Thursday 28 June 2018

LET ME LIE by Clare Mackintosh

The police say it was suicide. 
Anna says it was murder. 
They're both wrong. 

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since. Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to ask questions about her parents' deaths. But by digging up the past, is she putting her future in danger? Sometimes it's safer to let things lie...

I really enjoyed I Let You Go and I See You, so of course I was very interested in checking out Clare Mackintosh's latest psychological thriller.

Anna Johnson is a new mother who feels a very strong connection to her baby girl. She's also suffered through the double tragedy of having both of her parents commit suicide in the exact same way only months apart.

The grief and loss is still fresh as she devotes her days to her daughter, and enjoying time with her partner. But a year after her mother's death, someone sends her a macabre note about the death of her parents, and it's enough to spook her.

Suddenly, she's questioning everything that happened. And when she gets a retired police detective involved in the situation, it leads her down a dangerous path...

I really enjoyed this! 

One of my favourite things about domestic noir is how well the everyday routines and seemingly mundane lives of average people are put under the microscope. And how looking closer sometimes reveals the dirty little secrets kept hidden behind closed doors. 

Secrets that are so jaw-dropping and addictive, I totally lose myself in the story. This book does exactly that. 

Suicide is awful, heartbreaking and hard to deal with, but when Anna discovers there might be more to the how and why about what happened to her Mum and Dad, everything spirals out of control. All while she's dealing with a tiny baby and trying to convince her counsellor partner that she's handling her grief during the festive season.

Told in several POVs, including Anna and the retired Murray Mackenzie, I was hooked into both instantly. But I have to admit that Murray's determination to help a woman in need, and his very heartbreaking personal story, really made this book for me. He was just so kind and nice, and the way he dealt with his mentally ill wife was just so honest and heartwarming.

Another thing I enjoyed was how I suspected everyone in Anna's life at different points in the narrative. And that while most of the events start out nice and slow, laying down the deep-rooted groundwork, when the action hits it really gets going. Kept me so glued to the page, I got swept up in the climactic whirlwind.


Let Me Lie is an addictive, slow-burning psychological story packed with twists and turns that ultimately shift gears and morph into an unexpected murder mystery. And I enjoyed every minute of it!

What a twisted tale of abuse, deceit and murder. One that keeps throwing the reader for a loop until the very last word.

Let Me Lie, March 2018, ISBN 9780751564877, Sphere

Sunday 24 June 2018

THE GRAVE TENDER by Eliza Maxwell

The Grave Tender My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The other day, hubby signed us up for Amazon Prime. So of course I had to check out the books that were on offer, and see how this Prime thing works. Turns out that it's pretty much like a library, and I get to borrow 10 books at a time. Sweet!

This was the first one I grabbed, and I'm very glad I did.

Hadley Dixon's family has always been the topic of conversation. Between the problems her strange mother has and her reclusive, scarred uncle, there's plenty to assume. But Hadley's a happy child and enjoys spending time with her friends.

When one of them goes missing, and then her mother's desperation reaches breaking point, Hadley's world is turned upside down.

Years later, when she returns to the small town with a daughter and is now a widow, she must face the awful truth about what happened to the lost boy. And how it ties back to her crumbling family...

Oh my god.

Let me just take a deep breath, and... exhale.

This book is really something. A work of psychological suspense that creeps up on you. One minute you're getting to know four little kids and how their rocky friendships are actually based on something much stronger. And the next, a disappearance and fire destroys any sense of childish ease the story introduced.


Yeah, this is an emotionally-heavy story that doesn't shy away from the terrible scars an abusive family member can cause. How they ripple out and physically destroy some, damage others beyond repair, and in the worst case scenario can breed the cycle of corruption.

I was pretty much hooked by the writing style, and kept firmly gripped by the characters. In spite of the uncomfortable and disturbing narrative, this is a book worth reading.

This story definitely gets inside your head. I couldn't put it down.


Leigh Chen Sanders is sixteen when her mother dies by suicide, leaving only a scribbled note: 'I want you to remember'. Leigh doesn't know what it means, but when a red bird appears with a message, she finds herself travelling to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. 

Leigh is far away from home and far away from Axel, her best friend, who she stupidly kissed on the night her mother died - leaving her with a swell of guilt that she wasn't home, and a heavy heart, thinking she may have destroyed the one good thing left in her life. 

 Overwhelmed by grief, Leigh retreats into her art and into her memories, where colours collide and the rules of reality are broken. The only thing Leigh is certain about is that she must find out the truth. She must remember. 

OMGosh, this book has such a stunning cover. I love the feather. I love when you look closer and notice there are different shades of red blending into each other. Love the blood and birds, as well as the charcoal smears. Most of all, I love how relevant it is to the actual story. 

The day Leigh's mother ends her life, everything falls apart. Not just because her mother's gone, but because she left her daughter with so many questions. When Leigh finds a note that says I want you to remember and a red bird--she's convinced is her mother--gives her a box and tells her to go to Taiwan, she's determined to follow through.

Even though she doesn't know the language and has never met her grandparents, she stays with them and slowly puts together the lost memories of her maternal family's past. As well as re-discovering some of her own, and several family secrets...

Wow. This book grabbed me from the very beginning. I knew straight away that it was going to be a sad story, and wondered if it would be too much to deal with. But it was so lyrical, so well written and honest that I was hooked. I couldn't stop reading.

Told through Leigh's POV and drenched in the many colours of her grief, this tale also unfolds through the memories of her past with her parents and best friends. It's sprinkled with the unexpected memories of others, and a surreal magical element that made the words so much stronger. All of these elements stitch together all of the beautiful, yet haunting threads. 

Even if nothing can change the past, return her mother, or erase the deep pain she feels, everything Leigh discovers while in Taiwan makes her understand a lot more about the many things she couldn't otherwise grasp.

I also liked how her art is intricately associated with every facet of her life: how she sketched her parents, how she shares art with her best friend, that it causes problems between her and her father, and how ultimately her art helps her deal with everything she's going through.

The sense of setting is so strong throughout the whole narrative. Whether in the States or in the streets of Taiwan, the descriptions of Leigh's surroundings, interactions and food fly off the page vividly.

This was such a multi-layered book. The tangle of guilt and loss tied so tightly it's hard to separate. But at the core of Leigh's struggle is love. The confusion and uncertainty of first love, the complications of family love, and how even the strongest of love cannot change the severity of mental illness.

The Astonishing Colour of After is the incredibly sad and haunting story of a teenage girl who is so desperate to understand why her mother took such devastating measures that she loses herself in the process. It's heartbreaking, yet beautiful in a raw and painful way that engages the reader all the way through. 

I couldn't put it down, and really enjoyed every sad and lovely minute of it. I'll definitely be looking out for more novels written by this author.

The Astonishing Colour of After, April 2018, ISBN 9781510102965, Orion Children's Books

Wednesday 20 June 2018

ALONE by Cyn Balog

Alone My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, I've had this book on the top of my Kindle TBR pile for a while. And since I bought a brand new Paperwhite the other day, I decided this was going to be my first read on this device. 😁

Seda lives in a rundown mansion in the middle of nowhere called Bismarck-Chisholm, with her mother and two sets of younger twin brothers and sisters.

When her mother inherited the house that used to be the scene of murder-mystery parties, Seda thought it would be fun to spend the summer in a haunted mansion. But when her mother decides to renovate the crumbling site, it means they're still there in winter.

As if it's not bad enough to be so isolated from her old life in Boston, but her father's gone, and she feels like she's losing her mind. Until a group of students have an accident and seek shelter with her family, and one of the guys catches her eye...

Ooooooh. This book was SO good that I didn't want to put it down. I read it in 24 hours because I just had to know how everything was going to turn out.

It's one of those stories that totally hooked me in. I found it very easy to follow Seda's simple life and big family, as well as her passionate mother. But I worked out pretty early on that Seda was going to be an unreliable narrator and was either leaving details out on purpose, had forgotten important stuff, or was just going nuts because of the isolation.

I thought this was written so well that it kept the creepy and eerie vibe alive all the way through. The snow made me so chilly. The imagery of the old mansion made it very easy to picture the house and its surroundings.

Of course I thought I'd figured out the mystery, because everything seemed to point to a possible revelation, but was pleasantly surprised when everything was turned upside down. I loved that ending!

What an excellent book. I loved how so many cool horror tropes are included and turned into a whole new narrative. Very cool.

I definitely got The Shining vibes throughout, and even a bit of April Fool's Day influence.

Plus I got a real kick out of all the other horror movie references. And since I've been watching horror since I was a kid, I got a kick out of all the kiddos loving them too. 😉

Monday 18 June 2018

Jumbled Thoughts & Lotsa Clutter


I just realised that I skipped posting a little something last week. It wasn't intentional, I just wasn't in the mood because I felt a little meh last Friday. No big deal.

Then this week, when I started drafting a new post, the internet decided to stop working. We had no internet connection for OVER THREE DAYS because the NBN network had an 'outage' no one could explain. I swear this shitty internet network the government totally screwed up is the worst! We've had nothing but problems since connecting to it last year.

What I hate the most is the miscommunication, the no explanations and failure to warn customers about maintenance or problems in the area. It totally sucks. 

It randomly came back on Saturday night, but I don't trust it. I get paranoid and pissed off pretty quickly.

Anyway, enough about that. I've spent WAY too many hours being angry already.

So, what else have I been up to? Well, I've done quite a bit of reading during the last few weeks. I've got a huge TBR pile, so I wanted to get caught up on some of the books I have sitting around.

Last Sunday, we went to watch HEREDITARY and while it wasn't the scariest movie ever, I enjoyed the hell out of it. The story is so clever. Part family drama that ends in tragedy. Part ghost story, and all sorts of screwed up. Plus, I loved the ending. I love that it went THERE! 

My writing has been a little inconsistent at the moment because I'm concentrating on the biz side of things. And that's so time consuming, and slow and never-ending, but it's part of the process. And I refuse to give up.

This doesn't mean the ideas stopped coming. Actually, one of the problems I'm having is that I have too many ideas fighting for attention. I want to write all of them at the same time. And there are a few fun anthologies I wouldn't mind writing shorties for. Not to mention that my next revision project has started to whisper in my ear...

Yeah. Sometimes the clutter isn't physical. Sometimes it's totally inside my head. 😨

It's also been raining. A lot. Winter has really hit hard, which I don't like. I'm not a big winter fan, but we're trying to make the most out of it by keeping up with our two daily walks, and have even gotten back into yoga. So happy about that!

Our yoga hiatus went for too long. But now we're determined to keep up with two weekly yoga workouts whenever we can. It just feels so good to stretch out the body.

We're had a really awesome weekend and packed a thousand things into it, of course. I secretly wish it was another long one because we need an extra day to recover. LOL.

Oh, did I mention that hubby found a great Kindle Paperwhite deal and we picked it up on Saturday? Yeah, we went for a huge walk, and even found some great secondhand books in a nearby store. Bookish success!

I've got a to-do list ready for this week, so let's hope I actually cross/highlight everything off this week. There are a few things I've carried forward for over a month. 😰

Have a good one!

Friday 15 June 2018

THE TALL MAN by Phoebe Locke

A senseless murder. 
A terrifying legend. 
A family haunted. 

 1990: In the darkest woods, three girls go looking for the Tall Man. 

 2000: A young mother disappears, leaving behind her husband and baby daughter. 

 2018: A teenage girl is charged with murder, and her trial will shock the world. 

 Three chilling events, connected by one shadowy figure. 

 THE TALL MAN is coming...

Just like The Outsider, this was one of my most anticipated books for this year. So as soon as Hachette Australia sent me a copy--thank you so much!--I got stuck into it. 

Sadie has been haunted by the Tall Man, and what happened in the woods when she was a kid, her whole life. So badly that when she gave birth to a daughter, she left her behind so the child wouldn't suffer her curse. 

Amber might be young but she's been through a lot, and doesn't exactly have a normal family. She's also reached celebrity status because she was accused of a terrible crime. 

Greta just wants to do what she loves the most: tell stories. That's how she ended up working on a documentary about the effects a childhood curse had on one family.

Their stories are different, but the answers will lead all three to the same haunting place... 

Wow. That was intense. 

I have to admit that I got a Slender Man vibe from this story from the very first time I read the blurb. And even while reading, I still did. But like all the best stories, the freakiest facets of that legend are taken and turned into a new scary myth. 

Told in the POV of several narrators, and spanning across several timeless, a dark legend gone terribly wrong weaves a crooked tale where even darker secrets are revealed in an unpredictable way. 

There are twists and turns, and at times the book feels like a jigsaw puzzle with many pieces slowly coming together in the most intricate method. One of my favourite things about this story is the way it was written. The tension gripped me from the beginning, and dragged me deeper with every new exciting page and shocking revelation. 

The pace is perfect. This book moves at its own pace, in a way that fits the narrative perfectly. It also makes every eerie thing (because there are many) weigh so much more in your mind. 

A lot of what happens is often disorienting, but never confusing. I LOVE getting stuck into a book and being positive I know exactly what's going on, but then the rug gets pulled out from under me and everything is even worse than I first thought.

I certainly got a kick out of this wicked tale. 

The Tall Man is a creepy, atmospheric psychological thriller that infects your mind so thoroughly, the shadows start playing tricks on you. I was totally invested in the lives of all these women. Enthralled by the urban legend keeping it all together, as everything gradually unravelled to reveal its chilling innards. 

I seriously enjoyed this unpredictable book and would recommend it to anyone who likes creepy psychological thrillers with a horror ambiguity that'll stay with me for a long time. 

This is another keeper.

The Tall Man, June 2018, ISBN 9781472249241, Wildfire

Tuesday 12 June 2018


The World According to Wonder WomanThe World According to Wonder Woman by Matthew K. Manning
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been a Wonder Woman fan since I was a kid. She's my fave, so I collect WW books and collectibles. So when hubby surprised me with this book, I couldn't wait to read it.

I picked it up today and read it in a few sittings. It's such an informative book! Told in the POV of Wonder Woman/Diana, it starts from the beginning. How hard it was growing up in Themyscira where the other Amazons never really accepted her. How she rescued Steve and then won the chance to go to the world of man. Being a member of the Justice League, becoming the God of War, how she felt finding out the truth her mother hid from her, and all the gods, monsters and superheroes she knows.

There's a LOT of awesome stuff in this hardback volume. The stories WW tells are interesting, and are accompanied by gorgeous artwork. There are even fold-out posters and a map, reports, clippings... so much excellent stuff to read and look at.

I loved every single page. The stories, even though I knew most of them, captivated me because there really was new info. Oh, and I got a kick out of her getting involved with Superman. Totally ship it. ;)

I'm so excited about adding this book to my ever-growing Wonder Woman collection.


Monday 11 June 2018

UR by Stephen King

URUR by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've had this book on my Kindle for ages. So long, that I actually bought it when I was still using the Kindle keyboard. LOL.

I really don't know why I haven't read it yet, but I think it was because UR kept getting pushed down the line with my MANY book purchases.

Anyway, last night I was in the mood for something shorter and as soon as I started, I was instantly hooked.

Wesley Smith is an English instructor at a not-so great college. He loves books, and recently broke up with his girlfriend because he was always caught up in a book when she needed him most.

When he buys a Kindle to spite her, he secretly hopes it also impresses her. But this Kindle isn't like the others. It's pink, for starters! And when he accesses the UR FUNCTIONS he finds himself in a bizarre situation. Stumbles on books he didn't know existed, as well as other more nightmarish things that could send him over the edge...

Wow. I loved this!

It's such a trippy, multi-dimensional story that takes an ordinary man to heights he never imagined. It also gives him some excitement, a purpose. And brings him closer to one of his students and a colleague.

The more Wesley delves into what this bright Kindle has to offer, the deeper he gets involved. Until he discovers something that will affect him personally, and could cause a ripple effect.

I love weird stories, and this one would certainly be an awesome fit for The Twilight Zone and/or The Outer Limits.

The King has done it again.

Friday 8 June 2018

WIDOW'S POINT by Richard Chizmar & Billy Chizmar

Widow's PointWidow's Point by Richard T. Chizmar
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love lighthouses, so I was very interested in checking out this novella. I mean, look at that awesome cover!

Thomas Livingston writes about the supernatural, and his latest investigation is about the Widow's Point Lighthouse. He plans to be locked inside over the weekend, and hopes to gather enough material for his next book.

Everything starts out okay, but the longer he stays inside, the more he starts to hear and see...

I read this in one sitting, and I really enjoyed it. I'm a sucker for ghost stories and this one didn't disappoint.

The story is told via video transcripts and audio recordings, which is actually very effective in setting a very casual mood and then slowly unravelling into... madness, delusions or is it a real haunting? I also liked the illustrations and how the story ends pretty much where it began.

If a place has the history and reputation of being a hot--or maybe I mean, cold--spot, it's sure to grab attention. No matter what. It's human nature.

Oh, and the history accounts, which should have felt like infodumps, were actually awesome. Every haunting account added the spooky feel of this very atmospheric tale.

This is a good one!

FINAL GIRLS by Riley Sager

Final GirlsFinal Girls by Riley Sager
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love horror, and the Final Girl trope is one I've enjoyed since my teens. And although I'm not big on audio books, when hubby got me a free copy of this, I couldn't wait to listen to it.

Quincy Carpenter is the sole survivor of the Pine Cottage massacre, but she can't remember a chunk of what happened. Still, this puts her in an exclusive club, with only two other members. But she doesn't care about that because she's getting on with her 'normal' life by living with her lawyer boyfriend and baking lots of goodies to add to her website.

Except, she's not exactly normal. The trauma of what happened that night has left her with a bit of a pill-popping habit and other things she hides from everyone. So when the cop who saved her that night calls to tell her one of the other final girls is dead, her life is turned upside down.

But that's nothing compared to what happens when the only other girl left--Sam--enters her life and throws it all to hell...

Whoa. This was quite a ride. The ups and downs, twists and turns, red herrings and secrets all worked perfectly to keep me riveted to my phone so I could hear more.

The narrator of this audio book was great! Her voice and tone really helped push the narrative forward until the grisly end.

BTW, while I worked out several things in this very tight web of lies and death, I wasn't prepared for the final reveal. Yikes! My gosh, it was a great twist that in hindsight totally made sense.

This is a very clever thriller with a good dose of horror thrown in. I really enjoyed the Pine Cottage flashbacks, as well as the other surprise POV bits I wasn't expecting.

Yep. I really enjoyed this book!

Sunday 3 June 2018


Welcome to the Embassy of the Dead. Leave your life at the door. (Thanks.) 

When Jake opens a strange box containing a severed finger, he accidentally summons a grim reaper to drag him to the Eternal Void (yep, it's as fatal as it sounds) and now he's running for his life! But luckily Jake isn't alone - he can see and speak to ghosts. 

Jake and his deadly gang (well dead, at least) - Stiffkey the undertaker, hockey stick-wielding, Cora, and Zorro the ghost fox - have one mission: find the Embassy of the Dead and seek protection. But the Embassy has troubles of its own and may not be the safe haven Jake is hoping for . . .

After reading such a serious and brilliant book last week, I was looking forward to getting stuck into something lighter and fun, but still somewhat spooky. 

That's when this book caught my eye. I mean, look at the cover! It's very cool.

Jake is twelve and isn't very happy about his home life situation. His parents have split up and live in different places, but he wishes they were still together. At least he's got a school trip coming up, and will get to hang out with his friend Sab.

But when a strange man wearing a top hat appears in an alley and gives him a strange box, he takes it. First chance he gets, Jake opens it and finds a severed finger. Only, opening was the worst thing he could've done.

Now he has to team up with Stiffkey the undertaker, skip the school trip, and instead run from the Reaper determined to send him to the Eternal Void. Unless he can get to the Embassy of the Dead (very) soon, his life could be over. Well, that's if his parents don't find out what he's up to first...

OMG. This book was a LOT of fun. It was just what I needed. The perfect weekend read.

As soon as I started, I was totally hooked. Jake's morbid adventure is full of colourful characters, interesting worldbuilding, and danger at every turn. 

I liked Jake's POV and how he tries really hard to do the right thing, even if it's mostly to save his own skin. Stiffkey is such a cool mentor willing to help a live boy, even if it's because he's the one who got him into this mess. Cora is feisty and wants to be free, but finds more than she bargained for. And Zorro, well a ghost fox sounds super awesome to me.

Oh, and Penny was such an intriguing character. I enjoyed meeting her and only wish she'd stuck around longer. And Mawkins? Shudder.

Besides, I'm a sucker for stories featuring ghosts. Plus I liked how whether young, old or in-between, it's so easy to get lost in this tale as deeply as the characters did.

Yeah, there's a lot to love about this book. And another awesome feature are the illustrations. They're SO cool. Not to mention the cheeky crow at the beginning of each chapter, the amusing skull at the end, or the spider who randomly popped on to the pages.

Embassy of the Dead is an engrossing, fast-paced read with plenty of hilarious action. A road trip full of ghostly situations and awesome characters that kept me glued to the pages all the way through. It's also well written and spooky and so funny. I LOLd quite a bit.

Everything about this book made me smile, and caught my attention so much I couldn't put it down.

I'm definitely interested in finding out what happens next to Jake and Cora.

Embassy of the Dead, June 2018, ISBN 9781510104556, Orion Children's Books

Friday 1 June 2018

Sometimes Plans Change

Hey! How was your week?

I started the week with this plan:

And instead ended up doing this:
Yep. Instead of losing myself in new story ideas with a nice combination of daydreaming and brainstorming, I ended up sorting through my never-ending toy, collectibles and stationery clutter.

It's so tiring. And mentally draining. A job that will never (really) be done, but one that I have to tackle often. And because the clutter has been piling up, I got the itch to sort everything. Which of course led to rearranging a whole bunch of stuff. Pretty much spreading everything out everywhere, so I could start again.

I got quite a bit done, and a bunch of things now have new places. But as a booklover and collector, I have to accept that there's always going to be some level of clutter.

Phew. Yep.

Asides from all of this, I watched the Siren season finale. I really love this show, and it ended in a way that finalised several things and set up others. Can't wait for S2.

I also had to do a massive file/pics update, subbed a few stories, had my daughter at home midweek (so we caught up on some WWE reality TV), I watched an anthology movie called Body Bags, and crossed quite a few RL things off my to-do list.

BUT, my biggest obsession was reading The Outsider. It took me about a week to read because this was a book that needed special attention to suck up all the creepy goodness. I posted my review this morning and only have good things to say about it.

King is an amazing author.

Well, that's about it. Except, can you believe it's June already? Or that Sydney seems to have totally missed autumn and just gone from extended-summer to winter. 

It's so cold! Brrr.

Anyway, I'll (hopefully) get a chance to daydream the days away next week. :) 

Have a great weekend!

PS. I did NOT enjoy SOLO. It was worse than I expected. O.o

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