#BookReview – The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

They said it was an accident. Her mother knows they’re lying. But the truth comes with a price…

A fast-paced and action packed psychological thriller that is full of twists and turns you won’t see coming. The Night Olivia Fell is the most gripping suspense mystery you’ll read this year.

IT’S EVERY PARENT’S WORST NIGHTMARE.

Abi Knight is startled awake in the middle of the night to a ringing phone and devastating news – her teenage daughter, Olivia, has been in a terrible accident.

Abi is told that Olivia slipped and fell from a bridge into the icy water below, and now she lies silent, dependent on life support.

But then Abi sees the angry bruises around Olivia’s wrists and learns that her sensible daughter is in fact three months pregnant . . .

WOULD YOU BELIEVE IT IF THEY TOLD YOU IT WAS AN ACCIDENT?

Published by HQ Stories (UK) February 2019 

~ Review ~

I started reading The Night Olivia Fell with high expectations. I’d read some fantastic reviews and the plot sounded right up my street. For anyone who follows my reviews, you may notice I’m a very emotional reader – I like a book that’s going to make me grin like a Cheshire cat or cry big fat ugly tears. This book seemed like it was made for me.

So maybe it was those high expectations that got in the way when I first started reading this book. It took me a while to get into, feeling a bit slow paced and not altogether gripping me. I think the main issue was that I just didn’t gel with main character, Abi, whose daughter Olivia is on life support waiting to give birth. She’s prickly, aggressive, and in the flashbacks to life before the accident, controlling and oppressive towards teen Olivia.

However, as I read on I started  to relate to her. Abi and I have a lot in common, and as a single parent I remember that feeling of wanting to prove your child can have every opportunity a child with two parents can have. As we learn more of her backstory, I could empathise and understand her, and her overwhelming fear of loosing those she loves.  And I really enjoyed watching her character develop, as she overcame her demons of both past and present.

The mystery of what happened to Olivia is tightly woven and while there’s clear suspects marked out, it really could have been any of them right up until the reveal. This is a complex mystery, wrapped up in secrets and lies, some designed to protect and others to destroy. At it’s heart is a young girl, Olivia, who tragically seems to be manipulated from all sides, yet remains a thoughtful, caring and optimistic young woman. Whereas I initially found Abi difficult, I loved hearing Olivia’s story in the flashback chapters leading up to that fateful night.

The final third of this book was excellent. I read it with held breath, tears streaming down my face so heavily I couldn’t see the page. All the emotion I missed at the begin is there in those final heartbreaking pages with some incredibly tender and moving writing searing my heart. I was glad I’d stuck with this book, it was well worth it in the end and I think this is a story that will stay with me for quite sometime, as well as serving as a reminder to appreciate my own teen daughter. This is a story that will  slowly creep under your skin and rip your heart out before putting it back together again.

(I read an advance ebook courtesy of the publisher and netgalley)

Mini Catch Up Reviews

Over the last few weeks my reading kind of went right out the window. A load of personal stuff got right in the way and to be honest, my life became eat, sleep, work and sort the daughter out. That’s all I could manage! Things are back on track and looking positive now. I did squeeze a few books in though – unfortunately I’m a review now or never kind of blogger so I thought a round up of mini “what I’ve been reading” reviews would be a good idea.

The Foster Child by Jenny Blackhurst  

the foster childWhen child psychologist Imogen Reid takes on the case of 11-year-old Ellie Atkinson, she refuses to listen to warnings that the girl is dangerous.

Ellie was the only survivor of a fire that killed her family. Imogen is convinced she’s just a sad and angry child struggling to cope with her loss.

But Ellie’s foster parents and teachers are starting to fear her. When she gets upset, bad things seem to happen. And as Imogen gets closer to Ellie, she may be putting herself in danger… 

Published November 16th 2017 by Headline 

 

WOW I was absolutely gripped to this book! I’ve really enjoyed Jenny’s previous books, but this is her best yet.  Creepy, twisty and unnerving – this is the only book I’ve read in one sitting for a while. I just couldn’t put it down!

—————————————————————————————

Warm Bodies by Jane Robins White Bodies

Felix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple: young and in love, a financier and a beautiful up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless façade, not everything is as it seems.

Callie, Tilda’s unassuming twin, has watched her sister visibly shrink under Felix’s domineering love. She has looked on silently as Tilda stopped working, nearly stopped eating, and turned into a neat freak, with mugs wrapped in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. She knows about Felix’s uncontrollable rages, and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister’s arms.

Worried about the psychological hold that Felix seems to have over Tilda, Callie joins an internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. However, things spiral out of control and she starts to doubt her own judgment when one of her new acquaintances is killed by an abusive man. And then suddenly Felix dies—or was he murdered? 

Published 28th December 2017 by HQ 

Sisters have been huge in psychological thrillers this year, White Bodies takes it further with disturbingly unhinged twin sisters, Tilda and Callie. Man, was this twisted at times! I LOVED it, although it wasn’t as fast paced as I expected, the complexity of the relationship between these twins was gripping.

—————————————————————————————

The Doll House by Phoebe Morgan 

the doll houseYou never know who’s watching…

Corinne’s life might look perfect on the outside, but after three failed IVF attempts it’s her last chance to have a baby. And when she finds a tiny part of a doll house outside her flat, it feels as if it’s a sign.

But as more pieces begin to turn up, Corinne realises that they are far too familiar. Someone knows about the miniature rocking horse and the little doll with its red velvet dress. Someone has been inside her house…

How does the stranger know so much about her life? How long have they been watching? And what are they waiting for…? 

Published September 14th 2017 by HQ Digital 

I remember reading a book about a creepy doll’s house as a child, and instantly becoming uneasy of the huge Sindy house looming in the corner of my bedroom. That memory has lasted. and to this day, the idea of Doll Houses make me shudder a little. So, i really loved the idea behind Phoebe Morgan’s chilling debut. Yes, this was full of twists and turns and impending unease, but what I really liked was how well drawn the character’s were, with complexities, hopes and flaws that made them and their actions completely believable. And the ending was jawdroppingly good!

—————————————————————————————

Behind Closed Doors by B.A Paris  behind closed doors

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace’s friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie? 

Published February 2016 by Mira 

Late to the B.A Paris party, I’m not going to lie. I was a bit disappointed in this one. I can see why it was so popular – the writing is compelling, it’s very, very readable and can be swallowed in one or two gulps. However, I had problems with some of the characters and how believable they were. I thought Grace acted pretty stupidly and felt frustrated by her, her husband was a bit pantomime villain and I felt uncomfortable at some of the portrayal of Millie, who has down syndrome. I’m still looking forward to reading more by this author, as I think they’re writing style really suits my taste – I just wasn’t a big fan of this plot.

—————————————————————————————

The Child by Fiona Barton 

32054078the child‘An engrossing, irresistible story about the coming to light of a long-buried secret.

When a paragraph in an evening newspaper reveals a decades-old tragedy, most readers barely give it a glance. But for three strangers it’s impossible to ignore.

For one woman, it’s a reminder of the worst thing that ever happened to her.

For another, it reveals the dangerous possibility that her darkest secret is about to be discovered.

And for the third, a journalist, it’s the first clue in a hunt to uncover the truth.

The Child’s story will be told.  

Published July 2017 by Transworld 

Oh. My. God. This was GOOD. Switching narrative between four women to reveal the secret of a baby found buried after decades, this was not only taught and chilling, but emotionally fraught and involving as well. Throughout the book, I felt I got to know all the women – though I particularly liked Kate, a seasoned but ethical journalist. The first to pick up on the story, I liked how involved she became with the other women in this book, driving the narrative forward and allowing us to get to know them with empathy and sincerity. I kind of worked out the plot twist pages before it was revealed, but even then it came as a punch to the stomach and took my breath away. The Child isn’t just a thriller with a shocking secret, it’s about the long lasting effects of trauma on a person and their relationships. I thought it was fantastic.

—————————————————————————————

So there you go, some mini thought’s on recent books I’ve read. Apologies for the lack of posts recently – but you can be assured that normal service will now resume!

Six In Six – A Look Back At Some Of My Top Books Of 2017 So Far…

6 I saw this over at Cleopatra Loves Books, and thought it was a great idea to look back at books read so far in 2017. Hosted by Jo’s Book Journey, the idea is sharing 6 books, in 6 categories from the first half of the year. So here’s my choices:

6 Books I Have Enjoyed The Most 

 

 

6 Psychological Thrillers I Have Read & Enjoyed 

 

 

6 New To Me Authors 

 

 

6 Covers I’ve Loved

 

 

6 Books Which Took Me To The Past 

 

 

Six Books I Own & Can’t Believe I Haven’t Managed To Read Yet 

 

Book Review: Gone Without A Trace by Mary Torjussen

No one ever disappears completely…

You leave for work one morning.

Another day in your normal life.

Until you come home to discover that your boyfriend has gone.
His belongings have disappeared.
He hasn’t been at work for weeks.
It’s as if he never existed.

But that’s not possible, is it?

And there is worse still to come.

Because just as you are searching for him
someone is also watching you. 

Published 23rd March by Headline (UK) 


I’m going to be straight up here, I have mixed feelings about this book. For seventy five percent of it I thought it was probably going to be quite disappointing. However, a huge twist that had completely evaded my suspicion was revealed that had me thinking “ooooh…clever!” and look back at what I had read in a completely different light.

The gist of this story is that high achieving Hannah – a strong, workaholic professional, comes home to find her boyfriend appears to have left her. Only he’s literally wiped every trace of himself away. Every single belonging he owned has gone, but so has every photo, email and phone call record from Hannah’s phone. Hannah’s world crumbles and as her personal life falls apart, so does her professional life. And while at her most vulnerable, it seems that someone is playing mind games with her. Where has Matt gone, and who is it that just won’t leave her alone?

So the premise is excellent. I really wanted to know where Matt had gone. Had he gone of his own free will or was something more sinister at play? Do any of the people closest to Hannah know anything? I had some ideas spinning about my head. They were wrong. The writing is very, very readable and easy to speed through and this combined with my intrigue at Matt’s disappearance kept me reading at a speedy pace.

Where I found it problematic was that I just didn’t find the characters convincing. I felt that Hannah was portrayed initially as a very strong and capable character, yet she folded immediately and became almost pathetic at times. I lost some sympathy for her and struggled to connect or relate with her. I also disliked the other characters, in particular her best friend Katie and struggled to understand this relationship at all. On the other hand, having now read the book fully, it makes more sense. I think the atmosphere that was being created in the first part of the book just didn’t quite come across as well as it could have, meaning it lost some of it’s intensity and build up to the big twist.

The twist when it did come was not what I’d been expecting at all, and actually is a really, really good one. It also tackles a subject that is not talked about enough, has stigma and shame attached to it and has a message that is important to get out there. I can’t reveal it though – so you’re going to have to trust me on this one and read it yourself! Gone Without A Trace would make a great TV drama I think, I can vividly see how it could play out.

I feel really conflicted summing this book up. There was a lot I liked. It’s an easy, speedy read with an intriguing premise – ideal for holiday or lazy afternoon reading when you have a large chunk of time to spend reading. It has a twist that I have neither seen before or expected, and the final quarter of this book completely redeemed it for me and left me feeling glad that I’d spent the time reading it. I would absolutely read more by this author, as I really liked her engaging and pacey writing style. It’s just a shame that I personally found it difficult to believe in or relate to any of the characters, which in turn had an effect on my overall enjoyment of it.

(I read a copy supplied by the publisher)

Blog Tour- Extract and Review: Close To Me by Amanda Reynolds

Today I am thrilled to host a stop on Amanda Reynolds blog tour to celebrate her debut novel, Close To Me.
Close To Me is a gripping debut psychological drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty’s bestselling The Husband’s Secret, Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go, and Linda Green’s While My Eyes Were Closed.

She can’t remember the last year. Her husband wants to keep it that way.

When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia-she’s lost a whole year of memories. A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?

She can’t remember what she did-or what happened the night she fell. But she’s beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought.  
Published by Headline – eBook 31st March / Paperback 27th July 2017

First of all, here’s an extract to give you a taste of this fantastic book!

The barn feels bigger, the silence echoing around us, between us, from us. I leave Rob to bring in the emptied boxes and suitcases and go upstairs to change, pausing outside Fin’s room. The tidiness within is unsettling. ‘He hasn’t died,’ Sash had said when I’d rung her from the car. ‘He’s just gone to university.’ 

I pull the duvet from its cover, strip the sheet from the mattress and the pillowcases from the pillows, and although I’d intended to throw the washing straight in the laundry basket, I sit down on the empty bed, gathering the musty bedding around me to inhale Fin’s scent. 

‘He hasn’t died, Jo,’ Rob says, finding me there. He’s carrying a suitcase, now lightened of its load, just a few hours ago filled with the shirts and jeans I’d ironed. 

‘That was Sash’s line,’ I say, sitting up. ‘You two are so alike.’  

Rob lays a hand on my shoulder, the fingers reaching my collar bone, gently pressing in. I stand and hold him for a moment, his long arms wrapping around me, his head resting on top of mine. ‘Come on,’ he says. ‘We’re both tired.’ 

We make love, the day edging away as we comfort one another. Afterwards, Rob rolls away from me and I know he will fall asleep immediately so I nudge his back. He turns over to face me, but I can see little of his expression; the bedroom almost entirely devoid of light, just the green glow of the numbers on his alarm clock telling me it’s almost midnight. ‘What is it?’ he asks.  

‘Do you remember how we used to play that silly word game, before the kids were born?’ 

‘What game?’ he replies, his words slurred with impending sleep. 

‘If you had a super power what would it be?’ I say through the darkness. ‘Or if you were
going to kill me how would you do it?’ 

‘And you’ve thought about this already?’ he asks, the moonlight seeping around the corners of the blind to pick out his creased eyes, a faint smile. 

I tell him my super power would be time travel and he says he has no idea what his would be, although he’s clearly enjoying the game.  

‘And you’ve decided how you’re going to kill me?’ he asks, his interest piqued. 

‘I’d stab you.’ I laugh, reaching out to him, laying my hand on his bare chest. ‘With a kitchen knife.’ 

‘Yes, that’s good.’ He laughs too and squeezes my stabbing hand. ‘Hopefully death would be instantaneous, and we already have a knife block, so no preparation required.’ 

‘How would you kill me?’ I ask, leaning up on one elbow to wait for his response. 

He hesitates, then says, ‘I guess I’d strangle you with my bare hands.’ Then he grabs me and pulls me to him, both of us laughing.

Review  

Warning! Make sure you have a clear few hours when you begin this book. I don’t know about other readers but I do this thing, between all the other stuff I need to do, where I’ll say “I’ll read 50 pages then I’ll hoover the bedroom” or “30 pages then I’ll make dinner”. I wouldn’t get anything else done otherwise if I didn’t set these limits.

So, when starting Close To Me a few days ago, while having a break from attempting to tame my overgrown garden, I gave myself 50 pages. Well, when I checked to see how I was doing I was stunned to find I’d just devoured almost 100! Seriously, this book’s pages turn themselves. Amanda Reynolds’ writing just flows in a gripping and compelling stream, making for a very, very readable story.

The book is told in alternating chapters of the days following Jo’s accident and the year leading up to it. It works so well, as the reader discovers what led to the breakdown of her family at the same time as Jo. You get to know Jo almost as she gets to know herself and I found I really connected to her and could relate to some of what she is experiencing in the early days before her fall. Jo is going through a time of change, her youngest child has just left home for university and she needs to redefine herself and purpose – something familiar to me as both my children begin to move on. But unlike myself, Jo is surrounded by manipulating people, taken advantage of by her husband, her kids and then others who sense her vulnerability. I loved the subtle development of her character right through the book, and by the end felt satisfied that this now strong and purposeful woman was going to be ok.

The subtle tension created in this book holds right through, with clever twists revealed at just the right moments, keeping me intrigued. Jo’s memory loss ensures that the reader is kept guessing about what really lead to the night of the accident along with Jo herself, with clues and suggestions coming in flashbacks. But with sketchy memories and some confusion, how much can we believe of Jo herself? Is her husband Rob trying to protect her or manipulate her? I couldn’t stop reading and had to know what was going on, frantically turning pages to fit in just a little bit more and ended up finishing it within a day.

Close To Me is not a heart pumping, edge of your seat thriller. The tension and twists are far more subtle than that. This is a dark story of a marriage and family gone stale, emotional abuse, manipulation and mistrust from those nearest. It’s the story of a woman loosing herself even before she looses her memory and a journey of rediscovery and redefining as she finds the strength to gain control of her life . It is compulsive, one-more-chapter reading and I highly recommend it.

(I read an advance proof copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine Program)



About The Author

Amanda Reynolds teaches Creative Writing in Cheltenham, where she lives with her family.

Her past jobs have included selling clothes online and writing murder mystery games.

Close To Me is her debut novel.

Follow Amanda on Twitter: @amandareynoldsj


Book Review: The People At Number 9 by Felicity Everett

Meet the new neighbours. Whose side are you on?

When Gav and Lou move into the house next door, Sara spends days plucking up courage to say hello. The neighbours are glamorous, chaotic and just a little eccentric. They make the rest of Sara’s street seem dull by comparison.

When the hand of friendship is extended, Sara is delighted and flattered. Incredibly, Gav and Lou seem to see something in Sara and Neil that they admire too. In no time at all, the two couples are soulmates, sharing suppers, bottles of red wine and childcare, laughing and trading stories and secrets late into the night in one another’s houses.

And the more time Sara spends with Gav and Lou, the more she longs to make changes in her own life. But those changes will come at a price. Soon Gav and Lou will be asking things they’ve no right to ask of their neighbours, with shattering consequences for all of them…

Have you met The People at Number 9? A dark and delicious novel about envy, longing and betrayal in the suburbs… (From Goodreads.com)

Published 6th April 2017 by HQ UK  

Sometimes your expectation of what a book is going to be about can skew your experience of reading it. I think this is probably the case with The People At Number 9, being not at all what I was expecting and leaving me a little confused regarding my feelings towards it.

The People At Number 9 tells the story of two couples living in middle class suburbia. When Lou and Gav move in next door to Sara and Neil, Sara is dazzled. Creative, charismatic and cultured, they’re everything she wants to be herself. When a friendship between the set of couples is established, they quickly start spending more and more time together, becoming increasingly intertwined with each others lives. But familiarity breeds contempt – right? And when the friendship begins to feel one-sided, jealousy and resentment starts to creep in.

I’ll be honest, I was expecting more of a heart thumping, twisty psychological thriller style read when I started this. It is neither of those things. The darkness in this book is more subtle, it won’t chill you or jump out at you, but rather cast a slow, uncomfortable realization of the less attractive qualities we all can be susceptible to now and then and like to keep hidden – envy, dissatisfaction, longing and insecurity. In Sara, those feeling are intensified, simmering resentments escalating to almost obsession. I didn’t like her – she’s a social climber, tries too hard to impress those she deems intelligent and admirable, making her unattractive to all around her. She’s constantly trying to mold herself and her family into what she thinks they should be. Yet, I think if we’re completely honest with ourselves, we can all recognise some of the thoughts and feelings she has, even if only fleeting. That’s where the darkness lies in this book.

I didn’t like Lou or Gav either, pretentious and manipulating that they are. Yet they were fascinatingly intriguing – in fact all of the characters were. There isn’t one who I could say I liked (even the children if I’m allowed to say that!) yet they were realistic. Each one is so well observed, you’ll be recognising people you know personally in them. The plot isn’t far fetched or out of the ordinary, it’s a believable story of domestic life and could be playing out between neighbours across the road as we speak. Yet it is at times utterly compelling. Felicity Everett’s ability to capture human nature and traits and make the mundane fascinating is outstanding, and while I struggled to begin with due to taking a deep dislike to the characters, from around halfway through I couldn’t stop reading.

Wrongly again, I expected a climatic or dramatic ending, waiting for it to happen and realising with only a couple of pages left that this wasn’t going to happen. It’s taken me a few days to write my review, as I needed time to process how I felt about this book. On reflection, having put aside any preconceptions I had about what this book was going to be, I can appreciate how well written and brilliantly observed it is. The People At Number 9 is probably going to divide opinion between readers, I know I’m not the only reviewer to find it completely different to expectations. Despite feeling a little disappointed that it wasn’t the pacey thriller I wanted, I did find it compelling, intense and uncomfortably believable. A few days on I’m still thinking about it and recalling it vividly – it certainly made an impression on me despite my mixed feelings.

(I read an advanced copy courtesy of the publisher)


Book Review: This Love by Dani Atkins

Sophie Winter lives in a self-imposed cocoon – she’s a single, thirty-one year old translator who works from home in her one bedroom flat. This isn’t really the life she dreamed of, but then Sophie stopped believing in happy endings a very long time ago, when she was fifteen years old and tragedy struck her family. Her grief has left her scared of commitment and completely risk averse, so she plays it safe and keeps everyone at arm’s length. Sophie understands she has a problem, but recognising it and knowing how to fix it are two entirely different things.
            One night a serious fire breaks out in the flat below hers. Sophie is trapped in the burning building until a random passer-by, Ben, luckily happens to spot and rescue her. Suddenly her cocoon is shattered – what will be the consequences of this second life-changing event? (From Goodreads.com)

Published 23rd March 2017 by Simon and Schuster UK   

Wow. If I had to sum this book up in one word it would be emotional. But one word is not enough, so here follows what is likely to be a slightly (very) gushing review.

Sophie Winter keeps herself to herself. She works at home and spends most of her evenings at home. She really didn’t want to go to the Halloween party in the flat below her, but when best friend Julia convinces her that she should at least try to socialise, she gives it a go. For half an hour. Then she’s back in her flat, in her comfy PJ’s and dozing on the sofa with her beloved cat, Fred. Sophie is already my kind of person. I’d related to and connected with her within the first few pages. There’s a sense of vulnerability, insecurity, grief and loneliness combined with hints of a hidden strength and kind heart that make her endearing, interesting and gets the reader onside immediately.

When she’s woken that same night by the fire raging in the flat below, I was transfixed. I felt her panic, smelt the smoke and saw the terrifying scene unfold in breathtaking clarity. I was then swept away on the developing relationship between Sophie and Ben- a complex, tentative, and extremely romantic journey with some unexpected twists and turns, which both binds and complicates things for them. I’m not a huge believer in fate, but there’s a tangible feeling that this was meant to be. Both Sophie and Ben are carrying the weight of guilt and the effects of grief and trauma. Finding each other becomes the key to letting go, righting wrongs and moving forward.

There’s something very real and personal about Dani Atkin’s writing and it is utterly compelling. I was immersed in these characters lives as I read this book, almost as if I knew them. I remained hooked throughout this absorbing story of coming to terms with grief and loss, facing your fears and being able to open your heart again, even if you know that means your heart will eventually be broken. I cried. I smiled. The end of this book absolutely broke me. But it was beautiful and heartwarming too. I can’t recommend it enough.

(I read a proof copy supplied by the publisher)  






Book Review: The Escape by CL Taylor

“Look after your daughter’s things. And your daughter…”


When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn’t.

The stranger knows Jo’s name, she knows her husband Max and she’s got a glove belonging to Jo’s two year old daughter Elise.

What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo’s own husband turn against her.

No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there’s only one way to keep her child safe – RUN. (from Goodreads.com

Published by Avon UK 23rd March 2017 


This is the fourth book by CL Taylor I’ve read, and I’ve always found her books very, very readable. The Escape is no different – immediately I was drawn in, hooked to the pacey flow and intrigued by the evolving situation the main character Jo has found herself in. 
The book begins when Jo is approached by a stranger and asked for a lift – only once in the car it turns out that the stranger, Paula, isn’t so random. She’s looking for something that she claims Jo’s husband Max took from her, and she’s determined to get it back. Within the first couple of chapters, the image of both Jo and Paula is firmly and expertly set, with Jo cast as weak, nervy and anxiety ridden in contrast to Paula’s tough, brash and bullying attitude. Taylor uses perfect dialogue and descriptions of mannerisms, particularly in the case of  Paula, so that these characters are vividly realistic. I could see Paula -her stance, her facial expressions – so clearly in my mind. This continues throughout the book with the entire cast of characters, who each have their unique and distinctive voice and style, making The Escape feel almost like watching a TV drama. 
The book is also interspersed with short italicized chapters conveying one of the character’s thoughts and intentions. These sections are filled with malice and threat and are pretty creepy. The author also cleverly leads the reader down one path, before throwing a huge twist I didn’t see coming and had me scrolling back through the ebook to see if I had missed something.  
Jo is an interesting main character, I was torn between sympathy at the terrifying situation she found herself in and frustration at some of her reactions. I thought CL Taylor executed her seemingly irrational and declining grip on reality well, and kept me guessing whether she was to be trusted or not for a large portion of the book. I felt Max on the other hand, lacked a little something. I don’t quite understand his actions and why he did what he did. I won’t go into it further as to do so would give away the plot, but it affected the tension of the book slightly as I read it in my opinion. I did enjoy part two of The Escape, set in Ireland and introducing another well written character, Mary. I wondered how the two parts connected to begin with, seemingly two separate plots going on at once, and loved the way they eventually tied together. 
The Escape is a gripping and accessible read with broad appeal. It’s a once you start, you won’t stop kind of read and you’ll find you’ve covered a massive chunk of book without even realising it. With vivid and well drawn character’s, it’s a book which will play out in your head when you read and has enough twists to keep the reader surprised and intrigued. My kindle broke half way through reading this book, and I was so keen to carry on reading that I couldn’t wait the two days that Amazon would take to deliver a new one, that I found a second hand one for sale on a local selling group and had a replacement in my hand within half an hour.  CL Taylor is an author who knows how to hold her audience, and The Escape is no different. If you’re a fan, then you won’t be disappointed!
(I read an ebook copy supplied by the publisher via Netgalley)

Book Review: Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land

‘NEW N A M E .
NEW F A M I L Y.
S H I N Y.
NEW.
ME . ‘

Annie’s mother is a serial killer.

The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police.

But out of sight is not out of mind.

As her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of her past won’t let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name – Milly.

A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be.

But Milly’s mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water.

Good me, bad me.

She is, after all, her mother’s daughter… (from Goodreads.com)

Published 12th January 2017 by Michael Joseph, Penguin UK   

Woah, this was an intense read! I picked it up on Saturday night, immediately finding myself pulled in and consumed by this tragic, chilling and fascinating tale.

Good Me, Bad Me tells the story of fifteen year old Milly as she adjusts to a new life, new family and new identity. Daughter of a serial killer, it was she who turned her Mother into the police after years of abuse herself and now she must prepare to give evidence at her trial. It’s told completely in the first person from Milly, and Ali Land uses an unusual, but extremely effective style to get over her unique voice. Short, clipped, sometimes one word sentences give a flitting, intimate and authentic feel to the narrative, making me feel I was absolutely in Milly’s head as I read this book. So much so, that even an hour after I’d finished reading, I could still hear her voice running through my mind. It was completely consuming and brilliant.

Milly’s foster family add an extra layer of darkness to what is already a very dark and disturbing story. Mike’s job is to guide and prepare Milly for the upcoming trial, yet such a delicate and traumatic case seems misguided considering the dysfunctional and mental frailty of his own family. I didn’t understand him fully or his motives. It made me think perhaps the quest to help is more about the giver and what they get out of it: prestige, respect, admiration perhaps?  Mike’s own family are themselves deeply troubled, with his daughter Phoebe’s jealous, neglected and resentful personality creating an explosive environment for the traumatised and troubled Milly.

Ali Land writes Milly’s voice with astonishing authenticity as she struggles between hatred and love for her mother. Her confusion, fear and guilt create a roller coaster of heightened emotion which takes the reader swiftly alongside with chilling anticipation. As a reader, it provokes internal debate and doubt – Is Milly to be pitied or feared? Can she be accountable, or is she an innocent victim of her unfortunate circumstances? This isn’t a comfortable read, it prompts exploration of grey areas and left me mulling over things long after I’d finished. Milly’s voice was so distinctive, even now I can recall it vividly, making Good Me, Bad Me an unforgettable and compelling story. Intense, chilling and completely engrossing, this is definitely a book and author to watch out for.



Blog Tour: Exclusive Extract From The Orphan’s Tale by Pam Jenoff

 
Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in Pam Jenoff’s blog tour for her latest book, The Orphan;s Tale I read this wonderful book last week and will be posting my review very soon. I can promise you now though that it is moving, mesmerising and heart-breakingly beautiful. Enjoy an exclusive extract below and don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour for reviews, Author Q&A’s and a giveaway. 



Cast out by her family in Nazi-occupied Holland, seventeen-year-old Noa saves a baby from a train bound for the concentration camps, fleeing with him in the snowy night into the woods surrounding the tracks. She stumbles upon a German circus, led by the famous Herr Neuhoff, where each performer has their own history and secrets. They agree to take in Noa and the baby, on one condition – she must earn her keep, and the circus is short of an aerialist. Noa will be trained by the star trapeze artist, Astrid, but first they must learn to trust one another: as they soar high above the crowds, there are more than just their own lives at stake. And as it becomes clear that even the circus cannot hide from the war forever, loyalty may prove the most dangerous trait of all.

The Nightingale meets Water For Elephants in this powerful story of friendship, love and sacrifice loosely based on several true stories from World War II, uncovered by Jenoff in her research.  


Published 23rd February 2017 by HQ – Harpercollins Uk


It has been three days since Erich returned unexpectedly early from work to our apartment. I threw myself into his arms. “I’m so glad to see you,” I exclaimed. “Dinner isn’t quite ready yet, but we could have a drink.” He spent so many nights at official dinners or buried in his study with papers. It seemed like forever since we’d shared a quiet evening together.
He did not put his arms around me but remained stiff. “Ingrid,” he said, using my full name and not the pet name he’d given me, “we need to divorce.”
“Divorce?” I wasn’t sure I had ever said the word before. Divorce was something that happened in a movie or a book about rich people. I didn’t know anyone who had ever done it—in my world you married until you died. “Is there another woman?” I croaked, barely able to manage the words. Of course there was not. The passion between us had been unbreakable—until now.
Surprise and pain flashed over his face at the very idea.
“No!” And in that one word I knew exactly the depths of his love and that this awful thing was hurting him. So why would he even say it? “The Reich has ordered all officers with Jewish wives to divorce,” he explained. How many, I wondered, could there possibly be? He pulled out some documents and handed them to me with smooth strong hands. The papers carried a hint of his cologne. There was not even a spot for me to sign, my agreement or disagreement irrelevant—it was fait accompli. “It has been ordered by the Führer,” he adds. His voice was dispassionate, as though describing the day-to-day matters that went on in his department. “There is no choice.”
“We’ll run,” I said, forcing the quaver from my voice. “I can be packed in half an hour.” Improbably I lifted the roast from the table, as though that was the first thing I would take. “Bring the brown suitcase.” But Erich stood stiffly, feet planted. “What is it?”
“My job,” he replied. “People would know I was gone.” He would not go with me. The roast dropped from my hands, plate shattering, the smell of warm meat and gravy wafting sickeningly upward. It was preferable to the rest of the immaculate table, a caricature of the perfect life I thought we’d had. The brown liquid splattered upward against my stockings, staining them.
I jutted my chin defiantly. “Then I shall keep the apartment.”
But he shook his head, reaching into his billfold and emptying the contents into my hands. “You need to go. Now.” Go where? My family was all gone; I did not have papers out of Germany. Still I found my suitcase and packed mechanically, as if going on holiday. I had no idea what to take.
Two hours later when I was packed and ready to go, Erich stood before me in his uniform, so very much like the man I had spied in the audience beyond the lights the day we met. He waited awkwardly as I started for the door, as if seeing out a guest.
I stood in front of him for several seconds, staring up beseechingly, willing his eyes to meet mine. “How can you do this?” I asked. He did not answer. This is not happening, a voice inside me seemed to say. In other circumstances, I would have refused to go. But I had been caught off guard, the wind knocked out of me by an unexpected punch. I was simply too stunned to fight. “Here.” I pulled off my wedding band and held it out. “This isn’t mine anymore.”
Looking down at the ring, his whole face seemed to fall, as if realizing for the first time the finality of what he was doing. I wondered in that moment if he would tear up the papers that decreed our marriage over and say we would face the future together, whatever the odds. He swiped at his eyes.
When his hand moved away the hardness of the “new Erich,” as I called him in the recent months when it had all seemed to change, reappeared. He pushed the ring away and it clattered to the floor. I hurried to pick it up, cheeks stinging from the roughness of his once-gentle touch. “You keep it,” he said. “You can sell it if you need money.” As if the one thing that bound us together meant so little to me. He fled the apartment without looking back and in that moment the years we shared seemed to evaporate and disappear.
Of course I do not know Herr Neuhoff well enough to tell him any of this. “I’ve left Berlin for good,” I say, firmly enough to foreclose further discussion. 

About Pam Jenoff

Pam Jenoff is the internationally bestselling author of several novels, including The Kommandant’s Girl, which was a finalist for both the Quill awards and the American Library Association’s Sophie Brody Medal. Pam draws inspiration for her books from her service as a diplomat for the State Department in Europe working on Holocaust issues, and her experiences as the politically-appointed Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army at the Pentagon. She also practiced law at a large firm and in-house, and is on the faculty of Rutgers School of Law. Pam received her bachelor’s degree in international affairs from The George Washington University, her master’s degree in history from Cambridge University, and her juris doctor degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She lives outside Philadelphia with her husband and three children. Find out more about Pan on her website, pamjenoff.com, on Facebook @PamJenoffAuthor, or follow her on Twitter @PamJenoff.