Unravelling Oliver by Liz Nugent #BookReview @lizzienugent

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Book description

“I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her.”

So begins Liz Nugent’s astonishing debut novel—a chilling, elegantly crafted, and psychologically astute exploration of the nature of evil.

Oliver Ryan, handsome, charismatic, and successful, has long been married to his devoted wife, Alice. Together they write and illustrate award-winning children’s books; their life together one of enviable privilege and ease—until, one evening after a delightful dinner, Oliver delivers a blow to Alice that renders her unconscious, and subsequently beats her into a coma.

In the aftermath of such an unthinkable event, as Alice hovers between life and death, the couple’s friends, neighbours, and acquaintances try to understand what could have driven Oliver to commit such a horrific act. As his story unfolds, layers are peeled away to reveal a life of shame, envy, deception, and masterful manipulation.

IMG_2357Imagine if people you met through life, neighbours, family, and friends narrated the story of your life would it make for an interesting read? Or would it make a disturbing one? That’s precisely what happens in Unravelling Oliver. You know from the first chilling sentence “I expected more of a reaction the first time I hit her” where Oliver is talking about Alice his devoted wife that he isn’t a pleasant man, but I never expected such a shocking and gripping unveiling of a sociopath, as seen from different people’s viewpoints. The author expertly “unravels” the psyche of a very damaged Oliver in a gripping read that I read in one sitting.

One night Oliver beats Alice and she ends up in a coma. What happened to make Oliver a handsome, charismatic, and successful author do something so terrible? Various characters narrate Oliver’s story friends, family and acquaintances even Oliver himself. Slowly layer by layer each characters story “unravels” Oliver and the events that have shaped him into the person he has become.

This is a relatively short book at 240 pages, but even if it had been much longer I would still have had to read it in one sitting. Unravelling Oliver isn’t a fast paced novel by any means as it’s character led, but don’t let that put you off as it’s the extraordinary characters that make this novel such an exceptional read. Every character has their story to tale about Oliver some more chilling than others, Liz Nugent has managed to breathe life into each and everyone of her characters, and it was extraordinary reading how one person could shape some many people’s life’s in the worse possible ways.

I couldn’t help but have some empathy for Oliver as you learn more about him you realise how damaged he is, there are so many strands to Oliver, his childhood, his marriage and his relationships which made for a throughly compelling read. I found Unravelling Oliver to be a real page turner, an intelligent psychological thriller with heart. I’m ashamed to say this is the first book I’ve read by Liz Nugent and I’m kicking myself as it’s obvious the author is one very talented author.

Buying links: Amazon UK 🇬🇧 Amazon US 🇺🇸

Paperback: 240 pages

Publisher: Penguin (9 April 2015)

 

Friend Request by Laura Marshall #BookReview @laurajm8

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Book description

When Louise Williams receives a message from someone left long in the past she feels sick.
Maria Weston wants to be friends on Facebook.

Because Maria Weston has been missing for over twenty years. She was last seen the night of a school leavers’ party, and the world believes her to be dead. Particularly Louise, who has lived her adult life knowing herself responsible for Maria’s disappearance. But now Maria is back. Or is she?

As Maria’s messages start to escalate, Louise forces herself to reconnect with the old friends she once tried so hard to impress, to try to piece together exactly what happened that fateful night. But when another friend’s body turns up in the woods outside their old school, Louise realises she can’t trust anyone and that she must confront her own awful secret to discover the whole truth of what happened to Maria . . .

IMG_2357Friend Request deals with a very relevant and current subject, and one we all pretty much use in our daily life’s, the addictive but dreaded Facebook, we all reveal details of our life, what we ate, where we went on holiday, things we’ve done, but do you ever think about who could be reading your posts, looking at your photos without your knowledge? Are they really who they say they are? Well once you’ve read this book the paranoia will kick in and I’m sure like me you will be checking your privacy settings and friends list time and time again!

When Louise Williams receives a friends request on Facebook, a normal day occurrence for most of us, but for Louise it’s not everyday you get a request to befriend someone who has supposedly been dead for over twenty years! It’s apparent from the start that Louise is hiding something regarding Maria’s disappearance, the what and why’s are intricately revealed layer by layer in this tense psychological thriller.

Friend Request switches between the present and 1989 which reveals the events leading up to Maria’s disappearance, by using this ploy the author heightens the suspense and there’s a undercurrent of disquiet and foreboding running throughout this novel. As Maria’s messages escalate Louise is forced to examine what happened all those years ago, memories that she was preferred to keep buried.

At this point I must admit I found it hard to like any of the characters in this novel, now normally this can spoil the read for me, but fortunately it actually heightened my enjoyment as I couldn’t help but hope some of the characters would get “their just deserts”. Friend Request is a chilling psychological thriller that explores many relevant issues, with an highly original plot and taut with suspense Laura Marshall has written a very accomplished debut psychological thriller. A great read for the summer and one I would highly recommend.

Buying links:    Amazon UK 🇬🇧      Amazon US 🇺🇸

Print Length: 384 pages

Publisher: Sphere (27 July 2017)

 

Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel #Bookreview @HALeuschel

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Book description

Five stories – Five Lives.

In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth.

There are five short stories:
The Narcissist
Tess and Tattoos
The Spell
Runaway Girl
My Perfect Child

img_1258Manipulated Lives is a very different read to my usual crime/thriller reads but never the less I was intrigued by the book description. Here’s the thing after spending years working in mental health I’ve always been intrigued by the human psyche and behaviour so the concept for Manipulated Lies fascinated me . What makes someone become a manipulator and more importantly how does someone find themselves caught up and damaged by a Manipulative individual?

In this collection of five short stories we meet the masters of manipulators, we also meet the victims ordinary people trying to lead normal life’s, there’s no specific gender, (although interestingly a high percentage of men are classed as manipulators) or age group, or characteristics that sets these victims apart. It literally could happen to anyone.

The five stories are all very different, each one gives a troubling insight into the workings of a manipulator, their ability to lack compassion and the devastating impact their behaviour has on their victims. Although each story is fairly short they certainly don’t lack depth, each one will stay with me for very different reasons. The Characters were an intriguing bunch and they were really well developed which took my by surprise as sometimes a short story doesn’t  give the author time to develop the characters.

The story that stands out for me is the third in the book The Spell, it features Sophie who unwittingly becomes entangled in the lives of a young boy and his father, both running from something or someone…it shows how a perfectly normal relationship between a couple can turn into something much darker and sinister. I’m not sure where or how but H A Leuschel manages to give such an incredible insight into the subject of manipulative behaviour, I couldn’t help but wonder was she writing from experience or has she researched the subject throughly?

Each story very much highlight the fact that anyone has the ability to be a manipulator, just like everyone has the potential to become a victim so Manipulative Lies not only made for a disconcerting read but a thought provoking one too. I’m not sure this book gave me all the answers I was looking for, but it certainly gave me a better understanding of the subject and made for a very compelling read.

Buying links: Amazon UK 🇬🇧       Amazon US 🇺🇸

Paperback: 272 pages

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (28 Jun. 2016)

 

**Blog Tour** Exquisite by Sarah Stovell @Orendabooks @Sarahlovescrime #BookReview

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Today I’m absolutely thrilled to be on the blog tour for Exquisite by Sarah Stovall which is published by one of my favourite publisher on the planet Orenda Books. I seem to have been waiting forever to share my review of this throughly gripping novel which I read a few months back. My thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda books and Anne Cater for allowing me to be part of this awesome book blog tour.

Book description

Bo Luxton has it all—a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops. Or does it?

Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page

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Oh my goodness I’ve thought long and hard about my review for this book and I’m not convinced I can do this book justice, it’s just one of those books that takes your breath away, it’s such an unique psychological thriller that I’m positive this book will haunt me for weeks to come. After I read Exquisite by Sarah Stovell I looked up the definition Exquisite: of special beauty or charm, or rare and appealing excellence, as a face, a flower, colouring, music, or poetry, or in this case a book because the definition actually sums up this book perfectly, beautifully written, superb characterisation, twisted but compelling, without a shadow of doubt this book has gone straight onto my top reads of 2017.

Bo Luxton is a successful mature author, married with a two young daughters and appears to have the perfect life. Alice Dark is a young aspiring writer who is the polar opposite to Bo she’s young, with no direction and her life appears to be a mess. When the two women meet on a Creative Writing course a sinister relationship develops between the pair. As the plot develops It soon becomes apparent that both characters are very troubled souls, what follows is one of the most perfectly twisted and intense books I’ve read in a long time.

Exquisite is the perfect example of a psychological thriller, the author deftly draws the reader in, but throughout you are trying to work out which of the two characters are the more reliable narrator and even when I had finished this book, I still wasn’t sure who was telling the truth, but it certainly made for a gripping read. This book is very much character led and the author has done a superb job, so much so the characters come to life, they may not be the most likeable characters I’ve come across but I won’t be forgetting either of them in a hurry that’s for sure.

Throughout the book there is an undercurrent of rage, manipulation and madness which add layer upon layer of trepidation, you just can’t help wondering where the plot is heading, leaving the reader with a constant sense of foreboding. There is no doubt in my mind that Sarah Stovell has written a very accomplished psychological thriller its deliciously dark, highly addictive and it’s definitely one of those books you will struggle to put down.

Links to buy:      Amazon UK 🇬🇧         Amazon US 🇺🇸

Exquisite by Sarah Stovell was published by Orenda Books in paperback on 15 June 2017.

About the author

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Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.

 

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Each Little Lie by Tom Bale #BookReview @tOmbale @bookouture

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Book description

One split second can destroy your life forever

Single mother Jen Cornish is just trying to hold things together for the sake of her seven-year-old son Charlie. Until the day when she does an impulsive good deed to help a neighbour, setting off a terrifying chain of events that quickly spirals out of control…

When she is arrested for a crime she didn’t commit, Jen quickly starts to wonder if someone is playing a cruel game with her – or is she losing her mind?

Desperate to clear her name with the police, she must first untangle a chilling web of lies. But someone is watching her every move – and it isn’t just Jen who is in danger.

img_1258OMG Tom Bale never ceases to surprise me, this author has an incredible knack for creating a thriller with a difference, he creates characters that are pretty average, and then places them in the most extraordinary circumstances. It’s then the authors characters come into their own, making for a gripping thriller. Each Little Lie is the latest standalone from the author, and it doesn’t disappoint, it’s going to sound cliched but in my opinion it’s one of the authors best books to date.

Each Little Lie shows that one risky decision can change a law-abiding citizen into a criminal, and this is what happens to single mother Jen Cornish, an impulsive good deed to help a neighbour sets of a terrifying chain of events that quickly spiral out of control. Lies have been spun, truths manipulated and Jen finds herself in danger, the why? and the who? are central to the plot making for a throughly hear pounding, head spinning read.

Jen is pretty average, that is until she realises someone is manipulating the truth to put her in a heap load of trouble, she then becomes far more interesting, you can’t help but will her on as she fights to get to the truth of her terrifying situation. I had so many theories going a round in my head and I was convinced I had worked out the who? And the why? By the half way mark, but Tom Bale deftly leads the reader a merry dance before the reader gets to the truth. There are so many possibilities and theories Each Little Lie is the definition of a “suspense filled thriller”.

What I love about Tom Bale’s writing is the fact he effortlessly draws the reader in with a strong plot and spot on characterisation, he’s able to keep the readers attention by constantly adding layer upon layer of intrigue and suspense, never revealing to much in one go, which for me made this thriller stand out from the “norm”. Each Little Lie is a tale of manipulation, deceit and the power of money, it’s definitely a novel which I consider to be a “thrilling thriller” and one I would highly recommend.

Buying links:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧      Amazon US 🇺🇸

Print Length: 417 pages

Publisher: Bookouture (29 Jun. 2017)

My thanks to Kim over at Bookouture for my ARC in exchange for an unbiased review

The Lucky Ones by Mark Edwards #BookReview @mredwards

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Book description

When a woman’s body is found in the grounds of a ruined priory, Detective Imogen Evans realises she is dealing with a serial killer—a killer whose victims appear to die in a state of bliss, eyes open, smiles forever frozen on their faces.

A few miles away, single dad Ben Hofland believes his fortunes are changing at last. Forced to move back to the sleepy village where he grew up following the breakdown of his marriage, Ben finally finds work. What’s more, the bullies who have been terrorising his son, Ollie, disappear. For the first time in months, Ben feels lucky.

But he is unaware that someone is watching him and Ollie. Someone who wants nothing but happiness for Ben. Happiness…and death.

img_1258There’s one thing you can always guarantee with Mark Edward and that’s a taut and suspense filled read. The author certainly knows how to write a thrilling psychological thriller and his latest The Lucky Ones is definitely a worthy addition to this authors work.

The author writes about scary things that happen to ordinary people, the next door neighbour, the happily married couple, or in this case Single dad Ben Hofland forced to move back to the sleepy village where he grew up following the breakdown of his marriage, but of course nothing is straight forward in The Lucky Ones, with a serial killer who has a unique way of murdering his victims Dead bodies begin to pile up and what follows is an unpredictable and throughly enjoyable read.

The story is told from three POV Detective Imogen Evan’s, Ben and from diary entries of the killer, now sometimes this can make all the difference to a read , when done badly it can make a read seem disjointed and I find my interest tends to wane, But fortunately Mark Edwards manages to do go between the three seamlessly, each characters POV adds intrigue to the tale and heightens the overwhelming sense of foreboding. The author has created characters that are both engaging and very likeable which always heighten my enjoyment of a book.

I personally thought The Lucky Ones leaned more to the crime thriller genre but in saying that there were enough psychological elements, paranoia, tension, red herrings to make this an unsettling but compelling read. Craftily plotted Mark Edwards has a real talent for telling a story and keeping the reader guessing right to the very last moments which make his novels a joy to read.

Buying links:  Amazon UK 🇬🇧       Amazon US 🇺🇸

Print Length: 380 pages

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (15 Jun. 2017)

 

He Said She Said by Erin Kelly #BookReview

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Book description

Who do you believe?

In the hushed aftermath of a total eclipse, Laura witnesses a brutal attack.

She and her boyfriend Kit call the police, and in that moment, it is not only the victim’s life that is changed forever.

Fifteen years on, Laura and Kit live in fear.

And while Laura knows she was right to speak out, the events that follow have taught her that you can never see the whole picture: something – and someone – is always in the dark

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When I first started reading He Said She Said by Erin Kelly I was surprised that this book had so many five stars and rave reviews , I found it to be a slow starter and the constant changing between narrator and time lines took a while to get used to, but around the 120 page mark everything clicked into place and this turned from a mediocre read into a book that actually made for an intriguing read.

At the centre of the plot are four characters whose live’s become entangled after a chance meeting during an eclipse, the story is told from two perspectives, Kit and Laura’s. After witnessing a brutal attack during an eclipse, the couple do what anyone would do if they found themselves in a similar predicament and call the police, but little do they realise life will never quite be quite the same for them again. As events unfold it soon becomes apparent that nothing is quite as it seems, the characters credibility plays a major factor in this tale, and the reader is led a merry dance to get to the truth.

I’m sure at this point I’m going to get some shocked gasps but here we go, although I enjoyed He Said She Said I did have some issues with this book. At times the plot felt drawn out and there were chapters that didn’t necessarily add anything to the read, but actually distracted from the story, if I’m honest I actually found the whole eclipse thing a bit tedious after a while, although in the authors defence I can see why it was included in relation to the plot, it just didn’t work for me.

On the positive side come the last half of He Said She Said I was pleasantly surprised at how crafty Erin Kelly had been, I don’t want to give anything away that might spoil the read for others, but suffice to say the conclusion to this book absolutely threw me, as did the surprises along the way. If I were to sum this book up I would say it’s got a great premise, a brilliant second half, but I’m afraid this one struggled to keep my attention. I definitely think I’m in the minority with my thoughts on this book as it’s received so many fabulous reviews and in this case it maybe one you need to read for yourself.

Amazon UK 🇬🇧          Amazon US 🇺🇸
Hardcover: 416 pages

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton  (20 April 2017)