#BookReview: While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft

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About the Book

You wake up to find the man beside you is dead.
He is not your husband. This is not your bed.
What do you do?

Tara Logan lives a quiet life with her husband, Noah, and two children, teenager Rosie and eleven-year-old Spencer.

But her peace is shattered when she wakes in her neighbour Lee’s bed, with no memory of how she got there or what happened between them.
And worse – he has been stabbed to death.

Convinced she didn’t kill Lee, Tara stays silent, fearing the truth will rip her family apart.

But as her daughter spirals out of control, and her husband becomes increasingly distant, Tara soon realises that someone in her life knows what really happened to Lee. She must get to the truth before they do.

Tara made a mistake … but will one night cost her everything?

A gripping, shocking psychological thriller, with a twist that will take you by surprise.

My Thoughts

I was intrigued by this book as soon as I saw the synopsis – the idea of waking up not knowing who is next to you and then finding that that person is dead is terrifying and such a great premise for a thriller.

I was immediately drawn into Tara’s story wanting to know why she was in Lee’s bed and whether she had anything to do with his death. The theme running through this book is secrets and lies and the damage they can do always makes for a thrilling read, and I was keen to find out what was going on under the surface of these characters’ lives.

I did find the plot quite far-fetched as it went on but once you realise that and are prepared to suspend your disbelief then this continues to be an enjoyable, intriguing read. It was one of those books that was an escape from my own life and I enjoyed it for that, it’s always nice to be taken out of reality whilst reading a book and this certainly did that for me.

This is a fast-paced read – I read it in just one or two sittings. It’s a gripping novel that really holds your attention all the way through.

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

While You Were Sleeping is out now and available from Book Depository or Amazon

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#BookReview: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough #WtfThatEnding

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About the Book

Only two can keep a secret if one of them is dead.

It’s said that the only people who really know what goes on in a marriage are the couple themselves. But what if even they don’t know the truth?

David and Adele seem like the ideal pair. He’s a successful psychiatrist, she is his picture-perfect wife who adores him. But why is he so controlling? And why is she keeping things hidden?

Louise, David’s new secretary, is intrigued. But as Louise gets closer to each of them, instead of finding answers she uncovers more puzzling questions. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise could never have guessed how wrong things really are and just how far someone might go to hide it.

My Thoughts

I finished reading this book at 2am – I was so tired but I simply couldn’t stop reading! This book is genuinely the most compulsive, twisty and thrilling book I’ve read in a long time!

I requested Behind Her Eyes because I’m a big Sarah Pinborough fan but also because I kept seeing the hashtag #WTFthatending and I was intrigued. I read a lot of psychological thrillers and so often can see the ending coming so this book felt like a bit of a challenge – would I be able to figure it out? The answer is a resounding no! As I was reading I would feel like I was on the cusp of seeing what was coming but then I would be proved wrong every single time. I then got so caught up in the story as I was reading and as it was happening that eventually I wasn’t even trying to figure it out, I just wanted to know how the whole mess of these three peoples lives was going to end!

This book starts off with David and Louise having met in a bar, and then the next day at work it turns out that not only is he her new boss, he’s also married. Louise can’t help but be intrigued by David, and in turn by his wife Adele when they bump into each other in the street one day. Then so begins a novel where the three parties lives become more and more intwined, and more and more twisted, and eventually you are so engrossed in the novel that you have no idea what will happen next.

I have to mention that the title of this book is so completely and utterly perfect, there is a line in the book that brought that home to me and then when I reached the climax of the novel I had a wry smile to myself. Perfect, perfect, perfect!

This novel endlessly shocked me, and I loved that! It’s rare to find a novel that is genuinely dark and twisty and messed up but this is that novel! I will be recommending this book to everyone… along with the warning that you may never sleep again once you’ve read it! My heart was racing so fast when I got to the end that I couldn’t fall asleep for ages but that shows what a brilliant and unique thriller this was.

Behind Her Eyes is due to be published on 26 January 2017 in the UK and can be pre-ordered now!

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My Reading Bingo Results for 2016!

I couldn’t resist joining in with reading bingo as it’s a great opportunity to look back at some of the books I read in 2016. (I did have this post almost written up to post at the end of 2016 but then pesky health stuff got in the way. I didn’t want my efforts to go to waste though so I hope no one minds me discussing my 2016 reads a week into 2017!)

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A book with more than 500 pages

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John Lennon: The Life by Philip Norman

I really enjoyed reading this biography, it was such an in-depth look at Lennon’s life and I even learnt some things that I hadn’t known about him before. This book has 851 pages and was the longest book I read in 2016 so definitely fits this square!

A forgotten classic

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The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum

I’ll be honest, I’d never heard of this book before 2016 but as soon as I knew about it I had to read it. It’s such a gorgeous book and quite possibly one that will go on my Christmas must-read list every year.

A book that became a movie

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Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs

I can’t believe that I’d passed this book by until 2016! I was so wrong to not bother with graphic novels because it meant I missed out on novels like this one. It’s a gorgeous read and has opened my eyes to a whole new genre of books that I’m now very much enjoying. Ethel and Ernest was made into a film in late 2016 and was on TV over Christmas.

A book published this year

The Butcher's Hook by Janet Ellis

The Butcher’s Hook by Janet Ellis

I read quite a lot of novels that were published in 2016 during the year but I wanted to mention this one as I very much enjoyed reading it and often find it swirling around in my head. I’m eagerly anticipating whatever Janet Ellis writes next. I reviewed this book, and interviewed Janet Ellis, which you can read here: The Butcher’s Hook

A book with a number in the title

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Eleven Hours by Pamela Erens

I read a few books with a number in the title but chose this one because it’s a novel that has stayed with me. This is a book about a woman in labour and is a really interesting read. Whilst in the midst of giving birth she reflects on events in her life that led to where she is now, and this adds to the intensity of the novel. I’m not sure how I first heard about this book but it was one I really enjoyed reading and I would recommend it.

A book written by someone under 30

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Where Am I Now? by Mara Wilson

Mara Wilson is 29 so this fits for this category. I bought this book very soon after it came out as I was such a fan of Mara Wilson when she was an actress. I adored her in Miracle on 34th Street, Mrs Doubtfire and Matilda, so was intrigued to find out what she’s doing now but also to read her insights into what it had been like to be a child star. It’s an interesting read.

A book with non-human characters

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Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien

I really enjoyed reading this over Christmas. It obviously does have some human characters but there are a lot of references to a bear and goblins amongst other creatures. It’s a lovely book to read over the festive period and I’d recommend it.

A funny book

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Bossypants by Tina Fey

I listened to this on audio book and as it’s narrated by Tina Fey herself it really added to the reading experience. I didn’t know much about her before but some of her stories are very amusing.

A book by a female author

Look At Me by Sarah Duguid

Look At Me by Sarah Duguid

I read quite a lot of books by female authors in 2016 but this one deserves to be mentioned again so that’s why I chose it. This is such a brilliant novel and it so nearly made me top ten books of 2016. It’s a look at families and relationships between siblings following the death of their mother. It’s a quirky book but has such depth to it. I reviewed this one when I read it so you can read that here: Look At Me

A book with a mystery

The Sister by Louise Jensen

The Sister by Louise Jensen

The Sister is the debut novel by Louise Jensen and it’s such a good read. It kept me guessing as to what had happened and I really enjoyed reading it. You can read my review here: The Sister

A book with a one-word title

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One by Sarah Crossan

I put off reading this book for ages and I don’t know why because it’s a brilliant read. It’s a novel written in verse about conjoined twins. There is so much packed into this short novel and it’s one that has really stayed with me.

A book of short stories

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Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

This book was a Christmas present in 2016 so was one of my final reads of the year and I very much enjoyed it. I have to be honest and say that I was expecting there to be more festive stories in the collection, but, that aside, it was a really good read. I read a few stories every day between Christmas and New Year and it felt like a little treat. I’m definitely going to make an attempt to read more Stella Gibbons in 2017. It’s also made me want to read more short story collections so I’m making that another aim for 2017.

Free square

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The Second Love of My Life by Victoria Walters

Obviously I could have picked anything for this square but I wanted to show this novel some more love! I really enjoyed this novel, it had a great story and had moments of lightness and moments that really got to me. I’m looking forward to reading whatever Victoria Walters writes next. You can read my review here: The Second Love of My Life

A book set on a different continent

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

This is an American novel (and I live in the UK) so it counts towards this square. I really enjoyed this twisty novel, it kept me guessing for most of the way through – every time I thought I had it all figured out there would be another twist. You can read my review here: The Couple Next Door

A book of non-fiction

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Mindfulness for Health by Vidyamala Burch

I read a lot of non-fiction in 2016 but wanted to pick a book for this square that meant a lot to me even though I haven’t written about it on my blog before. This book was recommended to me as part of my physio programme and it’s been such a useful read for me. I would recommend this book to anyone who suffers with chronic pain, or long-term illness, it’s really helped me to feel like I have a bit more control over my condition. It doesn’t make the pain go away but it does help you to learn how to put it in the background a bit so that it stops feeling completely overwhelming.

The first book by a favourite author

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Sweet Home by Carys Bray

I adore Carys Bray’s writing. I first read A Song for Issy Bradley when it came out and I loved it, and in 2016 I read her second novel The Museum of You and then soon after read Sweet Home, a short story collection, that was actually the first book that she had published. I highly recommend all three books, Carys Bray is a brilliant writer.

A book you heard about online

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Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin

I first heard about Ghostbird on social media and knew I simply had to read it as soon as I possibly could. This is why I love blogging so much – it’s led to me discovering even more wonderful books, and authors, that I may had missed otherwise. Ghostbird was my book of 2016, it is an incredibly debut novel. You can read my review here: Ghostbird

A best-selling book

The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss

The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss

This book is incredible and I urge all of you to go read it as soon as you can if you haven’t already.

A book based on a true story

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Acts of Violence by David Ryan Jahn

This is one of the books that I read as I was coming out of my horrendous reading slump in the summer of 2016 and it really captured my attention. I was fascinated with the idea that numerous people in an apartment complex could hear a woman screaming in terror and yet do nothing to help her. On finishing reading it I discovered that it was based on a true story and I was stunned that people really had literally turned their backs as this young woman was fighting for her life right outside their windows. It’s a harrowing read but one I’d recommend.

A book at the bottom of your TBR pile

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Travelling to Infinity by Jane Hawking

This is the book that has been on my TBR longest our of all the books I read in 2016. I don’t know why I didn’t read it before because I really enjoyed it once I got into it.

A book your friend loves

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

I bought this book as one of my mum-in-law’s birthday presents last year and she loved it. I already owned a copy but hadn’t read it at that point but after she told me how much she’d enjoyed it I made it my next read and loved it too. You can read my review here: Daisy in Chains

A book that scares you

The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne

The Ice Twins by SK Tremayne

I put off reading this book for so long because I was so scared of the premise. There is something about thrillers that have twins in them that adds to the fear factor for me (possibly a legacy of watching The Shining years ago). Anyway, I finally decided to give it a go and I just couldn’t put this down, it had my engrossed from the very first chapter. It did give me the creeps on more than one occasion, and I ended up reading the end once my husband was home as I didn’t want to read it when I was on my own (I’m a total wimp!) but I loved it. It’s such a great story. You can read my review here: The Ice Twins

A book that is more than ten years old

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Restless by William Boyd

I’ve had this book for ages but finally got around to reading to it in 2016 and I really enjoyed it. It’s made me want to read more of William Boyd in the future.

The second book in a series

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Edward Adrift by Craig Lancaster

I read the first book in this series in 2016 as well and I quite enjoyed them both. The first book left me wanting to know more so I ended up reading the second one quite soon after. They’re been on my TBR a while and I’m not sure why I hadn’t read them before as they’re really enjoyable reads.

A book with a blue cover

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The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

I actually read quite a few books with blue covers in 2016 but this was the one that came to mind when I saw this square on the bingo sheet. It’s a brilliant read about what happened on the Californian the night the titanic sunk to stop it coming to the aid of the stricken ship. It was one of those books that I couldn’t put down and I’d definitely recommend it. You can read my review here: The Midnight Watch


I successfully completely all the squares in reading bingo for 2016 so am very happy at that! Have you had a go at reading bingo 2016? I’d love to read your posts if you have, please feel free to leave links below.

My Top Ten Non-Fiction Reads 2016

 

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Yesterday I posted my Top Ten fiction reads of 2016 (which you can read here if you missed it) and today I’m sharing my Top Ten Non-Fiction reads. I’ve always enjoyed reading non-fiction but I tend to lean more towards fiction so this year I’ve made a real effort to read more non-fiction. Out of the 211 books I read in 2016, 67 were non-fiction. I’ve read quite a wide variety of books and these are the ten that have stayed with me.

A Mother's Reckoning- Living in the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy by Sue Klebold

A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

This book is an honest memoir by the mother of Dylan Klebold, one of the Columbine shooters. She writes this book in a very open way, it felt like she held nothing back. It really showed the pain she feels at what her son did, but also the pain she feels at not realising what was going on his life leading up to the shooting. She is also a mother grieving the loss of her son, she raised him and has happy memories from when he was younger and you can feel the conflict and confusion and sheer pain radiate from the page. It’s one of the most honest memoirs I’ve ever read, it really felt like a no-holds-barred read and deserves all of the praise it has received.

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Another Day in the Death of America by Gary Younge

This is a very involving, very moving and shocking account of the deaths of young people in America in the course of one day. All the young people were killed in shootings – some were innocent bystanders, some were caught up in gangs. The bigger picture is examined to a degree as to how and why this is happening. I found this to be a difficult read but it’s an important one and I would highly recommend it.

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In Plain Sight by Dan Davies

This is an examination of the life and the despicable crimes committed by Jimmy Savile. It’s a long and detailed read that looks at what Jimmy Savile did and how he got away with it. It’s not an easy read in terms of subject matter but it’s well-written and really gives an insight into how and why people collude in such terrible crimes.

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Unbecoming by Una

This is a graphic non-fiction book, one of the first I’ve ever read and I found it incredibly moving. It’s one woman’s story of her rape as a young teenager, whilst she was living in Yorkshire at the time the Yorkshire Ripper was still on the loose. The way she tells her story really got to me and there were times I had to take a break from reading before I could carry on. It’s such an important story and one of the best I’ve ever read on the subject of rape and abuse.

 

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Death at Seaworld by David Kirby

I feel very passionately that killer whales should not be kept in captivity anyway but this book opened my eyes to the level of mistreatment that these beautiful creatures are put through purely for the public’s entertainment. I’ve been to Seaworld, when I was a teenager, and it shocked me to see how tiny the pools were that the whales are kept in. Later on the same holiday I was lucky enough to go on a whale watching boat trip to see killer whales in the wild and it was shocking to see the difference between the captive whales and the wild ones. David Kirby’s book looks at these differences and explores what could be done with the captive whales in order to give them a better life given that they probably can’t be put back into the wild.

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On Bowie by Rob Sheffield

This book was a joy to read. It’s not an in-depth biography and it doesn’t pretend to be – it’s basically a love letter to David Bowie from a fan, and reading it as a fan myself it was wonderful. It’s quite a short book, and it didn’t contain anything that I didn’t already know about David Bowie, or his music, but reading it in the aftermath of his death just felt like solace. It’s a moving and heartfelt book that I would highly recommend this book to all Bowie fans.

 

1971 - Never A Dull Moment- Rock's Golden Year by David Hepworth

1971: Never A Dull Moment by David Hepworth

My husband isn’t much of a reader – he collects records like I collect books – so when his mum bought him a copy of this for his birthday last year it was one that we both wanted to read. We ended up getting another copy of it on audible and we listened to it together. It was a lovely way to share the experience of reading a book. The book is set out with one chapter for each month of 1971 and whilst he does widen the narrative beyond each month, he always brings it back to the point nicely. At the end of each chapter is Hepworth’s song picks from that month so my husband made a playlist of all of the songs and it was fun to listen to after we’d finished the book.

 

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Spectacles by Sue Perkins

This was one of my Christmas presents in 2015 and I’d been so looking forward to reading it at the time but got sidetracked with review books. When I finally did pick it up after my reading slump in the summer I found that I couldn’t put it down. It’s a wonderful book and  I think it’s one I may re-read in the future.

 

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Breaking the Silence by Jo Milne

This was a review book that I read a few weeks ago but have somehow forgotten to ever post my review so I will share a full review this month at some point. This is the story of Jo Milne was was deaf her whole life and then began to go blind. It was at this point that she was offered surgery to attempt to give her hearing. The story of Jo’s life up to the point she had the surgery was fascinating, it’s a real insight into what it must be like to be deaf. The story post-surgery had me in tears on more than one occasion. It’s a great read and I highly recommend it.

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Rise by Sian Williams

I was drawn to this book because I’d seen interviews with Sian on TV and was really interested to read her account of trauma. I’ve suffered with cPTSD in the past and whilst I consider myself to be recovered now, I do still have to be mindful of my triggers and probably will always be hyper-alert to certain things. It doesn’t affect my life anymore though. This book was so much more than I thought it would be. It’s a really honest account of what happened to her, but it’s also a very accessible look at various treatments and the different ways trauma affects people. It looks at why some people go on to be diagnosed with PTSD and others don’t. I highlighted so many parts of this book and am sure I’ll re-read it in the future. it’s a really interesting read and I’d definitely recommend it.


 

So, that’s my Top Ten non-fiction reads of 2016! Did you read much non-fiction last year? What were your stand-out books? I’d love some more non-fiction recommendations as I definitely want to carry on reading more in 2017.

If you missed my Top Ten Fiction reads of 2016, you can read it here.

 

 

#BookReview: How To Be Brave by Louise Beech @LouiseWriter @OrendaBooks

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About the Book

All the stories died that morning … until we found the one we’d always known.

When nine-year-old Rose is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Natalie must use her imagination to keep her daughter alive. They begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar, a man who has something for them. Through the magic of storytelling, Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat, where an ancestor survived for fifty days before being rescued. Poignant, beautifully written and tenderly told, How To Be Brave weaves together the contemporary story of a mother battling to save her child’s life with an extraordinary true account of bravery and a fight for survival in the Second World War. A simply unforgettable debut that celebrates the power of words, the redemptive energy of a mother’s love … and what it really means to be brave.

My Thoughts

This book has been on my TBR for a little while now; it was one of those books that I strongly felt had to be read at the right moment for me. I was so right and I’m really glad that I waited until now to read it. As a lot of you know, I’m going through a lot of medical things and this book brought such a sense of solace to me.

This is such a beautiful novel that explores the relationship between mother and daughter, who are struggling to come to terms with the daughter Rose’s diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Rose’s father is deployed overseas and isn’t allowed to come home to support them so the two are left on this journey to come to terms with their new normal. An old journal of Natalie’s late Grandfather is found by Rose and this becomes the glue that holds the two together. Natalie promises to share her Grandfather’s story with Rose during the times when Rose is having her injections.

I hadn’t expected this novel to immerse me in the worlds of these characters quite so much. I felt the love and the fear and the angst in Natalie and Rose’s relationship. I felt such sadness at how detached they were becoming from each other whilst both still longing for the old connection before everything changed. I felt the pain Natalie was going through at having to keep her daughter well by putting her through the thumb pricks and injections, that Rose was constantly fighting against. It must be awful to know that you have to do it to keep your child alive but to not have any way to make a 9 year old comprehend that her life depends on this being done. I also felt for Rose – she is such a strong-willed girl, who loves books and learning; I was willing her on to find a way to cope with the diabetes.

Alongside this is the story of Natalie’s Grandfather – the writing is incredible because I really did feel like I was in that lifeboat with those men. I could smell the decay, I could feel the horrible dry skin and the swollen, dehydrated mouths as if it were me going through it. It’s inspired writing how his battle for survival mirrored Rose’s with the thirst and the longing for the things you can’t have, and mostly with the coming to terms with what life has thrown at you. The stories are woven together so beautifully, they occasionally intermingle in a magical, and yet somehow always believable, way.

This novel is stunningly beautiful, it’s devastatingly moving at times but will leave you feeling stronger and braver by the end. I recommend this book to everyone – it’s a must-read; it really is one of the best books I’ve read this year and it’s one that I want to re-read in the future.

How to be Brave is published by Orenda Books and is out now.

About the Author

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Louise has always been haunted by the sea, even before she knew the full story of her grandfather, the man who in part inspired novel How to be Brave. She lives with her husband and children on the outskirts of Hull – the UK’s 2017 City of Culture – where from her bedroom window she can almost see the waters of the River Humber, an estuary that inspired book, The Mountain in my Shoe.

She loves all forms of writing. Her short stories have won the Glass Woman Prize, the Eric Hoffer Award for Prose, and the Aesthetica Creative Works competition, as well as shortlisting twice for the Bridport Prize and being published in a variety of UK magazines. Her first play, Afloat, was performed at Hull Truck Theatre in 2012. She also wrote a ten-year newspaper column for the Hull Daily Mail about being a parent, garnering love/hate criticism, and a one year column called Wholly Matrimony about modern marriage.

Her debut novel, How to be Brave, was released in 2015 and got to No 4 in the Amazon UK Kindle chart, and was a Guardian Readers’ pick for 2015. This novel came from truth – when Louise’s daughter got Type 1 Diabetes she helped her cope by sharing her grandad’s real life sea survival story.

Her second novel, The Mountain in my Shoe, was released in 2016 and was inspired by her time with children in care. It explores what family truly means, and how far we will go for those we love. It longlisted for the Guardian Not The Booker Prize.

Maria in the Moon will be released in 2017.

(Bio taken from Louise Beech’s website)

#BookReview The Easy Way Out by Steven Amsterdam

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About the Book

Evan’s job is to help people die. 

Evan is a nurse – a suicide assistant. His job is legal – just. He’s the one at the hospital who hands out the last drink to those who ask for it.

Evan’s friends don’t know what he does during the day. His mother, Viv, doesn’t know what he’s up to at night. And his supervisor suspects there may be trouble ahead.

As he helps one patient after another die, Evan pushes against the limits of the law – and his own morality. And with Viv increasingly unwell, his love life complicated, to say the least, Evan begins to wonder who might be there for him, when the time comes.

From an award-winning author, The Easy Way Out is a brilliantly funny and exquisitely sad novel that gets to the heart of one of the most difficult questions each of us may face: would you help someone die?

My Thoughts

I was drawn to this book by the subject matter, assisted suicide is something that I feel very passionate about so the chance to read a novel about the very subject was one I couldn’t resist.

This novel is brilliant – to take such a serious subject and treat it as such and yet have such a delicious dark humour around it is incredible.

Evan’s private life was a perfect balance to his career too. His mother has a degenerative condition and during the course of the book has an experimental treatment which initially appears to be working. Evan is constantly worried that she will go into a terminal decline but his mother is fiercely independent and won’t even consider the possibility. Plus she knows with the job Evan does that he will be able to make sure she doesn’t suffer or lose her dignity; however this isn’t something that Evan can even begin to face up to.

Evan is also something of a commitment-phobe. He’s in a sort-of relationship with two men but whilst they show him nothing but love and adoration, he keeps something of a distance from him. His two lovers live together and are always happy for him to be there with them, but Evan uses his mother’s illness to keep aloof.

The assisted suicides in this book are so well written. There is the one that Evan messes up due to shaky hands and has to have help from his boss to complete, there is the one where he helps a patient out into the fresh air for his final moments even though it is against the rules. There are the patients who want to keep him at a distance, and the ones who want to know about him. Eventually Evan loses his job and is drawn into a group of people who are helping people die but it’s not legal, it’s not done through the hospital but is instead people who self-refer to the group and don’t have to have proof of terminal illness. Some are ill, some are lonely and just want life to be over but don’t want to die alone. Evan struggles with this and alongside his life ending up here his mother disappears off on her own without appearing to leave a note. This sends Evan into something of a crisis and leads to him re-evaluating his own life.

The dark humour runs throughout this book and it really is the glue that brings the novel together, the same way it holds life together in the most dire of circumstances. It’s quite remarkable the things that we can laugh about, things that really aren’t funny and yet in the moment it’s the darkness that makes us laugh.

I’d highly recommend this novel. It may not be something that everyone feels is to their taste but it’s such an important issue that we need to think more widely about and this novel does such a brilliant job of conveying life and death in a real way, with compassion and a lot of humour.

I received a copy of this novel from Quercus Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

steven-amsterdam

Steven Amsterdam is a writer living in Melbourne. He was born and raised by lifelong New Yorkers in Manhattan.

He wrote his first story about a hamster whose family was starving. A lilac bush in bloom saved everyone.

Steven Amsterdam has edited travel guides, designed book jackets, is a psychiatric nurse. Is a palliative care nurse.

#BookReview: No Virgin by Anne Cassidy

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About the Book

My name is Stacey Woods and I was raped.

Stacey is the victim of a terrible sexual attack. She does not feel able to go to the police, or talk about it to anybody other than her best friend, Patrice. Patrice, outraged, when she cannot persuade her to go to the police, encourages Stacey to write everything down. This is Stacey’s story.

My Thoughts

I have been keen to read this novel so was thrilled when I was approved on NetGalley. I should possibly preface this review by saying that I am much older then the YA audience this is aimed at but I have read other Anne Cassidy novels as an adult and enjoyed them.

No Virgin was a strange read for me. I found the opening paragraph of this novel to be incredibly powerful; it was shocking and disturbing and I immediately wanted to know exactly what had happened to this girl. Unfortunately though, I found that the balance of the story to be a little off for me from this point on. The opening chapter was set in the present day but then the rest of the first half of the novel is quite a long-winded telling of the back story leading up to the assault. For me, after such a large amount of filling in the back story leading up to the assault, the resolution of the novel at the end felt like it came from nowhere. I didn’t ever feel what Stacey was feeling, I sympathised with what had happened to her but I didn’t ever feel like I was in her head and I wanted to be. Perhaps it’s because I’m older than the target audience but, for me, this novel didn’t push the story far enough and didn’t really allow me to connect emotionally with the characters. I think this is perhaps a novel for older MG readers rather than a YA audience. I would still recommend it but it sadly just wasn’t for me.

I received a copy of this novel from HotKey Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#BookReview: Autumn by Ali Smith

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About the Book

A breathtakingly inventive new novel from the Man Booker-shortlisted and Baileys Prize-winning author of How to be both

Fusing Keatsian mists and mellow fruitfulness with the vitality, the immediacy and the colour-hit of Pop Art – via a bit of very contemporary skulduggery and skull-diggery – Autumn is a witty excavation of the present by the past. The novel is a stripped-branches take on popular culture, and a meditation, in a world growing ever more bordered and exclusive, on what richness and worth are, what harvest means.

Autumn is the first installment in Ali Smith’s novel quartet Seasonal: four standalone books, separate yet interconnected and cyclical (as the seasons are), exploring what time is, how we experience it, and the recurring markers in the shapes our lives take and in our ways with narrative.

From the imagination of the peerless Ali Smith comes a shape-shifting series, wide-ranging in timescale and light-footed through histories, and a story about ageing and time and love and stories themselves.

My Thoughts

This book is simply stunning! I think it may be my new favourite by Ali Smith and is a real contender to be my book of 2016.

Ali Smith captures the way autumn feels – the drift away from the warm summer and the move towards winter. It’s written in a literal sense but also metaphorically to mimic what is happening politically at the moment. There is a real sense of the aftermath of Brexit in this novel, without it ever feeling like you’re being hit over the head with it all over again. There’s a subtly to it – the graffiti on a neighbour’s wall, the electric fence that appears near where the characters live. It’s beautifully written and leaves you feeling really quite meloncholy at times.

The novel opens with a man washed ashore. He is naked and lost, and becomes aware of people he vaguely knows passing him by. He isn’t sure how old he is but feels as if his body is younger than he was before. It seems he’s in some kind of limbo. At the same time a young woman is waiting in the Post Office to renew her passport, but her turn never seems to come. She is also in limbo. There is a sense that neither of them is sure of who they are, or where they are going. Perhaps a reference to the sense of isolation people are feeling in the current climate, and also the sense of being other in a world that is feeling less inclusive than before. It certainly reflects the limbo we all feel right now as we wait to see what will happen next.

We then learn of the two main characters and how they met. Daniel is around 80 years old and lives next door to the child Elisabeth. She wants to go round to his house and have him answer questions for her school project but her mother is adamant that she mustn’t. It feels like her mother is very distrustful of the man next door but it’s never stated why, it left me feeling like he was perhaps an other, an outsider – or maybe that Elisabeth and her mother are outsiders. There are other references to Elisabeth as a child feeling like people are looking at her in the street. The relationship that builds between Daniel and Elisabeth when they finally do meet is so lovely. He always speaks to her like she is his equal, and not a child, and they connect on so many levels. It was heartwarming to read how the relationship lasted and how Elisabeth is determined to keep the bond between them.

This book becomes very meta at points and I loved that aspect. The way that Daniel describes a painting to Elisabeth, and then says it isn’t real but she really feels like she has seen it. Then later she sees it reproduced and knows it is real. This made me go search online for Pauline Boty so that I could see the paintings after having such a clear image in my mind. I felt how I was sure Elisabeth must have felt when she finally saw them, because they were like a daydream made real. I felt sure that I had seen them before, like I knew them. Yet I was also seeing them at a step removed – paintings through a computer screen, so even then I’ve not seen the reality of the work, just as Elisabeth hadn’t either. I wasn’t there, in the moment when the paintings existed in a studio – a real awakening to the idea of a set moment in time and how when something has passed, it has passed. We can seek it out, we can reflect but once the leaves have fallen from the trees, they are gone.

Autumn jumps back and forth in time throughout, filling in small details and reminding us of what came before and what came after. This is beautifully illustrated in a moment where Daniel throws his watch in the air to demonstrate to Elisabeth how easily and quickly time flies. Ali Smith’s writing is profound and stunningly beautiful throughout. I’m still thinking about this book weeks after finishing it, and I’m sure it will be with me for a long time to come.

I can’t wait to read the next instalment in this series now! I’ve been recommending this novel to everyone and have already bought a few copies to give as Christmas gifts.

I received a copy of this book from Penguin Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#BookReview: Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch

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About the Book

She stole her husband. Now she wants to take her life.

After the horrors of the past, Louisa Williams is desperate to make a clean start. Her husband Sam is dead. Her children, too, are gone, victims of the car accident in which he died.

Sam said that she would never get away from him. That he would hound her to death if she tried to leave. Louisa never thought that he would want to harm their children though.

But then she never thought that he would betray her with a woman like Sophie. And now Sophie is determined to take all that Louisa has left. She wants to destroy her reputation and to take what she thinks is owed her – the life she would have had if Sam had lived.

Her husband’s lover wants to take her life. The only question is will Louisa let her?

My Thoughts

This book is brilliant, it had my gripped from the first page right through to the end! I’ve read all of Julia Crouch’s previous novels and enjoyed them but can definitely say that this is her best yet! It’s a tough book to review though as I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll keep this quite short.

Crouch does such a great job of toying with her readers. Initially, we feel such sympathy for Louisa as she recovers in hospital from injuries sustained in the crash that killed her two children. She had been trying to get away from an abusive husband Sam and he died in the crash. Then there is Sophie, Sam’s lover, who is adamant that Louisa caused Sam’s death. She’s very bitter at what she feels has been taken from her – her future with Sam, the home he bought for her but which his wife has now inherited. As the novel goes on more details come to light but as readers we are gauging one version of the truth against another, we don’t know what the actual facts are and I very much enjoyed this. In fiction as in real life, we only know what people tell us and we trust the people we know best.

We know that one of these women is lying as they can’t both be telling the truth but as a reader you switch from feeling for one of them to feeling for the other. It’s such a joy to read a novel where you really don’t know who can be trusted or what the truth is going to turn out to be. I was on the edge of my seat at times whilst reading this and wondering how it was all going to end up!

I received a copy of this book from Headline via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#BookReview: The Gift by Louise Jensen @fab_fiction @Bookouture

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About the Book

The perfect daughter. The perfect girlfriend. The perfect murder?

Jenna is seriously ill. She’s lost all hope of getting the heart transplant she needs to live. But just as her life is ebbing away, she receives a donor heart from a girl called Callie.

Who was Callie and how did she die? Jenna is determined to find out.

The closer Jenna gets to those who loved Callie, the more questions arise about her untimely death. Someone knows what happened to Callie. Why won’t they talk?

Jenna is about to uncover the truth, but it could cost her everything; her loved ones, her sanity, even her life.

My Thoughts

This book is such a compulsive read – once you start it you’ll find it incredibly hard to put down again until you’ve finished it!

I very much enjoyed this novel. It’s a fascinating idea to centre a novel around, the possibility of cellular memory – where people who’ve had a heart transplant retain the memories of the organ donor. I’ve seen documentaries about it and know it’s something that is being researched so this novel was one I couldn’t resist. It’s refreshing to read a thriller that has a different premise to any I’ve read in a long time.

Jenna has had a heart transplant and then breaks up with her long-term boyfriend as she doesn’t want to be a burden him. She then begins having vivid nightmares that feel real to her and starts to wonder if the nightmares are actually her donor Callie’s memories. This sets Jenna down the path of wanting to meet Callie’s family and to discover if there’s more to what happened to Callie than is being said.

It was also interesting to read about STS – Secondary Traumatic Syndrome as I’d not heard of that before. I have suffered with PTSD in the past and I know how anxious and terrified I felt all the time, and that was without the additional fear that Jenna has that someone really is trying to get to her because of her investigation into Callie’s death. I was willing someone to take her seriously but at the same time I kept trying to work out if it could all be just paranoia on Jenna’s part. At times I felt I was right there with her and my heart was thumping so hard as I read on to see if something awful was about to happen.

I love the way that nearly every chapter ends on a mini cliff-hanger – it kept me turning the pages late into the night and eventually I decided I simply couldn’t go to bed until I knew the truth!

I was kept guessing throughout this novel which was great. I read a lot of thrillers and often figure out the end well before it happens but this book got me. There were parts that I’d worked out but I didn’t manage to put the whole thing together and I loved that it shocked me and yet all made sense once I knew.

I’d highly recommend this novel to anyone who loves a good psychological thriller that really will keep you guessing until the very end!

The Gift is due to be published on 16th December and can be pre-ordered now!

I received a copy of The Gift from Bookouture in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

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Louise Jensen is a best selling author of psychological thrillers.  Her debut novel ‘The Sister,’ reached No. 1 in the UK and Canadian Amazon chart within 3 weeks of release, No.1 in Apple’s iBooks and is listed as a USA Today Bestseller.

‘The Sister’ is a book about a grieving girl who thought there was nothing as frightening as being alone – she was wrong.

‘The Gift’ is Louise’s second book, due for publication on the 16th December 2016.

Louise also writes flash fiction, and features and articles for both magazines and online publications. Louise specialises in writing about mindfulness, chronic pain and mental health.

(Bio taken from Louise Jensen’s website)

 

#BookReview: Unf*ck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman

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About the book

Finally, a housekeeping and organizational system developed for those of us who’d describe our current living situation as a “f*cking mess” that we’re desperate to fix. Unf*ck Your Habitat is for anyone who has been left behind by traditional aspirational systems: The ones that ignore single people with full-time jobs; people without kids but living with roommates; and people with mental illnesses or physical limitations, and many others. Most organizational books are aimed at traditional homemakers, DIYers, and people who seem to have unimaginable amounts of free time. They assume we all iron our sheets, have linen napkins to match our table runners, and can keep plants alive for longer than a week. Basically, they ignore most of us living here in the real world.

Interspersed with lists and challenges, this practical, no-nonsense advice relies on a 20/10 system (20 minutes of cleaning followed by a 10-minute break; no marathon cleaning allowed) to help you develop lifelong habits. It motivates you to embrace a new lifestyle in manageable sections so you can actually start applying the tactics as you progress. For everyone stuck between The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Adulting, this philosophy is decidedly more realistic than aspirational, but the goal is the same: not everyone will have a showcase of a home, but whatever your habitat, you deserve one that brings you happiness, not stress.

My Thoughts

I simply had to request this book when I saw the title as this is exactly what I needed to know in that moment – how to unf*ck my habitat! I am a fan of decluttering books – I can’t resist them (which I do realise is some kind of irony that I’m collecting books about how to stop cluttering up my house)!

My mum wasn’t a hoarder but she did find it difficult to part with things that had any kind of sentimental value and as a result I grew up with the same mindset. The amount of times I’ve not being able to get rid of something I really don’t like purely because I love the person who gave it to me is ridiculous. I need to streamline my house though – I’m now permanently disabled and housework is physically difficult for me without adding in a load of ornaments and trinkets etc.

This book is one of the best decluttering books I’ve read because it’s the only one I’ve read that acknowledges that life is busy and we don’t all have the time or energy to declutter our houses in one go. Rachel Hoffman advocates a 20/10 approach – do twenty minutes of decluttering and then have a sit down for ten minutes to take stock of things. You can do as many of these as you want in a day but she stresses that the sit down is as important as the decluttering. I had a go at this as I was reading the book and it’s a revelation how much you can get done in twenty minutes when you’re forced to focus! I’ve now adapted this into daily life and I do all the chores, as well as the decluttering, in twenty minute bursts followed by a rest.

Hoffman also includes sections for if you are ill/disabled, if you have a very busy life, if you live with someone who has a different attitude to tidying up to you, or if you live in a very small space (including if you live in one room of your parents’ home). There are short tasks given throughout the book along with longer chapters on exploring why you have clutter and how to work through having a more streamlined home.

This is a quick read but the lessons in it have been invaluable to me and genuinely have led me to re-evaluate my approach to keeping my home clutter-free. I’d recommend it to anyone who is struggling with clutter because I’m sure that everyone will find something in this book that helps them make a start.

I received a copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

Unf*ck Your Habitat is due to be published on 29th December in the UK and can be pre-ordered now.

#BookReview: The Girls Next Door by Mel Sherratt@writermels @bookouture

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About the Book

One warm spring evening, five teenagers meet in a local park. Only four will come out alive.

Six months after the stabbing of sixteen-year-old Deanna Barker, someone is coming after the teenagers of Stockleigh, as a spate of vicious assaults rocks this small community. Revenge for Deanna? Or something more?

Detective Eden Berrisford is locked into a race against time to catch the twisted individual behind the attacks – but when her own niece, Jess Mountford, goes missing, the case gets personal.

With the kidnapper threatening Jess’s life, can Eden bring back her niece to safety? Or will the people of Stockleigh be forced to mourn another daughter…?

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Mel Sherratt and have read and very much enjoyed all of her novels to date and this one is no exception!

I have to start by saying that I loved Eden Berrisford and I think she may have the potential to overtake Allie Shenton (from Mel’s other series) in my affections! I really enjoyed reading about Eden and I can’t wait to read more in the future. It’s brilliant to find such strong, interesting women in crime fiction novels.

I was expecting this novel to focus more on what happened in the woods but that is just the catalyst for what happens to the characters next – one in particular is Jess, who is Eden’s niece, gets caught up in something way bigger than she’s expected when she started dating a new boyfriend. This novel has some twists and turns – some I saw coming but others had me quite shocked.

There is always a real sense of community in Mel’s novels, and this novel is no different. There are the bad guys, as there are anywhere, but there is also a sense of a tight-knit community who look out for their own and that always adds a warmth to a story that is about teenage gangs and the terrible crimes that some people commit.

I also have to mention that I really enjoyed how this had little references to the Estate series and so some of the setting for this book already felt familiar to me and it was lovely seeing Josie the housing officer from that series pop up in this book too. You don’t need to have read the Estate series to read this one but it’s a lovely bonus if you have.

I received a copy of this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author

mel-sherratt

Mel Sherratt write police procedurals, psychological suspense and women’s fiction with a punch – or grit-lit, as Mel calls it. Shortlisted for the prestigious CWA (Crime Writer’s Association) Dagger in Library Award 2014, my inspiration comes from authors such as Martina Cole, Lynda la Plante, Mandasue Heller and Elizabeth Haynes.

Mel live in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, with her husband and terrier, Dexter (named after the TV serial killer) and makes liberal use of her hometown as a backdrop for some of her books. You can find out more at Mel’s website www.melsherratt.co.uk

 

#BookReview: Because of You by Helen Fermont

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About the Book

Because of You is the deeply moving debut novel by Scandinavian writer Helene Fermont. It’s a gripping work of modern women’s fiction with a distinct ‘Scandi’ feel and a psychological twist.

Because of You spans 36 years in the life of Hannah Stein, a Swedish teenager who arrives in London, at the tail end of the disco era, for a gap year before embarking on a teaching career. The people she meets change the course of her life irrevocably and the novel charts her changing personal and professional fortunes over the next three decades. Because of You is about love, coming of age, friendship, bereavement, stillbirth and rape. Its themes include redemption, acceptance, fidelity and family. Because of You is a story that every woman can relate to.

Scandinavian noir has firmly established itself as a bestselling genre in the UK. Because of You takes the elements that make this style of writing so compelling – the realism and dark, morally complex mood – and combines it with women’s fiction.

This is a dark, morally complex and cross-generational story of enduring love, fate and destiny and will appeal to readers who appreciate an emotive, uncompromising and fulfilling read driven by character and circumstance.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this novel; it was different to what I was expecting but it was a great read.

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!

I received this book from Bookollective in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

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Born into a bilingual family (Swedish/English), Hélene Fermont enjoyed an idyllic childhood on the outskirts of Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city and a major cultural hub.

Growing up in the early 1970s, she enjoyed a brief musical career on Swedish TV and radio before pursuing a rewarding career as a therapist specialising in children with learning difficulties.

Hélene has lived in London for over 20 years but still regularly returns to her native Sweden, where the unspoiled scenery and tranquility help aid the creative process. Hélene is currently hard at work on her second novel.

#BookReview: You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris

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About the Book

What matters most in life? How do you build a happy life when terrible things happen? What is left behind when you lose the person you love the most?

One night last winter, Antoine Leiris was at home looking after his son while his wife, Hélène, was at a concert with friends. Suddenly he started receiving text messages asking if he was ok. Turning on the TV, Antoine watched the terrorist attacks in Paris unfolding around him and tried to call Hélène. She didn’t answer. That night Hélène was killed, along with 88 other people, at the Bataclan Theatre.

Three days later, Antoine wrote an open letter to his wife’s killers on Facebook. He refused to be cowed or to let his 17-month-old son’s life be defined by their acts. ‘For as long as he lives, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom,’ he wrote. Instantly, that short post caught fire and was shared thousands of times around the world.

You Will Not Have My Hate is an extraordinary and heartbreaking memoir about how Antoine, and his baby son Melvil, endured after Hélène’s murder. With courage, moral acuity, and absolute emotional honesty, he finds a way to answer the question, how can I go on? This is the rare and unforgettable testimony of a survivor, and a universal message of hope and resilience. This book is a guiding star for us all in perilous times.

My Thoughts

I recently heard Antoine Leiris being interviewed on the radio and knew right away that this was a book I wanted to read. I’m so pleased I was given the opportunity to read and review it.

This is an incredibly moving and powerful memoir about a man who lost his wife in the Bataclan during the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris just over a year ago. Antoine is very honest and straightforward about how he is feeling and how he is grieving, but he also keeps a lot back to be private for himself and his young son and I absolutely respect that.

This book stems from a poem that Antoine wrote days after the attack in which he refused to give the terrorists his hate, and he stays true to that throughout the book. The pain and heartache radiates from the page throughout this book, but there is a resoluteness in the writing that honours Antoine’s need to not give his hate. I shed tears whilst reading this book, and after finishing just had to sit quietly and reflect for a while.

I can’t even begin to imagine what Antoine has gone through and what he still has to face in the future. I was really moved by how he chose to allow others to do things that they felt were helpful, even though he didn’t wish for it to be done; yet ultimately it helped him in other ways than was expected when the help was given. It really gave me pause for thought.

This book is simply stunning and I recommend that everyone reads it. It’s one man’s journey through grief but it contains so many lessons for us all – not least in not allowing hate to define us.

I received this book from Harvill Secker via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Interview with author Clare Morrall & #BookReview of #WhenTheFloodsCame

 

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Today I’m thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for When The Floods Came and was lucky enough to interview Clare Morrall! I also have my review of this wonderful book to share with you so please keep reading to the end of this post.

 

Please tell my readers a little bit about yourself, and also briefly what When The Floods Came is about.

I was born in Devon, but I’ve been living in Birmingham since I was 18, when I came up to study music at the University.  I teach violin, piano and music theory at a school for children between 5 and 11, and I also have a few older private pupils.  I have two grown up daughters.

When the Floods Came is my seventh published novel.  It is set about 50 years in the future, in an almost empty Britain, but rooted in the world as we know it now.  The majority of the population has died in a virus, and most survivors are infertile.  City centres have been sealed off and the country has been quarantined. The novel is about the Polanski family, who live in a deserted tower block on the edge of Birmingham.  There are Popi and Moth, Roza and Boris in their early twenties, Delphine in her teens and Lucia, who is eight.  They manage well, even though they’re so isolated, scavenging in the empty flats around them for spare parts.  They’re also supplied with essentials by drone drops from the Brighton-based government, the contents of which have become increasingly unpredictable. Then one day a stranger, Aashay, appears, who charms and alarms them in equal measure.  No one can decide whether to trust him or not, but they are all mesmerised by him.  He interrupts their organised life and leads them to a fair, cycling along motorways, through Spaghetti Junction, to an overgrown football stadium.  The book is about the strength of family relationships, their ability to survive once they discover that the most precious commodity in the country is children, and the precariousness of the life that we have created around us.

 

How did you first come to be a writer?

I have always preferred the world of fiction to the world of reality, so as soon as I was able to read, I was writing.  I was forever embarking on Enid Blyton adventures, Biggles stories, novels about boarding schools, all of them entirely unoriginal and none of them ever finished.  I didn’t start writing seriously until I was in my thirties.  It was hard to find enough time, but once a week, for a couple of hours, I would go to a friend’s house and write.   It took another twenty years before I was published.  I still have four unpublished novels in a cupboard, and several folders full of encouraging letters from publishers and agents, none of which brought me any closer to publication.   My first published novel, Astonishing Splashes of Colour, was actually my fifth completed one and it took five years to complete.  It was published in 2003 by a tiny Birmingham publisher and then unexpectedly went on to be shortlisted for the Booker Prize.  It took me by surprise.  I didn’t even know the book had been entered.

 

What is your writing routine?

After the good fortune of the Booker Prize, I was able to cut down on some of my teaching hours and allow myself the luxury of time to write.  So now I don’t go into school until midday.  When I was squeezing small amounts of time out of an impossibly busy schedule, I had to be disciplined.  I couldn’t afford to waste the time – although I did occasionally go to sleep. So I’ve learnt how to get going without resorting to delaying tactics.  I now start work early and rarely struggle with lack of motivation.

 

I love how When The Floods Came is a dystopian novel but it feels so close to the world we’re living in now and is scarily believable. Was there a specific trigger that sparked your inspiration to write this novel? 

I’ve long had the desire to place people on bicycles, cycling along a motorway.  The idea has been at the back of my mind for ages, but I couldn’t decide on a way to make it happen.  Setting a novel in the future seemed to be the only reasonable way to achieve this.  Sadly, if the cars do eventually go, I’ll be far too old to attempt the actual cycling myself.

 

I think the thing I’m enjoying most about the book is that, whilst the dystopian landscape is terrifying and fascinating, it seems, at heart to be a novel about how people cope with what life throws at them. Do the characters come to you first or is it the general idea of a storyline?

I like unusual settings – I’ve written novels about a man in a lighthouse, a man who lives on a roundabout, a family who grow up in a crumbling country house.  So it’s often the atmosphere that inspires me and I then create characters to inhabit this world.  They grow and develop during the novel, as I never know where they’re going to go, so I usually have to go back to the beginning to check they are the same people I end up with.  I’m interested in strange people, the kind of people who are very isolated, on the outside looking in.  It was inevitable that I would eventually write a novel set in the future – in an empty landscape, a crumbling, decaying world.

 

I’ve been a fan of your writing ever since reading Astonishing Splashes of Colour when it was first released. What has your journey to publication been like and has it altered as each book has been published? 

It took a long, long time to get published in the first place.  Each time I completed a novel, I would send it off and forget it while I got on with the next one.  There were always so many interesting new ideas.  When the novels were returned, I would just send them out again, working my way down the lists in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook.  Life has become much easier since then, as all my other novels have been published by Sceptre, who have always been very supportive.  I send the completed novel to them, my editor goes through it, we discuss any plot uncertainties or character inconsistencies, then I rework it, which usually takes a few months.  Then it gets read by a copy editor, who picks out more details.  It’s a long and satisfying process, and in between the rewriting, I start my next novel.  The entire process takes about two years in total.

 

What are you reading at the moment?

His Bloody Project  by Graeme Macrae Burnet, shortlisted for this year’s Booker. It’s very skilful, although a bit – er – bloody, I fear.

 

If you were to be stranded on a desert island and could choose just one author’s books to read, who would you pick and why?

John le Carre, I think.  His books are so much more than spy stories – although I do like the shadowy world of spying.  He is a wonderful writer – very clever, literary, and perceptive about human nature.  He penetrates so deeply, understands the complexity of character and the nature of love,  and still manages to produce plots that take your breath away.

 

Is there a question that you wish an interviewer would ask that you’ve never been asked? What’s your answer to that question?

I’ve struggled with this one.  I’m afraid nothing springs to mind.  I usually tell people what I want to tell them anyway.  Nobody notices if you don’t answer the question correctly.  Or if they do, they never mention it.

 

 How can people connect with you on social media?

Another failure.  I don’t use social media.  I don’t have enough spare time – I struggle to keep up with my friends – and when I do have spare time I prefer to read or write rather than communicate.  I like space and silence  – I live on my own now and I love it.  I would be perfectly comfortable in an isolated tower block in an empty world.

 


 

My Review

I was thrilled when I received a surprise copy of When the Floods Came in the post as I’m a big fan of Clare Morrall’s novels. Her first novel Astonishing Splashes of Colour is one I still remember reading now and I read that when it was first published. This latest novel is just as brilliant.

When I first started reading this I was immediately drawn by what had happened to Britain. The descriptions of this dystopian future were quite chilling at times because the virus that wiped out the majority of the population in Britain, and the floods that followed seem absolutely believable given all that is happening in the world. I don’t know Birmingham very well but I could easily picture all that Morrall described.

Soon though I was drawn in to the Polanski family that have survived all that has happened and who are living in a high rise apartment block. They are obviously a very close family but they’re very insular and have never explored the possibility of meeting others who have also survived. Then one day an interloper appears and they are immediately fearful but also very drawn to him. Aashay is an enigmatic character, he’s exciting to the children of the family but the parents are wary. It’s impossible to put the genie back in the bottle though and once Aashay tells of the fairs where other survivors gather together it’s something the children simply cannot resist. What happens at the fair and afterwards makes this novel one that was very hard for me to put down!

I felt there was a bit of mystery in the novel too. The Polinski’s eldest daughter Roza’s fiance, Hector, who she met online through work, is a bit of an enigma. He appears to be quite perfect and is planning to visit soon so that they can get married. I was unsure whether he was real for a while, and I was also suspicious of whether he had any connection to Aastay – it added another dimension to the novel that kept me hooked as I wanted to know if there was a link.

This novel is a brilliant mix of a dystopian future and a study of the dynamics within a close-knit family.  I was utterly enthralled throughout and would highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 


About the Book

when-the-floods-came

A taut, gripping novel set in the future, when the lives of a family existing on the margins of a dramatically changed society are upset by a mysterious stranger.

In a world prone to violent flooding, Britain, ravaged 20 years earlier by a deadly virus, has been largely cut off from the rest of the world. Survivors are few and far between, most of them infertile. Children, the only hope for the future, are a rare commodity.

For 22-year-old Roza Polanski, life with her family in their isolated tower block is relatively comfortable. She’s safe, happy enough. But when a stranger called Aashay Kent arrives, everything changes. At first he’s a welcome addition, his magnetism drawing the Polanskis out of their shells, promising an alternative to a lonely existence. But Roza can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to Aashay than he’s letting on. Is there more to life beyond their isolated bubble? Is it true that children are being kidnapped? And what will it cost to find out?

Clare Morrall, author of the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted Astonishing Splashes of Colour, creates a startling vision of the future in a world not so very far from our own, and a thrilling story of suspense.

 


About the Author

clare-morrall-cr-howard-walker

c. Howard Walker

Clare Morrall was born in 1952 and grew up in Exeter.

She moved to Birmingham to study music and still lives there, working in the Blue Coat school as a piano and violin teacher. Her first published novel, Astonishing Splashes of Colour (2003), tells the story of a childless woman who kidnaps a baby.  It reflects her interest in synaesthesia – a condition in which emotions are seen as colours.  The Daily Mail describe it as “An extremely good first novel: deceptively simple, subtly observed, with a plot that drags you forward like a strong current.” It was shortlisted for the 2003 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

(Bio taken from https://literature.britishcouncil.org/writer/clare-morrall)

 


 

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

 

wtfc-blog-tour

 

#BookReview: The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

About the Book:

On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows, covered in ash, and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a NYC detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home? The Memory of Things tells a stunning story of friendship and first love and of carrying on with our day-to-day living in the midst of world-changing tragedy and unforgettable pain—it tells a story of hope.

My Thoughts:

This book is so beautiful and moving; it really is a gorgeous story of hope. I was intrigued to know how a young adult novel about such an atrocity would work but Gae Polisner gets it just right. She never shies away from the terror and the fear of that day but the focus on Kyle and his family allows feelings to be explored whilst still leaving the reader with a sense of hope.

I love the way this novel was told in normal prose from Kyle’s perspective and then this is interspersed with poetry that represents the confused thoughts of the ash-covered girl Kyle brings home from the bridge. It gives a rounded sense to the story but it never becomes cliched.

Gae Polisner explores so many angles of 9/11 – the way it affected people who witnessed the horror, the way the emergency services responded, the way it felt for people who couldn’t get through to family members, and also how it felt for the people, like Kyle’s uncle, who desperately wanted to respond and help but couldn’t due to medical problems.

I would recommend this book to everyone, it’s not just for teenagers – it’s a beautiful book that will explore the horror but leave you with hope for the future.

I received this book from St. Martin’s Griffin/St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#BookReview: Who We Were Before by Leah Mercer

who-we-were-before-by-leah-mercer

About the Book:

Zoe knows that it wasn’t really her fault. Of course it wasn’t. But if she’d just grasped harder, run faster, lunged quicker, she might have saved him. And Edward doesn’t really blame her, though his bitter words at the time still haunt her, and he can no more take them back than she can halt the car that killed their son.

Two years on, every day is a tragedy. Edward knows they should take healing steps together, but he’s tired of being shut out. For Zoe, it just seems easier to let grief lead the way.

A weekend in Paris might be their last hope for reconciliation, but mischance sees them separated before they’ve even left Gare du Nord. Lost and alone, Edward and Zoe must try to find their way back to each other—and find their way back to the people they were before. But is that even possible?

My Thoughts:

I found this novel to be a really quick read and I read it in one afternoon. The story was a mixed bag for me though, some parts I thought were really well done and other parts just weren’t for me.

I’ll start by saying that I found the descriptions of grief after losing a child were done well and these parts of the book got to me and made me feel quite emotional at times. Unfortunately, I did find the other elements of the relationship between Zoe and Edward a bit too cliche for my taste. The way they grieved in different ways seemed very true to life and I can understand how losing a child can pull even the strongest relationship apart but there were things that each of them did that just didn’t feel believable to me.

I knew this was a contemporary novel going into it but I’d expected, from the synopsis and cover design, that there might be more psychological elements to it and I didn’t expect it to be so much of a romance novel, so it’s very possible that the fault lies with my not realising what the novel was rather than with the novel per se.

I would still recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys romance novels that have serious themes running through them.

I received this book from Lake Union Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#BookReview: Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton

About the Book:

Famous killers have fan clubs.

Hamish Wolfe is no different. Locked up for the rest of his life for the abduction and murder of three young women, he gets countless adoring letters every day. He’s handsome, charismatic and very persuasive. His admirers are convinced he’s innocent, and that he’s the man of their dreams.

Who would join such a club?

Maggie Rose is different. Reclusive and enigmatic; a successful lawyer and bestselling true-crime writer, she only takes on cases that she can win.

Hamish wants her as his lawyer, he wants her to change his fate. She thinks she’s immune to the charms of a man like this. But maybe not this time . . .

Would you?

My Thoughts:

I have to start by saying that I love Sharon Bolton’s novels – the Lacey Flint series is one of my favourites so I was very keen to read another standalone by her.

I loved this novel! Once I started reading I found that I didn’t want to put it down – it’s one of those books where I begrudged real life interfering in my reading time! I found both of the main characters utterly compelling. I wasn’t sure what to make of either of them. I could never decide whether Hamish was a psychopath or if he was an innocent man – the writing is so clever because it really leaves you with an understanding of the conflict people must have in real life cases. I was fascinated by Maggie Rose, the true-crime writer who has cleared other people of heinous crimes whether she believes they are innocent or not. She was a such complex character because she felt like an enigma to me through a lot of the novel while always remaining believable as if she were a real person.

I had no idea where this novel was going to take me and I ended up stunned by the end. It gave me a book hangover for a few days because I couldn’t stop thinking about it, which is always the sign of a great read!

I actually loved this novel so much that I bought a copy for my Mum-in-law who also loves psychological thrillers/crime novels and once she’d read it we had a chat about it and she agreed with me that it was impossible to work out where this was going until it was just about to happen.

I’d recommend this novel to anyone who loves crime thrillers, especially ones set in brilliant locations and that leave you feeling a bit unsettled once you’ve finished reading. I can’t wait to see what’s next from Sharon Bolton!

I received this book from Random House/Transworld via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

sharon-bolton

Sharon (formerly SJ) Bolton grew up in a cotton-mill town in Lancashire and had an eclectic early career which she is now rather embarrassed about. She gave it all up to become a mother and a writer.

Her first novel, Sacrifice, was voted Best New Read by Amazon.uk, whilst her second, Awakening, won the 2010 Mary Higgins Clark award. In 2014, Lost, (UK title, Like This, For Ever) was named RT Magazine’s Best Contemporary Thriller in the US, and in France, Now You See Me won the Plume de Bronze. That same year, Sharon was awarded the CWA Dagger in the Library, for her entire body of work.

 

(Bio taken from the author’s website: www.sharonbolton.com)

#BookReview: The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena

About the Book:

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora, but one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents, but the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.

What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family, a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

My Thoughts:

The Couple Next Door was one of those books that I had on my pre-order list and was practically counting the days until it was released so when I got a chance to read a review copy ahead of release I couldn’t say no! This book is worth all of the hype – it grabs you from the opening chapter and it doesn’t let you go until the very end.

The premise of the book just hooks you right in – the idea of a couple who are prepared to leave a young baby home along whilst they go to a dinner party at their neighbour’s house is shocking. Yes they took a baby monitor with them and they planned to check on the baby every half an hour but that doesn’t make it okay in any way, shape or form. So from the beginning I didn’t particularly like the two main characters and I wasn’t sure whether I could trust either of them, they both felt unreliable to me and I love that in a novel.

The Couple Next Door has twist after twist, shock after shock and you won’t be able to put the book down until you get to the end and finally discover what is going on.

I definitely recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a twisty psychological thriller that really will keep you on the edge of your seat and feeling like you have no idea who to trust. I now can’t wait to read whatever Shari Lapena writes next!

I received a copy of this novel from Random House/Transworld via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author:

shari-lapena

 

 

 

 

Shari Lapena is a Canadian author, born in 1960. She previously worked as a lawyer and an English teacher. Her novels include Things Go Flying (2008), Happiness Economics (2011), and The Couple Next Door (2016).

#BookReview: The Sister by Louise Jensen @Bookouture

The Sister by Louise Jensen

About the Book:

Grace hasn’t been the same since the death of her best friend Charlie. She is haunted by Charlie’s words, the last time she saw her, and in a bid for answers, opens an old memory box of Charlie’s. It soon becomes clear there was a lot she didn’t know about her best friend.

When Grace starts a campaign to find Charlie’s father, Anna, a girl claiming to be Charlie’s sister steps forward. For Grace, finding Anna is like finding a new family, and soon Anna has made herself very comfortable in Grace and boyfriend Dan’s home.

But something isn’t right. Things disappear, Dan’s acting strangely and Grace is sure that someone is following her. Is it all in Grace’s mind? Or as she gets closer to discovering the truth about both Charlie and Anna, is Grace in terrible danger?

There was nothing she could have done to save Charlie …or was there?

My Thoughts:

This is a book that is quite difficult to review as I’m wary of accidentally giving away any spoilers so for that reason I’m going to keep this review quite short.

I very much enjoyed this novel and it’s one of those books that once started is very difficult to put down. I read it in a couple of sittings and in the time I wasn’t reading I was very keen to get back to it as soon as I could.

I loved reading about the close friendship between Grace and Charlie. It was obvious how much Grace loved her but also clear that something was gnawing at Grace and I was so keen to keep reading to find out what had happened.

I did feel that Grace was too trusting and forgiving, and it was a little hard sometimes to not want to have a way to push her into dealing with the people and situations that she wasn’t comfortable with. Having said that, the fact that she was grieving for Charlie adds the dimension of believability as grief can, and does, make people far less able to make decisions and to deal with things and this is what drew me to feel for Grace.

The further I got into the book and the more Grace began to question herself, the more I started to get swept up in her mindset and found myself feeling as if I was right there with her in the story. It became hard to figure out who could and couldn’t be trusted as I was absolutely seeing things through Grace’s eyes. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good thriller which will sweep you up in the story and will hold you right to the end! This is a great debut novel and I can’t wait to read Louise Jensen’s next book!

I received this book from Bookouture via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Sister is out now!

About the Author:

louise-jensen

Louise Jensen is a best selling author of psychological thrillers.  Her debut novel ‘The Sister,’ reached No. 1 in the UK and Canadian Amazon chart within 3 weeks of release, No.1 in Apple’s iBooks and is listed as a USA Today Bestseller.

‘The Sister’ is a book about a grieving girl who thought there was nothing as frightening as being alone – she was wrong.

‘The Gift’ is Louise’s second book, due for publication on the 16th December 2016.

Louise also writes flash fiction, and features and articles for both magazines and online publications. Louise specialises in writing about mindfulness, chronic pain and mental health.

(Author bio taken from her website: LouiseJensen.co.uk)

#BookReview: Last Light by CJ Lyons @cjlyonswriter @canelo_co

Last Light by C. J. Lyons

About the book:

A brutally murdered family… a wronged man in prison 

1987: Lily Martin is horrifically murdered along with her young child in Texas.

Today: Life should be easy after leaving the FBI –  but not if you’re detective Lucy Guardino. Lucy has always seen herself as a normal mum who happened to have a job chasing the worst of the worst. But after a violent predator targets her family and she’s injured, Lucy sacrifices her career at the Bureau.

She joins the Beacon Group, a firm that specializes in cold cases. Lucy fears she’s traded the elite for shepherding a team of amateurs.

She is sent to rural Texas to investigate a case that’s already been closed with the killers behind bars for twenty-nine years.

But who really killed Lily Martin and her infant daughter? Why was an entire family targeted for annihilation? What price will Lucy pay when she fights to expose a truth people will kill to keep buried?

My thoughts:

I very much enjoyed reading this novel. I especially loved that there were two really strong female characters in this novel and both were interesting. Lucy has a warm personality but is a very steely investigator. On a personal note, it was interesting to read about her AFO – I wear a similar leg brace (although my disability is very different) so I had real sympathy when she had no nice shoes to wear with her new work outfit. I have to wear men’s velcro trainers two sizes too big with mine as nothing else will go over it! TK is also a character that I’m looking forward to learning more about as this series progresses – she’s a former marine that has obviously had a very traumatic time whilst serving but her record is classified so not much is known. She’s fascinating though as she’s very good at aspects of her new job but is also slightly hot-headed at times so is far from being perfect.

I did find this to be a novel of two halves in a way – the first half was really interesting as we learn about the team of investigators, and find out more about the crime and the man who was convicted of the murders. It almost felt like it could be a real life murder case. I felt that in the second half I had to suspend my disbelief a little bit as it did feel like some things were ramped up in a way that was great to read and it was still well written and so fast-paced. I couldn’t put the book down and read this half of the book in a couple of hours, I was so keen to find out if the suspect was really the killer and if they would be caught and punished.

This is the first in a new series – the Beacon Falls series – but I believe Lucy’s career in the FBI was another series in its own right so I’m tempted to go back and read all of those now too as I enjoyed this novel so much. Last Light had me engrossed from the prologue all the way through to the end. It’s a fast-paced and tense read that you’ll find very hard to put down once you’ve started reading!

This is a brilliant start to a new crime thriller series and I can’t wait to read the next book!

I received a copy of Last Light from Canelo via Ed PR in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author:

cj-lyons-pic

CJ Lyons has lived most of her life on the edge. New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-one novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart.

CJ has been called a “master within the genre” (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as “breathtakingly fast-paced” and “riveting” (Publishers Weekly) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (Newsday).

She has assisted police and prosecutors with cases involving child abuse, rape, homicide and Munchausen by Proxy. She has worked in numerous trauma centers, on the Navajo reservation, as a crisis counselor, victim advocate, as well as a flight physician for Life Flight and Stat Medevac.

A story-teller all her life, CJ has always created stories about people discovering the courage to make a difference. This led her to coin the term: Thrillers with Heart.

Her novels have won the International Thriller Writers prestigious Thriller Award, the RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Golden Gateway, Readers’ Choice Award, the RT Seal of Excellence, and Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery and Suspense.

(Biography details and photo taken from CJ Lyons’ website)

Review: Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult #ReadWithoutPrejudice

#ReadWithout Prejudice by Jodi Picoult

About the Book

When a newborn baby dies after a routine hospital procedure, there is no doubt about who will be held responsible: the nurse who had been banned from looking after him by his father.

What the nurse, her lawyer and the father of the child cannot know is how this death will irrevocably change all of their lives, in ways both expected and not.

Small Great Things is about prejudice and power; it is about that which divides and unites us.

It is about opening your eyes. 

My thoughts

Firstly, I have to say that I read this back when it was still being sent out as the #ReadWithoutPrejudice novel and I loved having the chance to read a novel with no preconceptions. I had no idea who wrote it, what it was about or even what the cover design was when I received it! It was so refreshing and it has made me think a bit more about perhaps not paying such close attention to the synopsis when choosing a book in the future!

Small Great Things grabbed me within the first few pages and I found that when I wasn’t reading it I was looking forward to getting back to it. I read this novel without knowing who had written it but I am a fan of Jodi Picoult and I soon began to wonder if it was her new novel.

This novel isn’t perfect but it confronts race issues head on and references very recent high profile racially motivated killings in America. It’s hard to read at times but the thing that Jodi Picoult does so well in her novels is that she always makes you think without it feeling forced.

The ending is a little bit too neat but then this is what we want from Jodi Picoult’s novels, some kind of resolution and justice to a degree. There are issues with some of the characters being a little one-dimensional but I have to say that for the most part none of this took away from my enjoyment of the novel. I love getting completely lost in a book, and I love books that are great to read but that also give me pause for thought. This novel stayed in my head for quite a while after I’d finished reading it, which is always the sign of an enjoyable read.

This is a thought-provoking novel about race, prejudice and power – I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who loves fiction that is easy to get wrapped up in but that also gives you something to think about.

I received this novel from Hodder and Stoughton via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#BookReview: Watching Edie by Camilla Way

watching-edie

Synopsis

Beautiful, creative, a little wild… Edie was the kind of girl who immediately caused a stir when she walked into your life. And she had dreams back then—but it didn’t take long for her to learn that things don’t always turn out the way you want them to. Now, at thirty-three, Edie is working as a waitress, pregnant and alone. And when she becomes overwhelmed by the needs of her new baby and sinks into a bleak despair, she thinks that there’s no one to turn to… But someone’s been watching Edie, waiting for the chance to prove once again what a perfect friend she can be. It’s no coincidence that Heather shows up on Edie’s doorstep, just when Edie needs her the most. So much has passed between them—so much envy, longing, and betrayal. And Edie’s about to learn a new lesson: those who have hurt us deeply—or who we have hurt—never let us go, not entirely…

My Thoughts

I requested, and was approved for, this novel back in July before I took a break from reviewing. I finally managed to pick this book up and couldn’t remember what it was about, and actually I think that heightened my feelings about the book.

Watching Edie has tension from the very first chapter and I found myself on edge right to the very end, and even beyond when I couldn’t stop thinking about what might have happened after. It was a great thriller and one that I think will stay with me for a while to come.

Edie is living in London, she’s alone and pregnant and living in a grotty flat. I felt sorry for her from the beginning and as we learn more about her past, I still felt she’d had a tough time and hoped life would get better for her. Heather felt like a malevolent presence from the off but I couldn’t put my finger on why initially until I realised I was judging her through Edie’s eyes. This is where the way the story is told works brilliantly. The story is told from the present day by Edie, and from the past by Heather so immediately we’re drawn to believe Edie. Both of the characters are unreliable to a degree and as time goes on I wasn’t sure that I particularly liked either of them.

The denouement of the novel was shocking to me, I really didn’t see it coming and I loved that it surprised and shocked me. It’s not often that I can’t work out where a thriller is going but this one got me.

I definitely recommend this to anyone who loves psychological thrillers. It’s such a fast-paced read and one that, once started, is genuinely is very difficult to put down!

I received a copy of this novel from Harper Collins via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Author Bio

camilla-way

 

Camilla Way was born in Greenwich, south-east London in 1973. Her father was the poet and author Peter Way. After attending Woolwich College she studied modern English and French literature at the University of Glamorgan. Formerly Associate Editor of the teenage girls’ magazine Bliss, she is currently an editor and writer on the men’s style magazine Arena. Having lived in Cardiff, Bristol, Bath and Clerkenwell, she now lives in south-east London.

Book Review: All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker #NotForgotten

 

FINAL cover

You can erase the memory. But you cannot erase the crime.

Jenny’s wounds have healed.
An experimental treatment has removed the memory of a horrific and degrading attack.
She is moving on with her life.

That was the plan. Except it’s not working out.
Something has gone. The light in the eyes. And something was left behind. A scar. On her lower back. Which she can’t stop touching.
And she’s getting worse.
Not to mention the fact that her father is obsessed with finding her attacker and her mother is in toxic denial.

It may be that the only way to uncover what’s wrong is to help Jenny recover her memory. But even if it can be done, pulling at the threads of her suppressed experience will unravel much more than the truth about her attack.

I was beyond thrilled when I was offered the chance to read and review this novel. I had heard a few things about it on social media and was so keen to read it.

All is Not Forgotten is an unflinching look at a very traumatic attack on a teenage girl and the aftermath of that. Wendy Walker is a great writer and doesn’t shy away from anything in this novel and that makes it feel very real, I felt like I was in amongst the characters in this book and even though I finished reading it weeks ago, it is still very much with me.

My main reason for wanting to read this book was when I heard it was about erasing memories after trauma. The idea of a treatment to remove traumatic memories has always been fascinating to me. I’ve suffered with PTSD in the past and whilst I consider myself recovered after many years of counselling and CBT etc I do still remember what happened to me and I still have to be on my guard in certain situations in order to keep anxiety at bay. I do believe, based on my own experience, that people can move on from trauma and have perfectly normal, happy lives but it takes a lot of work. I love the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind where people can have memories of failed relationships removed but All is Not Forgotten is even more interesting because it is focused on trauma. I liked how this treatment was groundbreaking and yet it had its flaws, the fact that Jenny is left with a ghost of a memory of what happened to her – like an itch that she can’t reach to scratch. It’s not a complete cure and she is then left in a horrible position of having to decide how she can put right the treatment that she had – it isn’t an easy thing to reverse as she will have to have intense therapy to help her remember what happened to her.

I was drawn into all aspects of this novel though, it is about so much more than a treatment to erase memories – it’s actually about the way people act to protect themselves and their families. The way that jumping to a conclusion about someone can lead to so many unforeseen consequences, the way that people don’t always try to help you for the right reasons and can sometimes have an agenda of their own. So many people end up caught up in the aftermath of the attack on Jenny and it’s horrifyingly fascinating to see it all unravel.

I loved how this novel was narrated; at first I wasn’t sure who was narrating and then as I realised and saw how the person narrating was also like a conductor in an orchestra and it was so brilliant to read. Sometimes the reader is ahead of the narrater and can work out what comes next so you think you’ve got it worked out but then it all moves in a different way and the rug is pulled from under you again.

I loved this book, it is an incredible read! It was edgy and twisty and just utterly fascinating to watch the unravelling and revealing of all the hidden memories – not just Jenny’s! I will be recommending to everyone I know and I’m sure it will be a huge bestseller.

All is Not Forgotten is out now and available from all good bookshops.

Thank you to Cara at Harlequin for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.


 

I was recently very lucky to have the opportunity to interview Wendy Walker as part of the blog tour for All is Not Forgotten and you can read that here if you’d like to.

 


About the Author

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Wendy Walker is a practicing divorce attorney in Fairfield County, Connecticut who began writing while at home raising her three sons. She published two novels with St. Martin’s Press and edited multiple compilations for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series before writing her debut psychological thriller, All is Not Forgotten.

 

Blog Tour | Book Review: The Museum of You by Carys Bray #MuseumOfYou

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Today is my stop on The Museum of You blog tour and I’m thrilled to be sharing my review of this wonderful book along with an excerpt from the the book.

About the Book

Clover Quinn was a surprise. She used to imagine she was the good kind, now she’s not sure. She’d like to ask Dad about it, but growing up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story is difficult. She tries not to skate on the thin ice of his memories.

Darren has done his best. He’s studied his daughter like a seismologist on the lookout for waves and surrounded her with everything she might want – everything he can think of, at least – to be happy.

What Clover wants is answers. This summer, she thinks she can find them in the second bedroom, which is full of her mother’s belongings. Volume isn’t important, what she is looking for is essence; the undiluted bits: a collection of things that will tell the full story of her mother, her father and who she is going to be.

But what you find depends on what you’re searching for.

My Review

I’m a huge fan of Carys Bray – I adored her first novel A Song of Issy Bradley so was beyond excited when Carys offered me the chance to read and review The Museum of You.

The Museum of You is a quiet novel but it is so beautifully moving. It’s told in alternating chapters between Clover and her dad, Darren, and then between the chapter breaks there is a page about an item that Clover is planning to show in her museum. These pages, and her innocence, were some of the most stunning moments in the novel. Things like the way Clover envisages her mum collection holiday brochures because she must have loved holidays broke me because reading this through adult eyes, it seemed that really Clover’s mum probably was just desperate for escape. It’s a cleverly written novel because we don’t know at the beginning what happened to Clover’s mum but as the novel goes on we learn bits and pieces and a picture emerges but Clover, as a child, fits the pieces together in a much more naive way. It’s so beautiful and is a real tear jerker.

I adored Clover throughout this novel. She’s such a big-hearted and intelligent girl. She loves museums and finding out about things and so when she discovers that all of her mum’s things are still stashed in her bedroom Clover forms an idea to make a museum of her mum. It’s such a gorgeous idea and so heartbreaking at the same time. I cried so much as Clover carefully put on gloves and started to carefully, and strategically work through her mum’s belongings – all done when her dad was out so that he wouldn’t know about it and get upset. I know it’s a slightly different thing but I remember having to sort out my mum’s possessions after she died and having the longing to keep everything as it was left but knowing I had to let most of it go, and I was an adult at the time. For a child to not really know about her mum, or really understand what happened to her, to then approach her mum’s things on her own is really sad. I loved how pr0-active Clover was though, she knew that she couldn’t ask anyone about her mum as the best she got was a slow drip feed of information from her neighbour Mrs Mackerel and so she decided to become an archivist and figure it all out herself. I love how matter of fact Clover is – she’s a real thinker but she gets on with things. She doesn’t dwell on how her life has ended up, she just keeps moving forward. I think we all need a Clover in our lives!

I cried quite a few times whilst reading as there are sentences in this novel that just make your heart break for Clover. A line that got me, which is in the excerpt below was ‘When you grow up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story you’re forever skating on the thin ice of their memories.’ – I had to pause for a few minutes after reading that because it is just utterly heartbreaking. For a young child to know that their childhood is so linked in with the saddest part of her mum and dad’s life together is just so hard to think about, but also it made my heart break for her dad who has had to live with the happiest and saddest times in his life overlapping in such a tough way.

Darren is doing the absolute best he can to raise his daughter, it’s so evident that he loves her more than anything and is trying to give her a good life but it feels that as Clover is growing up, he is burying his head in the sand a little. It must be so hard for men to deal with raising a daughter alone, especially as they reach puberty and there is no female role model in their life. He knows there are things Clover will want to know beyond the basic lessons he can teach her and he’s really floundering as to how he will get her through the teenage years and beyond. He knows Clover needs her mum, and needs to know about her mum but you can feel his hesitation and his need to skate around it for his own wellbeing. He seems like such a lovely man who is simply left so lost after his partner died. I felt the longing that he had to not let his partner’s memory go but also his desire to form a stable home life for Clover. It is apparent very early on in the novel that Darren is something of a hoarder – it really felt like he was someone who was just desperately trying to cling on, to keep things right for Clover and to be a good dad. It felt to me like Clover was very much like her dad in wanting to keep things but Clover is much more organised, hence her museum idea. Reading about when Darren was younger and seeing how simple his life was, with two parents who were still together and who obviously loved him very much and did their best by him, it is obvious that he is badly wanting this for his daughter too – ‘life [back then] was ordinary, unremarkable and occasionally boring. It was, looking back, wonderful’.

This novel builds as it goes along – the more you read the more you put the pieces together and the more you get a sense of heartbreak for what this family have been through. I had such sympathy with just about all of the characters in this novel, they had all had tough times in their lives and were all muddling through as best they can. It is apparent that the thing that defined them all and kept them connected was their love for Clover, and as the novel headed towards the end, I was hoping there would be some sort of happy ending for them all. Life isn’t perfect and bad things happen to lovely people but this novel gives us such a great reminder that life goes on and things will get better with time and openness.

It’s such a wonderfully profound novel. I rated it 5 out of 5 and can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s one of those quiet novels that packs such a punch emotionally; it’s so beautiful and is one that will stay with me for a long time to come. Simply wonderful!

Excerpt of the novel

When she got home from the museum Dad was kneeling in the hall. He’d unscrewed the radiator and his thumb was pressed over an unfastened pipe as water gushed around it. The books and clothes and newspapers that used to line the hall had been arranged in small piles on the stairs. Beside him, on the damp carpet, was a metal scraper he’d been using to scuff the paper off the wall.

‘Just in time!’ he said. ‘Fetch a bowl. A small one, so it’ll fit.’

She fetched two and spent the next fifteen minutes running back and forth to the kitchen emptying one bowl as the other filled, Dad calling, ‘Faster! Faster! Keep it up, Speedy Gonzalez!’ His trousers were soaked and his knuckles grazed, but he wasn’t bothered. ‘Occupational hazard,’ he said, as if it wasn’t his day off and plumbing and stripping walls was his actual job.

Once the pipe had emptied he stood up and hopped about for a bit while the feeling came back into his feet. ‘I helped Colin out with something this morning,’ he said. ‘The people whose house we were at had this dado rail thing – it sounds posh, but it’s just a bit of wood, really – right about here.’ He brushed his hand against the wall beside his hip. ‘Underneath it they had stripy wallpaper, but above it they had a different, plain kind. It was dead nice and I thought, we could do that.’

Dad found a scraper for her. The paint came off in flakes, followed by tufts of the thick, textured wallpaper. Underneath, was a layer of soft, brown, backing-paper which Dad sprayed with water from a squirty bottle. When the water had soaked in, they made long scrapes down the wall, top to bottom, leaving the backing paper flopped over the skirting boards like ribbons of skin. It felt like they were undressing the house.

The bare walls weren’t smooth. They were gritty, crumbly in places. As they worked, a dusty smell wafted out of them. It took more than an hour to get from the front door to the wall beside the bottom stair. That’s where Dad uncovered the heart. It was about as big as Clover’s hand, etched on the wall in black, permanent marker, in Dad’s handwriting: Darren + Becky 4ever.

‘I’d forgotten,’ he murmured. And then he pulled his everything face. The face he pulls when Uncle Jim is drunk. The face he pulls when they go shopping in March and the person at the till tries to be helpful by reminding them about Mother’s Day. The face which reminds her that a lot of the time his expression is like a plate of leftovers.

She didn’t say anything, and although she wanted to, she didn’t trace the heart with her fingertips. Instead, she went up to the bathroom and sat on the boxed, pre-lit Christmas tree dad bought in the January sales. When you grow up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story you’re forever skating on the thin ice of their memories. That’s not to say it’s always sad – there are happy things, too. When she was a baby Dad had a tattoo of her name drawn on his arm in curly, blue writing, and underneath he had a green, four-leaf clover. She has such a brilliant name, chosen by her mother because it has the word LOVE in the middle. That’s not the sort of thing you go around telling people, but it is something you can remember if you need a little boost; an instant access, happiness top-up card – it even works when Luke Barton calls her Margey-rine. Clover thought of her name and counted to 300.

When she went downstairs Dad had recovered his empty face and she couldn’t help asking a question, just a small one.

‘Is there any more writing under the paper?’

‘I don’t think so.’

‘She didn’t do a heart as well?’

‘Help me with this, will you?’

They pulled the soggy ribbons of paper away from the skirting and put them in a bin bag. The house smelled different afterwards. As if some old sadness had leaked out of the walls.

About the Author

Author Carys Bray, photographed near her home in Southport, Lancashire.

Carys Bray’s debut collection Sweet Home won the Scott prize and selected stories were broadcast on BBC Radio Four Extra. Her first novel A Song for Issy Bradley was serialised on BBC Radio Four’s Book at Bedtime and was shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards, the Association of Mormon Letters Awards, the Waverton Good Read Award, the 15 Bytes Book Awards and the Desmond Elliott Prize. It won the Utah Book Award and the Authors’ Club Best First Novel Award and was selected for the 2015 Richard and Judy Summer Book Club.

Carys has a BA in Literature from The Open University and an MA and PhD in Creative Writing from Edge Hill University. Her second novel The Museum of You will be published in June 2016. She is working on a third novel.

 

You can follow the rest of The Museum of You blog tour at the dates and blogs below:

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Blog Tour | Review: My Girl by Jack Jordan

MY GIRL BOOK COVER

Paige Dawson: the mother of a murdered child and wife to a dead man. 

She has nothing left to live for… until she finds her husband’s handgun hidden in their house. 

Why did Ryan need a gun? What did he know about their daughter’s death? 

Desperate for the truth, Paige begins to unearth her husband’s secrets. 

But she has no idea who she is up against, or that her life isn’t hers to gamble – she belongs to me. 

I started reading My Girl without really knowing much about it but it immediately hooked me in. I read the whole novel in one sitting because I simply had to know what was going on!

This novel is about Paige Dawson whose daughter was murdered and her husband has recently committed suicide as he just couldn’t cope anymore. Paige is in a really bad way – she is drinking heavily and taken a lot of medication to try and numb her devastation but it’s not keeping the emotions at bay. She is desperate to get more pills and will do anything to get them. This part of the book was quite shocking at times as we read what lengths Paige goes to but it’s more shocking how she is treated by others. People take advantage of the mess she is in and use her in awful ways. It was really difficult to read at times but at the same time I wanted to know where the story was going. Paige does have people in her life who want to help her but no one seems able to pull her back from the brink. She is just a very broken woman who can’t get over the loss of her child. She clings on to the past because it’s all she feels she has left. It’s very well written because I my heart was breaking for her as if she were a real person.

This novel is chilling at times, for more than one reason, and even though it was a tough read, it is a novel that I couldn’t put down. If I’m to be completely honest the only slight criticism I have is that I wish the second half of the novel had been longer. The first half is paced really well and gives such a sense of Paige’s despair but the second half lacked just a little of the character development of the first half. I just wanted to know more and for it to be expanded a little but this is only a minor point. It still works very well though and it wouldn’t stop me recommending this book.

This is the first novel I’ve read by Jack Jordan but I’ll definitely be buying his other novel Anything for Her and will be looking out for whatever he writes next.

I rated this novel 4 out of 5.

My Girl is due to be published on 4th July worldwide and is available for pre-order now.

I received a copy of My Girl from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Here is the blog tour poster so you can visit the other blogs on the tour:

MY GIRL BLOG TOUR POSTER

Review: In the Light of What We See by Sarah Painter

In The Light Of What We See by Sarah Painter

Brighton, 1938: Grace Kemp is pushed away by the family she has shamed. Rejected and afraid, she begins a new life as a nurse. But danger stalks the hospital too, and she’ll need to be on her guard to avoid falling into familiar traps. And then there are the things she sees…Strange portents that have a way of becoming real.

Eighty years later, Mina Morgan is brought to the same hospital after a near-fatal car crash. She is in terrible pain but recalls nothing. She’s not even sure whom to trust. Mina too sees things that others cannot, but now, in hospital, her visions are clearer than ever…

Two women, separated by decades, are drawn together by a shared space and a common need to salvage their lives.

I was sent this book to review a couple of months ago but had other books I needed to read first but it’s felt quite serendipitous that I picked it up yesterday as it ended up being the perfect read for me and I just didn’t want to put it down. I read it in just two sittings as it drew me in and held me there from start to finish.

I loved the friendship between Grace and Evie. Grace had had a difficult time at home and was so nervous when she began her nursing career but Evie, who seemed so opposite brought out the lighter side of Grace and it was wonderful to read. It was lovely how as the novel went along we had small insights into Evie’s character too, and she ended up being such a great friend to Grace.

Mina was an interesting character from the start. She seemed very cold and distant from people but after her accident, when she was so vulnerable and had to rely on others, she found a softer side. I really liked how she didn’t change over night but it just gradually became apparent that she had always had this other side but she’d buried it under pain and guilt.

There are small elements of mystery running through the novel as Mina tries to piece together the tiny fragments of memory that are slowly coming back to her after the accident. I had such a feeling of dread about Geraint but was never quite sure what the story was with him until it is revealed.

I loved the connection through time between Grace and Mina, it was so fleeting and yet felt so important to the book. I was convinced all the way through the novel that there these two characters would turn out to be related to each other or that they would meet at some point – I’m not going to post any spoilers at all but the continuous connection between them throughout the novel and the way it ended was perfect and beautiful. It could so easily have become forced or even twee but it never, ever did.

The idea of ghost birds that have flitted in and out of Mina’s life is fascinating. The way they were there to protect her and to warn her about things that may be about to happen. This was another connection to Grace in a way in that Grace saw shadows on people that often foretold something bad about to happen. I think this was how the two characters became connected within the hospital – that ability to see something other, the openness to channels that most people are closed off to.

 

I rated this book 4.5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this book via the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza (audiobook)

The Girl in the Ice by Robert Bryndza

Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice…She is not the only one. 

When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation. 

The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound, and dumped in water around London. 

What dark secrets is the girl in the ice hiding? 

As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika. 

The last investigation Erika led went badly wrong…resulting in the death of her husband. With her career hanging by a thread, Erika must now battle her own personal demons as well as a killer more deadly than any she’s faced before. But will she get to him before he strikes again? 

A pause-resisting thriller packed with suspense. If you like Angela Marsons, Rachel Abbott, and Karin Slaughter, discover Rob Bryndza’s new series today.

I was thrilled to be offered the chance to review the audio version of this novel. I listen to a lot of audio books but I don’t usually review them, this is the first! I find it easy to follow audio books but have to admit that I’ve never listened to a crime/thriller novel before as I worried it would be harder to keep track of the characters.

I loved listening to this novel. The narrater, Jan Cramer, has done a brilliant job of bringing great characters to life. She does a different voice for each character and this made the novel so easy to follow, I soon knew which voice belonged to which character and could relax and enjoy listening to the novel.

The novel as a whole is great – it kept me engrossed and I found that when I stopped listening for the day I was couldn’t wait to get back to it. I found Erika Foster really interesting as a character and although she falls into the trope of troubled detective to a degree, it didn’t feel like a stereotype. Her character, and what she had been through, felt completely believable and the way she was coping felt very realistic and that was a refreshing change from a lot of crime/detective novels.

I found the whodunnit element very good too – I only worked out who the killer was shortly before it was revealed and I think that was the point the reader is supposed to realise. I loved that I hadn’t been able to work out who it was earlier – I had my suspicions at various points in the book but I wasn’t sure.

The novel itself is a brilliant start to a new series and I’ll absolutely by buying the next book. I’ll also definitely look out for audio books narrated by Jan Cramer in the future.

If anyone reading this review has never listened to an audio book before or, like me, was put off listening to a crime novel in case it’s harder to follow as an audio book then please consider this one. The characters are so well written that you can tell them apart plus Jan Cramer’s narration is such that all the voices sound different from each other so you very quickly know who’s speaking. It’s a brilliant audio book all round.

I rated this audio book 4.5 out of 5 and I’m very much looking forward to reading, or listening to, the next book in the series.

I received a complementary copy of this audiobook from Audible via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl in the Ice is published by Bookouture. It’s out now and available in ebook, paperback and audiobook formats.

Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook

With Malice by Eileen Cook

A teenage girl wakes up in a hospital bed and cannot remember the last six weeks of her life, including the accident that killed her best friend–only what if the accident wasn’t an accident?

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be. She comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy three days previous but was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

I saw this book mentioned in a blog post recently and I liked the sound of it so much that I immediately requested it on Net Galley! I’m so glad I did as it’s a really good read.

I was drawn into this novel very quickly – the opening lines are really gripping (see my Book Beginnings post for more about the first few lines) and it becomes impossible to just read a little bit of this book. The novel is narrated by Jill, who has no memory of the accident, which makes her very unreliable and I do love an unreliable narrator! I was curious about her from the start; she seemed like an ordinary, hard-working student who got caught up in a horrible accident through no fault of her own. As the novel progresses though a web begins to be woven and you find yourself  questioning things about Jill. Throughout the book there are snippets from social media and blogs, and transcripts from some of the police interviews, which really lead you to wonder how much Jill can be trusted – just as in real cases like this, we get swayed one way by one news report and then a different way entirely by another.

There are clear echoes in this novel of the murder of Meredith Kercher and the trial of Amanda Knox. In particular I could see how the author had taken the way the media presented that case and fictionalised it in this novel.

I think there are other novels about female friendship gone awry that are perhaps more deeply developed than this one but this is a real page turner – it’s a really enjoyable read and one that is very hard to put down. I rated it 4 out of 5 and would recommend it.

I received With Malice from HotKey Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

With Malice is due to be published on 9th June in the UK.

Review: The Joyce Girl by Annabel Abbs

 

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Paris 1928. Lucia, the talented and ambitious daughter of James Joyce, is making a name for herself as a dancer, training with many famous dancers of her day and moving in social circles which throw her into contact with Samuel Beckett. Convinced she has clairvoyant powers, she believes her destiny is to marry Beckett, but the overbearing shadow of her father threatens this vision. Caught between her own ambitions and desires, and her parents’ demands, Lucia faces both emotional and psychological struggles that attract the attention of pioneer psychoanalyst Dr Jung.

The Joyce Girl is an incredible novel about the daughter of James Joyce: a fictionalised exploration of the life of Lucia Joyce. She is a young woman obsessed with dance – she has an obvious talent and initially seems destined for great success. However, she is also her father’s muse and he likes her to dance for him in a particular way, thus keeping her trapped when she needs to spread her wings.

Lucia becomes quite fixated with the idea of marriage after hearing it said that marriage is how women become free. This leads to her to become easily infatuated with men who show even remote interest in her – Lucia would quickly begin fantasising about their wedding, her future life with her suitor, and it becomes so real to her that she sadly doesn’t really see the reality of what some of these men want from her. Samuel Beckett is a fascinating character in this novel but his attraction to Lucia causes him to lead her on somewhat when he isn’t certain of his intentions towards her.

Lucia is taken advantage of by men throughout her life – some men more so than others – but she never really has a normal, stable man in her life at any point. From the moment she was born she was her father’s muse and had to mould herself into whatever he wanted her to be; her brother is a vile man who does whatever he wants with Lucia to suit his own ends. Even as an adult Lucia identifies herself as the daughter of a genius, she never really sees herself in her own right.

The theme of identity runs throughout this novel; the idea that you’re not only who you feel yourself to be but can become moulded, or even forced, to be what the people around you want you to be, or what they already assume you to be. Lucia is pulled in numerous directions and it’s quite apparent that in the end something would have to give. Heartbreakingly for Lucia as her mental health begins to crack under the strain yet another man in her life is able to take full advantage and get rid of her so that he can then shine. 

It is obvious throughout this book that James Joyce loved his daughter, that he wanted what was best for her and he did stick by her. However, it’s also quite apparent that his obsession with writing and needing Lucia to dance for him in order to inspire him was unhealthy for her. It became a tragic situation.

This novel got under my skin far more than I expected it to. I found that once I started reading I didn’t want to put the book down. Lucia Joyce is such a fascinating person and it was great to learn more about her. It saddened me to see how she was never going to escape her father’s name and her brother’s control – between them they seemed to keep her trapped as a child, never to be allowed to be her own person and inevitably this drove her to a kind of madness. Her obsession with dance and wanting to be perfect led to some of her issues but her home life seemed to have a far greater impact. It’s heartbreaking to read of the way men just discarded her as if she were nothing, even though her more manic moments must have been difficult for a man to cope with at that time, it’s still really tough to read.

It shocked me how many women in this novel end up being locked away in asylums because they went mad, or were diagnosed schizophrenic. A poignant moment that I’ve already referred to when Zelda Fitzgerald tells Lucia about her freedom to dance as a married woman and then soon after we learn that Zelda has been committed. These women didn’t really have freedom at all. Their love of dance led to them being somewhat obsessed with it but the way that their husbands / fathers / brothers wanted to keep them on a tight rein led to the women being torn in two different directions. There is no wonder their mental health began to decline. I would imagine that being locked in an asylum and unable to dance would have been the final thing that broke their spirit in the end.

The Joyce Girl is a breathtakingly beautiful novel; it will linger in your mind long after you’ve finished reading.  I rated this novel 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

The Joyce Girl is due to be published on 16th June in the UK and can be pre-ordered now.

I received a copy of the book from the publisher, Impress Books, in exchange for an honest review.

 

I’m the blog tour for The Joyce Girl and have a brilliant guest post about mental health by Annabel Abbs to share with you on 15th June so please look out for that.

Blog Tour | Review: The Safe Word by Karen Long

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There are rules that every player of every game must abide by, no matter how dangerous the sport.

Toronto has become the backdrop to a macabre set of artistic installations: women kidnapped, tortured and horrifically displayed by a killer with a vision. 
Only someone capable of understanding the killer’s creative desire will be able to stop the murders and D I Eleanor Raven is uniquely qualified. Driven by a complex personality she pursues only the facts, only the things she can see, but never casts a judgement. 

But she also has a dark and dangerous secret – one that will threaten her very survival.

I’ve heard quite a lot about this book so when I got the chance to sign up for the blog tour I couldn’t type quick enough to say yes!

I really enjoyed this novel, it’s unusual for me to be engrossed in a crime novel from the first page but this one grabbed me straight away and I didn’t want to put it down.

I found it really refreshing to read a detective novel where the lead character doesn’t seem to have relationship or alcohol problems, as seems to be par for the course in many novels like this. I really liked Detective Eleanor Raven – she is who she is and she doesn’t apologise for it. She seemed like a strong female who doesn’t yield when she know she’s right, she also seems really interesting and I want to know more about her.

I enjoyed seeing how Eleanor interacted with a new partner after her long-standing colleague was off on sick leave. I get the feeling that she will warm to Laurence as time goes on but I loved the dynamic between them – she didn’t make things easy for him but at the same time it felt like deep down she was giving him a chance to prove himself.

The murder scenes in this book are sinister and gruesome but are so intriguing that I couldn’t stop reading as I wanted to find out who was killing these people and what their motivation was. It was a fascinating crime story.

I rated this novel 4 out of 5 and am happy to discover that this is the first book in a series and am now very much looking forward to reading the second book.

I received this book through Brook Cottage Blog Tours in exchange for an honest review.

The Safe Word is out now and available from:

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

B & N

About the Author

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Karen Long was born and raised in the English midlands, educated at Bangor University and taught English and Drama for fifteen years. During her teaching years she studied biology and neurology with the Open University and this interest in medicine, forensics and forensic psychology is reflected in her writing. She is an enthusiastic traveller and has spent time in Toronto, which became the backdrop and inspiration for The Safe Word.

She is a keen amateur naturalist with a deep and abiding love for the crow family. She has dedicated time, love and several fingers in an effort to rehabilitate crows, magpies, rooks and ravens.

Karen is happy to correspond with readers and can be contacted through her website KarenLongWriter.com, where she posts regular blogs.

The Safe Word is Karen’s first novel and was an Amazon bestseller, soon to be joined by the second in the Eleanor Raven series, The Vault. Karen is working on the third novel in the series.

AUTHOR LINKS

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All author or review enquires please contact Karen Long’s Personal Assistant J.B. Johnston – brookbooks@hotmail.co.uk

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Check out Book 2The Vaulthttp://amzn.to/1WSnlDn

 

Review: My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

Anna has had a miserable year. Everything feels wrong with her life. And rather than stay and face the mess, she steals a credit card and books herself a seat on the first flight out of town to Los Angeles, to crash with her sister. But soon after she lands, cold reality soon dawns on her: Hollywood isn’t the escape she needs. She is trapped in a town full of lost souls and wannabes, with no friends, no cash and no return ticket.

When she’s offered a job researching the murderous Manson girls for a dubious film, she reluctantly accepts – she needs the money. But soon enough, among the fake smiles and glitter-fuelled parties, things turn from strange, to dark, to dangerous . . .

This is not going to be the summer Anna had in mind. 

My Favourite Manson Girl is a chilling story about being young, lost and female. This is a story about how girls disappear.

Anna is a fifteen year old girl who is really struggling to deal with her family situation and so she stole $500 from her mum and got on a plane to LA to visit her older sister. She’s definitely at a point in life where she feels like an adult but doesn’t yet have any rights to do what she wants so she acts out. Her home life hasn’t been easy and once I got to know more about that I felt quite sorry for her – she is definitely someone who is lost and who needs someone to pay attention to her otherwise she may well go properly off the rails.

I have to be honest and say that some of the initial sections about Charles Manson felt like an information dump and I wish it had been better incorporated into the novel. Once I was passed this part though all the references to some of the Manson girls were better because they were written from the perspective of how Anna identified with them. The idea of a teenage girl being fascinated by the Manson girls and wondering how they ended up where they did was really interesting to me. I read my mum’s copy of Helter Skelter when I was 15 and it scared me so much, I still shiver when I think of that book, but the murder of Sharon Tate was the thing that particularly got to me. So Anna’s fixation with these girls and the murder of a movie star made some sense to me; I think I was far more horrified and much  less understanding of what they did than Anna but I could understand why she got so drawn into the lives of these women and how they ended up as murderers. It’s apparent that Anna can identify with how a couple to the girls were before they got involved with Manson,  which leads to a compulsion to learn more but also terrifies her to an even greater degree.

Anna doesn’t feel like she really fits in but she so badly wants to – it’s the age old struggle for teenagers. She makes silly choices and isn’t good at seeing the consequences of her actions but she’s not a bad person. Ultimately, she worries for her sister and tries to make sure that she is ok. The side story of Delia having a sort of stalker was interesting and fitted well with what Anna was learning about the Manson family. It seemed quite apparent to me why Delia wasn’t overly concerned about the stalker but I could see why Anna, paranoid from reading books on Charles Manson, was really worried that something sinister was going on.

I really liked Dex in this book, the way he took Anna under his wing and looked out for her a little. It felt like she really needed that from someone so it was good he was there over the summer. Roger was seriously weird, he was hard to get the measure of but I know that he gave me the creeps.

It was sweet that there is a small element of summer romance in this book too but it was very refreshing that it didn’t come to dominate the story. I think the romance, and who it was with, was the thing that showed that Anna grew up over the summer. I felt that she came to understand that nothing is forever and that she needs to make amends with some people on her life.

This was an interesting novel about the many ways in which girls can be lost. The Manson girls were lost in the most extreme way – drawn into a murderous cult that trapped them, whereas Anna was lost in the way that many of us were at that age – she wanted to be seen by the people around her but they were all so focused on their own lives that she felt she had to do something drastic in order to get attention. In reality, the adults in her life had a lot of problems and needed Anna to just be ok but the lack of proper communication and understanding led to her running away.

Los Angeles felt like a character in its own right in this book and I really enjoyed that aspect of the novel. There was a real sense of the heat and the claustrophobic world of celebrity, and wannabe celebrity. The feeling that once you put a foot wrong you’d be cast our forever, which Olivia was teetering on the brink of and desperate to cling on. There were points when it felt quite dream-like – as if the haze of smog and sun and heat  were so oppressive that it was as if the summer wasn’t real. I think Anna had a sense of this as she went through this summer, like it was almost as if she weren’t there either.

This novel wasn’t what I was expecting it to be – I thought it would be a darker novel but having said that it is aimed at a younger audience than me and so for its target market it is a dark read. It’s still a  good read for all ages though. I rated it 4 out of 5 and would recommend it.

My Favourite Manson Girl is due to be published on 7th June in the UK and can be pre-ordered now.

I received a copy of this book from Atom/Little Brown via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review: This Secret We’re Keeping by Rebecca Done

This Secret We're Keeping by Rebecca Done

A pupil and a teacher. Is it ever right to break the rules? Jessica Hart has never forgotten Matthew Landley. After all, he was her first love when she was fifteen years old. But he was also her school maths teacher, and their forbidden affair ended in scandal with his arrest and imprisonment. Now, seventeen years later, Matthew returns to Norfolk, with a new identity and a long-term girlfriend and a young daughter, who know nothing of what happened before. Yet when he runs into Jessica, neither of them can ignore the emotional ties that bind them together. With so many secrets to keep hidden, how long can Jessica and Matthew avoid the dark mistakes of their past imploding in the present? From debut author Rebecca Done, This Secret We’re Keeping is a powerful and provocative novel about the ties which can keep us together – or tear us apart.

This novel is told over two time frames, which gives it an interesting dynamic. We get to see Matthew, or Will as he’s now known, and Jess in the present day but we also get to read Matthew’s viewpoint of what happened when he and Jess has their affair.

This was an interesting novel. It’s a controversial subject anyway, the idea of a grown man dating a 15 year old girl but when he is her teacher it adds to the seriousness of the situation. It initially seems very clear in this novel that Jess does a lot of the running but Matthew doesn’t do much to resist her, and the issue is that even if she did pursue him she is a child in the eyes of the law and it is up to him to tell her no. It’s easy to forget this over the course of the novel and to feel like this is a grand love story, and then when you’re reminded that what he did was a crime it’s feels unfair and shocking.

Matthew did end up going to prison for the relationship he had with Jess and she appears to have moved on with her life. The novel begins in the present day when Jess spots Matthew and runs after him and he ends up accidentally knocking her down with his car whilst his wife and child are with him. This leads to them seemingly irresistibly being drawn back to each other.

I actually felt really uncomfortable about their relationship most of the way through the novel, but weirdly, and I’m not sure if it’s just because we got a more rounded view of the present day, it bothered me more in the present day. There were little things that Matthew said or implied and it would bring me up short, it felt to me that he was obsessed with Jess and always had been, which then leads to me questioning whether he was intentionally grooming her when she was a schoolgirl. The fact that we only see their illegal relationship through his eyes means we never really know the truth about it, because he is only going to tell it in a way that makes him seem as innocent of a crime as possible. Jess’s side of the story, that we learn in retrospect is almost irrelevant because if he had been grooming her, it would make sense that she did believe she was in love with him – she wouldn’t have known any difference at the time and it would have blinkered her judgment as she got older.

I liked the way the novel ended, it fitted the way the book had been up until that point. I’m not going to give any spoilers but I know a lot of readers may well find the ending a little open and dissatisfying but I did feel it worked with the way the novel had been throughout.

I rated it 4 out of 5 and would recommend it. I found it be a novel that really made me think and yet managed to remain an enjoyable read – there is a great balance between treating this issue seriously but without making readers feel bogged down at any point. I’m really looking forward to seeing what Rebecca Done writes next!

I received this book from Michael Joseph/Penguin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This Secret We’re Keeping is out now and available from all good bookshops.

Review: The Boy with the Board by Katey Lovell

The Boy with the Board (Meet Cute) by Katey Lovell

When her beloved mum dies suddenly, Helena escapes to sunny California. Determined to live for the moment, she puts aside her fears and signs up for the surfing lessons she’s always dreamed of – with the added distraction of hunky instructor Ashton.

As regular readers of my blog will all know, I have adored all of the Meet Cute series of stories to date and I have to say it’s no exception with this new one! In fact, this might even be my new favourite out of all of them!

Helena has recently lost her mum and is feeling lost. Her mum had always told her that she must live her life well so when she gets her share of the inherence from the sale of her mum’s house Helena decides to have an adventure.

I could really identify with Helena, I remember the way I felt when my mum died – I suddenly didn’t want the life I’d had before. I had a heightened awareness of just how short life could be and I wanted to find what made me happy. I didn’t travel the world but I did start saying yes to more things and it led to me meeting the man who is now my husband and moving right across the country to start a new life with him. Helena seemed to react in a similar way, she wanted to see what life had to offer and to discover who she really was.

I love that she decided to learn to surf and found the confidence to wear a wetsuit even though it exposed her body that she was self-conscious about. It seemed that once Helena was in the water and having fun, all her cares seemed to float away for a while. I loved the way she and Aston met while surfing and I really felt like he could make such a difference to the break that Helena was having. I so hope they got a happy ever after!

This story was so summery and so full of hopes and dreams that it’s impossible not to fall in love with it.

I rated it  5 out of 5 and highly recommend it to everyone, but especially to anyone who is in real need of a mood boost because this story cannot fail to make you smile and feel better for a little while.

The Boy with the Board is out now and available from Amazon.

I received a review copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour | Review: The Treachery of Trains by Sylvia Ashby

 

trachery of trains tour

Today I’m on the blog tour for Sylvia Ashby’s brilliant novel, The Treachery of Trains and am sharing my review.

Sky has made an abominable mistake at work. Something so awful she doesn’t dare stay in the HR office of XIM Technics for fear of being lynched by her colleagues.

So she gets on a train…

What happens when it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year?

Sky Candy is about to find out.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a little while so when I was offered a place on the blog tour I jumped at the chance!

Sky is an ordinary young woman trying to get on as best as she can but life hasn’t been easy. Sky was very close to her mum so when she died Sky’s life began to unravel. Instead of making rational decisions to deal with her mum’s affairs she tries to keep everything as it was. To compound the loss, her best friend who is also her flatmate and work colleague decides to leave all of a sudden and Sky doesn’t really know where she’s gone or why. Sky is left feeling completely alone and lost.

I really liked Sky, I have to admit that I did find some of the things she did a bit over the top but it was all in keeping with her character. She is quick to react to situations but doesn’t always react in a rational way. She seems to be someone who always wants to do her best though and that made her easy for me to identify with. I also felt sorry for her that she was in such a sad place after losing her mum and I was rooting for her to get a happy ending.

The mystery of what happened to Vanessa became quite central to the plot and that kept me turning the pages as I wanted to know what had made her leave so suddenly. I was never sure of her character from the way she was described in the early part of the novel, it felt like Sky was seeing her through rose-tinted glasses because she was lonely after her mum died. I couldn’t wait to find out whether my judgment was correct and the novel then became quite the page turner.

There was some funny and light-hearted moments in the novel. I loved when Sky and Diederik were searching for Mouse in the cellar, it made me laugh. The potential romance element with Diederik was gorgeous too, I so wanted things to work out for them.

The title of this book added to my intrigue about where things were going to end up for Sky as I couldn’t see what this book had to do with trains being treacherous (or how trains can even be treacherous), but when I got to the part of the book with the photo of Sky’s mum it all began to make sense. I’d never head of the treachery of an image before but I loved the way it was used and described in this novel. It all then began to make some sense of the title too – the way Sky got the wrong train, a train that wasn’t what it appeared to be, and ended up in a place that she hadn’t mean to go to, that also wasn’t what it seemed to be and yet it ultimately led her to end up where she was destined to be.

I really enjoyed this novel, it was light-hearted but with a real warmth and depth to it – a mix of women’s fiction and mystery, which worked very well together and kept me hooked. I would definitely recommend it. It’s something a bit different and is very easy to get completely engrossed in. I rated it 5 out of 5.

The Treachery of Trains is out now and available to buy from Amazon.

About the Author

Sylvia Ashby

 

Sylvia Ashby‘s first book, Pot Love, is about food and love.
Her second, The Treachery of Trains, is about finding love in unlikely places.
She lives in Belgium with her family.

You can connect with Sylvia via twitter at: @bysylvia_a

 


 

The Treachery of Trains by Sylvia Ashby

Review: Tapestry by Elle Turner

Tapestry

In hope, in pain,
we lose, we gain,
but always and forever
the human heart braves life
in light and in shade.

A collection of twelve short stories exploring the complexities of life and love.

I’ve had Tapestry on my Kindle for a while and have been very much looking forward to reading it.

This collection of short stories is excellent. I’m not someone who reads a lot of short stories, as I’ve always preferred a longer read but I’m starting to really enjoy and appreciate collections like this one that are a bit more interlinked.

I enjoyed all the stories in the collection but if I had to pick a favourite it would be the first story, Never-Ending. It just really got to me and it’s stayed in my head after I’ve finished reading.

The thing I loved most about this collection was the way each story ended. They all end with a sentence or two that really sums up the story and gives you something to think about. Elle Turner really makes you think about what words mean and what other words that are similar could have been used but the one she picked is subtly implying something else. The idea that something isn’t ‘forever, it’s just never-ending’ really got to me. The subtly of the words and the massive difference between wanting to be somewhere and feeling trapped and suffocated there. It made the stories quite poetic and added that something extra to them.

The title of the collection really gives a sense of cohesion – these stories are individual but they interweave. Some of the stories are happy, some are sad and some are somewhere in between but they all come together. Some characters re-appear in other stories, others only appear in the the one story but there is a sense of how life would go on for each person.

I very much enjoyed this collection and highly recommend it, even if, like me, you think short stories aren’t really for you, give this book a go because it might surprise you. I rated this book 4.5 out of 5.

Tapestry is out now and available from Amazon.

I featured Elle Turner on my blog a while ago, she wrote a brilliant guest post all about the books that have influenced her and you can read that here if you’d like to.

Review: The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne

 

The Ice Twins by S. K. Tremayne

A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity—that she, in fact, is Lydia—their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past—what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

I have avoided buying The Ice Twins for so long because I was convinced it was going to be too scary for me (I openly admit that I’m a complete and utter wimp!) but I’ve continued to be intrigued by it so when I saw it in a recent Kindle book sale I decided to buy it.

I started reading it straight away just to see what it was like and I literally didn’t put it down again until I’d finished reading! This book is so fast-paced and has so many twists and turns that there really isn’t a good place to stop, and to be honest nor did I really want a stopping place as I was desperate to know the truth about which twin had died!

I found this book intriguing from the start; the idea of giving birth to two completely identical twins and there being no way at all to tell them apart is such a great basis for this novel. Sarah was encouraged by a nurse to have one of the twins subtly tattooed with a small dot just so they would always know which one was which but Sarah and Angus, understandably, didn’t want to mark either of their perfect daughters in any way. So, they decided to always dress them in at least one item of clothing of a particular colour – so one twin always had a yellow item and the other always had a blue item. The sense of foreboding from this early point on in the book was great though because it is quite obvious that as soon as the twins were old enough they would love playing tricks on people and swapping clothes etc, which is what they had begun to do during the summer in the year that Lydia died.

This book does require the reader to suspend disbelief a little because when you have two young children who have enjoyed swapping identities and one of them dies, it seems very odd to me that you would take the word of the surviving twin about who had died. Children are unable to fully comprehend death or the idea of forever so cannot be trusted in a situation like this because to them it could all be a game. I was happy to suspend disbelief though as I wanted to see where the novel went from here.

The family decide to move to a very remote island that Angus has recently inherited. It’s a very bleak, atmospheric place that needs a lot of work doing to it, and works perfectly for this novel. The sense of isolation and despair mirrors perfectly the grief and conflicted emotions that Angus and Sarah, and Kirstie were feeling at this point in time.

It’s hard to review this book without giving any spoilers but what I loved was the way all the characters played their part in the confusion about which twin died so as the layers of the story were gradually pulled back I was never sure who to believe. It seemed plausible that these parents had actually buried the wrong child but it seem equally likely that Kirstie was just continuing on with her childhood game and didn’t understand the terror she was causing in her parents.

I loved the psychological elements of this book, the idea of identity and how it isn’t necessarily a fixed thing. It was great how the family were being haunted by Lydia, or Kirstie, whichever one of them was  actually dead, but it was written in such a way that this could have been a ghost story, or it could have been sheer hysteria that they got swept up in, or it could have been a mix of the two. At times it was a little like a modern day Turn of the Screw – the way that someone could be being haunted, or they could be mad or, and this is perhaps the most scary idea, they could be experiencing both. Just because someone is paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not right about the strange, seemingly unexplained things that are happening around them.

It was brilliant how, as the novel began building towards the climax, I began to question absolutely everything, I was so wrapped up in it that I felt I was right there with the characters and unsure what was real and what was not. The interchanging personality of the surviving twin, be it Kirstie or Lydia, just heightened it. The ending of the novel was brilliant, it’s one of those endings that will stay with me for a really long time.

The Ice Twins is a very creepy, unnerving novel and once it has you in its clasps it won’t let go until long after you’ve finished reading! I rated this novel 4.5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

The Ice Twins is available to buy from all good book shops.

Review: The Midnight Watch by David Dyer

img_4785

As the Titanic and her passengers sank slowly into the Atlantic Ocean after striking an iceberg late in the evening of April 14, 1912, a nearby ship looked on. Second Officer Herbert Stone, in charge of the midnight watch on the SS Californian sitting idly a few miles north, saw the distress rockets that the Titanic fired. He alerted the captain, Stanley Lord, who was sleeping in the chartroom below, but Lord did not come to the bridge. Eight rockets were fired during the dark hours of the midnight watch, and eight rockets were ignored. The next morning, the Titanic was at the bottom of the sea and more than 1,500 people were dead. When they learned of the extent of the tragedy, Lord and Stone did everything they could to hide their role in the disaster, but pursued by newspapermen, lawyers, and political leaders in America and England, their terrible secret was eventually revealed. The Midnight Watch is a fictional telling of what may have occurred that night on the SS Californian, and the resulting desperation of Officer Stone and Captain Lord in the aftermath of their inaction.

Told not only from the perspective of the SS Californian crew, but also through the eyes of a family of third-class passengers who perished in the disaster, the narrative is drawn together by Steadman, a tenacious Boston journalist who does not rest until the truth is found. The Midnight Watch is a powerful and dramatic debut novel–the result of many years of research in Liverpool, London, New York, and Boston, and informed by the author’s own experiences as a ship’s officer and a lawyer.

I’ve been interested by stories of the Titanic ever since I was a young child. I think my fascination grew from an afternoon spent with my Great-Grandad, who was a young boy when the Titanic sank and he remembered it happening. Not only that but he had kept a couple of newspaper cuttings from the time and he showed them to me. My interest in the Titanic has never gone away – I’ve read a lot of books about it, both fiction and non-fiction, and have seen the movies and quite a few documentaries over the years.

I first read about David Dyer’s new novel on Carrie’s Book Reviews blog a few weeks ago and immediately pre-ordered it. Dyer has taken a look at the Titanic story from a different angle; the focus of this novel is on the actions of the nearest ship to Titanic when she hit the iceberg, the Californian. I’d heard about this before reading the novel but Dyer’s meticulous research mixed with his educated interpretations of what might have taken place that nice, add an extra dimension for me. It put a much more human face on the men who were working the midnight watch that fateful night. I was surprised to find I had some sympathy for the Second Officer, as he panicked and was scared to disturb the Captain but then when he eventually did, he was sent away.

A fictional journalist, Steadman, who has made a name for himself chasing bodies at disaster sites, misses out on the first bodies being brought back from the sight of the Titanic but he realises there is a much bigger story to be uncovered. He then refuses to let go in his quest to discover what happened on the Californian. He shows such tenacity and drive to get to the truth.

The journalist also gets to hear about some of the third class passengers who perished on the Titanic and is determined to not let these victims be forgotten. The novel covers the events on the Californian, the resulting investigation and inquest, and finally we get to read the story Steadman wrote. It is focused on a large family, who really did perish on the Titanic and he writes the story of what he thought may have happened to them that night, based on stories their neighbours had told him about them all. It’s an incredibly moving story, and one that made me shed a few tears on finishing the book.

There is so much detail in this book but it never becomes too much; Dyer has struck a perfect balance of fact and fiction. It felt like a really fresh look at the Titanic narrative  too, the way it was done from another angle that hasn’t been covered in any of the fiction I’ve read to date. The way Dyer fictionalised real people and a real event but blended it so seamlessly meant it really gave the book such an authentic voice, which made it all the more powerful and all the more devastating. The idea that a human being could ignore the distress signals of a ship at sea leaves me speechless, it’s such a shocking dereliction of duty. Dyer doesn’t make a quick judgement in his novel though, it is left for the reader to interpret Lord’s behaviour as Steadman tries to put the strands of the story together from the accounts he’s heard. I was astounded at the arrogance of Captain Lord and there is no excusing what he did; the bit that I found hardest to grasp was how blasé he appeared to be about what happened that night. The Midnight Watch deftly explores the fallibility of witness testimony and memory, particularly memories of a traumatic night – a night that led to the death of 1500 people. It certainly felt that some people may genuinely have mis-remembered but others were complicit in keeping to the story they knew they should tell, even though it was at the expense of the truth.

It’s hard to believe that this is a debut novel, it’s such an accomplished book.  It had me utterly enthralled from the first page until long after I read the final page; I know it’ll be a novel that stays with me for a long time to come. I rated it 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

The Midnight Watch is out now and available from all good bookshops.

Review: Shame by Jasvinder Sanghera

Shame by Javinder Sanghera (My Pic)

When she was fourteen, Jasvinder Sanghera was shown a photo of the man chosen to be her husband. She was terrified. She’d witnessed the torment her sisters endured in their arranged marriages, so she ran away from home, grief-stricken when her parents disowned her. Shame” is the heart-rending true story of a young girl’s attempt to escape from a cruel, claustrophobic world where family honour mattered more than anything — sometimes more than life itself. Jasvinder’s story is one of terrible oppression, a harrowing struggle against a punitive code of honour — and, finally, triumph over adversity.

I’ve been really drawn to non-fiction recently, and have picked up quite a lot of memoirs. Shame is about a muslim woman, Jasvinder, who ran away from home in order to escape an arranged marriage and was then disowned by her family. All Jasvinder wanted was to be with the man she loved and to be able to have a relationship with her family but the two were mutually exclusive in the religion she was born in to.

Shame is really quite a shocking read at times, it’s very hard to read about how Jasvinder was treated in her early life by her parents, and then throughout her life by her siblings. I understand that it is part of the culture she lived in then but it is still very hard to understand how siblings can turn their back in such a way.

The stories that Jasvinder has shared in this book about other muslim women are very shocking. I was horrified reading about her sister and what happened to her, and also the way that nothing could be done afterwards to try and help prevent it happening to other women.

The way that Jasvinder was so shunned by her community, even after she had married, was really uncomfortable to read. I found it incredible how Jasvinder found the inner strength to pick herself up time and time again and how determined she has been to make something of her life, and to give her children a better life than she had had.

Jasvinder is very open and honest in this book, she shares many aspects of her life even the ones that perhaps don’t show her in the greatest light. I really valued that honesty, it would have been easy for her to just write about the way she was treated by other people and not to mention her own actions. I think all the things that happened to Jasvinder and to her family, combined with the things that she herself did are what made her who she is now. I was in awe of her reading about how she worked so hard to set up  a place for music women to get advice and help, and ultimately founded a place of safety where they could go. It’s such an incredible achievement and you can’t fail to be moved and inspired by this story.

Ultimately, this is a very inspiring read. Jasvinder worked hard to get an education despite all the odds and then she made it her mission in life to help other women who had experienced what she had. She has achieved such great things and is an incredible woman.

I rate this book 4 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

Shame is out now and available from all good bookshops.

I received a copy of this book from Hodder via Book Bridgr in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour | Review: The Wacky Man by Lyn G. Farrell

The Wacky Man by Lynn G. Farrell

My new shrink asks me, ‘What things do you remember about being very young?’
It’s like looking into a murky river, I say. Memories flash near the surface like fish coming up for flies. The past peeps out, startles me, and then is gone…
Amanda secludes herself in her bedroom, no longer willing to face the outside world. Gradually, she pieces together the story of her life: her brothers have had to abandon her, her mother scarcely talks to her, and the Wacky Man could return any day to burn the house down. Just like he promised.

As her family disintegrates, Amanda hopes for a better future, a way out from the violence and fear that has consumed her childhood. But can she cling to her sanity, before insanity itself is her only means of escape?

I’ve seen The Wacky Man reviewed on a couple of my favourite blogs and I immediately added it to my wishlist. I was therefore thrilled when the publisher got in touch to offer me the chance to review this book for the blog tour.

The Wacky Man is a very powerful and moving novel. It’s an unflinching look at how childhood abuse, and abuse within a marriage, causes such damage – not just physical damage but the emotional impact. It shows how even once the bruises have healed and the perpetrator of the violence is no longer in the home, that the devastation remains for such a long time. It causes breakdowns between the victims because although each person lived through it, they all got broken in a different way and it can become impossible to put things back together.

I found some aspects of this book very difficult to read, some parts because there are small echoes of experiences in my own life and some parts because it was just so harrowing to read. At no point did I want to stop reading though as the novel just pulls you right in and doesn’t let you go. I wanted to know if Amanda was going to be ok, and was desperately hoping she would be. I have such a vivid image of her in my mind, she feels like a real person to me as she was so well written and this makes the novel feel all the more devastating.

Lyn G. Farrell’s writing style is incredible – to write about such harrowing things and yet make it so compelling, and at times, really quite beautiful is a rare talent.  I can absolutely say that this is a book that will stay with me for a very long time to come, and I feel sure it will be in my top books of this year.

I rated this book 5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this book from Legend Press in exchange for an honest review.

The Wacky Man is out now and available Amazon.

About the Author

lyn-farrell

Lyn G. Farrell is the winner of the 2015 Luke Bitmead Bursary and The Wacky Man is her debut novel.
Lyn grew up in Lancashire where she would have gone to school if life had been different. She spent most of her teenage years reading anything she could get her hands on.
She studied Psychology at the University of Leeds and now works in the School of Education at Leeds Beckett University.

Follow Lyn Farrell on Twitter @FarrellWrites

 

Review: This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell

This Must Be the Place by Maggie O'Farrell

 

The dazzling new novel from Sunday Times bestselling, Costa Novel Award-winning author Maggie O’Farrell, THIS MUST BE THE PLACE crosses time zones and continents to reveal an extraordinary portrait of a marriage.

Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life.

A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex-film star given to shooting at anyone who ventures up their driveway.

He is also about to find out something about a woman he lost touch with twenty years ago, and this discovery will send him off-course, far away from wife and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE crosses continents and time zones, giving voice to a diverse and complex cast of characters. At its heart, it is an extraordinary portrait of a marriage, the forces that hold it together and the pressures that drive it apart. 

It’s no secret that I’m a massive Maggie O’Farrell fan so I was beside myself with excitement a few weeks ago when a proof copy arrived in the post!

This Must Be The Place is a novel set across different time frames and continents featuring many different characters but it’s predominantly about the marriage of Claudette and Daniel – two people who have both been trying to run away from their respective pasts but the problem with running away is that things usually catch up with you eventually. Claudette settles in to a new life to a degree but is never able to be herself when outside of her home, and Daniel is just a damaged soul who wants to do the right thing but finds himself compelled to fix previous wrongs, leading to cracks in his current life. It is also a novel about how seemingly tiny decisions can alter the course of someone’s life in such a dramatic way; how a miscommunication or a seemingly small misunderstanding can set people on a course that there is no way back from. It’s about how history can almost repeat itself through the generations but if small things are done differently the outcome can be different.

Daniel has made a lot of mistakes in his life. He has an ex-wife who has prevented him seeing his two children grow up. He’s remarried and has two children with his new wife but one day he discovers something from his past and it sets him off on a tangent that can potentially destroy his marriage and ruin his life. He seems doomed to end up on his own and unhappy. Daniel is a good man at heart, but he’s also a man who made one mistake many years ago and this seems destined to be his undoing in his present. It’s quite apparent that he really should just leave well alone but, it proved impossible for him to resist the lure of what could have been.

Maggie O’Farrell has used speech, words and sounds to great effect in this novel. There are repeated references throughout the novel to the use of language and the way words sound. At times it’s done in a playful way, like when Rosalind ‘trumpety trumped’ off on her adventure just like Nelly the elephant, and at other times it’s done to draw attention to people’s inability to say what they mean and to show the heartache it can then cause throughout the years. It was a great irony in this novel that Daniel, who has failed so often to say the right thing at the right time; or has said the right thing but too late; or he’s just said completely the wrong thing, is a linguistic professor. Daniel spends his days working with language and thinking about words, and yet he seems incapable of communicating openly with the people closest to him. He cuts all contact with his best friend, he takes too long to write a letter to a girlfriend and the consequences are devastating, he tries to communicate with his first two children but his ex- wife seemingly has prevented it.

It is mentioned a couple of times that Daniel’s mother had taught him about the importance of a genuine apology to resolve any situation. Daniel uses this to almost manipulate his best friend in order to get information that he feels entitled to about the past. It was uncomfortable to see Daniel being so callous, but he was on the beginning of his path to self-destruction at this point and can’t make his way back from it. Daniel does grow as a person as the novel progresses. He learns from his children that he has to grow up, his eldest son Niall, in particular, becomes a parent figure to him and gets him through the darkest moments and Daniel does actually learn from this. There is an apology near the end of the novel that is completely spontaneous where Daniel says what he feels from his heart in the moment, with no aim to gain anything or to manipulate, it is just him stating what he sees as a fact and it is a beautiful thing to read.

There are numerous voices that are heard in this novel, and each new perspective adds depth to what has gone before, even when initially you are wondering how this can possibly be connected. The back and forth of the timeframe adds new layers to Daniel’s story and we get to understand him more and more. There are moments that foretell what is yet to come for the characters and it leaves you with such a sense of dread wondering when the rug will be pulled from under the character concerned. The little cliffhangers that occur at the end of some chapters are soon returned to and you get the answer you were wondering about but nothing is ever straightforward. It is how real life is, and Maggie O’Farrell is the master of capturing this – no one does it better than her.

Maggie O’Farrell’s writing is sublime; she writes in such a way that all of her characters feel like real people and there were many times when the conversation between characters was so realistic that I felt like I was listening in behind a door. This Must Be The Place is an incredible novel. There are multiple characters and multiple timelines and it’s all pulled together in a way that is just sheer perfection. There is so much heart in this book: it has humour and wit, heartache and healing, and it’s all just so real and believable. There is such beauty in the way Maggie O’Farrell writes – the way she uses language, the way she constructs each sentence. It’s stunningly beautiful.

I always feel bereft when I get to the end of one of Maggie O’Farrell’s novels and I always feel like I want to immediately go back to the beginning and read it all again and I was no different with this book. It’s an absolute joy to read, I read it in just two sittings as once I started it I just couldn’t bear to put it down. There are not enough superlatives to describe this book; it is quite simply a masterpiece!

I rate this novel five out of five, but I would score it much higher if it was actually possible to do so. I know right now that This Must Be The Place will be in my top 10 books of this year, it was quite simply outstanding.

This Must Be The Place is due to be published on 17 May and is available for preorder now.

I received a copy of this novel from Tinder Press via BookBridgr in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Shtum by Jem Lester

shtum by jem lester

Ben Jewell has hit breaking point.

His ten-year-old son, Jonah, has never spoken. So when Ben and Jonah are forced to move in with Ben’s elderly father, three generations of men – one who can’t talk; two who won’t – are thrown together.

As Ben battles single fatherhood, a string of well-meaning social workers and his own demons, he learns some difficult home truths.

Jonah, blissful in his ignorance, becomes the prism through which all the complicated strands of personal identity, family history and misunderstanding are finally untangled.

Funny and heart-breaking in equal measure, Shtum is a story about families, forgiveness and finding a light in the darkest days.

 

I was pleased to receive a review copy of Shtum a few months ago as there had been a lot of hype around the book and I was really keen to see what it was all about. I have to be honest and admit that for the first few chapters of this book I really wasn’t sure whether I wanted to keep reading, it just wasn’t holding my attention at all. I’m glad that I persevered though because once I reached the halfway point I did find this book a lot more engrossing.

I don’t really feel qualified to talk about the representation of autism in this book because it’s not something that I have any direct experience of, however I do have friends who have children that are autistic but are affected to a much lesser degree than Jonah, and I also have a family member who is profoundly mentally and physically disabled, albeit not from autism, so I do have a little understanding. Jonah was a great character to read about, it’s not often that autism, or any profound disability, is portrayed in novels so I commend the author for writing this book.

Throughout the novel I wanted to feel sorry for Ben and Emma at the situation they were in with their son but they weren’t particularly likeable characters, which made it harder to care. For most of the book Ben was so self-pitying that it was very hard to even tolerate him, and I didn’t feel that I ever got to know enough about Emma to form much of an opinion. I can imagine that having a profoundly disabled child would be a strain on most, if not all, relationships so the breakdown between Emma and Ben was understandable. It was very strange how Emma went about the break up but then perhaps it was done in this way to highlight just how impossible it was for her to deal with Ben anymore, given how wrapped up he was in his own thoughts and feelings.
The biggest issue that I had with this book is the way certain issues were written about; it wasn’t so much the obsession with bodily functions but the way they were written about. So many of these particular paragraphs should have elicited sympathy for the characters going through it, and the person who has to deal with it, but the way it was written made me really quite angry. It felt like these characters, who did not have control over their own bodies anymore, were being treated with absolute contempt by the person who should have loved and cared for them the most. I know how difficult it is to be a carer and I know how difficult it is to have to be responsible for another person’s bodily functions and yet it did not bring out any empathy in me, and I feel like it really should have done. So much of it just left me cold. Perhaps this is what the author intended but it made me want to stop reading rather than making me want to understand Ben’s point of view.

On a much more positive note, I adored the relationship between Jonah and his grandfather, Georg. There were some wonderful and tender moments between them that did melt my heart, it was quite clear that they had a strong bond and that they really understood each other. It was this relationship that kept me reading the book.

This novel is very focused on what it is like to have an autistic child but actually at its heart it is much more about people’s inability to communicate. Emma couldn’t even directly tell her husband that she was leaving him; Georg and Ben had never had a conversation about what it was like for Georg growing up, and Ben only found out snippets when he was listening in to conversations that Georg was having with Jonah. There was also Ben’s problems with alcohol, which was masking the issues he had facing up to Jonah’s problems. So it became apparent to me that Jonah’s inability to speak was actually representative of the entire family’s inability to communicate with each other, they were all stifled and closed off and actually although Jonah couldn’t speak he was probably the most expressive of all the characters in this book; he may not always have expressed himself in a way that society would deem appropriate but he did always make himself heard when he needed or wanted something, and that is more than can be said for the other main characters in this book, and for me, this was the most interesting part of this story. The idea that the boy who could not speak actually expressed himself more than those that could speak is incredibly powerful and is a lesson to us all about how we need to learn to communicate better and, more importantly, that we must learn to pay attention to people and to not always focus on the words people use but to really see what they’re communicating to us.

I struggled with rating this book because it wasn’t really a book that I could say I  enjoyed as such but it did become a book that I found interesting and it did give me a lot to think about when I’d finished it. I think overall I am going to rate this book 3.5 out of 5.

I received this book from the Orion via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Shtum is out now and available from all good bookshops.

Review: Wonder Cruise by Ursula Bloom

Wonder Cruise by Ursula Bloom

A witty, heartwarming read with great romantic and comic characters. This warm, feel-good tale will make you smile, and you’ll be rooting for Ann to find lasting love and happiness. A moving portrait of an unforgettable 1930’s woman; Ann Clements will stay with you long after the last page. 

Ann Clements is thirty-five and single, and believes nothing exciting will ever happen to her. Then, she wins a large sum of money in a sweepstake and suddenly can dare to dream of a more adventurous life. She buys a ticket for a Mediterranean cruise, against the wishes of her stern brother, the Rev. Cuthbert, who has other ideas about how she should spend her windfall. Ann steps out of the shadows of her mundane life into the heat of the Mediterranean sun. Travelling to Gibraltar, Marseilles, Naples, Malta and Venice, Ann’s eyes are opened to people and experiences far removed from her sheltered existence in the offices at Henrietta Street, and Mrs. Puddock’s lodging house. As Ann blossoms, discovering love and passion for the very first time, the biggest question is, can there be any going back? 

I jumped at the chance to read this book when I was offered it for review, I’ll be honest that as soon as I saw the gorgeous cover I felt sure I would enjoy this novel, and I was absolutely right!

Wonder Cruise was written and set in the early 1930s and is a wonderful insight into the way life was for unmarried women in that era. Ann Clements is a 35 year old spinster who has a dull job as a typist, and is very much influenced by her brother, Cuthbert, who is a vicar. He keeps Ann on a tight rein and she never goes against what he says. Then one day her co-worker tells her that she has won some money in a sweepstake and Ann is left feeling very discombobulated. She agonises over what Cuthbert will say but then in a moment of spontaneity she books a mediterranean cruise – her boss encourages her to go and she does it on a whim. Despite Cuthbert’s thoughts on the matter Ann defies him and goes anyway!

This is a novel about one woman’s awakening to what is out there in the wider world. Ann has led a very sheltered, very dull life and suddenly her eyes are opened to new countries, new people and she begins to see what could be if she just lets go. Ann soon goes from feeling incredibly uncomfortable on the cruise and wondering if she’d made a huge mistake to gradually changing aspects of her look and beginning to fit in. Initially, she changes her hair because she is far too hot with her long hair pinned up on her head, but then she invests in a new wardrobe when it becomes obvious that her new wool tweed suit is not going to be practical in the mediterranean heat. Ann doesn’t just choose practical clothes though, she gets swept up in the shopping experience and for the first time in her life she buys pretty clothes.

Ann begins to attract the attention of some of the men on the cruise and gets swept up in the romance – she dances with one man, and she goes ashore with another man. It’s delightful to see how Ann changes as the novel goes on. She begins to dread the end of the cruise, almost wishing she’d never gone on it because now she has to go back to her drab life knowing what’s out there in the world. I found myself feeling quite sad at the thought of her going back to her miserable spinsterhood life and living under her brother’s control for the rest of her life. I couldn’t see how it would be any different but I was so hoping that it could be. I’m not going to give any spoilers but I loved the climax to this novel, for a while it went in a slightly different direction than I was expecting for a novel written in the 30s which was wonderful.

This novel is of its time in the sense that some of the opinions are a little outdated, and I’ll be very honest and admit that in the opening chapter I did wonder if this was going to be a very quaint and staid book and perhaps not my kind of thing, but from the moment Ann wins the money in the sweepstake I just got completely swept up in her adventure. Ann’s story does have a relevance to modern life in the sense that we should all follow our dreams, that it’s important to get out of our comfort zones and see what is out there in the wider world. There was so much more wit and humour than I was expecting throughout, and the book does have surprises in store. I enjoyed every page and didn’t want the book to end.

I rated Wonder Cruise 4.5 out of 5, it’s a delightfully charming novel, which I adored. I highly recommended it I can’t wait to read more of Ursula Bloom’s novels.

I received this book from Corazon Books via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Wonder Cruise is out now and available on Amazon.

I recently wrote a blog post to showcase this novel so if you’d like to know more about it, and the author Ursula Bloom please read my post here.

Review: Twisted River by Siobhan MacDonald

Twisted River by Siobhan MacDonald

“She would never have fit as neatly into the trunk of his own car.” Limerick, Ireland: the O’Brien family’s driveway. American Oscar Harvey opens the trunk of his hosts’ car and finds the body of a woman, beaten and bloody. But let’s start at the beginning. 

Kate and Mannix O’Brien live by Curragower Falls in Limerick, in a lovely house they can barely afford. Their son Fergus is bullied at school, and their daughter Izzy blames herself, wishing she could protect him. Kate decides that her family needs a vacation, and is convinced her luck’s about to change when she spots a gorgeous Manhattan apartment on a home-exchange website.

Hazel and Oscar Harvey and their two children live on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Though they seem successful and happy, Hazel has mysterious bruises, and Oscar is hiding things about his dental practice. They, too, need a change of pace. Hazel has always wanted her children to see her native Limerick, and the house swap offers a perfect chance to soothe two troubled marriages. But this will be anything but a perfect vacation. And the body in the trunk is just the beginning.

I hadn’t heard of this book before I was offered it to review but as soon as I saw the cover and read the synopsis I knew I had to read this as soon as possible!

I found Twisted River to be one of those books that once you start it, it’s nearly impossible to put down. I was hooked from the opening pages right to the very end. This is one twisty book – just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, the rug gets pulled from under you all over again. I found this a refreshing read as I read a lot of psychological thrillers but this one was different to any that I’ve read recently.

The novel is narrated by the four main characters: Kate and Mannix O’Brien, and Oscar and Hazel Harvey, and each time the point of view changes the story gets moved on a bit further and another layer is added on top of the section read previously. I found that I was reading one character’s viewpoint thinking I had things all worked out and then I’d read the next chapter with another character’s viewpoint and I was left unsure what to think all over again. I loved this aspect of the book, it worked brilliantly well.

I was convinced fairly early on in the book that I knew who had killed the woman Oscar found in the trunk of his car at the very start of the novel, but once the killer was revealed I was completely stunned. I was sure that there was going to be another twist and this had me on the edge of my seat for the rest of the book wondering if I was right and whether justice would be done. I’m not saying anymore about this as I don’t want to give spoilers.

There are little mysteries linked to most of the characters in this novel and some become part of the bigger mystery and some don’t. This meant that I never felt that I completely knew which characters were trustworthy, and I was never quite sure whether I even liked any of these people. I could never get a grip of who the good guys and who the bad guys were but it all added to the unsettling nature of the novel and worked very well for me.

This is a gripping, nerve-jangling thriller of a novel and I loved it. I rated this novel 4.5 out of 5 and recommend it.

Twisted River is out now and available from Amazon.

I recently interviewed Siobhan MacDonald as part of the blog tour for Twisted River, you can read that Q&A here.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Second Love of My Life by Victoria Walters

the second love of my life

In the small Cornish town of Talting, everyone is known for something.

Up to the age of twenty-four, artist Rose Walker was known for lots of things: her infectious positivity; her unique artistic talent; her second-to-none cookery skills; and, of course, her devotion to childhood sweetheart and husband Lucas.

But, two years ago, all of that changed in one, unthinkable moment. Now, Rose is known for being a young woman who became a widow aged just twenty-four.

Rose knows that life must – should – go on. But the prospect of trying to carve out a future for herself is one she can still barely entertain. Until a newcomer, Robert Green, arrives in Talting for the summer…

Can Rose allow herself the chance to love again?

I knew from the second I started reading this book that I was going to love it, and I was proved to be absolutely right. This is such a beautiful novel about love, grief and second chances.

I loved Rose from the start of this novel, she just felt like a real person to me. I could feel her pain, her  sadness and her desire to honour Lucas, but also her will to live life. I think a lot of people will identify quite strongly with her. She has been through a lot in her life and even if you haven’t been through the same things, the way she feels and approaches things is so believable and true to life.

I loved how this book is in large part also about the families that we create for ourselves, how you may have lost your family, or you may not have a good relationship with them but so often other people come into your life who become your family. Rose’s relationship with Lucas’s parents, particularly his mother, seemed so spot-on, and I was willing them to be able to remain family to each other as Rose’s life began to change. Rose’s relationship with Emma’s mother was also lovely, we don’t see much of them together in the book but the closeness is referred to quite a few times.

I really liked how the town of Talting enveloped the characters in this book, and that in a way it became a character in its own right. I could picture the place so vividly that I began to feel like I’d actually been there. The warmth of the people and place was just wonderful.

I cried so many times reading this book. All the sections where Rose talks about losing her mum just broke my heart because I’ve been there too and Victoria Walters just got those feelings exactly right. I’ve always felt that since losing my mum all the difficult times in my life have been more difficult because I didn’t have my mum to turn to and that’s how it was for Rose, it’s sadly how it is for everyone who has had a good relationship with their parent.

I really enjoyed reading Emma and John’s story too. I’d previously read the short story prequel to this novel called The Summer I Met You and fell in love with this couple then so I was really pleased to find that they feature quite a lot through The Second Love of My Life. It was lovely to see how close Emma and Rose were, and how they remained such good friends throughout everything they each go through.

It’s beautiful how Lucas’ presence is felt throughout this whole novel even though he’d actually died before the point where the book began. We really get to understand how Rose and Lucas’ relationship worked and just how happy they had been together. Rose’s grief for him felt so real and so believable, and I so often wanted to give her a hug, but the book is never maudlin. We feel Rose’s pain but we fall in love with her character so much that we want her to move on we want her to find love and true happiness again. Victoria Walters has spanned this novel over a few years and it allows us to see the progression of Rose’s healing process in such a way that you cant help but feel joy when she starts to feel like she can move on.

There is sadness and grief in this novel but there are also so many moments that made me smile and some moments that made me properly laugh out loud. I think I went through the whole range of emotions while reading this novel, it is just completely and utterly wonderful. I think this novel will become my new comfort read, the book that I turn to when I need a pick me up!

I rated this novel 5 out of 5 and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s a gorgeous novel that will make you laugh and cry, but it will ultimately leave you feeling warm and fuzzy and very, very happy! I can’t wait to see what Victoria Walters writes next.

The Second Love of My Life is out now and available from all good bookshops.

I received this book from Net Galley via Headline in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Between You and Me by Lisa Hall

Between You and Me by Lisa Hall

They say every marriage has its secrets.

But no one sees what happens behind closed doors.

And sometimes those doors should never be opened…

Sal and Charlie are married. They love each other. But they aren’t happy. Sal cannot leave, no matter what Charlie does – no matter how much it hurts.

I was really pleased when my request for Between You and Me was approved on Net Galley as this was a book I was very keen to read. I found it to be an engrossing novel – it was one of those books that I kept thinking about when I wasn’t reading it and I wanted to get back to it to find out what would happen next.

I absolutely applaud the author for tackling domestic violence in the way that she did – there are no holds barred in this novel, leading to some of the scenes being quite difficult to read because of the intensity of the abuse and the way it takes place. The descriptions are so realistic at times, but it’s obviously been well researched and is very sensitively handled. I think issues like this being handled in this way in fiction is important as it really helps to give an understanding of how people end up in abusive relationships and why they stay in them.

I did have a few niggles with the first person narration in this novel as there are occasions when a character tells us that they don’t see another character doing something, and this was jarring because if you don’t see someone doing something, how do you know they were doing it? You need an omniscient narrator for that. It jolted me out of the story when I wanted to be kept engrossed. It bothered me enough that I felt a need to mention it but it wasn’t so bad that it spoiled the book.

I didn’t see this novel as having a twist as I happened to read the book in the ‘twisted’ way from the start. I have to say that I still enjoyed the book despite this because the issues in it are handled very well. Even though the twist wasn’t there for me, it’s still a novel that gave me real pause for thought. I think for readers who don’t see the twist until it happens, it will really cause you to catch your breath! On the whole though, I commend the author for writing the novel in the way that she has, it must have been tough at times and for the most part it’s done well.

Between You and Me was a really good read; for the most part it kept me hooked, and the tension gradually builds throughout the novel and it left me almost holding my breath with nerves at times! It’s a gripping, page-turner of a novel and I look forward to seeing what Lisa Hall writes next!

Between You and Me is out now and available from Amazon.

I received a copy of this book from Carina via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: The Boy on the Bus by Katey Lovell

The Boy on the Bus (Meet Cute) by Katey Lovell

I had another bad day earlier this week when I couldn’t concentrate to read but I needed something to cheer me up and then I remembered that I had a new Meet Cute story on my Kindle and I knew this would be the perfect time to read it. This series has never failed to put a smile on my face so I had high hopes that this would at least give me a distraction and might brighten my day a little. It actually brightened my day quite a lot because I loved this story so much!

This story is told over several days, and I loved how we got little snippets of Lucy’s bus journey over the course of this particular week. Each day we get a snippet of Lucy being on the same bus that she gets every day, and we see her watching the gorgeous boy who also get this bus every day. She is desperate to find out more about him as she doesn’t even know his name but she can’t seem to pluck up the courage to speak to him.

I adored this story from the very first paragraph. I could feel the chemistry that was building for Lucy over this boy as she daydreams about him each day. It reminded me of being back at school when you have a crush on a boy and would so badly want to speak to him but you just can’t, and on the days when he didn’t turn up at school it felt like the end of the world. I felt like I was right there with Lucy, I could feel her heart sink on the day he didn’t get on the bus and could feel how her heart would leap into her mouth on the days when he did. Katey has captured these emotions so well and gave it an intensity that I could feel it emanating from the page, I was willing Lucy on to speak to this boy.

This story properly left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, I completely fell in love with it and have to say that I think it has become my joint favourite of this series along with The Boy at the Beach. I’ve loved all the stories in the Meet Cute series but these two are my favourites because I could so identify with them, and the stories build so perfectly!

I rated this story five out of five and can’t recommend it highly enough.  This story will not fail to make you feel better, it’s like a giant hug in story form it will put a great big grin on your face. Go download The Boy on the Bus right now, I promise you won’t regret it!

I have previously reviewed four others of the make use stories on my blog you can find them on the following links:

The Boy in the Bookshop

The Boy at the Beach

The Boy Under the Mistletoe

The Boy with the Boxes

Review: The Boy with the Boxes by Katey Lovell

The boy with the boxes by katey lovell

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while will know already how much I adore the Meet Cute series of stories. I was so excited last week when not one but two more of these stories were published on the very same day and there was no way that I was going to be able to hold off reading them for long!

Rosie is moving into a new flat having recently moved out of the place she shared with her friend Carmen during three years at university. Carmen has now moved to Australia and Roses feel a little bit uncertain about life as she moves into this new flat on her own. Unbeknown to her she is about to meet a gorgeous new man who may be just what she needs to give her life a bit of excitement again!

The very first paragraph in this story had me laughing to myself in a wry sort of way. Reading about Rosie moving into her new flat and realising she had more wineglasses than friends really struck a chord with me. Then reading about her wishing she’d decluttered more and also packed her stuff in smaller boxes so they weighted less – it just reminded me so much of when I first moved in with my now husband. I did get rid of half of my books before I moved in with him but I still had literally thousands that I couldn’t part with and I packed them into whatever boxes I could find and most were quite big. His apartment was on the second floor and there was no lift so I knew right there and then how much he loved me when he carried box after box after box of these books up all those stairs without complaining and he isn’t even a reader!

The love interest in this story, Connor,  seems to ooze sex appeal from his accent to the clothes that he is wearing so I can see how he immediately caught Rosie’s eye! There isn’t such a build up of chemistry between Rosie and Connor as they don’t meet until halfway through the story but when they first catch sight of each other there is an instant, sizzling sort of chemistry, which is fab. You just know these two are going to have lots of fun together.

I rated this short story 4.5 out of 5 and highly recommend it. All of the books in the meet cute series are fab five-ten minute reads and are the perfect pick-me-ups for those times when you just need a bit of escapism or your day needs brightening up.

The Boy with the Boxes is out now and available from Amazon.

I have previously reviewed three other Meet Cute stories on my blog and you can find them on the following links:

The Boy in the Bookshop

The Boy at the Beach

The Boy Under the Mistletoe

Review: In Too Deep by Samantha Hayes

In Too Deep by Samantha Hayes

Your husband goes out to buy a newspaper. He never comes back. 

Months later, an unexpected phone call puts you and your daughter in unimaginable danger. 

Even if he were still alive, your husband can’t save you now. 

He told you way too many lies for that.

I was thrilled to receive a copy of In Too Deep via The Book Club. I have read a couple of Samantha Hayes books in the past and really enjoyed them so I was very much looking forward to starting this one.

From the first pages of this novel I was completely hooked. In the opening chapter a man and a woman argue, one pushes the other and it appears that the one who fell is dead. From this point on this book is near impossible to put down!

The premise of In Too Deep is great, the idea of someone’s husband going out for a newspaper one morning and never coming back is immediately intriguing. I was suspicious about most of the characters in this book at one point or another as none of them seem to be completely honest and you don’t know who is keeping the biggest secrets. I wondered how much I could trust Gina and what she was saying about her relationship with her husband because as the book goes on we find out snippets about their relationship that don’t quite tally with what she says. Their daughter Hannah has secrets of her own that she seems determined not to share with anyone, and because her mum is so wrapped up in her dad’s disappearance she doesn’t really notice what’s going on in Hannah’s life. Susan was an intriguing character too but because we don’t know anything about her to begin with it wasn’t easy to weigh her up for a good while. 

Rick’s disappearance was the second trauma to befall this family. A few years earlier their son Jacob had been killed in a hit and run, and the driver was never found. This increases the mystery of this novel as it adds another level of intrigue to the twists and turns within the story.

I read a lot of psychological thrillers, and I’m finding it increasingly easy to work out what is going on but I have to say that with this book even as I reached the halfway point I still hadn’t worked it out and I loved that! Any thriller that can keep me in the dark for that long is a winner in my opinion. Once I passed the halfway point I did start being able to piece things together and my suspicions about certain characters, and what might really be going on began to grow. I couldn’t read this book fast enough to find out if my suspicions were correct. 

I thought the ending of this book was brilliant; it fitted the story perfectly and allowed the characters to remain true to who they had been throughout the whole book and I appreciated that.

In Too Deep is fast-paced, unpredictable and utterly thrilling! I rated this book 4.5 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

I received a copy of this book from Net Galley via THE Book Club in exchange for an honest review.

In Too Deep is due to be published by Random House on 5th May.

Review: When She was Bad by Tammy Cohen

when she was bad tammy

You see the people you work with every day.

But what can’t you see?

Amira, Sarah, Paula, Ewan and Charlie have worked together for years – they know how each one likes their coffee, whose love life is a mess, whose children keep them up at night. But their comfortable routine life is suddenly shattered when an aggressive new boss walks in ….

Now, there’s something chilling in the air.

Who secretly hates everyone?

Who is tortured by their past?

Who is capable of murder?

 

I love Tammy Cohen’s writing and was so pleased to receive an early copy of this through Net Galley. I started reading it one night thinking I’d just read a couple of chapters and I ended up being awake half the night reading – it’s one of those novels that’s near impossible to put down once you’ve started it.

I was intrigued from the start of this book as I’d avoided reading the synopsis, I’d requested it based on how much I’d loved Tammy Cohen’s previous novels, so I had no idea what was coming. It’s such a well thought out novel because it focuses on a number of people and it felt like I got to know all of them – there wasn’t more of a focus of any one person in the office. The multiple points of view all helped with this and added to the rapidly building tension.

There are two timelines to this novel and they slowly come together. The novel starts off in the present day with psychologist, Anne Cater, who switches on a UK news channel and is horrified at what she sees. At this point we don’t know what’s happened, just that is something terrible and shocking. This strand of the novel then goes back in time and follows a young Anne Cater as she gets her first big case working with two siblings who have come from a very damaged home life. Anne works with the girl, who demonstrates behaviours that concern Anne. 

Most of the book is focused on the present day in an office setting in the UK with a number of characters who are all, on the surface, nice, ordinary people, but over the course of the novel it becomes apparent that there are increasingly simmering tensions in the office, and that some characters have deeper issues. 

It’s apparent that the two stories are going to converge at some point but you don’t know how until it happens. It’s so cleverly done because throughout the novel I had my suspicions about every single character – there were moments where I felt quite smug because I had it all worked out and then something else happens and I was back to  the drawing board! I love novels like this. Tammy Cohen is so brilliant at throwing you off the scent and she does it numerous times in this book. All of the people in the office seem to have either a motive for revenge, or they have a dark side to their personality or unexplained injuries etc so it really could have been any one of them that is the bad guy.

I did work out part of the plot but, because there are many aspects to this story, I didn’t work all of it out, and I’m not sure anyone could. The reveal when it comes makes absolute sense though and as soon as you know, it all clicks into place as you think back over the novel.

Tammy Cohen really is a master at this type of novel – she weaves such a tight web that captures you so tightly and doesn’t let go until long after you’ve finished reading.

I rated this book 4 out of 5 and highly recommend it.

When She Was Bad is due to be published on 21 April in the UK. 

I received a copy of this book from Transworld via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.