Beyond Farwin Wood by Drea Damara | Review

About The Book

For fans of The Princess Bride and Stardust

Anything Can Happen on Blinney Lane.

Agatha Blinney’s curse is unleashed when Franci Doltman dresses up as her favourite movie star. Now the store-owners on Blinney Lane must rally together to save Franci before the possession claims her forever.

Valerie Millville is tired of her controlling mother, disappointing men, and being misunderstood. Determined to escape her life on Blinney Lane, she and troublemaker Ricky Allister volunteer to find a cure by venturing inside one of the cursed weeping books.

From mythical lands to peculiar allies to other worldly creatures, Valerie learns not all stories are written in stone—or even in one dimension. Can she and Ricky save Franci in time or will their friend become another casualty of the curse that binds Blinney Lane? Will Farwin Wood show them secrets undiscovered or are mysteries merely in the eye of the beholder? Get ready for an adventure that will transport you into the pages of a fantasy world beyond reality.

My Thoughts

This book “Beyond Farwin Wood” is the second novel in this series – ‘The Blinney Lane Books.’ I was really impressed with this novel, although I have not read very many books from this genre, nor I have read, the first book, entitled ‘The Weeping Books of Blinney Lane.’

Drea Damara’s creative skill in writing showed as this super, imaginative, tale of fantasy and adventure flowed well from the start, even when the story was moving between the different worlds.

The story mainly concentrated on Valerie, Franci, Ricky and Ranthrop, though their family and friends from Blinney Lane also feature in the tale.

The characters were colourful and so well drawn, building in part, from those in the first book, but also focusing on a number of different ones. I particularly liked Drea Damara’s portrayal of Valerie who was so free-spirited, independent and single-minded.

The plot was very well executed and didn’t feel forced or overdone. I was impressed that the story was good as a stand-alone read. The clever story-telling was so absorbing that I found myself not wanting to reach the end of the book, even though I needed to find out what was going to happen with the characters that I had started to get to know.

I would recommend this captivating and absorbing tale of adventure and I hope that the author, Drea Damara, is writing more in the ‘Blinney Lane’ series.  

*[Thanks to BHC Press and the author, Drea Damara, for my free ARC of Beyond Farwin Wood in exchange for an honest review.]

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Four Stars

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Apple Of My Eye by Claire Allan | Review

About The Book

‘Utterly addictive. Compulsive, twisty, tense.’ CLAIRE DOUGLAS, author of Local Girl Missing

Just how far is a mother willing to go?

When a mysterious note arrives for seven months pregnant nurse Eliana Hughes, she begins to doubt every aspect of her life – from her mixed feelings about motherhood to her marriage to Martin, who has become distant in recent months.

As the person behind the note escalates their campaign to out Eli’s husband as a cheat, she finds herself unable to trust even her own instincts, and as pressure builds, she makes a mistake that jeopardises her entire future.

Elsewhere, someone is watching. Someone who desperately wants a baby to call their own and will go to any lengths to become a mother – and stay a mother…

My Thoughts

“Apple Of My Eye” is a compulsive and digressive thriller that has been beautifully put together, with motherhood at its core.

This is my second time of reading a book by this author and I was not disappointed! I have previously read the outstanding ‘Her Name was Rose’ which was a five-star read for me, so there was a lot for Claire Allan to live up to.

“Apple of My Eye” brings to life an incredible family account of mistrust, jealousy and suspicion. It is a book about motherhood and all that it means to all of womankind. In this novel, the reader is categorically and unequivocally made aware of how it affects the lives and relationships of different women. It is also a divulgence of desperation, loneliness and all the different layers of love.

As always, I am having a run of strong, inspiring thrillers and this is on the list, along with my other favourites. The plot for this book is awesome and incredibly thrilling. I’m always looking for something in a book in this genre that makes it more notable than the rest. This could be amazingly drawn characters, a super plot, great originality or something entirely different that I couldn’t even imagine.

This book has many of the components that make a really good story: from the mood and undercurrents to the very clever writing and the experience of family secrets, jealousy and incredibly tense relationships.

For myself, the one thing that made this a memorable read was Claire Allan’s ability to send me off course in nearly every chapter. Narrated from three different perspectives – that of Eli, her mother Angela and the mysterious Louise – I found that it was the chapters told from Louise’s angle that added a real sense of apprehension to the plot. Claire Allan managed to create so much suspicion and mistrust through her story-telling and there was an overpowering sense of menace that emanated from the pages of this addictive read which is chock full of mystery. I found that I had no idea who or what I could trust. The emotional, distressed and pregnant wife or the mother who wanted to protect her daughter from an adulterous husband, or the revealing anonymous notes? 

Another of my favourite aspects of this novel was the fluidity of the writing. The details and twists of the plot were brilliantly executed and every chapter left me with a compelling need to read on.

”Apple Of My Eye” is a supreme accomplishment, mixing women’s fiction with a chilling, sharp slice of thriller, culminating in an emotive and fulfilling ending. I absolutely adored every chapter of this pacey novel and I would certainly recommend it.

Thanks to NetGalley, Avon Books UK and the author, Claire Allan, for my free ARC of Apple of My Eye in exchange for an honest review.

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

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Let Her Go by D. J. Adamson | Review

About The Book

Murder, Betrayal, Love Gone Wrong

Dr. Conrad’s family is attacked. His wife is murdered. He and his son are seriously injured. Teenage daughter, Peyton, is missing. Lillian Dove needs to find Peyton Conrad to set the minds of Frytown at ease.

Book 3 of the Lillian Dove Series offers readers another page-turning romp of suspense as Lillian is pulled into another one of the Frytown Police Department criminal cases.

Advance Praise

“Let Her Go by D.J. Adamson is a fantastic, gripping story of betrayal, love, and suspense, not to mention the murder.”

–Reader’s Favorite

My Thoughts

How many times have I asked this question of myself?

“If only I could go back and do life differently. Isn’t that what people say? Life would be so much better. Would it?”

Gosh, what a book this turned out to be! “Let Her Go” by D.J. Adamson is a book you ought to read. Highly amusing, risqué and calamitous is a description of it, just like Lillian’s life.

“ Let Her Go” is the third novel in D.J. Adamson’s ‘Lillian Dove’ series, the first book being ‘Admit to Mayhem’ followed by ‘Suppose.’ Although I haven’t yet read these two from the series, it wasn’t a problem for me as the author provided plenty of history. This was interwoven very neatly with the current story and indeed, for me, complemented it.

I didn’t have any particular expectations when starting this book, other than I had assumed it would be a typical thriller. This would have been great so I was very surprised to find that it began with Lillian’s disappearing Christmas tree! It was a delightful and highly amusing beginning to start this book and I couldn’t have imagined the impact this would continue to have throughout the story.

D.J. Adamson has drawn a truly fascinating character in creating Lillian Dove. I dare say that she probably won’t appeal to everyone, but she was definitely pretty remarkable for me. Lillian is a recovering alcoholic, among other things.

She has a dynamic, though flawed character whose personality and often ill-thought actions made her the scourge of law enforcement officials in her home-town of Frytown, Iowa. Though scorned by many, she had a kind heart and warm personality though a few would have preferred her to keep her opinions to herself and not ask so many searching questions.

As the narrator of the story, Lillian couldn’t be relied upon because she had a tendency towards self-doubt and frequently questioned her own opinions and actions. 

In “Let Her Go” there is a heavy focus on Lillian’s self-development rather than the mystery itself, as she copes with the trepidations of her sobriety, relationships, and her own financial situation. The fast pacing and many twists and turns all increase the anticipation for what is a very fulfilling final reveal.

Many of the character interactions were tremendously entertaining, especially those between Lillian and Detective Jacque Leveque or her mother, Dahlia. There were a lot of unresolved, emotional issues from their past between Lillian and Dahlia, problems that Lillian needed to address in case it became too late. Just to add a bit of icing on the cake, an only partially ended affair with the Chief of Police is thrown into the mix, adding another layer to the already complex, thrilling plot.

Brilliantly written, impressionistic, with a delicious and at times, vicious humour and populated with fabulous characters, this is a mystery like no other. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to read it and look forward to checking out the previous instalments. I thoroughly enjoyed the darker tone and grittier nature of the story that made this such a suspenseful read! 

Verdict: Read it and whatever you have to do to bag your copy, do it. 

Thanks to NetGalley, BooksGoSocial and the author, D.J. Adamson, for my free ARC of Let Her Go in exchange for an honest review.

[#NetGalley #LetHerGo]

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

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Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain | Review

Book Synopsis

FROM THE NUMBER ONE BESTSELLING AUTHOR OF THE CONFESSION AND CO-WRITER OF RTE ONE’S TAKEN DOWN

Six neighbours, six secrets, six reasons to want Olive Collins dead.

In the exclusive gated community of Withered Vale, people’s lives appear as perfect as their beautifully manicured lawns. Money, success, privilege – the residents have it all. Life is good.

There’s just one problem.

Olive Collins’ dead body has been rotting inside number four for the last three months. Her neighbours say they’re shocked at the discovery but nobody thought to check on her when she vanished from sight.

The police start to ask questions and the seemingly flawless facade begins to crack. Because, when it comes to Olive’s neighbours, it seems each of them has something to hide, something to lose and everything to gain from her death.

The new psychological thriller from the bestselling author of The Confession, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty.

Advance Praise

See what everyone is saying about Jo Spain, the hottest new name in psychological thrillers:

‘Enthralling’ JP Delaney

‘Chilling’ Sunday Times

‘Arresting’ Sunday Express

‘Brilliant’ BA Paris

‘Gripping’ Best

‘Compulsive’ Sunday Mirror

‘Addictive’ Michelle Frances

‘Refreshing’ Express

My Thoughts

I was very keen to read “Dirty Little Secrets” by Jo Spain as I have never read anything by this author before, despite having heard about some of her work and thought I would take this opportunity to do just that. As someone who enjoys a great thriller, I’m always on the lookout for new authors, to me anyway, in this genre!

This fascinating psychological thriller takes the notion of a country manor house style mystery with a closed setting and therefore few potential perpetrators and moves it to a present-day Irish gated community. I felt, from a nostalgic point of view, that it was reminiscent of a Midsomer Murders scenario.

In the novel, there was no lack of possible motive such as perversion, intrigue or, of course, adultery. Jo Spain has written this novel with chapters alternating between each of the characters who are suspected of being involved in Olive’s passing, and of Olive herself who showed her true colours as the story continued. I absolutely delighted in this dark, conversational insight into living within a gated community. 

This is a fast-paced, well-written book with some very intriguing, though not particularly likeable characters that I would expect to find in a good thriller. I don’t think I liked any of the characters at all, apart from the police double act, Frank and Emma and their humorous rapport, but that took nothing away from my enjoyment of reading “Dirty Little Secrets.”

It was easy to read with an absorbing plot that kept my interest throughout, with a fulfilling conclusion that I didn’t predict. It was a thoroughly entertaining novel and well worth reading. I enjoyed “Dirty Little Secrets” so much and I’m hoping to read Jo Spain’s ‘Inspector Tom Reynolds’ series soon. 

For me, this is a highly recommended and well deserved 2019 winner for Jo Spain!

Thanks to NetGalley, Quercus Books and the author, Jo Spain, for my free ARC of Dirty Little Secrets in exchange for an honest review.

[#NetGalley #DirtyLittleSecrets]

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

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The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth | Review

Book Synopsis

A twisty, compelling new novel about one woman’s complicated relationship with her mother-in-law that ends in death…

From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, she knew she wasn’t the wife Diana had envisioned for her perfect son. Exquisitely polite, friendly, and always generous, Diana nonetheless kept Lucy at arm’s length despite her desperate attempts to win her over. And as a pillar in the community, an advocate for female refugees, and a woman happily married for decades, no one had a bad word to say about Diana…except Lucy.

That was five years ago.

Now, Diana is dead, a suicide note found near her body claiming that she longer wanted to live because of the cancer wreaking havoc inside her body.

But the autopsy finds no cancer.

It does find traces of poison, and evidence of suffocation.

Who could possibly want Diana dead? Why was her will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her children, and their spouses? And what does it mean that Lucy isn’t exactly sad she’s gone?

Fractured relationships and deep family secrets grow more compelling with every page in this twisty, captivating new novel from Sally Hepworth.

Praise for Sally Hepworth: 

“With jaw-dropping discoveries, and realistic consequences, this novel is not to be missed. Perfect for lovers of Big Little Lies.” —Library Journal, starred review

“Hepworth deftly keeps the reader turning pages and looking for clues, all the while building multilayered characters and carefully doling out bits of their motivations.” —Booklist

My Thoughts

If you enjoy a good family saga then you might want to read Sally Hepworth’s latest novel. This is my first time of reading a book by this author and I was not disappointed! “The Mother-in-Law” brings to life an incredible family account of greed and betrayal.

This book, set in Australia, has many of the components that make a really good story: from the mood and undercurrents to the very clever writing and the experience of deep family secrets and fractured relationships, not forgetting the feelings of hope, the fear, the utter desperation and failure.

“The Mother-in-Law” focuses on Lucy’s fractious relationship with her husband’s mother, Diana. Lucy has married Ollie, who is from a wealthy family, dominated by the matriarch.

From the very first chapter, I found myself immediately drawn in, following the grave news of Diana’s death, the circumstances of which were being treated as suspicious by the police. Her death had the appearance of suicide due to the presence of a note, but then became a matter slightly more deceiving. Diana, inclined to be rather aloof, left behind her husband Tom, son Ollie and daughter Nettie, not to mention her impressive estate…

This story is told from dual perspectives – Lucy’s and Diana’s – in the present with flashbacks to the past. Sally Hepworth has drawn a great character in Lucy, the outsider, trying hard to please her mother-in-law, to be accepted into her husband’s family, only to repeatedly fall short of the mark.

Sally Hepworth has also done a brilliant job with her portrayal of Diana and this really complements the story for me. Diana was not simply a typical mother-in-law mischief-maker; she was a person with many attributes – mother, wife, friend, daughter and do-gooder. Some of her drive was quite understandable which made it difficult for me to completely scorn her. As past and present merged it  became clear that nobody in the family really knew or understood each other.

One of my favourite aspects of this novel was the fluidity of Sally Hepworth’s writing. She managed to provide the details and twists of the plot without messing with the tone of the storyline. Each brilliantly executed chapter left me with a compelling need to read on.

For me, “The Mother-in-Law” was a tale of dramatic suspense but also one of deep reflection. At times, it made me dwell on my own family relationships and dynamics, especially those of the past. This novel definitely leaves you in a reflective mood, both during and after the story ended.

The book definitely has a strong mystery element, culminating in a thrilling and fulfilling ending. I really enjoyed it and I would certainly recommend it. This novel has left an impression on me and I will be reading more from Sally Hepworth. She has now become an author to watch out for!

Thanks to NetGalley, St Martin’s Press and the author, Sally Hepworth, for my free ARC of The Mother-in-Law in exchange for an honest review.

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

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Tales From Nature: Ladybug by Magali Attiogbé | Review

Book Synopsis

Join ladybug as she helps gardeners with their aphids and camouflages herself from a swooping bird. But where should she hide her little eggs? Introducing nature to little ones, Tales From Nature provides simple, entertaining story-lines with an animal character as the focus. Bright and colourful illustrations are sure to engage young children as they learn about each animal’s day, from a cute description, to what it eats, and where it lives. Simple, engaging text explains nature in a playful way for little ones. Each page includes a window or a flap to encourage children to read on and discover more.

My Thoughts

This colourful and delightful, little book introduces very young readers to the life-cycle, appearance and eating of a ladybird. The text is straight-forward and easy to understand for small ones and it is nicely complemented by modern, strong artwork. It is sweet, pleasing and positively told with its bright and eye-catching colours and smiling, happy creatures. This book would be a great addition to a family library.

{Thank you to NetGalley and Quarto Publishing Group for the free ARC provided in exchange for an honest review.}

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Four Stars

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The Sisters’ Secrets: Reen by Katlyn Duncan | Review

Book Synopsis

The truth will always rise to the surface…

When Reen left The Burrow eight years ago, she had no intention of returning to her idyllic seaside hometown. Withdrawn and isolated from her family after the tragic death of her father, there was no reason to stay.

But when her sister, Rose, reaches out with news about their mother she has no choice but to go back.

Forced to confront her demons she runs into her childhood sweetheart, Brody, who still sends her heart into a flutter. But can Reen finally learn let go of the past and find the happiness she truly deserves?

Readers love Katlyn Duncan:

‘Gripping. Thrilling. On the edge of your seat exciting. I absolutely loved it.’

‘I will definitely be reading more from this author again.’

‘Engaging and Thought Provoking’

‘This story kept me guessing.’

‘Perfect for someone who wants a quick read that’s also gripping’

‘I was completely glued from page one and didn’t want to put it down’

My Thoughts

This is the second book in a series entitled ‘The Sisters’ Secrets.’ The first one is called ‘The Sisters’ Secrets: Rose’, which I haven’t read, though, whilst not ideal, I don’t think it matters that much if they are read out of sequence. It was still a great book for me and worked fine as a stand-alone read.

The Sisters’ Secrets: Reen has all the required ingredients that make a really fantastic story in its genre: from the mood and undercurrents to the good writing and the experience of love and friendship, not forgetting the feelings of hope and moving on from the past.

There is plenty of romance in this thought-provoking story and lots of lighter moments, but this is not lightweight paranormal dross. It examines issues around family and relationships as well as bereavement and loss.

I recommend this very engaging, if a little short, read to those with a fondness for the Romance and Women’s Fiction genres. There are more secrets to be revealed in the next book of the series ‘The Sisters’ Secrets: Pearl’ and I will be reading that book, too!  

Thanks to NetGalley, HQ Digital and the author, Katlyn Duncan for my free ARC of The Sisters’ Secrets: Reen in exchange for an honest review.

#NetGalley #TheSistersSecretsReen

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Four Stars

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