The Death of Her by Debbie Howells

Book blurb…

The Death of Her is a haunting psychological thriller from Debbie Howells, author of the bestselling Richard and Judy Book Club success The Bones of You. A woman’s body is discovered on a Cornish farm, battered and left for dead in a maize field. Airlifted to hospital, her life hanging in the balance, no one’s sure who she is. Three days later she comes round, but her memory is damaged. She knows her name – Evie – but no more, until she remembers another name. Angel – her three-year-old daughter. As the police circulate Evie’s photo, someone recognizes her. Charlotte knew her years ago, at school, when another child went missing. Leah Danning, who vanished whilst in Evie’s care. When the police search Evie’s home, there’s no sign of Angel. More disturbingly, there’s no evidence that she ever lived there, forcing the police to question whether Evie’s having some kind of breakdown. But even from the darkest place she’s ever known, Evie believes her daughter is alive. The police remain unconvinced – unaware that on the fringes of Evie’s life, there’s someone else. Someone hidden, watching her every move, with their own agenda and their own twisted version of reality.

My thoughts…

I found myself drawn in at the beginning and I loved the twist at the end, however the detail in first person about Casey was overly reflective and tended to slow the story down a bit, in my opinion.

I normally devour a good psychological thriller, but on this occasion I felt removed from the story and found the police Investigation to be more of a convenient plot device and not realistic.

I had difficulty making the connection with Casey’s back story and the reasons for the missing child and would have been more invested in this story if I’d developed a stronger emotional connection to the characters. Maybe some additional editing could have tightened the story.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Pan Macmillan

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Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka

Book blurb…

“An exciting debut from a talented new voice. Girl in Snow is a propulsive mystery set in a suburban community marked by unsettling voyeurism. Danya Kukafka patiently reveals layers of her characters’ inner lives—their ugliness and vulnerabilities—in prose that sparkles and wounds. I couldn’t put this one down.” —Brit Bennett, New York Times bestselling author of The Mothers

An addictive debut thriller about the mysterious death of a small-town golden girl and the secret lives of three people connected to her: the social misfit who loved her from afar, the rebellious girl who despised her, and the policeman investigating her death.

As morning dawns in a sleepy Colorado suburb, a dusting of snow covers high school freshman Lucinda Hayes’s dead body on a playground carousel. As accusations quickly spread, Lucinda’s tragic death draws three outsiders from the shadows.

Oddball Cameron Whitley loved—still loves—Lucinda. Though they’ve hardly ever spoken, and any sensible onlooker would call him Lucinda’s stalker, Cameron is convinced that he knows her better than anyone. Completely untethered by the news of her death, Cameron’s erratic behavior provides the town ample reason to suspect that he’s the killer.

Jade Dixon-Burns hates Lucinda. Lucinda took everything from Jade: her babysitting job, and her best friend. The worst part was Lucinda’s blissful ignorance to the damage she’d wrought.

Officer Russ Fletcher doesn’t know Lucinda, but he knows the kid everyone is talking about, the boy who may have killed her. Cameron Whitley is his ex-partner’s son. Now Russ must take a painful journey through the past to solve Lucinda’s murder and keep a promise he made long ago.

Girl in Snow investigates the razor-sharp line between love and obsession and will thrill fans of Everything I Never Told You and Luckiest Girl Alive.Intoxicating and intense, this is a novel you will not be able to put down.

My thoughts…

I’ve never read a book like this before. A story full of odd people in an odd town filled with dirty secrets. As no one really talks to each other, the narrative is very ‘telling’, but then there is ‘prose’ that makes for an interesting contrast.

Although uniquely told, Girl In Snow is not my kind of narrative. I prefer stories with more dialogue and a deep POV that, for me, makes the characters more relatable and their character arcs/growth stronger and more emotional. But the reviews in the NY times speak very well of the debut novelist. So, I guess its one of those ‘you cant please everyone’ type review scenarios.

That said, it is a very good book, just different and that can be a good thing in today’s market. I have to wonder what sort of mind comes up with this sort of story, which can appear disjointed at times but does actually all come together in the end.

I chose to read it because it was listed as a ‘thriller’. There is a murder, but it’s not a suspenseful thriller. Worth checking out if you like introspection with prose.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Simon and Schuster

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Lie To Me by J. T. Ellison

Book blurb…

Domestic noir at its best.

Readers will devour this stunning page-turner about the disintegration of a marriage as grief, jealousy, betrayal and murder destroy the facade of the perfect literary couple. New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison takes her exceptional writing to a new level with this breakout novel.

They built a life on lies…

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

My thoughts…

Lie to Me will capture you and hold you hostage to the story until The End. And WHAT an ending! This novel has everything you need: lies, jealousy and betrayal.

I loved it, devoured it, and felt for both Sutton and Ethan as their marriage falls apart over the pages.

I also loved the way the Author wrote the story, giving me insight into the evil mind of the perpetrator (narrator). Fabulous. Readers meet this evil narrator several times during the story, brilliantly foreshadowing what is in store for the both Sutton and Ethan.

If you love a thriller to keep you away from your daily chores, this is for you!

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Harlequin (Australia) TEEN / MIRA

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Prodigal Daughter by Jane Carter

Book blurb…

Is there any place like home…?

Twenty years ago, in a hot-headed rage, Diana Crawford left the family farm to build a new life in London. Now, following her husband’s fatal accident and unable to find respite from the barrage of guilt-inducing and heartrending memories at every turn, she runs to the one place she feels Charlie’s ghost can’t follow her: Mog’s Hill, the Crawford farm in New South Wales. There, among the smell of lanolin, the dust of the sheep yards and the beauty of the land, Diana hopes she can regain her strength and put her life, as well as those of her three shell-shocked kids, back on track. But home isn’t as she remembers, and her return cracks open old family wounds.

Stella has longed for her prodigal daughter’s return for years. Now if she can convince Diana to open up and let them back into her heart, she might just be able to keep her grandchildren close by and find the family peace she craves. But Stella already has her hands full trying to hold everything together, and now the Crawford family is a hair’s breadth from shattering forever. Can Stella keep the peace? Can she make Diana see the strength in relying on family, or will Diana leave them behind once again?

‘A heartwarming story of family, love and loss with characters you won’t want to leave.’ — Tricia Stringer, Australian bestselling author.

My thoughts…

Prodigal Daughter was a perfect title for this novel.

This story gave me a glimpse at the difficulties families on the land face, especially deciding how to plan for their children’s future. I enjoyed the authenticity the author brought to the tale in this regard. The novel is a light read with the drama kicking in the latter part of the book when big decisions need to be made and children considered. (Always an emotional element.)

The theme is very much about loss and family and how running away from either simply makes life more complicated.

I particularly enjoyed the contrast between the English winter and the Australian summer on a sheep property.

This review is also published on Goodreads and Australian Women Writers Challenge

Published by Harlequin (Australia) TEEN / MIRA

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Brothers and Sisters by Adele O’Neill

Book blurb…

Nothing remains buried forever… What would you do to protect the ones you love?

A gripping, highly emotive story of love, survival, dark family secrets and sibling loyalty. Perfect for the fans of Kathryn Hughes and Dorothy Koomson.

When human remains are found on Fitzpatrick Estate, Detective Kelly is drawn deep into the complex web of Fitzpatrick family secrets as Timothy and his sister Rose, now in their sixties, are catapulted into the centre of the investigation.

When the pathology report identifies the remains as that of their uncle, Patrick Fitzpatrick, missing from Fitzpatrick Estate since 1970, they scramble to protect their past.

What would you do to protect the ones you love?

My thoughts…

This story, Brothers and Sisters, moved me beyond description.  It was powerful, well written, and a book I could barely put down.

I was so engaged with the main characters, Rose and her brother, Tim, that I felt every ordeal they endured. The author’s telling of some unsavoury elements was so cleverly handled that I knew exactly what was happening and how the brother and sister felt about their early lives without the need for shock factor. Brilliant! Totally captivating. Tissues required.

This story’s secrets and lies are bound in a bubble of love that endures the decades. Forty-six years, in fact.

This book should be moved to the top of your to-be-read pile.

This review is also published on Goodreads

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Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

Book blurb…

Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason: her father was murdered, her mother ran away to join a cult, and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her. Now, Josie has settled in New York with her boyfriend Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay. The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past – starting with her last name. Then investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a hit podcast that reopens the case of her father’s murder and Josie’s carefully constructed world begins to unravel. She is forced to return to her hometown where she must confront the lies from her past – as well as those on which she has staked her future.

My thoughts…

I loved everything about Are you Sleeping: the overall plot, the characters, the use of a podcast to facilitate the opinions of the people and direct the investigations is inspired.  I could not stop reading.

The characters had depth and I was at one with the twins emotionally throughout their journey as they come to terms with their fathers murder.

There were times when I wanted to pull the plug on the investigative reporter.  I hated what her podcast and what the associated Twitter feed was doing to the family, but it was the catalyst bringing Josie and Lanie’s relationship to a head. Very clever story telling.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Pan Macmillan

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The Twilight Wife by A. J. Banner

Book blurb…

From bestselling author A.J. Banner comes a dazzling new novel of psychological suspense in the vein of S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep and Mary Kubica’s The Good Girl that questions just how much we can trust the people around us.

Thirty-four-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop remembers nothing about the diving accident that left her with a complex form of memory loss. With only brief flashes of the last few years of her life, her world has narrowed to a few close friendships on the island where she lives with her devoted husband, Jacob.

But all is not what it seems. Kyra begins to have visions—or are they memories?—of a rocky marriage, broken promises, and cryptic relationships with the island residents, whom she believes to be her friends.

As Kyra races to uncover her past, the truth becomes a terrifying nightmare. A twisty, immersive thriller, The Twilight Wife will keep readers enthralled through the final, shocking twist.

My thoughts…

I found this novel intriguing with a good amount of psychological suspense.

I certainly felt for the main character, Kyra. Being on an isolated island without any memories of recent years was very challenging for her and I found it intriguing.

The slow build created the appropriate tension, as a result the story was slow to move forward at times.

I loved the romance of living in an island community and enjoyed meeting the local characters. I understood the parts they were meant to play, but I would have loved to see more involvement by the community in the resolution of Kyra’s marriage problems.

I did not enjoy this story as much as I would have liked. I do, however, recognise the challenge this author faced with a story that had so few characters on an isolated island.

Check it out and if you read it, please let me know what you thought. Review also published on Goodreads

Published by Simon and Schuster (Australia)

 

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The Art of Hiding by Amanda Prowse

Book blurb…

Nina McCarrick has it all: a loving husband, two beautiful boys, a well-appointed home and more time than she knows what to do with. Life is perfect. Until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina’s life of luxury quickly disappears and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Stirring and empowering, this novel from bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this tale of one woman’s loss and love.

My thoughts…

The Art of Hiding is so gripping I had to read it in one day just to find out what the character would face next. I don’t want to say too much except and spoil the story for others. This is the story about a woman who has everything and nothing and it takes a series of ‘challenges’ for her to realise her full potential. And when I say challenges (in the same breath as Amanda Prowse) I’m talking jaw-dropping plot twists and OMG! moments.

The scenario in this book is so possible for any one of us. It’s a story that will make you reflect on your own life and have you counting your blessings.

This review is also published on Goodreads

 

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Leaving Ocean Road by Esther Campion

Book blurb…

Twenty years ago, Ellen O’Shea left her beloved Ireland to make a new life in Australia. Now a popular local in a small coastal town, but struggling to cope with the death of her much-loved Greek husband, Nick, Ellen finds her world turned upside down when an unexpected visitor lands on her doorstep. The arrival of Gerry Clancy, her first love from Ireland, may just be the catalyst that pulls Ellen out of her pit of grief, but it will also trigger a whole new set of complications for her and those she holds dear.

Home is where the heart is – but where exactly is home? Can Ellen and Gerry’s rekindled romance withstand the passage of time, family, young adult children with their own lives, and the shock disclosure of a long-held secret that will put all their closest relationships at risk?

Set in Ireland, Greece and small-town coastal Australia, Leaving Ocean Road is a warm-hearted, poignant story about treasuring our memories while celebrating our new beginnings.

My thoughts…

It is great to see another debut Australian Author writing about love and family relationships and giving readers everything they need in a story to curl up with.

This book certainly shows how characters lives can ‘turn on a dime’ and how resilience (and a little humour) helps overcome, no matter what is thrown at them.  In this case, not only is Ellen dealing with the tragic loss of her husband, but also her daughter’s grief.

If you like heartwarming stories that included adventures in Greece and Ireland, then be prepared to snuggle up with this one.

Leaving Ocean Road is a sweet story and an easy read, bringing light and humour to the topic of loss and grief.

Review also published on Goodreads and Australian Women Writers Challenge

Published by Hachette Australia

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Beneath the Skin by Melissa James

Book blurb…

I’m coming for you. This time, it’s forever…’

Flying Doctor Elly Lavender has spent years on the run from a violent stalker. Her obsessive former patient will do anything and threaten anyone in his campaign to force her to love him. When her most recent cover is blown, she runs for help to the childhood friend she could never get out of her mind — outback cop Adam Jepson.

Isolated, hurting, all Adam wants is to forget. After the deaths of his wife and son three years before, he’s moved to the outback with his young daughter, Zoe, to put the past behind him for good. But when Elly walks into his station, she reminds him of all the childhood joy and love he’d forgotten. Soon, he’s lost in a desire he never knew could exist. And while his guilt at leaving Elly behind years ago and the vow he made to his dying wife means he can never be the man she needs, he can’t stop caring, can’t stop trying to make Elly’s life right. Though the whole town seems against them, he can’t stop wanting the forbidden.

But when anonymous harassment escalates to murder, Elly knows her presence in Macks Lake has put Adam and Zoe’s lives at risk. Everyone’s safer if she remains alone — a fact that her stalker is very much counting on as he gets ever closer to his prey…


My thoughts…

The characters in Beneath the Skin are haunted by their past, and by decisions made (both their family’s and their own).  The two main characters, Adam and Elly, are young (first loves) but their backgrounds and their families mean their fate is uncertain.

Adam, as an adult, has a very emotional journey and this had the greatest impact on me. The male point of view was well handled and added to the authenticity the author delivers. The writing has some beautiful prose, despite the darkness of the plot. With Elly I did feel like I was on a seesaw quite a bit: Will she stay? Will she go? Will she live or will she die? Even though throughout the story readers are constantly reminded about the characters’ earliest childhood love (and how this determines their futures), by books-end I had a better understanding of Elly and her issues.

Overall, this novel is easy to follow and one for readers who enjoy the pursuit of the bad guy  mixed in with the love of the good guy.

This review is also published on Goodreads and Australian Women Writers Challenge

Published by Harlequin (Australia) Mira

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