As Good As Dead by Holly Jackson (A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder #3) #BookReview

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Pip Fitz-Amobi is haunted by the way her last investigation ended. Soon she’ll be leaving for Cambridge University but then another case finds her . . . and this time it’s all about Pip.

Pip is used to online death threats, but there’s one that catches her eye, someone who keeps asking: who will look for you when you’re the one who disappears? And it’s not just online. Pip has a stalker who knows where she lives. The police refuse to act and then Pip finds connections between her stalker and a local serial killer. The killer has been in prison for six years, but Pip suspects that the wrong man is behind bars. As the deadly game plays out, Pip realises that everything in Little Kilton is finally coming full circle. If Pip doesn’t find the answers, this time she will be the one who disappears . . .

The highly-anticipated finale to the A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder series, the instant bestsellers that read like your favorite true crime podcast or show. By the end of this mystery series, you’ll never think of good girls the same way again…

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As Good As Dead is the third novel of a trilogy, with A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder (my review) and Good Girl, Bad Blood (my review) preceding this one. I read the first two novels so of course I had to find out how everything was going to end for Pip Fitz-Amobi. I wouldn’t recommend reading this last novel as a standalone because there were a lot of references to both of the previous novels. That being said, I read the first one quite some time ago and it was not so easy to remember everything that had happened to all the characters of the town for me either so I struggled a little understanding why Pip was feeling so much animosity towards some of them.

I enjoyed the majority of the story of As Good As Dead, but it wasn’t love from the first page so it really me had to win me over. First, the second novel did end quite traumatically for Pip but I wasn’t a fan of Pip’s paranoid thoughts (PTSD if you want) and the manifestation of that fact with Pip imagining seeing blood on her hands quite a few times. It’s perhaps possible but I’m still not a fan. Secondly, the novel started slow although there’s an indisputable threat directed at Pip that is designed to keep the reader guessing early on and tension was building with each new message she discovers closer and closer to home. I enjoyed the clever way someone is trying to frighten her and yet I still felt that the plot took its time getting the story to where it should be, especially because there’s a major shifting of gears with one pivotal scene kicking the novel up a notch or ten and then never letting go again.

This pivotal scene and everything that happened after shows a Pip at the top of her game. I loved everything that came after that. I hadn’t seen her like this before, so brilliant, so controlling, so impressive. Her skills and all the knowledge she has acquired while working on her podcasts, she has to put them all into practice. I learned a few new things about death bodies too as she includes a report on how pathologists use rigor mortis, livor mortis and algor mortis to determine the time of someone’s death. I found all of this very interesting and I’m sure I won’t forget about it soon.

The second half of the novel was very addictive and I had to know if Pip was going to succeed. Sidekick Ravi was absent from the second novel but is back in As Good As Dead to take his place next to Pip and their connection, the support he gives her is wonderful. They are the bestest team!

The author promised a thrilling novel and she kept her promise, I loved the direction she took with this novel. I wasn’t expecting Pip to surprise me so much after her ‘weak’ start but she’s really coming through and this third novel is a wonderful conclusion to the series. It certainly ends on a high for me! And that last line.. I was sooo happy with it!

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

A Slow Fire Burning by Paula Hawkins #AudioBookReview

AudioBookReviews

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Laura has spent most of her life being judged. She’s seen as hot-tempered, troubled, a loner. Some even call her dangerous.

Miriam knows that just because Laura is witnessed leaving the scene of a horrific murder with blood on her clothes, that doesn’t mean she’s a killer. Bitter experience has taught her how easy it is to get caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Carla is reeling from the brutal murder of her nephew. She trusts no one: good people are capable of terrible deeds. But how far will she go to find peace?

Innocent or guilty, everyone is damaged. Some are damaged enough to kill.

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I’m a fan of the actress Rosamund Pike since I saw her in her role as Amy in Gone Girl and now she’s also one of my favorite narrators, if not my most favorite one so far! I give 5 stars for the narration of this novel and 3.5 to 4 stars for the plot. There were plenty of characters in this novel and thanks to the brilliant narration each character had its clear own voice. The narration was delivered with a lot of intonation as well and I loved how Pike shouted and sang and cried quite convincingly throughout the novel, I wasn’t bored for a second. I’m convinced that being an actress is a big advantage for the narration of audiobooks.

The whole plot revolves around a numerous cast of people living close together, Laura, Carla, Miriam, Irene and Theo and their involvement in each other’s lives and in the lives of Angela and her son Daniel, the two characters who ended up dead not long apart from each other. Miriam’s narrowboat was positioned next to Daniel Sutherland’s boat so she had a good view who came and went and she saw Laura on the fatal day. Does this mean that Laura stabbed him to death? Laura is a bit of a clumsy girl, she was a victim in a hit and run accident when she was young and faces many difficulties every day which results in sudden bursts of angry behaviour. She’s 25 and often does shopping for Irene, the old lady living next door to Daniel’s mother Angela, who in turn was the sister of Carla. Miriam feels a kinship to Laura because she was a victim too as a student when she was lured into a desolate house which she only narrowly escaped. Intermittent with the general story there’s also snippets of a book called ‘The One Who Got Away’ which was fascinating to listen to although it didn’t feel as if it blended in exactly with the rest of story. After a while though it did became clear that there’s an issue that arose with its publication which also plays an important part in the story.

The author certainly took on a lot, I think you get the gist that this was not a simple story but a complex one with connections between the many different characters. I found it hard to distinguish Irene and Miriam’s story right away but with the building of their histories and lives they soon became two very different people in my mind too. I have to say that after a while I was so caught up in the tragedies of their lives (Carla and Theo lost their little boy for example) that I didn’t miss that there wasn’t a lot of progress happening in finding out who killed Daniel. It’s only in the third and last part of the novel that the big mystery received all the attention and after a few twists and turns and some red herrings, the mystery came to a satisfying conclusion.

In essence: A Slow Fire Burning is a complex family drama and it was fulfilling to discover how the puzzle pieces of the deaths finally fit together.

A Thousand Boy Kisses by Tillie Cole #BookReview

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When seventeen-year-old Rune Kristiansen returns from his native Norway to the sleepy town of Blossom Grove, Georgia, where he befriended Poppy Litchfield as a child, he has just one thing on his mind. Why did the girl who was one half of his soul, who promised to wait faithfully for his return, cut him off without a word of explanation?

Rune’s heart was broken two years ago when Poppy fell silent. When he discovers the truth, he finds that the greatest heartache is yet to come.

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I bought A Thousand Boy Kisses – a young adult romance novel – years ago when I saw how many 5 star ratings it was receiving on Goodreads. The novel’s been published in 2016 but still has an average rating of 4.23 so that says a lot about how much love this novel is receiving.

I’m a fan of young romance because it’s sweet, innocent and perfect and I thought I’d never be able to get enough of it but the romance in the first part of the novel was sooo cheesy, I was really getting an overdose. It didn’t help that Poppy receives a jar from her grandmother to collect a thousand kisses in her entire life that make her heart burst, kisses that make her feel special, and Rune takes it upon himself to fill this whole jar by himself. I never thought I’d say this but the soaring hearts were there all the time and even I felt it was a bit too much. That said, it didn’t make me feel very happy that Rune and his Poppymin (My Poppy in Norvegian) were going to be separated because by then I certainly saw them as inseparable.

Their goodbyes were painful but what was at least as painful was the fact that all communications between them come to a stop, although they promised each other so much. I didn’t know the reasons behind Poppy’s decision to cut Rune out of her life but it was hard to understand when she loved him so much before.

Rune, the long haired Viking with blond hair and blue eyes that Poppy had fallen in love with returns but nothing is as it once was. Rune has changed so much from the sweet boy I came to know. They can’t pick up where they left off, and all I wanted was for them to reconnect in some way. My heart broke for them – for the love lost between them – but soon after it broke even a little more. I thought this was going to be a light, sweet teen romance but the emotions I felt ran deeper than expected. In the end I believed very strongly that Rune and Poppy were soul mates, and their love ‘as special as special can be’. I dare you to keep it dry reading A Thousand Boy Kisses.

The start was a little rocky but the ending was so beautiful and also full of love. It is definitely an emotional novel and it won’t leave you unfazed!

I bought an ecopy of this novel. This is my honest opinion.

3 #AudioBookReviews with family drama

AudioBookReviews

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

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

Hurry Home by Roz Nay

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

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

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

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

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Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

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

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

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

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

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

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The Wife Stalker by Liv Constantine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Exit by Taylor Adams #BookReview

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A kidnapped little girl locked in a stranger’s van. No help for miles. What would you do?

On her way to Utah to see her dying mother, college student Darby Thorne gets caught in a fierce blizzard in the mountains of Colorado. With the roads impassable, she’s forced to wait out the storm at a remote highway rest stop. Inside are some vending machines, a coffee maker, and four complete strangers.

Desperate to find a signal to call home, Darby goes back out into the storm . . . and makes a horrifying discovery. In the back of the van parked next to her car, a little girl is locked in an animal crate.

Who is the child? Why has she been taken? And how can Darby save her?

There is no cell phone reception, no telephone, and no way out. One of her fellow travelers is a kidnapper. But which one?

Trapped in an increasingly dangerous situation, with a child’s life and her own on the line, Darby must find a way to break the girl out of the van and escape.

But who can she trust?

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My nails are bitten to the quick, I couldn’t stop myself! I usually don’t go for action-packed books but I’m so happy I gave this one a chance. I was more than a little addicted to No Exit and I even sacrificed a little bit of sleep for it and god knows I already don’t have have any to spare.

No Exit is incredibly twisty, gripping and full of suspense. I had it on my e-reader for a while so I didn’t really remember what it was about, all I knew was that it was a locked-in type of novel and that was good enough for me because I love those, so even the fact that Darby finds someone – a child no less – in the back of a van was the first surprise for me. I could have withheld this info here but I see that it’s even mentioned in the blurb and honestly you don’t need to worry that I just told you one of the best parts, it’s only the start of a jam packed novel with twists you won’t see coming at all. I loved how unpredictable and volatile the situation became. The novel is full of nervous tension and danger.

Darby needs to survive the night but with no cell signal she can’t alert the police so it’s all up to her to take action and my god she’s literally a heroine, I rooted so much for her. She’s not naive at all because if she was she would have been dead very early on. First she has to find out who abducted the girl, whose car it is without raising suspicion, and then she has to outwit this person and at least try to free the little girl or find a way to get the police there as soon as possible. With no reception at all that’s easier said than done. It’s a race against the clock before the roads open again and of course things don’t go as smoothly as they should! Safe to say that she”ll have to risk her own life more than once in the process.

Be aware that there’s some torture involved so it’s certainly not a novel for softies and even I felt the impact of some of the graphic scenes. Two particular scenes come to mind and one at least made me squirm when I pictured it in my mind (and it’s easier than you think because I’m sure you and me have felt that particular pain that was inflicted for a fraction in the past) but if you ask me if I’d change anything about it then I have to say I wouldn’t change anything at all!

I really didn’t expect to be so blown away but the thrills just kept on coming and I don’t know how many times I held my breath. I can’t wait to read the other novels this author has written so far!

I bought an ecopy of the novel and this is my honest opinion.

The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas #BookReview

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There are no more cheerleaders in the town of Sunnybrook.

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

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

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

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star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas #BookReview

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Jess and Heather were once best friends – until the night Heather’s sister Flora vanished. The night that lies tore their friendship apart.

But years later, when a brutal double murder shakes their childhood town, Jess returns home.

Because the suspect is Heather.

What happened to the girl you used to know?

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star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

I became a fan of this author several years ago. I have not read all of her books yet but out of the four I did read so far, there are two titles I awarded with five stars (Local Girl Missing and Last Seen Alive) so with such a high score of course I put Then She Vanishes on my readlist after that.

The first pages of Then She Vanishes threw me right into the middle of a harrowing scene with someone murdering two people in their own home in cold blood. Who would do such a thing, and especially, why? The motive is not explained and puzzled me to no end. It kept me looking for clues throughout the whole novel. The alleged killer, Heather, fell into a coma after a botched suicide attempt so the only one who could get any closer to the truth turns out to be Jess, a reporter.

Jess used to be best friends with Heather but they had a falling out when they were teenagers. I really enjoyed the flashbacks when they still were best friends, before Heather’s sister Flora went missing. But what was it that tore their friendship apart? What is Jess feeling guilty about, what secret has she kept all these years? It kept playing on my mind, did it have anything to do with Flora’s disappearance? The author is in no hurry to tell but I loved speculating about what was covered up for so many years.

I came to know Heather as someone with good intentions, someone kind and caring and a good daughter to her mother, a stickler at following the rules as opposed to her big sister Flora who she adored, so her act of murdering two people seemed way out of character. Yet nothing is ever straightforward in Claire Douglas’s books and I have come to expect those twists and as always, I enjoyed many of them in this novel. One of them in particular came as a real shock, it was tragic and showed a dark side of life that I hadn’t counted on.

The different plotlines of the past and the present are in some way connected and the author brings everything brilliantly together. There was only one twist that I expected from early on and it’s a big one so I was hoping someone – if not Jess, the police perhaps – would see the clue for what it was but no, the police was quite absent in the story and no help at all. I had to wait a little too long for it to come out so that was one big omg-moment I missed but that’s the only thing I can complain about and if I hadn’t know I’d have given it a star more. If you want clever twists and turns this is an author you need to read for sure.

Then She Vanishes is quite a brilliant whydunnit against an intriguing backdrop of family and friendship.

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

Bone China by Laura Purcell #BookReview

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

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

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star three and a half / 5_Star_Rating_System_4_stars_1457015877_81_246_96_2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not A Happy Family by Shari Lapena #AudioBookReview

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In this family, everyone is keeping secrets. Even the dead.

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets–especially the dead. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there. And they don’t come much richer than Fred and Sheila Merton. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered the night after an Easter dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their capricious father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did one of them snap after that dreadful evening? Or was it someone else that night who crept in with the worst of intentions? It must be. After all, if one of your siblings was a psychopath, you’d know.

Wouldn’t you?

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Not A Happy Family was a great choice for an audiobook and I really enjoyed the narration by Ellen Archer. I only read one of the author’s novels before (An Unwanted Guest) but when I came across this one I couldn’t resist this new murder mystery.

Fred and Sheila Merton invited their three children Dan, Catherine and Jenna and their partners, as well as their cleaning lady-more family friend- Irena over for a Sunday Easter dinner where they drop quite a few unexpected bombs at the dinner table. The guests are all more than happy to leave but the next day Fred and Sheila are found murdered in the house and their children are rich. Dan – who didn’t take over the family business – now had money problems, Catherine – the perfect daughter – always dreamed of living in her parent’s house and Jenna – the struggling artist – saw the support of her parents also coming to an end. They all left but who returned later that night?

It took me some time to really get into the story, mostly because with the three siblings there were ‘only’ three suspects so I thought I’d find it quite easy to point out the killer. I was very wrong about that, even at 90% I had absolutely no clue who did it.

I’m usually great at guessing the identity and I sometimes even know quite soon who is hiding something but they ALL have things to hide this time so that didn’t give me any clue. In the beginning I still thought I was clever by thinking of who was present but not given too much attention, but then the author drew in more side characters into the plot, like Fred’s sister and a woman named Rose and you could almost say that they become the prime suspects.

Almost every single character introduced into the story is a likely suspect in the end and there are more people with a motive than expected. I kept guessing and guessing which was so much fun to do. There are so many secrets and lies going around in an effort to simply not seem like they’re the killer, they lie to their spouses, they ask their spouses to lie for them, the siblings even start to point fingers at each other.

It was impossible to guess the identity of the killer so this is one of the rare books able to surprise me. I do wonder if the author knew herself who did it from the beginning or if she left all options open until the end and then made the decision. I’m suspecting the latter as it could have been anyone else and it would have the same effect! The whodunnit wasn’t the only thing that surprised me in the end though, the final chapters in the form of an epilogue gave the story an extra twist and concluded the story on a real high.

I received a free ecopy from the publisher Penguin Random House via Netgalley. This is my honest opinion. 

When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins #BookReview

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Twenty-one years ago, Dr Richard Carter and his wife Pamela were murdered in what has become the most infamous double murder of the modern age.

Ten-year-old Sara Carter – nicknamed the Angel of Death – spent eight years in a children’s secure unit and is living quietly under an assumed name with a family of her own.

Now, on the anniversary of the trial, a documentary team has tracked down her older sister Shannon Carter, compelling her to break two decades of silence.

Her explosive interview sparks national headlines and journalist Brinley Booth, a childhood friend of the Carter sisters, is tasked with covering the news story.

For the first time, the three women are forced to confront what really happened on that blood-soaked night – with devastating consequences for them all.

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Catherine Allen will be dead in exactly 10 minutes. Whaaat? Hands up for that amazing first liner! How can you not take note and sit up after reading that?! As it happens, Catherine Allen turns out to be a normal, happily married woman with a teenage daughter. I soon found out that each member of the family is keeping secrets from one another though so it might just be one of them has potentially deadly consequences. Only, with the book blurb in mind, I didn’t see a direct link to the story of Sara and Shannon Carter so I wondered in what sort of a situation I had stepped into. Trust me, I’d know soon enough 🙂

I’d catalogue When I Was Ten as a crime drama, and it reminded me of The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts which I read in 2019 but I was much more satisfied this time because the novel was remarkably better written and the past flashbacks that lead up to the murder itself were very compelling, giving that much needed background to put everything into perspective.

When I started this novel I wondered why a girl of such a young age – only ten! – could kill her parents in such a vicious way. Did the parents deserve this? Was I going to receive a satisfying answer? The answer is yes! The conundrum of nature versus nurture came to mind but didn’t really come in play. The every day life of 10 year old Sara and her older sister Shannon was a far cry from a dream life. Punishment and derogatory comments from their parents being a commodity, the girls were totally isolated and even taunted by the other girls at the ballet school. The only ray of light in their lives was their unbreakable bond, the mutual friendship with their neighbour Brinley and Shannon’s secret crush for a boy at school. There were many gripping scenes and the girls’ past was definitely heart wrenching.

In the present the story is told by Brinley Booth, who is a journalist now. Nobody knows the Carter sisters were her best friends as she joins the hunt for an interview with The Angel of Death. As a side story there’s also MP/Justice Secretary Geoffrey Heathcote who finds himself caught in the eye of a media storm. He’ll have to face some consequences himself for some of his questionable ideas and actions.

If you think that’s all, think again. Fiona Cummins is such a terrific author that interspersed between chapters there’re also mysterious communications between two anonymous parties. It wasn’t very difficult to figure out who the receiver was and I succeeded in filling in the other party towards the end too but I really enjoyed the mysterious nature of them and especially to find out to what end they were sent.

If you enjoy novels about child killers and the impact of the media and public opinion on their release and their right to a second chance, then this is a novel for you. So many years after the facts Sara is hounded down again with a ruthless disregard of her privacy. I could not help but feel very sorry for Sara, and even more so at the end of the novel when I could look back upon the full story. The novel is not full of twists but she does throw in a few belters in the end. A satisfying conclusion!

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