Monday 30 August 2021

Review | The Thin Place by C D Major

Published by Thomas & Mercer on April 15, 2021

The Thin Place was a spooky and absorbing read that I found utterly captivating. I was sold straight away by the simplistic yet evocative cover and the intriguing blurb but I didn’t quite expect just how much the story would consume me. At times quite intense and emotional, I was transfixed by the premise of Overtoun and eager to follow Ava on her investigation of something so fascinating. I was gripped and wanted to spend every moment I had reading the book. Even after I finished, I had more questions about the eerie and enthralling mystery within.

The book is told from the perspective of three characters over different timeframes. In present day, we meet Ava, a journalist who is investigating the Overtoun estate and the haunting bridge which has seen many dogs jump to their deaths. In 1929, we hear Marion’s story. A young woman who is neglected by her new husband and struggling through the heartbreak of miscarriage after miscarriage. In 1949, we meet Constance, a young girl who is locked away by her mother, forced to see several doctors after being told she is very sick, always afraid that one day she might not appear as ill as her mother tells her she is.

Each thread to this story was mesmerising and often quite disturbing. I was so absorbed in learning about all three characters and seeing how their storylines intertwined.

Constance’s story was particularly unsettling, and I could feel her dread and overwhelming loneliness seeping off the pages. Her relationship with her mother seemed deeply unnerving and I was intrigued to see how the story would play out.

Marion’s perspective was quite sad to read – seeing how she progressed from the hope of a new relationship to the despair and then reluctant acceptance of losing so many babies, and also how numbly she accepted the abandonment of her husband.

Ava’s part in the book helped bring each strand together and the things she discovered about Overtoun sent chills down my spine. Ava and her partner Fraser are expecting their first baby and whilst Ava’s family struggle with how much her job seems to be taking over for her and how distracted she is from her own life whilst she focuses on uncovering more about Overtoun, for me as the reader it was easy to see how she did this as I felt the exact same fascination with the place.

I found The Thin Place to be a really atmospheric read, quite claustrophobic in its storytelling in a way that grabbed my attention just as strongly as Overtoun pulled Ava into its mystery. The sense of a story that needed telling, Ava is obsessed with the estate and the bridge, and in turn as the reader this left me dying to learn more about a place that was shrouded in darkness, hidden away to the extent that anybody who knew about it would rather not speak of it.

A sign of a good historical read for me is one that has me researching long after I’ve turned the final page and since finishing the book and reading the interesting author’s note that followed, I have spent many hours searching for real-life stories about the supposed dog suicide bridge as C D Major’s phenomenally well-researched novel has had me compelled to learn even more.

The Thin Place was a truly creepy and beguiling gothic thriller with a satisfyingly chilling ending.

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.  

Thursday 26 August 2021

Review | The Anniversary by Laura Marshall

Published by Sphere on August 5, 2021

The Anniversary is Laura Marshall’s third novel and just as I have come to expect by this author, it was a cleverly written, compelling read with a chilling premise and suspenseful execution. This was possibly more of a slowburner than Laura’s previous books as the drama takes a bit longer to unfold, but every chapter kept me reading on and had me intrigued and enthralled, eager to learn the truth.

On the 15th of June 1994, Travis Banks went on a killing spree in Hartstead, shooting dead eleven people before turning the gun on himself. There’s been a lot of rumours about the reasons why Banks did this, and lots of unanswered questions. Did he have an accomplice? Were the victims as random as they seemed? 25 years later, the anniversary of this horrific event is approaching, and when a journalist is writing an article on the impact tragedies like this have on a town, new things come to light that put Cassie Colman, daughter to Banks’ final victim, on edge. Everything she thought she knew about that day is unravelling in front of her, and as Cassie strives to learn the truth, is she putting lives at risk by doing so?

The concept of The Anniversary is fascinating and the author’s storytelling made it so engrossing. Whilst the main story is set in present day, there are chapters that go back to the day each of the killer’s victims die, and, as unsettling as it was seeing their final moments, I loved hearing their stories, learning briefly about their lives and what had led them to the day that they would be tragically taken from the world.

In the present day, Cassie becomes embroiled in the journalist’s research into the shooting, which presents more questions than answers. Cassie was four on the day it all happened and has never really questioned the small bits she does know about the shooting. However, her curiosities get the better of her and soon she is obsessed with learning more, finding that each new discovery makes her addiction to learning the truth grow. It was easy to see how Cassie could get so wrapped up in the case as, as the reader, I felt exactly the same way. It was such a gripping concept and I had no clue how to piece any of it together so therefore found myself hanging on the author’s every word.

This book was full of well-drawn characters, but what I particular loved was how this was a thriller with real heart – the characters here weren’t made simply to be hated but instead each one had a story and their own struggles and whilst there was a fixation with working out which ones could be trusted, there was also the side of me that wanted to learn more about all of their lives to help me understand each one better.

Cassie had enough going on in her own life before the journalist got in touch. Between her struggles of being a single mother to Amy to morally battling with how to best care for her mum who has dementia, Laura Marshall writes in such a refreshingly honest way about motherhood and all its challenges. Cassie is finding it hard to cope with both a demanding baby and a mother who has days where she does not even recognise her daughter, and each strand of motherhood is written with a gritty honesty that I’m sure many people could relate to even if some of the thoughts Cassie has are not that easy to admit to.

It didn’t take me long to become really invested in every aspect of The Anniversary with chapters that insisted I had to keep on reading and I begrudged every time I had to put the book down. Throughout the course of the novel I was suspicious of everyone except maybe who I should have suspected the most, and I loved that I was always kept guessing and left wondering what if?. I would highly recommend this book.

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.      

Wednesday 25 August 2021

Review | The Wedding Party by Tammy Cohen

Published by Black Swan on August 19, 2021

Lucy has been dreaming of her wedding day all her life. The time for all her family to gather around and celebrate her special day, where all the attention is on her, and the groom, as they begin the rest of their lives together. In The Wedding Party, Lucy and her family and friends gather to Kefalonia in Greece, to celebrate the wedding of Lucy and Jason. But far from being the joyous and romantic event Lucy has envisioned, instead everybody is in a strange mood. Her parents are being off with each other, her sister has invited some stranger as her plus one, everybody seems ready for an argument and some weird woman she first saw at the airport appears to be following them around. Worse still, even Lucy and Jason aren’t on the same page, what with the wedding costs mounting up and bank overdrafts reaching their limits…

The Wedding Party had me gripped from chapter one and didn't let go once. I read the book any moment I had over the course of 24 hours - on the bus, when I was supposed to be working, and sleeping. It simply had such an intriguing premise with characters I just couldn't trust, and this had me so engrossed, trying to piece things together and coming up with absolutely nothing. I do know that all Tammy Cohen books cause me to lose sleep, but I didn’t count on not being able to think about anything else all day.

Right from the beginning of the book, we are aware that a body has been found at the scene of Lucy’s wedding, so as the book takes us through the story of the wedding, the novel has a great sense of foreboding, knowing that something bad is about to happen but not quite knowing who, or what, or why. One thing I loved about this book was the dysfunctional dynamics between every character. There were so many little feuds and always plenty of tension bubbling at the surface, which made the book quite unsettling to read as genuinely it felt like nobody could be trusted.

The novel is told from multiple perspectives and whilst at the beginning the amount of names seemed overwhelming, it didn’t take me too long to settle into the story, probably because every character was interesting and as everyone seemed like they were hiding something. It really had me hooked trying to figure out what all the secrets were. In between the chapters about the wedding, there are police interview chapters where different guests at the wedding are being questioned over the body that has been found. I definitely had to resist some temptation to skip to the end and find out just who had been found dead. I loved how almost every chapter ended with a little twist of some sort and this kept me reading, dying to learn more.

There was sinister drama in this book in almost every chapter and it was a thrilling ride to be on. I enjoyed the setting and the vivid characters. This was a fun-filled wedding for all the wrong reasons and I loved every moment of it. My only complaint was that it ended.

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.   

Monday 2 August 2021

Review | Finding Summer Happiness by Chris Penhall

Published by Ruby Fiction on May 18, 2021

Finding Summer Happiness drew me in straight away with its enticing cover and intriguing blurb. I’m new to Chris Penhall’s books but this had all the makings of an absorbing summer’s read, and it did not disappoint.

Miriam runs a successful events and catering business, but all she wants to do is escape. Things have got complicated and just the very thought of cooking stresses her out, so when her PA finds her an idyllic rental cottage in Wales, she snaps it up. Her dreams of peace and quiet and a place where she has nobody to please but herself come true – at least for a day. Soon it turns out that her PA didn’t pay great attention to the contract and Miriam has somehow ended up at a beautiful cottage that comes with its own events contract. Her mysterious landlady has an agreement to host events for several people and provide full meals and entertainment. This is now left under Miriam’s control, and she has no idea how to cope with it.

This was an entertaining read from the first page to the last. I enjoyed getting to know Miriam and found her quite easy to relate to, as I’m sure a lot of readers will. She is always taking on too much and struggles to stop herself from offering to help people in need, even when she doesn’t have the time to look after herself. When all she wants is to snuggle up alone with a ready meal and time away from everybody, instead she finds herself catering to strangers in her home, overwhelmed by just how unrelaxing her relaxing time away has become.

The effects on her mental health were clear to see and I found myself rooting for her and also wanting to tell her off a little bit too – to tell her to stop overworking and feeling like she has to do things that she really didn’t have the headspace for. I wanted her to stop talking to herself so much and just give herself time to breathe – but of course it is easy to think about that but not so easy to put it into action. She is a caring character who has gone through some tough times – no wonder she needed the seaside escape – but I felt she definitely needed to learn how to help herself too.

I liked the inclusion of mental health in this novel and feel like this is something that we are seeing more in fiction these days but also could still be shown much more, as so many adults experience anxiety and other mental health problems that novels like this one can normalise it and help people feel less alone. The author definitely handles the topic with honesty and care in Finding Summer Happiness.

There was so much I enjoyed about this book. From the dreamy setting and the refreshing sea air to all the food (well, maybe except the microwave meals-for-one), this book had me smiling all the way through. I loved the description of the coastal location and from cliff walks to swimming in the sea, I found the book to be full of atmosphere which made the book so easy to get into but not so easy to put down. The supporting characters in the book were a mixed bunch yet each brought something amusing to the story with warm friendships and newfound romance.

There was a lot going on in Miriam’s life, and plenty of things from her past beginning to resurface, and because of this I was never entirely sure where this book was going to go. I really liked the surprise elements to the story and the satisfying ending which I felt fit the rest of the story perfectly though I would of course like to know what happened next for all involved. Overall, I found Finding Summer Happiness to be a captivating and heartwarming read, an ideal book to escape into this summer.

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.     

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