book review · NetGalley · psychological suspense · tense · women's fiction

Book Review – The Stillwater Girls

The Stillwater Girls

by Minka Kent

Description:

Two sisters raised in fear are about to find out why in a chilling novel of psychological suspense from the author of The Thinnest Air.

Ignorant of civilization and cautioned against its evils, nineteen-year-old Wren and her two sisters, Sage and Evie, were raised in off-the-grid isolation in a primitive cabin in upstate New York. When the youngest grows gravely ill, their mother leaves with the child to get help from a nearby town. And they never return.

As months pass, hope vanishes. Supplies are low. Livestock are dying. A brutal winter is bearing down. Then comes the stranger. He claims to be looking for the girls’ mother, and he’s not leaving without them.

To escape, Wren and her sister must break the rule they’ve grown up with: never go beyond the forest.

Past the thicket of dread, they come upon a house on the other side of the pines. This is where Wren and Sage must confront something more chilling than the unknowable. They’ll discover what’s been hidden from them, what they’re running from, and the secrets that have left them in the dark their entire lives.

My review:

This book was recommended to me by a good friend who was raving about it, so I jumped on the bandwagon and got a copy for myself, only to hear from the same friend a few hours later – yes, hours – that the ending did not live up to expectations.

Argh! Was I about to waste my valuable reading time on something that would disappoint? A few other reviews – though definitely not all – said much the same thing. It didn’t bode well.

Still, I had the book already – it had to be worth checking it out for myself, after all, I might love it. My friend and I have disagreed over books in the past. (Though, to be fair, we’ve agreed more times than disagreed) Maybe this would be another one of those moments.

And you know what? For the first 75%, I abso-bloody-lutely loved this story. It was well-paced; I could totally empathise with the characters, they intrigued me – it was all good.

I felt for Wren and Sage, left alone in that cabin in the woods, where food was running out but not their hope that Mama and sister Evie would be back soon. When that knock on their door came, I was with them, hiding behind the couch, trembling. The plan wasn’t working out. It was time to leave. I so wanted Wren and Sage to find their mother and sister, and to see that maybe the world wasn’t as bad nor as scary as they’d been told.

Meanwhile, Nicolette and husband Brant lived a charmed life, endless travel opportunities led to recognition for Brant’s photographic career while Nic looked forward to them becoming foster parents after an emergency hysterectomy meant she couldn’t carry a child herself.

Unfortunately, a baby photo in Brant’s sock drawer, and several large withdrawals from her trust fund – without her knowledge – brought doubt to her door. Was Brant cheating? Did he have another family somewhere else?

There was tension every which way, and I raced through the book. It didn’t seem beyond the realms of possibility that the first house Wren and Sage came across belonged to Nic and Brant; and there was a logical reason for Nic to be at home when they knocked on her door. (She usually went to Florida for the winter, but had decided to confront Brant about the money instead)

As the truth came out about the Stillwater Darlings who lived in the cabin in the woods, living a life without electricity or modernity of any kind, it seemed only reasonable – and rather sweet – that Nic would want to help them.

And then came the moment that left me open-mouthed, where the facts of Nicolette’s past were revealed. My first thoughts were that the story had taken a shocking, fascinating and somewhat incredulous turn. While all the connections were finally made, it still left me baffled. Could that have happened? (I’m not going to share the details here in case you’d care to see for yourself) Everyone in Stillwater knew what had happened to Nicolette, including Brant, Cate, (her friend in Florida) and even her parents – and they all agreed to say nothing. Only Nicolette had no idea, no memory of what she’d done.

I loved the author’s writing, she drew me in with strong characters, all the emotional ups and downs you could wish for, and so much dramatic tension. I’ll definitely be checking out her other books. This would be perfect for #bookclubs as it certainly generates conversation. I love that in a book, and I’d recommend those curious enough to check it out for themselves.

My thanks to Netgalley and the author / publisher for a copy of this book; my review is made voluntarily.

As always,

book review · mystery · recommended · suspense · tense

Book Recommendation – Gone The Next

Gone The Next

by Ben Rehder

Meet Roy Ballard, freelance videographer with a knack for catching insurance cheats. He’s working a routine case, complete with hours of tedious surveillance, when he sees something that shakes him to the core. There, with the subject, is a little blond girl wearing a pink top and denim shorts—the same outfit worn by Tracy Turner, a six-year-old abducted the day before. When the police are skeptical of Ballard’s report—and with his history, who can blame them?—it’s the beginning of the most important case of his life.

Considering the subject matter, the topic is handled with great sensitivity. After learning that Roy has experience of losing a child, then it was very easy to root for him. Added to that he has the kind of sense of humour that you can’t help but like, and laugh along with.
It was a fun, fast suspense read that kept me turning the pages with an interesting choice of main character. I don’t think I’ve seen an insurance fraud investigator in the ‘detective’ role before. Of course, the rules for him are different to those of a PI, and Roy is not averse to using that to his advantage.
A great story, and one that makes me want to read more from this author.

Get your copy here: Amazon

As always,

blog tour · book review · British · political · tense · terrorism · thought provoking · thriller

Blog Blitz ‘n’ Book Review – Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand

by Rachel McLean

Divided We Stand

Britain is a country under surveillance. Neighbours spy on neighbours. Schools enforce loyalty to the state. And children are encouraged to inform on their parents.

Disgraced MP Jennifer Sinclair has earned her freedom but returns home to find everything changed.

Rita Gurumurthy has been sent to a high security prison. When a sympathetic guard helps her escape she becomes a fugitive, forced to go into hiding.

To reunite her family and win freedom for her son and her friend, Jennifer must challenge her old colleague and rival, the new Prime Minister Catherine Moore.

Will Catherine listen to reason and remove the country from its yoke of fear and suspicion? Or will Jennifer have to reveal the secret only she knows about Catherine, and risk plunging the country into turmoil?

I’ve come to expect a lot from Rachel McLean as an author, and she never disappoints. This third book in the Division Bell trilogy is every much the “David vs Goliath” story as its predecessors. In the current times of political uncertainty (or should that  be “insanity”?) she takes the reader on another captivating, white-knuckle ride.

You too will be screaming at the pages, begging for the cavalry. It’s escapism into a world that is not so far-fetched from our present reality, where you will be black and blue from pinching yourself to check it’s not from the non-fiction shelf.

Purchase Links:

Amazon UK 

Amazon US 

My Review

I admit to being a huge fan of trilogies – and having read books 1 and 2 in this series, there was no way on the planet I was going to miss this one.

The story picks up with Jennifer Sinclair – former Birmingham MP and Cabinet Minister returning home to an empty house after having been arrested for sheltering her supposedly terrorist-inclined son and hiding him from the authorities. She returns to Brum to see citizens hostile to a young Muslim woman. Challenging them, she hears of another terrorist act having been committed in the city. Concern for her own family overwhelms her and she fears for their safety in this new extreme anti-Muslim world.

In her own street, curtains twitch as she arrives at her front door where a CCTV camera is now focused on her house.

Neighbours are wary of her, unwilling to be seen in public with her. So much has happened while she has been “indisposed” at the British Values Centre, and none of it for the good of the people.

The other main protagonist from book two – Rita Gurumurthy – is on her way to a new facility when a car accident gives her the chance to escape. But where can she go, and how long can she survive without being spotted and returned to the hell-hole that left her battered and bruised both physically and mentally?

The plight of the two women to tell their stories to the world without risking further harm continues.

Jennifer finally catches up with her husband and youngest son, Hassan, but there is still no news of Samir.

Rita sees her boyfriend taken from his home by police as she crawls her way into Worcester, starving, cold and scared to death.

Their diligence and courage to stand up to the new status quo is both heart-warming and troubling. Conflict and hostility surface at every opportunity; it seems there is no way for the truth to be told as a result of too many cover-ups, secrets and lies in the corridors of power.

This is another gripping thriller, highlighting the impact of how fear can turn neighbour against neighbour, friend against friend, and all in the name of power.

In all honesty, this story freaked me out somewhat due to the comparisons that can be drawn with our current political landscape. Scary, thought-provoking, gritty and almost voyeuristic in its potential reality.

Another winner!

About the Author

I’m Rachel McLean and I write thrillers and speculative fiction.

I’m told that the world wants upbeat, cheerful stories – well, I’m sorry but I can’t help. My stories have an uncanny habit of predicting future events (and not the good ones). They’re inspired by my work at the Environment Agency and the Labour Party and explore issues like climate change, Islamophobia, the refugee crisis and sexism in high places. All with a focus on how these impact individual people and families.

You can find out more about my writing, get access to deals and exclusive stories or become part of my advance reader team by joining my book club at rachelmclean.com/bookclub.

Follow the author on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

 

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mystery · review · tense · thriller

Book Review – The Good Girl

good girl

The Good Girl – Mary Kubica

4/5 stars – Aside from the unusual style of writing, which took some getting used to, this story had me gripped until the end – with an ending that I did not expect in the slightest. Written from a variety of perspectives, it is both a suspenseful mystery and a tender romance.

Definitely an author to follow.

Synopsis (taken from Goodreads):

“I’ve been following her for the past few days. I know where she buys her groceries, where she has her dry cleaning done, where she works. I don’t know the color of her eyes or what they look like when she’s scared. But I will.”
Born to a prominent Chicago judge and his stifled socialite wife, Mia Dennett moves against the grain as a young inner-city art teacher. One night, Mia enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn’t show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. With his smooth moves and modest wit, at first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia’s life.
Colin’s job was to abduct Mia as part of a wild extortion plot and deliver her to his employers. But the plan takes an unexpected turn when Colin suddenly decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota, evading the police and his deadly superiors. Mia’s mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them, but no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family’s world to shatter.