Blog Tour: One Of The Girls by Lucy Clarke

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I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for One Of The Girls by Lucy Clarke. My thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part, and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

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One of us is a liar. One of us is a stranger. One of us is a cheater.

But who could be a killer?

The six of us arrived on the beautiful, sunbaked island of Aegos to leave it all behind, our suitcases packed with flip flops and beach towels, our heads full of dreams for the perfect weekend away with friends…

On the first night, we laughed and danced under the stars. On the second night we went skinny dipping in the warm, summer sea. On the third night the wine loosened our tongues, the lies spilling and the masks starting to slip.

And on the final night it all ignited as we celebrated around the beach fire – for someone, the holiday in Greece would be their last…

This is one of my favourite thrillers that I have read so far this year. I thought I would probably enjoy it, which is why I volunteered for the tour. I am a fan of this author’s work and the blurb suggested it had all the elements I love in a book – female dynamics, exotic location, death…. Even so, it exceeded all my expectations.

The tension in this book is palpable from the very first page and it has all to do with the awkward dynamics between a group of people who have only been brought together by their loose connection to one of their number. Anyone who has ever been on a hen night will recognise the friction between groups of women who don’t know each other, who come from different areas of the bride’s life and are forced into camaraderie and jollity with people they would not personally choose to hang out with. The author captures this feeling absolutely perfectly and it gives this thriller an uneasy feeling even before there is any indication that anything is particularly wrong. It’s easy to see how a tiny nudge can send this trip off the rails.

Once she has set up this tense scenario – awkward group of women, isolated location, too much expectation for the trip – she plays on it beautifully by introducing hints that each of the women is hiding something. Some personal issue, some resentment, some secret, so the reader then doesn’t know who trusts whom or who is in conflict with whom, or who they themselves can trust. This is what makes for the perfect thriller – suspicion. Suspicion abounds between all the characters, and between the characters and the reader and the tension sits like a brick in your chest as you proceed through the story, until it gets to an almost unbearable pitch, because we KNOW something is going to go wrong, which just don’t know what or to whom or why. She dangles us on a string, waiting for the drop. The literary equivalent of Disney’s Tower of Terror.

The pacing of the book is perfect, the writing is easy to read, the characterisation is totally believable and the dynamics between the characters feel authentic and work perfectly for the story. There was not one thing about this book that I didn’t enjoy, it’s a wonderful example of the genre and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for their next fantastic thriller. The perfect book to take to your poolside lounger this summer- just make sure you are travelling with people you trust!

One Of The Girls is out now in ebook, hardback and audiobook formats and will be published in paperback in July. You can buy a copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for more reviews:

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About the Author

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Sunday Times bestseller Lucy Clarke writes from a beach hut, using the inspiration from the wild south coast to craft her stories. Her debut novel, The Sea Sisters, was a Richard & Judy Book Club pick, and she has since published A Single Breath, The Blue/No Escape, Last Seen, You Let Me In, and The Castaways, which was a Waterstones Thriller of the Month. Lucy lives by the sea with her husband and two children.

Connect with Lucy:

Website: http://www.lucy-clarke.com

Facebook: Lucy Clarke

Twitter: @lucyclarkebooks

Instagram: @lucyclarke_author

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Blog Tour: The Daughter by Liz Webb

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I lean in and whisper the question I have never let myself utter in twenty-three years.

“Dad, did you murder Mum?”

Hannah Davidson has a dementia-stricken father, an estranged TV star brother, and a mother whose death opened up hidden fault lines beneath the surface of their ordinary family life.

Now the same age that Jen Davidson was when she was killed, Hannah realises she bears an uncanny resemblance to her glamorous mother, and when her father begins to confuse them she is seriously unnerved.

Determined to uncover exactly what happened to her mum, Hannah begins to exploit her arresting likeness, but soon the boundaries between Hannah and her mother become fatally blurred.

I am delighted to be taking my turn on the blog tour today for The Daughter by Liz Webb. My thanks to Helen Richardson for inviting me to take part and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Daughter before I started reading it and I have to say it took me a little while to get into the novel. The book is written in the first person, in the voice of Hannah as she is visiting her dementia-stricken father in hospital after he has had a fall. Hannah’s voice was not clear to me to begin with, I wasn’t even sure if the character was male or female at first and, as a result, it took me a little while to become invested in the story.

However, after a couple of chapters, things began to fall into place and my interest was piqued. Hannah is clearly a troubled young woman, engaging in destructive behaviours, and I was curious about what had led her to this place. As we find out more about her dysfunctional family and the tragic events that splintered their family decades before, the reasons begin to make sense, but I was left wondering if she was an entirely reliable narrator, which always makes a book more interesting. Not knowing whether you can believe what the main protagonist is telling you always builds tension, and even Hannah herself questions whether her memories are reliable when they conflict with those of other people present at the time. Who is mistaken? Who is lying to themselves, or others, to hide the dreadful truth?

This mistrust bleeds through to the other characters, particularly her father, who is in a fog of confusion and has begun to mix Hannah up with his long-dead wife, and her brother, from who she has been estranged for 14 years and is practically unknown to her now, and who practises make-believe for a living. Who is telling then truth and who will benefit from lying? These are the puzzles the engaged reader if left to solve.

The cast of characters is small and manageable, the plot engaging and tense and the writing easy to read and flows well. I thought this stood out as a story I hadn’t read before in the domestic thriller genre and, after a shaky start, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It is full of twists and turns and interesting ideas about families, how they work and how they can mess you up. A theme many people will be able to relate to on some level. This book has a different feel to many books in the genre, an interesting edge to it and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a new author.

The Daughter is out now in all formats and you can buy your copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour for other great reviews:

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About the Author

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LIZ WEBB originally trained as a classical ballet dancer but had to give up following a back injury. She then worked as a secretary at the British Library whilst going to night school at the City Lit to get into Oxford University age 23. After graduating, she worked as a stationery shop manager, an art model, a cocktail waitress, stand- up comic, voice-over artist, script-editor, and radio drama producer before becoming a novelist.

Liz Webb was a stand-up comic for ten years performing at clubs across the UK and at festivals in Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leicester and Cardiff. At the same time, she worked as a voice-over artist voicing many TV ad campaigns including The Times, Kellogg’s Just Right cereal and Organics hair products.

She also worked for fourteen years as a prolific radio drama producer for the BBC and independent radio production companies.

Liz lives in North London with her husband, son and serial killer cat Freddie.

Connect with Liz:

Website: https://lizwebb.co.uk

Facebook: Liz Webb

Twitter: @LizWebbAuthor

Instagram: @lizwebbauthor

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Blog Tour: Tell Me Your Lies by Kate Ruby

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You think she wants to help.
You’re wrong.

Lily Appleby will do anything to protect the people she loves. She’s made ruthless choices to make sure their secrets stay buried, and she’s not going to stop now.

When her party-animal daughter, Rachel, spins out of control, Lily hires a renowned therapist and healer to help her. Amber is the skilled and intuitive confidante that Rachel desperately needs. But as Rachel falls increasingly under Amber’s spell, she begins to turn against her parents, and Lily grows suspicious.

Does Amber really have Rachel’s best interests at heart or is there something darker going on? Only one thing is clear: Rachel is being lied to. Never quite knowing who to believe, her search for the truth will reveal her picture-perfect family as anything but flawless.

It is my turn on the blog tour for Tell Me Your Lies by Kate Ruby. My thanks to Sophia Sagir at Midas PR for inviting me to take part in the tour and to the publisher for my copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Sometimes you read a book and it makes you think, no matter how dysfunctional your family dynamics may be, at least you are not like the people in this book. Tell Me Your Lies is one such novel.

Told from the alternating viewpoints of mother, Lilly and daughter, Rachel, this is the story of some very twisted relationships and the destructive effects that secrets, lies and unhealthy familial links can have on the people involved. Right from the start we can see that Rachel is one very troubled young woman, meeting her we do as she comes round from a drink and drugs binge that ends in her hospitalisation. it is also clear pretty quickly that she sees herself as the black sheep of her successful family and that the relationship with her mother is strained. But is there something darker at play? Lilly brings in therapist, Amber, to help Rachel overcome her demons, but maybe Amber isn’t quite as she seems either.

This is a novel of unpleasant characters, unreliable narrators and deceitful behaviour so the reader is never quite sure who to trust, what is true and what lies around the next corner. Full of revelations and surprises, the book will hook you in and keep you turning the pages to find out what is actually going on behind the lies, behind the facades and at the heart of this family, but you will be afraid you may not like it when you get there. the best kind of page turner.

That being said, this book is quite a slow burn, rather than a heart-racing, pacy novel and you may have to stick with it in the beginning until it buries its claws into you and hangs on. Because all of the characters are fairly unpleasant, there won’t be anyone that you are particularly rooting for, which could make it hard to care about what happens to them. However, the writing is great and the author’s voice is fairly light for the subject matter, but compelling. She knows how to construct drama, and this made the book easy to read for me.

I found this to be an accomplished and engrossing debut and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for something new in the psychological fiction genre. An exciting new voice to watch out for.

Tell Me Your Lies is out now in all formats and you can buy your copy here.

Make sure you follow the rest of the tour:

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About The Author

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Kate Ruby is a producer and screenwriter, with a highflying career in television. Tell Me Your Lies, a psychological thriller, is her debut novel and is currently in development for a major TV show. As an executive producer for drama, she spent a decade at the BBC, working on shows including Spooks and Being Human. Currently Head of Television for a global production company, she has worked on major Netflix shows including Watership Down, Traitors and The English Game. She has recently worked on the BBC/HBO adaptation of JP Delaney’s bestselling thriller The Girl Before, starring Gugu Mbatha Raw and David Oyelowo.

Connect with Kate:

Twitter: @katerubybooks

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Book Review: The Serial Killer’s Girl by L. H. Stacey

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Does a killer’s blood run in the family?

Lexi Jakes thought she could run from her past…she was wrong.

Because when her biological mother is found dead, with all the same hallmarks of her own serial killer father, Lexi knows someone is out for revenge, and that she and her small daughter, Isla, could be next.

Determined to protect Isla, Lexi travels back to Lindisfarne, the small remote island where she grew up. There, cut off from the mainland, Lexi hopes they’ll both be safe.

But as the tide comes in and the causeway slowly closes, Lexi’s greatest fear comes true: now they are trapped with no way out.

Lexi will do anything to save her daughter…she is the serial killer’s girl after all.

I am delighted to be sharing my review of The Serial Killer’s Girl by L. H. Stacey today. My thanks to the author for inviting me to review her book and providing me with a digital copy for review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially as always.

The premise of this book is absolutely fascinating. What is life like for the children of people who have committed the most heinous of crimes? How do their families move on after their atrocities have been exposed and they are behind bars? It is something I haven’t really given much thought to in relation to their children, I have to say. I’ve sometimes wondered about their spouses – how can they not of known, how do they adjust afterwards to what their partner did and why they never suspected, but not the children, so I was keen to read the author’s exploration on the matter.

The plot is quite gripping. Someone murders Lexi’s mother in a way very similar to the methodology of her father’s crimes and she begins to worry that someone is out for revenge on him via the people he cares about. This would put Lexi, and more importantly her young daughter, in harm’s way. So Lexi decides to take her daughter and run to a place that she believes no one will find her and where she always has felt safe. Lindisfarne.

I loved the exploration in the book of this beautiful area of the country, as it a place I visited often as a child but have not revisited for many years. It was really interesting to read about it from the perspective of people living on the island, as opposed to visiting, and I thoroughly enjoyed the sections of the book set on Lindisfarne.

There was plenty of tension in Lexi’s situation. She has kept her past hidden from people she is close to, so this leads to tensions in her relationships as it all bubbles to the surface. It is not clear who is responsible for the murders – the author cleverly conceals their identity, even whilst writing some parts of the book from their perspective – and I was mystified until the end as to who had done it, although I had my suspicions. Look, some of the decisions Lexi makes are baffling to me and I was mentally screaming at her whilst reading because it was clear they weren’t going to lead to a good place. However, this was part of what created the tension, being able to see where she was going wrong and anticipating the upcoming fallout.

If I had any criticism of the book at all, it would be that there was some level of repetition of ideas in certain parts that felt a bit like labouring a point. However, I did read an early proof, rather than the finished copy, which may be different, and this did not in any way detract from the enjoyability or tension in the main plot. This is a very entertaining book for people who enjoy the genre of domestic, psychologic al thriller and I would not hesitate to recommend it.

The Serial Killer’s Girl is published on Thursday 27 April and you can pre-order a copy here.

About the Author

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As well as being the author of seven books, Stacey also works a full time job as a Sales Director. She’s also a fully qualified scuba diving instructor and has been known to happily jump in the sea with sharks, without a cage.

Following a life changing car accident in 2008, Stacey was left with limited mobility in her right arm. Unable to teach scuba diving professionally anymore, she turned to her love of writing, a hobby she’d followed avidly since being a teenager.

Her own life story, along with varied career choices helps Stacey to create stories with challenging and unpredictable plots.

Stacey’s debut novel ‘House of Secrets’ was published in 2016 and her seventh book ‘The Serial Killer’s Girl’ will be published by Boldwood Books in April 2022.

Website: http://www.lyndastacey.co.uk

Facebook: L H Stacey

Twitter: @LyndaStacey

Instagram: @lynda.stacey

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Audiobook Review: The Curfew by T. M. Logan; Narrated by Richard Armitage

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Your son said he was home. Why did he lie?

I should have known something was wrong.I should have sensed it. Felt it in the air, like the build-up of pressure before a thunderstorm, that heavy, loaded calm.

The curfew….

Andy and Laura are good parents. They tell their son, Connor, that he can go out with friends to celebrate completing his exams, but he must be home by midnight.

The lie….

When Connor misses his curfew, it sets off a series of events that will change the lives of five families forever.

The truth?

Because five teenagers went into the woods that night, but only four came out. And telling the truth might mean losing everything….

What would you do?

Every time I read a book by T. M. Logan I say it is my favourite of his books. Well, I can honestly say, having read The Curfew, this is my absolute favourite of his books so far.

The book is mainly narrated by Andy, a GP who is father to two children, sixteen-year-old Connor and his younger sister, Harriet. His family live fairly ordinary lives in a middle class suburb of Nottingham, and nothing seems likely to change that, until the night that Connor misses his curfew.

The characterisations in this book were spot on perfect, particularly of the parents, and the reason I loved it so much was because I could absolutely feel the worry and anguish of Andy and his wife Claire as they were drawn into a nightmare involving their son. The only thing worse that finding your son embroiled in a police investigation, is for your child to go missing, and both of these horrors are faced by parents in this book and my heart was on edge for them the whole time as I put myself in their shoes. As a parent, this book is all your nightmares made manifest.

The genius of the writing is to bring tension and horror to a completely ordinary setting. Where the story takes place is the most unlikely setting for drama, but this is what causes the real tension, because this kind of thing could all too easily happen to any of us. You don’t have to suspend your belief very far to imagine yourself or your family in Andy’s shoes, and it will make you insides curl up with fear and make you rush to the end, praying for a happy outcome for these people who are much too like you and I for comfort. I have never been so happy to do my housework as when I was eager to get to the end of this book.

I have consumed all but one of T. M. Logan’s books in audio format and I can honestly say that these are the perfect books to listen to. I like an audiobook that has pacy action that holds my attention, otherwise it is too easy for my mind to wander and for me to lose my place. This never happens with these books. Richard Armitage does an absolutely amazing job of narrating this story (would you expect anything less?) to the extent that at times I actually forgot I was listening to an actor narrating a piece of fiction.

If you like a thriller that can truly be called domestic, The Curfew is one for you. But be prepared to hug your children close and, maybe, bring their curfew forward an hour until the stress of this story has faded from your mind. Brilliantly terrifying for any parent, this story was scarier to me than any Stephen King novel.

The Curfew is available now in audiobook, ebook and hardback formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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TM Logan’s thrillers have sold more than a million copies in the UK and been translated into 22 other languages for publication around the world.

His brand new novel, THE CURFEW, follows the events of a hot midsummer’s night, when five teenagers go up to the woods to celebrate the end of exams, and only four come out…

THE HOLIDAY was a Richard & Judy Book Club pick and spent ten weeks in the Sunday Times paperback top ten. It has since won a Nielsen Bestseller Award and been made into a four-part TV drama with Jill Halfpenny for Channel 5.

Tim’s 2021 thriller, TRUST ME, begins when a woman is asked to look after a stranger’s baby on a train – only for the mother to vanish. When she looks in the baby’s things, she finds a note that says: ‘Please protect Mia. Don’t trust the police. Don’t trust anyone.’ His other books are THE CATCH, LIES and 29 SECONDS.

A former national newspaper journalist, Tim lives in Nottinghamshire with his family and writes in a cabin at the bottom of his garden.

For exclusive writing, new releases and a FREE deleted scene from Tim, sign up to the Readers’ Club.

Connect with T. M. Logan:

Website: https://www.tmlogan.com

Facebook: T M Logan Author

Twitter: @TMLoganAuthor

Instagram: @tmloganauthor

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RONA Awards 2022 Celebration Drinks with… Leah Mercer

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Tonight I am having celebratory drinks with the first short-listed nominee in the Jackie Collins Award for Romantic Thrillers for her novel, A Mother’s Lie. It is author… Leah Mercer.

Leah Mercer, Jackie Collins Award for Romantic Thrillers, Romantic Novel Awards 2022

Leah, welcome to the blog and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

I’m drinking something with a lot of tequila so I can pretend I’m on holiday! Maybe a lime margarita with one of those paper umbrellas. Yum. 

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If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I’d take you to a great place on High Street Kensington called Balans, where they have a happy hour and delicious cocktails.

If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I’d love a drink with Margaret Atwood, because she’s a fellow Canadian and I think she’d have lots to say on every topic imaginable! Plus I’d invite along Chris Whitty, because I have a secret crush on him and I’d like to see what he’s like when he cuts loose. 

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m just now fleshing out ideas for my next book. I love this stage, because there is always so much potential and excitement before you get bogged down in the reality of trying to get your characters to behave!

What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I think reaching the top ten on both Amazon.com and Amazon UK with Who We Were Before, my first Leah Mercer novel, was my proudest moment. The biggest challenge has been to just keep going, despite the self-doubt and obstacles. I knew it would be difficult to get published, but I never realized how hard it can be to stay published. 

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Zoe knows that it wasn’t really her fault. Of course it wasn’t. But if she’d just grasped harder, run faster, lunged quicker, she might have saved him. And Edward doesn’t really blame her, though his bitter words at the time still haunt her, and he can no more take them back than she can halt the car that killed their son.

Two years on, every day is a tragedy. Edward knows they should take healing steps together, but he’s tired of being shut out. For Zoe, it just seems easier to let grief lead the way.

A weekend in Paris might be their last hope for reconciliation, but mischance sees them separated before they’ve even left Gare du Nord. Lost and alone, Edward and Zoe must try to find their way back to each other—and find their way back to the people they were before. But is that even possible?

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!

What novelist doesn’t want to reach the New York Times or the Sunday Times bestseller list? Yes, please! 

What do have planned that you are really excited about?

For the first time since March 2020, we are going to see our family soon! We’re off to Egypt over Easter and then to Canada this summer. I can’t wait. 

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

Ooh, that’s a great question! I have so many favourite places, but top of the list has to be Nova Scotia, Canada, where I grew up. It’s so beautiful – the beaches are pristine. At the top of my bucket list would have to be St Petersburg in Russia. 

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I used to have running records back in my home country. I’m pretty sure they’ve all been broken now!

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

My mind goes blank when people ask me this! I do love The Time Traveller’s Wife. It always makes me sob!

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This is the extraordinary love story of Clare and Henry who met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty. Impossible but true, because Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future.

In the face of this force they can neither prevent nor control, Henry and Clare’s struggle to lead normal lives is both intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

A big glass of water and lots of ibuprofen!

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Probably sleeping, as my liver is not up to what it used to be.

Leah, thanks for chatting with me this evening and good luck in the awards.

Leah’s short-listed novel, A Mother’s Lie, is available now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

Leah Mercer, Jackie Collins Award for Romantic Thrillers, Romantic Novel Awards 2022, A Mother_s Lie BOOK COVER

My darling child… I can already feel your tiny fingers gripping mine; smell your soft hair. But how do I keep you safe?

Heartbroken and alone, Ali arrives at her grandmother’s old house on the beach. Perhaps here, she can escape her past, and make a home for her unborn child. Greeted by the familiar scent of roses and the sounds of the waves, Ali feels instantly safe.

The couple next door, Michael and Meg, welcome Ali into their seemingly perfect world with their glamorous home and beautiful baby. Ali feels an instant connection and knows she has made the right choice for herself and her baby.

But Meg is holding onto a dark secret. As a powerful bond grows between the two women, Michael leaves suddenly for a work trip, and Meg becomes impulsive – unpredictable.

As Meg’s behaviour becomes ever more erratic, Michael shows no signs of returning, and Ali begins to worry. Are she and her unborn child safe? And what about her own devastating secret… the one she ran from?

Leah’s latest book, Why She Left, is also available now here.

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Fifteen years ago, her daughter vanished. Now, she’s back.

Ruth has spent every day of the last fifteen years grieving for her daughter Isobel who left the family home as a teenager and completely disappeared. Walking around the school to which she has given her life, every child she sees reminds her of her daughter’s bright future and of a happy family destroyed in an instant.

So when Ruth opens the door to find Isobel and a grandson she never knew existed, she feels a rush of joy. Isobel tells her that they need a safe place to stay whilst she gets back on her feet. Having lost her daughter once, Ruth is determined to keep her family together and enrols her grandson at the school, in the hope that they stay for good.

But as mother and daughter begin to heal the wounds of the past, a violent attack brings old secrets to the surface once more. It is clear that someone is prepared to destroy everything Ruth holds dear. Can Isobel confront her darkest secret before it is too late?

Leah Mercer was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the east coast of Canada. Her first ambition was to be a journalist, but after completing a master’s in journalism, she soon realized she preferred anything other than reporting the news. After trying her hand at public relations, teaching and recruitment in various countries around the world, she finally settled in London and returned to writing… fiction, this time. Her first two novels, Who We Were Before and The Man I Thought You Were, were shortlisted at the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association Awards. Leah loves books, running, and visiting historic houses with her husband and their son.

Connect with Leah:

Website: https://www.leahmercer.com

Facebook: Leah Mercer

Twitter: @LeahMercerBooks

Instagram: @leahmercerauthor

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Book Review: Sundial by Catriona Ward

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You can’t escape the desert. You can’t escape Sundial.

Rob fears for her daughters. For Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. For Annie, because of what Callie might do to her. Rob sees a darkness in Callie that reminds her of the family she left behind. She decides to take Callie back to Sundial, her childhood home deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.

Callie is afraid of her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely. To tell her secrets about her past that both disturb and excite her. And Callie is beginning to wonder if only one of them will leave Sundial alive…

Catriona Ward’s last book, The Last House on Needless Street, was one of the highlights of my reading year last year, so I was delighted to be invited to preview her new book, Sundial. I am very grateful to the publisher, Viper Books, for providing me with an advance proof of the book for the purpose of review. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially.

Anyone who read The Last House on Needless Street will be wondering what is to come next from this author. That book was so brilliantly unexpected and out of leftfield that it seems impossible she could come up with anything to match it. It was out on its own, so distinctive that she could not possibly replicate the things that made it so standout, a book that was talked about by everyone last year. And she hasn’t replicated the genius of The Last House on Needless Street. What she has done is write something totally different but equally, if not more, compelling in its own distinctive way.

This is the story of two people, Rob and her daughter, Callie. Rob is struggling in a tempestuous relationship with her husband, Irving, and is concerned about the impact this is having on her two daughters. In particular, the elder of the two, Callie, has begun to exhibit behaviours that Rob finds deeply concerning, particularly as they pertain to the safety of her other child. She decides to take Callie back to her family home in the Mojave desert to try and deal with Callie’s behaviour. In a series of flashbacks to Rob’s own childhood, we discover it was far from normal and begin to wonder if DNA may be at play here.

This book was addictive from beginning to end. An extremely dark, oppressive, creeping psychological horror story with a pair of completely unreliable narrators and underlying themes that will burrow into your brain and take root to the point that you will not be able to extricate yourself from this story until you have finished. The very pinnacle of unputdownable reading, this story held me in thrall from beginning to end.

The story is twisted in every definition of the word. What goes on in both the present day and the historical back story is disturbing to say the least, and will raise some interesting scientific and moral questions in the reader. The plot itself is so serpentine and cleverly constructed that I defy anyone to work out where it is is going until the very end, and there are myriads of shocks along the way. The setting of the book is oppressive in the extreme, and brought brilliantly to life on the page and is absolutely essential to the plot. I has such clear imagery in my mind throughout the novel that it was almost like being in a movie of the book. A terrifying movie it was much of the time too; if it was playing out on the screen I would be hiding behind a cushion. This author has a brutal, ingenious mind, I have no idea which dark part of her psyche dreamt up this plot, but it must be scary and thrilling to live with.

This book is not an easy read. It is not the type of book you pick up to lift you on a dark day or doze off under in bright sunshine on a poolside lounger. It is a book that will challenge you, excite you and grasp onto you with a ferocious hold until you reach the end. You won’t be able to leave it behind, even when you aren’t holding it in your hand, and it will be one you remember long after you have read it. Much as I loved The Last House on Needless Street, I think I may love Sundial more. What this says about me as a person, I don’t know, but this is not a book that fades in with all the others on the bookshop shelf. Another book that will be a big talking point amongst book lovers this year.

Sundial is out on 10 March and you can pre-order in hardback, ebook and audio formats here.

About the Author

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CATRIONA WARD was born in Washington, DC and grew up in the United States, Kenya, Madagascar, Yemen, and Morocco. She read English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford and is a graduate of the Creative Writing MA at the University of East Anglia.

‘The Last House on Needless Street’ (Viper Books, Tor Nightfire) was a Times Book of the Month, Observer Book of the Month, March Editor’s Pick on Open Book, a Between the Covers BBC2 book club selection, a Times bestseller, and is being developed for film by Andy Serkis’s production company, The Imaginarium.

‘Little Eve’ (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2018) won the 2019 Shirley Jackson Award and the August Derleth Prize for Best Horror Novel at the 2019 British Fantasy Awards, making her the only woman to have won the prize twice, and was a Guardian best book of 2018. Her debut Rawblood (W&N, 2015) won Best Horror Novel at the 2016 British Fantasy Awards, was shortlisted for the Author’s Club Best First Novel Award and a WHSmith Fresh Talent title. Her short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies. She lives in London and Devon.

Connect with Catriona:

Facebook: Catriona Ward

Twitter: @Catrionaward

Instagram: @catward66

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Book Review: Off Target by Eve Smith

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A longed-for baby
An unthinkable decision
A deadly mistake

In an all-too-possible near future, when genetic engineering has become the norm for humans, not just crops, parents are prepared to take incalculable risks to ensure that their babies are perfect … altering genes that may cause illness, and more…

Susan has been trying for a baby for years, and when an impulsive one-night stand makes her dream come true, she’ll do anything to keep her daughter and ensure her husband doesn’t find out … including the unthinkable. She believes her secret is safe. For now.

But as governments embark on a perilous genetic arms race and children around the globe start experiencing a host of distressing symptoms – even taking their own lives – something truly horrendous is unleashed. Because those children have only one thing in common, and people are starting to ask questions…

My great thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for sending me a proof copy of Off Target by Eve Smith when I enthused about the premise of the book on Twitter. As always, my review is my honest and impartial opinion of the book.

I am a massive fan of speculative fiction so, as soon as I saw Karen Sullivan talking about this book on Twitter, I was excited about it. As someone who has been through reproductive trauma myself, I knew that the story of a woman struggling to have the baby she so desperately wants would resonate deeply with me, and the combination of the two was irresistible.

This book delivered everything I was hoping for and more. It is such a thoughtful and thought-provoking novel which explores complex and controversial ideas in a scenario that is futuristic but plausible enough to make it urgently terrifying. Anyone who walks away from this book with a brain that isn’t mulling over their thoughts on what they would do if faced with these choices, coupled with an underlying sense of unease, wasn’t paying proper attention to the story.

When I was in the third year of my law degree, one of the optional modules I studied was Law and Medical Ethics. Given my advanced age, you can see this is an issue which has fascinated me for many years. Even back then, the ethics of using advances in reproductive technology to help parents have healthy babies was one of the topics under debate and, as new discoveries are made and possibilities expand, the topic becomes only more difficult and contentious. This is the world that Eve Smith is exploring in Off Target and she really cuts to the core of the matter. Just because medicine CAN do something, does that mean that it should? At what point do the rights of the foetus separate from the rights of the parent? What actually makes us the people we are and how much can we change and still be the person we were meant to be? Where is the line to be drawn between treatment that spares children pain and suffering and treatment that edges into eugenics?

These are dilemmas that have troubled society since medicine was first able to intervene to prevent unwanted pregnancies, resolve medical issues in the womb and help infertile couples conceive. You will get many different answers to what is right and wrong in these scenarios, depending on what is important to the individual you are talking to and, bringing up these topics in assured to result in heated debate. It’s an issue people feel strongly about, and reading this book is sure to provoke a visceral response in many. For this reason, it would make an excellent book club read. The fact that these questions are looming on the near horizon will serve only to make any debate more heated. These are scenarios that we may have to deal with in the not-too-distant future and, given some of the reactions we have seen over the past year to the roll out of the Covid vaccine, the extreme responses to genetic modification that Eve explores in this novel are scarily probable.

This book felt prescient to me, as someone who has some small experience and interest in this area, and I found it hugely compelling, deeply unsettling and utterly engrossing. One of the most provocative and stimulating books I have read in a good long while, I can’t rate it highly enough. Orenda continue to have a keen eye for publishing the highest quality and most interesting books and authors in their chosen genres.

Off Target is out now in ebook and paperback formats. You can get it at all good bookshops and online retailers including here.

Having already received a proof copy of Off Target, I am giving away the finished copy of the book I received in my Orenda subscription to one lucky reader. Pop over to my Twitter profile at @book_problem for more details.

About the Author

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Longlisted for the Guardian’s Not the Booker Prize and described by British bookshop chain Waterstones as: “an exciting new voice in crime fiction”, Eve Smith’s debut novel The Waiting Rooms was shortlisted for the Bridport Prize First Novel Award and was selected as a Book of the Month in The Guardian just after launch.

“Smith combines the excitement of a medical thriller à la Michael Crichton with sensitive characterisation and social insight in a timely debut novel all the more remarkable for being conceived and written before the current pandemic.”

Eve writes speculative fiction, mainly about the things that scare her. In this world of questionable facts, stats and news, she believes storytelling is more important than ever to engage people in real life issues.

She attributes her love of all things dark and dystopian to a childhood watching Tales of the Unexpected and black-and-white Edgar Allen Poe double bills.

Her new thriller, Off Target, is another chilling, prophetic page-turner set in a near future, when genetic engineering has become the norm for humans, not just crops, and parents are prepared to take incalculable risks to ensure their babies are perfect.

Eve’s previous job as COO of an environmental charity took her to research projects across Asia, Africa and the Americas, and she has an ongoing passion for wild creatures, wild science and far-flung places.

When she’s not writing, she’s chasing across fields after her dog, attempting to organise herself and her family or off exploring somewhere new.

Connect with Eve:

Website: https://www.evesmithauthor.com

Facebook: Eve Smith Author

Twitter: @evecsmith

Instagram: @evesmithauthor

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Book Review: The Village by Caroline Mitchell

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Ten years ago, the Harper family disappeared. Their deserted cottage was left with the water running, the television playing cartoons, the oven ready for baking. The doors were locked from the inside.

Overnight, the sleepy village of Nighbrook became notorious as the scene of the unsolved mystery of the decade, an epicentre for ghoulish media speculation.

For crime journalist Naomi, solving the case has turned into an obsession. So now, with Ivy Cottage finally listed for sale, it’s her chance to mount an investigation like no other. And her husband and stepdaughter don’t really need to know what happened in their new home… do they?

But Nighbrook isn’t quite the village she expected. No one wants to talk to her. No one will answer her questions. And as she becomes increasingly uneasy, it’s clear that the villagers are hiding something―that there is something very dark at the heart of this rural idyll. And the deeper she digs, the more it seems her investigation could be more dangerous than she ever imagined… In raking up the secrets of the past, has she made her own family the next target?

I am delighted to be sharing my review today of The Village by Caroline Mitchell. My thanks to Katrina Power for asking me to review the book and providing me with a copy for that purpose. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially as always.

There is nothing more sinister than an abandoned, neglected, isolated house buried deep in the looming woods, is there? It’s a premise that has been quite popular in novels in recent years, and you might think the trope has been done to death, but don’t let that put you off picking up a copy of The Village by Caroline Mitchell, because this book takes the storyline to the next level of creepiness with a historic disappearance and a village full of unfriendly locals that will do anything to see the back of you. Think an adult version of Hansel and Gretel meets The Wicker Man. That is the level of creepiness we are talking about with this book.

Crime journalist, Naomi, has always been fascinated by the story of the Harper family and their unsolved disappearance a decade ago, so when the chance comes to buy the very cottage in the New Forest from which they disappeared, she can’t resist. Dragging along her hostile step-daughter, Morgan, who has secrets of her own, she moves her family there to see if she can solve the mystery, only to meet silence and hostility from the locals. What are they hiding?

This book starts off with tension between Naomi and Morgan, and it does nothing but ramp up and ramp up throughout the book until your nerves are twanging like a banjo string in the duelling scene in ‘Deliverance’ and you will be physically unable to put the book down until you find out what happened to the Harper family. You will find yourself sharing Naomi’s obsession with the disappearance, as well as her fear and distaste and conflicted emotions. This book is a masterclass in keeping the reader on the edge of their seat.

I must warn you, this book is dark. Very dark. It covers some disturbing issues that are going to make you uncomfortable as you read. The author plumbs the murky depths of human behaviour in this story, but stick with it to the end. There is hope. There is some light at the end of the tunnel. All is not darkness and despair is you keep trying. I got a lot more from this book than I was expected when I started it, and it has haunted me more than I anticipated now that it is finished. Affecting and surprising, it has made me want to pick up further books by this author, and I can highly recommend it.

The Village is out now in all formats and you can buy a copy here.

About the Author

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A New York Times, USA Today and Amazon No.1 bestselling author, Caroline originates from Ireland and now lives with her family on the coast of Essex. A former police detective, Caroline writes full time, with over 1.3 million books sold worldwide.

As well as her crime series, Caroline also writes stand-alone psychological thrillers. Her books have won first place as best psychological thriller in the US Reader’s Favourite Awards, been shortlisted for the International Thriller Awards in New York and been shortlisted for ‘Best Procedural’ in the Killer Nashville awards. Her crime thriller, Truth And Lies is a No.1 New York Times best seller and has been optioned for TV. 

Connect with Caroline:

Website: https://caroline-writes.com

Facebook: Caroline Mitchell Author

Twitter: @Caroline_writes

Instagram: @caroline_writes

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Book Review: We Watch You by N. S. Ford #BookReview

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FOUR FRIENDS. THREE ENEMIES. TWO TRAGEDIES. ONE TERRIBLE TRUTH.

A small English town is rocked by the disappearance of a local woman, Tina. As the search continues, someone is targeting her former best friends for revenge. Lauren, Jess, Claire. They all hide secrets. Who knows what they did? Who’s watching them? The truth is stranger and far more sinister than they can ever imagine.

I was kindly provided with a digital copy of this book by the author for the purpose of review, for which she has my sincerest thanks. I have reviewed the book honestly and impartially as always.

A really interesting and unusual psychological thriller with a twist that I didn’t see coming, We Watch You by N. S. Ford kept me both reading and guessing right to the end of the book.

As this starts out, it may appear to be a fairly standard thriller concerned with the disappearance of a young woman, which unsettles and baffles her group of friends. As the book progresses, it becomes apparent that the friendship group were hiding some secrets that may be pertinent to the disappearance, and that the missing woman may not be the only one of the group who is at risk. There are lots of twists and turns that made it unclear whether any or all of the girls are actually being targeted by who, and the speculation kept me turning the pages.

The main character of Lauren is very interesting as a protagonist and the author has written her very well. You can’t help but sympathise with her predicament, and extend her some latitude in the decisions she has made that may have contributed to the tangle the girls are in.

The structure of the book oscillates between Lauren’s point of view, plus letters and blog entries which reveal insights into the minds of some of the other characters, plus brief chapters written in the first person by two other characters. This provided a clever way of revealing bits of the story Lauren isn’t privy to, and gave the books interesting changes of pace. The only complaint I might have was that the first person chapters written by the two other individuals were confusing to begin with because I had no idea who these two people were. By the end, it had become more obvious but early on I had to work hard to sort them out.

The ending of the book was totally unexpected and a really interesting spin on the genre. I am not 100% sure that I completely understood what the author was trying to do but I think a second read through would help me pull out all the strands from the story. Overall, however, I really enjoyed the book and found it a refreshing take on the genre.

We Watch You is out now in both ebook and digital formats and is available for free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription. You can buy a copy of We Watch You here.

About the Author

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N S Ford is a book fanatic, blogger and cat lover who lives in the UK with her family. She has a First Class degree in English. When not reading or blogging, she juggles her writing time with parenting, working in heritage and playing the piano.

Connect with N S Ford:

Blog: https://nsfordwriter.com/

Twitter: @nsfordwriter

Instagram: @nsfordwriter

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