My #Review of #NewRelease The Innocent Wife by @AmyLloydWrites 4* @PenguinUKBooks #CrimeFiction #Psychological by @annebonnybook

*I received a proof copy via the publisher in return for an honest review*

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The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd 
Synopsis:

Twenty years ago, Dennis Danson was arrested and imprisoned for the brutal murder of a young girl in Florida’s Red River County. Now he’s the subject of a true-crime documentary that’s whipping up a frenzy online to uncover the truth and free a man who has been wrongly convicted.

A thousand miles away in England, Samantha is obsessed with Dennis’s case. She exchanges letters with him, and is quickly won over by his apparent charm and kindness to her. Soon she has left her old life behind to marry him and campaign for his release.

But when the campaign is successful and Dennis is freed, Sam begins to discover new details that suggest he may not be quite so innocent after all …

My review:

I was immediately drawn to this novel, after reading the online hype surrounding the release. The novel has an instantly eye-catching synopsis. The women who write to death row inmates, is an issue that has always fascinated me. Why do they do it? What do they gain? And what sort of woman pens the letters?

The novel centres around the relationship between Sam and Dennis Danson. Sam is an insecure, naïve and mousy school teacher from England. Whilst Dennis is the convicted murderer of an 11-year-old girl. He awaits his execution on death row, whiling away the hours by writing to his pen pals.
But what do this pair have in common?
What do they hope to achieve with this friendship?

This is when the novel takes an unusual but thoroughly relevant twist. Dennis is the star of a recent Netflix series; many people believe him to be innocent of the crime. Sam is one of many ‘fans’ who dissect the case piece by piece online. There are a wealth of theories and forums. Sam quickly becomes obsessed by them. Between their exchange of letters, a friendship/romance develops. When Sam is introduced to Carrie, the producer of the Netflix show, she decides to visit the US and Dennis in prison.

‘When she left, no one seemed to notice she was gone’

The novel is told by alternate chapters and book extracts. Which works well to give the reader Sam’s story, but also the facts surrounding Dennis’s case. I initially felt quite sorry for Sam, considering her to be a lonely woman, desperate for friendship. But as I grew to learn more of the criminal case and the missing young girls from Red River Florida. My sympathy for her waned. That is not to say, I wasn’t absolutely HOOKED because I completely and utterly was. I read the novel in one afternoon. I just felt there was something about her, I was not very keen to trust.

When Sam arrives in the US and the Altoona prison. She is swept away with the media attention, celebrities endorsing Dennis’s release and their first meeting. When we see her trust begin to waver, Dennis is quick to propose marriage.
Does he love her? Or is he manipulating her vulnerabilities?

The book extracts tell us about Dennis’s childhood. His alcoholic father and depressed mother, make for a painfully bleak upbringing. He had known poverty, violence and the foster care system, all before he reached 18 years old.
It is at this point I began to feel quite sorry for Dennis. This novel had me questioning myself. Why was I so keen to extend empathy/sympathy to Dennis?

Is the novel so cleverly written that Dennis begins to manipulate the reader?

The full details of ‘the girls of Red River’ is explored. The extracts offer an insight into Dennis’s arrest and trial. It is at this point, I vowed not to trust either of them! Finding both of the character’s behaviour strange. Yet I could NOT put this book down!
When new evidence comes to light and Dennis is exonerated. He is forced to adjust to a modern life, he left behind 21yr ago. Freedom does not come easy to Dennis. With Sam now playing the dutiful ‘wife’ to Dennis and his new-found freedom, the novel gets stranger and stranger.

A marriage of three: Sam, Dennis and suspicion…….

As Sam becomes more and more insecure. Dennis becomes cold, distant and dismissive of her. She is then the victim of online abuse and is left walking on eggshells around his moods. When Dennis doesn’t talk to her about his past. Sam fills in the blanks herself, creating her own narrative of their lives together.

The constant theme of suspicion, will keep you glued to the page! It makes you the reader, become obsessed with Sam and Dennis’s story. 4*

AL
Amy Lloyd
Authors Links:
Twitter
Via publishers
Goldsboro book of the month January

My #Review of, Need To Know by @karecleve Karen Cleveland 4* @TransworldBooks #NewRelease #CIA #SpyFiction by @annebonnybook

*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*

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Need To Know by Karen Cleveland
Synopsis:
Vivian Miller is a CIA analyst assigned to uncover Russian sleeper cells in the USA. After accessing the computer of a potential Russian spy, she stumbles on a secret dossier of deep-cover agents living in her own country.

Five photos of seemingly normal people living in plain sight.

She’s about to make the breakthrough of her career until she opens the third photograph and sees a face staring back at her that she never expected to see . . .

In an instant, everything that matters to Vivian is threatened – her job, her husband, even her four children.

Vivian has vowed to defend her country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. But now she’s facing impossible choices. Torn between loyalty and betrayal, allegiance and treason, love and suspicion, who can she trust?

My review:

I love a good spy novel! Especially one that involves mystery, intrigue and suspense.
This novel has it ALL!
There is a brief synopsis, on the proof edition and for this I am glad. I wanted to go in with little knowledge and explore the various characters as individuals.
So, from the synopsis, we are aware that Vivian Miller is a CIA counter intelligence analyst. Her role involves uncovering Russian sleeper cells on American soil. She finally gains access to an encrypted dossier of deep undercover agents. Only to be met with the face of her husband!!!!
Viv has been married to her husband for 10 years and they have four young children together.
Is her entire life, a lie?

*A synopsis like that, has a reader DYING to jump inside! I for one, was desperate to uncover the truth.

The novel opens with a stand-off between Viv and her husband Matthew. She has her hands on a flash drive and utters the words “You know I don’t have a choice”.

Two days earlier:
The novel details the family life of the Miller’s. Their four children Ella, Luke, Caleb and Chase.
Viv is at a peak moment of her career, two years of hard work, is about to come to fruition. Viv is about to uncover the secrets of the Russian sleeper cells. Her work colleague Omar, chases intelligence on the individual sleeps and it is Viv’s job to follow the links from sleepers, to handlers, to ring leader and finally to Moscow Russian intelligence.

A previous objective was trialled where sleepers were offered the chance to ‘come in from the cold’. They were offered amnesty by the US government in exchange for information they held. This objective brought them Dmitri (known as Dmitri the dangle), until his mysterious disappearance.
The objective failed, and this gave way, for Viv’s task of uncovering the files of Yury Yakov. The only Russian spy named by Dmitri the dangle.
The CIA team consists of Peter, senior analyst and Viv’s mentor for eight years. Also, Marta, Trey, Helen, Rafael and Bert. The Russians have targeted individual members of the team previously.
But nothing quite as deep layered and suspenseful as the plot of this novel…….

When Viv uncovers her own husbands photo on the flash drive. It leaves her with two options, turn him in or cover up his involvement.
But how do you turn in the man you love? The father of your children? Alternatively, how do you betray your own country?
Going against everything you have ever believed in?
Are there only two options open to Viv?
Can she strategize a way to get her family out of this?
And most importantly, is Matt a Russian spy? Is she really sleeping with the enemy?

This novel is packed with suspense. From the couple’s relationship to the greater implications of Russian interference with the American government intelligence gathering.
I was absolutely hooked!
I found Viv, to be very believable in her role as a hard-working mother, not afraid of the sacrifices necessary, to be at the top of her game in the CIA. I also loved the themes of secrecy and betrayal.

I noticed how much it had an impact on my internal thoughts. When I found myself glancing over the top of the proof, at my husband. Questioning myself, could I turn him in? what if he was a security risk to my country?
I have been with my husband 17 years and we have three children together. I have no idea, what I would do/think, if one day I learned our entire life was a lie!!

But I was eager to read Vivian’s story, without missing a single word on the page! I read this novel straight through, in one sitting.
The plot grips you and doesn’t let go! 4*

KC
Karen Cleveland
Authors Links:
Website
Twitter

#BlogTour #Review What She Left by @rosiefiore 4* @AllenAndUnwin @rararesources by @annebonnybook

*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*

What She Left Cover
What She Left by Rosie Fiore
Synopsis:

Helen Cooper has a charmed life. She’s beautiful, accomplished, organised – the star parent at the school. Until she disappears.

But Helen wasn’t abducted or murdered. She’s chosen to walk away, abandoning her family, husband Sam, and her home.

Where has Helen gone, and why? What has driven her from her seemingly perfect life? What is she looking for? Sam is tormented by these questions, and gradually begins to lose his grip on work and his family life.

He sees Helen everywhere in the faces of strangers. He’s losing control.

But then one day, it really is Helen’s face he sees…

My review:

I thought this novel’s plot would surround the societal taboo of; the mother who walks away from her family.
But it was so much more than that and had further layers than I first believed. The novel does portray Helen, the ‘perfect mother’ who walks away from her husband Sam, and her two young daughters Miranda and Marguerite. But you get so much more of the story when it is delivered by the various points of view……

The opening depicts Helen, as she takes the drastic plunge and walks away from her family. The aftermath of her absence is felt by not just her small family. But by a community of busybodies and gossips. Her husband Sam is fraught with panic and anxiety; believing she must have come to harm.
When he is informed by local PC’s Shah and Stevens, that is not the case. He is left devastated, with so many questions, he fears will never be answered.

The narrative switches between Sam, his daughter Miranda and Lara at the beginning. Lara is a fellow parent at the children’s school. She is not friends with Helen. But is aware of her by reputation. Helen is the mother, that is the queen bee. The pillar of the local PTA’s community. But it is single mother Lara, who becomes the mother figure to the girl’s left behind, in Helens absence.

‘Helen, who was as constant as the sea’

Sam’s parents and younger brother Tim rally round, with support and kindness. But Sam is still left feeling incomplete without Helen in his life. It is only when, on one of many occasions, he gets drunk with his brother and the truth comes tumbling out. Maybe their perfect life wasn’t so perfect after all.
As the reader starts to question, is Helen really who she portrays herself to be? Is Sam so completely innocent in his wife’s disappearance?

Sam begins to start his own mini investigation into where Helen has gone. This involves searches of the internet and Helen’s belongings. This throws up no clues and only leads him to believe; Helen’s absence is a premediated act. Helen had planned to leave, with no trail of clues behind her.

Part two of the story focuses on six months later Sam has built up a relationship with Lara. His finances and career are a mess. But he is making basic attempts to get his life back into some kind of order.
His daughter Miranda on the other hand, is in deep emotional pain.
She longs for Helen and the neat orderly lifestyle, she created for the girls.
Sam’s unanswered questions burn away at his internal thoughts. Until He becomes enraged with thoughts of revenge. He begins drinking heavily and this only fuels his inner rage. Sam is a man on the edge!

Part three of the novel does cover the conclusion of what happens when Sam finally bumps into Helen. It is an ending that does fully explore the intentions of both Sam and Helen during their short marriage. The responsibilities of adult life and parenting; weigh heavy on the shoulders of some people. Between the secrets of the past and the burdens of the future, the truth is finally revealed.

This novel felt incredibly real to life. We all know those couples who portray the ‘perfect persona’ but what happens when the façade slips away? What happens when, who you really are is brought out into the open for everyone to see?

What She Left Author Pic
Rosie Fiore
Author Bio: 
Rosie Fiore was born and grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. She studied drama at the University of the Witwatersrand and has worked as a writer for theatre, television, magazines, advertising, comedy and the corporate market.

Her first two novels, This Year’s Black and Lame Angel were published by Struik in South Africa. This Year’s Black was longlisted for the South African Sunday Times Literary Award and has subsequently been re-released as an e-book. Babies in Waiting, Wonder Women and Holly at Christmas were published by Quercus. She is the author of After Isabella, also published by Allen & Unwin.
Rosie’s next book, The After Wife (written as Cass Hunter), will be published by Trapeze in 2018, and in translation is seven countries around the world.
Rosie lives in London with her husband and two sons.
Authors Links:
Facebook
Twitter

 

My #BlogTour #Review of, Faking Friends by @JaneFallon #NewRelease @penguinrandom by @annebonnybook

*I received an arc via the publisher in return for an honest review*
I have just realised via a diary mishap, that I have mixed up the dates 11th & 12th January. My apologises to the author, publisher and publicist. 

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Faking Friends by Jane Fallon
Synopsis:
Amy thought she knew everything there was to know about her best friend Melissa. Then again, Amy also thought she was on the verge of the wedding of her dreams to her long-distance fiancé.

Until she pays a surprise trip home to London. Jack is out, but it’s clear another woman has been making herself at home in their flat.

There’s something about her stuff that feels oddly familiar . . . and then it hits Amy. The Other Woman is Melissa.

Amy has lost her home, her fiancé and her best friend in one disastrous weekend – but instead of falling apart, she’s determined to get her own back.

Piecing her life back together won’t be half as fun as dismantling theirs, after all.

My review:

Faking Friends is an unusual novel for me to read. I rarely read contemporary fiction, based on modern day relationships.
But with this novel, I was looking forward to reading something different. I regularly jump between novel genre’s.
I was drawn to the psychological element of the synopsis.

Aspiring actress Amy, returns to London to surprise fiancé Jack. Unbeknown to her, the surprise will be on her! As she arrives to find a woman’s things in her place, in her flat.
And not just any woman’s things, the items of her best friend Melissa……..

I was immediately drawn to the WOW factor of a shock surprise, of the ultimate betrayal. Amy is left devastated, how could her best friend from childhood betray her? How long has this love affair been going on? Why would Jack do this to her?

Amy cannot bring herself to face up to the answers to these questions. At least not just yet! She begins to plot her revenge. What follows is a toxic friendship on full display.
Amy’s inner-feelings of hurt at the betrayal are moving, you get a real sense of a woman in deep emotional pain.
A woman scorned…….

As Amy comes to terms with the mess, that is her life. We learn that Mel is an extremely vicious woman. Who will destroy anyone or anything, to get what she wants.
I took an immediate dislike to Mel and her selfish behaviour. I felt myself, become more and more drawn into the plot. Almost as if I was on Amy’s side cheering her on!

‘There is nothing left to salvage in either of these relationships. There’s nothing to mourn the loss of because they weren’t the real people I thought they were’

This isn’t just a story of revenge and the emotional damage of cheating. It also shows a woman, determined to pull her life back together.
To start again and in turn, become a new woman! 4*

Jane_Fallon_HP
Jane Fallon
Author links:
Website: http://www.janefallon.co.uk/
Twitter: @JaneFallon

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#Review The Crow Garden by @Ali_L Alison Littlewood @JoFletcherBooks @QuercusBooks #HistoricalFiction #Literary 4*

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The Crow Garden by Alison Littlewood
Synopsis:

Susan Hill meets Wilkie Collins in Alison Littlewood’s latest chiller. Mad-doctor Nathaniel is obsessed with the beautiful Mrs Harleston – but is she truly delusional? Or is she hiding secrets that should never be uncovered . . . ?

Haunted by his father’s suicide, Nathaniel Kerner walks away from the highly prestigious life of a consultant to become a mad-doctor. He takes up a position at Crakethorne Asylum, but the proprietor is more interested in phrenology and his growing collection of skulls than the patients’ minds. Nathaniel’s only interesting case is Mrs Victoria Adelina – Vita – Harleston: her husband accuses her of hysteria and delusions – but she accuses him of hiding secrets far more terrible.

Nathaniel is increasingly obsessed with Vita, but when he has her mesmerised, there are unexpected results. Vita starts hearing voices, the way she used to – her grandmother always claimed they came from beyond the grave – but it also unleashes her own powers of mesmerism . . . and a desperate need to escape.

Increasingly besotted, Nathaniel finds himself caught up in a world of séances and stage mesmerism in his bid to find Vita and save her.

But constantly hanging over him is this warning: that doctors are apt to catch the diseases with which they are surrounded – whether of the body or the mind . . .

My review:

Welcome to Crakethorne Asylum…………

Set in 1856, this novel offers a literary insight into the world of asylums. It details the ‘inmates’, doctors and a growing relationship between one doctor and his patient, the illusive Mrs Victoria Adelina Harleston.
Crakethorne Asylum is perfectly described, and you feel immersed inside its crumbling walls. Set in northern England, West Riding, Yorkshire. The author has done an outstanding job of portraying the opinions and attitudes held by many in the era.

“The north, despite its bluff inhabitants, austere weather and desolate landscapes, has indeed rather favoured the mad”

Dr Nathaniel Kerner is a new ‘mad doctor’ in post. He has an interesting backstory and is determined to absolve some inner guilt by creating a family legacy. Nathaniel/Nate is idealistic in his approaches and has felt inspired by the nearby York Retreat. He hopes to radicalise mental health. To do away with the notion that Bedlam Asylum has created, that all those considered ‘mad’ are lost causes with no hope of saviour.
He begins his post under the watchful eye of Dr Algernon Chettle. The Asylum houses 39 ‘inmates’ of various conditions. From epilepsy, to female hysteria and a child patient whom believes he is a dog!

“All physicians face the risk of succumbing to the diseases they battle” Dr Chettle

“Guard your mind – or you may discover one day it is entirely lost, and you may not find it again!” Dr Chettle

Mrs Harleston arrives with her husband, she has an interesting backstory and you become fascinated with her plight. Is she mentally ill? Is she manipulating the inexperienced Dr Kerner? Why is her husband so abrupt and callous towards the staff?
Mrs Harleston forms question after question, in the readers mind. But not just the reader, Dr Kerner’s fascination is also growing day by day………….

The novel details the workings of the asylum. The class structure, treatments available and meagre privileges afforded to the mentally ill. The other ‘inmates’ lives are detailed, almost as if you are reading their patient files. The chapters themselves include patients note/observations and entries from the doctor’s journals.
Which makes for brilliant reading!
Dr Chettle is obsessed with the physiology study. A study which believes a person’s afflictions can be predicted from their skull etc. A bizarre study but reflective of the era.

Dr kerner becomes convinced that talking therapy would work best with Mrs Harleston. That simply breaking down the walls of her defence, will provide a solution or cure to her current crisis.
As their conversations develop, I began to wonder, who is teaching who?

“How much of a woman’s life, do you think is spent being buried alive?” – Mrs harleston

Various therapies are explored with Mrs Harleston and each give an insight into her psyche. Her childhood, marriage and outlook on life are all fully explored. Other characters are slowly introduced into the story, they provided added deception, scandal and lies. I was glued to the page.
Then suddenly one dark evening, Mrs Harleston disappears………..

Who is the threat to Mrs Harleston? Or is she a danger to herself? Can Dr Kerner find her and return her to the asylum? Where/who would a woman with the odds stacked against her run to?

“The weight of society and authority was all on his side, what proof could I offer” Mrs Harleston

A fantastic historical fiction novel, offering an insight into mental health in the Victorian era. I think the ending is one for much discussion, but may leave some readers baffled.
I would be delighted to read more by this author!
Recommended.

AL
Alison Littlewood
Authors links:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alison.littlewood.3?ref=tn_tnmn
Twitter: @Ali_L
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4655152.Alison_Littlewood
Website: http://www.alisonlittlewood.co.uk/

Author bio:
Alison Littlewood was raised in Penistone, South Yorkshire, and went on to attend the University of Northumbria at Newcastle (now Northumbria University). Originally she planned to study graphic design, but “missed the words too much” and switched to a joint English and History degree. She followed a career in marketing before developing her love of writing fiction.

Alison Littlewood’s latest novel is The Crow Garden, a tale of obsession set amidst Victorian asylums and séance rooms. It follows The Hidden People, a Victorian tale about the murder of a young girl suspected of being a fairy changeling. Alison’s other novels include A Cold Silence, Path of Needles, The Unquiet House and Zombie Apocalypse! Acapulcalypse Now. Her first book, A Cold Season, was selected for the Richard and Judy Book Club and described as ‘perfect reading for a dark winter’s night.’

Alison’s short stories have been picked for Best British Horror, The Best Horror of the Year, The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror and The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror anthologies, as well as The Best British Fantasy and The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime. They have been gathered together in her collections Quieter Paths and in Five Feathered Tales, a collaboration with award-winning illustrator Daniele Serra. She won the 2014 Shirley Jackson Award for Short Fiction.

Alison lives with her partner Fergus in deepest Yorkshire, England, in a house of creaking doors and crooked walls. She loves exploring the hills and dales with her two hugely enthusiastic Dalmatians and has a penchant for books on folklore and weird history, Earl Grey tea and semicolons.

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Available now in Ebook and hardback.