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I set myself a little reading challenge this year. To read two books a month, at least. I used to be such an avid reader but when I started my nursing training most of my reading time was taken up with textbooks, and then when my children came along I found myself with less and less time to read for pleasure. Now the girls are a little older and I am a little less exhausted I have been slowing getting back in the swing of reading.
It started last summer when I managed to read a couple of books sat in my sunshine soaked garden. Then on our one week Summer Holiday I managed to read two whole books. After that, the reading bug had well and truly wormed it’s way back to me. But, without the incentive of a reading challenge, the times I sat down with a book were still sporadic at best. So, at the start of January 2019, I decided I would set a goal, a trackable goal to make sure I kept up momentum. Two books per month. Easy right? Well this month I excelled and read four books. Officially making me ahead for my overall year goal.
I don’t usually write book reviews, or at least I haven’t in the past. Generally I will quickly mention any books I have read on my Instagram stories and how I rated them. But I am aware that, if you are anything like me then that is all well and good but, you probably want to know a little bit more. Each month I will aim (don’t hold me to it, I’m a liability) to write a review post of all the books I have read. So you can really decide if you would enjoy them or not.
I should probably start with a little warning. I love crime, I love thrillers and I love suspense. If all of that is mixed with an epic romance (not a soppy one) then I am likely to love it. But if not I probably won’t be tripping over myself to read it.
Verity (Colleen Hoover) 5*
I want to start by talking about “Verity” because this book had me gripped from start to finish and has haunted me ever since. This isn’t a scary book or story, it is just that the character Verity, or at least her words, are haunting.
The premise of the story is that a very successful crime author, Verity Crawford, was in a tragic accident that left her with a severe brain injury resulting her inability to complete her most successful series of books. Her publisher, with the support of Verity’s husband, hired a guest author to finish the series. This opportunity comes at a fortuitous time for Lowen, the new author, both personally and financially. She moves into the Crawford Family home where Verity is being cared for by her husband and a full time nurse with the idea of gathering as many notes about Verity’s plot lines and main characters as she can. Instead Lowen stumbles upon the famous authors autobiography manuscript.
“A writer should never have the audacity to write about themselves unless they’re willing to separate every layer of protection between the author’s soul and their book. The words should come directly from the center of the gut, tearing through flesh and bone as they break free. Ugly and honest and bloody and a little bit terrifying, but completely exposed.”
There is a huge trigger warning here as the manuscript contains descriptions of child abuse and neglect. Every other chapter is an excerpt from this autobiography, and much like Lowen, after reading it I needed a little break from the book. The story is intense and, quite frankly, harrowing. But between all of these excerpts a romance between Jeremy, the husband, and Lowen forms. A romance that makes sense and one that you find yourself rooting for. You want each to find the happiness they clearly deserve, and above all you want them to get out the house that Verity is in!
The description of all the characters, the house and the events are so tangible you can almost feel them; the kitchen floor beneath your feet, the damp of the basement and the coldness of the lake.
“What you read will taste so bad at times, you’ll want to spit it out, but you’ll swallow these words and they will become part of you, part of your gut, and you will hurt because of them.”
The book is full of suspense and intrigue. You begin questioning your own sanity whilst being pretty sure you know there is more to everything than meets the eye. I don’t want to put any spoilers in here but there is a little twist at the end to keep you guessing even further about what is really going on. So for anyone who has read it, what is real? What really happened? What do you believe?
Stillhouse Lake (Rachel Caine) 4.5*
This. Had. Me. Gripped. I was invested after the first chapter, so much so that as soon as I finished this one I bought the second one in the series (reviewed below). Stillhouse Lake follows the life of Gwen and her two children after it is discovered that her husband is an extremely prolific serial killer. After his conviction and her innocent verdict from being his accomplice the family have been the subject of online trolls threatening their life on a daily basis. Whilst Gwen knows most of these people are just vile keyboard warriors she lives in constant fear that someone will, one day, come to try and kill them.
“Everybody gets mean stuff on the Internet, Mom. You shouldn’t take it so seriously. Just ignore them. They’ll go away.” That, I think, is a maddening thing to say on so many levels. As if the Internet is a fantasy world, inhabited by imaginary people.”
Gwen has help from some unlikely sources to ensure her and her children can disappear and form new identities at the drop of a hat. But when the body of a murdered girls floats up from the Lake near their house, baring striking similarities to the victims of her husbands, Gwen decides this time she isn’t going to run. She will stay and fight the demons chasing her.
As the story evolves it becomes very clear that Gwen is probably right to be guarded with her trust. No one is exactly as they seem and my initial reaction towards certain characters was often wrong. Pay close attention to who is where and when they’re there and you may get to the truth quicker than I did. Trust no one.
“I lean both palms on the counter and lock eyes with the monster. The man I married.”
This is full of suspense, twists and turns and some really well formed main characters. You become really invested in the well being of the family very quickly and you’ll find yourself hoping Gwen’s instincts of who to trust are correct. Believe me, with the cliff hanger it leaves at the end you will want to have Killman Creek to hand so you can immediately continue the story.
Killman Creek (Rachel Caine) 5*
The second instalment of the Stillhouse lake series, Killman Creek, picks up right where we left off in the last book. If you haven’t yet read the first then I strongly suggest you quickly move past this review as it will contain a massive plot spoiler from the first. It kinda has to, there is no way around it.
Ok, so you have been warned… This is your last chance to skim past. I’m going to carry on now….
Killman Creek follows Gwen’s quest to find her murderous husband and kill him before he finds them. Having escaped from the prison Melvin is on the run and has a very powerful network helping him evade capture. This instalment is written from the perspective of all the characters involved. It is cleverly done so you get a greater understanding of how the children are coping, or not coping, with the fact their Dad is a serial killer on the loose. You also get to hear from the people helping Gwen which really helps you, as the reader, buy into the story even more.
“I noticed, but I didn’t pay attention.”
As we follow Gwen on her man hunt and watch as she seems to be controlled by puppet strings she can’t even see, the sense of impending doom gets stronger and stronger. Everyones reality and beliefs are shaken to their core and no one knows who to trust. Seemingly always one step behind things do come a huge climax that is so well written I felt like I was there in the house with everyone. The truth will out and Gwen will have her day.
This is much faster paced than Stillhouse Lake which is why I have given it a higher rating. It is also crammed with plot twists and turns that will keep you guessing all along the journey to justice.
With a third book being released in the Spring of this year I can’t wait to see where the story goes next. I have read the synopsis and it sounds intriguing. Whilst most things were wrapped up in this second book I do still have some questions and concerns about a couple of characters. Well one character really. Javier. He seems trustworthy enough but there are snippets throughout both books that make me question that deeply. Who is he on the phone to outside his cabin, pacing? Why does he wash his hands of Gwen only to run to her aid before her innocence is truly proven? And I am sure he has been around in key scenes before everything really kicks off in Stillhouse Lake. So do you trust him? Or am I completely off the mark?
Cold Dark Places (Kylie Bryant) 3.5*
Cold Dark Places follows many peoples footsteps. Based around the conviction of a young girl who murdered her mother many years ago, at the age of nine, we follow the lives of those involved and discover how it all becomes entwined with the escape of another psychotic murderer from neighbouring secure facility.
The reader gets taken on the investigation with various member of different law enforcement teams including Cady Maddox of the US Marshalls. We learn a little about her childhood and how it mirrors that of young Eryn Pullman who killed her mother all those years ago. The Cold Dark Places in which we hide and which we fear are all bought out in this story.
“…traumas were never forgotten. They had a way of hanging around, ready to ambush when you least expected it.”
Truthfully, whilst I enjoyed it, I found it hard to really get into. It didn’t instantly grip me like the other books here and I found that there were too many perspectives told during the story. I sometimes got a little lost about who was who. I assume this is because it would realistically take that many people to solve such a case. The author did consult many times with many different law enforcement personnel during her writing of the book to make it as realistic as possible. And it certainly is. In many ways it reads like a TV drama and I can see that it would make a great series on Netflix.
I do still have a few unanswered questions about some of the characters now that I have finished it. Including Henry and Rosalyn, the Cousin and Aunt of Eryn Pullman. Maybe these will be answered in another book (as this appears to be the first in a series, the second of which has not been published yet) but I suspect not. Or maybe I just missed the significance of some information earlier in the story. Either way I was left a little wanting after reading this one. It was far from the worst book I have ever read and I may well read the second one when it published just to see if Cady Maddox becomes the character I know she can be. But I would not be in a rush to insist people read it.
So those were my January reads and that was with a weeks break in the middle (well done if you made it to the end). After Verity I felt like I needed to really absorb the book and process it. Honestly, it really got under my skin in such a way that only an amazing author can do.
I already have my books for February lined up: In The Woods (Tana French), The Surgeon (Tess Gerritsen), Sweet Little Lies (Caz Frear) and The Girl Before (JP Delany). To hit my target I only need to read two but I plan to try and read all of them if I can.