Wednesday 30 January 2019

Play Dead (D.I. Kim Stone 4) - Angela Marsons

The dead don’t tell secrets… unless you listen.

The girl’s smashed-in face stared unseeing up to the blue sky, soil spilling out of her mouth. A hundred flies hovered above the bloodied mess.

Westerley research facility is not for the faint-hearted. A ‘body farm’ investigating human decomposition, its inhabitants are corpses in various states of decay. But when Detective Kim Stone and her team discover the fresh body of a young woman, it seems a killer has discovered the perfect cover to bury their crime.

Then a second girl is attacked and left for dead, her body drugged and mouth filled with soil. It’s clear to Stone and the team that a serial killer is at work – but just how many bodies will they uncover? And who is next?

As local reporter, Tracy Frost, disappears, the stakes are raised. The past seems to hold the key to the killer’s secrets – but can Kim uncover the truth before a twisted, damaged mind claims another victim …?

What did I think?

I stupidly jumped into the DI Kim Stone series at book 3 but at absolutely no detriment as I immediately loved Angela Marsons writing and her amazing character of Kim Stone.  Book 4 languished on my TBR for far too long but good things come to those who wait and this was SO GOOD!!  You can definitely read this book as a standalone and it is so brilliant that I think it will get the same high ratings from new readers as those given by die-hard Kim Stone fans.  

What a highly imaginative storyline this is; it is so utterly compelling, and slightly grisly, that it draws the reader in immediately.  I must have a touch of the macabre about me as I loved the setting on a body farm and, with witty names of the 'residents' like Jack and Vera, I did quite literally laugh out loud.  To be honest, I didn't realise that body farms were a real thing but it was absolutely fascinating to think that there are such facilities where the different stages of decomposition can be observed and studied.  I do love books that send me off to google to do a little research of my own.

As strong a character as Kim Stone is, she has some competition in Play Dead with reporter Tracy Frost.  Oh how Tracy annoyed me!  She is such a bloodhound; sniffing out stories and generally making a nuisance of herself...but you quickly get the impression that something else lies behind the facade of Tracy Frost.  As much as she annoyed me, she intrigued me and I simply couldn't read fast enough to uncover Tracy's story.

Play Dead is an ingenious storyline with a touch of the macabre that I absolutely raced through.  It is gripping, intriguing and utterly compelling and I am already looking forward to my next literary visit with DI Kim Stone.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Monday 28 January 2019

Deep Dirty Truth (Lori Anderson Book 3) - Steph Broadribb

Single-mother bounty hunter Lori Anderson returns in another nail-biting, high-voltage read. She’s as tough as they come, but when her family is threatened, she takes on a job that could change everything …

Single-mother bounty-hunter Lori Anderson finally has her family back together, but her new-found happiness is shattered when she’s snatched by the Miami Mob – and they want her dead. Rather than a bullet, they offer her a job: find the Mob’s ‘numbers man’ who’s in protective custody after being forced to turn federal witness against them. If Lori succeeds, they’ll wipe the slate clean and the price on her head – and those of her family – will be removed. If she fails, they die.

With North due in court in 48 hours, Lori sets off across Florida, racing against the clock to find him and save her family. Only in this race the prize is more deadly – and the secret she shares with JT more dangerous – than she ever could have imagined.

In this race only the winner gets out alive…

What did I think?

It's not often I read a book and actually want to BE the protagonist but oh how I wish I was even a little bit like Lori Anderson!  Lori Anderson is quite honestly my literary heroine and I could read about her exploits from dawn til dusk.  There are many words to describe bounty hunter, Lori Anderson, but sassy bad-ass springs to my mind every time I think of her.  I have read all of the series so far so I couldn't wait to dive into book 3: Deep Dirty Truth.

With her family threatened (who would even DARE to threaten Lori?), Lori has no choice but to accept an assignment from the Miami Mob.  With her daughter, Dakota, being watched over by her father, JT, Lori can concentrate on her mission although it's never far from her thoughts that Dakota and JT are trapped in the crosshairs.  I felt as if Lori takes more of a centre stage than usual in the book, with Dakota and JT having more cameo appearances, but it is so fast-paced and high-octane that there's only room for one explosive character to take the reins...and who better than Lori? (sorry JT).

I don't want to give any of the plot away but I think Deep Dirty Truth should come packaged with a defibrillator, as my heart raced and threatened to explode during Lori's escapades.  I found myself holding my breath at times but, with such a character as Lori Anderson, I had utmost confidence in Lori's abilities to pull off any feat, however impossible it may seem.

With the mob involved, you can guarantee backstabbing, double-crossing, power plays and a cast of characters who cannot be trusted.  I feared for Lori's safety, getting involved in such a volatile environment but if anyone can handle themselves, Lori can.  You can see that I am talking about Lori as a real person, which just shows the depth of character that Steph Broadribb has created.  Lori is so multi-dimensional that you can't help but think of her as a real person...and I do believe she is destined for the big screen at some point.

You could read Deep Dirty Truth as a standalone but why the heck would you do that?  You MUST pick up Deep Down Dead and Deep Blue Trouble simply because they are flawless, high-paced, action packed thrillers.  This is definitely a whole series (not just a book) that I will read over and over again to revisit Lori Anderson's crazy action-packed world.

Deep Dirty Truth is a fast-paced, high-octane and breathtaking thriller; there is quite honestly not a word out of place.  I strongly suggest you take a deep breath before you dive into Deep Dirty Truth as you may just forget to release the breath you didn't realise you were holding.  I just hope that Steph Broadribb writes as fast I read her books as I CANNOT WAIT for the next Lori Anderson instalment.  A very highly recommended read and a well-deserved 5 stars.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Sunday 27 January 2019

Little Darlings - Melanie Golding


Behind the hospital curtain, someone is waiting . . .
After a traumatic birth, Lauren is alone on the maternity ward with her newborn twins. Her husband has gone home. The nurses are doing their rounds. She can’t stop thinking about every danger her babies now face. But all new mothers think like that. Don’t they?
A terrifying encounter in the middle of the night leaves Lauren convinced someone or something is trying to steal her children. But with every step she takes to keep her babies safe, Lauren sinks deeper and deeper into paranoia and fear. From the stark loneliness of returning home after birth, to the confines of a psychiatric unit, Lauren’s desperation increases as no one will listen to her. But here’s the question: is she mad, or does she know something we don’t?
Loosely inspired by the ghostly folktale The Brewery of Eggshells, where a mother becomes convinced her twins are in danger, Little Darlings offers a fresh perspective on modern motherhood, postnatal psychosis and the roles women play. It has always been thus: folk tales do not spring from whimsy; they warn us and teach us, and speak to the fear in us all.

What did I think?

I could not ignore the buzz on social media about Melanie Golding's debut, Little Darlings, so, despite my toppling TBR pile, I hot-footed it over to NetGalley for a copy and started to read it the minute it dropped on my kindle.  Unable to put it down, 24 hours later I released the breath I had metaphorically been holding as I turned the final page.

What an absolute creepfest!  Despite having nothing in common with her, I really felt for the character of Lauren.  Not only has she given birth for the first time, but she has double trouble in the form of twin boys.  On her first night in the hospital after the birth, she hears a mother in the cubicle next to her eerily singing to another set of twins.  When Lauren gets out of bed to ask the mother to keep the noise down, she is unprepared for what she sees and hears...a threat that her own perfect boys will be swapped for the monsters in the other mother's basket.  Blaming stress of the birth and postnatal psychosis, nobody believes that this even happened...then the boys change, but only Lauren notices the difference and she will do ANYTHING to get her sweet babies back.

Oh my word!  These creepy babies will give me more nightmares than the Chucky doll ever did.  The way they didn't cry like normal babies but watched every movement made my skin crawl and, along with DS Joanna Harper (who has her own baby shaped demons), I had no hesitation in believing Lauren's story.  Was I as deluded as Lauren?  You can make up your own mind when you read Little Darlings.

I love how the story is loosely based on the Welsh fairytale, Brewery of Eggshells.  Any book that has me rushing off to google gets a big thumbs up as it just shows how intriguing and effective the story is.  It also brings a hint of realism (even though it is based on a fairytale) and just maybe this could actually happen.  EEEEEK!!!!

Little Darlings is so creepy that as much as you want to hide behind the sofa, you can't tear your eyes from the page until you have devoured every single word and turned the final page.  It's an outstanding debut that has me eager to see what Melanie Golding comes up with next.  Do not miss this intriguing, addictive, dark, creepy and scarily believable story that may very well give you nightmares!

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Sunday 20 January 2019

The Story Keeper - Anna Mazzola

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857 and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty, and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.
Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.
Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother, many years before.

What did I think?

I absolutely adored Anna Mazzola's debut, The Unseeing, so wild horses couldn't have stopped me from reading The Story Keeper.  As soon as I opened the book, I was instantly transported to 19th century Isle of Skye as Anna Mazzola describes the scenery in such vivid detail that I felt as if I was looking out of our protagonist, Audrey's very own eyes.

A book that gives you goosebumps is always a good sign and boy, did I get goosebumps whilst reading this.  I am partial to an odd fairy tale or two but the fairy folklore in this book will give you nightmares rather than sparkly dreams; the little people on the Isle of Skye are BAD!  As well as the bad fairies, there are restless spirits and something or someone is causing young girls to disappear.  Audrey, following in the footsteps of her mother, came to Skye to collect folklore but she ends up looking into the mysterious disappearances on the island...but what darkness is she about to uncover?

The Story Keeper will appeal to many readers as it very cleverly spans so many genres.  In addition to the depiction of real historical events, it has dark, gothic and atmospheric scenery, fantasy folklore and a spine-tingling mystery at its heart.  Due to the utterly spellbinding and brilliantly peculiar story line, it is one of those books that I found myself racing through but equally didn't want it to end.

The Story Keeper is a deliciously dark, atmospheric tale with real Scottish folklore that gave me goosebumps and made me look over my shoulder a few times.  With magic and mystery at play, absolutely anything could happen and this kept me on my toes from start to finish, leaving me wide-eyed in surprise as the story reached its conclusion.  With this superb addition to her catalogue, Anna Mazzola has firmly secured a place as one of my favourite authors.  A very highly recommended read.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Tuesday 15 January 2019

Once Upon a Dream: A Twisted Tale - Liz Braswell

What if the sleeping beauty never woke up? 

It should be simple - a dragon defeated, a slumbering maiden, a prince poised to wake her. But when said prince falls asleep as soon as his lips meet the princess's, it is clear that this fairy tale is far from over. 

With a desperate fairy's last curse infiltrating her mind, Princess Aurora will have to navigate a dangerous magical landscape deep in the depths of her dreams. Soon she stumbles upon Phillip, a charming prince eager to join her quest. But with Maleficent's agents following her every move, Aurora struggles to discover who her true allies are, and more importantly, who she truly is. Time is running out. Will the sleeping beauty be able to wake herself up?

What did I think?

It won't come as a surprise to many that I love a good twist on a fairytale, so what better than a Twisted Tale?  It did melt my brain a little that I picked book 2 before book 1 but the allure of Sleeping Beauty over Aladdin was too much to resist.  I'm sure they are individual stories anyway, so they don't need to be read in order.

I did have rather high expectations for this book and although it delivered on many counts, I found it perhaps a tiny bit too long-winded.  We all know the story of Sleeping Beauty, so I don't need to give it an introduction here, but what we don't know is what happened inside her head when Sleeping Beauty went to sleep.  

Although not as much as I expected to, I enjoyed this alternative fairy story and because I expected a bit of a no-brainer, I was surprised to find that I began to look at things on a deeper level.  Being based in a dreamworld, the whole story has a hint of psychology about it and, once I realised that the story was so multi-dimensional, I enjoyed it more and found it very cleverly written.

I have more books in the Twisted Tales series to read so it will be interesting to see how they fare against this one.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Friday 11 January 2019

Alice (Chronicles of Alice 1) - Christina Henry

A mind-bending new novel inspired by the twisted and wondrous works of Lewis Carroll...
In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside. In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…
Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago. Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful. And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

What did I think?

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is one of my favourite books so I was very intrigued to read Christina Henry's alternative story.  I knew from the start that this wasn't going to be a fairytale version of Alice although it is equally as bonkers and entertaining as the original Lewis Carroll book.

When she went missing, Alice was found and reunited with her parents but could only rave about 'The Rabbit'.  Her parents were unable to cope and put Alice in an asylum where she was forgotten and left to rot.  The only thing keeping her going is the ability to contact the resident in the room next door through a mousehole.  Her neighbour is Hatcher and he has a plan to escape...

Alice and Hatcher's escape from the asylum during a fire also releases the beast known as the Jabberwock and the beast is on their tail as they travel through the Old City in search of the truth about what happened when Alice went missing.  During their travels, we meet familiar characters in unfamiliar forms as Christina Henry takes us on a dark and dangerous adventure through a nightmare land.  I loved meeting the characters and seeing how Christina Henry had twisted the original tale.

Completely unusual and imaginative but very very dark, Alice will give you nightmares as you journey through an Old City that is a dangerous as Wonderland was colourful.  I'm looking forward to continuing the story in Red Queen.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Wednesday 9 January 2019

GUEST POST: Peach - Wayne Barton

I have something a little different on my blog today - a guest post from Wayne Barton about his new book, Peach.  

After revealing the cover for Peach by Wayne Barton back in June 2018 (click here to see the post), I have followed the progress of the book as it approaches its publication.  In November 2018, the Last Bookstore in Los Angeles hosted a Q&A 'pre-launch event' of the book with a local book club in discussion with Wayne Barton.  You can watch the video below then scroll down to read a little bit about the event written by Wayne Barton.

I completed the first draft of Peach at the end of 2015, after having the idea for about eight or nine years before that.  There have been a few revisions since that first draft, so I suppose getting to November and having an actual event for it made it feel like it was 'done' for the first time.  Having the pre-launch event in the Last Bookstore in Los Angeles was a real honour and I was delighted to discuss the book with Zack and Shannon from ZAS Book Club.  Obviously it's still a couple of weeks until the book is published but all the feedback has been very positive early on, I'm just nervous for people to start reading it!

- Wayne Barton -

Click here to pop over to Amazon to pre-order your copy of Peach.

Monday 7 January 2019

I Invited Her In - Adele Parks

‘I invited her in… and she took everything.’

When Mel hears from a long-lost friend in need of help, she doesn’t hesitate to invite her to stay. Mel and Abi were best friends back in the day, sharing the highs and lows of student life, until Mel’s unplanned pregnancy made her drop out of her studies.

Now, seventeen years later, Mel and Abi’s lives couldn’t be more different. Mel is happily married, having raised her son on her own before meeting her husband, Ben. Now they share gorgeous girls and have a chaotic but happy family home, with three children.

Abi, meanwhile, followed her lover to LA for a glamorous life of parties, celebrity and indulgence. Everything was perfect, until she discovered her partner had been cheating on her. Seventeen years wasted, and nothing to show for it. So what Abi needs now is a true friend to lean on, to share her grief over a glass of wine, and to have some time to heal. And what better place than Mel’s house, with her lovely kids, and supportive husband…

This dark, unsettling tale of the reunion of long-lost friends is thoroughly gripping exploration of wanting what you can’t have, jealousy and revenge from Sunday Times bestseller Adele Parks.

What did I think?

As a long time fan of her writing, I haven't read an Adele Parks novel for a while but there was something so very 'inviting' (sorry!) about her new book, I Invited Her In.  As soon as I picked it up, I remembered why I love Adele Parks books so much: the writing is so descriptive and the characters are so very 3 dimensional that it's like watching a soap opera created with wonderful words.

Mel and Abi were friends at university who lost touch when an unplanned pregnancy caused Mel to drop out of her studies.  Many years later, Mel is surprised when Abi contacts her out of the blue and before she knows it she has invited Abi to stay at her house.  Mel's house reminded me a bit of the TV show Outnumbered: always busy and a little frazzled with children at the heart of it.  Just how will childless Abi fit in?  Oh she fits in alright, she makes herself quite at home and I even exclaimed out loud at one point 'what a bitch!'

As Abi makes her intentions clear I was absolutely fuming!  How dare she!  I knew she had an ulterior motive but I didn't realise just how devious she was.  As the cracks in Mel's family spread like a broken eggshell, I was firmly on Team Mel and hoped that blood proved to be thicker than water.  With a bitch like Abi around though, anything could happen.

I loved the way that I Invited Her In put a friendship under the microscope.  Mel considered Abi a friend at university but it's true that you never really know how the other person feels about you.  So many people are fake and it seems like some of us are forever destined to get burned.

This is one of those books that I would place in my bitch-lit genre; Abi really grated on me and made me so mad whereas Mel was so trusting and honest.  I'm even feeling mad just writing about it!  As mad as I was, I couldn't read it fast enough so see if Abi's true colours would be revealed before it was too late.  All in all, a very enjoyable read.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Saturday 5 January 2019

The Child - Fiona Barton

When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore.

For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her.

For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.

And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.

The Child’s story will be told.

What did I think?

I loved Fiona Barton's debut, The Widow, so I was keen to read her second book, The Child.  With short, punchy chapters alternating between voices, The Child is a very quick read and difficult to put down.  Even though I quite quickly worked out where the story was heading it didn't detract from my enjoyment.

I love the link to The Widow via Kate Waters, the journalist who has a nose for a good story.  I particularly enjoyed reading how Kate worked and felt that she was a journalist with a heart who not only cares about getting a good story but she cares about the subject she is covering.  It enables people to open up to Kate in a way that protects her integrity and shows journalism in a good light.

The other three voices belong to Emma, Jude and Angela.  Emma is a young woman with a troubled past and a strange relationship with her mum, Jude.  Meanwhile Angela is still reeling from the loss of her newborn daughter, Alice, stolen from her hospital room when Angela popped out for a shower.  Angela is convinced that the bones of a baby found on a building site are those of her daughter, Alice, but nobody will listen to her except Kate.  Kate thinks she's on to the story of the century until another mother claims that the bones belong to her baby.  Just who's baby is it?

The Child is an easy, albeit slightly predictable, read that I devoured over a 24 hour period.  It's not going to appeal to those readers who love a massive twist that they didn't see coming, however, it's a well-rounded emotional book that touches on some dark topics with subtlety and respect.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Thursday 3 January 2019

Vox - Christina Dalcher

Silence can be deafening.
Jean McClellan spends her time in almost complete silence, limited to just one hundred words a day. Any more, and a thousand volts of electricity will course through her veins.
Now the new government is in power, everything has changed. But only if you’re a woman.
Almost overnight, bank accounts are frozen, passports are taken away and seventy million women lose their jobs. Even more terrifyingly, young girls are no longer taught to read or write.
For herself, her daughter, and for every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice. This is only the beginning…

What did I think?

I haven't read The Handmaid's Tale (yet) so I went into Vox completely blind from a feminist fiction point of view.  I loved the premise that women could only speak 100 words a day before a little wrist counter would give them an electric shock.  God help me!

Jean McClellan and her daughter wear such a wrist counter...until the government realise that Jean has knowledge that they need so they give her back her voice.  As with all governments, nothing is ever as it seems and this was one of the things that raised my blood pressure rather than silencing the women.  We are all just puppets...

I was hoping to feel a sense of empowerment after reading Vox but it didn't quite deliver on that front for me.  Having said that, it's a very good story and I enjoyed it immensely; I can totally see this being a serialisation on TV and I would be on the edge of my seat along with the other viewers.

Vox is compelling reading and a definite thought provoking page-turner.  I think it is a book I will need to read again to fully experience the drama and delve further into the topics contained within.

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

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon