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

Review: I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman #bookreview #bookblog

Blurb

Eliza Benedict cherishes her peaceful, ordinary suburban life with her successful husband and children, thirteen-year-old Iso and eight-year-old Albie. But her tranquillity is shattered when she receives a letter from the last person she ever expects—or wants—to hear from: Walter Bowman. There was your photo, in a magazine. Of course, you are older now. Still, I’d know you anywhere.
In the summer of 1985, when she was fifteen, Eliza was kidnapped by Walter and held hostage for almost six weeks. He had killed at least one girl and Eliza always suspected he had other victims as well. Now on death row in Virginia for the rape and murder of his final victim, Walter seems to be making a heartfelt act of contrition as his execution nears. Though Eliza wants nothing to do with him, she’s never forgotten that Walter was most unpredictable when ignored. Desperate to shelter her children from this undisclosed trauma in her past, she cautiously makes contact with Walter. She’s always wondered why Walter let her live, and perhaps now he’ll tell her—and share the truth about his other victims.
Yet as Walter presses her for more and deeper contact, it becomes clear that he is after something greater than forgiveness. He wants Eliza to remember what really happened that long-ago summer. He wants her to save his life. And Eliza, who has worked hard for her comfortable, cocooned life, will do anything to protect it—even if it means finally facing the events of that horrifying summer and the terrible truth she’s kept buried inside.

My Thoughts

This was an interesting topic to write about, I thought.  I think that’s what drew me in in the first place. In saying that, there was something ‘off’ about it that I can’t quite put my finger on.  The pace was good, it wasn’t too slow.  I did find Walter a bit, annoying. I felt like the author was trying to make him more ‘cunning’ or ‘intelligent’ than it came off.  I don’t think Eliza’s daughter’s issue was ironed out enough. Yes she was having behavioural problems, but they seemed sudden and without a good enough explanation as to why. Did she learn about her mother’s past? Was it that and moving from London? It actually sort of felt like there was something that we, the readers, we meant to know but it kind of just loomed around and was never explained (if that makes any sense at all). Kind of like we were meant to come to a realisation in the the chapter or two, but I never got there.

Now this is a matter of perspective and opinion, but Eliza was fairly relaxed for a woman who was kidnapped, abused, and raped. Especially when she went to see him.  I questioned her trauma as well. It was almost as if she had wanted to be kidnapped initially? Her sister was quite selfish, I thought.  Yes, the whole family is affected when a member goes missing, but she seemed fairly self absorbed and lack empathy and compassion when it came to her sister, in their adult years. I failed to like the sister at all because of that.

Overall, it was a pleasant read. No twists, or turns, didn’t give me any physical reactions.  Have you read this one? What were your thoughts?

I rated I’d Know You Anywhere: 3/5 stars

Happy Reading

Nat

Review: The Mother’s Mistake by Ruth Heald #bookreview #bookblog @bookouture

Blurb

Everyone makes mistakes. But does everyone deserve to be forgiven?

She runs past the tinkling of children’s laughter that fills the park. Heart hammering, she reaches the riverbank, breath catching in her throat as her eyes take in the small body, tangled in the reeds, pale and lifeless.

Three years later.

Claire’s life is picture perfect. A new home in the countryside. A new-born baby. A doting husband by her side.

But behind closed doors, her life is falling apart.

And when a threatening note is posted through her letterbox, saying she doesn’t deserve her daughter, it’s clear that someone knows about her past…

Someone knows that Claire doesn’t deserve her perfect life. Someone’s going to do everything in their power to destroy it.

My Thoughts

Okay, I read this on my Kindle so it took me a while because I read a chapter before bed. I found the story to be okay, overall.  I felt that the plot was slower than it should have been,  things seemed to be happening slowly and it did make the story drag. I felt sorry for Claire because he mother-in-law was quite an unpleasant woman. I can’t imagine having to deal with someone like her, and she was my least favourite person in the book. That’s including the ‘baddie’ in this story.

I can appreciate the author’s intension in making the events that happened to Claire a slow build up to making her feel ‘crazy’ but they felt a little too slow for me.  Although, it was well written, I just found that I couldn’t really sympathise with Claire, because at times I found her to be aggravating and a touch annoying.

But don’t let me stop you. Please, read it yourself and let me know what you thought.

Thank you to Bookouture for my review copy.

I rates The Mother’s Mistake: 3/5 stars

Happy Reading

Nat

Review: Messy, Wonderful Us by Catherine Isaac @CatherineIsaac #bookreview #bookblog @SimonSchusterAU

Blurb

You never know what life will throw at you. 
You just need to know who to turn to for help.

One morning in early summer, a man and woman wait to board a flight to Italy. 

Allie has lived a careful, focused existence. But now she has unexpectedly taken leave from her job as an academic research scientist to fly to a place she only recently heard about in a letter. Her father, Joe, doesn’t know the reason for her trip, and Allie can’t bring herself to tell him that she’s flying to Italy to unpick the truth about what her mother did all those years ago.

Beside her is her best friend since schooldays, Ed. He has just shocked everyone with a sudden separation from his wife, Julia. Allie hopes that a break will help him open up.

But the secrets that emerge as the sun beats down on Lake Garda and Liguria don’t merely concern her family’s tangled past. And the two friends are forced to confront questions about their own life-long relationship that are impossible to resolve.

My Thoughts

This was a lovely book to get to after reading a couple of thrillers in a row! And you know what, It wasn’t until the last three chapters that I decided to give it 5 stars because if you can make cry at least three times, then I think you deserve it.  I loved the journey that Allie took, I loved her as a person. She was not only intelligent, caring, and honest, but also so authentic.  She was likeable from the very first page, and I continued to love being her, taking the plunge and traveling across the continent in search of answers. Ed… You know I think he’s the first guy that I’ve liked since maybe 6 or 7 books ago.  We didn’t know too much about him in the first quarter of the book, but I loved learning about he and his wife and their folding marriage.  You never hope that a marriage ends, but it was certainly an emotional ride for me (anyway maybe not you), that by the end of the book, and the last page in particular, I was wistful crying. It was a story that took me on a worldly ride, both descriptively and emotionally.  You can’t ask for a better story than one that leaves you wanting more when you finally close the pages.

Thank you so much to Simon and Schuster Australia for my copy and for introducing me to this fantastic author who I look forward to reading again very soon.

I rate Messy, Wonderful Us: 5/5 stars

Happy Reading

Nat

Review: Those Girls by Chevy Stevens #bookreview @ChevyStevens #bookblog

Blurb

Life has never been easy for the three Campbell sisters. Jess, Courtney, and Dani live on a remote ranch in Western Canada where they work hard and try to stay out of the way of their father’s fists. One night, a fight gets out of hand and the sisters are forced to go on the run, only to get caught in an even worse nightmare when their truck breaks down in a small town. Events spiral out of control and a chance encounter with the wrong people leaves them in a horrific and desperate situation. They are left with no choice but to change their names and create new lives.

Eighteen years later, they are still trying to forget what happened that summer when one of the sisters goes missing and they are pulled back into their past.

This time there’s nowhere left to run.

As much of a thriller as it is a deep exploration of the bonds among sisters, THOSE GIRLS is an unforgettable portrait of desperation, loyalty, and evil.

My Thoughts

This was a fantastic read. Right from the very beginning it pulled you in to the awful situation those poor three sisters faced. It’s unimaginable, and then come across those two boys!

The writing pace was fantastic. I basically didn’t want to put this one down. I was in that story with them and although it was horrific and hard to imagine, the author did a wonderful job of making feel so very real. I always find it slightly annoying that I can’t say what I want to say, especially about the ending because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it had my heart pumping and a few tears falling.

I think if you’re looking for something that’ll get your heart rate going, then try this. But be warned, it does have triggers relating to rape and violence so if that’s something you generally avoid you may want to consider it, or have a support person you can talk to about it.

My first read from this author and most definitely not my last!

I rated Those Girls: 5/5 stars

Happy Reading

Nat

Review: Before I Let You Go by Kelly Rimmer #bookblog #bookreview @HachetteAUS @KelRimmerWrites

Blurb

The 2:00 a.m. call is the first time Lexie Vidler has heard her sister’s voice in years. Annie is a drug addict, a thief, a liar—and in trouble, again. Lexie has always bailed Annie out, given her money, a place to sleep, sent her to every kind of rehab. But this time, she’s not just strung out—she’s pregnant and in premature labor. If she goes to the hospital, she’ll lose custody of her baby—maybe even go to prison. But the alternative is unthinkable.

As weeks unfold, Lexie finds herself caring for her fragile newborn niece while her carefully ordered life is collapsing around her. She’s in danger of losing her job, and her fiancé only has so much patience for Annie’s drama. In court-ordered rehab, Annie attempts to halt her downward spiral by confronting long-buried secrets from the sisters’ childhood, ghosts that Lexie doesn’t want to face. But will the journey heal Annie, or lead her down a darker path?

Both candid and compassionate, Before I Let You Go explores a hotly divisive topic and asks how far the ties of family love can be stretched before they finally break.

My Thoughts

My book of the year. Really, saying that alone, and the fact that we’ve still got six months of the year left still and I’ve already named my book of the year, tells you just how much I loved this story. I absolutely loved it.

Addiction is such a hideous disease.  It affects the user, and everyone else around them. Very much like the ripple effect. This story was the most accurate portrayal of addiction that I’ve read yet. My eyes welled so many times reading this. The emotion, anguish, betrayal, confusion, guilt, worry, disappointment, longing, and love was just overwhelming at times. I felt so much for all the characters in this story that I just didn’t want to stop reading. I was furious at Robert and that part of the storyline, and I absolutely loved the relationship between Annie and her sister as they were growing up.  I think it was the diary entry in CH 18 (going from memory which I have to admit it pretty sketchy LOL) which documented Lexie leaving the ‘Cult’ and leaving poor 12 yr old Annie, that had me ugly crying.  And I do mean UGLY cry.  The trauma that that poor girl endured, and to have the only person that she could trust and knew that loved her disappear with out her (Lexie leaving), was the pivitol moment in her downward fall.  My heart truly ached for Annie.  And I appreciated the thought and effort the author made in conveying her emotional turmoil and struggle.

I also applaud how Lexie’s own struggle was written.  It is tremendously hard watching someone’s life downward spiral with addiction.  Essentially, you’re powerless to do anything because the only person that can help themselves, is the addict. That’s extremely hard to do when a person is dealing with multiple trauma’s, because more often than not, the reason that they’ve turned to the drugs is to self-medicate when experiencing depression, PTSD, trying to forget things etc. So an addict can relapse many many many many times.  They may never get clean.  I loved that the author explored this with Lexi. Shared her frustration, and even anger, with Annie an all the times she’d tried to help her. For Lexi being confused because even though she’s a doctor and KNOWS about addiction, it can be a very different experience to live through it personally.  Lexi was very human.  There was a time or two when I gasped because of something she said to Annie. One of those being when Annie was naming the baby and Lexi didn’t agree with it, they way she talked and what she said to Annie, was awful. I immediately felt for Annie, and thought “wow, that was below the belt Lexi”. But you know what, that was real.  No one’s perfect. We all have our moments, and I think it was just a representation of how addiction effects relationships.

And the poor little baby?  I’m so glad that she survived, although her withdrawal  scenes were vivid and written so well. I had some tears through that as well. And they ending… UGLY CRY. I don’t want to give anything away, but I was hoping for a different out come for sure.  I pictured it happening as though it was on one of my favourite tv show dramas. In slow motion, with some backing music. Not fair.

So as you can see, I LOVED this. It pulled me in from the very beginning and had me finishing it within the day. I just couldn’t put it down because I didn’t want to leave Lexie of Annie’s side. I needed to see where their journey was going, stuff any study or house-work that had to be done!

I rated Before I Let You Go: 5/5 stars and my 2019 Drama Book of the Year

Happy Reading

Nat

Review: A Serial Killer’s Daughter by Kerrie Rawson #bookblog #bookreview @kerrierawson

Blurb

In 2005, Kerri Rawson heard a knock on the door of her apartment. When she opened it, an FBI agent informed her that her father had been arrested for murdering ten people, including two children. It was then that she learned her father was the notorious serial killer known as BTK, a name he’d given himself that described the horrific way he committed his crimes: bind, torture, kill. As news of his capture spread, Wichitacelebrated the end of a thirty-one-year nightmare.

For Kerri Rawson, another was just beginning. She was plunged into a black hole of horror and disbelief. The same man who had been a loving father, a devoted husband, church president, Boy Scout leader, and a public servant had been using their family as a cover for his heinous crimes since before she was born. Everything she had believed about her life had been a lie.

Written with candor and extraordinary courage, A Serial Killer’s Daughter is an unflinching exploration of life with one of America’s most infamous killers and an astonishing tale of personal and spiritual transformation. For all who suffer from unhealed wounds or the crippling effects of violence, betrayal, and anger, Kerri Rawson’s story offers the hope of reclaiming sanity in the midst of madness, rebuilding a life in the shadow of death, and learning to forgive the unforgivable.

My Thoughts

Fantastic. I’ve seen a lot of talk from people who, quite frankly, are plain ignorant stating things like the author just wants her “five minutes of fame” “she’s not a victim” and worse things. I find it hard to believe that people are that heartless, but then I see it daily.

I can’t imagine waking up one day and learning that your father is responsible for murdering 11 people. However, the author does a wonderfully honest job of showing and telling us just that. It doesn’t matter how much I read, or how many clients I see, the fact that these people look so normal to us on the outside and function just like everyone else. The betrayal, shock, heartbreak, denial, loss, and everything else that she goes through is nothing I would wish on anyone. And then to have to deal with his actions as well and the shame that comes from it… Of course, she and her family are victims.

I was completely surprised at how well this book was written. It actually had a fiction feel to it. I got completely wrapped up in this and finished it in a day, it was that good. But then I’ve read so much about the offender and the murders, that it felt so good to read something about this event from another angle. It just goes to show how good these killers are at being ‘normal’, it’s actually hard to comprehend…

Fantastic read, and congratulations to the author. I hope she found some peace and solace in writing it, and wish her the very best in her healing journey.

I rated A Serial Killer’s Daughter: 5/5 stars

Happy Reading

Nat

Review: My daughter’s Secret by Nicole Trope #bookreview @bookouture #bookblog @nicoletrope

Blurb

My baby girl, I’ll never forget you – your smile, your laugh, the way your hair sparkles in the sun. I cannot comprehend this pain. I cannot breathe through it.

In the middle of the night, Claire wakes up to discover that her beloved daughter, Julia, is dead – and life, as she knows it, is over.

Searching for answers, Claire stumbles upon a pile of letters, hidden under Julia’s bed in an old, battered shoebox, and feels closer to her daughter than ever before. They tell her that Julia was happy, that she was thriving at university, that she was in love.

But as the letters go on, Claire starts to feel uneasy at something hidden between the lines. Even as she grieves, she must prepare to face a shocking discovery. Because Julia was hiding a terrible secret – and when it’s uncovered, it will devastate a family already torn apart by tragedy.

An emotional, twisty and gripping page turner that will stay with you long after you finish the last page. Perfect for fans of Kerry Fisher, Lisa Wingate and Jodi Picoult.

My Thoughts

My first read from this author and I was pleased overall.  It’s a story that tackles two of the biggest stigmas to date, domestic violence and suicide.  Although I couldn’t entirely jel with all the characters, I could definitely understand Claire’s incredible grief when it came to her daughter’s suicide. It’s a tremendously shocking and sudden lose that many find it hard to comprehend.  I felt that.  Is it depressing, yes. But it’s also very real, and definitely strikes a chord among readers.  It certainly makes you think especially when it’s so prevalent in society today.  And then there’s the domestic violence. Shocking, infuriating, emotion provoking, and senseless. Again, it’s a topic that is current and needs to be talked about in order to spread awareness.  I felt the author did justice to both topics and thank her for making it a highlighted topic in her story. The more it’s talked about, the more we’re looking for it.

It was well written, overall, I did come across a few slowish moment and no real twists although I was left emotionally touched and happy that I crochet my blankets and donate them to a domestic violence safe house program!

Thank you Netgalley and Bookouture for my ebook copy to review.

I rated My Daughter’s Secret: 4/5 stars

Happy Reading

Nat