Book Reviews

#Review: Safe With Me by K.L. Slater @bookouture @KimLSlater

Safe with Me cover

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Bookouture.

When Anna was a child, something terrible happened and destroyed her family. Anna has always laid the blame for that horrific event at the feet of a single person: Carla Bevin. Thirteen years later, Anna is leading a boringly routine life and having difficulties at work, her only friend her elderly neighbor, when she is witness to a car-motorcycle accident. She is enraged when she recognizes the driver as Carla, who calls herself Amanda Danson. Anna is determined to make her pay for what she did to her family, and manages to ingratiate herself with Liam—the injured motorcyclist—and his grandmother, Ivy, in order to keep tabs on the police investigation. Anna’s obsession with Amanda, and the need for revenge drives her to do whatever it takes to protect Liam from Amanda. But who really needs protection—and from whom?

This is not a book to be read while half-asleep. Told from multiple POVs, with scenes taking place in the past as well as the present, you can easily get confused about who did what, when they did it, and why. I certainly did, so much so that I started and stopped reading it a couple of times before I finally got serious and paid attention… otherwise known as NOT reading while I was half-asleep. (It’s amazing how much your reading comprehension improves when you can actually concentrate on the words you’re looking at…)

If ever a character ran me through the full gamut of emotions, it was Anna. There were times early on that I thought she was quite possibly the most uninteresting character I’ve ever read in my life. Ah, but those first impressions aren’t always to be trusted! Anna was actually a character of surprising depth. Once I knew all the details of what shaped Anna into who she was, everything she said and did made perfect sense to me. Huge kudos to Slater for creating such an intricate character!

All was definitely not as it seemed in this deliciously convoluted story, and I absolutely LOVED that.  K.L. Slater definitely has a fan in me. I can’t wait to read more of her work!

(Can convoluted be used in a complimentary way? I hope so, because that’s how I meant it!)

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Author: K.L. Slater

Title: Safe With Me

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Published: November 3rd, 2016 by Bookouture

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Thirteen years ago someone did something very bad to Anna. Now it’s her turn to get even …

Anna lives a solitary existence, taking solace in order and routine. Her only friend is the lonely old lady next door. She doesn’t like to let people to get too close – she knows how much damage they can do.

Then one ordinary day Anna witnesses a devastating road accident and recognises the driver as Carla, the woman who ruined her life all those years ago. Now it’s Anna’s chance to set things straight but her revenge needs to be executed carefully …

First she needs to get to know Liam, the man injured in the accident. She needs to follow the police investigation. She needs to watch Carla from the shadows…

But as Anna’s obsession with Carla escalates, her own secrets start to unravel. Is Carla really dangerous or does Anna need to worry about someone far closer to home?

A compelling, gripping psychological thriller, perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train and The Sister.

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About the Author

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Author K.L. Slater

For many years, Kim sent her work out to literary agents but never made it off the slush pile. At the age of 40 she went back to Nottingham Trent University and now has an MA in Creative Writing.

Before graduating, she received five offers of representation from London literary agents which was, as Kim says, ‘a fairytale … at the end of a very long road!’

Kim is a full-time writer and lives in Nottingham with her husband, Mac.

Author photo and bio via Bookouture.

Book Reviews

#Review: Bad Little Girl by Frances Vick @franvicksays @bookouture

Bad Little Girl cover

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Bookouture.

Everyone, even her parents, says Lorna Bell is a bad little girl. But when a child tells you someone is abusing her, you have to believe her, no matter what. Because a little girl would never lie about something so terrible. Would she?

Bad Little Girl is a dark psychological thriller that will leave you feeling horrified at how truly evil someone can be, and how far they are willing to go in order to get what they want.

There were several things I liked about this novel. The story is much different from anything I’ve read in a while, with strong characters and vividly written throughout. I could easily picture everything in my mind as I read; even as I write this review more than a month later, I can still ‘see’ several scenes that played out in the story.

The one thing I was disappointed with, and what ultimately led me to give a three star rating rather than a four star rating, was being able to figure out a few key things in the story long before it was ultimately revealed near the end of the novel. I’m still torn on whether or not it’s fair to give it the lower rating, but I’ll leave it as that’s how I rated it immediately after I finished it.

Rating uncertainties aside, Frances Vick is definitely a worthy addition to my Author Radar. I’ll be on the lookout for more of her work!

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Author: Frances Vick

Title: Bad Little Girl

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Published: February 22nd 2017 by Bookouture

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

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‘I’m not safe – you have to help me…’

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 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. Heartbroken, Claire knows she has to act. She must make Lorna safe. Just when Claire thinks she has protected Lorna, a chance encounter brings enigmatic stranger Marianne Cairns into their lives. Marianne seems generous and kind but there is something about her story that doesn’t quite add up. Why does she feel so at home, and why is Lorna suddenly so unsettled?

Claire has risked everything to save Lorna. But what can save Claire from the shocking truth?

An utterly unputdownable and darkly compelling read that will have fans of The Girl on the Train, The Sister, and Gone Girl absolutely hooked.

About the Author

frances_vickThe only child of parents who worked at a top security psychiatric hospital, Frances grew up receiving disquieting notes and presents from the patients. Expelled from school, she spent the next few years on the dole, augmenting her income by providing security and crewing for gigs, and being a guinea pig for medical trials. Later jobs included working in a theatre in Manhattan, teaching English in Japanese Junior High Schools, and being a life model in Italy, before coming back to London and working with homeless teenagers and refugees.

Author photo and bio via Bookouture.

Book Reviews

Review: Phantom Limb by Lucinda Berry

Phantom Limb cover

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of the author.

Emily and Elizabeth Rooth have deep psychological scars due the horrific abuse they suffered as very young children. What could have been a tragedy becomes a rescue, allowing the girls to escape their hellish existence in their mother’s home and be adopted by a loving couple. Some wounds never fully heal, however, and the girls are unable to let themselves trust their new parents—or anyone else—with their secrets and fears, depending only on each other and dealing with their emotional pain as best they can. At 18, Elizabeth is a college student sharing an apartment with a severely depressed, self-harming Emily, and spending most of her free time alone with her sister and keeping her in the dark about her boyfriend. When the truth is revealed, it kicks off a chain of events leading to Emily’s death and Elizabeth’s stay in a psychiatric hospital. In order to heal, she has to face the unbearable truths of her repressed memories, and learn how to finally let Emily go… if she can.

We’ve all read books at one time or another that don’t  live up to the hype, but this book is most definitely NOT one of them. Phantom Limb is absolutely phenomenal, and I highly recommend it to fans of psychological thrillers.  Finely crafted characters and an intricately woven plot culminated in an ending so unexpected, it took my breath away. This book was a pleasure to read, and earned Lucinda Berry a spot on my Author Radar.

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Author: Lucinda Berry

Title: Phantom Limb

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Published: January 17th, 2017 by Rise Press

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Emily and Elizabeth spend their childhood locked in a bedroom and terrorized by a mother who drinks too much and disappears for days. The identical twins are rescued by a family determined to be their saviors.

But there’s some horrors love can’t erase…

Elizabeth wakes in a hospital, strapped to her bed and unable to move or speak. The last thing she remembers is finding Emily’s body in their bathroom. Days before, she was falling in love and starting college. Now, she’s surrounded by men who talk to themselves and women who pull out their eyebrows.

As she delves deeper into the mystery surrounding Emily’s death, she discovers shocking secrets and holes in her memory that force her to remember what she’s worked so hard to forget-the beatings, the blood, the special friends. Her life spins out of control at a terrifying speed as she desperately tries to unravel the psychological puzzle of her past before it’s too late.

Phantom Limb is a character-driven mystery that begs to be read in a single setting. The shocking and shattering conclusion will make you go back and read it again.

Perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train, Behind Closed Doors, and The Girl With No Past.

“Dark suspense at its finest”…Thriller Beats 

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About the Author

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Lucinda Berry

Dr. Lucinda Berry’s background is as unique as her stories. She has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, specializing in trauma and children. She is the Assistant Director of Evidence-based Practice at UCLA’s National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. She uses her clinical experience to create compelling tales that blur the lines between fiction and nonfiction. If you want to be notified of upcoming new releases, please visit: https://about.me/Lucindaberry

Author photo and Bio via Goodreads.

Book Reviews

Review: The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney @randomhouse #randomhousereads

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Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.

Emma
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.

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Author: J.P. Delaney

Title: The Girl Before

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Publication Date: January 24, 2017 by Ballantine Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Netgalley and Ballantine Books.

The Girl Before tells the story of two women who each went through a traumatic experience, prompting them to seek a new place to live because their homes carried devastating memories. The story is told from each woman’s point of view, with Emma’s story being ‘Then’, and Jane’s story being ‘Now’. Emma and Jane both end up choosing to live in the same house, located at One Folgate Street. They had to jump through some unusual hoops in order to live there, however.

Prior to being approved, anyone interested in living in the starkly minimalist house is required to fill out a form with some rather odd questions, and agree to live by a set of 200 rules, which includes having no books, photos, throw pillows, or anything else that is considered ‘clutter’ in the house. They must also include a photo of themselves, something each woman thought odd.

The architect and owner of the house is a man named Edward, who originally built the house for his family. After losing his wife and son, Edward never lived there, choosing instead to rent it out for an extremely low price to anyone who was willing to live by his stringent demands.

Both women become involved with Edward, and when Jane finds out that Emma—whom she closely resembles—died in the house, she becomes obsessed with finding out what happened to her. Was it truly an accident, or something more sinister that killed Emma? Was Edward involved? Despite being warned against it, Jane is relentless in her search for the truth, never realizing she was putting herself in danger… until it was too late.

The Girl Before is a deliciously creepy psychological thriller worthy of the genre. I devoured it in a single day… I just couldn’t put it down until I knew who did what, and why. There were several surprises along the way, but the last one left me so stunned, you could have knocked me over with a feather. I’m not kidding. My jaw hit the floor and I kept shaking my head in disbelief because (and I know I say this a lot) I NEVER saw it coming.

Treat yourself and get a copy of this book when it hits the shelves. You won’t be disappointed!

About the Author

J. P. Delaney is the pseudonym of a writer who has previously published best-selling fiction under another name.

Book Reviews

Review: When We Go Missing by Kristen Twardowski

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Once, Alex Gardinier was a successful physical therapist and a happy wife. Now she is trapped in a crumbling hospital room. Seven years ago Alex’s ex-husband, Nathan, was convicted of murdering five girls, and he has been rotting in prison ever since. Except the doctors say that Nathan isn’t in prison. In fact, they don’t believe that he is a criminal at all. According to them, Nathan is a devoted husband who visits her every week. But Alex can’t recall ever seeing him at the hospital, and the last time they met he was holding her hostage on a boat.

Maybe the doctors are right – maybe these memories of his crimes are her own personal delusions – but if they are wrong, then Nathan somehow escaped from prison. If they are wrong, he has trapped Alex in a psychiatric ward.

If they are wrong, he is hunting her sister.

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Author: Kristen Twardowski

Title: When We Go Missing

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Published: December 16, 2016 by Kristen Twardowski

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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I received a review copy of this book courtesy of the author.

Reading the blurb was enough to sell me on this book. I have long been fascinated (and disturbed) by the ease with which husbands were once able to commit their (sane) wives to insane asylums, so that angle of the story definitely got my attention and made me eager to read this novel.

The narrative is told from multiple points of view—Alex Gardinier (referred to as Alexandra Hallow in the psych hospital, which is set in the present day), Caroline Gardinier (her sister), Lucia Belo (a nurse at the hospital), and Sandra Jackson (mother of a missing young woman). With so many different points of view, it could easily have become confusing, but each character’s particular voice was easily recognizable to me. I felt it enhanced the book to be able to see all parts of the story through the eyes of the character ‘living it’, so to speak, as well as enhancing the sense of danger and/or urgency of recent or impending actions.

I don’t want to give anything away about the story, so I’ll just say this: Several events take place in each character’s story where the tension is painfully intense. I found myself  holding my breath or gasping out loud more than a few times as I was reading. And that’s a very good thing when you’re reading a psychological thriller!

Twardowski’s debut is a well-crafted thrill ride that will keep you on the edge of your seat, leading to an anxiety-inducing finale that, for me, felt like the perfect resolution for one of the four women in particular. It has earned her a well-deserved spot on my author radar, as well… I’ll be on the lookout for Kristen Twardowski’s next novel. I’m envisioning great things from her in the future.

About the Author

Kristen Twardowski
Kristen Twardowski

Kristen Twardowski stumbled her way through working with wolves and libraries and found her professional home doing marketing and data analysis in the publishing industry. Though there will always be a place in her heart for numbers and graphs, the rest of her love is given to the craft of writing.