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BOOK REVIEW – Duplicity by Sibel Hodge

duplicityOh my very goodness!!! I don’t remember the last time I flew through a book like this! This one ticks all the boxes for a psychological thriller that you just can’t put down. Fast-paced, tons of ‘OMG’ moments, and with enough twists and turns to ensure you’ll need a good physiotherapist to see you right when you’re done!

Max and Alissa Burbeck are the perfect couple: wealthy and gorgeous, they’re the newly-weds who have the world at their feet … until one night an intruder murders Max, inexplicably leaving Alissa to escape unscathed. Who would have wanted him dead? And why didn’t they kill her too?

These are questions that are left for DS Warren Carter (although I must say it took a few chapters for his first name to be mentioned and I wasn’t sure if he was male or female!) to find answers to. Carter has his own demons to deal with – he’s still trying to overcome the loss of his wife to cancer roughly a year ago, and he’s bitter about being passed over for promotion due to a previous case where palms were greased, stopping the true criminals from being brought to book.

And along the way he needs to deal with a preening superior, an obsessive ex-boyfriend (not his own, Alissa’s!), a depressed colleague, and a distraught widow and a band of friends determined to protect her. Throw in an ecological cover-up, hidden jealousy and a mysterious childhood of horrific abuse, which could only lead to the victim becoming a sociopath of epic proportions … but who could it be?

Hodge keeps the action going at a cracking pace. You might have to suspend belief a teensy bit, but hey, it’s fiction, so just go with it! She doesn’t leave anything to chance, and ties it all up very neatly with no loose ends at all. Her characters are well-rounded and she cleverly shows you exactly what she wants you to see of each of their personalities – you’ll only catch on to that afterwards though!

If you’re looking for something that you just can’t put down, then this one’s for you! 5 big shiny stars from me!

Many thanks to THE Book Club (reviewers group) and the author for my copy of this book in return for my honest review.

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BOOK CONFESSIONS

I was tagged by the wonderful Pamela Power (thanks for the homework Pamela!). You can see her book confessions on her Vlog – Between the Sheets with Pamela, here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkRuUYkhypo#action=share

1. Have you ever damaged a book?

Not that I can recall. I would feel absolutely awful if I did! Books are precious – no really! And in South Africa especially, where literacy is something we take for granted. Even more so if we buy books by international authors – have you seen the exchange rate!!! Those books should be wrapped in bubble wrap, we pay so much for them. They’re worth every cent though.

  1. Have you ever damaged a borrowed book?

No!! We used to have such issues with this at one of the book clubs I used to be a member of. I’m quite horrified at how casual people are with items that don’t belong to them. Other members had absolutely no qualms about returning books with coffee mug stains all over them, and various other stains that I wouldn’t want to get into discussions about!

  1. How long does it take you to read a book?

It all depends. I do have quite a fondness for psychological thrillers and those that are well written can grip you from the first paragraph. Books like that can take just hours to complete! Others can take a day or two. And some can take a bit longer, depending on how much life gets in the way.

  1. Books you haven’t finished?

Too many to mention or name. Life’s too short to waste on books that aren’t the right fit for you. That doesn’t mean they’re not good books, or that they’re badly written; just that they’re not suited to you. Not every reader is a good match to every book, and I’ve learnt that’s okay.

  1. Hyped/Popular books you didn’t like?

The 50 Shades books. I plodded through the first one feeling like I was being forced to read a setwork. I finished it, started the second one, read a couple of chapters and then told myself I didn’t need to do this

  1. Is there a book you wouldn’t tell anyone you were reading?

I can’t actually think of one! And if there was one, I’d still tell people, just to see their reactio

  1. How many books do you own?

A LOT!! And does my Kindle also count?! Oh my goodness – I have a very, very long TBR list!!

my-bookshelf-14-09-16

Shopping for a new bookshelf!

  1. Are you a fast/slow reader?

I’m a fast reader, and I generally hate ‘skimming’ over pages. I like to read every single word!

  1. Do you like to buddy read?

Not really, although I do love discussing books with other people, especially books that we’ve both enjoyed. There’s nothing worse than absolutely loving a book, and discovering that the other person thought it was just ‘meh

  1. Do you read better in your head/out loud?

Definitely in my head! Although when I was much younger, and planning to be a great actress, I did love acting out and performing all the ‘roles’!  *blushes*

  1. If you were only allowed to own one book, what would it be and why?

That’s like asking me which one is my favourite child!!! I think, possibly The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin. It has a little bit of everything in it – empathy, compassion, such incredible humour and depth … and it’s Irish! I love all things Irish.

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes

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BOOK REVIEW – The Devil’s Work by Mark Edwards

the-devils-workSophie Greenwood has decided that the time is right to return to work after taking time off to be a full-time mom to 4-year old Daisy. She’s found her dream job at Jackdaw Publishing (I even found the name a bit sinister), but on day one, she has an unnerving experience. If she thinks that it’s just an isolated incident, she’s sorely mistaken, and so begins a well-constructed meandering tale in which Sophie (and the reader) is led further and further into a frightening and confusing maze of deceit that trails back further than she could have imagined.

Set in the offices of a publishing company (which in itself will intrigue any avid reader), the insular workplace environment will be familiar to anyone who’s ever worked closely with a team of colleagues. The back-biting, the wrong-footing, the gossiping … it’s all there, magnified to the maximum levels! And when you’re the ‘new girl’ you feel like everyone’s out to get you, except this time, maybe someone really is!

As the book alternates between Sophie’s, increasingly fragmenting current life, and her very obviously complex past, we realise that something is most definitely off-balance in Sophie’s world. How is she going to reconcile with her past so that she has any chance of having any type of future, let alone a happy one?

I’m sure Mark Edwards must have whiplash from the razor-sharp twists and turns he incorporates into every single one of his acclaimed psychological thrillers. This one certainly doesn’t miss the mark. There’s a reason why he has a loyal following, which I’m sure is about to increase in numbers with this new addition.

If you’re a lover of plot-twists a-plenty, surprises galore, and a good game of guessing whodunit then you’ve come to the right place. This book delivers all of these, and then some! I can highly recommend it, but maybe not at night, or when you’re home alone!

Many thanks to NetGalley and Thomas & Mercer for my advance copy.

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BOOK REVIEW – See How They Run by Tom Bale

See How They RunThanks so much to NetGalley and Bookouture for my copy of this book, received in return for an honest review.

Right from the very first line, Tom Bale wastes absolutely no time in alerting his readers to the fact that this is going to be an edge-of-your seat roller-coaster ride of a book!

Harry and Alice are exhausted new parents, sleeping fitfully at the best of times with 8-week old Evie in their room, when Harry suddenly realises that a noise has woken him; something other than the baby.  He’s instantly on high alert, but it’s too late – there are masked men right inside his bedoom! And so begins a nightmare from which they keep wishing they’d wake up. This is not a random burglary, and this is no mistake.

In the aftermath of this devastating home invasion, and the subsequent events. both Harry and Alice are understandably quite shattered and at odds with how to handle what’s happened. At first they naively think that if they carry on with their ordinary lives, it will all just go away. They very quickly comprehend that this is quite impossible, as they immediately find themselves embroiled in an intricate web of deception and crime, none of their own making, but out of which they now need to extricate themselves.

But how exactly do you do this, when you’re dealing with people who have chosen lives of criminality and transgression, as opposed to yourselves, who lead very conventional, everyday lives?

As we join Harry and Alice in their race against the clock to win back everything they hold dear we meet a band of rather unsavoury characters. There’s Renshaw (or is he Grainger?), where all their problems began – without them even knowing; Ruth, who I alternated between liking and wanting to bash over the head with a brick; Nerys and her son Michael – well you’ll have to meet them to understand them, I wouldn’t even want to begin to explain; and then there’s the nasty little gang behind a rather long-running crime-syndicate: Nathan Laird, Mark and Sian Vickery and their various henchmen.

Tom Bales has skilfully create a tightly bound, fast-paced thriller that ensures you won’t know where the next twist is coming from – and there are plenty of twists. His characters are well rounded and believable. He’s created a ‘what-if’ situation where a very ordinary couple are placed into a life-threatening situation and have to do their best to overcome it, and he succeeds in sustaining the credibility of both his plot and characters throughout.

4.5 stars from me.

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BOOK REVIEW – Somewhere Inside of Happy by Anna McPartlin

Somewhere inside of happyThank you to NetGalley and Random House UK for my advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Anna McPartlin has a unique way of taking an absolutely devastating topic, and writing about it with such unique warmth and vitality that her readers just cannot help smiling through the bittersweet tears that are undoubtedly pouring down their cheeks  as she gently coaxes them through the heartfelt pages of her stories.

Maisie Bean Brennan is about to speak in front of an audience on the twentieth anniversary of the death of her beautiful son Jeremy … and so opens a story so unexpected that it will lead you to a place you never expected to go. I will admit that when I saw that this book was about someone who’d lost a child I was, at first, reluctant to read it. But then I remembered that I had also been reluctant to read about Rabbit Hayes, a young mother dying of cancer, who became one of my all-time favourite characters!

Despite working two jobs, Maisie has created a warm, loving home for her children Jeremy and Valerie, despite having been abused by their now absent father, Danny. And now she also looks after her mother Bridie who suffers from Dementia. It’s not easy, money’s tight, times are tough, but there’s an abundance of love and warmth to be found in their home and they all take care of one another. Jeremy especially goes out of his way to make up for the fact that there’s no adult male role model around and is kind and caring, while trying to deal with a best friend from a family even more dysfunctional than his own.

But then Maisie’s tentative security crumbles when Jeremy goes missing. Her precious boy … gone! She knows he’d never leave his family – the mother he loves, the grandmother he has such a special bond with, and the little sister he’s so fond of. But where is he?

Immerse yourself in another of Anna McPartlin’s remarkable Irish extended families. Where they take care of their own, against all odds and where strength and support come from the most unlikely places when they’re needed most.

5 stars from me.

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BOOK REVIEW – In Too Deep by Samantha Hayes

In Too DeepMany thanks to THE Book Club (specifically Tracy Fenton) and NetGalley for my advance copy in return for an honest review.

Forget everything you’re expecting when you pick up this book – it’s just completely unexpected from every aspect! It’s about Gina’s lovely husband Rick, who goes out one afternoon to get a newspaper and never comes back. After the death of their young son Jacob, Gina can’t believe her husband would deliberately disappear. After four months with no sign of him, however, the police have let the case go cold despite Gina’s desperation.

Then she receives a call from Susan, owner of a beautiful country hotel, saying that Rick had booked and paid for an anniversary surprise for them at the hotel. She decides that she’ll take their teenage daughter Hannah, home from university, with her as the break might be just what they need. But Hannah has brought home her own demons and is struggling to maintain an outward show of normality as she realises that her secrets could destroy both her and her mother.

Told from the alternate perspectives of Gina and Hannah, and moving seamlessly between the present and the recent past, this is an extremely fast-paced, very cleverly constructed, multi-faceted story. Is it about bad things happening to good people? Is it about good people making bad choices? I’ll leave that up to you to decide … I think that might be what the author intended. It’s psychological suspense at its best, as you teeter on a knife’s edge, not knowing who to trust.

Try and read this slowly so that you take it all in. You probably won’t be able to. Just remember, as you’re racing through the pages, to breathe!

4.5 stars from me.

[This book is due for publication on 5 May 2016.]

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BOOK REVIEW – The Silent Twin by Caroline Mitchell

The Silent TwinMany thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for an advance copy of this book (due for release on 14 April 2016) in exchange for my honest review.

This is an enjoyable read – well as enjoyable as a book about a missing child can be, so no, that’s not the right word really. What I mean is that it captures you and holds you so that you want to know what happens, but I did find that I was racing to get to the end, more to just find out how it would all turn out, rather than because it was so well written that I was gripped by the writing. Also – I had guessed who the perpetrator was, and wanted to see if I was right (yay! I was!) The supernatural aspect wasn’t as apparent as I would have liked – it was more alluded to than blatantly obvious. I felt that it could have been used with a lot more strength, as this is where Caroline Mitchell really excels, and I felt that she held back here. But where she held back with the supernatural, she did come to the fore with the psychological element and she used this to her advantage quite brilliantly.

Feisty 9-year-old Abigail, has disappeared. Her more subdued twin sister Olivia hasn’t spoken since the incident, and with time running out, DC Jennifer Knight needs to wade her way through the heavy atmosphere at the family farm. While she tries to decipher the mixed messages she gets from the twins’ mother Joanna’s odd behaviour, and their distraught cop father, Nick, she also needs to try and block the dark energy that seems to pervade the house and anyone who enters it.

I struggled to get to grips with what DC Knight’s superior’s wanted from her. They’d sent her to be the family liaison officer on this case, which required her spending as much time as possible with the family, but then got annoyed with her for missing briefings. I’m not a police procedure expert, but I don’t know how they expected her to be in 2 places at once and I found that quite frustrating. [This is my own personal issue though – definitely not an issue with the writing or the story.]

But, having said that, the tension builds well and maintains a steady pace throughout the book, making it a breath-taking thriller. Interspersed with extracts from a diary, telling a heartbreaking story of abuse, bullying and self-harm, we are  led through the heart-wrenching clock-watching tension as Abigail is missing for six hours, seven hours, one day, three days, five days … and Caroline Mitchell ensures we’re there for every suspense-filled second!

 

 

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BOOK REVIEW – The Silent Girls by Ann Troup

The Silent GirlsMany thanks to the author and THE Book Club (Facebook) for an advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Edie has returned to Number 17 Coronation Square after an absence of 30 years. It is not a happy reunion. She’s here to clear out the house after the death of her aunt Dolly, its last occupant, and almost as soon as she arrives she feels a crushing depression settling upon her. It’s not only that she feels bereft and quite alone in the world, having left her abusive husband and uncaring son, or that her sister has gone swanning off on a cruise, leaving her to handle this unenviable job, but the house and the square that it sits on seem to have a cloying magnetism that draw her in and drag her back into a past that bears no resemblance to what she remembers.

With a cast of characters, most of which seem to have hidden agendas and split personalities, Ann Troup gives us a seedy view of an unsavoury side of London life that is probably a lot more rife than we’d like to believe. There was something of the ‘Olde Worlde’ in the telling of this story, and this added to the atmosphere. Throw in the fact that there are 5 unsolved murders that happened on the Square many years ago, and a regular murder tour that does the rounds, fuelling people’s macabre tastes, and there’s even more mystery to delve into here than in an episode of The Twilight Zone!

But, the people of the Square have managed to carry on their lives here, quite undisturbed … until Edie arrives to clear out Number 17 and unwittingly discovers that somewhere in the mess that her aunt has left behind, she, and some others along the way, have left a few things that some would rather were left untouched.

The story starts off rather slowly and plods along at a bit of a maddening pace for a while before picking up. I couldn’t really warm to Edie. I kept getting the feeling that I was supposed to feel sorry for her, in fact I know I was! She really was down in the dumps and not necessarily through any fault of her own, but I just couldn’t get to like her! I did like Dolly’s neighbour Lena – this poor, elderly lady, who’d stayed on the Square through all this time, watching it deteriorate, yet still trying to keep up appearances, knowing her son is a thug, yet still trying to act like a ‘Jolly Old Mum’, because that’s just what you do, isn’t it? And I adored Sophie, the teenage runaway who turns up on Edie’s doorstep and lands up staying because she has nowhere else to go – sometimes home just isn’t an option!

Because that’s the thing about Ann Troup: she writes real characters! They’re real people. You don’t have to like them all; just like real life, where you don’t like everyone. They’re identifiable and realistic and could be your next-door neighbours. They have issues and challenges and she threads the story through them all until she guides you to the very skillful conclusion.

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BOOK REVIEW – The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

The Girl in the IceThank you to Netgalley and Bookouture for my advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Wow! So, after writing a series of ‘chic-lit’ (I don’t like the term, but for want of a better one I’ll use it here) books about an individual by the name of Coco Pinchard, and various other light-hearted romance novels, Robert Bryndza has moved over to the dark side and has created the intensely complex, intricate character that is DCI Erika Foster! I for one am thrilled, and even more so at the news that this is the first of at least 3 in a series about Foster, a hard-working, demanding cop facing some very difficult challenges that often make it extremely difficult for her to function in her daily life.

Andrea Douglas-Brown is a good-time girl. Young, beautiful, wealthy and spoilt, her body is found under a thick layer of ice and the South London Metropolitan Police Department is immediately under huge pressure to find her killer. DCI Erika Foster has been on forced leave for 7 months but Superintendent Marsh believes that she is the best person for the job (partly because of her expertise, but also because of a kinship with the victim’s mother in that they’re both of Slovakian origin), and also that it is time for her to return to work after the tragic events of her last case.

Immediately the case is hindered by the fact that Lord Douglas-Brown likes to throw his weight around – he’s a Labour Peer, a man of certain importance , who’s used to making the rules and to people following them. But that’s not how DCI Foster works. Together with her chosen sidekicks, Moss and Petersen, she intends to run things her way, despite being told otherwise by Marsh. And so begins a breath-taking cat and mouse chase during which Erika and her team need to deal with the unique arrogance of the affluent who truly believe that they are untouchable, and that their lives are lived by a completely different set of rules (or lack thereof) to the rest of the mere mortals.

Policing and politics come together to form a convoluted spider-web of intrigue, and the reader is left unsure as to whether justice is truly the desired outcome of those who are in the driving seat. Is there a legitimate honesty to their actions, or rather, a duplicitous agenda serving only themselves?

The other angle to the story that was of particular interest to me as a South African, was the blatant negative prejudice that was shown towards Erika and her obvious Slovakian background. It adds to her already prickly nature and sensitivity. The barb that struck me the most was when she is accused of having such an English name – Foster (her married name) – the suggestion being ‘how dare she, when she’s not really English?’

The action is fast-paced, there’s no shortage of twists, and I’ll admit, a couple of characters I wanted to punch in the face more than once or twice. It’s one of those books that will grip you and won’t let go until you find out ‘who did it’! So check that you’ve locked the doors and windows, and settle down for a good read.

 

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BOOK REVIEW – When She Was Bad by Tammy Cohen

When She Was BadThank you to Netgalley and Random House UK for my advance copy of this book in return for an honest review.

I’ve read most of Tammy Cohen’s previous psychological thrillers and this one certainly doesn’t disappoint. She doesn’t write to a formula as some authors do – she manages to surprise her readers every single time. The twists in this are enough to give you whiplash!

The storyline takes place in a London office and alternates between the perspectives of the colleagues working there and the first person narrative of Anne Cater (I smiled at the use of this well-known book blogger’s name), an American child psychologist reminiscing about one of the biggest cases of her career and its horrific background.

Amirah, Sarah, Cleo, Paula, Ewan and Charlie have worked together quite happily (although maybe not so efficiently) for quite some time. When their boss Gill is suddenly and unceremoniously given the sack it leaves everyone feeling quite unsettled, a feeling with grows startlingly worse with the arrival of their new boss, Rachel Masters.

Rachel is smart, gorgeous and takes no nonsense right from Day 1. She makes it very clear that she’s been brought in to shake things up and she intends to do just that. And while she’s doing so, each individual member of this once cohesive team starts to unravel ever so slowly. Their personal secrets that they cling to so tightly begin to become cloyingly all-consuming, threatening to overtake every aspect of their lives until they’re unable to function on any normal level, or interact with each other without becoming suspicious of every exchange.

And as the suspense builds, so too does Ann’s story as we see that the two accounts are so obviously intertwined. But how? You might think you know just where the author is leading you, so you inevitably try to guess how everything and everyone fits together … just keep reading and see how that all works out for you!

This is an intricately, skilfully woven page-turner. I’ve worked in an office environment where my co-workers and I were forced to second-guess ourselves constantly, always watching our backs, constantly wary of who was in or out of favour that week, or even on any particular given day! It’s not a pleasant environment to work in, and you can’t help but carry that relentless feeling of negativity into most other areas of your life. Tammy Cohen depicts all of that so perfectly here, and you’ll feel decidedly uncomfortable as you enter into the lives of these rather ordinary people, trying to hide the fact that they’re all just as dysfunctional as each other. But while we’re navigating the daily labyrinths of ghastly bosses, gossiping colleagues, grouchy partners and grumpy children, and while we try to remind ourselves that we’re all just running to keep up in this human race, we forget that there are very real dangers, often right in front of our eyes.

Do we lack the skills to recognise who the real monsters are?

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