Deceived by Heena Rathore

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What’s it about?

How well do you know your loved ones?

A girl struggling to cope with the murders of her mother and five-year-old brother.
A journalist chasing the ghost of a potential serial killer.
A thirteen-year-old girl who slaughtered her parents.
And a revenge-driven psychopath who is about to destroy everyone’s life.

After 9 years, a young writer is still coping with the brutal murders of her mother and five-year-old brother, as she moves into a house of horrors, unwittingly to start a new life with her lover. Will friends and family be able to redeem Ally out of the impending doom in time? Will her infallible love become the key to the destruction of her already fragile world? Will madness prevail over love; true love over revenge?

Deceived is a gripping psychological thriller that mazes through the deepest, darkest emotions of human mind through the story of a vulnerable girl who treads in the mist of deception bred from a long unforgiven betrayal.

Review

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First of all, I was completely sold when I saw the cover of this novel. It’s such a strong image, I knew this would have to be an interesting story and I wasn’t wrong in my assumption.

The prologue of Deceived contains a very interesting insight that makes it possible to make a distinction between a psychopath and a sociopath. It ends with the instruction to look out for the listed traits for one or the other throughout the novel and I was keen to make my own discoveries of these personality disorders… I didn’t need to be told twice to dig into the story.

The story has a brilliant opener with an old newspaper article reporting a 13 year old girl’s disappearance after she seemingly has killed her parents. The girl, Elisabeth, is one of the voices in this novel and she will make an appearance now and again between chapters of the present. I was clueless how she fit in to the present story but I was quite hooked on her storyline and paradoxically, even though she’s a bad character, I was still concerned for her well-being.

In the present day we follow Allison Stone, a girl whose mother and baby brother were murdered 9 years prior. She lives with her best friend Sam and Max, her dog. There’s so much interaction with her dog that at times he felt like a real person to me. He stole my heart easily, as well as her best friend Sam. It’s great to have such a good friend who you can call no matter what. Sam would drop everything and come running to the rescue. I never really did warm up to her boyfriend Danny, however, even though she’s so in love with him that she goes to live with him. As soon as she moves in, things are starting to get really weird and it looks like her family’s tormentor is back and she’s next on his list. It doesn’t help that her cousin Steve has moved back as well and he’s got his investigating hat on. Will that keep the killer in check? I wouldn’t place any bets :-).

I found the story interesting and there was a lot of creepiness and unease, especially when I read the diary entries from one very disturbed individual, as well as the onslaught of unsettling events happening to Allison in an attempt to destabilize her. It gets worse even, there’s quite a bit of violence in the final act that made me cringe. Unfortunately I did figure out who was behind it all quite early on and I didn’t even have to put much effort into it. I would have liked it to have been a bit more inconspicious and to have seen a few real herrings planted perhaps. What I really couldn’t see though was what Elizabeth’s connection to the story was, if any. I was amazed how this plotline morphed into the present one in the end.

Overall, it wasn’t as spectacular as I expected but it was a good, enjoyable read nonetheless and a great debut. It reminds me a lot about another novel written by a bestselling author, which has been getting a lot of praise and they both have a few similar elements, only this one is for the readers who can take it just a little harder.

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

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

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What’s it about?

Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops … Or does it? Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

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Review

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This is one of the best book covers I’ve ever seen, it’s minimalistic but it says it all. There’s sensuality, there’s darkness, it’s simply an amazingly fitting cover and after you’ve read the novel you’ll agree even more! Exquisite is a very orginal psychological thriller that made me feel like I was suffering from a borderline disorder. I mean to say this novel was quite extreme in the emotions experienced by the characters and this is what made it all so enthralling in the end I think.

The writing was lyrical and beautiful and I savoured every moment. So much of it is so recognizable because we all experienced heartbreak sometime so it’s easy to relate to and connect with the characters. The plot was perfect, being very mysterious and captivating all of the time.

The novel opens with an anonymous woman serving time in prison. Why she’s there and who it is, remains a well-kept secret until the end and is a brilliant move because you just can’t imagine this ending badly, until you can :-). It all starts out very lovely though, even though you know it won’t be all roses in the end. The story takes a nasty turn halfway through the novel and suddenly I felt a bit cheated myself ;-). I’m afraid there’s something captivating about reading about another person’s misery which made me want to keep turning these pages.

I have liked, loved and hated one of the characters in the end. It took a long time figuring out who was telling the truth and what the true motives of some actions were though. The story was told by Bo first, making me really like her, then Alice’s who I then warmed up to in a flash because of the lousy background and her young and fragile personality, then Bo again… I’m just keeping it to myself who of these two main characters, Bo or Alice, wasn’t exactly the person I thought she was and made me feel this way so strongly.

This is a story about love and hurt and how painful it is to love. A great debut novel by Sarah Stovell.

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

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

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What’s it about?

Two women. Two versions of the truth.

Kitty lives in a care home. She can’t speak properly, and she has no memory of the accident that put her here. At least that’s the story she’s sticking to.

Art teacher Alison looks fine on the surface. But the surface is a lie. When a job in a prison comes up she decides to take it – this is her chance to finally make things right.

But someone is watching Kitty and Alison.
Someone who wants revenge for what happened that sunny morning in May.
And only another life will do…

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Review

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Blood Sisters starts off as a creepy thriller – think stalkerish things – but gradually turns into an interesting and entertaining mystery.

Ali(son) works as a lecturer teaching stained glass creation and comes in contact with a lot of people. There’s a sense of threat seeping through the pages right from the start and I couldn’t pinpoint where it was coming from, it could have been either one of Ali’s students she teaches in class in the evenings or one of the inmates she teaches at the prison where she recently started to work. But who? I even doubted her in the beginning, thought she was being paranoid for no good reason but no, the threat is very real and serious.

Thankfully, the tension is broken with alternating chapters that follow Kitty, a disabled woman bound to a wheelchair after an accident. She doesn’t remember what happened and can’t talk so we only hear her thoughts throughout the story. Her world circles around Friday Mum, and carers she gives nicknames. When Flab Face turns up she has a crisis and she doesn’t even know why. The author did a great job voicing Kitty’s thoughts in the way she did and it consistently felt authentical and true to form.

The connection between the characters becomes apparent soon enough because the past flashbacks show they know each other and around the halfway point they finally meet in the present and that’s when the story suddenly unfolds a little bit more like a mystery; what happened in the past comes more and more to the forefront for both of them and the one who’s threatening Ali is a bit pushed from centre stage, even if just for a little while.

Kitty starts having small flashbacks about her past (okay those might have come a bit earlier if it were up to me because all that mention of the past was nagging at me, I was so curious for a long time already) and when it was perhaps a bit of a steady flow of events at first, not giving too much away yet, Blood Sisters certainly knows a twisty and turny road towards the end. The author did a great job creating doubt about both Kitty and Alison and how it all went down exactly in the past. The plotline of the person threatening Alison all this time is believable and was inserted into the other storyline in a swift and natural way. The author also kept quite a few secrets to hit you with in the end. All in all, a novel that kept me well entertained and an author I’d like to read more books from.

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

When I Wake Up by Jessica Jarlvi #BlogTour #Guestpost

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What’s it about?

A breathtaking, heart-pounding, dark debut, sure to delight fans of The Girl on the Train and Before I Go To Sleep. When Anna, a much-loved teacher and mother of two, is left savagely beaten and in a coma, a police investigation is launched. News of the attack sends shock waves through her family and their small Swedish community. Anna seems to have had no enemies, so who wanted her dead?

As loved-ones wait anxiously by her bedside, her husband Erik is determined to get to the bottom of the attack, and soon begins uncovering his wife’s secret life, and a small town riven with desire, betrayal and jealousy.

As the list of suspects grows longer, it soon becomes clear that only one person can reveal the truth, and she’s lying silent in a hospital bed…

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About Jessica Jarlvi

JessicaJarlvi

Born in Sweden, Jessica moved to London at the age of 18 to obtain a BSc Hons degree in Publishing and Business. She worked in publishing in the UK for a number of years before heading to Chicago where she edited a magazine for expats. Back in Sweden, she completed a Masters in Creative Writing. Since 2010, Jessica has taught journalism and media at a local university, and has spent the last five years as the marketing and PR manager for a British firm. Last year, she was one of the winners in the Montegrappa Prize for First Fiction at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. Jessica is married with three spirited children, and although she’s known for her positivity, her writing tends to be rather dark!

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Guestpost

“Multiple perspectives”

I never intended to write When I Wake Up from five different points of view. It happened organically – I’m not a planner! – but it made me enjoy writing the book even more. As a reader, I usually have five different books on the go, so this made sense. I recently read that Paula Hawkin’s latest book is told from eleven different perspectives, which is very impressive!

While doing a Masters in Creative Writing in Sweden one tutor told us that the most difficult book he had ever written, was from four different perspectives. This intrigued me, telling a story from various points of view and I started writing a book that involved different characters’ take on life.

Swopping from one character to another is similar to acting. You step in and out of someone else’s shoes, immersing yourself in that character’s thoughts. When I first moved to London, I did an evening class in improvisational acting, which led to a part in a play. My role involved being a Swedish student desperately in love with a man who in turn was in love with an older woman, who I seem to recall was not in love with him (drama galore in other words).

It was a terrific experience and I have to admit, I did toy with the idea of studying acting. However, my reasoning was that in such a competitive profession, you need to want it 100% to stand a chance, and my heart was – and still is – in writing stories.

Writing is therapeutic, sometimes difficult, but mostly enjoyable. Time spent with your characters, shaping them and watching them evolve, gets better the further into a book you get. People often ask where writers get their ideas from and for me, it’s from life: I’m always observing my surroundings, imagining what goes on in people’s heads.

Writing When I Wake Up, I really enjoyed immersing myself in Daniel’s perspective. His teenage mind goes through a number of conflicting emotions. He is both hard and soft, tough yet vulnerable. I both despised him and loved him at the same time. I feel that people, as well as characters, are not entirely good or bad. Life is not quite so black and white, and I wanted to depict that in this book.

My next novel is told through three different points of view only, but who knows what will happen along the way? Maybe more characters will clamour for attention, eager for their time in the spotlight…

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When I Wake Up

Woman of the Hour by Jane Lythell

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What’s it about?

StoryWorld is the nation’s favourite morning show, and producer Liz Lyon wants to keep it that way. Her job is to turn real-life stories into thrilling TV – and keep a lid on the scandals and backbiting that happen off-stage.

But then simmering tensions erupt at the station, trapping Liz in a game of one-upmanship where she doesn’t know the rules. As the power struggle intensifies, can Liz keep her cool and keep her job? Does she even want to?

In this gripping novel of power, rivalry and betrayal, Jane Lythell draws on her experiences of working in the glamorous, pressurised world of live TV.

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Review

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Liz Lyon is the woman in Woman Of The Hour who showed me the other side of what we usually see on our tv screen. A job at a television station is something that seems galaxys away from your ordinary joe’s life, it speaks to the imagination, something one can only dream of and seems nothing but exciting, glitzy and glamerous but is it really all glam and shine? I believe that you’ll have a much more realistic image of the tv world after finishing this novel.

Liz is a woman trying to hold her own in a world dominated by men. Her job? To comfort, put out small fires, deliver bad news, stand up for her people against angry publicists and mitigate time and again between several characters with quite a bit of an ego.

She’s got a diverse cast of characters under wings, there are 8 of them: there’s tv presenter Fizzy, cook Ledley, agony-aunt Betty, researchers Simon and Molly, astrologer Gerry, runner Ziggy and an intern new-comer Harriet under her supervision. Their problems become her problem and believe me when I say that they all have their big and smaller problems that she’ll have to solve. While she’s juggling to placate and appease everyone, she too has her own personal problems. I really liked that insight I got into her as a mother and in another role than in the work place.

Personally, I thought the television world was much more of an individual scene, but if this is anything like the real thing then they are more tightly-knit than in a normal (male dominated) corporate environment like the one I’m working in so I was pleasantly surprised in that respect but it really isn’t a gift to Liz to have to choose her battles and be the middle woman every time again.

This novel held a lot of drama and intrigue, there’s plenty of lies and deceipt, affairs and blackmail going on behind the scenes of StoryWorld. This is not my usual kind of read perhaps but I still enjoyed watching their life and world from the sidelines and it was written in an easy and compelling fashion. After reading this, I’m not really all that jealous about her job anymore though :-).

Many thanks to the author, Jane Lythell, for sending me a free copy of her novel. All opinions are unbiased and my own.  

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

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What’s it about?

‘I was born two years into my mother’s captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I would have been a lot more understanding of my mother. I wouldn’t have adored my father.’

When the notorious child abductor known as the Marsh King escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.

No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone… except, perhaps his own daughter.

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Review

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The Marsh King’s Daughter is actually an old fantasy story by Hans Christian Anderson and the author shares this old tale through several chapters in between the main story. Anderson’s story is about the child born from a Marsh King and an Egyptian princess, a girl who has two forms, frog by night and a beautiful girl by day. I won’t give away the rest though but you know how these stories go… you’ll see the similarities in the end and it’s so amazing that she used this fairy tale in her own story.

The Marsh King’s Daughter tells the story not by the girl abducted but, quite uniquely, through the voice of their offspring, a girl – now woman – called Helena who has a husband and two children herself in the present day.

This was an utterly fascinating story told in alternating timelines through Helena’s life in the present day, where she deals with her father’s escape from prison, and her first twelve years living with her mother and father in a cabin on a ridge in the wilderness. They lived in a self-proficient way and they were very resourceful which was displayed in many many ways. There was no electricity and maybe this was the thing she missed most of all when looking back. She still remembers the highlight of her fifth birthday when her mother made her a real birthday cake, made using a duck egg and bear grease. She got a doll from her mother as a present too which she shackled and used for target practice later, and from her father she received her first knife. Her father learned her to hunt, snare and trap, he learned her to swim and he gave her first tattoos. When she talks about her father I felt she genuinely loved him and looked up to him, he was her hero and she was a real daddy’s girl, and I wondered how she could be responsible then for him being in prison. In the present day though she knows the police won’t be able to catch him and she sets out to find him and lock him up again. She once was his ‘Little Shadow’ but she’s determined to outwit him at his own game again, she has learned from the best after all.

Sparsely scattered through her accounts at first but more and more so later on, situations and reactions from her father in the past were mentioned that made me frown upon and where I once even felt some kind of sympathy and perhaps even thought their life as a family wasn’t all that bad, it became crystal clear that I couldn’t be more wrong. The author made me take an enormous u-turn in my understanding of this fellow. It was a struggle though for both of us to face the reality and for her in the end, to see that he wasn’t all that she thought he was. It was a perfect love-hate relationship and the suspense in this novel is mostly brought on by the questioning if she has what it takes to stop her father. Does she really take after her father in the end?

The world building in The Marsh King’s Daughter was incredibly detailed and atmospheric, it must have taken lots of research and it was amazing to be immersed in this rugged landscape and very basic life. Her love for her three-legged dog pulled on my heart-strings plenty of times. The only scene I didn’t read entirely was the one where she and her father go deer hunting. I know it was a scene that was in line with the story but it was too difficult for me to read about this. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed the rest of the story though. In the beginning there’s a lot to learn about her past but towards the end, when we finally learn why and how they left the ridge, it was followed by such a high rise in tension and it didn’t let up anymore.

This was an outstanding read, one I can highly recommend!

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

Last Breath by Robert Bryndza

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What’s it about?

He’s your perfect date. You’re his next victim.

When the tortured body of a young woman is found in a dumpster, her eyes swollen shut and her clothes soaked with blood, Detective Erika Foster is one of the first at the crime scene. The trouble is, this time, it’s not her case.

While she fights to secure her place on the investigation team, Erika can’t help but get involved and quickly finds a link to the unsolved murder of a woman four months earlier. Dumped in a similar location, both women have identical wounds – a fatal incision to their femoral artery.

Stalking his victims online, the killer is preying on young pretty women using a fake identity. How will Erika catch a murderer who doesn’t seem to exist?

Then another girl is abducted while waiting for a date. Erika and her team must get to her before she becomes another dead victim, and, come face to face with a terrifyingly sadistic individual.

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Review

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I’ve eagerly anticipated the next installment in the Erika Foster series – the 4th novel already if you can believe it – and the author’s outdone himself with this one! It really is very strong competition for my favorite one which was, to this day, The Girl In The Ice, his first novel and the one that immediately turned me into one of Erika’s biggest fans. Only now I’m just not all that sure anymore, this one’s got so much going for it and could very well take first place!

Social media is a dangerous place, anybody can pose as another person and this plotline is effectively and thoroughly proving this point. It’s a very actual theme with people being more and more online and on social media platforms so it was an amazing idea to make this a plotline and Mr. Bryndza spins it in such a harrowing way that it really made my blood run cold when thinking of the possibility of this really happening. It’s easier to acquire info on someone than you think apparently. I’m certainly making sure I’m protecting my profile and identity to those I don’t know after finishing this novel!

I felt there was a lot of change in this novel for Erika, both on a personal level and professionally, and I’m pretty sure this adds to the recipe of success that’s making this one another exceptionally good read. Erika’s still the same person as before of course, efficiently bulldozing her way into an investigation that isn’t hers but she’s more the likeable Erika from the first novel again, having shaken off a bit of that previous harshness. Everything is shaping up for her in this novel and I think she’s starting to really feel better with where she is in life. I am pretty sure it’s against police procedure to make certain promises to the parents of victims, but there’s not a single hair on her head that isn’t convinced she won’t succeed in catching this killer. Of course I knew she would succeed but how was unclear and made me scratch my head more than once.

At the beginning I had some doubts about the killer’s identity, it could be either of two characters brought to my attention, but soon enough the killer’s POV took away any doubt. The police are doing great work but the killer stays out of their scope and reach. He’s like a ghost on the internet and he avoids all CCTV cameras so how are they going to find him? Your guess was as good as mine, all I could hope for was that he would slip up and Erika would see this mistake and pound on him.

And then there’s a tension that’s creeping in when you see that someone in his vicinity is developing an infatuation for this person. I wanted to warn her, to shoo her away from him but the heart doesn’t always see what it must. She’s getting in some very dangerous territory there. It was like I was watching a trainwreck waiting to happen. It didn’t help exactly that I could hear what he was thinking, it was very frightening :-).

Last Breath was full of suspense and drama with very well-developed characters, an enjoyable revisiting of my favorite characters and an outstanding plotline with an ending that would definitely have showed a spike in my heartrate if it were measured. Catching a killer is definitely not without danger!

You can read this as a standalone but I recommend starting with the first novel for the introductions to these people, they’ll grow on you even more. Needless to say I think but I look forward to number 5!

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