BLOG TOUR: The Keeper by Diane Saxon

This is such an intense, fast-paced and wonderfully creepy psychological crime novel!

Responding to reports of deadly screams in the Ironbridge Gorge, Detective Sergeant Jenna Morgan is first on the scene to investigate.
As the search intensifies, Jenna soon discovers her sister Fliss’s severely injured Dalmatian, Domino and the naked, tortured body of an unknown woman.
Who is the dead woman and where is her sister Fliss?

This book really does kick into action from the start. We see the crime happen from the perspective of Fliss, and it’s genuinely quite terrifying. The intensity, creepiness, and sheer horror of the situation really does come through the pages to the reader.

I really liked Jenna. She’s so determined, and yet her emotions do still come through. Somehow she manages to be a clearly independent and capable woman, as well as vulnerable, and I really liked these depths to her character. The team she works with is brilliant as well, and they all work great together. I loved Mason in particular, his strong attitude and kind personality were so likeable.

I had my suspicions about who was behind the horrific crime, but it turned out I was totally wrong, and it wasn’t until nearer the end that I finally got it. It was a great ending, I felt like all the loose ends were tied up well without being too neat, and it provided the reader with a big sense of relief after such a tense novel!

I’d definitely recommend this for someone wanting a fast-paced, extremely tense, creepy psychological crime novel.

The Keeper
Diane Saxon
Boldwood Books, 1st October 2019

BLOG TOUR: Lake Child by Isabel Ashdown

Carry on reading for a sneak peek extract from Lake Child

Eva

When I open my eyes, I know it is morning, because the snowreflected light makes its way through the shutters, casting white bars across the attic wall. Mamma is exactly where she was when I drifted back to sleep last night, curled around me, my head nestled into the crook of her neck. I can smell the scent of her favourite perfume, am comforted by the familiarity of her body, the soft brush of her hair against my cheek. It is warm beneath the covers, but the air of the room is cool, my breath a white mist. ‘We’ll have to get you an extra heater up here,’ she says, alerting me that she’s awake. ‘I think the radiator must be on the blink. No wonder you woke up last night.’ I hold my breath as my mind leaps around, searching for explanations as to what’s going on. Beyond the window a fox screeches, its cry childlike as the sound drifts and trails away. ‘Why am I—’ I start to say, but Mamma pulls me closer, her warm hands covering my ears as she kisses the top of my head.  ‘How are you feeling this morning?’ she asks, releasing me and slipping out of bed, tucking the covers around my shoulders. She crosses the room, flipping on the desk lamp as she goes, and places her hand on the radiator, holding it there for a second or two. She’s wearing a cream cable-knit sweater and flannel jogging pants, and her strawberry-blonde hair hangs down her back, fuzzy after a night’s sleep. She bends to fiddle with the dial. I blink, captivated by her casual movements, and try to find the right words. ‘Why am I here, Mamma? Why am I in the attic?’ She turns to me and smiles, but I see sadness there and I know she’s working hard to hold it together. ‘We’ve talked about this, haven’t we, darling? Remember?’ ‘Have we?’ I reply as I stare at her, terrified by the fact I have no idea what she is talking about. ‘I don’t – I don’t remember.’ And then I recall that blank impression I’d woken with last night, the sense that I’d been wiped clean, that my completely and utterly empty. ‘Yes, we’ve been over it several times now – but you’re still struggling to retain information. It’s not uncommon after this kind of trauma, you know? You mustn’t be afraid – it’s temporary, we’re sure.’ ‘Trauma?’ I ask, and I try to sit up, but a stabbing sensation pierces my ribs and I swallow a yelp. ‘What’s wrong with me?’ I push back the sheets, my hands shaking now. Mamma comes to me and unfastens the last two buttons of my pyjama top, and that’s when I see it for the first time. A criss-crossing of scars which starts at my sternum and runs down past my ribcage, to disappear into my pyjama bottoms. I glimpse the damage, and turn my head away, wide-eyed, horrified at the sight of my own mutilated skin. ‘Oh, God – oh, no. Mamma? What is this? What happened to me?’ I push her hands away, panicked, tugging at the sheets and wanting to cover myself up. Wanting to make it all go away. ‘It looks fine,’ she murmurs. ‘The scars are tightening up a bit, that’s all. We must keep using that special cream, to keep the skin soft – it’ll help with the healing.’ I’m crying now, but I barely feel the tears, and when Mamma looks up my eyes seek out hers, silently pleading with her for some answers I can make sense of. This confusion feels like madness; I’m both inside and outside of myself, looking in and looking out.

Again, she sweeps me into her embrace, and, despite the physical pain it causes me, it’s where I want to be. ‘Please, Mamma,’ I cry into her shoulder. ‘Tell me.’ Before she is able to reply, we’re interrupted by the tread of footsteps on the wooden staircase beyond the door, and Pappa’s bearded face appears, smiling and bright. He’s already dressed for work, in his thick plaid shirt and cargo trousers. I find I can replay a scene, like frames from a movie I’ve watched a hundred times. In it, we’re in the kitchen, preparing supper, and it’s dark beyond the window, and warm inside. Pappa comes in through the back, kicking off his snow-dusted work boots before padding across the flagstones to kiss Mamma on the cheek. I look up from chopping onions and tell him he looks like a lumberjack; he says he only dresses like that to please Mamma; Mamma says she wouldn’t change a thing. It’s a love scene, I think now, and it makes me happy, except I have to leave it, because someone’s saying my name. ‘Eva?’ Mamma says, giving my shoulder a little shake, and I’m aware that she’s said it a few times now. ‘Pappa’s here.’

Slowly, my mind returns from the past to the present, to me sitting in this strange bed with my mother at my side, and my father standing in the low doorway, the desk lamp casting his shadow huge across the ceiling. His expression is – what? Expectant? Hopeful? It’s hard to tell. ‘Hello, sweetheart!’ he says, and for a moment I feel as though I’m looking at a stranger. ‘How are you doing this morning? You gave us quite a fright last night.’ I open my mouth to speak, but Mamma answers for me. ‘She’s feeling much better now, aren’t you, Eva? I think it must have been another bad dream – you know, you’ve been plagued by them since we got you home.’ ‘Where’ve I been?’ I ask.

BLOG TOUR: Perfect Stranger by Jake Cross

This was creepy, unsettling and had an epic ending.

You let her in. You’ll wish you hadn’t.
Following a whirlwind romance, Rose and Chris’s marriage has been unshakeable for twenty years. But when teenager Katie turns up on their doorstep, blonde, wide-eyed and beautiful, their perfect life threatens to crumble to pieces. Because Katie says she’s Chris’s long-lost daughter, the product of a forgotten summer fling.
The couple is still reeling from shock when Katie tells them she has nowhere to go. The couple is her only hope. Kind-hearted Rose invites Katie to stay, despite Chris’s protests. The poor girl has only just lost her mother – they can’t leave her out on the street.
But soon after Katie moves in, strange things start happening. Someone crashes into a neighbour’s fence. An unexplained fire starts in the couple’s kitchen. And a family friend coming to visit disappears on the way to the house. Chris insists Katie has to go. But it’s Chris who won’t explain where he was at the time their friend went missing…
The couple’s dream life seems to be turning into a nightmare. With dark secrets about Chris’s history with Katie’s mother coming to light, Rose no longer knows who to trust. Soon, she isn’t sure whether she’s invited a dangerous stranger into her home, or whether she’s been living with one all along…

What an epic and creepy thriller this is. Chris and his family seem settled and happy, when a shock letter and almost-mugging begins the path of something that will rock their whole life. Every event simply ups the ante, and increase the tension and questions.

Katie is a very unsettling character. To the reader it seems there really is something wrong, but it’s impossible to put your finger on what exactly. Her lies and stories simply don’t add up, but there’s no way to know what’s true or not. Chris seems naturally a bit suspicious of her, but Rose and Julia are such kind people that Katie quickly integrates herself in their family.

As the book goes on, there are a myriad of unexplainable events, such as a beating, a fire and more, and it just keeps escalating. If it’s even possible, the tension rises even further when it seems that Chris is hiding the truth as well, and halfway through the book I genuinely couldn’t put it down as I was desperate to know who was genuine and who was the real monster.

The ending to this was probably one of the busiest but most epic endings to a thriller I’ve read in a while. There was a LOT going on, but it meant that I just simply couldn’t put it down. It was chilling, tense, dark and quite frightening at points. Katie was at her best in these scenes, and the writing was magnificently creepy. The very final scene finishes the book off perfectly, it’s calm, calculated and the final truths all come to light.

This is such a satisfyingly creepy book, with brilliant characters and a tense atmosphere throughout.

Perfect Stranger
Jake Cross
Bookouture, 21st August 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

This was a claustrophobic, fast-paced and clever book, with characters who were explored in lots of detail.

Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.
In the lucrative world of Wall Street finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie and Sam are the ultimate high-flyers. Ruthlessly ambitious, they make billion-dollar deals and live lives of outrageous luxury. Getting rich is all that matters, and they’ll do anything to get ahead.
When the four of them become trapped in an elevator escape room, things start to go horribly wrong. They have to put aside their fierce office rivalries and work together to solve the clues that will release them. But in the confines of the elevator the dark secrets of their team are laid bare. They are made to answer for profiting from a workplace where deception, intimidation and sexual harassment thrive.
Tempers fray and the escape room’s clues turn more and more ominous, leaving the four of them dangling on theprecipice of disaster. If they want to survive, they’ll have to solve one more final puzzle: which one of them is a killer?

The concept of this was really fascinating. This is an escape room like no other, with obscure clues and a real sense of claustrophobia throughout. At first, it’s slightly confusing, with a prologue that seems to make no sense, and the introduction of a character who seems to be unconnected. It’s confusing but ultimately fascinating, and I was hooked immediately. The beginning works well because it seems to be disjointed – the scenes are cleverly shocking, and entices the reader to keep going to find out what exactly is going on.

It’s hard not to give too much away about this book… The scenes in the elevator offered insight into the four characters, and showed their twisted relationships with each other as well as their own personal battles. As time went on, it was clear they were losing hope, becoming frustrated and getting increasingly desperate. The emotions were right on the surface, and these scenes were written so well.

There are also chapters that don’t take place in the elevator, and these were actually some of my favourite scenes in the book. They were clever, seemingly not linked, and kept me really hooked until I knew how it all worked together. I don’t want to give too much away, but these chapters become more intense as times goes on and it’s so clever.

Although I partly predicted one aspect of the ending, I definitely didn’t get any of the details. The ending was less about the sudden shock factor, and more about a slow, tense and twisted ending that left the reader feeling both shocked and satisfied. I’ve not read an ending that had so much going on in a while, but it really worked with the tone of the novel, and I couldn’t have put the book down if I tried.

I read this in the space of a day, it was frightening, tense, clever and definitely twisted. Each of the characters brought a lot to the book, especially the women, and I loved the strong personalities. I’d definitely recommend this if you want something different to read!

BLOG TOUR: The Undoing of Arlo Knott by Heather Child

This was such an emotive, beautifully written and unusual story, and I would 100% recommend.

Arlo Knott develops the mysterious ability to reverse his last action. It makes him able to experience anything, to charm any woman and impress any friend. His is a life free of mistakes, a life without regret. But second chances aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. As wonderful as his new life is, a mistake in Arlo’s traumatic childhood still haunts him and the temptation to undo, undo and keep undoing could be too much to resist.

I loved the whole concept of this, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Arlo was one of the most fascinating main characters I’ve read in a long time, he was angry, emotional, desperate and a bit heart-broken. His search for joy and happiness was definitely hard to watch at times, but he was just such a strong character.

This book is definitely more about the character progression than the story itself (or that’s how it seemed to me), but I loved it. Seeing Arlo’s guilt about the choices he makes, the things he chooses to redo, the actions that he erases, it’s all very emotional. It’s powerful at times, and also tackles some very deep and distressing emotions for Arlo, and so seeing his progression throughout the novel is very meaningful.

The story itself, while simple, complements the power of the story very well. It’s not complex, but it’s emotive, and I loved Sabra. She’s vivid, bright and full of big emotions, which pairs with Arlo’s intensity very well.

I really didn’t expect the ending, it was touching and sad, but also was something that made perfect sense to me now that I knew Arlo’s character so well. I really don’t see how it could have ended any other way, and I loved how it was written.

If you want something different to read, this is such a beautiful book, so I’d definitely recommend this.

Thank you to Tracy Fenton for organising this!

The Undoing of Arlo Knott
Heather Child
Orbit, 1st August 2019

BLOG TOUR: Sisters of Willow House

This was such a heart-warming, genuine and beautiful novel, with gorgeous scenery descriptions and great personalities.

Roisin McKenna and her husband Cian are taking time apart. Unsure of what she wants, Roisin’s prayers are answered when she receives a call from her sister Maeve who is desperate for her help.
Roisin heads to Sandy Cove to help Maeve restore their aunt’s gorgeous tumbledown mansion Willow House and soon all she has time to focus on are its crumbling walls. Despite a shocking announcement from Maeve and hidden secrets in the house’s rafters, Roisin begins to feel a sense of self she’s been missing for years.
The ties that bind Roisin to her husband seem to be unfurling in the Irish wind, when she unexpectedly stumbles into a mysterious man on the beach. Suddenly, she’s swept up in the idea of another life she could lead…
The restoration may have brought the sisters back together, but as a storm rolls over the coast Roisin feels sure she must make a choice. Will her time at Willow House teach her the precious lessons she needs to return home or has the cove called to her in ways she’d never imagined it could?

I enjoyed this immensely, which was a pleasant surprise as it’s quite different to the genres I normally read. However, I really loved the characters, especially Roisin, and felt that I was easily able to connect with her and her story.

I loved the descriptions of Willow House and the surrounding coast, it was really beautiful and often fit with the mood of the plot which was a nice touch. It made visualising the story really easy as well, and so I thought this worked great.

Roisin was such a fun character. She definitely wasn’t perfect, and she had ups and downs throughout the novel, but she was full of emotion and I felt really able to connect with her. I liked the friendships and relationships she had throughout the novel, especially with her sister who was a brilliant and stable influence on her.

The plot itself was fun, uplifting at times, and slightly stressful at others, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It had it’s hilarious moments, and it also demonstrated real struggles in relationships, with I think worked really well together.

Overall, this was a great read, and one I would definitely recommend!

Sisters of Willow House
Susanne O’Leary
Bookouture, 26th July 2019

BLOG TOUR: The Night You Left by Emma Curtis

I loved how this switched from the past to the present, offering different perspectives on various events, building up to a fantastic ending.

It only takes a moment to unravel a perfect life…
When Grace’s fiancé vanishes without a trace the night after proposing, her life is turned upside down. But has Nick walked out on her, or is he in danger?
As Grace desperately searches for answers, it soon becomes clear that Nick wasn’t the uncomplicated man she thought she knew. And when she uncovers a hidden tragedy from his childhood, she realises an awful truth: that you can run from your past – but your secrets will always catch up with you . . .

What a book. I really loved this, I loved the switching perspectives and timelines, Grace was a fantastic main character, and the level of suspicion and intensity throughout was brilliant. The story starts pretty much instantly, with the disappearance of Grace’s husband Nick. The reason why I liked this so much is that it doesn’t give the reader much of a chance to gauge Nick as a character, so the reason why he goes missing is even more of a mystery.

It’s really fast-paced, Grace’s urgency and frustration is clear to see, and her pain practically radiates out of the pages. I also liked the chapters that went back in time, and showed Nick’s childhood. It helped build the tension up, especially as there were characters that weren’t present in the current timeline. It also meant that only half the book was written in the present, so the action had to move quickly, and it worked really well. The chapters that were written from the past were actually some of my favourite parts of the book; because the characters in these chapters were children, their emotions were so raw and heightened, that I really found myself sympathising and connecting with them.

Grace herself was a brilliant main character, she was very emotional, frustrated, upset but there was a real determination to find out what happened to Nick. Her relationship with her in-laws was so stifling, and the love and strength she showed to her daughter was so endearing. All the different parts of her character were shown, and the writing was so good. The other characters throughout the book were just as well written; Douglas was a serious, powerful man, and Anna’s vulnerability and wariness came through as well. It was hard to make out who to feel suspicious of, demonstrating yet again why the book was so good. I consistently felt uncertain, tense and desperate to find out what happened.

I thought the ending was brilliant. It’s definitely quite unexpected, and there’s a lot that happens so it really hooked me in, and I couldn’t put it down. It was fast-paced, with lots of action, and it brings in all the elements of both timelines really well.

This is such a great read, it’s thrilling, emotional, tense and has some truly brilliant characters. I’d definitely recommend this!

The Night You Left
Emma Curtis
Transworld Digital, 22nd July 2019