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: 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: Hold Your Tongue by Deborah Masson

This is probably one of the most chilling and gripping detective debuts I’ve read this year.

A brutal murder.
A young woman’s body is discovered with horrifying injuries, a recent newspaper cutting pinned to her clothing, and a particular body part missing.
A detective with everything to prove.
This is her only chance to redeem herself.
A serial killer with nothing to lose.
He’s waited years, and his reign of terror has only just begun . . .
On Detective Eve Hunter’s first Monday back at work following enforced leave, she is called to the scene of this gruesome crime. Hunter and her team spend the week chasing leads, until the following Tuesday, another body is discovered in similar circumstances. Each week brings another death and battling against a team who has lost respect for her and her own personal demons, Hunter must put herself inside the mind of a depraved killer if she is to stop this. . .

This starts off, quite frankly, with a horrendous but brilliant flashback. The insight that the reader is provided with into the mind of this killer is really chilling and helps set the tone for the whole book.

For DI Eve Hunter however, this is not an easy first day back. She is thrust into this horrifying crime, which seems to have no reason or pattern and the number of victims just keeps rising. Two key things for me that I need when reading a new detective book is a gripping start and a solid detective, and this certainly has both of those! I really liked Eve, she’s so easy to connect with but there are definitely elements of her past or personality that Masson keeps hidden, allowing for more in-depth character writing for later books in the series perhaps. There are clear vulnerabilities and weak spots for Eve and watching her battle these throughout the book makes her more likeable for the reader. She isn’t perfect, but that’s why she seems so real and solid.

This book also introduces the rest of Eve’s detective team and yet again Masson has done this excellently! All of the team have their weaknesses and strengths, and I personally liked all of them… even Ferguson by the end! (You’ll need to read it to see what I mean…!) But for me, I also liked the fact that they didn’t work perfectly as a team, they weren’t immediately successful, and watching the conflicts rise within the team kept me wanting more. I wanted to know if they could solve it, if they could all get past their issues, and it was really rewarding seeing each character develop and progress in their own way.

Turning to the actual crime now… how utterly horrible! The idea of taking the tongues of the victims was pretty grim, but it also clearly had a meaning behind it that was always just within reach but not quite figured out yet. The pace of this was really good, I felt that Masson allowed just enough time of the team feeling clueless and not getting anywhere before starting to drop clues and tips and the odd red herring. Once the team started getting somewhere the pace picked up even more. I thought the ending was brilliant, all the dots joined together at just the right time to build to really disturbing final scene.

I really did love this, I would highly recommend this to anyone wanting to find a new detective book to read and I do hope there are more DI Eve Hunter books to come! It’s chilling, fascinating and really gets under your skin at times… you’ll find it hard to put it down.

Hold Your Tongue
Deborah Masson
Transworld, 20th November 2019

Pretty Guilty Women by Gina LaManna

This was an emotional, tense and brilliantly written character focused novel.

You are cordially invited to the wedding of the year, at the famously luxurious Serenity Spa & Resort on the Californian coast . . .
Ginger is an overworked, under-pampered mother of three who’s barely holding the family together when she learns a secret about her daughter that could ruin everything.
Lulu is a wealthy retiree with four ex-husbands, and a fifth on the way.
Emily harbours a dark secret, which she’s become expert at forgetting with the help of a bottle of wine.
Kate is a powerhouse lawyer with her life in order – except for one little problem that won’t go away.
Only twenty-four hours later a man is found murdered.
All Detective Ramone knows for certain is that these four women sit calmly across from him, offering four very different confessions, each insisting they acted alone.
Why would they confess to the same crime? Only they know the answer – and they’re not telling.

I loved how this was divided between the four women, offering different perspectives on the same events, and on each other. I particularly love character-focused novels, and this did exactly that.

Ginger was the typical over-worked mother, caring and protective but also exhausted and frazzled. She gave life to her parts of the story, and I really liked her chapters especially.

Lulu was actually quite hilarious, despite her story being quite heartbreaking to read. Her attitude in the face of change was brilliant. She was independent, strong, but yet still really vulnerable, and her character had such depth.

Emily was a really fascinating addition to the group. Her issues ran deep, and this was clear right from the beginning. She gave a real darkness to the group in my opinion, but it balanced really well with the other women in the group.

Kate was absolutely my favourite. She was pretty badass, easy to like and easy to empathise with. Her story and character arc was by far my favourite of all the four women, and I was so pleased with how her story ended.

The actual plot was pretty slow, but this is a character-focused novel, and it does that really well. The women all have different and unique personalities and it’s such a fascinating examination of womanhood, female relationships and life itself. The ending did take me by surprise, and it was very satisfying, with the right amount of tension and surprise.

Pretty Guilty Women
Gina LaManna
Sphere, 24th September

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