Blog Tour – An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

That title! That cover! As a lover of crime and psychological thrillers, could anything possibly scream “READ ME!” any louder? So when I was invited to take part in the blog tour for this book, I jumped at the chance.

91Qq+Y4xssLWhat I thought:

An exclusive hotel in a picturesque and secluded part of the Catskills in the middle of winter in the snow. A small group of guests, who have never met each other before, arrive for a weekend of luxury, forgoing mobile networks and WiFi in order to relax and recharge their batteries. What could be more perfect they think. Until an ice storm hits and the electricity goes down, that is, and the body of one of the guests is found at the bottom of the grand staircase…

I love a good locked-room mystery, and the blurb for this book sounded very Christie-esque which gave huge appeal  (indeed there is even a nod to the author herself, as one guest finds a Christie novel on her bedside table). The remote and cut off location, the group of strangers, many of whom seem to have something to hide, the undercurrent of mistrust and the body count mounting up… what could be more perfect?

If I was to have a slight gripe, it would be that there wasn’t quite enough tension for me. Guests are dropping like flies and there is no way out, yet I never really got a sense of pure fear (which I expect I would have felt had I been there in the hotel). Well written though it was, the middle part of the book didn’t entirely live up to the promise of the first part, I felt. The ending though… now that I enjoyed. I love it when I’m blindsided by a reveal and this one did just that. It actually left me with a big smile of satisfaction on my face.

Verdict:

Gripping, page-turning, moreish. This is a pacy thrilled, despite the desolate setting and small cast. A read-in-one-sitting type of book. Enjoy!

 

Why not head over to the other blogs in this tour and see what they have to say about it too.

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A Lazy Bloggers Mini Reviews – Part 2

Snap by Belinda Bauer

coverSummary:

SNAP DECISIONS CAN BE DANGEROUS . . .

On a stifling summer’s day, eleven-year-old Jack and his two sisters sit in their broken-down car, waiting for their mother to come back and rescue them. Jack’s in charge, she’d said. I won’t be long.

But she doesn’t come back. She never comes back. And life as the children know it is changed forever.

Three years later, Jack is still in charge – of his sisters, of supporting them all, of making sure nobody knows they’re alone in the house, and – quite suddenly – of finding out the truth about what happened to his mother. . .

My Verdict:

A tense and gripping crime thriller that is a blessed relief from a lot of the “samey” thrillers out there at the moment. Characters you care about, humour, fabulously grumpy Detective with a mystery to be solved all of which cumulate into a real page-turner.

Highly recommended!

 

Bitter by Francesca Jakobi

51yKn8TwtkL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Summary:

It’s 1969, and while the summer of love lingers in London, Gilda is consumed by the mistakes of her past. She walked out on her beloved son Reuben when he was just a boy and fears he’ll never forgive her.

When Reuben marries a petite blonde gentile, Gilda takes it as the ultimate rejection. Her cold, distant son seems transformed by love – a love she’s craved his entire adult life. What does his new wife have that she doesn’t? And how far will she go to find out? It’s an obsession that will bring shocking truths about the past to light . . .

Bitter is a beautiful and devastating novel about the decisions that define our lives, the fragility of love and the bond between mother and son.

My Verdict:

I absolutely loved this book! A protagonist who, despite her many flaws and stalkerish tendencies, you can’t help but root for,

Funny, heartbreaking and moving, Bitter is a story of obsession, love and lies. A breath of fresh air in this genre. Highly recommended!

 

Her Name Was Rose by Claire Allan

36589624 (1)Summary:

When Emily lets a stranger step out in front of her, she never imagines that split second will change her life. But after Emily watches a car plough into the young mother – killing her instantly – she finds herself unable to move on.

And then she makes a decision she can never take back.

Because Rose had everything Emily had ever dreamed of. A beautiful, loving family, a great job and a stunning home. And now Rose’s husband misses his wife, and their son needs a mother. Why couldn’t Emily fill that space?

But as Emily is about to discover, no one’s life is perfect … and not everything is as it seems.

My Verdict:

While I enjoyed reading this book, I really wasn’t bowled over by it. I didn’t feel enough for Emily to care much about what happened to her, and her stalker tendencies bordered on contrived for me – something to fit the plot rather than plausible as she made one stupid decision after another. I never really got the character of Cian (the grieving widow) either: he was so psychopathic is was almost pantomime.

An easy read, and fairly enjoyable but not one I would heartily recommend I’m afraid.

Review: Lullaby by Leila Slimani

Image result for leila slimani lullabyWhat I Thought:

“The baby is dead. It only took a few seconds.” That is the first line of this book. I was horrified and hooked. We know right from the start that there is no happy ending and we also know who is guilty. What we want to know is why.
Lullaby is shocking because it’s the nanny who has harmed the children. Louise is the perfect nanny: quiet, conscientious, and always going above and beyond what’s required of her role. She makes herself invaluable to a mother who is desperate to get back to work and find the person she once was. In fact, Louise is so perfect that the parents find themselves prepared to overlook certain things that become increasingly odd, all for the sake of peace and keeping her in the role so they can fulfill their own needs outside o the children. Lullaby explores the dynamics within a family unit and also those of gender, race and class.
This is no ordinary domestic noir: the book is short in length, has short chapters and has prose that is precise, clipped and even blunt, but not a word is wasted. However, from what was such a promising start that lured me straight in it gradually went downhill for me, with an ending that was particularly frustrating.

Verdict:

Despite there being lots to like about this book, I became more confused towards the end as to what drove Louise to do what she did. In fact the more we learned about Louise’s past the more confused I became as to why the hell she did what she did. Well written and I liked the style but I got no closure from this book and it left me with a sense of being duped.

Review: The Fear by C.L. Taylor

Image result for the fear c l taylorWhat I Thought:

This is one of those read-in-on-sitting type books: short chapters, alternating viewpoints, past and present narratives. All the ingredients of a gripping page-turner.

Lou Wandsworth had an affair with her Karate teacher, Mike, when she was fourteen, which ended when they were arrested in France. Eighteen years later, Lou has been unable to move on properly with her life; with short-lived relationships having become her staple and a past that even her best friend doesn’t know anything about. But it’s not about to stay like that for much longer. After her Father’s death, Lou has to move back to her childhood home which exposes not only long-buried feelings but also the revelation that Mike may be up to his old tricks with 13-year-old Chloe Meadows.

What follows is a game of cat and mouse as Lou attempts to bring Mik to justice after all these years, but what neither of them reckons on is there being someone else in the mix who is just as out for revenge.

Verdict:

A gripping, fast-paced read that will have you questioning what is really going on and a race to the end to see if just desserts are served after all.

 

NB/ I received a copy of this book from Avon Books in return for an honest review. The book is launched in the UK on 22/03/18.

 

Review: Bring Me Back by B A Paris

bring meWhat I Thought:

Last year I read TheBreakdown and absolutely loved it so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this. I’m sorry to say that I was left disappointed… There are a handful of reviews already out there all raving about this Bring Me Back, so much so that I had to question whether I had even read the same book as everyone else. It’s not a bad book, that much I will say, but I found myself bored by the repetition and, what I felt was, unnecessary padding.

The prologue lulled me into a sense of intrigue and high hopes that ultimately failed to deliver. Finn and Layla are driving home through France on their way back from a skiing trip, when a stop to use the bathroom at a rest area on the motorway results in the disappearance of Layla. Originally suspected of murder and then released, Finn continues on with his life only to meet and fall in love with Layla’s sister Ellen. Twelve years after her disappearance, and shortly after Finn’s proposal to Ellen, Finn starts receiving messages of sightings and is the recipient of strange goings-on that would only mean something to the three of them – Finn, Ellen and Layla. Is Layla alive after all? And if so, where has she been all these years?

Maybe I read too many of these types of books but the red herrings weren’t fishy enough for me and the outcome became obvious to me very early on so it almost became a let-down to be proved right as I love a good shock ending. The plus points are that there are unreliable narrators and despite (in my view) a middle that sagged between a good start and a good ending, I still turned the pages fairly quickly.

Verdict:

Lots to like and will no doubt be a roaring success like her previous books, but it didn’t quite hit the mark for me.

NB/ Thank you to Netgalley and HQ for my copy of this book which I chose to read in return for an honest review.
This book will be available to buy on 8th March 2018.

Blog Tour: Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

9781509855582What I Thought:

Many years ago I read a book called Room by Emma Donaghue and fell in love with a small boy. A few weeks ago I read Only Child and fell in love with a different little boy. There was a time when I couldn’t read books narrated by children, as I would find myself cringing at anything that didn’t feel authentic. Room changed that, and now I have a new hero that goes by the name of Zach.

The book opens with Zach and some of his classmates hiding in a cupboard with their teacher as a gunman runs rampage through their school. Zach continues with his story in the aftermath of the massacre as he, his family and the community try to make some sort of sense of the events of that day. Zach is a wonderful character: perceptive, sensitive and very engaging. Despite narrating the chaos and confusion felt by himself and those around him, it was a pleasure to be in his company as he navigated his own unfamiliar emotions and witnessed the alien ones of those closest to him. Being narrated by a child gives the story the wide-eyed, innocent view of the world that only a child could which adds to the heartbreak in a way that a cynical or jaded adult wouldn’t be able to.

This is such an incredibly powerful book and not just because of the subject matter. I am stunned that this is the author’s debut novel as it is written with the assuredness and keen eye of someone who has many more books under her belt. Only Child wrecked me. Several times. My heart broke for the characters in this book. And despite the subject matter, nothing felt gratuitous or shoe-horned in for dramatic effect which is why I’m sure it had such the impact that it did.

Verdict:

This book is a triumph. It crushes you and lifts you back up, it breaks your heart but leaves you optimistic, it holds a mirror up to society and forces you to look beneath the surface at what’s really going on. It will be a long time before I forget Zach and his family. Zach is a special boy and this is a special book – one which I cannot recommend highly enough.

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NB/ Thank you to Jess for inviting me to be part of the blog tour. I read the book voluntarily and opinions are my own. For other reviews of this book, please head over to these other fantastic blogs:

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Review: The Chalk Man by C J Tudor

41xo7gTk+kL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_What I Thought:

A group of school friends in the 80’s makes a gruesome discovery while following strategically placed chalk men through the woods. Now in their 40’s, the gang are reunited by the very thing that they had left firmly behind in their past.

Eddie, Fat Gav, Metal Mickey, Hoppo and Nicky are such wonderfully depicted, fully fleshed out characters that could have been hand-picked straight from my childhood playground. Being of a similar age to the main characters, this book was a glorious trip down memory lane from wham bars to BMX’s, although I loved the fact that it was subtle (I read a book last year that was set in the 80’s and got so fed up of having shoulder pads and ra-ra skirts and the like rammed down my throat in every sentence that I ended up abandoning it).

The story flips between 1986 and 2016 as old memories are stirred and the chalk men drawings they thought they had left behind thirty years ago reappear to taunt and cajole them. This is a chilling and creepy book but yet it has such warmth and humour. I really felt that the author had a great understanding of and affection for her characters which gave them the vibrancy and dimension that I always long for in a book (I don’t need to like a character, but make me feel something about them).

Since reading this book I have seen a few reviews likening it to (or even claiming that it is a direct copy of) Stephen King’s books IT and The Body (or Stand By Me for film buffs). Having read neither, I didn’t get this while reading so I can’t comment on the similarities if indeed there are any. I have also read other reviews that claim this is “horror” but I’m afraid I can’t agree. It certainly isn’t scary – maybe creepy, but not what I would class as horror. To me, it felt like a right of passage tale of a group of friends with a chilling edge. There is a mystery to be solved (both in the past and present day) and a few unexpected revelations which kept me invested and guessing to the very end.

Verdict:

I absolutely loved this book! I raced through it not only because I wanted to know what had really happened back in 1986, but also because I wanted to be in the company of such a fabulous cast of character. It also had one of the best laugh out loud lines I’ve read for ages: “Whip me, Mildred!”

Massive thumbs up!

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