Sunday, 23 July 2017

Together - Julie Cohen


Is this a great love story?
Or a story about great love?
You decide.

On a morning that seems just like any other, Robbie wakes in his bed, his wife Emily asleep beside him, as always. He rises and dresses, makes his coffee, feeds his dogs, just as he usually would. But then he leaves Emily a letter and does something that will break her heart. As the years go back all the way to 1962, Robbie's actions become clearer as we discover the story of a couple with a terrible secret - one they will do absolutely anything to protect.

What did I think?


I received a copy of Together along with an envelope stating that it should only be opened when instructed.  Needless to say, with such an intriguing package, Together didn't have long to wait on my TBR pile before curiosity got the better of me.  Once I opened the book, I became lost in Emily and Robbie's story and would have raced through it at the speed of light even without the added intrigue of the mysterious envelope.

The story of Emily and Robbie is told in reverse from 2016 to 1962.  Now anyone who knows me would think that I would struggle with this back to front timeline, but Julie Cohen's writing is so flawless that the story flows so effortlessly and it feels completely right to start at the end.  In 2016, Emily and Robbie have been together for 54 years, although they aren't married.  Robbie wakes up one morning and makes a difficult decision that will break Emily's heart, and left me wide eyed with shock.  You find out early on in the book that the pair are hiding a secret, although you have no idea what it could be, and I wondered if Robbie's decision had something to do with this.  I couldn't have been more wrong.

As time flips backwards, we go back through 1990 when we find out that Emily is estranged from her family, through 1975-77 when Emily and Robbie adopt their son Adam, through 1972 when they are both married to other people and back to 1962 when their eyes meet for the first time across a crowded train platform.  Then finally, it was time to open the envelope containing the final few missing pages that I read in stunned silence as tears welled in my eyes.  

I feel privileged to have shared such intimate moments with Emily and Robbie.  They haven't had a smooth ride in their life as the drove down several rocky roads but what they did have was each other.  When reading Together, we are asked whether we think this is a great love story or a story about great love.  I can't choose one over the other so in my opinion, it is both.

Together is completely mesmeric and totally unique in its telling of this beautiful love story.  I urge you to read this book, even if it's not your usual genre.  A beautiful captivating story of love against the odds.  It's certainly not your traditional love story of moonlight and roses, more warts and all under the microscope on the front page of the newspaper.  With shocks at the beginning and the end, read it and weep; I certainly did.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




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Saturday, 22 July 2017

This Beautiful Life - Katie Marsh



What happens when you get the second chance you never expected?

Abi is living her happy ending. She's in remission and is ready to make the most of her second chance at life. But during Abi's illness her family has fallen apart. Her husband John has made decisions that are about to come back to haunt him, while her teenage son Seb is battling with a secret of his own.

Set to the songs on Abi's survival playlist, this is the story of what happens next as Abi tries to rebuild her family. Can she bring the people she loves most in the world back together again... before it's too late?

This Beautiful Life is a deeply moving and poignant novel which reminds us why life, and love, are worth fighting for.


What did I think?

This book starts with a letter written by Abi to her husband John and son Seb, and I'm not ashamed to say it had me in floods of tears.  I readily admit that I usually cry at the end of books but to cry at the start was something new for me.  I was absolutely astounded at the level of raw emotion that has been poured into the opening pages of This Beautiful Life, but I dried my eyes and carried on as I knew from past experience that Katie Marsh had a beautiful story lined up for me.  

After dealing with the devastating news that she had colon cancer, Abi now gets the amazing news that she is in remission.  The future she thought she had lost is coming back into focus but a lot of things have changed whilst Abi has been ill.  Abi's husband John has gambled everything to help Abi get better and her son Seb is struggling with some powerful emotions of his own.  The past months have been all about Abi's cancer so as the three attempt to reconnect, it's the perfect time for honesty.  I knew they were strong enough to get through anything, although there are a few hairy moments!

Interspersed between chapters are songs from Abi's survival playlists; songs she has chosen for each of her loved ones with reasons why she has chosen them.  Abi has written in the sleeves of her CDs for her family and friends to find after she has gone.  Each note is so heartfelt that I both looked forward to it and dreaded it in equal measures, as I feared my tears would reappear at any moment.

It always astounds me how Katie Marsh manages to pour so much emotion into her books; her characters are so very realistic and they deal with real life situations with such poignancy and grace.  As I hurtled towards the end of the book, I prepared myself for whatever was coming and I have to say that, along with the whole book, the ending is absolutely flawless.

Katie Marsh is without doubt one of my favourite authors; the beauty in Katie's books is more than skin deep from the stunning covers to the beautiful words within.  Another poignant and outstanding novel from the pen of the super-talented Katie Marsh.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:





Buy it from Amazon

Monday, 17 July 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Other Twin - L V Hay



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 ...

What did I think?

Wow!  This book is superb, it's so brilliantly extraordinary!  I thought I'd take a quick look when it dropped on my kindle...an hour or so later and 30% in, I simply couldn't put it down and HAD to finish it.  There are so many good books out there but it's rare that you get a book in your hands that refuses to let you take a break for food, drink or sleep but The Other Twin does just that.  I don't honestly think any review I write could do it justice, but I'll give it a whirl.

Poppy is estranged from her family but she returns to Brighton after her sister, India, dies in mysterious circumstances.  Did India commit suicide or was she running from something or someone?  Perhaps her mysterious friend, Jenny, holds the key but she's like the Scarlet Pimpernel and Poppy struggles to get a hold of her.  Whilst Poppy is in Brighton she runs into twins from her past, Ana and Matthew. Something seems slightly off about them and the underlying threat that they were hiding something had me completely riveted from start to finish.

Set in the town of Brighton, which almost feels like a character in its own right, it's colourful, vibrant and at times seedy.  I also loved the ultra-modern feel of the book delving into blogging and touching on the LGBT scene, making this a thrilling, smart and modern rollercoaster ride.

I'm purposefully keeping my review vague as to go on any further might accidentally give away some spoilers.  It's such a haunting and compelling psychological thriller that everyone must read and experience it for themselves.  The Other Twin is a book that not only doesn't sit in one particular genre, it takes a hammer and smashes down the barriers between genres.  With a mouthwateringly high standard firmly set, I am chomping at the bit to see what L V Hay writes next.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

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About the author:

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. 

Friday, 14 July 2017

BLOG TOUR: Sweet Little Lies - Caz Frear

I am thrilled to be on the blog tour for Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear.  I must admit that it keeps making me sing the Fleetwood Mac song every time I pick it up, but I'm really enjoying it so far and you can look for my review in the next week or so.

For today's stop on the tour, I have a tantalising extract for you.  Enjoy!



WINNER OF THE RICHARD AND JUDY SEARCH FOR A BESTSELLER COMPETITION

WHAT I THOUGHT I KNEW

In 1998, Maryanne Doyle disappeared and Dad knew something about it?

Maryanne Doyle was never seen again.


WHAT I ACTUALLY KNOW

In 1998, Dad lied about knowing Maryanne Doyle.

Alice Lapaine has been found strangled near Dad's pub. 

Dad was in the local area for both Maryanne Doyle's disappearance and Alice Lapaine's murder - FACT

Connection?

Trust cuts both ways . . . what do you do when it's gone? 



SWEET LITTLE LIES - EXTRACT

For a second I don’t recognise her. She’s wearing a khaki funnel coat zipped up to her nose and her hair’s scraped back tight, not swishing around her shoulders in all it’s usual caramel and honey-blonde loveliness. The frown-line gives her away though. That, and the expensive shopping bags arranged neatly around her feet like pets - Liberty, Symthson, Penhaligon, Cos. She’s staring into space - completely oblivious to the shit-faced chanteur in the snowman onesie, now adding another charge to his sheet by belting out a racist version of Deck the Halls, peppered with the odd shout of ‘No Surrender to the IRA’. She startles when she sees me, as if she’s forgotten where she is and why she’s here.
Mrs Hicks.”
She stands up quickly and the pull-down chair snaps back against the wall, making her jump. She apologises, gathers up her bags, flustered.
Gina, please. I’m so sorry to drop in like this, are you busy?”
I swipe my pass and push the door. “Of course not, come through.”
I try the squishy room first - I’ve got a feeling this could be a squishy room conversation - but there’s an engaged sign slapped across and a horrible keening noise coming from inside. Some poor soul on the rough end of something. I show her into one of the main interview rooms and resist the urge to thank her for instantly making the room smell nicer.
She takes her coat off. Turns down an offer of tea.
So what can I do for you, Gina?” My mind’s throwing out a hundred hypotheses, the main one being that she’s not a complete imbecile and she knows it shouldn’t have taken her husband ten minutes to steward us safely out of the main gates last night, and if she can’t get answers from him, she wants answers from me. “I assume you weren’t just passing?” I say, nudging the Smythson bag with my boot. “Or is there any chance that’s for me? I’d die for one of their notebooks.”
She glances down. “Oh these.” Again that slight sense of disorientation. “Have it. I’m serious. I’ve bought them enough already, more than they deserve.” She actually lifts up the bag and offers it to me. I shake my head a little embarrassed. “I just needed an excuse to come into town. To come here.”
I say nothing and study her face. It’s less remarkable than I’d built it up to be. Attractive but in a commonplace way. The lighting in these rooms are a great leveller.
She let’s out a deep breath. “I knew her, you see. Alice.” She pauses, rephrases. “Well I didn’t know her, not really. Our paths crossed in the past – briefly but intensely, you might say.”
Not what I was expecting. There’s a pulsing at the top of my head. A frontal lobe reminder that now’s the time to use good judgement and go and get Parnell.
But she asked to speak to me specifically.
I don’t want to panic her before we’ve even got going.
It’s also for that reason that I hold back the words, ‘lying to a police officer,’ although I do let her know I need to record everything and then I caution her, in my least cautionary voice possible.
God I don’t know where to start.” She arches her head right back. I hear the tension crunching through her neck. “I just tried to do a good thing and now I’m caught up in all this. I’m so sorry I lied, I truly am. I just...”
“Just start at the beginning,” I say, my voice as soft as a coo. “It’s fine, you’re doing the right thing, Gina.”
Ok.” She lays her palms flat on the table, steadies herself like it’s a business pitch. “About four years ago, Nate and I were in a bad place. Really bad. We’d been having IVF and it just wasn’t happening and well, it was tearing us apart. I think it’s because we’d both had kids with other people.” My face says it all. “Oh right, sorry, Leo’s mine, Amber’s Nate’s. I mean, Amber was only four when we got together and Leo was only seven so we very much consider them our own.” She gives a sad little sniff. “Nate’s wife died a year after Amber was born, you see. An undetected heart defect.” Suddenly, her features harden. “And my ex is a complete waster who’s never bothered with Leo so it was perfect, we became an instant little family.”
But it’s natural to want children together,” I say.
She lowers her gaze, nods at the table. “And we just assumed we would. Took it for granted, as you do. And when it didn’t happen….well it’s cruel and it’s not logical, but when you’ve made a baby with someone else, but you can’t make a baby with your current partner, it kind of does something. It makes you view them differently, view your relationship differently. It did us anyway, I can’t speak for everyone. But we ended up resenting each other, I suppose. It was just an incredibly bad time.” She twists her wedding ring, a surprisingly discreet gold band. “Anyway, Nate ended up burying himself in work, which means burying himself in client dinners, and I was on my own night after night with my grief.” Her eyes will me to understand. “I know it sounds dramatic, but that’s what it felt like, grief.”
I understand,” I say, as soothing as I can. “And Alice, where does she come in?”


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BLOG TOUR: Do Not Become Alarmed - Maile Meloy



When Liv and Nora decide to take their husbands and children on a holiday cruise, everyone is thrilled. The ship's comforts and possibilities seem infinite. But when they all go ashore in beautiful Central America, a series of minor mishaps lead the families further from the ship's safety.

One minute the children are there, and the next they're gone.

What follows is a heart-racing story told from the perspectives of the adults and the children, as the distraught parents - now turning on one another and blaming themselves - try to recover their children and their shattered lives.

What did I think?

I was really looking forward to reading this one so I jumped right in as if I was diving into the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.  It sounds gripping and intriguing from the excellent strapline: The sun is shining, the sea is blue, the children have disappeared... So what's it all about?  A question I ask myself now even though I have read it.  Seriously, what's it all about?

Liv and Nora are cousins who are as close as sisters.  They decide to spend the Christmas holidays on board a luxury cruise liner with their husbands and children.  The guys go off to play golf as the women and children go on an excursion with a guide from the ship.  On the way to the zip wire excursion, the minibus gets a flat tyre but the guide, Pedro, knows of a little secluded bay nearby where they can all relax and have fun.

The children play in the water while Nora goes off exploring in the bush with Pedro and Liv falls asleep after having a drink of Pedro's potent cocktail.  The dream holiday soon turns into a nightmare when Liv wakes up to find the children missing.  20% in to the book and so far so good.  Why did Nora go into the bush with Pedro?  Did he drug Liv?  What has he got to do with the children's disappearance?

Normally at this point I say that all my questions were answered but unfortunately this wasn't the case in this instance.  Once the children disappeared, I kept waiting for something to happen.  They didn't actually disappear as such because we follow what they're up to while their parents plead for their safe return.  As I got closer and closer to the end, I was waiting for the big 'A-HA! I knew he/she was dodgy' moment but when it didn't materialise it left me feeling rather flat.  Perhaps I am too used to 'the twist' and the 'big reveal' type of books to appreciate a slow burner these days.

An interesting premise but one that didn't really deliver for me.  I found the characters a bit flat and uninteresting but the missing children storyline did keep the pages turning at a steady pace.  I was left feeling rather confused about the dual storyline, that of a young girl travelling across country to New York with her uncle.  It just seemed quite unnecessary as it didn't seem to add anything to the story, for me anyway.

A good book to take on holiday to read around the pool, or to take on a cruise - just don't go on any excursions and keep an eye on your kids!

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Thursday, 13 July 2017

BLOG TOUR: Ice Lake (Harry Cull Thriller #1) - John A Lenahan


…WHERE EVERYBODY LIES. AND SOME PEOPLE KILL…
An electrifying debut crime novel and the first in a new series featuring psychologist Harry Cull. Perfect for fans of Stuart MacBride, Mark Billingham and Peter May.

AN ABANDONDED BODY

Deep in the woods of Northeastern Pennsylvania, the body of a man is found – shot three times, dumped under the trees where the local kids will find him.

A HAUNTED PSYCHOLOGIST

Psychologist Harry Cull, tormented by his past, arrives in the picturesque town of Ice Lake to help with the murder investigation. There he unravels a web of lies and deceit that leads to the dark heart of a community torn apart by fracking, drugs and murder.

A DESPERATE KILLER

It’s not long before the second corpse turns up, this time a lawyer left for dead in the forest, and Harry finds himself on the trail of a twisted killer – who will do anything to keep the town’s darkest secrets buried.

What did I think?

Oh my word, I did not expect to enjoy this book as much as I did...and that's no lie.  I'm going to make a prediction right here and now - this is going to be a bestselling, long-running series.  Harry Cull is one of those characters that you can't get enough of, like Michael Connelly's Bosch or Peter James' Roy Grace.  You've got the story he's investigating now plus the intrigue of his past that had my brain fighting over which story I wanted to read more about.  Both are winners as you couldn't possibly choose one over the other.

Harry Cull turns up in the sleepy Pennsylvania town of Ice Lake to help his friend, Trooper Ed Cirba, investigate the murder of a local man. The pair met at a conference in Las Vegas and I got my first inkling of the sparkling humour involved when Cull won't let Cirba forget about their visit to a strip bar, or titty bar as they are hilariously known in Ice Lake.  The locals all know each others' business and can't finish a sentence without saying 'and that's no lie', but when another body turns up, clearly somebody is lying.

When two of his pals turn up dead, local drug dealer, Feather, thinks he could be next on the hit list.  The interactions between Cull and Feather were one of the many highlights of the book.  Cull has a knack of being able to tell when someone is lying, with or without his Frankenstein-esque lie detector machine.  With an excellent well-placed quote from Spiderman and paying serious homage to Star Wars, Feather shows his awe of Cull by referencing the jedi knights, causing me to laugh out loud on many an occasion.

Cull has a devastating history that lays down the thread that will link all the Harry Cull books together (and please let there be MANY more).  There's always going to be a hint of danger following him around after he got mixed up with the Jersey mob.  As we all know from watching The Sopranos, you can run but you can't hide.

Ice Lake is a sizzling start to what I'm sure will become a favourite series for many readers...and that's no lie.  The sizzling dynamic between Cull and Cirba reminded me of Starsky and Hutch; always a little bit tongue in cheek and I'm sure I'll spot things I've missed on the second reading.  Hopefully we won't have long to wait for book 2, and I'll definitely be first in line for that!  I could write so much more about this book (I haven't even mentioned the fracking or the love interest), but seriously - just go buy it!

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon

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Sunday, 9 July 2017

Cragside (The DCI Ryan Mysteries Book 6) - LJ Ross



Are you afraid of the dark..?

After his climactic battle with notorious serial killer The Hacker, DCI Ryan is spending the summer with his fiancĂ©e within the grounds of Cragside, a spectacular Bavarian-style mansion surrounded by acres of woodland. When they are invited to attend the staff summer party – a Victorian murder mystery evening – it’s all a joke until the lights go out and an elderly man is found dead. It looks like an unfortunate accident but, as the dead man’s life begins to unfold, Ryan and his team of detectives realise that all is not as it appears.

When a second body is found, terror grips the close-knit community and Ryan must uncover the killer who walks among them, before they strike again...

Murder and mystery are peppered with romance and humour in this fast-paced crime whodunit set amidst the spectacular Northumbrian landscape. 


What did I think?

Whoosh!  That's the sound of me clearing my TBR pile when a new LJ Ross book appears on my kindle.  Just try and stop me from reading this immediately!

So the latest outing for DCI Ryan is entitled Cragside; this is a well-known country house in the North East of England that was the first to be lit using hydroelectric power, and I could say the I've never been to Cragside but that would feel like a lie because I have now 'virtually' been to Cragside.  LJ Ross writes with so much passion and descriptive imagery that I felt transported through the pages to the breathtaking setting of the book.

After their run-in with The Hacker, Ryan and Anna have taken up temporary residence within the grounds of Cragside.  They are invited to attend the staff party when all the lights go out and the party ends early for one Cragside employee.  It looks like a terrible accident but Ryan is not so sure.  Then, when another body turns up on the estate, an investigation must be launched.  So many people have secrets to hide, but at least one of them is guilty of murder.

In the style of an old-fashioned murder-mystery, Ryan investigates a seemingly innocent death.  My mind kept straying to the Prologue, where an explosion ripped through the site of a ship being built on the Tyne - I knew it had something to do with the story, but what???  It actually gave me goosebumps when LJ Ross wrote about the ship building empire on the Tyne; it was the lifeblood of so many people and I have been told about, but can't even imagine, seeing a ship being built at the end of your street.  LJ Ross has now immortalised this proud hard-working region in print, and I could almost hear the shouts of the men and the smell of the river as we read about a majestic ship being built on the Tyne.

You could of course read Cragside as a standalone, but you do NOT want to do that.  Not only would you miss out on some fantastic books but you only scratch the surface of the characters in Cragside.  I feel like I know them as well as I know my family which is why I always welcome them with open arms.  It almost broke my heart to see how traumatised MacKenzie was after her run in with The Hacker but I'm sure the love of her good man, Phillips, will see her through.  I also loved getting to know a bit more about Jack Lowerson - he's so completely clueless where women are concerned and I just wanted to give him a hug and a little push!

A cracking LJ Ross book is as reliable as a Swiss watch.  It's riveting, gripping, intriguing, compelling and so VERY addictive.  Once you start this series you won't want to stop and I certainly don't ever want it to finish.  Just as you think you're winding down towards the end of the book, LJ Ross cranks up the pressure with another mouthwatering ending.  Ryan may have seen off The Hacker but there's another threat waiting in the wings.  I can't wait to see how he deals with it and thankfully LJ Ross is a quick writer with Dark Skies already more than a twinkle in the author's eye.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:




Buy it from Amazon