Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

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What’s it about?

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

amazon uk amazon com

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blood Sisters by Jane Corry

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What’s it about?

Two women. Two versions of the truth.

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

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

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

amazon uk amazon com

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Breath by Robert Bryndza

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What’s it about?

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

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

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

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

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

amazon uk amazon com

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fact of A Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich #BlogTour #Bookreview

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It’s my turn on the blog tour today to tell you all about the fabulous debut novel  The Fact of A Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, which was published on 18 May! Huge thanks to PanMacmillan for inviting me on the tour and I hope you enjoy my review!

What’s it about?

Before Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich begins a summer job at a law firm in Louisiana, working to help defend men accused of murder, she thinks her position is clear. The child of two lawyers, she is staunchly anti-death penalty. But the moment convicted murderer Ricky Langley’s face flashes on the screen as she reviews old tapes―the moment she hears him speak of his crimes―she is overcome with the feeling of wanting him to die. Shocked by her reaction, she digs deeper and deeper into the case. Despite their vastly different circumstances, something in his story is unsettlingly, uncannily familiar.

Crime, even the darkest and most unsayable acts, can happen to any one of us. As Alexandria pores over the facts of the murder, she finds herself thrust into the complicated narrative of Ricky’s childhood. And by examining the details of Ricky’s case, she is forced to face her own story, to unearth long-buried family secrets, and reckon with a past that colors her view of Ricky’s crime.

But another surprise awaits: She wasn’t the only one who saw her life in Ricky’s.

An intellectual and emotional thriller that is also a different kind of murder mystery, The Fact Of a Body is a book not only about how the story of one crime was constructed―but about how we grapple with our own personal histories. Along the way it tackles questions about the nature of forgiveness, and if a single narrative can ever really contain something as definitive as the truth. This groundbreaking, heart-stopping work, ten years in the making, shows how the law is more personal than we would like to believe―and the truth more complicated, and powerful, than we could ever imagine.

You can buy a copy of this novel on Amazon UK | Amazon US.

About Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich

Alexandria-Marzano-Lesnevich_MACD-15-201_414A 2014 National Endowment for the Arts fellow, she has received a Rona Jaffe Award and has twice been a fellow at both MacDowell and Yaddo. Her essays appear in the New York Times, Oxford American, and the anthologies TRUE CRIME and WAVEFORM: Twenty-first Century Essays by Women, as well as many other publications. She received her JD from Harvard, her MFA at Emerson College, and her BA from Columbia University. She now lives in Boston, where she teaches at Grub Street and in the graduate public policy program at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

Connect with the author on Twitter : @alexandriaml

If you want to learn more about the case, here’s a link to the evidence pack, which includes footage of Ricky Langley.

Review

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Where to even start discussing this novel? How to explain what a special novel The Fact Of A Body is and give honor to the unique and extraordinary nature of this story? I have read a few courtroom cases but none where the court case is really put together by a narration outside of the courtroom in such a striking way.

My first favourite point of course already goes to the fact that this is true crime, reason enough for me that I really wanted to read it and what drew me to this novel in the first place. This is not just some fictious story, this is a legal case about real people (you can even look Ricky Langley up on youtube) and this makes it even a more interesting and valuable read to me. Sometimes in life the realism is just as horrendous as what some authors are imagining and writing down as fiction, and taking the life of an innocent 6-year old boy for no reason at all is so horrific to me that I wanted to know more: who was this person, how could this happen? Could I somehow understand this human better and see him for more than the crime? After reading this novel I have found the answers for myself because yes this one makes you self-reflect about your own beliefs and it will certainly make you ‘live’ Ricky’s life story. This novel is more than satisfying because it gives a face and creates a real character of someone you would only know by name in the media’s headlines. There is no question about guilt here, but it’s his background and past, going back so far as his parents getting together and his conception, and the lead up to this hideous crime that will come forward in the story. The history of Ricky Langley was very thoroughly penned down and the image painted is vivid and an outright tragic and rocky account of his life. The author did it all without any contact with him so this must have taken a painstakenly amount of work and time. The question that rises though is if he could really have escaped this path with everything that’s happened to him? Personally, I still think so. It’s not because you were treated badly (which is debatable too) and you struggle in life with who you are that you can’t change the hand dealt to you, that you have no choice. I know that he was looking for help but does that serve as an excuse? It’s all about the choices someone makes and there’s only that one pivotal moment of wrongful action. It might have started before he was born but there is only one moment that matters to me. Still, there’s plenty food for discussion to be found in here and this novel is all about forming your own opinions and thoughts and trust me that they were bubbling up and there was no keeping them down this time. I love it when a novel makes you think and occupies your thoughts like this.

Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich grew up in a household with two lawyers as parents and she chose to go to law school too (if this is something inspired by the desire for justice for those who aren’t heard in life or her encouraging environment is something I definitely wondered about as well) and she’s opposed to the death penalty. She begins her internship in a law office watching a video tape of Ricky Langley and has to wonder if she can still hold on to her beliefs. Little did she know that it would change her forever because the deeper she gets into his case, the more she’s also relating to her own past. While she’s researching she’s bravely revealing what happened to her as a child and she’s being so devastatingly honest. Entangled is a very raw and painful family history. She really weaves her own history into Ricky Langley’s story in a subtle and magnificent way.

I have a sense that this novel was kind of cathartic for the author. Something that was silenced and ignored for so many years and now there’s no ignoring anymore, now everybody will know. I got the idea that she needed to let it out and to change that feeling inside her of people not acknowledging what happened for so long. Now every reader is part of it and I can understand that gives her some relief. It can’t change the past but it changes the future.

This was a very well researched novel about a crime and a brave memoir of abuse which made it an unforgettable novel to me. I can highly recommend.

Many many thanks to the author for sending me a free copy of this novel through her publisher. It was my pleasure to provide my honest opinion.

You can read an extract of the first chapter here. Go ahead and read it, but know that you’ll probably want to read more!

Here’s the full list of blogs of this book tour, check out the other tour stops too :

Grab This Book
Keeper of Pages
Crime Worm
Liz Loves Books
Breathing Through Pages

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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What’s it about?

On Thursday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investi­gators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Thursday, he died. But on Friday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they just the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

You can buy a copy of this novel on Amazon UK | Amazon US.

Review

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One of Us Is Lying is a fabulous debut YA thriller which starts with five students ending up in detention after having been found with phones in class. They hardly know each other but that’ll change drastically and they’ll know ALL about one another after one of them ends up dead in detention class.

They start out as the biggest high school clichés, Bronwyn is little miss know-it-all, the straight A-student going for a Yale scholarship, Cooper is the hot hunk and star of the baseball team, Addy is the blonde with ‘perfect hair’, and Nate is the rogue guy with the motorcycle, the one everybody whispers about because he was (or is) dealing drugs, but people don’t really know him at all because he allways keeps to himself.

All stereotypes are there but they all change and grow so much througout the story that they outgrow their cliché, or maybe it just becomes clear they weren’t that cliché after all and it took this unfortunate event to make their true selves come out.

The story is set out to be a whodunnit but as I read on and on, I actually became more and more invested in each and every one of these characters and who they really are and their voices – the story is told by 4 POV respectively – and interactions with each other even got on the forefront. I found it unlikely one of them to be a killer, they were so diverse but very easy to love, so this didn’t make it any easier because I couldn’t suspect anyone more than the others.

They all have their secrets which Simon was going to publish if he weren’t killed. Unfortunately they turn up in tumblr posts for the whole school to see. These make up the many twists and turns in the story and they gave me tiny little jolts each time something new came to light. It was an interesting and exciting journey for all of them with very different consequences depending on the person involved and a big difference in how they were treated after the truth came out. Some are forgiven more easily than others, some have the right looks and status, some can afford fancy lawyers who give them advice on what to say and how to act and some don’t. Throughout the story friendships and love interests are formed, the kids’ families react very differently to the truth, some truths are also easier to hear than others.

Even when they all did something they shouldn’t have done, I still emphatised with each of them. I did guess Cooper’s lie quite early on even though it was just a hunch but some other lies were fessed up by themselves and were a nice surprise. The question is which one of them had the biggest to lose? Which mishap was worse than the others? The story is told in alternating voices by all four of them and really keeps you on your toes. The police even think some of them are in it together. I finally kind of guessed the real killer but it did not make it any less fun to read so this shouldn’t put anyone off for picking this one up.

The plot development is outstanding, there’s depth to the characters and they all come out better in the end. I’ve tremendously enjoyed this mystery.

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

Little Bones by Sam Blake

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What’s it about?

Attending what seems to be a routine break-in, troubled Detective Garda Cathy Connolly makes a grisly discovery: an old wedding dress – and, concealed in its hem, a baby’s bones.

And then the dress’s original owner, Lavinia Grant, is found dead in a Dublin suburb.

Searching for answers, Cathy is drawn deep into a complex web of secrets and lies spun by three generations of women.

Meanwhile, a fugitive killer has already left two dead in execution style killings across the Atlantic – and now he’s in Dublin with old scores to settle. Will the team track him down before he kills again?

Struggling with her own secrets, Cathy doesn’t know dangerous – and personal – this case is about to become…

You can buy a copy of this novel on Amazon UK | Amazon US.

Review

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This novel kept me in suspense about what was going on for a very very long time. It’s all extremely mysterious and it takes at least two thirds of the novel before the coin finally dropped and I got the bigger picture on how all the puzzle pieces fit (perfectly and brilliantly) together. There was definitely more going on than I ever expected.

To start, there’s the ongoing investigation of the little bones found in the hem of a wedding dress passed on to Zoe from her mother – who she doesn’t have any contact with now – by her grandmother. The big question of course is who put them there and why.

While they’re investigating these bizarre findings and waiting for DNA results, there’s also the seemingly unrelated story of an old lady called Mary who is taken under the wing of social worker Emily and her husband, psychologist Tony Cox. Mary is quite an enigma in this story but like in a perfect chess game, her pawn is put into position on the exact right moment and from that moment on everything seemed to be happening in a rapid succession of events. At the last moment there’s also the unrelated thread of the chase of some criminal with the name of Angel Hierra inserted in a terrific way as well. I didn’t really know why he made an appearance in the story and at first I wasn’t as invested in his storyline as I was in the other plotlines because they’d already spun their threads. I wondered about him and his significance to the story but when the cascade of revelations finally came upon me… My mouth almost dropped open when I saw how it all made sense.

I found myself easily caught up in the novel. It’s loaded with intrigue and I know I’m repeating myself but there’s so much going on all at once, I couldn’t help but want to get to the bottom of it all as fast as I could. If you’re looking for a story that isn’t laid out straightforward right from the beginning but keeps you guessing at what’s going on and who that person is who put bones in the hem of a wedding dress, this one’s certainly up for the task.

It’s hard to believe this is a debut novel. It’s the first novel I read that is set in Dublin, Ireland and I was a bit fearful whether I’d ‘get’ everything but I didn’t have any problems at all, so this was a positive experience in every respect.

There’s already a sequel out in the Cathy Connolly detective series called In Deep Water which is just as well because this one ends with a cliffhanger that is begging for more.

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

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

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What’s it about?

Ava doesn’t believe it when the email arrives to say that her twin sister is dead. It’s not grief or denial that causes her scepticism – it just feels too perfect to be anything other than Zelda’s usual manipulative scheming. And Ava knows her twin.

Two years after she left, vowing never to speak to Zelda again after the ultimate betrayal, Ava must return home to retrace her errant sister’s last steps. She soon finds notes that lead her on a twisted scavenger-hunt of her twin’s making.

Letter by letter, Ava unearths clues to her sister’s disappearance: and unveils harrowing truths of her own. A is for Ava, and Z is for Zelda, but deciphering the letters in-between is not so simple…

You can buy a copy of this novel on Amazon UK | Amazon US.

Review

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This is an undoubtedly brilliant debut novel, well thought out and cleverly plotted. This is the very first time I can also report that I’ve read a more ‘literary’ novel and I actually enjoyed it very much. I admit, at first I thought it wasn’t going to work out, the language and formulation, especially from Zelda’s POV, was different from my usual easy reads, but suddenly something gave way and I became totally engrossed in the story. Was it the author’s doing or was it just me getting used to it and acclimatising so well? I don’t have a clue but the prose just flew for me from thereon.

The story kicks off with Ava returning home after she hears of her sister’s death. Ava left home 2 years ago after a mysterious dispute with her twin sister, not having talked to her since. In a way though she also grabbed the opportunity when it presented itself to escape from her highly dysfunctional family. Her father had left them for his second family already by then and the twin sisters were left with a huge vineyard and a mother whose dementia could no longer be ignored. This delightful mystery about what happened to her sister was perfectly mixed with the unraveling of Ava and Zelda’s family history. A family where literally everyone is an alcoholic, an addiction rather easy to accomodate if your home is a vineyard. This was definitely a very character-driven novel as well, even though Zelda is presumed dead I really got to know her through the messages she sent to her sister.

Right from the start Ava has a hard time believing her sister is actually dead, even though remains were found, and when she starts getting messages from her sister and realises she’s sending her on some sort of scavenger hunt in and around the house her winner’s instinct kicks in. She has to figure out what game she’s playing and that means finding the clues her sister hints at and revisiting their shared past memories. A is for Ava and Z is for Zelda, like it always was, but she’ll have to look for the letters in between. I got lost in their wordgame easily and I eagerly anticipated each new letter that was coming up next. It was highly addictive and I felt we were racing towards the end of the alphabet but what would be the outcome? Would Ava find Zelda in time or would Zelda make a big appearance in the end, laughing at them all for playing her tricks on them? I honestly didn’t know how this was going to turn out. Would her sister set her up perhaps for her murder, but then who did they find in the barn, or would she leave everything behind and just disappear when the game was over and leave her to care for their demented mother alone? More possibilities seemed to crop up, her sister’s funeral looming in the distance and time cutting to a close. I don’t want to give anything away but the ending is excellent and makes me want to give it that little bit extra appreciation,.. you’ll have to read it to find out.

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