Review: Hot Mess by Emily Belden #BlogTour


Release date: March 20, 2018

Publisher: Graydon House

Genre: Women’s Fiction


Sweetbitter meets The Devil Wears Prada in this riveting and provocative novel set in the trendy Chicago restaurant scene.

Twenty-something Allie Simon never imagined she’d fall for a recovering drug addict—but that was before she met Benji Zane, Chicago’s hottest up-and-coming chef, who’s known as much for his hard partying ways as for his unparalleled culinary skills. Six months into their relationship, the food and chemistry are out of this world, but the reality of living with a cooking wunderkind hasn’t exactly been all hearts and flowers. Still, Allie’s convinced that her love is the key to fixing this talented man’s broken soul—so when Benji is offered his dream job as chef de cuisine for a new restaurant opening on Randolph Street, Chicago’s foodie hot spot, Allie agrees to invest her life savings in his future. But less than a month after she goes all in, Allie learns a heartbreaking lesson: addicts lie. Benji cracks under the pressure, relapses and disappears, bagging out not only on the restaurant, but on her, too. Left with nothing but a massive withdrawal slip and a restaurant that absolutely must open in a matter of weeks, Allie finds herself thrust into a world of luxury and greed, cutthroat business and sensory delight. Lost in the mess of it all, she can either crumble completely or fight like hell for the life she wants and the love she deserves.

With razor-sharp wit and searing insight, Emily Belden serves up a deliciously dishy look behind the kitchen doors of a hot foodie town.

I’m so pleased to be hosting a stop on the blog tour for Hot Mess today! Check out TLC Book Tours for the full schedule.


If you like wickedly delicious humor, a not so perfect love story and mouth watering descriptions of food, Hot Mess needs to be on your TBR! This is told solely from Allie’s point a view, a twenty five year old woman entangled in a dark relationship with a bad boy chef, Benji. I’m not sure if hot mess even accurately describes the total nightmare that is their union, but she believes in Benji despite his drug addiction and selfish behavior. I liked Allie and was totally rooting for her, she’s young and a bit naive but she’s loyal to a fault and she had a sassy side that was great. Benji was ugh, I’ve been in a relationship with a drug addict before and it’s not pretty, Belden did a great job accurately portraying what’s it like to live with an addict.

While much of this book was light and fun it has a dark edgy side that was realistic. As much as I consider myself to be a minor foodie I don’t know much about actually operating a restaurant and the insiders look at the not so glam industry was juicy and fascinating. It’ll also make you hungry and may even cause you to want to binge watch Top Chef, or maybe that’s just me? The writing was solid and full of snark with a side of millennial humor and a dash of social media obsession, what more could you want?! Maybe a bit of romance? Don’t worry, Belden has you covered this is a sexy little read but the romance isn’t the star, the food is! And Allie, she’s a bright little star and the backdrop of Chicago doesn’t hurt either, it adds a hip vibe that was really cool. If you like foodie fiction definitely check this one out, totally recommended.

Hot Mess in three words: Snarky, Sexy and Delicious.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for my review copy.

About the Author:

Emily Belden is an author for powerhouse publisher, Harlequin/HarperCollins. She is represented by famed literary agency, Browne & Miller, along with 44 Blue Productions in Burbank. The SoCal studio is adapting her memoir into a comedic series.


Connect with Emily

Website | Facebook  | Twitter

Review: The Flight Attendant by Chris Bohjalian


Release date: March 13, 2018

Publisher: Doubleday

Genre: Mystery/Thriller


Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She’s a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, already counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police–she’s a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home–Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it’s too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did?


Chris Bohjalian is one of those authors I’ve been meaning to read for the longest time, I’ve heard nothing but great things about his books and was super excited that I would finally be reading one of his books, this one sounded exactly like the kind of book that I would end up loving and I had heard he was an excellent writer. After finishing and really thinking about this one before I wrote my review I can definitely say that yes, he is a fantastic author but this one really didn’t excite me as much as I had assumed it would.

This started out very strong for me, Cassie is the perfect representation of what I expect in an unlikable narrator, she’s a hot mess and she knows it, she’s unashamedly badly behaved and I liked that she owned her crappy behavior and questionable decision making skills. The premise was also interesting even though I’ve read similar books, but the whole waking up next to a dead body will honestly probably never get old for me. After the initial setup I just got bored though, I’m all for a slow burn but this moved at an extremely sedate pace and I just could not stay focused. It actually took me over a week to read and that’s a super long time for me, I’m a book every day, every two days at the most reader and getting through this one felt like work, never a great sign. It was missing excitement and tension and when things finally seemed to heat up I really didn’t care all that much and then it was just a little too far fetched for me to believe.

Here’s my dilemma; the author can write, there is no question about that and his attention to detail is impeccable, there was a lot of interesting information about flight attendants that made me keep turning pages and I always appreciate a writer who has done their homework. But I’m wondering if his style is always this way, do his books follow a similar pattern? If you’re a fan of his work what’s your favorite book of his? Because I really want to add something else of his to my TBR but if all of his books are similar to this I may have to pass…So help me my fellow bookworms, do I call this a fluke and give him another shot or is it a case of a mismatch between author and reader and move on? I hate when a book/author is super popular and I just feel like I don’t get the hype!

Overall rating: 3/5 (Full disclosure, this would be like a two from me based on plot and pacing but the solid writing made me bump it up, it was that good. Also, I skipped my three word sum up because I am just way too torn to pick three words, sorry!)

Review: The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon


Release date: March 13, 2018

Publisher: MIRA

Genre: Domestic Suspense


In 1992, a car accident kills a young man and forever changes the lives of three people… Now, twenty years later, they’ll all come to regret the choices they made that day, as the secrets and lies they’ve told to protect each other become the very things that tear their lives apart.

After a night of fun, Abby was responsible for the car crash that killed her beloved brother. It is a sin she can never forgive herself for, so she pushes away the man she loves most, knowing that he would eventually hate her for what she’s done, the same way she hates herself.

Twenty years later, Abby’s husband, Nate, is also living with a deep sense of guilt. He was the driver who first came upon the scene of Abby’s accident, the man who pulled her to safety before the car erupted in flames, the man who could not save her brother in time. It’s this guilt, this regret that binds them together. They understand each other. Or so Nate believes.

In a strange twist of fate, Liam (her old lover—possibly her true soulmate) moves in with his own family next door, releasing a flood of memories that Abby has been trying to keep buried all these years. Abby and Liam, in a complicit agreement, pretend never to have met, yet cannot resist the pull of the past—nor the repercussions of the dark secrets they’ve both been carrying…


The Neighbors is the kind of book that sneaks up on you, it lulls you into a sense of complacency with its lighter style of suspense and intrigue and then BAM the last few pages deliver an onslaught of twists that make you go, oohhh I see what you did there! I absolutely loved that approach and found it to be a really nice change of pace from a typical super fast paced thriller with twists and turns throughout, there was an air of refinement in this one that worked so well for me.

This is told both in the present day as well as in flashbacks from 1992, the year Abby’s brother was tragically killed in a car accident and she was the driver. Besides Abby you also hear from her husband Nate and her daughter Sarah. Liam is Abby’s ex boyfriend and you see his wife Nancy’s point of view as well. As you can see there is a lot going on here but ensemble style narratives are one of my favorites, especially if they’re done well and McKinnon did a fantastic job, each character had a unique voice and each proved to have a pivotal POV by the end. They were also very well drawn and extremely well written which is always an added bonus when you have such a juicy plot.

This centers on two families who are keeping secrets from each other and you just know that all of those lies and betrayals will come out eventually, but Man was the wait well worth it. I kept thinking about how I would feel if one of my ex boyfriends, or worse one of my husbands ex girlfriends moved in next door to us and I can’t say the thought appeals to me whatsoever haha! It’s a recipe for disaster and oh how I love a delicious fictional disaster and this one delivered! Recommended for fans of lighter suspense that’s highly entertaining, think Jessica Strawser or Liane Moriarty, no blood or guts just good old fashioned secrets and lies.

The Neighbors in three words: Sneaky, Subtle and Riveting.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh


Release date: March 13, 2018

Publisher: Berkley

Genre: Mystery/Thriller


Two years ago, Tom and Caroline Johnson committed suicide, one seemingly unable to live without the other. Their adult daughter, Anna, is struggling to come to terms with her parents’ deaths, unable to comprehend why they chose to end their lives. Now with a young baby herself, she feels her mother’s presence keenly and is determined to find out what really happened to her parents. But as Anna digs up the past, someone is trying to stop her. She soon learns that nothing is as it seemed.


Clare Mackintosh is one of those authors that is just such a genuinely great writer that I would read literally anything she puts out there. There is something about her style that never fails to reel me in and then she also comes up with these deeply complex characters that pull on your heart in a emotional way which is odd for a psychological thriller. On top of all of that, she never fails to surprise me with a multitude of twists and even though I may have figured out part of what was going on before it was actually revealed, I didn’t guess everything and there was plenty to shock me.

What’s revealed in the blurb about Anna is really all that you need to know so I’m not going to rehash that here, you’ll thank me later when you read this because you definitely should go into this one as blind as possible. But there is another point of view that of Murray, a semi retired police officer who gets entangled with Anna’s parents case and I would up absolutely loving him and the subplot concerning him and his wife. Without saying too much, Murray and Sarah’s story added an additional layer to the plot without detracting from the main one, it gave it extra depth that I valued and appreciated.

If you haven’t read Mackintosh before I highly recommend all of her books and if you’re already a fan I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one as well. This is a slow burn with fantastic characterization so if you like that style, you should check this one out. No one pulls off a final page plot twist quite as well as she does and even though I’ve come to expect it from her by now I never do manage to guess what it’ll be and it always leaves me shocked and awed.

Let Me Lie in three words: Clever, Twisty and Tumultuous

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin #BlogTour

About If I Die Tonight Paperback:384 pages
Publisher:William Morrow Paperbacks (March 6, 2018)

Reminiscent of the bestsellers of Laura Lippman and Harlan Coben with a dose of Big Little Lies or Stranger Things an absorbing, addictive tale of psychological suspense from the author of the highly acclaimed and Edgar Award-nominated What Remains of Me and the USA Today bestselling and Shamus Award-winning Brenna Spector series, in which a seemingly open-and-shut police case with a clear-cut hero and villain turns out to be anything but simple.

Late one night in the quiet Hudson Valley town of Havenkill, a distraught woman stumbles into the police station and lives are changed forever.

Aimee En, once a darling of the 80s pop music scene, claims that a teenage boy stole her car, then ran over another young man who’d rushed to help.

As Liam Miller’s life hangs in the balance, the events of that fateful night begin to come into focus. But is everything as it seems?

The case quickly consumes social media, transforming Liam, a local high school football star, into a folk hero, and the suspect, a high school outcast named Wade Reed, into a depraved would-be killer. But is Wade really guilty? And if he isn’t, why won’t he talk?

Told from a kaleidoscope of viewpoints Wade’s mother Jackie, his younger brother Connor, Aimee En and Pearl Maze, a young police officer with a tragic past, If I Die Tonight is a story of family ties and dark secrets and the lengths we’ll go to protect ourselves.

Purchase Links

HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


This was one of those books that pulls you in right from the start, it has a powerful prologue and then flips back in time five days earlier. It’s told from a handful of perspectives but I enjoyed hearing from Jackie, mom to two teenaged boys and Pearl, a police officer the most. Jackie was relatable to me and I could feel her anxiety and fear for her sons, it broke my heart to pieces and the author did a fantastic job at showing a mother’s worst fears. You get a sprinkling of police procedural as well with Pearl’s POV and she was exactly the kind of cop I like reading about, flawed and damaged with an interesting backstory but still has a heart of gold.

This book scared me and I don’t mean that in the traditional sense of the word, it scared me in a realistic way as I can easily see this sort of thing happening in real life. Wade is an outcast at his high school, he’s a social pariah and really has no friends. When’s he’s the main suspect after his super popular classmate is hit by a car, what little dignity and solitude he had is shattered. Social media played a huge role in this book, much as it plays a huge part in all of our lives daily and showcased the dark side of it and how powerful it really can be. The gossip, speculation and rumors after the small town of Havenkill are rocked by the accident is unreal, the author likens it to a virus, a disease and that’s such a great comparison as these vicious rumors infect the whole town and impact so many people’s lives.

This was my first book by Gaylin and I’m really impressed, she weaves a compelling story and one that kept my attention the whole way through. This would be a great book club read as it tackles many relevant and current issues such as peer pressure, metal health issues and the negative effects of social media. Recommended for fans of authors like David Bell and Harlan Coben.

If I Die Tonight in three words: Timely, Compelling and Tense.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for my review copy.

Photo by Franco Vogt[/caption]

About Alison Gaylin

Alison Gaylin is the award-winning author of Hide Your Eyes and its sequel, You Kill Me; the standalones Trashed and Heartless; and the Brenna Spector series: And She Was, Into the Dark, and Stay with Me. A graduate of Northwestern University and of Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, she lives with her husband and daughter in Woodstock, New York.

Find out more about Alison at her website, friend her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.

Review: The Babysitter by Sheryl Browne @SherylBrowne @bookouture #BlogBlitz


Release date: March 8, 2018

Publisher: Bookouture

Genre: Psychological Thriller


You trust her with your family. Would you trust her with your life?

Mark and Melissa Cain are thrilled to have found Jade, a babysitter who is brilliant with their young children. Having seen her own house burn to the ground, Jade needs them as much as they need her. Moving Jade into the family home can only be a good thing, can’t it?

As Mark works long hours as a police officer and Melissa struggles with running a business, the family become ever more reliant on their babysitter, who is only too happy to help. And as Melissa begins to slip into depression, it’s Jade who is left picking up the pieces.

But Mark soon notices things aren’t quite as they seem. Things at home feel wrong, and as Mark begins to investigate their seemingly perfect sitter, what he discovers shocks him to his core. He’s met Jade before. And now he suspects he might know what she wants …

Mark is in a race against time to protect his family. But what will he find as he goes back to his family home?

If you loved reading The Girl on the TrainBehind Closed Doors and The Sister, you’ll love the suspense of The Babysitter. This unputdownable read will have you turning the pages until way after dark.

I’m thrilled to be one of the stops on the blog blitz for The Babysitter today!


I absolutely love the premise for this one, the idea that a couple has let someone into their home to work with their children that has less than honorable intentions, it’s terrifying! Jade seems like the perfect babysitter for Mark and Mel’s children, but she’s too perfect and you know what they say about if something seems too good to be true…

This was an extremely fast paced and exciting read, I read it in just two sittings and only then had to stop to deal with real life otherwise it would’ve been a one sitting read. It had super short chapters which is always a favorite of mine and Jade was the type of character you just love to hate. She was manipulative and deplorable and you know right away she’s up to no good but what intrigued me was wondering what her motivations were and also what her master plan was, what was her end game? I thought I had it all worked out by Browne threw me for a loop with some surprises that were unexpected. I really loved how things all came together in the end and the final chapter was particularly special, clever lady!

The Babysitter in three words: Sinister, Engaging and Sly

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

About the Author:

Sheryl Browne brings you powerful psychological thriller and contemporary fiction. SheryI’s latest psychological thriller THE BABYSITTER – the first of a three-book deal – comes to you from fabulous BOOKOUTURE. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association and the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and previously writing for award winning Choc Lit, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.

So why does Sheryl write in two genres? Quoting E. L. Doctorow, Sheryl says: “Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights…” This she thinks sums up a writer’s journey, you never quite know where you are going until you get there. You might start with an outline, but a strong character will always divert from the plot. If Sheryl’s not sure where a character is going, she simply has to trust him to show her the way. Plus, according to one reviewer, she also has a scary insight into the mind of a psychopath.

Please do find out more about Sheryl at


and Twitter

Review: The Sandman by Lars Kepler #TheSandman #LarsKepler

Release date: March 6, 2018

Publisher: Knopf

Genre: Crime Fiction


The #1 internationally best-selling thriller from the author of The Hypnotist tells the chilling story of a manipulative serial killer and the two brilliant police agents who must try to beat him at his own game.

Late one night, outside Stockholm, Mikael Kohler-Frost is found wandering. Thirteen years earlier, he went missing along with his younger sister. They were long thought to have been victims of Sweden’s most notorious serial killer, Jurek Walter, now serving a life sentence in a maximum security psychiatric hospital. Now Mikael tells the police that his sister is still alive and being held by someone he knows only as the Sandman. Years ago, Detective Inspector Joona Linna made an excruciating personal sacrifice to ensure Jurek’s capture. He is keenly aware of what this killer is capable of, and now he is certain that Jurek has an accomplice. He knows that any chance of rescuing Mikael’s sister depends on getting Jurek to talk, and that the only agent capable of this is Inspector Saga Bauer, a twenty-seven-year-old prodigy. She will have to go under deep cover in the psychiatric ward where Jurek is imprisoned, and she will have to find a way to get to the psychopath before it’s too late–and before he gets inside her head.


Ahh I’m SO excited to share my thoughts on The Sandman today!! There’s a blog tour going on featuring some of my favorites bloggers and Instagram accounts so be sure and check them out for all sorts of fun content. You may want to check out my Instagram later today too….😜


Allow me to introduce you to my first MUST read book of 2018. If you’re a crime fiction fan you absolutely cannot miss this book, it’s extremely fast paced and exciting, the twists and turns are executed flawlessly and the serial killer is one of the most terrifying I’ve ever read about. If you’re at all hesitant please share your concerns with me because I promise you, if you start this one I don’t think you’ll regret it for one second.

This is the fourth book in a series following Joona Linnea but you can definitely read it as a standalone as I did as each book in the series seems to follow new cases with reoccurring characters. Speaking of characters, this book had some of the most complex, interesting characters I’ve ever encountered. They’re all multilayered and have fascinating histories, I fell a little bit in love with Joona and Saga. Jurek scared the daylights out of me, I probably shouldn’t have finished this at one am when my entire family was asleep but no way was I about to put this one down before I finished!

Much of the story takes place inside a high security psychiatric institution, talk about a creepy atmosphere! There were so many intense, heart pounding scenes that took place inside those walls and they were so well written that I was scared myself. Between the extraordinarily crafted setting and the crisp, precise writing style, I just could not get enough of this one. I’ll close by urging you once again not to miss this one, it’s outstanding!

The Sandman in three words: Gripping, Transfixing and Petrifying.

Overall rating: 5/5 (ALL THE STARS)

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

About the Author:

Lars Kepler is the pseudonym of critically acclaimed husband and wife team Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril (b. 1966) and Alexander Ahndoril (b. 1967), authors of the internationally bestselling Joona Linna and Saga Bauer series. With six installments to date, the series has sold ten million copies in 40 languages.

The Ahndorils were both established writers before they adopted the pen name Lars Kepler, and have each published several acclaimed novels.

Alexander and Alexandra married in 1994 and have three daughters together. They live in central Stockholm.


Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril was born in 1966, and grew up on the south coast of Sweden. In the early 90s, Alexandra moved to Stockholm to pursue a career in acting though she eventually became an author.

In 2003, she published her critically acclaimed debut novel Stjärneborg (Stjerneborg) about the life of astronomer Tycho Brahe which received the Katapult Prize, Birgitta och Katarina (Birgitta and Katarina, 2006) about the life of Saint Birgitta of Sweden, and Mäster (2009), about the radical socialist August Palm.

In addition to her work as an author, Alexandra has also been a literary critic for two of Sweden’s largest newspapers, Göteborgs-Posten and Dagens Nyheter.


Alexander was born in 1967 and grew up twelve miles north of Stockholm. Alexander studied philosophy, religion, and film at university. His first novel was picked up when he was nineteen.

Before he began writing as Lars Kepler, he had already penned twenty theatre plays, one opera libretto, nine novels including Regissören (The Director, 2006) a novel about Ingmar Bergman. Regissören was nominated for several awards, including the prestigious Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and has been translated into 11 languages.

#BlogTour Fire on the Mountain by Jean McNeil @jeanmcneilwrite @legend_press


Release date: February 15, 2018

Publisher: Legend Press



When NGO worker Nick drops unexpectedly into the lives of Pieter and Sara Lisson, he feels he has found the parents he never had. Nick is enraptured by their lives of splendour and acclaim as much as the stirring setting of the African city where they live, but he soon senses a secret at the heart of his new family. Nick then meets Riaan, the Lissons’ son, and so begins an intense connection that threatens to erupt into a relationship neither had ever considered. In the shadow of the Brandberg, the glowing mountain that stands at the heart of the desert, Nick will discover that his passion for Riaan is not the only fire which threatens his newfound home.

I’m so pleased to be the stop on the blog tour for Fire on the Mountain today! I have an extract to share with you all.



‘Nice part of town,’ the taxi driver said, as soon as I gave him the address. I couldn’t read the tone in his voice – envy, rue, contempt. Perhaps all three.

We began the long ascent of the mountain. I craned my neck to look at the city beneath us. I could see where I had come from now, the wide-mouthed harbour anked by half- nished highways. This was where I’d been marooned for days. Some of the overhead yways simply stopped abruptly halfway along the roadway, like the highest platform in a diving pool. From up here the gigantic Chinese container ships and oil rigs looked so much smaller. I allowed my eye to skate over the ship, but even so my heart lurched as its green hull ashed at me in the mid-day sun.

We kept ascending, so quickly my ears popped. I could smell jasmine and frangipani through the car windows. We wound through tree-darkened avenues. The houses expanded with each metre climbed until they were full- blown palaces. Finally the taxi delivered me to a sandstone- coloured structure perched on the side of the mountain. It looked like a house you might nd in a Dutch village, adapted for life in the subtropics.

‘I didn’t know it was possible to live this far up,’ I said to the taxi driver.

‘It is if you’ve got enough money.’

I buzzed the gate and spoke to a woman’s voice – Sara, I supposed. The gate slid open and we glided up the drive, so steep it felt like being in a funicular. Stout plants clambered over the terraced levels on either side of the driveway; they were spiky and bulbous at the same time, with avid, rubbery leaves.

A blond woman with jade green eyes descended the steps to the house. She seemed to oat; her sense of ownership was that complete. She was long-legged, dressed in white trousers and a sand-coloured blouse.

‘Pieter is out running,’ Sara said, as she gave me her hand. ‘He’s training for the marathon.’

‘Oh.’ I nearly said, but I thought he was a writer. I’d never pictured a writer running a marathon.

‘Come in, let me get you some coffee.’

I dropped my bags. I saw her eye glance at them nervously, as if I had brought dogs and not luggage. She motioned for me to sit in the living room.

When I entered the room I couldn’t help but stop and stand stock-still. My jaw may even have fallen open.

‘Quite the view, isn’t it?’ Her voice, the cool neutrality of it, told me that many a guest had been similarly stopped in their tracks.

The wide arc of the bay was stretched out before us. In the distance was the low, whale-like back of Garzia Island, which even with my slim knowledge of the city I knew was a former penal colony from when the Portuguese were still loitering on this promontory of the planet, hoping for lucre.

To the right of Garzia Island were blonde hills which gleamed like ax in the sun. The mountain with its strenuous attened peak lled an entire window. The living room was glass on two sides. The thought entered and exited my mind, too eeting to matter. People in glass houses.

Sara went to the kitchen. Later she would tell me she asked me to sit down three times that morning but as soon as I sat I stood up again.

I could not tear my eyes away from the mountain. The jagged peak that marked one undulation of its range soared into the sky, piercing a hole in it. Next to the house a date palm towered, its trunk of scaled chocolate bark perfectly offsetting the dark shale of the mountain. Straight ahead was the ocean; off to one side was the harbour, half-hidden behind a headland. My eye rested on it again for a second. The ship, patiently waiting alongside the quay.

I reminded myself it was Saturday. Tomorrow the ship will leave.

‘So,’ Sara began, when she nally got me off my feet. ‘How long are you here for?’

‘I’m not sure. I – I’ve just had a change of plan.’

She nodded, calmly. If she had been English, alarm bells would already have been sounding in her mind: How long will I be stuck with this person? Why does he have so much baggage? Why has a random contact of our niece ended up on our doorstep?

‘Well this is as good a place as any to have your plans change.’ She smiled easily, warmly, I thought. ‘You can certainly stay here as long as you like. We’ve got no one coming until April.’

It was mid-December. ‘It shouldn’t be that long, at least I hope not,’ I said. ‘I’ll just make some arrangements for my trip home, and then let you know.’

‘That’s absolutely ne. It’s a pleasure to have a friend of Ruth’s here.’ Her delivery was unruf ed, awless.

I accepted Sara’s invitation to join her on a walk on the mountain behind the house. She met me at the bottom of the steps. She’d changed into trim shorts. She must have been in her late fties or early sixties but her legs were perfect; there was nothing of the tell-tale bulge of skin at the knees, or those black spidering veins. I stared long enough for her to take my amazement as a compliment, perhaps, because she gave a sudden smile.

We started down the road, which soon ended in a paved cul-de-sac. From it a path led into a sparse forest. It was dry as tinder in areas, the ground parched and weedy. All

the trees and owers we passed were unfamiliar – thick, bulbous owers. They looked water-hungry but somehow thrived in the seasonally dry climate.

We came to a ssure in the mountain. The sound of water cascading came to meet us. The trees parted to reveal a narrow stream.

‘Slaves would come here to wash clothes,’ Sara said. Her voice was complex – rich, melodic, but with a tinge of darkness to it, or perhaps this saturnine note was code for her disapproval of the city’s history.

I looked up, trying to nd the mountain’s summit among clouds. I could feel it, somehow, that this shaded bower had once been a place of hardship. Alongside the river were stone steps, knee-worn through hundreds of years of prostrations, and beside them, at, table-like washing rocks. I could see the interlacing strata of grey mudstone and sandstone, its outer shield dark shale. Then layers of granite: feldspar, quartz, black mica, all glittering in the strange bright light.

Sara smiled. ‘You seem trans xed.’

‘By the mountain? I guess so. I used to be a geologist.’ ‘But now you work for a humanitarian relief organisation.

How does that t in?’

I was used to this comment. I can’t work you out, people

– colleagues, my line manager, strangers met on planes, would say.

‘It’s complicated.’ I offered an apologetic smile.

‘Everything’s complicated.’ Her laugh was itself complex, rueful, rise-above-it-all. ‘Pieter should be back about lunch- time. He’ll need to take a shower and wind down.’

‘Does he often train for marathons?’

‘Oh yes, and cycle races, triathlons, endurance contests. Everyone does that here.’

By everyone she couldn’t have meant the squatter camps I’d seen on the way in from the airport, their faded tutti- frutti shacks, people inside broiled alive by tin roofs in the

summer and congealed in winter. They were enrolled in a different endurance contest.

We arrived back at the house. Sara showed me to their guest at, which was self-contained but attached to the main house through an internal door. She told me they had designed and built the at themselves, and that she used to see her clients there while Pieter worked in his basement of ce.

By then the sun parried the swift ocean clouds for position and shone through, the light bright, carrying within it the promise of a humid heat, should the clouds dissolve. I stood in the light for a minute as Sara undid the three locks and de-activated the house alarm. I registered what was about to happen to me. For a moment, I thought I would be alright. But I could only watch helplessly as the air gathered itself into blackberries, then went dark.

‘We thought we’d lost you there.’

up.It felt like I was lying on concrete. I realised I was. I sat

I opened my eyes into the face of a blond-haired man. He was crouching on one knee. His ngers were wrapped around my wrist. He might be a doctor. There was a clinical glint in his gaze. His voice was familiar, somehow, although I’d never seen him before.

‘Nothing to be sorry about. We’d like you to lie down inside, though. You might nd that more comfortable.’

‘Hey, take it easy.’

‘I’m so sorry.’

‘I haven’t been sleeping well,’ I said, as the man helped me to my feet. ‘I haven’t been eating either.’

‘Not sleeping and not eating, hey?’ His tone was avuncular, but suspicious.

‘I’ve been under a lot of stress – at home.’

‘That’s ne, Nick, don’t worry,’ Sara’s voice came from somewhere behind me. ‘We just want to make sure you’re alright. You fainted stone dead, there.’

I realised the man was Pieter. ‘We’re going to put you in bed and then we’ll call Marina, our doctor.’

‘No!’ I nearly shouted. ‘I mean, I don’t want to put you to any trouble. Please don’t make a fuss. It’s just dehydration. I’ll take a couple of salt sachets. I’m not concussed. I’ll be ne.’

They looked at me in tandem, a double-headed puppet of concern, the same kind-but-wary expressions on their tanned, shining faces. They don’t know you from Adam, I told myself. You have to reassure them.

‘I’ve had some dif cult decisions to make recently, and it’s left me very strung out. But I’m ne, now.’

Sara gave me the sturdy, professional look psychiatrists likely turn on liars.

‘Okay, Nick. But take those salts and get some sleep. We’ll check on you in a few hours.’

When I woke it was late afternoon. My bedroom had a patio door. I opened it and was confronted with a garden, two chairs, and the same panoramic view of the harbour and mountain, although the majestic sweep I’d admired in the living room was curtailed by the curve of the house.

The light lay in gold ribbons on the anks of the mountain. A heat haze had settled over the harbour, blurring the outlines of supertankers. My eye scurried over the quay where the ship was moored but not before I’d seen that it was still there.

I resolved to tell Pieter and Sara the truth, of my fainting spell, why I was here, why I had no idea how long I would stay. They had been kind to me, they deserved to know.

Pieter appeared from around a corner. He wore a crisp white shirt tucked into jeans and a leather belt. He was barefoot and his hair was plastered to his head from his shower. He was very thin – one of those men who are naturally so. You could see the architecture of the bones and muscles in his face.

‘How are you feeling?’ ‘Much better.’

‘You haven’t got a headache?’

‘No, nothing like that. No concussion.’

‘That’s good. I had one once. I came off my bike, just up

there, on the mountain.’

This was the moment in which I would say, Look, I’ve

just made this crazy decision I don’t understand. I’m not supposed to be here, but I’ve got nowhere to go.

We turned our faces in tandem, like sun owers, toward the setting sun.

‘This time of year the sun rises in the sea and sets behind the mountain – we get light all day,’ Pieter said. ‘The people who live on the other side are spared the wind but they get far less light.’

My confession unravelled itself, or it abandoned me, or I let it be carried away by the moment. I had so little experience with secrets, guilty or otherwise. I’d never liked them; a secret was a dripping overheated greenhouse.

‘I’ve never been anywhere the wind is so erce in the summer,’ I said.

‘Not like that in England, is it?’

A dog appeared, a mongrel, or a cross, a bullish dog with a bruiser’s face.

‘Hello, Lucy.’ He turned to me and grinned. ‘The name doesn’t really t the face, does it. But she’s a sweetheart. Arr! Grrr!’ He planted his legs wide apart, a position of mock threat. Lucy went wild with pleasure, charging away, thrilled, then turning on a dime to come back to face the monster.

Behind Pieter I saw a bright light that seemed to zing from inside him in a perfect giant Z, a ash of miniature lightning.

‘What was that?’

‘Transformer.’ Pieter pointed to a sizzling cylinder nestling in a telegraph pole halfway down the road. ‘They often explode – too much load on the system. Don’t be alarmed if the electricity cuts out. We have candles.’

He turned back to the dog, who rushed at him, growling, purple gums bared. For a moment I thought she would bite. But she stuck her head between his calves and squealed with delight.

‘We have rolling electricity cuts, this time of year,’ he went on. ‘They announce them in the paper, supposedly, but it can cut out any time.’

‘Are there shortages?’

‘Ah, if only it were that easy. No, it’s corruption, mis- management. A new government is about to be elected, although we’re in a one-party state, effectively. It makes you appreciate how useful it is to have two political parties contesting each other, however bad either of them will be. At least it bestows symmetry if not a chance for historical dialectic.’

His speech reminded me of the policy analysts in our of ce in London. I wasn’t used to athletic, vital men who were also intellectuals, if that’s what Pieter was. I lived in a country where a certain kind of man got things done, and a certain kind of man thought about things. Perhaps here they could be one and the same.

‘It’s not only power, but other infrastructure.’ He pointed into the harbour. Along its perimeter, an eight-lane highway conveyed sun-glinted cars into the interior like platelets rushing down an artery. Pieter told me that the diving board freeways I’d seen on my way in had been built in a spasm of economic optimism, which had just expired.

‘You are English, aren’t you?’ he peered at me.

‘The way you say it, it’s not a good thing to be.’

‘Well, it might not be, you know. The English don’t

have a good reputation in this country. They quashed the independence movement, then established a colonial system that set the country back a hundred years.’

‘I am,’ I conceded. ‘But I don’t feel very English. I was brought up all over the place – South America, Canada, the Caribbean.’

‘Was your father a diplomat?’

‘My mother, actually.’

‘Ah,’ Pieter gave a thin smile. ‘I fell into that trap didn’t I? Sorry. You know, you don’t look English either. You’re too dark. In fact you don’t look anything.’ He smiled. If I had known him better then I would have said I always felt like someone drawn in pencil. A child’s drawing of a man, maybe. Anyone could take an eraser and rub me out.

‘I’m impressed you still have the energy to play with the dog,’ I said. ‘After all that running.’

Sara answered for him. She emerged from the patio into the full sun, her hair gleaming. ‘Pieter’s got amazing energy. You’ll see.’

I turned to face Sara. ‘It must be so gruelling.’

‘Yes, it is sometimes.’ Sara smiled.

‘No, I didn’t mean… I meant the training.’

Sara only laughed. ‘Get some sleep, Nick. And don’t

forget to rehydrate.’

There was something jarring in her voice, not dismissive

but rather ironic, as if they still did not believe my story. I turned to look into her eyes. The note in her gaze was evaluative – masculine, I would have said until recently, but I realise now that this is a shorthand for something intangible I associate with men: a streamlining of judgement, an absence of empathy, or perhaps better said, a professionalisation of it. Or maybe just something withheld.

I went to bed in their granny at. Despite my fatigue I could not get to sleep for a long time. I listened to the night wind, which sliced sideways along the garden. Through a ssure in the curtain I saw the lights of the city stretched around the bay, a semi-circle of distant ickering candles.

I found myself thinking of Sara, of her contained quality. Her jade eyes and heart-shaped face. She was a professional, well-to-do, elegant woman who drove a Mercedes, but I had a sense this version of her was a decoy.

As I fell asleep that night in my new bed I thought, these are the strangest days I have lived in years, possibly in my

whole life. Here I am, in the house lled with people I don’t know, in a city where I never expected to spend more than a few days, telling lies, or no, that’s not quite right: not telling the truth. Why then do I feel such serenity, as if I have come home?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a weekly post to share what you recently finished reading, what you’re currently reading, and what you plan on reading this week. It’s hosted by Kathryn at Bookdate.

What I Read Last Week:

Woman Last Seen in Her Thirties was a relatable read about a woman starting over after a divorce.

Only Child was a heartbreaking read, very timely and moving.

Silent Victim was a dark, twisty psychological thriller, loved it!

Sunburn was a slow burn, a hypnotic read.

The Hunger was a historical retelling with a supernatural twist, dark and creepy.

A Perfect Marriage was a family drama, a quick read.

I love Slater and The Visitor was another great read.

Closer Than You Know was fantastic, a blend of legal thriller and domestic suspense.

The Perfect Girlfriend was a disturbing tale of obsession.

Currently Reading:

Up Next:

My reading mojo is back!! I’ve read some outstanding books lately and it’s definitely helped me get back into the swing of things. My kids are also healthy for now!! Anyway, I had a fantastic week and hope it continues through the month. I’m super excited for all of my planned reads this week as well, many I’ve been dying to read for awhile.

How was your week?!

Review: The Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth


Release date: March 6, 2018

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Genre: Contemporary Fiction


The small suburb of Pleasant Court lives up to its name. It’s the kind of place where everyone knows their neighbours, and children play in the street.

Isabelle Heatherington doesn’t fit into this picture of family paradise. Husbandless and childless, she soon catches the attention of three Pleasant Court mothers.

But Ange, Fran and Essie have their own secrets to hide. Like the reason behind Ange’s compulsion to control every aspect of her life. Or why Fran won’t let her sweet, gentle husband near her new baby. Or why, three years ago, Essie took her daughter to the park – and returned home without her.

As their obsession with their new neighbour grows, the secrets of these three women begin to spread – and they’ll soon find out that when you look at something too closely, you see things you never wanted to see.


The Family Next Door is garnering comparisons to Big Little Lies and normally when a publisher compares a new book to an older blockbuster I’m annoyed when it doesn’t live up to the comparison. Well, this time the similarities are well founded, this most definitely will appeal to fans of BLL and I predict it will be a smash hit.

This follows five woman who live in the same neighborhood, Essie, Fran, Ange, Barbara and Isabelle so if multiple perspectives are your thing, you’ll be happy with the structure. This was such a fast, effortless read, I tore through it because it was so easy to get caught up in the women’s lives. Plus, they all had juicy secrets and I couldn’t wait to find out what they were hiding.

This was one of those books where I thought I had everything figured out and knew exactly what would happen next but Hepworth had plenty of tricks up her sleeve and I didn’t accurately predict anything, I love that! This is perfect for fans of lighter style suspense, no blood, guts and gore just good old fashioned secrets and betrayals.

The Family Next Door in three words: Dramatic, Evasive and Entertaining.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.