Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly #bookreview

About this book…

Marianne grew up in the shadow of the old asylum, a place that still haunts her dreams. She was seventeen when she fled the town, her family, her boyfriend Jesse and the body they buried.

Now, forced to return, she can feel the past closing around her. And Jesse, who never forgave her for leaving, is finally threatening to expose the truth.

Marianne will do anything to protect the life she’s built; the husband and daughter who must never know.
Even if it means turning to her worst enemy…

But Marianne may not know the whole story – and she isn’t the only one with secrets they’d kill to keep.

Moving back through time to reveal twists you’ll never see coming, Stone Mothers is the gripping new suspense novel from the bestselling author of He Said/She Said.

What did I think…

Erin Kelly is one of those authors who I will preorder books from without even reading the blurb. I was lucky enough to get a very early copy of Stone Mothers and actually started reading it without knowing anything about the plot beforehand (yes I was THAT desperate to get stuck in!!) And in a way I’m very glad that I chose to do so as it meant I had no preconceived ideas of what to expect from the storyline. It also meant that the slowly developed plot was able to keep me fully engaged as I remained in the dark about where it was heading and why.

Erin Kelly writes the most beautifully poetic prose to accentuate her narratives and it’s no different here in Stone Mothers. The subject matter is a difficult one to convey without resorting to cliches but the setting of an old “mental hospital” worked well as the backdrop to the three main protagonists and their connection to each other. None of them are particularly likeable at the beginning of the book but when it takes a turn and works backwards to reveal the secrets being kept, gradually an understanding develops of why they made the decisions that they did. So please do stick with this if you feel that the pace isn’t as fast as you are used to, the payoff is fabulous!

For me, Erin Kelly is a natural successor to one of my all time favourite authors Barbara Vine. I love her darkly disturbing twists that gradually creep up on you and wind tightly around your suspicions, squeezing until you can’t take anymore! But for me it wasn’t really about the “big event” that happened all those years ago, it was the backstory of one of the characters especially that completely involved me but made me so angry at the same time. That such things happened so recently in our society is unbelievable really but I know that things like this did occur regularly and Stone Mothers is very well researched so as to provide an accurate portrayal of the situation this character found themselves in and why.

I was fascinated by this book and adored the slow build up to what turned out to be a shocking conclusion. The themes of motherhood and mental health made a heartbreaking combination but one that worked well throughout this book. Erin Kelly fans will love Stone Mothers and I’m sure she will gain some more super fans with this stunning book. Highly recommended by me!

Stone Mothers is published by Hodder and Stoughton on 4th April 2019.

Postscript- the building mentioned in Stone Mothers reminded me of a Conference Centre very close to where I live that used to be a similar residence. I have also added a link about one of the former inhabitants of Cranage Hall Hospital (no spoilers as this has nothing to do with what happens in Stone Mothers but seems to be a sadly common story) and a picture of its exterior that stayed in my head whenever Park Royal Manor was mentioned.

Falsely accused woman freed after 70 years

Meet the author…

Erin Kelly is best known for her bestselling debut novel, The Poison Tree, which was a major ITV drama and longlisted for the John Creasy Dagger Award. She is the author of three further acclaimed stand-alone psychological thrillers and in 2013 was chosen to write the official novel of the Bafta-winning Broadchurch. Her work has been translated into seventeen languages. Erin has been a freelance journalist since 1998, and also teaches creative writing. She lives in London with her family.

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She Lies In Wait by Gytha Lodge #blogtour

Today I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of Gytha Lodges debut novel She Lies In Wait as part of the blog tour.

About this book…

On a hot July night in 1983, six school friends go camping in the forest. Bright and brilliant, they are destined for great things, and young Aurora Jackson is dazzled to be allowed to tag along.

Thirty years later, a body is discovered. DCI Sheens is called to the scene, but he already knows what’s waiting for him: Aurora Jackson, found at long last.

But that’s not all. The friends have all maintained their innocence, but the body is found in a hideaway only the six of them knew about. 

It seems the killer has always lurked very close to home…

What did I think…

I don’t know why but I was convinced before I started reading this, and also for the first few pages that I WAS reading it, that this book was set in the USA! No idea why but it isn’t!! So after I managed to get my head around the fact that the book I was reading wasn’t exactly the book I was expecting to read, I settled down to read one of the most compelling crime novels that I’ve had the pleasure to be introduced to this year. It’s clever and complex with exquisite twists and interesting characters. I was very quickly drawn into the case of Aurora Jackson who’s body has just been discovered 30 years after she disappeared whilst on a camping trip with her older sister and a group of older teenagers.

What I loved about She Lies In Wait was the way in which the narrative gives us an insight into what happened all those years ago, introducing us to Aurora and the five others camping that fateful night. In the present day DCI Sheens is investigating the grown up suspects, one of whom must be the killer due to where Auroras body was found. These respectable members of society all seem to be covering up something that happened that fateful night but what? And why does DCI Sheens seem uncomfortably close to the secrets being slowly revealed?

This is a stunning book. The slow unraveling of the clues as to what happened on the camping trip helps to reinforce the narratives deeply affecting dialogue. I started to dread the flashbacks as I wasn’t sure I would be able to handle the truth about what the author was building up to. But even though I feared the culmination of all those clues coming together, I physically couldn’t put this book down. It just wouldn’t let me go. The intense atmosphere surrounding the camping trip pushed down on my chest, making it hard to breathe as I awaited answers to my many MANY questions and it didn’t let up until long after I had finished the final page. This is a book that will haunt you during and after you have read it and I found it to be one of the most affecting crime dramas I have read recently. It’s crying out for a tv adaptation in my opinion so fingers crossed.

If you like Tana French then I guarantee you will also love Gytha Lodge. And hopefully that love affair will continue for me as I have noticed this is now being marketed as DCI Sheens #1 so I hope that our next meeting with this intriguing police detective is just as pleasurable.

She Lies In Wait was published on 10th January 2019 by Penguin.

Meet the author…

Gytha Lodge is a writer and multi-award-winning playwright who lives in Cambridge. After studying creative writing at UEA, she was shortlisted for the Yeovil Literary Prize and the Arts’ Council England fiction awards, and developed a large online following for her young adult and children’s writing, with over five million reads accrued on platform Wattpad. She Lies in Wait is her debut novel.

The Mum Who Got Her Life Back by Fiona Gibson #blogtour

I have a review today as part of the blog tour for The Mum Who Got Her Life Back by Fiona Gibson. Many thanks Sabah at Avon for my invite!

About this book…

When her 18-year-old twins leave for university, single mum Nadia’s life changes in ways she never expected: her Glasgow flat feels suddenly huge, laundry doesn’t take up half her week, and she no longer has to buy ‘the Big Milk’. After almost two decades of putting everyone else first, Nadia is finally taking care of herself. And with a budding romance with new boyfriend Jack, She’s never felt more alive.

That is, until her son Alfie drops out of university, and Nadia finds her empty nest is empty no more. With a heartbroken teenager to contend with, Nadia has to ask herself: is it ever possible for a mother to get her own life back? And can Jack and Nadia’s relationship survive having a sulky teenager around?

What did I think…

What is this “empty nest” of which you speak Fiona Gibson?! Only kidding! I’m only too aware of what one is because 2 years ago, myself and The Grumpy Scotsman had one for SIX WHOLE MONTHS!!! We thoroughly enjoyed being “Hens” (happy empty nesters) and we use to look at each other sometimes in our clean, tidy and quiet home and just smile smugly at each other!! Hopefully, we will once again be able to take full advantage of the helpful notes that Fiona Gibson provides to advise empty nesters of the fun they can now have without the confines of your adult children residing with you. One day maybe…*big sigh*

Anyway, enough of me and my “Hen envy” let’s talk about the wonderful characters in Fiona Gibson’s “The Mum Who Got Her Life Back”! I loved Nadia and Jack right from their first connection when they meet in the most fragrant of settings with a case of mistaken identity. Single parent Nadia has just seen her 18 year old twins off to different Scottish universities and is on her own. She’s getting used to food shopping for one and putting her own needs first for the first time in years. And she isn’t exactly looking for love but there is an immediate attraction between her and charity shop manager Jack, when they do meet. Jack is also a single parent with a close relationship to his 14 year old daughter even though she lives with her mother. What follows is a funny, poignant and life affirming journey for them both that shows the path of true love will never run smoothly whilst secrets are kept as they will always pop up again when you least expect it. True story!

I am a latecomer to Fiona’s books but I adore them. Her female characters are always likeable, pleasantly flawed personas who are realistically drawn and placed in circumstances that we can all relate to. Their lives aren’t perfect but they do the best with what life throws at them and take their chances with those projectiles!

This book made me laugh out loud and then quietly contemplate life in equal measure as I mentally cheered this relationship on. It’s a book that’s easy to pick up and become involved in due to caring about what happens to everyone in it, including those terrible teenagers who always seem to stick a spanner in the works when you least expect it. So just remember, a child is for life not just for the first 18 years!!

Highly recommend by me!

The Mum Who Got Her Life Back was published on the 1st March 2019 by Avon.

Meet the author…

Fiona Gibson is an author and journalist. Originally from Yorkshire, she started her writing life at the age of seventeen on Jackie magazine. She is a regular contributor to Red, Sainsbury’s Magazine and the Sunday Herald, and lives with her husband and their three children in Lanarkshire, Scotland

Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson #blogtour

Today I’m pretty excited to be on the blog tour for Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson with my review.

About this book…

‘They had a secret, the two of them, and there was no better way to start a friendship than with a secret.’

When Hen and Lloyd move into their new house in West Dartford, Mass., they’re relieved to meet, at their first block party, the only other seemingly-childless couple in their neighborhood, Matthew and Mira Dolamore. Turns out they live in the Dutch Colonial immediately next door. 

When they’re invited over for dinner, however, things take a sinister turn when Hen thinks she sees something suspicious in Matthew’s study. Could this charming, mild-mannered College Professor really be hiding a dark secret, one that only Hen, whose been battling her own problems with depression and medication, could know about? Lloyd certainly doesn’t seem to believe her, and so, forced together, Hen and Matthew start to form an unlikely bond. But who, if anyone, is really in danger?

From its deeply unsettling opening, Peter Swanson, the master of contemporary domestic thrillers, fashions a novel as brilliant, dark, coruscating and surprising as Patricia Highsmith and Ira Levin at their very best.

What did I think…

If Alfred Hitchcock were alive today, he would be chomping at the bit to be snaffling up the film rights to Peter Swanson’s books! They have the most amazing styling, just right for reproduction on the big screen and Hitchcock would have done them perfect justice.

Having loved all of this author’s previous books, I thought I knew what to expect from Before She Knew Him but OMG this book totally blew me away! It crept up on me, it’s darkness slowly swirling around me until I was completely immersed in its darkly devious plot. The four main characters of Hen, Lloyd, Matthew and Mira were expertly drawn (none of them were particularly likeable though) and the slowly heightened sense of tension added to the atmosphere as Hens life started to spiral out of her control. The immersive experience of the lives of these four people completely surrounded me and I felt part of their story and not just a voyeur of their downfalls.

This book is an unnerving, shocking and disturbing experience that felt timeless, although there was an edge of classic noir skirting the narrative. I was gripped from the very start and nearly missed my train stop because I was so completely involved in the cat and mouse games developing before my eyes. Highly recommended for fans old and new.

Before She Knew Him was published by Faber and Faber on 7th March 2019.

Meet the author…

Peter Swanson’s debut novel, The Girl With a Clock for a Heart (2014), was described by Dennis Lehane as ‘a twisty, sexy, electric thrill ride’ and was nominated for the LA Timesbook award. His second novel The Kind Worth Killing (2015), a Richard and Judy pick, was shortlisted for the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger and named the iBooks Store’s Thriller of the Year, and was followed by two more critical and commercial hits, Her Every Fear (2017) and All the Beautiful Lies (2018). He lives with his wife and cat in Somerville, Massachusetts.

A Body in the Lakes by Graham Smith #blogtour #publicationday @bookouture

Today I’m sharing my review of the second book in the DC Beth Young series. Thank you to Noelle at Bookouture for my invite onto the A Body In The Lakes blog tour. And a happy publication day to author Graham Smith!

About this book…

The woman’s limbs were so thin; the skin on her arms as translucent as tracing paper. Around her neck lay a faint string of purple bruises. In one so frail, darker, angrier marks might be expected but Beth knew the bruising would have stopped the moment her heart stopped beating.

When a walker finds the body of a woman by the shores of Lake Ullswater, the police are put on high alert. Felicia Evans was known to be a tough character, but who would have strangled her?

Detective Beth Young quickly spots the links to three cold cases. Three women strangled and discarded in the stunning, wild hills of the Lake District.

As Beth begins tracking down witnesses, the team receives an anonymous letter claiming the charming mayor of Carlisle is behind the murders. There’s pressure from the top to clear his name. But Beth is determined to find the truth no matter whose feathers she ruffles in the process.

Beth knows the clock is ticking. The killer is hunting again. And it’s down to her to find who’s responsible before another woman becomes his prey…

What did I think…

I enjoyed meeting DC Beth Young in her first outing, The Silent Dead, and so I knew that I was definitely up for another trip to the Lakes for her second case. But be prepared for a disturbingly dark and graphic enquiry for our heroine once again, as she searches for an unstoppable serial killer.

I think I said in my review of The Silent Dead that I wanted to see a little bit more of Beth’s personal life in future books and here we are drip fed a few more details especially when she comes up against a face from her past and also starts a possible relationship! But once again it’s the crimes that takes centre stage in Beth’s world and I don’t think she would have it any other way! The brutal murder of Felicia Evans provided a shocking start to the narrative and one that really did make me gasp in horror. And the harrowing descriptions of the injuries suffered by these murder victims may be too much for some (I have to say I couldn’t read all of them after the first few details although I do understand that this is a realistically portrayed police procedural and these details are needed for authenticity of plotting). But I did really enjoy the storyline here, even more than The Silent Dead to be honest! It was compelling reading from start to finish as we watch a killer stalk his next victim whilst we are also left wondering just who is writing the intermittent diary entries throughout and how (and why!!) the mayor is connected to this intriguing case.

I still don’t feel I have an in-depth knowledge of Beth Young but I’ve come to understand that this is probably deliberate! Beth’s job IS her life after all and that makes these books all about the crimes, with the focus on what drives people to commit these horrific acts of violence and how the police work to keep us safe from them. Graham Smith keeps his attention on the facts of the case and writes compelling characters, bringing them together with an ease of experience so that they are believable and relatable, even if they are not always likeable!!

Don’t worry if you haven’t read any of Graham’s books before, The Body In the Lake can be totally be read as a stand-alone and I’m sure that once you do, you will become as hooked on his books as I am!

The Body in the Lake is published by Bookouture and is out on 15th March 2019.

Meet the author…

Graham Smith is the bestselling author of four explosive crime thrillers in the Jake Boulder series, Watching the Bodies, The Kindred Killers, Past Echoes and Die Cold. Watching the Bodies spent over two weeks at number one in the Amazon UK chart and Amazon CA charts. Graham is also the author of the popular DI Harry Evans series and has collections of short stories and novellas. His latest novel with Bookouture is set in Cumbria and the Lake District, featuring DC Beth Young.

He is the proud father of a young son. As a time served joiner he has built bridges, houses, dug drains and slated roofs to make ends meet. Since 2000 he has been manager of a busy hotel and wedding venue near Gretna Green, Scotland. 

An avid fan of crime fiction since being given one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five books at the age of eight, he has also been a regular reviewer for the well-respected review site Crimesquad.com since 2010.

When not working, his time is spent reading, writing and playing games with his son. He enjoys socialising and spending time with friends and family.

 

The Perfect Betrayal by Lauren North #blogtour

I’m thrilled to be able to take part in the blog tour for The Perfect Betrayal by Lauren North especially after I took part in the cover reveal and knew that it was a book I just had to read! Many thanks to Anne Cater for the invite onto the tour.

About this book…

‘I thought she was our friend. I thought she was trying to help us.’

After the sudden death of her husband, Tess is drowning in grief. All she has left is her son, Jamie, and she’ll do anything to protect him – but she’s struggling to cope. When grief counsellor Shelley knocks on their door, everything changes. Shelley is beautiful, confident and takes control when Tess can’t bear to face the outside world. She is the perfect friend to Tess and Jamie, but when Jamie’s behaviour starts to change, and Tess starts to forget things, she begins to suspect that Shelley might not be the answer to their problems afterall. When questions arise over her husband’s death and strange things start to happen, Tess begins to suspect that Shelley may have an ulterior motive. Tess knows she must do everything she can to keep Jamie safe – but who can she trust?

What did I think…

Oh wow! I knew that I wanted to read this book from the very first time I read the blurb and saw this fabulous cover! But I had absolutely no idea what a twisted, shocking journey it would take me on. In fact, I really don’t want to say much about the book itself as I think it’s one that you need to read on an “empty brain”! What I do want to say is that it has reignited my love of what is a saturated genre at the moment and for that I want to write the most enticing review I have ever written so that you will all want to read this brilliant book but I just know that I won’t be able to do it justice!

The Perfect Betrayal is a beautifully crafted book that perfectly portrays a family’s grief. Tess has lost her husband in an accident and now pours all her love into her son Jamie. But when grief councillor Shelley turns up to help her and then her brother in law Ian keeps coming around, Tess worries about who she can really trust to keep Jamie and her safe.

The character of Tess is so well written and her devastating loss so powerfully moving, that I was completely overawed by the emotions I felt at times. In fact, sometimes I felt I became TOO involved in her grief! It was almost voyeuristic in nature meaning that I wanted to pull back and leave her to completely breakdown away from the prying eyes of the readers. Like Tess I trusted no one and believed nothing I was presented with and I have to say that because of keeping an open mind, I was kept in the dark right until the very end.

I think Lauren North has set the bar incredibly high for herself with her debut psychological thriller as I’m not sure she can better this brilliantly written and conceived storyline! It kept me gripped, frustrated and on the edge of my seat throughout. I absolutely loved it!

Meet the author…

Lauren North writes psychological suspense novels that delve into the darker side of relationships and families. She has a lifelong passion for writing, reading, and all things books. Lauren’s love of psychological suspense has grown since childhood and her dark imagination of always wondering what’s the worst thing that could happen in every situation.

Lauren studied psychology before moving to London where she lived and worked for many years. She now lives with her family in the Suffolk countryside.

Readers can follow Lauren on Twitter @Lauren_C _North and Facebook @LaurenNorthAuthor

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding #bookreview

About this book…

THE TWINS ARE CRYING.
THE TWINS ARE HUNGRY.

LAUREN IS CRYING.
LAUREN IS EXHAUSTED.

Behind the hospital curtain, someone is waiting . . .

Lauren is alone on the maternity ward with her new-born twins when a terrifying encounter in the middle of the night leaves her convinced someone is trying to steal her children. Lauren, desperate with fear, locks herself and her sons in the bathroom until the police arrive to investigate.

When DS Joanna Harper picks up the list of overnight incidents that have been reported, she expects the usual calls from drunks and wrong numbers. But then a report of an attempted abduction catches her eye. The only thing is that it was flagged as a false alarm just fifteen minutes later.

Harper’s superior officer tells her there’s no case here, but Harper can’t let it go so she visits the hospital anyway. There’s nothing on the CCTV. No one believes this woman was ever there. And yet, Lauren claims that she keeps seeing the woman and that her babies are in danger, and soon Harper is sucked into Lauren’s spiral of fear. But how far will they go to save children who may not even be in danger?

What did I think…

There was no question of me NOT reading this book, was there?! I mean, twin books are my thing but I don’t think I’ve read many “baby twin” books before. And all I can say is…thank goodness I didn’t read this when I was pregnant with my twins or it would have scared the bejesus out of me!! This beautifully conceived book took the old folklore and fairytales about changelings and weaved a modern day tale around them that left me mentally traumatised! Little Darlings will haunt you long after you have finished reading it and you’ll probably wish it didn’t! I still have goosebumps every time I remember certain parts of the stunning but chilling narrative.

I was very lucky when I had my twins. I had an incredibly supportive husband and we had a fabulous little nighttime routine right from the word go. He would go downstairs and get bottles warmed up for them both while I changed twin 1. He would then take her and feed her while I woke twin 2, changed her nappy and then gave her a bottle. They were then winded, cuddled and popped back in their cots! It worked so well that by 6 weeks they were sleeping through the night. But if I had been married to Lauren’s husband Patrick then I would have had a very different nighttime experience indeed and I would probably have been arrested for causing him a major injury!! Poor Lauren is exhausted, especially after a traumatic event in the hospital shortly after her twin baby boys were born, but “poor” Patrick needs his sleep-even though he is on paternity leave for the first week that they are home! I mean if my husband had mentioned the words “spare bedroom” and “earplugs” in the same sentence after I had just given birth to my first born child, let alone twins….!!! Yes, Patrick’s lack of support made my blood boil from the start but then again no one else seemed to sense the huge amount of pressure that Lauren appeared to be under either. But there was more to Lauren’s exhaustion and anxiety than just the normal first time mum blues and although she tried her best, there still seemed to be something very unsettling about her twin boys…

I don’t think I have read a book like Little Darlings before. I thought it was a brilliant mix of psychological thriller, horror and mythology that worked so well, I really couldn’t decide which direction the narrative was going to take. I didn’t expect the path it did choose but I think that it was the right one for this storyline and worked perfectly. The author has done a huge amount of research and it has certainly paid off for her as she purposefully delivered a suspenseful, harrowing dilemma with a sense of unease from beginning to end.

Although Lauren was a fascinating character, it was Jo Harper that I really took to and she is one that I would really like to meet again. In fact, Little Darlings is one of those books where you really want to be able to revisit the world that you left when the book finished to find out what happened to the characters after you left them behind. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them since I finished this creepy and compelling thriller! And for me that’s the sign of a brilliant read that I want to shout about to anyone who will listen! Definitely one of the best books I’ve read so far this year.

Little Darlings is published by HQ on 2nd May 2019.

Meet the author…

Melanie Golding is a recent graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, with distinction. Her short stories have been chosen to be recorded as podcasts by the Leicester-based festival Story City in 2015 and 2016, and to be performed at both the regular Stroud Short Stories event and their special ‘best of’ event at Cheltenham Literature Festival. In 2017 she won the short story prize at the Mid Somerset Festival, as well as the Evelyn Sanford trophy for highest mark in the prose class. She has taught creative writing in prisons and Young Offenders Institutions, as well as teaching music in a school for boys with social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. She is now a full-time registered childminder and splits her time between that and writing. Little Darlings is her debut novel and has been optioned for screen by Free Range Films, the team behind the adaptation of My Cousin Rachel.