Thursday, 19 February 2015

The Dead Ground - Claire McGowan

Published 10 April 2014 by Headline

From Amazon:

Stolen. Missing. Dead...

Forensic psychologist Paula Maguire, already wrestling with the hardest decision of her life, is forced to put her own problems on hold when she's asked to help find a baby taken from a local hospital. 

Then the brutal murder of a woman found lying on a remote stone circle indicates a connection to the kidnapping and Paula knows that they will have to move fast if they are to find the person responsible. 

When another child is taken and a pregnant woman goes missing, Paula finds herself caught up in a deadly hunt for a killer determined to leave no trace, and discovers every decision she makes really is a matter of life and death...

* * *

This is the second book in the Paula Maguire series (the first being ‘The Lost’).  I enjoyed the first very much and although in this story I felt that Paula was a little more subdued and not quite such a maverick, the overall quality and the general darkness of the plot goes up a notch.  

Forensic psychologist Paula Maguire is still with the MPRU (Missing Persons Response Unit) headed up by Guy Brooking, seconded from London, and yet again finds herself caught between the clash of personalities between Guy and DCI Helen Corry of the Serious Crime Unit.  When a newborn baby is snatched from a local hospital and then later more babies and pregnant women go missing, both forces want to work the case their own way and it becomes a battle of wills between Brooking and Corry as to who will the first to find the perpetrator.

Paula has a major decision of her own to make; her personal life is a mess and new information that she has received about the disappearance of her mother 17 years previously is causing conflicting emotions.  She needs the help and support of her oldest friends more than ever but instead she seems to be driving them away.   She continues to live with her father and, as before, her father PJ is keeping his feelings to himself regarding her mother, his developing friendship with Pat (mother of Paula’s former boyfriend, Aidan), is giving signs that he is ready to move forward with his life. 

Set against the backdrop of an icy and snowy winter, this story is much darker than the previous one with the scene of crime descriptions becoming even more gruesome with each discovery.  It is not just babies that are missing, pregnant women are also being abducted and Paula and her colleagues have to go back to the past to discover which of their (many) suspects could be responsible.   An integral part of the story are the religious issues regarding abortion and the political hostilities and suspicions that still run deep between the north and the south – these divisions are even felt in the unit where Paula is working.  

There are plenty of twists and turns in the story that kept me engrossed and turning the pages.  A few times I thought I knew who the culprit was but after a few teasers and one or two curve balls, I realised that actually I didn’t have a clue and it could have been any one of several suspects – although once I got near to the end, I was really was biting my nails – it was that tense!   It’s probably not the best choice of book if you are pregnant or have just had a baby but for crime fans the well written plot structure and developing characters makes for a very good read.  I’ve read all three of Claire McGowan’s books now (her debut thriller, The Fall, was a standalone); she has made this series her own and the quality of her writing just gets better.  

It’s not essential to have read the first book in the series, but for character development and continuity, I would recommend that you read The Lost first.   I am pleased to see that there is a book 3 due later this year (The Silent Dead).  The reason for the disappearance of Paula’s mother alone is enough to make me want to continue reading the series as well as discovering which path Paula follows, although I have to say I do miss the strong willed and ‘take a chance’ Paula from the first book and hope she returns again!  

My thanks to the publisher for the copy to review.

About the author:

Claire McGowan grew up in a small village in Northern Ireland. After a degree in English and French from Oxford University she moved to London and worked in the charity sector. The Fall was her first novel, which is followed by a series starring forensic psychologist Paula Maguire in The Lost and The Dead Ground.

You can find out more by following on Twitter, or author website 

Monday, 9 February 2015

The Dandelion Years - Erica James

Published 26 February 2015 by Orion

From Amazon:

Ashcombe was the most beautiful house Saskia had ever seen as a little girl. A rambling pink cottage on the edge of the Suffolk village of Melbury Green, its enchanting garden provided a fairy-tale playground of seclusion, a perfect sanctuary to hide from the tragedy which shattered her childhood.

Now an adult, Saskia is still living at Ashcombe and as a book restorer devotes her days tending to the broken, battered books that find their way to her, daydreaming about the people who had once turned their pages. When she discovers a notebook carefully concealed in an old Bible - and realising someone has gone to a great deal of trouble to hide a story of their own - Saskia finds herself drawn into a heart-rending tale of wartime love...

* * *

Erica James is another of my all-time favourite authors. I loved her previous book (Summer at the Lake, reviewed here last year) and this, her 19th novel, is in my opinion, even better.

This is a dual time story, set in the current day and also during 1943/44. The story begins with Saskia Granger, 32 years old and living with her father Ralph and two grandfathers Oliver and Harvey in an idyllic sounding Suffolk cottage, following a family tragedy many years before. Both Saskia and her father love old books – her father sells them and Saskia restores them.  An old bible comes into her hands which contains a notebook – the story told in this notebook is an incredibly moving account of the difficulties and hardship sustained of a love affair conducted during the war.

This leads very nicely into Jacob’s story. Jacob Belinsky was part Russian/part British, whose Russian family had settled into London with their barber/hairdressing business. Jacob did not want to join the family business, his talents lay elsewhere and his academic background led to him being employed at Bletchley Park as a cryptanalyst. He was entrusted with top secret work deciphering German messages. It was because of Bletchley Park that he met Kitty – and it is their story, given the title of ‘The Dandelion Years’ by Jacob, that runs alongside that of Saskia and her family.

There is another intriguing character heavily involved in the story. A young man, Matthew Gray. He is mourning the recent loss of his mentor and the only father figure he has ever known.

I know it’s very early but this could possibly be a contender for my book of the year. The main characters were just wonderful and I felt an engagement with every single one. I chuckled at the good natured and gentle bickering between the two grandfathers or at Jacob’s dealings with his vile landlady; I could fully understand Saskia’s desire to stay with the familiar life that she loves rather than to embrace change and I was intrigued by the complex characters of both Jacob and Matthew.

Unusually both timelines worked extremely well for me and I was equally happy to spend time with Saskia and her family as I was with Jacob and Kitty. I found the Bletchley Park connection very interesting, so much so that it is on my list of places to visit this year.

There were times when the story tore at my heart and made me gasp out loud, however I can forgive you Erica for almost making me cry! This is a truly wonderful story of families and love and why we need to take a risk in life sometimes.

My thanks to Gaby at Orion who kindly sent a paperback copy for review. 

About the author:

With an insatiable appetite for other people's business, Erica James will readily strike up conversation with strangers in the hope of unearthing a useful gem for her writing. She finds it the best way to write authentic characters for her novels, although her two grown-up sons claim they will never recover from a childhood spent in a perpetual state of embarrassment at their mother's compulsion.

Erica now divides her time between Cheshire and Lake Como in Italy, where she now strikes up conversation with unsuspecting Italians. 

You can find out more from Erica's website or by following on Twitter or Facebook

Friday, 6 February 2015

First We Take Manhattan - Colette Caddle

Published 14 August 2014 by Simon & Schuster

From Goodreads:

Identical twins, Sinéad and Sheila Fields, have always done everything together and so, after graduating in millinery, they decide to open their own hat shop. It's a small business but thanks to hard work and talent, they build up a loyal clientele. Then one day a glamorous young actress buys one of their hats, wears it to the Baftas and suddenly success seems guaranteed.

But within weeks, tragedy strikes when Sheila disappears, and is presumed dead. After months of desolation, Sinéad is just beginning to come to terms with her loss when she is given new hope: there has been a sighting of her sister. While she is filled with excitement at the thought that Sheila might be alive, she is haunted by questions. Why would Sheila have deserted her twin without a word? After all, they had always told each other everything … hadn't they?

* * *

Twin sisters Sinéad and Sheila Fields have started their own millinery business. They are just about to hit fame and fortune after a famous actress wears one of their creations to a BAFTA awards ceremony when Sheila suddenly disappears without trace. Her car is found abandoned with her handbag inside. After several months without any news the family reluctantly have to accept that Sheila is dead, possibly by her own hand. Her twin Sinéad is devastated and lets the business slide into ruin – along with her relationship with boyfriend Dylan. The two sisters were so close and Sinéad can’t accept that Sheila would deliberately wish to cause so much hurt. Her younger brother Max intervenes to try and salvage the business and this is really where the story starts with disclosures and coincidences that eventually form the crux of the tale.

This is the first Colette Caddle book that I have read (although I do have a few of her earlier books in my collection - I hadn't realised that she had written so many, this being her 14th novel). What attracted me (apart from the gorgeous cover) was the mystery element of the missing twin and the dual location of Ireland and New York. The story kept me engrossed, whether we were in Dublin or Central Park.

I really enjoyed Colette’s writing. The Fields family are well drawn with complex characters and you are drawn in to the family relationships and dynamics, each of them dealing with loss and grief in their own way. The mother died tragically by drowning years before when the twins and their brother Max were quite young and the father has never really got over the loss of his wife. His wife’s sister, Bridie, stepped in to look after the family, and although she did an adequate job, she was never a very loving person and the lack of affection was felt by all the siblings. Bridie is now suffering from dementia; she has a past of her own that is partly shrouded in mystery and appears to be the holder of long held family secrets.

There is a little bit of everything in this book, mystery, family relationships, secrets and romance. There are some fabulous supporting characters – Krystie was a wonderful creation and came into the lives of the Fields family like a breath of fresh air, her relationship with her own family felt believable and was one that perhaps many people could identify with. Very cleverly, the author threw in a few seeds of doubt here and there - just enough to make you wonder about certain characters and whether they were all that they seemed.

Despite the mystery element, this is not a suspense thriller but neither is it light and fluffy. I was completely engrossed in the lives of the Fields family and as desperate as they were to find out the truth about Sheila’s disappearance. We see a family that has been torn in two by loss and the repercussions of keeping secrets. This was a really enjoyable story and I and look forward to reading more by Colette Caddle.

My paperback copy came as a competition win from the author.

About the author:

Colette Caddle lives in Dublin with her husband and two young sons.  

You can find out more from Colette's website, or by following on Twitter and Facebook

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

The Girl in the Photograph - Kate Riordan

Published 15 January 2015 by Penguin

From Goodreads:

The Girl in the Photograph is a haunting and atmospheric novel that tells the tales of women in two different eras – the 1890’s and 1930’s – and how their lives seem to be entwined by fate. Kate Riordan’s novel is a beautifully dark and beguiling tale which will sweep you away. It will appeal to fans of Kate Morton and Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca.

In the summer of 1933, Alice Eveleigh has arrived at Fiercombe Manor in disgrace. The beautiful house becomes her sanctuary, a place to hide her shame from society in the care of the housekeeper, Mrs Jelphs. But the manor also becomes a place of suspicion, one of secrecy.

Something isn't right.  Someone is watching.

There are secrets that the manor house seems determined to keep. Tragedy haunts the empty rooms and foreboding hangs heavy in the stifling heat. Traces of the previous occupant, Elizabeth Stanton, are everywhere and soon Alice discovers Elizabeth's life eerily mirrors the path she herself is on.

* * * 

When in the late spring of 1933, 20 year Alice Eveleigh arrives at Fiercombe Manor in a Gloucestershire valley she is nearly 6 months pregnant by her married boyfriend. She has been sent there in disgrace from London by her parents. The housekeeper Mrs Jelphs is an old school friend of Alice’s mother and has been told that Alice is newly widowed and needs some peace and quiet for the duration of her confinement. From her first arrival at Fiercombe, Alice feels a disturbing presence and a sadness that pervades the walls of the manor. Mrs Jelphs has been at Fiercombe for decades but for some reason is reluctant to talk to Alice about the previous owners, Edward and Elizabeth Stanton which makes Alice even keener to find out more. 

This is a dual narrative story told by Alice in the early 1930s and Elizabeth Stanton in 1898. Despite the decades between their stories, there are similarities in both women. Both are pregnant and both are constrained by the attitudes and traditions of their time. Alice has bought shame on her family and has to be hidden away. 

Elizabeth is married to the cold hearted Edward Stanton. Although they have a little girl, Isabel, Edward makes no secret of his wish for a son to carry on his title and estate. Elizabeth has suffered badly with what we now know as post natal depression however in those times this was seen as madness and Elizabeth’s husband took full advantage of the rights he had over her. The lack of women’s rights, particularly on mental health issues, was very much highlighted in this novel and was quite shocking. Once you are married you sign away your money and your life to your husband – such a marked difference to how we live now. 
This is quite a long and detailed story which leads to a gradual reveal of past events. Throughout it is very descriptive and atmospheric and has clearly been well researched. It is not a traditional ghost story but there is a supernatural element – the old manor definitely has echoes of the past and the unhappiness of the previous occupants can be felt by Alice. To fill her time, Alice explores the manor and the surrounding grounds and discovers a secret journal kept by Elizabeth and gradually we learn of her story. 
Personally I enjoyed Elizabeth’s narration more than Alice’s and whenever Alice was the main focus, I was impatient to get back to Elizabeth. I felt that Elizabeth had a bit more of a spark to her when compared to Alice and I was intrigued to learn what had happened to her and why the fate of the Stantons was clouded in mystery. 

I'm a big fan of this type of historical fiction and did enjoy the dual time aspect and mysterious background to the story. I would certainly like to read more by this author. There were times when I felt the descriptive text slowed down the story (although that could just be me being impatient to know what happens next!) but I can’t fault the writing for the atmospheric and evocative detail, particularly with regard to the old manor house and for bringing to life the searing heat of the summer and the oppressive feel of the valley where watches and clocks refused to work.

My thanks to Penguin who kindly provided the copy for review. 

About the author:

Kate Riordan is a writer and journalist. She started out as an editorial assistant at the Guardian, followed by a stint as deputy editor for the lifestyle section of Time Out. She now works freelance and lives in the Cotswolds, where she is currently working on her next novel.

You can find out more from Kate's website, or by following on Twitter 

Monday, 26 January 2015

Three Amazing Things About You - Jill Mansell

Published 15 January 2015 by Headline Review

From Goodreads:

Jill Mansell's enchanting new novel will drive readers to seize life with both hands and make the most of every minute...

Hallie has a secret. She's in love. He's perfect for her in every way, but he's seriously out of bounds. And her friends aren't going to help her because what they do know is that Hallie doesn't have long to live. Time is running out...

Flo has a dilemma. She really likes Zander. But his scary sister won't be even faintly amused if she thinks Zander and Flo are becoming friends - let alone anything more.

Tasha has a problem. Her new boyfriend is the adventurous type. And she's afraid one of his adventures will go badly wrong.

THREE AMAZING THINGS ABOUT YOU begins as Hallie goes on a journey. A donor has been found and she's about to be given new lungs. But whose?

* * *

This is the third Jill Mansell book that I have included on this blog and I have made no secret of the fact that she is one of my favourite authors. I love whatever she writes and this, her 26th novel, is one of her best.

It is the story of three young women, all are strangers to each other but the way their lives connect and collide is one of the joys of the book. With the exception of one (and you will soon realise who that is!), all the characters are extremely engaging and likeable and the type of people that you could happily be friends with.

At the very beginning, we meet 28 year old Hallie when she is on her way to the hospital, excited but extremely scared at what is to come. Hallie has had THE phone call from her transplant coordinator. Hallie has cystic fibrosis and despite being confined to a wheelchair with an accompanying oxygen tank most of the time, she is upbeat, funny, kind and … in love, although the object of her desire doesn’t know it. Hallie is well aware that she may not have much time left unless a donor organ can be found. She also runs a website called ‘Three Things About You’, where those writing in for advice first have to list three facts about themselves. The advice that Hallie gave was a good insight to her character – she may have been seriously ill but she didn’t take any prisoners!

Tasha (otherwise known as ‘Bin Girl’ – this scene was just wonderful and had me grimacing and grinning in equal measures) has had that love at first sight experience. However she and her new boyfriend are completely different – he is an adrenaline junkie whilst she has no desire whatsoever to take part in extreme sports. Can their love really last despite their differences?

Flo, has become guardian to Jeremy, a very grumpy cat, who comes with his own accommodation. Flo loves her job in a retirement home and the interaction between her and her residents, particularly Margo, is wonderfully crafted. However, when she meets a new man, she encounters trouble from someone who seriously objects to her romance.

I loved this book. It had me laughing one minute and then almost crying the next. It deals with some difficult subjects – serious illness and the importance of organ donation but it never preaches and although at times it is an emotional read, it is also uplifting and joyous and is written with sensitivity and warmth. Even the friends and supporting characters had their own distinct personalities and were certainly a great addition to the story. Tasha’s best friend Carmel and Rory’s best mate Joe were just wonderful and the sparky dialogue between them worked so well.

At a certain point of the book, I thought I knew where the story was headed but there are little twists to keep you on your toes. By the time I got to the end my emotions had been through the wringer but it was a lovely journey and this book is deservedly another triumph for Jill Mansell.

Don't just take my word for it, do take a look at these other great reviews from my blogger friends at Being Anne and Random Things Through My Letterbox

My thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the digital copy for review. 

About the author:

Jill Mansell lives with her partner and children in Bristol, and writes full time. Actually that's not true; she watches TV, eats fruit gums, admires the rugby players training in the sports field behind her house, and spends hours on the internet Tweeting and marvelling at how many other writers have blogs. Only when she's completely run out of displacement activities does she actually write. 

Follow Jill on Twitter at @JillMansell or find out more via her website.

Friday, 2 January 2015

A Place for Us - Harriet Evans

To be published 15 January 2015 by Headline Review

From Goodreads:

The day Martha Winter decided to tear apart her family began like any other day.

When Martha, a wife and mother of three, sits down one late summer’s morning to write out the invitations to her eightieth birthday celebration, she knows that what she is planning to reveal at the party could ruin the idyllic life she and her husband David have spent over fifty years building…

But she has to let her family know what she and David have sacrificed. She can’t live a lie any more.

The invitation goes out far and wide, calling her three children and their families back home to Winterfold, their rambling house in the heart of the English countryside. They are Bill, the doctor; Florence, the eccentric academic; and Daisy, the child who never fit in. As the story unfolds, each character reveals the secrets, joys, and tragedies they are wrestling with through the confines of the family. What will happen when Martha finally tells the truth?

* * *

This book has previously been published in 4 instalments during 2014. I was lucky enough to have been sent Part 1 back in the summer but because I prefer to read a book in one go, I resisted reading the other 3 parts until the whole book had been published.

The story begins in the summer of 2012 when the matriarch of the family, Martha Winter, sends out invitations to her family for her 80th birthday celebration, at which an “important announcement” will be made. The family are left wondering what is in store. With each chapter narrated by a different family member, we begin to get to know a little of their background and we learn why some chose to move away. Although necessary, this slowed the story slightly whilst the family were being introduced. Even at this stage, secrets are hinted at and the drama is building.

There are several family members to get to know and I’m actually glad that I read the first part twice because on the second reading, it was easier to understand the relationships. There are children and grandchildren and initially I frequently mixed up the characters.

Martha and her husband David (also known as ‘Southpaw') are both artists and when they first scraped together the money to buy Winterfold, they had a vision of raising their family there and of the house offering happiness and a place of refuge for their extending family. Sadly this dream didn’t quite go to plan and they watched their family fracture and disintegrate.

This is a story of a family life built on secrets and lies. We are taken back in time to WW2 when David was just a boy and living through the war in London and then forwards to different chapters in each character’s life. There were times when I found the jump in timelines a little confusing.

The three children are all very different. Bill, the eldest, is a GP and on his second marriage, to Karen, which is proving to be as unsuccessful a union as his first. Bill has a daughter, Lucy, from his first marriage. Then there is Daisy. Daisy was always the most troubled and problematic of the siblings. She ran away to help with a charity in India but left behind her daughter, Cat. Although Cat was very young when her mother left, she has some memories of Daisy and has felt her absence keenly as she has grown up. Finally, there is Florence. Florence was probably my favourite character; she was an academic/Professor of art and in lived in – Florence! She wasn’t graceful either in manner or looks but there was something endearing about her awkwardness and lack of social skills.

These people and their lives form the main part of this family drama. These are all the people that we get to know and when Martha plans to drop her bombshell, each of them will have to deal with the consequences.

I don’t want to give any spoilers so that is really all I can say about the story. Some of the characters are more likable than others and the house itself, ‘Winterfold’ sounded idyllic. For many years the Winters and Martha in particular, with her parties and gatherings, had presented this perfect image to outsiders of their family life, however in reality, this was far from the truth.

I did enjoy this family saga, even though at times I felt the story could have been a little shorter without losing anything. Harriet Evans has superbly captured the complexities and emotions of her characters and making them face up to the reality of their lives. Like them or not, the Winters will draw you into their world.

I received my paperback copy from the Amazon Vine review programme.

About the author:

Harriet Evans is the author of seven previous novels, Going Home, A Hopeless Romantic, The Love of Her Life, I Remember You, Love Always, Happily Ever After and Not Without You. She lives in London with her family.

You can find out more from her website, or follow on Twitter or Facebook

Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Life I Left Behind - Colette McBeth

Published 1 January 2015 by Headline

From Goodreads:

I'm the only one who knows the secrets her friends have hidden, the mistakes the police have made.

I'm the only one who can warn her she's still in danger.

I know exactly who attacked her.
He's the same man who killed me.

* * * 

"If she had died in the attack she would have died once, but she has been dying every day since then, a slow, painful disintegration of her mind".

I still have Colette’s debut ‘Precious Thing’ waiting on my bookshelf to be read but when given the opportunity to read and review this, her second novel, I wanted it immediately!

It sounded so intriguing, a story narrated by a murder victim. Whilst reading reviews for this, I’ve seen many references made to The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. I must be one of the few people in the world who really didn’t like that book so I was hoping that this wouldn’t be a disappointment. I needn’t have worried. Eve, the murder victim, who is one of 3 narrators is not a wishy-washy character of the afterworld. Her voice is clear and believable and I felt quite sad that she was dead as she was a character that I would have loved to have known more about.

Eve’s murder has a very similar MO to that of Melody’s attack, 6 years previously. Melody was left in a coma and although she has physically recovered, mentally she is still a mess. A friend and neighbour was found guilty of her attack but has since been released from prison. Has the same person committed another crime?

Investigating Eve’s murder is DI Victoria Rutter. Rutter was a member of the original team investigating Melody’s attack but whilst delving into Eve’s case; she begins to have doubts about the way Melody’s investigation was carried out.

The three narrations of Eve, Melody and DI Rutter worked very well together. With alternating chapters you get to know the main characters well and even the more minor parts are fleshed out enough to enable you to form an opinion about them. I was pretty sure that I had worked it all out but with each chapter, another clue (or red herring) – you will have to make up your own mind, put doubts into my mind.

The two crimes are a significant part of the story but so is Melody’s traumatised mind. She knows that she can’t be a victim forever but doesn’t know to make herself feel safe again. Although I didn’t particularly like her character, I was hoping that she would find the strength to help find Eve’s killer and be able to lay her own ghosts to rest.

This was a fabulously twisty thriller that worked so well, despite the unusual narration.  It had a well written storyline, tension and pace and I really didn't want to put it down. A definite 5* read for me

I received my copy from the Amazon Vine review programme.

About the author:

Colette McBeth was a BBC TV News Correspondent for ten years. She lives in West London with her husband and three young children. She attended the Faber Academy Novel Writing Course in 2011. Her first novel, Precious Thing, was published in 2013.

You can find out more from Colette's website or follow on Twitter or Facebook

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

How I Lost You - Jenny Blackhurst

Kindle edition published 9 October 2014 by Headline

Paperback published 23 April 2015

From Goodreads:

They told her she killed her son. She served her time. But what if they lied? I have no memory of what happened but I was told I killed my son. And you believe what your loved ones, your doctor and the police tell you, don't you? 

My name is Emma Cartwright. Three years ago I was Susan Webster, and I murdered my twelve-week-old son Dylan. I was sent to Oakdale Psychiatric Institute for my crime, and four weeks ago I was released early on parole with a new identity, address and a chance to rebuild my tattered life. This morning, I received an envelope addressed to Susan Webster. Inside it was a photograph of a toddler called Dylan. Now I am questioning everything I believe because if I have no memory of the event, how can I truly believe he's dead? If there was the smallest chance your son was alive, what would you do to get him back? 

* * * 

The story begins when Susan Webster is released from a psychiatric hospital after serving a three year sentence for killing her 3 month old baby. At the time was she was diagnosed with severe post natal depression; she still has no memory of that tragic event and has spent much of her imprisonment trying to focus on the happy memories of time spent with her son. Upon her release, she changes her name and moves away – she might expect that she would be left alone to pick up the threads of her life but it seems that someone has other ideas…

Nobody, apart from the authorities and her best friend Cassy (a fellow inmate, also now released) was supposed to know where Susan was living. However, whilst alone in her new home, an envelope was pushed through her door; it contained a photograph of a young boy and written on the back was “Dylan – January 2013”. How was this possible, Dylan was dead – Susan killed him. Surely somebody had to be playing a sick joke? However when events escalate and become even more sinister, Susan has to find out the truth. Is her boy still alive and if so, why was she found guilty of his murder?

This story had me gripped from the very first page. The premise of the story was original and certainly kept my interest all the way through. When Susan was first released, she had no–one to turn to, apart from Cassy. Her husband Mark had divorced her whilst she was imprisoned and she had turned away from remaining family and friends. When a journalist, Nick, suddenly arrives on her doorstep, after the delivery of the photograph, alarm bells started ringing for me – how did he know where she lived and why was he there – was it just to get a story?

Despite her initial suspicions, Susan began to rely on Nick just a little too much, too soon. I couldn’t quite understand why she trusted him so much but then maybe I’m a naturally suspicious person!

Running through the story are separate chapters, told in italics and going back in time to 1987, of a group of boys who meet at school and who we follow through to university. At first I couldn’t understand where this fitted it, but the strands do come together and the twists involved here are very well done.

There are quite a few characters to get to grips with but once these are clear in your head, the story does race along and although at times, you do have to suspend belief slightly at events, it never becomes dull. The twists are very clever and I was never sure who to trust; it seems that events of the past have far reaching consequences.

Jenny Blackhurst has written a very enjoyable debut thriller. Although towards the end, it did become a little ‘busy’ and the denouement seemed a little rushed, I didn’t guess the outcome although I did have suspicions about certain people. Secrets and lies carry the story along very well and if you just go with the story, I’m sure that you will enjoy this as much as I did.

I received my copy from the Amazon Vine review programme.

About the author:

Jenny Blackhurst grew up in Shropshire where she still lives with her husband and children. Growing up she spent hours reading and talking about crime novels - writing her own seemed like natural progression. Inspired by the emotions she felt around her own son's birth, How I Lost You is Jenny's thrilling debut crime novel.

You can follow on Twitter or Facebook 

Sunday, 28 December 2014

My Top 10 Reads of 2014

This is so very difficult.  I've read so many fabulous books over the last 12 months that to pick just 10 out of the 104 that I've read was almost impossible.  There were so many more that I could have included (and some of these are mentioned below in my highly recommended list).

So, in no particular order, these are all 5* reads for me this year that had something special - (the title will link to my review):

The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman 

The book that made me cry!

I love Rowan's writing and this story about the effects of early onset Alzheimers on both the sufferer and their family was sad but also uplifting and, where appropriate, humorous too.   This was definitely a WOW book.

The Broken by Tamar Cohen

I've loved every book that I've so far read from Tammy Cohen. This was a fabulous psychological thriller concerning the disintegration of relationships and friendships. 

Keep Your Friends Close - Paula Daly

I could have chosen either one of Paula Daly's psychological thrillers as both are excellent, her debut being Just What Kind of Mother Are You? I finally chose this one for the wonderfully evil, manipulative, deceitful main character that really gets under your skin.  

Who Are You - Elizabeth Forbes

This was a fabulous twisty psychological thriller concerning the effect of PTSD on a couple's relationship. Two troubled people who should never have got together in the first place.   

The Teashop on the Corner - Milly Johnson

I just adore Milly's books and this, I think, was her best so far. The idea of a teashop being a hub for friendship and support was a superb one. I just wish I had a Leni teashop near me!  I'm very proud to be a part of #TeamMilly

Unravelling Oliver - Liz Nugent

This was a debut novel and such a brilliant one.  The story of Oliver, a deeply disturbed man, as seen by both acquaintances and friends. Why did he put his wife in a coma?  I do so hope there is another book from Liz.  

Before the Fall - Juliet West

Based on a true story, this is a beautifully written and powerful story of a love affair against the backdrop of the Great War.  This was the author's debut novel and a stunner.  

The Girl on the Train - Paula Hawkins

This is a debut thriller, to be published in January 2015 and although I'm slightly cheating here because it hasn't yet been released, it is such a fantastic book that I couldn't possibly leave it out. Those who have yet to read it are definitely in a for a treat. 

Little Lies - Liane Moriarty

The author of 'The Husband's Secret' has done it again. Another fabulous read by this Australian author.  The reader is gradually led, over a period of 6 months, to a fatal event at school quiz night.  Brilliant characterisation and I was desperate all the way through to know who, what and why!

Ghostwritten - Isabel Wolff

A very moving and poignant account of life in a Japanese internment camp during the Second World War.  This was another book that moved me to tears by the brutality shown to innocent people and their sheer will to survive.   

and finally, a few of the reads that only JUST missed out (otherwise my list would have been a top 50!) but were nonetheless really great reads and highly recommended......

My Blogging Year - 2014

This has been a wonderful year of blogging for me.  My blog was only a year old in August but I've received so many great books from ever generous publishers and authors and feel honoured to have been invited to some very exciting book launches and events.   There are some compensations for the long daily commute into London and being able to easily attend evening events is one!   

My first ever book launch event was in January 2014 when I won tickets to a launch of Luca Veste's debut, 'Dead Gone' held at Belgravia Books in London. I was delighted to meet Luca and was ever so slightly star struck at being in the same room as some of my all time favourite authors (- Mark Billingham being just one!).   

In April, I was invited by Tina Seskis and Penguin to the launch of 'One Step Too Far'.  I was fortunate enough to have been an early reviewer of this when Tina self published in 2013.  It really is a fantastic book and if you haven't yet read it, then I can highly recommend it. This launch was held at Penguin's offices at The Strand, London and it was a wonderful evening.  It was an unexpected thrill to be given a copy of the finished book and to find my name mentioned at the back.  My friends, Anne C (who blogs at Random Things through My Letterbox) and Anne W (who blogs at Being Anne) were also invited and as I live in a different part of the country, it was lovely to have the opportunity to meet up again.  

In June, I was invited by Hatty of Cutting Edge Press to the launch of Elizabeth Forbes' amazing new thriller 'Who Are You'.  This was held at the very grand Cavalry and Guards Club in Mayfair.   I met so many lovely authors here, Elizabeth Forbes, Tammy Cohen, Amanda Jennings, Shelan Rodger - one day I promise I will get to all of your books!  Again, I was delighted to meet up again with Anne C and our friend Leah (who blogs at Reflections of a Reader).  It was also very nice to meet Dawn (who blogs at Crooks on Books), we had 'spoken' on Twitter many times but had never yet met.  Another Twitter friend it was lovely to meet for the first time was Nina (@Matineegirl). Nina is actually a friend of Anne C and hopefully we will meet again at a future event. 

In November, I bought my ticket and made my annual pilgrimage to see Jodi Picoult in London on her UK promotional tour, this one being for 'Leaving Time'. I'm a huge fan of her books and she is always so interesting and a pleasure to listen to.  Every time I have seen her, somebody ALWAYS asks the question concerning the film ending of My Sister's Keeper and even if she is privately groaning at having to answer this for the millionth time, she never shows it!  Fanny Blake again did the interview and although the venue  St James Church, wasn't quite as comfortable as the usual theatres (nearly two hours of sitting on a hard wooden bench!), I very much enjoyed the event and of course came home with my copy of the book.  

Finally in November and December, I was invited to a couple of Penguin events. Unfortunately I couldn't attend the November Annual Fiction Showcase because of illness but nothing would keep me away from the Women's Fiction Evening in December.  Again, this was held at Penguin's The Strand offices.  Penguin looked after everybody so well and made sure that we were introduced to their authors.  It was a huge pleasure to meet Tina Seskis again, Dinah JefferiesSinéad Moriarty, Lucy Robinson, Kate Riordan and Louise Candlish as well as members of the Penguin/Michael Joseph/Penguin Ireland team. It was a really lovely evening and I also met some book bloggers for the first time that I only previously knew from Twitter and Facebook.  I met up with the lovely Rea (who blogs at Rea Book Review) - we were both on our own and her great company made the event far less daunting for me!  

These beautiful books (including a couple of unbound proofs) came home with me!  Penguin were so very generous, with goody bags prepared and we were told to pick up any books we wanted.

So that's my blog year.  There are so many fabulous books being released early in 2015, some of which I have been lucky enough to have received already from publishers.  I only wish there were more hours in the day to read (and review), all the books I currently have.   

My thanks to authors, publishers, fellow blogger friends, Twitter and Facebook followers for your friendship and support. When I first started my book blog it was only ever intended to be as a hobby and I am constantly amazed (and so thrilled) that people choose to read it and take the time to comment on posts.