The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

Book blurb…

In the masterful follow-up to the runaway hit All the Missing Girls—a “fiendishly plotted thriller” (Publishers Weekly)—a journalist sets out to find a missing friend, a friend who may never have existed at all.

Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

Everyone in this rural Pennsylvanian town has something to hide—including Leah herself. How do you uncover the truth when you are busy hiding your own?

My thoughts…

Having read the author’s other title, All The Missing Girls, last year, which was cleverly written backwards (that’s the best way to describe the structure. You’ll have to read that book for yourself) I was looking forward to this new novel, The Perfect Stranger.

I was not disappointed. The plot was not at all predictable (which is important for me, especially in this ‘domestic noir’ genre that is now so prevalent) and kept me intrigued all the way to the end.

The concept had me questioning…. Not only about how you might report a friend missing when there is no evidence that the friend even actually exists, but also, how can this situation even exist in such an internet intensive world?

The story is written in first person, mostly present day, and the plot was complicated, so you might need serious reading sessions to help you keep track. The character, Lea Stevens, has a past she’s trying to avoid by trusting a friend! But is Lea’s past stealing her future?  Fascinating.

Review also placed on Goodreads

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Promise of Hunters Ridge by Sarah Barrie

Book blurb…

By the time this is all over, she’ll know what it’s like to kill, or what it’s like to die.

Mia Morgan doesn’t let anything get to her. After freeing herself from an obsessive boss and saving loved ones from a serial killer, she feels like she can handle anything life throws at her. But now that killer – a deranged hunter who preys on women for sport – is coming for her. And if she runs, others will pay the price. As if that’s not enough, Ben Bowden, the brilliant detective who has made her life hell for the past four years, has some insane plan to protect her. If she collaborates with him, Mia might just have to acknowledge her true feelings. But if she keeps him out, will she let the hunter win?

Ben Bowden is sick of finding dead bodies. If being the lead detective on the biggest case in the country didn’t come with enough pressure, now the psychopath Ben is chasing has Mia Morgan in his sights. And Mia doesn’t want his help. She hasn’t forgiven him for the past, and is being less than cooperative with his investigation. Protecting her is a challenge, and the sparks that fly whenever they’re together aren’t helping. But he has to make her trust him – somehow – because she has a plan that terrifies him to the bone.

Can he convince her to work with him? Or will she risk everything to single-handedly turn the hunter into the hunted?

My thoughts…

I always want to congratulate an author when I find myself reading a book midway through in a series and their careful and considerate writing has let me catch up on storylines (without having read any previous titles).

Promise of Hunters Ridge is as much a standalone read as it is book 3 in a series. Based on my enjoyment, I have no hesitation in recommending the earlier books in the series. The characters are fabulous and I am confident the stories will be equally as good as Promise of Hunters Ridge, which hooked me from the beginning. It had me awake and reading through the night. Even though I was tired, I had to get to the end.

Sarah Barrie, you have done an excellent job and I love all the characters (except, of course, the bad guy!)

Review posted on Goodreads and Australian Women Writers Challenge

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Things We Cannot See by Dianne Maguire

Book blurb…

Set on the magical coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula and inspired by true events, Things We Cannot See is Dianne Maguire’s second domestic suspense novel – a compelling story of children and families, love and betrayal. Laura Nesci has found her forever partner – until he leaves her for no apparent reason. It is only in the wake of a family tragedy and the unearthing of her husband’s secret life that things fall into place, including Laura’s burgeoning attraction for local artist Flynn. Fighting against the temptation of another possibly disastrous relationship, Laura channels her energies into her work as a victim support officer with the police. Fifteen-year-old Alex is a girl with secrets. Her best friend Maddi believes it’s wrong, but Alex knows that what she has with their science teacher is special. When Alex is attacked, Maddi and Laura become locked in a silent battle of wills: Laura suspects that Maddi is keeping secrets for her friend, and Maddi must decide whether to speak up or remain silent. But the final telling of Alex’s deepest secret is met with shock and disbelief from everyone, including Laura, who thinks she has seen it all – until now.

My thoughts…

I enjoyed this story as much as Dianne Maguire’s debut novel, What Matters Most.  While Things We Cannot See has a lot going on, it is the type of story you can put down when life gets in the way, but is easy to pick up where you left off.

The main character, Laura, manages to not only deal with her own life and marriage troubles but is very dedicated to her day job as a victim support officer.  I liked this character, however, she needed to demonstrate her frustrations to me a little more, especially in dealing with her work colleague when he joined a boys club with the boss.  As a character I thought she managed things too well and needed to get more emotional, so I became more invested in the story.

Overall this novel did not disappoint and I would recommend Things We Cannot See to go onto your to-be-read pile. It is an Australian author and we need to ‘buy more Aussie made’ and that includes books!

Review posted on Goodreads and Australian Women Writers Challenge

Published by HarperCollins Publishers Australia

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A Letter from Italy by Pamela Hart

Book blurb…

Inspired by the life of the world’s first woman war correspondent, Australia’s Louise Mack, A Letter from Italy is the most sweeping love story yet by Pamela Hart.

1917, Italy. Australian journalist Rebecca Quinn is an unconventional woman. At the height of World War I, she has given up the safety of her Sydney home for the bloody battlefields of Europe, following her journalist husband to the frontline as a war correspondent in Italy.

Reporting the horrors of the Italian campaign, Rebecca finds herself thrown together with American-born Italian photographer Alessandro Panucci, and soon discovers another battleground every bit as dangerous and unpredictable: the human heart.

A passionate and poignant love story set on the beautiful Italian coast by the bestselling author of The Soldier’s Wife and The War Bride.

Pamela Hart is an award-winning author for adults and children. She has a Doctorate of Creative Arts from the University of Technology, Sydney. Under the name Pamela Freeman she wrote the historical novel The Black Dress, which won the NSW Premier’s History Prize for 2006. Pamela is also well known for her fantasy novels for adults, published by Orbit worldwide, the Castings Trilogy, and her Aurealis Award-winning novel Ember and Ash. Pamela lives in Sydney with her husband and their son, and teaches at the Australian Writers’ Centre. A Letter from Italy is her thirtieth book, a stand-alone novel set in the same time period as The Soldier’s Wife and The War Bride, which has been short-listed for Epic Romantic Novel in the UK’s prestigious Romantic Novelists’ Association (RNA) 2017 Awards

My thoughts…

After reading The War Bride in 2016 I have been longing to read this latest story by Pamela Hart.  A Letter from Italy did not disappoint.

War time in any country will always have tales of lost loves and new love.  To write a story, based in Italy, and with forbidden love at it’s core (combined with a strong and independent Australian woman) is a perennial plot and evidence of Pamela’s prolific storytelling (book #13, I think).

This story will tug at your heart strings and have you wishing Rebecca and a certain Italian man would stop doing the honourable thing and just express their love for one another.

Inspired by the world’s first woman war correspondent, this novel demonstrates the difficulties encountered by women during wartime in a foreign country.

This review has also been placed on Goodreads and Australian Women Writers Challenge


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The Hidden Hours by Sara Foster

Book blurb…

Keeping her secret may save her family.

But telling it may save her life.

Arabella Lane, senior executive at a children’s publisher, is found dead in the Thames on a frosty winter’s morning after the office Christmas party. No one is sure whether she jumped or was pushed. The one person who may know the truth is the newest employee at Parker & Lane – the office temp, Eleanor.

Eleanor has travelled to London to escape the repercussions of her traumatic childhood in outback Australia, but now tragedy seems to follow her wherever she goes. To her horror, she has no memory of the crucial hours leading up to Arabella’s death – memory that will either incriminate or absolve her.

As Eleanor desperately tries to remember her missing hours and uncover the events of that fateful night, her own extended family is dragged further into the dark, terrifying terrain of blame, suspicion and guilt.

Caught in a crossfire of accusations, Eleanor fears she can’t even trust herself, let alone the people around her. And soon, she’ll find herself in a race against time to find out just what happened that night – and discover just how deadly some secrets can be.

My thoughts…

Sarah Foster’s, The Hidden Hours, hits the spot for those who love to read thrilling, evocative mysteries.

I felt so much for Eleanor as she tries to start a new life in London.  Unfortunately, her new life is affected by her past and her family.

The plot is well paced and keeps you reading to the end and the vivid descriptions were just right. I felt the cold of London’s winter and the loneliness of Eleanor’s childhood throughout the book.

Sara Foster introduces us to the character of Eleanor gradually. Eleanor’s current day troubles and her past as a child are beautifully told in a way that brings the past and present together in an ending you won’t see coming.

I am a Sara Foster fan and I’m thinking this is her best yet. Another fantastic Australian Author.

This review is also on Goodreads and Australian Women Writers Challenge

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He Said/ She Said by Erin Kelly

Book blurb…

Controversial, twisty, thought-provoking and always gripping: He Said/ She Said is the suspense novel for 2017.

Who do you believe?

He said it was consensual. The woman said nothing. But Laura saw it… didn’t she?

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura and Kit interrupt something awful.

Laura is sure about what happened. Later, in a panic, she tells a little white lie – and four lives are changed irreparably.

When the victim turns up on their doorstep, her gratitude spills into dangerous obsession. Laura and Kit decide to run – but Beth knows they have pledged to see every eclipse together. They will never be able to entirely escape her.

As the next eclipse draws near, Laura must confront the fallout from what she saw in the darkness. Confessing will cost her marriage; keeping the secret might prove fatal.

But all secrets, sooner or later, will come to light.

My thoughts…

This story is about how one lie sets many more in motion, to the point that the entire relationship is based on deceit. Each character deceives the others. At first, the plot seemed a little obvious, until the story started unfolding and everything fell apart. No one is left unscathed.

I loved that the author used luna eclipses as they occurred over the years around the world.  This was an effective devise that gave the characters a common interest and brought them together.

I thoroughly enjoyed the twists in this story about obsession, lies and relationships.  Well worth the read.

This review is also on Goodreads

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Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

Book blurb…

The nation is gripped by the infamous ‘Ragdoll Killer’. Your friends, your family and your neighbours are all talking about it

A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the ‘ragdoll’.

Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Emily Baxter.

The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

My thoughts…

I enjoyed this story, even though it was tough to get past the thought of a killer stitching body parts of different victims together.  (Yes, even for me!) The Ragdoll Killer was ingenious, the plot unique, especially the methods the killer uses when attempting to kill the victims on his list.

I felt for the main character, Detective Fawkes ‘Wolf’, who, as well as being #6 on the list was personally involved in preventing the deaths of others on the list.

This story also explores what can happen when the press gets too involved and publicises a murderer’s intentions step by step.

Very ingenious plotting by the author, well done.

This review is also on Goodreads


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Safe From Harm by R J Bailey

Book blurb…

London: a city where the super-rich flock – and where their enemies follow. And in this city of eight million people, where any stranger could be a threat, a close protection operative is the must-have accessory for anyone who is anyone.

But not just any close protection officer. A female close protection officer. One who can blend into the crowd, but who is tough enough to counter any threat.

Safe From Harm is the explosive opening to an exciting new series by a thrilling new talent.

My thoughts…

I love the fact that this story is the first in a series. It was a great read and I obviously have a lot more book to look forward to.

I love reading about strong women, especially one that can physically fend for herself.  In this story Sam Wylde is just that, however she does take on the best of them (in terms of antagonists) with unexpected consequences.

This powerful story will keep you reading but be aware. It is a series and the author has left some loose ends, so you will need to read the next book to find the answers.

This review is also on Goodreads


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The Caller by Chris Carter

Book blurb…

Be careful before answering your next call. It could be the beginning of your worst nightmare.

The terrifying new thriller from the Sunday Times bestselling author of I AM DEATH.

After a tough week, Tanya Kaitlin is looking forward to a relaxing night in, but as she steps out of her shower, she hears her phone ring. The video call request comes from her best friend, Karen Ward. Tanya takes the call and the nightmare begins.

Karen is gagged and bound to a chair in her own living room. If Tanya disconnects from the call, if she looks away from the camera, he will come after her next, the deep, raspy, demonic voice at the other end of the line promises her.

As Hunter and Garcia investigate the threats, they are thrown into a rollercoaster of evil, chasing a predator who scouts the streets and social media networks for victims, taunting them with secret messages and feeding on their fear.

My thoughts…

Wow! Chris Carter, you certainly know how to put the reader in the scene. Unfortunately, the scenes are such that I may never answer the phone again.

If you are a reader of the crime and physiological thriller genre then The caller is a must-read.  I read Chris Carter’s last book, I am Death, and a grab from my review states, “Definitely not for the faint-hearted, readers need to prepare themselves for the gruesome nature of the crimes”. This grab also serves as a warning for some of the graphic scenes in this story.

The same detectives, Hunter and Garcia, are searching for a depraved killer. As usual, time is their enemy, and the author uses this to make the novel so gripping you will not want to put the book down.

The plot is clever and well tied up at the end. All the threads needed to give the reader an understanding as to why this evil individual would torture and torment other humans as he does are there and it makes this one very satisfying read – if not a little terrifying.

Does justice reign in the end?  Read The Caller to find out.

Review also posted on Goodreads

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The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo

Book blurb…

What happens to the girl left behind?

A masked man with a gun enters a sandwich shop in broad daylight, and Meredith Oliver suddenly finds herself ordered to the filthy floor, where she cowers face to face with her nemesis, Lisa Bellow, the most popular girl in her eighth grade class. The minutes tick inexorably by, and Meredith lurches between comforting the sobbing Lisa and imagining her own impending death. Then the man orders Lisa Bellow to stand and come with him, leaving Meredith behind.

After Lisa’s abduction, Meredith spends most days in her room. As the community stages vigils and searches, Claire, Meredith’s mother, is torn between relief that her daughter is alive and helplessness over her inability to protect or even comfort her child. Her daughter is here, but not.

The Fall of Lisa Bellow is edgy and original, a hair-raising exploration of the ripple effects of an unthinkable crime.

My thoughts…

When I choose books to read I rely heavily on the blurb to ensure my choices are to my liking, and something I’m comfortable reviewing, before I start.  That said, I was looking forward to reading The Fall of Lisa Bellow, until I got into the book. By page 100 I discovered the blurb and the book very different and not what I’d expected.

The story drills very deep into the psyche of a family, focusing on the daughter, Meredith, and her mother, Claire.  I found the story to be telling and the writing style overly repetitive in places. I was often confused about the relevance of some sections and could not see how they advanced the story.

Then I had a light bulb moment. I realised this story was not really about an abduction and so I should stop relying on the blurb and enjoy the read. The plot is more about a young, troubled girl, Meredith, and her mother’s inability to deal with life and the situations she’s found herself in.

I did not enjoy this story because it is not the style of book I like to read and it took much persistence to finish. I expected a twist or some great revelation at the end, but this novel is more literary in its structure and telling. It should be said, however, that the author has narrated the lives of this family in great depth and aside from my confusion and the connection to the blurb, the novel is clearly complex and the messages contained profound.

As I was interested to know more about this author and her publishing history, I did Google Susan Perabo and discovered she is highly regarded and an award-winning short story writer.

This review has also been placed on Goodreads

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