Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler #BookReview

About this book…

Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table. The man who stands over her isn’t a doctor.

The choice he forces her to make is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she’s unharmed – and no one believes her horrifying story. Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, she begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind.

And then she meets the next victim.

So compulsive you can’t stop reading.

So chilling you won’t stop talking about it.

Don’t Wake Up is a dark, gripping psychological thriller with a horrifying premise and a stinging twist . . .

My review…

I am not a huge fan of the taglines used nowadays describing how books WILL make you feel! I feel it’s a challenge and one I’m usually able to dispute very quickly! But here I have to totally agree with the tagline used alongside the title of Don’t Wake Up as the first chapter is addictive, gripping and downright scary as hell! My pulse rate must have been through the roof and I nearly needed a doctor myself!

Several people had recommended this book to me saying it was a perfect example of my kind of book and I have to say that they were right! Once I picked this up that first chapter grabbed me by the throat and refused to loosen its grip no matter how hard I tried to shake it off. I defy anyone to not be affected by the nightmarish scenarios that Alex has to live through here. The question is will Alex be believed and if not, how much danger will it take to change everyone’s opinions. Her lover, her colleagues and her friends all think she’s having a breakdown so, slowly and surely, they slip by the wayside as Alex loses their support and possibly her own mind.

Liz Lawler is going to be a name to look out for in the future! I loved her easy going and engaging writing style and her ability to totally immerse her readers in the lives of her characters. There were so many twists and turns here I was dizzy with indecision about who to trust and have to admit I had no idea who was behind this vicious campaign against Alex, or why, until it actually slapped me in the face! It then kept me guessing and on the edge of my seat even to the very end.

I loved experiencing this “nightmare in book form” and feeling unable to wake myself up from the hold it had over me! Some of the graphic and realistically described hospital scenes had me crossing my legs in fear (you will understand why when you read it!!) and at times I wanted to put this book down but it became physically impossible to do so until I found out the truth.

A thoroughly enjoyable and highly satisfying psychological thriller!

Don’t Wake Up: A dark, terrifying new thriller with the most gripping first chapter you will ever read! is published by twenty7 and is available to purchase now.

Meet the author…

Liz Lawler

Born in Chatham and partly raised in Dublin, Liz Lawler is one of fourteen children and grew up sharing socks, pants, stuffed bras and a table space to eat at. Liz spent over twenty years working as a nurse, and has since worked as a flight attendant and as the general manager of a five-star hotel. She now lives in Bath with her husband. Don’t Wake Up is her first novel.

The Marsh Kings Daughter by Karen Dionne #BookReview

About this book…

‘I was born two years into my mother’s captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I would have been a lot more understanding of my mother. I wouldn’t have adored my father.’

When the notorious child abductor known as the Marsh King escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.

No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone… except, perhaps his own daughter.

My review…

This is going to be one of the big books for Summer 2017 and I can absolutely understand why! The Marsh Kings Daughter is a sumptuously dark and atmospheric thriller with a heroine you won’t ever forget.

I don’t think I’ve read such an intricately detailed and unique plot like this for a very long time. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting and I enjoyed it all the more for that. There are many real life documented cases where babies have been born to women in captivity, but here there is no sensationalized return to real life for Helena, who has spent the first 12 years of her life living in an isolated cabin with her mother and her father. There she was a daddy’s girl who learnt to hunt and fish, idoling her father as she explored the wilderness of the marshes. Until the day she discovers the truth about her birth. Years later, Helena is almost unrecognisable as that young girl and is married with two small daughters. She still uses her hunting skills whilst her foraging expertise has lead to her own business selling  jams and jellies to local outlets. But when her father escapes from prison she knows she is going to have to use those skills to outwit The Marsh King.

Once I started to read that first page, I was hooked. I loved how the retelling of the fable of The Marsh Kings Daughter ran throughout the book parallel to Helena’s narrative as she slowly reveals the secrets of her childhood. In fact, everything about this original and gripping literary thriller kept me deeply enthralled due to its authentic and convincing storylines. Be warned that it was rather tough reading at times though, especially when observing Helenas differing attitudes towards her parents and there is also a lot of detail in the hunting scenes that could be a little overpowering for some but was a huge part of what made Helena who she is today.

The Marsh Kings Daughter is a must read summer 2017 book. It’s an intelligently written, intriguing book that everyone will be talking about so buy your copy now!

Many thanks to the publisher for my review copy via netgalley of The Marsh King’s Daughter which is published on 13th June 2017.

Meet the author…

Karen Dionne drew heavily on her experiences during the 1970s in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to write The Marsh King’s Daughter, when she and her husband lived in a tent with their six-week-old daughter while they built a tiny cabin. Karen carried water from a stream, made wild apple jelly over a campfire (and defended it against marauding raccoons), sampled wild foods such as cattail heads and milkweed pods, and washed nappies in a bucket (which Karen says is every bit as nasty as it sounds). She enjoys nature photography and lives with her husband in Detroit’s northern suburbs.

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips #BookReview @GinPhillips17 @TransworldBooks

About this book…

Lincoln is a good boy. At the age of four, he is curious, clever and well behaved. He does as his mum says and knows what the rules are.

‘The rules are different today. The rules are that we hide and do not let the man with the gun find us.’

When an ordinary day at the zoo turns into a nightmare, Joan finds herself trapped with her beloved son. She must summon all her strength, find unexpected courage and protect Lincoln at all costs – even if it means crossing the line between right and wrong; between humanity and animal instinct.

It’s a line none of us would ever normally dream of crossing.

But sometimes the rules are different.

My review…

I probably couldn’t have chosen a better week to read Fierce Kingdom. After the recent events in Manchester, I had the difficult task of trying to explain to my granddaughter that sometimes the world can be an evil place. I told her that as adults we will always be there to protect her but that she also needed to be aware that to do this we may have to ask her to follow our instructions without hesitation, or asking why, if we ever need to keep her safe. I hated the fact that by saying this I have somehow taken away some of her childhood innocence but after reading this, I’m so glad that I did.

This has to be one of the most breathtaking and terrifying books I have ever read. It’s hits the ground running from the first few pages and doesn’t let up until the very end. Talk about a parents worse nightmare! And coming on the heels of recent atrocities, there are plenty of thought provoking happenings here that will have you questioning exactly how you would react if ever placed in a similar situation.

If Fierce Kingdom had been a film (and I would be VERY surprised if it isn’t snapped up by a production company very quickly!) then I would have been watching it from behind a cushion! My heart was in my mouth for pretty much the whole way through. The tension built to such an extent that at one point I realised I had been holding my breath and acting out in alongside Joan as she’s desperately trying to keep her child safe. And although mainly told from Joan’s POV at times we do also gets to see inside the head of the gunman stalking them which made for uncomfortable reading with its very relevant insights into what makes someone turn against their fellow citizens.

This book demands to be read in one intense sitting, it makes more sense to read it in the “real time” that it’s told in. So do make sure you have nothing else planned to do with your three hours as once you’re  immersed in this tense and emotional adrenaline fuelled rush, you’re not going to able to tear yourself away! That is unless you have a small child and then you are probably going to want to hug them so tight they are going to do that “I love you but this is going on for far too long and I need to wriggle out of this embarrassing mum hug and go and play” thing they do.

Gin Phillips writes like a dream, able to conjure up images in your head quickly both of scenarios and her characters. And using her narrative like a protective weapon against the evil her characters are facing, she explores both the best and the worst of human nature and our “fight or flight” survival instincts. I’m still thinking about this novel days after finishing it -I want to go back to it and not have to leave Flora and Lincoln but to stay with their characters and follow them after that final page. That’s the sign of a BRILLIANT book for me and Fierce Kingdom has shot it’s way into my top books of 2017 so far and I’ve read A LOT of good books this year! I am highly recommending it to everyone I know!

I won a copy of Fierce Kingdom in a Goodreads giveaway. It will be published by Transworld on 15th June 2017.

Meet the author…

Gin Phillips grew up in Montgomery, Alabama, and has been writing for as long as she can remember. After earning a degree in Political Journalism, Gin worked as a freelance magazine writer for nearly a decade. She’s lived in Ireland, Thailand, New York, and Washington, D.C. Gin now lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband, her kids, and her schnoodle.

Guilty Innocence by Maggie James #BlogTour @Bloodhoundbook

Today I’m happy to be the last stop on the BlogTour for Guilty Innocence by Maggie James.

About this book…

When Natalie snoops through her boyfriend Mark’s possessions she finds more than she bargained for. Mark was once convicted of a brutal killing. Heartbroken by what she has discovered, Natalie’s dreams of a future with him collapse.

However, Mark was not the only person sentenced for the murder of two-year-old Abby Morgan. His former friend, the violent and twisted Adam Campbell, was also convicted and Adam knows more about the murder than he will admit.

When circumstances thrust Mark back in contact with Adam, the past comes back to haunt him. Can Mark ever break free from Adam? Will the truth ever come out?

My review…

I actually first read this book back in 2014 and found it quite a harrowing read. So how would I feel reading it again knowing what was going to happen? And the answer is that it was STILL a very difficult book to read due to the subject matter that the plot revolves around. Time hasn’t softened the direct and hard hitting narrative and I certainly haven’t become desensitised to the issues raised here even though I have read many books of a similar nature since.

When Natalie finds the letter in her boyfriend’s belongings it doesn’t take long for her to put two and two together and definitely get four! And as before half of me wondered whether or not he was hoping for her to discover the truth before they got too serious and he invested in a relationship that could come crashing down at any time. Unfortunately, Natalie is also about to have her own nightmares brought to the surface when she confronts Mark about his past.

But for me, I was on edge right from the start knowing that the murder of a small child was coming up. And although not graphically described, it is a violent and sustained attack on an innocent 2 year old girl. Of course people will raise comparisons with a very high profile murder case back in the Nineties and there is definitely a familiar feel to the circumstances. But Maggie James has given her crime a familiar starting point from which she has then layered her own story and possibilities surrounding such an abhorrent murder by two 11 year old boys.

The plot here is hard hitting with a few twists you won’t see coming. I did get frustrated with some of the characters especially Mark and Natalie as they could have made things so much easier for themselves but that’s life I suppose, hindsight is a wonderful thing! And I found myself questioning again what makes people evil enough to act in such a way? Are psychopaths born or does the way we are raised in our formative years mould our future behaviours and relationships? And can it ever be reversed and a murderer ever feel true remorse for what they have done? All this was going through my head as I watch the early relationship between Mark and Adam and compared it to the grown men they had become.

I read a similar book recently and have to say that I much preferred this book mainly due to the authors approach to the horrendous things that happen here. She doesn’t shy away from using terrifyingly realistic situations but in such a way for us to work through our own fears. Her use of other issues such as rape, self harm and body shaming could cause triggers in some readers but are once again used as an integral part of the plot. Although this book had a very dark and disturbing premise and I did find it very upsetting at times, it was never gratuitous in its exploration of human nature at its worst. A tough read but worth it.

Many thanks to the publisher Bloodhound Books for my advanced review copy of Guilty Innocence: a chilling psychological thriller which is available to purchase now.

Meet the author…

Maggie James

Maggie James is a British author who lives in Bristol. She writes psychological suspense novels.

Before turning her hand to writing, Maggie worked mainly as an accountant, with a diversion into practising as a nutritional therapist. Diet and health remain high on her list of interests, along with travel. Accountancy does not, but then it never did. The urge to pack a bag and go off travelling is always lurking in the background! When not writing, going to the gym, practising yoga or travelling, Maggie can be found seeking new four-legged friends to pet; animals are a lifelong love!

The Second Sister by Claire Kendal #BookReview

About this book…

It is ten years since Ella’s sister Miranda disappeared without trace, leaving her young baby behind. Chilling new evidence links Miranda to the horrifying Jason Thorne, now in prison for murdering several women. Is it possible that Miranda knew him?

At thirty, Miranda’s age when she vanished, Ella looks uncannily like the sister she idolized. What holds Ella together is her love for her sister’s child and her work as a self-defence expert helping victims.

Haunted by the possibility that Thorne took Miranda, and driven by her nephew’s longing to know about his mother, Ella will do whatever it takes to uncover the truth – no matter how dangerous…

My review…

I loved The Book of You and even though it had quite a harrowing storyline I was unable to tear my eyes away from the horrors that were unfolding before me. So I was very keen to read Claire Kendals second book as soon as I was able to but would it live up to my expectations compared to her previous well written and well researched psychological thriller? Well, it was never in doubt really was it?! Although I think I actually loved The Second Sister more! It certainly pulled me in very quickly with its killer plot lines that were peppered with some very intriguing twists and one of the scariest prison visit scenes I have ever read!

There do seem to be a lot of “sister” books around at the moment. Using the relationship between siblings as a starting point for a psychological thriller seems to be growing in popularity but this felt very different right from the start for me. The sisterly dynamics were much more intriguing here as, although Miranda wasn’t actually there with Ella, we were still able to feel their strong connection. The author used  the narrative to thoroughly explore the sister’s relationships with their parents and with Luke. Their own relationship was poignantly portrayed by Ella still conversing with her missing sister in her head and it was those exchanges which seemed to guide her towards most of the questionable decisions she made. 

Ella and her parents have been bringing up 10 year old Luke since Miranda, his mother and Ella’s sister, disappeared when Luke was just a baby. Although someone was convicted of similar murders, the police have never found her body. New evidence discovered in her belongings is now pointing towards a connection but the police don’t seem very interested in pursuing it. However, Matilda still lives on in Ella’s head, as well as every time she looks in the mirror, so she decides to investigate further herself despite a warning from her friend Ted who is a local police officer.

I loved how I got a real feel for the character of Miranda throughout.  Her voice came through so clearly due to Ella keeping her relationship with her sister alive with her memories and imagined conversations. Although 10 years have passed, her grief at losing her sister was still raw, crushing her and affecting her decisions. I found her narrative utterly heart breaking at times especially when Ella was talking with Luke, her nephew. I would probably have to say at this point that this isn’t a fast paced read but that didn’t stop me from becoming absolutely bewitched by the beautifully crafted characters and totally engrossed in the tension filled plot from page one.

And right from that first page I had a strong sense of foreboding about what had happened to Miranda and what might also happen to Ella if she wasn’t careful! This is definitely one of those books where you want to scream at the characters for making ill advised and rash desicions that are obviously going to make things a hell of a lot worse for themselves! Well, obvious to the reader of course but seemingly not to Ella!

The Second Sister is creepy, claustrophobic and utterly compelling as the tension builds towards its twisty, terrifying climax. Highly recommended by me! 

Many thanks to Harper Collins for my advanced review copy via netgalley of  The Second Sister which is available to buy now.

Meet the author..

Claire Kendal
Claire Kendal was born in America and educated in England, where she has spent all of her adult life. Her first novel, THE BOOK OF YOU, was a Richard and Judy title and SUNDAY TIMES top ten bestseller. It has been translated into over twenty languages. Claire teaches English Literature and Creative Writing, and lives in the South West with her family. THE SECOND SISTER is her second novel.

Exposure by Aga Lesiewicz #BookReview

About this book…

You know that feeling. Your life’s on track and all is going well. And then something monumental occurs that turns everything on its head. It happens to everyone but, for Kristin Ryder, it was much, much worse . . .

When up-and-coming photographer Kristin begins to receive anonymous emails, her life in a trendy loft in London’s Hoxton with Anton, her ultra-cool, street-artist boyfriend, suddenly begins to feel unsafe. The emails come with sinister attachments that suggest the sender has an intimate knowledge of Kristin’s past, and soon her life spirals out of control.

Who can she trust? And will she be able to discover the sender’s identity before it’s too late?

Breathtaking and shocking, Exposure by Aga Lesiewicz will grip you until the last snap of the camera shutter.

My review…

I have been waiting to read this second book by Aga Lesiewicz since I finished her first book Rebound which was one of my top reads of 2015. The London setting of that book combined with a palpable sexual tension and the most adorable chocolate Labrador called Wispa added up to an unputdownable, edge of your seat thriller. So I went into Exposure with very high expectations and although it didn’t reach quite the same dizzy heights for me as Rebound, it more than fulfilled my need for a dark, racy and twisty psychological thriller. And if you’ve read Rebound there is a nice little surprise in there for you with one (and maybe another!!) character making a guest appearance!

Kristen seems to have it all here, the great job (although the “toys” she photographs here certainly aren’t the sort you would find in your local kiddies toy shop!! Keep an open mind!) and the sexy French boyfriend, whilst living in a fabulously trendy loft in London. Now I’m a country girl at heart but the author paints such a fabulous portrait of city life that I just want to pack up my bags and move down south to join the hipsters of Shoreditch! Her descriptions, of the restaurants, takeaways and bakeries especially, really brought the area to life and I found myself on streetview at one point roaming the areas and landmarks that Kristin visited.

There were plenty of twists here and more red herrings than Billingsgate Fish Market as Kristen journeys to discover who is sending her the Exposure emails. Whilst I had an idea of who it could possibly be, I was never 100% convinced I had it right and I loved that uncertainty as it added an extra edge to the tension as it built towards its breathtaking finale.

So now I’m back to awaiting the THIRD London based thriller from Aga Lesiewicz! If you haven’t read anything by this author before then I do highly recommend you try her books. Exposure is an intelligent and provocative thriller with an intriguing premise that will have you changing all the passwords on your laptop and sticking a plaster over your webcam!

Exposure: An addictive and suspenseful thriller from the bestselling author of Rebound is available to purchase now.

Meet the author…

Aga Lesiewicz
Aga Lesiewicz is a former TV producer and director. A knee injury led to a change in her career and prompted her to write her first psychological thriller ‘Rebound’. She lives in London.

Lie to Me by Jess Ryder #BlogTour @bookouture

I’m delighted to be taking part today in the blog tour for Lie to Me by Jess Ryder.

Lie to Me - Blog Tour

About this book…

Three minutes. That’s all it takes for Meredith’s entire world to fall apart when she watches the videotape of her four-year-old self with Becca, the mother who abandoned her.

Meredith can’t believe what her eyes have seen. Yet what if her memory has locked away the painful reality of her childhood? Can there be any truth in the strange and dangerous story her mother forced her to tell on camera?

The search for answers leads Meredith to Darkwater Pool, the scene of the murder of a young woman, Cara, over 30 years ago. What could possibly be the link between her mother and the victim?

To find the truth Meredith must search through a past that is not her own. The problem is, she’s not the only one looking…

My review…

I do love a book where there is a mystery to solve in the present that has its roots in the past and when Meredith finds an old video tape in the loft she is drawn into an unsolved murder case that she has never heard of before. But as she watches her four year old self on the old VCR, she is shocked by the story her mother has coerced her into telling on camera and becomes determined to uncover the truth.

I loved the way I became very quickly wrapped up in this book. Jess Ryder has a wonderfully warm and engrossing writing style that just grabs you from the start. Just as you are fully invested in Merediths story thougb, the plot flips back in time where we meet Cara. We are aware that Cara is eventually murdered so it was very creepy watching the events that would gradually lead to her death. But who is telling the truth and why can’t Meredith remember more about her childhood with her mother?

I have to admit I much preferred the “Me” chapters where Meredith became obsessed with investigating Cara’s murder and how her relationships with her father and her ex Eliot were explored. I found those to be just as intriguing as the relationship she doesn’t have – the one with her mother who is no longer part of her life. I didn’t particularly like any of the cast of characters from the “Cara” chapters though. They all seemed to exist in a bubble, detached from real life and rather self obsessed so it was difficult to maintain much sympathy for them when things started to fall apart.

There were plenty of plot twists here to keep my interest and I stayed up late into the night desperate to find out what secrets were about to be uncovered. Some I guessed and others came as more of a surprise but I enjoyed discovering every one of them. And I would definitely read more by Jess Ryder based my reaction to Lie to Me.

Many thanks to Kim Nash and Bookouture for my review copy of Lie to Me: A gripping psychological thriller with a shocking twist which was published on 19th April 2017 and is available to purchase from Amazon UK by clicking the title above.

Meet the author…

Jess Ryder Author Photo

Jess Ryder is the pseudonym of Jan Page, author, screenwriter, playwright and award-winning television producer.  After many years working in children’s media, she has recently embarked on a life of crime.  Writing, that is.   So she’s very excited about the publication of her debut thriller Lie to Me.  Her other big love is making pots.