Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read

Lies Between Us – Ronnie Turner #BlogTour

Psychological Thriller
4*s

It wouldn’t be overstating things to say I have been very excited to see what fellow book blogger Ronnie Turner would come up with for her debut novel and so I couldn’t have been more delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour to celebrate its publication on 1 October 2018. I’m pleased to delclare that the result was not what I expected with her creation being more subtle and yet far more satisfying than many offerings in the psychological thriller genre.

Lies Between Us is three stories in one, with each one having a separate narrator. Their tales arouse both sympathy and horror along with firing up my nosiness as the author slowly reveals the secrets and lies that are lurking, sometimes in plain sight.

Miller’s story is downright creepy and begins in his childhood in the 1980s. Miller is the child that everyone avoids. Clearly disturbed he carries around the seven deadly sins in a rucksack on his back. But, as he grows he learns to hide these, not because he wants to be nice but because he knows it will allow him to get exactly what he wants.

In the present, successful writer John is happily married to Jules and they have a beautiful daughter Bonnie then one ordinary day while the two are having a minor tiff in the kitchen, Bonnie disappears. The despair is overwhelming and the police have few clues to pursue but they cling to hope as the kidnapper gives them proof that Bonnie is alive, for now.

Also in the present, Tim is in a coma and as his wife Heidi and young daughter visit daily, Masie the ICU nurse is on the side-lines, efficiently doing her job. Maisie is drawn to Heidi and the two begin a friendship as they sit beside the silent man watching and listening to the endless bleeps of the machines keeping him alive. But, Maisie has her own secrets and she thinks she detects that Heidi does too.

These separate stories were clearly signposted and each one had me enthralled in their own right but of course what I really wanted to know was how they were connected.

It was genuinely hard to believe that this book was the author’s debut novel, it was expertly structured with the pacing even throughout. I didn’t get the feeling that I was on a roller-coaster as I do with many in this genre only to find the final swoop is disappointing compared to the rest of the ride, it wasn’t that type of read which in my mind is to be applauded. Instead there was plenty to interest me not only in each of the narrator’s individual stories, but my mind was kept busy trying to connect the seemingly disparate dots.

Ultimately this is a story of obsession but we also meet love, loss, despair and damage to along the way. The genuine exploration of the effects of these was one of the things I enjoyed most about Lies Between Us. Too often I find, having read a wealth of books in this genre, the pointers to the emotions we have all met in our lives are used to move the story on but when examined in the cold light of day, are revealed as just that, devices. Ronnie Turner in slowing the pacing has allowed us to examine them in more detail and therefore experience them second-hand, with feeling.

First Published UK: 1 October 2018
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK

Amazon US – audiobook

Author Bio

Ronnie Turner grew up in Cornwall, the youngest in a large family. At an early age, she discovered a love of literature and dreamed of being a published author. Ronnie now lives in Dorset with her family and three dogs. In her spare time, she reviews books on her blog and enjoys long walks on the coast. She is currently working on her second novel.

Twitter:@Ronnie_ _Turner
Facebook: @RonnieTurnerAuthor
Instagram: @ronnieturner8702
Website: http://www.ronnieturner.wordpress.com
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/RonnieTurner

#LiesBetweenUs #WhereIsBonnie?

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on this blog tour – Ronnie Turner has definitely generated interest with her fellow book bloggers!

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

When the Lights Go Out – Mary Kubica

Psychological Thriller
3*s

Jessie Sloane is a young woman whose mother has died and for the first time in her life she is on her own. That coming after a long road of caring for her ailing mother which has clearly left its mark on this young woman she decides to pay heed to her mother’s last words to her, ‘to find herself.’

Although I read far fewer psychological thrillers than I have done in recent years I do look out for those with a fresh premise. This one certainly ticked that box with the synopsis advising that Jessie Sloane is a young woman who finds out that her social security details belong to a girl who died seventeen years ago when she was just three. Now I think we can all agree that a discovery like that throws up a whole heap of possibilities for the direction that the novel can take.

I like Mary Kubica’s writing, the setting and the people in all three of her previous books I have read have been carefully crafted giving this reader the feeling that she was truly having an insight into another life for the duration of the book. When the Lights Go Out was no different. While I might have queried the decisions Jessie made, all was easily explicable when considering the combined effects of grief and a lack of sleep.

Alongside Jessie’s story we are taken back in time to read Eden’s too. This is an entirely different tale of a woman who meets the man of her dreams, and then the dream fades to a reality which is acres away from the dream. Of course the reader realises there is a link between these two narratives and each time it seemed that they were going to converge into the answer to the Jessie’s mystery, another piece of information came to dash that idea. All of this meant that the book was full of suspense. I was invested in both characters despite being on my guard knowing that all could not be quite as it appeared and I was therefore hooked to find out what the answers to the mounting questions were.

Sadly despite being hooked by this psychological thriller for the majority of the book but I am afraid the ending just wasn’t for me. I don’t normally mention the endings because some of us enjoy a fairly open ending while others far prefer it when the author displays real skill in tying up loose ends into a neat bow. But the ending for this book deeply disappointed me and I so however much I enjoyed the journey, I can’t get passed that moment.

This means that this is an incredibly hard book for me to review – how do you rate a book that you enjoyed all the way until the final reveal – if only Mary Kubica hadn’t ended this one the way she did the writing and the characters would have earned the full five stars . If you haven’t tried this author I highly recommend her earlier books, but sadly despite Mary Kubica’s obvious talent and her willingness to try something new, which I always applaud, I found this one to be less enjoyable.

I’d like to thank the publishers HQ for allowing me to read an advance review copy of When the Lights Go Out prior to publication of today, 23 August 2018.

First Published UK: 23 August 2018
Publisher: HQ 
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Previous Books by Mary Kubica

The Good Girl
Pretty Baby
Don’t You Cry
Every Last Lie

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Cliff House – Amanda Jennings

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

This atmospheric story is set on the coast of Cornwall in 1986 where we meet the shy and unhappy Tamsyn as she perches on the cliff-top spying on the comings and goings at the Cliff House. The summer holidays have started and Tamsyn leaves her brother sleeping, sneaks the spare key her mother has to clean the house and resolves to have a proper look inside the house.

This book is mesmerising mainly because of the lyrical prose set against the chilling background of the rich Edie’s friendship with poor Tamsyn. Tamsyn is still struggling to come to terms with her father’s death, the poverty the family are experiencing as the local tin mine shut leaving her brother out of work with no real prospect of finding something to replace it. Tamsyn’s mother juggles jobs but is tiring of just managing and has begun to forge a new relationship. Tamsyn is less than happy with this being as she is full of grief and the angst of being a sixteen year old girl who is somewhat obsessed with the house and its occupants.

Edie has been expelled from her boarding school when the family decamps for an entire summer in the back of beyond in Cornwall. Away from everyone and everything she knows she feels adrift especially as things behind the windows are not as Tamsyn imagines them to be. The meaning of life really isn’t found by the expensive scarf discarded by the swimming pool on the terrace, or the jewels or even the fame the family enjoy because Max Davenport is a best-selling author. Edie is far more worldly-wise than Tamsyn and yet the two forge an often uncomfortable relationship as the summer progresses.

This isn’t a book full of fast-moving action, it is one where the characters lead the way towards a darker and darker heart. We have the imagery, the black raven being the main one which Tamsyn is sure foretells disaster, after all she saw one before her father died, one night at sea in a terrible storm. The relationships between the well-to-do Davenports and Edie, her brother Jago all bind them tighter together, often unwillingly but always inevitably.

The contrast between the families is stark, the descriptions of Tamsyn’s mother unfolding her bed as she’d given up the room she shared with her husband to his elderly father. The lack of money for anything more than the bare necessities are scattered throughout the book without ever becoming ‘shouty’ something that isn’t required when Tamsyn is given her first glass of champagne by Max Davenport at Cliff House.

Reading The Cliff House I felt drawn into Tamsyn’s obsession with the house and its owners and as the girls negotiate their uneven friendship I felt for her with her obvious feeling of inferiority but Edie doesn’t get things all her own way and she has her own problems that she’s trying to hide. Before we close the book, not only do we see how the summer ended, and even better a peak at what happened next.

I have to commend Amanda Jennings on her story-telling; whilst this is a different type of tale to In Her Wake, it is also makes for compulsive reading including as it does the hat-trick of superbly drawn characters, an atmospheric yet changeable setting and a darkness that enthralled this reader.

I am very grateful to the publishers HQ for allowing me to read an advance copy of The Cliff House prior to publication on 17 May 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 17 May 2018
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Bring Me Back – B.A. Paris

Psychological Thriller
4*s

There are certain authors I go to that fit my varying reading needs. B.A. Paris has confirmed with this, her third book that she is someone to ensure is on my bookshelf for when I want a psychological thriller that is fast-moving and totally gripping.

Bring Me Back starts twelve years back in time when Finn on the way back from holiday in France with his girlfriend Layla. He stops at a pretty much deserted layby to use the conveniences and by the time he returns to the car she’s disappeared. Finn was questioned over her disappearance but since he had no motive to harm the woman he intended to marry, and no clues left as to where she could have gone, he is allowed to return to the UK to live his life.

And live his life he does. When we catch up with him Finn is about to get married to Ellen, he’s moved away from the home he shared with Layla and although you never forget something that enormous, he has a good job, a nice home and a future to look forward to. And then, the detective that has been looking for Layla says that a woman matching her description has been spotted near their old home. This is put down to the faulty memory of the elderly neighbour who reported it until a sign is left that the past isn’t staying put. Finn begins to worry that everything is going to come tumbling around his ears.

The skill in this type of psychological novel is to instantly immerse you in the story, to wrap you up in the character’s beliefs so that the reader doesn’t have time to wonder why doesn’t X character do Y etc. And B.A. Paris performs this act swiftly and without fuss. Not for this author endless explanations of this disorder or that objection, we are with Finn and his need to keep things under wraps whilst he sets out on his own personal mission.

Now I’ll confess that I did crack one line of the mystery, perhaps because I’d come across something similar, although not the same, in another recent read, but this didn’t hamper my enjoyment or halt my swift turning of the pages in any way whatsoever. This type of psychological thriller isn’t mystery story, it isn’t just how or who but the whole package that is needed to be unwrapped and the aftermath examined in context of the characters. So, even though I solved one piece, I couldn’t know how the ending would play out, and I’m glad to say the final pages were absolutely perfect for the book that had preceded them.

This is perfect holiday reading, cosy weekend reading or in fact something to gee you up when life seems a bit flat. Read it anywhere or at any time and get swept up in a story that will keep you up all night.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers HQ who allowed me to read an advance copy of Bring Me Back ahead of publication on 8 March 2018. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the talented author B.A. Paris for keeping me thoroughly entertained.

First Published UK: 8 March 2018
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Give Me The Child – Melanie McGrath

Psychological Thriller
4*s

This is the sort of book to read when your own family gets too much and we all know that season is fast approaching!

There is a knock at Cat Winter’s door in the middle of the night, going through the possibilities of which family member has had a disaster requiring such an action Cat is wrong-footed when she realises the young child, about the same age as her own daughter Freya, who stands pale and unspeaking, is actually her husband Tom’s daughter. Yes, not the news you really want especially as Ruby’s mother has been found dead and there is no-one else to take her.

Firstly I’m so pleased that the author has a sense of humour about this scenario.

As Tom spoke I couldn’t help thinking just how bloody old and worn and unoriginal the story sounded, a clapped-out tale of a faithless husband led on by some mysterious femme fatale. If you saw it on TV, you’d reach for the remote. This wasn’t us. This wasn’t who we were meant to be. So how was it that it was what we had become?

Her assurance that this was a somewhat overused storyline led me to believe that there was far more on offer, and boy there was. Ruby is a beautiful child but Cat simply can’t relate to her and becomes increasingly anxious about the way she interacts with Freya. This might sound overly dramatic but we know that Cat had some illness that led her to be admitted to a psych ward during her pregnancy so that explains part of her anxiety, the other part is explained by the work Cat does as child psychologist with damaged children, she’s seen the worst that they offer and fears poor Ruby has some kind of personality disorder.

Tom Winter I quickly surmised was not the man you’d want by your side when dealing with life’s daily battles and since he seems to protect Ruby at Freya’s expense the tension in the book quickly mounts and battle lines are firmly drawn.

This is one of those books that you settle down to and enjoy the ride, I don’t usually like the children in my fiction, certainly not ones who are yet to reach their teens reeking of malevolence, but Ruby does but her actions are enacted relatively subtlety and in a way that is age-appropriate which made it all a bit easier to swallow. With new revelations or more the pieces fitting together as Cat digs deep to find out where all the secrets are buried whilst simultaneously trying to keep her own daughter out of Ruby’s clutches this is a fast-paced read.

Although this book begs the question ‘What would I do?’ I didn’t feel with this one that I could realistically enter the game because in my world Tom would pack his and his daughter’s bags and go and deal with whatever seeds he had sown (literally) on his own but that didn’t stop this being a very entertaining way to spend a cold and wintery day.

I was fortunate enough to receive a proof copy of Give Me the Child from the publishers HQ and this unbiased review is my thanks to them.

First Published UK: 27 July 2017
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

White Bodies – Jane Robins

Psychological Thriller
5*s

I can’t deny I was excited to hear that Jane Robins whose non-fiction books The Magnificent Spilsbury and the case of The Brides In The Bath and The Curious Habits of Doctor Adams  I thoroughly enjoyed and which sit proudly on my bookshelf, was writing a psychological thriller. I also can’t deny that I am reading far fewer books in this genre, because many fail to delight me in the way that they once did. But boy did this one work. The plot was tight, the writing engaging and the characters were weird enough to be chilling but normal enough to be believable.

Callie and Tilda are twenty-seven year old twins with Tilda being the more outgoing and outwardly successful of the two, Callie somewhat hampered by an obsessive nature who dwells on every conversation, every look and every perceived slight to the nth degree. It is Callie that waits for invitations for movie nights with her sister but rarely meets up with Tilda’s fun-loving friends. So imagine her excitement when Tilda introduces her to her new man, Felix. But Callie’s overwhelming need to make sure her twin is safe means that she is on her guard.

It isn’t long before Callie hears and sees things that convince her that Tilda is in an abusive relationship and she trawls an on-line forum, obsessively, for confirmation and advice.

This is one of the creepiest psychological thrillers I have ever read. The premise is similar to many others in the genre – these are not people on the whole that you’d want to spend any length of time with, but there are so many aspects of their behaviour that you will have come across in your friends, family or colleagues that all the way through, I had a feeling that this could be true. This genre really does work best when you believe – a bit like fairies – and because it feels so real, as Callie goes searching for clues, it is impossible to separate the truth from the fiction. Added to that the bizarre but sadly only too believable on-line tales that draw Callie into endless discussions about abusive men, the story becomes not only claustrophobic but has a hue of ghastly inevitability.

White Bodies was absolutely compelling, it was one of those wonderful books which from the moment I read the first page I was sure I would enjoy. I don’t know what it is that makes some books far more ‘readable’ than others but this was one of them. What I do know is that this book is solidly underpinned with brilliant writing. Since childhood, I have been drawn to stories about twins, although I sincerely hope that some aspects of twin behaviour, mentioned in this book were dreamt up in Jane Robins’ imagination! Of course there are twists, that is what the genre is all about, but the author hasn’t gone all out to do a complete about face, the book hanging solidly together from the first to the last page and the book doesn’t rely on the twists for a great reading experience, there is much more to enjoy!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Touchstone who granted my wish to read White Bodies which will be published in the US on 19 September 2017. UK readers apparently have to wait until after Christmas to read this book, which is somewhat bizarre as the author is British and the book is firmly set in the UK. Anyway despite the wait, if you enjoy a good psychological thriller, and live in the UK, mark this one down as To Be Read and if you are in the US please note your cover is different to the one above – enjoy!

First Published UK: 28 December 2017
Publisher: HQ
No. of Pages: 384
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Amazon UK
Amazon US

 

 

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

Not A Sound – Heather Gudenkauf

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

Heather Gudenkauf’s books fit into a mix of genres leading with a strong element of crime fiction, defiantly thrilling whilst ultimately being triumphantly character but let’s don’t forget they also include issues as well as the spark of romance, all of which provides something for everyone without becoming a jack of all trades and master of none.

Amelia Winn is profoundly deaf following a hit and run accident. Cut adrift from the nursing work she loved she hits the bottle much to the fury of her husband David who needs to be able to trust her with his young daughter Nora. We meet her two years after the accident when out on the river with her service dog, Stitch, she finds a body. What happens next is terrifying and mysterious in equal measures.

The atmosphere in this book is ramped up by Amelia’s isolation, not only through her hearing loss but the fact that she has decamped from the marital home to an isolated cabin where she is slowly trying to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. It is impossible not to feel some sympathy for the poor woman who has cut herself off from her former friends, with only policeman Jake, her brother’s best friend, as a constant in her life. Jake has encouraged her to stop drinking and now she is ready to try to start work again, sadly not as a nurse but she’s applied for an admin job for an oncologist. The two strands build up a real picture of Hannah’s life and I liked the fact that although she had lost the early battles for her true self, she is no victim, she accepts that she could have handled things differently and that the loss of David and Nora in her life is as a direct result of how she acted.

There’s quite a lot going on in this book and I spent the first half or so imagining that the book was going to veer off in a totally different direction than it did but that’s not to say the author cheated the reader, the case was that I thought I knew better! As well as the well-researched hearing loss storyline the author, inspired by her son’s cancer, the strand that takes us into the files that Hannah works on as she updates the surgeon’s records. And of course at the heart of the book is a solid mystery. Who is the murderer and what was their motive?

I raced through this book and enjoyed the variety as well as the strong characters and exceptionally visual descriptions that the author paints for the reader. Although I felt there were a few occasions when the author repeated Hannah’s thoughts to ensure her readers got the point this was nicely balanced by the brilliant action scenes where the author gently reminds us how Hannah’s hearing loss means she has extra obstacles to overcome. With an ending that deliberately doesn’t sew up all the loose ends this book had a real feel of realism to it, which is always a bonus.

I have enjoyed so many of Heather Gudenkauf’s books, each one telling a very different story but all having a solid plot, great pacing and best of all being utterly compelling.

I’d like to thank the publishers HQ for allowing me to read an advance copy of Not A Sound, this review is my unbiased thanks to them.

First Published UK: 30 May 2017
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 352
Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Amazon UK
Amazon US

Books by Heather Gudenkauf
The Weight of Silence (2009)
These Things Hidden (2011)
One Breath Away (2012)
Little Mercies (2014)
Missing Pieces (2016)

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Other Us – Fiona Harper

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

I think like everyone the world over I occasionally have those ‘what if?’ moments and that’s exactly what Fiona Harper has tapped into in The Other Us. Maggie is a forty-something woman whose only daughter is preparing to fly the nest so when Maggie and her best friend Becca have been invited to university reunion, her first thought is will Jude be there? Jude invited Maggie to run away with him the night she accepted Dan’s proposal and at the back of her mind, with Dan being secretive, she wonders if she should have done so.

When Maggie is hurtled back through time to 1992 when she was twenty-one, she wakes up in her student digs which she shared with Becca. Back to the time before she decided which man to plump for. Maggie now has the chance to make different choices, and of course the question is will they make her happier?

This fun read doesn’t just focus on Maggie and her love life though, I’m happy to report that it also focusses on bigger life choices such as the careers that Maggie and Dan choose along with a meaningful look at the nature of friendship. How does it work if you don’t like your friend’s partner? And of course it’s harder to like them if you know how they are going to act in the future. Yes, Maggie is conscious that she is in the past, unlike many ‘time-travelling’ novels, so her actions are taken with that knowledge in mind, and the big question is what does Maggie in her forties really want her life to look like? What is important? Only when she is able to answer those questions can she really make the choice she needs to.

My first thought when Maggie wakes up in 1992 was the more benign truth is that youth is wasted on the young. Imagine waking up and shaving a good twenty years off your age – those wrinkles and grey hairs banished to reveal a younger and perkier you – I think I’d embrace that too!! Maggie does, choosing a wardrobe she would have shunned as the old Maggie and revelling in her youthful appearance.

This is a well-constructed novel; it needs to be with three different time lines to follow all involving the same set of characters, the potential for getting confused is high. I’m happy to say I didn’t once wonder where we were I the story though as the author has given us enough pointers – including Jude using Meg as his name for Maggie to keep the storylines straight.

This is perfect beach reading, it’s light and fluffy but with enough oomph to keep you turning those pages to find out what choices Maggie makes and what adjustments she makes to turn her life around in all three story-lines. All of this is helped by the fact that Maggie is someone you’d like to have as a friend and so I was rooting for her even when she seemed incapable of seeing what was really important to her and so meandered way off track. There are plenty of funny scenes to keep you chuckling and this uplifting book may just well convince you that perhaps hurtling back through time isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

I’d like to say a huge thank you to MidasPR who sent me a copy of this book on behalf of the publishers HQ. This unbiased review is my thanks to them and the author Fiona Harper for brightening up my day with a humorous look at life.

First Published UK: 4 May 2017
Publisher: HQ
No of Pages: 384
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Fiona’s first book was published in 2006 and she now has twenty-four published books under her belt. She started her career writing heartfelt but humorous romances for Mills & Boon, but now writes romantic comedies and feel-good women’s fiction for Harper Collins, as part of their HQ imprint.
She is a previous winner of the Joan Hessayon New Writers’ Scheme Award, has had five books shortlisted for an RNA Award and won the ‘Best Short Romance’ at the Festival of Romance three years’ running.
Fiona lives in London with her husband and two teenage daughters,