June Reads

A little bit later than usual, here is my June reading wrap-up!

Despite going on holiday in June, thinking I would have all the time in the world for reading, I actually ended up having a relatively slow month – it took me ages to get into anything and even longer to finish things. I’m amazed I managed to even read six books as the last week and a half of the month I ended up reading nothing.

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (Titan Books) 4/5

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I was hooked on If We Were Villains from the first few chapters and then utterly engrossed until the final page. I definitely recommend this one if you’re looking for a solid literary thriller, which will leave you thinking about it for a long time after. My full review for the blog tour can be read here.

Miss You by Kate Eberlen (Pan MacMillan)  4/5

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The tale of Gus and Tess is light-hearted and fun; exactly what I wanted for a pool-read on holiday. Recounting their crossed paths, it is a hybrid of One Day and Sliding Doors – will they or won’t they ever find true love? Yes, it is cheesy and predictable, but it is also funny, warm and tender.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (Berkley Books) 5/5

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Liane Moriarty is a fantastic storyteller, she weaves an impressive web of characters and storylines, which all merge into one big plot point by the end. I was absolutely gripped by Big Little Lies; it is an easy read but also one that makes you question whether you truly know someone and whether face value judgement can ever be right. I can’t wait to download and watch the TV adaptation of this as I’ve heard nothing but amazing things!

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (Doubleday) 3/5

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I picked this up as I absolutely loved Hawkins’ first novel, Girl on the Train. Sadly, I was a little disappointed; Into the Water is still an enjoyable read, but there are just too many characters which at first is particularly confusing as the narrative switches perspectives multiple times. It took me a long time to get into the actual story and by the end I wasn’t satisfied – Into the Water certainly isn’t as gripping or fast-paced as her debut. It felt like something was missing.

Secrets of the Italian Gardener by Andrew Crofts (RedDoor) 3/5

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I read this in one sitting and for such a short book it packs so much in thanks to Crofts magical storytelling ability. It encompasses everything from what it is to endure grief to understanding, and accepting, your own morality. Political, tense, philosophical and intriguing, The Secrets of the Italian Gardener is a well-developed, thought-provoking read that will make you quetion good vs. evil. My full review for the blog tour can be read here.

The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith (Doubleday / Transworld) 4/5

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Mahsuda Snaith’s writing is stunning – it draws you in from the first page and envelops you in feeling and emotion. The Things We Thought We Knew is a beautifully moving coming-of-age tale that captures life on a council estate with such clarity. It is gutsy, eye-opening and emotional, showing the reader what it is to truly find ourselves in this cruel, crazy and vivid world. My full review for the blog tour can be read here.

Did you read anything good in June? Do you have any recommendations for me?

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Blog Tour: Two Lost Boys by L.F. Robertson

#TitanBooks #BookReview #BlogTour @TitanBooks

Hello and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Two Lost Boys by L.F. Robertson. A big thank you to Philippa at Titan Books for organizing, and including me, on this blog tour.

About the book:

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Janet Moodie has spent years as a death row appeals attorney. Overworked and recently widowed, she’s had her fill of hopeless cases, and is determined that this will be her last. Her client is Marion ‘Andy’ Hardy, convicted along with his brother Emory of the rape and murder of two women. But Emory received a life sentence while Andy got the death penalty, labeled the ringleader despite his low IQ and Emory’s dominant personality.

Convinced that Andy’s previous lawyers missed mitigating evidence that would have kept him off death row, Janet investigates Andy’s past. She discovers a sordid and damaged upbringing, a series of errors on the part of his previous counsel, and most worrying of all, the possibility that there is far more to the murders than was first thought. Andy may be guilty, but does he deserve to die?

Paperback: 400 pages
Published by:
Titan Books, 16 May – you can order a copy here

My thoughts…

As with any crime book I will keep my review brief as I don’t want to give away any spoilers, ruining the twists and turns of the book for you!

Two Lost Boys is a legal thriller that grips hard as we follow Janet Moodie’s progress during the sentencing of Andy Hardy.

If you’re interested in learning more about the justice system and US prisons then this one is for you. Whilst the characters in Two Lost Boys are complex, the plot and narrative is a little simple, but that’s no bad thing as the story flows exceptionally well. For me, Robertson’s career and legal insights bring the story to life and are what make it.

Justice sits at the heart of the novel; with a man on death row, will a fair trial be had? Innocence, guilt, mercy and grief are also explored throughout, with Robertson’s writing making the legal technicalities easy to digest and understand.

Overall, Two Lost Boys is a compelling, brooding novel full of dark, intense pockets – to the point where it felt quite oppressive at times. I found it fascinating how Robertson drew on her professional experiences to write the book; this made it an authentic, detailed read, with real insight into the criminal justice system.

About the author:

L.F. Robertson is a practising defense attorney who for the last two decades has handled only death penalty appeals. Linda is the co-author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Unsolved Mysteries, and a contributor to the forensic handbooks How to Try a Murder and Irrefutable Evidence. She has had short stories published in the anthologies My Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: the Hidden Years and Sherlock Holmes: The American Years.

You can see the other posts from the blog tour here:

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I received an advanced copy of Two Lost Boys from the lovely Philippa at Titan Books for an honest and unbiased review – thank you, 

 

 

 

Blog Tour (Pt.2): Extract of Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith

Hello and welcome back to my stop on the Follow Me Down blog tour – if you haven’t read my previous post, which will tell you a bit about this book as well as my review, you can view it here.

Now, as promised, here’s an extract of Follow Me Down – I hope you enjoy it!

Back inside, I picked up the photo and slid it back under the palm tree magnet. Opened my brother’s fridge. It was nearly empty. A carton of eggs, the usual condiments, and three cans of beer still yoked by the plastic rings, a small pile of six-pack rings next to it. I took one of the cans, opened it, took long swallows, then pressed it to my cheek and wandered down the hallway.

The bathroom light was on. The door half closed. I wanted to hear a shower running, an electric razor buzzing, but nothing. I pushed the door open. There was his toothbrush, fully pasted and ready to go, sitting on the side of the sink. It was like he was standing over the sink, looking into the mirror, about to brush his teeth when he decided, fuck it, and walked out on his life. But that didn’t make sense. Wouldn’t he at least brush his teeth before becoming a fugitive on the run? Wouldn’t he take his toothbrush with him? Or his expensive electric razor so he could maintain his neatly edged two-day beard and the look of a European soccer player? Or his hair gel or his cologne? Lucas was vain; he would still want to look good.

Even if, and I couldn’t believe he’d risk such a very public fall from grace, but even if he were to have become sexually involved with one of his students who, just through sheer bad luck, happened to be murdered, he would stay and fight the charges. He wouldn’t be able to stand that people thought he did it. His need to be known as a good guy was almost pathological. We were the approval-seeking by-products of our histrionic alcoholic mother; we just went about it differently. I cared less about being likable than being considered impressive, whereas Lucas really wanted to be liked, the guy everyone wanted around, and that was who he’d always been.

Unless. Unless he’s dead too. I wasn’t just posturing for Pruden. This was a real fear. Some yahoo, maybe the same yahoo who lit his truck on fire, went after him. The kind of red-necked guy who’d want bragging rights at every bar that he took care of that sicko teacher preying on teenage girls. I could come up with half a dozen names right now, on the spot. Guys who’d at least claim that if they were alone in a room with Haas they’d cut his dick off, but not necessarily go through with it. Guys who’d trash his truck, go after him online, but only grumble something under their breath to him in person.

I couldn’t think this. It was too hard. If some vigilante spent the last few days bragging about giving Lucas the beating of his life (that ended his life), wouldn’t Pruden have heard about it by now? I wouldn’t put it past Pruden to cover it up, but would he really keep up with a bogus hunt for Lucas? Would he have even called me here?

Fuck. Stop.

Lucas called me Friday. Pocket dial or not, he called me and that meant he was alive. I knew this was some loose reasoning, but what else could I do? Thinking my brother was dead was last-resort thinking.

I went into his bedroom. Again it was a mess, but I knew there was a method to his madness. The last time we lived together was only five years ago. Lucas came to stay with me with big plans to live in Chicago. He was dabbling in acting and modeling. It was his first attempt at something after accepting he was not going to be a professional hockey player. After the initial excitement of getting some extra work playing a firefighter on a soapy TV drama wore off, he mostly loitered around my tiny apartment between sporadic shifts as a waiter, charming my off-limits roommates, watching SportsCenter, and eating cereal from a mixing bowl. With no real direction, he claimed to be having a serious quarter-life crisis while I’d just finished my pharmacy degree and was leafing through MBA programs at different Ivy Leagues. I had dazzling visions of myself in a top hat and tails, twirling a gratuitous walking stick as I climbed the pharma corporate ladder. I’d have nicknames like Conglomerate or Powerhouse or just Moneybags.

Then, just like that, Lucas decided to move back to Wayoata and get a teaching certificate.I pressured him to stay, pointed out he had given the whole acting thing only eight months, and even if he decided to do something different with his life, there were more and better opportunities in Chicago, but I couldn’t convince him. He invoked our mother as an excuse to run home, tail firmly between legs. She’s all alone. No one goes to visit her most of the year.

There was nothing I could say to that, even if we both knew he was bullshitting. He hadn’t been that worried about Mimi before things got a little hard and aimless, so I backed off, thinking he’d quickly get bored in Wayoata anyway. Obviously, that didn’t happen.

I opened drawers, came across a leather glove at the back of his sock drawer that I guessed was the one from Mimi’s car. The sight of it gave way to the skin-crawly seasickness I always got when I thought of Mimi, her “accident.” I slammed the drawer shut. Sunk down, hugged my knees. I couldn’t decide why he would have kept it all these years. I took a few nausea-battling breaths, then reminded myself it wouldn’t be the first time we were on the receiving end of the Wayoata police department’s incompetence.

We were seventeen when our mother had her car accident. Her injuries were severe (her sodden brain hit the inside of her skull like wet toilet paper on ceiling tiles, splot). But when Lucas and I were given the go-ahead to clean out her beige-gold LeSabre (Lucas insisted we do this ourselves, like it was some kind of pseudo funeral rite), he noticed that our mother’s change was still stacked in its holder, her sunglasses still clipped to the visor. The dent on the front of the bumper where she’d smacked into a tree was underwhelming. There was even a man’s leather glove. Just one. It didn’t add up. At least not in Lucas’s opinion. I knew better. I’d tried to point out Mimi’s car was a total sty and it wasn’t really that odd that we’d find a stray glove under the heap of store receipts, flattened cigarette packets, torn panty hose, stubby lipsticks. Lucas wanted to pursue it anyway. He was fixated on the glove.

Reluctantly, heart pounding in my chest, I had gone along with him to urge the police to investigate what he thought might be a staged accident, but luckily, Pruden was no Marge Gunderson. Before Lucas could even finish what he’d been referring to as his opening argument, before he could wave the black glove around, Chief Pruden cut him off. “The roads were icy. Your mother was drunk and wasn’t wearing a seat belt. Let’s not pretend she didn’t ever drive in that sort of condition. Just be happy she hit a tree and didn’t kill some nice family.”

Case closed.

Except, during those months before leaving for college, if we saw Pruden around town, my brother would eye him up and down. Make menacing but harmless gestures, like rubbing his middle finger on the bridge of his nose or, once, the pow of a finger gun. He’d tell anyone who’d listen that Pruden was an incompetent asshole. He was seventeen and angry and felt he’d been ignored. Now I couldn’t help but wonder if Pruden hadn’t held a grudge and was taking pleasure in pinning something on my brother.

I stood up again, opened his closet, and looked for an empty space from which a suitcase had been taken, where he’d packed his spare toothbrush and spare razor. Nothing was missing but Lucas.

And his ATM card. The reminder was a gut-punch. He could technically just buy it all, toothbrush, T-shirt, jeans. He could empty his account in one fell swoop after crossing the Canadian border and then really disappear. He would go to Canada, wouldn’t he? I mean it’s right there. Only if he was guilty, but he wasn’t.

I sunk down into his bed. What the fuck was happening? I was reeling. I truly understood what it meant to reel now. I felt cold and feverish. The dim ceiling light pulsed. I rolled over and cried into the pillow that still smelled like my brother’s hair gel.

 

Blog Tour: Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith (Titan Books)

#BlogTour #FollowMeDown @TitanBooks @SL_Smith_

Hello and welcome to my stop on the Blog Tour for Follow Me Down by Sherri Smith, a brand new thriller from Titan Books.

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A bit about the book…

Mia never intended to go home again, but has no choice when her twin brother goes missing. Back to the people she left behind, the person she used to be, and the secrets she thought she’d buried. Her brother Lucas, a popular teacher, has disappeared on the same day as the murdered body of one of his students was pulled from the river. Trying to wrap her head around the rumors of Lucas’s affair with the teenager, and unable to reconcile the media’s vicious portrayal of Lucas with her own memories of him, Mia is desperate to find another suspect.

All the while, she wonders, if he’s innocent, why did he run?

Sherri Smith has previously written two historical fiction novels with Simon & Schuster UK. When not writing, she spends time with her family and two rescue dogs, and restores vintage furniture that would otherwise be destined for the dump. She lives in Winnipeg, Canada, where the long, cold winters nurture her dark side.

Paperback: 400 pages
Published: Titan Books, 21 March 2017

My thoughts on the book…

Whilst living in Chicago and working as a pharmacist, Mia Haas gets an out of the blue phone call from the police in her hometown – her twin brother Lucas has gone missing and is the prime suspect in a gory murder case. In a flash, Mia is thrown back into small-town life and is forced to search for her brother to prove his innocence, whilst also having to confront her demons head on; tackling everything from her complex relationship with her mother, to her underlying pill addiction.

Throughout, Smith’s writing is pacy and evocative giving you a feel for how oppressive small-town life can be. Police corruption is rife in Follow Me Down; the chief sides with the richest, most powerful family in town, but on this occasion all the wealth in the world can’t buy them the verdict they believe to be true.

Follow Me Down leads the reader on a dark path through Mia’s screwed-up mind alongside the unwinding murder case; I liked how well-developed she was as a character, both gritty and flawed. Alongside Lucas’ disappearance there was a parallel storyline examining Mia’s relationship with her brain-damaged, alcoholic mother, which added another dimension to the book.

About half way through, I really thought I’d cracked the conclusion, but boy-oh-boy was I wrong. All-in-all, Follow Me Down is a thriller that really packs a punch, it is full of twists and turns, with multiple storylines woven together culminating in one epic ending.

Give this a go if you like: fast-paced thrillers full of secrets or intricate mysteries

As part of my stop on the #FollowMeDown blog tour, I’m also pleased to be able to share an extract from the book with you, which will be up later this afternoon and up until 7th April you can see more from the other bloggers on the tour. Info below:

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