Monday 30 April 2018

Book Review: 11 MISSED CALLS by Libby Carpenter

Title: 11 Missed Calls
Author: Elisabeth Carpenter
Publisher: Avon Books UK
Read: April 2018
Expected publication: 26 July 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Book Description:

Here are two things I know about my mother: 

1. She had dark hair, like mine.
2. She wasn’t very happy at the end.

Anna has always believed that her mother, Debbie, died 30 years ago on the night she disappeared.
But when her father gets a strange note, she realises that she’s never been told the full story of what happened that night on the cliff.

Confused and upset, Anna turns to her husband Jack – but when she finds a love letter from another woman in his wallet, she realises there’s no-one left to help her, least of all her family.

And then a body is found…

My musings:

Elisabeth Carpenter was one of my most exciting new author discoveries in 2017, with her riveting psychological thriller 99 Red Balloons, and since then I have been anxiously waiting for the release of her new novel. Mother-daughter mysteries have always held a special fascination for me, so I was doubly excited to read the synopsis of the plot, which revolves around the mysterious disappearance of our main character’s mother over 30 years ago – I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it! And as soon as I started reading, I was happy to find that this was a gripping story that totally hooked me from the very beginning.

Carpenter uses a dual timeline to tell her story: Anna’s POV in the present as she is trying to find out the truth about her mother’s disappearance in Tenerife when Anna was only a month old; and Debbie’s voice from the 1980’s as she tells of the events leading up to her own demise, from baby Anna’s birth to the fateful holiday where she went missing. I loved Carpenter’s wonderful representation of life in the eighties, such as Debbie sitting up all night with a crying baby and staring at the test pattern on TV, and life lived out in the neighbours’ eyes. Having partially grown up in the eighties I thought the author captured the era perfectly! I could really relate to Debbie and felt so much empathy for her. It is terrible to have postnatal depression, even today, when there is more understanding and support available to deal with the condition, which would not have been understood well thirty or so years ago. Debbie’s growing sense of desperation and her slow unravelling are well represented, as are her feelings of isolation and failure as she is struggling to get through her days. Also well depicted are the gender roles of my parents’ generation, with the man going off to work and the stay-at-home mother expected to manage the children, the household and have dinner ready and served when the man of the house came home in the evening. There is a general sense of puzzlement when Debbie does not live up to her role, which only contributes to her isolation.

Having lost my mother as a child, I really related to the way Carpenter writes about the huge hole in Anna’s life left by the absence of her mother, her frustration about the half-truths she’s been told about Debbie’s disappearance and her need for answers. I always think that family secrets make for the best mysteries, and Carpenter has created a very gripping story that totally hooked me from the start. At times I felt as frustrated as Anna as all the people around her keep hiding the truth, only revealing the “alternative facts” families use to sweep dirty secrets under the carpet. There is so much raw emotion in both Debbie’s and Anna’s stories, it was impossible not to get emotionally involved! As in her previous novel, Carpenter has delivered three-dimensional, believable characters that touch your heart and your soul.

As with 99 Red Balloons, Carpenter throws in a few good curveballs and surprises, which made me suspicious of one character or the other at some stage in the book. I especially resented Monica, who seemed to be such a false friend to Debbie when she most needed someone. Anyway, I will not give any more away, except to say that the final denouement took me by surprise. I admit that there was one element in the ending that didn’t completely work for me, but I can’t say why without giving spoilers, so I will keep my mouth zipped tight and concede that endings rarely please every reader and on this occasion I am in that camp and will just have to take one for the team!


Carpenter has once again delivered a gripping story brimming with family secrets and engaging characters that had me hooked from the start. With a theme that touched a nerve in my own personal history, there was a lot of raw emotion contained in this story for me, and I especially loved the dual timeline setting. Readers who love mysteries revolving around family dynamics and skeletons in the closet should definitely give this one a go!

Thank you to Netgalley and Avon Books UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

To get ready for the July release of this book, make sure to also read the author's fabulous first book:

99 Red Balloons

Friday 27 April 2018

Book Review: THE RETREAT by Mark Edwards

Title: The Retreat
Author: Mark Edwards
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer
Read: April 2018
Expected publication: 10 May 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

“It’s like I dived into that river two years ago. And I’m still under the water, holding my breath.”

Book Description:

Two years ago, Julia lost her family in a tragic accident. Her husband drowned trying to save their daughter, Lily, in the river near their rural home. But the little girl’s body was never found—and Julia believes Lily is somehow still alive.

Alone and broke, Julia opens her house as a writers’ retreat. One of the first guests is Lucas, a horror novelist, who becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to Lily. But within days of his arrival, the peace of the retreat is shattered by a series of eerie events.

When Lucas’s investigation leads him and Julia into the woods, they discover a dark secret—a secret that someone will do anything to protect…

What really happened that day by the river? Why was Lily never found? And who, or what, is haunting the retreat?

My musings:

Take a spooky old house in a small, isolated Welsh community, connected to the disappearance of a small girl. Add a group of writers with overactive imaginations and a sprinkling of things that go bump in the night. Stir in someone who is prepared to do anything for the past to stay hidden and pour the whole mixture into a remote, eerie forest. Does this not sound like the perfect recipe for a delicious, spooky mystery? I thought so, and thoroughly enjoyed the taste of it.

Edwards has an engaging writing style that immediately drew me into the story – I love nothing more than a claustrophobic setting, and the old mansion turned writers’ retreat provided the perfect backdrop for this tale. Horror novelist Lucas Radcliffe has come to the retreat for inspiration to make progress writing his latest ghoulish book, but even with his vivid worst-case-scenario imagination he was not prepared for the dreaded “be careful what you wish for”. The eclectic mix of characters at the retreat, plus the mysterious goings on at the house made for a story I was loathe to put down, reading way too long into the night to find out the answers. Edwards’ writing style is engaging and I remembered how much I loved one of his previous books, The Magpies, for the very same reason.

Whilst Edwards delivers a solidly plotted mystery involving a missing child, he is also not afraid to throw some urban legends and local folklore into the mix to build intrigue and suspense. Haven’t we all feared them as a child, those stories of ghouls and monsters that snatch innocent children in the night, that prowl the forest in the moonlight and steal your soul when you utter their name? I remember one vividly from my childhood, a fanged wild eyed creature who was supposed to come through your bathroom drains if you called her name three times down the toilet bowl. It may sound strange, but even as a child who was always up for a dare, I never mustered up the courage to tempt fate (there were some big rats that could make their way up the pipes, so why not a monster?). In The Retreat, it is the scary figure of the Red Widow who is being blamed by some superstitious villagers for little Lily’s disappearance. This spectre, distressed and angry after losing her unborn child, demands one of the village’s children as a sacrifice every 35 years.

If this all sounds strange and a bit “out there” to you, don’t despair, because Edwards uses these local superstitions to their full potential, and they provide as much of a backdrop as the remote claustrophobic setting. And if you are really clever and pay attention, you will pick up on the trail of breadcrumb like clues Edwards leaves along the way to point you in the right direction. With a dual timeframe and two POVs, that of Lucas himself and that of the missing girl shortly before her disappearance, the mystery is off to a most intriguing start and had me totally engrossed. Readers who find it difficult to suspend disbelief may struggle with some elements in the ending, but I am usually firmly in that camp and still found the final denouement satisfying. There is plenty of action for those who need an adrenaline fix thrown in as well.


With its mix of mystery, action and suspense set in a claustrophobic setting against a backdrop of local folklore and superstition, The Retreat is a page-turning tale that will appeal to readers across multiple genres and those who enjoy a good story in which (in Edwards' own words) 'scary things happen to ordinary people'. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Thomas & Mercer for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Thursday 26 April 2018

Book Review: THE FEAR by C.L. Taylor

Title: The Fear
Author: C. L. Taylor
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Read: April 2018
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Book Description:

When Lou Wandsworth ran away to France with her teacher Mike Hughes, she thought he was the love of her life. But Mike wasn’t what he seemed and he left her life in pieces.

Now 32, Lou discovers that he is involved with teenager Chloe Meadows. Determined to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself, she returns home to confront him for the damage he’s caused.

But Mike is a predator of the worst kind, and as Lou tries to bring him to justice, it’s clear that she could once again become his prey…

My musings:

I can never say no to a good psychological thriller, so when C L Taylor’s new book started popping up on social media I absolutely had to read it. And it lived up to all my hopes! Here we have all the hallmarks of a gripping story that had me hooked from the start. A creepy predator – check. A crime in the past linked to the present – check. A flawed and damaged, but ultimately likeable and plucky heroine – check! A multi-layered plot that plays out over two separate timeframes – check! There are plenty of twists and surprises in store as well, and emotional triggers that will make sure that no reader can escape without some visceral responses to certain scenes described.

The most difficult part of reviewing a mystery is the fear of giving something away that will spoil the surprise for other readers, so I will leave this one very short and sweet. The blurb really tells you all you need to know about the story itself, except that there is a third, intriguing character (Wendy) who drives part of the narrative and whose role is not immediately obvious. This offers a whole new angle to what you may think is a straight-forward plot that has been done many times before. I particularly enjoyed the dynamics between the three different female leads, who each offer their own unique circumstances, strengths and vulnerabilities to the story. This is also one of the few books where excerpts from a diary work well and ratchet up the tension and emotional involvement a few notches.

As things begin to spiral out of control, these women will come into their own, in whatever part they are playing in the story. Taylor’s interest in abnormal and criminal psychology is evident in the believable way she portrays not only her villain, but also those whose lives have been affected by him, to the point where it is impossible to disengage from the story. This is a page-tuner, so allow plenty of time for it! There was a little element that required suspending disbelief, but I thought that the final little twist was so clever that it was worth the effort.

If you enjoy a good mystery, then I recommend you put this one on your TBR list! 

Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Wednesday 25 April 2018

Book Review & Blog tour: THE LOST CHILDREN by Theresa Talbot

Title: The Lost Children
Author: Theresa Talbot
Publisher: Aria
Read: March 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2

I am thrilled to take part in the blog tour for Theresa Talbot's heart-wrenching novel The Lost Children, a crime novel with a historical background that gives a voice to the many women who were incarcerated in one of the terrible Magdalen Insitutions. For excerpts, author interviews and more, make sure to stop by other blogs participating in this blog tour (schedule attached).

Book Description:

First in a gripping new thriller series featuring investigative journalist Oonagh O'Neil. Perfect for fans of Broadchurch.

TV journalist and media darling Oonagh O’Neil can sense a sinister coverup from the moment an elderly priest dies on the altar of his Glasgow church. Especially as his death comes as she is about to expose the shocking truth behind the closure of a Magdalene Institution. The Church has already tried to suppress what happened to decades of forgotten women. Is someone also covering their tracks?

DI Alec Davies is appointed to investigate the priest's death. He and Oonagh go way back. But what secrets lie behind the derelict Institution's doors? What sparked the infamous three-day riot that closed it? And what happened to the girls that survived the institution and vowed to stay friends forever?

From Ireland to Scotland.

From life to death.

My musings:

Mysteries linking present crimes to dark chapter in human history have always had a strange appeal for me, perhaps because it is interesting how the echoes of the past still reverberate and affect people today. In The Lost Children, Talbot bravely tackles one of the darkest chapters in Ireland and Scotland’s history – that of the Magdalen institutes, asylums for “fallen women”, girls pregnant out of wedlock or troublesome for society or the church in other ways. It is frightening to know that there were several hundred of these terrible institutions in England alone, and that the idea was so appealing to society that several other countries soon followed suit! Although I have read previous novels with similar themes, Talbot has a very unique voice and seamlessly weaves her tale into the present in a way that was both intriguing and chilling.

As expected, the theme of the Magdalen women and their lost babies was heartbreaking and infuriating, especially knowing that these events were still occurring in living history. According to the history books, the Magdalen Institution in Glasgow operated unchecked until 1958! Irene’s fate made me want to weep and wail in anguish, with anger welling at the unfairness of it all and the smug attitude of other characters in regards to her plight. It is always a credit to an author for being able to evoke such a visceral reaction in her readers!

I liked Oonagh O’Neill, Talbot’s gutsy and complex heroine – even though her taste in men was terrible! Perhaps this was one of the reasons the plight of the Magdalen women was so close to her heart. Unlike our typical fictional detective, Oonagh is an investigative journalist who is not easily intimidated or put off her scent. With a sometimes abrasive and secretive manner that hints at secrets of her own, Oonagh makes for an interesting main protagonist for other books to come in the series. I also expect to see her friend Tom back in future books, who provides quite a unique POV that made for interesting reading, giving the subject manner.

Talbot’s career as a journalist stays her in good stead as she provides a solid background to her story, and her passion for her subject is obvious in the sensitivity with which she presents Irene’s chapters. In an interview about her novel, Talbot stated that she finds it distressing that no one was ever brought to trial over the injustices inflicted on the innocent women incarcerated in the Magdalen Institutions, and that society turned a blind eye on the crimes committed to them. Even though her characters are fictional, she has used her book to give those victims a voice and to bring their plight to our attention. The paragraph about baby Patricia had me in tears and I felt like my heart was bleeding! Due to the subject matter, The Lost Girls is a somewhat sad and bleak story that prompts reflection about crimes committed in the past and how they affect generations to come. Tying this historical component to a present day murder gave it an extra twist that lovers of crime fiction will enjoy.


Whilst somewhat bleak and tragic, The Lost Children will appeal to lovers of crime with a historical context and readers who enjoy a strong female protagonist with a passion for justice and the courage to stand up for the underdog.

About the author:

Theresa Talbot is a BBC broadcaster and freelance producer. A former radio news editor, she also hosted The Beechgrove Potting Shed on BBC Radio Scotland, but for many she will be most familiar as the voice of the station's Traffic & Travel. Late 2014 saw the publication of her first book, This Is What I Look Like, a humorous memoir covering everything from working with Andy Williams to rescuing chickens and discovering nuns hidden in gardens. She's much in demand at book festivals, both as an author and as a chairperson.

Website: link
Twitter: @Theresa_Talbot
Facebook: Theresa Talbot

Links to buy:

Amazon: link
Kobo: link
Google Play: link
iBooks: link

Sunday 22 April 2018

Book Review & Blog Tour: HER GREATEST MISTAKE by Sarah Simpson

Author: Sarah Simpson
Publisher: Aria
Read: March 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

I am thrilled to take part in the blog tour for Sarah Simpson's riveting debut novel Her Greatest Mistake, a suspenseful psychological thriller exploring dysfunctional relationships and the dark corners of the human psyche. For excerpts, author interviews and more, make sure to stop by other blogs participating in this blog tour (schedule attached).

Book Description:

Do we ever know what goes on behind closed doors?

Eve and Gregg were the perfect couple, with the perfect marriage...which has become the perfect lie. Gone is the charming, attentive Gregg - instead Eve wakes up each morning beside a manipulative and sinister man who controls his wife’s every move.

So Eve flees her immaculate marital home to keep herself, and young son Jack safe. Yet no matter how careful she has been, she knows Gregg will be relentless in his pursuit of his missing family. And that one day, when she's least expecting it, he will find them...

What was Eve’s greatest mistake?

Marrying Gregg? Leaving him? Or leaving him alive…?

My musings:

Wow! This book certainly packed some punch!  I was not surprised to find out that the author has a psychology degree and vast experience in working with patients with mental health issues. Simpson’s insights into what makes a psychopath tick and how dysfunctional dynamics are being sustained in a marriage are insightful and take this story to another level altogether.

Eve, our main protagonist, is a successful psychologist with parents, friends and colleagues who love and value her. All that changes when she meets Gregg, falls in love and gets married. It doesn’t take long for the cracks to appear as the marriage slides into a game of power and control in which Eve finds herself ensnared. Have you ever looked at a domestic violence situation and wondered why the victim stays with her partner? Have you ever blamed her for her own situation? Be honest! Eve is aware of what is happening to her, and yet she allows herself to become estranged and isolated from all her support people until she is solely at the mercy of her controlling spouse. How could this happen? Over the course of the story, Simpson carefully explores Eve’s insights into her own situation, and they will shock and surprise you.

But this is not simply a book about marriage and abuse, because Simpson has spun it into a riveting thriller that picks up pace as the story moves along, right up to its explosive finale. Because it is now twelve years later, and Eve has made a new life for herself and her teenage son, away from Gregg’s clutches. Gregg appears to have disappeared off the face of the earth, and Eve prays that it will remain so. Until a note is slipped into her briefcase, and she is forced to relive the trauma of her marriage all over again. Will she ever be able to break free from Gregg’s clutches?

I admit that it took me a little while to get used to the narration style, which is mainly Eve “talking to” Gregg as she recaps the events that led up to her current situation. It’s an unusual style I’m not usually fond of, but as the story progressed I found that it was befitting this tale of power and abuse and helped to explore the dynamics that drive these characters. Once I got into the story, it carried me with it like a runaway train, depositing me firmly into the midst of troubled minds – that of the abuser and the victim. Fascinating? Yes. Disturbing? Definitely! Some passages evoked an almost visceral response of anger and disgust that made me want do away with Gregg myself. It always reflects the skill of a writer to be able to kindle such sparks in the minds of her readers!  


Without any further ado, and for fear of giving something away that would spoil the suspense for other readers, just let me say that I really enjoyed Simpson’s debut novel and look forward to reading more from this talented author. Her insights into the dynamics that sustain dysfunctional relationships and her experience in exploring the dark corners of the human psyche provided additional depth to this suspenseful thriller that is often lacking in similar novels. Highly recommended to lovers of the genre who enjoy character driven stories of suspense that focus on relationship dynamics.

About the author:

Sarah Simpson has a first-class honours degree in Psychology and has worked in a neuro-psychology department at a Brain Rehabilitation Hospital. When she first graduated she formed a mental health consultancy and worked as a psychologist within the family court system of Warwickshire and Oxfordshire. Three years ago she moved to Cornwall with her husband and three children, and runs her own practice in Truro. Her Greatest Mistake is her first novel, and she is currently working on the second.

Twitter: @sarahrsimpson
Facebook: @sarahsimpsoncornwall

Facebook: @ariafiction
Twitter: @aria_fiction
Instagram: @ariafiction 

Links to buy:

Amazon: link
Kobo: link
Google Play: link
iBooks: link

Thursday 19 April 2018

Audiobook Review: THE SILENCE BETWEEN BREATHS by Cath Staincliffe

Author: Cath Staincliffe
Narrator: David Thorpe
Read: April 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2

Book Description:

Eight people, one deadly secret.

Passengers boarding the 10:35 train from Manchester, Piccadilly to London, Euston are bound for work, assignations, reunions, holidays or new starts, with no idea that their journey is about to be brutally curtailed.

Holly has just landed her dream job, which should make life a lot easier than it has been, and Jeff is heading for his first ever work interview after months of unemployment. They end up sitting next to each other. On board customer service assistant Naz dreams of better things as he collects rubbish from the passengers. And among the others travelling are Nick with his young family who are driving him crazy; pensioner Meg and her partner setting off on a walking holiday and facing an uncertain future; Caroline, run ragged by the competing demands of her stroppy teenage children and her demented mother; and Rhona, unhappy at work and desperate to get home to her small daughter. And in the middle of the carriage sits Saheel, carrying a deadly rucksack . . .

My musings:

Hmmmm ... I’m at a bit of a loss as to how to review this. For me, the book consisted of a few quite distinctive parts, of which I enjoyed some a lot more than others. I don’t want to give spoilers, so I cannot go into details, but will try to explain what I mean without touching too much on the plot:

The book started off with a strong sense of intrigue as the author offers up multiple POVs of different passengers on a train bound from Manchester to Euston. I love glimpses into people’s lives, and thought that Staincliffe did a great job in giving the vital snapshots of the backgrounds of her characters that led to them all being in the same place, at the same time. Despite the short timeframe in which to establish her characters, Staincliffe managed to conjure them all up very vividly for me, and I felt invested in just about every one of them – not an easy task! The confined space of the train made for a brilliant claustrophobic setting, and anyone who has ever been on a train or a plane before will be able to imagine the entrapment experienced if a dangerous situation is added to this mix. At one point the tension mounted to such an extent that I literally held my breath, thinking how brilliant this books was, and how I admired this author’s writing style!

Just as the tension and suspense peaked, an event occurred that dispelled this build-up in an instant and totally changed the story. Without the suspense, the following chapters became more a study of human behaviour, at times brutal, graphic and quite disturbing. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t mind that, seeing how Staincliffe’s writing fully captured the stark emotional impact of events occurring, and she writes exceptionally well. Here we had tension of a different kind, the sort that leaves a bit of a bitter taste in your mouth as your emotional attachment to some characters is being tested – this is so hard to write without spoilers!!!!!

Now to the third part of the book, in which the tension is now gone completely, and the story focuses on characters’ emotions rather than events. I enjoyed it, but missed the hair-raising tension that had made the earlier part of the book great for me. After such a strong build-up, I felt somehow deflated, with the different POVs now serving more to fragment as earlier they had held the threads together. Perhaps that makes no sense, but picture a map of paths all intersecting in one huge roundabout, only to separate again into different meandering ways, some petering out into nothing and some not exiting at all. Get the picture?

Ok, I’ve given enough obscure hints now. I think that the author has written a great contemporary novel that is very poignant for our tumultuous times. There is an element of suspense, but most of the story focuses on people and their emotional responses to the events occurring. I thought Staincliffe delivered an excellent drama with true to life characters that made me wonder how I would react in their place. Warning – some scenes may be very graphic for some readers. 

Credit goes to David Thorpe for an excellent narration that lent authenticity and individuality to each character.

Friday 13 April 2018

Book Review: THE PERFECT MOTHER by Aimee Molloy

Author: Aimee Molloy
Publisher: Hachette Australia
Read: April 2018
Expected publication: 3 May 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟1/2

"Bad things happen in heat like this."

Book Description:

We all want different things. Francie wants to be the perfect mother. Nell wants to escape the past. Collette wants to spend more time with her family.

All Winnie wants is to have her baby back.

When Nell suggests a night out in Brooklyn to her new mums club, the others jump at the chance. But the evening takes a tragic turn when single mother Winnie learns that her six-week-old son Midas has been kidnapped.

As the investigation hits a dead end, Nell, Collette and Francie make it their mission to succeed where the police are failing and bring baby Midas home. But as Winnie and those around her come under scrutiny from the media, damaging secrets come to light and friendships are pushed to the limit.

Because people will do almost anything to protect the ones they love . . .

My musings:

This book really should come with a WARNING! Do not even think about picking it up if you have any work, chores, kids, pets or other things demanding your attention any time soon, because it is utterly addictive and un-putdownable. Luckily I read it on my day off, or I doubt I could have gone to work without having to have the book surgically removed from my hands. As it was, I got nothing done until I could find out what was going on, and had to come up with some pretty inventive excuses as to why I was holed up in a dark house on a beautiful sunny day, surrounded by mess and one very peeved off ignored dog.

Anyway, let’s talk about The Perfect Mother. It’s a long time since I was a first-time mother of a newborn, but I remember it well. The mixture of utter bliss and terror, the absence of a manual to operate this little creature that had suddenly taken over our lives. We did not have a website to sign up for support but formed out own little group of new mums in our small town, meeting regularly to hang out and discuss our babies. I could picture it all so well, and it brought back quite a few memories. In Molloy’s book, the mothers all have one thing in common – each and every one of them gave birth in May, thus their group’s name of “The May Mothers”. They meet regularly in the local park, comparing notes, sharing food, supporting each other. Friendships are forged. Secrets are exchanged. There is even a father in the group, nicknamed Token (for “token male”) by the women, who all secretly think he is gay but no one is game to ask. Spring turns to summer, and a heatwave sends all the new mums a little bit crazy. Someone suggests a night out at a local bar for some “time out” from their babies, and it seems like a good idea at the time. Except that on the night, something goes terribly wrong, and one of the newborns disappears out of his cot whilst being looked after by the babysitter.

Molloy tells her story through multiple POVs, letting different new mothers share their most innermost thoughts, fears and theories about baby Midas’ disappearance and their role in the event. It’s a style that is often difficult to pull off, as there is usually at least one character who is less engaging than the rest, or the different POVs serve to make the story disjointed. Have no fear, because this is not the case here! Molloy is a master at characterisation, and I could relate to each and every character in her story. Feisty and confident Nell, who faces having to go back to work when her infant is only ten weeks old. Francie, the Southern girl with the crying baby that never sleeps. Collette, trying so hard to juggle a writing assignment with the demands of her new baby. And the beautiful mysterious Winnie, baby Midas’ mother – BTW where was she in the hours her baby went missing? And what is she hiding?

Each and every one of the women has secrets, which are gradually revealed layer by layer, like slowly unwrapping a mystery gift in a pass-the-parcel game. Simply ingenious! I also liked the author’s take on the role internet, social media and TV play in the book, turning the baby’s disappearance into a media circus with fingers pointed at the mothers themselves for daring to enjoy a single night out away from their babies. The whole story certainly sucked me in, and you would have had to forcefully wrench the book out of my hands to stop me from reading! 


The Perfect Mother is the perfect binge read, a page-turner to be consumed in day, a weekend, a journey. Make sure to put some time away for it, as it will demand your full attention. Brimming with interesting plucky characters embodying modern motherhood, it’s a tense and addictive mystery, revealing its secrets deliciously slowly, like the many layers of a Russian doll, until you find out the hidden answers inside. Molloy’s book was one of the most compulsive and entertaining reads so far this year, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes a clever domestic thriller brimming with intrigue.

Thank you to Netgalley and Hachette Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Wednesday 11 April 2018

Book Review: THE DEATH OF MRS WESTAWAY by Ruth Ware

Author: Ruth Ware
Publisher: Random House UK, Vintage Publishing
Read: April 2018
Expected publication: 28 June 2018
My Rating:🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

"Seven for a secret
Never to be told."

Book Description: 

When Harriet Westaway receives an unexpected letter telling her she’s inherited a substantial bequest from her Cornish grandmother, it seems like the answer to her prayers. She owes money to a loan shark and the threats are getting increasingly aggressive: she needs to get her hands on some cash fast.

There's just one problem - Hal's real grandparents died more than twenty years ago. The letter has been sent to the wrong person. But Hal knows that the cold-reading techniques she’s honed as a seaside fortune teller could help her con her way to getting the money. If anyone has the skills to turn up at a stranger's funeral and claim a bequest they’re not entitled to, it’s her.
Hal makes a choice that will change her life for ever. But once she embarks on her deception, there is no going back. She must keep going or risk losing everything, even her life…

My musings: 

Stop Press! Lovers of character-driven, atmospheric thrillers with a spooky setting, listen up! You’d better put May and June on your calendars, because this is when Ruth Ware’s latest book The Death of Mrs Westaway will be released, and it’s a pearler! Ever since reading The Woman in Cabin 10 and The Lying Game, Ware has been firmly embedded on my favourite authors list, and I was doing a little happy dance around my house when I received a copy of her new book from Netgalley.

For me, The Death of Mrs Westaway has all the hallmarks of a fantastic read. Ware is a master at characterisations, and has created another charismatic main protagonist and a great cast of supporting characters who immediately drew me into the story. I once followed a thread on a book blogging site, discussing whether people could visualise characters’ faces when reading or whether they remained shadowy featureless shapes. For me, this depends very much on the author’s writing skill, and I am happy to say that Ware falls squarely into that category. It’s in the small details, the casual observations, the little quirks that make her characters come to life, and the book played out almost movie-like in my mind, each fictional person as real to me as flesh-and-blood people I have known for years.

Hal, the mousy bespectacled girl who is constantly being underestimated by those who first meet her played a wonderful lead, and I immediately warmed to her. Left destitute, with loan sharks threatening her after the sudden death of her mother, young Hal has her back against the wall and we feel her desperation as she is looking for a way out of her seemingly hopeless situation. When a letter arrives to tell her that she has been named as an heir to part of the late Mrs Westaway’s estate, it offers a perfect way out – even if it means lying about her true identity. Would I consider doing this in her situation? Would you? Don’t you just love an ethical dilemma in a suspense story? To see what Hal decides to do you will have to read it for yourself ....

Aside from the characters, there is Ware’s hallmark claustrophobic setting that characterises all her novels. From the isolated house in the forest in her debut novel In a Dark Dark Wood, to the luxury yacht in The Women in Cabin 10, to the rustic beach house in The Lying Game – I loved them all! In The Death of Mrs Westaway the setting is a spooky, Gothic English manor house which has seen better days, and which harbours a dark secret. As the Westaways come together under its crumbling roof, the tension is sure to mount, and there is a constantly growing thread of menace and danger that had me eagerly turning the pages for more. I can see why comparisons with Agatha Christie’s writing have been made, because this is a very character driven novel, relying on the interactions between people and the things left unsaid to create almost unbearable suspense. As with her characters, Ware knows how to introduce small, seemingly innocuous elements into her setting that serve to ratchet up the tension, such as the dilapidated boathouse on a weed-choked lake, the mournful cawing of the magpies and the dark staircase to the small attic room Hal is being put up in during her stay at the house. I also loved the unusual element of Hal’s tarot cards to add to the breadcrumb-like trail of clues left for the reader, which made for a very unique feature in this outstanding novel!


Ware has done it again and created a cast of vivid characters coming together in an eerie claustrophobic setting where past secrets are bound to raise their ugly heads and family skeletons are aired in her latest tense psychological thriller. 

The Death of Mrs Westaway is sure to be one of my favourite reads of 2018, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to all lovers of the genre!

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Thank you to Netgalley and Random House UK for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.


Monday 9 April 2018

Audiobook Review: WHERE ROSES NEVER DIE by Gunnar Staalesen

Author: Gunnar Staalesen
Read: February 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Book Description:

September 1977. Mette MisvΓ¦r, a three-year-old girl, disappears without trace from the sandpit outside her home. Her tiny, close middle-class community in the tranquil suburb of Nordas is devastated, but their enquiries and the police produce nothing. Curtains twitch, suspicions are raised, but Mette is never found. 

Almost 25 years later, as the expiration date for the statute of limitations draws near, Mette’s mother approaches PI Varg Veum, in a last, desperate attempt to find out what happened to her daughter. As Veum starts to dig, he uncovers an intricate web of secrets, lies and shocking events that have been methodically concealed. When another brutal incident takes place, a pattern begins to emerge. Chilling, shocking and full of extraordinary twists and turns, Where Roses Never Die reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost crime thriller writers.

My musings:

I profess I love Nordic thrillers, so was very excited to “accidentally” discover this series when scrolling through monthly deals on Amazon – and what could be more intriguing than an old cold case nobody has ever been able to solve? Even though I entered the series at #18, I had no problem at all connecting with the characters or following the story. Initially, PI Varg Veum appeared like your stereotypical flawed detective – a loner who drinks too much and struggles with his demons. I found out later that this was due to the death of his long time partner earlier in the series for whom Varg is still grieving. However, Varg has neither lost his taste for solving crime, nor his talent at following obscure clues to get his answers. When he is being approached by Maja MisvΓ¦r to look into the disappearance of her three year old daughter Mette over twenty years ago he goes right back to scratch, looking at all the people who lived in the small housing commune in Nordas where Mette grew up. With a background in social welfare, Veum has a nose not only for liars but also for bringing things to light that have remained hidden in the original police investigation.

I love mysteries that reveal small seemingly insignificant clues as the detective unearths them, letting readers draw their own conclusions. This Hansel-and-Gretel like trail of evidence eventually gets results, revealing dark secrets that have been hidden by members of the commune for a quarter of a decade. Staalesen has a talent for portraying all of his characters with such depth and insight that I was totally enthralled by the events that unfolded, and could picture them clearly in my mind.

How could I have not come across any of Staalesen’s work before? Containing all the elements I love in Nordic crime fiction – the atmospheric setting, the dark, gloomy undertones of hidden secrets and menace – this made for a fantastic read. Where Roses Never Die is a perfect example of why I am such a huge fan of the genre. With just good detective work, the book may lack the popular features employed by many contemporary crime writers (the unexpected twist, the unreliable narrator, etc), but it makes up for it in atmosphere, excellent character development and a multi-layered plot. Very highly recommended to all lovers of Nordic crime – I will definitely look up other works by the same author, and with 17 previous novels and number 19 published late last year, it will keep me entertained for a long time to come yet. 

Sunday 8 April 2018

Audiobook Review: THE BROKEN GIRLS by Simone St James

Author: Simone St. James
Read: April 2018
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Book Description:

Vermont, 1950. There's a place for the girls whom no one wants--the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the too smart for their own good. It's called Idlewild Hall. And in the small town where it's located, there are rumors that the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their budding friendship blossoming--until one of them mysteriously disappears. . . .

Vermont, 2014. As much as she's tried, journalist Fiona Sheridan cannot stop revisiting the events surrounding her older sister's death. Twenty years ago, her body was found lying in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And though her sister's boyfriend was tried and convicted of murder, Fiona can't shake the suspicion that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during the renovations will link the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past--and a voice that won't be silenced. . . .

My musings: 

The Broken Girls formed Part 2 of my recent ghost story craving (part 1 was Michelle Paver’s spooky & atmospheric book Dark Matter) – and I am happy to say it lived up to my expectations! The tricky part with ghost stories is the fine balance between reality and the paranormal, and the art of making the supernatural elements believable, marrying them seamlessly into the narrative. In my opinion, St. James has really mastered the art, and created an intriguing and compelling tale that features not only a ghost story, but also a contemporary murder mystery and a historical cold case, each of them linked to the atmospheric setting of an abandoned haunted boarding school. Doesn’t that sound tempting already?  Personally, I love nothing more than a spooky setting as well as a cold case mystery, so it was a no-brainer that this book was one of my most anticipated new releases for 2018, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it.

St. James uses a dual timeline to tell her story, including various POVs from the past and present. I really loved the 1950’s setting in a creepy boarding school for “troubled” girls, which provided just the right atmospheric and claustrophobic setting to make my skin crawl when listening to the audio book in the dark confines in my car on my way home from work at night! Here is a perfect example on how to use a dual timeline to ratchet up tension and suspense in the best possible way. Whilst journalist Fiona, our present-day protagonist, slowly uncovers clues about Idlewild, the mysterious abandoned school grounds where her sister met her death twenty years ago, the reader is also privy to small snippets of  the events unfolding in the 1950’s through the eyes of four different girls who were students at the school at the time. Fiona’s frustration over vital information she is missing to make all the pieces slot into place matched my own as my curiosity got the better of me and I found it extremely difficult to tear myself away from this heartbreaking and intriguing tale!

As stated earlier, there is a creepy supernatural element included in the story, in the form of Mary Hand, a ghostly black-veiled figure who prowls the grounds at night, sending terror into the hearts of everyone who encounters her. I loved this eerie character, who added greatly to the suspense and mystery of the story. Who really is Mary Hand? Is she real or just a figment of the girls’ imagination? And what is it she shows to her select victims? I was so intrigued by this last question that I really wanted to know more about it and puzzled over what she would show me, should I ever encounter her (God forbid!). St. James portrayal of the forbidding school grounds is extremely realistic, and my favourite parts of the book were the descriptions of Fiona walking through the abandoned building, feeling its strange menace. It still sends shivers down my spine thinking about it!


With a dual timeline featuring two separate murder mysteries, The Broken Girls is a perfect example on how to incorporate a spooky ghostly element to ratchet up tension without pushing the story too far into the realm of the unbelievable. If you love a good suspense story with a historical background and an atmospheric gothic setting, I urge you to give this a go – even for readers who are not normally fans of the supernatural. For extra goosebumps, read this one alone at night with the wind howling outside and the tap-tapping of spidery branches on the roof – or was it footsteps I heard? I can’t wait to read more from this author!

You may also like:

Dark Matter Dark Matter, by Michelle Paver