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

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: 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 Sunday Girl by Pip Drysdale

This was a fascinating psychological insight into the mind of the main character, with a fairly creepy story.

Some love affairs change you forever. Someone comes into your orbit and swivels you on your axis, like the wind working on a rooftop weather vane. And when they leave, as the wind always does, you are different; you have a new direction. And it’s not always north.
Any woman who’s ever been involved with a bad, bad man and been dumped will understand what it feels like to be broken, broken-hearted and bent on revenge.
Taylor Bishop is hurt, angry and wants to destroy Angus Hollingsworth in the way he destroyed her: ‘Insidiously. Irreparably. Like a puzzle he’d slowly dissembled … stolen a couple of pieces from, and then discarded, knowing that nobody would ever be able to put it back together ever again.’
So Taylor consults The Art of War and makes a plan. Then she takes the next irrevocable step – one that will change her life forever.
Things start to spiral out of her control…

There were some beautiful pieces of writing in this book, the quote starting the blurb being just one example of the imaginative descriptions throughout the novel. It’s dramatic, intense and bleak all at the same time.

Taylor was an interesting main character. She was pretty intense herself, and her thought process was hard to understand at times. This definitely upped the suspense throughout however, as she was so unpredictable. Her reaction to Angus ending their relationship was honestly so fascinating, and I felt like I was watching someone spiral out of control. What made it more disturbing however, was the fact that Taylor didn’t actually seem out of control – her methodical, careful process while she was plotting and carrying out her revenge was pretty creepy at times!

Where this novel really finds it own however, is during the second half of the novel as Angus becomes more of a key character. The tension, suspense and drama really builds here, and the psychological elements comes into play. It’s creepy, it’s unpredictable, and I definitely didn’t see the ending coming.

This is great fast-paced read, with unpredictable and tense elements, and a really fascinating main character. Would definitely recommend for anyone that wants to blend a psychological thriller with women’s fiction!

Thanks so much to Anne from Random Things In My Letterbox for organising the tour.

The Sunday Girl
Pip Drysdale
4th April 2019

BLOG TOUR: Fierce Girl by Emma Tallon

Okay, honestly, I haven’t read any of the previous books in this series but after reading this I 100% will be, because oh my god this was awesome.

Anna Davis has grown up. She’s not the naive runaway who escaped her vicious gangland boyfriend anymore. She’s tougher than ever and she won’t let anyone take advantage of her – or the people she loves.
Anna’s devoted boyfriend, East End baron Freddie Tyler, is in trouble. There’s a rat in his organisation and he needs to stop the leaks before a very big mistake from his past is revealed to people who will want swift and brutal revenge.
Anna wants to help Freddie but she’s got problems of her own. Her best friend Tanya’s mother has turned up, and is staking a claim on Tanya’s share of their club. With Tanya buying her mum’s reformed sinner act, Anna knows she needs to act before both their friendship and Club Anya goes up in flames.
But if there’s one thing Anna and Freddie have learned, it’s how to play the game, and as their enemies close in they’ll fight with everything they’ve got to protect the life they’ve built.

I really wish I had read the other books in this series, because I feel like there is so much depth to these characters that I’m missing. Anna and Freddie, the two main characters here, are so well written. They’re incredibly likeable, despite the fact that they are definitely not innocent people, and their emotions are so finely detailed that I felt really invested in them. How on earth did I end up liking the head guy of a crime group so much? Freddie is both hard and disturbing, and caring and emotional, and somehow Tallon combines these two sides of him perfectly. His relationship with Anna is really sweet, and I’ll be going back to the previous books to find out exactly how their relationship has progressed. The past events that have happened (which Tallon details in this book, so I was able to understand the context) clearly affected these two deeply, and watching them both struggle with these emotions was painful. Their pain practically jumped out the page at me. What I really liked was that Anna was portrayed not only as the vulnerable woman who has experienced something tragic, but also as the tough businesswoman who is determined to do things her way. Similarly with Freddie, he is both the tough gang leader, able to commit horrific violence towards people, but also the caring partner struggling with his own emotions after a tragedy of his own. It’s a touching partnership, and I enjoyed how Tallon made them both strong characters in their own ways as well as a strong couple.

I liked the secondary characters as well, from Anna’s friend Tanya, to Freddie’s brothers and friends, to the detective-turned-PI Sarah. They all served a purpose and built the story up further, providing more depth without being confusing. Tallon wrote this really well, as it would have been easy for the reader to be confused at the vast array of characters but it was surprisingly easy to understand, which is purely due to the great writing.

The actual story itself was definitely intriguing, as there were two parts to it that didn’t really seem connected. Freddie’s mafia troubles were different to anything I’ve really read before, but I really enjoyed it, and his reactions and plans were both clever but also impulsive when necessary. Anna’s determination to prove that Tanya’s mother was up to something was tough to read as she became alienated from Tanya, but it also meant the reader was behind her every step at the way, urging her to find out what really happened.

The ending tied everything together really nicely, and while Tallon definitely doesn’t shy away from violence, it was a fast-paced and intriguing ending, building up to a very satisfying conclusion. It was clever how she linked everything together, in a surprising way that still made sense. I liked that there was a slight plot twist/cliffhanger, enough to leave the reader wondering but not too frustrated.

Overall, this is a brilliant, fast-paced and unusual read. The characters are awesome, with lots of depth and emotion that means the reader gets really invested in them. I would 100% recommend!

Fierce Girl
Emma Tallon
Bookoutoure, 21st May 2019