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

 

 

Review: ‘The Woman Who Wanted More’ by Vicky Zimmerman ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

Two lonely women. An unlikely friendship. And one big life lesson: never be ashamed to ask for more.

No woman dreams of being unceremoniously dumped and moving back in with her mother on the eve of her 40th birthday. Food technician Kate Parker’s first response? Denial, long days under her duvet, and lots of cheesy pasta.

A reluctant Kate finds herself volunteering at the Lauderdale House For Exceptional Ladies. There she meets 96-year-old Cecily Finn – spiky and sharp as a pin, but the spark has gone out of her. She has resigned herself to the imminent end.

Having no patience with Kate’s self-pity, Cecily prescribes her a self-help book with a difference – it’s a 1957 cookery manual, featurning menus for anything life can throw at ‘the easily dismayed’. It promises the answers to  essential life questions: ‘what shall one give to one’s rich aunt Emma that will be palatable but not prodigal; to one’s husband’s managing director, at once memorable and modest; one’s old love’s new love; the man one hopes will stay on after dinner; the man one hopes will not…’

Can Kate find a menu to help a broken-hearted woman let go? If Kate moves forward, might Cecily too?

The cookbook holds the secrets of Cecily’s own remarkable and heartbreaking story, and the love of her life. It will certainly teach Kate a thing or two. 

So begins a friendship between two lonely and stubborn souls – one at the end of her life, one stuck in the middle – who come to show each other that food is for feasting, life is for living, and the way to a man’s heart is…irrelevant!

REVIEW:

“Life has given you a path even if it’s not your preferred one.”

This book was a case of bookstagram made me do it! I had been seeing this beautiful, bright cover everywhere with comments and reviews about how great it was and I had to buy it. Then a few days after it arrived I was having a difficult day and was in need of something lighthearted to cheer me up so I decided to abandon my planned and “should read” books to start this. It was the best decision I could have made. This book was a joy to read and is a page-turner that is perfect for sunny summer days and reading outside. 

This beautifully written novel transported me into Kate’s world and I wanted to stay there. Her world was far from perfect but it was alluring. I turned 40 a few months ago and while I’m not in the same situation as Kate, like many people I can relate to my life looking very different to the one I once thought I’d have at this at this age. In fact, Kate was relatable to me in lots of ways, including how she was trying in vain to hold on to the wrong relationship because she didn’t want to be alone. When you love someone and realise they don’t treat you right it is easy to stick your head in the sand and tell yourself it’s okay because the idea of starting again is too scary. You feel like there’s no real reason to end the relationship and ignore the red flags. That being said, like Kate’s friends I was willing her to see that Nick was not going to commit and stop wasting her time waiting and making excuses for him. Settling never ultimately leaves you happy.

I didn’t envy Kate living back home with her Mum. Living back home as an adult isn’t easy but with a Mum who is into self-help books in a big way, psycho-analysing her and pressuring her to date so much that she objects to Kate volunteering and wasting “prime dating hours” it is a nightmare. Though it did make for fun reading and I loved Rita’s overbearing and interfering character. Ultimately she does want what’s best for her daughter but just goes about it the wrong way.

“First you are young, then you are middle-aged, then you are old, then you are wonderful.”

Cecily Finn, the cantankerous 97-year-old who doesn’t mince her words was by far my favourite character. She first meets Kate during her first cooking demo at Lauderdale House For Exceptional Ladies and the two don’t get on at all. But they soon find they have more in common than they first thought. Cecily is highly intelligent, bored, says what she thinks, and refuses to admit she needs help from anyone. She rarely joins in any of the activities or sits outside and is just waiting to die. I loved her pearls of wisdom, was often laughing out loud when she was on the page and the parts where she told her life story were a highlight for me. Seeing the beautiful, true friendship that blossomed between her and Kate was a delight to read. 

The book at the heart of this story – ‘Food For Thought: A Cookery Book for Entertaining Occasions’ – was like a character in its own right. I loved the idea behind this cookbook and how Kate’s discovery of it and practical use of it in her life helped her find confidence. The one problem I had with it is that it made me very hungry but on the positive side I have looked up some recipes for things I’d never heard of and am hoping to try them at some point. 

The Woman Who Wanted More is a book about life, change, not settling for second best, making the most of what cards you are dealt, finding yourself, finding happiness, love, friendship, self discovery, and how we can find similarities in ourselves and those we think so different from us. It made me laugh, smile and cry (the blue foot incident is one that springs to mind – so funny), and was the perfect way to end my reading month and the first half of the year.The author’s notes are a must-read. For me they made the book all the more special and I fell in love with it even more. 

This is an uplifting, deliciously delightful and refreshing book. A perfect summer read that I think everyone, especially women like me that are in or nearing their forties, should read.  It was the kind of book you can’t put down but you also want to read slowly so you can savour every moment. Sometimes you don’t go looking for a book but the perfect one finds you; that’s certainly how I feel about The Woman Who Wanted More

Out now. 

 

July #frydayfavourite : Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

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It’s the first Friday of the month which means it’s time for this month’s #frydayfavourite

This is a hashtag started on bookstagram by the lovely @artbreaker.bookclub where on the first Friday of each month you share a five-star read from before you joined bookstagram.

This month’s book is Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. When I went away to Bournemouth last month the Airbnb we stayed in had lots of books in the room I was in, including this one. It was like I was supposed to choose that room. I couldn’t resist taking a picture of their copy with some of their beautiful ornaments. Am I the only one that loves finding different props at other people’s houses? No? Didn’t think so.

Synopsis :

A RICHARD AND JUDY BOOK CLUB 2017 PICK

A SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

The best books make you see differently. This is one of them. The eye-opening new novel from Jodi Picoult, with the biggest of themes: birth, death, and responsibility.

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.

It is about opening your eyes.

SOON TO BE A MAJOR FILM STARRING VIOLA DAVIS AND JULIA ROBERTS

Jodi is one of my favourite authors and her books are auto-buys for me. I’ve been a fan ever since I picked up My Sister’s Keeper on a whim when it was first released and have read all her books. Small Great Things is one of her best and most heart-rending books. I loved how this book made me look at myself and my thoughts in a new way, how it made me aware of pre-concieved notions I didn’t even realise I had.

At first it seems like the two main characters couldn’t be more different but as time goes on you learn the complexities and nuances that make up a three dimensional person and see that even those with the best intentions to begin with can become prejudice and that the nurse and the baby’s father are actually more alike than they’d care to admit, especially him.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough and it’s certainly in my all-time top ten. Just make sure you have tissues handy and lots of time to read it as it’s a page-turner.

I’ve taken part in #frydayfavourite a few times before but never thought to also post it on my blog so check out my Instagram or Facebook page to see previous month’s books which were My Lovely Bones, My Sister’s Keeper, We Need To Talk About Kevin & The Handmaid’s Tale.

Have you read this book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

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.

Publication Day Review: ‘The Missing Wife’ by Sam Carrington ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Happy Publication day Sam Carrington who’s new thriller is out today.

SYNOPSIS:

Imagine turning up to your own party, and recognising no one. Your best friend has just created your worst nightmare.

Louisa is an exhausted, sleep-deprived new mother and, approaching her fortieth birthday, the very last thing she wants to do is celebrate. 

But when her best friend Tiff organises a surprise party, inviting the entire list of Lou’s Facebook friends, she is faced with a new source of anxiety all together: a room full of old college classmates who she hasn’t spoken to in twenty years. And one person in particular she never expected to see again is there – her ex-boyfriend from college, the handsome and charismatic Oliver Dunmore.

When Oliver’s wife Melissa goes missing after the party, everyone remembers what happened that night differently. It could be the alcohol, but it seems more than one person has something to hide.

Louisa is determined to find the truth about what happened to Melissa. But just how far does she need to look..?

One simple Facebook invitation unfolds into something both tragic and monstrous: a story of obsessive love, breath-taking deception and masterful manipulation.

REVIEW:

“It was because she was almost forty. The thought of reaching the milestone was an overwhelming one…She was too old to be doing all this again.”

Louisa Cullen is about to turn forty. She’s not handling it well, especially as she’s found herself unexpectedly dealing with sleepless nights and nappies again following the birth of baby Noah. Her husband Brian is keeping secrets, their teenage daughter Emily is sullen and distant, and her best friend Tiff seems to be keeping secrets too.  

When she discovers that Brian and Tiff’s secret was a surprise fortieth birthday party she’s far from happy. In fact, it’s her worst nightmare. She doesn’t know most of the people and there is one particular person from her past there that she never wanted to see again. Oliver Dunmore was Louisa’s first love who broke her heart when he left her. She wakes the next morning hungover and unable to remember clearly what happened the night before. When Oliver turns up on her doorstep the next day saying his wife Melissa is missing and was last seen at the party her memories become more important than ever. But she can’t retrieve them and as she searches for answers Louisa finds her life is increasingly spiraling out of control.

“Her mind had been allowing her these brief visions…it was like trying to do a dot-to-dot in the dark with half the dots missing.”

The author filled this book with great characters that were filled with moral ambiguity and everyone seemed to be hiding something. I didn’t fully trust any of them! I loved that as it meant I could never be sure of my suspicions or conclusions and was always looking for the bear behind the trees. I liked Louisa and related to her in many ways, but I also liked that she was an unreliable narrator. When her first love broke her heart she began noticing gaps in her memory, having flashbacks of things in snippets, nightmares and panic attacks. She was diagnosed with dissociative amnesia which is usually brought on by a traumatic event. She was obsessed with remembering and had therapy to try to help but it made things worse so she stopped. Now it’s happening again. It felt like everything she said was questionable, to both the reader and the other characters, adding an extra layer of tension and unpredictability. 

Oliver was also unreliable but not at all likeable. I found him smarmy, creepy, manipulative and didn’t trust him from the moment he turned up at Louisa’s house. He always seemed more concerned with the fact the police suspected him in his wife’s disappearance than actually finding her and the way he inserted himself into Louisa’s life was suspicious to me, especially as time wore on and his actions became increasingly dubious and even cruel.

“Darkness. Blood. A body – crumpled and still, lying on the ground. A figure looming above it.”

The book begins with an eerie and ominous prologue, then becomes a more simple, but interesting, story and is quickly transformed into a riveting, mesmerising and sinister tale that makes 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. I loved the little detail of each chapter having a title. That is so rare these days and whenever I see it it makes me happy. The Missing Wife is a fantastic thriller that I highly recommend to fans of this genre. 

Thank you to NetGalley, Avon books and Sam Carrington for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review. 

On a personal note: Louisa’s surprise 40th birthday party occurs of Friday, March 15th, which was my own fortieth birthday. I am happy to say that my small celebration of a meal with my family was much calmer and joyous, exactly what I wanted and nobody went missing.

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.

 

 

Review: ‘Someone We Know’ by Shari Lapena ⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

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SYNOPSIS:

It can be hard keeping secrets in a tight-knit neighbourhood.

In a tranquil, leafy suburb of ordinary streets – one where everyone is polite and friendly – an anonymous note has been left at some of the houses.

‘I’m so sorry. My son has been getting into people’s houses. He’s broken into yours.’

Who is this boy, and what might he have uncovered? As whispers start to circulate, suspicion mounts.

And when a missing local woman is found murdered, the tension reaches breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they’re telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their secrets?

Maybe you don’t know your neighbour as well as you thought you did..

REVIEW:

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. She is an author who 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 get to the end.

The story involves a number of characters and subplots that are clearly all going to link together but you aren’t quite sure how. Sixteen-year old Raleigh Sharpe has been breaking into people’s homes for a kick, his mother Olivia is beside herself when she finds out and thinks he should be made to apologise to his victims, something his father, Paul, is against. Robert Pierce has reported his wife, Amanda, missing after she never returned from a weekend away with her friend. The police think she’s run away until her body is found stuffed in the boot of her car at the bottom of the lake. Both of the Pierce’s were being unfaithful but with whom? Other neighbours are harbouring their own secrets and you are left guessing who’s secrets are the important ones, who will be the key to finding out who killed Amanda, and who is actually telling the truth.

Out of all the characters I thought Olivia was the most sympathetic. I could feel her pain, despair, and helplessness after finding out what Raleigh had done. Her concern at what else she doesn’t know and how she had no idea what to as her world falls apart were reactions I think any of us would have. As a mother of teenage boys I could relate to her feelings and know I would feel as shocked and lost as she did if I were in her shoes. The least sympathetic character was Robert. He was creepy, chilling, malevolent and manipulative. He seems to be the obvious killer and I found myself understanding why Amanda cheated on him as he was so vile. I don’t think I’ve ever hoped someone is guilty as much as I did with him.

I’ll admit, I didn’t know if I was going to like this book. It started slowly and though my interest was held it didn’t instantly thrill me like her other books. But then the author masterfully began to weave the puzzle pieces together, the secrets began to escalate, and there is one twist after another until we reach the dramatic final reveal. Someone We Know is another fantastic thriller and example of Shari Lapena’s skill at writing character-driven suspense with a conclusion that will leave you in awe.

Thank you to NetGalley, Random House UK, Bantam Press and Shari Lapena for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: July 25th.