My Mother’s Daughter by Ann O’Loughlin

Today I am delighted to be a stop on the #blogtour for the wonderful My Mother’s Daughter by Ann O’Loughlin. A beautiful story of two women which will truly warm the cockles of your soul; portraying courage, loss and the importance of love.

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Synopsis

County Wicklow, Ireland. Margo has just lost her husband Conor and is grieving his passing, unsure how she and her daughter Elsa will survive without him. Then she receives a letter that turns everything she thought she knew on its head. Not only has she lost her husband, but now Margo fears she could lose her daughter as well.

Ohio, United States. Cassie has just split from her husband acrimoniously. Upset and alone she does not know how to move forward. Then her ex-husband demands a paternity test for their daughter Tilly and sorrow turns to anger as Cassie faces the frightening possibility of losing her daughter.

A powerful, moving story of family, resilience and compassion, and how women support each other through the most difficult times, My Mother’s Daughter takes the issues closest to our hearts and makes us ask ourselves the most difficult questions – what would we do in Margo and Cassie’s place?

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My Thoughts

Where to begin with this big warm hug of a book?  O’Loughlin is a new author (to me) and so I was excited to receive an invitation to be a stop on the #blogtour.  I was not disappointed; I was totally captivated from the first page and devoured the majority of the book in under 3 days.

As a mother of two girls myself I was interested to see how O’Loughlin tackled the subject of the strength of a mother’s love for her daughter; the challenges involved and the boundaries that were pushed and broken.  The hard hitting issues taken on by O’Loughlin (divorce, illness, death and grief to name but a few) were dealt with sympathetically and with love, forming a truly heartwarming story.

Strong women feature throughout, tenderly pulling each other together with the bonds and ties of female friendship which are the bones of this novel, they provide solidarity and support wherever and whenever necessary; these characters are what make the story stand out and speak for itself.

The warmth of O’Loughlin’s writing courses through the story and her descriptions flow and ripple beautifully throughout.  This book was such a pleasure to read and I shall definitely be searching out her previous titles!

My thanks go to Alex Layt and Orion Publishing for providing me with a proof copy of the book for my honest opinion, and also to Tracy Fenton for organising the #blogtour with Alex,

My Mother’s Daughter is out now in paperback and you can buy it here

If you enjoyed my review, please do check out my other posts and also the other stops on the blogtour:

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Until next time!

@mrscookesbooks

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Monty and the Ocean Rescue – A Plastic Disaster – M.T. Sanders

Some of you may be aware of my co-ownership of two book-loving Littles so I was thrilled to be asked to participate in a blogtour for Monty and the Ocean Rescue! Sharing my love of reading with my children is incredibly important to me and they were delighted to to be introduced to a whole new set of characters at storytime…

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Synopsis

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Monty, Cookie and the spangles are back at the beach. When Cookie sees a splash in the water her newfydoof instinct to rescue takes over and she immediately heads out to help.

What follows is an adventure that could turn out to be their biggest, and most difficult so far.

Our Thoughts

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Where to begin with this delightful tale? Firstly, my children love dogs; the bigger, the hairier, the slobberier – the better, and Monty is no exception.  Secondly, Cookie’s first rescuee was none other than a mermaid!  This resulted in many happy squeals and shrieks from them both.

There are two particularly wonderful things about this book that kept my children totally engaged: the fantastic rollicking rhyme that courses the way through and the beautiful illustrations of Monty, Cookie and the gang.  Both of these made for an inspiring storytime experience.

The educational message about what we are doing to our oceans is cleverly placed and despite being the “moral of the tale” is still subtle enough to lead to an open ended discussion about the “plastic disaster”.  This story is a lovely and gentle introduction to a serious issue and led naturally to a conversation about the environment and our effects on it.

The pictures and rhyme put the underlying message across sympathetically and interestingly and the whole family enjoyed this superb story.  A definite 5 paws (out of five) from all of us.

About the Author

MT Sanders is a writer, blogger and author of the childrens book Monty and the Ocean Rescue.

An accidental career began after he took early retirement and began writing stories on social media about his five dogs. Life according to Monty Dogge soon attracted a huge following and led to invites to blog live from Crufts and other high-profile events.

In 2017 and 2018 Vuelio placed it in the top ten UK pet blogs and the still growing readership encouraged MT to write a book. I’m not a Pandacow was the debut children’s book released in 2017 and this has been quickly followed by four more to date.

MT and Monty spend the major part of their time touring schools across the country bringing the tales to life as children get to meet the star of the books.

The latest book is a real passion project for the author who is a huge supporter of conservation projects and a champion for animal welfare. It goes without saying that MT was delighted to receive a handwritten message of good luck from none other than Sir David Attenborough who features in the book.

Social media links

Life according to Monty Dogge and the Books of Monty Dogge on Facebook

@montydogge on Twitter

@monty_dogge on Instagram

 

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My thanks go to the author and Whispering Stories for the invitation to participate in the blogtour and also for our gorgeous signed and “pawtographed” copy of the book!

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To buy Monty and the Ocean Rescue, click here – this book has been such a joy to read that I know we will be ordering Monty’s back catalogue in order to spend more time with him and his adorable friends.

@mrscookesbooks

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Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

#blogtour

@mk_golding

@HQstories

I am thrilled that my blog is a stop on the blogtour for Little Darlings! I have something a bit different today; a Q and A with Melanie herself!

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Synopsis

THE TWINS ARE CRYING.
THE TWINS ARE HUNGRY.

LAUREN IS CRYING.
LAUREN IS EXHAUSTED.

Behind the hospital curtain, someone is waiting . . .

Lauren is alone on the maternity ward with her new-born twins when a terrifying encounter in the middle of the night leaves her convinced someone is trying to steal her children. Lauren, desperate with fear, locks herself and her sons in the bathroom until the police arrive to investigate.

When DS Joanna Harper picks up the list of overnight incidents that have been reported, she expects the usual calls from drunks and wrong numbers. But then a report of an attempted abduction catches her eye. The only thing is that it was flagged as a false alarm just fifteen minutes later.

Harper’s superior officer tells her there’s no case here, but Harper can’t let it go so she visits the hospital anyway. There’s nothing on the CCTV. No one believes this woman was ever there. And yet, Lauren claims that she keeps seeing the woman and that her babies are in danger, and soon Harper is sucked into Lauren’s spiral of fear. But how far will they go to save children who may not even be in danger?

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Q and A with Melanie Golding

1. This story has honestly given me nightmares! So unbelievably creepy – did you set out to create something so utterly and inexplicably terrifying and was there any particular inspiration for the book?

I love to write about the darker side of the psyche – I also read lots of horror and thrillers, as well as plenty of literary fiction, crime fiction, everything really! In answer to the question, I knew it was quite scary and I’m delighted to realise how frightening people find it! I think my bar for creepy is higher than normal.

 

2. I really felt for Lauren, and her fear that she wouldn’t be believed and I loved your refreshing take on post nataldepression which is still sadly a very taboo subject.  How much was it your goal whilst writing this book to address and bring this to attention and spell out how this feels and affects so many new mothers? 

Having a baby was the most terrifying experience, and afterwards I had a lot of catastrophising thoughts involving worst-case scenarios that made me feel very anxious. Thankfully, I was a childminder for many years so I talked all day long with women who were having babies. I came to realise that what happened to me wasn’t unusual at all, and that lots of women feel like this. Then I got kind of angry: literature is where I learned about life, and about humanity. Yet I hadn’t seen enough of this very normal fear in the books I had read. I started to wonder, why not? Some taboos are so ingrained they are almost unconscious. I wanted to change that, because people need to know what it’s really like so they don’t feel so isolated when it happens to them.

 

3. Are you able to tell us a bit more about your research for the novel – including the location (Sheffield) and the psychiatric unit?

I lived in Sheffield for several years after attending University in Wakefield. It’s a great place, very green, very right-on, and so close to the Peak District national park. I love it there. I changed the name of the valley, the rivers and the reservoir, but hopefully if you know the area you might guess the places they are based on. As for the psychiatric unit, most of my research was done by watching documentaries, reading books and consulting medical professionals.2E9F4BE4-FC9A-4E8C-A05C-793FD8A20C66

4. For me, this book is so stunning that it should absolutely be turned into a film but if it were to be, how much would you worry about evoking the same chilling atmosphere that you have so successfully created in telling this tale?

(I should point out that after composing my questions I did a bit more digging around the book and to my delight I found out that Little Darlings is going to be made into a film!)

I really trust Roger and Kevin of Free Range Films to do the book justice in the same way they achieved great things with the totally atmospheric adaptation of Du Maurier’s My Cousin Rachel, and the wonderful (and chilling) adaptation of Enduring Love by Ian McEwan. I can’t wait to see how they treat Little Darlings; it will be sublime.

 

5. Finally, I would like to say congratulations and thank you for addressing and writing about what is a very real fear for every new mother and turning it into a cracker of a story to boot! I thoroughly enjoyed reading Little Darlings and eagerly anticipate your next book – talking of which, is there one in the pipeline and would you be able to give us any clues, however tiny?

The next book is another contemporary thriller with roots in a dark folktale, so hopefully you will also enjoy that! Coming in 2020!

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Thank you so much for your time, Melanie! I can’t wait for your next offering – it sounds fantastic!  In the meantime everyone needs to be terrified by this fantastic book – Little Darlings was published in hardcover in May and you can buy it here

My thanks go to HQ Stories/Harper Collins UK for providing me with an early copy of Little Darlings and for the invitation to be a stop on the blogtour.

#littledarlings #notmybaby

@mrscookesbooks

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Please do check out the other posts on my blog, and also the other stops on the blogtour as schedule below:

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The Heart Keeper by Alex Dahl

#blogtour

#extract

@HoZ_Books

@VickyJoss1

It’s my stop on the #blogtour for the Heart Keeper today and I’m delighted to reveal an extract from this fabulous book.

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Synopsis

Critically acclaimed author Alex Dahl explores how love can turn darkly sinister when a desperate mother looks to reconnect with her lost daughter in this riveting Norwegian set psychological suspense novel.

Two mothers. Two daughters. One heart. 

When Alison’s beloved daughter Amalie drowns, her world turns impenetrably dark.  Alison tries to hold it together throughout the bleak Fall, but in the darkest days of the Norwegian Winter she completely falls apart.

In another family, Amalie’s passing is a new beginning. After years of severe health problems, young Kaia receives a new heart on the morning after Amalie drowns. Her mother Iselin has struggled to raise Kaia on her own and now things are finally looking up. She’s even made an affluent new friend who’s taken a special interest in her and her daughter.

Alison knows she shouldn’t interfere, but really, she’s just trying to help Iselin and Kaia. She can give them the life they never had, and by staying close to them, she can still be with her daughter. Kaia is just like her, and surely, something of Amalie must live on in her. As her grief transforms into a terrifying obsession, Alison won’t let anything stop her from getting back what she has lost.

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Extract

Sindre is standing at the worktop, which runs alongside an entire wall of the garage.
It’s where he usually stands in winter, patiently prepping our family’s cross-country
skis with wax before the weekends – Oliver’s slim racing skis first, then his own, then my beginner ones, and finally Amalie’s short, broad ones with sparkly snow crystals and Queen Elsa’s face stretching toward the tips. I am standing in the space between the house and the garage, bracing myself against the wind, which is much fiercer than I’d thought, and I can just make out those little skis on a hook high up on the wall. Sindre stands with his back to me, but I can make out most of what is on the worktop in front of him. He moves strangely, at times fast and jerkily, at times slowly and smoothly, and it takes me a while to realize that he is polishing weapons. He detaches the telescope from a long, matte hunting rifle, holds it up to the light, then runs a red cloth over the lens. He’s going away in a couple of weeks, moose hunting. I’d forgotten. He goes every year at this time – of course he needs to prepare for that.

A volley of rain surges around the corner of the house and shoots down the
pathway, pricking my face and hands painfully and I draw my cardigan around me
tighter, but I’m so cold, and perhaps a little cry escapes me, because Sindre suddenly
turns around and walks over to the narrow window to peer out. Though I’m not sure
why, I press myself against the wall next to the window so he can’t see me. I could
just knock lightly on the door and slip into the garage and hug my husband from
behind. I could offer him a coffee – I can’t imagine either of us will return to bed
tonight. But I don’t. I remain in the passageway, watching him carefully dismantle
and reassemble the two rifles, running the cloth in and out of their nooks and crannies. When he has finished he reaches up and lifts a cardboard box down from a shelf above him. It looks like a nondescript brown shoebox. He opens it and removes some newspaper, a kitchen towel, and then, an object.

At first, I can’t tell what it is; it isn’t big, and because Sindre’s back is turned
toward me, he is partially blocking my view. Then he puts whatever it is down and
takes a couple of steps away to his right, presumably to get something else. I can see
it clearly now – it is a steel-gray handgun I’ve never seen before. He opens another
box, this one much smaller than the one that held the gun, and shakes several bullets
out into his hand. He holds one up to the light, turning it over and around before
slotting it, and the others, into the gun’s chambers.

I sometimes think about Sindre’s other life, the life he lived before me. Before our
family. I imagine him as he would have been then: in his army helmet and fatigues,
trekking in the mountains of the Hindu Kush and Badakhshan, circling in on some of
the most wanted war criminals and terrorists in the world. He’d take shelter in caves
and sheepherders’ huts, drink from impossibly clear mountain streams, inching his
way toward a target until he was close enough to take them out clean. I see him
squinting into the sight block – a man’s skull framed, the absolute certainty of his
finger on the trigger, the precise, muffled shot. I’ve never asked Sindre how many
men he’s killed. Neutralized, he calls it. I don’t know if he knows. Would he count
something like that? I know I would.

The life Sindre lived before me and our family seems an almost impossible
contrast to the life I lived: growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, then traveling
the world – first for fun, and later for work, writing features for glossy magazines and newspaper supplements. I’ve interviewed female heads of state from New Zealand to Iceland, I’ve explored the drug cultures of South American women’s prisons and looked into the increasing wine consumption of the American middle class. When Sindre traveled, it would be to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan – places he’d go to kill.
He picks up the handgun again, weighs it in his hands, turns it over and smiles
slightly down at it. It occurs to me that he may be about to use it, that he could bring it quickly to his temple and just fire. Still I don’t go in; still I stand watching. What
would my husband need a pistol for? I can understand that he needs to keep the
hunting rifles, but I can’t imagine what use he could have for a handgun. Maybe he’s
always had it, but just hasn’t mentioned it to me? There are many things I don’t know about Sindre, and that air of mystery which seems innate rather than deliberate is precisely one of the things that drew me to him in the first place.
Sindre places the gun back in the box, and the box back up on the shelf. He stands
still for a while at the worktop, head bent. I look at his hands – how soft and innocent they look in the meager light. Perhaps he is thinking the same thing because he raises them up toward the light and watches them, turning them over a couple of times. Then he cups them, holding them a few inches apart: his exact pose the first time he held our baby, slick from the womb – one hand underneath her bottom, one cradling her skull. I turn away from him, letting my eyes rest on the scrambling leaves at my feet. When I look back up again, Sindre is studying the palms of his hands, as though searching for clues as to what they’re capable of. I walk back into the house.

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About the Author

Alex Dahl was born in Oslo and is the critically acclaimed author of The Boy at the Door.  She graduated with a B.A. in Russian and German linguistics with international studies and went on to complete an M.A. in creative writing at Bath Spa University, followed by an M.S. in business management at Bath University. Alex has published short stories in the U.K. and the U.S. and is a serious Francophile.

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If you enjoyed the extract from the Heart Keeper, please check out my other posts and also the other stops on the #blogtour below.

My thanks go to the publisher for an early digital file of the book.

The Heart Keeper is published in hardcover in July and is available to pre order here  

@mrscookesbooks

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The Botanist’s Daughter by Kayte Nunn

#Blogtour @alexxlayt @orionbooks @KayteNunn

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Synopsis

Discovery. Desire. Deception. A wondrously imagined tale of two female botanists, separated by more than a century, in a race to discover a life-saving flower . . .

In Victorian England, headstrong adventuress Elizabeth takes up her late father’s quest for a rare, miraculous plant. She faces a perilous sea voyage, unforeseen dangers and treachery that threatens her entire family.

In present-day Australia, Anna finds a mysterious metal box containing a sketchbook of dazzling watercolours, a photograph inscribed ‘Spring 1886’ and a small bag of seeds. It sets her on a path far from her safe, carefully ordered life, and on a journey that will force her to face her own demons.

In this spellbinding botanical odyssey of discovery, desire and deception, Kayte Nunn has so exquisitely researched nineteenth-century Cornwall and Chile you can almost smell the fragrance of the flowers, the touch of the flora on your fingertips . .

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My Thoughts

This book is such a wonderful amalgamation of sumptuous historical fiction and the cutting reality of present day.  A gripping and surprisingly fast moving tale; it is told on two timelines and this gives it a unique feel, keeping the narrative fresh and interesting.

Whilst I enjoy looking at flowers, I am no expert when it comes to botany and thus approached the book with slight trepidation.  However, I needn’t have worried; Nunn has clearly done her research when it comes to plants and flowers but deftly includes their descriptions making the reader feel the experience rather than be bamboozled by technical jargon. To say this book is gorgeous is an understatement; I felt wonderfully lost in Nunn’s beautiful prose – a true escape of a book to be consumed whilst relaxing with your favourite drink, whatever that may be!

If you enjoy family secrets, lies and mysteries with a fabulous twist at the end then this book is definitely for you. Nunn has excelled at creating a deliciously atmospheric and richly detailed world in which I was truly immersed and happily lost myself in for chunks of the day –  I am excitedly looking forward to her next historical fiction offering.

My thanks go to Orion Books for inviting me on this blogtour and sending me a copy of the book in return for my honest review.  If you enjoyed my review please check out my other blog posts and also the other stops on the tour:

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The Botanist’s Daughter was released in April and you can buy it here

@mrscookesbooks

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Eye For Eye by J K Franko @annecater @CameronPMtweets @jk_franko #whatwouldYOUdo #blogtour

I am delighted to be a stop on the #blogtour for Eye For Eye – the perfect page turner!

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Synopsis

Roy and Susie are on a skiing holiday, trying to take a break from the constant reminders of their daughter, tragically killed by a careless driver. Out of the blue they meet Deb and Tom, another couple with a tragic past and a shocking proposal to put things right.

As the bodies accumulate, secrets are revealed and alliances crumble. Ultimate survival depends on following the rules for a perfect murder.  And, the first and most important rule is… leave no singing bones.

From the back…

“NEW TWIST ON STRANGERS ON A TRAIN” – THE SUNDAY TIMES

When I first met Susie, she appeared to be a normal, happily-married woman dealing with tragedy.

Then, I uncovered her secrets. While I could understand everything that she’d done, I could never approve.

But, knowing what she was capable of, it became clear that if I was going to survive her, I had to play by her rules.

And, the first and most important rule is… leave no singing bones.

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My thoughts

This 400+ page book is really quite something. Finishing the final page, I initially wondered where on earth I was going to begin with my review.  It’s conversational tone and unusual documentary-style narrative hooked me in from the very beginning; it was clear that this would be a smart and compelling thriller.

If you’re looking for a twisty, addictive tale with secrets and lies aplenty, then this book is for you!  I enjoyed the colorful and vivid descriptions in this throughly dark story and whilst I have to admit to having no real affinity with the main characters (let’s face it, they’re not exactly model citizens!), they were well developed and thoroughly believable.

With ‘getting even’ being the order of the day it was impossible not to question myself about how I would act should I have been in Susie and Roy’s situation.  I really did feel like I had #whatwouldYOUdo racing through my mind whilst furiously turning the pages.

J K Franko has produced a fanatastic debut fiction novel with a very clear route to the next two books in this promising crime fiction trilogy and I am excited to find out what happens next.  A tightly plotted and well executed novel with a handful of Game of Thrones references to boot – what’s not to love?

My thanks go to Anne Cater and Cameron Publicity for sending me a proof copy in exchange for my honest review.

Eye For Eye is out now in paperback and you can buy it here

If you enjoyed reading my review please do check out my other posts and also visit the other stops on the #blogtour which will continue over the next few days…

@mrscookesbooks

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The Evidence Against You by Gillian McAllister

@MichaelJBooks

@GillianMAuthor

@mrscookesbooks

 

I am delighted to kick off the #blogtour for Gillian McAllister’s latest novel which I raced through in only a couple of days because I just HAD to know how it all ended.

Synopsis

It’s the day Izzy’s father will be released from jail.  She has every reason to feel conflicted – he’s the man who gave her a childhood filled with happy memories.  But he has also just served seventeen years for the murder of her mother.  

Now, Izzy’s father sends her a letter. He wants to talk, to defend himself against each piece of evidence from his trial.  But should she give him the benefit of the doubt?  Or is her father guilty as charged, and luring her into a trap?

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My Thoughts

This is McAllister’s fourth novel, and to my mind, her best yet.  She returns with another gripping legal thriller but this time introduces us to something of a hybrid genre; a thriller with heart and sensitivity; a focus on the human repercussions of a tragedy that tears a family apart, leaving behind a lonely, lost girl, left to enter adulthood without a mother or father.

McAllister examines several relationships in this novel; between father and daughter, mother and daughter, husband and wife, but also of a girl grappling to gain a sense of her true identity whilst dealing with the catastrophic consequences of her family being ripped apart by her father’s shocking crime.

Izzy’s loss has left her craving the attention, love and security a family provides: spying on her neighbour, stalking her and imagining her to be a surrogate mother.  In desperation she even resorts to following the “perfect” family on Instagram, daydreaming that she too is part of such a unit.

Nick, a police analyst and Izzy’s husband, has been on edge since Izzy’s father was released on life licence.  Understandably, Nick is protective of Izzy but then Nick has had her all to himself for so long, she relies on him entirely for love and emotional support, but with her father released Nick may have to share Izzy.  Does the ugly creep of jealousy mask Nick’s view of what is best for her?

Gabe, Izzy’s father, has McAllister examining the complicated consequences of being institutionalised.  He comes across as defensive and deceitful yet is adamant of his innocence. Gabe implores Izzy to rekindle their lost connection and help him find who really killed her mother. Izzy being so vulnerable, willingly agrees to help.

Set against the stunning backdrop of the Isle of Wight, this novel, with its complex and flawed characters, is fresh and pacy. I raced though in only two days – a real rollercoaster at times.  Just as soon as you think Izzy is heading in the direction of the truth, her quest is dealt a crushing blow and she is jolted back to square one, questioning her beliefs and her father’s motives, wondering who she can really trust.

McAllister deftly introduces legal jargon and judicial mechanisms without alienating the reader, showing she has certainly done her research.  An intricate and intense narrative where I audibly gasped at the last page.  I was utterly enthralled by this book and McAllister kept me guessing until the very end.

This novel is a 5* triumph; not only because it is excels in its genre, but because it is a thriller reaching outside of its box; it has a warm blooded heart beating right the way through it.  McAllister has managed to school us once again with a twisty, intelligent, yet emotionally charged tale.

My thanks go to Michael Joseph for sending me a proof copy of the novel in exchange for my honest review.

The Evidence Against You is published in paperback on 18th April 2019 and you can pre-order it here.

If you enjoyed reading my review please do check out my other posts and also visit the other stops on the #blogtour which will continue for the next month…

@mrscookesbooks

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