Review: Before I Let You In by Jenny Blackhurst.

before I let you in

Before I Let You In by Jenny Blackhurst

My 4* Review:

Before I Let You In tells the story of three women, Karen, Bea and Eleanor who have been friends since they were young. Through thick and thin and plenty of ups and downs the three have remained firm friends and supported each other. But is all as it seems?

Well no, of course not. From the beginning the reader knows that something awful has happened, but has no idea what. Gradually as the book progresses we are given possible explanations for what happened but are kept guessing until the final pages.

The character development is excellent, all three main characters are well rounded and believable. The author clearly has knowledge of psychology and this adds to the believability of the story and characters.

I actually found the first half of Before I Let You In a little slow and at times confusing. The story was told from alternating viewpoints, but sometimes we were not told whose voice we were listening to and I found that difficult. I think that I need to know who it is to help me remember the story and what is going on. I found that by the time I got to the end there were parts explained that I’d forgotten about happening in the first place. This is highly unusual for me so I’m not sure quite why it happened in this book, and can only put it down to the events happening to a nameless person.

The last 30% was great, I just wanted to keep reading and to find out what was happening and who did what. I’m pleased to report that I had not worked it all out!

Thank you to the publishers, Headline, and Netgalley and TBC for an ARC of Before I Let You In.

Blurb:

Karen is meant to be the one who fixes problems.

It’s her job, as a psychiatrist – and it’s always been her role as a friend.

But Jessica is different. She should be the patient, the one that Karen helps.

But she knows things about Karen. Her friends, her personal life. Things no patient should know.

And Karen is starting to wonder if she should have let her in . . .

 

Before I Let You In is out on 28th August and is available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Review: All Fall Down by Tom Bale

all fall down

All Fall Down by Tom Bale

I’m having a really good run of books at the moment, this is my third 5* read in a row. Lets hope it continues!

My 5* Review:

Having read See How They Run by Tom Bale in May this year I really wanted to read his new book, All Fall Down. I really enjoyed See How They Run (SHTR), it gripped me from the first chapter and was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

So All Fall Down had a lot to live up to. I was interested to see whether Tom Bale would be able to suck the reader in like he’d done so well in SHTR. The first chapter was good, I wanted to know what was going on but it didn’t have the ‘hit me with a sledgehammer’ feel of the first chapter of SHTR. Was I going to be disappointed?

No. Thankfully not. Although the first half of the book was at times quite slow, once you hit 50% you barely have time to breathe, let alone eat and sleep. All Fall Down felt far more realistic and I felt that the writing was better than SHTR.

I thought that the character development was great, all the main characters had interesting things about them. The plot was full of twists and turns and you were never quite sure what was going to happen next.

The big finale was great, it was so hard to put All Fall Down down once I got half way through. One night it kept me up until gone 2am as I just had to know what was going to happen, and it is a rare book that keeps me up that late. Once I finished the book I felt like I needed to catch my breath and recover. I am writing this review two days after I finished because I needed to digest the book and let my adrenalin settle.

All Fall Down is a great book. It’s easy to read and pulls you in, tosses you about and then spits you back out again. It isn’t a masterpiece, but if you want an enjoyable read that will be hard to put down then you would be pushed to find something better than All Fall Down.

I received an ARC of All Fall Down from the publisher, Bookouture, via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Blurb:

You tried to save a life. Now you’re fighting to save your own.

It should have been an idyllic day for the Turner family – until a dying man, beaten beyond all recognition, arrives at their home, uttering the words, HELP ME.

Rob and Wendy Turner and their children try to explain away the horrific scene as being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but in the days that follow their lives are threatened in ways they could never imagine.

The family is unaware that they are being watched by someone with their own terrifying agenda, who will stop at nothing to fulfil their own twisted desires.

But when hidden secrets come rushing to the surface, it’s clear not everything is as it seems in this happy family. Are the Turners a victim of circumstance – or does the key to their fate lie closer to home?

Forced to fight for everything they hold dear, can they save themselves before time runs out – or will their act of compassion see them paying the ultimate price…?

A heart-stopping, shocking and tense thriller that will keep you guessing to the very last page.

 

All Fall Down will be released on 1st September 2016 and is available to preorder from Amazon UK and Amazon US now.

Review: Nina Is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi.

nina is not ok

Nina Is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi

This is such a well written book that skillfully tells the horrors of alcoholism. I hope that readers who do not struggle with addiction will see things differently and gain some understanding and compassion after reading Nina is Not OK. I really enjoyed it and I know that I will be thinking about Nina for some time to come.

My Review:

There are lots of books and movies out there that glamorise addiction, even unintentionally. Nina is Not OK is not one of those books.

Having worked in the field of addiction I was unsure about how I’d find this book, as so often inaccuracies frustrate me, and recovery is made to look very easy. Impressively I found none of this in Nina Is Not OK.

Nina is 17, her father is dead, her mother is married to a new man and has a half sister, Katie aged 6. Nina loves Katie in an adorable way, but she struggles with her relationship with her mother and step dad, Alan. This, combined with the fact that Nina’s boyfriend has dumped her for someone he just met prove to be too much for Nina. She descends into a world dominated with alcohol and sex with men she just met. Nina is consumed by anger and the only way that she can cope with this is to drink herself into oblivion.

Despite her awful treatment of her family and friends they stick with her, eventually showing her the tough love that she needs and taking her to rehab. While the author doesn’t go into a lot of detail about her time in rehab, what is there is in my experience, fairly realistic. Once out Nina attempts to put her life back together, she throws herself back into her A-Levels and rebuilding her relationships with her friends and family. Without alcohol to skew her thinking she is able to come to terms with things that previously consumed her and with the quiet and steady support from her 12-step sponsor she begins to rebuild her life.

The author, Shappi Khorsandi, writes a painfully accurate portrayal of alcoholism. It isn’t sensationalised or overdramatised. I would think that the author must have experience of alcoholism in some form or other.

I think that Nina is Not OK is a good book for anyone to read, but for those with family or friends who struggle with addiction it is good insight into the thinking that goes on in the addicts mind, and how powerless they are over their addiction. I couldn’t help but wonder while reading whether this would be a good book for people in early recovery to read. I think Nina is Not OK would be a good book to give to someone in active addiction, especially a young person, but I don’t think that someone in early recovery should read it due to the risk of being triggered. There is also frequent reference to a rape that some readers should be aware of.

I received a copy of Nina Is Not OK from the publishers via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Blurb:

Nina does not have a drinking problem. She likes a drink, sure. But what 17-year-old doesn’t?

Nina’s mum isn’t so sure. But she’s busy with her new husband and five year old Katie. And Nina’s almost an adult after all.

And if Nina sometimes wakes up with little memory of what happened the night before , then her friends are all too happy to fill in the blanks. Nina’s drunken exploits are the stuff of college legend.

But then one dark Sunday morning, even her friends can’t help piece together Saturday night. All Nina feels is a deep sense of shame, that something very bad has happened to her…

 

Nina is Not OK is available now on Amazon UK and Amazon US now.

Review: The Optician’s Wife by Betsy Reavley

the opticians wife

The Optician’s Wife by Betsy Reavley

My 5* Review:

I rarely get to read a book that I have bought, but I was hearing so much about The Optician’s Wife that I really wanted to read it, so when I was on holiday I took a break from reading ARCs.

I do like crime books and I do read a lot of fairly gruesome things, but The Optician’s Wife was really very graphic. I didn’t have a problem with that, but some might, others will love it!

Deborah is just your normal teenager, she doesn’t have many friends and doesn’t like living at home. So when she meets Larry who treats her like she’s something special Deborah can’t quite believe it. Soon they’re married and living what appears to be a perfect life together. But of course all is not as it seems.

This book is great, it’s full of twists and turns and just when you think you’ve worked it all out something happens and you realise that you had it all wrong. That happened again and again in The Optician’s Wife, right to the very end.

The Optician’s Wife is not for the faint hearted but it is a compelling read that will make you question everything. I thoroughly recommend it.

Blurb:

Can you ever really know someone?

When Deborah, an unpopular seventeen-year-old, meets the charming and handsome Larry, he sweeps her off her feet. The trouble is Larry has a secret.

Then a series of grisly murders cast a shadow over everything.

As Deborah’s world starts to fall apart she begins to suspect the man she loves of a terrible betrayal. And to keep their marriage alive, sacrifices must be made.

A compelling, psychological thriller that unpicks what goes on behind closed doors and reminds us that sometimes the worst crimes can take place closer to home than you think.

 

The Optician’s Wife by Betsy Reavley is available now from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Blog Tour: Unquiet Souls by Liz Mistry.

unquiet souls

Unquiet Souls by Liz Mistry

I’m delighted to host today’s stop on the blog tour for Unquiet Souls by Liz Mistry. Not only does it look like an amazing book but I just love the topic that Liz has written about for If Only I Could Read Faster. ‘Writing and Depression’ is such an important topic, mental health affects one in four people so if you are lucky enough not to have mental health problems you no doubt know many people that do.

Writing and Depression

I’m a writer… and I struggle with depression, like so many people.   Struggling with the physical symptoms of depression:  lethargy, insomnia, panic attacks, agoraphobia disassociating, memory issues, lack of concentration all makes it difficult to write.  I’d struggled for years, having ideas for crime fiction novels and not being able to complete them.  Then a couple of years ago a major reassessment of my medication and the help of a fantastic counsellor made me think I could take more control of my life.  As I began to have some better days I started to write… and the more I wrote the more I realised that this is what I wanted to do.  Taking my daughter to an Open day at Leeds trinity University, I spotted a leaflet advertising their MA in Creative Writing.  I recognised the name of the main MA tutor (Martyn Bedford) – I’d read and loved one of his early books… a little seed was planted.

Eventually I applied for the course and, at interview, Martyn suggested I finish my first draft (It was close to completion anyway) and use the MA to ‘fine- tune’ it.  I was still unsure whether I’d be well enough to take on such a huge commitment, but I worked on steadily with my counsellor and was eventually able to commit.

For me starting the MA at such a lovely university with such amazing tutors and fantastic students was the best thing I ever did.  It wasn’t easy but I persevered with a lot of familial support and it got easier.  The focus and the perceptive workshopping helped me to raise my writing to the next level.   I’ve been lucky enough to get a two book deal with Bloodhound Books.  Unquiet Souls is newly released and I’m over the moon!

For me writing releases endorphins.  It makes me feel happier and that has a knock on effect in other areas.  Yes, I still get huge mood dips, panic attacks and anxiety; my concentration is limited and my memory is erratic, but, when I write, I try to accommodate this… and most of all I’m kind to myself.

If you suffer from depression writing is a great therapy… for me the biggest bonus is that I don’t need to leave the house if I don’t want to do it.

 

 

 

Unquiet Souls

by Liz Mistry

The first in a gritty crime thriller series based in West Yorkshire

                                                   featuring DI Gus McGuire.

Published by Bloodhound Books 30th July:

Kindle £1.99 and paperback £8.99

What is the link between the abduction of a little girl and a dead prostitute?

When the body of a prostitute is discovered DI Gus McGuire is handed the case. But what first appears to be a simple murder soon turns into an international manhunt for the members of a twisted child trafficking ring.

McGuire who is suffering with problems of his own, he must pick his way through the web of deceit and uncover the truth in time before the body count rises.

Can McGuire identify The Matchmaker before it’s too late? And can he trust those he is working with?

Unquiet Souls is the first book in a dark and compelling new police series.

Liz Mistry was born in West Calder, Scotland and educated at Stirling University before moving to Bradford for her PGCE, where she settled with her husband, Nilesh, her three children, Ravi, Kasi and Jimi and her two cats. Liz taught in Inner city Bradford schools for many years. Suffering from depression for many years, Liz used her writing to help her through the darkest times. She is currently part-way through an MA in Creative Writing from Leeds Trinity University, which she acknowledges as being instrumental in developing her confidence as a writer. Liz is co-founder and main contributor to The Crime Warp Blog (http://thecrimewarp.blogspot.co.uk/ )

Liz is available to write articles on many subjects including; ‘Writing with depression’, ‘Why choose an MA in Creative Writing’, ‘Why crime fiction does it for me?’, ‘Creating a villain’, ‘The cross- genre nature of crime fiction’ … and more.

Contact her on:

Twitter @LizCrimeWarp

Facebook

Website https://lizmistrycrimewriter.wordpress.com/

Email lizbmistry@yahoo.co.uk

Bloodhound Books website: http://www.bloodhoundbooks.com/

If you struggle with depression or any other mental health problems then there is help out there. The charity Mind has a lot of helpful information. If you need someone to talk to urgently then you can call The Samaritans on 116123, free from any phone in the UK.

Review: After The Lie by Kerry Fisher

after the lie

After The Lie by Kerry Fisher

My Review:

After The Lie tells the story of Lydia and a secret that she has been forced to keep by her mother for many, many years. A secret that has consumed her and affected every part of her life. A secret about a mistake that she made as a teenager that changed her life forever. Now married with teenagers of her own Lydia is obsessed with keeping them safe so that they don’t repeat her mistake.

The book is told from Lydia’s point of view, we get to hear a lot of her thoughts and fears. Some of them quite funny, some of them annoying. Lydia is obsessed with people’s weight for example. I don’t think that there is a woman mentioned in the book that I don’t know whether they’re overweight or underweight. She is also extremely self obsessed!

Once the big secret was revealed I have to admit that I thought ‘is that it?’ Although things were more complicated than they first seemed I did spend the majority of the book thinking that it was a lot of fuss about nothing.

After The Lie was easy to read and the characters were well formed, I liked Kerry Fisher’s writing style. I just had a few niggles with the book and plot that stopped me from giving it 4*s.

I was given a copy of After The Lie by the publishers in return for an honest review.

After The Lie is available now from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Blurb:

Your past will devastate your family. But your lies could destroy them. What would YOU do?

Sometimes a lie can split your life in two. There is “before”, and there is “after”. Try as you might – you can never go back.

When Lydia was a teenager, she made a decision that ruined her family’s life. They’ve spent the last thirty years living with the consequences and doing their best to pretend it never happened.

Lydia’s husband, the gorgeous and reliable Mark, and her two teenage children know nothing about that summer back in 1982. And that’s the way Lydia wants it to stay. The opportunity to come clean is long gone and now it’s not the lie that matters, it’s the betrayal of hiding the truth for so long.

When someone from the past turns up as a parent at the school gates, Lydia feels the life she has worked so hard to build slipping through her fingers. The more desperate she becomes to safeguard her family, the more erratic her behaviour becomes. But when the happiness of her own teenage son,Jamie, hangs in the balance, Lydia is forced to make some impossible decisions. Can she protect him and still keep her own secret – and if she doesn’t, will her marriage and family survive?

Review: The Forgotten Woman by Angela Marsons.

the forgotten woman

The Forgotten Woman by Angela Marsons.

My Review:

I think that most followers of If Only I Could Read Faster know that I love author Angela Marsons. Her crime book series about DI Kim Stone are, without a doubt, my favourite crime series so I was excited to read a non crime book by the author. I give The Forgotten Woman an easy 4*.

‘I am a huge Angela Marsons fan, her crime series Kim Stone books are brilliant in so many ways. I knew that she had written two book before her Kim Stone series and had bought them both but had yet to read them. When I heard that Bookouture was re-releasing them I was excited, I heard there had been some tweaking and editing so decided to read the newer version.

The Forgotten Woman tells the story of Kim and Fran, two women who appear to have nothing in common. After meeting in an AA meeting the two forge an unlikely friendship, helping and supporting each other to rebuild their lives.

Both women have complex histories involving prostitution and a brief mention of sexual child abuse. They learn to deal with their past and move on in their lives. I really liked Kit and Fran, they worked really well together and were both believable as characters. I felt that it was a shame that the AA meetings weren’t portrayed more positively, and that they appeared to play no part in Kit and Fran’s recovery from alcoholism.

At times while reading The Forgotten Woman I couldn’t help but wonder how much of it was based on the author’s own experience. There was something about it that felt so real and raw that at times it made for uncomfortable reading.

While The Forgotten Woman didn’t blow me away like Angela Marson’s Kim Stone books it was still a really good read. It will open your eyes and make you think. For a first novel this book shows that Angela Marson’s is a talented author who definitely has more to tell us. I can’t wait to read more books by her and hope that she keeps writing for a very long time.

I received The Forgotten Woman from the publisher, Bookouture, via Netgalley in return for an honest review.’

The Forgotten Woman is out now and available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Blurb:

Two ordinary women. Two damaged lives. One friendship that would save them both

Kit Mason has lived a life of unimaginable pain. An ex-prostitute, she has fled the clutches of an abusive pimp and now finds herself living hand to mouth in a new city, without anyone to help her.

Frances Thornton seems to be living the perfect life. A lawyer from a privileged background, her perfect façade hides the painful secrets that still haunt her.

Brought together by their attempts to conquer their addictions in an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, the two women strike up an unlikely friendship.

But can they find strength in each other – or will the demons of their past catch up with them?

A compelling, moving and ultimately uplifting novel about overcoming the very worst life can throw at you and starting over. The perfect read for fans of Jodi Picoult and Amanda Prowse.

Previously published as My Name Is.