Blog Tour Review: The Family by Louise Jensen ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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SYNOPSIS:

ONCE YOU’RE IN, THEY’LL NEVER LET YOU LEAVE.

Laura is grieving after the sudden death of her husband. Struggling to cope emotionally and financially, Laura is grateful when a local community, Oak Leaf Organics, offer her and her 17-year-old daughter Tilly a home.

But as Laura and Tilly settle into life with their new ‘family’, sinister things begin to happen. When one of the community dies in suspicious circumstances Laura wants to leave, but Tilly, enthralled by the charismatic leader Alex, refuses to go.

Desperately searching for a way to save her daughter, Laura uncovers a horrifying secret but Alex and his family aren’t the only ones with something to hide. Just as Laura has been digging into their past, they’ve been digging into hers.and she discovers the terrifying reason they invited her and Tilly in, and why they’ll never let them leave.

MY REVIEW:

Family. Secrets. Lies. Cults. Death. Revenge.

As soon as I read the chilling synopsis and saw the eerie cover I knew I HAD to read this book. Shadowy, sinister, claustrophobic, and dripping with suspense, this was an intoxicating and involving read. 

Louise Jensen is an author who’s been on my radar for a while, but somehow I’ve never quite got around to reading one of her books. I am so glad I finally did and that it was this book. The Family is a sharp, well plotted and twisty novel, and a cunning hall of mirrors experience that I couldn’t put down. Right up until the final page she had me guessing and on the edge of my seat.

I read a lot of thrillers and I always think that reading a story where the characters are trapped in a situation or place elevates the tension. Laura and Tilly are slowly lured into their new “family” and imprisoned in the community. It happens with such subtlety that it takes them a while to see the warning signs, and some they don’t see at all. 

The story is told from multiple points of view which is something I always enjoy. I love getting a glimpse into the minds of the characters and trying to ascertain if they are reliable in what they’re saying. I also find it fascinating to read the same event from different points of view and in this book I particularly enjoyed doing so from a mother and daughter perspective as there viewpoints were inevitably very unalike. As a mother of  teenagers these glaring contrasts were thought provoking and a great reminder of the fact that how we intend things is not always how it comes across or is received.

The believability of this story is a testament to the author’s talent. All the characters had depth and I thought she chose her narrators perfectly. Laura is vulnerable, helpless and desperate and her daughter is both her weakness and her strength. She’s only there for a short-term fix and never fully buys into what they’re selling her. Tilly is feeling isolated, confused and angry. Her pain is palpable and her fierce need for acceptance sees her drinking the kool-aid quickly while also falling under Alex’s spell. Alex is the perfect cult leader and villain. He’s magnetic, charming and affable but the readers also get to see his inner turmoil and flagitious nature. Together they are a perfect storm. 

So, if you’re looking for something creepy and dark to read on a cold autumn night, I would highly recommend this jaw-dropping and unnerving thriller. 

Thank you to HQ for my invitation to take part in the blog tour and gifted copy of this novel.

Out now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Louise Jensen has sold over a million English language copies of her International No. 1 psychological thrillers The Sister, The Gift, The Surrogate and The Date. Her novels have also been translated into twenty-five languages, as well as featuring on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestseller’s List. Louise’s fifth thriller, The Family, will be published in Autumn 2019 by Harper Collins.

The Sister was nominated for the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 Award. The Date was nominated for The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ Prize 2018. The Surrogate has been nominated for the best Polish thriller of 2018. The Gift has been optioned for a TV film.

Louise lives with her husband, children, madcap dog and a rather naughty cat in Northamptonshire. She loves to hear from readers and writers.

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Blog Tour Review: ‘Elevator Pitch’ by Linwood Barclay ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for the shocking new thriller from Linwood Barclay. Thank you to HQ, NetGalley and Linwood Barclay for my copy of this book in exchange for an honest review and to HQBloggers for the invitation to be part of the blog tour.  

SYNOPSIS:

“You should read ELEVATOR PITCH by Linwood Barclay as soon as possible. It’s one hell of a suspense novel” STEPHEN KING 

It all begins on Monday, when four people board an elevator in a Manhattan office tower. Each presses a button for their floor, but the elevator proceeds non-stop to the top. Once there, it stops for a few seconds and then plummets.

Right to the bottom of the shaft.

It appears to be a horrific, random tragedy. But then, on Tuesday, it happens again in a different Manhattan skyscraper. And when Wednesday brings yet another high-rise catastrophe, one of the most vertical cities in the world – and the nation’s capital of media, finance and entertainment – is plunged into chaos.

Clearly, this is anything but random. This is a cold, calculated bid to terrorize the city. And it’s working. Fearing for their lives, thousands of men and women working in offices across the city refuse to leave their homes. Commerce has slowed to a trickle. Emergency calls to the top floors of apartment buildings go unanswered.

Who is behind this? What do these deadly acts of sabotage have to do with the fingerless body found on the High Line? Two seasoned New York detectives and a straight-shooting journalist must race against time to find out.

Pulsing with tension, Elevator Pitch is a riveting tale of psychological suspense that is all too plausible..and will chill readers to the bone.

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MY REVIEW:

Wow! What a spectacular, breathtaking, terrifying and thrilling ride! As I’m writing this, it’s been over a day since I finished reading this book and I’m yet to pick up my jaw from the floor. 

Chaos. Panic. Fear. Sabotage. Murder. The ingredients are all there for an electrifying thriller and Linwood Barclay has delivered his best yet. I’ve never had a problem with elevators, my health problems mean I need to use them and the last few years it’s been a fun game finding which ones bear my nephew’s name – Otis. But now I will never look at one the same and whenever I get in one I know  I will be apprehensive, thinking of this book and wishing I could take the stairs…

On Monday office tower in Manhattan is the scene of a terrible accident. Four people are killed when an elevator seems to malfunction and plummets to the ground. On Tuesday another elevator loses control leaving one person dead. Officials are concerned. Elevator deaths are rare and two in two days seems like more than a coincidence. On Wednesday two more are killed in another elevator incident and it’s now obvious that someone is deliberately sabotaging them. With no idea where they might strike next, New York is in chaos as officials search for the culprit and the reason for the attacks. Also looking for answers is reporter Barbara Matheson. What does the perpetrator want, what will it take to stop them, and how many will have died before someone does?

With a multifaceted plot and numerous characters, a lot of the first part of the book was a little slower paced as they were introduced and the scene was set. As the tension ramped up the pieces slowly began to fit together and the picture began to emerge. My mind was a whirl of questions as I tried to figure out who was terrorising the city and why. In the jarring prologue he sets the tone for what he will make you will feel. It was like I was there with the characters and I felt every bit of the crushing panic and terror as they realise they’re trapped, the desperate hope of rescue, the horror and dread as they accept there’s no way out and, finally, the hope to simply survive.

Masterfully plotted, gripping, taut and twisty, this had me on the edge of my seat. As we got closer to the finale I couldn’t read fast enough, the suspense almost painful as I waited for the perpetrator to be unveiled. I was sure I knew who it was only to be blindsided when the identity was revealed. 

It was the little things that I enjoyed most reading this book.I loved the depth he brought to his characters, especially those who play a larger role. They each had a complex honesty about them that made them feel real and I even cared about the fate of those I didn’t like. That’s how good he is! The author has a talent for being able to connect you with a minor character instantly that was used to perfection. We would be given little snapshots of their lives and watch as those everyday, mundane decisions you think nothing of, were leading them unawares to catastrophe. As the crisis spread we followed people affected in different ways, saw people fleeing landmarks fearing they’d be targeted next, and watched as some heard the word ‘terrorist’ and used it as an excuse for racism. These short stories were some of the most poignant moments of the book and brought home that the victims aren’t nobodies but people with full lives that will be mourned.  Another thing I loved was the imagery of New York. While it’s familiar from pictures, movies and TV, it’s somewhere I’ve never visited. Yet the author paints such a vivid picture of life in the city, I felt like I was there.

Elevator Pitch is, in two words, bloody brilliant! It could easily be the plot of a blockbuster film and showcases why Linwood Barclay is an internationally best-selling author. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys suspense, as long as you don’t mind a few grisly crime scenes thrown in. Just make sure you’ve got lots of time to spare and no plans to ride an elevator in the near future.

Available now from your favourite bookseller.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Linwood Barclay is an international bestselling crime and thriller author with over twenty critically acclaimed novels to his name, including the phenomenal number one bestseller No Time For Goodbye. Every Linwood Barclay book is a masterclass in characterisation, plot and the killer twist, and with sales of over 7 million copies globally, his books have been sold in more than 39 countries around the world and he can count Stephen King, Shari Lapena and Peter James among his many fans. Many of his books have been optioned for film and TV, and Linwood wrote the screenplay for the film based on his bestselling novel Never Saw It Coming. He is currently working with eOne to turn the Promise Falls trilogy into a series.

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: ‘What Happens Now?’ by Sophia Money-Coutts ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

‘No question about it, there are two purple lines. I’m pregnant’

After eight years together, Lil Bailey thought that she’d already found ‘the one’ – that is, until he dumped her for a blonde twenty-something colleague. So she does what any self-respecting singleton would do: swipes right, puts on her best bra, and finds herself on a first date with a handsome mountaineer called Max. What’s the worst that could happen?

Well it’s pretty bad actually. First Max ghosts her and then, after weeing on a stick (but mostly her hands), a few weeks later Lil discovers she’s pregnant. She’s single, thirty-one and living in a thimble-sized flat in London, it’s hardly the happily-ever-after she was looking for.

Lil’s ready to do the baby thing on her own – it can’t be that hard right? But she should probably tell Max, if she can track him down. Surely he’s’ not that Max, the highly eligible, headline-grabbing son of Lord and Lady Rushbrooke, currently trekking up a mountain in South Asia? Oh, maybe he wasn’t ignoring Lil after all…

REVIEW:

Side-splittingly funny, hypnotic, steamy, honest and outrageous, this book was one that I didn’t expect to fall in love with, but I was engrossed and devoured it in practically one sitting. You couldn’t tear me away and I never wanted it to end. 

When Lil braved the world of online dating and reluctantly headed off on her first date since splitting with her boyfriend of eight years, she gets much more than she bargained for. She is surprised to hit it off with Max, her charming and deliciously handsome date, and enjoys a steamy sleepless night with him, but when he ignores her afterwards she decides to forget him. Only that won’t be so easy. A few weeks later two little lines confirm she’s pregnant with his baby and she has no idea what to do next. It’s not the right time or way to have a baby but what if this is her only chance? But could she actually keep a baby alive? And how will she tell her feminist mother and strait-laced boss that she’s accidentally knocked up with the baby of a man she doesn’t know? And what if Max wants to be involved? This mesmerising book follows Lil as she tries to navigate her complicated situation and finds out what happens now…

Sophia Money-Couts now has herself a new fan. I fell in love with her writing style and immediately bought her first book after finishing this one. Riveting, saucy and hilarious, I was laughing out loud by the end of the first page and I it made me laugh more than any other book I’ve read. The characters are fantastic – I loved Lil, was seduced a little bit by Max, and Jess is the bestie every girl hopes to have. The author perfectly describes some of the perils of online dating and how daunting it is to be back out there after many years in a relationship. She managed to convey all the anxieties and concerns Lil had in a realistic way while also making me laugh. The sex scenes were hot and hilarious. Lil’s inner monologue in those scenes had me crying with laughter. I think all of us can relate to some of the cringy things in those scenes though I  can honestly say I’d never before thought of others – I’ll just say dolphin on the duvet!

The romance genre is one I’ve never been a huge fan of but I’ve been expanding my reading with increasingly this last year. After a run of great books in this genre this one still stands out and has now left me declaring that I am in love with this genre. What better way is there to spend a glorious summer day that with an uplifting and uproarious book? Perfect for sitting in the sun with a drink in your hand, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. So if you like to laugh and don’t mind some steamy sex, this book for you. 

Thank you to NetGalley, HQ and Sophia Money-Coutts for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication date: August 22nd

June Wrap Up

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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…

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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. 

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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.              

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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One of them lied. One of them died.

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Out Now.

May Wrap Up

That’s another month wrapped! We’re now almost half way through the year and Summer is nearly here.

So how has May been for everyone? I’ve had a great month and managed to read 14books. Also this month I went to my first author event and book signing since joining bookstagram. I still plan to do a blog post about it but as with some of the reviews I’m a little behind so please bear with me.

So let’s take a look at what I read in May:

  1. ‘The Corset’ by Laura Purcell ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – Is prisoner Ruth Butterham mad or a murderer? Victim or villain? This is what Dorothea Truelove doesn’t know when she begins to visit the alleged murderess in prison. A dark, haunting, atmospheric and chilling gothic novel this book was impossible to put down. While telling a great story the author also highlights important issues and takes an interesting look at mental health and women’s roles in society in Victorian times. With this book Laura Purcell has solidified her place in my top authors list.                                      Out Now
  2. ‘The Au Pair’ by Emma Rous ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – This family saga that echoes the writing style of V. C. Andrews and combines it with the mysteries of Gillian Flynn. Twins Seraphine and Danny Mayes are the first twins born on their family’s estate in years. But the same day they’re born their mother plunges to her death and the au pair disappears. Ever since, whispers of folklore have followed the twins and left Seraphine feeling like she doesn’t belong. Who is she? And what exactly happened the day she and her brother were born? My review for this novel will be published closer to the release date but I will say that this is a book full of surprising twists that kept me guessing throughout.                                                                                  Published July 11th
  3. ‘The Flat Share’ by Beth O’Leary ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 – This was a refreshing, witty novel that wasn’t your average chic lit. Full of soul, heart, courage and spirit, this is a book that not only deals with romance but also the heavier topics of toxic relationships and PTSD. It perfectly balances the whimsical and the darker sides making it relatable and uplifting. This book has been everywhere and actually lives up to all the hype.                                                                                                                                  Out Now
  4. ‘After The End’ by Clare Macintosh ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – A heartbreaking and impossible dilemma is handled in a beautiful, sensitive and original way in this emotional novel. This isn’t the kind of book you expect from this Ms Macintosh but it could be her best yet. My review will be posted on publication day.                              Published June 25th
  5. ‘The Neighbour’ by Fiona Cummins ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – FOR SALE: A lovely family home with a good-sized garden and trees occupying a plot close to woodland. Perfect for kids, fitness enthusiasts, dog-walkers…And, it seems, a perfect hunting ground for a serial killer. This tense, gripping thriller is one I’m behind on the review for.             Out Now
  6. ‘For The Love Of Books’ by Graham Tarrant ⭐⭐⭐.5 – A book about books! This is a light-hearted and quick read that biblophiles will enjoy. While I did find some parts a little tedious, this was overall a fun read.                                                           Published June 4th
  7. ‘Hello My Name Is May’ by Rosalind Stopps ⭐⭐⭐⭐- This book was not what I expected, but in a good way. Told in dual timelines, present-day May is sharp, witty, scathing and frustrated at the loss of her ability to speak and control her body after a stroke. Back in the late ‘70s young May is a woman living in fear who feels trapped in her life and too terrified to change it. This is a book that is enjoyable but also hard to read as it tackles domestic and elder abuse in a raw and honest way. A gripping and touching read with a ending that shook me to the core.Out now
  8. ‘Someone You Know’ by Olivia Isaac-Henry ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – When the body of Tess’s twin sister, Edie is found two decades after she disappeared Tess decides it’s finally time to discover the truth about what happened to her beloved sister. A captivating thriller full of twists and turns.                                                                                            Out Now
  9. ‘The Missing Years’ by Lexie Elliott ⭐⭐⭐⭐ – The eerie and bizarre is woven throughout this tale about family and self-discovery from the outset. Atmospheric, haunting, creepy and macabre with shocking twists and an ending that I wasn’t prepared for. This is a steady-paced and engrossing read that’s perfect for anyone who loves a good thriller.Published June 6th  
  10. ‘Lying Next To You’ by Gregg Olsen ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5 – I devoured this addictive, fast-paced novel and would have read it in one sitting if not for that pesky thing called sleep…The bombshell finale had my jaw on the floor and it is a testament to the writing how I can instantly recall lines that now have a completely different meaning and were a subtle foreshadowing of the truth. Lying Next To Me is a story about family, love, lust, sex, secrets, betrayal, desperation and revenge. I highly recommend this dramatic, layered, tense and twisty thriller. Just make sure you have plenty of time spare as you won’t want to put it down.                                            Out Now
  11. ‘The Queen of Hearts’ by Kimmery Martin ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I loved this book so  much that I could read it every day and it would bring me joy. This debut novel is not just a pretty book, it’s a spectacular novel that had me savouring every word and completely immersed in the pages. The author has created the perfect amalgamation of her two loves: medicine and literature. Intelligent, funny, mesmerising and at times gut-wrenching, I highly recommend this to everyone.   Out Now.
  12. ‘Before She Was Found’ by Heather Gudenkauf ⭐⭐⭐.5 – Three twelve year old girls walked into a train yard and two come out unscathed… Having your child attacked and almost killed is every parents worst nightmare. Or is it? What if your child was suspected of attempting to kill their friend? This was a twisty, readable thriller that opens with a chilling first chapter and keeps it’s secrets right up until the final pages.                                                                                                          Published  June 13th 
  13. ‘The Confessions of Frannie Langton’ by Sara Collins ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – I’ve yet to publish my review for this novel but this could have easily been my book of the month. This is one of those books that reaches into your soul. It tells the story of Frances Langton, a former slave who is awaiting trial for the murder of her Master and Mistress. Frannie says she couldn’t have done it because she loved her Mistress. This book deals with important issues from the era , some of which are still relevant today. A spectacular debut novel that I highly recommend. The review will be up on the blog soon.                                                                                                                          Out Now
  14. ‘The Last Widow’ by Karin Slaughter ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ – An exciting, absorbing, and frighteningly real thriller, this novel is an example of why Ms Slaughter is one of the world’s most acclaimed authors. The story begins with an abduction in a shopping centre car park and then jumps forward to a month later. The rest of the story takes place over a tense three days. I’m currently in the process of writing the review for this book and it should be up on the blog in the next few days, but trust me when I say this is a thriller you don’t want to miss.                                      Published June 13th

My favourite book this month was The Queen of Hearts, although The Confessions of Frannie Langton is so good they almost tie as my favourites.

Have you read any of these books or are they in your TBR pile? What was your favourite book in May? Comment below.

Thank you to Kimmery Martin, Atlantic Books, Corvus Books, Quercus Books, Harper Collins UK, Little Brown Book Group UK, Thomas & Mercer, HQ, Avon Books UK, Skyhorse Publishing and NetGalley for my copies of these novels in exchange for an honest review.