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My Best Friend’s Secret By Emily Freud

My Best Friend's Secret‘My Best Friend’s Secret’ is the debut book by Emily Freud.

Kate Sullivan has a beautiful home, a job she loves and a handsome fiancé: all she’d ever dreamed of since getting sober and painstakingly piecing her life back together. But a chance encounter with her old best friend Becky threatens Kate’s newfound and fragile happiness. Kate remembers nothing of their last drunken night out, the night Becky broke off their friendship without warning or explanation. With Becky back in her life, Kate is desperate to make amends for the past. For the closure she craves, Kate needs to know what she did that ruined everything. But what if the truth is worse than Kate could have imagined?

If you’re looking for an exhilarating thriller, then look no further as this book is everything a good thriller should be. Tense, intriguing and packed with dislikable characters that keeps the reader on their toes.

The story is seen solely through the narrative of Kate, a recovering alcoholic who’s celebrating 6 years sober, looking forward to marrying her fiancée Ben and enjoying her rewarding job as an English teacher. Her life is great until her former best friend Becky comes back into her life and with that brings back uncertainty, insecurity and memories of a life that she’d like to leave behind.

Right from the first page, this book gripped my attention. Kate is a fascinating protagonist who’s flawed from her previous life and battles not to return to her old ways. Her sponsor Clare is always there to help her as well as is Ben who’s been her rock and helped her recover her confidence in herself. When Becky returns, Kate finds herself questioning her old life and Becky’s sudden return as they had parted on bad terms. But she takes Becky in as a housemate, she notices a shift in the dynamics of relationship including Ben’s.

From the first page, there’s an underlying sense of tension to the story that made me read the book faster. I’m surprised I didn’t give myself paper-cuts with the speed that I raced through the pages! The characters are fascinating mix of personalities, all damaged and flawed in their own ways, battling addictions and insecurity. Kate is a kind character who as a teacher finds herself connecting with Lily, a young girl who’s on a similar path as Kate was and Kate is determined for her life to be better and not to waste it like she did.

A cleverly crafted story that made for suspenseful and dark reading, ‘My Best Friend’s Secret’ is a twisted and sordid story about secrets and lies with a fascinating protagonist that leaves you hooked at every turn.

You can buy ‘My Best Friend’s Secret’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

All I Want For Christmas By Joanna Bolouri

All I Want For Christmas‘All I Want For Christmas’ is the latest book by Joanna Bolouri.

When Nick loses his job and is dumped by his glamorous but demanding girlfriend, he is forced to grudgingly accept work as a Santa at a local Christmas grotto. As his friends are getting married or promoted, Nick spends his days being terrorised by unfriendly elves and cried on by snotty, spoiled children. Then he meets 4-year-old Alfie. All Alfie wants for Christmas is for his mum, Sarah, to be happy again. Moved by the boy’s selfless wish, Nick arranges a date between Sarah and his best friend, Matt. But as Sarah and Alfie become part of all their lives, Nick realises that happiness for Sarah and Matt might mean heartbreak for himself.

When it comes to great comical writers with implacable timing and great dialogue, I wholeheartedly rank Joanna Bolouri in that category.

Having read her previous books such as ‘The List’ and ‘Relight My Fire’, I was keen to read her latest festive book called ‘All I Want For Christmas’, as I knew it would lift me out of my reading slump and I was delighted to be right.

The story is seen through the narrative of Nick, who loses his high powered job just on the mouth of Christmas. Unable to find a job, he decides to take on the role of Santa Claus at the local shopping centre. Not the greatest fan of children but proving to be a natural, Nick embraces the job promising the latest toys, but finds himself in a quandary when one of the children asks for his mother to be happy for his Christmas present.

Nick literally takes the task to hand even though, he finds himself attracted to Sarah, the mother of Alfie and decides that setting her up with his best friend Matt.

The story follows the course of the year as Matt and Sarah become a couple, whilst Nick watches on from the sidelines and realises that Sarah is the perfect woman for him and begins to see Alfie as a surrogate son.

Everything about this story is simply perfect, the characters, the plot line as well as the witty dialogue between the characters. I loved Nick, he’s kind, warmhearted and such a giving person putting other needs before his own. Even though, he feels drawn to Sarah, he still believes that Matt can offer her more and watches from the sidelines as he slowly falls in love with her. Also Alfie, Sarah’s little boy was adorable in his sweetness and his primary concern was his mother’s happiness, since his father had died.

The story is filled with hilarious moments with funny one liners as well as the crazy situations that Nick found himself in. But as well as the humour in the story, there’s also an element of poignancy and grief as both Nick and Sarah have to deal with losses and how grief is particularly hard at Christmas.

Witty and heartwarming from the first page, ‘All I Want For Christmas’ is a festive bundle of love and fun that will you creasing up with laughter throughout.

Charlotte Duckworth

Charlotte DuckworthCharlotte Duckworth is a graduate of the Faber Academy’s acclaimed six-month ‘Writing a Novel’ course. Charlotte started her career working as an interiors and lifestyle journalist, writing for a wide range of consumer magazines and websites. Alongside writing, she also runs her own website design studio. Her debut novel called ‘The Rival’ was published in 2018 and today is the publication day of her second book called ‘Unfollow Me’

  1. To readers of the blog who may not be familiar with you or your writing, can you tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into writing.
    Hello! Thanks for having me! I’m Charlotte and I started my career as a journalist working in magazines. I always wanted to write novels (and finished my very first aged about 11, painstakingly typed up on my electric typewriter!) but when I was at university and informed the careers advisor of my plan, he told me novel-writing was a ridiculous idea for a career, and suggested I become a journalist instead. So I did.

    I’m not cross about it as I had an absolutely lovely time working in magazines, and later on, on websites. It was a great Plan B!

    However, deep down I knew that novel-writing was my ‘thing’ and so I have always written on the side. I managed to get an agent when I was in my early 20s, but it took a long time to get a book deal. My first novel, ‘The Rival,’ was published in 2018, and ‘Unfollow Me’ is my second. My third, ‘The Perfect Father’, is out next year.

  2. Tell us about your new book called ‘Unfollow Me’.
    ‘Unfollow Me’ stems from my own fascination with the world of influencers, and tells the story of Violet Young, a hugely popular mummy vlogger, who goes ‘missing’ from the online world, deleting all her social media accounts overnight with no warning. The book is written from the perspective of two of her most obsessive fans, Lily and Yvonne, who desperately try to uncover what’s happened to her. With plenty of twists and turns along the way!

    It’s a bit different from many other novels about social media as I wanted to explore the lives of the people addicted to the influencers, rather than the influencer herself. I find these super fans really intriguing – the lengths they will go to for their idol, and the intensity of the feelings they have for someone they have never met.

  3. Why did you decide to write crime?
    I wouldn’t say it was a conscious decision! I have tried several times over the years to write more uplifting novels and they always end up turning dark…

    I remember reading an interview with Gillian Flynn where she said ‘the darker the books are, the nicer the author is’ and her pondering that perhaps writing dark books gets something out of your system. I like that idea! Generally speaking I’m a pretty happy, laidback person.

    I suppose I am fascinated with what makes ordinary people do ‘bad’ things, and really digging around inside a character’s psyche, to get to the stuff they want to keep hidden. We all have some of that bad stuff inside us, it’s just on a spectrum, and hidden better in some people than others!

  4. If you were to start your own book club, what authors would you ask to join?
    I am lucky enough to have lots of author friends, so rather than risk inviting a load of my heroes (‘never meet your idols’!), I’d go for tried and tested and I know I’d have an amazing time. So, just off the top of my head: Caroline Hulse, Rebecca Fleet, Ros Anderson, Catherine Law, Holly Race, Karen Hamilton, Phoebe Locke…
  5. Unfollow Me

  6. Who’s your favourite literary villain?
    I think given that I’ve quoted Gillian above, I’d have to say Amy from ‘Gone Girl’. That book just blew me away – and Amy was a delicious character. I loved her, despite how awful she was. She was completely real to me and I completely understood why she did what she did.
  7. Is there anything that you would change about your writing journey?
    I have a rule never to regret anything, and I genuinely do believe everything happens for a reason. I wish I could have been as disciplined about writing when I was in my 20s as I am now. But I don’t think I was as good a writer then. Writing is the best career as it’s one of the ones where you get better with age.
  8. What’s your favourite part of the writing process?
    All stages are both my least and most favourite depending on what stage I’m working on at the time!

    I probably like the daydreaming bit the best – when you’ve got an idea and can go for long walks planning it all in your head. And it feels like the most perfect book ever written. Except it hasn’t actually been written yet…

  9. What’s your favourite opening line from a book?
     I’m really sorry to be so absolutely unoriginal but it’d have to be the first line of ‘Rebecca’ – ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again’.

    That book was a formative one for me. I must have read it a dozen times over the years. And it’s partly the reason I called my daughter Daphne.

  10. If you were stranded on a desert island, which three books would you bring with you to pass the time?
    The first three Adrian Mole books because they would cheer me up!
  11. What area do you suggest a budding writer should concentrate on to further their abilities?
    Discipline. Ring-fencing your writing time, putting your writing first and making it a priority. I’ve met so many excellent writers who just never finish anything because they don’t make writing their priority. But writing is really, really hard work, and you have to be disciplined and put in the hours or you don’t stand a chance of finishing.
  12. When sitting down to write, what is the one item you need beside you?
    Chewing gum and a bottle of water. Very boring (and sorry that’s two items). I drink loads of water while I’m writing and I chew gum to stop me reaching for biscuits. And I read somewhere that it helps you concentrate, although I’m not sure if that’s actually true.
  13. And finally, do you have any projects or releases on the horizon which you would like to share with the readers of the website?
    I’m writing the first draft of my fourth book at the moment but my third, ‘The Perfect Father’, is already finished and will be released next year. It’s about a stay-at-home dad, who isn’t as perfect as he seems…

    You can find Charlotte online on Twitter and Instagram and her website

    You can buy ‘Unfollow Me’ from Amazon and is available from good bookshops today.

After The Silence By Louise O’Neill

After The Silence‘After The Silence’ is the latest book by Irish author, Louise O’Neill.

On the day of Henry and Keelin Kinsella’s wild party at their big house a violent storm engulfed the island of Inisrun, cutting it off from the mainland. When morning broke Nessa Crowley’s lifeless body lay in the garden, her last breath silenced by the music and the thunder. The killer couldn’t have escaped Inisrun, but on-one was charged with the murder. The mystery that surrounded the death of Nessa remained hidden. But the islanders knew who to blame for the crime that changed them forever. Ten years later a documentary crew arrives, there to lift the lid off the Kinsella’s carefully constructed lives, determined to find evidence that will prove Henry’s guilt and Keelin’s complicity in the murder of beautiful Nessa.

Louise O’Neill is back with another fantastic book with a deep exploration of female characters and toxic relationships, with a shocking end that kept me awake far later than my bedtime intended.

For me, Louise has become that author, who’s book I have to read on its publication day and after completion, I then sit back with my thoughts at the genuinely gripping and atmospheric writing.

The story is primarily seen through the narrative of Keelin Kinsella written in the past and present tense. The past sequences are about her life, her family and meeting her second husband Henry Kinsella, who’s family was a blow in to the remote island and brought much needed economy to Inisrún. Keelin falls for Henry’s charm and security and they marry. But on her 37th birthday party, a young girl was found murdered at the house and this later became known as ‘The Crowley Girl’ and although no one was ever charged with her murder, all fingers pointed towards Henry. Now 10 years later, an Australian film making duo want to make an anniversary documentary about the murder and talk to everyone involved, including Keelin and Henry.

‘After The Silence’ is a new angle for Louise, as it’s the first murder mystery from the Irish author, but having said that, it’s one of the best mysteries that I’ve read in a while.

The setting of the small rural and remote island where only access is available via a boat, gives an eerie and claustrophobic vibe to the story. It’s a small close knit community that was torn apart from the murder and never recovered, with speculation and conspiracies shared at every opportunity.

The characters are extremely interesting in this book, particularly Keelin. She left an abusive relationship for the sake of her eldest son and thinks that she has found love and security with Henry but it comes at a price. He’s controlling and manipulating and has people come to house to do her hair and make-up instead of letting her leave the house. He says that it’s for the best for her, as people have turned against them since the murder. She’s convinced that he’s only looking out for her but as time goes by, Keelin begins to wonder if she has left one abusive marriage for another. Through the past and present sequences, we see Keelin change in character, she becomes meeker and more subdued as her wings become more clipped. Henry is a charming and charismatic man, who boasts wealth and statue but after the death of the young girl, the village have turned on him even though he denies any involvement and hopes the documentary will prove his innocence.

Like Louise’s previous books, ‘After The Silence’ focuses on toxic relationships, gas lighting and inter partner terrorism (a new one for me). She explodes coercive control and writes in great detail, how much a person can change with slowly being chipped away. This story evoked some extreme reactions in me from profound sadness to raging anger to think that there were men and women in the world that are exposed to this type of treatment on a daily basis, unaware of how they were going to be treated to walking on eggshells and not create a negative reaction. It’s also evident that Louise went to huge lengths of research for this book, exploring relationships and police procedures.

As well as the past and present sequences, there are also extracts from the film makers interviewing residents of the island and this makes for really intriguing reading, as they all have their own thoughts and opinions on the night as well as Henry and Keelin Kinsellsa.

As the story is set on a remote island, there are elements of the Irish language throughout it and this gave an almost folklore vibe to the story as well as the tight knit community who all seek to find justice for the young girl.

A compelling dark and twisted story of murder and devastation, ‘After the Silence’ is an atmospheric and psychological story about the justice for a young girl that raises unanswered questions and takes a look at what really goes on behind closed doors when everything is quiet.

You can buy ‘After the Silence’ from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Tell Me How It Ends By Isabelle Grey

Tell Me How It Ends‘Tell Me How It Ends’ is the latest book by Isabelle Grey.

Delia Maxwell is an international singing sensation, an icon of 1950s glamour who is still riding high on the new 60s scene. Adored by millions, all men want to be with her, all women want to be her. But one woman wants it maybe a little too much. Lily Brooks has watched Delia all her life, studying her music and her on-stage mannerisms. Now she has a dream job as Delia’s assistant – but is there more to her attachment than the admiration of a fan? Private investigator Frank is beginning to wonder. As Lily steps into Delia’s spotlight, and Delia encourages her ambitious protegée, Frank’s suspicions of Lily’s ulterior motives increase. But are his own feelings for Delia clouding his judgement? The truth is something far darker: the shocking result of years of pain and rage, rooted in Europe’s darkest hour. If Delia thought she had put her past behind her, she had better start watching her back.

A couple of hours ago, I sat down and began Isabelle Grey’s new book called ‘Tell Me How It Ends’ and I was hardly able to put the atmospheric and intoxicating story of lies and scandal down until I reached the final page.

The story starts at the point that jazz singing sweetheart Delia Maxwell has suddenly disappeared and private investigator Frank is hired to find out where she has gone to. When she returns, it’s to the announcement of her daughter Lily is a new singing sensation forcing Delia to take a back seat in her career. But people aren’t convinced by Lily and all start to look into the background of the young woman who is claiming that the nations sweetheart is her mother.

The story is set in the 1950/60’s and Grey’s vivid descriptions of smoky jazz bars and the iconic fashion from that era really bring the story to life. There are multiple narratives in the story and they all give an interesting insight to story but at the core they all share one common interest they were all affected by the Second World War. James was injured in it and has never got over it, Delia had to flee to safety having lost her sister and parents whilst the consequences of the war is what drives Lily to succeed.

The characters are a fantastic blend of personalities, Delia is a kind and gentle soul who despite people’s opinions believes that Lily is her daughter and only sees the best in her. Lily is a ruthless young woman who’s determined to become famous and doesn’t care who she hurts along the way, whilst Frank has found himself caught in the middle and finds himself falling for Delia’s kind nature.

This book is a beautifully written story that I thoroughly enjoyed. I don’t often read historical books, but the level of detail, description and the plot really hooked me in. With intriguing characters and beautiful imagery, ‘Tell Me How It Ends’ is an intricately written story about revenge and secrets that captivated my attention.

You can buy ‘Tell How It Ends’ from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops.