The Survivors by Jane Harper

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Description

The compelling new novel from Jane Harper, the New York Times bestselling author of The Dry.

Kieran Elliott’s life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.

The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.

Kieran’s parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.

When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away…

My thoughts

“I think the person responsible is probably in this room. I think it’s one of you.” There was silence. “But maybe not. I don’t care, I just want the truth. So either way, no stone left unturned. If you’re out there – ” she scanned the room again, not so slow and steady now. “If you’re hoping this will go away, you’re going to be waiting a long time. Someone hurt Bronte. I want to know who. So unless you want every secret in this place dragged to the surface, I recommend everybody in this room opens their mouths and starts talking.”

“I mean, is it a celebration of the people who made it, or a memorial to the ones who didn’t?”

I had decided who did what and why reasonably early in the book, and because I am usually fairly good at guessing these kinds of things in books I spent part of the book feeling a bit disappointed. After all, I absolutely loved Jane Harper’s previous books and expected to love this one too.

But then came revelations that didn’t tie in with my theories and the guessing game was on again. As it turned out, I was completely wrong in so many ways and nothing I had guessed came to pass or was what I thought it was.

In my opinion it isn’t quite as good as her previous books. I found the dialogue quite dry and I didn’t engage with the characters as I usually do. But this was still a very good read and I recommend it,

The Monsters We Make by Kali White

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Description

For fans of Rene Denfeld and Shari Lapena comes a rich, atmospheric family drama set in the 1980’s following the disappearances of two paperboys from a small midwestern town.

It’s August 1984, and paperboy Christopher Stewart has gone missing.

Hours later, twelve-year-old Sammy Cox hurries home from his own paper route, red-faced and out of breath, hiding a terrible secret.

Crystal, Sammy’s seventeen-year-old sister, is worried by the disappearance but she also sees opportunity: the Stewart case has echoes of an earlier unsolved disappearance of another boy, one town over. Crystal senses the makings of an award winning essay, one that could win her a scholarship – and a ticket out of their small Iowa town.

Officer Dale Goodkind can’t believe his bad luck: another town and another paperboy kidnapping. But this time he vows that it won’t go unsolved. As the abductions set in motion an unpredictable chain of violent, devastating events touching each life in unexpected ways, Dale is forced to face his own demons.

Told through interwoven perspectives–and based on the real-life Des Moines Register paperboy kidnappings in the early 1980’s–The Monsters We Make deftly explores the effects of one crime exposing another and the secrets people keep hidden from friends, families, and sometimes, even themselves.

My thoughts

What an intense story. Right from the beginning there is that sense of danger for the young boys of Des Moines. The author is very clever in that nothing is laid out for the reader, and yet we are not left wondering what is happening. I particularly loved Crystal’s story. I thought her character’s thoughts and actions were perfectly and realistically portrayed and she was very relateable. The tension was well maintained thoughout the book and was even a little creepy.

Where I felt the story fell a bit short was in the way Crystal and Sammy seemed to be handle an extremely traumatic incident a little too well. That felt a little unreal in an otherwise extremely realistic story. Having said that, it was still a fantastic read!

By The Gods Of Babylon by Sin Leqi Unninni

By the Gods of Babylon | SIN LEQI UNNINNI | 9781733360722 | NetGalley

Description

From the lands of Sumer and Babylon … lands that birthed writing, the first author, and the first epic story.

Mesopotamia, 2300 BC.

Sargon is reveling in a casual banquet days before he is to be crowned king of kings, when the court jester steps forward and recites a song (“Genesis” Sumerian style) that is fiercely denounced as blasphemy by a priest, and the cheerful feast turns into a gory scene.
It is a bad omen for Sargon who anticipated a smooth transition to power, only to be embroiled in a chain of bloody events that spiral out of control, inciting many of the city-states he rules to the verge of rebellion.

Adding to anarchy is a host of unsavory characters with deadly grudges and ambitions for power.

The paranoid king knows that this most ancient of civilizations, despite its cultural advances, also provided a fertile ground for savagery which always promised a most ugly fate for leaders who lose their battles.

My thoughts

This is difficult because I don’t like giving poor feedback. The premise intrigued me and although there was a warning that people with religious beliefs might not want to read it, what should also have been mentioned was the amount of sex, sexual violence, and sadism in the content.

Perhaps the ending was fabulous, but I don’t know because I was unable to finish the book.
Two stars for a clever premise but the story was completely overshadowed by the above.

The Life We Almost Had by Amelia Henley

Description

This is not a typical love story, but it’s our love story.

Anna wasn’t looking for love when Adam swept her off her feet but there was no denying their connection, and she believed they would be together forever.

Years later, cracks have appeared in their relationship. Anna is questioning whether their love can really be eternal when a cruel twist of fate delivers a crushing blow, and Anna and Adam are completely lost to one another. Now, Anna needs Adam more than ever, but the way back to him has life-changing consequences.

Is a second chance at first love really worth the sacrifice? Anna needs to decide and time is running out…

A beautiful and emotional love story that asks, how far would you go for a second chance at first love? Perfect for fans of The Man Who Didn’t Call and Miss You.

My thoughts

I’ve been a huge fan of this author’s psychological thrillers, penned under her own name, Louise Jensen. So although romance isn’t generally my first go-to, when I discovered that Amelia Henley is the name she is using for this genre it immediately made me want to read it.

Yes, it is a romance, but it’s a completely unpredictable one. We are teased for several chapters that something devastating is coming but I guarantee no one will guess what it turns out to be, or what happens next. If there’s one thing I absolutely love in a book it is being surprised, when even my wildest guesses turn out to be wrong and I get that delicious feeling of walking blindfolded but with someone you trust leading the way. And that’s how I felt reading this book.

I loved all the characters – Anna and Adam whose love story this book is about. Their ups and downs felt real and relatable; Nell and Josh, the kind of best friends we all wish we had in our lives; and Oliver with his own heartbreaking love story.

Highly recommend!

The Black Echo by Michael Connelly

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Description

For LAPD homicide cop Harry Bosch — hero, maverick, nighthawk — the body in the drainpipe at Mulholland Dam is more than another anonymous statistic. This one is personal.

The dead man, Billy Meadows, was a fellow Vietnam “tunnel rat” who fought side by side with him in a nightmare underground war that brought them to the depths of hell. Now, Bosch is about to relive the horror of Nam. From a dangerous maze of blind alleys to a daring criminal heist beneath the city to the tortuous link that must be uncovered, his survival instincts will once again be tested to their limit.

Joining with an enigmatic and seductive female FBI agent, pitted against enemies inside his own department, Bosch must make the agonizing choice between justice and vengeance, as he tracks down a killer whose true face will shock him.

My thoughts

“The setting sun burned the sky pink and orange in the same bright hues as surfers’ bathing suits. It was beautiful deception, Bosch thought, as he drove north on the Hollywood Freeway to home. Sunsets did that here. Made you forget it was the smog that made their colors so brilliant, that behind every pretty picture there could be an ugly story.”

This is my first outing with Michael Connelly and it was a good ‘un! I had kept hearing people recommend the Harry Bosch series and mention him as their favourite book character, so I thought I’d read Book 1 and see for myself.

Bosch is very human and relatable and the book drops pieces of his past here and there to provide a good backstory, but without needing to write a mini bio for him.

It’s highly readable and moves along at a good pace. I like the writing style. The author doesn’t labour a point. He gives enough information and at times expects you to know what he’s talking about i.e. some of the acronyms (although perhaps they are common to American readers), but even not knowing exactly what they stand for I could always make a pretty good guess.

I’m putting myself firmly in the Harry Bosch fan camp now!

The Songs Of Us by Emma Cooper

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Description

If Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.

If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered the love of his life’s heart.

But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.

My thoughts

I’m not a gushy type of reviewer, but this books makes me want to gush! I don’t even know where to begin describing this emotional roller-coaster of a book.

Melody has a neurological condition as the result of a fall that causes her to involuntarily burst into song, usually at very inappropriate times and often with inappropriate songs. At the same time she is struggling to single-parent her children since the disappearance of her husband 11 years earlier. Son Flynn was 5 when he was flung head first through the windscreen of the car his father was driving. Now a teenager, he has memories of a loving father and is tortured by his abandonment. Daughter Rose was 3 when the accident happened and has no memories of it, or the father who subsequently disappeared from their lives, but she knows her family has never been the same since he left and has a strong need to find him and get answers.

The book is told mainly through the points of view of these three characters and oh my goodness! did my heart break and ache for them. Each has their personal demons to overcome, and although there are some heavy themes they are covered with understanding and care. Balancing the darkness is humour and a family that feels very real and relatable, despite their unusual circumstances, and a small cast of side characters that are introduced slowly but who I grew to really like.

I feel as though I’m the last person to read this book but if there is anyone else out there that hasn’t I recommend that you do. You won’t be disappointed!

Shadow Sands by Robert Bryndza

Description

The internationally bestselling author of Nine Elms and The Girl in the Ice is back with a nail-biting new Kate Marshall case, a woman with a dark secret and a powerful sense of justice.

When Kate Marshall finds the bloated body of a young man floating in the Shadow Sands reservoir, the authorities label it a tragic accident.

But the details don’t add up: why was the victim there, in the middle of the night? If he was such a strong swimmer, how did he drown?

Kate is certain there is more to this case than meets the eye. As she and her research assistant Tristan Harper dig deeper, they discover a bloody trail that points towards an active serial killer hiding in plain sight. People have been silently disappearing for years, and when another woman is taken, Kate and Tristan have a matter of days to save her from meeting the same fate.

My thoughts

This is the second book in the Kate Marshall series. I really enjoyed the first and this maintained the momentum. If you haven’t read the first book I would recommend it, not just to get Kate’s history but also because it’s such a great read.

Kate and her son are diving in a reservoir when they come across the body of a young man. The police investigation’s findings are a little too convenient and the mother of the dead man begs Kate to investigate. Kate and her colleague Tristan start looking into the case unofficially and find their efforts blocked by the police and other parties. The pacing keeps the story moving and interesting.

Kate has become my favourite crime solver. I love her, warts and all, as she struggles to redeem herself in the eyes of her family and friends. Her colleague Tristan complements Kate perfectly and I was very happy to see him back. We learn a bit more about him and his own personal struggles and difficult family relationships in this book. I’m enjoying their character development.

I’m very much looking forward to the next book in the series!

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Sometimes she heard night-sounds she didn’t know or jumped from lightning too close, but whenever she stumbled, it was the land who caught her. Until at last, at some unclaimed moment, the heart-pain seeped away like water into sand. Still there, but deep. Kya laid her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.

She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.”

Please don’t talk to me about isolation. No one has to tell me how it changes a person. I have lived it. I am isolation,” Kya whispered with a slight edge.”

Description

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

My thoughts

This book was a slow starter for me. For a while there I wasn’t feeling all the love that others had professed, despite the beautiful language and imagery. But once the solid groundwork of Kya’s back story had been laid and the story settled into the day-to-day of her growing and learning and surviving I started to really enjoy it. The interludes with the police broke the rhythm just enough to remind us that there was another story happening in the background, which would later take centre stage. This book really does have it all – prejudice of a town against a girl born of lowly marsh folk and now growing up wild, the innate racism of the time shown to Jumpin, a beautiful love story, and a murder – all wrapped up in the beautifully described setting of the salt marshes of Carolina.
I did guess the ending but it wasn’t a sure thing and I felt more a sense of satisfaction (and relief) that the author made the ending perfect than disappointment that I had guessed it.

Another Woman’s Child by Kerry Fisher

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Description

Could you take in your best friend’s child, even if it risked destroying your own family?

Jo had thought that her life – and her heart – was full. With a busy job, a husband and a teenage daughter who is going off the rails, keeping her life running smoothly had already felt hard enough.

But now Jo sits at the funeral of her best friend Ginny, crushed by the loss of a friendship that had endured for thirty years: from college and their first days at work through to settling down and raising their own children.

Against her husband’s wishes, Jo has made a life-changing decision: to take in Ginny’s teenage son Victor and raise him as her own. Despite her misgivings, Jo feels she had no choice: Ginny was a single parent and Victor had no other family who could take care of him.

But Victor’s arrival is about to break open the fragile cracks that were already forming on the surface of Jo’s family life and in her small rural community… and expose a secret that has remained hidden for many years, with devastating consequences.

From the bestselling author of The Silent Wife and The Woman I Was Before, Another Woman’s Child is an unputdownable and heartbreaking read about the secrets we keep from our families, and the sacrifices we are willing to make for those we love. Perfect for fans of Jodi Picoult, Liane Moriarty and Diane Chamberlain.

My thoughts

This is another poignant, thought provoking book by Kerry Fisher. I was hooked from the outset by the unexpected point of view in the prologue, and my interest was sustained throughout the story. The story arc covers some challenging themes surrounding friendships, secrets, family relationships, and racism both overt and subtle. At the centre is Jo, a wife and mother who has lost her closest friend to cancer and has taken in her friend’s almost eighteen year old mixed race son, Victor, against the wishes of her husband and against the advice of her friends. While the family is adapting to accommodate a near stranger into their home amidst a lot of external pressure, Jo is also struggling with a difficult relationship with her sixteen year old daughter, Phoebe. There is a lot to relate to in this book and the situations Jo has to deal with, often on her own, feel very real. If we haven’t had to deal with them ourselves then I’m guessing a lot of parents of teens have at least worried about having to deal with something similar at some point.

Another very satisfying read from Kerry Fisher.

The Immortal Words by Jeff Wheeler

Book Three in The Grave Kingdom trilogy.

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Description

To defeat an immortal evil, a young warrior must enter the land of the dead in the spellbinding conclusion to Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler’s epic Grave Kingdom trilogy.

As kingdoms fall, brave young warrior Bingmei fights to fulfill a prophecy and save what’s left of the world from the coming darkness. Should she fail, Echion, the diabolical Dragon of Night, and his queen will hold sway over the next thousand years. With Echion comes his unstoppable army of dragons—powerful, vengeful, and under his control.

Accompanied by her loyal friend Quion, Bingmei journeys toward her last hope. It lies among the savage beasts just beyond the ancient Death Wall—an uninhabited realm from which no one has ever returned alive. Bingmei’s mission is to find the phoenix shrine and learn the Immortal Words that will allow her to harness eternal magic. With Echion and his legions in pursuit, Bingmei must choose her words wisely to break Echion’s spell and accept her fate.

Bingmei knows what she must do. She must join the ranks of the dead as well. For a fearless and selfless warrior, it’s the ultimate sacrifice. But Bingmei is about to discover that even in death, the greatest sacrifices are yet to come.

My thoughts

What an enthralling trilogy this has been – and the author does not rule out revisiting this world for future stories!

I’ve lapped up this entire trilogy and Book 3 has maintained the high standard of writing and story-telling. Bingmei’s growth has continued and threw a surprise at me in a good way. I really liked the ending and can see the direction potential future books might take. There were a couple of things that, although tied up, I would have liked to seen in more detail, but nothing that detracted from the story in any way.

I’d also like to mention the stunning cover art, not just on this book but on all three, but I forgot to mention it in my reviews of the previous two books.