What I Read: March 2021

Sarah Pearse: The Sanatorium

Half-hidden by forest and overshadowed by threatening peaks, Le Sommet has always been a sinister place. Long plagued by troubling rumors , the former abandoned sanatorium has since been renovated into a five-star minimalist hotel. An imposing, isolated getaway spot high up in the Swiss Alps is the last place Elin Warner wants to be. But Elin’s taken time off from her job as a detective, so when her estranged brother, Isaac, and his fiancée, Laure, invite her to celebrate their engagement at the hotel, Elin really has no reason not to accept. Arriving in the midst of a threatening storm, Elin immediately feels on edge–there’s something about the hotel that makes her nervous. And when they wake the following morning to discover Laure is missing, Elin must trust her instincts if they hope to find her. With the storm closing off all access to the hotel, the longer Laure stays missing, the more the remaining guests start to panic.Elin is under pressure to find Laure, but no one has realized yet that another woman has gone missing. And she’s the only one who could have warned them just how much danger they are all in. . .

This book had such great potential! Creepy atmosphere, a remote hotel, former sanatorium, snow blizzard… If this book was rated on atmosphere and setting it would get 5 stars from me! It started so good but then about half way through it just went wrong. Erin has some questionable detective skills, talking openly to everyone about everything and then being surprised at how events turned. There was also a fair bit of repetition. I wouldn’t have minded the slow build-up so much if we didn’t always have to go through this cycle of Elin doubting herself, slowly gaining more confidence, then having something bad happen which would send her straight back to square one. I found the whole premise extremely unbelievable. From the way people died, how everything was investigated to the final reveal. Oh the final reveal…Given that the body count rises throughout the book, I expected an evil villain with a strong motive. Instead I got weak motive and very farfetched story. This book had everything that I’m looking for in a thriller but somehow it didn’t work together.

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Rachel Abbott: Close your eyes(#10 DCI Tom Douglas)

I thought I was safe here, but I’m not. I’ve stayed too long. Now Genevieve is dead, and the police are on their way. It’s time for me to go. I must stick to the plan – the one I made the day I arrived in this city. My bag is packed. It always is. I will destroy every shred of evidence of my existence. The police must never find me. If they do, so will he. I made a mistake, and someone had to die. But I’m the one who has truly lost her life.I need to make a choice. If I keep running, I’ll never stop. If I go back, he will make me suffer. 

Close Your Eyes is the tenth book in a series of crime thrillers featuring DCI Tom Douglas and his team, it can be read as a stand-alone but I think it’s better read as part of a series. Rachel Abbott has been one of my favourite authors ever since I picked up her first book. This book, as expected, was clever, intriguing and completely absorbs you from the first page. I was lost in another world whilst reading it, so twisty that I finished it in one day! The story is told from 3 perspectives, DCI Tom, Martha and a girl called India. The chapters are short, sharp and easy to read. From the blurb you can’t really figure out what the story is about and I think that’s the best so I’m not going to go into details but I can say that this is one of the best thrillers I’ve read this year. Highly recommend!

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ericka Waller: Dog days

George is a grumpy, belligerentold man who has just lost his wife. She has left him notes around the home and a miniature dachshund puppy called Poppy. But George doesn’t want a dog, he wants to fight everyone who is trying to help him. Dan has OCD but has channeled his energy into his career as a therapist. Afraid to acknowledge his true feelings, his most meaningful relationship so far is with his dog Fitz. That is, until Atticus walks into his life. Lizzie is living in a women’s refuge with her son Lenny. Her body is covered in scars and she has shut herself off from the world. She distrusts dogs, but when she starts having to walk the refuge’s dog, Maud, things begin to change. As three strangers’ lives unravel and intersect, they ultimately must accept what fate has in store for them with their dogs by their sides.

So I picked up this book expecting a light read. I love dogs and I was thinking this will be very heartwarming book. Well, it wasn’t. It was actually very serious and at times depressing. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just that I expected a story where all the characters meet in a park with their dogs and become friends but I was very wrong. Yes there were dogs involved in the story but it was so much more than that. This is a very emotional and powerful book combining humour and sadness. Each of the characters is struggling to cope with something whether it be grief or their sexuality but the loyalty of the animals shines through and helps them through their dark days. This book touches on suicide, depression, domestic violence, grief and homophobia. It highlights how not everything in life has a happy ever after, people and their emotions/actions are complex and not straightforward. A great book if you like reading about messy lives without fairytale endings like I do.

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lucy clarke: The castaways

Lori books a holiday for herself and her sister, Erin to Fiji for a break, but the night before they are due to fly, they end up falling out and Lori ends up on the plane alone, wondering what’s happened to Erin. The plane disappears without trace leaving poor Erin wondering what’s happened to her sister and the plane. Now as a reporter she tries to find out the truth. 

The book alternates between Lori and Erin, the past and the present, from each sister’s point of view and wow, it took on a life of its own. I had no idea where the story was going, and could never have guessed it, but I loved every minute of this castaway adventure. It’s a slow paced story but you could feel all the tension and anxiety. Atmospheric from start to finish. I’m not going to give anything else away as it really would ruin the book and all I can say is read it for yourself. It’s pure escapism and I loved every moment. 

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peter swanson: Every vow you break

Abigail Baskin never thought she’d fall in love with a millionaire. Then she met Bruce Lamb. He’s a good guy, stable, level-headed, kind—a refreshing twist from her previous relationships.But right before the wedding, Abigail has a drunken one-night stand on her bachelorette weekend. She puts the incident—and the sexy guy who wouldn’t give her his real name—out of her mind, and now believes she wants to be with Bruce for the rest of her life.Then the mysterious stranger suddenly appears—and Abigail’s future life and happiness are turned upside down. He insists that their passionate night was the beginning of something much, much more. Something special. Something real—and he’s tracked her down to prove it.

Peter Swanson is one of my auto-buy authors so I got this book on the day it was published and started reading it straight away. I gave all of his previous books 4 or 5 stars so I’m very sad that I have to write this review. I just can’t believe that this book is written by the same author who wrote my favourite thriller ever, The Kind Worth Killing. Yes, the premise sounded amazing but from the start I knew where this was going. The first half was very repetitive and boring and even though the second half was more interesting it was definitely more ridiculous as well. There were moments that were entertaining and I was hoping it was building up towards some big twist but it didn’t. The ending was the worst for me. Maybe someone would be thrilled by the conclusion but for me the whole thing was very farfetched and over the top.

⭐⭐💫

lauren ho: last tang standing

Andrea Tang is in her early 30s living the dream; she is working her way towards partner in the law firm she works for, has an amazing condo (that she owns) and knows where all the best restaurants and clubs are located in Singapore thanks to great friends. What she doesn’t have is the man that will make her “perfect” life more perfect. When she begins the process of trying to find said man she doesn’t expect the craziness or all the dick pics that ensue with dating apps. Andrea also doesn’t expect to find herself laughing and hanging out with her office mate, Suresh, who is her top rival for the position of partner and enjoying it more than every date the apps have matched her with. 

Andrea Tang is in her early 30s living the dream; she is working her way towards partner in the law firm she works for, has an amazing condo (that she owns) and knows where all the best restaurants and clubs are located in Singapore thanks to great friends. What she doesn’t have is the man that will make her “perfect” life more perfect. When she begins the process of trying to find said man she doesn’t expect the craziness or all the dick pics that ensue with dating apps. Andrea also doesn’t expect to find herself laughing and hanging out with her office mate, Suresh, who is her top rival for the position of partner and enjoying it more than every date the apps have matched her with. 

This book was fast paced, funny and taught me a lot about Chinese-Malaysian culture and how pressured women feel that they have to get married young or by their thirties or their families will disown them and cut them out. But, this romance was very slow paced. There is actually no romance at all in first part, a little bit in a second and then finally we can see some signs of it in the last part. I feel this was more about Andrea’s personal growth than romance which is not a bad thing but just keep that in mind if you are expecting more romance and passion. Overall, it was a little boring for me. most of it is just Andrea’s daily life, and the things she ended up doing with her cousin. However, I enjoyed reading about the Chinese culture and the Singapore backdrop in the book.

⭐⭐⭐💫

cara hunter: all the rage

A teenage girl is found wandering the outskirts of Oxford, dazed and distressed. The story she tells is terrifying. Grabbed off the street, a plastic bag pulled over her face, then driven to an isolated location where she was subjected to what sounds like an assault. Yet she refuses to press charges.DI Fawley investigates, but there’s little he can do without the girl’s co-operation. Is she hiding something, and if so, what? And why does Fawley keep getting the feeling he’s seen a case like this before?And then another girl disappears, and Adam no longer has a choice: he has to face up to his past. Because unless he does, this victim may not be coming back . . 

As I big Cara Hunter fan it should be no surprise that I loved this book. I was really intrigued about how the story would tie together, as there were a lot of twists and turns, and I didn’t guess the ending. All I can say about this story is that it is one twisted read. I kept thinking we were being taken down one road when it comes to the case that Fawley and his team are working on, only for it to go off down a totally different route. Multiple times as well! I can’t wait for the fifth book that is being released at the end of April.

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What I Read: February 2021

Cara Hunter: No Way Out(#3)

The Christmas holidays, and two children have just been pulled from the wreckage of their burning home in North Oxford. The toddler is dead, and his brother is soon fighting for his life. Why were they left in the house alone? Where is their mother, and why is their father not answering his phone? Then new evidence is discovered, and DI Fawley’s worst nightmare comes true.Because this fire wasn’t an accident.

I feel like I’m repeating myself but I have to say once again how much I love this series and how much I love Cara Hunter’s writing! No Way Out is Cara Hunter’s third book in the DI Adam Fawley series and it is every bit as captivating and clever as the others. In this police procedural, DI Fawley takes a more backseat role, and for good reason, he is an emotional wreck as his wife, Alex, has left him but that allows the others in his team to shine and I loved that. As ever, Cara Hunter has produced a storyline that has great pace and lots of twists and turns, with a truly great little twist at the end. I can’t wait for the next book in the series!

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Dolly Alderton: Ghosts

Nina Dean has arrived at her early thirties as a successful food writer with loving friends and family, plus a new home and neighbourhood. When she meets Max, a beguiling romantic hero who tells her on date one that he’s going to marry her, it feels like all is going to plan. A new relationship couldn’t have come at a better time – her thirties have not been the liberating, uncomplicated experience she was sold. Everywhere she turns, she is reminded of time passing and opportunities dwindling. Friendships are fading, ex-boyfriends are moving on and, worse, everyone’s moving to the suburbs. There’s no solace to be found in her family, with a mum who’s caught in a baffling mid-life makeover and a beloved dad who is vanishing in slow-motion into dementia.

I’m not sure I can summarise how much I loved this book. I had to pace my self so that I didn’t finish it too quickly but when I was doing something else I just ended up thinking how I really want to go back and just finish it. This is a very lovely and gentle and yet funny book. It is everything I want from a book. Dolly’s observations on dating in your 20s/30s, especially online dating, friendships as you get older and love and relationships are spot on. As someone who has used dating apps before (I met my fiancé online) I could see myself in Nina, all the disappointment, uncertainty and ghosting. It also made me so grateful that those days are behind me now. But this story is about so much more than just being ‘ghosted’ by a man. She explores themes like female friendship, dementia, growing up, and being one of the last ‘single’ friends. Although Ghosts is at times sad and realistic about the disappointments of life, it isn’t without its laughs or tender moments. So refreshingly relatable and I enjoyed it from start to finish!

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Rachel Hawkins: The Wife Upstairs

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded jewellery off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name. But her luck changes when she meets Eddie­ Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie–he’s rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.  Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

Well this is how you write a domestic suspense thriller! I feel like I’ve just read my favourite thriller of 2021 and it’s only February! When it hooked me from the first page I knew it it would be a good one. This book kept me on my toes the entire time and I was completely invested in every character, all of them with some dark, twisted secrets… This is a reimagined, modern twist on JANE EYRE, a novel I’ve heard about, but never read. I was also unfamiliar with details of the plot so I think that’s why I enjoyed the twists and the story more. I completely devoured this book! There were some twists that I could see coming, but there were even more that took me by surprise. I love the writing style of author Rachel Hawkins. It’s very smooth and easy to get lost in her descriptions, characters lines, and imagery. It’s just a fun book that reveals secrets at a perfect pace. That made it very hard for me to put down. I can’t recommend this book enough.

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Emma Gannon: Olive

Olive is in her early thirties and lives in London with long-term boyfriend, Jacob. She is a journalist who loves her job working at .dot magazine. She remains close to her three childhood and university friends, Bea, Cecily and Isla. As they all settle down, marrying and starting families, Olive is pretty sure she doesn’t want children, but everyone else thinks she will change her mind. Jacob wants children and so when he ends their relationship because of this, we follow Olive as she struggles, feeling distant from her friends

Focusing on Olive and her friends, the narrative moves from earlier points in their friendship, and Olive’s relationship with Jacob, providing context. Gannon writes movingly and with empathy, about the four womens’ different choices and situations, all of which have their difficulties. Motherhood, infertility, IVF, the choice to be child-free and infidelity that are all experienced by four friends. I was sucked into this book right from the very first page because I loved getting to know Olive as I really identified with her. I’m child free by choice, I knew that I didn’t want children pretty early in life so I experienced all the cliche comments that she was getting including the famous one: ‘You will change your mind”. Also this was the first time that I saw a woman who was child-free by choice portrayed in a book which is amazing but also shocking because it’s 2021! The book also explores female friendship and how the lives of Olive and her friends diverge, all based on their decisions/desires to become or not become mothers. This is a definite must read for any woman, young or old, and not just child-free ones. Highly recommended!

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Anna Downes: The safe place

Emily Proudman just lost her acting agent, her job, and her apartment in one miserable day. Scott Denny, a successful and charismatic CEO, has a problem that neither his business acumen nor vast wealth can fix. Until he meets Emily. Scott offers Emily a summer job as a housekeeper on his remote, beautiful French estate. Enchanted by his lovely wife Nina, and his eccentric young daughter, Aurelia, Emily falls headlong into this oasis of wine-soaked days by the pool. But soon Emily realizes that Scott and Nina are hiding dangerous secrets, and if she doesn’t play along, the consequences could be deadly.

Well I must say I was very intrigued and excited to start this debut book. I always love checking out a new author. I loved the writing style, it was really good and kept me hanging on to every word. Downes created this doomed and sinister atmosphere and I was just waiting for something terrible to happen. The characters are interesting. The storyline is intriguing and the French home while it sounds like a dream come true, turns out to be creepy and strange. That being said, I felt a bit let down at the end. I expected something more, but i’m not sure what. Maybe something a bit more sinister? This is the author’s debut novel and it shows promise, I will be on the lookout for more books from her in the future.

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Elle Cosimano: Finlay Donovan is killing it

Finlay Donovan is killing it . . . except, she’s really not. She’s a stressed-out single-mom of two and struggling novelist, Finlay’s life is in chaos: the new book she promised her literary agent isn’t written, her ex-husband fired the nanny without telling her, and this morning she had to send her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head after an incident with scissors. When Finlay is overheard discussing the plot of her new suspense novel with her agent over lunch, she’s mistaken for a contract killer, and inadvertently accepts an offer to dispose of a problem husband in order to make ends meet . . . Soon, Finlay discovers that crime in real life is a lot more difficult than its fictional counterpart, as she becomes tangled in a real-life murder investigation.

This book is the first in a new comedy-mystery series, about a single mum and struggling suspense novelist, whose fiction may or may not be, inspired by events in her own life. I loved this book so much, it was funny, unputdownable and refreshing. If you’ve watched and loved the Netflix TV show Dead To Me, you will love this. The story isn’t completely realistic, but it’s always entertaining. Finlay and her nanny Vero are a delight and they had me smiling and laughing on nearly every page. A little bit mystery, a little bit romance, and a whole lot of laughs which was exactly what we all need during this time.

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Samantha downing: my lovely wife

Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored. We look like a normal couple. We’re your neighbours, the parents of your kid’s friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.We all have secrets to keeping a marriage alive. Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.

Ok, this is a very messed up psychological thriller about a husband and wife with a really ‘interesting” fetish. It was labeled as Mr. and Mrs. Smith meets Dexter for a reason. It was a very addictive and twisted read that held my attention from the first page. The story is narrated from husband’s point of view and even though you should hate them both, for some reason you become sympathetic towards him. This novel didn’t follow the standard formula, in which someone dies, and we spend the remainder of the book figuring out the why and who. No! In this story, we are introduced to the villains early on. I really enjoyed how the author created an eerie atmosphere from the first page and the tension was carried on through out.  While I managed to predict one twist early on, I had no clue how things were going to play out at the end. Highly recommended.

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What I Read: January 2021

Matt Haig: The Midnight Library

After life becomes to overwhelming for Nora to handle, she decides she no longer wants to live. She finds herself in-between life and death in the Midnight Library. Here, there are thousands upon thousands of books showing all the alternative lives she could have lived if she didn’t make certain mistakes. Nora now has the opportunity to find her perfect life, but will she go for it?

It’s been weeks since I’ve finished this book and I still can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a really cool concept that between life and death there is a library where you get an opportunity to see how your life would look like if you’ve made a different decision. I think a lot about this, what my life would be like had I made different choices. This book forces you to ask hard questions, like what makes a life worth living and are your dreams really something you want? I love the way this book talks about regrets and how most of the time our regrets are bunch of nonsense and are out of our control but they still are causing a major burden on our life. The writing is amazing and picks up really fast. Once you get into the book, it’s hard to put it down. A must read! I would recommend it to everyone!

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Eve Chase: The Glass House

The Harrington family takes her in and disbelief quickly turns to joy. They’re grieving a terrible tragedy of their own and the beautiful baby fills them with hope, lighting up the house’s dark, dusty corners. Desperate not to lose her to the authorities, they keep her secret, suspended in a blissful summer world where normal rules of behaviour – and the law – don’t seem to apply.But within days a body will lie dead in the grounds. And their dreams of a perfect family will shatter like glass.
Years later, the truth will need to be put back together again, piece by piece . . .

The first bit had me slightly bored, and the characters were all a bit confusing as we switched between 3 different POVs, two from the past and one from the present. But as we keep going, things clear up, and you just get sucked right into the imagery, and the deep, dark secrets of the Harrington family. It takes a talented storyteller to pull off a multi-layered, emotional story like this but Eve Chase does a great job! This is very much a slower paced character driven story and despite the inclusion of a dead body, it’s not a crime story. It’s more of a domestic drama with a mystery which builds slowly. Not the type of the book I normally read but I really enjoyed this one. This is the first book I’ve read from this author but I will definitelly read more!

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Cara Hunter: In the Dark

A woman and child are found locked in a basement room, barely alive. No one knows who they are — the woman can’t speak, and there are no missing persons reports that match their profile. The elderly man who owns the house claims he has never seen them before.The inhabitants of the quiet Oxford street are in shock. How could this happen right under their noses? But DI Adam Fawley knows that nothing is impossible.

Last month I started DI Adam Fawley series by reading one book each month so here we are! I love this series so much and I can’t believe I just discovered Cara Hunter! I liked this one even more than the first one. Loved that this book kept me on my toes with lots of suspects along the way. It’s really fast paced with lots of twists . At first it seems like an open and shut case but as the story unfolds it is revealed to be grittier and darker! If you haven’t read the first one, it’s ok because it can be read as standalone even though it could help if you knew backstories of investigative team as we are getting more of it in this book. If you are looking for a fast paced, easy read, I high recommend this one.

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C.J. Tudor: The Burning Girls

Welcome to Chapel Croft. Five hundred years ago, eight protestant martyrs were burned at the stake here. Thirty years ago, two teenage girls disappeared without a trace. And two months ago, the vicar of the local parish killed himself. Reverend Jack Brooks, a single parent with a fourteen-year-old daughter and a heavy conscience, arrives in the village hoping to make a fresh start and find some peace. Instead, Jack finds a town mired in secrecy and a strange welcome package: an old exorcism kit and a note quoting scripture. “But there is nothing covered up that will not be revealed and hidden that will not be known.”The more Jack and daughter Flo get acquainted with the town and its strange denizens, the deeper they are drawn into their rifts, mysteries, and suspicions. And when Flo is troubled by strange sightings in the old chapel, it becomes apparent that there are ghosts here that refuse to be laid to rest.But uncovering the truth can be deadly in a village where everyone has something to protect, everyone has links with the village’s bloody past, and no one trusts an outsider

Since reading The Chalkman C.J. Tudor is on auto-buy for me. Her books just never disappoint me. This is a complex mystery, a bit of a character driven slow burn, but the fact that it is composed of 3 POVs moving about in different directions really produced an eerie, page turning journey. I have to warn you, this is a pretty dark book. There are quite a few of in depth events of bullying, and some of the plot parts are boarder line horror. Too be honest I thought it will be much scarier when I saw the name of the book but luckily it wasn’t the main story of the book. On the other hand, the atmosphere of the small cottage coupled with the crumbling chapel, had me freaked out and I was yelling at the characters for going places. There are some surprising twists and turns. Although, some big clues are given early on, and if one catches on, not much will be surprising. Overall, this was fun, quick read. I recommend it to those who love a good thriller, tons of twists, and a hint of horror. 

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Brit Bennett: The Vanishing Half

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

I loved the premise and the theme of the book, it covered wide range of subjects from colourism and passing for white, classism, domestic violence, racism to identity issues and LGBTQIA+. It was fascinating and sad seeing how different the lives of the twins, their daughters, and their significant others were. Not only because of the choices they made, but in a way their race played a part too. But…even though this book’s message was heavy, relevant and timely it was sometimes a chore to read. I felt it was lacking depth, especially with the trans character Reese. I still don’t understand why this is brought up in this story if there wasn’t intention to be explored more. Also first 1/3 of the book was very slow and the ending was strange and hurried. I turned the last few pages expecting some of the loose ends to be tied up, but there were no real answers. Overall, this book is equally educational and entertaining. I feel my expectations were too high but that’s not the reason someone else won’t like it.

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Hazel Prior: Away With Penguins

86 year old Veronica McCreedy is a very wealthy woman living in a coastal mansion, The Ballahays, in Ayrshire. She has been lonely and alone for a long time, with no family, divorced, her only human contact is with Eileen who comes in to clean. Veronica is contemplating her life and what do with her money, when a grandson is unearthed, Patrick, living in Bolton. Patrick’s life has fallen apart, his girlfriend, Lynette, has left him, leaving him gobsmacked, having to move, and financially poorer. When Veronica and Patrick soon meet, expectations are not met, and intentions are misunderstood. Their parting is laced with mutual disappointment. Veronica then stumbles upon a television show about penguins one night – and falls head over heels for the pint-sized feathered friends. Quicker than a blink, she books a trip to a penguin research centre in Antarctica in order to learn all about the adorable creatures.

If, like me, you adore penguins, then Hazel Prior’s moving and hopeful novel will be the perfect read. This book is so charming and comforting, it’s like a big mug of hot chocolate with marshmallows . The story alternates between Patrick’s and Veronica’s points of views. Veronica is one of those prickly characters who sneaks up on you until you find yourself cheering her on. Patrick may seem like a lost young man drifting through life, but there is so much more to discover about him. In the beginning I didn’t like Patrick’s chapters but later I got into it.With a little bit of romance, gentle humour and an environmental message, this is definitely one for the penguin lovers out there and for those who enjoy a heartwarming, feel-good tale.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

What I Read: December 2020

Ruth Ware: One by One

Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?

For the last three years every winter I have read a book like this, remote setting, snow storm (or in this case an avalanche), people with messed up histories and murder(s). There is certainly nothing original here but I really like the atmosphere and it’s very Agatha Christie.In the beginning, I did find myself confused with keeping up with “who was who”. I rarely have a problem remembering large casts of characters but, in this case, only the two protagonists, were well developed, so I had to distinguish the others by their role. Also I found the first third very slow due to that, but the story picks up from there and is really intense with the avalanche and a killer killing randomly. This is where I got really hooked. Having said that, I didn’t like the ending. The book continues to drag on after the ending, tying up all the ends when it didn’t really matter. Also I felt the killer’s revelation was a bit obvious. There was no surprise and it was more why than who. All in all, an enjoyable and entertaining thriller to cosy up with under the blanket.

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Sophie Cousens: This Time Next Year

Down-to-earth baker Minnie Cooper knows two things with great certainty: that her New Year’s birthday has always been unlucky, and that it’s all because of Quinn Hamilton, a man she’s never met. Minnie and Quinn were born at the same hospital just after midnight on New Year’s Day thirty years before, and not only did he edge her out by mere minutes to win the cash prize for being the first baby born in London in 1990, but he stole the name she was meant to have, as well. With luck like that, it’s no wonder each of her birthdays has been more of a disaster than the one before. When Minnie unexpectedly runs into Quinn at a New Year’s party on their mutual thirtieth birthday, she sees only more evidence that fortune has continued to favor him. The handsome, charming business owner truly seems to have it all–including the perfect girlfriend. But if Quinn and Minnie are from different worlds, why do they keep bumping into each other? And why is it that each frustrating interaction somehow seems to leave them both hoping for more?

This is one of those missed chances style stories that can sometimes drive me a little crazy, but this one was really cute. The story takes place over the course of a year, with several flashbacks to past NYEs, for both Quinn and Minnie. The story is predictable but has a little more depth than I initially expected. There is also a real unique subplot within this and it made the ending even happier! I would describe it as part of woman fiction, part chick lit, part romantic comedy. It’s about romance but it’s also about building friendships, family dynamics and most importantly loving yourself. Overall, this was such a charming and delightful book and I would recommend it to all contemporary romance fans.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Richard Osman: The Thursday Murder Club

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves. When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?

I was delaying reading this book because I honestly thought it was based on good PR because celebrity books are kind of hit and miss. But TV presenter Richard Osman’s debut novel is such a charming and heartwarming mystery with so much wit, fun and interesting characters that I couldn’t put it down from the first chapter. The plot is fast paced, keeps you guessing as it’s got many a twist along the way, It’s very cleverly written with several clever red-herrings thrown around and I really couldn’t guess the murderer. I always appreciate a book that can trick me like that and leave me clueless and guessing right up to the last page! Super fun and sweet with characters so lovable and quirky you’d love to have them around for tea. Definitely one of my favourite reads of 2020! Looking forward to the next book in the series.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Josie Silver: One Day in December

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist anywhere but the movies. But then, through a misted-up bus window one snowy December day, she sees a man who she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic… and then her bus drives away. Certain they’re fated to find each other again, Laurie spends a year scanning every bus stop and cafe in London for him. But she doesn’t find him, not when it matters anyway. Instead they “reunite” at a Christmas party, when her best friend Sarah giddily introduces her new boyfriend to Laurie. It’s Jack, the man from the bus. It would be. What follows for Laurie, Sarah and Jack is ten years of friendship, heartbreak, missed opportunities, roads not taken, and destinies reconsidered.

The story is told from both Jack and Laurie’s perspectives, starting from the snowy December day they find themselves on opposite sides of a misty bus window, inexplicably drawn to each other. This is not a typical love story. It unfolds over the course of ten, angst filled years! In the decade following the moment they first laid eyes on each other we follow Laurie and Jack’s ups and downs, their heartaches and relationships, misunderstandings and of course their friendship and undeniable connection. I found this book to be addictive. I had to keep reading to find out what was going to happen to these characters. This is a great book to get a blanket and curl up with. I actually managed to finish the whole book one Sunday afternoon! My only complaint was that I wanted an epilogue! I just wanted to know what kind of life they have now! I found this book to be engaging, fun and a very enjoyable read. It has a little bit of everything: friendship, loss, grief, new beginnings, forgiveness, heartache, and love.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Holly Jackson: Good Girl, Bad Blood(#2)

Pip Fitz-Amobi is not a detective anymore. With the help of Ravi Singh, she released a true-crime podcast about the murder case they solved together last year. The podcast has gone viral, yet Pip insists her investigating days are behind her.
But she will have to break that promise when someone she knows goes missing. Jamie Reynolds has disappeared but the police won’t do anything about it. And if they won’t look for Jamie then Pip will, uncovering more of her town’s dark secrets along the way… and this time EVERYONE is listening.
But will she find him before it’s too late?

Ok, I really hope these books will be turned into a tv show or something because they are brilliant! This book was as thrilling and engaging as the first one. After reading so many crazy adult thrillers I really needed a break and this was it. It’s fun with an easy to follow story and likeable characters. I just couldn’t stop reading! It’s fast paced and the mystery is even more dreadful than the first book, not giving readers time to chill out even for a second. We have no clue why Jamie disappeared and we also have no clue if he was dead or alive for the majority of the book. And even though it is a bit farfetched, I love the way the mystery unraveled. I can’t wait for the next book! 

Just a heads up: even though the books can be read as a standalone, there is a major spoiler about the first book and so you might want to read that one first.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sally Thorne: The Hating Game

Lucy Hutton is charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman. And the feeling is mutual. Trapped in a shared office together they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything—especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking. If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth-shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong.Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

So this book will now be the reason I will have a break from rom coms! This is the most cringy romance book that I’ve ever read! I was sitting on the sofa and I could’t stop saying ‘oh my God’ even half an hour after I finished it. I noticed that American chick lit is just not for me because it’s just too over the top. There is no surprise they are turning it into a movie, because it would really be a great tv! It was a quick and fun pass-time but it was a bit childish considering they are not teenagers but working professionals. Also repeatedly using The ______ Game in the text was so annoying. Definitely more chick lit than I would prefer but still enjoyable on some level.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

T.M. Logan: The Holiday

It was supposed to be the perfect holiday – a group of families enjoying a week together in the sun. Four women who have been best friends for as long as they can remember making the most of a luxurious villa in the south of France. But Kate has a secret: her husband is having an affair. And a week away might just be the perfect opportunity to get the proof she needs – to catch him in the act once and for all. Because she suspects the other woman is one of her two best friends. One of them is working against her, willing to sacrifice years of friendship to destroy her family. But which one? As Kate closes in on the truth in the stifling Mediterranean heat, she realises too late that the stakes are far higher than she ever imagined . . . Because someone in the villa may be prepared to kill to keep their secret hidden.

I’m in a minority here but I couldn’t wait to finish this book. I would give it fewer stars if the ending wasn’t so interesting and twisty. I had previously read Logan’s The Catch and really liked it so I thought this would be as good but it wasn’t. I was expecting something to happen because there was this constant sense of dread in the air but ultimately nothing did. There was too much descriptive writing which didn’t really add to the story (like describing the weather in detail), the adults were so unlikeable and the children were bratty and the plot lacked pace. The last 25% made it better. I feel everything was very well explained and more complex than I thought. I didn’t guess who the killer was and definitely didn’t guess the reason which means that I have to give the story some extra points.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

What I Read: November 2020

Sarah Alderson: Friends Like These

We all know someone like Becca.She has the job everyone wants, a designer wardrobe, a hot-shot lawyer boyfriend, holidays to exotic locations. And she flaunts her perfect life all over social media. It drove her colleague Lizzie mad, but she couldn’t stop looking. They were never really friends – and yet Lizzie knew everything about her. Or did she? When chance, and a terrible mistake, pulls Lizzie back into Becca’s orbit years after they lost touch, she’ll realise that you can’t always believe what you see online… and that finding out the truth might be the worst thing you can do.

I had never read anything by Sarah Alderson but after reading this I now have all of her books downloaded on my Kindle, waiting to be read! This is actually a cautionary tale showing how social media can affect mental health and damage self-confidence but this book also explored female rivalry, envy, and revenge starting in the workplace. This is one of those books that it’s best if you go in blind so I’m not going to say much more! It was a page turner, the writing was great and I loved the fact that you never knew who you could trust! Once you’ve read this, you will certainly think twice before pressing send and before you put every detail of your life on social media because, as this story shows, you never know who is watching!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Chris Merritt: Knock Knock (#1)

Natasha Mayston wasn’t expecting anyone to knock on her door so late at night. And she has no idea that the face staring back at her is the last one she’ll ever see…As Detective Dan Lockhart is called to a wealthy London street to investigate Natasha’s death, he’s startled by the similarity to a previous case. Noticing the cable-tie restraints and the tiny scratches on Natasha’s wedding finger, Dan already knows what he will find if he looks in her mouth – the metal ball which choked her to death. He knows Natasha isn’t the killer’s first victim and is certain that he will strike again. Fearing that he’s dealing with a psychopathic serial killer, Dan calls in psychologist Dr Lexi Green to help him to get into the perpetrator’s mind. Tough and smart, Lexi will stop at nothing to hunt down the man responsible for the deaths.

Knock Knock is the first book in a new series by author Chris Merritt, featuring DI Lockhart and Green. I have to be honest, I would’t have read this book if I read the blurb because I’m not really into disgusting serial killers themes these days but…I actually really liked it! You learn pretty early on that the killer is part of an extremist group, Incels. This is the second time I’ve read a book this year where this group is mentioned but this one was especially shocking because I learned from the author’s afterwords that everything about it in this book is true! Merritt has done his research about that world and the police procedural bits also feel quite authentic, so it’s very difficult to put it down. The only thing I didn’t like was the length (416 pages!) , multiple perspectives and the many many details! Otherwise, if you are into serial killer books, I recommend this one!

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Holly Jackson: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (#1)

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it. But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the murder, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final year project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth?

I’ve been enthusiast of YA crime stories since forever even though I felt recently that maybe I’m too old for them so I stopped reading! But I’m so glad I picked this up! The book is written in a very unique format, with journal entries decorated with newspaper clippings, charts, text screenshots, and interview recordings and while reading it you get the feeling you are right there, solving the crime with Pippa. The book is full of plot twists, some of them predictable but some of them quite shocking. It was so complex and well built and gripping from the first page! I read it in two sittings even though it has over 400 pages! If you’re looking for a good YA thriller, with a good chase and fun characters, don’t miss this! I will certainly have Holly Jackson on auto-buy from now on!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Sam Carrington: The Open House

Nick and Amber Wilson are divorcing and selling the family home, but despite the great location, it isn’t getting much interest. Their real estate agent, Carl suggests an Open House day.
Amber is not thrilled with the idea of her neighbours snooping around her home so she’s secretly watching everything from her SmartRing App. She counts 13 people entering her home. But, only 12 leave.
After that the weird things start to happen…

I was completely captivated for 70% of this book! It was tense, a bit scary and made me double check my doors in the evening! But then all of the sudden it was like a cold shower. It became too repetitive! What really made me give it only 3 stars was the ending. I never thought I’d say this but there were just too many twists! It ended up getting diluted somehow and wasn’t as surprising or as impactful as it could have been. I felt that the first part of the revelation, about the house, was too simple. The second part was just too much and it went on for too long. It was like watching one of the most farfetched tv soap operas. Ambers’s final decision was so out of character that it put final nail in the coffin. 
Overall it was entertaining and a fast paced domestic suspense but had a very disappointing ending which really let the story down.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Tana French: The Searcher

Retired detective Cal Hooper moves to a remote village in rural Ireland. His plans are to fix up the dilapidated cottage he’s bought, to walk the mountains, to put his old police instincts to bed forever.Then a local boy appeals to him for help. His brother is missing, and no one in the village, least of all the police, seems to care. And once again, Cal feels that restless itch.Something is wrong in this community, and he must find out what, even if it brings trouble to his door.

I was debating if I should even do a review of this book and if it’s worth even 1 star but here we go! A whole 2 stars! First of all, I have to ask myself…am I missing something? This book is nominated for the best mystery/thriller of the year by Goodreads. I was so excited to read it but… I don’t know what this book is but it’s definitely not a mystery! It’s so painfully sloooow! I mean I read lots of books that start slow for a good reason but this was long and slow for the sake of it. Let me give you an example how slow it was! There were pages and pages describing Cal sanding drawers and even chapters where he teaches the kid how to hunt! I mean, you can easily skip all of that if you want and you won’t be missing any important character development or a detail important for the story! I feel that the actual plot could’ve been told in 2 chapters, that’s how simple it was. If there was a book this year I wouldn’t recommend to anyone, it’s this one!!!

⭐️⭐️

Cara Hunter: Close to Home(#1)

Last night, eight-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from a family party. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying. DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows the nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew. That means someone is lying… And that Daisy’s time is running out.

I heard great thinks about Cara Hunter’s books so I thought this would be a great pick to read after the depressing book I previously read (The Searcher, see above)…and it didn’t disappoint! It was so fast paced with a cliffhanger at the end of almost every chapter! This was a page turner in every sense, the storyline was utterly gripping, and the characters were believable. I don’t think I ever changed my mind so many times on who the perpetrator was and at the end I still didn’t guess it so well done to the author for that. As this is the first book in a series I will definitely read the rest of them now.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Claire Douglas: Just Like the Other Girls

Una Richardson’s heart is broken after the death of her mother. Seeking a place to heal, she responds to an advertisement and steps into the rich, comforting world of Elspeth McKenzie. But Elspeth’s home is not as safe as it seems. Kathryn, her cold and bitter daughter, resents Una’s presence. But more disturbing is the realization that two girls had lived here before. Two girls who ended up dead. Why won’t the McKenzies talk about them? What other secrets are locked inside this house? As the walls close in around her, Una starts to fear that she will end up just like the other girls . . .

This was my first buy from Claire Douglas and after finishing it I quickly made a note to read all of her books! The way she’s writes a mystery is amazing! Set in Bristol, England, this was a wonderfully tense, dramatic and nerve-wracking read and everything I would want to see in a thriller! There were several red herrings and every time I was sure I knew where the story was going I was knocked way off track. I was hooked from beginning to end, the characters were so well developed even though some of them were very unlikeable and got on my nerves at times. But because of that I was suspicious of every single character right until the end. I highly recommend this tense and ‘unputdownable’ thriller!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What I Read: October 2020

Julie Clark: The Flight

Claire lives a privileged life being the wife of a high level politician from a very influential family. But her husband is a very different man behind closed doors and he makes sure all aspects of her life are rigidly controlled. Claire decides to leave him secretly and bumps into Eva at the airport, who is also trying to escape her life. They hatch a plan to change plane tickets, but Eva’s flight to Puerto Rico, the one Claire was supposed to be on, goes down. Now Claire has a better opportunity to disappear, by becoming Eva. But will her old life catch up with her?

The idea was interesting and in the beginning I was really hooked. I loved how Claire and Eva had completely different reasons for wanting to escape their lives and to change their identities. The chapters alternate between the two women, explaining their stories and how they got to this point. It was a quick and easy read but unfortunately the plot and pace dropped half way through. Nothing happened and I couldn’t connect with the characters at all. I expected more twists and thrills because of the way the story started but it became flat by the end. I wouldn’t even call this book a thriller, it would be better described as a drama with elements of suspense and mystery.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Silvia Moreno-Garcia: Mexican Gothic

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find – her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region. Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante but she’s also tough and smart and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom. Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness. And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

I don’t usually read horror books but I was intrigued by this one because of the hype. I thought it would be something like ‘Haunting of the Hill House’ and I love good ‘ghosts in the scary old mansion” type stories but this wasn’t anything like that. I loved the first part so much because it had everything I liked – an atmospheric old mansion, with a creepy family living there in the isolated Mexican countryside. But later on the story ended up turning into this weird supernatural fantasy horror, which was a bit disgusting and unbelievable as well. I wanted to be shocked and scared but I ended up rolling my eyes. I actually felt like the first 40% of the book was a completely different story because of the way the it changed later. I’m certain gothic fans will enjoy this book but it just wasn’t for me.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Gillian McAllister: How to Disappear

Lauren’s daughter Zara witnessed a terrible crime. But speaking up comes with a price, and when Zara’s identity is revealed online, it puts a target on her back.The only choice is to disappear. From their family, their friends, even from Lauren’s husband. No goodbyes. Just new names, new home, new lives. One mistake – a text, an Instagram like – could bring their old lives crashing into the new. As Lauren will learn, disappearing is easy. Staying hidden is much harder

I don’t know if it is because I read too many thriller/crime books or if something else played a part here but I have to say I really struggled with this. The story was very slow and very far-fetched. The reason they are trying to hunt the protagonists down is simply ridiculous! For me a good thriller has to be at least a little bit believable but this plot was just so unrealistic it hurt. On top of that, I didn’t love the characters, they kept making stupid decisions and I felt like a lots of the problems they got themselves into could have been avoided. Zara was so unlikable that I didn’t care what was going to happen to her and Lauren was just annoying, I couldn’t understand her actions at all! On the other hand this book is definitely something different in a world of police thrillers, it provides us with a different perspective on witness protection and I’ve never read anything like this before. It should also be said that the last part of the book got slightly better and is probably the reason why I gave it 3 stars instead of 2.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Michelle Campbell: A Stranger on the Beach

Her spectacular new beach house, built for hosting expensive parties and vacationing with the family she thought she’d have. But her husband is lying to her and everything in her life is upside down, so when the stranger, Aiden, shows up as a bartender at the same party where Caroline and her husband have a very public fight, it doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary. As her marriage collapses around her and the lavish lifestyle she’s built for herself starts to crumble, Caroline turns to Aiden for comfort…and revenge. After a brief and desperate fling that means nothing to Caroline and everything to him, Aiden’s obsession with Caroline, her family, and her house grows more and more disturbing. And when Caroline’s husband goes missing, her life descends into a nightmare that leaves her accused of her own husband’s murder.

I picked up this book in the hope that I would get some thrills after all the previous “meh” books that I read this month and i’m glad to say I wasn’t disappointed. It was so gripping and twisty that I ended up reading the whole book within 24 hours! The story is told from two perspectives, Caroline Stark and Aidan Callaghan but there’s one problem – their version of the same events are totally different and contradictory and I was left wandering who was telling the truth and who is possibly completely crazy up until the very end! Overall, this was a very quick, easy and suspenseful read that I highly recommend to all thriller lovers! I cannot wait to read more by Michele Campbell.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Fredrik Backman: Anxious People

Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix up their own marriage. There’s a wealthy banker who has been too busy making money to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world. Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in a motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next. 

Lets start this review with a quote from the book: “The whole thing is a complicated, unlikely story. Perhaps that’s because what we think stories are about often isn’t what they’re about at all. This for instance, might not actually be the story of a bank robbery, or an apartment viewing, or a hostage drama. Perhaps, it isn’t even a story of idiots. Perhaps this story is about a bridge.”

So yes, at first this seemed like a complicated story about nothing. I thought I wouldn’t like it because it was a bit weird in the beginning. There were too many characters, the story jumped back and forth…and even though it did have some interesting but also funny points that I liked, if I only read the first half of this book I wouldn’t really like it as much. However, as the story went on I started liking the characters and all of different pieces of the puzzle started coming together. I love the writing because it was a mixture of humour with life experience and whilst it’s very light it also discusses heavy topics. I found it to be thought provoking, heart-wrenching but also comical at times. It reminded me that everything I do can potentially impact others and how I must think before I act. It also reminded me how important human connections are, especially during this difficult year. Personally I would say that everyone should read this book.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Riley Sager: Home Before Dark

“What was it like? Living in that house?” Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into Baneberry Hall, a rambling Victorian estate in the Vermont woods. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a non-fiction book called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon. Today, Maggie is a restorer of old homes and too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she also doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist. When Maggie inherits Baneberry Hall after her father’s death, she returns to renovate the place to prepare it for sale. But her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the past, chronicled in House of Horrors, lurk in the shadows. And locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous thanks to Maggie’s father. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself – a place filled with relics from another era that hint at a history of dark deeds. As Maggie experiences strange occurrences straight out of her father’s book, she starts to believe that what he wrote was more fact than fiction.

I’m so glad I left this book to read over Halloween because it couldn’t have been a better choice! I loved it even though it gave me the creeps! There was a haunted house, ghosts, snakes, thuds in the middle of the night, snakes, eerie music and… did I mention snakes? I loved the ‘Haunting of the Hill House’ vibe and I was glued to it even though reading it at night probably wasn’t the best idea! The book is told in present day chapters where Maggie goes back to Baneberry Hall which is interlaced with chapters from “The Book” that was written by Maggie’s father about the events that caused them to flee in the middle of the night. I couldn’t figure out whether this was a ghost story or a psychological thriller right until the end so I’m not going to spoil it and give too much away! This is the third book I’ve read by this author and is easily my favourite so far. Maybe even one of my favourite books of the year! The thing which I love about Sager’s books that they all have in common is the atmosphere. He easily captures the feeling of some of the best horror films I’ve ever watched. Highly recommend!

This book is shortlisted for the best thriller/mystery book by Goodreads and rumour has it that Sony Pictures pictures has picked it up for a potential movie/tv show!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What I Read: September 2020

Michelle Frances: Sisters

Abby and Ellie were never close as children. Now in their thirties, they each harbour deep-rooted resentment for the other – Abby for her sister’s looks and her status as their mother’s favourite. Ellie meanwhile is envious of Abby’s perfect husband and picturesque home, a villa on the sun-soaked Italian island of Elba.When Abby invites Ellie to stay, both sisters see the break as a chance to relax and put aside their differences. But with their mother Susanna there too, all the simmering tensions of the past quickly rise to the surface. And Ellie suspects that Abby and their mother are keeping a dangerous secret . . .But after a shocking act, the sisters have only each other to rely on. Vulnerable and scared, trusting each other will be the biggest risk of all . . .

I was hooked at the beginning of the book, trying to figure out who should be trusted, what really happened, who the bad guy was…Gradually though, the pace of the book slowed and even though there was some action it felt flat and boring at times. There was no tension which I expect in a good thriller. Also the ending seemed rushed and I wasn’t really surprised by it. Despite this, I loved the setting of this book as we were taken on a road trip across Italy, France and Spain. This book really was the closest I’ve been to a holiday this year! Overall, I would recommend this if you are after an easy summer thriller read.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Anthony Doerr: All The Light We Cannot See

Marie-Laure lives in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where her father works. When she is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.In a mining town in Germany, Werner Pfennig, an orphan, grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find that brings them news and stories from places they have never seen or imagined. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments and is enlisted to use his talent to track down the resistance. Deftly interweaving the lives of Marie-Laure and Werner, Doerr illuminates the ways, against all odds, people try to be good to one another.

I can see why this book has such amazing reviews but it just wasn’t for me. In a way I felt guilty for not liking it and spent days thinking that there was something wrong with me. The writing was beautiful and so descriptive that at moments I felt I was there but when it comes to describing the characters I felt nothing. While I was crying through The Nightingale which had a similar theme, this story didn’t awake a single emotion in me. I couldn’t connect with the characters, couldn’t feel for them and that’s why I didn’t feel the emotion of the story. I was expecting a heart-breaking masterpiece but I found myself a bit bored and irritated with this book. The best part of the book was the ending and not just because I was so relieved it finished, but because something actually happened.

⭐️⭐️⭐️

Kate Riordan: The Heatwave

When Sylvie receives a letter calling her back to her family home in the South of France, she knows she has to go. In the middle of a sweltering 1990’s summer marked by unusual fires across the countryside, she returns to La Reverie with her youngest daughter Emma, ignoring the deep sense of dread she feels for this place.As memories of the events that shattered their family a decade earlier threaten to come to the surface, Sylvie struggles to shield Emma from the truth of what really happened all those years ago. In every corner of the house, Sylvie can’t escape the specter of Elodie, her first child. Elodie, born amid the ’68 Paris riots with one blue eye and one brown, and mysteriously dead by fourteen. Elodie, who reminded the small village of one those Manson girls. Elodie who knew exactly how to get what she wanted. As the fires creep towards the villa, it’s clear to Sylvie that something isn’t quite right at La Reverie . . . And there is a much greater threat closer to home.

The story is told from Sylvie’s point of view in alternating time periods — during the summer of 1993, and then 1968 forward — as we learn about the disturbing mother/daughter relationship between Sylvie and Elodie during her childhood. The story was well written and slow burning. The setting is perfect, and with the way the author describes the scenery, it feels like you’re there with them in the south of France but it felt really claustrophobic at times because of the heatwave, fires and the lack of mobile communication in 1993. I really enjoyed reading it and found it hard to put down but I have to admit I was left slightly confused the way it ended and to be honest I had to go back and read through again to make sure I had taken it all in. Therefore, I can only give this book 4 stars. Overall, I highly recommend it for an easy summer read.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Louise Candlish: The Other Passenger

On the morning of Monday 27th December, Jamie Buckby takes the commuter riverboat from his home in St Mary’s, southeast London, to work in Central London, noting that his good friend and neighbour Kit Roper has not turned up for the 7.30am service they usually catch together.
 At the London Eye, where he disembarks for his job in a café behind the South Bank Centre, Jamie is met by the police. Kit has been reported missing by his wife.
 As Jamie is taken in for questioning, he discovers someone saw him arguing with Kit on the boat home late on Friday night. The other passenger believes Jamie committed murder.

After I read her first book Our House, I thought I would never read any of Louise’s books again. I really disliked it. So this book was a lovely surprise. What a page turner! And it’s set on the commuter boat to Central London which is very unusual. There is nothing predictable about this book, the moment I thought I figured everything out, Candlish brought another twist to keep me on my toes. This was most definitely my kind of book! It got me hooked from start to finish and I was sad when I finished it. Brilliantly written, fast paced and full of twists and turns… it’s a must read. One of my favourite thrillers of 2020.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Dawn O’Porter: So Lucky

Is anyone’s life as perfect as it looks? Beth shows that women really can have it all; Ruby lives life by her own rules; Lauren is living the dream. But. Beth hasn’t had sex in a year. Ruby feels like she’s failing. Lauren’s happiness is really just fake news. All it takes is one shocking event to make the truth come tumbling out…

What a great read! I really enjoyed the story and the messages and it made me laugh out loud in places! The story is told via the alternating perspectives of Ruby and Beth and occasional Instagram posts from social media celebrity Lauren. Ruby is struggling to manage a health condition which severely affects her self esteem, as well as struggling to bond with her three and a half year old daughter as a single mum. Beth is a wedding planner, planning the celebrity wedding of the year with her assistant Risky while her husband (who refuses to touch her) looks after their newborn son at home. The characters are believable and real (maybe too real). They are far from perfect but the writer makes them very likeable. The thing that I liked most about this book is that Dawn covers a range of serious subjects from marriage, parenting and motherhood to women’s health, body image, and mental health with humour and ends it with a positive message. Just to warn you, this book is not for prudes because you won’t find it funny! For everyone else, I highly recommend it!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

Alex Lake: Seven Days

In seven days, Maggie’s son, Max, turns three. But she’s not planning a party or buying presents or updating his baby book. She’s dreading it. Because in her world, third birthdays are the days on which the unthinkable happens… she loses her child.For the last twelve years Maggie has been imprisoned in a basement. Abducted aged fifteen, she gave birth to two sons before Max, and on their third birthdays her captor came and took them from her.She cannot let it happen again. But she has no idea how to stop it. And the clock is ticking…

Before I read this book, I’ve read two very similar ones, Room and Dear Child, so I couldn’t stop comparing them. For me this one was not as good as others or maybe it was just that ‘already seen it’ thought that I had while reading it. Considering that there are over 400 pages, this is a very fast read. Through the book I felt like I was on a rollercoaster – It got me hooked at the beginning, then towards the middle it became too repetitive and slow but the last 50 pages were very exciting. The writer does a good job by talking about family and what happens when someone goes missing. I loved how it looked from each character’s perspective. I would have preferred more mystery or a twist though. Overall, it’s a good, fast paced psychological thriller but nothing that hasn’t been done before.

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫

What I Read: August 2020

D.S. Butler: House of Lies

During a week long study retreat at Chidlow House in Lincolnshire, one teacher falls from the roof in a suspected suicide or ‘accident’. A few days later two teenage girls, Cressida and Natasha go missing. Detective Karen Hart and the rest of the team are called to investigate. There they are faced with rumours that the old house is haunted as people, including Karen, can hear the sounds of whispering and dripping water. When they start speaking to everyone at the house they soon realise that several people might be keeping secrets. While they race against time to find the missing girls, Karen learns that not everything is as it seems.

Before I read this book, I had read the first book from this series “Bring Them Home” which I didn’t like so I was a bit reluctant to start this one. But… this one got me hooked from the first chapter! It really has everything that I love mystery, a creepy old house and a thrilling story that kept me guessing until the end! I suspected everyone at one point which is always a sign of a good thriller book. I took one star off just because at the times it could have been quicker.

This book is part of a series, but it can be read on its own. Even though I would suggest reading all of them if you are interested in DS Karen’s past and personal life as there is a bit of side story there. Overall, I would recommend this book, especially if you love British police dramas.

Thanks NetGalley and Amazon Publishing for advanced copy.

The book will be published on 29 September 2020.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Lisa Jewell: Invisible Girl

Owen Pick’s life is falling apart. In his thirties, a virgin, and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a geography teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is sucked into the dark world of incel—involuntary celibate—forums, where he meets the charismatic, mysterious, and sinister Bryn.Across the street from Owen lives the Fours family, headed by mom Cate, a physiotherapist, and dad Roan, a child psychologist. But the Fours family have a bad feeling about their neighbor Owen. He’s a bit creepy and their teenaged daughter swears he followed her home from the train station one night.Meanwhile, young Saffyre Maddox spent three years as a patient of Roan Fours. Feeling abandoned when their therapy ends, she searches for other ways to maintain her connection with him, following him in the shadows and learning more than she wanted to know about Roan and his family. Then, on Valentine’s night, Saffyre Maddox disappears—and the last person to see her alive is Owen Pick.

Another dark, intense, creepy and twisty psychological thriller by Lisa Jewell. This was definitely one of those books that I did not want to put down because I wanted to know what was going to happen. The story is told through multiple POV’s (Cate, Owen and Saffyre) and that helps us to get into the minds of the characters and to keep the pace of the book moving . It was interesting reading the different points of view and then having all the stories come together to find out what happened in the end. The story itself tackles several difficult topics including sexual assault, the Incel community (which I was not at all familiar with prior to reading this book), and the various masks people wear in their everyday lives.  But…the most important thing about this book is that it’s not just a classic thriller, it’s thought provoking, explores subjects like trauma, revenge, mental health, injustice, redemption and makes you think about all the times you misjudged someone just because he/she doesn’t fit into a social norm. Lisa showed us how societal misfits, outcasts and ”weirdos”, because they behave a little different to others, are perceived as being dangerous despite showing no such negative tendencies while real life monsters are walking among us unnoticed. Just as you should never judge a book by its cover, you should never judge a person by how they look.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Claire McGowan: The Push

The party should have been perfect: six couples from the same baby group, six newborns, a luxurious house. But not everything has gone to plan. When someone falls from the balcony of the house, the secrets and conflicts within the group begin to spill out. DS Alison Hegarty, is called in to investigate. She’s convinced the fall was not an accident, and finds the new parents have a lot to hide. Wealthy Ed and Monica show off their newborn while their teenage daughter is kept under virtual house arrest. Hazel and Cathy conceived their longed-for baby via an anonymous sperm donor. Anita and Jeremy planned to adopt from America, but there’s no sign of the child. Kelly, whose violent boyfriend disrupted previous group sessions, came to the party even though she lost her baby. And then there’s Jax, who’s been experiencing strange incidents for months—almost like someone’s out to get her. It’s a nightmare of a case and only one thing is clear: they all have something to hide.

There are a lot of POV’s, from different couples and Alison, from past and present so it took some time for me to memorise each character.
The victim’s identity is revealed half way through the book, which was interesting and kept me hooked. And that was the only mystery for me. There were two other plot twists but I managed to guess these quite early on.
I feel this book is more about portraying different types of motherhood and actually shows the real side of pregnancy through different ages, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, relationship statuses, even fertility differences (DS Alison is struggling with infertility). Overall, a classic whodunnit story and even though it is predictable its still a thought provoking and enjoyable quick read.

Thank you to Amazon Publishing UK and NetGalley for sending me an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

The book will be published on 12 November 2020.

⭐️⭐️⭐️💫


J.P. Delaney: Playing Nice

Pete Riley answers the door one morning and lets in a parent’s worst nightmare. On his doorstep is Miles Lambert, a stranger who breaks the devastating news that Pete’s son, Theo, isn’t actually his son–he is the Lamberts’, switched at birth by an understaffed hospital while their real son was sent home with Miles and his wife, Lucy. For Pete, his partner Maddie, and the little boy they’ve been raising for the past two years, life will never be the same again. The two families, reeling from the shock, take comfort in shared good intentions, eagerly entwining their very different lives in the hope of becoming one unconventional modern family. But a plan to sue the hospital triggers an official investigation that unearths some disturbing questions about the night their children were switched. How much can they trust the other parents–or even each other? What secrets are hidden behind the Lamberts’ glossy front door? Stretched to the breaking point, Pete and Maddie discover they will each stop at nothing to keep their family safe.

This is a disturbing story so well written that I was angry and frustrated together with the characters. It also makes you feel as if this can happen in real life which makes it even more stressful. I’m not a parent so I can only imagine how this book can be for someone who is. To be honest, I was a bit bored of domestic thrillers and family dramas because they all seem very similar but this one was very different because it was also thought-provoking, emotional and tense. It also raises the question, nurture vs nature when it comes to raising the children. The characters are very well written and the suspense builds and builds creating a psychological nightmare. Another great book by J.P. Delaney!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Fredrik Backman: A Man Called Ove

At first sight, Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots – neighbours who can’t reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code, and the perpetrators of the vicious coup d’etat that ousted him as Chairman of the Residents’ Association. He will persist in making his daily inspection rounds of the local streets.But isn’t it rare, these days, to find such old-fashioned clarity of belief and deed? Such unswerving conviction about what the world should be, and a lifelong dedication to making it just so? In the end, you will see, there is something about Ove that is quite irresistible.

A Man Called Ove is probably the loveliest and the most heart-warming story I’ve ever read. It’s a slow-burner, each chapter slowly describes Ove’s past and present. A series of comical and heart-warming events happen, which kept me laughing and smiling. Little by little, we are provided glimpses of Ove’s past, experiencing the love he has for his deceased wife and the events that shaped him into the man he became. Little did I know that after I finish this book I would end up crying for half an hour. This story highlights the power of living and the importance of human relationships and it’s a must read for everyone! I can’t believe it took me so long to read it but now I will make sure I spread the word.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Jo Spain: Dirty Little Secret

Six neighbours, six secrets, six reasons to want Olive Collins dead.In the exclusive gated community of Withered Vale, people’s lives appear as perfect as their beautifully manicured lawns. Money, success, privilege – the residents have it all. Life is good.There’s just one problem. Olive Collins’ dead body has been rotting inside number four for the last three months. Her neighbours say they’re shocked at the discovery but nobody thought to check on her when she vanished from sight. The police start to ask questions and the seemingly flawless facade begins to crack. Because, when it comes to Olive’s neighbours, it seems each of them has something to hide, something to lose and everything to gain from her death.

There are nine narrators – the six neighbours mentioned above, Olive, Frank and Emma. Seems like a lot, but every POV was easily recognisable, essential to the plot, and added a fresh perspective to the overall picture. Intricate relationship issues, hidden quirks, affairs, possible criminal activity all in the mix as we learn more and more about what goes on behind closed doors. It’s written in such an engaging way that I just couldn’t stop reading it because I really wanted to know what happened to Olive and what those families were hiding. The ending was unexpected so that’s another plus! I haven’t read any Jo Spain novels before, but I’m so happy I have discovered her books and will deffinitely read more.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What I Read: July 2020

Taylor Jenkins Reid: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Regardless, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career. Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens Evelyn’s story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

I feel this book is or will be life changing for everyone who reads it. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read in my life and I think it should be on every “Books you must read before you die” list. This book is about race, sexuality, sexism and confronting social norms but first and foremost about the fact that life is too short, too short to pretend you are someone who you’re not. Evelyn Hugo might just be the most complex character I ever read about. You either love or hate most characters but not Evelyn. With Evelyn you do both with the same passion. No matter how many terrible decisions she made I still admired her because she knew what she wanted and had the guts to do whatever it took to get it. The book is sort of written from two POVs. It’s mostly carried by Evelyn’s, spanning throughout multiple decades following her from age fourteen until well after she retired. Monique’s chapters are more like a break between different stages of Evelyn’s life. I didn’t care as much for Monique as I feel she’s an undeveloped character. I just rushed through her chapters to keep reading about Evelyn. In conclusion, I could rave about this book for days but I’m going to stop here. Just read it!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Louise Candlish: Our House

When Fiona Lawson comes home to find strangers moving into her house, she’s sure there’s been a mistake. She and her estranged husband, Bram, have a modern co-parenting arrangement: bird’s nest custody, where each parent spends a few nights a week with their two sons at the prized family home to maintain stability for their children. But the system built to protect their family ends up putting them in terrible jeopardy. In a domino effect of crimes and misdemeanors, the nest comes tumbling down.Now Bram has disappeared and so have Fiona’s children. As events spiral well beyond her control, Fiona will discover just how many lies her husband was weaving and how little they truly knew each other. But Bram’s not the only one with things to hide, and some secrets are best kept to oneself, safe as houses.

I don’t remember the last time I suffered so much while reading a book! I just wanted it to finish. Unfortunately this book was very long, like 200 pages longer than it should be. First thing first, this shouldn’t be called a thriller, maybe a light domestic suspense? I understand some people like books like this but this is just not my cup of tea. It really hooked me at the beginning but then it didn’t go anywhere and just dragged on and on and on. Too many pointless conversations and irrelevant information. The only reason I continued reading this is because I don’t like leaving a book on DNT.

⭐️⭐️


J.S. Monroe: The Other You

Kate was a super recogniser working with the police, meaning she never forgot a face, picking criminals out of CCTV footage, until one night she had a car accident and suffered a brain injury. In the months since she has been working with a psychiatrist to try to get her former recognition skills back. Her new man Rob, who she met in the hospital while she was recuperating, has been nothing but supportive and loving. Plus he’s filthy rich! Then one day, when she’s on the mend, Rob comes home, except it isn’t Rob, but someone that’s his double…

As soon as I read the description I was intrigued! Essentially this is a psychological domestic thriller but I feel it’s much more than that. The story is original and creepy. I find the concept of doppelgänger’s and doubles quite unique. I enjoyed reading about super recognisers and facial recognition and the technology behind it. I was so invested that I actually googled the term super recognisers and found the test to find out if I could maybe be one of those. Guess what? I passed! so maybe this book will be life changing for me? Moving on! The Other You is written from three points of view-Kate’s, her ex Jake and her former boss’s Silas Hart. There was plenty of action and the descriptions of the places were engaging. I especially enjoyed that half of the book was set in beautiful Cornwall! The storyline had twists and turns and kept me guessing until end. The only thing I didn’t like is the side plot about detective Silas and his son Connor. I felt it was useless for the plot. Also it’s quite a long book and I feel it would be shorter if the detective and Jake compared notes a bit more. Otherwise I would recommend this as it’s well-written and impressively researched with the science and technology and a clever twist at the end. J.S. Monroe is an author I intend to read more of!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Clare Pooley: The Authenticity Project

“Everybody lies about their lives. What would happen if you shared the truth?” This is the question that Julian Jessop, an eccentric, seventy-nine-year-old artist, poses within a pale green exercise book that he labels The Authenticity Project, before leaving it behind in Monica’s Café. When Monica discovers Julian’s abandoned notebook, not only does she add her own story to the book, she is determined to find a way to help Julian feel less lonely. And so it goes with the others who find the green notebook that will soon contain their deepest selves. It will also knit the group together In Real Life at Monica’s Cafe, where they’ll discover the thrill and sometime-risk of being completely honest–and, for some, find unexpected love. 

This is such a charming, uplifting, feel good, thought-provoking and often relatable book that I needed right now. The characters are quirky and easy to relate to and the concept is really unique.  It’s the classic ‘grass is always greener on the other side’ story, it shows how misleading appearances can be and the effect that each person can have on each other. Actions can have a larger impact than what anyone may expect. If you are looking for a book that will make you smile from start to finish, and possibly cause you to shed some happy tears along the way…then look no further!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Romy Hausmann: Dear Child

In a windowless shack in the woods, Lena’s life and that of her two children follows the rules set by their captor, the father: Meals, bathroom visits, study time are strictly scheduled and meticulously observed. He protects his family from the dangers lurking in the outside world and makes sure that his children will always have a mother to look after them. One day Lena manages to flee–but the nightmare continues. It seems as if her tormentor wants to get back what belongs to him. And then there is the question whether she really is the woman called “Lena,” who disappeared without a trace 14 years ago. The police and Lena’s family are all desperately trying to piece together a puzzle which doesn’t quite seem to fit. 

What a page-turner! I just couldn’t read this book fast enough! This is the first German thriller I’ve read so I wasn’t sure what to expect but it was everything I could’ve hoped for. It’s dark, tense and intriguing ,with a twist I didn’t see coming. The events are told from three points of view: Lena/Jasmin, Lana’s daughter Hannah and Lena’s father Matthias, who has never given up looking for her, as the police try to unravel the story and identify the abductor. All three have secrets and no one is telling the truth, least of all Hannah who is a very strange little girl. The victims of this tragic case all have very different reactions to the trauma, and demonstrate that there isn’t one way to try to ‘get over’ something like this. At times I got frustrated with every single one of them but of course, I’ve never been in their position. I would love to see this book made into a movie! I don’t want to give much else anyway, but can just say that this is a really intriguing, exciting debut from Romy Hausmann and I’m really excited to read more by her in the future.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Heather Morris: The Tattooist of Auschwitz

In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

I’ve been keeping this book on my TBR pile because I wanted to be in the right state of mind to read it. After all, it was a story about Auschwitz and I’m always a bit reluctant to read about that. That being said, Lale’s story is definitely one that needed to be told and to remember. His bravery, the risk he took, the will he had to help others and the way he survived and found love in one of the worst concertration camps. For such a beautiful story I feel a bit heartless for giving only 4 starts but I didn’t like the writing and the way the story was told. Heather Morris is a screenwriter and that’s visible in her writing. There is no build up, atmosphere, prose…it’s just “he did this and then he did this..”. There was no depth in any other characters except Lale. I feel this book is missing another 200 pages just to add more emotion. But I do love how at the end of the book the author lets the reader know what happened to some of the main people in this novel. Overall, I would recommend this book as there is so many valuable lessons on what it means to be human, how far one would go to survive, how love can be found anywhere, and most importantly, the power of hope. 

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

What I Read: June 2020

Delia Owens: Where the Crawdads Sing

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

What a book! Beautifully written, and stunningly descriptive! This book is set in two different timelines. In the first, from 1952, we follow Kya’s life from the age of five. The other is set in present day 1969, where Chase Andrews’ death is being investigated. Even though the beginning was very slow, boring at times and hard to get used to the language, I couldn’t stop reading it, even though I don’t really read these kinds of books! I was left feeling very sad for Kya, first her mother leaves, then her siblings and even her awful father. Left on her own by the entire town, she survives without schooling or any aid. I got so emotionally invested that I really hoped through the whole book she would have a happy ending. The marsh is a character on its own. The way Owens writes about nature is very poetic and it transports you in time to the marshes of North Carolina. This book is a love letter to nature, but it is also a beautiful story about surviving and about what you can accomplish when people believe in you. At the same time, it’s a story which causes us to examine our prejudices against those who are different from us and It’s also a story about the beauty of human relationships, and how much they give us, even through the simplest of interactions. I could write forever about it but all in all it’s thought provoking, and emotional and so different from anything I’ve ever read before. I highly recommend it!

5/5

Laura Jane Williams: Our Stop

Nadia gets the 7.30 train every morning without fail. Well, except if she oversleeps or wakes up at her friend Emma’s after too much wine. Daniel really does get the 7.30 train every morning, which is easy because he hasn’t been able to sleep properly since his dad died. One morning, Nadia’s eye catches sight of a post in the daily paper: “To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime? So begins a not-quite-romance of near-misses, true love, and the power of the written word.

Our Stop is a light, sweet and funny rom-com, a perfect summer read. The idea was sweet but by the end, I got annoyed with the amount of times they missed each other. If I’m honest I think this happened a few too many times and it made the book a bit predictable. I found myself getting a bit frustrated with it. I liked Daniel’s character but I couldn’t understand Nadia at times. Even though it was constantly pointed out how Nadia is smart, her decisions were questionable at times and her life is in such a mess that she can’t even take a 7:30 train for two days in a row (another frustrating thing). I ended up skimming some pages because I just wanted them to finally meet.

Overall, I loved the city aura and the cute meet moment. I really liked the characters and idea behind the story, but the repetitiveness and constant missed opportunities started to take away from the romance.

3/5

Mark Edwards: The House Guest

When British twenty-somethings Ruth and Adam are offered the chance to spend the summer housesitting in New York, they can’t say no. Young, in love and on the cusp of professional success, they feel as if luck is finally on their side. So the moment that Eden turns up on the doorstep, drenched from a summer storm, it seems only right to share a bit of that good fortune. Beautiful and charismatic, Eden claims to be a friend of the homeowners, who told her she could stay whenever she was in New York. They know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers—let alone invite them into your home—but after all, Eden’s only a stranger until they get to know her. As suspicions creep in that Eden may not be who she claims to be, they begin to wonder if they’ve made a terrible mistake…

I have read all books by Mark Edwards but I’m sorry to say this one is somewhere in the bottom half. Although this story is written in Edwards’ speedy, fun, action-packed style which I love, the plot simply didn’t hold my interest. Initially, as events occurred following Eden’s stay at the house, the plot was quite intriguing but once the explanation was revealed, it fell a bit flat. It was just a bit unbelievable I actually can’t say much more than that, for fear of giving away spoilers, but the direction the story took was very meh for me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this book is bad, I loved the New York setting and the pace was great but it’s just not up to Mark Edwards usual standards.

3/5

Candice Carty-Williams: Queenie

Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth. As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.

This book is advertised as a modern day Bridget Jones. Nothing could be further from the truth. Don’t expect romance and comedy. Instead you will get very difficult story of a young Jamaican British woman who is going through a difficult period in her life and completely self-destructing. The first half of the book really got on my nerves, as it was a never-ending series of bad decisions and their consequences. But the second half, when Queenie finally, finally starts getting her shit together and puts her life back on track, was definitely better. This book is hard to read at times because it explores topics such as racism, anxiety, mental health, domestic violence, gentrification, sexualisation of the black body, consent, miscarriages, childhood trauma, sexual harrassment and so much more, so be prepared.

3/5

Alice Feeney: His & Hers

Anna Andrews finally has what she wants. Almost. She’s worked hard to become the main TV presenter of the BBC’s lunchtime news, putting work before friends, family, and her now ex-husband. So, when someone threatens to take her dream job away, she’ll do almost anything to keep it. When asked to cover a murder in Blackdown―the sleepy countryside village where she grew up―Anna is reluctant to go. But when the victim turns out to be one of her childhood friends, she can’t leave. It soon becomes clear that Anna isn’t just covering the story, she’s at the heart of it. DCI Jack Harper left London for a reason, but never thought he’d end up working in a place like Blackdown. When the body of a young woman is discovered, Jack decides not to tell anyone that he knew the victim, until he begins to realise he is a suspect in his own murder investigation. One of them knows more than they are letting on. Someone isn’t telling the truth.

I read Sometimes I Lie and I Know Who You Are by the same author but it was just an average read so I I wasn’t even sure if I should even read this one. But my mind was blown! This was much more twisted than I was expecting. This book is full of everything you love to hate, unreliable narrators, unlikeable characters with messy pasts and creepy woods. I was second guessing everything the whole way through as the story unravelled. Just when I thought I had everything figured another twist would take me in a new direction. Alice Feeney cleverly overlaps the narrators own versions of the truth, weaving them together and slowly revealing the full story to the reader chapter by chapter.  I read so many psychological thrillers so you’d think I would be able to work it out… not this time. Overall, I loved this book and cannot recommend it highly enough. I’m sure it will be in my top 10 thrillers in 2020.

5/5

Christy Lefteri: The Beekeeper of Aleppo

Nuri is a beekeeper; his wife, Afra, an artist. They live a simple life, rich in family and friends, in the beautiful Syrian city of Aleppo–until the unthinkable happens. When all they care for is destroyed by war, they are forced to escape. But what Afra has seen is so terrible she has gone blind, and so they must embark on a perilous journey through Turkey and Greece towards an uncertain future in Britain. On the way, Nuri is sustained by the knowledge that waiting for them is Mustafa, his cousin and business partner, who has started an apiary and is teaching fellow refugees in Yorkshire to keep bees.As Nuri and Afra travel through a broken world, they must confront not only the pain of their own unspeakable loss, but dangers that would overwhelm the bravest of souls. Above all, they must journey to find each other again.

The Beekeeper of Aleppo gives names and faces to the people we see on the TV as a Syrian refugees. People who were living their lives, working their jobs, raising their families, and enjoying everyday home life until the war and fighting killed their friends, neighbors, and family. From its first pages, this book will hit you hard. And even though it’s a fiction, it’s realistic, Lefteri knows what she’s writing about. She worked as a volunteer at a refugee center in Athens for two years. The story is not about war, but rather the effects of war on the mind and body. It contains disturbing content, and I would recommend reading this while in a good state of mind. It’s a very thought provoking, heartbreaking, beautifully written book that everyone needs to read.

5/5