Review: ‘Never Have I Ever’ by Joshilyn Jackson ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Happy Kindle Publication Day to Joshilyn Jackson and her electrifying new novel.

SYNOPSIS:

It starts as a game at book group one night. Never Have I Ever..done something I shouldn’t.

But Amy Whey has done something she shouldn’t. And Roux, the glamorous newcomer to Amy’s suburban neighbourhood, knows exactly what that is.

Roux promises she’ll go away. She will take herself and her son, who is already growing dangerously close to Amy’s teenage stepdaughter, and she will go. If Amy plays by her rules. 

But Amy isn’t prepared to lose everything she’s built. She’s going to fight back, and in this escalating game of cat and mouse, there can be only one winner. 

REVIEW:

In Pensacola, Florida, a group of ordinary suburban housewives are holding at their monthly book group when a mysterious stranger knocks on the door. She wants to join their group. Before the end of the night she’s charmed almost everyone and overtaken the group, declaring the book talk boring and instead plies them with alcohol and gets them to play her own version of Never Have I Ever. But these embarrassing, salacious secrets aren’t just a bit of fun. They’re the mystery woman’s ammunition for a much more dangerous game. And now she has secrets that could explode many people’s lives into a million pieces…

“She smiled, and I had no premonition as I smiled back. She didn’t look like my own destruction to me.” 

Amy Whey loves her life. It’s uncomplicated and unremarkable, which is just how she wants it. She knows how damaging and dangerous the extraordinary can be and she’s spent too long burying her painful past to allow anything to threaten what she has. She’s married to Davis and they live with his daughter Maddy and their baby boy, Oliver. Amy is a loyal friend and is fiercely protective of those she loves. But underneath the calm exterior is layers of guilt and a woman teetering on the edge, scared that her darkest secrets will be exposed. 

Angelica Roux is glamorous, sexy, bewitching, hypnotic, wild and charming. This wolf in sheep’s clothing soon takes over the book group with copious amounts of alcohol and a seemingly innocent game of Never Have I Ever. But underneath the shiny and chipper exterior is a cold, calculating, manipulative, and greedy woman who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.  

And so begins a deadly game of cat and mouse that can have only one winner and could cost the loser everything, maybe even their life…

“Roux had begun this as a game. She’d told me not to play. But I already was. I had tol. More than that. I had to win.”

Wow! This book was utterly compelling. Steeped in layer upon layer of drama, intrigue and suspense, this book had me on the edge of the seat.. Past narratives are used to tease us with the events that Amy is so terrified of being revealed as she races against the clock to beat Roux at her game and they hyped up the mystery and tension, leaving more questions I was desperate to know the answer to while also helping to slowly untangle the clues. 

“I did not know I could lead us to a thing so big, so mean, something we can never undo or remove, that will echo in my life, in all our lives, forever.”

While being entertaining this book also makes you think as it asks the question how far would you go to protect your secrets and the life you love? It’s also a book about how every little choice we make can have far-reaching, and sometimes disastrous, consequences, and how your whole life can change in a single moment. 

Part of the brilliance of this book is how similar the Amy and Roux are despite their different roles in the story. Both characters were well written and Roux is a fantastic antagonist. She’s easy to despise but is also fun to read and you can understand why so many people are taken in by her. While I never wavered in Roux being the bad guy, there are times when  you aren’t sure if Amy is the good guy or the bad guy as she’s complex and the more we learn about her the harder it to only see her as an innocent victim. But none of this changed my allegiance. I was team Amy all the way. 

“She’d cracked open the past. I could feel it leaking into my bloodstream, spreading like a toxin through me.”

This was my first read by this author, but it won’t be my last. There has been a lot of hype surrounding this book and with that there is always the worry it won’t live up to expectations. This one did. Spectacularly written, fast-paced, and  full of intricate twists and turns, with one in particular that I’m still trying to recover from the shock of. The author masterfully weaves the pieces of the puzzle together and delivers a nail-biting finale that I was so desperate to get to I stayed up long into the night. 

The book itself gives a great way to describe itself: a book with teeth. Ironically it is exactly the kind of book that Amy and Roux like to read. So if you love books with teeth, mysteries that keep you guessing and psychological thrillers that have you on tenterhooks, then Never Have I Ever is the book for you.

Thank you to NetGalley, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC and Joshilyn Jackson for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Kindle version out July 30th

Hardcover out August 8th.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Joshilyn Jackson lives near Decatur, Georgia with her husband and their two children. For the past six years she has taught creative writing and literature courses for Georgia’s maximum security facility for women. Through their education-in-prison and re-entry programmes, Reforming Arts fosters the development of critical and creative thinking skills, encouraging students to build liveable lives. She’s also an award winning audiobook narrator, performing most of her own work as well as other authors including Lydia Nelzer and Maybeth Mayhew Whalen.

Review: ‘My Sister, The Serial Killer’ by Oyinkan Braithwaite ⭐⭐⭐.5

IMG_20190720_160938_487

SYNOPSIS:

My Sister, The Serial Killer is a backly comic novel about how blood is thicker – and more difficult to get out of the carpet – than water…

When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach.  This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…

MY REVIEW:

“Ayoola summons me with these words – Korede, I killed him. I had hoped I would never hear those words again.”

The first line of this book sent shivers down my spine. I’d been excited to read this much-hyped book for a while and was pleased when it was chosen as July’s book for my book club. But sadly this was a book that didn’t live up to it’s promise or the hype.

It started well and had a lot of good points. Initially there was a lot of tension: would the sisters get caught at the crime scene and while disposing of the body? Will the social media search for the victim lead to their exposure? I like the short chapters and though I never quite got to grips with the Nigerian-English, it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book. 

Korede and Ayoola had what is understandably a tense relationship, though to those who don’t know Ayoola’s deadly secret it seems Korede is unnecessarily harsh towards her and even gets accused of victim shaming when others believe Ayoola’s lies. I liked her character for the most part and understood her desire to protect her little sister as it must be a complex range of feelings to have someone you love do such terrible things and ask for your help. Korede seemed like a decent person put in an impossible situation. She’s forever scared of being found out while Ayoola seems unbothered by her crimes and doesn’t understand why her sister is edgy and anxious. She sees herself as the victim, claiming each man died in an act of self-defense, though this seems a sketchy claim from the evidence. There were also things in their past that were teased that I was excited to learn more about and if that could be where Ayoola’s “tendencies” began.

Unfortunately, for me things soon went wrong as the atmosphere evaporated in a novel that was too lighthearted for its subject matter. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t like black humour – Sweetpea is one of my favourite books and Rhiannon a character I love – but I just didn’t think it was done well in this book. Instead of funny it came across flat. 

Once the tension had gone the story plodded on mundanely before ending abruptly in a way that made me really mad. I can’t say too much about why because I do think everyone should make up their own minds about any book and I don’t want to spoil things for anyone yet to read it. I felt as if the author had written a longer book and explored some of the plot points in greater detail then this would have been a great book. Instead it felt too short, unsatisfying, lacking in depth and like everything was tied up in a bow far too neatly. So, I’m joining #blacksheepofbookstagram in being one of the few people to say this one didn’t live up to the hype and wasn’t for me.

Out now.

Review: ‘Miracle Creek’ by Angie Kim ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

4a1fa1c6b458c45c1ad906bd1ea37c14

Happy hardcover publication day to Angie Kim! This book has been out on kindle for a while so I was able to read it earlier this month. 

SYNOPSIS:

A literary courtroom thriller about an immigrant family and a young single mother accused of killing her autistic son, Miracle Creek is a powerhouse debut about how far we’ll go to protect our families, and our deepest secrets. 

In rural Miracle Creek, Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine. A pressurised oxygen chamber that patients enter for therapeutic “dives”, it’s also a repository of hopes and dreams: the dream of a mom that her child can be like other kids; the dream of a young doctor desperate to cure his infertility and save his marriage; the dream of the Yoos themselves, Korean immigrants who have come to the United States so their teenage daughter can have a better life.

When the oxygen chamber mysteriously explodes, killing two people, all those dreams shatter with it, and the ensuing murder trial uncovers unimaginable secrets and lies. In Miracle Creek, Angie Kim takes a classic form – courtroom drama – and draws on her own experience as an immigrant, a lawyer, and a mother of a real-life “submarine” patient to turn it into something wholly original, unputdownable…real. This is a spellbinding novel by an exciting new voice.

REVIEW:

This spectacular debut is not your average thriller. Themes of immigration, special needs, family, friendship, arson, murder, secrets, and lies, all merge in this thought-provoking novel. 

“I think about that moment a lot. The deaths, the paralysis, the trial – might all that have been averted if I’d pressed the button?”

The story opens on the day that the Miracle Submarine, an experimental treatment device, explodes killing two people and injuring others. It then jumps to the trial almost exactly a year later when Elizabeth Ward, who’s son Henry was one of the people who died, is on trial accused of starting the fire to get rid of her autistic son. What follows is a first person narrative told by seven narrators that all played their part in what happened that fateful day. But who set the fire that killed two innocent people? And why? And if it wasn’t Elizabeth then why does she keep saying she should be punished?

After reading the first chapter of this book I made a note that read: “What a *expletive* brilliant first chapter. Wow! I’m going to love this book!” I wasn’t wrong. This book instantly absorbed me into the world of these characters and didn’t let me go. There has been a lot of hype around this book and it deserves every bit of it. Mesmerising and expertly written, it’s hard to believe this is Angie Kim’s first novel. I loved how she took the courtroom drama and thriller genres, two of my favourites, and did something unique and special, creating a work of fiction that will remain with me. 

“Pak Yoo was a different person in English than Korean…In Korean he was an authoritative man, educated and worthy of respect. In English, he was a deaf, mute idiot, unsure, nervous and inept.”

There were so many things right with this book. So many things I loved. But one of the things I loved most about this book is the way it makes you think about a range of topics and controversial issues. One such issue is immigration. Pak and Young Yoo, the owners of the Miracle Submarine, and their teenage daughter, Mary, are Korean immigrants. Through their story we learn the sobering truth of what life is really like for a lot of immigrants to America, and it’s not exactly the American dream they’ve been sold. The intricate details all brought home just how hard things are for them and while I’ve always been sensitive to the struggles of immigrants, reading things from the perspective of the immigrants themselves, and of immigrants to America rather than the UK, gave me  a whole new level of admiration and empathy for them and see things from a different perspective. Leaving your country of birth, everything and everyone you know, is a daunting and brave thing to do whatever your circumstances, and this book highlights that while also showing them to be flawed, normal people.

“…anything was bearable when it was temporary; try doing it day after day, knowing you’d do this until you died.”

I also appreciated the way the author handled the subject of special needs. In this book we see the harsh realities these parents face, the thoughts they have that they’d never want to admit to the world, and things like the hierarchy of disabilities and how it can become a competition of suffering. I have multiple chronic illnesses and have a son with autism so I have some experience of these worlds and completely understand the willingness to try anything to cure yourself or your child. While I’ve never parented a severely disabled child, I can understand that feeling of wanting to be free of a burden while not wishing someone dead as I’ve wanted it for myself. There are days I’m in so much pain I don’t feel like I can take another second, let alone a lifetime, so I wish for release even though I don’t wish for death. This helped me relate to Teresa in particular when she was talking about how she felt about her daughter and the resentment that can come when disability isn’t something that’s been born with so it isn’t how they’re supposed to be, as it were. 

“This was what the people had come for…the drama of the tragedy.”

One of the great things about this book was how it tears apart the “good mother” myth. While it is now more acceptable to admit how hard parenting is, to talk about the fact that it can be a bloody nightmare and that there’s times you go crazy, society still looks down on those things at times. This novel delves into how Elizabeth is demonised from the outset, how she isn’t just on trial for arson and murder, but for being a bad mother too. I loved that this story showed that even in the hardest moments, the times where we say or think things we’re ashamed of, we’re still good mothers that love our children. 

The story moves between the present day and the events leading up to the explosion as shameful secrets about the characters lives and what happened that day are slowly revealed. The testimony is hard to read at times, especially Matt’s harrowing, graphic testimony about Henry’s death. I cried during these scenes as it was so vivid that it felt real and I could picture every haunting thing he described. But it isn’t a negative story. It is also one about hope, community and forgiveness. 

Miracle Creek was my 80th read of 2019 and is one of the best. Timely, twisty, fast-paced and emotional, this is a book that I can’t recommend highly enough. If you haven’t read it and it’s not on your tbr list, then you need to add it now. 

 

 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR :

Kim_Angie

Angie Kim moved as a preteen from Seoul, South Korea, to the suburbs of Baltimore. She attended Stanford University and Harvard Law School where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review, then practiced as a trial lawyer at Williams & Connolly. Her stories have won the Glamour Essay Contest and the Wabash Prize in Fiction, and appeared in numerous publications including The New York Times, Salon Slate, The Southern Review, Sycamore Review, The Asian American Literary Review, and PANK. Kim lives in northern Virginia with her husband and three sons.

TO BUY:

Review: ‘At Your Door’ by J. P. Carter ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Editor_2_20190721220551

Happy publication day to J.P Carter and the amazing second installment in the DCI Anna Tate series.

SYNOPSIS:

What happens when the past comes back to kill you?

When DCI Anna Tate is called to the gruesome discovery of a woman found on Barnes Common, she is plunged into a high profile investigation involving a prominent MP. London is baying for blood – but is there more to Holly’s death than first meets the eye?

Meanwhile, the hunt is on for Anna’s missing daughter Chloe, who vanished ten years ago when her father kidnapped her. The case has been cold for what feels like forever – but a phone call brings a new lead…

Can Anna solve the murder case whilst dealing with her own personal demons? Or is someone from the past planning to get in her way?

REVIEW:

Bravo, Mr. Carter. Bravo. Nothing in this book happened as I expected and I loved it. I was on the edge of my seat guessing what would happen right until the final page and I didn’t see either ending happening coming until it smacked me in the face and my jaw was on the floor. This was a surprising, salacious, emotive, tense and gripping thriller that exceeded my expectations and left me thirsty for more…

DCI Anna Tate and her colleagues at the Major Investigation Team have barely had time to draw breath after their last high profile case when the body of 23-year-old Holly Blake is found and they’re plunged head-first into a case that will put them under more pressure than ever before. It seems to be a simple case of revenge and murder, but as the investigation continues shocking secrets are revealed, and multiple suspects come to light. As the complexity increases, so does the pressure to make an arrest, but it seems every time they find an answer to one question, another three take its place. 

Simultaneously, the decade-long search for Anna’s missing daughter, Chloe, seems to finally be gaining momentum and she finally has real hope of them being reunited. But she darent get up her hopes too much or allow herself to be distracted from her job so she throws herself into the hunt for Holly’s killer while waiting for what she hopes is the call she’s longed for.

I already knew from the first book that I loved Anna. Her ability to compartemtalise her personal and professional lives even when her mother’s heart must have been screaming to forget about her job and go find her daughter, was remarkable. We saw her strength and how she refused to be intimidated or bow down to pressure, instead searching for the truth and being determined to get justice for Holly. She is a fantastic character and everything in this book made me love her more. 

Poor Sophie. My heart broke for her as revelations saw her world crumble and she was left with an impossible dilemma, a true “Sophie’s choice”. She was superbly written and I loved how she was such a big focus of this book. Her story was vital to Anna’s hunt for Chloe and made the matter more convoluted, no longer simply a case of rooting for mother and daughter to be reunited. I was riveted by the twists in this part of the tale, intrigued by what Sophie was hiding, and found myself wishing there was a way for all parties to come out of this happily. 

The author also wrote some great villains in this book. Nathan was sleazy, vile, aggressive and just simply a disgusting person that I never felt an ounce of sympathy for. From the first moment he’s introduced he made me both furious and cringe at the same time. And then there’s Bruno. His sickening plot for revenge surpassed any other evil in this book. He is a psychopath in every sense of the word and the author gave me chills whenever this character was on the page. 

To create such amazing characters that inspire such a range of feelings in the reader, and write two stories that both maintain momentum and keep you hooked throughout, shows what a skilled writer the author is. He will distract you, letting you think you know the outcome, and then hit you with the truth so suddenly you’re left dazed and confused. I was in tears by the end of this book, my heart was broken and yet I wanted more. 

If you love readable police procedurals, great characters, gruesome murder scenes and addictive, twisty thrillers, then this is the book, and the series, for you. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Avon Books UK and J. P. Carter for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Out today. 

 

Review: ‘Lady in the Lake’ by Laura Lippman ⭐⭐⭐⭐

cover166087-medium

SYNOPSIS:

A stunning, multi-voiced, period piece – tackling race, gender politics, and the volatility of mid ‘60s America – from the author of SUNBURN

Cleo Sherwood disappeared eight months ago. Aside from her parents and the two sons she left behind, no one seems to have noticed. It isn’t hard to understand why: it’s 1964 and neither the police, the public nor the papers care much when Negro women go missing.

Maddie Schwartz – recently separated from her husband, working her first job as an assistant at the Baltimore Sun- wants one thing: a byline. When she hears about an unidentified body that’s been pulled out of the fountain in Druid Hill Park, Maddie thinks she’s about to uncover a story that will finally get her name in print. What she can’t imagine is how much trouble she will cause by chasing a story that no-one wants her to tell.

REVIEW:

“Alive, I was Cleo Sherwood. Dead, I became the Lady in the Lake..” 

Set in Baltimore in the mid ‘60s, Lady in the Lake tackles some of the prominent issues of the era such as racial discrimination, women’s role in society and gender inequality. It is also a story of women trying to make a better and happier life for themselves, forbidden love and secrets. 

The story begins with a haunting, mysterious, and foreboding prologue that left me excited about the book and full of questions that I couldn’t wait to have answered. 

Told by multiple narrators, the two women whose stories are the focus of this novel, are also the narrators we see the most. Cleo Sherwood is a single mother who is trying to get ahead and create a good life for herself and her two sons. She had moved out of her parents house leaving her boys there, although she visited regularly, and was working in a local bar. She disappears on New Year’s Eve after being seen on a date with a mystery man but no-one other than her family seem to care.

Maddie Schwartz is the typical beautiful and perfect housewife but she feels bored and trapped. She leaves her  husband after almost two decades of marriage and is trying to start again, which for her means an exciting relationship with an unsuitable man and getting a job as an assistant at a local newspaper. When Cleo’s body is found she becomes determined to find out what happened to her despite warnings that not only does no-one care, but she will get herself and others hurt if she pursues it. Wanting not only justice but her name on a story, she decides to ignore the warnings and continue her investigations.

The story unfolded in a way I didn’t expect but really enjoyed. I liked that I could never figure out who had killed Cleo and that most of the twists took me by surprise. I loved the historical aspect of the book and the author had me immersed in the era, especially when reading the parts narrated by Maddie and Cleo.

The abundance of narrators did sometimes feel too much, but most of them did give a perspective that added to the story and gave you possible clues so I could see a reason to give them a voice. The chapter narrated by Cleo’s eldest son was particularly heartbreaking and I was in tears reading it. It was a great reminder of Cleo as a mother as that side of her was overlooked by most people as they chose instead to focus on the more salacious side of her character to paint her in the light that suited them. 

I’ve wanted to read a novel by this author for a long time so I was thrilled to have the chance to review this ARC and I can’t wait to read more of her work. Lady in the Lake reminds us how difficult it was for women of any race to make a better life for themselves outside of the social conventions in a time not so long ago. An intriguing and alluring novel that I would definitely recommend.

Thank you to NetGalley, Faber & Faber and Laura Lippman for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: July 25th 

Review: ‘The Three Beths’ by Jeff Abbott ⭐⭐⭐.5

QuotePhoto16dc9569

SYNOPSIS:

From multi-million-selling writer Jeff Abbott comes an intense and gripping new psychological thriller about a daughter’s desperate search for her mother – when she discovers two women with the same name are also missing. 

My mum would never leave me. 

This has been Mariah Dunning’s motto. So when she glimpses her mother – who’s been missing the past year – Mariah’s conviction becomes stronger than ever. Or is she losing her mind? 

An unlikely coincidence? 

When Beth Dunning disappeared without a trace, suspicion for her murder immediately fell upon Mariah’s father. Until Mariah stumbles upon two other recent disappearances. And all three women had the same name: Beth.

Or a sinister connection? 

Mariah would give anything to find out what happened to be mother and clear her father’s name. But the truth may be more devastating than she ever imagined… 

REVIEW:

“You never knew what small-seeming choice in your life could have a massive ripple effect.”

This was a readable thriller with short chapters that helped keep the steady pace and tension. At the start I had so many questions: where is Beth? Who was the woman Mariah saw at the mall? Why does her father seem so reluctant to have her asking questions and trying to find answers? As time went on there were more questions waiting to be answered… 

Mariah was a character I found easy to like. I can’t imagine the grief of having your mother vanish and feeling like the police aren’t looking for her because they’ve made up their minds that your father is guilty. Mariah’s desperation to find her mother and amateur detective work was exactly what I would want to do in her position, especially after being told of a possible link to another missing women that the police instantly dismissed. I liked that her father, Craig, was ambiguous and you were never sure if you could trust him. I had my predictions and I won’t go into them or if they were right to avoid spoilers, but I liked that I would waver in my thoughts about his possible involvement and how honest he was being. His strong desire to protect Mariah was exactly as you’d expect from any father and made some of his more questionable choices understandable. I really liked Sharon’s character although I didn’t really trust her and found her strange. Characters like that can be fun to read though and Sharon certainly added a lot to the story for me, especially the dynamic between her and Mariah. 

The decision by the author to not include flashbacks narrated by the women themselves added to the mystery. It meant our knowledge of them was coloured by the lense through which others saw them but I liked how the author showed us that people can be many different things depending on who you talk to. No person is one dimensional. 

This twisty thriller didn’t blow me away but it was a fun and enjoyable read. I found that the pace and tension wavered and I wasn’t kept gripped as I had been at the beginning, but I never felt bored or tempted to stop reading. By about half way through I thought I knew how this was going to play out and while it was predictable in some ways, other twists still took me by surprise right until the final pages. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Little, Brown Book Group UK and Jeff Abbott for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Out today.

 

June Wrap Up

QuotePhoto1693abc6

Another month has passed and it’s wrap up time again. Though it’s crazy to realise that half the year has already gone. I’m seeing loads of posts on Instagram of people’s halfway top ten but haven’t got around to doing mine yet as I’m still trying to whittle it down!

June has been a great month of reading for me. I’ve finished fourteen books and got part way into Notes On A Nervous Planet, which I’m sure I’ll finish in July.  All but one book were between four and five stars and all but one were ones I enjoyed. Thirteen of the books were from NetGalley and one was a completely unplanned mood read, which was exactly what I needed.

So here’s what I read in June…

cover155678-medium

1. ‘A Nearly Normal Family’ by M. T. Edvardsson ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Told in three parts, each from the perspective of a different family member, each of our narrators are unreliable and leave us wondering which parts of their versions are true. Part two, narrated by the daughter, Stella, was where this book became impossible to put down. A captivating, ambiguous and twisting story about family, secrets, and the lengths we’ll go to for those we love. As we head towards the end of the book the bombshells are dropped in spectacular style and left me reeling. The author pulled off an amazing coupe de grâce with the way he ended this book. I loved how he pulled everything together and kept the reader on tenterhooks until the very end.

Out now on kindle, July 11th in hardcover. Published by Pan Macmillan. E-book ARC via NetGalley. 

cover162817-medium

2. ‘Favourite Daughter’ by Kaira Rouda ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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. Controlling, manipulative, condescending, demanding and crazy Jane  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. 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. 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.  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. 

Out now. Published by HQ. E-book ARC via NetGalley.              

cover166145-medium

3. ‘The Liar’s House’ by Carla Kovach ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Carla Kovach has done it again. DI Gina Harte and her team are back for the fourth book in this fantastic series. There are multiple suspects but the team are mostly working with hunches and circumstantial evidence as real clues to the culprit evade them. At the same time Gina’s personal life is causing problems and her past and present are entangled in her latest case, threatening the reputation she’s spent years building. Themes of domestic abuse and stalking are handled with raw honesty. We see the way these men control their partners through fear and are shown the long-lasting psychological damage of abuse. The author is skilled at writing domestic abuse, in all its forms, in a way that helps the reader understand these women, why they stay, why they take desperate courses of action and do the various things we see them do to protect their abusers. The Liar’s House is what we’ve come to expect and love from this series: complex characters, brutal, gruesome murder scenes and great writing. This novel was particularly skillfully written and ingeniously plotted. I can’t wait for book five. 

Out July 2nd.  Published by Bookoture. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

cover160251-medium

4. ‘The Van Apfel Girl’s Are Gone’ by Felicity McLean ⭐⭐⭐⭐

A beautifully haunting mystery about childhood, adolescence, secrets and regrets, that takes place over the course of one transformative and unforgettable summer. 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 the Van Apfel sisters? I will leave you to find out for yourself when you read it. 

Out now. Published by Oneworld Publications. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

cover164264-medium

5. ‘We Were Killers Once’ by Becky Masterman ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I have been fascinated with the Clutter murders ever since I read In Cold Blood over twenty years ago. So when I saw that this novel offered an alternative look at that case and one that was linked to it I couldn’t wait to read it. The author has created a perfect amalgamation of true crime and crime fiction with this gripping and believable novel. I love both genres and loved how she brought them together. I admit that part of my enjoyment of this book came from my fascination with the Clutter murders. Both main characters are connected to the infamous case in different ways and I loved the alternative version that was explored in this novel. There was one drawback which was both of the main characters aren’t likeable. Beaufort is unlikable in the right ways, we aren’t supposed to like the bad guy, but Brigid could have been likeable if not for her tiresome obsession and jealousy over his husband’s late wife which made her appear whiny. It is good for a character to be flawed but I felt this flaw went a little too far. We Were Killers Once is an intriguing, absorbing thriller. A mix of fascinating fiction with tantalising fact reimagined and woven through the pages, I would recommend this book to anyone who loves crime fiction and true crime. 

Out now. Published by Orion Publishing Group. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

cover161780-medium

6. ‘Stone Cold Heart’ by Caz Frear ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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. I loved her writing style, particularly the banter between Cat and her colleagues and the wit that had me laughing out loud on many occasions. Cat Kinsella is a unique, flawed and complex protagonist. She breaks the rules, keeps secrets, has told many lies, has a shady family, is dating someone she shouldn’t, and yet she is someone we root for. One of the things I enjoyed about this novel was the array of unreliable and morally ambiguous characters, including almost every witness. Information trickles slowly, frustrating the police but making for an electrifying read. Is Joseph their man? The final part of this twisty thriller had me on tenterhooks and reeling from each bombshell. After the shocking concluding sentences I am now impatiently waiting for book 3. 

Out now. Published by Bonnier Zaffre. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

cover160090-medium

7. ‘Here To Stay’ by Mark Edwards ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Another nail-biting, chilling tale of domestic noir from the man that Jennifer Hillier has rightly crowned “The King of domestic horror”.  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.  I don’t want to give any details away as the shocks add to the escalating horror and brilliance of this book. I was extremely lucky to get an early ARC of this book from the author himself. and 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…              

Out September 1st. Published by Amazon Publishing UK. E-book ARC via Mark Edwards and NetGalley.

cover162722-medium

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

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. 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. She 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. 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.                                                         

Out now. Published by Hodder & Stoughton. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

cover166896-medium

9. ‘Someone We Know’ by Shari Lapena ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Everybody has their secrets. And in the wealthy New York suburb of Aylesford the secrets of some neighbours are about to collide when one of them is found dead in her car in the lake. Was it her husband who was sleeping with one of the neighbours? Was it her own secret lover? And did the teenage boy who’s been breaking into neighbours homes see something that could be the key to solving the crime? Once again Shari Lapena takes you on a roller-coaster ride of twists and turns in this surprising thriller. The author masterfully weaves the puzzle pieces together, the secrets began to escalate, and there is one twist after another until we reach the dramatic final reveal showing that she knows how to grip and entertain her audience, building the tension slowly before ramping it up to a point where I was so hooked that I stayed up until ridiculous o’clock to finish it. 

Out July 25th. Published by Random House UK, Transworld Publishers. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

51mss8QcM8L

10. ‘Sister of Mine’ by Laurie Petrou ⭐⭐⭐⭐

“Two girls and a match, but a world of differences in what it looked like after that. A forest fire of debt”

Secrets. Lies. Violence. Desperation. Fire. Smoke. Murder.  This is a claustrophobic story of two sisters both held together and torn apart by a terrible secret and explores how the ripple effect of one decision lasts for decades, impacting both sister’s lives in ways they never imagined. I was quickly drawn into the dark world of sisters Penny and Hattie Grayson, two very different sister’s who’s lives have been far from easy.  It was shocking to me how much they had been through by the time they were 18 and 21, which is their ages at the time of the fire. This compelling, sinister, raw and heartwrenching story is a skillfully written and gripping from the first page. It is full of twists and turns and will surprise you right until the end. It is a magnificent psychological thriller that I highly recommend. 

Out now. Published by Oldcastle Books, NoExit Press. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

cover163858-medium

11. ‘And Then She Vanishes’ by Claire Douglas ⭐⭐⭐⭐

An exciting, twisty thriller full of suspense about secrets kept for almost two decades that merge with the shocking, and seemingly motiveless, murder of an elderly woman and her son in a sleepy seaside town. Told from multiple points of view we follow the story of  Heather, a woman accused of two seemingly motiveless and cold-blooded murders, and Jess, her best friend in school who is now a journalist and is given the task of reporting on the crime. The book also flashes back to August 1994 when Heather’s older sister, Flora, went missing and the girls’ friendship fell apart. But is Heather guilty? Both Jess and Margot, Heather’s mother, insist that the murders are out of character for the gentle, kind and loving woman they knew. But both secretly wonder and allude to there being another side to Heather. Something lurking beneath the surface that they’ve tried to ignore…  They didn’t lie when they said the final chapter was even more shocking than the first – Wow! The dramatic prologue was chilling, the whole book had me on the edge of my seat, but the final chapter was sensational and startling. The author cleverly keeps you on tenterhooks playing a guessing game right until the end and the payoff is totally worth it. You won’t be able to put this book down. 

Out now. Published by Penguin UK – Michael Joseph. E-book ARC via NetGalley. Thank you to the publisher for inviting me to read and review this book. 

cover156063-medium

12. ‘The Missing Wife’ by Sam Carrington  ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Louisa is about to turn 40 & isn’t handling it well, especially as she’s found herself unexpectedly dealing with sleepless nights and nappies again. Her husband Brian and best friend Tiff are keeping secrets and her teenage daughter Emily is sullen and distant. When she discovers that Brian and Tiff’s secret was a surprise 40th birthday party she’s far from happy. There’s one particular person there that she never wanted to see again, Oliver Dunmore, her first love who broke her heart. She wakes hungover and unable to remember the night clearly. When Oliver then turns up the saying his wife Melissa is missing and was last seen at the part, her memories become more important than ever. But she can’t retrieve them and as she searches for answers, she feels her life is spiraling out of control. I loved that this book was filled with morally ambiguous characters you couldn’t trust, including Louisa. A riveting, mesmerising and sinister tale, this story will make you question even your own memories. I devoured it within a day as I needed the answers to my questions and the tense and dramatic final twist had me on the edge of my seat.

Out now. Published by Avon Books UK. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

cover159270-small

13. ‘Whisper Network’ by Chandler Baker ⭐⭐⭐

I had high hopes for this book and was excited to read it so I’m disappointed to have found that it wasn’t for me.  I didn’t finish this book. I really tried. I’d considered giving up from early on but pushed through until almost 75% when I decided I had better things to read. I found it slow, lacking in depth, the characters felt shallow and I couldn’t connect with them at all. It also felt preachy about women’s issues and while I think I saw what the author was trying to achieve, it just wasn’t executed in the right way. I didn’t feel at all interested in who was dead, if anyone had killed them or what happened in any way for most of the book.  That being said, this wasn’t all bad. I did relate to and recognise the “everyday sexism” that women are often subjected to and how we can be treated if we report it. Also, as I said earlier, the book did have some tension at times and I was initially drawn into wanting to know who had died and what had happened. It just unfortunately didn’t last for the length of the book. I haven’t seen any reviews for this book and it could be a case of #blacksheepofbookstagram so I encourage you to still pick this up if the synopsis appeals to you. 

Out July 4th. Published by Little, Brown Book Group UK. E-book ARC via NetGalley.

51CR-SBdS5L._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

14. ‘The Woman Who Wanted More’ by Vicky Zimmerman  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I started this book on a day I was feeling down, moody and in need of something lighthearted that would cheer me up. I’d heard great things about this book and the cover alone makes me feel warm, so I decided to give it a go. I am so glad that I did. It was a joy to read and was an uplifting, delightful and magical book that made me both cry and smile as it ended. I fell in love with both main characters, but particularly had a soft spot for cantankerous Cecily. I finished this book this afternoon and it was the perfect way to end my reading month and my full review will be posted in the next few days. I highly recommend this refreshing summer read, especially if you’re looking for something that will make you smile.

Out now. Published by Bonnier Zaffre.

You can find the full reviews for all of these books on this blog.

I struggled to pick a favourite this month with so many strong and entertaining books but The Woman Who Wanted More has to take the title for being so uplifting and refreshing, how it made me feel while reading and because I loved the author’s writing style.

Have you read any of the books in my list? Are they on your tbr list? Let me know below. And also tell me what you think of the new format.