Gravity Well by Marc Rahe | @RandomTTours @RescuePress #GravityWell

About the Book

In Gravity Well, Marc Rahe’s incisive third collection, the poems beckon readers through an ever-shifting series of landscapes, drawing our gaze across a dynamic tableau—an octopus wearing a sweater, a white sky over the bridge we’re standing on, flowers pressed into a forgotten book—as a means of revealing the most particular thrills and anxieties of the human condition. Unafraid and unwavering, careful and concerned, Gravity Well propels its reader through the imagined apertures of the universe one striking image at a time, leaving us ocularly magnified in a world now seen anew. A singular voice in American poetry, Rahe deftly centers the body in relation to ailments such as love, decay, aging, friendship, and grief. His powerful, meditative plea is resounding: “Earth, turn me.”


My Thoughts

Gravity Well is a stunning poetry collection that flows through so many themes and emotions.

It opens with poems in the section entitled Waxing Crescent Waxing Gibbous and later follows the section Waning Gibbous Waning Crescent. I love the way there is light in the dark and dark in the light, it really gave me an insight into what the poems I was about to read may be.

There were quite a few poems that really stood out to me, and it felt like I had a connection to them. Previous Lives is one poem that I’ve already re-read quite a few times and each time I see something else in it. The references to the squares on a calendar alongside random memories and the title itself. It made me think of the day my beloved nan died and how it was her calendar that finally made what had happened sink in.

Birthday is another poem that really connected with me – I have a spinal cord injury so the line about numbness ‘Downriver from the forest in my neck’ took my breath away. And the way Rahe writes of trying to be helpful but ‘To look for change in my pockets meant having to look’ is a line that gave me a wry smile in recognition of that feeling.

A line that I just found stunning comes in the wonderful poem Fable of the Cephalopod, which is a description of a cough using octopus imagery: ‘I hear it barking up the wrong bronchial tree’.

One of my favourite poems in the whole collection is Stellar, which is a reflection of happy times. The lines ‘Uncanny when it’s raining and it’s sunny at the same time. / As if being in someone’s presence and feeling the presence of their ghost.’ Rahe captures that feeling so beautifully and it brought a lump to my throat as I read it.

I found Gravity Well to be a beautiful poetry collection that really rewards the reader who takes their time and re-reads it. I’ll be honest and say that on first reading I found some of the poems were beyond my understanding but on further re-reading they began to speak to me. Now this is a collection that I know I will come back to time and again as it feels it will keep giving more to me every time. I highly recommend this one!

Gravity Well is out now in paperback and available here.

The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen

About the Book

Sisterhood binds them. Trauma defines them. Will secrets tear them apart?

Leah’s perfect marriage isn’t what it seems but the biggest lie of all is that she’s learned to live with what happened all those years ago.Marie drinks a bit too much to help her forget. And Carly has never forgiven herself for not keeping them safe.
 
Twenty years ago The Sinclair Sisters were taken. But what came after their return was far worse. Can a family ever recover, especially when not everyone is telling the truth…?

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Louise Jensen’s writing so a new book from her is always exciting. I was so thrilled to get my hands on her new novel The Stolen Sisters and am really happy to say that it more than lived up to my very high hopes for it.

The novel starts twenty years ago with three sisters who are taken right outside their own home. It follows older sister Carly in the past, and one of the twins Leah in the present in alternating chapters. Gradually we learn what happened when they were taken and how they are all still affected by it in the present day.

I loved the back and forth in time but wondered how suspenseful a novel could be when we already know the girls all survived. Louise Jensen is a master of this kind of novel though and there is so much tension and so much to still be revealed.

I have to praise Louise for her sensitive and accurate portrayal of OCD through this novel. I suffer from this too and it manifests in similar ways to the character in the book so I really appreciated the way it was written about. I was rooting for all three of the sisters to find a way to move on from what happened to them, but especially for Leah to overcome her OCD.

I found this novel so compelling and gripping, it was a book that I found hard to put down and given the reading slump I keep finding myself in it was going to take an excellent book to hold my attention and this is that book! I highly recommend this one!

Many thanks to Louise Jensen and HQ for my e-copy of this book and my invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Stolen Sisters is due to be published on 1 October in ebook and paperback and is available to pre-order here.

A Year of Living Simply by Kate Humble | @RandomTTours

About the Book

If there is one thing that most of us aspire to, it is, simply, to be happy. And yet attaining happiness has become, it appears, anything but simple. Having stuff – The Latest, The Newest, The Best Yet – is all too often peddled as the sure fire route to happiness. So why then, in our consumer-driven society, is depression, stress and anxiety ever more common, affecting every strata of society and every age, even, worryingly, the very young? Why is it, when we have so much, that many of us still feel we are missing something and the rush of pleasure when we buy something new turns so quickly into a feeling of emptiness, or purposelessness, or guilt?

So what is the route to real, deep, long lasting happiness? Could it be that our lives have just become overly crowded, that we’ve lost sight of the things – the simple things – that give a sense of achievement, a feeling of joy or excitement? That make us happy. Do we need to take a step back, reprioritise? Do we need to make our lives more simple? 

Kate Humble’s fresh and frank exploration of a stripped-back approach to life is uplifting, engaging and inspiring – and will help us all find balance and happiness every day.

My Thoughts

A Year of Living Simply opens with Kate writing about the bereavements that she suffered quite close together and the realisation that she just need to re-connect with nature and to live a much simpler life. We follow her over a year as she meets with various people who are all living more simply and she takes inspiration and ideas from all of them.

I wanted to read this book as soon as I saw the title as it just feels with all the anxiety around world events at the moment that making life as simple as it can be is the way to go. A Year of Living Simply was written before the pandemic so isn’t about that but so much of what Kate writes about could be written about what a lot of us have learnt in recent months, about the things that really matter to us.

I knew I was going to love this book when I realised that what set Kate off on her journey was the loss of her father. I immediately identified with the urge to make changes in your life when you lost a parent, I was the same when my mum died. Kate starts by attempting to declutter cupboards in her house and I loved reading about that. As you may know I finally decluttered my house a couple of years ago and it has changed my life, it’s so much easier when you have less stuff.

Through the book Kate meets with people who build and live in self-sustaining eco homes, which was fascinating. The homes sound so beautiful and I could really imagine what they must be like to live in. She also meets a woman who set up a cafe that combines grabbing a coffee with having household items repaired, or being taught to repair your own belongings. This really was interesting and I wish there were more of these cafes around the country (and the world). I hate how much we throw away simply because we don’t know how to repair things or because it’s cheaper to buy a new one.

I loved reading about Kate’s attempts to start her own vegetable garden. I really appreciated that she shared her failures as well as successes, it made this book very down to earth. I have only attempted to grow vegetables once and it was a disaster as I had no real idea what I was doing. Kate has made me see that with a bit of research and persistence that I could get there if I tried again.

The book is written in such a way that feels so inclusive – it’s one woman’s journey to discover a simpler life but she absolutely brings you along with her. I loved that about it – Kate’s writing is really lovely.

A Year of Living Simply is a gorgeous book. It’s both soothing to read and also a book that will inspire you to think about how to make your own life simpler and to focus on the things that really matter to you. This book is perfect for anyone and I will definitely be buying copies for Christmas gifts this year! I highly recommend this one!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and to Anne Cater for my blog tour invitation.

A Year of Living Simply is out now and available here.

The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke | @RandomTTours

About the Book

Arie and Diana were destined to be together.

Arie falls for Diana in a heartbeat. Their love creates a life for them, a marriage and a home. Pianist Diana wants to capture this in a song for Arie.

But that’s not where the story ends…

After Diana debuts their song to a room full of strangers, tragedy strikes and Arie never gets to hear it. 

There’s still a verse to come. 

Diana’s melody lives beyond her and the lost love song begins to find its way back home. Can it help Arie to find new hope, and a new love?

My Thoughts

I wanted to read The Lost Love Song as soon as I first heard about it as I love novels that have a music theme running through them. I’m so happy that I got a copy because this book is stunning!

The Lost Love Song follows Diana and Arie, who have been happy together for a few years now but their ability to communicate has crumbled a little. One night Diana, a world-renowned concert pianist, begins to compose a song that will tell Arie all of her feelings and emotions. This is the night before a new tour and she takes her composition book with her to finish the song on her travels. One night as Diana is finishing her song a stranger overhears her playing and is mesmerised. The next morning he finds Diana has left her book on top of the piano and as it has her address in he takes it with him intending to post it home. The novel then follows a cast of characters as this song begins its journey around the world.

The song that Diana composed is woven right through this novel as it travels from one place to another by various means and I was spellbound by it. It all felt so believable and plausible that so many people could hear this music and be so moved by it that it affected their lives from that moment on.

I think my favourite character in this novel was Evie. She’s a poet who has been travelling in the UK trying to make ends meet with various jobs, she has a sort of boyfriend who doesn’t appreciate her and she’s not happy. On the day the Diana’s love song finds her she’s feeling so despondent and unsure of what to do next, and the beauty of the song and the way it finds her makes her resolve to pack up and go back home to Australia. I love the way she decides to find her own happiness and to work through her grief so that she can try and get her life together.

This novel is such a poignant and, at times, bittersweet story but it’s ultimately a hopeful book. It’s about finding your way through the darkest moments and seeing the light at the other side, it’s about the power of love. It’s also a novel about fate and destiny, the way Diana’s song is carried around the world is so wonderful. I adored how people who heard it tried to keep it, to hold it close and yet the song kept travelling and having an impact new listeners. I know how I feel when I hear one of my late mum’s favourite songs on the radio, it feels like a message from her. This is the beauty of this novel, people are feeling the love emanating from this love song that Diana composed and it’s helping them to look forward to the future again.

This is such a beautiful novel about the power of music, and the way it can help you heal. It’s about letting go in order to find what life has in store for you. The Last Love Song cast a spell over me and I was genuinely emotional when I turned the last page, both for the characters and for the fact that this stunning novel was at an end. It’s taken me a week or two to get this review together because I simply can’t find the words to express just how much this book means to me now. I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Transworld for my ecopy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Lost Love Song is out now and available here.

The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman | @CharityNorman1 @AllenAndUnwin @annecater

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A regular weekday morning veers drastically off-course for five strangers whose paths cross in a London café – their lives never to be the same again when an apparently crazed gunman holds them hostage.

But there is more to the situation than first meets the eye and as the captives grapple with their own inner demons, the line between right and wrong starts to blur. Will the secrets they keep stop them from escaping with their lives?

 

I’ve read and enjoyed all of Charity Norman’s previous novels but I have to start by saying that The Secrets of Strangers is her best yet, it’s an incredible read!

The Secrets of Strangers is set in a small London cafe on an ordinary morning. The regulars are all their grabbing a coffee or a quick breakfast but this isn’t going to be a normal day for many of them. A row breaks out between the owner and a customer and it leads to everyone in the cafe being held hostage by a gunman.

The novel follows multiple characters throughout and we get to learn about everyone’s lives and their pasts and where they are in their lives. They all have their own problems and the novel explores one character’s infertility journey, another’s battle with addiction, and how one of them survived a genocide. All of these issues are explored in such a sensitive way and it really makes you feel for every single person.

The tension is immediate in this novel but it waxes and wanes as the novel progresses and we’re at the mercy of the mood of the gunman. At times the tension is palpable and I felt I was holding my breath, at other times I wanted to cry. I always felt like I was right there in the cafe with this group of people.

Charity Norman in a brilliant writer and whilst this novel explores some very difficult themes, there is some lightness to balance the darkness because of the way she makes everyone so real and so human. I ended up feeling a connection to every single person I read about and even now, weeks after I read this novel, I still find myself thinking about them.

This is a one sitting book – I picked it up one afternoon and I didn’t put it down until I’d finished reading it. I was experiencing a reading slump at the time and nothing was holding my attention but this book did and it’s a testament to the wonderful writing. I loved this novel, it’s my new favourite Charity Norman book and I strongly suspect it’ll be in my favourite books of the year list. I highly recommend it!

The Secrets of Strangers is out now in paperback, ebook and audio book and available here.

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Allen & Unwin for my ecopy of this book and my blog tour invitation. All views are my own.

 

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

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Strangers by C. L. Taylor | @CallyTaylor @AvonBooksUK #DontTalkToStrangers

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Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life.
Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards.
And Alice is being stalked.

None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.
 
Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.

 

I’m a huge fan of C. L. Taylor’s writing and have loved all of her novels so far but I can honestly say that Strangers is her best yet! It’s brilliant!

It follows three characters: Ursula who seems to be a bit of a loner and is clearly struggling with something; Gareth who works as a security guard in the local shopping centre but also looks after his mum who has dementia; Alice who’s recently divorced and has started dating again. A man she ends up seeing has a secret and this leads Alice to be in danger!

I loved how this novel is told from the three different perspectives. It opens with a scene where something terrible has happened but we don’t know exactly what, or who to, and then we got back in time and find out what led to the incident. I had no idea how the lives of these three disparate characters would eventually intersect but I was so keen to find out.

I find it’s rare in a book with three points of view to be equally invested in all of them but C. L. Taylor has written such brilliant characters that I cared about all of them and I wanted to know what was going to happen in each of their lives.

It’s rare for me not to work out how a thriller will turn out but Strangers kept me guessing all the way to the end. It was such a rollercoaster novel and when the denouement happens I was literally on the edge of my seat! I adored this book and I highly recommend it!

 

Strangers is out now in ebook, paperback and audio. All available here.

Many thanks to Avon Books for my ecopy of this book and my invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

 

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

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Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten |@nholten40 @OneMoreChapter_ @BOTBSPublicity

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The serial killer is behind bars. But the murders are just beginning…

DC Maggie Jamieson’s past comes back to haunt her in this dark and gripping serial killer thriller.

Three missing women running out of time…

They were abducted years ago. Notorious serial killer Bill Raven admitted to killing them and was sentenced to life.

The case was closed – at least DC Maggie Jamieson thought it was…

But now one of them has been found, dismembered and dumped in a bin bag in town.

Forensics reveal that she died just two days ago, when Raven was behind bars, so Maggie has a second killer to find.

Because even if the other missing women are still alive, one thing’s for certain: they don’t have long left to live…

 

Dead Inside was one of my favourite books of last year so I was thrilled to discover that Noelle Holten had a new book out this year. Dead Wrong is a brilliant follow-up book and I loved it!

Dead Wrong follows DC Maggie Jamieson as she’s thrown back into an old case – that of serial killer Bill Raven. Maggie worked the investigation that led to his conviction a couple of years previously but now the body of one of the missing women has been found and it seems she’s only been dead a few days so it throws the conviction into doubt. Maggie is sure she didn’t make a mistake but the evidence seems to be pointing in that direction.

The dynamic between Maggie and Raven was so tense to read, there is a real cat and mouse game going on – Raven is really toying with Maggie and wants her to crack. It’s edge of seat stuff to read and it had me racing through the book as I was desperate to find out how it would all end.

I loved that we get to know more of Maggie in this book, she’s such a great character and is easily becoming one of my favourite detectives! It was great to see more of her home life and her relationship with her brother who lives with her. I also loved seeing her growing closeness with Dr Moloney as the novel progresses.

This is fast becoming one of my favourite crime fiction series and I already can’t wait for the next book – I’ll be first in the queue to buy it when it’s published!

Dead Wrong is out now in ebook, paperback and audio. All available here.

Many thanks to Sarah from Books on the Brightside and One More Chapter for my ecopy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

 

I’m really unwell at the moment and my concentration isn’t good so I apologise in for this review being shorter and lesser than I would have liked to write for this brilliant book.

 

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

BLOG TOUR (3)

 

Containment by Vanda Symon | @OrendaBooks @VandaSymon @annecater

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Chaos reigns in the sleepy village of Aramoana on the New Zealand coast, when a series of shipping containers wash up on the beach and looting begins.

Detective Constable Sam Shephard experiences the desperation of the scavengers first-hand, and ends up in an ambulance, nursing her wounds and puzzling over an assault that left her assailant for dead.

What appears to be a clear-cut case of a cargo ship running aground soon takes a more sinister turn when a skull is found in the sand, and the body of a diver is pulled from the sea … a diver who didn’t die of drowning…

As first officer at the scene, Sam is handed the case, much to the displeasure of her superiors, and she must put together an increasingly confusing series of clues to get to the bottom of a mystery that may still have more victims…

 

I loved the first two books in this series so have been eagerly anticipating this next book and I’m so happy to say that I loved Containment every bit as much, if not even more, than the previous two. I adore Sam Shephard, she’s now one of my most favourite characters ever and I love spending time with her and finding out what she’s up to!

Containment is a brilliant crime novel. Sam finds herself in the midst of having to police looting on a beach after a cargo ship runs aground and containers are washed ashore. This leads to her being assaulted and then soon after finding herself investigating what happened to a man found dead in the water. This is only the start of the story though!

Alongside her work Sam is trying to figure out her love life and I found Sam so relatable. She’s involved with a man who really likes her and she likes him but still she just can’t quite commit. She’s not sure, and she’s not sure why she’s not sure. At times I wanted to shake her and tell her to give him a chance but at the same time I could totally see why she was reluctant. I also love Sam’s friendship with Maggie, they’re so close and Maggie can be brutally honest with Sam but she loves her regardless of whether she agrees with her not. It makes me wish I had a Maggie in my life!

There is a character in this book who has obvious physical disabilities and I loved his scenes with Sam. We live in a very politically correct world but people who aren’t disabled don’t always take account of how disabled people see themselves or how they’re happy to be seen by others. I found him, and how he was written, so refreshing and so brilliant. Bravo to Vanda for this!

I love Vanda Symon’s writing – she captures people in such a believable and real way. Whilst Sam is high as a kite on pain meds there are some scenes that had me properly laughing out loud, yet it never takes away from the seriousness of what is happening. I adore writing that captures life like this.

The setting of Vanda Symon’s novels are so brilliantly described too. She brings Dunedin, and in this novel Aramoana to life for me. I’ve never been to New Zealand but I can envisage the places so clearly, Vanda’s writing makes a movie in my head and now I feel like I’ve been there!

Containment is a brilliant crime novel – it has darkness and humour, brilliant characters and fabulous writing! I highly recommend this book (and the whole series)!

Containment is out now in ebook and paperback here.

 

I’m really unwell at the moment and my concentration isn’t good so I apologise in for this review being shorter and lesser than I would have liked to write for this brilliant book.

 

Many thanks to Anne and Orenda Books for my ecopy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

 

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

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Wild Spinning Girls by Carol Lovekin | @CarolLovekin @Honno @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #WildSpinningGirls

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If it wasn’t haunted before she came to live there, after she died, Ty’r Cwmwl made room for her ghost. She brought magic with her.

And the house, having held its breath for years, knew it. Ida Llewellyn loses her job and her parents in the space of a few weeks and, thrown completely off course, she sets out for the Welsh house her father has left her. Ty’r Cwmwl is not at all welcoming despite the fact it looks inhabited, as if someone just left…

It is being cared for as a shrine by the daughter of the last tenant. Determined to scare off her old home’s new landlord, Heather Esyllt Morgan sides with the birds who terrify Ida and plots to evict her. The two girls battle with suspicion and fear before discovering that the secrets harboured by their thoughtless parents have grown rotten with time. Their broken hearts will only mend once they cast off the house and its history, and let go of the keepsakes that they treasure like childhood dreams.

I genuinely don’t know where to start with this review… Carol Lovekin stole a piece of my heart with Ghostbird, and she cemented my love of her writing with Snow Sisters… Now there’s Wild Spinning Girls and I’m just completely and utterly in awe!

I jumped at the chance to read Wild Spinning Girls without knowing much about it because I’m a huge fan and I know a Carol Lovekin novel will be stunning. When I read the opening pages and I saw what the novel was about I instantly felt a strong connection. We follow Ida, who is 29 years old and is told, somewhat out of the blue, that she is being made redundant from her beloved job in a book shop. Then soon after Ida’s parents die suddenly and she is rootless and lost. My mum died when I was 29, she was my only parent and honestly losing her pulled the rug completely from under me. I barely knew which way was up for quite a while. So I was reading this novel in tears at times remembering the pain of the early days of that loss and wishing I could reach into the pages of this book to Ida, to tell her that it does get easier in time.

‘Mothers aren’t supposed to die before we’re ready to manage without them.’ Ida said.

Ida soon learns about a house in Wales that her parents still owned but they hadn’t been there since Ida was five. She decides to go there and sort it out for sale but she’s dreading it. She knows her mum hated it there but she doesn’t really know why.

Her thick cardigan folded itself around her, like a pair of empty arms enhancing her loneliness, exacerbating her sense of disconnection from the person who had arrived here less than two weeks previously.

The house feels creepy, cold and unfriendly when Ida arrives. Dark is falling and the electric is off so she’s literally floundering and wondering what on earth to do. The house seems melancholy, there is a sense that it is waiting for something – I could feel that radiating from the page. This is a house that is haunted by secrets and sadness and also by the happiness that could have been had there and wasn’t. It is as if there is some kind of spell woven around this house and it had a very real effect on Ida, but also on me. It was as if the things Ida was feeling because of the house I was genuinely feeling too because of the poignant way it was all described in the novel.

‘[…] it’s the place, the house. It’s like living in a Bronte novel’.

‘Charlotte or Emily?’

‘Both.’

Gradually we discover more about Ida’s mother and how she had been a famous ballerina but Ida was never able to reach her mother’s heights. She took up ballet as a child but an accident brought it all to an end. It caused real tension between mother and daughter but it never took away their love for each other. It made their relationship complex but the way that Ida holds on to her red ballet shoes shows how much she adored her mother, at the same time as the way she holds on to her injury shows the guilt she feels in how she, perhaps unconsciously, freed herself from the power of those same red shoes.

Then in walks Heather! A 17 year old who believes the house is hers because her mother rented it for them for many years. Heather’s mum has also recently died but this doesn’t make the two women find a connection, instead there is suspicion and tension from the start. Both are lost and in pain but they’re both struggling in their own ways and it seems like no one is going to be able to get through to either of them. Nor does it seem likely that they’ll find a way to resolve the impasse they find themselves in. Heather is feisty and strong-willed, she doesn’t see why she should yield her will to anyone and I loved this about her. Ida is the opposite; she is broken by all that has happened and she can’t see how she will get her life back on track. I was willing both of these women on, I wanted them to see the common ground and to find a way through.

Heather knew the only way to mend a heart as broken as hers was to find someone else who knew what a heart sounded like when it shattered.

Carol Lovekin weaves magic through her writing, she brings her readers into her stories in a way that no other writer does. I always feel bereft on finishing her novels because I never want them to end but I also always feel like my spirit has been shored up and healed in a way that was much needed. I found so much solace in Wild Spinning Girls, I could identify so much with both Ida and Heather. I really miss them now, I keep thinking about them and wondering how they are as if they are real people that I once knew.

There is a fierceness in young women: the wild spinning girls made of loss and grief and their mothers’ best dreams. Let loose it could tip the world off its axis.

I highlighted so many paragraphs as I was reading this novel because Carol Lovekin has such a special turn of phrase, and she weaves such beauty into each sentence. I kept stopping to re-read sections because I wanted to make sure I’d absorbed every bit of this story. I deliberately read slowly as I didn’t want to miss a single thing! The above quote is one of my favourites and this wild spinning girl is going to read those two sentences every time she ever doubts herself from now on!

Wild Spinning Girls truly is one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time, it has stolen my heart and will be taking pride of place on my bookcase. It is melancholy but also magical, it’s dark but it has hope and most of all it’s a stunning book that reminds you to find and then hold on to your power and strength. I’ve been writing and re-writing this review for days and I can’t do any kind of justice to the book. I just adored this novel more than I can say, I know it will be one of my favourite books of this year as I already want to re-read it. I highly recommend this one!

My thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Honno Books for my ecopy of this book and my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Wild Spinning Girls is due to be published on 20 Feb and can be pre-ordered here.

 

 

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

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Death Deserved by Thomas Enger & Jorn Lier Horst | @OrendaBooks @annecater

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Police officer Alexander Blix and celebrity blogger Emma Ramm join forces to track down a serial killer with a thirst for attention and high-profile murders, in the first episode of a gripping new Nordic Noir series…

Oslo, 2018. Former long-distance runner Sonja Nordstrøm never shows at the launch of her controversial autobiography, Always Number One. When celebrity blogger Emma Ramm visits Nordstrøm’s home later that day, she finds the door unlocked and signs of a struggle inside. A bib with the number ‘one’ has been pinned to the TV.

Police officer Alexander Blix is appointed to head up the missing-persons investigation, but he still bears the emotional scars of a hostage situation nineteen years earlier, when he killed the father of a five-year-old girl. Traces of Nordstrøm soon show up at different locations, but the appearance of the clues appear to be carefully calculated … evidence of a bigger picture that he’s just not seeing…

Blix and Ramm soon join forces, determined to find and stop a merciless killer with a flare for the dramatic, and thirst for attention.
Trouble is, he’s just got his first taste of it…

Well, I’ve not been reading much over the last couple of weeks – I’ve been ill and my concentration has been rubbish but I’d been so keen to get to Death Deserved so picked it up to give it a try and I’m so glad I did. This is such a brilliant crime thriller, it’s one of those books that I was thinking about whenever I wasn’t reading it and I already want more!

Death Deserved opens with a police officer entering a house and shooting a suspect, and then the novel moves forward nineteen years to the present day. The same officer is called to a missing woman’s house by a journalist and this leads to such a gripping investigation! Blix is the officer and Emma is the journalist and they begin to work together as it becomes apparent that someone is murdering celebrities and it seems the killer has a very definite plan in mind for how and when he going to commit the murders.

I loved Emma Ramm from the off in this book. She is so feisty and determined to make something of her career, and she felt so real to me. She doesn’t put herself in silly situations, she’s astute. Blix is also great, he has demons in his past but it only fuels him to be better and to get things right in the future. He’s mindful of what came before but he never lets it stop him fully focusing on what is in front of him now. I can see why Emma and Blix came to work well together, they really do make a brilliant pairing!

I had so many theories as I was racing through this crime thriller and pretty much all of them were wrong. It’s a novel that wrong foots you every time you think you’ve got a grip of what’s going on, it made me feel like I was in amongst the investigation as the police were also scrambling to put a theory together.

I loved the way this novel also explores celebrity and how people become famous, and how we come to revere people who are in the public eye. Blix’s daughter is in a reality TV show and he has a slightly strained relationship with her but he’s constantly catching up with how she’s doing on the show and making sure she seems okay. The show is like Big Brother but way more tough on the contestants in what it puts them through. It was fascinating to me how the viewers were judging the contestants and voting them out based on transgressions that perhaps most of us might have committed at one time or another in our lives. It felt it was holding a mirror up to all of us so realising that the killer was at the incredibly heightened, extreme, obsessed end of a scale that perhaps we are all on was very unnerving and unsettling. We are constantly making judgements and wishing people would be voted off shows because they’re not worthy enough, or nice enough or they made a mistake that we feel they should pay for. Obviously, I know we’re not all psychopaths but the dichotomy definitely brings you up short at times as you read this book!

Death Deserved is an intense, sophisticated crime thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and I loved every single minute that I spent reading it! I love a book that is such a gripping, unputdownable thrill-ride whilst also making me pause for thought, and Death Deserved it definitely that! This is the best crime thriller that I’ve read in quite some time and I can’t wait to read more by these authors! I highly recommend this book!

Death Deserved is out now in ebook and and can be pre-ordered in paperback here.

Many thanks to Anne and Orenda Books for my ecopy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

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

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#BookReview: The Home by Sarah Stovell | @Sarahlovescrime @OrendaBooks @annecater

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When the body of a pregnant fifteen-year-old is discovered in a churchyard on Christmas morning, the community is shocked, but unsurprised. For Hope lived in The Home, the residence of three young girls, whose violent and disturbing pasts have seen them cloistered away…

As a police investigation gets underway, the lives of Hope, Lara and Annie are examined, and the staff who work at the home are interviewed, leading to shocking and distressing revelations … and clear evidence that someone is seeking revenge.

A gritty, dark and devastating psychological thriller, The Home is also an emotive drama and a piercing look at the underbelly of society, where children learn what they live … if they are allowed to live at all.

I read and loved Sarah Stovell’s previous novel Exquisite so when I heard she had a new book coming out it was one of my most anticipated books for 2020 and I’m so happy to say that it more than delivers on my expectations!

I must mention the cover of this book, which is absolute perfection. At first I thought it was a face with a butterfly over the eye, which makes sense given a storyline in the book. It was only as I was putting the book down having finished it that I realised it’s not a butterfly but a stone angel. This gave me chills as I genuinely couldn’t see it there before and it really fits the whole premise of the book.

The Home is a very powerful and emotional read set in a children’s home in the Lake District. One of the teenage girls is found murdered on Christmas day with another girl sat beside her. The novel then goes back and forth in time, and between multiple perspectives as we find out more about the girls’ backgrounds and what happened to lead to one of them being dead.

The mystery in this novel is so well done. I was convinced I knew what had really happened to the girl from part-way through the book but there was something nagging at the back of my mind that I just couldn’t tease out. The reveals when they come are utterly shocking and disturbing!

There is so much more to the book than the mystery around the murder though. It’s a really eye-opening look at the effect that poverty has, and what lengths people are driven to in order to survive. It also looks at the way the damage done to one generation of a family can perpetuate to the next because sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be a way out of all you’ve ever known.

I found it devastating to be able to stand back as a reader and see who the bad guys were in this novel, whilst at the same time seeing exactly how Annie thought the bad guys were the saviours. It really hits home how grooming works and how young people can end up trapped in the same life as their parents before them even as they desperately seek a better life.

There are good guys in this novel too but even they come with a sense of heartbreak and futility. Helen who runs the home where Hope, Annie and Lara are staying has her hands tied by the lack of funding and therefore staff, and the knowledge that this home is on the verge of closure. She really works hard to help the girls in her care but she know she’s fighting a losing battle. It must be incredibly hard to work in this situation, trying to build stability and hope into children’s lives where there has been none before and yet knowing that things beyond you mean you’re ultimately not going to be able to do for them what you wish to.

The Home broke my heart; it’s one of those really brilliant novels that has so many levels to it and all of them have an impact on you. I am in awe of the writing in this book – these characters have left a mark on me and I don’t think I’ll ever forget them. I know it’s only the 10th January but I already feel like this is going to be one of my books of the year, it’s such a stunning read!

The Home is out now in ebook and and can be pre-ordered in paperback.

Many thanks to Anne and Orenda Books for my ecopy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

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

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Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver | @OrendaBooks @Will_Carver @annecater

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About the Book

Nine suicides
One Cult
No leader

Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.

That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of the People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.

Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe; it becomes a movement. A social media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers. The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader that does not seem to exist.

How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?

 

My Thoughts

I have to start this review by saying I have no idea how to write this review so apologies if this ends up being a ramble. Nothing Important Happened Today is like nothing I’ve ever read before and I don’t know how to write about it!

Nothing Important Happened Today opens with nine people who’ve never met before all arriving at about the same time on Chelsea Bridge, they put ropes around their necks and they jump to their deaths. We then find that they each received a letter in the post that morning telling them that Nothing Important Happened Today! This chilled me to the core but I simply had to know more so I kept reading.

The novel is told in short vignettes that gradually get pieced together to make up the whole story. We briefly see the lives of the nine who jumped, although we only know them by the numbers they’ve been assigned. This is clever because it means they’re the ‘everyman’ – they could be you or me or someone one you know. Interspersed with these stories we see an old man who seems obsessed with what happened on the bridge, we see a Detective who is on leave visiting his psychiatrist and wondering about the people on the bridge. We also get to see the lives of the poor 32 people on a train who witnessed the nine jump to their deaths and the impact it has on some of them.

The novel isn’t told from any one viewpoint but you feel like there is still an over-arching voice that is controlling what we learn and when we learn it. I felt like I was being pulled into something that I both wanted to look away from and wanted to know more about. I felt I was being manipulated by the person running the cult that isn’t a cult, and it really made me pause for thought about how cults come to be and how they draw people in.

This book isn’t an easy read for anyone. It gave me chills, it’s quite possibly the most disturbing book I’ve ever read. It plagued my mind when I wasn’t reading it and it affected my sleep but I would still absolutely say that it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year! It made me think more than any other book I’ve read this year, it’s still making me think now a couple of weeks after I finished reading it. You need to be in the right frame of mind to pick this book up but it’s absolutely a book worth reading. The insight into how we think of cults and how cults work was fascinating, the way it makes you think about everything in a slightly different light is brilliant.

I’ve lost people to suicide, and whilst I didn’t know the man there was a very public and horrific suicide attempt in my town recently that happened when I was reading this book, so this wasn’t the easiest of reads for me. I did have to keep putting it down and giving myself some space from it but I was always compelled to come back to it because it’s so well-written and it’s such a thought-provoking book.

Nothing Important Happened Today is a book that heavily features suicide but it’s not really about suicide, it’s about the way that society and social media has an affect on all of us. It’s about how people can be preyed upon when they’re vulnerable to it and therefore not aware of how someone is playing them. It’s about how we can find ourselves caught up in something awful and not even know we’re caught up in it until it’s too late. It’s also about the way we’ve become almost immune to horror because we see it all the time on social media and on the news channels. People are so quick to record everything on their phones and there’s always a rush to be the first person on social media talking about something horrible that’s happened. We forget that these things involve real people with loved ones. This book is makes such a powerful statement about modern society and it’s absolutely a wake-up call! This is a book for now, for our era and it’s a book that everyone should read.

Nothing Important Happened Today is so dark and disturbing, I feel like it’s really messed with my mind but it’s made its mark on me more than anything else I’ve read this year. This book is a future classic, mark my words! This book is a must-read and I highly recommend it!

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

Nothing Important Happened Today is out now in ebook and available for pre-order in print here.

 

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

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Stand Against Injustice by Michelle Diskin Bates | @Michelle_Diskin @malcomdown @LoveBooksGroup

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About the Book

On April 26, 1999, BBC TV presenter Jill Dando was murdered outside her home in London. Barry George was convicted and imprisoned for the murder but was later acquitted after an appeal and retrial. Stand Against Injustice is the powerful memoir of the sister of Barry George.

For the first time, Michelle Diskin tells her story, the human side and truth behind one of recent history’s most high profile and damaging miscarriages of justice whose life is inextricably interwoven in the drama, the trauma, the conspiracy and the fight for justice. A self-confessed “ordinary housewife,” Diskin’s voice weaves the personal everyday struggles that bring depth, color, and passion into what is an extraordinary account.

A troubled childhood weighted with overbearing responsibility, fear and insecurity, depression, and the challenges of marriage and adult relationships, Diskin’s life has never been easy. However, the one constant in her life – her faith in God – underpins and provides the foundation upon which she now stands – against injustice.

 

My Thoughts

I remember the news breaking about the murder of Jill Dando, it was so shocking and hard to believe. I’ve read news articles and seen documentaries about the case over the years but have never really thought about just how hard it must be for the victim of a wrongful conviction (or their close family). Stand Against Injustice is a book that gives such eye-opening insight into this and I am so glad that I got to read it.

Stand Against Injustice is written by Michelle Diskin Bates, the sister of Barry George who was wrongfully convicted of killing TV presenter Jill Dando. Michelle writes so candidly of the time period from when her brother was arrested right up to the present day. I very much appreciated her honesty and how she shares the rawness of what she, and her family, all went through. It can’t have been easy for Michelle to relive all that they have been through, and are still going through, but this is such an important book and is a story that needs to be heard.

I’ve read quite a lot of non-fiction books that focus on crime but I had no idea that when someone has their conviction quashed and is then re-tried and found not guilty, as in Barry George’s case, it isn’t necessarily considered a miscarriage of justice and therefore no compensation is awarded. It made me so angry to read how little support he has had from the state to re-build his life, had he not had Michelle and other family around him, you’re left wondering what would have happened to him.

It’s horrendous how the media treated Michelle and her family. To read of the way the media hounded her mum, and the way they made up such awful stories about Barry’s behaviour after he was released is shocking.

This wasn’t an easy read because it’s just awful to read of something like this happening to an innocent man. Stand Against Injustice is so well-written though and really does give a real insight into what it was like to go through such an horrendous ordeal. Michelle describes how harrowing it was going through her first prison visit to see Barry. She takes you through the court case and how frightening and intimidating elements of the process were. All the way through to the conviction being quashed but even that day Michelle, Barry and their family weren’t able to quietly celebrate the moment together. This book made me so angry at how they were all treated but I’m so glad that I read it because I feel I have so much more knowledge of the system and how things can go wrong than I had before. I read a lot of true crime books but this is the first book I’ve read that gives me this perspective – it’s really made me think and in future I will go into my crime reading (or documentary watching) with a much greater understanding of what it is to be in Michelle’s, and Barry’s, shoes. I highly recommend this book to everyone, it’s a definite must read!

Many thanks to Kelly of Love Books Group for my copy of this book and my invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Stand Against Injustice is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Mother of three, campaigner for justice and Committed Christian.

Michelle campaigned for eight years for the release of her disabled brother, Barry George, after he was wrongly convicted in 2001, for the high profile murder of BBC television presenter, Jill Dando. Mr George was acquitted in 2007 and sent for re-trial in 2008. He was found not guilty, by unanimous jury verdict on 1st August 2008.

Born in Fulham, London in 1955, Michelle lived in West London until 1973. She then moved to Cork, Ireland, where she lived until 2012, with her three adult children. Michelle’s first husband, Patrick, died unexpectedly in 2007 after a short illness, but, with God’s grace, she is now married again, to Peter, who supports her in her Miscarriage of Justice (MOJ) activities. They are both committed Christians, who worship at a Baptist church in Northamptonshire, taking on many responsibilities within the fellowship.

Retired now, Michelle always worked outside of the home in various industries, and at all levels from cleaner to management. Her ethos being: do the job to the best of your abilities, as a service to others, regardless of the task. She has trained as an Image Consultant and most recently, as a weight loss consultant.

Since her brother’s wrongful incarceration, she has become a public speaker at Miscarriage of Justice conferences across the UK, and has also been a guest speaker at the Spiritual Health Weekends for women, run by Nancy Goudie. Also a guest lecturer at University College Cork and Portsmouth University to Law students interested in Miscarriage of Justice. Also attending APPGs on miscarriage of justice in Parliament.

Michelle is still in touch with many families of the wrongly convicted, including those convicted under Joint Enterprise. She also has connections with various MOJ organisations, e.g. Mojo Scotland, The Innocence Project in UK Universities, and a variety of legal representatives and released victims of MOJ.
She is interested in the refusal of the Judiciary to pay compensation under section 133., ‘Not innocent enough’ or ‘A jury, properly directed, could have convicted’, both of which still affect her brother.

 

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

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One Week ‘Til Christmas by Belinda Missen| @belinda_missen @rararesources

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About the Book

Two people. One chance meeting. Seven days to Christmas.

Isobel Bennett is waiting for the number 11 bus when a man quite literally falls into her lap. Snow is falling, Christmas lights are twinkling, and a gorgeous man with dark brown hair has just slipped on ice and is now pressed against Isobel.

Isobel knows she’s not imagining the chemistry between them. But then his ride arrives and, embarrassed, he beats a hasty retreat, murmuring apologies – and Isobel realises only too late that she didn’t manage to catch his name…

When she runs into him again the next morning, she decides it’s fate.

It’s a second chance for Isobel and Tom – but there’s only one week until she’s leaving London for good. Seven days of enjoying all the festive delights the city has to offer: ice-skating at Somerset House, mulled wine on the Southbank, Christmas shopping at Liberty.

There’s magic in the air and mistletoe in the trees – but what will happen when the week is over?

 

My Thoughts

I’ve been so looking forward to reading One Week ‘Til Christmas ever since I first saw the gorgeous festive cover and I’m really happy to be able to say that the novel absolutely lives up to it!

One Week ‘Til Christmas follows travel journalist Isobel as she arrives in London for a short holiday. As she waits for a bus to her friend’s house a random stranger runs into her and there is definitely some sparks between the two! Both go on their way and that seems to be that but then there is another random meeting the next day and it seems to be fate!

This is such a gorgeous novella set in London in the week leading up to Christmas. It has romance and snow, Christmas markets, ice skating and lots of lovely-sounding food! Everything is described so beautifully that I feel like I have been to all of the places in this book.

The romance in this book is a total whirlwind! Tom and Isobel spend a lot of time together in the few short days that Isobel is in London but their romance felt completely believable to me, I got completely swept up in it. I love how they spend so much time walking around London landmarks, and seeing all the Christmassy sights whilst talking about their lives and hopes and dreams. It felt very romantic and so possible.

One Week ‘Til Christmas is a gorgeous read that will really get you in the festive spirit! I adored this book and I will definitely re-read it over Christmases to come. I recommend this one!

Many thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for my copy of this book and for my blog tour invitation.

One Week ‘Til Christmas is published today and available here.

 

About the Author

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Author and sometimes foodie, Belinda is a ridiculous romantic who met her husband after being set up by a friend two states away.

Residing in country Victoria, surrounded by books, cat-fur, and half-eaten cake, Belinda divides her days between writing rom-coms, baking, and indulging her love of comic books.

Social Media Links –

www.belindamissen.com

facebook.com/BelindaMissen

twitter.com/belinda_missen

Instagram @belinda_missen

 

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

 

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The Christmas Wish List by Heidi Swain | @Heidi_Swain @TeamBATC #TheChristmasWishList

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About the Book

After being let go from her job in a swanky hotel just weeks before Christmas, Hattie is feeling lost. Even more so when her high-flying boyfriend announces he’s landed his dream job in Abu Dhabi and asks her to move with him. Luckily, Hattie’s long-time friend Dolly is on hand to help and invites Hattie to spend one last holiday in the small, festive town of Wynbridge, determined to give her a Christmas to remember . . .

Upon Hattie’s arrival, holiday preparations are in full swing. But for Hattie, whose Christmas cheer has long since run out, it’ll take more than mince pies and mistletoe to open her heart to the season once more. Relishing the task of reigniting Hattie’s Christmas spirit, Dolly suggests they create a wish list of all the things the season can offer, and with the helpful hands of Wynbridge’s resident handyman, Beamish, Hattie finds her frosty exterior is starting to thaw.

As Wynbridge prepares for its most spectacular Christmas yet, will Hattie leave snowy England behind for life in a sunnier clime, or will she in fact realise that her heart’s desire lies much closer to home?

 

My Thoughts

I was so excited to find that I’d recently won a copy of The Christmas Wish List in a giveaway and I just knew it had to be my first festive read of the year. I’m really happy that this is how I kicked off my festive reading because this book is simply gorgeous!

We follow Hattie as she is unexpectedly made redundant from her job at a swanky hotel, she wasn’t expecting it. And then her boyfriend announces that he has just been offered his dream job in Abu Dhabi and wants her to go with him! This all seems like perfect timing and the chance for a brand new start for Hattie but she’s just feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed with all that’s happening. So she decides to take up her old friend Dolly’s invitation to stay with her in the gorgeous village Wynbridge.

As soon as Hattie arrives in Wynbridge she begins to relax, and I could feel the weight falling from my own shoulders as I felt I was right there with her. Dolly is such a wonderful character – she’s shrewd and she can see Hattie isn’t happy but she doesn’t push her to talk about it. Instead she suggests that the two of them make a Christmas wish list of all the things they want to do in the run up to the festive season. Hattie isn’t all that bothered about Christmas ever since she fell out with her parents a few years earlier but she feels she should join in for Dolly’s sake. Dolly enlists Beamish, a very handsome school caretaker, to help with some of the items on the wish list and there is a definite attraction between him and Hattie!

This book is full of love and joy as we get nearer to Christmas but it’s not all smooth-sailing for Hattie. She inevitably has to work out how she really feels about Beamish, and more importantly how she feels about her boyfriend. She begins to realise that she perhaps wasn’t as happy as she thought she was and that things need to change.

There are some really heartfelt moments in this novel and they did make me cry a little bit. They brought back memories of things in my own life from years past but it was lovely as it made me recall some of the happiest of memories.

I adored this book! It’s the perfect novel to curl up with in the period leading up to Christmas as this is the time spanned in the book. As the residents of Wynbridge begin their Christmas preparations, it starts to feel a little magical and then you find yourself completely swept away in all the wonderful, heart-warming things that Hattie and Dolly, and Beamish, are ticking off their wish list. Before you know it your heart is bursting with festive feelings and you’ll be wanting to put your Christmas decorations up (even though it’s only October)!

The Christmas Wish List is a very special festive book, one that has stolen a piece of my heart. It is firmly going on my shelf of treasured Christmas books that I try to read every year. I highly recommend this one – it’s truly gorgeous!

Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for my copy of this book and for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Christmas Wish List is out now and available here.

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following stops:

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The Accidental Love Letter by Olivia Beirne | @Olivia_Beirne @headlinepg @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

What would you do if you received a love letter that wasn’t meant for you?

Bea used to feel confident, outgoing and fun, but she’s not sure where that person went.

Over the last few months, she’s found herself becoming reclusive and withdrawn. And despite living with her two best friends, she’s never felt lonelier. To make things worse, she’s become so dependent on her daily routine, she’s started to slip out of everyone else’s.

But when a mysterious battered envelope covered in stars lands on her doormat, Bea wonders if she could find the courage to open it.

It isn’t addressed to her, but it could be… if you squinted…

 

My Thoughts

I read and loved Olivia Beirne’s previous novel The List That Changed My Life last year so I was beyond excited to be invited to read and review her new book The Accidental Love Letter. I’m so happy to say that I loved it too!

The Accidental Love Letter follows Bea, who seems to be leading quite a lonely life. She lives with two friends but they’re each in relationships so are often not home. She works for a newspaper but never gets to write the stories she wants to write and she doesn’t connect with her colleagues. Bea likes making lists that plan out her days to the minute, and she seems quite anxious to have her time filled.

I really connected to Bea in this novel. I make lists in my head to plan out my time, particularly when I’m feeling anxious as it makes me feel like I have some control back. I also had my suspicions about the phone calls Bea makes quite often, and this brought a lump to my throat as I have also done this. I was rooting for Bea to find something for herself that would make her happy. So when one day out of the blue she receives a letter to her home addressed to B she is excited. She does wonder if the letter is really meant for her but she is so needing something in her life that she can’t resist opening it, after all it could be meant for her.

Bea ends up completely out of her comfort zone but in the process she finds new friends and a potential story that she can write the newspaper. She isn’t completely honest though and this niggles away at the back of her mind but she ignores it. I was wondering how on earth things were going to work out for Bea, but the whole time I was totally rooting for her.

I love that Olivia Beirne writes these feel-good novels that have real depth to them, along with characters that are so real. I wanted to climb into this book to be Bea’s friend! I also love how I go into Olivia’s books feeling that they’re likely to have a happy ending but also knowing that she will take me to the ending in a way that I absolutely don’t expect and can’t quite predict. Her writing is just wonderful and she is fast-becoming one of my must-read authors!

The Accidental Love Letter is a gorgeous, life-affirming novel that will give you all the feels! I adored this book – I read it in one sitting over the course of an afternoon and it was the most wonderful escapism, it felt like a real treat to myself. Don’t miss out on this book!

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

The Accidental Love Letter is out now as an ebook & audio book available here.

 

You can follow the rest of this blog tour at the following stops:

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Review: Reunion by R. V. Biggs | @RVBiggs @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

One random, violent act is enough to change Sarah Macintyre’s life forever.

Left unsettled, and yearning for a new beginning, Sarah is unsure of what to do with her life. But one day she discovers an anonymous letter hidden amidst a pile of unopened mail.

The note, however, contains nothing more than a confusing riddle.

Intrigued and excited, Sarah’s hunger for a new life compels her to search for the author to understand the puzzle and solve the mystery.

Embarking on a journey that will shape the rest of her life and that of her family, Sarah uncovers a past of which she had no knowledge, a present she must find a path through, and a future filled with intense grief and utmost joy.

 

My Thoughts

Earlier this year I read and fell in love with Song of the Robin, the first book in the Sarah McIntyre series, so I was delighted to be offered the chance to read the follow up book. Song of the Robin is one of those really special books that has made its mark on me and I’m so happy to say that I also completely and utterly adored Reunion!

Reunion picks up right after the end of Song of the Robin. Sarah is still struggling with the assault that happened in the previous book, she feels fear about it but she’s also still having strange symptoms. She feels anxious and worried but can’t seem to express to her loved ones what exactly is happening to her. Then one day she receives a strange letter in the post and this leads to Sarah uncovering some secrets and some answers!

I loved this novel, I was under its spell from the opening page until after I turned the final page. Sarah is such a great character and I constantly root for her to be well and to be happy again. I had such a connection to Song of the Robin because of the way grief is explored, it really struck a chord with me, and whilst Reunion moves on from that story the way lost loved ones are spoke of in this book was so wonderful.

This novel follows Sarah and her family for the most part but it also has short chapters from a time in the 1700s as we follow a young woman trying to survive and avenge the trauma that has been inflicted on her family. It’s not clear initially what this has to do with the main plot but it soon begins to come clear and I loved the way we get to put it all together. The atmosphere in this book is wonderful, there is such a sense of time and place, and the people are all so real and believable.

I loved seeing more of Sarah’s friendship with Rachel, they are two women who clearly have such a strong bond. Their relationship is so true to life – the way that sometimes you can’t even tell the people closest to you how you’re feeling and they can sense you holding back but you can’t break through the walls. You get to see more of Rachel in this book and to understand why she is the way she is. I wasn’t expecting the cause of her pain to be what it was but it was so believable and my heart broke for her.

There is loss and pain in this book, things that moved me to tears at times but the overriding feel is one of healing – both physically and emotionally, but it’s also about the act of healing and this is so beautiful.

I love the way the author explores fate and destiny in this book, I’m really drawn to stories about these things. I never used to believe in fate but in my own life, a few years ago, over the course of five months the very worst thing happened to me and then the very best thing happened to me. So many people have said that perhaps it was my late mum who made sure my husband arrived in my life when he did and I take so much comfort from the thought of that. Reunion looks at how the past continues to run through us and it explores how those we’ve lost are never really gone.

There is a mystery running through this book that had me utterly fascinated. I was trying to figure out what was going on along with Sarah and her family, and was utterly gripped by the way the story unfolds in this book. It’s such a great story, and told so brilliantly.

I don’t want to say too much more because future readers should read this book as I did, without knowing too much about it going into it so you get to experience the stunning journey these characters go on for yourself.

I don’t really have the words to describe how much I loved this book (and the previous one). It’s one of those times where I connected with it so much and it now means such a lot to me and I just can’t do it any kind of justice. The first book in the series made my top books of 2019 so far list back at the end of June and I can say for sure that Reunion will be on my favourite books list at the end of the year! Song of the Robin was cathartic and comforting for me, and Reunion was incredibly moving and healing. R. V. Biggs writes such stunning and special novels – I can’t wait to read whatever he publishes next. I highly recommend this series of books, they really are so different and so beautiful.

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and my invitation to take part in the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Reunion is out now and available here.

I’ve previously reviewed the first book in this series, Song of the Robinhere.

 

About the Author

R V Biggs Author Photo

R V Biggs lives in a small ex-mining village near Wolverhampton, England, with his wife Julie, and Mags the black lab. He has four grown up children and six grandchildren.

Walking with the dog is a favorite pastime and much of the story line for his first novel was developed during these lengthy outings.

Robert worked for 35 years in telecommunications but changed career paths to a managerial supporting role within a local Mental Health NHS trust. It was during the period between these roles that the concept for Song of the Robin was born.

Robert is a firm believer that destiny and co-incidence exist hand in hand and this conviction extends to his writing. He has a passion for holistic well-being and after first-hand experience of the potential healing powers of Reiki, a form of energy therapy, took a Reiki level 1 training course to heighten his spiritual awareness. Robert’s experiences in these areas helped conceive the ideas that led to Song of the Robin and its sequel Reunion, novels with central themes of fate, love and the strength of family. His writing however is not fantasy but is set in modern times involving real people living real lives.

Twitter @RVBiggs

 

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Review: The Apartment by K. L. Slater | @KimLSlater @audibleuk

THE APARTMENT

About the Book

They say every cloud has a silver lining….

When Freya Miller is struck by tragedy, losing her husband and her home within a short time, she is burdened with many worries. The main one being where she and her five-year old daughter, Skye, are going to live. A chance meeting with the charismatic Dr Marsden changes all that. He offers the young mother the most amazing opportunity: an apartment at one of London’s most exclusive addresses for a fraction of the market rental cost. It’s an offer Freya simply can’t refuse. Within a couple of weeks, Freya and Skye are moving into Adder House and meeting the other welcoming residents. They very quickly feel part of the family.

But just when Freya truly believes all her problems are history, a series of strange, unexplained occurrences begin. It leaves Freya with the unshakeable feeling that even when their apartment door is securely locked, she and her daughter are not alone. Freya thought she’d left all her troubles behind her yet she soon realises there are problems here that are far more terrifying than before.

For behind the doors of Adder House, everything is most definitely not as it seems.

Old secrets refuse to stay buried, and someone is determined to keep a terrible past very much alive.

 

My Thoughts

The Apartment is such an unsettling novel that follows Freya and her young daughter Skye. Freya is dealing with losing her husband and is trying to get life back on track for the sake of her daughter so when she’s offered a wonderful apartment for a fraction of the rent you’d expect it to cost she jumps at the chance. Things are perhaps not all they seem though!

I loved this audio book! I was on edge from the beginning of this book – the way that Dr Marsden approaches Freya seemingly out of nowhere to offer her this amazing apartment at low rent set my nerves jangling! It seems way too good to be true and I would have run a mile! Having said that I have never found myself in Freya’s situation and I could absolutely see why she accepted this offer. She has a young child and nowhere to call home, and this apartment is perfect and in a great location for them. I really liked Freya and Skye from the off and was really rooting for them to be okay.

There is a real uneasiness in the apartment block, something just doesn’t feel right as you’re reading but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Each of the other occupants seem a little unusual, even though they are perfectly pleasant to Freya, but then that can happen when you move somewhere new and don’t know anyone. I certainly couldn’t work out what was going on or who was going to turn out to be the bad guy, The Apartment certainly kept me on my toes.

I was pleased for Freya when a young family moves into the apartment block and she becomes friendly with them. It seems like she might finally be feeling at home and that things might be all going to work out fine. Unfortunately for Freya the slightly unnerving things that have been happening ever since she moved in slowly begin to ramp up and she doesn’t know where to turn. I really felt for her because her two closest friends had been suspicious of her moving into this apartment but she went ahead anyway and is then left feeling like she can’t tell them that they may have been right.

The tension is there in The Apartment from the beginning and it slowly ratchets up in a way that is so unnerving. Then there is a point when things begin to move at a pace and I was on the edge of my seat listening and hoping that nothing bad was going to happen to Freya or Skye. It was so tense that I was holding my breath! The reveals when they come are shocking, I had my suspicions about some of the people and some of the situations but I couldn’t have imagined the entirety of what the apartment was all about. The fact that it’s based on a true story just adds to the already heightened tension that grows throughout.

Tuppence Middleton is such a great narrator and really made all the character’s voices distinctive and added to the growing sense of tension that grows throughout the novel. I’ll definitely look out for more audiobooks narrated by her in the future.

The Apartment is incredibly tense, unnerving and unputdownable! I was listening to this book in every spare minute that I had because I simply had to know what was happening and if Freya and Skye were going to be alright! I highly recommend this audiobook!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Apartment is out now as an audiobook and is available here.

About the Author

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Kim is the million-copy best-selling author of eight standalone psychological crime thrillers. At the age of 40 Kim went back to university and now holds an MA in Creative Writing. Kim is a full-time writer and lives with her husband in Nottingham. She enjoys traveling, eating out, is an avid film fan and most of all, she loves reading across genres.

 

 

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Review: Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson | @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks @annecater

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About the Book

Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016: A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.

Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and soon finds herself on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer. Little does she realise that this killer is about to change the life of her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells. Joining forces once again, Roy and Castells’ investigation takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule.

 

My Thoughts

Blood Song is the third novel in the Roy and Castells series (the first is Block 46 and the second is Keeper) and I have to say that this is a crime/noir series that goes from strength to strength. I still find myself thinking about the first book, and now we have the third one and it is every bit as good (if not even better if that’s possible!).

Blood Song is told in two timelines: it’s predominantly set in the present where a wealthy family has been brutally murdered but we also follow a timeline in 1938 Spain where a family are taken by force during the civil war, and this leads to horrendous trauma that has repercussions down the years.

This is such a compelling and engrossing novel and I keep thinking about it. The scenes set in 1938 Spain are so real, they have left their mark on me to the point that I feel the want to learn more about what happened during the civil war. I love when I read a novel and it leads me to want to learn more detail about something and Blood Song has definitely done that. Johana Gustawsson has taken real historical events in all three novels in this series and has fictionalised them whilst leaving in the important details to give readers a very real sense of a harrowing time in history.

The brutal murder of the family of Emily Roy’s team member Aliénor was harrowing to read about. I was really disturbed by one of the murders in particular, it was all too real but never gratuitous. The detail is necessary and that becomes apparent as the novel progresses. I loved learning so much more about Aliénor in Blood Song. I feel like the previous two novels have given readers so much more understanding of Emily Roy and Alexis Castells, and as Aliénor has become an increasingly important part of the team it was great to know more about her. It was awful to learn about her in such sad circumstances but it’s given me so much more of a sense of who she is and now I just want to protect her from anything that might happen in future novels!

I loved the way the bond between Roy and Castells is strengthened in Blood Song, and the way they work together to support Aliénor and to find out who is responsible for the murder of her family.  It’s so empowering to see three strong women – who each have their flaws and difficulties but use them to solve crime, to gain insight into other people – shine through in these novels. These women are some of my favourite characters in crime/noir fiction now, and this series is right up there with my most favourite ever crime/noir series.

Blood Song is a dark, harrowing and shocking novel but also one that you just can’t (don’t want to and shouldn’t) look away from. The writing is so good, as is the brilliant translation by David Warriner. You get a real sense of the location and the languages in this novel even though it’s entirely translated into English, which is no mean feat. I loved Blood Song and I already can’t wait for the next book in the series!

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

Blood Song is out now in ebook and available for pre-order in paperback here.

 

About the Author

Johana Gustawsson

Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series, including Block 46, Keeper and, soon to be published, Blood Song, has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and their three sons.

 

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Review: Truth Hurts by Rebecca Reid | @RebeccaCNReid @TransworldBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Poppy has a secret. 
Drew has nothing to hide.

Theirs was a whirlwind romance.

And when Drew, caught up in the moment, suggests that he and Poppy don’t tell each other anything about their past lives, that they live only for the here and now, for the future they are building together, Poppy jumps at the chance for a fresh start.

But it doesn’t take long for Poppy to see that this is a two-way deal. Drew is hiding something from her. And Poppy suddenly has no idea who the man she has married really is, or what he might be capable of.

Poppy has a secret. 
Drew has nothing to hide. 
Drew is lying.
Which is more dangerous, a secret or a lie?

 

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, I loved loved loved Rebecca Reid’s previous novel Perfect Liars but Truth Hurts is even better! I literally didn’t put this book down once I started reading it – it was just impossible to!

Truth Hurts follows Poppy who is sacked from her job as an au pair late at night and she ends up in a bar wondering what on earth she’s going to do next. She gets talking to Drew and they have such a great connection and end up going home together. Drew is a mysterious and handsome man and Poppy can’t believe how lucky she is to have met him. Their romance is a whirlwind and within a month they decide to get married. Drew then suggests that they make this the beginning and that they never talk about anything in their lives prior to when they met. Poppy has a secret that she can never tell and so she agrees.

I was on edge from the moment Poppy met Drew because he seemed too good to be true but at the same time I know what it is to meet Mr Right and to fall in love very quickly so I got swept up in their story. Alarm bells did ring when he surprises Poppy with a home he’s bought for them but I could absolutely see why Poppy didn’t hear those alarm bells.

I love the idea of a romantic relationship where one partner has a secret and the other is lying and yet they have agreed never to discuss the past. It’s such a great idea for a thriller and it made this book so different to other thrillers that I’ve read before. I tried to imagine agreeing to something like this and I just can’t but at the same time I absolutely believed in Poppy and why she agreed to it.

The house that Drew buys for them to live in was the third character in this novel (and in their marriage!) and I loved this element. I could really envisage this house and could feel all the creepy things that Poppy could sense. It’s not a haunted house story but the house is definitely metaphorically haunted by what happened there before Poppy and Drew moved in. It’s a creaky old house – it’s draughty, dark and dingy and for Poppy who is home alone a lot it begins to play on her mind that there is something sinister about it.

The truths in this book were shocking when they were revealed, I genuinely didn’t guess the secret or the lie. It’s so rare for a novel to keep me guessing until all is revealed so kudos to this one for that! I love how we get little bits of the past throughout the novel, which just heightens the tension and teases the possibilities of what might have happened.

Truth Hurts is a novel that had me literally on the edge of my seat and I just had to keep reading one more chapter (and one more until I was turning the final page very late at night!). I absolutely loved this book – it’s a real page turner and genuinely thrilling! Rebecca Reid is right up there now with my favourite thriller authors and I already can’t wait to read whatever she writes next! I highly recommend this one, it’s brilliant!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Truth Hurts is out now in ebook and is due to be published in paperback on 23 January 2020 and is available here.

 

About the Author

Rebecca Reid Author Pic

Rebecca is a freelance journalist. She is a columnist for the Telegraph Women’s section, works for Metro Online and has written for Marie Claire, the Guardian, the Saturday Telegraph, the Independent, Stylist, Glamour, the iPaper, the Guardian, Indy100, LOOK and the New Statesmen amongst others.

Rebecca is a regular contributor to Sky News and ITV’s This Morning as well as appearing on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, LBC, BBC News 24 and the BBC World Service to discuss her work.

She graduated from Royal Holloway’s Creative Writing MA in 2015 and Perfect Liars is her debut novel.

Rebecca lives in North London with her husband.

 

 

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Review: In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone | @michaelJmalone1 @OrendaBooks @annecater

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About the Book

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.
For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

 

My Thoughts

I finished reading In the Absence of Miracles a couple of weeks ago now and my review has been part-written ever since because I just don’t have the words to describe how this book made me feel. It was my first Michael J. Malone book but it absolutely definitely won’t be the last (I’ve already bought a couple of his other novels to read soon!).

In the Absence of Miracles follows John who is tasked with sorting out his mum’s belongings and getting her house, the house he grew up in, ready for sale. His mum recently had a bad stroke and is now in nursing home so thing needs to be sorted as there are care home bills to be paid. One day John finds a photo that he can’t quite make sense of and the repercussions of his quest to find the truth are devastating.

I picked this book up one afternoon intending to read a couple of chapters and the next thing I knew it was a few hours later and I was turning the final page. It’s a book that pulls you in from the very start with the mysterious photo and John’s journey to find the truth keeps you in its thrall to the very end (and beyond… it’s a novel that won’t yield its grip on me!).

There is so much I want to say about this book but at the same time I want readers to have the same experience of reading this book without knowing too much (in the way that I got to read it). I will say that Michael J. Malone’s exploration of finding out painful truths about your family’s history, of uncovering long buried hurt and harm is incredibly visceral and moving. I could really identify with parts of John’s story and I could see things in him that he couldn’t yet see in himself and this gave the novel so much tension that at times I was aware I was holding my breath.

In the early chapters of the book I felt such a connection to John and felt so sorry for him having to cope with his mother’s sudden stroke and then having to go through all of her things. I cared for my mum during her final illness and had to clear her house after her death and it’s such a hard thing to do. It’s exhausting, and your brain doesn’t seem to function properly anymore. I can’t imagine that whilst going through all of this finding a box of things that don’t fit with your memories of your family at all, and suddenly you have a million questions and no one to ask them of.

John is someone that struggles with expressing his emotions. He keeps his girlfriend at a remove and as patient as she is he just can’t bring himself to fully embrace the possibility of opening up to her and building a future together. I really felt for him because he clearly loves her but he just can’t let his guard down, as if he doesn’t want to risk being hurt. I was willing John on throughout this book as I wanted him to be truly happy but I was on edge the whole time that the truth was going to damage him beyond all repair.

There is such a lot in this novel, it really packs an emotional punch but everything that happens is necessary. I found the writing incredibly intense during the more emotional scenes and it was like nothing I’ve read before.  Not a word is wasted in this book and I’m in awe of it. I don’t think I’ve ever read a domestic noir that has made me feel so many emotions – I cried reading this book, I felt angry at times and I mostly just wanted to reach into the pages and somehow make things different than they were.

In the Absence of Miracles is such a dark, disturbing and emotional novel but one that you just can’t put down. It looks at an issue that we so often turn away from in society but Malone tackles it in such a sensitive way without shying away from the reality of how people are affected. This is brave and stunning novel – one that everyone should read.

As I said at the start of this rambling review I’ve already bought some of the author’s other books and I can’t wait to read them. I’ll definitely be first in the queue to buy whatever he writes next. This book has jumped right into my top books of this year list, I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

In the Absence of Miracles is out now in ebook or available in paperback for pre-order here.

 

About the Author

thumbnail_Michael Malone

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and MarkingsBlood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritanand Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

 

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Review: Shelf Life by Livia Franchini | @LivFranchini @DoubledayUK @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Shelf Life Cover

About the Book

Ruth is thirty years old. She works as a nurse in a care home and her fiancé has just broken up with her. The only thing she has left of him is their shopping list for the upcoming week.

And so she uses that list to tell her story. Starting with six eggs, and working through spaghetti and strawberries, and apples and tea bags, Ruth discovers that her identity has been crafted from the people she serves; her patients, her friends, and, most of all, her partner of ten years. Without him, she needs to find out – with conditioner and single cream and a lot of sugar – who she is when she stands alone.

 

My Thoughts

Shelf Life is a fascinating novel that follows Ruth who is coming to terms with her fiance breaking up with her. She finds a shopping list that is the only thing left of him in their home and the novel then is told in chapters headed by each item on the list.

I loved this book. I found it was quite a meandering novel and it begged to be read slowly. I’m naturally a fast reader but I really enjoyed the fact that this book made me slow down, it made me want to take it all in and to take time to ponder what I had read.

Ruth is blindsided by her fiance deciding to end their long term relationship. She is mid-way through washing up when Neil announces that it’s over. I really felt for Ruth, I know what it’s like to have to re-evaluate life after a break up as it happened to me at the same age. It’s like a rug has been pulled from under you and suddenly you’re not sure who you are anymore, or how you relate to other people in your life.

Shelf Life is predominantly told from Ruth’s perspective but we get the occasional chapter from Neil. It’s interesting to see how Ruth feels about herself and her life, and how she related herself to Neil. Neil’s chapters are increasingly uncomfortable to read though as you get a slow realisation that he’s not the man Ruth thought he was. He inserts himself into women’s lives and seems to become the man they think they need.

There is also an occasional chapter from Alanna. This is a girl that Ruth was at school with, and later at nursing college. They then end up working together at the same care home. I found Alanna a character that I couldn’t quite work out. I got the feeling that she had been quite antagonistic through school, perhaps being part of the popular gang that Ruth was on the outside of. She seems to care about Ruth now they’re adults but I was on edge reading her perspective as I felt sure she was setting Ruth up for something. As time went on I came to quite like her but I never one hundred per cent felt sure of her. I loved this aspect of the novel though because that’s how it is in life, you can never be sure of another person’s motives even if you have known them a long time and especially if they’ve always just been on the edge of your life.

Shelf Life really captures life, and it does it in all its glory – there is humour and heartbreak all mixed in together. There are some moments in this novel that made me cringe because the descriptions are so real, and we’ve all been there, but that’s the beauty of this novel. It takes a great writer to really capture how life is and Livia Franchini is an incredible writer!

Shelf Life is a novel that I very much enjoyed as I was reading it and I’ve found that my love for it has grown even more since I finished it. I find myself thinking about it, and about Ruth, and relating it to my own life and it just won’t let go of me. It really is a novel that has so much depth and so many layers to it, some that only become apparent when you give yourself the space to ponder on it. I adored this book and I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Shelf Life is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Livia Franchini Author Picture

 

Livia Franchini is a writer and translator from Tuscany, Italy, whose work has been published in numerous publications and anthologies. She has translated Michael Donaghy, Sam Riviere and James Tiptree Jr. among many others. In 2018, she was one of the inaugural writers-in-residence for the Connecting Emerging Literary Artist project, funded by Creative Europe. She lives in London, where she is completing a PhD in experimental women’s writing at Goldsmiths.

 

 

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Review: Meditation for Children by Shelley Wilson | @ShelleyWilson72 @BHCPressBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Meditation For Children Cover

About the Book

Author and meditation tutor Shelley Wilson takes you on a magical journey to a calm and happy place that you and your child will love.

Children of all ages can learn and enjoy the benefits of meditation.

Designed to help access creative abilities through relaxation and imagination, these stories help develop the necessary tools needed at a young age for lifelong healthy habits of managing stress and anxiety while also improving learning skills.

Meditation for Children is a simple way to introduce children to mindfulness through guided visualization. Includes a handy reference guide and instructions.

 

My Thoughts

Meditation for Children is a wonderful book that parents can share with their children to help them relax and come to enjoy meditation as part of their everyday lives.

I don’t have children but I am someone who very much enjoys mindfulness and mediation so I was fascinated to read this book.

I very much enjoyed reading Meditation for Children, it’s a lovely book and I loved the way Shelley Wilson has made it a wonderful story book that can be enjoyed as such but has left space to imagine and to take some breaths to relax and to slow down. I can absolutely see how this is the perfect way to introduce a younger child to the idea of meditating, which as they grow can be such a great tool to help them cope with the stresses that go with growing up, going through school etc.

The book opens with a how to guide that explains how meditation can be helpful and also suggests ways to use the book and how to incorporate meditating into your and your child’s lives. There are then ten very short stories (that each take under 5 minutes to read aloud) that are fabulous and really help you visualise the world being described. Each story is accompanied with gorgeous illustrations that are vivid and bright and really give a sense of the world you’re about to travel in to. They all follow a similar idea of closing your eyes, slowly breathing in and out and then imagining the story that is being read to you. This is great as it will help a child know that this is a special story and as they grow older they will understand how to use the tools that meditation gives us – being able to relax and unwind.

I very much enjoyed this book and love how it makes coming to meditation easy for children but it’s clearly been properly researched and will definitely create a helpful skill that a child can use throughout their life. I can see echoes of how I was taught to meditate as an adult, and how I use it in my life now so it’s absolutely going to be a fantastic resource for children and their parents. Meditation for Children is a book that I wish I had when I was a child. Knowing how much meditation helps me in my every day life now I feel sure it would have been just as beneficial when I was younger. I highly recommend this book if you have young children in your life, it really is an invaluable book for helping your child to relax and find inner calm.

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and my invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Meditation for Children is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Shelley Wilson Author Picture

 

Shelley Wilson is an award-winning motivational blogger, speaker, meditation tutor, Reiki master, and author. Her multi-award winning motivational and personal development blog has received several awards and has been named a Top 10 UK Personal Development Blog. She resides in Solihull, West Midlands, UK, where she lives with her three teenagers.

 

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Review: Head Shot Victoria Nixon | @VictoriaNixon_ @annecater @Unbounders #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

A girl from a Yorkshire mining town is barely thirteen when her father kills himself – her brother finds him dying. At sixteen she’s spotted by a rock star and becomes an international Vogue model. Seven years later her brother kills himself in her New York apartment and her mother dies too. With no family left, her life is now one of extreme choices. Fifty years later, Victoria confronts her past and takes her readers on an unflinching voyage through her experiences as a model and beyond. Speaking frankly about loss, love, friendship and ambition, Head Shot is a book of inspiration and purpose. Packed with astonishing images by the photographers Victoria worked with, and the defiant fashions she wore throughout her career, it also bears witness to a time of unparalleled cultural energy and invention; it’s a story in which bags and shoes can, and do, sit right next to life and death.

 

My Thoughts

Head Shot is an incredible memoir; Victoria Nixon so honestly and openly looks back on her life and career. I finished reading this book a few days ago now and am still trying to find the words for this review.

My main reason for wanting to read this book was because the Victoria Nixon lost her mum at a similar age that I was when I lost my mum and I find myself drawn to books where people explore how they cope with losing their mother whilst in their 20s. The book that I got gave me what I was expecting but so much more besides.

Victoria Nixon takes us through how she came to be a model, you get to hear of the photographers she has worked with and other models she has got to know. I loved hearing about the stars of the day that she came into contact with – such as Brian Eno! There is no name-dropping in this book, all the stories Victoria shares feel a real part of her life story and so come up in an organic way. She never seemed to be affected by the showbiz life but seemed to just be enjoying her life and working hard to be a success.

It was heartbreaking to read of her father’s death when she was only a young teenager. I can’t imagine the pain of that and how it affects a person. Victoria shares her emotions and how it led to her life becoming what it did. I very much appreciated how sensitively and honestly she looks back at her father’s death, you can see how much she loved him. Sadly for Victoria she also lost her brother to suicide when she was in her 20s. This was an incredibly moving part of the book to read. The struggles Nick had had and the way his family had tried so hard to help him were very moving to read about. Victoria doesn’t shy away from discussing mental health in her book, she clearly cares very deeply about the subject.

The loss of her mother also when she was in her 20s was a shock for her and it changed how she felt about her life. I can really identify with this. I think when you’re very close to a parent and you lose them when you’re at a stage in life of being independent but also knowing that you can always go home if you need to, it’s very hard. I have such admiration for how Victoria dealt with her grief, and how she coped with all the pain life has thrown at her. She doesn’t dwell, she reflects on things but she always knew she had to pick herself up and keep going. I found her such an inspiring person to read about.

I very much enjoyed learning about the modelling industry in the 60s and 70s. I’m not really into fashion but it was fascinating to read about what it was like to be a model, and to hear about the not-so-glamourous side of things. Nixon is clearly a very driven and determined woman and she continued to push through during the difficult times. There are lighter moments throughout the book too, moments that will make you giggle and some stories that might make you raise an eyebrow.

There are photos throughout this book and I loved seeing them. They relate to stories Nixon has shared and it really brought the book to life. I love hearing the back story to an image and so this was a joy to have in this book.

Head Shot is such an incredible memoir! It’s a stunning and candid look back at a life that will leave you feeling inspired. Victoria Nixon’s passion and determination shines through and I’m so glad I got to read about her life. I loved this book so much, it’s one of the best memoirs I’ve read! I very highly recommend this!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Head Shot is out now in hardback and available here. The ebook is due for release on 15 August and can be pre-ordered at the same link.

 

About the Author

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Victoria Nixon was eighteen when she was discovered by Helmut Newton, who photographed her for Vogue . This launched her international modelling career, which led to her being named the Daily Mail ’s ‘Face of 1968’.

After modelling, she went on to become an award-winning advertising copywriter, television producer and magazine editor. In the 1990s she opened the first deli in the UK to ban plastic packaging, and in 2002 her first book, ‘Supermodels’ Beauty Secrets‘ , was published, followed by ‘Supermodels’ Diet Secrets‘ in 2004. She is cofounder and managing director of a company which designs and manufactures humanitarian aid products used worldwide

Links-http://www.victorianixon.com/

Twitter @VictoriaNixon_

 

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

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Review: Gone by Leona Deakin | @LeonaDeakin1 @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Four strangers are missing. Left at their last-known locations are birthday cards that read:

YOUR GIFT IS THE GAME.
DARE TO PLAY?

The police aren’t worried – it’s just a game. But the families are frantic. As psychologist and private detective Dr Augusta Bloom delves into the lives of the missing people, she finds something that binds them all.

And that something makes them very dangerous indeed.

As more disappearances are reported and new birthday cards uncovered, Dr Bloom races to unravel the mystery and find the missing people.

But what if, this time, they are the ones she should fear?

 

My Thoughts

I couldn’t resist this book when I read the blurb, it sounded so intriguing and I’m so glad I picked it up! Gone is a novel about four strangers who have all disappeared after receiving a card asking them if they dare to play. Psychologist Dr Augusta Bloom and ex detective Marcus Jameson are tasked with looking into one of the missing people and find that things are more serious and involved than they ever could have imagined!

Gone is such a good psychological thriller and is something a bit different. I loved following Augusta and getting her psychological insights into what might be going on. I was also really intrigued as we meet some of the families of the missing people. I couldn’t work out what they could possibly have in common so felt like I was tailing the investigation and trying to figure it all out.

I loved how prescient this novel is with the way it looks at how the game these strangers were invited to play might have been set up. It explores the idea of how people can use quizzes on social media that people fill in to find out what cartoon character they’d be (for example) can be put together with other easily discovered info on the same sites to see who would be a perfect target for this game. I’ve always been really suspicious of quizzes on FB and this book proves I’m right to be! I’m definitely not going near them now!

I loved the exploration of who the type of person behind the game might be, and also who the people who were invited to play the game were underneath. I’ve always been fascinated by psychology and this book is so much about what makes a person tick, what makes someone do the things they do. It was brilliant to see psychological ideas applied to the missing people and then as the book went on to wonder about those traits in other characters. It made for such a good read!

It turns out that nothing is quite as it seems in this novel and there is so much more underneath the surface than you see at first. I found it quite a slow-burn to begin with but this was perfect because it allowed me to be curious about what was going on before I was pulled right in to a novel that becomes an unputdownable rollercoaster of a read!

This was such a fascinating psychological thriller and I very much enjoyed it! I’m already looking forward to reading more from Leona Deakin (and also hoping we might get more about Dr Augusta Bloom in the future…!). I recommend this one!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and Anne of Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Gone is out now in ebook here and also available for pre-order in paperback here.

 

 

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

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Review: Bone Deep by Sandra Ireland | @22_ireland @PolygonBooks #LoveBooksTours

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About the Book

What happens when you fall in love with the wrong person?

The consequences threaten to be far-reaching and potentially deadly.

Bone Deep is a contemporary novel of sibling rivalry, love, betrayal and murder. It is a dual narrative, told in alternative chapters by Mac, a woman bent on keeping the secrets of the past from her only son, and the enigmatic Lucie, whose own past is something of a closed book. Their story is underpinned by the creaking presence of an abandoned water mill and haunted by the local legend of two long-dead sisters, themselves rivals in love and ready to point an accusing finger from the pages of history.

 

My Thoughts

Bone Deep is a stunning novel that explores the relationship between siblings, and the betrayals in romantic relationships. The novel is narrated by two characters – Mac who is determined to keep her secrets buried whilst writing a short story collection about sibling rivalry; and Lucie who arrives to be Mac’s Girl Friday and has secrets of her own.

The audio book is wonderful, I found myself engrossed in this novel from the opening chapter and it had me spellbound. I was so intrigued by both Mac and Lucie and felt equally invested in both their stories. I was also so drawn to the setting with the abandoned mill and the way it looms large over the characters in this book. Mac and Lucie are each voiced by a different narrater (Una Mcdade and Emma Hartley-Miller) which made it easy to keep track of whose story I was listening to, which I always appreciate in an audio book.

Bone Deep takes two women who are in different stages of life and also on opposite sides of the coin that is affairs of the heart. Mac is becoming confused and her past and present are beginning to get mixed in her mind, she is also obsessively writing and then withdrawing from her story about two sisters. This all melds together as the novel moves towards its final stunning conclusion. Lucie is looking for an escape after she’s done wrong by her sister and is somewhat ousted by their mother who knows what she’s done. Mac is initially kind towards Lucie, although she doesn’t feel she needs her help, but as the past pulls on her more and more she starts to see Lucie in a different light.

The pain that runs through this novel is palpable and even though Lucie has done wrong I could only feel sympathy for her. She has made a terrible mistake but she’s not the only one and yet she is paying the biggest price for it. I was willing her to face up to things and to try and make it right but she can’t help but retreat further into herself. I could see echoes of her in Mac to start with and worried that she may end up like Mac but in the end Mac’s secrets go way darker and deeper than Lucie’s ever could.

There is something indefinable about this novel – it’s heart-wrenching and yet also magical. There is so much beauty amongst all the pain and the darkness. Sandra Ireland beautifully weaves together the strands of Mac and Lucie’s stories along with the story that Mac is writing and it’s simply breathtaking – the mysteries, the connections and the ultimate conclusion! Bone Deep is a book that grabs hold of you and it doesn’t let go, even after you’ve finished listening to it. I feel haunted by it, it’s still going around in my mind and I already want to read it again! I highly recommend this book, it really is a stunning novel!

Many thanks to the Kelly at Love Books Tours for my copy of the audio book and my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Bone Deep is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Sandra Ireland

Sandra Ireland was born in Yorkshire, lived for many years in Limerick, and is now based in Carnoustie. She began her writing career as a correspondent on a local newspaper but quickly realised that fiction is much more intriguing than fact. In 2013 Sandra was awarded a Carnegie- Cameron scholarship to study for an MLitt in Writing Practice and Study at the University of Dundee, graduating with a distinction in 2014. Her work has appeared in various publications and women’s magazines. She is the author of Beneath the Skin (2016) and Bone Deep (2018), and her third novel, The Unmaking of Ellie Rook will be published in July 2019.

 

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

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Review: Someone We Know by Shari Lapena | @sharilapena @TransworldBooks @ThomasssHill @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

It can be hard keeping secrets in a tight-knit neighbourhood.

In a tranquil, leafy suburb of ordinary streets – one where everyone is polite and friendly – an anonymous note has been left at some of the houses.

I’m so sorry. My son has been getting into people’s houses. He’s broken into yours.

Who is this boy, and what might he have uncovered? As whispers start to circulate, suspicion mounts.

And when a missing local woman is found murdered, the tension reaches breaking point. Who killed her? Who knows more than they’re telling? And how far will all these very nice people go to protect their secrets?

Maybe you don’t know your neighbour as well as you thought you did . . .

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Shari Lapena’s writing so I was thrilled to receive a copy of her new novel Someone We Know and I’m really happy to say that it more than lived up to my expectations!

Someone We Know is set in a small community so when a neighbour goes missing everyone is talking about her and wondering what could have happened. Alongside this Olivia discovers that her teenage son Raleigh has broken into a couple of their neighbour’s houses and she is mortified and furious.

This book feels claustrophobic from the start, the idea of a small community is uncomfortable to me anyway (I grew up in a small town and now hate the idea of living somewhere like that) but with the break-ins and the missing woman, and the subsequent gossip about it all really made it feel like I was trapped in the neighbourhood with these people. I loved that about it though, it made me lose where I really was and I became so absorbed in the novel that I lost a whole afternoon to it!

I loved how it turns out that quite a few people in the novel have something to hide – some smaller things, some huge things and you’re constantly wondering if any of them have anything to do with the missing woman.

Shari Lapena writes red herrings so well – she misleads you and takes you down a path and then points you in a totally different direction and it’s always so brilliantly done! I had my suspicions and my thoughts about what was going on throughout the novel but I only partly clicked whodunnit right before it was revealed and I didn’t work out all of it so it was brilliant to be kept guessing throughout!

This is a novel about the secrets people hide, and how well you really know the people you think you’re closest too. It makes you question the truth that people tell and whether it’s the actual truth or their perceived truth. This is a perfect summer thriller – it’s gripping from the opening pages, it’s thrilling from start to finish and it’s a book to get lost in. I read it all in one sitting and loved it!

Many thanks to Transworld for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Someone We Know is out now and available here.

 

I’ve previously reviewed The Couple Next Door and An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena.

 

About the Author

Shari Lapena Author pic

 

Shari Lapena worked as a lawyer and as an English teacher before writing fiction. Her debut thriller, The Couple Next Door, was a global bestseller, the bestselling fiction title in the UK in 2017 and has been optioned for television. Her second thriller, A Stranger in the House and third, An Unwanted Guest, were both Sunday Times and New York Times bestsellers.

 

 

 

 

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

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Review: The Closer I Get by Paul Burston | @OrendaBooks @PaulBurston @annecater

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About the Book

Tom is a successful author, but he’s struggling to finish his novel. His main distraction is an online admirer, Evie, who simply won’t leave him alone.

Evie is smart, well read and unstable; she lives with her father and her social-media friendships are not only her escape, but everything she has.

When she’s hit with a restraining order, her world is turned upside down, and Tom is free to live his life again, to concentrate on writing.

But things aren’t really adding up. For Tom is distracted but also addicted to his online relationships, and when they take a darker, more menacing turn, he feels powerless to change things. Because maybe he needs Evie more than he’s letting on.

 

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, this book! I knew I was going to love The Closer I Get as soon as I read the blurb but it was even better than I was expecting it to be!

Tom Hunter is a successful author but he’s struggling with the mounting pressure of writing his next novel in large part due to the stress of a woman who just won’t leave him alone. Evie is a huge fan of Tom’s work, she got to meet him once at a book signing and felt they had a real connection. It’s a thrill when he follows her back on social media and she believes this means something. Evie doesn’t have an easy life, she’s back living with her dad who isn’t well so when she’s hit with a restraining order her life begins to unravel.

This book is brilliant! It’s such a prescient novel – definitely one for our times! Most of us use social media and we’re used to people following us on these networks and often we follow people back but we don’t pay a whole lot of attention to who any of these people are. We assume they’re just like us. I mainly use twitter to share posts but I also use it to chat to friends and connect with people. I even met my husband on twitter so it is possible to make genuine mutual connections on there.

However, I also know what it is to have a stalker and it is utterly terrifying. My experience was pre-social media so it’s different to what happens in this book but the feeling of having someone turn up everywhere you go, someone who sits outside your house is so frightening. The feeling that you might be being watched never fully leaves you even when the situation is completely over. This has made me much more wary of social media, and forming friendships, even though I’ve used it for over ten years now.  Paul Burston has shared his experiences of being stalked in an article in The Guardian recently and how this inspired him to write this novel, I recommend reading that when you have a few minutes to spare.

Anyway, back to The Closer I get... This novel is told in alternating chapters from Tom and Evie and I loved that. It meant that I would read one chapter and think one thing and then read the other person’s perspective and could see their side too. The novel blurs the lines somewhat so that although Evie is clearly stalking Tom, the background to this leaves you with much to question and think about. This isn’t always a black and white story, it really shows the shades of grey.  It was fascinating, and unnerving, to be in Evie’s mind and to see how she viewed things along the way.

We also get to meet Tom’s best friend Emma, and their relationship was also fascinating to read about. Emma seems devoted to Tom, she is always there for him and it seemed that she might be in love with him. It is just friendship to Tom though but as the novel progresses it becomes apparent that he takes advantage of her good nature more than is fair. These parts of the book make Tom a much more rounded character but a whole lot less likeable!

I have to say that neither Tom nor Evie are particularly likeable in this novel but there are moments in each of their stories where you feel absolute sympathy for them, and moments where you question what it is you previously thought. It’s such a compelling novel with so many fascinating elements to it, this really is an incredible read!

The Closer I Get has tension right from the start, and it gets more and more tense as you read each chapter. You know it’s building to something but I defy you to predict what’s coming because every time I thought I had it worked out the rug was pulled from under me yet again! By the final pages of this novel I was literally on the edge of my seat. The denouement when it comes is shocking, and one I won’t ever forget!

The Closer I Get is such a clever thriller; it’s a true psychological thriller and it really makes you think. It’s a novel that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading it. I already can’t wait to read more by Paul Burston, I’ll definitely be first in line to buy whatever he writes next!

PS. I will add a quick warning here – don’t start this book late at night if you have to be up early the next day because once you start reading you won’t be able to put this down until you’ve turned the final page! It’s a real sleep stealer (but totally worth it!)!

Many thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my digital copy of this book and the invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Closer I Get is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Paul Burston Author Photo

Paul Burston is the author of five novels and the editor of two short story collections. His most recent novel ‘The Black Path’, was longlisted for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize 2016 and was a bestseller at WH Smith. His first novel, ‘Shameless’, was shortlisted for the State of Britain Award. His third novel, ‘Lovers & Losers’ was shortlisted for a Stonewall Award. His fourth, ‘The Gay Divorcee’, was optioned for television. He was a founding editor of Attitude magazine and has written for many publications including The GuardianThe IndependentTime OutThe Times and The Sunday Times. In March 2016, he was featured in the British Council’s #FiveFilms4Freedom Global List 2016, celebrating “33 visionary people who are promoting freedom, equality and LGBT rights around the world”. He is the founder and host of London’s award-winning LGBT+ literary salon Polari and founder and chair of The Polari First Book Prize for new writing.

 

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

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Review: Looker by Laura Sims | @ljsims50 @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

The Professor lives in Brooklyn; her partner Nathan left her when she couldn’t have a baby. All she has now is her dead-end teaching job, her ramshackle apartment, and Nathan’s old moggy, Cat. Who she doesn’t even like.

The Actress lives a few doors down. She’s famous and beautiful, with auburn hair, perfect skin, a lovely smile. She’s got children – a baby, even. And a husband who seems to adore her. She leaves her windows open, even at night.

There’s no harm, the Professor thinks, in looking in through the illuminated glass at that shiny, happy family, fantasizing about them, drawing ever closer to the actress herself. Or is there?

 

My Thoughts

Looker is an incisive portrayal of a woman who becomes fixated on an actress who lives across the street from her. She sees in her everything she needs to make herself happy and she wants to be closer to that life!

I loved this book from the very beginning. I really enjoy books where we’re in the protagonist’s head for the duration of the novel. The Professor was successful at work, she was married to a man she loved and they were trying for a baby. She was on the cusp of having everything she wanted but then she miscarries and her fertility journey becomes fraught and heartbreaking. She closes herself off and then her husband leaves her. The book begins at this point but we get bits of her back story as we start to fill in the pieces to really get who this person is.

She obsesses over the actress. She watches her, she watches her home and she sometimes drifts off into fantasies about what might happen if she met her or her husband. The actress leaves unwanted things outside her house and the Professor squirrels these things away into the empty spare room of her apartment.

I began to feel that perhaps the Professor’s obsession with filling up her spare room was really her trying to fill her very empty life, and perhaps her empty uterus. She clearly has psychological problems, and really who wouldn’t after all the pain and heartbreak she has endured. The obsession with the actress is taking things to another level though and yet I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. She’s clearly lonely and has fixated on the actress as she believes she has a perfect, happy life. The Professor isn’t a particularly likeable character but she’s sympathetic at the same time. I very much appreciated that Laura Sims doesn’t go down a predictable route of the bitter woman who can’t get pregnant, instead it’s an incredible exploration of what happens when everything you wanted is slowly stripped from you and you’re left with no one and nothing left to lose.

Looker is a novel that creeps up on you. I was enthralled from the start but I gradually felt more and more uneasy about how the protagonist was behaving to the point that I was completely on edge because you just know something is going to happen. You can’t work out what or when or where but you know it’s coming. I thought when I picked up this book that it was going to go a particular way and I was so glad that it didn’t, instead Laura Sims keeps you wondering and that makes it so much more unnerving than if the Professor behaved in the way you believed she would!

This isn’t a full-on fast-paced psychological thriller and yet it’s a book that’s to be devoured in one sitting. It’s a psychological study of a character and the thriller element is knowing that she may only have developed her obsessive nature because of what she’s been through, and that means she could easily be you or someone you know!

I have to mention how perfect the title of this book is. It obviously refers to the protagonist and her obsessive watching of the actress, but the more of the novel I read the most I began to get a sense that I was the looker, that I was also intruding into the professor’s life and wanting to know more and more about her. It’s an uncomfortable realisation to suddenly feel for a moment that you might just understand the obsession, the wanting and needing to know about someone else’s life!

Looker is a brilliant, incisive and disturbing psychological novel and I loved it! I couldn’t put it down, and even now I’ve finished reading I keep thinking about it. I already want to go back and read it all again. I highly recommend this one!

Many thanks to the Tinder Press for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Looker is out now in ebook and available here. It’s due to be published in paperback on 25th July and can be pre-ordered at the same link.

 

About the Author

Laura Sims Author Picture

Laura Sims is the author of four books of poetry, and LOOKER is her debut novel. She lives in Brooklyn.

 

 

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

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Review: The Darkest Summer by Ella Drummond | @drummondella1 @HeraBooks @BOTBSPublicity

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About the Book

One hot summer, Dee disappeared. Now she’s back…but she’s not the girl you knew.

Sera and Dee were the best of friends.

Until the day that Dee and her brother Leo vanished from Sera’s life, during a long hot summer fifteen years ago.

Now Sera is an adult, with her own child, five-year-old Katie, and has returned to her childhood home after her husband’s death.

While she grieves, the past haunts Sera at every turn … and then Dee and Leo return to their small Hampshire village, along with Dee’s young daughter.

But Dee is silent and haunted by her demons; no longer the fun-loving girl that Sera loved. And when Sera uncovers the shocking secret that Dee is hiding, it’s clear that the girl she knew is long gone – and that the adult she has grown into might put all of them in danger…

 

My Thoughts

I have to start by saying that I loved Ella Drummond’s previous novel My Last Lie and The Darkest Summer is even better! I could not put it down!

The Darkest Summer follows Sera as she’s trying to rebuild her life after her husband’s death. She’s living with her mother and five-year-old daughter in her childhood home and can’t help but think back to years gone by and her best friend Dee whose family disappeared suddenly one summer day. Then one day she thinks she spots Dee’s brother in the street and her life is about to be turned upside down all over again.

I was gripped from the very start of this book and I just didn’t want to put it down for a second. It’s one of those books where you say just one more chapter, then one more, and one more and before you know it you’re turning the last page and it’s way past your bedtime!

The Darkest Summer is mainly set in the present day but it also flashes back to fifteen years ago in the lead up to when Dee and her family disappear. We also get a few chapters from the early 1980s following Sera’s mum, Mimi. I loved this way of telling the story as I was equally invested in all three timelines and this kept me flying through the pages as I wanted to know how the past fitted with the present and where Dee’s family had gone, and why they left without trace!

I love books that explore female friendship, it’s endlessly fascinating for me to read books like this. I really enjoyed seeing Dee and Sera as girls on the cusp of being teenagers where they still loved running wild and swimming in the lake, but were also becoming aware of their own bodies and the power they might possess. It was really interesting to see how they related to each other on meeting up again years later, and how different it can be to how you imagined it might. It was the same seeing Sera’s mum when she was a young adult finding her feet in London and trying to make it as an actress. Her friendship back then gave her an unbreakable bond to someone because of what happened but still life pulled them apart, and yet not quite! The women were so believable in this book and I keep thinking of them all, especially Sera, and wondering how she is.

I loved the setting of this book, and the way the heat of the summer emanated from the pages. I could envision it all so clearly as if I’d been there. Ella Drummond really is a great writer who writes such beautiful, evocative paragraphs. She brings her books to life and it makes them so memorable.

I was curious by what might have happened to Dee and her family, and was shocked when we finally find out. I had worked out elements of it but I couldn’t put it all together to figure it out fully. I was also intrigued by what Mimi’s story from years earlier had to do with the present day and didn’t figure that out either. I love when a novel keeps me guessing, it’s a rare thing for a book to do that but this one did!

The Darkest Summer is the perfect summer thriller read! It’s gripping, mysterious and it will keep you up way past your bedtime! I loved it and highly recommend it!

Many thanks to the Hera Books for my copy of this book and to Sarah of Books on the Bright Side Publicity for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Darkest Summer is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Ella Drummond recently signed a two-book deal with Hera Books. Her first psychological thriller, My Last Lie will be published in February 2019 and is available for pre-order now.
She lives with her husband on the island of Jersey and you can follow her on Twitter @drummondella1 and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EllaDrummondWrites/

 

 

 

 

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

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Review: The Hidden Wife by Amanda Reynolds | @AmandaReynoldsJ @Wildfirebks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Every marriage has its problems.
But would Julia Blake really have just walked out of hers, leaving no trace?

Max Blake knows more about his wife’s disappearance than he’s letting on.
That’s what the police think anyway. But with no body, the case is growing cold…

One young journalist thinks she can find out the truth.
But the more time she spends with Max at the couple’s remote estate, the higher the risk to her own safety. And whatever happened to Julia Blake may be her fate next…

 

My Thoughts

The Hidden Wife is such a good book! Seren is a junior reporter for a local newspaper and she’s just been given her first big story. She’s been tasked to interview famous novelist Max Blake, who’s wife Julia has been missing for months. So far he’s refused all interview requests by the media so this is a big deal for Seren and could make her career!

I was intrigued from the very beginning of this book as it opens just a few hours after Julia has been reported missing and we don’t know what’s happened to her. The novel then moves forward a few months and Seren is given the assignment to interview Julia’s husband Max. Max is a famous author and has so far resisted talking about Julia in the media so Seren is thrilled, and a little apprehensive, to be given such a job! There is something of a connection between Max and Seren as she knows what it’s like to lose a loved one and not have all the answers. I was curious as to whether Max knew this and would play on it for his own advantage as he seemed a very clever man.

The Hidden Wife kept me on my toes throughout. There are moments where I thought I had the mystery cracked but then something else would happen and I would be questioning everything all over again. The novel is a slow-burn to begin with. You really get to know Seren, which I loved as it meant I was with her all the way as she gradually starts to try to learn more about Max. There is a point in the novel though where it becomes utterly compelling and from there on I just couldn’t put it down!

The further I got into this novel the more it became apparent how everyone has a face they wear for others. It’s easy to think Max is slick and clearly hiding something but we don’t know for sure that he harmed his wife, we just presume he has. Seren has some real sadness in her life and she seems to keep people at something of a distance, even the people she’s closer to. Even the housekeeper seems besotted with Max and suspicious, even a little antagonistic towards Seren but there is more to her and I enjoyed finding out what was behind her facade.

I got Rebecca vibes from some elements of this book – the missing wife Julia, who we only really see through her husband’s, and occasionally the housekeeper’s, eyes. The somewhat naive junior reporter Seren who feels a little anxious around Max but is drawn to him at the same time. And Max, the enigmatic husband – did he harm his wife? Does he know where she is? I loved that there was a sense of Rebecca in the novel whilst at the same time it is absolutely its own story.

I very much enjoyed The Hidden Wife and have found since I finished reading it that I keep thinking about it. I definitely recommend putting it on your summer holiday reading plans if you like gripping, thrilling and hard to put down novels!

Many thanks to Wildfire for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Hidden Wife is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Amanda Reynolds Author Pic

Photo credit: David Churchill Photography

Amanda Reynolds lives in the Cotswolds with her family where she writes full-time. Her debut novel, Close To Me, is a #1 e-book best- seller. The Hidden Wife is her third book.

Follow Amanda on Twitter: @AmandaReynoldsJ

amandareynoldsauthor.com

 

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Review: The Last Stage by Louise Voss | @LouiseVoss1 @OrendaBooks @annecater

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About the Book

A violent and horrific incident forces a young woman to go into hiding, at the peak of her career as lead singer of an indie pop band. Years later, strange things start to happen and it becomes clear that some know who she is…

At the peak of her career as lead singer of a legendary 1980s indie band, Meredith Vincent was driven off the international stage by a horrific incident. Now living a quiet existence in a cottage on the grounds of an old stately home, she has put her past behind her and come to terms with her new life.

When a body is found in the manicured gardens of her home, and a series of inexplicable and unsettling events begins to occur, it becomes clear that someone is watching, someone who knows who she is … Someone who wants vengeance.

And this is only the beginning…

 

My Thoughts

The Last Stage follows Meredith. In the late 1980s she was a hugely successful indie star but something happened which led to her quitting her band at the height of their fame and she made sure to become unrecognisable by starting a new life working at a stately home. One night someone she works with goes missing in strange circumstances and Meredith starts to fear that the past is coming back to get her.

I’m a huge fan of Louise Voss (and have been ever since I bought her first novel To Be Someone, which is still one of my favourite and most read books!) and I’m so happy to say that this book more than lived up to my high expectations. The prologue is so creepy that it gave me chills and I knew then I was going to be hooked all the way through this book (and I was right!). The idea of waking up in the middle of the night to hear footsteps on the stairs and then your bedroom door handle starting to turn is terrifying!

The Last Stage is set in the present but we get chapters from the past from when a 17 year old Meredith goes off to Greenham Common and meets a girl there. I felt equally invested in both timelines and I was desperate to know how the past and present fit together to explain why Meredith was so scared by the thought of things from the past catching up with her.

Louise Voss has created such an interesting and intriguing protagonist in Meredith and I wanted to know more about her from the start. She does make some bad decisions in this book and at times I wanted to reach into the pages and make her do things differently but I could see why she chose to keep quiet about the unnerving things that were happening to her and around her. I think fear affects people in all kinds of ways and while some people would immediately beg for help and support, other people almost shut it down and believe that if they don’t acknowledge it out loud then it can’t possibly be really happening. I really felt for Meredith and was rooting for her to be okay.

I love the title of this book and how over the course of the novel you sense a different meaning in it. I initially thought it was about the last stage Meredith might have performed on as a rock star before she quit, then I thought it might be the last stage of her life but then I wondered if it might not be about Meredith but rather a reference to the last stage of a campaign to ruin her life.  Or maybe it’s more to do with the way Meredith has to confront her fears from her past (last as in previous stage) before she can move on. I love when a title gives me lots of possibilities to ponder over!

This book kept me guessing right to the end! I didn’t trust anyone in this novel, they all seemed like they might have something to hide and this made for such a thrilling read. The tension in The Last Stage is there from the start and it slowly builds and builds until you’re literally on the edge of your seat. I even found myself holding my breath during the more tense moments! I loved this novel so much, it was a perfect psychological thriller and one that I’ll be thinking about for a while. It’s tense, thrilling and will keep you up way past your bedtime (and by this point you’ll be nervously wondering if you can hear footsteps on the stairs and if the bedroom door handle is moving!!). An utterly brilliant read!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Last Stage is out now in ebook and is available for pre-order in paperback here.

 

About the Author

Louise Voss Author Picture

 

Over her eighteen-year writing career, Louise Voss has had 13 novels published – seven solo and six co-written with Mark Edwards: a combination of psychological thrillers, police procedurals and contemporary fiction – and sold over 350,000 books. Her most recent book, The Old You, was a number-one bestseller in ebook. Louise has an MA (Dist) in Creative Writing and also works as a literary consultant and mentor for writers at http://www.thewritingcoach.co.uk. She lives in Salisbury and is a proud member of two female crime-writing collectives, The Slice Girls and Killer Women.

 

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Review: Something To Live For by Richard Roper

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About the Book

Sometimes you have to risk everything to find your something…

Andrew works with death for a living. Searching for people’s next of kin and attending the funerals if they don’t have anyone, he’s desperate to avoid the same fate for himself. Which is fine, because he has the perfect wife and 2.4 children waiting at home for him after a long day. At least, that’s what he’s told people.

The truth is, his life isn’t exactly as people think and the little white lie he once told is about to catch up with him.

Because in all Andrew’s efforts to fit in, he’s forgotten one important thing: how to really live. And maybe, it’s about time for him to start.

 

My Thoughts

Something To Live For is the story of Andrew. He works for the council and his job is to deal with the aftermath of death – he has to find if the deceased person has a next of kin. Andrew is lonely but he’s accidentally told his boss that he’s got a happy family life and now he can’t u-turn on this lie he’s living.

Something To Live For is a stunning book and I adored it. Andrew has told his boss right before he got his job that he has a wife and two children at home but this isn’t true. Andrew lives in a grotty flat on his own and he’s lonely. All day at work he’s dealing with what happens when people die without a next of kin, without family and he takes it upon himself to go to the funerals of people who would otherwise have no one present. I felt so sad for Andrew, it’s such a lonely life he leads and you realise that his job must impact on his loneliness.

Andrew loves Ella Fitzgerald’s music and spends a lot of his spare time listening to her but he has an overwhelming visceral response that he can’t control to one of her songs. I immediately realised what was wrong with Andrew  but over the course of the novel we gradually find out about his past and learn more about how he has ended up the way he has.

Things begin to come unstuck for Andrew when his boss decides that his team needs to bond a bit more and suggests a Come Dine With Me idea whereby the whole team goes to a different team member’s house for dinner once a month. Andrew’s blood runs cold as he realises he has to get out of this or he’s going to be found out. The thought of just explaining how he got into living a lie isn’t something he can comprehend so his stress levels are rising. He then gets a new teammate, Peggy, and life begins to open up for Andrew in ways he couldn’t have imagined and the burden of his fictional family begins to overwhelm him.

Something To Live For also captures how much of our lives are now lived online. Andrew is part of an online community of train fans and he logs on every night to catch up, and yet he is so vulnerable and alone in reality. Social media can help make us feel less lonely but we still need people in our real lives in order to thrive. The book really shows how we can appear to have happy life but the reality can be so very different. More importantly though this book shows how if we take a step towards inviting people into our lives, asking for help when we need it, that the world can suddenly become a much bigger, brighter place and I loved this aspect of the novel.

This book is such a charming read; it’s very moving but also heart-warming and funny. I found Andrew to be such a believable character and I was rooting for him all the way through this book. It’s such an honest and sensitive portrayal of loneliness but it’s also a novel that is full of hope. The idea that if we can just be honest about our own lives, about the failures we perceive in ourselves that things really might get better. It left me with an overwhelming feeling that there is always hope, there is always a chance to change things. Life might not turn out as we planned but it’s still possible to find happiness down other avenues.

I adored Something To Live For, it’s one that will stay with me. It’s a wonderful thing for an author to make a reader feel real emotion at a character’s pain but in the next chapter have you laughing out loud at something. This is how life is and this gorgeous novel captures that in all its glory! I highly recommend this book!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Something To Live For is out now and available here.

 

 

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

 

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Review: The Lost Properties of Love by Sophie Ratcliffe | @WmCollinsBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

What if you could tell the truth about who you are, without risking losing the one you love? This is a book about love affairs and why we choose to have them; a book for anyone who has ever loved and wondered what it is all about.

This is a book about the things we hide from other people. Love affairs, grief, domestic strife and the mess at the bottom of your handbag. Part memoir, part imagined history, in The Lost Properties of Love, Sophie Ratcliffe combines her own experience of childhood bereavement, a past lover, the reality about motherhood and marriage, with undiscovered stories about Tolstoy and trains, handbags and honeymoons to muse on the messiness of everyday life.

An extended train journey frames the action – and the author turns not to self-help manuals but to the fictions that have shaped our emotional and romantic landscape. Readers will find themselves propelled into Anna Karenina’s world of steam, commuting down the Northern Line, and checking out a New York El-train with Anthony Trollope’s forgotten muse, Kate Field.

As scenes in her own life collide with the stories of real and imaginary heroines, The Lost Properties of Love asks how we might find new ways of thinking about love and intimacy in the twenty-first century. Frank and painfully funny, this contemporary take on Brief Encounter – told to a backing track of classic 80s songs- is a compelling look at the workings of the human heart.

 

My Thoughts

The Lost Properties of Love is a beautiful book that is part fiction and part memoir. Each chapter takes place during a different train journey and it’s a stunning look at life and love.

The book is set out in chapters that are headed with a train journey’s departure and end point and a date. It roughly follows a chapter of the author’s reminisces about her own life followed by a chapter about Trollope and his muse, Kate Field, or of thoughts on the fictional Anna Karenina.

You soon get a sense that Sophie Ratcliffe is exploring the pivotal moments in her life that have made her who she is. The loss of her father when she was just a young teenager, the affair she had with an older married man a few years later are the main events and she ruminates on these from different angles, and from different stages in her life. She compares her emotions to how Anna Karenina might have felt, and she considers the affair Trollope possibly had with his muse Kate Field and how she may have felt.

There are different textures of loss. The lost hope we find again, and the lost that we think is gone for ever. The loss of an object in the silt of mud, the loss of a smell or sound. People are lost to us, or make themselves lost.

The author’s thoughts on the loss of her beloved father were what I most identified with. The loss of a parent changes you in ways you can’t imagine until you’ve experienced it. The quote below, for all its simplicity, took all the air out of my lungs for a few moments because this is exactly how it is. You have belongings and people and one day you may well lose them, and they may well be lost forever.

The thing about having stuff, like handbags, or mementos, or fathers, is that you might lose them.

The book also explores our relationship to objects, and to the way we all lead our lives. The protagonist in this book struggles to organise the mess in her home, and at one stage ruminates that the mess is now condensed in her handbag. I could really identify with this. I finally got on top of all of my mess last year but I still feel the pull to gather stuff around me when I’m feeling down. Sophie Ratcliffe’s description of Anna Karenina’s red handbag and the things inside it brought a lump to my throat.

There are some gorgeous references to books in this book too, which I adored and so identified with. Also The Lost Properties of Love has really made me want to re-read Anna Karenina very soon, and it’s always good to be reminded of a book that you loved many years ago and have yet to revisit.

There’s a reason one of the greatest novels in English begins with it heroine’s delight that there was no possibility of taking a walk that day. There’s a reason Jane Eyre appeals to teenagers. There are no window seats on family walks. You cannot read a book while walking with your family.

This whole book is a meander through a life, in the way a train journey meanders through landscapes; it’s a gorgeous way to reflect on life. The time on a train gives us a chance to ponder and to think and this book is such a wonderful reading experience; it also made me think about events in my own life and to ponder them from different angles.

The Lost Properties of Love is such a beautiful book, and one that has been lingering in my mind ever since I finished reading it. I already feel that it’s a book I want to re-read, that it’s a book that will reward me for re-reading it and I don’t often get that feeling about a book. I recommend this one!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Lost Properties of Love is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Sophie Ratcliffe Author Pic

Sophie Ratcliffe is an academic, writer, and literary critic. 

She teaches English at the University of Oxford, where she is an Associate Professor and Fellow of Lady Margaret Hall. 

She is the author of On Sympathy (Oxford University Press), and edited the authorised edition of P. G. Wodehouse’s letters. 

In her academic work, she is interested in ideas of emotion and the history of how we feel. 

She reviews regularly for the national press, and has served as a judge of a number of literary prizes, including the Baillie Gifford and Wellcome Book Prize.

Twitter @soratcli

 

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

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Review: The Perfect Betrayal by Lauren North | @Lauren_C_North @TransworldBooks @damppebbles

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About the Book

After the sudden death of her husband, Tess is drowning in grief. All she has left is her son, Jamie, and she’ll do anything to protect him – but she’s struggling to cope.

When grief counsellor Shelley knocks on their door, everything changes. Shelley is understanding and kind, and promises she can help Tess through the hardest time of her life.

But when a string of unsettling events happens and questions arise over her husband’s death, Tess starts to suspect that Shelley may have an ulterior motive. Tess knows she must do everything she can to keep Jamie safe – but she’s at her most vulnerable, and that’s a dangerous place to be.

 

My Thoughts

The Perfect Betrayal is a psychological thriller that follows Tess. She is grief-stricken at the death of her husband Mark. She’s now alone with her young son Jamie and doesn’t see how she’s ever going to get through it. Then Shelley, a grief counsellor, arrives on her doorstep and shows Tess real kindness and she wants to help.

The Perfect Betrayal opens with Tess in hospital having sustained a stab wound and her son is missing! The novel then goes back in time to 55 days previously and the novel is then predominantly told in the weeks after Mark’s death leading up to Jamie’s 8th birthday party a few weeks later. It counts down the weeks in each chapter. Interspersed with this are snippets of Tess in hospital, and an interview with the police. This makes for a gripping and fast-paced read because I just wanted to know what on earth had happened! The tension builds slowly at first but then becomes so heightened that I felt like I was holding my breath at what I thought might happen next.

Oh my goodness, this book was brilliant! I was drawn into Tess’ story from the start, I really felt for her as she struggles to keep going after her husband’s sudden and shocking death. Her son Jamie is also devastated and Tess knows she has to keep going for him but she doesn’t know how to put one foot in front of the other. The depiction of grief in this book is so well done, so believable and I couldn’t see how Tess was ever going to get through it.

To make things worse for Tess her husband’s brother, Ian, is putting pressure on her to start Probate so that Mark’s finances can be put in order. He seems too aggressive and pushy with Tess at a time when she’s so vulnerable and she starts to feel quite threatened by him, which I completely understood.

I was suspicious of Shelley, the grief counsellor, as the way she comes into Tess’ life seemed strange at first and she seems to cross the boundaries of how a counsellor would behave. At the same time I could see she was offering friendship to Tess at a time when Tess was feeling so vulnerable and alone. I was never sure if I could trust Tess and had a feeling that she might have ulterior motives.

I’m keeping this review fairly vague because I want future readers to get the same experience as I did reading this book. So I will just end by saying that the characters in The Perfect Betrayal are so perfectly drawn and the storyline is breathtakingly brilliant. I had so many suspicions about everyone in this book and genuinely had no real idea of what might happen. This book is flawless; it really is the perfect psychological thriller! This is a book that I won’t ever forget and I already can’t wait to read more by Lauren North!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Perfect Betrayal is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Lauren North writes psychological suspense novels that delve into the darker side of relationships and families. She has a lifelong passion for writing, reading, and all things books. Lauren’s love of psychological suspense has grown since childhood and her dark imagination of always wondering what’s the worst thing that could happen in every situation.

Lauren studied psychology before moving to London where she lived and worked for many years. She now lives with her family in the Suffolk countryside. 

Social Media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lauren_C_North

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LaurenNorthAuthor/

 

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

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Review: Horizontal Collaboration by Carole Maurel and Navie | @rolcamaurel @KoreroPress #GraphicNovel @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

“Horizontal Collaboration” is a term used to describe the sexual and romantic relationships that some French women had with members of the occupying German forces during World War II. In this poignant, female-centered graphic novel created by writer/artist duo Carole Maurel and Mademoiselle Navie, the taboo of “sleeping with the enemy” is explored through the story of a passionate, and forbidden, affair. In June 1942, married Rose (whose husband is a prisoner of war) intervenes in the detainment of her Jewish friend and then accidentally embarks on a secret relationship with the investigating German officer, Mark. There is only one step between heroism and treason, and it’s often a dangerous one. Inside an apartment building on Paris’s 11th arrondissement, little escapes the notice of the blind husband of the concierge. Through his sightless but all-knowing eyes, we learn of Rose and Mark’s hidden relationship, and also of the intertwined stories and problems of the other tenants, largely women and children, who face such complex issues as domestic violence, incest, and prostitution. This fascinating graphic novel tackles the still-sensitive topic of who it is acceptable to love, and how, and the story’s drama is brought vividly to life by intimate and atmospheric illustrations.

 

My Thoughts

Horizontal Collaboration is a stunning graphic novel telling the story of women in World War 2. The book opens with Virginie and her grandmother Rose in the present day talking about love, and this leads to Rose reflecting back on the man she truly loved (not the man she married). We then discover the stories of three women whose lives overlap during the war, and get to understand things from each of their perspectives.

The novel is set in an apartment building and we get to see inside each of the inhabitants’ lives and how they all intertwine.

Rose is married to Raymond, who is away at war, and she is raising their young son Lucien. Over the course of the memoir we see her relationship with a German soldier, which she desperately needs to be kept secret but she has fallen in love with him and can’t stop seeing him. This is such a dangerous situation for Rose, but I couldn’t help but feel for her.

Josephine is another young woman who works at a cabaret club but is also working as an escort as its the only way she can make ends meet. I really liked her and felt so anxious that things weren’t going to work out for her. She seemed so lonely and sad, never giving her full self to anyone.

Then there is Madam Flament. She was something of an enigma to begin with. She seems to be quite scatty; she’s obsessed with her cats in the basement and seems to care more about them than the people living in her building. But there’s something that made me think she was watching and taking in everything that was happening, and this made me nervous about what this might lead to.

I will say that when I initially started reading this book I found it a little confusing as the story does jump from character to character. I soon realised that I needed to take my time with this novel and read it slowly, to properly appreciate the story being told and to enjoy the beautiful illustrations. Once I did this I became fully immersed in this book and I was captivated by what I was reading and seeing.

The illustrations throughout this novel are stunning. The colour palette is predominantly sepia toned but there is colour, and the way things like the way candles light up a room are captured so beautifully. The images capture the mood; the happy and the heartbreaking in such a way that I so many times had to pause for a few moments just to take in an image before moving on to the next part.

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Camile is one of the only men in this book and I found that his story was the thread that pulled the others together. He is a kindly, older man that the other people in the building seem to gravitate towards. Camile is blind and it’s fascinating that for all the atmosphere of the time made people suspicious of each other and jump to conclusions; it is the one who is blind that really saw the full picture. He heard all the things that weren’t been said, he put the pieces together but he also keeps his counsel.

It felt to me all the way through this book that it was going to have a tragic ending. I think it’s partly the time the book is set in but also there is a feeling of pressure building inside the individual characters in this book and you can feeling it simmering but you know some part of it is going to give way. The tension is palpable at times, and I spent a lot of the time I was reading this book holding my breath.

This novel really captures the fear of living through a war, and also the way that people had to find happiness where they could and to survive however they could. I really felt that this book showed how nothing is ever black and white, and that in war there are so many more shades of grey than you could ever imagine.

Horizontal Collaborations is a beautiful novel is every way. The story is incredibly written and so moving, and the illustrations are stunning. I’d recommend this book to everyone, and if you’ve never read a graphic novel before I urge you to give this one a try. This is such a poignant book that has imprinted itself on my heart and I won’t forget it!

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Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and Anne of Random Things Tours for my invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Horizontal Collaboration is out now and available here.

 

About the Authors

Navie and Carol Maurel Author pic

Carole Maurel cut her teeth on animated films before devoting herself to illustration, in particular, graphic novels. Her 2017 book The Apocalypse According to Magda was awarded the Artémisia Avenir award, which celebrates women in comics.

Navie is a screenwriter for press, cinema and television. She has a degree in history from The Sorbonne in Paris, where she specialized in the history of fascism – making Horizontal Collaboration an excellent fit for her first graphic novel.

Twitter @rolcamaurel

 

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

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Book Review: The Sea Refuses No River by Bethany Rivers | @bethanyrivers77 @fly_press @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

The journey of grief is a strange one

and one not often talked about in our everyday reality of this society,

but I know what it’s like to dive deep,

down to the bottom of the wreck,

feel the ribs of the wreck,

after losing a parent so young in life

In this collection, the sea refuses no river, there is an acceptance of the pain and an acceptance of the healing moments; the healing journeys. To quote Adrienne Rich: I came to explore the wreck’, and in this collection, Bethany discovers how, ‘The words are purposes. The words are maps.’

 

My Thoughts

The Sea Refuses No River is a poetry collection that explores the different facets of grief. I was drawn to this book because ever since my mum died ten years ago I’ve felt a need to read other people’s experience of the same, or a similar, loss as it’s helped me process my own emotions.

This poetry collection is stunning! Bethany Rivers explores grief in a very honest and moving way. Some of the poems felt very emotional to me, and others felt very empowering in the way she looks grief right in the eye in such an unflinching way.

The third poem in the collection, At My Father’s Grave, brought a lump to my throat. It’s an easy poem to understand but there is real emotion and poignancy in the idea of looking beyond a loved one’s grave and seeing the flowers that are still thriving in the midst of the sadness. Life continues.

Look behind the stone.

I shuffle forwards and look down.

Snowdrops peeping

above the frosted ground.

I loved how the penultimate poem in this collection, I turn to the daffodils, looks at their brightness, and it felt like the two poems are the bookends of grief – you go from the depths of a dark winter to finally seeing the sunshine in the emerging spring. The poem before this is Every garden is a gift. This is the poem I’ve re-read most often so far. It initially made me think of the last hours of my mum’s life but the more I read it the more I felt that it’s more about allowing grief to be there in your life, finding a way to feel okay with it being there, whilst also allowing yourself to be happy again.

It’s Not About the Broccoli is similarly moving and is a poem that anyone who’s lost someone will connect with. We all have those thoughts of wondering how someone would have done something, and now we’ll never know. Also, how it’s so often the little things that bring up the biggest emotions once a parent has died.

I read this collection in one sitting to start with, I wanted to immerse myself in the whole book. I’ve since gone back at different times and read each poem on its own to get a sense of the individual works. There is a real sense of coming to terms with loss in this collection as a whole. There are poems that feel more raw but the further into the collection you get there is a sense of exploring how to live without your loved one, a sense of finding your place in a world that doesn’t have them in it anymore. It felt to me that the poems become about acceptance, about keeping a memory of your loved one alive while accepting that they are gone. I felt a whole gamut of emotions as I read this collection and by the end I felt a sense of peace.

The Sea Refuses No River is a stunning poetry collection. It’s an honest and personal journey through grief that many people will be able to connect with. I found real solace in this collection and it’s a book that I will return to time and again. I highly recommend this book.

Many thanks to Bethany, and Anne of Random Things Tours for my copy of this book and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Sea Refuses No River is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Bethany Rivers Author Pic

Bethany Rivers (M.A. in Creative Writing from Cardiff University) is a poet and author based in Shrewsbury, who has taught creative writing for over eleven years and mentored and coached many writers from the start of their writing project through to publication.

Website : http://www.writingyourvoice.org.uk/

Twitter : @bethanyrivers77

Author page on Facebook 

 

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

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Book Review: Death and Other Happy Endings by Melanie Cantor | @melaniecantor @TransworldBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Jennifer Cole has just been told that she has a terminal blood disease. She has three months to live — ninety days to say goodbye to friends and family and put her affairs in order. Trying to focus on the positives (at least she’ll never lose her teeth) Jennifer realises she has one overriding regret: the words she’s left unsaid.
Rather than pursuing a frantic bucket list, she chooses to stay put, and write letters to three significant people in her life: her overbearing, selfish sister, her jelly-spined, cheating ex-husband, and her charming, unreliable ex-boyfriend finally telling them the things she’s always wanted to say but never dared.
At first, Jennifer feels cleansed by her catharsis. Liberated, even. But once you start telling the truth, it’s hard to stop. And, as she soon discovers, the truth isn’t always as straightforward as it seems, and death has a way of surprising you ..

 

My Thoughts

Death and Other Happy Endings follows Jennifer who has been feeling exhausted recently and after undergoing blood tests at the doctors is told she has a terminal illness and has three months left to live. She buys a calendar and starts counting the days, trying to work out what she should do with her final days. She decides to write letters to her sister, her ex-husband and her ex-boyfriend telling them all the things she wanted to say but never dared to!

I have to start by saying that the way I’ve described this book may make it seem a bit depressing but I swear to you that it’s absolutely not! It’s funny and moving, and it has you cheering Jennifer on. On hearing that she’s going to die soon she goes off for a walk and ends up doing something she never, ever would have done before she got the news. I knew then that this novel was going to be life-affirming and it was.

I loved that Jennifer wrote the letters that she did to her self-centred sister, her horrible ex-husband and her smarmy ex-boyfriend. She found it so cathartic, and it made me think of the kind of letters I might have written at points in my life to people who have treated me badly. It was satisfying to see her get it all out of her system. When my mum was diagnosed with terminal cancer she got an urge to shred her wedding dress (she was long divorced but had kept her dress), I told her to just do it if it helped so she did. She felt so much better afterwards and wished she’d done it long ago. So I was thinking of her at times as I was reading Jennifer’s story and how she reacted to the diagnosis she received.

I also lost my best friend to cancer when I was in my early 20s and the last weeks I spent with her were full of laughter, and at times there were tears, but we were both so focused on wanting to live and have fun while we could. So I found it very moving when Jennifer and her best friend were talking about the wedding that Jennifer would likely not live to attend. It brought a lump to my throat but also happiness that at least Jennifer knew about the wedding and could help with the plans and choosing the dress.

This isn’t in any way a heavy-going book despite the subject matter but by the same token there is a believability in how Jennifer deals with the news she’s been given, and the way she grieves for the life she won’t get to have and the things she won’t get to do. Melanie Cantor has such a deft touch in the way she has written this book, it’s remarkable to deal with such a hard topic and never down play it whilst also retaining humour and lightness. It’s an utterly incredible novel.

Death and Other Happy Endings is a book that reminds you to live your life, to make time for the people that matter and to walk away from those that don’t. We all need a reminder of this from time to time and this book was the reminder I needed. I also felt like this novel gave me my best friend back for a little while as after I finished reading this I my mind was flooded with memories of her and that’s been wonderful for me.

There is so much life and joy in this book, it really is life-affirming. It’s a novel about friendships, about coming to terms with the past and finding a way forward when life has other plans for us. I adored this book – it made me cry, it made me laugh and I just felt a sense of the joy that can be found during even the hardest times. This book was solace for me and I will treasure it, it’s definitely going to be on my books of the year list! I highly recommend grabbing a copy of this book and reading it as soon as you possibly can!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Death and Other Happy Endings is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Melanie Cantor Author Picture

Melanie Cantor was a celebrity agent and publicist for over thirty years. Her clients included Ulrika Jonsson, Melinda Messenger and Melanie Sykes.

In 2004, she hosted a makeover show on Channel 4 called Making Space and in 2017 having just turned 60 she was scouted on Kings Cross station, subsequently appearing as a ‘real model’ in the most recent Dove campaign.

She turned her hand to writing in 2008. Death and other Happy Endings is her first published novel.

Twitter @melaniecantor

 

 

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Book Review: Sister of Mine by Laurie Petrou | @lauriepetrou @noexitpress @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Two sisters. One fire. A secret that won’t burn out.

The Grayson sisters are trouble. Everyone in their small town knows it. But noone can know of the secret that binds them together.

Hattie is the light. Penny is the darkness. Together, they have balance.

But one night the balance is toppled. A match is struck. A fire is started. A cruel husband is killed. The potential for a new life flickers in the fire’s embers, but resentment, guilt, and jealousy suffocate like smoke.

Their lives have been engulfed in flames will they ever be able to put them out?

 

My Thoughts

Sisters of Mine is about the two Grayson sisters. They live in a small town and everyone knows who they are. The people in the town don’t know all of the secrets the two women hold though. One night the two sisters set a fire and the repercussions of that night will be long lasting in their lives!

On the cover of my copy of Sisters of Mine it has a sticker warning that readers will burn through the novel in one sitting and I have to say that this was absolutely true for me. I started reading this novel and it had me under its spell from the opening chapter and I didn’t move from where I was sitting until after I turned the last page!

This is a really suspenseful and mysterious novel. There is a really strong bond between Hattie and Penny, one that isn’t necessarily based on them liking each other. There is a strange dynamic at play in their relationship and for a long time it seems like one of them is pulling all the strings but then the power shifts somewhat. Ultimately, they’re both complicit in making their lives turn out the way they did, and a lot of it has to do with jealousy and perceived wrong-doings between them. The title of this book is so perfect. Going into the book it seemed like it was a reference to two sisters who are close but once I started reading the book I could see its more a reference to the power play between them and ownership over each other.

This isn’t a black and white novel; the two sisters each have good and bad in them and it’s impossible to point at one of them and say that what they did was worse. They involve each other in everything and so the lines become very blurred about who is ultimately responsible and who did the worst thing.

Sister of Mine has a really claustrophobic atmosphere to it. I felt like I was right there with Penny and Hattie and it was stifling at times seeing their lives up close. The writing is brilliant to make me feel that way though, it really is a beautifully written book.

Sister of Mine is a compelling, claustrophobic and stunning look at two sisters and what each is prepared to do for the other. I loved this book, it is still lingering in my mind now and it’s a few weeks since I finished reading it. I recommend this one!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Sister of Mine is due to be published on 20 June and can be pre-ordered here.

 

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Book Review: The Friend Who Lied by Rachel Amphlett | @RachelAmphlett @BOTBSPublicity #TheFriendWhoLied

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About the Book

What she doesn’t know might kill her…Lisa Ashton receives a last-minute reprieve from death two weeks before her birthday. Regaining consciousness, she is horrified to learn one of her friends has been killed – and saved her life.

As she recovers, she uncovers a trail of carefully guarded reputations, disturbing rumours, and lies. Soon, Lisa begins to wonder if one of her friends is hiding a terrible secret.

Because five of them entered the escape room that day, and only four got out alive.

And someone is determined to cover their tracks before she can find out the truth.

Can Lisa find the killer before someone else dies?

 

My Thoughts

The Friend Who Lied follows Lisa, who as the book opens is just regaining consciousness and she has no idea what has happened. The novel then opens out as we follow the four friends as the secrets and lies that bound their group together may be about to break them apart!

The opening to this book is brilliant because we see things through Lisa’s eyes as she begins to come round, and for a moment I wasn’t sure what was happening! I wondered if she was being held somewhere but it quickly becomes clear that she is in hospital recovering from surgery that saved her life. We soon learn that five friends have been to an escape room but something has gone horribly wrong and one of them died.

Lisa’s friends are behaving oddly, they’re not visiting her as often as she would have expected and when she does see them she feels they’re keeping things from her. Then the police turn up asking questions about what happened in the escape room but Lisa can’t remember anything.

Lisa is the main character in this novel but we get the different perspectives of all four friends, and this made for a fascinating read. They have been friends since university, and I’m always intrigued by groups of people that remain friends long after they leave school/university as I never maintained my group of friends from that time because our lives moved in different directions. I’m in touch with some of them but not as a group. It seems this group of friends have things in common that will always bond them and I wanted to know more! The novel is mainly set in the present but there are chapters from their university days and that really ramps up the tension in this book as you start to understand who they are.

I didn’t trust anyone in this book – Hayley, David and Bec all seemed like they were out for themselves and very focused on how things would reflect on them. They all I loved how the focus shifted from one to another though because just as I thought I’d got to grips with what might be going on I got another viewpoint and my thoughts shifted again.

As you get further into the book you do feel the claustrophobia of the police closing in on this group as the investigation goes along. I thought it was really clever how these friends had done an escape room – a game where they were locked in and have to try and escape – and what happened there has led to them being in a real life escape room where their actual freedom is at stake!

I did have a growing suspicion about one of the characters as I got further into the book and I was proved right about them but there is more than one reveal as this book reaches its climax and I was stunned by most of them!

The Friend Who Lied is such a gripping thriller that had me hooked from start to finish! It was my first Rachel Amphlett novel but it absolutely won’t be my last, I can’t wait to read more from her! The Friend Who Lied is fast-paced, suspenseful and unputdownable; an all-round brilliant thriller!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Friend Who Lied is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Rachel Amphlett author photo

Before turning to writing, USA Today bestselling author Rachel Amphlett played guitar in bands, worked as a TV and film extra, dabbled in radio as a presenter and freelance producer for the BBC, and worked in publishing as a sub-editor and editorial assistant.

She now wields a pen instead of a plectrum and writes crime fiction and spy novels, including the Dan Taylor and English Spy Mysteries espionage novels and theDetective Kay Hunter British police procedural series.

She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and the Crime Writers Association, with the Italian foreign rights for her debut novel, White Gold sold to Fanucci Editore’s TIMECrime imprint, and the first four books in the Dan Taylor espionage series contracted to Germany’s Luzifer Verlag.

 

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Book Review: The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean | @FelicityMcLean @PtBlankBks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #VanApfelGirls

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About the Book

‘We lost all three girls that summer. Let them slip away like the words of some half-remembered song and when one came back, she wasn’t the one we were trying to recall to begin with.’

Tikka Molloy was eleven and one-sixth years old during the long hot summer of 1992, growing up in a distant suburb in Australia surrounded by encroaching bushland. That summer, the hottest on record, was when the Van Apfel sisters – Hannah, the beautiful Cordelia and Ruth – mysteriously disappeared during the school’s Showstopper concert, held at the outdoor amphitheatre by the river.

Did they run away? Were they taken?  While the search for the sisters unites the small community, the mystery of their disappearance has never been solved.   Now, years later, Tikka has returned home, to try to make sense of that strange moment in time. The summer that shaped her.  The girls that she never forgot.

 

My Thoughts

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is about Tikka Molloy, aged 11, and her friendship with the three Van Apfel sisters: Hannah, Cordelia and Ruth. The novel begins with Tikka in the present day where she’s living in Baltimore but she has to travel back to Australia to visit her family and she wants to know more about what happened to the Van Apfel girls.

This book is absolutely stunning. I started reading it in the garden on a beautiful sunny day and I just got lost in its pages. I was intrigued from the opening chapter and I just loved everything about this book.

Tikka is an interesting character and I like the way the book is framed both from her viewpoint as an adult reflecting on her childhood with the Van Apfel sisters but also from her viewpoint when she was an 11 year old. It really highlighted the way we remember things differently from the way they perhaps really were, and also how we just don’t fully understand things when we’re children and looking back through adult’s eyes puts a whole different spin on things.

The writing in this novel is mesmerising. I could feel the heat, I could feel the oppressive atmosphere of the Van Apfel family home when their parents were there. I had such a knot in my stomach reading parts of this book as I could see the things that 11 year old Tikka couldn’t quite grasp.

We know from the start of the novel that the Van Apfel girls all went missing but we don’t know then whether they ran away or were kidnapped, or if they came to harm so there is a mystery running through this book but it’s much more a coming of age novel. The Van Apfel girls felt almost ghostly to me throughout this book, even when we were there with them as young girls before they disappeared – it was as if they were right there but you could never got too close, you could never really get to know them fully. It wasn’t so much they had secrets as much as they were just set slightly apart from everyone else, even their best friends.

There was so much I could relate to in this book, I so remember that time when you’re wanting independence and feeling so grown up. You begin to feel you have a power but you don’t yet fully understand consequences. I felt such fear for Cordelia as she is so aware of her own body and the affect she’s having on boys (and grown men who should know better) and reading that as an adult was unnerving. I was willing her, and her sisters, to all be okay but it felt like this book was always leading towards something sad. There is a feeling of melancholy in the three sisters, and in the book as a whole, which I couldn’t look away from.

Running through this novel is the news story big in 1992 about Lindy Chamberlain who was cleared of killing her baby. She is the woman whose baby was taken by a dingo and never found. This gave another level to this novel as it did more than just reinforce when it was set but also the way that sometimes a child does just disappear. The thinking  when it happened was that the mother must have killed her baby, but her appeal in 1992 found that actually what the mother said happened was more likely to be true. This in relation to the Van Apfel girls has haunted me in the parallels and what it’s perhaps telling us about what really happened to them.

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is ultimately Tikka’s story; it’s about her trying to come to terms to what happened the summer she was eleven. It’s haunted her whole life to date and she seems to be at a place where she needs some resolution that she just can’t find. This was so relatable, we might not have had the same experience as her but we all have things in our lives that haunt us, we all have those ‘what ifs’, and so often we believe if we’d just done something differently then things might have turned out better. It’s life though, and not everything works out.

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is a captivating, mesmerising and haunting novel that I can’t stop thinking about. It’s such a beautifully written novel and I’m so glad that I got the chance to read it. I already know that this will be one of my top books of this year and I highly recommend it.

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Felicity McLean was born in Sydney Australia. She graduated at Sydney University with a BA in English and Australian literature and worked as a book publicist before embarking on a freelance career. Her journalism has appeared in The Daily Telegraph, The Courier Mail and the Big Issue, among others, and she has ghost-written celebrity autobiographies. THE VAN APFEL GIRLS ARE GONE is her first novel. She lives with her English husband and two young children in Australia.

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: The Space Between Time by Charlie Laidlaw | @claidlawauthor @AccentPress @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Earth…

Emma Maria Rossini appears to be the luckiest girl in the world. She’s the daughter of a beautiful and loving mother, and her father is one of the most famous film actors of his generation. She’s also the granddaughter of a rather eccentric and obscure Italian astrophysicist.

But as her seemingly charmed life begins to unravel, and Emma experiences love and tragedy, she ultimately finds solace in her once-derided grandfather’s Theorem on the universe.

The Space Between Time is humorous and poignant and offers the metaphor that we are all connected, even to those we have loved and not quite lost.

 

My Thoughts

The Space Between Time follows Emma from being a young girl to her becoming an adult. Her father is a really famous actor, and her grandfather is an obscure astrophysicist. As her father’s fame grows, her mother’s mental health seems to decline and Emma struggles to understand what is happening, while at the same time being deeply affected by it.

I really connected with Emma throughout this novel, there are so many things that she experiences that I could identify with. She goes through loss in different ways and her pain really radiated off the page. The way she feels grief was so palpable; the quote below is exactly how grief is.

Once, at a party, I smelled her perfume and came close to tears. I still feel that she’s close to by, almost within touching distance, her hand not quite on my shoulder, her lips not quite about to kiss the top of my head: not quite, and just out of sight. It’s as if she’s in another room, close by: her cremated particles reaching out, decaying on the breeze, becoming smaller, and smaller, and smaller.

I loved the parts of the book where Emma describes a photo of herself with her mum and dad at a film premiere but later we get another perspective on the photo as she works through her feelings about her father as he gets older. This made me cry, it so resonated with my own life and I felt I was right there with Emma. It captured grief and the slow acceptance of loss, but also the way we come to see things differently as we age. We perhaps understand more of our parents that we couldn’t possibly have grasped when we were younger and hadn’t got the reference points that being an adult ourselves brings. It’s also the acceptance that comes with getting older of taking people as they are, and that perhaps we expected more of them than they could give to us.

I came to love the fact that this book didn’t feel grounded in a particular time. There are references to things so you do know when it’s set but there is a real timeless feel to the novel. This is where the astrophysics comes into play – the idea of what is here now, and what was here before and what might be in the future. The whole novel seems to play with these ideas and Emma becomes interested in her grandfather’s work as she seeks solace from the loss in her life and it brings her comfort.

We all live in permanent chaos, however ordered our lives seem, with every innocuous action having lots of little consequences that are completely unpredictable.

There are some brilliant moments of humour sprinkled throughout too that made me properly laugh. The part of the book where Emma ends up at protest march with a man she slept with once is so perfectly written. Their argument ends up echoing the different banners around them and it’s utterly brilliant!

This is a novel that requires concentration and time so it took me a little while to get into it but there was a moment where this book just clicked for me and from then on I just couldn’t put it down. I fell in love with this story, it’s stunning!

The Space Between Time is one of the most beautiful books I’ve read and I’m so happy that I got the chance to read it.  This is a book to savour – I recommend reading it slowly and taking your time with it. There is so much of life – the beauty and the pain – contained within its pages and it’s a book where you won’t want to miss a thing. I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Accent Press for my copy of this book and to Anne of Random Things Tours for my invitation to be on this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Space Between Time is due out on 20 June and can be pre-ordered here.

 

 

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Book Review: A Modern Family by Helga Flatland | @HelgaFlatland @rosie_hedger @OrendaBooks @annecater

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About the Book

When Liv, Ellen and Håkon, along with their partners and children, arrive in Rome to celebrate their father’s seventieth birthday, a quiet earthquake occurs: their parents have decided to divorce.

Shocked and disbelieving, the siblings try to come to terms with their parents’ decision as it echoes through the homes they have built for themselves, and forces them to reconstruct the shared narrative of their childhood and family history.

 

My Thoughts

A Modern Family follows three siblings – Liv, Ellen and Hakon, their partners, and children as they travel to Rome to celebrate their father’s 70th birthday. During the celebrations they find out that their parents have decided to divorce and this sends shockwaves through the family.

The novel is told from the perspectives of the three siblings and the way it unfolds is so well done. First we follow Liv, the eldest child, and she is someone who likes to feel in control who thinks she can keep everything together so the news from her parents knocks her world off its axis. When it moves to Ellen, the middle sibling, we see an overlap of the revelation of their parents announcement and her reaction to it before we then learn more about her life. She keeps herself to herself a lot more than her brother and sister. The novel then goes back to Liv, and then to Ellen again before we hear from Hakon, the younger brother and the baby of the family.

I’ve found it so hard to get my thoughts in any kind of order to write this review because I just connected with the novel so much. I’m one of three (and we have similar age gaps between us as the siblings in this novel) so the different perspectives all had something in them that I either recognised in myself or in one of my siblings, or in how we interacted with each other. I adored that the love the members of the family all have for each other is really clear, they have their conflicts but ultimately they do all care how the others are doing. But within that you see how the things that are small to one sibling can cause another to be crumbling inside and they just don’t get how or why they are reacting in the way they are. This is so heart-wrenchingly true that I wanted to cry at these moments.

Helga Flatland’s writing has a delicate poignancy that also really gets you in the gut at times. It’s insightful and it makes you think about situations you’ve been in with your own family.  I’m the eldest child in my family and I could understand how Liv felt a lot of the time. There is a pressure on being the oldest, right from childhood you’re expected to be more grown up and to look after, and be a good example for, the younger children. It stays with you into adulthood and it does shape who you become. I did find that I identified more with Ellen, the middle child in this novel, as the story progressed though. I felt for her as she struggled silently, privately and didn’t feel she could share what she was going through with her family. I could totally see why she didn’t say anything but I was willing her to. Sometimes the people we’re meant to have the closest relationships with are the very ones that it’s so hard to open up to. Hakon’s was the section that surprised me the most. Throughout the book, through his sisters’ eyes he’s someone who doesn’t want to conform to society’s stereotypes. He doesn’t believe in monogamy or marriage. I thought I knew the kind of person he was but when I got to see his perspective it was really lovely to see who he is behind all the big statements.

A Modern Family is a stunning novel – I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that so captured what it is to be a sibling, that captured the complicated dynamics of a family so perfectly and with such brilliant insight. At times this book made me cry, and at other times I was smiling to myself as I recognised a silly misunderstanding. I haven’t stopped thinking about these characters since I finished reading the book and I already want to read it all over again. I have to commend Rosie Hedger, the translator of A Modern Family, too because this felt like a novel that had been written in English. The way she has worked with Helga Flatland’s words is wonderful. I am certain that this will be one of my books of 2019, it’s incredible! I love it so much that I’m definitely going to buy a print copy (I read it on Kindle) to have with my favourite books on my bookcase! I can’t find all the words to do justice to A Modern Family but please just take my word for how beautiful it is and add it to your summer reading stacks now!

Many thanks to Orenda Books for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

A Modern Family is due out on 13 June and can be pre-ordered here.

 

About the Author

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Helga Flatland ( born 16 September 1984) is a Norwegian novelist and children’s writer. She was born in Notodden and grew up in Flatdal. She made her literary debut in 2010 with the novel Bli hvis du kan. Reis hvis du må, for which she was awarded the Tarjei Vesaas’ debutantpris . The novel was the first in a trilogy, and was followed by Alle vil hjem. Ingen vil tilbake (2012) and Det finnes ingen helhet (2013). In 2015 she published the novel Vingebelastning, as well as the children’s book Eline får besøk. In 2015 Flatland was awarded the Amalie Skram Prize and Mads Wiel Nygaard’s Endowment.

 

 

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Book Review: We Never Said Goodbye by Helene Fermont | @HeleneFermont @BOTBSPublicity

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About the Book

Is it ever too late for love?

When Mike dumps Louise on their 20th Wedding Anniversary, her entire world comes to an end.

Devastated and confused, she attempts to make sense of what happened and returns to a city she’s avoided for two decades.

Will she be able to move on with the man she left behind or will Mike’s increasingly violent and unhinged behaviour continue to haunt and ruin her life? When the reason Mike left her at long last is revealed Louise’s life is in serious danger.

 

My Thoughts

We Never Said Goodbye is the story of Louise. The novel opens with her waiting for her husband to come home so that they can go out and celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary. Instead he phones her to tell her that their marriage is over!

This is the second novel I’ve read by Helene Fermont and she writes character driven plots that also have gripping storylines. She takes time to let us get to know all of her characters and to get to grips with their motivations.

We predominantly follow Louise in this novel and I felt that I really got to know her. She’s understandably devastated by her husband leaving her, and it’s made worse by the way he did it. She has really good friends in her life who take care of her as she grieves the loss of her marriage and she eventually starts to feel more herself again.

In the meantime her estranged husband Mike is becoming increasingly self-centred and vicious with everyone in his life. He treats his friend and business partner with no respect and in his new relationship with Abby he likes to show who’s boss.

The central thread in this novel is about Louise and Mike but the off-shoots off this story are also riveting. I felt completely invested in finding out what was going to happen to everyone in this novel and this kept me turning the pages!

The novel is set in both London and Malmo in Sweden. I really enjoyed exploring Malmo through this novel as Helene Fermont really brings the place to life and I could really envision everywhere she described. I loved the way the storyline went in Malmo, as we get to know more of Louise’s family and more about her background.

I really enjoyed We Never Said Goodbye and recommend it if you like domestic thrillers with great character exploration!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

We Never Said Goodbye is out now and available here.

 

 

About the Author

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Hélene Fermont writes character-driven psychological crime fiction with a Scandi Noir flavour. Known for her explosive, pacy narrative and storylines, she has published three novels – Because of YouWe Never Said Goodbye and His Guilty Secret – and two short story collections – The Love of Her Life and Who’s Sorry Now? Her fourth novel is due for release in the summer of 2019. After 20 years in London, Hélene recently returned to her native Sweden where she finds the unspoiled scenery and tranquillity a therapeutic boost for creativity. Enjoying a successful career as a Psychologist, when she’s not working her ‘day job’, Hélene spends her time writing, with friends and family, or playing with her beloved cat, Teddy. All three novels can be purchased via her website helenefermont.com/books/
Social Media Links:
 

 

 

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#BookReview: Dead Inside by Noelle Holten | @nholten40 @KillerReads @BOTBSPublicity

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About the Book

The killer is just getting started…

When three wife beaters are themselves found beaten to death, DC Maggie Jamieson knows she is facing her toughest case yet.

The police suspect that Probation Officer Lucy Sherwood – who is connected to all three victims – is hiding a dark secret. Then a fourth domestic abuser is brutally murdered.

And he is Lucy’s husband.

Now the police are running out of time, but can Maggie really believe her friend Lucy is a cold-blooded killer?

 

My Thoughts

Dead Inside was one of my most anticipated books for 2019 and I’m so happy to say that it more than lived up to my expectations. The novel is about domestic abuse. Three wife beaters are found dead and police believe there is a connection between the deaths. We see a newly formed unit, the Domestic Abuse and Homicide Unit investigating the crimes and looking into the backgrounds of the men and the people connected to them. The novel follows quite a few characters and this allows us to see the story from multiple points of view and gives such a real insight into domestic abuse.

I was gripped by Dead Inside from the opening few pages and I read it in just two sittings. I loved Noelle Holten’s writing style, it’s incredibly readable. And the cast of characters all made me want to keep reading just one more chapter (and one more, and one more etc!).

I loved how there was real depth to this novel, the characters are all rounded and feel real and it shows how domestic abuse happens. The way it creeps into a relationship and catches a person off-guard, how initially you make excuses for the abuse and then you find you’re tiptoeing around the home to try not to trigger another assault. The main character, Lucy, that we follow in this novel is one such woman. She has a good career, she has good friends and yet her husband is beating her. It’s not just the physical violence, it’s the psychological abuse – the being watched, the lack of freedom and autonomy, that Patrick has done to Lucy. I very much appreciated the way this was shown because this is how it often is in real life. A person is trapped in the situation slowly and then it seems there is no way out. It’s not as easy as just leaving, it’s incredibly complex and difficult. Noelle Holten shows this so astutely.

Dead Inside is the first book in the DCI Maggie Jameson police procedural series and I already can’t wait for the next one. I found it interesting how Maggie isn’t the central focus of Dead Inside, although she is a prominent character, so there is still so much to learn about her in future books. I also liked that followed all sides of a story, it made for such an interesting novel.

This book kept me guessing all the way to the end. The reveal of the killer was a surprise to me, but it did all make sense. It’s not often that I don’t work out whodunnit so kudos to this book for keeping me on my toes!

This is a really gripping, fast-paced book that will keep you turning the pages long into the night. There is a real sensitivity to the story but at the same time Noelle never shies away from the reality of domestic abuse. It’s a really accomplished debut and I’m so looking forward to reading more by Noelle Holten!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Dead Inside is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and a regular reviewer on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. Noelle worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of cases including those involving serious domestic abuse. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, author-stalking and sharing the booklove via her blog.
Dead Inside is her debut novel with Killer Reads/Harper Collins UK and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

 

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#DeadInside B L O G T O U R

#BookReview: The Blue Bench by Paul Marriner | @marriner_p @annecater @audibleuk #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Margate 1920. The Great War is over but Britain mourns and its spirit is not yet mended.

Edward and William have returned from the front as changed men. Together they have survived grotesque horrors and remain haunted by memories of comrades who did not come home. The summer season in Margate is a chance for them to rebuild their lives and reconcile the past.

Evelyn and Catherine are young women ready to live life to the full. Their independence has been hard won and, with little knowledge of the cost of their freedom, they are ready to face new challenges side by side.

Can they define their own future and open their hearts to the prospect of finding love? Will the summer of 1920 be a turning point for these new friends? As the body of the Unknown Warrior is returned, can the nation find a way forward?

 

My Thoughts

The Blue Bench is a novel following four characters in the aftermath of the first world war. Edward and William have returned from the front but they are forever changed by what they have been through. Catherine and Evelyn are two young women keen to get on with their lives. The book is about their journeys as they each try to look to the future. The novel is predominantly told from the perspectives of Edward and Evelyn but all four of these characters feature all the way through.

The Blue Bench opens with a visit to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which for the people concerned is an annual pilgrimage. The book then goes back in time to 1920 when we meet Edward, William, Catherine and Evelyn. It is such a beautiful and moving novel. It is a melancholy book but there are moments of lightness to balance the dark. It’s a meandering story that follows these four characters as they each try to build a life for themselves in the new world they find themselves in post war.

Edward was the character I was most fascinated by. He has suffered an horrendous facial injury in the war and has to wear an uncomfortable tin mask. He suffers great pain and requires more and more painkillers to get any kind of relief and this leads to him procuring these medications by whatever means necessary. I felt such sympathy for him as he struggles. I have no idea what it is to go to war but I do know what it’s like to have an obvious disability and to suffer with chronic pain, Paul Marriner captures this so well. Edward is a wonderful pianist, he enjoys playing piano and it seems to take him out of his real life for a while. People really enjoy his playing but it still is shocking to some of his audiences when they see his face; it’s as if the beauty of his playing is somehow cancelled out for people by the injury to his face. There is always something of a distance around Edward, even when his closest friend William is with him, it’s as if he can no longer allow himself to fully engage with people and life. I could feel his loneliness even when he was with people. I was rooting for him all the way through the novel and was hoping that he would beat the odds and find some happiness and calm in his life.

William is different to Edward, he’s more outgoing and a bit of a ladies’ man but he does have a caring side to him. He looks out for Edward, and tries to keep his mood buoyed up. Catherine and Evelyn are great characters too. I loved their friendship and the way they supported and encouraged each other. It’s so wonderful to find a novel where there are female characters who have each other’s backs, I really enjoyed reading about their growing friendship and seeing where life took them.

I very much appreciated how real events and people were interwoven into this novel, particularly the way the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier came to be. I found these parts of the novel incredibly moving. I knew about the unknown soldier but to see the story of this brought to life in this story gave me goosebumps. It’s a real gift to write a work of fiction but to bring in real elements of history and make you feel as if you were there, to give you a new understanding of just how much something mattered.

I listened to The Blue Bench on audio book and the narrater, Colleen MacMahon, is wonderful. The pacing of the book was just right and she struck the right tone for the nature of the novel. She really made this book a joy to listen to and I will definitely be looking out for more audio books narrated by her. The audio is nineteen and a half hours long but it was one of those books that I was loving so much that I just didn’t want it to end.

I felt really quite bereft on finishing this novel. I loved every minute that I spent listening to it and I miss the characters. I still find myself wondering about them, they became so real to me. The Blue Bench is an incredible novel and one I won’t forget. It is a melancholy read, there is pain and sadness running through it but there is also fun and laughter and love – the novel may be set just after the Great War but the themes are universal and timeless in many respects. It’s a true reflection on how life is and I adored it beyond words. This will be one of those rare books that I will re-read in the future because I loved it so very much. I recommend this to everyone, it really is a stunning novel!

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

The Blue Bench is out now in audio book and available here. It is also

 

About the Author

Paul Marriner Author picture

Paul grew up in a west London suburb and now lives in Berkshire with his wife and two children. He is passionate about music, sport and, most of all, writing, on which he now concentrates full-time. Paul has written four novels and his primary literary ambition is that you enjoy reading them while he is hard at work on the next one (but still finding time to play drums with Redlands and Rags 2 Riches).

 

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#BookReview: Not Having It All by Jennie Ensor | @Jennie_Ensor @BombshellPub

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About the Book

Neuroscientist Bea Hudson fears she is a bad mother and that her career will be thwarted by family life. When her husband suspects Bea of having an affair with her best friend, a chain of events is triggered, leading to a crisis in Bea’s life.

Bea Hudson, a neuropsychologist living in Godalming, is struggling to cope with the challenging behaviour of her obsessive husband Kurt and their disruptive four-year-old daughter Fran. On top of this, her boss is pressuring her to get results from her research. Bea has her work cut out.

Things come to a head when Kurt goes away on an extended business assignment. While sacking staff and drinking heavily, Kurt’s insecurities run amok and he becomes convinced that Bea’s close friend Madeleine is seducing his wife and unduly influencing his daughter.

Meanwhile, childless artist Madeleine sees her friend torn between the demands of work and offers to help with Fran. But when she reveals a startling desire to her unsympathetic therapist Mr Rowley, he advises her to focus on the attention of Colin, a man she met in a lift.

Can Bea survive the demands of her career and the turmoil in her marriage without having a breakdown? Can Madeleine survive Kurt’s anger and find happiness with Colin? And can love survive marriage, middle-age, alcohol and ambition?

 

My Thoughts

Not Having it All is a novel predominantly about Bea. We follow her as she tries to keep some semblance of order in her hectic life. She has a big research project on at work, an absent husband and a demanding daughter. The pressure is building from all sides and Bea is increasingly fraught.

I love the title of this book, particularly the way it’s used on the front cover. The ‘Having it All’ and with the ‘Not’ slapped in front of it because this sums up the novel so perfectly. On face value most of the characters in this book, from an outsider’s point of view looking in, do have it all. Great careers, lovely homes etc but the grass always seems greener. Bea is a very successful neuropsychologist but the demands of her research, her young daughter and her husband, not to mention the nanny, are leaving her frazzled. She’s not got enough hours in the day. She looks at her best friend Maddie and sees a single, indendant woman with no children or commitments and she can’t help but be wistful. But we also get to see Maddie’s life and she’s not happy either. She longs for a child, a family of her own and wishes she had a lot of what Bea has. This takes a darkly comedic turn when Maddie starts seeing a Freudian therapist!

Then there’s Bea’s husband Kurt. He has to work away a lot and this leads to him becoming fixated on how much time Bea either has alone or with Maddie. He wonders if an affair could be happening. He takes desperate measures to try and find out. This all went way too far and I wanted to slap him but there was also something very amusing about where his obsession led him, like him involving his nosey neighbour in his plotting.

Bea and Kurt’s nanny, Katie, is a funny character. The scene with the dog in the park made me laugh out loud, I could picture it so vividly. She’s quite a demanding nanny but she also has to put up with a lot as the daughter Fran, aka Little Fiend, comes across as a brat. As a reader I felt sorry for Fran because of how the adults around her behaved and it obviously affects her. The nanny doesn’t have the all-seeing eye that the reader has though so I felt bad for her too as she deals with all the fall-out.

Not Having It All is predominantly told through journal entries, emails, letters and text messages, which really adds depth to the book, and to the characters. We get to find out their innermost thoughts and frustrations, which I loved. It keeps the novel moving at such a pace that you just don’t want to put it down!

I very much enjoyed this novel and I felt like I knew all of the characters really well as they’re all so fully rounded and well written. I keep wondering how Bea and Maddie are getting on! Not Having It All really does show that the grass isn’t always greener, and that asking for help or putting a bit more effort into what you already have might just bring you the happiness and calm you crave. This is a light-hearted read but also a book that made me think, and I loved every minute that I spent reading it.

Not Having It All is witty and fun, and makes you appreciate the life you have all the more! I recommend it!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Not Having It All is out now and available here.

 

I’ve previously reviewed Jennie Ensor’s The Girl in his Eyes.

 

About the Author

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Jennie Ensor lives in London and has Irish roots. During a long trip overseas she obtained a Masters in Journalism and began her writing career as a journalist, covering topics from forced marriages to accidents in the mining industry. Her debut novel BLIND SIDE was published by Unbound in 2016. In January 2018 her short story ‘The Gift’ was placed in the Top 40 of the Words and Women national prose competition. Her poetry has appeared in many UK and overseas publications, most recently Ink Sweat and Tears. She sings in a chamber choir.

 

 

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#BookReview: Because of You by Helene Fermont | @HeleneFermont @BOTBSPublicity #BecauseOfYou

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About the Book

When Hannah and Ben meet at a friend’s party, he knows she’s The One. But Hannah’s in an intense relationship with Mark and planning to return to her native Sweden to embark on a teaching career.

Desperate to make Ben fall in love with her, rich spoilt heiress Vanessa sets in motion a devious string of events that ultimately changes the course of four people’s lives indefinitely.

Hannah is the love of Ben’s life, yet Vanessa will stop at nothing to claim the man she is convinced is her destiny.

 

My Thoughts

Because of You spans 36 years of Hannah Stein’s life – from being a teenager on a gap year in London through until her middle years. It was wonderful to read a book with a long timeline, it was refreshing to get to stay with these characters and see how their lives changed over the years.

I very much enjoyed reading about the older members of Hannah’s family – particularly her grandmother Zipporah, and the older lady, Ella, that Hannah stays with when she first moves to London. I loved how they guided Hannah through her early adulthood and tried to keep her secure without crowding her. I loved Hannah’s relationship with her parents and brother too, it was nice to read about such close bonds within a family and to explore how roles change as everyone gets older. I don’t think this is often covered in novels as the usual short time span doesn’t allow for seeing how everyone ages and changes so it was refreshing and enjoyable to follow all the characters lives in this book. It was moving to see Hannah’s parents age to read about how that then changed the relationship – it comes to us all in life but it’s not often in  contemporary fiction that we get to see people go from still quite young and full of vitality through to old age and all that comes with it. Seeing Hannah become the age her parents must have been at the start of the novel brings it all around full circle.

There is a darker side to this novel – mainly from Hannah’s boyfriend Mark when she first arrived in London and after a while we see that he’s becoming quite controlling and then obsessed with her. Later in the novel Hannah suffers at the hands of an obsessive colleague who won’t take no for an answer. Because of You doesn’t shy away from difficult topics and, although at times the storylines were hard to read, it was actually good to see these issues covered in contemporary fiction because these things do happen to people in real life.

Because of You is a great mix of contemporary fiction and noir. I’d recommend this novel to anyone who loves long novels that are cross genre. I’ll certainly be looking out for more books by Helene Fermont in the future, I can’t wait to read whatever she writes next!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Because of You is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Born into a bilingual family (Swedish/ English) Hélene Fermont enjoyed an idylic childhood on the outskirts of Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city and major cultural hub. Growing up in the 1970s she had a brief musical career on Swedish TV and radio. Hélene lived in London for over 20 years but has recently returned to Sweden. Hélene is a former teacher, a practising psychologist, and currently the author of three novels, all of which are psychological suspense with a nordic noir flavour. Her fourth novel is coming soon!

You can find Helene Fermont at the following sites:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/helenefermontauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/helenefermont

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/helenefermont/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/helenefermontwriter/

 

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BLOG TOUR (2)

#BookReview: Worst Case Scenario by Helen Fitzgerald | @FitzHelen @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #WorstCaseScenario

Worst Case Scenario Cover

About the Book

Mary Shields is a moody, acerbic probation offer, dealing with some of Glasgow’s worst cases, and her job is on the line.
Liam Macdowall was imprisoned for murdering his wife, and he’s published a series of letters to the dead woman, in a book that makes him an unlikely hero – and a poster boy for Men’s Rights activists.

Liam is released on licence into Mary’s care, but things are far from simple. Mary develops a poisonous obsession with Liam and his world, and when her son and Liam’s daughter form a relationship, Mary will stop at nothing to impose her own brand of justice … with devastating consequences.

 

My Thoughts

Mary is a probation officer and she works hard but she’s fed up and moody at dealing with all she has to put up with. Liam is a man who was put in prison for the murder of his wife but he’s about to be released and Mary is to be his probation officer. Liam becomes something of a fascination for Mary and this leads to trouble!

I’m going to start this review at the beginning… the opening line to Worst Case Scenario is this:

Every time Mary tried to relax in the bath, a paedophile ruined it.

and I was hooked from this very moment on! How can you not be intrigued? And how can you not want to know more? It’s one of the best openings to a book that I’ve ever read and I just knew this was going to be a riot of a novel!

I love Mary Shields! She’s moody and annoyed and she’s dealing with the menopause and all that comes with that; her patience is at rock bottom and on top of that she barely even cares that it’s so! I’m at the very beginning of this menopause journey but I could so identify with Mary and the short fuse that she seemed to be permanently on. I know that I care less and less what people think these days and Mary is that to the Nth degree!

Worst Case Scenario is a dark book but it’s also hilariously funny. One minute I was horrified at what I was reading and the next I was properly laughing out loud. Helen Fitzgerald really captures how hard I imagine it must be working in the probation service when people are expected to take on more and more work but do it in less and less time whilst making sure that no one is re-offending. We see the seriousness of this and it’s never belittled but Mary goes down a dark path in her growing obsession with Liam and this is where the dark humour comes in!

Mary finds herself growing attracted to Liam as she reads sections of his book of letters but at the same time she’s infuriated at him, and the other men she is dealing with at work, and their inability to just do what is asked of them. She just wants to quit her job and be done with it. Her husband is an artist and has been discovered so it seems that she may be able to afford to give it all up soon. This leads to her caring even less about what people think of her professionally. Mary’s life increasingly spirals as the novel goes on. She drinks more and smokes more joints, she’s careless with her webcam and she just isn’t bothered.

I loved Worst Case Scenario! It’s so different to what I was expecting but it’s the most brilliant, messed up and hilarious book I’ve read in ages. It’s such a perfect book, it’s very funny but also moving at times. It does take things to another level in some ways but in others it’s a book that you can identify with or you find you know someone a bit like a person in the book. It’s unsettling and uncomfortable (rather like the menopause!) but it really will really make you laugh out loud too. It’s impossible to do this book justice, I simply adored it! Please just go buy a copy and read it, you absolutely won’t regret it!

Many thanks to Orenda for my copy of this book, and Anne for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

Worst Case Scenario is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Helen FitzGerald is one of thirteen children and grew up in country Victoria. After graduating with honours in English and History she left Australia to go travelling, meeting and marrying Scots-Italian journalist, Sergio Casci, along the way. They live in Glasgow and have two children.

 

 

 

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#BookReview: 10 Things to do Before You leave School by Bernard O’Keeffe | @BernardOKeeffe1 @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Ruby has had a difficult year to say the least. Just before she started Sixth Form, her father died from a heart attack. In the difficult months that followed Ruby became so depressed that she attempted suicide. She missed a lot of school, but now she’s about to go back and she’s worried. Is she well enough to get through her final year? Will the depression return? Should she apply to university? The night before term begins, Ruby finds something that makes the prospect even more daunting: an envelope addressed to her in her father’s handwriting. Inside is a list: ‘Ten Things I Hope You Do Before You Leave School’. It makes no sense. She can’t understand why he’d want her to do these things, let alone whether she’ll be able to do them.As Ruby navigates her way through UCAS, parties, boyfriends and A-Levels, she decides to give the list her best shot, but her efforts lead her into strange situations and to surprising discoveries. Will Ruby survive her last year at school? Can she do the ten things on The List? Will doing them make any difference?

 

My Thoughts

10 Things To Do Before You Leave School is the story of Ruby. She has had a really awful year – her dad died suddenly, which led to her becoming increasingly depressed and she attempted suicide. The novel opens with her making her return to school and we see all the anxiety that goes with that. Right before she goes back to school she finds an envelope with her name on and it’s written in her dad’s handwriting. Inside is a note of ten things he hopes she’ll do before she leaves school.

This is such an incredible novel and one I’m so glad that I read. Ruby is such a believable, real character and I could feel her pain throughout this book. She carries so much guilt about her father’s death and she’s still grieving his loss. Then she’s dealing with her recovery from depression and trying to come to terms with her suicide attempt. Not to mention all the normal teenage stuff that all teens deal with – boyfriends, school and exam pressures,  wanting to fit in. She has such a great attitude considering all she’s been through, or perhaps even because of it, and I was rooting for her to find her way through it all. It’s many years since I was Ruby’s age but I can remember what it felt like to be a teenager. I also had a very hard time during my A-Levels and really empathised with Ruby as a result.

I still haven’t got that study habit back, that feeling that I’m reading properly and that everything’s going in the way it used to. Maybe it’s the drugs. Or maybe (and this is a more frightening thought) what’s happened has changed me for good and I’ll never be the same again.

I know the pain of losing a parent, albeit I was in my 20s when my mum died. It changes you in so many ways to lose someone who you believed would somehow always be there. Facing life knowing your parent won’t be there makes everything different and Bernard O’Keeffe really captures the sense of loss.

I loved the relationship that Ruby has with her younger brother. They are typical siblings who argue and wind each other up but they also absolutely have each other’s backs. They are there for each other when they need to be and I adored that.

I found it interesting that we don’t get to see what’s on the list Ruby finds right away. We see her thinking about it and wondering how on earth she’s going to ever be able to do all of these things. We then see her going about her life and at certain points in the novel we see one of the things on the list as she ticks it off. At first I was frustrated because I wanted to know what was on it but actually I really appreciated seeing Ruby achieve each item and to have the satisfaction along with her that she’d accomplished something. I did wonder if the list would come to be something else that added pressure to her when she’s already quite fragile but it really does help her. It made me wish I’d had a list when I was her age and that something outside of myself had propelled me to the things that scared me, or that I didn’t have the confidence to do. I won’t spoil what’s on the list or whether Ruby manages to complete it but there are difficulties along the way, which made this book all the more real for me.

I recommend this book to everyone but particularly to teenagers – it’s a book that I wish I could have read when I was that age. It’s raw and honest and moving but it also gives you hope. I loved it!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

10 Things to do Before You leave School is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Bernard O Keeffe Author Picture

After graduating from Oxford, Bernard O’Keeffe worked in advertising before training as a teacher. He taught for many years, first in a North London comprehensive, then at Radley College, where he was Head of English, and most recently at St Paul’s School in London, where he was Head of Sixth Form.

He has reviewed fiction for Literary Review and The Oxford Times and, as an editor of The English Review, has written over a hundred articles for A Level students on subjects ranging from Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle to Jane Austen and Shakespeare. In 2013 he published his first novel, ‘No Regrets’.

 

Website: http://www.bernardokeeffe.com/

Twitter : @BernardOKeeffe1

 

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