Haven’t They Grown by Sophie Hannah #BookReview

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All Beth has to do is drive her son to his Under-14s away match, watch him play, and bring him home.

Just because she knows that her former best friend lives near the football ground, that doesn’t mean she has to drive past her house and try to catch a glimpse of her. Why would Beth do that, and risk dredging up painful memories? She hasn’t seen Flora Braid for twelve years.

But she can’t resist. She parks outside Flora’s house and watches from across the road as Flora and her children, Thomas and Emily, step out of the car. Except…

There’s something terribly wrong.

Flora looks the same, only older – just as Beth would have expected. It’s the children that are the problem. Twelve years ago, Thomas and Emily Braid were five and three years old. Today, they look precisely as they did then. They are still five and three. They are Thomas and Emily without a doubt – Beth hears Flora call them by their names – but they haven’t changed at all.
They are no taller, no older.

Why haven’t they grown?

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What the… what the… what the… hellllll is going on? If I haven’t asked myself this question 30 times or more I haven’t asked it once as I just couldn’t explain how the children didn’t age at all in 12 years. Well I had my ideas right at the start but my train of thought just evaporated and I just let the story take me wherever it was going. Ah, this novel is one big brain twister with thankfully a really great answer waiting for me in the end.

I really liked Beth and her family, especially her daughter Zanah (short for Suzannah). She might still be studying for her GSCE’s, or that’s what she should be doing at least, but I loved her assistence and everyone who reads this book will agree, you’ll probably love to have a daughter like her, she is one incredibly bright girl. It’s maybe a little onorthodox because she’s only 16 years but she’s just a great character who propels the story forward, asking the right questions and keeping the calm in the family and as such she’s the real voice of reason in this novel. I also really loved the fact that Beth nor anyone else doubts what she saw so we don’t get stuck in the paranoia/mad woman routine but we’re quickly running through possible explanations, none of which seem to be the right one though. And yet, there is people!

Beth is like a dog with a bone and I’m so happy she didn’t let off. Even though she gets in contact with Flora and Ben, friends she broke all contact with for some reason 12 years ago, she can feel they are hiding something. There are lies and charades aplenty and well there were so many alarm bells going off I’m surprised the police didn’t knock on my door :-).

I read one novel by this author before and let’s just say that wasn’t a satisfying experience so I didn’t really plan on reading more books in the immediate future but now I’m sooo happy I did. She’s definitely on my radar for the future because I love an ending that you never imagined and is just so brilliant and clever, and much more evil and dark than expected.

I normally read a novel per week and I devoured this one in two days. I’m not even sorry I sacrificied some of my sleep for it, it was just so intriguing and addictive, I had to find out the truth!

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


I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney #BookReview @alicewriterland

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Meet Aimee Sinclair: the actress everyone thinks they know but can’t remember where from.

Except one person.

Someone who knows Aimee very well―and what she’s done. . .

When Aimee comes home and discovers her husband is missing, she doesn’t seem to know what to do or how to act. The police think she’s hiding something and they’re right, she is―but perhaps not what they thought. Aimee has a secret she’s never shared, and yet, she suspects that someone knows. As she struggles to keep her career and sanity intact, her past comes back to haunt her in ways more dangerous than she could have ever imagined.

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Oh the year couldn’t have started in a better way, this one’s as twisty as twisty can be! I loved reading it, it was the next best thing to a sugar rush! I already enjoyed Alice Feeney’s first novel, Sometimes I Lie, so my expectations were already quite high of I Know Who You Are and still she managed to give me more.

Aimee is an actress and she feels that she’s actually been acting her whole life, not only on set. Everyone wants her to play a certain role in life and she tries to please them all, while she tries not to forget who she really is. There’s something about that though, the fact that she likes to put on a mask more than being herself that made her quite illusive and secretive and even though I didn’t have anything concrete it did start to make me think she was hiding something.

OK yes, she is hiding something alright! The second storyline that started when she was only 5 years old brought SO MUCH understanding about who she is and how she became an actress. She’s so insecure and she doesn’t even like being in the spotlight, yet acting is her calling. I know I keep on going on about the acting but I found it such a natural thing for her, I completely got her character.

Someone is calling her out though, claiming to know who she is by leaving mysterious notes. And then her husband Ben goes missing. Are the two related? Who is stalking her?

Honestly, this book was unputdownable. I was massively intrigued by the present storyline and finding out whether Ben was alive or dead, but the past storyline was quite heart-breaking and pulled me in completely. There really are a lot of despicable people in this novel that I loved to hate and I still haven’t decided which one of them was the worst.

I know lots of readers find the ending to be a little outlandish, I totally get it, but for once I was riding the wave and I’m completely with it. OK yes, it’s a totally bonkers twist, but it still makes sense and it just gives you such a delicious yet horrible shock. It’s just what a really amazing author would go for, no holding back here and I love that she ran with the idea!

I can’t wait to read the third novel, His & Hers this summer! I have no doubt I’m going to love that one too!

I received this book in my Book Fairy book box. This is my honest opinion.

The House on the Lake by Nuala Ellwood #BookReview

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No matter how far you run . . .
He’s never far behind

Lisa needs to disappear. And her friend’s rambling old home in the wilds of Yorkshire seems like the perfect place. It’s miles away from the closest town, and no one there knows her or her little boy, Joe.

But when a woman from the local village comes to visit them, Lisa realizes that she and Joe aren’t as safe as she thought.

What secret has Rowan Isle House – and her friend – kept hidden all these years?

And what will Lisa have to do to survive, when her past finally catches up with her?

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Once again, a terrific read! I very much enjoyed Nuela Ellwood’s debut novel, My Sister’s Bones as well as her second one, The Day of The Accident, and she’s done it again, it’s another winner!

The House on the Lake is a novel about abuse and control, being controlled as well as taking control. Even though there are two completely different stories told in this novel it’s not hard to see these similarities and to hope for a positive outcome for both of them.

One of the narratives follows Lisa and her three year-old son arriving at Rowan House, a very dark and creepy house. The same house in fact where a few decades ago a young girl lived with her father. The girl is known as Soldier and she calls her father Sarge. She started receiving training since her 11th birthday and while she doesn’t know any better and talks about what she’s going through as if it’s the most normal thing in the world, I really hurt for her. It isn’t a normal life and her father’s mindset is far from fine, yet nobody in the village does anything about it. I became totally engrossed in what happened to her, and my heart filled with fear a couple of times, but I was also very interested to know why Lisa’s little boy didn’t want his mommy, or why she was hiding there of all places.

I had no idea where these storylines were going to lead, and it was very strange to see a character from the past pop up suddenly in the present. Without an apparent link, I had no idea that the storylines would become more intertwined and that long buried secrets would eventually find their way out in a masterfully plotted conclusion.

The House on the Lake is a brilliant page-turner and perfect for readers who love a brutal assault on the heart, as in The Marsh King’s Daughter and Resin.

I received a free ecopy of this novel from publisher Penguin Books via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Silent Winter by Maggie James #BookReview

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On an icy November night, Drew Blackmore is beaten unconscious, then abducted. He awakes to find himself in total darkness, naked and chained to the floor. Fed just enough to keep him alive, Drew is unable to identify his captor, or the reason for his incarceration. As reality fades, hallucinations take over. Can Drew escape his prison before madness claims him?

On an icy November night, Drew Blackmore is beaten unconscious, then abducted. He awakes to find himself in total darkness, naked and chained to the floor. Fed just enough to keep him alive, Drew is unable to identify his captor, or the reason for his incarceration. As reality fades, hallucinations take over. Can Drew escape his prison before madness claims him?

Meanwhile Drew’s wife, Holly, despairing of ever seeing him again, turns to his brother for comfort. As the worst winter in decades sweeps the UK, she learns of Drew’s tragic past. Could his disappearance be connected with that of a prostitute years before?

A story of how the mind responds to solitary confinement, ‘Silent Winter’ examines one man’s desperate attempt to survive the unthinkable.

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This was so good! As a thriller addict this is not my first read with a captivity plot but Silent Winter is pretty different from the rest of ’em. This is an author you need to add to your list! The first part of the story is dominated by Drew’s captivity and survival, his total isolation and the consequences on his mind and body kept me on tenterhooks. Would he be found in time or not? I read about his wife Holly’s distress following his absence and there were events involving Holly and his brother Todd that made me suspicious and alert, but Drew was always in the back of my mind. Sensatory deprivation is total torture and reading about his detoriating state, which was getting worse by the minute, was described in perfect detail and pretty hard hitting. I didn’t want to know what was going to happen next but my eyes were glued to the pages just the same. Drew’s life was on the line here and even as a reader I didn’t have more answers than he had and I was in the dark as much as he was about who took him and why. 

The chapters were divided between Drew, Holly and then there were snippets of someone called The Watchman, without any doubt the bad guy in the story and I assumed his abducter. The Watchman’s identity stays very well hidden througout the story as well as his motive. There are also references to the past, when a little 7-year old boy living in dire circumstances at home was one night left behind at home all alone. This definitely scarred him for life but how is this tied to Drew? I felt it niggling in the back of my head and sensed the direction to look for answers but I still couldn’t figure it all out. It was delightful to finally see all the puzzle pieces fall into place and having that aha-moment. Very twisted and unexpected indeed.

Overall, a great read, very gripping and it left me reeling several times. Recommended!

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

The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech #BookReview

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Be careful what you wish for…
Long ago, Andrew made a childhood wish, and kept it in a silver box. When it finally comes true, he wishes he hadn’t…

Long ago, Ben made a promise and he had a dream: to travel to Africa to volunteer at a lion reserve. When he finally makes it, it isn’t for the reasons he imagined…

Ben and Andrew keep meeting in unexpected places, and the intense relationship that develops seems to be guided by fate. Or is it? What if the very thing that draws them together is tainted by past secrets that threaten everything?

A dark, consuming drama that shifts from Zimbabwe to England, and then back into the past, The Lion Tamer Who Lost is also a devastatingly beautiful love story, with a tragic heart…

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What is there to say except that it was… exceptional! After finishing Call Me Star Girl I wanted to see if another story would have a similar effect on me. So, a few weeks later I’m on my second Louise Beech novel and I can officially say that I have added her to my list of must-read authors. This novel is, again, heartbreakingly beautiful.

I loved reading about Ben’s adventure in Zimbabwe with the lions. I had put off reading this novel for soooo long because I was afraid to find out what the setting would entail. I have such a tiny heart when it comes to animals and I thought it might be depressing or that there would be a mention of animal cruelty towards the lions but it was quite the opposite, it gave me so much joy to read how Ben tried to create a bond with his lion cub. Of course Ben had to say goodbye at some point and that was hard but it was also a satisfying and beautiful moment, so if this is the only thing keeping you from reading this as well then I can tell you, you need to pick it up pronto, as you’re really missing out on an amazing story. No, the hardest parts of the novel were definitely yet to come and had really nothing to do with the animals but with Ben, Andrew and their families.

When Ben was in Zimbabwe I knew he had such strong feelings for Andrew but for some reason he had left him behind and they had no contact. I couldn’t imagine why that was and I first suspected it was for some trivial reason but that didn’t last long as it was quickly replaced – her previous novel working as my reference point – with a sense that it would go deeper than that, and I was so right! If you’re thinking this is just a run of the mill love story, you are dead wrong. This is an unprecedented love story, one I haven’t read before. Oh how I felt for Ben and Andrew and the whole impossibility of the situation. Andrew is older than Ben and has long come out but Ben is afraid of the reaction he’ll get, especially from his father. As if that wasn’t enough, Louise Beech ripped my heart apart with more tragedy. Have I already told you that I love star-crossed lovers themes and Romeo and Juliet are forever in my heart? Well I had the same feel here, Ben and Andrew’s initials are not only carved in a tree but also in my heart. Oh and that wishbox, that damn box… when I realised what was in there, god I wanted to stop time, I wanted to go back in time, anything to avoid that moment where everything would collide as in a heads-on car crash.

The Lion Tamer Who Lost is a remarkable novel, it left me spoilt and spent. She’s only done it again. I highly highly recommend this novel and even though I didn’t cry, I did have a lump in my throat and felt emotional. So did Call Me Star Girl though so the struggle for favorite novel so far is real. Because Star Girl was the first one – first love – I’ll keep it at first place but you don’t need to twist my arm. Either way, I can’t wait to read her next novel and become all emotional all over again!

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

Call Me Star Girl by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks #BookReview #Orentober

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Pregnant Victoria Valbon was brutally murdered in an alley three weeks ago – and her killer hasn’t been caught.

Tonight is Stella McKeever’s final radio show. The theme is secrets. You tell her yours, and she’ll share some of hers.

Stella might tell you about Tom, a boyfriend who likes to play games, about the mother who abandoned her, now back after fourteen years. She might tell you about the perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper, or about her father …

What Stella really wants to know is more about the mysterious man calling the station … who says he knows who killed Victoria, and has proof.

Tonight is the night for secrets, and Stella wants to know everything…

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I know a lot of fans of this author and they grab each and every opportunity to shout (quite loudly I might add) how amazing Louise Beech’s novels are so I was a bit nervous to start Call Me Star Girl. Would I like it as much as the rest? I could have saved myself from stressing about it because she’s a sensational author. The way she wrote this emotional story, I have no words for it! It’s not a Jojo Moyes or Amanda Prowse type of novel though, she has her own tense style, delivering a stellar story that is as much a thriller and murder mystery as it is heart-breaking. 

If you ask me to recap Call Me Star Girl in only a few words I’d say it’s a story about love. I mean the dark side of love, not the sweet sugarcoated love, no the big, obsessive, messy love. I’m talking love where you do things for people that you don’t want to do, a love that goes so deep it means giving up your child for it, an overpowering feeling that you can’t do anything against. Elizabeth, Stella’s mother followed her heart and Stella still bears the consequences. The sad thing is that Stella has more of her mother in her then she realises.

The story itself is as dark as the radio studio at nighttime where most of Stella’s story is taking place. The setting had a serious nightclub feel, one where Stella was on the stage with the spotlight on her. It was intimate and with even the timings mentioned between the different songs, I felt I was actually listening in. I was part of the audience, hanging onto her lips to hear about her listeners secrets but mostly because I wanted to hear hers. What was she going to say, what was her big secret? I never stopped liking Stella though, not even when I found out what it was. She had already wormed her way into my heart and I only felt for her. For being so scared of being boring, for her fears of people leaving her because, after all, her own mother left her, for doing things for Tom that weren’t ok.

There’s a murder reported in the story, someone who might or might not know something about it, and some surprising ties to the victim that makes you wonder who exactly is keeping secrets. On top of all of this intrigue there were also telling paragraphs in the past about Stella and her mother that kept me gripped and were deeply touching. The perfume bottle with the star-shaped stopper means so much in the story, it’s incredible how loaded this object became throughout, how important it felt even to me.

I never saw the end to the story coming and it just hurt me so much. There are twists and then there are twists and this one totally hit me. My heart is full and yet it’s been squeezed unapologetically. It’s been a long time since a book did this to me. I’m pretty sure this is going to stay my favorite novel by Louise Beech for a good while. It might be my first novel but certainly not my last.  

I received a free ecopy of this novel in a giveaway organised by Mac Reviews Books. This is my honest opinion. 

The Sixth Wicked Child (A 4MK Thriller Book 3) by J.D. Barker #BookReview

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Hear No Evil

For Detective Sam Porter, the words “Father, forgive me” conjure memories long forgotten; a past intentionally buried. For Anson Bishop, these three words connect a childhood to the present as he unleashes a truth concealed for decades.

See No Evil

Found written on cardboard near each body, these words link multiple victims to a single killer—discovered within minutes of each other in both Chicago and South Carolina—clearly connected yet separated by impossible miles.

Speak No Evil

Chicago Metro and the FBI find themselves caught in chaos—a hospital on lockdown, a rogue officer, and corruption at the highest levels. When Anson Bishop, the prime suspect in the notorious 4MK serial murders turns himself in, he reveals a story completely unexpected, one that not only upends the current investigation, but one that will change the lives of all involved.

Do No Evil

With unrelenting tension and pulse-pounding suspense, the past unravels at breakneck speed as the truth behind the Four Monkey Killer’s motive is finally revealed in this masterfully crafted finale.

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Wowza, what a novel! A brilliant and perfect ending to one of my most liked book series. There’s so much to take in and wrap your head around in this one, it seriously had my thoughts in a twist. I really had no doubt it was going to be good but I didn’t know it was going to be this good. The Sixth Wicked Child might be the third and last novel in the trilogy but all three novels have very strong plotlines and every one of them is a thrill to read if you like your reads very dark and about a really disturbed killer.

Just like in his previous books, there are also more than 500 pages in this novel but it was never boring, not even for a minute, not even slightly, it was in fact a right exhilirating read from start to finish.

The Sixth Wicked Child mainly brings the background story of a young Anson and about detective Sam Bishop’s past as well. In the present both characters are set up against the other in the most wondrous way. The author really messes with the readers in this one, in what to believe, making us wonder from the very first pages if we actually really know without any doubt if the 4MK killer is all that he seems. Is the bad guy really the bad guy and the good guy, the one we so cheered for and held in our hearts (because he’s a bit of an underdog after all), all that he claims to be? Isn’t there a little bit of bad in everyone? All registers are open, everything is possible and while I didn’t want to believe it could be any other way, surely, knowing this author’s capabilities I knew better than the rule the other possibility out.

In the novel there are multiple plotlines once again, which means there’s a lot to follow and try to work out in your head. You have the FBI working the case with Metro (Nash and Frank Poole) and then there’s a team working at the hospital (Clair and Kloz), and then Anson and Bishop each have their own agenda as well.

I finally received all the answers and hearing the truth in this novel really gutted me. The reason why 4MK drops 3 boxes with every victim, and the reason for all those murders is suddenly pretty plausible. I loved the diary entries from a young Anson again and I couldn’t help feeling touched when I read everything he and Kristina, Tegan, Libby, Vincent, Paul, Weasel and The Kid had to go through. I didn’t know how Bishop would fit in with this story for the longest time though, or how this story was going to end because one of them, Anson or Bishop would be the last one standing, in my mind. The author kept me in suspense, only to deliver a phenomenal ending that I didn’t see coming at all in the last chapters.

I received a free ecopy of this novel via the Read Now section of Netgalley. This is my honest opinion.