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book reviews Tandem Readalong

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Published: May 2nd, 2017
Publisher: Bloomsbury UK
Format: Paperback, Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Fantasy Fiction

I read this book as part of a readlong with Tandem Collective UK. Thank you to them for the invitation and Bloomsbury UK for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring her land to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords and hunt for allies in unexpected places. And her heart will face the ultimate test as she and her mate are forced to question whether they can truly trust each other.

Sarah J. Maas is a global #1 bestselling author. Her books have sold more than nine million copies and been translated into 37 languages. Discover the sweeping romantic fantasy for yourself.

Contains mature content. Not suitable for younger readers.

MY REVIEW:

“To the stars who listen—and the dreams that are answered.” 

Fayre is now back in Spring Court. She has returned under the guise of going back to Tamlin but is in fact still Lady of the Night Court and biding her time before taking revenge for how he and others betrayed Prythian in the war with King Hybern. As war looms once more, her relationship with Rhysand is tested and they must decide who among the High Lords they can trust to be on their side. 

I loved how fierce, determined and strong Fayre was in this book. She stands up to Tamlin, refusing to let him twist and rewrite their narrative, even when he shreds her dignity with lewd words and savage lies. Back when I read book one, I could never understand why people loved Rhysand and hated Tamlin; now I’m totally the same. Tamlin is a vile, abusive, controlling snake and I got almost as much pleasure out of Fayre’s revenge as she did. 

I enjoyed seeing more of the other courts and how Fayre’s sisters handled their unexpected and unwanted transition to immortality. I found myself worrying about the fate of the characters and wondered if the author would take a leaf out of George R. R. Martin’s book and kill off a much-loved main character. It is quite a dark book in many ways, addressing abuse, coercive control, trauma, PTSD and consent.

This was my favourite yet in the series. Action-packed, emotional and gripping, it kept me on the edge of my seat and broke my heart. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sarah J. Maas is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series, as well as the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Sarah lives in Bucks County, PA, and over the years, she has developed an unhealthy appreciation for Disney movies and bad pop music. She adores fairy tales and ballet, drinks too much tea, and watches an ungodly amount of TV. When she’s not busy writing, she can be found exploring the historic and beautiful Pennsylvania countryside with her husband and canine companion.

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Blog Tours book reviews

Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten

Published: October 16th, 2020
Publisher: One More Chapter
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction, Crime Series, Hardboiled, Police Procedural

Thank you to Sarah at BOTBS Publicity for the invitation to take part and One More Chapter for the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

A murdered woman…

When the body of a young woman is found in a local park, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she’s dealing with no ordinary killer.  The murder victim has been disfigured; her outfit changed to resemble someone else.  Someone Maggie knows all too well…her close friend Dr Kate Moloney.

A determined detective…

Maggie is determined to keep her friend safe, but with Kate already struggling with a threatening stalker, Maggie now fears Kate’s life is in real danger.  Who else would want to harm Kate and why else would the killer be turning his victims into exact replicas – his living dolls? 

Can Maggie find the depraved killer?  Or will Kate become his next living doll?

MY REVIEW:

“Practice makes perfect.”

Dead Perfect is the third installment in the DC Maggie Jamieson series; and it’s the best one yet. 

Maggie and her team face their most challenging case yet when they must track a killer who’s altering the appearance of his victims to resemble someone they know. They have few clues and no obvious suspects. But when a second body is found, it is clear they are in a race against the clock to identify and find their killer before he takes another victim. Can Maggie overcome her personal fears to find him before it’s too late?

“He’d been watching her for a while now. She was perfect. Or she would be.”

Holten has a talent for the sinister and macabre, delivering the kind of tense and twisted thriller that I love. Once again she uses one of my favourite tropes of writing from the killer’s perspective, which heightens all the creep factor. This is one sick guy. But it isn’t just the way he incapacitates and mutilates his victims that makes him so scary, or even his obsessive delusion; it’s how patient, organised and methodical he is. The idea that he could do the preparation he does without being caught is frightening, and feels very real. 

I’ve read the previous books in this series so I knew the characters. But if you haven’t you can still read this book as the author quickly catches you up on past events. All the characters are relatable, real and well written, and I like Maggie more with every installment. I liked how vulnerable she was in this book and how we see her battle a new challenge when her friend is at risk. She jumps straight into the action and never slows down for a minute. And while you end the book exhausted after an arduous journey, you are also left desperate for more as it perfectly sets the scene for book four. 

Dark, menacing and compelling, any thriller lover should read this book.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at http://www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of risk cases as well as working in a multi agency setting. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog.

Dead Inside – her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK is an international kindle bestseller and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Housewarming by S. E. Lynes

Published: October 23rd, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Suspense, Mystery, Thriller

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this sensational thriller. Thank you Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

Everyone is going to the housewarming party.

All the same people who lived on the street the day Abi vanished…

Will her mother finally learn the truth?

Ava only left her daughter in the pushchair for five minutes. The buckle was fastened, and she was sure it was safe. But when she came downstairs, the door was open and Abi was gone – she walked down the road, past the Lovegoods’ house, and was never seen again.

A year later, the Lovegoods are planning their long-anticipated housewarming party. Ava doesn’t want to go. She can’t bear to look down that end of the road, to see the place where Abi vanished, and she doesn’t want to spend time with people who don’t share her grief. Her husband Matt persuades her: he’s worried about her. A night out might do her good.

But as her friends and neighbours chat, and the drink and gossip flows, Ava learns something new about the day she has re-lived a thousand times. A throwaway comment which could change everything.

Ava thought she knew every last detail of that day.

She’s about to find out she was wrong

MY REVIEW:

“I am a woman who has a daughter. I am a woman who had a daughter. Both these things are true. I live in the past; I survive in the present.” 

Ava only left Abi alone for a few moments. But that was all it took for the two-year-old to wander off and vanish. She didn’t realise she’d left the front door open or that she could unbuckle herself from her pushchair. She didn’t know she would never see her again. 

A year later Ava is struggling to accept her daughter’s death and to live with the guilt she carries. When their neighbours invite them to their housewarming party, her husband Matt convinces her to go, saying it is time they start to rebuild their lives. But that night, Ava discovers something that changes everything she thought she knew about the day Abi disappeared, and makes her look at those around her in a new light. 

Could the truth about her daughter’s disappearance actually be more sinister than she believed?

“Second by second. Beat by beat. A metronome keeps time for the frantic melody of my life’s unravelling. I watch myself from above. I shout out the things I should have done, places I should have looked, the order in which I should have done it all.” 

This was one of those books that I knew I was going to love immediately. The author drew me in from the first pages with her melodic prose that oozes with panic, fear and despair as she recalls the moment she found Abi was missing and frantically searched for her. She looks back scathingly at the decisions she made and the mistakes she sees as costing her daughter’s life. 

After that night at the party, the tension rises as Ava notices the inconsistencies and begins to doubt the things she believed about Abi’s disappearance. A cloud of suspicion now hangs over those she never suspected as small details begin to reveal a dark and horrifying picture. As I approached the jaw-dropping finale, my heart was in my throat and I got book whiplash from all the twists and turns.

“It is simply that the party has pulled the plug on the weird, stagnant pond of our lives, has drained the water from details half submerged, which lie now in the shallows, exposed.”

Compelling, heartbreaking and harrowing, this was impossible to put down. Lynes is a master of stories that have you on the edge of your seat but also full of heart. 

Don’t miss this sensational thriller. 

Rating : ✮✮✮✮. 5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Former BBC Producer, S.E. Lynes is the Amazon best selling author of ‘intelligent and haunting’, ‘beautifully written’ psychological thrillers, VALENTINA, MOTHER, THE PACT, THE PROPOSAL, THE WOMEN, THE LIES WE HIDE, CAN YOU SEE HER? and her latest novel, THE HOUSEWARMING, available for pre-order NOW.

After completing her MA, Lynes taught creative writing at Richmond Adult Community College for over ten years. She now combines writing, mentoring and lecturing.

She has also published three children’s books in Italy: IL LEOPARDO LAMPO, LA COCCODRILLA INGAMBA, and the bilingual LA SCIMMIA SPIRITOSA/THE FUNNY MONKEY, all available at Amazon.it

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book reviews

The Exiles by Christina Baker Kline

Published: October 22nd, 2020
Publisher: Allison & Busby
Format: Hardcover, Kindle, Audio
Genre: General Fiction, Historical Fiction

Happy Publication Day to this outstanding novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part and to Allison & Busby for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

London, 1840. Evangeline, pregnant and falsely accused of stealing, has languished in Newgate prison for months. Ahead now lies the journey to Australia on a prison ship. On board, Evangeline befriends Hazel, sentenced to seven years’ transport for theft. Soon Hazel’s path will cross with an orphaned indigenous girl. Mathinna is ‘adopted’ by the new governor of Tasmania where the family treat her more like a curiosity than a child. Amid hardships and cruelties, new life will take root in stolen soil, friendships will define lives, and some will find their place in a new society in the land beyond the seas.

MY REVIEW:

“Maybe she would always be alone and apart. Always in transition, on her way to someplace else, never quite belonging. She knew both too much and too little of the world. But what she knew, she carried in her bones.” 

The Exiles is a beautifully written, layered and nuanced piece of historical fiction. Set in London and Australia in the 1840s, it is a story about women, survival and redemption. It is a story about our need to belong, about love, loss and how we carry those we love inside us wherever we go.

The voices of three very different female characters tell their stories, which entwine as the novel progresses. Mathinna is an orphaned eight-year-old Aboriginal girl who is taken from her home by Lady Jane Franklin, an explorer who likes to collect anything to do with native people and wants to see if the child can be educated and ‘tamed’. Evangeline is a naïve young woman from a small village working as a governess who finds herself pregnant and alone on a transport ship to Australia after allowing her rage to get the better of her when she is falsely accused of theft. And, finally, there is Hazel, a seventeen-year-old girl who is on the transport ship with Evangeline after being forced to steal by her mother. 

“Here she was, torn from her family and everyone she knew at the whim of a lady in satin slippers who boiled the skulls of her relatives and displayed them as curiosities.”

Each woman has a character that is rich and compelling, a spark that draws you to them and makes you root for her and care about her story. And while their lives and stories may be different, they also have similarities. Each of them have been exiled from their home and those they love and all face the harsh reality of being female in a time and place where that is hostile and unforgiving towards women. They all navigate these obstacles with strength, resilience and determination. 

This is the first time I’ve read anything by this author, and I was struck by her exquisite storytelling and how she seamlessly wove fact and fiction together to create this lush and atmospheric tale. Her imagery makes you feel like you’re there and I could see so clearly the bleak, grim and squalid conditions of the prisons, slave ship and orphanage and could almost feel the heat of the sun bearing down on me in the Australian bush. She writes every character, however big or small, with authenticity, and the research that has gone into the novel leaps from its pages. I will definitely be buying her back catalogue and devouring it as soon as possible. 

“She’d learnt that she could withstand contempt and humiliation — and that she could find moments of grace in the midst of bedlam. She’d learnt she was strong.”

A powerful, heartbreaking and thought-provoking book, I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Christina Baker Kline is the author of seven novels, including the #1 New York Times bestseller Orphan Train. Her other novels include Bird in Hand, The Way Life Should Be, Desire Lines, and Sweet Water, as well as Orphan Train Girl, a middle-grade adaptation of Orphan Train. Her essays, articles, and reviews have appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Money, More, and Psychology Today, among other publications. She lives in New York City and on the coast of Maine.

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Blog Tours book reviews Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Dangerous To Know by Chloe Esposito

Published: October 15th, 2020
Publisher: Penguin UK
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Dark Comedy, Satire, Suspense, Psychological Fiction Noir Fiction, Humorous Fiction, Adventure Fiction, Romance, Contemporary Romance

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this darky humorous and addictive thriller. Thank you to Sryia at Penguin UK for the invitation to take part and the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

The sharp, smart and outrageously funny finale in the Alvie Knightly trilogy

MY REVIEW:

“I’m flawed. Aren’t we all? What’s your fatal flaw? Mine? I love too much. I do crazy shit for love, mad and bad and dangerous…”

Alvie Knightly is a serial killer. After a killing spree in Italy last year she’s been laying low and evading arrest. But vengeance in the name of her now deceased lover Nino is calling, so she sets about changing her identity and luring her next victim…

What. A. Book. Darkly humorous, thrilling and addictive, Dangerous To Know is an uproarious and strangely uplifting read that I absolutely loved. 

Alvie is quite the character. Hilarious, memorable and compelling, I couldn’t help but love her. Yes, she’s a killer, but she’s not a sociopath like Ted Bundy. She knows because she feels bad for some of her murders; like her  hot boyfriend Nino. The author writes her with a killer combination – see what I did there? – of twisted evil, humour and emotion, and her magnetism is impossible to resist.

“I think killing her will cheer me up. I’ve been stuck in a rut this past year. I miss murder.”

Alvie takes quite the emotional journey in this book and begins to question some of her choices. Through her narrative and in flashbacks we learn more about her childhood and discover what shaped her into the person she is today. It was a deeper aspect to the story that I wasn’t anticipating, but I liked how it showed her in a more sympathetic light and gave us a more complete picture that was the opposite of her murderous deeds. 

When I took on the blog tour I didn’t realise it is the final installment in a trilogy, and unfortunately I didn’t have time to read the first two books. But despite this I never felt confused as the author succinctly catches you up on past events, making it easy to read this as a standalone. That said, I will be buying and reading the other books in the series as I enjoyed this one so much. 

I also liked that the author utilises one of my favourite writing techniques in this book by having Alvie addressing the reader. This technique makes it feel like you’re listening to a friend, though none of my friends are killers. That I’m aware of anyway. 

Fast-paced, salacious and wickedly funny, this is an utterly brilliant book. If you enjoyed Sweetpea, then you’ll enjoy this. 

Rating: ✮✮✮✮. 5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Chloé Esposito is from Cheltenham and now lives in London. She has a BA and MA in English from Oxford University, where her dissertation focused on 19th-century feminist writers. She has been a senior management consultant, an English teacher at two of the UK’s top private schools and a fashion stylist at Condé Nast. She is a graduate of the Faber Academy and is now writing full-time.

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Blog Tours book reviews

Gone Before by Sam Hepburn

Published: October 12th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback, Kindle, Audio
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Crime Fiction.

Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the eBook arc.

SYNOPSIS:

‘My name is Phoebe Locklear. I think I’m your daughter.

I rehearse the words as I walk up the path, clutching a faded old photograph of a little girl with thick dark hair.When I knock, the door opens, and there she is: the woman I believe is my mother. The woman whose five-year-old daughter disappeared fifteen years ago.Had I known what would happen next, would I have knocked on that door? Would I take back the lives I’ve destroyed?But now that I’ve started, there’s no going back. I can’t stop until I find out who I really am.Even if the truth could kill me.

Twisty, addictive and utterly unputdownable, Gone Before asks what happens when your whole life turns out to be a lie. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, Gone Girl and The Silent Patient.

MY REVIEW:

“Kay and Roz. Two mothers, two enigmas, two damaged women who each lost a child… Phoebe and Maya. Two little girls, both gone before their time.”

When her mother Roz dies, everything Phoebe Locklear has ever believed to be true is shown to be a lie. Faced with the realisation that the woman who raised her did nothing but deceive her, she tracks down Kay Duncan, the woman she’s now told is her real mother. But instead of answers, all Phoebe finds is more questions. So she goes in search of the truth, delving deeper into Roz and Kay’s past and the disappearance of Kay’s daughter Maya in the hope of solving not one, but two mysteries; what really happened to Maya Duncan, and who Phoebe really is.

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

“If I’m not Phoebe Locklear and I’m not Maya Duncan, then who the hell am I?”

At the heart of this story is the question of identity. Phoebe is already feeling lost when she discovers that what she’d believed about her birth mother and the reason Roz had raised her was a lie, but when she finds out she isn’t Maya Duncan she is cast further adrift, with no clue whatsoever about her real mother or identity. Who we are is the core of our being, a vital part of our sense of self, and through Phoebe we see the emotional trauma and turmoil that is experienced when someone has lost that part of themselves and examines whether identity is something that is a part of our character or what we are told about ourselves.

Gripping and fast-paced, Gone Before combines mystery with a journey of self discovery that is full of twists, turns and shocking revelations. While parts felt a little predictable, there were also a lot of surprises, the author keeping me on my toes right until the unexpected conclusion.

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Sam Hepburn read modern languages at Cambridge University and, after a brief spell in advertising, joined the BBC as a General Trainee. She worked as a documentary maker for twenty years and was one of the commissioners for the launch of BBC Four. Since then, she has written several books, including psychological thrillers Gone Before and Her Perfect Life, and novels for young adults and children. She won the 2017 CWA Margery Allingham Short Story award and has been nominated for several other prestigious prizes, including the CILIP Carnegie Medal for her YA thrillers.

Sam has worked and travelled widely in Africa and the Middle East, and is a trustee of the Kenyan’s children’s charity, I Afrika. She now lives in London with her husband and children.

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Blog Tours book reviews

All Your Little Lies by Marianne Holmes

Published: October 22nd, 2020
Publisher: Agora Books
Format: Kindle, Paperback
Genre: Mystery, Thriller

I’m thrilled to be one of the bloggers opening the tour for this wonderful novel. Thank you to Peyton at Agora Books for the invitation to take part and the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

When everything you say is a lie, can you even remember the truth?

Annie lives a quiet, contained, content life. She goes to work. She meets her friend. She’s kind of in a relationship. She’s happy. Not lonely at all.

If only more people could see how friendly she is — how eager to help and please. Then she could tick “Full Happy Life” off her list. But no one sees that side of Annie, and she can’t understand why.

That all changes the night Chloe Hills disappears. And Annie is the last person to see her.

This is her chance to prove to everybody that she’s worth something. That is, until she becomes a suspect.

Drenched in atmosphere and taut with tension, All Your Little Lies takes a hard look at why good people do bad things.

MY REVIEW:

When everything you say is a lie, can you even remember the truth?

Atmospheric, tense, unsettling and compulsive, this had me intrigued from the start, my mind blazing with questions I needed answered.

Our protagonist, Annie, is a strange character who I simultaneously liked and disliked. She’s awkward, judgemental, obsessive and reclusive. But she’s fantastic to read. We soon learn she has a big secret and that she lies about who she is to everyone, making her an unreliable narrator. I loved this as it added to the tension I felt as I tried to figure out what her secret was, and if she had anything to do with Chloe’s disappearance.

I was a big fan of the author’s debut novel, so I had high hopes before starting this one. Within a few pages I remembered why I had loved her first book so much; the prose is beautifully written, the plot intriguing, and she weaves a layered mystery for the reader to unravel. It is a character-driven story and relies on that, rather than tension or twists, to drive the story onwards.

Mysterious, dark, poignant and absorbing, this was hard to put down. I would highly recommend both this, and her debut, A Little Bird Told Me. I can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Marianne Holmes is the author of A Little Bird Told Me, published by Agora Books in 2018. She was born in Cyprus and bounced around the UK, Germany, Kuwait and Belgium with her RAF parents as a child but is now firmly based in London with her own family. She has degrees in Classics (RHUL) and Linguistics (UCL), neither of which got much use while she worked in marketing.

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When Life Gives You Mangoes by Kereen Gretten

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Pushkin Press
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: General Fiction, Children’s Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this charming debut. Thank you to Pushkin Press for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

A summer she can’t remember
A friendship she won’t forget

Nothing much happens in Sycamore, the small village where Clara lives – at least, that’s how it seems. She loves eating ripe mangoes fallen from trees, running outside in the rainy season and escaping to her secret hideout with her best friend Gaynah. There’s only one problem: she can’t remember anything about the previous summer.

When a quirky girl called Rudy arrives from England, everything starts to change. Gaynah stops acting like a best friend, while Rudy and Clara roam across the island and uncover an old family secret. As the summer reaches its peak and the island storms begin, Clara’s memory starts to return and she must finally face the truth of what happened last year.

MY REVIEW:

“Something happened that made me forget everything that happened last summer.”

Nothing exciting ever happens in the small town of Sycamore. And since the incident with the witch-doctor, no-one new ever comes to visit. A summer the same as every other is stretching out in front of Clara. Until new girl Rudy arrives from London and changes everything. Now things are looking like they might be exciting after all. It would be perfect, if only Clara could remember what happened last summer that made her too scared to go into the water…

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this book as it’s been a while since I read children’s fiction.

I read it quickly, immersed in the tropical setting and scary yet innocent world of young Clara. Her every emotion was palpable and there were many times my heart broke for this child. I wanted to help her, even if I had no idea what was causing her pain. The author captures the fun, freedom and innocence of childhood on a small island while also looking at the fear, frustration and pain that children also experience. She examines topics such as friendship, family, mental health, trauma and forgiveness through an age-appropriate lens that I think will make young readers feel seen.

Charming, heartfelt, thoughtful and mysterious, this is a beautifully crafted debut and a wonderful story for the young reader in your life.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Kereen Getten grew up in Jamaica where she would climb fruit trees in the family garden and eat as much mango, guinep and pear as she could without being caught. She now lives in Birmingham with her family and writes stories about her childhood experiences. When Life Gives You Mangos is her debut novel.

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Watch Her Vanish by Ellery Kane

Published: October 9th, 2020
Publisher: Bookouture
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Psychological Fiction, Crime Fiction, Noir Fiction, Hardboiled, Police Procedural, Medical Thriller, Romance Novel

Welcome to my stop on the tour for this gripping thriller. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part and the gifted eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

The beam from the lighthouse slices through the dawn sky as she runs down the rocky stairway to the beach. She tries to take it all inthe waves crashing against the cliffs, the whip of salt grass in the windbefore finally dragging her eyes down to the innocent girl’s blonde hair, strewn across the bottom step like seaweed…

Returning home to Fog Harbor, California, to be closer to her little sister, Olivia Rockwell is struggling to adjust to life in a town so small she can hardly breathe. That is, until the sound of a scream leads her to the body of a local teacher in the shallows nearby. All the evidence points to Olivia’s most threatening criminal psychology patient, Drake, who is safely locked up behind bars…

Convinced of Drake’s innocence—and desperate to believe in the system that’s keeping her murderer father in prison and away from her sister—Olivia gets to work on her own suspect list. All her life she’s run towards trouble, but this time she’s treading on the toes of Detective Will Decker, whose past mistakes mean this case is his last chance to make amends.

Then a second woman’s body is discovered, strangled while out on an evening jog. The strip of blue material used to choke her implicates Drake once again, forcing Will to admit he needs Olivia’s special talent for understanding the minds of killers. It’s clear more innocent women will die if they don’t get one step ahead of the murders, and Olivia knows she will need her estranged father’s help to get close to Drake.

But when Olivia’s profile leads them to believe Drake could be masterminding murders from within the prison walls, a message written on a scrap of paper found in the latest victim’s car leads them to a terrifying realization: Olivia’s little sister will be next…

MY REVIEW:

“Trauma can stunt growth. Could change a sapling to a weed, a magnolia bush to oleander.”

Young mother Bonnie McMillan vanishes without a trace after a late night trip to the movie theatre. The residents of Fog Harbor are worried and hold a vigil praying for her safe return. But the event is shattered by a piercing scream and the discovery of Bonnie’s body outside the church. The murder rocks the community. 

Detective Will Decker is in charge of catching her killer and immediately finds himself clashing with Dr Olivia Rockwell, a psychologist who worked with Bonnie at Crescent Bay Prison. 

When the body of another woman is found, they fear they have a serial killer on their hands. With few clues and their only suspect a shadowy figure seen leaving the theatre at the same time as Bonnie, they face a race against the clock to find their killer before they strike again. 

Watch Her Vanish is the first book in a new crime series, which almost made me not ask to be on this tour as I read so many of them already. But the synopsis had me intrigued so I took a chance. I’m so glad I did. While the story follows some predictable tropes, overall this was a gripping, twisty, clever and surprising thriller that I couldn’t put down. 

Our dual protagonists have an instant dislike for each other, which I expected to turn into the predictable, but much loved, enemies-to-lovers trope. While they do feel differently by the end, it didn’t take quite the format or end with the outcome I was expecting, which I enjoyed. They were a great duo, with their sharp, barbed banter and reluctance to admit they work well together making them compelling to read. 

Like all great protagonists, they come with mysterious, dark and backstories that still haunt them which are slowly revealed. There is also a great cast of supporting characters that I both loved and loathed. But none that stood out as much as Drake Devere, a serial killer who is an inmate at the prison and a talented writer whose book written from behind bars has gained quite the cult following. He’s a manipulative and sinister character that will turn on you at the flick of a switch. When it seems the killer is bringing his novel to life it’s hard to know if he is involved or being set up like he claims. I’ll be honest; I could never decide. 

This exciting, fast-paced thriller is one I would recommend to anyone who enjoys the genre. I can’t wait to see what’s next for Olivia and Will in book two.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Forensic psychologist by day, novelist by night, Ellery Kane has been writing–professionally and creatively–for as long as she can remember. Just like many of her main characters, Ellery loves to ask why, which is the reason she became a psychologist in the first place. Real life really is stranger than fiction, and Ellery’s writing is often inspired by her day job. Evaluating violent criminals and treating trauma victims, she has gained a unique perspective on the past and its indelible influence on the individual. And she’s heard her fair share of real life thrillers.

Ellery lives in the San Francisco Bay Area of California, a picturesque setting that provides the backdrop for many of her novels. If you don’t find Ellery interviewing murderers behind prison walls or pecking away at her latest novel, she is probably at the gym landing a solid jab-cross to a punching bag; riding bicycles with her special someone; or enjoying a movie the old-fashioned way–at the theater with popcorn and Milk Duds.

Ellery was previously selected as one of ten semifinalists in the MasterClass James Patterson Co-Author Competition, and she recently signed a three book deal with Bookouture for her new Rockwell and Decker mystery thriller series.

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Blog Tours book reviews

Betrayal by Lilja Sigurdardottir

Published: October 1st, 2020
Publisher: Orenda
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction, Psychological Fiction, Political Fiction, Lesbian Literature, Translated Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this outstanding piece of Icelandic Noir. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part in and Orenda for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

When aid worker Úrsula returns to Iceland for a new job, she’s drawn into the dangerous worlds of politics, corruption and misogyny … a powerful, relevant, fast-paced standalone thriller.
 
Burned out and traumatised by her horrifying experiences around the world, aid worker Úrsula has returned to Iceland. Unable to settle, she accepts a high-profile government role in which she hopes to make a difference again.
 
But on her first day in the post, Úrsula promises to help a mother seeking justice for her daughter, who had been raped by a policeman, and life in high office soon becomes much more harrowing than Úrsula could ever have imagined. A homeless man is stalking her – but is he hounding her, or warning her of some danger? And why has the death of her father in police custody so many years earlier reared its head again?
 
As Úrsula is drawn into dirty politics, facing increasingly deadly threats, the lives of her stalker, her bodyguard and even a witch-like cleaning lady intertwine. Small betrayals become large ones, and the stakes are raised ever higher…

MY REVIEW:

Oops, they did it again. With this exciting new thriller Orenda once again prove they only publish the best and most original fiction. This is why they’re one of my top publishers and I’m always eager to read an Orenda book.

Ursula, a former aid worker, has returned to her native Iceland after being traumatised and burned out by the horrors she has seen. When she starts a new job as a minister, she hopes it will finally help her to find her place at home and that she’ll be able to continue to help others without having to leave her family or experience further trauma.

On her first day she promises to help a mother who begs for her help in getting justice for her daughter, saying the fifteen-year-old was raped by a police officer the year before but the investigation has stalled. But she finds she’s met with resistance at every turn and can’t help but wonder if there is something more going on. Why does no one seem to want to investigate the accusations? And is Ursula’s sense that she’s a pawn in a game that she’s not privy to just her imagination, or really happening?

This gripping thriller was a roller-coaster ride, full of so many twists and turns I got book whiplash. I loved the short, sharply written chapters, multiple points of view and the intricate, tangled web the author wove. I was on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. But every time I thought I’d untangled the clues the story would take another turn and I’d have to try and figure it out all over again.

Though this was an easy and quick read for me, it is far from an easy plot. Complex and richly drawn, our protagonists must navigate the sexist halls of politics while trying to figure out what game they are playing, dealing with threatening messages, and being stalked by a homeless man who says he knows her and claims to be trying to warn her of some danger only he can see. It’s unclear how it all fits together, but I loved how the author slowly unveiled the truth, taking the reader on a journey that examines topics such as the dark side of politics, misogyny, police corruption, mental health and betrayal.

Like the story, the characters are all well written and readable, but it is Ursula who is the star of this story. She’s a strong, determined and fiesty who is also flawed. Over the course of the book we follow her journey to accept and come to terms with some of those flaws, including PTSD from her time doing charity work and the deep, dark trauma from her childhood: her father’s murder. She is a gutsy and fascinating character who I loved reading, even if I didn’t always agree with her actions.

Atmospheric, harrowing and very real, Betrayal is an immersive page-turner. This is Icelandic Noir at its best. I highly recommend this book to any thriller lover and can’t wait to read more by this talented author.

Rating: ✮✮✮✮✰

MEET THE AUTHOR:

Lilja Sigurðardóttir is an Icelandic crime-writer born in 1972. She is the author of novels, stage plays and screenplays.

Her novels have been published in Norwegian, Danish, Czech, Macedonian, Polish, French and English and film rights to the Reykjavík Noir Trilogy (Snare, Trap and Cage) have been sold to Palomar Pictures.

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