Dark Place To Hide - AJ Waines

Dark Place To Hide: Book Tour and Review!

Dark Place To Hide - AJ WainesI am really excited to be part of the Blog Tour for AJ Waines’ new book, Dark Place To Hide! Read on for more information and my review!

Synopsis:

She’s trying to tell you – if only you’d listen…

About to break the news to his wife, Diane, that he’s infertile, criminology expert, Harper Penn, gets a call to say she’s been rushed to hospital with a miscarriage. Five days later, when Diane fails to return from the village shop, police think she must have taken off with a secret lover, but Harper is convinced the online messages are not from her.

In the same Hampshire village, plucky seven-year-old Clara has retreated into a make-believe world after an accident. Then she, too, goes missing.

As Harper sets out on a desperate quest to find them both, he has no idea what he’s up against. Could the threat be closer than he thinks? And is there a hidden message in Clara’s fairy tales?

DARK PLACE TO HIDE is a chilling psychological mystery with a cold-blooded deviant lurking at the core.

Dark Place to Hide

I had no idea what to expect when I started reading this novel, but I was sucked in right from the start! It definitely fits well in the ‘psychological mystery’ category and moves along at a great pace without being too fast.

The characters were really well developed. Harper was a great character in my opinion, partly because he wasn’t too perfect. He had his problems, but he was determined to find his wife and Clara and his troubled past and weaknesses only added to the richness of his personality. I really liked Clara as a character too and thought she was really sweet and charming! Despite the great characterization, it doesn’t feel like we learn a huge amount about Diane (but then, she is a missing person so that make sense really!) One character I actively disliked (and I’m pretty sure I, as the reader, was meant to) was Alexa. I found her so annoying, but felt she was also instrumental in a part of the book that I really didn’t like. It is one of her actions whilst her sister Diane was missing that I felt was quite ridiculous, and that is my only real criticism of this novel. I don’t want to specify what exactly or say much more so as not to give too much away, but reading it you may recognise which part I’m talking about and feel like I did, thinking ‘C’mon, would she really do that?’.

Most of the novel is told from Harper’s point of view, and we really see the desperation he endures with his wife missing. Hearing his thoughts and understanding what he is feeling allows the reader to understand him as a character on a much deeper level. We also see some of the story from Diane’s perspective and Clara’s too, both of which add to the tension which is really well built throughout the novel.

I really enjoyed this novel, and felt it was very well written. I would certainly like to read more of AJ Waines’ novels and would definitely recommend Dark Place To Hide as an entertaining, well-crafted read. Give it a go!

Rating: 4/5

Dark Place To Hide is out now and available to buy on Amazon here.

Many thanks to the author who provided an advance copy of this novel in return for an honest review


About the Author
AJ WainesAJ Waines was a Psychotherapist for fifteen years, during which time she worked with ex-offenders from high-security institutions, giving her a rare insight into abnormal psychology. She is now a full-time novelist with an Agent and has publishing deals in France and Germany (Random House). Both her debut novels, The Evil Beneath and Girl on a Train have been Number One in ‘Murder’ and ‘Psychological Thrillers’ in the UK Kindle Charts. Girl on a Train has also been a Number One Bestseller in the entire Kindle Chart in Australia. In 2015, she was ranked in the Top 100 UK authors on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing).

Her new psychological thriller, Dark Place to Hide, was released July 30th 2015, and is available HERE.

Alison lives in Southampton, UK, with her husband. Visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins

The Girl On The Train is ‘Officially Worth The Hype’!

The Girl On The Train by Paula Hawkins The Girl on The Train has been on my ‘To-Read’ list for quite some time.

I’ve seen various reviews, most very positive, and after a while I started to wonder if this was going to be one of those over-hyped books that isn’t worth of its excessive publicity. Would I read it expecting too much?

Turns out I needn’t have worried – it was flippin’ brilliant!

Synopsis:

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

The Girl on the Train

The story starts with Rachael, who takes the same train to and back from London every day. The train often stops at signals outside the back of some houses, and Rachael looks into their gardens and thinks about the people living there and what they might be doing. One day she sees something that shocks her which she can’t stop thinking about, and she then begins to investigate, with dangerous consequences.

The story is told from several perspectives (Rachael, Anna and Megan’s), and jumps forwards and backwards in time before the ‘event’ in question and afterwards too. In some novels this can be a little hard to keep track of, but keep an eye on the name and date and it should all makes sense without too much confusion!

I didn’t really expect The Girl on the Train to be written particularly well because it it’s been so popular and written about a great deal, and also because it’s classed as a ‘thriller’ and that sometimes (but not always, of course) means fast-paced and exciting but also slightly trashy and ridiculous. I know that’s a stupid assumption but there you go! When I actually started the novel, however, I soon realised it was really well written. Hawkins describes the lonely, strange world of Rachael’s so convincingly that you sometimes feel like you’re really stuck in her desperate life too. The characters were well developed and interesting and the story moved along at a really good pace, keeping me guessing until the final few chapters.

I don’t really want to give much away but I will just say, if you’re unsure whether it’s worth buying/ borrowing/ stealing (perhaps don’t steal!), I would say it really is! I really didn’t want this novel to end and barely put it down. I just wish it had been longer- that’s my only ‘criticism’!

Rating: 5/5

Have you read The Girl On The Train? What did you think?

Go Set a Watchman

Interesting thoughts on Go Set A Watchman from The Readers Room!

The Reader's Room

covers

Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably seen some of the controversy surrounding Go Set a Watchman. The “sequel,” released last week, was actually written prior to To Kill A Mockingbird and focuses on Scout as an adult. Harper Lee’s editor liked the childhood flashbacks in Go Set a Watchman and encouraged Lee to rewrite the book focusing on Scout as a child and, thus, To Kill A Mockingbird was born.

Rumors and speculation abound around the “newer” novel. The timing of the book’s release along with information about Lee’s ability to provide informed consent — a drastic shift in position after years of stating she never wanted to publish again — is shady to say the least. You can read more about that here. Lack of informed consent in publishing is not new. Kafka requested that his works be destroyed after his death and he was clear…

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Wish You Were Here by Catherine Alliott

Wish You Were Here: a perfect summer read!

Wish You Were Here by Catherine AlliottWish You Were Here is Catherine Alliott’s newest book, which follows her many previously-released and well-loved novels. Having never read any of her previous work, I wasn’t sure what to expect- but I’m certainly converted now!

Synopsis:

When Flora, James and their two teenage daughters are offered the holiday of a lifetime in a chateau in the south of France in return for one simple good deed, they jump at the chance. They exchange the confines of Clapham, the weight of the mortgage and anxieties over their future for a blissful break.

But Flora didn’t anticipate a mysterious guest and a whole heap of family baggage coming too.

With James developing a schoolboy crush on a famous singer and Flora distracted by ghosts from her past, their dream holiday suddenly takes some very unexpected turns.

Wish You Were Here

Firstly, the characters in this novel were just great! Flora in particular was so likeable and funny. Though she had her dubious moments where she could have thought things through a little better, I never felt like I wanted to give her a proper shake as much as I did with certain other characters (husband James and sister-in-law Sally in particular)! I found her very entertaining and at various points throughout the story I laughed out loud at what she had said or thought to herself. Her self-deprecating personality, with its at-times fiery edge, made her good fun and who, along with the other great characters, I really enjoyed reading about. Pretty much everyone in this story were convincing and well-developed, and this means you actually care about what’s happening to them- or I did, anyway!

The setting of Wish You Were Here made me want to just run away on holiday. Now. Not just because things get stressful here at home, but because the descriptions of Provence were so inviting! If you were on holiday somewhere sunny (or even if you’re not!) then it makes the perfect book for summer. Though it’s got some quite intense moments and lots of ups and downs, the vein of humour that runs through the story as well as the brilliant characters ensures that it remains a fairly light, witty read that is bound to leave you smiling at the end.

I certainly want to read more of Catherine Alliott’s work after reading Wish You Were Here, and would definitely recommend this novel to anyone wanting a great summer read.

Rating: 4/5

Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

What kind of novels do you like reading on holiday?

Forensics by Val McDermid

Forensics by Val McDermidSynopsis:

Val McDermid is one of the finest crime writers we have, whose novels have captivated millions of readers worldwide with their riveting narratives of characters who solve complex crimes and confront unimaginable evil. In the course of researching her bestselling novels McDermid has become familiar with every branch of forensics, and now she uncovers the history of this science, real-world murders and the people who must solve them.

The dead talk—to the right listener. They can tell us all about themselves: where they came from, how they lived, how they died, and, of course, who killed them. Forensic scientists can unlock the mysteries of the past and help serve justice using the messages left by a corpse, a crime scene, or the faintest of human traces. Forensics draws on interviews with some of these top-level professionals, ground-breaking research, and McDermid’s own original interviews and firsthand experience on scene with top forensic scientists.

Along the way, McDermid discovers how maggots collected from a corpse can help determine one’s time of death; how a DNA trace a millionth the size of a grain of salt can be used to convict a killer; and how a team of young Argentine scientists led by a maverick American anthropologist were able to uncover the victims of a genocide. It’s a journey that will take McDermid to war zones, fire scenes, and autopsy suites, and bring her into contact with both extraordinary bravery and wickedness, as she traces the history of forensics from its earliest beginnings to the cutting-edge science of the modern day.

Forensics: What Bugs, Burns, Prints, DNA and More Tell Us About Crime

Forensics is a detailed, fascinating look into the world of forensic science. Val McDermid covers various different elements and skills which are utilised by forensic scientists and investigators, covering topics from fingerprinting to facial reconstruction and toxicology. Each section is explained and explored in just the right level of detail, ensuring the reader gets the whole picture without becoming too scientific for the average person.

McDermid brilliantly weaves information about forensics techniques and procedures with real life cases and their outcomes. She shows the reader how the case was dealt with and manages to be fairly unbiased in her writing. Some past ideas and preconceptions are now known to be invalid but she shows why investigators and/or scientists at the time would have believed them to be true, so you get a real feel for the context.

I was surprised at how much I loved reading this book. Perhaps I had preconceptions that it might be hard to read or quite dry but I got as addicted to reading it as I have done in various other novels, perhaps even more so because all the cases are real. Some of them I could remember from my childhood or teenage years, and this was to a certain extent even more interesting, as I often hadn’t understood them properly back then. This all adds to the mystery and intrigue.

For those who are queasy or easily upset, be warned- Val McDermid doesn’t pull any punches here. Some really brutal crimes are laid out for the readers to learn about and there were a few times when I felt quite horrified reading about them, which I was surprised about as I read a LOT of crime (though real life is always more shocking). However, I’d obviously prefer this to a diluted or sugar-coated version of events.

Overall this is just a fascinating book- I can’t imagine anyone would find it boring unless you really aren’t interested in the subject matter at all. I felt like I learnt a lot from it and will no doubt bore other people with my new found wisdom about the world of forensics! Highly recommended.

Rating: 5/5

** Many thanks to the publisher for providing an ARC in return for an honest review **

Buy with Amazon
The Lives Between Us by Theresa Rizzo

The Lives Between Us – book tour & review!

The Lives Between Us by Theresa Rizzo
I’m really pleased to be part of the book tour for The Lives Between Us by Theresa Rizzo, which was published on July 1st. Here’s some info about the book, the author and then read on for my review!

Synopsis:

How far would you go to save the one you love?

Reporter Skylar Kendall has run from commitment all her life, pushing people away before they leave her, until her niece worms her way into Skye’s heart and settles in tight. Skye relaxes into a career she enjoys and relishes being a doting aunt.

Then her niece becomes gravely ill. Unable to bear yet another loss, Skye is determined to find a cure, but the girl’s only hope lies in the embryonic stem cell therapy Michigan Senator Edward Hastings repeatedly opposes. When Skye fails to find alternative treatment in time, she vows to end the senator’s political career.

Curious about the woman behind the scathing articles on his best friend, Mark Dutton pursues Skye. Dating Mark gives her access to Hastings’s life and secrets that would launch Skye’s career and satisfy her need for retribution… Only she hadn’t counted on falling in love.Can she avenge the lives lost to politics at the expense of her new love and friends?

The Lives Between Us

About the author:

Author Theresa RizzoTheresa Rizzo is a bestselling, award-winning author who writes emotional stories that explore the complexity of relationships and families through real-life trials.

Born and raised in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, she currently lives outside of Boulder, Colorado with her husband of thirty-two years. She’s raised four wonderful children who are now scattered across the country. Theresa’s debut book, He Belongs to Me, won the 2014 National Indie Excellence Award for romance and the 2014 Readers Crown Award for Mainstream Women’s Fiction and was a finalist in the General Fiction Category of The 2013 USA Best Book Awards.

Find Theresa on the web at theresarizzo.com, or connect with her on facebook, twitter and Goodreads.


[My Review]

I really enjoyed The Lives Between Us! I enjoyed the subject matter, which is not something I’ve read about before and which is pretty complex, with many conflicting opinions and arguments. Theresa Rizzo manages to make the issue and debate around using embryonic stem cells (fairly) easy to understand – there were still a few points where I lost track of what they were taking about exactly, but not many- and injects human interest and entertainment value into it too. I feel like I learnt something from this novel, and I really liked that!

I enjoyed the fast pace of the novel, and the characters which were well developed and convincing. Though Skylar got on my nerves at times and I didn’t always agree with all of the Senator’s beliefs, none of the characters were portrayed as ‘evil’ just because of which side they were on. They all had their faults (though Mark sometimes seemed almost too good to be true, I kept expecting him to slip up a lot more than he did!) and didn’t seem overly simplified in their opinions and beliefs. It was tricky at times to decide who exactly I felt most sympathy for, and that shows Rizzo’s skill at creating interesting characters that I wanted to read more about.

There were points, particularly when describing the romance between Mark and Skylar, where I felt it was a little ‘cheesey’ for my tastes. However for a lot of readers I imagine this all added to the drama and interest in the outcome for the characters. I felt that some were very forgiving considering what had happened, but I guess that was intentional to show you that forgiveness is so important, no matter how someone has hurt you or betrayed you.

Overall I would definitely recommend this book. Although the subject matter is pretty serious, it’s not just about that – it’s about the way people deal with tough choices and circumstances, and highlights that important message: there are lots of different sides to every story. It’s easy to read and something a little different- give it a go!

[Rating: 4/5]

The Lives Between Us is out now.

** Many thanks to the author for providing an ARC in return for an honest review **

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip Pullman

Book Club: Philip Pullman’s ‘The Good Man Jesus…’

Hello all. Time for another Reading group post (sorry it’s been a while to post!)

June’s book club choice was:

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ by Philip PullmanThe Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ – Philip Pullman

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

I’ve never read any Pullman before, and my friend who picked this one said she didn’t go for any of the ‘His Dark Materials‘ trilogy, or other more obvious choices, but instead went for this novel as it is something very different to what most of us would probably pick, and because it was bound to have a lot to discuss.

Most of the group really enjoyed reading the novel. We felt that it was easy to read and not too long in length so none of us got bored. However, there were points where we got a little lost trying to understand what exactly was going on. It was interesting as we all have very different upbringings when it comes to religion, coming from Catholic, Protestant, Muslim and atheist backgrounds. Despite this, though, quite a few of us felt that we’d like to re-read The Bible at some point to refresh the original new testament story in our minds, and compare how Pullman’s retelling of it compares.

Though Philip Pullman perhaps isn’t Christianity’s biggest fan, I didin’t feel like this novel was completely destroying the whole concept of the Christian faith like some reviews claim. It certainly painted Christianity in a negative light at times, but I felt it was a really interesting retelling and wasn’t too preachy. It’s written in a similar way to the new testament, but with modern English language so it’s obviously a lot easier to understand.

I really loved the basic idea of the book- that Jesus had a twin called Christ, and this explains some of the ‘miracles’ in the Bible. I won’t give away anything else so as not to ruin enjoyment of the book, but it’s really interesting to read elements that most of us have probably learned about in school, if not more recently, and see how they’ve been altered to fit this new story.

One thing we did all highlight in the book group session, however, was that there were a few points where we all got quite lost and unsure of what was going on. This was despite some of us having a better recollection and understanding of the Bible than others. I certainly felt like sometimes the many character names were a little confusing, but others may not find that this is the case. It’s only a short novel but I did find I lost interest a bit in these confusing bits. I think if you really aren’t interested at all in Christian theology, even if just to see how Pullman has changed certain parts, then this may seem a little pointless and probably isn’t for you!

Overall I was really pleased that this was picked as the book group choice this month, as it wasn’t something I probably would have picked myself, and would recommend this to anyone interested in reading classic tales, re-told.

Rating: 3.5/5

Next month:

Orange is the New BlackOrange is the New Black: My Time in a Women’s Prison – Piper Kerman

Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women's Prison
Synopsis:

With a career, a boyfriend, and a loving family, Piper Kerman barely resembles the reckless young woman who delivered a suitcase of drug money ten years before. But that past has caught up with her. Convicted and sentenced to fifteen months at the infamous federal correctional facility in Danbury, Connecticut, the well-heeled Smith College alumna is now inmate #11187–424—one of the millions of people who disappear “down the rabbit hole” of the American penal system.

From her first strip search to her final release, Kerman learns to navigate this strange world with its strictly enforced codes of behavior and arbitrary rules. She meets women from all walks of life, who surprise her with small tokens of generosity, hard words of wisdom, and simple acts of acceptance.

Heartbreaking, hilarious, and at times enraging, Kerman’s story offers a rare look into the lives of women in prison—why it is we lock so many away and what happens to them when they’re there.

I’m really looking forward to reading this – I love the TV series (so far- I haven’t finished it yet) but will be interested to read the novel that the show is based on. I have to admit I didn’t realise that the programme was based on a book at all – did anyone else know this?

That’s all for now, but I’ll be back with a new review very shortly!

The Girls by Lisa Jewell

The Girls by Lisa Jewell

The Girls by Lisa JewellSynopsis:

You live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses.

You’ve known your neighbours for years and you trust them. Implicitly.

You think your children are safe.

But are they really?

Midsummer night: a thirteen-year-old girl is found unconscious in a dark corner of the garden square. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Utterly believable characters, a gripping story and a dark secret buried at its core: this is Lisa Jewell at her heart-stopping best.

The Girls
The Girls is Lisa Jewell’s latest novel (her 13th!) and it’s a brilliant, wonderfully written story of mystery and obsession. Though the main theme could be deemed as relationships, the story has a really dark undercurrent running through it and deals with a range of issues.

I found this novel really atmospheric- so much so that I was still thinking about it long afterwards and could really picture the locations in my mind.The characters were all brilliantly developed and convincing, and each had their own personality which added wonderfully to the storyline.

The novel starts with the ‘incident’ and then takes the reader to the events leading up to it. We then see the ‘after’ part of the story, where we learn what actually happened. Both parts were really enjoyable to read and were quite eerie as I really had no idea who was at fault until very near to the end.

The story mainly focused on Pip, her mother Claire and friend Adele’s narratives, though we also saw events from various other characters’ points of view and this was really interesting. It keeps the reader wondering who was telling the truth and who was being deceptive.

Lisa Jewell’s writing is brilliant and really draws the reader in. It is a mark of her talent that she can turn something so ‘ordinary’- a communal garden and the people living around it- into almost a dark, threatening and mysterious place. As various characters mentioned, the garden is like a different world, and the usual rules don’t seem to apply. The descriptions are incredibly vivid and the story moves at just the right pace to keep the reader guessing.

I haven’t actually read any other Lisa Jewell books but it seems like her last few novels have been a bit darker and more serious- but still just as addictive. I certainly couldn’t put The Girls down and would love to read more of her work soon!

Rating: 5/5

** Many thanks to the publisher for providing an ARC of this book in return for an honest review **

Buy with Amazon

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls: review

Suicide Notes from Beautiful GirlsSynopsis:

Pitched as Gone Girl meets Thirteen Reasons Why.

June barely has time to mourn the death of her best friend Delia, before Delia’s ex-boyfriend convinces her Delia was murdered, and June is swept into a tangle of lies, deceit, and conspiracy.

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls is an absorbing page-turner which falls into the YA category but which, I feel, can be enjoyed at any age. I certainly don;’t tend to read a lot of YA books- not because I purposefully avoid them, but really just because there are so many adult fiction novels that I see and want to read that YA doesn’t always get onto my radar as much. However, I was so glad I read this!

I really don’t want to give too much away about the story as there are so many twists and turns! The story is told from altering perspectives, but mainly from the point of view of June, who is (was?) Delia’s best friend. Obviously due to their ages there’s a lot of teenage talk and slang throughout, and I have to say quite a few of the characters got on my nerves, but that seems to be kind of the point… you don’t necessarily like them all, but I was absorbed nonetheless into their dark and crazy world.

This book really keeps you guessing throughout which I really liked! Some aspects of it were pretty unrealistic but it was a lot of fun (though pretty dark) and I really enjoyed reading it. This is actually author Lynn Weingarten’s third book but the first to be published in the UK, so I’d be interested in reading her other novels too, if I could get hold of them!

I’d recommend Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls to anyone looking for an entertaining, enthralling novel which is easy to read.

Rating: 4/5

Buy with Amazon

Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls is published on July 7th.

** Many thanks to Netgalley for the ARC  in return for an honest review **