Perfect Ten by Jacqueline Ward [review] @JacquiAnnC ‏

Perfect Ten

Title: Perfect Ten
Author: Jacqueline Ward
Publisher: Corvus Atlantic

[Synopsis]

An explosive debut thriller about one woman’s search for revenge – and the dangerous chain of events she sets in motion…

Caroline Atkinson is powerless and angry. She has lost more than most – her marriage, her reputation, even her children. Then one day, she receives an unusual delivery: lost luggage belonging to the very man who is responsible, her estranged husband Jack.

In a leather holdall, Caroline unearths a dark secret, one that finally confirms her worst suspicions. Jack has kept a detailed diary of all his affairs; every name, every meeting, every lie is recorded. He even marks the women out of ten.

Caroline decides it’s time to even the score. She will make this man pay, even if it means risking everything…

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[My Review]

Perfect Ten is a brilliant read packed full of betrayal, rage and good old fashioned revenge. I thought it was a lot of fun and I found myself staying up until the early hours, wanting to finish it.

Main character Caroline is definitely not the most level-headed woman you’ll ever meet – but the more I read about what she’d been through with husband Jack, the more I understood why she felt the anger that she did, and by a quarter of the way in I’d have happily punched Jack in the face myself! Jacqueline Ward has created some truly powerful characters in Perfect Ten, in that they really provoked feelings in me – whether positive or negative – and made me root for Caroline. She was definitely unhinged and definitely extreme but I loved reading about her and was behind her all the way – I was definitely #TeamCaro!

This isn’t all thriller, it has plenty of emotions wrapped up inside it as well, and I like that this novel is a mix of genres – women’s fiction and thriller being two of them! It’s firmly rooted in the 21st century with a lot of Caroline’s revenge centering around Facebook and technology, but this doesn’t cheapen the story like it has with other books I’ve read – it simply made me picture myself in Caroline’s position today and helped me identify even more with her.

Perfect Ten is a lot of fun and addictive reading. Clear a few hours in your diary and enjoy!

[Rating: 5/5]

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

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The Stranger Diaries - Elly Griffiths

The Stranger Diaries by Elly Griffiths [review]

The Stranger Diaries - Elly Griffiths

Title: The Stranger Diaries
Author: Elly Griffiths
Publisher: Quercus

[Synopsis]

A gripping contemporary Gothic thriller from the bestselling author of the Dr Ruth Galloway mysteries: Wilkie Collins and MR James meet Gone Girl and Disclaimer.

Clare Cassidy is no stranger to murder. As a literature teacher specialising in the Gothic writer RM Holland, she teaches a short course on it every year. Then Clare’s life and work collide tragically when one of her colleagues is found dead, a line from an RM Holland story by her body. The investigating police detective is convinced the writer’s works somehow hold the key to the case.

Not knowing who to trust, and afraid that the killer is someone she knows, Clare confides her darkest suspicions and fears about the case to her journal. Then one day she notices some other writing in the diary. Writing that isn’t hers…

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[My Review]

I am a big Elly Griffiths fan, and love her Ruth Galloway series, so I was intrigued to try a book with different characters in it. The Stranger Diaries definitely feels like a different read, but it was just as entertaining and absorbing as her other novels, and the characters – which Elly Griffiths is always so great at shaping – read like real people I could, on the whole, imagine actually existing.

The plot is interesting and kept me intrigued; at some points it required some suspension of disbelief (definitely less believable than her Ruth Galloway series – sorry to keep comparing but, hey, I love those books) but it is a fun and engaging story, and has some enjoyable twists and turns. I have to say that Harbinder, the DS, shone in this novel – she’s very confident, knows her own mind and rubs people up the wrong way, but she’s a unique and interesting character who added something fresh to the story. I did like Clare but felt at times she was a little annoying/ snobby – I really couldn’t identify with some of her opinions – however Georgie, though a predictably stuck up/ whiny teenager some of the time, seemed likeable and overall a sweet girl.

This is a well-written story and a good start to a new series, if that is what it will become (I’d read more of DS Kaur for sure) but it doesn’t quite measure up to the brilliance of Elly Griffith’s Ruth Galloway series. Well worth a read, though.

[Rating: 4/5]

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

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Transcription

Transcription by Kate Atkinson [review]

Transcription

Title: Transcription
Author: Kate Atkinson
Publisher: Transworld

[Synopsis]

Transcription is a bravura novel of extraordinary power and substance.

Juliet Armstrong is recruited as a young woman by an obscure wartime department of the Secret Service. In the aftermath of war she joins the BBC, where her life begins to unravel, and she finally has to come to terms with the consequences.

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[My Review]

Transcription manages to effortlessly evoke 1940s/ 1950s London, and a London full of secret missions and spies at that, without being too confusing (something I sometimes find with spy thrillers). It’s very much not a thriller in my opinion, but instead a slow burner that pulls you in until you’re completely absorbed in Juliet’s world.

The characters are interesting and likable, and Juliet in particular seems like a smart woman despite being very preoccupied with finding a husband – a sign of the times perhaps? It offers an interesting perspective on WW2 intelligence and I loved reading about Juliet’s activity and efforts to transcript the monitored conversations. I sometimes lost track of who was who, as there’s a lot of character names, but it was by no means confusing – definitely what I’d class as an ‘enjoyable read’.

This is certainly not an ‘action-packed’ novel, but it is an interesting, sharp story set during an era I’m always really interested in reading about. As expected, Kate Atkinson’s writing is fantastic and a joy to read.

[Rating: 4.5/5]

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The Adults by @CarolineHulse1 [review]

The Adults

Title: The Adults
Author: Caroline Hulse
Publisher: Orion

[Synopsis]

Meet The Adults

Claire and Matt are divorced but decide what’s best for their daughter Scarlett is to have a ‘normal’ family Christmas. They can’t agree on whose idea it was, or who said they should bring their new partners. But someone did – and it’s too late to pull the plug.

Claire brings her new boyfriend Patrick, a seemingly eligible Iron-Man-in-Waiting. Matt brings the new love of his life Alex, funny, smart, and extremely patient. Scarlett, their daughter, brings her imaginary friend Posey. He’s a rabbit. Together the five (or six?) of them grit their teeth over Organized Fun activities, drinking a little too much after bed-time, oversharing classified secrets about their pasts and, before you know it, their holiday is a powder keg that ends – where this story starts – with a tearful, frightened, call to the police…

But what happened? They said they’d all be adults about this…

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[My Review]

I absolutely loved how The Adults makes you feel like you’re right there on holiday with this dysfunctional family, as they try to muddle their way through an awkward, too-close-for-comfort family holiday in somewhere that I imagine to be like Centerparcs, but SO Christmas-themed-it-hurts! Think a LOT of forced ‘magical festive fun’ for the whole family to ‘enjoy’… except things are falling apart fast!

From reading the very first page I assumed this would be moresort of a mystery story, where the reader can piece together what happened to the ‘male’ who needs an ambulance in the first scene. However, it’s much more about the family drama and relationships between the characters – though the ’emergency incident’ does play a big part, of course – and I was compeltely fine with that. I didn’t at all mind the lack of focus on the mystery (for once) because the story is so entertaining and fun to read.

Caroline Hulse has a way of making you feel like you could be reading about so many ‘normal’ families who are doing their best to spend Christmas (an often-fraught time  of year, in terms of family, at the best of times) together for the sake of little Scarlett (who I have to say, I kind of disliked, despite her only being a child!).

I’d really recommend this funny read; it’s got some mystery in there to keep you hooked and I loved the funny (and fraught) dynamics between the characters – so entertaining!

[Rating: 4/5]

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

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The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton

The Truths and Triumps of Grace Atherton [review]

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton

Title: The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton
Author: Anstey Harris
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

[Synopsis]

Between the simple melody of running her violin shop and the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with David, her devoted partner of eight years, Grace Atherton has always set her life to music.

Her world revolves entirely around David, for Grace’s own secrets have kept everyone else at bay. Until, suddenly and shockingly, one act tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.

It takes a vivacious old man and a straight-talking teenager to kickstart a new chapter for Grace. In the process, she learns that she is not as alone in the world as she had once thought, that no mistake is insurmountable, and that the quiet moments in life can be something to shout about …

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[My Review]

I enjoyed The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton; it’s a fairly slow burner but it kept me turning the pages because I wanted to find out how things would end for the main characters… even though the main character Grace could be a bit irritating at times. I definitely assumed she was way younger than forty(ish) until her age was explicitly stated; she reads as quite naive, particularly in the way she’s constantly anticipating her and David’s future life together (I don’t want to give too much away but there are various reasons this annoyed me) which just wound me up, to be honest! I didn’t like their relationship and I wanted her to realize that.

I have to say, though, that it’s interesting to read about how Grace changes over time. I liked the interactions between some characters (Nadia was particularly intriguing) and I felt that it was written beautifully – the sentences seemed to flow really well, making this enjoyable read.

A lot of the story centered around Grace’s love for cellos and other instruments, something that I don’t have a lot of knowledge in but which allowed me to find out more about this, which I liked. I wanted to know more about Grace’s relationship with various characters and found this to be really interesting.

Overall, I think this is a beautifully written story which feels a bit different – recommended.

[Rating: 4/5]


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

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A Single Journey

A Single Journey [blog tour extract]

A Single Journey

Today I’m  excited to be a part of the blog tour for A Single Journey, the new novel by Frankie McGowan.

Read on for an extract from the book and to find out more…

Title: A Single Journey 
Author: Frankie McGowan
Publisher: Endeavour Media

[Synopsis]

Harriet has begun to despair of her life.

With a failed relationship behind her, a business on the rocks and a flat that’s falling apart around her ears, she could really use some luck.

Elena Banbury, née Guseva, an elderly but imposing Russian woman who is Harriet’s neighbour and landlady, frequently entertains the punters at Harriet’s jewellery stall with tales of the palaces of St. Petersburg and the treasures of Fabergé. But Harriet sometimes feels, guiltily, that she could do without the endless errands that seem to fall to her as Elena’s friend.

Then, unexpectedly, when Elena dies, she leaves all her worldly goods to a grateful Harriet. In time, however, it becomes clear that others are shocked by Harriet’s good luck, too. Shocked… and very, very unhappy.

Challenged in court by Elena’s family who live in Berlin, Harriet is forced to give up her inheritance and long-dreamed-of plans for a new business, and start her life again. But with her reputation in tatters and the memory of Elena tainted, Harriet knows a great injustice has been done.

Against the advice of her friends, family and lawyers, Harriet sets off on her own, very singular journey to Berlin.

In the weeks that follow she meets rich and poor, the glamorous and the criminal, the honest and the secretive, and begins to see that perhaps she has something to learn from them all. Something to learn about herself, and something to learn about her priorities.

She knows she has to fight for justice. But, when she meets the scholarly, perceptive Neil, who generously tries to help Harriet in her mission, but who is struggling with a complicated marriage, she must also decide if she’ll fight for love, too.

[Extract from A Single Journey]

At the tangled junction of broad boulevards heading towards the entrance to the Tiergarten, Neil took her arm while they waited for the traffic streaming down from the Brandenburg Gate to ease up to allow them to cross.

On the other side of the street, for a while they walked in silence through the wide tree-lined paths of the Tiergarten, dodging around the familiar sight of families found in any big city on Saturday afternoon; babies in buggies, parents calling to children to watch out as they swerved on scooters around unsuspecting strollers, lovers with arms entwined, oblivious to anyone but each other. It could have been any park, in any city, anywhere in the world.

‘I should be careful,’ she smiled at Neil. His hands were dug into his pockets. He was
walking, frowning at the ground.

‘What?’ he looked blankly at her. ‘Sorry, miles away. About what?’

‘Falling in love.’

‘What?’ he looked startled.

‘With this city,’ she confessed. ‘Well, perhaps not the cold,’ she added quickly, beginning to remember his slavish devotion to accuracy. ‘Or the white sausages, or those nightmare men pounding on the door of the Hafen every night.’

‘Even after all you went through?’ He gave her a curious look.

She nodded. ‘It’s weird, isn’t it? It was only two – no crikey three – weeks ago. I shake when I think of it. I – I’m not that brave. I have a light by my bed – Bebe found it for me – and the dark isn’t great. But I can’t seem to associate that with this – all this magnificence. Neil? Are you okay?’

He was staring at her. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Just wondering if the market up ahead has
somewhere to grab a coffee.’

They found a stall that sold coffee in the tightly packed aisles of the famed flea market in the centre of the park, ambling companionably through them, stopping only when Harriet inspected the vintage jewellery. So long it seemed, since she had bothered with any of this. Not knowing quite what she was looking for, since she had no business anymore to make it worthwhile, she wondered where the drive for any of this had gone. Temporary, she consoled herself. It was another city, another time. It would come back to her.

On one stall, she turned over what looked like an amber and silver brooch, which she guessed had been copied from a time when more heavy Victorian tastes had melted away to be replaced by Edwardian delicacy.

Neil peered over her shoulder. ‘Is it real? The amber?’

‘Here?’ she glanced around the market. ‘Unlikely. Anyway, if you want to invest in amber, you should only ever buy Baltic,’ she advised. ‘And this is certainly not it.’

‘How can you tell? Just in case,’ he went on, ‘I’m ever asked. Well, you never know,’ he objected when she laughed.

‘Okay. Well, if you rub it with a soft cloth, then pluck a hair from your head, if it clings to it, it probably is. Or some people recommend washing it with soap and water and then licking it – it should be tasteless by the way – and then there’s the nail varnish test—’

‘Good God,’ he said hastily. ‘How do you know all this stuff?’

‘Well, a gemmology course helped – and there is all sorts of nonsense talked about tests for genuine stuff, but then I met Dermot and it was mostly through him. He could tell from the other end of the room what it was worth.’

‘He taught you?’

‘Not exactly. More that, when you’re with someone who is a total expert, you kind of want to know. A bit like you telling me something about a maths problem and – what’s the matter? You are impressive, okay, I think you are, but then I flunked maths at school so what do I know? Don’t look so shocked – I probably wouldn’t remember everything you said, but I’d remember enough not to sound ridiculous.’

‘Could you—?’ he seemed to be about to hold out his hand, but stopped. ‘Harriet? What’s the matter?’

She was staring through a closed glass case at a bracelet set in silver, the gleaming green gem caught in its clasp, catching the light. For some reason she shivered…

Extract from Chapter 17

Has this piqued your interest? At the moment you can treat yourself to A Single Journey on kindle for just 99p!


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A Single Journey


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You Were Made for This [review]

You Were Made For This

Title: You Were Made for This
Author: Michelle Sacks
Publisher: HQ

[Synopsis]

A bold, sharp, gripping debut about a couple whose perfect life in the Swedish countryside is not what it seems…

In an idyllic house in a Swedish wood, Merry and her husband are building their new dream life with their young baby, far away from events that overshadowed their old life in New York. And they’re happy, aren’t they? Blissfully, blissfully happy.

When Merry’s childhood friend Frances comes to stay, Frances barely recognises her old friend Merry, pureeing baby food, baking, living the Swedish dream. But little by little, cracks begin to show in her carefully constructed fairy tale. And Frances starts to see things others might miss. Dark and treacherous things.

And then a terrible tragedy unfolds…

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[My Review]

You Were Made For This has all the elements of a domestic thriller, which I often enjoy reading, and though it was slower-paced than I expected, I still found it an interesting read.

There are various disturbing, dark parts to this story and I found that for most of the novel I was in a state of rage with certain characters. I don’t want to give too much away but it very effectively highlights how ‘subtle’ pyschological abuse and control can be – it’s not always full on fights and slaps. Merry and Sam’s relationship is put under the microscope by Frances – supposedly Merry’s best friend – coming to stay, and you realise that here we have another very questionable character! No one in this novel is hugely likeable, but this adds to the allure of the story because you really feel like you’re delving into a world of dark thoughts and feelings – there are some twisted things going on, both in the characters’ minds and in reality.

The setting in Sweden was a bit of a welcome change from US and UK-based novels (not that there’s anything wrong with them, but it’s nice to read about somewhere completely different) and I really liked that there was an element of mystery, too – I won’t say what happens but I definitely swung between characters when trying to work out who was responsible. It made me doubt people and then restore my faith in them – and then doubt them again!

I really liked Michelle Sacks’s writing, though I felt some parts could have been shortened a little and the complete lack of speech marks sometimes made it harder to follow (though this also made the novel stand out more). However, I would still recommend this to anyone looking for a well-written domestic thriller.

[Rating: 3.5/5]

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

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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.

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling [blog tour review]

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling

Today I am really excited to be a part of the blog tour for Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling – read on to find out what I thought…

Title: Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling
Author: Emer McLysaghtSarah Breen
Publisher: Penguin

[Synopsis]

Everyone knows an Aisling:

Loves going Out Out, but secretly scared of liquid eyeliner.
Happy to drink the bar dry, but will bring her own coaster if necessary.
Would rather die than miss a cooked hotel breakfast, but can calculate the Points in a Snickers at fifty paces.

Aisling’s the girl with a heart of gold, but a boyfriend who still hasn’t made a peep about their Big Day even after seven years.

But then a disastrous romantic getaway shows Aisling that it’s time to stop waiting around and leave John behind for the bright lights of Dublin. After she’s wailed her way through Adele’s Greatest Hits, that is

Between glamorous new flatmates, a scandal at work and finding herself in a weird love square, Aisling is ready to take on the big city. So long as she has her umbrella with her.

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[My Review]

Fun, entertaining and, at times, a bit emotional, Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling is a fast-paced, funny read which I really didn’t want to put down!

The word ‘Aisling’ seems to be a term originally coined in an Irish Facebook group set up by Emer and Sarah, which has amassed many members who discuss the things they’ve noticed and observed about a certain type of Irish girl, known as an ‘Aisling’. I didn’t know this before I read the novel, so it’s not essential information, but I found it interesting that Aisling is a (seemingly fond, not cruel) term for a certain type of girl – and what an amusing character this novel’s Aisling is!

Oh My God, What a Complete Aisling made me smile and laugh, and though she’s odd in many ways, I really warmed to Aisling – seeing the world through her eyes is so entertaining, and left my hugely amused. Her observations on other people and their habits are brilliant. Some parts are ridiculous but that’s all part of the fun, and there are some much more serious moments too – it’s not all light and fluffy.

I wish there were more pages to this novel so I could spend more time with her (Emer and Sarah, write a second book asap please!). Definitely recommended.

[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, and for inviting me onto the blog tour.

Buy your copy here

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Complete Aisling Blog Tour


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Cross Her Heart [review]

Cross Her Heart - Sarah Pinborough

Title: Cross Her Heart
Author: Sarah Pinborough
Publisher: HarperCollins

[Synopsis]

Promises only last if you trust each other, but what if one of you is hiding something?

A secret no one could ever guess.

Someone is living a lie.

Is it Lisa?

Maybe it’s her daughter, Ava.

Or could it be her best friend, Marilyn?

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[My Review]

Cross Her Heart has atmosphere and mystery within its pages and I found myself gripped by the plot. Sarah Pinborough does a great job of making you think one way about a character before suddenly surprising you, and though I don’t want to give too much away, I will say this is satisfyingly twisty…

The characters are a mixed bag of likable and annoying, but they all felt convincing and interesting to read about. For example, Ava – just through being a stroppy teenage girl – did get on my nerves at times, but you understand why she acts the way she does sometimes and you do feel like she could be one of many teenagers struggling with hormones etc! Meanwhile I really warmed to both Lisa and her best friend Marilyn but each had their own faults, too. You’re never quite sure who is telling the truth, and I always love a story that makes you doubt everyone, including the main narrator!

There are some really upsetting themes in this novel – again, I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just say that some parts make for hard reading but they do add to the tension. Secrets and lies feature heavily, as does family strife!

I really enjoyed reading Cross Her Heart, and would definitely recommend Sarah Pinborough as an author – the other two books I’ve read by her, 13 Minutes and Behind Her Eyes, were brilliant reads (see my reviews for them here and here respectively)! It’s gripping, intriguing and the plot kept me turning page after page!

[Rating: 4/5]

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

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