Summerwater by Sarah Moss

About the Book

On the longest day of the summer, twelve people sit cooped up with their families in a faded Scottish cabin park. The endless rain leaves them with little to do but watch the other residents.

A woman goes running up the Ben as if fleeing; a retired couple reminisce about neighbours long since moved on; a teenage boy braves the dark waters of the loch in his red kayak. Each person is wrapped in their own cares but increasingly alert to the makeshift community around them. One particular family, a mother and daughter without the right clothes or the right manners, starts to draw the attention of the others. Tensions rise and all watch on, unaware of the tragedy that lies ahead as night finally falls.

My Thoughts

I love Sarah Moss’ writing so I was delighted to get my hands on a copy of Summerwater and I can honestly say that I adored it!

Summerwater is set during the longest day of the year at a very rainy summer in a holiday cabin park in Scotland. Each chapter is told from the perspective of the people staying in one of the cabins so we get there own experiences and their views on everyone else. Then the story moves along and eventually we meet almost all the people in the cabins and see how their holidays are going. There is a real sense of building tension through this novel as it works towards it’s shocking conclusion.

This book is brilliant. I loved meeting a person in each of the cabins, it felt like I was right there with them and watching their neighbours on this wet, miserable holiday. We follow a young mum who just wants a few minutes to relax but when her husband takes the children out for an hour she doesn’t know what to do with the time. We meet a young couple who are meant to be having a romantic getaway but the boy is obsessed with working on their simultaneous orgasms and the girl who loves him dearly but is thinking about how she’d just quite like to fry some bacon. There is the family with a teenage daughter who wants to get out and meet up with a man she’s getting to know who’s camping nearby. Also we meet an older couple, the husband likes to walk on holidays but the wife is struggling. We see things through each of their eyes in two different chapters and I found their story really moving. Alongside them is a family we don’t get to meet, they are Ukranian and everyone who watches them seems to be suspicious of them. They play loud music every night and people on the holiday park are judging their every move. The tension slowly builds in the background of everyone else’s story as they each have an existing judgement about this family that they allow to be compounded by the loud music.

I loved the way the author shows us the public side of the holidaymakers but then we get to see their inside selves, how they behave with their family and the glimpses into their secret selves; the things you’d never say but you think.

There are moments in this book where I was holding my breath as various holiday makers have near misses – accidents that could have had a different outcome, childish pranks that felt sinister and dark. The ending when it comes though is still stark and shocking. The reactions of the people around was fascinating and it leaves you thinking about how you would do in that situation.

This is a claustrophobic novella; we all know what it is to be on holiday when the weather is horrendous and there’s nothing to do. I love the way it broadly explores the perspectives of all age groups, it evokes memories we likely all have of this holiday experience.

This is an incredible novella; I finished it a few weeks ago now and I still keep thinking about it. I think it might be one of my favourite books of the year so far. I loved it and I highly recommend it!

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

Summerwater is due to be published on 20th August and can be pre-ordered here.

#AudioBook Review: Under a Starry Sky by Laura Kemp

About the Book

One summer to change her life…

Wanda Williams has always dreamed of leaving her wellies behind her and travelling the world! Yet every time she comes close to following her heart, life always seems to get in the way.

So, when her mother ends up in hospital and her sister finds out she’s pregnant with twins, Wanda knows that only she can save the crumbling campsite at the family farm.

Together with her friends in the village, she sets about sprucing up the site, mowing the fields, replanting the allotment and baking homemade goodies for the campers.

But when a long-lost face from her past turns up, Wanda’s world is turned upside-down. And under a starry sky, anything can happen…

My Thoughts

Under a Starry Sky is set in the Welsh village of Gobaith and it follows two women: Wanda who has always wanted to travel the world but life keeps conspiring to keep her close to home. When she was younger her father died and she couldn’t go, and now in the present day her mum has an accident and she just can’t leave the family’s campsite business. It also follows Annie in alternating chapters. Annie and Wanda used to be best friends but something terrible happened years ago and they haven’t spoken since. Annie has clearly been through a traumatic relationship and is trying to get her life back together. Now Wanda isn’t going to be travelling and they might just have to face up to the past now they’re living so close to each other.

I was rooting for Annie and Wanda to rebuild their broken friendship. It’s hard to carry the pain of a falling out for so many years when you’re back living close to each other and are going to be bumping into them all the time. I could see each of their points of view and felt equal sympathy for them. None of what happened was either of their faults but family comes first and it just broke them apart.

The romantic storylines in this book were just perfect. I loved getting to know Spike and his son Arthur and seeing how they came into their own as the novel progressed. I wanted Spike to find love again and I could see who would be perfect for him early on and was hoping things would work out.

I also loved the humour in this book, especially the messages left in the campsite’s guest book that were at the start of every chapter. It was lovely to see them change from complaints to praise but I especially loved the message from the naturists who had misread the word naturalists on the website. It made me giggle!

I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook. The narrator Claire Morgan really helped to bring the characters to life, she has such a warm voice and I loved hearing the welsh accent throughout the novel.

Under a Starry Sky is lovely novel that is full of warmth. I loved getting to know all of the characters in the book and seeing how they all rallied round each other when the need arose. It made me want to visit there! This is a gorgeous novel, perfect summer reading! I highly recommend it!

I received an audiobook from the publisher via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Under a Starry Sky is out now and available here.

The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke | @RandomTTours

About the Book

Arie and Diana were destined to be together.

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

But that’s not where the story ends…

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

There’s still a verse to come. 

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lost Love Song is out now and available here.

#BookReview: The Summer of Madness by Alexander Raphael

About the Book

In the summer of love, or rather of madness, a whole set of stories are emerging. But there is one that has got everyone talking. When Kurt decides to win back his ex-girlfriend with the help of a literary classic, he sets off a string of events that will build to a dramatic finale.

My Thoughts

The Summer of Madness is a lovely short story that follows Kurt who has been dumped by his girlfriend and he wants to try and win her back. Kurt sets himself up at the local station and starts reading a section of Wuthering Heights out loud. He’s going to come back every day until he’s finished the novel in the hopes that his ex girlfriend will find out about it and come to see him.

Kurt’s reading begins to attract small crowds – some people stop for a few minutes as they’re passing by and others end up coming to listen day after day. I enjoyed seeing these other characters too and even in such a short story there was enough about them to make me curious and to want to see what might happen to them as a result of the reading.

It was interesting that Kurt’s girlfriend broke up with him and now he’s making a grand gesture to win her back. It is touched on in the story that this isn’t the kind of thing that we always think of as grandly romantic anymore, that this is Kurt’s summer of madness in the way he thinks this can win her back. I really liked that the story briefly discusses this.

We learn more about why Kurt’s girlfriend broke up with him and so I was curious as to whether this story would have a happy ending where she came back. I wasn’t sure that she would but then I wasn’t sure how the story would end if she didn’t. I love that this story genuinely kept me on my toes until the end.

The Summer of Madness is such a lovely summer read and perfect for picking up in your lunch break. It was a story that kept me turning the pages as I wanted to know how things were going to go for Kurt. I very much enjoyed this gorgeous short story and I definitely recommend it!

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

The Summer of Madness is out now and available here.

The Life We Almost Had by Amelia Henley | @MsAmeliaHenley @HQStories

About the Book

This is not a typical love story, but it’s our love story.

Anna wasn’t looking for love when Adam swept her off her feet but there was no denying their connection, and she believed they would be together forever.

Years later, cracks have appeared in their relationship. Anna is questioning whether their love can really be eternal when a cruel twist of fate delivers a crushing blow, and Anna and Adam are completely lost to one another. Now, Anna needs Adam more than ever, but the way back to him has life-changing consequences.

Is a second chance at first love really worth the sacrifice? Anna needs to decide and time is running out…

My Thoughts

I’ve read and love all of Louise Jensen’s novels to date so when I heard that her new book was to be a different genre under an alter ego I was so keen to read it. I’m so pleased to say that I completely and utterly adored it!

The Life We Almost Had follows the love story of Anna and Adam. Anna was newly single when she met Adam on her honeymoon! Her fiance had dumped her two weeks before the wedding so she was on honeymoon with her best friend Nell and she absolutely wasn’t looking for a holiday romance. However, she soon meets Adam and he is everything her fiance wasn’t. He’s kind and charming and soon utterly besotted with Anna! I loved reading about the beginnings of their romance, the writing really captures that feeling of getting to know someone who you know it going to be special in your life. The novel moves on to the realities of trying to continue a holiday romance when you get back home and realise you live hours apart from each other. They try to make it work but face some really difficult times over the years.

We know from the beginning of the novel that something has torn these two apart but we don’t know what. I love that as I got absorbed in the early days of their love story that I forgot things were going to go awry and I was so upset for them when it did. The way that Adam and Anna begin to fall apart was so real. We get each of their perspectives and you really can see it from both sides. There were times when I wanted to reach into the pages and sit them down and make them talk honestly to each other. The pain they were each in stopped them being able to talk though and it was so sad to read. I was rooting for them to make it work, to find a way to talk to each other. So when Adam suggests something to Anna I was so sure it was all going to work out.

There is so much more in this novel that I can’t mention here because I wouldn’t want to spoil this book but there is something so beautiful and remarkable in what Amelia Henley does. I wanted it all to be real and possible because it’s breathtaking and incredible.

The Life We Almost Had is a novel that made me cry but it also made me smile; there is so much love running through this book, even when it seems Anna and Adam have got too far apart you can see that the love is still there between them. I adored this book and it’s one that I can’t stop thinking about. It’s a stunning novel and one that I know will stay with me. I highly recommend this one!

The Life We Almost Had is out now and available here.

Mini Book Reviews: How To Be An AntiRacist |The Search Party | The Mothers | How To Disappear

How To Be An AntiRacist by Ibram X. Kendi

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while and I’m so glad I finally picked it up. It’s a non-fiction book that is about how it’s not enough to just be not racist, we have to actively be anti-racist. The author examines his own thoughts and emotions on the subject and provokes the reader to think about their own ideas. Each chapter is on a different subject and opens with a brief description of the main terms used. I really liked how the book is set out and it meant I could read a chapter and then put the book down and take time to digest what I’d read before moving on to the next chapter. This is a US book but I still found it really enlightening as a British person living in the UK. It made me feel so much more empowered to be more pro-active as an anti-racist, and to speak out more when I see racist behaviour. I recommend this one and now I’m keen to start reading the author’s previous book Stamped From The Beginning.

The Search Party by Simon Lelic

I’ve read most of the author’s previous novels and enjoyed them but this one is his best yet! It follows a group of friends who decide to form a search party to go looking for their friend Sadie. The police are involved but this group feels that the police are not doing enough and are looking in the wrong place. We meet this group after the search and we hear their stories via the police interviews, which takes us back in time to before and during the search. I love how the picture of what happened is slowly built up and there are moments in this novel that are so tense I was holding my breath. There are red herrings along the way, which were also great as it threw me completely off the scent but it does all make sense at the end. We also find out that this group of friends don’t all like each other very much and they all have their reasons for wanting to find Sadie! We also get the perspective of the detective and he has his own past ties to this small town and this adds even more intrigue to the novel. I recommend this one!

The Mothers by Sarah J. Naughton

This book was the oldest one on my NetGalley shelf and I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner because it was such a gripping read. It follows a police officer investigating a missing man. We then follow a group of five mothers and we learn about how they became friends and how they are with each other. The missing man is the husband of one of these women and it seems there is more to the story than we initially find out. I really enjoyed how it went back and forth in time as we get to know the women and their back stories. At first it seems like they’re frenemies but there is a bond between them. I love stories about female friendship and this was another good one, and it went in a different direction than I was expecting so I loved that aspect. There are moments in the novel where I had to suspend my disbelief but that didn’t spoil my enjoyment at all as I was fully invested in the wider story. I recommend this one!

How To Disappear by Gillian McAllister

I love this author’s novels so have been eagerly anticipating this new one and it didn’t disappoint. This book follows teenager Zara who witnesses a crime and the repercussions mean her and her mum Lauren have to go into witness protection for their own safety. Lauren’s husband Aidan doesn’t go with them as he needs to stay near his own daughter Poppy. The first part of this book is so fast-paced and I couldn’t read it quick enough. Then the tension starts to build and I had to keep putting the book down, I was so anxious about the rules that kept being broken and what the consequences might be. And yet the book kept pulling me back because I just needed to know! This is a rollercoaster ride of a book and it definitely keeps you on your toes. I really enjoyed this one and I recommend it!

The Switch by Beth O’Leary #AudioBook

About the Book

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some long-overdue rest.

Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

So they decide to try a two-month swap.

Eileen will live in London and look for love. She’ll take Leena’s flat, and learn all about casual dating, swiping right, and city neighbors. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire: Eileen’s sweet cottage and garden, her idyllic, quiet village, and her little neighborhood projects.

But stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected. Will swapping lives help Eileen and Leena find themselves…and maybe even find true love?

My Thoughts

I read and loved The Flatshare by this author last year so was delighted to spot her new one, The Switch, on audiobook on NetGalley last week. I was thrilled to be approved to listen to it and I’m so pleased to say that I loved it!

The Switch follows Leena, who having been successful in her career has had a bit of a blip and has been given two months off work. She is stunned and doesn’t know what to do with herself. The novel also follows Leena’s beloved Grandma Eileen, who is newly single and trying to find her feet on the dating scene. Leena and Eileen decide to swap homes for the two months – Eileen will move to London and Leena will move back to the Yorkshire village where she grew up!

I loved Eileen from the very start of this novel, and having her character narrated by the brilliant Alison Steadman only added to how much I adored her! I love older characters who are full of life and know what they want. Eileen wants to find love again but she doesn’t suffer fools. I adored seeing her dating exploits in London and was rooting for her to find Mr Right.

Leena was a little harder to like at the beginning, there was clearly something holding her back. Once we learn what she, and her family, have been through I came to understand why she is the way she is. I loved seeing her trying to figure out how to get through being back in the village she’d grown up in, and trying to navigate a better relationship with her estranged mum. I was so moved by the moment in the novel when there is a break through between the two characters, it made me quite tearful.

The narrators for this audiobook are utterly perfect and they really added an extra layer of enjoyment to the novel. Alison Steadman (Pamela in Gavin and Stacy) is wonderful, her voice is so warm and she was a perfect Eileen. Leena is narrated by Daisy Edgar-Jones (Marianne in Normal People) and again she just seem so suited to this role. I definitely recommend the audio book, and I will be looking out for more audio books narrated by both of these women in the future.

The Switch is a perfect read for this summer: it provides warmth and much-needed escapism from the world we’re living in. There is some depth to this novel but the lightness always balances the sadder parts. I adored this one and highly recommend it!

The Switch is out now on audiobook here and in hardback and ebook here.

Audio Book Review: Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall

About The Book

Nancy, Eleanor and Mary met at college and have been friends ever since, through marriages, children and love affairs. 

Nancy married her college sweetheart and is now missing that excitement of her youth.

Eleanor put her career above all else and hasn’t looked back, despite her soft spot for Nancy’s husband.

Mary fell pregnant far too young and is now coping with three children and a mentally unwell husband.

But when Nancy is killed, Eleanor and Mary must align themselves to uncover her killer. And as each of their stories unfold, they realise that there are many different truths to find, and many different ways to bring justice for those we love…

Everyone wants a perfect life. But there is no such thing…

My Thoughts

I read and loved Araminta Hall’s previous novel Our Kind of Cruelty so when I spotted her forthcoming audiobook on NetGalley I couldn’t download it fast enough!

Imperfect Women is about three women: Eleanor, Nancy and Mary who have all been friends since University. The novel opens with Eleanor getting a late night phone call from Nancy’s husband Robert to say she hasn’t come home. It turns out that Nancy has been murdered. The novel is told in three parts: First we get Eleanor’s story, then it goes back in time and we get Nancy’s perspective right up until her murder, and then we end with Mary’s point of view.

I love novels that explore female friendships, I find them endlessly fascinating. There are so many complexities and perceived slights, jealousies and drama that has happened between these three women over the years. Two are married with children, one has remained single and childless. Two each have an affair, and one has a husband who has had multiple affairs over the years. This leads to insecurities, and sometimes a lack of understanding and compassion between the women. Also, three is so often a crowd and even though Eleanor, Nancy and Mary are all adults in their 40s there is still a sense of jealousy whenever two meet without the other. It felt really believable to me.

This is a thriller and the mystery running through the novel about who Nancy was meeting the night she was killed, and who might have killed her does keep you gripped. I worked out one of these things but not the other so was on the edge of my seat as the reveals start to come.

The narrator of this audio book, Helen Keeley, is excellent! She really captures the emotion and the tension within each of the three women in the novel. There’s a definite difference between each of the character’s voices which meant I always knew whose perspective I was listening to. I’ll definitely be looking out for more books read by Helen Keeley in the future!

I really enjoyed this novel, it really grabs you from the opening chapter and it keeps you hooked right until the very end. I recommend this one!

Imperfect Women is due to be published on 4th August and is available to pre-order on audiobook here, and in hardback and ebook here.

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

About the Book

It is nearly midnight, and very cold. Yet in this dark place of long grass and tall trees where cats hunt and foxes shriek, a girl is waiting… When Saffyre Maddox was ten something terrible happened and she’s carried the pain of it around with her ever since. The man who she thought was going to heal her didn’t, and now she hides from him, invisible in the shadows, learning his secrets; secrets she could use to blow his safe, cosy world apart. Owen Pick is invisible too. He’s thirty-three years old and he’s never had a girlfriend, he’s never even had a friend. Nobody sees him. Nobody cares about him. But when Saffyre Maddox disappears from opposite his house on Valentine’s night, suddenly the whole world is looking at him. Accusing him. Holding him responsible. Because he’s just the type, isn’t he? A bit creepy?

My Thoughts

I love Lisa Jewell’s writing so was thrilled to be approved to read her forthcoming novel on NetGalley. I’m so happy to say that it more than lived up to my expectations, it’s my new favourite novel by her!

Invisible Girl follows three characters. Saffyre is a troubled teenager who has had a terrible life so far. She’s been in therapy for quite a long time but feels unable to open up fully in her sessions. Owen is a 33 year old man who lives in a flat with his Aunt. He lives an unhappy life, unable to find love and people are quick to judge him odd and creepy. Cate lives opposite Owen with her husband and two teenagers, and she is increasingly wary of Owen. One night Saffyre goes missing and the last sighting of her was outside Owen’s home.

I loved this novel. It’s a great thriller, it builds quite slowly and the tension as you wonder what is going to happen becomes palpable. It’s brilliant how you have the space to get to know each of the characters and to understand a bit more about why they are the way they are, and then the pacing begins to ramp up.

Cate initially seems very paranoid about quite a few things, and suspicious of her husband. She seems quite a nervous person so when her daughter’s best friend claims to have been assaulted just across from their flat Cate is immediately suspicious of Owen.

As the novel progresses we get to understand why Owen finds it difficult to form relationships with women, and I began to feel sorry for him. We also learn more about Saffyre and it turns out she has a connection to the street where Owen and Cate live!

I love how this novel really makes you think about the snap judgements we make of others: how quickly the media, and people in general, can turn on the person who looks a little odd, the one who keeps to themselves even if there’s no evidence of wrongdoing. I can think of a few prominent real life cases where this has happened and it’s shocking. The novel also made me think about how slow we are to question ourselves about the people in our lives when they may have a motive.

This is a real page-turner of a novel, I read it in a couple of sittings because I was completely gripped and I needed to know how it was all going to turn out for everyone. I felt so invested in some of these character’s lives and I needed to know if they were going to be okay. I loved this book and it’s highly recommended by me!

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

Invisible Girl is due to be published on 6th August and can be pre-ordered here.

#AudioBook Review: Come Again by Robert Webb

About the Book

Kate’s husband Luke – the man she loved from the moment she met him twenty-eight years ago – died suddenly. Since then she has pushed away her friends, lost her job and everything is starting to fall apart. One day, she wakes up in the wrong room and in the wrong body. She is eighteen again but remembers everything. This is her college room in 1992. This is the first day of Freshers’ Week. And this was the day she first met Luke. But he is not the man that she lost: he’s still a boy – the annoying nineteen-year-old English student she first met. Kate knows how he died and that he’s already ill. If they can fall in love again she might just be able to save him. She’s going to try to do everything exactly the same…

My Thoughts

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while now so when I spotted the audiobook on NetGalley AND discovered that Olivia Colman was narrating it I immediately downloaded it!

Come Again follows Kate, a woman in her 40s who is mired in grief following the sudden death of her husband Luke a few months earlier. She’s really struggling and trying to cope as best as she can. Then she discovers something awful on her boss’s computer and gets fired. I really liked Kate right from the start, I felt so sorry for her that life had turned so bad for her. I was rooting for her to find a way to hold on through her grief. Olivia Colman is perfect to narrate this book, the warmth of her voice was spot on for Kate’s character.

In the second part of this novel Kate wakes up to discover it’s 1992, she’s 18 years old and just starting uni in York! She quickly realises that this might be her chance to save Luke. Very soon it becomes apparent that it’s impossible to make things happen exactly as they did the first time and I found this part of the book so much fun to read. I loved seeing how Kate met her long term friends for the first time and how she met Luke. It was really quite funny seeing her make off-the-cuff comments about events that hadn’t happened yet in 1992, and dealing with her new friends asking her questions about the future because they think she might be psychic. This whole part of the novel is so nostalgic and lovely.

Part three of the book is set back in the present and Kate is in her own time again. If I’m to be honest this part of the book didn’t work as well for me initially. The novel seems to veer in an unexpected and slightly ridiculous direction that doesn’t make sense and doesn’t fit with the rest of the plot. Thankfully Webb does get things back on track and ultimately I did love how the novel ended.

The narration of Come Again is perfection! Olivia Colman really added something to this book for me and the time I was listening flew by as I got absorbed in the novel. I love that she is a similar age to Kate so her voice was authentic and it made the chapters set in 1992 feel so believable because Kate still sounded like she was in her 40s even though her body was now 18 again. I hope she narrates more novels in the future.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel and I highly recommend it on audio because Olivia Colman really adds something special with her narration, which is warm and funny and brilliant. Come Again is a good first novel and I would definitely read more by Robert Webb in the future.

I received an audio copy of this book from NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Come Again is out now and available as an audiobook here, and as a hardback and ebook here.

Mini Book Reviews: My Dark Vanessa | The Other Passenger | One Step Behind | Who Did You Tell?

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

This was one of my most anticipated reads of this year and it absolutely lived up to my hopes for it! It follows Vanessa both in the present day and in the past when she had a relationship with her teacher Jacob Straynewhile she was still a student. Vanessa hears that a woman who went to the same school has accused Strayne of grooming and abusing her and she wants Vanessa to also come forward. She is stunned because she believes her and Strayne were in a loving relationship. As the novel progresses it’s very uncomfortable to read how Strayne clearly groomed Vanessa, and to see how she viewed it as a mutual attraction. It’s also hard to read how she has remained friends with him in all the years since. Over the course of the book Vanessa is forced to confront what happened between her and Strayne and it’s devastating. This book is so stunningly written and it never shies away from the reality of what happened to Vanessa. This is a book that will really stay with me and I highly recommend it.

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

I love Louise Candlish’s writing so have been looking forward to this one and it didn’t disappoint! The novel follows Jamie and his wife Claire, and a younger couple they become friends with, Kit and Melia. Claire and Jamie live in a big posh house that Claire inherited but Kit is obsessed with money and status. The novel opens with Jamie being questioned as Kit has disappeared and it seems he was the last person to see him. The timeline then goes back and forth between the present day and the year previous when the two men first met and became friends. This novel is increasingly dark and twisted and I loved that! Everyone in this book seems to be obsessed with status and where they are in relation to others which makes them so unlikeable and yet fascinating at the same time. Nothing is quite as it seems with this one, it keeps you guessing! I recommend it!

One Step Behind by Lauren North

I read and loved Lauren North’s previous novel The Perfect Betrayal so I was excited to read her new one. This book follows two women – Jenna and Sophie. Jenna is a busy A&E doctor and mum of two. She seems to have a perfect life but now someone is stalking her. She is increasingly anxious about the stalker and tries to find out more about them. Then one day he arrives in A&E after a serious accident and she is the doctor in charge. She has to decide if she’s treat him like any other patient or take matters into her own hands. Sophie is feeling increasingly trapped in her relationship. She loves the apartment they share but her boyfriend is tracking her movements and wanting her to account for where she has been every minute of the day. I was curious if the two women’s lives would interconnect and what would happen with Jenna’s stalker. I was gripped by this one and found it a fast-paced read. The first half is quite a slow-build and then the book starts accelerating – I really liked this pacing, it made me feel like I was trapped in this situation with Jenna. I recommend this one!

Who Did You Tell? by Lesley Kara

I’ve previously read and loved The Rumour by this author so was looking forward to this one, and I did really enjoy it. It follows Astrid who is a recovering alcoholic and as a result of her problems is back living with her mum. She joins a local AA meeting and there meets two women – Rosie and Helen. She hits it off with one but is quickly suspicious of the other. She also soon feels like she is being followed and watched. I do love an unreliable narrator so loved how I wasn’t always sure about whether Astrid was telling us the truth of what happened. I enjoyed seeing Astrid trying to make a new life for herself and felt for her when she agonised over how much of her past she should reveal, and when. I did see where this book was going from early on but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment as I was keen to know if Astrid was going to be okay in the end. Plus there was more than meets the eye when the denouement does come!

The Greatest of Enemies by B. R. Maycock | @BRMaycock

About the Book

Get ready for fireworks as two women with very different personalities become housemates!
Bex has settled in well into the small town of Abbeyglen. Yes, she misses her housemate Holly, but she has plenty to do what with the setup of the new Caulfield’s café, her blogging and of course her work in Blackwater Financial Services.
Louise is shocked when she arrives in the town of Abbeyglen to find it has changed, everything looks too new and shiny, and who is this person in Holly’s apartment?!
With Bex’s bff heading for domestic bliss, some unwelcome changes in work, and now the arrival of eternally negative Louise, can Bex remain her usual chirpy self or will handbags at dawn, daytime and night-time too bring out a side to her she never knew existed?

My Thoughts

I’m a big fan of B. R. Maycock’s writing and have previously read and reviewed Snowday, and the first book in the Abbeyglen series Pushing Her luck. I have been eagerly anticipating this follow up to Pushing Her Luck and I’m so pleased to say it absolutely lived up to my hopes!

It was lovely to be back in Abbeyglen and seeing the changes that were really taking place after the end of the previous book. The village is gradually being spruced up and you can tell all the residents are enjoying things picking up.

The Greatest of Enemies follows Holly’s new flatmate Bex and Holly’s best friend Louise and unfortunately they don’t exactly hit it off! Holly is in Australia with her new man and Bex now has the flat to herself when Louise, who Holly had been trying so hard to contact in book one, suddenly arrives back in Ireland as a surprise! Bex is a real happy-go-lucky person and feels she has to make Louise feel at home but Louise tries her patience from the very start!

The novel follows both women as we find out more about them and what has been going on in their lives. Bex is frustrated at work as she moves to a new role and feels left out of the office gang she used to be a part of. Louise is home after a horrible break up and seems to be angry at the whole world as a result.

I love Bex, she’s such a great character and I want to be her best friend. She’s so bubbly and she really cares about people and wants them to be happy. Louise was a little harder to warm to but the more I got to know her the more she grew on me and I could see she was just hurting.

I love how this series brings new characters in but lets us see what has been happening with those who were the main characters in the previous book. This one ends with Rachel, Bex’s best friend, and now I’m keen to see what’s going to happen next in her life!

The Greatest of Enemies is such a lovely novella about two women who have no choice but to find a way to get on. It’s full of giggles and fun, some romance and good friends. The scene with the canal boat had me in stitches as I could totally envisage it and it feels like something that could so easily happen in real life!

The Greatest of Enemies works really well as a standalone but the first book is so wonderful that I highly recommend starting at the very beginning. Either way I adored this book and am already eagerly anticipating the next Abbeyglen book!

The Greatest of Enemies is out now and available here.

My Favourite books of 2020… so far!

Last year I decided to do a post about my favourite books of the year so far (as of 30 June) and whilst this year I haven’t read quite as many books as last year at this point I decided to still do it. It’s always lovely to have the chance to celebrate amazing books!

At the time of writing this post I’ve read 115 books and have 20 five star reads that I simply can’t narrow down any further. These aren’t necessarily books published this year but the books I loved most that I’ve read this year. The books are in no particular order, I loved them all!

So here are my top 20 books of 2020 so far!

It’s A Wonderful Night by Jaimie Admans

A new spin on It’s A Wonderful Life and it’s gorgeous. It doesn’t shy away from the severity of depression but manages to still be a feel-good novel. I loved this one and will re-read it again one Christmas!

dead wrong noelle holten

Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten

A brilliant crime novel that will have you on the edge of your seat. This is fast becoming a favourite new crime series!

Containment by Vanda Symon

This is the third book in the Sam Shephard series and she is now one of my most favourite characters. I love spending time with her in a new novel and I can’t wait to read more!

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

I haven’t managed to review this one as yet but I absolutely recommend it. It’s a novel about a teenage boy called Justyce who’s dealing with the racism in the society around him – from the police and from people in his school. He deals with it by writing letters to Martin Luther King. It’s a prescient novel and I still find myself thinking about it.

Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan

This is my new favourite Sarah Vaughan novel. It’s a novel about toxic friendships, about not feeling like you can be your true self with even your closest friends and what happens when suspicion sets in. I loved this book!

The Silent Treatment by Abbie Greaves

This is a stunning novel that looks at what caused a man to stop talking to his wife for six months, and what happens when she suddenly stops talking to him. We learn about what happened from both of their perspectives and it’s so moving. I adored this book and I already want to re-read it!

Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth

This is a stunning, claustrophobic novel about the immediate aftermath of a teenage girl going missing. It has a dream-like quality to it and I got swept away in this book.

Black and British by David Olusoga

I haven’t reviewed this book yet but it’s a brilliant and eye-opening non-fiction book that I recommend to everyone. It’s the forgotten history of black people in the UK and I learnt so much from this book. It helps you join the dots of the things you learnt at school and the full story of why and how things happened.

One Split Second by Caroline Bond

This book is heartbreaking but it’s a book I couldn’t stop reading (I read it in just two sittings). It follows the aftermath of an horrific car accident as the survivors come to terms what happened and the impact it’s had on their lives. I loved this book and it’s one that is really staying with me.

Evening Primrose by Kopano Matlwa

This is a brilliant novel that packs so much into it’s few pages (it’s only around 200 pages long). It follows a doctor as she deals with race issues in her life in South Africa. Her struggles with her periods were so relatable in a way that I’ve never found in a novel before. Later something horrific happens to her and it was hard to read and yet I couldn’t look away. This is such a powerful and compelling book.

The Secrets of Strangers by Charity Norman

This novel follows a disparate group of people on a normal morning but who get caught up in a hostage situation. I loved learning about the characters in this book and how they coped in the terrifying situation they found themselves in. It’s an excellent novel and I recommend it.

Nightingale Point by Luan Goldie

I’ve not reviewed this book as yet but it’s one that I read as I was trying to get out of my reading slump and I just got completely engrossed in this story. It follows a few characters who live in a tower block in London before and after a terrible event occurs. I loved these characters, and how the novel explored how the event affects them. I recommend this one and can’t wait to see what Luan Goldie writes next!

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

I read and loved The Roanoke Girls a few years back so was keen to read the author’s new novel. I devoured it! It’s such a dark, unsettling novel but one that I just couldn’t put down. I still keep finding myself thinking about this book, it’s one that haunts you. I loved it.

dear edward ann napolitano

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

This was one of my most anticipated reads of this year and it absolutely lived up to my hopes for it. It follows Edward in the aftermath of a plane crash where he was the sole survivor. His parents and brother died in the crash so he has to live with his Aunt and Uncle. The novel also shows what happened on the day of the plane crash – you get to know, briefly, the people onboard, which makes it even more heartbreaking. I adored this novel and want to re-read it one day.

Know My Name by Chanel Miller

This is such a powerful and moving memoir, I’m so glad I read it. Chanel Miller is the young woman who was sexually assaulted by Brock Turner. This book is her telling her own story in her own words and she is such a courageous woman. I recommend that everyone read this one.

The Day We Met by Roxie Cooper

I had this novel on my TBR for ages before I picked it up, which I’m kicking myself about as when I did pick it up I read it in just a couple of sittings. This is such a beautiful novel, one that makes you wonder about fate and destiny, and also makes you want to live in the moment. It’s a book you need tissues for but it’s such a gorgeous read.

Wild Spinning Girls by Carol Lovekin

I’m a huge fan of Carol Lovekin’s writing and this novel was another stunning book. It explores grief and the loss of a mother, and it’s so beautiful. I highlighted so many paragraphs as I was reading it and I keep thinking about it. I know I will re-visit this one of these days.

Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

This is another stunning book following a teenage girl in the present whilst also filling in her back story with chapters about her mum, dad and grandparents. She knows her mum was her age when she was born and that is the catalyst for everything that happens down the line. This book is short and at times spare in the writing but it packs such an emotional punch. I recommend it.

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

This is one of my most favourite books of this year so far. I wanted to read it because it’s premise is intriguing (an engaged woman dreams of a different life with a different man and five years later she bumps into this man) but the real love story in this is the one between the two women who are the best of friends. It’s an incredible book, one that made me cry but also made me smile. I adored this one!

Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

If I had to pick just one book that was my favourite of 2020 so far it would have to be this one. Before reading I felt a little intimidated by it but from a couple of pages in I was gripped. I love all the interweaved stories running through this book, I love the characters and the surprises along the way. It’s a stunning novel and one I will never forget.

Okay, so I said I had a top 20 books of 2020 and I do… all of the above. I always like to sit with a book for a while before I put it on a list of favourites but I read a book on the very last day of June and it just feels like it should be on this list. So I’m adding an honourable mention at the end. I know I’m cheating but it’s my blog, my rules! So the 21st book in my Top 20 is…

The Mating Habits of Stags by Ray Robinson

This is a stunning novel, one that I’m struggling to write about as yet because I loved it so much. It’s set on the North Yorkshire Moors and follows Jake, a man on the run from a murder charge. It explores his memories of his relationship with his late wife, and his lost son. It also looks at his complicated relationship with his new love. I’m originally from this part of the country and I felt I was right back there with Jake. This novel mixes utter desolation, hardship and violence with such beautiful, poetic writing. I loved this book and I highly recommend it!

What are you favourite books of 2020 so far? I’d love to know. 🙂

That Was The Month That Was… June 2020!

June was one of those strange months that has sped by whilst also going really slowly. Does that even make sense?!

I’m still shielding and it looks like I will be until 1 August so nothing has really changed for me even though from what I see on the news a lot of the country is slowly returning to some kind of normality. I haven’t left the house yet, mainly because my asthma is really bad at the moment and it’s impossible to wear a mask when my breathing is already bad. My husband is still on furlough and we still don’t know when he’ll be returning to work, we’re waiting to hear.

Football is back so we’re enjoying watching that. It’s great having all of the matches televised although it does mean that some days we’re in danger of having square eyes! The waiting to see what’s happening with Newcastle United is getting endless now but what can you do?! At least it looks like we’re not going to be relegated!

My reading mojo is back in full swing and I read 30 books in June! It was helped by some sunny days in the garden where I only take a book out with me (no phone or laptop!) so I’m not distracted by anything. I also treated myself to some new wireless headphones so that I can listen to more of my audio books.

The Books I Read

The Posts I Blogged

Mini Book Reviews: The Day We Met by Roxie Cooper, The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel, His and Hers by Alice Feeney, and Funny Weather by Olivia Laing

Monthly Wrap-Up: That Was The Month That Was… May 2020

Mini Book Reviews: The Babysitter by Phoebe Morgan, One Split Second by Caroline Bond, Living My Best Life by Claire Frost, and In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

Mini Book Reviews: You and Me, Always by Jill Mansell, When the Time Comes by Adele O’Neill, Evening Primrose by Kopano Matlwa, and Born Lippy by Jo Brand

Review: Picky Eaters by S. J. Higbee

Mini Book Reviews: The Old You by Louise Voss, Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan, While I Was Sleeping by Dani Atkins, and Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

Review: Be Careful What You Swipe For by Jemma Forte

Mini Book Reviews: Heatstoke by Hazel Barkworth, Blurred Lines by Hannah Begbie, All The Lonely People by David Owen, The 24-Hour Cafe by Libby Page

Review: The Silent Treatment by Abbie Greaves

How was June for you? I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well and that June has been okay. What was your favourite book from June? I’d love to know what you’ve been reading so please comment below. 🙂

Book Review: The Silent Treatment by Abbie Greaves | @AbbieGreaves1

About the Book

A lifetime together. Six months of silence. One last chance.

Frank hasn’t spoken to his wife Maggie for six months.

For weeks they have lived under the same roof, slept in the same bed and eaten at the same table – all without words.

Maggie has plenty of ideas as to why her husband has gone quiet.

But it will take another heartbreaking turn of events before Frank finally starts to unravel the secrets that have silenced him.

Is this where their story ends?
Or is it where it begins?

My Thoughts

I picked this book up to read in the garden one sunny afternoon and I literally didn’t put the book down until I’d finished reading it. I was enthralled by it and needed to know how it was all going to end!

Maggie and Frank have been married for over forty years. They love each other dearly but one day, six months ago, Frank stopped speaking. He was still every bit as loving towards Maggie but he hasn’t spoken a single word in all that time. Maggie struggles to understand what is going on and the novel opens with her writing her journal and taking some tablets.

What follows is Frank’s distress as his wife has now fallen silent and he slowly sits with her and begins to tell the story of their lives together and how he got to here. Alongside this Frank finds Maggie’s journal and he beings to understand how she got to where she is.

Maggie has always wanted to be a mother and it becomes a big focus for her, but it seems like it’s never going to happen so her and Frank have to accept what they have – each other. Then one day Maggie discovers she is pregnant and is delighted. Motherhood isn’t quite the dream she imagined it would be though, it’s so much harder and there is so much scope for miscommunication and misunderstanding. Maggie and Frank love their child but sometimes that isn’t enough, and they have to deal with the way their child wants to live her life her own way.

This is a novel about a beautiful and loving relationship that has faced hugely difficult times. Maggie and Frank have tried so hard to do the right thing for each other and for their daughter, and each in their own way has tried to protect the other from heartbreak. This is the thing that was almost their undoing though because when the worst happened neither could tell the other their story of what happened.

I love how this is such a believable story of a marriage, and I love how Frank and Maggie never stop loving each other even through the most difficult of times. Everything they do is out of love, even when it’s inadvertently pulling them in different directions.

This is such a moving, and at times utterly heartbreaking, read but the writing is stunning and you get so invested in Frank and Maggie’s story that you just can’t stop reading. I miss these two people, they felt so real to me and I wanted to climb into the book and make everything okay. I finished reading this book a couple of weeks or so ago and I still keep thinking about them. I adored it.

The Silent Treatment is one of my favourite books of the year and it’s one I think I’ll re-read in the future. It’s one that I highly recommend!

The Silent Treatment is out now and available here.

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

Mini Book Reviews: Heatstroke | Blurred Lines | All The Lonely People | The 24-Hour Cafe

Today I’m sharing another selection of books that I’ve read and enjoyed recently.

Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth

This is such a brilliant read – so intense and claustrophobic but impossible to put down! The novel follows Rachel, mum to Mia and also teacher to her peers so when Mia’s friend Lily goes missing Rachel becomes increasingly obsessed with what might have happened. I read this book in the garden on a very hot day and it really added to the tension emanating from the pages I was reading. There are shocks in store in the novel but there is also a blending of what is actually happening and what is imagined to be happening, which gives the book a dreamlike feel. I got completely swept up in this and had no idea how it would all play out in the end. I definitely recommend this one!

Blurred Lines by Hannh Begbie

Blurred Lines is a prescient novel that really makes you think. It follows Becky who is on the verge of real success in her career but one night she walks into her boss’ house and sees him with a woman who is not his wife. Later the woman accuses him of rape and Becky is forced to think that what she saw may not have been consensual and is paralysed over what to do about it. The novel also goes back in time to Becky’s past and the awful thing that happened to her as a teenager which altered the course of her own life. I found this to be a really gripping novel and one that makes you put yourself in these women’s shoes and think about what you would do. It’s not always black and white especially when past trauma is still affecting you. I did find some aspects of the novel to be predictable but that didn’t stop me being gripped because I just wanted to know if Becky was going to be okay. I recommend this one.

All the Lonely People by David Owen

I had this novel on my NetGalley shelf unread for way longer than I should have and I’m kicking myself now because I very much enjoyed this book. It follows Kat who is very lonely, she has no friends at school but lives for her online friends. She becomes the victim of a cruel ‘prank’ which forces her to close her online accounts and she begins to literally fade away. It also follows Wesley who is part of the group who pranked her but we soon see he’s not like the other boys involved and he feels very guilty. We soon learn that he also has a lonely life and has more responsibility on his young shoulders than he should have. I found this such an insightful novel that really explores loneliness and what it’s like to just want to disappear from your own life. It moved me more than I thought it would and it made me think. The use of the fade is really clever and poignant. This is a book that I keep thinking about it and is one that I’m sure will stay with me. I highly recommend it.

The 24-Hour Cafe by Libby Page

This is book 7 from my 20 Books of Summer TBR!

I was lucky to receive an ARC of this earlier this year but somehow it lingered on my bookcase until last week. When I finally picked it up I devoured it in just two sittings and very much enjoyed it. It follows Hannah and Mona who work shifts in a 24-hour cafe in London. The novel first follows Hannah’s story, and then halfway through it switches to Mona. We see how they came to be friends and how close they are but also the way small hurts become bigger ones when not acknowledged. I really felt for both of them as the novel progressed. We also meet quite a few of the customers to the cafe as they briefly pass through and I loved this part of the book. There are small acts of kindness that run through the novel and it warmed my heart. I recommend this one, it’s a perfect novel to escape into during these strange times we’re currently living in. It will warm your heart!

#BookReview: Be Careful What You Swipe For by Jemma Forte @jemmaforte

About the Book

Left, left, left, left, left, right. What are any of us looking for as we swipe away? Someone to go on holiday with? Sex? Validation? Love forever after, or all of the above?  

Charlotte knows what she wants. Having focused on her career for years, she’s after a partner, a father for her unborn children, a family. 

And it looks like she’s found it, in the shape of James. After hundreds of dates and pointless exchanges, she’s hit the online jackpot, won the dating lottery, which is why when it goes away, it’s so incredibly painful. 

Charlotte’s devastated but then, things take a turn for the ‘even worse’ and nothing is safe and that’s when things get tricky.  

As her world collapses the light at the end of the tunnel fades. But will it go out completely?  

Bad dates, love, scandal, betrayal, no one can say life isn’t exciting. But sometimes, exciting is the last thing you need…

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when Jemma Forte offered me an ecopy of Be Careful What You Swipe For as I had already seen the book and was very keen to read it. I’m so pleased that I did read it because it was such a brilliant read!

Charlotte is fast approaching 40 and she’s wants to settle down with Mr Right and to start a family like so many of her friends have done. She’s on all the dating apps and has had some awful dates but she keeps trying. Charlotte is also very focused on her work – she’s a make up artist at a TV station and she’s hoping she might get a promotion very soon.

The novel opens with Charlotte telling the reader about her bad dates, about her previous relationships and why they went wrong but then we see her swipe right for someone new and he sounds like he could be the one!

I was expecting this book to be quite a light read about the perils of modern dating but it’s so much more than that. The novel tackles some really tough subjects like depression and anxiety, and how the actions of others can have such far-reaching consequences whether the person meant harm or not.

As Charlotte begins to face the aftermath of all that has happened to her she learns a lot about the facade we all so often present on social media. The way we want to be seen in our best light and that isn’t always the reality. I love the way she explores how she sees others and how others see her and then where it all leads her. It was refreshing to read about all this happening to someone very close to my age, I could really identify with some of Charlotte’s insecurities and her wish to be like her friends.

There is some humour running through the book to lighten things up a little. Some of the early dates were toe-curlingly cringeworthy and made me giggle. It reminded me of my first date with my husband (we met on twitter) where I was so nervous I literally couldn’t speak to him for about half an hour!! I wouldn’t have blamed him for doing a runner but he stayed and eleven years on we’re very happily married.

Ultimately, I was cheering Charlotte on from the beginning of this book all the way to the end (and beyond). I wanted her to find happiness in her own right and to find a man who could share her happiness. She has such an horrendous time and what happens to her is a nightmare and she deserved so much better than she got from some of the men in her life. I keep thinking of her since I finished the book and even though I know she’s just a fictional character I cared so much about her that I keep hoping she’s happy and fulfilled.

Be Careful What You Swipe For is a brilliant novel that explores the dating scene, mental health issues and the harm that our social media addictions can do. It’s a very prescient novel that has real depth and sensitivity to it and I loved it. I highly recommend this one!

Be Careful What You Swipe For is out now and available from here as a paperback and ebook.

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

Mini Book Reviews: The Old You | While I Was Sleeping | Little Disasters | Fleishman is in Trouble

Today I’m sharing a new selection of books that I’ve read recently. The first two are from my 20 Books of Summer TBR so I’m still doing well with that. I think I’ve read six book from my stack now and have reviewed five of them, which makes me happy. The other two books are from NetGalley so I’m still getting through my review books, which I’m really pleased about.

The Old You by Louise Voss

I’ve had this book on my TBR for over a year and I’m kicking myself for not picking it up sooner because I very much enjoyed it. The novel follows Lynn Naismith who is shocked and devastated when her husband Ed is diagnosed with early-onset Dementia. She struggles with the manifestations of his symptoms but then strange things start happening in and around the house and she begins to question herself. This novel is so twisty and just when you think you have a grip of it the rug is pulled from under you yet again. As it progresses we learn more about Lynn, and more about Ed’s past and nothing is quite as it seemed at the start. I devoured this book in a couple of sittings and highly recommend it.

While I Was Sleeping by Dani Atkins

This is a book I was sent from a publicist a couple of years ago and it got forgotten about on my bookcase. I do love Dani Atkins’ writing so I picked it up whilst sitting out in the garden one day last week and I read the whole book in one go! The novel follows Maddie as she wakes from a coma after being hit by a car. Life has change quite a bit for her and she has a lot to get used to. It also follows Chloe who is a hospital volunteer who gets to know Maddie’s fiance Ryan. We spend a lot of time getting to know both of these women, and there is so much heart in this book. It’s a novel that will bring a lump to your throat more than once but it will also restore your faith in human nature. While I Was Sleeping was so much more than I thought it was going to be and I very much enjoyed it. I definitely recommend this one!

Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan

I read and enjoyed Anatomy of a Scandal by this author but Little Disasters is even better! This book follows Jess – all her friends think she’s a perfect stay-at-home mum devoted to her children but when an incident happens and her baby is badly hurt conclusions are jumped to. Liz is Jess’ best friend and also the hospital consultant on duty when Jess brings her baby in. The novel follows the two women as they struggle with what happened and the fall out from it. There is the thriller element to this novel of wanting to know what happened and how but more than that it’s an exploration of the pressures on women, and the tension that runs through some female friendships which makes it hard to be honest when you’re struggling. This is an intense, gripping novel and one that refuses to leave me – I’m still thinking about it and I read it a few weeks ago now. I recommend it!

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

This is a novel that I got from NetGalley and I had a couple of false starts with it before deciding to borrow the audio book from the library and I have to admit that it did work better for me on audio. The novel opens with Toby Fleishman – a recently separated 41 year old who is suddenly having to cope with his two children on his own as his wife Rachel has seemingly had enough. What follows is a self-obsessed, arrogant man who spends pages and pages telling us all about the women he’s slept with or is flirting with online. In between that he’s constantly bad-mouthing Rachel. He never lets up! I had heard that this novel has a big twist partway through that makes it so worth the first half but to be honest I guessed what would happen. Ultimately, I just felt very sorry for the two children caught up in this, and to a lesser extent for Rachel. I did enjoy the latter stage of the book more than the first part but ultimately it wasn’t a novel for me.

#BookReview: Picky Eaters by S. J. Higbee @sjhigbee

About the Book

Castellan the Black, now better known as Casta the Grey, has led an eventful life, but these days he’s content to live alone in his mountaintop lair, fending off occasional attacks from the food and waiting to die. At least, that’s what he tells himself.

Babysitting his young grandchildren is definitely not on his to do list. Sammy Jo doesn’t care that the world used to cower before Casta’s wrath. She doesn’t want barbecued knight in armour – it’s tinned food – and that’s that. Sadly, her little brother Billy Bob is more inclined to follow her lead than his grandfather’s, and what’s a grumpy old dragon to do with two such intransigent youngsters?

Things go from bad to worse when he wakes up from a nap to find they’ve been hunting for more appealing treats. Organic, free-range lunch was exactly what they needed, according to a very proud Sammy Jo. He’s never seen the food so upset, and now it’s coming up the hill, armed with spears and bows, hell bent on revenge.

Things go from bad to worse when he has to move in with the rest of the family. Whoever said family life was boring hasn’t lived alongside these two pesky lizards. Keeping his grandkids out of trouble might be more of a challenge than this over the mountain warrior can handle.

My Thoughts

I wanted to read this short story as soon as I read the blurb on the author S J Higbee’s blog, it sounded like wonderful fun and escapism. I’m so glad I picked it up because it was everything I hoped it would be and more.

Casta is a cantankerous old dragon so when he’s put in charge of his two grandchildren – Sammy Jo and Billy Bob – for the day he’s not best pleased about it. His young charges run rings around him wanting different food to what he has provided and wanting freedom. As a result of the dragonets actions he has to move in with his daughter and son-in-law and the children and this makes him ever more grumpy!

I loved Casta the Grey, he’s one of those grandads that is genuinely grumpy and easily annoyed but from very early on there are moments where you can see his love for the dragonets, even if he’s determined not to let anyone see. I adored seeing his character growth and in particular the fondness he really develops for Sammy Jo. He begins to see more in her than he’d realised was there and their bond was just gorgeous. It made me nostalgic for my Grandparents and reminded me of some very happy memories.

I don’t normally read fantasy but this short story is so lovely. The descriptions of the dragons are fab and it reminded me of books I loved when I was a child and made me wonder why I never reach for the genre anymore. I think I may widen my horizons in future as a result of reading this. At its heart this is a story about family, about appreciating what you have and learning to accept that no one is perfect but you can love them anyway. This story will warm your heart, it’s really wonderful and I highly recommend it!

Picky Eaters is due to be published as an ebook on 22 June and can be pre-ordered here now. All proceeds from the book are going to mental health charities.

I received a copy of this story from BookSprout. All thoughts are my own.

Mini Book Reviews: Evening Primrose | When the Time Comes | Born Lippy | You and Me, Always

Today I’m sharing mini reviews of some of the books that I’ve read and enjoyed recently. The first is one that I’ve had on my NetGalley shelf for a little while and the other three are all books from my 20 Books of Summer TBR so I’m happy to have got to all of these books.

When the Time Comes by Adele O’Neill

I didn’t realise this was the third book in a series until after I’d finished it but it works perfectly as a standalone. This novel follows what happens in the wake of Jenny Buckley’s death. Her estranged husband says it was suicide but the police think it was murder. The novel follows the perspectives of quite a few characters and goes back and time to just before and after Jenny’s death. I loved the way we slowly build up a picture of who everyone is and begin to suspect what might have happened and whether anyone else was involved. I did think there were perhaps too many story strands going on and one in particular involving the detective was distracting. Having said that I was invested in finding out what happened and I did enjoy reading it.

You and Me, Always by Jill Mansell

This novel was different to what I was expecting but I very much enjoyed it all the same. It opens with Lily opening the last letter her late mother had written for her and this leads to Lily going looking for her mother’s first love. She also discovers that her best friend Patsy is hiding a man in her flat, and she accidentally meets this man! The book follows Lily and the people in her life and it’s so heartwarming and such a lovely read. It’s perfect for some escapist summer reading and I recommend it.

Evening Primrose by Kopana Matlwa

This is an incredible novella that explores xenophobia through the viewpoint of Masechaba, a young doctor in South Africa. This book packs so much into its few pages and I was spellbound by it. Masechaba’s struggles with her own body through her periods was so visceral and relatable, and later the horrific thing that happens to her along with the aftermath was so hard to read and yet I couldn’t look away. I added this book to my 20 Books of Summer TBR and I’m so glad that I finally got to read it because it’s an incredible book and I highly recommend it.

Born Lippy: How To Do Female by Jo Brand

This was one of my 20 Books of Summer TBR and the first one I read and I really enjoyed it. Jo Brand tells her stories and gives advice in her own unique way and it was exactly the book I needed. I sometimes feel (even as a 41 year old) lost that I don’t have my mum and when you need advice or guidance that you haven’t anyone else to ask where do you go? Jo Brand writes in a no-nonsense fashion about all kinds of situations that woman find themselves in and I really appreciated it. There is her trademark humour running through the book too, which lightens is where lightness is needed. I’m so glad that I got the chance to read this book and I recommend it.

Mini Book Reviews: The Day We Met | His and Hers | The Familiar Dark | Funny Weather

Today I’m sharing another selection of mini reviews of books that I’ve read and enjoyed over the last couple of weeks.

The Day We Met by Roxie Cooper

I’ve shamefully had this book on my NetGalley shelf for over a year and I’m kicking myself for not picking it up sooner because I completely and utterly adored this book! It follows Stephanie and Jamie who meet on an art course and feel such a strong connection to each other. They swap numbers and hope to see each other in a year’s time at the next art retreat. We then follow them in alternating chapters as they navigate their lives and they see each other once a year. They know they have strong feelings but they’re married to other people and don’t know what they should do. I know infidelity is a tricky subject to cover but I couldn’t help but root for Stephanie and Jamie. The way they expressed feelings through sharing meaningful songs was so beautiful. I don’t want to say too much more about this book as I’m wary of spoilers so I’ll just say that I loved this novel and I highly recommend it.

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

I read and loved The Roanoke Girls and so had very high hopes for this novel and I can say that it easily exceeded them. I read this book in one sitting, I just couldn’t put it down even as it was breaking my heart. The novel follows Evie in the immediate aftermath of finding out that her daughter and her daughter’s best friend have been murdered. Evie is utterly broken by this news but she steels herself to go back to the darker parts of her community where she grew up because she wants answers. She is so angry and so hurt and I was rooting for her all the way through. There are twists and turns along the way but this is really a novel about the darkest elements of a community and how hard it is to escape. This is a gritty, dark novel but Evie is so real and I adored the writing. I recommend this one!

His and Hers by Alice Feeney

I loved Alice Feeney’s debut novel Sometimes I Lie and this is a return to form! His and Hers follows Anna, an ambitious TV news reporter, and her ex-husband Jack, a police detective in alternating chapters. I found this such a fun read as seeing things from each of their points of view and realising that one of them might have set the other one up made for such a fast-paced read! I kept changing my mind about who I thought was behind the murders, and ultimately whilst I did guess how it was going to end it didn’t spoilt how good of a read this was. It was such a rollercoaster ride and I very much enjoyed it. I can’t wait to read whatever Alice Feeney writes next but in the meantime I recommend this book!

Funny Weather by Olivia Laing

This my first book by Olivia Laing and I will definitely read more of her work in the future. Funny Weather is an essay collection and some of the essays I loved and found fascinating, I actually looked up some of the artists she wrote about to find out more about them and their work. Others were about people I already know about and I really connected with them, such as the essay on Freddie Mercury (he was the first famous person whose death made me cry too). There were some essays that just felt too short and too surface level though which meant I didn’t get much out of them and there wasn’t enough to pique my interest to look the artists up. Mostly I enjoyed this book though and I would recommend it.

Mini Book Reviews: Just My Luck | The Catch | One Hundred and Fifty Two Days | A Dark Matter

Today I’m sharing another selection of mini reviews of books that I’ve read and enjoyed recently.

Just My Luck by Adele Parks

I really enjoyed this book, it kept me gripped all the way through! The novel follows Jake and Lexi who are married with two children. Every weekend they play the lottery with two couples they’ve known since their children were babies. Only one week their numbers come up and Jake and Lexi say they are the sole winners as the other two couples didn’t put their money in the previous weekend. The novel then follows the fall out, and the far-reaching actions and repercussions that no one could have foreseen. There is some suspension of disbelief required at times but I didn’t mind that, I adored seeing where this novel was going to take me. I’d recommend this one if you’re looking for a domestic thriller that keeps you on your toes!

The Catch by T. M. Logan

I’ve read and enjoyed T. M. Logan’s previous novels so I was delighted to get a copy of his new one from NetGalley recently. I love the way this author takes ordinary people living ordinary lives and he throws a grenade into those lives and we get to see what happens. In The Catch Ed and Claire meet their daughter Abbie’s new boyfriend Ryan, and he seems very nice. Only Ed is immediately suspicious of this man and is determined to find out more about him. This is another novel where you suspend your disbelief and enjoy the rollercoaster ride that you’re on and I really enjoyed it. There are twists and turns that I wasn’t expecting, it’s hard to see where this novel might go and I loved that. I recommend it!

One Hundred and Fifty Two Days by Giles Paley-Phillips

This is a beautiful novel written in verse about a teenage boy coming to terms with his mum’s illness and death. Whilst his mum is very ill he contracts pneumonia and so isn’t allowed to visit her. I loved the honesty throughout this book – it’s clear this boy loves his mum and misses seeing her but he also focuses a lot on his physio Freya who he feels understands him. There is so much for him to process, I really felt for him. There are a few moments in this book that made me cry – my mum died when I was in my 20s and I empathised with the pain he was in. I loved his relationship with his Nana Q, I was so glad he had her to walk beside him as his father seemed to grow more distant. All in all this is a beautiful, honest and moving novel and I recommend it.

A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone

I loved Doug Johnstone’s previous novel so was very keen to read his latest and I’m so happy to say that I adored it. A Dark Matter is set in a funeral home and follows three generations of the Skelf family. The family also work as private investigators and often the two businesses converge! I loved reading from the perspective of each of the women – Dorothy, the head of the family, Jenny the daughter and Hannah the grand-daughter. All have their own dramas and issues going on and I was fully invested in all of them. There is so much heart in this book but it’s also full of black humour and I loved the way Doug Johnstone makes his characters so real and believable. I already can’t wait to read the next book in the series and to see how they all are what they’re getting up to now!

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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Mini Book Reviews: Girl, Woman, Other | Made to be Broken | Big Lies in a Small Town | An Almost Zero Waste Life

Today I’m sharing four more mini reviews of books that I’ve read and enjoyed recently!

 

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Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

I have to start by saying that this is the best book I’ve read this year so far; it’s utterly incredible! I put off reading it for a little while as I got it into my head that it was going to be difficult but it really wasn’t.  It’s set out in five sections – the first four each have three sections following a different woman and the final section brings everything together. I love how much we learn about each woman and how distinct they are, and I loved discovering how each female in the group of three were connected. There is so much to learn about these woman and every single one was fascinating and believable. I got absorbed in each individual’s story and the novel as a whole, it’s such a brilliant and beautiful book and is one I will definitely re-read in the future. In fact I already want to go back and read it again now and I rarely feel like that on finishing a book. If you haven’t already read this one then I urge you to pick it up soon. 

 

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Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

I’ve read and enjoyed quite a few Diane Chamberlain novels over the years but I think this one is my new favourite of hers. I’ve been in a reading slump in recent weeks but this book grabbed my attention from the first chapter and I got swept up in this story. The novel follows two women in two different timelines and we gradually learn each of their stories. Often in a novel with two timelines I feel more invested in one than the other but this book had me equally gripped by both, the pacing is perfect and each story is gripping. I loved leaning about Anna, a young artist in the 1940s who moves to a small town to paint a mural after winning a contest. She has to battle prejudice from being female, and the way the locals think she’s ousted their entrant in the contest. In the present day Morgan is released from prison early in order to restore a mural, even though she knows very little about art restoration. This was such a good read and I definitely recommend it.

 

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Made to be Broken by Rebecca Bradley

I read and loved the first book in this series, Shallow Waters, when it was first released so I’m kicking myself that it’s taken me so long to pick up the second book. I’m really glad I finally did though because this book is every bit as good as the first. We follow Detective Hannah Robbins and her team again as they’re still coming to terms with what happened in Shallow Waters and now there is a serial killer on their patch. The novel also gives us the perspective of the killer which really adds to the tension and gives insight into what is going on. I found the plot of this book to be really refreshing – both the motive for the killings and the way the murders were carried out was different to other crime thrillers I’ve read before. I highly recommend this book and I can’t wait to start reading book three!

 

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An Almost Zero Waste Life by Megan Weldon

This is a beautifully produced book that gives ideas about how to move towards a zero waste life. It’s aimed at ordinary people living in ordinary homes so you don’t need to have a huge garden in order to start following some of the suggestions in this book, which I really appreciated. There are a lot of pretty illustrations throughout the book, which makes you keen to keep picking this book up and reading a bit more, it didn’t feel like I was being lectured at any point. I did know a fair bit of what was in this book already but this book made for a really good motivator and a reminder that I need to be aware of what I bring into my home and how I dispose of rubbish. I’d recommend this one to anyone who wants to learn more about living a zero waste life!

 

 

Mini Book Reviews: The Flight | The Guest List | The Alibi Girl | The Recovery of Rose Gold

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Today I want to share another selection of mini book reviews of some mystery and thriller novels that I’ve read and enjoyed recently.

 

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The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

This is such a gripping novel that is both a thriller and an exploration about what makes a person the way they are. It follows Rose Gold and her mother Patty in the present day where Patty is released from prison after five years, having served her time for the abuse of Rose Gold throughout her childhood. It seems that Rose Gold wants to forgive her mother for all she did in making her very ill in order to get attention from others but all is not quite as it seems. Rose Gold is a very messed up adult and she seems outwardly to be forgiving of her mother but there is definitely something more under the surface. This is a page-turner and there are shocks in store but most of all it looks at what makes us the way we are – are we a product of our upbringing or are we born the way we are? I found this was a novel that hasn’t left me since I finished reading it, I keep thinking of Patty and Rose Gold. I definitely recommend this book!

 

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The Alibi Girl by C. J. Skuse

I received an ARC of this from NetGalley but I decided to buy the audio book and listen to it as I’ve enjoyed other books by the author on audio. I found this such a compelling book to listen to and it was perfect for me whilst I was coming out of a reading slump as I just didn’t want to stop listening. In the beginning of this book we meet Mary and her baby in a hairdressers where she talks about her other children and husband. But as she’s leaving she’s fearful of a man that arrives, and as she runs down the street someone else shouts after her but calls her by a different name! It turns out she’s not Mary at all but Joanne. The novel then flicks back and forth between the present day, and the past where we learn about Joanna’s childhood. Joanna has a lot of alibis – she gives different names and different stories to everyone she meets and slowly we learn why. Initially this gave me Sweetpea (one of C. J. Skuse’s previous novels) vibes but the further into it you get the more you see why Joanna is the way she is, it breaks your heart. I was rooting for her as the book went along and it becomes clear she’s not a liar for the sake of it, there is way more to it. This book has an ending that may divide readers but I thought it was perfect, even though it made me cry. I highly recommend this one!

 

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The Guest List by Lucy Foley

I enjoyed Lucy Foley’s previous novel The Hunting Party but her new one The Guest List is even better! A wedding is about to take place on a remote island and the main wedding party are gradually arriving. We meet the bride, the plus one, the bride’s sister, the wedding planner and others and the novel is told from different perspectives throughout. The island quickly becomes even more isolated when the bad weather draws in and we know from early on that someone dies so the book is predominantly told in the lead up to the wedding but there are small chapters in the aftermath. I loved how the tension builds in this novel and you become suspicious of everyone and wonder why they are the way they are. I did think I’d worked the whodunnit and why fairly early on but boy was I wrong! There are so many twists and turns in this book and as you see it all unravel the tension just ramps up and up. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it!

 

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The Flight by Julie Clark

I got this book from NetGalley and I’m so happy I was approved as it’s such a gripping novel! It follows two women from very different walks of life who become caught up in each other’s lives. Claire is married to a very controlling man but because of who he is and the power he holds she can’t escape him. On a trip he sends her on she gets her way out when a woman who looks a little like her approaches her wanting to swap places and each get on the others flight! We soon learn that the plane has crashed and the media believes Claire was on it. The novel is told from Claire’s perspective going forwards as she tries to remain hidden. It’s also told from Eva’s point of view in the months leading up to her swapping flights with Claire. I was equally invested in both women’s stories and was hoping both would escape their pasts and find a way to make a new life. There are twists and turns along the way that I wasn’t expecting so this book really kept me on my toes, I felt really quite bereft on finishing it. I recommend this one too!

WWW Wednesdays (6 May 20)! What are you reading this week?

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WWW Wednesday is a meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words. It’s open for anyone to join in and is a great way to share what you’ve been reading! All you have to do is answer three questions and share a link to your blog in the comments section of Sam’s blog.

The three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

A similar meme is run by Lipsyy Lost and Found where bloggers share This Week in Books #TWiB.

What I’m reading now: 

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We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

I’ve been wanting to read this book since before it was published so when I spotted the audio book on BorrowBox I immediately requested it. I started listening to it yesterday and I’ve been engrossed in it. It’s one of those novels that you find yourself thinking about whenever you’re not reading it.

 

What I recently finished reading:

Just My Luck by Adele Parks

This was such a good read! I love Adele Parks’ novels and this one is my favourite of hers from recent years. It follows a family that win the lottery and the fallout from that is further reaching than anyone could have foreseen. I worked out some elements of what was going on but there were still shocks in store, it definitely kept me on my toes.

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

I loved this book! It follows two characters in two time periods – Anna in 1939 and Morgan in 2018 as they each come to live in the same small town. I loved both timelines equally and was so keen to find out what was going to happen to both of these women and the people around them. This book was much-needed escapism and I’m so glad I read it.

The Alibi Girl by C. J. Skuse

I got a copy of this from NetGalley a while ago but decided to buy the audio book so that I could listen along to it as I read. I loved it! The story is so intriguing and gripping and I got completely absorbed in the story of this young woman who seems to enjoy pretending to be many different people. There is so much more to her than you see at first and I loved getting to know the real her. The ending was brilliant, so perfect and I have a feeling this is a novel that is really going to stay with me.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

I also got a copy of this from NetGalley and found myself racing through it. I enjoyed Lucy Foley’s previous novel The Hunting Party but this one was even better! I loved to hate quite a few of the characters, and I enjoyed the way my opinions on some of them changed as the book went along. I thought I worked out what was going on quite early but there was far more to this story that I ever predicted so I love that it shocked me. I recommend this one!

 

What I plan on reading next:

Haven’t They Grown by Sophie Hannah

I bought this last week and it’s a book I’d been curious about for a while so I think I’m going to try and get to it in the coming days. I love the series that Sophie Hannah writes so I’m intrigued to see how I get on with a standalone by her.

One Split Second by Caroline Bond

I requested this one on NetGalley as I’ve previously enjoyed another book by this author. This sounds like it could be an emotional rollercoaster but I’m just in the mood to pick it up so hopefully I can read it this week.

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

This is another NetGalley book and is one I’ve been intrigued by. I’ve seen it get quite a few mixed reviews but the plot has continued to draw me in so I’m going to try and get to it this week.

 

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

Mini Book Reviews: Dear Edward | Rules for Perfect Murders | What She Saw Last Night | I Want You Gone

This year has been a really up and down year for reading. It started off great but then I was quite unwell late January into February and I barely read anything. I was just starting to feel better when lockdown happened and my concentration has been rubbish up until the last few days. This means there are books that have been read over really long periods or that I was reading when I felt so unwell and the details of plots are no longer strong in my mind. So today I’m doing mini book reviews of some of those novels.

 

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Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

This is a stunning book that I read back in February and I still find myself thinking about it. It’s the story of Edward who boards a plane with his family and ends up being the sole survivor when it crashes. We then follow Edward as he goes to live with his Aunt and Uncle and has to work through the grief of losing his family and having to find a new life for himself in amongst all the guilt and fear. He also has the added struggle of being the only survivor and having to deal with all the attention that this brings, and all the focus on him from the families who lost their loved ones on the flight. The novel is told in alternating chapters with one focusing on Edward now, and one focusing on the plane during its ill-fated flight. This way of telling the story made is so fast-paced but also incredibly emotional to read. I found myself really affected by this book and it’s one I think I will re-read in the future. I highly recommend it.

 

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Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

This book was irresistible to me when I heard what it was about. It’s a crime thriller where all the murders committed are copycats of murders from famous works of fiction! (I actually looked up what the books were before I started reading so I could make sure I’d read them so as not to get any spoilers!). Bookshop owner Malcom posted a blog post a few years ago entitled Eight Perfect Murders and now it seems someone is using that post as a blueprint for serial murder. The FBI are soon knocking on Malcom’s door wanting to know what he knows and he is shocked at the thought someone could do this. He soon finds himself embroiled in the investigation and what follows is a rollercoaster ride as we slowly learn the truth about the murders! I’m a huge Peter Swanson fan and this book met all my expectations for it. I recommend this one!

 

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When She Saw the Light by M. J. Cross

I wanted to read this book as soon as I first read the blurb and I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint. Jenny boards the sleeper train and sees a young woman with a child boarding just ahead of her. During the journey the woman is found dead but there is no evidence that the child ever existed! What follows is Jenny’s mission to find out who the woman was and to locate the child. This novel does require some suspension of disbelief at times but I don’t mind that in a thriller that races along and keeps me completely engaged in what is happening and this one certainly did that. I definitely didn’t see the ending coming but it was very satisfying to see how everything turned out. I’ll definitely be reading more by this author in the future.

 

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I Want You Gone by Miranda Rijks

This is a creepy thriller! The main character Laura sees her own obituary in the local paper which is then posted on Facebook. More unnerving things happen and it really begins to affect her work and her state of mind. There are quite a few people in Laura’s life who she becomes suspicious of but she can’t put her finger on who exactly would be doing this to her or why. I did find Laura a little irritating in the way she reacted to things but at the same time I could understand why when she was so flummoxed at why this might be being done to her. This is a quick read and I would look out for more books by this author in the future.

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

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Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Three missing women running out of time…

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

BLOG TOUR (3)

 

Containment by Vanda Symon | @OrendaBooks @VandaSymon @annecater

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Containment is out now in ebook and paperback here.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Charlotte or Emily?’

‘Both.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mini #BookReviews: One Little Mistake by Emma Curtis | 17 Church Row by James Carol | Dare Me by Megan Abbott

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Today I’m sharing some more mini reviews of books that I’ve recently read!

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One Little Mistake by Emma Curtis

I started reading this book at the very end of 2019 and finished it a few days ago. The novel follows Vicky who one day makes a terrible error of judgement and something happens which leads to her best friend Amber helping her keep it quiet. What follows is a novel where you’re not sure who to trust. In between the chapters in the present day there are chapters from the past but it’s not clear until later in the novel who this person is. I swung from thinking one thing to another and I was never quite sure what was going on until just before it was fully revealed! I did find that the latter stages of the novel required some suspension of disbelief but I didn’t care because by then I was so invested in the characters and just wanted to know what was going to happen. I enjoyed this book and will definitely read more by Emma Curtis in the future!

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17 Church Row by James Carol

This novel appealed to me as soon as I read that it involved a very high-tech house! Even though the thought of what may be done is terrifying I can’t help but be drawn to books like this! This novel felt mysterious from the start and I wanted to know about this young family and why they were moving. They seem to move to this new house very quickly without much thought or research so I was intrigued! It turns out they’ve been through an awful tragedy and are trying to find a way to move forward with their lives. Unfortunately for them the tech in this house is still being tested and they end up unwittingly becoming pawns in someone else’s game. I’m going to be honest and say that while I loved the first half of the book, the second half didn’t quite live up to it for me. The book got a bit far-fetched and it lost me a little. Having said that I did read this in just a couple of sittings as I was keen to know what was going to happen so I did still enjoy it.

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Dare Me by Megan Abbott

This book has been on my TBR ever since it was published so I wanted to make it a priority this year so when I spotted the audio book on BorrowBox I decided to part read and part listen to it. I found it hard to get into this book but once it grabbed me I was gripped. It follows Addy, a cheerleader in a teen squad and you get a real look at the toxic friendships that this environment sometimes fosters. There is also the coach who is very friendly with some of the girls but it’s clear from early on that she is playing them, although I wasn’t sure why. I’m torn about this book because the elements that I liked I really liked but ultimately I think perhaps I wasn’t the right audience for the book as it just didn’t fully click with me. I do love Megan Abbott’s writing though and I’ve enjoyed books by her before so I will definitely be looking out for more in the future.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mini Reviews: It’s A Wonderful Night by Jaimie Admans | The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

Today I want to share my thoughts on two lovely books that I read over the Christmas and New Year period. Both feature Christmas but can be read at any time of year.

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It’s A Wonderful Night by Jaimie Admans

It’s A Wonderful Life is such a lovely Christmas film so when I saw this book I had to buy it. The novel follows Georgia Bailey, who manages a charity shop and one night she gets a call from a suicidal man on a bridge who has mistakenly called the shop instead of the helpline. Georgia knows she should give him the correct number but she finds herself talking to him instead. The next morning Georgia goes to buy a coffee and she hears a man talking and realises it’s the man from the night before. She knows she can’t let on that she knows so she resolves to find a way to help him. This is such a gorgeous novel – it doesn’t shy away from the severity of depression and grief but it also manages to remain a feel-good novel, which is an incredible balancing act. I loved the way the main street in the town is like a character in its own right and I felt like I had been there. I was willing Georgia and Leo on in their quest to bring this town back to life. There is so much love and joy in the novel and I very much enjoyed it. I will definitely be reading more by Jaimie Admans in the future!

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The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

I bought this book when it was first published and then I borrowed the audio book from the library so I could part read and part listen. I adored this book. It’s such a magical novel and it really took me back to feeling like I did as I read books as a child. I loved the characters in the book – particularly Cathy and Kaspar, I was rooting for them all the way through. There is so much in the novel that made me feel nostalgic and melancholy but I was so enchanted by the magic running throughout it too. I really did enjoy this book and I’ll certainly be reading more by this author in the future too.

The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton

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THE ACCIDENT.
THE LIE.
THE FALLOUT will be huge . . .

When Liza’s little boy has an accident at the local health club, it’s all anyone can talk about.

Was nobody watching him?
Where was his mother?
Who’s to blame?

The rumours, the finger-pointing, the whispers – they’re everywhere. And Liza’s best friend, Sarah, desperately needs it to stop.

Because Sarah was there when it happened. It was all her fault. And if she’s caught out on the lie, everything will fall apart . . .

I was really drawn to this book as soon as I read the synopsis and it didn’t let me down! The Fallout is a book about toxic friendships and I love that in a novel! An accident happens at the local health club and the finger-pointing and covering of backs begins very quickly!

Liza is looking after her young baby as her older child is playing and she trusts her best friend Sarah to look over and check on him when she goes to get coffees. But whilst in the queue she bumps into an old acquaintance from when all the women were pregnant she gets distracted.

The way the three women are with each other and the way they all seem to compete to appear perfect, whilst at the same time all trying to be the very best friend in the circumstances was cringe-worthy but oh-so-readable! I find female friendships fascinating, especially when elements of the friendships make them seem more like frenemies. In my experience friendships between women can be so complex for so many reasons and often you never get to know why someone suddenly backs off. It’s something I don’t really understand and I have lived through it many a time. Thornton captures this so well, and it’s made even better in this novel by the fact that none of the women are particularly likeable. I did feel sorry for Liza with what happened to her son, and at times I could understand some of Sarah’s behaviour but overall they are not women you’d want as your friends! And add into to all of this a sprinkling of secrets and lies and you have a potent mix for a novel!

I found this book hard to put down, it really did grab me and it held me right to the very end. If you like novels about messy friendships and you love unlikeable characters then this book is for you. I very much enjoyed it and am looking forward to reading more by this author!

The Fallout is out now in ebook and available for pre-order in paperback. You can order it here.

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

The Choice by Claire Wade #CTAS #JoinTheFray

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‘Eat the best, leave the rest! Remember Mother knows best.’

Olivia Pritchard lives in constant fear since Mother Mason came into power. Everything from healthy eating to exercise is controlled by the government, all in the name of health and happiness. Olivia hates being dictated to, but to protect her family she must follow the rules or face a stay in the Shame Box – a perspex box, placed in a public place for everyone to judge.

After Olivia witnesses an innocent woman being violently arrested, she is no longer able to ignore the injustice. The underground rebellion ‘Cut The Apron Strings’ is gaining momentum and for the first time in years Olivia has a choice: keep her head down or join the fray…

I was intrigued by The Choice as soon as I saw the eye-catching cover and then I read the synopsis and knew I had to read this book as soon as I could!

The Choice is set in a dystopian world that feels not dissimilar to ours except that sugar has been banned. Food is rationed by the state and hobbies like baking are illegal. People are weighed at the supermarket, at the gym and at social events and all their health data is readily available to officials. People who break the law are put in perspex boxes in public places to be shamed for what they’ve done.

The book mainly follows Olivia as she struggles to cope in this world when in her life before this happened she was a successful baker. She really misses what she did before and who she was before. You can really sense as the book goes on that there is anger bubbling away inside her but it’s kept at bay by the fear of being taken from her children.

I was a little apprehensive that this book was just going to be a take on The Handmaid’s Tale but it isn’t and it does stand separately from it. The fact that The Choice is set in our world and in what feels to be a very close timeline to where we are now is the difference and it’s so terrifying for that reason. We already see people being judged and shamed for their weight and there isn’t as much understanding as there should be for why people might be over, or even under, weight. It’s such a complex issue but the way sugar in food is already been swapped for horrible sweeteners is scary to me and makes this book feel all the more real.

The other thing that I took from this book is the way that Wade is able to show in such a powerful way what it is to be trapped in a situation where your world is getting smaller and you can no longer do what you love or eat what you love. It felt to me that Wade has used her experience of chronic illness to show what it is to be imprisoned in you own life through no fault of your own. I could really sense that given my own disability and how small my world is because of that.

All-in-all this is a great debut novel and well worth picking up. I’ll definitely be looking out for whatever Claire Wade writes next!

The Choice is out now in paperback, ebook and audio book. Buy your copy here.

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

I’m Stacking the Shelves with a Brand New Book Haul Today!

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

Books and eBooks

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The Choke by Sofie Laguna

I won this book just before Christmas and it arrived a few days ago. I didn’t know a huge amount about it but it sounds like such a good read and I’m looking forward to getting to it.

 

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Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

I’ve been wanting to read this one ever since it was published last year so when I spotted it in the latest Kindle book sale I snapped it up. I hope to get to this soon.

 

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Five Steps to Happy by Ella Dove

I also bought this in this Kindle sale as it sounds like such an interesting novel. It’s fiction and about coming to terms with disability so I really want to read this one as soon as I can.

 

Audiobooks

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A Poem For Every Day of the Year by Allie Esiri

This was an Audible daily deal earlier this week and I snapped it up. I think it’ll be lovely to listen to a poem each day and I’m keen to start this one.

 

Review Books

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After Dark by Dominic Nolan

I squealed when a surprise copy of this book arrived in the post for me last week! I loved the author’s previous book (it was only of my Top 40 books of 2019!) so I’m super excited to have a copy of the sequel! I’ll definitely be reading this soon.

 

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Mine by Clare Empson

I was surprised and delighted to get approved to read this one on NetGalley yesterday. I must have requested it long enough ago that I’d forgotten about it but I’m very happy to have a copy to read as I loved the author’s previous novel.

 

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Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

I was sorting through my email this week and spotted an email I’d missed from the publisher about this book – they’d sent me a pre-approved link to read this from NetGalley so I was thrilled to click it and find the book was still there.

 

 


 

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