Watching from the Dark by Gytha Lodge #BookReview

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Aidan Poole logs on to his laptop late at night to Skype his girlfriend, Zoe. To his horror, he realizes that there is someone else in her flat. Aidan can only listen to the sounds of a violent struggle taking place in the bathroom—and then the sound of silence. He is desperate to find out if Zoe is okay. But then why is he so hesitant to call the police?

When Aidan’s cryptic messages finally reach them, Detective Chief Inspector Jonah Sheens and his team take the case—and discover the body. They soon find that no one has a bad word to say about Zoe, a big hearted young artist at the center of a curious web of waifs and strays, each relying on her for support, each hiding dark secrets and buried resentments. Has one of her so-called “friends” been driven to murder? Or does Aidan have the biggest secret of them all?

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star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

The blurb actually captures the story really well, it tells you in this case exactly what to expect. Main character Zoe, brilliant, lovely, sweet Zoe winds up dead and it is one big mystery who killed her. Of course everybody likes her, what’s not to love about her? As the story progresses from the past to the present, Zoe stays the one that everybody turns to but her friends show more of their true colours and the suspicion turns in every direction since every single one of her friends could possibly have a motive.

I can’t get enough of these type of novels if they’re done well and Watching From the Dark is definitely on the list of good ones. I did, however, only read another novel in the same genre the other week and even though I really liked both, the biggest difference is that I was actually able to predict the ending here. The story managed to wind me up paranoid about everybody, but in the end the red herrings were futile, my initial thought was the one I came back to after zigzagging over all the other names, and that turned out to be the right bet. If you read a lot of these types of novels I don’t know if it will come as a complete surprise. It could also be I’m just so good at it of course ;-).

I enjoyed the way the story was written. Zoe herself and Felix and Maeve were the characters that sprung out the most for me because they had an interesting personal history and character traits that really defined them. Her other friends Victor and Angeline could have been developed maybe a bit more for me personally. I also found Zoe to be quite a catch, it seems that every single man in this novel was attracted to her (yes that made me roll my eyes). Jealousy is of course a strong and believable motive anytime but still, it bothered me a little that literally everyone wanted her. All that was missing was a girl crush in it as well (or maybe there is, you’ll have to read it).

This is actually the second book in the detective series but you really don’t have to have read the first one. I didn’t and I didn’t miss a beat. The detectives in the story were great, there was a good connection between Jonah and Hanson, they form a perfect twosome, they’re both are very clever and they compliment each other so the detective work had drive and determination and it certainly makes me want to see more of them in the future.

I received a free copy from the publisher for review. This is my honest opinion.

Have you heard #TheRumour by Lesley Kara #BookReview

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When single mum Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another and now there’s no going back . . .

Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.

Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.

So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realizes what it is she’s unleashed?

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2 / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars_1457015900_81_246_96_2

I hadn’t pegged this novel as a debut at all, there’s definitely no teething stage for this little baby. Rumours are a bit like wildfire – or the corona virus at the moment – it all starts with a casual remark, something small someone says, and then it gets repeated in a group of people and before you know it everybody in the whole damn town catches whiff of it and is convinced of it being a hard truth. It felt frighteningly real and easy how all of this started and got out of hand so quickly without really meaning to. The rumour lead its own life and before I fully well knew, people were on a crusade to find out Sally McGowan’s new identity in this peaceful little town by the sea, even when it’s not even sure she came to live there at all.

Fair’s fair, I was very curious to find out who it was as well and the novel was able to really put the flame under it. There are quite a few suspects to choose from but all respectible women, most of them have children so nobody you would ever think able to commit such a crime. I did have someone in mind though really early in the novel, and this person only came into view well over half of the novel so I became even more convinced I was on the right track, but then other names propped up trying to muddle with my conviction, all of them acting suspiciously in one way or another. I wasn’t placing any bets anymore and a good thing I didn’t. It’s not often a novel can still surprise me like this but the surprise was complete, a real shocker and the real Sally was one of the few people I hadn’t actually suspected at all!

The novel is a great reminder of the dangers of spreading whispered thoughts, of how easily you can accuse someone and how everyone just assumes it is the truth right away, it is frightening and unfair for that person if it’s not true, the damage it can do… We all know it but still women can’t seem not to tell on each other and gossip, but maybe this novel can make you think twice in the future. Luckily in my job discretion is one of the characteristics you really need to have, I do hear and see things that I certainly won’t share with anyone, and I’m the same as a person, so I’m no Jo. My life is safe, for now :-).

The Rumour was a brilliant debut, fast-paced with plenty of intrigue and a very interesting topic too to read about. Do child killers deserve a second chance or do they need to be hunted down for the rest of their life, are we entitled to know where they live at all times? I think you’ll come to the same conclusion as me after you read it, because how could you not? How do they look back and how do they live their lives after the crime in the protection program? I found it quite enthralling to get some insight there from a person living this kind of life, even if it was fictional. I read another novel about the same thing in the past but this one was ten times better for me. I heard through the grapevine myself at the time of publication that this one was a gripping novel full of red herrings and I’m really happy that I can say that ‘they’ were right, it was such a wonderful novel that I already look forward to reading her next one. Fully approved!

I received a proof copy of this novel from a lovely blog friend. This is my honest opinion.

What Lies Between Us by John Marrs #BookReview @johnmarrs1 @AmazonPub

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They say every house has its secrets, and the house that Maggie and Nina have shared for so long is no different. Except that these secrets are not buried in the past.

Every other night, Maggie and Nina have dinner together. When they are finished, Nina helps Maggie back to her room in the attic, and into the heavy chain that keeps her there. Because Maggie has done things to Nina that can’t ever be forgiven, and now she is paying the price.

But there are many things about the past that Nina doesn’t know, and Maggie is going to keep it that way—even if it kills her.

Because in this house, the truth is more dangerous than lies.

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I bumped this one up my readlist the minute I got my hands on the ecopy. Honestly, I didn’t know what this novel was about anymore when I started reading it, I trust this author enough not to care, and I can only recommend doing so because I was in for a surprise real soon this way. The only thing you need to know is that Maggie and Nina live in the same house and that Maggie never leaves the house, so the only hobby she has is spying on the neighbours and reading the books Nina brings her. Don’t be mistaken though, there is a constant battle going on between them and Maggie thinks twice about every word she says to Nina. This resentment also created a tug of war in my feelings for both of them. In what they say and do they both seemed very reasonable women at the start. That really wasn’t the right conclusion to make though.

I strongly felt for Maggie in the beginning, only to feel some understanding for Nina after a while too because of all she went through in her reckless teenage years, until that was overshadowed again with pity and sympathy for Maggie… They both made mistakes in the past, because Nina was young, because Maggie loved her daughter and wanted to do what she thought was best. It is debatable if that was the right thing to do but all I do know is that it backfired in the most horrible way. She is treated horribly by her daughter and there’s literally little she can do about it. She could tell her the truth but even in her most ugly predicament Maggie still doesn’t grab this opportunity. Maybe that is something I didn’t agree upon but I can’t argue the deep love for her daughter.

Nobody lives happily ever after at the end of What Lies Between Us and it won’t come as a surprise either when you read the novel that it does not have this all American ending but in it’s own way the author wrote a rewarding closure to this sad and tragic story.

I held my breath quite a few times while I read this novel, fearing the worst and hoping for the best. The action and reaction between mother and daughter was relentless and I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad that a third person was getting closer to them without knowing what was going on in that house. What Lies Between Us is a very dark and gripping story that will leave nobody unfazed. The novel was built on plenty of deceit, secrets, love and revenge, abuse, loss and obsession. All the best ingredients for an amazing page turner and that is exactly what this is!

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

Strangers by C.L. Taylor #BookReview

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Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life.
Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards.
And Alice is being stalked.

None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.

Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars_1457015900_81_246_96_2

Strangers has 3 interesting storylines about the goings-on in Alice, Ursula and Gareth’s lives. At first it really feels as if these three have nothing in common but then slowly I saw them in the periphery of each other with the mall as the one big link between them. Alice works as a manager in a clothes shop in a mall, Ursula is a renowned shoplifter, a habit she can’t seem to give up, and Gareth is a security officer in the same mall. They are all circling around each other, and at times they even cross each other fleetingly but they never seem to come closer. I loved how hungry the author made me for their stories to overlap and to have these strangers finally meet. It’s a game of wait and see but if you’re patient, the reward is big!

It is such a masterly woven novel with appealing characters. Each one also has an interesting backstory to follow, so when the chapters alternate, you just can’t stop reading. Alice met a guy who might just have something to hide, Gareth has trouble with his mother who suffers dementia and receives strange postcards, and Ursula oww, I felt for her, she had the toughest life and the biggest heart. There’s a reason she can’t stop the shoplifting, why she doesn’t teach anymore, and her new lodging doesn’t turn out to be all that great either. There is a lot of chill factor in this novel and it’s not only the people, the house she lives in felt properly creepy and I don’t think I’d take the same actions as Ursula, she’s a lot braver than I am. Don’t you scream at the tv normally too when someone is going to investigate all alone? Well I was pretty much yelling at my book and at her not to go looking for trouble. Nobody ever listens to me though…

There are many MANY strange events and happenings in this novel and danger signs were constantly flashing before my eyes. I didn’t trust anyone and I could feel the net closing in as we were nearing the end. The hardest thing was to explain why though. It all came together quite brilliantly, as I had expected from this wonderful author who I only discovered 2 novels ago. She’s an outstanding author who invests in her character development and that investment certainly pays off as I was so into it, I could hardly tear myself away from reading. A very absorbing and compelling novel!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Avon Books via Netgalley. This is still my honest opinion.

Beast (Six Stories book 4) by Matt Wesolowski #BookReview

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Elusive online journalist Scott King examines the chilling case of a young vlogger found frozen to death in the legendary local ‘vampire tower’, in another explosive episode of Six Stories…

In the wake of the ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old vlogger Elizabeth Barton had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as ‘The Vampire Tower’, where she was later found frozen to death.

Three young men, part of an alleged ‘cult’, were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a ‘prank gone wrong’. However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton’s death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible.

Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses – people who knew both the victim and the three killers – to peer beneath the surface of the case. He uncovers whispers of a shocking online craze that held the young of Ergarth in its thrall and drove them to escalate a series of pranks in the name of internet fame. He hears of an abattoir on the edge of town, which held more than simple slaughter behind its walls, the tragic and chilling legend of the ‘Ergarth Vampire’…

Both a compulsive, taut and terrifying thriller, and a bleak and distressing look at modern society’s desperation for attention, Beast will unveil a darkness from which you may never return…

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Another new year also means another new novel in the Six Stories series published at the start of the year, and that annual promise is pretty much what always makes me look forward to the end of the year and the beginning of the next. Happy new year indeed! I’m usually hopelessly falling behind reading a series and the general rule tends to be that I’m slacking by the time book 3 comes out. Six Stories is the big exception though, as I read all three of the previous books in the series and I have now devoured the fourth novel Beast. I simply want to read the next one as soon as I possibly can and even with a year in between I’m always eagerly waiting  for the new novel to be released. 

You can read the books as standalones but if you want to know more about the podcast presenter Mr. Scott King himself, you really should start with book 1, Six Stories, and then just keep on going with Hydra, Changeling and this Beast of a book. They are all amazing and this new title is definitely another great addition to the series. The title is quite meaningful by the way when you read this novel, and I can only say that it fits the book like a glove.

All of Matt Wesolowski’s stories are presented as mysteries and there’s a touch of the paranormal in every novel and I love it that he always incorporates legends and fables in the stories too, and presents a history to every reader that makes the story all the more real. In Beast he incorporates a vampire legend and it is the perfect backdrop for this grisly murder committed at the most remote, dank, cold place you can imagine. It really is the perfect novel to read in the cold winter months. I could see the Tankerville Tower before my eyes but I could not fathom how a young and sweet girl who tried to give so much to society could find her end there. Ah but in these podcast stories nothing is ever as it seems and secrets are served very cold. The dark side of people never ceases to surprise me. I knew the story was much more complex than initially laid out. I was also quite fascinated to read anything and everything about her three killers. They might have had a questionable history but an arsenist doesn’t make a killer per se, right? Somehow, even with their bad reputations, I couldn’t see them do this. I tossed and turned at night thinking about a reason.. what pushed them so much, how on earth could do this to this lovely girl? Imagine my surprise when I found out. Maybe I would have preferred after all to have heard more from the three young men in prison, or a first person POV on the night she was killed to get even more personal but I was already in rapture to just hear about it and the shock effect was in place just the same.

Social media presence plays a big part in this novel and I feel like I’ve woken up to many things that I have never thought about, like all those silly challenges that people do. I had also never even heard of ‘flying monkeys’ before but it exists, and probably more than you realise.

The series is brilliantly challenging and the latest addition Beast is an imaginative novel, relevant to today’s day and age. I totally recommend every novel in the series (saves me from answering that question which one is my favorite right). Now, can we skip a few months ahead perhaps so we can hold number 5 in our hands sooner?

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Orenda Books for review. This is still my honest opinion.

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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5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars_1457015900_81_246_96_2

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.