Dear Child by Romy Hausmann #BookReview

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A windowless shack in the woods. Lena’s life and that of her two children follows the rules set by their captor, the father: meals, bathroom visits, study time are strictly scheduled and meticulously observed. He protects his family from the dangers lurking in the outside world and makes sure that his children will always have a mother to look after them.

One day Lena manages to flee – but the nightmare continues. It seems as if her tormentor wants to get back what belongs to him. And then there is the question whether she really is the woman called ‘Lena’, who disappeared without a trace over thirteen years ago. The police and Lena’s family are all desperately trying to piece together a puzzle that doesn’t quite seem to fit.

250.000 copies sold in Germany – 5th bestselling paperback in Germany in 2019

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I really enjoy reading these types of books and yes I know books like Room, The Good Girl, The Marsh King’s Daughter and others talk about abduction, imprisonment and abuse, which is always hefty and disturbing to read but they also happen to really touch me to my core if done right. Dear Child was perfect and pulled at my heartstrings straight away. I fell into its pages from the start because it hits you full on with little snippets about what happened at the cabin, sending shivers down my spine. Fortunately the tension does let up after a little while because much more than a story about the time in the cabin is it a storyline about the aftermath, how everyone reacts, how the media doesn’t leave you alone, and how you are free then but not free in your head, it’s about the enormous trauma it causes. The main character struggles to trust, to enjoy, to be herself when her identity was demolished to the ground from the minute she found herself waking up in that cabin. She had to be someone else or suffer the consequences, so who is she now?

Dear Child is narrated by 3 different characters and keeps you guessing about what happened all those years ago and who took Lena. It’s quite a complex story and I loved how the author added another layer to it. It made me rather confused and puzzled about Lena though, some of just didn’t add up, she seems to be keeping something to herself but I couldn’t see how this piece of the puzzle fit into the greater picture, there was a sizeable mystery aspect woven into the story. Her father doesn’t recognize her in the hospital for instance which was beyond strange because he does recognize her daughter Hannah as his grandchild right away and she seems to have seen her grandfather at a garden party on one of the secret outings that her father didn’t know about.

I loved the determination of Matthias, Lena’s father, but also really liked to follow Lena’s daughter Hannah. Hannah is a young girl who knows everything about everything, she can give full definitions of the most complex terms and processes. In other ways she lacks emotions and she is quite chilling. Her view of reality is – understandably – very distorted. Sometimes I didn’t even know she was talking about things that weren’t real because I only had Hannah’s reality, only when I read further along I would then realise that it was her imagination and that would knock me back again.

The person I loved most in the end though was Lena and I only realised just how much when I was almost turning those last pages. The strength she had, the things she did for her children and how she made their life better, how she told them about the constellations and bedtime stories, preparing them for the moment they would be able to step into the real world, how my heart bled for her and how she was still busy working on a future when she couldn’t even tell if it was night or day.

The last part of the novel took a very unexpected turn, it turns into a real thriller there that made me sit up straight, and it gave the answers to all the much sought after questions I had stored in my head. I didn’t think it would happen again but my heart bled once more when I read about the reasons why this had happened. Although you wouldn’t say so, the story has so much to do with love, love for your wife, your father, your daughter, your children,… sometimes love knows no limits and this book shows the darkest sides but also the deepest and bestest side of love.

A dark and gripping story with a great twist! Well crafted and memorable!

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

The Switch by Beth O’Leary #BookReview @OLearyBeth @QuercusBooks

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Eileen is sick of being 79.
Leena’s tired of life in her twenties.
Maybe it’s time they swapped places…

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.

Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?

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Have I got the book for you this week! If you’re looking for something uplifting, a read you can really relax into, then you don’t need to search any more, The Switch is the perfect remedy to cure #lockdownloneliness!

I’m not going to lie, I did go into this with high expectations. I loved Beth O’Leary’s debut novel The Flatshare so much, it being one of the biggest surprises of last year for me, so where does this leave this novel? Maybe it’s not as swoonworthy as The Flatshare because a lot of the story’s progress is about developing friendships whereas in the first novel you felt the excitement for a blooming romance (through notes) between two people but I have to say that I was invested in the characters again and I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.

The author chose another format and a completely different story to tell in her second novel, not about two strangers of the opposite sex this time, but rather two main characters Eileen and Leena (well actually also Eileen but lucky the author gave her a nickname here) with about 50 years of an age difference and she made the right move to choose a very different relationship.

So, the women in this novel step into each other’s lives while still very much being themselves and I must say I really love these type of tropes (I’m still a fan of The Holiday starring Cameron Diaz) and the novel gave off a little bit of that vibe of the movie. It was refreshing to see 79-year old Eileen dipping her toes into the world of online dating in the bustling city and to see her granddaughter Leena at the same time in the rural countryside trying to take the local neighbourhood committee serious, to get invested there and roll with the slow life, as well as take care of her mum who she hasn’t been in contact with after her sister died.

The story had enough drive on both sides and I was never bored, even if the neighbourhood watches issues were not really crucial to start with, but it’s more about the people instead of the issues of course and getting to know them and the feeling that they are looking out for each other. If I’m really honest I think for once that I liked the part of the older Eileen with her multiple love interests maybe a little bit more – she’s far from a cliché for her age – because it’s always interesting how someone deals with being dropped into a totally different world, although Leena and grumpy next door neighbour Arnold were quite entertaining too and it was so nice to see them both softening up to each other.

The Switch is a story of one closely knitted community and another community that is about to be changed forever. A few of the themes involved in this novel are love and friendship, reconnecting with people, being forgiving, and especially finding yourself again or should I say accepting that you can’t sometimes be the person you were but that you are a new you.

Beth O’Leary has proven with this sequel that she’s definitely here to stay and her name belongs to be mentioned in the lists with Lucy Dillon, Jojo Moyes and so many others. She’s a brilliant author and if you want a novel to give you a warm fuzzy feeling and a satisfactory smile then I definitely recommend both of her novels. I hope we don’t have to wait too long for her third one now :-).

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

I Am Dust by Louise Beech #BookReview

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A haunted theatre
A murdered actress
Three cursed teenagers
A secret that devastates them all…

The Dean Wilson Theatre is believed to be haunted by a long-dead actress, singing her last song, waiting for her final cue, looking for her killer…

Now Dust, the iconic musical, is returning after twenty years. But who will be brave enough to take on the role of ghostly goddess Esme Black, last played by Morgan Miller, who was murdered in her dressing room?

Theatre usher Chloe Dee is caught up in the spectacle. As the new actors arrive, including an unexpected face from her past, everything changes. Are the eerie sounds and sightings backstage real or just her imagination? Is someone playing games?

Is the role of Esme Black cursed? Could witchcraft be at the heart of the tragedy? And are dark deeds from Chloe’s past about to catch up with her? Not all the drama takes place onstage. Sometimes murder, magic, obsession and the biggest of betrayals are real life. When you’re in the theatre shadows, you see everything.

And Chloe has been watching…

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As you all probably well know by now, I’m not very attracted to the supernatural, and the mention of witches, magic or ghosts in a novel makes me shiver horribly, and usually not how I want it to. But, newsflash!, this novel was able to enthrall me, and I really have to credit the wonderful author for being able to do so. I Am Dust is very, very different from the psychological thriller Call Me Stargirl, which was my first novel by this author and made me an instant fan, and is much more of a mix between mystery and teenage drama with a good dash of gothic, BUT it’s equally hard to put down and the ending was as heartbreaking as ever.

The story is told over two timelines, perfectly balancing scenes in the present and past. Both timelines keep you alert and I felt even more excited to see that links to the past gradually start to shimmer through in the present when Chloé starts to remember the game she played. For one or the other obscure reason – and believe me this novel is drenched in darkness and obscurity – Chloé doesn’t remember a lot about the time she spent with Jess and Ryan in 2005. I know I have a faulty memory at the best of times but that’s nothing compared to the big black hole in Chloé’s memory. When she hears that the musical Dust is being revived and especially when she sees who will be the lead actress who will have to tread in the footsteps of the murdered actress of the first show, it starts to jog her memory and little by little memories start to surface, unsettling memories, which might perhaps give an answer to the question why she has to wear long sleeves even at summer time and how it all ended between the three of them back in 2005 when they were such good friends and why they have no contact in the present.

I Am Dust is so much more than a ghost story, it is also a story of unrequited love, jealousy and betrayal. I really loved the atmosphere of the novel, the gloomy light of a few single candles, the board with its Welcome and Goodbye sign, the moving of the glass with the tip of their finger (or even without the use of their finger), the internal debate whether Chloe is some kind of a witch with special powers or not… but I was happy to find the story was also serving my appetite for a conventional story at the same time and the murder mystery and the issues at play between the three of them made it all the more addictive.

‘I’m still here; I am dust.
I’m those fragments in the air,
the gold light dancing there,
that breeze from nowhere.’

I’m not one for ghost stories but those words, lyrics actually from the musical in the book that plays such a huge role, are so beautiful. I loved that they were repeated often throughout the story so that I could read them over and over again.

In the end I felt nothing short of bereft and I wasn’t expecting to feel this way. I finally had the HUGELY surprising answer who killed Morgan Miller but even more than that I was caught in the emotional rollercoaster of Chloe, Jess and Ryan’s story because Louise Beech certainly knows how to write a hard-hitting ending. I had no idea I was so deep under its spell until I felt my heart bleed. I so wish I had discovered this author sooner and had listened to the words of praise from everyone from the start. Don’t be me, so just get one of her books, I’m sure they are all amazing. Ah, now let me read that poem one last time, it felt special before but even more special now that I finished it.

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

The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton #BookReview

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Florence Lovelady’s career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Glassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago. Like something from our worst nightmares the victims were buried…ALIVE.

Larry confessed to the crimes; it was an open and shut case. But now he’s dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves.

Did she get it wrong all those years ago?
Or is there something much darker at play?

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star three and a half

It’s raining 5 stars for this novel and *deep breath* I didn’t feel the same excitement. I know it is a mighty good novel for most readers but given the theme of the novel I should have known there was a possibility I could be the exception and feel this way. I know this author and I love all of her books I read so far so I took the chance and I chose this title when I won a really great giveaway last year. Do I regret reading it? Not at all, because it’s still a good book. Will I continue this trilogy? Well no, because I don’t think the road ahead is one for me but don’t let me stop you from giving this a go, I really mean it.

It honestly would have been a great book, an amazing book for me too if it didn’t go so far into fantasyland in the end.

The opening chapter of the novel reeled me right in though. Florence Lovelady attends the funeral of a convicted criminal and it certainly grabbed my attention right away, especially when she goes round to his old house and finds something unsettling that puts a new light on his conviction.

It was incredibly chilling to read a pretty vivid description in one of the following chapters how someone would experience being buried alive, waking up in total darkness and finding out they’re actually in a casket. This was some outstanding writing, I could feel the panic and desperation through the pages! In case you’re wondering about the difference too, the meaning of a coffin and a casket is very well explained in the novel, and even such a small thing makes me love reading this author’s novels, there’s always something new to learn.

WPC Florence Lovelady is someone who doesn’t let go easily but who is unfortunately the only woman in a bastion of men so she has to stand up for herself quite a lot. She ain’t no pushover though and not afraid to do what needs to be done behind the chief’s back, and it only made me like her more. Her only shortcoming is that she tends to get a little distracted with someone else playing on her mind to see she might be in danger. We already know she has lived through something because she’s missing part of a digit at the start of the book so the anticipation and the fear was high, especially when the end came in sight. All in all, she makes a great detective and I was definitely in her corner, even if I didn’t see eye to eye with her beliefs in witchcraft and dark magic.

Did she convict the right man though? It was a straight and shut case but 30 years later she can’t shake the niggling feeling in light of her new finding. If only those bees could talk! The tension builds and builds in the end and it finally finishes with a big bang. Lovelady is one power house of a woman!

Oh The Craftsman is full of twists and turns and even though I couldn’t get on with the thoughts behind the crimes, I can very well see why so many really enjoyed it.

I won a free copy of this novel in a giveaway. This is still my honest opinion.

My One True North by Milly Johnson #BookReview

 

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Laurie and Pete should never have met.
But fate has pushed them together for a reason.

Six months ago, on the same night, Laurie and Pete both lost their partners.
Struggling to manage the grief, they join the same counselling group – and meet each other.

From their sadness, Pete and Laurie find happiness growing and they sense a fresh new beginning.
Except, the more they talk, the more they begin to spot the strange parallels in their stories.
Then Pete discovers a truth that changes everything.

But, as surely as a compass points north, some people cannot be kept apart.

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There’s romance and then there’s ‘Romance’ and My One True North falls in the latter category, the one I absolutely love. Milly Johnson willed me to see Pete and Laurie together very early into the novel because I could see sooooo clear as day they were meant to be together. The story was perfectly paced and it had a very satisfying build up for me, their surprisingly easy connection wasn’t left too long hanging but didn’t come too quick either.

There were a few mysteries and secrets woven into the story that made it even more interesting even if is not so difficult to spot what is going on. The main thread is still about people having lost their loved ones, yet the comments and the situation the characters were in didn’t make me feel utterly sad for either party. Pete and Laurie are missing their partners but they are not stuck in their grief and both want to move forward with their life at the start of the story. It also helped that I already had a sense of the direction the plot developments were going to take so I couldn’t feel too bad about what I thought was coming.

Laurie and Pete meet each other and others too, Maurice, Sharon and Michelle at Molly’s tea club, a small support group that comes together at a tea shop where they chat over cake about the difficulties they are all experiencing. Each person deals with grief but I really appreciate that the author had one character grieve the passing of her dog. It is so underestimated what that does to someone and the important place a pet has as part of the family so I really liked there was attention given to this kind of grief. This lovely bunch of people find friendship and even a few laughs too when they have their meetings, something I hadn’t expected immediately but healing comes in several formats and it made me happy when I saw them dealing with it in such a great way.

I really enjoyed all of the characters in the novel, not only Pete and Laurie are positive and wonderful people (Pete is a firefighter who rescues kittens and dogs in the most touching way, how can you resist him after that?!) but so many others really made this story, from Pete’s father Nigel to Lucy and Griff, his brother and sister in law, to Alan, Laurie’s employer, even Keith Richards and Pong (a goldfish and a cat) had me under their spell.

My One True North is a lovely novel to read, giving hope when you think there might be none to be found again, and truly sends out the message that you can’t waste time and you should be living. It is full of warmth, great friendship and love. It’s contradictory – I do know how it sounds given the subject of the novel – but it really is the truth: if you’re feeling down My One True North will certainly lift up your mood!

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

Watching from the Dark by Gytha Lodge #BookReview

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Aidan Poole logs on to his laptop late at night to Skype his girlfriend, Zoe. To his horror, he realizes that there is someone else in her flat. Aidan can only listen to the sounds of a violent struggle taking place in the bathroom—and then the sound of silence. He is desperate to find out if Zoe is okay. But then why is he so hesitant to call the police?

When Aidan’s cryptic messages finally reach them, Detective Chief Inspector Jonah Sheens and his team take the case—and discover the body. They soon find that no one has a bad word to say about Zoe, a big hearted young artist at the center of a curious web of waifs and strays, each relying on her for support, each hiding dark secrets and buried resentments. Has one of her so-called “friends” been driven to murder? Or does Aidan have the biggest secret of them all?

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star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

The blurb actually captures the story really well, it tells you in this case exactly what to expect. Main character Zoe, brilliant, lovely, sweet Zoe winds up dead and it is one big mystery who killed her. Of course everybody likes her, what’s not to love about her? As the story progresses from the past to the present, Zoe stays the one that everybody turns to but her friends show more of their true colours and the suspicion turns in every direction since every single one of her friends could possibly have a motive.

I can’t get enough of these type of novels if they’re done well and Watching From the Dark is definitely on the list of good ones. I did, however, only read another novel in the same genre the other week and even though I really liked both, the biggest difference is that I was actually able to predict the ending here. The story managed to wind me up paranoid about everybody, but in the end the red herrings were futile, my initial thought was the one I came back to after zigzagging over all the other names, and that turned out to be the right bet. If you read a lot of these types of novels I don’t know if it will come as a complete surprise. It could also be I’m just so good at it of course ;-).

I enjoyed the way the story was written. Zoe herself and Felix and Maeve were the characters that sprung out the most for me because they had an interesting personal history and character traits that really defined them. Her other friends Victor and Angeline could have been developed maybe a bit more for me personally. I also found Zoe to be quite a catch, it seems that every single man in this novel was attracted to her (yes that made me roll my eyes). Jealousy is of course a strong and believable motive anytime but still, it bothered me a little that literally everyone wanted her. All that was missing was a girl crush in it as well (or maybe there is, you’ll have to read it).

This is actually the second book in the detective series but you really don’t have to have read the first one. I didn’t and I didn’t miss a beat. The detectives in the story were great, there was a good connection between Jonah and Hanson, they form a perfect twosome, they’re both are very clever and they compliment each other so the detective work had drive and determination and it certainly makes me want to see more of them in the future.

I received a free copy from the publisher for review. This is my honest opinion.

Have you heard #TheRumour by Lesley Kara #BookReview

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When single mum Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another and now there’s no going back . . .

Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.

Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.

So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realizes what it is she’s unleashed?

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I hadn’t pegged this novel as a debut at all, there’s definitely no teething stage for this little baby. Rumours are a bit like wildfire – or the corona virus at the moment – it all starts with a casual remark, something small someone says, and then it gets repeated in a group of people and before you know it everybody in the whole damn town catches whiff of it and is convinced of it being a hard truth. It felt frighteningly real and easy how all of this started and got out of hand so quickly without really meaning to. The rumour lead its own life and before I fully well knew, people were on a crusade to find out Sally McGowan’s new identity in this peaceful little town by the sea, even when it’s not even sure she came to live there at all.

Fair’s fair, I was very curious to find out who it was as well and the novel was able to really put the flame under it. There are quite a few suspects to choose from but all respectible women, most of them have children so nobody you would ever think able to commit such a crime. I did have someone in mind though really early in the novel, and this person only came into view well over half of the novel so I became even more convinced I was on the right track, but then other names propped up trying to muddle with my conviction, all of them acting suspiciously in one way or another. I wasn’t placing any bets anymore and a good thing I didn’t. It’s not often a novel can still surprise me like this but the surprise was complete, a real shocker and the real Sally was one of the few people I hadn’t actually suspected at all!

The novel is a great reminder of the dangers of spreading whispered thoughts, of how easily you can accuse someone and how everyone just assumes it is the truth right away, it is frightening and unfair for that person if it’s not true, the damage it can do… We all know it but still women can’t seem not to tell on each other and gossip, but maybe this novel can make you think twice in the future. Luckily in my job discretion is one of the characteristics you really need to have, I do hear and see things that I certainly won’t share with anyone, and I’m the same as a person, so I’m no Jo. My life is safe, for now :-).

The Rumour was a brilliant debut, fast-paced with plenty of intrigue and a very interesting topic too to read about. Do child killers deserve a second chance or do they need to be hunted down for the rest of their life, are we entitled to know where they live at all times? I think you’ll come to the same conclusion as me after you read it, because how could you not? How do they look back and how do they live their lives after the crime in the protection program? I found it quite enthralling to get some insight there from a person living this kind of life, even if it was fictional. I read another novel about the same thing in the past but this one was ten times better for me. I heard through the grapevine myself at the time of publication that this one was a gripping novel full of red herrings and I’m really happy that I can say that ‘they’ were right, it was such a wonderful novel that I already look forward to reading her next one. Fully approved!

I received a proof copy of this novel from a lovely blog friend. This is my honest opinion.