Everything is Lies by Helen Callaghan #BookReview

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NO-ONE IS WHO YOU THINK THEY ARE

Sophia’s parents lead quiet, unremarkable lives. At least that is what she’s always believed.

EVERYONE HAS SECRETS

Until the day she arrives at her childhood home to find a house ringing with silence. Her mother is hanging from a tree. Her father is lying in a pool of his own blood, near to death.

ESPECIALLY THOSE CLOSEST TO YOU

The police are convinced it is an attempted murder-suicide. But Sophia is sure that the woman who brought her up isn’t a killer. As her father is too ill to talk it is up to Sophia to clear her mother’s name. And to do this she needs to delve deep into her family’s past – a past full of dark secrets she never suspected were there . . .

What if your parents had been lying to you since the day you were born?

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This novel baited me with its wonderful title and I can only say that it really lived up to its promise! It’s funny how it turned out to be completely different from what I expected when I read the blurb though. I thought it would be a novel weaving some lies into a story, getting all out of proportion in the end and with big consequences perhaps yes but not that it would be about lying in an up front and into your face fashion, and that someone would find herself smack dab in the middle of this web of lies like a little fly.

Everything Is Lies turned out to be a real page-turner. This is practically a story within a story and it was written so perfectly that the switch between both storylines went seemless and fluent. Of course I was very curious right away about the truth surrounding Sophia’s mother’s death and if it was an attempted murder on her father by her mother and a suicide or not. I found myself completely taken in by her mother, Nina’s story, however, when I started reading her diary entries. The past thread is actually Nina’s story and she tells everything that happened to her from her arrival that first day at university. She made a friend in Rosie, went to her first party, made some more friends and then.. let herself in with a bad crowd who showed an interest in her which she wanted to believe was real. Nina’s character, her shyness, her lack in confidence and her naivity were written so well that although I knew she was foolish, I could understand her all too well when she reacted the way she did.

The lies continue and they are spun delicately around little Nina and she doesn’t even know what’s going on. She doesn’t realise how she’s manipulated and played with, which made it even more disturbing to read about. I bristled all the while and wanted to reach out and protect her and whisk her away from those people she calls her friends and tell her that boy was not worth her love but she obviously wouldn’t have listened anyway. I was very much kept in suspense, almost losing hope myself, about how the lies would stop.

The only reason I’m not giving it a full five star rating is because I was able to predict some of the twists. I don’t think they’re actually too easy to spot but I just had a feeling about it. It didn’t spoil my enjoyment in any way though as I was still eagerly anticipating the reactions once the twists became obvious. I also really couldn’t predict the consequences or future for Sophia once she knows everything her mother tried to hide for so long. I liked how the story showed how everyone faired long after the facts too and suddenly the scales tipped over and the present had me in its grip and I was just hoping history wouldn’t repeat itself and Sophia wouldn’t let herself be manipulated by anyone. You’ll have to read to find out more ;-).

I’m very happy now that I didn’t know what this novel was exactly about because I’m normally the first to say that this type of novel isn’t really my thing and I’m quite sure I’d not have taken the chance to read it and in doing so I would have missed out on such a great read and a wonderful journey with Sophia and Nina. I can highly recommend this one!

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

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Her Greatest Mistake by Sarah Simpson #Guestpost

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Welcome to my turn of the blog tour for psychological thriller Her Greatest Mistake by Sarah Simpson. My thanks also to Melanie Price and Aria for the opportunity to be part of the tour.

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Do we ever know what goes on behind closed doors?

Eve and Gregg were the perfect couple, with the perfect marriage…which has become the perfect lie. Gone is the charming, attentive Gregg – instead Eve wakes up each morning beside a manipulative and sinister man who controls his wife’s every move.

So Eve flees her immaculate marital home to keep herself, and young son Jack safe. Yet no matter how careful she has been, she knows Gregg will be relentless in his pursuit of his missing family. And that one day, when she’s least expecting it, he will find them…

What was Eve’s greatest mistake?

Marrying Gregg? Leaving him? Or leaving him alive…?

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Author

SARAH SIMPSONSarah Simpson has a first-class honours degree in Psychology and has worked in a neuro-psychology department at a Brain Rehabilitation Hospital. When she first graduated she formed a mental health consultancy and worked as a psychologist within the family court system of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire. Three years ago she moved to Cornwall with her husband and three children, and runs her own practice in Truro. Her Greatest Mistake is her first novel, and she is currently working on the second.

 

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Guestpost

Do we ever know what goes on behind closed doors and what was her greatest mistake?

My background, working within mental health, gifted me an invaluable understanding of life and people. So, Her Greatest Mistake is a cocktail of professional and personal experiences stirred vigorously by my imagination. I am relatively late to the writing scene, despite a love of books and writing from when I was very young, it wasn’t really until 2016 when I sat down to put pen to paper. Her Greatest Mistake was probably twelve months in creation, then a month later I ripped it apart, re-writing several times. In June 2017, I signed with my lovely agent Broo Doherty and was then over the moon to be offered a three book publishing contract with Aria, Head of Zeus in November of the same year. To be honest, it still seems a little surreal, I am very honoured and flattered to be here today.

Her Greatest Mistake has been sitting in the back of my mind for a number of years. The novel is split into two interlaced time periods, I wrote the first time period set in the 1990’s in its entirety first, before weaving through the more current story. This was important to me as I really wanted to ensure that I gave proper credence to the plight of Eve. To demonstrate how her past lurked in the back of tattered memory templates in all she did. The story is told through the eyes of Eve, who has found herself trapped, almost quarantined in such a dark life, married to Gregg. Some years ago, I worked as a family consultant for families caught in the divorce process, so it was incredibly important to me to grasp some the horrors people can endure. Eve comments within the story that we often think we know what we would do in certain situations, but in reality – we don’t. Context is everything. We never truly understand how we will behave, feel or respond. I really hope that Her Greatest Mistake will help people recognise, it is so easy to judge, so much more difficult to understand. Hopefully, my readers will not have experienced the troubles of Eve but they will be able to engage with her, relate to her and route for her on her turbulent, emotional journey. Sadly, many of us will know of someone who has trodden similar, delicate paths.

Her Greatest Mistake questions our perspective. Do we really ever see the truth? And perhaps, it is not always about what we think we know, what we think we see but more about what we don’t know and what we don’t see. We read about incidents of emotional and physical abuse that sadly go on behind closed doors for years. It is all too easy to judge, to wonder, why they didn’t leave? Why didn’t they stand up to the other person? I hope that Eve can demonstrate, this isn’t always as easy as people may believe. Sometimes, people can become ensnared, isolated, with battered self-esteems and seemingly void of an obvious escape route.

I understand one of the questions Her Greatest Mistake may throw up is – why didn’t Eve go to the police? Could she have benefited from some form of witness support protection? Gregg, is a white collar psychopath, he doesn’t fit the stereo-typical role of an abuser, a criminal. He is shrewd, sharp, calculating and a member of the white collar professional club. He chips away at his prey, breaking down any resolve before metaphorically imprisoning them. Eve also perceives Gregg as above the law, capable of manipulating, influencing the authorities. Her trust of the authorities has already been broken, she is almost afraid to ask for help. She also understands that Gregg will somehow, some day find a way to hunt her down no matter what, her only true way to escape is to somehow play his game. Over time she watches, learns and plans but unfortunately, all with many best made plans… All of us are different, none of us know how we would respond in a given situation, we only think we know. With hindsight, maybe Eve would have done things differently. But hindsight is often futile.

Her Greatest Mistake reflects on the relationship between truth and lies and how really, there is very little absolute truth, only ever perspective. A perspective coloured by life and personal experiences in a moment of time. I wanted to question the role of perception in our lives. Not just the role of, but the power of something so incredibly subjective. During my time working within mental health, I witnessed first-hand how perceptions can devastate, pull apart lives. Both those held personally of the world, of others and those directed inwards from others. Eve was held prisoner in a world of abuse, a marriage drip fed by abuse by a truth only known by her. Her perceptual outlook on the behaviours and judgments of others secured her fate.

Her Greatest Mistake includes some dark scenes but it is also a story about hope, love and sheer determination. Not all stories end happily, as in life, some stories end with a need to learn a level of acceptance, requiring a strength to move forward despite the shackles of a past. To do this Eve used her strongest emotion, the love for her son, to guide her through the bleakest of times.

I now live in beautiful Cornwall, with my husband and three children. Which is also the current home of Eve and her son, Jack. The world of Eve was created walking the coastlines, lost in thought moments gazing out to sea with a mind that always wonders why, how, what if?

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The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen #BookReview

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When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.

It’s about a jealous wife, obsessed with her replacement.

It’s about a younger woman set to marry the man she loves.

The first wife seems like a disaster; her replacement is the perfect woman.

You will assume you know the motives, the history, the anatomy of the relationships.

You will be wrong.

The Wife Between Us is the first collaboration between Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen; a gripping thriller with film rights sold to the creators of The Girl On the Train.

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What an exhilirating read! I’ve read some quotes telling me this novel is in the vein of The Girl on the Train but it’s nothing of the sort as far as I can see. This is not to be compared and doesn’t need any comparison to other novels. I even predict that future novels will be compared to this one. I really hope that is the case because I really want more of this!

The story starts off with Vanessa’s & Nellie’s story and their perception of the man they love or loved. I know lots of people would like to know a bit more about the actual story and I’m telling you that the budding romance of Nellie and at the same time the discarded feelings of Vanessa regarding Richard will certainly have you turning the pages.

Vanessa is living with her aunt after her husband left her for a younger model. She had to take a job at Saks selling clothing to get by. An old acquaintance runs into her and informs her her ex is getting married again. That is the last thing she wants to happen so she’ll do anything to stop him from marrying again. She already knew everything about ‘the other woman’, where she works, lives.. but a marriage wasn’t something she was anticipating.

Nellie teaches her little cubs at the LearningLadder and is a waitress. She tried to escape her past, fleeing from Florida after graduation so she’s pretty much on her own. She knows nothing of the world and is completely smitten with Richard.

Of course I thought I knew what was going to happen, I was on high alert but alas, I was deceived as well. This initial, first twist in the story came much sooner than I thought and I think it might be the one I even enjoyed most of all.

When I recovered and I got back on my feet it was time to find out more about the reasons why Richard left Vanessa.. he seems so attentive, considerate, you know someone who wouldn’t even look at other women (or pretend not to). I couldn’t wait to find out the reasons for their divorce. What could have been so bad that he didn’t want her anymore? Well I wasn’t prepared for this but it certainly had me gripped.

I liked Nellie from the start but I really grew to like Vanessa as well and aunt Charlotte was so sweet, everyone would love to have an aunt like that! I didn’t like snob Richard or Richard’s sister Maureen from the start though, and I’m wondering if I’m the only one with weird thoughts but there was this unsettling vibe when I read about their sibling interactions. She was supposedly a bit of a little mother for Richard but it just didn’t feel enough like motherly love to me. Neither of Richard’s girlfriends picked up on that througout the story so it might only be my too twisted mind this time.

Just when I thought I finally heard Vanessa’s full story and every stone was turned and every secret unearthed, and the game was finally over, a final brilliant reveal is lobbed at you in the end. I’m very satisfied with the way the story ended. This was a gripping read with a whole lot of character that was pretty addictive to me and I’m very curious about the movie already! This is definitely a five-star read on Goodreads and Amazon :-).

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

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land #BookReview

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What’s it about?

When Annie hands her mother over to the police she hopes for a new start in life – but can we ever escape our past?

‘NEW NAME. NEW FAMILY. SHINY. NEW. ME.’

Annie’s mother is a serial killer. The only way Annie can make it stop is to hand her in to the police.

With a new foster family and a new name – Milly – she hopes for a fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be. But as her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of Milly’s past won’t let her sleep . . .

Because Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water…

amazon uk amazon com

Review

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I’ve been looking forward to reading this book for soooo long! One of my favorite series since forever is the I Hunt Killer series by Barry Lyga where he wrote about the son of a serial killer and his inner turmoil. Well this one’s the female equivalent.

There’s only one POV in this novel and that’s Annie’s, or Milly as she is called now that she’s got a new life with the Newmonts, her temporary foster family. Her father and her brother fled from home a long time ago, her mother is waiting in jail for the court case to appear. After 15 years of living with her dear mum she has told the police about young Daniel and the other children that came to stay with them and were locked in the ‘playground’. It was enough, it had to stop. All she wants is a normal life and to feel normal but can she really?

Different. That was the first thing that went through my head when I started reading this novel. I didn’t know yet what this girl went through but she was certainly different from us. She continually assesses people, she’s a master observer of other people’s intentions, behaviour and even her smell is more developed than yours or mine.

Good Me Bad Me is Milly’s internal struggle between good and bad and it was quite fascinating to see how she is trying so hard but there are always those little pinpricks of conditioned behavior and of old memories where she’s back in the role of doing what her mother wants her to do. She doesn’t want to be like her mother, she wants to be good but she hears her mother’s voice inside her head who is telling her she looks just like her all the time. Even after all the terrible abuse that she suffered – divulged through small morsels throughout the story – she still misses her and doesn’t want to disappoint her.

I really liked hearing what was going on inside Milly’s head and her internal conversations with her mother made it even more disturbing. There was always a sense of foreboding that something could tip Milly over to the wrong side. Her friendship with Morgan proved difficult, she wanted to share who she really was but was afraid for the rejection as the daughter of a serial killer, and her stepsister Phoebe made it even harder. She’s a real bully but doesn’t know who Milly really is, and with all that’s going on in Milly’s little head… let’s just say I was anxious for the girl. It felt kind of dangerous playing with the daughter of a serial killer.

The build-up to the trial is pretty suspenseful and even then I didn’t know what she was going to tell the jury. In the end though there wasn’t anything I didn’t expect or see coming, I was anticipating something would be up. It’s not that kind of story of many twists and turns but even if it wasn’t, it was very captivating. I felt sympathy, sadness, pity and anger for Milly. At times I wished she had reached out and told her true thoughts to Mike, at other times I could certainly understand why she didn’t.

This is a great debut novel and I can understand why so many readers became so enthralled, it is really worth reading.

I bought a paperback copy of this book at full price. This is my honest opinion.

The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan #BookReview

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What’s it about?

You never know who’s watching…
Corinne’s life might look perfect on the outside, but after three failed IVF attempts it’s her last chance to have a baby. And when she finds a tiny part of a doll house outside her flat, it feels as if it’s a sign.

But as more pieces begin to turn up, Corinne realises that they are far too familiar. Someone knows about the miniature rocking horse and the little doll with its red velvet dress. Someone has been inside her house…

How does the stranger know so much about her life? How long have they been watching? And what are they waiting for…?

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Review

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So it might well be that it’s been done before and yes I might have read quite a few novels where the main character is stalked, finds secret messages and sees things that cause raised eyebrows, all while they’re not taken serious by anyone (I’m thinking about The Breakdown here) but THIS novel is better and more captivating than the ones I read before.

Two of the main characters, sisters Corinne and Ashley are carrying this novel in a magnificent way. They both think that the other has the perfect life but neither was ideal and without trouble. It was so very interesting to see Corinne’s struggle with her unfulfilled child wish, but also all the problems and struggles her big sister Ashley has with her 3 children. Her eldest is 15 and hard to control, half the time she doesn’t know where she is or hangs out with. Her little boy gets into a fight at school and her youngest, Holly, has nightmares every night. Ashley is almost at the end of her wit but pretty much on her own to handle them, as James seems to work all hours. It’s so unlike him and he’s so distant that she’s even starting to doubt if he’s having an affair. At least Corinne and Dominic are a perfect couple. He’s protective, supportive and loving.

The sisters’ stories are so contrasting, it was fabulous to see that pendulum swing this way and that. It also made me wonder continually for which sister I had the most sympathy and in which situation I’d rather find myself in. I think my favorite character in the story was most of all Ashley because she’s such a strong woman who doesn’t break but does everything in her power to keep everyone in her little family happy. My heart also went out to toddler Holly. Why those nightmares? They didn’t seem to make much of it but the author did a brilliant job making me imagine the absolute worst by being so subtle. I was actually scared of what I might discover and that I’d be forced to read some very disturbing scenes. I was spared and very relieved that didn’t happen, so don’t worry.

That’s not to say there are no hard-hitting scenes found in this novel, but they all circle around an ‘unknown’ lurker operating in the background. This mystery woman spent her entire childhood ‘watching’ a family from a distance. She had quite a heart-breaking and sad childhood and it’s clear that the hatred was passed from mother to daughter. I didn’t know who this person was, or why they were acting like this in the past and present, but there were a few suspects in the story. Although it didn’t come as a complete surprise, I was never completely sure of who this person was so I was actually quite happy when it all came out in a chilling finale.

I found this a very entertaining and brilliant debut novel with lots of intrigue and an ever-present sense of threat and creepiness. I’m sure we haven’t heard the last of Phoebe Morgan!

The Widow by Fiona Barton and The Confession by Jo Spain #BookReviews

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What’s it about?

When the police started asking questions, Jean Taylor turned into a different woman. One who enabled her and her husband to carry on, when more bad things began to happen…

But that woman’s husband died last week. And Jean doesn’t have to be her anymore.

There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment.

Now there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage.

The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything…

amazon uk amazon com

Review

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The Widow is a story about what recently widowed Jeanie has got to say about her husband after he died. Her husband was suspected of kidnapping a little girl named Bella and a few days after he’s passed away she opens the door to reporter Kate and agrees to an interview. Before we get to the interview we get flashbacks to when it all began, the day that little Bella went missing and everything that happened afterwards which made her husband a suspect.

The Widow isn’t full of twists and turns and didn’t send a thrill or even shivers through my body but I was invested in the investigation even if I willed them sometimes not to be shortsighted. This was mostly a police procedural type of book for me and partly a character driven novel about Jean’s marriage with a very domineering man. Jean herself is a woman with little personality and not the most likeable character either despite what she had to endure with that husband of hers.

I expected a bit more from the ending as well, once we finally got to what I was waiting for, it was over very soon. Overall an okay read but I missed a bit of twists and turns and I’m not sure these slow burning type of books are really my cup of tea.

If you like this one you’re certainly going to like The Confession too!

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

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What’s it about?

You find out who did it on the very first page. On the last page, you’ll find out why. 

Late one night a man walks into the luxurious home of disgraced banker Harry McNamara and his wife Julie. The man launches an unspeakably brutal attack on Harry as a horror-struck Julie watches, frozen by fear.

Just an hour later the attacker, JP Carney, has handed himself in to the police. He confesses to beating Harry to death, but JP claims that the assault was not premeditated and that he didn’t know the identity of his victim. With a man as notorious as Harry McNamara, the detectives cannot help wondering, was this really a random act of violence or is it linked to one of Harry’s many sins: corruption, greed, betrayal?

This gripping psychological thriller will have you questioning, who – of Harry, Julie and JP – is really the guilty one? And is Carney’s surrender driven by a guilty conscience or is his confession a calculated move in a deadly game?

amazon uk amazon com

Review

star three and a half

It’s actually kind of funny but one of the reasons I was attracted to this novel was because I thought it was a very orginal starting point for a novel, giving up the person responsible right from the start, and yet I was still kind of waiting for the twist. Deep down I wouldn’t have been surprised if he – the killer who came forward – retracted his story or that he didn’t do it at all. It’s so silly that I’m conditioned like that when it comes to reading thrillers. Another thought I had was that it would have been some kind of a hesaid/shesaid story, where you have to find out who’s telling the truth about what happened but it was not like this, it’s actually pretty straightforward from the beginning.

The Confession is told through 3 POV’s: the detective, the victim’s wife Julie and the attacker JP. The main goal is to find out WHY. JP confessed but he told the detective he didn’t know the man, so what could possibly be his motive then?

To know this we go back to the very beginning, to when Julie met her husband in college and to JP’s miserable childhood. His mother was an alcoholic who always fell for the wrong guys, there was abuse and neglect and JP had to take care of his sister and see he could feed them both. It was very easy to start sympathizing with him, even after I read a really gruesome and violent opening chapter where he just bashed someone with a golf club. On the other side I found it harder to sympathize with Julie and her enigmatic husband. Julie’s weak and they are both money-grabbing people.

I was still interested in the why of it all but it was becoming harder to care for the victims. Slowly the net tightens and this is where the really good part started for me, when it finally becomes clear what made them cross paths. It’s even getting better when Julie has a confrontation with JP to find out for herself. That conversation between the two of them was highly entertaining and absolutely gripping! It really ends on a high note and I did feel oddly satisfied with the way the story went and was concluded.

If you like this one, I recommend you read The Widow too!

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

Everything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister #BookReview

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What’s it about?

It all started with the email.

Rachel didn’t even mean to look. She loves Jack and she’s pregnant with their child. She trusts him.

But now she’s seen it, she can’t undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.

Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn’t Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?

amazon uk amazon com

Review

star three and a half

How well can you really know someone? Everything But The Truth focuses on trust, what it can do to you if your trust is broken and how the smallest of lies told can spiral entirely out of control. Rachel tries to uncover a secret she is convinced Jack is keeping from her. Rachel is very condemning but at the same time she seems to have her own secrets to hold close to her heart. I really liked her own backstory, I was really drawn to those parts of the novel about her work in the hospital. I really looked forward returning to those every time, but even though I came to understand her and I sympathized with her at first, I felt she was being a bit hypocritical as the story progressed because she of all people should know better. You might want to hold up a certain image of yourself but if you can’t be yourself in a relationship and not share your burdens, who are you kidding then for the next 30 years?

Everything But The Truth was an easy and enjoyable read with short chapters, but I was expecting a real thriller and this is a character-driven novel that I could describe as an exploration of the relationship of a young couple and their discovery that nobody is really perfect.

The novel is thought-provoking and you won’t be able to resist questioning your morals and conscience regarding Jack and Rachel.

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