The Child Finder [review]

The Child Finder - Rene Denfeld

Title: The Child Finder
Author: Rene Denfeld
Publisher: Orion

[Synopsis]

Naomi Cottle finds missing children. When the police have given up their search and an investigation stalls, families call her. She possesses a rare, intuitive sense, born out of her own harrowing experience that allows her to succeed when others have failed.

Young Madison Culver has been missing for three years. She vanished on a family trip to the mountainous forests of Oregon, where they’d gone to cut down a tree for Christmas. Soon after she disappeared, blizzards swept the region and the authorities presumed she died from exposure.

But Naomi knows that Madison isn’t dead. Can she find the child – and also find out why this particular case is stirring the shadows of her own memories? Could her future be bound to this girl in a way she doesn’t understand?

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[My Review]

The Child Finder is a well-written, atmospheric novel with a bit of a twist.

The plot is intriguing, with a few different strands to it – we hear from this mysterious ‘Snow Girl’, Naomi’s own thoughts and feelings and past life, and some of the other families Naomi has tried to help.

I loved the alternative narratives and the book’s twist on the usual police/ detective novel; there was more of the thoughts and feelings of people, not just the procedure of finding them – though that is in here too. Naomi is a unique kind of ‘detective’ in that she ‘finds’ children – having had some experience of being a lost child herself. I found some of the novel, around the middle, to be a little slow and at times found my attention wandering, but the pace picked up again towards the end when I was really eager to find out whether Naomi would be able to find little Madison. Some sentences did feel a little overdramatic in the way they were written but I felt that most of the book was just right.

There are plenty of emotive parts and some uncomfortable scenes which adds to the tension, and I really liked Naomi, though she had her own problems and faults – I’d like to read more about her in future books!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Orion for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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The Other Us [audiobook review]

The Other Us - Fiona Harper

Title: The Other Us
Author: Fiona Harper
Publisher: HarperCollins UK

[Synopsis]

If you could turn back time, would you choose a different life?

Forty-something Maggie is facing some hard truths. Her only child has flown the nest for university and, without her daughter in the house, she’s realising her life, and her marriage to Dan, is more than a little stale.

When she spots an announcement on Facebook about a uni reunion, she can’t help wondering what happened to Jude Hanson. The same night Dan proposed, Jude asked Maggie to run away with him, and she starts to wonder how different her life might have been if she’d broken Dan’s heart and taken Jude up on his offer.

Wondering turns into fantasising, and then one morning fantasising turns into reality. Maggie wakes up and discovers she’s back in 1992 and twenty-one again. Is she brave enough to choose the future she really wants, and if she is, will the grass be any greener on the other side of the fence?

Two men. Two very different possible futures. But is there only once chance at happiness?

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[My Review]

This is a book that really makes you think about life’s ‘what if’ moments, and though it’s not something I think about a lot, The Other Us did make me think that, if one thing changed in your life, things could be so different – but would they be any better?

The Other Us is an enjoyable, sweet and, at times, poignant read which follows some great characters. It centers around Maggie and shows her complex relationships with Dan, Jude, Becca and others as she navigates life, relationships, family and kids, careers… all whilst wondering what if? Maggie isn’t really happy at the start of the novel, and always wonders how things would be if she had ended up with ‘the one that got away’, Jude. When she begins to experience an alternative reality in which she had got together with Jude, it shows her how happy she could have been – and also how some elements in her life also change as a result.

The themes in this novel aren’t just about Maggie’s marriage/ relationship but covers her friendship with Becca, her choice of career, whether she has children… it’s a great novel for making you, along with Maggie, wonder whether she’s really ‘messed up’ her current life or not. The story itself is fairly light-hearted and fun, though at the beginning I did find it quite upsetting, if I imagined being in the same situation myself. There are parts which are quite predictable but I think you often expect that with novels in this genre and it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the story. The different timelines really drew me in – I love novels that do this (as long as it’s done well, of course!), and it wasn’t too confusing to follow.

I found Katie Scarfe to be a great narrator for this; her voice didn’t get on my nerves (I sometimes find audiobook narrators’ voices can grate!) and she presented the story really well. I’d definitely recommend The Other Us in both a readable or narrated format – it was enjoyable and really kept my attention throughout!

[Rating: 4/5]

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My 5* reads of 2017! #BestBooksOf2017

Just in time for Christmas, here’s a round up of all the books I read in 2017 which I gave 5 stars to – the ‘best of’ list!

There’s a good number of books here because, after all, I only pick books to read which I think I’ll enjoy to start with, but I also gave a lot of 4 stars, not necessarily 5, last year… so you know these are good ‘uns!

I’ve linked to Goodreads in the title and added my reviews there  (where applicable) as well, so hopefully you’ll find some new books for your TBR list!

So, in no particular order, here we go…

    1. Everything But The Truth – Gillian McAllister [my review]
    2. The House – Simon Lelic [my review]
    3. The Secrets She Keeps – Michael Robotham [my review]
    4. Close Enough to Touch – Colleen Oakley [my review]
    5. Ragdoll – Daniel Cole [my review]
    6. We Were the Lucky Ones – Georgia Hunter [my review]
    7. The Breakdown – B.A. Paris [my review]
    8. How to Stop Time – Matt Haig [my review]
    9. The Child – Fiona Barton [my review]
    10. The Chalk Pit (Ruth Galloway, #9) – Elly Griffiths [my review]
    11. The Summer of Impossible Things – Rowan Coleman [my review]
    12. The House of Secrets – Sarra Manning [my review]
    13. Cold Blood (Detective Erika Foster, #5) – Robert Bryndza [my review]
    14. The Fourth Monkey – J.D. Barker [my review]
    15. Mad (Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know Trilogy, #1) – Chloé Esposito [my review]
    16. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman [my review]
    17. The Red Ribbon – Lucy Adlington [my review]
    18. All the Good Things – Clare Fisher [my review]
    19. The Word Is Murder – Anthony Horowitz [my review]
    20. Yellow Room – Shelan Rodger [my review]
    21. Standard Deviation – Katherine Heiny [my review]
    22. The Honeymoon – Tina Seskis [my review]
    23. Anatomy of a Scandal –  Sarah Vaughan [review coming very soon!]
    24. Exquisite – Sarah Stovell [my review]
    25. Crimson Lake – Candice Fox [my review]
    26. The Doll House – Phoebe Morgan [my review]
    27. He Said She Said – Erin Kelly [my review]
    28. Yesterday – Felicia Yap [my review]
    29. Last Breath – Robert Bryndza [my review]
    30. The Two O’ Clock Boy – Mark Hill [my review]
    31. Best Day Ever – Kaira Roud [my review]
    32. The Stolen Child – Sanjida Kay [my review]
    33. Before This Is Over  – Amanda Hickie [my review]
    34. Seven Days of Us – Francesca Hornak [my review]
    35. This Love – Dani Atkins [my review]
    36. The Perfect Victim – Corrie Jackson [my review]
    37. Let the Dead Speak – Jane Casey [my review]
    38. Burned and Broken – Mark Hardie [my review]
    39. Black Widow – Christopher Brookmyre [my review]
    40. Where I Lost Her – T. Greenwood [my review]
    41. The Chalk Pit – Elly Griffiths [my review]
    42. We Were the Lucky Ones – Georgia Hunter [my review]
    43. Close To Home – Cara Hunter [my review]

What were your 5 star reads of 2017?

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It Started With A Tweet [blog tour review + GIVEAWAY!]

It Started with a Tweet - Anna Bell

Today I’m really excited to be on the blog tour for Anna Bell’s newest novel, It Started With A Tweet! Read on to see what I thought of it, plus a giveaway to win a copy (there’s 3 to give away)…

Title: It Started With A Tweet
Author: Anna Bell
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre

[Synopsis]

Can Daisy Hobson log off for love…?

Could you survive a digital detox? This hilarious new romantic comedy from the author of The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart is perfect for fans of Lucy Diamond and Sophie Kinsella.

Daisy Hobson lives her whole life online. A marketing manager by day, she tweets her friends, instagrams every meal and arranges (frankly, appalling) dates on Tinder. But when her social media obsession causes her to make a catastrophic mistake at work, Daisy finds her life going into free-fall . . .

Her sister Rosie thinks she has the answer to all of Daisy’s problems – a digital detox in a remote cottage in Cumbria, that she just happens to need help doing up. Soon, too, Daisy finds herself with two welcome distractions: sexy French exchange-help Alexis, and Jack, the brusque and rugged man-next-door, who keeps accidentally rescuing her.

But can Daisy, a London girl, ever really settle into life in a tiny, isolated village? And, more importantly, can she survive without her phone?

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[My review]

To me, a contemporary romance can veer very quickly into the cheesy/ overly predictable/ ridiculous however, gets it bang on for me. It’s a great mix of humour with interesting characters and a fun and engaging storyline.

I really loved daisy as a character. Even at the start, when she seems a little silly, I found myself warming to her, especially as the novel continues and you realise that, although she definitely has her flaws (as do many of her friends), she has got a likable character when she’s not completely absorbed in her Social Media life. After the first few chapters I really got into it and found myself completely invested in Daisy’s life. Though some parts are kind of predictable, there’s a lot of surprises too, and I thought the storyline itself – about our ties and dependence on the digital world – was really relevant, and a bit different as well.

It Started With A Tweet is a really fun read that will definitely leave you smiling; it’s how I wish more books in this genre could be – charming, funny and sweet, without being too cheesy. A great read and one I would definitely recommend – and as my first Anna Bell novel, I’ll certainly be reading more when I fancy a warm and witty story!

[Rating: 4.5/5]

Many thanks to Bonnier Zaffre for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review, and for inviting me onto the blog tour!



Giveaway Time!

If you fancy winning a copy of this brilliant novel, you may be in luck – there are 3 to give away, courtesy of Bonnier Zaffre! Enter via the Rafflecopter form below to be in with a chance of winning one of the copies! (Open to UK residents only, no giveaway accounts please!)

Click here to enter

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WWW Wednesday [20 December 2017]

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Sam at Taking On a World of Words.

Visit her blog to take a look, and get involved too if you can, even if you don’t have a blog yourself – as she says, you can leave your answers in the post comments. I’d love to see your answers too!

The three W’s are:

    1. What have you finished reading?
    2. What are you currently reading?
    3. What will you read next?

What have you finished reading? 

Reviews for the below to follow soon!

The Other Us – Fiona Harper [audiobook]
Anatomy of a Scandal – Sarah Vaughan

What are you currently reading? 

The Child Finder - Rene Denfeld

The Child Finder – Rene Denfield

What will you read next?

I think either Before We Were Yours – Lisa Wingate
Or…
The Chalk Man – C.J. Tudor


What have you been reading recently? Any exciting books you’re looking forward to reading next?

If you do your own version of this tag please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to read your answers too!


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The Case of Mary Bell: A Portrait of a Child Who Murdered [audiobook review]

The Case of Mary Bell - Gitta Sereny

Title: The Case of Mary Bell: A Portrait of a Child Who Murdered 
Author: Gitta Sereny
Format: Audiobook

[Synopsis]

In December 1968 two girls who lived next door to each other – Mary, aged eleven, and Norma, thirteen – stood before a criminal court in Newcastle, accused of strangling two little boys; Martin Brown, four years old, and Brian Howe, three.

Norma was acquitted. Mary Bell, the younger but infinitely more sophisticated and cooler of the two, was found guilty of manslaughter. She evaded being branded as a murderer due to what the court ruled as ‘diminished responsibility’, but she was sentenced to ‘detention’ for life.

Step by step, Gitta Sereny pieces together a gripping and rare study of a horrifying crime; the murders, the events surrounding them, the alternately bizzare and nonchalant behaviour of the two girls, their brazen offers to help the distraught families of the dead boys, the police work that led to their apprehension, and finally the trial itself. What emerges from this extraorindary case is the inability of society to anticipate such events and to take adequate steps once disaster has struck.

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[My Review]

I don’t often read or listen to non-fiction, but I find audiobooks are often a good way for me to get through them, as I can listen whilst I do other things like walking, driving etc, and try and soak it all up!

I’m really interested in true crime, so this appealed to me, and it’s on a case I didn’t know much about (somewhat before my time!). It’s the case of two little girls, Mary Bell (11) and – no relation, just a neighbour with the same surname – Norma Bell (13), who were  both on trial in the 1960’s for murdering two young boys. Gitta highlights that this case is also particularly interesting, from a sociological stance, because of the way the jury – and indeed the general public – seemed to place most of the blame on Mary, despite her being the younger of the two.

The book starts with some background information, and then there’s a detailed section on the trial itself; this makes up a large portion of the book, and it is indeed very interesting to hear what was said as well as Gitta Sereny’s analysis of it. However I wish there had actually been a little less of a play-by-play account of the trial, and more of a breakdown from Gitta on why this evidence or information might have been included in the trial, and what exactly it meant. Still, I enjoyed (or perhaps ‘enjoyed’ isn’t the right word?) listening to the trial and how it played out. The book then concludes with information on Mary’s (and Norma, to some extent) lives after the trial, and how the author feels that these tragic murders of two innocent little boys could possibly have been avoided in the first place. In this new edition Gitta also includes information and comparisons to the more recent Jamie Bulger case (which I actually remember hearing about when I was younger) which I found very interesting – though elements of the case are quite disturbing, so be prepared for that!

The audiobook is narrated well, with the two children’s strange behaviour relayed to the reader in an intriguing and clear manner, and the way it’s written lacks any sensationalism that you might get with other authors. I felt that at times the court scenes could perhaps have been split up a bit, and some parts felt a little uneventful, but I suppose you can’t really complain because this IS a true story, after all!

Overall, this is an interesting book which details an shocking and intriguing case. If you’re into true crime I think you’ll enjoy this one, whether you read the print version or listen to the audiobook.

[Rating: 3/5]

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Goodreads Monday [Veronica’s Bird]

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners . To take part, you simply choose a random book from your TBR and show it off. Don’t forget to check out her blog and link back to Lauren’s Page Turners, and add your own links!

It’s been a while since I’ve picked a Goodreads Monday book, so this week I’m going for a book I’m on the blog tour for on 1 Feb – a little while away yet, but I’m really excited to read it…

Title:: Veronica’s Bird
Author: Veronica Bird & Richard Newman
Publish date: 22 January 2018

Veronicas Bird Cover

[Synopsis]

Veronica Bird was one of nine children living in a tiny house in Barnsley with a brutal coal miner for a father. Life was a despairing time in the Fifties as Veronica sought desperately to keep away from his cruelty. However, a glimmer of hope revealed itself as she, astonishingly to her and her mother, won a scholarship to Ackworth Boarding School where she began to shine above her class-mates.
A champion in all sports, Veronica at last found some happiness. That was until her brother-in-law came into her life. It was as if she had stepped from the frying pan into the fire.He soon began to take control over her life removing her from the school she adored, two terms before she was due to take her GCEs, so he could put her to work as cheap labour on his market stall. Abused for many years by these two men, Veronica eventually ran away from him and applied to the Prison Service, intuiting that it was the only safe place she could trust.

Accepted into the Prison Service at a time when there were few women working in the industry, Veronica applied herself every day to learning her new craft even training in Holloway Prison where Myra Hindley was an inmate. With no wish to go outside the prison, Veronica remained inside on-duty. While her colleagues went out to the pub, the theatre or to dine she didn’t feel able to join them.

Her dedication was recognised and she rose rapidly in the Service moving from looking after dangerous women prisoners on long-term sentences to violent men and coming up against such infamous names as The Price sisters, Mary Bell and Charles Bronson. The threat of riots was always very close and escapes had to be dealt with quickly.

After becoming a Governor, Veronica was tasked with what was known within the Service as a ‘basket case’ of a prison. However, with her diligence and enthusiasm Veronica managed to turn it around whereupon it became a model example to the country and she was recognised with an honour from the Queen. With this recognition the EU invited her to lead a team to Russia and her time in Ivanovo Prison, north east of Moscow, provides an illuminating and humorous insight into a different prison culture.

Through a series of interviews with Richard Newman —author of the bestselling A Nun’s Story— Veronica’s Bird reveals a deeply poignant story of eventual triumph, is filled with humour and compassion for those inside and will fascinate anyone interested in unique true life stories, social affairs and the prison system.

Monika Cover 2

Have you heard anything about this book, or have you got it on your TBR list? 

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White Bodies [review]

White Bodies - Jane Robins

Title: White Bodies
Author: Jane Robins
Publisher: HQ

[Synopsis]

Felix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple: young and in love, a financier and a beautiful up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless façade, not everything is as it seems.

Callie, Tilda’s unassuming twin, has watched her sister visibly shrink under Felix’s domineering love. She has looked on silently as Tilda stopped working, nearly stopped eating, and turned into a neat freak, with mugs wrapped in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. She knows about Felix’s uncontrollable rages, and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister’s arms.

Worried about the psychological hold that Felix seems to have over Tilda, Callie joins an internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. However, things spiral out of control and she starts to doubt her own judgment when one of her new acquaintances is killed by an abusive man. And then suddenly Felix dies—or was he murdered?

Add to Goodreads button[My Review]

White Bodies is a strange and quite unsettling read. I struggle to properly categorize this  novel; Goodreads (my go-to for all bookish info) has various categories, probably added by readers, and they include: thriller; mystery; psychological thriller; mystery thriller; suspense…

I wouldn’t say it was really a mystery or thriller, because I found it was much more about the relationship between sisters Callie and Tilda and the other people in their lives, though there is an element of ‘what happened’ and ‘who is telling the truth’, which I loved. Some parts of the story are actually fairly slow in that not that much happens after the first quarter, but then the second half seems to ramp up the tension again… and that ending!

Jane Robins has managed to make my care about strange or unlikable characters; I don’t want to give too much away but even main character Callie has her quirks and potential flaws – which you’ll see from quite early on – but I really enjoyed reading about her. Her (and her twin sister Tilda) are the same age as me, so I felt almost more of a connection with Callie… Tilda, not so much! Callie’s such an intriguing character, and Tilda is too – in a completely different way! Jane Robins has crafted the characters so well which only added to my enjoyment of this strange, and at times creepy, plot. White Bodies is definitely as much of a character-driven story as a mystery.

There were some hard to read parts, strange occurrences, and even stranger behaviour which all combined to make a completely compelling read – all this without any ‘explicit’ parts, as such – hard to describe, you just need to read it!

I can see that White Bodies may divide opinion and I can kind of understand why, but I loved it and couldn’t put it down. It manages to be atmospheric and slightly surreal whilst at other times completely grounded in reality, with issues that face so many women every day, and makes for a riveting read.

[Rating: 4.5/5]

Many thanks to HQ for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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Close To Home [review]

Close To Home - Cara Hunter

Title: Close To Home
Author: Cara Hunter
Publisher: Viking

[Synopsis]

Someone took Daisy Mason. Someone YOU KNOW.

Last night, 8-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from her parents’ summer party. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying. DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows that nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew. That means someone is lying. And that Daisy’s time is running out…

Introducing DI Fawley and his team of Oxford detectives, CLOSE TO HOME is a pulse-pounding race against time and a penetrating examination of what happens to a community when a shocking crime is committed by one of its own.

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[My Review]

I have definitely, definitely found a new favourite crime writer (and new crime series) in Cara Hunter! As soon as I read the first few pages of Close To Home I was hooked. It’s a riveting read set in Oxford, which effectively combines elements of police procedurals with those of a gripping psychological thriller -this ticked all the boxes for a riveting read!

The characters in this novel are really complex and convincing, from the mysterious/ strange Mason family – do they have anything to hide? – to the smart Detective Inspector Fawley who has his own issues to deal with on top of trying to find out what’s happened to little Daisy Mason! No character is completely ‘good’ or ‘bad’, they all have their own quirks and faults, and on the whole it does feel like you’re reading about real people, something which isn’t always applicable to other novels in this genre.

The pacing is just right, opening with a bang and warning the reader that these kind of child ‘disappearances’ are often linked to someone close to them (don’t worry, it says that right at the start so I haven’t spoilt anything) – which makes you think throughout that it must be someone in the family… or is it?  I love the sense of unease and doubt that comes with novels like this, and Close To Home hits it right on the head.

There’s definitely some uncomfortable parts of the story, but that kind of goes with the territory and I didn’t feel like any of the story was unnecessary. Like the police, I had various ‘suspects’ in mind and the tension of the story builds until… that ending!!

I won’t say any more, just read this if you love your crime / police procedural novels (or even if you don’t!) because it really is an entertaining, gripping and well-written read!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to the publisher, Viking, for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review. 

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#ThrowbackThursday: The Hiding House @MRichardsAuthor #review

‘Throwback Thursday’ is a weekly meme hosted by Renee of It’s Book Talk blog and is a great way of sharing older books or older reviews – something I often forget to do, meaning they just sort of float into the blog abyss…! It’s also a great way to share new reviews of books which were published a while ago;  as Renee says – “You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)!”

Throwback Thursday logo

So, this week’s choice (and my first ‘Throwback Thursday’ pick) is a review I published 2 whole years ago…

The Hiding House – Malcolm Richards (published 11 September 2011)

The Hiding House by Malcolm Richards[Synopsis]

When their beloved grandmother dies, siblings Sebastian and Elise find themselves suddenly alone. Fearing foster care and separation, the children seek refuge in their isolated woodland home, hoping the outside world will pass them by.

But the outside world is the least of their concerns. Nana May’s body still sits out in the garden, in the grasp of a summer heatwave. A malevolent figure stalks through the trees, waiting for nightfall. The household chores have yet to be done.

And what of the mystery surrounding the siblings’ abusive mother, who vanished without trace four years earlier?

In a place where secrets hang from every branch, Sebastian and Elise will discover that real life is no fairy tale.

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[My Review]

The Hiding House by Malcolm Richards took me a little while to get into, but once I did, I was really drawn into Elise and Sebastian’s world!

The entire book has a kind of dreamlike state to it- although it seemed to be set in the real world, it was hard to pinpoint exactly which decade, and exactly where in the world. I couldn’t quite get my head around what I was reading- I think the fact that various parts of the narrative were very reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel and other fairy tales added to this, and make me expect certain things that didn’t actually happen. However what did happen certainly kept me entertained (though I got a little confused sometimes at the change from present to past narratives)!

The characters were likeable and interesting; I cared what happened to Sebastian and Elise and felt their intense fear at certain points. There were parts that were quite creepy and I was impressed at the way that the author used just the right amount of hyperbole and drama to create a menacing, threatening situation for both siblings.

I feel that Malcolm Richards has created a unique, atmospheric story in The Hiding House, which keeps the reader absorbed and, at times, guessing too!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the author, Malcolm Richards, for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

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