BLOG TOUR: ‘The Darkest Summer’ by Ella Drummond ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

 

Today is my stop on #TheDarkestSummer blog tour.

Thank you to Sarah Hardy at BOTBS Publicity for the invitation to be part of the blog tour.

SYNOPSIS:

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 thirty 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…

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REVIEW:

This twisty, readable book is perfect for a hot summer’s day. You can practically feel the heat sizzling from the pages as the author vividly describes the sweltering weather and fires. It is a mystery filled with dark secrets, murder and life-changing revelations.

For fifteen years Sera has wondered what became of her best friend, Dee, and her family after they disappeared suddenly one day that hot summer. When she sees Dee’s brother Leo back in town she’s hoping that she finally gets answers and the chance to rekindle her lost friendship. But it is soon apparent that Dee and Leo aren’t the people she used to know, and that there seems to be something sinister about the secrets they’re keeping. Maybe inviting them into her home wasn’t the wisest thing to do…

The Darkest Summer is set in the New Forest in the present day with flashbacks to the summers of 1990 and 2003. The scenery of the New Forest is described with breathtaking beauty and is a large part of the story. I spent my formative years near that area and as I read it conjured up images of my youth spending time in places like the ones Sera describes. It is an almost idyllic place to be and I was so fully immersed in the book that I really felt like I was back there.

As well as our main storyline there are numerous subplots that run parallel in the flashbacks and ultimately merge together, though I couldn’t see how some of them would. I loved the clever twists and turns the author wrote that made seemingly mismatched the pieces fit together. 

One subplot was Henri, the Sera’s new neighbour. I had a soft spot for Henri from the start and had a gut feeling he was a good guy, so I was hoping I’d be proven right. I loved the blossoming friendship between him and Sera and the mystery surrounding his past. I had no predictions about his past so I thoroughly enjoyed she surprises in his storyline. The subplot concerning Mimi and Hazel was also fascinating and I enjoyed learning more about both mothers and how they came to be the women their daughters now know, particularly Mimi as she’s not the warmest character in the book. 

This book was filled with a host of colourful characters, each of which I loved for different reasons. Sera, our main narrator and our protagonist, was a great character. She and her daughter Katie moved back to her hometown to live with her mother three years ago after her husband died suddenly. She’s still working through her grief and feels suffocated at times by her mother, who she’s always had a difficult relationship with. When she was a child her single mother was mostly learning lines or away working, so she got little of the attention she craved. Instead, she found maternal attention from Hazel, her best friend Dee’s mother, who was the cool, vivacious, affectionate mother she dreamed of. She and Dee were inseparable, had many things in common, and Sera spent most of her time on their farm and felt a part of their family so their sudden disappearance cut her deeply. She’s never recovered from that loss so rekindling those relationships is a dream come true when Dee and her brother Leo first come back into her life and, as a reader I was rooting for that, and for the potential relationship between Sera and Leo. 

Dee was so well written that despite the massive change in her personality and how moody and dismissive she is as an adult, I had a lot of sympathy for her. It seemed like she must have been through something extremely traumatic as she was showing signs of mental health issues and possibly PTSD. Her refusal to talk about anything that had happened was suspicious, especially as Leo was cagey too, but I hoped it was just that she was too traumatised to discuss it yet and he was respecting her wishes. The author made the many facets of her personality completely believable but like Sera I too got tired of her outbursts, how she controlled the entire household with them, her taking advantage of people, and with her strange behaviour towards her daughter. By the end I couldn’t stand her and wanted Sera to get as far away from her as possible. 

This intriguing story started slowly and built the tension steadily until it became a crescendo in the last third of the book. It didn’t feel like a tense thriller but was full of mystery and had me guessing throughout. The many twists and turns were mostly unpredictable, with one in particular completely blindsiding me and turning so much of what I had predicted on its head. 

I hadn’t read any of the author’s books before this one but when I read the description I was sold and I will definitely read more of her work. A compelling, character-driven summer read that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys mysteries and literary fiction.

Thank you to Sarah Hardy, Hera Books, Ella Drummond and NetGalley the E-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Out Now.

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AUTHOR BIO:

Ella Drummond recently signed a two-book deal with Hera Books. Her first psychological thriller, My Last Lie is out now and The Darkest Summer will be out on 18 July 2019 and is available for pre-order.

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/  

BUY THE BOOK:

Review: ‘The Other Mrs Miller’ by Allison Dickson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

Two women are watching each other.

Phoebe isn’t sure when the car started showing up. At first she put it down to the scandal around her late father, but she’s certain now it’s there for her. What’s interesting about an unhappily married housewife, who barely leaves the house?

Only one knows why.

Every morning before your husband leaves for work, I wait for the blinds beside your front door to twitch. You might think I’m sitting out here waiting to break into your house and add a piece of your life to my collection. Things aren’t that simple. It’s not a piece of your life I want. 

When a new family moves across the street it provides Phoebe with a distraction. But with her head turned she’s no longer focused on the woman in the car. And Phoebe really should be, because she’s just waiting for the opportunity to upend Phoebe’s life…

***SOON TO BE A MAJOR TV SERIES***

REVIEW:

This utterly compelling, taut, twisty and explosive debut fizzes with electricity and brings the most shocking twist I think I’ve read in years! I read it within a day and while I know the word unputdownable is overused when it comes to books, this book genuinely was; and when I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it. 

Told in two parts, the story is narrated by Phoebe Miller and the mysterious woman in the car who’s watching her. Phoebe is unhappily married to Wyatt and lives in self-imposed isolation as she tries to hide from the scandals and media frenzy that her late father left behind. She’s been noticing a car parked near their house and is sure the person inside is watching her. Wyatt thinks she’s overreacting but she’s right, the woman is watching her and just biding her time until she makes her move. We’re given few clues as to the identity of the mysterious woman but a sense of foreboding and trouble radiates from her and I worried for Phoebe’s safety. 

When the Napier family move in across the street Phoebe is surprised to find herself becoming friends with Vicki Napier. For a time her attentions are consumed by the family as she starts playing a dangerous game that, if discovered, could see her life implode and cause further scandal. There’s some mystery surrounding the Napiers too and they seem to have moved to the area in a hurry following a scandal of their own. 

Sophisticated, original, salacious and riveting, this was an electrifying read. It was buzzing with so many possibilities as to where the story could go, who the mystery woman could be and what the outcome of Phoebe’s choices could be, that I had no idea where the author would take it or what would happen next. This added even more tension and atmosphere to a book already sizzling with both.

This is a story full of twists, but there is one in particular that was punch to the gut shocking and still has me reeling. I actually shouted “What the @*&!” when it happened. So many times I was blindsided in this book and in awe of the authors talents for coming up with such spectacular and ingenious plot twists. All the characters were well written and I found myself particularly liking the two narrators. I don’t want to say more as it could spoil the surprises for those who’ve yet to read it and for me those were part of what made this book so fantastic. I was thrilled to see that it’s already lined up to be a TV show as it’s exactly the kind of thing I love to watch.

The small amount of hype I’ve seen online doesn’t do justice to how bloody brilliant it actually is. Anyone who enjoys thrillers NEEDS to read this book! A sensational debut that’s left me excited to see what Ms Dickson writes next. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Little, Brown Book Group UK and Allison Dickson for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

Publication Date: July 16th

 

 

Review: ‘Lady in the Lake’ by Laura Lippman ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

A stunning, multi-voiced, period piece – tackling race, gender politics, and the volatility of mid ‘60s America – from the author of SUNBURN

Cleo Sherwood disappeared eight months ago. Aside from her parents and the two sons she left behind, no one seems to have noticed. It isn’t hard to understand why: it’s 1964 and neither the police, the public nor the papers care much when Negro women go missing.

Maddie Schwartz – recently separated from her husband, working her first job as an assistant at the Baltimore Sun- wants one thing: a byline. When she hears about an unidentified body that’s been pulled out of the fountain in Druid Hill Park, Maddie thinks she’s about to uncover a story that will finally get her name in print. What she can’t imagine is how much trouble she will cause by chasing a story that no-one wants her to tell.

REVIEW:

“Alive, I was Cleo Sherwood. Dead, I became the Lady in the Lake..” 

Set in Baltimore in the mid ‘60s, Lady in the Lake tackles some of the prominent issues of the era such as racial discrimination, women’s role in society and gender inequality. It is also a story of women trying to make a better and happier life for themselves, forbidden love and secrets. 

The story begins with a haunting, mysterious, and foreboding prologue that left me excited about the book and full of questions that I couldn’t wait to have answered. 

Told by multiple narrators, the two women whose stories are the focus of this novel, are also the narrators we see the most. Cleo Sherwood is a single mother who is trying to get ahead and create a good life for herself and her two sons. She had moved out of her parents house leaving her boys there, although she visited regularly, and was working in a local bar. She disappears on New Year’s Eve after being seen on a date with a mystery man but no-one other than her family seem to care.

Maddie Schwartz is the typical beautiful and perfect housewife but she feels bored and trapped. She leaves her  husband after almost two decades of marriage and is trying to start again, which for her means an exciting relationship with an unsuitable man and getting a job as an assistant at a local newspaper. When Cleo’s body is found she becomes determined to find out what happened to her despite warnings that not only does no-one care, but she will get herself and others hurt if she pursues it. Wanting not only justice but her name on a story, she decides to ignore the warnings and continue her investigations.

The story unfolded in a way I didn’t expect but really enjoyed. I liked that I could never figure out who had killed Cleo and that most of the twists took me by surprise. I loved the historical aspect of the book and the author had me immersed in the era, especially when reading the parts narrated by Maddie and Cleo.

The abundance of narrators did sometimes feel too much, but most of them did give a perspective that added to the story and gave you possible clues so I could see a reason to give them a voice. The chapter narrated by Cleo’s eldest son was particularly heartbreaking and I was in tears reading it. It was a great reminder of Cleo as a mother as that side of her was overlooked by most people as they chose instead to focus on the more salacious side of her character to paint her in the light that suited them. 

I’ve wanted to read a novel by this author for a long time so I was thrilled to have the chance to review this ARC and I can’t wait to read more of her work. Lady in the Lake reminds us how difficult it was for women of any race to make a better life for themselves outside of the social conventions in a time not so long ago. An intriguing and alluring novel that I would definitely recommend.

Thank you to NetGalley, Faber & Faber and Laura Lippman for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: July 25th 

Publication Day Review: ‘The Au Pair’ by Emma Rous ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Happy Publication Day to Emma Rous!

SYNOPSIS:

Seraphine Mayes and her brother Danny are the first set of twins to be born at Summerbourne House. But on the day they were born their mother threw herself to her death, their au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of a stolen baby.

Now twenty-five, and mourning the recent death of her father, Seraphine uncovers a family photograph taken the day the twins were born featuring both parents posing with just one baby. Seraphine soon becomes fixated with the notion that she and Danny might not be twins after all, that she wasn’t the baby born that day and there was more to her mother’s death than she’s ever been told…

Why did their beloved au pair flee that day?

Where is she now?

Does she hold the key to what really happened?

REVIEW:

This family saga echoes the writing style of V. C. Andrews and combines it with the mysteries of Gillian Flynn. There is something lurking behind the facade of the prestigious family. Could the folklore and whispers in the village be true? Who is Seraphine? What really happened the day she and Danny were born and their mother plunged to her death?

Twins Seraphine and Danny Mayes are born on the family estate, Summerbourne, in July 1992. They are the first “summer-born twins of Summerbourne” in decades even though the family has a history of twins. There are no pictures of the twins first six months because the day they were born is also the day their mother died after jumping from a cliff. Seraphine has always been full of questions about that day, questions that are left unanswered when twenty-five years later her father dies in an accident. When she finds a picture of her parents and older brother with just one baby taken the day of her birth, Seraphine’s questions only increase. She has always felt like an outsider in her family, always been bothered by the village whispers of a stolen child and teasings of “the sprite twins” because she and her brothers look nothing alike. With her Grandmother refusing to give her answers and her brother, Edwin, too young at the time to really understand, Seraphine decides to search for Laura, the au pair who worked for the family the year prior to her birth and disappeared the same day she was born. Surely she will have the answers she craves.

One of the things I loved about this book is that for most of it I couldn’t tell where it was going. The narration is split between Seraphine in the present day and Laura who tells the story leading up to the twins birth. These alternating chapters provided details of the many different dynamics in the story between the main and secondary characters. They also increased the tension and mystery as the revelations unfolded.

The characters in this story were well written. Out of the two narrators I found Laura’s story more interesting as it was the one with the history of the family and events up until the twins’ birth. Who we are is the core of our being so I understood Seraphine’s need to know the truth about herself despite the fact it had the potential to tear her family apart. You were never sure who was a villain in this story which is something I liked. The author wrote this aspect of the plot expertly as Seraphine suspects almost everyone and has you second guessing what you know as she’s threatened to stop searching, the mystery deepens and the revelations about the family’s history and what happened that summer keep coming.

I found the book impossible to put down as I raced to the end desperate to know the truth.  But just when I thought I’d got to the big reveal there were more shocking twists still to come. The Au Pair is an absorbing debut novel that kept me guessing throughout. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Little Brown Book Group UK and Emma Rous for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

Out today.

 

 

Review: ‘The Woman Who Wanted More’ by Vicky Zimmerman ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

Two lonely women. An unlikely friendship. And one big life lesson: never be ashamed to ask for more.

No woman dreams of being unceremoniously dumped and moving back in with her mother on the eve of her 40th birthday. Food technician Kate Parker’s first response? Denial, long days under her duvet, and lots of cheesy pasta.

A reluctant Kate finds herself volunteering at the Lauderdale House For Exceptional Ladies. There she meets 96-year-old Cecily Finn – spiky and sharp as a pin, but the spark has gone out of her. She has resigned herself to the imminent end.

Having no patience with Kate’s self-pity, Cecily prescribes her a self-help book with a difference – it’s a 1957 cookery manual, featurning menus for anything life can throw at ‘the easily dismayed’. It promises the answers to  essential life questions: ‘what shall one give to one’s rich aunt Emma that will be palatable but not prodigal; to one’s husband’s managing director, at once memorable and modest; one’s old love’s new love; the man one hopes will stay on after dinner; the man one hopes will not…’

Can Kate find a menu to help a broken-hearted woman let go? If Kate moves forward, might Cecily too?

The cookbook holds the secrets of Cecily’s own remarkable and heartbreaking story, and the love of her life. It will certainly teach Kate a thing or two. 

So begins a friendship between two lonely and stubborn souls – one at the end of her life, one stuck in the middle – who come to show each other that food is for feasting, life is for living, and the way to a man’s heart is…irrelevant!

REVIEW:

“Life has given you a path even if it’s not your preferred one.”

This book was a case of bookstagram made me do it! I had been seeing this beautiful, bright cover everywhere with comments and reviews about how great it was and I had to buy it. Then a few days after it arrived I was having a difficult day and was in need of something lighthearted to cheer me up so I decided to abandon my planned and “should read” books to start this. It was the best decision I could have made. This book was a joy to read and is a page-turner that is perfect for sunny summer days and reading outside. 

This beautifully written novel transported me into Kate’s world and I wanted to stay there. Her world was far from perfect but it was alluring. I turned 40 a few months ago and while I’m not in the same situation as Kate, like many people I can relate to my life looking very different to the one I once thought I’d have at this at this age. In fact, Kate was relatable to me in lots of ways, including how she was trying in vain to hold on to the wrong relationship because she didn’t want to be alone. When you love someone and realise they don’t treat you right it is easy to stick your head in the sand and tell yourself it’s okay because the idea of starting again is too scary. You feel like there’s no real reason to end the relationship and ignore the red flags. That being said, like Kate’s friends I was willing her to see that Nick was not going to commit and stop wasting her time waiting and making excuses for him. Settling never ultimately leaves you happy.

I didn’t envy Kate living back home with her Mum. Living back home as an adult isn’t easy but with a Mum who is into self-help books in a big way, psycho-analysing her and pressuring her to date so much that she objects to Kate volunteering and wasting “prime dating hours” it is a nightmare. Though it did make for fun reading and I loved Rita’s overbearing and interfering character. Ultimately she does want what’s best for her daughter but just goes about it the wrong way.

“First you are young, then you are middle-aged, then you are old, then you are wonderful.”

Cecily Finn, the cantankerous 97-year-old who doesn’t mince her words was by far my favourite character. She first meets Kate during her first cooking demo at Lauderdale House For Exceptional Ladies and the two don’t get on at all. But they soon find they have more in common than they first thought. Cecily is highly intelligent, bored, says what she thinks, and refuses to admit she needs help from anyone. She rarely joins in any of the activities or sits outside and is just waiting to die. I loved her pearls of wisdom, was often laughing out loud when she was on the page and the parts where she told her life story were a highlight for me. Seeing the beautiful, true friendship that blossomed between her and Kate was a delight to read. 

The book at the heart of this story – ‘Food For Thought: A Cookery Book for Entertaining Occasions’ – was like a character in its own right. I loved the idea behind this cookbook and how Kate’s discovery of it and practical use of it in her life helped her find confidence. The one problem I had with it is that it made me very hungry but on the positive side I have looked up some recipes for things I’d never heard of and am hoping to try them at some point. 

The Woman Who Wanted More is a book about life, change, not settling for second best, making the most of what cards you are dealt, finding yourself, finding happiness, love, friendship, self discovery, and how we can find similarities in ourselves and those we think so different from us. It made me laugh, smile and cry (the blue foot incident is one that springs to mind – so funny), and was the perfect way to end my reading month and the first half of the year.The author’s notes are a must-read. For me they made the book all the more special and I fell in love with it even more. 

This is an uplifting, deliciously delightful and refreshing book. A perfect summer read that I think everyone, especially women like me that are in or nearing their forties, should read.  It was the kind of book you can’t put down but you also want to read slowly so you can savour every moment. Sometimes you don’t go looking for a book but the perfect one finds you; that’s certainly how I feel about The Woman Who Wanted More

Out now. 

 

Review: ‘The Three Beths’ by Jeff Abbott ⭐⭐⭐.5

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SYNOPSIS:

From multi-million-selling writer Jeff Abbott comes an intense and gripping new psychological thriller about a daughter’s desperate search for her mother – when she discovers two women with the same name are also missing. 

My mum would never leave me. 

This has been Mariah Dunning’s motto. So when she glimpses her mother – who’s been missing the past year – Mariah’s conviction becomes stronger than ever. Or is she losing her mind? 

An unlikely coincidence? 

When Beth Dunning disappeared without a trace, suspicion for her murder immediately fell upon Mariah’s father. Until Mariah stumbles upon two other recent disappearances. And all three women had the same name: Beth.

Or a sinister connection? 

Mariah would give anything to find out what happened to be mother and clear her father’s name. But the truth may be more devastating than she ever imagined… 

REVIEW:

“You never knew what small-seeming choice in your life could have a massive ripple effect.”

This was a readable thriller with short chapters that helped keep the steady pace and tension. At the start I had so many questions: where is Beth? Who was the woman Mariah saw at the mall? Why does her father seem so reluctant to have her asking questions and trying to find answers? As time went on there were more questions waiting to be answered… 

Mariah was a character I found easy to like. I can’t imagine the grief of having your mother vanish and feeling like the police aren’t looking for her because they’ve made up their minds that your father is guilty. Mariah’s desperation to find her mother and amateur detective work was exactly what I would want to do in her position, especially after being told of a possible link to another missing women that the police instantly dismissed. I liked that her father, Craig, was ambiguous and you were never sure if you could trust him. I had my predictions and I won’t go into them or if they were right to avoid spoilers, but I liked that I would waver in my thoughts about his possible involvement and how honest he was being. His strong desire to protect Mariah was exactly as you’d expect from any father and made some of his more questionable choices understandable. I really liked Sharon’s character although I didn’t really trust her and found her strange. Characters like that can be fun to read though and Sharon certainly added a lot to the story for me, especially the dynamic between her and Mariah. 

The decision by the author to not include flashbacks narrated by the women themselves added to the mystery. It meant our knowledge of them was coloured by the lense through which others saw them but I liked how the author showed us that people can be many different things depending on who you talk to. No person is one dimensional. 

This twisty thriller didn’t blow me away but it was a fun and enjoyable read. I found that the pace and tension wavered and I wasn’t kept gripped as I had been at the beginning, but I never felt bored or tempted to stop reading. By about half way through I thought I knew how this was going to play out and while it was predictable in some ways, other twists still took me by surprise right until the final pages. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Little, Brown Book Group UK and Jeff Abbott for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Out today.

 

June Wrap Up

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Another month has passed and it’s wrap up time again. Though it’s crazy to realise that half the year has already gone. I’m seeing loads of posts on Instagram of people’s halfway top ten but haven’t got around to doing mine yet as I’m still trying to whittle it down!

June has been a great month of reading for me. I’ve finished fourteen books and got part way into Notes On A Nervous Planet, which I’m sure I’ll finish in July.  All but one book were between four and five stars and all but one were ones I enjoyed. Thirteen of the books were from NetGalley and one was a completely unplanned mood read, which was exactly what I needed.

So here’s what I read in June…

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

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. Part two, narrated by the daughter, Stella, was where this book became impossible to put down. A captivating, ambiguous and twisting story about family, secrets, and the lengths we’ll go to for those we love. As we head towards the end of the book the bombshells are dropped in spectacular style and left me reeling. 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.

Out now on kindle, July 11th in hardcover. Published by Pan Macmillan. E-book ARC via NetGalley. 

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2. ‘Favourite Daughter’ by Kaira Rouda ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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. Controlling, manipulative, condescending, demanding and crazy Jane  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. 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. 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.  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. 

Out now. Published by HQ. E-book ARC via NetGalley.              

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3. ‘The Liar’s House’ by Carla Kovach ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Carla Kovach has done it again. DI Gina Harte and her team are back for the fourth book in this fantastic series. There are multiple suspects but the team are mostly working with hunches and circumstantial evidence as real clues to the culprit evade them. At the same time Gina’s personal life is causing problems and her past and present are entangled in her latest case, threatening the reputation she’s spent years building. Themes of domestic abuse and stalking are handled with raw honesty. We see the way these men control their partners through fear and are shown the long-lasting psychological damage of abuse. The author is skilled at writing domestic abuse, in all its forms, in a way that helps the reader understand these women, why they stay, why they take desperate courses of action and do the various things we see them do to protect their abusers. The Liar’s House is what we’ve come to expect and love from this series: complex characters, brutal, gruesome murder scenes and great writing. This novel was particularly skillfully written and ingeniously plotted. I can’t wait for book five. 

Out July 2nd.  Published by Bookoture. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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4. ‘The Van Apfel Girl’s Are Gone’ by Felicity McLean ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A beautifully haunting mystery about childhood, adolescence, secrets and regrets, that takes place over the course of one transformative and unforgettable summer. I loved this mesmerising novel. Atmospheric, delightful, captivating, nuanced and nostalgic but also somber, sinister and dire, it had me hooked from the first page. It explores how tragedy can shape our future and how we see things differently with an adult perspective versus a child’s eye. Will we find out what happened to the Van Apfel sisters? I will leave you to find out for yourself when you read it. 

Out now. Published by Oneworld Publications. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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5. ‘We Were Killers Once’ by Becky Masterman ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I have been fascinated with the Clutter murders ever since I read In Cold Blood over twenty years ago. So when I saw that this novel offered an alternative look at that case and one that was linked to it I couldn’t wait to read it. The author has created a perfect amalgamation of true crime and crime fiction with this gripping and believable novel. I love both genres and loved how she brought them together. I admit that part of my enjoyment of this book came from my fascination with the Clutter murders. Both main characters are connected to the infamous case in different ways and I loved the alternative version that was explored in this novel. There was one drawback which was both of the main characters aren’t likeable. Beaufort is unlikable in the right ways, we aren’t supposed to like the bad guy, but Brigid could have been likeable if not for her tiresome obsession and jealousy over his husband’s late wife which made her appear whiny. It is good for a character to be flawed but I felt this flaw went a little too far. We Were Killers Once is an intriguing, absorbing thriller. A mix of fascinating fiction with tantalising fact reimagined and woven through the pages, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves crime fiction and true crime. 

Out now. Published by Orion Publishing Group. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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6. ‘Stone Cold Heart’ by Caz Frear ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Jaw-dropping and addictive, I absolutely loved this book and knew I was in for a great read as soon as I read the prologue. Ms Frear has a new fan in this reader after this tantilising thriller. I loved her writing style, particularly the banter between Cat and her colleagues and the wit that had me laughing out loud on many occasions. Cat Kinsella is a unique, flawed and complex protagonist. She breaks the rules, keeps secrets, has told many lies, has a shady family, is dating someone she shouldn’t, and yet she is someone we root for. One of the things I enjoyed about this novel was the array of unreliable and morally ambiguous characters, including almost every witness. Information trickles slowly, frustrating the police but making for an electrifying read. Is Joseph their man? The final part of this twisty thriller had me on tenterhooks and reeling from each bombshell. After the shocking concluding sentences I am now impatiently waiting for book 3. 

Out now. Published by Bonnier Zaffre. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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7. ‘Here To Stay’ by Mark Edwards ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Another nail-biting, chilling tale of domestic noir from the man that Jennifer Hillier has rightly crowned “The King of domestic horror”.  This book is AMAZING! It started off slowly and while I was enjoying it, I didn’t foresee just how horrifying, mind-blowing and simply incredible it would become. Though this being Mark Edwards I am also not surprised. Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of this author. Ever since I first read The Retreat last summer , which I loved the nod to in this novel, I haven’t been able to get enough of his books. The Magpies trilogy is considered his greatest work, and it’s antagonist, Lucy Newton, is one of the greatest villains I’ve read. But this story and it’s villains give them both a run for their money.  I don’t want to give any details away as the shocks add to the escalating horror and brilliance of this book. I was extremely lucky to get an early ARC of this book from the author himself. and highly recommend this edge-of-your-seat thriller; just be warned that it’s a turbulent ride. And another thing…be careful who you invite to stay in your house. They just might never leave…              

Out September 1st. Published by Amazon Publishing UK. E-book ARC via Mark Edwards and NetGalley.

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8. ‘Evvie Drake Starts Over’ by Linda Holmes ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

When I started this book I felt like I needed something lighter and a bit different. I couldn’t have chosen more perfectly. Reminiscent of Eleanor Oliphant Is Just Fine, I fell in love with this quirky, warm, lighthearted and witty book and it’s delightful protagonist. This is one of those books you find yourself reading with a smile on your face. Evvie, oh wonderful Evvie. I love this character so much! She is sympathetic, relatable, timid, kind, quirky, amiable, lacks confidence and is stronger than she realises. Surviving and walking away from an abusive relationship takes strength. She always wants to do the right thing but like everyone she makes mistakes and can be unlikeable. These flaws added to the realism and I enjoyed seeing her learn and grow from them. I hadn’t seen any reviews for this novel or read anything by the author before so I was unprepared for how much I’d love this enchanting story. Evvie Drake Starts Over is like a breath of fresh air on a warm day and is the perfect summer read.                                                         

Out now. Published by Hodder & Stoughton. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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9. ‘Someone We Know’ by Shari Lapena ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Everybody has their secrets. And in the wealthy New York suburb of Aylesford the secrets of some neighbours are about to collide when one of them is found dead in her car in the lake. Was it her husband who was sleeping with one of the neighbours? Was it her own secret lover? And did the teenage boy who’s been breaking into neighbours homes see something that could be the key to solving the crime? Once again Shari Lapena takes you on a roller-coaster ride of twists and turns in this surprising thriller. The author masterfully weaves the puzzle pieces together, the secrets began to escalate, and there is one twist after another until we reach the dramatic final reveal showing that she knows how to grip and entertain her audience, building the tension slowly before ramping it up to a point where I was so hooked that I stayed up until ridiculous o’clock to finish it. 

Out July 25th. Published by Random House UK, Transworld Publishers. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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10. ‘Sister of Mine’ by Laurie Petrou ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Two girls and a match, but a world of differences in what it looked like after that. A forest fire of debt”

Secrets. Lies. Violence. Desperation. Fire. Smoke. Murder.  This is a claustrophobic story of two sisters both held together and torn apart by a terrible secret and explores how the ripple effect of one decision lasts for decades, impacting both sister’s lives in ways they never imagined. I was quickly drawn into the dark world of sisters Penny and Hattie Grayson, two very different sister’s who’s lives have been far from easy.  It was shocking to me how much they had been through by the time they were 18 and 21, which is their ages at the time of the fire. This compelling, sinister, raw and heartwrenching story is a skillfully written and gripping from the first page. It is full of twists and turns and will surprise you right until the end. It is a magnificent psychological thriller that I highly recommend. 

Out now. Published by Oldcastle Books, NoExit Press. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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11. ‘And Then She Vanishes’ by Claire Douglas ⭐⭐⭐⭐

An exciting, twisty thriller full of suspense about secrets kept for almost two decades that merge with the shocking, and seemingly motiveless, murder of an elderly woman and her son in a sleepy seaside town. Told from multiple points of view we follow the story of  Heather, a woman accused of two seemingly motiveless and cold-blooded murders, and Jess, her best friend in school who is now a journalist and is given the task of reporting on the crime. The book also flashes back to August 1994 when Heather’s older sister, Flora, went missing and the girls’ friendship fell apart. But is Heather guilty? Both Jess and Margot, Heather’s mother, insist that the murders are out of character for the gentle, kind and loving woman they knew. But both secretly wonder and allude to there being another side to Heather. Something lurking beneath the surface that they’ve tried to ignore…  They didn’t lie when they said the final chapter was even more shocking than the first – Wow! The dramatic prologue was chilling, the whole book had me on the edge of my seat, but the final chapter was sensational and startling. The author cleverly keeps you on tenterhooks playing a guessing game right until the end and the payoff is totally worth it. You won’t be able to put this book down. 

Out now. Published by Penguin UK – Michael Joseph. E-book ARC via NetGalley. Thank you to the publisher for inviting me to read and review this book. 

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12. ‘The Missing Wife’ by Sam Carrington  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Louisa is about to turn 40 & isn’t handling it well, especially as she’s found herself unexpectedly dealing with sleepless nights and nappies again. Her husband Brian and best friend Tiff are keeping secrets and her teenage daughter Emily is sullen and distant. When she discovers that Brian and Tiff’s secret was a surprise 40th birthday party she’s far from happy. There’s one particular person there that she never wanted to see again, Oliver Dunmore, her first love who broke her heart. She wakes hungover and unable to remember the night clearly. When Oliver then turns up the saying his wife Melissa is missing and was last seen at the part, her memories become more important than ever. But she can’t retrieve them and as she searches for answers, she feels her life is spiraling out of control. I loved that this book was filled with morally ambiguous characters you couldn’t trust, including Louisa. A riveting, mesmerising and sinister tale, this story will make you question even your own memories. I devoured it within a day as I needed the answers to my questions and the tense and dramatic final twist had me on the edge of my seat.

Out now. Published by Avon Books UK. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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13. ‘Whisper Network’ by Chandler Baker ⭐⭐⭐

I had high hopes for this book and was excited to read it so I’m disappointed to have found that it wasn’t for me.  I didn’t finish this book. I really tried. I’d considered giving up from early on but pushed through until almost 75% when I decided I had better things to read. I found it slow, lacking in depth, the characters felt shallow and I couldn’t connect with them at all. It also felt preachy about women’s issues and while I think I saw what the author was trying to achieve, it just wasn’t executed in the right way. I didn’t feel at all interested in who was dead, if anyone had killed them or what happened in any way for most of the book.  That being said, this wasn’t all bad. I did relate to and recognise the “everyday sexism” that women are often subjected to and how we can be treated if we report it. Also, as I said earlier, the book did have some tension at times and I was initially drawn into wanting to know who had died and what had happened. It just unfortunately didn’t last for the length of the book. I haven’t seen any reviews for this book and it could be a case of #blacksheepofbookstagram so I encourage you to still pick this up if the synopsis appeals to you. 

Out July 4th. Published by Little, Brown Book Group UK. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

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14. ‘The Woman Who Wanted More’ by Vicky Zimmerman  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I started this book on a day I was feeling down, moody and in need of something lighthearted that would cheer me up. I’d heard great things about this book and the cover alone makes me feel warm, so I decided to give it a go. I am so glad that I did. It was a joy to read and was an uplifting, delightful and magical book that made me both cry and smile as it ended. I fell in love with both main characters, but particularly had a soft spot for cantankerous Cecily. I finished this book this afternoon and it was the perfect way to end my reading month and my full review will be posted in the next few days. I highly recommend this refreshing summer read, especially if you’re looking for something that will make you smile.

Out now. Published by Bonnier Zaffre.

You can find the full reviews for all of these books on this blog.

I struggled to pick a favourite this month with so many strong and entertaining books but The Woman Who Wanted More has to take the title for being so uplifting and refreshing, how it made me feel while reading and because I loved the author’s writing style.

Have you read any of the books in my list? Are they on your tbr list? Let me know below. And also tell me what you think of the new format.