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Emma's Anticipated Treasures

Emma’s Anticipated Treasures: December 2021

It’s hard to believe, but it is time for the final Anticipated treasures of books released in 2021. Where has the year gone?!

December is always a slower month in terms of book releases, so this month’s list has just 13 books. Good news for both my tbr and my bank balance

So here’s what is on my list:

One Small Mistake by Dandy Smith

Published: December 1st, 2021
Publisher: Embla Books
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Murder and Mayhem

SYNOPSIS:
One small mistake. One deadly consequence.

Elodie Fray wants to be more like her perfect sister, Ada, the one her parents are actually proud of. When she decided to quit her job and pursue her dream of becoming an author, she thought it would be her time to shine, but a year on nothing has happened. And she’s getting desperate.

When Elodie makes one small mistake on a drunken night with a friend, things quickly spiral and suddenly everyone believes she has a book deal. Unable to find a way back from her little lie, her perfect dream becomes a perfect nightmare – and desperate times call for desperate measures.

Meanwhile, everything is not as it seems in Ada Archer’s perfect life. When her sister suddenly disappears, she questions everything – from her marriage, to the man who’s been charged with Elodie’s abduction. The papers say it’s him, but the more she digs into her sister’s life the less convinced she is. Ada will do anything to discover the truth, even if it kills her.

No one knows what happened to Elodie Fray, and now her only chance of survival is her sister.

Buy here*

Blue Running by Lori Ann Stephens

Published: December 2nd, 2021
Publisher: Moonflower Publishing
Genre: Thriller, Suspense, Coming-of-Age Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
In the new Republic of Texas, guns are compulsory and nothing is forgiven. Blue Running is a gripping coming-of-age thriller for fans of Station Eleven and Thelma and Louise.

Fourteen-year-old Bluebonnet Andrews is on the run across the Republic of Texas. An accident with a gun killed her best friend but everyone in the town of Blessing thinks it was murder. Even her father – the town’s drunken deputy – believes she did it. Now, she has no choice but to run. In Texas, murder is punishable by death.

There’s no one to help her. Her father is incapable and her mother left the state on the last flight to America before the secession. Blue doesn’t know where she is but she’s determined to track her down. First she has to get across the lawless Republic and over the wall that keeps everyone in.

On the road she meets Jet, a pregnant young woman of Latin American heritage. Jet is secretive about her past but she’s just as determined as Blue to get out of Texas before she’s caught and arrested. Together, the two form an unlikely kinship as they make their way past marauding motorcycle gangs, the ever watchful Texas Rangers, and armed strangers intent on abducting them – or worse. When Blue and Jet finally reach the wall, will they be able to cross the border, or will they be shot down in cold blood like the thousands who have gone before them?

Some things are worth dying for.

Blue Running pulls no punches. A fast-paced, page-turning, chilling book which looks unflinchingly at what the future could hold.

A novel for both adults and young adults, Blue Running is gripping and addictive from the first page. Readers will cheer for Blue and Jet in their pell-mell rush for freedom.

Buy here*

Darkness Falls (Kate Marshall Book 3) by Robert Bryndza

Published: December 7th, 2021
Publisher: Sphere
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Police Procedural, Crime Series

SYNOPSIS:
Kate Marshall’s detective agency takes off when she and her partner Tristan are hired to investigate a cold case from over a decade ago. Twelve years previously, a determined young journalist called Joanna Duncan exposed a political scandal that had major repercussions. In the fallout she disappeared without trace and was never found.

When Kate and Tristan examine the case files, they find the trail long cold, but they discover the names of two young men who also vanished at that time. As she begins to connect their last days, Kate realizes that Joanna may have been onto something far more sinister than anyone first believed: the identity of a serial killer preying on the people who few will ever miss.

But the closer Kate comes to finding the killer, the darker things become . . .

Buy here*

Murder Under Her Skin (Pentecost and Parker 2) by Stephen Spotswood

Published: December 7th, 2021
Publisher: Wildfire
Genre: Mystery, Historical Mystery, Book Series

SYNOPSIS:
New York, 1946: The last time Will Parker let a case get personal, she walked away with a broken face, a bruised ego, and the solemn promise never again to let her heart get in the way of her job. But she called Hart and Halloway’s Travelling Circus and Sideshow home for five years, and Ruby Donner, the circus’s tattooed ingenue, was her friend. To make matters worse the prime suspect is Valentin Kalishenko, the man who taught Will everything she knows about putting a knife where it needs to go.

To uncover the real killer and keep Kalishenko from a date with the electric chair, Will and Ms. Pentecost join the circus in sleepy Stoppard, Virginia, where the locals like their cocktails mild, the past buried, and big-city detectives not at all. The two swiftly find themselves lost in a funhouse of lies as Will begins to realize that her former circus compatriots aren’t playing it straight, and that her murdered friend might have been hiding a lot of secrets beneath all that ink.

Dodging fistfights, firebombs, and flying lead, Will puts a lot more than her heart on the line in the search of the truth. Can she find it before someone stops her ticker for good?

Buy here*

The Hawthorne School by Sylvie Perry

Published: December 9th, 2021
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller

SYNOPSIS:
For fans of Riley Sager, The Hawthorne School is a twisty psychological suspense about the lengths one mother will go for her child, inspired by present-day obsession with cults and true crime.

Claudia Morgan is overwhelmed. She’s a single parent trying the best that she can, but her four-year-old son, Henry, is a handful–for her and for his preschool. When Claudia hears about a school with an atypical teaching style near her Chicagoland home, she has to visit. The Hawthorne School is beautiful and has everything she dreams of for Henry: time to play outside, music, and art. The head of the school, Zelma, will even let Claudia volunteer to cover the cost of tuition.

The school is good for Henry: his behavioral problems disappear, and he comes home subdued instead of rageful. But there’s something a bit off about the school, its cold halls, and its enigmatic headmistress. When Henry brings home stories of ceremonies in the woods and odd rules, Claudia’s instincts tell her that something isn’t quite right, and she begins to realize she’s caught in a web of manipulations and power.

The author’s work as a psychotherapist, with a focus on narcissistic manipulation and addictive power dynamics, guides this exploration of a young mother wanting to do the best for her child.

Buy here*

Hide by Nell Pattison

Published: December 9th 2021
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Crime Fiction, Psychological Thriller

SYNOPSIS:
Seven friends. One killer. You can run, but you can’t hide…

It’s Boxing Day and your friendship group has planned a hike.

You know tensions are running high.

You’ve heard the rumours flying around.

But this trip is a chance for you to reconnect.

As you head into the reserve, everyone is quiet.

It almost feels like you’ve imagined the rift.

But as the sun sets, you hear a gun shot.

One of your group is dead.

And someone you know killed them…

Buy here*

Under the Rainbow by Celia Laskey

Published: December 9th, 2021
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Literary Fiction, LGBTQ Literature

SYNOPSIS:
Welcome to Big Burr, population 10,024.

Big Burr, Kansas is the kind of place where everyone knows everyone – or so they think. But after being labeled “the most homophobic town in America”, a group of queer activists are moving in, and everything is about to change.

Linda welcomes the newcomers. The less they know about the death of her son, the better. Avery is furious at being uprooted from her life in LA. She dreads her classmates discovering that her mom is the head of the queer task force. And Gabe, a lifelong Big Burr resident, is no longer sure about the life he’s built with his wife.

While new friendships are formed, elsewhere tensions reach boiling point. And every resident, old and new, must reconsider the true meaning of community.

Buy here*

The Newcomer by Laura Elizabeth Woollett

Published: December 9th, 2021
Publisher: Scribe UK
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
When her 29-year-old daughter Paulina goes missing on a sleepy pacific island, Judy Novak suspects the worst. Her fears are soon realised as Paulina’s body is discovered, murdered.

Every man on the island is a suspect, yet none are as maligned as Paulina herself, the captivating newcomer known for her hard drinking, disastrous relationships, and a habit for walking alone. But even death won’t stop Judy Novak from fighting for her daughter’s life.

A scintillating new thriller, inspired by real events, that puts the victim at the centre, by the author of The Love of a Bad Man

Buy here*

The Arctic Curry Club by Dani Redd

Published: December 9th, 2021
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Romance Novel, Domestic Fiction, Holiday Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
‘For my whole life I had been looking for home. But why would that be in a place that I’d left? Perhaps I had to keep moving forward in order to find it…’

Soon after upending her life to accompany her boyfriend Ryan to the Arctic, Maya realises it’s not all Northern Lights and husky sleigh rides. Instead, she’s facing sub-zero temperatures, 24-hour darkness, crippling anxiety – and a distant boyfriend as a result.

In her loneliest moment, Maya opens her late mother’s recipe book and cooks Indian food for the first time. Through this, her confidence unexpectedly grows – she makes friends, secures a job as a chef, and life in the Arctic no longer freezes her with fear.

But there’s a cost: the aromatic cuisine rekindles memories of her enigmatic mother and her childhood in Bangalore. Can Maya face the past and forge a future for herself in this new town? After all, there’s now high demand for a Curry Club in the Arctic, and just one person with the know-how to run it…

A tender and uplifting story about family, community, and finding where you truly belong – guaranteed to warm your heart despite the icy setting!

Buy here*

The Couple on Maple Drive by Sam Carrington

Published: December 9th, 2021
Publisher: Avon Books
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Have you heard about the couple on Maple Drive?

Isla barely leaves the house after her brutal mugging.

Her boyfriend Zach moved in with her after the attack. To look after her.

But something else has happened now. Right on their doorstep.

I don’t want to say that someone’s out to get her…

I just hope they find out the truth before it’s too late.

Or at least before the secrets they’re hiding from each other surface.

Buy here*

Quicksand of Memory by Michael J. Malone

Published: December 15th, 2021
Publisher: Orenda Books
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Fiction, Crime Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Scarred by their pasts, Jenna and Luke fall in love, brimming with hope for a rosy future. But someone has been watching, with chilling plans for revenge … An emotive, twisty, disturbing new psychological thriller by the critically acclaimed author of A Suitable Lie and In the Absence of Miracles.

Jenna is trying to rebuild her life after a series of disastrous relationships.

Luke is struggling to provide a safe, loving home for his deceased partner’s young son, following a devastating tragedy.

When Jenna and Luke meet and fall in love, they are certain they can achieve the stability and happiness they both desperately need.

And yet, someone is watching.

Someone who has been scarred by past events.

Someone who will stop at nothing to get revenge…

Dark, unsettling and immensely moving, Quicksand of Memory is a chilling reminder that we are not only punished for our sins, but by them, and that memories left to blacken and sharpen over time are the perfect breeding ground for obsession, and murder…

Buy here

Her Dying Wish (Detective Gina Harte 10) by Carla Kovach

Published: December 16th, 2021
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Noir Fiction, Crime Fiction, Police Procedural, Crime Series

SYNOPSIS:
Kerstin is wide awake. While her family sleeps around her, the devastating secret her husband just told her is spinning through her mind. Does she really know the man she married? And are her children still safe in this small town?

She jumps as she hears a sound from outside. Peering into the inky darkness, her eyes focus on movement at the bottom of the garden. Someone is out there.

She watches as the figure strikes a single match. Kerstin gasps at the sight of the face staring back at her, smiling, as if enjoying her fear.

A car door slams and the figure makes a dash for the trees, leaving something behind – a small memorial candle. As it flickers in the darkness, Kerstin knows exactly what it means. Someone is coming for her, and her family is in terrible danger…

Fans of Angela Marsons, Cara Hunter and Clare Mackintosh will love this utterly gripping crime novel. Her Dying Wish will keep you up all night!

Buy here*

Survive the Night by Riley Sager

Published: December 23rd, 2021
Publisher: Hodder Books
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Psychological Thriller, Horror Fiction

SYNOPSIS:
Charlie Jordan is being driven across the country by a serial killer. Maybe.

Behind the wheel is Josh Baxter, a stranger Charlie met by the college ride share board, who also has a good reason for leaving university in the middle of term. On the road they share their stories, carefully avoiding the subject dominating the news – the Campus Killer, who’s tied up and stabbed three students in the span of a year, has just struck again.

Travelling the lengthy journey between university and their final destination, Charlie begins to notice discrepancies in Josh’s story.

As she begins to plan her escape from the man she is becoming certain is the killer, she starts to suspect that Josh knows exactly what she’s thinking.

Meaning that she could very well end up as his next victim.

A game of cat and mouse is about to play out. In order to win, Charlie must do only one thing . . . survive the night.

Buy here*

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Are any of these on your TBR? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading Bibliophiles See you next month for the first list of anticipated books for 2022.

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book reviews

I Dare You by Sam Carrington ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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SYNOPSIS:

AN INNOCENT GAME. A SHOCKING CRIME. A COMMUNITY FULL OF SECRETS.

Mapledon, 1989.

Two little girls were out playing a game of dares. Only one returned home.

The ten-year-old told police what she saw: village loner Billy ‘Creepy’ Crawley dragged her friend into his truck and disappeared.

No body was found, but her testimony sent Crawley to prison for murder. An open and shut case, the right man behind bars.

The village could sleep safe once again.

Now…

Anna thought she had left Mapledon and her nightmares behind but a distraught phone call brings her back to face her past.

30 years ago someone lied. 30 years ago the man convicted wasn’t the only guilty party.

Now he’s out of prison looking for revenge. The question is, who will he start with?

MY REVIEW:

What a roller-coaster ride! I was quickly gripped by this exhilarating thriller and found myself reading fervently, desperate for answers about what happened to ten-year-old Jonie Hayes, how the narrators were connected to it all, and what secrets the residents of Mapledon were hiding. 

The story is told in dual timelines and is narrated by two women – Anna and Lizzie. We soon learn that both women lived in Mapledon as children but left for very different reasons: Anna because of bad memories of her childhood friend’s murder and feeling stifled, and Lizzie because she was taken and put into care for unkown reasons. They both have unanswered questions about what happened thirty years ago and have been affected by the legacy of Billy ‘Creepy’ Crawley and the murder of Jonie. As they look deeper it is clear that nothing is as it seems and are forced to question everything they thought they knew as they unearth secrets they were never meant to find…

This was the second book I’ve read by this author and I was every bit as captivated as when I read The Missing Wife, cementing her place on my must-read authors list. The thing I liked about her writing in this book was how she told the flashbacks to 1989 in reverse chronological order up until the highly anticipated big reveal. This slowly revealed clues to the reader while increasing the tension and slowly revealed the roles everyone played in the tragic events. 

Anna and Lizzie were both unreliable protagonists by their own admission. They were children thirty years ago and it is their fuzzy recollection of events that leads them to finally search for the truth. Anna’s relationship with her mother Muriel is fraught and she’s hasn’t been back to Mapledon once since she left. It seems with every day more cracks appear in their relationship and Anna is increasingly sure her mother has lied and hidden the truth from her about what had happened that summer. I definitely had my feelings about Muriel’s character coloured by Anna and only ever saw her as a busybody that was lying to her daughter. I was sure she was entrenched in what happened and felt like screaming at her to just tell her daughter what she knew. Lizzie was a character I had a lot of empathy for but I was torn about how much of the truth I wanted her to discover, especially as it seemed she had the most she could lose by the revelations. All of the characters in this book are fractured and troubled and I often wondered if they would be torn apart even more by the truth rather than healed by it. 

I Dare You is a tense, twisty, jaw-dropping thriller about childhood friendships, small town politics, secrets and murder. I guessed some of the twists early on but so much was a mystery to me as we approached the end. The author cleverly wove the clues together until the full picture emerged and rendered me speechless. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who loves psychological thrillers and can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Thank you to Avon Books UK and NetGalley for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Out now.

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book reviews

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.

Categories
book reviews

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.