The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton #BookReview

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Three impossible crimes

Two unlikely detectives

One deadly voyage

It’s 1634 and Samuel Pipps, the world’s greatest detective, is being transported from the Dutch East Indies to Amsterdam, where he is set to face trial for a crime that no one dares speak of.

But no sooner is the ship out to sea than devilry begins to blight the voyage. Strange symbols appear on the sails. A figure stalks the decks. Livestock are slaughtered. Passengers are plagued with ominous threats, promising them three unholy miracles. First: an impossible pursuit. Second: an impossible theft.

Then: an impossible murder.

With Pipps imprisoned in the depths of the ship, can his loyal bodyguard, Arent Hayes solve the mystery before the ship descends into anarchy?

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star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

Well I certainly ventured out of my comfort zone reading this. If you would have told me I would read a story set on a ship called the Saardam sailing under the Dutch East Indian Company and drawing on trading adventures in the 1630s, I would have laughed. But I loved Turton’s debut novel so much (my review here) that I was curious and I wanted to give it a chance, and by giving it a chance in I mean I even bought the hardback (and I never buy hardbacks) because I believed the 552 pages could only be fully appreciated between a hard cover.

Overall I can say that I enjoyed reading The Devil and the Dark Water but I didn’t love it as much as I loved this author’s debut novel. In all fairness I don’t think anybody can deliver such a mindblowing job twice though.

The author did try to make his second book intriguing by introducing quite a big cast in his new novel too. The names and professions of the key players were listed before the first chapter which was a good idea to start with (and I absolutely loved the map of the ship drawn inside the book flap) but while I was reading I noticed there wasn’t much other than their professions to distinguish the different characters (Guard Captain, Governer General, Chamberlain, boatswain, Chief Merchant, Captain) and I struggled a little to figure out what each of them did on that ship exactly and Drecht and Vos for example seemed interchangeable so after a while I tried not to think too deeply about the who’s who.

I did love Arent Hayes and Sara Wessel. The governer general’s wife was undaunted and brave and a perfect partner in crime for Hayes. There was a great balance between both of them while they worked on trying to figure out more about who the leper was who warned them that the ship would never reach its destination, what this mysterious folly was (I did feel frustrated at times that it was shrouded in so much mystery for sooo long) and where it was kept and if ‘Old Tom’ really was on the ship.

I enjoyed the mystery but the revelations came quite late so I liked the last part of the novel where all the answers were finally revealed most of all. The author is skilled at working a complex plot and it gave me little vibes of Agatha Christie in the end so that certainly made me appreciate it.

I survived this quite well I think so even though it’s not a favourite I will keep an eye out for his next novel.

I bought a hardback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward – The Housemaid by Sarah A. Denzil #AudioBookReviews

AudioBookReviews

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This is the story of a murderer. A stolen child. Revenge. This is the story of Ted, who lives with his daughter, Lauren, and his cat, Olivia, in an ordinary house at the end of an ordinary street.

All these things are true. And yet some of them are lies.

You think you know what’s inside the last house on Needless Street. You think you’ve come across this story before. In the dark forest at the end of Needless Street, something lies buried. But it’s not what you think….

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Maybe I wasn’t in the mood for this or maybe it was because of the animal cruelty (of birds) described in the first chapters of the novel but it wasn’t a good start and it ended up being quite a challenging audiobook, even though I quite liked the narration. The Last House on Needless Street was soooo weird for sooo long! I really struggled in the beginning and if it hadn’t been because I had already heard so much about it and seen this novel on favorite lists I’m not sure if I had continued. But perseverance is my middle name (ahem) so I’m happy I finally know the secret of this book. The plot is original although it went very slowly and didn’t make much sense at times what was going on. There are three voices in the novel and Ted Bannerman is this strange guy who lives in a delipated and boarded up house next to a forest. Olivia the indoor cat loves Ted and makes observations now and again. Then there’s Lauren, Ted’s daughter, who isn’t always there but when she is her moods are often eratic. I had guessed the clue of the story early on but not the exact extent of it, how encompassing it would turn out to be. In the end the author made it even more difficult with the stairs, the basement, the colours of the rugs and it almost became a bit too much to digest. I like seeing things in my mind but it was impossible to conjure up how this would look on screen or in real life.

I understand why so many readers praise it and talk about it so much because it really is special and the idea behind it – as the author explains in the afterword – is great but if you ask me if I want to read/listen to it again then the answer is no.

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The Housemaid

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Housemaid wanted.

Skills required: discretion, and the willingness to go the extra mile.

It seems like the perfect job. Great wages, accommodation provided and all located within the walls of Highwood Hall, a stunning stately home owned by the Howard family. Not many little girls dream of becoming a maid, but this is an opportunity for me to get back on my feet. And for me to revisit my past….

But I soon realise I’ve made a mistake. The strict housekeeper, Mrs Huxley, watches my every move, emerging from the shadows when least expected. Lord Howard’s son, Alex, takes an interest in me, and as a former addict, I find myself drawn to him because I know he’s bad for me. There’s a general atmosphere of unease at Highwood Hall, from the narrow tunnels laced throughout the sprawling house, to the abandoned north wing, rumoured to be haunted. It’s easy to imagine the secrets hidden within these walls, like the secrets I hold close.

On my first day, I receive a mysterious package. I open up the pretty gift box to find a miniature doll version of me trapped inside a dollhouse. In this scene I’m dead, lying in a pool of red paint at the bottom of the perfectly recreated staircase. Someone sent this threatening diorama to me, but who even knows I work at the hall? And what do they want?

I know only one truth: my perfect job is turning into my perfect nightmare.

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I enjoyed The Housemaid in the format of an audiobook. The narrator Sophie Rundle spoke with clear pronounciation and had a pleasant voice and I’d certainly not mind listening to her again in the future.

The story takes place in the present but I sometimes really felt I was transported to the Victorian era and the modern references almost felt out of place. I did get used to this unusual blend and I became fascinated quite soon with the strange diorama that turned up on Ruby’s first day. Who was it from and what was its purpose? Did someone want to see her gone before she had even started? There were definitely strange things going on in that house and it was all very atmospheric.

I really enjoyed the first three parts of the book but I found it harder to enjoy the final part. The characters were interesting and believable, but then at the end it all seemed a little far fetched to me. There were some shocking truths in the end that I hadn’t entirely seen coming so there is that but it unfolded as if someone had pulled a plug and there was not enough explanation to make me believe what I read. I think I would have liked it more if Ruby had found out more gradually so the pacing would have been more consistent with the rest of the novel and motives and thoughts could be more developed so it would sound more believable.

All in all it was not a bad novel per se and I see the potential of this author’s writing so I might give another novel a go in the future if I have the opportunity.

The Love of My Life by Rosie Walsh #AudioBookReview

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I have held you every night for 10 years, and I didn’t even know your name. We have a child together. A dog, a house. Who are you?

Emma loves her husband, Leo, and their young daughter, Ruby: she’d do anything for them. But almost everything she’s told them about herself is a lie.

And she might just have got away with it, if it weren’t for her husband’s job. Leo is an obituary writer, and Emma is a well-known marine biologist, so when she suffers a serious illness, Leo copes by doing what he knows best – reading and writing about her life. But as he starts to unravel her past, he discovers the woman he loves doesn’t really exist. Even her name is fictitious.

When the very darkest moments of Emma’s past life finally emerge, she must somehow prove to Leo that she really is the woman he always thought she was….

But first, she must tell him about the love of her other life.

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star three and a half

The Love of My Life is a novel with plenty of surprising twists and turns. The beginning is a little slow but really hooked me once Leo discovers his wife told a lie and dives headlong into the unknown by reaching out to people he didn’t know of but she’s been in contact with. Who is Jeremy Rothchild and why is his wife Janice missing? What does Emma have to do with it? You’d think this is a story about cheating but maybe it’s something else, I’m not saying more, my lips are sealed. In any case it’s not Emma herself but Jeremy who informs Leo about Emma’s history, and flashbacks to a time when Emma came into their lives show what Emma went through when she was in her twenties. The heart of the story is tragic and it will probably tug at your heartstrings too in the scenes set in the past.

I enjoyed the story but I was hoping so hard for a re-do of The Man Who Didn’t Call, this great impossible love story between a man and a woman, and being so different it didn’t entirely live up to my expectations. I loved her first novel so much and while there is definitely love in this story too, and an impossible, yearning love even, the love between the couple of main characters, Leo and Emma, isn’t what I call epic. When I think of a romance novel this isn’t what I’m thinking of and for me this falls more under contemporary fiction, a family history, drama.

So, apart from this novel feeling as a different type from her debut novel, my enjoyment was also tempered by the narration. The story is told in his (Leo) and her (Emma) voices and Leo’s voice was pleasant enough to listen to, the male voice was measured and calm but the female narrator stressed every other word in a sentence and I like audiobooks with attention to intonation but this was too much for my liking. I didn’t enjoy the other voices she did either, she gave Leo in her parts in the beginning a very deep and slow voice but that wasn’t how the other narrator presented his character. Also her child’s voice for Ruby wasn’t a young voice that sounded innocently cute or angelic, but rather annoying. I know several blog friends who love listening to audiobooks narrated by Imogen Church so I think it’s just a personal thing for me and if you’re interested in this novel you should not refrain because of this.

I received a free digital copy of this audiobook from Macmillan UK Audio via Netgalley. This is my honest opinion.

Of dog walkers and yoga retreats: Sleeping Dogs Lie by Samantha Downing | The Getaway by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen #AudioBookReviews

AudioBookReviews

I chose two short novellas (around 2 hours of listening time each) because I love reading books written by these authors and I wanted to see if their audiobooks would be equally brilliant.

SleepingDogsLie

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Shelby works as a dog walker in northern California, and she’s just finished up her bi-weekly trip to the park with a husky named Pluto. When she brings him back to his house, she finds his owner – Todd Burke, a well-known local businessman and founder of an organic supplements company – lying on the bathroom floor, dead. A detective arrives on the scene. As she interviews Shelby, the body is inspected by a medical examiner, and more cops search Todd’s home, it becomes clear that the victim’s life was less picture-perfect than his clean-cut persona might lead you to believe.

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If you love animals you’ll enjoy listening to this audiobook. I normally give novellas a miss but I fell for the mention of the author and the dog in Sleeping Dogs Lie. The author managed to create an entertaining mystery about the murder of a husky’s owner. Pluto seemed like a goofy and affectionate dog, especially with his interest in neighbouring little doggie Daisy. I didn’t expect the dog and his dog walker to be so front and center of the story but I loved that it revolves around them. Pluto’s owners had joined custody, his neighbour wanted him to leave his dog alone and threatened to kill Pluto…  So who killed Todd? Detective Grady tries to make sense of it all. There are a few suspects but I totally didn’t expect this outcome. Great twist and motive!

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TheGetaway

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Prepare yourself for a transformative experience. Sometimes, life’s setbacks contain hidden gifts. Here at Lakewood, you’ll find the space to unwrap them.

A weekend at the Lakewood Retreat is exactly what Chloe Powell needs. Freshly unemployed after her boss loses a reelection campaign, the former press secretary desperately wants a break from the bustle of Washington, DC. A flier posted at her yoga studio leads her to the getaway, which looks amazing: Organic meals, celebrity testimonials, and a serene private property within driving distance of the city.

It’s so perfect, in fact, that Chloe’s barely bothered by the intensely personal questions she’s asked in her application, or the unnerving social experiments her enigmatic host, Sebastian, imposes on her once she arrives at his remote cabin. But when a mysterious new guest shows up, Chloe can no longer suppress her rising panic: This place is not at all what it seems.

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star three and a half

Another duo that knows how to deliver unexpected twists. Unfortunately, for some reason and especially knowing what this author duo is capable of, I expected more from it. It started off really good, I was hooked at the start and alarm bells went off as soon as Chloé arrived at the retreat. There was that unsettling feeling where you can’t put your finger on what is wrong exactly hanging in the air and possible scenarios were trying to take form in my head. When another guest finally arrives it became clear what was going on but I didn’t feel as excited with this twist as I should have been. The tension was ramped up in the end and I did cheer Chloé along. This was ok but you’re not missing out if you haven’t listened to this.

I downloaded these audiobooks from Audible for free, as part of my membership. Do let me know what your thoughts were if you have listened to these audiobooks in the past!

Olive by Emma Gannon #BookReview

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Independent.
Adrift.
Anxious.
Loyal.
Kind.
Knows her own mind.

OLIVE is many things, and it’s ok that she’s still figuring it all out, navigating her world without a compass. But life comes with expectations, there are choices to be made, boxes to tick and – sometimes – stereotypes to fulfil. And when her best friends’ lives start to branch away towards marriage and motherhood, leaving the path they’ve always followed together, Olive starts to question her choices – because life according to Olive looks a little bit different.

Moving, memorable and a mirror for every woman at a crossroads, OLIVE has a little bit of all of us. Told with great warmth and nostalgia, this is a modern tale about the obstacle course of adulthood, milestone decisions and the ‘taboo’ about choosing not to have children.

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star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

This is a story of friendship between a small circle of friends, namely Olive and her 3 best friends, Bea, Cecily (Cec) and Isla. Along the line they make different life choices so the plotline is told over a number of years, one timeline is where she and her friends are 22 years old and another at the age of 32 or 33. At 22 Olive and her friends lived parallel lives, but since then they have all spread their wings so to say and while they still meet at their favorite Italian restaurant on a regular basis and have vowed to stay friends and to always be there for each other, it is proving difficult to hold their unison intact ten years down the line. Bea is a mother of three children, Cec – who was the wild one, the disorganised one – is pregnant of her first child and Isla is waiting for another round of IVF. She desperately wants a child but it’s not happening. The odd one out is Olive and she feels that way too. She doesn’t want to have children and her relationship of 9 years fell apart because of it. With her friends all so busy and focused on babies she has trouble finding a listening ear and would they understand at all if she did tell them?

Even though I received a free copy of this novel in a giveaway, I was drawn to this novel immediately. I’m single now but I had two relationships of 11 years (it’s a magic number it seems) and neither relationship resulted in offspring. My first love didn’t want children and I was happy with our life, we enjoyed it to the fullest and I also didn’t want it to change. The second time I was older and slightly more open to it but decisions were made (snipsnip) so having a child was never going to happen.

So I welcomed the thought of a novel about choosing not to have children because it really is something that still is something of a taboo. When are you starting a family? No children yet? WHY NOT? I heard it a lot over the years and it makes me feel as if I need to defend myself over and over again. I was curious how Olive was going to experience her life choice and I expected that I’d be able connect with Olive and feel a kinship there.

While we’re in the same boat, Olive still has a slightly different mindset and while I can see positives and negatives for myself as much as others Olive seems to have more of a one track mind. I found Olive’s reactions to be generally speaking mostly negative, it’s not because you don’t choose children that you can’t enjoy being around them for a while (she’s horrified at the thought of having to babysit them even hypothetically). She certainly doesn’t acknowledge the joy a child can bring at all. Olive accuses her friends of not being there for her but is she there for them? She also wants their bubble to stay EXACTLY the way it was. People evolve though and nothing stays the same, I find it pretty amazing that they still managed to meet up at their restaurant with everyone’s busy lives, that alone takes dedication if you ask me, but Olive doesn’t realise this. She came across a bit naive on that part and a bit self-centered although she comes to realize this too and does make amends towards the end of the story.

What hit me the most though is that she finally finds other women who choose to live childfree (a different term than childless) after she wondered if she was the only person feeling that way but then she decides not to write an article about it for the magazine .dotcom that she works for. I didn’t understand this at all and I never found out what was in the article she ended up writing either. The ending did surprise me in some ways. It was mainly a happy surprise that Olive had changed enough by then that she was more accepting and understanding of her friends.

Pfew sorry for my long piece here where I had a lot to say about Olive. Overall a decent debut about friendships for life and the different angles of the life altering choice of motherhood.

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

The Assistant by Kjell Ola Dahl #BookReview

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A seemingly straightforward investigation into marital infidelity leads a PI and his ex-con assistant on a murderous trail, in a sophisticated, riveting historical Nordic Noir thriller set in interwar and prohibition-era Norway.

Oslo, 1938. War is in the air and Europe is in turmoil. Hitler’s Germany has occupied Austria and is threatening Czechoslovakia; there’s a civil war in Spain and Mussolini reigns in Italy.

When a woman turns up at the office of police-turned-private investigator Ludvig Paaske, he and his assistant – his one-time nemesis and former drug-smuggler Jack Rivers – begin a seemingly straightforward investigation into marital infidelity.

But all is not what it seems, and when Jack is accused of murder, the trail leads back to the 1920s, to prohibition-era Norway, to the smugglers, sex workers and hoodlums of his criminal past … and an extraordinary secret.

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star three and a half

Kjell Ola Dahl was a totally new author to me so I went in with an open mind, even though I was a little unsure about the type of novel it was. It turned out The Assistant is quite the varied type and it is everything you think – or hope – it might be. Nordic crime? Check! Spies and lots of action? Double check! An intriguing mystery delivered in a historical setting? Why yes that too!

The Assistant contains at first chapters shifting between 1924 and 1938, and ends in 1962, but it all starts in 1924 where Jack Rivers is a driver for a man called Arvid Bjerke. He not only transports passengers but is also a runman delivering illegal cans of liquor to village shops. In the very first pages Jack is actually trying to avoid being arrested as he tries to outwit ‘the cop from hell’ Ludvig Paaske in a breathtakingly dangerous scene. Twenty pages later though with a time jump to 1938 Paaske isn’t a cop anymore but a private investigator and Rivers is quite suddenly his sidekick. It is all quite matter of fact with no explanation what happened in between so that only intrigued me more to find out how they got from sworn enemies to allies.

Good teamwork is certainly necessary when a woman asks them to investigate her husband, only to bring danger on themselves as soon as they start trailing the husband. I was invested in this novel from the action-packed opening till the earth shattering ending. In between I followed a treacherous path of twists and red herrings. This is one of those novels that were it a movie you better not look away if you want to keep up with what’s happening. There’s robbery, betrayal, narrow escapes and plenty of action and two women as memorable characters, Julie – wife to Jack’s old employer Arvid – and Amalie who plays the part of Arvid’s mistress. Both women play a magnificent role in all of it but are also characters that will make you question their sincerity and motives. Is Amalie worth being Jack’s crush or is she playing games with him? What are Julie’s intentions towards Jack? Who to trust?  

I have to admit that this was a somewhat challenging novel for me. I didn’t find the story as easy to read as the novels I finished in the weeks before with the writing style being more show than tell. I was often wondering what was going on and felt a little lost at times. I was also taken by surprise in the end that the novel suddenly went a very different direction than the route I had figured we were going. Without saying too much hopefully, I anticipated a full blown political/spy novel in the end with everything that had happened but I was way off track and shortly before the ending I became painfully aware of my mistake. My mouth nearly dropped open when I finally saw what we were dealing with! I really did enjoy the ending though which showed the true colours of all the characters. Overall I can conclude this is a great novel but I’m left in doubt that the style of writing makes this the right author for me.

I received a free paperback copy from the publisher Orenda Books to read. This is my honest opinion.

3 #AudioBookReviews with family drama

AudioBookReviews

I’m still listening to audiobooks and it’s going very well thank you (I signed up for 3 months of audible at 2,99 £ so there’s definitely more to come too). I picked a few titles that interested me but that I wouldn’t necessary pick as a first choice to read. Normally that would mean I wouldn’t get to these books in the next 10 years but now, thanks to them being on audio and being able to squeeze in 15 or 30 minutes here and there, I can review them much sooner. 

Here are 3 audiobooks with some serious family drama and a bit of mystery. I loved Everything I Never Told You most of all but do check out Hurry Home and The Wife Stalker too! 

Hurry Home by Roz Nay

HurryHome audiobook

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Alexandra Van Ness has the perfect life. She lives in an idyllic resort town tucked away in the Rocky Mountains, shares a designer loft with her handsome boyfriend, Chase, and has her dream job working in child protection. Every day, Alex goes above and beyond to save children at risk.

But when her long-lost sister, Ruth, unexpectedly shows up at her door, Alex’s perfect life is upended. Growing up, Ruth was always the troublemaker, pulling Alex into her messes, and this time will be no different. Still, Alex will help Ruth under one condition: we will never, ever, talk about the past. But when trouble befalls a local child, both women are forced to confront the secrets they’ve promised to keep buried.

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The novel is about two estranged sisters Alex and Ruth. Alex is introduced first showing her acting in her role as a child protection social worker. She seems devoted to the job, caring while her colleague Minerva doesn’t seem to see that a child is not properly being taken care of. She is righteous and dutiful but even her boss Morris lets himself be convinced by Minerva that the child in question, Buster, is fine to stay at home with his parents. Then Ruth shows up at her home, the sister she hasn’t seen in over 10 years, since Ruth ran away from home. Snippets of the past start to trickle in and something about that past is definitely off but I couldn’t put my finger on what we were dealing with. The change of perspective by each sister was interesting. The biggest question was establishing who the reliable sister was in the story because after a while they both seem quite fitting. It wasn’t a bad story but it didn’t really make me feel excited either.  

Hurry Home is a rather slow burning mystery or family drama, which kept me entertained but the narrator of the story (Hillary Huber) didn’t make the two voices very different so I didn’t feel as much difference between the sisters as I would have liked and it made listening a bit monotonous. 

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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

EverythingINeverToldYou

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Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; a girl who inherited her mother’s bright blue eyes and her father’s jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue – in Marilyn’s case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James’s case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the centre of every party. But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in 1970s small town Ohio. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting.

When Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia’s older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it’s the youngest in the family – Hannah – who observes far more than anyone realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened.

Everything I Never Told You is a gripping page-turner, about secrets, love, longing, lies and race.

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Another family drama but one that touched me so much more. I really enjoyed listening to the soft spoken voice of the narrator (Cassandra Campbell) and the mystery why Lydia killed herself was quite compelling. Lydia had it all, she was a brilliant student and had lots of friends. She makes her parents proud and it’s safe to say that she’s their parents favorite child too. When her mother finds a packet of condoms in her backpack after her daughter died, it seems she didn’t know her so well after all. The author goes back to that one decisive moment in history that is the first drop in a bucket that will overflow in the end. The story behind their terrible loss takes root even before Hannah was born, with Marilyn’s longing to become a doctor herself. Things definitely took a different turn. 

Everything I Never Told You is a tragic story. It took me a few chapters to get into it, as I didn’t feel it at first when Marilyn and James meet at the university as student and professor in the beginning and their lives didn’t interest me as much, but once Lydia started telling her side of the story, I was completely sucked into it. Lydia is carrying a weight, she does everything to make her parents happy, even at her own cost. It is a story of loneliness, of being misunderstood, of not belonging neither here or there. It seems incomprehensible at the start why she would have killed herself but in the end the tragic nature that led to these deadly consequences is so clear. The story felt very real to me, the story and characters were well rounded and I recommend this audiobook with any reservations.

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The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine

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Joanna and Leo seem to have the perfect relationship. Two adorable children, a beautiful house in a chic area of Connecticut – they have the kind of life people envy.

Then Piper moves to town. Piper is young, attractive, flirtatious. It’s almost no wonder Leo is tempted away…

Devastated, Joanna starts digging into Piper’s past, and discovers some very disturbing secrets – not least that Piper’s previous two husbands ended up dead. But Piper dismisses Joanna’s fears for her family as paranoia. Who is telling the truth? Joanna? Piper? The only certainty in this web of lies is that no one is who they appear to be…and no one will escape unscathed.

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Another family oriented novel with two women telling the story, the only catch being that you don’t know who is telling the truth. It’s very much a Piper versus Joanna story and with Joanne pushed out of the picture and out of the lives of Leo and her children, it was easy to be on team Joanna from the start. The further into the story the more I questioned Piper’s character too. Her past raises some serious questions and Joanne is convinced Piper wants to harm her children. Is it true? Piper is having difficulties winning the children’s sympathy and it’s clear that Stellie’s behaviour is a struggle for her but would she really harm him? How will Joanna make Leo see Piper for who she really is? I didn’t really like Leo either for putting Joanna aside so casually while she stood by him during his depression and I didn’t understand at all why they chose to tell the children Evie and Stellie that their mother is dead and not let Joanna see them. I felt that quite insensitive and unnecessary. With hindsight it all made sense though.

It didn’t help that I loved the narration of Joanna’s voice so much more than Piper’s. I just noticed that both voices were actually narrated by Julia Whelan but for some reason I thought there were two narrators.

There is also one helluva twist in this novel that I didn’t see coming at all and for that alone it deserves at least 4 stars. Pulling this off takes amazing skill. 

A novel that kept me guessing what the deal was for the longest time!

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas #BookReview

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There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

First there was the car accident—two girls gone after hitting a tree on a rainy night. Not long after, the murders happened. Those two girls were killed by the man next door. The police shot him, so no one will ever know why he did it. Monica’s sister was the last cheerleader to die. After her suicide, Sunnybrook High disbanded the cheer squad. No one wanted to be reminded of the girls they lost.

That was five years ago. Now the faculty and students at Sunnybrook High want to remember the lost cheerleaders. But for Monica, it’s not that easy. She just wants to forget. Only, Monica’s world is starting to unravel. There are the letters in her stepdad’s desk, an unearthed, years-old cell phone, a strange new friend at school. . . . Whatever happened five years ago isn’t over. Some people in town know more than they’re saying. And somehow Monica is at the center of it all.

There are no more cheerleaders in Sunnybrook, but that doesn’t mean anyone else is safe.

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review-2

star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

I was in the mood to read a Young Adult book and I bought this novel ages ago when it was in sales. I picked it up thinking it would be quite similar to A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder with another teen sleuth at the center of a murder mystery. It definitely had the same easy style of writing and they are both visually attractive, but there are multiple plotlines in this novel and the investigation of what happened in the past is also quite different between both novels.

The master sleuth of service in The Cheerleaders is Monica. She’s on the dance team at school while she might have been on the cheerleading team like her big sister Jennifer if the team hadn’t been disbanded after 5 girls of the team died. I’m not sure it matters (it doesn’t) but in all honesty, cheerleading team (from what I gained from flashbacks) and dance team (from the routines Monica shares) did feel quite similar to me.

Monica is still trying to make sense of her sister’s death. First two friends of her sister died in a car accident, then two were murdered for an unknown reason by their neighbour, and then Jennifer killed herself, no note, no nothing. It’s been 5 years but Monica still has trouble coping. She has always been convinced 5 deaths in a matter of only a few months were just too much of a coincidence. When she stumbles by accident upon some anonymous letters accusing her stepfather of not having done his job properly, and her sister’s old cell phone, she uses this device to do some digging and retrace her sister’s life in the last days. I did find it a little bit of a plothole to strike up a conversation with someone anonymous via a telephone number and doing everything possible to find out this person’s identity through every means possible other than simply calling the number with any sort of random excuse. It’s the first thing I would do or at least think about but then I guess it wouldn’t be so much fun if she had taken this shortcut. It would also mean she’d have a name but possibly not know the connection to her sister so it did maybe work out better in the end anyway. It also meant that Monica needed some extra help and she finds an ally in Ginny, another girl on the dance team who she didn’t really have much contact with before they teamed up, and I’d even say I warmed to Ginny possibly even more than to Monica.

I loved that there was so much going on, Monica has her own problems in the present and then there are various strings in the past too but it eventually remains quite focused on the murders of Susan and Juliana. I got a sense of what was going on via Jennifer’s POV but Monica was also doing her best to shed some extra light onto the friendship between the cheerleaders.

The last few chapters were packed with revelations, I did not guess the conclusion of any of the clever mysteries. There was however an imbalance as the revelation of one mystery fell a little flat for me. It was sort of shoved between the others, thus much shorter and rather matter of fact, the other two felt much more shocking and I wish it had felt the same way.

All in all I did enjoy The Cheerleaders, it had decent plotting, wasn’t shy of adding some heavier themes into the story, and I definitely want to try another of Kara Thomas’s novels the future.

I bought a paperback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

Bone China by Laura Purcell #BookReview

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Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr. Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the disease in the caves beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralyzed and mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try to escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.

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review-2

star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

The first and only novel I read by Laura Purcell until now was an ecopy of The Corset in 2018, a novel I absolutely loved. I actually wanted to read The Shape of Darkness and was looking into buying that one but it’s still too expensive in paperback so I settled for Bone China which was released in 2019.

There’s so much that can be said about this novel but I don’t know where to even start or how to review this one. Let’s start at the beginning, with the opening chapters of Bone China introducing the character of Hester Why. That’s not her real name though so ‘why’ indeed! Why is she escaping from London and who from? I wasn’t even very far into this novel and the questions already started to pile up. I would find the answers in the second part of the story after she installs herself at Morvoren House in Cornwall where she’ll take care of an elderly lady Louise Pinecroft who is partially paralysed. The customs and standards at Morvoren House are quite different from the position she was in in posh London, and there’s an overall creepiness added by one of the staff firmly believing in fairies and changelings. Hester doesn’t believe in all that (thank goodness) but it was unsettling that spooky things did happen and that everyone in the household went along believing they had to trick changelings and cast away fairies with bible balls and salt. Who exactly is in danger here?

Ms. Pinecroft is not able to clearly communicate with Hester due to the condition she’s in so she can’t explain why she’s intent on staying in an unheated (read freezing) room where a whole collection of blue and white china is displayed, nor why she she has a tormented look of fear in her eyes when night falls and it’s time for bed. The next part of the novel couldn’t have been a bigger contrast, the shift towards the past shows Louise Pinecroft suddenly as a young and strong woman again, trying to assist her father in finding a cure for consumption (tuberculosis) which they both seem to be immune to. What happened in between the oast and Ms. Pinecroft’s current state and what her obsession is with the china collection when she wasn’t too pleased when her father gave her a tea set at the time explaining that every mistress of a house needed one surely kept me turning those pages.

I was very engaged from the start and the flashbacks to the past – both Hester’s as Louise’s  – were very compelling but the present plotline was a bit hit and miss, it raised too many questions and it all got a bit over the top fantastical with sightings and things appearing and disappearing, for me personally it didn’t have to cross the line and go that far. The superstitions – fairies are bad creatures who come to take you away – do serve a purpose in the novel though with the story building up to a shocking ending. An ending that will leave everyone pondering if there was something good to come from it after all.

Overall a very mysterious, atmospheric novel with an unsettling feeling carried over the different timelines.

I bought a paperback copy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

House of Correction by Nicci French #BookReview

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She’s a murderer.

Everyone knows she killed Stuart Rees – why else would his dead body be found in her shed?
So now Tabitha is in prison, awaiting trial.

Coming back to the remote coastal village where she grew up was a mistake. She didn’t fit in then, and she doesn’t fit in now.

That day is such a blur, she can’t remember clearly what happened. There is something she is missing, something important… She only knows one thing. She is not capable of murder.

And the only one she can trust to help her out of this situation is herself.
So she must fight. Against the odds.

For her life.

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review-2

5_Star_Rating_System_2_stars_1457015465_81_246_96_2 / 5_Star_Rating_System_3_stars_1457015858_81_246_96_2

I read one of this author couple’s novels years ago but I didn’t find the main character of the series Frieda very likeable so the urge to pick up another novel (I have 3 more on my tbr list) was not so high until I came across House of Correction. The novel piqued my interest and with a little nudge from blog friend Sabina I bumped this one up to the top of my list.

House of Correction is a courtroom thriller that is quite different from the norm. We all know that I don’t do different very well, I can’t help it. I’m still thinking about what I just read – and I still haven’t processed everything – mainly because there’s a serious lack of investigation and even more than that it’s how the proceedings in the courtroom went. It’s actually hilarious if you can see the humour in it.

House of Correction describes everything you basically shouldn’t do if you’re on trial. The main character Tabitha doesn’t know how anything works at court and for that I can’t blame her but there were other instances where she is so daft that I cringed several times at the things she did. Seriously, when you have to ‘question’ witnesses in the stand, HOW MANY TIMES does she need to be told that you have to ask a question? I haven’t counted it but if you ask me it was several times too many.

Tabitha is not the brightest star in the sky, to say the least. She flies off the handle at several occasions, she forgets to call the Judge My Lady and calls her Madam, she calls the lawyer for the prosecution ‘the other guy’ in front of the judge, she intervenes rudely when witnesses are being questioned by the prosecution and it’s not her time to comment at all. Basically, she got on my nerves so hard and I think even I would have a better shot at it than she did. It also didn’t help that she can’t recall the events on the day of the murder at all, we were off on a bad start already because I have a low tolerance for memory loss like this.

As for the investigation, I had to wait 200 pages to know a little more about the murder itself but it was kept very vague. I still don’t know how many times the victim was stabbed, it isn’t even mentioned. A lot of questions were not even asked.

Throughout the novel – via Tabitha’s conversations in prison with her visitors – it does become clear that the victim was not an angel himself so there are several people who could have a motive but they weren’t anywhere near the murder scene, as CCTV shows. It’s a mystery and with Tabitha’s particular manner of conduct I was holding my heart that she would be convicted. She repeats it so many times that she’s innocent that it’s actually this half pity, half you got it coming, that was making me turn the pages and I was dying to know how she could possibly escape prison. I’m not going to say how it ends, but similar to the rest of the novel, I wasn’t expecting it to go like this. The ending was ok but didn’t make up for the rest and I simply couldn’t overcome the grievings I had.

Readers might find it refreshing that a main character arrested for murder is not some tough person who has her act together and has a positive attitude. This novel dons all those clichés. Unfortunately, I don’t think I was ready for this as I take what happens in courtrooms seriously and I didn’t feel she was very serious. I see that there are 60% of 5-star ratings though so I happily admit that this opinion’s entirely on me.

I received a copy of this novel in my Capital Crime thriller book club box. This is my honest opinion.