#BookReview – The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts

YOU’LL NEVER FORGET THE FLOWER GIRLS

The Flower Girls. Laurel and Primrose.

One convicted of murder, the other given a new identity.

Now, nineteen years later, another child has gone missing.

And The Flower Girls are about to hit the headlines all over again…

Published January 2019 by Raven Books 

~ Review ~

I can’t remember how or when I heard about The Flower Girls, but it jumped straight into my pre-order basket. Months later when it eventually dropped through my letterbox, I abandoned all plans and snuggled down to read it.

“The Flower Girls” are sisters Laurel and Rosie – infamous for a brutal murder when only children themselves. While older sister Laurel has been in prison for many years, Rosie – only six years old at the time of the killing- has spent the last couple of decades living with a new identity and in fear that one day someone will work out who she actually is. And then, another child goes missing from the hotel she is staying at with her parents. A hotel where Rosie (now known as Hazel) is also on the guest list…

Wow, this was an unsettling and dark read. With the past and present eerily twisting and colliding, The Flower Girl’s had me engrossed. I flew through the pages, desperate to unravel the mystery of the missing girl in the present and just what had happened all those years ago to drive two seemingly innocent little girls to commit such an horrific act.

As expected, this is often an uncomfortable and disturbing book which challenges the reader to consider whether a person is shaped by their early experiences or are inherently bad. It prompts us to question whether someone who commits such an atrocious crime at such a young age can ever be rehabilitated and released back into the community. We see the impact on the victim’s family – grief, bitterness and an overwhelming need for justice and revenge. My mind whirred as I read this book, as I was forced to question, then question again.

Throughout the book, the author creates a chilling sense of unease with undercurrents of  suspicion and doubt. I never knew quite exactly what to believe or expect as I read The Flower Girls. With some shocking twists thrown in right at the end, this is a book with impact – it will shock and disturb, leaving you thinking about it long after you turn the last page. If I had one complaint, then it would be that I’d like to have known a little more about the sister’s early life and what made them the way they were … this bit felt a little glossed over and I would’ve liked to understand (if ever you could) them more. However, one complaint aside, I felt this was a smart, thought provoking and dark thriller which had me hooked from beginning to end. Recommended!

 

 

 

#BlogTour #BookReview – Turn A Blind Eye by Vicky Newham (@HQStories @VickyNewham)

A twisted killer has a deadly riddle for DI Maya Rahman to solve in this pulse-racing thriller, the first in an addictive new series set in East London.

A headmistress is found strangled in her East London school, her death the result of a brutal and ritualistic act of violence. Found at the scene is a single piece of card, written upon which is an ancient Buddhist precept:

I shall abstain from taking the ungiven.

At first, DI Maya Rahman can’t help but hope this is a tragic but isolated murder. Then, the second body is found.

Faced with a community steeped in secrets and prejudice, and with a serial killer on her hands, Maya must untangle the cryptic messages left at the crime scenes to solve the deadly riddle behind the murders – before the killer takes another victim. 

Published April 5th 2018 by HQ 

~ Review ~

I seem to have read a ton of brilliant  ‘first in a new series’ detective novels recently, so there’s the risk that eventually one’s going to disappoint.  Fortunately, Turn A Blind Eye by Vicky Newham was not that one, managing to deliver a fresh voice and a page turning plot in one swoop.

DI Maya Rahman has just returned from burying her brother and is immediately called in to head a murder investigation. During a staff training school, the Head of a local school which prides itself on diversity and multiculturalism, has been found murdered in her office. Beside her body is an Budhist precept – the second of five. It’s now a race against time to discover the murderer as one by one the remaining precepts are acted out.

I think what sets Turn A Blind Eye apart for me was the slightly different focus of the book. Yes, there were twists and turns and I was kept guessing as to who the perpetrator was, but it was the intricacies of the cultural tensions, misunderstandings and prejudices that made Turn A Blind Eye a really interesting read and gave it a fresh, relevant and original feel.

I really liked the character of Maya, and we get a little bit of her back story throughout the book, however I’d love to know more. She has an interesting history and I feel there’s a lot more to come. There’s still a mystery surrounding her childhood, which I hope means we’re going to be reading more of her soon!

I also really liked the Budest precept angle, it kind of reminded me a little of the film Se7en (but less gruesome!), and has Maya and her partner Dan preempting who the next victim may be. This created a gripping race against the clock type scenerio, which resulted in the ‘one more chapter’ effect and me tearing through the book in a couple of sittings.

Turn A Blind Eye is a fantastic start to a new series and one I’ll definitely be keeping up with. It’s got a relevant, fresh feel about it and I look forward to reading more about DI Maya Rahman.

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#BlogTour #BookReview – Too Close To Breathe by Olivia Kiernan (@RiverRunBooks @QuercusBooks)

too close to breathePerfect for fans of Tana French, Jane Casey and Gillian Flynn

TOO SOON TO SEE

Polished. Professional. Perfect. Dead. Respected scientist Dr Eleanor Costello is found hanging in her immaculate home: the scene the very picture of a suicide.

TOO LATE TO HIDE

DCS Frankie Sheehan is handed the case, and almost immediately spots foul play. Sheehan, a trained profiler, is seeking a murderer with a talent for death.

TOO CLOSE TO BREATHE

As Frankie strives to paint a picture of the killer, and their victim, she starts to sense they are part of a larger, darker canvas, on which the lines between the two blur.

Olivia Kiernan’s debut is a bold, brilliant thriller that will keep you guessing and leave you breathless.  

Published April 5th 2018 by Riverrun Books  

And BREATHE! – that’s what I had to keep telling myself while devouring this debut detective series novel. Sharp, crisp, taut, terrifying. More like Too Gripping To Breathe than Too Close To Breathe!

First book in the Frankie Sheehan series, Too Close To Breathe catapults the reader straight into a grisly murder investigation from the very first page. During an autopsy of what appears to be a suicide, DCS Sheehan is quick to suspect that all isn’t as it seems. In death, Eleanor Costello appears to be a perfectly polished, organised professional, but as Sheehan begins investigating she soon uncovers a murky, dark side and opens a door into the sinister and disturbing world of extreme sadomasochism, death fantasists and the dark web.  When another body is discovered, it becomes clear there’s a very dangerous serial killer on the loose.

Super-speedy fast paced is the only way to describe this book. Seriously, the plot races on at a breathtaking pace and had me absolutely gripped, completely ignoring life around me and unable to stop reading until I’d turned the last page. I read this in one massive binge read of four hours.

All the components of a great Detective book are here – a feisty, flawed lead, a barrage of red herrings and an attention to detail that’s grisly enough to satisfy any murder/crime reader. I really liked DCS Frankie Sheehan – she has her flaws, yes, but not so much as to make her unusual or have distracting personal/emotional difficulties. She’s a bit headstrong, she rushes in where she probably shouldn’t and she doubts herself. But she’s witty, strong, dedicated and pretty much straight down the line. I’ve a feeling we’ll get to know more about her in future books, and I really look forward to that.

The plot is intricate, meaning it wasn’t until the final pages that I had an inkling just what was going on. Packed full of twists and turns, chapter after chapter suspicions were raised, diverted and then pointed in a different direction. I loved the forensic elements of this book too, with an intriguing clue tying the cases together, it isn’t something I’d heard of or come across before. It’s pretty grisly and violent at times and had me shuddering in shock, and with a theme around death fantasy then I have to warn about some pretty upsetting and disturbing scenes.

Olivia Kiernan’s debut is a fantastic start to a new detective series, with a gritty, fresh and taut feel to it and an intriguing lead detective. Her compelling writing style and cunning ability to divert the readers attention and keep them hooked had me holding my breath throughout. I’ll be looking out for more from Olivia Kiernan and DCS Frankie Sheehan in the future.

(I read an advance proof copy courtesy of the publisher)

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#BlogBlitz – Manipulated Lives by H.A Leuschel (@Rararesources)

manipulated lives cover.jpgFive stories – Five Lives

Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance? Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim. In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth. 

Published June 8th 2016

Manipulated Lives is a book of five short stories, all very different but centred around the theme of manipulation.  The characters in each story range from an elderly lady who is dying, a young woman swept up in a relationship with a single father and his young son, a teenager who is desperate to fit in and a woman who motherhood comes to later in life. What’ makes each of these stories stand out is that manipulation can come from anywhere, and was often not from the person you may expect. It also draws attention to the fact that anyone is open to manipulation, victims coming from all walks of life and at any age.

There’s something deeply dark and disturbing about Leuschel’s  writing that really unnerved me. Perhaps, having been the victim of manipulation myself, the incredibly raw and stark narrative hit a nerve. It made it a little uncomfortable to read, because I truely believed in these character’s. This is not a criticism, more testament at the author’s ability to really understand and convey the emotional as well as the physical abuse her characters go through. I think for me, it hit a nerve slightly and made me feel uneasy at times.

Of all the stories, I think the first book stands out. Tess and Tattoo’s tells the story of an elderly woman in a care home, who reveals some of her past to a carer she befriends. The book shows though that we should never assume or judge, as her carer eventually finds out that Tess’s past wasn’t the one she’d initially thought. I also thought The Runaway Girl captured the vulnerability of teenagers well while My Perfect Child tackles the taboo and less talked about topic of parents being abused by their offspring.

I’ve read very few short story collections in my life, feeling that they weren’t for me. After reading Manipulated Lives I remain unsure. On the one hand, I appreciated the snapshots – like peeking into other peoples homes and understanding what happens behind closed doors. I also was impressed which how well drawn each story and character was in such short pieces of writing. However, I also felt that I wanted to know more, have more closure, follow them through a journey.

Manipulated Lives isn’t an easy book to read being so disturbingly true to life. It’s extremely intimate, almost confessional and got under my skin at times but at the same time thought provoking, intriguing and compelling to read. If you are intrigued behind the psychology of manipulation, then I think this is a book you may not enjoy but will certainly appreciate.

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About The Author 

manipulated lives author.jpgHelene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.

 

Facebook | Twitter  | Website

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#BlogTour #BookReview – The Fear by C.L Taylor (@AvonBooksUK @CallyTaylor)

the fear‘Grabs you by the metaphorical throat right from the start and doesn’t let up until the end.’ Heat

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

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

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

The million copy Sunday Times bestseller returns with a taut, compelling psychological thriller that will have you glued to the edge of your seat. 

Published 22nd March 2018 by Avon (UK)  

C.L Taylor has become a hotly anticipated author among fans of psychological thrillers, and having read every single one of her four previous novels I can see how she improves with each one. The Fear is no exception, and once again I was hooked right from the start, drawn into the gritty plot and completely immersed in the character’s story.

There’s a slightly different feel to The Fear. Despite the title, I didn’t think this book was as twisty as I’d been expecting. It’s dark though. Disturbingly so as C.L Taylor tackles the theme of child grooming, abduction and psychological trauma. When Lou’s new boyfriend surprises her with a trip to France, her reaction as she approaches Dover is extreme. Then through a series of flashbacks and the discovery that history may just be about to repeat itself, we discover just what happened to a teenage Lou all those years ago as she faces her fear to save a young girl from becoming the latest victim of her abuser.

One thing’s for certain, this author can write excellent characters, crafting them to be so convincingly real that it makes the reader question how easily such a trauma could happen to them too, and puts them firmly in the shoes of her protagonists. It’s told from the viewpoint of three women, Lou – who ran away to France at fourteen after being groomed by Mike, his ex-wife Wendy, still angry and resentful at how her life turned out, and thirteen year old Chloe, the latest focus of Mike’s attentions. Having the three view points gave a really thorough and clear perspective and worked very well.

Being the mother of a thirteen year old daughter, I found it chilling and difficult to read at times, yet I also appreciated the reminder of just how easily a vulnerable young adult could be influenced. I found Chloe’s sections of the book heartbreaking, and was angry at the chips at her self esteem which made her so vulnerable. The book throws up many questions, about parental culpability, the long term effects of abuse and the far reaching ripple effect created. It’s not just Lou’s life that’s affected, while Mike’s ex-wife is initially difficult to like due to her feelings towards her ex’s victim, during the book we begin to understand and empathise with her. But it was Lou’s development over the course of the book which I really liked, as the reversal of power see’s her conquer her fear.

As I’ve come to expect from this author, The Fear was effortless to read, gripping and compelling from the start and I read it over the course of a day. While I didn’t feel it had the twists and shocking moments I expected when I started, I felt this was appropriate to the theme and instead found it a chilling and dark, yet completely believable and thought provoking book. The ending was maybe a little, teeny bit contrived and lacking in impact, but I’m willing to ignore that. The Fear definitely shows the authors growth as a writer, with compassion and understanding of everyday victims of abuse – be it domestic, emotional or sexual, and the psychological effects on mental health. But it also conveys strength and hope in facing up to and overcoming your fear. This is C.L Taylor’s best book yet.

(I read a readers copy courtesy of the publisher)

The Fear - Blog Tour Banner - Part 1

 

#BlogTour #BookReview – Lying To You by Amanda Reynolds (@amandareynoldsj @wildfirebks)

lying to youFollowing on from her eBook bestseller Close To Me, Amanda Reynolds is back with Lying To You, another gripping psychological drama. Perfect for fans of The Husband’s Secret and I Let You Go.

You’d know if you were lying to yourself, wouldn’t you?

When Jess Tidy was Mark Winter’s student, she made an accusation that ultimately saw him sentenced to three years in prison. A jury found him guilty, but he always maintained his innocence. Now, Jess’s mother’s death has brought her back to the village where she grew up, and where Mark still lives with his wife. And the truth about that night ten years ago which nearly destroyed them both is finally going to come out.

A gripping drama with dark twists and turns, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and the BBC series Doctor Foster. 

Published 1st April 2018 (Ebook) and 26th July 2018 (PB) by Wildfire Books (UK)

 

Warning! Make sure you have a clear few hours when you begin this book. 

That’s how I started my review of Amanda Reynolds’ debut novel, Close To Me, last year. And after reading her second novel, Lying To You, I can firmly say ….

Amanda Reynolds has done it again!!! 

Seriously, Amanda’s writing is so thoroughly addictive and compelling, the pages just turn themselves, meaning huge chunks of book just disappear without you even realising. Just as before, once I started Lying To You I didn’t put it down until I’d devoured the whole book.

Lying To You tells the story of Jess, as she gets a phone call from her brother to say their alcoholic mother has died. yet Jess is reluctant to go back home, wary of dredging up a past she is desperate to put behind her. In alternating chapters we also hear Karen’s story, as she struggles to deal with Jess’s return and resentment at the girl she blames for ruining her family’s life a decade ago with one devastating accusation.

I absolutely adore how Amanda Reynolds writes such convincingly flawed characters, drawing feelings of both empathy and mistrust. She isn’t afraid to show the dark side of her characters and writes emotions such as resentment, frustration, manipulation and fragility convincingly. There’s a theme to her female characters of loss of identity, grief at a loss of self and strength in wanting to regain control that I think is very relatable.

The story covers a shocking and traumatic topic of a teacher/student relationship and explores boundaries, trust and abuse of power in a realistic and sympathetic way. I was wary, to be honest, that this might not be the case, and I’m glad the author wrote the novel the way she did, once again showing her understanding and compassion for the complexities of relationships and manipulation. She doesn’t rely on shocking twists but explores the dark side of marriage, family and trauma respectfully and convincingly.

Amanda Reynolds has firmly cemented herself on my list of must read authors, her second novel being just as, if not more, engrossing, compelling and thought provoking as her first. There’s something so accessible and readable about her writing, which just  flows, making it effortless to read and page turning in the extreme. I barely noticed the time passing as I read Lying To You. I’d recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of dark domestic drama, and personally I can’t wait to read more from Amanda Reynolds myself.

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

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#BlogTour #BookReview – Hold My Hand by M.J Ford (@Avonbooksuk)

hold my handHow long do you hunt for the missing?

A horrible vanishing act…

When a young Josie Masters sees a boy wearing a red football shirt, Dylan Jones, being taken by a clown at a carnival, she tries to alert the crowds. But it’s too late. Dylan has disappeared…

Thirty years later, Josie is working as a police officer in Bath. The remains of the body of a child have been found – complete with tatters of a torn red football shirt. Is it the boy she saw vanish in the clutches of the clown? Or is it someone else altogether?

And then another child disappears… 

Published 6th March 2018 by Avon (UK)  

Geez!!! This book was unsettling before I even sat down to read it. Arriving in a box that played fairground music when it was opened (thanks Avon!) had me shivering. I mean, there’s something just so deliciously sinister and terrifying about fairgrounds and clowns …right? Well, if like me you enjoy being chilled to the bone with your reading, Hold My Hand ticks all the boxes and had me on edge from the very first page.

Jo is only eight when she see’s a young boy in a red football shirt being lead away by a clown at the local fairground. The only witness to the kidnapping, she feels guilt over the years at not raising the alarm sooner. Now thirty years later, she’s serving as a detective in the police force when old remains of a child are discovered – the only clue to their identity a red football shirt. Then another child disappears in similar circumstances and Jo is determined to find the link between the two cases and solve the case which has plagued her conscience for three decades.

MJ Ford captured my attention straight away with an intensely suspenseful prologue  following the lead up to the kidnapping. Evoking the sights, smells and atmosphere of a day at the fairground as excitement turns into something dark, I was hooked very quickly.

The narrative then switches to thirty years later, where Jo is now a serving detective in the force where the remains are found. I really liked Jo, there’s vulnerability about her but also a foresight and intuitiveness which makes her investigating skills interesting- and I found myself frustrated on her behalf when her colleagues maybe didn’t listen or appreciate her as much as they should! I also liked the streak of empathy she had, meaning she didn’t always see things in black and white, which resulted in some thought provoking concepts. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting this and I really liked the personal detail to Jo’s character.

I had some suspicions about the kidnapper, but was wrong. Looking back, I think the author purposefully and subtly points in their direction and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it. However I really couldn’t have predicted some of the plot twists, which are both shocking yet disturbingly plausible, adding to the chilling nature of this book.

Hold Me Hand is a great mix of thriller and police procedural which gripped me throughout.  I read it in huge 100 page chunks over a busy day, finding it hard to put down when I had to and eager for another dose when I had. Fast paced and shocking but with a distinctly authentic and human angle, it’s well worth an add to any crime/thriller fan’s bookshelves.

(I read a copy courtesy of the publisher)

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#BlogTour – The Devil’s Dice by Roz Watkins – Guestpost and #Giveaway

I’m absolutely thrilled to be kicking of the blog tour today for Roz Watkins new crime debut, The Devil’s Dice! The first book in the DI Meg Dalton series, this is a gripping and atmospheric thriller you won’t want to miss! One of the most striking things I found about this book was the Peak District setting and I’m delighted to welcome Roz Watkins to Cosy Books today to tell us just why she chose it.

Detective Inspector Meg Dalton has recently returned to her Peak District roots, when a man’s body is found near The Devil’s Dice – a vast network of caves and well-known local suicide spot. The man’s initials and a figure of the Grim Reaper are carved into the cave wall behind his corpse, but bizarrely, the carvings have existed for over one hundred years.

The locals talk about a mysterious family curse that started in the times of the witch trials, and Meg finds it increasingly hard to know who to trust. Even her own mother may be implicated.

For Meg, the case is a chance to prove herself in a police force dominated by men, one of whom knows a lot more about her past than she’d like, and is convinced she’s not fit for the role. In a race against time, Meg finds her own life at risk as she fights to stop the murderer from killing again.

Published March 8th 2018 by HQStories

Roz Watkins is the author of the DI Meg Dalton crime series, which is set in the Peak District where Roz lives with her partner and a menagerie of demanding animals.

Her first book, The Devil’s Dice, was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger Award, and has been optioned for TV.

Roz studied engineering at Cambridge University before training in patent law. She was a partner in a firm of patent attorneys in Derby, but this has absolutely nothing to do with there being a dead one in her first novel.

In her spare time, Roz likes to walk in the Peak District, scouting out murder locations.

Why I chose to set ‘The Devil’s Dice’ in the Peak District  

The original reason was my dog and his foul habits. I live on the edge of the Peak District, which my dog approves of because of the excellent walking. We were out one day when he disappeared. This is always a bad sign as it means he’s:

a) Found a group of picnickers and decided to invite himself along;

b) Found a stinking foetid pit in which to take a bath;

c) Found a decomposing rabbit, sheep, or on one horrible occasion cow, to devour.

So it was with some trepidation that I watched him emerge from the undergrowth looking very pleased with himself, with something dangling from his mouth, swinging pendulously with every bounding step. I caught my breath and took a step back, because (to my brain at least) it looked just like a human spine.  

As he got closer, I realised it was a hare, but it got me wondering what it might be like to come upon a human corpse when on a dog walk. And that’s what happens in ‘The Devil’s Dice’. A man dies in a cave and is found by a Labrador.  

Here’s Starsky, very proud of himself!  

I soon realised that The Peak District is a perfect location for crime novels. It has underground passageways, cliffs, quarries, and pools where evil mermaids are supposed to lurk. It also has some lovely towns, and I used Wirksworth as the inspiration for my fictional town, Eldercliffe. Wirksworth has an incredible area called The Puzzle Gardens where a jumble of tiny cottages and random gardens perch on a hillside so steep it feels like you can step out of one cottage onto the roof of another.  

There are also miles of tunnels running underground in the area of the Peak District where I live. Being trapped underground with water rising around me is one of my worst nightmares, so it seemed natural to inflict this on my poor, long-suffering character in my fist book. I invented a network of tunnels called The Labyrinth, but it was based on real cave systems like the ones at The Heights of Abraham and Castleton.  

I gave my main character a fear of heights so I could torture her some more by making the victim live in a house perched on the edge of a quarry. This was based on the quarry at Wirksworth, where the houses almost teeter on its edge.  

This Peak District is also rich with folk tales and legends. I tend to make up my own stories to fit with the themes of the books, and in the first book, suspected witches were historically taken into the Labyrinth to be hanged. But my ideas are often inspired by real local folk tales which are usually quite gruesome.  

Friends think it’s strange (and a little worrying) that the beauty of the Peak District gets me thinking about murder, but my excuse is that it all started with the dog.  

Win!!!

Thanks to the very generous people at HQ Stories I Have THREE hardback copies of The Devil’s Dice to giveaway. Simply pop over to follow my twitter account @Vicki_cosybooks and Re-tweet my pinned post. U.K. Only I’m afraid. Ends Midnight 22nd March 2018 .

#BookReview – Only child by Rhiannon Navin (@MantleBooks)

only childWe went to school that Tuesday like normal.

Not all of us came home . . .

Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, six-year-old Zach can hear shots ringing through the corridors of his school. A gunman has entered the building and, in a matter of minutes, will have taken nineteen lives.

In the aftermath of the shooting, the close knit community and its families are devastated. Everyone deals with the tragedy differently. Zach’s father absents himself; his mother pursues a quest for justice — while Zach retreats into his super-secret hideout and loses himself in a world of books and drawing. 

Ultimately though, it is Zach who will show the adults in his life the way forward — as, sometimes, only a child can. 

Published 8th March 2018 by Mantle Books  

I knew this was going to be hard hitting well before I sat down to read it. It’s a book about the aftermath of a shooting in a school after all, but I’d also read some fantastic reviews from fellow bloggers. However, despite being forewarned, I still wasn’t prepared for the sheer horror and sadness I felt while reading it.

Only Child starts with six year old Zach huddled in a cupboard, along with his school teacher and classmates, listening to the “pop, pop,pop” of gun shots from the corridor. Immediately, the author puts the reader into the mind of a frightened six year old child with startling authenticity. While Zach knows something bad is happening outside, it’s small things like his teachers “coffee breath” which he notices. This struck me, I’m not sure why, but it was just so convincingly childlike and naive. Right there and then Zach stole my heart.

The majority of the book focuses on the aftermath of the shooting, as Zach’s family deal with first the relief that he survived, then the trauma that his older brother didn’t. I don’t think I’ve read such crushing and all consuming grief the way Rhiannon Navin writes it, when Zach’s mother is given the news. It was horrifically heart breaking, almost painful to read, but so exquisitely written, I can still picture the scene and feel how it made me feel days after I read it.

I felt an array of emotions as Zach lead us through the following months, as through his eye’s we see the impact of such a trauma on a family and a community. I felt angry at his parents at some points, particularly his mother, as they are so consumed by their own grief they seem to forget that Zach is also experiencing  grief of loosing his brother, but he’s also dealing with actually being at the shocking event himself. He doesn’t fully understand what happened, and has feelings he doesn’t know how to deal with. I wanted someone to stop and just hug this little boy. Of course, it’s easy to criticise from the outside. I can’t begin to imagine how I’d react if I were to experience something like this and I think the author portrayed an honest, raw and human side of a family struggling with grief and trauma.

When atrocities like this happen it is always shocking and horrific. However, once the news stops, we rarely see the far reaching effects such experiences have on individuals. In Only Child, Rhiannon Navin, takes us beyond the initial aftermath in heartbreaking honesty as Zach watches the effects on his family, his community and the parents of the gunman themselves. Only Child is powerful, brutal and heartbreakingly sad yet there are moments that feel positive and uplifting – where amongst the sadness there’s flashes of purity and forgiveness. It’s impossible to say I enjoyed this book, but it is one I appreciated reading, found incredibly powerful and important and will remember for a long time to come.

(I read an advance ebook courtesy of the publisher and Netgalley

#BlogTour #BookReview – A Mother’s Sacrifice by Gemma Metcalfe (@HQDigitalUK @GemmaKMetcalfe)

a mothers sacrificeGod ensured she crossed my path. And that is why I chose her.

The day Louisa and James bring their newborn son home from the hospital marks a new beginning for all of them. To hold their child in their arms, makes all the stress and trauma of fertility treatment worth it. Little Cory is theirs and theirs alone. Or so they think…

After her mother’s suicide when she was a child, Louisa’s life took an even darker turn. But meeting James changed everything. She can trust him to protect her, and to never leave her. Even if deep down, she worries that she has never told him the full truth about her past, or the truth about their baby.

But someone knows all her secrets – and that person is watching and waiting, with a twisted game that will try to take everything Louisa holds dear. 

Published 9th March 2018 by HQ Digital UK  

After finishing Gemma Metcalfe’s second novel I am kicking myself severely. Why? Because after really liking the sound of her debut, Trust Me, last year, I bought it and never got around to reading it. What an idiot! If it’s anything like this emotionally taught, intensely gripping rollercoaster, then boy, am I in for another treat! Everything about this book was right up my street.

What should be the happiest time of Louisa’s life quickly turns into a living nightmare. Following the birth of her son, Louisa becomes convinced that someone is determined to steal him away. But with a traumatic past, Louisa seems to be on the brink of a breakdown and as her paranoia confuses the past and present, she’s loosing grip on reality.  Is she really in danger? Or is the real danger all in Louisa’s increasingly fragile mental state.

Louisa is written fantastically as an unreliable narrator. Using flashbacks to her traumatic childhood, Gemma Metcalfe gets the balance of creating both empathy and doubt just right, which had me rooting for Louisa while simultaneously feeling uneasy that maybe something wasn’t quite right.

There’s some difficult topics covered in this book including suicide, abuse, infertality and mental ill health and I thought they were written sensitively. The author’s understanding and compassion of how all of these distressing and traumatic experiences affect mental health stands out in this book. I also liked how she drew attention to the preconceptions and assumptions made of people who have suffered mental health difficulties in the past, meaning Louisa is left struggling to make herself believed.

A Mother’s Sacrifice is packed with twists and turns, they come one after the other and had me suspicious of every single character in the book. Right from the start I found myself hooked and flying through the pages. What I especially loved about this author’s writing was just how down to earth it is – the language, the character’s – as a northern lass myself, I just connected with it. It’s unfussy, gritty and bold but filled with compassion and heart. I raced through this book in a breathtakingly intense few hours and couldn’t put it down. Emotional, twisty,  and with a shocker of an ending I absolutely loved it!  Wholly recommended to it to fans of domestic psychological thrillers  – Gemma Metcalfe certainly holds her own against the top writers of this genre  and is an author to watch out for in the future!

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

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