Under My Skin by Lisa Unger

Book blurb…

From New York Times bestselling author and master of suspense Lisa Unger comes an addictive psychological thriller about a woman on the hunt for her husband’s killer.

What if the nightmares are actually memories?

It’s been a year since Poppy’s husband, Jack, was brutally murdered during his morning run through Manhattan’s Riverside Park. In the immediate aftermath, Poppy spiralled into an oblivion of grief, disappearing for several days only to turn up ragged and confused and wearing a tight red dress she didn’t recognise. What happened to Poppy during those lost days? And more importantly, what happened to Jack?

The case was never solved, and Poppy has finally begun to move on. But those lost days have never stopped haunting her. Poppy starts having nightmares and blackouts — there are periods of time she can’t remember, and she’s unable to tell the difference between what is real and what she’s imagining. When she begins to sense that someone is following her, Poppy is plunged into a game of cat and mouse, determined to unravel the mystery around her husband’s death. But can she handle the truth about what really happened?

My thoughts…

I am not surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel.  Lisa Unger is a great writer who crafts dark and complicated plots – this one about dreams/memories.

Under My Skin is what I call a deliciously unsettling read.

Even after finishing the story I am left wondering (in a good way). I don’t have a problem with Unger’s style, in this regard. I really admire the structure. Unger cleverly confuses the character with dreams and/or memories and this made for great storytelling from a reader perspective. It’s one of those books you want to re-read to figure out how Unger does it!

Whilst I may have suspected who the killer was, the story kept me hooked.

Definitely a book for the TBR pile.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Harper Collins Australia

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The Girl On The Page by John Purcell

Book blurb…

Two women, two great betrayals, one path to redemption. A punchy, powerful and page-turning novel about the redemptive power of great literature, from industry insider, John Purcell.

Amy Winston is a hard-drinking, bed-hopping, hot-shot young book editor on a downward spiral. Having made her name and fortune by turning an average thriller writer into a Lee Child, Amy is given the unenviable task of steering literary great Helen Owen back to publication.

When Amy knocks on the door of their beautiful townhouse in north west London, Helen and her husband, the novelist Malcolm Taylor, are conducting a silent war of attrition. The townhouse was paid for with the enormous seven figure advance Helen was given for the novel she wrote to end fifty years of making ends meets on critical acclaim alone. The novel Malcolm thinks unworthy of her. The novel Helen has yet to deliver. The novel Amy has come to collect.

Amy has never faced a challenge like this one. Helen and Malcolm are brilliant, complicated writers who unsettle Amy into asking questions of herself – questions about what she values, her principles, whether she has integrity, whether she is authentic. Before she knows it, answering these questions becomes a matter of life or death.

From ultimate book industry insider, John Purcell, comes a literary page-turner, a ferocious and fast-paced novel that cuts to the core of what it means to balance ambition and integrity, and the redemptive power of great literature.

‘Fizzy, ferocious, and ice-pick sharp, packed with wit and heart — think The Devil Wears Prada by way of Bret Easton Ellis. Gulp it down. Or savor it slowly. Just read it’ – AJ Finn, author of international bestseller The Woman in the Window

‘A slick, sharp novel about books and relationships, drenched in delicious insider detail from the book industry. Impossible not to enjoy.’ Matt Haig

‘In The Girl on the Page, John Purcell triumphs with a scalpel in one hand and his heart in the other. It is a gripping, dark comedy of a novel which eviscerates the cynicism of contemporary publishing while uttering a cri du coeur for what is happening to writers and readers this century. Through this dark comedy – I squealed with laughter, page after page – flash questions about cultural life that Purcell asks but leaves us to ponder.’ Blanche d’Alpuget

‘A juicy page turner that takes a scalpel to the literary world, written with deep insider intel and a gleeful sense of mischief, The Girl on the Page is a wickedly clever, razor-sharp satire of lust, betrayal and ambition.’ Caroline Baum

My thoughts…

Like others, I’m struggling to review this book. Is that a good thing for a novel? I’m not sure.

I admit to wanting to read this because of the hype and because the author has a big profile in the book biz. But Girl on a Page has left me confused and that’s not what I look for in a good read.

There is no doubt the author has a way with words and a story to tell. Some of the issues raised will make for great book club discussion and the author’s affinity with books and the publishing biz gives this story an intriguing twist.

I thought the publishing biz relied on labels. Categorising a book into a specific genre is important for many reasons. I’m not sure how this novel is shelved. General Fiction? Literary? Erotica? Some of it reads like soft porn. As a result, what this book has done (for me) is highlight the need for change. Perhaps it’s time the industry introduced a reading guide, similar to what they do on the TV, so that a reader can make informed choses (eg know how much emphasis there is on things like swear words.)

Call me a fuddy-duddy, but in my opinion the use of swear words was a bit OTT in this one. I get that Amy is young and ballsy and I got that she liked to swear from the get-go. The ‘F’ word could have been used less liberally and I would have still got the character. Unfortunately, I tired quickly of the language and started skimming pages.

I’m sure this book will sell well because of all the hype and the insight into the book biz. Not my favourite book this year.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Harper Collins Australia

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The Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale

Book blurb…

The Girl on the Train meets Before I Go to Sleep with a dash of Bridget Jones in this chilling tale of love gone horribly wrong …

Some love affairs change you forever. Someone comes into your orbit and swivels you on your axis, like the wind working on a rooftop weather vane. And when they leave, as the wind always does, you are different; you have a new direction. And it’s not always north.

Any woman who’s ever been involved with a bad, bad man and been dumped will understand what it feels like to be broken, broken-hearted and bent on revenge.

Taylor Bishop is hurt, angry and wants to destroy Angus Hollingsworth in the way he destroyed her: ‘Insidiously. Irreparably. Like a puzzle he’d slowly dissembled … stolen a couple of pieces from, and then discarded, knowing that nobody would ever be able to put it back together ever again.’

So Taylor consults The Art of War and makes a plan. Then she takes the next irrevocable step – one that will change her life forever.

Things start to spiral out of her control – and The Sunday Girl becomes impossible to put down.

My Thoughts…

It’s often said a book is impossible to put down and this one really, really is.

To suggest this story is entirely about manipulation, is putting it mildly.

This novel is cleverly plotted and provocative, although you might want to jump into the pages and shake Taylor just a little.

Another good book club read (very topical).

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Simon and Schuster Australia

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Wicked River by Jenny Milchman

Book blurb…

Six million acres of Adirondack forest separate Natalie and Doug Larson from civilization. For the newlyweds, an isolated, back country honeymoon seems ideal: a chance to start their lives together with an adventure, on their own.  But just as Natalie and Doug begin to explore the dark interiors of their own hearts, as well as the depths of their love for each other, it becomes clear that they are not alone in the woods.

Because six million acres makes it easy for the wicked to hide. And even easier for someone to go missing for good.

As they struggle with the worst the wilderness has to offer, a man watches them, wielding the forest like a weapon. And once they are near his domain, he will do everything in his power to make sure they never walk out again.

My thoughts…

A novel that keeps you captive until the last page.

This plot is sinister, suspenseful and had me on the trail with Natalie and Doug.  It is not unusual for me to wake during the night and reach for my Kindle because I can often ‘read myself back to sleep’. Wicked River is not that kind of book. Once back in the wilderness, there was no sleeping—not until those parts set in the city with Natalie’s niece. (I did not like being taken away from the wilderness and the suspense, so I did find myself skipping sections.)

A great read if you are into suspense, but not if you are planning a hike through the wilderness. Schedule this one AFTER your trip!

This review is also published on Goodreads

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The Home by Karen Osman

Book blurb…

It was the one place she should have been safe.

Angela was just a baby when she was abandoned, and a children’s home is no place to grow up. When manager Ray takes girls off to his ‘den’ in the garden, they always come back crying…

So, when wealthy couple James and Rosemary come to choose a child to adopt, Angela is desperate to escape.

Years later, Angela starts to search for her birth mother, Evelyn, hoping to heal the scars of her childhood. But strange and sinister events start to unfold. And Evelyn fears she may not survive her daughter’s return.

My thoughts…

This story ends with one of those twist you don’t see coming and I might rave a lot more about the novel if I hadn’t been left feeling a little deceived / tricked as a result of new information provided at around 90% in. I can’t elaborate further without spoilers, and I did enjoy the book, but I wonder if I might have been more invested in the characters had the author let me into to twist earlier. The shock/surprise factor is great in a book. We love them. But we read for the character’s journey and I felt a little removed from this one.

This novel might make a good book club discussion.

This review is also published on Goodreads


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The Lost Pearl by Emily Madden

Book blurb…

From Pearl Harbor to the shores of Sydney, a family secret that spans generations could unite a family – or destroy it.

Honolulu, Hawaii 1941

On the evening of her sixteenth birthday party, Catherine McGarrie wants nothing more than for the night to be over, even though the opulence of the ballroom befits the daughter of a US Navy Rear Admiral. Then she meets Charlie, a navy officer from the other side of the tracks, a man her parents would never approve of.

As rumours of war threaten their tropical paradise, Catherine and Charlie fall in love. But the bombing of Pearl Harbor on 7th December 1941 changes their lives forever.

Seventy–five years later, addled by age and painkillers, Catherine tells her granddaughter Kit her story and reveals the tale of a long–lost treasure. Can Kit uncover the secret and reunite her family? Or will the truth tear them apart?

My Thoughts…

I loved the emotional journey in this story, as well as the trip to war-time Hawaii and the glimpse of a 1941 Pearl Harbour.

The plot is both intricate and easy for follow—not an easy task. The author has done a very good job tying everything together, creating a story to capture both your heart and your interest, from beginning to end.

I loved the story about Catherine and Charlie most of all.  The hardships they and their families endured following the attack on Pearl Harbour and the ensuing war seemed very authentic, sad and tragic.

I do love a tale of missed opportunities and this is one of those stories.

The events the main character, Kit, uncovers in her search through the past are well timed and perfectly plotted, rewarding the reader with just enough information to keep them reading well into the night.

A must read, but you may need a tissue or two.

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

Published by Harper Collins Australia

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When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica

Book blurb…

A woman is plunged into a bizarre case of stolen identity in this ambitious and riveting thriller by the blockbuster bestselling author of The Good Girl, Mary Kubica

Jessie Sloane is on the path to rebuilding her life after years of caring for her ailing mother. She rents a new apartment and applies for college. But when the college informs her that her social security number has raised a red flag, Jessie discovers a shocking detail that forces her to question everything she’s ever known.

Finding herself suddenly at the centre of a bizarre mystery, Jessie tumbles down a rabbit hole, which is only exacerbated by a relentless lack of sleep. As days pass and the insomnia worsens, it plays with Jessie’s mind. Her judgment is blurred, her thoughts hampered by fatigue. Jessie begins to see things until she can no longer tell the difference between what’s real and what she’s only imagined.

Meanwhile, twenty years earlier and two hundred and fifty miles away, another woman’s split-second decision may hold the key to Jessie’s secret past. Is Jessie really who she thinks she is? Has her whole life been a lie? The truth will shock her to her core…if she lives long enough to discover it.

My Thoughts…

This is such and interesting plot and written in such a way I cannot, without fear of spoiler, discuss the plot.

You might stop and question certain aspects but keep reading and you will be rewarded.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Harper Collins Australia



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The Ones You Trust by Caroline Overington

Book blurb…

From the bestselling author of The One Who Got Away comes a gripping new psychological thriller that will have you thinking twice about who in your life you can really trust …

Emma Cardwell, celebrity mum and host of top-rating morning TV show Cuppa, seems to have it all: fame, money and a gorgeous family. But when her little girl disappears from day-care – captured on CCTV footage at a nearby shopping centre leaving with someone Emma has never seen before – her world is turned upside down.

As the minutes tick by, and pressure mounts, every part of Emma’s life comes under examination. Is this a kidnapping, the work of a crazed stalker, or an obsessed fan? Is somebody out for revenge or is this something closer to home?

And there is the aching question: how much do we really know about those who care for our children . . . and about the people we love?

My thoughts…

A lot of books I enjoy are plot-driven. They are very much about the mystery/crime/whatever. I really enjoy those stories that also have a good character arc that sees the characters growing in some way. This novel focuses very much on plot and less on characters and that left me feeling disconnected. I was not drawn to Emma, or any of the other characters in the story. I was not invested in their plight or journey, so I ambled through the pages not caring very much about the outcome.

The storytelling is very factual. I would have preferred a more emotional portrayal of the family.  The concept of such a young child being kidnapped should have created a higher level of emotion in the characters and, subsequently in me, the reader.

The negative portrayal of media and reporters is likely very true to life and it’s probably another reason I did not enjoy this story as much as I had expected I would.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Harper Collins Australia

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Sisters and Brothers by Fiona Palmer

Book Blurb…

A poignant novel of heartbreak, adoption and family secrets
Emma, a nurse and busy mother of three, has always dreamed of having a sister.
Michelle, at 46, wonders if it’s too late to fall in love and find her birth parents.
Sarah, career woman and perfectionist homemaker, struggles to keep up with the Joneses.
Bill, 72, feels left behind after the death of his adored wife.
Adam can’t stop thinking about the father he never had.
These five very different people are all connected but separated by secrets from the past. Sisters and Brothers will both break and warm your heart in a way that only bestselling Australian storyteller Fiona Palmer can.

My thoughts…

This novel sees Fiona Palmer a long way from her rural fiction and it’s a very contemporary story, well told and heartwarming.

Personally, I loved Bill, and felt sorry that his early life/lifestyle meant he ultimately missed out on the most meaningful relationship of all. But it was Michelle I felt for the most. For reasons I cannot disclose, I was left wondering, long after the last page, how different her life may have been.

At the heart of this complex story is a theme that, for personal reasons, I’ve thought about many times over my 60 years …

Just how close have I been without realising.

Well done, Fiona.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Hachette Australia

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Through His Eyes by Emma Dibdin

Book blurb…

A dark, unsettling thriller about a young female journalist drawn into the life of a troubled Hollywood A-lister.

The perfect summer read for fans of Sabine Durrant, Erin Kelly and Louise Doughty.

You have to know when to say no. That’s one of the first things they tell you. But from the first day I arrived in Los Angeles, I said yes.

Jessica Harris is a struggling Hollywood reporter hungry for her big break. When her editor asks her to profile movie star Clark Conrad, Jessica is sure her luck is on the turn. Clark is an A-lister with access to everyone. If Jessica can impress him, she’s made it.

When she arrives at Clark’s mansion in the Hollywood Hills, he is just as she always imagined. Charming, handsome yet disarmingly vulnerable. But then things take a darker turn. Clark’s world is not as straightforward as it seems and Jessica’s puff piece soon becomes something much more delicate – and dangerous. As Jessica draws herself deeper into Clark’s inner circle, events begin to spiral out of her control.

Transfixing, insightful and unsettling, Through His Eyes drops you into the mind of a young woman with everything to play for – and everything to lose…

My thoughts…

I never DNF a novel and then review. To not finish an author’s work but still offer an opinion is wrong, wrong, wrong. So I did read to the end, hopeful, but unfortunately I did not enjoy the story as much as the blurb suggested I would.

Did I miss something?

That said, I was forced to read this story in snatches, mostly due to my own time/travel constraints. This may have affected my interpretation of the narrative.

Jessica certainly found herself in a position where she needed to make a life-altering choice regarding movie star, Clark Conrad. So the conflict was there.

I think I’d like to read this story again when I can give it my full attention and not be pressured by review/publishing deadlines.

This review is also published on Goodreads

Published by Harper Collins Australia

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