The Art of Death by David Fennell #BookReview

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Death is an art, and he is the master . . .

Three glass cabinets appear in London’s Trafalgar Square containing a gruesome art installation: the floating corpses of three homeless men. Shock turns to horror when it becomes clear that the bodies are real.

The cabinets are traced to @nonymous – an underground artist shrouded in mystery who makes a chilling promise: MORE WILL FOLLOW.

Eighteen years ago, Detective Inspector Grace Archer escaped a notorious serial killer. Now, she and her caustic DS, Harry Quinn, must hunt down another.

As more bodies appear at London landmarks and murders are livestreamed on social media, their search for @nonymous becomes a desperate race against time. But what Archer doesn’t know is that the killer is watching their every move – and he has his sights firmly set on her . . .

He is creating a masterpiece. And she will be the star of his show.

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star three and a half

I was immediately drawn to the cover of this book, it has a perfect vibe for a dark thriller (who doesn’t love that nice extra touch of some fake blood spatters on a cover eh) and I was really looking forward to reading this novel.

I enjoyed plenty of things about The Art of Death. First off, I found that the macabre vibe of the cover was reflected in the book as well and I LOVED that. It wasn’t there all the time and it didn’t domineer the story but at times there was this extra little dark touch that made my heart pump a little faster. I didn’t realise it at the time but the story really does grow more harrowing with every new chapter. At the start of The Art of Death three bodies (yes why not three at once) are found dead in a glass case for all to see. The killer has a weird sense of seeing dead bodies as art. How he can have a huge following and fans is beyond my comprehension but what do I know. Then, however, the author has a few other tricks up his sleeve that are effectively shocking. Like getting to know the victims quite well first and then witnessing their deaths. Seriously, I don’t want to read about formadehyde for at least three books now, what a way to die! There’s also one particular scene that I read while trying to divert my eyes a little (it didn’t help) and which really stood out for me, as well as one victim that I couldn’t help root so hard for to survive!

The only issue that I had with this book was that even though it had so much going for it and however much I enjoyed the team of Quinn and Archer, it didn’t surprise me enough. I knew what was what and not even the red herrings in the story could fool me. It was just too plain to see…

Another plot and another killer and I might love his next story so definitely one to watch out for. The author and the vibe of the novel reminds me a little bit of J.D. Barker so if the plot gets a bit more clever then he could mean some serious competition in the future.

I received a copy of this book via my Capital Crime Book Subscription box. This is my honest opinion.

The Maidens by Alex Michaelides #BookReview

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St Christopher’s College, Cambridge, is a closed world to most.

For Mariana Andros – a group therapist struggling through her private grief – it’s where she met her late husband. For her niece, Zoe, it’s the tragic scene of her best friend’s murder.

As memory and mystery entangle Mariana, she finds a society full of secrets, which has been shocked to its core by the murder of one of its students.

Because behind its idyllic beauty is a web of jealousy and rage which emanates from an exclusive set of students known only as The Maidens. A group under the sinister influence of the enigmatic professor Edward Fosca.

A man who seems to know more than anyone about the murders – and the victims. And the man who will become the prime suspect in Mariana’s investigation – an obsession which will cost her everything…

The Maidens is a story of love, and of grief – of what makes us who we are, and what makes us kill.

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star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

Michaelides’s debut novel The Silent Patient was an amazing read and merits to be called a real bestseller, and the huge #WTF twist made this book so memorable that it went straight to my top 10 of 2019 (here’s my review). You can imagine how excited I was to read his next book The Maidens and how I jumped for joy when I was approved to read an ecopy on Netgalley.

The Maidens is a solid read but maybe my expectations were a little too high as for me personally it didn’t equal the first novel. One of the things I did however particularly enjoy about this novel were the references to Greek mythology, to the legend of the goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone who was abducted by Hades (to jog your memory: the turning of the seasons is liased to Persophone) and the Greek celebration of this legend (The Rites of Eleusis because Demeter went to look for her daughter at Eleusis). The (not quite so secret) little student club was quite intriguing and I could easily imagine secret rites among this group and there being someone who wants to share a message to the world. Mariana is quite hung up on the killer being the professor Fosca but the more she became obsessed, the more I became convinced that it couldn’t be him… even though I had no clue who was leaving intriguing calling cards.

Unfortunately the author doesn’t pull the line entirely through and The Maidens themselves were ultimately not as interesting as I expected. The characters of this group were not developed so I didn’t really care much whether they could be a next victim and if you ask me to describe them I wouldn’t really know what to say. I’m in two minds at times as well though because I’m not a fan of reading about cults and rites (remember my review of The Furies) so I was on the other hand quite happy I was spared having to read such scenes.

I did love that a few characters from the first novel are named in this novel too, they are intricately woven into this plot. Don’t worry though, you don’t need the first novel, it’s just a reference made at some point but it was cool!

I quite liked the big twist in the end, he tried to pull off another one of his unexpected twists and although it was for me partially successful, it was a bit radical. I thought the book was leading somewhere but it actually takes a whole different direction in the end, which is amazing, only I don’t deal well with such startling turnarounds.

The Maidens is a psychological thriller with a gothic edge. Don’t take your eyes off the first part is the only advice I can give you and maybe you’ll be more triumphant in discovering who did it than I was.

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

The Creak on the Stairs / Girls Who Lie by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir #BookReviews @OrendaBooks

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When a body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.

Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her collegues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice before it’s too late.

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2 / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars_1457015900_81_246_96_2

I read a sampler of The Creak on the Stairs with the first chapters of this novel almost two years ago and I immediately knew this novel was very promising. This sampler stayed on my mind for a very long time so I was super excited when I finally had the full novel in my hands. I haven’t read a lot of nordic crime yet but after reading The Creak on the Stairs I have to conclude that I really don’t know why that is. I have to admit that the Icelandic names needed some getting used to… there’s a pronunciation guide before the first chapter which I thought was very cool and at first I did give it a try to read every name very carefully the way it was pronounced. I gave up on my mission fairly quickly though and even glossed over some long names (Elma’s mother for example) when I started to recognize them by sight; knowing which character was meant was ultimately enough for me.

The Creak on the Stairs is quite unsettling and much more than a simple whodunnit. It is wonderfully complex and there’s a whole history behind the murder which is divulged throughout the story but was only becoming stunningly  clear to me at the very end. And then apart from the present day investigation by Elma, there’s also a narrative starting in 1989 which describes the childhood of the woman who died. It wasn’t cheerful or an easy upbringing, and I felt a pain and sadness while reading these pages. There are a lot more characters that make an appearance which include several members of the same family and their spouses (Ása and Hendrik, their son Bjarni and his wife Magnea, the husband’s brother Tómas and his wife Ásdis) as well as several witnesses who crossed Elísabet’s path in the past and present. All have a story to tell, so it was impossible to know if any of them were connected or relevant to the story (of course they are) but their individual stories kept me enraptured.

Did I tell you that this story was wonderfully complex? It was complex and utterly tragic and Elma was a great character, someone who has it in her to sink her teeth into it and unravel the truth. I’d like to get to know Elma even better but I liked her and I loved the sort of chemistry in the air between her and her colleague Saevar even though neither one of them is really open to it, and Elma still misses David, the man who she was with for 9 years.

The further into the story the more unsettling it reads and the final revelations were quite unexpected. Finally a novel that was able to surprise me… and that’s not all, in the final pages Elma reveals something that caught me completely off guard!

This is the first novel in the ‘Forbidden Island’ series and what a debut it is! A great novel that makes me want to dive into the next one of the series right away! I’m a standalone type of reader but for this series I’m very happy to make the exception!

I received a copy of this novel in the Capital Crime Book Club box. This is my honest opinion.

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When single mother Maríanna disappears from her home, leaving an apologetic note on the kitchen table, everyone assumes that she’s taken her own life … until her body is found on the Grábrók lava fields seven months later, clearly the victim of murder. Her neglected fifteen-year-old daughter Hekla has been placed in foster care, but is her perfect new life hiding something sinister?

Fifteen years earlier, a desperate new mother lies in a maternity ward, unable to look at her own child, the start of an odd and broken relationship that leads to a shocking tragedy.

Police officer Elma and her colleagues take on the case, which becomes increasingly complex, as the number of suspects grows and new light is shed on Maríanna’s past – and the childhood of a girl who never was like the others…

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The e-book is out on 22 May, you can pre-order the paperback as it’s publication date is set at 22 July 2021.

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I didn’t think it was possible but the second novel in the series about Elma, the female police inspector in Iceland pleased me even more than the author’s debut. Without a doubt this will probably stay my favorite novel even in the future, when there are many more books in this excellent series. The plot, the characters, the brilliant twists… everything was amazing. 

It takes a little bit of time before the real developments in the investigation of Maríanna’s murder take off but in the meantime I still had a lot to sink my teeth in. The author explored Hekla’s – Maríanne’s daughter – life and throughout the whole novel there are also extracts that start with the shared feelings of how tough life is for a young mother with a newborn who doesn’t have anyone to rely on. Those snippets continued at regular intervals in the novel detailing the strenuous relationship over 15 years, the struggles of a mother with a girl who doesn’t seem to behave like other girls. So many emotions arose inside me, all wanting to come out. At first I was furious with the way she treated her infant but at times I felt just as much compassion, sensing she might have post-natal depression. Was it all it was though, was she actually an evil person, or was it the child who was really different, making her harder to love?

Who murdered Maríanna? You’d almost think her own daughter Hekla had the most to gain because she loved her weekends at her foster parents much more than staying with her own mum, but wasn’t that a little presumptuous? In the course of the novel several characters appear to be a perfect candidate. There’s so much to uncover and it’s wonderful how deeper into the story, I had the feeling Elma and myself were in way over our heads… where was this going to lead?

I thought I knew what was going on, but the author had some very VERY clever red herrings up her sleeve. The story is much more complex than I initially expected and the characters have a fascinating complexity as well. Eva Björg AEgisdottir twists and turns the story quite literally until you hardly know which way to go… I loved how everything changed by the end and I was SO surprised yet again!

This book and this entire series is absolutely brilliant so far. I highly recommend the series to all readers who set the bar high and who are often let down by the simplicity of other novels because this is anything but! I have become a big fan over the course of these two books and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for Elma!

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

 

While I Was Sleeping by Dani Atkins #BookReview

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What if someone else was living your happy ever after?

When Maddie wakes up in a hospital bed, she can’t remember anything about what happened to her or what has changed.

She just remembers she was about to be married and had everything to look forward to.

But it seems life has become a lot more complicated while she has been asleep …

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_and_a_half_stars_1457015900_81_246_96_2 / 5_Star_Rating_System_5_stars_1457015727_81_246_96_2

While I Was Sleeping is an incredibly moving and emotionally loaded novel. It’s the second novel I read by Dani Atkins (do read my review of her YA/NA novel This Love if you want) and well she did it again.. for the longest time I was quite ok keeping my emotions under control but then in the end I unraveled completely. How could she do that to me?

The novel is about Maddie who fell into a coma, Ryan the man she was about to get married to and Chloé, a librarian and volunteer at the hospital where she reads to geriatric patients mainly. It’s plain to see that their paths will cross and I thought I knew how this story was going to go… woman wakes up, sees her fiancée with a new woman, will do anything she can to get him back.. a classic version really of good and bad but I could not be more wrong, this story had quite a few surprises in store that changed this whole idea. Maddies life did change completely while she was sleeping, nothing is as it was and yes at first sight Chloé did slip into her role but this triangle is actually more than a little fascinating.

I thought I’d be either team Maddie or team Chloé (and team Maddie seemed the obvious choice) but the thing is, as I got to know Chloé and read her story too, I didn’t feel forced to choose between them at all, I loved them both so much. Neither has a bad bone in their body and I’m not sure this rosy picture is something that would happen in real life but even without the women’s rivalry for a man being the major topic (which made the story even better if you want my honest opinion), there are plenty of other events that give this story a few dramatic spins. While I Was Sleeping is for me most of all about – as it is mentioned somewhere in the novel itself – the fragility of life, but also motherhood, the bond between a child and their parents, and there’s plenty of love to go round in this novel in many different forms

Alas, just when I thought everything was going to be ok in the end, I was forewarned by the author that something bad was going to happen. For the longest time I didn’t know for which woman though, who was going to lose? I held on to my dear heart… I wouldn’t have been happy if it had been the other woman either but I seriously had to swallow a few times when reading the ending, it’s truly heartbreaking

And now I’m immediately going to order some more of this author’s books because I definitely want to read all of them!

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

Flying high: Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal #BookReview

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1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea.

But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell’s life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers and Jasper’s gentle brother Toby, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her.

In London, newspapers describe Nell as the eighth wonder of the world. Figurines are cast in her image, and crowds rush to watch her soar through the air. But who gets to tell Nell’s story? What happens when her fame threatens to eclipse that of the showman who bought her? And as she falls in love with Toby, can he detach himself from his past and the terrible secret that binds him to his brother?

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5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

Elizabeth Macneal is a wonderful storyteller, don’t you agree? Her debut novel, The Doll Factory, was incredibly good (here’s my review) so I was more than a little excited to read Circus of Wonders. I was very happy Macneal chose for the Victorian era as the new setting of another book although I wasn’t sure how interested I would be in the circus life. Turns out I really fell for it, feeling as enraptured and close to the magic and the wondrous as if I was literally walking between the wagons at the site.

The exhibition of freaks, monstrosities or the so-called marvels of nature were essential components of travelling exhibitions in Europe and America throughout the Victorian period and Circus of Wonders shows all sides of this phenomenon in a story that moves the voices between Nell (the attraction of the show), Toby (the man who sees her for who she is) and Jasper (the man who wants to make Nell the star of his show).

Nell was an outcast in her village, but when she is forced to join Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders she soon discovers a community there where she is not regarded as a freak. In the company of a bearded woman, a giantess, and other ‘revels’ she finds a a sense of family and belonging. As a reader I was happy the story progressed so positively for Nell, although I knew this probably couldn’t last.

Nell is fast on her way to become the star of the show. Unfortunately Jasper is not satisfied yet and he wants to eclipse the famous P.T. Barnum and his attraction Tom Thumb. So what he wants is to perform for the Queen, he wants fame and fortune and he will do anything to get what he wants. I was anxiously reading about Jasper’s growing obsession to become the greatest showman of all time. Everything comes at a price of course. He makes a pact with a devil and now the pressure is sky high. There is tension and danger lurking in the shadows, which I loved. Will he achieve his goal or does he want to fly so close to the sun that – like Icarus – the wings will burn and he will tumble to the ground? It didn’t bode well…

Even though Nell is the star of the show/novel I liked her but I never really loved her character so I came to enjoy reading other parts of the book more as the story progressed. I found the whole setting highly interesting, how everyone was looked upon, what life entailed in the circus. I loved that real references were woven into the story and Macneal writes scenes so vividly that the era certainly comes alive. The two brothers Toby and Jasper fascinated me most of all and I also loved the mysterious plotline between them. There’s a story – a secret that originated during their time at the Crimean war – that overshadows their sibling relationship and makes it toxic, there’s jealousy and fear and the author keeps up the tension and mystery until the very end by leaving small crumbs all through the story.

I’m afraid to say that by the end of the novel I was less of a fan of Nell. She chooses her path in life when given two choices and I didn’t follow her in her dream and desires so the ending wasn’t entirely how I had envisioned it. Apart from that this is really another excellent immersive read by a historical writer I respect very highly!

I received a free copy of this novel from publisher Picador Books. This is still my honest opinion.

 

The Skylight by Louise Candlish, a #QuickReads2021 title #TheReadingAgency

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Do you know what Quick Reads is? A ‘quick’ introduction:

One in six adults in the UK – approximately 9 million people – find reading difficult, and one in three people do not regularly read for pleasure.

Quick Reads – a programme by The Reading Agency, a national UK charity – plays a vital role in addressing these shocking statistics by inspiring emergent readers, as well as those with little time or who have fallen out of the reading habit, with entertaining and accessible writing from the very best contemporary authors.

This year Quick Reads is celebrating its 15th Anniversary, which means that over five million copies of Quick Reads titles have been distributed since the life-changing programme began in 2006. To celebrate this year there’s this amazing deal:

“Buy one, gift one:

Buy a Quick Read this summer and Quick Reads will gift a copy to help someone discover the joy of reading.”

And all of the Quick Reads are available in paperback for purchase at just £1.

There is something for everyone in the six 2021 titles:

  • The Baby is Mine by Oyinkan Braithwaite (Atlantic);
  • The Skylight by Louise Candlish (Simon & Schuster);
  • Saving the Day by Katie Fforde (Arrow);
  • Wish You Were Dead by Peter James (Macmillan);
  • How to Be a Woman, abridged by Caitlin Moran (Ebury);
  • The Motive by Khurrum Rahman (HQ).

I’m very grateful to the lovely publishing team of MIDAS PR for sending me the title of my choice, a copy of The Skylight by Louise Candlish.

Louise Candlish, author of The Skylight (Simon & Schuster) said: It’s an honour to be involved in this [next] year’s Quick Reads. Reading set me on the right path when I was young and adrift and it means such a lot to me to be a part of literacy campaign that really does change lives.”

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They can’t see her, but she can see them… Simone has a secret. She likes to stand at her bathroom window and spy on the couple downstairs through their kitchen skylight. She knows what they eat for breakfast and who they’ve got over for dinner. She knows what mood they’re in before they even step out the door. There’s nothing wrong with looking, is there? Until one day Simone sees something through the skylight she is not expecting. Something that upsets her so much she begins to plot a terrible crime…

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I haven’t read any of her novels yet but I wanted to get to know this author’s work after reading so many appraising reviews for The Other Passenger and hearing Our House is now in development for a major TV series, so this Quick Reads title seemed like a perfect introduction. I’m normally not a big fan of short stories so it did set the bar rather high. If Louise Candlish could convince me in only 89 pages then I’d definitely want to read more of her novels, if not, well then that would be too bad but at least I’d know. Well I can say that I read the book in one sitting (that’s also a first and I loved it that I didn’t have to put it down in between reading this) and really enjoyed it 🙂

Louise Candlish had no trouble convincing me of her writing, I liked Simone right away I was practically as shocked as she was when I read about her discovery. I don’t know if I’d follow the same course of action (well I don’t think so) but I was with her every step of the way and with such a limited number of pages it still managed to hold the necessary amount of menace and mounting tension that would happen in a full paged book of 300 pages. I could actually foresee the ending a little bit but I hadn’t actually anticipated the big twist. I didn’t actually mind the ending too much, it was ok as a wrap up and one I could live with. I certainly want to read more of her books now so I think that’s mission accomplished.

This Quick Reads title was a nice surprise. They’re not easy to find here in Belgium but if I’d came across them in a bookstore I’d certainly pick up a few more new authors who seem interesting to me.

I received a free copy of a QuickReads title from publisher MidasPR. This is still my honest opinion.

The Car Share by Zoe Brisby #BookReview

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A ninety-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s and a heartbroken young man end up sharing a ride to Brussels that changes their lives forever.

When Alex pulls up to meet “Max”, he expects everything but a ninety-year-old lady who has her heart set on getting to Brussels by carpool.

As for ‘Max’, who is actually called Maxine, she could not be more ill at ease when settling into the seat next to this young man with bloodshot eyes. God help her if he turned out to be a drug addict who hasn’t slept in days!

When it becomes clear that Maxine is suffering from Alzheimer’s and wants to take matters in her own hands while she still can, and that Alex battles severe depression, a wonderful friendship starts to form between the unlikely pair. Before long, their travel plans take an unexpected turn…

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star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

I don’t pick up a lot of feel-good books but the fact that Max and Alex were to travel to Brussels (Belgium) for some reason got my attention and honestly, I wanted to read a novel with good vibes. The Car Share didn’t let me down, I really had much fun reading this quirky story with wonderful uplifting rays of positivity

Max and Alex’s first encounter already gave a little taster how much fun there would follow in the rest of the novel. They were as surprised as someone walking in on their husband lying in bed with someone else (minus the anger it would go with) when they discovered who their travel partner was going to be but even though they would have preferred someone else, other options weren’t really available so they were well and truly stuck with each other. I found the time they traveled taking quite long but I wasn’t complaining because there was plenty to keep me entertained along the way. Soon enough they have the police on their backs and they’re forced to travel incognito to outrun the nationwide manhunt. Alex, 25 years old is actually the one with the ‘old soul’ in the novel and Maxine is the one who acts like she’s mentally the youngest. Is it believable that a nonagenarian is as quick, agile and energetic as shown here? I’m not that sure, but then everything in this novel is quite over the top. Honestly, I did love that Maxine is not your ordinary heroine, and the fact that she still feels so much younger (she plays down her age whenever she has the chance) made me almost forget sometimes what age category she really was in. Max really stole the show for me and I loved how witty she was and how she tried to lift Alex out of his depression with the things she commanded Alex to do.

In fact they are both trying to change the other one’s mind for their set plans before the end of the car ride and I loved how they cared for one another. For all the hilariousness throughout the novel, the ending had me holding my heart and it became surprisingly emotional for such a funny story. Max and Alex are definitely characters that’ll grow on you and will be kept in your heart. A wonderful tale of an unlikely friendship that will change their lives. Exactly the sort of read I needed!

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

Layla by Colleen Hoover #BookReview

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When Leeds meets Layla, he’s convinced he’ll spend the rest of his life with her—until an unexpected attack leaves Layla fighting for her life. After weeks in the hospital, Layla recovers physically, but the emotional and mental scarring has altered the woman Leeds fell in love with. In order to put their relationship back on track, Leeds whisks Layla away to the bed-and-breakfast where they first met. Once they arrive, Layla’s behavior takes a bizarre turn. And that’s just one of many inexplicable occurrences.

Feeling distant from Layla, Leeds soon finds solace in Willow—another guest of the B&B with whom he forms a connection through their shared concerns. As his curiosity for Willow grows, his decision to help her find answers puts him in direct conflict with Layla’s well-being. Leeds soon realizes he has to make a choice because he can’t help both of them. But if he makes the wrong choice, it could be detrimental for all of them.

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star three and a half

It’s been a while since I read a novel by one of my favorite romance authors. Even though I’m a big fan I don’t want to binge-read her novels. Her books need to be savored like a fine wine, I enjoy drinking in her words but want to pace myself and not just have too much at once. This novel is causing some division in my head though and it’s the first novel I read that is a difficult one to form an opinion of. I confess I had not read any reviews beforehand because I know this author and I loved every single book she has written but I was unprepared for the genre of novel this was. It seems she’s venturing further from the type of novels she wrote in the past, first dabbling into a different genre with Verity (a thriller, which I really liked because it also had a cool twist) and now this one.

Layla had an important and big plot twist which involves one of those tropes I really don’t like reading about so I felt a little deflated when I first found out. Had I known this then I don’t know if I had picked it up yet and would have chosen to read another one of hers first. Maybe it is a good thing though that I didn’t know because I did come around in the end so the final verdict is that I did enjoy it and chances are you’ll probably like it even more than me.

Without going into the plot, I can say that I felt conflicted at first that Leeds spent so much time with Willow, it somehow felt quite disloyal that he started to have these sort of secret conversations and encounters and as the story progressed that feeling only grew stronger. I was happy when he finally started to think about what he was doing because I reached that point much earlier so I didn’t really like Leeds and the fact that there are chapters where he has Layla TIED UP IN HER ROOM was even more reason for me to totally dislike him. I totally changed my mind in the end though and I totally understood his actions then so I did love that the author managed to change my feelings towards Willow, Layla and Leeds completely.

Apart from the trope that demanded some suspension of my belief, it is also not my favorite novel by the author because I couldn’t feel as deeply and as emotionally as I would have if it were a straightforward love story. One where I didn’t block the feeling of wanting a romance to blossom between two people who aren’t in a relationship as much as I did here from the start. The focus of my feelings was more on disliking certain characters instead of focusing on the love aspect. It’s all a bit unrealistic for me but she did manage to write something that will surprise the reader as it is something fresh and original.

I do have Heart Bones, another novel of hers waiting on my tbr pile so hopefully that will really give me what I want to satisfy my romantic side.

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

Win by Harlan Coben #BookReview @PenguinUKBooks

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Over twenty years ago, heiress Patricia Lockwood was abducted during a robbery of her family’s estate, then locked inside an isolated cabin for months. Patricia escaped, but so did her captors, and the items stolen from her family were never recovered.

Until now.

On New York’s Upper West Side, a recluse is found murdered in his penthouse apartment, alongside two objects of note: a stolen Vermeer painting and a leather suitcase bearing the initials WHL3. For the first time in years, the authorities have a lead not only on Patricia’s kidnapping but also on another FBI cold case – with the suitcase and painting both pointing them towards one man.

Windsor Horne Lockwood III – or Win as his few friends call him – doesn’t know how his suitcase and his family’s stolen painting ended up in this dead man’s apartment. But he’s interested – especially when the FBI tell him that the man who kidnapped his cousin was also behind an act of domestic terrorism, and that he may still be at large.

The two cases have baffled the FBI for decades. But Win has three things the FBI does not: a personal connection to the case, a large fortune, and his own unique brand of justice …

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I’m not one of Harlan Coben’s long-time fans but I really want to become one! This novel is an absolute WINner (yes that couldn’t be helped)!

I haven’t read the 11 books in Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series where Win makes his appearance but that clearly isn’t imperative for enjoying this novel. I do have to say that I am a little curious about Myron himself because he’s talked about on several occasions but he doesn’t make an appearance in this novel. I’m mentioning this to keep the die hard fans from being disappointed ;-). I was happy though that the story really focuses on Win in the first novel of this brand new series.

Win (full name Windsor Horne Lockwood III) is as his name suggests as rich as croesus. He also has class and style and he might come across as a snob because who in the world answers the phone with ‘Articulate’, but aside from that I knew that deep down he is essentially a good guy, someone who will take action for the weak, even if his methods tend to be a bit violent sometimes. He’s charismatic, witty and he has a good dose of self confidence but he gets away with everything for me. Win is an awesome character to come across, he’s very well described and I enjoyed getting to know him throughout the novel.

I would not dare to say much about the complex plot except that it is kept intriguing at all times and I had no idea how the different subplots could end up fitting together. While there is progress on one front continually, other aspects of the story remain delightfully incomprehensible until Win’s tenacity pays off in the end. Over the course of the novel he dives into a story of terrorism in the seventies where a group of youngsters who became known as The Jane Street 6 threw a Molotov cocktail causing the deaths of several, as well as into his own family history and what happened with his cousin when she was 18 and the death of her father on the same night.

I marvel at the way the author used an abduction, an art heist and the murder of a recluse, all over the span of several decades, and made them very logically come together in the end. It’s a very clever and ingenious plot indeed!

I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this but I enjoyed this mystery novel decidedly more than I did the Netflix series The Stranger (I actually found it ok to watch at the time but it is nothing compared to this)! A very promising start to a brand new series! I for one can’t wait to read the next one!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Century. This is as always my honest opinion.

🎬 🔪 The Cut 🎬 🔪 by Chris Brookmyre #BookReview

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Millie Spark can kill anyone.

A special effects make-up artist, her talent is to create realistic scenes of bloody violence.

Then, one day, she wakes to find her lover dead in her bed.

Twenty-five years later, her sentence for murder served, Millicent is ready to give up on her broken life – until she meets troubled film student and reluctant petty thief Jerry.

Together, they begin to discover that all was not what it seemed on that fateful night . . . and someone doesn’t want them to find out why.

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I had only read Black Widow by Chris Brookmyre before and I found that one so very, very clever (you can read my review here) that it made it into my top 10 the first year after starting the blog. So when I saw The Cut and read the first line of the novel (‘Millie Spark can kill anyone’) I was immediately intrigued and wanted more than only this sublime catchphrase.

Millie and Jerry proved to be a brilliant and dynamic combination in this novel, even if you wouldn’t put them together at first sight. On the one hand there’s Millie (Millicent) who is in her seventies and lives with two other older ladies after her release in prison where she spent 25 years after being arrested for killing her partner. At the start of the novel she isn’t anyone’s best friend, her reactions keep everyone at a distance but at the end of the novel she’s transformed into a much friendlier woman, someone who can make jokes and who can have fun after all, and it might just be that Jerry played a role in making that transformation happen. Jerry is a student who studies film. He’s always been extremely interested in horror movies (or video nasties as they are called) and he knows just about every movie title and every actor. The story starts with alternating plotlines introducing these two characters and it was fun to see how their lives intersect and seeing them discover how much they have in common in their passion for the job on a movie set for Millie and love for the end product the actual film, for Jerry.

The story really kicks off when Millie – in Jerry’s company – finds a photo of her boyfriend of the time and doesn’t know who the other people in the photo are. A quick phone call only raises more questions about the night the picture was taken and unwittingly she happens to draw the attention to herself by someone who doesn’t wish her well exactly. She and Jerry don’t really have a choice but to embark on a thrilling and dangerous adventure in search of answers about who her dead boyfriend really was, while trying to figure out who is coming after them and why. 

The Cut is a story that plunges the reader into the movie business, horror movies in particular, and it entails everything from a little history about how the genre came to life to urban legends, while also making you feel as if you’re a fly on the wall on a movie set. Even though it’s not my genre to watch at all, I thought it was very interesting to read about.

The status of horror movies is negative by association. There are rumours of people dying who watched a horror movie or worked on one, and have you never heard media say that crimes that were committed stem from watching this type of movies? In the book they also talk about some cult movie, Mancipium, which was never shown because it’s supposed to be too disturbing for the public. Is it a myth, is it real, who knows? It does play a role in the story but not how I had anticipated at all. I did struggle a little bit following the political influences involved and the powers financing a movie and I thought this would ultimately lead me to the path of destruction and danger but I could never have been more wrong so you don’t need to worry when it sounds a bit complicated because the author created some wonderful red herrings only to lead you to the truth in the end, and what a stunning and shocking revelation it is! Much to my satisfaction, I loved how the story ramped up on speed and tension and the story turns out to be something completely different than I had thought, but in the best way.

The Cut is another great book by Chris Brookmyre, it’s one to sink your teeth in! Very compelling, highly recommended. I can’t wait to read more of his books after reading this one!

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