The Man Who Didn’t Call [review]

The Man Who Didn't Call

Title: The Man Who Didn’t Call
Author: Rosie Walsh
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

[Synopsis]

Imagine you meet a man, spend six glorious days together, and fall in love. And it’s mutual: you’ve never been so certain of anything.

So when he leaves for a long-booked holiday and promises to call from the airport, you have no cause to doubt him.
But he doesn’t call.

Your friends tell you to forget him, but you know they’re wrong: something must have happened; there must be a reason for his silence.

What do you do when you finally discover you’re right? That there is a reason — and that reason is the one thing you didn’t share with each other?

The truth.

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[My Review]

I didn’t expect this novel to be so emotional – I’d assumed it would be more of a light and fluffy read, perhaps partly due to the cover, but once I started reading I realised that this is a truly gripping, absorbing and really well crafted.

The characters are believable and convincing, with main protagonist Sarah coming across as a likable and someone who doesn’t fit into a typical ‘category’ of person. She isn’t someone who’d usually become so obsessed over a one-week ‘fling’, but as we hear it all from her point of view, we’re right there with her and we have the chance to understand why she feels the way she does about Eddie.

I read this book in almost one solid sitting, and really wanted to know why Eddie had suddenly disappeared from Sarah’s life. I swung from hating him to suddenly feeling confused, and though I guessed part of what had happened, this wasn’t at all the actual correct conslusion, which I felt really satisfied with.

There’s so much more to this story than just your average contemporary romance/ ‘chick-lit’-style read; it’s so much deeper than that. There are some truly emotional parts and some real surprises along the way.

Rosie Walsh has written a fantastic debut here, mixing elements of romance and relationships with modern-life dating and the many ways grief can take a hold of someones life. It’s punchy, emotional, and heartwrenching – an absorbing read!

[Rating: 5/5]

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

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In Bloom [review]

In Bloom - C J Skuse

Title: In Bloom
Author: CJ Skuse
Series: Sweetpea
Publisher: HarperCollins UK

[Synopsis]

If only they knew the real truth. It should be my face on those front pages. My headlines. I did those things, not him. I just want to stand on that doorstep and scream it: IT WAS ME. ME. ME. ME. ME!

Rhiannon Lewis has successfully fooled the world and framed her cheating fiancé Craig for the depraved and bloody killing spree she committed. She should be ecstatic that she’s free.

Except for one small problem. She’s pregnant with her ex-lover’s child. The ex-lover she only recently chopped up and buried in her in-laws’ garden. And as much as Rhiannon wants to continue making her way through her kill lists, a small voice inside is trying to make her stop.

But can a killer’s urges ever really be curbed?

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[My Review]

Can anything follow the sheer, utter brilliance of Sweetpea(If you missed it, read my review here). I am so pleased to say that the sequel, once again following serial killer Rhiannon, is in my opinion even better!

It’s another dark, crazy and laugh-out-loud-funny story which I didnt want to put down Rhiannon is as brilliant as ever, with razor sharp observations and utter disdain for certain aspects of human relationships and nature and just everyday life. Her ‘kill lists’ are always entertaining and the fact that she is now ‘with child’ takes nothing away from the level of dark humour; in fact I’m amazed to say that it’s even more crude, even more shocking and even more twisted than Sweetpea was. I love the different take on the serial killer genre, turning various conventions on its head with one bolshy character.

The plot is incredibly engaging and the pace is perfect; if you haven’t read Sweetpea then I say enjoy that first, then jump into In Bloom. I devoured it in (almost) one sitting. Highly recommended!

[Rating: 5/5]

Thank you to HarperCollins UK for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

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Snap [review]

Snap

Title: Snap
Author: Belinda Bauer
Publisher: Transworld Publishers

[Synopsis]

On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she said. I won’t be long.

But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed for ever.

Three years later, mum-to-be Catherine wakes to find a knife beside her bed, and a note that says: I could have killed you.

Meanwhile Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother.

But the truth can be a dangerous thing…

[My Review]

Punchy, atmospheric and addictive, Snap made me turn page after page in a quest to know more. It starts with an opening scene to really make you sit up and take notice, and made me care more about the characters introduced to us here. I found the people in this story to be convincing and, most importantly, interesting to read about – it doesn’t focus on the police or investigators but instead the people affected by the crimes beung investigated, and also those committing the crimes. This was a nice break from the usual detective/ police structure, and the various narratives begin to weave themselves together as the story goes on, so yoy slowly realize that certain people are connected. I love stories that do this, and certainly held my attention even in parts that were a little slower.

There’s a mix of emotions within these pages, with some people feeling like they’re beyond redemption and others I felt pity for; I enjoyed reading from the perspective of both Catherine and Jack and particularly liked the ever-present mystery of what exactly happened to Jack’s mother, all those years ago? It’s definitely bleak at times and sometimes uncomfortable reading, but definitely punchy and a great read.

I’d definitely recommend this cleverly plotted thriller, with plenty of emotion and just the right level of mystery to ensure that you won’t want to put it down!


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

Days of Wonder [blog tour review]

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Today I’m excited to share my review of the brilliant Days of Wonder, as part of the blog tour! Read on to find out more and see what I thought…

Title: Days of Wonder
Author: Keith Stuart
Publisher: Sphere

[Synopsis]

Tom, single father to Hannah, is the manager of a tiny local theatre. On the same day each year, he and its colourful cast of part-time actors have staged a fantastical production just for his little girl, a moment of magic to make her childhood unforgettable.

But there is another reason behind these annual shows: the very first production followed Hannah’s diagnosis with a heart condition that will end her life early. And now, with Hannah a funny, tough girl of fifteen, that time is coming.

Hannah’s heart is literally broken – and she can’t bear the idea of her dad’s breaking too. So she resolves to find a partner for Tom, someone else to love, to fill the space beside him.

While all the time Tom plans a final day of magic that might just save them both.

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[My Review]

An emotional storyline, characters you really care about, an element of romance and some added drama to keep you turning the pages: Days of Wonder hooked me from the first page right through to the last.

I don’t want to give too much away about what happens, but I will say that this is an emotional read and you should prepare yourself with tissues if you’re anything like me (emotional and very quick to cry!).

As the synopsis reveals, single dad Tom’s daughter, Hannah, is suffering from a serious heart condition, and he’s struggling to cope with what they both know is coming – but he’s truly doing his best to try and keep an element of magic in her life. Day of Wonder is not just about this awful situation, though – there’s so much else going on. From the theatre in peril to Tom’s romantic life (or lack thereof), we’re there every step of the way with them, and I found by the end of the novel I really cared about what would happen – meaning every emotion felt even more intense! Their relationship is amazing, and Tom especially is such a great character, striking just the right balance between being lovably hopeless in some areas, and incredibly creative and capable in others.

There are humorous parts and really sad parts, but whatever was happening within its pages, I loved every second of it – it all felt real and convincing, and made me want to find out more about Hannah’s condition.

I read A Boy Made of Blocks, also by Keith Stuart, and hugely enjoyed it [see my review here] so was excited to give his newest novel a go. I certainly wasn’t disappointed, so I’d really recommend this to anyone looking for a heart-wrenching, wonderful read.

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Sphere 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!

[About the Author]

keith_stuart_2015_copyright_ashley_bird_horizontal (2).jpgKeith Stuart is an author and journalist. His heartwarming debut novel, A Boy Made of
Blocks, was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick and a major bestseller, and was inspired by Keith’s real-life relationship with his autistic son. Keith has written for publications
including Empire, Red and Esquire magazine, and is the former games editor of the
Guardian. He lives with his wife and two sons in Frome, Somerset.

[Follow The Tour]

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The Craftsman [review]

The Craftsman

Title: The Craftsman
Author: Sharon Bolton
Publisher: Trapeze

[Synopsis]

Catching him will make her career – and change her forever. 

August, 1999 
On the hottest day of the year, Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady attends the funeral of Larry Glassbrook, the convicted murderer she arrested thirty years earlier. A master carpenter and funeral director, Larry imprisoned his victims, alive, in the caskets he made himself. Clay effigies found entombed with their bodies suggested a motive beyond the worst human depravity.

June, 1969 
13-year- old Patsy Wood has been missing for two days, the third teenager to disappear in as many months. New to the Lancashire police force and struggling to fit in, WPC Lovelady is sent to investigate an unlikely report from school children claiming to have heard a voice calling for help. A voice from deep within a recent grave.

August, 1999 
As she tries to lay her ghosts to rest, Florence is drawn back to the Glassbrooks’ old house, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, where she once lodged with the family. She is chilled by the discovery of another effigy – one bearing a remarkable resemblance to herself. Is the killer still at large? Is Florence once again in terrible danger? Or, this time, could the fate in store be worse than even her darkest imaginings?

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[My Review]

I’ve only read one other novel by Sharon Bolton (Little Black Lies, which I really enjoyed – read my review here) and that was a while ago, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this. I soon found myself completely drawn into this atmospheric, well-written mystery/crime/thriller novel.

One of the things that set this apart again other novels for me was the fact that the majority of the storyline is set in the late 1960’s, and so you see the way women police officers were treated at that time and the hurdles they had to overcome to be taken seriously in the force. It’s such an interesting topic to read about, and I also enjoyed seeing police investigation techniques from back then as opposed to those used in modern-day investigations, which crime novels tend to focus on. It seems crazy to think of a female police officer being treated in this way nowadays – and I don’t mean she was necessarily treated in the worst way ever, but just dismissed and not taken seriously purely because of her gender. Florence is such a great, strong-minded character and I loved reading about her – in fact, I wanted there to be a series so I could read more about her!

The story itself is gripping, and occasionally switches between the time of the initial investigation, and the ‘present day’ narrative (which is actually 1999). There is a touch of the mystical / magical about it, which I’m not usually a fan of in this genre, but Sharon Bolton pulls it all together so well that it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book at all.

There are creepy moments and things that make you think twice, and file them away for later (which I loved!). I hugely enjoyed this novel and would recommend to anyone looking for a smart, wonderfully crafted (sorry!) crime novel.

[Rating: 4/5]

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

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Whistle in the Dark [review]

Whistle in the Dark - Emma Healey

Title: Whistle in the Dark
Author: Emma Healey
Publisher: Penguin

[Synopsis]

Jen and Hugh Maddox have just survived every parent’s worst nightmare.

Relieved, but still terrified, they sit by the hospital bedside of their fifteen-year-old daughter, Lana, who was found bloodied, bruised, and disoriented after going missing for four days during a mother-daughter vacation in the country. As Lana lies mute in the bed, unwilling or unable to articulate what happened to her during that period, the national media speculates wildly and Jen and Hugh try to answer many questions.

Where was Lana? How did she get hurt? Was the teenage boy who befriended her involved? How did she survive outside for all those days? Even when she returns to the family home and her school routine, Lana only provides the same frustrating answer over and over: “I can’t remember.”

For years, Jen had tried to soothe the depressive demons plaguing her younger child, and had always dreaded the worst. Now she has hope—the family has gone through hell and come out the other side. But Jen cannot let go of her need to find the truth. Without telling Hugh or their pregnant older daughter Meg, Jen sets off to retrace Lana’s steps, a journey that will lead her to a deeper understanding of her youngest daughter, her family, and herself.

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[My Review]

Whistle in the Dark is such a powerful read. Not only boasting a compelling storyline with a definite air of mystery (something that always pulls me into a novel), it also has some really interesting characters of the type I really like reading about – not always hugely likable, but captivating all the same.

The story itself addresses some really serious issues, including missing children and mental health. I don’t want to give anything away you can’t glean from the synopsis, but this is very far away from a light-hearted read about a family; at times it’s shocking, surprising and heartbreaking, but it never feels like this for the sake of being shocking/surprising/heartbreaking. It all feels very genuine, and I can (unfortunately) imagine many families having to deal with elements of this novel applied to their families on a day to day basis.

I really warmed to main character Jen, perhaps because we see things from her perspective, but also because Emma Healey manages to convey her rapidly changing emotions so well.  I felt like I was right there with her as she worried, wondered and drove herself half-mad trying to guess what exactly had happened to her daughter Lana over those four days. What actually did happen actually becomes less key to the story than the relationship between Jen and Lana, and Lana’s father Hugh. The characterisation is brilliant, and though Lana really irritated me, I felt for her too – she’s not having the easiest time herself.

I know this is a fairly vague review but I don’t really want to give much away about this beautifully crafted story. It really struck a chord with me and left me thinking about it long after finishing which is, for me, the sign of a powerful, masterfully-written novel. Definitely recommended and an excellent new release after the brilliant Elizabeth is Missing [see my review here]… in fact, I think Whistle in the Dark is even better!

[Rating: 5/5]

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

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Gone Viking [review]

Gone Viking - Helen Russell

Title: Gone Viking
Author: Helen Russell
Publisher: Ebury

[Synopsis]

Frazzled mum Alice Ray likes to think she’s on top everything – she has FOUR bags-for-life in the boot of her car for heaven’s sake. But after spectacularly embarrassing herself at work, she finally gives in to her sister’s pleas to take a much needed break.

But this is not the luxury spa holiday Alice hoped for – instead, she finds herself in Denmark, in the middle of nowhere, on a ‘How to be a Viking’ getaway.

Can the two sisters finally learn to get along or will learning to embrace their inner warrior just make them better at fighting?

Two sisters. One Scandi holiday they’ll never forget…

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[My Review]

Gone Viking is a humorous, fun story about discovering what’s really important, all told through the eyes of ‘frazzled’ mum Alice.

The characters are good fun (some more likable than others); I found main character Alice quite hard to warm to, especially at first – I suppose I don’t have a lot in common with her as a character. However, following her and the group’s adventures during their Viking ‘holiday’ is really amusing, and the story is uplifting and engaging. I really liked Inge, in particular – she is someone to aspire to in many ways!

Some parts of Gone Viking are ridiculous, but you kind of expect that, and there are some more emotional parts too, meaning this isn’t completely light and fluffy. You follow Alice as she really changes during her time away, and see her grow as she realises what’s really important, and learns to loosen up a bit!

An amusing, fun read in the ‘women’s fic’ category which doesn’t just focus on relationships!

[Rating: 3/5]

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

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Skin Deep by @lizzienugent [review]

Skin Deep - Liz Nugent

Title: Skin Deep
Author: Liz Nugent
Publisher: Penguin UK

[Synopsis]

‘Once I had cleared the bottles away and washed the blood off the floor, I needed to get out of the flat.’

Cordelia Russell has been living on the Côte d’Azur for ten years, posing as a posh English woman fallen on hard times. But her luck is running out. Desperate to escape her grotty flat and grim reality, Cordelia spends a night at a glittering party. Surrounded by the young, beautiful and privileged she feels her age and her poverty. As dawn breaks she stumbles home through the back streets. Even before she opens her door she can hear the flies buzzing. It hasn’t taken long for the corpse in her bedroom to commence decomposing …

Liz Nugent’s novel is the dark, twisted and shocking story of what takes Cordelia from an island childhood in Ireland to ruins in Nice.

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[My Review]

This book is really not what I expected – but that’s no bad thing! The synopsis definitely makes it sound like a thriller centered around a particular incident in Cordelia Russel’s life, as an adult, when in fact the plot starts with her at a young age and spends a good portion of the story recounting her life growing up and as a young woman, before covering the years after.

What I really enjoyed about this novel is that you’re with main character Cordelia as she develops into the person she is – and, let’s be honest, that isn’t the nicest person at times! Despite her distinct lack of likability, I loved reading this novel – from start to finish. I really do enjoy reading a book about a less than perfect character who has that hint of the twisted and/or sinister about them. There are slower parts and more eventful sections, but all of it kept me turning page after page, and I would definitely recommend this.

The detail is excellent and the sense of time / place is so powerful (I could really imagine myself there on the slightly eerie island of Iniscran). Skin Deep was a surprise for me, but a brilliant one at that: a well-written, deep, character-driven novel with wonderful descriptions and a real sense of unease…


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

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Turn a Blind Eye [review]

Turn a Blind Eye

Title: Turn a Blind Eye [audiobook version]
Author: Vicky Newham
Series: DI Maya Rahman
Publisher: HQ

[Synopsis]

A twisted killer has a deadly riddle for DI Maya Rahman to solve in this pulse-racing thriller, the first in an addictive new series set in East London.

A headmistress is found strangled in her East London school, her death the result of a brutal and ritualistic act of violence. Found at the scene is a single piece of card, written upon which is an ancient Buddhist precept:

I shall abstain from taking the ungiven.

At first, DI Maya Rahman can’t help but hope this is a tragic but isolated murder. Then, the second body is found.

Faced with a community steeped in secrets and prejudice, and with a serial killer on her hands, Maya must untangle the cryptic messages left at the crime scenes to solve the deadly riddle behind the murders – before the killer takes another victim.

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[My Review]

I really enjoyed this novel which had all the elements of a police procedural that I tend to enjoy, and plenty of mystery and tension too.

I really liked Maya – she’s an intelligent, quick, hard-working detective who also happens to be Bengali. This makes a bit of a change from other white-male-driven novels in this genre, and her background and family life growing up affects Maya’s way of thinking and policing in Tower Hamlets and the surrounding area, where a headmistress has been murdered.

The story is really well structured, allowing the reader to slowly piece together what has happened whilst revealing more about Maya and her colleagues, and also touching upon many issues and subjects that are incredibly relevant today. There’s plenty of clues and along the way, and I really enjoyed listening to this on audiobook. It’s an easy listen (narrated really well by Sonia Kaur) and very engaging. The plot is tight, the characters are (on the whole) likable and interesting, and the setting in London is great with its multicultural characters – I would definitely recommend this for anyone looking to discover a gripping new crime series with a strong and likable female lead.


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Deadly Secrets by @RobertBryndza [review] @bookouture

Deadly Secrets - Robert Bryndza

Title: Deadly Secrets
Author: Robert Bryndza
Series: Detective Erika Foster (#6)
Publisher: Bookouture

[Synopsis]

To commit the perfect murder, you need the perfect cover.

On a cold icy morning, a mother wakes to find her daughter’s blood-soaked body frozen to the road. Who would carry out such a horrific killing on the victim’s doorstep?

Straight off her last harrowing case, Detective Erika Foster is feeling fragile but determined to lead the investigation. As she sets to work, she finds reports of assaults in the same quiet South London suburb where the woman was killed. One chilling detail links them to the murder victim – they were all attacked by a figure in black wearing a gas mask.

Erika is on the hunt for a killer with a terrifying calling card. The case gets more complicated when she uncovers a tangled web of secrets surrounding the death of the beautiful young woman.

Yet just as Erika begins to piece the clues together, she is forced to confront painful memories of her past. Erika must dig deep, stay focused and find the killer. Only this time, one of her own is in terrible danger…

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[My Review]

Another fantastic, well-written release from Robert Bryndza and the Detective Erika Foster series, which has quickly climbed to one of my favourite detective/ crime series, and which never fails to draw me into Erika’s world so completely. I know once I pick up a novel in this series I won’t be able to do anything else until I’ve finished it!

As well as lots of gripping investigation and police work, plus glimpses into the life of a disturbing killer, we also see a bit more of Erika’s soft side as she helps her father in law and deals with some surprising news from a certain someone…

I love the police procedural element of the story – as always the plot is gripping, tight and excellently written, with the perfect mix of personal elements surrounding Erika’s team and the police work itself.

Deadly Secrets could be read as a stand-alone, but with five previous (brilliant) novels to get stuck into, I recommend starting from the beginning so you know as much as possible about Erika and her background, as this only enhances each story!

[Rating: 5/5]

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

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