Substitute by Susi Holliday #bookreview

On my blog today, I’m sharing my thoughts on the gripping new thriller by Susi Holliday, Substitute.


Three people live. Three people die. You make the choice.

Like any mother, Chrissie wants to protect her family. She would do anything to keep them safe. So when a mysterious stranger turns up at her door, offering to prevent the deaths of the people she loves, it sounds too good to be true. The only problem: she must choose someone to die in their place. A substitute.

When her daughter Holly has a terrible accident, Chrissie has no option but to enter the programme. In that horrifying moment, she would do anything to save her. But even after Holly makes a miraculous recovery, Chrissie is convinced it’s just a coincidence. After all, who can really control the laws of life and death?

But as the dangers to her family escalate and her chosen substitutes begin to disappear, Chrissie finds herself in an underworld of hidden laboratories and secretive doctors. And the consequences of playing by their rules are far deadlier than she ever imagined…


What if you could save your loved ones from dying? We all wish we could have a magic button that would automatically save the people we love. In Susi Holliday’s new novel, Substitute, she explores just that, and it is a thoroughly entertaining, clever story. But it isn’t quite as straightforward as just saving someone you love. For you to save them, you must choose someone to die in their place.

Substitute is a highly engaging thriller which blends with science fiction so well. We meet Chrissie, who is still grieving for her mother who died several years earlier. Although her husband can’t seem to understand why she is still getting upset. She is approached by a stranger who asks if she would like to take part in a new programme. She doesn’t take this proposition all that seriously at first and eventually signs up, thinking it’s all just hypothetical. But it becomes clear that Chrissie wasn’t just randomly selected to take part. There is something far darker going on behind the scenes here.

Susi Holliday’s premise is such an interesting one. It had me thinking, what would I do if I was in Chrissie’s position. Would I be able to decide who lives and who dies so I can protect the ones I love? It did make me wonder if perhaps there is something similar in development somewhere around the world and that thought gave me chills. Given everything that’s happened in the past year, it doesn’t seem quite outside the realms of possibility anymore.

I loved the two different strands in this story. As we meet Chrissie in the present, we are also taken back to 1980 where we meet two scientists, Edward, and Michael. They are in the process of developing something extraordinary which Michael believes will benefit the world hugely.

I loved how Susi Holliday gradually revealed more about her characters and I could begin to see why they were involved in what was happening here. It is so cleverly put together. There are some tense scenes as we begin to understand why Chrissie has been selected to take part in this programme. It made for such gripping reading and the last line right at the end gave me chills.

This is my favourite book by Susi to date and I flew through it. If you love a mix of science fiction and a psychological thriller then this is the book for you. I highly, highly recommend it!

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer

Publication date: 12th August 2021

Print length: 317 pages

Substitute is available to buy:

Amazon UK

Goldilocks by Laura Lam #bookreview

When I first read the blurb for Goldilocks by Laura Lam I knew it was a book for me. I’m delighted to be sharing my review of her latest novel on my blog today.

Goldilocks: The boldest high-concept thriller of 2020 by [Lam, Laura]


Ravaged by environmental disaster, greed and oppression, our planet is in crisis. The future of humanity hangs in the balance – and one woman can tip it over.

Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation.

It’s humanity’s last hope for survival, and Naomi, Valerie’s surrogate daughter and the ship’s botanist, has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity like this – to step out of Valerie’s shadow and really make a difference.

But when things start going wrong on the ship, Naomi starts to suspect that someone on board is concealing a terrible secret – and realises time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared . . .

This is The Martian by way of The Handmaid’s Tale – a bold and thought-provoking new high-concept thriller


Goldilocks by Laura Lam is an epic story focusing on four women who have dreamed of travelling to the stars. Their destination is an exoplanet named Cavendish, situated in the habitable zone (the goldilocks zone) of its star. It is just right for humans to be able to live on its surface, and it offers a safe haven for humanity to start anew. Earth has been turned upside down. Climate change has ravaged the surface of the planet, forcing many people to flee their countries which have become inhospitable. Scientists predict that Earth can only host human life for another thirty years. And so there must be a plan B for when that becomes an eventuality. Cavendish offers humanity that chance.

A mission lead by Valerie Black is set to become the first manned mission to Cavendish.  It also means that the three other women will become the first human beings to set foot on a world outside of our solar system. But all doesn’t quite go to plan during the mission.

This genre is quite different from what I usually read, but I have become a fan of science fiction more recently, and this book seemed right up my street when I first heard about it. And there are elements of a thriller to this book as well which intrigued me even more. I think I am a bit of a nerd when it comes to learning about the solar system and the universe. I for one can’t wait for when the James Webb Space telescope is launched, hopefully, at the end of March next year, which Laura references in the book.

There are so many topics that Laura Lam explores in her book, climate change, feminism, and greed are some of the main themes. Climate change is something that has been brought to the forefront of people’s minds recently. It is scary what is happening in the world now, but I dread to think what the world could be like in thirty years time if we don’t do anything about it. Laura Lam sets her book in the not too distant future, so it brings those fears a lot closer to home.

In the future version of the world which Laura has created, Valeria Black and her team are among the women fighting back against a male-dominated society. Misogyny is on a sharp rise on Earth, and it is a topic that has never been far from the mind of Naomi Lovelace, Valerie’s foster-child. It has been her dream to explore the universe, but she knows her options are limited, which makes her even more determined to succeed.  And when they take charge of the Atalanta, the ship which will take them to Cavendish, it angers leaders back on Earth. In their eyes, the women are criminals.

Laura Lam keeps the tension mounting as the crew on the Atalanta race towards their new destination, first to Mars and then onto Cavendish. But as events escalate back on Earth, soon a perilous decision will have to be made. This leads the book to an explosive and a satisfactory climax. I’m sure will stay with me for a while.

This book deserves to be huge. If you’re a fan of sci-fi and thrillers, you will definitely enjoy this book. But if you haven’t stepped a toe out of each genre, I would highly recommend giving this book a go.

Publisher: Wildfire

Publication: 30th April 2020

Print length: 353 pages

Goldilocks is available to buy:

Amazon UK  Kobo  Waterstones

The Memory Chamber by Holly Cave Book Review @HollyACave @QuercusBooks

Source: Review Copy




True death is a thing of the past. Now you can spend the rest of eternity re-living your happiest memories: that first kiss, falling in love, the birth of your children, enjoyed on loop for ever and ever.

Isobel is a Heaven Architect, and she helps dying people create afterlives from these memories. So when she falls for Jarek, one of her terminal – and married – clients, she knows that while she cannot save him, she can create the most beautiful of heavens, just for him.

But when Jarek’s wife is found dead, Isobel uncovers a darker side of the world she works within, and she can trust no one with what she finds…


Imagine a world where you can build your own, ideal Heaven. Where you can carefully choose the memories, you wish to store and relive them in your perfect world when you die. This is Isobel’s job, as a Heaven architect, which she adores and is very good at. But when she meets her new client, Jarek, her life takes an unexpected turn when she begins a passionate affair with him. She is determined to create the best Heaven she possibly can for Jarek. But her life is thrown into turmoil when she finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation. Can she ever go back to the life she lived before? Was Jarek really the man who she thought she knew?

The Memory Chamber, by Holly Cave, is a stunning debut which explores an original idea. Science fiction isn’t a genre I would typically read, so I was a little wary when I started this novel, but I found Holly’s book to be so much more than a science fiction book. It has both elements of a thriller and science fiction; I have become quite a fan of novels which blend genres and The Memory Chamber didn’t disappoint.

Holly’s writing is utterly immersive, and I found myself drawn into Isobel’s world. From the opening pages, we can see her passion for her job, and this is why she is one of the best there is in her profession. I found Jarek to be an intriguing character from the moment Holly introduces him. It’s easy to see how Isobel can form a personal attachment to her clients, particularly as she is exploring their own personal life as she creates their Heaven from their memories. Isobel’s relationship with Jarek is what the novel ultimately focuses on. I was surprised by the direction that the novel took, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough as I raced to get to the end.

I think it is quite possible to see a form of technology like this evolving in the future. With the way in which the speed of technology is moving, you really can’t see what is coming around the corner next; you only have to think of the advancements made in the last twenty years alone. This was an utterly compelling debut which had me gripped from start to finish. It did have me thinking if this technology was available, would I want to create a perfect world, ready for when I die? I’m sure that this book will prompt lots of questions in book clubs.

Holly Cave is an exciting new writer who I can’t wait to read more from. Her writing certainly has that addictive quality to it! You won’t be able to put this novel down!

Thank you to Quercus Books for providing me with an advance review copy.

Publisher: Quercus

Publication date: 22nd February 2018

Print length: 368 pages