Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas #BookReview

Then she vanishesAbout the book…

Everything changed the night Flora disappeared.

Heather and Jess were best friends – until the night Heather’s sister vanished.

Jess has never forgiven herself for the lie she told that night. Nor has Heather.

But now Heather is accused of an awful crime.

And Jess is forced to return to the sleepy seaside town where they grew up, to ask the question she’s avoided for so long:

What really happened the night Flora disappeared?

 

My thoughts on Then She Vanishes…

It’s been three years (give or take) since I read my first Claire Douglas book (The Sisters), a book I liked rather than loved. At the time, I don’t think I’d have believed anyone who told me she would go on to become one of my favourite authors, one who wrote books I find impossible to put down and happy to pass on to friends and family. Yet, here I am, so happy to have read Then She Vanishes, which I devoured over the course of a couple of days on a recent holiday.

It starts with Jess, a newspaper reporter with a past she’s trying to hide. She’s left a job at a national newspaper in London and now finds herself in Bristol writing an article on a double murder, one supposedly committed by her childhood best friend. It’s been years since they’ve spoken (another secret that needs to come out), but Jess can’t believe Heather is guilty. And it’s hard to know the truth as long as Heather is in a coma.

Sent to write a story on Heather’s family, Jess once again finds herself wrapped up in their lives, with memories of just what happened to break her friendship apart rearing their ugly head. Now she has to work out where the truth lies, without turning herself into a potential victim.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a book so quickly but, here, I really couldn’t put it down. Douglas deserves huge credit here for making the end of every chapter a cliffhanger without making it feel cliched or predictable given how many of this genre of books are out there. For me, the characters helped too. I liked Jess a lot, and the little I was learning about Heather meant I had a lot of sympathy for her.

I wasn’t so keen on Heather’s husband – but what would a psychological thriller be without a dodgy man in the wings? I do love a good villain and, here, I got one. I also got an ending I didn’t see coming, something which always makes me happy.

Was there anything I didn’t like about the book? No, not really. This was a five-star read for me and I would highly recommend it.

Enjoy!

Emma x

Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

 

 

 

Wolfhunter River by Rachel Caine #bookreview

About the book…

She can’t ignore a cry for help. But in this remote hunting town, it’s open season.

Gwen Proctor escaped her serial-killer husband and saved her family. What she can’t seem to outrun is his notoriety. Or the sick internet vigilantes still seeking to avenge his crimes. For Gwen, hiding isn’t an option. Not when her only mission is to create a normal life for her kids.

But now, a threatened woman has reached out. Marlene Crockett, from the remote town of Wolfhunter, is panicked for herself and her daughter. When Gwen arrives in the small, isolated rural community, Marlene is already dead—her own daughter blamed for the murder. Except that’s not the person Marlene feared at all. And Gwen isn’t leaving until she finds out who that was.

But it may already be too late. A trap has been set. And it’s poised to snap shut on everyone Gwen loves. Her stalkers are closing in. And in a town as dark as Wolfhunter, it’s so easy for them to hide…

My thoughts…

This is the third book in the Stillhouse Lake series and the third I’ve read and, while the first one will probably always be my favourite because it felt new and fresh, I have to say from a writing and plotting point of view, this one is probably the best yet.  It takes the story of Gwen in a new direction (in the first two books she’d been on the run from a psychotic ex-husband), with women in similar situations to her own reaching out to her and asking her for help.

One of these calls comes at just the right time as a camera crew arrives in Stillhouse Lake determined to dig up her past and that of her husbands. There isn’t a better time to get away, though there are probably better places that Wolfhunter River which is full of people who seem to want Gwen dead more than her ex-husband did.  In the middle of all this, is a young girl that Gwen is determined to help. The question is, can she and keep her own family safe at the same time.

For the answer, you’ll need to read the book, which I can highly recommend if you’re a fan of crime fiction. It’s fast-paced, well written and has great characters that I – for one – connect with, even if they aren’t perfect.

Enjoy!

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. All thoughts, feels, and opinions are my own.

 

A Beautiful Corpse by Christi Daugherty #bookreview

About the book…

It’s a thin line between love and murder…

A murder that shocks a city… 
Shots ring out on one of Savannah’s most famous streets. A beautiful law student lies dead.

A case full of secrets and lies…
Three men close to the victim are questioned. All of them claim to love her. All of them say they are innocent of her murder.

An investigation that could prove deadly…
As crime reporter Harper McClain unravels a tangled story of obsession and jealousy, the killer focuses on her. He’s already killed one woman. Will he kill another?

My thoughts on the book…

Another day, another book where someone gets murdered – will I ever be able to resist? Probably not.  This time, it’s a young law student who leaves her part-time job in a bar in downtown Savannah in a hurry, only to end up dead a few hours later.  One of the first people on the scene (outside of the police) is Harper McClain, the local paper’s crime reporter.  She’s used to seeing dead bodies, just not those of people she knows…it turns out the bar the young law student worked at was Harper’s local.

Almost immediately, police have a prime suspect, one that doesn’t quite fit with Harper’s view of the crime or the reasons the victim might have ended up dead.  Like an itch she has to scratch, she ignores the police when they tell her there’s nothing to see and keeps looking into the murder, putting herself in danger in the process.  At the same time, she’s dealing with a potential stalker, someone who may or may not want her dead.

Between the plot and sub-plot (which I think must link back to an earlier novel I haven’t read) the pace with A Beautiful Corpse doesn’t let up from the moment you pick up the book till the last few pages, making it a great read.  Unfortunately, for me, the sub-plot was a bit of a distraction because I felt I was missing something.  That aside, however, I really enjoyed the story and liked Harper as a character and definitely want to get to know her more in the future.

Enjoy!

Emma

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings, and opinions are my own.

Someone You Know by Olivia Isaac-Henry #bookreview

About the book…

You can trust your family, can’t you…?

Tess Piper was fourteen when her adored twin sister Edie disappeared.

She has spent the last twenty years building a life away from her fractured family, desperate to escape the shadow of the past.

Only now she needs to confront the huge hole her sister’s disappearance left in her life, because a body has been found. The police are shining a spotlight on the Piper family. And secrets are about to surface.

After all, it’s common knowledge that more often than not, these crimes are committed by someone close to the victim. Someone they trust. Someone they know…

What really happened to Edie Piper?

My thoughts on Someone You Know…

I love a good psychological thriller and Someone You Know is definitely one of those, even though – in many ways – it fits into the formula of so many books I’ve read over recent years.  Tess is a young(ish) woman who can’t move on with her life because of what happened in her past.  She drinks too much, parties too much and won’t commit to a relationship with a man she thinks she loves.  Then, the very thing she can’t get over in her past comes crashing into her future, this time in the form of her sister’s remains, found after she went missing twenty years earlier.

The news brings Tess back home, to a father who never got over her sister’s disappearance either and an aunt and uncle whose marriage seems strained to breaking.  They all seem to be hiding some, as do old school friends and boyfriends.  Unable to live without knowing the truth, Tess digs deeper and deeper.  Unfortunately, what she finds out is worse than anything she could possibly have imagined.

So, a story that so many of us have read so many times.  Here, though, the writing is so good and the story is so well written I forgot that. Instead, I got carried along and carried away with the story.  I loved every minute of it, reading it in just two sittings, and can’t wait to read another book by Issac-Henry.

Enjoy!

Emma x

Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.  

The Tragic Daughters of Charles I by Sarah-Beth Watkins #bookreview

About the book…

Mary, Elizabeth and Henrietta Anne, the daughters of King Charles I and his queen, Henrietta Maria, would be brought up against the background of the English Civil War. Mary would marry William, Prince of Orange, and be sent to live in the Netherlands. Elizabeth would remain in England under Parliamentary control. Henrietta Anne would escape to France and be the darling of the French Court. Yet none of the Stuart princesses would live to reach thirty. The Tragic Daughters of Charles I is their story.

My thoughts…

If the description for this book seems a little short, that’s probably because there isn’t a lot you can say about the daughers of Charles I.  None of them would live for long, and none of them would ever truly escape the political turmoil brough about by the execution of their father (and subsequent Republic under Oliver Cromwell). This doesn’t mean there lives weren’t interesting – they were – it’s just you get the feeling they could have been so much more hand history not played them such a rubbish hand.

I didn’t know much about the Stuart monarchy, and knew even less about Charles I, when I started reading this book, but now feel like I’ve had a great introduction to a truly chaotic era.  By focusing on Charles’ daughters, I don’t feel like I was overwhelmed with facts, figures and dates I won’t be able to remember, making it a great way to start learning  more about this period in my countries history.

This was aided by Sarah-Beth Watkins’ writing style, which I’m a big fan of.  She makes history easy to read and engaging and has a great way of bringing female characters to life, even when she obviously as limited material to work with (history was, after all written by men who thought women weren’t worth much more than to a good marriage).  I can’t recommend her books enough and woudl put this near the top of the list.

Emma

Note: I received a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

Transformative Witchcraft by Jason Mankey #bookreview

About the book…

Witchcraft is about more than seasonal rituals and pentacle necklaces; it’s meant to be a transformative path. The rites and rituals of Witchcraft are life-changing experiences, but they are also steeped in mystery. Transformative Witchcraft delves into some of the most persistent mysteries of the Craft and provides insightful guidance for raising energy with a Cone of Power; dedications, initiations, and elevations; Drawing Down the Moon; and the Great Rite.

Direct experience with the divine and the powerful energies of magick are defining elements of Witchcraft. Filled with powerful personal stories, a fascinating history of modern Wicca and Witchcraft, striking original rituals, and a wealth of tips and techniques, this book provides the beginning or intermediate Witch with the practical and theoretical keys they need to unlock the mysteries of the Craft.

My thoughts…

I’ve always been interested in Witchcraft.  I like the spiritual aspects, which appeals much more than organised religion, and the connection it has with nature.  This book appealed to me because it gave me the opportunity to find out more about a subject I don’t know that much about and perhaps see if it’s something I would like to take further.

Written by an experienced witch, there was plenty in this book to help me understand just what might be involved and how to take my interest beyond reading books.  If I’m honest, however, it was probably a little too advanced for me.  Because I’ve already done some reading and attended some events, I was familiar with much of what was being said.  I’m just not familiar enough to know how to take this new knowledge and put it into practice.

To be fair, I was told as much in the introduction. As I’d requested a copy of the book to review, though, I felt I needed to read on.  What I got was a detailed look at some of the history of witchcraft, how covens work, and the rituals they perform.  It was fascinating, especially with the real-life accounts woven into the text (which might otherwise have been a bit dry) and for people who were further along their journey, it would probably have been really useful.

Instead, I ended up feeling somewhat overwhelmed.  This doesn’t mean this wasn’t a good book.  It was.  It was everything it promised on the tin – informative and insightful.  It just wasn’t for me because it’s also a ‘how to’ guide and I’m nowhere near that point yet.

Emma

Note: I receive a copy of this book in return for a fair and honest review. 

 

 

Anne of Cleves by Sarah-Beth Watkins #bookreview

About the Book…

Anne of Cleves left her homeland in 1539 to marry the king of England. She was not brought up to be a queen, yet out of many possible choices, she was the bride Henry VIII chose as his fourth wife. But, from their first meeting, the king decided he liked her not and sought an immediate divorce. After just six months their marriage was annulled, leaving Anne one of the wealthiest women in England. This is the story of Anne’s marriage to Henry, how the daughter of Cleves survived him and her life afterwards.

My thoughts…

While she might not have the name recognition of Anne Boleyn or Catherine of Aragon, Anne of Cleves has always been one of my favourites when it comes to the six wives of Henry VII.  Part of me feels sorry for her, for the way Henry treated her – deciding as soon as he saw her that he didn’t (and couldn’t) love her.  Part of me is slightly in awe of how she handled herself once Henry decided he didn’t want her for a wife, navigating as she did the difficult and often deadly life in the Tudor Court to outlive not just Henry but the rest of his wives too.

Probably because of her lack of star power when it comes to Henry’s wives, I haven’t ever been able to find much about her in the history books – her marriage and subsequent life always seems to be rushed in favour of the wife number five (Katerine Howard, who cheated on Henry and was executed as a result).  Thankfully, this has now been rectified by Sarah-Beth Watkins who breathes life into a somewhat forgotten queen.

She paints a picture of a shy girl, struggling to get to grips with a world where courtly love was more important than propriety at times and where not being able to speak the language was a huge hindrance for her and her understanding of the world in which she found herself.  She also tells the story of a woman who found her own way in the world and her own voice, which was a powerful one (well, as powerful as a woman’s voice could be at the time).  I liked seeing her growth as a person.

My only criticism is that the book felt too short to me: it’s only 176 pages.  I got to the end and didn’t think I had learned enough.  Still, it was more than enough to fill the gaps in my knowledge of Henry VII’s forgotten queen – though now I want to know more.

Emma x

Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

Henry VIII by Tracy Borman #bookreview

About the book…

Henry VIII is best known in history for his tempestuous marriages and the fates of his six wives. However, as acclaimed historian Tracy Borman makes clear in her illuminating new chronicle of Henry’s life, his reign and reputation were hugely influenced by the men who surrounded and interacted with him as companions and confidants, servants and ministers, and occasionally as rivals—many of whom have been underplayed in previous biographies.

These relationships offer a fresh, often surprising perspective on the legendary king, revealing the contradictions in his beliefs, behavior, and character in a nuanced light. They show him capable of fierce but seldom abiding loyalty, of raising men up only to destroy them later. He loved to be attended by boisterous young men, the likes of his intimate friend Charles Brandon, who shared his passion for sport, but could also be diverted by men of intellect, culture, and wit, as his longstanding interplay with Cardinal Wolsey and his reluctant abandonment of Thomas More attest. Eager to escape the shadow of his father, Henry VII, he was often trusting and easily led by male attendants and advisors early in his reign (his coronation was just shy of his 18th birthday in 1509); in time, though, he matured into a profoundly suspicious and paranoid king whose ruthlessness would be ever more apparent, as Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk and uncle to two of Henry’s wives, discovered to his great discomfort, and as Eustace Chapuys, the ambassador of Charles V of Spain, often reported.

Recounting the great Tudor’s life and signal moments through the lens of his male relationships, Tracy Borman’s new biography reveals Henry’s personality in all its multi-faceted, contradictory glory, and sheds fresh light on his reign for anyone fascinated by the Tudor era and its legacy

Hush Hush by Mel Sherratt #bookreview

About the book…

A killer is on the loose, attacking people in places they feel most safe: their workplaces, their homes. It’s up to DS Grace Allendale to stop the murders and prove herself to her new team.

All clues lead to local crime family the Steeles, but that’s where things get complicated. Because the Steeles aren’t just any family, they’re Grace’s family. Two brothers and two sisters, connected by the violent father only Grace and her mother escaped.

To catch the killer, Grace will have to choose between her team and her blood. But who do you trust, when both sides are out to get you?

What I thought about it…

I’m a big fan of Mel Sherratt and feel somewhat guilty that it’s taken me this long to get a review of Hush Hush up here on the (though as anyone who’s been following me a while knows all my reviews have been going up way too late lately thanks to the pressures of everyday life).  Why the guilt? Because I really enjoyed the book.  It was great to be back in Stafford, a place I used to spend a lot of time in for work, even if the city is a lot more violent than in my experience.  I love the place and the people and Sherratt does a great job of bringing both to life.

She also does a great job with the central character in Hush Hush, Grace, a woman who has returned home to get over the loss of her husband and to confront a painful childhood, one where she was the daughter of a local gangster.  Her father is dead by the start of the book, but her half-brothers and sisters are still around and continuing the family business.  It’s something Grace wants to stay as far away from as possible.  Unfortunately, as a police officer, she can’t help but be dragged into their lives when the first case that falls on her desk involves one of their (legitimate) employees ending up dead in the car park of the gym they run.

I enjoyed getting to know Grace, and her family too if I’m honest, even if they were a bad lot.  It meant there was plenty going on and plenty of people to like, dislike, trust and think were up to no good…I was wrong on more than one occasion, which is always a good thing with this type of book I think.  There were plenty of twists and turns here to keep me interested and wondering just who did it (I was right, then wrong, then right again – go me!) and more than enough in Grace and her team to see how this could turn into a great series.  

And, while books of this type do have a style and follow a pattern to a degree, this still felt fresh and interesting enough to make me want to come back for the next book when it’s released. 

Emma x

Note: I received this book in return for a fair and honest review.  All thoughts, feelings and opinions are my own.

In Harm’s Way by Viveca Sten #bookreview

About the Book

The body of world-famous journalist Jeanette Thiels is discovered the day after Christmas, frozen in a snow-covered garden just steps from her hotel on Sandhamn Island. Detective Thomas Andreasson finds it highly unlikely that it was some bizarre accident. After all, the relentless war-zone correspondent was no stranger to conflict and controversy—both professional and, of late, very personal. Who would want to see her dead is another story.

Enlisting the help of attorney Nora Linde, his longtime friend on holiday, Thomas is anxious for the answers. But he and Nora don’t have to look far. The clues are leading them closer to home than they imagined. Jeanette may have made a career out of exposing corruption at the highest levels of world power, but she was also a woman with secrets of her own, and they’re coming to light on Sandhamn. For Thomas and Nora, unearthing the deeply rooted deceptions behind Jeanette’s death could now put those closest to her in harm’s way, too.

What I Thought About It…

The sixth book in this series set on the beautiful but deadly island of Sandham, starts with a chilling murder (literally and figuratively) as a journalist is found dead in a snow bank.

Initially, it’s thought she lost her way in the dark, unable to find her way back to her hotel room. An autopsy, however, reveals she was poisoned, leading to a hunt for a murderer that may or may not be on Sandham.

Having read all the books in this series, there is a rhythm to them that I enjoy but which also means there is sometimes a sense of deja vu. Getting of the island, then, was a nice change, one I enjoyed.

What didn’t change was lead Detective Thomas’ friend Nora getting involved with the case, something which is getting harder for me to accept with each book I must admit. I really like Nora as a character and I have loved watching how she’s changed as a person since the first book. BUT getting her into the stories is starting to feel forced and somewhat jarring and I’m not convinced it adds to the plot.

Nora aside, the plot was interesting and outcome not one I was expecting. I really like Thomas, who is a gentle but dogged, and his team, who I’d like to see more of. And, given this is Scandinavian crime fiction, one of my favourite genres, it feeds my fascination with the country.

It all means that,while I enjoyed the book, I didn’t love it as much as I have some of the others. And, I hate to say it, but I am not sure I’ll continue onto book number seven.

Emma x