Saturday, 30 October 2021

The Push - Ashley Audrain

 
'I think she pushed him,' I said to you quietly. 'I think she pushed him . . .'

The arrival of baby Violet was meant to be the happiest day of my life. But as soon as I held her in my arms I knew something wasn't right.

I had always known that the women in my family aren't meant to be mothers.

My husband Fox says I'm imagining it. He tells me I'm nothing like my own mother, and that Violet is the sweetest child.

But she's different with me. Something feels very wrong.

Is it her? Or is it me? Is she the monster? Or am I?

The Push is an unsettling, breathtaking and powerful read about obsession and our deepest fears that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.


What did I think?

I saw so much excitement about The Push on social media that I just had to read a copy for myself.  With short, punchy chapters that beg you to read 'just one more' I devoured this book over a 24 hour period.  I had to keep a tight rein on my eyes at times as they tried to zoom ahead quicker than I could read, especially at the end.  

Written in the first person, the reader is privy to the thoughts and experiences of Blythe as she recounts her experience of motherhood.  Blythe's story is interspersed with snippets of her family history starting with her grandmother in 1939 and followed by her mother in 1957.  Neither of Blythe's ancestors would win mother of the year so it's no wonder that Blythe thinks that she's a bad mother.  It doesn't help that her daughter Violet seems to be the spawn of the devil, or is she?

Blythe often doubts herself so you can't help but wonder how reliable a narrator she is.  It's almost like Blythe and Violet take an instant dislike to each other, or is that just Blythe's impression?  Postnatal depression could explain a lot of Blythe's feelings towards Violet as everyone else thinks that Violet is sweeter than honey.  I found myself inadvertently picking a side and wondering which side other readers would choose: are you Team Blythe or Team Violet?

Ashley Audrain's writing is stunning and with this amazing debut she doesn't just go on the 'one to watch' list, she's on the 'one to read again' list too.  The exploration of motherhood, showing a side that isn't all sweetness and light, is absolutely exquisite.  Not every woman finds that motherhood comes naturally but it's almost a taboo subject even though it shouldn't be something to be embarrassed about.

The Push is an exceptional debut; it's chilling, disturbing and completely compelling.  If ever there was a book guaranteed to be read in one day, this is it.  Believe the hype; this book is FANTASTIC!

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Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Lockdown - Peter May

 

'They said that twenty-five percent of the population would catch the flu. Between seventy and eighty percent of them would die. He had been directly exposed to it, and the odds weren't good.'

A CITY IN QUARANTINE

London, the epicenter of a global pandemic, is a city in lockdown. Violence and civil disorder simmer. Martial law has been imposed. No-one is safe from the deadly virus that has already claimed thousands of victims. Health and emergency services are overwhelmed.

A MURDERED CHILD

At a building site for a temporary hospital, construction workers find a bag containing the rendered bones of a murdered child. A remorseless killer has been unleashed on the city; his mission is to take all measures necessary to prevent the bones from being identified.

A POWERFUL CONSPIRACY

D.I. Jack MacNeil, counting down the hours on his final day with the Met, is sent to investigate. His career is in ruins, his marriage over and his own family touched by the virus. Sinister forces are tracking his every move, prepared to kill again to conceal the truth. Which will stop him first - the virus or the killers?


Written over fifteen years ago, this prescient, suspenseful thriller is set against a backdrop of a capital city in quarantine, and explores human experience in the grip of a killer virus.


What did I think?

I bought Lockdown as a lockdown 2020 gift for my parents as they are both fans of Peter May.  I love the fact that Peter May wrote this book in 2005 but the publishers thought it was too unrealistic to publish whereas now it is all too realistic as we're living it.  There's actually a rather gruesome part of the book that I found to be a little unbelievable but it certainly wasn't anything to do with the depiction of the pandemic.

The main character of Jack MacNeil is having a bad final day at work: the discovery of a bag of bones have halted construction of a much needed hospital and once again Jack puts work before his family with devastating consequences.  How the story links together is nothing short of brilliant and I was on the edge of my seat throughout but I'll say no more as I don't want to release any plot spoilers in my review.

It's Peter May so it goes without saying that it's well-written but his ability to weave an engaging yet somewhat complex story is second-to-none.  The characters are believable and so incredibly flawed that you can't help rooting for them and the plot is simply breathtaking.  Of course, you can't help but compare and contrast this imaginary pandemic to our very real one but at the end of the day this is fiction and if I wanted to read a book about a real pandemic I would look in the non-fiction section.

It would have been an absolute tragedy for Lockdown to remain unpublished so if there's one good thing to result from the Coronavirus pandemic, this is it!  It's also a stark reminder to pay attention to that all-important work/life balance, which I think many of us have reassessed over the past 18 months.  Brilliant, gripping and stomach-churningly realistic, Lockdown is a must-read for thriller fans.

My rating:

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Sunday, 24 October 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Leftovers - Cassandra Parkin

 
The Leftovers is a story about sexual power and consent, the myth of the perfect victim, and a dark exploration of the things we do for – and to – the ones we love.

Callie’s life is spent caring for others – for Frey, her client, and for Noah, her brother. When a tragic car accident shatters her family, she’s left alone with her mother Vanessa. Vanessa's favourite child was Noah; Callie's favourite parent was her dad. Now they're stuck with each other - the leftovers of their family - and they'll have to confront the ways they've been hurt, and the ways they've passed that hurt on to others.


What did I think?

I absolutely adore Cassandra Parkin's books so I didn't hesitate in picking up a copy of her new novel, The Leftovers.  The writing is just stunning as the reader is taken on a journey from Callie's grief to her family's past as their relationships are put under the microscope.

Callie is living two lives: caring for her client Frey and caring for her brother Noah.  Frey does not communicate but spends his time doing jigsaws and it was heartbreaking to see him trapped inside his body, unable to say when he was scared or unhappy.  Noah's issues are more volatile as he is unable to distinguish between reality and imagination so he needs constant care, which Callie shares with her dad.  Callie's mother left many years ago and it's been no loss to Callie as she has always known that her mother doesn't love her.

The relationship between Callie and her mother Vanessa is incredibly intriguing as we read flashbacks of the past.  You just know that there's something not right there as Vanessa showers all her love on Noah whilst Callie is treated with cool indifference.  Families are complicated and it all becomes clear as layer upon layer of the past is revealed.

The storyline is breathtaking and I have to say that I was almost screaming out loud 'no, no, no' at more than one point.  I was completely addicted to the book though, so as much as I wanted to look away I was completely powerless to resist.  Part of the novel is set during the Covid-19 pandemic and I could barely stop myself from crying when Frey and his sister finally saw each other again.  Lockdown must have been so confusing for people in care and it breaks my heart just thinking about it again now.  It's such wonderful writing from Cassandra Parkin to get this point across sensitively yet strongly.

Dark, disturbing and haunting, The Leftovers is so beautifully written that it will stay with me for a very long time.  A stunning read and highly recommended.

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Tuesday, 19 October 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Genesis Inquiry - Olly Jarvis


Is there one last undiscovered, great truth?

A moment zero, a place in time that links all cultures and creeds?

A revelation that will unite us all and change the way we see history forever?

Brilliant but burnt-out barrister Ella Blake accepts an apparently simple brief: investigate the mysterious disappearance of an African American polymath from his rooms at Cambridge University. The Inquiry quickly becomes the greatest challenge of her life – solving the mystery of Genesis.

Facing danger at every turn, can Ella find the answers to the riddles and clues left by the missing genius?

Reunited with her estranged daughter, the Inquiry sends them on a quest across the world and through ancient texts.

What is the secret that binds us all?

Who is behind the dark forces that will stop at nothing to prevent the world from knowing the truth?

The Genesis Inquiry is an epic and gripping thriller by the brilliant Olly Jarvis which asks a key question – what can our shared past tell us about humanity’s future?


What did I think?

I can think of any number of words to describe this book: stunning, outstanding, brilliant, breathtaking, exceptional...just think of any positive adjective and it will most certainly apply to The Genesis Inquiry.  It's a legal thriller with a difference; just imagine if John Grisham and Dan Brown collaborated on a book, it might be half as good as this one.

I was gripped from the very first page as we meet our protagonist Ella Blake in her campervan on the island of Lindisfarne in Northumberland.  What a lovely surprise this was as I love reading novels set in the North East of England, albeit briefly set there as Ella then returns to Cambridge to investigate the disappearance of academic Matthew Shepherd.  

Ella is such an intriguing character with a tragic backstory that left her estranged from her daughter Lizzie.  Lizzie is also in Cambridge so not only does Ella have a case to investigate, she also has to work at her mother/daughter relationship if she wants to rebuild bridges with Lizzie.  Although she's clearly a brilliant barrister, seeing Ella as less than perfect in her personal life really endeared her to me.  I can't wait to read more Ella Blake thrillers.

Olly Jarvis' writing is so vivid and immersive that I felt as if I was part of the story and my heart was pounding as the danger levels ramped up.  There's an element of 'who can you trust?' which had me on the edge of my seat and pretty much suspecting everyone apart from Ella as having an ulterior motive.

The plot is breathtaking, it leaves the reader with food for thought and I scampered off to google one of the real places mentioned in the book.  I had never even heard of it and you have to wonder why that is.  It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it and I'm captivated by what I have read online so far, so thank you Olly Jarvis for highlighting this fascinating place.  I'm being purposefully vague about this to ensure that I don't spoil the plot for others.

Take my word for it, The Genesis Inquiry is not to be missed; it's simply stunning!  I have found a new favourite author in Olly Jarvis and I really can't recommend The Genesis Inquiry highly enough.  An easy 5 stars awarded for this outstanding legal thriller.

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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Thursday, 14 October 2021

BLOG TOUR: The Woman in the Middle - Milly Johnson

 
Shay Bastable is the woman in the middle. She is part of the sandwich generation – caring for her parents and her children, supporting her husband Bruce, holding them all together and caring for them as best she can.
 
Then the arrival of a large orange skip on her mother’s estate sets in motion a cataclysmic series of events which leads to the collapse of Shay’s world. She is forced to put herself first for a change.
 
But in order to move forward with her present, Shay needs to make sense of her past. And so she returns to the little village she grew up in, to uncover the truth about what happened to her when she was younger. And in doing so, she discovers that sometimes you have to hit rock bottom to find the only way is up.


What did I think?

I experienced a wealth of emotions when reading The Woman in the Middle; I laughed, cried, fumed and loved every single page.  Milly Johnson writes with so much vivacity that my kindle was virtually thrumming with life and I was enjoying it so much that I really didn't want the story to end.

I'd never really thought about it before but Milly is so right about a lot of women being part of the sandwich generation: stuck in the middle caring for ageing parents and growing children.  Shay Bastable spreads herself as thinly as a dieter buttering bread as she cares for her elderly mother, does everything she can to support her husband and makes sure that she is always on hand for her grown-up children.  So who cares for Shay?  Nobody!

As events see Shay's world evolving and changing, she decides to face up to her past and returns to the village of her childhood.  I adored this part of the story, especially Shay catching up with old friends and enemies.  It made me think about how much we hold on to things that happened to us at school.  Many people have encountered school bullying and it's something that is so difficult to forgive and forget, but perhaps knowing the reasons behind the bullying could make us see things in a different light.  It's food for thought anyway.

Milly Johnson really knows how people tick and she creates such relatable and believable characters that I found myself caring about each one of them (apart from Bruce, of course).  The Woman in the Middle is a heartfelt and engaging novel that evoked so many emotions in me.  It's a truly wonderful book and another stunning novel from Milly Johnson.  Highly recommended.

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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The Woman in the Middle by Milly Johnson is out now, published by Simon & Schuster in hardback, eBook and audiobook. Milly will be joining My Weekly for a virtual event on Thursday 21st October at 7pm – register for free here.




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Monday, 11 October 2021

The Lake - Louise Sharland


The truth lies just beneath the surface…

Kate's world falls apart when her teenage son drowns in the waters by his school. She’s convinced it wasn’t just a tragic accident, but no one will listen.

Then, six years later, Kate unearths Michael’s lost diary and realises she may finally be able uncover what really happened that night.

But as she delves deeper, she begins to realise that she didn’t really know her son – or the people in his life – at all. And that, sometimes, secrets are better left submerged…
 

What did I think?

When it comes to books filled with secrets and lies, I'm like a moth to a flame so the cover and the blurb of The Lake immediately piqued my interest.  It's so incredibly well written and addictive that I read it over a 24 hour period but it's not quite as chock full of secrets and lies as I'd expected; there's really just one big secret and its revelation didn't really come as a surprise.

It seems like the main character of Kate has been manipulated all of her life; first by her mother and the Brethren community and then by her controlling husband Adam.  Oh I really didn't like him!  Kate's grief over the loss of her son is so heartbreaking to read and she has to deal with it on her own as Adam thinks Kate should just put it behind her and move on.  I wonder if he'd have felt the same if Michael had been his son.  When Kate finds Michael's old diary, it's like she can still hold a piece of him in her hands but rather than providing comfort it gives her more questions than answers.

Collecting pieces of the puzzle, Kate is determined to find out what happened to Michael and when it comes to her cubs, the lioness has sharp teeth and claws.  I have mixed feelings about Kate; obviously I felt for her as she has lost her son but I just wish that she had stood up for Michael when he was alive.  Not that she could have prevented his death, but the pair of them could have had a very different life if circumstances had been different.  My mixed feelings for Kate also gave me mixed emotions about the ending, which I won't spoil for others, but it did make me feel confused as to what kind of person Kate actually is.

Engaging and addictive, The Lake is a well written debut from Louise Sharland.  It's more of a slow-burning drama than a fast-paced thriller but it's still very difficult to put down once you pick it up.

My rating:

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Friday, 8 October 2021

BLOG TOUR: The New Kingdom - Wilbur Smith with Mark Chadbourn

 
In the heart of Egypt
Under the watchful eye of the gods
A new power is rising

In the city of Lahun, Hui lives an enchanted life. The favoured son of a doting father, and ruler-in-waiting of the great city, his fate is set. But behind the beautiful fa├žades a sinister evil is plotting. Craving power and embittered by jealousy, Hui's stepmother, the great sorceress Isetnofret, and Hui's own brother Qen, orchestrate the downfall of Hui's father, condemning Hui and seizing power in the city.

Cast out and alone, Hui finds himself a captive of a skilled and powerful army of outlaws, the Hyksos. Determined to seek vengeance for the death of his father and rescue his sister, Ipwet, Hui swears his allegiance to these enemies of Egypt. Through them he learns the art of war, learning how to fight and becoming an envied charioteer.

But soon Hui finds himself in an even greater battle - one for the very heart of Egypt itself. As the pieces fall into place and the Gods themselves join the fray, Hui finds himself fighting alongside the Egyptian General Tanus and renowned Mage, Taita. Now Hui must choose his path - will he be a hero in the old world, or a master in a new kingdom?

Don't miss the rest of the epic Ancient Egyptian Series, River God, The Seventh Scroll, Warlock, The Quest, Desert God and Pharaoh, available now. And Wilbur Smith will return to Ancient Egypt in 2022.


What did I think?

Although I haven't read the full series yet, I read the first couple of books in Wilbur Smith's Egyptian series many years ago and remember them well.  You don't need to have read any of the previous books though as The New Kingdom is the first book in the new Egyptian series, featuring the main character of Hui.

Wilbur Smith and Mark Chadbourn have written such an atmospheric and authentic novel that I wouldn't have been surprised to see grains of sand falling out of the book.  I was transported to Ancient Egypt through the vivid and descriptive writing and enjoyed every single minute of my journey.

Hui leads a privileged life in the city of Lahun but conspiracy bubbles beneath the surface and Hui soon finds himself an outlaw on the run.  We really see what Hui is made of when faced with danger as he encounters various tribes battling for land and power.  It was lovely to see Taita (the protagonist of the previous books) making an appearance in the book and this is sure to delight fans of the series as much as it did me.

The writing is seamless and I really couldn't tell that it was written by dual authors; I was too busy devouring every word and immersing myself in Ancient Egyptian history.  I have to say that I think the ending is perfect as it leads nicely on to the next book in the series (coming 2022) without leaving us on a cliffhanger.  I can't wait for more!

Vivid, immersive and captivating, The New Kingdom is a must-read for fans of Ancient Egyptian history.  It's a wonderful start to a new series that has not only left me eager for more but keen to revisit the whole series.

I received ARC to read and review for the blog tour; all opinions are my own.

My rating:

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Tuesday, 5 October 2021

BLOG TOUR: Twelve Dates 'Till Christmas - Jennifer C. Wilson


Callum and Lexie are perfect for each other - at least, that's what everyone tells them. But they're just good friends, aren't they? And neither wants to ruin the solid friendship that's treated them so well since university.

But when an old school friend of Callum's asks Lexie for a date, and passions overflow on a work night out, could it be the trigger to show each of them what they have been missing out on all this time?

With twelve weeks until Christmas, that's a lot of opportunity for romance - and for misunderstandings...


What did I think?

I already know that Jennifer C. Wilson is an amazing author as I love her Kindred Spirits historical fiction series so I couldn't wait to read her contemporary romance debut, Twelve Dates 'Till Christmas.  

It's a 99 page novella so it's easy to read in one sitting, especially when I was desperate to find out the answer to the underlying question in the book: will they/won't they?  Callum and Lexie are like a comfortable pair of slippers to each other, they are friends with a sort of benefit as they can both count on each other to be their plus one for any occasion.  They are clearly perfect for each other but their friendship is too good to risk...but some risks are worth taking.  So will they/won't they?  You'll just have to read it for yourself to find out!

Oh I just loved this book!  There is so much entertainment packed into this novella and I enjoyed every single minute.  There are misunderstandings, pangs of jealousy, fun party games, a little help from friends and the magic of romance which results in an adorable story that warmed the cockles of my heart.

As the nights draw in and sunshine becomes a distant memory, Twelve Dates 'Till Christmas is just the tonic to beat the winter blues.

I received a digital ARC to read and review for the blog tour; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Purchase link: https://mybook.to/12Dates




About the author:

Jennifer C. Wilson stalks dead people (usually monarchs, mostly Mary Queen of Scots and Richard III). Inspired by childhood visits to as many castles and historical sites her parents could find, and losing herself in their stories (not to mention quite often the castles themselves!), at least now her daydreams make it onto the page. 

After returning to the north-east of England for work, she joined a creative writing class, and has been filling notebooks ever since. Jennifer won North Tyneside Libraries’ Story Tyne short story competition in 2014, and in 2015, her debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London was published by Crooked Cat Books. The full series was re-released by Darkstroke in January 2020. 

Jennifer is a founder and host of the award-winning North Tyneside Writers’ Circle, and has been running writing workshops in North Tyneside since 2015. She also publishes historical fiction novels with Ocelot Press. She lives in Whitley Bay, and is very proud of her two-inch view of the North Sea. 
 
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Sunday, 3 October 2021

BLOG TOUR: Primary Obsessions - Charles Demers

 
The endearing and unflappable Dr. Annick Boudreau regularly confronts a myriad of mental health issues in her psychiatric practice at the West Coast Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Clinic. But even Annick is stunned when Sanjay, a young patient who suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, is arrested for the brutal murder of his roommate.

While Sanjay is tortured by repeated violent thoughts, he is horrified by them and Annick is convinced that he would never enact one of them in real life. But the police and prosecutor are convinced that they have caught the perpetrator and aren't interested in looking very hard. Unable to talk to the authorities because of doctor-patient confidentiality, Annick feels compelled to investigate on her own, whatever the risks.

Primary Obsessions is the first book in a series of mysteries starring Dr. Annick Boudreau and involving themes of mental health. Author (and longtime CBT patient) Charles Demers deftly reveals a particular aspect of psychiatric practice in each book, illuminating shadowy subject matter with masterful sensitivity and sharp wit. Primary Obsessions is an engrossing page-turner and a refreshing reboot of the sleuth genre.


What did I think?

A quick read at just under 200 pages, Primary Obsessions is a great start to a series that gives us a glimpse into a psychiatric practice in Vancouver.  Dr Annick Boudreau really cares about her patients and she definitely goes the extra mile for them, making her a fabulous protagonist and one that I would like to read more about.

The story is a murder mystery but the book also explores the subject of mental health and in doing so, removes the stigma of mental illness as we see the person behind the condition.  When they are called out to a murder scene, the police think they have got their man but Annick is confident that her patient Sanjay is innocent and she will fight to prove it.

I really enjoyed this book; it helped me to understand more about mental health in an entertaining and sensitive way.  Charles Demers should be applauded for that alone, but the novel is also brilliantly written with a gripping plot and a well-developed protagonist.  The only slight niggle I have is that now and again there are some French phrases in the prose which, although it makes it authentic, could be difficult for readers without a basic knowledge of French to understand. 

Gripping and entertaining, Primary Obsessions is a brilliant start to a new series.  Charles Demers has done a wonderful job of putting mental health under the microscope and shows us that it's nothing like what you see on the outside.  I can't wait to read more in the series.

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour; this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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