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

 

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SYNOPSIS:

You don’t always get to start your life over.

Sometimes, life starts itself over for you. 

One morning, Eveleth ‘Evvie’ Drake got up, packed her suitcase, and got ready to leave her life – and her perfect husband – behind. But before she walked out of the door, she received a phone call asking her to come to the hospital. 

That day, Evvie’s new life as a widow began. 

Now wrestling with her guilt and grief, Evvie has found her independence, but not in the way she planned. Unable to leave the house she once dreamed of escaping, it’s clear to her best friend Andy that Evvie needs a change. And Andy might just have the answer. 

Dean Tenney was a big-shot baseball star, until a bad case of the ‘yips’ meant he couldn’t play anymore – or understand why. An invitation from his childhood friend Andy to stay in Maine for a few months seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button. 

When Dean moves into the apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the two make a deal: Dean won’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie won’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. But rules have a funny way of being broken sometimes, and as a friendship begins to evolve, Will Evvie and Dean be brave enough to let go of the past and start over again?

REVIEW:

When I started this book I felt like I needed something lighter and a bit different. I couldn’t have chosen more perfectly. Reminiscent of Eleanor Oliphant Is Just Fine, I fell in love with this quirky, warm, lighthearted and witty book and it’s delightful protagonist. This is one of those books you find yourself reading with a smile on your face.

Eveleth “Evvie” Drake had been with her husband Tim for exactly half of her life on the day he died. That day she was also leaving him. But nobody knows, not even her best friend Andy, so when she’s unable to leave her house months later, everyone assumes she’s heartbroken at the loss of her ‘perfect’ husband. You see, Evvie has never told anyone the truth about Tim – that he controlled everything, that she lived in fear of his outbursts, that he blamed her for every mistake, and undermined and demoralised her daily. She’s too ashamed to tell. Especially now he’s gone.

Evvie, oh wonderful Evvie. I love this character so much! She is sympathetic, relatable, timid, kind, quirky, amiable, lacks confidence and is stronger than she realises. Surviving and walking away from an abusive relationship takes strength, and though her husband died before she actually left, the fact she was in the midst of doing so shows tremendous bravery. She cares too much about what other people think and looks at everything she does from the viewpoint of a critical outsider. This obviously stems from her  husband conditioning her to think badly of herself and she doesn’t realise that others aren’t judging her as harshly as she thinks. Evvie always wants to do the right thing but like everyone she makes mistakes and can be unlikeable. These flaws added to the realism and I enjoyed seeing her learn and grow from them.

When former professional baseball player Dean Tenney moves into the apartment attached to her house, Evvie is instantly attracted to him but brushes it aside. Dean is also going through a big upheaval after suddenly losing his ability to pitch. He’s tried everything to find out what when wrong but is still clueless and lost without the one thing he’s known all his life. I liked the parallel of Dean’s baseball career with Evvie’s marriage and the way they went from strangers to not just friends, but the only friend that can really understand what they’re going through. Their slow transition to friendship was a joy to read and I was rooting for them from the start.

I hadn’t seen any reviews for this novel or read anything by the author before so I was unprepared for how much I’d love this enchanting story. Evvie Drake Starts Over is like a breath of fresh air on a warm day and is the perfect summer read.

Thank you to NetGalley, Hodder & Stoughton and Linda Holmes for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: June 27th

 

Review: ‘Here To Stay’ by Mark Edwards⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

A beautiful home. A loving wife. And in-laws to die for.

Gemma Robinson comes into Elliot’s life like a whirlwind, and they marry and settle down into his home. When she asks him if her parents can come to stay for a couple of weeks, he is keen to oblige – he just doesn’t quite know what he’s signing up for. 

The Robinsons arrive with Gemma’s sister, Chloe, a mysterious young woman who refuses to speak or leave her room. Elliot starts to suspect that the Robinsons are hiding a dark secret. And then there are scars on his wife’s body she won’t talk about.

As Elliot’s in-laws become more comfortable in their new home, encroaching on all aspects of his life, it becomes clear they have no intention of moving out. To protect Gemma, and their marriage, Elliot delves into the Robinsons’ past. But is he prepared for the truth?

From the two million copy bestselling author comes a tale about the chilling consequences of  welcoming strangers into your home.

REVIEW:

Another nail-biting, chilling tale of domestic noir from the man that Jennifer Hillier has rightly crowned “The King of domestic horror”.

Elliot Foster and Gemma Robinson meet one summer afternoon. She saves his life after a near-fatal bee sting and they fall hard and fast, marrying just two months later in Vegas. Elliot couldn’t be happier.

A few weeks after their wedding Gemma tells Elliot that her parents are moving back to the UK and asks if they can stay with them for a few weeks?  Wanting to make his new wife happy, and to meet his new in-laws, Elliot agrees. It will be the biggest mistake he ever makes.

This book is AMAZING! It started off slowly and while I was enjoying it, I didn’t foresee just how horrifying, mind-blowing and simply incredible it would become. Though this being Mark Edwards I am also not surprised. Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of this author. Ever since I first read The Retreat last summer , which I loved the nod to in this novel, I haven’t been able to get enough of his books. The Magpies trilogy is considered his greatest work, and it’s antagonist, Lucy Newton, is one of the greatest villains I’ve read. But this story and it’s villains give them both a run for their money.

Do you think you’ve got the in-laws from hell? Well Elliot’s are probably worse. I know I’d happily take my awful ex-mother-in-law over them any day! Jeff and Lizzy Robinson are two of the most despicable, repulsive, noxious, contemptible, foul and vile people I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading about. They turn Elliot’s world upside down and inside out. They seem determined to not only take his home but destroy his entire life. It got me so angry reading how they behaved. 

Elliot is the all-round nice guy. He’s worked hard and made a good life for himself, runs a non-profit working with underprivileged kids, thinks of others, is kind-hearted, and has finally met the woman of his dreams. Then the Robinsons threaten to take it all away. He gives them the benefit of the doubt over again, tell himself his suspicions are crazy and finds rational explanations for things. And every time they then do something even worse. I didn’t judge Elliot for some of his fantasies about what he’d like to do to them. I understood. How could you not loathe such toxic people.

The Robinson siblings are the mysterious characters, especially Chloe who is deathly ill and locks herself away when they first move in. They all seem frightened of their parents are secretive about their childhood and what exactly has happened to make them all so scared. Though Gemma and Elliot are married it was all so fast he barely knows her, or her past, and as the story unfolds he realises just how little he knew before making such a big commitment and inviting her family to stay with them.

I don’t want to give any details away as the shocks add to the escalating horror and brilliance of this book. I highly recommend this edge-of-your-seat thriller; just be warned that it’s a turbulent ride. And another thing…be careful who you invite to stay in your house. They just might never leave…

Thank you to Mark Edwards, Amazon Publishing UK and NetGalley for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: September 1st

 

 

Review: ‘Stone Cold Heart’ by Caz Frear ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

A fractured marriage.

A silent family.

A secret that connects them all.

When DC Cat Kinsella is approached by Joseph Madden for help with his wife, Rachel, there’s not much she can do. Joseph claims that Rachel has been threatening him, but can’t – or won’t – give Cat details as to why. Dismissing it as a marriage on the rocks, Cat forgets about it.

That is until Naomi Lockhart, a young PA, is found dead after a party attended by both Joseph and Rachel and Joseph is arrested for the murder. Joseph says his wife is setting him up. His wife says he didn’t do it. The trail of evidence leads to even more questions…

Adulterer. Murderer. Victim.*

Who would you believe?

REVIEW:

Wow! Jaw-dropping and addictive, I absolutely loved this book and knew I was in for a great read as soon as I read the prologue. Ms Frear has a new fan in this reader after this tantilising thriller.

Twenty-two year old Naomi Lockhart is found dead by her housemate. She was last seen at a party at her boss’s house Saturday night and has been missing from work the last two days. DC Cat Kinsella and Murder Investigation Team 4 are called in to investigate and quickly learn that she died not long after the party. The evidence leads them to a suspect: Joseph Madden, the brother-in-law of Naomi’s boss. He’s not a stranger to Cat, he owns a local coffee house and even spoke to her a few months ago claiming his wife, Rachel, is threatening him and asking what he can do about it. At the time Cat viewed it as overblown marriage woes, but now he’s claiming Rachel is framing him for murder. Rachel is clearly terrified of her husband and does nothing but protest his innocence and Joseph’s claims seem like nothing but a desperate way to put the blame elsewhere.

Information trickles slowly and reluctantly from their witnesses, frustrating the police but making for an electrifying read. Is Joseph capable of murder? Is he their man? As things are revealed Cat is reluctantly dubious and it seems their witnesses are all keeping more secrets that are yet to be told. Who killed Naomi?

Cat Kinsella is a unique protagonist. She, and this book, stands out in the sea of police procedurals because of her flawed and complex character. She breaks the rules, keeps secrets and has told many lies, has a shady family, is dating someone she shouldn’t, and yet she is someone we love and can root for despite all her mistakes. I wanted her to win. I wanted her to conquer her shame of where she’s from and the toxic family she was raised in. I want her inappropriate relationship to work. She was wonderfully written and I enjoyed every minute I spent reading her.

One of the things I enjoyed about this novel was the array of unreliable and morally ambiguous characters, including almost every witness. I found myself both loving and hating so many of them and could never quite be sure what the truth was or what side they were on, other than their own, of course. Joseph Madden was a perfectly written narcissistic abuser. He made my blood run cold from his first appearance and I desperately wanted him to be guilty simply because he was such a vile person. With Rachel the author depicted the terror, shame and guilt of an abused partner in a realistic way. Your heart breaks for her over and again and you just want to make her see sense and get away from her destructive relationship.

I didn’t realise before starting that this was book two in a series. It didn’t affect my enjoyment of it though as the author not only gave enough information to catch you up on events as needed, but it all sounds so juicy that she sold the book to me while I was reading and I immediately bought it when I finished. I loved the author’s writing style, particularly the banter between Cat and her colleagues and the wit that had me laughing out loud on many occasions.

The final part of this fabulous, twisty thriller had me on tenterhooks wondering who did what and reeling from each bombshell. After the shocking concluding sentences, I am now impatiently waiting for book three and to find out what is next for Cat. I can’t recommend this book or this author highly enough.

Thank you to NetGalley, Bonnier Zaffre and Caz Frear for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: June 27th.

 

Review: ‘The Van Apfel Girls are Gone’ by Felicity McLean ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

A compulsive, note-perfect debut for fans of The Virgin Suicides and Picnic at Hanging Rock.

‘We lost all three girls that summer. Let them slip away like the words of some half-remembered song and when one came back, she wasn’t the one we were trying to recall to begin with’.

Tikka Malloy was eleven and one-sixth years old during the long summer of 1992, growing up in an isolated suburb in Australia surrounded by encroaching bushland. That summer, the hottest on record, was when the Van Apfel sisters – Hannah, the beautiful Cordelia and Ruth – mysteriously disappeared during the school’s Showstopper concert, held at the outdoor amphitheatre by the river. Did they run away? Were they taken? While the search for the sisters unites the small community, the mystery of their disappearance has never been solved.

Now years later, Tikka has returned home and is beginning to make sense of that strange moment in time. The summer that shaped her. The girls that she never forgot.

Brilliantly observed, spiky, sharp, funny and unexpectedly endearing, The Van Apfel Girls are Gone is part mystery, part coming-of-age-story – with a dark shimmering unexplained absence at its heart.

 

MY REVIEW:

The Van Apfel Girls are Gone is a beautifully haunting mystery about childhood, adolescence, secrets and regrets, that takes place over the course of one transformative and unforgettable summer.

Tikka Malloy is haunted by the disappearance of her school friends and neighbours, Hannah, Cordelia and Ruth Van Apfel. They vanished in the sweltering summer of 1992, when Tikka was eleven years old, and despite an extensive search no one ever learned the truth of what happened to the sisters. When Tikka travels back to the small, isolated suburb in Australia she was raised in, she decides it is finally time to make sense of her memories and discern the truth: not only to find out the fate of her friends but also to free herself from the torturous remorse she still feels.

I started reading this book with high hopes as while I have not yet read the books mentioned in the synopsis, I have seen both films and. they were stories that both fascinated and haunted me in a way that is unique to an unsolved mystery. Thankfully, it did not disappoint. I loved this book and find myself still thinking about the mysterious Van Apfel girls.

Hannah, Cordie and Ruth Van Apfel live on the same street as Tikka and her older sister, Laura. Cordie is the one everyone is drawn to: the beauty that shines out, the cool one, the rebellious one. Their parents are religious zealots and are terrified of their violent father. The five girls spend as much time as possible together although to Tikka’s frustration she is often lumped with seven-year-old Ruth, four years her junior, and left out of the older girl’s discussions and plans.

The night the sisters vanished and the events surrounding that night are burned into Tikka’s memory and she’s plagued by guilt and regret. When back in Australia she and her sister discuss the secrets they’ve held for twenty years. It was confusing for Tikka and Laura as they knew what they were seeing was wrong but were so young they didn’t know what to do about it or who, if anyone, they should turn to.

I loved this mesmerising novel. Atmospheric, delightful, captivating, nuanced and nostalgic but also somber, sinister and dire, it had me hooked from the first page. It explores how tragedy can shape our future and how we see things differently with an adult perspective versus a child’s eye. Will we find out what happened to Hannah, Cordie and Ruth? I will leave you to find out for yourself when you read it.

Thank you to NetGalley, Oneworld Publications, Point Blank and Felicity McLean for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Out now.

*Thank you to Felicity McLean for the permission to use her picture.

 

 

Publication Day Review: ‘The Whisper Man’ by Alex North ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Happy Publication Day to Alex North and his chilling thriller.

SYNOPSIS:

If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken…

Still devastated after the loss of his wife, Tom Kennedy, and his young son Jake, move to the sleepy village of Featherbank looking for a fresh start.

But Featherbank has a dark past. Fifteen years ago a twisted serial killer abducted and murdered five young boys. Until he was finally caught the killer was known as ‘The Whisper Man’.

Of course, an old crime need not trouble Tom and Jake as they try to settle in to their new house. Except that now another boy has gone missing. And then Jake begins acting strangely.

He says he hears whispering at his window…

MY REVIEW:

“If you leave a door half-open, soon you’ll hear the whispers spoken…If you’re lonely, sad and blue, the Whisper Man will come for you”

A boy who hears whispers from people no one else can see echoes the spine-chilling moment in The Sixth Sense when Haley Joel Osment’s character utters the immortal words “I see dead people” in this eerie, menacing, unsettling and sinister novel. This is a book you do not want to read at night!

Six-year-old Neil Spencer disappears when walking home one summer evening. An extensive search yields no clues until Neil’s mother remembers him mentioning whispering outside his window one night. This revelation terrifies Featherbank detectives as the town is still haunted by Frank Carter, a local man who abducted and killed five young boys in 20 years ago. He is also known as the Whisper Man. His final victim’s body was never recovered and there were rumours of an accomplice. Could that be who abducted Neil?

Tom Kennedy and his son, Jake, are looking for a fresh start after the death of Tom’s wife the year before. Tom feels he is failing as a father and that he and Jake are drifting further apart. He’s hoping moving will change that. But it seems their problems have followed them, and the gulf between them only widens and the worrying incidents only increase after they move into the strange new house in Featherbank. With Jake hearing whispers and talking about things he shouldn’t know there’s undertones of something  malevolent lurking in the shadows of the Kennedy home.

I was hooked from the foreboding prologue right until the very last page of this book. The two main characters were well written: Tom is the grieving widower who is struggling to connect with his son in his own grief and also trying to evade the pain of his own childhood. He wishes his son was more “normal” and worries about him being too sensitive. Jake is a lonely child who is scrambling to make sense of the grief,emptiness and fear he feels after his mother’s death. He feels his dad doesn’t like him and takes solace in imaginary friends and his special things. For a lot of the book it isn’t clear how Tom and Jake are connected to the Whisper Man storyline and Neil’s disappearance, and I loved trying to find clues to figure out where the story would go next. I was usually wrong.

The Whisper Man is an exquisite, multi-layered, chilling and emotional novel. There were many twists and turns, some so jarring and unexpected I could only sit there in shock. Spectacularly written, this is a tense and haunting thriller that you don’t want to miss.

Out today.

Thank you to NetGalley, Penguin UK, Michael Joseph and Alex North for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Review: ‘Favourite Daughter’ by Kaira Rouda ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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One of them lied. One of them died.

Jane’s life has become a haze of antidepressants since the tragic death of her daughter, Mary. The accident, which happened a year ago now, destroyed their perfect family life forever.

The trouble is, the more Jane thinks about that night, the more that she realises that something doesn’t seem right. Does her youngest daughter know more than she’s letting on? What secrets is her husband still hiding from her? And why does no one trust her on her own?

Even if it’s the last thing she does, she’ll find out the truth.

 

Told from the perspective of Jane, a twisted and delusional Orange County housewife, this book is like going inside the mind of the epitome of a narcissist and sociopath. A delicious delight to read, but a toxic nightmare to those around her, I loved every second inside Jane’s mind. The author has written what I think is one of the most addictive thrillers of the year.

It’s been a year since Mary, the perfect daughter in the Harris family, fell to her death in a tragic accident. In that time her mother Jane has been unable to deal with her life and just trying to survive each day surrounded by the fog of grief that engulfs her. Her husband, David, and disappointing younger daughter, Betsy, are barely around and she feels abandoned. The only people that listen are her psychologist and the Lyft driver who takes her to her errands and appointments. On the first anniversary of Mary’s death she receives an anonymous note that reads: MARY’S DEATH WAS NOT AN ACCIDENT. JUST ASK BETSY. Jane immediately believes her secretive daughter is hiding something, she’s just like her cheating father after all, and starts in motion of revenge for their betrayal and justice for the death of the favourite daughter.

Oh Jane. Controlling, manipulative, condescending, demanding and crazy Jane. She is one of the most unapologetically awful people I’ve ever read and, in a strange way, I adored her as much as I despised her. At the beginning she seems to be a sympathetic character: her daughter died, her husband is hardly home and is clearly cheating on her, and she’s isolated. But it doesn’t take long for her to show her true, ugly, colours. She has a justification for every action, lies without a second thought and takes joy in plotting revenge to ruin the lives of those she believes have betrayed her. Jane gets what she wants and will lie or take out anyone who gets in her way without a hint of remorse. She has a warped idea of what it means to be a good mother and if you google “how not to be a good mother” there is probably a list of everything Jane does. If there isn’t then there should be.

Favourite Daughter is a definite page-tuner and I couldn’t tear myself away once I began reading. I loved how the author had Jane talk directly to the reader, almost as if we’re friends. It was a great tool in showing the extent of her delusion and connecting us with her. Thought I saw a number of things coming it didn’t take away from the enjoyment of the book as how things were revealed to Jane and her reaction to them was fun to read. It is a testament to this author’s talent that she was able to create someone who encompasses such narcissistic and sociopathic traits but still manages to evoke sympathy from the reader. Ms Rouda has found herself a new fan that is going to buy her first book as soon as I finish writing this.

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

Out Now.

My Sentimental Book Stack

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I was tagged by @diaryofabookmum & @silverliningsandpages on bookstagram to create a #sentimentalstack and enjoyed doing it so much that I decided to post it on here too.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓓𝓸𝓵𝓵 𝓕𝓪𝓬𝓽𝓸𝓻𝔂 & 𝓕𝓻𝓪𝓷𝓷𝓲𝓮 𝓛𝓪𝓷𝓰𝓽𝓸𝓷 – these were the books from the first author event I went to since starting my bookstagram account. It was such a special moment that I’ll never forget.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓵𝓸𝓻 𝓟𝓾𝓻𝓹𝓵𝓮 – The first book my other half bought me for my first birthday together. He bought me purple themed gifts and didn’t know I’d always wanted to read this book

𝓜𝔂 𝓢𝓲𝓼𝓽𝓮𝓻’𝓼 𝓚𝓮𝓮𝓹𝓮𝓻 – the first book I read by one of my favourite authors Jodi Picoult.

𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓦𝓲𝔃𝓪𝓻𝓭 𝓸𝓯 𝓞𝔃 – A favourite childhood book and the start of a lifelong obsession.

𝓜𝓪𝓽𝓲𝓵𝓭𝓪 & 𝓣𝓱𝓮 𝓑𝓕𝓖 – two of my favourite childhood books that evoke good memories.

𝓘𝓷 𝓒𝓸𝓵𝓭 𝓑𝓵𝓸𝓸𝓭 – I read this as part of my English A Level. It was the first true crime book I read, before this it was only magazine articles. It instantly struck a chord and cemented my interest in true crime.

𝓕𝓵𝓸𝔀𝓮𝓻𝓼 𝓲𝓷 𝓽𝓱𝓮 𝓐𝓽𝓽𝓲𝓬 – I first read this as a teen and have read it many times.

𝓐 𝓣𝓲𝓶𝓮 𝓣𝓸 𝓚𝓲𝓵𝓵 – my first John Grisham book. He’s been a favourite author of mine ever since.

What would be in your sentimental book stack? Comment below.