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I Know You by Annabel Kantaria

Having recently moved to the UK from her native USA, Taylor is lonely. Her husband is at work most of the time and with her being heavily pregnant, she is finding it hard to make new friends. All seems to change, however, when she is invited by a neighbour to join a book club and she decides to take part in a local walking group. Has she finally found the friends she craves for or is one of them not exactly what they seem?

Before going any further, it would be useful in sharing the book’s blurb with you:

You trust me.

You shouldn’t.

That picture you just posted on Instagram? I’ve seen it.
The location you tagged? I’ve been there.

You haven’t been careful enough, have you?
Because I know all about you.

But when I meet you, I won’t tell you that.
I’ll pretend. Just like you do.

You’ll like me though. You’ll trust me enough to let me into your life.

And then I’ll destroy it.

Throughout the book, which is mainly told from Taylor’s perspective, we are privy to the thoughts of another, unknown character: the character from the blurb. From the outset, then, we realise that someone in Taylor’s life is not who they say they are and the author does a good job in introducing several characters who could, quite easily, be candidates for this dubious role. Could it be her newly-found friends at the walking group or one of the women at her book club? Aspersions are cast on all of these characters at different times in the book, helping to keep you guessing until all is revealed.

I liked the way the story was written in that although we know that there is a threat towards Taylor, she is blissfully unaware of what is going on around her. In most books of this genre, we are used to seeing the main protagonist becoming more and more paranoid as their world starts to implode. Here, however, she has no clue as to what is about to happen to her, meaning that it is a huge shock when it finally does!

Although I Know You is a fast-paced book anyway, once the event that the unknown character is preparing for finally takes place, I found I could just not put it down! It is difficult to say too much without revealing any spoilers, so all I will say is that I found the ending satisfying and worthy of the build up.

I am a big fan of Annabel Kantaria’s writing after reading The One That Got Away and The Disappearance, so I am pleased that I Know You lived up to my expectations. Highly recommended.

With thanks to HQ and Net Galley for my ARC.

 

 

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Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

Lisa is protective of her daughter, Ava. Maybe over-protective. That’s what Ava thinks anyway. All Ava wants to do is spend time with her friends doing the sort of things other teenage girls do. She has a secret, though, and it is one that spells danger. Lisa, on the other hand, prefers to keep herself to herself, classing Marilyn, a work colleague, as her only friend. Both of these women also have secrets but which of them has a secret so dark that its discovery could change the life of everyone forever?

Sarah Pinborough’s previous book, Behind Her Eyes, was one of last year’s most talked about books, partly due to the #WTFthatending hashtag that was all over social media. It was a book that certainly divided opinion but as someone who really enjoyed it, I was excited to see what Sarah would come up with next.

Lisa and Marilyn are all incredibly flawed characters and it was easy to see how they found themselves drawn towards each other. While Marilyn’s secret is not too difficult to figure out, Lisa’s is truly shocking and not one I saw coming at all. This reveal turned the book on its head and made me question everything I had read. It is hard to say too much without giving away the plot but it is very clever writing from Sarah Pinborough to make you like and loathe a character at the same time.

Ava’s story was probably the one that disturbed me the most as, from the start, there was a sense of foreboding as she communicated with an unknown ‘friend’ on Facebook. Although it was inevitable that this liaison would come to no good, it was not in the way I expected. Another clever piece of writing that, once again, highlights the dangers of social media.

While Cross Her Heart does not make you gasp in the same way as Behind Her Eyes, there are definitely enough twists and turns to keep you guessing due to all of the secrets being kept by the three main protagonists. I loved how the author dropped in a bit of information almost in a blasé fashion, making me wonder if I’d somehow missed a bit of the plot, only for it to be addressed later.

Cross Her Heart is a great read. With thanks to Harper Collins UK and Net Galley for the ARC.

 

If He Wakes by Zoe Lea

51zNl-mP6eLWhen Rachel discovers a message on Twitter arranging an assignation, she comes to the conclusion that her husband is having an affair. Deciding to follow him, what she witnesses is something much worse: her husband’s car involved in a hit and run. Meanwhile, Suzie,  Rachel’s business partner and friend, has problems of her own. She has not heard from her fiance in days and on discovering that huge debts have been racked up in her name, she assumes that he has left her, taking the money with him. Her view changes, though, when threatening calls begin to arrive. Has something terrible happened to him? With both friends not knowing if they can trust their partners, will they also be able to trust each other?

How well do you really know your partner? This is a question that both of the main characters ask themselves as their lives slowly crumble around them. Rachel appears to have the perfect life with a loving husband and children and a business about to take off, All of this is turned on its head, however, when she reads the Twitter message and witnesses the hit and run. Her husband denies all knowledge, but is he telling the truth? I could really sympathize with Rachel as she struggled to come to terms with what she was discovering, and felt that Zoe Lea’s writing conveyed her trauma perfectly.

With regards to Suzie, the alarm bells were ringing right from the start. Her fiance, Adam, had apparently disappeared, taking all of their money with him. As soon as we realise that he’d managed to avoid any meetings with Suzie’s friend, Rachel, and worked away from home frequently, it was obvious that he was not the man she thought he was. Unlike Rachel, Suzie was prepared to give Adam the benefit of the doubt even though the evidence was screaming her in the face.

It was inevitable that the two stories would eventually collide and that there would be a connection. Whereas part of it was pretty easy to figure out, when I realised the full extent of one of the character’s wrongdoings, it was a huge shock. This was a great twist and not something I saw coming. I could also now understand the actions of another of the characters and my perception of them changed completely. I felt that the ending was realistic and very fitting to the plot.

If He Wakes definitely kept me entertained and I’d recommend it to anyone who wants a quick, mysterious read.

With thanks to Canelo and Net Galley for the ARC.

 

 

**BLOG TOUR** The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin

Today, I am pleased to start off the blog tour for The Room by the Lake by Emma Dibdin, the claustrophobic tale of an impressionable young woman who has been drawn into a cult. My review can be found here, but I am really happy to share an extract with you!

The Blurb

Caitlin never meant to stay so long. But it’s strange how this place warps time. Out here, in the middle of nowhere, it’s easy to forget about the world outside.

It all happened so fast. She was lonely, broke, about to give up. Then she met Jake and he took her to his ‘family’: a close-knit community living by the lake. Each day she says she’ll leave but each night she’s back around their campfire. Staring into the flames. Reciting in chorus that she is nothing without them.

But something inside her won’t let go. A whisper that knows this isn’t right. Knows there is danger lurking in that quiet room down by the lake…

New York, new start, New York, new start, I repeat to myself like a slogan as the 1 train screeches hard around a bend. It’s not rush hour but the subway is still full, horizontal sardines packed together from Penn Station onwards, and I wonder whether anyone on board can tell that I have no destination. Here for the ride.

I stay on until the very last stop, watching the carriage grow gradually empty, and at Van Cortlandt Park I cross over the platform and wait for a train back downtown. A roundtrip, one end of the line to the other. And why not? The subway is soothing, the 123 line in particular because it has electronic screens listing when the next train is coming, and I like my environment to be predictable. Maybe tomorrow I’ll tackle the 2 train, all the way from the Bronx down to the farthest reaches of Brooklyn, its distance mind-boggling even when scaled down to fit onto an MTA map. The subway is cheap, after all, and I’m broke.

The platform is deserted, and it strikes me I’m a very long way from anywhere. This is the Bronx, unchartered territory for a tourist, and though my surroundings look leafy and harmless maybe going to the end of the line was a bad idea. Maybe something will happen to me here.

I know that in thinking this I’m only echoing my cab driver from JFK, who whiled away the drive with ominous nuggets like ‘girl like you should watch your back in the city’ and ‘whatever you do, don’t go east of Prospect Park’ and ‘nothing good happens past a hundred and tenth’. Right before he forced me to write down his number and told me to call him if I got lonely.

Nothing happens to me in the Bronx. Nothing happens to me on the train back downtown, and when I finally emerge at South Ferry I feel deflated, robbed of the false purpose that roundtrip gave me.

I need a job. After putting it off for as long as I could, this morning I finally sat down cross-legged on my hotel quilt and counted my remaining cash, crumpled dollar bills laid out corner-to-corner like a bleak mosaic. Adding up the cash with the figure on the ATM receipt, I have enough to get me through another two weeks, if I eat only two meals a day and don’t run up any more $60 tabs in moments of ostentatious desperation. I spent last night in a sparse midtown bar, the kind of place that seems sleek and empty even at its most crowded, feeling like this was the thing to do as a single girl alone in New York. Getting steadily more drunk, half-hoping that one of the sharp-suited Wall Street types would make a move, half-terrified of the same.

If one of them did buy me a drink and take me back to a high-rise apartment that feels closer to cloud than ground, the kind that envelops you in space and silence, I could stay the night and maybe stay forever, and my memory of home would fade like the street noise below, just faint enough to be soothing.

But nobody approached me, and I wandered back to my no-frills solo-traveller-friendly hotel at the very tip of downtown Manhattan, and watched Good Will Hunting on Netflix until I fell into five hours of twitchy sleep.

And now I have a stack of CVs and a head full of caffeine, and I’m trying to get a job against the odds. I have thought none of this through.

‘You Australian?’ the barista asks. She’s chubby in that uniquely wholesome, self-confident American way, the kind of girl who could say ‘There’s just more of me to love,’ with a straight face. She wears a name badge that tells me she’s Marcie.

‘English,’ I answer. People always guess Australian. My accent morphs involuntarily when I’m in America, probably betraying my desperation to belong.

‘Cool. We’re actually not hiring right now, they just made cutbacks.’

‘Oh. Sorry.’

‘Yeah,’ Marcie shrugs. ‘But I’m still here, so.’

 

Take a look at the rest of the blogs on the tour:

With thanks to Clare Gordon and Head of Zeus for arranging the blog tour.

**BLOG TOUR** The Bad Daughter by Joy Fielding

Today, I am pleased to be able to share with you an extract from Joy Fielding’s latest book, The Bad Daughter, which will be published on 27th February.

The Blurb

STRANGER. LIAR. KILLER?

YOU CANT TRUST THE BAD DAUGHTER . . .

Robin Davis hasn’t spoken to her family in six years.

Not since it happened.

Then they’re attacked; left fighting for their lives.

And Robin is back.

All families have their secrets.

And one of theirs may have put them all in terrible danger . . .

YOU CAN ALWAYS TRUST YOUR FAMILY . . . CAN’T YOU?

 

The Extract

Robin climbed out of the too hard queen-size bed and shuffled toward the bathroom. Why do all motel rooms look alike? she wondered. Is there some union rule that dictates they all be uninteresting rectangles in shades of beige and brown? Not that she was an expert in motel decor, having stayed in only a few over the years. She’d gone from her parents’ crowded house in Red Bluff to a dorm room at Berkeley, back to her parents’ house to work and earn money to continue her education, on to a small shared apartment off campus, then back and forth between Berkeley and Red Bluff to help care for her mother, then on to a cramped studio apartment in Los Angeles, and finally to the spacious two-bedroom unit she shared with Blake.

Blake, she thought, silently turning the name over on her tongue as she stepped into the tub. What must he be thinking? She turned on the faucet for the shower, then had to brace herself against the wall as a torrent of ice-cold water shot from the showerhead.

Blake would be furious with her.

She hadn’t called him since yesterday afternoon. Even then, she hadn’t spoken to him directly, but just left a message with his pretty new assistant to the effect that she had to go to Red Bluff to deal with a family emergency and she’d call him later. Then she’d canceled the week’s remaining appointments, gone home to pack a small suitcase, and taken a cab to the airport, where she’d boarded the first available flight to Sacramento, arriving at almost six o’clock in the evening. The bus to Red Bluff didn’t leave till the next morning, but the thought of renting a car and making the drive herself had proved too daunting, and in truth, she was in no hurry to get there. Instead she’d found a motel close to the bus terminal and checked in. She’d eschewed dinner, instead wolfing down a Three Musketeers bar she got from the vending machine down the hall.

She also resisted turning on the TV, hoping to avoid reports of the shooting. She could handle only so much information, process only so much. She really didn’t want to know every awful detail yet.

She thought about calling Blake again, but then remembered he’d said something about a dinner meeting with clients, so why bother? He was busy. He was always busy. Too busy to phone, obviously. Too busy to spare a few seconds to inquire as to what sort of family emergency would necessitate her taking off like that, to return to a place she’d sworn never to go back to. Would it have been so hard for him to interrupt one of his seemingly endless meetings to call her, to feign at least a modicum of interest?

So maybe he wouldn’t be furious that she hadn’t tried contacting him again. Maybe he’d be relieved. Maybe she’d finally handed him the ammunition he’d been waiting for to end their relationship once and for all.

Not that he could do anything to help the situation, she reminded herself. His specialty was corporate law, not criminal law. And it wasn’t as if he even knew her father. Or her sister. Or any member of her screwed-up family, except her brother, Alec, who lived in San Francisco, so they’d actually met only twice. She’d left a message for Alec, but he hadn’t called her back either. So screw both of them, she’d decided, turning off her cell phone and climbing into bed at barely eight o’clock.

Joy Fielding is the New York Times bestselling author of Charley’s Web, Heartstopper, Mad River Road, See Jane Run, and other acclaimed novels. She divides her time between Toronto and Palm Beach, Florida.

With thanks to Emily and Imogen at Bonnier Zaffre.

In Her Footsteps by Ruth Harrow

Trapped in an abusive marriage to her husband Dan, Harriet longs for the day when she has enough money to be able to escape her living nightmare. After a particularly vicious attack, she finally summons up the courage to leave her old life for good, laden with just a suitcase and a box containing her secrets. Eighteen months later, and running her own art gallery in Coventry, to the outside world, life is good. Appearances can be deceiving, however, and plagued by anxiety and nightmares, even the prospect of a new relationship does not stop her from hiding in the shadows. Can she ever truly escape her past?

From the very start of the book, we are shown how we should not believe everything we see. To the outside world, Dan is a perfect husband but behind closed doors, he is abusive and controlling, his wife having to live her life exactly as he wants her to. Despite her being completely under his control and taking his beatings on a regular basis, Harriet is a strong woman and I admired her tenacity and forethought that would enable her to finally make a clean break from her life. The attack that finally pushes her to leave is a particularly brutal one and it was heartbreaking to think that, in real life, there are women who have to endure this.

Her life in Coventry seems perfect as she finally gets to put her art degree to good use. She even embarks on a relationship with a good-looking divorced man but this sets in motion a chain of events that seriously begin to threaten her sanity. Her new boyfriend seemed perfect, but at the same time, too perfect. I could not decide whether he was genuinely a nice guy or whether he was up to something. His ex-wife was not a particularly nice character and also helped to muddy the waters.

It soon becomes apparent that Harriet is hiding something from the past, something linked to her family. I really felt for her when she went to visit a therapist, desperate for help to stop the increasing amount of panic attacks she was experiencing but determined not to spill her secrets at the same time. When we do finally find out what her secret is, it was a genuine shocker and something I did not see coming. This completely changed the direction of the book and left me questioning everything I had already read.

This is a very clever book with a fascinating plot that became completely ‘unputdownable’ as it progressed. I was also very happy with the ending and felt that all questions had been answered. This is a great debut and I look forward to reading more of Ruth Harrow’s work.

With thanks to Ruth Harrow for the ARC.

About the Author

Ruth Harrow was born and raised in London and graduated from the University of Kent before embarking on an unfulfilling career as an accountant.

In 2016, she put pen to paper and drafted the first version of her debut psychological thriller, In Her Footsteps.

She lives in Colchester with her husband, two children and chocolate Labrador, Rolo.

 

 

***BLOG TOUR*** Trust Me by Zosia Wand

Lizzie loves the life she has made for herself in the Lake District with her partner, Jonty, and his teenage son, Sam. Being only ten years older than Sam, however, Lizzie does sometimes miss the friendship of people her own age. This changes when she meets Rebecca, a woman with a zest for life who is soon showing Lizzie how to be young again. Meanwhile, something more disturbing is happening with Sam – why hasn’t he been attending school and just what has made his personality alter so dramatically? Lizzie knows something is wrong but people are beginning to think that she may be the cause of the problem…

The start of Trust Me sets the tone for the rest of the book with headstrong Jonty showing how, despite being the elder, he could be the more immature person in the relationship. We also get our first glimpse of the closeness between Lizzie and Sam. Although Lizzie sees their relationship as that of a step-mother and step-son, I felt that she was incredibly naive in her interactions with him and could fully understand how the wrong conclusions could have been reached.

Zosia Wand

As the story progressed, I started to get really annoyed with Lizzie and her reluctance to talk to the people who could have helped her to remedy the issue. As Sam’s behaviour became more erratic, Lizzie constantly put her trust in the wrong person and it soon became obvious that this relationship was going to prove toxic. I was not prepared for exactly what happened next, however, and, without giving too much away, my severe horror at Sam’s actions became something entirely different as we discover just how much he is being manipulated. I applaud the author for dealing with a ‘taboo’ issue in a clever and sensitive way.

Although I did enjoy this book, I did feel that it could have been shorter as there were times that I found myself skipping through the text in order to find out what happened next in the main plot. The characters were well-written and had a very ‘real’ feel to them and the setting for the book provided a good back drop for the story.

A good debut.

With thanks to Clare Gordon at Head of Zeus for my ARC.

Take a look at the rest of the blogs participating in the tour:

***BLOG TOUR*** The Good Mother by Karen Osman

I am thrilled to be today’s stop on the blog tour for the fantastic new book from Karen Osman, The Good Mother.

Keeping secrets from her husband is not usually something Catherine would do but when she begins writing to Michael, a convicted killer, she knows her family would not approve. In another part of the country, Kate is trying to bring up two children with an out of work husband and a severe lack of money. When she meets someone who begins to recognize her talents, she knows she is playing with fire. Lastly we have Alison, a university student who has managed to gain a place on her dream course. University life is not what she hoped for, however, and she finds herself lonely and unhappy. That is until one of her professors takes an interest in her. All of these women have secrets which threaten to come to the surface once Michael is released from prison…

First of all, I would like to say how much I loved this book! Told from the perspective of three women, it took a few chapters before I fully engaged with the characters but once I’d got a handle on who was who, I couldn’t wait to find out how each of their stories progressed. Often in books written in this style, I find myself wanting to read about one of the characters more than the others, but The Good Mother had me hooked on all three story lines.

One of the underlying themes running throughout the book is the impact keeping a secret has, whether it be Catherine’s reluctance to tell her husband about her prison pen-pal, Kate’s growing friendship with her tutor or, more seriously, the toxic relationship Alison has with her professor. Although I could see why Catherine and Kate kept their secrets, I was willing Alison to speak out about what was happening to her and had a sense of foreboding throughout the chapters dedicated to her story. It was Alison who had the most impact on me whilst I was reading and I was desperate for her to have a happy ending.

Karen Osman

Throughout the book, it is obvious that the women’s lives were going to collide at some point and, although I was right about some of the connections, there was one part of the story that I did not see coming at all. It is great when you read a book and you get that ‘Eureka’ moment when all of the pieces slot into place. The Good Mother certainly had one of these moments and provided the story with a satisfying, if heartbreaking, conclusion.

It is hard to say too much without giving away the plot, so my advice is to grab a copy of this well-written, emotive book and read it yourself!

With thanks to Melanie Price at Aria – Head of Zeus for my ARC.

Take a look at the rest of the blog tour:

***BLOG TOUR*** Find Me by J S Monroe

I am pleased to be today’s stop on the Find Me blog tour.

Five years ago, Jar’s life changed forever when his girlfriend, Rosa, jumped to her death from a pier. Although Rosa had recently lost her father, her suicide was not exactly expected and Jar is finding it difficult to accept that she would take this action. Haunted by her memory, he sees her everywhere he goes, knowing full well that they are hallucinations. That is until he actually sees her – for real – in a train station. Then he receives an email: Find me, Jar. Find me, before they do…

Well, I can say with some certainty that this book was not what I expected! Recently, I read a book where the title character was wrongly presumed dead and I, naively, assumed this would be in a similar vein. It did start off in the way I expected with Jar refusing to give up hope despite a verdict of suicide being recorded. Of course, with no body being found, there was always a chance that Rosa would turn up somewhere and I don’t think it is too much of a spoiler when I say she does. What was particularly clever here, however, was this was not simply a plot where you spend the whole book awaiting the reunion as this happened fairly early on. This book is more about discovering the circumstances behind her disappearance and Jar’s determination to uncover the complete truth.

J. S. Monroe

Due to the shifts in time, Find Me is definitely a book where you have to concentrate otherwise it could become a tad confusing. It is also told from the perspective of several characters, mainly Jar, although we get to read Rosa’s diary and also a journal of an unnamed character who I shall refrain from naming so as not to give too much away! By using this style of writing, the author has ensured that all aspects of the story are covered and there are no unanswered questions.

It is not often that I am completely shocked by a book but I was totally taken aback when I found out exactly what had happened to Rosa. If you are a person of a nervous disposition, then this is where the book may become a bit uncomfortable as the descriptions of torture and those of animal cruelty are extremely graphic. This does make Find Me stand out from other books, however, and made it a gripping, unpredictable read. J S Monroe has managed to write a very clever, claustrophobic book where you genuinely don’t know who, apart from Jar, you can trust.

With thanks to Clare Gordon at Head of Zeus for my copy of Find Me.

Take a look at the rest of the tour:

 

About the Author

Jon Stock, now writing as J.S. Monroe, read English at Cambridge University, worked as a freelance journalist in London and was a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4. He was also a foreign correspondent in Delhi for the Daily Telegraph and was on its staff in London as Weekend editor. He left Telegraph in 2010 to finish writing his acclaimed Daniel Marchant spy trilogy and returned in 2013 to oversee the paper’s digital books channel. He became a full time author in 2015, writing as J.S. Monroe.
His first novel, ‘The Riot Act’ was shortlisted by the Crime Writers’ Association for its best first novel award. The film rights for ‘Dead Spy Running’, his third novel, were bought by Warner Bros, who hired Oscar-winner Stephen Gaghan (Traffic, Syriana) to write the screenplay. It is currently in development. He is the author of five novels and lives in Wiltshire, England, with his wife, a photographer, and their three children.

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