Review | The Family by Louise Jensen

Another suspense-packed page turner from Louise Jensen. 4/5 stars.

The Family by Louise Jensen book cover

Thank you to HQ for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

ONCE YOU’RE IN, THEY’LL NEVER LET YOU LEAVE.

Laura is grieving after the sudden death of her husband. Struggling to cope emotionally and financially, Laura is grateful when a local community, Oak Leaf Organics, offer her and her 17-year-old daughter Tilly a home.
 
But as Laura and Tilly settle into life with their new ‘family’, sinister things begin to happen. When one of the community dies in suspicious circumstances Laura wants to leave but Tilly, enthralled by the charismatic leader, Alex, refuses to go.
 
Desperately searching for a way to save her daughter, Laura uncovers a horrifying secret but Alex and his family aren’t the only ones with something to hide. Just as Laura has been digging into their past, they’ve been digging into hers and she discovers the terrifying reason they invited her and Tilly in, and why they’ll never let them leave…

My take:

I’ve read and reviewed all of Louise’s previous books (The Sister, The Surrogate, The Gift and The Date) and I’m very pleased to say that in The Family she has produced yet another page-turner. In fact, trying to find something original to say has proved almost impossible as this book is more of her winning formula. Safe to say: if you have enjoyed all/any of her previous psychological thrillers, you should put The Family on your Christmas list!

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Review | Bone China by Laura Purcell

Another creepy dose of gothic madness and melancholia. 4/5 stars.

Bone China by Laura Purcell book cover image

Thank you to Bloomsbury Publishing for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last…

My take:

I’ve read and enjoyed Purcell’s previous two books. The Silent Companions is a masterclass in creating an oppressive atmosphere and a big spooky house for characters to rattle around in. I didn’t feel The Corset was quite as successful, but it was another entertaining story with plenty of twists and turns. Continue reading…

Review | The Girl Who Used To Be Me by Lynn Forth

Another dose of literary sunshine. 4/5 stars.

The Girl Who Used to Be Me by Lynn Forth book cover

Thank you to the author for providing me with an e-copy of her book.

The blurb:

After a passionate fun-filled affair, Kate is abandoned by Rob, her first love.

Six years later, she is stuck in a dead-end job and trapped in a toxic relationship.

She escapes to the Costa del Sol where she meets flamboyant Reen with her bright clothes, her sparkling eyes and a penchant for pink plastic flamingos.

Kate falls for Troy, Reen’s sexy son, and embarks upon a new phase of self-discovery. Is she finally becoming the girl she longs to be?

But when Rob comes back into her life unexpectedly, what will she do?

My take:

I enjoyed Lynn Forth’s first two novels – Love in La La Land and Love, Lies and Café au Lait – very much and so was delighted to be asked to read and review her latest book: The Girl Who Used to Be Me.

Her first two books whisked us away to Los Angeles and Nice, and this time we’re given more sunshine as the main character, Kate, escapes to the south coast of Spain. In fact, this is a great example of the cover of a book setting the tone perfectly for what you will find inside, and who doesn’t want to be with that girl overlooking a beautiful beach, arms outstretched to the sun?

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Review | The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney

An entertaining thriller if you let it take you along for the ride. 3/5 stars.

Thank you to Quercus for providing me with an e-copy of this book via NetGalley.

The blurb:

Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.

She is a miracle of science.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives–and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?

My take:

This is a page-turning thriller which would be an ideal book to take with you on holiday. If you read it quickly, focussing on the plot and seeking to know what will happen next, I’m sure you’ll find it an entertaining mystery with sci-fi elements and a great way to pass a few hours. Each short chapter attempts to set up a cliffhanger to carry you across to the next and most of the time these are entirely successful.

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Review | Whisper Network by Chandler Baker

A well-constructed thriller/mystery with a relevant message. 3/5 stars.

Whisper Network by Chandler Baker book cover

Thank you to Little, Brown Book Group, Sphere and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: Sloane, Ardie, Grace and Rosalita have worked in the same legal office for years. The sudden death of the firm’s CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Each of the women has a different relationship with Ames, who has always been surrounded by whispers about how he treats women. Those whispers have been ignored, swept under the rug, hidden away by those in charge.

But the world has changed, and the women are watching this latest promotion for Ames differently.

This time, they’ve decided enough is enough.

Sloane and her colleagues’ decision to take a stand set in motion something catastrophic and unstoppable: lies will be uncovered, secrets will be exposed and not everyone will survive. All their lives – as women, colleagues, mothers, adversaries – will be changed for ever.

My take:

Whisper Network is a well-constructed mystery/thriller which feels very ‘now’ in that the plot revolves around issues of sexual harrassment in the workplace most recently brought to greater public attention by the #metoo and #timesup movements.

In this vein I thought the profession of the characters was a particularly canny choice: you’d think that if anyone would know how to deal with workplace harrassment it would be a group of highly-qualified lawyers. That these women face much the same barriers and ‘crap’ (conscious decision to use a fairly polite word there) upon entering and then once established in their profession makes you realise just how much the system is rigged against women no matter how high they manage to climb within it.

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Review | The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods by Emily Barr

The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods by Emily Barr book cover

Thank you to Penguin UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Arty has always lived in the Clearing, a small settlement in the forests of south India.

But their happy life, hidden from the rest of the world, is shattered by a terrible accident. For the first time in her sixteen years, Arty must leave the only place she’s ever known, into the outside world she’s been taught to fear.

Her only goal is to get help from a woman called Tania, who used to live in the forest, and the Uncle she knows is out there, somewhere. As she embarks on the terrifying journey, pursued by an enemy she can’t fathom, Arty soon realises that not everyone is to be trusted.

She’s looking for answers, but what she’ll learn from Tania and Uncle Matthew is a shocking truth about her past.

Everything is changing too fast for this girl who came out of the woods, and is she running into a trap…?

My take:

Following The One Memory of Flora Banks and The Truth and Lies of Ella Black, Emily Barr is back with The Girl Who Came Out of the Woods and another tale about a girl on the cusp of womanhood who finds herself out on her own in an extraordionary situation.

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Review | The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

One for anyone in need of an uplifting story. 4/5 stars.

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

Thank you to Quercus Books and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…

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.

My take:

This book serves up everything you’d expect from the blurb and cover, and sometimes it’s great to get exactly what you were hoping for.

Bibliotherapy is actually a thing, and this is the sort of story I would prescribe to anyone who needed cheering up. The Flatshare is a fabulous happy hug of a book in which dragons are slain and everything gets wrapped up nicely. If that sounds like the sort of uplifting read you need right now, I wouldn’t hesitate in seeking this book out.

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Review | Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

A deftly-handled tale about stories and storytellers. 4/5 stars.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Thank you to Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can it be explained by science?

My take:

As the title gives away, Once Upon a River is a story about stories. I think the main reason it’s so successful as a good yarn is the effort that has gone into creating atmosphere. The author is particularly successful in conjouring up the damp, sometimes murky conditions of the riverside, which makes an evocative setting for scurrilous and possibly supernatural events. The use of the third person narrator also works very well as it’s in keeping with an oral narrative tradition which includes fairytales and myths.

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Review | The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve

A solid series opener. 3/5 stars.

the house on half moon street by alex reeve

Thank you to Bloomsbury, Raven Books and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: The start of an enticing new historical series set in Victorian London; introducing Leo Stanhope: a transgender coroner’s assistant who must uncover a killer without risking his own future

Leo Stanhope. Avid chess player; assistant to a London coroner; in love with Maria; and hiding a very big secret.

For Leo was born Charlotte, the daughter of a respectable reverend. But knowing he was meant to be a man – despite the evidence of his body – and unable to cope with living a lie any longer, he fled his family home at just fifteen and has been living as Leo: his secret known to only a few trusted people. But then Maria is found dead and Leo is accused of her murder. Desperate to find her killer and under suspicion from all those around him, he stands to lose not just the woman he loves, but his freedom and, ultimately, his life.

My take:

I’m partial to stories set in the Victorian period, a mystery and original characters, and The House on Half Moon Street promised all three.

The descriptions of Victorian London are very successful. The details are excellent, and the passages which conjour up the dingier, fogbound parts of the city were particularly evocative.

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Review | The Last by Hanna Jameson

A gripping story let down by its final act. 4/5 stars.

The Last by Hanna Jameson

Thank you to Penguin UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Breaking: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington

Breaking: London hit, thousands feared dead

Breaking: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm

Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.

Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?

My take:

This is certainly an attention-grabbing scenario! You may read the blurb and think, “yeah, but how real will the story seem?” The answer? Scarily so. Maybe it’s because the narrator is a historian and attempting to record everything as factually as possible that makes the narrative feels very realistic. The reactions of all the characters to the end-of-the-world scenario are believable and as varied as they are. The hotel guests are an interesting mix of nationalities and personalities which makes for some dramatic clashes. Also, obviously, being cut off from the world with winter setting in and food supplies dwindling puts pressure on everyone that has to boil over in places.

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