Close To Home [review]

Close To Home - Cara Hunter

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


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. 



#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:)!”

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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.


The Scent of Rain [review]

The Scent of Rain - Anne Montgomery

Title: The Scent of Rain
Author: Anne Montgomery
Publisher: Treehouse Publishing Group


Rose Madsen will do anything to keep from being married off to one of the men in her Fundamentalist Mormon (FLDS) community, even endure the continued beatings and abuse of her mother. But when her mentally handicapped baby sister is forced to strangle the bird she loves at the behest of the Prophet, Rose frees the bird and runs away.

Adan Reyes will do anything to escape the abusive foster care system in Phoenix, even leaving his good friends and successful high school athletic career behind him. Ill-prepared for surviving the desert, Adan hits the road only to suffer heat stroke. Found by a local handyman, he catches a glimpse of a mysterious girl–Rose–running through town, and follows her into the mountains where they are both tracked and discovered by the men of the FLDS community.

With their fates now intertwined, can Rose and Adan escape the systems locking them into lives of abuse? Will Rose be forced to marry the Prophet, a man her father’s age, and be one of dozens of wives, perpetually pregnant, with no hope for an education? Will Adan be returned to the foster home where bullying and cruelty are common? Is everyone they meet determined to keep them right where they belong or are some adults worthy of their trust?

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[My Review]

The Scent of Rain is an interesting, well-researched novel about a subject I find incredibly interesting: religious cults/ organisations.

The novel follows various characters involved with the Fundamentalist Mormon community, and their experiences.  There are some hard to read parts which are really shocking, and here you can tell that the story is well-researched as there is a lot of small details which makes the story even more interesting.

The characters themselves were interesting to read about, though I found some to be a little under-developed – I felt like some of them could have been fleshed out a little more to make me care more about what happened to them – and some of the story a little predictable. Plus, at the beginning, when the point of view changed a lot, it could be a little difficult to remember who was who. However, I felt myself really care about Rose and her predicament as the novel went on, and though there were plenty of horrible (or perhaps just misguided?) characters in this novel, there were also some nicer people that I found myself caring about.

Though there were plenty of uncomfortable, shocking parts, the subject matter itself is very intriguing and I reallyenjoyed finding out more about a community like the Fundamentalist Mormons. It’s crazy (and awful, in my opinion) to think that people are forced to live a certain way like that in a first world country such as America, and duped into believing that – for example – having three wives, or dressing a certain way, will help them in the afterlife. Add to that parents so brainwashed (or so I felt, anyway!) that they’d go against their children’s happiness to appease the Prophet, and you have one messed up community which made for an interesting read!

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


Why Mummy Drinks [audiobook review]

Why Mummy Drinks

Title: Why Mummy Drinks
Author: Gill Sims
Publisher: HarperCollins


Why Mummy Drinks is the brilliant novel from Gill Sims, the author of the online sensation Peter and Jane.

It is Mummy’s 39th birthday. She is staring down the barrel of a future of people asking if she wants to come to their advanced yoga classes, and polite book clubs where everyone claims to be tiddly after a glass of Pinot Grigio and says things like ‘Oooh gosh, are you having another glass?’

But Mummy does not want to go quietly into that good night of women with sensible haircuts who ‘live for their children’ and stand in the playground trying to trump each other with their offspring’s extracurricular activities and achievements, and boasting about their latest holidays.

Instead, she clutches a large glass of wine, muttering ‘FML’ over and over again. Until she remembers the gem of an idea she’s had…

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[My Review]

With every page offering some form of entertainment or hilarity, Why Mummy Drinks is a witty, sharp novel full of fun and craziness – and the audiobook version that I listened to, narrated by Gabrielle Glaister, is a fab version!

Though I don’t have any kids myself, I still found this novel to be really amusing. I could picture the situations very well, despite not having been through it myself, and this shows was a fab writer Gill Sims is. Listening to this on audiobook was also very funny as Gabrielle read the novel out loud so well, in a very comical way, and I found that I could imagine some parts even more having listened to them. on audiobook.

Why Mummy Drinks is both delightfully sweary and comical, with some hilarious situations peppered amongst the more ‘everyday’ tasks (which are also very funny) of trying to juggle kids, husband and work – certainly no mean feat. Though there are moments when I didn’t like Ellen’s actions and felt a bit irritated by her, wondering why she was doing that, I can really appreciate this entertaining story and I really enjoyed reading it, from first page to last. I imagine that, if I had kids and had been through all this myself, it would be even more entertaining and relatable.

Definitely recommended if you fancy a light-hearted, easy read and good laugh!

[Rating: 4/5]


Can You Keep A Secret [review]

Can You Keep A Secret

Title: Can You Keep a Secret?
Author: Karen Perry
Publisher: Michael Joseph


It’s time for a reunion

Lindsey hasn’t spoken to Rachael in twenty years, not since her brother’s 18th birthday party at their parents’ remote country house. A night that shattered so many friendships – and left Rachel’s father dead.

Now Thornbury Hall is up for sale, and the old gang are back there, together again. A weekend to say goodbye to the old place, to talk about the past. But twenty years of secrets aren’t given up lightly. Some won’t speak about what happened that night. While others want to ensure that no one does. Surviving the weekend is going to depend on whether you can keep a secret…

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[My Review]

I’m a huge fan of writing duo Paul Perry and Karen Gillecem, who together write as Karen Perry – I really enjoyed Only We Know [my review] and Girl Unknown [my review] so was really excited to read Can You Keep A Secret.

It’s a very atmospheric novel, weaving two timeframes – 1991, when Lindsey and friends were only 15, and the present day. I love novels that do this, especially when they involve some air of mystery, which this one definitely does. The characters – both as younger versions of themselves and as present-day adults – are intriguing (though not all of them are very likable) and I really enjoyed slowly finding out more and more about them.

It’s packed full of secrets, of varying sizes and importance, and shows how they can affect people and relationships even years later! I don’t want to give too much away about the story, but rest assured there are plenty of twists, tension and surprises in this well written, intriguing plot.

If you’re a fan of Karen Perry or just want to give some of their novels a go, this is a great option and one which I really enjoyed – as usual!

[Rating: 4/5]

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


These Violent Delights [review]

These Violent Delights

Title: These Violent Delights
Author: Victoria Namkung
Publisher: Griffith Moon Publishing


At Windemere School for Girls, one of America’s elite private schools, Dr. Gregory Copeland is the beloved chair of the English Department. A married father with a penchant for romantic poetry—and impressionable teenage girls—he operates in plain sight for years, until one of his former students goes public with allegations of inappropriate conduct. With the help of an investigative journalist, and two additional Windemere alumnae who had relationships with Copeland as students, the unlikely quartet unites to take him down.

Set in modern-day Los Angeles, These Violent Delights is a literary exploration of the unyielding pressures and vulnerabilities that so many women and girls experience, and analyzes the ways in which our institutions and families fail to protect or defend us. A suspenseful and nuanced story told from multiple points of view, the novel examines themes of sexuality, trauma, revenge, and the American myth of liberty and justice for all.

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[My Review]

These Violent Delights is a deep, multi-faceted novel which touches upon a very emotive issues: teacher relationships (of a sexual nature) with pupils.

This subject matter is, of course, very pertinent to today’s issues, and though it might not be right to say it is an ‘enjoyable’ read, I did nevertheless enjoy it as it was engagingly written and very interesting. There was plenty of suspense, but it wasn’t a mystery  because the reader knows from the beginning what has happened to certain people and who did this to them, but you’re never sure if Dr Copeland is going to get what he deserves – and, as the novel goes on, more and more of the teacher in question’s behaviour is revealed.

These Violent Delights is an interesting – and at times, shocking too – read and I found it made me consider how I’d react to this, both as a young impressionable girl still at school and also as an adult, knowing how topical this issue is today. It’s easy to see why someone very young would not know how to react, but not at all easy to see why the school in question would not take more direct and immediate action.

The story incorporates developments from a journalistic perspective and from the perspective of the victims themselves which I thought was really impactful. Both accounts are horrifying in their own way – we learn of some of the awful responses the public, school and other people have to the story breaking, and of course learning more about the calculated grooming by Dr Copeland himself is also really disturbing. The story presents everything in a realistic way and at some parts the story really hits home. I would recommend this to anyone looking for an interesting, thought-provoking read.

[Rating: 4/5]

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


The Perfect Victim [review]

The Perfect Victim - Corrie Jackson

Title: The Perfect Victim
Author: Corrie Jackson
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre


Husband, friend, colleague . . . killer?

Charlie and Emily Swift are the Instagram-perfect couple: gorgeous, successful and in love. But then Charlie is named as the prime suspect in a gruesome murder and Emily’s world falls apart.

Desperate for answers, she turns to Charlie’s troubled best friend, London Herald journalist, Sophie Kent. Sophie knows police have the wrong man – she trusts Charlie with her life.

Then Charlie flees.

Sophie puts her reputation on the line to clear his name. But as she’s drawn deeper into Charlie and Emily’s unravelling marriage, she realises that there is nothing perfect about the Swifts.

As she begins to question Charlie’s innocence, something happens that blows the investigation – and their friendship – apart.

Now Sophie isn’t just fighting for justice, she’s fighting for her life.

For fans of Nicci French and Sophie Hannah, Corrie Jackson’s explosive new novel will leave you questioning how far you would go for friendship.

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[My Review]

I think I’ve found a new favourite crime writer! I haven’t read Breaking Dead, the first in the Sophie Kent series, so I read The Perfect Victim as a standalone. Corrie Jackson has created not only a fantastic female protagonist but the perfect mix of convincing crime fiction combined with a touch of drama and plenty of mystery. Her writing is brilliant, with plenty of twists which take you by surprise just when you think you’ve got it all figured out.

As I mentioned, I feel that Sophie Kent is a fantastic main character. The fact that she’s not part of the police means she can take risks and, at times, cause trouble which she wouldn’t be able to as a police officer, but her job as a crime reporter means she gets enough information and is quick enough to pick up on clues, taking the reader along with her. She’s got her own demons but she’s incredibly fun to read about.

Similarly, I felt that Emma, the wife of the elusive Charlie (also close friends with Sophie) is a great character. She’s not necessarily likable or trustworthy BUT I found her hugely interesting to read about – a bit of a loose cannon, which always makes for fun reading! I also liked how so many of the characters were linked in some way – I don’t want to give too much away but the plot is cleverly worked so the reader finds themselves going “ahh that’s why…” or “I forgot about that!”; lots of seemingly unimportant things turn out to be more of a key issue than expected. I don’t want to say any more as I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else, but I would highly recommend The Perfect Victim to anyone looking for a great new crime series to dive into. I certainly intend on catching up with the first in the series.

[Rating: 5/5]

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


The Shadow Man [review]

Shadow Man - Margaret Kirk

Title: The Shadow Man
Author: Margaret Kirk
Publisher: Orion


Two brutal killings rock Inverness, and bring ex-Met Detective Inspector Lukas Mahler the biggest challenge of his career…

The body of the queen of daytime TV, Morven Murray is discovered by her sister, Anna, on the morning of her wedding day. But does Anna know more about the murder than she’s letting on?

Police informant Kevin Ramsay’s murder looks like a gangland-style execution. But what could he have stumbled into that was dangerous enough to get him violently killed?

Mahler has only a couple of weeks to solve both cases while dealing with his mother’s fragile mental health. But caught in a deadly game of cat and mouse, is ex-Met DI Lukas Mahler hunting one killer, or two?

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[My Review]

I’ve definitely found a promising new series in The Shadow Man. Because the characters seemed to well-rounded and convincing, I thought this might be a well-established series, but it seems to be either a stand alone or – hopefully – the first in a new series. If so,  I’ll certainly be reading more.

The Shadow Man effectively combine mystery, grittiness and police procedure with just the right pacing and level of drama.

The characters are great – I really liked protagonist DI Luke Mahler and Anna, who wasn’t part of the police but who we also followed as the case unfolded. I liked that there were two main characters who showed different perspectives to the investigation. The characters were well-rounded and interesting too, and it was interesting to read a good portion of the story from the perspective of someone who had nothing to do with the police. The Shadow Man features lots of seemingly unconnected people who all came together as the novel continued, which I also really liked.

The setting is also great (pre-Scottish referendum Inverness) – and I liked the atmosphere that the setting conjured up. It’s a testament to Margaret Kirk’s writing that I could really imagine myself there, seeing as the only place I’ve  ever visited in Scotland is Edinburgh.

Overall I’d highly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a great new detective series which is both entertaining and realistic. I’d definitely like to read more about Luke and Anna!

[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.


The Wrong Child [review]

The Wrong Child - Barry Gornell

Title: The Wrong Child
Author: Barry Gornell
Publisher: Orion


21 of 22 children in a rural village die in a disaster. By chance, the ‘wrong’ child, Dog Evans, lives. Crippled with survivor’s guilt, his parents abandon Evans to a feral life at the margins. He is shunned by those left behind, for whom his presence is a daily insult, a reminder of unbearable loss.

We learn what took place and its shocking consequences, both for Dog Evans and the wider community. Gornell’s forensic gaze dissects the lives of the bereaved, fractured relationships and existences frozen the day their children died… Deborah Cutter, separated from her husband John, numbs her pain with alcohol and sex. Local postman Nugget holds tight to the hope that the Evans house contains valuable secrets. Parish priest Father Wittin is an embarrassing irrelevance… As grief turns to rage, the villagers’ insatiable desire for catharsis in the form of one final blood sacrifice becomes unstoppable.

The master of ‘rural noir’, Barry Gornell has created a mesmerising, heartbreaking examination of rural life with a remarkable note of hope within the darkness.

[My Review]

The Wrong Child is a dark and at times uncomfortable novel which I finished not knowing quite how to feel about it!

The story itself is pretty harrowing – a young boy, Douglas (unaffectionately known as ‘Dog’) Evans, is left as the only survivor after a horrible incident kills all the other children in his class. You might think he’d be cherished even more, as the one survivor, but his unpopularity prior to the event means that the rest of the village do NOT take this well.

The Wrong Child a story of conflicting emotions, or at least for me – at times I felt desperately sorry for Dog, whilst at others I myself felt frustrated by, or disgusted in, his behavior. Nothing can justify the way the villagers behaved though – truly shocking.

The narrative also moves back and forwards in time, showing the reader more and more about what really happened, and I always find myself really drawn to novels like t his. There’s plenty of suspense, and I don’t really want to give anything crucial away so I’ll just say that Barry Gornell manages to create a tense, heavy atmosphere which intrigued me. It’s not an easy or ‘enjoyable’ read as such – and I imagine this would only be amplified more if you had kids yourself (I do not) – but it will stick with you long after you finish it, which is the mark of a great writer!

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


Keto Slow Cooker & One-Pot Meals [review]

Keto Slow Cooker

Title: Keto Slow Cooker & One-Pot Meals
Author: Martina Šlajerová
Publisher: Quarto Publishing Group


Slow cooker and one pot meals are the ultimate convenience food. Just fix it and forget it and then enjoy a nourishing meal when everyone gets home. Unfortunately, most slow cooker and one-pot recipes depend on processed, high-carbohydrate ingredients like noodles, potatoes, and other high-glycemic ingredients which aren’t allowed on the ketogenic diet.

Keto Slow Cooker & One-Pot Meals lets you enjoy your slow cooker while maintaining your ketogenic diet, too! Filled with 100 keto recipes for everything from satisfying soups to quick skillet meals and savory stews, you’ll always be able to get a healthy ketogenic meal on the table with no fuss!

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[My Review]

I’m always interested in low carb, higher fat meals, even though I’m not properly following the Keto diet myself. I also really like using a slow cooker (when I’m organised enough, that is) or, even better, one pot to do everything. Less washing up, less fuss! So this book hugely appealed to me, ticking three big boxes (slow cooker, one pot, low carb).

This book is great because it largely sticks with whole foods instead of lots of processed sauces and other ingredients, which also really appeals to me. The dishes are easy enough to follow, with clear photos and without crazily expensive, rare ingredients that you sometimes see in cookbooks trying to impress. These recipes are largely wholesome and nutritious and feel attainable.

The book includes a handy list of low-carb vegetables which I found so useful, and lots of lovely curry paste/ sauce recipes too! There are also great recipes for seasonings and roasting whole vegetables in the slow cooker too, plus some incredibly handy conversions for things like common allergens and sugar to sweetener so you know what you can substitute with what. There’s also a recipe for sauerkraut, which I’ve always fancied making, AND recipes for making your own coconut milk (if you can be arsed to) as well as loads of other handy recipes too.

This book, basically, inspired me in many ways to make more use of the slow cooking setting on my instant pot, instead of just using it to pressure cook or to cook rice. Though there are lots of meat-based recipes (the ‘fish ball tagine’, ‘turkey meatballs’, ‘morrocan lamb stew’ and ‘chicken tikka masala’ looked great), there are also lots of lovely vegetarian options too, like ‘eggplant (aubergine to us brits) parmesan’, and ‘broccoli & mushroom alfredo casserole’. As my partner is pescetarian, I mostly cook vegetarian or pescetarian  recipes for both of us, but would definitely try some of the meat recipes for when I’m just cooking for myself. There are also some very tasty dessert recipes too!

All in all, this is a well-rounded Keto slow cooker/ one pot cookbook with recipes that feel attainable and are easy enough to follow. Highly recommended for anyone on a keto diet wanting to make more of their slow cooker, or just fancy keeping washing up to a minimum, or those who fancy a lower-cab diet too (within reason).

Thanks to Quarto Publishing Group – Fair Winds Press for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

Keto Slow Cooker & One-Pot Meals is out in the UK on 1 December!