‘Little Darlings’ by Melanie Golding ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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THE TWINS ARE CRYING.

THE TWINS ARE HUNGRY.

LAUREN IS CRYING.

LAUREN IS EXHAUSTED.

Behind the hospital curtain, someone is waiting…

After a traumatic birth, Lauren is alone on the maternity ward with her new-born twins when a terrifying encounter in the middle of the night leaves her convinced someone is trying to steal her children. Lauren, desperate with fear, locks herself and her sons in the bathroom until the police arrive to investigate.

But there’s nothing on the CCTV. No one remembers seeing a woman come close to Lauren, or her babies. They don’t believe anyone was ever there.

And yet, Lauren keeps seeing the woman and is convinced her babies are in danger. With every step she takes to keep her children safe, Lauren sinks deeper into paranoia and fear. From  the stark loneliness of returning home after birth, to the confines of the psychiatric unit, Lauren’s desperation increases as no one will listen t her. But here’s the question: is she mad, or does she know something we don’t?

Thank you to NetGalley, HQ and Melanie Golding for the chance to read and review this novel.

This book is such a triumph that I can’t believe it’s the author’s debut novel. Deliciously sinister, twisted, dark and unsettling, this beautifully written book starts with a letter to the reader that tells us about changeling folklore and how the child-friendly, Disneyfied Fairy Tales we know today are very different from their terrifying origins that were used to scare children rather than entertain them. Through the main character this book emerges you into every mother’s worst nightmare and chills you to the bone.

‘Choose one,’ said the woman, ‘choose one or I’ll take them both…I can make sure they look the same.’

Lauren Tranter is feeling traumatised after the difficult birth of her twin boys, Morgan and Riley and feeling overwhelmed with the task of caring for the two tiny infants alone in the hospital. In the middle of the night Lauren a woman in the supposedly empty bed next to hers singing an eerie song. Lauren decides to ask her to stop and is confronted with a strange, ugly woman with two babies of her own. She tells Lauren both sets of twins are charmed, only hers are cursed with darkness. To balance this out she demands they exchange a twin and that if Lauren refuses she’ll take both and make sure the replacements look the same. Lauren, aghast and overcome with fierce maternal protection, locks herself with in the bathroom with the twins and calls the police. But hospital security say no one was there and there’s nothing on the CCTV so Lauren is referred to a psychiatrist. Despite this, DS Jo Harper can’t shake the feeling that there is more to this case than meets the eye.

Back at home Lauren lives in fear that the woman is going to take her children grows but no one believes her, not even her husband, Patrick. She refuses to leave the twins alone even for a minute, won’t leave the house, is scared to sleep and is just trying to survive each day. Patrick and her friends become increasingly worried about her. Eventually, she takes the boys to the park but the outing ends in disaster when she falls asleep on a bench and wakes to find the boys gone. Lauren’s elation at their recovery soon turns to horror when she realises these babies are not Morgan and Riley. The woman has carried out her threat to take them both. But everyone else is fooled and her desperate attempts to convince them leads to her being sent to a psychiatric unit.

At the psychiatric unit Lauren is filled with panic and fear.She knows she has to convince them she isn’t insane, that she doesn’t think the babies are her children so that they will let her go and she can save the real Morgan and Riley. So she tries to say the right things and act like she isn’t full of revulsion for the things that have replaced her perfect boys. When the police investigation finds no suspects everyone seems sure that Lauren is suffering from mental illness. Everyone except DS Harper. She still feels sure there’s something they’re missing and begins investigating various leads that could prove she’s right. But is she being fooled by a sick and unstable mother who is a danger to her children or the only person who believes a mother who is innocent and desperately trying to save them?

There’s some books you seem to just instantly connect with for one reason or another and this was one of those for me. The letter at the start, the ominous prologue and even the setting, were reasons this novel resonated with me so quickly. The book is set in my hometown of Sheffield and while I’ve read books set in places I’ve been or know a little, I have never before read a book set in my hometown. It added an extra layer of enjoyment when reading for me. I loved that I could picture the hospital Lauren gives birth in as I gave birth there myself and all the places mentioned are so familiar that I could picture them clearly.

One of the things I loved about this book was the uncertainty if Lauren was crazy or the fairy tale was real. I vacillated on this point many times and still can’t decide which I believe or which would be the least unsettling. Sometimes I find such ambiguity ruins a book for me but in this case I thought it enhanced the story. Afterall, this is a story based on a fairy tale and they require you to suspend your disbelief at the impossible, so it isn’t a stretch for me to believe that Lauren was telling the truth. But then the changeling folklore began as an explanation for the impossible, for something that is now a recognised mental illness, and therefore it is also not hard to believe that this is the explanation for what she is seeing. Overall, I did like Lauren. She did whatever she could to protect and save her children in her mind and while she seemed weak and paralysed by fear at the start, she found strength and fought her fears as the book went on. DS Jo Harper was also a great character, probably my favourite. Her back story gave substance to her actions that you could tell were often emotional and I liked that when she believed in something she pursued it, even if it got her in trouble. Patrick is another matter. I couldn’t stand him and for most of the book I wanted to reach through the pages and slap him as hard as possible. His complaints about losing sleep, complaining he can’t function without it and she knew that before the babies made me so angry. He was anything but the helpful father Lauren expected and my heart went out to her as she realised the man she married wasn’t who she thought he was. Although he did seem to step up after the babies were abducted his earlier actions and other revelations meant that even this didn’t endear him to me.

Little Darlings is a spine-tingling, absorbing and spectacular novel. Filled with clever twists, shocking revelations, edge of your seat suspense and unnerving changeling folklore this is a book that will stay with you. Melanie Golding is an exciting new voice in fiction and has created a book everyone will be talking about.

Out May 2nd

February Wrap Up

Collage 2019-02-28 09_51_32This month has been a strange reading and blogging month for me. I’ve struggled with both, and not because of the quality of the books I’m reading. I’m still trying to write some reviews from books I read in January as well as a few from this month. I do find myself able to think more clearly as the weather warms up so hopefully this will improve through March and into April.

Even though it’s been a strange month, I managed to read 11 books this month. Seven were from NetGalley, two were from the author, one as part of #ourlittlebookclub19 on Instagram, and then one other.  I read seven of the eight titles I’d planned to read this month. I did start to read the eighth but I couldn’t get into it and didn’t finish so I haven’t included it in my list.

 

  1. ‘Night By Night’ by Jack Jordan ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Another gripping, twisted, dark, and haunting thriller that I couldn’t put down from this author. After a terrible mistake leaves insomniac Rose Shaw rejected by her family and feeling like there’s nothing left to live for. Then one night a stranger crashes into her and drops a diary, but he’s gone before Rose can give it back. At home she can’t resist reading it, unprepared for the tale inside. When the police refuse to investigate the diary author’s disappearance and claims of being stalked, Rose takes matters in her own hands… Out May 2nd
  2. ‘A Gift For Dying’ by M. J. Arlidge ⭐⭐⭐.5 – Troubled teenager Kassie meets forensic psychologist Adam Brandt after being arrested for attempted mugging. But the story the girl has to tell is like none he’s heard before: Kassie claims to be able to see when and how people die. At first he thinks she’s having a psychological breakdown, but when a serial killer begins stalking the city and Kassie’s predictions start to come true, he begins to wonder if their could be some truth to her claims. A stand alone novel this was an intriguing and thought provoking book that was only let down by it’s lack of pace at times. Out March 7th
  3. ‘Little’ by Edward Carey ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – A re imagining of the life of Madame Tussaud this breathtaking piece of historical fiction reached into my soul and took up residence. Beautifully written with gorgeous illustrations that bring the writing to life even more, I was completely immersed in Marie’s world from her birth in Switzerland, apprenticeship to a wax sculptor, their move to Paris and a rise to fame for making wax heads that sees her employed by royalty. Out now
  4. ‘Closer Than You Think’ by Darren O’Sullivan ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Ten years ago Claire Moore barely escaped the serial killer known as The Black-Out Killer. She is still traumatised and trying to rebuild her life while suffering from anxiety, flashbacks and the paranoia she’s being watched. But she isn’t paranoid. The killer she escaped is watching and isn’t happy she’s moving on. So he comes out of the shadows to strike fear in not only Claire but the general public once again. This gripping thriller was narrated by both Claire and the serial killer which I loved and found myself liking this flawed, twisted individual with a surprising moral code. This book also gave the best descriptions of anxiety and panic attacks I’ve read as we watch Claire fight to overcome her fears. Out March 15th
  5. ‘The Night Olivia Fell’ by Christina McDonald ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This book broke me. I was unprepared for how emotional and heartbreaking it would be and the tears I cried; something a book hasn’t made me do in years. An amalgamation of mystery, suspense, psychological thriller and tragedy this is the story of a mother’s search for the truth after her 17 year old daughter falls from a bridge. Abi is convinced it was no accident, but the police say it was. So in dual timelines we see Abi learn more about her daughter as she tries to find answers and read the events leading up to the fall from Olivia’s perspective. An incredible debut from a writer I can’t wait to read more from. Just one warning: the final chapters will require tissues so have them ready. Kindle out now, Paperback out March 7th
  6. ‘Little Lovely Things’ by Maureen Joyce Connolly ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – When Claire Rawlings wakes after passing out sick on a garage bathroom floor she’s horrified to discover her car containing her two young daughters is gone. Told from multiple POV this story follows how the little decisions we make can have life changing repercussions and the effects the abduction have on the various people involved: a surprising cast of characters you’ll love and loathe. A raw story that doesn’t shy away from the dark side of the character’s natures this is a great debut novel. Out April 2nd
  7. ‘Hag-Seed’ by Margaret Atwood ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Hag-Seed is a retelling of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  It tells the story of Felix, who is sacked from his job as Artistic Director of the Makeshiweh Festival as they’re getting ready to perform The Tempest. He lives in exile with just the imaginary presence of his daughter Miranda, who died years before, for company. Consumed by the need for revenge against his enemies he concocts a plan to ensure it is served. Taking a job as a  teacher of Literary Through Theatre at the local correction facility he has a surprising twist in mind as they stage their version of The Tempest that will have far reaching consequences. Out now
  8. ‘The Burning’ by Laura Bates ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Anna is starting afresh after an incident that saw all her friends turn on her and traumatised her so much she still has nightmares and flashbacks. She’s changed her surname, closed her social media accounts and moved across the country so there’s no chance her past will follow her. Or so she thinks. While researching a history project Anna finds herself drawn to the story of Maggie, a woman who lived 400 years earlier and was accused of witchcraft. As she discovers she has more in common with Maggie than she thought the whispers start and she’s the subject of gossip and ridicule again. This is not just a book for young adults or girls, it’s a culturally relevant book everyone should read. As a parent I found it particularly helpful in having more understanding of the social dynamics my children face. Hopefully this book will empower those who feel weak and help there be less judgement, pressure and one-sided conduct in the future. Out now
  9. ‘The Stillwater Girls’ by Minka Kent ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Wren and Sage have been alone in their secluded cabin since their Mama left with their sister Evie to get medical help . Will their supplies running low they are facing starvation when a strange man knocks at their door claiming to be looking for their mother. Vowing to not leave without them the terrified girls have no choice but to break their Mama’s one rule: never go beyond the forest. But neither girl is prepared for what they find on the other side of the forest and for their whole lives to be turned upside down. Long hidden secrets are revealed and lies uncovered as the authorities try to discover the girl’s identities and search for their missing mother and sister… I devoured this fast paced, compelling thriller in under 24 hours. It was my first read by this author but it certainly won’t be my last. Out April 9th
  10. ‘Little Darlings’ by Melanie Golding ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – After a difficult birth Lauren is feeling overwhelmed at being left alone to care for her tiny twins when in the middle of the night she encounters a strange, ugly woman who demands one of Lauren’s twins in exchange for her own or she’ll take them both. Terrified, Lauren locks herself and her babies in the bathroom and calls the police. But no one else has seen the woman and there’s nothing on CCTV so Lauren is referred to a psychiatrist. At home Lauren’s fear that this woman is going to take her children grows but no one believes her, not even her husband. When the twins are taken while she’s in a park she can see that the babies recovered are not Morgan and Riley. But everyone else is fooled and she’s sent to a psychiatric unit where she continues to try and make them see the truth. But is she insane or has someone really swapped her children? Based on the changeling folklore this is a chilling tale from a talented new voice in fiction. Out May 2nd
  11. ‘They Called Me Wyatt’ by Natasha Tynes ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – A truly unique story this debut novel captured my imagination from the start. Jordanian student Siwar Salaiha is murdered on her 25th birthday but her consciousness survives, waking in the body of a three year old American boy named Wyatt. Failing to communicate with his parents she instead decides to solve the mystery of her murder. But her consciousness becomes dormant after Wyatt has surgery until 22 years later when Wyatt, now a graduate student with an affinity for the Middle East. learns Siwar’s story and becomes inexplicably obsessed with solving her murder. His investigation leads him to face parts of himself he’s locked away and refused to face all his life and puts pressure on his relationships. Travelling to her hometown he finds a clue that could possibly solve the case. Could  justice might finally be served for Siwar after all these years? Out June 27th

As you can see it’s been a great month with nearly all my reads being a solid four stars. The standout book for me this month has to be ‘Little’. Edward Carey has a new fan in this reader and other than his new book that is coming out in September, I can’t imagine anything else topping it this year.

March is going to be a busy month for me as I will be taking part in the #MurderMonday bookclub. I’m a huge fan of true crime so I can’t wait to dive into the books for this group.

What did you read this month? Have you read any of the books I did? Comment below and let me know.

Thank you to NetGalley, Corvus, Atlantic Books, HQ, HQ Digital, Thomas and Mercer, Penguin UK, Michael Joseph, Sourcebooks, Simon and Schuster UK Childrens, Christina McDonald, Maureen Joyce Connolly and Natasha Tynes for the chance to read and review these novels.

Spell Your Name In Books Instagram Post.

IMG_20190225_135449_016The lovely @remembery_tree_reads tagged me in the #spellyournameinbooks challenge.

E–Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

M–My Sister’s Keeper

M–(the) Miniaturist

A–All Is Not Forgotten

🦋

Is your name out there in the bookstagram community? Yes, I have my first name on my account and in my username.

What does your name near mean, and does it reflect your personality? It means “whole”, “complete” or “universal”. I’ve always thought it was a dull meaning but I then I saw it also means “healer of the universe” and I like that 🤗 Apparently I look for way to show I care, stand firm in defence of friends and see the best in others, all of which I agree with. I don’t think I’m admired for self restraint though: I’m definitely a fiery redhead in that regard 🙊

Are you lucky enough to have a name that can be abbreviated? Not amongst a sea of Emma’s, no. My embarrassing maiden name was used and nicknamed instead.

Do you know what you were nearly called as a baby?  I was almost Emmeline but my parents figured I’d get nicknamed Emma anyway. If I was a boy I’d have been Ashley.

🦋

Tagging those I think might want to take part but feel free to join in if you want 💗

‘The Stillwater Girls’ by Minka Kent ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Two sisters raised in fear are about to find out why in a chilling novel of psychological suspense from the author of The Thinnest Air.

Ignorant of civilisation and cautioned against evils, nineteen-year-old Wren and her two sister, Sage and Evie, were raised in off-the-grid isolation in a primitive cabin in upstate New York. When the youngest grows gravely ill, their mother leaves with the child to get help from a nearby town. And they never return.

As months pass, hope vanishes. Supplies are low. Livestock are dying. A brutal winter is bearing down. Then comes the stranger. He claims to be looking for the girls’ mother, and he’s not leaving without them.

To escape, Wren and her sister must break the rule they’ve grown up with: never go beyond the forest.

Past the thicket of dread, they come upon a house on the other side of the pines. This is where Wren and Sage must confront something more chilling than the unknowable. They’ll discover what’s been hidden from them, what they’re running from, and the secrets that have left them in the dark their entire lives.

Thank you to Thomas and Mercer, NetGalley and Minka Kent for the chance to read and review this book.

I tore through this compelling thriller in less than 24 hours. It was my first read by this author but it won’t be my last.

Wren and Sage have been alone since their Mama left with their sister Evie 63 days ago. Their supplies are dwindling and Wren isn’t sure they’ll survive the coming winter and is losing hope of Mama returning. The girls have never left their secluded cabin on the edge of Stillwater Forest, always cautioned to fear what lurks beyond it. But then a man knocks at their door claiming to be looking for their mother. He keeps asking questions and says he won’t leave without them so Wren decides they have to break Mama’s rule. They have to go into the forest. Gripping each other’s hands the sisters battle their overwhelming fear to escape and find help beyond the trees. But neither girl is prepared for what they find on the other side of the forest and for their whole lives to be turned upside down. Long hidden secrets are revealed and lies uncovered as the authorities try to discover the girl’s identities and search for their missing mother and sister.

I don’t like putting spoilers in my reviews which makes it difficult to say much about what happens after the sister’s leave their home. I was gripped from the first page and though I didn’t have any inkling of the twists, turns and revelations that would leave me reeling, I could tell this was going to be a book that saw seemingly unrelated things converge.

Wren and Sage are two of the most innocent characters I’ve ever read. They are oblivious to the real world, never having heard of electricity or a flushing, inside toilet. They are vulnerable, terrified, dazed and full of wonder at life outside the cabin. Wren in particular relishes the freedom to make simple choices and begins to see how dominating and deceitful her Mama had been. Having Wren as a narrator helped me connect to her and made the abnormal situations feel believable. I had a lot of empathy for the girls and I was rooting for them to have a happy ending after all they had gone through.

The Stillwater Girls is a thrilling, fast paced and compelling book that pulls you into the world of it’s characters. The author has the ability how to keep the reader in the dark about what’s coming but still keep them so emerged in the story that they can’t stop reading. The only downside for me is that it was over too quickly.

Out April 9th.

‘The Burning’ by Laura Bates ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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‘The Burning lights a fire in you – one that makes you want to fight for change and ignite sparks in others so the fire spreads and spreads’ Holly Bourne

Fire is like a rumour. You might think you’ve extinguished it but one, creeping, red tendril, one single wisp of smoke is enough to let it leap back into life again. Especially if someone is watching, waiting to fan the flames…

New school. Tick.

New town. Tick

New surname. Tick.

Social media profiles? Erased.

There’s nothing to trace Anna back to her old life. Nothing to link her to the ‘incident’.

At least that’s what she thinks…until the whispers start up again. As time begins to run out on her secrets Anna finds herself irresistibly  drawn to the tale of Maggie, a local girl accused of witchcraft centuries earlier. A girl whose story has terrifying parallels to Anna’s own…

Thank you to NetGalley, Simon and Schuster UK Childrens and Laura Bates for the chance to read and review this novel.

“Girls are like marshmallows…”

I did not expect to love this book so much or to be so consumed by it. It truly was like it had lit a fire in me and I just had to keep reading. This young adult debut is an important story about life for both teenagers and their parents in the age of social media.

15-year-old Anna and her mother have moved from Birmingham to the tiny fishing village of St Monans in Scotland to start anew. There was an incident that led to Anna’s friends turning against her and was so traumatising that she can’t bear to even think about it, though she is still haunted by unwanted flashbacks. She starts St Margaret’s Academy with a new surname, has deleted all her social media accounts and no longer has a phone so that there’s no way what happened can follow her. Though she initially blends into the background anonymously, people are curious about her and she becomes friends with two girls Cat and Alisha. But she is torn between happiness at her new friends, guilt at keeping secrets and the terror of everything being discovered.

“We are the granddaughters of the witches you burned. And we’re not putting up with it anymore.”

When she is assigned a history project that requires her to write about a local person she stumbles on a footnote about a young woman tried for witchcraft in the 17th Century. With the help of local author and amateur historian Glenn Sinclair  she searches for more information and is soon absorbed by Maggie. As she learns more she finds that she has more in common with her subject despite having lived 400 years apart: it seems some things don’t change but evolve into a different form. Vivid dreams begin to make her understand Maggie in a very real way and the assignment becomes a distraction from her own problems as her secret is somehow discovered and she finds herself reliving her worst nightmare once again…

“The words aren’t the worst part. It’s the names…Somebody I would have called a friend”

While the teenage years have never been easy for any generation, the current generation face unrelenting pressure from the ubiquitous presence of social media and technology. The parents of today’s teens find themselves parenting children in a situation they couldn’t have dreamed of and are often at a loss how to help or guide them. I know this because I’m one of those parents with two of those teenagers. I have have seen the bombardment that teenagers face with online bullying. It is vital that as parents we understand what they face and equip them with the tools to navigate these issues.

Though this is a book that covers the pressures faced by teenage girls it doesn’t look at the situation from a biased and sexist viewpoint. The author explores all sides involved in these types of incidents: the boy and girl themselves, the friends on both sides, the parents and the school. She reminds us of the double standards that see boys congratulated and girls shamed, where girls are often the worst culprits of slut shaming and that any boy that dare stand up and refuse to take part can be subject to homophobic slurs from the others. Also covered is the complexities faced by teenagers: girls trying to walk the fine line between frigidity and sluttish behaviour, and boys under pressure to ‘act like a real man’. Schools and parents have their roles to play too and we see how so often the wrong decisions reinforces these hypocrisies.

“Peer pressure is a powerful and ancient force.”

I liked Anna as a protagonist and thought her inner monologue encapsulated her feelings in such a way that it was like I was experiencing them myself. She was real and raw and what happens to her are things that are experienced by others every single day. She is someone young girls can relate to and anyone else that reads the book could learn from. When I learned that Maggie was a real character from Scottish history I liked her even more. She is a strong woman who sees the wrong in how she’s being treated and bravely stands up against it. Having Maggie’s story included in this book not only empowered Anna, it serves as a reminder that the things happening to her aren’t new. These things have been happening for hundreds of years, they just shift their shape a little as the cultural landscape changes and technology advances. Instead of a shaming stool in a church people now write slurs in comments on social media or via messages. This means there is a more intensified experience that lasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and not just a few hours on a Sunday. Seeing these parallels in the two women’s stories was disheartening but the fact that we are now talking about these issues more and making changes hopefully means we will see less and less of such one-sided conduct.

The Burning is a riveting, culturally relevant book that everyone should read. It is one that will hopefully make a difference: empowering those who feel weak or under duress, and bring empathy and pause to those who might pressurise, judge or debase.

Out Now.

‘Little Lovely Things’ by Maureen Joyce Connolly ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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A mother’s chance decision leads to a twist of fate that is every parent’s worst nightmare.

Claire Rawlings, mother of two and medical resident, will not let the troubling signs of an allergic reaction prevent her from making it in for rounds. But when Claire’s symptoms overpower her while she’s driving into work, her two children in tow, she must pull over. Moments later she wakes up on the floor of a gas station bathroom – her car and her precious girls have vanished.

The police have no leads and the weight of guilt presses down on Claire as each hour passes with no trace of her girls. All she has to hold on to are her strained marriage,  a potentially unreliable witness who emerges days later, and the desperate but unquenchable belief that her daughters are out there somewhere.

Little Lovely things is the story of a family shattered by an unthinkable tragedy. Played out in multiple narrative voices, the novel explores how the lives of those affected fatefully intersect, and highlights the potential catastrophe of the small decisions we make every day.

Thank you to Maureen Joyce Connolly, Sourcebooks Landmark and Netgalley for the chance to read and review this book.

It’s a normal, chaotic morning for Claire Rawlings. A medical resident, she faces the regular stress of all working parents to get her young children Andrea, 4, and 15-month-old Lily, ready and out of the door on time. This particular morning she seems to be having an allergic reaction so she takes medication and tries to ignore the pounding in her head. As she drives she is overcome by her increasing symptoms so pulls over to use the bathroom of the gas station. All of a sudden she awakes to find the open door locked and her car containing her precious daughters has gone. The police, an ambulance, and her husband, Glen soon arrive. The stranger she had first alerted to their disappearance even drives to search for them in the direction he saw the stolen car take off. But it is all in vain, there are no clues and both the car and her children appear to have vanished into thin air.

Moira Kelly and Eamon O’Neil are Irish Travellers. They were banished by their clan and finding it increasingly harder to survive being so isolated. On their way to breakfast they spot Claire running into the bathroom. Telling themselves she’s a drug addict undeserving of her children, Eamon decides to steal the car along with the two girls much to Moira’s horror. She demands he takes them back but not only is it against their culture for a traveller woman to order her man what to do, but he holds a secret over her that she is in fear of him exposing. He decides they will take them to a secluded cabin and orders her to drive with the girls in the trunk of their own car so that they aren’t discovered.

Claire lives in limbo as time passes without clues or witnesses. Eventually a witness comes forward with a devastating discovery. Jay White is freshly out of prison, making him an unreliable witness and most of his tale is dismissed by the police. As the years pass they try to move on but the tragedy haunts them, with Claire and Glen living separate lives. The kidnappers live in constant fear of what they did that day being discovered. As they live their lives what none of them foresee is how their fates will converge years later in unexpected ways and how their decisions that day will affect all their lives for many years to come.

The story was narrated by Claire, Moira, Andrea and Jay, which gave us an insight into how not only the parents and one of the victims are affected by the events, which are points of view often explored in these kinds of stories, but also the thoughts and experiences of the kidnappers and a witness. As a mother I had a lot of empathy for Claire but I will admit my immediate reaction on reading that she went to the bathroom without her children made me wonder what on earth she was thinking. This in no way means I thought she deserved to experience every parents worst nightmare, she certainly didn’t, but I did think there were steps she could have taken to at least make what happened less easy for Eamon. I thought her grief and guilt were well written, as was how her marriage was affected by the tragedy. Moira is a hard character to like. I empathised with her in the beginning:  being in an abusive relationship and the heartbreaking things she had gone through in life. I also admired how she at least tried to get Eamon to return the girls. But after that all trace of empathy for her disappeared and I found her chapters hard to get through as she was such a vile character. I do think this was necessary though as without it the story wouldn’t have had the same trajectory and you don’t really want to like the person who’s taken two children. Her traveller background did provide an insight into how she would justify and do things that are unthinkable to a lot of people, something that would have been missing from her character without that. The character I liked most, and I didn’t expect this, was Jay. He had a life mired by tragedy and the scene where he makes his discovery is heartbreaking and raw. You see the goodness in him. Also as someone fresh out of prison a lot of people wouldn’t have tried to help like he did. Seeing how much it all affected him years later endeared me to him too. He was genuinely a man trying to change his life, live right and do the right thing whenever possible. Andrea’s chapters were some of the funniest and most heartbreaking to read. The way she was written when she was taken was fantastic and the scene where she thinks she’s been swallowed by a monster when she’s in the trunk struck me as exactly how a four year old would think in that situation and her terror at realising she’s been taken is heart-rending. The tenacity, intelligence and feistiness she possesses were perfect for her character.

Little Lovely Things is a readable psychological thriller filled with tension and drama from the start. Many times it is very raw as we are given an insight into the darkest moments in people’s lives. From the start of part 2 I was sure I knew how the story would end and it turned out that just like my expectations for much of this book, while I was partially right the author also surprised me with the many twist and turns it took . A great book for anyone who enjoys this genre.

Out April 2nd.

‘The Night Olivia Fell’ by Christina McDonald ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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A search for the truth. A lifetime of lies.

In the small hours of the morning, Abi Knight is startled awake by the phone call no mother wants to get: her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the dark bruises circling Olivia’s wrists.

When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened that night. Heartbroken and grieving, she unravels the threads of her daughter’s life. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?

Christina McDonald weaves a suspenseful and heartwrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love. With flashbacks of Olivia’s own resolve to uncover family secrets, this taut and emotional novel asks: how well do you know your children? And how well do they know you?

I was unprepared for how heartbreaking this book would be, for the tears that flowed in the final chapters; something that hasn’t happened in a few years. There was an overwhelming sense of sorrow and the futile hope that the inevitable ending would change. An amalgamation of mystery, suspense, psychological thriller and tragedy, this is a book you won’t forget.

Abi Knight is woken one night with the call all parents dread: her 17-year-old daughter Olivia is in the hospital, brain dead after falling from a bridge. When the doctor tells her that they are only keeping her alive because of her unborn baby Abi is stunned. She had noticed her daughter wasn’t herself lately, and had even wondered if it was more than teen moodiness, but she was totally unprepared for this.

When the police rule the fall an accident Abi is incensed. To her it is obvious Olivia was pushed: she has bruising on her wrists and the charm bracelet she never took off is missing. With her pleas are falling on deaf ears the grieving mum begins to investigate herself, unaware she is now on a path that mean she will have to confront her greatest fears.

As Abi investigates, she realises how little she really knew about her daughter’s life, including her knowledge of the secret Abi has always tried to hide. Olivia was conceived during a passionate, clandestine relationship. So, with her former lover’s threats ringing in her ears for 17 years, Abi spun a web of lies about his identity, never considering her daughter doubts what she’s been told. When she discovers that Olivia had uncovered the deception and was secretly trying to find out the truth about her father, Abi is terrified. Thankfully she’s being helped by victim advocate Anthony who has the right knowledge and connections she needs to prove who hurt Olivia that night before time runs out.

This book started off to me like any other thriller. I was riveted by the prologue and loved the imagery used by the author. It felt like there was a movie reel playing in my mind as I read. The different language used depending on whether it was Abi or Olivia narraTing was perfect. Abi read exactly like a loving, devoted mother who was also a little overbearing, controlling and neurotic. She clearly has her daughter’s best interest at the centre of every move she makes and while her decision to tell lie about Olivia’s father proves to be the wrong choice, it is one that you can understand her making as a young, frightened girl. Her own past is marred by tragedy and parental abandonment and you can see how this has lead to her going to extremes to live her life as Olivia’s mum and nothing more. Her anguish as she tries to find the truth, grieve her daughter, face her past and find the strength she needs to possibly raise the grandchild who may not survive. In Olivia’s chapters I felt like I was reading narration by my own teenagers. You could tell Olivia was a bright, sensible girl who just wanted her mother to lay off the helicopter parenting and give her a bit of freedom. When she was struggling with the realisation her mum had lied to her all her life it was heartbreaking as you saw her lose her faith in the one person she’d always relied on. The chapter where Olivia narrated the fall was harrowing for me, particularly when she describes her feelings of slipping away. It took the air from my lungs and was a reminder of the unnecessary tragedy of the loss of a young girl’s future.

The final chapters of this book and the epilogue were the most emotional for me. The writing was beautiful yet full of heartbreak. But there was also a joyfulness as Abi learned to love and live even after losing the daughter who had been her whole life for seventeen years. I felt a kinship with Abi as my own “baby” is just turning 15, two years younger than Olivia, I was a single parent for most of his life, and my own history meant I had to protect him from his father most of that time. Unlike Abi I chose appropriate truths and he knew who his father was,although I do understand why Abi made the decisions she did with Olivia’s father being an illicit relationship. The indescribable loss Abi felt when learning her child wasn’t going to wake up tore me in two. A life was taken far too soon and not only was it Olivia’s future that was stolen, but a part of many other people’s too.

The questions raised in the synopsis were the crux of this novel: how well do you know your children? How well do they know you? For me, it was a reminder that as our children get older we know them less and they know us better. When they’re young they don’t leave your side for a minute, there’s no privacy. Who they are is transparent and they often tell us their secrets without realising it. As they become teenagers our children become an enigma, a stranger made of our own flesh. They tell their secrets to their friends, have whole sides to their personality that are hidden.They start to carve out their own path and find their place in the world. Teenagers also suffer from the delusion that they know best and that adults are just out to ruin their fun or make life difficult. They forget we were once that age and my own teenagers are regularly shocked we know their next move or true motivation. I now find myself sounding like my own parents did all those years ago: ‘We were your age once you know’, or ‘You’ll understand when you’re a parent’. Such a cliche! But our children are having the opposite experience to us. When they were younger they thought their parents knew everything, could do no wrong, had life figured out and existed solely as their mum or dad. Now they are seeing through the illusion and realising we had lives before they were born, that we are our own person with a life separate to them, that we have faults and make mistakes, and we have no idea what we’re doing half the time. Some, like Olivia, find out their parent has lied to them their whole life and questioning everything they thought they knew.

The Night Olivia Fell is a sensational debut novel. The author had the perfect mix of suspense, drama, tragedy, heartbreak and joy that made this a book I would highly recommend.

Out now on kindle.

Out in paperback 7th March.