Blood Moon by John David Bethel #BookReview

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What’s it about?

On a hot, steamy afternoon in Miami, Cuban-American businessman Recidio Suarez is brutally beaten and abducted. Handcuffed, shackled and blindfolded, he has no idea why he has been targeted. What he discovers is heart-stopping. What he endures during almost a month of captivity compares only to the most horrendous stories of prisoners of war. He is tortured, and under the threat of death, and worse – the rape of his wife and torture of his children – Suarez is forced to hand over his multi-million dollar holdings to his captors.

Suarez survives and then spends the next few months staying one step ahead of the murderous pack. During this time, he and his lawyer, Nolan Stevens – a former Special Agent in Charge of the Miami Office of the FBI – are having difficulties convincing the Miami-Dade Police Department that a crime has been committed. Their efforts are complicated by Steven’s difficult history with the head of the MDPD Special Investigations Division, who is not interested in pursuing the case.

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Review

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I’ve had this novel Blood Moon for quite some time already and I have no idea why I haven’t read it sooner really because when the author contacted me I was immediately interested when I heard it was based on true events. Nothing prepared me for the horrendous ordeal the main character, Redicio Suarez, had to go through while abducted though. The preface is written by the true victim of these crimes and I thought at first that it’d be easier to read, maybe I was even a bit disappointed I already knew how the story was going to end, but I had to revise this opinion quite soon! I was nothing but relieved to know that this man would survive ultimately. Reading about the time he was held captive was in some ways worse than many thrillers I’ve read and you wouldn’t even be able to come up with this if it was fiction. These abductors were crossing the line of human dignity in every way possible, they were monsters. If I hadn’t read the preface I wouldn’t have expected him to have survived really, it was that brutal. I had no idea where the line was drawn between fact and fiction and it felt so outlandish that even part of it was true, it left me wondering and occupied my thoughts largely throughout this story.

The first thing I did when I finished this was look up what I could find about Marc Schilling in an attempt to recount some of the facts and it turns out that plenty of what he went through wasn’t made up. Blood Moon was really intense to read and the accounts of duct tape around his face, being in the dark all the time and having to sign documents without seeing a thing actually turned out to be real. I got chills while reading this but knowing afterwards that these parts weren’t fiction and did actually happen made my blood run cold. The way his abduction ended was quite spectacular although the true version of events would have suited just as well. The first part was largely a description of every single thing he was subjected to, along with the backstory in how they started to get the idea to plan all of this. I can’t believe someone would do all this and go to these lengths to get everything, not wanting to leave a single penny.

His escape from the money grabbing vultures who abducted him didn’t go how I’d anticipated at all and you might think it would put an end to his nightmare but even then it continues. While he should be protected by the police, the bad people put away behind bars, that apparently is a storyline that only occurs in fiction stories. It was sad and frustrating to read that he had to go through all of this and then wasn’t believed, even ridiculed and yes in another way but a victim once again. This time personal grudges were dragged into it as well and unfortunately he’s right in the middle of it.

I shook my head quite a few times while reading. At times it’s just so unbelievable, or maybe I almost didn’t want to believe this could be so close to the truth. I felt it was a bit of a stretch that his lawyer would do the legwork the police should have been doing. I wanted to shout as well that it was dangerous what he was doing but then I also wanted to get some justice, some closure for him so that he didn’t have to be afraid anymore. I just can’t imagine what that does to a person.

Blood Moon was a tense and quite violent read at times so I wouldn’t recommend this one for the faint at heart. There’s no gussying up and I can assure you that the writing isn’t suggestive so it is all due to the facts and his account without embelishments that it was so heart-breaking to read at times.

If you want to know more about what Marc Schiller, the true victim, went through, then you should definitely read this book. For your info: there was also a movie made based on the story that many have probably seen (I know I did) but doesn’t do justice to him at all. I can’t believe either they actually made a comedy out of this, there’s really nothing to laugh after reading this. You can check out an article with more info here.

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

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Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson #BookReview

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What’s it about?

Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina. Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s. Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again. Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald? Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French true-crime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light. Plumbing the darkness and the horrific evidence of the nature of evil, Block 46 is a multi-layered, sweeping and evocative thriller that heralds a stunning new voice in French Noir.

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Review

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Let me start with a moment of truth: I was on the fence at first when I heard this was a contemporary crime novel with historical facts of WW2 weaved into the story. I feel very protective about that time in history and I like reading novels about that era but they are usually survival stories, biographies and such. To incorporate these atrocious events into a fiction novel, I just didn’t know if I’d feel good about it, so I didn’t want to read it at first. Then I started reading all the reviews and saw the ratings for this novel and I had to admit my fears might have been unfounded. I became more than curious and I was very happy when I finally got my hands on a copy of Block 46.

Of course Johana Gustawsson handled everything with great care and yes it was still horrifying to read about and even when I’d read similar stories and I recognized many references, it was undoubtedly very hard-hitting and painful to read at times. I was already wondering if these chapters would continue for a long time. I was drawn to them yet also relieved when the lighter chapters of the investigation followed. It helped to relieve the tension and heaviness and this way I was able to continue reading and I didn’t need to stop to catch a breath, or a moment. On the contrary, I flew through the pages because Erich’s account was so harrowing that I wanted to know what would happen to him as quick as possible. With the title of the novel in mind I had a feeling where he would go but what happens in Block 46 exactly? People who go in never come out but it is very mysterious what happens in there.

When his faith became clear about one third in, the atmosphere of the novel did change somewhat and it wasn’t as oppressive as before. The mystery gained interest and was complete with two totally different threads.. what could Erich’s story have to do with the recent murders and in two countries no less? I was calculating years in my head fairly soon but things just didn’t add up.

The storylines blend perfectly and I admire her audacity to take this on. She could easily have written two books, one historical and one a detective story and done a great job but she really excelled by fusing them together. I was utterly captivated and confused about who was behind all this and how it all fit together. I didn’t see the ending coming – at all! High fives around for an amazing plot twist in this marvellous story!

Block 46 was written by a very talented author that we certainly haven’t heard the last of!  The best news is that the follow-up, the yet to be translated Mör, promises an equally exciting investigation with bodies in Sweden and London and a suspect who’s been locked up in a psychiatric facility for the past 10 years. She’s making dual timelines and hard and gritty scenes (think amputated limbs in her second novel) her signature and she’s got a new fan here!

I received a free paperback copy of this novel from my blog friend Emma and this is my honest opinion.

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough #BookReview

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What’s it about?

Don’t Trust This Book

Don’t Trust These People

Don’t Trust Yourself

And whatever you do, DON’T give away that ending…

Louise

Since her husband walked out, Louise has made her son her world, supporting them both with her part-time job. But all that changes when she meets…

David

Young, successful and charming – Louise cannot believe a man like him would look at her twice let alone be attracted to her. But that all comes to a grinding halt when she meets his wife…

Adele

Beautiful, elegant and sweet – Louise’s new friend seems perfect in every way. As she becomes obsessed by this flawless couple, entangled in the intricate web of their marriage, they each, in turn, reach out to her.

But only when she gets to know them both does she begin to see the cracks… Is David really is the man she thought she knew and is Adele as vulnerable as she appears?
Just what terrible secrets are they both hiding and how far will they go to keep them?

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Review

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I’m finally a member of the inner circle yay! I’ve deciphered what the fuss is all about and that’s making me smile so much!

This is such a hyped book, it’s treated with so much secrecy that I felt compelled to read it. I’ve had it on my wishlist for such a long time but I couldn’t get my hands on a copy so I’ve finally caved and bought it. I wanted to read it in English but they didn’t have it at the book store, so I purchased the Dutch version instead. It is number 1 in the Dutch charts here at the moment so when I saw the big stock I simply couldn’t resist and I’m very happy that I finally read it!

I don’t often agree but this time I wholeheartedly (hand on my heart) agree that I totally get the hype and it is well and truly deserved. The story and where it led took me quite by surprise. There’s really nothing ordinary about this novel even if you get that impression at first. Now I do have to say, I am a very (very) down-to-earth kind of person and yes I did have to suspend some beliefs here in order to get along with the story. For one thing, I don’t believe that you can steer your dreams or can even be aware that you’re dreaming while you’re doing it but the writing was so engrossing that I let it slip and just went with it. It makes it an all the more enjoyable read. If you would have told me some of it in advance I’d have said this novel wasn’t my genre and something I like to read but Sarah Pinborough is such a brilliant writer she effortlessly took me on a crazy, dark and engrossing ride all through this novel.

The story is told by two women, Louise and Adele. Louise is having an affair with her boss, and he happens to be married to Adele. When Louise and Adele meet they become best friends. I could feel there was something very wrong about Adele and David’s marriage even though I couldn’t put my finger on it. It’s clear that David isn’t happily married but he still doesn’t want to leave his wife. When Louise catches glimpses of him controlling his wife (calling her a few times a day on set times) she doesn’t know what to think anymore, this doesn’t seem like the guy she knows… The whole love triangle was just toxic and mesmerising to read about. It was all so mysterious I couldn’t help but race through this novel. Never did I expect this evolution of this novel though, it was quite simply impossible to anticipate. Sarah Pinborough wrote an insanely (I can’t stress the word enough) intricate plotline. The plottwists in the end left me speechless and I just have to say it #WTFthatending !

This was an exquisite tale about lies, deceit and obsession. It’s a psychological thriller at its core but also more than that. Highly recommended!

When You Disappeared by John Marrs #BookReview

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What’s it about?

All she wanted was the truth, but she’ll wish she never found out.

When Catherine wakes up alone one morning, she thinks her husband has gone for a run before work. But Simon never makes it to the office. His running shoes are by the front door. Nothing is missing—except him.

Catherine knows Simon must be in trouble. He wouldn’t just leave her. He wouldn’t leave the children.

But Simon knows the truth—about why he left and what he’s done. He knows things about his marriage that it would kill Catherine to find out. The memories she holds onto are lies.

While Catherine faces a dark new reality at home, Simon’s halfway around the world, alive and thriving. He’s doing whatever it takes to stay one step ahead of the truth.

But he can’t hide forever, and when he reappears twenty-five years later, Catherine will finally learn who he is.

And wish she’d stayed in the dark.

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Review

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After reading both of his novels I can say that I’m officially addicted! He’s got what it takes to completely transport me to another country and another lifetime and he really let the characters come alive so much in this novel that they crept under my skin. When You Disappeared is a deeply character-driven family drama and I was really invested in the characters (or one of them at least). This is a novel that’s all about the journey and isn’t fast-paced in that way but more of a slow unfolding and discovery of the characters throughout the story. Don’t expect it to focus on an investigation after Simon went missing and you’ll be absolutely fine.

The novel starts with Simon’s return after 25 years and then turning back to his decision to disappear and leave his childhood sweetheart Catherine and his 3 children so many years ago. He actually planned to take his own life but in the end he decided that would be too easy, better to let his wife suffer and wonder what happened to him so he just vanished… until now. The reason why he left is surrounded by mystery but it must be something terrible is all I could assume. It is much worse than I thought though… that ending, knowing, finally understanding it, realizing… it’s harrowing!

When he knocks on her door after such a long time and after she’s overcome the shock of seeing him again, Catherine demands why he left and what she did to him that make him take this action. He’s there to tell her why he’s resented her all this time but first she has to hear what she made him do while he was away. He tells her he set fire, he stole and killed and it was all due to her. She quashed his dreams and ideas and all he knew was that true happiness was non-existent. When you think you’ll have it, something dark and rotten will turn it around and take it away. He’d seen it often enough, with his mother, with the ‘perfect’ family of his friend Douglas, and then what his wife did. It sounds bitter and there is definitely a heaviness I felt when I was reading this book but thankfully positive notes became more and more prominent the further I advanced into the novel.

There’s nothing that gives an idea as to what happened but the alternating storylines of their pasts gave me a pretty good idea of who these people were, their true selves come forward through their actions and how they coped with their struggles. I learned how he led a decadent life without worries while she tried to pick herself up, got 3 jobs to provide for her children. Even though Catherine did something so awful that Simon gave up everything and I should probably have sympathized with him for making such a grave decision, I didn’t, not one moment really. He pushed his family out of his mind just too easily, he did atrocious things and I found myself not feeling sorry for him and not sympathising anymore. I was wondering if the author was going to make me feel guilty and swing my sympathies by the end of the novel but I can’t say. I can only confirm that I felt deeply for one of them in the end.

It took until the end of the novel to be enlightened why he finally came back and is even so many years after the facts still trying to instill guilt. Their interactions in the present were like a dance, seeing what their truths did to the other when hearing them so honestly declared. It was fascinating to see how they spent their lives and slowly they are coming to the crux of the story with a twist, a turn of events that I never imagined and was so tragic.

I’m not sure this novel is for everyone, it’ll have some divided opinions probably because of this unlikeable character and the lack of exciting things happening, but I was really drawn into it. When You Disappeared was a rich story that had me completely immersed.

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

The Missing Girls by Carol Wyer #BookReview

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What’s it about?

One girl found dead. Another girl gone…

Long shadows danced on the tin walls. Inside the trunk lay Carrie Miller, wrapped in plastic, arms folded across her ribcage, lips sealed tight forever…

When, a girl’s body is found at a Midlands storage unit, it is too decomposed for Detective Robyn Carter to read the signs left by the killer.

No one knows the woman in blue who rented the unit; her hire van can’t be traced. But as the leads run dry another body is uncovered. This time the killer’s distinctive mark is plain to see, and matching scratches on the first victim’s skeleton make Robyn suspect she’s searching for a serial killer.

As Robyn closes in on the killer’s shocking hunting ground, another girl goes missing, and this time it’s someone close to her own heart.

Robyn can’t lose another loved one. Can she find the sickest individual she has ever faced, before it’s too late?

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Review

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This is the third novel already where DI Robyn Carter investigates a case, and now I’m more certain than ever that this is a series to follow with each new book she publishes. I liked the second novel but I do feel this one’s stronger, with a very good plotline and a real motive. She scores high points in my books! Robyn and her team, Mitz and Anna, Ross and even Shearer are also all really starting to grow on me and it was a warm welcome to see them back.

I’m not going into the plot because there really isn’t much to share except that it’s all a big mystery, you don’t know who and you don’t know why and Robyn really doesn’t have a lot to go on. It’ll take great skill to get on the right path that will give her an inkling of who it is and until the motive slowly and carefully comes into the picture, but skill is something Robyn (and the author) possesses in oodles.

A few details that I want to highlight this time which makes me really love this series and this novel so much: I like how fully detailed Robyn and the pathologist’s findings are described. Some people don’t enjoy descriptions like this but I do, it’s like standing next to a body yourself at that moment, experiencing everything in that moment at the same time as the detective and it satisfies that need that I’m feeling to know and learn more about what fascinates me. I also really enjoy Robyn’s personality in general and I continue to admire and like how she goes through the investigation step by step, the way that Robyn keeps control of all the different leads she’s working on. She makes it very organised by using post-its, by the way she talks about it, by recapitulating her findings from time to time and that works really great to keep up myself and get a clear image of it in my head as well where we’re at, even if it’s nowhere at that time. I appreciate this writing, keeping it a steady pace and never letting the investigation run in chaos, all over the place. She’s gently leading me towards a motive, a person who might be responsible for all this. It’s like a mist before my eyes and she makes the sky clear up gently and slowly.

She didn’t let me down, there were a few unexpected twists and turns while I was racing towards the big reveal of the killer’s identity but it wasn’t that which made me audibly gasp, it was another sort of twist and turn that got me even more excited than unmasking the killer this time. The ending leaves much to the imagination and I’m very impatient to see what’ll happen next. What a great move, and also what a tease! I can’t wait for book nr. 4!

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

One Day in December by Shari Low #BlogTour #BookReview

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What’s it about?

By the stroke of midnight, a heart would be broken, a cruel truth revealed, a devastating secret shared, and a love betrayed. Four lives would be changed forever, One Day in December.

One morning in December…

Caro set off on a quest to find out if her relationship with her father had been based on a lifetime of lies.

Lila decided today would be the day that she told her lover’s wife of their secret affair.

Cammy was on the way to pick up the ring for the surprise proposal to the woman he loved.

And Bernadette vowed that this was the day she would walk away from her controlling husband of 30 years and never look back.

One day, four lives on a collision course with destiny…

Available on NetGalley

Buy links

Amazon | Kobo | iBooks  | Google Play

Shari’s previous books are out now! Buy them HERE

About the author

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Shari lives in Glasgow and writes a weekly opinion column and Book Club page for a well-known newspaper. She is married to a very laid-back guy and has two athletic teenage sons, who think she’s fairly embarrassing, except when they need a lift.

Connect with Shari Low

Website| Twitter

Review

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What an unexpected delight! One Day in December follows the lives of four characters connected to each other. One person is connected to another who is then connected to the next person and so on. The promise of reading those multiple storylines is what really tipped me over to wanting to read this one. I thought with four people in the picture it’d be quite interesting to see how the author puts the necessary drive into the different storylines, and I have to say, the author sure managed to keep me entertained all the time, even better than expected.

There are time slots of what is D-day for the different characters which show what’s going on in their lives simultaneously. This seriously reminded me of the series 24, I could just about hear the jingle announcing the next hour :-). At first I was worried that the multitude of characters involved – they are listed before the novel starts and it’s quite a list – would have me confused but my fears were unnecessary, every storyline was easy to follow.

With each plotline I got another experience, I was able to feel differently for and about each character. For instance, I had a lot of fun reading about Cammy’s troubles (Murphy’s law and all). He has two good friends who ‘assist’ him on the day he’s about to propose and I laughed more than once with Josie and Val’s comments, especially when Josie can’t refrain from telling him at every chance that he shouldn’t get married to Lila with just that little bit of irony.

Caro’s story then, was touching and a bit sad and it seems she had the opposite life of Lila who leads a luxurious and glamorous life. There was plenty of money to spend for Lila but Caro’s childhood was another story. Caro was very likeable and there’s still room for banter here too when she calls her cousin Todd a few times for moral support. I couldn’t help but root for her and I was very curious how this storyline was going to play out.

Lila was the one with the most unlikeable POV. She’s beautiful but incredibly superficial. She’s got thousands of followers but nobody she knows in real life. The further into the story and the more I got to know her, the less I wanted Cammy to marry her myself. Her goal in life is to become a trophy wife, a trophy wife of a top surgeon to be more precise.

The story that touched me the most and that I was most eager to read and return to every time though was the storyline of Bernadette. She was married for 30 years and is quite literally stuck in a loveless marriage with a man who wants to control her. Her thoughts and the struggles were perfectly voiced. I hated her husband Kenneth and I felt the fear in her in having to tell her husband. How was he going to react?

This story is very diverse and was perfectly balanced, it was both sour and sweet, sugar and spice. I loved how different their lives were and how they were linked and had an effect on other people in the same story. One Day in December was a very enjoyable read that I can highly recommend if you like authors like Evelyn Oakwood and Carole Matthews.

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

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Check out the other blog tour stops too, first up tomorrow: What Cathy Read Next

One Day in December

The Stolen Child by Sanjida Kay #BookReview

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What’s it about?

Zoe and Ollie Morley tried for years to have a baby and couldn’t. They turned to adoption and their dreams came true when they were approved to adopt a little girl from birth. They named her Evie.

Seven years later, the family has moved to Yorkshire and grown in number: a wonderful surprise in the form of baby Ben. As a working mum it’s not easy for Zoe, but life is good.

But then Evie begins to receive letters and gifts.

The sender claims to be her birth father.

He has been looking for his daughter.

And now he is coming to take her back…

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Review

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More please! I haven’t read the first novel Bone to Bone by Sanjida Kay but I plan to go back and read that one in the future as well. The Stolen Child was a story that seriously kept me hooked, made me take a million guesses and still managed to surprise me in the end.

The Stolen Child starts with Zoe and Ollie’s high anticipation to seeing Evie for the first time, the little wonder they’d been waiting for and were able to adopt. Their bliss and love for her is springing from the pages. Seven years later there’s also little Ben who was their own little miracle and their family is complete. They move from London to Ilkley and all would be well if Ollie wasn’t so absent. Zoe has to raise the children almost single-handedly and is often angry at her husband for leaving her alone struggling to manage the household, the children and her painting.

On Ben’s second birthday Zoe finds Evie acting weird. She’s wearing a dress she has no memory of buying her and she soon discovers that someone is leaving her presents and cards, signed by her real daddy. Apparently her birth father was able to find her but they have no idea who he is, what he looks like, and when they talk to Evie about it, she claims to have never met him but it’s clear that he already has her into his grip. Through little snippets I was also painfully aware that her father is watching them and biding his time. Then she goes missing… a parent’s worst nightmare!

There were plenty of red herrings in this novel… and quite a few suspects who could be her father. Was it teacher Jack, family friend Andy, fellow artist and sculptor Haris who she came to know really well in the last weeks, or is even her husband Ollie to be suspected? I kept rotating these names in my head and each and every one of them seemed to be lying or hiding something. I dismissed them one by one but then something made me wonder and put them under suspicion again.. I wasn’t sure of anything or anyone in the end. It was wonderful to finally discover who it was!

This novel was a joy to read, it was well-written and had a carefully crafted plotline wih everyone acting as a suspect and with possible motive. Every time something was revealed I felt it was too convenient and too easy for that person to be the father and abductor. I was going slightly bazonkers (to put it mildly haha) being so clueless until the end.

My only misgiving was that Evie wasn’t a very likeable child and I found her reactions strange towards her being adopted. She might be curious about her real daddy but just to dismiss her family that she’s known for 7 years, while they love her so much, felt euhm a bit unrealistic.

A very recommended read if you want to take part in a little guessing game. This one will have you racing to the end to find out!

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