Book Review: The Escape by C.L. Taylor

The Escape by C.L. Taylor

Release Date: 23rd March 2017

Publisher: Avon

Genre: Crime, thriller, psychological

Pages: 432

Buy: Paperback | Kindle

Rating: Image result for pink heartsImage result for pink heartsImage result for pink heartsImage result for pink heartsImage result for pink hearts

What’s the Story?

“Look after your daughter’s things. And your daughter…”

When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn’t.

The stranger knows Jo’s name, she knows her husband Max and she’s got a glove belonging to Jo’s two year old daughter Elise.

What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo’s own husband turn against her.

No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there’s only one way to keep her child safe – RUN.

 

My Thoughts

Jo Blackmore is in an unhappy marriage to investigative reporter Max and is still grieving the loss of her baby son. Her mental health is wavering on the unstable side as she suffers from agoraphobia and losing her first born has made her understandably over-protective of her daughter, Elise.

However, when she is approached by a strange women in the street who claims to know her husband Max, and threatens both Jo and her daughter, a chilling turn of events begin to unfold…This certainly isn’t the last Jo has heard of this mysterious woman, Paula.
Max denies knowing anything about Paula, but as the threats begin to turn into reality, life as Jo knows it becomes a terrifying. Her parenting skills come into question and the situation escalates until Jo’s own husband starts to turn against her, leaving her wondering who she can really trust. Is there any escape from the living nightmare Jo has found herself in?

I had been counting down the days until I could get hold of a copy of C.L. Taylor’s next book pretty much since the minute I turned the last page of The Missing last year. So much so that The Escape was probably one of my most anticipated books of 2017. Whilst that is all well and good, there’s always the sleep-loss-inducing worry that it won’t live up to my stupidly high expectations. And whilst The Escape DID cause me to lose sleep, it certainly wasn’t because it didn’t live up to expectations (in fact it was quite the opposite. I couldn’t put it down…Sleep suddenly became a lesser priority.)

There’s nothing like diving straight into the story and the action kicks off from the very first scene when Jo feels as though she is being followed to her car…”Someone is walking directly behind me, matching me pace for pace.” This then leads on to a heart-stopping first chapter, which lulls you into a false sense of security at times and then before you know it…BAM! You’re biting on your nails and turning into a nervous wreck again. And that’s pretty much the pattern that the whole story takes on; you’re never quite sure where you stand and you are left second guessing the characters…who’s really telling the truth? Who can I trust? Am I missing something? You begin to pick up inklings along the way but there was no clue as to how this excellently written, chilling page-turner was going to end. I was left guessing right up until the end when the story reached its dramatic crescendo which knocked me for six.

Jo is such a complex and utterly fascinating character. I completely sympathised with her, she had been through such a lot and I really felt for her. Then when her actions are called into question and her mental health is examined it’s easy to get carried away with your assumptions. But then again the same goes for her husband, Max. Who do you believe? Cally Taylor creates believable and realistic cases for both characters and the way in which she writes ensures that you can see both Jo and Max’s point-of-view. This also goes to show how easy it is to form an opinion on things without knowing the full story.
I have read so many thrillers where the narrator is lying to the reader – at times I wondered if that was the case here…It was almost as if I became paranoid and I started to suspect everyone – THAT was the effect that Cally’s writing had on me. I was one step away from rocking backwards and forwards in a dark room…
This story really got to me. It consumed my thoughts for the three days it took me to read it. (It would have been a lot less but life got in the way…In an ideal world I would have just sat and gorged on this book the way that you might gorge on a big bar of Galaxy Cookie Crumble- or is that just me…!?)

I know that a book has been pretty awesome when I experience some of the feelings that the characters are going through myself – and I found myself doing this in abundance, particularly in Jo’s case. Whilst there were times when she frustrated me, I felt her fear, I felt her confusion, I felt her pain and I felt the desperate need that she possessed to do whatever she had to do to protect her daughter. I experienced pretty much all of the emotions imaginable throughout the duration of the story. I was tense, frightened, shocked, intrigued, uneasy, fascinated, unnerved and above all completely and utterly hooked on this story. It was one big adrenaline-rush in a book and that is the ultimate recipe for success when it comes to psychological thrillers.

I’m also pretty obsessed with the cover of The Escape. It couldn’t fit the story more perfectly, the use of colour is amazing and the associations it conjures up are spooky and unnerving – pretty much like the story itself. There is no way you could not see this book sat on a shelf and pass it by, it screams I’M A TENSE, THRILLING AND TWISTED TALE! READ ME!…and that is exactly what it proves to be.

I’m finding it difficult to portray exactly how much I have come to love all of Cally’s books. Her writing is so full of excitement, intrigue and is, above all, extremely clever. She is a truly talented thriller writer and knows exactly how to drip-feed the reader enough information for them to form their own opinion and assumptions (whether these are correct or not is another matter…)

If you’re new to Cally’s books or a fan of thrillers then you absolutely must read this. She is such an accomplished and talented writer who has fast become one of my ‘go-to’ authors. She never disappoints and as far as I’m concerned she can never produce enough for me. I will undoubtedly devour anything that she writes… In fact, the countdown to her next book begins right now…

 

A huge thank you to Helena at Avon for the opportunity to review The Escape.

Book Review: Girl 99 by Andy Jones

Girl 99 by [Jones, Andy]Girl 99 by Andy Jones
Release Date: 14th February 2017
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Humour, romance
Pages: 318
Buy: Paperback | Kindle
Rating: Image result for pink heartsImage result for pink heartsImage result for pink heartsImage result for pink hearts

 

 

 

What’s the Story?

When Tom’s girlfriend walks out on him the day before Christmas, he feels humiliated but not necessarily heartbroken. Sadie wasn’t, after all, The One. If we’re being precise, she was number eighty-five.

And so, for reasons that are only mostly wrong, Tom embarks on a mission to bring his number of encounters up to a nice neat one hundred.

Over the course of his quest he sleeps with a colleague, a colleague of a friend, a friend of a friend, a friend of a friend’s wife, the estate agent selling his flat and several more besides.

Everything is going, if not well, then at least according to plan…and then Tom meets Verity. Whether she’s The One remains to be seen, but she’s certainly more than just another number.

My Thoughts

When Tom kisses another woman at his works Christmas party he decides that coming clean with his girlfriend Sadie is the grown-up thing to do. Whilst that may in fact be the case, it well and truly puts an end to their relationship when she decides to return the favour and their relationship breaks down.
However, this isn’t the end of the world for Tom. As much as he liked Sadie, he knew deep down that she wasn’t ‘The One’.
When Tom tells his friend El of the latest developments in his love life and discovers that Sadie was the eighty-fifth woman that he had slept with, the pair do what any couple of young men would do in a similar situation (I would imagine…) and El makes a bet with Tom that he can’t reach the dizzying heights of one hundred sexual conquests. Tom, however, thinks different. He’s gotten this far…What are an extra fifteen notches on the bedpost?
The mishaps that follow are sometimes cringe-worthy, sometimes hilarious, but always entertaining, as Tom does his very best get to that all-important three digit number.
However, when he meets Verity, suddenly the other ninety eight conquests don’t matter – and she’s the only one that counts for something…But it can’t really be that simple can it? Can Tom really change his ways and face up to the way in which he has been behaving or is Verity destined to be just another number…?

After reading and loving Andy Jones’ other books I was thrilled to learn about Girl 99; it sounded smart, snort-out-loud funny and full of fun and in classic Andy Jones-style it certainly didn’t disappoint.

I will admit to having my doubts about Tom when I first started reading. Whilst I’m sure that there are men out there who have bets with one another about how many women they can sleep with, I wasn’t too sure how I’d be able to relate to a character with this as their objective in book form. However, I needn’t have worried because the truth is that Tom isn’t really like this at all. He’s genuinely a nice guy who just happens to be pretty unlucky in love. He’s actually a really likeable character and it became clear pretty much from the off that this wasn’t going to be some ‘ladish’ type book, detailing all of Tom’s conquests in list-format. Although it could so very easily have become that, it’s credit to Andy’s brilliant storytelling that it doesn’t. In fact this story is full of love, it’s full of warmth and it’s full of heart.

Tom’s best friend El (who you may recognise if you’ve read The Two of Us) is suffering from Huntington’s disease and the friendship they share will leave you with a lump in your throat. This is definitely a softer side of the story that I have come to expect from Andy’s writing and it also contributes towards showing the reader that Tom has a heart of gold really and would do pretty much anything for his family and friends. El’s condition was sensitively written and utterly touching, especially the scenes with his partner, Phil. I can guarantee that you WILL have tears…

I felt that the characterisation in this novel was also really strong. I quickly warmed to Tom despite him getting through his list of women at the rate I would (ideally) like to get through my TBR list…He was flawed and easy to relate to – whether you’re a female or male reader – and he was simply trying to find out about himself…Pretty much like 99.999% of the rest of the population. Yes, there were times when I wanted to slap him round the chops and yes, there were times when he would really frustrate me, but deep down he was a good guy. He deserved to find a girl that was right for him- whether she was number 100 or 500. I couldn’t help but root for him and hope that he would eventually discover what love should be about.
Another character I loved was Tom’s elderly neighbour Doug. I loved the friendship that they shared and Doug’s pearls of wisdom and advice. I was also a fan of Tom’s sister, Bianca. Feisty, smart and unafraid to say what she thinks she was also a joy to read about and contributed to Tom’s journey in her own unique way.
I also love the fact that Girl 99 can be read and enjoyed by anyone – male or female. This is such a rare quality, particularly for humorous romance, yet I feel as though Andy Jones has achieved this with ease. Whilst some female readers might be shaking their head in despair and reading those cringe-ier moments through their fingers, equally male readers would undoubtedly nodding their head in agreement and relate to the story in many different areas.There still seems to be a shortage of chick-lit written from a male perspective and this is something which really needs to change. Not only do I love it as a genre but I also find it fascinating to see the story play out before me from a male point-of-view. We need more authors like Matt Dunn, Jon Rance and Andy Jones because their novels have something just that little bit unique. Often spit-your-tea-our hilarious, candid yet poignant and touching at the same time, these are the types of books that I can never get enough of. My favourite part of the story was definitely what happened at the end…I don’t want to give too much away but the scenes in which Tom attempts to put right his wrongs were smart and brilliantly written.

Girl 99 is a really refreshing and unique read. I love how Andy combines the lighter yet more complicated side of relationships, humour and more serious matters all at the same time. This is definitely a book that will have you laughing then bawling from one page to the next. It’s full of depth yet has that distinctive sense of fun that I have come to expect from an Andy Jones book.
Enjoyable, touching, heart-warming and above all, honest. Girl 99 is one not to be missed.

 

A huge thank you to Andy Jones for the opportunity to review.

 

My Pre-Ordering Book Binge

I feel as though I should start this post of with a confession that will come as no surprise to you whatsoever…I have a habit of pre-ordering books. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with that in itself, it becomes a bit of a problem when you are ‘click-happy’ and pre-order until your bookish heart is content (after all, you’re not actually paying for the book, are you? Not yet anyway…) I get my pre-ordering fix and then I forget what I’ve ordered. So then release day rolls round and a shiny new book pops through my letter box like a surprise present (to myself, obviously…) and my bank account is debited…Minor detail. Gulp…

However, it seems as though there are just SO MANY books that I have on pre order at the moment. I could really do with having a major cash windfall before they’re actually released, but I thought it would be fun to share some of the ones that I am especially looking forward to (IF I can contain my excitement…)

 

This Love by Dani Atkins

Sophie stopped believing in happy endings a long time ago, but could this love change all of that?

Sophie Winter lives in a self-imposed cocoon – she’s a single, 31-year-old translator who works from home in her one-bedroom flat. This isn’t really the life she dreamed of, but then Sophie stopped believing in dreams when she was a teenager and tragedy struck her family.

So, to be safe, she keeps everyone at arm’s length. Sophie understands she has a problem, but recognising it and knowing how to fix it are two entirely different things.

One night a serious fire breaks out in the flat below hers. Sophie is trapped in the burning building until a passer-by, Ben, sees her and rescues her.

Suddenly her cocoon is shattered – what will be the consequences of this second life-changing event?

Released 23rd March 2017 in paperback and ebook.

 

The Woman at Number 24 by Juliet Ashton

Welcome to number 24, a Georgian villa in west London that is home to five separate families and five very different lives.

Up in the eaves, Sarah finds that recovering from a nasty divorce is even more heartbreaking when your ex-husband lives one floor beneath you with his new wife. Their happiness floats up through the floorboards, taunting her. A child psychologist, Sarah has picked up great sadness from the little girl, Una, who lives with her careworn mother three floors below, but is Sarah emotionally equipped to reach out?

The Spring brings a new couple to number 24. Jane and Tom’s zest for life revives the flagging house, and Sarah can’t deny the instant attraction to handsome Tom. Having seen at first hand what infidelity does to people, she’ll never act on it … but the air fizzes with potential.

The sunshine doesn’t reach every corner of number 24, however. Elderly Mavis, tucked away in the basement, has kept the world at bay for decades. She’s about to find out that she can’t hide forever.

Love, rivalry, secrets and murder – all under one seemingly ordinary roof ….

Released 20th April 2017 in paperback and ebook.

 

The State of Grace by [Lucas, Rachael]The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas.

Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost.

Grace has Asperger’s and her own way of looking at the world. She’s got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that’s pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn’t make much sense to her any more. Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it’s up to Grace to fix it on her own.
Whip-smart, hilarious and unapologetically honest, The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas is a heart-warming story of one girl trying to work out where she fits in, and whether she even wants to.

 

Released on 6th April 2017 in paperback and ebook.

 

Last Breath: A gripping serial killer thriller that will have you hooked (Detective Erika Foster Book 4) by [Bryndza, Robert]Last Breath by Robert Bryndza

He’s your perfect date. You’re his next victim.
When the tortured body of a young woman is found in a dumpster, her eyes swollen shut and her clothes soaked with blood, Detective Erika Foster is one of the first at the crime scene. The trouble is, this time, it’s not her case.

While she fights to secure her place on the investigation team, Erika can’t help but get involved and quickly finds a link to the unsolved murder of a woman four months earlier. Dumped in a similar location, both women have identical wounds – a fatal incision to their femoral artery.

Stalking his victims online, the killer is preying on young pretty women using a fake identity. How will Erika catch a murderer who doesn’t seem to exist?

Then another girl is abducted while waiting for a date. Erika and her team must get to her before she becomes another dead victim, and, come face to face with a terrifyingly sadistic individual.

Released on the 12th April 2017 in ebook.

 

See What I Have Done by Sarah SchmidtSee What I Have Done by [Schmidt, Sarah]

Haunting, gripping and gorgeously written, SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE by Sarah Schmidt is a re-imagining of the unsolved American true crime case of the Lizzie Borden murders, for fans of BURIAL RITES and MAKING A MURDERER.

‘Eerie and compelling, Sarah Schmidt breathes such life into the terrible, twisted tale of Lizzie Borden and her family, she makes it impossible to look away’ Paula Hawkins

When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered on a summer morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden – thirty two years old and still living at home – immediately becomes a suspect. But after a notorious trial, she is found innocent, and no one is ever convicted of the crime.

Meanwhile, others in the claustrophobic Borden household have their own motives and their own stories to tell: Lizzie’s unmarried older sister, a put-upon Irish housemaid, and a boy hired by Lizzie’s uncle to take care of a problem.

This unforgettable debut makes you question the truth behind one of the great unsolved mysteries, as well as exploring power, violence and the harsh realities of being a woman in late nineteenth century America.

Released 2nd May in hardback and ebook.

 

The Summer of Impossible Things by [Coleman, Rowan]The Summer of Impossible Things by Rowan Coleman.

If you could change the past, would you?

Thirty years ago, something terrible happened to Luna’s mother. Something she’s only prepared to reveal after her death.

Now Luna and her sister have a chance to go back to their mother’s birthplace and settle her affairs. But in Brooklyn they find more questions than answers, until something impossible – magical – happens to Luna, and she meets her mother as a young woman back in the summer of 1977.

At first Luna’s thinks she’s going crazy, but if she can truly travel back in time, she can change things. But in doing anything – everything – to save her mother’s life, will she have to sacrifice her own?

Released on 29th June 2017 in hardback and ebook.

 

What is in your pre-ordering wishlist? Let me know so I can add a few more to mine…*nervous laugh*

Book Review: The Little Teashop of the Lost and Found by Trisha Ashley

The Little Teashop of Lost and FoundThe Little Teashop of the Lost and Found by Trisha Ashley
Release Date:
9th March 2017
Publisher: Bantam Press
Genre: Romance, chick-lit, women’s fiction
Pages: 432
Buy: Hardback|Kindle
Rating: Image result for pink hearts Image result for pink hearts Image result for pink hearts Image result for pink hearts Image result for pink hearts

What’s the Story?

Alice Rose is a foundling, discovered on the Yorkshire moors above Haworth as a baby. Adopted but then later rejected again by a horrid step-mother, Alice struggles to find a place where she belongs. Only baking – the scent of cinnamon and citrus and the feel of butter and flour between her fingers – brings a comforting sense of home.

So it seems natural that when she finally decides to return to Haworth, Alice turns to baking again, taking over a run-down little teashop and working to set up an afternoon tea emporium.

Luckily she soon makes friends – including a Grecian god-like neighbour – who help her both set up home and try to solve the mystery of who she is. There are one or two last twists in the dark fairytale of Alice’s life to come . . . but can she find her happily ever after?

My Thoughts

Alice Rose has never really felt as though she fitted in. After a traumatic start to life with being abandoned by her birth mother on the Yorkshire Moors and following the death of her adopted father, Alice has struggled to settle anywhere and make a go of her life.
However, when her fiancé dies in a tragic accident, this proves to be the final straw for Alice who has had enough of running from her problems and decides to tackle life head on. How does she go about this? By returning to her birth town of Hadworth and buying her very own teashop. It just so happens that she hasn’t actually seen the tearoom beforehand and, well, let’s say it’s not exactly as she imagined…

As well as putting into place a major refurbishment on the cafe, Alice decides to also put in place a major overhaul on her life. Baking has always been the one constant in Alice’s life, so surely once the cafe is up and running her love of creating magic from flour and butter will help to heal her broken heart…and she also hopes to piece together some of the vital pieces from the puzzle of her life whilst she’s back in Hadworth.

If a gooey chocolate sponge is your favourite comfort food, then a Trisha Ashley book is the comfort-food equivalent. (Only without the calories – BONUS!)

Few things are guaranteed in this world (apart from me never winning the lottery and it raining when I have straightened my hair) but another thing to add to this list is getting immense enjoyment out of a Trisha Ashley book. Because the more of her books I have read over the years, the more this has proved to be a constant.

As a chick-lit fan I have certainly noticed the trend in books being released which involve tea-shops, cafes, bakery’s and any other establishment that serves a Victoria sponge. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing (who doesn’t love a romance set against the backdrop of a cooling Victoria sponge!?) but there is the risk of the format becoming a little old. However, The Teashop of the Lost and Found is a million miles away from this territory; in fact it’s quite original in it’s storyline as you don’t just have Alice and her battle to renovate this past-its-best-before-date teashop and turn it into a high quality establishment, but you also have the fascinating mystery of her birth running alongside this. As the story progresses you discover more about Alice and also more about her birth parents. As a reader it was really interesting to read the snippets from Alice’s mother, which let us in to some of the emotions and thoughts that were running through her head at the time. I felt it was important that this was included and the more we discovered the more intrigued I became, fully getting into cannot-put-this-book-down territory.

As well as attempting to fit together the puzzle of her past and get the tea-room up-and-running, Alice also likes to write fairy-tales (but not your average fairy-tale I hasten to add…). I felt this added such an interesting take on the story and gave it just that little bit of zest. The significance of Alice writing these fairy-tales is certainly not lost on the reader with regards to the connection to her beloved adopted father and then – of course – involving the crucial question – will Alice get a fairy-tale ending of her own?

I really need to talk about Alice. I loved this girl with every fibre of my being. She was one of those people who life has always dealt an unfair hand…At times I was just thinking ‘Jeez, give the poor girl a break.’ She has been treated like rubbish by those who were meant to care about her the most, and yet she hasn’t let this make her bitter or jaded. Where she finds the strength from to battle life in the way in which she does I have no clue (maybe it’s from those gorgeous sounding cakes she is so fond of making!?) I loved her determination and how set she is on achieving her dreams and never giving up. Characters such as Alice are just so easy to like and you can’t help but cheer them on every single step of the way. She’s a really inspirational character and one who you cannot help but greatly warm to.
Trisha Ashley has rustled up a fantastic cast of supporting characters to help Alice with the challenges that she is facing. This goes to show that we can tackle anything with the support of others along the way and I love the positive message that this novel sends out.

I loved pretty much everything about this book. I’d even go so far as to say it’s probably one of my favourite Trisha Ashley books to date (and that’s a big admission because I have loved each and every one of her books.) Fascinating characters, humour, romance (c’mon – this IS a Trisha Ashley book…) a gorgeous setting, plus tea and cake in abundance, this is a hugely enjoyable, comforting and all-round lovely story. Well written and full of warmth, Trisha’s writing flows extremely smoothly and is a joy to read. Although, over the years, I have come to expect nothing less from Trisha. If you’re yet to try her books then this would be a fantastic one to try…I guarantee you won’t look back. It’s as comforting and equally as satisfying as a fluffy lemon drizzle cake…*

*That’s the last cake-reference. I promise.

A huge thank you to publishers Transworld and to Poppy Stimpson.

 

Writing a Mirco Thriller with Rachel Abbott

If you’re a regular reader of my blog then you will know that I absolutely LOVE Rachel Abbott. I was completely enthralled by the first book of hers I read, which was Stranger Child back in March 2015. It had all the components of a fantastic thriller; and I have been steadily making my way through her back catalogue ever since (Kill Me Again is one of my personal favourites, be sure to give it a read if you get chance!)

As quite an excitable person, I think my levels of excitement went through the roof when I was offered the chance to write a micro-thriller with Rachel for my stop on the blog tour for her new novel, The Sixth Window. I felt a mixture of fear & excitement at the prospect but I enjoyed it so, so much. Anyway enough of my rambling (I promise I don’t ramble quite so much during my section of the story…) Here is my micro thriller…

 

 photo ra.png

 

The Sixth Window was released on 21st February with Black Dot Publishing. Click here to get hold of your copy.

A huge thank you to Rachel and to Maura Brickell at Maura PR & Communications.

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