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Last Seen Alive – Claire Douglas

Published August 16, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The Hero

Libby Hall never really wanted to be noticed. But after she saves the children in her care from a fire, she finds herself headline news. And horrified by the attention. It all reminds her of what happened nine years ago. The last time she saw her best friend alive.

The Swap

Which is why the house swap is such a godsend. Libby and her husband Jamie exchange their flat in Bath for a beautiful, secluded house in Cornwall. It’s a chance to heal their marriage – to stop its secrets tearing them apart.

The Hideaway

But this stylish Cornish home isn’t the getaway they’d hoped for. They make odd, even disturbing, discoveries in the house. It’s so isolated-yet Libby doesn’t feel entirely alone. As if she’s being watched.

Is Libby being paranoid? What is her husband hiding? And. As the secrets and lies come tumbling out, is the past about to catch up with them?

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Sarah Harwood and the team at Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this wonderful novel in return for an honest review after I had seen some glowing opinions of it on Twitter. Well, I am so glad I asked because Last Seen Alive was everything I could want from a thriller. Intrigue, shocks galore, an action-packed plot combined with fascinating characters made this novel such a delight to read. So much so in fact that as soon as I had finished, I immediately went and purchased the author’s previous two novels, The Sisters and Local Girl Missing – both of which I had seen around and been interested but hadn’t got round to getting yet. Rest assured I shall be making time for them as soon as is practically possible!

There are a number of different threads to this plot (which was one of the reasons why I loved it so much) but let me give you the main gist of the story. Libby Hall and her husband, Jamie have recently undergone a terrible loss in their lives but are determined not to let it affect or change their relationship in any way. When they are given an opportunity to do a house swap for a few days, giving up their flat in Bath and taking over another couple’s house in Cornwall, they jump at the chance. The house is stunning, the location picturesque and the couple seem to be finally putting their tragedy behind them. However, someone connected to the couple has other ideas. For Libby has huge secrets in her past, things Jamie is completely unaware of and if a certain person has their way and the past is revealed in its full horrific detail they just might not survive it with their marriage intact.

I was seriously not expecting how much I was going to enjoy this novel. At the beginning, I was curious for sure and definitely compelled to keep reading but it is only with the addition of more perspectives and a journey into the past that provide the real twists and turns in the narrative. I’m hesitant to say any more, you really have to read it for yourself to experience the excitement, chills and at times pure confusion which was the effect this novel had on me as a reader. I was actually reading this book on a bookish holiday to Oxford with my sister and fellow blogger, Chrissi Reads and she kept laughing at me as at points when I was reading, I kept making little noises and gasps – I was that invested in the story and the characters. Please believe me when I say that the word “cliffhanger,” is not even big enough or accurate enough to describe the immense thrills I had when reaching the end of certain chapters. Personally, I now just want to eat up everything Claire Douglas has written and will write in the future.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Then She Was Gone – Lisa Jewell

Published July 27, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

THEN
She was fifteen, her mother’s
golden girl. She had her whole life ahead of her.
And then, in the blink of an eye, Ellie was gone.

NOW
It’s been ten years since Ellie
disappeared, but Laurel has never given up
hope of finding her daughter.
And then one day a charming and charismatic stranger called Floyd walks into a café and sweeps Laurel off her feet.
Before too long she’s staying the night at this house and being introduced to his nine year old daughter.
Poppy is precocious and pretty – and meeting her completely takes Laurel’s breath away.

Because Poppy is the spitting image of Ellie when she was that age.
And now all those unanswered questions that have haunted Laurel come flooding back.

What happened to Ellie? Where did she go?
Who still has secrets to hide?

What did I think?:

I’ve always heard such great things about Lisa Jewell’s writing and finally got a chance to read one of her novels when my sister Chrissi Reads and I read The Girls  when it was picked for the Richard and Judy Book Club here in the UK a little while ago. As I was expecting, I thoroughly enjoyed it and immediately purchased her last novel, I Found You for my Kindle. Even more recently, a little competition was held on Twitter to win a proof copy of Lisa’s new novel, Then She Was Gone which is released today (happy publication day!) and I was delighted to be in the lucky winner – thank you so much to Century at Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read and review it. I’m also pleased to announce that after the roller-coaster ride that this novel took me on, I will certainly be re-visiting the author’s entire back catalogue. She writes such thrilling stories that they really are the purest definition of “unputdownable,” that you could ever imagine and I’m delighted to find a new to me author where I have such a wealth of past works to peruse!

But, back to Then She Was Gone. This is a novel where our main protagonist, Laurel lost her teenage daughter Ellie a decade ago and never knew what happened to her. The traumatic experience that she has gone through has affected her life in so many ways. Not only has her relationship with her husband been torn apart but she is also struggling to maintain a close bond with her other two children, both older than Ellie. Laurel eventually does find out what has happened to her daughter so there is some closure on that front, but it does not make up for never knowing where she was all that time, who was responsible for her disappearance and what happened to her while she was gone.

A chance meeting with Floyd, father to a young girl called Poppy seems to change everything for Laurel. She realises that she is allowed to be laugh, love and be happy again. However, Laurel finds herself coming up with more questions rather than answers, mainly as the spectre of her missing daughter is a constant presence in her mind, in particular as Floyd’s daughter has a startling resemblance to Ellie when she was that age. Laurel cannot get away from the fact that she needs to know what happened to her daughter so she can finally put her to rest. Yet the secrets that she manages to unearth may not be what she wanted to know after all.

I love the kind of books where it’s absolutely impossible to predict what’s going to happen, I love to be surprised and shocked by twists and turns in a plot and that’s precisely what I got with Then She Was Gone. I enjoyed reading about Laurel and her family as characters but the part that really pulled me in and kept me hooked was Ellie’s side of the story. We learn, in vivid detail, what happened to Ellie on that fateful day that she vanished and it’s completely mind blowing, I promise. Lisa Jewell has a real gift for pulling the reader in with exciting and nail-biting moments and I was on the edge of my seat the entire time I was reading this novel. The mystery behind Ellie’s disappearance is fascinating and terrible all at the same time, particularly when we learn what she has gone through. Lisa Jewell explores the boundaries of a psychologically deranged mind in a brilliant manner that will leave you disturbed and chilled to the bone yet strangely hungry for more.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Leopard At The Door – Jennifer McVeigh

Published July 12, 2017 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

After six years in England, Rachel has returned to Kenya and the farm where she spent her childhood, but the beloved home she’d longed for is much changed. Her father’s new companion—a strange, intolerant woman—has taken over the household. The political climate in the country grows more unsettled by the day and is approaching the boiling point. And looming over them all is the threat of the Mau Mau, a secret society intent on uniting the native Kenyans and overthrowing the whites.

As Rachel struggles to find her place in her home and her country, she initiates a covert relationship, one that will demand from her a gross act of betrayal. One man knows her secret, and he has made it clear how she can buy his silence. But she knows something of her own, something she has never told anyone. And her knowledge brings her power.

What did I think?:

First of all, a huge thank you to Penguin UK who contacted me and asked me if I’d like to read a copy of Jennifer McVeigh’s second novel, Leopard At The Door in exchange for an honest review. I actually read Jennifer’s first novel, The Fever Tree, which it was picked for the Richard and Judy Book Club here in the UK a little while ago and enjoyed it so was delighted to discover that she had chosen to re-visit Africa as the setting for her second novel. One of my biggest enjoyments about reading is that I love to learn a little something along the way, whether that’s about a different country, religion, culture, moment of history etc and Leopard At The Door seemed to offer this opportunity so I gladly took it and began reading.

Our main character, Rachel spent her childhood in Africa but was shipped off back to England and boarding school when her mother sadly died. She spends six years over in England and never quite feels she belongs so when she turns eighteen she begs her father to return and eventually makes the long and arduous journey (as it was in the 1950’s). However, the beautiful country she left is not quite the safe and secure country that she remembers and holds dear. The British colonial rule in this time period has drummed up a great deal of tension between native Kenyans and white dwellers on the land. One particular group, the Mau Mau tribe are insisting that natives should swear an oath to their tribe and punish any loyal to the British or even the British themselves with violence, looting, burning of their dwellings and death. As well as this, Rachel has also to deal with a new family situation that she had not anticipated and a potential threat to her own safety when she falls for the “wrong” man.

There were a lot of things to like about this book. First of all as I’ve already mentioned, the setting which was written beautifully and did make me feel like I could have been there, picturing each scene as it happened. I would however have really love to have seen more background about the Mau Mau tribe and about the native Kenyan villagers as it was during these moments in the narrative when the story seemed to really come alive for me. Rachel was a good character and I did enjoy reading about her but I found her relationship with her father quite frustrating and also wished for some more scenes where it was just the two of them (without the lurking “evil stepmother” in the background!). The love interest was, I’m afraid to say, slightly predictable and I wasn’t quite sure if I believed it as it seemed to build up very suddenly after being relatively nothing at the beginning but perhaps that’s my cynical side talking. The villains of the piece were I must say, written very well and incredibly sinister and easy to hate. I think anyone with an interest in African history (especially where the British went over and ruined everything!) will enjoy this novel, for me I would have just loved to have seen it explored on a deeper level.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3 Star Rating Clip Art