Saturday 29 June 2019

Book Review: MIRACLE CREEK by Angie Kim

Author: Angie Kim
Read: June 2019
Expected publication: out now
all the stars!

Book Description:

A literary courtroom thrilled about an immigrant family and a young single mother accused of killing her autistic son, Miracle Creek is a powerhouse debut about how far we'll go to protect our families, and our deepest secrets.

In rural Miracle Creek, Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine. A pressurized oxygen chamber that patients enter for therapeutic “dives,” it's also a repository of hopes and dreams: the dream of a mom that her child can be like other kids; the dream of a young doctor desperate to cure his infertility and save his marriage; the dream of the Yoos themselves, Korean immigrants who have come to the United States so their teenage daughter can have a better life.

When the oxygen chamber mysteriously explodes, killing two people, all these dreams shatter with it, and the ensuing murder trial uncovers imaginable secrets and lies. In Miracle Creek, Angie Kim takes a classic form—courtroom drama—and draws on her own experience as an immigrant, a lawyer, and the mother of a real-life "submarine" patient to turn it into something wholly original, unputdownable . . . real. This is a spellbinding novel by an exciting new voice.

My musings:

Where do I even start to review this book? How could I ever do it justice? Every now and then a book comes along that is a perfect fit, that touches your very soul and worms its way into your heart to stay there, whispering its secrets long after you have turned the last page. MIRACLE CREEK was that type of book for me. Not since BEARTOWN have I shed so many tears as I did here! If you have heard about this book (and frankly, who hasn’t), then be assured that the hype is real. There is something in this book for just about every reader. Mystery, suspense, a lively courtroom drama, immigration, parenting, lies .... all woven into a brilliant web that will keep you up at night.

Angie Kim has hit the ground running – with a debut novel that has already wormed its way into the hearts of millions, she has firmly established her place on many favourites lists. This is an author who doesn’t do things by halves. If you’re a parent, MIRACLE CREEK will hit you like a freight train right where it hurts most, because when it comes down to it, parents and children form the centre of this brilliant novel. We all want the best for our children, right? Only who decides what is best? How will our choices affect our and their lives? And what if your child is sick, and in pain, and you’re just trying to stay afloat here and do the best you can?

Told in the forms of a court case, the story starts with the horrific death of two people – a child and a woman – in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber used as a controversial treatment for children and adults with disabilities or conditions resistant to standard medical interventions. A woman, Elizabeth, stands accused of having lit the fire that was the cause of the deaths. But it soon becomes apparent that all is not as straight forward as first thought, as each witness relives the time leading up to the explosion.

It is a rare skill to offer multiple POVs and make each one as compelling as the next. My heart bled for these people as their deepest secrets were being exposed. The butterfly effect of little and big lies. A tiny decision altering the fates of many. I have let this book digest for a few days after finishing it and before putting my thoughts to paper, but still little things keep popping up in my head. The what if’s. The why’s. The what-would-you-do’s. I could write pages and pages about all the things that deeply affected me, but this review would be way too long and contain too many spoilers, so I will just say two words: read it! READ IT TODAY! IMMEDIATELY!

I listened to the audio version of this book, which also contained an interesting interview with the author. It was not surprising to hear that Kim used to be lawyer, which may account for the realism of her courtroom scenes. Like Pak and Young, she is from a Korean background. Like Theresa and Elizabeth, she has tried HBOT for one of her children. With so much personal experience packaged into a fictional story, it practically fizzled with emotion. It all rolled out so vividly in my head that I feel I have been there, listened in, met these people in real life.


Told with heart and insight, this is a powerful, thought provoking and touching novel that will stay in your heart and your mind for a long time to come. It is definitely one of the best books I have read all year, and one I will re-read in years to come and take even more things away with me. I can’t wait to see what the author comes up with next!

Thank you to the Traveling Friends Reads Group for the fabulous buddy read! I loved discussing this one.

Wednesday 26 June 2019

Book Review: DEAR WIFE by Kimberly Belle

Author: Kimberly Belle
Publisher: Park Row
Read: June 2019
Expected publication: out now

Book Description:

Beth Murphy is on the run...

For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning--one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

Sabine Hardison is missing...

A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she's taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine's carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that's certain is that someone is lying and the truth won't stay buried for long.

My musings:

The blurb had me at “Beth Murphy is on the run.” I admit I am a total sucker for books that feature someone running away, living under a fake identity, a cat-and-mouse game, a chase – the excitement of it all, the adrenaline rush! It’s like one of those dreams where you run from an enemy, heart pounding, feet like lead, but suddenly discover a magical power ....

I am getting carried away, but it is true that this was a fast paced, fun read for me. Not fun as in the  issues tackled in the story, which after all feature domestic abuse, murder and more, but as in compelling, entertaining and hard to put down. The equivalent of a good car chase in an action movie. With the bonus of a plucky and clever female lead who really made this story for me, even though it took me most of the book to work out who she was.

As much as it entertained, it’s a difficult one to review, because of – you know – spoilers. So read the blurb if you must, but go into it blindly and let the web of mystery engulf you. Take pleasure in unravelling the knots one at a time, which really is the essence of a story like this. There are multiple POVs to take you along on a ride, and you may find them a bit confusing at first, but trust me when I say it will all come together in the end. In the best possible way.

Compulsive, well-plotted, clever and un-putdownable are just a few words that instantly come to mind when I think about DEAR WIFE. After a few miserable experiences with thrillers lately, my faith has been restored. Thank you, Kimberly Belle, for bringing a breath of fresh air back into the genre. If you are looking for the perfect summer or holiday read, then this clever thriller one should definitely be on your list. I now need to read the author’s other books!

Thank you to Edelweiss and Park Row for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review. And to the Traveling Sisters Group for another awesome buddy read and for putting up with my WTH????? questions as I was trying to work out what was going on here! 

You may also like:

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Monday 24 June 2019

Book Review: THE LAST HOUSE GUEST by Megan Miranda

Author: Megan Miranda
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Read: June 2019
Expected publication: out now

Book Description:

Littleport, Maine is like two separate towns: a vacation paradise for wealthy holidaymakers and a simple harbour community for the residents who serve them. Friendships between locals and visitors are unheard of - but that's just what happened with Avery Greer and Sadie Loman.

Each summer for a decade the girls are inseparable - until Sadie is found dead. When the police rule the death a suicide, Avery can't help but feel there are those in the community, including a local detective and Sadie's brother Parker, who blame her. Someone knows more than they're saying, and Avery is intent on clearing her name before the facts get twisted against her.

My musings:

A young woman’s death, which has been ruled a suicide. Her friend, who cannot come to terms with it. A tightly knit community controlled by a powerful family. The stage is set – against the vivid backdrop of the picturesque Maine coast. And when one year after the tragedy the victim’s friend, Avery Greer, starts questioning things relating to that terrible night, she uncovers pieces that do not fit. But there are people that will stop at nothing to keep the truth hidden ....

Yes, there is nothing new in the concept of someone looking into a friend’s death and finding something suspicious that leads to a whole chain of events, but I love this kind of story: the slow unravelling of clues, the mounting tension, the lies, the intrigue! I loved Megan Miranda’s writing in THE PERFECT STRANGER, and I really enjoyed it here. I especially liked the way Avery started off as a bit of an aloof, unlikeable character, but bit by bit reveals more and more about her past that made my heart go out to her. I would have loved to be able to become closer to Avery a bit earlier in the book, as this added a lot to my enjoyment of the story, but I guess it managed to build the intrigue and suspense to be kept in the dark about various things.

By far my favourite part though was the setting! A small community perched on top of rugged cliffs, reliant on and yet strangely resentful of “the summer people”, those residents with holiday homes in town and those who visit annually, making this a busy metropolis during the summer holidays. We live in a town just like that, and I related to a lot of the dynamics and the small town politics. The there are the Logans, the rich untouchable family who own half the town, have the other half in their pocket and seem to get away with murder. It isn’t surprising that Avery falls under their spell after her family’s death. It was her gradual disentangling that was interesting to watch, and I loved witnessing how she grew more confident and self-reliant as the story progressed.

THE LAST HOUSE GUEST may not offer anything new or unexpected to the seasoned mystery fan (even though the ending was a bit of a surprise and capped the book off nicely for me), and yet the well-trodden path of family secrets worked really well for me here. I read this book in one big sitting and was eager to find out what would happen next. The only thing I struggled with at times was the dual timeline, set in the present and one year earlier on the night of Sadie’s death. With timelines so close together, and set in the same place, it was sometimes difficult to work out what was happening now or then without getting muddled, and a couple of things did not totally gel for me in regards to timing. However, mostly all the threads came together nicely and the book made for an enjoyable read. With a setting like this, it would make the perfect book to take on holidays and read in a hammock somewhere sipping a pina colada and trying to solve the puzzle. I look forward to the author’s next book! 

Thank you to Edelweiss and Simon & Schuster for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Thursday 20 June 2019

Book Review and Blog Tour: FORGET MY NAME by J.S. Monroe

Author: J.S. Monroe
Publisher: Aria Books
Read: June 2019
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ

Book Description:

She arrived at the train station after a difficult week at work. Her bag had been stolen, and with it, her identity. Her whole life was in there – passport, wallet, house key. When she tried to report the theft, she couldn’t remember her own name. All she knew was her own address.

Now she's outside Tony and Laura's front door. She says she lives in their home. They say they have never met her before.

One of them is lying.

My musings:

Amnesia is a popular theme for a mystery, and I can rarely resist the pull of such a premise. It is such a terrifying thought, not being able to remember who you are, or where you have been, and if well done, usually makes for a good read! However, it is also a tricky theme to pull off, and I usually go in fully expecting to have to suspend disbelief in parts to make things work. This is where it gets tricky for me, because I am really bad at doing just that!

We know from the blurb that a young woman turns up at a private house in Wiltshire, claiming that she has no idea of who she is, other than that the house seems familiar. Concerned about the stranger’s welfare, Tony and Laura, the owners of the house, offer her a bed for the night until she can get help. As the story unfolds, we learn that the young woman, who now calls herself Jemma, a name given to her by Tony, has both retrograde as well as anterograde amnesia, which means that she cannot remember the past and is also unable to form new memories. It may make for an intriguing premise, though I have known people with traumatic brain injuries who had that affliction, and let me tell you, it’s no picnic in the park. Imagine eating a meal and then not being able to remember having eaten. Every place is strange, because you can’t form any memories of having been there. Everyone is a stranger, because you can’t form the memories of ever having met them. Terrifying! Of course, this level of disability would not work well in a novel, so Jemma’s affliction is much less extreme than that. So even though some things may have been modified for the sake of entertainment, it still makes a good recipe for an unreliable narrator. Who is Jemma? And what does she want?

J.S. Monroe sure knows how to write a twisty, original thriller, and if you go in expecting entertainment rather than a life-changing story about someone with amnesia, then you should enjoy this one. There are twists and turns galore, a bunch of unlikeable, unreliable people with different agendas and a great mystery at the heart of it: who is Jemma? The atmosphere gets a lot darker and more menacing towards the later part of the book, at which stage you will have a pretty good idea of where it is heading, except perhaps for .... No, I will not give anything away here. Let me just tell you that there was one sinister element that managed to gobsmack me. I will never be able to look at one of my favourite sea creatures again without thinking of this story. Ugghhh!

Whilst Jemma battled with her damaged memory, I struggled with my own affliction, the suspension of disbelief, trying to silence the little nagging part of my logical brain that constantly questioned things. So if you are a reader who likes all threads to link up and all elements to be scientifically correct, then you may feel some of the frustration of the little devil on my right shoulder whispering questions in my ear throughout. But I won’t give anything away here, because the story hinges on it surprise elements, of which there are many. Points for totally blindsiding me – I really had no idea where this was headed, and the final reveal came totally out of left field.


If you are looking for a fast-paced, original and entertaining thriller that holds quite a few surprises, and can overlook a few little holes in the story, then you have come to the right place! 

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

Sunday 16 June 2019

Book Review: THE FRAGMENTS by Toni Jordan

Author: Toni Jordan
Publisher: Text Publishing
Read: June 2019
Expected publication: 10 September 2019 in US and CA, available in Australia now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ all the stars!

Book Description:

INGA Karlson died in a fire in New York in the 1930s, leaving behind three things: a phenomenally successful first novel, the scorched fragments of a second book— and a mystery that has captivated generations of readers.

Nearly fifty years later, Brisbane bookseller Caddie Walker is waiting in line to see a Karlson exhibition featuring the famous fragments when she meets a charismatic older woman.

The woman quotes a phrase from the Karlson fragments that Caddie knows does not exist—and yet to Caddie, who knows Inga Karlson’s work like she knows her name, it feels genuine.

Caddie is electrified. Jolted her from her sleepy, no-worries life in torpid 1980s Brisbane, she is driven to investigate: to find the clues that will unlock the greatest literary mystery of the twentieth century.

My musings:

What an unexpected gem this book turned out to be! It contained a bit of everything I enjoy – a compelling mystery, an atmospheric setting, interesting historical elements, two enigmatic female protagonists and just a slight smattering of romance. And what book lover doesn’t like reading about a mystery surrounding an old classic book and famous author?

Caddie, a bookseller living in a shared flat in 1980s Brisbane is drawn into an age old mystery when she encounters a mysterious old woman at an exhibition featuring the “fragments”, charred pieces of an old manuscript written by  famous writer Inga Karlson, who perished in a terrible warehouse fire in New York in 1939. Caddie has long been a fan of Karlson’s writing, an obsession passed on to her by her dead father, and she is intrigued by the woman’s intimate knowledge of the story contained in the few pages that survived the fire. Is it possible that this mysterious stranger had read the manuscript before it was destroyed? Never one daunted by a mystery, Caddie sets out to make enquiries with some old university contacts, finding that countless academics have tried and failed to solve the mystery of Karlson’s death and her lost manuscript. But sometimes a new pair of eyes can see things that others have missed, and Caddie is sure that the mystery woman may have some answers – if only she can find her again.

I read and loved Toni Jordan’s first book ADDITION  a few years ago, and although her writing style in THE FRAGMENTS is very different, as befits the story and the characters, I was immediately hooked from the moment Caddie meets Rachel on the steps of the museum. It is rare to find a book that unfolds in two different time periods and through two separate POVs and yet be equally drawn to both lead characters and story lines. It must be one of the most difficult things to achieve for an author, and yet Jordan has mastered this wonderfully here. I was so fully invested in both women’s lives that the changing POVs did just what they had intended – ratchet up tension and suspense – rather than favouring one character over the other.

I love books that feature historical mysteries, especially ones that slowly unfold through investigations into the past by a protagonist living in the present, complete with the real-life frustrations and hurdles they encounter along the way. Maybe stemming from a time I had a job that involved research, which always resembles a treasure hunt of sorts, every unearthing of a new clue a minor triumph. Seeing that Caddie’s POV pre-dates the internet era, Caddie does a lot of old-style investigating, which for me added extra depth and intrigue to the story. We also have the bonus of getting glimpses into the time-period Caddie is investigating through the life of yet another feisty and enigmatic female protagonist, Rachel, whose life story will ultimately hold all the answers Caddieis looking for.

Jordan’s writing flows effortlessly, all pieces falling into place seamlessly, and she paints the setting so well that it almost felt like time travel into 1930s New York, which I loved. It’s almost impossible to categorise this book, as it contains so many elements, perfectly balanced to create a compelling and unforgettable story. And of course there is also one of my favourite elements in fiction – the “book inside a book” concept, as we get tastes of excerpts from Karlson’s famous novels.


THE FRAGMENTS is Australian fiction at its best. I loved every minute of it, and as the tension increased towards the end of the book I found it almost impossible to tear myself away – I may have even held my breath a few times as the story raced towards its heart pounding finale. Both readers of mysteries and historical fiction should enjoy this one, and if you are also a book lover you will be intrigued by this wonderful story that spans several decades and takes us from one side of the world to another in the pursuit of answers. Very highly recommended!

Thank you to Edelweiss and Text Publishing for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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Saturday 15 June 2019

Book review: THE GOOD SISTER by Gillian McAllister

Author: Gillian McAllister
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Read: June 2019
Expected publication: out now
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ all the stars!

Book Description:

Martha and Becky Blackwater are more than sisters--they're each other's lifelines. When Martha finds herself struggling to balance early motherhood and her growing business, Becky steps in to babysit her niece, Layla, without a second thought, bringing the two women closer than ever. But when Layla is found dead one morning, at only eight weeks old, Becky is charged with the unthinkable: the murder of her sister's child.

Nine months later, Becky is on trial and maintains her innocence--and so does Martha. Unable to shake the feeling that her sister couldn't possibly be guilty, Martha sets out to uncover exactly what happened that night, and how things could have gone so wrong. As the trial progresses, fault lines between the sisters begin to show--revealing cracks deep in their relationship and threatening the family each has worked so hard to build. With incredible empathy and resounding emotional heft, The Good Sister is a powerhouse of a novel that will lead readers to question everything they know about motherhood, family, and the price of forgiveness.

My musings:

What was the last book that ripped out your heart, tore it into a million little pieces, threw then in the mud and stomped on them – but which still ended up in your favourites list? Yes, this one was that type of book for me. Visceral, gut wrenching, confronting and absolutely riveting are just a few words that some to mind when I am trying to recall the rollercoaster of emotions I lived through reading THE GOOD SISTER.

To be honest, I went into this one blindly and would probably never have picked it up had it not been a Traveling Sisters group read. Have you noticed how the best books often sneak up on you unawares? But I am usually a sucker for a good courtroom drama and sister dynamics, so the blurb intrigued me. I was, however, ill prepared for the absolute devastation this book wreaked on my heart.

Your baby is dead. Your sister is standing trial for the murder of your daughter, who was in her care that night. Is she guilty? This is the situation Martha finds herself in after having appointed her sister Becky as the nanny of her baby daughter Layla, allowing her to go back to work. Because who would you trust more with your child than your own sister?  Now Layla is dead, and though it was initially thought to be cot death, the coroner’s findings suggest that there was foul play. Martha cannot believe that Becky could ever harm her child. But could she?

Warning: some scenes of this book are very hard to read, and this warning is coming from an ED nurse who is somewhat inured to tragedy and death. I have rarely read a book where the medical and courtroom scenes are as well researched and portrayed as in this one, which makes it all very heart-breakingly real. By offering us different POVs from several witnesses in the trial, McAllister has managed to paint very vivid scenes, from the time Becky called 911 to report little Layla’s death. We follow the tragedy from the first moment the paramedics appeared on scene, through the emergency department to the coroner’s slab. Vivid, gut-wrenching. It will be difficult for a lot of readers to stomach, so be aware of triggers.

However, as much as there is heartbreak, there is also love, and hope. Despite the horrible situation Martha finds herself in, she never hates her sister and believes in her innocence even through the scenes in the courtroom where evidence against her is steadily mounting. Could I be so forgiving, so loving? With it comes Martha’s own guilt, her doubts about leaving her baby n someone else’s care to attend to business. It was all so heartbreakingly real, that regret.

Of course, the media immediately cashes in on all aspects of the tragedy. Let’s condemn the mother for leaving her child. Let’s make every transgression Becky may ever have made, every conflict she has ever had, from a moment of road rage to being late to pick up her son from school, to point the finger at them both: bad mother, bad sister, guilty in the eyes of the public even before the trial. It shows how easy it is to isolate everyday situations to make a person appear bad. Have you recently yelled at your kids? Fought with your husband? Honked the horn at someone in traffic? Then, like Becky, you must surely be a terrible person capable of murder. Scary, really, how easy it is to judge!

McAllister writes with a keen eye for human behaviour and a deep understanding of the human psyche, which made this a thought provoking and insightful read for me. It challenged some of my own preconceptions and judgments, and made me wonder all the while: could Becky have done it? Whilst I can’t say that I loved every minute of it, on account of feeling the utter heart break over Layla’s death and the sisters’ horrible situation, this was a solid five star read for me and one that will stay in my mind for a long time to come. It was a great choice for a Traveling Sisters buddy read, and made for an interesting discussion (thanks to all), so keep it in mind for a bookclub choice.

Thank you to Edelweiss and G.P. Putnam's Sons for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

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Saturday 8 June 2019

Book Review: AFTER THE END by Clare Mackintosh

Author: Clare Mackintosh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Read: June 2019
Expected publication: 25 June 2019
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ

Book Description:

Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They're best friends, lovers—unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can't agree. They each want a different future for their son.

What if they could have both?

A gripping and propulsive exploration of love, marriage, parenthood, and the road not taken, After the End brings one unforgettable family from unimaginable loss to a surprising, satisfying, and redemptive ending and the life they are fated to find.

My musings:

AFTER THE END is a difficult book to review, not only because of the subject matter but knowing that it reflects some of the author’s own experiences when her child was critically ill. As a parent, I cannot imagine anything more heartbreaking than having to decide whether it would be kinder to let your child die rather than continue treatment for the sake of prolonging his life. Most marriages would struggle under the strain, but what if, on top of all the heartbreak, the parents do not agree on the best course of action?

Mackintosh is a fantastic writer, so it comes as little surprise that she presents us with true-to-life believable characters who are trapped in this sort of nightmare. Pip and Max’s three year old son Dylan has terminal brain cancer and is currently in PICU. The doctors feel that further treatment is futile because it would not be able to cure Dylan, and the effects of the would be so devastating that he would be severely brain damaged. Pip agrees. Max doesn’t. He wants to try proton treatment to prolong Dylan’s life, even knowing that Dylan will never be able to lead a normal life for the time he has left. So where do you go from there? If the parents cannot agree, a judge will have to step in to make a decision as to what is best for Dylan.

As you can see, as much as the book will break your heart, there are also some valid ethical questions at play here. Max reasons that any life is worth living, even one where Dylan will be severely brain damaged. He feels that Dylan would still be able to feel some joy, and the love of his parents, and any extra time they could have with him would be worth the rigours of the treatment. Pip disagrees. She thinks her son has suffered enough already and she doesn’t think he should exist in a state where he is not able to live a fulfilling existence. She does not want to put him through any more pain. So who is right and who is wrong? I think you could debate this for hours, days, years and still not come up with an answer. So how can a judge decide?

As the title suggests, the second half of the book focuses on the time “after the end”, meaning after Dylan’s death. Two separate options are explored, determined by the judge’s ruling. It was a clever “alternative universe” type concept that also shows that life will go on, even though Dylan’s death may seem like the end of life as they know it for both parents.

To lend a impartial perspective to the narrative, the POV of a doctor caring for Dylan is also included, a voice I really enjoyed. It also showed the human side of the medical team caring for terminally ill children, and that they are not unaffected by their charges’ fates.

As the story goes, this could never be anything other than heartbreaking, and it will be a strong trigger for anyone who has ever been in a similar situation or is vulnerable in some way through the death of a loved one. For a bookclub, it would make for some fantastic discussions around the ethical issues and the outfall of the judge’s decision. Purely judged as a novel, I found that the second half dragged in places for me and lost my interest at times. I found it interesting how Pip and Max’s lives went on after losing their son, but felt that too much time was spent on the part of the story where the reader is emotionally drained from exploring their own emotions regarding Dylan’s death and his parents’ terrible dilemma.

Am I glad that I read it? Yes, definitely. It was thought-provoking and confronting and challenged some of my own beliefs. Would I recommend it to anyone? That depends – it is a sad and often depressing read, so if you are vulnerable at the moment be aware that there will be triggers. I loved the way the author was able to present both parents’ different views in a non-biased manner that allows readers to reflect on both options without being steered in the direction of the author’s own opinions.  Most other authors who tackle this type of subject manner do so with an agenda, which refreshingly was absent here, allowing the reader to come to understand both parents and why they felt the way they did. I hope that writing this novel was a cathartic for the author and thank her for sharing such a personal, painful issue with us!

Thank you to Edelweiss and G.P. Putnam's Sons for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Wednesday 5 June 2019

Book Review: HER DAUGHTER'S MOTHER by Daniela Petrova

Author: Daniela Petrova
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Read: June 2019
Expected publication: 18 June 2019
My Rating: πŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸπŸŒŸ1/2

Book Description (Goodreads) - I advise you to skip this section and let the book surprise you:

Lana Stone has never considered herself a stalker--until the night she impulsively follows a familiar face through the streets of New York's Upper West Side. Her target? The "anonymous" egg donor she'd selected through an agency, the one who's making motherhood possible for her. Hungry to learn more about her, Lana plans only to watch her from a distance. But when circumstances bring them face-to-face, an unexpected friendship is born.

Katya, a student at Columbia, is the yin to Lana's yang, an impulsive free spirit who lives life at the edge. And for pragmatic Lana, she's a breath of fresh air and a welcome distraction from her painful breakup with her baby's father. Then, just as suddenly as Katya entered Lana's life, she disappears--and Lana might have been the last person to see her before she went missing. Determined to find out what became of the woman to whom she owes so much, Lana digs into Katya's past, even as the police grow suspicious of her motives. But she's unprepared for the secrets she unearths, and their power to change everything she thought she knew about those she loves best...

My musings:

Strange as it may sounds, but sometimes I know from the very first paragraph whether I’m going to like a book or not. As soon as I met Lana I was immediately pulled into the story, and by the time I turned the last page I felt like she was a flesh and blood character I had known all my life! In short – I loved this book!

As the title suggests, this is not a straightforward mystery about mothers and daughters, or any “normal” family dynamics. Instead, the author has created an intriguing story full of emotional heartache and ethical issues surrounding infertility and IVF, packaged inside a suspenseful mystery. We meet Lana and Tyler as they are coming to the end of a heartbreaking battle with infertility and failed IVF cycles, which have not only depleted all their savings but also put strain n their marriage. Lana feels that she has turned from a fun-loving, adventurous woman into someone obsessed with her quest of becoming a mother, and is constantly undergoing some sort of treatment to improve her chances of becoming pregnant – which so far has only ended in tears. Her only hope now is to accept a donor egg, but she has one condition: she wants a baby with the same cultural heritage she has. Finally, the agency phones her with the good news. A Bulgarian egg donor has registered. Lana is ecstatic – this may finally bring them the baby they have wished for so long.

I think this really is all you need to know. Let the book take you on its journey and surprise you. Because in books, as in life, things often don’t go as smoothly as planned. This was one of those books where one decision leads to a Swiss cheese like reaction where all the holes align to let disaster strike (it’s a true term coined by the aviation industry and adopted by medicine to explain the chain of errors often leading to harm to patients). I pictured poor Lana, ensnared in a spider’s web of events, getting more and more entangled in its sticky ropes the more she tries to get out of it. At times, it was painful to witness! Of course we, as readers, know more than the hapless Lana does, and can see disaster looming before she has any idea what she is getting herself into.

What I really liked about this book was that there was no villain, no black or white, no battles between good or evil. These were all rounded, relatable, “human” characters who had believable flaws but were overall just ... likeable. It’s a story about real people in real life situations. No “crazy twist you will never see coming” (thankfully, I am a bit tired of those), though the ending may still surprise some readers.

I loved everything about this book and it was exactly what I was craving at the time. If you are looking for a fast-paced suspense thriller, then this one may be a bit slow for you. However, if you would like a compelling mystery wrapped in layers of real life drama that escalates out of control until you absolutely cannot put down the book until it is all resolved, then yes, you are in luck! For women who have undergone some trauma with infertility or miscarriages, the story may contain multiple triggers, or it may feel strangely cathartic, depending on your personality and your situation. I found that the author handled the topic with such insight and sensitivity that it soothed rather than opened old wounds, but just be forewarned. 


All in all, HER DAUGHTER’S MOTHER was a wonderful, utterly captivating book by an author new to me and I am so very happy that I was invited to read this ARC. It is rare to find a novel that can be both suspenseful and touching, but it achieved this in equal measure, and more. Definitely one of my favourite reads so far this year. I cannot wait to read more from this author in future!

Thank you to Edelweiss and G.P. Putnman's Sons for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.

Monday 3 June 2019

Book Review: PETRA'S GHOST by C.S. O'Cinneide

Author: C.S. O'Cinneide
Publisher: Dundurn
Read: May 2019
Expected publication: 13 August 2019

Book Description:

A woman has vanished on the Camino de Santiago, the ancient five-hundred-mile pilgrimage that crosses northern Spain. Daniel, an Irish expat, walks the lonely trail carrying his wife, Petra’s, ashes, along with the damning secret of how she really died.

When he teams up to walk with sporty California girl Ginny, she seems like the perfect antidote for his grieving heart. But a nightmare figure begins to stalk them, and his mind starts to unravel from the horror of things he cannot explain.

Unexpected twists and turns echo the path of the ancient trail they walk upon. The lines start to blur between reality and madness, between truth and the lies we tell ourselves.

My musings:

Two things immediately attracted me to this book: 1) The setting – I have walked a part of the Camino de Santiago myself and was eager to revisit this wonderful place through a book; and 2) The part of the blurb that reads “The lines start to blur between reality and madness, between truth and the lies we tell ourselves.” I’m a bit of a sucker for books that straddle the thin line between reality and madness, and when it also involves some ghostly activity I am sold!

I’m happy to say that the book delivered on all its promises and more. It starts off innocently enough. Daniel, an Irish expat now living in the US is walking the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in Northern Spain to find a place to spread the ashes of his wife Petra, who died of cancer the previous year. They had wanted to make this trip together, so he thinks it will be a fitting journey to honour Petra, reflect on their marriage and come to terms with his loss before he has to go back to Ireland to take over the family farm. On a lonely mountain pass, Daniel meets another pilgrim, a mysterious young woman called Ginny, who asks if she can walk part of the trail with him. A hiker has recently disappeared on the trail, and young single females have been warned of the dangers of walking alone, so the request is not unreasonable. It is common on the Camino to make acquaintances and join in with others for part of the journey, then lose sight of them only to meet up again later. So even though neither Daniel nor Ginny don’t seem particularly eager for company, they end up teaming up for some stretches of The Way.

At this point you may think that the story sounds very much like the famous movie THE WAY with Martin Sheen, but be assured that this is where the similarity ends. Because very soon after their first meeting, Daniel and Ginny have a horrific encounter with a frightful creature that lurks in a deserted cornfield in the dark. Daniel is sure they are being followed. But by whom? Person or ghost? Or the demons that haunt him after Petra’s death?

This was such a great read! Having walked some of the Camino, I could vividly picture the scenery and relate to the hardships of the long lonely hikes, but also the sometimes mystical atmosphere of this ancient countryside. Many of Daniel’s experiences (luckily not the scary ones) reflected my own feelings on the trail, and I thought how rare it is to find a book that so honestly describes the joys and woes of hiking, right down to the blisters and the reality of sharing a hostel room with fifty other smelly travellers. The author has totally nailed this setting, and even if you have never set foot on Spanish soil or hiked a mile in your life, you will soon be swept away on this great adventure.

I loved the way the novel soon turns dark and more sinister, and unexplained things start happening. With Daniel grieving and in a state of emotional unrest, I was never sure if the air of danger and menace was purely in his imagination, or if there was indeed something evil afoot. The ancient, spiritual path combined with this ever- present aura of evil made for some tense reading, and I could not tear myself away! There were parts of the book were I felt trapped in a nightmare, my own mind unravelling just like Daniel’s. It was all so brilliantly done. One minute there was the bright side of the journey, the sunshine, the beautiful landscape, the quiet reflection and the social aspect of connecting with other pilgrims. And then there was the dark side, the eerie sightings, the sense of danger and menace, the personal demons that come out in the dark and the quiet to torment the unaware traveller. Yes, the trail does have that effect, that soporific meditative monotony of walking that can clear the stage for all the suppressed emotions to bubble to the surface. I loved it, and it was obvious that the author had walked the walk in order to talk the talk.


PETRA’S GHOST is an original, authentic and heartfelt book that both tugged on my heartstrings and threw everything into disarray I had considered reality. It is dark and scary at times, and the mystery at the heart of it had me eagerly turning the pages. This is one book I could not put down! It’s not easy to find books that feature hiking as the backdrop to a mystery (combining two of my favourite things), especially where the author manages to paint so realistic a picture, so I am thrilled to have come across this one. Highly recommended to anyone who is looking for a compelling mystery with a ghostly element that will mess with your mind but also tug at your heartstrings. I loved it and hope to read more from this author in future.

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