The Date by Louise Jensen #BookReview (@Fab_fiction) @bookouture #PublicationDay #TheDate #NetGalley #FictionCafeWriters

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“One night can change everything. 

‘I know it as soon as I wake up and open my eyes… Something is wrong.’

Her Saturday night started normally. Recently separated from her husband, Ali has been persuaded by her friends to go on a date with a new man. She is ready, she is nervous, she is excited. She is about to take a step into her new future. By Sunday morning, Ali’s life is unrecognisable. She wakes, and she knows that something is wrong. She is home, she is alone, she is hurt and she has no memory of what happened to her. 

Worse still, when she looks in the mirror, Ali doesn’t recognise the face staring back at her. She can’t recognise her friends and family. And she can’t recognise the person who is trying to destroy her… “

Publication Day for the fourth book by my fellow Fiction Cafe Writer, Louise Jensen. Happy publication day, Louise, I hope it has been fabulous.

My partner doesn’t read fiction and we often have conversations where we discuss why I love it and he doesn’t. His main argument seems to be that he doesn’t see the point of reading ‘made up stories’ and he likes to read non-fiction. Putting aside my counter-argument as to why he doesn’t feel the same about the sometimes ridiculously OTT movies and TV shows he is prepared to watch (also, made up stories!), the main thrust of my rebuttal would be that good fiction books will always hold some kernel of truth about the world and human experience. Without that, we can’t relate to them and they won’t draw us in, and I have learned a lot from a well-researched book, even if it is fiction.

This book is a case in point. Before I saw the pre-release information about this book and heard the author talking about it, I had never heard of prosopagnosia or facial blindness, never mind how common it is. This is a fascinating hook for the book to revolve on and the author has done a great job of portraying the daily hurdles that someone suffering from this condition has to contend with and the hardships that brings. Imagine not being able to recognise your own face, or the people you love. How would you be able to trust that people are who they say they are? I found the whole subject, and how the main characters learns skills to compensate fascinating.

This is also a really powerful premise on which to base a psychological thriller and this one does not disappoint. If you have read any of Louise’s books before, you will know what to expect and I think her writing is just getting better and better. This book twists and turns like an eel, you think you know what is happening but then she throws another curveball at you, and then another, until your head is spinning right up until the final chapter.

The real skill of this book is making something disturbing out of an every day environment, making the reader believe that this could actually be happening to someone they know, in their street. None of us know what goes on behind a suburban front door. You hear it every day in the papers when the neighbours of the latest villain to hit the front page are all interviewed and are surprised to hear what he/she is accused of because they always seemed so ‘quiet and normal’. Who knows what Mr. Jones from number 15 is up to in this garage? When might your path cross with his in a case of bad karma? These thoughts are more creepy to me than an exaggerated horror film because of the banal possibilities. It’s enough to give you nightmares and this author taps into that brilliantly.

I found the main characters in this book very relatable, more so perhaps than in Louise’s last book, which allowed me to be carried right into the heart of the story from the beginning. I really cared what happened to her and my heart was in my mouth, racing to the end of the novel as fast as possible to find out her fate. Pace of page-turning is the mark of a great thriller and my eyes and fingers were whirring, resenting the everyday intrusions that made me put the book down for the odd minute.

This is a great book in this genre, probably her best yet, and you should definitely pick up a copy today.

The Date is out today and you can buy a copy here.

If you want to know more about facial blindness, check out the video on Louise’s website.

Thank you to NetGalley and Bookouture for my copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

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Louise Jensen is the Global No.1 Bestselling author of psychological thrillers The Sister, The Gift & The Surrogate.

To date Louise has sold approaching a million books and her novels have been sold for translation to nineteen territories, as well as being featured on the USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestseller’s List.

Louise was nominated for the Goodreads Debut Author of 2016 Award.

Louise lives with her husband, children, madcap dog and a rather naughty cat in Northamptonshire. She loves to hear from readers and writers.

Connect with Louise:

Twitter: @fab_fiction
Goodreads: Louise Jensen

I Never Lie by Jody Sabral #BookReview @canelo_co #PublicationDay #INeverLie #NetGalley

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“Is she the next victim? Or is she the culprit…?

Alex South is a high-functioning alcoholic, teetering on the brink of oblivion. Her career as a television journalist is hanging by a thread since a drunken on-air rant. But when a series of murders occurs within a couple of miles of her East London home, she’s given another chance to prove herself.

Alex thinks she can control the drinking, but soon she finds gaping holes in her memory, and wakes to find she’s done things she can’t recall. As the story she’s covering starts to creep into her own life, is Alex a danger only to herself – or to others?”

This book has me really torn about my reaction to it. In some ways it was great, very topical and thought-provoking and different to a lot of psychological thrillers I have read recently. In other ways it was really frustrating and a couple of things about it have left me downright furious.

This is the story of Alex, a journalist and high-functioning alcoholic whose drinking has torn both her personal and professional life apart. When a series of murders take place close to her home, she sees a way of redeeming her career, but cannot get control of her alcoholism. The book is told mainly from the first person viewpoint of Alex, as she reports on the story, and also through a series of diary entries of a third person, who we gradually find out more about as the book unfolds, which is an interesting set up and works reasonably well.

There are lots of aspects of this book I enjoyed. The writer sets the scene well, and the small area of London where the murders take place is made to feel claustrophobic and menacing, so we can understand how such awful crimes happening in a normally pleasant area can have an affect on a whole community. The character of Alex is well established, although she is not at all sympathetic, being selfish and unaware, but this is important to the plot development and does not detract from your investment in the story. Her need for alcohol overrides everything and the author very clearly demonstrates how alcoholism controls a person’s life, decisions and personality to the exclusion of everything and everyone else to the extent they will lie and deceive to get it and to hide their drinking. In the end, the constant quest for alcohol becomes pervasive to the extent that it is annoyingly repetitive, but I guess this is reflective of the reality for people living with this issue. The author does not pull any punches as to the character’s behaviour and parts of the book make uncomfortable reading.

I enjoyed the insight into the way new stories are put together, and the urgency of that gave the book a real dynamism which kept me turning the pages. The murder story involves the use of social media, not only as a way for the killer potentially to find victims via dating apps, but also as a way for the news team to track updates in the story which I thought was fascinating. It is amazing to me how the rise of social media has changed the dynamic of how we receive information so drastically that news channels are now playing catch up, instead of being the leading method of us gaining information on big stories and it is great to see this being reflected in current fiction.

On to the less positive side, parts of the book were repetitive, particularly the constant retelling of how her life is imploding. I understand that the author is trying to emphasise the cycle that alcoholics constantly go through by I wish she had mixed up how it was presented a little more. This book is advertised as ‘a gripping thriller with a twist you won’t see coming’. Unfortunately, I did see it coming long before the end and I think this was partly due to the strapline on the cover which is ill thought out in my opinion. The ending, and the explanation of some of the issues that had been brought up felt rushed to me, done as they were in a few pages of diary entry at the end.

The main problem, and the one that had me screaming in frustration at the book came in the final pages and, if I hadn’t been reading it on my Kindle, I think I would have thrown it. In a single sentence in the final chapter of the book, the author chooses to completely reverse a basic and central tenet of English criminal law to suit her story. This is unacceptable and had me totally enraged. There can be only two reasons she did this. Either, firstly, it is a mistake and she has simply not bothered to research the point of law involved. I find this hard to believe because a) it is such a basic premise that most lay people will know it and b) the author is a BBC journalist of long-standing. Alternatively, she does know it’s wrong but has decided that it doesn’t matter because her readers either won’t know or won’t care. I find this insulting to me as a reader and it completely ruined the book for me at the end. Maybe that is just me being a pedant but, for a crime writer to decide to re-write English law to suit her preferred story ending is just lazy. We’re not talking about a small licence in detail here and it really bugged me.

Due to my mixed reaction to this book, I can’t say whether I would recommend it or not. It has a lot going for it but it could have been so much better. Ultimately, my over-riding feeling was one of frustration.

I Never Lie is out today and you can buy a copy here.

Thank you to NetGalley and Canelo for my copy of this book which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

About the Author

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Jody Sabral is based between the South Coast and London, where she works as a Foreign Desk editor and video producer at the BBC. She is a graduate of the MA in Crime Fiction at City University, London. Jody worked as a journalist in Turkey for ten years, covering the region for various international broadcasters. She self-published her first book Changing Borders in 2012 and won the CWA Debut Dagger in 2014 for her second novel The Movement. In addition to working for the BBC, Jody also writes for the Huffington Post, Al–Monitor and Brics Post.

Connect with Jody:

Website: https://jodysabral.com

Facebook: Jody Sabral

Instagram: @jodysabral

#BlogTour All The Little Children by Jo Furniss #bookreview (@Jo_Furniss) @AmazonPub @annecater #RandomThingsTours #LakeUnionAuthors #AllTheLittleChildren

Today I am rounding off the blog tour for All The Little Children by Jo Furniss. Thank you to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting me to take part in this tour.

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“When a family camping trip takes a dark turn, how far will one mother go to keep her family safe?

Struggling with working-mother guilt, Marlene Greene hopes a camping trip in the forest will provide quality time with her three young children—until they see fires in the distance, columns of smoke distorting the sweeping view. Overnight, all communication with the outside world is lost.

Knowing something terrible has happened, Marlene suspects that the isolation of the remote campsite is all that’s protecting her family. But the arrival of a lost boy reveals they are not alone in the woods, and as the unfolding disaster ravages the land, more youngsters seek refuge under her wing. The lives of her own children aren’t the only ones at stake.

When their sanctuary is threatened, Marlene faces the mother of all dilemmas: Should she save her own kids or try to save them all?”

When I was a teenager, the absolutely brilliant librarian at my secondary school fuelled my insatiable thirst for books by recommending authors I had never considered reading. This wonderful lady introduced me to the works of Stella Gibbons (Cold Comfort Farm is still the title I will cite when asked for my favourite book), Dorothy L Sayers (Gaudy Night is a masterpiece and a book I return to time and again) and John Wyndham.

John Wyndham is the master of the dystopian novel and I have adored his work ever since I first read one of his books. I started with Chocky but The Chrysalids is my favourite. However, he is known to most people by way of his most famous two novels, The Midwich Cuckoos and The Day of the Triffids..

The reason for my seemingly irrelevant ramblings about my youthful reading habits and my abiding love of a long-dead science fiction writer in this blog post is that from early on this book reminded me of The Day of the Triffids and I can’t think of higher praise than a book garnering a favourable comparison to one of my most beloved authors.

The opening scene of the novel sees the protagonist, Marlene, hiding from her children in the branches of a tree, trying to make a phone call in peace and this pretty much tells you all you need to know about Marlene and her mothering techniques. Many of us will recognise this woman, if not in ourselves, then in people we know. She is a modern woman, trying to juggle a demanding job, young and exuberant children and a failing relationship, and feeling like she isn’t doing any of it particularly well. Even on a weekend away in a remote, rural location, she can’t switch off and is frustrated by lack of connection to the outside world and being unable to escape for five minutes from her needy offspring, . Marlene is not an obviously likeable central character. She is brusque and short-tempered with her children and her sister-in-law, who has joined her on the trip. She is bitter and resentful and impatient and self-centred and some readers may find it difficult to bond with her. However, Marlene’s personality and attitude are important tenets in the story arc, both from the perspective of how she deals with the predicament she finds herself in throughout the novel and the journey she goes on in her personal relationships.

We are thrust into the action instantly when it becomes obvious very quickly that something is terribly wrong in the outside world and the small group have only escaped harm because of their isolation. This isolation never feels idyllic from the start because of Marlene’s attitude towards being stranded in a remote place trying to entertain her children but it soon becomes suffocating, as the party gradually realise that this is their only refuge, despite it’s lack of facilities – it becomes a prison without walls or bars. As we find ourselves in the heads of the characters, only knowing the very little they know and gripped by the fear they are feeling, the whole book is imbued with menace and an underlying current of suppressed panic that propels us from page to page in a desperate effort to find out what is happening and how the characters can make themselves safe. Marlene doesn’t know where to turn or who she can trust in a world turned on its head and so we in turn are suspicious and wary of every new character. It is uncomfortably compelling reading and I was hooked from the beginning, almost desperate for the intolerable ride to be over so I could relax.

The central theme of this book for me is Marlene’s development as a mother and in her relationship with her children. She is a fairly hard and strict woman with very little patience to begin with. However, over the course of the novel, as her family are threatened and she realises that she can depend on no one for help but must rely on her own resources and work with her children to save them, she learns things about herself and her children which change them all. All the best novels involve a journey that is both emotional as well as physical and this book does not in any way disappoint in this regard. Marlene may not be the most sympathetic character I have ever met but she was real and interesting and complicated and I found myself with a lot of questions as to whether things would have turned out differently if Marlene had been a different type of person and how I myself would react and fare if I were placed in the same situation.

If you have read any of the reviews of this book on Goodreads, you may have seen some readers complaining about the ending of this book, and it is certainly unconventional and unexpected. Why some people see this as a negative I am unsure, as anything that surprises, that makes you question why the author chose this conclusion, wonder what happens next, can only be a good thing. For me, I love a book that makes me FEEL something, that leaves me questioning, pondering the issues, wanting others to read the book so I can see what they think is nothing but a positive and this book did all that.

This book is not a comfortable read but it is evocative and thought-provoking and tense. It will stay with you beyond the final page and I would highly recommend it. And read some John Wyndham while you’re at it, you won’t be sorry.

All The Little Children is out now and you can buy a copy here. Jo’s new novel, The Trailing Spouse will be published on 14 August and can be pre-ordered here.

If you would like to see what my fellow bloggers on the tour thought of the book, you can find details of the tour below.

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About the Author

Jo Furniss

After spending a decade as a broadcast journalist for the BBC, Jo Furniss gave up the glamour of night shifts to become a freelance writer and serial expatriate. Originally from the UK, she lived in Switzerland and Cameroon, and currently resides with her family in Singapore.

As a journalist, Jo has worked for numerous online outlets and magazines, including Monocle, The Economist, Business Traveller, Expat Living (Singapore) and Swiss News. Jo has also edited books for a Nobel Laureate and the Palace of the Sultan of Brunei. She has a Distinction in MA Professional Writing from Falmouth University. In 2015 she founded http://www.SWAGlit.com—an online literary magazine for writers in Singapore.

All the Little Children is Jo’s debut novel and she is working on a second domestic thriller to be released in 2018.

Connect with Jo:

Website: http://www.jofurniss.com

Facebook: Jo Furniss Author

Twitter: @Jo_Furniss

Instagram: @jofurnissauthor

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What We Did by Christobel Kent #bookreview @littlebrown #WhatWeDid #NetGalley

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“He stole her childhood. She’ll take his future

What would you do if you accidentally encountered the man who once abused you?

And how would you get away with it?

Bridget’s life is small and safe: she loves her husband, her son and works hard to keep her own business afloat. Then one day her world is changed forever. The music teacher who abused her walks into a shop with the teenager he’s clearly grooming. Bridget is sent spiralling back into her past.

Anthony begins to stalk Bridget, trying to ensure her silence – until suddenly, she snaps.

And now Bridget must find away to deal with the aftermath of her actions…”

Today is publication day for Christobel Kent’s new novel What We Did so I have completed reading it at the perfect time to post my review. Although, this is going to be a tough book to review without giving away any spoilers so I may be briefer than normal. (Was that a small sigh of relief I just heard?)

Let’s just take a moment to admire the cover, which was one of the things that drew my eye to it on NetGalley. I love the grey with the bright spots of orange and green. Would look fabulous on any book shelf, great cover design.

This is a psychological thriller with a tricky subject matter at its heart. Bridget is a survivor of abuse she suffered as a teenager at the hands of her violin teacher. She has built a small, safe life for herself in a provincial university city with a quiet husband and a well-balanced teenage son, running her own clothing shop and working hard to keep her demons at bay. Her husband and her son know nothing about her past and that is the way she would like to keep it so when her abuser casually walks into her store one day in the company of his latest pupil, Bridget believes her whole way of life is at risk.

When I started this book, I had a slightly jaded feeling that I knew how the story would pan out. However, I was completely wrong. Things unfold in a very unexpected way and the story goes off then at a totally different tangent and really drags you with it.

The first quarter of the book was quite slow and I did start to worry that the whole story pacing was going to be too staid to carry me to the end – I have begun to expect more flourishes from a book in this genre – but once the first pivotal act occurs, things pick up and I was totally gripped from that moment on and I ended up staying up late to finish the book. Looking back at the book as a whole, the pacing was perfect for the storyline and the nature of the characters and it was actually a refreshing change from the constant bombardment of action and tension we sometimes get. The gentle start, followed by the sudden shocking change was the perfect reflection of how Bridget’s gentle life is so immediately disrupted when her abuser reappears on the scene.

The characters that need to be sympathetic are sympathetic, the criminal perpetrators are suitably loathsome. Bridget’s sister was my favourite character, and the most complex, I believe, and I also enjoyed the way her innocuous husband’s story arc developed. There was a side storyline involving her shop assistant that I think was meant to throw Bridget’s complicated feelings about her past into relief and give her some enlightenment, but it wasn’t really well-developed enough to end up as anything but a distraction which was a little disappointing.

The main storyline was psychologically twisty enough to keep me guessing about who was involved in what. I suspected people of things they hadn’t ended up doing and didn’t guess the ending so early in the novel that it was an anti-climax when it came. All in all, I enjoyed the book and it is well worth a read. However, it does not have the jaw-dropping twists that have become the norm, this is much more a character-based novel that isn’t relying on any schlock or shock for shock’s sake that some novels in this genre do. You will have to make your own decision about whether this is a positive or negative based on your own preferences for this type of novel.

What We Did is published today and you can purchase a copy here.

Thank you to NetGalley and Little Brown for the copy of this book which I have reviewed fairly and impartially.

About the Author

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Christobel Kent was born in London and educated at Cambridge. She has lived variously in Essex, London and Italy. Her childhood included several years spent on a Thames sailing barge in Maldon, Essex with her father, stepmother, three siblings and four step-siblings. She now lives in both Cambridge and Florence with her husband and five children.