Review: The Forever Gift by Brooke Harris #review #bookreview

Blurb

My hands are shaking as my fingers curl around the small, neatly wrapped box. There’s a tag dangling front he centre of the red bow which says Love from Kayla in her beautiful, swirly handwriting. I read over the three words countless times, tracing the letters with my fingertip. How is this possible? Heather’s beloved daughter, Kayla, is her world. She is fifteen, a brilliant basketball player and a fierce friend. Heather and Kayla have always has a special relationship. For so many years it was just the two of them, watching Friends, baking cupcakes and laughing together. But now Kayla knows her time is short, and she wants to give something back to the mother she loves more than anyone else in the world. A gift that will change Heather’s life. With just a handful of days left, Kayla will need help from everyone around her to make this last surprise happen. Along the way, the people whose lives have been touched by Kayla’s light will be changed by her loss, and by her plan for Heather. And as Heather’s whole world threatens to fall apart, could Kayla’s forever gift be the key to piecing her life back together?

My Thoughts

Overall, I enjoyed this story. It was easy to read, not complicated, and most of the characters were likeable. Was it as dramatic as the blurb reads? I don’t think so. The plan that Kayla comes up with for her mother, was only introduced near the end. It was a really nice idea though. It was a bit of a tear jerker, for me anyway. You can only imagine how you would feel if your child died from illness. If you have children, that will be at the back of your mind when reading this one. I cried at the funeral, that was a great scene.

I did not, however, like Charlotte’s character. I thought she was incredibly unreasonable at times with her husband, who was in the process of loosing a child. I actually felt very angry with her, that she was choosing that time to behave, at times, so childish. I am a stepparent, and sometimes we do have to “suck it up” the the mental and physical well-being of little people. Charlottes character just didn’t sit well with me and I fought to groan many times she was in it.

Apart for that one issue, like I said, it was a lovely book to read and I recommend you give it a go and let me know what you thought.

I rated The Forever Gift: 4/5 starts

Happy reading

Nat

Review: Someone Knows by Lisa Scottoline #bookreview #bookblogger

Blurb

Twenty years ago, in an upscale suburb of Philadelphia, four teenagers spent a summer as closest friends: drinking, sharing secrets, testing boundaries. When a new boy looked to join them, they decided to pull a prank on him, convincing him to play Russian roulette as an initiation into their group. They secretly planned to leave the gun unloaded–but what happened next would change each of them forever.

Now three of the four reunite for the first time since that horrible summer. The guilt–and the lingering question about who loaded the gun–drove them apart. But after one of the group apparently commits suicide with a gun, their old secrets come roaring back. One of them is going to figure out if the new suicide is what it seems, and if it connects to the events of that long-ago summer. Someone knows exactly what happened–but who? And how far will they go to keep their secrets buried?

My Thoughts

You know, I found this book hard to put down. Every turn of the page just kept you wanting to read more. I really enjoyed the differences in characters.  They each had their or personality and they were all very unique. I was so shocked when the actual shooting happened. I gasped out aloud. I. Did. Not. Expect. That. To. Happen.  I actually had to put the book down for a few seconds and come to terms with what I had just read. And that, to me, is a fantastic sign of a briliant read.

The pace was also a real winner. Another reason why you just wanted to get through it as quickly as you could. I really loved that the other did go back to the past and come back in choppy sections, but rather devoted half the book to the past, and allowed us to really get to know the characters before the incident, and the the second half of the book saved for them all grown up.  And wow, I didn’t see that end coming.

And I felt so so awful for the poor mother having lost her son, having had to endure the past regarding her relationship with her husband and what he had done. Your heart really ached for that poor little mother-son household. How unfair that any of that had to have happened.

I’m definitely a Lisa Scottoline groupie now. And I’m looking forward to my next read from her. Have you got any recommendations on what I should read of hers next?

I rated Someone Knows: 5/5 stars

Happy Reading

Nat

Review: These Hidden Things by Heather Gudenkauf #bookreview #bookblog

Blurb

When teenager Allison Glenn is sent to prison for a heinous crime, she leaves behind her reputation as Linden Falls’ golden girl forever. Her parents deny the existence of their once-perfect child. Her former friends exult her downfall. Her sister, Brynn, faces whispered rumors every day in the hallways of their small Iowa high school. It’s Brynn–shy, quiet Brynn–who carries the burden of what really happened that night. All she wants is to forget Allison and the past that haunts her. But then Allison is released to a halfway house, and is more determined than ever to speak with her estranged sister. Now their legacy of secrets is focused on one little boy. And if the truth is revealed, the consequences will be unimaginable for the adoptive mother who loves him, the girl who tried to protect him and the two sisters who hold the key to all that is hidden

My Thoughts

At first, I was confused by all the people we were introduced to with their first chapters. I thought, geeze I’m going to get everyone mixed up… But I didn’t. In fact, I was completely thrilled that everyone was included and I got to see this story from all their perspectives because it was a fantastic read! Without giving anything away, I thought the baby abandoned at the fire station was someone else’s until it was revealed, and I gasped. Yep, I got that physical response that I yearn for when I read. I cried in it. Another physical response. I berated characters. Felt like I was in the story with the characters, and finished it as quickly as I could with the workload I have at the moment.

The timeline for this was fantastic, it flowed so well, that you could definitely finish it in a setting if you didn’t have a pesky life to worry about.  Allison’s labor… WOW didn’t see that coming. BAM! And the ending with Brynn… my lips are sealed! But I think if you haven’t read this one, you’ll definitely need to give it a go because it’ll touch a couple of emotions that’ll have you sitting on the edge of your seat over.

My only complaint about this book was the cover. Had nothing to do with the story in my opinion, LOL.

I rated These Hidden Things: 5/5 stars

Happy Reading

Nat

Review: Body Count by Burl Barer #bookreview #bookblog

Blurb

He Seemed So Normal . . .

By day, Robert Lee Yates, Jr., was a respected father of five, a skilled helicopter pilot who served in Desert Storm and the National Guard, and a man no one suspected of a deadly hidden life. By night he prowled the streets where prostitutes gathered, gaining their trust before betraying them with a bullet to the head.

On August 26, 1997, the decomposed bodies of two young women were discovered in Spokane, Washington. Within months four more women were added to the mounting death toll.

In 2000, Yates pleaded guilty to thirteen murders to avoid the death penalty. But in 2001 he was convicted of two more murders and is now on death row in Washington State, waiting for the day when he will die by lethal injection.

Updated with the latest disturbing developments, award winning author Burl Barer’s real life thriller is a shocking portrait of one man’s depravity.

My Thoughts

True crime is one of my favourite genre’s to read. Maybe even my 1st preference.  I’ve always been fascinated by crimes and criminals, and I guess that’s what lead me to my career/profession.  For me, the main point I like to get from a true crime book is that the victims were people. Human beings. Capable and worthy of love, and who had people in their lives who made and impact and feel their loss. And from this book I got that. Which was respectful and oh so sad.  It’s awful that women with addiction and who prostitute are treated or are thought of an throwaways. That breaks my heart.  Everyone has a story, some aren’t as ‘rosy’ as others, but at the end of the day, we’ve all got beating hearts, we all deserve love, respect, and compassion. Yet these, poor women, 11 in total, were unlikely to get any of that because of what they did to survive.

This was the first book about Robert Lee Yates Jnr, that I’ve read. Although, I loved and appreciated the way the author treated the victims, that was almost all I liked about this book.  It was pretty wordy throughout, which interrupted the flow.  I did, at times, have trouble getting through each chapter especially when quotes from forensic or behavioural science professionals were added to the book. I can appreciate that the author perhaps wanted to show his research, but it really made the book drag and felt quite out of place.

But again, I really appreciate that this telling of Yates crimes was focused on showing us that the victims were people telling us about their lives and interviewing those who loved of knew them.  The reporting of their horrible murders were done so respectfully, and I didn’t feel like the murderer was given the spotlight, which was excellent.

So although it was a bit of a struggle for me, there was the respect and compassion for the victims that I really admired.

I rated Body Count: 3/5 stars

Happy Reading

Nat

Review: Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline #bookreview #bookblog

Blurb

Jake Buckman’s relationship with his sixteen-year-old son Ryan is not an easy one, so at the urging of his loving wife, Pam, Jake goes alone to pick up Ryan at their suburban movie theater. On the way home, Ryan asks to drive on a deserted road, and Jake sees it as a chance to make a connection. However, what starts as a father-son bonding opportunity instantly turns into a nightmare. Tragedy strikes, and with Ryan’s entire future hanging in the balance, Jake is forced to make a split-second decision that plunges them both into a world of guilt and lies. Without ever meaning to, Jake and Ryan find themselves living under the crushing weight of their secret, which threatens to tear their family to shreds and ruin them all. Powerful and dramatic, Keep Quiet will have readers and book clubs debating what it means to be a parent and how far you can, and should, go to protect those you love.

My Thoughts

I actually finished this one a few weeks ago but forgot to put my review up!

I actually really enjoyed how this one started. Father son issues that are complicated by a tragic event. I’ve hit a dog once, after I was unable to stop on a busy highway and it was awful, so I can’t only imagine how it would feel to hit a human being. So I really empathised with both Jake and Ryan. Can’t say I agreed with Jakes actions though, to hide the fact. I’ve always stuck up for the hit and run driver, because it’s completely normal to be in a fight or flight mode in this type of situation. Once the shock has worn off, the driver will turn themselves in, yet people make out that they’re monsters for not stopping. No. They’re humans. It actually makes a lot of biological sense.

There were parts of this story that were a tad slow, I liked when the mysterious man and the basketball game showed up, he was a good twist. I liked the way the author took the story, actually and the ending… I never would have guessed that. I found Jakes wife to be pretty hypocritical, with her secret and I found it hard to be on her side after that to be honest. She was probably one of my least favourite characters. I’m the the story ended the way it did. I feel like all the questions were answered for me, and overall it was a great story to read.

I rated Keep Quiet: 4/5 stars ⭐️

Happy Reading

Nat

Review: Mixed Blessings by Danielle Steele #bookreview #bookblog

Blurb

Diana Goode and Andrew Douglas are a California couple who seem to have it all, and after their wedding, Diana teases that she will make a baby on their honeymoon. But long afterwards, she is still not pregnant. As they wait out each month with anticipation, only to be disappointed, they are forced to question just how much they are willing to go through to have a baby, and at what cost to their marriage. Charlie Winwood, having grown up as an orphan, dreams of a house filled with children, but his bride — fun seeking actress Barbie Mason — has other ideas. Their marriage is strained, but Charlie is convinced a baby will solve it all. Pilar Graham, a prominent attorney in her early forties, astonishes her friends by marrying Judge Brad Coleman, a man in his sixties and the father of two grown children. Pilar begins to wonder if some day she will regret not having a baby with Brad, but it will not be easy for them as they encounter the world of high-tech medicine and the bittersweet rewards it brings.

My Thoughts

I have been a fan of the movie for years and years. I love all the Danielle Steel movies to be honest which makes is so strange that I haven’t read the books! Now after reading the book, I can say that I loved both versions. Of course, the movie has a time limit so I can always understand why books a something different to the book. But I loved the movie that much already, that when I read the book and loved the whole story even more because there were bits in there that didn’t happen in the movie. What a treat!

Now I haven’t actually read a Danielle Steel book before. I was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to read. The writing was smooth, the pace right, and the characters developed nicely. If I had to choose my favourite couple story, it would be hard. I enjoyed them all to be honest. But it I HAD to choose, then I would probably choose… Pilar and Brad’s.

If you’ve seen the movie, I recommend reading the book now!

I rated Mixed Blessings: 5/5 stars 🌟

Happy Reading

Nat

Review: Before She Was Found By Heather Gudenkauf #bookreview #bookblog

Blurb

“For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover–movies and Ouija and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences. Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. Soon their small rural town is thrust into a maelstrom. Who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora–and why? In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted–not even those closest to Cora. Before She Was Found is a timely and gripping thriller about friendship and betrayal, about the power of social pressure and the price of needing to fit in. It is about the great lengths a parent will go to protect their child and keep them safe–even if that means burying the truth, no matter the cost”–

My Thoughts

Well, I’m a little behind with my reviewing and reading at the moment. This final semester is apparently going to be a monster.  However, getting it done. Now I did enjoy this book, although I did think it was a little choppy at times. And by that I mean the head hopping got a little confusing.  The pace was great, and enjoyed the characters, even the not-so-nice ones because they were written well.  At first I didn’t like Cora’s diary entries, however I soon got into them probably halfway before the middle of the book.

I did think it was clever how we were made to start thinking it was one thing, because I didn’t see the end coming at all. So that was actually a good twist.  Although I will admit, I think i actually wanted that urban legend to be true.  That was quite tricky.  Second book from this author now, and I think I can call myself a fan. Look forward to her next.

I rated Before She Was Found: 5/5 stars

Happy Reading

Nat

Review: Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf #bookreview #bookblog #littlemercies

Blurb

Veteran social worker Ellen Moore has seen the worst side of humanity; the vilest acts one person can commit against another. She is a fiercely dedicated children’s advocate and a devoted mother and wife. But one blistering summer day, a simple moment of distraction will have repercussions that Ellen could never have imagined, threatening to shatter everything she holds dear, and trapping her between the gears of the system she works for.

Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but irresponsible father since her mother left them, sleeping on friends’ couches and moving in and out of cheap motels. When Jenny suddenly finds herself on her own, she is forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. The last thing she wants is a social worker, but when Ellen’s and Jenny’s lives collide, little do they know just how much they can help one another.

A powerful and emotionally charged tale about motherhood and justice, Little Mercies is a searing portrait of the tenuous grasp we have on the things we love the most, and of the ties that unexpectedly bring us together.

My Thoughts

This was my first story from this author and I really enjoyed it. The pace was fantastic and the characters were pretty 3D.  The story idea was excellent. For some reason I’m enjoying reading about the hot car death type story lines, as awful as they are.  The reason for that being, that they really can happen so innocently.  We’re only human and sometimes we do take on too much, or do have too much going on, and Ellen is shown to us as flawed as we all are.

Meanwhile, poor little Jenny. Despite her not being in the worst situation, it’s still a situation that can and does cause a child varying degrees of trauma, being with her dad that is.  My heart broke for her, just wanting a life that’s ‘normal’. I loved Ellen’s mom, and your heart just broke into pieces again when Jenny would say things like “I’m not going to steal it.” Poor little mite.

I do have a complaint about Ellen, however.  Near the end, she makes a comment about Jenny’s mother being stupid because she didn’t leave the boyfriend or husband (can’t remember which it was now) which I thought, for a social worker, was incredibly poor judgement and of poor taste. It was clear that Jenny’s mother was in a domestically violent relationship and scared to death of him.   I know that we all want Jenny to be safe, but that’s not to say that compassion and empathy couldn’t have be shown to her mother. We know that it’s not as simple as just leaving when it comes to domestic violence, so referring to the mother as stupid, was disappointing and uncalled for.  That would have been a lovely spot for a little education on the psychological trauma a domestically violent relationship can have on a person.  That’s not to say that Jenny’s mother made for choices, she most definitely did. But it wasn’t a black and white scenario, that’s for sure.

I think a book that makes you think like that, is a book that you can say passed the test! Throughly enjoyed that read, and do look forward to reading more from this author.

I rated Little Mercies: 4/5 Stars

Happy Reading

Nat

Review: Love Always, Mum xxoo by Mae West and Neil McKay #bookreview #bookblog @SevenDialBooks

Blurb

The true story of an abused childhood, of shocking brutality and life as the daughter of notorious serial killer, and master manipulator, Rose West.
You’re 21-years-old. Police arrive on the doorstep of your house, 25 Cromwell Street, with a warrant to search the garden for the remains of your older sister you didn’t know was dead. Bones are found and they are from more than one body. And so the nightmare begins. You are the daughter of Fred and Rose West.
‘Mae, I mean this … I’m not a good person and I let all you children down …’ Rose West, HM PRISON DURHAM
It has taken over 20 years for Mae West to find the perspective and strength to tell her remarkable story: one of an abusive, violent childhood, of her serial killer parents and how she has rebuilt her life in the shadow of their terrible crimes.
Through her own memories, research and the letters her mother wrote to her from prison, Mae shares her emotionally powerful account of her life as a West. From a toddler locked in the deathly basement to a teen fighting off the sexual advances of her father, Mae’s story is one of survival. It also answers the questions: how do you come to terms with knowing your childhood bedroom was a graveyard? How do you accept the fact your parents sexually tortured, murdered and dismembered young women? How do you become a mother yourself when you’re haunted by the knowledge that your own mother was a monster? Why were you spared and how do you escape the nightmare?

My Thoughts

You know, I find true crime that’s do do with serial killers intriguing and I ‘enjoy’ (for lack of a better word) reading them. Have since I was 13.  This is the second biography of a serial killers child that I’ve read in the past month, and it’s been a fantastic read. Yes, we all know who Fred and Rose West are and what they were accussed and convicted of, but I find knowing about their family just as intriguing.  This story was just as heartbreaking as Kerrie Rawson’s, although where Kerri had a relatively ‘normal’ childhood, Mae (formerly May June West, I know how could a mother do that to her daughter) was far different. Subjected to horrific physical, sexual, and mental abuse; although it was heartbreaking to read, I found it fascinating to learn just how wicked Fred and Rose were.

But you also learned about Fred and Rose’s childhood, and it was an equally horrific.  How do you expect to severely traumatised children to grow up and not repeat what they grew up in? I loath what those two grew up and did, but I can understand how that may of come to place given their awful upbringing.

I liked the way this book was set out, with little snippets from Rose, who seemed to be in extreme denial. At times I almost believed that she was innocent, just like Mae did.  I have to admit I’m surprised at the support that she gave her mother after finding out what she did. But then I’m not surprised. She’s suffered years of trauma at the hands of her own parents.  It’s not as simple as just not loving them, when you’ve grown up praying or wishing that they were different. Everyday you think it will be different, but everyday it’s the same. But that just doesn’t go away when you’re a child. Sadly enough, it lasts into adulthood as well. Although you may come to the realisation that you won’t ever get the love and affection that you’ve craved for your entire life, that yearning doesn’t every truly go away, you just learn to deal with it. So to the lay person, you might find you’re annoyed at Mae for half of the book. But just bare in mind, we could never possibly understand what it’s like to be in her situation. It’s uncomprehendable. Despite my work as a psychologist, stories like this never get old.  It’s always like reading something for the first time, because every experience is different. No human and their feelings/emotions/behaviours are the same. I guess that’s why I love what I do.

This story doesn’t focus on the murdered victims. It’s a focus on a personal experience of a living victim, who’s life has forever changed. Someone who had no part in any of what happened to her, but lives with the guilt and shame for as long as she lives. Often, family members of serial killers are forgotten, or equally blamed. When really, they’re just another victim.  Much strength and love to Mae and her siblings. I hope that they’re seeking the proper psychological help, and have the supports that they need and deserve. May they live the life they’ve deserved all along.

I rated Love alway, Mum: 5/5 stars

Happy reading

Nat

Review: Picture of Innocence by T.J Stimson @AvonBooksUK #bookblog #bookreview

Blurb

My name is Lydia. I’m 12 years old. I’m not an evil person, but I did something bad.

My name is Maddie. I’d never hurt my son. But can I be sure if I don’t remember?

With three children under ten, Maddie is struggling. On the outside, she’s a happy young mother, running a charity as well as a household. But inside, she’s exhausted. She knows she’s lucky to have to have a support network around her. Not just her loving husband, but her family and friends too.

But is Maddie putting her trust in the right people? Because when tragedy strikes, she is certain someone has hurt her child – and everyone is a suspect, including Maddie herself…

The women in this book are about to discover that looks can be deceiving… because anyone is capable of terrible things. Even the most innocent, even you.

This is the story of every mother’s worst fear. But it’s not a story you know… and nothing is what it seems.

My Thoughts

This was a really great read.  There was a twist that I I liked and the characters were likeable, which is always a plus. Nothing more unpleasant that characters who are annoying or poorly created.

The pace was great, so great that I finished this one in a day. The topic is one that pulls you in. A new baby dying of suspected cot death, only to learn that the parents (mother in particular) is being looked at.  I have to admit, I did think the husband was the culprit and I was saying “I bet he’s done it, he’s acting shady!”. Then I thought it was the sister-in-law, she was acting equally shady. And it was a bit like that, I was suspecting everyone LOL.  I felt dreadfully saddened for Maddie’s mom and what she endured as a child, and I really liked where the author took her story.

The ending… That was the twist and I really liked it!

Have you read it? What did you think?

I rated Picture of Innocence: 4/5 stars

Happy reading

Nat