‘Hide’ – Nell Pattison

Seven friends head out into the nature reserve where Lauren works. One of the group, Alec, is shot and so begins a tense few hours as they try to work out who was responsible.

We are told fairly on that a number of the group have secrets they are wanting to keep quiet. Alec has, we know, let the group know he is aware of some of the things they’re hiding and so the possibilities for who might have killed him are fairly high.

From the outset we have a fairly claustrophobic setting. As the characters split up to try and find their way to safety we know that time is of the essence. The various characters are developed a little, though I did feel we were deliberately kept out of the loop a little.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the chance to read this prior to publication.


‘Falling’ – T.J. Newman

From start to finish I did not want to put this down. I’d heard rave reviews, wondered if it would be worth the hype and I’m happy to jump on the bandwagon and urge people to read this book.

We open with a routine day; a family preparing for the day ahead. Little do they (or we) know just how rapidly their lives are about to change once the cable guy drops in.

Bill, a pilot of some standing, has been called onto a last minute flight. He regrets letting down his wife and kids, but his duty is important to him. The chilling moment when Bill learns that his family are being held hostage and he has a choice to make had my jaw dropping! Allow his family to be killed in order to protect his passengers, or save his family and be responsible for the deaths of over a hundred innocents. What a dilemma!

Particularly since 9/11 and the increasing instances of terror attacks, this is a very real fear that Newman plays upon. How much do we value duty and family? Which would take precedence? Should anyone ever have to choose? I could not imagine being put in this position and it was gripping to see this dilemma play out.

However, the action focuses on a lot of other characters. We follow them on board and through their experiences and this really brought a sense of immediacy to the story. Some very serious issues were raised, and I genuinely found myself far more caught up in this element than I thought I would.

Packed with drama, plenty of heart-stopping moments and a truly Hollywood ending…what’s not to love?


‘Her Perfect Twin’ – Sarah Bonner

The joy of finding a book that you get so caught up in cannot be underestimated…having read so many of Bonner’s reviews on Twitter, I was desperate to read her debut. I am stunned!

Due out in January 2022, I’m so grateful to NetGalley for letting me get my hands on this early…and I’m desperate to read it again to try and make sense of the twisted mind-games and genius plotting that I’ve been fortunate enough to read.

The book started with a humdinger of a quandary. Megan finds a picture of herself on her husband’s phone wearing electric blue underwear. Only she doesn’t have any. I cannot imagine what would go through your mind in this situation, but when we learn Megan has an identical twin her behaviour and subsequent actions make sense. At this point I imagined we’d get an engaging thriller as we followed Megan try to cover up her actions, but really wasn’t expecting anything too out of the familiar.

If I could only take back all my pre-judgments I would be happy, because within a relatively short space of time we are given a complete bolt out of the blue.

Nothing will be given away here, but it didn’t take long for me to realise we were in far from familiar territory and being played. And there were more shocks to come!

Told in four parts, this story was so cleverly constructed that I really want to go back and reread it to see which elements I’d missed in the initial read. The characters were far from idealised, but those flaws actually played a key role in the success of the plot.

I am so excited to see what friends make of this when it’s released…though I’m still not entirely sure there isn’t something I missed!


‘Bad Girls Never Say Die’ – Jennifer Mathieu

Bad Girls Never Say Die is a book being touted as a feminist reworking of The Outsiders. While it focuses on a group of female characters, the book remains set in the 1960s and – for me – this led to the whole thing having a rather dated premise. If you’re going to rework something seen as such a pivotal text, I wonder why the decision wasn’t taken to set it in modern times and explore modern attitudes.

Nothing much has changed, and perhaps that is part of the point being made.

Our story is told from the viewpoint of Evie, a girl from the wrong side of town who many believe will not amount to much and whose choices are limited not just by money but also by her gender.

Evie experiences a traumatic event. She is rescued by a ‘good’ girl. Scratch the surface though and we see that they are pretty similar. Money does not hide everything.

Though only 15 and always feeling less than her ‘brave’ counterparts, Evie is a character with plenty of spunk. She learns the hard way how this can impact on you and others. Forced to decide just what she wants and how far she’s prepared to go to get it, this is a book that encourages you to think about the mark you want to make on the world.

Interesting idea, and I’m sure it will be loved by many younger female readers.


‘The Trial’ – Laura Bates

A solid read, which will serve its purpose if it gets just one person to think about the way they treat others. Once again, Laura Bates brings her social commentary to a story that you find yourself drawn into.

I don’t usually comment on covers, but this was one I felt drawn to. It shows the power girls could have, in the right circumstances, and it emphasises just how small this little world that the group of characters inhabit is.

Seven teens survive a planet crash as they are travelling back from a baseball tournament. They are, initially, excited by the break from routine but it doesn’t take long for the gaps and issues between them to bubble up.

Very different personalities; each thinks they know the other but their time on the island soon shows they don’t know as much as they think.

Strange events start to take place and some of these events are serious in their potential for harm. A sense of mistrust soon develops and all we know is that it has something to do with a party that was held before the night of their crash. Who is behind this? Can they find out what is going on before someone is seriously hurt?

We learn fairly early on that the tension is real, and that it links to their life before the island. Of course we want to know exactly what led to this point, though it felt quite obvious fairly early on what we’d focus on.

The crash came from now where but as a means to an end it works well. The group don’t seem to know each other very well, and though we could see the developing issues, it was good to see how they all slowly came to realise the significance of their actions/inaction. Unfortunately, it felt as if the latter part of the story was rushed which was a shame as it certainly is a story that has resonance.

This is a book that you feel you ought to recommend though, and I’m grateful to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read the book before publication.


‘Meredith, alone’ – Claire Alexander

Our introduction to Meredith is very matter-of-fact and it’s almost comical how she tells us it’s been over 1,000 days since she left her home. We learn she has a cat called Fred, enjoys jigsaws and has a best friend (Sophie) who comes to check she hasn’t died and been eaten by her cat! However, someone willingly becoming a social recluse has – in all likelihood – experienced a traumatic event, and it doesn’t take us long to see these signs in Meredith.

The book focuses on Meredith making the best of her very narrow life. Interspersed with details of her online friendship are details of her developing friendship with Tom, part of a charity group that befriends people in isolation, and details about her brief interactions with her sister and mother. Through the course of these interactions, and the flashback memories of her past, we come to learn more about Meredith and how she came to be in this situation.

While there is not a lot of action in the plot, we’re given a clear picture of Meredith and her experience. As we grow to learn exactly what happened to her I feel it’s hard not to feel sympathy for her, and anger on her behalf.

The details of Meredith’s story are not easy to read. She’s a character who becomes increasingly self-aware, and seeing just how those who should have been helping her treated her was challenging. It’s a fairly bleak story, told with love and I can’t help but feel Meredith will be a name we’re hearing a lot of next year when she ventures into the open.

Huge thanks to NetGalley for allowing me into Meredith’s world early. It was a true experience.


‘Nobody But Us’ – Laure Van Rensburg

Nobody But Us is being touted as a must-read of 2022, and I can completely see why. Topical, cleverly constructed and a book that was very hard to put down.

The book starts at our end point, and I’m always a sucker for stories where we’re working our way up to the event and trying to piece together what has happened and why. This does something very common, but so well…and I can see this appealing on so many levels.

A horrific crime scene. We know nothing more, but the detective called out to investigate is shocked. This tells us it’s bad. Then we get a perplexing jump, focusing on Ellie and Steven heading to a remote cabin for a romantic get-away. Steven is a professor with a chip on his shoulder about his father, and Ellie is a student who seems besotted with her lover. Be warned…sometimes things are not as they seem.

While I found the initial shift in focus confusing, it is very necessary to make sense of the revelations that come out during the course of the book. I was expecting to be manipulated, but the reality of the deception showed the depths of the damage caused by such events.

The focus throughout is on the couple and the things each is hiding. We slowly piece together the grim facts, and it’s at this point that I have to stop. Going into this not knowing more than we’re told is vital. I’m eager to see how this is received, but I’ll be recommending it widely.

Thanks to NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read this prior to publication in exchange for my thoughts.


‘The Gifts that Bind Us’ – Caroline O’Donoghue

I enjoyed book one, but hadn’t loved the book as much as I’d hoped to. However, this was a much more engaging read. Darker in tone, focusing on a range of concerns and the magic felt more natural in this.

Moving on from the events surrounding Lily, the group are practising their magic and preparing to move into the next phase of their lives. They’re all looking forward, and a substantial part of the book focuses on how it feels when something so momentous starts to fragment.

Maeve is the one most affected. Unsure of her academic potential she seems destined to stay in their town, and is struggling to understand why the others are so determined to leave. She fears losing Roe and her friendships with Fiona and Lily come under pressure.

When events begin it wasn’t clear where we’d end up. The girls head back to school and are shocked to see signs of the Children returning. This toxic group has worked their way into school, trying to establish a hold on those susceptible to their message. However, it soon becomes apparent that they’re after something much bigger.

As events unfold we learn more about Maeve and her friends, their skills and the way groups such as the Children operate. There’s some unexpected developments regarding some familiar figures and it was lovely to see certain elements developed more fully here. Dramatic moments, plenty of witchy action and a wonderful focus on friendship.

Thanks to NetGalley for allowing me to read this before its scheduled February 2022 publication.


‘Only a Monster’ – Vanessa Len

Monsters are, traditionally, the things we hate but in this fascinating story we not only get to learn more about the monsters but we also are encouraged to side with them. Nothing is quite what it seems.

Our main character, Joan, is aware of feeling different. Her family background is a mix of cultures, and though she loves her father’s family she also enjoys the time she spends with her mother’s side of the family. When we first meet her she is spending the summer with her grandmother and spending time working at a local historical house. She was drawn to the place, and is excited to be going on a date with Nick, another volunteer.

On the day of her date, Joan learns something about herself that she could not have foreseen. The truth about her family is revealed, and it sets in place an awful chain of events with Nick at its heart.

Without giving too much away we learn that monsters walk the earth. We don’t know how they came into being, but they can travel through time…only they have to steal time from humans to do so. Joan is half-monster. Nick is the hero created to destroy monsters – so him falling in love with a monster is never going to be a good idea!

What we get is a tense and dramatic time-travel fantasy story, with lots of potential strands for development. I am desperate to learn more about the history of the monsters, and am pretty sure that we have not seen the last of the characters that make this such an exciting read.

Though not due for publication until early 2022, I’m grateful to the Secret Readers for allowing me the opportunity to read it in advance of publication. Exciting stuff!