The first 5 🌟 of the year goes to… Changeling by Matt Wesolowski #BlogTour #BookReview @ConcreteKraken @OrendaBooks @annecater

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Welcome to my blog stop on the book tour for Changeling by Matt Wesolowski. My thanks to the author, to Anne Cater and publisher Orenda Books for the opportunity to be part of the tour. No guestpost today because I’m so excited about this book you’re getting a book review. I can’t wait to tell you more so let’s go!

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On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the Wentshire Forest Pass, when a burst tyre forced his father, Sorrel, to stop the car. Leaving the car to summon the emergency services, Sorrel returned to find his son gone. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.

Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel, his son and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. He takes a journey through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there. He talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know where Alfie is…

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Author

Author Matt Wesolowski

Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie CreatureSelfies from the End of the WorldCold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was an Amazon bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WHSmith Fresh Talent pick, and film rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller.

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Oh how long I’ve been dying to tell everyone how much I LOVED this book! I was already a fan of the Six Stories series since I discovered the first novel (ICYMI here’s my review of #1 Six Stories and #2 Hydra) and I knew this would be good but let me tell you this one’s really criminally good.

Changeling was bold, unrelenting and without a doubt my SCARIEST READ EVER. The novel is only 173 pages long but that was more than enough to really rattle me.

I seriously love novels with stories drenched in legend and folklore and Changeling made optimal use of this. I’m actually not superstitious so I made the assumption this story wouldn’t get to me but I assure you that even when you don’t believe, this book will get under your skin. After the spooky forest in Six Stories, the author amped it up another notch by introducing mysterious black-eyed children who come knocking on your door in Hydra. This time he was on such a roll with his descriptions of Wentshire Forest, it gave me goosebumps, made me question everything and scared me so much more than I expected. If you want the full experience you should read it at night, I dare you! As usual I read a little before bedtime and I think I was awake half the night, hearing all kinds of sounds and thinking about what could possibly be going on, wondering about the truth of that forest where strange things occured during construction of some holiday cottages. Is it haunted and was Alfie taken by *dare I even say this out loud* forest fairies? Did the father kill his son?  The story and what was happening in the past and the present was so intriguing it made my head hurt thinking about it.

When I finished reading the novel I just sat there, staring into the distance with a major book hangover. I can best describe the whole experience as going into a horror house, you’re scared and all but once you’ve left all you can think is I want to do it again. Well it’s the same here! Changeling was incredibly atmospheric, and involved a brilliant plotline that really delivered in the end. This is a novel that I’ll recommend to everyone over and over again, and I can’t wait to read another cold case podcast.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

*** Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour ***

Changeling Blog Tour Poster

 

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A brilliant debut! My Name is Anna by Lizzy Barber #BookReview #BlogTour @ByLizzyBarber @arrowpublishing @Rachel90Kennedy

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Welcome to my blog stop on the book tour for the brilliant debut novel My Name is Anna by Lizzy Barber. My thanks to the author, to Rachel Kennedy and Arrow Publishing for the opportunity to be part of the tour. I can’t wait to tell you more so let’s go!

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Two women – desperate to unlock the truth.
How far will they go to lay the past to rest?

ANNA has been taught that virtue is the path to God. But on her eighteenth birthday she defies her Mamma’s rules and visits Florida’s biggest theme park.
She has never been allowed to go – so why, when she arrives, does everything seem so familiar? And is there a connection to the mysterious letter she receives on the same day?

ROSIE has grown up in the shadow of the missing sister she barely remembers, her family fractured by years of searching without leads. Now, on the fifteenth anniversary of her sister’s disappearance, the media circus resumes in full flow, and Rosie vows to uncover the truth. But will she find the answer before it tears her family apart?

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Most surprising novel of the year so far! I loved this debut, it was so much deeper and darker than I thought it would be.

A story always has two sides and I was thrilled the author didn’t choose to write this magnificent story in a single narrative but opted for a dual narrative by Anna and Rosie, sharing their own individual story in alternating chapters. Their very different, contrasting lives made for fascinating reading and the anticipation of seeing these threads come together was agonizing.

As a reader I knew more than the main protagonists right from the start so I had to wait a while for one of the girls to catch up with what I already knew and some readers might perhaps find it a bit of a slow start but it’s oh so important to watch the whole thing unfold in its own time, it’s essential to see how that seed of doubt develops, grows and is cultivated. It can’t be rushed or it wouldn’t be believable anymore so I tried to resist the urge for a quick progression and my desire to see the storylines cross-over. The buildup was subtle and let me see the many nuances in the girls’ lives. Not only were they raised on different continents, they were raised very differently as well. You can’t miss what you don’t have but my heart went out to Anna because I knew of course what they were both missing. As I turned the pages I  was overcome with a sad feeling thinking how different both their lives could have been.

Anna lives with her religious neat-freak mother and she’s destined to lead a strict and frugal life. I didn’t envy her life and I certainly didn’t like her mother. Rosie on the other hand was raised in a warm and affectionate family, she smokes, drinks and goes to parties (without her mum knowing). She’ll never be like other teenagers though, the fact that her sister is missing casts a big shadow on their family. The grief of this entire broken family of parents, a sister and even the brother who doesn’t even know the missing girl was so touchingly described that it made my heart ache.

I was hugely awarded for my initial patience because the last part of the novel was terrific. The story intensified gradually with the help of two other narrators who help reveal the backstory and the reasons why this happened 15 years earlier. It made such compelling reading! I might have had my judgement at the ready from page 1 but hearing the full story that led to the kidnapping, it changed my initial views and condemnation. Never judge a book by its cover, or in this case, by the facts. I’m not saying I’m agreeing with what Anna’s mother did but at least I can say I have some understanding.

My Name Is Anna made me feel a wide range of emotions and quite surprisingly the story turns more and more dangerous. Who does Anna have to be afraid of though? Her mother or this mystery man who knows who she is? The story builds to an amazing climax too that made me hold my breath. Gripping and tense, check and check!

I’m very happy with the way it ended, I loved the epilogue. It could have ended differently or the author could have written clichés to give the story a ‘happy ever after’ ending with no further thought but she didn’t and that’s what makes it so much better and made me close the novel with a sigh of contentment.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.

*** Don’t forget to check out the other 2 blog tour stops today ***

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The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley #BookReview

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EVERYONE’S INVITED.
EVERYONE’S A SUSPECT.

Bristling with tension, bitter rivalries, and toxic friendships, get ready for the most hotly-anticipated thriller of 2019.

In a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness, old friends gather for New Year.

The beautiful one
The golden couple
The volatile one
The new parents
The quiet one
The city boy
The outsider

The victim.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

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The Hunting Party was an interesting murder mystery with a nice big bonus. Not only is there the hunt for a killer in a close circle of friends but one of the biggest joys for me was actually figuring out who the victim was. It mustn’t have been easy to write the story and describe what happened without giving anything away towards the identity of the murder victim but I couldn’t catch any of the POV’s slipping at any point. It’s actually only in the final part of the novel that you find out who it is although I did make some progress myself in ticking off a couple of persons from the list. The strategy Lucy Foley used made it possible to predict who wasn’t murdered rather than who was and in the end I had it all limited to 2 or 3 possibilities. The same questions kept mulling in my head however: who deserved it, who provoked it, who held such a terrible secret it was worth killing for? As the story progresses it seems there’s more than one likely candidate to give and to receive.

Even with so many guests I never had any problems discerning who’s who, although I had my own set of mnemonics to remember them: there were the stars (Miranda & Julien), the wannabees (Emma & Mark), the happy family (Giles, Samira and baby Prya), the perfect son-in-laws (Nick & Bo) and of course the underdog (Katie). I really liked Katie, the only single person of the company and a bit of an odd one out. The most memorable one was Miranda though, she’s the one who always wants to be in the picture and she was highly intriguing.

The first night at the lodge – game night – already showed a few glitches in what seems at first sight a perfect group of friends as it gears up for the fateful New Year’s Eve. A copious dinner and even more amounts of alcohol makes everyone quite unhibited and frank. When they start a game of truth or dare you know they’re asking for trouble. It was quite a rollercoaster ride of twists and reveals that followed, some I saw coming but others came right out of the blue.

I very much enjoyed getting to know this lot, the characters were nicely fleshed out and I love it when you scratch the surface and there’s so much to discover and believe me there were secrets and lies flying around your ears. I also really liked the two additions to the group, Doug and Heather. I didn’t know what reasons they had to want to move and work at such a remote location but I warmed to both of them quickly and found them to be the most enjoyable people in the story.

If you enjoyed similar novels like Sleep and An Unwanted Guest then you’re definitely going to like this one as well, it keeps right up with those and even steps up the game delivering two mysteries in one go.

I received a free copy of the novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Before I Find You by Ali Knight #BookReview

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Maggie is a husband watcher. A snooper, a marriage doctor, a killer of happy-ever-afters. She runs her own private detective agency specialising in catching out those who cheat. And she’s very good at it. Until Helene walks through her door.

Helene is a husband catcher. A beautiful wife, a doting stepmother, a dazzling presence at parties. She counts herself lucky to have married one of the most eligible men in town – Gabe Moreau. Until she sees something that threatens her little family of three.

Alice is a perfect daughter. Apple of her father’s eye, a kind stepchild to Helene, a tragic daughter of a dead mother. She lives a sheltered but happy life. Until she finds a handwritten note on her father’s desk: ‘You owe me. I’m not going away.’

All three women suspect Gabe Moreau of keeping secrets and telling lies. But not one of them suspects that the truth could result in murder . . .

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star three and a half

I was lucky enough to read Before I Find You via the Pigeonhole app installed on my tablet, so I received one stave each day over a course of ten days.

Before I Find You is a story dominated by women, very strong women to be exact.  I can’t say I felt much sympathy for any of them, unfortunately. Helene, the woman who suspects her husband Gabe of cheating, was too snubby and composed for me to like her. I hate to say it because there really shouldn’t be any excuse but in a way I could even see why her husband might have done what she suspects him of. Alice, the daughter, is a spoilt little brat who I wouldn’t want in my house and who happens to be smart beyond her years. I knew not to underestimate her. As for Maggie, the PI, who I would have expected to like and love, well she didn’t seem like a bad person but even she’s quite rude and standoffish. I also knew she was hiding something about her past so that didn’t make her very trustworthy either.

Aside from the characters, the storyline was quite good and kept me on my toes. The start of the story was a bit of a slow burner but it really kicks into higher gear when the murder happens. I quickly became engrossed and hooked from there. I didn’t know who to put my money on from thereon and if I thought it would end here, well no no.. the author had a brilliant twist up her sleeve that really lifted the story up to a higher level. I very much enjoyed the last part of the novel and I’d give it 4 stars easily for the ‘where the hell did that came from’ plot but I’m afraid the characters influenced my rating in this case more than I wanted. It’s still a good read though so I’m sure to keep an eye out for another one of her novels.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher via The Pigeonhole. This is my honest opinion.

Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia #BookReview

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There is a place in Minnesota with hundreds of miles of glacial lakes and untouched forests called the Boundary Waters. Ten years ago a man and his son trekked into this wilderness and never returned.

Search teams found their campsite ravaged by what looked like a bear. They were presumed dead until a decade later…the son appeared. Discovered while ransacking an outfitter store, he was violent and uncommunicative and sent to a psychiatric facility. Maya Stark, the assistant language therapist, is charged with making a connection with their high-profile patient. No matter how she tries, however, he refuses to answer questions about his father or the last ten years of his life.

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy who is no longer a boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world.

Purchase

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This was the first novel I read by Mindy Mejia. I had heard plenty of positive echos about her first novel The Act of Hattie Hoffman and I was also very attracted by Maya’s occuption as a language therapist. It’s an uncommon job and it triggered me, wanting to know more about it.

I was also very drawn to the story of father and son disappearing. What were their reasons and how did they survive? The wilderness and threats of the Boundary Waters were vividly depicted, the nature described in a beautiful manner but from an outsider’s point of view. I would have loved to read scenes of their way of life (as in The Marsh King’s Daughter), their hardships and the struggles of a young boy with his father but the story’s setting doesn’t involve the past but focuses on the present, from the moment Lucas is arrested for breaking into a camping store.

Maya and Lucas’s interactions were interesting and I understood how Maya’s past made her want to help Lucas. Maya was left behind by her mother when she was little and I felt for her. Her past intrigued me and I could really see how this formed her character. The girl who doesn’t want to bond with anybody starts to get an unhealthy interest in Lucas though. She then becomes a bit of a loose cannonball and I raised my eyebrows when I saw what unprofessional conduct she shows. There was definitely a YA vibe in the second part of the novel which came as a bit of a surprise to me and then it seemed to change course once again when Maya and Lucas find themselves in a bit of action as well. It bothered me just a little bit because I was mostly interested in the mystery and I felt I was being kept away from getting to the heart of the story.

In short, I enjoyed the first and last part of the novel where the different pieces of the puzzle fall into place and everything was all brought together brilliantly. It was maybe a bit of a different read then I was expecting but I enjoyed the reveal of Lucas and Josiah’s reasons for taking off and I was satisfied how it was all wrapped up in the end.

I received a free copy from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen #BookReview

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Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

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

amazon uk amazon com

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This novel was very high on my wishlist and I might have squeeled a little when I was invited by the publisher to read it on Netgalley. It’s as if they read my mind!

I was’t only very excited to read the novel though, I was a little anxious as well. I don’t need to be reminded how unexpectedly twisted The Wife Between Us was so I didn’t know if the follow-up of that bestseller would be as satisfying as the first. The bar was set quite high but it definitely lived up to my expectations!

An Anonymous Girl really plays the psychological card and is for me THE perfect definition of a ‘psychological’ thriller! The book contains quite a bit of psychological warfare and I couldn’t be happier about that as I’m always fascinated by secrets and lies, how some people can derive answers from non-verbal clues, how they can read people and instinctively know their strenghts and weaknesses, what drives them and what makes them afraid. If you have an interest in the human psyche and psychology then this one is a real hit.

The novel is told in alternate chapters by Jess (Jessica), a girl working as a make-up artist and Dr. Shields, a psychology professor. Their interaction commences with Jess taking part in a survey where she has to answer truthfully on some thought-provoking questions that form the basis of a morality study. I loved getting to know Jess by working my way through her answers. Her thoughts and feelings were there, stripped from every disguise, and I liked her character, it shows she’s flawed but her honesty was touching. It also made me think what I’d answer on the questions myself. The novel takes a bit of a turn when her loyalty is being tested though. It’s not clear what Dr. Shield’s intentions are at first but I did have an unsettling feeling that there was an unseen threat and Jess was being used for something. There’s definitely manipulation in this novel involved but is it Dr. Shields or the third person who joins their little triangle who is lying to Jess? Trust is an important issue in the novel and I have to admit I was quick to judge some people as well… I liked and trusted some characters first, to change my mind about them as the story progressed, until I was completely at a loss about who to trust.

An Anonymous Girl is a novel of action and reaction, and as it nears the end it has something of a chess game with the main characters playing some serious mind games. Halfway through the book Jess doesn’t know who represents the real danger in this tangled web she finds herself in anymore. The tension hung in the air and it was great not knowing what their next move would be. The confrontation and finding out who would lie and who would tell the truth in the end was fascinating to see unfold.

I can’t wait to see what the authors come up with next.

I received a free copy of the novel from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

#BlogTour #Guestpost: ‘Oh, The Places You’ve Been’, a fabulous (and hilarious) poem by Good Samaritans author Will Carver @OrendaBooks @AnneCater @Will_Carver

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Welcome to my blog stop on the book tour for Good Samaritans by Will Carver. The author wrote such an original guestpost for my stop about his journey as a writer of 5 years. It’s very different because he wrote it as a poem! He used Dr Seuss’s Oh, The Places You’ll Go and tweaked it a bit :-). [NOTE: if you haven’t read it then click the link and take a look at the first rhymes].

My thanks to the author for the sublime guestpost, to Anne Cater of Random Books tours and to publisher Orenda Books for the opportunity to be part of the tour. I can’t wait to tell you more so let’s go!

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One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans.
But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home…

And someone is watching…

Dark, sexy, dangerous and wildly readable, Good Samaritans marks the scorching return of one of crime fiction’s most exceptional voices.

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Author

Will CarverWill Carver is the international bestselling author of the January David series (Arrow). He spent his early years in Germany, but returned to the UK at age 11, when his sporting career took off. He turned down a professional rugby contract to study theatre and television at King Alfred’s, Winchester, where he set up a successful theatre company.
He currently runs his own fitness and nutrition company, while working on his next thriller. He lives in Reading with his two children.

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OH, THE PLACES YOU’VE BEEN

Commiserations!
Today’s not your day.
We don’t want your words, now.
So be on your way.

Sure, there’s brains in your head,
And a dick in your hand,
But Will Carver is DEAD,
We’re sure you understand.
You’re out on your own and you know what you know,
That your publisher ditched you, you’ve nowhere to go.

And you’ll need a new agent. You’ll need a new book.
You fluked it first time and don’t know where to look.
With your head full of dicks and your hand full of brain,
You’re doubting if ever this will be again.
You may not find anyone willing to team.
You may be the only one clung to that dream.

It’s darker in here.
In that head. With that fear.

But here, things can happen.
And sometimes they do
to people as brainy
and cocky as you.

Things won’t start to happen.
No. Not straight away.
You first have to suffer
and fuck up each day.

OH! THE PLACES YOU’VE BEEN.

You’re on your way down
You’re seeing great lows.
You’ve joined the downtrodden
who dwell in their woes.

You want to climb out of this pit. Don’t know how.
And the writers you knew are all bestsellers now.
While you’re trying so hard just to make the ends meet.
And you feel somehow you’re going to land on your feet.

Except that you won’t.
Because, sometimes, you don’t.

We’re sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
that fuck-ups
and break-ups
can happen to you.

You can get all hung up
that they took all your words.
And your family and friends
will be reduced to thirds.
And then nothing you hear
will ever be funny.
You’re not a writer,
You’re screwed. With no money.

And when you’re exhausted
and screwed and no fun,
Un-screwing yourself
is not easily done.

You will live in a place where there’s three to one bed.
But the darkest of rooms is the one in your head.
A room you can cry in. It’s sorrow. It’s sin.
Do you want to stay out? Do you want to go in?
How much can you lose? How much can you win?

And IF you can go in, is there a way out?
Are there crossroads and trap doors and a roundabout.
You will cross some roads. And about you will round.
The answers you seek are not easily found.
And the walls are much tighter.
You don’t feel like a writer.

But what if you find that your kids are not screwed?
And what if you changed your stupid attitude?
And what if a friendship turned to something new?
If you didn’t screw them, then could you unscrew you?
That ladder’s too short you saw lying about.
But maybe, just maybe, you’ll write your way out.

You have brains in your head, you have feet that can walk,
You write down a line, ‘This is Seth, want to talk?’
You’ve a dick in you pants and a tongue in your cheek,
You write down another, ‘Go fuck yourself, freak!’

You’re writing and writting and wroting galore.
Deleting, delighting, deleting some more.
You’re chopping and chipping your chapters away
Devotedly wroting your chapters all day.
You type out the end and already you hate it,
It’s too late, you look round and see you have made it.

Nothing to do with positive thinking.
Nothing to do with the whisky you’re drinking.
You still have one bed and your bank account’s shit,
But you just wrote yourself right out of the pit.

Five years from when you fell flat on your face,
You find things are starting to fall back in place
You start to believe again, writing’s a should.
People are saying Samaritan’s good.
And you will succeed. Absolutely. Indeed.
But you’ve learned that nothing can be guaranteed.

And your dick makes you male
And your brain makes you clever
But you’ve been where you’ve been
And you’re more scared than ever.

*** Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour ***

Good Samaritans BT