Black Widows – Cate Quinn

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis: Black Widows follows the perspectives of three wives, all married to Blake who is found murdered on their land far from anywhere else. Being in a plural marriage means these women are on the edge of society, even within the Mormon community. They do not trust the police and certainly do not trust each other as it seems clear that one of them must have killed him.

Review: This was such an interesting and intriguing book, partly because of the murder but also because of the relationships that are created. I found the plural marriage dynamic extremely interesting. I was so curious about the relationship between the three wives, especially considering how different they all are, and enjoyed how this developed across the book. I did feel that the character of Emily was not as fully developed as the others, but overall, there was a good sense of each character’s distinct personality.

The mystery aspect of the plot was very well-done, helping to draw the story to a satisfying conclusion. There were so many twists and turns that constantly makes you second-guess who the murderer is. I think having the three perspectives of the three wives really beneficial in this aspect as you get to hear each of their suspicions about each other, thereby influencing your own opinion.

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Death by Arrangement – Kathleen Torian Taylor

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Sarah’s structured life as an accountant in downtown San Francisco is about to take a hard left. She knows all about deceit but not about how to trust again. For three years her love life revolved around a liar and a cheat. But now she yearns to become a torch singer. Sarah’s attracted to Jerard from Los Angeles. His strange scar and mysterious ways both entice and discourage her. A serial killer haunts the 24-hour news cycle, and when she comes face to face with his latest victim, fear and self-doubt creep in like uninvited guests. Once again, she questions her trust. Is Jerard “the one” or another mistake? An unexpected encounter thrusts her into darkness, and Sarah must use every ounce of strength in a battle for her life and dream of singing her song.

Review: From the very first page I was totally hooked. The tension builds steadily throughout making it so exciting to read. Getting the perspective of the murderer in the first chapter was really effective as it meant I was trying to figure out who the murderer could be as we met each of the different characters. I was so on edge, second-guessing everything that people were saying and doing, trying to figure out if they had a hidden agenda. And this really helps you feel some of the paranoia that Sarah has knowing there is a serial killer on the loose.

The book has such good detail and description, it really draws you in to Sarah’s life and her surroundings. I loved the humorous elements as they help lighten the feel of the book and, alongside the aspects of romance and friendship, help to make this book feel more than simply a murder mystery. Sarah felt so real and relatable, making her a great main character.

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A Mirror Murder – Helen Hollick

Eighteen-year-old library assistant Jan Christopher’s life is to change on a rainy Friday evening in July 1971, when her legal guardian and uncle, DCI Toby Christopher, gives her a lift home after work. Driving the car, is her uncle’s new Detective Constable, Laurie Walker – and it is love at first sight for the young couple.

But romance is soon to take a back seat when a baby boy is taken from his pram, a naked man is scaring young ladies in nearby Epping Forest, and an elderly lady is found, brutally murdered…

Are the events related? How will they affect the staff and public of the local library where Jan works – and will a blossoming romance survive a police investigation into murder?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review: I loved reading this book, I could barely put it down. In such a short number of pages the author creates a twisting yet satisfyingly ended mystery with red herrings, strong characterisation, and a real sense of atmosphere. I enjoy reading cosy mysteries but sometimes feel they lack a bit of substance. However, this was definitely not the case for this book. I was amazed at how much is packed in to such a short tale.

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The Existence of Amy – Lana Grace Riva

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis: At first glances Amy seems like a well-adjusted, perfectly functional woman. Yes, she constantly cancels on plans last minute, but that just makes her unreliable. In reality, however, Amy is trying desperately to seem ‘normal’ so that no one realises just how much she struggles with everyday actions. It is not that she is unreliable, she is just unable to do the things she wants to.

The Existence of Amy follows Amy as she deals with everyday actions – getting on the bus, interacting with friends, going on a work trip – and shows the difficulty of trying to maintain an appearance of normality when these everyday actions can be a source of great distress. Because Amy suffers from OCD, but she does not want her friends to know that. She would rather suffer alone than have them think any less of her.

Review: This book is so insightful and touching. It does a really good job of exploring difficult issues in a sensitive manner with a portrayal of OCD that is as heart-breaking as it is informative.

Although the plot was quite simplistic, I thought it was really effective in portraying Amy’s life and the struggles she faces. Not very much happens in the story itself but I feel like this book doesn’t need it. Being inside Amy’s head as she deals with work, friends and generally life is more than enough to help drive the story. I usually like my books fast paced and filled with excitement, tension and/or suspense, and yet I was never bored reading this book. Instead, the pace of it allows you to truly feel for Amy and invest in her character.

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Comeback – Chris Limb

Genie has everything – a BRIT award, a singing career, the attention of the press and Oliver Fox, a pretty boy who looks good on her arm.

Until he dies.

His death brings Genie’s long buried feelings bubbling to the surface. Her grief over the death of her lover Wendi who introduced her to this world. Her self doubt and fear that she will be exposed as a fraud.

How far is she prepared to go to fix things? 

The afterlife isn’t the most comfortable of places for anyone who’s still alive, but Genie’s not going to take any crap from the dead – she’s got years of experience in the music business.

Sometimes going to Hell and back takes a lifetime…

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Review: I have found it pretty hard to put my feelings about this book into words because it is so twisted, strange and intriguing. You’re left with a slight feeling of confusion and bewilderment about what it is you have just read. And whilst it is these unusual aspects that make this book really interesting, it also makes it difficult to fully wrap your head around how you are feeling, and how these feelings can be articulated.

I enjoyed the clash between 21st century celebrity culture and Greek mythology and thought this book does a great job at showing that the rock n roll lifestyle is not as glamorous as it seems. Instead, there is a real sense of exploitation and loneliness that runs through this story, highlighting the vulnerabilities of someone who may seem untouchable. In a society that reveres celebrity, I think it is important how this book has shown the damage that the celebrity lifestyle can cause and the pressure these stars are under.

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The Favour – Laura Vaughan

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Synopsis: Ada’s gap year trip to Italy on an art history course offers her the perfect opportunity to become friends with the type of people she feels she should be – wealthy, privileged, sophisticated. Obsessed with the loss of her grand home after her father’s death at aged 13, Ada is determined to get back to the life she could have had. All she has to do is prove herself.

Whilst in Venice, one of the group dies under mysterious circumstances, and Ada sees the chance to make herself indispensable to the people she aspires to be like.

Spanning over 10 years, the story follows Ada after the trip to Italy as she strives to maintain the connections to the people she met there. But, Ada is not the only one maintaining a deception and, sooner or later, the lies begins to unravel.

Review: This book was an enjoyable read. I raced through it in a matter of days and loved the sense of atmosphere and descriptions of Italy. It really did create a perfect background for a plot of deception and secrets.

I enjoyed the sense of mystery and intrigue, but based on the book’s description, I expected the death to play a larger part in the story than it did. I couldn’t help but spend the first section of the book waiting for the suspicious death to occur, and then the rest of the book waiting for it to really matter. That being said, the main plot which focused on Ada’s efforts to ‘get back’ to the social position she believed she deserved was interesting.

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Dragonfly Girl – Marti Leimbach

In this spellbinding thriller and YA debut from bestselling author Marti Leimbach, Kira Adams has discovered a cure for deathand it may just cost her life.

Things aren’t going well for Kira. At home, she cares for her mother and fends off debt collectors. At school, she’s awkward and shy. Plus, she may flunk out if she doesn’t stop obsessing about science, her passion and the one thing she’s good at . . . very good at.

When she wins a prestigious science contest she draws the attention of the celebrated professor Dr. Gregory Munn (as well as his handsome assistant), leading to a part-time job in a top-secret laboratory.

The job is mostly cleaning floors and equipment, but one night, while running her own experiment, she revives a lab rat that has died in her care.

One minute it is dead, the next it is not.

Suddenly she’s the remarkable wunderkind, the girl who can bring back the dead. Everything is going her way. But it turns out that science can be a dangerous business, and Kira is swept up into a world of international rivalry with dark forces that threaten her life.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review: I really loved this book. So much happens but it doesn’t feel rushed, instead each of the three sections are well-considered and allow for the introduction of a range of locations and characters. Whilst some may find the three sections of the book too disconnected, I felt that they allowed the plot to move forward in a way that makes this story feel very unique.

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The Last Empath of Doctsland – Leah Putz

A kingdom in danger. A royal family divided by greed. A warrior combining strength with magic.

Lisalya Manyeo is the only known empath left in the small seafaring country of Doctsland, so when they are threatened by their much stronger neighbor, Prince Viktor recruits her help. On their way, he trains her to fight.

Working together despite their very obvious differences, they go behind enemy lines to stir up a rebellion against his step-brother’s tyrannical rule. After initial success in recruiting people to join them, they are captured. Lisalya is gravely injured during interrogation, but Viktor nurses her back to life.

A final battle will determine who will rule, but sacrifices have to be made to defeat the enemy.

Will Lisalya and Viktor be able to overcome the odds stacked against them to save their country from certain destruction?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review: This book was so entertaining and engaging, I really didn’t want to put it down. I’m hardly an expert in fantasy, but often I struggle with long books that spend a lot of time describing a new and exciting world as nothing much seems to happen. However, I was very happy that the world building of this book was done extremely well, and yet it still managed to move along at a fast pace that helped the story develop in a way that kept you hooked on every sentence.

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Little Bones – N.V. Peacock

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Synopsis: Cherrie, daughter of notorious serial killer Mr Bones, is a mother and has moved on with her life, leaving the name Leigh-Ann Hendy far in the past. That is until a podcast reveals her true identity, suggesting she has something to do with recent disappearances of young boys. One of which is her own son Robin.

As Cherrie’s past catches up with her, she desperately tries to find her son whilst facing judgement and disapproval from those she loves. The only question is, is she the victim in this story or not?

Review: I thoroughly enjoyed this gripping, addictive thriller. Yes, some of the characters were quite unlikable but I felt that it added to the story. A protagonist that you can fully support and root for is boring as no one is perfect. Considering the pressure that Cherrie is under, it is no surprise that she acts irrationally and loses her temper.

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The Word Trove – Elias Vorphal

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Synopsis: This book follows the story of a word that has lost its meaning after being spoken by a human. As goes on its journey, the word meets other words who teach it about stories and language.

Review: I cannot put into words how much I adored this book. I only wished I had the same incredible grasp on language that the author has! The Word Trove is so magical and yet so hard to explain. There is a reason that the book blurb is so concise. I know the premise sounds weird, but the uniqueness of this book is what makes it truly special.

I loved the meta element of this story – a book filled with words, telling a story about a word, and giving the message about the importance of words and how words are wasted by the humans that speak them. It sounds confusing, but this whimsical story is so smart in what it does.

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