Haven’t They Grown by Sophie Hannah #BookReview

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All Beth has to do is drive her son to his Under-14s away match, watch him play, and bring him home.

Just because she knows that her former best friend lives near the football ground, that doesn’t mean she has to drive past her house and try to catch a glimpse of her. Why would Beth do that, and risk dredging up painful memories? She hasn’t seen Flora Braid for twelve years.

But she can’t resist. She parks outside Flora’s house and watches from across the road as Flora and her children, Thomas and Emily, step out of the car. Except…

There’s something terribly wrong.

Flora looks the same, only older – just as Beth would have expected. It’s the children that are the problem. Twelve years ago, Thomas and Emily Braid were five and three years old. Today, they look precisely as they did then. They are still five and three. They are Thomas and Emily without a doubt – Beth hears Flora call them by their names – but they haven’t changed at all.
They are no taller, no older.

Why haven’t they grown?

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What the… what the… what the… hellllll is going on? If I haven’t asked myself this question 30 times or more I haven’t asked it once as I just couldn’t explain how the children didn’t age at all in 12 years. Well I had my ideas right at the start but my train of thought just evaporated and I just let the story take me wherever it was going. Ah, this novel is one big brain twister with thankfully a really great answer waiting for me in the end.

I really liked Beth and her family, especially her daughter Zanah (short for Suzannah). She might still be studying for her GSCE’s, or that’s what she should be doing at least, but I loved her assistence and everyone who reads this book will agree, you’ll probably love to have a daughter like her, she is one incredibly bright girl. It’s maybe a little onorthodox because she’s only 16 years but she’s just a great character who propels the story forward, asking the right questions and keeping the calm in the family and as such she’s the real voice of reason in this novel. I also really loved the fact that Beth nor anyone else doubts what she saw so we don’t get stuck in the paranoia/mad woman routine but we’re quickly running through possible explanations, none of which seem to be the right one though. And yet, there is people!

Beth is like a dog with a bone and I’m so happy she didn’t let off. Even though she gets in contact with Flora and Ben, friends she broke all contact with for some reason 12 years ago, she can feel they are hiding something. There are lies and charades aplenty and well there were so many alarm bells going off I’m surprised the police didn’t knock on my door :-).

I read one novel by this author before and let’s just say that wasn’t a satisfying experience so I didn’t really plan on reading more books in the immediate future but now I’m sooo happy I did. She’s definitely on my radar for the future because I love an ending that you never imagined and is just so brilliant and clever, and much more evil and dark than expected.

I normally read a novel per week and I devoured this one in two days. I’m not even sorry I sacrificied some of my sleep for it, it was just so intriguing and addictive, I had to find out the truth!

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

 

The Holdout by Graham Moore #BookReview #MeetTheJury #The Holdout

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‘Ten years ago we made a decision together…’

Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar fortune, vanishes on her way home from school. Her teacher, Bobby Nock, is the prime suspect. It’s an open and shut case for the prosecution, and a quick conviction seems all but guaranteed.

Until Maya Seale, a young woman on the jury, persuades the rest of the jurors to vote not guilty: a controversial decision that will change all of their lives forever.

Ten years later, one of the jurors is found dead, and Maya is the prime suspect.

The real killer could be any of the other ten jurors. Is Maya being forced to pay the price for her decision all those years ago?

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I love reading courtroom thrillers so The Holdout piqued my interest right away, and who doesn’t want to cast their vote and see if they were right… I know I do! This isn’t a novel that reports in detail what goes on in the courtroom though, it’s more what is going on outside of court that will keep you awake at night. The Holdout centers on ‘the twelve’ main characters, the jurors who are present every day to hear about The People vs Bobby Nock, a teacher who is thought to be involved in the disappearance of 15-year old Jessica Silver.

It did take me some time to form an opinion about this case that is the start of the novel and which runs as a red thread throughout the story with growing complexity. For a four-week trial and one week of deliberation I did expect to learn more, I felt I missed information and that I didn’t get the full picture, so this got me wary. Was I being pushed to one side? The author sticks to the facts, so it left me with a few unanswered questions about the investigation, testimonies or lack thereof (nobody wants to hear the main suspect?) and also about some expert findings. Couldn’t the possibly contaminated evidence be redone? If they knew it might or might not be contaminated, why would they still present it to the court as their expert findings, why wasn’t it thrown out on that basis? I know, I know, I might be too sceptical and difficult on this part but I just wanted to cast my own vote in all fairness. I’d make such a great (read: pain in the ass) juror :-).

At least I kept with my opinion, which was more than you can say of the jury. It was VERY scary to discover that the jury changed their mind for so many different reasons, invalid reasons lacking a real foundation. It was uncalled for, someone’s life is in the hands of people and they go over it so lightly, I felt horrified and it certainly didn’t make them my favorite people, but were they right or wrong in the end? As for the guilt question, it certainly wasn’t crystal clear, so yes I had serious doubts as well. If he didn’t kill her, then who did? And who killed this jury member 10 years later at their reunion? What was going to come out that was worth killing for?

Now I know I’m not Hercule Poirot but I had an inkling and I was right about a small part of the story regarding what happened to Jessica. Finding out who killed the juror swept me nearly from my feet though. You better sit down when you’re reading this one. I never expected this outcome nor what happened after. I was fascinated to see how it would play out for the killer. I love reading novels that pose moral dilemmas and this one certainly kept me thinking about the choices the jurors made, even when I wasn’t reading.

There really are a couple of brilliant and unexpected twists in this novel and I’m sure you won’t be able to tear yourself from reading once you start. The Holdout certainly makes you think about your own beliefs and values. What would you do in a case like this? I still don’t think I agree with the way Maya handled it, but I’m not the one who has to live with these decisions so I’m cool with it :-). I don’t think I ever want to be on a jury now though, no thank you. I am, however, very thankful I can just read a story like this. I love to read it, I don’t want to live it :-).

I received a free copy of this novel from Orion Publishing. This is still my honest opinion.

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney #BookReview @alicewriterland

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Meet Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from.

Except one person.

Someone who knows Aimee very well―and what she’s done. . .

When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right, she is―but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

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Oh the year couldn’t have started in a better way, this one’s as twisty as twisty can be! I loved reading it, it was the next best thing to a sugar rush! I already enjoyed Alice Feeney’s first novel, Sometimes I Lie, so my expectations were already quite high of I Know Who You Are and still she managed to give me more.

Aimee is an actress and she feels that she’s actually been acting her whole life, not only on set. Everyone wants her to play a certain role in life and she tries to please them all, while she tries not to forget who she really is. There’s something about that though, the fact that she likes to put on a mask more than being herself that made her quite illusive and secretive and even though I didn’t have anything concrete it did start to make me think she was hiding something.

OK yes, she is hiding something alright! The second storyline that started when she was only 5 years old brought SO MUCH understanding about who she is and how she became an actress. She’s so insecure and she doesn’t even like being in the spotlight, yet acting is her calling. I know I keep on going on about the acting but I found it such a natural thing for her, I completely got her character.

Someone is calling her out though, claiming to know who she is by leaving mysterious notes. And then her husband Ben goes missing. Are the two related? Who is stalking her?

Honestly, this book was unputdownable. I was massively intrigued by the present storyline and finding out whether Ben was alive or dead, but the past storyline was quite heart-breaking and pulled me in completely. There really are a lot of despicable people in this novel that I loved to hate and I still haven’t decided which one of them was the worst.

I know lots of readers find the ending to be a little outlandish, I totally get it, but for once I was riding the wave and I’m completely with it. OK yes, it’s a totally bonkers twist, but it still makes sense and it just gives you such a delicious yet horrible shock. It’s just what a really amazing author would go for, no holding back here and I love that she ran with the idea!

I can’t wait to read the third novel, His & Hers this summer! I have no doubt I’m going to love that one too!

I received this book in my Book Fairy book box. This is my honest opinion.

Mr Nobody by Catherine Steadman #BookReview

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When a man is found on a Norfolk beach, drifting in and out of consciousness, with no identification and unable to speak, interest in him is sparked immediately. From the hospital staff who find themselves inexplicably drawn to him; to international medical experts who are baffled by him; to the nationalpress who call him Mr Nobody; everyone wants answers. Who is this man? And what happened to him?

Neuropsychiatrist Dr Emma Lewis is asked to assess the patient. This is her field of expertise, this is the chance she’s been waiting for and this case could make her name known across the world. But therein lies the danger. Emma left this same small town in Norfolk fourteen years ago and has taken great pains to cover all traces of her past since then.

But now something – or someone – is calling her back. And the more time she spends with her patient, the more alarmed she becomes.

Has she walked into danger?

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star three and a half

A man with no memory is found on a deserted beach by a dog walker. Is it a state of retrograde amnesia, a fugue, or even worse, could he be faking it? Wanting to avoid a scandal like they had in the past when they came across ‘The Piano Man’ the government brings in Emma, a neuropsychiatrist. In all of the country she’s one with the most expertise in this field.

I found it fascinating to read about the different possibilities and always find the mind to be such curious thing, and I was wondering if it was possible that Mr. Nobody had a hidden agenda. Does he really have no memory? Is he a good guy or a bad guy? His very decisive actions in a moment of crisis in the hospital speak volumes about his past even without an identity, or so it seemed, and what was even more mystifying is that he seemed to recognize Emma. Could he be connected to her past in some way? A past that she hates to think about and even made her contemplate taking the job – a once in a million opportunity – in the first place.  She feels guilty about her past too but about what exactly is information that slowly trickles in over the course of the novel.

Emma is drawn to this mystery man who’s soon dubbed Matthew by hospital staff, but despite the tests she’s running she’s unable to explain how he knows so much about her. The tension mounts when people find out about her and her past – which we’re still much in the dark about at that point – and she doesn’t feel safe anymore. The confusion is all around until the most shocking truth about Matthew finally comes out.

Mr. Nobody was a pacey thriller which kept me firmly in its grip. The suspense was brilliant and I was guessing all the way throughout the book. The ending was definitely twisty but felt a tad over-the-top for me and I was a little disappointed that a character who I found quite clever could turn into someone so stupid. I’m sure most readers won’t have a problem with that twist though and will be delighted with its orginality so don’t let me stop you from finding out for yourself!

One thing is for sure, Mr. Nobody certainly isn’t a nobody. He’s very much somebody and you’ll know it when you read this novel.

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

The House on the Lake by Nuala Ellwood #BookReview

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No matter how far you run . . .
He’s never far behind

Lisa needs to disappear. And her friend’s rambling old home in the wilds of Yorkshire seems like the perfect place. It’s miles away from the closest town, and no one there knows her or her little boy, Joe.

But when a woman from the local village comes to visit them, Lisa realizes that she and Joe aren’t as safe as she thought.

What secret has Rowan Isle House – and her friend – kept hidden all these years?

And what will Lisa have to do to survive, when her past finally catches up with her?

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Once again, a terrific read! I very much enjoyed Nuela Ellwood’s debut novel, My Sister’s Bones as well as her second one, The Day of The Accident, and she’s done it again, it’s another winner!

The House on the Lake is a novel about abuse and control, being controlled as well as taking control. Even though there are two completely different stories told in this novel it’s not hard to see these similarities and to hope for a positive outcome for both of them.

One of the narratives follows Lisa and her three year-old son arriving at Rowan House, a very dark and creepy house. The same house in fact where a few decades ago a young girl lived with her father. The girl is known as Soldier and she calls her father Sarge. She started receiving training since her 11th birthday and while she doesn’t know any better and talks about what she’s going through as if it’s the most normal thing in the world, I really hurt for her. It isn’t a normal life and her father’s mindset is far from fine, yet nobody in the village does anything about it. I became totally engrossed in what happened to her, and my heart filled with fear a couple of times, but I was also very interested to know why Lisa’s little boy didn’t want his mommy, or why she was hiding there of all places.

I had no idea where these storylines were going to lead, and it was very strange to see a character from the past pop up suddenly in the present. Without an apparent link, I had no idea that the storylines would become more intertwined and that long buried secrets would eventually find their way out in a masterfully plotted conclusion.

The House on the Lake is a brilliant page-turner and perfect for readers who love a brutal assault on the heart, as in The Marsh King’s Daughter and Resin.

I received a free ecopy of this novel from publisher Penguin Books via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Silent Winter by Maggie James #BookReview

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On an icy November night, Drew Blackmore is beaten unconscious, then abducted. He awakes to find himself in total darkness, naked and chained to the floor. Fed just enough to keep him alive, Drew is unable to identify his captor, or the reason for his incarceration. As reality fades, hallucinations take over. Can Drew escape his prison before madness claims him?

On an icy November night, Drew Blackmore is beaten unconscious, then abducted. He awakes to find himself in total darkness, naked and chained to the floor. Fed just enough to keep him alive, Drew is unable to identify his captor, or the reason for his incarceration. As reality fades, hallucinations take over. Can Drew escape his prison before madness claims him?

Meanwhile Drew’s wife, Holly, despairing of ever seeing him again, turns to his brother for comfort. As the worst winter in decades sweeps the UK, she learns of Drew’s tragic past. Could his disappearance be connected with that of a prostitute years before?

A story of how the mind responds to solitary confinement, ‘Silent Winter’ examines one man’s desperate attempt to survive the unthinkable.

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This was so good! As a thriller addict this is not my first read with a captivity plot but Silent Winter is pretty different from the rest of ’em. This is an author you need to add to your list! The first part of the story is dominated by Drew’s captivity and survival, his total isolation and the consequences on his mind and body kept me on tenterhooks. Would he be found in time or not? I read about his wife Holly’s distress following his absence and there were events involving Holly and his brother Todd that made me suspicious and alert, but Drew was always in the back of my mind. Sensatory deprivation is total torture and reading about his detoriating state, which was getting worse by the minute, was described in perfect detail and pretty hard hitting. I didn’t want to know what was going to happen next but my eyes were glued to the pages just the same. Drew’s life was on the line here and even as a reader I didn’t have more answers than he had and I was in the dark as much as he was about who took him and why. 

The chapters were divided between Drew, Holly and then there were snippets of someone called The Watchman, without any doubt the bad guy in the story and I assumed his abducter. The Watchman’s identity stays very well hidden througout the story as well as his motive. There are also references to the past, when a little 7-year old boy living in dire circumstances at home was one night left behind at home all alone. This definitely scarred him for life but how is this tied to Drew? I felt it niggling in the back of my head and sensed the direction to look for answers but I still couldn’t figure it all out. It was delightful to finally see all the puzzle pieces fall into place and having that aha-moment. Very twisted and unexpected indeed.

Overall, a great read, very gripping and it left me reeling several times. Recommended!

I received a free ecopy from the author in exchange for my honest opinion.

Red Snow by Will Dean #BookReview

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TWO BODIES

One suicide. One cold-blooded murder. Are they connected? And who’s really pulling the strings in the small Swedish town of Gavrik?

TWO COINS

Black Grimberg liquorice coins cover the murdered man’s eyes. The hashtag #Ferryman starts to trend as local people stock up on ammunition.

TWO WEEKS

Tuva Moodyson, deaf reporter at the local paper, has a fortnight to investigate the deaths before she starts her new job in the south. A blizzard moves in. Residents, already terrified, feel increasingly cut-off. Tuva must go deep inside the Grimberg factory to stop the killer before she leaves town for good. But who’s to say the Ferryman will let her go?

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If you enjoyed Dark Pines, the first novel in the Tuva Moodyson series, then you’ll enjoy Red Snow too. I would recommend reading the first novel before picking this one up though, not because Red Snow gives away information about the killer in the first novel so much but it’s more that you can see who is in the clear in this novel, so if you’d read in reverse that would be a shame to know already.

Red Snow was an enjoyable read and I was submersed in the icecold atmosphere of Gavrik quickly. Its claustrophobic feel was quite overwhelming again and even though I was attracted to all the peace and quite of the small town at first, I soon understood it wasn’t a fairytale to live here and I supported Tuva’s longing to move to a warmer region and a more bustling and energetic city. Not that there’s nothing happening in Toytown…

I loved reading about the lay-out of the town and I could see with my eyes closed Ronnie’s store, the police station, Tammy’s Thai foodtruck and the Posten where Tuva works. It was easy to feel as if I was there alongside Tuva, moving among these people, and I believe I even pulled my little blankie a little closer around me, as if the cold from the novel could almost touch me (-20 degrees sounds inhuman to me to live in day in day out). The author lives in the Swedish forest himself and there’s no way someone else could translate that experience as well as he does.

It was the setting and the descriptions instead of the mystery itself that stole the show for me really, because the mystery was wrapped up in a lot of family drama. The remaining Grimbergs were a weird and peculiar family and I didn’t feel much affinity with them as I quickly worked out that they were all about keeping up appearances. They held my interest but in the end this novel felt more as a family drama or a cosy mystery than the sort of chilling thriller I was expecting. There were different people (all connected to the liquorice factory) who raised some suspicion and the snow skulls added another level of creepiness but the investigation had little to build further on. I admit I like plotlines that feel more dangerous, with lots of tension throughout. It did deliver on that part in the end, which I liked therefore best, but it held out a bit long for my liking. If you have more patience than me and don’t mind a slow burner, or if you just love the winter and wouldn’t mind moving to a cold country, well then you most definitely must read this novel.

I received a free paperback of this novel from Oneworld Publishers. This is my honest opinion.