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

[Follow the rest of the tour!]

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.

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

 

Our Kind of Cruelty [review]

Our Kind of Cruelty

Title: Our Kind of Cruelty
Author: Araminta Hall
Publisher: Cornerstone

[Synopsis]

This is a love story. Mike’s love story.

Mike Hayes fought his way out of a brutal childhood and into a quiet, if lonely life, before he met Verity Metcalf. V taught him about love, and in return, Mike has dedicated his life to making her happy. He’s found the perfect home, the perfect job, he’s sculpted himself into the physical ideal V has always wanted. He knows they’ll be blissfully happy together.

It doesn’t matter that she hasn’t been returning his emails or phone calls.
It doesn’t matter that she says she’s marrying Angus.

It’s all just part of the secret game they used to play. If Mike watches V closely, he’ll see the signs. If he keeps track of her every move he’ll know just when to come to her rescue…

A spellbinding, darkly twisted novel about desire and obsession, and the complicated lines between truth and perception, Our Kind of Cruelty introduces Araminta Hall, a chilling new voice in psychological suspense.

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[My Review]

Our Kind of Cruelty is a gripping read, drawing me further and further into Mike’s (often completely crazy/ridiculous/warped) world. I found this quite a tricky review to write because I feel like it says so much whilst being quite hard to ‘pin down’…

I loved that this is a psychological thriller based around the male offender, whereas – as Araminta explains in her author’s note – this genre is often centered around the female victims. This novel recounts events entirely from the male stalker perspective – and its done so well! At some (limited) points you feel a little sorry for him, at other times you CANNOT BELIEVE he can think that way. And at other points you just feel outrage at the way the justice system works for men vs. women. Yes, this is going to be a novel that will make you a bit angry (unless you’re a much calmer person than me) – either way I don’t think it can fail to provoke some strong feelings, and I love novels that do this.

At some points I wondered if anyone would have this level of tunnel vision… but then I’d think about stories in the news and in day to day life and realise that some people really are like that… scary.

Our Kind of Cruelty manages to make such a statement about the way stalkers and ‘the stalked’ are treated, and delves into that horrible, seemingly increasing, male persona where they feel entitled to a woman and can’t understand the word no. It really makes you think, as well as being a really interesting and well-written novel – give this a go, it’s something a little different and it kept me turning those pages.

[Rating: 5/5]

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

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

 

 

 

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.

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

 

You Me Everything [review]

You, Me, Everything

Title: You Me Everything
Author: Catherine Isaac
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

[Synopsis]

You and me, we have history.
We have a child together.
We have kept secrets from each other for far too long.
This summer, in the beautiful hills of the Dordogne, it is time for everything to change.
You, Me, Everything is a heartfelt and unforgettable novel about the lengths we are prepared to go to for those we love.

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[My Review]

Ohh, what a wonderfully written and emotional book – I didn’t want to stop reading, despite the tears (I do cry easily but even so, this was a heartwrencher!).

Catherine Isaac’s writing feels so like real life – in many ways but, at its heart, just in the way she portrays dialogue and actions – it all feels natural and so convincing. The situation – Jess trying to get her ex (and father of her child) to bond at last, whilst dealing with her own problems and those of her family too – I don’t want to give too much away so will leave it at that – is one that no doubt many people have experienced, and it’s all portrayed so realistically.

I also love the characters in this novel. Jess is lovely, strong and the kind of person who deals with things so well considering what she has to worry about – definitely an inspirational main character! In fact, the other characters are also so interesting to read about. I really like them all… even Adam, despite his MANY faults. You can see why Jess fell for him; I think everyone reading the novel might feel the same just a bit. However what I like most of all about this novel is that people and circumstances are never simple. There isn’t an easy switch to solve everyone’s problems, because that isn’t real life. People don’t always behave so well but that doesn’t preclude them as bad people, just as other people might end up having to deal with more than their fair share of trouble, but unfortunately life is like that sometimes – not always fair.

You Me Everything conveys all of this without being overly depressing – there’s certainly times when I felt upset and shed a tear (or two…or a hundred) but there were other times where I smiled. It addresses some really important issues and I loved Catherine Isaac’s writing.

You, Me, Everything is a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions at times, but it’s a brilliant read and I loved being along with them for the journey.

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

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The Fear by @callytaylor [blog tour #review]

The Fear

Today it’s my stop on the blog tour for this brilliant new release from C.L. Taylor! Read on to see what I thought – and read a sneaky extract too!

Title: The Fear
Author: C.L. Taylor
Publisher: Avon Books

[Synopsis]

Lou Smith is used to being headline news as, aged seventeen, she ran away with her 37-year-old teacher, Mike, during a short-lived affair.

Now 32, Lou’s life is in tatters – and she resolves to return home to confront Mike for the damage he has caused. But she soon finds that Mike is unchanged, and is now grooming a young 15-year-old girl called Chloe.

Determined to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself, Lou decides to take matters into her own hands. But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as she tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that Lou could once again become his prey…

[Extract]

She yanks at the ceramic pot holding an ornamental cherry tree but it’s too heavy to lift with one hand. She bends her knees and pushes at the lid of the pot whilst simultaneously reaching down to steady the bottom with her other hand, but the weight of the tree is too great and the pot slips from her grasp. The tree bashes into the hedge, bounces off it and then crashes to the ground, taking out several pots before it lies still. Wendy clamps her hands to her ears, then ducks down low, as a shadow appears in one of the upstairs rooms in the house next door.

Her heart thunders in her chest. What should she do? Run back to the car? Hide under the hedge? She places a hand on the cold ground, preparing to run, and then she sees it – a silver Yale key lying beside one of the smashed pots. She inches forward, snatches it up, then, keeping low, heads for the hedge. She presses her back up against it, hands quivering against the smooth leaves and sharp twigs and waits.

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[My Review]

I was completely gripped by this story of revenge and fear! It provokes a mix of emotions, from anger to fear to disgust (when you read more about Mike, you’ll probably feel all these too), all taking place against a worryingly ‘normal’ backdrop  – and I was completely sucked in!

The characters in this novel really drew me in – I cared about main character Lou and the elements taken from her diary make you see what it’s like to be an unhappy child with a seemingly less-than-loving family, and how worryingly easy it is for older men to prey on these kinds of teenagers. It really makes you think about this, and though it’s not a pleasant topic, it is very interesting to read about. When Lou realises Mike, having been released from prison years ago, is grooming another young girl, she vows to stop him – and ends up taking things a lot further than planned! I also really liked Wendy, despite her many faults, and felt that her inclusion in the story was brilliant as it takes the reader away from just focusing on the victim and offender – there are so many other people affected by this kind of crime too, and Wendy made for a very interesting character to read about!

I loved that C.L. Taylor writes in a way that makes you completely get how things can so easily spiral out of control – both for Lou as she confronts Mike and for poor confused Chloe, and in fact everyone around them (including family and friends) as they fail to recognise the importance of what is going on right under their noses. The story is written in such a way that you think you know exactly where it’s going… but you really don’t!

I raced through The Fear and would definitely recommend it as a gripping read which is as much about the characters’ struggles as it is about action itself – a truly thrilling read with an added layer of substance!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Avon 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!

Follow the rest of the tour…

The Fear - Blog Tour Banner - Part 3

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Paper Ghosts [review]

Paper Ghosts

Title: Paper Ghosts
Author: Julia Hearberlin
Publisher: Penguin

[Synopsis]

My Sister disappeared.

I know who took her.

Now I’ve taken him.

———-

Carl Louis Feldman is an old man who once took photographs.

That was before he was tried for murder and acquitted.

Before dementia and his admission to a Texas care facility.

Now his daughter has come to see him, to take him on a trip.

Only she’s not his daughter, and, if she has her way, he’s not coming back . . .

Because Carl’s past has finally caught up with him. The woman driving the car is convinced he’s guilty, and that he’s killed other young women. Including her sister Rachel.

Now they’re driving across Texas, following his photographs, his clues, his crimes. To see if he remembers any of it. To discover what happened to Rachel.

Has Carl truly forgotten what he did or is he just pretending? Perhaps he’s guilty of nothing and she’s the liar. Either way, in driving him into the Texan badlands she’s taking a terrible risk.

For if Carl really is a serial killer, she’s alone in the most dangerous place of all…

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[My Review]

Having hugely enjoyed Black Eyed Susans, I was really excited to read Paper Ghosts, and though it took a little longer to get into, I found this to be an interesting and, at times, quite creepy novel.

Main character Grace has her own aims when she offers to take her ‘father’ on a road trip – her sister Rachel disappeared years ago and the Police’s main suspect was (is?) her supposed grandfather, Carl. She wants to finally find out what’s happening, and will seemingly stop at nothing to do so…

The story starts off with a lot of impact, but it is quite a slow burner. A lot of the plot centers around the dialogue and ‘games’ the two play with eachother, meaning if you’re looknig for a ‘thrilling’ read, this probably isn’t for you. However, the tension builds as the novel continues and I found myself really wondering who knows what, and how much is actually a lie? I liked this element of doubt that Julia throws in.

The use of photographs added to the impact and ultimately the story becomes less about who the killer is, and more about how Grace will ‘deal’ with Carl. Julia Heaberlin’s writing is really skillful and makes you want to know more by teasing out little details via Grace, which did leave me feeling a little confused at times (but wanting to know more) with an added sense of ‘chill’ surrounding the whole, horrible case – at times you can almost feel Grace’s desperation bouncing off the page. Paper Ghosts is a very well-written, slow-building story which I enjoyed.


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

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Anna by @MrsAmandaProwse [review]

Anna - Amanda Prowse

Title: Anna
Author: Amanda Prowse
Publisher: Head of Zeus

[Synopsis]

One Love, Two Stories.

Anna Cole grew up in care, and is determined to start a family of her own. Theo Montgomery had a loveless childhood, and wants only to find his soulmate.

Then, one day, Theo meets Anna, and Anna meets Theo. Two damaged souls from different worlds. Is their love for each other enough to let go of the pain of their pasts? Or will Anna and Theo break each others’ hearts?

There are two sides to every love story. This is Anna’s.

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[My Review]

Anna is a sweet, absorbing story about a young girl with such a sad start in life, and her battle to overcome her demons and fall in love – with Theo, the subject of the follow up to this story (this book is about Anna, book 2 is from Theo’s point of view).

There are plenty of sad points to this story as well as some more uplifting parts which you can’t help but smile at. The characters are convincing and, though some are definitely not likable, there are plenty of people you really do feel you can get behind (Anna’s cousin is just brilliant and so lovely, in stark contrast to his parents). Anna herself is just lovely; she hasn’t really got any ‘edges’ to her, she’s just very sweet and kind. She’s has had such a hard time and you can’t help but feel for her, making you actually care about what happens to her.

The plot covers so many parts of life in general and so many different ‘kinds’ of people, and I loved reading about them all – from the people she met whilst in a children’s home to Theo and his (slightly strange) family, as well as people from Anna’s own family who she never got to meet growing up. They’re all here!

The way Anna ends definitely left me wanting to read book 2, Theo, which will be released this month, and which will hopefully answer even more about Theo’s earlier life. He’s an equally interesting character and so I can see why Amanda Prowse has chosen to write a book from each of their perspectives – what a great idea!


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