The Skeletons of Scarborough House – Kitty French @bookouture @KFrenchBooks

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5*

Life’s tough for Melody Bittersweet. She’s single, addicted to sugar and super heroes, her family are officially bonkers, and she sees dead people. Is it any wonder no-one’s swiping right on Tinder? Waking up lonely on her twenty seventh birthday, Melody finally snaps. She can’t carry on basing all of her life decisions on the advice of her magic 8 ball; things have got to change. Fast forward two months, and she’s now the proud proprietor of her very own ghostbusting agency – kind of like in the movies but without the dodgy white jumpsuits.

My thoughts :

After having read a few disappointing (to me) psychological thrillers in a row, I made a conscious decision to leave the genre behind for a bit and try something completely different and I somehow ended up with this book.

The Skeletons of Scarborough House is the first instalment of The Chapelwick Mysteries. Having seen many great reviews for the second book, once again Dee-logic dictated I start with the first one.

I had no idea what to expect since I can’t remember ever having read something labeled “a cosy mystery” before. I was wary of all the laugh-out-loud comments I’d seen because I can name a number of things that were called “hilarious” that didn’t even make my lips twitch. So imagine my surprise, when barely two pages in, I snorted quite unlady-like.

Melody sees dead people, as do her mother and grandmother. She starts a ghostbusting agency with her best friend. Soon they’re joined by Art and the team is complete. Their very first case involves Scarborough House. Set to be sold, it’s putting off potential buyers as it’s haunted. It’s up to Melanie to figure out why.

This book is filled to the brim with the most quirky characters I’ve ever met. The Bittersweet ladies are my kind of crazy and absolutely endearing. I doubt you’d get bored if you invited them to dinner. Even the dog is a little goofball.

Don’t go thinking this is just some bit of fluff, to be dismissed off hand. Yes, it’s funny. Laugh-out-loud funny sometimes. But it’s also sad. The tale of the ghosts at Scarborough House was heartbreaking. Quite a feat to combine a healthy dose of humour with the darker aspect of a murder.

Once I picked this up, I couldn’t put it down. It’s quite a quick read and I’m so glad I could finish it in one sitting, snuggled under a blanket with a warm cup of tea while the rain kept coming down outside. Great plot, fabulous characters, brilliant and extremely funny! The next instalment of the series (Murder at Maplemead Castle) is already on my to-read list.

Also, as a side note, how adorable is that cover?!

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Wicked Game – Matt Johnson @Matt_Johnson_UK @OrendaBooks

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5*

2001. Age is catching up with Robert Finlay, a police officer on the Royal Protection team based in London. He’s looking forward to returning to uniform policing and a less stressful life with his new family. But fate has other plans.

My thoughts :

Having seen some amazing book blogger ratings about the second book in this series (Deadly Game), I decided to give this one a go first, as Dee-logic dictates to always start at the beginning of a series. Which in this case isn’t so bad. In other cases when there are already five or more books, it’s a bit more problematic. But I digress.

Robert Finlay, a former SAS Member, is giving up his job on the Royal Protection team. He’s happily married, has a beautiful daughter and wants to lead a less stressful life. But his past is about to catch up with him when his former SAS colleagues start dying all over the place. Someone is playing a wicked game. (Get it?) Who can Robert trust?

Admittedly, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I didn’t even really know what the book was about as I try to read as little of a description as I possibly can since a lot of them contain way too many spoilers for my liking. But I have faith in my book blogger friends and I soon realised my trust in them was not misplaced. I quickly became completely engrossed as I tried to fit the pieces of the puzzle together and ended up suspecting pretty much everyone in this cat-and-mouse game.

This is one cleverly constructed plot, with some nail biting moments. At the end of the book, I felt utterly exhausted, like I’d gone through the entire thing myself. That’s all down to Matt Johnson’s amazing writing. Quite obviously, he knows what he’s talking about and it adds that extra level of authenticity to the reading experience.

This would make an excellent movie or tv series. (Preferably with Richard Armitage in it. Just saying’.)  I could see scenes play out right before my eyes. Such a thrilling ride.

Wicked Game is tense and dramatic. Highly intelligent and adrenaline fuelled, with some fabulous plot twists. I doubt I’ll be waiting long to read the next one in the series.

Amazon US – Amazon UK – Goodreads

#GuestReview: Splintered by Kelly Miller (@MillerMystery) @BookaholicDee

My very first guest review! So exciting!

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splintered.jpg“Life turns from barely tolerable to complete hell when Maddy Eastin’s impulsive plan to win back the attention of her absentee father backfires. Word of her scheme spreads through her high school, but when mockery escalates to cyberbullying, Maddy and her failed stunt become headline news. But the worst is yet to come…

A disturbed man is fighting the overwhelming urge to surrender to his true nature—a moral code molded by a sadistic father who taught him that a girl needs proper training to become the perfect subservient woman. As he watches Maddy on the evening news, his already fractured psyche completely splinters. She’s the girl he’s been waiting for.

When Maddy disappears, she’s labeled a runaway even though her mother believes it was foul play. Will the detectives investigating Maddy’s disappearance find her before it’s too late? Or has she already fallen prey to the vicious stranger hunting her?”

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The Missing Ones – Patricia Gibney @trisha460 @bookouture

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5*

The hole they dug was not deep. A white flour bag encased the little body. Three small faces watched from the window, eyes black with terror. The child in the middle spoke without turning his head. “I wonder which one of us will be next?”

How’s that for a prologue?

The Missing Ones is the first instalment in a brand new series featuring DI Lottie Parker and Patricia Gibney immediately hits a home run with her debut!

Set in a fictitious town in Ireland, this story has everything. From murder, to child abuse, to corruption and a whole lot of crazy. Gibney offers a multi-layered plot with various threads that come together in a most satisfying ending. Sometimes pacy and action packed, other times sad and heartbreaking, this was one engrossing read.

DI Lottie Parker is a single mom with three teenaged children. Her husband passed away a few years ago and Lottie struggles to combine her demanding job with the needs of her children, while still trying to come to terms with the loss of her husband. There’s also a great backstory that ties in nicely with the case Lottie is currently working on.

The book is quite long so don’t start this one if you don’t have a whole afternoon to spare because you’ll want to read it one sitting. Still, at no point does it drag on or become boring. The plot is exquisitely constructed with a host of utterly realistic characters and delicious chemistry between Lottie and her colleague Boyd. Admittedly, I’m not usually a fan of romance in my crime fiction but I’m rooting for these two like you wouldn’t believe.

While the case is absolutely engrossing, it’s also Lottie’s private life that really grabbed my attention. I’m sure it’s something many career women can relate to.

This is one fabulous way to start a new series and I can’t wait to follow Lottie on her next case.

Lie To Me – Jess Ryder

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3* (and a half)

We’re going to tell our story and then it will all stop and Mummy will be safe. You want Mummy to be safe, don’t you?

Three minutes. That’s all it takes for Meredith’s entire world to fall apart when she watches the videotape of her four)-year-old self with Becca, the mother she’s never known. Meredith can’t believe what her eyes have seen. Yet what if her memory has locked away the painful reality of her childhood? Can there be any truth in the strange and dangerous story her mother forced her to tell on camera? The search for answers leads Meredith to Darkwater Pool, the scene of the murder of a young woman over thirty years ago.

Meredith hasn’t seen her mother for decades. For all she knows, her mother could very well be dead. When she finds a videotape hidden away at the bottom of a box, it raises a lot of questions. Three minutes is all it takes for Meredith’s life to be turned upside down. Why is her mother acting so weird? Why is she asking her daughter to say these strange things on camera. What is her father hiding? And who are Cara and Christopher?

Meredith is desperate to find the answers and her search leads her to Darkwater Pool, the scene of a murder some thirty years ago. The chapters switch between Meredith in the present and Cara in the past. This book is quite an interesting character study on how lies can affect people decades down the road.

While I enjoyed this story most of the time, it seemed to drag on a bit sometimes. I felt quite a few things were highly predictable and there’s a part I thought was completely unnecessary as it didn’t really help move the plot along. I worried that was the direction the story was heading in but luckily it was left behind and soon forgotten. As a whole, I didn’t find it as gripping as the cover promises but the character development is fascinating. There is a twist, yes, but when you read a lot of books in this genre, it wasn’t all that hard to figure out.

However, I do see the potential in Jess Ryder’s writing and I look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Thank you to Bookouture and Netgalley for my advanced copy which I chose to review.

Lie To Me will be published as an ebook on April 19th.

The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman – Mindy Mejia – @MejiaWrites @QuercusBooks

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5*

Seventeen year old Hattie Hoffman is a talented actress, loved by everyone in her Minnesotan hometown. So when she’s found stabbed to death on the opening night of her school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of the community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a good friend of Hattie’s dad, vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more questions than answers. It turns out Hattie played as many parts offstage as on.

Sometimes you pick up a book, start reading the first page and you instantly realise it’s going to be brilliant. That’s what happened for me with this one. It drew me in from the start and wouldn’t let go. Fortunately I had no interruptions and was able to read the whole thing in one go.

I loved the small town community setting. Mindy Mejia describes everything so vividly, I could imagine myself being there, running through the fields, looking up at the skies at night and seeing the stars like you only can in the countryside. I’d move there in a heartbeat. Well, if there’s a reliable internet connection, that is. 😉

The chapters alternate between Hattie, Peter (her English teacher) and Sheriff Goodman. There is such a nice flow as we learn more about them. The whole cast of characters is incredible and unforgettable, each with their own flaws and struggles. Completely realistic and believable. I cared about these people and what happened to them.

This is one of those plots where you pick up clues and think you have the whole thing figured out until the rug is pulled out from under your feet and you’re proven completely wrong. I love that!

To me, this was perfection. When I become so engrossed that I don’t even hear the phone ring, that’s what it’s all about. I can’t fault anything about it and I’ll eat my hat (if I had one) if this doesn’t turn out to be one of the books of the year. I have no doubt it will be on my list. Highly recommend it if you enjoy psychological thrillers although this is so much more than that. Did I mention brilliant?

The Lost Children – Helen Phifer

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3*

Lizzie pulled the covers over her head. Then she realised what was being dragged behind the person with the torch. She rammed her fist into her mouth to stop herself from screaming …

For decades, The Moore Asylum was home to the forgotten children of Brooklyn Bay. But ever since a scandal forced its closure, the abandoned building has cast an imposing shadow. Until now – when an elderly man is found dead, his body strapped to an ancient gurney. Detective Lucy Harwin, still reeling from a previous case that ended in the devastating murder of a mother and her child, finds herself on the trail of a killer ruthlessly fixated on avenging the asylum’s wrongs. Can Lucy stop a murderer with nothing to lose?

The Lost Children is the first book in a new police procedural series. We are introduced to Lucy and her colleagues which sets the tone for the next instalments.

The first chapter tells us of some of the children who were patients at the asylum in the seventies. One of the children disappears from the ward and nine year old Lizzy quickly realises what happened to him.

The case the detectives are working on starts out most intriguingly. When a body is found in the abandoned asylum, it doesn’t take long for them to find a connection to the past. Can the killer be stopped before they strike again?

I must admit, I’m a little disappointed in this book. The blurb sounded right up my alley but it didn’t deliver for me. I found it quite predictable, not helped by some chapters from the killer’s point of view, which pretty much gave everything away.

Lucy seems to have some sort of sixth sense. She has all the ideas and solutions, making decisions without involving her boss. The answers sometimes just drop into her lap instead of being the result of hard-hitting investigative work. It’s a little hard to explain but it just didn’t work for me. There are a few other things that bothered me but I can’t go into detail about those because that would involve revealing half the plot.

I also would have preferred to learn a lot more about the circumstances of the children back in the day. As it is, there are a few mentions of what life was like for them but nothing too profound or in-depth. Things happened that could have done with an explanation but that never came. Then along the way, the story started to focus more on Lucy’s private life which completely threw me off. While I understand character development is important when setting up a new series, the asylum storyline had so much more potential that I feel was left unfulfilled.

Nevertheless, it’s a quick read and there are worse ways to be spending an afternoon.

I would like to thank Bookouture and Netgalley for my advanced copy.

Bad Little Girl – Frances Vick

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3*

Little Lorna Bell is from a notorious family on a rundown estate. Everyone thinks she’s a nasty piece of work. The schoolchildren call her a thief. But Lorna’s hair is matted, her shoes pinch her feet and her school teacher Claire Penny can’t help herself; some kids just need a bit more support, a bit more love, than the rest. As the bond between teacher and pupil grows stronger, Claire sees Lorna’s bruises, and digs to uncover the disturbing tale behind them.

This is a very dark and deep psychological thriller, with a constant current of underlying tension that makes for some compelling reading. One that offers plenty of food for thought and the nature versus nurture debate will make for an interesting discussion topic. It’s a tale of manipulation and it’s absolutely gripping.

The story starts off a little slow with details about Claire’s home life but I felt it gave a true insight into the kind of person she is which made me understand her actions just that little bit more. Claire is somewhat naive but really cares about the children at her school and she’s well liked by pupils. So it’s really no surprise when Lorna gravitates towards her.

What threw me the most, was the introduction of Marianne, who after a chance encounter invades Claire’s life and home. I kept thinking there was more to her story but was left somewhat unfulfilled.

The later chapters of the book were quite rushed. Quite a shame as the build-up promises so much more. And after having given it some thought, I’m not sure I’m entirely satisfied with the ending.

Still, an unputdownable read and despite my doubts about some things, I did enjoy it.

This Week in Books – March 15

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Hosted by Lipsyy Lost & Found, my Wednesday post gives you a taste of what I’m reading this week. A similar meme is run by Taking on a World of Words.

Previously : I finished reading Bad Little Girl by Frances Vick.

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Little Lorna Bell is from a notorious family on a rundown estate. Everyone thinks she’s a nasty piece of work. The schoolchildren call her a thief. But Lorna’s hair is matter, her shoes pinch her feet and her school teacher Claire Penny can’t help herself; some kids just need a bit more support, a bit more love, than the rest. As the bond between teacher and pupil grows stronger, Claire sees Lorna’s bruises, and digs to uncover the disturbing tale behind them.

Currently : Despite multiple warnings from various people, it seems I already need to tackle the ever-growing pile of Netgalley requests. Currently I’m reading The Lost Children by Helen Phifer. I have only an hour left to go but my eyes were incredibly uncooperative last night.

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For decades, The Moore asylum was home to the forgotten children of Brooklyn Bay. But ever since a scandal forced its closure, the abandoned building has cast an imposing shadow. Until now – when an elderly man is found dead, his body strapped to an ancient gurney.

Detective Lucy Harwin, still reeling from a previous case that ended in the devastating murder of a mother and her child, finds herself on the trail of a killer ruthlessly fixating on avenging the asylum’s wrongs.

Next up … this is always such a tough choice for me. I will decide on something and then something else will catch my eye and all my plans go out the window. So I’ll call it “next up – subject to change” : The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman by Mindy Mejia.

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Seventeen year old Hattie Hoffman is a talented actress, loved by everyone in her Minnesotan hometown. So when she’s found stabbed to death on the opening night of her school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of the community. Local sheriff Del Goodman, a good friend of Hattie’s dad, vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more secrets than answers. It turns out Hattie played as many parts offstage as on. 

What are you reading? Inquiring minds would like to know. 🙂

Everything But The Truth – Gillian McAllister

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4*

Just how much can you trust the person you love? 

It all started with the email. Rachel didn’t even mean to look. She loves Jack and she’s pregnant with their child. She trusts him. But now she’s seen it, she can’t undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion. Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And does Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?

Rachel and Jack are madly in love. They haven’t been together very long but Rachel is pregnant and everything seems to be going very well for them. Until Rachel sees an email she just can’t get out of her head. It’s then that she realises she really doesn’t know the father of her unborn child at all.

Some chapters are set in the past, which explain Rachel’s paranoia and trust issues up to a point. But Rachel has a secret too. Does she have the right to know everything when she isn’t being completely honest herself?

This wasn’t exactly what I was expecting from a physiological thriller. I think I’d probably call it more suspense. While it is a pacy read and a page turner, it’s not action packed. It’s character driven and focuses primarily on moral and ethical dilemma’s. Nevertheless, I was completely engrossed. Gillian McAllister has come up with a multi-layered plot, highly realistic characters and beautiful descriptions.

With such a complex tale of trust and deceit, you can’t help but wonder what you would do. Although I felt some of Rachel’s actions were a bit questionable, you just don’t know. It’s that whole “walk a mile in someone’s shoes” thing.

If you like a novel that makes you think, then this one is definitely for you.