BLOG TOUR: The Day That Changed Everything by Catherine Miller

This is a heart-warming and emotional story exploring the meaning of family and motherhood.

When you lose the love of your life, how do you find yourself again?For Tabitha, the day that changed everything started like any other.
She woke up, slid her feet into fluffy slippers, wrapped herself in a dressing gown and tiptoed out of her bedroom, leaving her husband Andy sleeping. Downstairs, she boiled the kettle and enjoyed a cup of tea as the sun rose.
Upstairs, Andy’s alarm sounded, and Tabitha took him a freshly brewed coffee, like every other morning. Except today, the incessant beeping rang out and her husband hadn’t stirred. She called his name, she nudged his shoulder. But Andy wouldn’t wake up.
Three years later Tabitha is trying her hardest to get by in the shadow of her grief. She may have lost the love of her life but she won’t give up on the family they dreamed of. Fostering troublesome teenage girls and a newborn baby is a chance to piece together her broken heart.
But being a mother isn’t easy, and neither is healing the heartache she carries around. After losing everything, could saving these three children help Tabitha save herself too?

I really enjoyed how this book explores the meaning and importance of family through the eyes of Tabitha and the girls she fosters. Tabitha herself is the key to this story, starting from the devastating moment she discovers her husband has died. It’s truly heartbreaking and the emotion pours out the page. The story flashes back and forward between two timelines. It focuses on the time directly after her husband’s death and a couple of years after when she starts fostering. It gives the reader a better idea of her character development and allows us to really connect with Tabitha as we see her progress.

The writing throughout is really beautiful at times, but it’s what I’d expect from Miller, who’s novel 99 Days With You I absolutely adored. It’s emotive, passionate, devastating at times and she writes everything that Tabitha feels so well. It’s a brilliant exploration into human emotions.

The two teenagers that Tabitha fosters, Syd and Max, are an excellent addition to Tabitha’s life. They are funny, stroppy, typical teenagers, but they are also genuinely struggling with their own emotions and experiences. The way that Miller manages to get this across without writing from the perspective of the twins is truly excellent.

This is a book less about a dramatic storyline and more about the characters and themes. I would highly recommend this for someone who wants to lose themselves in a character-driven, emotional and well-written book.

The Day That Changed Everything
Catherine Miller
Bookouture, 17th Jan 2020

Followers by Megan Angelo

I felt this was a really interesting concept and I was drawn to this book by the excellent marketing and cover design, but the plot was let down by a rushed ending and lack of action.

When everyone is watching you can run, but you can’t hide…
2051. Marlow and her mother, Floss, have been handpicked to live their lives on camera, in the closed community of Constellation.
Unlike her mother, who adores the spotlight, Marlow hates having her every move judged by a national audience.
But she isn’t brave enough to escape until she discovers a shattering secret about her birth.
Now she must unravel the truth around her own history in a terrifying race against time…

Okay, the first thing I’m going to say about this, is that I don’t feel the description matches the book very well. I wouldn’t say this is a ‘terrifying race against time’, but more of a deeper investigation into technology and social media as well as the human psyche. I felt a bit let down by this, as I was expecting the ending to be much more explosive than it actually was.

But if we start from the beginning, then it really did show a lot of promise. *Spoiler alert* – this book is not only set in 2051, but also has sections that go back to 2016. This was a great exploration of the vast differences between the different timelines, and the different women at the centre of each timeline. The contrasts are huge – 2016 is the world as we know it today, but 2051 is a reasonably scary place where Marlow is being watched 24/7 by her dedicated followers. It’s a great concept, like a much more extreme version of the tv show Big Brother. Phones have disappeared, to be replaced by ‘devices’ which seem to be implanted in each person and speak to them inside their brain. I liked this element of it as it felt like it could almost be our future.

Orla is the woman based in 2016, and her storyline focused much more on her life than the technology side of it, so I did like this contrast between the two. However, I felt that Orla’s story became quite predictable, and some of the twists weren’t that surprising and I’d figured them out earlier in the book. It felt a little underwhelming because of this.

I wouldn’t have minded the predictability of the book if the ending had been good, but I felt majorly let down. It was nowhere near as tense as I thought it would be – maybe that’s because I was hoping for some sort of revolution, when it was actually much more personal and centred about Marlow and Orla’s lives. Another thing I didn’t like is that the ending went on a fast-forward, and sped through what would happen to Marlow and Orla over the next few years, which felt like a weird attempt at a happy-ever-after in a book that wasn’t suited to that kind of ending at all.

I feel sad that this book wasn’t what I thought it would be, but that doesn’t mean I hated the entire thing. I liked the exploration of Marlow and Orla’s lives and personalities, and thought the technology aspect was well thought-out and described as well. I just didn’t like the ending, and felt that the pace of action was slow throughout and then sped up bizarrely at the end.

Followers
Megan Angelo
HQ, 9th January 2020

The Other Daughter by Shalini Boland

This was extremely intriguing, fast-paced, with a brilliant ending.

Nine years ago her daughter was taken.
And now she’s back. Two-and-a-half-year-old Holly is playing happily in a pink plastic playhouse, while her mother Rachel sips coffee and chats with a friend nearby. It should be an ordinary day for all of them. But, in the blink of an eye, it turns into every family’s worst nightmare.
Holly is taken by a stranger and never found.
Nine years later, Rachel is living a quiet life in Dorset. She’s tried to keep things together since the traumatic day when she lost her eldest daughter. She has a new family, a loving partner and her secrets are locked away in her painful past.
Until one afternoon when Rachel meets a new school parent Kate and her teenage daughter Bella. Rachel’s world is instantly turned upside down – she’s seen Bella before. She’d recognise that face anywhere – it’s her missing child.
And she will stop at nothing to get her back…

This was such an emotional novel which really tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. When the two-year-old Holly is kidnapped it’s chilling, but even more so because we see it happen from the perspective of the kidnapper. It’s devastating to watch and genuinely quite disturbing to see the logic of the kidnapper, but it’s unique for sure.

The book then moves on to the perspective of Rachel, who becomes obsessed with a child she sees who would be the same age her daughter would be. Again, watching her slowly unravel has quite a chilling undertone to it. For some reason there are elements which were seriously creepy, but others where I totally understood why she was doing what she was doing. Watching the development of Rachel’s character became more and more intriguing, and the ending was particularly revealing and fascinating. It’s also great to see bits of the impacts it has on the other family involved, as it really adds to the whole suspense of the novel.

I really liked the contrast between the past and the present as the differing tones made the book really fast-paced. The flashbacks into the past could be especially chilling and slowly the mystery of what happened to the child was revealed. It was quick, unnerving and the characters were brilliantly written. I’d definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a great thriller to read and Boland’s books are always enjoyable.

The Other Daughter
Shalini Boland
Bookouture, 5th November 2019

Safe House by Jo Jakeman

Full of mystery, suspense and a stormy setting, this book is intriguing throughout.

The morning after a terrible storm, a woman turns up in a remote Cornish village. She calls herself Charlie, but it’s a name she’s only had for a few days. She keeps herself to herself, reluctant to integrate with the locals. Because Charlie has a secret.
Charlie was in prison for providing a false alibi for a murderer. But Lee Fisher wasn’t a murderer to her; he was the man she loved. Convinced of his innocence, Charlie said she was with him the night a young woman was killed. This sacrifice cost her everything.
And now she has a chance to start again. But someone is watching her, waiting for her, wondering if she’s really paid the price for what she did.

This is not your normal thriller – this is a thriller with a domestic drama feel to it and it really keeps you hooked throughout. Charlie’s flashbacks and memories of the past played strongly on domestic themes and the reader was made to feel really conflicted about Charlie herself. It was clever writing at times, making the reader question how they felt about Charlie.

The plot is fast-paced and tricky to predict – with lots of new characters being introduced and the finger of suspicion being pointed at all of them, there are times when it’s hard to guess who is behind the mysterious things that keep happening to Charlie. All the characters bring something to the story, there’s not one person who seems to be involved for the sake of it. Each person helps deflect suspicion, leaving the reader confused and curious right until the last minute.

I thought the ending was built up perfectly, with a nice storm to go alongside the suspense and emotions that Charlie was feeling. It was one of those chapters you just have to finish, and left the reader feeling satisfied by the end. The whole way through Charlie’s character and choices was described brilliantly, making the reader feel a connection with her right until the end and I loved the parts that delved into her past. It made the ending mean even more and overall everything tied in together nicely.

This is the perfect book to blend the genres of thriller and domestic drama together, with great characters and a plot full of suspense. I was hooked throughout and would recommend this to anyone.

Safe House
Jo Jakeman
Vintage, 31st October 2019

Bookish Bites: Secret Service by Tom Bradby

To those who don’t really know her, Kate Henderson’s life must seem perfectly ordinary. But she is in fact a senior MI6 officer, who right now is nursing the political equivalent of a nuclear bomb. While heading up the Russia Desk of the Secret Intelligent Service, one of Kate’s undercover operations has revealed some alarming evidence. Evidence that a senior UK politician is a high level Russian informer.
Determined to find out who it is, Kate must risk everything to get to the truth. Until a young woman is brutally murdered as a consequence, which puts Kate and her team under the spotlight.
With blood on her hands, her reputation to uphold, her family hanging by a thread and a leadership election looming, Kate is quickly running out of options and out of time
.

Loved Kate, the main character in this. She was tenacious, determined and a really likeable female lead.

Disliked the fact that the beginning took a little while to get into – but after a few chapters I started to really enjoy it.

Favourite moment? The ending – it sounds like the obvious choice but it wrapped up everything plot and sub-plot happening throughout the book. It combined elements of the spy, domestic and mystery genres to create a tense ending with a big reveal.

Favourite character? Kate! It was refreshing to read an action-packed MI6 novel like this with a really strong and well-balanced female lead, especially in a genre which is dominated by male characters.

Final comments? This was a fast-paced, action-packed but unusual spy/crime novel. It had brilliant characters and a plot that really picked up the pace. This has something that would appeal to anyone, so I’d definitely recommend it.

Secret Service
Tom Bradby
Atlantic Press, 5th November 2019

BLOG TOUR: What She Saw Last Night by MJ Cross

I read this in one day, desperate to finish it, and genuinely almost missed my train stop!

Jenny Bowen is going home. Boarding the Caledonian Sleeper, all she wants to do is forget about her upcoming divorce and relax on the ten-hour journey through the night.
In her search for her cabin, Jenny helps a panicked woman with a young girl she assumes to be her daughter. Then she finds her compartment and falls straight to sleep.
Waking in the night, Jenny discovers the woman dead in her cabin … but there’s no sign of the little girl. The train company have no record of a child being booked on the train, and CCTV shows the dead woman boarding alone.
The police don’t believe Jenny, and soon she tries to put the incident out of her head and tells herself that everyone else is right: she must have imagined the little girl.
But deep down, she knows that isn’t the truth.

What a book. I was so hooked on this! I felt that the start had just the perfect pacing – it was both slow enough to make me want to carry on but fast enough to keep my attention.

This is the kind of book where you never know what’s going to happen. Every chapter held something unexpected, and there were points where I was genuinely shocked that certain things actually happened. There are lots of twists and turns, but I liked that there are different character perspectives for the same events, so the reader gets a glimpse into both sides of the story. It’s genuinely sinister at times, sometimes scary and the writing is superb. The descriptions are so vivid that I felt really engaged throughout, I could really imagine and feel what was happening in the story, which is partly why I was so gripped by it throughout.

Jenny was a great main character. Clearly inexperienced, but ultimately super determined, I was always confident that she was going to get what she wanted eventually. It was a very rocky journey, and perhaps didn’t turn out the way I expected, but it was so so good. It wasn’t always realistic, but I find the most gripping thrillers and crime novels never are, so it worked really really well I felt. The plot was always unpredictable, helping to keep the reader engaged throughout.

After such a highly charged book, the ending was really emotionally satisfying and gave me exactly what I wanted. It’s not often a book hooks me as much as this one did, so I would highly recommend it.

BLOG TOUR: The Pact by Amy Heydenrych

What an unusual, creepy and fast-paced thriller full of action.

What if a prank leads to murder?
When Freya arrives at her dream job with the city’s hottest start-up, she can’t wait to begin a new and exciting life, including dating her new colleague Jay.
However, Nicole, Jay’s ex and fellow employee, seems intent on making her life a misery. After a big deadline, where Nicole continually picks on her, Freya snaps and tells Jay about the bullying and together they concoct a revenge prank. The next morning, Nicole is found dead in her apartment . . .
Is this just a prank gone wrong? Or does Freya know someone who is capable of murder – and could she be next?

This book starts with such a positive outlook, a book that shows someone achieving her dream role and looking to the future. It feels a bit too good to be true, and this soon turns out to be right as the atmosphere quickly changes, with a sinister undertone of bullying and manipulation taking front and centre.

Freya herself seemed innocent, although my instinct was that all was not as it seems in this book. Everything seemed to be against her, apart from her relationship with Jay. She was clearly struggling and the reader is supposed to feel some sympathy for her at these points. I did feel like there was something not quite right throughout though…

The idea of the prank that Freya played on Nicole runs throughout and it’s a constant reminder that something happened and it makes the reader desperate to know what. I really liked the pace of this, it was fast and held my attention but kept enough details to keep the momentum of the story going. I was desperate to know what exactly happened, and the ending definitely didn’t disappoint.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I loved the ending. It kept the tone and style of the story going right up until the last page and I was left very satisfied. This was such a great thriller and I’d definitely recommend!

The Pact
Amy Heydenrych
Zaffre, 28th November 2019