Category Archives: Authors J to L

Reviews by author surname J to L

Review – Manipulated Lives by H A Leuschel

The Blurb

Five stories – Five Lives
Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?

Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.

My Thoughts

I have always been interested in psychology and the human psyche, so I couldn’t resist reading Leuschel’s Manipulated Lives. This intriguing book takes the form of five novella length stories, each focusing on a different perspective of somebody who has been subjected to manipulation.

Leuschel has created a good mix of age ranges in order to tell the tales and experiences of those who have found themselves to be on the receiving end of manipulation. There is an octogenarian, a thirty-year-old, a teenager and the mother of a grown-up son. I liked the scope of the stories and found the story about the teenager particularly pertinent as the issue of domestic abuse within teenage relationships is something that has been highlighted recently as prevalent. My only slight criticism is that none of the stories gave the perspective of a female manipulating a male. As domestic abuse does occur in heterosexual relationships in which the female is the abuser and thus uses manipulation techniques I personally would have liked to have seen this covered.

In The Narcissist Leuschel writes from the point of view of the manipulator and this adds a different layer to the book. Leuschel writes this particular story incredibly well, really taking you into the mind of the narcissist and their disturbing thought patterns.

It is clear that Leuschel has carefully researched narcissistic personality traits and human behaviour as the feelings and thoughts that come through the characters are insightful and intelligent. The story that really resonated with me was The Spell which focuses on the relationship between a young woman and an older man who has a child. As an ex-social worker I came across many men like David and it rang so true for me. She portrays really well the niggly feeling you get that something isn’t right but you can’t put your finger on what it is, the feeling that the stories they tell you don’t quite add up and the use of a child that often compels people to stay within these destructive relationships. Leuschel’s observations of the behaviours used by the abuser – making out they are the victim, rapid mood changes – are all accurately portrayed.

If you are wanting a book that explores the dark side of the human psyche that is both authentic in its approach but not difficult to understand or read check out Manipulated Lives. It is thought-provoking and chillingly accurate in its portrayal of manipulation in everyday life.

Published on 28 June 2016 by CreateSpace.

A huge thank you to H A Leuschel for the copy in exchange for my review.

Review – Dark Heart by Catherine Lee

The Blurb

Could you live with the heart of a killer?

A mystery always begins with a murder – but what if it’s the killer who turns up dead?

Detective Charlie Cooper is on the verge of leaving Homicide to spend more time with his young family. But when the serial killer he’s been chasing for a decade is murdered, Cooper has the chance to save the killer’s final victim and atone for all the ones he’s failed.

After a life-saving heart transplant, Eva Matthews just wants things to get back to normal. But when she learns she’s received the heart of the serial killer, she can’t ignore the strange dreams that now haunt her. Is the killer’s heart telling her where his final victim is hidden?

DARK HEART is the first book in the Dark Series of contemporary mysteries set in Sydney, Australia. If you love a tough, clever detective, a loyal sidekick, an evil villain, and a twisting plot, you’ll love the first book in Catherine Lee’s page-turning series.

Pick up Dark Heart to discover this exciting new series today!

My Thoughts

I have to admit to having Dark Heart sitting on my Kindle for a while. This is the first in Lee’s Dark Series featuring detectives Charlie Cooper and Joe Quinn, set in Sydney, Australia. I began reading this book having not reminded myself of the synopsis and was expecting your average run-of-the-mill crime thriller. Boy, was I wrong, Dark Heart proved to be anything but!

For nine years Cooper has been trying to find a serial murderer dubbed the Adultery Killer to the point that it has made him reconsider his position within the homicide team. Imagine his surprise when the victim of a recent murder is discovered to be the elusive Adultery Killer! A chain of events is set in motion which takes Cooper, Quinn and the reader on an unusual, twisting journey. Will Cooper and Quinn be able to find the Adultery Killer’s latest victim before it’s too late? Dark Heart moves along at a great pace and while I enjoyed the crime and procedural aspect to the book, it is the social and psychological themes that really appealed to me.

Cellular memory features heavily in Dark Heart and gives it a thought-provoking edge. Following a transplant Eva Matthews discovers the new heart she has so desperately needed comes from a multiple murderer and this completely rocks her world. As she becomes unwittingly caught up in the frantic search for the Adultery Killer’s last victim. This really got me thinking about organ transplants and the psychological issues that can arise from this. I hadn’t given much thought to the fact that it is done anonymously or the reasons why this is the case, and Dark Heart caused me to mull this over. Lee has carefully considered the emotional fall out of finding out the heart you have placed inside of you that has, ultimately, saved your life, has come from a less than salubrious person. Would this have been as much of an issue to Eva if she hadn’t read about cellular memory prior to her transplant? While I’m not sure if I believe in the existence of cellular memory, I did wonder how I would feel to have the organ of a murderer inside of me.

Dark Heart flits between three points of view. There is the police procedural conducted by Cooper and Quinn, Eva’s experience of receiving a heart from a killer and Amanda, the final victim of the now deceases killer. Lee has also added a depth to the story of Amanda. As Amanda helplessly awaits her fate, not knowing if she will live or die, she contemplates her life and the decisions she has made. This effectively brought Amanda to life for me as more than ‘just’ the victim who has to be found.

An enjoyable read, Dark Heart surprised me with its hidden layers and thought-provoking themes making this different from your average crime thriller. As a result, I will be checking out the rest of the series.

Published on 31 July 2013 by CreateSpace Publishing.

Thank you to Catherine Lee for the copy in exchange for my honest review.

Blog Tour – Deadly Game by Matt Johnson *Book Review*

I’m delighted to be hosting today’s turn on the Deadly Game blog tour and sharing my review of Matt Johnson’s amazing new thriller. But first a little bit about what Deadly Game is about… 

The Blurb

Reeling from the attempts on his life and that of his family, Police Inspector Robert Finlay returns to work to discover that any hope of a peaceful existence has been dashed.

Assigned to investigate the Eastern European sex-slave industry just as a key witness is murdered, Finlay, along with his new partner Nina Brasov, finds himself facing a ruthless criminal gang, determined to keep control of the traffic of people into the UK. On the home front, Finlay’s efforts to protect his wife and child may have been in vain, as an MI5 protection officer uncovers a covert secret service operation that threatens them all…

Picking up where the bestselling Wicked Game left off, Deadly Game sees Matt Johnson’s damaged hero fighting on two fronts. Aided by new allies, he must not only protect his family but save a colleague from an unseen enemy … and a shocking fate.

My Thoughts

Deadly Game is the second book in the Robert Finlay series, the first being Wicked Game. I have to confess to not having read the first book and I did worry initially that Deadly Game wouldn’t work as a standalone. I didn’t have to worry as Johnson has written the book in such a way that you get enough information about what happened in the first book making it easy to pick up and follow.

Police Inspector Robert Finlay has been assigned to a new team to investigate people trafficking and the sex-slave industry. This brings him, inevitably, into contact with a ruthless Eastern European gang intent on keeping their business going. This becomes personal when the life of a fellow police officer comes under threat. We learn that in the previous book attempts were made to take Robert and his family’s life and this threat has not yet fully diminished, leading you into a world of spies, terrorism and conspiracies.

The prologue draws you in immediately and sets the tone for the rest of the book. The tension you initially feel does not let up as Deadly Game twists and turns its way through to its dramatic and breath taking conclusion. The writing is slick and smooth with short chapters that tease and keep you turning those pages. I found myself muttering ‘oh my God’ frequently to the book. I could really see Deadly Game on the big screen, it would make a great movie!

Characters, whether good or bad, are really important to me in a book. Robert Finlay comes across as real and authentic, and Johnson has done a great job in creating a believable character. As ex-SAS and recently having had his and his family’s life on the line he is suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite the dark and frantic nature of the book, Johnson has portrayed this aspect in a sympathetic, knowledgeable way. It does not get in the way of the character, rather the subtle way it is dealt with adds to the character and those around him. Finlay is really likeable and I will definitely be following his story throughout the rest of the series.

There is so much going on in Deadly Game, and with dual storylines it could easily get muddled and confusing but Johnson pulls it off seamlessly. This is not your straight forward detective story and I really enjoyed the thread involving MI5 and MI6 which gives it a real edge. With conspiracies, cover-ups and doubts over who is to be trusted, Deadly Game is fast-paced and keeps you on your toes throughout.

Johnson has created a gritty and current novel dealing with, sadly, very real issues. It is disturbing yet credible and has a real intelligence behind it. Days after finishing the book I still find myself worrying about one of the characters demonstrating just how immersed you become in this book. I eagerly anticipate the next book in the series.

Highly recommended, Deadly Game is tense, topical, exciting and gripping. More than ‘just’ a detective novel it really packs a punch and leaves you breathless!

Published on 15 March 2017 by Orenda.

A huge thank you to Matt Johnson and Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for the copy in exchange for my unbiased and honest review and for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.



Blog Tour – After She’s Gone by Maggie James – *Review*

Chuffed to bits to be hosting today’s turn on the After She’s Gone by Maggie James blog tour. I love a good psychological thriller so quickly agreed to take part in this one. What did I think? Read on to find out…

The Blurb

Lori Golden’s family has had more than its fair share of troubles. But through it all, Lori and her sister, Jessie, have always supported each other. Then Jessie is killed. And Lori’s world turns upside down.

Devastated, Lori struggles to cope with her loss, and to learn to live in a world without her bright, bubbly sister by her side. Around her, her already fractured family starts to fall apart. And as Lori and her mother try to pick up the pieces of their shattered lives, secrets long thought buried are coming painfully to light.

Faced with the unthinkable, Lori is forced to ask herself how well she really knows those who are left behind…

My Thoughts

Having never read a Maggie James novel before I was keen to discover a ‘new to me’ author. When Lori Golden’s sixteen-year-old sister, Jessie, fails to return home one night, Lori’s family are thrust into a rapid descent of grief, mistrust and suspicion as long held secrets are gradually revealed.

The prologue introduces us to a mysterious figure who is setting fire to Bristol’s disused buildings and serves to hook the reader in immediately. From there we are introduced to Lori hours before her world falls apart. I really liked the way James sets the scene in chapter one and the sense of foreboding she instils into the reader. Largely told from the perspective of Lori with brief glimpses into the thoughts and feelings of her mother, step-brother and the arsonist, you are taken along with the tide of emotions and individual worries they all have.

The beauty of After She’s Gone for me was the portrayal of a family unravelling in the wake of a tragedy. James depicts this brilliantly. The Golden/Hamiltons are a blended family and the small cracks that were there from the beginning become ravines in the aftermath. The doubts and misgivings Lori and her mother had about their newest family members become more prominent in their minds and take on more significance and meaning, resulting in the family becoming fractured. As long held secrets are gradually revealed they all begin to look at each other through different eyes.

I thought I had it all figured out in regards to who was responsible for Jessie’s death. In some respects I did, but in other ways I was very wrong…which won’t make sense unless you read it! James cleverly plants red herrings and the plethora of secrets within the family has the reader second guessing themselves. Who, if anyone, can truly be trusted?

After She’s Gone is a great psychological thriller which plays on the fear of not being able to trust those closest to you. I loved the combination of trying to figure out who had done it along with the emotional response I had to a family falling apart. A great read.

Published on 16 March 2017 by Lake Union Publishing.

Purchase Link (will take you to any amazon site world-wide)

About The Author

Maggie James is a British author who lives in Bristol. She writes psychological suspense novels.

Before turning her hand to writing, Maggie worked mainly as an accountant, with a diversion into practising as a nutritional therapist. Diet and health remain high on her list of interests, along with travel. Accountancy does not, but then it never did. The urge to pack a bag and go off travelling is always lurking in the background! When not writing, going to the gym, practising yoga or travelling, Maggie can be found seeking new four-legged friends to pet; animals are a lifelong love!

Connect with Maggie James

Goodreads Author Page:

A huge thanks to Maggie James and Noelle Holten at Thick As Thieves Publicity for the advance copy and inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

Catch the other fab bloggers on the rest of the tour…

Review – A Mother’s Reckoning: Living in the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy by Sue Klebold

A Mother's Reckoning

The Blurb

On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.

For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan’s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?

These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In A Mother’s Reckoning, she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognise when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.

Filled with hard-won wisdom and compassion, A Mother’s Reckoning is a powerful and haunting book that sheds light on one of the most pressing issues of our time. And with fresh wounds from the recent Newtown and Charleston shootings, never has the need for understanding been more urgent.

All author profits from the book will be donated to research and to charitable organisations focusing on mental health issues.

My Thoughts

I have mulled over this review for a while, worrying about my abilities to write a review that is also sensitive given the subject matter of A Mother’s Reckoning and the fact that it is written by the mother of Dylan Klebold, whose son was tragically one of the shooters and took his own life during the event.

Sadly, the name Columbine has become synonymous with high school shootings in America and is now, I would guess, largely recognised for that than being an actual school. If you are unfamiliar with Columbine, on 20 April 1999 two high school students, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, set off numerous bombs within their school. As they failed to detonate, the boys entered the school with guns shooting students and staff before committing suicide.

Although I always very much viewed as what happened on that cataclysmic day as a tragedy for both victims and shooters, I admit to being concerned on starting this book that Sue Klebold may try and excuse and absolve her son of responsibility. She doesn’t at all and writes with honesty about her son and her feelings towards him. I was also concerned that I may feel voyeuristic while reading this, however, Sue has, as I hoped, written about the extenuating circumstances which may have resulted in her son’s actions and highlights the impact of, as she terms ‘brain health’, and our inability as a society and as parents to recognise the signs and access the help needed.

While school shootings—in which students open fire on other students—don’t happen here in Britain, mental health amongst our children and teens is an escalating issue with a lack of resources available to provide support in a timely and appropriate manner, making this an interesting read for parents and professionals who work with children. In trying to understand why her son committed this act before taking his own life, Klebold has clearly spent a lot of time researching the subject and talking to professionals in the field. It is this clear emphasis on research that sets this book apart.

Klebold expresses her emotions during the aftermath with real feeling and intelligence. Describing how she loves her son and misses him and yet also feels angry with him and cannot come to terms with what he has done is incredibly moving. It is incomprehensible to anyone who hasn’t been through it, yet Klebold manages to evoke empathy within the reader.

Powerful, raw, honest, heat-rending and intelligently written, I give all credit to Sue Klebold for putting herself out there in a bid to assist others despite potential back lash.  is certainly not an easy read due to the subject matter but it is a thought-provoking and essential read and it has made me think more deeply about the issues raised and given me a different perspective on Dylan.

My thanks go to Sue Klebold, Ebury Publishing and Netgalley for the advance copy in exchange for my review.

Published on Ebook on 15 February 2016 and on paperback on 9 February 2017 by Ebury.

Blog Tour – Devour by LA Larkin – **Author Guest Post on Creating a Character**

Devour LA Larkin - jacket image[2688]

I’m absolutely delighted to be hosting a stop on the Devour by L A Larkin today and have a brilliant guest post by her about creating a series character. Without further ado, I will hand you over to L A Larkin…

Creating a series central character by L.A. Larkin

Thank you for asking me to write a guest post on how to create a series central character.

Devour is the first book in the new Olivia Wolfe thriller series. It’s one thing to create an engaging central character for a one-off novel. It’s a whole different ball game when that character is to keep readers interested across a number of books.

While thrillers and crime fiction are generally regarded as very plot-focused, it is the characters that readers fall in love with. Take, for example, Lee Child’s Jack Reacher, Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus, or Stieg Larsson’s Lisbeth Salander. When I prepare to write my next thriller, I spend a lot of time on my central characters, regardless of whether they are in a one-off novel, or, in a series. I create a whole back story, their childhood, their family, their relationships. I know their strengths and weaknesses, their fears, their quirks. I know more about them than I am ever likely to reveal in a story. This means that because I know them so well I can predict how they will react and what they will say without having to think too hard about it. As a result, I can keep the pen moving. Or, in my case, fingers tapping at the keyboard.

When creating Olivia Wolfe, I had to think ahead. If the series keeps going for a long time, how old will she be? Will she still be able to perform the role I want her to? How will she develop and grow over the series? Creating a book series means holding back on character revelations and history. In Devour I choose not to reveal too much about her relationship with father-figure, Jerry Butcher, or much about her parents, or why she is driven to expose the corrupt and the criminal. Wolfe must battle her demons over a number of books.

I also wanted to ensure that Wolfe’s skills allow me to keep creating exciting, high-stakes thrillers. For example, because I like to set my novels in different locations around the world, I needed it to be credible for Wolfe to travel with her job. So I made her an investigative journalist, who cut her teeth reporting from war zones. This experience has made her resilient and resourceful and, also, used to danger.

There is much, naturally, I cannot plan for in future books. I plot each book but I also believe it’s important to let characters write their own stories: to watch them fall and pick themselves up again and head off in unexpected directions. It’s a combined left and right brain dance: plot the chapter you are about to write and then give your characters the freedom to do something better.

I like my lead characters to learn something about themselves with each book, just as we do as we go through life. In Devour, Wolfe will lose everything she holds dear to stop a man who would use an Antarctic discovery to obliterate civilisation. But she will also discover something important about herself along the way.

The Blurb

Welcome to the high octane world of Olivia Wolfe.

As an investigative journalist, Wolfe lives her life in constant peril. Hunted by numerous enemies who are seldom what they first seem, she must unravel a complex web of lies to uncover an even more terrifying truth.

From the poppy palaces of Afghanistan and Antarctica’s forbidding wind-swept ice sheets, to a top-secret military base in the Nevada desert, Wolfe’s journey will ultimately lead her to a man who would obliterate civilisation. she must make an impossible choice: save a life  – or prevent the death of millions.

L.A. Larkin’s thriller, Devour, is published by Constable at the end of January 2017. Peter James says Devour ‘delivers action and intrigue in spades,’ and Culturefly says, ‘If you are only going to read one novel in 2017, I suggest you make it Devour.’

L.A. Larkin’s website:

Sounds like a cracking read! A huge thank you to LA Larkin for a great guest post and to Leanne at Midas PR for inviting me to take part in the blog tour.

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Book Review – Lies by TM Logan


The Blurb

WHAT IF YOUR WHOLE LIFE WAS BASED ON LIES? A gripping new psychological thriller of secrets and revenge, perfect for fans of Harlan Coben and Tom Bale.

When Joe Lynch stumbles across his wife driving into a hotel car park while she’s supposed to be at work, he’s intrigued enough to follow her in.

And when he witnesses her in an angry altercation with family friend Ben, he knows he ought to intervene.

But just as the confrontation between the two men turns violent, and Ben is knocked unconscious, Joe’s young son has an asthma attack – and Joe must flee in order to help him.

When he returns, desperate to make sure Ben is ok, Joe is horrified to find that Ben has disappeared. 

And that’s when Joe receives the first message…

My Thoughts

Joe Lynch is a desperate man in a desperate situation. His whole world is rocked when, by chance, he sees his wife while out and follows her into a hotel to surprise her. He observes her having an argument with a friend and gradually everything he thought he knew comes crashing down around him. Joe realises his life has been built on lies.

From the blurb I expected Lies to be a fairly run-of-the-mill, wife-having-an-affair story. I don’t want to say anything at all about the plot—you really need to read the book—but I will say that Joe finds himself in a situation I wasn’t prepared for, taking me on a journey I really wasn’t expecting.

Racing along at an unprecedented rate, Lies keeps you frantically turning the pages in the pursuit to find out what will happen next. With a well written and perfectly pitched prologue, Logan hooks you in straight away building immediate interest to find out just what this story is going to be about.

Logan’s writing continues in this vein throughout with chapters just the right length and those all-important cliff-hanger endings. Told in first person narrative by Joe, the reader is effectively drawn into his life, following him every step of the way in the nightmare he finds himself in.

Joe as a character is a ‘nice-guy’. A teacher and good husband and father who puts his family first, but maybe a little bit naïve. I couldn’t help but root for him throughout the book. A lot of his naivety is around social media—something most of us are probably guilty of—and the role of social media in our lives plays an important part in this book. My views on the other characters changed as the book progressed and truths are revealed, as Joe, whose opinion of them we rely on as we see them through his eyes, realises his thoughts on the people around him are not necessarily accurate.

Logan’s observations on social media throughout the book give Lies a further edge and depth. As well as a great thriller, Lies is a commentary on how we play out our lives in public and the vulnerabilities this exposes us to. It also made me think about fate, chance and how a split decision action can change the direction of our lives in the blink of an eye.

Logan has written a great debut thriller. Lies keeps you gripped, guessing and turning those pages! I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Thank you to TM Logan, Bonnier Zaffre (Twenty7) and Netgalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

Published on Ebook on 17 January 2017 and paperback on 4 May 2017 by Twenty7.

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Review – Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

Good Me Bad Me

The Blurb






Annie’s mother is a serial killer. 

The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police. 

But out of sight is not out of mind. 

As her mother’s trial looms, the secrets of her past won’t let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name – Milly. 

A fresh start.  Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be. 

But Milly’s mother is a serial killer.  And blood is thicker than water. 

Good me, bad me. 

She is, after all, her mother’s daughter…

My Thoughts

‘I read in a book once that people who are violent are hot-headed, while psychopaths are cold-hearted. Hot and cold. Head and heart. But what if you come from a person who’s both?
What happens then?’

Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land…what a book to start the new year with! Touted as one of the books to look out for in 2017 I couldn’t wait to read it. This is a slow-burning character study of a child in the most extreme of circumstances and the inner turmoil she has to contend with. With an added dose of manipulation, social observation and that timeless nature vs. nurture argument this is a book that packs a lot in and it certainly makes you think.

At the age of fifteen and after years of abuse, Annie eventually calls the police on her serial killer mother. The book charts Annie’s life as she is placed with carer’s, given a new identity – that of Millie Barnes – and she prepares to give evidence at her mother’s trial.

The prose stuck me immediately. Annie/Millie is telling the story through her thoughts and the way it is written sets the tone from the outset which is quiet and unnerving. The use of short sentences, some consisting of single words give maximum impact and give a real depth to Annie/Millie, transporting the reader into her mind. I never knew how much I could trust Annie/Millie although I felt for her. At times I felt guilty about doubting her after all she had been through, causing me a whole raft of emotional unrest while reading.

Land has created the character of Annie/Millie perfectly. The range of feelings and emotions she has as a result of her experiences come across realistically. Worried that her DNA makes her capable of the same acts as her mother you really feel her inner struggles, her need to belong and the two sides to her nature fighting to be at the fore front. Often conversing with her mother in her head, Land accurately reflects how those who have had a tenuous attachment to their caregiver and have been abused by them still love them and want to be close to them –

‘I can’t tell him, I’m not able to say it. That the person I want to run from is also the person I want to run to.’

The nature-nurture debate is not the only theme in Good Me Bad Me. The impact of murder on the murderer’s wider family, the use of social media in bullying, the pressures on teenagers to portray the perfect life and the impact of poor attachments are all issues that Land covers. Phoebe, Annie/Millie’s foster sister, is another teenager in trouble despite being raised in what from the outside would look like the ideal family. As a character she is unlikeable and yet evokes a level of sympathy. As we get our impression of her from Annie/Millie I’m still not sure if the portrayal of Phoebe is wholly accurate, as days after reading I’m still not sure how much what Annie/Millie says is true and how much I trust her version of events. The number of questions raised while reading make Good Me Bad Me a great book for a reading group with so much to discuss and I wish I had this opportunity while reading it.

I suspect this book will be akin to Marmite with those who love it and those who hate it in equal measure. I found I liked the book more after a few days of reading it and some contemplation – it will be a book I re-read a few times in the future. I certainly think it will spark some interesting discussions! A psychological thriller in the truest sense of the word, if you are after a simple fast-paced, by-the-seat-of-your-pants book it probably won’t be for you.

Good Me Bad Me moved me, shocked me, shook me up and stunned me. It is an intelligently and interestingly written, accomplished debut novel and Ali Land is an author to keep your eyes on.

Thanks to Ali Land, Michael Joseph and Netgalley for the advance copy in exchange for this, my honest and unbiased review.

Published on 12 January 2017 by Michael Joseph.


Review – The Gift by Louise Jensen

The Gift

The Blurb

The perfect daughter.  The perfect girlfriend.  The perfect murder?

Jenna is given another shot at life when she receives a donor heart from a girl called Callie.  Eternally grateful to Callie and her family, Jenna gets closer to them, but she soon discovers that Callie’s perfect family is hiding some very dark secrets…

Callie’s parents are grieving, yet Jenna knows they’re only telling her half the story.  Where is Callie’s sister Sophie?  She’s been ‘abroad’ since her sister’s death but something about her absence doesn’t add up.  And when Jenna meets Callie’s boyfriend Nathan, she makes a shocking discovery.

Jenna knows that Callie didn’t die in an accident.  But how did she die?  Jenna is determined to discover the truth but it could cost her everything; her loved ones, her sanity even her life.

My Thoughts

 ‘A heart is not just an organ. The heart stores secrets and lies. Hopes and dreams. It’s more than a muscle. I know it is. The heart remembers.’

I eagerly anticipated Louise Jensen’s second book after loving her debut The Sister and did wonder if she would be able to pull off another novel as great as her first. Well, I had nothing to worry about, The Gift is simply stunning!

Following a heart transplant, Jenna feels the need to know who had saved her life by donating their heart. As Jenna begins to experience emotions and have dreams that seem to be from someone else’s subconscious, this need to know about her donor, Callie, becomes ever greater. What Jenna does not expect is to become mixed up in the mysterious circumstances surrounding Callie’s life and death.

Even though this is only Louise’s second novel, I recognised her writing immediately despite it being a while since I had read The Sister. The Gift has a quiet undertone and a subtlety that, for me, adds to the tension and sense of foreboding that pervades the book. She perfectly sets time, feeling, characterisation and depth within the story with gorgeous descriptions and prose that is uniquely her own. A feeling of unease carries you through the book until the end, a prose which is in turn compelling and thrilling yet strangely enchanting.

Told in first person narrative and interspersed with dream sequences, Louise effectively captures the very essence of Jenna allowing the reader to identify and empathise with her. I found myself really worrying about her. All the little things that make up a personality are included, such as the music the characters listen to, that can really give you an insight into who they are.

Louise has written not just a psychological thriller but a novel that explores human emotions giving it a poignancy and meaning. I love a book that stirs up deep emotions within me but the subject matter has to be portrayed with empathy and understanding and Louise has done this, again, perfectly. The Gift really resonated with me as she describes how a person’s life can change within the blink of an eye through ill health. Her descriptions of how Jenna feels following her operation and the change in her life echoed my own feelings in a similar experience, however she has written about this in such a way that it will move anyone;

‘Before. Such an innocuous word but there would always be a divide. Before and after. A glass wall separating the things I do then with the things I couldn’t do anymore.’

There are some interesting themes running throughout the book and I found the idea of Cellular Memory fascinating and this is not something I have come across in a novel before. It really made me think – and head for Google.

Initially I thought I had the story sussed and had worked out what the outcome was going to be. Boy, was I wrong. Louise kept me on my toes with a story that took me in a direction I wasn’t expecting.

I knew that Louise was an author to watch out for and she has, I’m so pleased to say, proved me right. The Gift is both thrilling and moving and works on so many levels. I loved it.

Thank you to Louise Jensen, Bookouture and Netgalley for the advance copy.

Published on 16 December 2016 by Bookouture.

Pre-order a copy HERE.

**Novella Week** Review – Atomic Number Sixty: Volume 1 (Sixty Minute Reads) by Dave Johnston

Over the past few months I have developed a real appreciation for the novella.  I had not read many novellas before and I was surprised by how much authors manage to put into these short books.  It has given me a real insight into the talent writers have to create a well rounded, multi-layered story in a shorter format.  This week I will be reviewing only novellas from a range of genres.  Great for reading during journeys, lunch breaks and while waiting for appointments I hope you enjoy the reviews I have for you this week and find a great, quick read. 

I am starting with Atomic Number Sixty the debut book by Dave Johnston.

Atomic Number Sixty

The Blurb

Holly Holloway is locked in a dusty room, strapped to a ticking bomb.  What would you do, if you only had one hour left to live?  Atomic Number Sixty is the first part of a thrilling series, with 60 chapters each set in real time taking the reader 1 minute to read.

Number of Pages – 147

My Review

I was really interested in Dave Johnston’s concept of writing a book consisting of sixty chapters which takes sixty minutes to read. I have to say this works brilliantly and is great if your looking for a quick read to pass away a journey or a lunch break.

Atomic Number Sixty tells the story of twenty-five year old Holly Holloway who has been taken hostage and has exactly sixty minutes until the bomb she is attached to detonates.

This is a super fast-paced thriller, the short chapters and the minutes at the head of each chapter add to the frantic pace of the book. I really liked the way this book is constructed. I was hooked from the very first chapter. Don‘t be deceived by the length of Atomic Number Sixty…Dave has managed to pack a lot in, creating a well-rounded story.

Holly is a sassy, funny, strong young woman and I warmed to her and her family immediately. Dave has managed to get you fully involved with the characters in a short space of time. He has interspersed the story with Holly reflecting on her past giving a real sense of who she is. Written in first person narrative the reader is privy to Holly’s sarcastic sense of humour and her thoughts on life in general.

‘I wondered who was crazier. The brainwashed. Or the worms whispering in their ears, leading them on such a destructive path.’

The tension is built up brilliantly and the ending took me totally by surprise. I found myself devouring this book to find out if Holly would survive.

Definitely check Atomic Number Sixty out especially if you are wanting a quick read. This is a great debut and I look forward to reading more by Dave in this series.

Thanks to Dave Johnston for my copy.

Published on 1 August 2016 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

You can purchase your copy HERE.