Music Monday: In My Life by The Beatles

musicmonday-2

 

Today is my first time taking part in Music Monday (started by Drew at thetattoedbookgeek)! I keep meaning to join in but then time gets away from me. This week seemed a good time to start though as I wanted to pay tribute to my mum by sharing one of her favourite songs. It’ll be ten years this week since she died, and I miss her. My mum loved music and always had a record on when I was growing up – I definitely got my eclectic taste in music from her. 🙂

 

I’m unable to share the video on my blog but here is a link to the song on youtube.

 

screenshot247

Rubber Soul by The Beatles 

 

In My Life is taken from the album Rubber Soul (I’ve pinched the photo above from my husband’s instagram – he’s a big music fan so you can follow him here if you’d like to).

 

The lyrics in In My Life are so poignant – they meant a lot to my mum (and to me now). She always used to turn the radio up full blast whenever this song came on and I can still hear her now telling me to shush for two minutes while she listened and sang along.

 

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I love you more
In my life I love you more

 

 

Advertisements

#BookReview: Into the Silent Sea by Claire Stibbe | @CMTStibbe @annecater #randomthingstours

img_2603

About the Book

Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.

When Clodagh Shepherd’s curiosity gives way to obsession, her thoughts turn to revenge.

In the wake of her husband’s affair and subsequent disappearance, Clo makes an impulsive decision to befriend the beautiful stranger who has stolen her life. Answering an ad for a home help, she moves into the home of her husband’s mistress and is immediately drawn into the chilling reality behind the idyllic façade of Hamptons Life. Central to her terrifying nightmare is a deadly secret–a secret someone will kill to keep.

 

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, this thriller is non-stop! Clodagh and her husband Ryan split up after she discovered his affair, and in the wake of that Clo decides to apply for a housekeeper job at his mistress’ home!

At the very start of this novel it’s clear that Clo has been beaten by her husband and has been left feeling quite anxious about how he’s treated her and about his affair. She very quickly decides that she wants the upper hand and so begins her mission to find the woman he cheated with and to inveigle her way into her life. She also wants to know where her husband has gone and thinks this woman holds the answers she needs.

I did find the opening chapters a little difficult to get my head around as the pace of this novel ramps up really quickly and I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. But once Clo finds her husband’s mistress and decides to apply for a job in the same house I was utterly gripped!

Once Clo gets the job as home help the book really takes off. It’s clear right away that while Clo isn’t being honest about who she is that Marion is naturally wary of her. I felt like neither woman could be trusted and so begins something of a game of cat and mouse between them. It was fascinating to read how they were with each other because some female friendships start off with women being very distrustful of each other and in this novel that just seems to grow. There is an appearance of friendship but it doesn’t ever feel very real. I found myself utterly engrossed in the novel wanting to know how it could possibly end!

To heighten matters further Clo and Marion have a look of each other, and I could sense there would be increasing tensions around this – especially from Clo, who knows that Marion had an affair with her husband. It must be horrendous to be confronted with a younger version of yourself in that way. I did have some sympathy for Clo over this but I’ll be honest, it was short-lived!

There is also something very unsettling about the house Clo moves to, and it’s not just her relationship with Marion. The owner has a strict routine of when he’ll be there and what he expects of all of his staff. It felt very oppressive, even though it’s a beautiful house on the beach. There is an escalating claustrophobic feel to it and it really adds to the atmosphere.

There is a lot of paranoia throughout the book, and it unsettled me as I was reading – I couldn’t be sure of what was real. I loved this aspect of the book because it kept me on my toes, I could never get complacent about what I thought might happen. Clo seems to be in control at some moments but then not at others so I was never sure if she was to be trusted. There are twists and turns throughout this book and the end when it comes had me reeling!

Into the Silent Sea is a dark thriller and it definitely proves that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! It’s a real rollercoaster of a read – it’s unpredictable, gripping and thrilling! I recommend it!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Claire Stibbe for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Into the Silent Sea is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

claire stibbe author picture

Claire Stibbe is the author of the Detective Temeke Crime series – The 9th Hour, Night Eyes, Past Rites, Dead Cold, Easy Prey. Winner of the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards for crime mystery, silver medal winner of The Wishing Shelf Book Awards, her books have also been Amazon bestsellers, reaching the #1 spot in the top 100.

She is also a reporter for Stand True 4 Blue, which features a Nationwide Newsletter dedicated to law enforcement, a member and graduate of the Citizen Police & BSCO Sheriff’s Academy. A former journalist and magazine editor, she now lives in Utah with her husband and son.

These books provide donations towards the counseling of single mothers after suffering from domestic violence and post-traumatic stress.

Find out more about Claire at http://www.clairestibbe.com/

Twitter @CMTStibbe

Sign up to Claire Stibbe’s New Release Mailing List here: http://eepurl.com/bqCQhv

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

into the silent sea blog tour poster

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and how the #konmari method changed my life! #MarieKondo #TidyingUp #SparkJoy

books

I’ve been following the reactions on social media to Marie Kondo and her Tidying Up series on Netflix with interest recently. I did the KonMari method on my whole house last year and I can honestly say that it completely and utterly changed my life so I wanted to share my thoughts on it.

I’ve read so many books about de-cluttering and have always given the ideas a go, some have been more helpful than others but I always fell back into my old ways because I was doing a bit at a time, or one part of my home at a time. I re-read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up, and then read Spark Joy early last year and it struck a chord with me. I loved the idea of tackling all of a category (Clothes, books, papers, komono [all miscellaneous items] then sentimental) at once so the whole house was getting done. This is my story…

I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder (not so bad that you can’t get through the front door but definitely feeling powerless to throw things away without it being an ordeal). I grew up with a mum was very sentimental about things and so she would keep things she didn’t like because she loved the person who gave the item to her. She would also buy extras of things when they were on offer even when the cupboards were full to bursting. I ended up the same way. I have a very distinct memory from when I was really young thinking that I couldn’t get rid of my ornaments and soft toys because I wouldn’t have anything to fill my house with when I grew up. My poor mum put up with my books not only taking over my bedroom, but also the spare room and the landing between the two rooms. Even after I moved out I left a lot of stuff at her house and she never complained. We were as bad as each other for keeping things. It was so much a part of me to have every surface filled with ornaments and trinkets that I found empty shelves made me feel somewhat panicky.

When my mum died I was proud of myself for only keeping the belongings of hers that I genuinely loved and would use. To this day I still use her very best cutlery every single day, and I wear her jewellery. After we sold my mum’s house I moved in with my boyfriend and as I was moving to the other side of the country I could only take what would fit in the van we hired. I felt that this was a new start, a new me and I would do better.

I didn’t.

We bought our home a year later and I gradually filled it with stuff. I don’t know exactly how it happened because I’m not much of a shopper. I think I became someone who would buy a replacement for something that was worn out but then I’d keep both items for some reason. I think I used to keep things just in case! My poor husband is very minimal in his possessions and has never said a word about all the clutter everywhere but I don’t know how he put up with it.

I’ve had a lot of medical issues in the years we’ve been together and I think when you have hoarding tendencies illness can make it worse. I need to keep things I need close by me because I can’t walk more than a few steps, and I can’t carry anything but this would lead to a mountain of stuff next to my chair and my side of the bed because I would never put things away.

Anyway, last year I read Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy which led to me re-reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and these books just spoke to me. I could suddenly see that maybe I could make things different. On finishing those books I took every item of clothing I owned and piled it all on the bed. I had no concept of how much clothing I had and I was mortified by it all (It filled a 2.5 metre wide wardrobe and two chests of drawers). I’m housebound so I really didn’t need this many clothes. I had clothes that I’d not worn in years but kept because I’m sentimental (or because I might lose the weight, or I might gain some weight). Anyway, I got rid of about two thirds of my clothes that day!! I only kept the clothes I can wear now and that fitted me. I later emptied my clothes out of the wardrobe again when we got our new wardrobe delivered and got rid of even more clothes.

img_1585

These are the clothes I got rid of AFTER I’d already got rid of two thirds of my clothes! There is always more to get rid of it seems! 😉

Next I moved on to books, as recommended in the method. This was easier than I thought it would be because I’d got used to the idea of sparking joy and what mattered to me. Incidentally, sparking joy doesn’t just mean it makes you happy. I kept books that have made me weep when I read them because they matter deeply to me, and that’s what sparking joy means – keep only the things that matter to you. I got rid of about half of my books over the next few days.

img_0373

Some of the books that spark the most joy for me!

Up next was papers and this was hard work. I’m someone who keeps paperwork because I might need it some day. By this point I’d been following the method for a couple of weeks and knew I could get rid of a lot of papers but it was daunting having to sift through and look at everything so I didn’t actually throw away something important. I also scanned some documents that I needed to keep but didn’t need them taking up room in my file box. Now all my important papers are in one file box and not scattered in various boxes all over the house. The shredder is permanently plugged in and accessible so I can open my post and immediately get rid of junk or anything that I don’t need to keep or refer to again.

Komono was a scary category because it basically means everything that’s not clothes, books, papers or sentimental items! This part took me weeks to complete because I wanted to do it properly. It was also really hard because prior to starting KonMari my idea of having a sort out was buying pretty storage boxes and shoving all the stuff in them (out of sight, out of mind) but sorting through komono meant I had to face up to all that stuff. Some of my most sentimental items were wedged in boxes with general junk so I put those things to one side and got on with going through all of the other stuff. I ended up making myself a list of sub-categories and then putting stuff into corresponding boxes then working from there. It meant I could see how much I had of any one type of thing and it made it easier for me to get rid of all the excess. For example I had a load of stationary but I can’t physically write more than a few words any more so that all went to charity. I realised how much I’d stockpiled shower gel and shampoo etc so I kept all of that but organised it so I’d know when I finally needed to buy more.

The final category is Sentimental Items. This was a hard one to face sorting through but Marie Kondo insists you work through things in a set order (clothes, books, papers, komono and then sentimental items) so that by the time you get to the hardest things you have a much better sense of what’s important to you and you understand what really sparks joy. And even though it initially sounded so silly to me, it actually helped to mentally thank the items before I put them in the charity bags. I got rid of way more sentimental items than I expected to and I instantly felt better, like a weight was lifted off me. I’d finally given myself permission to not feel guilty and to stop holding onto things that don’t make me happy. I’d previously found it incredibly hard to get rid of things that my mum had given me because I knew that I’d never again have anything from her, but now I know that I had joy from those items and good memories and I don’t need to keep them if I don’t want to. Now my sentimental items are where I can see them and that brings me so much joy!

img_2886 (2)

This space in our living room used to have big shelves on it full of stuff. Now it’s light and I love seeing the space. (Excuse the terrible pic, I took it at night-time with my rubbish phone camera).

 

I think the hardest thing was getting my head around not sorting through what I would get rid of but coming at it from the angle of what I wanted to keep and then letting the rest go. Once I got used to that the method got easier and easier. Also the sparking joy thing was confusing at first because my vacuum cleaner sparks no joy but I soon got to grips with the fact that I could keep it because I like having clean floors and it’s my vacuum cleaner that allows me to have clean floors. I think once you get used to what sparking joy is and how it feels for you then you know what you need to keep and what you need to get rid of.

img_1314

(Every thing in this photo was got rid of… including the red armchair (it went to charity). We loved that chair but we never sat on it because it was always piled high with stuff. Once I’d finished de-cluttering we decided that we’d rather have the space than the chair so it went as well! This was our spare room that I filled with bags for charity or the tip… I didn’t get a photo when it was full. We got rid of things as soon as we had a car load but I reckon I could have filled the floor space in this room twenty or more times with the stuff I chucked out.)

I LOVE the vertical folding that Marie Kondo raves about. It’s amazing how much easier life is when you can see all of the tops in your drawer. I even fold my underwear and it’s a revelation! I will say that I found it hard to grasp what she meant in her descriptions of folding when I was reading the books but if you look on youtube there are loads of tutorial videos and it all makes sense once you see someone folding clothes her way.

img_2885 (2)

Vertical folding!

I also love the idea of using small boxes within drawers and cupboards to segment the space so things stay where they’re supposed to. I haven’t bought any boxes or containers for this – I’ve used Apple product boxes, shoe boxes etc. I find that the lids off boxes can be great to use as separators. Also if you have excess tupperware containers in your home – the ones you don’t need in the kitchen – can often be used in drawers to corral things. I definitely recommend using what you already have initially because you may find you don’t need to buy anything else.

Another tip while I’m on the subject is get things out of your house as soon as you can after you’ve decided you no longer want them. And don’t ever look in a bag or box once you’ve put stuff in there to be got rid of. It just makes you second guess yourself but if you’ve followed the method properly you already know that these are things you no longer want in your home.

I’m not in great health so going through the whole house took me a few months in the end but it was worth it. I finally finished in the summer last year and my house has stayed clutter-free ever since and is so easy to keep clean and tidy now. The KonMari influence hasn’t left me either – when I spot anything in my house that annoys me or that I don’t like anymore it goes straight in a box for the charity shop. I regularly look through my clothes and books and get rid of anything that no longer sparks joy. I’m not perfect but I feel like the stuff in our home is manageable now and tidying up is no longer an ordeal.

I’ve only watched one episode of  Tidying Up with Marie Kondo so far and I’m not sure that it really showed how the method works. The meme doing the rounds online about you only being allowed to keep 30 books is a myth! The rule that Marie Kondo has is that you only keep things that spark joy so when you go through your books, if a thousand of them genuinely spark joy and you have room to comfortably live with that many books then that is fine. So if you’ve been watching the show and are intrigued I would definitely recommend reading both of Marie Kondo’s books.

img_0361

This is just one of my post KonMari bookcases (I definitely still own more than thirty books!).

img_6199

These days space in my home matters to me more than hoarding stuff.

If you want to know if I have any regrets… I do have one! My one and only regret about doing the KonMari method is that I didn’t take any before photos! I got so swept up in just getting on with it that I forgot. I have noticed that when I look at photos from over the years that the background is always a mess, so that gives me a reminder of how far I’ve come. If you’re about to start sorting your home out I definitely recommend taking photos along the way!

(The photo on the left is an example of the background of a photo. The person didn’t want to be on my blog so I’ve cropped them out but you can still see the mountain of clutter in the shot. This was the room on a reasonably ‘tidy’ day, which shows how bad I was at my worst!).

 

 

I can honestly say that doing the KonMari method has changed my life. I feel so much happier and less stressed now our house isn’t crammed full of stuff. It’s so much easier to clean, and tidying up takes just a few minutes now. Our house feels so much bigger, and because I made so much space my husband was able to re-decorate our bedroom and living room last year so everywhere is much brighter now. In our bedroom we even have shelves with NOTHING on them and it feels so calming and peaceful! The old me would have seen an empty shelf and immediately put boxes full of stuff on them but not any more!

img_2884 (2)

My lovely EMPTY shelves! 

 

 

What was really lovely for me, and a moment when I knew I’d cracked my clutter issues, was after we’d taken a load of stuff to a local charity shop we were back in town and happened to pass this particular shop. The window display was predominantly my old belongings – there was a gorgeous skirt that I’d only worn once (because it was too hard for me to fasten it as my hands no longer work very well), a lovely dress (that I’d bought and worn to my mum’s funeral and then couldn’t bear to wear it again). There were shoes that I got rid of because I can only wear flat shoes that fit over my leg brace now. And some of my jewellery. My reaction to seeing it all in the window was genuinely that I knew someone was going to get a great bargain and a gorgeous item to wear, and the money would go to a charity close to my heart. There was no desire to go and buy all my stuff back, I was glad it was gone.

Marie Kondo’s method for tidying really has honestly changed my life and I am so grateful for it. It’s given me a new mindset and allowed me to let myself have a home I can enjoy. I’ve noticed that since completing the method that I approach everything from the standpoint of whether it makes me happy. My life generally has so much more joy in it now I’m not weighed down by stuff and guilt. I appreciate what I have so much more now and my home is a lovely place to be.

 

Have you watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo? Or read her books? What did you think? Are you tempted to start decluttering? I’d love to know what you think. 🙂

Stacking the Shelves with a new book haul (19 Jan 2019)!

new sts.png

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and Reading Reality, which is all about sharing the books that you’ve acquired in the past week!

 

Books I Bought This week

Never Greener by Ruth Jones

I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since it was first published so I’m happy to finally own a copy. I hope to get to read it soon.

The Innocent Man by John Grisham

I’m keen to watch the new Netflix series based on the crime in this book so when I spotted the book in a kindle daily deal this week I snapped it up. Usually when I watch a documentary like this I want to then read the book so I have this on my TBR ready now.

Unspoken by Luke Allnutt

I’m on a trial of Kindle Unlimited at the moment and I saw this short book mentioned on a review of the author’s novel We Own the Sky so downloaded it. I plan on reading this soon.

 

Books I Received for Review

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

I keep seeing this book on various blogs so I’m thrilled to have my own copy now. I’m really looking forward to getting to this one, it sounds like my kind of book.

All the Little Lies by Chris Curran

I’ve read and enjoyed Chris Curran’s previous novels so am very happy to have a copy of her new one. This sounds so good and I’m really keen to read it very soon!

East of England by Eamonn Martin Griffin

This sounds a bit different to my normal reads but it’s set in a part of the country that I know quite well so that sold me on it. I’m on the blog tour for this one so I’ll definitely be reading it soon.

 


 

Have you bought any new books over the last week? Please tell me below. 🙂 If you join in with Stacking the Shelves please feel free to leave your link and I’ll make sure to read and comment on your post.

#BookReview: Ideal Angels by Robert Welbourn | @r_welbourn @unbound_digital @annecater #RandomThingsTours

40136896

About the Book

Is it possible to keep secrets in the age of social media? When someone lives their entire life in the spotlight, what could they possibly hide from you? Ideal Angels explores just that. It s the story of one man, one woman, one week. They meet, fall in love, and never look back. Eloise s phone is never far away, furiously cataloguing their ups and downs. But there are always shadows, lurking just out of reach. The moments after the camera flashes, unseen, uncaptured. The threat of an inescapable doom. How much can one person change you? How much can one person be your downfall?

 

My Thoughts

Ideal Angels is about an unnamed protagonist who lives a normal, fairly underwhelming life going to work and coming home, spending a lot of his time alone. Then on a night out he meets Eloise and immediately feels a connection to her. They swap numbers and the next time they meet up things become intense very quickly. Eloise is obsessed with social media and records every little detail of their time together. He isn’t keen, he doesn’t use social media but he allows her to keep taking photos because he is infatuated with her.

I found myself swept up in Ideal Angels from the opening pages. It’s written in a stream of consciousness style a lot of the time so you very quickly get inside the narrator’s head and come to understand why he is the way he is. He maintains that he’s okay alone and doesn’t need anyone but he radiates loneliness. I worried for him when he met Eloise, it felt from the off that he was going to get his heart broken. She’s so vivacious and spontaneous and he just isn’t so I felt she would quickly pull away from him and he would be distraught. There is a sense of melancholy even in the happiness he has found, like he has the fear of it ending even as it’s just beginning. I think most of us can identify with that feeling – that moment when you know you’re in love with someone, and the realisation that you are so vulnerable now, so out there to be hurt.

I loved reading about these two falling in love over the week they spend together in this novel. There are moments of real joy and happiness, and I was rooting for it all to work out. The protagonist becomes more accepting of Eloise’s need to be sharing everything about their life online, yet is steadfast in his not wanting to be online himself. It’s as if he’s decided that as long as he’s not looking at her online profiles then it’s not like she’s really sharing every minute detail of their lives.

I can totally see how social media is an obsession for Eloise and why she needs to keep up her profile, and to play to her ‘friends’. We all want to be liked and these days having lots of twitter followers makes us feel part of things: validated. I first joined twitter almost ten years ago in the worst moments of my life, I was lonely and I had no one. There was always someone online to talk to, and it was such a friendly place back then. I still have friends now that I made back then, one of them became my husband! In the end twitter got too big, it was impossible to keep up and people were less and less chatty, it felt like shouting into a void. I tweeted less and less – I became much more like the protagonist in Ideal Angels, social media was something I was aware of but didn’t really participate in. It’s a double-edged sword – it can make you feel part of something, but it can also make you even more aware of how lonely and isolated you really are.

On a side note I loved the references to Hull in this book. I felt like I was right there with the protaganist and Eloise as he shows her where he grew up. I remember when the shopping centre stripped out all the interesting shops on the top floor and made into a cinema. And I spent many a night at the Welly back in the day. Perhaps it’s in part that I know those places but I really connected with how removed he felt that everything had changed. I guess we can all understand how sad it is to go back to a place from our past and find nothing is the same, we can’t keep things the same except in our memories. This seems like such a poignant moment for me, the realisation that the Eloises of this world are perhaps desperately trying to hold on to everything but it’s not possible to have that much control. Life moves on, things change. Social media isn’t always about people showing off to their followers, sometimes it’s trying to preserve something in order to feel like you have meaning.

In the end we come to see that both of these characters are struggling in their own ways. Eloise appears to be living a happy full life but really there’s no substance to the instagram side of her and she has insecurities underneath. As I came to see there were cracks under the surface I could see how these two people connected with each other so quickly and how they fell for each other.

From the very beginning of this novel I felt like I was going to get my heart broken by these characters, and this feeling lingered even in the happy moments. This novel is such a mirror of how life can be – it’s hard to live in the moment, and when you let yourself relax and be happy at the good life has brought you there can be such a sting in the tail.

This book is so prescient in the social media age we live in, and also with regards to its look at mental health. It’s a stunning novel and one that has really got under my skin, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I finished reading. I loved the wry humour that runs through it, and also the beautiful way with words that Robert Welbourn has in his writing. And even though this novel broke my heart in the end, I completely and utterly fell in love with it. I can already say for sure that Ideal Angels will be one of my favourite books of 2019 because it’s such an incredible novel.

Ideal Angels is prescient, stunning and unforgettable! I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Unbound for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Ideal Angels is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

robert welbourn author pic

Robert Welbourn is Yorkshire born and bred – he’s lived there almost all his life, and now written a book set there. He’s had a passion for books as long as he can remember, and has been writing his whole life. His favourite authors are Bret Easton Ellis and Stephen King, and he cites Ellis as his number one influence.

He studied English Literature at Salford University, and this confirmed that he wanted to spend his life working with books. He currently works in marketing, but is hoping to spend his life telling stories.

Twitter@r_welbourn

 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

ideal angels blog tour poster

#BookReview: Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

35356378

About the Book

We all went to school that Tuesday like normal. Not all of us came home.

When the unthinkable happens, six-year-old Zach is at school. Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, he is too young to understand that life will never be the same again.

Afterwards, the once close-knit community is left reeling. Zach’s dad retreats. His mum sets out to seek revenge. Zach, scared, lost and confused, disappears into his super-secret hideout to try to make sense of things. Nothing feels right – until he listens to his heart . . .

But can he remind the grown-ups how to love again?

 

My Thoughts

Only Child is about seven year old Zach and opens with him hiding in a cupboard at school with his teacher and classmates as gunshots ring out in the corridor. The police arrive and Zach is led to safety but we soon find out that his older brother was killed in the shooting. Zach is then left to try and make sense of what has happened and how to get through it.

Only Child has such a powerful opening chapter – the description, through a child’s eyes, of being huddled in a cupboard for safety was terrifying. It really made my heart race and I was hoping he would be okay. The book gradually moves towards being about how a family can ever begin to come to terms with losing a child in the way they did, but also how a young child can begin to get over such trauma.

It broke my heart when I, as an adult reader, could understand the minutiae of an argument but Zach had no concept other than that the adults around him were shouting and it was upsetting for him. It was horrible seeing him try to process his own grief while his parents were falling apart trying to work through their feelings. I can’t even imagine what it must be like but there were parts of this book that felt so visceral and real to me.

If I’m to be honest though I did struggle with this book having a child narrator at times as it did become repetitive in places – it was irritating how many times Zach tells us that someone ‘shook their head yes’. At other times it didn’t ring true that he was the age he was. We know he struggles with his reading and yet he can read the word sepulchre at the graveyard. These were small niggles though in a book that was otherwise very powerful and very moving.

Rhiannon Navin deals with this all-too-real subject with real sensitivity, and this is a powerful, gripping and very moving novel.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Only Child is out now and available here.

This Week in Books (16 Jan 2019)! What are you reading?

icon2

Today I’m taking in part in This Week in Books, which was started by Lipsyy Lost and Found! If you want to join in you just need to share what you’re reading now, what you’ve read over the last week, and what you hope to read next.

Now

The Suspect by Fiona Barton

I’m really gripped by this book, it’s my favourite Fiona Barton novel to date! I was engrossed in it most of yesterday afternoon and can’t wait to get back to it.

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

I had a break from this novel for most of this week but I’m back reading it again now and hope to finish it soon. It’s a good read but I find the child’s voice and perspective a little too much at times.

Trauma: From Lockerbie to 7/7: How Trauma Affects Our Minds And How We Fight Back by Gordon Turnbull

I’ve read a couple more chapters of this over the last week and am still finding it fascinating. It’s a brilliant book.

 

Then

The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson

I bought this as an audio book recently and listened to it over the last couple of days. It was an interesting book and gave an insight into different aspects of nursing. I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would but I would still recommend it.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

This book was brilliant, it’s a perfect psychological thriller and I literally read it from cover to cover in one sitting! I’ve already reviewed this so if you’d like to know more you can read my thoughts here.

Into the Silent Sea by Claire Stibbe

I found this novel so gripping! It took me a couple of chapters to find my feet with it and then it became really hard to put down. I’ll be reviewing this one next week on my blog so keep an eye out for that soon.

Storyteller: The Authorised Biography of Roald Dahl by Donald Sturrock

I listened to this on audio book over the last week or so and really enjoyed it. It was so interesting to learn more about Roald Dahl and it’s made me want to go back and re-read all my childhood favourites by him, followed by his adult fiction that I’ve never read.

The Party by Lisa Hall

This was a quick and enjoyable enough read.

Ideal Angels by Robert Welbourn

This book is incredible! I’m going to be reviewing it on here tomorrow and am still tweaking my review because I loved it so much that I’m struggling to get my thoughts in order on the screen.

The Second Sister by Claire Kendall

This is the first novel I’ve read by Claire Kendall and I really enjoyed it. It wasn’t what I was expecting it to be but it kept me hooked all the way through. I’ve got The Book of You on my TBR so plan on trying to get to that soon.

The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton

I had this book on my TBR since March 2018 but I finally picked it up in the last week and I read it in one go! It was such a good read, and I loved it. I’ve already reviewed this book so you can read my full review here if you’d like to know more.

 

Next

The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden

I’m going to be on the blog tour for this in a couple of weeks time so I’m planning to read this in the coming week. I think this could be an emotional read for me but I’m looking forward to reading it all the same.

Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

This is an ARC that I’ve had on my TBR for quite a while so I want to try and read this in the next few days if I can. I’m really keen to get to it.

Tilly and the Bookwanderers: Pages and Co. #1 by Anna James

I got this for Christmas and have been saving it to read this week as I knew I’d want a comforting, easy read in the next few days. I feel sure this will be that book.

Matilda by Roald Dahl

This is a book I’ve always loved but I haven’t re-read it in a really long time so I think this week might be a nice time for me to pick it up again.

 

What have you been reading this week? I’d love to hear. And if you take part in This Week in Books or WWW Wednesday please feel free to leave your link below and I’ll make sure to visit and comment on your post. 🙂

#BookReview: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

41c+zqowecl._sx323_bo1,204,203,200_

About the Book

Everyone’s invited. Everyone’s a suspect.

Nine friends ring in the New Year in the remote Scottish Highlands.

As the curtain falls on another year, the celebrations begin.

The next 48 hours see the friends catching up, reminiscing over past stories, scratching old wounds. . . And guarding friendship-destroying secrets.

The clock has barely struck 12 when a broken body is found in the snow.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

When a thick blizzard descends, the group are trapped.

No-one can get in. And no-one can get out.

Not even the killer.

 

My Thoughts

The Hunting Party has such a great premise – the idea of a group of old friends from university days going on holiday together along with their partners, and ending up stuck in a remote Scottish location due to the heavy snowfall is irresistible to me!

The Hunting Party is a little different from other novels that I’ve read with a similar premise in that we know from the start that one of the party has been murdered but we don’t know who. The novel goes back and forth in time across the whole weekend and gradually you start to have your suspicions about who might have been killed and who might be the killer. Part of me would have preferred to know who was killed so I could enjoy trying to work out who was most likely to want that person dead, but another part of me enjoyed being kept guessing about all of it. It meant I was suspicious of everyone, and also judging each of their actions more harshly than I otherwise might because I knew one of them would turn out to be a killer!

There are multiple characters in this book but it’s easy to keep track of them as they all have their own characteristics. None of them are particularly likeable but I can’t help but enjoy novels where no one is my type of person. It really works in this book as you see the events unfold and slowly work out who is dead and who might have killed them.

It always fascinates me to read novels where people are still friends with people they knew from school or university. We change so much in the years from uni to our late 20s and lives become so different so when a group is clinging on to what they once had it’s only going to be a recipe for trouble in a novel. I think friendships only truly survive if you continue to have solid things in common rather than trying to force it. The group in this book for the most part are definitely trying to recreate their youth and to recapture a bond that they once had.

This is a great novel to read at this time of year as the sense of cold and snow and isolation is perfect for winter. This is a new take on the locked room mystery and I recommend it for curling up on the sofa with a cup of hot chocolate and a blanket as the cold winter weather swirls around outside!

I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

The Hunting Party is out now in ebook and is due for release in hardback on 24th January. Buy Link.

#BookReview: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

img_2458

About the Book

ALICIA
Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.

Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.

THEO
Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.

And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

 

My Thoughts

The Silent Patient is about Alicia who, seemingly out of nowhere, murders her husband, Gabriel. Before the murder they seemed like the perfect couple: she a successful artist and he a successful photographer. Now Gabriel is dead and Alicia is rendered mute, she’s held in a secure psychiatric unit and no one has been able to get through to her. The novel is narrated by Theo, a psychotherapist, who becomes convinced that he can treat Alicia and get her talking again.

The Silent Patient has been calling to me from my TBR ever since I was sent an ARC last year and I finally picked it up yesterday afternoon. I literally read it non-stop as it grabbed me from the opening chapter and kept me gripped right until the very end! Even after I finished reading I was still thinking about it!

This is a novel that is predominantly told from Theo’s perspective but it’s interspersed with Alicia’s journal entries. It’s a great way of telling this story as we find out more about Theo and then about Alicia, and you can see how he becomes fixated on helping her, you see that there are similarities between them. Theo speaks to a handful of people who knew Alicia before the murder and he begins to build up a picture of the person she was, and it gets you thinking about whether she really could have killed her husband and you also wonder about the why. Then you get Alicia’s perspective through her diary entries which has you second guessing what you’d previously thought.

I loved the different ways silence was looked at in this book – Alicia was literally silent in this novel but we see other ways in which people are sidelined in their own lives, who hide their history and who keep their pain locked away. There are many ways to be silenced and many ways of showing you are silenced and this runs through this novel. So many of us have things in our lives that we can’t or won’t talk about, and you see this all through The Silent Patient. If only people talked more then maybe damage wouldn’t be wrought upon damage throughout the years. But then it also made me think of how sometimes silence is the only thing left to someone who had been made a victim; how a person can find strength in their refusal to give others what they want – their story, their voice.

The Silent Patient kept me on my toes all the way through. Initially my brain was ticking away trying to work out what was going on as I was reading (and I had about four or five different theories but none of them quite fit) but I ended up so completely engrossed in the story that I was utterly stunned when the reveal happens! It’s not often that a novel grabs me to that degree and shocks me as much as this one so it deserves all of the praise!

There’s not a lot more I can say about The Silent Patient because it’s a book best read without knowing too much about it. I honestly can’t praise it highly enough though – it’s the perfect psychological thriller and I definitely recommend that you pre-order a copy now!

The Silent Patient is very clever, utterly twisted and downright brilliant!

 

Many thanks to Poppy at Orion for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Silent Patient is due to be published on 7th February in hardback and ebook and can be pre-ordered here.

Stacking the Shelves with a new #bookhaul (12 Jan 2019)!

new sts.png

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and Reading Reality, which is all about sharing the books that you’ve acquired in the past week!

 

Oh dear, my plan to reduce my TBR has gone slightly awry as I’ve accumulated a few more books already this year. Oops! Here are my new books…

 

Books I Bought This week

 

No More Plastic by Martin Dorey

I’m becoming increasingly aware of the amount of plastic packaging in our home so am keen to read about what I can do to make changes. This book was a little disappointing in that it didn’t really tell me anything that I didn’t already know. Where it was good though was that it was inspiring in the way it gives you ideas of how you can begin to make a difference in just two minutes.

Turning the Tide on Plastic by Lucy Siegle

This book was recommended to me after I read the previous one and it feels like it’ll be more in depth and a good follow on read. I’m hoping to get to this soon.

The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor

I’ve wanted to read this book ever since it was first published but I’m a total wimp and wasn’t sure if I would enjoy reading it. Anyway, I wanted to try out the new kindle book gift giving option so I bought it for my husband. I’ve since read the first few pages and I’m definitely going to read it too at some point soon.

Will to Live by Rachel Amphlett & One to Watch by Rachel Amphlett

I saw Rachel Amphlett tweet that the first three of her Kay Hunter novels were available in a boxset on kindle for just 99p so I snapped it up. I already had the first one on my TBR so I’m even more keen to read it now I have the next ones queued up ready for me to get to them.

img_2796

The Truths and Triumphs of Grace Atherton by Anstey Harris

I’ve seen some really lovely reviews of this book over the last week or so and couldn’t resist ordering a copy. It arrived yesterday and I can’t wait to read it!

 

Books I Received for Review

 

Senseless by Anna Lickley

I’m always drawn to novels that explore a life-changing situation that happens to the main character so this book really appealed to me. I’m going to be on the blog tour for it in February so I’ll be reading this very soon.

Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan

I adored Ruth Hogan’s first novel, The Keeper of Lost Things, so I couldn’t resist requesting this one on NetGalley.

Twisted by Steve Cavanagh

I read and loved Thirteen last year so have been eagerly anticipating Twisted! This definitely won’t be on my TBR for long!

My Last Lie by Ella Drummond

I’ve had this book on my radar for a few weeks as it’s from a new publisher and it sounds like my kind of read. I was then delighted when I was offered a review copy and a place on the blog tour next month.

img_2791

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

This book sounds brilliant, I feel sure it’s going to be one of those impossible to put down books and I can’t wait to get lost in it!


 

Have you bought any new books over the last week? Please tell me below. 🙂 If you join in with Stacking the Shelves please feel free to leave your link and I’ll make sure to read and comment on your post.

BookReview: The Rumour by Lesley Kara #TheRumour

40898147

About the Book

When single mum Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another and now there’s no going back . . .

Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.

Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.

So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realizes what it is she’s unleashed?

 

My Thoughts

The Rumour is a novel about the damage that gossip can do, and also about whether people who’ve done a terrible thing as a child can ever be allowed to make a new start as an adult. This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2018 and I finally got to read it this week and it was everything I hoped it would be, and more!

I was gripped by The Rumour from the opening pages! It was unsettling to be reading, and sitting in judgement, of the women at the school gates gossiping about a rumour one of them had heard that child killer Sally McGowan was living in their midst whilst at the same time immediately wanting to know whether this was true or not! At heart there is maybe something in all of us that can’t resist salacious gossip and this book really plays to that.

The novel also explores very cleverly the repercussions of the gossip in the town too. A woman is falsely believed to be the killer and her life is left damaged by the rumour. Other women who are of a similar age as Sally McGowan are looked at with suspicion. It must be horrible to feel in danger when you’re innocent. It also made me think about what it must be like to have done something so awful as a child and to have served your time and to be deemed to be rehabilitated but then it’s always there. Even with a new identity the media, and the gossips, will never quite leave it alone.

I really liked Joanna in this novel, although I did find her a little naive at times, she was clearly someone who wanted to do the best for her son and to make a life for herself in this town they’ve recently moved to. She tries to make friends with some other mums in order to help her son make friends, which is how she ends up fuelling the gossip with her own take on the rumour.

Lesley Kara captures small town mentality so perfectly. I grew up in a smallish town where everyone knew everyone else’s business. Gossip was right around the town before the subject of the gossip would even know about it. I found it so claustrophobic as I got a bit older and I’m glad not to live there anymore. The Rumour really captures how gossip spreads in small towns, and also the reasons why people gossip. Often no harm is meant but that doesn’t mean no harm is caused.

The Rumour is full of red herrings, and this makes for such a rollercoaster of a read. I loved that when I thought I had it all worked out there was a sting in the tail. The Rumour is a brilliant, fast-paced and unputdownable novel and I’m already thinking that it is highly likely to be on my best books of 2019! It was that good!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

The Rumour is out now and available here.

#BookReview: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton | @KJHAuthor @Wildfirebks @Bookish_Becky

img_0122

About the Book

Juliette loves Nate. She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back. She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

 

My Thoughts

I was very lucky to be sent an ARC of The Perfect Girlfriend last year but I didn’t manage to read it at the time. I finally picked it up yesterday and I read the whole novel in one sitting!

The Perfect Girlfriend is the story of Juliette. She has trained to be a flight attendant in order to keep a close eye on Nate, who is a pilot. Nate was Juliette’s boyfriend until he broke up with her six months ago but now Juliette is determined to prove to him that she is the perfect girlfriend and that he should be with her!

This novel has such a good premise and I was intrigued by it from the moment I first heard about it. The idea of someone going to such lengths as to train in a new career in order to try and get their ex back is worrying but a fantastic idea for a book! This is a real insight into the mind of a stalker, someone who is so obsessed by a previous lover that they simply can’t let go. They believe that what they want is what will make the other person happy and so pursue that life at all costs.

Juliette is a brilliant character. Initially I felt a little sorry for her, she’s clearly got issues but she’s had some really difficult times in her life so I was hoping she would get herself together. As the novel goes on she is harder and harder to like but impossible to stop reading about. She is increasingly unhinged as she steps up her campaign to get Nate back and there are moments when I was holding my breath hoping that all would be okay in the end. This is a novel that slowly builds the tension, it creeps up on you and before you know it you’re on the edge of your seat hoping that real life won’t interrupt your reading time!

The Perfect Girlfriend is fast-paced, creepy and impossible to put down – I recommend it! I’m already eagerly anticipating whatever Karen Hamilton writes next!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

The Perfect Girlfriend is out today in paperback and available here.

#BookReview: The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola | @Anna_Mazz @TinderPress @annecater

img_2768

About the Book

From the author of The Unseeing comes a sizzling period novel of folktales, disappearances and injustice set on the Isle of Skye, sure to appeal to readers of Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites or Beth Underdown’s The Witch Finder’s Sister.

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857, and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.

Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach, and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.

Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother many years before.

 

My Thoughts

Audrey Hart is a young woman who has left London to travel to Skye to work collecting folk tales from the local area. Her late mother had also been interested in folklore and had traveled to areas nearby so she is also wanting to know more about her. She moves in with Mrs Buchanan, the lady who she’ll be collecting the tales for, and begins to settle in. Soon after her arrival she finds a body on the beach and from this point on real life begins to blur with the folklore for Audrey.

The Story Keeper is a fantastic novel. The writing is wonderful and so atmospheric. I felt the oppressive atmosphere in a small place where people are very insular and don’t want to share their lives and their stories with incomers.

Audrey is a great character. I was in awe of her travelling from London to Skye on her own in a time when this would have been a scary and courageous thing for a young woman to do alone. I felt for her at the lack of a mother in her life, I know what it’s like to lose your mum and could see how lost she was and how at the root of everything she was looking to find a sense of her mum somewhere. As Audrey began to get more and more drawn into the folklore and to see some of the happenings that the islanders spoke about I was really hoping that she was going to be okay. I was rooting for her to be able to make a home and a life, and to feel settled again.

There is so much mystery in this novel and I loved how it was possible to find yourself believing that there must be something in the folklore as the horrible things happening on the island were so similar to the stories, whilst at the same time the rational side of your brain is thinking that there must be another reason for the coincidences and odd happenings.

I got so absorbed in this novel and felt really jolted when real life brought me back to where I was. It’s not often that a novel captures me to that degree and it was wonderful to be so enthralled. The Story keeper is a brilliant, atmospheric and utterly gripping novel and I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours and the publisher for my copy of The Story Keeper and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Story Keeper is out now in hardback and ebook, and can be pre-ordered in paperback here.

 

About the Author

46739336_10157410524868974_3692786321023041536_n

Anna is a writer who, due to some fault of her parents, is drawn to peculiar and dark historical subjects. Her novels, which have been described as literary crime fiction or historical crime, explore the psychological and social impact of crime and injustice. Anna’s influences include Sarah Waters, Daphne Du Maurier, Shirley Jackson and Margaret Atwood.

 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

46826177_10157410524708974_5181663912734490624_n

This Week in Books (9 Jan 2019)! What are you reading this week?

icon2

Today I’m taking in part in This Week in Books, which was started by Lipsyy Lost and Found! If you want to join in you just need to share what you’re reading now, what you’ve read over the last week, and what you hope to read next.

Now

Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

I’ve had an unread ARC of this from NetGalley for longer than I should have but I finally picked it up this week and am finding it gripping so far.

Trauma: From Lockerbie to 7/7: How Trauma Affects Our Minds And How We Fight Back by Gordon Turnbull

I’ve been reading this one on and off for a week or so now and am finding it utterly fascinating. I’m always interested in reading about trauma having suffered from PTSD myself and this book is particularly good. This book looks at Turnbull’s career but also how he, and others in psychiatry, came to understand trauma and how best to treat it.

 

Then

No More Plastic by Martin Dorey

I bought this in the kindle sale this week and it was an okay read. I was a little disappointed because I didn’t really learn anything that I didn’t know before but it is a good book to get you motivated to think more about how much plastic we use and to start doing something about it.

The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola

This is such a fantastic novel – really atmospheric and gripping. I’ve posted my review of this on my blog today so please check that out if you’d like to know more.

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

I half read and half listened to this book and I very much enjoyed it. It worked really well as an audio book and I think listening to it heightened my enjoyment.

The Rumour by Lesley Kara

This book was so good! I found it near impossible to put down and loved every minute that I spent reading it. I hope to have my review posted in the next few days so please look out for that.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

This was an enjoyable read, and is a perfect book for this time of year. I would’ve liked a bit more depth to the characters but none-the-less this is a page turner.

The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard

I loved this novel – it was thrilling and gripping and I couldn’t put it down. I’ve already reviewed this one so if you’d like to read my thoughts on it please click here.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

I got this book for Christmas and it was my first read of 2019 and what a read it was! I absolutely adored this novel and feel sure that it will make my top books of this year. I already want to read it again!

 

Next

Ideal Angels by Robert Welbourn

This is a bit different to my usual reads so I’m really looking forward to reading it in the coming days, I think it’s going to be a good one!

Into the Silent Sea by Claire Stibbe

I’m on the blog tour for this one in a couple of weeks so am hoping to read it this week. I did read the opening chapter when the book arrived and I feel sure that I’m going to really enjoy this one.

Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain

I really enjoyed The Confession by Jo Spain so when I spotted her new one on NetGalley just before Christmas I couldn’t resist requesting it. It’s been calling to me ever since and I can’t resist any longer!


 

 

What have you been reading this week? I’d love to hear. And if you take part in This Week in Books or WWW Wednesday please feel free to leave your link below and I’ll make sure to visit and comment on your post. 🙂

New Year Book Tag!

I saw this tag on a few blogs (Cleopatra Loves Books, Carla Loves to Read and The Secret Library Site) this week and enjoyed their posts so much that I decided to join in!

How many books are you planning to read in 2019?

screenshot242

I’ve set my Goodreads goal at 200 books over the year, it feels like a good number for me. It’s high enough to be a challenge but not so high that I’ll stress about it.

 

Name five books you didn’t get to read in 2018 but want to make a priority in 2019?

img_2458

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

I was very lucky to be sent an ARC of this one a few months back and I really want to read and review it in time for it’s publication date so I’ll be reading this one in the next couple of weeks (fingers crossed!).

img_2343 (1)

Inhuman Resources by Pierre LeMaitre

I love Pierre LeMaitre’s novels and I was so thrilled when a surprise copy of this new one arrived a few months ago. I’m hoping to make time to read this one in the next few weeks, I just know it’s going to be a such a good read!

img_2347

Histories by Sam Guglani

I was sent this for review and haven’t managed to get to it yet, I really am keen to read it though so am hoping to make time to read it in the next couple of months.

35967101

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

I bought this the week it was released but didn’t manage to get to it last year. I’ve heard so many great things about it, and I saw it made a lot of best books of 2018 lists so I want to get to this one imminently!

IMG_1186

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

I got this for my birthday last year, almost exactly a year ago now, and I’m still so keen to read it so I definitely want to read this very soon.

 

Name a genre you want to read more of?

I think I’d just like to read more widely in general this year. I’ve already enjoyed a couple of historical novels this year, which is a genre I don’t read much of so I’d like to read more.

 

Three non book related goals for 2019?

I want to keep working on improving my health where I can.

I want to worry less about the things that I can’t change.

I want to plan some fun things to look forward to.

 

What’s a book you’ve had forever that you still need to read?

18930192

I looked at my Goodreads and I’ve had Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides on my TBR since February 2010 so I’d like to get to that in 2019! I’ve probably had it way longer than 2010 but that’s the year I started keeping track of my books and added all the ones I already owned to Goodreads.

 

One word that you’re hoping 2019 will be?

Happy! 🙂

#BookReview: The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard @cathryanhoward @CorvusBooks #TheLiarsGirl @annecater

img_2774

About the Book

Her first love confessed to five murders.

The truth was so much worse.

Will Hurley, Dublin’s notorious Canal Killer, is in prison, ten years into a life sentence.

His ex-girlfriend, Alison, has built a new life abroad, putting her shattered past behind her.

Then the copycat killings start. Will holds the key to unlocking these crimes, but he’ll only talk to Alison. Can the killer be stopped before there’s another senseless murder? And after all these years, can Alison face the past – and the man – she’s worked so hard to forget?

 

My Thoughts

The Liar’s Girl is the story of Alison, who meets the love of her life at university but then her life spirals when her best friend is murdered and her boyfriend Will is arrested for the killing. The novel is told predominantly from Alison’s perspective in a dual timeline: in the past when she’s at Uni and in the present ten years later as she’s trying to build a life for herself. Things begin to unravel when a copycat killer is on the loose and the police want Alison to come back to Dublin to speak to Will about what he might know.

The Liar’s Girl opens with a scene that was so unnerving. A young woman comes round in a house, obviously in the aftermath of a small party or gathering of other young people. She’s clearly had a drink but she’s aware that something’s really not right. Then she sees something which chills her to the bone and she runs. My adrenaline was racing as I read it and I just knew this was going to be a brilliant read (and I was so right!).

I liked Alison from the start of this novel and felt such sympathy for her at all she had been through. It’s clearly damaged her and affected her ability to form relationships with men, and she never feels like she can be honest about knowing Will or Liz. It must be so difficult to feel you have to keep such secrets. You can see from the start that Alison and Liz had a complicated friendship that is so common in the teenage years. One is often more of a leader than the other, and that leaves the other to feel like they’re just following along without really knowing who they are. When Liz and Alison get to Uni and Alison meets her flatmate and then Will she begins to grow in confidence, but then the murders happen. All through the novel I was hoping Alison would find the strength to come to terms with all the complex emotions she’d buried from the past.

I did work out some aspects of how this novel would end, although I had my doubts about a couple of the characters before I settled on a theory, but this never spoiled my enjoyment of the book as I wanted to know why and how.

The Liar’s Girl had perfect pacing for me – it’s quite a slow-burn, allowing the reader to get to know Alison and letting the tension build up, while at the same time being such a fast read because once you start reading you just don’t want to put it down! The novel is predominantly about Alison and about how the murders are investigated but it’s interspersed with creepy moments from the killer’s perspective that definitely get the adrenaline going!

The Liar’s Girl is gripping, thrilling and impossible to put down! I read this in one sitting and absolutely loved it! I definitely recommend this one!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Corvus for my copy of The Liar’s Girl and my invitation to be on the blog tour.

The Liar’s Girl is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

catherine ryan howard credit steve langan

Catherine Ryan Howard was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1982. Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida, and most recently was a social media marketer for a major publisher. She is currently studying for a BA in English at Trinity College Dublin. Her debut novel Distress Signalswas published by Corvus in 2016 and was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger.

 

 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

the liar's girl blog tour poster

Mini Crime and Thriller Book Reviews! #bookreview

I didn’t quite catch up on reviewing the books that I read in 2018 before the end of the year so here is another mini book review post 🙂

 

IMG_2161 (1)

A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay

I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of Barclay’s previous novels but A Noise Downstairs is by far my favourite of his to date. It was creepy and unnerving, and even when I was on the edge of my seat I simply couldn’t put this book down because I had to know how it was going to end. I do enjoy books where the premise could be that there is someone setting someone up to think they’re going mad, or the person could actually be losing their grip on reality and this book does this so well.  I did find I had to suspend disbelief with some aspects of this novel but it didn’t make it any less enjoyable, and the end when it comes is shocking and disturbing. I definitely recommend it!

 

38448673

The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah

This is the first of Sophie Hannah’s takes on Agatha Christie that I’ve read and I did really enjoy it. My favourite thing about Christie is the puzzle element, her novels don’t always feel grounded in reality for me but the puzzle is always brilliant and I think Hannah did a good job with this. This book’s mystery was one that I managed to figure out elements of but not the whole thing, something that’s rare for me with Poirot but I liked feeling like I had a chance of solving the crime. I’ll definitely be picking up more of Sophie Hannah’s Poirot books and I’m really looking forward to reading them.

 

35436009

All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew

This is a stunning novel about the aftermath of a college shooting. It follows three characters as they are forced to face up to what has happened in their community. One is the mother of the shooter, then there is the mother of the first girl to be shot, and the third is the detective in charge of the investigation. The novel actually starts the day before and the build up is so tense because you know what’s going to happen but you’re not sure how or when. The three viewpoints make this such a heartbreaking read as we learn more about these women and their lives, and how the devastation has affected them. I highly recommend this novel.

 

IMG_0038

Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke

This is a beautifully written but also devastating novel looking at a community dealing with the aftermath of two apparent murders – one of a black man and the other of a white woman. The racial tensions within the town play a large part in how each person views everyone else. It felt quite claustrophobic at times, like I was right there in the town and seeing this situation unfold with my own eyes. I found this book so unsettling, and yet really hard to put down. This is an excellent, prescient and really important read. I definitely need to read more of Attica Locke’s work this year.

Stacking the Shelves with my new #bookhaul (5 Jan 2019)! Have you added any new books to your TBR this week?

new sts.png

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and Reading Reality, which is all about sharing the books that you’ve acquired in the past week!

 

I went a bit 1-click happy online on the last day of 2018 so I have quite a few new books to tell you about today.  Thankfully because I bought them at the end of 2018 they were already on my TBR so only a couple of them count towards the TBR I’m starting 2019 with.

Books that I’ve bought in the last week:

 

The Inaugural Meeting of the Fairvale Ladies Book Club by Sophie Green

The Puppet Show by M. W. Craven

I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

Leon and June by June Bernicoff

On A Beautiful Day by Lucy Diamond

Dead Girls by Graeme Cameron

Unbroken by Martine Wright

In Shock by Rana Awdish

Ask Me His Name by Elle Wright

Hotel Silence by Auður Ava Ólafsdóttir

The Heretics by Will Storr

In Your Defence by Sarah Langford

A Mind of its Own by Cordelia Fine

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata 

Too Close by Natalie Daniels

img_2775

Schadenfreude by Tiffany Watt Smith

 

 

Review books received in the last week:

 

41087365

What Red Was by Rosie Price

 

 

Books that I won in a recent giveaway:

 

Driven by Rosemary Smith

The End of The End of The Earth by Jonathan Franzen

 

 

Have you bought any new books over the last week? Please tell me below. 🙂 If you join in with Stacking the Shelves please feel free to leave your link and I’ll make sure to read and comment on your post.

 

 

 

 

2018 Reading Reflections, Statistics and Plans for Tackling My TBR in 2019!

You deserve the best and nothing less. We love you!

So this week I’ve posted my favourite novels read in 2018 and my favourite non-fiction books. Yesterday it was Reading Bingo time so today that means it’s my chance to reflect on my reading through 2018 and to share some of my stats!

I always set a reading goal on Goodreads as I enjoy tracking my reading on there throughout the year. I set my 2018 goal at 200 and I’m gobsmacked that in the end I read 290 books! This is the most I’ve read in a year since I started keeping track of my reading so I’m delighted.

screenshot233

The longest book I read in 2018 was Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke – my copy had 1006 pages in it! It’s not my normal type of book but I very much enjoyed it and I flew through it. The shortest book was a Christmas short story called Once Upon a Christmas Eve by Mary Jane Forbes at just 13 pages. I read quite a lot of longish books in 2018 but a lot of the Christmas books I read were short which brought my average page count down a little. I still averaged 324 pages per book over the year though, which I’m really happy with as it means I’m not reading short books to get my numbers up (something I have done in the past!). I actually read 93,863 pages over the year (Goodreads has a couple of books that don’t seem to have a page count).

 

screenshot240

The above picture shows all of my four and five star reads from 2018. It’s lovely to have read so many great books over a year. I have rated some books lower than that but I just wanted to show the books that I’ve really loved. 🙂

 

I’m still hooked on tracking my reading on a spreadsheet and actually use two as I found them both online and each one tracks different data (and I’m nowhere near savvy enough to know how to combine them so I shall continue to use them both!).

 

screenshot234

Out of the 290 books I read last year 222 were by female authors and 60 were by male authors. The remaining 8 were co-authored. In 2017 I read 72% female authors and in 2018 this increase to 78% of my reading. This isn’t conscious and it was a surprise to me that the percentage was so high for female writers. I am wondering if I should try to balance this more this year or whether to carry on just reading as I am and seeing how it goes.

 

screenshot235

I read fairly steadily throughout the year but my December reading has skewed things a bit. I did read a lot of books in the run up to Christmas but quite a few were really short books or poetry collections so it seems like I read more than I did. Having said that I did read a lot of pages in the month so it’s averaged out.

 

screenshot236

I am pleased to see that I’ve read a reasonable spread of genres in 2018. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t read more non-fiction over the year – I did read 79 books but that only makes up 26.5% of my reading. I aim for around a third of my reading to be non-fiction so I want to focus more on this in 2019. I did feel like I’ve read a lot of thrillers last year and on this graph you can definitely see that this was my go-to genre over the year. I am pleased that I did get some other fiction, some poetry and even some science fiction in there though as I’m trying to keep trying different things with my reading. Overall I’m happy with the spread of what I read, and most importantly I enjoyed such a lot of what I read.

 

screenshot239

I’ve been tracking the diversity of the books I’ve read in 2018 because the spreadsheet I used had it on there. It’s quite interesting to see how diverse (or not) my reading has been. I’m pleased that half of the books I read were diverse in some way but part of me wishes the percentage was greater. I don’t want to become too focused on these stats but I will make more effort to read more widely over the year ahead.

 

My TBR at the start of 2018 was 2757 books (this is print, ebooks and audio combined), which is all the books that I already own but haven’t read yet. I did want to try and be more mindful of my reading to book buying ratio over the year as I wanted to try and get to some of the books that have been on my shelves for a long time. I was hoping to reduce my TBR by around 200 books over the course of the year and so I’m really pleased to see that I ended 2018 with fewer books than I started with! I ended up with 2447 owned books, which is a reduction of 310 so I’m happy with that. This is from a combination of reading so many books over the year but also as part of my decluttering I accepted that there were books on my shelves that had been there for years that just don’t interest me anymore (so they went to the charity shop). In 2019 I think I’ll keep the same approach to my huge TBR – not to be too hard myself but to try and balance reading new books and review books with getting to books that have been languishing on my shelves for a long time.

 

So all-in-all 2018 was a great reading year and I’m really looking forward to reading my way through 2019 (and attempting to reduce my TBR even further)! How was your reading last year? Did you have any goals, and if so did you achieve them? What are your reading plans for 2019? If you’ve written a post about your reading reflections please feel free to leave a link in the comments and I’ll make sure that I read it.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Book Bingo Time! Will it be a full house for 2018? #BookBingo

I’ve really enjoyed doing book bingo over the last couple of years so couldn’t resist the chance to see whether I’d successfully filled in my bingo card for 2018. As ever, I don’t look at the bingo card during the year I just read what I want to read and then at the end of the year look through my reading to see if I’ve managed a full house.

So without further ado…

img_8009

 

A Book With More Than 500 Pages

14201

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

A Forgotten Classic

43223987

The Christmas Hirelings by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

A Book That Became a Movie

IMG_1886

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

A Book Published This Year

35437614

Lullaby by Leila Slimani

A Book With a Number in the Title

36358192

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

A Book Written By Someone Under 30

33606119-2

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

A Book With Non Human Characters

36352249

One Christmas Wish by Katherine Rundell

A Funny Book

35235302

This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

A Book By A Female Author

36669495

The Winter’s Child by Cassandra Parkin

A Book With a Mystery

KEEPER COVER AW 2.indd

Keeper by Johana Gustawsson

A Book With A One Word Title

29640815

Allegedly by Tiffany D. Jackson

A Book of Short Stories

23398781

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes

Free Square

42791243

Snowday by B R Maycock

A Book Set on a Different Continent

IMG_2340

Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia

A Book of Non Fiction

12332233

No Such Thing As Society by Andy McSmith

The First Book By A Favourite Author

19472157-2

A is for Alibi by Sue Grafton

A Book You Heard About Online

51ZJAzdewoL

Lies Between Us by Ronnie Turner

A Best-Selling Book

36217425

Thirteen by Steve Cavanagh

A Book Based on a True Story 

IJ - NEW COVER Isolation Junction-4

Isolation Junction by Jennifer Gilmour

A Book At The Bottom of Your TBR Pile

46223

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

A Book Your Friend Loves

10893138

The Time of My Life by Cecelia Ahern

A Book that Scares You

38343858

I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara

A Book That Is More Than Ten Years Old

51bD+cvFwWL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_

The Constant Gardener by John le Carre

The Second Book In A Series

18214414

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

A Book With a Blue Cover

34257841

Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny

 


 

Woo hoo! Full House! I wasn’t sure when I started writing this post that I was actually going to have a book read in 2018 for every square but I’ve done it! It’s always fun to play Book Bingo, it’s another way to reflect on the year’s reading.

Have you taken part in Book Bingo for 2018? If you have I’d love to see your posts so please leave links below. 🙂

My Top Non-Fiction Reads 2018!

My Favourite Books 0f 2018!-2

Today I’m sharing my non-fiction reads from 2018! I read 290 books last year and 79 of those were non-fiction so I’ve picked my top 12. Yesterday I shared my favourite fiction reads of the year and you can find that here if you’d like to read it.

Illusion of Justice by Jerome Buting

I was late getting to Making a Murderer but I finally watched season one earlier this year  and immediately looked to see if there were any books on the case. This is written by one of Steven Avery’s lawyers and was a really fascinating read. I watched season 2 as soon as it was on Netflix and see that there’s a possibility that these lawyers could have done more but at the time of reading it felt like a really good insight into the case and that they’d done all they could within the restraints they had.

My Life in Football by Kevin Keegan

I listened to this on audio and really enjoyed it. It was a hard listen at times being a Newcastle United fan and hearing in Keegan’s own words how badly he was treated at the club. It was interesting to learn more about Keegan’s life though and I found this book near impossible to stop listening to.

How Not to be a Boy by Robert Webb

I got this for Christmas in 2017 and it’d been calling to me from my TBR all year so I was glad to finally read it. It’s such an open and honest memoir and I found it such an interesting read.

The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright

This is a really in-depth book about what led to 9/11. It’s obviously not always an easy subject to read about in terms of what happened but the way this book is written makes it one you don’t want to put down. It gave me a much better understanding of what happened in the years preceding 9/11. It’s such an important book and one I definitely recommend.

Knowing the Score by Judy Murray

I very much enjoyed this book having been a fan of Judy Murray for a while now. It gave such insight into her character and her strength and I was so inspired by just how much she’s done for female tennis players over the years. I have a full review of this book so if you’d like to know more click the title above.

Life to the Limit by Jenson Button

I listened to this as an audio book after buying it in an Audible sale a few weeks ago. I used to be such big F1 fan so was keen to know more behind the scenes of Button’s career. There is much of that but this is also a love letter to his late father, John and I found is so much more moving than I expected.

So Here It Is by Dave Hill

I initially wanted to read this because I grew up hearing Slade as my late mum was a huge fan. The book is so well-written and is so full of honesty and openness that I enjoyed it on its own merits. I have a full review of this so if you’d like to know more about what I thought click the title above.

Bookworm by Lucy Mangan

This book was sheer joy to read! I love books about books anyway but this one really grabbed me as I’m assuming Mangan is a similar age to me as we read many of the same books in childhood. It was a real nostalgic read and led to me buying copies of childhood books that I loved but had sadly long since lost. I recommend this to all bookworms!

The Light in the Dark by Horatio Clare

This is a beautiful, lyrical journal about the changing of the season into winter. It’s a mediation on all the changes that occur as winter hits. This book struck such a chord with me and gave me such comfort and solace at a time of year that I needed it most. This is a book I will return to again and again.

This Is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

This was another Christmas gift from 2017, which I read fairly early on in 2018 but it’s stayed with me ever since. It’s a funny book, and a sad book but mostly it’s just an honest diary of a junior doctor’s experience of working in the NHS.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

I bought this as soon as it came out as I can’t resist well written true crime. This was a fascinating account of one woman’s growing obsession with the Golden State Killer and her feeling that she had his name almost within her grasp. The author sadly died before she finished this book so there is a real poignancy in the reading experience because of that. It’s a brilliant book though.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (and Spark Joy) by Marie Kondo

This had to be my number one non-fiction book of the year because it has changed my life. Spark Joy I read for the first time in 2018, whereas The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was a re-read (although the first time I read it, I didn’t grasp the good bits as I was too focused on what felt odd in her methods). I read these books at the start of the year and immediately wanted to follow her method properly as my house was over-run with stuff. It really worked for me this time and I’ve spent months going through every single item that I own and have finally got rid of all the clutter. I naturally want to hoard things but I’m now so much better at just getting rid of things that I don’t love. I’ve never had so much space in my own home before and it feels wonderful. I’ve definitely got the decluttering bug now as every time I’m dusting I immediately put in the charity box anything that doesn’t make me happy.

 


 

So that’s my favourite non-fiction that I read in 2018. Did you read any good non-fiction last year? I’d love to know what your favourite book (or books!) was. Don’t forget you can find my favourite novels in yesterday’s post here if you’d like to see my fiction book picks of the year.

My Favourite Novels of 2018!

My Favourite Books 0f 2018!

Firstly, happy new year to you all! I hope 2019 brings you good health, peace and happiness!

2018 has been an amazing reading year for me. I read 290 books, which is the most I’ve read in one year since I started keeping track of my reading! Of the 290, 211 were fiction so that has made it so hard to pick a top 10 or even a top 20 so in the end I made a list of the books that have stayed with me the most and 27 novels have made my list! (My non-fiction picks will be in a separate post tomorrow).

Some of these books have stayed with me because they were well-written, some were impossible to put down and others brought out such an emotional reaction in me that they simply had to be on this list.

So without further ado, here are my favourite books of 2018 (click the title if you’d like to read my full review on each of these books)…

 

In reverse order: 

27. Dead in Venice by Fiona Leitch

This is one of the best audio books I listened to this year and had to be on my list as it’s really stick with me.

26. The Lingering by SJI Holliday

This was an unsettling, creepy novel that I couldn’t put down!

25. You Let Me In by Lucy Clarke

I love Lucy Clarke’s writing and this has joined The Sea Sisters as my favourite books by her!

24. The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

This was such a different read for me and I utterly adored it.

23. Perfect Bones by AJ Waines

This is a crime fiction novel that haunted me in the times when I wasn’t reading it, it definitely earned its place on my list.

22. The Date by Louise Jensen

I love Louise Jensen’s writing and this book was another brilliant read by her. It gave me an insight into a condition I knew nothing much about and the ending of the book gave me chills!

21. An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena

I read this book in one sitting on a boiling hot day but the writing was so good that I could feel the snowy cold and the oppressive atmosphere of those trapped in the hotel with a murderer on the loose!

20. Odette by Jessica Duchen

This is such a beautiful book and it really resonated with me so it had to be on this list!

19. Attend by West Camel

This is a recent read but I keep finding myself thinking about the characters and it’s staying in my mind so I had to have this in my top books.

18. Daisy Belle by Caitlin Davies

This is a wonderful story about a young girl who wants to make it as a champion swimmer in a time when it’s not the done thing for females. It’s inspiring and beautiful and I knew it would make my top books of the year as soon as I finished reading it.

17. The Afterlife of Walter Augustus by Hannah M. Lynn

This is a bit different from my usual reads but it’s so beautiful and very moving in places and I still think about it.

16. Old Baggage by Lissa Evans

This was such a brilliant novel, and is another book that really has stayed with me.

 

15. The Girl in His Eyes by Jennie Ensor

This was a very prescient and moving novel, and while it was hard to read at times for me personally the writing is so sensitive and honest that I couldn’t put it down.

14. Fukushima Dreams by Zelda Rhiando

I wasn’t expecting to love this book as much as I did but it’s so stunningly written and the story is still swirling in my mind. It was an unforgettable read for me and deserves its place on my list.

13. Narcissism for Beginners by Martine McDonagh

This is another book that was a bit different to my usual read but I devoured it. It’s funny and emotional and I adored it.

12. Good Samaritans by Will Carver

This is such a brilliant read, one I’ve been recommending to people ever since I finished reading it.

11. Overkill by Vanda Symon

This is my new favourite crime thriller series and I’m desperate to get my hands on the second book as soon as it’s out!

10. Him by Clare Empson

I got this book on a whim from NetGalley and I’m so glad I did. This really got under my skin and I couldn’t put it down until I’d read all the way to the end.

9. Miss Marley by Vanessa LaFaye with Rebecca Mascull

This is the only book on this list that I haven’t managed to review but I highly recommend it. It’s gorgeous and moving and just brilliant. It honours A Christmas Carol so beautifully whilst also standing on its own as a novella. The final couple of chapters were incredibly moving. I know this will be a book that I read every Christmas from now on so it absolutely deserves to be on this list.

8. Roar by Cecelia Ahern

This short story collection is brilliant. I loved every story and enjoyed finding the ones that resonated with me. It’s fabulous!

7. Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

This is such a magical and lyrical novel, it’s another book that is staying with me and I know I’ll want to read it again in the future.

6. The Long Forgotten by David Whitehouse 

I was looking forward to reading this novel but I wasn’t expecting it to get to me in the way it did. It’s very moving and so fascinating, and the writing is stunning.

5. Snap by Belinda Bauer

This was my favourite crime thriller of the year, I loved it. I don’t think I’ve read a crime novel before that has made me cry in the way this did. It’s such a brilliant novel.

4. Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

This novel really connected with me in so many ways and my review ended up being very personal as the story got so entwined with my emotions at the time I was reading. It’s a beautiful novel and I urge you to read it if you haven’t already.

 

 

Love and Fame Cover

3. Love and Fame by Susie Boyt

This book is why I love blog tours – I was offered a copy of Love and Fame, a book I hadn’t heard of before and decided to give it a go. It’s such a witty, funny and moving novel about grief and loss in various forms. I absolutely fell in love with this book and it’s one I consider to be a firm favourite. I’m so glad this book found me!

 

 

And the next two books are jointly my favourite books of the year because I just couldn’t pick between them…

 

 

The Lion Tamer Who Lost by Louise Beech

I adore Louise Beech’s writing anyway but The Lion Tamer Who Lost stole my heart in a way that no other book has done in 2018. I keep thinking of the characters and wondering how they are, I keep thinking of how cruel life can be but how a novel like this does ultimately remind you why you need to keep going. I cried buckets reading parts of this book but I fell in love with it and it absolutely deserves this number one spot!

 

Let Me Be Like Water by S. K. Perry

I hadn’t heard of this book before a copy got sent to me for review but it was serendipity that it came into my life at the perfect moment. This is such a beautiful, lyrical novel that had me sobbing one moment and feeling consoled the next. The characters are wonderful and the depiction of grief is so real, as is the way we find a way to start living with grief. A stunning book that I will treasure forever and ever!

 


Tomorrow I’ll be sharing my Top Non-Fiction books of the year so look out for that then. In the meantime what were your favourite books of 2018? If you have a blog post please feel free to leave the link below. Happy New Year! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

My Christmas Book Haul! Stacking the Shelves (29 Dec 2018)! #Christmas #bookhaul

new sts.png

Stacking the Shelves is a weekly meme hosted by Tynga’s Reviews and Reading Reality, which is all about sharing the books that you’ve acquired in the past week!

 

IMG_2722

I haven’t done a Stacking the Shelves post for a little while now but I was super spoilt by my husband who gave me a mountain(!) of books for Christmas and I wanted to share my lovely book haul!

 

First up the novels:

 

IMG_2744

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar

I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since it was first published so I was hoping to get a copy for Christmas. It was the last gift I opened and it rounded off such a perfect day.

 

IMG_2745

The Burning Chambers by Kate Mosse

This is another book that I’ve had my eye on but it’s a bit intimidating seeing just how big it is! I’m looking forward to getting completely swept up in this novel.

 

IMG_2740

A Keeper by Graham Norton

I hadn’t seen this book in real life until I opened it on Christmas day and it really is a gorgeous looking book. I have high hopes for the story inside, fingers crossed it’s as good as the cover!

 

IMG_2743

A Fireproof Home for the Bride by Amy Scheibe

This is a novel that I knew nothing about but reading the blurb it sounds like a really good read.

 

IMG_2741

The Year We Fell Apart by Emily Martin

I’ve had this on my wishlist for a while so I was delighted to open this parcel on Christmas day. I think this will be a quick read so I plan on reading it very soon.

 

IMG_2733

After the Crash by Michel Bussi

Black Water Lilies by Michel Bussi

Don’t Let Go by Michel Bussi

I’ve never read any Michel Bussi but his books sound like my kind of reads so I was happy to open three of his novels and hope to read them soon.

 

IMG_2732

A Table Near the Band by A. A. Milne

Chloe Marr by A. A. Milne

Mr Pim Passes By by A. A. Milne

Two People by A. A. Milne

Four Days’ Wonder by A. A. Milne

It was not long before Christmas when these books were recommended to me and they sounds like just the kind of books I like to read when I’m not feeling well. It was fab to open these gorgeous new editions and I’m keen to read these!

 

A poetry collection:

 

IMG_2739

The Latest Winter by Maggie Nelson

I adore Maggie Nelson’s writing so was delighted to open this poetry collection on Christmas morning. This book has such a gorgeous cover I want to have it on show on my bookcase!

 

Some new non-fiction:

 

IMG_2746

Missions to the Moon by Rod Pyle

Ever since I was a young child I’ve been fascinated by space travel and the moon landings. Opening this book on Christmas day took me right back to the excitement I had as a child! This book has stunning photos and is also full of augmented reality so when it mentions a speech or a take off you can scan it on your phone or iPad and watch it there and then. I’ve been reading this book on and off ever since Christmas and I love it!

 

IMG_2738

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

I’ve done a lot of work on both my physical and mental health this year and am keen to do more next year so this book feels like it’ll be a perfect read for the start of the year to help me focus on keeping my life as stress-free as possible.

 

IMG_2742

Dear Mr Murray by David McClay

This is a beautiful book of letters sent to the publisher Mr Murray. I’ve only flicked through it so far but I can already see that this is going to be an utter delight to dip in and out of.

 

Some gorgeous childrens’/middle grade fiction:

 

IMG_2734

The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

The Worst Witch Strikes Again by Jill Murphy

A Bad Spell for the Worst Witch by Jill Murphy

The Worst Witch All At Sea by Jill Murphy

The Worst Witch Saves the Day by Jill Murphy

The Worst Witch to the Rescue by Jill Murphy

The Worst Witch and the Wishing Star by Jill Murphy

I completely and utterly adored the worst witch books as a child but my copies sadly got lost a long time ago. Recently I’ve been longing to read these books again so it made me so happy to open this lovely boxset of the first seven books in the series!

 

IMG_2737

The Trials of Morrigan Crow: Nevermoor #1 by Jessica Townsend

I’ve heard so much about this middle grade book and have been so keen to read it so it was wonderful to find a copy of it under the Christmas tree this year. I can’t wait to read this in January when I know I’ll need the boost.

 

IMG_2736

Tilly and the Bookwanderers: Pages and Co. #1 by Anna James

This is another middle grade book that I’ve been wanting to read. This is such a beautiful book and I’m so happy to have this in hardback. I really want to read this book right now but I’m going to save it for next month when I know it will be a soothing book to get completely lost in.

 

Two gift books from a friend and my mum-in-law:

 

IMG_2731

Grumbles, Grizzles and Gripes: A Little Book of Grumpy Moments

My very good friend and I always seem to be putting the world to rights every time we talk so this gift from her gave me a giggle when I opened it. It’s a fun book to dip in and out of, I love it!

 

IMG_2730

The Story of Brexit: A Ladybird Book

This was a stocking filler for me and my husband from my mum-in-law and gave us such a wry laugh when we opened it. It’s actually an amusing book, and it also reminded me of all the ladybird books I used to read as a child.

 

So that’s my amazing Christmas book haul. I still can’t believe how many books I got this year, it’s a real book mountain! My husband really spoilt me as he also got me two records (Green by REM, which is one of the first albums I ever bought when I was a child but I’ve never owned it on vinyl! And Everyone Else Is Doing it, so Why Can’t We? by The Cranberries. I adored this album, and still love it to this day but again have never owned it on vinyl so it’s fab to have a copy of it now). He also bought me a Dyson Supersonic hairdryer! That was a total surprise and utterly perfect timing as my old hairdryer literally stopped working the day before Christmas Eve!

IMG_2725

 

I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and that you got some lovely new books to read. I’d love to see the books you were gifted or have bought for yourself recently so please either tell me about them in the comments or leave a link to your blog if you have a book haul post up.

#BookReview: Attend by West Camel | @west_camel @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #Attend

IMG_2527

About the Book

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.
Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, an exquisite history of hidden Deptford and, ultimately, the solution to their crises.

 

My Thoughts

Attend follows three characters – Deborah, Anne and Sam. Deborah is very old and is invisible to most people these days. Her story is told is mostly told in chapters about her younger years but she also tells her stories to those who listen. Anne is a recovering drug addict and is struggling to find where she fits in her life now she’s no longer using drugs. Sam is looking for something or someone, he also seems a bit lost.

Attend is a hard book to describe, it was such a different read for me but I can assure you that it’s a beautiful novel. Deborah’s story was fascinating; she has really been through a lot in her life and she just wants it to come to an end now. I felt sorry for Anne as she struggled to fit with her mother and daughter, it seems like now she’s clean no one has any faith in her that she will stay clean. I felt like this fed into Anne’s insecurities and it was as if she then didn’t have any faith or confidence in herself. Sam had a tragedy in his past and he’s not yet come to terms with what happened. He looks to hook up with men to try and ease his uneasiness but really he’s looking for someone to love him, to believe in him.

The cover of this book is so utterly perfect as this novel really is a story about how the threads of a person’s life become part of the tapestry of someone else’s life. Deborah is fixated on the fabric that she’s carried with her all of her life as it carries her story, the story of how she came to be. She shares these stories with Anne and with Sam and gradually you can see that those threads, those stories are seeping into them. They believe in Deborah and she keeps talking to them because they need these stories. They don’t know that they need them but they do, it’s these stories that will help heal them. It also made me think about the way our lives are interwoven with others, how we cross paths with people who mean nothing to us but somewhere down the line we end up connected to their life in some way.

I didn’t expect this to be a book that moved me but I actually shed tears at the end. This book defies genre in many ways but if a book can make you feel things then genre doesn’t matter because emotion is the mark of a wonderful novel. I don’t have the words to describe Attend other than to say it’s beautiful, incredible and unforgettable. I can’t wait to read whatever West Camel writes next!

Many thanks to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for my copy of this book and the invitation to be on this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Attend is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

img_0607-e1543665589915

Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing.  He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch.  He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost-writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Rivetermagazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.

 

You can find the rest of the tour stops at the following blogs:

46704837_10157410500993974_3528124000813187072_n

 

#BookReview: The Present by Charlotte Phillips

36355949

About the Book

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me … one romantic Christmas you won’t forget.

When helping to clear out her beloved grandmother’s home, Lucy Jackson discovers twelve beautiful Christmas decorations hidden in the loft. As she discovers their heartbreaking story, a touching romance develops with the handsome gardener next door.

My Thoughts

The Present is about Lucy, who is in the middle of trying to clear her beloved Grandmother Olive’s house to ready it for sale. Olive has had a fall and is in hospital so Lucy wants to move her in with her and her partner. It’s close to Christmas and Lucy is busy with planning for the holidays and really struggling with going through Olive’s belongings as it’s bringing up so many memories of her own childhood.

This novel is everything I want in a Christmas story, it really is a beautiful read. I felt so moved by Lucy having to sort her Gran’s things out, and not having support from her partner. I know what it’s like to have to clear out a loved one’s home and it’s so hard to let their things go. The antique Christmas ornaments that she finds in a dark corner of the attic are described in such a way that I could really envisage them and was excited to follow Lucy’s journey to work out what meaning they held for her Gran.

Olive’s handyman Jack is busy fixing up the house and he ends up helping Lucy empty the attic and gets drawn into the mystery of the ornaments. It was so lovely that Lucy found someone who wanted to help her and took an interest in what she’d found as her boyfriend just seemed so cold and disinterested. I was rooting for Lucy to find happiness throughout this novel and really hoping she would find a way to hold on to her Gran’s house.

Both Jack and Lucy begin to feel more reflective about their own lives as they discover more about Olive’s past. They each carry sadness about the people they’ve lost and gradually seem to help each other by sharing memories as the novel goes on. I loved this aspect of the novel because it is how grief is, it catches up with you eventually and when you find someone who really understands it eventually helps ease some of the pain you carry. There is a real message in this book about remembering and finding a way to carry lost loved ones with you, it’s so beautiful.

This is a gorgeous novel is set in the lead up to Christmas and all the nostalgia of the ornaments and then the back story of Olive’s life makes for a lovely, heart-warming read at this time of year. I definitely recommend this book!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

The Present is out now and available here.

About the Author

Writer of funny, sassy, sexy stories for Harlequin KISS/Mills & BOON ModernTempted and HarperImpulse.

Also mum to three kids and a mad dachshund and terrible housewife to a heroic husband who doesn’t notice he is living in a hovel. Loves her sofa, her SkyPlus, her Apple TV and her pyjamas.

#BookReview: No One Cancels Christmas by Zara Stoneley

40496936

About the Book

It’s the most magical time of the year, and for travel agent Sarah it’s also the busiest! But this year one man threatens to ruin Christmas for Sarah’s customers – Mr Grinch, Will Armstrong.

The Shooting Star Mountain resort is a magical place, and Sarah has fond memories of Christmas here as a little girl. But as the resorts new owner, Will refuses to play snowball or to deck the halls with anything remotely resembling holly!

With customers complaining their Christmas is ruined, Sarah decides it’s up to her to convince gorgeous but Scroogey Will just how magical Christmas can be…

 

My Thoughts

No One Cancels Christmas is about travel agent Sarah who is sad to see complaints about her favourite Christmas holiday resort – The Shooting Star Mountain Resort and resolves to do something about it. The new owner, Will, seems to be be unwilling to listen to Sarah so she decides she has to do something herself to turn it around.

This book opens with Sarah sending a series of stroppy emails to Will, one by accident, and this was very amusing. I was keen to see what would happen when Sarah decides to go to the resort to confront Will in person.

This novel wasn’t as full-on festive as I was hoping it would be but there are Christmas things sprinkled throughout. Initially the resort is really sad and tired, there is no sign of Christmas being near but Sarah throws herself into bringing the holiday season to Shooting Star and as she begins to work her magic the Christmas spirit begins to shine through the pages.

I liked that there was more depth to this novel than it just being a Christmas romance. Sarah was abandoned by her parents at Shooting Star resort as a young child and ended up living with her aunt so she has unresolved pain to work through. Will has his demons too and gradually we find out exactly what happened to each of them.

All in all this was a lovely novel to read near Christmas and I would recommend it. It’s definitely fun and romantic, and there’s lots of snow!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

No One Cancels Christmas is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Author Zara Stoneley has been writing stories for just about as long as she’s been reading them. She sold her first erotic novel in 2012. Her stories have featured on romance and erotic bestseller lists in the US and UK. Zara divides her time between a country cottage in the UK and a Barcelona apartment.

This Week in Books (19 Dec 2018)! What are you reading this week? #TWiB

icon2

Today I’m taking in part in This Week in Books, which was started by Lipsyy Lost and Found! If you want to join in you just need to share what you’re reading now, what you’ve read over the last week, and what you hope to read next.

Now

2 A.M. At The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

I’ve had this on my TBR for quite a while now so when I noticed it was set at Christmas I decided now was the time to read it! I’m only a few chapters in so far but I feel like I’m really going to love this book.

The Great Christmas Knit Off by Alexandra Brown

This is a rare re-read for me as my Christmas reads this week have been disappointing for the most part so I wanted to a festive read that I knew I would love. Last time I read this but this time I’m listening to the audio and it’s every bit as good. This is so festive, it’s gorgeous!

The Advent Killer by Alastair Gunn

I had to put this book to one side for most of the week as I needed lighter reads but I’m looking forward to getting back to this this week as I was really enjoying it.

 

Then 

A Lonely Dog on Christmas by Patrick Yearly

I found I had quite a few Christmas short stories that have been on my kindle for years now so decided to read them this week while I wasn’t feeling well. Unfortunately this one was such a disappointment. It’s told from the perspective of the family dog, which I thought might be quite cute but it just didn’t work for me.

A Christmas Gift by Stella Wilkinson

This is another festive short story and it was enjoyable enough but not very memorable. I wouldn’t read it again.

Christmas at Pebble Creek by Vanetta Chapman

I was looking forward to this Amish short story set at Christmas but it just fell flat for me, it felt like a draft for a story rather than a fully rounded story. It was an okay read but not the best.

Attend by West Camel

Thankfully Orenda never let me down and Attend was a brilliant read. I very much enjoyed this and it’s absolutely a five star read. I’ll be reviewing this on Friday so look out for my thoughts then.

The Christmas Promise by Sue Moorcroft

I listened to this on audio and enjoyed it. It wasn’t as festive as I was hoping it would be but it was still a really good listen. I’d recommend this one.

No One Cancels Christmas by Zara Stoneley

I enjoyed this book too, it’s a lovely festive novel and does help to get you in the Christmas spirit. I hope to squeeze a review in for this before Christmas!

The Parisian Christmas Bake Off by Jenny Oliver

This is another book that was enjoyable enough but, for me, it wasn’t really a Christmas read. It’s more about the main character furthering her baking career and there was way too little about Christmas.

The Christmas Bucket List by Ella Fairlie

I did really enjoy this novella and it was full of Christmas spirit and fun! I’d had this on my TBR for ages and I’m so happy that I finally read it this week. I definitely recommend this one if you’re looking for a short read to get you in the festive mood!

Next Christmas Will Be Different by Pauline Barclay

This was another short story and it was an okay read. I would have loved for this to be longer and to see more of this family at Christmas.

A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson

This is another audio book that I listened to and it was a sweet, romantic novel but again the Christmas part was really lacking for me. The book ends right before Christmas and I found this such a shame.

Once Upon a Christmas Eve by Mary Jane Forbes

This is a sweet Christmas fantasy story and was really enjoyable. I was a little confused about aspects of it because it’s not fully explained but it’s definitely Christmassy so I enjoyed that element.

 

Next

Miss Marley by Vanessa Lafaye and Becca Mascull

I bought this book on publication day and have been saving it to read right before Christmas and I’m so excited to finally get to it this week. I’m sure that I’m going to love this one!

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

I bought this book last Christmas and ran out of time to read it over the holiday so I definitely want to read it this week. I’ve heard good things about it so I’m really looking forward to it.

The Present by Charlotte Phillips

This is my last Christmas ARC so I must make time to read this in the next couple of days so that I can get my review up before Christmas. It sounds like a lovely read so I have high hopes for it!

 


 

What have you been reading this week? I’d love to hear. And if you take part in This Week in Books or WWW Wednesday please feel free to leave your link below and I’ll make sure to visit and comment on your post. 🙂

#BookReview: Odette by Jessica Duchen | @JessicaDuchen @Unbound_Digital @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #Odette

41I7pvvvUML

About the Book

When a swan crashes through her window at the height of a winter storm, Mitzi Fairweather decides to nurse the injured bird back to health. At sunset, though, it becomes a human being.

This unexpected visitor is Odette, the swan princess – alone, in danger and adrift in 21st-century Britain, dependent on the kindness of strangers. Bird by day, woman by night, with no way to go home to Russia, she remains convinced that only a man’s vow of eternal love can break her spell.

Mitzi is determined to help Odette, but as the two try to hide the improbable truth, their web of deception grows increasingly tangled…

A contemporary twist on Swan LakeOdette asks – in the best tradition of fairy tales – whether against all the odds, hope, empathy and humanity can win the day.

 

My Thoughts

I loved reading fairytales as a child – I still have my huge works of Hans Christian Anderson and Brothers Grimm from childhood and I still love finding adaptations of my favourite fairytales so I was delighted to get the chance to read Odette by Jessica Duchen for the blog tour. I’m really pleased to say that I adored this novel!

Odette is the story of Mitzi, who one day during a storm has a swan fly in through her living room window. Mitzi seeks help for the swan and is determined to nurse it back to health but the next morning she discovers a young woman, Odette, in place of the swan. Odette is a swan princess trapped in this life of being a swan during the night and a woman during the day until she finds true love. Mitzi decides to let Odette live with her and is determined to help her.

I felt a connection to Mitzi very quickly in this novel. I know how it feels to be facing Christmas after losing a parent, and it’s hard. She misses her father terribly and doesn’t know how to even begin to work through her grief and to come to terms with him being gone. She is looking for something or someone to fill the void in her life and Odette seems to appear at just the right moment.

Odette and Mitzi help each other throughout this novel. Mitzi shows Odette what a normal life in the 21st century is like, and Odette gives some comfort and solace to a lonely Mitzi. The friendship that grows between them isn’t always straightforward but it’s believable and genuine and I wanted somehow for this to be enough for Odette to be able to stay.

Of course, this being based on the fairytale means there is a romantic interest or two, and there is also the bad guy that wants to stop Odette from finding love. I really enjoyed seeing Odette dating and learning about modern men. I have to be honest that I got so wrapped up in Odette’s new-found happiness with her friend and potential lover that I forgot to look out for the bad guy so when the reveal comes I wasn’t expecting to be who it was. It’s not often that I don’t spot things coming in a novel so this is testament to the wonderful writing!

This is a take on a fairytale but it’s also a very modern novel. Odette experiences trying to get a job and not understanding how things work because of the language barrier, and this is how it must be for refugees and newcomers to a country. I also loved the way that it looks at whether love between friends can be as fulfilling as romantic love. It really is a novel that can be taken in different ways and I really appreciated that.

Odette is a beautiful novel and is one that I think will make my top books of the year as I adored it. It’s been on my mind ever since I finished reading it and I know I will read it again in the future. I definitely recommend this book.

Odette is a beautiful, magical and moving novel, I loved it!

Many thanks to Unbound and Anne of RandomThingsTours for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Odette is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Jessica Duchen Author Picture

Jessica Duchen is an acclaimed author and journalist, specialising in words for, with and about music. Her work has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, plus numerous magazines around the world. Her first five novels have gathered a loyal fan-base and wide acclaim. Music plays a vital role in her books, and she frequently narrates concert versions of Alicia’s Gift, Hungarian Dancesand Ghost Variations.

Jessica is the librettist for the opera Silver Birchby Roxanna Panufnik, commissioned by Garsington Opera and shortlisted for a 2018 International Opera Award. Current projects include the libretto for a youth opera with composer Paul Fincham for Garsington 2019 (an updating of an Oscar Wilde fairy tale) and two large-scale choral works with Roxanna Panufnik.

She was born within the sound of Bow Bells, studied music at Cambridge and held editorial posts on several music magazines before going freelance to concentrate on writing. She edited a piano magazine for five years and was then classical music and ballet correspondent for The Independent from 2004-2016. Her output also includes plays, poetry, biographies of the composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gabriel Fauré (published by Phaidon) and her popular classical music blog, JDCMB. She lives in London with her violinist husband and two cats. She enjoys playing the piano, cookery, long walks and obscure books about music.

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

Odette Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton | @BrethertonWords @Unbounders @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #BoneLines

IMG_2542

About the Book

A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.

In present-day London, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.

Bone Lines is the story of two women, separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life. A tale of love and survival – of courage and the quest for wisdom – it explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.

Although partly set during a crucial era of human history 74,000 years ago, Bone Lines is very much a book for our times. Dealing with themes from genetics, climate change and migration to the yearning for meaning and the clash between faith and reason, it also paints an intimate portrait of two extraordinary characters. The book tackles some of the big questions but requires no prior or special knowledge of any of the subjects to enjoy.

Bone Lines stands alone as a novel but also marks the beginning of the intended ‘Children of Sarah’ series.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to have the chance to read and review Bone Lines for the blog tour as it’s a book I’d seen and was curious about. I’m really pleased to say that I very much enjoyed it.

Bone Lines is set in two time lines. Eloise is geneticist in present day London and is going to be working on a skull that has been found, it’s a major archeological find and she knows this is going to be such important work. The novel also follows a woman 74,000 years ago. We see her give birth out in the open and then her struggles to keep herself and her child alive and well. The skull that Eloise is working with is named Sarah, and it’s apparent that this is the woman from the past.

I’ll be honest and say that initially I did find this novel a little hard to get into, I wasn’t sure where it was going and it’s so different from anything else that I’ve read in quite a while. A few chapters in though I felt it all began to make sense to me and I could see parallels between modern woman and the woman 74,000 years ago. At this point this book became compelling for me and I struggled to put it down.

Sarah clearly has a very difficult life, she is separated from her family and is unsure where exactly she is and whether she will ever encounter people she can join with again. She is terrified of anything happening to her child and is very protective. I felt such an emotional connection to Sarah. The way she honours the dead from her family, and the way she remembers her mother and longs for her after her child is born was incredibly moving. It really got to me in a way that I wasn’t expecting, I ignorantly assumed I wouldn’t really understand a woman who lived so long ago but this novel really made me think about how longing for our mothers, needing their support and protection at various times in our lives is such a universal human emotion. The book leaves you wondering if this innate feeling is genetic, or if it’s entirely just an emotional connection to the past.

Eloise is struggling with the issues that come with being a professional woman – ideas around having children, not having a husband etc that people often want to know about. She’s also working hard to discover if there’s a genetic link to suicide. She looks for answers about everything within science and is sure there are answers to be found. When she’s really finding it tough she starts writing letters to Charles Darwin, and while this might sound like a gimmick it actually really works within the book. It gave more insight into how Eloise thinks and feels and shows her ambition and why she strives in the way she does.

The further you get into the novel the more you see the parallels between the two women. The way they are both searching for a place to belong, a place where they fit in and feel safe. Sarah ponders on finding another group she can settle with, and Eloise seems to be looking for something that’s missing in her own life. It really opened my eyes to the universality of what humans are seeking, in spite of the circumstances of their life.

This is a beautifully written novel that explores science, evolution and emotion. It’s such an enjoyable read whilst also giving you something to think about. I’m so glad that I got the chance to read this, it feels like a book that will really stay with me. It’s made me want to read more about the period that Sarah was living and to understand how we got from there to here. I’m delighted to see that while this book stands on its own that a sequel is planned, I will definitely pre-order this book when it’s available!

A powerful, moving and fascinating novel!

Many thanks to the publisher and Anne at RandomThingsTours for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Bone Lines is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Stephanie Bretherton Author Pic

 

Who do you think you are? A daunting question for the debut author… but also one to inspire a genre-fluid novel based on the writer’s fascination for what makes humanity tick. Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast

Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.

Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)

 

Website: http://www.stephaniebretherton.com/

Twitter : @BrethertonWords

Instagram: @brethertonwords2

 

You can find the rest of this tour at the following blogs:

Bone Lines 2 Blog Tour Poster

Mini Book Reviews | Feminism, Strong Women, Thrillers and Messed-Up Romance! #BookReview

I have some more mini book reviews to share with you all today! I’m slowly catching up now. 🙂

40137879

Him by Clare Empson

This book was incredible, I read it months ago now and have put off reviewing it because it’s impossible to put into words what I thought of it. In the present day Catherine has elective mutism, something traumatic has happened to her and now she can’t speak. It’s heart-breaking knowing the pain she’s in, and the struggle she’s having while knowing she can’t articulate what she’s thinking. In the past, fifteen years previously we slowly get to see Catherine and Lucien’s story. Lucien is from a different walk of life to Catherine and spends his time with his friends being rather unlikeable. Catherine and Lucien had a passionate and fiery relationship. The book flicks between the past and the present and we see Catherine and Lucien’s perspectives. Gradually we begin to see why these two fell for each other and a sense of unease begins to build as to why Catherine has ended up unable to speak. The end when it comes is a shock and left me breathless. This is one of those books that is impossible to do justice to but it’s beautifully written, compelling and just brilliant. I highly recommend this on. I’m already looking forward to whatever Clare Empson writes next!

cover126185-medium

The Dark Path / You Were Made For This by Michelle Sacks

I read this novel when it was called You Were Made For this but I believe it’s now been re-titled The Dark Path. I prefer the first title but the new one works too. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this novel but it wasn’t what I got (and that’s a good thing!). It initially seems that Merry is the perfect mother to her young baby – she bakes, gardens and supports her husband whilst looking after their child. Sam is busy pursuing his film career from their new home in the woods in Sweden. Then Merry’s old friend Frank comes to stay and soon the cracks in the Merry and Sam’s marriage, and in each of their careful facades, begin to show. This book quickly feels dark, there’s so much tension simmering away and you just know something awful is going to happen but you don’t know what. I found this book really hard to put down and when I finished it it was lodged in my head for such a long time. I recommend this!

cover121553-medium

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

This book was really good, it was such an engrossing read and I still keep thinking about it and it’s weeks and weeks since I read it. This novel follows multiple women in a world were their reproductive rights have been stripped from them. Ro is a single woman who is desperate to be a mother, she can’t adopt because she’s not married and IVF is now illegal. One of Ro’s students is pregnant but doesn’t want to be; abortion is illegal so she’s desperate to find some way of getting rid of her baby. Gin is an outcast, who lives on the fringes of their society, she makes potions and natural remedies to help women but now the authorities are on a witch-hunt. This book is chilling to read at times, it feels very prescient and very possible. It’s a brilliant novel though, one that really makes you think as you learn more about the different perspectives and find out how these women are linked. This is a book I definitely recommend.

39932930

Vox by Christine Dalcher

I’ve been so eager to read this novel, it’s such a fascinating concept. Pretty much over night women are rendered powerless – their bank accounts are frozen, their passports have been taken away and they all wear a bracelet which counts each of the 100 words they’re allowed to use per day. If they go over that, they are shocked with high volts of electricity. Jean is the main character in this novel. She’s struggling to discipline her sons when she can’t speak in a normal way; one son is beginning to see himself as more powerful and she doesn’t know what she can do. She’s also finding it really hard to help her young daughter to understand that she can’t speak even when she’s having a nightmare and frightened. For me, the first two thirds of this book were really good, I didn’t want to put it down and was keen to see how things were going to end up. Unfortunately the last third took away from the first part as even when women were sensing a chance to re-gain power, the men were still involved. I also struggled throughout the book with strange phrasing and metaphors that made no sense.  All in all this was an interesting read and I wouldn’t discourage people from reading it but it didn’t live up to my expectations.

Mini Crime and Thriller Book reviews! #bookreview

I’ve got some more mini reviews to share today! Hope you enjoy them.

 

36098733

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

I love Sarah Pinborough’s writing so was thrilled when I won a hardback copy of her latest book earlier this year. I finally got to read it a few weeks ago and enjoyed it. This is the story of Lisa, who is mum to a teenage daughter Ava. She’s very protective of her daughter and worries constantly about where she is and what she’s doing. The novel slowly ramps up the tension to the reveal as to why she’s so protective and then we see the past and present slowly begin to catch up to each other as the novel hurtles to its conclusion! This was a really good read but it’s not my favourite Pinborough novel. I loved Behind Her Eyes so much and this just didn’t quite live up to it. It’s still a great read about how the past catches up with us, and the lengths people will go to when they feel betrayed.

 

36315374

Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

This is a brilliant thriller about a young woman, Geo. When Geo was 16 her best friend Angela disappeared without trace, and Geo knows something about that night but she’ll never tell. Calvin, Geo’s first love, has been revealed to be a serial killer, he’s escaped custody and is now on the run and more women are being murdered! This novel is so dark and twisty and I found it near impossible to put down. It’s fast-paced and kept me on my toes throughout.

 

38314254

Toxic by Nicci Cloke

This is such a good novel about Hope who is excited to be going on holiday with some of her best mates – she’s been given honorary ‘lad’ status and couldn’t be happier. The first couple of days are everything she wishes for but then things take a darker turn at a party. Hope tries to kiss her ex and he rejects her, she then gets very drunk and the next thing she knows she’s waking up on a beach the following morning. The novel is told in three sections, each with a different narrator. The first is really fun and summery as we follow this group of friends on holiday. The second is when dealing with the fall out of what happened to each of them on the night of the big party. The final section looks at the aftermath and really deals with some tough issues. The novel as a whole is really good. It’s about mental health, toxic masculinity and how tough it is to be a teen. I recommend this one.

37750826-2

Believe Me by JP Delaney

This is a novel about Claire, a British actress trying to make it in New York and ends up working as a honey trap to make ends meet. She then gets drawn into a plot to try and trap a man who is suspected of killing his wife. This book sounded so good and I was really looking forward to reading it but I struggled to get in to it. I ended up buying the audio book and while it worked better for me as on audio I did find the whole plot was just too over the top for me. It was a fun enough read but it’s not a book that will stay with me. I think that maybe this author just isn’t for me as I know others have really enjoyed it.

 

38116895

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

This is a really gripping read about a couple – Erin is a documentary filmmaker and Mark who is a banker – they’re about to be married but Mark has started being really moody. It turns out he’s in financial difficulties, while at the same time Erin’s career is going well as she’s gained access to a notorious gangster in prison and is going to be making a film about him. The couple tweak their wedding plans and manage to afford to still go on their dream honeymoon and that’s when life gets really complicated. This is a novel about moral dilemmas, and about trust. You do need to suspend disbelief at times but that doesn’t take away from the novel at all. This is such a gripping, fast-paced read, and one that I couldn’t stop thinking about whenever I wasn’t reading it. I’ll definitely be looking out for more books by this author!

 

#BookReview: Fukushima Dreams by Zelda Rhiando | @badzelda @unbound_digital @annecater #RandomThingsTours

38660138

About the Book

Sachiko and her husband Harry live in a village on the North-east coast of Japan. They are both struggling to adapt to life as new parents to their infant son Tashi. In the aftermath of the tsunami, Sachiko wakes alone. Her family is missing. She begins a desperate search until radiation fallout from the Fukushima power plant forces her to leave the area. She moves to Tokyo, and a different life. Harry has fled to a refuge on an isolated mountain, abandoning his family. He lives there, haunted by guilt and hovering on the edge of sanity. Will they find each other and confront the question of their missing son?

 

My Thoughts

I’d not heard of Fukushima Dreams before I was offered a chance to read and review it for this blog tour but I am so very glad that it found its way to me. This is one of those really special novels that works its way into your heart and doesn’t leave, even after you’ve finished reading it.

Sachiko is caught up in a tsunami and when she wakes she is struggling to understand what has happened to her and where her husband and baby son are. She has survived and is alone in a crowded make-shift shelter. Unknown to her, her husband Harry fled their home during the initial earthquake and is sheltering in a hut on a mountain in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve struggled to write this review because Fukushima Dreams was so much more than I was expecting it to be and it’s taken hold of my thoughts and won’t let them go. This is such a beautiful, lyrical and almost dream-like novel. It’s a quiet story in many ways but it’s so powerful at the same time. It’s written in a way that you feel like you are right there with Sachiko as she struggles to comprehend what on earth has happened her and to her home.

The tsunami and the devastation it left in its wake are a large part of this novel but there is so much more to it too. We slowly come to find out that Sachiko is a new mum and has been struggling to bond with her baby. Her husband Harry was trying to write and was being driven to distraction by the baby’s constant crying and this young couple’s marriage was starting to fall apart. As a reader it’s clear that Sachiko has post-natal depression or something similar but within the novel they don’t seek medical help for her and she’s left feeling increasingly depressed and is isolating herself from the world. I felt such sympathy for her and was hoping that Harry would do something to help her but it seemed like he retreated into himself in order to work. I don’t think he understood that Sachiko couldn’t just snap out of it, and that she needed support.

As I was reading it felt like the tsunami, while clearly really happening, was also a metaphor for what happened to Sachiko when she had her baby. The fear, the confusion, the not knowing what to do or where to go, and finally the sheer overwhelming despair of ever finding normal again. And I also found that the way Harry deals with the earthquake by running away from his family and becoming so isolated on the mountain was like he was experiencing what Sachiko went through in her post-natal depression. The haze, the inability to think clearly and the sense of being so completely alone. There is real symmetry in the internal thought processes of the two characters and what is happening in the place they live. Everything has been in a state of chaos for a while and the tsunami compounds it all.

I was rooting for Sachiko to find out what happened to her husband and son, I can’t imagine what it must be like to experience a disaster on this scale and not know where your family are and if they survived. I wanted her to find some happiness. Seeing her journey as she begins to think about life again was so moving. The ending of this book is one that really makes you stop in your tracks though. I don’t want to say too much about what happens later in the novel because this really is a book to not know too much about before you read it. You need to pick it up and fall into the pages and experience this beautiful and heart-breaking novel yourself.

I finished reading Fukushima Dreams a few weeks ago now and I’ve since re-written this review quite a few times because I just can’t do it justice. It’s a simply incredible novel and I won’t ever forget it. Please just go get a copy and read it, it really is stunning!

A moving, lyrical novel about how people cope when the worst happens to them.

Many thanks to Unbound and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Fukushima Dreams is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

zelda_400x400

Zelda Rhiando was born in Dublin and read English Literature at Cambridge. She lives in South London with her husband, two daughters and four cats, and is one of the founders of the Brixton BookJam. She is the author of two novels, Caposcripti and Fukushima Dreams.

 

Website: http://www.badzelda.com/

Twitter : @badzelda

 

You can find the rest of the stops on this tour at the following blogs:

Fukushima blog Tour poster

Corrupted by Simon Michael | Extract | Urbane Extravaganza! @simonmichaeluk @UrbaneBooks #LoveBooksGroupTours

9781911583844

 

Today I’m taking part in the Urbane Extravaganza blog tour where each day a different  blog features one of Urbane’s books! I’m featuring Corrupted by Simon Michael and am sharing an extract from the book with you all.

 

Extract

 

 

Chapter 5

Tuesday, 30 June 1964

11.10 hours

Mrs Murphy hadn’t wanted to let the attic room to Mr Maurice Drake. She smelt trouble the instant her eyes landed on him as he stood on her step, him in his flash suit and twinkling eyes. But he was obviously clean in his habits and he sure was a charmer. After ten minutes of sweet-talk- ing he’d shown her two months’ rent in advance together with the deposit – and her resistance had crumbled. Despite the dearth of rented accommodation in London, the attic room had been empty for nearly three months. The windows rattled every time a train passed, it was two flights of stairs down to the shared bathroom, and most people were put off by the stale stink just outside the bedsit’s door; the cooking smells from the various stoves in the large house just seemed to gather there despite her constant mopping and polish- ing. So she needed the money and couldn’t afford to leave the room empty much longer. And thereafter he’d been no trouble. His hours were odd, but he said he worked in the casino business, so that was to be expected. He was always polite to the other occupants when he met them on the stairs, and once he had even brought her shopping in for her when the telephone had caught her unawares, and she’d had to take the call because it was Kathleen calling from Dublin just after her hysterectomy.

 

But the two men now standing on her step frighten her. They too are well-dressed pretty young men but they have none of the easy charm of Mr Drake. There’s ice in their eyes; the same ice she’s seen all too often in the eyes of her brothers and their Sinn Féin colleagues. So although they ask prettily enough for permission to look upstairs for their friend, she knows she has no choice.

‘You’d better come in then,’ she says in her thick Irish accent. ‘I’ve not seen him for a couple of days. It’s been quiet up there, so I assumed he was at work.’

She opens the door wider for them and they step into her immaculate, just washed and waxed hallway. She closes the door and makes to lead them up the stairs but the smaller one lays a hand on her shoulder.

‘That’s all right missus,’ he says. He speaks with an accent; French, thinks Mrs Murphy, or maybe Italian. ‘We know where it is.’

‘But I’ve got to let you in,’ she says.

The boy shakes his head and holds out his hand for the key. Mrs Murphy stares at him for a moment and then takes out of her apron pocket a large keyring crowded with eight or ten keys. It takes a while to work Mr Drake’s free of the others but she finally places the shiny bronze piece of metal in the boy’s open palm.

‘I’ll bring it right back,’ he assures her.

She watches the two suited men climbing the stairs quietly, pausing as they pass the bedsits on the lower land- ings to listen for any trouble that might suddenly emerge from behind closed doors. She waits a while in the hall but then retreats to her front parlour to make herself busy, leaving the door propped open with her walking stick so she can hear their return.

 

The men come down ten minutes later. Mrs Murphy had not heard them approach but all of a sudden they are in her parlour, one of them closing the door and leaning with his back on it. She looks from one to the other, now actually frightened.

‘What’s your name, love?’ asks the taller of the men, the one standing by her best sideboard and eyeing her china.

‘Mrs Murphy.’

‘Well, see, Mrs Murphy, we have a bit of a problem. Have you been up there in the last coupla days?’

‘No. I had no call to.’
‘Okay. I need you to sit down now.’
‘I don’t want to sit down. I want you to leave or I’ll call the police.’ She pronounces the last word po-liss, which makes the man smile.

‘There ain’t no reason to be afraid, Mrs Murphy, but I think you should sit down as I’ve got a bit of a shock for you.’

He gives her a hard stare and again Mrs Murphy realises that she’s not being offered a choice. She pulls out one of the chairs from her dining room set and sits down slowly.

‘See, now, we’ve also had a bit of a shock. It looks like our friend has had an accident or he’s been taken ill. What we want to do is call for some help, and have him taken away. There’s no reason for you to worry.’

‘What, an ambulance?’

The man hesitates. ‘Yes, something like that. So my col- league here is going to make a call from the phone in the hall, and I need you to stay in here till we’ve all gone. It won’t take long.’

 

‘It’s my house,’ says Mrs Murphy firmly, standing again. She makes to walk towards the door but the man plants himself in front of her and takes her by the upper arms. When he speaks, his voice is a low growl, reverberating with menace.

‘No you don’t. You’re going to stay in here. Make your- self a cuppa, listen to the wireless – it don’t matter what – but you’re not going nowhere till I say so.’

He walks her gently backwards until her legs strike the chair and she is forced to sit down again heavily. He turns and nods to his companion, who slips out of the door. The big man stays in front of Mrs Murphy with his arms folded and they both listen as the dial of the telephone is rotated and clicks slowly back into place seven times. Money is inserted and a low conversation ensues.

‘Why dontcha make us both a nice cuppa while we wait, eh?’

Just under twenty minutes later a large American car with lots of chrome and sharp fins can be seen through the net curtains of Mrs Murphy’s parlour as it pulls up outside. Two solid-looking men in their thirties, both with wavy dark hair and expensive suits, get out. Even through the net cur- tains Mrs Murphy recognises the Kray twins immediately. The man who’s been standing guard over her, drinking his tea at the dining table in silence, stands and goes to the door. He turns.

‘Don’t leave this room. Do you understand?’
Mrs Murphy nods. Now that she has no doubt as to the nature of the men with whom she is dealing, she has no intention of leaving the room. Her guard leaves and shuts the door behind him.

She hears the front door being opened, a muttered con- versation and several heavy sets of footsteps running up the stairs towards the top of the house. There is silence for a couple of minutes. Then, through the net curtains, she sees a police car pull up outside, stopping immediately behind the American car. No bells or sirens. Two police officers get out. As they approach the front door, Mrs Murphy hears a sash window at the front of the house on the floor above being thrown open.

‘Officer! Up here!’

The voice is of one of her newest tenants on the first floor, a quiet Jamaican called Mr Francis who lives there with his wife and three-year-old girl.

‘Was it you who dialled 999, sir?’ shouts up one of the officers.

‘Yes. I just found a body on de top floor.’

22.35 hours

No. 178 Vallance Road is a narrow terraced Victorian cottage in Bethnal Green. Its occupants have long since ceased even noticing the constant rumble of the Liverpool Street-bound trains whose tracks run almost directly behind the terrace’s backyard. Voices can be heard from behind the kitchen door at the end of the narrow hallway.

Ronnie and Reggie Kray sit at the kitchen table eating pie and mash. The chef, their mother, Violet Kray, watches them with approval, smoking. She ate earlier.

 

Reggie scrapes the last remaining gravy and mash off his plate with his knife, licks the knife, and puts his cutlery down, satisfied.

‘Thanks, Mum.’ He turns to his brother, who has already finished. ‘Look, I’m as upset over Mo as you are, but—’

‘No you ain’t! You can’t be. You don’t understand!’

‘All right,’ replies Reg, placating softly. ‘I know I can’t feel the way you do, but he was my mate too.’

‘He was fucking garrotted. Did you see his head? It was half off his neck! We’re going to sort those fucking wops once and for all! And this time it won’t just be their club I’m gonna burn.’

‘I’ll tidy up,’ says Violet, clearing the plates from the table and disappearing into the scullery. As far as she’s con- cerned, her boys are misunderstood good-hearted lads who can sometimes be a bit too boisterous, and against whom the police wage a constant unjust vendetta. She wilfully closes her eyes to anything that suggests otherwise.

‘Look,’ continues Reg, keeping his voice low, ‘so far as Old Bill’s concerned, we’re in the clear. The story stacks up: he was an employee and we was only at his digs to see where he’d got to. And the landlady backed it all up, saying we’d just arrived. Ronnie, there are more important things to worry about.’

‘Such as?’
‘The Mancusos and the boy.’
‘I ain’t worried about those fucking wops. They had it

coming.’
‘No argument there. But we can’t afford a war just when

Old Bill’s sniffing around. Maybe we should let them do the job for us this time, while we get on with the most important thing: the boy.’

‘Boy?’

‘The one you gave to Driberg. Everyone at your party—’ and Reg doesn’t hide the distaste in his voice – ‘says Mo left with him, and he was staying at the bedsit. Pound to a penny the landlady or one of the other tenants saw him over the previous week, so now the filth know about him. They’ll know he was the last person to see Mo alive – maybe he even saw the murder! So, where is he?’

‘If one of the Mancuso gang did for Mo, and the boy was a witness, maybe they took him.’

‘Why would they take him? They’d just do for him as well. And why leave Mo’s body on the bed but take the boy’s away? Nah, it makes no sense. The way I figure it, either the Mancusos took him or he did a runner. But whichever, the murder squad’ll be looking for ’im, either as a witness or as a missing person. And there’s our problem. Whether he saw the murder or not, he definitely is a witness to what went on at the party.’

Ron stares at his brother, putting the pieces together. ‘And you think he’ll talk?’

‘Course he will. He’s soft as butter.’
Ronnie nods slowly. ‘Yeh.’
‘So,’ concludes Reg, ‘if he’s alive, we gotta find that fucking kid before they do.’
‘Have you told Bob Boothby what’s going on?’
‘Had to. And I’ve put the word out with everyone we know. Clarkie’s already on it.’

Urbane Pub - Extravaganza

#BookReview: The Snowman by Michael Morpurgo

39281562

About the Book

One December morning, James is thrilled to wake up to see snow falling.

He spends the whole day making his perfect snowman; he has coal eyes, an old green hat and scarf and a tangerine nose… just like the snowman from his favourite story.

That night, something magical happens- the Snowman comes to life!

He and James take to the skies on a magical adventure where they meet someone very special.

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Raymond Briggs’ The Snowman – I remember reading the picture book in the library as a young child, and I have such a fondness for the film adaptation that’s on TV every year. I can’t resist watching it even now as a grown adult! So when I heard that Michael Morpurgo was writing a novella based on the original book of The Snowman I was super intrigued and knew I had to get my hands on a copy! I’m so happy to say that I really enjoyed it!

The Snowman story is very similar to the original picture book with a young boy excitedly playing out in the snow and building a snowman. Then he wakes in the night and finds the snowman has come to life, and off they go on an adventure after exploring the boy’s house. It’s not just the picture book in words though, this book references the original The Snowman as it’s James’ favourite book and some of what the two get up to together are a little different.

This is such a lovely, magical book and I would have loved to have had this when I was a child. It’s always a bit of a worry when someone writes a variant of an old favourite but Morpurgo has been so respectful of the original story and this stands alongside it as an extra Snowman story that is just as wonderful. I definitely recommend this!

A gorgeous, magical and nostalgic read!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

The Snowman is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Multi-award winning author, Michael Morpurgo, is one of Britain’s best-loved writers for children and has won many prizes, including the Smarties Prize, The Writers Guild Award and the Blue Peter Book Award for his novel, Private Peaceful, which has also had two successful runs as a play devised by Bristol Old Vic. From 2003 to 2005 he was the Children’s Laureate, a role which took him all over the UK to promote literacy and reading, and in 2005 he was named the Booksellers Association Author of the Year.

This Week in Books (12 Dec 2018)! What are you reading this week? #TWiB

icon2

Today I’m taking in part in This Week in Books, which was started by Lipsyy Lost and Found! If you want to join in you just need to share what you’re reading now, what you’ve read over the last week, and what you hope to read next.

Now

No One Cancels Christmas by Zara Stoneley

I’m really enjoying this Christmas novel and am looking forward to getting back to it!

The Advent Killer by Alastair Gunn

This is a serial killer crime novel set over Christmas. It’s really fast-paced and I’m intrigued to read more!

A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson

This is my current audio book. I’ve enjoyed previous Christmas novels by this author so thought I’d try her latest. It’s not got to Christmas yet but it’s a sweet, enjoyable story.

 

Then 

Miracle on Regent Street by Ali Harris

This is one of my favourite Christmas novels, I think I’ve read it most years ever since I first bought it! It’s a gorgeous novel about a stockroom girl who’s determined to help save the department store where she works. It’s full of vintage inspiration and is just gorgeous!

The Xmas Factor by Annie Sanders

I recently bought this on a whim as it sounded very festive and I enjoyed it. It felt like it took a while to get going but once it did I really liked it. It’s got so much Christmas in it and definitely helped lift my spirits when I was feeling unwell.

 

The Ice Monster by David Walliams

I listened to this on audiobook and very much enjoyed it. I highly recommend it on audio as it has a cast of famous people doing the different voices of the characters and I’m sure kids would love listening to it.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

I fell in love with this novel – it’s so beautiful and utterly stunning. I reviewed this yesterday so you can read my thoughts on it here if you’d like to.

White Christmas by Emma Lee-Potter

I’ve had this short novella on my TBR for a few years and finally picked it up this week. I needed something short to read as I was really ill over the weekend and my concentration wasn’t up to a longer book. This was an okay read but it felt like it took a while to get going and then the ending was a bit rushed. It’s quite festive though so I appreciated that.

All I Want for Christmas by Claudia Carroll

This is a short story that has also been on my TBR for ages. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this one at all. It’s clearly not a standalone story but a prequel to a novel and it doesn’t work on its own. This isn’t made clear in the blurb so it was a let down for me.

It Started With Christmas by Jenny Hale

I enjoyed this Christmas novel, it wasn’t quite as festive as I hoped but it was still a lovely book. You can read my thoughts in my review here if you’d like to.

 

Next

The Present by Charlotte Phillips

This is the last Christmas ARC that I have on my TBR so I’d like to get this read and reviewed asap. I’m looking forward to it.

Murder at the Mill by M. B. Shaw

I love the sound of this book – it’s a murder mystery set at Christmas so now seems the perfect time to pick it up.

2 A.M. At The Cat’s Pajamas by Marie-Helene Bertino

I’ve had this book on my TBR for a couple of years now and I believe it features Christmas so I’m going to try and get to it in the coming days.

Dickens at Christmas by Charles Dickens

This is another of the gorgeous Vintage Christmas editions that I got as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago. I usually read A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve every year but I haven’t read many of Dickens’ other shorter stories so I’m planning to read one or two a day over the next couple of weeks.


 

What have you been reading this week? I’d love to hear. And if you take part in This Week in Books or WWW Wednesday please feel free to leave your link below and I’ll make sure to visit and comment on your post. 🙂

#BookReview: Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield @DianeSetterfie1 #PassTheStoryOn #OnceUponaRiver @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

IMG_2509

About the Book

A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

 

My Thoughts

I was beyond delighted when I was contacted about reading Once Upon A River as I read The Thirteenth Tale when it was first published and I adored it and I’ve been eagerly anticipating this new one from Diane Setterfield. I’m so happy to say that I fell in love with this novel!

Once Upon A River is a beautiful novel set along the river Thames. One night in The Swan Inn the storytellers are gathered when a mysterious man bursts in carrying what appears to be a puppet or a doll. It turns out to be a young girl and she is deemed to be dead from drowning. Later when the local nurse, Rita, checks on her she begins to breathe, which baffles everyone. The issue then becomes the need to find out who this girl is and where her parents are.

The mystery of the girl quickly spreads along the Thames and more than one family claim she belongs to them. She also becomes the subject of the storytellers and different versions of what might have happened her begin to be told.

My favourite character was Rita, the nurse and midwife, who looked after everyone within the community. I loved how she was so scientifically minded in a time when so many things weren’t understood and she didn’t have access to education. I also loved Daunt, the photographer. It was wonderful to read the process of taking photos in this time period and I felt I was right there looking over his shoulder.

Once Upon A River has a vast cast of characters, each one fully realised and becomes absolutely real as you’re reading. I loved the slower pace of this novel, it meanders like the river and the best way to read this book is to go at the pace it sets. I’m naturally quite a fast reader but this book was one I had to read slowly, I wanted to stay in this world for as long as I possibly could and I never wanted it to end. The writing is beautiful, the setting is so vivid and the characters felt like real people to me.

This is an epic novel and every single sentence is relevant to the plot so it’s a book to be savoured. The book moves between characters and gradually you see how each of their stories links to another’s story and the picture begins to come to life. Some of the people in this book are storytellers but it also felt like the novel itself is storytelling along with the story of the storytellers and it’s so beautiful.

It’s impossible for me to  do any kind of justice to this novel in my review but trust me, it’s a stunning book and I defy anyone not to enjoy it. I adored it and it’s absolutely going to be in my favourite books of this year, I can’t stop thinking about it and that’s always the mark of a wonderful book when it lingers in your mind long after you’ve finished reading it. It’s atmospheric, captivating and utterly beautiful!

Once Upon A River is out now in ebook and available to pre-order in hardback from here.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author

diane-setterfield-author-picture

Diane Setterfield’s bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale was published in 38 countries, sold more than three million copies, and was made into a television drama scripted by Christopher Hampton, starring Olivia Colman and Vanessa Redgrave.

Her second novel was Bellman & Black, and her new novel is Once Upon a River. Born in rural Berkshire, she now lives near Oxford, by the Thames.

 

 

You can find the rest of the tour at these blogs:

final-once-upon-a-river-bt-poster

 

#BookReview: The Christmas Spirit by Susan Buchanan @Susan_Buchanan @rararesources

19039373

About the Book

Christmas is coming, but not everyone is looking forward to it.

Rebecca has just been dumped and the prospect of spending the holiday period with her parents is less than appealing.

Eighty- two year old Stanley lost his beloved wife, Edie, to cancer. How will he cope with his first Christmas without her?

Jacob’s university degree hasn’t helped him get a job, and it looks like he’ll still be signing on come New Year.

Workaholic Meredith would rather spend December 25th at home alone with a ready meal and a DVD box set. Can anything make her embrace the spirit of the season?

The enigmatic Natalie Hope takes over the reins at the Sugar and Spice bakery and café in an attempt to spread some festive cheer and restore Christmas spirit, but will she succeed?

My Thoughts

The Christmas Spirit is a gorgeous festive novella. We meet Natalie who has come to run the local cake shop for the weeks leading up to Christmas, and there is definitely something magical and sparkly about her. In the town there are a handful of people who need Natalie’s help and she’s determined to sort their lives out.

Stanley was my favourite character in the book. He’s a lonely widower who’s lost without his wife. I was so hoping that he would find a purpose and some happiness. There is also Rebecca who is a meek character that can’t seem to stand up for herself. She works for Meredith who seems like an awful, uncaring woman. Then there’s Jacob, a recent graduate who can’t find a job even though he’s trying so hard.

Natalie is a fabulous character. She hits the ground running at the cake shop and is a whirlwind at baking. All the new cakes sounded amazing and my mouth was watering every time one was described! She quickly brings real warmth and heart to the cafe and makes time for all the customers. I feel like she worked her magic on everyone in the town, not just the four people she was there to help. 

The Christmas Spirit is set from the 1st December right up until Christmas so it’s full of festivity and sparkle. I loved this novella, it warmed my heart! I definitely recommend picking this up in the run up to Christmas!

I received a copy of this book from Rachel at Rara Resourses. All thoughts are my own.

The Christmas Spirit is out now and available here.

About the Author

TCS - twitterpic

Susan Buchanan lives in Scotland with her husband and their two children. She is the author of four novels: Return of the Christmas Spirit, The Christmas Spirit, The Dating Game, and Sign of the Times. She is currently working on books five and six: The Proposal and Just One Day.

Susan is also a proofreader, editor and translator, and when not working, writing, or caring for her two delightful cherubs, loves reading, the theatre, quiz shows and eating out – not necessarily in that order!

Social Media Links

Facebook – www.facebook.com/susan.buchanan.author

Twitter – susan_buchanan

Blog – Sooz’s journal – www.susancbuchanan.blogspot.co.uk

Mini Thriller, Crime and Christmas #BookReviews

Today I’m sharing four more mini reviews as I continue on my quest to catch up before the end of the year!

 

cover120826-medium

This is How It Ends by Eva Dolan

This was such a good read, and one of those books that really stays with you. It’s told from two perspectives and is told in such a unique way. It opens with a party and leads to a dead body in an empty flat. Molly and Ella are left trying to work out what to do. The novel is then told from Molly’s perspective going forwards to see what happens in the aftermath, and Ella’s story begins at this point and starts going backwards in time so we slowly get to find out how she came to be here. I was hooked on this really clever novel and I can’t recommend it highly enough! I actually finished reading it a while ago now but it’s still really fresh in my mind, which is always the mark of a fab novel!

 

39856154

You Let Me In by Lucy Clarke

I’ve been a huge fan of Lucy Clarke ever since her first novel came out and I’m so pleased to say that You Let Me In lived up to my very high expectations! Elle is feeling increasingly unsettled in her home ever since she rented it out when she was away. She can’t put her finger on what’s wrong but something just doesn’t feel right. The tension in this book keeps ratcheting up to the point where you can’t be sure if Elle is having a breakdown, or if she is right to be worried and that someone is out to get her. There are a few people who may have it in for her and so you’re kept on your toes all the way through this novel. I was sure I had it all worked out but I was wrong and the reveal when it comes is shocking! I definitely recommend this one!

 

36178394

The Present by DS Devlin

I do love a crime thriller set over Christmas time so I couldn’t resist grabbing this one recently. It starts off so well when Anna, a journalist, receives a gruesome gift at her home in the days following the murder of a man and kidnap of his wife. It’s believed to be the work of the serial killer dubbed Santa Killer who has been killing people at Christmas for a few years. After a kill he leaves ‘gifts’ for twelve days of Christmas at which point the kidnap victim is usually found dead. The first part of this book had me gripped and I couldn’t put it down but it did all fall away a bit as the book went on. The problem for me is that there was only really two suspects in the book so it soon became obvious who the killer is and I just got increasingly frustrated with how Anna couldn’t work it out. I did finish the book though and I would be interested to read what the author writes next.

 

41570984

The Secrets You Hide by Kate Helm

This was a really good read too. Georgia is a courtroom artist who feels like she can see evil in people. She suffered a terrible trauma in her childhood and this has impacted her as an adult. She is forced to re-look at a conviction from early in her career and begins to question whether she might have helped put an innocent person in prison. The really fascinating thing about this thriller for me was the way it made me think about how I might look at a person and judge them. The novel really makes you question how often judgements are made when the person in question could be completely innocent. This is a thrilling novel that will keep you guessing right until the end, it’s such an engaging read and I recommend it!

#BookReview: It Started With Christmas by Jenny Hale

42120961

About the Book

Holly McAdams loves spending the Christmas holidays at her family’s cozy cabin, with its little red door and twinkling lights, tucked in the snowy hills outside Nashville. But this year will be different. Someone unexpected is joining them…

After Holly and her beloved Nana struggle through a snow storm to reach the cabin, they discover gorgeous and wealthy Joseph Barnes, who has been renting the cabin for the last few weeks, is now snowed in. And it looks like he’ll be staying for the holidays.

Determined to make the best of the surprise situation, Holly tries to bring everyone together by baking delicious treats and decorating the cabin with plenty of festive sparkle. She finds herself growing close to handsome Joseph, who is unlike anyone she’s ever met before, even if Nana isn’t so keen on the dashing stranger with the mysterious past.

But charming and irresistible musician Rhett Burton is also back in town. Thrown into close proximity with the person who used to be her best friend and the man who broke her heart, Holly realizes it’s time to face her feelings and figure out what she really wants from her life. But to complicate things, both Joseph and Rhett have secrets to reveal…

Will Holly be able to find herself and the love she’s always dreamed of this Christmas?

 

My Thoughts

Holly is spending Christmas at her family’s cabin with her lovely Nana. This is the first Christmas they’ve spent there since Holly’s Papa died so it’s a difficult time for them and then when they arrive they discover a man there! Joe has been renting the cabin and due to the snow has had to stay on a bit longer. Holly and Joe are attracted to each other and the Holly’s old friend, the singer Rhett turns up and declares he still had feelings for her!

I’m going to be honest and say that this novel wasn’t as festive as I was hoping it would be. There is a build up to Christmas but then it felt like it was over in the blink of an eye. Having said that the beautiful romantic treasure hunt on Christmas morning was so gorgeous and really epitomised the festive spirit. Nana was a wonderful character and seeing her find her way through her grief to re-connect with the happy memories she has of her late husband was so moving.

I found the potential romance between Holly and Joe was really endearing. I really felt their connection and felt sad for Holly when it seemed it wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t warm to Rhett at all though and was hoping Holly wasn’t going to end up with him. It was in the balance for most of the novel how things would work out for her and I did enjoy the uncertainty around her romantic life.

All in all this was a sweet and romantic novel with hints of Christmas running through it. I do love Jenny Hale’s writing and will definitely look out for her Christmas novels in the future.

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

It Started with Christmas is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

When she graduated college, one of Jenny’s friends said “Look out for this one; she’s going to be an author one day”. Despite being an avid reader and a natural storyteller, it wasn’t until that very moment that the idea of writing novels occurred to her.

Sometimes our friends can see the things that we can’t. Whilst she didn’t start straight away, that comment sowed a seed and several years, two children and hundreds of thousands of words later, Jenny finished her first novel, Coming Home for Christmas, which became an instant bestseller.

#BookReview: In Bloom by C. J. Skuse @HQStories #InBloom

38739384

About the Book

Darkly comic crime sequel to Sweetpea, following girl-next-door serial killer Rhiannon as she’s now caught between the urge to kill and her unborn baby stopping her.

If only they knew the real truth. It should be my face on those front pages. My headlines. I did those things, not him. I just want to stand on that doorstep and scream it: IT WAS ME. ME. ME. ME. ME!

Rhiannon Lewis has successfully fooled the world and framed her cheating fiancé Craig for the depraved and bloody killing spree she committed. She should be ecstatic that she’s free.

Except for one small problem. She’s pregnant with her ex lover’s child. The ex-lover she only recently chopped up and buried in her in-laws garden. And as much as Rhiannon wants to continue making her way through her kill lists, a small voice inside is trying to make her stop.

But can a killer’s urges ever really be curbed?

My Thoughts

In Bloom has been one of my most anticipated reads of 2018 as I loved the first book in this series, SweetPea (you can read my review of Sweet Pea here if you’d like to). I’m so happy to say that In Bloom absolutely lived up to my high expectations and I loved being back in Rhiannon’s world.

In Bloom picks up where SweetPea left off and it’s so good! Rhiannon has a body to deal with and is worried that the police might be at her door. She’s pregnant and her unborn baby seems to want to interfere with her urges to kill!

When I finished reading SweetPea I was so hoping that there would be more books about Rhiannon so I was thrilled when I found out about In Bloom. Rhiannon is such a brilliant, sarcastic character who doesn’t take any rubbish from anyone. I love that she still makes lists of all the things that annoy her, it makes it easy to identify with her and makes you feel like you could be friends with her… which really brings you up short when you remember that she’s a psychopathic serial killer! That is the beauty of this book though!

In this book Rhiannon is back in the media as the girlfriend of a serial killer (only we know that he’s been framed by her). She’s also living with his parents, who are looking forward to their grandchild arriving but there are secrets there too. Rhiannon can’t resist the urge to kill again and life is just really complicated for her. She always finds a way to deal with her problems though, albeit not a healthy or sane way but it works for her. There’s something so likeable about Rhiannon – it makes me feel so conflicted to say that but she is such a brilliant character!

In Bloom is definitely best read after Sweet Pea as you get so much more idea about her and what makes her tick. There are references to things that happened in Sweet Pea and it feels like this book is a definite continuation of Rhiannon’s story. Plus why would you want to miss out on the fun of knowing Rhiannon from the start?!

I loved In Bloom: It’s funny, dark and utterly brilliant – I definitely recommend it!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

In Bloom is out now and available here.

About the Author

C.J. SKUSE is the author of the Young Adult novels PRETTY BAD THINGS, ROCKOHOLIC and DEAD ROMANTIC (Chicken House), MONSTER and THE DEVIANTS (Mira Ink). She was born in 1980 in Weston-super-Mare, England. She has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Children and, aside from writing novels lectures in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University.

C.J. loves Masterchef, Gummy Bears and murder sites. She hates carnivals, hard-boiled eggs and coughing. The movies Titanic, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Ruby Sparks were all probably based on her ideas; she just didn’t get to write them down in time. Before she dies, she would like to go to Japan, try clay-pigeon shooting and have Ryan Gosling present her with the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

You can find C.J. Skuse on Facebook or on Twitter CeejaytheAuthor

This Week in Books (5 Dec 2018)! What are you reading at the moment? #TWiB

icon2

Today I’m taking in part in This Week in Books, which was started by Lipsyy Lost and Found! If you want to join in you just need to share what you’re reading now, what you’ve read over the last week, and what you hope to read next.

Now

It Started With Christmas by Jenny Hale

This is an easy read and enjoyable enough but I’m almost halfway through it and it isn’t hugely festive as yet. I’m hoping that the second half of the book has all the Christmas!

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

This book is stunning! It’s the first time in a really long time that I’m deliberately reading a book slowly as I  don’t ever want it to end. It’s an incredible read, I think it will be making my top books of the year!

Chase Your Shadow by John Carlin

This is a really interesting book about Oscar Pistorius. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read it or not but so far it’s a very well-balanced book that helps you understand his character and the South African justice system. It’s respectful of Reeva Steenkamp too which I appreciate.

Twenty-Six Seconds by Alexandra Zapruder

I haven’t read much more of this over the last week as I’ve been catching up on my blog tour reading and also Christmas review books. I’m still really enjoying though, it’s such an interesting book.

Then 

The Snowman by Michael Morpugo

I read this yesterday afternoon just before we put our Christmas tree up and it made for a lovely time. This is a new take on The Snowman and is a novella, I really enjoyed it.

Vox by Christina Dalcher

This ARC has been on my TBR for ages so I was glad to read it this week. It didn’t quite live up to my hopes though unfortunately. I don’t know if I’d just heard too much hype and my expectations were too high, or if it just wasn’t the book for me. I do plan on still reviewing this once I’ve got my thoughts in order.

Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton

This book was such a great read. It was a harder read than I was expecting but it rewarded my sticking with it and I loved it. I’m reviewing this for the blog tour in the coming weeks so look out for my thoughts but in the meantime I definitely recommend it.

Odette by Jessica Duchen

I adored this book! It’s based on a fairytale and set in modern day and it’s just beautiful. I knew I was going to enjoy it as soon as I picked it up but I didn’t realise just how much I was going to love it.

The Secrets You Hide by Kate Helm

I’ve been looking forward to getting to this thriller and ended up reading it in just two sittings! It was really good. I’ll be reviewing this one soon.

Mother of a Suicide by Joanna Lane

This book started off really interesting but ultimately it wasn’t for me. I think that for anyone who thinks they might be affected by the medial condition in the book this would be a useful read.

My Life in Football by Kevin Keegan

I listened to the audio of this and it was such a great book. It’s frustrating (and anger-inducing) as a Newcastle United fan to be reminded of all the failings of the current owner but it was fab to hear all Keegan’s other stories.

Under the Wig by William Clegg QC

I really enjoyed this book and have already reviewed it so you can read my thoughts here if you’d like to.

Believe Me by JP Delaney

I had an ARC of this but was struggling to get into it so I bought the audio book in a recent Audible sale. I enjoyed it more listening to it and it was an okay read overall.

Next