I Looked Away by Jane Corry

5 Stars from me

Jane Corry has deftly captured the devastation that a childhood trauma can have upon a whole life in I Looked Away. Some people in this world just don’t have much luck and poor old Ellie is certainly one of them! The book follows Ellie from a young girl in a ‘normal’ family all the way through to her becoming and grandmother and along the way she endures some pretty awful events. Most people would be unlikely to go through one of the things Ellie has to cope with and yet this poor lady attracts trouble like a magnet. Unfortunately, so very close to the truth as early childhood trauma often has a lifelong impact.

There are several converging threads throughout the book and I read the ‘young Ellie’ thread pretty much wanting to put the book down and walk away as it was somewhat evident where it was heading and I just wanted to avoid it!

The homelessness elements of the book I thought were also brilliantly portrayed – whether people realise it or not most of us are only ever a few steps away from homelessness, it can happen in such a variety of ways and yet as a society we simply do not do enough to help those in need.

Overall a sad but fabulous ‘wicked stepmother’ tale with a twist – I loved it!

Synopsis: Every Monday, 49-year-old Ellie looks after her grandson Josh. She loves him more than anything else in the world. The only thing that can mar her happiness is her husband’s affair. But he swore it was over, and Ellie has decided to be thankful for what she’s got.

Then one day, while she’s looking after Josh, her husband gets a call from that woman. And for just a moment, Ellie takes her eyes off her grandson. The accident that happens will change her life forever.

Because Ellie is hiding something in her past.

And what looks like an accident could start to look like murder…

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The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell

5 Stars from me

What a fabulous book! The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell is a really refreshing and original read – it is literally brimming with layered storylines which pull you along as you turn the pages ever more equally enthralled and appalled.

At one point it literally felt as though the story contained no redeeming characters at all (except Miller, he was ace) as greater wickedness, selfishness, abuse and depravity unfolded. Wow what appalling people the Thomsens were and how utterly weak the Lambs.

The Family Upstairs has it all, the reader is taken on a veritable roller coaster ride as Libby finds herself a millionaire (isn’t that child’s dream scenario?) but also uncovers a million questions about her family and exactly what went on in Cheyne Walk. The cult style takeover of the Thomsens was horrible and yet must be some true to what actually happens in those type of situations that we know are all too real. The children who live in the house – whether Lambs or Thomsens are dark souls and I guess a sad product of their awful environment. Across the pond, Lucy’s tale is equally unpleasant and we follow her along the way as all roads seem to lead the Cheyne Walk and the 25th birthday of ‘the baby’.

Brilliant characterisation throughout and an utterly gripping – if a little disturbing – read.

Synopsis:You thought they were just staying for the weekend. They looked harmless enough – with only two suitcases and a cat in a wicker box.

But soon things turn very, very dark. It happens slowly, yet so extraordinarily quickly.

Now you and your sister must find a way to survive…

Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

5 Stars from me

Is it wrong that I felt so sorry for Mike?

Frankly these two, Mike and Verity, are both as bad as each other and although Verity does appear to end up being ‘the victim’ she was most certainly the instigator for a massive amount of time and pretty much created the man that Mike became.

Their ‘Crave’ game was dangerous and depraved and yet it turned them both on… with Verity getting as much out of it as Mike which says so much about her and what makes her tick. Would she ever have been truly happy with a man like Angus?

I don’t want to give out any spoilers but let’s say the necklace surprised me and made me question the truth. Maybe (definitely I guess) Mike needs some psychological help but then again maybe Verity wants to have her cake and eat it by still pressing his buttons?

Although dark and disturbing this was a fabulous and compelling read, which left me with lots of unanswered questions, which I can well see being turned into a film – I will look out for more by Araminta Hall.

Synopsis: VERITY
Things were difficult with Mike by the end. He was too much, too controlling – sometimes, I was afraid of him. But I’ve moved on now. I’m getting married to the man of my dreams – he looks after me, but he doesn’t stifle me. Mike and the games we used to play – that’s all in the past now.

It’s time to move on.
Mike and I are finished.

MIKE
It was just a matter of time until she came back to me. After what I did, maybe she’s right to make me wait. But Verity knows how sorry I am. And the messages she sends me, the way she calls me, the way she acted last time I saw her – no-one acts like that if they’ve stopped caring.

She’ll be mine again.
No matter who stands in my way.

The Puppet Show by M W Craven

5 Stars from me

I had read and seen so many sparkling reviews for this book that I simply had to read it. All too often this is a path which leads to disappointment but The Puppet Show by M W Craven was a welcome exception.

The storyline, albeit gruesome and unpleasant, is strong which makes a solid base for some superb imagery and scene scene setting as we track a serial killer through the beautiful Lake District. I wasn’t sure what to make of Poe to start with but I really warmed to him (no pun intended) as the book progressed and Tilly was a delightful addition to this somewhat dark tale.

A thoroughly engaging and enjoyable read with a gentle humour running alongside the depravity of the story, I look forward to reading more by M W Craven and after I heard a whisper that Black Summer was appearing on netgalley and went straight there but seem to have missed it – another testimony to the excellence of The Puppet Show as it must have been snapped up within minutes!

Synopsis: A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.

When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of.

Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant but socially awkward civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.

As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive…

I Spy by Claire Kendal

4 Stars from me

I have a bit of an unusual situation with this book… I opened it on Kindle, flicked through the first few title pages and began reading. I was struck by how a notion of arriving right in the story, but it alternated between ‘now’, ‘then’ ‘one year later’ etc etc so it didn’t seem abnormal. However, when I went to put the book down I realised it was showing as 73% on the Kindle. Initially I thought this was a glitch but the next day when I went back to the book I realised that I had somehow started the book at about 60% through, no idea how, it’s never happened before. At this stage there seemed little point going back to the beginning so I carried on and finished the book.

Therefore, my review is a little odd as it is essentially based purely on the last 40% of the book! I’m assuming the slight confusion I felt with placing people and names is entirely down to missing a huge chunk of the story and as such I would say I really enjoyed the bits I read.

Holly/Helen is a sad soul but very determined and I liked her. I liked George too although Zac was hard to fathom, I get the impression he may have been a bit of an arse in the bits I missed and yet the Zac at the end seemed a genuinely nice guy.

Very difficult to form any true opinion from the portion I’ve read but the writing style is nice and the cliff scene was well described. I would certainly read more (ha ha maybe even the whole book) by Claire Kendal.

Synopsis: Someone is watching your every move…

Holly Lawrence always wanted to be a spy, but the experience proved more dangerous than anything she imagined. Now, Holly lives in hiding under an assumed name. She avoids relationships and trusts no one.

But Holly’s new life begins to unravel when she encounters a young mother and her two-year-old child… a child who reminds her of a past she has tried hard to forget. This time, someone is spying on her, and Holly will need to decide how far she is willing to go to survive.

A psychological thriller unlike anything you’ve read before…

The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

5 Stars from me

This is just one of those books that everyone should read. It is both humbling and beautiful, the prose is elegant and flows perfectly as you follow the story of Lale… a story that in other hands could be harrowing to the point of unreadable but Heather Morris achieves a wonderful balance of telling the story without glorying in the horror.

Lale – what a character, what a guy, the world needs more Lale’s. That this is a true account of a real man makes this all the more powerful and haunting. Lale, a Slovakian Jew, is by all accounts an incredible man who speaks many languages, has high intellect, lacks arrogance and can charm the birds from the trees. His brilliance and braveness shine throughout this book as his does pure compassion for all of his fellow (wo)men.

His love for Gita was really quite humbling, another man in his shoes may well have had his pick of the ladies throughout this tale and yet from one brief meeting his heart was set – this is was drives his passion to survive. His love for his mother and other older ladies throughout the tale was also quite charming and heartwarming.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz isn’t the type of book I would normally choose, I read it as part of a book group and I am so glad that I did – I know that it will stay with me for a very long time.

Highly recommended.

 

Synopsis: In April 1942, Lale Sokolov, a Slovakian Jew, is forcibly transported to the concentration camps at Auschwitz-Birkenau. When his captors discover that he speaks several languages, he is put to work as a Tätowierer (the German word for tattooist), tasked with permanently marking his fellow prisoners.

Imprisoned for more than two and a half years, Lale witnesses horrific atrocities and barbarism—but also incredible acts of bravery and compassion. Risking his own life, he uses his privileged position to exchange jewels and money from murdered Jews for food to keep his fellow prisoners alive.

One day in July 1942, Lale, prisoner 32407, comforts a trembling young woman waiting in line to have the number 34902 tattooed onto her arm. Her name is Gita, and in that first encounter, Lale vows to somehow survive the camp and marry her.

A vivid, harrowing, and ultimately hopeful re-creation of Lale Sokolov’s experiences as the man who tattooed the arms of thousands of prisoners with what would become one of the most potent symbols of the Holocaust, The Tattooist of Auschwitz is also a testament to the endurance of love and humanity under the darkest possible conditions. 

Now We Are Dead by Stuart MacBride

5 Stars from me

It’s fair to say that Stuart MacBride had me at Cold Granite

Now We Are Dead focuses on Sergeant Roberta Steel who has taken a bit of a tumble down the ranks after fitting up a suspect. Not one to learn from her mistakes she is hell bent on seeing him behind bars and, despite numerous colourful warnings, pursues him in her own special way.

Steel is a fabulous character, she is loveable yet should be detestable and must be an absolute nightmare to work with. I love love love her funny ways and how she is always shuggling her errant underwire and eyeing up anyone female who crosses her path.

I did miss Logan but it is testament to MacBride’s mastery of a incredible storyline that this book is brilliant even without it’s star player being involved.

Another absolute stonker from Stuart MacBride – reading his books makes me so happy 🙂

Synopsis: From the No. 1 bestselling author of the Logan McRae series, comes a standalone spinoff featuring DS Roberta Steel. Sergeant Roberta Steel has recently been demoted after being caught fitting up a suspect. The trouble is, the man she got sent down has had his sentence quashed now he’s back on the streets. And women are being attacked again. But if DS Steel goes anywhere near him his lawyers will get her thrown off the force for good. The Powers That Be won’t listen to her not after what happened last time. Besides, she’s got more than enough ongoing cases to keep her busy perhaps she should focus on solving them instead of harassing an innocent man?

But Steel knows he’s guilty and the longer he gets away with it, the more women will suffer. The question is: how much is she willing to sacrifice to stop him? 

The Girl Before You by Nicola Rayner

3 stars from me

I can’t put my finger on why but I struggled to get into this book, I couldn’t engage with the characters and found the whole uni sexuality thing over egged and drawn out.

George just came across as a bit of an arrogant arse and I struggled to see who anyone could become so infatuated with him, let alone all these obviously beautiful and intelligent women.

I can see the book has a lot of great reviews and I guess I just missed something with this one but it’s not for me.

Synopsis: She was his. She was perfect. And then, she was gone.

Alice has always been haunted by the women from her husband’s past. As an MP and now a TV personality, George Bell’s reputation as a ladies’ man precedes him. But when Alice falls pregnant, her unease becomes an obsession.

And there’s one ex in particular she can’t get out of her head: a beautiful student George dated in his first year, who went missing before they finished university. Ruth.

When Alice sees a woman who looks just like Ruth, she can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to her disappearance than George has been telling her. But does she really want to know what her husband has been getting up to behind her back all these years?

An addictive and twisting psychological suspense that will have fans of Shari Lapena and Ruth Ware hooked.

 

Fatal Fortune by Miranda Rijks

4 Stars from me!

Fatal Fortune hooks you at the very beginning as Dr Pippa Durrant learns that her photo is being splashed across the media stating that she is brutally murdered lottery winner Leanne Smith. At this early stage we meet her brother who sounds like an absolute sweetheart and get a glimpse into her troubled personal life.

Pippa is well respected and busy psychologist who has a healthy business and a fractured family – with the exception of her much beloved dog Mungo. She has never met Leanne Smith and yet the murdered woman’s family have clearly confirmed to the police that the photo is of Leanne, but why?

The book also focuses heavily on the life of Donna – Leanne’s daughter – and her somewhat questionable husband Ricky. Donna seems quite a naive creature and it is easy to feel sympathy for her… although her life and her morals soon come into question.

Very soon there is a whole raft of potential suspects – including Leanne’s father – and DS Joe Swain is brought in to try and solve the case. Is this the first in a series featuring Pippa and Joe? A few sparks seem to fly between them as they do the age old ‘will they, won’t they’ dance… or is he just using her to gauge reactions of his other suspects?

Soon things seem to start going wrong for Pippa and then there is another murder, the tension builds nicely and there are a few moments of potential peril for Pippa who seems quite carefree with her own safety.

This books felt to me like a roller coaster that chugged and chugged its way up to the peak and then suddenly tipped over into free fall as the plot cleverly weaves around itself and killer is finally revealed!

I would also heartily recommend I Want You Gone by Miranda Rijks and would like to thank Emma from Damp Pebbles for the opportunity to take part in the Fatal Fortune blog tour.

Synopsis: Is someone trying to frame psychologist Pippa Durrant for the brutal murder of a woman she’s never even met?

It certainly seems that way when Pippa’s photo is found on the body of murdered lottery winner, Leanne Smith.

Pippa soon finds herself a suspect at the centre of a huge media storm. But she has an invaluable skill set – she is a human polygraph, expertly trained to spot lies and deceit. Skills she will need to help her to solve the mystery of who killed Leanne before it destroys her career – and her life.

But every cloud has a silver lining and this one arrives in the shape of DS Joe Swain. Initially suspicious of Pippa, he comes to trust her and to value her lie detection skills. Soon it’s clear there’s a definite spark between them….

Then, when another body turns up, Pippa realises her reputation isn’t the only thing in danger. Can she identify the killer before she becomes the next victim?

Fatal Fortune is the electrifying first book in the Dr. Pippa Durrant Thriller Series. If you like edge-of-your-seat action, clever sleuths, and shocking twists, then you’ll love Miranda Rijks’ gripping crime novel.

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

5 stars from me

This is a proper creepy little tale! I loved all the sinister little Grimms’ Fairy Tales references and the unsettling nature of the entire books which leads you through ‘is this real or is she unwell?’, it is very cleverly done.

Little Darlings has the perfect storm of components – a determined cop, a questionable reporter, a shady husband, a neurotic mother, doubting professionals and a sprinkling of pure fear! As the story developed I found myself questioning everyone – except our determined cop Jo Harper – but everyone else came under suspicion in my mind, especially those babies!

Really great book which kept me turning pages until the end. I won’t give any spoilers but would love to know what you thought of the ending!

 

Synopsis: “Mother knows best” takes on a sinister new meaning in this unsettling thriller perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman and Grimms’ Fairy Tales.

THE TWINS ARE CRYING. 
THE TWINS ARE HUNGRY.

LAUREN IS CRYING. 
LAUREN IS EXHAUSTED.

Behind the hospital curtain, someone is waiting . . .

Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking―and rechecking―your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.