Keep Him Close by Emily Koch

Experiencing the same event from two points of view, this books pulls at the heartstrings of the reader with an excellently written crime at the centre of everything.

ONE SON LIED. ONE SON DIED.
Alice’s son is dead. Indigo’s son is accused of murder.
Indigo is determined to prove her beloved Kane is innocent. Searching for evidence, she is helped by a kind stranger who takes an interest in her situation. Little does she know that her new friend has her own agenda.
Alice can’t tell Indigo who she really is. She wants to understand why her son was killed – and she needs to make sure that Indigo’s efforts to free Kane don’t put her remaining family at risk. But how long will it take for Indigo to discover her identity? And what other secrets will come out as she digs deeper?
No one knows a son like his mother. But neither Alice nor Indigo know the whole truth about their boys, and what happened between them on that fateful night.

Alice and Indigo offer different sides of the same tragedy – one’s son confesses to murdering the other. It’s devastating for both women and this story follows the impact this crime has on both of them. It combines all the best bits of the drama and crime genres, with an element of psychological investigation incorporated as well.

Alice’s uptight, unemotional reaction is hard to connect to at times, but Indigo’s out-of-touch nature is just as alien in some ways, so it’s fascinating for the reader to watch how these two unusual women cope with what’s happening around them. The plot soon turns from the tragedy of the death of one of the boys, to solving the mystery of what really happened on that night.

It’s not an overly fast-paced novel, but it works because of that. What is left is plenty of time to investigate the emotions of the two women and delve into their different personalities and characters. It’s a wonderfully written psychological investigation, with powerful and touching emotions being demonstrated throughout from both women. I felt that Koch incorporated brilliant elements of toughness, devastation, genuine sadness and a touch of female independent strength.

For a novel that has drama, intrigue, mystery and plenty of emotion, this is the book you need. It really is fascinating and the mystery is more than enough to keep the reader hooked by itself so the emotional investigation is an added bonus that made me feel more connected to the characters.

Keep Him Close
Emily Koch
Vintage, 19th March 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Prized Girl by Amy K. Green

This is a compelling, fast-paced and creepy thriller that everyone will be hooked by.

Jenny Kennedy appears to have it all. She’s the perfect daughter, the popular girl at school and a successful beauty queen. But then Jenny is found dead in a murder that rocks the small town she grew up in to the core.
Her estranged half-sister Virginia finds herself thrust into the spotlight as the case dominates the news and is desperate to uncover who killed Jenny. But she soon realises that maybe Jenny’s life wasn’t so perfect after all.
The truth is that Jenny has more than a few secrets of her own, and so do her neighbours… What really happened that night?

This book starts off with a bang and goes right into the death of Jenny from the start. As a reader, it immediately hooked me as I wanted to know more. It starts from the perspective of Jenny’s sister Virginia, who is an interesting character. She feels unreliable as her blackout drunk moments make everything a bit uncertain for her, so I was unsure whether to trust her which again made it all that bit more intriguing.

The way the plot moves is very gripping, as it switches between Virginia in the present and Jenny in the past, building up to her death. Jenny is sweet, she’s a kid desperate to do her own thing, but there’s a sadness in reading her chapters as the reader knows it doesn’t work out for her. Her need to be independent and escape is tinged with sadness the whole way through, but it’s clever writing as I felt connected with Jenny and desperate to know who killed her.

At no point did I really feel confident in guessing who did it until the very end. Green’s writing is so clever, the twists and turns happen so suddenly that the reader is left reeling and confused. It’s brilliant, as it means the suspense is held the whole way through the book – each time Green hints at something, I learned not to take it for granted, as you never know whether something will actually be revealed or not.

The ending is fascinating, as it investigates morality and decisions made in the heat of the moment. Virginia really comes into her own at the end, seeming stronger and more confident in herself. But here is where Green is really clever, as she doesn’t make Virginia magically perfect, she still has her struggles and poor thinking at times, but she also seems more content, strong and independent.

This should definitely be your next thriller read, it’s got great characters, a fast-paced and constantly moving plot and excellent writing.

The Prized Girl
Amy K. Green
HQ, 19th March 2020

The Neighbours by Nicola Gill

This is such a cute, feel-good story, that everyone who likes strong and funny characters will enjoy. Warning – spoilers in the review below

Meet Ginny, 34, and Cassie, 55. Neighbours, and (very) unlikely friends.
Some women have it all. Others are thirty-four and rent a tiny flat alone because they recently found their long-term boyfriend in bed with their boss. Ginny Taylor is certain her life can’t get any worse. But then she meets her downstairs neighbour…
Cassie Frost was once a beloved actress, but after a recent mishap she desperately needs a new publicist. And Ginny is a publicist who desperately needs a job – but can she be persuaded to work for the prickly woman who lives below her floorboards?
Ginny and Cassie are two very different women, but they have more in common than they’d care to imagine (or admit). And when their worlds collide, they realise that bad neighbours could become good friends…

This is such an amusing, and in some ways lighthearted book, that everyone would enjoy. The two characters, Ginny and Cassie, are such an excellent pairing and they compliment each other perfectly. I found them really funny at times but other times it was very touching. The way that the two women come together at the beginning is really sweet – neither one is totally happy, and they’re both going through what could be called a rough patch. This is what bonds them and some of the things they get up to together are really hilarious and relatable. I loved seeing them progress and change together, but it was also heartbreaking at times to watch them go through difficult times.

This book really helps the reader connect with the characters, I felt really bonded them and this meant that the story held a lot more emotion than normal. I was with Ginny and Cassie through all the good and bad bits and so I was hooked throughout. This book is special because it takes issues or experiences that the reader can relate to and manages to express those emotions really well, while also injecting a little bit of comedy to lift the tone when needed. I thought it was done very tastefully and really would recommend this to anyone who wants to read something that tackles topics like mental health, love and friendship in a way that’s very easy to read and follow.

The way that Ginny dealt with Cassie’s depression later on in the book was very human and real – it wasn’t perfect by any means, but that’s what made it realistic. There were times when Ginny handled things badly, but the effort was made to point out why it was unhelpful and how she could do better. I thought this aspect of the book was great and made it really emotional at times. There are events that are difficult to read, and so perhaps for this reason I would say there’s a content warning for mental health, but I really thought it was done well, considering the genre of this book. Despite the comedic moments, there are times when this book has elements of such piercing honesty and seriousness, that it almost took me by surprise. Cassie’s good and bad days are written in such an honest and straightforward way that it definitely has an element of real-ness to it that makes it very readable.

The actual story is also excellent, it has the right amount of ups and downs, with a dash of comedy and a bit of heartbreak, but that’s why it works so well. The ending was wonderful, I finished the book feeling very satisfied and happy, which is exactly how I wanted to feel. After a rocky journey, I was left feeling genuinely delighted for both women and was really sad to finish this. This is a definite must-read for me as I loved every second.

The Neighbours
Nicola Gill
Avon, 6th Feb 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Woman Downstairs by Elisabeth Carpenter

This is a brilliantly gripping book, with a plot that really gets to the reader.

Can you ever really know your neighbours?
When human remains are found in a ground floor flat, the residents of Nelson Heights are shocked to learn that there was a dead body in their building for over three years.
Sarah lives at the flat above and after the remains are found, she feels threatened by a stranger hanging around the building.
Laura has lived in the building for as long as she can remember, caring for her elderly father, though there is more to her story than she is letting on.
As the investigation starts to heat up, and the two women become more involved, it’s clear that someone isn’t telling the truth about what went on all those years ago…

Both Sarah and Laura were great characters, with the reader able to connect with both women. I thought Sarah’s curiosity and determination contrasted perfectly with Laura’s anxiety and timidness. Each time the perspective swapped it was so easy to get back into each character and I was kept hooked throughout.

The plot itself was excellently written, it played on the horror of being so unknown and alone that no one would know you’d died. It takes the fears of the reader and puts them into writing, building up the sadness of the crime throughout and increasing the intensity. It’s very clever writing, it’s detailed, emotional, fast paced and full of suspense.

Each character plays an important part in finding the heart of the story. They all add an element of intrigue or surprise, an added layer to the mystery, and it works really well. The ending is at just the right point in the story, right when the suspense builds we reach the reveal and it’s brilliant. Everything starts to link together really well, in a way that’s clever and not too obvious.

If you want something that will grip you right from the start and play on deeper fears in an extremely clever way, this is the book for you.

The Woman Downstairs
Elisabeth Carpenter
Orion, 6th February 2020

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

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