Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Don't Tell Teacher

Don't Tell Teacher by Suzy K. Quinn

Paperback, 384 pages
Published 25th July 2019 by HQ

abuse, adult-fiction, books-i-own, crime-thriller-mystery, mental-health, read, read-in-2021, realistic-fiction

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

School should have been the safest place…

For Lizzie Riley, switching her six-year-old son Tom to the local academy school marks a fresh start, post-divorce. With its excellent reputation, Lizzie knows it’ll be a safe space away from home.

But there's something strange happening at school. Parents are forbidden from entering the grounds, and there are bars across the classroom windows.

Why is Tom coming home exhausted, unable to remember his day? What are the strange marks on his arm? And why do the children seem afraid to talk?

Lizzie is descending into every parent’s worst nightmare: her little boy is in danger. But will she be able to protect him before it’s too late?

Don't Tell Teacher is one of those books that is quite hard to review without giving away any spoilers - but I will do my very best. This was a book unlike any other that I've read before which was as equally as intriguing as it was anxiety-inducing!

The story revolves around Lizzie who has moved her child, Tom, to a new area and a new school after fleeing from problems with her abusive ex-husband, Ollie. Shortly after moving to his new school, Tom's behaviour and health begins to deteriorate and it soon becomes clear that someone is controlling and hurting him. Throughout the book both Lizzie, social worker Kate and the reader try to discover what exactly is happening.

Throughout, we are introduced to the perspectives of several different characters which makes for fast-paced, easy reading but sadly does not allow any of the characters to build any great complexity. I was particularly disappointed with the narration of the social worker, Kate, who initially seemed as though she had so much potential but sadly was under-developed as a character. There is such an important message within this book about the issues within social care - the fact that many of the workers are dangerously overworked, underfunded and generally under-supported despite their important work. Bringing awareness to these issues is  of great importance and what was covered was well done but I think there was even more potential to explore this.

I can't say that I didn't become frustrated and a little confused at some of Lizzie's actions, though this became more comprehensible by the end of the book. I did have my suspicions of 'whodunit' by the middle of the book which turned out to be correct, but Quinn did a great job of cleverly making me doubt myself throughout. Despite my predictions, I still really enjoyed the twist at the end as it's something that I've not come across before in a book and it's definitely a jaw-dropper.

On the whole, Don't Tell Teacher was a gripping, easy-to-read book that kept my attention throughout. I wish the characters had been more complex, but as a psychological page-turner, I would certainly recommend this book for anyone looking for a compelling read and I will definitely look forward to reading more by Suzy K. Quinn in the future. 

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

I, Witness (Madison Attallee #1)

 I, Witness (Madison Attallee #1) by Niki Mackay

Paperback, 352 pages
Published 19th April 2018 by Orion

adult-fiction, arc-or-review, books-i-own, crime-thriller-mystery, read, read-in-2021, realistic-fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

They say I'm a murderer.

Six years ago, Kate Reynolds was found holding the body of her best friend; covered in blood, and clutching the knife that killed her.
I plead guilty. 
Kate has been in prison ever since, but now her sentence is up. She is being released.
But the truth is, I didn't do it. 
There's only one person who can help: Private Investigator Madison Attalee, the first officer on the scene all those years ago.
But there's someone out there who doesn't want Kate digging up the past. Someone who is willing to keep the truth buried at any cost.

I, Witness is the first book in the Madison Attallee series by Niki Mackay. This is the first book that I've read by Mackay but I can definitely say that it will not be the last. I was both impressed and completely captivated by this compelling psychological thriller.

This story focuses on Kate Reynolds, a young woman who is convicted for a crime - the murder of her best friend, Naomi - that she no longer believes she committed. On release from prison, Kate turns to Private Investigator Madison Attallee who also worked on the original crime investigation. The story follows the discovery of the whole story of what happened on that night and what led up to the crime. 

The story is told with alternating narration, each chapter following either Kate or Madison's mindset. This form of writing was fantastic as it gave us short bursts of each character and it was so easy to tell myself 'just one more chapter'! Though both of the main characters held my interes, Madison was the absolute star of the book and I loved reading about her. She was such a raw and real character, clearly dealing with her own complex issues whilst also helping Kate with her trauma. It was so refreshing to read about such a perfectly imperfect character and I am so glad that this series will continue, giving us the opportunity to read and learn even more about her sweary, chain-smoking, rock-music loving self. The realism of all of the characters in this story was fantastic. 

Whilst this story deals with some clearly difficult and traumatic issues such as death, alcoholism and domestic abuse, it was a relatively quick read for me as I was just so desperate to keep on reading. The pacing of the book is fantastic and it really is the definition of a 'page-turner'. There are several twists and turns in the book and though the ending may become somewhat guessable nearing the latter-half, it still holds your attention until the action-packed end. 

As you can probably tell, I really enjoyed this book and it's definitely something I would recommend to anybody who enjoys the crime or psychological thriller genre. I, Witness was simply but well written, not overly complex but always intriguing, entirely entertaining and I can't wait to read more from Mackay!

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Born Killers?

Born Killers? by Dr Kris Mohandie 

Paperback, 256 pages
Original Title: Evil Thoughts: Wicked Deeds
Published 3rd September 2020 by Mirror Books

arc-or-review, books-i-own, crime-thriller-mystery, historical, let-down, mental-health, non-fiction, not-for-me, read-in-2020, to-be-reviewed
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

Over his 30-year police and forensic psychology career, Dr Kris Mohandie has come face-to-face with kidnappers, serial killers, stalkers, and terrorists.

With his expertise and insight, Dr Mohandie analyses and evaluates the thought processes that motivate the most dangerous people who have ever walked among us.

This is the first-hand account of his work, covering shocking cases like the 'Angel of Death' serial killer, racist serial assassin Joseph Paul Franklin, and even the O.J. Simpson case. 

Learn shocking new revelations about hostage takers, serial killers, mass murderers, violent 'true-believers', terrorists, and some of the worst predators on the planet. 

I initially picked up 'Born Killers?' as it is relatively short and due to the interesting subject matter, I thought it would be a compelling, quick read. Unfortunately, I was let down by this book and it took me a lot longer to read than I hoped. Despite my likely unhealthy obsession with true crime and the psychology behind it, this book was unfortunately a disappointment. 

This book should have grabbed my attention and kept me wanting to read on but I found it quite a chore to get through. The book is full of short chapters on all sorts of criminals - from serial killers and stalkers to terrorists and kidnappers. Mohandie covers a wide range of criminals in a short amount of writing yet somehow, the writing still felt laborious to read. Whilst I had heard of most of the cases and criminals mentioned in the book (most are well known), I think this would be a good introduction to true crime for anyone who is interested in the subject and the book does give a good starting point (with references) for those who want to investigate further.  

Regrettably, I didn't enjoy the tone of the author throughout this book - there was a sense of pretension and a major lack of empathy - particularly for a professional. This really downgraded the book for me. Throughout, there are numerous mentions of American culture, politics and, in particular, gun laws. I appreciate that politics are very important and the gun laws do have an impact on the crimes but I felt as though Mohandie's personal views and commentary often went off on a tangent, distracting from the psychology of the crimes - it became very tiresome.

Overall, unfortunately I can't say that I enjoyed this book. I did find the author's insights about psychological deception interesting as well as the short section on mass killers, but despite this - the main word I would use to describe this book is 'boring'. I can see the value of the informative content for those who would like a basic insight into several crimes but for me, this book is not something I'd recommend reading for an enjoyable pastime. 

Thursday, 24 June 2021


 Mine by Susi Fox

Paperback, 464 pages
Published 14th June 2018 by Penguin

Shelves adult-fiction, books-i-own, crime-thriller-mystery, read, read-in-2021, realistic-fiction

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

The baby in the nursery is not your baby.

Waking up after an emergency caesarean, you demand to see your son.
But it's someone else's child.
No one believes you - not the hospital, not your father, not your loyal husband.

They say you're delusional. Dangerous.

They suspect you want to steal another baby.
All you know is that you must find your own child before he's out of reach forever.
And you're a doctor - you would know if you were losing your mind.


Mine by Susi Fox is a psychological thriller about a woman, Sasha, who has just awoken from having an emergency Caesarean section, only to discover that her new baby, Toby, isn't exactly what she expected - not only her baby is a different sex to what was predicted at her ultrasound scan, but she just feels no emotional connection to the child before her. Unfortunately for Sasha, nobody believes her. 

The premise of Mine is a fantastic one with so much potential. Sasha, the people around her and the reader are all unsure of whether Sasha's thoughts are well-founded or the product of a postpartum depression or psychosis. Whilst the people around her are adamant that she is wrong, Sasha is almost certain she is correct in the thought that the Toby isn't hers and whilst remaining in hospital she is determined to find out what happened during and shortly after the caesarean. Fox does a brilliant job of keeping the mystery going - as a reader, I was jumping from one opinion to another and at many points, I simply had no idea what I thought. I loved this aspect of the book - I couldn't establish a solid opinion and that's a really great thing with a psychological thriller. 

Whilst I initially enjoyed the book and loved the premise, unfortunately, the book quickly became quite tiresome. I found the book to be very long-winded and it just seemed to drag on and on without making much progress. The book was almost completely set within the hospital which I can understand, but it soon became claustrophobic and repetitive. I didn't take to any of the characters - I didn't feel any passion from the characters and sadly, not much compassion for them. Sasha's character was the most well developed and again, I found the confusion about her mental state intriguing, but not fascinating enough to hold up the book alone. Sadly, the ending didn't redeem the book as it seemed so far-fetched.

I love a book which makes me unable to determine my own opinions or thoughts on what has really happened and this is where Mine really succeeds. The premise was fantastic and it started out well but unfortunately my attention decreased the further I progressed. Personally, I would've preferred a more fast-paced and realistic read.

The Saboteur of Auschwitz

The Saboteur of Auschwitz: The inspiring true story of a British soldier held prisoner in Auschwitz by Colin Rushton

Paperback, 288 pages
Published 1st October 2019 by Summersdale Publishers

historical, memoirs-biographies-etc, non-fiction, read, read-in-2020, ww2

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

In 1942, young British soldier Arthur Dodd was taken prisoner by the German Army and transported to Oswiecim in Polish Upper Silesia. The Germans gave it another name, now synonymous with mankind’s darkest hours. They called it Auschwitz. 

Forced to do hard labour, starved and savagely beaten, Arthur thought his life would end in Auschwitz. Determined to go down fighting, he sabotaged Nazi industrial work, risked his life to alleviate the suffering of the Jewish prisoners and aided a partisan group planning a mass break-out. 

This shocking true story sheds new light on the operations at the camp, exposes a hierarchy of prisoner treatment by the SS and presents the largely unknown story of the military POWs held there.

I love both reading and educating myself about the Holocaust, in particular, about Auschwitz-Birkenau and most often I've found that, understandably, most memoirs regarding the camp are written by Jewish and Polish prisoners. Of course, there were several categories of prisoners held at the camp and it was very interesting to read this memoir from a different perspective. 

The Saboteur of Auschwitz tells us the story of Arthur Dodd, a British prisoner of war. It is very fascinating to see this different side of the camp and to read more about the treatment of British prisoners. Dodd certainly lives up to the title of this book as we hear about his experience, most notably telling us how he mainly worked to sabotage the forced work that he had to do in the camp. There is also good explanations of day-to-day activities of the camp as well as some portrayal of the remarkable effect that seeing other prisoners in the camp had on Dodd. 

There is no doubt that Dodd made a huge effort to fight his hardest in such restricted and dangerous circumstances and he is certainly an inspiring man, but for me this book was unfortunately not as personal as I would have liked it to have been. The book is mainly fact based which is certainly a positive as it allows us to learn but, as a memoir, I would have loved to have been able to connect more to Dodd emotionally and to have known more about him as an individual - this  would have significantly increased my interest and enjoyment of this book.

There is a section consisting of letters in the latter part of the book which satisfied my need for a more emotional connection to people who had similar experiences and I found this to be the most interesting, compelling section to read. Though it was significantly more distressing than the rest of the book, the letters simply felt a lot more personal than the author's writing. 

Overall, it was an enlightening and interesting opportunity to read about the experience of a British POW based in Auschwitz and I am very glad to have widened my knowledge by reading this book. I am privileged to get to know the story of Arthur Dodd and finished the book feeling both gratitude and awe. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to broaden their knowledge of this period of history. 

Tuesday, 22 June 2021

Cilka's Journey

Cilka's Journey (The Tattooist of Auschwitz #2) by Heather Morris

Hardback, 448 pages

Published July 23rd 2020 by Zaffre

adult-fiction, better-than-expected, books-i-own, historical, lasting-impression, read, read-in-2020, realistic-fiction, really-good, series-or-companions
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description via Goodreads:

In this follow-up to The Tattooist of Auschwitz, the author tells the story, based on a true one, of a woman who survives Auschwitz, only to find herself locked away again. 

Cilka Klein is 18 years old when Auschwitz-Birkenau is liberated by Soviet soldiers. But Cilka is one of the many women who is sentenced to a labor camp on charges of having helped the Nazis--with no consideration of the circumstances Cilka and women like her found themselves in as they struggled to survive. Once at the Vorkuta gulag in Siberia, where she is to serve her 15-year sentence, Cilka uses her wits, charm, and beauty to survive.

After really enjoying the first novel in this duo, The Tattooist of Auschwitz, I was impatient to start reading the follow-up story. I'm so thankful that I had a copy of Cilka's Journey ready to read and straight from the very first page, I devoured it.  

Cilka's Journey follows one of the women that we briefly met in The Tattooist of Auschwitz, but this can also easily be read as a standalone book. This story, again a work of fiction but based on history, follows the liberation of Auschwitz concentration camp and shows the fate of many of the prisoners afterwards. After escaping the control of the Nazis, Cilka immediately finds herself under the control of the Soviets and is sent to another labour camp, this time the Vorkuta gulag in Siberia. 

Whilst the majority of people are aware of the true horrors of the Holocaust, many are less aware of the continuing horror for so many of the so-called 'liberated'. Personally, I didn't really know many details about the gulags before reading this book but after reading it I would definitely be keen to learn more about this period from a more factual source - the author certainly did a great job of peaking my interest and has brought awareness to such an important period of history. Whilst this is a book of fiction, there is definitely things to be learned from this book, if not only the true horror of man. 

Morris does a fantastic job of setting the scene in Siberia and it's clear that her writing style has improved a lot since her first book. There is a much more appropriate, balanced amount of description and dialogue and I found myself submersed in the cold, dark nights of the camp - I really absorbed the atmosphere. The relationships between the characters also felt very tangible, there was strength in each personality and I enjoyed reading about each character and each situation. I particularly enjoyed reading about Cilka's time in nursing and both the challenges and rewards that this brought. The setting, the actions, the situations and the relationships in this book all conjured up a jumble of emotions - of both hope and, sadly, mostly of despair yet despite all of the tragedy and the torture, it really was hard to put this book down. 

Cilka's Journey is a highly compelling, emotive story which shows both the potential malice of mankind as well as the strength. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone - whether you read it as a standalone or as a follow-up to The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Personally, I found this book to be superior due to both the writing and the story. This is a book that will stay with me for a very long time.