Blog Tour Review: ‘Date Night’ by Samantha Hayes ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Today is my stop on the blog tour for this gripping psychological thriller. 

SYNOPSIS:

Returning early from a disastrous date night with my husband, I know something is wrong the moment the wheels crunch the gravel of our home. Inside, the TV is on and a half-eaten meal waits on the table. My heart stops when I find out little girl alone in the house and our babysitter, Sasha, is missing…

Days later, when I’m arrested for Sasha’s murder and torn away from my perfect little family, I’ll wish I had told someone about the threatening note I received that morning.

I’ll hate myself for not finding out who the gift hidden inside my husband’s wardrobe was for.

I’ll scream from the rooftops that I’m innocent – but no one will listen.

I’ll realise I was completely wrong about everything that happened that night…

But will you believe me?

Twisted and absolutely unputdownable, Date Night exposes what goes on behind the closed doors of a happy home and the dangerous truths we ignore to protect the ones we love. Perfect reading for anyone totally gripped by The Wife Between Us, Friend Request or Gone Girl.

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MY REVIEW:

Never in a million years did I see the way this fast paced, taut and twisty whodunit would unfold or its shocking conclusion. 

It starts with a note on Libby Randell’s car one icy autumn morning, telling her that her husband Sean is having an affair. She doesn’t want to believe it and tries to put it out of her mind as a malicious note or a sick prank, but she can’t shake the unease and suspicion that’s been unearthed. After weeks of denials, arguments and mistrust the couple decide to have date night as a way to get back on track. But it’s a disaster and after having the same old argument the pair arrive home early finding the TV on and their babysitter, Sasha, missing. Sasha is dependable, she’s Libby’s employee and friend as well as their babysitter, and Libby knows she wouldn’t just up and leave their daughter Alice alone and all her things behind. Something is terribly wrong…

Libby is a mess. She can’t think straight, can’t work and can’t stop worrying about Sasha. She’s also still convinced that Sean is having an affair. Sean tells her she has to get back to normality, not to worry and to trust him like she’s always done and it will be ok. But then Libby is arrested for Sasha’s murder. She vehemently denies any knowledge of her death or whereabouts but the police seem convinced she’s holding something back. Is Libby hiding something? Could Sean be hiding more than another woman? Or could someone else be to blame? 

This addictive mystery kept me guessing from the first page until the last. I could never decide what I thought had happened to Sasha, who was to blame or if I thought Libby or Sean were involved. I had a number of theories and not one of them came close to any of the bombshells the author dropped. 

The story is told in dual timelines, both of which are narrated by Libby. Libby was an unreliable narrator and I often felt like she was leaving things out, though I didn’t think it was deliberate some of the time. These things, alongside opening with her arrest, meant I was never quite sure if I could trust her despite her proclamations of innocence. She is a woman who has everything she’s ever wanted and her world is rocked when she receives the note about Sean. After that she becomes almost obsessed with the idea that he’s cheating, and most of his responses to her are far from helpful or reassuring. I found her easy to empathise with and relate to, particularly as the true nature of Sean’s character became clearer. 

I hated Sean. From the start he seemed unconcerned with allaying Libby’s fears and instead is angry in a way that seems over the top and that’s used to divert from actually talking about the issues.Though initially you don’t imagine it, he does become a great villain as over time his abusive personality and the way he gaslights Libby becomes more apparent. I won’t say more about it as it would mean giving away spoilers, but I will say that I was definitely rooting the Libby to leave him or for him to be guilty and sent to jail. 

One of the best parts about this book was the quality of the writing. Her vivid and imaginative descriptions brought the scenery to life and made me feel like I was seeing and feeling what Libby did. The author created a tense atmosphere full of mystery that made me want to not put this book down. Even when I was near the end I still couldn’t decide what the outcome would be, which is something I love in a book.

 Date Night is a fantastic, tense thriller full of twists and turns and with a jaw-dropping finale that left me reeling. The more I read of Samantha Hayes work, the more I love her and she is definitely a must-read author for me now. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys this genre. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Bookoture and Samantha Hayes for the chance to read this novel in exchange for my honest review and to Noelle Holten for my invitation to take part in the blog tour.

NEW Samantha Hayes author photo

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Samantha Hayes grew up in Warwickshire, left school at sixteen, avoided university and took jobs ranging from private detective to barmaid to fruit picker and factory worker. She lived on a kibbutz, and spent time living in Australia and the USA, before finally becoming a crime-writer. 

Her writing career began when she won a short story competition in 2003. Her novels are family-based psychological thrillers, with the emphasis being on ‘real life fiction’. She focuses on current issues and sets out to make her readers ask, ‘What if this happened to me or my family?’ 

To find out more, visit her website www.samanthahayes.co.uk

Or connect with Samantha on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SamanthaHayesAuthor

And she’s on Twitter @samhayes

Date Night - Blog Tour

Blog Tour Review: ‘Take It Back’ by Kia Abdullah ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Today is my stop on the blog tour for this spectacular debut novel. Thank you to HQ for my copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

Take It Back is a gripping courtroom drama, perfect for fans of Apple Tree Yard, He Said/She Said and Anatomy of a Scandal.

The Victim: A sixteen-year-old girl with facial deformities, neglected by an alcoholic mother. Who accuses four boys of something unthinkable. 

The Defendants: Four handsome teenage boys from hardworking immigrant families. All with corroborating stories.

Someone is lying.

Former barrister Zara Kaleel, one of London’s brightest young legal minds, takes up Jodie Wolfe’s case; she believes her, even if those closest to Jodie do not.

Jodie and Zara become the centre of the most explosive criminal trial of the year, in which ugly divisions within British society are exposed. As everything around Zara begins to unravel she becomes even more determined to get Jodie the justice she’s looking for. But at what price?

REVIEW:

“You will always care what people think of you – that’s just the way of the world – but you can decide how you act in return you can choose to be cruel like them to make yourself feel tall, or you can treat others with kindness to balance out the shortfall.”

This fast-paced, gripping, powerful and provocative novel is so much more than the typical courtroom drama. Dealing with issues such as religion,, race, disability, everyday sexism, drug misuse, rape and simply wanting to fit in. It is hard-hitting from the start and packs a punch right up until the last page. 

Told from multiple points of view, we follow former barrister Zara Kaleel, now working at a sexual assault referral centre, as she helps Jodie Wolfe navigate the criminal and legal process after she accuses four Muslim boys of rape. We also hear from the boys’ perspective as they protest their innocence and fight for their futures. Throughout the book I had no idea who was telling the truth and was overcome with sadness at knowing one side had to be telling the truth; either a vulnerable young girl was raped or that girl lied and tried to get four innocent boys put in jail for a crime they didn’t commit. Which one of those is the best outcome? Of course the answer is neither but instead all I could do was hope that the truth would out and justice would prevail.

“Women aren’t born warriors; we learn to fight because we have to.”

I still can’t believe that this is a debut novel. Intelligent, tense, dark, twisty and compelling, I found this almost impossible to put down and got completely involved in the characters and the story. My mother’s heart was so torn as my mind went into overdrive to try and figure out who was telling the truth. I never did. 

The characters in this book are all full of depth, raw and very human, and are both likeable and unlikeable, which adds to the honesty of this novel. On the surface, Zara is simply a former barrister that wants to do good in the world. But when you peel away the layers you see the many other things she is too: a Muslim that lives a more westernised life, the black sheep of the family, scarred by her father’s death, afraid of commitment and using substances to handle the problems she’s unwilling to face. She is also strong, determined and stands up for what she believes is right. 

“A single moment of weakness would not define his entire life. The mistake would be righted and they’d all move on – and surely that would be soon. After all, it was four against one”

Jodie Wolfe has facial deformities because of neurofibromatosis. All she’s ever wanted is to fit in, to feel like everybody else. She has a tough home life with her alcoholic mother who blames her for everything wrong in her life and is one of the few characters in this book that I felt nothing but venom towards. Jodie’s deformities give her an extra battle in her rape case as lots of people look at her and wonder why four handsome boys would want to touch her. Even her mother and best friend think she’s lying. It highlights one of the many uphill battles faced by people who report rape and my heart broke for her and what she was subjected to during her testimony and her victim statement brought tears to my eyes.

One of the things I liked best about this book is how we also get to know the four accused boys and how they are shown as whole people, not just hooligans and criminals. They deny the allegations and the author gives the reader a glimpse of each boys’ interview and interaction with their father. It was a great way to humanise them instead of simply portraying them as the big, bad, mysterious wolves. It also gave me a lot of empathy for their families as we see the effect their arrest has on them and their struggle to make sense of their children being accused of such a terrible thing.

“Did Zara really owe more to her community and its nebulous idea of loyalty than a beleaguered young girl who so clearly needed help?” 

Many times I had to remind myself this was a work of fiction as it is a premise you can imagine actually occurring. It is a commentary on issues prevalent in today’s society. It was very hard to read at times and opened my eyes to what it can be like being a Muslim and an immigrant in Britain today. The hateful vitriol and threats towards Zara for apparently betraying her community by helping Jodie was awful and devastating. Her story in particular opened my eyes in a big way and I can’t imagine living in England in 2019 and being under threat of such tyranny and harm from people in your own community. 

As we sped towards the finale my heart was in my throat and I had no idea how it would end. I read the revelations with disbelief and horror, my heart quickening, holding my breath in  anticipation of what would come next. This book is worth every bit of the hype it’s receiving and I can not wait to see what the author does next. Sharply and expertly written and paced, I would recommend that anyone who enjoys legal or crime thrillers read this book. 

Out now.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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Kia Abdullah is an author, journalist and travel writer. She has contributed to The Guardian, BBC, and Channel 4 News, and most recently the New York Times commenting on a variety of issues affecting the Muslim community. Kia currently travels the world as one half of the travel blog atlasandboots.com, which receives over 200,000 views per month.

 

 

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

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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 :

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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.

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

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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. 

 

BLOG TOUR: ‘The Darkest Summer’ by Ella Drummond ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

 

Today is my stop on #TheDarkestSummer blog tour.

Thank you to Sarah Hardy at BOTBS Publicity for the invitation to be part of the blog tour.

SYNOPSIS:

One hot summer, Dee disappeared. Now she’s back…but she’s not the girl you knew.

Sera and Dee were the best of friends.

Until the day that Dee and her brother Leo vanished from Sera’s life, during a long hot summer thirty years ago.

Now Sera is an adult, with her own child, five-year-old Katie, and has returned to her childhood home after her husband’s death.

While she grieves, the past haunts Sera at every turn … and then Dee and Leo return to their small Hampshire village, along with Dee’s young daughter.

But Dee is silent and haunted by her demons; no longer the fun-loving girl that Sera loved. And when Sera uncovers the shocking secret that Dee is hiding, it’s clear that the girl she knew is long gone – and that the adult she has grown into might put all of them in danger…

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REVIEW:

This twisty, readable book is perfect for a hot summer’s day. You can practically feel the heat sizzling from the pages as the author vividly describes the sweltering weather and fires. It is a mystery filled with dark secrets, murder and life-changing revelations.

For fifteen years Sera has wondered what became of her best friend, Dee, and her family after they disappeared suddenly one day that hot summer. When she sees Dee’s brother Leo back in town she’s hoping that she finally gets answers and the chance to rekindle her lost friendship. But it is soon apparent that Dee and Leo aren’t the people she used to know, and that there seems to be something sinister about the secrets they’re keeping. Maybe inviting them into her home wasn’t the wisest thing to do…

The Darkest Summer is set in the New Forest in the present day with flashbacks to the summers of 1990 and 2003. The scenery of the New Forest is described with breathtaking beauty and is a large part of the story. I spent my formative years near that area and as I read it conjured up images of my youth spending time in places like the ones Sera describes. It is an almost idyllic place to be and I was so fully immersed in the book that I really felt like I was back there.

As well as our main storyline there are numerous subplots that run parallel in the flashbacks and ultimately merge together, though I couldn’t see how some of them would. I loved the clever twists and turns the author wrote that made seemingly mismatched the pieces fit together. 

One subplot was Henri, the Sera’s new neighbour. I had a soft spot for Henri from the start and had a gut feeling he was a good guy, so I was hoping I’d be proven right. I loved the blossoming friendship between him and Sera and the mystery surrounding his past. I had no predictions about his past so I thoroughly enjoyed she surprises in his storyline. The subplot concerning Mimi and Hazel was also fascinating and I enjoyed learning more about both mothers and how they came to be the women their daughters now know, particularly Mimi as she’s not the warmest character in the book. 

This book was filled with a host of colourful characters, each of which I loved for different reasons. Sera, our main narrator and our protagonist, was a great character. She and her daughter Katie moved back to her hometown to live with her mother three years ago after her husband died suddenly. She’s still working through her grief and feels suffocated at times by her mother, who she’s always had a difficult relationship with. When she was a child her single mother was mostly learning lines or away working, so she got little of the attention she craved. Instead, she found maternal attention from Hazel, her best friend Dee’s mother, who was the cool, vivacious, affectionate mother she dreamed of. She and Dee were inseparable, had many things in common, and Sera spent most of her time on their farm and felt a part of their family so their sudden disappearance cut her deeply. She’s never recovered from that loss so rekindling those relationships is a dream come true when Dee and her brother Leo first come back into her life and, as a reader I was rooting for that, and for the potential relationship between Sera and Leo. 

Dee was so well written that despite the massive change in her personality and how moody and dismissive she is as an adult, I had a lot of sympathy for her. It seemed like she must have been through something extremely traumatic as she was showing signs of mental health issues and possibly PTSD. Her refusal to talk about anything that had happened was suspicious, especially as Leo was cagey too, but I hoped it was just that she was too traumatised to discuss it yet and he was respecting her wishes. The author made the many facets of her personality completely believable but like Sera I too got tired of her outbursts, how she controlled the entire household with them, her taking advantage of people, and with her strange behaviour towards her daughter. By the end I couldn’t stand her and wanted Sera to get as far away from her as possible. 

This intriguing story started slowly and built the tension steadily until it became a crescendo in the last third of the book. It didn’t feel like a tense thriller but was full of mystery and had me guessing throughout. The many twists and turns were mostly unpredictable, with one in particular completely blindsiding me and turning so much of what I had predicted on its head. 

I hadn’t read any of the author’s books before this one but when I read the description I was sold and I will definitely read more of her work. A compelling, character-driven summer read that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys mysteries and literary fiction.

Thank you to Sarah Hardy, Hera Books, Ella Drummond and NetGalley the E-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Out Now.

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AUTHOR BIO:

Ella Drummond recently signed a two-book deal with Hera Books. Her first psychological thriller, My Last Lie is out now and The Darkest Summer will be out on 18 July 2019 and is available for pre-order.

She lives with her husband on the island of Jersey and you can follow her on Twitter @drummondella1 and Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/EllaDrummondWrites/  

BUY THE BOOK:

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

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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 

Publication Day Review: ‘The Au Pair’ by Emma Rous ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Happy Publication Day to Emma Rous!

SYNOPSIS:

Seraphine Mayes and her brother Danny are the first set of twins to be born at Summerbourne House. But on the day they were born their mother threw herself to her death, their au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of a stolen baby.

Now twenty-five, and mourning the recent death of her father, Seraphine uncovers a family photograph taken the day the twins were born featuring both parents posing with just one baby. Seraphine soon becomes fixated with the notion that she and Danny might not be twins after all, that she wasn’t the baby born that day and there was more to her mother’s death than she’s ever been told…

Why did their beloved au pair flee that day?

Where is she now?

Does she hold the key to what really happened?

REVIEW:

This family saga echoes the writing style of V. C. Andrews and combines it with the mysteries of Gillian Flynn. There is something lurking behind the facade of the prestigious family. Could the folklore and whispers in the village be true? Who is Seraphine? What really happened the day she and Danny were born and their mother plunged to her death?

Twins Seraphine and Danny Mayes are born on the family estate, Summerbourne, in July 1992. They are the first “summer-born twins of Summerbourne” in decades even though the family has a history of twins. There are no pictures of the twins first six months because the day they were born is also the day their mother died after jumping from a cliff. Seraphine has always been full of questions about that day, questions that are left unanswered when twenty-five years later her father dies in an accident. When she finds a picture of her parents and older brother with just one baby taken the day of her birth, Seraphine’s questions only increase. She has always felt like an outsider in her family, always been bothered by the village whispers of a stolen child and teasings of “the sprite twins” because she and her brothers look nothing alike. With her Grandmother refusing to give her answers and her brother, Edwin, too young at the time to really understand, Seraphine decides to search for Laura, the au pair who worked for the family the year prior to her birth and disappeared the same day she was born. Surely she will have the answers she craves.

One of the things I loved about this book is that for most of it I couldn’t tell where it was going. The narration is split between Seraphine in the present day and Laura who tells the story leading up to the twins birth. These alternating chapters provided details of the many different dynamics in the story between the main and secondary characters. They also increased the tension and mystery as the revelations unfolded.

The characters in this story were well written. Out of the two narrators I found Laura’s story more interesting as it was the one with the history of the family and events up until the twins’ birth. Who we are is the core of our being so I understood Seraphine’s need to know the truth about herself despite the fact it had the potential to tear her family apart. You were never sure who was a villain in this story which is something I liked. The author wrote this aspect of the plot expertly as Seraphine suspects almost everyone and has you second guessing what you know as she’s threatened to stop searching, the mystery deepens and the revelations about the family’s history and what happened that summer keep coming.

I found the book impossible to put down as I raced to the end desperate to know the truth.  But just when I thought I’d got to the big reveal there were more shocking twists still to come. The Au Pair is an absorbing debut novel that kept me guessing throughout. 

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

Out today.