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

What I Read: May 2020

Alex North: The Whisper Man

After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank. But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night. Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man. And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…

So I kept this book on my TBR list for such a long time because I kind of stopped loving serial killer books. They can be too dark and upsetting and in the current world situation I felt like I didn’t need a book like this. But I loved it! It was a bit slow at the beginning but somewhere towards the middle I was hooked and ended up finishing it in one sitting! This is a dark, suspenseful and at times creepy thriller. On the surface this is just another serial killer book but I liked how North explored the real psychology behind each of the characters’ behaviors and also portrayed the relationship between father and son which is not often done in fiction books. This is also the first book I’ve read that is very masculine, with a few female characters but still there was no typical alpha male in it which was surprising and welcome. Instead the male characters were vulnerable and flawed. Overall I loved this authors debut novel and I’m looking forward to his next book!

4.5/5

John Marrs: What Lies Between Us

They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

When I finished this book my first thought was: What the hell did I just read?! There are so many twists that I didn’t see coming. Dark and intriguing, the story explores the unusual mother-daughter relationship between Maggie and Nina, moving back-and-forth in time from when Nina was a defiant teenager to now as a 38-year old keeping her mother locked in as a permanent prisoner in the attic of their house. It’s really hard to know who was the crazier of the two and the more you know the worse it gets! Once I started reading it I could’t put it down. I won’t say much more because there are spoilers everywhere but I highly recommend it especially if you are as big a fan of John Marrs as I am.

5/5

Rachel Abbott: The Murder Game( Stephanie King #2)

The first time Jemma and Matt were invited to Polskirrin – the imposing ocean-view home belonging to Matt’s childhood friend Lucas Jarrett – it was for an intimate wedding that ended in tragedy. Jemma will never forget the sight of the girl’s pale body floating listlessly towards the rocky shore. Now, exactly one year later, Jemma and her husband have reluctantly returned at Lucas’s request to honor the anniversary of an event they would do anything to forget. But what Lucas has in store for his guests is nothing like a candlelight vigil. Someone who was there that night remembers more than they’ll admit to, and Lucas has devised a little game to make them tell the truth.Jemma believes she and Matt know nothing about what happened to that woman… but what if she’s wrong? Before you play a deadly game, make sure you can pay the price…

This is the second book in a series (you don’t have to read the first to understand the plot) and I loved it even more than the first! Recently I’ve gotten into a habit of reading books with an Agatha Christie vibe and this book is definitely the best one I’ve read. The Murder Game is cleverly split up into two parts. Part one deals with the events that happened a year ago, while part two deals with the present. The story is mostly told through the eyes of Jemma. Like the reader, Jemma doesn’t know the other characters that well and through her you need to find the clues. Most of the characters aren’t particularly likeable, nor should they be because that just adds to the mystery aspect. Even though I was suspicious from the beginning about one of the twists, it didn’t take away the suspense. It is incredibly well-paced, full of suspense and intrigue, completely immersive and addictive.

Kristin Hannah: The Nightingale

FRANCE, 1939. In the quiet village of Carriveau, Vianne Mauriac says goodbye to her husband, Antoine, as he heads for the Front. She doesn’t believe that the Nazis will invade France…but invade they do. When a German captain requisitions Vianne’s home, she and her daughter must live with the enemy or lose everything. Without food or money or hope, as danger escalates all around them, she is forced to make one impossible choice after another to keep her family alive.Vianne’s sister, Isabelle, is a rebellious eighteen-year-old girl, searching for purpose with all the reckless passion of youth. While thousands of Parisians march into the unknown terrors of war, she meets Gäetan, a partisan who believes the French can fight the Nazis from within France, and she falls in love as only the young can…completely. But when he betrays her, Isabelle joins the Resistance and never looks back, risking her life time and again to save others.

This is probably my favourite book ever. I absolutely adored it! I don’t think I can even find the right words to describe how much it moved me. As a person who doesn’t cry very easily, especially not over fiction, this book left me in pieces. It’s about women in wartime, and it’s an interesting, moving portrait of the Nazi occupation of France and what this meant for all the wives, daughters and widows left behind. We’re told in the book that men always assume war is about them – it’s true – so this is the untold story of the home front. You know that feeling when a book is so absorbing that you just want to cancel all your plans so you can keep reading it… and even when you can’t read it, you’re thinking about it? That was me with this book! Once I started reading, I could’t put it down until the last page. This was one of the most powerful stories I’ve read. So long story short, if you love WWII stories or even if you don’t, read this. I’m sure I will be encouraging everyone I know to read it!

5/5

Riley Sager: The Last Time I Lied

It all began at Camp Nightingale 15 years ago when three girls disappeared from Dogwood cabin. Emma, the youngest of the four girls in the cabin was the only one left. She is deeply affected by the disappearance of her friends and is haunted by the girls throughout her life. Emma is unable to come to terms with the terrible tragedy because they never fully learned what happened to the girls that summer night.  Flash forward 15 years and Camp Nightingale is once again opening its doors to campers. When Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends. Yet it’s immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

This is the second Sager’s book I’ve read and I have to say his stories are extremely detailed, twisty and atmospheric. Even though a huge part of the book was very gripping, the beginning was very slow and I have to admit I ended up skipping some paragraphs. There were also too many characters and I didn’t care about some of them. But when the pace finally picked up I could’t put it down. The story was a little dark but it wasn’t graphic. It is a thriller with a little bit of horror thrown in. There are lots of twists and turns and it kept me guessing and guessing, and the ending just shocked me.  When you read as many thriller and mystery books as I have, you usually figure out most of the stuff that is going to happen but this time I was way off.

4/5

Mike Gayle: Half a World Away

Kerry Hayes is single mum, living on a tough south London estate. She provides for her son by cleaning houses she could never hope to afford. Taken into care as a child, Kerry cannot ever forget her past.Noah Martineau is a successful barrister with a beautiful wife, daughter and home in fashionable Primrose Hill. Adopted as a child, Noah always looks forward, never back.When Kerry reaches out to the sibling she lost on the day they were torn apart as children, she sets in motion a chain of events that will have life-changing consequences for them both.

I’m not really sure how to review this book. I feel the blurb is misleading. And if I knew this book was actually about cancer I wouldn’t pick it up no matter how well it was written. It is a sweet story about siblings who find each other after 30+ years. But it’s also so sad that it made me feel exhausted by the end. Also as you read you will guess where the story goes, it’s predictable and the conversations are a bit cringy at times. There was also a lot more text than dialogue, which put me off a bit. I ended up skimming the text quite a bit. I gave it 3 stars because it moved me and made my eyes teary at the end, otherwise it would probably be a 2.

3/5

S.K. Tremayne: The Assistant

Newly divorced Jo is delighted to move into her best friend’s spare room almost rent-free. The high-tech luxury Camden flat is managed by a meticulous Home Assistant, called Electra, that takes care of the heating, the lights – and sometimes Jo even turns to her for company. Until, late one night, Electra says one sentence that rips Jo’s fragile world in two: ‘I know what you did.’ And Jo is horrified. Because in her past she did do something terrible. Something unforgivable. Only two other people in the whole world know Jo’s secret. And they would never tell anyone. Would they? As a fierce winter brings London to a standstill, Jo begins to understand that the Assistant on the shelf doesn’t just want to control Jo; it wants to destroy her.

I really wanted to love this book but it just didn’t make any sense. There were so many good things, a frightening plot, dark and creepy setting and great red herring (I didn’t figure out who the bad guy was). On the other hand the story was slow and repetitive, at times even rambling and Jo’s actions were annoying and inexplicable, so much so that I rolled my eyes a few times . It was constantly repeated how Jo was very smart but I couldn’t see it. That being said, I love how the story was current, showing us how easy is to be hacked through social media, emails and if you have an Alexa by Amazon or any other home assistant you might end up throwing it away after this book.

3.5/5

Claire McGowan: The Other Wife

Suzi did a bad thing. She’s paying for it now, pregnant, scared, and living in an isolated cottage with her jealous husband, Nick.When Nora moves into the only house nearby, Suzi is delighted to have a friend. So much so that she’s almost tempted to tell Nora her terrible secret. But there’s more to Nora than meets the eye. It’s impossible—does she already know what Suzi did? Meanwhile, Elle spends her days in her perfect home, fixated on keeping up appearances. But when her husband betrays her, it unravels a secret going all the way back to her childhood. She’ll do whatever it takes to hold on to him, even if that means murder. After all, she’s done it before…Caught up in their own secrets and lies, these strangers will soon realise they have more in common than they could ever have imagined. When a shocking event brings them together, their lives will never be the same again.

This is one of those addictive thrillers that you just can’t put down. The pace is slow and alternates between different viewpoints, Suzi, Nora and Elle in the past and present. At times I just wanted to shake all of them and say: What is wrong with you?! So don’t expect any likeable characters here! But that didn’t ruin the book for me. The story was smart, well written, kept me guessing and it wasn’t as predictable as I thought. It was full of twists and turns, some I saw coming, but others I didn’t and I’m happy it surprised me. I will definitely read more in future by this author. 

4/5

What I Read: April 2020

Rebecca Serle: In Five Years

After nailing her interview and accepting her boyfriend’s marriage proposal on the same day, type-A Manhattan lawyer Dannie Cohan goes to sleep knowing she is right on track to achieve her five-year plan. But when she wakes up, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. The television news is on in the background, and she can just make out the scrolling date. It’s the same night—December 15—but 2025, five years in the future.After a very intense, shocking hour, Dannie wakes again, back in 2020. She can’t shake what has happened. It certainly felt much more than a dream, but she isn’t the kind of person who believes in visions. That nonsense is only charming coming from free-spirited types, like her lifelong best friend, Bella. Determined to ignore the odd experience, she files it away in the back of her mind.That is, until four-and-a-half years later, when by chance Dannie meets the very same man from her long-ago vision.

I picked this book up because I expected something light and fluffy and I can now say that this book is most definitely not that. I would not categorise this as a romance, maybe women’s fiction but on the more sentimental side so expect tears. If I knew the real theme of this book at the time I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. But in the end I actually quite liked that this book was not what I was expecting because it’s rare that i’m ever surprised this much by a book. The thing I enjoyed the most about this book was the friendship between Dannie and her childhood best friend Bella and this story really centred around that friendship. I also love that this book takes place in New York and features a lot of my favourite areas in the city like Rockefeller, Dumbo, Brooklyn bridge, Washington Square and so many more! The New York vibes were really great. I would probably have given it five stars but I just couldn’t connect with the main character Dannie and the ending was a bit random and inconclusive.

4/5

Rachel Abbott: Right Behind You

Imagine the scene. You’ve just enjoyed a lovely dinner with family when you get a knock at the door. Two police officers, wanting to take your partner in for questioning. Two more people saying that they need to speak to your young daughter about alleged abuse. Traumatic enough right? Well imagine that this is the last you see of them and your partner and your daughter are now missing. This is exactly what happens to our protagonist Jo whose entire world is torn apart in one single night. So who do you turn to when you don’t know what has happened or if you can even trust the police?

Usually everything that Rachel Abbott writes is 4 or 5 stars for me as she’s one of my favourite thriller writers but this one lacked something. I believe that even fiction needs to be believable on some level to be good but there are parts of this story that were too unbelievable, particularly the end. Without revealing too much, I enjoyed the story until a certain point.  It had great potential and introduced enough characters for me to start questioning their motives, the mystery element kept me turning page after page, and I was surprised by who the criminal turned out to be but towards the end everything just became too far fetched.

3/5

Riley Sager: Lock Every Door

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story—until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

This is the first Riley Sager book I’ve read and I’ve already ordered the next one! I loved it but I understand it’s not for everyone. It has a dark, creepy, gothic feel and it is a slow burn. It gives you plenty of time to think, analyze, and be wrong about what’s going to happen next. I found it exciting and original with lots of twists and turns. The very last twist? I had no idea THAT would happen! I also loved the setting, The Bartholomew is such a presence in Lock Every Door that it became a character. There was the feeling that perhaps the residents weren’t controlling the building, and perhaps the building was controlling them. I loved it! I’m not going to go into anymore details though as I don’t want to spoil it.

5/5

Beth O’Learly: The Switch

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?

After reading The FlatShare last month by the same author I rushed out to pre-order this book. And it didn’t disappoint. This is exactly the kind of sweet content everyone needs in their lives right now. I loved O’Leary’s style of writing and I fell in love with both, Leena and Eileen. I honestly thought I would have enjoyed Leena’s chapters best, but they were both as charming. Eileen is so brutally honest that it made me laugh out loud. On the other hand, it was nice watching Leena learn how to love herself again. The portrayal of life in Britain is just perfect! I laughed constantly through Eileen’s first days in London, because it was just so accurate. If you weren’t born in London how people behave on a daily basis can be a massive shock, and this was just captured so perfectly. Similarly the life in little villages, and how little details become huge parts of your life. Light in tone for the most part, but like The Flatshare, does incorporate serious topics such as grief, loss, loneliness, domestic abuse, mental illness, unhealthy coping strategies, and cheating. I just have so much love for both books that I will probably force everyone I know to read them!

5/5

Harriet Tyce: Blood Orange

Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise – she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle. Alison’s client doesn’t deny that she stabbed her husband – she wants to plead guilty. And yet something about her story is deeply amiss. Saving this woman may be the first step to Alison saving herself. But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything….

This was one of those books that I couldn’t put down because of its fast pace. I finished it in 2 days after hearing some great reviews online. But… I didn’t think it was one of the best thrillers I’ve read. I thought it had potential at the beginning but something went wrong half way through. Alison is most definitely an unlikable protagonist. I had a hard time buying her as a lawyer. She’s a train wreck – but like an accident, it was hard not to look and wonder what was going to happen next. Her husband and her lover are no better, but even though I found the characters unsettling, I kept reading as I wanted to see what the promised twists might be. I was surprised even though I was suspicious about a certain character straight away which proved to be correct, but not in a way I expected. So I gave this half a point extra for that. Interestingly, I found the case that Alison was working on – a domestic murder trial – more gripping than the actual plot but I also think this book could’ve been written without that case being mentioned. With themes of alcoholism, infidelity, gas lighting, emotional abuse and rape present throughout, it makes for a heavy read that some readers may find triggering. Gentle readers, this may not be one for you.

3.5/5

Christina Lauren: Unhoneymooners

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.

So the plot sounds a bit ludicrous but I’m always willing to lower my believability standards a bit when it comes to romance novels. If you’ve ever watched a classic Hollywood rom-com, this is the same thing just in the form of a book! It was funny, cheesy, predictable and overly dramatic. Every single cliche you can imagine was in this book but… I liked it. I chose it because I expected it to be like that, a light funny read and I laughed and turned pages and finished it in two days so it was a success.

I really liked Olive as a female lead character. She felt normal and relatable. Sometimes writers go to the extremes and make the characters either so perfect or have them be so unbelievably messy you question how they can even function. Olive just struck the right chord and I enjoyed the banter back and forth between her and Ethan.

All in all, the perfect summer read!

4/5

What I Read: February & March 2020

Beth O’Leary: The Flat Share

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time. 
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window… 

I can’t believe I enjoyed this book so much that it will go on my favourite book ever shelf! It’s a romance book! Who am I? I don’t even recognise myself any more. The best kinds of books are those that surprise you with their perfection. I was expecting this to be a cheesy light read. It was and it wasn’t. The characters were more complex than I had expected and so was the plot.  This was an adorable fluffy chick-lit book that also deals with some heavy material like emotional abuse, gaslighting, and stalking. The book is told from the alternating perspectives of Leon and Tiffy, as they get to know each other by sharing their thoughts on those sticky “post it“ notes, (fun to read!) and by leaving food for one another! If you are looking for a romance book which will make you smile, laugh, and root for the characters to get their “happily ever after” endings, I recommend you add this one to your list.

5/5

C.J. Tudor: The Other People

Driving home one night, stuck behind a rusty old car, Gabe sees a little girl’s face appear in the rear window. She mouths one word: ‘Daddy.’ It’s his five-year-old daughter, Izzy. He never sees her again. Three years later, Gabe spends his days and nights travelling up and down the motorway, searching for the car that took his daughter, refusing to give up hope, even though most people believe that Izzy is dead. Fran and her daughter, Alice, also put in a lot of miles on the motorway. Not searching. But running. Trying to keep one step ahead of the people who want to hurt them. Because Fran knows the truth. She knows what really happened to Gabe’s daughter. Then, the car that Gabe saw driving away that night is found, in a lake, with a body inside and Gabe is forced to confront events, not just from the night his daughter disappeared, but from far deeper in his past.His search leads him to a group called The Other People.

The plot, although not complex, is too complicated to explain. There are multiple threads, voices, and timelines, but all are seamlessly woven together. There are lots of characters to keep track of in the beginning, but hang in there and you will be rewarded with a great story. Part ominous fairy tale with some paranormal elements, part mystery, part thriller, I wasn’t sure where the plot will take me but C.J. Tudor delivered once again with a gripping, thrilling, dark and creepy book that just keeps you hooked from beginning till end. The storyline is full of unexpected twists and turns that was so cleverly plotted that totally sucked me right in. The only reason I didn’t give it five stars is because of the supernatural bit at the end, even though it made sense and fits into the story, it’s just my personal preference.

4.5/5

Celeste Ng: Little Fires Everywhere

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the alluring mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.When the Richardsons’ friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town and puts Mia and Mrs. Richardson on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Mrs. Richardson becomes determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs to her own family – and Mia’s. 

You should start this book expecting what it is; slow-moving, lots of character portraiting, complex family dynamics and small-town politics. There’s several stories going on in here, but the book begins with literal fires lighting up the Richardson household and the knowledge that the youngest daughter, Izzy, the wild card, has disappeared. Presumably because she is guilty. Then we move back from there. We start to get a portrait of the events leading up to this dramatic fire. Further back, we get the past stories of almost every character who comes into this book. I love how this book explores so many themes – such as motherhood, race, friendship, community, children-each one a little fire that slowly burned into an explosion. I didn’t think I would enjoy this type of book because I usually don’t but they way Celeste wrote this really kept me invested until the end. The only thing I didn’t like was the ending but mainly because I expected something else, maybe a more happy ending?

4.5/5

Lesley Kara: The Rumour

When single mum Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another and now there’s no going back . . .Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realizes what it is she’s unleashed?

It is one of those novels that makes you suspect everybody and shows us how an innocent rumour can cause so much pain. There were a lot of characters so I did get a bit confused trying to remember who they all were. Also I couldn’t really connect with any of them. I have to admit, the story was a bit rocky, it went fast through some pages and slowed a bit in some but on the other hand there were plenty of twists and red herrings. The book was more like a thriller and a drama rolled into one which definitely made it better. The best thing about it was that I didn’t see the ending coming. I suspected everyone of being the child killer, everyone that is except the person who it actually was. And the author didn’t stop there, she had one final surprise that left me with my jaw dropped! However, I wouldn’t put it on my shelf of 5-star books, as I didn’t get those nail biting moments but I will definitely follow Lesley Kara in the future.

3.5/5

Peter Swanson: Rules for Perfect Murders

(US)Eight Perfect Murders

Books are time travel. True readers all know this. But books dont just take you back to the time in which they were written; they can take you back to different versions of yourself. 

Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack—which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders”—chosen from among the best of the best. But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookshop in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller. The killer is out there, watching his every move—a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal’s personal history, especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife. To protect himself, Mal begins looking into possible suspects—and sees a killer in everyone around him. But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake. Suddenly, a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead—and the noose around Mal’s neck grows so tight he might never escape.

I have to say, I’m one of the biggest fans of Swanson’s writing since reading The Kind Worth Killing years ago, but I wasn’t impressed with this one. This one had a slightly different feel to it than the author’s previous novels. First, I think you should read all the books mentioned on the list before you start reading this one because there are some major spoilers about each of them. I felt like the in-depth discussion into these novels halted the flow and pacing of the actual story.  Also there was too much talk and not enough action for long stretches. Aside from this, I thought the final 50% was well done and I found myself glued to this book. Swanson pulls his trademark twists and turns, which is always a pleasant experience. Another positive thing is that I finally read a book a that doesn’t involve a missing child or unstable female and that actually it’s not as much about who and why they did the killings but about more about the narrator and the power that the narrator has.

3.5/5

Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen: You are Not Alone

Thirty-one-year-old Shay is a market researcher. From a very young age, Shay realized that numbers affected the way people saw each other. She then started keeping track of stats in data books (her version of a diary).  She’s single, recently lost her job and now lives with a roommate that she is secretly in love with and has to endure his girlfriends giggles in the next room making home the last place she wants to be. One day, while waiting for a train,Shay witnesses a young woman, Amanda, jump in front of an oncoming train. Shay is horrified and can’t stop thinking about the woman. She ends up going to a memorial for Amanda where she meets her friends, The Moore Sisters. Cassandra and Jane become very interested in Shay which flatters her. Shay is not in a great place in her life and the attention makes her feel good about herself again. But what do the sisters really want from Shay? And can she stay one step ahead of them.

I am a huge fan of Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. I loved their previous novels An Anonymous Girl and The Wife Between UsSo of course, this book was immediately added to my “to be read ASAP” list. And it didn’t disappoint.

The novel is told from multiple points of view and alternating past and present timelines. The story is divided into three parts, with each part serving a purpose. I enjoyed reading from Shay’s data book, the opening to each one of her chapters, where she writes down crazy stats, and makes her character more believable. The book is fast paced and intriguing with short chapters finishing with cliffhangers which makes it very hard to put down. This book played like a movie in my head. I could easily imagine the successful Moore sisters and lonely Shay in a big city like New York. Some parts of the book made me question everything I read. I changed my mind several times on who the evil person of this book was because nothing was as it seems. I really loved the twist at the end, and even though I was on the right track I wasn’t quite there.

The only thing I didn’t like and I still have hard times to believe is why Shay didn’t question the sisters’ motives more, because she’s such a rational and smart person. Towards the end I got so annoyed with her and the way she’s blinded by everything that sisters do. But I guess that could be explained with the fact that she met them at times when she was very vulnerable. Also, without giving any spoilers away, what happened to Daphne, the Moore sisters’ friend? Her story was important through the novel but she was left out from the ending.

Overall: It was a smart, exciting, riveting, entertaining page-turner. I had a great time and highly recommend this to the die-hard thriller and mystery fans.

4.5/5

10 Instagramable Places in Dubai

Downtown Palace

The driveway of this hotel is a great place to get a full-length photo of the Burj Khalifa both during the day and at night. You don’t need to stay here at The Address to be able to access this photo spot – anyone can access the driveway and you’ll often see the odd person shooting here. The biggest problem I had though was buses picking up guests of the hotel in the background so you might have to wait for a bit.

Burj Khalifa

As you know Burj is the tallest building in the world with its 163 floors. For the price of 149AED (£30) you can go up to the 124th and 125th floor. Double that money and you can go up to the 148th! But I heard there isn’t a big difference when it comes to the view. That view though… just amazing! You can see the whole city but my favourite was the view of the fountains. It looks so good in pictures. We went there at 9am and it was pretty easy to get in. Even though we paid for our tickets online we still had to collect them and that meant queueing up. As it was early it only took us 3 minutes but when we were coming down an hour later it had started to get very crowded so I would suggest going there as early as possible, especially if you want to take pictures.

Medina Jumeirah

Shallow and clear water canals are spread all around this beautiful resort. You don’t have to be a guest to visit the public areas which you can access from Souk Medina Jumeirah. Wander through the souk and then head outside and take a traditional Abra boat that will take you on a 20 minute cruise for around £20 (bit pricey right) where you can take pictures, have a mini tour and soak up this amazing resort. If you don’t want to go on the boat, you can just walk around or sit in one of the restaurants where you will get great views of the Burj al Arab. Be aware however, there is a security guard who won’t let you cross the bridge towards the Burj if you are not a guest. But more about that later.

Desert Safari

The desert is always a great place for amazing pictures but when you choose the right safari package things become unreal. There are many desert safaris and experiences you can choose from while in Dubai but I would suggest, in my opinion, the best one, which is Platinum Heritage. They are Dubai’s only eco desert safari, their Bedouin camps are built using natural wood and stone and nestled inside the privacy of a Royal desert retreat. They have vintage 1950s Land Rovers, camels, a falcon show, the possibility of an overnight stay and even balloon rides at sunrise! We were amazed by the whole afternoon and evening here. They arrange to pick you up from your hotel around lunchtime, take you to the desert where you start by going on a camel ride or ride on a vintage land rover (depending on what you have booked) where you end up at a sunset falcon show followed by a short trip to the camp where you have dinner and entertainment until approx 9pm. The price for the safari, which we did including a camel ride, was around £120 per person. Maybe it is a bit pricy but it was an unforgettable experience and we didn’t have to pay for anything else (except for the professional photos which were optional) whilst we were there.

The Pointe

This place is pretty new so it’s crowd free and it’s filled with shops and restaurants and has its own gorgeous beach with beanbags where you can relax and enjoy the view of the Atlantis at The Palm. If you didn’t know, you can’t access Atlantis’ Beach if you are not a guest so this spot is perfect for all the photos. The Pointe is located at The Palm and you have to get a taxi to get there.

Dubai Miracle Garden

Dubai Miracle Garden is a large park filled with flower sculptures. It is outside the of the city so I would suggest taking a taxi. The entrance fee is 55 AED or around £11. I would also suggest that you arrive early to avoid the crowd. We came at around 11 am and it was packed already.

Because Dubai is in desert and it’s hot the flowers can’t bloom and stay alive in the heat so the garden is closed during summer and it opens in November.

The wings of Mexico

Located in Downtown Dubai these wings created by Mexican artist Jorge Marín celebrate victory, dreams and human desire to fly – and make a great Instagram picture! You can get here from the Dubai Mall but it’s a long walk. It’s better to get a taxi to Downtown Palace or even better Yeldizlar restaurant, that way you will find it easier. Usually there is a queue to get the picture so try to get there early.

Burj al Arab

Burj al Arab is visible from Medina Jumeirah and you can take great pictures from the bridge at the entrance to the Medina Jumeirah Souk. You can also get close to it from Jumeirah Public Beach even though I would avoid that as it’s too crowded and looks like a building side when you see it up close. For me the best view is from Shimmers restaurant and a bar, which is part of Medina Jumeirah resort. You can get there through Souk Medina Jumeirah and you need to tell the guard at the bridge you are going there. This way you can also get a good photo from the bridge. You don’t have to book the lounge area but if you want to have a meal I suggest you book in advance because it gets busy.

La Mer

If you can’t live without snapping pictures at the beach, the La Mer Dubai is a place you should check out. It consists of four zones: The Beach, The Entertainment Hub, The North Island and The South Island. Each one of these zones have their own Insta-worthy spots. Just hit up its open beach with cute huts, its quirkily-designed cafes and restaurants, or one of its lanes filled with graffiti to spice up that Instagram account of yours.

Al Fahidi Historical District

Built in the early 1900s by merchants from the Persian town of Bastak, the Al Fahidi Historic District offers a contrast to the modern glassy buildings of downtown. Earthy-toned Arabian narrow alleys are such a relaxing place and mostly empty so perfect to take a photo in. We got here from Old Souk by taking an Abra boat for 2 AED across the Dubai Creek (you will need to pay cash for this so make sure you have some if you want to take the Abra). The easier way is just to take the metro to Al Fahidi station. While there you can visit Dubai Museum and if you need a break, make sure you visit Arabian Tea House which features traditional Arabian cuisine and drinks.

Dubai Mall and Fountains

This area is beautiful from above but also from the ground. Every night on the hour and half past the hour, from 6pm-11pm, the Dubai Singing Fountains put on a show for 5 minutes. A song is played, the Burj Khalifa is lit up, and the fountains ‘dance’ to the music, like the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas. If you want a great view of the fountain, show or not, go to the balcony of the Apple store (seen in the picture below).

There are lots of places inside the mall where you also can take photos, like the ice rink, The Human Waterfall which spans all four floors of the mall and you can even see a giant aquarium too! You can see all types of sealife here, from stingrays to fish to sharks – infact there are over 140 species of sea creatures in here.

Burj Park is on the other side of the fountains and usually less busy and with its dandelions installation perfect for a snap.

What I Read: January 2020

Caroline Corcoran: Through The Wall

An apartment block in London. The neighbours do not know each other but they see and hear everything. Lexie and Tom are going through a rough patch in their marriage. They are trying to have a baby but things have not been easy. Harriet is next door who is alone and miserable after her boyfriend left her. She knows everything about her neighbours, and she wants what Lexie has… at any cost.

The book is based on a concept: The grass is always greener on the other side. In the beginning it was slow and a little confusing but once you get through the first part it does pick up. It got me thinking how we live next to our neighbours/friends with this picture already formed in our head, on how their lives are and how the photos we post on social media don’t actually say anything about who we are and what are we going through.

I found that the characters could become annoying at times, especially if you haven’t been in the situations they have, as it is hard to understand their actions, so you have to take that into account. The chapters are told alternately between Harriet and Lexie and the story covers issues like obsession, lies, jealously, secrets, controlling behaviour, mental health issues, stalking and fertility issues. It’s not a classic thriller with the big twist at the end and you can see where it’s going but I really enjoyed the psychological side of the characters.

4/5

Kiley Reid: Such a Fun Age

Alix Chamberlain is the textbook well-meaning rich white woman: She has black friends. She’s read everything Toni Morrison wrote. She’s trying to land a gig with Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Emira Tucker is the 25-year-old black woman who babysits Alix’s two young daughters. She’s aimlessly trying to figure out her life—preferably before she turns 26 and loses her parents’ health insurance.One night when Emira is at a grocery store with Alix’s daughter, she’s confronted by a security guard who accuses her of kidnapping the young girl. A white man named Kelley films the incident, and he and Emira begin dating. Horrified that this happened to Emira, Alix resolves to make things right, but as it turns out, Kelley is someone from Alix’s past, and things start to get messy.

This book is very thought provoking and gives a look at issues of class, race and privilege.I felt this was very much a cautionary tale; we all must be aware of who the people around us are and what purpose they think we serve in their lives. The two major characters going for one another in this book are both perfectly happy to use Emira as their sword – both trying to prove something to each other and neither are concerned that their battle does not involve Emira in the slightest. I loved the way the book was paced. I didn’t want to put it down and it made me angry, sad and happy all at the same time. I liked the setup of the last chapter where the writer gave us a glimpse into the future. Alix and Emira are very different characters and even though I liked Emira, I really disliked Alix. However, two very strong female voices and message of the book is also very important so I would definitely recommend this book.

5/5

Ruth Ware: The Turn of The Key

When she stumbles across the ad, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like an opportunity too good to miss—a live-in nannying post, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan Caine arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten—by the luxurious “smart” home fitted out with all the modern conveniences by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family. What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare—one that will end with a child dead and herself in prison awaiting trial for murder. Now she’s in prison and she’s writing a letter to her lawyer, trying to explain what actually happened because even though she’s not innocent by any means, she’s definitely not guilty of murder.

I can’t remember the last time a book gave me chills. I was actually scared to read it at night when I was alone. The house is super creepy, every night thing keep happening, things that you could inteprert as supernatural but you know they are not so it makes it even more creepy. The fact I was a live in nanny made it even worse because I could imagine myself in the same situation. This story kept me on edge the whole time. I didn’t see some of the twists and the ending coming….it all caught me by surprise. The only thing I got annoyed about was the ending, I thought I was missing some pages. But overall, this book will definitely go my ‘Best’ bookshelf.

5/5

B A Paris: Dilemma

It’s Livia’s fortieth birthday and tonight she’s having a party, a party she’s been planning for a long time. The only person missing will be her daughter, Marnie. But Livia has a secret, a secret she’s been keeping from Adam, her husband, until the party is over. Because how can she tell him that although she loves Marnie, she’s glad their daughter won’t be there to celebrate with her? Adam is determined everything will be just right for Livia and the party is going to be perfect… until he learns something that will leave him facing an unbearable decision.

I loved the two previous books by B A Paris but I was a bit dissapointed with this one. The whole book is set over a period of 24 hours which seemed like ages for me. The characters become very irritating the more you read and I just couldn’t understand how and why they are not talking to each other. Liv was especially annoying just because I could’t understand this big need to replace the wedding she never had with her birthday party and making the whole day about her. Adam on the other hand was a frustrating character that I just wanted to shake until he wakes up. There is no mystery really, you find out after few chapters what’s Liv’s and what’s Adam’s secret and you just spend the rest of the book waiting for something to happen. Towards the end I just skim-read the pages because it was dragging so much, I found the whole thing painful.

2/5

Tim Weaver: Never Coming Back

Emily Kane arrives at her sister Carrie’s house to find the front door unlocked, dinner on the table, and the family nowhere to be found—Carrie, her husband, and two daughters have disappeared. When the police turn up no leads, Emily turns to her former boyfriend David Raker, a missing persons investigator, to track the family down. As Raker pursues the case, he discovers evidence of a sinister cover-up, decades in the making and with a long trail of bodies behind it.

This is the 4th David Raker book but it can be read as a standalone, even though I would recommend reading the 3rd one because otherwise the beginning and the relationship of the characters could be confusing. The story takes place in Devon and in Las Vegas. It initially starts in December 2007 in Las Vegas before quickly moving back to Devon and to November 2012. At first I found this very confusing and couldn’t understand how this brief chapter connected to the story. Stick with it though because the story that follows is a real rollercoaster of a read with twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. I had my doubts about the ending but on the whole I found this to be a tension filled read. Is it my favourite David Raker book?- definitely not! Is it worth the read?- definitely yes.

4/5

Lucy Foley: The Hunting Party

During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves. They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world. Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The narrative alternates between Miranda, the Queen Bee, Katie, Miranda’s quiet and less attractive friend, Emma, the mousey new girl trying so hard to fit in, Doug, the Gamekeeper hiding a dark secret, and Heather, the lodge manager who is running from a tragedy. In addition to switching POV’s, the narrative also shifts between the past and the present. It’s a lot to keep up with! I was a little confused in the beginning about why we were only seeing these characters and I think that this could have been more interesting having only one character narrate. That being said, it became apparent pretty early who was killed even though it was revealed at the end so I was only waiting to find out who is the killer. If I’m being honest, in some parts it was really boring and it took me long to finish. I expected a classic whodunit – Agatha Christie book but instead I got a book that was focused on an old friends drama and betrayal of the past.

3/5

What I Read: November and December 2019

Lucinda Berry: The Perfect Child

Christopher and Hannah are a happily married surgeon and nurse with picture-perfect lives. All that’s missing is a child. When Janie, an abandoned six-year-old, turns up at their hospital, Christopher forms an instant connection with her, and he convinces Hannah they should take her home as their own.But Janie is no ordinary child, and her damaged psyche proves to be more than her new parents were expecting. Unable to bond with Janie, Hannah is drowning under the pressure, and Christopher refuses to see Janie’s true nature.

This is one messed up book and Janie is one messed up child. You’d think that the more psychological thrillers you read, the less they will affect you. But actually, it doesn’t work like that. This book really disturbed me in some parts but still I couldn’t put it down. Probably the most disturbing part was the animal abuse bit and I think I should warn everyone who wants to read this book to be prepared . What I liked most was how wrong I was about everything. You think you know what will happen, who will die, and how they will die, but it turns out you have no detective skills because your assumptions are 5 km away from the truth.  The way the writer decided to end the book is an odd choice but I am satisfied and slightly impressed.

4/5

Sally Hepworth: The Mother in Law

When Lucy marries Ollie, she desperately wants to be accepted into his family, especially by his mother Diana, as Lucy lost her mother at an early age. But from day one, Diana appears reserved and distant. That was five years ago. Now, Diana has been found dead, with a suicide note near her body. Diana claims that she no longer wanted to live because of a battle with cancer. But the autopsy finds no cancer but does find traces of poison and suffocation. 


Who could possibly want Diana dead? 

This story is told from two points of view, mother-in-law Diana and daughter-in-law Lucy, filling in the blanks of Diana’s life and leading us to the circumstances surrounding her death. I felt this was a very good way to tell the story as you could really see how much misunderstanding there was between these two women. I was expecting more of a thriller but the story ended up having more of a domestic mystery vibe with a twist at the end so I can’t reveal much. I really enjoyed reading it and never saw the last piece of the puzzle until it was added.

4/5

Fiona Cummins: The Neighbour

On a hot July day, Garrick and Olivia Lockwood and their two children move into 25 The Avenue looking for a fresh start. They arrive in the midst of a media frenzy: they’d heard about the local murders in the press, but Garrick was certain the killer would be caught and it would all be over in no time. The neighbours seemed to be the very picture of community spirit. But everyone has secrets, and the residents in The Avenue are no exception.After six months on the case with no real leads, the most recent murder has turned DC Wildeve Stanton’s life upside down, and now she has her own motive for hunting down the killer.

Let me just say, I don’t want to ever live in a street like this. This street is full of people with dark secrets which makes you want to second guess your own neighbours. The first 20% of the book was all over the place, and I was feeling pretty frustrated, I just couldn’t get into it. But then things started coming together. Even though I liked the twist at the end(which I didn’t predict), I felt something was missing. Maybe the fact I couldn’t connect to any of the characters or confused with the way the killer was narrating his life. So many new characters were introduced, and instead of giving some sort of background on each, their chapters would start in the middle of one of their thoughts. But as I said, it all made sense at the end.

3.5/5

Tim Weaver: Vanished

For millions of Londoners, the morning of 16 December is just like any other. But not for Sam Wren. An hour after leaving home, he gets on a Tube train – and never gets off again. No witnesses. No trace of him on security cameras. Six months later, he’s still missing. Sam’s wife Julia hires David Raker to track him down. Raker has made a career out of finding the lost. Once David Raker starts looking into Sam’s case it becomes obvious to him that there are untold secrets that need to be discovered. He is sure that both Sam and Julia have secrets that are being kept well hidden and will need to be exposed if this case is to be solved.

This is the 3rd book in the David Raker series by author Tim Weaver. I accidentally read this series out of order, starting with the latest one and then going back but it didn’t ruin the enjoyment. And I enjoyed reading it so much that I finished it in two days! I loved the idea of just vanishing from the packed train, which is highly believable if that train is a London Tube (if you’ve ever used it, you will know no one is paying attention to anyone). This book has a very clever and original plot, and I personally enjoyed the amount of time spent in and around the London Underground, and it’s history. I love Weaver’s style of writing, how quickly the story pulls you in and keeps you turning the pages. I already have the next book in series waiting to be read because this one ended with a bit of a cliffhanger.

4.5/5

Mark Edwards: The Lucky Ones

After his wife leaves him for another man, Ben and his 11 year old son, Ollie, move from London to Shropshire to make a fresh start. With his personal life in shambles, Ben wonders if he made the right decision to move. Very slowly, Ben’s luck changes and good things start happening for him and Ollie. However, what Ben doesn’t realize is that the good luck he has been experiencing is not what it seems.  At the same time, a serial killer known as “The Viper” is creating a state of terror. After killing his victims, he manipulates their bodies in such a way that it seems like they died in a state of “bliss.” The killer believes that dying happy makes one “lucky.” This deranged individual targets his victims, makes their dreams come true, and then kills them. Without an obvious link between the victims, the police have little to go on to find the killer. Detective Inspector Imogen Evans is desperate to find The Viper before he strikes again.

I already read and reviewed a few books by Mark Edwards. What makes his books different and more interesting is his way of writing – he makes the characters in the book become real, his chapters are short and snappy and the plot is always very clever. The story alternates between Imogen, Ben and the killer and it’s a gripping page turner. So many times I thought I had worked out who it was only to change my mind and choose someone else. It’s one that will certainly mess with your head and a definite read for fans of psychological thrillers.

5/5

What I Read: October 2019

Rachel Abbott: Shape of Lies (DCI Tom Douglas,#8)

Anna is a woman with a secret past that she has done her best to cover up, and keep from her husband and children.
She is the successful head of a primary school, and all seems well until she hears a radio program mentioning someone called Scott who wants to talk about his past relationship with a girl called Spike, and Nebraska. But Scott is dead, Anna is sure of it, or is he?
This sends her into a panic, and in a series of flashbacks we begin to understand what happened in her first year at university.

Alongside her story, Tom and Becky and the team are investigating the discovery of a body in a car park, while Tom is also facing personal problems.

This is the 8th book in the DCI Tom Douglas series, but provides sufficient background information that this novel can be read as a stand-alone. I usually love her books but I could’t really put my finger on this one. I found Anna’s story very far-fetched, how could anyone be so naïve to get into the situation she did, and not call it a day very early on rather than getting in deeper and deeper?! Also too much Anna in this book and not enough Tom Douglas. I feel in this book he wasn’t even needed because finding the killer was more by chance than real police work. It is well written, suspenseful and kept me wanting to know more more more of these old secrets but I ended up being disappointed in the end.

3/5

John Marrs: When You Disappear

Married for 10 years with 3 children it may seem that Cathrine and Simone have the perfect marriage. But when Simon disappears without a trace Catherine realises she never actually knew him. Fast forward 25 years and Simon is back, determinate to sort things out between them. The two share with one another what happened over the course of their time apart and the secrets start to emerge…

But as they share more and more, nothing really happens! For me things moved too slowly and all I wanted to know was why Simon left?!I bought this book just because of the amazing reviews and the fact that two previous Marrs’ books that I read were so good! For me, this one was not as good and I was struggling to read it so much that in some parts I ended up skim reading it. The ending had a great twist so my mark would be much lower otherwise.

3/5

Mark Edwards: Here To Stay

Gemma Robinson comes into Elliot’s life like a whirlwind, and they marry and settle into his home. When she asks him if her parents can come to stay for a couple of weeks, he is keen to oblige – he just doesn’t quite know what he’s signing up for. The Robinsons arrive with Gemma’s sister, Chloe, a mysterious young woman who refuses to speak or leave her room. Elliot starts to suspect that the Robinsons are hiding a dark secret. And then there are the scars on his wife’s body that she won’t talk about . . . As Elliot’s in-laws become more comfortable in his home it becomes clear that they have no intention of moving out Elliot delves into the Robinsons’ past. But is he prepared for the truth?

There is something about Mark Edwards and his writing that I find intriguing, no matter the topic. I have read several of his books and I have to say they just get better and better. The story is claustrophobic, unsetteling and chilling. The houseguests from hell who at first are a nuisance but quickly turn into unstable and dangerous sent my stress levels through the roof. There are twists and turns, jump scares, and chapter cliffhangers culminating in a stunning, jaw-dropping conclusion, that I did predict, but made it no less impacting. Edwards will definitely remain the ‘auto-buy’ author for me.

5/5

Søren Sveistrup: The Chestnut Man

Set in Denmark, a psychotic serial killer is terrorising Copenhagen. His signature is the chestnut man- a doll made out of matchsticks and chestnuts- which he leaves next to the body. Examining the dolls, forensics make a shocking discovery- a fingerprint that belongs to a minister’s daughter kidnapped and murdered a year ago! An unlikely pair of detectives Thulin and Hess have to put aside their differences and piece together the gruesome clues left by the Chestnut man.

When I heard that the writer of the tv show ‘The Killing’ has published his first book I simply had to read it! Well, I can only say this debut will not have you dreaming of chestnuts roasting on the open fire anytime soon! Reading the book was like solving a puzzle, classic ‘Nordic Noir’ with a dark setting and complex characters. There are numerous twists, turns, cliffhangers and an unexpected ending! For me, that’s a sign of a good book.

Definitely not for the fainthearted but if you are fan of Scandinavian fiction or the TV show The Killing this one is for you!

5/5

What I Read: September 2019

Jojo Moyes: Still Me

In Still Me, Louisa keeps her promise to Will, her love from book one to say yes to new opportunities. This opportunity brings her from her home in England—and her hunky boyfriend the paramedic Sam—to New York City to be an assistant to a wealthy young wife of a wildly rich man. Louisa acts like something of an emotional bodyguard for Agnes against the society women who assumed she stole Leonard from his first wife because she was just after his money and citizenship (she’s from Poland). There are perks to her job, like going to charity balls in $3,000 dresses purchased by her employer, but it puts a huge strain on her relationship with Sam. Can they make the long-distance thing work, or is this going to be the end of them?

This is the 3rd book in the Me Before You series and I was pleasantly surprised. I am a huge fan of Louisa and her personality and I enjoyed the journey she took. First things first ‘Still Me’ is not ‘Me Before You’. Its not even close. There are a few situations that border on being cliches and the whole novel reads like a rom-com. But I did not care, not one bit. I can genuinely say I absolutely love this book. 

4/5

Alice Feeney: I Know Who You Are

Aimee is an up-and-coming movie starlet! Everything is falling into place for her…at least professionally. Her home life however, could use a little Hollywood magic. Her husband has grown distant as her star-power has risen, leaving him in the shadows. 

After a long day of shooting on the set, Aimee returns home to find her husband missing. His wallet, phone and shoes are still in the house the car is parked in the garage, and most disturbing of all, a bouquet of flowers on the table with a simple note that chillingly says, “Sorry”.

I read all of the comments about this book before starting it, and they were so bad that at one point I was just going to give up. But I managed to finish it and I have to say, most of the bad reviews are true. To be honest, the book is gripping, and I couldn’t stop reading it because I was curious as to what happened next but some things just didn’t make sense. I’m not going to say much so I don’t spoil the story but the fact Aimee kept going to work and acted like nothing was wrong while her husband was missing is just too stupid. Also the ending had the most ridiculous, unbelievable and revolting twist!

2.5/5

Greer Hendricks,Sarah Pekkanen: An Anonymous Girl

When Jessica signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money and leave. But as the questions grow more and more invasive, she begins to feel as though they know what she’s thinking . . . and what she’s hiding. As Jessica’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what is real in her life, and this is one of Dr Shields’s manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

I’ve enjoyed reading the authors’ breakout book The Wife Between Us (which is now being turned into a movie), so I was excited to read this one as well and in my opinion is even better than the first one. I wasn’t hooked from the beginning but once when I got into it I couldn’t stop reading. Until the very end I didn’t know who was good and who was bad and what their motives are. Chapters are short and alternate between Jessica’s and Dr Shields’ point of view, the story is very fast paced, full of twists and turns and it kept me glued for hours.

4/5

Shari Lapena: Someone We Know

Neighbourhood gossip and hidden secrets makes this an addictively gripping and thrilling story that was impossible to put down. 

In a quiet suburb where everyone knows everyone, there has been a string of break-ins. A teenager has been sneaking into houses and hacking into personal computers. Secrets are uncovered. Then a neighbour is found dead in the trunk of her car. Could the exposed secrets uncover who is responsible for the murder? Whose secrets will be revealed and whose will be kept hidden? Is anyone in the neighbourhood safe?

I have read and loved all of Shari Lapena’s, books. There is something about her writing that keeps me on the edge of my seat. A classic whodunit book where literally everyone is suspicious at one point and until the very last end, when you are absolutely sure the case is solved, you will be wrong. Well, at least I was!

4.5/5

Michelle Frances: The Daughter

Katie had her daughter Becky when she was a teenager and bought her up as a single mother. She has sacrificed a lot to give her the best start in life. Although life as a single mother is hard, the 2 of them are very close and Katie couldn’t be prouder of her daughter getting a position as a trainee journalist.

Without giving this amazing plot away, there is a terrible accident involving Becky, Katie’s life is changed forever and when she discovers what Becky’s undercover story is she carries on investigating even though she is going against dangerous people who do not want this becoming public.

The narrative moves between the present and the days leading up to Becky’s accident with the occasional flashback to Kate’s earlier life with Becky.While I don’t want to mention anything about Becky’s secret investigation in order to avoid spoilers, it does focus on an important subject. In the author’s end notes she outlines the real life issues that inspired this story.

I loved Michelle’s previous book The Girlfriend but this one wasn’t as amazing. I found the flashbacks a bit boring so I just skim-read it. I would probably give it a 4 otherwise because it was an intersting subject.

3.5/5


What I read: August 2019

So, as I am a big reader and don’t have anyone to share my opinions with about the books I read most of the time, i’ve decided to write a blog post on a monthly basis and give my honest opinion about each one.

The Silent Patient

Painter Alicia Berenson lives a seemingly a happy life with her photographer husband in a big house overlooking Hampstead Heath, until one night Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word. Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivation.

The book is narrated through Alicia’s diary before the murder and through Theo’s point of view. I don’t want to talk too much because I might spoil the big twist at end- and I mean it’s so big that I stopped and re-read the page. Nothing is as it seems in this novel. This story is complex and multi-layered with a labyrinth of characters, each playing their part in the development of the plot.

4.5/5

The Family Upstairs

25 years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old in her crib. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a suicide note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

There are three stories entwined in this book. First storyline is about Libby, she’s twenty five. She had been adopted and has now inherited a large family home from her birth parents. She’s about to learn some terrible events that led to her being adopted. Story two is about Lucy. She’s a single mother of two children who is trying to get back to Britain from France. She has no money and they are living on the streets. Story three is about Henry. It’s told twenty years ago. It tells what happened to his family when people started moving into his Chelsea Mansion.

There are 432 pages in this book and I finished it within two days. I read Lisa’s previous books and I have to say this one is my favourite. At the beginning the story line might seem confusing because there are different characters and timelines but once when you get going the story flows. This isn’t your average domestic thriller, or classic family drama… this is twisted, dark, emotionally disturbing, Netflix documentary level crazy! I can’t recommend it enough.

5/5

The Perfect Wife

Abbie wakes up without a memory of who she is, the man next to her claims to be her husband. He’s the owner of one of the biggest and innovative tech companies in Sillicon Valley. He says she had a terrible accident 5 years ago and he brought her back. She’s a miricle of science. But of course when her memories start to return, she starts to question his motives and his version of events.

Some of you probably remember The Girl Before success a few years ago. Everyone was reading it. That was the first book by J.P. Deleney so I naivly expected The Perfect Wife would be just as good. I got hooked and I read it very quickly because I expected something good to happen with some amazing twist…it was the biggest let down! The book is actually in my opinion complete science fiction where the main character is a robot (this is not a spoiler as it’s revealed in the first few pages) so it’s very hard to connect with her.

3/5

Everything is Lies

The lead character Sophia discovers her mother is dead and her father critically injured in what appears to be a murder, suicide. Sophia does not believe this to be the case and searches for the answers when she discovers her mother has finally written a book of her life. The story switches between present day and excerpts from Sophia’s mothers book which really adds to the suspense.

Despite some plot flaws the book was a real page turner with lots of twists. I’m not going to say much more, except that this book did take me by surprise and I felt everything from being annoyed, to feeling sad, and that kind of fear where you know something bad is going to happen but you can’t take your eyes off of what is going on.

4/5

The One

A simple DNA test is all it takes. Just a quick mouth swab and soon you’ll be matched with your perfect partner—the one you’re genetically made for. That’s the promise made by ‘Match Your DNA’ a decade ago. Millions took the test but it has its downsides – breakups, divorces, and changed views on romance and dating.

The book switches from 5 different characters stories and the individual journeys they embark upon when they discover who they are gentically destined to be with – their so called perfect ‘one’. What could possibly go wrong…? Well, it turns out absolutely everything.

If you are a fan of the Black Mirror series this book is for you. I thought at the beginning I was going to find it confusing to retain 5 stories, with subplots, and many characters that literally don’t intertwine but the author did such an amazing job at keeping me invested it was clear which story I was reading. You have to know, this is not a love story…far from it.

Also the big news came last Spring that ‘The One’, will be turned into a 10-part series on Netflix, with filming beginning this summer and ready for its debut in January. How exciting is that?!