The Brighton Mermaid, Dorothy Koomson

Teenagers Nell and Jude find the body of a young woman and when no one comes to claim her, she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. Nell is still struggling to move on when, three weeks later, Jude disappears.

Twenty-five years on, Nell is forced to quit her job to find out who the Brighton Mermaid really was – and what happened to her best friend that summer.

But as Nell edges closer to the truth, dangerous things start to happen. Someone seems to be watching her every move, and soon she starts to wonder who in her life she can actually trust…

As always, when reading this latest novel from Dorothy Koomson I really adored her unique and captivating writing style. It feels extremely comforting and familiar to me now having read all of her books over the years!

I’ve really been enjoying Dorothy’s latest move exploring crime elements within her novels that also explore family relationships and friendship dramas. The Brighton Mermaid was no exception and it was full of unexpected twists and turns that I thoroughly enjoyed!

The key protagonists felt fully developed and as a results I found I really cared about what was happening to them all. I was really rooting for some, and on the same hand others less so!

I’d definitely recommend this to anyone who has enjoyed a Koomson novel in the past and if you are yet to encounter any of her novels then I would recommend this even more so!

Thirteen, Steve Cavanagh

‘To your knowledge, is there anything that would preclude you from serving on this jury?’

Murder wasn’t the hard part. It was just the start of the game.

Joshua Kane has been preparing for this moment his whole life. He’s done it before. But this is the big one.

This is the murder trial of the century. And Kane has killed to get the best seat in the house.

But there’s someone on his tail. Someone who suspects that the killer isn’t the man on trial.

Kane knows time is running out – he just needs to get to the conviction without being discovered.

As anyone who has read my blog in the last three years since I set it up will know very well, I’ve been a huge, huge fan of Steve Cavanagh and his novels since his debut, The Defence, was released in 2015. I was hooked on the story and loved Eddie Flynn as the key protagonist. He is the perfect series protagonist and I have absolutely loved reading all of his adventures so far with the latest instalment, Thirteen, being no exception to this rule!

I was on the edge of my seat from page one and the plot felt hugely original, thrilling and Cavanagh’s writing style was as slick and easy to read as ever. I couldn’t put the book  down! And when I really had to, it was all I could think about!

Very Grisham-esque in writing style and in originality, Thirteen is fast paced and I loved Eddie’s courtroom performances every single time – I was behind him every step of the way never losing faith!

If you’re a fan of thriller novels not only would I advise you read this latest novel from Steve Cavanagh but I’d highly encourage – no, insist – that you read all four of his novels so far. They are SUCH a treat and they really stand out from their peers which is so refreshing in what now seems to be a really saturated market.

The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes by Ruth Hogan

Masha’s life has stopped. Once a spirited, independent woman with a rebellious streak, her life has been forever changed by a tragic event twelve years ago. Unable to let go of her grief, she finds solace in the silent company of the souls of her local Victorian cemetery and at the town’s lido, where she seeks refuge underwater – safe from the noise and the pain.

But a chance encounter with two extraordinary women – the fabulous and wise Kitty Muriel, a convent girl-turned-magician’s wife-turned-seventy-something-roller-disco-fanatic, and the mysterious Sally Red Shoes, a bag lady with a prodigious voice – opens up a new world of possibilities, and the chance to start living again. But just as Masha dares to imagine the future, the past comes roaring back …

I actually read Ruth Hogan’s latest novel and her debut novel, The Keeper of Lost Things, back to back as I enjoyed her debut so much and then I saw this new release pop up on NetGalley for review.

They are both similarly written in style and it is a definite to say that Ruth Hogan certainly has her own writing form. In The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes I would say the main difference to her debut is that the author chooses to address some much darker and more taboo themes such as death, motherhood, survival, grief and loss.

The chief characters Masha and Alice felt reminiscent of some the key protagonists that feature in The Keeper of Lost Things; very individual, eccentric and on the whole slightly bonkers – I particularly loved Sally Red Shoes herself and Hugo also provided some extremely entertaining reading! So many of Hogan’s characters feel thoroughly, authentically and wonderfully developed. They really do feel real and it is such a joy to find such fantastic character develop. As a result I was fully invested and committed to the characters as well as the novel. I truly cared about what was happening to them.

The format of the novel is also reminiscent of her debut with two strands of narrative of the two central characters Masha and Alice. I really had no idea how these two stories were going to interlink but of course as the novel progresses they do. I loved the unpredictability of the ending of the novel. It really caught me off guard and I thought it was great.

Parts of the plot and the themes featured within weren’t particularly easy to read about. I’d say there was generally less warming / light hearted reading in this novel than in the author’s debut but this added to it’s authenticity and also made the two novels quite distinct from one another which is something that must be really difficult to do!

I loved this novel and read it fairly quickly. I’d especially recommend this novel to anyone who enjoyed The Keeper of Lost Things and if you’ve read neither I would really encourage you to do so!

The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae, Stephanie Butland

Ailsa Rae is learning how to live.
She’s only a few months past the heart transplant that – just in time – saved her life. Life should be a joyful adventure. But . . .

Her relationship with her mother is at breaking point.
She knows she needs to find her father.
She’s missed so much that her friends have left her behind.
She’s felt so helpless for so long that she’s let polls on her blog make her decisions for her. And now she barely knows where to start on her own.

And then there’s Lennox. Her best friend and one time lover. He was sick too. He didn’t make it. And now she’s supposed to face all of this without him.

But her new heart is a bold heart.

She just needs to learn to listen to it . . .

I enjoyed The Curious Heart of Ailsa Rae, the first novel I’ve read by this author, Stephanie Butland.

The novel tells the tale of Ailsa Rae after she is the lucky recipient of a new heart after being extremely unwell with heart problems for many years.

The novel and its key protagonist displayed a refreshing perspective on life as the reader encounters Ailsa Rae’s new start in life as she learns to live again and live her life to the fullest.

I found that the novel made me think about every single tiny thing in life that you often can and do take for granted that otherwise are considered to be basic and trivial. I liked that about the novel – it was quite uplifting.

I must say that the subject matter is, of course, not the easiest thing to read about at times and the story of Lennox was heartbreaking, albeit realistic / authentic, and I found these parts of the novel in particular to be fairly reminiscent of John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars.

The writing style felt a little fragmented throughout as the author chooses to employ different formats to tell the tale such as significant jumps in time periods, blog posts, media articles. While this does add extra depth to the novel, I found that it didn’t flow particularly smoothly for the reader to follow.

The author addresses an impressively wide range of themes throughout the novel including mother / daughter relationship, friendships, youth, life, grief, death, health and the medical system and I’d say if any of these themes that I’ve briefly listed here sound of interest then I’d definitely recommend this novel for you.

The Last Mrs Parrish, Liv Constantine

Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted. To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne and her husband, Jackson—the beautiful philanthropist and the confident real estate mogul—are a golden couple straight out of a fairy tale, blessed with two lovely young daughters.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive–if she didn’t have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life, the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrish family, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces

I came across this novel through the Reese Witherspoon Book Club on Instagram and decided to give it a read after I’d been through a horrible reading lull and inability to concentrate on anything!

This book was just what I needed to kick start my love of reading again!!!  I could not put the novel down once I got going. I found I had the perfect love to hate relationship with Amber and I was fully rooting for Daphne to somehow come out on top even when it seemed impossible / extremely unlikely! This novel is one of those ones that I can’t say too much about without oversharing on details which need to be kept schtum so that you can read it for yourselves BUT it is highly compelling, absolutely wicked and just completely addictive. The perfect long weekend read – I wish I could read it for the first time all over again!!

Anatomy of a Scandal, Sarah Vaughan

Sophie’s husband James is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart.

Kate is the lawyer hired to prosecute the case: an experienced professional who knows that the law is all about winning the argument. And yet Kate seeks the truth at all times. She is certain James is guilty and is determined he will pay for his crimes.

Who is right about James? Sophie or Kate? And is either of them informed by anything more than instinct and personal experience? Despite her privileged upbringing, Sophie is well aware that her beautiful life is not inviolable. She has known it since she and James were first lovers, at Oxford, and she witnessed how easily pleasure could tip into tragedy.

Most people would prefer not to try to understand what passes between a man and a woman when they are alone: alone in bed, alone in an embrace, alone in an elevator… Or alone in the moonlit courtyard of an Oxford college, where a girl once stood before a boy, heart pounding with excitement, then fear. Sophie never understood why her tutorial partner Holly left Oxford so abruptly. What would she think, if she knew the truth?

After reading the blurb of this novel after picking it up in my local bookshop there was no way I wasn’t going to purchase this novel – it sounded fantastic and right up my street!

The novel is told from several different character’s points of view from various points in time too which I enjoyed very much and found that it added extra depth to the plot and the characters that the reader encounters.

The novel addresses a topical but very taboo subject which is simultaneously quite sensitive, gripping and at times scandalous throughout.

A wide range of other issues were also addressed which I really appreciated. This isn’t just a courtroom drama but an exploration of the institution of marriage, the role of the media within society, politics, the education system, differences in social class particularly with regards to “the elite”, women and their societal role / career paths, entitlement, wealth and power.. the list goes on! Without doubt a truly engaging list of things that the author has included here!

However, I have to say this is not a particularly fast paced or explosive novel but more of a slow burner that I personally found to be slightly disappointing after having felt so excited by the blurb – probably just a personal preference thing.

Otherwise it is easy to say that this novel is an intelligent and thought provoking one, although I did find the ending quite frustrating albeit probably the most realistic outcome!!

Odd Child Out, Gilly Macmillan

Abdi Mahal and Noah Sadler have been inseparable since they met. They’ve stuck together, even when their peers have excluded them. But when a horrifying incident leaves Noah in a coma and fighting for his life, Abdi is too traumatised to say anything about what happened.

DI Jim Clemo, freshly returned to work after an enforced leave of absence, is tasked to investigate. And against a backdrop of a city where racial tensions are running high, he must determine what really happened to drive two teenage boys into a situation so desperate.

Everything rests on one of the boys talking.

But one can’t talk.

And one won’t.

I absolutely loved the first Jim Clemo novel back in 2015, What She Knew or when I read it as it was known Burnt Paper Sky, so I was really excited to discover that Gilly Macmillan was releasing the next book in the series.

I couldn’t remember all of the details involving Jim Clemo from the first book and while the author made often reference to the events that had occurred in the past, I didn’t feel like it impacted negatively on my enjoyment or understanding of the latest novel or its plot.

As with What She Knew, I thoroughly enjoyed the different character’s perspectives technique used by the author throughout this novel. I feel it adds an extra depth to both the plot and the featured protagonists that would be hard to capture without the use of this multiple narrative.

I continued to like the key protagonist, Jim, in this latest instalment and he felt particularly authentic / human with all his flaws and own life issues going on.

I found that this novel from Gilly Macmillan is undoubtedly a cultural, topical and diverse tale that features elements of family relationships, friendship, love, loss and secrets. In places the novel is quite dark and gritty but again this adds to the authenticity of the novel and the city in which the plot takes place.

Everything that happened in the novel felt so vivid in my mind as depicted by the author. I would say that for various reasons I did prefer the plot of the first Jim Clemo novel but what really stood out for me with Odd Child Out was the familiarity of the author and her writing style. It really made me want to carry on reading and I couldn’t put it down despite not being completely hooked from just reading the blurb. It was the way it was written that made me want to keep reading and what really made me enjoy the novel so much. It was a genuine pleasure to read – something that I don’t get to say very often.

I found the plot of this novel to be quite logical, if not predictable, and there were no big shocks or reveals for me. As I’ve mentioned, the style of the writing in this novel is what really stood out for me as the highlight. I sincerely hope that there will be more Jim Clemo adventures to follow!

Copycat by Alex Lake

Sarah Havenant discovers–when an old friend points it out–that there are two Facebook profiles in her name.

One, she recognizes: it is hers. The other, she has never seen. But everything in it is accurate. Recent photos of her and her friends, her and her husband, her and her kids. Even of her new kitchen. A photo taken inside her house.

She is bemused, angry, and worried. Who was able to do this? Any why?

But this, it soon turns out, is just the beginning. It is only now–almost as though someone has been watching, waiting for her to find the profile–that her problems really start…

I read Alex Lake’s novel After Anna back in 2015 and enjoyed it very much so I was thoroughly excited to have been approved for an early reading copy of Copycat last year.

The blurb sounded genuinely terrifying and I was left feeling extremely intrigued. Expectations were set fairly high to say the least!

I definitely was not disappointed and I can confirm that the novel followed suit in the most sinister and dark fashion! The novel’s twisty plot highlights the scary way that social media can impact and subsequently damage our lives so easily. I thought the story was addictive and I truly shared in Sarah’s angst and the sort of vicious  circle she had managed to find herself in. I could not understand or work out what was going to happen or how things would ever turn out to be in any way okay!

The novel is really fast paced and the pages just turned themselves. I could not put it down.

A really topical, thought-provoking, relevant and absolutely thrilling read! Highly recommended!


Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh

The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They’re both wrong.

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.

Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to question her parents’ deaths. But by digging up their past, she’ll put her future in danger. Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie…

The stunning, twisty new psychological thriller from number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh, author of I Let You Go and I See You.

Clare Mackintosh’s first novel, I Let You Go, was one of my favourite debut novels and I quickly became a huge fan of the author. I also enjoyed I See You very much when that was released last year. Clare Mackintosh has written some truly captivating novels with some brilliant and unexpected twists that I have absolutely devoured. So my delight to receive an early reading copy of her new novel was off the scale!

Unfortunately, and it really pains me to write this, Let Me Lie doesn’t quite match up for one reason or another. As always, I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s writing style (this author can write, no question about it!) and the pages turned very easily and freely (I DID really want to know what was going to happen). But the plot seemed just that bit too far fetched for me and ultimately I found the ending extremely disappointing too. I did find myself rolling my eyes as the twists of the plot emerged which is SO unlike me, especially when it comes to authors I adore. But it just felt like it had been completely overdone.

Simultaneously, I wasn’t particularly fond of any of the main protagonists, with the exception of Murray, and I felt like the relationships between each of them felt somewhat underdeveloped and weaker than they could have been.

Having said all that, I won’t be put off reading any future work of this author because, as I mentioned earlier, she’s an extremely talented author who can write a damn good story! See for yourself, but this one just doesn’t match up for me sadly.