Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Book Review: ONE EYE OPEN

Title: One Eye Open
Author: Alex Grecian
Illustrator: Andrea Mutti
Publisher: TKO Studios
Pages: 100
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


One Eye Open by Alex Grecian reminded me of The Monkey’s Paw by WW Jacobs. Their basic ideas were pretty similar.

Charlotte Jessen dies under mysterious circumstances, killed perhaps by her husband of 42 years, Tor. Her daughter, Laura Roux, returns to her childhood home with her teenage daughter, Juniper, two days after her mother’s funeral. The mother and daughter are recovering from a tragedy. Laura’s husband, Jacob, was killed in a tragic accident while attempting to teach Juniper how to drive.

They are here for good, although Juniper doesn’t know it initially. Laura hopes this will be their new beginning.

But Juniper is not happy with having to move to this small village in Denmark, away from her life in the US. To make things worse, she finds the townsfolk rather odd, every one of them behaving suspiciously.

Then Juniper comes to know of a horrible tradition that has prevailed over centuries. One that arose out of the need to ensure that there are enough hands to reap the harvest that the endless wheat fields in the village are blessed with.

But that’s the thing about tradition. It has to be repeated.


The book is written in the third person limited PoV of Laura, Juniper and Kaspar.

This was my first attempt at reading horror. It was disturbing but so well written that I just kept on reading. Who would have thought something as innocuous as wheat fields could induce a feeling of discomfort and horror? But the author has done it.

He has created the image of an insular community, holding dangerous secrets that have the power to turn against the community.

Most prologues are completely unnecessary, but here, the Prologue hitches us in, creating the right mix of intrigue and dread. Very quickly, we realise that something is terribly wrong.

Nine of the chapters began with beautiful watercolour illustrations that set its characters deeper in our minds. Of course, to be honest, I didn’t need the illustrations. My own imagination was doing a pretty good job of throwing up images to upset me. Having said that, I must say the illustrations were superb and added to the impact created by the book.

The writing was good, and the issues that it discussed, death, grief and loss are such as to resonate with all of us, particularly when the loss has been a sudden one. The accident which caused the death of Jacob was painful to read. We can relate to the pain of the mother and daughter.

Just one mistake, in Chapter 9, Kaspar turned into Konrad.

I couldn’t quite understand the title, One Eye Open. Perhaps it refers to the warning, Sleep with one eye open.

(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 

Monday, October 25, 2021


Title: The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted
Author: Robert Hillman
Publisher: GP Putnam's Sons
Pages: 304
My GoodReads Rating: 

It is both ironic and fitting that a book called The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted should have at its heart an everyman protagonist with the tender name of Tom Hope.

Tom, a socially awkward man, is a character that endears himself to us from the very start. When his wife of 22 months, Trudy, leaves him, he is heartbroken. Then one day, months later, she returns pregnant, and Tom learns to love the child, Peter, who receives no affection from his mother. Then Trudy leaves again, leaving Peter behind, and Tom and Peter are happy together. Tom cherishes the little boy as his own, and the little one, in turn, nurtures towards Tom a fierce loyalty.

Their happiness is short-lived, for Trudy, having found God in a cult, returns to claim him. Three-year-old Peter, forcefully taken away by Trudy, cleaves Tom’s heart apart more grievously than before. He learns to hide his sorrow and his acute loneliness by keeping busy. Just he, his dog, Beau, and the sheep. Working hard, his face was a terrain of wood dust traversed by shallow valleys carved by sweat.

And then one day, he espies a new shop with a sign in Hebrew, saying, To the God of the Hopeless, bless this shop. It is the Bookshop of the Broken Hearted.

Tom falls in love with Hannah, the owner of the shop, a woman full of life and colour who believes that For every book, someone loves it.

The flashback takes us to May 1944, when Hannah Babel, husband Leon and son, 3-year-old Michael, are being transported to an unknown destination in a wagon overcrowded with Jews. It is Auschwitz where some of the worst excesses of the Holocaust were wreaked. There Hannah loses both her husband and son and suffers unbearable heartbreak.


At first, the two stories of Tom and Hannah seem parallel, with seemingly no connection, but they do find their way to one another.

With Tom being what he is, we find ourselves feeling aggrieved, on his behalf, against Trudy, the wife who won’t stay faithful to a man who treats her well, preferring to go away with an abusive man.


The book is set in Australia. I enjoyed the descriptions of life on the farm, the work of milking and herding, Tom’s work as a farmer and handyman, and the descriptions of how the farm gets lashed by the elements. So also the descriptions of the carpentry, and the welding and fitting. Together they brought home to us the character of a man who was patient, hardworking and not afraid of labour, a man who was simple and deserving of so much more than life had doled out to him.

Bit by bit, Tom lets the little child, Peter, heal his heart. He is afraid to enjoy the happiness that has come to him in the shape of his child, fearing that the boy may be taken away from him. As the author says, The hammer blow that is expected, braced for, does no less harm than the ones that come from nowhere.

The writing in this book was beautiful. We can’t always discern happiness, strong happiness, without the evidence of laughter, whooping, the dancing of a jig. It’s possible to experience the most intense happiness of your life behind a  grave, withholding expression. As an adult, at least. Not usually at the age of eight. 

Hannah with her quiet wisdom is a character that will stay with the reader. She is afraid that the bookshop will bankrupt her or that Tom will stop loving her one day.

I just love unconventional love stories, and this one with Hannah being 12 years older than Tom was exactly that.

The spirit of hope pervaded the book. The Hungarian Jewish women were learning Yiddish in the dark from Lithuanian Jewish women even though they could well be dead in the morning. The hopelessness of Auschwitz against the Jews who preserved their own learning philosophy.

Robert Hillman is one author to watch out for. 

(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021


Title: Whispers and Screams
Author: Kerri Lapierre and Nadia Teoli
Publisher: Independently Published
Pages: 66
My Goodreads rating: ⭐⭐

This book, with 13 stories of horror, promised to be one terrifying read. It was anything but.

The presentation needed improvement. The names of the stories were only mentioned in the Contents. The stories themselves were separated by images, but there was no mention of the names of the stories.

The stories were badly written. Tenses changed arbitrarily within paragraphs and even sentences. In one story, a sound is described as being too ornate to be made by the wind. Another sound is described as being ‘soft and quiet like a nursery rhyme.’

All the stories end abruptly. Short stories don’t allow room for much character development, but here, stories end before they even begin.

Come Closer was the only story that I thought could have turned out better if more effort had been put into it. The rest of them are all developments of banal ideas that you have read better versions of in other places.

Of course, the collection isn’t meant for grownups. But even my teenage daughter, who loves RL Stine, found the stories weak, unable to even create an atmosphere of foreboding.

(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021


Title: Something Wicked (Andrew Basnett #1) 
Author: EX Ferrars
Publisher: Felony & Mayhem
Pages: 218
Goodreads rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Seventy-year-old retired professor Andrew Basnett moves into the cottage of his nephew, Peter Dilly in the country, while his own flat in London is being redecorated.

There he meets Peter’s neighbours, Jack and Amabel Fidler, Godfrey and Hannah Goodchild, Simon Kemp and his estranged wife, Ruth, who is the daughter of Pauline Hewison, the widow of Charles Hewison. Charles was shot dead on a day when heavy snow and an electricity outage had caused the village to be cut off from the town.

Pauline has been under suspicion for the killing of her husband. Everyone believes there is something wicked about her. The charge was never proved, with Jack and Amabel giving her a rock-solid alibi, but almost everyone else thinks she is guilty.

Now six years later, Henry Hewison, brother of Charles, is found dead in Peter’s cottage. Andrew believes there is a strong connection between the two killings. But the question is, is Pauline guilty or is the killer someone else?


A cozy mystery, this book fit right into the style employed by British mystery novelists of the last century. I could actually imagine the polished notes of a British accent delivering the narrative parts in a BBC production.

Peter has won tremendous fame after shifting gears and becoming an author of science fiction books. His character is like a Raymond West to Andrew’s Miss Marple, allowing his uncle the use of his cottage at no cost. The author references Agatha Christie not only by mentioning that Andrew enjoys reading her books (he reads two books out of Peter’s collection), but also through Peter's character.

It was interesting to read about a protagonist at 70, with the added risks from an advanced age. The author gives us a sense of the character’s age when she writes, There is nothing like the ageing of people much younger than oneself for making one feel really old.

I really liked Andrew. He is intelligent, and listens to the things people say and don’t say. He is intuitive when it comes to the tone and intent of what people speak. At 70, he is at what I see as the youth of old age, and very well suited to the role.

With just eight chapters, the book was a quick read. There was a faint tone of menace, exuded by the inclement weather, and the fact that the electricity is out for much of the time. The setting of a charming, if slightly isolated, English village at Christmas comes through.

The resolution was very satisfying and the book cover is utterly charming. 

(I read this book on Edelweiss. Thank you to the author, the publisher and Edelweiss.) 

Monday, October 18, 2021

Book Review: JUDGMENT

Title: Judgment
Author: Joseph Finder
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 399
Goodreads rating: ⭐⭐

Juliana Brody takes the decision to have one more drink while at a conference. It impairs her judgement and she ends up sleeping with a venture capitalist called Matias Sanchez. They decide that it is a one-night stand and they will never meet again.

But then he walks into her courtroom while she is presiding over a hearing on a sex discrimination lawsuit filed by Rachel Meyers against her former employer, Wheelz. She comes to know that Matias is in fact a lawyer on the Wheelz defence team. Juliana decides to be impartial but Matias intends to use his power to blackmail her. Juliana is threatened to rule in favour of Wheelz or lose everything that she holds dear.

When she goes to reason with Matias in his hotel room, and finds him dead, she realizes that the danger is worse than she feared. Clearly she is up against a very powerful enemy.

Trooper Markowski and Detective Krieger are on her trail, having found her sunglasses in Matias’ room. Duncan asks her to leave after hearing of her one-night stand, while Jake, her son, is busy vaping marijuana and losing interest in studies.

Is there a way out of this predicament for Juliana? Or will she lose her job, her reputation and her family?


The author makes us feel Juliana’s sense of entrapment. That she is a tough cookie is something we see for ourselves when she argues against Jake’s expulsion with the head of his school.

I didn’t like Juliana Brody much. Male authors often fail to get into the skin of a female character. At one point, she remembers husband Duncan’s dalliance, then, in the same breath, thinks she is lucky to have him. Looking at him in a picture pf peaceful domesticity, she feels the tears come on. The omniscient narrator tells us, this happens once in a while. And all along, the woman is ruthless in the courtroom. The combination just didn’t work for me.

On the other hand, the author’s sensibilities clearly lie with Duncan, showing him willing to take responsibility on the home front, despite being a busy law professor himself.

The title, Judgement, plays on several levels. Juliana is a judge and passes judgements. Now here is a judgement that affects her life. Meanwhile, her husband and son think she is too judgemental. Then there are the judgements she is subjected to as a woman. The higher you climb, the thinner the air gets and the ledge you walk on gets narrower and narrower.

The pressure on a woman to stay on the straight path is much higher than that on a man. This fact is brought out strongly. We are all standing on a fraying crust above a deep pool of magma. We’re one random fissure away from being incinerated… Complete control is always an illusion… There’s always magma underfoot.

There’s a lot of stuff about surveillance and the use of cutting edge technology. And it’s hard to believe that when the bad guys are as bad as they are here, with international crime links, with federal law enforcement not willing to touch them, Juliana thinks she can continue to play ball. It’s too unrealistic.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021


Title: The Identical Opposite
Author: Clay Savage
Publisher: Ocean Park Press
Pages: 274
Goodreads rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Paula Hickman, chronically depressed, lives with her professor husband, Alan, in a large house. When Anthony Mills, her former boyfriend, who she hasn’t met in twenty-five years, moves into the house opposite with his wife Hannah, Paula is shocked to see that she looks exactly like her.
But no one else seems to think so. They see a vague resemblance, but nothing like what Paula believes and insists is true.
Then Hannah is found murdered on the very night that Paula is found to have attempted to slash her own wrists. Did Paula give in to jealousy and kill Hannah? The jealousy that might have led her to kill her roommate, Emily Jenkins, because she dared express an interest in Anthony. That case was deemed a suicide, but was it Paula’s doing?
The trouble is that Paula’s own memories of that night are fuzzy, and she has no idea what she might have done. She doesn’t think so, but she can’t remember anything. And it doesn’t help that her journal offers glimpses into her worst self.
How can she prove the truth when she has no idea what the truth is? And is Paula the only one to have invented a persona to hide her true self?


Written in the third person omniscient PoV of Paula, a most unreliable narrator. The narrative takes us on a flashback, where we meet Allyson Clements, her boyfriend, Anthony, his younger brother Darius, and Paula’s roommate, a girl called Emily Jenkins, who dies after falling off the terrace of a building.

The book introduces us to the ravages of mental illness. Paula knowingly creates personas of herself to keep herself sane. As she tells us, To be self-invented is to be human. 

It also talks about depression and the toll it takes on individuals without making it sound pitiable and pathetic.

The style of the writing is gripping and engaging. The characters are well etched. I liked Jacob Russo for his paternal solicitude towards Paula. At 81, the man lets neither age nor infirmity stand in the way of his support of Paula.

I also liked Paula, and understood the demons that tore at her heart after all that she had been through. The lawyer, Lincoln Childress, also made an impression, not only with his overall persona and dedication to the case, but also with the single anecdote relating to his personal life that makes him less of a caricature, more relatable to us.

I found myself on edge, racing through the pages in my haste to figure out what happens next. The action is plentiful and well described, and the pace just right. The conflict resolution was handled well, albeit a little too swiftly. Bonus points for the completely apt image on the cover.

There were a few mistakes though. In Chapter 31, a character, Valerie, says, Viola, when she needs to say Voila. In Chapter 1, Paula plays a game of Truth or Lie with Alan, twice in the space of a few paragraphs. Then in Chapter 13, Alan reflects that Truth or Lie was a game they played very often. It seems odd that a game that two main characters played that often is mentioned twice in the first chapter, and then forgotten. A serious continuity issue there.

Another time a character is said to have wretched, instead of retched.

The book was about the personas we create to suit our needs and how everybody does it. We learn in the book, Perceptions are often a poor reflection of reality. This is the message at the heart of this book, one that is reiterated constantly.

(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021


Title: The Truth and Other Hidden Things
Author: Lea Geller
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Pages: 309
Goodreads rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Elsbeth (Bells) Walker, nearly 43-year-old mother of 16-year-old Sam and 13-year-old Alice, learns of a third pregnancy after a failed IUD on the very day that her husband, Harry, an English Professor at Manhattan University, loses both tenure and his job. Suddenly there are doubts about the future.

It doesn’t help that the Walkers are all over-achievers. Hanna Cohn, Bells’ mother, looks down on her for enabling her family. Neither Bells’ husband nor kids pick up after themselves, expecting her to feed and care for them. And both Bells’ mother and mother-in-law, Vivian, make her feel inadequate. The kids have their own issues, with Alice facing ADD and Sam keener on music than academics.

When Harry gets a job at Dutchess University at Pigkill, a small college upstate, it’s an opportunity to start afresh. But the challenges continue. The kids don’t take too well to the news of the move or the baby, and the local PTA moms, headed by glamourous Cynthia Plank, look down on her, she decides to vent her frustration anonymously through a column in a city newspaper that she is sure no one in Pigkill will read.

While she vents on the wrongs she sees around her, her own life seems to be rapidly crumbling around her.  How long will it be before her secret is out? And what will the fallout be?


Written in the first person of Elsbeth, the main narrative is interspersed with the column. The style promised to be funny and witty but I found it bitter and caustic from the start. Elsbeth was funny neither in the first-person narrative nor in the columns. The only exception was the chapter on yoga which was funny in parts.

I liked the premise with which the book set out. I thought it had potential, but it wasn’t fully explored. Bells came across as sanctimonious, and better than the others. She made no attempt to befriend anyone. Best friend Suki pointed out to her that she never reached out to make friends. She makes only one friend in Pigkill, but she abuses the trust in that friendship just to elicit some fodder for her column.

I did feel for Bells, especially when the other moms belittled her for not having high achievers for kids. But the gossipy tone of her column was a huge put-off for me. I found her obnoxious not only because she seemed to relish sharing salacious gossip, but also because other people’s sins were really not her business.

Her very first column is unnecessarily snarky and prompted by the feeblest provocation on the part of Cynthia and her coterie. The stuff she overhears the three PTA moms saying about her is hardly vicious enough to warrant the diatribe she unleashes upon them.

She also errs in misusing information told to her in confidence. She writes outrageous content that she doesn’t have a shred of evidence to support, driven on by the carrot of online validation.

Instead of describing this book as funny, I wish the blurb had brought up other issues such as post-partum stress, the fact that she receives no appreciation from her own mother, is never considered good enough, and is taken for granted by her selfish overgrown manchild of a husband and her selfish, demanding kids.

It was this background that made the story important and worth listening to. At heart, Bells is a flawed mother who makes many mistakes, but the challenges she faces are things that need to be brought into the open.

(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 

Monday, October 11, 2021


Title: The Adventures of Geraldine Woolkins
Author: Karin Kaufman
Publisher: Createspace
Pages: 142
Goodreads rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I read this charming book back in 2018, when my kids were quite young, but I never got around to posting the review. Back then, I had read it aloud to my kids, known on my blog as La Niña and El Niño, and they both enjoyed it thoroughly. Before long, they had become the characters, La Niña was Geraldine, and El Niño was Button, and by extension, I was Lily and the Husband was Nigel.

Geraldine Woolkins is a little mouse who lives with her father Nigel, mother Lily and brother Button in a hole in a tree.

In time she learns the importance of remembering the lessons from her past, how eating too many dandelions had caused her stomach to do flip-flops. Her parents teach her to enjoy nature in all its forms, squishy and scratchy. 

After a fire burns their tree down, Lily reminds her daughter, We can always start again… as long as we’re all together.

Geraldine wants to be brave. But she is small and quivering. A dreaded fox, Quinton Thrasher turns into her protector for the kindness shown by her father to him, a reminder that no good deed goes unrewarded.

There isn’t a real plot. But things happen, and the characters do what they do.

The Book of Tales is their wise book from which lessons are taught and passed on. The book contains stories of other animals that Geraldine and Button can learn from.


So many useful lessons within its pages. This is good advice for little mice and little humans too. How the paths we walk have been made by mice who lived before us and how we should learn from older folk and their experience. How you can’t know everything at once, knowledge takes time. When you’re a mid mouse, you’ll know these things. About the seasons and the regularity of nature, the mice learn, Nothing that God makes is taken away forever. The need to show gratitude before one partakes of a feast. Grace first, spoon down.

There are other lessons about not clinging to the past or chasing after the future. Lessons that could be easily extrapolated to the human condition.

Geraldine reflects on the things her parents tell her. Sometimes she has to think a lot before things make sense.

And what an endearing name for God, Very Very Big Hands, who can hold the world together and still care for the wellbeing of very very small mice.

When I read aloud that Geraldine’s mother wiped her hand on a leaf, La Niña said, in awe, “She has so many handkerchiefs,” unwittingly learning a lesson about the abundance in nature. Both kids talked about how it felt to have this book read aloud to them, like being enveloped in love and comfort.

This story was just brimming over with lessons. When Geraldine says that she does not like not-happy endings and when she and Button are impatient to reach the end of the story, Mama scolds them, The story takes as long as it takes, and no less. She adds, You must learn to let a story be… It ends when it ends. Not before and not after.

Geraldine also learns that Not all adventures are happy from beginning to end… Sometimes the very best adventures have sad parts. She believes, True stories were the best stories.


There are lessons everywhere and Nigel and Lily are wise parents, using the Book and every opportunity to share their values. Echoing Ecclesiasticus, Papa tells Geraldine, There’s a time to stay near the hollow, and a time to leave it. He warns, Don’t gather so many berries, you can’t carry your backpack.

Life can be full of dangers, especially when you’re a little mouse, but Papa says, There’s no adventure without peril. He also tells her not to be boastful, that the best she can do is try.

I liked the way the author described the manner in which Geraldine’s father opened the Book, wide, like the juiciest of walnuts. And Geraldine loved the very sound of the stories’ words and the way she felt when Papa closed the book and all was well.

This book is a treat for young kids.

(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 

Tuesday, October 05, 2021


Title: The Assistant
Author: Cathryn Grant
Publisher: Inkubator Books
Pages: 308
Goodreads rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Laura aspires to a promotion in Avalon Systems. It is her dream to be appointed the Ops Director, just the first of achievements in her rise to the top. It is for this dream that she has given up her marriage.

The only person who stands in her way is Vanessa, the admin to the boss, Hank. Vanessa won’t let Laura meet Hank, won’t even fix an interview with him. Feeling aggrieved, Laura begins a rumour that Vanessa and Hank are sleeping together. When the rumour fails to gain ground, she decides to do whatever it takes to get the promotion she deserves.

How far will she go to get the job of her dreams?

The book is written in the third person limited point of view of Vanessa and Laura, in alternate chapters.

The book brings out the class distinctions that permeate the corporate world. How the jobs people do are often judged on the basis of status and prestige within the company. How women are often judged even when it is the man’s fault. How people in a subordinate position are dismissed as part of the machinery, and not expected to have a constructive opinion about the business.

Both women are stereotypes, conforming to type. One meets less pronounced versions of both Laura and Vanessa at work. Lauras who are ambitious and entitled and Vanessas who let their looks and closeness with senior colleagues define them.

This is the second book set in the corporate world I’ve read in the space of a month that eschews the use of the surname, mentioning them at the end of the book. Laura’s surname, Bachman, is mentioned only at the 79%-mark, Hank’s surname, Conti, came at the 87%-mark, and Vanessa’s surname, Hillman, comes at the 93%-mark. I found it off that the author let us have such a close look at the characters' lives but refrained from sharing their surname earlier on. 

This book also uses interior monologue to post information about the past. There is a lot of character exposition and not enough action to warrant being called a thriller. We get to see endless details about their personal lives, their relationships with their partners, the minutiae of their lives. But not so much of the two women and the dynamics between them.

The women are stereotypes at work, but outside the workplace, they have complex, layered lives, and face different kinds of issues.

Both women are alone, Laura actually so, and Vanessa, craving excitement in her relationship with fiancé, Matt. Both live dangerously, Vanessa with her guilty pleasure, and Laura with her decision to keep running at the school track, even though the mentally disturbed homeless man who runs at her heels is making her uncomfortable. Both have a guilty secret that could wreck their lives. Both have different kinds of expectations from Hank.

But the book does raise some pertinent questions about the lack of diversity at the workplace, especially at higher levels, how women have to work twice as hard to have their contribution recognised, how they are constantly judged for their appearance, and accused of using their sex appeal to get ahead.

As a plot for a thriller, it wasn’t very strong. The Assistant was more about human nature and the compulsions that drive us. The writing was good. A whole universe existed inside each human skull.

I’d definitely read this author again.

 (I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 

Monday, October 04, 2021


Title: Circle of Doubt
Author: Tracy Buchanan
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Pages: 302
Goodreads rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Emma Okoro and her husband Dele, a biracial couple, move to the fictional village of Forest Grove with their 10-year-old adopted daughter, Isla. But Emma still doesn’t fit in, and feels judged and rejected by the trendy, stay-at-home mums that live there.

When Tatjana Belafonte, a glamorous fashion designer-turned-stay-at-home mum, befriends the shy Emma, she is pleased to have made at least one friend. But Tatjana has a hidden agenda. Emma too can’t shake off the fear that Tatjana bears an uncanny resemblance to Jade Dixon, Isla’s birth mother.

Emma loves Isla and can’t bear the thought of losing her, especially because of a secret in her past that might deem her unfit to be a mother. She keeps second guessing herself under the warfare unleashed by Tatjana, who begins an insidious game of manipulation, even seemingly turning Isla against her mother. Dele thinks Emma is overreacting and refuses to heed her fears.

Tatjana seems determined to take Isla away from Emma. But Emma isn’t going to give up her daughter. With Isla’s future hanging in the balance, which woman will succeed?


The book is written in dual PoVs, the first person PoV of an unnamed narrator who addresses Isla, and the third person PoV of Emma. The first person account is short, while the 3rd person account is longer. The narrative also includes posts from the Mums of Forest Grove FaceBook group. These posts are not relevant to the main plot but are just a side act.

The book calls attention on shy children and the difficulties they face, and at how some mothers shamelessly guilt-trip others. The chapters are short and make for easy reading.

I liked Emma and could identify with her, having been a shy kid myself. She knows her own inadequacies, and that makes her real. On the rare occasions, when Emma got confrontational, I rooted for her. I liked the fact that she listened to her instincts.

What was annoying was Dele not believing her.

The village is idyllic and beautiful, and yet just as probable a setting for deviousness, because human nature is the same everywhere. It serves as the perfect foil for the less than perfect residents, all seemingly comfortable in themselves.

Tatjana’s plans aren’t hidden from us, but the suspense comes from how she will attack Emma in the one area that she is most vulnerable in, her precious motherhood. 

There was a twist at the 65 percent mark, after which I lost interest a little bit. Things just weren’t as heated as they were in the first half of the book. The back story of the antagonist wasn’t as compelling as I’d hoped. Even the menace seemed very muted.

One minor character only in her late forties is described as having ‘old cranky bones.’ I found the description unnecessarily ageist.

I generally enjoy domestic thrillers, but the intensity behind this one petered out quickly.


(I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 


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