Review: ‘Favourite Daughter’ by Kaira Rouda ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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One of them lied. One of them died.

Jane’s life has become a haze of antidepressants since the tragic death of her daughter, Mary. The accident, which happened a year ago now, destroyed their perfect family life forever.

The trouble is, the more Jane thinks about that night, the more that she realises that something doesn’t seem right. Does her youngest daughter know more than she’s letting on? What secrets is her husband still hiding from her? And why does no one trust her on her own?

Even if it’s the last thing she does, she’ll find out the truth.

 

Told from the perspective of Jane, a twisted and delusional Orange County housewife, this book is like going inside the mind of the epitome of a narcissist and sociopath. A delicious delight to read, but a toxic nightmare to those around her, I loved every second inside Jane’s mind. The author has written what I think is one of the most addictive thrillers of the year.

It’s been a year since Mary, the perfect daughter in the Harris family, fell to her death in a tragic accident. In that time her mother Jane has been unable to deal with her life and just trying to survive each day surrounded by the fog of grief that engulfs her. Her husband, David, and disappointing younger daughter, Betsy, are barely around and she feels abandoned. The only people that listen are her psychologist and the Lyft driver who takes her to her errands and appointments. On the first anniversary of Mary’s death she receives an anonymous note that reads: MARY’S DEATH WAS NOT AN ACCIDENT. JUST ASK BETSY. Jane immediately believes her secretive daughter is hiding something, she’s just like her cheating father after all, and starts in motion of revenge for their betrayal and justice for the death of the favourite daughter.

Oh Jane. Controlling, manipulative, condescending, demanding and crazy Jane. She is one of the most unapologetically awful people I’ve ever read and, in a strange way, I adored her as much as I despised her. At the beginning she seems to be a sympathetic character: her daughter died, her husband is hardly home and is clearly cheating on her, and she’s isolated. But it doesn’t take long for her to show her true, ugly, colours. She has a justification for every action, lies without a second thought and takes joy in plotting revenge to ruin the lives of those she believes have betrayed her. Jane gets what she wants and will lie or take out anyone who gets in her way without a hint of remorse. She has a warped idea of what it means to be a good mother and if you google “how not to be a good mother” there is probably a list of everything Jane does. If there isn’t then there should be.

Favourite Daughter is a definite page-tuner and I couldn’t tear myself away once I began reading. I loved how the author had Jane talk directly to the reader, almost as if we’re friends. It was a great tool in showing the extent of her delusion and connecting us with her. Thought I saw a number of things coming it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the book as how things were revealed to Jane and her reaction to them was fun to read. It is a testament to this author’s talent that she was able to create someone who encompasses such narcissistic and sociopathic traits but still manages to evoke sympathy from the reader. Ms Rouda has found herself a new fan that is going to buy her first book as soon as I finish writing this.

Thank  you to NetGalley, HQ and Kaira Rouda for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Out Now.

My Sentimental Book Stack

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I was tagged by @diaryofabookmum & @silverliningsandpages on bookstagram to create a #sentimentalstack and enjoyed doing it so much that I decided to post it on here too.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓓𝓸𝓵𝓵 𝓕𝓪𝓬𝓽𝓸𝓻𝔂 & 𝓕𝓻𝓪𝓷𝓷𝓲𝓮 𝓛𝓪𝓷𝓰𝓽𝓸𝓷 – these were the books from the first author event I went to since starting my bookstagram account. It was such a special moment that I’ll never forget.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓵𝓸𝓻 𝓟𝓾𝓻𝓹𝓵𝓮 – The first book my other half bought me for my first birthday together. He bought me purple themed gifts and didn’t know I’d always wanted to read this book

𝓜𝔂 𝓢𝓲𝓼𝓽𝓮𝓻’𝓼 𝓚𝓮𝓮𝓹𝓮𝓻 – the first book I read by one of my favourite authors Jodi Picoult.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓦𝓲𝔃𝓪𝓻𝓭 𝓸𝓯 𝓞𝔃 – A favourite childhood book and the start of a lifelong obsession.

𝓜𝓪𝓽𝓲𝓵𝓭𝓪 & 𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓑𝓕𝓖 – two of my favourite childhood books that evoke good memories.

𝓘𝓷 𝓒𝓸𝓵𝓭 𝓑𝓵𝓸𝓸𝓭 – I read this as part of my English A Level. It was the first true crime book I read, before this it was only magazine articles. It instantly struck a chord and cemented my interest in true crime.

𝓕𝓵𝓸𝔀𝓮𝓻𝓼 𝓲𝓷 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓐𝓽𝓽𝓲𝓬 – I first read this as a teen and have read it many times.

𝓐 𝓣𝓲𝓶𝓮 𝓣𝓸 𝓚𝓲𝓵𝓵 – my first John Grisham book. He’s been a favourite author of mine ever since.

What would be in your sentimental book stack? Comment below.

Review: ‘A Nearly Normal Family’ by M. T. Edvardsson ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Every murder cases starts with a suspect.

What if the suspect was your daughter?

Would you believe her, or the evidence against her?

THE FATHER Believes his daughter has been framed.

THE MOTHER Believes she is hiding something.

THE DAUGHTER Believes they have no idea what she’s truly capable of…

There are three sides to the story. And the truth will shatter this family to pieces.

 

Thank you to NetGalley, Pan Macmillan and M. T. Edvardsson for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

“We were a perfectly ordinary family, and then everything changed.”

Eighteen-year-old Stella Sandell is being held on suspicion of murder. Her father is sure she’s innocent. Her mother thinks there’s a chance she’s guilty.The evidence against her is mounting and yet her lips are sealed. Did she brutally stab Christopher Olsen in a fit of jealousy or is there another culprit out there? Why won’t she tell them where she was that night? Does she know what happened?

Told in three parts, each from the perspective of a different family member, each of our narrators are unreliable and leave us wondering which parts of their versions are true. The first part, which was narrated by the father, was probably the slowest and least enjoyable of them all for me. I think I just didn’t like him and quickly got the impression that despite being a pastor he was not practicing what he preached and was one of those who used their faith to excuse what they do wrong. I also found his spiraling unethical behaviour both idiotic and hypocritical. As a parent of teens I did understand some of his feelings and actions but something just never sat quite right with me and I had more empathy for his rebellious teenage daughter.

Part two was where this book became impossible to put down. Narrated by Stella, I was gripped by the raw honesty and saddened by how her parents let her down, didn’t seem to listen to her and see who she really is. Her father in particular seems only concerned with control and making Stella who he thinks she should be. There was one particular incident where I was enraged at how they handled things. They failed their daughter at the time in her life she needed them the most and I understood her rage towards them. Her conversations with her psychologist were fascinating and I liked the observations she made about how we can all find parts of ourselves in any psychological test we take. As Stella told the story of the night Chris was killed I was on tenterhooks for the reveal only to have it snatched away as the author then switched narrators for part three. A frustrating but fantastic move on his part in my opinion. I had so many questions by this point and had no idea what the truth was so I was left with no other option but to read furiously to the end for answers.

As we reached the final part where the mother, Ulrika narrates, it is time for the trial. Ulrika is a lawyer and we learn she has used her legal knowledge to concoct a plan with her daughter’s lawyer Michael. She talks a lot about her guilt at failing her daughter over the years. She had always struggled to be close to her daughter and focused on her career to alleviate the guilt she felt at being an inadequate parent. She’s clearly hoping that she has the chance to rectify these mistakes, if the mysterious plan works. She knows more about what happened that night than we’ve been led to believe and as we head towards the end of the book the bombshells are dropped in spectacular style and left me reeling. Ulrika’s apprehension in this part of the book was palpable and it was impossible not to get caught up in how she felt.

I have read a few books lately that tackle the question of what you would do if your child was accused of murder. This novel stands out among them as a captivating, ambiguous and twisting story about family, the secrets we keep and the lengths we’ll go to for those we love. I liked that each narrator was unreliable as it left you trying to figure out who is telling the truth as well as guessing how the story will end.

The author pulled off an amazing coupe de grâce with the way he ended this book. I loved how he pulled everything together and kept the reader on tenterhooks until the very end. A Nearly Normal Family is a brilliant piece of Scandinavian Noir that I recommend to anyone who loves thrillers.

Publications Day: July 11th.

 

Review: ‘The Last Widow’ by Karin Slaughter ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Michelle felt her mouth drop open.

A van slid to a stop besides her daughter.The side door rolled open.

A man jumped out.

Michelle gripped her keys. She bolted into a full-ou run, cutting the distance between herself and her daughter. She started to scream, but it was too late.

Ashley had run off, just like they had taught her to do. Which was fine, because the man did not want Ashley.

He wanted Michelle.

Thank you to HarperCollins UK, Netgalley and Karin Slaughter for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

An exciting, absorbing and frighteningly real thriller, this novel is an example of why Ms Slaughter is one of the world’s most acclaimed authors.

Told in the third person with multiple narrators, the story begins with the abduction of Michelle Spivey in a shopping centre car park. It then jumps forward to a month later and the rest of the book takes place over a tense three days.

Two explosions rock the Emory University Campus. Will Trent, a special agent with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and girlfriend Sara Linton, a doctor and medical examiner with the GBI, race to help after feeling the earth shake and seeing the plumes of smoke rise. On their way there they come across a car accident and stop to help. Too late they realise these aren’t innocent victims, they’re part of the team who attacked the campus. Not only that but with them is Michelle Spivey who is terrified and bleeding. In the ensuing fight Will is seriously injured and Sara is taken.

But why is the FBI so tight lipped about what they know? What are the Independent Patriot Army planning? Why do they need Michelle, a scientist with the Centres for Disease Control? Finding themselves embroiled in the complex case, the team race against the clock to save Sara, rescue Michelle, and prevent whatever atrocity the IPA has planned.

Wow! I needed some time to catch my breath after finishing this book. It was quite a ride. The multilayered plot deals with topical threats and issues that give the book an added sense of realism and made it a chilling read.

The characters were well written and very real. I loved Sara, Will and Faith and thought they each added different but complementary aspects to the story. The relationship between Sara and Will helped create an extra layer of desperation and tension that I enjoyed too. When it comes to protagonists Dash and Gwen are two of the most despicable people I’ve read. Their callous, cruel, deluded and reprehensible actions and beliefs made them hard to read at times but also very real. They are exactly the kind of people you can believe would get caught up in such cowardly and heinous acts. The ones I felt pity for were their children and the young, vulnerable people they’d manage to convince to follow them and were entangled in things they didn’t really understand.

When I requested this book I didn’t realise it was part of the Will Trent series, which I’d heard of but never got around to reading. Despite not having read the previous eight books in the series I never felt like I was missing anything as there is enough backstory given that you understand the relationships and what has led to this point in the character’s stories. That being said, I would no doubt have had a deeper understanding of the characters and past events if I’d read the other books and reading this has made me even more eager to read the series from the start.

The Last Widow is expertly written and thoroughly researched. It is a story told with candor and a spectacular, absorbing, eye-opening, intelligent and affecting thriller. Despite the dark and serious topics there is humour woven throughout the book and there were many scenes that had me laughing out loud, as well as ones that were harrowing and heartbreaking. I raced through this book and found myself unable to tear myself away. I was desperate to discover the answers to my questions and see how it would end.

I have been a fan of Karin Slaughter since I read Blindsighted many years ago, but I haven’t read any of her books in a while. This book reminded me why I love her work and I now want to read everything she’s written as soon as possible.

Published June 13th

May Wrap Up

That’s another month wrapped! We’re now almost half way through the year and Summer is nearly here.

So how has May been for everyone? I’ve had a great month and managed to read 14books. Also this month I went to my first author event and book signing since joining bookstagram. I still plan to do a blog post about it but as with some of the reviews I’m a little behind so please bear with me.

So let’s take a look at what I read in May:

  1. ‘The Corset’ by Laura Purcell ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Is prisoner Ruth Butterham mad or a murderer? Victim or villain? This is what Dorothea Truelove doesn’t know when she begins to visit the alleged murderess in prison. A dark, haunting, atmospheric and chilling gothic novel this book was impossible to put down. While telling a great story the author also highlights important issues and takes an interesting look at mental health and women’s roles in society in Victorian times. With this book Laura Purcell has solidified her place in my top authors list.                                      Out Now
  2. ‘The Au Pair’ by Emma Rous ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This family saga that echoes the writing style of V. C. Andrews and combines it with the mysteries of Gillian Flynn. Twins Seraphine and Danny Mayes are the first twins born on their family’s estate in years. But the same day they’re born their mother plunges to her death and the au pair disappears. Ever since, whispers of folklore have followed the twins and left Seraphine feeling like she doesn’t belong. Who is she? And what exactly happened the day she and her brother were born? My review for this novel will be published closer to the release date but I will say that this is a book full of surprising twists that kept me guessing throughout.                                                                                  Published July 11th
  3. ‘The Flat Share’ by Beth O’Leary ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 – This was a refreshing, witty novel that wasn’t your average chic lit. Full of soul, heart, courage and spirit, this is a book that not only deals with romance but also the heavier topics of toxic relationships and PTSD. It perfectly balances the whimsical and the darker sides making it relatable and uplifting. This book has been everywhere and actually lives up to all the hype.                                                                                                                                  Out Now
  4. ‘After The End’ by Clare Macintosh ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – A heartbreaking and impossible dilemma is handled in a beautiful, sensitive and original way in this emotional novel. This isn’t the kind of book you expect from this Ms Macintosh but it could be her best yet. My review will be posted on publication day.                              Published June 25th
  5. ‘The Neighbour’ by Fiona Cummins ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – FOR SALE: A lovely family home with a good-sized garden and trees occupying a plot close to woodland. Perfect for kids, fitness enthusiasts, dog-walkers…And, it seems, a perfect hunting ground for a serial killer. This tense, gripping thriller is one I’m behind on the review for.             Out Now
  6. ‘For The Love Of Books’ by Graham Tarrant ⭐⭐⭐.5 – A book about books! This is a light-hearted and quick read that biblophiles will enjoy. While I did find some parts a little tedious, this was overall a fun read.                                                           Published June 4th
  7. ‘Hello My Name Is May’ by Rosalind Stopps ⭐⭐⭐⭐- This book was not what I expected, but in a good way. Told in dual timelines, present-day May is sharp, witty, scathing and frustrated at the loss of her ability to speak and control her body after a stroke. Back in the late ‘70s young May is a woman living in fear who feels trapped in her life and too terrified to change it. This is a book that is enjoyable but also hard to read as it tackles domestic and elder abuse in a raw and honest way. A gripping and touching read with a ending that shook me to the core.Out now
  8. ‘Someone You Know’ by Olivia Isaac-Henry ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – When the body of Tess’s twin sister, Edie is found two decades after she disappeared Tess decides it’s finally time to discover the truth about what happened to her beloved sister. A captivating thriller full of twists and turns.                                                                                            Out Now
  9. ‘The Missing Years’ by Lexie Elliott ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – The eerie and bizarre is woven throughout this tale about family and self-discovery from the outset. Atmospheric, haunting, creepy and macabre with shocking twists and an ending that I wasn’t prepared for. This is a steady-paced and engrossing read that’s perfect for anyone who loves a good thriller.Published June 6th  
  10. ‘Lying Next To You’ by Gregg Olsen ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 – I devoured this addictive, fast-paced novel and would have read it in one sitting if not for that pesky thing called sleep…The bombshell finale had my jaw on the floor and it is a testament to the writing how I can instantly recall lines that now have a completely different meaning and were a subtle foreshadowing of the truth. Lying Next To Me is a story about family, love, lust, sex, secrets, betrayal, desperation and revenge. I highly recommend this dramatic, layered, tense and twisty thriller. Just make sure you have plenty of time spare as you won’t want to put it down.                                            Out Now
  11. ‘The Queen of Hearts’ by Kimmery Martin ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I loved this book so  much that I could read it every day and it would bring me joy. This debut novel is not just a pretty book, it’s a spectacular novel that had me savouring every word and completely immersed in the pages. The author has created the perfect amalgamation of her two loves: medicine and literature. Intelligent, funny, mesmerising and at times gut-wrenching, I highly recommend this to everyone.   Out Now.
  12. ‘Before She Was Found’ by Heather Gudenkauf ⭐⭐⭐.5 – Three twelve year old girls walked into a train yard and two come out unscathed… Having your child attacked and almost killed is every parents worst nightmare. Or is it? What if your child was suspected of attempting to kill their friend? This was a twisty, readable thriller that opens with a chilling first chapter and keeps it’s secrets right up until the final pages.                                                                                                          Published  June 13th 
  13. ‘The Confessions of Frannie Langton’ by Sara Collins ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I’ve yet to publish my review for this novel but this could have easily been my book of the month. This is one of those books that reaches into your soul. It tells the story of Frances Langton, a former slave who is awaiting trial for the murder of her Master and Mistress. Frannie says she couldn’t have done it because she loved her Mistress. This book deals with important issues from the era , some of which are still relevant today. A spectacular debut novel that I highly recommend. The review will be up on the blog soon.                                                                                                                          Out Now
  14. ‘The Last Widow’ by Karin Slaughter ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – An exciting, absorbing, and frighteningly real thriller, this novel is an example of why Ms Slaughter is one of the world’s most acclaimed authors. The story begins with an abduction in a shopping centre car park and then jumps forward to a month later. The rest of the story takes place over a tense three days. I’m currently in the process of writing the review for this book and it should be up on the blog in the next few days, but trust me when I say this is a thriller you don’t want to miss.                                      Published June 13th

My favourite book this month was The Queen of Hearts, although The Confessions of Frannie Langton is so good they almost tie as my favourites.

Have you read any of these books or are they in your TBR pile? What was your favourite book in May? Comment below.

Thank you to Kimmery Martin, Atlantic Books, Corvus Books, Quercus Books, Harper Collins UK, Little Brown Book Group UK, Thomas & Mercer, HQ, Avon Books UK, Skyhorse Publishing and NetGalley for my copies of these novels in exchange for an honest review.

Review: ‘Little Girls Sleeping’ by Jennifer Chase ⭐⭐⭐

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He looked down at the little girl, sleeping peacefully, her arms wrapped around a teddy bear. He could let her sleep forever.

An eight-year-old girl, Chelsea Compton, is missing in Pine Valley, California and for Detective Katie Scott it’s a cruel reminder of the friend who disappeared from summer camp twenty years ago. Unable to shake the memories, Katie vows she won’t rest until she discovers what happened to Chelsea.

But as Kate starts to investigate, the case reveals itself to be much bigger and more shocking than she feared. Hidden in the depths of the forest she unearths a makeshift cemetery: a row of graves, each with a brightly coloured teddy bear.

Katie links the graves to a stack of missing-persons cases involving young girls – finding a pattern no one else has managed to see. Someone in Pine Valley has been taking the town’s daughters for years, and Katie is the only one who can stop them.

And then another little girl goes missing, snatched from the park near her home.

Katie’s still haunted by the friend she failed to protect, and she’ll do anything to stop the killer striking again – but can she find the little girl before it’s too late?

Thank you to NetGalley, Bookoture and Jennifer Chase for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

The book opens with an unknown man who is creating his masterpiece: a grave. We then jump to four years later when Katie Scott is flying back home after two years in the army in Afghanistan working with the K9 unit finding explosives. Unsure what career path to take now she’s home Katie takes a temporary position at the Sheriff’s Office. One day she happens upon the cold case of missing eight-year-old Chelsea Compton. Reminded by the disappearance and murder of her childhood friend, Jenny, and feeling the crime was improperly investigated, she begins her own search for the girl.

When Katie locates not just Chelsea’s grave, but a row of graves in a remote area, the case becomes more than anyone had first thought. When another girl goes missing Katie vows to find the killer before it’s too late.

This was an easy read but it felt predictable. The elements for a great thriller were all there but that magic element was elusive. Katie was a whiny character that I just couldn’t take too. Though she was lavished with praise in the novel her discoveries were written as accidents instead of the result of her investigative techniques so I failed to agree with the consensus that she was a skilled detective. Only surface details were given for all the characters with Katie’s ptsd not even managing to provide depth for her character and becoming repetitive.

On a positive note, the crime scenes were chilling and the killer began as someone eerie and sinister. His twisted ideology made him a killer I was excited to read but again I felt like his character was underdeveloped and there was no real climax, just disappointment at the way it concluded. It felt like the author tried to do too much so the story and characters were rushed in exchange for packing a lot in. Crime fiction is a saturated market and sadly this one just didn’t stand out among the quality that is out there.

Out May 31st

Review: ‘Dead Inside’ by Noelle Holton ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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*** TRIGGER WARNING *** Domestic abuse.

A dark and gripping debut crime novel – the first in a stunning new series – from a huge new talent.

The killer is just getting started…

When three wife beaters are themselves found beaten to death, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she is facing her toughest case yet.

The police suspect that Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – who is connected to all three victims –  is hiding a dark secret. Then a fourth domestic abuser is brutally murdered.

And he is Lucy’s husband.

Now the police are running out of time, but can Maggie really believe her friend Lucy is a cold-blooded killer?

Thank you to NetGalley, Harper Impulse and Killer Reads, and Noelle Holten for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Everyone has a motive and you can’t help but think the victims got what they deserve in this dark, gruesome and hard hitting debut novel. Beginning with a prologue that details a woman’s dread as her husband arrives home drunk, how that night something even worse than usual happens as he rapes her for the first time, I knew instantly this would be hard to read in places.

Though this book was filled with lots of characters and is written from more points of view than any other I’ve read, it was never confusing which was a testament to the skill of this author. Some of these were obvious stereotypes while others, like Lucy weren’t. She isn’t what you think of when you imagine an abused spouse and this helped to highlight that anyone has the potential to find themselves in that kind of relationship. Reading her chapters was often difficult but for me the ones I found most sickening were those told from the point of view of the perpetrators. The ones who first come to mind are Patrick and Robert. The insight into their twisted minds, the sheer enormity of their rage over the slightest perceived wrong, and how they recognised and enjoyed their behaviour made my stomach crawl.

Probation isn’t a side of crime usually included in crime fiction so it was interesting and refreshing to read about it in this book. It’s a side of the law I have never really thought about and I was sad but not surprised to read how so many of those convicted of domestic abuse re-offend, as it was to read how many victims are almost complicit in the cycle as they struggle to break free of their abusive partner or spouse.

The unsettling subject matter made this an emotive read. I’d veer from empathy for the victims of abuse to anger and disgust at the perpetrators, to feeling quite glad the men had been killed and thinking the murderer was actually doing society a favour by administering their own version of justice. Though at times predictable, this was a compelling and provocative novel and I look forward to reading the next installment in the series.

Out May 31st