The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

I can’t believe I haven’t reviewed this yet, but seeing as I recently re-read it I’ve come back to finally express my love for this book!

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met…
Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.
But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window…

I genuinely think this is one of my favourite books now… Having recently read it for the second time and loved it just as much as the first time, I think this is going to go on my shelf of books that I can come back to time and time again! It’s heartwarming, inspiring, full of strength and love, and has characters whom I absolutely fell in love with.

This is not just a rom-com book – it tackles issues of unhealthy relationships, family bonds and communication. It’s a beautiful story of two people finding themselves (and finding love of course) and I can hardly find the words to express how perfectly the story builds.

Both Tiffy and Leon are two of my favourite characters I’ve ever read. Tiffy’s confidence in her style and positivity contrasts sharply with her inability to trust in herself and recognise what she’s been through. Her journey to accepting her past and overcoming it, with the help of her fantastic friends Mo and Gerty, is so heartwarming to read my heart almost burst with love! I felt like I was going through her experiences with her as O’Leary’s writing brings Tiffy’s emotions right to the surface of the book.

Leon, whose chapters have their own very distinctive writing style, is much more of a closed book for the reader, but I still instantly warmed to him. His no-nonsense attitude, quiet self-confidence and genuine kindness towards others made him a very likeable man – who doesn’t wish we could find a Leon now! His protectiveness is truly adorable, but his journey is more about his ability to open himself up to love. What I loved most about the writing style of his chapters was noticing how as the writing became more open, so did Leon. The abrupt sentences, although still there, lessened over time and allowed more emotion in and I thought this was a really clever way to express Leon’s emotions. It also contrasted nicely to Tiffy’s chapters, who is naturally more open, and so O’Leary’s more expressive writing was better for Tiffy.

This is a rom-com with substance – it’s not just here for a happy ending, it explores real emotion, real struggles and demonstrates real love and friendships. I’ll be reading this again soon I’m sure, as it’s one of those books that is guaranteed to pick me up or get me out of a reading slump. You really won’t regret picking up this book!

The Flatshare
Beth O’Leary
Quercus, 10th April 2019

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

This novel, full of dark humour, horrifying realness and a ton of emotion, is one of the most brilliant and topical stories I’ve read in a while.

Meet Queenie.
She just can’t cut a break. Well, apart from one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That’s just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Stuck between a boss who doesn’t seem to see her, a family who don’t seem to listen (if it’s not Jesus or water rates, they’re not interested), and trying to fit in two worlds that don’t really understand her, it’s no wonder she’s struggling.
She was named to be queen of everything. So why is she finding it so hard to rule her own life?

This book truly took me by surprise. I wasn’t expecting such a dark humour, such honest and brutal reality, but I loved every second of it, even the painful parts. Queenie is one of the most brilliant, layered and complex characters I’ve read in a while.

Despite some exceptionally heartbreaking moments, much of this novel is full of humour and hope. Queenie and her friend Kyazike both add moments of political seriousness and moments of true hilarity, often coming at the same time, and so Carty-Williams provides a complex layer of emotions that makes Queenie seem particularly ‘real’. At one point, when Queenie is at a Black Lives Matter march, her nervousness and fear is overtaken by her need to express her anger and desperation for change, and it’s powerful scenes like this that really bring home just how current this book is. Queenie also experiences some awful racist and physical abuse through dating apps, which could be incredibly painful for some readers- but it’s her resilience, her strength and the support of her friends and family which carry her through.

This book is also unique in that it focuses on the concept of mental health within in a Black British-Jamaican family. It’s complex, messy, but full of love and a deep family bond. Queenie’s pain, often heartbreaking, is felt by the reader and is sadly relatable. The scenes with Janet are really touching and as Queenie opens up the reader further understands the pain she has been through. Her mental health is written with such astuteness that the reader lives through it with her. It’s fascinating, heartbreaking but hope is always there. I was really happy with the ending, it was the perfect way to bring together all the complex emotions that were felt throughout the book.

Despite the tough times, there are lots of happy and hilarious moments, and the contrast between the two is what makes this book. There’s something in here for everyone to enjoy, but it’s Queenie herself who excels – and this is all due to Carty-Williams’ funny, clever, dark and topical writing.

Queenie
Candice Carty-Williams
Trapeze, 11th April 2019

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

This incredible, emotional and extremely powerful novel will stay with me long after I’ve read it.

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Ten years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ story lines intersect?
Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins.

This is not just a story about twins. This is a story about different generations, races and identities. It’s a story about family and history, community and experiences and so much more. I felt dazed after finishing it and I wanted to go back and read it all over again. I honestly feel like this is one of those books where every time you read it again you’ll find something new within the story to appreciate and discover. It’s absolutely fascinating, sometimes heartbreaking and often eye-opening.

Each character is a beautifully complex blend of emotion and human decision. They all add something so wonderful to the story and each is focused on throughout the novel at some point. To start with the twins, the heart of this story, each twin is so clearly their own person and yet seem to be one person too. Desiree, the more fidgety and wild twin, also ends up seeming decisive, secure and confident in her love and emotions. Stella, the quiet and serious twin, ends up becoming stressed and exposed. They are both multi-layered and complex and I just absolutely loved it. The discussions of race that surround each twin is illuminating, the idea of the town of Mallard in itself a complicated creation that investigates the depths of human thought. There is never just one level in this novel, there are always deeper levels to be thought about and investigated.

As the story moves on to include the daughters of Desiree and Stella, despite time moving, on the challenges and barriers each daughter faces always seem to come back to identity. Both Kennedy and Jude were beautiful additions to the novel, taking the identities of their mothers even further and yet also showing how the twins are always so connected. Each girl has elements and characteristics of both twins and every time a new connection appeared the story felt a bit more emotional and beautiful.

As well as the four girls, there are some other wonderful characters throughout this novel that cannot be ignored. Early Jones and Reese were two brilliant additions, highlighting how no one person is the same. I particularly liked how these two stretched the traditions of love to provide new heartwarming strands of love.

This novel is a story about humanity – it explores identities of race, gender, age and family on all kinds of levels and depths. And yet, it cannot be ignored that this is also a story about race. It explores the fascinating history of passing as white, the discrimination Black people faced and how love and race are connected. Finally, this is a story about how the past always affects the future and investigates why people wish to be something other than they are. The title alone is a fantastic reflection of this – seeing the girls become two instead of one is a journey that we all go on when reading this.

This is just one of those books you have to read. It will leave you feeling as though you’ve come out of a dream – I couldn’t put this book down at all but already feel as though I want to go back and read it again. I truly loved it and couldn’t recommend this enough.

The Vanishing Half
Brit Bennett
Dialogue Books, 2nd June 2020

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

The Holdout by Graham Moore

This book had a brilliant concept, strong characters and a very engaging way of writing.

One juror changed the verdict. What if she was wrong?
‘Ten years ago we made a decision together…’
Fifteen-year-old Jessica Silver, heiress to a billion-dollar fortune, vanishes on her way home from school. Her teacher, Bobby Nock, is the prime suspect. It’s an open and shut case for the prosecution, and a quick conviction seems all but guaranteed.
Until Maya Seale, a young woman on the jury, persuades the rest of the jurors to vote not guilty: a controversial decision that will change all of their lives forever.
Ten years later, one of the jurors is found dead, and Maya is the prime suspect.
The real killer could be any of the other ten jurors. Is Maya being forced to pay the price for her decision all those years ago?

What I loved about this was the way the chapters focused on Maya, but divided it up by going back ten years ago with each divide focusing on a different juror. Gradually throughout the book we got to see the thoughts of each juror and why they voted ‘Not Guilty’. It was so fascinating to see and I really liked this view into the minds of each juror.

This was a very fast-paced book, with the plot moving quickly and the writing easy to follow. I love it when a book is easy to read, it makes it easier for me to engage with the story and stayed hooked on the book. This was one of those books, it was clear and concise, descriptive when needed and really kept me gripped. The chapters are also clearly titled so I always knew who was at the centre of which chapter and which year we were in, so it was just excellently written.

The plot itself was also fantastic. It really investigated the moral roles of the jurors involved and how they had been affected by their decision to rule ‘Not Guilty’. Maya, the main character, was very self aware throughout and able to dissect her feelings so the reader can easily feel connected to her. I was with Maya the whole way through, urging her to find out the truth and discover what happened, frustrated when she struggled and elated when she uncovered more and more. It was up and down throughout and I was kept guessing right until the end.

The ending was a surprise but I think it was always going to be because of how the plot worked. The constant back and forth meant that it was easy to follow but hard to get close to any character other than Maya so I wasn’t able to guess who was at fault. The moral side of this book was excellently written, with no black and white answer available. Every person has their own moral limit and this book highlighted this very clearly.

I loved this, it was such a great book and so brilliantly written. The characters were all excellent, the plot different and unique and the pace was perfect.

The Holdout
Graham Moore
Orion, 18th Feb 2020

Grace is Gone by Emily Elgar

This is such a gripping book, with characters that aren’t what you expect them to be and a story that’s genuinely quite horrifying at times.

Meg and her daughter Grace are the most beloved family in Ashford, the lynchpin that holds the community together.
So when Meg is found brutally murdered and her daughter missing, the town is rocked by the crime. Not least because Grace has been sick for years – and may only have days to live.
Who would murder a mother who sacrificed everything, and take a teenager away from the medication that could save her life? Everyone is searching for an answer, but sometimes the truth can kill you . . .

If anyone knows what real-life story this book is based on, then you’ll know roughly what to expect from this. If not, you’re in for a great read! This book is definitely not what you expect, with a brilliant hook that just builds the suspense throughout.

The characters in this are really varied, from Cara to Jon, who are determined to uncover the truth, to Grace herself, and all the others who become involved throughout. I felt like I was able to engage with all of them and that they all brought something to the story. Each person added a layer of mystery and intrigue and I loved how it all came together to add to the final story.

I think that the general pace of this was great, perhaps as I realised what was happening early on I kind of knew what to expect so was waiting for the reveal but the writing was excellent so this didn’t matter too much. It was the bit after the reveal that I was looking forward to and it was fast-paced, full of action with some really chilling moments.

This book is also a great examination of moral obligation, with feelings of guilt running the whole way throughout the story. It really looks deeply into how the other characters feel about Grace and her story and the way they feel about their own role in it. It’s fascinating at times and this is the element of the book that I really enjoyed. It’s a great book, but where the excellence really lies is in the investigation into the morals and feelings of the characters involved. I’d definitely recommend this as a chilling, character-driven book.

Grace is Gone
Emily Elgar
Sphere, 20th Feb 2020

BLOG TOUR: Conviction by Denise Mina

This is unique, chilling and fascinating thriller, with a strong and independent female lead who I absolutely loved.

It’s just a normal morning when Anna’s husband announces that he’s leaving her for her best friend and taking their two daughters with him.
With her safe, comfortable world shattered, Anna distracts herself with someone else’s story: a true-crime podcast. That is until she recognises the name of one of the victims and becomes convinced that only she knows what really happened.
With nothing left to lose, she throws herself into investigating the case. But little does she know, Anna’s past and present lives are about to collide, sending everything she has worked so hard to achieve into freefall.

The style of writing in this book is so unique, it drew me in right from the start. It’s blunt, bizarrely honest and at times feels fragmented when it follows Anna’s real-time thoughts, but I loved it. It was different, but the slightly jarring effect was actually very captivating. It was this that hooked me in to this book before the plot even got going.

What drew me to this book in the first place was the concept of the podcast being the catalyst. The way this was executed within the book was excellent, as the plot didn’t rely too heavily on the podcast but used it as very gripping starting point. Mina gave just enough of a link between the podcast and Anna to keep me curious throughout, without giving away too many of the precise details as to why they were linked. The tension just kept building, and even though the story was a little bit out there, it was just fantastic. The way it was written from Anna’s blunt and unapologetic perspective made it so believable that I never stopped to question what was happening, I just enjoyed reading it.

As we got nearer to the end I was honestly starting to wonder if we were ever going to find out the truth – Mina kept it going right up until the very end. Surprisingly it didn’t drag at all, and instead I found myself desperately turning the pages as I had to find out what happened. I was genuinely shocked, and although I don’t want to give too much away, I will say that this was one of those endings where it just crept up on me and I was left totally shocked. The way that Mina writes keeps the reader totally focused on the main thread of the story, leaving you blind-sided when she reveals something that should have been obvious.

I honestly absolutely loved this. It was deliciously creepy, twisty throughout and full of suspense with a very strong female lead character. If this isn’t on your list to read, it should be now.

Conviction
Denise Mina
Vintage, 20th February 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 24 Hour Cafe by Libby Page

This is a heart-warming story that goes deep into the thoughts and lives of the characters.

Welcome to the café that never sleeps.
Day and night, Stella’s Café opens its doors to the lonely and the lost, the m
orning people and the night owls. It’s a place where everyone is always welcome, where life can wait at the door.
Meet Hannah and Mona: best friends, waitresses, dreamers. They love working at Stella’s – the different people they meet, the small kindnesses exchanged. But is it time to step outside and make their own way in life?

Come inside and spend twenty-four hours at Stella’s Café, where one day might just be enough to change your life . . .

I love character-driven novels and this book was exactly it. Both Hannah and Mona were very realistic women, driven by their dreams but starting to recognise the struggles and realities of life. It focuses on a 24-hour period in Stella’s cafe, but there are flashbacks to the past as both girls remember and reminisce about key moments, both happy and sad. It becomes quite emotional at times, but also interesting to see both sides of the same events.

The book is not totally focused just on the two women however, as there are other characters who come in to the cafe throughout the novel. The reader gets to see glimpses of their lives as well, from the poverty-stricken student, the elderly couple, or the magazine seller outside. It’s fascinating and wonderful to see the thoughts and lives of so many different kinds of people. Some are extremely touching, but throughout there is a sense of realness to the people. There are also some beautifully written sections about dreams, the future and in these sections there is some truly emotive and gorgeous writing. It evokes a sense of passion in the reader as well, making them want to achieve their own goals and dreams as well. I loved these parts of the book and they also managed to break up the heavy emotions of each person as well.

The ending is simply beautiful. It brings back some wonderful links to the characters we see throughout the book, in a genuine and touching way. Within just a few pages, the last chapter manages to highlights the ups and downs that life can bring and it’s honestly just brilliant writing. It left me feeling satisfied and happy after a book that had brought me such a range of emotions.

The stand-out for me from this novel is simply the writing itself. It’s emotive, realistic, touching and truly genuine. I loved this and would recommend this to anyone who enjoys character-focused writing.

The 24 Hour Cafe
Libby Page
Orion, 23rd January 2020

The Perfect Sister by Sheryl Browne

This was a gripping psychological thriller, with characters that were hard to predict and left the reader guessing until the end.

Claire always wished for a sister. But should you be careful what you wish for?
Claire has spent her whole marriage trying to be the perfect wife and mother – supporting her husband as he goes for promotions and always making sure she’s there to tuck her daughter into bed each night. But little does she know that almost everyone around her has been keeping secrets that could ruin the life she’s worked so hard to create.
Growing up with warring parents and an often absent father, Claire has always wanted to give her daughter Ella the dream childhood she wishes she’d had. So, when she discovers her husband Luke has been having an affair, Claire is left wondering how she can possibly keep her daughter’s world from crumbling.

Then Claire receives a text message from someone called Sophie that simply reads – ‘You don’t know me, but I’m your sister’. At first, she’s shocked. And Sophie’s appearance raises questions Claire would like to put to her elderly father before it’s too late. But as she gets to know Sophie – who is so like her in so many ways – she can’t help but be delighted to finally have the sibling she always dreamed of.
As the two women become inseparable, Claire leans on her new sister more and more, ultimately asking her to move into the family home and trusting her with Ella. But when the unthinkable happens and Claire fears for her daughter’s life, she starts to wonder whether her new sister is exactly who she says she is.
One thing Claire knows is that telling the perfect lie seems to run in the family.

I really enjoyed this – right from the start Claire was difficult to read. Despite most of the chapters being from her perspective, I constantly felt as if there was something about her being hidden. She was intriguing and it hooked me from the start. Although most of the chapters are from her perspective, we do get some from her husband Luke, her half-sister Sophie and a couple of others, which makes it absolutely fascinating as we get to see glimpses, but not too much, into the thought processes of the other characters.

There are mysteries in this book right from the beginning – everyone seems to be keeping some kind of secret, whether it’s big or small. It’s really clever as it stops the reader from guessing too much about the plot and kept me hooked throughout. Sophie is particularly fascinating and the chapters from her perspective don’t make it much clearer. She does seem suspicious throughout and I loved the way that Browne wrote her without giving too much away.

It’s a fairly fast-paced plot and the odd chapter that is from someone else’s view, such as Claire’s father or her best friend, helps to keep the pace moving even more. It breaks up in a way that builds the intrigue without disturbing the flow of the book.

Sheryl Browne’s books are always great, but if you want a really gripping psychological thriller, then this is the one for you without a doubt.

Family Secret
Sheryl Browne
Bookouture, 29th 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