Thursday 7 December 2023

Do No Harm by Jack Jordan #paperbackbook #libraryloan @JackJordanBooks @SimonBooks #DoNoHarm


Do No Harm by Jack Jordan

Published by Simon & Schuster

Publication Date: 30th March 2023

Book Description:


The man lies on the table in front of me.
As a surgeon, it’s my job to save him.
As a mother, I know I must kill him.
You might think that I’m a monster.
But there really is only one choice.
I must get away with murder.
Or I will never see my son again.


My Thoughts:

Do No Harm is my first experience of Jack Jordan's writing. And it won't be my last. That's not to say that I don't have my criticisms of the plot - I work in a hospital setting and some of the scenes are perhaps a little far-fetched. But this is the world of fiction! The stories wouldn't be as enjoyable if our authors didn't inject a few "flexible boundaries" would they? 

So, the concept of the book is that Anna, a highly esteemed cardiac surgeon with an exemplary record, is required by some decidedly unsavoury characters to ensure the non-survival of a high-profile patient during his heart surgery. This goes against everything she believes in - so to persuade her it's the right thing to do, the same band of characters has abducted her young son and murdered the pensioner neighbour of Anna's who was providing her childcare. In order for Zack's safe return, Anna must not only do what they ask but also make sure there are no suspicious circumstances. Just a statistical loss on the operating table. 

The author takes us on the rollercoaster ride that is Anna's life while she battles her demons - the plot gathering layers as each day passes. She doesn't know who she can trust as she tries to plan how on earth she can possibly do what they are asking of her, and every time she thinks she got things sorted, the goalposts move again.

The tension created by the author is excellent, and there were times when I literally held my breath through some of the scenes. Would Anna do what the kidnappers wanted? If so, would she get away with it? Then the aftermath: a hospital enquiry and a possible police intervention were all potential stumbling blocks to consider. Could she even trust them to return Zack if she did carry out their wishes? 

This book will certainly have your heart racing throughout, so much so you might need a cardiac specialist by the time you close the cover!  But would you trust Anna to be that professional after everything you've read about her?

About the Author:

Jack Jordan is the global bestselling author of Anything for Her, My Girl, A Woman Scorned, Before Her Eyes, Night by Night, Do No Harm and Conviction, and an Amazon No. 1 bestseller in the UK, Canada and Australia.Do No Harm was described as 'chilling' by Sarah Pearse, 'brilliant' by Lesley Kara and 'pulse-racing' by Louise Candlish. It was an instant Times bestseller on first publication and a Waterstones Thriller of the Month pick.  

Thursday 30 November 2023

The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell #paperbackbooks #TheGoldenSpoon #booktwt


The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell

Published by Penguin

Publication Date: 14th September 2023

Book Description:

For six amateur bakers, competing in Bake Week is a dream come true.

But for the show's famous host, Betsy Martin, it's more than a competition. It's her legacy.

As she welcomes contestants to her ancestral home, Grafton Manor, she's excited to discover who will have

what it takes win the ultimate prize: The Golden Spoon.

Quickly, though, things start to go wrong...

The contestants are jittery - they've heard strange noises in the manor at night.

Betsy is irate - a new co-host has arrived, and he's out for her spotlight.

Then, the sabotage begins. At first, it's small. Sugar switched for salt. A hob turned too high.

But when a body is discovered, everyone becomes a suspect.

Because for someone at Bake Week it's time to settle old scores . . .

My Thoughts:

I bought this book just as the latest series of The Great British Bake-Off aired on TV. The setting, contestants and the challenges created for them by fictional host Betsy Martin perfectly reflect the reality show here in the UK, despite the book being set in America. But that's where the similarity ends. Sabotage, high-running tensions between the show's staff and ultimately a mysterious murder certainly aren't par for the course on our TV screens. 

I very much enjoyed the feel of this book, however knowing that there will be a murder right from the outset kind of spoiled it for me - I was constantly waiting for a body to be discovered and for the reveal of who had come to an unfortunate end. The fact that there is so much of the book to get through, whilst enjoyable in its own right, just took far too long for me.  

The background story felt rather predictable, so much so that I was disappointed that there wasn't more meat to the story - a bit more scandal perhaps. I'm wondering whether I'm just not enough of a cosy crime reader to really soak up more of the atmosphere. I was craving a bit more punch to the tale.

The concept of this book was great: Bake-off with a slice of crime. I just didn't need to have it spelled out for me what that crime would be. The marketing could have been better executed in order for the reader to have a better experience - it felt like they provided their own spoilers. But hey, that's just my opinion. The characters worked well, an eclectic mix as we tend to get on the TV, the personalities of the presenters and contestants were perfectly drawn, yet the overall finish of the book was off somehow for me.

Sadly, no show-stoppers here for me.

About the Author:

Jessa Maxwell is a cosy mystery fiction author, best known for her novel The Golden Spoon. However, this is not her first rodeo. In another life she is well-known for the adorable characters she creates under the name Jessica Olien. Before she became a writer of fiction, she used to work as a journalist and has lived all over the world in such places as the Netherlands, Thailand and Egypt.

The Golden Spoon is her first venture into adult fiction writing and was published in 2023.

Thursday 23 November 2023

The Babysitter by Emma Curtis #libraryloan #paperbackbooks @CorvusBooks @emmacurtisbooks #TheBabysitter


The Babysitter by Emma Curtis

Published by Corvus

Publication Date 2nd October 2023

Book Description:

Three women. Three secrets.

Claudia's life imploded ten years ago when she was convicted of the murder of her child. Now she has done the unthinkable and confessed to manslaughter in order to be granted parole - her only hope of finding out what really happened to Tilly.

Sara is married to Joe, Claudia's ex-husband, and they have a young child together. She finally has everything she ever wanted, but Claudia's release threatens the perfect life she has created.

Anna was the babysitter who let Claudia and Joe down on day their daughter disappeared. Married with a child of her own, Claudia's reappearance in her quiet cul-de-sac is an unwelcome surprise.

These three women are tied together in more ways than they realize. But only one of them is capable of killing.

My Thoughts:

This book was an impulse pick at my local library - I'd only nipped in to drop off another book which I had finished, and this one waved to me from the quick choices shelf!

So, we know from the description that Claudia Hartman has been jailed for the murder of her baby daughter Tilly - and she's gone from her not guilty plea in court to an admission of manslaughter, which has allowed her release from jail some 10 years later. The book starts with a prologue which describes exactly what happened that terrible day from Claudia's point of view, and it's every mother's nightmare. Her admission of guilt, albeit of the lesser charge of manslaughter, went so far against the grain but after nine years of constantly thinking about how she can find out who took her daughter that day, Claudia knew her only chance was to plead guilty. Now she's out, and those responsible are on high alert that Claudia is coming for them - even if she is yet to discover who they are.

Now, as you know, I hate to give any spoilers in my reviews and this book is one that you most definitely need to know nothing about any of the characters as you go in. The less you know about anyone, the more you will get from the story. There are many and varied layers to a lot of the people who feature in the book; my advice is to keep an open mind about everyone yet be prepared that any of them are capable of things you wouldn't expect.  Basically, everyone is a suspect. Even those who couldn't possibly be. There are points where Claudia is an extremely unreliable narrator - but she's not the only one who can be accused of this. My thoughts did metronomic swings from liking and sympathising with her to questioning whether she was completely deluded and should be back behind bars. 

From a long list of potential choices, the character I didn't "click" with most out of all of them was Claudia's husband, Joe. Right from the start I felt uncomfortable with him. Why would he be so willing to believe that Claudia was responsible for Tilly's demise? His almost immediate acceptance of the police opinion that Claudia had harmed Tilly - he barely even considered her account of events. That didn't sit well with me; surely, you'd trust the mother of your child to not be capable of hurting them? Even if this was proven misguided later on? A huge red flag for me. 

My biggest struggle with this book was the quantity of female characters that I had to fit into the puzzle quite early on. They are all necessary, so this isn't a criticism, just something to be aware of as you go in. Luckily, as I know I am likely to be sharing my thoughts about the book at some point, I tend to scribble a "who's who" to reference in case I can't place someone who doesn't figure much. This proved extremely handy as a couple of times I muddled up my characters here.

I very much enjoyed this book and commend Emma Curtis's writing skills as I still wasn't sure whodunnit and why extremely late into the story. I love a book that has me considering the options right the way through and this was most definitely one of those. If you want a book which will exercise those detective grey cells this'll do nicely.

About the Author:

Bestselling author Emma Curtis was born in Brighton and now lives in London with her husband. After raising her two children and working as a school secretary, her fascination with the darker side of domestic life inspired her to write her acclaimed debut novel, One Little Mistake. Emma has since written five more thrillers: When I find You, The Night You Left, Keep Her Quiet, Invite me and The Babysitter. Her next thriller, The Commuter will be published in 2024

Friday 17 November 2023

Husband and Wife by K L Slater @bookouture @KLSlaterAuthor #HusbandandWife #NetGalley


Husband and Wife by K L Slater
Published by Bookouture
Publication Date: 3rd November 2023

Book Description:

We promised to keep each other’s secrets. Until they found the body…

The Wife:

My husband and I are fighting for our lives in hospital after a terrible car accident. But despite my pain, all I can think about is what our families will find behind our front door. The scarf that has been all over the news, belonging to a dead young woman with honey-coloured hair. I have to speak to the police before my husband can…

The Husband:

I’m drifting in and out of consciousness, but when I hear my wife talking to the police, accusing me of the murder of an innocent woman, a cold fear grips me. I know I’ve got a temper. That I’ve not always been faithful. Will they think I killed her?

I think of my wife’s jealous streak, of the lies she’s told our loved ones. But if I tell the whole truth, they’ll look into her past. And that will destroy me, too…

Two people fighting for their lives. Two people with secrets to hide. Who will you believe?

My Thoughts:

The first thing to say about this book is what a great tag line to pull you into the story! 

"She kept all his secrets. Until the body was found..."

If that doesn't make you curious, nothing will! Who has secrets? What are the secrets? Whose body and why have they been killed? So many questions are raised just by the tag line - and you'll only have more as you become engrossed in this domestic tale of murder and deceit. But those with the answers are lying seriously ill in hospital after a nasty car crash. A coincidence, maybe? MORE questions!!

I loved this book, and I certainly didn't work out where it would be heading. There are older parents of career-successful kids, who don't see as much of them as they'd like so don't know as much about what's happening in their day-to-day lives. There are the in-laws, wealthy and successful and a little bit smug about it. The couple involved in the car crash: The husband who confided that he needs a chat with his mum before he set off on the fateful journey, and his glamorous yet insecure wife who seems to hold all the cards in their relationship. Secrets...oh, so many secrets!

This is a prime candidate for a book you'll want to read in one sitting. Characters you'll love to hate and others you'll want to hug. And a plot which will have you turning the pages until you run out. Probably at about 2 in the morning because you won't want to put it down.

About the Author:

Kim is the number one bestselling author of twenty psychological crime thrillers. She has sold over two million copies of her books worldwide. She has also written four Carnegie-nominated Young Adult novels as Kim Slater for Macmillan Children’s Books. Kim has an MA in Creative Writing and lives with her husband in a small Nottinghamshire village.

Thursday 9 November 2023

Forever Home by Graham Norton @CoronetBooks @hodderbooks #ForeverHome #booktwt #bookreview #paperbackbooks


Forever Home by Graham Norton

Published by Coronet, Hodder & Stoughton

Publication Date: 13th April  2023 (paperback)

Book Description:

Carol is a divorced teacher living in a small town in Ireland, happy enough with the life she has. But a second chance at love brings her unexpected connection and joy. The new relationship with sparks local gossip: what does a woman like her see in a man like that? What happened to his wife who abandoned him all those years ago?

When Declan becomes ill, things start to fall apart. His children are untrusting and greedy, and Carol is made to leave their beloved home with its worn oak floors and elegant features and move back in with her parents.

Carol's mother is determined to get to the bottom of things, she won't see her daughter treated this way. It seems there are secrets in Declan's past, strange rumours that were never confronted and suddenly the house they shared takes on a more sinister significance.

In his gripping and darkly comic new novel Norton casts a light on the relationship between mothers and daughters, and truth and self-preservation with unnerving effect.

My Thoughts:

I have been hearing good things about Graham Norton's novels for some time now, but this is the first of his books I've actually sat down and read myself.  I love the stark pink cover, and now having completed the book I find it interesting that this was the colour and style the publishers chose as I had a totally different image of what the story would be, purely based on the cover - that will teach me!! I was expecting to read the book with Graham's distinctive voice narrating in my head, however this was not the case. There are times where I got hints of phrases he might use in his TV and radio programmes, but this did not come across particularly strongly, as I have found happen previously with authors like Ruth Jones.

The first thing I noticed reading this book is the very strong sense of place; the reader really gets a feel for the small town in Ireland where the book is set as the descriptive writing is extremely well done, I felt. The characters are all very well constructed too, their physical features as well as their emotions are all nicely detailed without being over the top. 

The book begins with former schoolteacher Carol preparing to move out of the house she has come to love as her home. It soon becomes clear that this move is not her choice, but that of her stepchildren who have decided to sell the house to pay for their father's care in a residential home as his dementia has gradually worsened. But Carol's parents have other ideas and won't see their daughter treated badly. Unbeknown to them, this decision could have knock-on effects which stand to change all their lives forever, and not in their favour!

Graham Norton has written a novel which will have you with tears of sadness in your eyes in one chapter, and those of laughter in the next. Carol's mother is a feisty Irish lady who will have you on her side in no time, despite her decisions being decidedly the wrong side of the law - but they are always underpinned with good intentions. She's a canny lady, and Carol would do well to learn some of her mother's more determined personality traits as she can be perhaps a little too soft at times.  On the flip side, Declan's children are decidedly unpleasant (one of them moreso than the other we discover by the end) but I enjoyed Norton writing in a little bit of karma to even the balance just a touch. 

This book was an absolute delight for me, I enjoyed the characters and the descriptions, the value placed on a family home by its various members and how the memories created within those walls gain importance as we lose those close to us. Maybe some of the events were a tad outside the realms of possibility but for me that's what fiction is all about: bending the rules just a smidgeon to make a good story even better. We have enough of real life so a little bit of "poetic license" is fine by me.

I will definitely be making room for more of Graham Norton's writing in the future.

About the Author:

Graham Norton, is an Irish comedian, actor, author, and television host known for his work in the UK. He is a five-time BAFTA TV Award winner for his comedy chat show The Graham Norton Show (2007–present).

Norton was educated at Bandon Grammar School in County Cork and then University College Cork, where he spent two years studying English and French in the 1980s, but did not complete his studies, but was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2013.

In 2016, Norton published his debut novel Holding, published by Hodder & Stoughton, about a murder in an Irish rural community. Norton won Popular Fiction Book of the Year award for Holding  in the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards 2016. In 2022, an adaptation of the book, directed by Kathy Burke, aired on ITV.

Thursday 2 November 2023

Verity by Colleen Hoover #Verity #paperbackbooks #bookreview @colleenhoover @BooksSphere


Verity by Colleen Hoover

Published by Sphere

Publication Date:16th December 2021

Book Description:

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity's notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn't expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity's recollection of the night their family was forever altered.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already-grieving father. But as Lowen's feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife's words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue loving her . . .

My Thoughts:

Verity is another book which I have studiously avoided due to the massive hype that surrounds it. But recently I must have been experiencing a dose of FOMO and decided to read a few of the books which have been stealing the headlines of the book world during recent times - the ones which continue to make waves after a considerable amount of time - in order to find out if they're really worth it.  

Verity arrived at the top of the TBR pile as the option for a buddy read with my daughter - an interesting choice for a mother-daughter read you may think. Hmm...we wondered the same once we'd reached a few chapters in and established that the content of this book is, well...quite smutty, shall we say! (Don't worry, my daughter is in her mid-twenties, so is a young adult and it actually made for an interesting discussion regarding the type of content and us perhaps having different viewpoints based on age. Part way through I wondered whether it was because I'm middle-aged (eek! when did that happen?!) that I rolled my eyes so many times and thought "oh good grief, here we go again!" when yet another sex scene was written in detail - whatever happened to the fade to black style of writing these things?? I don't think I'm a prude,but you only need so much of that to describe the type of relationship a couple are in: OK, I understand! Move on! I'm not sorry to say that I skipped a fair amount of pages due to this. 

Anyway, I digress. The overall storyline introduces struggling author Lowen Ashleigh, who is literally at the point of being evicted from her home when she is introduced by her agent to the husband of extraordinarily successful author Verity Crawford. Her publishers have a multi-book deal set up and it has been decided that a ghost writer is needed to complete the series, as Verity herself is incapacitated following a car crash and is not in a position to write the books herself. The task falls to Lowen, who is required to work through all of Verity's notes to try to work out where she was planning on taking the final instalments of the series and writing convincing books for the publishers to take to market. As she investigates the contents of Verity's office, she discovers a manuscript hidden away which makes suggestions that the reality of Verity's life had lots of secrets hidden from her husband, some of which would completely change his view of the events leading up to Verity's car crash.

As I read through this book, it almost felt like there were two separate books going on; a mystery/thriller which (being my favoured genre) I was intrigued by, and a spicy "romance" which I felt kind of was relevant but not to the extent it kept cropping up (see my earlier comments). I kept wondering where these two vastly different stories would dovetail, and I'm still not entirely convinced that they did. I enjoyed the concept of Lowen reading Verity's manuscript - it was kind of like a book within the book, which is really clever - however I found the everyday "creepy" happenings in the story a little bit predictable and not always particularly credible. If I hadn't have been buddy reading, there were times that I possibly would have abandoned the book as it was quite repetitive in the middle section however every now and then there would be a twist or suggestion which would drag me back in to keep me engaged.

For me - and many others, I've since found out after finishing the book - the ending made the whole thing worthwhile. I found myself deliberating various facts from the manuscript and comparing them with the version of the truth that Verity's husband was living with - there is definitely still a lot to ponder over in this book once you filter out the unnecessary bits. Which side of the "Verity fence" do I sit on? I'm still not sure even now, a couple of weeks after completing the book. If you haven't already read it, I would recommend the thriller side of the storyline and if you like a smutty read this is definitely one you'll enjoy. The arguments and discussions (for which there are many forums set up online) will rumble on for the rest of time I think, however I couldn't offer more than around 3.75 stars to this book, although I do see why people press it into the hands of their friends. I, however, won't be one of them.

About the Author:

Colleen Hoover is the #1 New York Times and International bestselling author of multiple novels and novellas. She lives in Texas with her husband and their three boys. She is the founder of The Bookworm Box, a non-profit book subscription service and bookstore in Sulphur Springs, Texas.

Thursday 26 October 2023

The Housemaid by Freida McFadden #NetGalley #TheHousemaid #paperbackbook #bookreview @bookouture @Freida_McFadden


The Housemaid by Freida McFadden

Published by Bookouture

Publication Date: 26th April 2022

Book Description:

“Welcome to the family,” Nina Winchester says as I shake her elegant, manicured hand. I smile politely, gazing around the marble hallway. Working here is my last chance to start fresh. I can pretend to be whoever I like. But I’ll soon learn that the Winchesters’ secrets are far more dangerous than my own…

Every day I clean the Winchesters’ beautiful house top to bottom. I collect their daughter from school. And I cook a delicious meal for the whole family before heading up to eat alone in my tiny room on the top floor.

I try to ignore how Nina makes a mess just to watch me clean it up. How she tells strange lies about her own daughter. And how her husband Andrew seems more broken every day. But as I look into Andrew’s handsome brown eyes, so full of pain, it’s hard not to imagine what it would be like to live Nina’s life. The walk-in closet, the fancy car, the perfect husband.

I only try on one of Nina’s pristine white dresses once. Just to see what it’s like. But she soon finds out… and by the time I realize my attic bedroom door only locks from the outside, it’s far too late.

But I reassure myself: the Winchesters don’t know who I really am.

They don’t know what I’m capable of…

My Thoughts:

Finally, this book filtered to the top of my pile! And I think one reason for this taking so long is all the hype that has surrounded it, and its sequel The Housemaid's Secret. I'm not one for following the crowd while the hype is high, it's more of a deterrent for me than a reason to jump on the bandwagon so now things are a little calmer, I felt the time was right to see whether I agree with the buzz that this book (and its author) have brought to the book world. 

This book is written from 2 points of view: the housemaid, Millie and her employer Nina Winchester. Chapters are clearly titled so it's clear whose voice we are hearing - although it would be difficult to mix things up in this respect. Millie has had a tough start in life, a fact she does not shy away from - it's made her who she is, right to her core. Nina, however, has many more layers to her character and not all of them are pleasant. Her daughter Cece is obnoxious and makes Millie's life a misery, but with the example she's been set by her mother it's not surprising that she behaves as she does. Nina's husband Andrew is charming, handsome, and Cece appears to have far more respect for him than she does her mother. 

The story takes place over a short time span of just 3 months, which when you consider all that happens within that timeframe, it's extremely intense. The rules and restrictions that Nina imposes on Millie are strict and unreasonable, leading Millie to seek friendship with the mysterious Enzo, the gardener at the property who speaks little English and keeps his distance from the house. The few words he does impart to Millie have her wondering if indeed she is safe in Nina's employment. 

I'm not going to spill any beans regarding the twists and bombshells that Freida McFadden drops into this book, but suffice to say that yes, every drop of the hype given to this book is well-deserved and earned throughout its pages. I was shocked and excited to keep on reading "just one more chapter" and stayed up far later than I should have done when I had to go to work the following day - but there are characters in this book who just get under your skin yet still manage to shock you in ways you'll never expect. 

A brilliant story - I went straight to my local library to grab the sequel to this book and read them back to back - one luxury of having left book one so long to read, I suppose! My poor bookshelves now have yet another 'must read' author queuing up for space! Freida McFadden, you're a legend!

About the Author:

New York Times, Amazon Charts, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publisher's Weekly bestselling author Freida McFadden is a practicing physician specializing in brain injury who has penned multiple bestselling psychological thrillers and medical humor novels. Freida’s work has been selected as one of Amazon Editors’ best books of the year, and she is a winner of the International Thriller Writers Award for best paperback. Her novels have been translated into over 30 languages.

Freida lives with her family and black cat in a centuries-old three-storey home overlooking the ocean, with staircases that creak and moan with each step, and nobody could hear you if you scream. Unless you scream really loudly, maybe.