Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Don't Turn Around by Caroline Mitchell

Don't Turn Around
By Caroline Mitchell
Published by Bookouture (24 April 2015 )
ISBN: 978-1909490970

Publisher's description
As D.C. Jennifer Knight investigates a routine stabbing in the quiet town of Haven, she is shocked at what seems like a personal message from beyond the grave.

When more bodies are found, Jennifer is convinced the killings are somehow linked.

What she discovers is more chilling than she could possibly imagine. The murders mirror those of the notorious Grim Reaper - from over twenty years ago. A killer her mother helped convict.

Jennifer can no longer ignore the personal connection. Is there a copycat killer at work? Was the wrong man convicted? Or is there something more sinister at play …

With her mother's terrifying legacy spiralling out of control, Jennifer must look into her own dark past in a fight not only to stop a killer - but to save herself and those she loves.

My verdict
Don't Turn Around is exactly as it describes itself - a supernatural thriller. It's certainly not run-of-the mill. The book is creepy, intriguing and an enjoyable read.

The story focuses on DC Jennifer Knight and her mother Elizabeth, who was also in the police force. A series of murders in the present day bear a startling resemblance to a series of killings in the past, and Jennifer is convinced that there is a link between the two.

Jennifer is a great character, trying to keep herself together as she becomes plagued by voices from beyond the grave. She has a special connection with her partner Will, and there's good banter between them, which brings some humour into the story.

The book flows well, with powerful descriptive language, and builds up to a terrifying conclusion. I love how the link between the past and the present grows more obvious as the book progresses but still keeps you guessing until the end.

Without giving away any spoilers, the ending of the book sets itself up very well as the start of a series, so I look forward to seeing how the characters and stories develop over time.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Corpse Role by Keith Nixon BLOG TOUR

I am delighted to be today's stop on the BLOG TOUR for Keith Nixon's The Corpse Role, which was published in Kindle edition on 10 April 2015 by Gladius Press.

The Corpse Role
By Keith Nixon
Published in Kindle edition by Gladius Press (10 April 2015)
Published in paperback edition by CreateSpace (18 March 2015)
ISBN: 978-1508933502

Publisher's description
Not everything that gets buried stays buried… sometimes things have a nasty habit of resurfacing…

When the body of a security van driver implicated in an unsolved £1.2 million heist turns up in a shallow grave two years later, it's just the beginning for Detective Inspector Charlotte Granger. She embarks on an investigation that takes her into dangerous territory - a world of dirty cops, dodgy private investigators, local villains and nosy journalists. Meanwhile events from Granger's own past are threatening to come back and haunt her.

As people are killed to silence them and vital information vanished from files, can DI Granger get to the truth. And if she does, what will that truth reveal?

My verdict
This enjoyable police procedural is a tale of police corruption and how the past comes back to haunt those involved. It is well written, with fast-paced descriptions, a hard-hitting plot, great characters and unexpected twists and turns.

DI Charlotte Granger is called when a body is discovered in a shallow grave. The murder victim is connected to a former police officer, now turned private investigator (PI). Both the victim and the PI are linked to a bank robbery that took place two years earlier. DI Granger tries to discover the truth about the murder victim, but has her hands full as the dead bodies start piling up.

The Corpse Role deals with gangsters and dodgy dealings. The narrative switches between the present and the past. You are given very few clues about the narrator in the past, which adds to the intrigue and keeps you guessing about their identity all the way through the book. 

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

About the author
Keith Nixon has been writing since he was a child. In fact, some of his friends (and his wife) say he's never really grown up. Keith is currently gainfully employed in a senior sales role, meaning he gets to use his one skill, talking. Keith writes crime and historical fiction novels. His crime work is published by leading indie house Caffeine Nights. Keith also reviews books for Crime Fiction Love and Al's Books & Pals blog.

Find out more

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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

The Winter Foundlings by Kate Rhodes

The Winter Foundlings
By Kate Rhodes
Published by Mulholland Books (14 January 2015)
ISBN: 978-1-444-73884-1

Publisher's description
Ella Williams is ten years old. She loves her granddad and her sister and her shiny new red shoes.

She's just been abducted by a killer - someone who kidnaps young girls, holds them for a few weeks, then returns their bodies clothed in white foundling dresses.

The crimes are clearly linked to notorious child murderer Louis Kinsella, locked away in a high-security hospital. Is it a copycat? Or is he giving someone direct orders from behind bars?

To save Ella's life, psychologist Alice Quentin must form a relationship with Kinsella. But he is slow to give up his secrets, and all the while, time is running out ...

My verdict
The Winter Foundlings is the third book in the Alice Quentin series. I haven't read the first two books (which has shocked me, as this book was so good). But this didn't spoil my enjoyment at all and anyone could read this as a standalone.

This excellent thriller is creepy and filled with nail-biting suspense. It's brilliantly written and well constructed. I could tell that the author had researched her subject well. The story flows along at a steady pace and keeps you guessing until the end. The little twists and turns keep up the momentum and try (successfully in my case) to steer you in the wrong direction.

I love Alice's character - she's feisty and determined and has a complex past, yet remains realistic and very likeable. The short chapters from young Ella's point of view are sad, chilling and disturbing in places, so may not appeal to the faint hearted.

I recommend The Winter Foundlings to any crime fiction fan who likes their book to have interesting characters and an in-depth well-researched story.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 27 April 2015

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers by Louise Candlish

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers
By Louise Candlish
Published by Michael Joseph (7 May 2015)
ISBN: 978-1405919845

Publisher's description
They were the life and soul of the street. So why did they disappear overnight?

Joe and Christy Davenport's dreams come true when they buy their perfect house on sought-after Lime Park Road. And they happily overlook the fact that the previous owners seem to have fled overnight.

But once moved in, Christy witnesses strange behaviour from her new neighbours. One of whom is Doug Whalen, reclusive, unkempt and aggressive. And the more Christy's attempts at friendship are met with silence, the more she's convinced the only way to discover the truth about Lime Park Road is by unpicking the shocking story of her predecessors, Jeremy Fraser and his glamorous wife Amber.

My verdict
The Sudden Departure of the Frasers is a story about secrets in suburbia. The quest for the perfect home. Life with twitching curtains. A place where everyone knows, or tries to know, each other's business.

The book focuses on two women - Christy and Amber. Christy and her husband Joe have just moved into their 'forever' home in Lime Park Road, a highly sought-after location, but they find that the neighbours don't want to know them. Something obviously happened there, and Christy is desperate to discover what it was. Amber and her husband Jeremy lived in the house before them, but left in a hurry and no one knows where they are. So what is the secret that all the neighbours are determined to hide?

The book alternates between Amber and Christy's stories, building up to the final reveal. I found myself comparing these two women, their husbands and their lives. It is cleverly written, because the other characters - especially the mysterious Joe - come across very differently, depending on whether you are reading Christy or Amber's chapters.

Overall, The Sudden Departure of the Frasers is an enjoyable read that keeps you guessing to the end. However, it's a slow burner, so not for people who are expecting a fast-paced psychological thriller. And the secret wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, which was a slight disappointment after all the build up.

I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley and also through the Lovereading Reviewer Panel in exchange for an honest review.

The Defence by Steve Cavanagh

The Defence
By Steve Cavanagh
Published by Orion (12 March 2015)
ISBN: 978-1409152309

Publisher's description
Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren't that different.

It's been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn't have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie's back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter Amy.

Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial - and win - if he wants to save his daughter.

Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his 'client' and ensure Amy's safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible?

Lose this case and he loses everything.

My verdict
The Defence is a fast-paced thriller. So fast, there's little time to pause and think. The short sentences, paragraphs and chapters and the snappy dialogue keep the book flowing from beginning to end. I felt quite exhausted (in a good way) by the last page.

Yes the plot is cliched, in fact totally ludicrous at times. There are good guys, bad guys, action scenes with plenty of suspense, twists and turns ... But that just makes the book more appealing. And I loved the ending (don't worry, no spoilers - you will have to find out for yourself).

Eddie is a brilliant character, with a sense of morality despite his dodgy past - and I look forward to hearing more from him (and the author) very soon.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley and won the audiobook in a competition through the author. I read parts of the book and listened to the rest. Due to the short snappy chapters, and dialogue that reads like a film script, The Defence works very well as an audiobook.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

One Small Act of Kindness by Lucy Dillon

One Small Act of Kindness
By Lucy Dillon
Published by Hodder & Stoughton (23 April 2015)
ISBN: 978-1444796025

Publisher's description
Libby helps a stranger, and transforms her life in the process.

Libby and her husband Jason have moved back to his hometown to turn the family B&B into a boutique hotel. They have left London behind and all the memories - good and bad - that went with it.

The injured women Libby finds lying in the remote country road has lost her memory. She doesn't know why she came to be there, and no one seems to be looking for her.

When Libby offers to take her in, this one small act of kindness sets in motion a chain of events that will change many people's lives…

My verdict
One Small Act of Kindness is an easy read that makes you feel right at home. It's more than just chick lit, not just a tale of romance. It carries the message that a simple action - one small act of kindness - can have an impact on many people and change their lives forever.

A young woman loses her memory after being hit by a car outside Libby and Jason's family hotel. Libby offers 'Pippa' a home until her memory returns. But who is 'Pippa', where has she come from and why has she ended up at the hotel? Lucy Dillon takes us on Pippa's journey to discover herself. As Libby and Jason run into financial difficulties while restoring the hotel, Libby begins to question her own life and what is actually important.

Filled with realistic characters, One Small Act of Kindness is charming and uplifting. It's the perfect book to put your feet up with a cup of tea (or coffee) or glass of wine and plenty of chocolate.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through BookBridgr in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

Our Endless Numbered Days
By Claire Fuller
Published by Fig Tree (26 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-0241003930

Publisher's description
1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change.

Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end, which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest.

There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared. Her life is reduced to a piano which makes music but no sound, a forest where all that grows is a means of survival. And a tiny wooden hut that is Everything.

My verdict
Our Endless Numbered Days is a beautifully-written tale, filled with mesmerising descriptions and haunting prose.

At the age of eight, Peggy is taken away from London by her survivalist father James to a remote part of Europe. He tells her that the rest of the world has come to end and that her concert pianist mother has died. With all the wonder and innocence of childhood, Peggy believes him and puts all her faith in her father's ability to keep her safe. They move into a ramshackle mountain hut, scavenging for food and struggling to survive in the cruel, harsh environment.

At the centre of the story is a silent piano, which James builds for Peggy, and Peggy's determination to learn how to play it. As the story progresses, her father descends further and further into madness.

The book is narrated by 17-year-old Peggy, who has now returned to civilisation after nine years in the forest. Obviously Peggy gets older during her story, but at times she doesn't appear to age at all - still viewing life with the naivety of an eight-year-old girl.

Our Endless Numbered Days keeps you guessing to the end. Why did her father take her away in the first place? Why and how did Peggy return? The book flows with ease, with vivid passages of prose that appeal to all of your senses, and finishes with a few surprise revelations. This is a novel that will stay in my memory for a long time.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Cut Out by Fergus McNeill

Cut Out
By Fergus McNeill
Published by Hodder & Stoughton (23 April 2015)
ISBN: 978-1444739749

Publisher's description
Nigel never meant for it to happen. At first, he just wanted to be Matt's friend. But when he discovers he can hear what is going on in the flat below him, his fascination with his new neighbour drifts into obsession.

Rearranging his furniture to recreate the layout of the rooms downstairs. Buying the same clothes, going through his post, his things. Becoming Matt without him ever knowing.

And it would have been all right, if Matt hadn't brought the girl home.

When things spiral out of control, Detective Inspector Harland has to unravel the disturbing truth. But there's far more to the case than meets the eye...

My verdict
Cut Out is a clever mix of psychological thriller and police procedural. This is the first DI Harland novel that I have read, but is the third in the series. It was easy to read as a standalone, although I now plan to read the first two books.

The book is cleverly organised into sections - three months earlier, one month ago and two weeks ago interspersed with the present - which makes it very easy to follow and a pleasure to read.

The past, and build up to the present, focuses on Nigel and his fixation with his neighbour Matt, whose girlfriend Laura has vanished. Nigel wants to be Matt - he moves his furniture around to match Matt's flat, buys new clothes (just like Matt's) and breaks into Matt's flat to spy on him.

The other sections of the book - the present - focus on DI Harland and his team, who are searching for missing Laura. There's also the murder of a local drug dealer that needs to be resolved, although DI Harland has been taken off the case to investigate Laura's disappearance. Could the cases be linked?

Cut Out is a brilliant novel. It's well written and fast paced, with various twists and turns. I read it in one sitting, which for me is the sign of a great book. I really liked the characters (even Nigel - I actually started to feel sorry for him, which is ridiculous as he was clearly insane!) and found the stalking plot to be a fascinating read.

I received a copy from the publisher through the Lovereading Reviewer Panel in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Normal by Graeme Cameron

By Graeme Cameron
Published by Mira Books (9 April 2015)
ISBN: 978-1474024570

Publisher's description
'The truth is I hurt people.
It's what I do. It's all I do. It's all I've ever done.
I'm not NORMAL.'

He is the man who lives on your street. The one you see in the supermarket and nod hello to.

He's also a serial killer. Killing is what he's good at.

He's the most compelling antihero since Patricia Highsmith's Ripley.

And you'll want him to get away with MURDER.

My verdict
Many serial killers are the most unassuming people you could possibly meet - which is how they get away with it. Normal is the first book I have read that gives you an insight into the mind of a serial killer - and I loved every minute of it.

Normal's villain is a loveable rogue, who just happens to be a serial killer. He is smooth talking, completely adorable, but also evil. He kills people at random, although doesn't seem to get much pleasure from it. I couldn't decide whether to love him or hate him.

This is a brilliantly written fast-paced novel and I read it in one evening. I don't give spoilers in my reviews, so can't say too much, but some of the book had me in fits of laughter (which felt so wrong, as serial killers are certainly no laughing matter).

If you're looking for a straightforward psychological thriller, then this isn't for you. But if you love dark, twisted humour AND psychological thrillers, buy this NOW!

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

How I Lost You by Jenny Blackhurst

How I Lost You
By Jenny Blackhurst
Published by Headline (Kindle edition - 9 October 2014, Paperback - 23 April 2015)
ISBN: 978-1472218964

Publisher's description
They told her she killed her son. She served her time. But what if they lied?

I have no memory of what happened but I was told I killed my son. And you believe what your loved ones, your doctor and the police tell you, don't you?

My name is Emma Cartwright. Three years ago I was Susan Webster, and I murdered my twelve-week-old son Dylan. I was sent to Oakdale Psychiatric Institute for my crime, and four weeks ago I was released early on parole with a new identity, address and a chance to rebuild my shattered life.

This morning, I received an envelope addressed to Susan Webster. Inside it was a photograph of a toddler called Dylan. Now I am questioning everything I believe because if I have no memory of the event, how can I truly believe he's dead?

If there was the smallest chance your son was alive, what would you do to get him back?

My verdict
Wow - what an emotional roller coaster. How I lost You made me smile, cry, worry and breathe a sigh of relief throughout its 368 pages.

This is the story of Susan Webster who was convicted of killing her baby son, Dylan. She can't remember much from that time, but certainly doesn't remembering wanting him dead. Susan has now been released from prison, after a three-year sentence, and is living under the name Emma Cartwright, desperately trying to make a new life for herself. But someone keeps sending packages to Susan Webster, telling her that her son is still alive.

How I Lost You was a well-written fast-paced thriller. It kept me guessing all the way until its dark creepy end, when the final twists were revealed. Not everything in the story was realistic or believable, and I questioned at times how Susan/Emma could be so trusting after everything she had experienced. However, this was a great debut, and compelling page turner, and I will be looking out for more books from Jenny Blackhurst.

I received a paperback copy from the publisher through BookBridgr in exchange for an honest review (and I bought the ebook version too).

A Place For Us by Harriet Evans

A Place For Us
By Harriet Evans
Published by Headline (15 January 2015)
ISBN: 978-1472221261

Goodreads description
The day Martha Winter decided to tear apart her family began like any other day.

When Martha, a wife and mother of three, sits down one late summer's morning to write out the invitations to her eightieth birthday celebration, she knows that what she is planning to reveal at the part could ruin the idyllic life she and her husband David have spent over fifty years building…

But she has to let her family know what she and David have sacrificed. She can't live a lie any more.

The invitation goes out far and wide, calling her three children and their families back home to Winterfold, their rambling house in the heart of the English countryside. They are Bill, the doctor; Florence, the eccentric academic; and Daisy, the child who never fit in. As the story unfolds, each character reveals the secrets, joys, and tragedies they are wrestling with through the confines of the family. What will happen when Martha finally tells the truth?

My verdict
A Place For Us was a little slow at first, and a bit too long, but overall this was an easy read. The book cover is a beautiful watercolour painting of a house that I assume depicts Winterfold, where the story is set.

Martha and David have invited their whole family to join them at Winterfold for her 80th birthday celebrations - but not everyone is able to join them. As the reunion takes place, and the story unfolds, family secrets are revealed.

Each chapter is written from the point of view of one of the characters, sometimes in the present and sometimes in the past. This format was easy to follow as it switched from person to person. The characters are all very different; some of them seemed very normal and likeable (e.g. Cat and Lucy), but others were very odd (e.g. Florence and Daisy).

A Place For Us was originally released in several parts. I won a copy of the first part of the book through a Goodreads giveaway and bought the rest of the book in its separate e-book parts. However, I then received the whole paperback from the publisher through Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review. I am actually pleased that I didn't read the book in parts, with a gap between them, as I would probably have been very confused by all of the characters.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Hidden by Emma Kavanagh - BLOG TOUR

I am delighted to be today's stop on the BLOG TOUR for Emma Kavanagh's second psychological thriller Hidden, which is being published on 23 April 2015 by Century.

I would like to welcome Emma Kavanagh, who tells us what it's like being a published author. 

After graduating with a PhD in Psychology from Cardiff University, Emma Kavanagh spent seven years working as a police and military psychologist, training firearms officers, command staff and military personnel, throughout the UK and Europe, to deal with the most extreme situations. An expert in her field, she now applies her knowledge to her writing: creating realistic and incredibly tense stories.

Over to Emma...

Being Published: Life Beyond the Book Deal

I have been doing this for a couple of years now. Hidden is my second published book and I have just signed my second two-book deal with Arrow. One of the things that is becoming abundantly clear is that the vast majority of people have absolutely no clue what my job entails. None. NONE!

People seem to be fairly evenly split between those who think that I trot out a book in a 20-minute sit-down and get paid millions for the privilege, and those who think that I work harder than the builders of the pyramids and get paid nothing (or even, get to pay to do it!).



I work pretty hard, although not pyramid-building hard. And in truth, the vast majority of my life is spent sitting, laptop on my knee, typing. There are other commitments that being published brings - things like writing for this lovely blog, for example! And these can often provide a nice little diversion from my life within my own head.

I don't get paid millions. Sigh. I don't pay for my book to be published. (What??)

I have a job. And like most other jobs, there are things that I must do and time parameters in which they must be done. I have a deadline for submission for book 3 (it's fine - it's AGES away!). Before that rolls about, I have to finish it, edit it myself until I am happy that it's as good as I alone can possibly make it, whilst still doing all of the other tasks that fall to a published author. I go on Twitter - a lot. This began as a way to get my name known but has become a lifeline. Writing can be a very solitary business and social media has allowed me to get to know a huge bunch of writers and to come to consider them friends.

Occasionally I am allowed out of the house (not often) on research trips, to London for meetings with my agents and my publishers, and, when publication time rolls around, to do events. I LOVE these. And not just because I spend 11 months of the year staring at the same four walls. I get to talk to people and sometimes have drinks!

As a writer seeking a publishing deal, it seems like the holy grail. That, once this is achieved, life will take on a beautifully rosy glow and all manner of things will be well. Now, don't get me wrong, it's awesome. AWESOME! However, there is still terror. Publication day is deeply exciting and simultaneously deeply traumatic. What if everyone hates it? What if no-one hates it because no-one reads it? Why do I have baby sick in my hair in my author photo? See? Trauma! Some people will tell you they adore your book and you will feel a little like an imposter, because it can't be you who has written this book they love. Some will tell you they hated it. And then you will cry.

It's not a job for the faint of heart. It is, however, a job that I have dreamt of my whole life and one that I wouldn't swap for anything!

Hidden by Emma Kavanagh,
published by Century, hardback at £12.99

My verdict: An excellent well-written character-led psychological thriller.

Read an extract of Chapter 1:

Find out more

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Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford

The Pocket Wife
By Susan Crawford
Published by Faber & Faber (5 March 2015)
ISBN: 978-0571321889

Publisher's description
Dana Catrell wakes from a drunken stupor to find that her neighbour, Celia, has been brutally murdered in her own home. But Dana was at Celia's house only a few hours ago. Celia wanted to show her a photo - a photo of Dana's husband with another women - and Dana has blank spots of what happened to the rest of the afternoon…

This is a thriller that makes the reader question everything. Dana, we learn, has a history of mental illness and as she descends into another manic episode, the line between what actually happened and what she has imagined becomes blurred.

My verdict
The Pocket Wife was a good psychological thriller.

Dana is bipolar and off her medication.  Her neighbour is found murdered, and Dana appears to have been the last person to see her alive. Is Dana right to be worried about that afternoon in her neighbour's house or is her illness making her paranoid? She has no idea which memories are real and which have been fabricated by her fragile mind.

I enjoyed The Pocket Wife, but found it to be an uncomfortable read in places as it explored Dana's mental illness, but this was due to the subject matter rather than the writing. As Dana's mental state declines, and a manic phase sets in, no one is there to support her and encourage her to seek help.

It's up to Jack Moss, the detective in charge of the case, to put together the clues and discover what actually happened that day. I was a bit surprised by some of his actions at the end, as I thought he was the only honest and genuine character. I guessed (correctly) who the murderer was towards the end of the book, although I still had a niggling doubt until the last page.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

No Place to Die by Clare Donoghue

No Place to Die
By Clare Donoghue
Published by Pan Macmillan (12 March 2015)
ISBN: 978-1446239345

Publisher's description
DS Jane Bennett takes charge of South London's Lewisham murder squad following the temporary suspension of her boss, DI Mike Lockyer. His involvement with a female witness resulted in her murder. Mike returns to work but he's a shadow of the detective he was a few months before. Bennett gets a desperate call from an old friend to say that her husband, retired colleague Mark Leech, has gone missing. Blood spatters found in the home suggest that she doesn't have long to find him.

When Jane is sent to a site in Elmstead Woods, she stumbles upon a sinister murder scene. A tomb has been created, and the body she finds is not Mark's - as she dreaded and suspected - but that of missing university student, Maggie Hungerford. Her killer recorded her last moments, even providing an air supply which was only cut off when the game lost its thrill. Two men admit to having had a sexual relationship with Maggie. Both deny murder. Someone is lying. And Mark is still missing.

When another tomb is discovered, an anonymous tip and mounting evidence suggest a disturbing link which threatens to derail both cases and let a murderer walk free. Lockyer is shocked into supporting Bennett on a case which becomes ever more ominous and dangerous as the investigation deepens. They know that their hunt is for a killer with a mind so twisted that he, or she, is likely to stop at nothing.

My verdict
No Place to Die was a pleasure to read and a great crime thriller. I was hooked from the first page and found it difficult to put the book down until the end.

There's plenty of police procedure, but this is interspersed with tense scenes and chilling chapters focusing on the victims. In No Place to Die, the victims are buried alive, watched closely by the captor until their final breath - this is a horrifying prospect for anyone, and Clare Donoghue describes the scenes vividly but not too gruesomely.

I found DS Jane Bennett to be a likeable well-rounded character. She isn't perfect and struggles with balancing her private and professional lives. I couldn't decide whether or not I liked DI Mike Lockyer  - maybe I would know more about his character if I had read the first book before this one, as he was clearly suffering from the after-effects of a difficult case.

The plot itself flowed well and at a fast pace. The author definitely kept me guessing until the end, and I wasn't expecting the final twist - brilliant!

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher and through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

The Salmon Who Dared To Leap Higher by Ahn Do-hyun

The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher
By Ahn Do-hyun
Translated by Deborah Smith
Published by Pan Macmillan (9 April 2015)
ISBN: 978-1-4472-6999-1

Publisher's description
A life-affirming, inspirational modern fable about, love, life and daring to be different.

The life of a salmon is a predictable one: swimming upstream to the place of its birth to spawn, and then to die.

This is the story of a salmon whose silvery scales mark him out as different - who dares to leap beyond his fate. It's a story about growing up, and about aching and ardent love. For swimming upstream means pursuing something the salmon cannot see: a dream.

The Salmon Who Dared To Leap Higher is a wise, tender and inspiring modern fable about finding freedom and a harmony with nature we have either forgotten or lost in the binding realities of life.

My verdict
The Salmon Who Dared To Leap Higher was a relaxing, comfortable read - a great way to unwind. It reminded me of a bedtime story, one to be shared from generation to generation. The type of book that parents (or grandparents) would read to their children (or grandchildren).

This easy-to-read and well-translated book is beautifully illustrated, both inside and on the cover. It is a short book and reads like a modern fable as it follows the story of Silver Salmon, who makes his journey to his spawning ground and final destiny. Silver Salmon is different from the other salmon, not only because of his silvery scales but also because of his inquiring mind.

The Salmon Who Dared To Leap Higher has underlying meanings about love, life, determination and destiny - that sometimes the easy way isn't the right way and it isn't the salmon's way either.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Unravelling Oliver
By Liz Nugent
Published by Penguin Books UK (Paperback - 9 April 2015)
ISBN: 978-0241965641

Publisher's description
Oliver Ryan is a success story. He lives in the leafy suburbs with his wife, Alice, and their life is one of enviable privilege and ease - enviable until, one evening after supper, Oliver attacks Alice and puts her into a coma.

Afterwards, as everyone tries to make sense of his astonishing act of savagery, Oliver tells his story. So do those whose paths he has crossed over five decades.

Only Oliver knows what he has done to get the life to which he felt entitled. But even he is in for a shock when his past catches up with him.

My verdict
I read Unravelling Oliver in one sitting, which is how I feel this book should ideally be read to keep up its momentum. There are no superfluous descriptions and there is no unnecessary dialogue. The book is fairly short for a novel, but it flows from beginning to end. I literally couldn't put it down.

The book begins with Oliver, a successful author of children's books, giving his wife a savage beating - something he has never done before and will never do again - leaving her life hanging by a thread. But what has led to this event?

Each chapter of the book is narrated by a different character. These are former friends, relatives and acquaintances who have come into contact with Oliver at different stages in his life, each one recounting their memories of him. It soon becomes clear that Oliver is cold, calculating, dangerous and manipulative. I was glued to the clues about his past as the plot unravels to reveal his life story. There are some excellent and unexpected twists and turns.

This is an amazing debut novel and a book that I won't forget easily.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher and through NetGalley.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Disclaimer by Renee Knight

By Renee Knight
Published by Doubleday (9 April 2015)
ISBN: 978-0857522818

Publisher's description
What if you realised the book you were reading was all about you?

When an intriguing novel appears on Catherine's bedside table, she curls up in bed and begins to read.

But as she turns the pages, she is sickened to realise the story will reveal her darkest secret.

A secret she thought no one else knew...

My verdict
Disclaimer reminded me of the game 'Pass the Parcel'. There's a secret in the middle, but you have to carefully peel back all of the layers one by one before you can discover it. And even when you reach the prize, there's more to come.

Catherine and her husband Robert have just moved house. Then a book appears on her bedside table - she doesn't recognise it and her husband and son deny leaving it there. When Catherine starts reading, she realises that the book is about her - and a secret from 20 years ago that only she should know.

Disclaimer is well written and filled with suspense. The characters are, on the whole, believable (yet I found them also very unlikeable). The plot keeps flowing, as the past comes back to haunt Catherine and her family. I wanted to keep reading to discover the secret.

This is a book about secrets, obsession and revenge, and how sometimes everything is not all that it seems. There are some brilliant twists and turns, each one more surprising than the next.

Disclaimer is a brilliant well-conceived and well-executed thriller.

Hidden by Emma Kavanagh

By Emma Kavanagh
Published by Century (23 April 2015)
ISBN: 978-1448184576

Publisher's description

A gunman is stalking the wards of a local hospital. He's unidentified and dangerous, and has to be located. Urgently.

Police Firearms Officer Aden McCarthy is tasked with tracking him down. Still troubled by the shooting of a schoolboy, Aden is determined to make amends by finding the gunman - before it's too late.

To psychologist Imogen, hospital should be a place of healing and safety - both for her, and her young niece who's been recently admitted. She's heard about the gunman, but he has little to do with her. Or has he?

As time ticks down, no one knows who the gunman's next target will be. But he's there. Hiding in plain sight. Far closer than anyone thinks...

My verdict
Hidden's first chapter hooked me from the outset with its fast-paced writing and dramatic scene. The book begins with the vivid description of the first few moments after a shooting spree at a hospital by a lone gunman. This is seen through the eyes of Charlie, a local reporter, who clearly knows some of the victims well. I found this to be an effective introduction to some of the key characters.

Hidden jumps between timelines, building up to the day of the shooting.  I found this very easy to follow, as each chapter is clearly signposted with who is telling the story and when this is taking place. The book is written from four main viewpoints  - Charlie, Aden (a police firearms officer), Imogen (a psychologist) and the gunman - as it follows their journey to that fateful event. Several threads weave together as the tension builds up.

Hidden has believable interesting characters, many of whom are linked in some way. We learn about their back stories, including that of the shooter, although the identity of the shooter isn't revealed until right at the end of the book. The author uses twists and turns to lead the reader off track, with several red herrings strategically placed throughout the book. I thought I had guessed who the shooter was on several occasions, but then changed my mind again as I continued to read.

Emma Kavanagh is a former police psychologist. In Hidden, she has explored how different police officers react and cope with tragedies and life-and-death situations.

This is an excellent well-written character-led psychological thriller.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Join me on Emma Kavanagh's Blog Tour on 17th April.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

If I Fall, If I Die
By Michael Christie
Published by Cornerstone (12 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-1473505209

Publisher's description
Will has never been to the outside, at least not since he can remember.

And he has certainly never got to know anyone other than his mother, a fiercely loving yet wildly eccentric agoraphobe who drowns in panic at the thought of opening the front door. Their little world comprises only the rooms in their home, each named for various exotic locales and filled with Will's art projects. But soon the confines of his world close in on him.

Despite his mother's protests, Will ventures outside clad in a protective helmet and braces himself for danger. He eventually meets and befriends Jonah, a quiet boy who introduces him to skateboarding.

Will welcomes his new world with enthusiasm, his fears fading and his body hardening with each new bump, scrape and fall. But life quickly gets complicated. When a local boy goes missing, Will and Jonah want to uncover what happened. They embark on an extraordinary adventure that pulls Will far from the confines of his closed-off world and into the throes of early adulthood and the dangers that everyday life offers.

If I Fall, If I Die is a remarkable debut full of dazzling prose and unforgettable characters, as well as a poignant and heartfelt depiction of coming of age.

My verdict
I enjoyed the first half of If I Fall, If I Die, which starts off as the story of a boy exploring the outside world for the first time. Will has been stuck inside his home for all of his life (so far) with his mother Diane, who developed agoraphobia following the death of her parents and twin brother.

Will has now turned 11 and wants to explore. He enrols at school, makes friends and discovers that the 'outside' is not as scary as his mother has led him to believe. At the same time, Diane has to learn to let him go.

My interest lagged in the second half of the book. Will seeks adventure when one of his new friends disappears. I didn't find the mystery element grabbed my attention and the plotline involving Butler and his gang wasn't believable. These stories were then interweaved with what happened to Diane's brother.

Overall, this was a well-written book, but I can only give it three stars. I would have enjoyed it more if the author had stuck to the story of Will and Diane, with her agoraphobia and twin brother, without going off track.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Close to Home by Lisa Jackson - BLOG TOUR

I am delighted to be today's stop on the BLOG TOUR for Lisa Jackson's Close to Home, which was published in paperback on 26 March 2015 by Mulholland Books (imprint of Hodder & Stoughton).


Close to Home
By Lisa Jackson
Published by Mulholland Books (Hardback - 25 September 2014, Paperback - 26 March 2015)
ISBN: 978-1-444-79330-7

Publisher's description
The home where Sarah McAdams grew up has always terrified her. But now she's moved back with her daughters, determined to put her childhood fears behind her.

It's harder than she thought. Increasingly haunted by the past, Sarah soon realises that the present has its own threats. One by one, teenage girls are disappearing...

Frantic for her daughter's safety, Sarah feels the house's walls closing in on her once more. Somewhere deep in her memory is the key to a very real danger.

And only by confronting the terrifying truth can she protect her children from a nightmare that is roaring back to life...

My verdict
Close to Home is a suspense novel that kept me intrigued right until the last page. It contains mystery, some romance, teenage angst, ghostly apparitions, kidnappings and family secrets.

Sarah believes her family home is haunted, as does her youngest daughter Gracie, and she is determined to discover its secrets. There are gaps in her memories, and she hopes that returning to Blue Peacock Manor, her childhood home, will help her remember them. The house has seen more than its fair share of tragedy over the years, beginning with Sarah's ancestor over 100 years ago, who plunged to her death off the rooftop. It is now in need of repair and renovation, and Sarah hopes that this will give her and her daughters a new start following her divorce.

Clint, Sarah's next door neighbour, is an old boyfriend, and there is clearly still a spark between them. Eldest daughter Jade is a typical teenager, hating her new home and struggling to fit in at school. Meanwhile, someone is kidnapping teenage girls and the whole town is on edge.

Close to Home flows well. There are a lot of different characters, and I only worked out who the kidnapper was right towards the end. The revealing of the family secrets also came as a surprise. This was a highly enjoyable read.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through Bookbridgr in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Wish You Were Here by Catherine Alliott

Wish You Were Here
By Catherine Alliott
Published by Michael Joseph, Penguin UK (26 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-0718179403

Publisher's description
When Flora, James and their two teenage daughters are offered the holiday of a lifetime in a chateau in the south of France in return for one simple deed, they jump at the chance. They exchange the confines of Clapham, the weight of the mortgage and anxieties over their future for a blissful break.

But Flora didn't anticipate a mysterious guest and a whole heap of family baggage coming too.

With James developing a schoolboy crush on a famous singer and Flora distracted by ghosts from her pasts, their dream holiday suddenly takes some very unexpected turns.

My verdict
Admittedly, I struggled with Wish You Were Here at first. There are a lot of characters and I felt that the book could have been shortened with extra editing. But once I went back to try again, I did find the book to be more enjoyable second time around.

The plot does speed up as it goes along. The descriptions of France are well written and the gentle humour is entertaining. However, I did feel that the teenage characters seemed more mature than the adults at times. Family secrets are revealed towards the end and, as expected, everything ties up nicely, making the book ideal for a summer holiday easy read.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Ugly Young Thing by Jennifer Jaynes

Ugly Young Thing
By Jennifer Jaynes
Published by Thomas & Mercer (3 March 2015)
ISBN: 978-1477827352

Publisher's description
Sixteen-year-old Allie has already experienced a lifetime of horror, having lost her mother and serial killer brother to mental illness.

Returning to her childhood home in Louisiana, Allie ends up in foster care and is placed with Miss Bitty, an eccentric but kindly older women who shoes her a new direction and brighter future.

But Allie's new life takes a devastating turn when young women in the area start turning up dead, and she begins to see shadowy figures outside her bedroom. As Miss Bitty grows inexplicably distant, a nagging voice makes Allie wonder if death has found her yet again… or if it never really left her at all.

My verdict
Ugly Young Thing is the sequel to Never Smile at Strangers, which I considered to be an excellent thriller. Although Ugly Young Thing contains references to the first book, it can easily be read as a standalone novel.

Allie is a teenager with a tainted past. Her mother was a mentally ill prostitute who killed several people and her brother was a disturbed murderer. After witnessing her brother's suicide, she runs away from the crime scene, hoping to start a new life for herself. In desperation, she eventually returns to her home town and is fostered by Miss Bitty.

In her home town, there is a killer on the loose, and young girls are being targeted.  Allie feels that she is being watched. Miss Bitty is determined to keep Allie safe, but the elderly woman has secrets of her own.

Ugly Young Thing is full of mystery and intrigue. Jennifer Jaynes's words flow smoothly and are a pleasure to read. She gets emotions spot on - whether it's the way people look, act or behave - and delivers dialogue and action with ease. I couldn't put it down and the ending was completely unexpected.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My review of Never Smile at Strangers:

Monday, 6 April 2015

Breathing Out by Karen Hockney

Breathing Out
By Karen Hockney
Published by Urbane Publications (1 November 2014)
ISBN: 978-1-909273-72-6

Publisher's description
'You've got cancer' are not the words you expect to hear when you're a 40-something marathon-running fitness freak who has never even smoked a cigarette.

Karen Hockney's extraordinary battle with breast cancer was different in two ways. First, as an Englishwoman living in the south of France, a stone's throw from Cannes, she suddenly had to contend with language barriers and an unfamiliar health system (albeit an extraordinarily
efficient one).

Secondly, as a leading showbusiness writer who has penned for publications including Hello, The Times and You Magazine, her job was jet-setting around the world to meet some of the most famous celebrities of our time.

How could she cope with facing them sans wig, battling nausea and exhaustion? How would
they react - and was it really possible to go from Cancer to Cannes Film Festival in the space of a few weeks?

A memoir with a difference, Breathing Out is full of practical advice, meticulous research and knowledge garnered from Karen's journey, punctuated by hope, positivity and a smattering of bleak humour.

My verdict
Karen Hockney was fit and healthy, yet at the age of 44 she discovered a lump in her breast that turned out to be cancerous. Breathing Out is the story of her journey, from her initial diagnosis until the end of her treatment. Karen endured almost immediate surgery, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

This informative, emotional and humorous account demonstrates how a cancer diagnosis has an impact on family, friends and work colleagues. One of the hardest issues for Karen to think about was how to break the news to her two teenage daughters. There were many ups and downs in the year after her diagnosis, but Karen's positive attitude helped her (and her family) to get through such a difficult time.

Cancer is a difficult subject to write about. In her book, Karen passes on her observations about life with cancer and advice on how to get through the different treatments. She also discusses how she changed her diet and lifestyle following a consultation with a Harley Street nutritionist.

Breathing Out isn't a book to 'enjoy', but it's certainly a thought-provoking one. Hopefully, it will help others struck by this terrible disease.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Distance by Helen Giltrow

The Distance
By Helen Giltrow 
Published by Orion (26 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-1-4091-2734-5

Publisher's description
They don't call her Karla any more. She's Charlotte Alton. She doesn't trade in secrets, she doesn't erase dark pasts, and she doesn't break hit-men into prison.

Except that is exactly what she's been asked to do.

The job is impossible: get the assassin into an experimental new prison so that he can take out a target who isn't officially there.

It's a suicide mission, and quite probably a set-up.

So why can't she say no?

My verdict
The Distance is definitely one of my five star reads for 2015.

Charlotte Alton inhabits a brutal world of sinister dealings and espionage, where no one is necessarily what they seem. She has instructions to send a hit man, Simon Johanssen, into a self-governing prison where inmates rule the roost. But the target isn't on any prison records, and Charlotte is determined to discover why.

In The Distance, there are many different characters, often with shadowy pasts, and it took me a while to remember who they were, occasionally flicking back a few pages to remind myself.  But this didn't detract from the book. The Distance's complex storyline has various layers seamlessly weaved together. This intelligent thriller is fast paced, with twists and turns and some violent scenes.

The Distance reminded me of an episode of Spooks, with a roller coaster ride until the end. I found it difficult to put the book down and hope to meet Charlotte Alton and Simon Johanssen again.

I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

My Dear Bessie by Chris Barker and Bessie Moore

My Dear Bessie
By Chris Barker and Bessie Moore (edited by Simon Garfield)
Published by Canongate Books (5 February 2015)
ISBN: 978-1782115670

Publisher's description
Twenty hours have gone since I last wrote. I have been thinking of you. I shall think of you until I post this, and until you get it. Can you feel, as you read these words that I am thinking of you now; aglow, alive, alert at the thought that you are in the same world, and by some strange chance loving me.

In September 1943, Chris Barker was serving as a signalman in North Africa when he decided to brighten the long days of war by writing to old friends. One of these was Bessie Moore, a former work colleague. The unexpected warmth of Bessie's reply changed their lives forever. Crossing continents and years, their funny, affectionate and intensely personal letters are a remarkable portrait of a love played out against the backdrop of the Second World War. Above all, their story is a stirring example of the power of letters to transform ordinary lives.

My verdict
Thanks to social media and instant messaging, the art of letter writing appears to have been lost over the decades. As a teenager, I would send letters to friends who lived up the road, just for the sheer pleasure of receiving post. Now my teen and pre-teen simply text, message or Skype when they want to contact their friends - no more waiting in anticipation for a reply or writing long descriptive paragraphs of events or emotions.

My Dear Bessie is a love story, an insight into wartime romance. The raw emotion in the letters between Chris and Bessie is divine. The devotion and concern for one another. The feelings they couldn't bear to bottle up or hide away. People struggled to cope with their loved ones being away for long periods of time, missing them both physically and emotionally, yet - as this book shows - love could survive and even blossom through the war. 

The descriptions of the wartime events, both in London and abroad, are truly fascinating to read. Within their letters, Chris and Bessie discuss moral and political issues, providing historical background. I found it fascinating to read how the British service men passed their time whilst abroad - how they still enjoyed local culture, for example, and sent photos and packages home.

The letters are fairly one sided, as unfortunately Chris had to destroy many of Bessie's letters due to lack of storage space. However, he does refer to her letters within his own, which helps to keep the flow going.

If you love old-fashioned love stories and wartime romance, My Dear Bessie is a wonderful read.

I received an Advance Reader Copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.