Anything You Do Say [review]

Anything You Do Say

Title: Anything You Do Say
Author: Gillian McAllister
Publisher: Michael Joseph

[Synopsis]

Joanna is an avoider. So far she has spent her adult life hiding bank statements and changing career aspirations weekly.

But then one night Joanna hears footsteps on the way home. Is she being followed? She is sure it’s him; the man from the bar who wouldn’t leave her alone. Hearing the steps speed up Joanna turns and pushes with all of her might, sending her pursuer tumbling down the steps and lying motionless on the floor.

Now Joanna has to do the thing she hates most – make a decision. Fight or flight? Truth or lie? Right or wrong?

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[My Review]

Another fantastic read from Gillian McAllister; it’s full of every emotion you can think of, all written spectacularly well. I couldn’t put it down!

I don’t want to give anything away so I’m going to keep this fairly succinct. What I will  say is: don’t read Anything You Do Say if you have immediate plans – all you’ll want to do is stay in and race through this novel… which is exactly what I did!

The plot itself is just excellent, and presents a worryingly realistic situation. It’s every woman’s worst nightmare and whilst reading it I could imagine only too well how I might feel in Joanna’s place. Though I may not agree with everything she did, and at times her indecision was frustrating, but I really felt for her throughout the novel.

I absolutely loved the split storylines, titled ‘conceal’ and ‘reveal’, each showing what would happen if Jo had reacted in a different way, and how her life would have changed accordingly (and in some ways, dramatically!). It feels very realistic, and Gillian McAllister resists the urge to make everything tied up with a neat bow. It also made me really think about how unfair some aspects of just being a woman are! It provoked some strong emotions in me, which is always the sign of a great writer.

This is just a brilliantly constructed, convincing novel which I highly recommend. No doubt this will be on my best books of 2018 even though we’re only in January!

[Rating: 5/5]

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

Anything You Do Say is out in the UK on 25 January. 

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The Chalk Man [review]

The Chalk Man - C J Tudor

Title: The Chalk Man
Author: C.J. Tudor
Publisher: Michael Joseph

[Synopsis]

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy little English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code; little chalk stick figures they leave for each other as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing will ever be the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out his other friends got the same messages, they think it could be a prank… until one of them turns up dead. That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.

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[My Review]

Crime fans seeking something new and exciting, listen up: this is a riveting, intriguing novel which I absolutely loved!

The Chalk Man has the right balance of creepiness (plenty of that at times!) and comedy (dark comedy, mind!) plus some great character development. I loved Ed, despite his flaws and/or strangeness at times, and though the people around Ed had their own problems, and weren’t always that likable, they were very interesting so I still hugely enjoyed reading about them!

Ed was a great narrator, leading the reader back in time (to the 80’s – one of my favourite decades to immerse myself in) and then back around to present day, when I couldn’t wait to find out what on earth was – and had been – happening!

The Chalk Man featured lots of subtle clues and hints (which I always love!), plus BIG twists and turns (also love!) and that ending… it left me reeling!

I don’t want to say much more on the plot as I don’t want to give anything away or lead the reader to expect anything. I’ll just say that the writing is excellent – I can’t believe it’s a debut novel, and to be honest I’m sort of upset that it is because I want MORE to read now by C.J. Tudor – please, release something new soon!

The Chalk Man is a rollercoaster of mystery and surprise and a brilliant novel that I’d highly recommend. Read it now!

[Rating: 5/5]

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

The Child Finder [review]

The Child Finder - Rene Denfeld

Title: The Child Finder
Author: Rene Denfeld
Publisher: Orion

[Synopsis]

Naomi Cottle finds missing children. When the police have given up their search and an investigation stalls, families call her. She possesses a rare, intuitive sense, born out of her own harrowing experience that allows her to succeed when others have failed.

Young Madison Culver has been missing for three years. She vanished on a family trip to the mountainous forests of Oregon, where they’d gone to cut down a tree for Christmas. Soon after she disappeared, blizzards swept the region and the authorities presumed she died from exposure.

But Naomi knows that Madison isn’t dead. Can she find the child – and also find out why this particular case is stirring the shadows of her own memories? Could her future be bound to this girl in a way she doesn’t understand?

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[My Review]

The Child Finder is a well-written, atmospheric novel with a bit of a twist.

The plot is intriguing, with a few different strands to it – we hear from this mysterious ‘Snow Girl’, Naomi’s own thoughts and feelings and past life, and some of the other families Naomi has tried to help.

I loved the alternative narratives and the book’s twist on the usual police/ detective novel; there was more of the thoughts and feelings of people, not just the procedure of finding them – though that is in here too. Naomi is a unique kind of ‘detective’ in that she ‘finds’ children – having had some experience of being a lost child herself. I found some of the novel, around the middle, to be a little slow and at times found my attention wandering, but the pace picked up again towards the end when I was really eager to find out whether Naomi would be able to find little Madison. Some sentences did feel a little overdramatic in the way they were written but I felt that most of the book was just right.

There are plenty of emotive parts and some uncomfortable scenes which adds to the tension, and I really liked Naomi, though she had her own problems and faults – I’d like to read more about her in future books!

[Rating: 4/5]

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

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Close To Home [review]

Close To Home - Cara Hunter

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

[Synopsis]

Someone took Daisy Mason. Someone YOU KNOW.

Last night, 8-year-old Daisy Mason disappeared from her parents’ summer party. No one in the quiet suburban street saw anything – or at least that’s what they’re saying. DI Adam Fawley is trying to keep an open mind. But he knows that nine times out of ten, it’s someone the victim knew. That means someone is lying. And that Daisy’s time is running out…

Introducing DI Fawley and his team of Oxford detectives, CLOSE TO HOME is a pulse-pounding race against time and a penetrating examination of what happens to a community when a shocking crime is committed by one of its own.

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[My Review]

I have definitely, definitely found a new favourite crime writer (and new crime series) in Cara Hunter! As soon as I read the first few pages of Close To Home I was hooked. It’s a riveting read set in Oxford, which effectively combines elements of police procedurals with those of a gripping psychological thriller -this ticked all the boxes for a riveting read!

The characters in this novel are really complex and convincing, from the mysterious/ strange Mason family – do they have anything to hide? – to the smart Detective Inspector Fawley who has his own issues to deal with on top of trying to find out what’s happened to little Daisy Mason! No character is completely ‘good’ or ‘bad’, they all have their own quirks and faults, and on the whole it does feel like you’re reading about real people, something which isn’t always applicable to other novels in this genre.

The pacing is just right, opening with a bang and warning the reader that these kind of child ‘disappearances’ are often linked to someone close to them (don’t worry, it says that right at the start so I haven’t spoilt anything) – which makes you think throughout that it must be someone in the family… or is it?  I love the sense of unease and doubt that comes with novels like this, and Close To Home hits it right on the head.

There’s definitely some uncomfortable parts of the story, but that kind of goes with the territory and I didn’t feel like any of the story was unnecessary. Like the police, I had various ‘suspects’ in mind and the tension of the story builds until… that ending!!

I won’t say any more, just read this if you love your crime / police procedural novels (or even if you don’t!) because it really is an entertaining, gripping and well-written read!

[Rating: 5/5]

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

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Why Mummy Drinks [audiobook review]

Why Mummy Drinks

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

[Synopsis]

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

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

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

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

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[My Review]

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

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

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

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

[Rating: 4/5]

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The Perfect Victim [review]

The Perfect Victim - Corrie Jackson

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

[Synopsis]

Husband, friend, colleague . . . killer?

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

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

Then Charlie flees.

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

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

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

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

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[My Review]

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

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

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

[Rating: 5/5]

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

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The Shadow Man [review]

Shadow Man - Margaret Kirk

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

[Synopsis]

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

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

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

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

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[My Review]

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

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

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

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

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

[Rating: 4/5]

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

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The Wrong Child [review]

The Wrong Child - Barry Gornell

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

[Synopsis]

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

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

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

[My Review]

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

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

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

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


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

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Seven Days Of Us [review]

Seven Days of Us

Title: Seven Days Of Us
Author: Francesca Hornak
Publisher: Piatkus

[Synopsis]

A warm, wry, sharply observed debut novel about what happens when a family is forced to spend a week together in quarantine over the holidays…

It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.

For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems.

As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.

In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…

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[My Review]

Seven Days of Us is a novel with many emotions – there’s humour, sadness, anger and stress, all rolled up (along with Christmassy feelings and interesting characters) into a well-written, warm novel!

I’m not sure exactly how to ‘categorize’ this novel – though it revolves around a family going into quarantine over Christmas because their eldest daughter has been treating victims of a contagious disease, called Haag, in Africa, it’s not all about this. It’s more about the family’s relationships and interactions as they’re forced to spend more time together than they usually do, and some of their secrets which come to the surface. The story, though there’s plenty of drama included, doesn’t feel overly dramatic and really manages to avoid being too cheesy, despite the family pulling together sometimes and experiencing emotional upheaval at other times.

The story focuses in on each family member at different times – mother Emma, father Andrew, daughters Olivia and Phoebe, plus Phoebe’s fiance George… and some other additions, which I won’t say much about so as not to ruin the story. I love stories which focus in on different narratives or people, and find it adds so much to the plot when you learn how each person is feeling, instead of seeing it all through one person’s eyes.

Seven Days of Us touches upon so many different themes, but never feels rushed, and somehow manages to be exactly the right levels of light-hearted fun and seriousness! It’s also a thought-provoking read and its characters  – some lovely, some annoying, all refreshingly dysfunctional in their own way – really drew me in so that I didn’t want to stop reading! Highly recommended.

[Rating: 4.5/5]

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

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The Death of Her [review]

The Death Of Her - Debbie Howells

Title: The Death of Her
Author: Debbie Howells
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

[Synopsis]

A woman’s body is discovered on a Cornish farm, battered and left for dead in a maize field. Airlifted to hospital, her life hanging in the balance, no one’s sure who she is. Three days later she comes round, but her memory is damaged. She knows her name – Evie – but no more, until she remembers another name. Angel – her three-year-old daughter.

As the police circulate Evie’s photo, someone recognizes her. Charlotte knew her years ago, at school, when another child went missing. Leah Danning, who vanished whilst in Evie’s care.

When the police search Evie’s home, there’s no sign of Angel. More disturbingly, there’s no evidence that she ever lived there, forcing the police to question whether Evie’s having some kind of breakdown.

But even from the darkest place she’s ever known, Evie believes her daughter is alive. The police remain unconvinced – unaware that on the fringes of Evie’s life, there’s someone else. Someone hidden, watching her every move, with their own agenda and their own twisted version of reality.

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[My Review]

The Death of Her is a tense, twisty novel which kept me intrigued throughout.

The characters are really interesting and I enjoyed seeing the story from different perspectives, some of which were a surprise and some which gave an insight into the police investigation. I don’t want to give too much away but there’s definitely a sense of bewilderment at times whilst reading this – Debbie Howells effectively keeps you guessing and unsure of what exactly is going on sometimes, which I really liked.

I enjoyed reading about Cornwall and the investigation, though the police seemed a bit slow in their investigation sometimes! However there’s plenty of twists and surprises – the mix of Evie’s daughter Angel being missing, but there being doubts as to whether she event existed, combined with other possible crimes and unrealiable characters, left me wanting to read on!

I guessed a few smaller parts but the end left me feeling surprised and satisfied; I really enjoyed this novel from start to finish and would definitely recommend it.

[Rating: 4/5]

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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