Review: ‘Before She Was Found’ by Heather Gudenkauf ⭐⭐⭐.5

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One of them knows what happened that night…

For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be a normal sleepover – movies and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences.

Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted – not even those closest to her. But who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora – and why?

Thank you to HQ, NetGalley and Heather Gudenkauf for the chance to read and review this novel.

“Three twelve-year-old girls walk 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 murder their friend before they had even reached their teens? What kind of horror would this be and how far would you go to protect them even if deep down you believed in their guilt? All these questions, and more, are explored in this twisty, readable thriller.

There are multiple narrators, different timelines and various forms of telling the story such as transcripts of police interviews and text messages alongside the usual storytelling in both past and present tense. This sounds confusing, yet it never was.

“No one was supposed to get hurt, Grandpa. It was all just a stupid game.”

This book starts with an opening chapter that is undeniable chilling, but instantly thought it was going to be a re-telling of the Slenderman stabbing. While some parallels could be drawn, I’m glad to say that I was surprised by the path this story took and was totally wrong in both my initial concern and a number of the things I thought I’d figured out about what happened that night in the train yard, who hurt Cora Landry, and why. While not gripping, there was enough mystery about the attacker’s identity and what exactly happened to keep me interested until the end.

Publication Date: 13th June 2019.

 

Review: ‘Lying Next To Me’ by Gregg Olsen ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Happy Publication Day to this amazing thriller!

No matter what you see, no matter what you’ve heard, assume nothing.

Adam and Sophie Warner and their three-year-old daughter are vacationing in Washington State’s Hood Canal for Memorial Day weekend. It’s the perfect getaway to unplug – and to calm an uneasy marriage. But on Adam’s first day out on the water, he sees Sophie abducted by a stranger. A hundred yards from shore, Adam can’t save her. And Sophie disappears.

In a nearby cabin is another couple, Kristen and Connor Moss. Unfortunately, beyond what they’ve heard in the news, they’re in the dark when it comes to Sophie’s disappearance. For Adam, at least there’s comfort in knowing that Mason County detective Lee Husemann is an old friend of his. She’ll do everything she can to help. She must.

But as Adam’s paranoia about his missing wife escalates, Lee puts together the pieces of the puzzle. The lives of the two couples are converging in unpredictable ways, and the picture is unsettling. Lee suspects that not everyone is telling the truth about what they know – or they have yet to reveal all the lies they’ve hidden from the strangers they married.

Thank you to NetGalley, Thomas & Mercer and Gregg Olsen for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

I devoured this addictive, fast-paced novel and would have read it in one sitting if not for that pesky thing called sleep.

It starts with a distressed man, Adam Warner, who has just seen his wife abducted. Adam is frantic, begging the police to get out there and find her. Detectives Lee Huseman and Zach Montrose are in charge of the investigation and despite witnesses to the crime there seem to be few clues and no suspects. Where is Sophie Warner? And who would snatch her from the beach in broad daylight?

Lee Huseman is determined to find the answers. Not only because she’s still reeling from a recent failure to solve a case, but because she owes Adam; he was her brother’s best friend and saved her when she was twelve years old. But will this skewer her ability to investigate Sophie’s disappearance? Could she miss vital clues because of her affection for him, or will it allow her to see more clearly if he’s deceiving them or holding back? As she delves deeper into the lives of Adam and Sophie she finds surprising clues that will hopefully lead her to the truth.

What a fantastic book. I really enjoyed that it was written from so many points of view. It allowed us to see the events from almost all the character’s perspectives and find little clues in their chapters that we’d not have had otherwise. The only main character we didn’t get any chapters from was Sophie. She remained a mystery who we only saw through the eyes of others. I loved this choice as it made the truth subjective and elusive as we only know as much as each character does about her life, although we obviously have the advantage of taking these multiple viewpoints to create a fuller picture.

For me, Adam quickly became a morally ambiguous character and I would go back and forth in my views of his guilt or innocence. I thought he was expertly written as the author repeatedly manages the difficult task of making him someone you one minute have sympathy for, and then someone deplorable. His actions often didn’t make sense but a grief looks different for everyone so you view all his actions through that lens. In terms of villains, Sophie’s father, Frank, was so vile that although he was never a suspect I almost wanted him to be so that there was no reason to feel even a grain sympathy for him. There were no redeeming qualities to him, not even his grief for his daughter, and I could relate to Adam’s venomous feelings towards him. Unlike Adam I pitied his wife, Helen as abuse and control changes people and makes them act in ways others often can’t understand.

“What’s done in the dark will be brought to the light”. That quote reverberated in my mind many times while reading this book as we saw how many of the characters acted very differently in secret than when with others. As the story went on some of these secret actions were revealed to others but what I liked is that the author showed the human side to them in their motivations. With one character this was especially true. I feel like saying their name will be a kind of spoiler so will just say that I felt great empathy for this character even though I disagreed with their actions.

This was my first read by this author but certainly won’t be my last, and I now have the urge to go and buy his entire back catalogue. The multiple characters and narrators never felt confusing, even at the end where it was particularly fast-paced, frantic and full of opposing commentary. 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.

Publication Date: 21st May 2019

Review: ‘The Missing Years’ by Lexie Elliott ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Review: ‘The Missing Years’ by Lexie Elliott ⭐⭐⭐⭐

An eerie old Scottish manor in the middle of nowhere that’s now hers.

Ailsa Caler has inherited half of a house. The other half belongs to a man who disappeared without a trace twenty-seven years ago. Her father.

Leaving London behind to settle her mother’s estate, Ailsa returns to her childhood home nestled amongst the craggy peaks of the Scottish Highlands, accompanied by the half-sister she’s never taken the time to get to know.

With the past threatening to swallow her whole, she can’t escape the claustrophobic feeling that the house itself is watching her, or ignore how animals take care never to set foot within its garden.

And when Ailsa confronts the first nighttime intruder, she sees that the manor’s careless rugged beauty could cost her everything…

The eerie and bizarre is woven throughout this tale about family and self-discovery from the outset. Chapter one ended in a terrifying and unexpected manner that had me shook. I wasn’t sure if I should read this at night…

“The Manse is listening, holding its breath”

Unused to people knowing about her family, it’s a shock for Ailsa to realise her family is part of local legend and that everyone in the small community has an opinion on her mother, who was a somewhat famous painter, and her father’s disappearance, after a diamond buying trip twenty-seven years ago. Many of the locals are openly hostile to her being back while others are fascinated by the story and The Manse. As Ailsa begins feel watched by the house and strange, menacing things begin to occur, she feels increasing unease. Surely the rumours of the supernatural surrounding The Manse can’t be true. And who would want her gone so badly that they threaten her? I thought Ailsa’s attempt to rationalise what was happening, her fear and suspicion of everyone was well written. As a reader I couldn’t make sense of it all and didn’t know what to believe either.

I liked that before each chapter there would be a short paragraph imagining a different scenario for her father’s life since he disappeared. These were a great insight into Ailsa’s thoughts on the matter as she otherwise holds her cards very close to her chest, preferring not to really speak about him or how she’s been affected by his sudden vanishing when she was just seven years old. In fact, Ailsa is a bit of a lost soul. She was dragged around various homes by her mother who couldn’t afford to care for her daughter for many years and their relationship never recovered. They were estranged at the time of her death, which is also the reason she has never got to know her half-sister. Her forced independance and struggle to open up were all evident as she attempted to reacquaint herself with Carrie and build a real relationship.

This book was filled with an array of colourful characters. Jamie and Fiona McCue, siblings who are also Ailsa’s closest neighbours, were probably the most colourful of all. Fiona is fascinated with The Manse, some might say obsessed, and believes some strange things about it. Even her adorable son, Callum, has some unusual ideas. Ailsa doesn’t trust or like  Fiona and she’s her prime suspect for all the strange goings on at The Manse.

“I can almost see the emotions swirling inside me, a scarlet and black tornado.”

The breathtaking finale had me on the edge of my seat as I raced towards to end. I had no idea how it would end but nothing prepared me for the shocking twists as the author pulled the rug from under me. Atmospheric, haunting, creepy and macabre, the author’s poetic style of writing adds to the tone of this novel. The Scottish dialect from some characters was a little tricky to read at first but soon became nothing more than a way to hear their voice in my head more clearly. A steady-paced, engrossing read for anyone who loves a good thriller.

Thank you to Atlantic Books for providing me with an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: 6th June 2019.

Review: ‘Someone You Know’ by Olivia Isaac-Henry ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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You can trust your family, can’t you…?

Tess Piper was fourteen when her adored twin sister Edie disappeared.

She has spent the last twenty years building a life away from her fractured family, desperate to escape the shadow of the past.

Only now she needs to confront the huge hole her sister’s disappearance left in her life, because a body has been found. The police are shining a spotlight on the Piper family. And secrets are about to surface.

After all, it’s common knowledge that more often than not these crimes are committed by someone close to the victim. Someone they trust. Someone they know…

What really happened to Edie Piper?

Thank you to NetGalley, Avon books and Olivia Isaac-Henry for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

This thriller was a quick and gripping read. From early on there seemed to be a glaringly obvious culprit. But was this the case or was the author deliberately trying to mislead us so we are surprised by the truth? I vacillated between the two possibilities many times during this book and later on when I considered other suspects.

The dual timelines with different narrators works well for the story. In the present day we have Tess narrating and see how she remembers her sister, events leading to and surrounding her disappearance, and how it shaped her life and still affects her to this day. In the flashback chapters our narrator is Edie. This allows us to get to know her as more than a body that’s now been found and learn who she was, what she thought from her own perspective instead of through Tess’s eyes. The difference in how Tess remembers things and how Edie viewed things at the time, and how very different the two girls were, adds a greater dimension to the story and gives us more clues as to who could have killed her than if we had just had the one narrator.

One of the themes that runs through the book is the family’s mistrust of the police. This stems from how close family members were suspected back when Edie vanished and things they said were twisted. Determined to find out what happened to her twin Tess begins to investigate for herself, only for her family to dissuade her from doing that too. Could there be more to both these things? Are they actually trying to stop her from finding out a truth they’ve been hiding all these years?

Full of twists and turns this was a thriller that repeatedly surprised me. I recommend this to anyone looking for a good readable thriller.

Out now.

‘Hello, My Name Is May’ by Rosalind Stopps ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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They wrote it on the wall above my bed. Hello, it said, my name is May. Please talk to me.

May has been moved into a care home after her stroke. She can’t communicate, all her words are kept inside. If she tries to point, her arms swing in wild directions, if she tries to talk strange noises come out of her mouth.

May is sharp, quick, and funny, but only her daughter Jenny sees this, and Jackie, a new friend who cares enough to look and listen closely.

When May discovers that someone familiar, from long ago, is living in the room opposite hers she is haunted by scenes from her earlier life, when she was a prisoner of her husband’s unpredictable rages. Bill, the man in the opposite room seems so much like her husband, though almost a lifetime has passed, and May’s eyesight isn’t what it was.

As Bill charms his way through the nursing home, he focuses his romantic attention on Jackie, while all May can do is watch. She is determined to protect Jackie and keep herself safe, but what can she do in her vulnerable, silent state?

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

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. The isolation and hopelessness young May feels at a time when domestic abuse was even more hidden than today, and there was less help available, was distressing and made me thankful women in that position today have more options, even though that fear of leaving, self blame and hope things will improve is the same no matter what era you live in. Alain was a chilling character who was the perfect example of an abuser- controlling, nasty and vicious one moment and then apologetic, kind and loving the next. They put you in a tailspin and are so good at making you think you’re the one at fault or going crazy and the author did a fantastic job of showing this just how it is.

While we have all seen and heard of the appalling way some carers treat those in their charge it made it no less harrowing to read in this book. The lack of empathy and patience for such a vulnerable patient, the way they taunted her and dismissed her was sickening. Poor May would just be trying to point to something or communicate but they bully and belittle her saying she’s cantankerous and stuck up, and have no time to try and understand what she’s trying to convey. When May meets Bill her terror is palpable. You’re as sure as she is that there’s something menacing about him and all his actions seem to have an undercurrent of it. I kept willing her to find her voice again so she could unmask Bill and finally be treated as a real person by the staff.

I devoured this book in less than twenty-four hours. The tension is kept at a high throughout and the author communicates May’s feelings so vividly that you just want to reach into the book and embrace her while telling her she’s safe now. I was not prepared for that jaw-dropping conclusion. It shook me to the core and will stay with me for a long time. A gripping and touching read.

Out now.

‘For the Love of Books’ by Graham Tarrant ⭐⭐⭐. 5

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A light-hearted book about books and the people who write them for all lovers of literature.

Do you know:

Which famous author died of caffeine poisoning? Why Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was banned in China? Who was the first British writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature? What superstistions Truman Capote kept whenever he wrote? Who the other Winston Churchill was?

A treasure trove of compelling facts, riveting anecdotes, and extraordinary characters, For the Love of Books is a book about books–and the inside stories about the people who write them. Learn how books evolved, what lies behind some of the greatest tales ever told, and who’s really who in the world of fiction.

From banned books to famous feuding authors, from literary felons to rejected masterpieces, from tips for aspiring writers to stand-out book lists for the readers to catch up on, For the Love of Books is a celebration of the written word and an absolute page-turner for any book lover.

Read all about it!

Thank you to Skyhorse Publishing, Netgalley and Graham Tarrant for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

An interesting, fun and light-hearted book full of facts and trivia any bibliophile will enjoy.

I found the history of books particularly riveting and learned a lot reading this book. There are some great quotes from authors about books and writing in here too. Many of the facts about the authors were new to me and while some weren’t especially riveting, there were others that were witty or fascinating. I enjoyed learning more about authors I like and some that I’d never heard of or knew little about. For example: did you know that Margaret Atwood invented a remote-controlled pen so she can sign books for fans when unable to be there in person?

This was a quick read for me and I admit I did skim some parts that I found a little tedious. Overall this is a book I’d recommend if you fancy something different or if you want to learn more about books and literature.

Publication Day: June 4th 2019

‘The Corset’ by Laura Purcell ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Is prisoner Ruth Butterham mad or a murderer? Victim or villain?

Dorothea and Ruth. Prison visitor and prisoner. Powerful and powerless. Dorothea Truelove is young, wealthy and beautiful. Ruth Butterham is young, poor and awaiting trial for murder.

When Dorothea’s charitable work leads her to Oakgate Prison, she is delighted with the chance to explore her fascination with phrenology and test her hypothesis that the shape of a person’s skull can cast a light on their darkest crimes. But when she meets teenage seamstress Ruth, she is faced with another theory: that it is possible to kill with a needle and thread. For Ruth attributes her crimes to a supernatural power inherent in her stitches.

The story Ruth has to tell of her deadly creations – of bitterness and betrayal, of death and dresses – will shake Dorothea’s belief in rationality, and the power of redemption.

Can Ruth be trusted? Is she mad, or a murderer?

This gothic novel had been languishing on my shelves for a while when I decided to pick it up as my fiftieth read of 2019. The Silent Companions was one of my favourite reads last year so I began this full of high expectations. I was not disappointed.

Dorothea  Truelove is attracted to the forbidden and isn’t interested in the life expected of her as a wealthy heiress, but in becoming a better and more useful person. She spends time on charitable work which leads her to Oakgate Prison and Ruth Butterham. Sixteen-year-old Ruth is awaiting trial for murder. She grew up poor and was sold to work as a seamstress to pay of her mother’s debts. It is her talents with a needle and thread that she claims enabled her to kill, saying that she has the ability to sew death into the things she creates.

Dorothea and Ruth are two very different women. Dorothea has known a life of privilege while Ruth has known nothing but poverty. Both have suffered loss but the effect it’s had on their lives is very different. When they meet they have outlooks on life that are also different but find that they come to bond over Ruth’s story. I liked both main characters and the author did a great job of writing their diverse lives in a way that made you understand their actions and beliefs. There were some other great characters in this book too. Some I loved and others I despised.

The author highlights many important issues of the time in this novel. There is an interesting look at mental health and phrenology, women’s roles in society and how workers were sold into slavery with no rights and treated appallingly. In particular, I think Ruth’s life and the struggle of the poor in Victorian times was particularly well written. I could almost smell the rot and decay of their dank, desolate and depressing living conditions and feel their terror at being starved, having no rights and the fear of what their cruel employer might do to them for the slightest reason. There were parts of Ruth’s story so harrowing I’d have to stop reading and take a break for a while.

I am so glad that I finally read this book. Dark, haunting, atmospheric, chilling and raw, this was impossible to put down. The story is exquisitely written and has solidified Ms Purcell as one of my favourite authors whose novels are a must-read. There is so much I loved about this novel: the ambiguity, the magnificent writing and that mindblowing ending that had me sitting there in disbelief at what I was reading. I would vacillate from heartbreak to anger to disgust as I read Ruth’s story. To be honest Dorothea’s chapters almost felt like light relief in comparison.

So is Ruth mad or a murderer? Victim or villain? That is something you’ll have to read and decide for yourself. The Corset is an outstanding piece of gothic noir that I highly recommend.

Out Now