she spends with Max at the couple’s remote estate, the higher the risk to her own safety. And whatever happened to Julia Blake may be her fate next…

 

My Thoughts

The Hidden Wife is such a good book! Seren is a junior reporter for a local newspaper and she’s just been given her first big story. She’s been tasked to interview famous novelist Max Blake, who’s wife Julia has been missing for months. So far he’s refused all interview requests by the media so this is a big deal for Seren and could make her career!

I was intrigued from the very beginning of this book as it opens just a few hours after Julia has been reported missing and we don’t know what’s happened to her. The novel then moves forward a few months and Seren is given the assignment to interview Julia’s husband Max. Max is a famous author and has so far resisted talking about Julia in the media so Seren is thrilled, and a little apprehensive, to be given such a job! There is something of a connection between Max and Seren as she knows what it’s like to lose a loved one and not have all the answers. I was curious as to whether Max knew this and would play on it for his own advantage as he seemed a very clever man.

The Hidden Wife kept me on my toes throughout. There are moments where I thought I had the mystery cracked but then something else would happen and I would be questioning everything all over again. The novel is a slow-burn to begin with. You really get to know Seren, which I loved as it meant I was with her all the way as she gradually starts to try to learn more about Max. There is a point in the novel though where it becomes utterly compelling and from there on I just couldn’t put it down!

The further I got into this novel the more it became apparent how everyone has a face they wear for others. It’s easy to think Max is slick and clearly hiding something but we don’t know for sure that he harmed his wife, we just presume he has. Seren has some real sadness in her life and she seems to keep people at something of a distance, even the people she’s closer to. Even the housekeeper seems besotted with Max and suspicious, even a little antagonistic towards Seren but there is more to her and I enjoyed finding out what was behind her facade.

I got Rebecca vibes from some elements of this book – the missing wife Julia, who we only really see through her husband’s, and occasionally the housekeeper’s, eyes. The somewhat naive junior reporter Seren who feels a little anxious around Max but is drawn to him at the same time. And Max, the enigmatic husband – did he harm his wife? Does he know where she is? I loved that there was a sense of Rebecca in the novel whilst at the same time it is absolutely its own story.

I very much enjoyed The Hidden Wife and have found since I finished reading it that I keep thinking about it. I definitely recommend putting it on your summer holiday reading plans if you like gripping, thrilling and hard to put down novels!

Many thanks to Wildfire for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Hidden Wife is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Amanda Reynolds Author Pic

Photo credit: David Churchill Photography

Amanda Reynolds lives in the Cotswolds with her family where she writes full-time. Her debut novel, Close To Me, is a #1 e-book best- seller. The Hidden Wife is her third book.

Follow Amanda on Twitter: @AmandaReynoldsJ

amandareynoldsauthor.com

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Mini Reviews: Watching You, Nobody’s Wife, The Night Olivia Fell, and The Flower Girls!

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Today I’m sharing another selection of mini book reviews as I try to catch up. I LOVED all four of these books so wanted to make sure I shared my thoughts here.

 

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Watching You by Lisa Jewell

This book is such a brilliant psychological thriller. From the title you can guess that someone is being watched but what is so good about this book is the way that lots of people are being watched, or feel like they are, and sometimes it’s by people who are unaware that they shouldn’t be so invasively tracking someone’s movements and other times it’s by people who have more sinister motives. The novel opens with a body having been found and there appears to be an important piece of evidence left at the scene. We then get a picture gradually built up of who the victim is but also who might have wanted to hurt this person. The novel follows quite a few characters and figuring out how they might connect to each other, if at all and in what possible way, was brilliant! I really did enjoy this book and I already can’t wait to read Lisa jewell’s next novel!

 

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The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts

I read this novel quite a while ago now so I’m embarrassed that I’ve somehow managed not to review it before now. I will say that despite the gap the novel is still really quite fresh in my mind so it shows it’s a book that really gets under your skin! This is about two sisters who murdered a young child when they were also young children. One of them was old enough to face trial and the other wasn’t. They’re now adults and Laurel is out of prison and trying to build a new life under her new identity. This all comes unstuck when she goes on holiday with her partner and a child goes missing from the hotel. This is such a brilliant novel that explores lots of angles to a case like this in a sensitive and thought-provoking way. I flew through the book because I was desperate to know what was going to happen in the end. I highly recommend this book if you haven’t already read it.

 

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The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

This is another book that I’m mortified to realise I haven’t reviewed yet, especially when I loved the novel so much. This is an incredible novel that is a great thriller but more than that it’s a brilliant exploration of the relationship between mothers and daughters. Abi is a single mum to Olivia, and one morning she’s woken to a phone call telling her that her daughter has been in an accident and is badly hurt. It turns out that Olivia had secrets from her mum and Abi is devastated that her daughter hadn’t felt she could confide in her. We also get Olivia’s story and gradually build up to the night she fell, and what actually happened to her. This is another book that I just didn’t want to put down, it  is a real page turner and I wanted to know how things were going to turn out. More than that I felt so emotionally invested in Abi and Olivia’s stories. It really reminded me of being a teenager and even though I was incredibly close to my mum there is always going to be a point when a teen begins to pull away and wants to keep some things private. This is a book that is really staying with me, and I can’t wait to read more by the author.

 

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Nobody’s Wife by Laura Pearson

This is another novel that I got utterly emotionally invested in very quickly. Initially the opening chapter made me think this was going to have thriller elements but it hasn’t really, it’s much more an exploration of the relationship between two sisters and their relationships with their respective partners. The characters in this book aren’t particularly likeable but they are all so real, and I could see bits of me and bits of people I’ve known in them. It’s easy to judge matters of the heart when they don’t affect you but this novel by showing the perspectives of all four characters really does show that nothing is black and white and it’d be so easy for us all to make a decision that has consequences we never could have foreseen. I only read this fairly recently but it’s really lodged itself in my heart, I keep thinking of the characters and wondering what’s happening in their lives since the final page. I definitely recommend this one!

 

 

Review: The Last Stage by Louise Voss | @LouiseVoss1 @OrendaBooks @annecater

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About the Book

A violent and horrific incident forces a young woman to go into hiding, at the peak of her career as lead singer of an indie pop band. Years later, strange things start to happen and it becomes clear that some know who she is…

At the peak of her career as lead singer of a legendary 1980s indie band, Meredith Vincent was driven off the international stage by a horrific incident. Now living a quiet existence in a cottage on the grounds of an old stately home, she has put her past behind her and come to terms with her new life.

When a body is found in the manicured gardens of her home, and a series of inexplicable and unsettling events begins to occur, it becomes clear that someone is watching, someone who knows who she is … Someone who wants vengeance.

And this is only the beginning…

 

My Thoughts

The Last Stage follows Meredith. In the late 1980s she was a hugely successful indie star but something happened which led to her quitting her band at the height of their fame and she made sure to become unrecognisable by starting a new life working at a stately home. One night someone she works with goes missing in strange circumstances and Meredith starts to fear that the past is coming back to get her.

I’m a huge fan of Louise Voss (and have been ever since I bought her first novel To Be Someone, which is still one of my favourite and most read books!) and I’m so happy to say that this book more than lived up to my high expectations. The prologue is so creepy that it gave me chills and I knew then I was going to be hooked all the way through this book (and I was right!). The idea of waking up in the middle of the night to hear footsteps on the stairs and then your bedroom door handle starting to turn is terrifying!

The Last Stage is set in the present but we get chapters from the past from when a 17 year old Meredith goes off to Greenham Common and meets a girl there. I felt equally invested in both timelines and I was desperate to know how the past and present fit together to explain why Meredith was so scared by the thought of things from the past catching up with her.

Louise Voss has created such an interesting and intriguing protagonist in Meredith and I wanted to know more about her from the start. She does make some bad decisions in this book and at times I wanted to reach into the pages and make her do things differently but I could see why she chose to keep quiet about the unnerving things that were happening to her and around her. I think fear affects people in all kinds of ways and while some people would immediately beg for help and support, other people almost shut it down and believe that if they don’t acknowledge it out loud then it can’t possibly be really happening. I really felt for Meredith and was rooting for her to be okay.

I love the title of this book and how over the course of the novel you sense a different meaning in it. I initially thought it was about the last stage Meredith might have performed on as a rock star before she quit, then I thought it might be the last stage of her life but then I wondered if it might not be about Meredith but rather a reference to the last stage of a campaign to ruin her life.  Or maybe it’s more to do with the way Meredith has to confront her fears from her past (last as in previous stage) before she can move on. I love when a title gives me lots of possibilities to ponder over!

This book kept me guessing right to the end! I didn’t trust anyone in this novel, they all seemed like they might have something to hide and this made for such a thrilling read. The tension in The Last Stage is there from the start and it slowly builds and builds until you’re literally on the edge of your seat. I even found myself holding my breath during the more tense moments! I loved this novel so much, it was a perfect psychological thriller and one that I’ll be thinking about for a while. It’s tense, thrilling and will keep you up way past your bedtime (and by this point you’ll be nervously wondering if you can hear footsteps on the stairs and if the bedroom door handle is moving!!). An utterly brilliant read!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Last Stage is out now in ebook and is available for pre-order in paperback here.

 

About the Author

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Over her eighteen-year writing career, Louise Voss has had 13 novels published – seven solo and six co-written with Mark Edwards: a combination of psychological thrillers, police procedurals and contemporary fiction – and sold over 350,000 books. Her most recent book, The Old You, was a number-one bestseller in ebook. Louise has an MA (Dist) in Creative Writing and also works as a literary consultant and mentor for writers at http://www.thewritingcoach.co.uk. She lives in Salisbury and is a proud member of two female crime-writing collectives, The Slice Girls and Killer Women.

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Review: Something To Live For by Richard Roper

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About the Book

Sometimes you have to risk everything to find your something…

Andrew works with death for a living. Searching for people’s next of kin and attending the funerals if they don’t have anyone, he’s desperate to avoid the same fate for himself. Which is fine, because he has the perfect wife and 2.4 children waiting at home for him after a long day. At least, that’s what he’s told people.

The truth is, his life isn’t exactly as people think and the little white lie he once told is about to catch up with him.

Because in all Andrew’s efforts to fit in, he’s forgotten one important thing: how to really live. And maybe, it’s about time for him to start.

 

My Thoughts

Something To Live For is the story of Andrew. He works for the council and his job is to deal with the aftermath of death – he has to find if the deceased person has a next of kin. Andrew is lonely but he’s accidentally told his boss that he’s got a happy family life and now he can’t u-turn on this lie he’s living.

Something To Live For is a stunning book and I adored it. Andrew has told his boss right before he got his job that he has a wife and two children at home but this isn’t true. Andrew lives in a grotty flat on his own and he’s lonely. All day at work he’s dealing with what happens when people die without a next of kin, without family and he takes it upon himself to go to the funerals of people who would otherwise have no one present. I felt so sad for Andrew, it’s such a lonely life he leads and you realise that his job must impact on his loneliness.

Andrew loves Ella Fitzgerald’s music and spends a lot of his spare time listening to her but he has an overwhelming visceral response that he can’t control to one of her songs. I immediately realised what was wrong with Andrew  but over the course of the novel we gradually find out about his past and learn more about how he has ended up the way he has.

Things begin to come unstuck for Andrew when his boss decides that his team needs to bond a bit more and suggests a Come Dine With Me idea whereby the whole team goes to a different team member’s house for dinner once a month. Andrew’s blood runs cold as he realises he has to get out of this or he’s going to be found out. The thought of just explaining how he got into living a lie isn’t something he can comprehend so his stress levels are rising. He then gets a new teammate, Peggy, and life begins to open up for Andrew in ways he couldn’t have imagined and the burden of his fictional family begins to overwhelm him.

Something To Live For also captures how much of our lives are now lived online. Andrew is part of an online community of train fans and he logs on every night to catch up, and yet he is so vulnerable and alone in reality. Social media can help make us feel less lonely but we still need people in our real lives in order to thrive. The book really shows how we can appear to have happy life but the reality can be so very different. More importantly though this book shows how if we take a step towards inviting people into our lives, asking for help when we need it, that the world can suddenly become a much bigger, brighter place and I loved this aspect of the novel.

This book is such a charming read; it’s very moving but also heart-warming and funny. I found Andrew to be such a believable character and I was rooting for him all the way through this book. It’s such an honest and sensitive portrayal of loneliness but it’s also a novel that is full of hope. The idea that if we can just be honest about our own lives, about the failures we perceive in ourselves that things really might get better. It left me with an overwhelming feeling that there is always hope, there is always a chance to change things. Life might not turn out as we planned but it’s still possible to find happiness down other avenues.

I adored Something To Live For, it’s one that will stay with me. It’s a wonderful thing for an author to make a reader feel real emotion at a character’s pain but in the next chapter have you laughing out loud at something. This is how life is and this gorgeous novel captures that in all its glory! I highly recommend this book!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Something To Live For is out now and available here.

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

 

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Review: After the End by Clare Mackintosh

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About the Book

Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re best friends, lovers—unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son.

What if they could have both?

 

My Thoughts

After the End is the story of Max and Pip, a happily married couple with a young son, Dylan. But one day Dylan gets ill and a decision has to be made about what to do next, about what might be best for him and they just can’t agree.

After the End is a stunning novel. It looks at Max and Pip and how they cope with looking after a very ill child, how they cope in their different ways and how they view things so differently. Max needs to earn money so he continues to go to work, often this involves travelling but he is always thinking of his family. Pip has given up everything to be there with Dylan. She is always with him in the hospital, she looks after him there and she is the one that bears the brunt of seeing how ill he is day in, day out. They both adore him, they both want what’s best for him but they’ve had such a different experience of his illness that when the time comes to make the ultimate decision, they are just completely unable to agree.

I knew going into this book that it was going to be emotional but I wasn’t prepared for how much it would make me cry. The exploration of what it is to deal with a loved one being so ill was written so incredibly well. I don’t have children but I cared for my mum in the final months of her life and I know how much of a toll is takes on a person. Because of this I was on Pip’s side for the most part because, for me, it’s the person who is there the most that really understands the suffering, who understands that however much you love someone you sometimes have to step away and think what’s best for them. What I didn’t expect was how much reading Max’s point of view would affect me. At first, because of my own experiences, I thought he was selfish for not listening to his wife more. But then I could see that he loved Dylan every bit as much as Pip and he believed that what he wanted for their son was right, just as much as she thought she was right. It really made me pause.

The novel follows Max and Pip’s perspectives but we also get to hear from Dylan’s primary doctor, and that was really interesting. It added to the novel for me to know how she experienced the situation and how she felt about it all. The things that she goes through felt very real and believable.

So many issues are raised and dealt with in this book that are so relevant to modern society. Clare Mackintosh sensitively and intelligently deals with all of them so well, she covers so many angles and really makes you think about how you feel about these things, and what you would do in a similar situation.

After the End isn’t an easy read but it’s such a stunning novel and I’m so glad I read it. I definitely recommend this one, but I also recommend keeping a stash of tissues nearby to soak up the tears that will inevitably fall.

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

After the End is out now and available here.

 

Review: Keep You Close by Karen Cleveland | @TransworldBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

A strange sensation runs through me, a feeling that I don’t know this person in front of me, even though he matters more to me than anyone ever has, than anyone ever will.

You go into your son’s bedroom. It’s the usual mess. You tidy up some dirty plates, pick up some clothes, open the wardrobe to put them away.

And that’s when you find it. Something so shocking it doesn’t seem real.

And you realize a horrifying truth…

Your own son might be dangerous…

 

My Thoughts

The premise of Keep Her Close grabbed my attention right away! Steph is an FBI agent and a single mum to her teenage son Zach. One day she is in his room and she makes a horrifying discovery in his wardrobe. I immediately wanted to know more and I’m happy to say that this book kept me gripped all the way through.

Steph is an FBI agent and is trained in spotting when someone is lying and so when she confronts her son and he denies all knowledge she is convinced he’s telling the truth. This made for an interesting dynamic because I think people find it hard to believe a loved one is doing anything wrong so I wasn’t sure that Steph was right to believe Zach so easily. By the same token it’s her job to know and she understands issues of security so I wondered if maybe she was right and someone was setting Zach, or possibly her, up.

Keep Her Close is set in the present day but there are a few flashbacks spread throughout the novel, and I really enjoyed that element. I like being able to slowly piece together someone’s background and to build up a picture of how they got to be who they are.

Keep Her Close soon ramps up the tension as a colleague of Steph’s approaches her with intelligence he has about a domestic anarchist group that Zach may be involved in. Steph starts digging, determined to prove that her son is being set up but the investigation leads down some dark paths and I ended up not being sure at all of who I could trust in this novel.

I really liked Steph throughout this novel. She’s something of a flawed character in that she is stubborn and doesn’t easily let people in, neither in her private life nor at work, and this makes things harder for her. She also gets fixated on a particular problem to the detriment of other things that she should be doing. And she’s fiercely protective of her son. But, for me, all of this made her human and meant I could identify with her a lot of the time and I was always rooting for her.

This was such a fast-paced, gripping novel and it would make a perfect holiday read – it’s a book to pick up and devour while the real world disappears for a while!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Keep You Close is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Karen Cleveland Author Picture

Karen Cleveland spent eight years as a CIA analyst, focusing on counterterrorism and working briefly on rotation to the FBI. She has master’s degrees from Trinity College Dublin and Harvard University. She lives in northern Virginia with her husband and two young sons.

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Review: The Lost Properties of Love by Sophie Ratcliffe | @WmCollinsBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

What if you could tell the truth about who you are, without risking losing the one you love? This is a book about love affairs and why we choose to have them; a book for anyone who has ever loved and wondered what it is all about.

This is a book about the things we hide from other people. Love affairs, grief, domestic strife and the mess at the bottom of your handbag. Part memoir, part imagined history, in The Lost Properties of Love, Sophie Ratcliffe combines her own experience of childhood bereavement, a past lover, the reality about motherhood and marriage, with undiscovered stories about Tolstoy and trains, handbags and honeymoons to muse on the messiness of everyday life.

An extended train journey frames the action – and the author turns not to self-help manuals but to the fictions that have shaped our emotional and romantic landscape. Readers will find themselves propelled into Anna Karenina’s world of steam, commuting down the Northern Line, and checking out a New York El-train with Anthony Trollope’s forgotten muse, Kate Field.

As scenes in her own life collide with the stories of real and imaginary heroines, The Lost Properties of Love asks how we might find new ways of thinking about love and intimacy in the twenty-first century. Frank and painfully funny, this contemporary take on Brief Encounter – told to a backing track of classic 80s songs- is a compelling look at the workings of the human heart.

 

My Thoughts

The Lost Properties of Love is a beautiful book that is part fiction and part memoir. Each chapter takes place during a different train journey and it’s a stunning look at life and love.

The book is set out in chapters that are headed with a train journey’s departure and end point and a date. It roughly follows a chapter of the author’s reminisces about her own life followed by a chapter about Trollope and his muse, Kate Field, or of thoughts on the fictional Anna Karenina.

You soon get a sense that Sophie Ratcliffe is exploring the pivotal moments in her life that have made her who she is. The loss of her father when she was just a young teenager, the affair she had with an older married man a few years later are the main events and she ruminates on these from different angles, and from different stages in her life. She compares her emotions to how Anna Karenina might have felt, and she considers the affair Trollope possibly had with his muse Kate Field and how she may have felt.

There are different textures of loss. The lost hope we find again, and the lost that we think is gone for ever. The loss of an object in the silt of mud, the loss of a smell or sound. People are lost to us, or make themselves lost.

The author’s thoughts on the loss of her beloved father were what I most identified with. The loss of a parent changes you in ways you can’t imagine until you’ve experienced it. The quote below, for all its simplicity, took all the air out of my lungs for a few moments because this is exactly how it is. You have belongings and people and one day you may well lose them, and they may well be lost forever.

The thing about having stuff, like handbags, or mementos, or fathers, is that you might lose them.

The book also explores our relationship to objects, and to the way we all lead our lives. The protagonist in this book struggles to organise the mess in her home, and at one stage ruminates that the mess is now condensed in her handbag. I could really identify with this. I finally got on top of all of my mess last year but I still feel the pull to gather stuff around me when I’m feeling down. Sophie Ratcliffe’s description of Anna Karenina’s red handbag and the things inside it brought a lump to my throat.

There are some gorgeous references to books in this book too, which I adored and so identified with. Also The Lost Properties of Love has really made me want to re-read Anna Karenina very soon, and it’s always good to be reminded of a book that you loved many years ago and have yet to revisit.

There’s a reason one of the greatest novels in English begins with it heroine’s delight that there was no possibility of taking a walk that day. There’s a reason Jane Eyre appeals to teenagers. There are no window seats on family walks. You cannot read a book while walking with your family.

This whole book is a meander through a life, in the way a train journey meanders through landscapes; it’s a gorgeous way to reflect on life. The time on a train gives us a chance to ponder and to think and this book is such a wonderful reading experience; it also made me think about events in my own life and to ponder them from different angles.

The Lost Properties of Love is such a beautiful book, and one that has been lingering in my mind ever since I finished reading it. I already feel that it’s a book I want to re-read, that it’s a book that will reward me for re-reading it and I don’t often get that feeling about a book. I recommend this one!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Lost Properties of Love is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Sophie Ratcliffe is an academic, writer, and literary critic. 

She teaches English at the University of Oxford, where she is an Associate Professor and Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall. 

She is the author of On Sympathy (Oxford University Press), and edited the authorised edition of P. G. Wodehouse’s letters. 

In her academic work, she is interested in ideas of emotion and the history of how we feel. 

She reviews regularly for the national press, and has served as a judge of a number of literary prizes, including the Baillie Gifford and Wellcome Book Prize.

Twitter @soratcli

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Review: The Perfect Betrayal by Lauren North | @Lauren_C_North @TransworldBooks @damppebbles

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About the Book

After the sudden death of her husband, Tess is drowning in grief. All she has left is her son, Jamie, and she’ll do anything to protect him – but she’s struggling to cope.

When grief counsellor Shelley knocks on their door, everything changes. Shelley is understanding and kind, and promises she can help Tess through the hardest time of her life.

But when a string of unsettling events happens and questions arise over her husband’s death, Tess starts to suspect that Shelley may have an ulterior motive. Tess knows she must do everything she can to keep Jamie safe – but she’s at her most vulnerable, and that’s a dangerous place to be.

 

My Thoughts

The Perfect Betrayal is a psychological thriller that follows Tess. She is grief-stricken at the death of her husband Mark. She’s now alone with her young son Jamie and doesn’t see how she’s ever going to get through it. Then Shelley, a grief counsellor, arrives on her doorstep and shows Tess real kindness and she wants to help.

The Perfect Betrayal opens with Tess in hospital having sustained a stab wound and her son is missing! The novel then goes back in time to 55 days previously and the novel is then predominantly told in the weeks after Mark’s death leading up to Jamie’s 8th birthday party a few weeks later. It counts down the weeks in each chapter. Interspersed with this are snippets of Tess in hospital, and an interview with the police. This makes for a gripping and fast-paced read because I just wanted to know what on earth had happened! The tension builds slowly at first but then becomes so heightened that I felt like I was holding my breath at what I thought might happen next.

Oh my goodness, this book was brilliant! I was drawn into Tess’ story from the start, I really felt for her as she struggles to keep going after her husband’s sudden and shocking death. Her son Jamie is also devastated and Tess knows she has to keep going for him but she doesn’t know how to put one foot in front of the other. The depiction of grief in this book is so well done, so believable and I couldn’t see how Tess was ever going to get through it.

To make things worse for Tess her husband’s brother, Ian, is putting pressure on her to start Probate so that Mark’s finances can be put in order. He seems too aggressive and pushy with Tess at a time when she’s so vulnerable and she starts to feel quite threatened by him, which I completely understood.

I was suspicious of Shelley, the grief counsellor, as the way she comes into Tess’ life seemed strange at first and she seems to cross the boundaries of how a counsellor would behave. At the same time I could see she was offering friendship to Tess at a time when Tess was feeling so vulnerable and alone. I was never sure if I could trust Tess and had a feeling that she might have ulterior motives.

I’m keeping this review fairly vague because I want future readers to get the same experience as I did reading this book. So I will just end by saying that the characters in The Perfect Betrayal are so perfectly drawn and the storyline is breathtakingly brilliant. I had so many suspicions about everyone in this book and genuinely had no real idea of what might happen. This book is flawless; it really is the perfect psychological thriller! This is a book that I won’t ever forget and I already can’t wait to read more by Lauren North!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Perfect Betrayal is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Lauren North writes psychological suspense novels that delve into the darker side of relationships and families. She has a lifelong passion for writing, reading, and all things books. Lauren’s love of psychological suspense has grown since childhood and her dark imagination of always wondering what’s the worst thing that could happen in every situation.

Lauren studied psychology before moving to London where she lived and worked for many years. She now lives with her family in the Suffolk countryside. 

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lauren_C_North

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaurenNorthAuthor/

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Mini Book Reviews: An Anonymous Girl, The Neighbour, What Red Was, and Pieces of Her!

 

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Today I’m sharing another selection of mini reviews of books I’ve read recently!

 

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An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

This is a novel about a woman who ends up taking part in a psychological study that seems to be about morality but ends up being so much more than it seemed. The novel becomes something of a cat and mouse game between the characters and it was hard to predict how it might all ends! I enjoyed the authors’ previous novel The Wife Between Us so was delighted to be approved to read this one on NetGalley. I ended up downloading the audio book and am really glad I did. The audio book was really well done with a clear distinction in the voice of the two main characters. I listened to this over the course of a couple of days and while it isn’t a book that will stay with me, I did enjoy it.

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The Neighbour by Fiona Cummins

I’ve read and very much enjoyed one of Fiona Cummins’ previous novels so was very keen to read her latest. The Neighbours is a novel that follows the resident in a street where a series of murders have happened and a new family are just moving in. We also follow the killer and see the unravelling of their story. This is such a gripping and well-written crime thriller and I was hooked all the way through. It was fascinating to read the different character perspectives and to build up a picture of who each of the residents were. The reveal of the killer was shocking and I didn’t work out who it was, so that was brilliant for me as it’s rare that I don’t see an ending coming! I highly recommend this book!

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What Red Was by Rosie Price

This was one of the books I was most anticipating this year so I was delighted to get a copy on NetGalley. I’m really torn as to how I feel about this book because I loved the first half and flew through it, but the second half just dragged for me and I didn’t feel a real pull to pick the book back up. The central plot of this book is about an assault and I do have to say that this was incredibly well written and dealt with. It was so realistic and believable, and following Kate’s reaction to what happened to her was very moving. I think there were perhaps too many storylines competing with each other and that slightly took away from the main premise. I did love the writing though and I would look out for future books by Rosie Price.

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Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

This is the second book I’ve read by Karin Slaughter and I loved it! It follows Andrea who one day sees her mother react in a way she wouldn’t have expected her to be capable of during a shooting and this leads to Andrea’s life being turned upside down as she slowly uncovers her mother’s past. This book has so many twists and turns but all felt believable in the context of the novel. I did have an ARC of this book but I part-read and part-listened to the audio book. It works so well as both but the audio narration really added to the book for me and I highly recommend it.

Book Review: The Sea Refuses No River by Bethany Rivers | @bethanyrivers77 @fly_press @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

The journey of grief is a strange one

and one not often talked about in our everyday reality of this society,

but I know what it’s like to dive deep,

down to the bottom of the wreck,

feel the ribs of the wreck,

after losing a parent so young in life

In this collection, the sea refuses no river, there is an acceptance of the pain and an acceptance of the healing moments; the healing journeys. To quote Adrienne Rich: I came to explore the wreck’, and in this collection, Bethany discovers how, ‘The words are purposes. The words are maps.’

 

My Thoughts

The Sea Refuses No River is a poetry collection that explores the different facets of grief. I was drawn to this book because ever since my mum died ten years ago I’ve felt a need to read other people’s experience of the same, or a similar, loss as it’s helped me process my own emotions.

This poetry collection is stunning! Bethany Rivers explores grief in a very honest and moving way. Some of the poems felt very emotional to me, and others felt very empowering in the way she looks grief right in the eye in such an unflinching way.

The third poem in the collection, At My Father’s Grave, brought a lump to my throat. It’s an easy poem to understand but there is real emotion and poignancy in the idea of looking beyond a loved one’s grave and seeing the flowers that are still thriving in the midst of the sadness. Life continues.

Look behind the stone.

I shuffle forwards and look down.

Snowdrops peeping

above the frosted ground.

I loved how the penultimate poem in this collection, I turn to the daffodils, looks at their brightness, and it felt like the two poems are the bookends of grief – you go from the depths of a dark winter to finally seeing the sunshine in the emerging spring. The poem before this is Every garden is a gift. This is the poem I’ve re-read most often so far. It initially made me think of the last hours of my mum’s life but the more I read it the more I felt that it’s more about allowing grief to be there in your life, finding a way to feel okay with it being there, whilst also allowing yourself to be happy again.

It’s Not About the Broccoli is similarly moving and is a poem that anyone who’s lost someone will connect with. We all have those thoughts of wondering how someone would have done something, and now we’ll never know. Also, how it’s so often the little things that bring up the biggest emotions once a parent has died.

I read this collection in one sitting to start with, I wanted to immerse myself in the whole book. I’ve since gone back at different times and read each poem on its own to get a sense of the individual works. There is a real sense of coming to terms with loss in this collection as a whole. There are poems that feel more raw but the further into the collection you get there is a sense of exploring how to live without your loved one, a sense of finding your place in a world that doesn’t have them in it anymore. It felt to me that the poems become about acceptance, about keeping a memory of your loved one alive while accepting that they are gone. I felt a whole gamut of emotions as I read this collection and by the end I felt a sense of peace.

The Sea Refuses No River is a stunning poetry collection. It’s an honest and personal journey through grief that many people will be able to connect with. I found real solace in this collection and it’s a book that I will return to time and again. I highly recommend this book.

Many thanks to Bethany, and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Sea Refuses No River is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Bethany Rivers Author Pic

Bethany Rivers (M.A. in Creative Writing from Cardiff University) is a poet and author based in Shrewsbury, who has taught creative writing for over eleven years and mentored and coached many writers from the start of their writing project through to publication.

Website : http://www.writingyourvoice.org.uk/

Twitter : @bethanyrivers77

Author page on Facebook 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Book Review: Death and Other Happy Endings by Melanie Cantor | @melaniecantor @TransworldBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Jennifer Cole has just been told that she has a terminal blood disease. She has three months to live — ninety days to say goodbye to friends and family and put her affairs in order. Trying to focus on the positives (at least she’ll never lose her teeth) Jennifer realises she has one overriding regret: the words she’s left unsaid.
Rather than pursuing a frantic bucket list, she chooses to stay put, and write letters to three significant people in her life: her overbearing, selfish sister, her jelly-spined, cheating ex-husband, and her charming, unreliable ex-boyfriend finally telling them the things she’s always wanted to say but never dared.
At first, Jennifer feels cleansed by her catharsis. Liberated, even. But once you start telling the truth, it’s hard to stop. And, as she soon discovers, the truth isn’t always as straightforward as it seems, and death has a way of surprising you ..

 

My Thoughts

Death and Other Happy Endings follows Jennifer who has been feeling exhausted recently and after undergoing blood tests at the doctors is told she has a terminal illness and has three months left to live. She buys a calendar and starts counting the days, trying to work out what she should do with her final days. She decides to write letters to her sister, her ex-husband and her ex-boyfriend telling them all the things she wanted to say but never dared to!

I have to start by saying that the way I’ve described this book may make it seem a bit depressing but I swear to you that it’s absolutely not! It’s funny and moving, and it has you cheering Jennifer on. On hearing that she’s going to die soon she goes off for a walk and ends up doing something she never, ever would have done before she got the news. I knew then that this novel was going to be life-affirming and it was.

I loved that Jennifer wrote the letters that she did to her self-centred sister, her horrible ex-husband and her smarmy ex-boyfriend. She found it so cathartic, and it made me think of the kind of letters I might have written at points in my life to people who have treated me badly. It was satisfying to see her get it all out of her system. When my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer she got an urge to shred her wedding dress (she was long divorced but had kept her dress), I told her to just do it if it helped so she did. She felt so much better afterwards and wished she’d done it long ago. So I was thinking of her at times as I was reading Jennifer’s story and how she reacted to the diagnosis she received.

I also lost my best friend to cancer when I was in my early 20s and the last weeks I spent with her were full of laughter, and at times there were tears, but we were both so focused on wanting to live and have fun while we could. So I found it very moving when Jennifer and her best friend were talking about the wedding that Jennifer would likely not live to attend. It brought a lump to my throat but also happiness that at least Jennifer knew about the wedding and could help with the plans and choosing the dress.

This isn’t in any way a heavy-going book despite the subject matter but by the same token there is a believability in how Jennifer deals with the news she’s been given, and the way she grieves for the life she won’t get to have and the things she won’t get to do. Melanie Cantor has such a deft touch in the way she has written this book, it’s remarkable to deal with such a hard topic and never down play it whilst also retaining humour and lightness. It’s an utterly incredible novel.

Death and Other Happy Endings is a book that reminds you to live your life, to make time for the people that matter and to walk away from those that don’t. We all need a reminder of this from time to time and this book was the reminder I needed. I also felt like this novel gave me my best friend back for a little while as after I finished reading this I my mind was flooded with memories of her and that’s been wonderful for me.

There is so much life and joy in this book, it really is life-affirming. It’s a novel about friendships, about coming to terms with the past and finding a way forward when life has other plans for us. I adored this book – it made me cry, it made me laugh and I just felt a sense of the joy that can be found during even the hardest times. This book was solace for me and I will treasure it, it’s definitely going to be on my books of the year list! I highly recommend grabbing a copy of this book and reading it as soon as you possibly can!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Death and Other Happy Endings is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Melanie Cantor Author Picture

Melanie Cantor was a celebrity agent and publicist for over thirty years. Her clients included Ulrika Jonsson, Melinda Messenger and Melanie Sykes.

In 2004, she hosted a makeover show on Channel 4 called Making Space and in 2017 having just turned 60 she was scouted on Kings Cross station, subsequently appearing as a ‘real model’ in the most recent Dove campaign.

She turned her hand to writing in 2008. Death and other Happy Endings is her first published novel.

Twitter @melaniecantor

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Book Review: Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou | @lauriepetrou @noexitpress @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Two sisters. One fire. A secret that won’t burn out.

The Grayson sisters are trouble. Everyone in their small town knows it. But noone can know of the secret that binds them together.

Hattie is the light. Penny is the darkness. Together, they have balance.

But one night the balance is toppled. A match is struck. A fire is started. A cruel husband is killed. The potential for a new life flickers in the fire’s embers, but resentment, guilt, and jealousy suffocate like smoke.

Their lives have been engulfed in flames will they ever be able to put them out?

 

My Thoughts

Sisters of Mine is about the two Grayson sisters. They live in a small town and everyone knows who they are. The people in the town don’t know all of the secrets the two women hold though. One night the two sisters set a fire and the repercussions of that night will be long lasting in their lives!

On the cover of my copy of Sisters of Mine it has a sticker warning that readers will burn through the novel in one sitting and I have to say that this was absolutely true for me. I started reading this novel and it had me under its spell from the opening chapter and I didn’t move from where I was sitting until after I turned the last page!

This is a really suspenseful and mysterious novel. There is a really strong bond between Hattie and Penny, one that isn’t necessarily based on them liking each other. There is a strange dynamic at play in their relationship and for a long time it seems like one of them is pulling all the strings but then the power shifts somewhat. Ultimately, they’re both complicit in making their lives turn out the way they did, and a lot of it has to do with jealousy and perceived wrong-doings between them. The title of this book is so perfect. Going into the book it seemed like it was a reference to two sisters who are close but once I started reading the book I could see its more a reference to the power play between them and ownership over each other.

This isn’t a black and white novel; the two sisters each have good and bad in them and it’s impossible to point at one of them and say that what they did was worse. They involve each other in everything and so the lines become very blurred about who is ultimately responsible and who did the worst thing.

Sister of Mine has a really claustrophobic atmosphere to it. I felt like I was right there with Penny and Hattie and it was stifling at times seeing their lives up close. The writing is brilliant to make me feel that way though, it really is a beautifully written book.

Sister of Mine is a compelling, claustrophobic and stunning look at two sisters and what each is prepared to do for the other. I loved this book, it is still lingering in my mind now and it’s a few weeks since I finished reading it. I recommend this one!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Sister of Mine is due to be published on 20 June and can be pre-ordered here.

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Book Review: The Friend Who Lied by Rachel Amphlett | @RachelAmphlett @BOTBSPublicity #TheFriendWhoLied

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About the Book

What she doesn’t know might kill her…Lisa Ashton receives a last-minute reprieve from death two weeks before her birthday. Regaining consciousness, she is horrified to learn one of her friends has been killed – and saved her life.

As she recovers, she uncovers a trail of carefully guarded reputations, disturbing rumours, and lies. Soon, Lisa begins to wonder if one of her friends is hiding a terrible secret.

Because five of them entered the escape room that day, and only four got out alive.

And someone is determined to cover their tracks before she can find out the truth.

Can Lisa find the killer before someone else dies?

 

My Thoughts

The Friend Who Lied follows Lisa, who as the book opens is just regaining consciousness and she has no idea what has happened. The novel then opens out as we follow the four friends as the secrets and lies that bound their group together may be about to break them apart!

The opening to this book is brilliant because we see things through Lisa’s eyes as she begins to come round, and for a moment I wasn’t sure what was happening! I wondered if she was being held somewhere but it quickly becomes clear that she is in hospital recovering from surgery that saved her life. We soon learn that five friends have been to an escape room but something has gone horribly wrong and one of them died.

Lisa’s friends are behaving oddly, they’re not visiting her as often as she would have expected and when she does see them she feels they’re keeping things from her. Then the police turn up asking questions about what happened in the escape room but Lisa can’t remember anything.

Lisa is the main character in this novel but we get the different perspectives of all four friends, and this made for a fascinating read. They have been friends since university, and I’m always intrigued by groups of people that remain friends long after they leave school/university as I never maintained my group of friends from that time because our lives moved in different directions. I’m in touch with some of them but not as a group. It seems this group of friends have things in common that will always bond them and I wanted to know more! The novel is mainly set in the present but there are chapters from their university days and that really ramps up the tension in this book as you start to understand who they are.

I didn’t trust anyone in this book – Hayley, David and Bec all seemed like they were out for themselves and very focused on how things would reflect on them. They all I loved how the focus shifted from one to another though because just as I thought I’d got to grips with what might be going on I got another viewpoint and my thoughts shifted again.

As you get further into the book you do feel the claustrophobia of the police closing in on this group as the investigation goes along. I thought it was really clever how these friends had done an escape room – a game where they were locked in and have to try and escape – and what happened there has led to them being in a real life escape room where their actual freedom is at stake!

I did have a growing suspicion about one of the characters as I got further into the book and I was proved right about them but there is more than one reveal as this book reaches its climax and I was stunned by most of them!

The Friend Who Lied is such a gripping thriller that had me hooked from start to finish! It was my first Rachel Amphlett novel but it absolutely won’t be my last, I can’t wait to read more from her! The Friend Who Lied is fast-paced, suspenseful and unputdownable; an all-round brilliant thriller!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Friend Who Lied is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Rachel Amphlett author photo

Before turning to writing, USA Today bestselling author Rachel Amphlett played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.

She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and writes crime fiction and spy novels, including the Dan Taylor and English Spy Mysteries espionage novels and theDetective Kay Hunter British police procedural series.

She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint, and the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag.

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Book Review: The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean | @FelicityMcLean @PtBlankBks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #VanApfelGirls

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About the Book

‘We lost all three girls that summer. Let them slip away like the words of some half-remembered song and when one came back, she wasn’t the one we were trying to recall to begin with.’

Tikka Molloy was eleven and one-sixth years old during the long hot summer of 1992, growing up in a distant suburb in Australia surrounded by encroaching bushland. That summer, the hottest on record, was when the Van Apfel sisters – Hannah, the beautiful Cordelia and Ruth – mysteriously disappeared during the school’s Showstopper concert, held at the outdoor amphitheatre by the river.

Did they run away? Were they taken?  While the search for the sisters unites the small community, the mystery of their disappearance has never been solved.   Now, years later, Tikka has returned home, to try to make sense of that strange moment in time. The summer that shaped her.  The girls that she never forgot.

 

My Thoughts

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is about Tikka Molloy, aged 11, and her friendship with the three Van Apfel sisters: Hannah, Cordelia and Ruth. The novel begins with Tikka in the present day where she’s living in Baltimore but she has to travel back to Australia to visit her family and she wants to know more about what happened to the Van Apfel girls.

This book is absolutely stunning. I started reading it in the garden on a beautiful sunny day and I just got lost in its pages. I was intrigued from the opening chapter and I just loved everything about this book.

Tikka is an interesting character and I like the way the book is framed both from her viewpoint as an adult reflecting on her childhood with the Van Apfel sisters but also from her viewpoint when she was an 11 year old. It really highlighted the way we remember things differently from the way they perhaps really were, and also how we just don’t fully understand things when we’re children and looking back through adult’s eyes puts a whole different spin on things.

The writing in this novel is mesmerising. I could feel the heat, I could feel the oppressive atmosphere of the Van Apfel family home when their parents were there. I had such a knot in my stomach reading parts of this book as I could see the things that 11 year old Tikka couldn’t quite grasp.

We know from the start of the novel that the Van Apfel girls all went missing but we don’t know then whether they ran away or were kidnapped, or if they came to harm so there is a mystery running through this book but it’s much more a coming of age novel. The Van Apfel girls felt almost ghostly to me throughout this book, even when we were there with them as young girls before they disappeared – it was as if they were right there but you could never got too close, you could never really get to know them fully. It wasn’t so much they had secrets as much as they were just set slightly apart from everyone else, even their best friends.

There was so much I could relate to in this book, I so remember that time when you’re wanting independence and feeling so grown up. You begin to feel you have a power but you don’t yet fully understand consequences. I felt such fear for Cordelia as she is so aware of her own body and the affect she’s having on boys (and grown men who should know better) and reading that as an adult was unnerving. I was willing her, and her sisters, to all be okay but it felt like this book was always leading towards something sad. There is a feeling of melancholy in the three sisters, and in the book as a whole, which I couldn’t look away from.

Running through this novel is the news story big in 1992 about Lindy Chamberlain who was cleared of killing her baby. She is the woman whose baby was taken by a dingo and never found. This gave another level to this novel as it did more than just reinforce when it was set but also the way that sometimes a child does just disappear. The thinking  when it happened was that the mother must have killed her baby, but her appeal in 1992 found that actually what the mother said happened was more likely to be true. This in relation to the Van Apfel girls has haunted me in the parallels and what it’s perhaps telling us about what really happened to them.

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is ultimately Tikka’s story; it’s about her trying to come to terms to what happened the summer she was eleven. It’s haunted her whole life to date and she seems to be at a place where she needs some resolution that she just can’t find. This was so relatable, we might not have had the same experience as her but we all have things in our lives that haunt us, we all have those ‘what ifs’, and so often we believe if we’d just done something differently then things might have turned out better. It’s life though, and not everything works out.

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is a captivating, mesmerising and haunting novel that I can’t stop thinking about. It’s such a beautifully written novel and I’m so glad that I got the chance to read it. I already know that this will be one of my top books of this year and I highly recommend it.

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Felicity McLean was born in Sydney Australia. She graduated at Sydney University with a BA in English and Australian literature and worked as a book publicist before embarking on a freelance career. Her journalism has appeared in The Daily Telegraph, The Courier Mail and the Big Issue, among others, and she has ghost-written celebrity autobiographies. THE VAN APFEL GIRLS ARE GONE is her first novel. She lives with her English husband and two young children in Australia.

 

 

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Book Review: The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw | @claidlawauthor @AccentPress @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini appears to be the luckiest girl in the world. She’s the daughter of a beautiful and loving mother, and her father is one of the most famous film actors of his generation. She’s also the granddaughter of a rather eccentric and obscure Italian astrophysicist.

But as her seemingly charmed life begins to unravel, and Emma experiences love and tragedy, she ultimately finds solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe.

The Space Between Time is humorous and poignant and offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

 

My Thoughts

The Space Between Time follows Emma from being a young girl to her becoming an adult. Her father is a really famous actor, and her grandfather is an obscure astrophysicist. As her father’s fame grows, her mother’s mental health seems to decline and Emma struggles to understand what is happening, while at the same time being deeply affected by it.

I really connected with Emma throughout this novel, there are so many things that she experiences that I could identify with. She goes through loss in different ways and her pain really radiated off the page. The way she feels grief was so palpable; the quote below is exactly how grief is.

Once, at a party, I smelled her perfume and came close to tears. I still feel that she’s close to by, almost within touching distance, her hand not quite on my shoulder, her lips not quite about to kiss the top of my head: not quite, and just out of sight. It’s as if she’s in another room, close by: her cremated particles reaching out, decaying on the breeze, becoming smaller, and smaller, and smaller.

I loved the parts of the book where Emma describes a photo of herself with her mum and dad at a film premiere but later we get another perspective on the photo as she works through her feelings about her father as he gets older. This made me cry, it so resonated with my own life and I felt I was right there with Emma. It captured grief and the slow acceptance of loss, but also the way we come to see things differently as we age. We perhaps understand more of our parents that we couldn’t possibly have grasped when we were younger and hadn’t got the reference points that being an adult ourselves brings. It’s also the acceptance that comes with getting older of taking people as they are, and that perhaps we expected more of them than they could give to us.

I came to love the fact that this book didn’t feel grounded in a particular time. There are references to things so you do know when it’s set but there is a real timeless feel to the novel. This is where the astrophysics comes into play – the idea of what is here now, and what was here before and what might be in the future. The whole novel seems to play with these ideas and Emma becomes interested in her grandfather’s work as she seeks solace from the loss in her life and it brings her comfort.

We all live in permanent chaos, however ordered our lives seem, with every innocuous action having lots of little consequences that are completely unpredictable.

There are some brilliant moments of humour sprinkled throughout too that made me properly laugh. The part of the book where Emma ends up at protest march with a man she slept with once is so perfectly written. Their argument ends up echoing the different banners around them and it’s utterly brilliant!

This is a novel that requires concentration and time so it took me a little while to get into it but there was a moment where this book just clicked for me and from then on I just couldn’t put it down. I fell in love with this story, it’s stunning!

The Space Between Time is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read and I’m so happy that I got the chance to read it.  This is a book to savour – I recommend reading it slowly and taking your time with it. There is so much of life – the beauty and the pain – contained within its pages and it’s a book where you won’t want to miss a thing. I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Accent Press for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my invitation to be on this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Space Between Time is due out on 20 June and can be pre-ordered here.

 

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

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Book Review: A Modern Family by Helga Flatland | @HelgaFlatland @rosie_hedger @OrendaBooks @annecater

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About the Book

When Liv, Ellen and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce.

Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.

 

My Thoughts

A Modern Family follows three siblings – Liv, Ellen and Hakon, their partners, and children as they travel to Rome to celebrate their father’s 70th birthday. During the celebrations they find out that their parents have decided to divorce and this sends shockwaves through the family.

The novel is told from the perspectives of the three siblings and the way it unfolds is so well done. First we follow Liv, the eldest child, and she is someone who likes to feel in control who thinks she can keep everything together so the news from her parents knocks her world off its axis. When it moves to Ellen, the middle sibling, we see an overlap of the revelation of their parents announcement and her reaction to it before we then learn more about her life. She keeps herself to herself a lot more than her brother and sister. The novel then goes back to Liv, and then to Ellen again before we hear from Hakon, the younger brother and the baby of the family.

I’ve found it so hard to get my thoughts in any kind of order to write this review because I just connected with the novel so much. I’m one of three (and we have similar age gaps between us as the siblings in this novel) so the different perspectives all had something in them that I either recognised in myself or in one of my siblings, or in how we interacted with each other. I adored that the love the members of the family all have for each other is really clear, they have their conflicts but ultimately they do all care how the others are doing. But within that you see how the things that are small to one sibling can cause another to be crumbling inside and they just don’t get how or why they are reacting in the way they are. This is so heart-wrenchingly true that I wanted to cry at these moments.

Helga Flatland’s writing has a delicate poignancy that also really gets you in the gut at times. It’s insightful and it makes you think about situations you’ve been in with your own family.  I’m the eldest child in my family and I could understand how Liv felt a lot of the time. There is a pressure on being the oldest, right from childhood you’re expected to be more grown up and to look after, and be a good example for, the younger children. It stays with you into adulthood and it does shape who you become. I did find that I identified more with Ellen, the middle child in this novel, as the story progressed though. I felt for her as she struggled silently, privately and didn’t feel she could share what she was going through with her family. I could totally see why she didn’t say anything but I was willing her to. Sometimes the people we’re meant to have the closest relationships with are the very ones that it’s so hard to open up to. Hakon’s was the section that surprised me the most. Throughout the book, through his sisters’ eyes he’s someone who doesn’t want to conform to society’s stereotypes. He doesn’t believe in monogamy or marriage. I thought I knew the kind of person he was but when I got to see his perspective it was really lovely to see who he is behind all the big statements.

A Modern Family is a stunning novel – I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that so captured what it is to be a sibling, that captured the complicated dynamics of a family so perfectly and with such brilliant insight. At times this book made me cry, and at other times I was smiling to myself as I recognised a silly misunderstanding. I haven’t stopped thinking about these characters since I finished reading the book and I already want to read it all over again. I have to commend Rosie Hedger, the translator of A Modern Family, too because this felt like a novel that had been written in English. The way she has worked with Helga Flatland’s words is wonderful. I am certain that this will be one of my books of 2019, it’s incredible! I love it so much that I’m definitely going to buy a print copy (I read it on Kindle) to have with my favourite books on my bookcase! I can’t find all the words to do justice to A Modern Family but please just take my word for how beautiful it is and add it to your summer reading stacks now!

Many thanks to Orenda Books for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

A Modern Family is due out on 13 June and can be pre-ordered here.

 

About the Author

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Helga Flatland ( born 16 September 1984) is a Norwegian novelist and children’s writer. She was born in Notodden and grew up in Flatdal. She made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Bli hvis du kan. Reis hvis du må, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ debutantpris . The novel was the first in a trilogy, and was followed by Alle vil hjem. Ingen vil tilbake (2012) and Det finnes ingen helhet (2013). In 2015 she published the novel Vingebelastning, as well as the children’s book Eline får besøk. In 2015 Flatland was awarded the Amalie Skram Prize and Mads Wiel Nygaard’s Endowment.

 

 

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Mini Book Reviews: Girl in Snow, I Know Who You Are, The Golden Child & Need to Know!

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Today I’m sharing some more mini book reviews as I continue my mission to catch up with my reviews!

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Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

This book is billed as a thriller but it’s more of an exploration of three characters, and once I realised that’s what it was I really quite enjoyed this novel. The premise is that a teenage girl, Lucinda, has been found murdered and the novel is told from the perspective of three other characters: Cameron – a teenage boy who is quite obsessed with Lucinda, Jade – a teenage girl who thinks Lucinda has a perfect life and she wants that for herself, and Russ – one of the detectives investigating the murder. I did hope for a bit more depth in these characters but having said that I did get completely invested in wanting to know what had made them the way they were, and how far Cameron and Jade’s fixation with Lucinda might have led them. It’s a book that really looks at what makes us who we are and makes us do the things we do, and what the consequences of that is. I’ll definitely look out for more books by this author and I recommend this one.

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I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney

I loved Alice Feeney’s previous novel, Sometimes I Lieso I had very high hopes for this new book. I was gripped very quickly and found it really hard to put down. The novel is about actress Aimee Sinclair. She comes home one day and finds her husband missing but she can’t remember when exactly she last saw him. The police get involved and very soon suspect Aimee of knowing more than she’s letting on. Aimee is something of an enigma, she plays on her acting skills to get her through situations but she’s also convinced she’s being stalked and becomes increasingly anxious and on edge. Interspersed with the chapters from the present day we find out about Aimee’s childhood, which was a difficult time for her. I’d say I very much enjoyed the first 80% or so of this novel but I just didn’t like the ending at all. I read a lot of thrillers and I’m quite happy to suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride but the ending of this book was just too far-fetched for me. It brought me right out of the book and I was left disappointed. I still love Alice Feeney’s writing and I will definitely be buying whatever she writes next but this book just wasn’t for me in the end.

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The Golden Child by Wendy James

This is such a brilliant novel! It follows Lizzy who is a blogger and she shares her perfect life online; unfortunately the reality isn’t quite so perfect. There is a lot of tension with her husband, her mum and her mother-in-law; not to mention the normal trials and tribulations of her two teenage daughters. Then one day a nasty episode of bullying happens at her daughters’ school and the finger of blame is pointed at one of Lizzy’s daughters. You also get to see the other side of the story as the novel follows the mother of the girl who was so horribly bullied. It’s fascinating to see how the two women deal with the situation and how the whole thing slowly unravels. I found this book so difficult to put down once I started reading it. The multiple perspectives keeps the book moving at a pace, and the way the lives of the so-called perfect family unravels is so well done. This is such a great novel and I definitely recommend it!

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Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

I read this book quite a while ago now and that fact that it is still sticking in my head shows how good it is! It’s a novel about Vivien, a CIA analyst who works to try and uncover Russian cells in the USA. She’s also married with a young family so she’s juggling a lot. One day she uncovers something at work and can’t unsee what she’s seen. The slow realisation that everything she holds dear could now be at risk is terrifying for her and she’s put in the position of whether to protect family or country. This novel is a rollercoaster ride and one that I just couldn’t stop reading once I started it. And it has one of the most brilliant endings to a novel, I loved it! I can’t wait to read Karen Cleveland’s next novel, which I believe is due out very soon!

 

 

Book Review: We Never Said Goodbye by Helene Fermont | @HeleneFermont @BOTBSPublicity

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About the Book

Is it ever too late for love?

When Mike dumps Louise on their 20th Wedding Anniversary, her entire world comes to an end.

Devastated and confused, she attempts to make sense of what happened and returns to a city she’s avoided for two decades.

Will she be able to move on with the man she left behind or will Mike’s increasingly violent and unhinged behaviour continue to haunt and ruin her life? When the reason Mike left her at long last is revealed Louise’s life is in serious danger.

 

My Thoughts

We Never Said Goodbye is the story of Louise. The novel opens with her waiting for her husband to come home so that they can go out and celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. Instead he phones her to tell her that their marriage is over!

This is the second novel I’ve read by Helene Fermont and she writes character driven plots that also have gripping storylines. She takes time to let us get to know all of her characters and to get to grips with their motivations.

We predominantly follow Louise in this novel and I felt that I really got to know her. She’s understandably devastated by her husband leaving her, and it’s made worse by the way he did it. She has really good friends in her life who take care of her as she grieves the loss of her marriage and she eventually starts to feel more herself again.

In the meantime her estranged husband Mike is becoming increasingly self-centred and vicious with everyone in his life. He treats his friend and business partner with no respect and in his new relationship with Abby he likes to show who’s boss.

The central thread in this novel is about Louise and Mike but the off-shoots off this story are also riveting. I felt completely invested in finding out what was going to happen to everyone in this novel and this kept me turning the pages!

The novel is set in both London and Malmo in Sweden. I really enjoyed exploring Malmo through this novel as Helene Fermont really brings the place to life and I could really envision everywhere she described. I loved the way the storyline went in Malmo, as we get to know more of Louise’s family and more about her background.

I really enjoyed We Never Said Goodbye and recommend it if you like domestic thrillers with great character exploration!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

We Never Said Goodbye is out now and available here.

 

 

About the Author

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Hélene Fermont writes character-driven psychological crime fiction with a Scandi Noir flavour. Known for her explosive, pacy narrative and storylines, she has published three novels – Because of YouWe Never Said Goodbye and His Guilty Secret – and two short story collections – The Love of Her Life and Who’s Sorry Now? Her fourth novel is due for release in the summer of 2019. After 20 years in London, Hélene recently returned to her native Sweden where she finds the unspoiled scenery and tranquillity a therapeutic boost for creativity. Enjoying a successful career as a Psychologist, when she’s not working her ‘day job’, Hélene spends her time writing, with friends and family, or playing with her beloved cat, Teddy. All three novels can be purchased via her website helenefermont.com/books/
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Book Review: I Heart Hawaii by Lindsey Kelk

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About the Book

When Angela Clark’s best friend Jenny invites her to join a press trip to Hawaii, three days of sun, sea and sleep sounds like the perfect antidote to her crazed life.

At work in New York, she’s supposed to be the face of Having It All. But the only thing Angela feels she excels at is hiding in the printer cupboard, eating Mini Cheddars and watching Netflix on her phone and if this is living the dream, she’s more than ready to wake up.

A few days away with Jenny sounds like exactly what she needs but Angela’s talent for getting into a scrape guarantees nothing goes to plan – and not even the most beautiful beaches, blue skies and daiquiris will get her off the hook…

 

My Thoughts

I have read and loved all of the I Heart… series and was really quite sad to discover that I Heart Hawaii is to be the last book. I’m very happy to say that it lives up to all the previous books though and is a fitting finale!

In I Heart Hawaii we catch up with Angela as she starts back at work, in a new job, following her maternity leave. She also gets invited to join a top mommy group and is immediately suspicious of why they want to recruit her. Jenny then invites Angela, plus their friend Louise, to join her on a work trip to Hawaii and it’s something they can’t refuse!

I Heart Hawaii had all the elements that I’ve loved in this series – humour mixed in with the occasional poignant moment. Angela is doing great as a new mum, and is as in love with her husband Alex as ever but she’s struggling to get everything done and to get back into professional mode. Jenny is as brilliant as ever – she is quite manically trying to pull together the few days in Hawaii to maximise the press and influencer coverage so her and Angela don’t get as much time together as had been hoped. The usual Jenny hi-jinx ensue when there’s a mishap with a firework but all’s well that ends well!

The ending of this book is sheer perfection. I don’t think I’ve ever shed tears over a contemporary fiction book before but I did cry towards the end of this book. The way Angela writes about friendship is so moving and so beautiful. It made me miss my best friend all over again.

I don’t know if this book would work as a standalone as I’m so invested in the series as a whole now – I suspect you probably would need to read the other books to really appreciate this one. It’s absolutely worth your time to start at the beginning though, it really is such a wonderful series!

I Heart Hawaii was a perfect end to a brilliant series, and is one I won’t forget. I’m sure I’ll re-visit Angela and Jenny one of these days as I love them too much not to!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

I Heart Hawaii is out now and available here.

Mini Book Reviews: Ordinary People, Salvage the Bones, The Furies and Entanglement!

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Today I’m sharing some mini book reviews of another handful of books that I’ve enjoyed recently!

 

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Ordinary People by Diana Evans

I had an ebook of this from NetGalley and I’ll be honest that I was struggling to get in to it so I bought the audio book, and once I started listening to this I just didn’t want to stop. It’s about two couples, although there is more focus on one of them, and it’s bookended by the election of Barack Obama and the death of Michael Jackson. I thought this was such a brilliant examination of relationships, of how things can go so wrong for one person and their partner doesn’t see it happening. At its core it’s a novel about the things a person loses when they commit to someone, when they become a parent, when life is pulling them in all kinds of directions but they have no time for who they are anymore. I thought this book was stunning, and it’s one that is really staying with me. I may even re-read it at some point. I recommend it!

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Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward

This is the first book I’ve read by Jesmyn Ward and I can say for sure that it won’t be the last. This novel grabbed me from the first page and held me in its spell until after I’d finished reading. It’s a book about a family who are attempting to prepare for Hurricane Katrina, but in the preparations you get to see the dynamics of this family and how they work as a group. They are poverty-stricken, they have lost their mother and they’re trying to survive. The writing in this novel is breath-taking at times. Ward captures the darkest of moments but the beauty in her words kept me reading, when the storyline made me want to look away. I can’t recommend this book highly enough!

 

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The Furies by Katie Lowe

This book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting it to be but I did very much enjoy it. It follows Violet, a teenage girl who is trying to come to terms with the loss of her dad and younger sister in an accident. She moves to a new school and there she meets Alex, Grace and Robin. She’s soon a part of their clique, and yet someone always on the periphery because she doesn’t know all of the secrets. The school has a dark history, the site the school stands on is the scene of where a witch was supposedly burnt in the 17th century. The witchcraft forms a part of the girls’ obsessions and things get dark. Once I got into this novel I found it hard to put down. On the surface it’s another novel about girls gone bad but actually it has so much more depth to it than that; it’s a real exploration of what makes people tick and how others can get drawn into things that they know they shouldn’t be doing. I recommend this one!

 

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Entanglement by Katy Mahood

This is a beautiful novel that manages to weave quantum physics into a stunning story. It’s a novel about two people whose lives keep interlinking and overlapping but they’re not fully aware of each other. It’s such a clever book as we follow both Stella and Charlie through their lives as they sometimes vaguely recognise the other but no where from, and yet we the reader know they were present at some really important moments in each other’s lives. These two characters have their own lives, their own relationships and their own heartaches to bear. It was wonderful to see them grow and to see how closely they got to each other before being moved further away again. It’s such an unusual way of telling a story but I was completely engrossed in it. Before starting the book I assumed this was going to be a love story, and while it is a story about love and relationships and how important a random connection can be, it’s more a story about love. I highly recommend this one!