Thursday, 29 December 2016

Behind her eyes - Sarah Pinborough - Buried secrets

In Behind Her Eyes, Sarah Pinborough takes us on a journey of toxic friendship and buried secrets which kept me up late at night frantically turning the pages over the Christmas hols.

We are immersed in the world of a rather lonely young woman Louise, who, on a rare night out meets handsome, sexy David who seems as though he could be the man of her dreams, although they share nothing more than conversation and a kiss.

When she turns up at work and discovers he is her new boss and he is married, it’s obvious to both of them that the flame they kindled must be extinguished, yet still the attraction between them flickers.

Then Louise bumps into Adele, warm-hearted, vulnerable, Adele, to whom she is instantly drawn, they have a lot in common, they both share disturbing night terrors which blight their lives, they are both in need of a friend and ... they have David in common because Adele is David’s beautiful wife and Louise is about to be drawn into the strangest love triangle I’ve ever come across.

It’s immediately apparent that the couples’ marriage isn’t quite as perfect as it seems to outsiders and as Louise is pulled deeper into their puzzling relationship is clear that something is very amiss, Adele is clearly hiding something and seems to have an ulterior motive.

This is the crux of the story which begins to tie the reader in knots. I didn't know who to trust and suspected everyone of all sorts! The clues to what is going on “behind her eyes” are there all along, but unless you can put 2 and 2 together and come to 7, there are surprises and shocks galore throughout the story all the way to that much acclaimed “What the …..??? “ conclusion. I had an inkling of the general direction we might be going about half way through, but the red herrings are so big and juicy that the disclosure when it comes cannot fail to surprise and shock.

We watch Louise as she teeters between a longed for bosom friendship with the beguiling and enchanting Adele, who begs her to conceal their friendship from David and a developing passionate affair with David begins which she knows she must conceal from Adele. But is Adele manipulating Louise and if so why? What exactly are the cracks in the marriage of these two and is David dangerous to be around? Maybe she's not quite as reliable a narrator as she seems.

Poor Louise, from meeting the two people of her dreams and the happiness this brings, her life takes a downward spiral, she is plunged into a desperate entanglement of lies and concealment and a mysterious missing person who may be able to throw some light on what’s going on.

The story is told from the perspective of Louise, then Adele and some enigmatic flashbacks to Adeles life years ago which confirm that she has plenty of mystery in her past.

A very gripping page turner of a psychological thriller with a complex paranormal twist. Extremely well written and exciting there are definitely a lot of twists and shocks and it is intense, compelling, entertainment all the way through.

After reading it I began understanding why certain things had happened and realizing how very imaginative the author has been in creating this complex world where nothing is quite what it appears.

My copy was provided via Netgalley and will be available towards the end of January published by Harper Collins.

Monday, 19 December 2016

The Gift - Louise Jensen - gripping page turner

The Gift by Louise Jensen

A compelling, gripping psychological thriller with a killer twist from the author of the Number One bestseller The Sister. 

My thoughts:

This book has been getting a LOT of kudos in the book blogging community and I’ve found it really difficult not to read the many rave reviews which have been popping up all over the place, following the very recent publication of this new title and a hugely successful blog tour. I was a little late to the party as usual and just finished my copy last night and it really sent shivers down my spine.

Oh and just look at the gorgeous cover!

It’s scarily different, tackling the subject of cellular memory syndrome which smacks of fantasy but is in fact a much reported, very real recently discovered phenomenon where a recipient of a donor organ experiences retrospective memories from the donor.

In The Gift we meet Jenna who is recovering from life-saving surgery following a viral infection which caused her own heart to cease functioning and became the recipient of a transplanted heart from a young woman who died in an accident.

As Jenna gradually regathers her strength and tries to rebuild her life, despite breaking with her beloved boyfriend Sam, seeing this as a selfless act of freeing him from being tied to her possibly foreshortened life span and her inability to bear him children.

Being absent from her job in a vets which she loves, for a long time and being apart from her friends has given her time to brood on the fact of which she is constantly aware – another girl has died in order to give her the chance at life, she struggles to come to terms with this and has feelings of guilt and bewilderment that she is still alive.

Heavily medicated, she has regular visits with a therapist to help her cope, yet she still feels a sense of threat, as though she is running away from something or someone. Nightmares plague her sleep and she awakes disoriented and shaking and she experiences dream-like memories of having a sister and being in an accident which she knows have never happened to her, gradually she fears for her own sanity. Are these the side effects of the drugs she takes to manage her condition, or is it something more? Could she really be experiencing fragments of the donors life, and death?

She manages to track down the donors family and in an ill-advised and unethical approach, contacts the dead girl, Callie’s family and finds an instant bond with them.

But this move might have put her in danger! Yet still she obsesses with finding out what actually did cause Callies death and grows desperate to solve the mystery surrounding the disappearance of Callies missing younger sister Sophie.

What evolves is a tense mystery, filled with suspense and lots of red herrings. Loads of great characters all have their own story and all the time Jenna’s new heart beats away the hours as time ticks by, the more she uncovers, the more mysteries are revealed and the more she becomes desperate to know.

We watch her court danger and all the while her obsession builds and the phenomenon of another persons heart transferring feelings is something she begins to admit must be what is giving her a very real craving for strawberries she once loathed, an instant attraction to Callies fiance Nathan, yet doubts about his devotion to Callie become concerns as to whether his protective nature may have been more domineering than at first appears.

There is question after question, mystery upon puzzle upon twisty turny complications. Nothing is straightforward and there is never a dull moment throughout the book as it races towards its terrifying conclusion.

What a fabulous, gripping page turner and a great follow up to the authors superb debut The Sister.

The Blurb

The perfect daughter. The perfect girlfriend. The perfect murder? 

Jenna is seriously ill. She’s lost all hope of getting the heart transplant she needs to live. But just as her life is ebbing away, she receives a donor heart from a girl called Callie. 
Who was Callie and how did she die? Jenna is determined to find out. 

The closer Jenna gets to those who loved Callie, the more questions arise about her untimely death. Someone knows what happened to Callie. Why won’t they talk? 

Jenna is about to uncover the truth, but it could cost her everything; her loved ones, her sanity, even her life. 

Available NOW in Paperback and ebook, another stunning offering from Bookouture.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Rattle - Fiona Cummins - phenomenal thriller

Rattle – Fiona Cummins

When you hear as much about a book in advance of publication as I have about Rattle it usually means one of two things:

a) The Book has an outstandingly good publicist promoting it or

b) It’s a phenomenally good book.

Regarding Rattle – Both are true.

But it’s also a debut novel and although new authors often come up with great ideas for books, (after all many of them have been nurturing the storyline for most of their lives) it’s always a bit of a leap into the dark, writing skill can be unpolished, style is sometimes lacking.

Not with this one!

Then there’s the final factor which puts a bit of extra pressure on a reader. Loads of fellow bloggers have been raving about this thriller for the past few weeks and it makes me worry, what if I’m the one dissenting voice that just doesn’t “get it”? That’s happened before and I have sadly felt a disappointing sense of bewilderment and something approaching shame that a book “everyone loves” has left me cold.

Not so with Rattle …. I loved this book - please read on …..


My very first thought after picking up this book and starting to read it is “Wow, there’s some writing talent in here”.

I was immediately sucked into the story like milk up a straw and immersed in the flowing liquid storyline so deeply I almost dissolved.

My Second thought was, this author has great similarity to Stephen King, but she’s Female – and British – Oh my.

The clarity and descriptiveness set it high on a pedestal. The way I was introduced to the leading characters quickly, yet without confusion, is fundamental to my enjoyment of this book.

Erdman Frith feels a bit of a failure, his job never amounted to much, he’s a bit pot bellied and can’t always say no to one pint too many, he feels he is constantly letting his wife down and though he adores his only son, little Jakey, has a disfiguring and painful disability, a rare bone condition that is gradually making him grow a bizarre and excruciatingly agonising exoskeleton over his own bones and Erdman finds it hard to accept that he can’t protect his little boy from the pain, discomfort and cruel stares this condition brings. Then there’s Clara, a beautiful little girl with deformed hands earning her the cruel nickname at school of lobster girl.

What kind of sick and twisted serial killer would target disabled kids? The Bone collector that’s who!

The Bone collector is the bogeyman under every childs bed. He is merciless, he is obsessed and he is determined to continue adding to his family’s bizarre mausoleum, a macabre repository of carefully collected and curated human bones. Yet he is an enigma, he has a caring side which we see emerge now and again as he tends his disabled wife.

When little Clara disappears one day, plucked from outside the sweet shop in every Mothers nightmare scenario, families begin to crumble. Into the mix charges renegade cop Etta Fitzroy, having previously failed to find the abductor of a still missing young girl she is determined this time she will avenge. Fighting her own demons and with a very credible reason for becoming way too emotionally engaged, she is the lynch pin around which this story spins.

And spin it certainly does, in a whirl of events and emotions it’s one of the page turniest page turners I’ve read in a long while.

If you’re anything like me you’ll lie in bed ‘til late devouring this book, eventually settling down to sleep with one eye on the window in case you hear the rattle of bones and see the shadow of Jake’s Bogey man “Ol’ Bloody bones”.

Ohhhhh I loved this book, I adored the characters, unlike a lot of books I’ve read lately where the sense of nastiness spreads to all the characters, in this novel almost ALL the loathing is saved for the dark and slimy character who has already been often compared to Hannibal Lecter. 

And though the supporting cast all have their human flaws and foibles, in the main they are redeemed by better qualities, Especially Erdman, who blunders his way through the book and being the most unlikely hero imaginable, and his son Jakey who I really wanted to gently hug (I cried at the brief but poignant memory of his yearning for a dog for Christmas, in fact I’m welling up now)

You know, I’m going to shut up now. (Thank goodness, did I hear you say?)  

I could go on and on about this wonderful, scary and thrilling debut novel and if you’re reading my review I’ve no doubt you’ll find a dozen more all saying similar things – it’s great -it’s amazing – read it! 

So I’ll let you go and pre-order your copy. You’ll have to wait until mid-January to buy a copy for yourself, but I can assure you it’s well worth the anticipation.

Visit the publishers website where you can read an extract.

My thanks to Francesca Pearce at Panmacmillan for allowing me the privilege of early membership of the Rattle fan club with a copy in advance of publication.

The Blurb

A psychopath more frightening than Hannibal Lecter.

He has planned well. He leads two lives. In one he's just like anyone else. But in the other he is the caretaker of his family's macabre museum.

Now the time has come to add to his collection. He is ready to feed his obsession, and he is on the hunt.

Jakey Frith and Clara Foyle have something in common. They have what he needs.

What begins is a terrifying cat-and-mouse game between the sinister collector, Jakey's father and Etta Fitzroy, a troubled detective investigating a spate of abductions.

Set in London's Blackheath, Rattle by Fiona Cummins explores the seam of darkness that runs through us all; the struggle between light and shadow, redemption and revenge.

It is a glimpse into the mind of a sinister psychopath. And it's also a story about not giving up hope when it seems that all hope is already lost.

The Author:

Fiona Cummins

Fiona Cummins is an award-winning former Daily Mirror show-business journalist and a graduate of the Faber Academy Writing A Novel course. She lives in Essex with her family. Rattle is her first novel.

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Witness - by Caroline Mitchell - Twisted games

My Review: Witness by Caroline Mitchell

Witness is an exciting and very scary read. 

Within the pages of this novel we meet Becky, wife to the loving and trusting Sean, Mother to an adorable 4 year old, Lottie. She has an interesting job working in her husbands veterinary practise in rural Wales, along with her sister in law (and best friend) Rhian.

Sounds good doesn’t it?

But Becky has secrets, she has a past life which is about to catch up with her.

Ten years ago, she was involved with a man called Solomon. He appeared in her life when she was at her most vulnerable, her Mother hospitalised in the final throes of Cancer. Solomon comes on the scene and “rescues” Rebecca, but he turns out to be a girls worst nightmare, a sadistic and violent abuser and their relationship ends abruptly with the murder of an innocent bystander.

Rebecca testifies against her ex, ensuring he is put away for this terrible crime and she gradually manages to build herself this new life.

But it can’t last forever.

And an unexpected phone call threatens to blow her cosy world apart.
Solomon is back ….

He wants revenge.

He wants to play a game of cat and mouse with Becky as the frightened mouse.
And she is given no option, she must play along or risk the lives of those nearest and dearest to her.

But what she is trying hardest to avoid is what she actually sets in motion by going along with his sick game. Trying to protect her family from her past, she puts them all in the greatest danger.
He wants her to be a witness, to crimes of his choosing and as his demands become more twisted and cruel, she is sucked into his warped and wicked world against her will.

It’s one of those books where I was screaming at her “NO don’t do that” I was as appalled at her willingness to go along with Solomons sick and twisted diversion, as I was shocked at his despicable pursuits. He is a thoroughly despicable and obnoxious character whose capacity for twisted mental torture is equalled only by his propensity for physical abuse.

This dark thriller gathers pace relentlessly and even though I could anticipate how bad it was going to get, there are unexpected twists which made me shudder and my blood ran cold as it was revealed just why she is so scared of what he will reveal about her and what this sicko made her do. The end has a really good sting in the tail and the whole is grimly entertaining.

My thanks go to Netgalley for my advance copy and the Publisher Thomas and Mercer

Witness is due to be published on 20th December 2016, so why not treat yourself to a thrilling Christmas read? 

The Blurb

To Rebecca it was a brave decision that led to her freedom from domestic abuse. To Solomon it was the ultimate betrayal.

It’s been ten years since Rebecca’s testimony saw Solomon locked away. Enough time for the nightmares to recede, the nerves to relax; enough time to rebuild her life and put the past behind her.

Then one day a phone rings in her bedroom—but it’s not her phone. Solomon has been in her home, and has a very simple message for her: for each of the ten years he has spent in jail, Rebecca must witness a crime. And, to make matters worse, she has to choose the victims.

Fail to respond and you get hurt. Talk to police and you die. Ready to play? You have sixty seconds to decide…

As the crimes grow more severe, the victims closer to home, Rebecca is forced to confront a past she had hoped was gone forever.

A Note From the Publisher:

A former police detective, Caroline Mitchell now writes full-time. She has worked in CID and specialised in roles dealing with vulnerable victims—high-risk victims of domestic abuse and serious sexual offences. The mental strength shown by the victims of these crimes is a constant source of inspiration to her, and Mitchell combines their tenacity with her knowledge of police procedure to create tense psychological thrillers. Originally from Ireland, she now lives in a pretty village on the coast of Essex with her husband and three children. You can find out more about her at, or follow her on Twitter (@caroline_writes) or Facebook (

Sunday, 11 December 2016

My favourite books - Top reads of 2016

My pick of the best books which I've read in 2016

It's that time of year when I look back over another year which has been mapped out in books.

I've read some superb fiction this year, including several great debuts by new authors.

Here are my top 15 books which I've read over the past year.

My very favourite genre is superbly imagined suspenseful literary historical novels, of which there never seem to be quite enough to completely satisfy my desire for dramatic fictional time travel.

Although lacking in quantity the quality this year has been superb and the ones mentioned here have included several outstanding historical mysteries and dramas based around factual events.

Click on the title for a reminder of my review:

The Ballroom by Anna Hope

A haunting romance set in a grim asylum in North Yorkshire in the early 1900s.

The Unseeing - By Anna Mazzola

A Shrewd and genius work of fiction woven around a true crime in London in the first half of the nineteenth century

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Another cleverly constructed novel woven around factual events, following the story of a nurse who served with Florence Nightingale who is appointed to observe a young girl in Ireland who refuses to eat.

To the bright edge of the world - Eowyn Ivey

An unusual and different haunting romantic adventure set in 19th century Alaska and again worked around real exploration of the last wildrenesses.

Two to watch for in 2017:

The Witchfinders sister by Beth Underdown

This is yet another richly imagined work of fiction describing the life of real life character Matthew Hopkins the notorious Witchfinder General responsible for the persecution and trail of many women accused of witchcraft in the mid 17th century. Its not due out until 2017 so I guess it cheating a bit to put it on my list but its one to watch for in 2017.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that there is another superb book on my radar, which I have been lucky enough to read in advance of publication, however its also not due for publication until January next year.

But I loved it so much I wanted to recommend it as one to watch out for:

It is called See What I have done by Sarah Schmidt and it reworks the true crime of Lizzie Borden who "gave her father 40 whacks"

Here's a sneak preview of the cover:

Finally in my historical fiction is one which is just a little different to the usual.

A strange and delightful quirky novel set in the 1970s

The Finding of Martha Lost by Caroline Wallace

captivated and enchanted me as the girl who lived in the lost and found office at Liverpool station spun her way through life.

Moving from historical fiction now we end up at my next favourite choice of reading entertainment - to be terrified and horrified by twisty psychological fiction and again this year I have discovered some corkers.

Invisible by Barbara Copperthwaite

Blew my socks right off. This first novel by an author whose later work Flowers for the dead featured highly in my favourite reads of last year. She is one of my favourite authors because she can create amazing serial killers and take you right inside their brains. A scary capability of which I am in awe.

In Her Wake by Amanda Jennings 

is a tale of lies, secrets and deception which I described as phenomenal after reading it.

Valentina by S E Lynes

a multi layered and exceptionally gripping Domestic Noir thriller

Inside the Whispers by A J Waines

is the first in a new series of thrillers based around the work of clinical psychologist Samantha Willerby.

I also read and loved No longer safe by the same author in 2016 and it was a difficult choice which of this fabulous writers works to choose to be in my top reads, but inside the whispers won by a narrow margin due to the very real anticipation for the next book in the series for which I cannot wait.

Good me, Bad me by Ali Land 

fairly leapt into my top reads a chilling and terrifying debut novel which took me deep into the psyche of an abused child as a teenager who is the main witness to the heinous crimes of her Mother. Oh so deliciously dark and deep.

My sisters bones by Nuala Ellwood

is a terrifying exploration of ptsd and mental illness which is wonderfully written and shook me to the core

Next is a work of exceptional womens fiction

My Husbands Wife by Amanda Prowse

Emotional and quite harrowing it is the very relatable story of a women who loses everything and when she's down life keeps on kicking her.

Nina Is NOT ok by Shappi Khorsandi 

is a raw and shocking, no holds barred look at teenage alcoholism

Aimed at young adults this is a must read for anyone who's ever woken up fuzzy headed and hungover wondering what they said or did.

Appropriately Last but not least is the very different

The Last one by Alexandra Oliva

A tense and exciting post apocalyptic reality tv show based drama like Bear Grylls meets the Hunger Games.

I hope you find something that's passed you by in my selection and if we have similar tastes watch this space for reviews of all the exciting new books I know are to be discovered in 2017.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Guest Post - Deborah Lawrenson - 300 days of sun

Today I'd like to welcome Author Deborah Lawrenson to Beadyjans books. Deborah is talking about the inspiration for her latest book 300 Days of Sun an intriguing suspenseful dual time mystery set in Faro Portugal. Her article is accompanied by some beautiful evocative images of Faro.

I apologize for not having been able to read this lovely sounding book yet, but having seen these stunning images and read Deborahs article I will be keeping it near the top of my rather large TBR pile.

Guest post by Deborah Lawrenson

300 Days of Sun is a twisty story set in Portugal with an atmospheric sense of place, romance, suspense, and wartime history.

In Faro, Joanna, a journalist in her late thirties meets Nathan, a charismatic but reckless younger man. He has recently discovered he is not who he thought he was: he believes he may have been one of the Algarve’s notorious child kidnap victims. The truth involves a story that began in Lisbon during WW2, when the city was the escape hatch of Europe. It uncovers a love story that crossed enemy lines - and puts them both in clear and present danger.

When I was growing up, the simple question “Where do you come from?” had no simple answer. I was asked it often because I was always the new girl. As a diplomatic service family, we moved across Europe, the Middle East and Asia and back again, interspersed with a few years every now and then in London.

I went to ten schools, starting with an international convent in Peking (as it was), and including an American school in Brussels and a village school in Luxembourg. Home was less the bolt-hole in London than it was the books and crockery that marked our camp in foreign places. It was always clear, too, that the question of where I came from was actually another way of asking “Who are you?”.

Deborah Lawrenson

Perhaps inevitably, states of flux and identity have always interested me. Perhaps that’s also why I like to write recognisable landscapes into my novels; the places are the anchors of the story and the human characters reveal themselves in the way they react and adapt to the setting. 

Questions about identity run through 300 Days of Sun. It’s an issue that can be hard enough to answer in normal circumstances, but what happens if a child grows to adulthood and discovers he is not the person he thought he was? For Nathan, in the present-day storyline, his understanding of his family, his childhood, his place in the world, is revealed to be a lie. How can he ignore the urge to find out the truth? Would it even be possible to ignore what he now knows?

Joanna, a journalist, is also re-evaluating her life. When she and Nathan meet in Faro, Portugal, she is wondering how to make a new start. He recognises her strengths, and asks her to help him. Her determination to be true to herself, come what may, is crucial.

For Alva, in wartime Lisbon, the moment she changes her perception of her circumstances – and her marriage - is when she realises that her husband has no intention of taking her home to America in 1940 after they have fled Paris. She is forced to adapt to life in Portugal, and in doing so, becomes someone entirely different.  
And while Nathan and Alva are in the process of change – change neither of them has sought in the first place – the world around them is unstable, too. Violent storms re-draw coastal geography. Nature cannot be contained even with modern sea-barrier engineering. Economic and political power shifts undermine the individual.

Perhaps appropriately, this novel has several different genre elements. It’s part historical fiction, part romantic suspense, part literary thriller. I always try to write in a way that transports the reader to a setting, capturing a vivid sense of place and I research carefully to make the imaginary experience as accurate as possible, whether that is the smells of the old town, or the soft shushing sounds of the Portuguese language.

Is this evocation of place a way of finding a calm still centre in the wild uproar of life? I sometimes think so. As a writer, I’ve become more and more aware that each book I offer a story to the reader - and a complex weave of subconscious thoughts to myself. Sometimes it has been years after a novel was published that I realise (or allow myself to realise) what the story was really about.

With 300 Days of Sun the time had come to think about all those border crossings and classrooms full of unfamiliar faces, and the fear and excitement of having to start all over again. 

If you'd like to experience Faro for yourself through the pages of Deborahs latest enthralling mystery novel you can purchase a copy on Amazon in paperback or for your kindle

Watch this space for my review, I can't wait to immerse myself in this book.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

See What I have done - Sarah Schmidt - darkly re-imagined

As soon as I saw this title being tweeted about I knew it was one I wanted to read. A clever literary novel based firmly on horrific historical factual events. It cried out "read me"

And Ohh I'm glad I did and now I've read it I can't wait to begin talking about it - so here are my impressions.

It’s taking the literary world by storm, this sinister work of fiction based on the true events around the notorious century serial killer Lizzie Borden. That it's a debut is hard to credit, so accomplished is the writing.

Recent novels have seen fictionalized accounts of Victorian murders gaining popularity. Earlier this year I greatly enjoyed the Unseeing by Anna Mazzola and there are several more literary true crime thrillers I’ve yet to read.

See What I have Done is very much a whodunnit. Even though Lizzie Borden became synonymous with grisly parenticide spawning the schoolyard chant “Lizzie Borden took an axe, she gave her mother 40 whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty one” the axe in question was never found and all the evidence to damn her was circumstantial thus she was acquitted of this heinous crime.

So, knowing this, we enter the Fall River home of Mr and Mrs Borden with some trepidation, just as Lizzie cries out to the housemaid Bridget “Someone has cut Father” (the understatement of the century) and sets in motion the sinister events which play out in the Borden household.

The book is narrated in several unique voices, Lizzie herself tells much of the story, parts are told by her older sister Emma, maid Bridget voices her side of things and a mysterious and violent stranger Benjamin enters the mix to observe from the sidelines and blur the facts.

We dash back and forth in time, looking back into the past to be reminded of how Mrs Borden is actually the girls stepmother, we relive the girls upbringing and we go ahead years after the murder and back again to the hours in the aftermath of this bloodbath and all the time there is an underlying nastiness, a pervading sickness of body and mind that seeps through the very walls of this Victorian American household.

What I found more distasteful than the description of the discovery of 2 dismembered bodies is the vomiting, frequent and plentiful vomiting throughout the book! I don’t think there is one lead character who doesn’t spew their guts up at least once – no wonder the place stinks! I read it with a lingering feeling of nausea from beginning to end! And throughout the book the clock on the mantlepiece ticked, ticked setting the creeping sense of menace.

There is a lingering sense of resentment, between the two sisters a strange love/hate relationship between the 2 young women, their Uncle John is a curiously unpleasant type, in fact there’s not one truly nice person, with perhaps the exception of Bridget who appears the least loathsome character, thoughout the book.

I won’t say too much about the storyline as my trying to recount the tale itself would be pointless, it’s the authors beautiful use of words and the inimical, lyrical style of writing which give this novel its sheer quality, so I will just say "read it and see, for yourself, what she has done".

This book is imaginatively reconstructed and beautifully written, the picture painted and the odours described have left me wiping my hands after putting down the book and I’m sure when I lift it to my nose I can smell lingering rancid mutton broth and the sweet rottenness of over ripe pears.

This is a book that slithers into your consciousness and overtakes your awareness like blood seeping into the floorboards of your mind.

If you love gory, chilling and unnerving storytelling and are a keen logophile you'll thrill at the stomach churning unease and delight at the succinct choice of words in this stunningly told book.

The Blurb

When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered on a summer morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden - thirty two years old and still living at home - immediately becomes a suspect. But after a notorious trial, she is found innocent, and no one is ever convicted of the crime.

Meanwhile, others in the claustrophobic Borden household have their own motives and their own stories to tell: Lizzie's unmarried older sister, a put-upon Irish housemaid, and a boy hired by Lizzie's uncle to take care of a problem.

This unforgettable debut makes you question the truth behind one of the great unsolved mysteries, as well as exploring power, violence and the harsh realities of being a woman in late nineteenth century America.

Accolades (from Goodreads)

Haunting, gripping and gorgeously written, SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE by Sarah Schmidt is a re-imagining of the unsolved American true crime case of the Lizzie Borden murders, for fans of BURIAL RITES and MAKING A MURDERER.

'Eerie and compelling, Sarah Schmidt breathes such life into the terrible, twisted tale of Lizzie Borden and her family, she makes it impossible to look away' Paula Hawkins

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Blog Tour and review - The Food of Love - Amanda Prowse

Today I welcome to my blog popular author Amanda Prowse with the blog tour for her emotional new book The Food of love.

Today you can read my review of this absorbing and sometimes harrowing look at how a young girls eating disorder shreds a families happiness.


I’m very honoured to be taking part in the blog tour for the release of the very latest title by successful and popular author Amanda Prowse.

Amanda, prolific author of womens fiction which always packs a punch, tackles another very difficult subject in the Food of Love.  Teenagers with mental illness and the impact on the whole family.

Amanda specialises in writing wonderful, gritty fiction about ordinary women coping with adversity and struggling with god-awful situations and in The Food of Love she creates Freya, much loved wife of Lockie, successful food writer, blissful suburban goddess and Mother to 2 lovely teenage girls, Charlotte and Lexi.

I have to admit, I found Freya rather difficult to relate to, she is most definitely a step or two above me, up the social demographic ladder, with quite a privileged lifestyle and sometimes annoyed me quite a bit. But I would never, ever, have wished on her, or anyone, the Pandoras box of ills and evils which are about to emerge and blow her beautiful world apart when it is revealed that her younger child Lexi is Anorexic.

One of the things I have most loved about Amanda’s previous books is that most of the women she has written about could have been me, I instantly connected with something about them, and thought yessss I do that, I think that way. In Freya there was nothing I could feel like this about and I am pretty sure if I met her we wouldn’t get on. So to create a character with whom I have so little empathy and make me feel her pain deep inside my heart, is an exquisite skill few authors can carry off so intricately.

From being called in to her daughters school, where her teacher raises concerns about Lexis well-being, to the discovery that Lexi is completely and utterly obsessed with purging her body of food to the point where she is hiding something very unpleasant beneath her bed, we begin to realize this is no girlish fad, not the blip that Freya continually insists it is, she is in denial but can she accept that she alone cannot solve this medical problem before it’s much too late?

With absolutely no experience of, and very little knowledge of eating disorders, I found Lexi’s struggles very, VERY difficult to comprehend but Freyas anguish, denial and inability to accept that she cannot single-handedly solve this problem alone is well portrayed and utterly distressing to witness.

Her job involves promoting food, making it sound and look tempting and desirable yet her daughter views it as poison and the lengths to which she goes to not eat are way beyond anything I can even comprehend.

The whole book is heart breaking, unsettling and often very upsetting, it’s not an easy read on any level.

We watch Freya determinedly struggling to help Lexi but frequently getting it wrong, she needs to practise tough love instead in her desire to hang on to her daughter’s love she unwittingly aids and abets her in her awful battle to starve. Putting her mentally ill daughter first inevitably takes its toll on her slightly older sibling Charlotte, tackling exams and trying to be supportive to her little sister. A lot of my sympathies lay with Charlotte the one pushed aside by her sisters obsession with food, I worried what effect her constantly being put second would play on her, if either girl had cause to feel neglected, it seems to me it would be the strong supportive and sensible Charlotte. Freyas perfect marriage begins to come apart at the seams like a frayed dishcloth wrung until it disintegrates.

This book is part of the “No Greater Courage” series, of which I have already read and loved a couple of previous titles, they display women pushed to the limits of endurance by everyday events.

I can’t help but be filled with admiration for the authors willingness to tackle disturbing subject matter and her research can’t be faulted, she writes so knowledgeably you’d think she’d gone through this at first hand. Not only would I not know where to start I wouldn’t be able to face the trauma of living this vicariously through a character of my own creation.

If you, like me, know nothing about eating disorders, don’t let this put you off reading this, the detailed research which must have gone into this pays off and by the time you’ve been through the wringer with this family you’ll know more than you ever wanted to about this distasteful and tragic illness.

If you have a teenage daughter and have ever, for one minute, wondered why she never seems to eat much, why she has grown difficult and withdrawn, has taken up exercising all hours of day and night – for goodness sake read this book and while you’re reading it, don’t turn a deaf ear to the possible cry for help which once ignored may be too late to hear!

If you'd like to follow the blog tour its in 2 parts and the participants for part 2 are here

The Blurb

A loving mother. A perfect family. A shock wave that could shatter everything.

Freya Braithwaite knows she is lucky. Nineteen years of marriage to a man who still warms her soul and two beautiful teenage daughters to show for it: confident Charlotte and thoughtful Lexi. Her home is filled with love and laughter.

But when Lexi’s struggles with weight take control of her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart, leaving the whole family with a sense of helplessness that can only be confronted with understanding, unity and, above all, love.

In this compelling and heart-wrenching new work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse, one ordinary family tackles unexpected difficulties and discovers that love can find its way through life’s darkest moments.

It's available now in ebook and the paperback is released on December 1st 2016 

Friday, 25 November 2016

What Alice knew - T A Cotterell - a moral dilemma

My Thoughts

What Alice knew is a debut novel which I would personally describe as a literary moral dilemma thriller.

It puts the reader in a situation we’d hope never to be in, asking what we would do if we were to discover our partner had done something bad, really bad, and once we knew about it we couldn’t UNknow it. How far would we go to protect our loved ones and what sacrifices would we be prepaared to make?

Alice is a very successful portrait artist, beside her rewarding career she has a great life which many would envy she is married to a successful obstetrician helping families, saving babies, a good, solid man. Living in upmarket suburbia with their 2 children they have it all, but one fateful night, husband Ed doesn’t come home and after this aberration nothing is going to be the same again.

Strange things happen, a phone call, some flowers and a confession that shatters Alices carefully polished veneer and knocks her sideways. A name from the past emerges, things are said, decisions are made and a metaphorical sinkhole begins to open under Alice’s feet.

Alice’s wonderful life begins to crumble into this pit and she has some awful resolutions to make, should she stand by her man, how much can she really trust him and what effect is this going to have on their lives?

We soon wonder who can we trust? Lies aplenty, secrets galore and enough twists to curl your hair.

The book is written in first person narrative in Alices voice, a method which usually ensures I become deeply immersed in the character, but I found Alice almost impossible to empathise with, though I could sympathise greatly with her dilemma. Her motives are hard to accept and my opinion of her kept changing but I never felt deeply connected to her.

I find it a little strange, that the whole book hinges around her desire to protect their 2 children, yet they are portrayed as, at best, shadowy characters firmly at the axis of this story yet who remained separate from it. The author had so much scope for developing their personalities and exploring their feelings, but they were so indistinct I can’t even remember their names, the day after finishing the book.

The suspense builds throughout the book and the goalposts keep moving, what we know of as fact at the end of one chapter becomes skewed by the next one and there are some great twists I didn’t see coming.

The story is very thrilling and tense and the narrator, Alice, often a touch unreliable. The ending is rather a punch in the gut and I had to read it twice as it is easy to misinterpret.

A great debut, very enthralling and sure to be talked about as it raises many discussion points and will also be one I’d recommend for reading groups who want some meaty dilemmas to thrash out.

My thanks go to Becky Hunter at Penguin Random House for my exclusive advance bloggers copy.

The Blurb (taken from Goodreads)

Alice has a perfect life – a great job, happy kids, a wonderful husband. Until he goes missing one night; she receives a suspicious phone call; things don’t quite add up.

Alice needs to know what’s going on. But when she uncovers the truth she faces a brutal choice. And how can she be sure it is the truth?

Sometimes it’s better not to know.

Friday, 18 November 2016

My Husband's son - Deborah O'Connor - tantalising and twisty

My thoughts

My husbands son is one of those books where all the way through I was willing the character (Heidi in this case) not to make that decision and pleeease don’t take that action, to no avail.

Heidi and husband Jason aren’t your average couple, but they have more in common than many. They are united by loss, they met through the shared grief of losing a child. Heidi’s daughter was abducted and murdered, even after 6 years this is THE defining event which shapes her life even though she is holding down a demanding job and expending a lot of her energy in supporting Jason through his on-going ordeal, for his son barney was also abducted but he remains missing and Heidi clings to that hope of a better outcome for the man she loves.

The story begins rather enigmatically with a pastiche of someone grabbing a young boy and taking him away against his will. This sets the tone for the book, it’s a horrible subject and if it makes you uncomfortable thinking about what it would be like to lose a child and know that horrible things have or may have been done to them, this may upset you.

But it’s extremely compelling reading, even more so when I realised it’s set in the North East, my own stomping ground, albeit a North East with a tiny bit of artistic license applied. Some places differing slightly from my detailed knowledge, didn’t spoil it and make it all the more easy to relate to the characters.

Heidi has spent years staring at photos of her husband’s son Barney, and when she spots a young lad exactly the age Barney would now be, then sees Jason’s eyes and expression she knows she’s found his missing son. She’s determined to re-unite them but when she shows the boy to Jason he is equally as certain that this isn’t his son. You’d recognise your own flesh and blood wouldn’t you?

But Heidi’s conviction isn’t quashed by his denial in fact she becomes even more determined to find out if this is in fact Barney grown a little older. But as she begins to carry out her own investigations she makes matters go from bad to worse, she gets herself in some terrible pickles, jeopardises her job, her own safety, her very sanity ... or is that where the problem has lain all along? Is she crazy, has grief unhinged her?

She gets herself into some such terrible scrapes, at one point when she was around the back of a building in a grubby back alley trying to gain access and see inside a property and falls off a bin I rolled around with gleeful horror.

Heidi is a wonderful, slightly unhinged, flaky yet resolute character, I loved her. She wears spindly spiky designer high heels all the time to give herself height and presence, yet they are so impractical and often cost her dearly.

She is like a terrier with a rat in its teeth and just won’t let go of what she thinks is right. Just when you think she's beginning to see sense, she spins off again on a self destruct mission, leaving me gasping and shouting Nooooo, DON'T (but did she listen? Nope, off she goes)

Whether she is right or wrong becomes almost of secondary importance compared with just how far she will actually go to follow her self imposed mission.

And the ending  ..... it’s suitably tantalising, twisty and ambiguous enough to make a shudder run down my spine!

An extremely competent and convoluted psychological chiller to satisfy even the most warped mind.

I apologise to the kind folks at Netgalley and the publisher Bonnier publishing who provided this book which I didn't read in time for the launch.

The Blurb

You'd always recognise your own son. Wouldn't you?

A captivating psychological thriller with a devastating twist, perfect for fans of Apple Tree Yard and Gone Girl 

Heidi and Jason aren't like other couples. Six years ago, Heidi's daughter was murdered. A year later, Jason's son Barney disappeared. Their shared loss brought them together. By chance, Heidi meets a boy she's certain is Barney. But Jason is equally convinced it's not him. Is Heidi mad? Or is Jason hiding something? And can their fragile marriage survive Heidi's newfound quest for the truth . . .

An Almond for a Parrot - Wray Delaney - a Bawdy romp

My thoughts

I fell in love with the wonderful intriguing title and description of this book, I love a quirky historical novel, I adore a feisty female protagonist who is ahead of her time, I don’t even mind lots of sex scenes in the right context. When I discovered the Wray Delaney is no less than the adult nom de plume of wonderful author Sally Gardner whose books for younger readers have already entranced me I wanted it even more. Oh and the cover - isn't it striking!

Then I began to read reviews which compared it to my favourite book of all time “The Crimson Petal and the White” and then liken it to the historical works of Sarah Waters, to say I was excited is an understatement, I nearly wet myself when my request for an advance copy was approved! I just had to start reading it straight away.

Perhaps the hype was a little too much. Maybe I was setting my expectations too high? Because sadly this just wasn’t to my taste as much as I really wanted it to be.

Rather than comparing it to my favourite books mentioned above, I would liken it more to a blend of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell, the Night circus and Moll Flanders (none of which I liked much) with a touch of 6th sense. It has a lot of magical, mystical happenings which are never really explained and made it all the harder for me to accept. I'm a bit too pragmatic to like magic and fantasy.

It begins in 18th century London where young Tully Truegood, a Dickensian name if ever I heard one, is taken at a tender age by her wicked and drunken father to a place where she is married to a man she has never met. Then her drunken sot of a Father, who teats her like a slave, re-marries and brings into Tullys life a colourful step mother who actually seems to care for her and two step sisters who extend slightly more than the hand of friendship to young Tully and thus begins her education.

But good things never last and her Fathers bride, Queenie disappears to set up a house of ill repute known for some obscure reason as The Fairy House. Tully, at first abandoned, soon ends up there and is trained to become a courtesan, not that she needs much encouraging, she is born to this life as she is obsessed with satisfying the flesh, her greatest talents are fornication and floating!

The book is written in the very tongue in cheek vernacular of the day and although I agree it sets the scene it began to grate on me. There are only so many references to throbbing roots, tight little ladies purses and moist mounds of Venus one can take, and this book repeats and repeats these terms ad infinitum (which did not sit well with me at all). For me this makes everything lewder and cruder and less easy to become immersed in. Although the actual sex scenes aren’t that graphic, they are just frequent, lengthy and rather gratuitous.

Our feisty little tart with a heart, is not only a profligate whore obsessed with satisfying her curiosity about sex but she can see dead people, in fact she can conjure them up at will, Oh and not just people but the ghosts of pets too. Let me see, what else can this enterprising young woman do – she can float!

When she’s not levitating around the room, she is romping around naked with a variety of willing partners, and soon she falls in love. But her unknown husband of her childhood re-appears on the scene and she soon finds herself languishing in Newgate Prison awaiting trial for murder.

The story then begins to weave back and forth in time to reveal the whys and wherefores of how this situation came about.

A lot of readers have commented how engaging Tully is and I think that’s where everything fell a bit flat I didn’t warm to her, I didn’t find her very empathetic and the storyline is so improbable, it just wasn’t quite earthy and gritty enough too ethereal and frilly and, Oh my sir, where are you going to put that big thing! (this is not a quote just an impression)

If you love magical, inexplicable events and a story that’s lusty, quirky and rather different you’ll most likely adore this. It's a tale of sexual enlightenment and fantasy, a coming of age with more coming than age.

I fall back on the old adage “It’s not you – It’s me”. If it’s to your taste, you'll enjoy this novel, in fact thousands of readers are going to adore it. But it left me with a slight sense of disappointment and unrequited desire for a meatier, epic historical tale when I would sum it up as, a Bawdy romp with fantasy and magic.

It's available now in Hardcover and for your kindle.

My thanks go to the publisher Harlequin UK for providing my copy via Netgalley.

The Blurb

I would like to make myself the heroine of this story and my character to be noble – an innocent victim led astray. But alas sir, I would be lying…

Tully Truegood: Orphan, Magician’s apprentice, Whore. In prison, accused of murder, Tully begins to write her life story. A story that takes her from a young daughter-skivvy in the back streets of 18th Century London to her stepmother Queenie’s Fairy House – a place where decadent excess is a must…

Trained by Queenie to become a courtesan, and by Mr Crease – a magician who sees that Tully holds similar special powers to his own – together they make Tully the talk of the town.

But as Tully goes on a journey of sexual awakening, she falls in love with one of her clients and the pleasure soon turns to pain. Especially when the estranged husband she was forced to marry by her father suddenly seeks her out. Now Tully is awaiting her trial for murder, for which she expects to hang…and her only chance of survival is to get her story to the one person who might be able to help her.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Invisible - Barbara Copperthwaite - a Killer of a thriller

Invisible – Barbara Copperthwaite:

As I review quite a few advance reading copies of new books from Publishers it’s not that often that I feel able to choose a book from my TBR pile purely because I really fancy reading it. But very recently I did just that purely because I just couldn’t wait any longer to get stuck in to Invisible by the wonderful writing talent which is Barbara Copperthwaite.

You may be familiar with the scenario – you have an ever increasing pile of review copies waiting to be read, all clamouring for attention and despite the urgency of some nearing publication date, a few blog tours lurking just over the horizon, you still can’t decide which one to read next.

You open your kindle and riffle through the unread books and suddenly a title catches your eye that you bought a while ago because you couldn’t resist its allure and still you haven’t made time to read it. So you open it, just to read the first page or two to remind yourself what it’s about …. And 50 pages later you’re absolutely hooked and those other books – well they can just sit back and wait!

In fact it didn’t take 50 pages for me to be hooked it was almost immediate.

My review …..

Invisible took me where I hoped “The Widow” by Fiona Barton was going to take me and much further, it immersed me more fully inside the head of a woman whose husband is accused of a terrible crime.

The whole book is written in the format of a diary to whom the main protagonist confesses her innermost thoughts and fears and its clear from the onset that there’s something a little amiss with her relationship with her husband Daryl, a hunky great bear of a man, but she loves him, she always has and even if he sometimes treats her a little domineeringly, behaves crushingly, is jealous of her friendships –  she accepts that it’s all because he loves her and she wants to make an effort to get things back on track, it seems to be working, they’re closer than ever – aren’t they?

They enjoy a nice holiday abroad together, and if one night rather too much alcohol is consumed and they have a little falling out, well that nearly always happens on holiday, right?

But overall things ARE better, he even agrees the time is right to start a family together. She is happy (nearly all of the time!)

Until one night her (your, my) worst imaginable nightmare comes true. Armed police appear in the couples bedroom, he is arrested and she spends the worst night of her life locked in a grim police cell.


Can you imagine? She loves this man, he’s a big gentle teddy bear, he couldn’t possibly have done the dreadful things he’s being accused of (despite some of her friends finding him scary, freaky, threatening)

But this is only the start of how bad things can get.

Her life in tatters, she makes it her raison d’etre to help prove his innocence, to support him and she waits, for the day everyone will realise he couldn’t have done what he stands accused of, she KNOWS this, she was with him, she is his alibi, she will be vindicated.

Oh dear me!

I worry a bit about this author – she gets right inside the mind of a serial killer like no other author I have even known, how does she DO this so well?

I adored her novel Flowers for the dead, in fact I couldn’t STOP tweeting about it, praising it, loving it. So this one, written earlier than that couldn’t possibly live up to my expectations – Don’t be silly, of course it could! It BLEW MY SOCKS RIGHT OFF. Look at my freezing cold toes.

This is a KILLER of a thriller. It’s shocking, its dark, it’s so scary it made me feel sick (in the best possible way of course) and it’s utterly believable.

Read it, but preferably not when your husbands off working nights, or I guarantee you’ll be quizzing him about work just that little bit more than usual when he gets in.

At time of writing this book is available for your kindle at the scarily silly price of just 99p.

What are you waiting for?

Blog tour The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker a #Randomthings #BlogTour

Blog tour The Museum of Lost Love by Gary Barker a #Randomthings #BlogTour Hello blog readers and book lovers. Today I am joining in t...