‘The Dare’ by Carol Wyer ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Jane’s daughter is a good girl. What’s she hiding?

When thirteen-year-old Savannah Hopkins doesn’t come home straight from school, as she always does, her mother Jane immediately raises the alarm.

Leading the investigation is Detective Natalie Ward whose daughter Leigh is the same age as Savannah. Soon Natalie’s worst fears are confirmed when the teenager’s broken body is found in nearby shrubland.

Evidence points towards a local recluse, but  just as the net is closing in around him, one of Savannah’s friends, Harriet, is reported missing.

As Natalie delves into the lives of both girls, she soon discovers a sinister video on their phones, daring the girls to disappear from their families for 48 hours.

But Natalie isn’t quick enough for this killer, and she is devastated to find Harriet’s body on a fly tip a day later.

Caught up in the case, she takes her eye off her own daughter and when Leigh goes missing after school she knows she must be in terrible danger. The clock is ticking for Natalie. Can she catch this killer before her little girl becomes the next victim?

 

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

Carol Wyer has delivered another compulsive and unputdownable thriller. Secretive teenagers, social media and crazy dares are a deadly mix in this riveting novel.

Jane Hopkins is running late home from work. She likes to be there when thirteen-year-old Savannah arrives home from school, not like her own teenage years as a ‘latchkey kid’. When she arrives she’s surprised to find no trace of her daughter and no answer when she calls her phone. Savannah always comes straight home from school so Jane is immediately concerned. After checking with the few friends she’s made since they moved to the area and finding they haven’t seen her since school ended, Jane alerts the police.

Detective Natalie Ward is put in charge of the case but everyone’s worst fears are realised the next morning when the teenager’s body is discovered in a  nearby park. As the murder investigation begin and secrets the teenager was hiding begin to come to light another young girl disappears. When the second teenager is also found dead it is confirmed they’re dealing with a parent’s worst nightmare. But this is a killer who leaves few clues and could be any one of a number of suspects. When her own teenage daughter, Leigh, goes missing the hunt becomes personal for Natalie. Can she catch the killer before it’s too late?

The Dare is the third installment in the fantastic Detective Natalie Ward series and is the best yet. If you haven’t read the other books you could read this as a stand alone as the author provides enough snippets of information for you to understand the characters, their relationships and motivations. However I’d recommend you read them simply because they are great crime fiction.

Told from multiple points of view, the book opens as a mystery man with a large snake tattoo  on his torso is watching school children pass by. He talks about the snake having not been fed for a while and promises that it will soon be sated. The chilling tone of this chapter was repeated each time we met the adult killer. His conversations with his tattoo and his view of it as a separate entity, the thing that needed him to kill and feed it’s desire, made him seem more frightening and maleficent and left me with a chill down my spine. Later in the book there were some flashback chapters from his childhood where we see he was ridiculed at school and ignored at home. Feeling powerless we see what lead him to commit these awful acts and why he sees the snake as synonymous with his actions.

One of the best things for me about this book is the author wrote it so well that there was no clear suspect. There were multiple connections between the victims and possible candidates, but each time it seemed we knew who it was something would come along to make you doubt it was them. This uncertainty had me racing to the end to find out who had been terrorising the town and if Natalie’s daughter was found safe.

Ms Wyer has a talent for writing stories that get to the heart of what we as parents dread and striking horror in our hearts. As a mother to two teenagers I could relate to the stresses and trials the mothers in this story faced, how the children who once told us everything now hide things from us and we’re treading that fine line between giving them space to be independent and making sure they’re safe. Online safety is something we’re learning to navigate with this generation of teenagers and there were things this book made me consider that I’d never thought of before (I’ll not say more as I don’t want to give away spoilers).

I was on the edge of my seat as I devoured this book in almost one sitting. This is a must read for crime fiction and thriller fans. The only problem now is waiting for the next installment, one I’m personally hoping finally gives us more clues about Natalie’s elusive estranged sister.

Out April 25th.

‘They Called Me Wyatt’ by Natasha Tynes ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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When Jordanian student Siwar Salaiha is murdered on her birthday in College Park, Maryland, her consciousness survives, finding refuge in the body of a Seattle baby boy. Stuck in this speech delayed three-year-old body, Siwar tries but fails to communicate with Wyatt’s parents, instead she focuses on solving the mystery behind her murder. Eventually her consciousness goes into a dormant state after Wyatt undergoes a major medical procedure.

Fast-forward twenty-two years. Wyatt is a well-adjusted young man with an affinity towards the Middle East and a fear heights. While working towards his graduate degree in Middle Eastern studies, Wyatt learns about Siwar’s death, which occurred twenty-five years ago. For reasons he can’t explain, he grows obsessed with Siwar and spends months investigating her death, which police at the time erroneously ruled as suicide. His investigation forces him to open a door he has kept shut all his life, a spiritual connection to an unknown entity that he frequently refused to acknowledge. His leads take him to Amman, Jordan where after talking to her friends and family members and through his special connection with the deceased, he discovers a clue that unravels the mystery of her death. Will Siwar get justice after all?

Thank you to Natasha Tynes for my copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Siwar Salaiha is a Jordanian creative writing student studying in Maryland. On the night of her 25th birthday she is out celebrating with friends when she is murdered by an unknown person. Her consciousness somehow survives and wakes in the body of three-year-old Wyatt, an speech delayed American boy. Her failed attempts to communicate with his parents leave her frustrated and angry so she tries to solve her murder instead. But before she can her consciousness becomes dormant once again after Wyatt undergoes major surgery.

We next see Wyatt as it turns midnight on his 25th birthday. He is now studying for his graduate degree in Middle Eastern studies and has had an affinity with the area his whole life. That night he learns the story of Siwar’s death, which was ruled a suicide,and after instantly feeling a bizarre sense of recognition, he becomes increasingly obsessed with her. Convinced there is more to her death he starts an investigation where he talks to Siwar’s friends and family and takes him to her hometown. He eventually uncovers a clue that the police never found. Will the mystery of her death be solved and justice finally served?

“Dying was not the worst part. It was what came after dying.”

The two main characters are at the heart of this unique story. I enjoyed reading Siwar’s character and found I connected to her love of books and writing. The parts of the story that concentrated on her life growing up in Jordan was eye opening. I can’t imagine living with bars on your bedroom window for security or being considered a slut for a peck on the lips with a boy you like. I could understand why Siwar dreamed of a different life where she was free to be who she was, to pursue her dream career and fall in love like the people she read about in her books. I think her battle to be herself was described perfectly with the line “I rebelled in a country where rebels don’t dwell.”  The thing I loved most about Siwar was her straightforward, no nonsense character that we saw mostly through her inner monologue rather than her actions and she seemed like a girl I would get along with.

“The first time I went to Jordan…I got this sense of deja vu.”*

Initially we only meet Wyatt through Siwar’s “eyes” as her conscious awakens and she’s exasperated at inhabiting the body of a young boy. The author vividly conveyed the difficulties she faced being in Wyatt’s three-year old body: the frustration of being unable to communicate properly and the irritation of being limited by the body you’re in. It was a great reminder of how hard it can be for a child to do things we take for granted. After the story jumps forward twenty two years we get to meet Wyatt as more than just vessel for Siwar’s consciousness. He has been plagued by anxiety, a fear of heights and nightmares of falling into an abyss all his life and each year his birthday brings with it a sense of unease and foreshadowing of disaster. He seems a serious and melancholy individual which can be explained by Siwar’s consciousness fading in and out,, something she’s aware tortures him. I felts very sorry for Wyatt as he struggled with Siwar’s increasing presence , his confusion at what was happening to him, and how his obsession with her case threatened to destroy both him and his relationship. I wanted a solution to her murder more for him that for her at this point.

“..an alien in the country of our childhood dreams.”

One of the interesting parts of this story for me were reading about western culture from the perspective of someone raised in a different culture. When she finally arrived in the US to study writing it surprised Siwar that she missed her homeland and that she felt so out of place in the place she always believed she’d finally belong. The US lifestyle is both similar yet very different to the one here in the UK but being western myself I was less surprised by things that seemed so strange to Siwar. The obsession with race is definitely a US thing and is something I will never understand, especially with the divisions it causes.

I want justice. I want revenge. I want my life back.

This enjoyable novel had a fascinating concept that made me excited to start reading. It started out strong and contained so many great lines I could quote. I liked both characters, especially sassy Siwar and her journey after she awoke inside Wyatt after her death. It would have been so easy to feel confused with the constant switching between Siwar and Wyatt in part two but for me the author managed to avoid it successfully by writing Siwar first person and Wyatt in third person. When the big reveal happened it was a surprise for me as I had thought the ending was going to be predictable. There were a number of viable suspects for Siwar’s murder and for almost all the book I was certain I knew who killed her.

“I’m Siwar, the bracelet around your wrist.”

While I liked reading about Siwar’s life I thought her life story took up too much of the book and I never felt like we really got the chance to see Wyatt’s life enough, especially the time he was growing up and struggling with things that were in his life because of Siwar’s consciousness.  The amount of information in part two was overwhelming at times but I did enjoy reading Wyatt’s investigation. There is another connection Wyatt has to Siwar that I won’t mention because it’s a spoiler and I did find this a bit far fetched even though it was explained she led him in that regard and it helped the plot along. Overall, They Called Me Wyatt is a great debut novel and I’m excited to see what this new author writes next.

Out June 27th.

‘A Gift For Dying’ by M. J. Arlidge ⭐⭐⭐.5

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She heard their screams. She felt their fear.

Now she’s their only hope….

Adam Brandt is a forensic psychologist, well used to dealing with the most deranged members of society.

But he’s never met anyone like Kassie.

The teenager claims to have a terrible gift – with one look in your eyes, she can see how and when you will die.

Obviously, Adam knows Kassie must be insane. But then a serial killer hits the city. And only Kassie seems to know where he’ll strike next.

Against all his intuition, Adam starts to believe her.

He just doesn’t realise how deadly his faith might prove..

Thank you to Penguin UK, Michael Joseph, NetGalley and M. J. Arlidge for the chance to read and review this book.

The Helen Grace series by this author is one of my all-time-favourite crime series so I was looking forward to reading this stand-alone novel. The synopsis sounded fascinating and the opening chapter had me absorbed as I read what Kassie saw in the face of the stranger she bumped into on the street. The vivid detail was haunting and you felt her terror at staring death in the face. I was now even more excited to read the rest of this novel.

Kassie hasn’t had an easy life. She lives with her mother in one of the less welcoming parts of Chicago, and it has been just the two of them ever since her father t when she was a young child. They don’t have an easy relationship, Kassie’s mother is cold, hard and unforgiving of her daughter’s transgressions and has no tolerance for her so-called gift. She sees it as an excuse by Kassie to be deceptive and get attention. With no friends the only person Kassie can turn to is her Grandmother. But she is in a nursing home diagnosed with dementia and unable to communicate. All Kassie wants is someone who believes and understands her. To not be alone.

After her collision with the man on the street Kassie chased after him to try and warn him about what she saw. But all that anyone else sees is a crazy girl screaming and grabbing at the man and she is arrested on suspicion of trying to mug him. Adam Brandt is called down to the Juvenile Detention Centre to administer the psychological evaluation that protocol dictates she is given. At first he thinks she is in the middle of a psychological breakdown but is intrigued when she claims to have been trying to warn the man about something.

When the stranger, Jacob Jones, turns up brutally butchered the next day Kassie is again brought in by Police for questioning. Adam interviews her and she confides her secret: she saw the man’s death. She goes on to explain how by looking in someone’s eyes she can foresee the day and manner they will die. Though he doesn’t believe it Adam also doesn’t believe Kassie is crazy. He takes her on as a patient, determined to understand this unusual teenager and her peculiar conviction that she can predict someone’s demise. But things are about to get even more bizarre when another person Kassie claims to have foreseen the imminent death of is found in the same manner as Jacob Jones. Is Kassie somehow involved in these murders? Or is her gift real and she truly is just trying to save them? And if Kassie isn’t involved then who is The Chicago Butcher?

Kassie is a complex character and was an interesting protagonist. She isn’t always likeable. She’s impulsive, headstrong and temperamental but also vulnerable and someone who tries to do the right thing. Unfortunately her lack of maturity and guidance mean she often ends up making things worse, usually for herself. For the majority of the book we are left to decide for ourselves if her gift is real or a charade and I went back and forth with my thoughts on this many times.

A Gift For Dying was a mysterious, intriguing, and thought-provoking book. Other than guessing who the next victim would be, I never really knew where the book was going and was taken by surprise with most of the twists and turns. There were times I gasped in horror at the gruesome and grisly murder descriptions, times my heart raced as the tension mounted, and times my heart broke. I did find that the pace was too slow at times and in the middle of the book I very nearly gave up on it as it wasn’t holding my interest and had lost momentum. Thankfully I persevered and it picked up again as the last part of the book was gripping with a shocking conclusion that I didn’t expect.

Out today.

‘Only Daughter’ by Sarah A. Denzil ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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The must-read psychological thriller for 2019 from the million-copy-bestselling author of The Silent Child.

‘Your daughter is dead.’

When Kat Cavanaugh hears the words every mother dreads, her perfect world shatters. She takes in the beautiful long blonde hair, torn yellow dress and chipped blue nail-varnish. It can’t be real.

And then the police add the word ‘suicide’. But Kat refuses to believe them.

Even when they show her the familiar loop handwriting and smudged ink on the note her little girl left behind. She knows her bubbly, vivacious daughter would never take her own life.

As she searches Grace’s perfume scented room, filled with smiling photos, she uncovers secrets her little girl had been hiding. Secrets that could put her in terrible danger too.

But Kat’s determined to find out what really happened to Grace on the night she died, whatever it takes…

This addictive and heart-pounding psychological thriller will keep you gripped late into the night.

Thank you to Bookoture, NetGalley and Sarah A. Denzil for the chance to read and review this book.

Wow! Ms. Denzil had me on the edge of my seat and reading well past bedtime as I found it impossible to put this book down. I’ve been a fan of her work since I first discovered her last year, but this is her best book yet and one of the best thrillers I’ve read so far this year.

Kat Cavanaugh lives in Ash Dale, Derbyshire, with her husband Charles and their seventeen-year-old daughter Grace. After Grace is found at the bottom of the quarry, also known as the Suicide Spot, Kat’s world falls apart. When the police rule the death a suicide she refuses to accept that her ebullient daughter would take her own life. But as she investigates and learns some of the secrets Grace had been hiding,  Kat is forced to face the fact she hardly knew her daughter at all. Could one of these secrets have lead to her death?

Things take an ominous turn when Kat starts receiving threatening messages from an anonymous number. When they refer to Kat’s troubled past she her worries someone hurt Grace because of her. Both these things only increase her determination to uncover the truth and she begins to take drastic steps, alienating not only her friends but her husband too, as she becomes increasingly desperate for answers. But Kat could be in more danger than she imagines from an enemy she never suspects…

One of the things I enjoyed about this book is the flawed characters. The protagonist is a rich woman who comes from a council estate, has a checkered history and has been diagnosed with a personality disorder. I thought the choice for Kat to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder was interesting and added an edge to both the character and the story. People with that diagnosis are considered sociopaths who can’t love and get through life by mimicking emotions, acting the part and a lack of remorse for their actions. But while Kat admits to the latter, she truly loves her daughter and will do anything for her, including quelling her true nature to be a better example. This endeared Kat to me and saved her from being a cold, unsympathetic character. Also, seeing someone who doesn’t really have or process emotions like most of us do trying to work her way through grief and find out what happened to her child was unique. The author did a fantastic job of writing Kat in an honest way, conveying her inner turmoil not only at the loss of her daughter and need for answers, but about her lack of other feelings, her past and true nature.

Another character I thought was particularly well written was Kat’s mother. While I’m fortunate to have a wonderful mother myself, I sadly recognised others in this vile, hateful, disgusting, and poisonous woman. She made me so angry every time she was on the page. With a mother who treated her so badly it is no wonder Kat acted out in her teens and had a personality disorder. For me the malevolence of this character is perfectly expressed in this great line: “I can feel the dark tendrils of her poison worming through my veins”. This evoked visions of Ursula the sea witch from The Little Mermaid, her black tentacles wrapping around Kat and perforating the skin to administer the poison.

The author teases you with crumbs of information early on that had me hooked and impatient to find out what they meant. What exactly did Kat do as a teenager that was so unforgivable? What had happened to Grace? For most of the book I felt sure Kat would be proven right about Grace begin killed but I did waver for a while at one point. I’m obviously not going to spoil the ending telling you which was right, but I did think the author did a great job of making it impossible to feel sure that you know how it ends.

Only Daughter is gripping tale of secrets, lies, grief, betrayal, and devastating revenge. I loved that the book was set locally to me as I felt connected to it immediately and more invested, as if these people could be ones I knew, especially Kat as we both started life on a council estate less than 30 minutes apart. The whole book was wonderfully written and the descriptive language put you in the protagonist’s mindset so vividly that you could be her at that moment. The story never lost momentum and was filled with maddening, moving and jarring twists. I didn’t see the big reveal coming and the heart-stopping, dramatic finale was a nail biting read. This is a thriller you don’t want to miss.

Out March 13th

‘The Woman Inside’ by E. G. Scott ⭐⭐⭐

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An impossible to put down domestic thriller about secrets and revenge, told from the perspectives of a husband and wife who are the most perfect, and the most dangerous, match for each other.

For better or worse….

Rebecca didn’t know love was possible until she met Paul, a successful, charismatic, married man with a past as dark as her own. The pain drew them together with irresistible magnetism; they sensed they were each other’s ideal (and perhaps only) match.

But twenty years later, Paul and Rebecca are drowning as the damage and secrets that ignited their love begin to consume their marriage. Paul is cheating on Rebecca, and his affair gets messy fast. When Paul catches the attention of the police after two women go missing, Rebecca discovers his elaborate plot to build a new life without her. And though Rebecca is spiraling into opiate addiction, it doesn’t stop her coming up with a devious plot of her own, and this one could end absolutely everything.

What follows is an unpredictable and stylish game of cat and mouse–a shocking tale of unfaithfulness and unreliability that will keep you racing until the final twist and make you wonder how well you really know your spouse.

Til death us do part….

Starting with a mysterious, murky and foreboding prologue this book intrigued me from the start. The story is told in ‘before’ and ‘after’ although we don’t learn until the last part of the book what exactly this big event that has both Paul and Rebecca on tenterhooks is.

Paul and Rebecca Campbell look like your typical middle class married couple. They’re both successful in their jobs and appear to have a loving and happy relationship. But underneath this image is a dark, toxic relationship built on secrets, lies and trauma, and filled with betrayal, turmoil, adultery and a lack of trust. Paul has been having an affair with a woman who he learns is unstable and starts to stalk them, and Rebecca hasn’t told him she was fired from her job and is increasingly desperate as her addiction to pills spirals further out of control. When Rebecca discovers Paul’s secret plans to begin a life without her she is determined to have revenge and begins to make a plan of her own.  But after two women go missing and the police suspect Paul of involvement the couple keep even more secrets from each other and become the catalyst for a likely ruinous finale.

The two main characters in this novel were very unlikeable and unreliable. This isn’t always a negative thing but in this case I found them uninteresting and so ridiculous that not only there times I wanted to shake Paul and Rebecca for their stupidity, but I didn’t care about what happened to them. They were both creating such tangled web of deceit caused their lives and marriage to crumble that I felt like they deserved everything that happened to them. This being said, I did find Rebecca’s decline as she sunk deeper into dependency in her pill addiction sad at times, but mostly it made me angry as she is fully aware of her behaviour and has no real desire to get clean as she enjoyed how it made her feel. The addiction consumed her, controlled her and she took increasingly large risks to feed it. While addiction definitely clouded her judgement and didn’t help, I still felt that she was responsible for the rash and dangerous decisions she made and for taking actions that she couldn’t undo.

The character I liked most was actually the most crazy and deluded.. Sheila was the woman Paul cheated with and sadly she didn’t come into the book soon enough for me. Unlike Rebecca she isn’t self medicating, though she probably should be on something, and the fantasy world she had concocted and lived in made her by far the most interesting person in the book. Her history was far more interesting than that of the main characters and if she had been a focal point of the story from the start I think it would have been a better book.

The Woman Inside is a debut thriller that I had been highly anticipating but ultimately felt disappointed with. It was slow and I found it a slog to read, even though it started out gripping and exciting and ended with strong chapters that redeemed it a little.  The multifaceted plot did come together in some unexpected ways but there were too many layers and it seemed the characters were too connected to each other. I guessed the ending very early on and though unlike most of the twists I didn’t guess the big twist, I was underwhelmed by it as I wasn’t invested in the fate of Paul or Rebecca by that point. I would like to end on a more positive note however and say that you could see this book as a cautionary tale that highlights the need for communication, honesty and trust in order to have a healthy relationship and what can happen if those things are missing.

Out August 8th

‘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.