Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas #BookReview

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What’s it about?

She can run
Libby Hall needs to hide, to escape from everything for a while. Which is why the house swap is a godsend. The chance for Libby and her husband Jamie to exchange their tiny Bath flat for a beautiful haven on the wild Cornish coast.

But she can’t hide
But before they can begin to heal their fragile marriage, Libby makes some disturbing discoveries about the house. And soon the peace and isolation begin to feel threatening. How alone are they? Why does she feel watched?

Because someone knows her secret
What is Jamie hiding? Is Libby being paranoid? And why does the house bring back such terrible memories? Memories Libby’s worked hard to bury. Memories of the night she last saw her best friend alive . . . and what she did.

amazon uk amazon com

Review

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As a reader of so many thrillers each year it’s not so easy to find a novel with a great plottwist that I didn’t see coming, but boy this one certainly hit it off! Oww yes, you are going to love Last Seen Alive if you enjoyed Claire Douglas’ previous novel Local Girl Missing! Even if they are completely different stories, you’ll experience the same exhilarating feeling when reading this. You are led to believe – again – that the story is a pretty straightforward one but I can assure you that you don’t know anything ;-).

I’m not going to lie, the first part of the story is a storyline which you’ll find in other novels as well, Libby is seeing things that don’t add up, suspicion is all around. Ms. Douglas is doing the legwork for the brilliant plotting in part 2 and 3 of this novel and this first part is very relevant is all I can say. I was totally invested in the lives of Libby and James and I did my best to try and figure out what was going on and who was to be suspected in this story but I still didn’t see IT before I was told in the second big break in this novel. I really like it that the author also included Libby’s own thoughts and theories and suspicions, making the character really think for herself and cleverly showing all the possibilities there are and so creating very subtly the seeds of suspicion. If you’re like me, all you’ll probably do is nod your head and think that’s exactly what I was thinking. Well you’re going to do a double-take when you find out how this plotline is going to develop. That’s a promise I make :-).

The prologue of the novel alone is to die for. It’s not even a page long but raises soooo many questions and is a brilliant set up for the rest of this novel! A lifeless body, a woman standing over him, one question on her lips, was she seen killing her husband?

All through the first part of the novel, when Libby and James are in Cornwall enjoying a little in promptu vacation after a few tumultuous weeks, I was wondering what could have happened to this couple to have brought this on, I kept going back to that prologue in my head. They are so wonderful and happy together and I couldn’t for the life of me imagine what could make Libby kill her husband. How well do you really know a person though? Who’s keeping secrets? Libby sees strange things in Cornwall… is someone really taking pictures of her husband? Who’s standing in the back yard of the holiday cottage?  When they get back home the situation escalates even further. Could I keep on denying that the ever so friendly and kind James had some (dirty little) secrets? Libby doesn’t want to believe he did anything wrong but puuuhlease ;-). Argh Ms. Douglas sets the stage and she’ll go in for the cut in part 2 and 3. I had the whole situation judged and catalogued and I was finding myself out of my depth suddenly with the major turn of events.

Well the second part of the novel, where Libby revisits her past at the age of 21 and right before she met James, shows she has some secrets of her own. I already knew she had some bad memories about her trip to Thailand but didn’t realise it ran so deep. Secrets I didn’t come to expect from this teacher, someone who seems to be born to teach children. The twist is really well done!

The third part is confession time in the present, time to get all the secrets out on the table and she’s going to have to spill it all to the police when the body in the back yard is discovered. There’s lots more fun to come when they try to make Libby confess and she has to come clean about everything. I really appreciate the amazing plotting Ms. Douglas has done. I seriously love this author! The only downside is that this is one of those books that you’ll always remember the twist of ;-).

Without any doubt, I highly recommend reading this one and I think you’ll see it on my favorite list of this year! I already look forward to the next novel!

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

Broken Branches by Jonathan Lee #BookReview

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‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

amazon uk amazon com

review-2

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Wow! I was a little bit afraid of a plotline centered around a curse – it sounded a little bit too fantastical already for me and I hadn’t even started it – but I can tell you that I didn’t need worrying. Yes of course there’s this talk of a curse, something that is passed on from generation to generation, from father to son, and even when it wasn’t clear from the beginning what this curse really entails, it was obvious that the tree in this novel is tied to it. The tree is important in the past and present, it is described often and detailed and fed the creepy feeling that goes along with a curse, yet it didn’t dominate the story too much, it was verging but never over the top in his creation of a kind of surreal atmosphere.

I’m just going with a brief outline here: the main characters are Ian and Rachel. She’s acting strange, distant, they don’t talk anymore, she sleeps alone.. you get the drift. He’s researching his family history, a tedious job. He hopes to find answers there and get their marriage back on the rails, if he ever gets through the stacks and stacks of paper in his study. Weird things are happening, it’s all very mysterious and I didn’t know what was real and what wasn’t. Even though there were a lot of confusing events and no real answers, I didn’t even understand what he was trying to do compiling a family tree, it never annoyed me and I was and became invested in Ian’s life, even more so after he shared so many about his youth.

I really liked the character of Louisa, his grandmother, the most. She’s like a little ray of light in his past and it seems she was the only one friendly to him in his childhood and as a young adult. She’s straightforward, honest, righteous, kind. The contrast between her and his own parents was so big I felt it in my bones, the unfairness of it all.

I had no shortage of (in hindsight quite rediculous) theories about what was going on but had to give the story its time to unfold by its own accord.

I was pretty astonished when I realised right at the very end of the novel what the author just told me. He took this idea, something that is a delicate thing, but not all that uncommon, and created a perfect plotline around it. This is a memorable story. It was poignant, honest, and it had me under its spell.

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

They All Fall Down by Tammy Cohen #BookReview

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What’s it about?

She knows there’s a killer on the loose.
But no-one believes her.
Will she be next?

Hannah had a normal life – a loving husband, a good job. Until she did something shocking.

Now she’s in a psychiatric clinic. It should be a safe place. But patients keep dying.

The doctors say it’s suicide. Hannah knows they’re lying.

Can she make anyone believe her before the killer strikes again?

amazon uk amazon com

Review

star three and a half

Hannah is staying in a private pschychatric clinic and it seems it wasn’t entirely out of her own volition. The reason for her stay is carefully dodged but I’m great at making lists of possibilities in my head and cross-referencing them with details I find so I thought I had her backstory figured out quite soon. I was pleasantly surprised my nose was pointed in the right direction and that I didn’t have to wait for the reveal of her reasons to stay until the end of the novel, which was what I kind of expected. It was a pretty little bomb dropped at the exact moment that you’ve got that feeling that you really just have to know now ‘what exactly is going on’ and I can only say that it’s very much in line with what I was expecting from Ms. Cohen. If you’ve read other books by this author, you know that there’s no limit to what she can write and in my books she’s known for her great plot twists and plotlines that are running very deep and are intricately crafted. A great start of this novel because Hannah suddenly becomes a very unreliable narrator, there’s no denying that you’ll have her backstory in your mind all the way through now. I’m still impressed with how cleverly she made Hannah to be doubted now at all times. A woman who did ‘that’ is surely not to be trusted?

Hannah’s convinced two of the patients there – one of them happened to be one of her best friends – didn’t kill themself.

“I’m frightened. I’m frightened that I’m right and I’ll be next. I’m even more frightened that I’m wrong, in which case I’m as crazy as they all think I am.”

Then her mother finds a picture of a woman on her daughter’s nightstand with the eyes pierced out. Who is she and why so much hatred? She starts investigating on her own and soon enough you can’t stop but wonder if the threat is actually coming from in- or outside the clinic.

People are lying and not everybody is who he or she claims they are and it’s up to Hannah and her mother to dig around and make people talk. Lots of deceit and lies to go round but are any of these people responsible for killing someone? I knew the who early on and the author didn’t really disguise it all that much, it’s not like it all really came out of the blue, so what really intrigued me the most was finding out why? What was the motive? And is Hannah in real danger?

As I was racing towards the end, I got really on edge how this was going to go down… I felt fearful but also relished that sense of danger lurking in the shadows. Ms. Cohen held out a long time and made me wait for it, keeping me on tenterhooks for the grand finale!

Maybe this isn’t my favorite novel by her, I still think When She Was Bad or Dying for Christmas proved to be just that little more exciting and sinister but it was still a good read with a couple of nice twists!

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

The Other Twin by Lucy V. Hay #BlogTour #BookReview

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What’s it about?

When India falls to her death from a bridge over a railway, her sister Poppy returns home to Brighton for the first time in years. Unconvinced by official explanations, Poppy begins her own investigation into India’s death. But the deeper she digs, the closer she comes to uncovering deeply buried secrets. Could Matthew Temple, the boyfriend she abandoned, be involved? And what of his powerful and wealthy parents, and his twin sister, Ana? Enter the mysterious and ethereal Jenny: the girl Poppy discovers after hacking into India’s laptop. What is exactly is she hiding, and what did India find out about her?

Taking the reader on a breathless ride through the winding lanes of Brighton, into its vibrant party scene and inside the homes of its well- heeled families, The Other Twin is a startling and up-to-the-minute thriller about the social-media world, where resentments and accusations are played out online, where identities are made and remade, and where there is no such thing as truth …

amazon uk amazon com

About the author

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Lucy V. Hay is a novelist, script editor and blogger who helps writers via her Bang2write consultancy. She is the associate producer of Brit Thrillers Deviation (2012) and Assassin (2015), both starring Danny Dyer. Lucy is also head reader for the London Screenwriters’ Festival and has written two non-fiction books, Writing & Selling Thriller Screenplays, plus its follow-up Drama Screenplays. She lives in Devon with her husband, three children, six cats and five African Land Snails.

Connect with the author

Twitter | Facebook | Website

Review

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I’m delighted to be on the blog tour today and I can tell you that Orenda Books has published a novel that has that little nugget of originality yet again. You will be surprised, I can’t think of anything other to say.

The Other Twin is an intriguing investigation into India’s death by her sister Poppy. She conducts her own search into her sister’s past to find out who her sister really was and if it was even plausible that she commited suicide. It was difficult to find out much about India because she removed her digital presence on all social media but there is one person, someone tagged in a picture as Penny, who seemed close to her and who might know more. But how to find that person is nearly impossible. In the present days social media can be a real source but you can also dissapear if you want. Poppy didn’t really know her sister like she thought she did by the looks of it.

The depth of the secrets and lies in this novel is mountain high and I simply couldn’t fathom the scale of it until I almost got to the end. Poppy runs into a wall everywhere she turns and everyone, even in her own family, keeps their lips pressed together. Maybe they know, maybe they don’t but it won’t keep her from trying even harder. Even though I didn’t know anything – there’s no reader’s advantage here, I was as much in the dark as Poppy was – I just had to keep on reading because the writing was addictive and the mystery kept me in its grip. I had a sense of unease while reading this but I had no idea where this story was going to lead. I loved how unexpected the truth turned out to be. It was staring me in the eyes and I simply didn’t recognize it, understand it, see it. If you want to read this story I would advise you not to read too many reviews though because some are bound to give some spoilers and that would just take away all the fun and would in fact most certainly have an impact on your own rating.

This was a great debut which I am happy to recommend to all readers who enjoy the psychological thriller genre.

I received a free copy of this novel from the author L V Hay, publisher OrendaBooks and tour organiser Anne Cater in exchange for my honest opinion.

Check out the other blog stops as well. I’m sharing today with
Thoughts of a Highly Caffeinated Mind
Tomorrow is not to be missed either at :
Chocolate’n’ Waffles and Rae Reads

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Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

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What’s it about?

Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops … Or does it? Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

amazon uk amazon com

Review

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This is one of the best book covers I’ve ever seen, it’s minimalistic but it says it all. There’s sensuality, there’s darkness, it’s simply an amazingly fitting cover and after you’ve read the novel you’ll agree even more! Exquisite is a very orginal psychological thriller that made me feel like I was suffering from a borderline disorder. I mean to say this novel was quite extreme in the emotions experienced by the characters and this is what made it all so enthralling in the end I think.

The writing was lyrical and beautiful and I savoured every moment. So much of it is so recognizable because we all experienced heartbreak sometime so it’s easy to relate to and connect with the characters. The plot was perfect, being very mysterious and captivating all of the time.

The novel opens with an anonymous woman serving time in prison. Why she’s there and who it is, remains a well-kept secret until the end and is a brilliant move because you just can’t imagine this ending badly, until you can :-). It all starts out very lovely though, even though you know it won’t be all roses in the end. The story takes a nasty turn halfway through the novel and suddenly I felt a bit cheated myself ;-). I’m afraid there’s something captivating about reading about another person’s misery which made me want to keep turning these pages.

I have liked, loved and hated one of the characters in the end. It took a long time figuring out who was telling the truth and what the true motives of some actions were though. The story was told by Bo first, making me really like her, then Alice’s who I then warmed up to in a flash because of the lousy background and her young and fragile personality, then Bo again… I’m just keeping it to myself who of these two main characters, Bo or Alice, wasn’t exactly the person I thought she was and made me feel this way so strongly.

This is a story about love and hurt and how painful it is to love. A great debut novel by Sarah Stovell.

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

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

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What’s it about?

On Thursday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investi­gators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Thursday, he died. But on Friday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they just the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

You can buy a copy of this novel on Amazon UK | Amazon US.

Review

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One of Us Is Lying is a fabulous debut YA thriller which starts with five students ending up in detention after having been found with phones in class. They hardly know each other but that’ll change drastically and they’ll know ALL about one another after one of them ends up dead in detention class.

They start out as the biggest high school clichés, Bronwyn is little miss know-it-all, the straight A-student going for a Yale scholarship, Cooper is the hot hunk and star of the baseball team, Addy is the blonde with ‘perfect hair’, and Nate is the rogue guy with the motorcycle, the one everybody whispers about because he was (or is) dealing drugs, but people don’t really know him at all because he allways keeps to himself.

All stereotypes are there but they all change and grow so much througout the story that they outgrow their cliché, or maybe it just becomes clear they weren’t that cliché after all and it took this unfortunate event to make their true selves come out.

The story is set out to be a whodunnit but as I read on and on, I actually became more and more invested in each and every one of these characters and who they really are and their voices – the story is told by 4 POV respectively – and interactions with each other even got on the forefront. I found it unlikely one of them to be a killer, they were so diverse but very easy to love, so this didn’t make it any easier because I couldn’t suspect anyone more than the others.

They all have their secrets which Simon was going to publish if he weren’t killed. Unfortunately they turn up in tumblr posts for the whole school to see. These make up the many twists and turns in the story and they gave me tiny little jolts each time something new came to light. It was an interesting and exciting journey for all of them with very different consequences depending on the person involved and a big difference in how they were treated after the truth came out. Some are forgiven more easily than others, some have the right looks and status, some can afford fancy lawyers who give them advice on what to say and how to act and some don’t. Throughout the story friendships and love interests are formed, the kids’ families react very differently to the truth, some truths are also easier to hear than others.

Even when they all did something they shouldn’t have done, I still emphatised with each of them. I did guess Cooper’s lie quite early on even though it was just a hunch but some other lies were fessed up by themselves and were a nice surprise. The question is which one of them had the biggest to lose? Which mishap was worse than the others? The story is told in alternating voices by all four of them and really keeps you on your toes. The police even think some of them are in it together. I finally kind of guessed the real killer but it did not make it any less fun to read so this shouldn’t put anyone off for picking this one up.

The plot development is outstanding, there’s depth to the characters and they all come out better in the end. I’ve tremendously enjoyed this mystery.

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

Dead Letters by Caite Dolan-Leach

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What’s it about?

Ava doesn’t believe it when the email arrives to say that her twin sister is dead. It’s not grief or denial that causes her scepticism – it just feels too perfect to be anything other than Zelda’s usual manipulative scheming. And Ava knows her twin.

Two years after she left, vowing never to speak to Zelda again after the ultimate betrayal, Ava must return home to retrace her errant sister’s last steps. She soon finds notes that lead her on a twisted scavenger-hunt of her twin’s making.

Letter by letter, Ava unearths clues to her sister’s disappearance: and unveils harrowing truths of her own. A is for Ava, and Z is for Zelda, but deciphering the letters in-between is not so simple…

You can buy a copy of this novel on Amazon UK | Amazon US.

Review

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This is an undoubtedly brilliant debut novel, well thought out and cleverly plotted. This is the very first time I can also report that I’ve read a more ‘literary’ novel and I actually enjoyed it very much. I admit, at first I thought it wasn’t going to work out, the language and formulation, especially from Zelda’s POV, was different from my usual easy reads, but suddenly something gave way and I became totally engrossed in the story. Was it the author’s doing or was it just me getting used to it and acclimatising so well? I don’t have a clue but the prose just flew for me from thereon.

The story kicks off with Ava returning home after she hears of her sister’s death. Ava left home 2 years ago after a mysterious dispute with her twin sister, not having talked to her since. In a way though she also grabbed the opportunity when it presented itself to escape from her highly dysfunctional family. Her father had left them for his second family already by then and the twin sisters were left with a huge vineyard and a mother whose dementia could no longer be ignored. This delightful mystery about what happened to her sister was perfectly mixed with the unraveling of Ava and Zelda’s family history. A family where literally everyone is an alcoholic, an addiction rather easy to accomodate if your home is a vineyard. This was definitely a very character-driven novel as well, even though Zelda is presumed dead I really got to know her through the messages she sent to her sister.

Right from the start Ava has a hard time believing her sister is actually dead, even though remains were found, and when she starts getting messages from her sister and realises she’s sending her on some sort of scavenger hunt in and around the house her winner’s instinct kicks in. She has to figure out what game she’s playing and that means finding the clues her sister hints at and revisiting their shared past memories. A is for Ava and Z is for Zelda, like it always was, but she’ll have to look for the letters in between. I got lost in their wordgame easily and I eagerly anticipated each new letter that was coming up next. It was highly addictive and I felt we were racing towards the end of the alphabet but what would be the outcome? Would Ava find Zelda in time or would Zelda make a big appearance in the end, laughing at them all for playing her tricks on them? I honestly didn’t know how this was going to turn out. Would her sister set her up perhaps for her murder, but then who did they find in the barn, or would she leave everything behind and just disappear when the game was over and leave her to care for their demented mother alone? More possibilities seemed to crop up, her sister’s funeral looming in the distance and time cutting to a close. I don’t want to give anything away but the ending is excellent and makes me want to give it that little bit extra appreciation,.. you’ll have to read it to find out.

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