Friday, 30 June 2017

Review: Mister Tender's Girl

Mister Tender's Girl
Author: Carter Wilson
Publication Date: February 13th 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

I am completely fascinated by urban legends, so when I heard Mister Tender's Girl by Carter Wilson was inspired by the very real 'Slender Man' stabbing, I couldn't wait to read this creepy novel.

Alice owns a coffee and sweets shop called the Stone Rose. 'Silence, memories and nighttime' frighten her. She suffers debilitating panic attacks. Her fears are not unfounded; she lives her life scared with good reason.

When Alice was a young girl living in London, her father created, wrote and inked a series of graphic novels about Mister Tender - a part human, part demon bartender who listens to his customer’s tales of woe and then convinces them to do very bad things.

A few nights before Halloween, Alice is walking home with two school friends. They are obsessed with her father's books and stab her multiple times claiming they were instructed to do so by Mister Tender. She survives the attack, but shortly after she is released from hospital her father stops writing the stories and her parents divorce. Alice and her brother move to America with their mother. Her father is later killed by an unknown assailant, the murderer never caught.

Now an adult, Alice keeps to herself. She is lonely and decides to check a dating site she has signed up with and is horrified to see she has a match under the screen name ‘Mister Tender'. Since moving to the US she has changed her name and never shared her past with anyone.

Wilson composes a very troubling, specific history for Alice and she grabbed my attention from the moment she was introduced. She has trained herself to be physically strong, but mentally she is a mess. Her paranoia is palpable. It overwhelms her and affects how she lives her life. Multi-faceted and flawed, Alice is a complicated personality who maintained my focus and holds her own in the story. She managed to gain my sympathy as well as my admiration, carrying her scars both inside and out.

All of Wilson's characters are rendered with lovingly exquisite detail and he is somehow able to do this with very few words. There is an intensity in his descriptions - from the interactions Alice has with her mother and brother to the customers in her shop.

The tension builds quickly and you know something very bad is coming just around the corner. Wilson's writing conveys a brooding sense of fear that is unrelenting. He convincingly unleashes a terrifyingly real creation into his fictional world. Dark and chilling, Mister Tender's Girl fully lived up to my expectations. Highly recommended.

Thank you to Sourcebooks for the advanced eBook copy to review.

From the publisher:
How far are you willing to go for Mister Tender?

At fourteen, Alice Hill was viciously attacked by two of her classmates and left to die. The teens claim she was a sacrifice for a man called Mister Tender, but that could never be true: Mister Tender doesn't exist. His sinister character is pop-culture fiction, nothing more.

Over a decade later, Alice has changed her name and is trying to heal. But someone is watching her. They know more about Alice than any stranger: her scars, her fears, and the secrets she keeps locked away. She can try to escape her past, but he is never far behind.

Addictive and chillingly surprising, this ripped-from-the-headlines thriller will have you transfixed until the very last page.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: The Child

The Child
Author: Fiona Barton
Publication Date: June 27th 2017
Publisher: Penguin Random House Canada/Berkley (U.S.)

Everyone's got a story to tell.

When a baby's skeleton is found on a building site, reporter Kate Waters becomes fascinated by the case and decides to delve deeper in the hopes of landing a big story for her newspaper. Her investigation leads her to two women – Emma Simmonds and Angela Irving.

Decades earlier and shortly after giving birth, Angela's baby Alice disappeared from the maternity hospital. Although Angela still has hope, no trace of her child was ever found. When the bones are unearthed at the building site, she is convinced they are those of her lost daughter's. 

As a child, Emma and her mother Jude, lived in the house where the dead baby is found. Emma, now an adult and living with her supportive husband, is a book editor who suffers from severe anxiety. She also has many secrets. Over the years she has had a difficult and strained relationship with her mother. 

At the heart of it all is an intriguing mystery in a slowly developing and engrossing story. Who is the mother of the baby and how did it die? Who buried it? As the women's lives intersect, more is revealed about them while the pace quickens. 

The Child is well-written with a strong plot, detailed settings, complex characters and unexpected surprises. With it's intriguing premise and low-key suspense which builds to a crescendo, it is definitely a novel I recommend.

Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada and Netgalley for the eBook copy to review.

From the publisher:
The author of the stunning New York Times bestseller The Widow returns with a brand-new novel of twisting psychological suspense.

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell…

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on The Child here.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: Blackout

Author: Marc Elsberg
Publication Date: June 6th 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Blackout starts with a bang! Ex-hacker Piero Manzano is driving home one night in Milan, Italy and finds himself in the midst of a disastrous traffic accident when all the street lights suddenly stop working. It's the first day of Winter holidays and Europe is plunged into darkness as electricity grids begin collapsing due to an attack of cyber-terrorism. Fuel pumps no longer work and many are stranded without transportation. There is no TV, internet or heat and water stops flowing through pipes. This is going to become the least of Manzano's worries, along with the rest of the population, as more threats loom on the horizon. 

Manzano initially joins forces with the authorities to discover what is causing the blackout, but unfortunately finds himself the victim of a set up. He goes on the run with journalist Lauren Shannon in a race to find out not only who is behind these acts, but how to stop them from causing more devastation.

It's a frightening thought that so little holds society together and what could happen if the electricity that we rely on so heavily, was taken away. The novel plays out well and it's certainly a page turner. The one negative for me was that there were quite a lot of characters and places to keep track of. I would have preferred the author focused more on developing the main protagonists, their backgrounds and interactions instead. However, the pace moved deftly from one scene to the next, so I was able to sit back and enjoy this exciting disaster thriller.

From the publisher:
This is no accident.
This is no act of God. 
This is Blackout.

A terrifyingly plausible million-copy selling debut disaster thriller.

When the lights go out one night, no one panics. Not yet. The lights always come back on soon, don't they? Surely it's a glitch, a storm, a malfunction. But something seems strange about this night. Across Europe, controllers watch in disbelief as electrical grids collapse. There is no power, anywhere.
A former hacker and activist, Piero investigates a possible cause of the disaster. The authorities don't believe him, and he soon becomes a prime suspect himself. With the United States now also at risk, Piero goes on the run with Lauren Shannon, a young American CNN reporter based in Paris, desperate to uncover who is behind the attacks. After all, the power doesn't just keep the lights on―it keeps us alive.

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on Blackout here.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: One of Us Is Lying

One of Us Is Lying
Author: Karen M. McManus
Publication Date: May 30th 2017
Publisher: Delacorte Press

One of Us is Lying begins with five Bayview high school students entering detention together, because of breaking a no cellphone rule. All five claim the confiscated phones aren’t theirs. After an hour one of the students is dead.  Simon, the victim, writes and runs a school gossip app, so he had many enemies. Did one of the students in detention kill him, did all four together or was it someone else entirely? Who had such a terrible secret it was worth killing to keep Simon silent?

The Bayview Four (as they are dubbed in the press) are initially introduced as stereotypes - the Jock, the Brainiac, the Princess and the Bad Boy. As the story progresses it's revealed there is so much more to each of them than that and they all have something they'd desperately like to hide. I loved getting to know each of the suspects, finding out the secrets they want to keep hidden and how they individually deal with the accusations by the police and grow from their experiences as a result. 

The story is told through multiple viewpoints and it's a testament to the author's writing ability that I was easily able to distinguish the different characters from chapter to chapter. I found the four main characters well-developed and very likeable, so I anxiously looked forward to the conclusion to find out who the killer was and why Simon was killed. This was a fun YA mystery, with an uncomplicated style I really enjoyed. Highly recommended.

From the publisher:
Pretty Little Liars meets The Breakfast Club” ( in this “flat-out addictive” (RT Book Reviews) story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. 

Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
    Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
    Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
    Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
    Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
    And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on One of Us Is Lying here.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Isabella's Reading Corner: The Switch

The Switch
Author: Joseph Finder
Publication Date: June 13th 2017
Publisher: Dutton

Michael Tanner, CEO of a specialty coffee company, mistakenly picks up the wrong laptop going through airport security in a rush to catch his plane. In his haste he leaves with the MacBook of US senator Susan Robbins. Unfortunately for Tanner, the ambitious senator has downloaded classified government documents. Robbins and her chief of staff, Will Abbott, will do anything possible to get it back and prevent anyone from finding out.

After reading only a few pages of The Switch I was already hooked and interacting with the book shouting 'No! No!' in the vain hope that Tanner would hear me and realise his error. I suppose if he had there wouldn't be a book!

Finder writes with such detail, yet somehow manages to keep up such a quick pace, I was left a bit breathless. There is never a slow moment. He gets inside the minds of his characters, depicting nuances in all their reactions and experiences with a subtlety I only noticed in retrospect.

From the way Tanner runs his business and communicates with others you know he's a good guy. But now Tanner's life is on the line. The excitement accelerates as he navigates through multiple twists and turns. Will he find a way to survive?

The book is chock full of action and once it gets going, it never stops. As with all the novels I've read by Finder, The Switch was well written and gripping. He's a masterful storyteller who manages to build tension in all the right places. I raced through this clever, suspenseful thriller!

From the publisher:
A simple mix up throws one innocent man into the crosshairs of sinister government secrets and ruthless political ambitions in New York Times bestselling author Joseph Finder’s timely, electrifying new thriller.

Michael Tanner is on his way home from a business trip when he accidentally picks up the wrong MacBook in an airport security line. He doesn’t notice the mix-up until he arrives home in Boston, but by then it’s too late. Tanner’s curiosity gets the better of him when he discovers that the owner is a US senator and that the laptop contains top secret files.    

When Senator Susan Robbins realizes she’s come back with the wrong laptop, she calls her young chief of staff, Will Abbott, in a panic. Both know that the senator broke the law by uploading classified documents onto her personal computer. If those documents wind up in the wrong hands, it could be Snowden 2.0—and her career in politics will be over. She needs to recover the MacBook before it’s too late.

When Will fails to gain Tanner’s cooperation, he is forced to take measures to retrieve the laptop before a bigger security breach is revealed.  He turns to an unscrupulous “fixer” for help.  In the meantime, the security agency whose files the senator has appropriated has its own methods, darker still—and suddenly Tanner finds himself a hunted man, on the run, terrified for the safety of his family, in desperate need of a plan, and able to trust no one.

You can read my original Isabella's Reading Corner post on The Switch here.