Thrill! – Jackie Collins

18861584Thrill! tells a story of love, obsession, passion and desire among the Hollywood elite. Beautiful actress Lara could have any man she wants, but what she gets is a passionate affair with a mysterious actor with a shady past. As if navigating this newfound love isn’t enough, Lara also has to cope with her own traumatic past and fend off the unwanted affections of her ex-husband. All the while, a hateful stalker sits in prison planning her revenge.

Jackie Collins is the queen of romantic thrillers. Thrill! is dark, engaging, entertaining and excellently written. In true Jackie Collins style, the plot is raunchy and packed with sex, but it isn’t overly graphic or explicit and is entirely relevant to the story, which makes it completely bearable (enjoyable, even).

But there is so much more to this book than sex and romance. The plot is dramatic and surprisingly complex. There are so many different threads, with each character having their own individual storyline, and yet it is very easy to follow. The characters are well developed with unique personalities and distinctive voices.

Thrill! is exciting and addictive, with shocking twists and an almighty climax. Fans of romance/drama/thrillers, look no further.

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The Haunting of Barry’s Lodge – Annie Walters

34997487When Alfred’s father-in-law offers him the chance to go on a writing retreat in an isolated motel, he jumps at the opportunity to finish his upcoming book. However, everything at the motel is not as it seems, and soon the complete isolation turns from a blessing to a nightmare.

Honestly, if this book had been longer, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. It has potential: the story is intriguing and has some decent, unexpected twists, but it is hugely underdeveloped and not brilliantly written. There were a number of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors (which I really struggle to overlook in a published book) and the general style is very simple, which made it not particularly engaging. There are also some pretty abrupt changes in narrative angle which made parts of the plot quite difficult to follow. Lastly, there wasn’t enough description or scene-setting, so it isn’t very atmospheric which is very important in horror stories.

Overall, it could have been worse but definitely could have been better. As it is, this is not a very scary horror story.

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Wedding Toasts I’ll Never Give – Ada Calhoun

32051305In a collection of essays, Ada Calhoun combines her own personal experience with the advice of experts and friends to explore the trials of marriage and the key to staying married.

Ada Calhoun’s narrative voice is fantastic. She’s witty and very likeable, and very very real. Her tales of married life are amusing and honest, and her commentary is insightful. Basically, I want to be her friend. Her relationship with Neal sounds great – they seem like an entertaining couple – but she doesn’t hesitate to share that, like everyone else, they too have problems. Looking at cases of infidelity, temptation, changing and fighting, this is a clever and humorous exploration into marriage and an answer to the big question: how do you stay married?

The answer: Don’t get divorced.

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Right Here Waiting For You – Rebecca Pugh

34150011.jpgMagda and Sophia used to be best friends, until Magda made one big mistake she couldn’t take back. Years later, both women receive invitations to a school reunion, bringing them back into each other’s lives. Back home and faced with her past mistakes, Magda is forced to re-evaluate her life and make some big decisions, while Sophia has to make some tough choices of her own.

This is a sweet and quite short story about friendship and love. I’m not sure why it’s being marketed as “a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy”, but there you have it. Romantic: yes. Comedy: No.

The writing is very simple. It’s a little underdeveloped and easy to skim over, which made it a nice, quick read but not particularly engaging. The plot itself isn’t bad, if a little annoying in places because of how obvious and predictable it is. For some reason the author insists on trying to act like what’s happening isn’t totally obvious (e.g. the way each woman’s POV refers to the other as “her” instead of giving the name even though we clearly know who they mean). It isn’t a brilliant or especially original story but it’s entertaining nonetheless. I breezed through it very quickly and it didn’t drag at any point, despite its flaws.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Ninth Rain – Jen Williams

29758013.jpgIn this fantasy adventure, the once great city of Ebora is on the verge of collapse, while the lands of Sarn live in the shadow of past battles against the Jure’lia. While on an exploratory expedition, Tormalin the Oathless and Vintage de Grazon cross paths with an escaped witch, Fell-Noon. The three travellers are quickly drawn into a conspiracy of magic and danger, running from the Winnowry, attempting to heal the dead tree god, Ysgrel, and racing against the clock before the imminent return of the worm people and their evil queen.

If that description sounds confusing to you, that would be because this is a fantasy novel of epic proportions. We are fully immersed in a fictional world of magic, war, and fantastic world-building. The general fantasy aspects are very enjoyable: fantastical beasts, fighting, blood-drinking but NOT  vampires, and literal magic. It’s a very original fantasy world, filled with magical beings that I haven’t come across before (rather than the usual elves, dwarves, ghosts, etc).

I really liked the characters, and there’s a very mixed range of them. There’s quite a lot going on, with multiple different character threads, but all of them are integral to the story and fun to read. I especially loved Noon – she’s sassy, strong and damaged but not too tropey or predictable – and Vintage, who is a 40-something badass. It’s pretty unusual to have a female lead in her forties, and she was a really fresh and engaging character. The way she speaks was kind of annoying (a lot of “darling” and “my dear”) but it made her voice stand out above the other characters and made her much more memorable.

The plot itself was very good. It was a bit long and dragged at a few points, but none of it felt unnecessary to the story. Plus it is the first in a trilogy so the world-building and scene-setting is very important and so can be forgiven for it’s length.

I received a copy of this book from Headline in exchange for an honest review.

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The Fourth Monkey – J. D. Barker

35101847The Four Monkey Killer has been kidnapping victims and sending their ears, eyes and tongues to their families before finally killing them, for five years. When his body is identified after stepping in front of a bus, the police realize he was on his way to deliver one final message about one final victim. Lead investigator, Sam Porter, and his team race against the clock to find the final victim while she may still be alive. But the case might not be as straightforward as that. With only a disturbing diary and a handful of clues Porter finds himself caught up in the mind of a psychopath who taunts him from beyond the grave.

The plot of this book is very detailed and fast-paced. A lot happens in a very short space of time. It’s a long book (almost 500 pages) and the story unfolds over the course of only about 3 days. This means we get a lot of insight into the investigation and we get to build a strong relationship with all of the characters.  Speaking of whom, are brilliant. Porter and his team are realistic, likeable and believable, while the Four Monkey Killer is the perfect serial killer – sick and twisted but intelligent, with strong motives and a well though-out plan. He is genuinely pretty scary.

The Fourth Monkey is a well-written and exciting crime thriller. It has mystery and plenty of suspense, while the short chapters (intersected with entries from 4MK’s personal diary) make the book easy to read despite the length. There are so many different aspects to this story: the case in hand, 4MK’s motive and identity, the relevance of the story unfolding in the diary, and Porter’s own personal tragedy.

Clever, detailed and kind of disturbing, this book is a must-read for detective/thriller lovers.

Many thanks to HQ for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release: 27th June, 2017.

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The Cows – Dawn O’Porter

32594947This novel follows the lives of three different women, living very different but connected lives. Cam is a successful and single lifestyle blogger who chooses to do what she wants, when she wants, without the ties of a husband or children. Tara is a single mother who’s life takes a dramatic turn after she is filmed masturbating on a train. Stella’s mum and twin sister have both been killed by cancer, and she is left facing the choice between life-altering surgery or facing the same fate. The whole premise revolves around being female, and examines the intricacies of women’s life choices in family, careers and friendship.

The three storylines are equally engaging and link together in an understated but completely plausible way. The narrative voices of the three women could have been more different. They were all a bit too similar which made them blend into one and made the book slightly harder to follow, but they each had a good story nonetheless.

The message of this book is not even remotely discreet, but it’s not pushy or intrusive either. Dawn O’Porter manages to make a clear point about feminism in the guise of an engaging and entertaining story, which is, frankly, very effective.

I was attracted to this book because of the cover and the title, and I’m very pleased to say that the inside is almost as good the outside.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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