Book Review – Like A House On Fire by Caroline Hulse

Things Stella and George have had blazing rows about:– Misquoting Jurassic Park
– Leaving a Coke can on the side of the bath
– Fitting car seats for their hypothetical kidsIn other news, they’re getting divorced.But first, Stella’s mum is throwing a murder mystery party and – with her dad losing his job, her mum’s recent diagnosis, and some very odd behaviour from her sister – now is not the time to tell everyone.All Stella and George have to do is make it through the day without their break-up being discovered – though it will soon turn out that having secrets runs in the family…Published May 14th 2020 by @orionbooks

I’ve had a copy of Caroline Hulse’s debut, Adults, for ages and had been meaning to get around to it soon. After reading LIKE A HOUSE ON FIRE this will be happening even sooner!Set mainly over an evening, when Margaret attempts to bring together her nearest and dearest one last time, this is one of the most honestly observed stories of family dynamics I’ve read. Misunderstandings, resentment and jealousy, denial and secrets unfold in an excruciating family event noone really wants to be atI loved the dry wit and humour it’s written with! The dynamics of the family are recognisable and relatable as they switch from irritation with each other to being fiercly protective. The characters are incredibly authentic and Caroline Hulse writes the everday person with compassion and insightThis isn’t a book I raced through, however I loved picking it up and spending time with it at a lovely leisurely pace which I really appreciated. I really felt I knew these characters by the end, and the addition of Margaret’s attempts to involve her reluctant family in a murder mystery party really made me chuckle. A reminder of the imperfections of family and that life is constantly changing, even for those who fight against it, I really enjoyed this bookThank you to the publisher for my #gifted copy

Book Review – The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Set on a remote island off the Irish coast, this is one guest list no one would want to be on, just as no one would have wanted an invitation to the New Year’s Eve party in Foley’s previous novel, The Hunting Party .

Lives unravel amid the revelry on an eerie and remote island as family and friends assemble for a glam wedding in an updated Murder on the Orient Express. Each of the principal characters has a reason to want one of their number dead, there are old secrets, and one of them is murdered.

Published February 2020 by Harper Collins UK

Ok, I’m naming Lucy Foley queen of the modern whodunit. Yet again with The Guest List, she gathers a group of people in a remote location, gives the reader a glimpse of a sticky end, then takes them on a merry dance from one disgruntled narrator to the other as they try to work out just what has happened

And boy are there plenty of disgruntled narrators here. As golden couple Will and Jules gather their nearest and dearest on a remote Irish island for the wedding of the century, it quickly becomes clear not everyone is wishing the lavish couple well

Jealousy, brooding resentment and old secrets all rear their ugly heads and as more events from the past are revealed, there are plenty of suspects with big enough grievances to put them in the frame for murder. Alternating chapters from several narrators, I was hooked and desperate to know more. With each chapter ending on a cliff edge, I flew through this book unable to put it down. With a wild and atmospheric backdrop, The Guest List has the perfect thriller blend I love. Brilliant

Thanks to the publisher for my #gifted e-arc

Book Review – Keeper by Jessica Moor

He’s been looking in the windows again. Messing with cameras. Leaving notes.
Supposed to be a refuge. But death got inside.

When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it’s an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide.

But the residents of Widringham women’s refuge where Katie worked don’t agree. They say it’s murder.

Will you listen to them?

An addictive literary page-turner about a crime as shocking as it is commonplace, Keeper will leave you reeling long after the final page is turned

Published March 2020 by Viking UK

This was my second go at starting this book after having to abandon it at the beginning of March when my work descended into chaos for a couple of weeks. It was worth the wait though, second time around I was able to give it the full attention it deserves

Keeper is a dark, uncomfortably honest exploration of domestic violence. When the body of a young woman is found washed up on the banks of a river, it appears to be a sad but clear case of suicide. But further investigation reveals a mystery surrounding the woman’s identity and links to a local refuge

Brutal, traumatic and shocking, Keeper charts Katie’s story as she becomes a victim of emotional and physical abuse in flashbacks, as the investigation in the present explores the misconceptions, attitudes and unjustness towards those who’ve escaped domestic violence. This book will make you angry, and so you should be. Candid and eye opening, Moor gives voice to these women through writing that is both sobering and inspiring

Keeper is not an easy read, it’s harrowing, raw and at times graphic. But it’s an important one that I’d encourage anyone to read. An outstanding debut

Thanks to the publisher for my gifted copy

Book Review – The Secrets of Sunshine by Phaedra Patrick

Single dad Mitchell Fisher has said a firm goodbye to romance. He relishes his job cutting off the padlocks that couples fasten to his hometown’s famous ‘love story’ bridge. Only his young daughter Poppy knows that behind his prickly veneer, Mitchell is deeply lonely – and he still grieves the loss of her mother.

Then one hot summer’s day, everything changes when Mitchell bravely rescues a woman who falls from the bridge into the river. He’s surprised to feel an unexpected connection to her, but then she disappears. Desperate to find the mysterious woman, Mitchell teams up with her spirited sister Liza to see if she’s left any clues behind. There’s just one – a secret message on the padlock she left on love story bridge…

Brimming with Phaedra Patrick’s signature charm and a sparkling cast of characters, The Secrets of Sunshine follows one man’s journey to unlock his heart and discover new beginnings in the unlikeliest places.

Published 14th May 2020 by HQ

Oh yes, I’m on a reading roll at the moment and have another FIVE star review for you today. I can’t stop smiling when I think of this book. It’s soul food, the perfect pick me up during these strange times. It is indeed sunshine in word form

Single dad Mitchell has turned his back on romance and has no qualms about his job removing ‘love locks’ placed on the city bridges by romantic and love struck strangers. Then one day while working on the bridge, a woman falls into the river below and Mitchell jumps in without thinking. Overnight he becomes a local hero and a focus for the cities romantics. But is Mitchell himself ready to move on and accept love once again?

Ah… Mitchell 💛 I loved this character so much! Prickly and lonely, his sad story broke my heart before the author kindly put it back together with such care. I can’t remember ever rooting for a character as much as I did for him. The other characters are equally as brilliant, from his nine year old daughter, Poppy to the adorable concierge, Carl and lovely, lovely Liza. I want to know these people and have them as my friends

The story is undoubtedly romantic, my heartstrings were in overdrive, but it never felt cheesy. In fact, there’s some pretty serious topics going on aswell as a bit of a mystery. Yet this is a book bursting with hope and inspiration. It’s about moving on, forgiving yourself and acceptance. I finished this book with a huge soppy smile and feeling completely uplifted. Warm and heartfelt from beginning to end, It was perfect!

Thanks to the publisher for my #gifted proof copy

Book Review – The Glass House by Eve Chase

Outside a remote manor house in an idyllic wood, a baby girl is found.
The Harrington family takes her in and disbelief quickly turns to joy. They’re grieving a terrible tragedy of their own and the beautiful baby fills them with hope, lighting up the house’s dark, dusty corners. Desperate not to lose her to the authorities, they keep her secret, suspended in a blissful summer world where normal rules of behaviour – and the law – don’t seem to apply.
But within days a body will lie dead in the grounds. And their dreams of a perfect family will shatter like glass.
Years later, the truth will need to be put back together again, piece by piece . . .
From the author of Black Rabbit Hall, The Glass House is a emotional, thrilling book about family secrets and belonging – and how we find ourselves when we are most lost. Published 14th May 2020 by Michael Joseph Books

Eve Chase is one of my must read authors. I adored her previous two books and couldn’t wait to read her latest, The Glass House (thank you @michaeljbooks for the netgalley ebook) And I wasn’t disappointed! I adored every page of itNobody writes a dual timeline and a dark family secret like Eve Chase. She blends past and present seamlessly, meaning it’s a pleasure to switch between the alternating times. Cleverly woven strands provide links that keep the reader intrigued as to how the two stories connect, while her beautiful writing evokes the atmosphere of the setting and characters and brings them to lifeThe setting of Foxcote in the forest was stunningly atmospheric and I loved the hint of gothic in the writing. The dark family secrets kept me gripped and I became as entangled in this story as the characters themselves. It ripples with mystery and atmosphere while a theme of self identity runs throughout, connecting those from both past and present, with life changing and dramatic consequences. An absolute dream of a bookI read an advance E-book courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

Book Review – Dear Child by Romy Hausmann

Gone Girl meets Room in this page-turning thriller from one of Germany’s hottest new talents
A windowless shack in the woods. Lena’s life and that of her two children follows the rules set by their captor, the father: Meals, bathroom visits, study time are strictly scheduled and meticulously observed. He protects his family from the dangers lurking in the outside world and makes sure that his children will always have a mother to look after them.
One day Lena manages to flee – but the nightmare continues. It seems as if her tormentor wants to get back what belongs to him. And then there is the question whether she really is the woman called ‘Lena’, who disappeared without a trace 14 years ago. The police and Lena’s family are all desperately trying to piece together a puzzle which doesn’t quite seem to fit

Published 14th May by Quercus

When Matthies gets a call late one night from the police to say they think they’ve found his missing daughter, Lena, he thinks his thirteen year nightmare is over. But the woman from a cabin in the woods is not Lena, so why is her ‘child’ Hannah the image of her? As more disturbing details of life in the cabin are revealed, it’s clear the mystery is only just beginning. What really happened to Lena all those years ago and who is the monster who has kept the children under lock and key in the woods for so many years?

Wow, wow, WOW – This book is incredible! I started it one Saturday afternoon and didn’t stop until I’d read the last page. I couldn’t look away. I barely took a breath. This is one of the best thrillers I’ve read in a long time

Told from the viewpoint of multiple characters, this is a tense and harrowing story, with a real slice of menace that had the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. The characters are magnificently captured – Matthias who’s angry, blunt and completely obsessed in his focus to find out what happened to Lena, and Hannah who is vulnerable and naive – yet strangely sinister, both stood out to me

Romy Hausmann’s writing is transfixing and accomplished. It’s haunting and raw, with perfect pacing that had me hooked from beginning to end (and as a translated novel I feel the translator also deserves credit as none of the intensity or horror is lost while the book just flows) This is the author’s debut, and I’ll certainly be looking out for more in the future. Dear Child is up there as one of my top books of the year so far

I was lucky enough to win a proof copy from the publisher

Book Review – The Way Back by Jamie Fewery

The three Cadogan children, Jessica, Kirsty and Patrick, haven’t spoken to each other for three years. An argument after their mother’s death was the latest excuse to blame one another for their family’s troubles in a long, unhappy series that’s lasted almost a decade.
When their father, Gerry, dies they are given instructions as to where he wants his ashes to be scattered. But first they must together drive his old camper van up the country to the Scottish Isle of Islay. For the journey, he’s given them his old fishing tackle box containing three photo albums through which they can explore their past, and a bottle of single malt whisky he had been saving for the 70th birthday he never reached.
Along the way, they’ll be forced to confront the most painful moments in their shared history, lay to rest a ghost who’s haunted them for years – and maybe even become a family again

Published April 2020 by Orion Books

Despite the (frankly gorgeous) cover, The Way Back is a darker book than I initially imagined. It begins with Gerry writing his last request to his children, and then alternates between each of them as they set off reluctantly to fulfill his wish

And boy, does this family have problems. Simmering problems that have festered over the years. Jamie Fewery really does capture the resentment eating this family up perfectly. Jessica in particular stands out and in the company of her siblings the front she puts on in her ‘perfect’ life slips revealing bitterness that is ugly but incredibly authentic

As the family set off on their journey, we’re given flashbacks to the past. I ended up feeling really sorry for Gerry, he seemed a lovely and decent man while his children behaved atrociously. Of course, throwing the three bickering siblings together in a camper van provided plenty of humour and emotion – this book made me laugh a few times, but also brought a tear to my eye on a couple of occasions!

I really enjoyed this book, reading it in a couple of sessions while enjoying the sun in the garden. Tackling subjects of sibling rivalry, PTSD, homelessness, and bereavement in an honest and touching way, yet littered with humour and hope. Well worth a read!

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a gifted copy

Book Review – Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth

The summer burns with secrets…
It is too hot to sleep. To work. To be questioned time and again by the police.
At the beginning of a stifling, sultry summer, everything shifts irrevocably when Lily doesn’t come home one afternoon

Rachel is Lily’s teacher. Her daughter Mia is Lily’s best friend. The girls are fifteen – almost women, still children. As Rachel becomes increasingly fixated on Lily’s absence, she finds herself breaking fragile trusts and confronting impossible choices she never thought she’d face.It wasn’t supposed to happen like this

Published 28th May 2020 by @headlinebooks

I started this book expecting a bit of a thriller, but this wasn’t what it was at all. It isn’t really about solving the disappearence of Rachel’s daughter’s friend Lily, but more a study of Rachel herself and her relationship with her teen daughter

Told in an almost stream of consciousness from Rachel, we hear her innermost thoughts, and boy is she flawed. She’s selfish, weak and incredibly vain. She lacks personal insight, and it’s her daughter who sees her as she is and challenges her. Their relationship is fraught, with Rachel often seeking validation from her daughter. As the mother of a daughter the same age, the authors depictition of teens certainly felt authentic at times, but I was completely unable to relate to Rachel

Nonetheless, I was compelled to keep reading. I loved the intensity of the writing and the discomfort from some pretty shocking turns. I enjoy a book with challenging and flawed characters, and Rachel was certainly that. I might not be able to relate to her, but I could still imagine her vividly, feeling her panic and desperation as the truth is revealed and she’s forced to face the consequences of her actions

It’s taken me a few days to put in order how I felt about this book. It’s so very complex and different to what I was expecting. The writing is exquisite, the characters difficult and the subject uncomfortable. It’s a book that will make you ask questions, reveals flaws and tackles the darker side of the mother/daughter relationship

I read a proof copy courtesy of the Amazon Vine program

Book Review – The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant by Kayte Nunn

A cache of unsent love letters from the 1950s is found in a suitcase on a remote island in this mysterious love story by top ten bestselling author, Kayte Nunn

1951. Esther Durrant, a young mother, is committed to an isolated mental asylum by her husband. Run by a pioneering psychiatrist, the hospital is at first Esther’s prison but soon becomes her refuge.

2018. Free-spirited marine scientist Rachel Parker embarks on a research posting in the Isles of Scilly, off the Cornish coast. When a violent storm forces her to take shelter on a far-flung island, she discovers a collection of hidden love letters. Captivated by their passion and tenderness, Rachel determines to track down the intended recipient.

Meanwhile, in London, Eve is helping her grandmother, a renowned mountaineer, write her memoirs. When she is contacted by Rachel, it sets in motion a chain of events that threatens to reveal secrets kept buried for more than sixty years.

Published August 2019 by Orion Books

A secret love affair, a dual timeframe and an incredible setting – this book ticked all my boxes!

When Rachel is marooned on an island off Cornwall, she discovers the most romantic unsent love letters dating back seventy years. Determined that the intended recipient should finally receive them, she tracks down the impressive Esther and her Grandaughter Eve. But the letters reveal a hidden past and family secret…

I say this over and over, but I absolutely adore dual timeframes, and Kayte Nunn gets it perfect in this gorgeous book. She mingles past and present beautifully and I enjoyed both timeframes equally

Told from the perspective of three strong women, themes of independence, self belief and autonomy ripple across the decades. In fact, although she doesn’t have her own narrative, a fourth woman, Leah, cements the theme. But the women are also linked by their realisation that reaching out to others can also make them stronger

The prose is atmospheric and the setting beautifully imagined. I loved the romance in this story, it’s full of heartache and missed chances. The Forgotten Letters of Esther Durrant is a charming book from beginning to end, it’s one to get completely swept away in and I adored every page

Thank you @orionbooks for the #gifted copy

Book Review – Strangers by C.L Taylor

Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life.
Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards.
And Alice is being stalked.

None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.

Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.

The million-copy bestseller returns with a gripping new novel that will keep you guessing until the end

Published April 2020 by Avon Books

This is a really late post I’m sorry. I read Strangers a couple of weeks back and this should’ve been posted on 4th but for some reason I thought the 4th May 🙈 I’ve only just realised while sitting here typing reviews and a bit of book organising that I’d missed it

Anyway, I’m fairly certain that C L Taylor needs little introduction. Undoubtedly queen of the psychological thriller, year after year readers are not let down Strangers is no different!

In this book, three seemingly unconnected strangers are brought together in a terrifying twist. Alice is just re-entering the dating scene after a divorce when she starts receiving anonymous messages warning her off. Gareth’s caring for his alzheimer’s suffering Mum, but a ghost from the past is making him doubt his own mind. Ursula thinks she’s hit lucky with her new flatshare, but just what is her landlord hiding behind the locked door?

Fast, gritty and slick – Strangers is another edge of your seat thriller. With Taylor’s trademark ability to create believable characters with raw human flaws and emotions, I found myself entangled in the lives of these three characters. As well as being tense and gripping, there’s some real heartbreaking moments too. Thoroughly recommended