Review: The Truth and Lies of Ella Black (Emily Barr)

Title: The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

Author: Emily Barr

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Release: January 2018

Genre: Thriller, contemporary

Which animal is similar to this book? To me, this book is pretty similar to a female hyena. And yes, the female part of it is important. See, female hyenas are amazing and very misunderstood; people think they’re insane and aggressive and dangerous. This isn’t the case although there have been cases of them doing some pretty questionable things, but this is because they’re programmed for survival. Even in films and books, they’re portrayed as insane and cruel, which to me is very similar to Ella in the story. In the same way, both aren’t actually this way and both are clever, and only doing what they feel they have to. The book itself is thoughtful and beautiful, the same as a female hyena.

The blurb says: I call her Bella because she is the dark side of me. It’s Ella but not. It’s Bad Ella. Bella. I thought of that a few years ago and it made it a bit better because before that I called it the Monster. Anything is a tiny bit better when it has a name. Bella is better than the Monster. Bella is desperate to own the whole of me: I am alert and battling it all the time. Sometimes I have to let her out before everything explodes, but after that happens I feel calm and peaceful and, I think, kind of happy. 

Okay so this book is amazing and definitely a must-read for anyone who loves mystery and thrillers. I adored The One Memory of Flora Banks so had to read this, and I’m so glad I did. I think this is going to be my favourite book of 2018; it’s just so different to things I usually read. It’s exciting and intriguing and it feels dangerous and scary.

This book is so dark and so emotional, and you will feel very much in defense of Ella throughout the story. Emily Barr is a genius and manages to write a story filled with stressful moments and terrifying scenarios whilst still making the reader fall very much in love with her characters. It’s told from Ella’s point of view and it’s done so well that it’s super interesting to see her emotions progress and to see how this affects her state of mind.

The story itself is fast-paced, similarly to Flora Banks, and keeps you on your toes; I love books like this and found this particular one very near impossible to put down. I sped through this very quickly and adored every minute of it. If you haven’t read Flora Banks, you should and if you like that, you will love this. Definitely buy it, you won’t regret it!

I’m giving it a solid 10 out of 10 paw prints from us and I can’t wait for it to be released!

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Guest Post: Louise Gornall

Thank you to Louise for doing this lovely post on mental health in schools for this year’s mental health awareness day (which I’m turning into a week of blogging because why not?). Go check out her amazing book featuring agoraphobia and OCD, Under Rose-Tainted Skies and definitely follow her on Twitter/Instagram! And if you do struggle at school and are getting no support, try a helpline (online or by phone). They’re super helpful and likely to be much more understanding than your school is being. There’s no shame in that. Now, over to Louise!

First of all I’d like to thank Charlotte for asking me over to have a chat about mental health in schools. It’s a privilege to be here.

Funny thing… just after I’d agreed to write this post, it occurred to me that I haven’t been to school in over a decade. (I’m old, y’all.) 
Things can change a lot in over a decade, so I guess this is a preface, to let you know that I can’t accurately tell you what it’s like to go to school today with a mental illness. I would hope it’s better than it was. See, when I was at school, no one talked about mental health — folks rarely talked about health, period. I’ve suffered on and off with various mental illnesses since I was 11, but I honestly don’t ever remember talking about them at school. Luckily, my Mum is a mental health nurse, so in my house, we don’t shy away from mental health talk. Your mental health should be treated with as much caring and compassion as a broken bone or a ruptured something.
Anyways, I figured seen as I can’t really tell you what mental health is like in schools today, I’d tell you a little bit about how I think mental health should be addressed in schools. 
I made a list! 
1.) I would love to see more open discussion. I think the only way to eradicate the stigma that surrounds certain topics is to talk about those topics, and to tell people it’s okay to talk about them. 
2.) I’d love to see stronger bullying policies in place. Bullying ruins lives. It awoke suicidal tendencies in me at the age of 12. It should be zero tolerance.
3.) Schools should invite people who suffer with mental illness to give talks/run coping workshops. I think experience has value and it’s important for people to see and hear how mental health can be managed by the people who are actually living with it. This would also serve to give mental illness a face that isn’t glamourised by Hollywood horror movies.
4.) More access to services. I don’t know if you guys have a school counsellor or not, but every school should have one. Teachers aren’t always equipped to handle mental illness, but it runs rampant in schools. There should be a professional available to talk to, that everyone has access to because sometimes it’s not mental illness, sometimes life is hard, you’re exhausted and you just need an impartial person to tell you you’re doing okay. 
5.) I’d love to see more promotion of helplines/advice centres/doctors. I didn’t know the number for a suicide helpline until I went to college at 18. EIGHTEEN!! If money restrictions prevent schools from providing help, they should absolutely provide links to other outside sources.
I could go on, but I think 5 is a pretty perfect stopping point. Thank you so much for reading what I have to say, and hey, if you find yourself struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor/teachers/friends and ask for help. Mental illness is a long and hellish battle –you’re going to need help. But trust me, this thing you’re fighting is not insurmountable. You can learn to manage it. I promise.
Louise 

xo

A Day In The Life Of…OCD

*This is a very short story based on the typical day of someone with mental health issues and while I have experience with various mental health issues, I can’t speak for everyone and every type of issue. This is purely from my experience. There are three stories and each one goes through the same day just to show the differences between them.*

I hear the beep of my alarm and reach over to turn it off. It’s 6.46am and no one else is up yet so I lie in bed for a little while before I move. When I do eventually move, I decide to get dressed, rushing the whole process. I try to keep my hands off the fabric as much as possible since the feel of it makes me retch, but it’s not fully possible to do that. 

When I leave for the bus, I think about my usual seat the whole walk there. What if it isn’t free? What if someone’s sat in the one next to it and I have to awkwardly sit next to them? What will happen if I can’t sit there? But when the bus finally arrives, my usual seat is free and I rush to sit in it, feeling a wave of relief rush over me once I’m there. 

At college, I sit in my usual seat and wait for my work to be returned to me. Once I hear my name called, I slip my jacket sleeves over my hand to hold the paper since it feels even worse than the fabric does to me. I slide the papers into a few plastic wallets just to stop it feeling that way to me. 

Once I’m home again, I decide to take my dog out for a walk. I follow the same route I always do with him, but when I see another dog on our path. This is super bad since my dog is very scared of other dogs so I sort of carry on hoping this dog and his owner will cross the road, but they don’t. Thinking of my dog and his welfare, I cross the road and head a different way, feeling my heart speed up as I’m aware of how different my route is now. I make it home 10 minutes later than I would have normally, and I start to feel better again once I’m back in my house. 

At home I go for a shower and whilst in there, I’m very thorough with my cleaning. I use three different shampoos and a conditioner, even though I know it’s bad to over-shampoo, it’s just a bad habit. I also scrub my whole body 4 times before I leave the shower. The worst part of it is the towel for drying off since the fabric rubs across me and it’s always worse when my skin is wet so this is basically my hell. I rush through it, get into my pyjamas and head down for dinner. 

I find it difficult to eat certain foods and my parents know this so there are very few issues with dinners here, but eating out or with friends is a whole other deal. In this case, my parents are having stew while I have ham, egg and chips as they know I can’t deal with the texture of stew (along with many other foods). 

I head upstairs for bed and watch the clock until it hits 9.38pm, at which point I settle down to sleep. 

A Day In The Life Of…Depression

*This is a very short story based on the typical day of someone with mental health issues and while I have experience with various mental health issues, I can’t speak for everyone and every type of issue. This is purely from my experience. There are three stories and each one goes through the same day just to show the differences between them.*

An incessant beeping wakes me and I stretch to turn it off, whilst yawning. I sit up, feeling suddenly very tired and very much like I’d rather just lie back down again, but when I check my sleep tracker, I see I’ve slept for well over nine hours. How fun? I chuck on the first outfit I find; a pair of leggings along with a baggy hoodie. It’ll do.

Walking to the bus, I feel every step as the sun burns into my brain via my eyes. Everything aches and I don’t entirely know why I’m going to college, other than the fact I sort of have to. The bus is loud so I just sit in the first seat I find and then put my earphones in. I sit in silence and wait for the bus to get to college, still unsure why I’m bothering.

College is loud as usual and although I have a couple of friends there that speak to me, I don’t really talk to them. I spend the morning quiet, looking forward to my next opportunity to sleep, while we have our work given back to us. I honestly don’t worry about whether I’ve passed it, or whether there’s anything I need to redo, because what’s the point in caring loads?

Once I’m home, I get to do the thing I’ve been looking forward to all day; walk my dog. I take him out for a couple of hours and spend time training him to weave between my legs and spend time cuddling him. It’s nice and peaceful and the fresh air helps me to feel relaxed and I enjoy it. Dogs are just about the only thing that makes me feel anything at all.

That night, I know I should have a shower but the effort is just too much and it doesn’t happen. I also don’t eat because I don’t have the motivation for that either so I just head straight to bed early. I fall asleep quite quickly huddled under about three layers of blankets.

Mental Health Recommendations

So tenth of October is Mental Health Awareness Day and it’s also my birthday so I decided to make it a full week and really explore a few different angles. To kick off the week, I thought we’d start with a simple post detailing a few amazing books incorporating mental health into their stories.

First off, we have the fabulous Under Rose-Tainted Skies (Louise Gornall). This is the first book I read covering agoraphobia and OCD which didn’t make me want to cry or cringe constantly. It’s so well done and so understood (it is an own voices book so that does make sense!) that it almost feels like the main character, Norah, could be related to you. It’s beautiful and yet very realistic; nothing is sugar-coated or made a bit prettier. I see myself in Norah a lot and I will forever treasure this book. Plus it matched my hair when I bought it, so immediately puts it high in my favourites!

Heart Shaped Bruise (Tanya Byrne) is next and there’s no way I could leave it off this list. It’s about Emily, who’s awaiting a trial in a Young Offenders Institution and the reader has no idea what she’s done or how she got there. It’s her side of the story and it’s so beautifully written that we can easily understand each phase of anger and bitterness and every other bold, dangerous feeling. In terms of mental health, it’s interesting but not particularly ‘helpful’ (not it’s intention!) but I did have to put it in here since it’s so good and well put-together. She goes to psychiatrist meetings and there’s a strong mental health angle and it’s super thrilling and interesting to read.

Only Ever Yours (Louise O’Neill) covers eating disorders in a sci-fi sort of setting. Girls are robots, created to be the most beautiful to impress the men and have babies (it’s also very feminist which is fab!). This causes the girls to think very harmfully and very realistically in terms of eating disorders. I love how this book is so real and yet so unreal all at once.

Am I Normal Yet? (Holly Bourne) is the first in the Spinster Trilogy and is so good, especially in its depiction of OCD. It’s a contemporary story and follows Evie as she struggles with her mental health. It’s a nice story and has a very real feel to it since the symptoms of Evie’s mental illness are very real. I can relate to Evie a lot and enjoy seeing into her internal thoughts through this book.

Girl Online (Zoe Sugg) is a great book for teens as it portrays anxiety but it isn’t the sole purpose of the story. It follows a girl as she falls in love, goes through school and figures herself out all whilst dealing with different situations causing her to feel anxious. It’s well-written, realistic and is great for someone who’s either interested to learn a little, or is beginning to feel they may be struggling with anxiety themselves but are maybe unsure.

No Virgin (Anne Cassidy) isn’t specifically mental health either but it recounts a rape and the trauma a girl goes through. By doing this, it shows insight into the girl’s mind and how long-lasting the effects of a trauma (such as rape) can be. I particularly appreciate how it demonstrates the changes in the way she sees herself and feels about herself. It’s raw, it’s real and it’s very realistic.

Check back tomorrow for another mental health-themed post!

Myfurrybookshelf’s YALC Awards 2017

This year’s YALC was great, complete with fun panels, fab authors and busy stalls. I thought, to do something a little different, I would host an awards ceremony for everything at YALC. Enjoy…

20615418_10154870390787333_1290951325_oBest publisher stand – MyKindaBook

Author I was most excited to meet- Sara Barnard

Author I was most nervous to meet – Hannah WittonFile_000 (4)

Funniest author moment – Holly Bourne (when Benedict Cumberbatch walked through the panel)

Best author outfit – Lauren James’ space dress outfit

Best proof giveaway – Penguin stand (The Truth and Lies of Ella Black – Emily Barr)

Stand I spent the most money at – GeekyClean

Best Buffy cosplay – Non Pratt’s Ripper

Best Harry Potter cosplay – Lucy Saxon’s Scorpius Malfoy

Most informative panel – Life Advice

Special Mention – The lady on the Quirk stand who was the only person to recognise me and my mum as Glory/Ben from Buffy and then was super nice to us for the rest of the weekend, Thank you, you made my day partway through a day of having to explain I wasn’t just very overdressed.

Bonus LFCC Awards:

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Best celebrity present – Alyson Hannigan

Chattiest celebrity – Alexis Denisof

 

Best cosplay – Vampire Willow

Best stand – Galloway Fudge

Review: The Blurt Foundation – Buddy Box

In case you haven’t heard of it, The Blurt Foundation is an organisation created to support people suffering from mental illness, especially depression. The Buddy Box is a monthly subscription crate which contains things designed to promote a good state of mind and help combat depression. I subscribed and have been since May, so I thought I’d review the May and June boxes together as they’re great and I don’t think I’ve seen anyone talking about them on Twitter etc. and I think they should have more attention online.

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So May box’s theme was ‘Couldn’t Give A Monkeys’ with the idea being that you couldn’t give a monkey’s about the things you would usually stress about. The colours of the box were greens and blues with even the packing paper matching this and the lid of the box had a beautiful embossed picture of a zoo scene on it (also green).

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The first item in the box was a tea from Bluebird Tea (Website Here) which are tea blends which you put into teabags yourself (also provided in the box). The flavour was banana (named ‘Monkey Chops’) and smelt absolutely amazing. I don’t personally drink tea but I’ve never tried banana flavour so I tried it and although it did taste too strongly of tea for me, I gave it to my friend (who does enjoy tea!) who really loved it.

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The next items in the box were a soap and a magnet. The soap is from Bomb Cosmetics (Website Here) and it’s pineapple scented. It smells amazing and looks super pretty too so I kind of don’t want to use it and ruin it… The magnet has a monkey on it and has the slogan from the theme of the box; Couldn’t Give A Monkeys’ written across it.

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The next items in the box were a ‘Sentence A Day’ diary and a to-do list in the same style of ‘Couldn’t Give A Monkeys’ as the rest of the box. I’ve been using the diary religiously and love it as it’s so beautiful and has little quirks such as a map you can colour in as you visit various countries. The to-do list is great for blog posts and helps with college work and just looks so adorable. I can’t wait to have a real reason for using this but also don’t want to waste it on something unimportant or unworthy…somebody must get what I mean..?

 

File_001There were also a couple of postcards which are absolutely adorable and follow the animal theme along with some quotes which are positive/inspirational. One simply had monkeys on it and the other had a lion in a jungle with a quote about courage. I love these so much and have stuck them up in my room to remind me to care less and to be braver.

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June’s theme for the box was ‘For When It’s Not All Sunshine And Rainbows’ and it, as you can imagine, was very colourful and pretty. The colour on the lid of the box was gold though, and the illustration was a gorgeous rainbow design which also matched the paper on the inside of the box.

 

File_001 (1)The first item in the box was a pair of Happy socks which I adore since I got a pair in an Illumicrate box a few months ago. They’re so bright and colourful with the idea that they cheer you up and honestly, it does work because I always get really cheery when I wear them purely because I know that’s their purpose and because they’re so bright when I usually wear boring socks. I love these so much, you can find their website here.

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The next item in the box was a hot chocolate which I actually have yet to use simply because it’s been so hot, but I have had this type before and I love them. Basically, it’s a lump of chocolate on a stick and when you mix it with hot water, it melts, creating a delicious drink. The one I now have is dark chocolate and has marshmallows so I can’t wait to use that on a chilly evening all curled up in bed…

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The next item is a coaster with a llama on it as well as the phrase ‘I love naps’ written on it. I love it because I do love naps and appreciate a llama understanding my needs… Also llamas are super cute and the coaster itself is very cute and kind of quirky. I really like it and have it on my nightstand currently.

 

File_002 (1)The next item is an orange-scented lip balm which I think is a great idea. I don’t know whether this is true of everyone/the majority, but for me, when my mental health takes a dip, so does my immune system and I end up with a cold as well as sore eyes and sore lips. So, having a lip balm intended as mental health help really helps me as it kind of insures that I’ll remember to look after myself in that way even when I feel at my worst. It also smells amazing (orange!) and is super soft on my lips. It’s also vegan so that’s cool!

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The next item is a set of inspirational cards called ‘Believe In Yourself’ cards and they’re filled with beautiful, inspiring quotes in order to empower you and keep you feeling positive about yourself. They’re a good quality material and feel super sturdy so I’ve stuck a few up in my room to remind me to believe in myself. I love these because there are quite a few and among them all, there’s always one which helps me.

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Finally, we come to the postcards in this box. This time, they’re illustrated with a rainbow/sun design which is so gorgeous and the quote is an empowering quote about strength and believing in ourselves. They’re pretty and colourful, so I’ve stuck them up in my room too.

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Thanks to my guinea pig, Fudge, for helping me out with her real modelling debut which she seemed to enjoy. Thanks to The Blurt Foundation for coming up with this fantastic idea which I (and many others) really enjoy. I’m definitely a subscriber now and I hope it continues to be an amazing success.

Review: All About Mia (Lisa Williamson)

27016992_UnknownTitle: All About Mia

Author: Lisa Williamson

Publisher: David Fickling Books

Release: February 2017

Genre: Contemporary

Which animal is similar to this book? For me, I would say this book is a chameleon. Chameleons can be extremely colourful and can be multiple different colours through their life, but are all the same animal of course. In the same way, this book covers multiple issues and storylines within the same 363 pages. However, a chameleon can also be plain, and it can blend in with ‘boring’ surroundings by becoming one shade of green or beige etc. I think this book is extremely colourful in the level of depth and various storylines it has, however I think that this level of depth varies person to person. For example, someone who can relate to the pregnancy aspect more would get more from that plot line, but someone who can relate more to the middle-child-loneliness aspect would take more from that.

The blurb says: One family, three sisters. GRACE, the oldest: straight-A student.  AUDREY, the youngest: future Olympic swimming champion.  And MIA, the mess in the middle.
 Mia is wild and daring, great with hair and selfies, and the undisputed leader of her friends – not attributes appreciated by her parents or teachers. When Grace makes a shock announcement, Mia hopes that her now-not-so-perfect sister will get into the trouble she deserves. But instead, it is Mia whose life spirals out of control – boozing, boys and bad behaviour – and she starts to realise that her attempts to make it All About Mia might put at risk the very things she loves the most.

God this book is funny. It’s so very funny and sarcastic that it had me laughing throughout. The story isn’t a particularly humorous one, and it has its problems for the characters, but the irony and the dry humor is just so good that you sort of forget that the characters’ lives are falling apart. I love when a book has you concerned for the characters but also laughing as you go.

I love how individual each character was; I adore Mia. She’s clumsy, she’s not the brightest in the decisions she makes and she’s sarcastic. But she’s real and we’re all a little bit of Mia. I make the worst decisions and I’m also quite sarcastic. I envy her hair and wardrobe but I don’t envy her family. I think anyone with siblings knows how she feels though; it always feels like they’re better than you at something. It doesn’t matter if you’re the eldest, middle or the youngest.

I think the best thing about this book was how genuine the story is. This could happen in a family similar to Mia’s and it would probably end a lot like this one does. It’s realistic to have a jealous, left-out middle child, an uptight, goody eldest child, and a shy, modest youngest child. It would make sense they would all behave just as Grace, Mia and Audrey do, and watching the story unfold was infuriating but it was real. I could see it happening in my own life or in a friend’s life, and that was the best thing about it.

I love how family-oriented it was; there was no dramatic love triangle, n20160804_163103o tragic boy drama and no high school bullying. It was almost exclusively about the family and how they live. There aren’t many books that do this, and do this well. It’s heartwarming, funny and also quite tense at times. A really good, very gripping read. 10 out of 10 paw prints from me!

Why I Haven’t Blogged For A While (Anxiety Update)

I know there are very few people (if anyone) who will read this post since I’m not a regular blogger as it is, and I’m not exactly Zoella. Even so, I felt like I needed to explain myself to anyone who will read this.

Blogging is a hobby and it started purely as a hobby and a way to openly praise books I loved and felt deserved more praise. I love doing it, I love talking to other bloggers and I love feeling like I’ve made an author happy by writing something nice about their book. At the same time though, I feel anxious every time I post a blog. It’s like I’m releasing a small bird into the wild, only to see it to be caught by an eagle as it tries to fly home. On some level, I want my blogs to be popular, but I don’t want attention because then my anxiety gets worse.

Sometimes I blog regularly and I’m happy with it and I’m proud of how I’m doing. Last year I was nominated for an award and I was so happy, but then other times I just feel like it’s not worth it. The words don’t come out right, nothing sounds good enough and I feel like it’s a waste of time and that no one will care anyway.

I’m going to blog again and I’m going to get myself out of my own slump because if I don’t, I have very little chance of getting out of it. I just wanted to explain that I’m not lazy, I didn’t forget to blog and I do still love reading. I just didn’t have the energy or motivation to do it because my anxieties were fighting me.

But I want to blog and I want to beat my anxieties because they have no right to tell me what I can and can’t do. So here I am, blogging. And I’ll be blogging for a while. If you have the same problems I do (please tell me so we can bond over our problems – I have no friends), then you should do the same. Fight it. Own your anxieties. Without you fighting back, you have no chance. Do the things you want to do. Tell your head it’s wrong; people do want to talk to you. People do want to read your blog. You matter and you’re important.

Win.

Review: Shift (Em Bailey)

file_004-4Title: Shift

Author: Em Bailey

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Release: 2012

Genre: Thriller, contemporary

Which animal is similar to this book? To me, this book strongly resembles a saltwater crocodile. Many animal-lovers will tell you crocodiles are very unpredictable and there’s genuinely no telling what they’re going to do. In the same way, this book had so many twists and turns it’s unreal…Saltwater crocodiles are also notoriously aggressive and dangerous (obviously there are exceptions in domestic cases etc etc) but this book made me feel on edge and concerned for the characters in the same way the threat of a giant potentially murderous reptile would make you feel.

The blurb says: There were two things everyone knew about Miranda Vaile before she’d even started at our school. The first was that she had no parents – they were dead. The second was that they were dead because Miranda had killed them. Olive used to be the school queen-bee. But that was before her breakdown. Now she’s the class loner, and can only watch as new girl Miranda latches onto Olive’s ex-best friend Katie. Soon Miranda is talking like Katie, dressing like Katie – even going out with Katie’s boyfriend. And then Katie dies. Everyone seems to believe it was a tragic accident, but Olive isn’t so sure. What if the wild rumours are true? What if Miranda really is a killer…?

Firstly, I think I’m still in shock a little bit over the twists in this story… I can normally predict twists or see roughly what’s going to happen but with this book, I was genuinely shocked. I think I actually gasped. Out loud! And I couldn’t put it down (I read this in around two days.?) because the whole story is just tense and there’s not one part of it anyone could describe as dull. It’s so gripping and I just wanted to know what would happen next.

I love that, through Olive, the reader can experience the world through that ‘queen-bee’ persona as well as the ‘loner’. It really added to the story since she explained why Katie was behaving the way she was. I also really liked that, due to her breakdown, Olive was seeing things differently and could experience school life through a new attitude, and seemed to care less about more materialistic things. The way mental health was represented was great and I really appreciated that the story didn’t encourage any of the stigmas/bad representation mental illness receives.

I honestly really loved everything about it. I loved the pace since it moved quickly and it kept me interested; I loved the characters because I could either relate to them or I found them interesting and I loved the actual plot because it was so clever and worked 20160804_163103really well. I love that all the loose ends were tied up well in explanations throughout the story.

I would recommend this to anyone looking for a dark thriller that’s impossible to put down. This gets 10 out 10 paw prints from me!