Witness by Caroline Mitchell

witness

Length: 338 pages

Note: As always the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: To Rebecca it was a brave decision that led to her freedom from domestic abuse. To Solomon it was the ultimate betrayal.

It’s been ten years since Rebecca’s testimony saw Solomon locked away. Enough time for the nightmares to recede, the nerves to relax; enough time to rebuild her life and put the past behind her.

Then one day a phone rings in her bedroom—but it’s not her phone. Solomon has been in her home, and has a very simple message for her: for each of the ten years he has spent in jail, Rebecca must witness a crime. And, to make matters worse, she has to choose the victims.

Fail to respond and you get hurt. Talk to police and you die. Ready to play? You have sixty seconds to decide…

As the crimes grow more severe, the victims closer to home, Rebecca is forced to confront a past she had hoped was gone forever.

The Review:  You’ll remember I read The Silent Twin by Caroline Mitchell (read review here) and loved it, saying I had to get onto her other books. I’m afraid that didn’t go to plan, but this book has only cemented that I’m going to be reading her amazing thrillers for some time to come!

Now before I start I need to make sure you’ve read the blurb above. Impressed? Excited? Ready? Okay-let’s go!!!

We begin this tale in 2005 where a girl, Rebecca, is cradling a severely injured man on her lap. When the police say they’re there to help, she says they can’t, because the attacker’s father is one of them (jumps around the place excitedly!)  …

The book moves between diary extracts from ten years ago to a non diary narrative of modern day in a small Welsh town of Ponty Ferry where Rebecca is now married with a young child. The diary extracts contained some beautiful details about Rebecca and her mother and we were introduced to Solomon, her ex boyfriend. Back to modern day and Rebecca receives a message saying she has to nominate a person for a crime, and then witness it. This will happen a further nine times …
The story revolves around the ex, Solomon, and what a character he is! If I’m honest the only other character of this nature that remains as memorable to me is ‘Oliver’ from ‘Unraveling Oliver’ by Liz Nugent. Solomon has a back story that stays in your mind and makes you realise the impact a lack of parental love can have on someone. His thought processes are horrendous but pure genius, as is his revenge.

I highlight as I read, and make notes too, and as I went through this book I highlighted line after line, passage after passage, totally engrossed in every single detail but then, as soon after the crimes that Rebecca is forced to witness began,  I stopped as I was too engrossed.

The storyline was a great experiment on what someone will do to keep themselves and their family alive, although I have to admit there were so many things I’d have done differently(!) The drama builds and builds, the pages turn, and the numbers on the chapters, which I found to be deliciously short, climbed. There was also the nice touch that at times the diary extracts interrupted you, you had been notified as to who the person and the crime was, and just as you were ready to ‘see’ the crime, you got the diary extract with an equally important and riveting backstory. Saying all of this I have to warn you that although it’s not the toughest out there there is violence and a theme of domestic abuse. And, well that’s all I’m going to tell you except Id be shocked if this wasn’t in my top ten books at the end 2017.

Excellent plot, pacing and characters, a mesmerising book that has got me ready to work my way through all of Caroline Mitchell’s books.
Rating:5/5

All Fall Down by Tom Bale

 

allfalldown

Length: 359 pages

Note: The cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link

What they say:

It’s the perfect Sunday. Summer sunshine, a barbecue with the kids.
But a knock on the garden gate and two words, ‘HELP ME’, changes everything.

When loving parents Rob and Wendy Turner let a dying man into their home, and do their best to help him, they think pure chance led him to their house. But soon their lives are threatened in ways they could never have imagined … and then the first anonymous letter arrives, forcing them to question all they know.

Someone is watching.
Someone is waiting.
They will stop at nothing.

Rob and Wendy will do anything to keep their family safe, but their children Georgia, Josh and Evan are teenagers now, with their own hidden lives.

Everyone has secrets, but how can you save your family, if you don’t really know them?

The Review: I had seen this book on so many blogs and was chomping at the bit to get to it. From the start I was excited. There’s so many thrillers out there where whatever happens takes place when the lead is alone, and it was nice for it to take place at a family barbecue, when everyone was together and so there were witnesses. The ‘it’ is the stumbling of a homeless man who has been tortured into the garden. This more than set the scene and I was ready for a rough ride. I enjoyed Mr Bale’s storytelling, after worrying at the start that the writing wasn’t my cup of tea, as Rob, the lead, was too paranoid and wondered a bit too much about the homeless man, leading me to think that the ‘was there a message to all of this’ line of thinking was trying too hard to lead us. This flew in the face of times where we weren’t told things about the past that could have been alluded to earlier.  My other issue was that I found the story to be a bit disjointed at times, and I had to make notes on the many minor characters, although that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Saying that, this all quickly faded to grey as we followed Rob and his family away and came face to face with a group of nut jobs (well, they were!), who felt they had the right to do as they pleased to get all the power they felt they deserved. I had that muzzy feeling and tension headache that comes from being so deep into a book that you are walking alongside the characters absolutely terrified of what is going to happen next. This group of people wanted to push boundaries by seeing how they can physically hurt people and I knew the author was over a line that most of the thriller and crime writers that I read would toe, and it had me nervous of what I could actually read. I had some relief when some things DIDN’T happen but it was still a tough one. Saying that it was excellent, the story, the characters, the tension, and I read it in just two sittings (would have read in one but, you know, kid stuff;)) and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Highly recommend if you like the grit of a tough hostage situation where anything can go. Special mention for Tom Bale’s letter to the reader at the end-it will most definitely drive me on to his next book. Thanks to Netgalley and Bookouture for this book in return for an honest review.
Rating:5/5

 

 

 

Does My Bump Look Big In This? by Amy Lynch

doesmybump

Length: 329 pages

Note: The cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link  for the book

What they say: the MOTHER of all comedies is due…
Newlyweds Barry and Becky are just back from their tropical honeymoon. The tans are gorgeous, and it was five star luxury all the way. But there’s a problem. Barry’s desperate for a baby, and Becky’s not quite so keen.
Surrounded by pregnant friends and a mother who’s talking about the ticking of invisible biological clocks, Becky starts to feel the pressure. When a surprise pregnancy rocks the boat, Becky’s friends and family are rooting for her all the way. Will she navigate the choppy waters to motherhood? Will she survive antenatal classes? Can she avoid stretchmarks, indigestion and her dreaded boss? And most importantly of all… does her bump look big in this?

The Review: You’ll remember I raved about Bride Without A Groom (read review here), hoping that there was a sequel coming out. How happy was I when I saw that this book was available for pre-order?! Of course then I did what I’ve done to much of and am fixing this year and put it aside and got bogged down with other stuff but I’m happy to say this book was paramount in getting me out of a really bad reading slump.

As you know I adore chick lit and this, that of the ‘Legally Blond’ and ‘Clueless’ variety, is rarely done as well as it is by Amy Lynch. I have seen it likened to the Shopaholic Series by Sophie Kinsella, and it needs to be, because these books are every bit as satisfying, fun and enjoyable as Ms. Kinsella’s (excellent) ones. Again we’re following Becky as she clip clops through life, having opinions on anything and everyone, as well as deciding exactly how everything needs to happen. I loved how you rea

There is a plethora of over the top, inappropriate jokes (I regularly laughed, trying to stop myself as I did) on getting ready to have a baby that are brave and oh-so satisfying, but never crude and again I felt like this book was tailor made with references or mentions of ‘Friends,’ ‘Big Brother,’ ‘Ghost, ‘The Snapper, ‘ ‘Mount Carmel hospital (where I was born!) and ‘Orange Is The New Black.’ Oh and Patrick Swayze, but I’ll lower my head for that particular reference!  This seems like a short review but I think I’ve made my point, you’ll know.

My finishing point is that they say that the sign of a good book is that you want to press it into the hands of others and actually I have a number of people who will adore this. This could be read as a standalone but really, if you know you’ll like it, why would you?! As I did. Cannot wait for Amy Lynch’s next book and I’m pretty sure I’m in for the long haul.

Rating: 5/5

Pot Love by Sylvia Ashby

potlove

Length: 302 pages

Note: As always the cover image leads to a universal Amazon buy link for the book

What they say: Ashley Burkе is your average next-door girl. She lives with her boyfriend, loves her work and secretly fancies her boss.

When Ashley loses it all through no fault of her own, well, apart from snogging her boss and getting caught by his fiancée, she needs to act fast to find a new job. A lucrative vacancy comes her way – a spot on a popular day-time TV – but there is a catch. It’s a cookery spot and Ashley can’t cook to save her life.

Can learning to cook burn your heart? 

The Review: Remember Treachery of Trains (read review here)? Well at the time I saw this, which is Sylvia Ashby’s first book, and I was mesmerised but the thought of pairing Ms. Ashby’s excellent turn of phrase with cookery, a subject that I am obsessed with, mainly because I can’t! The book opens with a recipe for scrambled eggs (I ADORE when people put recipes into fiction books!), and we meet Ashley Burke, who is nervous about beginning to cook it. You might think this is unrealistic but I can totally, totally identify with this. Even though I am a stay at home Mum, my husband is the cook in the family, and every day I stand before whatever I am about to attempt to cook with apprehension. The only things that even roughly work out are the things that you can’t feed your kids more than once a week, and require simply putting in the oven (they are fine with this!) Everything else? It ends up charred (never undercooked, I don’t want to give them food poisoning!), crispy, soggy or lumpy. Things congeal that shouldn’t, and the meals always just taste  a little bit wrong (my husband is diplomatic, but did once admit he didn’t know how I try so hard and yet my food always tastes a bit off). But I digress …

Ashley’s mantra is “I’m not giving up and ordering a takeaway” and she wants to have something presentable for her very by the book boyfriend Simon, who by now banks on her not being able to put anything forward as an alternative for take-out. There are some great references in here, from Aimee Winehouse to The Truman Show to Mission Impossible to Jamie Oliver, which made the sum of all parts, the book in its entirety feel like it was custom fit for me.

Ashley is a newsreader, which gives a nice edge to the book, as she reads about politics and the like, but when something hits the fan and she needs a new job she sees the perfect presenting job. Only trouble is, it’s presenting a TV cookery show. What ensues is a book that wouldn’t let me go, as we watch Ashley begin to learn about cooking from the spell binding Giacomo, a top chef who imparts a world of knowledge about food and his native Sardinia. The depth here was enthralling and I was reeled in to experience it all, the culture, the produce, the dishes. The change of location, as in The Treachery Of Trains, was perfection as it both educated me and made me wasn’t to go travelling to see Sardinia in all it’s beauty.

I loved the humour, the descriptions, the characters (in particular her mum, who was just so vivid), the gorgeous (gorgeous) romance, the pacing, all of it. This coupled with the fact that I’ve ‘met’ Sylvia Ashby on social media and she’s so lovely, mean I’m totally in- another author to follow.

Rating: 5/5

 

 

All We Have Lost by Aimee Alexander

allwehavelost

 

Length: 276 pages

Please note that the cover image leads to a universal amazon link for the book

What they say:

From the bestselling author of Pause to Rewind and The Accidental Life of Greg Millar comes this ‘stunning tale of modern marriage.’

Kim Waters seems to have it all: her own PR agency, a loving husband and two adorable children. Then Kim announces that she’s fed up plugging Flush toilet cleaner and writing sparkling press releases for mediocre products; she wants to write ‘the great novel’ and spend more time with her young family. She folds her business and settles down to a life of cosy domesticity.

If only it were that easy. The ‘great novel’ is, in fact, a great struggle. Life as a domestic goddess has (many) hidden challenges. And her relationship with her husband is rapidly losing its equilibrium.

As the perfect life Kim has built for herself starts to crumble comes the revelation that will make her doubt everything she had taken for granted…

The Review: I saw Aimee Alexander aka Denise Deegan, speaking at a literary festival some years ago, and I knew from her covers which were dark, her extract, which was a rom com, and the way she spoke about writing, that she was one to read straight away. Of course I didn’t. Instead I went to Amazon, bought two of her books, constantly reminding myself I had to read her, with this hitting fever pitch as I watched everyone around rave over The Accidental Life Of Greg Millar … And again I didn’t get to her. Until Christmas time, and boy am I relived I did!

So the book begins with the lead arriving home to a darkened house after she’s missed her children’s bedtime again. The narrative, that of the first person, present tense variety, was perfect. We see Kim, the working mum who feels guilty all the time, who has done this one too many times and decides to give up life as she knows it to become a stay at home mum and a writer (yes!). This resulted in some very funny book issues, which I couldn’t get enough of (I loved how the protagonist had to come to terms with a best friend who had a book deal based off her notoriety while she was starting from the absolute beginning). My only issue actually was that the writer in me would have loved to see more of this.

This book struck so many chords with me. The feelings, the change of dynamic in the house, sometimes possibly perceived as opposed to actual, and the difference in relationship between Ian and Kim, who were such a great pairing. There were times in this book that I took it upon myself to be mad for Kim as household tasks were now handed over to her, but with no please or thank you (would you know that I perhaps see some of our home situation here, lol?) as decisions they made jointly were suddenly solely the duty of the earner of the house (no fingers, stop typing, you are NOT going to do this!) There was an excellent portrayal of the mixed emotions that come with going from a career to staying at home with children, with the feelings of being content and happy to be with the kids sometimes being usurped by loneliness, an itch to do more, a niggling feeling that you’ve lost your place in terms of value in the world, as well as your rights in the household.

The pacing was excellent, with twists and turns, cliches that turned out not to be and side issues and back issues that I won’t go into as I don’t want to spoil it. I’ll tell you that this is what I would catalogue as a slightly darker form of ‘mom lit,’ and it’s one I’ll be recommending all around me. I really enjoyed this and will most definitely be reading Aimee Alexander’s books (see her catalogue here), again.

Rating: 4.5/5

Queen of Blogging by Therese Loreskar

 

thequeenofbloggingLength: 145 pages

Note as always the cover image leads to a buy link for the book

What they say: The Queen of blogging is a fast paced, entertaining story about making ends meet when you have toddlers, a husband that works too much and showing off your life on a blog for the outside world to see.

Kajsa runs Sweden’s largest Health and Fitness blog. There’s only one small problem; it’s all a big lie. Between her blog entries on healthy nutritious porridge and flashy running shoes, she lies on the sofa watching TV and eating sweets. Her only exercise is using the remote control.

Her life seems perfect: A beautiful house in an attractive suburb of Stockholm, three children, a loving husband and loads of money.

However, things start to crumble when she accidently writes on her blog that she is best friends with a famous Hollywood personal trainer. The problem is he’s never met, let alone heard of her.

An ambitious journalist, who doesn’t believe Kajsa has been honest about her blog or her friendship with the personal trainer, sets out to destroy her. 

Besides having to handle the annoying journalist, she must also deal with Peter, “the blog following hunk”, and a bizarre and outrageous priest who keeps spreading Kajsa’s secrets all over town! 

Bestselling Swedish author Therese Loreskar writes with a never-ending sense of humour and energy.

The Queen of Blogging is for anyone who enjoys a comic read that also explores the downside of our generation’s constant use of social media.

The Review:  I bought this on sight on a bus going to Dublin sure that it was going to be a quick, easy, ‘ have to tell everyone you know about’ read, and started into it straight away.  I was rewarded for this with a prologue that made me nod along as I read:

‘Blogging. For some people, it’s a hobby. For me, Kajsa, it’s a way of life. I live in Sweden, with my husband, three children, and a dog, in a very nice suburban neighbourhood.’

The prologue goes on to tell us about a lie that leads to ‘the biggest mistake of my life’ and boom! I’m sitting back and ready to go. You’ll guess by now that I’m either going to gush or rant, and while I’ll try not to go on too much, I’m afraid it will not be the former. The story is told in first person, which can be good in chick lit, and which I like. The only thing was, when we meet Kajsa, I didn’t like HER almost straight away. The constant ‘it’s so hard having three children and a dog’ was the first thing to get to me, followed by the ‘it’s so tough keeping my blog going, people expect a lot when you’re getting paid for it,’ which wasn’t done in such a way that you knew deep down she didn’t mean it, and while I laughed out loud and really enjoyed some parts, I cringed or furrowed my brow disapprovingly at more (the husband has a secret that made my head hurt). I’m afraid there were some editing issues, and an ending that was just beyond surreal. So in general I liked the concept, but there was a bit too much suspending reality for me.
Rating: 2.5/5

It’s good to be back!

So by now you may or may not know that we live in the country in Ireland, in a place that is beautiful and a dream by day (our kids get home from school and just scatter!) and a thriller writer’s dream by night, being cold and drafty with odd sounds coming from a neighbouring farm, plenty of big trees hiding who knows what, animals prowling about (it’s my first time coming anywhere near a mink!) and a darkness that attacks both your eyes and your senses when the stars aren’t visible (we do have the most stellar display of stars by night, and are lucky to get to stand and appreciate them with the kids!) As an aside, all four of my children have not slept through a whole night since we moved it here, this could be anything, but we blame the house!

Now with all of this comes the big problem in Ireland that is debated regularly- that of rural internet.The Irish government are investing in broadband and aim to have every house equipped with fibre high speed broadband in the next four years. We live so far into the sticks that I do appreciate it must be difficult having to lay lines to places where there may only be one or two houses, and the cost must be shocking too!

When we moved in here there weren’t even phone lines about and the internet we received straight after they were set up was of a hit and miss variety, some days on, some days not. Obviously I blog and my husband is in computers and the absence of internet, while amusing at first, started to get to us. We contacted our provider and was told there was fifty per cent chance we could receive ANY internet at any time of the day. We got a dongle and soon it stopped working and we were told there was no internet in our vicinity at all. My kids love looking at minecraft videos on YouTube and soon we began to fight (not in a savage, ‘Lord of The Flies’ way), just bickering, over my husband’s phone, which has unlimited internet which wasn’t always so fast anyhoo. My Kindle stopped downloading books (I’d sometimes go to family houses or into shops and wait around just so I could get their internet). I gave up on looking up blogs and my own blog was left by the wayside.

Now I don’t want to tempt fate, but yesterday we moved to Three. When I was setting up they were dubious about our speed, and to be fair it’s not the same as it would be in Dublin, something I always took for granted, but I just watched while my Kindle began to download three books I haven’t been able to get to for some time and practically started screaming down the phone at the poor guy.

I’m writing this post to let you know  that hopefully I’m back. This morning I began to read blogs, I spent last night on writing.ie for writing tips (my writing, well editing, has gone south too lately due to kiddies being sick or just waking up) and now my blog is open again and I’m heading straight over to my my writing group on Facebook and the chick lit group I’m on too. I’m so happy. I can’t wait to share all the books I’ve read over the past month with you, and to see what you’ve all been up to as well. It’s good to be back (now hopefully I haven’t set anything bad in motion!) Happy 2017 everyone, and hope your reading, blogging, writing or studying is going just great-remember January isn’t over yet and it’s never ever ever too late to get going on those goals!:)

Big hug,

Bernadette (or Berni) xxxxx