Book Review: The Captive by Deborah O’Connor

“Only he can unlock the truth. Only she can set him free.”

Published in 2021, The Captive by Deborah O’Connor is set in a future where prisons no longer exist. Instead, criminals are made to live out their sentence in a room-sized cage – furnished with only a bed, a basin, a table and chair, and a hatch to exchange food – which is situated in their victim’s home. Hannah tries to block her lodger out of her vision, but he’s always there, no matter how hard she tries to block him out. The same thoughts run through her mind every day: What if he speaks to me? What if he hurts me? What if he gets out?

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Book Review: Galatea by Madeline Miller

“He had no chance, really. He was only flesh.”

Published in March 2022, Galatea by Madeline Miller is set in Ancient Greece where a skilled marble sculptor has been blessed by a goddess who has given his masterpiece – the most beautiful woman the town has ever seen – the gift of life. Now his wife, Galatea is expected to be obedience and humility personified, but it is not long before she learns to use her beauty as a form of manipulation. In a desperate bid by her obsessive husband to keep her under control, she is locked away under the constant supervision of doctors and nurses. But with a daughter to rescue, she is determined to break free, whatever the cost…

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Book Review: The Echo Man by Sam Holland

“The murders have begun… But the killer is just getting started… And he’s going to shock the world…”

Set to be released on 14th April, The Echo Man by Sam Holland sees a string of murders take place across England. Each is different in method, but each is horrifying and brutal. Jess Ambrose is plunged into the investigation when her house is set ablaze. With her husband dead and the police pointing at her, she runs. Her only hope is disgraced detective Nate Griffin, who is convinced Jess is innocent. Soon, Jess and Griffin discover the unthinkable; this murderer is copying the world’s most notorious serial killers. And now, imitation isn’t enough. The killer dubbed The Echo Man is ready to create his own masterpiece, and it will be more terrifying than anything that has come before.

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Audiobook Review: The Boyfriend by Michelle Frances

“He loves you. He loves you not.”

Published in 2022, The Boyfriend by Michelle Frances follows fiercely independent Amy who has a high-powered career, a flat of her own and tight-knit friendships. But as she approaches her thirtieth birthday, she can’t help but rue the one thing she doesn’t have – a relationship. When Amy comes round following a serious fall, she doesn’t remember anything from the last six months. Not even the week skiing at her aunt’s luxurious chalet in Val D’Isere with her mum and best friends to celebrate her birthday. And she certainly doesn’t remember being swept off her feet by the handsome Dr Jack Stewart…

Jack is the full package – charming, caring and devoted to Amy. Everyone is smitten with him, but as the week goes on, Amy begins to find Jack’s presence chilling. Is her broken mind playing tricks? Or is the perfect boyfriend really too good to be true?

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Book Review: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

“He has, Anges sees, done what any father would wish to do, to exchange his child’s suffering for his own, to take his place, to offer himself up in his child’s stead so that the boy might live.”

Published in 2021, Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell is a fictional story based on real people. Set in 1580s Warwickshire, Agnes is feared for her unusual gifts. She settles with her husband in Henley Street, Stratford, and has three children: a daughter, Susanna, and then twins, Hamnet and Judith. The boy, Hamnet, dies in 1596, aged eleven. Four years or so later, the husband writes a play called Hamlet.

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Audiobook Review: The Man Who Died Twice (Thursday Murder Club #2) by Richard Osman

“If one is never lost in life, then clearly one has never traveled anywhere interesting.”

The second book in the Thursday Murder Club series by Richard Osman, The Man Who Died Twice returns to Coopers Chase on the following Thursday. Elizabeth has received a letter from an old colleague, a man with whom she has a long history. He’s made a big mistake, and he needs her help. His story involves stolen diamonds, a violent mobster, and a very real threat to his life. As bodies start piling up, Elizabeth enlists Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron in the hunt for a ruthless murderer. Can The Thursday Murder Club find the killer (and the diamonds) before the killer finds them?

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Book Review: This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel

“Welcome to Wisewood. Where we keep your secrets, if you keep ours.”

Published in March 2022, This Might Hurt by Stephanie Wrobel follows Natalie Collins who hasn’t heard from her sister in more than half a year. The last time they spoke, Kit was struggling to get over the death of their mother. Then, she found Wisewood.

On a private island off the coast of Maine, Wisewood’s guests commit to six-month stays. During this time, they’re prohibited from contact with the rest of the world. But the rules are for a good reason: to keep guests focused on achieving true fearlessness so they can become their Maximized Selves. Natalie thinks it’s a bad idea, but Kit has had enough of her sister’s cynicism and voluntarily disappears off the grid.

Six months later, Natalie receives a menacing email from a Wisewood account threatening to reveal the secret she’s been keeping from Kit. Panicked, Natalie hurries north to come clean to her sister and bring her home. But she’s about to learn that Wisewood won’t let either of them go without a fight.

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Book Review: Reminders Of Him by Colleen Hoover

“Grudges are heavy, but for the people hurting the most, I suppose
forgiveness is even heavier.”

Published in 2022, Reminders Of Him by Colleen Hoover follows Kenna Rowan who, five years after serving in prison for a tragic mistake, returns to the town where it all went wrong, hoping to reunite with her four-year-old daughter. But the bridges Kenna burned are proving impossible to rebuild. Everyone in her daughter’s life is determined to shut Kenna out, no matter how hard she works to prove herself.

The only person who hasn’t closed the door on her completely is Ledger Ward, a local bar owner and one of the few remaining links to Kenna’s daughter. The two form a connection despite the pressure surrounding them. But as their romance grows, so does the risk. Kenna must find a way to absolve the mistakes of her past in order to build a future out of hope and healing.

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Book Review: Wonder by RJ Palacio

“You don’t need your eyes to love, right? You just feel it inside you.”

Published in 2012, Wonder by RJ Palacio follows August Pullman who was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid — but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face.

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Book Review: My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

“Every marriage has secrets. Everyone has flaws. Your wife isn’t perfect – you know that – but then again nor are you.”

Published in 2019, My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing follows the lives of a married couple as a serial killer is on the loose in their small town, preying on young women. Fear is driving their well-behaved daughter off the rails, as both husband and wife find themselves in bed late at night, looking at the person who lies asleep beside them. Because they thought they knew the worst about each other. The truth is, they know nothing at all.

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Book Review: The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd

“Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. It’s the only home he’s ever known. Elissa has only just arrived. And she’ll do everything she can to escape.”

Published in 2020, The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd is set in the Memory Wood where Elijah has lived for as long as he can remember. One day, he stumbles across thirteen-year-old Elissa in the woods where her abductor is hiding her. At first, he refuses to alert the police. Because in his twelve years, Elijah has never had a proper friend. And he doesn’t want Elissa to leave. Not only that, Elijah knows how this can end. After all, Elissa isn’t the first girl he’s found inside the Memory Wood.

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Book Review: The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

“When a woman steps out of line and contravenes the feminine norm, whether on social media or on the Victorian street, there is a tacit understanding that someone must put her back in her place.”

Published in 2020, The Five by Hallie Rubenhold is a non-fiction account of Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane, who are famous for the same thing. They came from Fleet Street, Knightsbridge, Wolverhampton, Sweden and Wales. They wrote ballads, ran coffee houses, lived on country estates and escaped people-traffickers. What they had in common was the year of their murders: 1888. Their murderer was never identified, but the name created for him by the press has become far more famous than any of these five women.

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Book Review: Single by K. L. Slater

“I keep feeling like I’m being watched – dropping the boys off at school, choosing wine at the supermarket – but when I turn around there’s nobody there…”

Published in 2019, Single by KL Slater follows single mother Darcy whose son injures himself at a local playground. So when a local doctor with strong hands, a twinkling in his eyes and an easy charm pushes her aside and saves her son’s life, he seems almost too good to be true.

George is a single parent too. As coffee becomes lunch and lunch becomes dinner, it doesn’t take long before they can’t go an evening without seeing each other. But when an obsessed ex-girlfriend gives Darcy a warning, Darcy doesn’t know who to trust. Whatever the truth, she’s starting to suspect that she might have put her beloved boys into terrible danger.

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BOOK TOUR: Reptile Memoirs by Silje Ulstein

“Can you ever really shed your skin?”

Set to be released on 17th March, Reptile Memoirs by Silje Ulstein follows trainee nurse Liv who has a lot of secrets. Late one night, in the aftermath of a party in the apartment she shares with two friends in Ålesund, she sees a python on a TV nature show and becomes obsessed with the idea of buying a snake as a pet. Soon Nero, a baby Burmese python, becomes the apartment’s fourth roommate. As Liv bonds with Nero, she is struck by a desire that surprises her with its intensity. Finally she is safe.

Thirteen years later, in the nearby town of Kristiansund, Mariam Lind goes on a shopping trip with her eleven-year-old daughter, Iben. Following an argument Mariam storms off, expecting her young daughter to make her own way home… but she never does. Detective Roe Olsvik, new to the Kristiansund police department, is assigned to the case of Iben’s disappearance. As he interrogates Mariam, he instantly suspects her – but there is much more to this case and these characters than their outer appearances would suggest.

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Book Review: Our House by Louise Candlish

“On a bright morning in the London suburbs, a family moves into the house they’ve just bought on Trinity Avenue. Nothing strange about that. Except it’s your house. And you didn’t sell it.”

Published in 2018 and recently adapted for ITV, Our House by Louise Candlish follows Fi Lawson who arrives home to find strangers moving into her house. She is plunged into terror and confusion. She and her husband Bram have owned their home on Trinity Avenue for years and have no intention of selling. How can this other family possibly think the house is theirs? And why has Bram disappeared when she needs him most?

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Book Review: Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough

“In the dead of night, madness lies…”

Set to be released on 31st March, Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough follows Emma Averell who worries that her crippling insomnia is a sign that she’s slowly going insane, just like the mother she’s worked so hard to leave in her past.

Emma loves her life — her high-powered legal career, her two beautiful children, and her wonderful stay-at-home husband. But it wasn’t always so perfect. When she was just five years old, Emma and her older sister went into foster care because of a horrific incident with their mother. Her sister can remember a time when their mother was loving and “normal,” but Emma can only remember her as one thing – a monster. And that monster emerged right around their mother’s fortieth birthday, the same age Emma is approaching now.

Emma desperately wants to keep her successful life separate from her past, so she has always hidden her childhood trauma. But then she’s unable to sleep, and now losing time during the day, also one of the first symptoms her mother showed. Is the madness in her blood, just as her mother predicted? Could she end up hurting her family in her foggy, frenetic state? Or is she truly beginning to lose her mind?

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Audiobook Review: The Prison Doctor by Amanda Brown

The Prison Doctor by Amanda Brown is a non-fiction account of her time as a doctor in the UK’s most infamous prisons – first in young offenders’ institutions, then at the notorious Wormwood Scrubs, and finally at Europe’s largest women-only prison, Bronzefield. From miraculous pregnancies to dirty protests, and from violent attacks on prisoners to heartbreaking acts of self-harm, she has witnessed it all. In this memoir, Amanda reveals the stories, the patients and the cases that have shaped a career helping those most of us would rather forget.

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READALONG: Nine Lives by Peter Swanson

“If you’re on the list you’re marked for death. But why?”

Published in March 2022, Nine Lives by Peter Swanson sees nine strangers each receive an envelope, dropped through their letterbox like any other piece of post. The envelope is unremarkable. There is no return address. It contains a single, folded, sheet of white paper. But for these nine complete strangers, each of them recognising just one name, their own, on the enclosed list. It will be the most life-altering letter they have ever received. It could also be the last, as one by one, they start to meet their end.

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Book Review: The Crow Trap (Vera Stanhope #1) by Ann Cleeves

Originally published in 1999, The Crow Trap by Ann Cleeves is the first book in the Vera Stanhope series. At the isolated Baikie’s Cottage on the North Pennines, three very different women come together to complete an environmental survey. Three women who, in some way or another, know the meaning of betrayal…

When team leader Rachael arrives at the cottage, she is horrified to discover the body of her friend Bella Furness. Bella, it appears, has committed suicide – a verdict Rachael finds impossible to accept. Only when the next death occurs does a fourth woman enter the picture – the unconventional Detective Inspector Vera Stanhope, who must piece together the truth from these women’s tangled lives…

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Book Review: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

“I can’t lose the thing I’ve held onto for so long… I just really need it to be a love story, you know? I really, really need it to be that.”

Published in 2020, My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell follows the story of Vanessa Wye who was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher. She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student. Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that. Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.

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