Review: ‘The Poison Garden’ by Alex Marwood ⭐⭐⭐⭐

SYNOPSIS:

Where Romy grew up, if someone died you never spoke of them again.

Now twenty-two, she has recently escaped the toxic confines of the cult she was raised in. But Romy is young, pregnant and completely alone – and if she is to keep herself safe in this new world, she has some important lessons to learn.

Like how there are some people you can trust, and some you must fear. And about who her family really is, and why her mother ran away from them all those years ago. 

And that you can’t walk away from a dark past without expecting it to catch up with you.

REVIEW:

“None of us will be the same, by tomorrow, she thinks.”

Two police officers are called out to investigate an awful smell on a farm by a neighbour: a seemingly innocuous call that gives them no warning of the life-changing and terrible sight they’re about to discover: lifeless bodies piled one on top of each other, frozen in death as they tried to flee. All the adult members of the Ark, the cult that lived on the farm, are dead apart from Romy who was in the infirmary unable to walk, listening helplessly as her family died in agony. 

This book had me hooked from it’s chilling first chapter and kept me guessing until the final page. The story unfolded in a way I didn’t expect, but I loved.The choice to have Romy and her Aunt Sarah narrate offered us very different perspectives on events happening in the book and the world in general. Through the use of flashbacks to their childhoods we learn that these very different women actually have a lot more in common than first meets the eye. 

“How do you explain, to someone who didn’t live it?”

Romy was a baby when her teenage mother, Alison, joined the Ark. She’s known nothing else but their strange, isolated lifestyle that consisted of preparing for the Apocalypse and living off the land while following the teachings of their Father, Lucien. She’s been taught to fear the outside world and those who inhabit it, known to her as the Dead. She sees danger and disaster all around her and is too terrified to leave her flat unless absolutely necessary. We soon learn that Romy is hiding secrets bigger than her fear of life outside the Ark and that there might be more to her story than it first seemed. I really liked how her character was written, especially the fears that she’d been indoctrinated to have. A lot of these fears were of real things that can or have happened, it’s just she’s been taught to see them as a sign of the world’s doom and depravity instead of accidents or evil done by a small few. It highlights how a small change in perception can completely alter our world view and it was fascinating to see the way we live through the eyes of people that had grown up totally removed from our society.   

This wasn’t the first time I’ve read a book by this author, but it is a number of years since I did, and I will certainly be catching up on any others I’ve missed. The writing in this novel is riveting, harrowing and heart-rending. The pace quickened as the story went on and had me on the edge of my seat, the revelations increasingly jarring as we approached the dramatic and chilling finale. The Poison Garden is a multilayered, twisty thriller full of secrets and interesting characters that will delight and surprise lovers of psychological thrillers and mysteries. 

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

Out now.

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Alex Marwood is a former journalist who worked extensively across the British press. Her first novel, The Wicked Girls, achieved widespread acclaim and international bestsellerdom. It was shortlisted for ITW, Anthony and Macavity awards, was included in Stephen King’s Ten Best Books of the Year list, and won the prestigious Edgar Award. The Killer Next Door, her second novel, won the coveted Macavity Award for Best Mystery Novel, was nominated for the Anthony and Barry. The Darkest Secret, the tale of the disappearance of young Coco, met with critical and reader acclaim. The Poison Garden will be released in 2019. She has also been shortlisted for numerous other crime writing awards and her first two novels have been optioned for the screen. Marwood lives in south London and is working on her next novel.

Review: ‘The Other Mrs Miller’ by Allison Dickson ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

Two women are watching each other.

Phoebe isn’t sure when the car started showing up. At first she put it down to the scandal around her late father, but she’s certain now it’s there for her. What’s interesting about an unhappily married housewife, who barely leaves the house?

Only one knows why.

Every morning before your husband leaves for work, I wait for the blinds beside your front door to twitch. You might think I’m sitting out here waiting to break into your house and add a piece of your life to my collection. Things aren’t that simple. It’s not a piece of your life I want. 

When a new family moves across the street it provides Phoebe with a distraction. But with her head turned she’s no longer focused on the woman in the car. And Phoebe really should be, because she’s just waiting for the opportunity to upend Phoebe’s life…

***SOON TO BE A MAJOR TV SERIES***

REVIEW:

This utterly compelling, taut, twisty and explosive debut fizzes with electricity and brings the most shocking twist I think I’ve read in years! I read it within a day and while I know the word unputdownable is overused when it comes to books, this book genuinely was; and when I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it. 

Told in two parts, the story is narrated by Phoebe Miller and the mysterious woman in the car who’s watching her. Phoebe is unhappily married to Wyatt and lives in self-imposed isolation as she tries to hide from the scandals and media frenzy that her late father left behind. She’s been noticing a car parked near their house and is sure the person inside is watching her. Wyatt thinks she’s overreacting but she’s right, the woman is watching her and just biding her time until she makes her move. We’re given few clues as to the identity of the mysterious woman but a sense of foreboding and trouble radiates from her and I worried for Phoebe’s safety. 

When the Napier family move in across the street Phoebe is surprised to find herself becoming friends with Vicki Napier. For a time her attentions are consumed by the family as she starts playing a dangerous game that, if discovered, could see her life implode and cause further scandal. There’s some mystery surrounding the Napiers too and they seem to have moved to the area in a hurry following a scandal of their own. 

Sophisticated, original, salacious and riveting, this was an electrifying read. It was buzzing with so many possibilities as to where the story could go, who the mystery woman could be and what the outcome of Phoebe’s choices could be, that I had no idea where the author would take it or what would happen next. This added even more tension and atmosphere to a book already sizzling with both.

This is a story full of twists, but there is one in particular that was punch to the gut shocking and still has me reeling. I actually shouted “What the @*&!” when it happened. So many times I was blindsided in this book and in awe of the authors talents for coming up with such spectacular and ingenious plot twists. All the characters were well written and I found myself particularly liking the two narrators. I don’t want to say more as it could spoil the surprises for those who’ve yet to read it and for me those were part of what made this book so fantastic. I was thrilled to see that it’s already lined up to be a TV show as it’s exactly the kind of thing I love to watch.

The small amount of hype I’ve seen online doesn’t do justice to how bloody brilliant it actually is. Anyone who enjoys thrillers NEEDS to read this book! A sensational debut that’s left me excited to see what Ms Dickson writes next. 

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

Publication Date: July 16th

 

 

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.

 

 

Publication Day Review: ‘After The End’ by Clare Macintosh ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Happy Publication Day to Clare Macintosh and her incredible new novel. I read this a little while ago now and have been eagerly waiting to share it with you.

SYNOPSIS:

Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. Only now they’re facing the most important decision of their lives – and they don’t agree. 

As the consequences of an impossible choice threaten to devastate them both, nothing will ever be the same again.

But anything can happen after the end…

REVIEW:

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.

The story opens with a courtroom where parents are awaiting a judge’s ruling on their young son’s fate and then goes back to when two-year-old Dylan Adam lies unconscious in hospital with complications from chemotherapy to treat his brain tumour. When doctors tell his parents Max and Pip they’ve reached the end of the road they ask them to make an impossible choice: further treatment that will prolong Dylan’s life for a while or palliative care. Initially the couple are in no doubt of their agreement of the right choice. But by the time they come to tell the doctors their decision Pip has changed her mind and the couple now find themselves on opposing sides of a battle where both believe they know what is best for their beloved son.

What would you do? How do you know what the right choice is? What if the one you made wasn’t the right one? What would life have been like if we’d taken the other path? These questions and more are explored in this poignant and thought-provoking story. 

I don’t want to say too much about what happens once they go to court as it would ruin the story, but after the court case is written in a unique manner that gave the book a lot of it’s charm. It was unexpected and at first I wasn’t sure what I thought. But I quickly loved the direction the author took and the message she was conveying to the reader. 

This was one of the most moving, tragic and affecting stories I have ever read. Max and Pip are faced with the choice no parent ever wants to make and you can’t help but have your heart break alongside them. 

One last thing- you need to read the author’s notes at the end of the book. In these notes the author shares her motivation for writing this story and my heart broke all over again. 

Clare, I have such admiration and respect for your bravery in writing this book. You have touched my heart and soul with this unforgettable story.

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

Out today.

 

 

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.