Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The Lies I Tell by Joel Hames

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Published: June 9th, 2020
Publisher: FFS Publishing
Format: Kindle, Paperback
Genre: Psychological Thriller

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour and Happy Publication Day Joel Hames. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and FFS Publishing for the ebook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

SHE’S WATCHING YOU
BUT WHO’S WATCHING HER?

From the bestselling author of Dead North, a tense, claustrophobic psychological thriller perfect for fans of Lucy Foley, Claire McGowan and Clare Mackintosh.

Meet Polly. Meet Emily. Meet Belinda.

They’re all me. My name is Lisa and I’m an identity thief. If I’m not inside your system stealing your money, I’ve probably already stolen it. I’m your friend. I’m a thief. I’m gone.
I’m in control.

Only now, the tables have been turned. I’m in danger. My son is in danger. And I don’t know where that danger’s coming from.

Any friend.
Any enemy.
Any stranger.

Anyone from the past I’ve been trying to outrun for years.

NOBODY CAN BE TRUSTED.

MY REVIEW:

When she fled her tragic childhood home at the age of fifteen,  Lisa Atkins shed her first identity and became someone else. Ever since she has invented new identities in order to outrun her past and to scam her targets.

But now the tables have turned and she is the target. Realising that she and her son, Simon, are in danger, Lisa frantically tries to find the source of the danger. But they remain illusive. Will the past she’s been trying to outrun for two decades finally catch up with her?

This readable and intriguing thriller captured my attention quickly. The story is told in chapters that alternate between the past and present with flashbacks revealing the terrible homelife she endured and the trauma that has cast a shadow over her whole life. In the present day we watch her keep track of her various identities and scams while also being a doting mother to four-year-old Simon. It provides a shocking and thought-provoking reminder of how our modern-day love of technology and social media can be used against us by those with the knowledge to do so. Personally, I could only think how being so many different people must be exhausting. Just reading all she had to do to keep on top of her many identities left me feeling like I needed a nap!

One of the things I liked most about this book was Lisa’s nuanced and layered character. Lisa isn’t supposed to be someone we like. She’s a con artist and a thief who takes pride in what she does, but she is also a loving mother and someone with a tragic past. There is something about her that was endearing to me from the start and I couldn’t help but like and root for her. The flashbacks to her childhood were certainly a contributing factor to this as the story went on as it was impossible not to be moved by what she had gone through.  

Another thing I enjoyed about this novel is that I found it hard to predict. I had no idea who was targeting Lisa or what turns the story would take next. My only issue with this book, and the reason I have given it 3.5 stars instead of 4, is that about a fifth of the way in the tension wanes and doesn’t pick back up for quite some time. But overall this was a fascinating, twisty, and enjoyable thriller. 

Rating: ✮✮✮.5

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MEET THE AUTHOR:

Joel Hames lives in rural Lancashire, England, with his wife and two daughters, where he works hard at looking serious and pretending to be a proper novelist.

After a varied career in London which involved City law firms, a picture frame warehouse, an investment bank and a number of market stalls (he has been known to cry out “Belgian chocolates going cheap over ‘ere” in his sleep), Joel relocated from the Big Smoke to be his own boss. As a result, he now writes what he wants, when he wants to (which by coincidence is when the rest of the family chose to let him).

Joel’s first novel, Bankers Town, was published in 2014, and The Art of Staying Dead followed in 2015. The novellas Brexecution (written and published in the space of ten days following the UK’s Brexit referendum, with half the profits going to charity) and Victims were published in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

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Blog Tours book reviews

Mine by Clare Empson ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

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Published: March 19th, 2020
Publisher: Orion
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery

Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part in this blog tour and to Orion for my gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

‘Who am I? Why am I here? Why did my mother give me away?’

On the surface, Luke and his girlfriend Hannah seem to have a perfect life. He’s an A&R man, she’s an arts correspondent and they are devoted to their new-born son Samuel.

But beneath the gloss Luke has always felt like an outsider. So when he finds his birth mother Alice, the instant connection with her is a little like falling in love.

When Hannah goes back to work, Luke asks Alice to look after their son. But Alice – fuelled with grief from when her baby was taken from her 27 years ago – starts to fall in love with Samuel. And Luke won’t settle for his mother pushing him aside once again…

MY REVIEW:

I was not prepared for the avalanche of emotions that I would feel while reading this book. Ms. Empson broke me with this absorbing story of motherhood, family and true love. 

Told over dual timelines the story begins with 27-year-old Luke meeting his birth mother, Alice, for the first time. We then follow as they get to know each other and as Alice meets Luke’s girlfriend Hannah and baby son Samuel, and Luke meets his father Rick. Their reunion goes so well that when Hannah returns to work after her maternity leave, Alice is the one to look after Samuel. But as Alice gets closer to the family, and Samuel in particular, Luke begins to question how well they know her. Can they really trust her with their baby? Or is Luke being paranoid because he feels he’s being pushed out by his mother all over again? 

I wasn’t really sure what to expect when I started this book, but it certainly wasn’t something so emotional.  The story is steadily paced with flashbacks to Alice finding her true love, becoming pregnant and giving up the baby she wanted to raise running parallel to the story of the two of them reconnecting twenty-seven years later. I liked the author’s decision to only have Alice’s point of view in the flashbacks as it added to the sense of mystery and put us in the same boat as Luke with wondering what happened when he was a baby and what her intentions are now. It also added to the sense of foreboding that is present throughout the book, though you are never quite sure what it will mean and where the story will take you. 

The characters slowly reveal themselves in the same way people do when getting to know each other. You could tell the author had researched the emotional impact of adoption on everyone involved and she brings that to each character expertly. The author has a way of reaching into your heart and soul so you feel everything they do: elation, trepidation and optimism when Luke and Alice meet and become part of each other’s lives, the passion and intensity of Alice and Jacob falling in love, and Luke’s heartache and confusion as his feelings for his birth mother become more complex. Both narrators were likeable, relatable and sympathetic. I was rooting for them individually and as mother and son, hoping for a happy ending after the heartache they’ve both suffered. 

Mine is an engrossing, poignant, hopeful and heartbreaking story. This is the first time I’ve read anything by this author and I will be buying her first book so I can read more. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Clare Empson worked as a staff writer on national newspapers covering everything from collapsing merchant banks to tea with the late Barbara Cartland (everything pink including the cakes). Eight years ago, she moved to the West Country and founded the arts and lifestyle blog countrycalling.co.uk.

The idyllic setting inspired her first novel, which reveals the darker side of paradise. Clare lives on the Wiltshire/Dorset border with her husband and three children.

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart by Margarita Montimore ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: March 5th, 2020
Publisher: Gollancz
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Domestic Fiction, Coming-of-Age Fiction, Magical Realism

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this enjoyable debut. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and to Gollancz and Netgalley for the eBook ARC in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

If you knew your future, would you change your past?

Brooklyn, 1982. Oona Lockhart is about to celebrate her 19th birthday and ring in the New Year. But at the stroke of midnight, she is torn from her friends and boyfriend, finding herself in her fifty-one-year-old body, thirty-two years into the future.

Greeted by a friendly stranger, Oona learns that on every birthday she will enter a different year of her adult life at random. Still a young woman on the inside, but ever changing on the outside, who will she be next year? Wealthy philanthropist? Nineties Club Kid? World traveller? Wife to a man she’s never met?

While Oona gets glimpses of the future and thinks she knows what’s to come, living a normal life is challenging. As she struggles between fighting her fate and accepting it, Oona must learn to navigate a life that’s out of order – but is it broken?

Margarita Montimore’s whip-smart debut is an uplifting joyride through an ever-changing world that shows us the endurance of love, the timelessness of family and what it means to truly live in the moment.

MY REVIEW:

It’s New Years Eve and when the clock strikes midnight it will be 1983 and Oona Lockhart will turn nineteen. Surrounded by friends and the love of her life, Dale, she’s having an amazing night and feeling excited about the year ahead. Only when the clock strikes twelve she finds herself awakening in a strange house, with a strange man next to her who claims they are ‘besties’ and in a body that is much older and bigger than the one she was just in. It’s 2015 and Oona is nineteen on the inside, but she’s fifty-one on the outside. She’s just had her first ‘jump’ and learns that from now on at midnight every new year she’ll jump to an undetermined and unpredictable year of her life. She will never live chronologically and her internal and external ages will always be different. She only retains the memories her internal self has lives so it is like waking up with amnesia each year. 

Frightened and full of disbelief, most of Oona’s first year is spent hoping she’ll wake up as her nineteen-year-old self again. Slowly she learns more about what to expect from her mother and Kenzie, her assistant, who are the only two people who know about her strange condition. As the years pass, Oona learns to navigate her unique situation and make the best of her rearranged life.

This was a charming, quick and entertaining read. The synopsis definitely piqued my interest. Afterall, who hasn’t thought it would be fun to jump back into a time we’re nostalgic for or know what will happen in the future? How would you feel if that actually happened? And can we really change our destiny or are some things just meant to be?

As we travel through Oona’s jumbled life we experience the highs and lows along with her on an emotional rollercoaster. Each year felt like it was almost a different person as she tries to get to grips with how best to live this crazy life. She grieves for the years and the people missing from her life in each jump, faces the temptation to know too much about her future and to change what she wishes were different and faces the heartbreaking realisation that any lasting relationships, be it romantic or friendships, will be virtually impossible. She doesn’t alway handle things well or do the right thing, like any of us in our chronological lives, but overall she does a great job of handling a situation for which there is no rule book. 

The author skillfully weaves together the myriad of threads of this complex and intricate plot, peppering the story with surprising twists and revelations along the way. Though the ending was perfect for the story, I was left wishing I could have read more of her jumbled years. The characters are richly drawn and I quickly took to Oona, finding her relatable despite the bizarre situation she finds herself in. At the core she was the same as anybody else and that truth is what made her someone you care about. 

Compelling, thought-provoking and quirky, The Rearranged Life of Oona Lockhart is a great debut. A perfect read for anyone looking for something a bit different.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

After receiving a BFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College, Margarita Montimore worked for over a decade in publishing and social media before deciding to focus on the writing dream full-time. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and dog.

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Monthly Wrap Up

Monthly Wrap Up – February 2020

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February has been a crazy but wonderful reading month. I’ve read a total of fifteen books, taken part in sixteen blog tours and in two readalongs – the second one I’m still currently reading. So here is what I read this past month:

  1. Never Look Back by A. L. Gaylin ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 
  2. The Mercies by Kiran Millwood Hargrave ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  3. The Alibi Girl by C.J. Skuse ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
  4. Beast (Six Stories #4) by Matt Wesolowski ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  5. Real Life by Adeline Dieudonné ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  6. The Guest List by Lucy Foley ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  7. The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  8. The Holdout by Graham Moore ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  9. The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  10. Saturdays at Noon by Rachel Marks ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  11. The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  12. The Snakes by Sadie Jones ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  13. The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
  14. Tales of Mystery Unexplained by Steph Young ⭐⭐⭐⭐
  15. Away with the Penguins by Hazel Prior ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

You can read the synopsis for the books and my reviews by clicking on the title for all except Away with the Penguins, which will be published on Monday, March 2nd.

It’s been another month of strong and phenomenal reads, which made it almost impossible to choose a favourite. After a lot of thought I’ve decided it was a tie between the two books that linger most in my mind after reading – The Memory Wood and Away with the Penguins.

In February I also attended two book events. On February 19th I attended my first book event here in Sheffield – the book launch of Firewatching, the sensational debut by local author Russ Thomas. It was a fantastic evening and I left eagerly anticipating book two in the series which is out this time next year. You can read my review for Firewatching by clicking here.

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Just a few days ago I travelled to Nottingham for the second event, The Orenda Roadshow. Orenda is one of my favourite publishers. Every book I’ve read from there collection is amazing. When you pick up one of their books you know you’re getting quality writing, great storytelling and something a bit different. Plus there’s the fact that Karen Sullivan is one of the nicest people I’ve met. At the event each of the twelve authors had a minute to talk about their latest release and later read an excerpt from the book – which resulted in tears of laughter when Matt Wesolowski read his excerpt as a 20-something vlogger. I only wish I’d videoed it. It was great to meet and get a glimpse into the personalities of so many authors and I came away with a lot of extra books on my wishlist. There was also the added pleasure of  meeting blog tour organiser extraordinaire Anne Cater at the event. A wonderful surprise.

How was your February? Did you read any of the same books? What was your favourite? Let me know in the comments below.

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Categories
Blog Tours book reviews

The Holdout by Graham Moore ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Published: February 20th, 2020
Publisher: Orion
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: Mystery, Psychological Thriller, Legal Thriller.

Welcome to my spot on the blog tour for this sensational thriller. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part and to Orion for the gifted copy of the book.

SYNOPSIS:

One juror changed the verdict. What if she was wrong?

‘Ten years ago we made a decision together…’

Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar fortune, vanishes on her way home from school. Her teacher, Bobby Nock, is the prime suspect. It’s an open and shut case for the prosecution, and a quick conviction seems all but guaranteed.

Until Maya Seale, a young woman on the jury, persuades the rest of the jurors to vote not guilty: a controversial decision that will change all of their lives forever.

Ten years later, one of the jurors is found dead, and Maya is the prime suspect.

The real killer could be any of the other ten jurors. Is Maya being forced to pay the price for her decision all those years ago?

MY REVIEW:

A decade ago Maya Searle was the lone holdout on a jury that was deciding the fate of Bobby Nock, who was on trial for the murder of fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver. The others slowly changed their votes until they unanimously voted not guilty. Afterwards, the group were shocked to find themselves vilified by the press and public, 84 percent of whom believed he was guilty. Their lives were irrevocably changed and Maya has done her best to shake off her notoriety in the years since. Now a defence lawyer she is pulled back into that time she’d rather forget when she’s approached by one of the other jurors who claims to have new evidence of Bobby’s guilt and plans to reveal it in a docuseries about the case. But on the night all the jurors are back together for the first time in ten years, and before the new evidence is revealed, one of them is found murdered. And Maya is the prime suspect. Is someone exacting revenge for what happened ten years ago? And did Maya really allow a guilty man to go free?

As soon as I read the synopsis for this book I knew I had to read it. My anticipation was sky high when I started reading and, thankfully, it was even more spectacular than I was hoping. The writing was of such a high caliber that I wasn’t surprised to read the author is an award winner. Sizzling with tension, Moore knows how to hold his reader captive. Each time I was sure I had things figured out he’d pull the rug from under me. 

Told in dual timelines, the flashbacks are particularly fascinating as we get a glimpse of each of the juror’s backstories, their thoughts during the trial and deliberations, and watch how they went from one holdout voting not guilty, to changing their verdicts; each falling one at a time like dominoes as Maya argued her case. The characters were all deftly written, their transgressions slowly revealed as Maya tries to discover who would want one of them dead. I could wax lyrical about the details of this book but I hate giving away spoilers, especially when the surprises in the book are part of what makes it so brilliant. 

The Holdout is an astounding, unexpected and mind-blowing thriller. I tore through this twisty whodunit with an energy almost as fervent as the pace of the book itself. I was left not knowing which way was up after the magnificent conclusion and am still thinking about it weeks later. I have no doubt that this will be one of the most talked about thrillers of 2020. This is an absolute must-read.  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Graham Moore is a New York Times bestselling novelist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter. His screenplay for The  Imitation Game won the Academy Award and WGA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2015 and was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe.

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre
Published: February 20th, 2020
Format: Paperback
Genre: Literary Fiction

I am thrilled to be one of the people opening the blog tour for this breathtaking novel. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers and to Bonnier Zaffre Books.

SYNOPSIS:

In the midst of war, he found love.
In the midst of darkness, he found courage.
In the midst of tragedy, he found hope.
What will you find from his story?

Nuri is a beekeeper, his wife, Afra, an artist. They live happily in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo – until the unthinkable happens and they are forced to flee. But what Afra has seen is so terrible she has gone blind, and they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain.

As Nuri and Afra travel through a broken world,  they must confront not only the pain of their own unspeakable loss, but the dangers that would overwhelm the bravest of souls. Above all – and perhaps the hardest thing they face – they must journey to find each other again.

Moving, compassionate and beautifully written, The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a powerful testament to the triumph of the human spirit.

MY REVIEW:

“If I could give her a key that opened a door into another world, then I would wish for her to see again. But it would have to be a world very different from this one.”

I inhaled this mesmerising, poignant and illuminating novel in under a day. It is honestly one of the most beautiful books I’ve read and I was captivated by the exquisite, lyrical prose and stunning imagery that made every word one to savour.

This timely story shines a light on the struggle of those who are forced to flee because of war, from a perspective we rarely hear: the voice of a refugee. At a time where there is so much vitriol against them, where so many people see as the enemy, as someone who shouldn’t be in our country, it is refreshing to read a book that tells their story is such a beautiful and heartbreaking way; helping those of us who’ve never experienced such horror to have a small amount of understanding. 

It is told by Syrian refugee, Nuri, who made the perilous journey from Syria to the UK with his wife Afra, who was blinded by a bomb. In the present day we follow their battle to claim asylum while trying to adjust to the strangeness of the new country they hope to call home. In flashbacks we see their life in Aleppo before the war, how it was torn apart, their heartbreak as they lost their only child, and then follow them as they make the dangerous journey to England. We see the impact of all they’ve gone through on themselves and their marriage, threatening to tear them apart at their core as well as breaking apart the only thing they have left to hold on to – each other.  

“Where was home now? And what was it? I’m my mind it had become like a picture infused with golden light, a paradise never to be reached.”

This was the first time I’ve read a book by this author and I will definitely be reading more. Her writing enveloped me in their world, making me feel like I was right beside Nuri every step of the way both physically and emotionally. The characterisation was spectacular, with the author providing an eclectic mix of people who had very different stories from war-torn places around the world, and different reactions to what they’d gone through. There were wonderful examples of the best of humanity in the darkest of times, but also of the depth of evil that exists in our world and the damage that is done by such people.  The raw devastation and grief that each character exuded was hard, but necessary, to read, and was a humbling reminder of how our problems pale in comparison to being forced from your home and fighting each day to survive and find safety. 

The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a story about the horrors of war, trauma, grief and survival. But most of all for me it is a multifaceted love story.  It is an astonishing book that went straight to my soul. I can’t recommend you read this highly enough. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Brought up in London, Christy Lefteri is the child of Cypriot refugees. She is a lecturer in creative writing at Brunel University. The Beekeeper of Aleppo was born out of her time working as a volunteer at a UNICEF-supported refugee center in Athens. She is the author of the novel A Watermelon, a Fish and a Bible.

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Blog Tours book reviews

Never Look Back by A. L. Gaylin ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Publisher: Orion
Published: February 6th, 2020
Format: Paperback, Kindle
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Today is my stop on the blog tour for this fantastic thriller. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers for the invitation to take part and to Orion for the gifted copy of the novel.

SYNOPSIS:

She was the most brutal killer of our time. And she may have been my mother…

When website columnist Robin Diamond is contacted by true crime podcast producer Quentin Garrison, she assumes it’s a business matter. It’s not. Quentin’s podcast, Closure, focuses on a series of murders in the 1970s, committed by teen couple April Cooper and Gabriel LeRoy. It seems that Quentin has reason to believe Robin’s own mother may be intimately connected with the killings.

Robin thinks Quentin’s claim is absurd. But is it? The more she researches the Cooper/LeRoy murders herself, the more disturbed she becomes by what she finds. Living just a few blocks from her, Robin’s beloved parents are the one absolute she’s always been able to rely upon, especially now amid rising doubts about her husband from internet trolls. Robin knows her mother better than anyone.

But then her parents are brutally attacked, and Robin realises she doesn’t know the truth at all…

MY REVIEW:

Wow! This was a roller-coaster ride that I didn’t want to end. Multiple plot lines and characters were woven together like an intricate patchwork quilt in this complex, thrilling and addictive read. 

In letters to her future daughter, infamous murderer April Cooper reveals what really happened in the summer of 1976, when she and her boyfriend, Gabriel LeRoy, better known as the Inland Empire Killers, embarked on a murder spree that terrorised their town before finally perishing in a fire. In the present day, Quentin Garrison is working on his new podcast Closure, telling the story of his family connection to the case and how the couple’s actions have impacted survivors and their families. When he contacts journalist Robin Diamond and tells her he has reason to believe her mother Renee is connected to the killings, she dismisses the idea as preposterous. But then her parents are attacked in their homes and she realises she doesn’t know her mother as well as she thought. Could her mother know something about what happened forty years ago? Both determined to get to the truth, we follow as it is slowly unveiled and lives are changed forever.

The mystery of April Cooper, her true role in the murders and if she survived the fire that supposedly killed her is the heartbeat of this story. She is an enigmatic, vivid character who looms large on every page. Through her secret letters, which were my favourite part of the book, we were offered an insight into who she was and the truth behind the lurid, sensationalist headlines and local lore. I had a real soft spot for her, even in the moments she wasn’t likeable and I was desperate to find out what had really happened to her. 

I devoured this book and knew it was one I’d love from the first page. When I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about reading it. I loved that I couldn’t figure it out, vacillating so many times in my suspicions. While I was right about some things, there was a lot I never would have thought of in a million years. On the surface it seemed a simple storyline but it morphed into something unexpected, something much more complex and inextricably linked than I imagined. The shocking revelations had my jaw on the floor and at one point in my notes I wrote “F***!! This is mental!” The twists came so fast at one point I thought I was going to get book whiplash. I’m in awe of the intricate plots that authors create and, while it would be kind of terrifying, I’d love to get a look inside their brain to find out how on earth they think of them. 

Never Look Back is a first class psychological thriller. The plot is nuanced and peppered with clues and red herrings that keep you on your toes until the last pages. It is a story about family, long-held secrets and the ripple effect caused by trauma. It is a search for the truth that shatters people’s lives while giving others a chance at redemption. 

Compelling, tense, atmospheric, deliciously suspicious and utterly brilliant I would recommend this book to any thriller lover. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alison Gaylin’s debut book was nominated for an Edgar Award in the Best First Novel category. A graduate of Northwestern University and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Alison lives with her husband and daughter in upstate New York.

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Blog Tours book reviews

The 24-Hour Café by Libby Page ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Publisher: Orion
Published: January 23rd, 2020
Format: Hardcover, Kindle
Genre: General Fiction, Women’s Fiction

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this delightful novel. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part, and to Orion and NetGalley for the eBook ARC in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

From the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Lido comes a story of friendship, belonging and never giving up your dreams.

Welcome to the café that never sleeps.

Day and night, Stella’s café opens its doors to the lonely and the lost, the morning people and the night owls. It’s a place where everyone is always welcome, where life can wait at the door.

Meet Hannah and Mona, best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They love working at Stella’s – the different people they meet, the small kindnesses exchanged. But is it time to step outside and make their own way in life?

Come inside and spend 24 hours in Stella’s café, where one day might just be enough to change your life…

MY REVIEW: 

Have you ever had that feeling where you just want to climb inside a book and live there? That’s how I felt about The 24-Hour Café, a delightful, heartwarming story that warmed my insides like hot chocolate on a cold day. 

The story takes place over twenty-four hours at Stella’s, a London café that has a style all of its own, sharing glimpses of the lives of two of its waitresses, best friends Hannah and Mona, and some of its customers. Over the course of the day we get to know these people, see what they’re going through, what matters to them and how their interactions with each other affect their lives, some in ways they don’t expect. It is a story about life, love, friendships, dreams and heartache. We see people at their best and their worst, when they are at their happiest and when their life is falling apart.

At the centre of the story is Hannah and Mona. The friends both live and work together, the café providing them with flexible conditions perfect for continuing to chase their dream careers – Hannah of being a singer, Mona of being a dancer. They’ve always been more like sisters than friends but this past year, things have changed and they’ve grown apart. Can they fix their problems or are things broken forever? That question is underlying over the course of the book and I was so invested in these characters that I was rooting for things to be fixed.

I devoured this book in under twenty-four hours and just couldn’t put it down. It was an easy but immersive read, with interesting characters that felt real and relatable. I immediately cared about Hannah, our first narrator, and felt the same about each character as they were introduced. I loved the different stories the author created for each narrator and how she made me genuinely care about them individually. The writing was uplifting and alluring, transporting me to this world that felt real, the vivid descriptions of Stella’s making me want to hop on a train to London and go there. 

The 24-Hour Café snuck in at the very end of the year to take a place in my top books of 2019. It is a book that manages to be quietly understated and dazzling at the same time and I predict this will be on everyone’s must-read list in 2020. If you’re looking for a delicious, captivating and touching read, this is the book for you.

*thank you to @head_in_a_book_18 for allowing me to use her lovely picture in this post.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Libby Page is the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Lido. Her second book The 24-Hour Café launches in January 2020.

Before writing The Lido Libby worked as a campaigner for fairer internships, a journalist at the Guardian and a Brand Executive at a retailer and then a charity. 

CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:

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Libby also shares her swimming adventures with her sister Alex on Instagram

BUY THE BOOK:

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Book Depository
Waterstones

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Blog Tours book reviews

The Mothers by Sarah J. Naughton ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Publisher: Orion
Published: January 9th, 2020 (Kindle)
April 30th, 2020 (Paperback)
Genre: Mystery, thriller.
Trigger Warnings: Mental health issues, postnatal depression 

Today is my stop on the blog tour for this brilliant thriller. Thank you to Tracy at Compulsive Readers Tours for the invitation to take part, and Orion and NetGalley for the eBook ARC of this novel.

SYNOPSIS:

Five Women.

They meet at their NCT Group. The only thing they have in common is that they’re all pregnant.

Five Secrets.

Three years later they’re all good friends. Aren’t they?

One Missing Husband.

Now the police have come knocking. Someone knows something.

And the trouble with secrets is that someone always tells.

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MY REVIEW:

Wow! What an exhilarating read this turned out to be! Sizzling with tension, this had me on the edge of my seat and up until the wee hours as I couldn’t put it down. The author threw some clever curveballs to throw us off track and I found myself unable to guess where it was going or who I should suspect. A heady mix that made this a delight to read.

When banker Ewan Upton is reported missing Iona and her partner are called in to investigate. His wife Bella is a mess. She has no idea where he could be and his missing passport indicates he planned to disappear. But there’s something niggling at Iona and she thinks there is more to the case. The night before Ewan vanished Bella had been out with a group of friends known as the Mother’s Club. The five women have been meeting regularly since having their babies three years ago but seem to not like each other or have much in common. Though they all have a framed copy of the same photo, taken the night of their first meeting, on display in their homes. Does Bella know what happened to her husband? And do the other mothers, who don’t seem to like each other, know the secret too? 

The story is told in dual timelines; in the present day the police are investigating the disappearance of Ewan Upton, and in flashbacks we get to know Bella and the other mothers. They are an eclectic mix of people. All very different and not who you’d put together without the commonality of having babies at the same time. Though Ewan’s disappearance is the mystery that needs to be solved, it was in the flashbacks that the best storytelling occurs and we see the raw, no-holds-barred life of each of the women as they struggle with new motherhood, the changes to their relationships, to their bodies, and the fact that their life is now completely different. Their struggles are different and unique but they are all very relatable and true to life. I found these parts of the story emotional at times as they discuss some often brushed-over or hidden parts of parenthood. They were also my favourite parts as get to know each woman on a deeper level, which helped when the tension soared in the present day as we could understand their actions. 

Bella is a mousy, downtrodden wife who’s let herself go since her son, Teddy was born. She suffers from postnatal depression which included hallucination when he was very young and lives in fear of it returning and maybe losing her precious boy. She is lacking in confidence, something that isn’t helped by her controlling, douchebag of a husband, Ewan. God I hated him! My spidey senses told me something was off about him from the start and he turned out to be an awful husband, father and human being who treated everyone like dirt and was only out for himself. I felt increasingly sad for Bella and angry at Ewan, hoping he didn’t return home so that she could have some chance of a happy life once she’d come to terms with his leaving.

This was the first time I’ve read a book by this author and I was blown away by the intricate, clever, riveting and twisty plot. She kept the reader in the dark about so much for most of the book and I loved that I was in the same position as Iona and her colleagues, trying to figure out if the Mothers Club were telling the truth and what had happened to Ewan. I was stumped. While I had some faint suspicions I was mostly clueless which made it all the more amazing when revelations and twists came and things began to fall into place. I was thrilled when Bella’s inner tigress awakened and things begin to turn in the story. The tension soared and it felt like I was on a rollercoaster ride I didn’t want to get off, unable to put the book down until I reached the end and discovered the truth at last. 

If you like well-written and surprising psychological thrillers then read this book.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Sarah Naughton’s debut novel, The Hanged Man Rises, was shortlisted for the Costa children’s award. It was followed by a second young adult thriller, The Blood List. Her thrillers for adults, Tattletale and The Other Couple (Orion) are Amazon bestsellers. Sarah lives in London with her husband and sons. 

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Blog Tours book reviews

Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver ⭐⭐⭐.5

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Thank you to Anne at Random Things  Tours for the invitation to take part in this blog tour and to Orenda Books for my gifted copy of the novel.

SYNOPSIS:

When strangers take part in a series of group suicides, everything suggests that a cult is to blame. How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?

Nine suicides.

One cult.

No leader.

Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.

That is how they knew they had been chosen to become part of the People of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.

Thirty-two people on the train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People of Choice are appearing around the globe; it becomes a movement. A social media page that has lain dormant for years suddenly has thousands of followers. The police are under pressure to find a link between cult members, to locate a leader that does not seem to exist.

How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?

A shocking, mesmerisingly original and pitch-black thriller, Nothing Important Happened Today confirms Will Carver as one of the most extraordinary, exciting authors in crime fiction.

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****TRIGGER WARNING****

If there was ever a book that required a trigger warning its this one. This book deals with suicide and mental health and if you struggle with those things I would advise caution in reading this book. Both are subjects I can find triggering but all I knew was that it started with the nine suicides. I didn’t expect it to delve so deeply and darkly into both subject and I really struggled with reading it, having to take lots of breaks. In all honesty, I would have quit reading if I hadn’t been reading it for a blog tour spot that was just days away. But it does move away from being so dark and became a book I enjoyed after some time.

MY REVIEW:

Nine people receive a letter one morning. Each one contains a sheet of paper with just four words: nothing important happened today, the other has instructions for where and when they are to meet and end their lives in unison. They have been accepted as members of the People of Choice, a suicide cult that seems to have no leader and the members don’t know each other. As word spreads and the People of Choice becomes a movement, the police are desperately trying to find links between the members and the identity of the cult’s leader.

This was a powerful, original, dark and brutal novel that I had the dichotomy of disliking the start but ultimately enjoyed. It packs a punch from the start and the unease was instant as I read about the normal days of the nine people who sacrificed their lives on the bridge.

This was my first Will Carver book and I loved his unique writing style. I don’t know if I’ve ever read a book that’s written in both the first and third person before, but it worked and flowed smoothly. The dual timelines and multiple narrators were a great way to introduce us to what the person behind the People of Choice was trying to achieve and showing us the shattered lives of those he chose to be members. His choice to refer to the members by numbers and profession or a personality trait made it feel like I was observing test subjects in some twisted experiment, which I guess is kind of what the cult’s orchestrator wanted. It made me one of the others. I felt quite voyeuristic and removed when reading parts of the book which perfectly illustrates how taking away personal qualifiers such as names and details about people’s lives also takes away some of the empathy.

This read as a how-to manual for running a cult but was also a commentary on today’s society. There were a lot of great points and things I could relate to but unfortunately I found that for over half the book these things were overshadowed by the things that made this book hard to read for me: as I mentioned earlier, I found the depth and detail to which this book discussed and examinned suicide distressing and the way mental health and how it is treated was discussed in the first half of the book rubbed me the wrong way. I was relieved when the book began to feel less gratuitous and like it was starting to come together at last. I found myself really enjoying the storyline and actually caring about what happened and who was behind the carnage.

Out now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

So while I feel I can’t give this a four star rating because of how I felt for the first part of the book, I would still urge everyone to decide for themselves about this book. It is a well-written book by a talented author that is timely, twisted, disturbing and thought-provoking. I liked how the story played out as we approached the finale and absolutely loved how it ended.

Will Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series. He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age eleven, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company. He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, and lives in Reading with his two children. Good Samaritans was book of the year in Guardian, Telegraph and Daily Express, and hit number one on the ebook charts.