Close To Me [review]

Close To Me - Amanda Reynolds

Title: Close To Me
Author: Amanda Reynolds
Publisher: Headline

[Synopsis]

Close To Me is a gripping debut psychological drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty’s bestselling The Husband’s Secret, Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go, and Linda Green’s While My Eyes Were Closed.

She can’t remember the last year. Her husband wants to keep it that way.

When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia-she’s lost a whole year of memories. A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?

She can’t remember what she did-or what happened the night she fell. But she’s beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought.

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[My Review]

Close To Me is an intriguing read that kept me guessing. It’s not exactly what I was expecting – I thought it would be more focused on why and how Jo fell down the stairs, but actually that ‘occurrence’ sort of acts as a starting point for other aspects – and in a way, the more interesting aspects – of the story: her and husband’s Rob’s relationship, and the relationship between her and her children and those around her, too.

Close To Me is less of a thriller-type story, instead focussing on the family dynamics between characters, and despite being a crime/thriller addict I found I really enjoyed finding out more about the life Jo led before her accident. The characters themselves are interesting and well-developed – though that’s not to say I liked all of them straight off. Obviously, Rob’s views and opinions on many things really grated on me, but we’re obviously not supposed to like him anyway! Jo, however, was a tough cookie  to crack – she seemed a bit unreasonable at the start, but as the story develops I warmed to her and started to understand more of why she was behaving the way she was. It’s unclear throughout the novel whether she is a reliable narrator or not, and there are parts which made me think strongly in one direction, and parts which turned me the other way, and I really enjoy books that do this.

The writing is great, and really skilful, and though the story itself – a wife losing her memory and unsure if she can trust those around her, particularly her husband – isn’t  particularly different or original, it is written in an engaging, enjoyable way and so I found myself engrossed in the story!

A recommended read, particularly if you like interesting character development and a good dose of drama!

[Rating: 4/5]

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

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Last Seen Alive [review]

Last Seen Alive - Claire Douglas

Title: Last Seen Alive
Author: Claire Douglas
Publisher: Penguin – Michael Joseph

[Synopsis]

The Hero

Libby Hall never really wanted to be noticed. But after she saves the children in her care from a fire, she finds herself headline news. And horrified by the attention. It all reminds her of what happened nine years ago. The last time she saw her best friend alive.

The Swap

Which is why the house swap is such a godsend. Libby and her husband Jamie exchange their flat in Bath for a beautiful, secluded house in Cornwall. It’s a chance to heal their marriage – to stop its secrets tearing them apart.

The Hideaway

But this stylish Cornish home isn’t the getaway they’d hoped for. They make odd, even disturbing, discoveries in the house. It’s so isolated-yet Libby doesn’t feel entirely alone. As if she’s being watched.

Is Libby being paranoid? What is her husband hiding? And. As the secrets and lies come tumbling out, is the past about to catch up with them?

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[My Review]

I really loved this tense, eerie story of a house-swap gone wrong. The characters are great to read about, with Libby herself seeming a reliable narrator but there are points in the story where I wondered if everything she was saying was true, and the same with her husband Jamie. Everyone seems to be hiding something, but does it have anything to do with the strange occurrences at the house in Cornwall?

The novel had me feeling a bit ‘creeped out’ at times – something I don’t often feel whilst reading books – and I could imagine being in their situation and how it might make me feel, especially if my partner thought I was being a little highly strung about it.

The tension builds as the story continues, and I don’t want to give too much away but there are some serious ‘Oh my god’ moments that I did NOT see coming – at all! It left me reeling and I finished the book feeling really impressed with the writing, the depth and intricacies of the storyline, and the surprises along the way!

Highly recommended!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Penguin (Michael Joseph) and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write and honest and unbiased review.

Here and Gone [review]

Here and Gone - Hayley Beck

Title: Here and Gone
Author: Haylen Beck
Publisher: Crown

[Synopsis]

It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them…

Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

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[My Review]

This is an intriguing, fast-paced novel that really highlights the desperation you’d feel if you lost your kids -especially if people who were supposed to protect you were behind their disappearance.

This book is, in a way, SO frustrating to read because you know where the kids have gone, Audra knows who has taken her kids, but NO ONE WILL BELIEVE HER. Ahh! This book certainly got me interested and it had some brilliant characters. Audra herself is a brilliant protagonist – she admits she’s not been perfect in the past but she’s a strong female character who I thought was great! I don’t want to give anything away but I particularly liked when she hit things in anger, and parts when she really attacked people – despite female characters often being the ones expected to be a bit more forgiving, or a bit ‘softer’, she wasn’t and I liked her for it.

A big part of the story is pretty uncomfortable to read about at times, but it all added to the pretty dark and twisted plot. There were some parts which are quite ‘out there’ but I didn’t feel like any of it was too unbelievable for this genre.

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it. It’s a fast-paced, dark at times but nevertheless fun read which kept me hooked!

[Rating: 4/5]

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

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_STUFF_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

The House [blog tour review]

The House - Simon Lelic

Today I'm so excited to be a part of the blog tour for The House by Simon Lelic! Read on to find out what I thought…


Title: The House
Author: Simon Lelic
Publisher: Penguin UK (Viking)

[Synopsis]

What if your perfect home turned out to be the scene of the perfect crime?

Londoners Jack and Syd moved into the house a year ago. It seemed like their dream home: tons of space, the perfect location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

So when they made a grisly discovery in the attic, Jack and Syd chose to ignore it. That was a mistake.

Because someone has just been murdered. Right outside their back door.

And now the police are watching them…

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[My Review]

The House is the kind of thriller I love – complex, a little bit creepy and peppered with twists and surprise to keep the reader guessing!

It's told in a fairly unique way – at first it seems like the two narrators, couple Jack and Syd, are writing letters or diary-style entries to each other and communicating that way, so we learn a lot about their thoughts, feelings and things they may have kept from each other before. As the novel goes on this style is maintained but it feels less like diary entries and more recounting of the story, making it easier to get into the narrative. It also jumps back and forwards in time a bit; at some points I wasn't sure whether we were in the 'present day' (whatever that was exactly) or further back in time, before whatever the awful incident that happened, actually happened! It all adds to the edgy sense of the confusion this novel manages to portray, and I felt myself getting increasingly on edge at some of the more suspenseful points.

And I should mention – this novel is pretty creepy at times! I love a good horror, and though this doesn't really fit into that genre, there were still plenty of parts that made me feel uneasy along with all the novel's mystery and suspense. There are also some darker themes running through this book which give you pause for thought; Simon Lelic's writing is spot on and, as the novel continues, the story skillfully (and teasingly) reveals more and more about what exactly happened, with layer upon layer of deception becoming apparent…

I hugely enjoyed The House, racing through it in a matter of hours as I just didn't want to put it down, and I would definitely recommend it as a fast-paced, suspenseful and very entertaining read!

[Rating 5/5]

Many thanks to the publisher, Viking, for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review, and for having me on the blog tour!

The House is out in the UK in ebook format on 17 August (buy on Amazon here) and in paperback on 3 November.

Check out the other stops on the tour below:

HOUSE-blogtourposter_new

Shelter [review]

Shelter - Sarah Franklin

Title: Shelter
Author: Sarah Franklin
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre

[Synopsis]

Early spring 1944.
In a clearing deep within an English forest two lost souls meet for the first time.

Connie Granger has escaped the devastation of her bombed out city home. She has found work in the Women’s Timber Corps, and for her, this remote community must now serve a secret purpose.

Seppe, an Italian prisoner of war, is haunted by his memories. But in the forest camp, he finds a strange kind of freedom.

Their meeting signals new beginnings. In each other they find the means to imagine their own lives anew, and to face that which each fears the most.

But outside their haven, the world is ravaged by war and old certainties are crumbling. Both Connie and Seppe must make a life-defining choice which threatens their fragile existence. How will they make sense of this new world, and find their place within it? What does it mean to be a woman, or a foreign man, in these days of darkness and new light?

A beautiful, gentle and deeply powerful novel about finding solace in the most troubled times, about love, about hope and about renewal after devastation. It asks us to consider what makes a family, what price a woman must pay to live as she chooses, and what we’d fight to the bitter end to protect.

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[My Review]

Shelter is an interesting take on a typical WW2 novel, in that it doesn’t focus on life in London or any of England’s big cities during the war. It’s almost entirely based in the countryside, and follows two people brought together by the work that needs doing in the forest: one is Connie, who is seemingly running from something and is starting afresh in training in the Women’s Timber Corps (again, an organisation during the war that isn’t generally given much attention  in novels), and the other is Seppe, an Italian prisoner of war.

Both characters are interesting and well-developed, but as the novel went on I found myself going from hating to liking then hating Connie again – she seemed really selfish and unlikable at times, but I’d then swing back to feeling sorry for her/ respecting her again. It’s a mark of Sarah Franklin’s writing that she can make the reader feel such conflicting emotions – much like Connie’s own confusing emotions, I imagine – but still make the reader want to read on regardless. I also liked that Connie isn’t portrayed as the typical ‘feminine’ character and doesn’t follow the normal maternal instincts that is so expected of women – even in today’s society, nevermind back in the 1940’s! Seppe, however, seemed like a lovely character, though not perfect himself. I really enjoyed reading as their relationship with one another develops.

Shelter jumps back and forwards in time, revealing a little more at a time about life for the characters before the war – particularly Connie’s. Sarah Frankling really made me think about how the war effort didn’t just consist of those fighting and those in munitions factories, etc – it was fought all over, with different people contributing and helping out in their own ways. It also highlights the way that a prisoner of war during WW2 would not necessarily have been German, something I to be honest never properly considered until now.

I’d really recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical or is just a real fan of stories set in WW2, as I am. It’s a fairly easy read but it has some serious issues and parts to it which provoke the reader to think a little bit, something which I really enjoyed.

[Rating: 4/5]

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

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

 

Spotlight on: A Mind To Kill by @nicholl06 + GIVEAWAY!

A Mind To Kill - John Nicholl

Today I’m thrilled to have author John Nicholl on the blog to introduce us to his new novel, A Mind To Kill, and how John’s own experiences and career has inspired this gripping tale. We also have a signed paperback copy of the first in the series, White Is The Coldest Colour, to give away AND four ebook copies of A Mind To Kill!

 

[Biography: About John]

I’ve worked as a police officer and as a social worker and operational manager for the child guidance service, two social services departments and the NSPCC. I’ve also lectured on child protection at several colleges and universities. I live in beautiful south west Wales with my family, and began writing after leaving my job heading up child protection services for Carmarthenshire.

I’ve written three Amazon internationally bestselling darkly psychological suspense thrillers before A Mind To Kill, each of which are available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes. The books have reached # 1 in multiple Amazon categories in six countries.

 

John Nicholl[Inspiration for A Mind To Kill]

Like all my books, A Mind to Kill, draws on my professional experiences. Far too often during my career I was left incredulous as to the harm sexual predators chose to inflict on their vulnerable victims. My new novel reflects that abhorrent reality.

The book is intended primarily as a gritty and entertaining crime thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. I hope, however, that it also brings some much needed attention to the risk posed by deviant criminals who target and groom potential victims on the internet.

A Mind To Kill is essentially a dark tale of female revenge. It’s not a book for the faint-hearted.

 

[Synopsis]

They kill innocence. She wants revenge.

When Rebecca’s childhood abuser escapes justice it sets her on a path to revenge. Revenge on any man who preys on the innocent.

A gripping page-turner of a psychological thriller packed with suspense.

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The novel is available for preorder now, with a 5 August release date. Pre-order on Amazon here.

Visit John’s website and Facebook page, and take a look at A Mind To Kill on Goodreads.

[Giveaway Time!]

We have a signed paperback edition of White Is The Coldest Colour to give away AND an ebook copy of A Mind To Kill to one lucky reader. Plus four winners will each win an ebook copy of A Mind To Kill!

Enter the giveaway here.

(Giveaway ends midnight on Tuesday 15 August. Paperback copy entry is UK only but international entrants are welcome for the ebook copies!)

 

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

Together [review]

Together - Julie Cohen

Title: Together
Author: Julie Cohen
Publisher: Orion

[Synopsis]

This is not a great love story.
This is a story about great love.

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

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[My Review]

I didn’t know much about Together before starting it, but I found myself wrapped up in Robbie and Emily’s story. It’s told from present day and jumps back and forwards in time, reaching right back to the early days when they first met and eventually revealing to the reader that ‘thing'(for want of a better word and to avoid giving anything away) which they’re both seemingly running away from, and which they’re so secretive about.

The story took a little while to really grab me, with the first quarter of the book being enjoyable but feeling like nothing particularly special. However, as the novel continues so we see more of this ‘mysterious element’ that’s affecting them both, and Emily and Robbie’s love story (though I’m glad to say not a typically soppy, over-dramatic love story) develops more, I found myself enveloped into their world and really invested in their life.

I found myself captivated by the characters in this novel, both main and supporting characters, and their respective relationships with the two main characters. I found it an extremely poignant story which pulled at my heartstrings and left me feeling more than a little reflective. It certainly makes you think about what makes a relationship special and worth fighting for, and how one element can change everything.

The words in the synopsis say a lot about this –

“This is not a great love story.
This is a story about great love.”

– and I agree.  I hugely enjoyed Together; it’s a beautifully written story and I would definitely recommend it.

[Rating: 4/5]

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

One Small Act of Kindness [audiobook review]

One Small Act of Kindness - Lucy Dillon

Title: One Small Act of Kindness
Author: Lucy Dillon
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

[Synopsis]

What can you do to make the world a better place?

Libby helps a stranger, and transforms her life in the process.
Libby and her husband Jason have moved back to his hometown to turn the family B&B into a boutique hotel. They have left London behind and all the memories – good and bad – that went with it.

The injured woman Libby finds lying in the remote country road has lost her memory. She doesn’t know why she came to be there, and no one seems to be looking for her.

When Libby offers to take her in, this one small act of kindness sets in motion a chain of events that will change many people’s lives…

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[My Review]

One Small Act of Kindness strikes just the right balance: sweet without being too cloying, touching without being overly sentimental story, and featuring some really likeable characters who I’d happily read more about.

The narrative features some of the typical elements of this genre, yes, with romances and budding romances (I saw some parts coming a mile off, but again I feel that’s just something that comes with the territory and I didn’t mind this) but importantly it manages to avoid being overly cheesy or ridiculous. The plot is believable and has some more serious parts, but also plenty of light-heartedness mixed in there. It’s well written, sweet and with a plot that moves along at just the right pace whilst still providing plenty of character development.

Without giving too much away, main character Libby seemed really lovely and a bit of a saint with what she’s had to put up with, whilst Alice is suffering from memory loss and can’t remember the person she was before the accident, but is equally likable as she tries to piece together the parts of her life from ‘before’. Other characters enter the scene and either really charmed me (human or non-human – I loved Sir Bob) or made me want to throw things at them (but, either way, equally well written by Lucy Dillon), and made me want to continue reading on (or, in this case with the audiobook, listening on).

I enjoyed trying to piece together Alice’s memories as the novel went on, and felt the amnesia part of the story was convincing (well-researched, I assume) and intriguing. I finished One Small Act of Kindness feeling satisfied and uplifted

The audiobook was well read, with a great narrator (though the Welsh accent was quite amusing; I’m not sure why seeing as I’m awful at ‘doing’ accents myself) and it’s an ideal story to be enjoyed on audiobook. Some books, I feel, really work in audio format and some just don’t, and often in that case I abandon them early on – this was really enjoyable!

The only other book I’ve read by Lucy Dillon (so far) is All I Ever Wanted, and I was really taken by that too [read my review here], so I think I can safely say Lucy Dillon is a winning writer for me in the ‘chick-lit/ romance/ women’s fiction’ genres; I’ll certainly be reading more by her in the future.

[Rating: 4/5]

The Secrets She Keeps [review]

The Secrets She Keeps - Michael Robotham

Title: The Secrets She Keeps
Author: Michael Robotham
Publisher: Scribner

[Synopsis]

In the bestselling tradition of The Girl on the Train and In a Dark, Dark Wood, from the internationally bestselling author whom Stephen King called “an absolute master” of the psychological thriller, comes a riveting suspense novel about the unlikely friendship between two pregnant women that asks: how far would you go to create the perfect family?

Agatha is pregnant and works part-time stocking shelves at a grocery store in a ritzy London suburb, counting down the days until her baby is due. As the hours of her shifts creep by in increasing discomfort, the one thing she looks forward to at work is catching a glimpse of Meghan, the effortlessly chic customer whose elegant lifestyle dazzles her. Meghan has it all: two perfect children, a handsome husband, a happy marriage, a stylish group of friends, and she writes perfectly droll confessional posts on her popular parenting blog—posts that Agatha reads with devotion each night as she waits for her absent boyfriend, the father of her baby, to maybe return her calls.

When Agatha learns that Meghan is pregnant again, and that their due dates fall within the same month, she finally musters up the courage to speak to her, thrilled that they now have the ordeal of childbearing in common. Little does Meghan know that the mundane exchange she has with a grocery store employee during a hurried afternoon shopping trip is about to change the course of her not-so-perfect life forever…

With its brilliant rendering of a shocking kidnapping plot and the secrets some women hold close, Expecting delivers a dark and twisted page-turner that is absolutely impossible to put down.

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[My Review]

Having not read any of Michael Robotham’s novels before, I wasn’t sure what to expect – but I absolutely LOVED The Secrets She Keeps! What a roller-coaster of a read with The characters are fantastic; I loved both Meghan and Agatha in their own ways, and felt real empathy for some of the characters despite them doing things I may not agree with – it’s a testament to Michael Robotham’s writing that he can make characters do strange things we may not understand, but we can see perhaps why they might be driven to do what they do.

The novel addresses that feeling of wanting something that someone else has, and how it begins to take over everything. The story slowly reveals more and more to the reader and, without giving too much away, I think that the writing is excellent, the plot is well crafted and there are some brilliant developments which kept me completely hooked. There didn’t feel like there was a need for any huge twists in the plot; the story was brilliant and absorbing enough without needing the ‘shock tactics’ at the end of the novel.

The Secrets She Keeps really grabs you by the throat and keeps you captive in Meghan and Agatha’s world until you can bear to stop reading – and for me it was a case of reading it in two (very long) sittings, which would have been one sitting if it weren’t for work getting in the way! I’d highly recommend this novel; it’s everything a psychological thriller/ suspense should be and more!

[Rating: 5/5]

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

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_BOOKS / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

Beneath a Burning Sky [review]

Beneath a Burning Sky - Jenny Ashcroft

Title: Beneath a Burning Sky
Author: Jenny Ashcroft
Publisher: Sphere

[Synopsis]

A beautiful and heart-wrenching story of love and betrayal, set against a backdrop of British-occupied Egypt. Perfect for fans of Victoria Hislop, Dinah Jefferies and Leah Fleming.

When twenty-two-year-old Olivia is coerced into marriage by the cruel Alistair Sheldon she leaves England for Egypt, his home and the land of her own childhood. Reluctant as she is to go with Alistair, it’s in her new home that she finds happiness in surprising places: she is reunited with her long-estranged sister, Clara, and falls – impossibly and illicitly – in love with her husband’s boarder, Captain Edward Bertram.

Then Clara is abducted from one of the busiest streets in the city. Olivia is told it’s thieves after ransom money, but she’s convinced there’s more to it. As she sets out to discover what’s happened to the sister she’s only just begun to know, she falls deeper into the shadowy underworld of Alexandria, putting her own life, and her chance at a future with Edward, the only man she’s ever loved, at risk. Because, determined as Olivia is to find Clara, there are others who will stop at nothing to conceal what’s become of her . . .

Beneath a Burning Sky is a novel of secrets, betrayal and, above all else, love. Set against the heat and intrigue of colonial Alexandria, this beautiful and heart-wrenching story will take your breath away.

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[My Review]

Beneath a Burning Sky is set in British occupied Egypt towards the end of the 19th century, and this country is a place I’d love to visit. I was excited to read about Alexandria during such an interesting time politically. One thing I discovered as I read on, however, is that the book is definitely more of a love story mixed with a touch of mystery and drama, rather than all about the country at that time. Obviously you get a sense of time and place from Jenny Ashcroft’s lovely writing, but it is far more about the characters’ relationships and feelings, which is to be expected really – it is billed as a “heart-wrenching story of love and betrayal”.

The characters are interesting in their own ways – some are distinctly unlikable, some seem like horrible human beings, and some you actually care about which made me want to read on. I felt that the storyline with Nailah was a little less engaging, and I grew impatient with wanting to get back to Olivia and Clara’s world, though I enjoyed seeing a different perspective to the story and one that didn’t centre around rich, indulgent British people. Some of the people in this world of ‘British rule’ were really annoying, and this effectively painted a picture of how many locals must have seen the British expats.

The descriptions are vivid and interesting with some lovely imagery, though I felt some parts could have been cut down a little, finding my interest starting to wane at some points. I suppose I just hoped for a bit more about the place itself, as well as the character information – sometimes the story didn’t grab me as much as I wanted it to. It’s still worth a read though, especially if you like your historical fiction with plenty of drama and an element of mystery.

[Rating: 3/5]

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