We Own the SkyI’m so thrilled and honoured to be here on the blog tour for this truly wonderful book! I believe this is going to be one of the bestsellers of the year and is going to be spoken about for a long time to come.

Before the story even begins, it’s prefaced by an introduction from the author explaining that this was meant to be the legacy that he was leaving behind when he was convinced he was not going to win his battle with cancer.

I read this, and immediately sat up and thought what an open and honest declaration Luke Allnutt is making to his readers just as they’re about to delve into his book: “I was at my lowest point. I thought I was going to die. I wanted to leave something behind … I offer you this.” (That’s my basic summary of what I assume he was thinking – I’d probably make a crap psychologist!) Bearing this in mind, I figured he wasn’t going to spare us anything and that what followed was going to be pure, raw emotion. So I leapt on in. I was not wrong! I couldn’t stop reading – and I was on holiday at the time … in London … spending a lot of time on trains. This isn’t a good book to read in public, on a train with a lot of people in close proximity who can hear and see you blubbering!!

Rob, Anna and Jack, their boisterous little boy are a happy family until the day their world is shattered by a devastating illness. Allnutt draws the reader into their pain and heartbreak in such a way that we feel every single bit of their torment. We witness the initial shock that pulls Rob and Anna together, but then almost immediately, due to their differing attitudes and points of reference, they’re ripped apart by how they feel they need to approach Jack’s diagnosis and treatment. Anna’s methodical tendencies have always been the polar opposite to Rob’s more casual approach to life. As the situation worsens, and Anna falls back on the religious, rule-following ways of her upbringing, Rob becomes frustrated at this unexpected reversal into what he sees as habits from her youth, and becomes more willing to seek out whatever means possible that might help his beloved child, no matter the cost or the risk.

What lengths would you go to for your loved ones? Which loved ones … the one who is unwell or your other family members? This will make you ask questions you’ve never thought of before; questions you didn’t ever want to consider … do you have the answers?

This is a very special book for many reasons. It’s told from a dad’s perspective – not something you’ll find often. Although it’s undoubtedly heartbreaking, it is so beautifully, delicately written that it has an almost other-worldy feel to it. The way in which Rob manages to connect with Jack is so utterly breathtaking that it will inspire you long after you’ve finished reading.

This is a big fat, glittery 5- star-read!! It will stay with you for a long, long time … long after you’ve thrown all those soggy tissues away!

PS: I did find myself wondering why the author chose to write about a child becoming ill – every parent’s worst nightmare – when he himself had been through cancer. It weighed on my mind a lot … why would you want to write about a sick child?! But when I thought about it (and again, I’m making my own assumptions here), I felt that maybe if he’d made his protagonist an adult, particularly a man, it might feel more autobiographical, something he was not able to do. While I’m sure he drew on much of what he experienced, I am sure his own journey is just that: his own private journey.

Follow the blog tour until 15 February and see what others have to say about this gem of a book. It’s available for purchase on 8 February.

Blog tour FINALv3

Thank you so much to Tracy Fenton and her fabulous group THE Book Club on Facebook. You created an online space for those who love reading, but you didn’t stop there, you went on and took it about a hundred steps further than that and now readers and authors have the opportunity to interact daily not only online, but also at the various events that group admins and members co-ordinate on a regular basis. This is a community like no other. Your hard word is appreciated. Thank you, thank you, thank you!


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BOOK REVIEW – The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

*** NEW *** NEW *** NEW ***

From now on, in every book review, I will include the one single idea that stood out the most for me in that book. Every book has one. I’d love it if you shared yours with me from the same book.

The Marriage PactI loved this while I was reading it; couldn’t put it down! But then afterwards, when I gave it some thought (and I suppose that is a plus: that I was still thinking about it for a while afterwards), I started thinking about how much of the story was so highly improbable. Yes, I know it’s fiction, but there does still need to be a certain measure of belief and sustainability to keep a story within the realms of possibility, especially when it’s meant to be happening in the here and now. If this had been set in the near future, I think it would definitely lend more plausibility.

So … the premise is that Jake and Alice are newly-weds. They’re not young or naïve. She is a lawyer, he’s a psychologist. They receive a mysterious wedding gift from one of Alice’s clients – actually he’s a client of the firm that Alice works for; a very prestigious client, and she was instrumental in winning his case. On a whim, she invited him to their wedding and was surprised when he accepted. In hindsight, it’s an invitation she wishes she never extended!

The strange gift turns out to be an offer to join a covert club known as ‘The Pact’. Members of this fellowship are couples who are extremely devout (to the point of fanaticism) about their marriages, and the marriages of all others who are part of this organisation with them. There are rules … oh so many rules! The main ones being that you do not mention The Pact to anyone outside it, and once you’re in, you can never, ever leave! It’s a bit odd that Alice, a lawyer doesn’t seem to grasp the ‘small print’, or even fully read it before agreeing to enter into The Pact.

The amount of time this couple takes of work throughout this book was one of the things that I found myself constantly shaking my head about! There’s a vague reference once or twice to Jake’s colleagues questioning his increasing absence, but other than that, everyone seems pretty accepting of these unaccountable lapses in being present at their places of work.

The concept of this ‘Marriage Pact’ is an interesting one, and I suppose that’s what makes the book highly readable. The execution of the actual idea itself is sometimes a little off kilter though. Clearly the membership is made up of an intricate network of friends in high places, well connected, and well versed in the art of manipulation. Just how are the powers that be so all-knowing and all-seeing?

This book really had me hooked, but my suspension of belief was stretched to its limits so I’m giving it a 3.5. You need to read this one for yourself and decide.

STAND-OUT IDEA: “Answer the phone when your spouse calls. Every time. No exceptions.” While this stood out for me like many other concepts in the book, and the overall notion of the Pact itself, I found myself questioning whether this is actually possible? Jake is a psychologist – surely he can’t answer the phone during a session with a client? Alice is a lawyer – if she’s in court, she wouldn’t be able to answer the phone, would she? Similarly in our everyday lives, while theoretically the idea might be a good one to try and implement wherever feasible, it’s not always going to be achievable. I guess we can try our best though, right?


25/01/2018 · 09:23

BOOK REVIEW – The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

The Woman in the WindowChild Psychologist, Dr Anna Fox hasn’t left her apartment in 10 months. She manages surprisingly well without setting foot into the outside world. She stays connected through her online chat groups, where she’s able to help other ‘Agoraphobes’. She can order all her groceries online and they get delivered. She can also order all her cases of wine, and all her prescription medication and it conveniently arrives on her doorstep. She can communicate with her therapist via Skype or cellphone, and similarly, her absent husband and daughter are just on the other end of the line, aren’t they? So really, why on earth would she ever need to leave her safe cocoon? Even the simple act of opening the front door fills her with dread. And if an emergency does arise, her downstairs tenant Daniel is there to help out.

So Anna passes her time learning French online, watching old movies (very cleverly woven into the narrative), popping pills, drinking wine while she watches all the goings on in her neighbourhood (quite closely) through her camera and telescope and has a pretty good idea of who’s doing what, and with whom! That’s how she first sees the Russells, who move in across the way from her. Their son comes over with a gift and they immediately get along. Soon after, his mom shows up and Anna is surprised at how much she enjoys her company – it’s been a while since she’s allowed herself to befriend newcomers. But then, not long after that, his father pays her a visit and the feeling she gets is one of distinct discomfort. Things escalate fast from there and shortly after that, while watching from her window, Anna witnesses a horrific incident … or does she?

This is a disturbing, dark look at how one can quickly lose clarity when you’re being manipulated without even realising it’s happening. I was left wondering: “Could it happen to anyone? Could it happen to me?” It’s psychological noir at its best. The description of what it feels like to be stuck in the terrifying grip of agoraphobia is so graphic that it might make you fear walking out of your front door yourself! On the other hand, it also allows one a look at how possible it actually is to live without having to leave the confines of one’s home.  I couldn’t help but be fascinated by this!

It took me a couple of chapters to get into this book, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. Anna intrigued me. While it’s obvious that she’s a protagonist who would invite sympathy, or at least empathy from readers, I never found myself feeling sorry for her. At times I felt slightly angry with her, and I’m not sure she’s particularly likeable, but she is engaging and Finn has crafted Anna’s story (because this is very much Anna’s story, despite the other characters and their necessary roles) in such a way that I was reading into the early hours of the morning.

Highly recommended for those who love good, twisty psychological suspense!

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BOOK REVIEW – Mother By S.E. Lynes

MotherChristopher Harris has always been somewhat of a misfit. He’s just never really felt part of anything, especially not his family – and that was even long before his 2 siblings arrived. He just doesn’t know how to ‘be’; doesn’t ever feel comfortable with himself, or with anyone else.  Discovering he’s adopted does go a long way towards explaining his lifelong feeling of not fitting in, and it’s almost as if Christopher’s always known that something like this is what’s prevented him from being part of the life that he finds himself living. He endeavours to set out and find his birth mother, and luckily she’s just as enthusiastic about finding him as he is to find her!

One piece of writing advice I’ve never forgotten refers to characterisation: “When creating your characters, you need to get to know them so well that you know which brand of toothpaste they use.” Well, obviously I’ve remember little else when it’s come to writing advice, as I haven’t quite managed to write that book yet! But S.E. Lynes took that recommendation and ran with it! I have no doubt that she not only knows what toothpaste Christopher prefers, but also what dental floss he uses, and whether he dreams in black and white or full technicolour! She’s created a character so deep and complex that one cannot help but become fully immersed in his twisted persona, and wow, twisted is certainly what he is! Although at times I really did feel terribly sorry for him, he is so difficult to like and I think that this is what the author’s intention is. He hasn’t been created as a protagonist that one warms to.

Likewise with the parallel character of Ben: arrogant and self-assured – the polar opposite to Christopher. Quite an obnoxious character who’s really unpleasant, but who at the same time you can’t help wanting to know more about because you can’t wait to see where he fits into the picture!

The story is related to us by a mystery narrator. This is so clever, and absolutely crucial to the plot. I couldn’t figure out who it was right up until the reveal!

Threaded through the tense plot is the dark shadow of the ongoing case of The Ripper, and Christopher’s increasing preoccupation with the case. Lynes cleverly intertwines this with her own narrative, which works so well to heighten the feeling of unease throughout the book.

Highly recommended!

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BOOK REVIEW – The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The couple next doorI loved this fast-paced, breathtaking psychological thriller! This is one of those ‘just one more chapter’ books, and before you know it, it’s 2:00 am!
Marco and Anne are invited to their neighbours for dinner. Sounds non-threatening enough doesn’t it? But Anne’s not too sure. Manipulative Cynthia has made it quite clear that the baby isn’t welcome at her husband Graham’s birthday dinner.
Anne’s been struggling with post-natal depression. Baby Cora is just 6 months old. Marco desperately wants a grown-up evening out. And so, a babysitter is arranged and it’s decided that they’ll go.
But the babysitter cancels at the last minute and although Anne’s quite happy to stay at home and let Marco go to dinner without her. He insists that they stick to their arrangements. After all, they’re only going next door. They can take a baby monitor with them, and pop home every half-hour to check on her. By 1 in the morning, Anne’s had quite enough. They’ve all had far too much to drink, and nobody else seems to worried about the fact that Cynthia is shoving her cleavage in Marco’s face!
When they eventually arrive home, their worst nightmare becomes reality when they discover Cora is not sleeping soundly in her cot … or anywhere else. She’s gone! And Anne realises that she was quite right to think she was a bad mother to leave her baby at home unattended.
A roller-coaster ride ensues in which the reader gets whiplash with all the twists and turns, all the allegiances and alliances, deciding who would have, could have taken baby Cora!
Very cleverly written with deep, dark pasts, secrets and causes for motives being revealed and no stones left unturned. Shari Lapena doesn’t disappoint as she drags us along to a gasping finish!

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BOOK REVIEW – Did You See Melody by Sophie Hannah

Did You See MelodySo disappointing! The plot sounded so promising, but ended up being boring and dragged out with characters who were so unlikeable I hardly cared what happened to them by the time I skimmed my way to the end. To use a phrase coined by someone I once knew: “one, two, skip a few …”
So … Cara Burrows has fled from her family in England due to their unsatisfactory response to her unexpected third pregnancy. Strangely, I could relate to her reaction. She told her husband and two teenage kids that number three was on the way, and asked how they felt about that and they were extremely unhappy. But nobody bothered to ask her how she felt about it, hence her anger and flight instinct!
She flies across the world and books herself into a 5-star resort for some time to self reflect. Arriving on her first night, exhausted and still emotionally fraught, she’s given the wrong door key and enters a room that’s occupied by a man and a teenage girl. The error is hastily rectified by the over-obliging, apologetic receptionist, but Cara is left jittery by the encounter.
The following morning she overhears an elderly guest telling a staff member that she’s convinced she’d seen ‘Melody’. And any normal person would just ignore such a comment but not our Cara, who feels the need the throw herself, all Nancy Drew-like, into an – until then non-existent – mystery! You’d think she has enough of her own issues to try and sort out, which is why she’s there in the first place, but no, she decides to throw herself full-tilt into chasing a shadow who up until then she’d never even heard of! But of course … wouldn’t you?
And from hereon in we’re confronted with an entourage of loathsomely tedious individuals: Tarin and Zel Fry – an obnoxious mom and daughter duo; opinionated talk-show host, Bonnie Juno; insipid cop Orwin Priddey; and the illusive figures of Riyonna Briggs, Annette and Naldo Chapa, Kristie and Jeff Reville.
There are many long (oh, so long) transcripts of Juno’s so-called interviews from her talk show 7 years previously, when Melody disappeared, that I just couldn’t bring myself to read. These are inserted at regular intervals as Cara attempts to pursue the truth and discover if the girl she saw on her first night at the resort was indeed Melody Chapa, who is in fact supposed to be dead!
And then, as if the long-winded interviews weren’t enough, there are also diary excerpts from someone who talks about being looked after by people who she refers to as the ‘Kind Smiles’ (a name which for some reason irritated the living daylights out of me).
Basically it was just endless, the twists turning out to be rambling meanders rather than the sharp, edgy turns you want from a thriller.
It’s so rare that I give a book such a negative review. I can’t even say that I really stuck to it until the end because I didn’t. The A-ha moment never arrived, even though I did page (swipe) on through to see how the whole thing panned out, but it just didn’t work for me.
This is the second book I’ve read by this author, and although I know she’s hugely popular, obviously her writing style isn’t one that I enjoy so I’ll know in the future to leave it to her many fans.


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The Good Samaritan


I’m thrilled, honoured and most privileged to be here on Day 2 of the Blog Tour of The Good Samaritan by John Marrs. Thanks have to go to Tracy Fenton of THE Book Club, not only for inviting me, but also for creating a truly amazing online haven and marvellous home from home for any discerning book lover and author stalker.





Thank goodness for those Good Samaritans who you know you can call when you have absolutely nobody else to talk to (here in South Africa, you call LifeLine). You know they’re there to listen with a non-judgemental ear, and gentle encouragement. And after sharing your problems, even if you’ve been offered no solutions, you just feel better.

For some though, there really is no way out and they feel there’s only one option and that’s when they call End of the Line. Here again, there’s no judgement just people to listen without questioning your choices.

But then there’s Laura … she has an entirely different agenda.

Laura’s a master at the art of illusion. She appears perfectly normal: your typically warm, caring wife and mom who’s content with her life. Someone who has it all and wants to give back to others by volunteering for those in need. She looks after her colleagues, remembering birthdays, names of family members and their ailments and allergies. Is anyone really that ‘lovely’? Doesn’t she seem just a teeny bit too good to be true?

Only one of the End of the Line team isn’t quite taken in by Laura. But that’s OK. Laura knows how to handle her. Because Laura is extremely clever, exceptionally devious, and has excess time on her hands, which seems strange for someone with a family at home to look after, doesn’t it?

The thing is with such clever people, they always think they’ve got everything worked out absolutely perfectly. They assume everyone else is beneath them, that nobody’s quite as clever as them and that they’ll never get caught. And that’s when they take things just that step too far. People forget: someone will always outwit you!

Once again, John Marrs presents his readers with a dark and complex main protagonist.

John Marrs

John Marrs himself!

It becomes clear quite early on that Laura is beset by demons, but exactly who or what these are is not quickly revealed. In true Marrs style, we are made to wait patiently … ok, not patiently at all!! We are forced to read into the wee hours, alternately turning pages (or swiping them, in the case of kindle readers) and biting nails, anxiously desperate to race to the conclusion. And then disappointed with ourselves, because it’s over, and we should have made it last just a little longer because now we’ll have to wait a while for John’s next cracker of a book!!

This is the emotional roller-coaster that The Good Samaritan will take you on. It delves into the emotional and psychological questions of why, when people are at their lowest, most hopeless ebb, they would choose to pick up the phone and call a faceless stranger, and shows the level of vulnerability that person has reached and how easily they can be manipulated.

How do you know that person really has your best interests at heart? What lies behind that soothing voice on the end of the line? How do you know they aren’t going to say the wrong thing, something that might just be the trigger you don’t need to send you over that proverbial edge? They really do have your life in their hands. The moral implications are huge, but when you’ve reached a level of despondency where you feel that you’re so wretchedly irredeemable, that doesn’t occur to you, just as it doesn’t occur to Laura but for entirely different reasons.

Hearing how John describes himself (and basically all authors) as a ‘thief’, reminded me specifically of Jodi Picoult (yes John, I think I’m comparing you to Jodi Picoult!). When she visited South Africa a few years ago, at one of her public appearances, someone asked ‘that’ question: “Where do you get your ideas from?” She replied that her ideas were often sparked by those tiny, obscure articles that you find (or maybe you don’t), tucked away in an almost un-readable little block around page 11 of the newspaper. She’d read these little tidbits of random information, that most people classified as newsless, and she’d think, “What if …?” and then ‘whammo!’ … another bestseller!!

John’s books have become bestsellers. From initially self-publishing his books to now having a publishing deal with Thomas & Mercer, he’s living the author dream, but not without a ton of damn hard work, and not a small amount of stalking by a certain small group of (carefully selected) individuals known as the John Marrs Groupies – of which I am a proud member!!




The Good Samaritan 1

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02/11/2017 · 08:51

BOOK REVIEW – Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Then She Was GoneUtterly riveting! I couldn’t put this one down. 15-year-old Ellie Mack disappears without a trace one day. She’s the centre of her mom Laurel’s world, and her family can’t believe that this beautiful, young ‘golden’ girl (as she’s described) would leave home of her own accord as the police would have them think. But there’s no sign of her. What could have happened?

Ten years later, Laurel and Paul, Ellie’s parents have split up, unable to withstand the aftermath of her disappearance, and her siblings Jack and Hanna are somewhat estranged from their mother who they feel was unable to focus on them, but only on their absent sister.

Laurel leads a sad, solitary life unable to forgive the rest of her family for wanting to move on. Until one day she meets Floyd and he’s quite lovely, which makes her wonder if she’s made a mistake to remain in the past all this time. Laurel starts to slowly come back to life and as her relationship with Floyd begins to blossom, she meets his 9-year-old daughter Poppy. It’s a bit startling though, how very similar Poppy is to Ellie when she was that age. And suddenly Laurel is unnerved and all of those unanswered questions into Ellie’s disappearance come bubbling to the surface once again.

Cleverly told, in five parts, told mainly from Laurel’s point of view, but giving insight into Ellie’s world as well, Lisa Jewell has created an enthralling piece that reminds us that people are so often not how they present themselves to others. Hidden agenda’s are the order of the day and who is hiding what is what Laurel needs to discover in order to return to a semblance of normality.

Jewell’s characters aren’t always likeable, in fact some are downright bizarre, but she creates them with such clarity that one can easily understand why that act and react in the ways that they do.

This is a 5 star read. Highly recommended!

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BOOK REVIEW – Reported Missing by Sarah Wray

Reported MissingDescribed as a ‘completely gripping, suspenseful thriller’ and suggested for fans of Louise Jensen, K.L. Slater and The Girl on The Train, one would expect a little more from this lukewarm book than it actually delivers.

Rebecca Pendle is hiding out in a caravan park from a town that has turned its back on her. Four months ago, her husband disappeared. You’d think she deserves a bit of sympathy, but teenager Kayleigh Jackson has also not been seen since that same day. For some reason, everyone, including the police (who inexplicably seem to have done minimal background research and called in very little support backup from surrounding areas) have branded Rebecca as the enemy.

I couldn’t force myself to like any of the characters. Rebecca is a weak, sad type, wallowing in her misery and in alcohol most of the time. When she does gather herself towards herself occasionally she makes strange, misunderstood attempts to approach random (horrible) teenagers, who all turn on her and bully her, increasing her sense of self-loathing and sending her back to her lonely caravan. Even the absent Chris and Kayleigh are not painted in a positive light, so you don’t feel much sympathy towards their situation (whatever that may be) either!

To its credit, Wray’s writing, although slow and slightly laboured at times, did keep me reading until the end. I wanted to see how things were going to turn out for the seemingly defeated Rebecca (I always have that little voice inside me shouting for the underdog, even if they aren’t shouting for themselves). Strangely, I was more interested in seeing how it all turned out for her than for the missing Chris and Kayleigh!

3 stars out of 5 for this one. Thanks to Bookouture and to Netgalley for the ARC in return for an honest review.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

The Art of HidingIt was extremely fitting that I read The Art of Hiding while on a flight to join a women’s tour-group for a week that was to be a life-changing experience. It was trip that was all about sisterhood, finding strength from the power within us and discovering that we are each unique, beautiful souls with our own talents to nurture and share. And that’s exactly what this book is about!!
Nina seems to be leading a charmed life with her successful husband Finn – the gorgeous house, 2 sons at a top private school, whirlwind social life, complete with enviable holiday destinations. Until Finn dies suddenly and it seems that it was all a facade.
Reality comes calling in the cruelest possible way as Nina and her sons’ comfortable world is ripped out from under them. It would be easier to curl up under the blankets and never have to face the world again, but that’s not a possibility, and Nina’s about to discover that resilience appears when you least expect it, and your champions present themselves as the most unlikely candidates.
This is a wonderful story (and don’t kid yourself, stuff like this happens more often than you think) of inner strength and the fabulous support systems that women create for themselves when push comes to shove.
Amanda Prowse has the incredible ability to create characters so real that you want to pluck them from the pages and invite them into your kitchen for a cup of coffee and a heart-to-heart chat. They’re warm, loveable, remarkable people that you want to keep in your life, and you are left feeling quite bereft when you reach the final pages of her books.
The Art of Hiding is no different, and it gets 5 stars from me!
Thank you so much to Amanda and Simeon for sending me an ARC of this book, and for including me in your trusted circle of early recipients. It is such an honour!

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