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Gone Without A Trace – Mary Torjussen

Published May 24, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

GONE WITHOUT A TRACE by Mary Torjussen is a chilling, twisty, compulsive thriller about a woman whose boyfriend has vanished. Fans of I LET YOU GO and THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN will be gripped.

No one ever disappears completely…

You leave for work one morning.

Another day in your normal life.

Until you come home to discover that your boyfriend has gone.
His belongings have disappeared.
He hasn’t been at work for weeks.
It’s as if he never existed.

But that’s not possible, is it?

And there is worse still to come.

Because just as you are searching for him
someone is also watching you.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the lovely Millie Seaward from Headline Books for sending me over a copy of Mary Torjussen’s exciting and gripping novel in exchange for an honest review. I love a good mystery and a compelling psychological thriller and Gone Without A Trace was both of these as well as being very fast paced which meant that I managed to finish the story in the space of twenty-four hours, a definite sign of a good read.

Our main character Hannah, when we meet her is on her way back from a very successful business trip where she may have even snared herself a promotion. She walks through the door of the house she shares with long-term boyfriend Matt, champagne in hand to find something very disturbing. There is no trace of Matt’s personal belongings or indeed himself at the property at all. In fact, it’s as if he never existed in the first place. All Hannah’s personal items have been placed in the position they were in when Matt first moved in and stranger still, all traces of Matt on social media, text messages and emails on Hannah’s phone has been permanently deleted. She dials his phone number but it has been cut off, she phones his place of work but they tell her they have no-one of that name working there. Matt has literally disappeared into thin air and Hannah doesn’t know what, if anything, has gone wrong in their relationship. She begins to search for Matt through any means possible which leads to her life unravelling astronomically and her current friendships and relationships being threatened. Then the anonymous text messages start to arrive and strange things happen in her house that she cannot explain and no one else will believe. Is Hannah finally losing her grip on reality or is something a lot deeper and darker going on?

Well, to be perfectly honest when I started this story I didn’t know what to think. The character of Hannah herself isn’t the most likeable individual, I have to say and at times when her search for answers bordered into the obsessive, threatening her livelihood and her mental health, I felt terribly frustrated with her and yes, wanted to give her a fictional shake. This was a great tool used by the author however as believe me, it’s all for a greater purpose. By the time I got further through the novel as more secrets were unearthed, I realised why the author had written it as she did. And damn, was it effective! I was totally shocked and surprised and really appreciate a narrative where I cannot predict what’s going to happen next. Aside from this, I really enjoyed the other difficult relationships that the author chose to explore, such as Hannah’s love-hate friendship with her childhood friend, Katie and her very strained relationship with her mother and father. By the end of the novel, little things that happen throughout start to add up and everything will make sense, I assure you. Personally, I found this a hugely enjoyable novel and I look forward to what Mary Torjussen comes up with next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

See What I Have Done – Sarah Schmidt

Published May 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Haunting, gripping and gorgeously written, SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE by Sarah Schmidt is a re-imagining of the unsolved American true crime case of the Lizzie Borden murders, for fans of BURIAL RITES and MAKING A MURDERER.

‘Eerie and compelling, Sarah Schmidt breathes such life into the terrible, twisted tale of Lizzie Borden and her family, she makes it impossible to look away’ Paula Hawkins

When her father and step-mother are found brutally murdered on a summer morning in 1892, Lizzie Borden – thirty two years old and still living at home – immediately becomes a suspect. But after a notorious trial, she is found innocent, and no one is ever convicted of the crime.

Meanwhile, others in the claustrophobic Borden household have their own motives and their own stories to tell: Lizzie’s unmarried older sister, a put-upon Irish housemaid, and a boy hired by Lizzie’s uncle to take care of a problem.

This unforgettable debut makes you question the truth behind one of the great unsolved mysteries, as well as exploring power, violence and the harsh realities of being a woman in late nineteenth century America.

What did I think?:

First of all, the biggest thank you to the lovely Georgina Moore from Headline and Tinder Press who were kind enough to send me a copy of this astounding debut novel in return for an honest review. To be honest, I’m not sure where to start with this book – I have so much to say and it invoked so many different feelings in me that I’m wary of this review turning into an incoherent gush fest! See What I Have Done is unlike any novel I’ve read before and will probably ever read. The characters, the structure of the plot and especially the stunning writing style all completely blew me away and I still find myself thinking about it days after finishing.

Sarah Schmidt has chosen to focus on a real and rather shocking event that played out in the late nineteenth century involving a young girl called Lizzie Borden who was the main suspect in a double murder of her father and his wife, her stepmother Abby Borden. You may be familiar with the old schoolyard rhyme:

“Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother forty whacks. When she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one.”

Now in reality, Lizzie was actually acquitted of their murders. Apparently it was thought that the killings were so brutal that no well brought up, middle-class young lady would have been capable of such an act. Sarah Schmidt has chosen to fictionalise Lizzie’s story from a number of perspectives that is, from the point of view of her sister Emma who was not present in the house at the time of the killings, the Irish maid Bridget who at the time had an uneasy relationship with Mrs Borden, a mysterious young man called Benjamin and from Lizzie herself. Each perspective is startlingly honest and intimate and we get a fantastic insight into the strained relationships between different family members, the sadness and frustration of living in a house with difficult and occasionally spiteful parents and the innermost thoughts of a troubled mind.

See What I Have Done is a raw and disturbing read that instantly draws you in with its delicious (yet at the same time disgusting) imagery forged by beautifully descriptive writing and fascinating character studies that have you questioning everybody and everything. It seems like everyone has motive for killing the Borden’s but which one of these individuals had the strength and audacity to wield the axe at the end? As a reader, we’ve got an idea of whom as we draw towards the conclusion but the author will still have you thinking of alternative things that could have happened if others were in the vicinity at the right time. What did I love most about this novel? Apart from the writing style which I could wax on about for days, I enjoyed how she explored the relationship between Lizzie and her older sister Emma which was terribly co-dependent on Lizzie’s part, despite the fact she was supposed to be in her thirties. Her child-like voice, the decisions she made, and the actions she chose added the creep factor to the proceedings and made her an utterly mind-blowing character to read about.

Even the simple act of several characters eating a pear sent shivers down my spine, it was written in such a crystal clear way that played on each one of your senses to the extreme where you could smell the sickness in the house, taste the mutton soup and swallow the pear. If I could sum up my feelings on See What I Have Done (which would be tricky!) I would say: I was nauseated and amazed, disgusted but filled with awe, taken aback but hugely delighted and urge everyone with every fibre of my being to READ THIS BOOK. Sarah Schmidt has a new, ardent fan right here that has “seen what she has done,” loved every minute of it and simply cannot wait to see what she does next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Close To Me – Amanda Reynolds

Published April 23, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Close To Me is a gripping debut psychological drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty’s bestselling The Husband’s Secret, Clare Mackintosh’s I Let You Go, and Linda Green’s While My Eyes Were Closed.

She can’t remember the last year. Her husband wants to keep it that way.

When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia-she’s lost a whole year of memories. A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?

She can’t remember what she did-or what happened the night she fell. But she’s beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought.

What did I think?:

I got the opportunity to meet the lovely Amanda Reynolds in person at a Headline bloggers evening I went to recently where I also picked up a copy of her debut novel, Close To Me in exchange for an honest review. Thank you very much to Wildfire Publishers (an imprint of Headline) for a copy and to Amanda for the wonderful chat we had that evening. Now, if you like your psychological thrillers, Close To Me is a novel you definitely shouldn’t miss out on reading, it’s a fantastic and tense tale that had me gripped right until the end and I became terribly attached to the characters and their lives – the sign of a wonderful author.

The premise initially reminded me of the brilliant Before I Go To Sleep by S.J. Watson i.e. a woman has an accident which results in her suffering amnesia and questioning whole periods of her life that she has missed. It wasn’t long before I realised that although there were slight similarities at the outset of the novel, Close To Me stands by itself quite independently and should not be compared or any potential twists anticipated. Our protagonist, Jo Harding has lost one year of her life after falling down the stairs at home but snatches of events keep coming back to her as she is recovering from her head injury. She begins to realise that certain things are being kept from her by her husband and her two grown up children, but why? What has happened in the past year that has been so terrible that her family are keeping secrets from her in this way? Also, if Jo manages to uncover what has happened in the past year, will that be a good thing or will she wish she had never remembered?

I loved the way this novel was structured. We only hear things from the perspective of Jo but she is such a fascinating character (and somewhat unreliable narrator due to her head injury) that I immediately warmed to her and was rooting for her to get to the bottom of what precipitated her fall down the stairs in the first place. The reader is transported between two time periods, Jo’s present situation and her fight to recover her memories and back to a year ago where one of her last memories is dropping her son off at university. As we, the reader find out things as Jo is finding them out herself it felt very intimate and exciting as a reading experience and I thoroughly enjoyed all the revealing moments, especially close to the end where I quite literally could not put the book down until I had found out EVERYTHING. This is a strong, very memorable psychological thriller and a brilliant debut for the genre. I wish Amanda Reynolds every success for the future and I’ll certainly be reading whatever she writes next.

Interested? Buy Close To Me from Amazon now as an e-book for the absolute bargain price of 99p!:

Paperback release is 27th July, 2017.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Katherine Of Aragon, The True Queen (Six Tudor Queens #1) – Alison Weir

Published April 15, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The lives of Henry VIII’s queens make for dramatic stories and Alison Weir will write a series of novels that offer insights into the real lives of the six wives based on extensive research and new theories.

In all the romancing, has anyone regarded the evidence that Anne Boleyn did not love Henry VIII? Or that Prince Arthur, Katherine of Aragon’s first husband, who is said to have loved her in fact cared so little for her that he willed his personal effects to his sister? Or that Henry VIII, an over-protected child and teenager, was prudish when it came to sex? That Jane Seymour, usually portrayed as Henry’s one true love, had the makings of a matriarch? There is much to reveal …

Alison will write about the wives in the context of their own age and of the court intrigues that surrounded these women and – without exception – wrecked their lives. She will transport readers into a lost and vivid world of splendour and brutality: a world in which love, or the game of it, dominates all.

What did I think?:

When I was at school I didn’t pay much attention to history lessons and felt it didn’t really interest me that much. Then as an adult, I found how much I was missing out on and I credit authors like Alison Weir for introducing me to important individuals from our past in both her fiction and non-fiction in such a wonderful way that without reading her I would have remained woefully ignorant. I first came across Alison Weir’s work in her non-fiction, namely the excellent book Henry VIII, The King And His Court which I highly recommend. This led to me being fascinated with the Tudor period of British history and devouring any book by the author that was relevant. When Alison starting writing historical fiction, I was delighted and her meticulous research and passion for her subject clearly comes across in her novels.

The Six Tudor Queens is a new series of historical fiction novels, each one focusing on a wife of Henry VIII:

“that provide insight into the real lives of these women, based on extensive research and new theories, novels that will put the six wives into the context of their own age”.

Thank you so much to Headline publishers via Book Bridgr who sent me an absolutely gorgeous hardback edition of the first novel, Katherine Of Aragon: The True Queen in exchange for an honest review. Well, I have to admit I’m already slightly biased as I’m a huge fan of Alison Weir but believe me, I’m not going to gush about this book insincerely. It’s an absolutely stunning piece of work and gave much deeper insights into Katherine of Aragon as a person than I ever could have dreamed of.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with Katherine’s story, I’ll give a very quick synopsis. She was the first wife of Henry VIII and originally came over as a princess of Spain to be the wife of his brother, Arthur who was the heir to the throne of England. However, Arthur dies quite suddenly and Katherine is left in limbo for the longest time while Henry’s father, Henry VII, decides what is to be done with her. She finally gets her happy ending when she marries Henry and becomes Queen but their marriage whilst initially a happy one is fraught with difficulties and tragedies over the years. Throughout all her personal losses, disappointments and outright betrayals however, Katherine remains dignified and regal, certainly making her mark on history as a true Queen of England.

I don’t want to say too much about Katherine’s struggles, particularly in her relationships with her husband, Henry but it’s an utterly compelling and gripping tale that reveals just how much effort and love Alison Weir has put into this novel to make Katherine’s story come alive. Out of all of Henry’s wives, she remains firmly in my top two, even more so now after the beauty of Alison’s writing. The next book in the series, Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession is due to be published on the 18th of May and I was ecstatic to be approved for it on NetGalley (thank you again Headline!). Expect a review for that around about the publication date but if it’s anything as powerful as this first novel, I’m going to be one happy Tudor fan girl.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Stranger In My Home – Adele Parks

Published April 10, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

What would YOU do if your child wasn’t yours?

Utterly compelling, Sunday Times bestseller Adele Parks’s new contemporary novel The Stranger In My Home, is sure to move, grip and delight her fans, along with readers of Liane Moriarty, Jane Shemilt and Lisa Jewell.

Alison is lucky and she knows it. She has the life she always craved, including a happy home with Jeff and their brilliant, vivacious teenage daughter, Katherine – the absolute centre of Alison’s world. Then a knock at the door ends life as they know it. Fifteen years ago, someone else took Alison’s baby from the hospital. And now Alison is facing the unthinkable.

The daughter she brought home doesn’t belong to her.

When you have everything you dreamed of, there is everything to lose.

What did I think?:

I was lucky enough to meet the lovely Adele Parks at a recent blogger evening hosted by her publisher, Headline and managed to pick up a copy of her latest novel. Thank you so much to Headline for hosting the evening and for providing a copy of The Stranger In My Home in exchange for an honest review. Adele talked to Cleo (from Cleopatra Loves Books) and I about the brilliant new venture she was championing, Reading Ahead, part of The Reading Agency which encourages reluctant readers to pick up a book. A big part of that is asking high profile authors like Adele and others like Rowan Coleman, Jenny Colgan and Dreda Say Mitchell (to name a few) to write a “Quick Read,” which may make it easier for people to start reading by giving them the confidence they may lack. To find out more about this fantastic programme please go to their website HERE.

Now I have a confession to make. I’ve never read an Adele Parks novel before! I have no excuse, don’t ask me why or judge me but I’m extremely glad I remedied that and picked up her latest. Her writing is deliciously darker than I was expecting full of twists and turns, family drama, betrayal and secrets. Our main character is Alison and the focus for the main part is on her relationship with her husband and teenage daughter Katherine, the latter of whom seems to be the most perfect adolescent any parent could wish for. She never gets in trouble, she is kind and considerate, her grades are good, she excels at everything she turns her hand to and her relationship with both her parents is rock solid.

Well as you’ve guessed from the synopsis, unfortunately things don’t stay this perfect for long. Alison’s world is shattered when one day a stranger turns up on her doorstep and insinuates that she may have brought the wrong daughter home from the hospital i.e. their babies were somehow switched. To top it all off, there is worse news to come for the entire family, something that devastates them all and could have a huge impact on their lives, especially Katherine’s. Alison is determined not to treat Katherine any different. After all, she has been her parent for the last fifteen years and Katherine her child. However, she knows that something this huge cannot be ignored, particularly when her biological child has been living with another family all these years and appears to be everything Katherine is not.

That’s all I really want to say about the plot as I’m very fearful of spoiling it. One thing I must say is do not take this story on face value alone. It is much deeper and murkier than you would think and the places that Adele Parks takes the characters may be quite different to what you would anticipate! This was definitely the case for me. I was shocked and surprised in equal measure but throughout it all felt so invested in the characters and the story-line. Nothing is what it seems, no-one is perfect, mistakes are made and secrets are unearthed. This is an exciting, well paced read that I thoroughly enjoyed and I’m so glad to be saying that this will not be the last I read of Adele Parks.

Would I recommend it?: 

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

This Is How It Always Is – Laurie Frankel

Published March 25, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

This is how a family keeps a secret…and how that secret ends up keeping them.

This is how a family lives happily ever after…until happily ever after becomes complicated.

This is how children change…and then change the world.

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and loves peanut butter sandwiches. He also loves wearing a dress, and dreams of being a princess.

When he grows up, Claude says, he wants to be a girl.

Rosie and Penn want Claude to be whoever Claude wants to be. They’re just not sure they’re ready to share that with the world. Soon the entire family is keeping Claude’s secret. Until one day it explodes.

This Is How It Always Is is a novel about revelations, transformations, fairy tales, and family. And it’s about the ways this is how it always is: Change is always hard and miraculous and hard again, parenting is always a leap into the unknown with crossed fingers and full hearts, children grow but not always according to plan. And families with secrets don’t get to keep them forever.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to the lovely Caitlin Raynor from Headline publishers for sending me a copy of this beautiful novel in exchange for an honest review. As soon as I read the synopsis and saw that it focused on the experience of a family with a transgender child, I knew I instantly had to read it. It’s also been quite a controversial topic in the news recently when the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie made some comments about trans women. Personally, I’m loving that more books are getting written and more people are speaking about individuals who are born in the wrong body. It’s an issue that may divide people depending on your viewpoint but is something that definitely needs to be addressed in an open and honest way.

This book did exactly that. I fell instantly in love with the family – Rosie and Penn, the parents who give birth to a succession of male children, the last of which, Claude is quite obviously not your stereotypical male from a very young age. He is sensitive and perceptive, always wants to hear about the princess in the fairy stories his father tells the children every night and doesn’t see what is so terrible about wearing a dress and playing dolls with other girls. When Claude finally decides that he wants to be a girl and goes by the name Poppy, his four brothers and parents are incredibly supportive. They accept Poppy for the way she has always been and love her just the same. However, living in a town where everybody thinks you have five sons, not four sons and a daughter can be difficult especially with the more ignorant of the community and the family soon run into trouble. This leads to them going to drastic lengths to protect Poppy and the rest of their children and may eventually lead to further problems for them all in the future.

I enjoyed every minute of this book. It was a touching, heart-warming story where the author drew such wonderful characters that they really get under your skin and stay there for the duration of the novel. The family we read about could be any of our own, they have the same dynamics, problems at school, normal difficulties in adolescence, etc. The only difference is, this family has a child that is so deliciously cuddle-worthy and instantly loveable, he just happens to have been born in a male body while his mind is clearly female. Of course, this causes a lot of tension in the family when outsiders who don’t understand or are themselves uncomfortable with the situation cause Poppy almost irreparable damage. Yet there is such love in this novel, especially between the family members that really gave me the warm fuzzies and made this story one to treasure, read again and certainly educate other people with.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Tastes Like Fear (DI Marnie Rome #3) – Sarah Hilary

Published March 12, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sarah Hilary won the 2015 Theakston’s Crime Novel of the Year with her debut, the 2014 Richard and Judy pick SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN. She followed up with NO OTHER DARKNESS, proclaimed as ‘riveting’ by Lisa Gardner and ‘truly mesmerising’ by David Mark. Now D.I. Marnie Rome returns in her third novel.

Home is where Harm lies…

The young girl who causes the fatal car crash disappears from the scene.
A runaway who doesn’t want to be found, she only wants to go home.
To the one man who understands her.
Gives her shelter.
Just as he gives shelter to the other lost girls who live in his house.
He’s the head of her new family.
He’s Harm.
And when Harm’s family is threatened, Marnie Rome is about to find out that everything tastes like fear…

What did I think?:

Sarah Hilary is hands down one of my favourite crime fiction authors writing today. I was lucky enough to do an interview with the lovely lady just after the release of her second book in the Marnie Rome series, No Other Darkness. If you fancy seeing what she had to say, please see my post HERE. I highly recommend both books in the series and from the first fantastic novel, Someone Else’s Skin, to this phenomenal third novel, Tastes Like Fear (which I have waited WAY too long to read!), she is an author that I will automatically buy, regardless of what she writes. A huge thank you to the lovely people at Headline for sending me a copy of Sarah’s third novel and apologies that I’m only getting round to reviewing it now.

In Tastes Like Fear, Marnie and her sidekick Noah Jake have a new, frightening case to manage and solve. A young girl walks out into the path of a car one night causing a horrific accident. In the aftermath, she disappears and cannot be found. The driver of the car that crashed into another as he swerved to avoid the girl gives an interesting witness statement. He is certain that the girl was half-clothed, dishevelled, clearly not on this planet, with marks all over her body (which later is discovered to be writing). After further findings, the case turns out to be much more complex than Marnie could have imagined. It involves a house filled with homeless young girls that have been specifically chosen to live in the house and be kept “safe.” Although the perpetrator’s idea of safety is very different from what you and I might envisage. Especially when one of the girls turns up dead. Marnie and her team must hurry to discover exactly what’s going on, why and by whom if they are going to save any more vulnerable girls.

Once again, Sarah Hilary has pulled me into the amazing, twisted world of Marnie Rome with a strong female lead that has demons of her own but fights desperately to ensure that no else should suffer. Again, it was wonderful to see her teaming up with Noah Jake, one of my favourite characters and it was also lovely to get an insight into his personal life with his partner, Dan and his troubled kid brother Sol. Of course, Marnie is also given a good chunk of time which is fantastic and I enjoyed her ongoing struggle with the person who is serving time for killing both of her parents. From certain things that happened throughout the novel, it’s certainly set up some tense proceedings for the next few books in the series I’m sure and I cannot wait to see how it all pans out! I can safely say that Marnie Rome is my favourite female detective of all time and Sarah Hilary’s plots and character development just keep going from strength to strength. The fourth book in the series, A Quieter Killing was released on the 9th March 2017 and I’m very excited to say that I’ve been approved to read it on NetGalley. (Thank you again Headline!) One thing is for sure, I won’t be waiting so long to read it this time!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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