‘The Dark Side of the Mind’ spoiler-free review!

Hello lovely people! Today, I’m rounding off the blog tour for The Dark Side of the Mind, an absolutely fascinating read by forensic psychologist Kerry Daynes. This one is an absolute must for anyone interested in true crime or the way human beings think and behave!

Copy of Copy of Copy of Marching to the Brand Beat


synopsis

Welcome to the world of the forensic psychologist, where the people you meet are wildly unpredictable and often frightening.

The job: to delve into the psyche of convicted men and women to try to understand what lies behind their often brutal actions.

Follow in the footsteps of Kerry Daynes, one of the most sought-after forensic psychologists in the business and consultant on major police investigations.

Kerry’s job has taken her to the cells of maximum-security prisons, police interview rooms, the wards of secure hospitals and the witness box of the court room.

Her work has helped solve a cold case, convict the guilty and prevent a vicious attack.

Spending every moment of your life staring into the darker side of life comes with a price. Kerry’s frank memoir gives an unforgettable insight into the personal and professional dangers in store for a female psychologist working with some of the most disturbing men and women.


my thoughts

The Dark Side of the Mind is an absolutely fascinating book. Part memoir, part true-crime non-fiction, it provides a gripping insight into the human mind in some of its darkest moments.

I have always been fascinated by how the mind works (I have a career in psychology and did consider specialising in the forensic field at one point). So I already had a good feeling about this book before I even opened it. But Daynes’ writing was superb so I loved it even more than I thought I would. I often struggle with non-fiction but had no such issue here thanks to Daynes’ conversational tone and use of humour. It really does feel like you’re listening to a friend tell you about her day at work.

I genuinely couldn’t get enough of the anecdotes that were shared throughout this book. Daynes took me through a whole range of emotions and kept me reading late into the night to see how she handled the different situations. I felt gripped by every single case she presented.

It was interesting to get an insight into the author’s personal life as well as her profession. I had thought that these moments might distract from the main focus of the book but this was not the case; instead, they added to my enjoyment.

The book did make me feel quite reflective about the short time I spent working in a secure mental health hospital (and the reasons why I subsequently left the post). Daynes’ descriptions did not match up with what I had experienced and it made me feel quite sad at what I saw certain patients go through. Thankfully, that particular place seems to be in the minority.

Overall, I enjoyed this book immensely and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys true crime or learning about the way the human mind works. I would certainly read more books by Kerry Daynes!

dark side of the mind forensic psychology


As always, if you’re interested in finding out more about this book, check out the previous stops on the blog tour for more information and reviews!

Dark Side of the Mind BT Poster

‘The Aosawa Murders’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! Today is my day on the blog tour for The Aosawa Murders, published by Bitter Lemon Press! If you’re a fan of Japanese fiction, you’ll want to check this one out…

aosawa murders


synopsis

The novel starts in the 1960s when 17 people die of cyanide poisoning at a party given by the owners of a prominent clinic in a town on the coast of the Sea of Japan. The only surviving links to what might have happened are a cryptic verse that could be the killer’s, and the physician’s bewitching blind daughter, Hisako, the only person spared injury. The youth who emerges as the prime suspect commits suicide that October, effectively sealing his guilt while consigning his motives to mystery.

The police are convinced Hisako had a role in the crime, as are many in the town, including the author of a bestselling book about the murders written a decade after the incident, who was herself a childhood friend of Hisako’ and witness to the discovery of the killings. The truth is revealed through a skillful juggling of testimony by different voices: family members, witnesses and neighbors, police investigators and of course the mesmerizing Hisako herself.


my thoughts

This is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read! The structure of this one absolutely fascinated me; I found it so clever. The book is written as a series of monologues from various characters connected with the mass murder case, and this vast range of perspectives makes it so intriguing to read. As a reader, you are being given clues and snippets of information from different sources and trying to reach a conclusion as to what happened. And let me tell you, Riku Onda had me doubting myself a lot!

You would worry that in a book with so many perspectives, it would be difficult to distinguish between characters. However, I found that each one had a distinctive voice and I never once felt confused. There were some perspectives that I enjoyed more than others but I think that’s only natural when there are so many characters to contend with.

There is admittedly a certain level of detachment that comes from Onda’s unique monologue style. I did feel that I was being held at a distance for the duration of the book, but I feel it worked for this particular story and added to the intrigue of it all!

I will say that if you like clear answers at the end of a book, this one may not be the right choice for you. I was left a little confused at the end as things didn’t really resolve. Though I can see and appreciate that tying things up neatly was not the author’s intention. I’m still not sure I’ve reached a definite conclusion as to ‘whodunnit’ – and it might be that I never do. The constant switches in perspective made me feel so uncertain and like I was missing crucial details – but maybe that was the point? Can we ever truly understand the motives behind a crime like the one presented here?

Overall, this was an intriguing read that I would recommend to fans of Japanese fiction or those who like their murder mysteries a little bit different!

aosawa murders


If you’re interested in this one, check out the other stops on the blog tour for more information and reviews!

Aosawa Murders BT Poster

‘With The Fire On High’ spoiler-free review!

Hello lovelies! Today, I’m reviewing With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo, which I loved! I’ve started to enjoy contemporaries recently and this is one I would definitely recommend 😀

with the fire on high


synopsis

Ever since she got pregnant, seventeen-year-old Emoni’s life has been about making the tough decisions – doing what has to be done for her young daughter and her grandmother. Keeping her head down at school, trying not to get caught up with new boy Malachi. The one place she can let everything go is in the kitchen, where she has magical hands – whipping up extraordinary food beloved by everyone.

Emoni wants to be a chef more than anything, but she knows it’s pointless to pursue the impossible. There are rules she has to play by. And yet, once she starts cooking, and gets that fire on high, she sees that her drive to feed will feed her soul and dreams too. And anything is possible.


my thoughts

This was my first experience of Elizabeth Acevedo’s writing but let me tell you, I will certainly be seeking out more! This book was so lyrical and poetic; I can only imagine how beautiful the author’s books in verse are if this is how she writes a novel!

One of the things I loved most about this book was the amount of sensory detail. I’ve talked previously about how this is something I love in stories so the foodie descriptions were a complete delight. This book should come with a warning: it will make you seriously hungry! Particularly towards the end of the book when the book features a different location, I was living for the gorgeous foodie details.

Another aspect of this book that I loved was the characters. Acevedo has created a fantastic protagonist in Emoni and I was rooting for her all the way. The author addresses the still-taboo subject of teen pregnancy with sensitivity and it was a real breath of fresh air.

The dynamics between the characters were also extremely well done. There are a number of different relationships in this book, from family to friendships to romantic partnerships, and each one was portrayed perfectly.

I had the opportunity to experience this book in audio format and it was a joy. The book is narrated by the author herself which I always think makes a book even more special. The narration was perfect and I was totally captured by this wonderful story of hope.

My one tiny quibble is that this book used that dreaded phrase “I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding”. Once would have been bad enough but that sentence was used no less than THREE times in With The Fire On High. I’m sorry but it’s a pet peeve of mine. Thankfully though, I was able to overlook it and still enjoy the story!

I would definitely recommend this one to fans of contemporary YA!

with the fire on high


I know I’m slightly late to the game with this one so tell me – have you read it? Do you like books with sensory details? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)

 

‘Real Life’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! Today is my day on the blog tour for Real Life, published by World Editions! Read on to find out more about this one…

real life


synopsis

At home there are four rooms: one for her, one for her brother, one for her parents…and one for the carcasses. The father is a big game hunter, a powerful predator; the mother is submissive to her violent husband’s demands. The young narrator spends the days with her brother, playing in the shells of cars dumped for scrap and listening out for the chimes of the ice-cream truck, until a brutal accident shatters their world.

The uncompromising pen of Adeline Dieudonné wields flashes of brilliance as she brings her characters to life in a world that is both dark and sensual. This breathtaking debut is a sharp and funny coming-of-age tale in which reality and illusion collide.


my thoughts

I was unsure what to expect from this book and I remain unsure as to how I would describe it. The book defies categorisation. But nonetheless, I was utterly gripped by it. Real Life was a strange reading experience but one which captivated me from start to finish.

The matter-of-fact tone of Dieudonné’s writing contrasts with some quite grisly imagery, and I was genuinely horrified at times. This book is certainly not for the faint of heart. There was one particular section of the novel where I felt I couldn’t get my breath. Any author who can evoke such a physical reaction in their reader is one of clear talent.

However, there were also moments that were poetic and starkly beautiful. I would disagree with the word “funny” in the blurb as there is nothing amusing about the author’s portrayal of domestic abuse. It is raw and unflinching. Nevertheless, there is something truly special about the events in this book.

This is a clever novel, unlike anything I have read before. It certainly won’t be for everyone but if you feel like you could stomach the graphic moments, it’s definitely worth the read. I feel like this one will stay with me for a long time.

real life


Check out the other stops on the blog tour for more information and reviews!

Real Life BT Poster

‘Beast’ spoiler-free review!

Hi lovelies! Today, I’m on the blog tour for Beast by Matt Wesolowski, the latest instalment in the Six Stories series. I haven’t read the previous books but this one totally worked as a standalone and I’m sure the others would too. But I’m definitely interested in going back now and reading the earlier instalments after how much I enjoyed this one!

beast


synopsis

In the wake of the ‘Beast from the East’ cold snap that ravaged the UK in 2018, a grisly discovery was made in a ruin on the Northumbrian coast. Twenty-four-year-old vlogger, Elizabeth Barton, had been barricaded inside what locals refer to as ‘The Vampire Tower’, where she was later found frozen to death.

Three young men, part of an alleged ‘cult’, were convicted of this terrible crime, which they described as a ‘prank gone wrong’. However, in the small town of Ergarth, questions have been raised about the nature of Elizabeth Barton’s death and whether the three convicted youths were even responsible.

Elusive online journalist Scott King speaks to six witnesses – people who knew both the victim and the three killers – to peer beneath the surface of the case. He uncovers whispers of a shocking online craze that held the young of Ergarth in its thrall and drove them to escalate a series of pranks in the name of internet fame. He hears of an abattoir on the edge of town, which held more than simple slaughter behind its walls, the tragic and chilling legend of the ‘Ergarth Vampire’…


my thoughts

First of all, it was delightful to read about the North East of England, where I grew up! It’s always a weirdly awesome feeling, reading about somewhere you know – or is that just me? Not only that but having lived through the ‘Beast from the East’, there was a great sense of reality to this book. It made me feel even more invested.

This sense of place is one of Beast‘s biggest strengths. Wesolowski really captures the bleakness of the rugged coastal village of Ergarth and it worked so perfectly for the story he was telling. I could visualise everything so clearly and could almost feel the biting cold of that snowstorm all over again.

Beast has a fantastic conversational tone, being written in the format of podcast episodes. I thought this was a really clever framing device to keep the reader hooked.  You can’t possibly put the book down in the middle of an episode! The style makes for a fast-paced read with great flow. I think it would translate so well to audiobook!

I really enjoyed all the different perspectives that were presented and the slow piecing together of what happened. As a reader, you begin to question things and doubt what you thought you knew until the ending totally blows you away.

Overall, I thought this was a unique thriller that kept me gripped from start to finish. Beast takes an important look at society’s obsession with social media and the need to be ‘liked’, and I’m sure it will make many readers uncomfortable at times. But I highly recommend it!

beast


 Have you read any of the Six Stories books? Do you like the sound of this one? Check out the other stops on the blog tour for more information and reviews!

FINAL Beast BT Poster

‘The Alibi Girl’ spoiler-free review!

Hello everyone! Today, I’m reviewing The Alibi Girl which released in the UK on February 6th! This book was very kindly sent to me by HQ; I was delighted to receive an ARC of this one because it is written by the author of Sweet Pea/In Bloom which were some of the most original and hilarious thrillers I read last year! While this book was slightly different in tone, I enjoyed it just as much and would definitely recommend it. Read on to find out why… 😀

alibi girl


synopsis

Joanne Haynes has a secret: that is not her real name.

And there’s more. Her flat’s not hers. Her cats aren’t hers. Even her hair isn’t really hers.

Nor is she any of the other women she pretends to be. Not the bestselling romance novelist who gets her morning snack from the doughnut van on the seafront. Nor the pregnant woman in the dental surgery. Nor the chemo patient in the supermarket for whom the cashier feels ever so sorry. They’re all just alibis.

In fact, the only thing that’s real about Joanne is that nobody can know who she really is.

But someone has got too close. It looks like her alibis have begun to run out….


my thoughts

The Alibi Girl had the same great writing style as the previous books I’ve read by C. J. Skuse. I always feel bad saying a book is ‘easy’ to read as it almost seems to diminish the effort that went into writing it, but that’s really the best word I have for it. There’s just a supremely readable quality to Skuse’s books, a sense of flow and effortlessness that make them difficult to put down.

And I genuinely was gripped from start to finish. Although this book is quite different from the Sweet Pea series, there are hints at the same sense of humour and the author behind the work. I love when you can catch glimpses of an author’s personality and recognise a book as distinctly theirs.

This book wasn’t what I had expected when I first picked it up. I was particularly surprised when the point of view changed halfway through; it threw me for a loop and I wasn’t sure where things were going to go. But I ended up loving the direction the story took. Skuse is great at writing characters who have flaws but who you can’t help liking, and I felt genuinely invested in the protagonist’s story.

I also appreciated the way snippets of truth were slowly revealed. The childhood flashback scenes were particularly effective and enjoyable to read; Skuse brilliantly captured that sense of magic you feel in the school holidays and it made me so nostalgic.

Overall, this was another success from C. J. Skuse! If you haven’t read any of her books yet, you are missing out!

alibi girl


Have you read any of this author’s books? What books make you feel nostalgic about your childhood? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)

‘The Sisters Grimm’ spoiler-free review!

Hi lovelies! Today, I’m wishing the happiest of book birthdays to Menna van Praag and The Sisters Grimm ❤ I’ve been a fan of Menna’s books since my very early bookstagram days so I was thrilled to be sent an ARC of her newest book – and I’m thrilled to say, I loved this one as well!

sisters grimm


synopsis

As children, Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, and Bea dreamed of a strange otherworld: a nightscape of mists and fog, perpetually falling leaves and hungry ivy, lit by an unwavering moon. Here, in this shadowland of Everwhere, the four girls, half-sisters connected by blood and magic, began to nurture their elemental powers together. But at thirteen, the sisters were ripped from Everwhere and separated. Now, five years later, they search for one another and yearn to rediscover their unique and supernatural strengths. Goldie (earth) manipulates plants and gives life. Liyana (water) controls rivers and rain. Scarlet (fire) has electricity at her fingertips. Bea (air) can fly.

To realize their full potential, the blood sisters must return to the land of their childhood dreams. But Everwhere can only be accessed through certain gates at 3:33 A.M. on the night of a new moon. As Goldie, Liyana, Scarlet, and Bea are beset with the challenges of their earthly lives, they must prepare for a battle that lies ahead. On their eighteenth birthday, they will be subjected to a gladiatorial fight with their father’s soldiers. If they survive, they will face their father who will let them live only if they turn dark. Which would be fair, if only the sisters knew what was coming.

So, they have thirty-three days to discover who they truly are and what they can truly do, before they must fight to save themselves and those they love.


my thoughts

I’ve been reading a lot of books about magical doors and alternative worlds recently and I’m loving each and every one. This one had the added bonus of being grounded in the very real world of Cambridge, which is a fabulous setting in itself. But add in magical gates that only open at a certain time on a certain day each month, and I was captivated.

Right from the prologue, I had a feeling this book would be something special. And I was not wrong. I loved the entire concept – of four sisters, each with a different elemental magic, who need to find their way back to each other. It felt so unique.

And van Praag’s writing was superb. It was a perfect fit for this sumptuous, magical story she was telling, with that lyrical quality I always love in books. I felt totally transported by this book and whenever I wasn’t reading it, I wanted to be.

The book is written from a number of different perspectives and I have to say, these are done SO well. Each narrative voice was so distinctive and made each character stand out so strongly in my mind. Sometimes, when I read books with multiple perspectives, it can take me a moment after switching to catch up and remember which character I’m reading about. I had no such issues here; the switches in perspective were seamless and I never once got confused. I think this is a real testament to van Praag’s skill as a writer.

Naturally, there were some characters I preferred over others but I think that’s only natural in a book with so many perspectives. The important thing is that I still felt invested in each character’s individual story as well as the overarching plot. And just like the original Grimm fairytales, this book could be DARK in places. These girls face very real issues and I loved seeing how they coped with everything.

I’m saying nothing more – just go read this one! And try not to do what I did and keep saying “Neverwhere” instead of “Everwhere” 😉

sisters grimm


Are you a fan of magical realism? I know it’s not for everyone but I love it! Let me know in the comments if you have any favourites! xsignature (2)

 

‘White Stag’ spoiler-free review!

Hello all! Today, I’m reviewing White Stag by Kara Barbieri which was one of my anticipated releases in 2019! Sadly, I felt a bit let down by it. Want to know why? Keep reading… 😉

white stag


synopsis

As the last child in a family of daughters, seventeen-year-old Janneke was raised to be the male heir. While her sisters were becoming wives and mothers, she was taught to hunt, track, and fight. On the day her village was burned to the ground, Janneke—as the only survivor—was taken captive by the malicious Lydian and eventually sent to work for his nephew Soren.

Janneke’s survival in the court of merciless monsters has come at the cost of her connection to the human world. And when the Goblin King’s death ignites an ancient hunt for the next king, Soren senses an opportunity for her to finally fully accept the ways of the brutal Permafrost. But every action he takes to bring her deeper into his world only shows him that a little humanity isn’t bad—especially when it comes to those you care about.

Through every battle they survive, Janneke’s loyalty to Soren deepens. After dangerous truths are revealed, Janneke must choose between holding on or letting go of her last connections to a world she no longer belongs to. She must make the right choice to save the only thing keeping both worlds from crumbling.


my thoughts

First things first, I love a good goblin story. Tell me a book has goblins in it and I will immediately be interested. Add in a frozen wilderness and you can understand why I was so eager to read this one. And while I did like aspects of it, it didn’t work for me as a whole.

The setting was pretty good but didn’t feel 100% realised. I felt as if the random Norse elements were kind of thrown in and didn’t add anything to my enjoyment of the story; if anything, they felt jarring and unnecessary.

There was a quality to this book that I can’t quite put my finger on but it was one which held me back from giving a higher rating. It was a kind of immaturity? I don’t want to come across as judgemental but I could definitely tell that this book started out in life on Wattpad. I feel like it needed even more editing than what it would have received. The writing was very repetitive and juvenile.

But listen. It wasn’t all bad. I did appreciate the mental health themes (particularly as these are still pretty rare in fantasy novels). The exploration of Janneke’s PTSD and her journey of healing from that trauma were nicely done and it’s just a shame that the writing quality detracted from what could have been a very powerful book.

I feel like this review was so harsh! And I didn’t mean it to be. I always hate to criticise a book knowing someone put their heart and soul into it. But hey, maybe this one will work for you where it didn’t work for me – I know plenty of readers who loved it. We can’t enjoy them all!

white stag


What are you all reading these days? Are you enjoying it? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)

 

‘Magpie’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! I totally thought I’d already reviewed this book which was gifted to me by Avon Books, oops! But better late than never, right?! This book may not be as fresh in my mind as I would like it to be for writing a review but I’ll give it my shot nonetheless!

magpie


synopsis

Claire lives with her family in a beautiful house overlooking the water. But she feels as if she’s married to a stranger – one who is leading a double life. As soon as she can get their son Joe away from him, she’s determined to leave Duncan.

But finding out the truth about Duncan’s secret life leads to consequences Claire never planned for. Now Joe is missing, and she’s struggling to piece together the events of the night that tore them all apart.

Alone in an isolated cottage, hiding from Duncan, Claire tries to unravel the lies they’ve told each other, and themselves. Something happened to her family… But can she face the truth?


my thoughts

It was a struggle to not compare this book to its predecessor, Cuckoo, even though they are unrelated. I loved Draper’s debut and found it to be hugely atmospheric, even referring to it as “one of the best thrillers I’ve read”. So you can imagine how excited I was to read this follow-up. Sadly, Draper’s sophomore novel didn’t work for me quite so well.

I found the plot of this novel to be very disjointed and I never felt fully invested. Even when the disparate story fragments eventually came together, I was never completely convinced.

I also found this book to be a bit too slow-paced for me. I feel like a bit of a hypocrite saying that because the slow-burning tension was one of the things that worked most for me in Cuckoo but in Magpie, it was just a tad too slow to hold my attention. I also found it to be quite repetitive so, ultimately, I struggled to remain interested.

In terms of the characters, Claire and Duncan’s narrative perspectives were not overly distinctive, making it a struggle to remember who was meant to be speaking. I felt held at a constant distance and never really warmed to any of the characters. The book also switches between first person and third person, and past and present tense, all of which made for a read which didn’t flow overly well.

Overall, I’m disappointed by Draper’s second novel but I still hugely recommend Cuckoo and I haven’t written the author off yet. I will keep an eye out for what she writes next in the hope that it can recapture the qualities I loved in her debut.

magpie


What was the last book you read that disappointed you? Let me know in the comments! xsignature (2)

 

‘All The Rage’ spoiler-free review and giveaway!

Hi everyone! Today, I’m on the HUGE blog tour for All The Rage, which is out in paperback today! This is the first Cara Hunter book I’ve read and I’m pleased to say I enjoyed it 😀 And I’m delighted to be able to offer one of YOU a copy of your very own because I accidentally ended up with two! So if you enjoy my review and like the sound of this one, make sure you leave me a comment saying you’d like to be entered in the giveaway! ❤

all the rage


synopsis

A teenage girl is found wandering the outskirts of Oxford, dazed and distressed. The story she tells is terrifying. Grabbed off the street, a plastic bag pulled over her face, then driven to an isolated location where she was subjected to what sounds like an assault. Yet she refuses to press charges.

DI Fawley investigates, but there’s little he can do without the girl’s co-operation. Is she hiding something, and if so, what? And why does Fawley keep getting the feeling he’s seen a case like this before?

And then another girl disappears, and Adam no longer has a choice: he has to face up to his past. Because unless he does, this victim may not be coming back…


my thoughts

As I mentioned previously, this was the first book I’ve read by Cara Hunter and I wasn’t disappointed! All The Rage was extremely compelling. I found it effective the way scenes would chop and change quite quickly, giving short bursts of information; this made for a very fast-paced read and made sure I couldn’t put the book down before finding out the next snippet! The book includes a range of formats, with social media conversations, courtroom transcripts and psychiatric reports all adding a sense of realness to the story and further heightening its gripping nature. It’s certainly a very readable book that will keep you up long into the night!

I will be completely honest and say that it took me a short while to get into the book. Normally, I like my thrillers to grab me within the first few pages and not let go. With All The Rage, it took a little longer for me to become invested. There were a lot of characters to try and keep track of in my head and I was mixing people up quite a bit because I’m silly like that. But then something was revealed around page 50 (which I can’t even hint at because SPOILERS) that got me hooked! From then on, my brain was ALL ABOUT this book.

As I said, there are quite a few characters in All The Rage. I didn’t realise before I picked it up that it’s actually the fourth book in a series so maybe I wouldn’t have struggled so much if I’d been on board from the beginning. That said, I still wholeheartedly believe that this book can be read as a standalone without the prior knowledge! I enjoyed getting to learn the dynamics of this particular police team and following the various subplots which were set up. Everyone felt realistically human, though my favourite character was definitely DC Somer who brought a slightly softer edge to a very masculine-feeling group.

Overall, I found this to be a complex and compelling read with a unique angle which I’ve not seen done before in a thriller. I truly appreciated the important issues which this book addressed while still managing to stand as an entertaining piece of fiction. It’s hard for a book to be original in this saturated genre but I think this one has managed it well.

all the rage


All The Rage is out today, January 23rd! Will you be reading it? Check out the other stops on this huge blog tour for more information and reviews! You can also sign up to Cara’s newsletter here!

And if you’d like to be in with a chance of winning a brand new paperback copy of the book, leave me a comment below! (UK entrants only, sorry!)

ATR final blog banner 1ATR final blog banner 2