My holiday reads reviewed

I took 3 reads with me so you’re getting 3 reviews in one go. I compared them to each other too and that’s why you get a 3, 4 and 4.5 star review ;-). I’m showing them in the order I read them btw 😉

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She has a loving marriage.

But she has no friends.

Everyone knows her name.

But no one will speak it.

Why?

Cornelia Blackwood is about to do something very wrong, for reasons she believes to be right.

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The Flight of Cordelia Blackwood was a poignant novel with a tragic tale at the heart of it. The genre of novel was different from what I expected it to be but it was a gripping read and I really enjoyed reading it. Even without the experience of being a mother myself, I was drawn into the story right away and I could feel Leah’s agony and longing for a child.

The story is told via alternating chapters and shows Leah meeting Adrian in the past, going through some of life’s tragedies together and a new storyline that runs from the present onwards and hints at something bad happening in the past that made her lose all credit, all of her friends too. The author deftly steers the story in a certain direction and it’s impossible to miss where the answer lies. I couldn’t help conjuring so many worrisome thoughts and I held my heart at least a few times when I read about some of Leah’s life changes, but the author made me squirm in my seat with all the twists and turns in the story before getting to the exact heart of it.

I just couldn’t compute Leah’s treatment with the image that I was building of her in my head… surely she wasn’t capable of doing anything evil? Her story reads as one tragedy happening upon another and made me feel sad for her. But how did she end up so injured and broken, walking around with a cane, and why is she getting these looks? I was trying to get an idea how things added up but it was a well-kept mystery until the end and given her deteriorating state of mind I knew something was coming but I never expected that.

The Flight of Cordelia Blackwood was a story of grief and love and that feeling when it just all seems to be too much. It’s sad and heart-breaking at times and that ending, it left me reeling.

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. I had the intention before I left to leave one good read behind so I left my copy in Kos for another reader to enjoy :-).

TFOCB

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LittleSister def

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After sixteen years apart sisters Jessica and Emily are reunited. With the past now behind them, the warmth they once shared quickly returns and before long Jess has moved into Emily’s comfortable island home. Life couldn’t be better. But when baby Daisy disappears while in Jess’s care, the perfect life Emily has so carefully built starts to fall apart.

Was Emily right to trust her sister after everything that happened before?

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I expected a mystery but I had no idea the story would hold SO SO many secrets and lies. EVERYBODY here is hiding something or other and I absolutely loved all these surprises that follow up at warp speed. And then there is the lie of all lies.. I had no idea who’d turn out to be the biggest liar of them all so around midway the most stunning twist just happened that put everything into a new perspective. I had absolutely no idea and didn’t expect the direction this story was going in. It’s just the things you take for a truth and don’t question that can surprise you the most if they turn out to be a lie, isn’t it. I guess that’s also why we are surprised when someone tells us they don’t love us anymore, right?

The story kicks off right away with Daisy’s abduction and when the police question Jess, who was babysitting, and her parents, Emily and James, there’s already some little white lies here and there about their whereabouts and the circumstances. It starts small but after a while I couldn’t help wonder why they would lie about anything at all and then before you’re even very well aware of it one stone after another is thrown at each other and my paranoia was all over the place. I do love big happy families who come apart like that :-). You can really trust nobody here and I was keen to keep it that way too. Someone did earn my sympathy and trust little by little, and I also started to loathe another character quite vehemently at the same time when my feelings turned out to be viable in the light of some actions.

Little Sister turned out to be not only a story about abduction, the opening storyline even takes a backseat for a while when another timeline is followed taking place during the teenage years of Jess and Emily, but about what happened between the two sisters so many years ago as well. The picture becomes clearer with every flashback about the nature of their sibling relationship and the reasons why Jess left home at the age of 17.  This plotline was just as riveting to read and had its own shock-factor too.

If you’re talking about authors who can deliver an amazing twist then I have to count Isabel Ashdown among them. It took me by surprise how much I enjoyed this one and I already look forward picking up another book from this author. If you have any of her books you want to swap for something I have, you let me know!

I received a free copy of this novel from another blogger in a book swap. This is my honest opinion.

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IfYouKnewMySister def

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Dr. Irini Harringford was given away by her parents just before her fourth birthday. Although she has spent her whole life trying to convince herself she doesn’t need them, deep down Irini longs to understand why she was abandoned, while her parents kept her older sister, Elle.

So when Elle gets in touch with news that their mother has died, Irini reluctantly agrees to return to the family home. But she is ill at ease. She and Elle are not close. Irini knows only too well what Elle is capable of. Inexplicably drawn to her enigmatic sister, yet terrified of the sway she holds, Irini tries to protect herself even as she is sucked back into her family’s toxic web of secrets…and soon realizes that the past is more complicated than she imagined, and that her very future rests upon discovering the truth about why she was really given away.

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Irini’s haunted by her past and this has serious repercussions for her love life as it makes her doubt the person currently in her life. Just thinking about what her parents did, giving her up at the age of 3 and keeping her sister, Elle, made me instantly sympathetic and cautious of her parents. Was it because she had a handicap, was it because she was unlovable, she never knew the reasons. What she does know is that she doesn’t want to have children of her own, that’s how big the toll is because of their decision in the past. Truth be told, there was one member of the family who wanted her in her life, her sister has tried to find her again and again and she also succeeded. Isn’t it ever so strange though that she ran from her sister so many times then, going so far as moving and changing her phone number? I was wondering what happened right away. Now that Elle finally caught up with her again Irini decides to take the opportunity and find out the answers she’s always been craving.

This need to know her parent’s motives and the reason why Irini would run from her sister are at the core of the novel and there’s a lot of darting around the answers throughout the story. It was a bit transparent for me though why her mother and father sent her off and the biggest mystery was discovering why she and her sister have such a dysfunctional relationship and what happened in the past between them to cut all contact.

Sister relationships are always interesting to read about and the push and pull between the two sisters was no different. Their interactions make great waves and especially the domineering personality of Elle over Irini. Even though I sympathised with Irini at first and how she was hurt like that, the feeling waned and I can’t say I liked either of the sisters in the end, but Elle really is the worst character I’ve come across lately. Elle’s issues make her very manipulative and controlling and Irini is of course the perfect victim. It was impressive what Elle was capable of and fascinating to watch their interactions.

However, I didn’t always understand why Irini just went along with everything and not once stood up against her or told her off. I knew quite soon that there was something off about Elle so why she got so much credit from Irini I never fully understood. I also found it slightly unbelievable that nobody told her anything throughout her life about the reasons why her parents made the decision and in hindsight also why they didn’t even follow up on her from a distance, they could have at least sent a birthday card each year, right?

There were quite a lot of events unfolding in the last part of the novel and that’s the part that I really enjoyed best, the more you read the better it gets. I’m still not entirely sure about Elle in the end though, is she evil or disturbed, I’m still doubtful. Maybe a bit both.. you’ll have to make up your own mind.

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

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Her Last Move by John Marrs #BookReview

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She’s chasing a killer. He’s watching her every move.

He hides in the shadows, waiting for the perfect moment. Each kill is calculated, planned and executed like clockwork.

Struggling to balance her personal and professional life, young DS Becca Vincent has landed the biggest case of her career—and she knows that it will make or break her. But she can’t catch the culprit alone. Together with facial recognition expert Joe Russell, she strives to get a lead on the elusive murderer, who is always one step ahead of them.

Time is not on their side. The body count is rising, and the attacks are striking closer and closer to home. Can Becca and Joe uncover the connection between the murders before the killer strikes the last name from his list?

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Without exception, I very much enjoyed each of the author’s previous novels. It’s no secret either that John Marrs is one of my favorite authors who I often recommend to other readers. Well if someone’s looking for a new detective novel I can now recommend Her Last Move as well. This novel is his first foray into the police procedural genre, using a detective’s point of view and I have to give him another round of applause because he pulled it off in a genre I read plenty of books in: the plot is original, the cast authentic and the writing superb.

Detectives usually pair up in novels, that’s a standard deal, but I’d never read a novel about a duo like the one (Detective Sergeant) Becca forms with Joe Russell. What am I saying, I hadn’t even heard about the job of a super-recognizer before. Joe Russell is the bunny in the hat and it works brilliantly. I was sceptical of his role and his usefulness but quite fascinated as well.

I didn’t even read half the novel before I absolutely had to know if super-recognizers are really employed in the police force. Google and Wikipedia showed that Scotland Yard has a squad of over 200! Huh! The internet also provides many tests as well apparantly if you want to check if you are in doubt (or convinced) that you have this very special ability of being able to recognise 80% of faces, whereas normal people only score a good 20%.

The author peppers Her Last Move with plenty of revelations and both of the main characters have very interesting backgrounds and family relationships that are out of the ordinary and make you sympathise with them right away as they both have their own personal issues as well. I can’t say much about the investigation but I can tell you that I was hooked as soon as the first murder occured in the very first chapter because I felt I could almost touch the murderer myself. The setting of the unfortunate event was a metro station so the thought that someone can harm someone else so easily if it’s a bit crowded makes me want to keep my distance from everyone from now on, even more than before ;-). The second murder was already more gruesome and I could only guess at the reasons why the killer let his victim suffer without remorse. Marrs kept me on my toes the whole time as I was trying to figure out what connected these people and who might have been doing this but the underlying reasons are of course not easy to spot. Just when Joe’s closing in on the suspect and the story shifts into its highest gear, there’s that one big twist that happened that I was totally unprepared for and it completely knocked me out of balance. I’m talking about one VERY intense scene. I still can’t get over it. There were so many thoughts running through my head at the time and I was holding onto my dear heart too. The author kept me guessing about the outcome for sooo long, it was bloody torture and I could only think nooooo in my head. I didn’t expect this turn of events AT ALL and I loved it as much as I hated what came out of his twisted mind.

Overall, Her Last Move was amazingly entertaining so I definitely recommend!

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

Where The Light Gets In by Lucy Dillon #BookReview

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‘You know those cracks in your heart, Lorna, where things didn’t work out, but you picked yourself up and carried on? That’s where the fear gets out. And where the light gets in.’

It was Betty, defiant to the end, who sent Lorna back to Longhampton. If Lorna’s learned one thing from Betty it’s that courage is something you paint on like red lipstick, even when you’re panicking inside. And right now, with the keys to the town’s gallery in her hand, Lorna feels about as courageous as Betty’s anxious little dachshund, trembling beside her.

Lorna’s come home to Longhampton to fulfil a long-held dream, but she knows, deep down, there are ghosts she needs to lay to rest first. This is where her tight-knit family shattered into silent pieces. It’s where her unspoken fears about herself took root and where her own secret, complicated love began. It’s not exactly a fresh start.

But as Lorna – and the little dog – tentatively open their cracked hearts to old friends and new ones, facing hard truths and fresh promises, something surprisingly beautiful begins to grow around the gallery, something so inspirational even Lorna couldn’t have predicted the light it lets into her world . . .

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I was drawn to this novel because of the beautiful cover at first. When the sunlight catches these golden butterflies and that little dachshund on the cover, it’s just so gorgeous, I can’t seem to stop playing with the light and the cover :-). It’s definitely one of the prettiest covers I have in my library now and if you want to buy this novel, you really should think about getting the hardback as it has adorable little dachshund images all over the front and back book flaps.

The dog – I can even say dogs because there are two of them – in this novel were the second thing that made me want to read this. It is no wonder really that I loved Rudy – a small over-anxious dachshund – and Bernard – a very energetic border terrier – to pieces but it became much more than loving the dogs. I quicky became quite attached to this little group of people, where each new character was introduced and added with the right amount of timing and delicate writing. It was heart-warming to see how they all came together. It started with Tiffany, Lorna’s friend that she didn’t see for so long, then a niece and her sister and even Joyce who was so reluctant to let anyone in at first (literally and figuratively). In the end though they become a tightly knitted group (ha! they happen to really knit and this is in fact the most celebrated artform in the novel even though Lorna opens an art gallery with paintings, jewellery, pottery and such).

The only thing I wasn’t totally convinced about was the romantic angle in this novel. I didn’t feel IT for either of the two gentlemen in the novel that came into Lorna’s orbit. The focus wasn’t very much on the development of a romance though so it wasn’t really a problem but maybe they could have been more loveable or something. As it was presented, I wouldn’t really give them a moment’s thought :-).

Overall I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed Where The Light Gets and how it filled my heart reading it. The novel was both heart-breaking and uplifting with multiple lovely friendships. In the end I really wished I didn’t have to say goodbye to these characters, I actually missed them when I closed the book and they seem to live on outside of this novel, that’s how real it felt. It has a beautiful ending that made me a bit emotional as well. I never thought I would be so touched but it made me smile through my tears. I did read one other novel by Lucy Dillon before which was a good read but it definitely doesn’t compare to this one. I can highly recommend if you like a heartwarming read!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher, Bantam Press an imprimt of Transworld Publishers, in exchange for my honest opinion.

The Rules of Seeing by Joe Heap #BookReview

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Nova is 32 years old and she is about to see the world for the very first time.

Jillian Safinova, Nova to her friends, can do many things. She can speak five languages. She can always find a silver lining. And she can even tell when someone is lying just from the sound of their voice.

But there’s one thing Nova can’t do. She can’t see.

When her brother convinces her to have an operation that will restore her sight, Nova wakes up to a world she no longer understands. Until she meets Kate.

As Kate comes into focus, her past threatens to throw them into a different kind of darkness. Can they each learn to see the world in a different … and open their eyes to the lives they could have been living all along?

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The Rules of Seeing not only made Kate and Nova see the world differently, but it also made me look at the world I thought I already knew so well in another perspective.

It sounds like a fairytale come true, being able to see again after an operation, but the truth is that it’s more difficult than any of the 5 languages Nova learned. The author did a great job describing the many hurdles she’s facing when trying to make sense of all the different colours and shapes surrounding her.

Nova’s discovery of the world and bewilderment was wonderful to watch and her reactions seemed to be described very realistically. She has quite a few difficulties understanding what she sees though: concepts like depth and transparency are foreign to her and she therefore creates her own set of rules which she calls the ‘Rules of Seeing’. They are scattered throughout the novel and reading them made me realise that you don’t just go from being blind to seeing like you and me. It’s definitely not like in the movies!

The sighted have forgotten completely about the wonder of discovering these rules. We all learned the language of seeing when we were babies, we only can’t remember this anymore, as Mr Heap points out to the reader in his foreword. Luckily, the novel and Nova’s rules are little reminders of the magic of the world.

Rule of Seeing N° 2 :  Objects look smaller as their distance increases.

Rule of Seeing N° 174 : If you go outside and everything is murky grey, do not worry. You are not developing cataracts. Fog changes the colour of everything.

Rule of Seeing N° 275 : Sighted people get so good at recognizing shapes that they use them instead of words. They put pictures on toilets, road signs, bottles of bleach, no smoking areas, food mixers and hospitals; they never seem to get confused.

As Nova starts to explore the world, the story starts to focus more on Kate as well, a woman who is also learning to see, be it in another sense of the word, she’s coming to terms with and recognizing the situation she’s in. It doesn’t take much to know where her story is going right from the beginning and the story is well-balanced this way. My favourite character was definitely Nova though because she hasn’t had it easy being born blind but she’s so joyful and full of life, she exhumes positivity. She’s a little fighter whereas Kate tends to give up (or give in) much easier. It was absolutely wonderful these two met and seeing the influence they had on each other. They were both going through very trying times and I was very curious to see them both go forward. There were a lot of ups and downs in their lives that made me feel alternately happy and sad. It also ended in quite a satisfying way that goes to show that sometimes you do get what you deserve.

The Rules Of Seeing was a very insightful novel and gave me so much thought. We take so much of the world we see for granted and thanks to The Rules Of Seeing you can learn to really SEE it again in a way you never thought you would.

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

The Plus One by Sophia Money-Coutts #BookReview

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The Plus One [n] informal a person who accompanies an invited person to a wedding or a reminder of being single, alone and absolutely plus none

Polly’s not looking for ‘the one’, just the plus one…
Polly Spencer is fine. She’s single, turning thirty and only managed to have sex twice last year (both times with a Swedish banker called Fred), but seriously, she’s fine. Even if she’s still stuck at Posh! magazine writing about royal babies and the chances of finding a plus one to her best friend’s summer wedding are looking worryingly slim.

But it’s a New Year, a new leaf and all that. Polly’s determined that over the next 365 days she’ll remember to shave her legs, drink less wine and generally get her s**t together. Her latest piece is on the infamous Jasper, Marquess of Milton, undoubtedly neither a plus one nor ‘the one’. She’s heard the stories, there’s no way she’ll succumb to his charms…

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star three and a half

This is a perfect summer read to ‘put your feet up and relax’. The Plus One has a high Bridget Jones vibe although Polly is a much cooler and fun person than Bridget and she’s certainly not as clumsy and insecure, so I think I actually like her a whole lot more!

She doesn’t have the most interesting job at a magazine called Posh! but I must say it did make for some very entertaining reading. Her job includes writing articles about the new IT-dog (because the rich have an obsession for horses, and dogs come a close second), finding baby scans so they know who the little ones can become friends with when born, to being sent to places she’d normally never go for the best scoop… like interviewing the new singleton marquess at his parent’s castle, or attending ‘special and top secret’ parties frequented by people of the high classes.

It is going to sound very weird coming from me ‘of all people’ because you must know how I feel about explicit sexual scenes in novels by now. To recap: knowing they’re in there is enough reason for me not to read a novel BUT in The Plus One they were actually one of my favorite parts. Why? Well I’m not sure I can explain this very well, it’s not that they were superhot, they were actually quite the opposite of the usually perfectly orchestrated ‘we end up in bed and suddenly all clothes are off without any mention of the inevitable bra hook problem’ and the ‘everyone’s conveniently bathed and shaved while sex was not to be expected’. It’s more that everything that could go wrong, really went wrong there and I believe that’s actually why I enjoyed them so much. The Plus One isn’t full of fairytales… although now that I think of it, the book does include a castle, a sheikh, a gold bath, bidet and loo seat… but at least in the bedroom department, when it comes down to it, it was hilarious and brutally honest :-). The many struggles and thoughts flashing through Polly’s head were super funny and made me snort OUT LOUD. Yep, damn this book.

“I always get nervous with these conversations about what one is into versus what one is absolutely not into. Like when a man asks ‘What is your fantasy?’ and you want to say ‘A film on the sofa and a grab bag of Maltesers’, but you have to think up some implausible positions and say you like dressing up as a naughty optician because that’s what you think they want to hear.”

I think you get the idea what type of novel it is :-). If you read this you’re bound to get along with and root for Polly. Now there is a very serious health issue in this novel as well which makes it sometimes a bit more serious but overall this is just a fun chicklit novel that will transport you to a whole other world. I came to realise that even the rich and famous don’t have the perfect lives and you can find sleazebags in every layer of society :-). I was a fan of the colorful cast in the novel, her gay roommate Joe, best friend Lex, colleagues Lala and Legs, old friend Bill, but I would have liked to see their own lives more in detail too and missed a bit more intrigue and drama perhaps. The ending left me completely satisfied though, I saw what was coming but was very happy the way it ended.

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

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena #BookReview

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We can’t choose the strangers we meet.

As the guests arrive at beautiful, remote Mitchell’s Inn, they’re all looking forward to a relaxing weekend deep in the forest, miles from anywhere. They watch their fellow guests with interest, from a polite distance.

Usually we can avoid the people who make us nervous, make us afraid.

With a violent storm raging, the group finds itself completely cut off from the outside world. Nobody can get in – or out. And then the first body is found . . . and the horrifying truth comes to light. There’s a killer among them – and nowhere to run.

Until we find ourselves in a situation we can’t escape. Trapped.

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Novels with a locked-in trope are my new addiction so it’s no surprise that I was dying to read this one. Being able to hunt for a suspect you must know, someone hiding in plain sight in a very claustrophobic setting is something that enraptures me. An Unwanted Guest certainly captures the same vibe of Agatha Christie’s ‘And Then There Were None’, a novel where several guests come to stay on a small, isolated island. They’re stranded there while one of them is a killer.

In An Unwanted Guest the setting is a small lodge where several guests are looking for a weekend getaway. Little do they know that there’ll be a snow blizzard cutting them off from the outside world with no power or cellphone reception. There are 10 guests with an additional 2 people working as the lodge’s staff and while this seemed a lot to follow and I was worried I’d get confused about the who’s who I didn’t have any issues at all. I admire how the author deftly wrote about them all, used enough references and repetition to make them all easily recognisable. I was able to identify every person and relationship in no time. There’s the unhappy couple, the couple in love, the engaged couple, the (girl)friends, the singleton writer and the lawyer. Good thing he’s there; or not, because can you really trust a lawyer ;-)?

The novel shows what being trapped with several strangers does to you. Everyone acts differently at first but it the end they all feel the same way, everyone suspects each other and fingers are pointed in every direction. The suspicion and fear is high and the secrets that come out make them ALL look even more guilty. I loved all the suspicion and I couldn’t clear anyone from my suspect list.

Of course I just can’t leave this brilliant novel – that I really couldn’t put down because I HAD TO KNOW WHO IT WAS – without uttering some kind of remark again. The thing is… there wasn’t any evidence around to break the investigation open. It’s more about the group’s reactions and the aftermath of their discoveries than actually solving this whodunnit and I just wished I could have sleuthed and found some interesting clues before it all blew up. The author undoubtedly played on that – quite shocking – surprise effect by revealing the killer’s identity the way she did.. but I would have enjoyed it more if the killer and the motive wasn’t just given up but found through brilliant investigation skills and more deduction.

Overall I very much enjoyed reading this novel and I don’t know for how long I’ve had it but I just found the paperback in my library of The Couple Next Door so that’s pushed up on my readlist now!

I received a free paperback copy from the publisher, Bantam Press, in exchange for my honest opinion.

Do Not Disturb by Claire Douglas #BookReview

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COULD YOUR DREAM HOME BE YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE?

After what happened in London, Kirsty needs a fresh start with her family.
And running a guesthouse in the Welsh mountains sounds idyllic.

But then their first guest arrives.
Selena is the last person Kirsty wants to see.
It’s seventeen years since she tore everything apart.

Why has she chosen now to walk back into Kirsty’s life?
Is Selena running from something too?
Or is there an even darker reason for her visit?

Because Kirsty knows that once you invite trouble into your home, it can be murder getting rid of it . . .

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star three and a half

I had very high expectations of this novel after reading Last Seen Alive, which was one of my favorite reads last year. It’s always difficult to live up to that expection so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that I was feeling it just wasn’t as twisty compared to last time. I remember feeling actually shocked by the revelations in Last Seen Alive but that shock-effect with everything being turned upside down didn’t really make it into this one for me since I was able to foresee at least some of it. Am I getting just too good at this thing, it could also be a possibility :-).

Kirsty’s family of four moved to Wales to get a new start and they’re starting a b&b with her mother. As if that’s not enough eggshells to walk on, her mother invites Selena to stay, the niece she has cut out of her life for 17 years because she’s such a liar. They are adults now though and when Kirsty sees her with her daughter Ruby, her heart softens and she has to wonder if it’s time to put the past in the past. Do Not Disturb brings this estranged family back together, adding also her brother and his wife into the mix, and it was great seeing all the underlying tensions and secrets they kept from one another. Finding out why Kirsty and Selena fell out of love and out of touch kept me very busy, it was all very mysterious and things remained unspoken for quite a while. The author then adds an extra dash of creepiness by letting a few strange things occur in the house which make you wonder what exactly is going on and where the threat is coming from.

Do Not Disturb was a compelling read that is more than just a thriller or murder mystery. It’s about life as a family and I really appreciated how all the secrets and the façade of their splendid lives was slowly peeled away to its core. I found many ugly truths and tragedy in the end. But as I said, I did anticipate some of it and my instincts also told me to read certain scenes with a good dose of suspicion and it proved I was right on at least one major issue. I also kind of felt how it was going to end and I would have liked to have seen another culprit really. There were plenty of secrets and lots to discover and it’s definitely a good thriller that kept me well entertained but it’s not the novel that I would recommend most if you haven’t read any of her novels yet. I do look forward to reading her next one though because I’ve already seen what she can pull off!

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