The Dark Lake [blog tour review] @sarahbailey1982

The Dark Lake

Today I am so excited to be on the blog tour for Sarah Bailey’s crime debut The Dark Lake. Read on to find out what I thought…

Title: The Dark Lake 
Author: Sarah Bailey
Publisher: Atlantic Books


A hot summer. A shocking murder. A town of secrets, waiting to explode…A beautiful young teacher has been murdered, her body found in the lake, strewn with red roses.

Local policewoman Detective Sergeant Gemma Woodstock pushes to be assigned to the case, concealing the fact that she knew the murdered woman in high school years before.But that’s not all Gemma’s trying to hide. As the investigation digs deeper into the victim’s past, other secrets threaten to come to light, secrets that were supposed to remain buried.

The lake holds the key to solving the murder, but it also has the power to drag Gemma down into its dark depths…

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[My Review]

The Dark Lake ticked all the boxes for a great crime debut for me: an intriguing plot, convincing and three-dimensional characterisation, and police procedural details, not to mention plenty of atmosphere! AND it’s the first in a new series, too!

Firstly, I really warmed to the brilliant DS Gemma Woodstock. She’s a wonderfully flawed female lead (the kind of character I always enjoy reading about) but she’s also sharp, strong and determined. I don’t agree with everything she has or does do, but she’s definitely interesting to read about! If you only really enjoy reading about ‘likeable’ characters, then Gemma – with all her angst and dubious decisions in her personal life – won’t be for you – but to those people I’d also say, who in real life is really like that anyway? She’s also the first in a whole array of convincing and, most importantly, interesting characters that end up being linked in unexpected ways, which I loved.

What sets this apart from some other novels of the same genre is it’s definitely a character-focussed/ driven crime novel; I felt myself being drawn more and more into the book’s world, not just because I wanted to know ‘whodunnit’, but because I cared about what would happen to these characters who had been so skillfully developed. Sarah Bailey’s writing is, for me, spot on – full of imagery without the language being too flowery and people who don’t fit too neatly into a certain ‘type’ of character – ‘baddie’, ‘goodie’, ‘sensible’ etc. They feel like real people, not caricatures.

The mystery itself kept me interested throughout; I really do enjoy following the steps in an investigation from start to finish, and The Dark Lake‘s slightly slower pace allowed for this, as well as throwing in plenty of twists and red herrings too. The case definitely had some dark elements which added to the chilled and slightly eerie atmosphere, and the novel finished with an ending that left me satisfied. Great stuff – bring on book two!

[Rating: 4.5/5]

Many thanks to Anne Cater and Atlantic Books 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!

The Dark Lake is out now – buy on Amazon here!

Sarah Bailey Author Picture

About the author

Sarah’s first novel, The Dark Lake, was published in Australia by Allen & Unwin in May 2017 and in the USA and Canada in October.

Sarah lives in Melbourne, Australia and has two young sons. She has fifteen years experience in the advertising industry and is currently a director at creative projects company Mr Smith.

Sarah’s second book, Into The Night, featuring Detective Gemma Woodstock, will be published in 2018.

Follow Sarah on twitter @sarahbailey1982 or visit her website:

Follow the rest of the tour…

The Dark Lake Blog Tour Poster



Exhibit Alexandra [review]

Exhibit Alexandra - Natasha Bell

Title: Exhibit Alexandra
Author: Natasha Bell
Publisher: Michael Joseph UK


Alexandra Southwood: a devoted mother, a talented artist and now a missing wife.

Marc’s world is seemingly perfect, complete with two daughters and a loving wife. Until the day she vanishes.

Police, friends and family pull together to find Alex but their hopes quickly turn into a nightmare as the missing person case becomes a murder investigation.

But Marc refuses to accept his wife is dead and embarks on his own frantic search which leads him into the heart of the New York art world that so gripped his wife.

Meanwhile, in a locked room, news clips of the police investigation and the family’s grief are played out in front of a terrified woman. It is Alex. As the weeks pass all she can do is torment herself with images of her family’s life without her.

As Marc begins to piece together hidden parts of Alex’s life, he begins to question whether he really knew her at all…

But this is Alex’s story.

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[My Review]

This wasn’t quite what I expected; I feel like the synopsis reads more as a thriller/ mystery (and did really make me excited to read this, to be fair) but in reality is more of a slow burning analysis of Alexandra and her family/ relationships from when she met her husband Marc in college to the present day. I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll keep this brief, but we find out a lot more about Alexandra and the book is sort of a psychological evaluation of her at times. We see how her family is coping and there is always that mystery of what has actually happened to her; this is what kept me reading on, as I found a lot of the chapters about their past a little long and uninteresting.

This is definitely not your average psychological thriller, and if you’re a little bored of the same kind of  book in this genre over and over again then this will definitely provide a different kind of read. I unfortunately struggled to keep attention until the end part, which I really enjoyed! Once I’d got to the end, I flicked back and looked over the parts which I hadn’t picked up on at the time but which now made more sense, and I love it when a book makes me want to do that. It’s definitely clever and I liked some of the themes and theories it puts forward, particularly around how art and life mix – it made me really think.

Overall, this is something a little different which I appreciate, but the first 2/3 of the book just didn’t hold my attention properly. I would, however, recommend if you like your thrillers a little slower but still rather clever.

[Rating: 3.5/5]

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

Pre-order/ buy Exhibit Alexandra on here (out 8 March)


February wash up (aka wrap up!)

I can’t believe it’s already March!!

February was a great reading month for me, I read some great books and also some I didn’t enjoy so much… variety is the spice of life 🙂

Here’s all the books I read last month- click the title links to check out my reviews for them (some reviews still to come) and let me know if you’ve read any of these too!

Home – Amanda Berriman

The Dark Angel – Elly Griffiths

Fragile Lives – Stephen Westaby

Still Me – JoJo Moyes

The Last Mrs Parrish [audiobook review] – Liv Constantine

Everything Is Lies – Helen Callaghan

The Sunday Lunch Club – Juliet Ashton

The Year That Changed Everything – Cathy Kelly

Only Child – Rhiannon Navin

The Dark Lake – Sarah Bailey [review coming as part of blog tour on 5 March]

Bring Me Back B.A. Paris [review to follow soon]

Exhibit Alexandra – Natasha Bell [review to follow]

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton

How was your reading month? Any new favourites to report?

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle [review]

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

Title: The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle
Author: Stuart Turton
Publisher: Raven Books


How do you stop a murder that’s already happened?

At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed–again. She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden’s only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle’s murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend–but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

Deeply atmospheric and ingeniously plotted, The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a highly original debut that will appeal to fans of Kate Atkinson and Agatha Christie.

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[My Review]

Now this is a novel I was so excited to read, having seen a lot of great reviews and marketing for it all over the place. It’s actually quite a difficult review to write, because on the one hand I can fully appreciate the amazing skill that author Stuart Turton took to write such a complex plot based on a unique great concept, with a whole array of interesting characters and incidents, but on the other hand, in all honesty, it did sometimes feel like too many characters, too many plot devices, and a few too many pages as well.

I don’t want this review to seem overly negative, because I don’t feel that way about the book. The concept is just brilliant and the characters are all interesting in their own ways, with their own agendas and quirks. I felt like I was reading an Agatha Christie novel with a fresh twist, and I loved this style of writing, as well as some of the quite comedic moments which made me smile.

Ultimately this novel made me want to know who had killed Evelyn, and how Aiden can possibly escape this eerie world he has become trapped in. I therefore kept on reading, even when I started to feel myself a bit confused about parts of the ‘game’ Aiden seems to be kept in, and therefore the plot itself. I hoped things would become clearer but to me they didn’t – however I found I could ignore elements I didn’t quite get and just keep focussing on the actions Aiden needed to take to try and work everything out, which isn’t ideal I suppose, but it kept me reading on!

The ending was satisfying and tied up a few loose ends (though there was still parts I didn’t completely get). The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is an enjoyable read – just a confusing one, and it has obviously been very meticulously planned out and constructed. I think perhaps my brain just couldn’t keep up with  the extensive cast of characters and their relationships with one another and with the ever-shape-shifting protagonist himself. With all the discussion around this book it’s definitely one to read – and it’s definitely something different, too!

[Rating: 3/5]

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


Only Child [review]

Only Child - Rhiannon Navin

Title: Only Child
Author: Rhiannon Navin
Publisher: Pan Macmillan


Squeezed into a coat closet with his classmates and teacher, first grader Zach Taylor can hear gunshots ringing through the halls of his school. A gunman has entered the building, taking nineteen lives and irrevocably changing the very fabric of this close-knit community. While Zach’s mother pursues a quest for justice against the shooter’s parents, holding them responsible for their son’s actions, Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and art. Armed with his newfound understanding, and with the optimism and stubbornness only a child could have, Zach sets out on a captivating journey towards healing and forgiveness, determined to help the adults in his life rediscover the universal truths of love and compassion needed to pull them through their darkest hours.

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[My Review]

This novel provoked such a mix of emotions as I was reading it. The story itself is unique in its narrative – about a school shooting but seen through the eyes of a first grade child (year 2 for us here in the UK) – and the effects afterwards on not just him but his family and the wider community.

This is such a topical subject, with a worrying number of school shootings having already happened and another awful shooting very recently in Florida. It really makes you think about what a devastating effect this has on everyone. The novel starts so shockingly, with the shooting unfolding at the school and Zach hiding in a closet with his classmates and teacher. That alone gave me the chills and had me riveted. Even though Zach perhaps doesn’t quite understand the seriousness of the situation, I could feel the tension through the pages, ensuring I was hooked from the very beginning – and continued to be so long after the shooting ended.

The characters in Only Child are great because no one is perfect. Even those killed during the shooting are not perfect, though – as Zach points out – people tend to remember those killed in a much more positive way than when they were alive – for example, Zach’s brother, Andy, who suffered from ODD (‘oppositional defiant disorder’, which I wasn’t aware of before googling it as I read this novel) and was, as we see through Zach’s memories, not particularly nice to Zach (or his parents) a lot of the time. Zach’s mother and father, suffering from such grief, are also nowhere near perfect – in their behaviour before, during, and after the shooting – but no one is perfect, and who’s to say how you should behave when something like this happens to you? There is no proper way to behave, is there? Only Child really highlights this, as well as how hard things can be for the child who’s still alive. It’s devastating to read Zach’s naive take on things – of course, as adults reading, we can work out what’s really going on but his innocence shines through the pages and makes me really feel for him. This is a powerful book for making you think and empathise with what other people are going through – I feel for their community, and indeed the parents of the shooter too, so much.

I cried countless times and thought, yet again, how lucky I am to live in a country that doesn’t have the same level of gun culture as America – but how incredibly sad and devastating it is that people over there – both the kids at school and their friends and families – ever have to deal with this kind of thing. Poignant, moving and powerful, this is a must-read and an amazing debut from Rhiannon Navin. I look forward to seeing what’s next from her.

[Rating: 5/5]

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


The Year that Changed Everything [review]

The Year That Changed Everything - Cathy Kelly

Title: The Year that Changed Everything
Author: Cathy Kelly
Publisher: Orion Publishing Group


Three women celebrate their birthdays . . . 30. 40. 50. But their milestone birthdays marks the start of a year that will change everything . . .

Ginger isn’t spending her 30th the way she would have planned. Tonight might be the first night of the rest of her life – or a total disaster.

Sam is finally pregnant after years of trying. When her waters break on the morning of her 40th birthday, she panics: forget labour, how is she going to be a mother?

Callie is celebrating her 50th at a big party in her Dublin home. Then a knock at the door mid-party turns her perfect life upside down . . .

Full of warmth and wisdom, this is a story about finding happiness on your own terms from international bestseller Cathy Kelly.

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[My Review]

The Year that Changed Everything is a feel-good novel about three women, all with the same birthdays but each 10 years apart, and each with their own problems. It addresses various themes, including (and I don’t feel that including these ruins the plot as you know or can easily see what’s coming with these themes pretty early on): body image & positivity, post-natal depression, betrayal, family life and much more, all wrapped up in this positive, warm read.

The characters are all convincing and enjoyable to read about, and I liked seeing their progression throughout the book. Some elements are quite predictable/ a tiny bit cheesy, but really you expect a little of that with this kind of read (or I think so anyway), and Cathy Kelly still manages to get the balance just right, between being a heart-warming story and not being too cloying in its message. Her novels often get it just right, to be honest – you know you’re going to get a great story with Cathy’s work, and this is another example. It’s a celebration of female resilience and friendship, which in my eyes is always a winner.

The Year that Changed Everything is  definitely well-written escapism – perfect for a lazy weekend read when you want something feel-good and warming, but with added feeling!

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


The Sunday Lunch Club by @julietstories [review] #sundaylunchclub @simonschusteruk @BookMinxSJV

The Sunday Lunch Club

Title: The Sunday Lunch Club
Author: Juliet Ashton
Publisher: Simon & Schuster


The first rule of Sunday Lunch Club is … don’t make any afternoon plans.

Every few Sundays, Anna and her extended family and friends get together for lunch. They talk, they laugh, they bicker, they eat too much. Sometimes the important stuff is left unsaid, other times it’s said in the wrong way.

Sitting between her ex-husband and her new lover, Anna is coming to terms with an unexpected pregnancy at the age of forty. Also at the table are her ageing grandmother, her promiscuous sister, her flamboyantly gay brother and a memory too terrible to contemplate.

Until, that is, a letter arrives from the person Anna scarred all those years ago. Can Anna reconcile her painful past with her uncertain future?

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[My Review]

The Sunday Lunch Club is a charming, fun read about an extended family who meet together every few weeks for Sunday Lunch Club. The book mainly revolves around these lunches and how various characters interact together (though there is some of the narrative which covers time in between the lunches). Though there are some serious issues at play here, the book manages to stay fairly light-hearted and fun, but with an added layer of emotion which Juliet Ashton does so well.

There are funny moments and heart-warming parts which will leave you feeling all warm inside and the characters have their own quirks, with everyone from the seemingly ‘sensible one’ Anna – who I really warmed to, and would happily have read more of – through to Neil, who at times I quite disliked due to his cattiness, but by the end of the novel had also warmed to! Some parts I could have guessed at, but there are some surprises too, with an element of mystery in some of the characters’ stories.

Most of the narrative is told through Anna’s eyes, and she brings just the right level of calmness to situations despite dealing with her own problems – or perhaps not problems but ‘surprises’! It’s a unique family set up, with each of Anna’s siblings as individual and different as you can get, but this makes The Sunday Lunch Club so much more of an interesting read – and there’s bound to be at least one character which you think, “I know someone a bit like that!”

This was just what I fancied reading – light-hearted, happy and wholesome. The perfect Sunday-in-your-pyjamas-with-a-cuppa read.

Many thanks to Simon & Schuster – Books and the City for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

The Sunday Lunch Club is out in the UK on 19 April.



WWW Wednesday [21 February 2018]

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? 

Everything Is Lies – Helen Callaghan [my review here]
The Last Mrs Parrish Liv Constantine [audiobook] [my review here]
The Year that Changed Everything – Cathy Kelly [my review to follow]
The Sunday Lunch Club Juliet Ashton [my review to follow]

What are you currently reading? 

Only Child – Rhiannon Navin
Emma in the Night – Wendy Walker [audiobook]

What will you read next?

The Dark Lake - Sarah Bailey

I’m on the blog tour (my review will be up 5 March) for The Dark Lake by Sarah Bailey, so that will be next on my list!

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!


Everything Is Lies [review]

Everything is Lies - Helen Callaghan

Title: Everything Is Lies
Author: Helen Callaghan
Publisher: Michael Joseph


No-one is who you think they are

Sophia’s parents lead quiet, unremarkable lives. At least that is what she’s always believed.

Everyone has secrets

Until the day she arrives at her childhood home to find a house ringing with silence. Her mother is hanging from a tree. Her father is lying in a pool of his own blood, near to death.

Especially those closest to you

The police are convinced it is an attempted murder-suicide. But Sophia is sure that the woman who brought her up isn’t a killer. As her father is too ill to talk it is up to Sophia to clear her mother’s name. And to do this she needs to delve deep into her family’s past – a past full of dark secrets she never suspected were there . . .

What if your parents had been lying to you since the day you were born?

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[My Review]

Everything Is Lies is an intriguing read that took me by surprise – the synopsis doesn’t really give much away, and so I didn’t have any expectations about what was to come (and therefore, in this review, I’m going to avoid giving anything away that can’t be worked out from the back cover. Keeps it interesting!).

There are two main narratives in play here – one set in the present day and told through the eyes of Sophia, who heads to her parents’ house one day to find her mother has seemingly hung herself – but not before stabbing her father. Distraught, Sophia starts to uncover things she never knew about her mother which means all might not be as it seems… We then go back in time to the 80’s, and into the journals that her mother Nina has written. Through these we see what exactly happened all those years ago as it all intriguingly unfolds right in front of our (and Sophia’s) eyes…

Although this is, ultimately, a mystery/ thriller, I found that I could imagine a lot of it actually happening, particularly the storyline set in the past. I don’t want to give much away but Helen Callaghan writes in a way that makes you realise how easy it actually could be to find yourself in a situation like Sophia’s mother Nina, especially if you’re young, impressionable and have grown up without too much love and attention from your parents. This makes it all the more chilling, really, and I think I enjoyed this storyline more than the present day one, as it was just so engaging and gripping; it’s like a car crash – you know it’s all going to go wrong for Nina somehow, but all you can do is buckle in and watch everything unfold… I liked the way Sophia pieced everything together in the present-day storyline, though, and how it all came together.

Everything Is Lies is a well-written, gripping peek into a different world – of depravity, control and influence – which kept me turning page after page.

[Rating: 4/5]

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

Everything Is Lies is out on 22 February!


The Last Mrs Parrish [audiobook review]

The Last Mrs Parrish - Liv Constantine

Title: The Last Mrs Parrish
Author:  Liv Constantine
Publisher: HaperCollins
Format: Audiobook


Some women get everything. Some women get everything they deserve. 

Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn’t have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.

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[My Review]

This is an compelling read (or, as I listened on audiobook, ‘listen’) which I put on whilst doing some DIY and ended up getting really drawn into.

It’s quite a far-fetched plotin many ways, but if you suspend your disbelief you’ll no doubt get into the plotting and sneakiness of certain characters. The synopsis gives away quite a lot of what this book is about already, so you know Amber is trying to get herself fully embedded into Daphne’s life – she wants her life for herself, in fact. We know this from early on, so I’m not spoiling anything here, but what we don’t know is what exactly happened in Amber’s life prior to this, and whether she’ll get her comeuppance (something I desperately wanted to happen throughout!).

Read by Suzanne Elise Freeman and Meghan Wolf (I have to admit that, embarrassingly, I just assumed it was the same person narrating throughout until I came to write this review), the american accent is spot on, with that drawl I always imagine (probably incorrectly!) of the American upper classes – or those trying to fit in there, anyway! I listened to it on a faster speed though, as I’m impatient and the pace of narration is quite slow to start with.

I warn you – this is a story jam-packed with characters you won’t like – some worse than others admittedly. Almost everyone has their faults, some far bigger than others, but there are definitely some surprises along the way! There are very few likable people here… when someone is plotting cold-heartedly to steal someone else’s husband and break up a family, you know they’re a ‘questionable‘ character, shall we say!Almost everyone has their faults, some far bigger than others, but there are definitely some surprises along the way! Usually that would make me struggle to keep interested in a story, but I feel that it just works here – it’s a story all about indulgence, superficiality and the never-ending struggle to be ‘top dog’. It’s also a story about just how much goes on behind closed doors that outsiders can’t see.

This is a really easy novel to race through on a lazy weekend, whether reading or listening, and it’s good fun too!

[Rating: 3.5/5]