The Lies She Told by Lynda Renham

EXCERPT: Nothing made any sense. Kate Marshall came home from school on Friday afternoon after seeing her boys off with her husband. Some time between then and six, someone came and attempted to batter her to death. But why?

‘Who’d want to kill a piano teacher?’ said Alice.

ABOUT ‘THE LIES SHE TOLD’: Life in the village of Stonesend is pretty uneventful, that is until Detective Tom Miller is transferred there following a personal tragedy. He is not greeted well by local police officer Beth Harper, who feels he is not up to the job. The day of his arrival, Kate Marshall, a teacher at the local school, is beaten in her own home and left for dead. The villagers are left in a state of shock. Was it a random attack or something more personal?

MY THOUGHTS: The Lies She Told certainly lives up to its title!

Although I worked out early on what was going on with one thread in the plot, it simply never occurred to me that . . . No, I can’t say, because that would be a spoiler. All I can say is that there are plenty of surprises and twists, and that Kate isn’t the only one who is attacked. While Kate survives, the other victim isn’t so lucky. And no, I am not about to tell you who the other victim is.

Renham had my mind working overtime trying to draw the various threads together into some sort of feasible solution, but although I guessed some things, she definitely bested me! I got the who, and the why, but the how? …. that I couldn’t figure out.

I hope we get to read more of Detective Tom Miller and Beth Harper. They make a great team and I loved the village setting of Stonesend.

The Lies She Told is an enjoyable and sometimes shocking read that will have you pitting your wits against the author’s expertise.

⭐⭐⭐.7

#TheLiesSheTold

I: @lyndarenham @raucous_

T: @LyndaRenham

#contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Lynda Renham has been writing for as long as she can remember and had her first work published in a magazine at age nine and has continued writing in various forms since. Lynda lives with her second husband and cat in Oxfordshire, England. She is Associate Editor for the online magazine The Scavenger and contributor to many others. When not writing Lynda can usually be found wasting her time on Facebook.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Lynda Renham and Raucous Publishing for providing a digital ARC of The Lies She Told for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Dream Girl by Laura Lippman

EXCERPT: When the phone rings in the middle of the night, that very night, and Aileen, who tends to doze, does not answer it within three rings, Gerry fumbles for the landline next to his bed, a midcentury Swedish design with a button on the bottom. His head feels cloudy, yet he is alert enough to assume the call will be from Margot, full of recriminations for being booked in business class, which means she has to fetch her own cheese plate from the snack bar.

‘Hello?’

‘Gerry? I’m coming to see you soon.’

‘Who is this?’ Because one thing he is sure of is that it’s not Margot. The voice is too sweet, too high, with a hint of a Southern accent. Also too nice.

‘Oh, Gerry, you’re so funny. It’s Aubrey, Gerry. We need to talk. About my story, about what really happened between us, that mess with your wife. I think it’s time the world knows I’m a real person.’

ABOUT ‘DREAM GIRL’: After being injured in a freak accident, novelist Gerry Andersen lies in a hospital bed in his glamorous but sterile apartment, isolated from the busy world he can see through his windows, utterly dependent on two women he barely knows: his young assistant and a night nurse whose competency he questions.

But Gerry is also beginning to question his own competency. As he moves in and out of dreamlike memories and seemingly random appearances of a persistent ex-girlfriend at his bedside, he fears he may be losing his grip on reality, much like his mother who recently passed away from dementia.

Most distressing, he believes he’s being plagued by strange telephone calls, in which a woman claiming to be the titular character of his hit novel Dream Girl swears she will be coming to see him soon. The character is completely fictitious, but no one has ever believed Gerry when he makes that claim. Is he the victim of a cruel prank—or is he actually losing his mind★ There is no record of the calls according to the log on his phone. Could there be someone he has wronged★ Is someone coming to do him harm as he lies helplessly in bed★

Then comes the morning he wakes up next to a dead body—and realizes his nightmare is just beginning…

MY THOUGHTS: In her author’s notes, Laura Lippman writes, ‘This is a book about what goes on inside a writer’s mind and it is, by my lights, my first work of horror.’ And while I wouldn’t go quite so far as to call Dream Girl a work of horror, it definitely is an enjoyable romp on the darker side. Lippman pays homage to Stephen King’s ‘Misery’, Roth’s ‘Zuckerman Unbound’, and Dukore’s ‘A Novel Called Heritage’, saying that she ‘wanted to further the conversations they began in her head.’ I know exactly what she means.

Lippman’s writing is distinctive. She does a lot of the things I hate and slam other authors for doing. She waffles on in long sentences. She writes stream of consciousness. And I love it. It works – brilliantly. I read Dream Girl in twenty-four hours and Lippman has left me wanting to read Gerry Anderson’s ‘Dream Girl’. I want to read about Aubrey, this elusive figment of Anderson’s (and therefore Lippman’s) imagination – the character that nobody will believe wasn’t real.

Lippman’s characters are extraordinary, and the cast is quite small. Women feature hugely in Gerry’s life. He’s been married three times, and Margot lived with him in New York for several years. He has a female assistant, Victoria, who has the annoying tic of never being able to make a declarative statement, and whose duties expand following his accident to include being his daytime carer. Aileen is employed as his somewhat incompetent and constantly knitting night nurse. Gerry doesn’t appear to have friends, and there’s a dearth of males in his life with the exception of his literary agent. We learn Gerry’s backstory through a dual timeline that is interspersed with his ‘now’ story. We meet his wives and his lovers, but disappointingly learn almost nothing about the writing of his bestseller, ‘Dream Girl.’ Yes, I think I have an obsession with Audrey.

As you may have noticed, I had a hard time putting Dream Girl down, and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it. I honestly had no idea where Lippman was heading with the plot, who was behind the mystery calls, if they were even real, or merely a product of Gerry’s opioid addled brain.

A few people appear to have been disappointed in the ending. I loved it. It seemed strangely fitting. A little comedic. I would love to see Dream Girl made into a movie. I would definitely go to see it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

#DreamGirl #NetGalley

I: @lauramlippman @faberbooks

T: @LauraMLippman @FaberBooks

THE AUTHOR: Laura lives in Baltimore with her husband, David Simon, and their daughter.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Faber and Faber Ltd via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Dream Girl by Laura Lippman for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, and Goodreads.com

Watching What I’m Reading . . .

We’ve had beautiful weekend. Temperatures below zero at night, heavy frosts, and glorious days. I have had a busy weekend. Luke came for sleepover Friday night. I have been trying different paint colours for the lounge and dining room and we have finally settled on a lovely soft sea green.

My reading travels have kept me mainly in the UK this week, in Nottingham and London, with a trip to Australia, the Loire Valley in France, and Baltimore in the USA. Have you been anywhere interesting in your reading travels this week?

Currently I am reading and loving Dream Girl by Laura Lippman. I have no idea where this is going to end up, but I am loving the journey.

I am also reading Death and Croissants by Ian Moore. I am loving the reticent character of Richard, and the ebullient exotic one of Valerie.

I am listening to Know No Evil by Graeme Hampton

This week I plan to read The Lies She Told by Linda Renham

Life in the village of Stonesend is pretty uneventful, that is until Detective Tom Miller is transferred there following a personal tragedy. He is not greeted well by local police officer Beth Harper, who feels he is not up to the job. The day of his arrival, Kate Marshall, a teacher at the local school, is beaten in her own home and left for dead. The villagers are left in a state of shock. Was it a random attack or something more personal? 

Cabin Fever by Alex Dahl

You are her therapist.
Kristina is a successful therapist in central Oslo. She spends her days helping clients navigate their lives with a cool professionalism that has got her to the top.

She is your client.
But when her client Leah, a successful novelist, arrives at her office clearly distressed, begging Kristina to come to her remote cabin in the woods, she feels the balance begin to slip.

But out here in the woods.
When Leah fails to turn up to her next two sessions, Kristina reluctantly heads out into the wilderness to find her.

Nothing is as it seems.
Alone and isolated, Kristina finds Leah’s unfinished manuscript, and as she reads she realises the main character is terrifyingly familiar..

And The Stalker by Sarah Alderson

Newly-weds Liam and Laura are spending their honeymoon in paradise: just the two of them on a remote island off the coast of Scotland.
But they soon discover that all is not as it seems, and the island has a tragic past. And they can’t shake the feeling of being watched…

When one morning, they wake to find a message scratched into the window, their worst fears are confirmed. They aren’t alone on the island.

And this stranger wants them dead.

I received three new ARCs this week:

Lost Angels (Nikki Hunt #3) by Stacy Green

Home Sweet Home by Nicole Trope

And I Let Him In by Jill Childs

What lovely new reads have you received this week?

The wall between my kitchen and dining room has gone, and what a difference that has made. My kitchen feels much larger lighter. Unfortunately my kitchen is still being held up by a lack of drawer glides. For third month in row, none have arrived. But I have ordered all new replacement windows for along the front of the house, and my new laundry is in. So a little progress has been made.

Happy reading my friends!❤📚

Insider by Owen Mullen (The Glass Family #2)

EXCERPT: The van turned right into a deserted Great Eastern Street and on until traffic lights on City Road stopped its progress. The engine idled, the acrid smell of diesel drifted on the air. Freddy tapped the wheel with his finger.

‘He was a homo, old Ronnie, did I mention that? Queer as a bottle of chips. And Reggie was bisexual. Had sex with each other to keep it a secret. God’s honest. Ronnie admitted as much to some geezer writing a book about them. Not many-‘

The bullet exploded the side window, ending the monologue, entered his heart, killing him instantly. The rear doors flew open. A rapid burst of fire from a semiautomatic carbine sprayed the inside, thudding into the minders, making them dance like drunken puppets; they were dead before they could draw their guns. One of the assassins manhandled Freddy’s lifeless body into the passenger seat, while the other two got into the back beside the slain guards. When the lights turned green, the van pulled away. Nobody saw. It wouldn’t have mattered if they had. In this part of town people were smart enough to keep their noses out of what didn’t concern them – no different to the night Ronnie Kray had walked into the Blind Beggar and shot George Cornell.

It had taken all of thirty seconds to kill three men and steal two hundred thousand pounds.

Freddy would’ve been impressed. What a story that would’ve been.

ABOUT ‘INSIDER’: Someone’s playing both sides and now they have a score to settle…
When the family business is crime, you can never be sure who to trust. And when three of their businesses are hit in one night, the notorious Glass family close ranks. Either someone is sending them a message or a war is coming…

With trouble coming from all sides, the heads of the Glass family have more than enough to deal with, but all bets are off when a stranger from the past enters the game, causing division and mistrust.

Crooked cops, rival gangs and old enemies are bad enough, but when the trouble comes from the inside, loyalties are tested, with deadly consequences.

MY THOUGHTS: I am on record, more than once, as having said that I don’t like books about gangs and organised crime. It’s time I added a qualifier to that statement: I don’t like books about gangs and organised crime, unless they are written by Owen Mullen.

Mullen has written a fast paced thriller centred around the Glass family, and although it follows on from the first book in this series, Family, Insider possibly could be read as a stand-alone. But believe me, you would be missing out on some damned fine writing and the story behind the Glass empire.

This is a family for whom the answer to any and every problem is violence. And yet the violence in Insider is not gratuitous. I didn’t skip one word of this book. Everything worked and worked superbly.

The characters are ones that I should, by rights, dislike. They are criminals. Life is cheap. But I don’t dislike them. I have a sneaking admiration for them. I enjoy the family rivalries, and I particularly liked the introduction of Charley – is she who she claims to be, Luke and Nina’s sister, or is she someone else altogether? The same question applies to ex-DI Mark Douglas.

Mullen has written a tautly executed thriller that will have you reading much later into the night than you intend. And no, he hasn’t lost his sense of humour. It’s evident in Insider from beginning to end.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#Insider #OwenMullen

I: @owenmullen6 #BoldwoodBooks

T: @OwenMullen6 @BoldwoodBooks

#fivestarread #crime #familydrama #contemporaryfiction #suspense #thriller #series

THE AUTHOR: Owen Mullen graduated from Strathclyde University, moved to London and worked as a rock musician, session singer and songwriter, and had a hit record in Japan with a band he refuses to name; Owen still loves to perform on occasion. His great love for travel has taken him on many adventures from the Amazon and Africa to the colourful continent of India and Nepal. A gregarious recluse, he and his wife, Christine, split their time between Glasgow, and their home away from home in the Greek Islands where all of his crime thrillers were created.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to author Owen Mullen for providing a digital ARC of his novel Insider (The Glass Family #2) for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Evidence by K.L. Slater

EXCERPT: Simone is sitting at a table, dressed casually in jeans and a lemon tunic top. The women at Bronzefield are permitted to wear their own clothes. Her brown hair is tied back in a loose ponytail and I’m struck by her ordinariness. She looks like your mum, your aunt . . . a random woman you might see shopping in the supermarket.

Yet the majority of the British public detests her. This woman who faced her abusive husband and said, ‘No more.’

ABOUT ‘THE EVIDENCE’: Everyone’s heard of Simone Fischer. The young mother accused of killing her husband in cold blood, one sunny afternoon, while their son played in the room next door.

So when journalist Esme secures an exclusive interview with her it feels like the opportunity of a lifetime. Simone has remained silent since her husband’s death but after a decade in prison, she is willing to talk to Esme. And Esme, recently freed from her own toxic marriage, is confident she can get Simone to open up.

At their first meeting, when Esme sees Simone sitting across the table from her in jeans and a lemon tunic top, she is stuck by her ordinariness. Then Simone begins to tell her story of an abusive relationship where she was a prisoner in her own home, and Esme decides that the truth needs to come out.

But not everyone is pleased that Esme is telling Simone’s story. And when Esme’s beloved sister is left for dead in a nearby wood, Esme’s life begins to unravel. Forced to question what Simone has told her, she can’t help but wonder if murder was the only way out of Simone’s marriage. Why has it taken Simone so long to tell the world the truth? And will the consequences be devastating for Esme?

MY THOUGHTS: For the first two thirds of this read, I was thinking it was nothing special. But then . . . Then Slater started working the magic she had insidiously been building up to. All of a sudden the things I thought were facts, weren’t. The ‘truth’ wasn’t, and I was bombarded with new suspicions and finally, revelations.

I had an inkling about one of the twists, but my imaginings fell far short of where Slater was taking me. It was like getting on a train intending to get off at the next stop, then finding myself at the other end of the island.

The characters are not at all likeable. Esme seemed ‘cold’, except with Zachary with whom she was overprotective. But, in the circumstances that, at least, is understandable. I didn’t like her husband, Owen, at all. He made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up in a most unpleasant way. Then, when his mother, Esme’s mother-in-law, is introduced into the story, I understood why. She is an absolute nightmare.

One thing that really had me wondering was the lack of support for Simone. This is a woman who was convicted of murdering her abusive husband, a man who had systematically cut her off from friends and family, who belittled and bullied her. And she was despised. Where were the women’s support groups?

Slater addresses a whole raft of subjects in The Evidence. Particularly interesting is the relationship between Esme and her sister Michelle, who not only work together, but live together. Each of the sisters sees their relationship very differently. There is marital breakdown, sibling bonds and rivalry, family relationships, spousal abuse, murder, fraud, and more . . .

⭐⭐⭐.8

#TheEvidence #NetGalley

I: @KLSlaterAuthor @bookouture

T: @KimLSlater @Bookouture

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #crime #mystery #suspense

THE AUTHOR: For many years, Kim sent her work out to literary agents and collected an impressive stack of rejection slips. At the age of 40 she went back to Nottingham Trent University and now has an MA in Creative Writing.

Before graduating in 2012, she gained literary agent representation and a book deal. As Kim says, ‘it was a fairytale … at the end of a very long road!’

Kim is a full-time writer and lives in Nottinghamshire with her husband.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Bookouture via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Evidence by K.L. Slater for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Sleepless by Romy Hausmann

EXCERPT: He realised he had to notify the police. This was serious, this was real; someone had snatched Vivi away from him and every second counted. With child abductions the first forty-eight hours were crucial. Gero felt his insides wrench. He didn’t want to think of his daughter as a victim; she couldn’t be one. As he took his hand from his brow, his gaze fell on another door: the metal one that led to the roof terrace. He went over to it as if on automatic pilot, pressed the handle and climbed the first few steps of the metal staircase. And then he suddenly sensed it: Vivi’s presence. He sensed it even before he saw her in the arms of the woman who was standing perilously close to the edge of the roof. Only the panel railing – a thin sheet of perforated metal – lay between her and the ground below, between Vivi and a good fifteen metres of free-fall.

‘Nadja,’ he said, stretching out a hand. ‘Please don’t do anything silly.’

ABOUT ‘SLEEPLESS’: It’s been years since Nadja Kulka was convicted of a cruel crime. After being released from prison, she’s wanted nothing more than to live a normal life: nice flat, steady job, even a few friends. But when one of those friends, Laura von Hoven – free-spirited beauty and wife of Nadja’s boss – kills her lover and begs Nadja for her help, Nadja can’t seem to be able to refuse.

The two women make for a remote house in the woods, the perfect place to bury a body. But their plan quickly falls apart and Nadja finds herself outplayed, a pawn in a bizarre game in which she is both the perfect victim and the perfect murderer . . .

MY THOUGHTS: I wanted to love Sleepless, but it was just too disjointed. Imagine if you will, ripping all the chapters out of a book except the first and last, shuffling them into random order, and rebinding the book. That was how it felt. There was no rhyme or reason for order of the chapters. The timeline jumped about erratically. It drove me insane!

There are two separate storylines – the common factor being Nadja. Plus there are letters written from one unknown person to another, but which are never sent. The author and intended recipient are revealed at the end.

About halfway through the book, things started to come together and I got excited, but it didn’t last. What should have been a suspenseful, thrilling and chilling section of the book disappointed, because the timeline jumps continued, interrupting the flow.

My honest opinion? This could have been an absolute amazing and brilliant read. But the author has tried to be too clever to the detriment of the read.

And the epilogue? NO. IDEA.

There is some beautiful writing in here. It just gets lost in the chaos, as does the rather wonderful plot.

Please note: no books were harmed in the writing of this review.

⭐⭐.8

#Sleepless #NetGalley

I: @romyhausmann @quercusbooks

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #murdermystery

THE AUTHOR: Romy Hausmann was born in the former GDR in 1981. At the age of twenty-four she became chief editor at a film production company in Munich. Since the birth of her son, Romy has been working as a freelancer in TV. She lives with her family in a remote house in the woods near Stuttgart.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Quercus Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of Sleepless by Romy Hausmann for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Watching what I’m reading . . .

I’ve done quite a lot of travelling through my reading this week. I’ve been to Mauritius, London and Sydney; Blossom, Texas; Maryland; and Berlin. Now I think I am a little jet-lagged. Where have you been in your reading travels this past week?

I have just started reading The Evidence by K.L. Slater.

and am two-thirds of the way through the audiobook A Hand to Hold in Deep Water written by Shawn Nocher and narrated by Elizabeth Evans.

This week I am planning on reading Dream Girl by Laura Lippman

After being injured in a freak accident, novelist Gerry Andersen lies in a hospital bed in his glamorous but sterile apartment, isolated from the busy world he can see through his windows, utterly dependent on two women he barely knows: his young assistant and a night nurse whose competency he questions.

But Gerry is also beginning to question his own competency. As he moves in and out of dreamlike memories and seemingly random appearances of a persistent ex-girlfriend at his bedside, he fears he may be losing his grip on reality, much like his mother who recently passed away from dementia.

Most distressing, he believes he’s being plagued by strange telephone calls, in which a woman claiming to be the titular character of his hit novel Dream Girl swears she will be coming to see him soon. The character is completely fictitious, but no one has ever believed Gerry when he makes that claim. Is he the victim of a cruel prank—or is he actually losing his mind★ There is no record of the calls according to the log on his phone. Could there be someone he has wronged★ Is someone coming to do him harm as he lies helplessly in bed★

Then comes the morning he wakes up next to a dead body—and realizes his nightmare is just beginning… 

And Insider by Owen Mullen

Someone’s playing both sides and now they have a score to settle…
When the family business is crime, you can never be sure who to trust. And when three of their businesses are hit in one night, the notorious Glass family close ranks. Either someone is sending them a message or a war is coming…

With trouble coming from all sides, the heads of the Glass family have more than enough to deal with, but all bets are off when a stranger from the past enters the game, causing division and mistrust.

Crooked cops, rival gangs and old enemies are bad enough, but when the trouble comes from the inside, loyalties are tested, with deadly consequences.

And the approvals resulting from my requesting spree a couple of weeks are still arriving in my inbox. Six this week.

Darkness Falls by Robert Bryndza

The Butterfly Garden by Sophie Anderson (thank you Carla)

Stupid Things I Won’t Do When I Get Old by Steven Petrow (thanks again Carla), although I wonder if reading this might not be a case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted . . .

All About Ella by Meredith Appleyard. I believe I coveted this from Shelleyrae’s list last week.

Barefoot in the Sand by Holly Chamberlain (Susan? Carla? Both? I really can’t remember….)

and Mrs March by Virginia Feito

What new reads have you received this week?

Whatever you are reading, have a wonderful week!

If I Had Two Lives by A.B. Whelan

EXCERPT: She was haunted by her vivid imagination, recollecting the possible events Emma had to suffer through under her care.

Emma must have been awake and aware, feeling every thrust and hearing every groan, lying there helplessly. She had already surrendered control over her body when she suffered a traumatic brain and spinal injury as a little girl. She was in a head on collision with a drunk driver. Her parents lost their lives in the accident, and young Emma had been living in the care facility ever since. Her brain could sense touch and other sensations but was unable to respond to anything. She couldn’t move or talk. She only lay in bed, eyes set on the blank ceiling. Someone so evil – capable of taking advantage of her disability – didn’t deserve to live in society.

ABOUT ‘IF I HAD TWO LIVES’: “You’re telling me I have a brother I don’t know about?” When ambitious law officer Vicky Collins transferred to the FBI, she thought she was ready for anything – until a DNA background check brings up the criminal record of a brother Vicky didn’t even know she had. Tracking down her mysterious sibling might be the only way she can cling to her career in law enforcement – but what price will she and her family have to pay when their darkest secrets come to light?

As the truth emerges, it sends Vicky’s career, relationship, and mental health spiraling to pieces all around her – and that’s before her investigation uncovers one more disquieting possibility: That the secrets she’s revealed might link members of her own family to the murders committed by the Piggyback Killer – the same serial killer she’d been assigned to investigate just prior to her suspension.

MY THOUGHTS: I struggled to finish this book, and in retrospect I wish I had abandoned it. The problem is that I have read and enjoyed other books by this author, but I could find no trace of the talent that has kept me frantically turning the pages in those books. It feels and reads like it was written by someone else.

The writing style is wooden. Clunky. It doesn’t flow and isn’t at all suspenseful. The premise sounded great, and I was looking forward to an enthralling and twisty story, but it never happened. Dialogue is forced, unnatural.

Vicky’s character is cold and rigid. And I hated that she blathered on constantly about not feeling that she could spend the rest of her life with her partner, and not wanting to have her children with him, but not doing anything about it! I was expecting a positive character, a role model, but Vicky is portrayed as judgemental and shallow. Very shallow. Very judgemental. Not a smidgen of compassion in her.

There are just so many things about this book that I disliked that if I catalogued them all, I would run out of space.

And sorry, but I didn’t even like the narrator, Kristin James. Her men’s voices are appalling.

For a very short book, this took me a long time to get through.

Reading is a personal and subjective experience, and what appeals to one may not please another. So if you enjoyed the excerpt from If I Had Two Lives, and the plot outline appeals, please do go ahead and read it. Just because it wasn’t for me, doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy this.

⭐.5

#IfIHadTwoLives #NetGalley

I: @authorabwhelan @orangeskyaudio

T: @AuthorABWhelan #OrangeSkyAudio

#audiobook #contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #mystery

THE AUTHOR: A.B. Whelan currently resides in California with her husband and two children. When she isn’t writing, editing, marketing, or researching her next book, you can find her walking her two rescue dogs, socializing online, coaching soccer, or doing another DIY project with her husband.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Orange Sky Audio via Netgalley for providing an audio ARC of If I Had Two Lives written by A.B. Whelan and narrated by Kristin James for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Quiet People by Paul Cleave

EXCERPT: As Waverley and Woodley make their way through the house, Lisa and myself get to work phoning everybody. We have similar conversations – ‘Hi, it’s Cameron/Hi, it’s Lisa, Zach has run away, have you seen him? Please let us know if you do. No, I’m sure he’s fine. No, I’m sure it’s just kids being kids. Yes, we’ll let you know when he’s back.’ – We do this, and the police officers look into the nooks and crannies of our house, all the places a small child could hide, and I suspect all the places a small child could be hidden – I’m not oblivious to the fact that when small children go missing, it’s the parents the police first suspect. The patrol car that escorted me earlier is now parked opposite the house. Original High Jumper and Original Wrestler are talking to the neighbours, all of whom are easy to find since they’re outside watching what’s going on. Another car pulls up and a man in a suit gets out, probably one of the detectives. He crosses the road and steps onto the yard and the angle changes so that I can no longer see him.

We keep making calls. To family. To teachers. To parents. To neighbours. I pace the lounge. I tap out phone numbers and try to sound calm. My body is a mess. Some organs are tightening and some organs are loosening and my brain is on fire. Lisa won’t look at me. I’m the one who should have looked in on Zach last night. I’m the one who should have known he was going to run away. I’m the one who made light of it when he said he would.

That makes me responsible for all of this.

‘And you’re the one responsible if he never gets found.’

I tell Mr What If to shut up, and he does.

At least for now.

ABOUT ‘THE QUIET PEOPLE’: Cameron and Lisa Murdoch are successful crime-writers. They have been on the promotional circuit, joking that no-one knows how to get away with crime like they do. After all, they write about it for a living.So when their 7 year old son Zach goes missing, naturally the police and the public wonder if they have finally decided to prove what they have been saying all this time – are they trying to show how they can commit the perfect crime?

MY THOUGHTS: What a rollercoaster of a read! I cried in several places, and my jaw dropped in several others. My heart pounded, and my breath caught in my throat.

Paul Cleave has been firmly ensconced in my top five authors ever since I read his first book a number of years ago. He never fails to shock, appal and enthrall me.

I found it really easy to relate to this particular storyline. Who has a child who hasn’t threatened to run away? Who has a child who hasn’t actually done it? It is heart in the mouth stuff. And Cameron’s reaction to Zach’s threat was very similar to mine. This could have been my story, only I was lucky. My son came home.

The Quiet People is told from the points of view of Cameron, Zach’s dad, and Detective Rebecca Kent and takes place over the period of one week. The dual points of view provide the reader with the viewpoints of both the police and the parents. Both points of view are entirely logical, plausible, possible, but are conflicting.

The characters are entirely plausible and realistic. Although some reactions of the characters are extreme, it is an extremely fraught situation. I really enjoyed the inclusion of ‘Mr What If’, that little voice that nags at us all. I call mine ‘my mother’.

This is a book that I recommend you go into blind. The Quiet People is heartbreaking, shocking, and oh so good. Better than good. Absolutely excellent. Just read this.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

#TheQuietPeople

I: @paul.cleave @upstart_press

T: @PaulCleave @upstartpressnz

#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #mystery #suspense #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Paul Cleave is an internationally bestselling author who is currently dividing his time between his home city of Christchurch, New Zealand, where all of his novels are set, and Europe, where none of his novels are set. His work has been translated into fifteen languages. He has won the Ngaio Marsh award for best crime novel in New Zealand, he won the Saint-Maur book festival’s crime novel of the year in France, has been shortlisted for the Edgar Award and the Barry Award in the US, and shortlisted for the Ned Kelly award in Australia. When he’s not writing, he spends his time swearing on a golf course, swearing on a tennis court, or trying to add to his list of 25 countries where he’s thrown his Frisbee.

DISCLOSURE: I borrowed my copy of The Quiet People, written by Paul Cleave, and published by Upstart Press, from Waitomo District Library because I couldn’t wait to read the copy I have on order from my local bookstore. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.com

The Vacation by John Marrs

EXCERPT: ‘So you are never curious how Joe’s life became such a waste?’
‘Who are you to judge him? Just because he hasn’t got what you have doesn’t mean he’s wasted it.’
‘He’s got no money, no home, no family . . . Nobody deserves that.’
‘But a man can live without all those things. And you have more in common with him than you think.’
‘Please enlighten me, oh divine oracle.’
‘Neither of you has any freedom.’
‘Well that’s crap. I may not have much money but I’m not a slave to my next fix.’
But you’re not free from the limits you set yourself either. You’re one of the most uptight, frightened little shits I’ve ever met. You went travelling to escape something – that’s clear – then you separate from your friend and you end up here where you hide in the margins, never in the middle of the page. You’re too scared to embrace freedom . . . you’re like a fish in a bowl looking out towards the ocean but too gutless to make the jump.’

ABOUT ‘THE VACATION’: How far would you run to escape your past?

Venice Beach, Los Angeles. A paradise on earth.

Tourists flock to the golden coast and the promise of Hollywood.

But for eight strangers at a beach front hostel, there is far more on their mind than an extended vacation.

All of them are running from something. And they all have secrets they’d kill to keep…

MY THOUGHTS: I never did the backpacker experience when I left school. It wasn’t much done back then, so I enjoyed this experience. I like stories where a disparate group of people are thrown together. I enjoy the dynamics of them all getting to know one another.

In The Vacation we are introduced to eight characters who are staying at the same hostel in Venice Beach. Their stories move between the current time and the past, as the reasons behind their travels are slowly revealed. It is all a bit disjointed in the beginning, and it doesn’t really come together cohesively until two thirds of the way through the book when things begin to get really interesting. So be patient.

The characters, although all running from their pasts for various reasons, are all very different and easily distinguishable. It really is no mean feat to be able to tie together this number of threads without it becoming confusing, but John Marrs succeeds admirably.

There were a few things that initially puzzled me, but the author ties everything up before the ending. There are plenty of twists and turns, especially in one of the threads. Every time I thought I had that storyline figured out, Marr would double back on himself and disrupt my theories.

While The Vacation is not the best book I have read by this author, it is entertaining and enjoyable.

⭐⭐⭐.8

#TheVacation #NetGalley

I: @johnmarrs.author @panmacmillan

T: @johnmarrs1 @PanMacmillan

#contemporaryfiction #crime #familydrama #mystery

‘…trying to second-guess a crystal meth addict was as pointless as giving a dog a Rubik’s cube.’

THE AUTHOR: After working as a journalist for 25-years interviewing celebrities from the world of television, film and music for national newspapers and magazines, John Marrs is now a full-time writer.

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Pan Macmillan via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Vacation by John Marrs for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon and Goodreads.com