The Creak on the Stairs / Girls Who Lie by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir #BookReviews @OrendaBooks

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When a body of a woman is discovered at a lighthouse in the Icelandic town of Akranes, it soon becomes clear that she’s no stranger to the area.

Chief Investigating Officer Elma, who has returned to Akranes following a failed relationship, and her collegues Sævar and Hörður, commence an uneasy investigation, which uncovers a shocking secret in the dead woman’s past that continues to reverberate in the present day

But as Elma and her team make a series of discoveries, they bring to light a host of long-hidden crimes that shake the entire community. Sifting through the rubble of the townspeople’s shattered memories, they have to dodge increasingly serious threats, and find justice before it’s too late.

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I read a sampler of The Creak on the Stairs with the first chapters of this novel almost two years ago and I immediately knew this novel was very promising. This sampler stayed on my mind for a very long time so I was super excited when I finally had the full novel in my hands. I haven’t read a lot of nordic crime yet but after reading The Creak on the Stairs I have to conclude that I really don’t know why that is. I have to admit that the Icelandic names needed some getting used to… there’s a pronunciation guide before the first chapter which I thought was very cool and at first I did give it a try to read every name very carefully the way it was pronounced. I gave up on my mission fairly quickly though and even glossed over some long names (Elma’s mother for example) when I started to recognize them by sight; knowing which character was meant was ultimately enough for me.

The Creak on the Stairs is quite unsettling and much more than a simple whodunnit. It is wonderfully complex and there’s a whole history behind the murder which is divulged throughout the story but was only becoming stunningly  clear to me at the very end. And then apart from the present day investigation by Elma, there’s also a narrative starting in 1989 which describes the childhood of the woman who died. It wasn’t cheerful or an easy upbringing, and I felt a pain and sadness while reading these pages. There are a lot more characters that make an appearance which include several members of the same family and their spouses (Ása and Hendrik, their son Bjarni and his wife Magnea, the husband’s brother Tómas and his wife Ásdis) as well as several witnesses who crossed Elísabet’s path in the past and present. All have a story to tell, so it was impossible to know if any of them were connected or relevant to the story (of course they are) but their individual stories kept me enraptured.

Did I tell you that this story was wonderfully complex? It was complex and utterly tragic and Elma was a great character, someone who has it in her to sink her teeth into it and unravel the truth. I’d like to get to know Elma even better but I liked her and I loved the sort of chemistry in the air between her and her colleague Saevar even though neither one of them is really open to it, and Elma still misses David, the man who she was with for 9 years.

The further into the story the more unsettling it reads and the final revelations were quite unexpected. Finally a novel that was able to surprise me… and that’s not all, in the final pages Elma reveals something that caught me completely off guard!

This is the first novel in the ‘Forbidden Island’ series and what a debut it is! A great novel that makes me want to dive into the next one of the series right away! I’m a standalone type of reader but for this series I’m very happy to make the exception!

I received a copy of this novel in the Capital Crime Book Club box. This is my honest opinion.

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When single mother Maríanna disappears from her home, leaving an apologetic note on the kitchen table, everyone assumes that she’s taken her own life … until her body is found on the Grábrók lava fields seven months later, clearly the victim of murder. Her neglected fifteen-year-old daughter Hekla has been placed in foster care, but is her perfect new life hiding something sinister?

Fifteen years earlier, a desperate new mother lies in a maternity ward, unable to look at her own child, the start of an odd and broken relationship that leads to a shocking tragedy.

Police officer Elma and her colleagues take on the case, which becomes increasingly complex, as the number of suspects grows and new light is shed on Maríanna’s past – and the childhood of a girl who never was like the others…

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The e-book is out on 22 May, you can pre-order the paperback as it’s publication date is set at 22 July 2021.

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I didn’t think it was possible but the second novel in the series about Elma, the female police inspector in Iceland pleased me even more than the author’s debut. Without a doubt this will probably stay my favorite novel even in the future, when there are many more books in this excellent series. The plot, the characters, the brilliant twists… everything was amazing. 

It takes a little bit of time before the real developments in the investigation of Maríanna’s murder take off but in the meantime I still had a lot to sink my teeth in. The author explored Hekla’s – Maríanne’s daughter – life and throughout the whole novel there are also extracts that start with the shared feelings of how tough life is for a young mother with a newborn who doesn’t have anyone to rely on. Those snippets continued at regular intervals in the novel detailing the strenuous relationship over 15 years, the struggles of a mother with a girl who doesn’t seem to behave like other girls. So many emotions arose inside me, all wanting to come out. At first I was furious with the way she treated her infant but at times I felt just as much compassion, sensing she might have post-natal depression. Was it all it was though, was she actually an evil person, or was it the child who was really different, making her harder to love?

Who murdered Maríanna? You’d almost think her own daughter Hekla had the most to gain because she loved her weekends at her foster parents much more than staying with her own mum, but wasn’t that a little presumptuous? In the course of the novel several characters appear to be a perfect candidate. There’s so much to uncover and it’s wonderful how deeper into the story, I had the feeling Elma and myself were in way over our heads… where was this going to lead?

I thought I knew what was going on, but the author had some very VERY clever red herrings up her sleeve. The story is much more complex than I initially expected and the characters have a fascinating complexity as well. Eva Björg AEgisdottir twists and turns the story quite literally until you hardly know which way to go… I loved how everything changed by the end and I was SO surprised yet again!

This book and this entire series is absolutely brilliant so far. I highly recommend the series to all readers who set the bar high and who are often let down by the simplicity of other novels because this is anything but! I have become a big fan over the course of these two books and I can’t wait to see what else is in store for Elma!

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

 

While I Was Sleeping by Dani Atkins #BookReview

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What if someone else was living your happy ever after?

When Maddie wakes up in a hospital bed, she can’t remember anything about what happened to her or what has changed.

She just remembers she was about to be married and had everything to look forward to.

But it seems life has become a lot more complicated while she has been asleep …

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While I Was Sleeping is an incredibly moving and emotionally loaded novel. It’s the second novel I read by Dani Atkins (do read my review of her YA/NA novel This Love if you want) and well she did it again.. for the longest time I was quite ok keeping my emotions under control but then in the end I unraveled completely. How could she do that to me?

The novel is about Maddie who fell into a coma, Ryan the man she was about to get married to and Chloé, a librarian and volunteer at the hospital where she reads to geriatric patients mainly. It’s plain to see that their paths will cross and I thought I knew how this story was going to go… woman wakes up, sees her fiancée with a new woman, will do anything she can to get him back.. a classic version really of good and bad but I could not be more wrong, this story had quite a few surprises in store that changed this whole idea. Maddies life did change completely while she was sleeping, nothing is as it was and yes at first sight Chloé did slip into her role but this triangle is actually more than a little fascinating.

I thought I’d be either team Maddie or team Chloé (and team Maddie seemed the obvious choice) but the thing is, as I got to know Chloé and read her story too, I didn’t feel forced to choose between them at all, I loved them both so much. Neither has a bad bone in their body and I’m not sure this rosy picture is something that would happen in real life but even without the women’s rivalry for a man being the major topic (which made the story even better if you want my honest opinion), there are plenty of other events that give this story a few dramatic spins. While I Was Sleeping is for me most of all about – as it is mentioned somewhere in the novel itself – the fragility of life, but also motherhood, the bond between a child and their parents, and there’s plenty of love to go round in this novel in many different forms

Alas, just when I thought everything was going to be ok in the end, I was forewarned by the author that something bad was going to happen. For the longest time I didn’t know for which woman though, who was going to lose? I held on to my dear heart… I wouldn’t have been happy if it had been the other woman either but I seriously had to swallow a few times when reading the ending, it’s truly heartbreaking

And now I’m immediately going to order some more of this author’s books because I definitely want to read all of them!

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

A Chill #Catshelf #Review

Cat Shelf Review

Hey everyone!

I know this IS a surprise but I exceptionally wanted to show you how I spoil my cat ;-). So I bought the CHILL catshelf from Cosy & Dozy when I moved to my new home last year (it was actually one of the first things I bought, before my own bed even I think) and after a year the shelf is finally mounted. My cat has been making it very clear lately she wanted to go on top of the cabinets (usually from my kitchen counter she was looking up but it was too high).

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If you go on their site you can see that you can customize it to your wishes: you can choose the shade of wood (maple – my choice -, walnut or wenge), the colour of the brackets and more than 10 types of cushions. I don’t see mine (PINK of course) between the choices now but let’s hope they bring that back because it’s really a lovely shade of pink, it’s subtle. The cushion is fastened to the shelf with buttons so it can’t slide and the cover is washable, there’s a zipper to easily take it off. They even send the necessary tools to hang this thing. All you need is a man who’s handy (turns out not so easy to find.. available).

Nope I don’t get paid for this, nor do I have any sort of cooperation, I’m just extremely happy with the quality (ok it’s not cheap I admit but worth it), and what’s more Poes (say Puss) is a fan too because it not allows her to lazy on it but also to jump up the bookcase and the kitchen cabinets. My father made a shelf to hang outside of my library and now she can jump – jump – jump onto the top and she loves it.

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At least once a day she feels herself on top of the world :-). Only thing is that going down I still need to learn her to go the same way.. she usually jumps from the top to the white shelf down on the foot stool.. which is not how it should go!

I’m thinking of putting a row of books on top maybe too, if anything to keep her from trying to sneak into my library this way, I’ve seen her looking!

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So now my cat corner is all finished. I know it might look a little crowded but I don’t care as long as it keeps her happy. I’m afraid she hasn’t rewarded me yet with more sleep though ;-). In case you’re wondering, it is the only place in the house that I made especially for her. She doesn’t really play with anything but loves jumping on things and in my old place she could jump on the bedroom and living room cabinets… I know she missed it here.

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So there’s that.. only thing left in the house to do is putting up my metal birds.. but I guess that’s another project for another time…

Birds next project

So dear cat lover, what do you think? Do you have a cat shelf installed in your house and does your cat love to jump on cabinets so much too, or do I have a strange cat? 

Win by Harlan Coben #BookReview @PenguinUKBooks

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Over twenty years ago, heiress Patricia Lockwood was abducted during a robbery of her family’s estate, then locked inside an isolated cabin for months. Patricia escaped, but so did her captors, and the items stolen from her family were never recovered.

Until now.

On New York’s Upper West Side, a recluse is found murdered in his penthouse apartment, alongside two objects of note: a stolen Vermeer painting and a leather suitcase bearing the initials WHL3. For the first time in years, the authorities have a lead not only on Patricia’s kidnapping but also on another FBI cold case – with the suitcase and painting both pointing them towards one man.

Windsor Horne Lockwood III – or Win as his few friends call him – doesn’t know how his suitcase and his family’s stolen painting ended up in this dead man’s apartment. But he’s interested – especially when the FBI tell him that the man who kidnapped his cousin was also behind an act of domestic terrorism, and that he may still be at large.

The two cases have baffled the FBI for decades. But Win has three things the FBI does not: a personal connection to the case, a large fortune, and his own unique brand of justice …

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I’m not one of Harlan Coben’s long-time fans but I really want to become one! This novel is an absolute WINner (yes that couldn’t be helped)!

I haven’t read the 11 books in Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series where Win makes his appearance but that clearly isn’t imperative for enjoying this novel. I do have to say that I am a little curious about Myron himself because he’s talked about on several occasions but he doesn’t make an appearance in this novel. I’m mentioning this to keep the die hard fans from being disappointed ;-). I was happy though that the story really focuses on Win in the first novel of this brand new series.

Win (full name Windsor Horne Lockwood III) is as his name suggests as rich as croesus. He also has class and style and he might come across as a snob because who in the world answers the phone with ‘Articulate’, but aside from that I knew that deep down he is essentially a good guy, someone who will take action for the weak, even if his methods tend to be a bit violent sometimes. He’s charismatic, witty and he has a good dose of self confidence but he gets away with everything for me. Win is an awesome character to come across, he’s very well described and I enjoyed getting to know him throughout the novel.

I would not dare to say much about the complex plot except that it is kept intriguing at all times and I had no idea how the different subplots could end up fitting together. While there is progress on one front continually, other aspects of the story remain delightfully incomprehensible until Win’s tenacity pays off in the end. Over the course of the novel he dives into a story of terrorism in the seventies where a group of youngsters who became known as The Jane Street 6 threw a Molotov cocktail causing the deaths of several, as well as into his own family history and what happened with his cousin when she was 18 and the death of her father on the same night.

I marvel at the way the author used an abduction, an art heist and the murder of a recluse, all over the span of several decades, and made them very logically come together in the end. It’s a very clever and ingenious plot indeed!

I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this but I enjoyed this mystery novel decidedly more than I did the Netflix series The Stranger (I actually found it ok to watch at the time but it is nothing compared to this)! A very promising start to a brand new series! I for one can’t wait to read the next one!

I received a free copy of this novel from the publisher Century. This is as always my honest opinion.

🎹 A Thousand Perfect Notes 🎹 by C.G. Drew #BookReview

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Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music – because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.

When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?

Thrilling and powerfully written, this is an explosive debut for YA readers which tackles the dark topic of domestic abuse in an ultimately hopeful tale.

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Hands down… five stars! Six if I could even.. Once in a blue moon there’s this one outstanding book, this one book that reminds you what a five star rating is for. A Thousand Perfect Notes is that one book. It feels like forever that I read something so intense and became so emotional. If you’re into the works of Colleen Hoover, you simply have to read this novel. It could even be a CoHo novel but no I checked, it really is an original C.G. Drews novel. I knew C.G. Drews before she became an author and was a bookblogger so I damn well knew she could write but I’m still really blown away with what she wrote here. Girl, I had no idea you would be this amazing!

A Thousand Perfect Notes had my heart in its grip from the start. It is normal that parents wish for their kids to do well in life but some parents can’t handle their own failures, and some parents want their kids to continue what they started and do as well or no, do even better. Beck’s mother was a famous pianist – until she couldn’t play anymore – and she wants Beck to step into her footsteps, to live up to the Kervinich name and be the best pianist. She doesn’t use positive motivation to achieve this but takes her frustrations out on him. She prefers to throw insults at him in German, but generally just lashes out in any way she sees fit to get what she wants. It was at times hard to read, especially because Beck and his sister Joey were at the mercy of their mother without anyone watching out for them. I don’t know if this is really realistic – in the novel Joey’s preschool teachers never ask any questions about their home situation but it was so obvious in my mind and I didn’t find it normal that they discuss Joey’s problems with a 15 year-old – I can only hope that in real life children in the same position are noticed and they are taken care of.

Beck is a wonderful and kind character, taking everything on the chin that is thrown at him. He is fiercely protective of his 5 year old baby sister Joey but his world only consists of music, from the minute he wakes to the moment he goes to sleep. My heart went out to him and my eyes welled up several times because of the beautiful lines and the heartfelt thoughts. Not only for Beck but also for August, the girl he needs to write an essay with. August is earth and summer, she is smiles and rainbows. August is noticing Beck, she wants to be his friend, even if he doesn’t want to and tries his best to keep her at a distance. Can he let anyone in? What will his future hold and can he put a stop to his situation? There are more twists here than in the thriller I’m currently listening to!

Have you read the blurb? Then you get an idea what you’re signing up for. Yes this novel is hard and tough and heartbreaking but god, I want to reread it already. So please don’t be scared to read it, it’s so worth it! I probably don’t even need to tell you that there’s a good chance you’ll see this on on my end of year list, maybe the only real news is that I already bought C.G. Drews second novel, The Boy Who Steals Houses.

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

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager #BookReview

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What was it like? Living in that house. Maggie Holt is used to such questions. Twenty-five years ago, she and her parents, Ewan and Jess, moved into a rambling Victorian estate called Baneberry Hall. They spent three weeks there before fleeing in the dead of night, an ordeal Ewan later recounted in a memoir called House of Horrors. His tale of ghostly happenings and encounters with malevolent spirits became a worldwide phenomenon.

Now, Maggie has inherited Baneberry Hall after her father’s death. She was too young to remember any of the events mentioned in her father’s book. But she doesn’t believe a word of it. Ghosts, after all, don’t exist.

But when she returns to Baneberry Hall to prepare it for sale, her homecoming is anything but warm. People from the pages of her father’s book lurk in the shadows, and locals aren’t thrilled that their small town has been made infamous. Even more unnerving is Baneberry Hall itself – a place that hints of dark deeds and unexplained happenings.

As the days pass, Maggie begins to believe that what her father wrote was more fact than fiction. That, either way, someone – or something – doesn’t want her here. And that she might be in danger all over again . . .

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I can hardly believe I’m saying this but this girl here (ok woman, whatever) actually enjoyed a ghost story! Believe me that it takes a writer with very special skills to make me love a ghostly novel. After several tries and misses I know it’s better to avoid these kind of stories but I loved Riley Sager’s previous novels so much that I put my faith in him for that one last try. If I can’t trust him, then there’s really nobody else, and guess what, looking at the rating on top you could say that I finally found a good, better yet a great ghost story.

Maggie is a non-believer, like me, so we were off to a good start. So many strange things were happening though at Baneberry Hall, both in the past and in the present so many years later, that I actually started to waver and the door to believing the impossible was cracked open a teensy tiny bit. Maggie didn’t know what to believe either and although she’s trying to make sense of everything in a logical way, we were both just flailing about. Riley Sager outdid himself in creating the atmosphere and the reporting of the strange events that happened at Baneberry Hall. I loved the historical, tragic background of the house, its haunting look (from the windows that look like eyes to the mention of poisonous baneberries all around the house in the past so it looked like a sea of blood) and hearing about all of the unusual events. Trust me when I tell you don’t want to go asleep when you start reading this :-).

This novel has alternating chapters between her father’s account in the House of Horrors before they fled in the death of the night after a mere 20 days and Maggie’s stay there. Maggie thinks her father lied about what happened there, after all she can’t remember any of it, nor does she recognize herself in the girl her father wrote about, but as she goes about her days it looks like some events actually did happen and there are strange things happening again so maybe she was wrong after all? The tension builds up towards the final day, July 15 with tapping, thuds, a record player that starts playing songs in the middle of the night every night and 5-year old Maggie’s imiginary (ghostly) friends with Mr. Shadow telling her that she’s going to die… can it get any scarier? I didn’t know what to make of it all but I was not disappointed when I found out why Mr. Shadow was haunting her.

On a sidenote, the strangest thing also happened while reading this novel because I read a certain scene set in the past about some kind of wild animal infestation that felt very scary and creepy (I still have goosebumps) and believe it or not but I read about a very similar scene in the newspaper on the same day. So, farfetched, I think not!

This is such a clever novel with lots of intricate plotlines and twists and it’s most certainly a four and half stars rounded up! This novel is begging to be made into a movie but when that happens I actually don’t know if I can or want to watch it, I’m not used to a novel this high on tension and watching this on screen is not good for my heart! Riley Sager is one of my favourite authors and he proves again why that is!

If you enjoy Matt Wesolowski’s Six Stories series then you will definitely enjoy this novel and vice versa!

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

The Child of Auschwitz by Lily Graham #AudiobookReview

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It is 1942 and Eva Adami has boarded a train to Auschwitz. Barely able to breathe due to the press of bodies and exhausted from standing up for two days, she can think only of her longed-for reunion with her husband Michal, who was sent there six months earlier.

But when Eva arrives at Auschwitz, there is no sign of Michal and the stark reality of the camp comes crashing down upon her. As she lies heartbroken and shivering on a thin mattress, her head shaved by rough hands, she hears a whisper. Her bunkmate, Sofie, is reaching out her hand….

As the days pass, the two women learn each other’s hopes and dreams – Eva’s is that she will find Michal alive in this terrible place, and Sofie’s is that she will be reunited with her son Tomas, over the border in an orphanage in Austria. Sofie sees the chance to engineer one last meeting between Eva and Michal and knows she must take it even if means befriending the enemy….

But when Eva realises she is pregnant, she fears she has endangered both their lives. The women promise to protect each other’s children, should the worst occur. For they are determined to hold on to the last flower of hope in the shadows and degradation: their precious children, who they pray will live to tell their story when they no longer can.

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I’m delighted to grant my first five stars to an audiobook. It’s not surprising really, I have a strong interest in what happened during the Holocaust so that was a good reason for picking this audiobook and the narrator in this instance, Katy Sobey, told the story in a softly spoken voice. Where this might put me off in another story, making the main character sound perhaps too fragile or weak for my liking, it fitted the story here perfectly. Eva and Sofie, the two main characters, weren’t weak though, they both show resilience and they tried to lift each other up but they were also subjected to the tempers of the guards. Sofie caught the eye of a guard who takes pleasure in taunting her and Eva has to do laborious work that completely wears her out. They struggle to survive, like so many others, but their friendship and loyalty to each other shine like a little ray of light in a dark world. All is not lost. 

The author is an excellent story-teller and it was easy to get and to hold my attention listening to The Child of Auschwitz. Sofie’s will to survive was driven by her hope to find her son Tomas and Eva knew her husband Michal was sent to the camps so she deliberately came to find him. Sadness but also joy were part of the rollercoaster of emotions from the moment she saw him but I was most moved when I reached the part that I had wondered about before I even read the first page. You’d think it is impossible that in a place this horrid there could be new life, or a chance at new life even but The Child of Auschwitz gave me hope from the start that something good could happen even in the darkest of times. I couldn’t imagine how a baby could survive though with a malnourished mother who didn’t even have enough food for herself and it broke my heart more than once reading about the trials she was faced.

The Child of Auschwitz was a very moving story and although it was tragic and sad, it is also a story of friendship and of love as Eva and Sofie love their children so much that they would do anything for them. Even if they don’t all survive, there’s enough to be found in the story to act as a balm to my heart.

This is a story of fiction but the book was inspired by the true story of Vera Bein who gave birth to her daughter in the top bunk of camp C at Auschwitz-Birkenau in December 1944. I highly recommend this novel – the camp life seems well researched and detailed – if you enjoy this type of historical fiction. Truly unforgettable.

The Cousins by Karen M. McManus #BookReview @PRHGlobal #partner

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The Storys are the envy of their neighbours: owners of the largest property on their East Coast island, they are rich, beautiful, and close. Until it all falls apart. The four children are suddenly dropped by their mother with a single sentence:

You know what you did.

They never hear from her again.

Years later, when 18-year-old cousins Aubrey, Milly and Jonah Story receive a mysterious invitation to spend the summer at their grandmother’s resort, they have no choice but to follow their curiosity and meet the woman who’s been such an enigma their entire lives.

This entire family is built on secrets, right? It’s the Story legacy.

This summer, the teenagers are determined to discover the truth at the heart of their family. But some secrets are better left alone.

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Was this a brilliant read? A hundred times yes! The Cousins held so many unexpected twists and turns in its pages, I was completely hooked! I loved the author’s debut novel One of Us Is Lying, and I enjoyed the second one, Two Can Keep a Secret but it wasn’t as surprising as her debut so I guess that’s all I have as a poor excuse for not having read her third novel. However, I had a new chance to read a (free) copy of book nr. 4 The Cousins and the blurb really sold it to me. We all know I’m a sucker for secrets so yes of course I grabbed the chance with both hands to read it and she’s completely won me over again!

The Cousins is about Mildred’s four children (Adam, Anders, Allison and Archer) and her three Story grandchildren (Aubrey, Jonah, Milly) and while I was a little worried about so many characters (there was a family tree drawn up in the prologue which seemed a lot to have to remember), it was not even once confusing to keep them apart. McManus didn’t just drop all the characters at once but introduced the first person (Milly), then her mother (Allison), then in the next chapter Aubrey, and soon enough I had a good idea how they were all tied together. I liked all three grandchildren so it’s difficult to pick a favorite but I’d say I loved Milly most because Milly is the fiercest and she’s the most eagle-eyed of all three which is exactly who you need in a story like this. Aubrey is definitely the character who develops the most throughout the story though, going from a sweet girl who would never dream of standing up to one of her parents to someone who dares to say what she feels, a complete turn around from when she was introduced. It didn’t feel convuled at all but rather a natural development and I couldn’t be happier that she turned out to be the Story grandchild who plays a big part in the end when it gets really dangerous (that’s right dangerous!), and that it wasn’t Milly who would be the more evident choice.

The plotline is the work of a very skilled author and was full of surprises released with perfect timing and pacing. The whole Story history was quite cleverly constructed and I didn’t want to put it down before I knew what would happen next. My only small niggle was that I couldn’t quite understand why nobody tried to reach out and contact their mother more in the past. Were they really all culpable of whatever they were supposed to have done? Now of course there was this big question about the reason for their (grand)mother severing all ties which was in the back of my mind at all times, but I was not focused on it and I was really just as invested in what went on beside of that, getting to know the cousins more and what happened there between them and their estranged grandmother who isn’t so keen to get to know them really, even if she invited them herself. Time to make amends? Perhaps or perhaps not 😊.

Overall, an addictive and gripping novel that I can highly recommend and makes me not want to miss her next novel anymore!

I received a free ecopy of this novel via Netgalley from PRHGlobal/prhinternational for review, thank you! This is still my honest opinion.

The Secretary by Renée Knight #BookReview

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She knows all your secrets. But will she keep them?

Look around you. Who holds the most power in the room? Is it the one who speaks loudest, who looks the part, who has the most money, who commands the most respect?

Or perhaps it’s someone like Christine Butcher: a meek, overlooked figure, who silently bears witness as information is shared and secrets are whispered. Someone who quietly, perhaps even unwittingly, gathers together knowledge of the people she’s there to serve – the ones who don’t notice her, the ones who consider themselves to be important.

There’s a fine line between loyalty and obsession. And when someone like Christine Butcher is pushed to her limit, she might just become the most dangerous person in the room . . .

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The Secretary had terrible characters but it was so fun to read. Christine and I share the same profession and almost the same amount of years at the job so of course I wanted to read this novel and take a peek behind the curtains of another corporate environment (the offices of one of the biggest supermarket brands in the UK). Christine Butcher is like the perfect secretary. She’s discreet, meticulous, organised… and that’s where our similarities stop because Christine really takes her skills to the limit. It’s unbelievable how devoted she is to her boss Mina Appleton. She knows Mina’s every mood and aims to please Mina however she can. It goes way beyond helping her only at work. Christine is utterly blind to her bosses manipulations, but I must admit I never felt deeply sorry for Christine exactly because of the fact that she was so obsessed with her boss. I’m sure people in the highest echelons would praise her and would want someone exactly like her, but normal people know that her priorities were really askew. She was truly a very fascinating character to read about and I felt like I really knew who she was.  

The story was told through Christine’s eyes and even if she tells the story as if everyhing is fine and normal, there was a constant sinister and ominous feeling present. Would she wake up and stand up for herself? What would be her breaking point? What was she going to do with all the knowledge she had on Mina? Oh I felt gleeful in advance because I seriously don’t think I could hate Mina more. I was waiting patiently for Christine to see that her boss is like all bosses; someone who takes as much advantage as she can but IS certainly NOT your friend. 

I was excited about the story development and I gobbled up every word, phrase and chapter with a racing speed. Christine did not let me down at all and I loved how it ended, so grandiose and clever. Christine is both a good person and a bad person and I loved how hard she made me work to decide which side dominates most. I don’t know if it’s permitted but I still love her in the end.  

I haven’t read this author’s debut novel Disclaimer but after reading this novel I need to have it so I’m definitely putting it on my Christmas list! 

I found a battered copy of this book in a Little Free Library. This is my honest opinion.

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough #BookReview

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Lisa lives for her daughter Ava, her job, and her best friend Marilyn, but when a handsome client shows an interest in her, Lisa starts daydreaming about sharing her life with him too. Maybe she’s ready now. Maybe she can trust again. Maybe it’s time to let her terrifying secret past go. Then her daughter rescues a boy from drowning and their pictures are all over the news for everyone to see. Lisa’s world explodes, and she finds everything she has built threatened. Not knowing whom she can trust, it’s up to her to face her past to save what she holds dear.

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Whatever you do, if you can help it then don’t read the blurb on Amazon. I can’t believe they printed a major spoiler that wasn’t necessary at all because believe me, before I read the novel I didn’t know and I loved that I was totally wrong-footed what this novel was about, led to believe something else was going on, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

This is only my second novel by the great Sarah Pinborough and she really deserves that noun before her name. I absolutely loved the fantastical Behind Her Eyes and although this one’s more normal (well that’s debatable but it’s not fantasy anyway) it’s brilliant in its own genre. I read a few of these novels with a plot leaning towards this one but none that were written this way. Again, it felt different for me and so well-written I found it an outstanding novel.

Lisa and Marilyn are colleagues but also friends and if feels like there’s more that bonds them. I was sucked in. Both their stories are tragic, a horrible childhood and an abusive relationship won’t let your attention slip for a second and it was so well-written that it couldn’t be any other way then that they krept under my skin. I honestly thought I knew what each of the secrets was that they are trying to hide from each other but at least one of them left me completely thunderstruck at the end of Part One of the novel. In Part Two there are other new secrets waiting to be revealed 😊 The author made me feel even more sympathy for Lisa, even when it seems she doesn’t deserve it, at least some of the characters are not sympathetic towards her at all. I had to examine my own feelings here for a moment. Should I feel guilty, as some of her colleagues were trying to make me feel? Is she not the woman I came to know in the first pages, a sweet and loving yet somewhat overprotective mother for her daughter Ava? Lisa wasn’t the only questionable one though..

Who is the threat in this novel, leaving unsettling clues at Lisa’s house? I’ll make you a promise… you’ll never guess. And when you finally learn know who it is then there’s a whole new mystery about the reason why…  Sarah Pinborough has so many twists and turns up her sleeve, I haven’t counted them but it’s seriously one of the reasons she’s now definitely one of my favourite authors and I want to read many more of her novels! The story has a definite emotional side to it, I loved how heartfelt it was and all of the mysteriousness of it made me race through it. I can’t wait to read her other novels!

I received a paperback copy of this novel from a lovely blogfriend. This is my honest opinion.