The Child of Auschwitz by Lily Graham ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Happy Publication Day Lily Graham!

I’m thrilled to be sharing my review for this beautiful novel on its release date. Thank you to Bookouture for the invitation to take part in the blog tour and to NetGalley and Bookouture for the eBook ARC.

SYNOPSIS:

‘She touched the photograph in its gilt frame that was always on her desk, of a young, thin woman with very short hair and a baby in her arms. She had one last story to tell. Theirs. And it began in hell on earth.’

It is 1942 and Eva Adami has boarded a train to Auschwitz. Barely able to breathe due to the press of bodies and exhausted from standing up for two days, she can think only of her longed-for reunion with her husband Michal, who was sent their six months earlier.

But when Eva arrives at Auschwitz, there is no sign of Michal and the stark reality of the camp comes crashing down upon her. As she lies heartbroken and shivering upon a thin mattress, her head shaved by rough hands, she hears a whisper. Her bunkmate, Sofie, is reaching out her hand.

As the days pass, the two women learn each other’s hopes and dreams – Eva’s is that she will find Michal alive in this terrible place, and Sofie’s is that she will be reunited with her son Tomas, over the border in an orphanage in Austria. Sofie sees the chance to engineer one last meeting between Eva and Michal and knows she must take it even if it means befriending the enemy.

But when Eva realises she is pregnant, she fears she has endangered both their lives. The women promise to protect each other’s children, should the worst occur. For they are determined to hold on to the last flower of hope in the shadows and degradation: their precious children, who they pray will live to tell their story when they no longer can.

A heart-breaking story of survival, where life or death relies on the smallest chance and happiness can be found in the darkest times. Fans of The Choice and The Tattooist of Auschwitz will fall in love with this beautiful novel.

MY REVIEW:

The holocaust is a time in history I’ve always felt drawn to and I’ve read many books, both fact and fiction, about it. You know a book about this subject will always be emotional and this is no exception. Compelling, tender and poignant, this book swallowed me whole. I devoured it quickly, unable to put it down once I’d started reading. It is a story of strength and hope. Of finding light in the darkest times and the kindness that can be found in humanity even amongst the wretchedness and evil.

I hadn’t expected this to be a story mostly about the friendships between women in a death camp but it became my favourite aspect of the story. Seeing how they would help each other survive, offer comfort and words of encouragement was uplifting. Eva and Sofie had a true and loyal friendship and literally put their lives on the line for each other again and again. They were both someone I’d have wanted by my side in that situation and all the women in this book were strong, brave and inspirational. The author uses a past narrative to show us Eva and Sofie’s lives before the camp and show that they were just normal women living their lives until they were caught up in something unimaginable. The love story between Eva and Michal and the pain of Sofie’s separation from her son were vividly described in the flashbacks and made me root for them both to survive and be reunited with their loved ones. As I read I could never be completely sure which of the two women would become pregnant or how and when it would happen. I wondered how a child could possibly survive pregnancy inside a starving mother’s body, let alone the dangers of the camp, and was filled with dread even though we know from the opening pages that the child survives.

This is the first time I’ve read anything by this author but it won’t be the last as her writing was exquisite. I felt like I was transported to hell along with the characters via the author’s visceral and immersive prose that told the unvarnished truth of the holocaust. And though it made for difficult reading at times, it is told with sensitivity, with strands of hope woven through every page as we witness the endurance and resilience of the human spirit and how the miracle of a new life illuminates the darkness and despair.

All the characters in the book are well written and soon got under my skin. The author has a talent for evoking strong emotions towards the characters – be it love, sympathy, joy, despair, heartbreak or hatred. There were some formidable male characters, especially in Auschwitz, and the guards were the essence of the darkness, brutality and evil that lurks in the shadowy corners of humanity.

The Child of Auschwitz is a beautifully written, harrowing but hopeful story that I would highly recommend, especially if you’re someone who enjoys historical fiction.

Out today.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lily Graham grew up in South Africa, and is a former journalist. She lives now in the Suffolk coast with her husband and English bulldog, Fudge.

She is the author of six novels, published by Bookouture, including the bestselling, The Paris Secret and The Island Villa. 

Her latest novel The Child of Auschwitz will be out in 2019. 

Welcome

@lilygrahambooks

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Blog Tour Review: The Photographer of the Lost by Caroline Scott ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for the invitation to take part, and Simon & Schuster UK and NetGalley for my ARCs of this book.

SYNOPSIS:

Until she knows her husband’s fate, she cannot decide her own…

An epic debut novel of forbidden love, loss, and the shattered hearts left behind in the wake of World War I. 

1921. Families are desperately trying to piece together the fragments of their broken lives. While many survivors of the Great War have been reunited with their loved ones, Edie’s husband Francis has not come home. His considered ‘missing in action’, but when Edie receives a mysterious photograph taken by Francis in the post, hope flares. And so she begins to search.

Harry, Francis’s brother, fought alongside him. He too longs for Francis to be alive, so they can forgive each other for the last things they ever said. Both brothers shared a love of photography and it is that which brings Harry back to the Western Front. Hired by grieving families to photograph grave sites, as he travels through battle-scarred France gathering news for British wives and mothers, Harry also searches for his brother. 

And as Harry and Edie’s paths converge, they get closer to the startling truth. An incredibly moving account of an often-forgotten moment in history,The Photographer of the Lost tells the story of the thousands of soldiers who were lost amid the chaos and ruins, and the even greater number of men and women desperate to find them again.

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MY REVIEW:

The Photographer of the Lost is a soulful, poignant, haunting and immersive debut novel. It is a story of sorrow and hope that highlights a part of history rarely remembered; the thousands who simply vanished.

Brothers Francis, Will and Harry all fought together in France during World War I, but Harry was the only one to return home. He carries the guilt of this every day and has never felt able to settle there again. Instead, he travels taking photographs of graves for the families of those killed in action, offering a small crumb of comfort in their time of grief. 

Back in England, Francis’s wife, Edie, has accepted her husband is ‘missing presumed dead’. But when she receives an envelope containing a photograph taken by Francis four years after he was last seen, she has a surge of hope and she decides to go to France to search for answers. 

Also in France, Harry adds Francis’s name to his list, determined to find his brother’s final resting place. But after hearing about the photograph he starts to wonder if Francis could really be alive, and begins an urgent search for the truth. We follow Edie and Harry as they search for Francis, meeting others also touched by the horrors of war along the way. But, as they begin to unravel the truth, it looks like they will be torn further apart. Can they find answers while also repairing the only link to family they both have left?

This novel was truly breathtaking. The author’s portrayal of the harrowing  reality of war, of life in the trenches, how villages and towns were reduced to rubble and left in ruin, and the anguish felt by those who survived, was powerful and profound. But this emotional journey wasn’t just somber, this was also a story about survival, endurance, love and hope. Her writing was full of vivid imagery that made me feel like everything on the page was playing on a movie reel in my mind. The characters each showed optimism and resilience despite all they’ve gone through and illustrated the sheer magnitude of the devastation left behind by war, how everyone you meet will have been touched by some kind of loss. The author wrote with such potency that I felt like I was feeling every trauma they endured and they and their stories will stay with me long after reading.

The Photographer of the Lost is a magnificent and beautifully written piece of historical fiction by an author that is one to watch. A deeply affecting story of love, death, heartbreak and hope, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys this genre. 

Out now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Caroline completed a PhD in History at the University of Durham. She has a particular interest in the experience of women during the First World War, in the challenges faced by the returning soldier, and in the development of tourism and pilgrimage in the former conflict zones. Caroline is originally from Lancashire, but now lives in south-west France.

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Blog Tour Review: The Widow of Pale Harbour by Hester Fox ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour. Thank you to HQ Stories for the invitation to take part and my copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

SYNOPSIS:

A town gripped by fear. A woman accused of murder. Who can save Pale Harbour from itself?

1846. Desperate to escape the ghosts of his past, Gabriel Stone takes a position as a minister in the remote Pale Harbour, but not all is as it seems in the sleepy town.

As soon as Gabriel sets foot in the town, he can’t escape the rumours about the mysterious Sophy Carver, a young widow who lives in the eerie Carver Castle: whispers that she killed her husband, mutterings that she might even be a witch.

But as strange, unsettling events escalate into murder, Gabriel finds himself falling under Sophy’s spell. As clues start to point to Sophy as the next  victim, Gabriel realises he must find answers before anyone else turns up dead.

MY REVIEW:

Witchcraft, suspicion and secrets abound in this dark, atmospheric thriller that is a perfect autumn read. 

“He wasn’t sure why he was drawn to the house on the hill, but his feet carried him there as if they knew the answer.”

A reclusive, wealthy widow that is the subject of whispered accusations and rumour, and a transcendentalist minister new to town and in search of redemption, are our narrators in this shadowy tale. As soon as Gabriel Stone, a widower himself, hears the rumours about Sophroina ‘Sophy’ Carver he is fascinated by the curious widow who lives a reclusive life on the hill. From the moment they meet there is a spark between them and the pair find themselves dreaming up ways to see each other.

As the pair become increasingly smitten,  the mystery of the dead animals and birds and the effergies left around the town deepens. The townspeople are still convinced it can only be Sophy and think that she has bewitched Gabriel, but he sees how she is being targeted and, as they try to fight their feelings, they begin to work together in secret to search for answers. But, as things escalate, people are found dead and notes reveal Sophy is in their sights, the search for the culprit takes becomes imperative. 

“Now that she had broken through her wall of fear, the freedom was intoxicating.”

I loved the character of Sophy. She has been damaged by what has happened in her life but seems to glide above it all gracefully. She is misunderstood and maltreated but remains kind, quietly doing what she can to help those she cares for. Gabriel took me some time to warm up to. I didn’t dislike him, but I didn’t really care for him either at first. But as he found the voice to stand against the entire town in defense of Sophy, I began to see his strength and decency shine through. There were some great secondary characters in this novel too. One that stood out for me was Helen, Sophy’s maid and companion. She’s a strange character and I was never quite sure if I trusted her or if I was misinterpreting her over-protectiveness to be something sinister. I like that she wasn’t someone I could figure out, just like I couldn’t shake my suspicions of a number of the others.

“It was not a particularly welcoming place, but now a sense of wrongness took hold of him, as if he were not supposed to be here. As if something did not want him here.”

Part romance and part mystery, this historical, Gothic fiction novel has all the right ingredients for spooky read. The author builds vivid imagery of Pale Harbour as ghostly and unwelcoming from the start. It isn’t a place I’d want to wander through alone at night. Despite this the book started started slower than I would have liked, and for a long time it felt like the love story rather than a gothic novel. But as the author turned up the suspense and built up the eerie and foreboding atmosphere I love in Gothic fiction, I found myself turning the pages as fast as possible and unable to put the book down. I was hooked and on the edge of my seat as we reached the heart-stopping conclusion. 

Publication Date: October 17th

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Hester Fox comes to writing from a background in the museum field as a collections maintenance technician.

This job has taken her from historic houses to fine art museums, where she has the privilege of cleaning and caring for collections that range from paintings by old masters, to ancient artefacts, to early American furniture.

She is a keen painter and has a master’s degree in historical archaeology, as well as a background in Medieval studies and art history. Hester lives outside of Boston with her husband and two cats.

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Blog Tour Review: The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this spectacular novel. Thank you to Anne at Random Things Tours for my invitation to take part and to Simon & Schuster UK for my copy of the novel.

SYNOPSIS:

***The epic and long awaited new romance from the author of Letters to the Lost, winner of the RNA award***

  1. The war is over and a new generation is coming of age, keen to put the trauma of the previous one behind them.

Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing whose life is dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure; to parties and drinking and staying just the right side of scandal. Lawrence Weston is a struggling artist, desperate to escape the poverty of his upbringing and make something of himself. When their worlds collide one summer night, neither can resist the thrill of the forbidden, the lure of the love affair that they know cannot possibly last. 

But there is a dark side to pleasure and a price to be paid for breaking the rules. By the end of that summer everything has changed. 

A decade later, nine-year-old Alice is staying at Blackwood Hall with her distant grandparents, piecing together clues from her mother’s letters to discover the secrets of the past, the truth about the present, and hope for the future.

MY REVIEW:

Wow! This was my first read by Iona Grey and she left me stunned with this enchanting, poignant and breathtaking novel that is every bit as beautiful on the inside, as it is on the outside. 

Atmospheric, luminous, hedonistic, glittering and affecting, this is a love story, a tragedy and a journey of self-discovery. Moving between the summer of 1925 and the year 1936, we learn the story of the secrets Alice Carew’s mother Selina has kept for over a decade. 

What was at the heart of this novel is love: a love between two people from opposite social classes and the love between a mother and daughter. The two very different love stories that were told were equally moving, compelling and heartbreaking. The author also shows us the many different faces of love throughout the story: sexual love, maternal love, the love between friends, dutiful love, love that is controlling and undying love. We all love in many different ways that vary not only depending on our personality, but the roles different people play in our lives and I loved how many examples of these, as well as the impact they have on our lives, were shown throughout the story.

There were many wonderful characters in this book and I felt like the author vividly brought each of them to life through her exquisite writing. They felt real to me. I could hear their voices and see them like I was watching a movie; which this should definitely be turned into in my opinion. From the start I felt bad for Alice being all alone in that big house with her aloof grandparents and strict governess for company. Thankfully, she has the comfort of her mother’s faithful maid and friend, Polly, and the secret letters from her mother. It’s clear her mother is the only person she’s ever felt loved by so being separated for so long is bound to be difficult. Selina was an ambiguous character that I felt a range of emotions for. She’s integral to the story and watching as she grew from a self-focused young woman into a devoted mother was fascinating. I loved her group of friends and one of them was by far my favourite character. The fabulous Theo was over the top in every way and brightened any scene he was in. 

The Glittering Hours is my favourite book so far this month and is one of my books of the year. Insightful, romantic, heartrending and magnificent, this is also a fun, bawdy romp that transported me into the roaring twenties, giving a lively look at the glamour, glitz and decadence of the era. 

Out October 17th in Paperback.

Out on Kindle and in Hardback now.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Iona Grey has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters. She tweets @iona_grey

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

 

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SYNOPSIS:

You don’t always get to start your life over.

Sometimes, life starts itself over for you. 

One morning, Eveleth ‘Evvie’ Drake got up, packed her suitcase, and got ready to leave her life – and her perfect husband – behind. But before she walked out of the door, she received a phone call asking her to come to the hospital. 

That day, Evvie’s new life as a widow began. 

Now wrestling with her guilt and grief, Evvie has found her independence, but not in the way she planned. Unable to leave the house she once dreamed of escaping, it’s clear to her best friend Andy that Evvie needs a change. And Andy might just have the answer. 

Dean Tenney was a big-shot baseball star, until a bad case of the ‘yips’ meant he couldn’t play anymore – or understand why. An invitation from his childhood friend Andy to stay in Maine for a few months seems like the perfect chance to hit the reset button. 

When Dean moves into the apartment at the back of Evvie’s house, the two make a deal: Dean won’t ask about Evvie’s late husband, and Evvie won’t ask about Dean’s baseball career. But rules have a funny way of being broken sometimes, and as a friendship begins to evolve, Will Evvie and Dean be brave enough to let go of the past and start over again?

REVIEW:

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.

Eveleth “Evvie” Drake had been with her husband Tim for exactly half of her life on the day he died. That day she was also leaving him. But nobody knows, not even her best friend Andy, so when she’s unable to leave her house months later, everyone assumes she’s heartbroken at the loss of her ‘perfect’ husband. You see, Evvie has never told anyone the truth about Tim – that he controlled everything, that she lived in fear of his outbursts, that he blamed her for every mistake, and undermined and demoralised her daily. She’s too ashamed to tell. Especially now he’s gone.

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, and though her husband died before she actually left, the fact she was in the midst of doing so shows tremendous bravery. She cares too much about what other people think and looks at everything she does from the viewpoint of a critical outsider. This obviously stems from her  husband conditioning her to think badly of herself and she doesn’t realise that others aren’t judging her as harshly as she thinks. Evvie 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.

When former professional baseball player Dean Tenney moves into the apartment attached to her house, Evvie is instantly attracted to him but brushes it aside. Dean is also going through a big upheaval after suddenly losing his ability to pitch. He’s tried everything to find out what when wrong but is still clueless and lost without the one thing he’s known all his life. I liked the parallel of Dean’s baseball career with Evvie’s marriage and the way they went from strangers to not just friends, but the only friend that can really understand what they’re going through. Their slow transition to friendship was a joy to read and I was rooting for them from the start.

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.

Thank you to NetGalley, Hodder & Stoughton and Linda Holmes for the chance to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Publication Date: June 27th