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.