#BookReview: The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis @MichaelJBooks @tinaseskis ‏

The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis

About the Book

There’s trouble in paradise. . .

For as long as she can remember, Jemma has been planning the perfect honeymoon. A fortnight’s retreat to a five-star resort in the Maldives, complete with luxury villas, personal butlers and absolute privacy. It should be paradise, but it’s turned into a nightmare.

Because the man Jemma married a week ago has just disappeared from the island without a trace. And now her perfect new life is vanishing just as quickly before her eyes. After everything they’ve been through together, how can this be happening? Is there anyone on the island who Jemma can trust? And above all – where has her husband gone?

My Thoughts

I read and enjoyed Tina Seskis’ first novel a little while ago and loved it so when I heard she had a new book coming out I was keen to read it. I was thrilled when NetGalley approved my request recently.

Jemma and Jamie are on their honeymoon on a beautiful and exclusive island resort in the Maldives. One morning Jemma wakes up to find her new husband is missing and from there the novel slowly builds as we find out what led up to him disappearing and what actually happened to him.

The novel is told in alternating chapters of past and present, and this worked really well as I found myself engrossed in both parts of the story and wanting to see how the timeline would converge and where it was all leading. It’s also told in four parts, and I have to say that at the end of the first part my head was spinning and I simply had to read on as fast as I possibly could.

The atmosphere on this beautiful island becomes increasingly stifling as Jemma feels that everyone, staff and other guests alike, are suspecting her of harming her husband. Even the couple she had become friends with start being a bit more distant with her. She is unsure how to behave and worries about how people who see her around the island are perceiving her. The paranoia she feels grows and grows – it emanates off the page to the point it was making me nervous about what was going to happen next.

As the book went on I became more and more unnerved by the whole situation. I’m scared of open water as it is so the idea of being on a small island resort isn’t my idea of fun, but there is an underlying sense of malice in this book that you can never quite put your finger on why. It gave me that feeling you have when you’re seriously sleep-deprived and everything has that slightly unreal feeling to it. This isn’t a scary book but there is a real creepiness to it and it gets under your skin – the feeling doesn’t let up until well after you’ve finished reading. The writing in this book is brilliant in the way it really evokes these feelings in the reader, almost mimicking some of what Jemma is feeling.

I suspected just about everyone in this book of having had something to do with Jamie’s disappearance. During the times when I wasn’t reading, my mind was constantly pondering on various scenarios that could have happened. Tina Seskis throws in so many brilliant red herrings and twists that it’s impossible to know how it will all turn out. One of my suspicions did prove to be partially correct but I defy anyone to work out what exactly happened on this island!

This is a slow-burn thriller that builds the tension and the claustrophobic atmosphere to such a degree that it feels like you’re enmeshed in the situation yourself. It’s dark and twisty, gripping and impossible to put down! I highly recommend The Honeymoon.

The Honeymoon is due to be published on 1st June and can be pre-ordered now.

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

About the Author

tina seskis

Tina Seskis grew up in Hampshire, before going off to study in the beautiful city of Bath and then moving to London, where she has lived on and off ever since.

Tina’s first novel One Step Too Far was released in 2013, and has since been published in 17 languages in over 60 countries. Her latest novel, The Honeymoon, will finally be released on 1st June 2017.

Tina lives in North London with her husband and son.

(Author photo and bio taken from: Goodreads)

#BookReview: The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo @HQstories @JillSantopolo

the light we lost.png

About the Book

Two people. One choice. What if?

Every love story has a beginning…

11th September 2001. Lucy and Gabe meet in New York on a day that will change their lives – and the world – forever. As the city burns behind them, they kiss for the very first time.

Over the next thirteen years they are torn apart, then brought back together, time and time again. It’s a journey of dreams, of desires, of jealousy, of forgiveness – and above all, love.

And as Lucy is faced with a devastating choice, she wonders whether their love is a matter of destiny or chance.

…what if this is how their story ends?

My Thoughts

The cover of The Light We Lost caught my eye first, and then when I read the synopsis I knew I had to get hold of this book. I was so happy when NetGalley approved me to read it.

The Light We Lost begins with two people, Lucy and Gabe, who meet on 11th September 2001 in New York. They experience that day together just a few miles away from where the twin towers fell, and the instant attraction they had to one another was heightened by being so close to such an horrific event. The book is then told from the viewpoint of Lucy, in short chapters as she looks over her relationship with Gabe, and all the things that have happened in their lives since that day.

‘The air was clear, the sky was blue – and everything had changed. We just didn’t know it yet’.

There is a real sense running through this book of fate and destiny. Lucy and Gabe do get together after a false start and everything in their relationship is passionate, every emotion is heightened and they fall so hard for each other. There was a sense of everything being on fast forward and it made me wonder about the nature of how we meet our partners. The idea that meeting on such a tragic and distressing day could give a real sense of needing to live in the now, of not being able to wait and see.  Everyone remembers where they were on 9/11 so clearly, it’s seared into all of our memories so it’s entirely possible to see the affect it would have on two young people who met on that day, who saw it from their rooftop.

‘There is an element of peace in believing that we’re only players on a stage, acting out stories directed by someone else.’

There was such a sense of yearning running through this book and from very early on it gave me the feeling that something awful was going to happen. The way it is told, with Lucy going back and forth in time in the way she tells her story, gives the feeling that something has already happened and we, the reader, just don’t know what it is yet. This book made me feel so many emotions – it made me feel hopeful and happy, it reminded me of that awful day in 2001, it made me cry, and it made me want to reach out through the pages to give Lucy and Gabe some advice, to make them see what is important in life.

There is so much love between Gabe and Lucy but it’s often so raw, and intense it’s still complicated and messy and not always how they want it to be. The novel explores how we have different relationships with different partners over the years, and there is a real sense of how it must be if you feel that you met the right person for you at the wrong time in your life.

This book is beautifully written, and it’s gorgeous to read. It’s one of those books that you want to read slowly and savour but at the same time you don’t want to be pulled out of this world. I felt such a connection to this novel, and I feel really quite bereft now I’ve finished reading it. I think this is a story that will stay with me, and this is one of those rare books that I’m sure I will re-read in the future.

The Light We Lost is out now!

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

About the Author

jill santopolo credit to charles grantham

Photo Credit: Charles Grantham

Jill Santopolo received a BA in English literature from Columbia University and an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She’s the author of three successful children’s and young-adult series and works as the editorial director of Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers group. An adjunct professor in The New School’s MFA program, Jill travels the world to speak about writing and storytelling. She lives in New York City.

(Bio taken from: penguinrandomhouse.com)

#BookReview: Final Girls by Riley Sager @riley_sager ‏@EburyPublishing ‏

30215662

About the Book

Each girl survived an unthinkable horror. Now someone wants them dead…
They were called The Final Girls.
Three young women who survived unimaginable horror. Three victims of separate massacres grouped together by the press. Three strangers bound by similar traumas.
Lisa. Quincy. Samantha.
When something terrible happens to Lisa, put-together Quincy and volatile Sam finally meet. Each one influences the other. Each one has dark secrets. And after the bloodstained fingers of the past reach into the present, each one will never be the same.

My Thoughts

I was drawn to this book when I first saw it being mentioned on social media – the cover is stunning and very striking, and when I read the synopsis I simply had to get my hands on it despite the fact that I’m a complete wimp and knew this book would unnerve me!

Final Girls is a novel about Quincy, a girl who was the lone survivor in a massacre at a secluded cottage in the woods. The novel starts ten years on from the massacre and Quincy appears to be putting the horrific trauma behind her – she has a successful baking blog and is in a happy relationship.

The Final Girls is a named coined by the media for the women who have each survived a massacre where everyone else was killed, basically after the girl who is always left standing at the end of teen horror movies.  Lisa was the first final girl, and she wrote a book about her experiences and since then has attempted to contact and support other people who have been through the same thing. The group consisted of Lisa and Samantha, and then when Quincy survives a massacre she becomes part of the group. She doesn’t want to join the actual group that Lisa has set up, but whether she likes it or not, she has been deemed a final girl. Quincy just wants to put what happened behind her – her memories of that traumatic night are buried and she doesn’t want to remember so she doesn’t want to talk about it or think about, she wants to take her meds and just move on. When Lisa comes to harm, Quincy is left reeling and in fear that something may happen to her too. This leads to her letting Sam into her life and from then on I was on edge. I didn’t trust Sam, I wasn’t even sure if Quincy was telling the truth about what happened. My brain was constantly mulling things over in the background trying to put it all together and work out what was going to happen.

The tension constantly ramps up throughout the book. I loved the way it was predominantly set in the present day but interspersed amongst that are short chapters leading up to the massacre where all Quincy’s friends were murdered. Quincy, under Sam’s influence starts behaving out of character and the stress of what happened to Lisa and the possibility of her memory of the massacre coming back lead to her acting out of character. It seems like she begins to lose her grip on what’s important in her life, and things start to spiral for her. She doesn’t have a support system in place and things start to turn ugly for her.

Once I got to the last quarter of the book I honestly felt like I couldn’t breathe. I was compelled to keep reading because I had to know what had happened in that house but I almost wanted to cover my eyes, if that makes sense. Sager gives a real sense of what it must have been like to be in that situation and terrified for your life and it’s hard to read, yet is impossible to look away from.

I had so many suspicions about various characters, and I had various scenarios running through my mind as I was reading, but I never quite figured out who was responsible. I only realised a couple of pages before it was revealed and I love that I couldn’t quite manage to work it all out before then. It’s not often that a book blindsides me but this one absolutely did.

This book is so dark and twisty, it’s addictive and compelling and utterly unputdownable! I literally started reading it early evening and I didn’t put it down until I’d finished reading at gone midnight! It genuinely gave me the creeps, I was really glad that I wasn’t home alone after I finished reading at night time!

Final Girls is due to be published on 11th July and can be pre-ordered now.

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

About the Author

Riley Sager is a pseudonym for an author who has been previously published under another name. A native of Pennsylvania, Riley is a writer, editor and graphic designer who now lives in Princeton, New Jersey.

In addition to writing, Riley enjoys reading, movies and baking.

Riley’s first novel, FINAL GIRLS, will be published in July in the United States, the United Kingdom and fourteen other countries around the world.

(Bio taken from: rileysagerbooks.com)

#BookReview: The Power by Naomi Alderman

41RUBuZRhZL

About the Book

‘She throws her head back and pushes her chest forward and lets go a huge blast right into the centre of his body. The rivulets and streams of red scarring run across his chest and up around his throat. She’d put her hand on his heart and stopped him dead.’

Suddenly – tomorrow or the day after – girls find that with a flick of their fingers, they can inflict agonizing pain and even death. With this single twist, the four lives at the heart of Naomi Alderman’s extraordinary, visceral novel are utterly transformed, and we look at the world in an entirely new light. What if the power to hurt were in women’s hands?

My Thoughts

The Power is a really interesting novel that looks at the way men and woman are viewed and treated in society. In this novel teenage girls discover they have the power to inflict pain through their hands. Society becomes scared and outraged and wants to lock the girls away to protect society but it soon becomes apparent that the girls are awakening the power in older women. Soon all women have the power.

The first half of this book feels very empowering. It’s fascinating to see women going about their lives and knowing that they won’t ever be hurt as they leave a club late at night, who know absolutely that they can protect themselves even if they walk home alone. Suddenly it’s men who are being warned not to walk home alone at night, that are being warned not to behave in a way that may provoke girls with the power.

As The Power goes on Alderman begins to rebut the notion that woman are instinctively nurturing and caring. It becomes a more uncomfortable to read, it is unsettling and at times horrifying.  I’ve seen criticism of this book from people who haven’t read it saying that making men victims doesn’t make anything any better. I completely agree with that statement but it’s absolutely not what this book is about. The Power is all about empowering women but then looking at what happens when they have all that power, and just like now, it’s not all good. The power becomes a corrupting force for some of the women, they turn power-hungry and want to be on top at all costs, which is how it is in reality – too much power is always corrupting. I couldn’t understand the motives of some of the characters, I couldn’t identify or sympathise with what some of them did and it was right that this happened. I’ll be honest and say that I was a little concerned that The Power would be a man-hating novel but it isn’t, it really does look at what happens when the people that hold the power lose it, and others gain it. It’s terrifying, but also fascinating.

The novel is framed by letters from a male scholar to Naomi asking her opinion on his latest novel, The Power, and it ends with her thoughts after she read it. The last line in this novel is brilliant, one of the best final lines I’ve read in a long time. It left me thinking for a long time after I put the book down.

This is a fascinating novel, it will really make you think and it’ll stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. I definitely recommend it.

The Power is out now!

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

About the Author

naomi alderman

Naomi Alderman grew up in London and attended Oxford University and UEA. In 2006 she won the Orange Award for New Writers. In 2007, she was named Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year, and one of Waterstones’ 25 Writers for the Future.

Her first novel, Disobedience, was published in ten languages. Penguin published her second novel, The Lessons, in 2010 and her third novel, The Liars’ Gospel, in August 2012. Her new novel, The Power, will be published at the end of October 2016. All of her novels have been chosen for BBC Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime slot.

Her prize-winning short fiction has appeared in Prospect, on BBC Radio 4 and in a number of anthologies. In 2009 she was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award.

From 2004 to 2007 Naomi was lead writer on the alternate reality game Perplex City. She’s written online games for Penguin, the BBC, and other clients. In 2011 she wrote the Doctor Who tie-in novel Borrowed Time. In 2012, she co-created the top-selling smartphone fitness game and audio adventure Zombies, Run!, which is a market leader and has been downloaded millions of times.

Naomi broadcasts regularly, has guest-presented Front Row on BBC Radio 4 and writes frequently for the Guardian. She is one of the presenters of Science Stories, a programme about the history of science on BBC Radio 4, as well as presenting many one-off documentaries.

Naomi is Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, has been mentored by Margaret Atwood as part of the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative, and in April 2013 she was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in their once-a-decade list.

(Bio and author photo taken from: NaomiAlderman.com)

#BookReview: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan @ruthmariehogan @TwoRoadsBooks

keeper-of-lost-things-hb

About the Book

MEET THE ‘KEEPER OF LOST THINGS’…
Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life lovingly collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.
Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.
But the final wishes of the Keeper of Lost Things have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…

With an unforgettable cast of characters that includes young girls with special powers, handsome gardeners, irritable ghosts and an array of irresistible four-legged friends, The Keeper of Lost Things is a debut novel of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that will leave you bereft once you’ve finished reading.
WE’RE ALL JUST WAITING TO BE FOUND…

My Thoughts

From the moment I first read the synopsis for this book I knew I had to read it – what a brilliant premise for a novel! I love the idea of someone picking up and keeping safe all the lost things, and the idea of trying to reunite these items with their owners. It kind of made me feel that maybe some of the things I’ve been heartbroken to lose might have been picked up by someone who has looked after them over the years, rather than them having ended up in a bin. I admit that it made my heart sing.

The Keeper of Lost Things has two stories running through it. Anthony is the keeper of lost things – he began collecting lost things after his fiancee Therese died, and has carried on throughout the years. He is clearly still grieving for the love of his life but has channeled his emotion into trying to reunite people with their belongings – he seems to be focusing on this as a way atoning for his own loss. His story broke my heart – I felt such sadness for his loss and his pain. He reminded me a lot of my Grandad, who was forever mending things for people and when my Nan died he was broken himself and nothing could fix him.

‘It had been in his pocket as he stood waiting for Therese on the corner of Great Russell Street. But she never came, and by the time he got home that day, he had lost them both.’

Laura is Anthony’s housekeeper. She is dealing with the aftermath of a break-up and is feeling really low. She loves looking after Anthony and his home, but is shocked to find when Anthony dies that she is to become the holder of the lost things. Through this Laura meets Sunshine, who is a wonderful character. I adored her, her name really does suit her joyful personality.

The other story running throughout the book is about Eunice and Bomber. Their story is from the past and the way their story is woven through the novel with Laura’s story is wonderful. Bomber’s sister Portia is a wannabe novelist and this makes for comedy gold throughout the novel, there honestly were laugh-out-loud moments as Bomber read her latest attempt at writing.

Interspersed among the two story strands are the stories behind some of the lost things that Anthony has found and kept over the years. I loved these short snapshots of the life these items may have had before they were lost, it really made me think about all the times we see lost things in the street and often it seems like rubbish but some of these items will have been loved by their owners and probably much missed. The lost items exist in reality but it’s almost like they’re also metaphors for all the bigger losses we experience in out lives. The items are representatives of the moments that matter in our lives. The items we keep after we’ve lost a loved one became so much more precious because they’re all we have left, and our memories are so wrapped up in each item, so the thought of ever losing those things is almost too much to contemplate. Anthony’s collection of lost things seems filled with all the memories of people he has never met but he knows they need to be safe-guarded. It does give a sense of peace to know that someone like Anthony might be keeping our lost things safe.

The Keeper of Lost Things is one of those novels that will break your heart, but it will mend it again. It will make you cry, it will make you laugh and it will leave you holding your treasured items, and more so the people you love, a little tighter. It’s a beautiful novel, one that everyone will be able to identify with, and it’s one that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

The Keeper of Lost Things is out now!

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

About the Author

ruth hogan

I was born in the house where my parents still live in Bedford.  My sister was so pleased to have a sibling that she threw a thrupenny bit at me.

As a child I read everything I could lay my hands on.  Luckily, my mum worked in a bookshop.  My favourite reads were The MoomintrollsA Hundred Million FrancsThe Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, and the back of cereal packets, and gravestones.

I passed enough A levels to get a place at Goldsmiths College, University of London, to study English and Drama.  It was brilliant and I loved it. And then I got a proper job.

I worked for ten years in a senior local government position: a square peg in round hole, but it paid the bills and mortgage.

In my early thirties I had a car accident which left me unable to work full-time and convinced me to start writing seriously.

It was all going well, but then in 2012 I got Cancer, which was bloody inconvenient but precipitated an exciting hair journey from bald to a peroxide blonde Annie Lennox crop. When chemo kept me up all night I passed the time writing and the eventual result was The Keeper Of Lost Things.

I live in a chaotic Victorian house with an assortment of rescue dogs and my long-suffering partner.  I am a magpie; always collecting treasures (or ‘junk’ depending on your point of view) and a huge John Betjeman fan.

My favourite word is’ antimacassar’ and I still like reading gravestones.

(Bio and author photo taken from: TwoRoadsBooks.com)

#BookReview: The People at Number 9 by Felicity Everett @Ittymay @HQStories

the-people-at-number-9-by-felicity-everett

About the Book

‘Have you met them yet, the new couple?’

When Gav and Lou move into the house next door, Sara spends days plucking up courage to say hello. The neighbours are glamorous, chaotic and just a little eccentric. They make the rest of Sara’s street seem dull by comparison.

When the hand of friendship is extended, Sara is delighted and flattered. Incredibly, Gav and Lou seem to see something in Sara and Neil that they admire too. In no time at all, the two couples are soulmates, sharing suppers, bottles of red wine and childcare, laughing and trading stories and secrets late into the night in one another’s houses.

And the more time Sara spends with Gav and Lou, the more she longs to make changes in her own life. But those changes will come at a price. Soon Gav and Lou will be asking things they’ve no right to ask of their neighbours, with shattering consequences for all of them…

Have you met The People at Number 9? A dark and delicious novel about envy, longing and betrayal in the suburbs…

My Thoughts

This book intrigued me from the moment I first saw the cover and I simply had to read it. I love books about neighbours and the things that can go wrong between people who live next door to each other. I think it’s because we all have neighbours and they can be varying degrees of nice or nosey or rude – The People at Number 9 takes the idea of envy and ramps it up to make a brilliant read.

This book is centred around two couples – Sara and Neil, and the family who move in next door – Lou and Gav. Sara is the most intriguing character for me because initially she invites Lou in and seems perturbed that Lou doesn’t openly admire her kitchen, when most people do. I immediately thought I knew exactly the type of person she was but it quickly becomes apparent that Sara is more the kind of person that just wants to be accepted and admired. She is very drawn to Lou and to Gav and increasingly wants to be more like them. I couldn’t make my mind up whether Sara was easily led a lot of the time or whether she was one of those people who has somehow never really formed a sense of who she is and so latches on to whoever she’s around.

Sara becomes fixated with people very easily and doesn’t seem to let go. There is a moment where she talks about her first crush but rather than it being a moment of reminiscing it seems she’s still holds tightly to the memory and the wish that she had done things differently.

Gav and Lou seem to be the opposite type of people to Sara and Neil – they are bohemian in their lifestyle and very laid back. They have chilled out parties in their home, and they don’t worry that the decor isn’t super modern. Sara seems enthralled by them from the off. Lou and Gave seem quite lax about their children, which concerns Sara, leading her to step in to help.

Lou seems happy to have Sara be her new best friend, and as time moves on I started to feel that Lou was taking advantage of Sara’s good nature but at the same time I was uneasy about Sara – it also felt like she was pushing herself into Lou’s life as much as she could. It did feel like Gav and Lou were quietly mocking Sara for wanting to be like them whilst being perfectly happy to let her run around after their children.

It fascinated me noticing how Sara begins to talk more like Gav and Lou, she begins to feel jealous of their other friends and it’s like she believes she has a monopoly on them. Neil is in the background in this novel but gradually he seems to become more transfixed by the new neighbours too, and also a bit bemused by his wife’s behaviour and new attitude to things. It felt like we, the reader, could see an overview of the lives of these characters but the characters themselves were so enmeshed in their world that they could only see the tiny details. As the tension in the book builds it felt like I was watching a car crash in very slow motion, and I was powerless to look away as I read on to see if my suspicions would be proved correct.

This is one of those books where none of the characters are particularly likeable, and yet you find yourself drawn to them and you want to know more. This is a novel that is so much about envying what others have, about being insecure in your own skin, about being caught up in the new and shiny and forgetting about all the good that was already there. This book takes things to a level that wouldn’t happen to most people but it remains grounded in reality. I’m sure everyone who reads this book will see elements of people they know in these characters.

The People at Number 9 is quite a slow-burn novel and yet it feels fast-paced at the same time – I read it in two sittings as I didn’t want to put it down. It’s not an edge-of-your-seat thriller but there is a real undercurrent of uneasiness that runs throughout this novel. I loved this book and definitely recommend it.

The People at Number 9 is out now.

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

 

About the Author

felicity everett

 

Felicity Everett grew up in Manchester and attended Sussex University. After an early career in children’s publishing and freelance writing, which produced more than twenty-five works of children’s fiction and non-fiction, Felicity’s debut adult novel The Story of Us was published by Random House in 2011. She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her family.

#BookReview: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr @emily_barr @penguinrandom

the-one-memory-of-flora-banks

About the Book

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHO TO TRUST WHEN YOU CAN’T EVEN TRUST YOURSELF?

I look at my hands. One of them says FLORA BE BRAVE.

Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can’t remember anything day-to-day: the joke her friend made, the instructions her parents gave her, how old she is.

Then she kisses someone she shouldn’t, and the next day she remembers it. It’s the first time she’s remembered anything since she was ten.

But the boy is gone. She thinks he’s moved to the Arctic.

Will following him be the key to unlocking her memory? Who can she trust?

My Thoughts

I’ve read a few of Emily Barr’s previous novels and always enjoyed them so I was excited when I got approved to read this new book, Emily Barr’s first young adult novel, back in January. I read the book back then but didn’t manage to get my review finished and posted but I can say that the book has really stayed fresh in my mind, which is always testament to a great read!

Flora Banks is such a brilliant character, I loved reading about her from the opening chapter. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to not be able to form new memories, to only have memories from childhood. Flora is now a teenager but her mother, in her need to protect Flora, keeps her trapped as a child. Flora tries to keep a grip on her life by writing notes to herself but inevitably they get muddled up, or moved and then she has to try and piece things together. One night she experiences her first kiss and the next day finds that she has remembered it. The details around the kiss are not there but she remembers the kiss so clearly.

The novel is all about Flora learning to forge her way in the world in spite of her memory problems. Flora believes that if she can just find the boy she kissed that it will unlock her memory, that he is now the answer to everything. Life never goes as planned though and Flora encounters a lot of difficulties on her journey to find him. She becomes fiercely determined to prove to herself that she is growing up and that she will be able to manage on her own. Reading about Flora as she attempts to find the boy she kissed is really touching. To see this girl making such valiant attempts to remember things, to find ways to trigger her memory is incredible.

I felt quite on edge at times as the novel went on, it was nerve-wracking seeing Flora out in the world without her support systems in place. There are moments when she becomes really quite confused and upset, and I was so involved in the novel that I wanted to reach into the pages and tell her it would be ok. I was really cheering her on and wanting her to find the boy on her own and for everything to work out fine.

I love how Emily Barr managed to show us Flora’s life, to show us how it is to have amnesia and while inevitably some things are repeated throughout the book as we experience Flora’s confusion each day, the book never feels repetitive.

I also really appreciated how this novel never became too cliched. I was fully expecting Flora to easily find the boy and for them to fall in love and live happily ever after as is often the case, but it wasn’t remotely straightforward for her. She has so many challenges to overcome and life is never going to be easy for her. The novel for me felt so much more about Flora finding a way to have some independence and to gain a life of her own than it is about a boy, although the boy is the catalyst for the story.

It was also really interesting how we get to see Flora with her childhood best friend Paige, who’s a healthy seventeen year old. The contrast between them is quite stark at times and it really highlights just how much Flora has missed out on due to her amnesia. Early in the book the two girls are at a party together and Flora really does seem like a child, it’s quite sad to see. Paige is tied to Flora because they were friends before the amnesia – Paige tries hard to be a good friend but you can see how hard it is for her at times, particularly in the early part of the novel. It must be so difficult to be growing up and having more and more independence while the girl you grew up with is still ten years old in her mind. This is so sensitively written and I was really hoping that their friendship would survive as the book goes on, more so than I was wanting a romance between Flora and the boy.

I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to everyone. It is aimed a young adults but it’s a book that can be enjoyed by anyone.

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

About the Author

emily barr

I started out working as a journalist in London, but always hankered after a quiet room and a book to write. I managed, somehow, to get commissioned to go travelling for a year, and came home with the beginnings of a novel set in the world of backpackers in Asia. This became BACKPACK, a thriller which won the WH Smith New Talent Award, and I have since written eleven more novels published in the UK and around the world.

I live in Cornwall with my partner Craig and our children, and am working on my second YA novel, which is set in Rio.

(Bio taken from EmilyBarr.com)

#BookReview: Little Deaths by Emma Flint @picadorbooks ‏@flint_writes

little-deaths-emma-flint

About the Book

It’s 1965 in a tight-knit working-class neighborhood in Queens, New York, and Ruth Malone—a single mother who works long hours as a cocktail waitress—wakes to discover her two small children, Frankie Jr. and Cindy, have gone missing. Later that day, Cindy’s body is found in a derelict lot a half mile from her home, strangled. Ten days later, Frankie Jr.’s decomposing body is found. Immediately, all fingers point to Ruth.

As police investigate the murders, the detritus of Ruth’s life is exposed. Seen through the eyes of the cops, the empty bourbon bottles and provocative clothing which litter her apartment, the piles of letters from countless men and Ruth’s little black book of phone numbers, make her a drunk, a loose woman—and therefore a bad mother. The lead detective, a strict Catholic who believes women belong in the home, leaps to the obvious conclusion: facing divorce and a custody battle, Malone took her children’s lives.

Pete Wonicke is a rookie tabloid reporter who finagles an assignment to cover the murders. Determined to make his name in the paper, he begins digging into the case. Pete’s interest in the story develops into an obsession with Ruth, and he comes to believe there’s something more to the woman whom prosecutors, the press, and the public have painted as a promiscuous femme fatale. Did Ruth Malone violently kill her own children, is she a victim of circumstance—or is there something more sinister at play?

My Thoughts

I was approved to read this book from NetGalley back in January and I read it soon after but life got in the way of me getting my review written in a timely manner. I’m now quite pleased about that as I’ve had time to really think about the book and I can honestly say that it has stayed with me so strongly.

Little Deaths is a claustrophobic read; it’s set in a hot summer in 1965 and the heat feels stifling as it emanates from the page. There is a sense that the heat is intensifying the way everyone behaves.

Ruth is a fascinating character; I was intrigued by her and interested in her all the way through the novel. It was shocking to see how quick everyone was to judge that she likely murdered her two children entirely based on her looks and the fact that she was a single mother, but then it seems that all women are judged harshly, and so often it’s by other women and their peers. Ruth is a very glamorous woman and she enjoys going out dancing, but her outer appearance belies how she really feels. Ruth is uncomfortable in her own skin. She has an almost fear of any kind of bodily function – she panics when she feels herself begin to perspire and her mind obsesses about people noticing. She puts on her make up in a fastidious fashion – she cannot bear to be seen without it, even on the morning she finds her children missing. Society judges that she is vain and cold, but actually her make up is her mask – she needs it on in order to face the world, in order to cope. It is so easy for society to make judgements but people are far more complex than what we can see on the outside. For me, Ruth wanting to paint her face was her way of holding herself together when her life was spiralling out of control.

The way men see Ruth throughout this novel is also really fascinating. The police seem keen to see her as a scarlet woman and therefore someone who would likely have hurt her children, believing that she would kill them because they held her back from the lifestyle she wanted to be living. Then there is Pete, the young journalist, who quickly becomes fixated with Ruth and therefore believes she must be innocent. He imprints his own beliefs about Ruth onto her and begins to believe that he knows how she’s feeling. There doesn’t seem to be a man in this novel that can see Ruth as she really is – an independent woman who is doing her best in difficult circumstances. Even her estranged husband Frank cannot, or perhaps will not, see that Ruth is actually vulnerable and fragile, and that her wanting to look nice all the time is part of her defence mechanism.

Although we, as readers, are seeing a lot of the story through Ruth’s eyes we still can’t be sure that she is innocent. She maintains that she didn’t harm her children or take them out of the apartment, and she that worries people are thinking that she did. I thought she was most likely telling the truth but I couldn’t be sure that she wasn’t suffering from a breakdown of some kind and that she believed she hadn’t done it when really she might have done.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a crime or thriller novel before that has made me tearful. As this novel went on I felt more and more sad for Ruth. There is a moment when she feels a compulsion to buy a new dress and the way she is torn to shreds in the media for that one act made me want to weep for her. It was so apparent to me that she just wanted to look nice one more time for her babies, she wasn’t aware of it seeming inappropriate, she was just compelled to do it for them, and as a way of holding herself together. This makes sense knowing what we know about Ruth but the things that were said about her afterwards made my heart break.

I actually didn’t know when I was reading this novel that it was based on a true story, so when I read this at the end of the book I was horrified all over again at what society is capable of doing to women in the way we judge. There are still so many cases, particularly when a crime is committed, where society leaps to a judgement based on how the woman looks in a way that we don’t do with men. It’s sobering to think that what happened to Ruth, or Alice Crimmins, the woman she is based on, is still happening now.

This book had me completely and utterly engrossed all the way through, I begrudged real life interrupting my reading time.

Little Deaths is a stunning literary thriller and I highly recommend it. I read this novel back in January and it has stayed with me all these months and I feel sure it will still be in my top books of the year when I come to compile that list in December.

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

About the Author

emma flint

Emma Flint grew up in Newcastle upon Tyne, and has been writing fiction since she knew what stories were. She graduated from the University of St. Andrews with an MA in English Language and Literature, later completing a novel-writing course at the Faber Academy. She worked in Edinburgh for four years, and now lives in north London.

Since childhood, she has been drawn to true-crime stories, developing an encyclopaedic knowledge of real-life murder cases. She is equally fascinated by notorious historical figures and by unorthodox women – past, present and fictional.

All of these themes informed and inspired Little Deaths, a heady blend of sex, murder, obsession, noir and a femme fatale. Set in 1960s suburban New York, the novel re-tells a horrifying true story with a modern feminist slant.

(Bio taken from EmmaFlint.com)

#BookReview: Block 46 by Johana Gustawsson #BlogTour @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks

BLOCK 46 COVER AW.indd

About the Book

Evil remembers…

Falkenberg, Sweden. The mutilated body of talented young jewellery designer, Linnea Blix, is found in a snow-swept marina.
Hampstead Heath, London. The body of a young boy is discovered with similar wounds to Linnea’s.
Buchenwald Concentration Camp, 1944. In the midst of the hell of the Holocaust, Erich Hebner will do anything to see himself as a human again.

Are the two murders the work of a serial killer, and how are they connected to shocking events at Buchenwald?

Emily Roy, a profiler on loan to Scotland Yard from the Canadian Royal Mounted Police, joins up with Linnea’s friend, French truecrime writer Alexis Castells, to investigate the puzzling case. They travel between Sweden and London, and then deep into the past, as a startling and terrifying connection comes to light.

Plumbing the darkness and the horrific evidence of the nature of evil, Block 46 is a multi-layered, sweeping and evocative thriller that heralds a stunning new voice in French Noir.

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when I was offered the chance to take part in the blog tour for Block 46 as I’d already heard about it and was really keen to read it.

This book was far more harrowing than I was expecting, and it was definitely more brutal and graphic in some of its descriptions and yet it was impossible to put down. I wanted to know what was going to happen, whether the case was going to be resolved and what all of the present-day murders had to do with the Buchenwald death camp.

I loved that this story is told predominantly through the eyes of a criminal profiler, Emily Roy, and a true crime investigative writer, Alexis Castells, who is also caught up in the murder of her friend Linnea. It gave a different slant to a crime novel than if it were told from a detective’s perspective and I found it really refreshing and different.

Emily is a fascinating character, I was intrigued by her all the way through the book. She has a very focused manner at times that leads her off into her own world and yet she deals with suspects so well and so cleverly. I also liked Alexis – she has a great way of being able to step back and see the bigger picture and complements Emily so well. They both have a tragedy in their pasts, which was touched on in this book so I’m interested to know more about that, along with how it’s affected them and made them who they are. I’m so pleased that there is to be a second book as I definitely want to spend more time with these two characters.

The scenes at Buchenwald were the hardest to read – it is so stark and unflinching, and I wasn’t expecting to read about the brutalities to the degree they were described. I could feel the sheer terror emanating through the pages. There were moments were I had to stop reading to just take a breath, but then the writing was so good that I was drawn to pick the book back up almost straight away.

Block 46 kept me guessing right until the very end – I genuinely couldn’t figure out who the murderer was. I thought I was onto something with a link to Buchenwald but I still picked the wrong strand to follow. I love when a book has me guessing and suspecting nearly everyone but not able to work it out; it doesn’t happen often but this book got me! I was honestly holding my breath as this novel gathered pace and I couldn’t read the words fast enough – I simply had to know who, what and where! The end, when it came, made sense but it left me reeling. I was honestly incapable of doing anything for quite a while after turning the last page, my mind wouldn’t stop turning over what I’d read. I was disturbed and unsettled by it but you’re meant to be, the writing is so brilliant.

Block 46 is harrowing, unflinching and brutal; it’s also brilliant, gripping and completely and utterly unputdownable! I highly recommend ordering a copy of this incredible crime thriller right away! I can’t wait to see what Johana Gustawsson writes next, I’ll certainly be first in line to buy it.

Block 46 was translated by Maxim Jakubowski.
Block 46 is due to be published on 15th May and can be pre-ordered now.

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

 

About the Author

Johana Photo

Born in 1978 in Marseille and with a degree in political science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French press and television. She married a Swede and now lives in London. She was the co-author of a bestseller, On se retrouvera, published by Fayard Noir in France, whose television adaptation drew over 7 million viewers in June 2015. She is working on the next book in the Roy & Castells series.

 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour on the stops below:

block 46 blog tour poster

#BookReview: The Wild Air by Rebecca Mascull #blogtour @rebeccamascull @HodderBooks

The wild Air by Rebecca Mascull

About the Book

In Edwardian England, aeroplanes are a new, magical invention, while female pilots are rare indeed.

When shy Della Dobbs meets her mother’s aunt, her life changes forever. Great Auntie Betty has come home from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, across whose windswept dunes the Wright Brothers tested their historic flying machines. Della develops a burning ambition to fly and Betty is determined to help her.

But the Great War is coming and it threatens to destroy everything – and everyone – Della loves.

Uplifting and page-turning, THE WILD AIR is a story about love, loss and following your dreams against all odds.

My Thoughts

The Wild Air is a wonderful novel, it drew me in from the prologue and had me captivated right through to the final page. This is the story of Cordelia (Della) Dobbs who knows that her place in life is to help her mother until such a time that she marries and has children of her own to raise. Della loves cycling and mending her bike and is fascinated by how things work. So when her Great-Auntie Betty arrives from America and introduces Della to kite flying and later aeroplanes it seems her life might be about to change beyond all recognition.

This book is so much about female ambition and determination and I loved that: from feisty, no-nonsense Great-Auntie Betty to her niece Della whose quiet desire to fly planes slowly becomes a real possibility. I so enjoyed seeing Della’s confidence slowly grow – it was lovely to see her find her voice, to begin to tentatively step forward and ask for what she wanted, to stand her ground. Even Della’s mum quietly admits to a long ago desire to achieve in a man’s world but it was something that she just couldn’t push ahead with. It means she has a real understanding of her daughter’s desire to achieve her dream though and she’s always very supportive of Della.

I’ve always been interested in the history around women pilots – I grew up near Hull so was always fascinated by Amy Johnson. Della felt like a real person to me, I absolutely believed in her – her sheer joy of flying planes just shines throughout this book and I was rooting for her all the way. It’s hard to imagine just how difficult it must have been for women in the Edwardian era to find a way into such a male-dominated arena. Della is referred to by one newspaper man as ‘little Della Dobbs’, which is so demeaning for an adult woman who is accomplishing so much in her field. It was also totally believable but still really quite shocking that some of the women who came to see Della were less than impressed with her achievements and were more interested in ‘the arrangements for [her] undercarriage’ – i.e. whether she still wore a corset! I really enjoyed reading about this obviously very well-researched time in history and about the women who paved the way for women pilots like Amy Johnson.

I have to mention one of the male characters in this book too. I loved Dud, he is such a great man and I loved his gentle nature and his enthusiasm for Della’s ambition to be a pilot. He believed in her from the day he saw her flying a kite and he never waivered in his belief in her. It was hard to read about what happened to him during the war, but again this was so beautifully and sensitively written – it really moved me.

The writing in this book is so beautiful and very evocative. My heart was in my mouth as Della gets her first taste of flying – I swear I could hear the propellers and could taste the engine oil. I was holding my breath as I willed her to get it right, to show the men on the ground exactly what she was made of. The moment she feels the wind in her hair for the first time, I could have been up there with her. The sheer magical joy just emanates from the page, it’s fabulous!

Rebecca Mascull really evokes what it was like to live in an era where flying was new and scary and exciting. This novel brought to life the way it must have felt to people to see these flying machines for the first time, and then for people to see female pilots in a time when women were expected to marry and raise a family, and not to have ambitions to have a career in any way equal to a man. The Wild Air is a beautiful, captivating novel and I highly recommend it.

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

The Wild Air is due to be published on 4th May by Hodder & Stoughton and can be pre-ordered now.

About the Author

Rebecca-Mascull-e1424274192376

Photo taken by Lisa Warrener

 

Rebecca Mascull is the author of THE VISITORS and SONG OF THE SEA MAID. She has previously worked in education, has a Masters in Writing and lives by the sea in the east of England.

(Bio taken from: Hodder)

 

 

 

You can follow the rest of the blog tour at the blogs below:

BLOG TOUR POSTER-2

#BookReview: See What I Have Done by Sarah Schmidt @TinderPress @PublicityBooks @IKillNovel

IMG_7803

About the Book

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Lizzie Borden calls out to her maid: Someone’s killed Father. The brutal ax-murder of Andrew and Abby Borden in their home in Fall River, Massachusetts, leaves little evidence and many unanswered questions. While neighbors struggle to understand why anyone would want to harm the respected Bordens, those close to the family have a different tale to tell—of a father with an explosive temper; a spiteful stepmother; and two spinster sisters, with a bond even stronger than blood, desperate for their independence.

As the police search for clues, Emma comforts an increasingly distraught Lizzie whose memories of that morning flash in scattered fragments. Had she been in the barn or the pear arbor to escape the stifling heat of the house? When did she last speak to her stepmother? Were they really gone and would everything be better now? Shifting among the perspectives of the unreliable Lizzie, her older sister Emma, the housemaid Bridget, and the enigmatic stranger Benjamin, the events of that fateful day are slowly revealed through a high-wire feat of storytelling.

 

My Thoughts

I was beyond thrilled when I won a copy of See What I Have Done in a giveaway on twitter around Christmas-time. I read the book in a couple of sittings soon after it arrived but have held off posting my review until now so as to be closer to the release date.

This book is incredible. I knew a little about Lizzie Borden before reading the novel but this book really brought the case to life. The novel is told from the perspective of multiple narrators, who each add another layer to the story. It’s also told in a non-linear fashion – it opens with the murders having occurred and then goes back and forth from the days preceding the murders to the day of, and then the time that follows. I love the layering, the way each chapter adds a little more knowledge, and sometimes more questions, about the motivations of the characters.

I think the character I most cared about was Bridget – the maid who had travelled from Ireland to make a better life for herself and ended up in this cold and slightly strange family. Lizzie is the most memorable of characters though – she is never likeable, her manipulative side shows through from the start and she doesn’t seem to care who she tramples over to get what she wants. I was intrigued by her though. Sometimes it felt that Lizzie was much younger than the grown woman she was, but then there were flashes of a really calculating streak that showed her for the woman she was. Knowing from the start that it is she who is suspected of killing her father and step-mother with an axe, I was paying close attention to how she behaved before and after the killings.

The murders are gruesome and utterly horrific. It seemed impossible that a young woman could have physically done this to the large man her father was and yet her character traits made it seem absolutely possible. It made me uncomfortable that I believed it of her because of her being such a cold character, but then taking a step back it seemed she was the most likely culprit.

There are other suspects in the novel, and it seems likely that at least one of them is a plausible suspect. It’s strange that a man who is something of a wrong-un, who is asked to go to the house on the night of the murders by the Uncle of Lizzie and her older sister Emma, felt less likely to have done it than Lizzie.

The detail in the writing is stunning and so evocative – I swear I could smell the mutton broth on the stove in the kitchen as I was reading, and I felt like I could taste the pears from the trees in the garden. The stomach upset the family were suffering from was described in such a way that I ended up feeling very queasy as I was reading. There is a really stifling atmosphere around this house, it made me feel really claustrophobic and like the air in the room was pushing down on me at times and yet I still couldn’t stop reading. I love when the writing in a novel is so brilliant that it keeps you hooked even when you can hardly bear to read the unsettling, uncomfortable descriptions on the page.

I finished reading this book months ago now and yet it remains so vivid in my mind. I still think of the characters and what happened, it’s one of those books that really gets under your skin. I’m certain that this will be in my top ten books of this year – a book that makes you think, and one you can’t forget simply has to be up there in the best of the year list. I highly recommend this book. It’s due to be published on 2 May and you can pre-order it now.

I won a copy of this novel in a Twitter giveaway and have chosen to review it. All thoughts are my own.

The gorgeous proof copy that I was lucky enough to win has an interactive cover just like the one in this video: See What I Have Done blippar I’ll be buying a finished copy of the book but this is a proof that I will also be keeping in my my collection.

 

About the Author

328x328

After completing a Bachelor of Arts (Professional writing and editing), a Master of Arts (Creative Writing), and a Graduate Diploma of Information Management, Sarah currently works as a Reading & Literacy Coordinator (read: a fancy librarian) at a regional public library.

See What I Have Done is her first novel.

(Bio and author photo taken from here)

#BookReview: This Love by Dani Atkins @AtkinsDani ‏@jessbarratt88 @TeamBATC ‏

IMG_8551

About the Book

Sophie Winter lives in a self-imposed cocoon – she’s a single, thirty-one year old translator who works from home in her one bedroom flat. This isn’t really the life she dreamed of, but then Sophie stopped believing in happy endings a very long time ago, when she was fifteen years old and tragedy struck her family. Her grief has left her scared of commitment and completely risk averse, so she plays it safe and keeps everyone at arm’s length. Sophie understands she has a problem, but recognising it and knowing how to fix it are two entirely different things.

One night a serious fire breaks out in the flat below hers. Sophie is trapped in the burning building until a random passer-by, Ben, luckily happens to spot and rescue her. Suddenly her cocoon is shattered – what will be the consequences of this second life-changing event?

My Thoughts

I was thrilled to be offered a copy of This Love to read and review as I very much enjoyed one of Dani Atkins earlier novels, Fractured so was very keen to read this latest book.

I loved This Love, I read it in two sittings and in the time I wasn’t reading I kept thinking about Sophie and Ben and wondering what was going to happen.

The opening chapters of this book when the fire encroaches on the flat below Sophie had me holding my breath – even though I knew the book was about Sophie, and therefore knew she would likely survive the fire, I was still so tense wondering how she was going to get out. I love when I get so engrossed in what is happening on the page I’m reading that it makes me forget what I knew about the book beforehand.

Ben is such a lovely man and you could see how much he wanted to be there for Sophie in a very genuine and gentlemanly way. Sophie really got to me though, I could identify with her – I totally understood how she had become the way she was because of what had happened to her family when she was younger. It would be easy to say that she should have dealt with it before but life isn’t always that easy, people can become trapped in their emotional pain especially if they don’t have the right support when they need it.

There are elements in this book that I saw coming, but I think Sophie would have also seen them coming if she hadn’t have been so trapped in her emotional pain. There were other things that completely shocked me but as the story was gradually revealed it made sense that this was the case and so was always believable.

I got so completely and utterly lost in the relationship between Sophie and Ben – the way they slowly become friends and Sophie begins to let her guard down and deal with the pain she’d been holding on to since she was a teenager. It felt like Ben was some kind of guardian angel, who came into her life to help her heal. I loved how he helped her re-discover who she was and therefore helped her to help herself to fix her life rather than him just being a knight in shining armour. It was wonderful to see Sophie growing in strength once she had Ben’s support and encouragement to start doing things she had avoided for so long.

The ending of this book had me sobbing, and that rarely happens to me when I’m reading. It was such a beautiful, and very moving, way to end the novel, and whilst it made me cry it also left me with such a real sense of hope.

This Love is one of those books that grabs you from the very first page and doesn’t let go until long after you’ve turned the last page. This is a novel that will stay with me for a very long time to come.

This Love is out now and available here.

I received a copy of this book from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

Dani Atkins

Dani was born and brought up in Cockfosters- a small London suburb at the end of the Piccadilly Tube Line.

This served her well for commuting into the city, where from the age of 18 she worked in a succession of secretarial positions in companies as diverse as a BMW car dealership to the BBC. Dani spent her two hour commute avidly reading and dreamed that one day she would become an author herself.

When her two children grew up and left home, Dani set about turning this dream into reality and devoted her time to writing. She now lives in a rural Hertfordshire cottage with her husband, a soppy border collie dog and a haughty Siamese cat.

Her first novels FRACTURED (called THEN AND ALWAYS in the US) and THE STORY OF US published in 2014. In January 2016, her third novel, OUR SONG was published.

(Bio taken from author’s Goodreads page: Dani Atkins

#BookReview: The Affair by Amanda Brooke @AmandaBrookeAB @fictionpubteam @HarperCollinsUK

the-affair-by-amanda-brooke

About the Book

A shocking story about a fifteen-year-old girl and the man who took advantage of her.

“You might as well know from the start, I’m not going to tell on him and I don’t care how much trouble I get in. It’s not like it could get any worse than it already is. I can’t. Don’t ask me why, I just can’t.”

When Nina finds out that her fifteen-year-old daughter, Scarlett, is pregnant, her world falls apart. Because Scarlet won’t tell anyone who the father is. And Nina is scared that the answer will destroy everything. As the suspects mount – from Scarlett’s teacher to Nina’s new husband of less than a year – Nina searches for the truth: no matter what the cost.

My Thoughts

I found this novel really drew me in and I actually read it all in one day.  If I’m to be honest I was expecting this book to be quite predictable but actually it wasn’t. Fifteen year old Scarlett has been having a relationship with an older man but when her mum finds out she refuses to say who it was with. Nina, her mum, is thrown into a tailspin and doesn’t know how to handle what has happened.

I thought it was clever that, as the reader, we don’t know who the relationship was with either. This book has multiple narrators – we mainly follow Nina, and Vicki – Scarlett’s teacher’s wife but we also get to see some of Scarlett’s thought processes interspersed throughout the novel. Immediately I suspected the teacher, but then I suspected the step-father, and briefly I even suspected Nina’s best friend’s husband. The two main men we’re led to suspect each seem to have opportunity to groom Scarlett and I couldn’t work out for a while who it most likely was.

We do get to see the life that Nina and Bryn lead as quite a newly-wed couple trying to adapt to living together with Nina’s two children. We also see a lot of Vicki and Rob, Scarlett’s teacher’s relationship and the way they seem madly in love. There are times when you’re reading that you wonder if it was neither of these men as they both seem happy and settled, but then you read the snippets from Scarlett’s viewpoint and remember that one of these men is likely a monster.

I have to say that I did feel uncomfortable that this book is centred around what is called an affair when it involved a fifteen year old. The two suspects are both in a position of power over her, and she is underage so really it’s not an affair: it’s a man taking advantage of a naive and underage girl. Scarlett does seem worldly-wise but it is very clear that she’s inexperienced and that she believes herself to be in love with the man. She believes he really wants to be with her at any cost. I can see how Scarlett views it as an affair – to her this is a relationship between equals. It’s clear that all of the adults in Scarlett’s life (barring the man who took advantage of her) are horrified at the supposed relationship so this changes the perception within the book from it being an affair to it being something much more serious.

The Affair is a novel that centres on a relationship between a man and an underage girl but it is about so much more than just that. It is just as much a look at how the female characters deal with the suspicion that the man they married, that they trust, could be cheating on them and how they have to then come to terms with the fact that the person their husband is involved with is a minor. I really appreciated all the strand to this novel, it made it a well-rounded and interesting read that throws up real moral dilemmas for the characters. This would make a great book club read as there is so much brought up in this book that would make for great discussion points.

I really enjoyed this novel – it kept me engrossed from start to finish and left me mulling it over once I’d finished reading. I’ll definitely be looking out for more of Amanda Brooke’s novels in the future.

The Affair is out now.

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

About the Author

dsc_0278-4crop

I live in Liverpool with my daughter Jessica and writing was most definitely a late discovery.  I didn’t really begin to explore creative writing until I was almost 40, at which point my young son Nathan was fighting for his life.  Poetry and keeping a journal helped me through those difficult times and the darker times to come when he died in 2006.  He was three years old.

I continued to write and in 2010 I was fortunate enough to find an agent.  Luigi Bonomi has a fantastic reputation which is truly deserved and with his help we transformed my first manuscript.  Shortly afterwards in 2011 I was offered a book deal with HarperCollins.

My first novel Yesterday’s Sun was published in January 2012.

(Bio taken from author’s website: amanda-brooke.com)

Review: Swimming Lessons by Claire Fuller @Fig_Tree_Books @PenguinUKBooks @ClaireFuller2

swimming-lessons-by-claire-fuller

About the Book:

‘Gil Coleman looked down from the window and saw his dead wife standing on the pavement below.’

Gil’s wife, Ingrid has been missing, presumed drowned, for twelve years.

A possible sighting brings their children, Nan and Flora, home. Together they begin to confront the mystery of their mother. Is Ingrid dead? Or did she leave? And do the letters hidden within Gil’s books hold the answer to the truth behind his marriage, a truth hidden from everyone including his own children?

My Thoughts:

This is the first novel I’ve read by Claire Fuller and I very much enjoyed it. Swimming Lessons is a real character-driven novel told partly in letters from the past and partly in the present day. I loved the way that a picture was gradually built up of this family, the way all their brokenness, their quirks and emotions were shown in one light in the present day and then there was another layer when we read a letter from the past.

In the present Gil has had a fall and is in hospital so his daughters Nan and Flora rush back to their childhood home to look after their father. We see the house through their eyes – all the piles and piles of books crowding every inch of space and immediately I wanted to know more.

We then begin to read the letters from Ingrid – mother to the two girls, who disappeared one day years earlier and of whom no trace has ever been found. We see through her eyes the happy times, the heartbreaking times that she went through with Gil. We learn from the very first letter that she wrote to him many times and then hid the letters in a book she felt was appropriate in some way. We don’t know how many Gil ever found or read, and there’s an added melancholy feel that runs through the book caused by missed chances and lack of knowing. In the present day we see the daughters occasionally pick up a book, and we, the reader, know there is a letter from their mother to their father in there, but for whatever reason they don’t find it. This left me feeling almost bereft at times.

There is a sense that Ingrid must be dead, for there have never been any sightings of her since the day she disappeared. Yet, there is also a haunting sense that she’s just around the corner, that if you just turned around quicker she’d be there. This broke my heart at times when the two daughters could sense her. My mum died a few years ago and sometimes I can randomly smell her perfume in my house, and for a moment I go still and it feels like she’s right there. It’s comforting, even though I know it’s not real. I think this sums up so much of this novel – the idea of people feeling things or sensing things but not always knowing what it means or how to deal with it. Then sometimes it’s the opposite – Gil’s lack of awareness, or lack of care, of his wife led to the emotional loss of her from their marriage before she was fully lost from all of their lives.

The ending of this book is perfect in my opinion, I honestly can’t see how it could have ended differently. The whole story is like a family haunted by memories and secrets and things they don’t know, so to wrap it all up in a neat bow would have been too heavy-handed. The beautiful wistfulness of the writing combined with the heartbreaking storyline is just incredible and I fell in love with this novel – it’s one that will stay with me for a long time to come.

I have Claire Fuller’s debut novel on my TBR and will definitely be reading it soon, and I already can’t wait to see what she writes next.

Swimming Lessons is out now.

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

About the Author:

Claire fuller

 

Claire Fuller trained as a sculptor before working in marketing for many years. In 2013 she completed an MA in Creative Writing, and wrote her first novel, Our Endless Numbered Days. It was published in the UK by Penguin, in the US by Tin House, in Canada by House of Anansi and bought for translation in 15 other countries. Our Endless Numbered Days won the 2015 Desmond Elliott prize.
Claire’s second novel, Swimming Lessons will be published in early 2017.

 

(Bio taken from author’s Goodreads profile: Goodreads: Claire Fuller)

#BookReview: SweetPea by C.J. Skuse #SweetPea @HQStories @CeeJaytheAuthor

IMG_8462 (1)

About the Book

The last person who called me ‘Sweetpea’ ended up dead…

I haven’t killed anyone for three years and I thought that when it happened again I’d feel bad. Like an alcholic taking a sip of whisky. But no. Nothing. I had a blissful night’s sleep. Didn’t wake up at all. And for once, no bad dream either. This morning I feel balanced. Almost sane, for once.

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.
Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.

A kill list.
From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge.

Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder…

My Thoughts

I received SweetPea in the post as a total surprise and I was immediately drawn to the stunning cover design and wanted to know more about the book. I was then intrigued by the synopsis and the idea of a serial killer being described as a girl-next-door type.

Rhiannon is such a brilliant character; she’s so funny and sarcastic and her observations of the people around her are just so darkly amusing. There were so many times in the book that I was properly laughing at something she had said. I love the way she writes a kill list at the start of her diary entries about the people that have annoyed her on that particular day, it’s brilliant. It becomes so easy to understand her annoyances, and some of the things that annoy her are the exact things that annoy me, and that was unnerving when you then remember that this is a woman who deals with her issues with people by killing them. I actually stuck lots of sticky notes to highlight my favourite Rhiannon quotes but when I looked through the book to quote some here they’re mostly too crude or sweary to share! I did really identify with her hatred of all things to do with hen parties – that bit made me giggle. Also, I don’t want to quote it here in case it causes offence to anyone but personally as someone who suffers from a neurological condition I have to admit that I properly burst out laughing at her ‘movers and shakers’ idea for the newspaper she worked for.

A quote I will share is this one because it made me laugh so much and when I tried to read it out to my husband I couldn’t get my words out for laughing:

I didn’t cut off the penis this time. It’s not a trophy thing with me. That would be stupid, like the burglars who always leave the taps on in Home Alone. Besides, where would I put them all? We’ve only got a two-bed flat. It was hard enough deciding where to put the dehumidifier.

This is what makes the book so brilliant – Rhiannon has such an hilarious and sarcastic way of saying things that really appealed to me.

The way Rhiannon tortures her school bully is horrible to read, and the way she goes after men to kill them isn’t exactly pleasant either but because as the reader you’re in Rhiannon’s head and therefore are seeing her reasoning it’s almost as if you forget that she’s actually a psychopath. You get totally wrapped up in what Rhiannon is saying and then you pause and realise that she, aside from being a serial killer, actually comes across as a really normal woman, and someone that you could see yourself being friends with it is so deeply unsettling.

Rhiannon as a character does have depth to her too, it’s not all witty retorts and evil thoughts and deeds. She survived an horrific and brutal attack when she was a young child and whilst that is never given as a reason for her turning out the way she has, you can see a child-like side to her at times. She’s obsessed with her Sylvanian Family and spends a lot of time making her doll’s house perfect and no one is allowed to touch it. It seems odd for a grown woman to be so fixated but it felt to me like it was a lingering effect of the damage that had been done to her.

I read the final two thirds of this novel in one go because I just wanted to know what was going to happen and how it would all turn out for Rhiannon. Her behaviour escalates throughout the novel, and at the same time there is are snapshot of a slightly more normal side of her emerging too so it becomes impossible to put the book down as you just want to know which side of her will win out. It’s a weird thing when you don’t want someone to get caught and yet you know she’s unhinged and has murdered people – I couldn’t see how the book was going to end. I won’t give any spoilers but I thought the ending was perfect for the story.

This is a darkly funny novel that really gets under your skin; Rhiannon is like Bridget Jones mixed with Psycho – she’s such a unique character and someone I won’t forget for a very long time to come. SweetPea is a laugh-out-loud funny novel about a very sarcastic and witty psychopath… and if that doesn’t make you want to read it I don’t know what will! This is the first book that I’ve read by C.J. Skuse but it absolutely definitely won’t be the last.

Sweet Pea is due to by published on 20th April in the UK and I highly recommend you pre-order your copy now!

I received a copy of Sweet Pea from the publisher HQ in exchange for an honest review.

 

About the Author

C.J. SKUSE is the author of the Young Adult novels PRETTY BAD THINGS, ROCKOHOLIC and DEAD ROMANTIC (Chicken House), MONSTER and THE DEVIANTS (Mira Ink). She was born in 1980 in Weston-super-Mare, England. She has First Class degrees in Creative Writing and Writing for Children and, aside from writing novels lectures in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University. C.J. is currently working on adult novel SWEETPEA for HQ/HarperCollins (out April 2017).

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

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

 

#BookReview: The Cows by Dawn O’Porter #DontFollowTheHerd @HotPatooties @fictionpubteam

the-cows-by-dawn-oporter

About the Book

COW n.
/ka?/

A piece of meat; born to breed; past its sell-by-date; one of the herd.

Women don’t have to fall into a stereotype.

THE COWS is a powerful novel about three women. In all the noise of modern life, each needs to find their own voice.

It’s about friendship and being female.
It’s bold and brilliant.
It’s searingly perceptive.
It’s about never following the herd.

And everyone is going to be talking about it.

My Thoughts

I have to start this review by saying that I completely and utterly adored The Cows! It’s a brilliant novel and it was exactly what I needed to be reading at the moment I read it.

This is a novel that really shows what it is to be a woman – the way we’re judged, the way we judge each other, the way we’re all trying to live up to an ideal that none of us can attain. The Cows is told through three narratives. Each of the three characters is so well-written that they feel like real people, and each voice is so distinct that you never lose track of who it is that you’re reading about.Tara is a single mother, who never told the father of her child that she was pregnant, and she feels she has to be a success at work and at home, to be everything to everybody. Cam is a very successful blogger who doesn’t want children but this ends up becoming the very thing that she is judged on and defined by even though it’s only one small part of who she is.  Then there’s Stella who is alone in the world – her twin sister, and her mum are both dead; her relationship is on the rocks and she desperately wants a baby. She feels such anger at the cards life has dealt her and yet is powerless to change what has happened.

I felt such a mix of emotions whilst reading this book – I was giggling at one point and tearful at another. The contrast between the women, but also the small similarities, really gave this novel depth and warmth. I’m very happily married but don’t have children. I never felt a huge longing for a baby but now life has made sure that I will never have children and that’s a strange thing to contemplate sometimes. I can understand Stella’s hopes and fears but I found it very hard to sympathise with the desperate lengths she went to. Ultimately though, she deserved understanding and care because she was driven to the point of madness by her need for a child, and also by her loneliness. Perhaps she would have behaved differently if she’d had a supportive friend who she could talk to and confide in. Cam is a fiercely independent woman and I admired her attitude to life, she’s the kind of woman I would love to be friends with. She is who she is and she never apologises for that, yet she remains such a lovely person. Cam’s relationship with her dad made me tearful – the way she let him help her with things because she knew it made him feel better made her all the more fab. I think she became my favourite character. What Tara did was shocking but what happened to her as a result was horrifying, and it echoed many of the stories we hear about women who do something and are caught on camera and then are judged for it forevermore. I felt so sorry for her with all the horrible attention and judgment that were thrown at her. The humiliation she felt was palpable, and the way other people, but women in particular, judged her generally but then with the infamy on top was awful but sadly all too recognisable

The society we live in now with social media being what it is is scary. Anything that we do is captured and there forever and no one is ever allowed to make a mistake, and so often we sit in judgment of others. I love social media because for one thing I wouldn’t have met my husband without it (we met on twitter) but also because I’m now housebound through disability and twitter and Facebook make me feel less alone, but there is a dark side to social media and it’s horrible to see and must be terrifying to experience.

The Cows is one of those novels that really shows the way that social media affects us – how it can ruin your life, or rather the trolls on social media can. It shows that you can be really well liked on social media and have lots of followers who hang on your every word but one opinion that the general public disagree with and the tide can turn against you. But it also shows the way that social media can bring friends our way that prove more loyal and kind in a crisis than the people we thought were our friends. The Cows also shows the power of standing up to what people say about you, about holding your head high regardless,and about the way there are still good people out there who will have your back.

The great thing that I took away from that book was the way it made me see that I don’t have to apologise for who I am. It reinforced for me that I can be who I am and I don’t have to say sorry for not being who others want me to be. It left me with a real sense of empowerment at a time when I was feeling like society had thrown me on the scrapheap. I honestly can’t put into words just how much I loved this book, it’s such an incredible read and I fully expect it will make my top ten books of 2017.

Dawn O’Porter tackles issues facing women head on in this book, she doesn’t shy away from any topic and it’s so refreshing to read. The Cows will make you laugh, it will make you cry; it will make you nod your head in recognition and it may well make you cringe at times but it’s a book that you want to keep reading and don’t want to end. This is a novel of our times and it’s one that I will read again and again. I highly recommend that you go buy a copy right now!

I received a copy of The Cows from HarperCollins via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

DOP photo 5 david loftus

Photograph by David Loftus


Dawn O’Porter is a broadcaster and print journalist who lives in London with her husband Chris, cat Lilu and dog Potato. She has made thirteen documentaries about all sorts of things, including polygamy, childbirth, geishas, body image, breast cancer and even the movie DIRTY DANCING.

Dawn has written for various UK newspapers and magazines including GRAZIA and STYLIST. She is also a highly prolific Tweeter and blogger of The Dawn Report. Although Dawn lives in London she spends a lot of time in LA and travels a lot. You may have seen her dragging two huge pink suitcases with broken wheels and a Siamese cat (Lilu) in a box through international airports. At some point she plans to get new suitcases – the cat, however, has a few years left in her yet.

 


 

You can follow the rest of this tour at the lovely blogs below:

blog tour banner

#BookReview: Deconstructing Dirty Dancing by Stephen Lee Naish @Zer0Books @steleenaish ‏

Deconstructing Dirty Dancing by Stephen Lee Naish

About the Book

Renowned film critic Roger Ebert said Dirty Dancing “might have been a decent movie if it had allowed itself to be about anything.” In this broadly researched and accessible text, Stephen Lee Naish sets out to deconstruct and unlock a film that has haunted him for decades, and argues that Dirty Dancing, the 1987 sleeper hit about a young middle-class girl who falls for a handsome working-class dance instructor, is actually about everything. The film is a union of history, politics, sixties and eighties culture, era-defining music, class, gender, and race, and of course features one of the best love stories set to film. Using scene-by-scene analyses, personal interpretation, and comparative study, it’s time to take Dirty Dancing out of the corner and place it under the microscope.

My Thoughts

I accidentally ended up with this book from NetGalley and I was in two minds about whether to read it or to just contact the publisher and explain my error. In the end I decided to read it. I think everyone my age will have watched and loved Dirty Dancing when they were around their early teens. I know so many people who still consider this one of their favourite films. It was my favourite feel-good film for many years.

This is a wonderful book for anyone who considers themselves a fan of the film as it really does look at all the key moments, and allows you to re-live them. I liked the descriptions of some of the deleted scenes from the film and the discussion on how they may or may not have added to the storyline had they have been left in – it’s made me want to buy the special edition DVD so I can see those deleted scenes now! Occasionally there are really interesting references to other studies that have discussed Dirty Dancing and I would have loved more of that, but it has led me to look at the bibliography at the back of this book so that I can maybe read more on the subject another time.

I’ve always seen the depth in Dirty Dancing, and assume that most people have – the way the main plot line hinges on Penny’s botched abortion, and the way the politics (and class and race issues) of the time the film was set really did have a huge impact on the story being told. This book considers the themes of the film and how out there it was for the time it was set, and the time it was made. I only wish that there had been more of a discussion about about why no one makes films like Dirty Dancing anymore, and that’s not me being nostalgic, it’s a genuine thing that interests me as to why we don’t have romantic films that look at serious issues in the way that Dirty Dancing did anymore. Now romantic films always seem to be very light and fluffy and while I enjoy them from time to time none of them are all that memorable, whereas Dirty Dancing always feels forward-thinking in the way it tackled big issues.

There is an interesting chapter earlier in the book that compares the themes of Dirty Dancing to those in Blue Velvet and I found that quite fascinating as on the surface I don’t automatically think of these films being in any way similar. I now see the common themes that Naish discussed in the book and it has made me ponder them, and to want to re-watch both films to see what else I may have missed in my previous viewings of them.

Naish also discusses how certain quotes from Dirty Dancing have become part of popular culture now. The way we all quote ‘I carried a watermelon’, for example, as shorthand for the most mortifying things we’ve ever said or done.

I found the author’s analysis of the end of Dirty Dancing utterly fascinating. I’ve watched the film numerous times and I’ve always thought that the ending was just super romantic and a perfect end to the film. Naish considers the idea that the whole ending was just a fantasy that Baby was having, it was what she imagined happened and that really the love story between her and Johnny was over when he left Kellermans earlier in the the film. I actually see that this is entirely plausible and it has made me really think about whether this is more likely than how I’ve always viewed it.

All in all this is an interesting, nostalgic look back on a great film and if you’re a Dirty Dancing fan I think you’ll very much enjoy this book – I definitely recommend it.

Deconstructing Dirty Dancing is due to be published on 28 April.

I received a copy of this book from Zer0Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#BookReview: Good as Gone by Amy Gentry @unlandedgentry @HQStories #BlogTour

good as gone

About the Book

Eight years ago, thirteen-year-old Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night.

In the years since, her family have papered over the cracks of their grief – while hoping against hope that Julie is still alive.

And then, one night, the doorbell rings.

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when I was offered a copy of Good as Gone to review for the blog tour as it sounded like such a gripping read, and I have to say that I wasn’t disappointed. I read this in one sitting as I just got lost in the novel for an entire afternoon!

I’m always intrigued by novels where someone has gone missing and then seemingly returns years later. It’s one of those things that you can barely even imagine and yet it has happened in real life too. In this novel I was immediately curious as to where Julie had been, and if this even really was Julie that had come back. I would imagine that if your child had been missing for all those years and someone who looked just like her came to your door you wouldn’t immediately question if it really was her because you would so badly want it to be. In Good as Gone it felt believable to me that the family accepted Julie back so quickly and didn’t question the situation, but as a reader I was quickly wondering if this really was going to be a happy ending for the family and it really made the book a gripping, rollercoaster of a read that I was so unsure and unsettled by Julie.

As we begin to learn more about Julie and where she might have been in the intervening years and what might have happened to her I found I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the pages, I simply had to know how it was all going to turn out.

My favourite thing about this book was the chapters by all the different people and how each chapter gives a clue and gradually a picture is built up about what has happened. It was great how the reader has much more information than the family and we are there in each setting and trying to understand whether this person was Julie or if that person was, but we also see the family trying to come to terms with what has happened, and they start uncovering secrets that have been held in the intervening years and have to deal with the fallout from that. I found I was trying to put the pieces together from the start and some things I got wrong and others I got right, it was very cleverly written.

I definitely recommend this book – it’s a gripping, absorbing rollercoaster of a thriller that will keep you turning the pages long into the night. Go buy a copy now, you won’t regret it!

I received a copy of this book from HQ Stories in exchange for an honest review.

 

Good as Gone header

Exclusive content from Amy Gentry:

What was your inspiration for writing the book? How has working in women’s shelters influenced Julie’s story?

For about a year, I volunteered as an on-call emergency room advocate for victims of sexual assault. When assault victims turned up in the emergency room requesting a forensic exam (aka rape kit), I would dispatch to the hospital to provide in-room advocacy and resources from the shelter. Thus I spent lots of time, often in the middle of the night, with survivors of sexual trauma in the immediate aftermath of their assaults. I was asked by women to sit in the room with them during the forensic exam, even hold their hands. I sat in hospital rooms with students, strippers, mothers, grandmothers, homeless prostitutes, veterans, political campaigners, athletes, you name it. The stories of abused and assaulted women were very real and vivid to me as I wrote the parts of my story that dealt with those topics. I became especially alert to the ways in which victims of these crimes struggle to protect themselves in the wake of trauma, often making choices which might seem to an outsider to be the wrong ones because they may hurt others or lead to the victim herself being retraumatized. Yet I came to understand how important that sense of choice can be for helping victims preserve a sense of agency and personhood that has been violated during the assault. Demanding that victims look or act a certain way, either before or after their assault, is one way we discredit victims and perpetuate rape culture. I also talked to many police and other first responders, and came to understand how flawed and human these professionals are in their own, often biased, responses to sexual assault victims. There is no such thing as a perfect victim, because people behave erratically in the wake of severe trauma; but for some reason we seem to demand perfection of sexual assault victims. This is really the underlying theme I wanted to explore with Good as Gone.

 

About the Author

AVT_Amy-Gentry_4494

Amy Gentry lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and two cats. After graduating in 2011 with a PhD in English from the University of Chicago, she began a freelance writing career, writing book reviews, cultural criticism, and, for one strange and wonderful year, a fashion column. She frequently reviews fiction for the Chicago Tribune Printer’s Row Journal, and her writing has appeared in Salon.com, xoJane, The Rumpus, the Austin Chronicle, the Texas ObserverLA Review of BooksGastronomica, and the Best Food Writing of 2014GOOD AS GONE, her first thriller, is set in her hometown of Houston, Texas.

Bio taken from the author’s website: amygentryauthor.com 

 

Follow the rest of the blog tour at these lovely blogs:

Good as Gone blog tour

#BookReview: The Trophy Child by Paula Daly @GroveAtlantic

30758184

About the book

Karen Bloom is not the coddling mother type. She believes in raising her children for success. Some in the neighborhood call her assertive, others say she’s driven, but in gossiping circles she’s known as: the tiger mother. Karen believes that tough discipline is the true art of parenting and that achievement leads to ultimate happiness. She expects her husband and her children to perform at 200 percent—no matter the cost. But in an unending quest for excellence, her seemingly flawless family start to rebel against her.

Her husband Noel is a handsome doctor with a proclivity for alcohol and women. Their prodigy daughter, Bronte, is excelling at school, music lessons, dance classes, and yet she longs to run away. Verity, Noel’s teenage daughter from his first marriage, is starting to display aggressive behavior. And Karen’s son from a previous relationship falls deeper into drug use. When tragedy strikes the Blooms, Karen’s carefully constructed facade begins to fall apart—and once the deadly cracks appear, they are impossible to stop.

My thoughts

I’m a big fan of Paula Daly’s writing so was eagerly anticipating The Trophy Child and I have to say that it didn’t disappoint.

Karen is a real tiger mum. She puts all her hope and ambition onto her daughter, trying to mould her into the perfect person. Karen won’t accept failure, won’t even accept good enough – Bronte has to be perfect. Bronte is obviously struggling at not being allowed to be a normal child with time to play with friends, and the situation is like a giant pressure cooker. Bronte’s step-sister Verity has already lashed out at Karen once, and there is still such a fury simmering under the surface in their relationship. Karen’s husband, and father of both girls, is quite ineffectual when it comes to to his family – he basically wants to keep the peace and if he can’t keep the peace he’ll do his best to stay out of the situation.

I think what I loved the most about this novel was all the layers. I thought it was going to be a novel about a child who goes missing and the way the family copes but it’s about so much more than that. There are so many different dynamics to the family at the centre of this novel that it makes for a fascinating look at why people are the way they are. We see how it feels to be the second wife, the step-child, the half-sister, the first wife, and the husband who seems to be caught between his wife and ex-wife, his children and step-child. It was the relationships between all the characters that fascinated me the most, especially when the police become involved. It’s the characters that make this novel so brilliant, even more so than the great plot. None of the characters are particularly likeable and that made this book so fascinating as I wasn’t sure how I felt when they were in turmoil. It made me consider my own emotions and I love when a novel draws me into it to this degree.

I have to admit that I did not see where this book was going. I was so confident for a fair bit of this novel that I knew how it was going to end and I was completely wrong. It’s not often that a book has me stumped but this one got me and I loved it for that!

This is definitely one of those ‘just one more chapter…’ books that you end up staying up ’til the early hours reading because you just can’t put it down. It’s a gripping read, and really does have you turning the pages at a frantic rate as you want to know what is going on.

The Trophy Child is a disturbing look at how tense and difficult trying to integrate children from one relationship, and a child from a second relationship into one family can be. This novel takes the situation to an extreme but the the day-to-day issues within this family will resonate with readers, and will likely send a cold shiver down some spines!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The Trophy Child is out now and available to buy here.

About the author

6175529

 

Paula Daly was born in Lancashire. Before beginning her first novel JUST WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU? she was a self-employed physiotherapist. She lives in the Lake District with her husband, three children and whippet Skippy.

#BookReview: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui @AbramsBooks

the-best-we-could-do-an-illustrated-memoir-by-thi-bui

About the Book

An intimate and poignant graphic novel portraying one family’s journey from war-torn Vietnam, from debut author Thi Bui.

This beautifully illustrated and emotional story is an evocative memoir about the search for a better future and a longing for the past. Exploring the anguish of immigration and the lasting effects that displacement has on a child and her family, Bui documents the story of her family’s daring escape after the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, and the difficulties they faced building new lives for themselves.

At the heart of Bui’s story is a universal struggle: While adjusting to life as a first-time mother, she ultimately discovers what it means to be a parent—the endless sacrifices, the unnoticed gestures, and the depths of unspoken love. Despite how impossible it seems to take on the simultaneous roles of both parent and child, Bui pushes through. With haunting, poetic writing and breathtaking art, she examines the strength of family, the importance of identity, and the meaning of home.

In what Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen calls “a book to break your heart and heal it,” The Best We Could Do brings to life Thi Bui’s journey of understanding, and provides inspiration to all of those who search for a better future while longing for a simpler past.

My Thoughts

I requested this graphic memoir as I read a few of them last year and wanted to make sure I read more this year. This sounded interesting so I was pleased when I was approved.

I was expecting a graphic about a family’s experience of fleeing Vietnam to America and, whilst this book is about that, it’s also about so much more. It’s about three generations of a family and how their lives have been, how one generation affects the next. It looks at how it feels to be other, to move to a different country and feel that their ways are slowly changing you to be more like them. The way Ma looks out and sees all the streets around their house are named after American Presidents and feels it’s turning her more American and on the next page talks about a school shooting – I could feel how small and scared she felt.

This book is also very much about loss – not just loss of where you’re from, your culture, but also the loss of babies and that really got to me. The way the novel opens with a baby being born and then the reader is taken back over all the babies that Thi’s parents had, including the baby that died. It’s heartbreaking.

The baby being born as the book begins is a new grandchild for Ma, and she can’t bear being in the room with her daughter as she gives birth and her reason is that it brings the pain back. At first it seemed strange that she had given birth so many times and now couldn’t help her daughter, but then it dawns on you that the pain she can’t face, and the memories coming back are the ones of loss, the heartache – not just of her babies but of her homeland, and all the things she’s lost or had to leave behind in her life.

The book still resonates with the world we live in now, the way the family moved to San Diego from Vietnam to make a life for themselves but aren’t welcomed by everyone in the port city as people are still raw from what happened during the Vietnam war. The woman feels other, outcast, different. The family struggle to fit in, to make a life in America. The children feel the frustration of their father but are too young to understand where it comes from. They can’t comprehend the disappointment of their dad’s life – the way he has come to America to make a better life and now all he worked for in Vietnam, his degree etc, are worthless and unrecognised and so he comes to feel worthless and invisible.

This graphic memoir looks at the way political changes have a direct affect on the people who love there; it really highlights how the political is made personal. It also really makes you think about the way we see a photo and are led to believe that it’s the whole story but for the people involved, the people who live in a war-torn country it doesn’t show context or the whole story.

BEST WE COULD DO SHADOWS PAST

An example of the art style in the book

‘I had no idea that the terror I felt was only the long shadow of his own…’

The book is about how the pain from one generation is revisited on the next. It’s about how we have to understand what came before, what happened to our parents and grandparents to grasp how they came to be how they are. It’s about finding tolerance and peace with the bad that has been done to us.

There is a lot of heartache in this memoir. It really brings home how everyone has their own story, and how an event that may have led to the best time of your life could have been the thing that took someone else away from what made them happy. It really gives you something to think about, the way that one decision can change everything and you can’t go back. When Ma and Bo met it was the best thing that happened to him, but for Ma, it took her away from her studies and she grew to resent that. Ma fell pregnant before marriage, so circumstance dictated that she marry Bo and she duly did, but then the baby died and Ma was already trapped in this marriage.

When Thi’s family finally, after so much planning and hardship, get to leave Vietnam it is on a crowded boat in the dead of night, they had no way of knowing what awaited them on the journey or whether they’d even make it. Ma was heavily pregnant at the time. It must have been terrifying – and it really made me think of the images we see on the news now of desperate people fleeing war-torn countries – knowing they risk their lives in cramped boats but also knowing that they can’t stay in their home land another day.

It was incredibly affecting when I read about what Thi refers to as the ‘refugee reflex’. The way that in a new country there is so much to learn but the biggest lesson she learnt as a child was to know where the folder of important documents was at all times, and to make sure you grab it in the event of leaving home in any kind of an emergency. To learn that when so young and to have that reflex stay with you, it’s heartbreaking to thing of living with that fear even when you have finally reached a place of safety.

The memoir gradually brings you back to the present day, where Thi has given birth in the hospital and it leads her to reflect on her relationship with her parents. She ponders on that moment when you realise that you’re not the centre of the universe, and that you can’t keep hanging on to resentment about your parents not being who you thought they were, or who you wanted them to be. People are who they are and Thi realises that you have to be okay with that. It becomes a little existential at the end as Thi wonders at the way we’re all joined to those who came before us, and I found this incredibly moving and humbling.

The images in this novel are so striking, they really fit the story being told and add to its impact. The colour palette is very muted with just black and white with an orange wash that is used in various ways throughout. It really is beautiful to look at.

I highly recommend reading this memoir. It’s one of those books that really stays with you for a long time after reading.

I received a copy of this book from the Abrams via NetGalley one exchange for an honest review.

#BookReview: The Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

30649795

About the Book

What if you could spend one last day with someone you lost?

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.

The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?

My Thoughts

This is an incredibly moving novel about bereavement and finding your way through grief. Carver sent a text to his friend, and this led to the car accident that killed his three best friends and now he has to find a way to live with that.

I have to be honest and say that I found it a bit far-fetched that someone who sent a text could potentially be held legally responsible for the death of the person who read that text whilst they were driving and died in an accident as a result. This jarred with me and made it difficult to get into this book. However, once I put that to one side and focused on what the book was really about I found it such a heartbreaking read.

I lost my best friend when I was just a little older than Carver, and it’s so hard to process that someone so young can just be gone. I felt such empathy for Carver, and his thoughts through his grieving process were so real and raw to me. The descriptions of grief are so well written and absolutely believable.

Carver and the Nana of one of his friends decide to hold a goodbye day – where they spend a day together doing the things that each of them had enjoyed with Blake, and sharing their memories. I think this is such a wonderful idea, a dedicated time to share things – it must be a very emotional but ultimately cathartic experience.

Carver then holds a goodbye day with the parents of his other two friends who were killed. Each of the three days show the different ways that people grieve after losing a child – the devastation, the anger, the hurt. It’s palpable in places. I found the goodbye day Carver spends with Mars’ dad to be the most emotional and affecting.

Through the course of the novel Carver works through all of the feelings that come with grief, and the over-riding emotion is loneliness and this broke my heart. I remember that feeling so well, and it’s such a hard thing to come through. Once you lost someone you’re so close to you can never be the same person again, you just have to learn to be ok with the loss of them and the loss of the part of you that they took with them.

This book ultimately is a book about redemption, about how we atone for the things we’ve done wrong, or are perceived to have done wrong. It’s a book about the depths of grief, but our ability to recover and to find a way through the pain. I highly recommend it.

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

About the Author

8394519

Jeff Zentner lives in Nashville, Tennessee. He came to writing through music, starting his creative life as a guitarist and eventually becoming a songwriter. He’s released five albums and appeared on recordings with Iggy Pop, Nick Cave, Warren Ellis, Thurston Moore, Debbie Harry, Mark Lanegan, and Lydia Lunch, among others.

Now he writes novels for young adults. He became interested in writing for young adults after volunteering at the Tennessee Teen Rock Camp and Southern Girls Rock Camp. As a kid, his parents would take him to the library and drop him off, where he would read until closing time. He worked at various bookstores through high school and college.

He speaks fluent Portuguese, having lived in the Amazon region of Brazil for two years.

#BookReview: The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

img_8282

About the Book:

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

It all started that night in the woods.

Cass Anderson didn’t stop to help the woman in the car, and now she’s dead.

Ever since, silent calls have been plaguing Cass and she’s sure someone is watching her.

Consumed by guilt, she’s also starting to forget things. Whether she took her pills, what her house alarm code is – and if the knife in the kitchen really had blood on it.

Bestselling author B A Paris is back with a brand new psychological thriller full of twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

My Thoughts:

The opening of this book properly gave me the creeps. The idea of driving down a dark lane on a rainy night, knowing you’re in the middle of nowhere, and then seeing a car parked up, or possibly broken down in a lay by, is really unnerving to me. Cass sees the car and is unsure what to do, she stops and tries to see if anyone is in the car. It felt like the opening to a horror movie and I was really on edge wondering what was going to happen next, whilst at the same time being nervous to read on. Cass makes the decision that I think a lot of people on their own on a night like that would make, and that is to drive on, but this decision has consequences that no one could forsee and it sets this novel up brilliantly!

The following day Cass’s husband tells her that a woman has been murdered in the lay-by and she can’t bring herself to admit to being there. Cass then becomes convinced that someone may have seen her that night and may now be watching her. She starts receiving strange phone calls and becomes increasingly anxious. The problem Cass has is like the old adage… just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. As a reader you’re aware that some of what Cass is anxious about is genuine because we’re in the know but other things we can’t be sure if she’s being paranoid.

The Breakdown is a book that’s fast-paced and easy to read but at the same time it does ramp up the tension, and it genuinely had me on edge at times. It was a book that I didn’t want to put down though because I really wanted to know what was going to happen and I read it in one sitting. This book does require suspension of disbelief at times, and I did work out the ending quite early on, but it’s such an engrossing read and it has many twists and turns that will have you second-guessing yourself all the way through. The ending is satisfying and does tie everything up nicely.

The Breakdown is out now and I highly recommend buying a copy!

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

#BookReview: The Cutaway by Christina Kovac @christina_kovac @HannahVRoss

img_8414

About the Book

The Newsroom meets Gone Girl.” —Cosmopolitan

When brilliant TV news producer Virginia Knightly receives a disturbing “MISSING” notice on her desk related to the disappearance of a beautiful young attorney, she can’t seem to shake the image from her head. Despite skepticism from her colleagues, Knightly suspects this ambitious young lawyer may be at the heart of something far more sinister, especially since she was last seen leaving an upscale restaurant after a domestic dispute. Yet, as the only woman of power at her station, Knightly quickly finds herself investigating on her own.

Risking her career, her life, and perhaps even her own sanity, Knightly dives deep into the dark underbelly of Washington, DC business and politics in an investigation that will drag her mercilessly through the inextricable webs of corruption that bind the press, the police, and politics in our nation’s capital.

My Thoughts

I loved this book – I knew as soon as I read the quote describing this as ‘The Newsroom meets Gone Girl’ that I had to read it, and it didn’t let me down.

It felt refreshing to me to set a story about a missing woman in a newsroom with the police investigation as the side story. I was intrigued about what had happened to the missing woman but more so about the news producer Virginia Knightly’s fascination with her. This novel felt entirely believable in the way a crime is reported on the news – the push for new news, to be first on the air, to get the most sensational story at all costs.

Virginia is a great character, and I really enjoyed learning more about her as the novel went on. She’s such a determined, focused woman and she never relies on a man to help her, and I loved that. Virginia does have her issues, and they have made her who she is now but they never affect her ability to do her job. She does tend to be much more focused on certain cases as a result of her past but it reads as an interesting dynamic rather than a character flaw.

It’s not often that I read a crime/thriller novel without trying to work out whodunnit but with The Cutaway I was enjoying the story so much that I just got swept away in what was happening. I was suspicious of a couple of characters but I wasn’t actively trying to figure out how it might end, and it was brilliant to just read and see it all unfold. I was right to be suspicious about one of the characters but I was completely wrong about the other.

I loved the setting of Washington DC – it’s a place I’ve never been to and yet the writing in this novel made me feel like I had. The place just comes alive in this book, and it feels so real, almost like the setting is a character in its own right.

I also loved the setting of the newsroom, and the characters in this novel so much that I feel like, whilst this is a standalone and does have a resolution of sorts at the end, I want more. I would love if this became the first book in the series.

This isn’t a fast-paced thriller but it is gripping and once you’re hooked you simply won’t be able to put the book down until you’ve finished reading. I pretty much read this in one sitting and found it utterly engrossing.

The Cutaway is due to be published on 6th April in the UK, in both ebook and hardcover formats, and can be pre-ordered here.

I received a copy of The Cutaway via the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

Christina Kovac managed newsrooms and produced crime and political stories in the District. Her career as a television journalist began with Fox 5’s Ten O’Clock News, followed by the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C. For the last nine years, she worked at the Washington Bureau of NBC News. She lives with her family outside of Washington D.C.

 

#BookReview: Year of No Clutter by Eve O. Schaub

year-of-no-clutter-by-eve-schaub

About the Book:

From Hoarders to The Life- Changing Magic of Tidying Up, the question of what to do with all of our stuff seems to be on everyone’s mind. Eve Schaub’s new memoir is the tale of how one woman organized an entire room in her house that had been overtaken by pointless items. It’s also a deeply inspiring and frequently hilarious examination of why we keep stuff in the first place—and how to let it all go.

Eve O. Schaub graduated from Cornell and Rochester Institute of Technology. She has written for Vermont Life and Vermont Magazine, among others. During her family’s year of no sugar, Schaub blogged regularly and was often a guest on WAMC, New York’s NPR affiliate, as well as a regular visitor to Vermont Public Radio. She lives in Vermont with her family.

My Thoughts:

I requested this book from NetGalley because I can’t resist books about clutter, which is kind of ironic given that my natural tendency is to hoard stuff!

I have to be honest and say that the first couple of chapters of this book didn’t pull me in,  reading about someone’s room full of clutter that they know has a dead mouse in, and also that a cat has peed all over made me feel a bit squeamish. This isn’t the kind of clutter situation that I can identify with. I do tend to want to keep things but I’m also quite obsessive about cleaning.

I’m so glad that I decided to give the book another go through because from the point when Eve starts to explore what makes a hoarder, and what makes her the way she is I was fascinated and I could really identify with some of the things she discovered about herself.

There is a point where she writes that as a child she believed she had to keep everything so that she’d have enough stuff to fill her own home when she was grown up, and that is just how I was too. I kept all my childhood ornaments for years because I believed that shelves had to be filled with stuff. The idea that some people had empty surfaces in their home was alien to me. Eve’s father had a problem with clutter so she sees that her issues partly came from seeing what his house was like. My mum was very sentimental and could never get rid of things that people had given her, so I can see how Eve, and I, ended up being clutter bugs.

The part that really got to me was when Eve talks about her belief that if she lets go of things that she is sentimental about then she risks losing the memory of that particular point in time: that by holding on to the object, she has a trigger to bring back the memories instantly. I struggle with this too. It’s really hard when you get to an age where you’ve lost people who meant the world to you, how do you let go of the things they gave you? I felt Eve’s pain as she tried to work out which things to keep, and which to let go of.

Eve has an issue with making decisions, she really fears making a wrong choice and believes this feeds into her obsession with keeping things. This was eye-opening for me. I’ve always been indecisive but have never connected that to the way I keep things, but it makes total sense that if you really dread making a bad decision that you would find it hard to be confident in the things you get rid of. Eve gradually learns that it’s not the end of the world if you get rid of something and later wish you hadn’t, and that’s something I’ve learnt during my regular de-cluttering sessions. To be honest, I’ve agonised over some of the things I’ve being considering getting rid of but once they’re out of my house I’ve never regretted any of it. Objects might hold memories but they can’t bring a person back, it’s how you feel in your heart that matters.

One of the things Eve struggled with most was dealing with her paperwork. She couldn’t get rid of any of it without reading it first and then had to deal with whatever memory was attached before she could move on to the next lot of papers. It really struck a chord with me when Eve said: ‘… I keep souvenirs even of negative occurrences in my life, for fear that without them I would forget that event and even any lesson learnt from that event’. It sounds utterly ridiculous to keep paperwork from the worst moments of your life, but I used to be exactly the same. My mum kept some papers that were so painful to her but she felt she couldn’t ever shred them. When she died I took the papers for safe-keeping, and added some of my own from the year my mum was dying. I kept all of her hospital letters because I didn’t want to forget, and yet I was trying to hard not to drown in all the trauma that happened in that year. I moved in with my then new boyfriend (now my husband) the year my mum died and I took all the paperwork with me because I just couldn’t leave it behind – it felt like it was haunting me. Then one day I decided enough was enough. I burnt the lot and it was so therapeutic to let it go for both me, and my mum’s memory. I try to always remember now that the things we keep will one day be someone else’s problem to deal with and it helps me get rid of stuff that’s not really important in the grand scheme of things. Eve learns the same lesson in a different way. We can’t keep everything, we don’t have the room. So if you can only keep a fraction of the stuff, pick the good stuff, the happy stuff.

This isn’t a how-to book, it’s not about helping you clear your clutter. It is one woman’s open and honest journey through her own battle with clutter but in the process of reading you will probably recognise yourself in Eve, as I did, and it will spur you on to deal with your own clutter.

I highly recommend this book. Year of No Clutter is out now and available here.

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

About the Author:

evecolorheadshot

Serial memoirist Eve O. Schaub lives with her family in Vermont and enjoys performing experiments on them so she can write about it.

During 2011 Eve wrote a blog about her family’s attempt to live and eat for a year without any added sugar in their food, which became the book Year of No Sugar (Sourcebooks, 2014). She has been a guest on theDr. Oz Show, and FOX and Friends, and has appeared in numerous print and online outlets. She considers not hyperventilating on national television one of her greatest accomplishments.

Her upcoming book, Year of No Clutter, (March, 2017) reveals her deepest, darkest secret: clutter. In it, she details her struggle to transform herself from a self-described “clutter-gatherer” into a neat, organized person who can actually walk through every room of her house and does not feel the need to keep everything from childhood raincoats to cat fur. And yes, the family gets roped in on this one too.

Eve holds a BA and  BFA from Cornell University, and a MFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology. At various times she has been a newspaper reporter, magazine columnist, and copy writer. She likes to say that she has written for everything but the classifieds section, but in truth she did that too.

(Author bio taken from her website: EveSchaub.com)

#BookReview: Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney @HQstories @alicewriterland

41o0cc88agl-_sx317_bo1204203200_

About the Book

My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me:

1. I’m in a coma.
2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore.
3. Sometimes I lie.

 

My Thoughts

This book was impossible to put down! I started reading it late in the evening and I got so engrossed that I was unaware of anything until four hours later when I finished the final chapter!

I love an unreliable narrator and you certainly get one of those in this novel! Amber Reynolds is in a coma so straight away you can’t be sure if she’s remembering things correctly, or if she’s remembering but not being honest and this is what hooked me in. The way we’re told three things about her and one of them is that she sometimes lies is genius!

This is a hard book to review because I really don’t want to give anything away. I will say that I was never sure who to trust in this novel at any point. Amber’s husband Paul behaves oddly, Amber’s relationship with her sister is strange but I could never quite put my finger on what was going on. The title Sometimes I Lie seems apt for quite a few characters, not just Amber – they’re all quite unreliable.

The way this novel is written hooks you in very quickly and it will keep you hooked all the way through. It’s very fast-paced and gripping, and easy to read. There are twists and turns as the book goes on and they will make your head spin! I can usually guess what’s going on in thrillers these days as I read so many of them but this book got me, I had no idea. The final third of this book left me feeling like I didn’t know which way was up and I loved it!

Sometimes I Lie is an original take on the thriller genre and won’t want to miss out on reading this brilliant, twisty, intense novel! It’s due to be published on 23 March and I highly recommend that you pre-order your copy now! Sometimes I lie is available from here.

About the Author

328x328

Alice Feeney is a writer and journalist. She spent 16 years at the BBC, where she worked as a Reporter, News Editor, Arts and Entertainment Producer and One O’clock News Producer.

Alice is a Faber Academy graduate from the class of 2016. She has lived in London and Sydney and has now settled in the Surrey countryside, where she lives with her husband and dog.

Sometimes I Lie is her debut thriller and is being published around the world in 2017.

(Author information taken from: CurtisBrown.co.uk

#BookReview: The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman by Mindy Mejia #BlogTour @MejiaWrites @MeadOlivia

img_8196

About the Book

Eighteen-year-old Hattie Hoffman is a talented actress, loved by everyone in her Minnesotan hometown. When she’s found stabbed to death on the opening night of her school play, the tragedy rips through the fabric of the community.

Sheriff Del Goodman, a close friend of Hattie’s dad, vows to find her killer, but the investigation yields more secrets than answers: it turns out Hattie played as many parts offstage as on. Told from three perspectives, Del’s, Hattie’s high school English teacher and Hattie herself, The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman tells the story of the Hattie behind the masks, and what happened in that final year of her life. . .

My Thoughts

This novel opens with Hattie in an airport trying to get a flight out of her hometown. She fails in her endeavour and ends up alone in her car upset and trying to work out what on earth she will do next. From then on the novel has three narrators – Hattie, the local Sheriff Del, and Hattie’s teacher Peter. The book flits back and forth in time as we see what Hattie was up to in the months leading up to her death, and also in the days following her murder as the Sheriff, and others in her life, try to figure out who killed her and why.

A picture is gradually built up of Hattie and it’s very apparent that in many ways she was a typical teenage girl but also that she is much more ambitious for life than her peers. Hattie wants to move to New York and become an actress, and it’s this ambition that ultimately leads her astray. She joins online forums, and in her naivety about the way other people can hide themselves online, gets chatting to a man. This sets in motion a series of events that Hattie feels she is orchestrating but she doesn’t fully grasp that it’s not only her life that she is playing with.

The town Sheriff, Del, has known Hattie her whole life as he is very good friends with her father. This leads to us seeing Hattie through his eyes as a detective but also as a father-figure. It shows Hattie’s innocent side, and the depth of feeling that people had for her.

Peter’s narration is enlightening. He gets pulled into Hattie’s game but you never stop forgetting that he is her teacher and should take more care of her. He notices what she is doing with other people but doesn’t allow himself to truly see it, or perhaps doesn’t want to really to see it.

The title of this book is so perfect. Hattie’s last acting role is in Hamlet, where her character wears a white dress and ends up covered in blood, which is chillingly prescient, and behind the scenes she is pulling the strings to make things go her way. It feels like Hattie was a doomed character from the start- there is a real sense of fate in this novel, that she stepped on a path and it led her to her death. She wants to be an actress and spends her whole life playing the part that other people want her to be. She is one person with her friends, and another with her boyfriend. She doesn’t seem to know who she really is, while at the same time appearing all-knowing. This made me feel so sad for her, and even though you know from the beginning of this book that Hattie will be murdered, I couldn’t stop myself wishing that someone would notice something, would pull her off the path she was on, would save her. She really got under my skin and I feel like Hattie will stay with me for a long time to come.

I also loved the way that this novel bought the location of the book to life and the way that all the characters, even the more peripheral ones, felt real to me. By the end of the book I felt like I’d been to this town, that I knew these people in real life. The writing is beautiful and I already can’t wait to read what ever Mindy Mejia writes next.

This isn’t a fast-paced thriller but it is completely and utterly gripping and compelling. I read this in two sittings (and I really begrudged needing sleep otherwise I would have read it in one go!) and I still feel haunted by Hattie now, over a week after I finished reading.

I highly recommend The Last Act of Hattie Hoffman! The novel is out now and available from here.

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

About the Author

Mindy Mejia

Mindy received a BA from the University of Minnesota and an MFA from Hamline University. Apart from brief stops in Iowa City and Galway, she’s lived in the Twin Cities her entire life and held a succession of jobs from an apple orchard laborer to a global credit manager.

She’s currently working on a project set in Duluth and the Boundary Waters that may or may not be a trilogy.

(Taken from author’s website: MindyMejia.com

 

You can follow the rest of the Hattie Hoffman blog tour at the following dates and blogs:

Blog tour poster

 

#BookReview: It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot

its-all-absolutely-fine-by-ruby-elliot

About the Book:

IT’S ALL ABSOLUTELY FINE is a darkly comic, honest and unapologetic illustrated account of the daily struggles with mental health. Ruby Elliot, aka Rubyetc, is the talent behind the hit tumblr account, ‘Rubyetc’, which has over 210k followers and growing. Taking readers on a journey through the ups and downs of life, the book will encompass everything from anxiety, bipolar disorder and body image to depression and identity, shining a light on very real problems – all framed with Ruby’s trademark humour and originality.

Ruby balances mental health with humour, making serious issues accessible – and very funny. With the superb talent to capture the essence of human emotion (and to make you laugh out loud), this book is as important and necessary as it is entertaining. IT’S ALL ABSOLUTELY FINE will include mostly never-before-seen material, both written and illustrated, and will be an empowering book that will make you laugh, make you think, and make things ok.

My Thoughts:

This book is so good. It’s an incredibly candid book about mental health – it looks at depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, OCD and eating disorders – and not only is it amusing and easy to read, it gives a genuine and honest insight into what it’s like to live with a mental illness.

I suffered with clinical depression as a teenager, and have had a battle with PTSD in more recent years. I’m now recovered from both, although I do have to be mindful of my triggers, but books about anxiety and mental health still appeal to me. I like to see what’s out there and to read it from a point of view of remembering how I felt at the time and whether a book would have been of use to me, and also from my current perspective. It’s good to consider whether a book is one I would recommend to someone going through this illness now, or if it would help someone who had no idea about mental health understand what it’s like. Some books hit one mark and not another because a target market has to be aimed at, and I do get that. This book, however, ticks all of the boxes for me. It’s absolutely brilliant.

This is a book predominantly told through illustrations and it packs such a punch with simple drawings. Some images made me hold my breath because I remember those moments of not being able to function, some images made me wryly smile because I remember being aware of how silly I felt at not being able to do something and yet still being unable to make myself do it. Ruby Elliot has written her own story in this book and as a result it is so easy to identify with; it’s told with great compassion and empathy for others whilst being so honest about her own emotions. You feel like you’re reading your own story.

I took a screen grab of a couple of pages from It’s All Absolutely Fine because they really resonated with me – partly, through remembering feeling like that in the depths of my anxiety, and partly because I have occasional days like this whilst dealing with my physical health. I’m including these two images in my review because they really do give such a great example of the humour and the complete empathy and understanding in this book.

 

This is such a candid book, Ruby Elliot doesn’t shy away from tackling what it’s really like to live with mental illness. This book is absolutely essential reading for anyone going through depression and/or anxiety, and for anyone who wants to understand what it’s like to live with these conditions. It’s a book that will help sufferers feel less alone but without feeling the pressure to sit and read a whole book during the times when everything feels too hard.

I read this in ebook format but I’m definitely going to be buying a print copy, and I will absolutely be recommending this book to so many people.

It’s All Absolutely Fine by Ruby Elliot is out now and available here.

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

 

 

#BookReview: The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel @EmilyKitchin @HodderBooks

IMG_8285

About the Book:

Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

As it weaves between Lane s first Roanoke summer and her return, The Roanoke Girls shocks and tantalizes, twisting its way through revelation after mesmerizing revelation, exploring the secrets families keep and the fierce and terrible love that both binds them together and rips them apart.

My Thoughts:

I have to admit that I didn’t really know what this book was about when I received a surprise copy in the post. I’d seen photos of the book cover, which is gorgeous, on social media but I hadn’t really taken in what it was about. I’m actually quite glad that I didn’t know what it was about as the secret running through this story is a topic that may have led me to thinking this book wasn’t for me and that would have meant I’d have missed out on this brilliant novel.

The Roanoke Girls is a really intense, dark and claustrophobic read. The dry heat that stifles Lane when she moves to Kansas emanates from this book so that even though I was reading it on a cold winter day I could feel the heat on me. I felt like I was trapped in this small town with Lane, that I was almost in her head and could almost see what had happened to Allegra but couldn’t quite shake it free from the recesses of my mind. 

This isn’t a fast-paced thriller; it’s more of a slow-burn noir that builds and builds until you feel like you can’t breathe (in a good way!). I was suspicious of everyone; there are lots of secrets in this book that are waiting to be discovered.

The cover of this novel is so perfect. It seems like a fairly innocuous, albeit very pretty and retro wallpaper that seemingly belies what the novel is actually about BUT that tear across the cover is so brilliant – the sneak peak of what lies beneath is just utter genius. The idea that something perfect and pretty can be damaged and ripped apart really does encapsulate what this novel is about.

The Roanoke girls seem to have a power over everyone they meet, they just captivate people, and they will get to you just the same. This book (and these girls) will weave a spell over you, it will pull you in and it won’t let you go until long after you’ve finished reading.

This book is disturbing and dark and twisted yet utterly brilliant! I highly recommend The Roanoke Girls and I already can’t wait to read whatever Amy Engel writes next.

I received a copy of this book from Hodder and Stoughton in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

engel-hp-portrait

Amy Engel is the author of the young adult series The Book of Ivy. A former criminal defense attorney, she lives in Missouri with her family. The Roanoke Girls is her first novel for adults.

#BookReview: The Escape by C.L. Taylor @callytaylor @AvonBooks

9780008118075-jpg

About the Book:

When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn’t.

The stranger knows Jo’s name, she knows her husband Max and she’s got a glove belonging to Jo’s two year old daughter Elise.

What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo’s own husband turn against her.

No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there’s only one way to keep her child safe – RUN.

My Thoughts:

This book grabbed my attention from the first chapter and it didn’t let go until after I’d turned the last page. I read most of this novel on Saturday afternoon and my team were on Sky at 5.30pm – I was really looking forward to the match but I had 20% of the book left to read at kick off and I literally couldn’t stop thinking about the book so had to pick it up and finish it before I could fully watch the game (and I never,ever miss watching when my team are on TV!). That’s how much this book grabbed me!

I found Jo to be such an intriguing character. I really wanted her to have some fight about her but I could completely understand how she believed she was losing her mind and had to keep quiet in case she ended up in trouble. I think it’s hard to understand until you’ve been in a situation, or known someone in someone in a similar situation, to really grasp how possible it is for someone to become so anxious about life, and to really feel like someone is trying to hurt them but not be able to prove it. It’s like the old adage – just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Jo was a very believable character for me and I was on edge all the way through the book hoping that she would be okay in the end.

I had so many thoughts of what might be going on in this book, about who Paula was and whether she was the bad guy or whether it was someone else, or even a product of Jo’s anxious mind but I didn’t actually work out what was happening until shortly before it was revealed. I became convinced that someone was trying to get to Jo but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what exactly was going on.

The tension in this novel is there from the very first chapter and the book moves at such speed that you find yourself  gripped and completely incapable of putting it down. There is potential danger around every corner and Jo is left not knowing what on earth to do to keep her child safe.

The Escape is very fast-paced and twisty and once it’s grabbed you it won’t let you go! I’ve read and loved all of C.L.  Taylor’s previous novels but I think I have to say that The Escape is her best yet.  It’s due to be published by Avon Books on 23 March and I highly recommend pre-ordering a copy now.

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

I’ve previously reviewed C.L. Taylor’s novel The Missing and you can read that here if you’d like to.

 

About the Author:

7078175

C.L. Taylor lives in Bristol with her partner and young son. She started writing fiction in 2005 and her short stories have won several awards and been published by a variety of literary and women’s magazines. Cally has a degree in Psychology, with particular interest in abnormal and criminal Psychology. She also loves knitting, Dr Who, Sherlock, Great British Bake Off and Margaret Atwood and blames Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected for her love of a dark tale.

#BookReview: Everything but the Truth by Gillian McAllister

everything-but-the-truth-by-gillian-mcallister

About the Book:

Just how much can you trust the person you love?

Everything but the Truth is Gillian McAllister’s stunning breakthrough thriller about deceit, betrayal and one woman’s compulsive need to uncover the truth

It all started with the email.

Rachel didn’t even mean to look. She loves Jack and she’s pregnant with their child. She trusts him.

But now she’s seen it, she can’t undo that moment. Or the chain of events it has set in motion.

Why has Jack been lying about his past? Just what exactly is he hiding? And doesn’t Rachel have a right to know the truth at any cost?

My Thoughts:

This is such a well-written, accomplished debut domestic noir and I very much enjoyed it. I loved that it is set in such a normal, every day situation so that this story initially felt like it’s something that could happen to any one. Rachel sees Jack’s iPad light up with an email notification late at night and she feels compelled to glance over and read it. From then on she tries to find out what the email meant and skirts around the issue with Jack, as she doesn’t want to outright admit to reading his emails. I felt for a while that Rachel was reading too much into things, and was being a little paranoid but then I started thinking that Jack was acting a bit strangely so switched to thinking that he must be hiding something major. I was kept hooked by my inability to pin down what was going on.

On top of this Rachel is also hiding the reason why she quit medicine. This part of the plot was also great to read. I did work out early on what might have happened with her patient but I really liked that in the build up to the reveal we got to see her thought process and to really understand why she did what she did.

My relationship with my husband started off in a whirlwind – we’ve pretty much lived together since the very day we met – so I totally understood how Rachel and Jack had connected so quickly and how they fell in love so deeply in such a short space of time. It seemed strange to me at first that they weren’t sharing their pasts with each other but then as I read more I could see how that could happen. Rachel was grieving for  her mum, and for the loss of her career and adjusting to being pregnant; while Jack was only meant to be living in Newcastle temporarily for work and is really busy with his career plus trying to make time to get back up to Oban to visit his family.

I did find Rachel’s actions quite shocking at times, it was hard to think of someone behaving how she did but within the context of the plot it kind of made sense. Of course you’d want to know if the man you’re having a child with has skeletons in his closet, and because she had time on her hands and was in a stressful mindset she became quite fixated on having to know at any cost.

This book started off quite slowly and then it just builds and builds and builds until you simply can’t put it down. I finished it really late at night because I just had to know what was going on! I highly recommend this book, it’s such an accomplished debut and I really can’t wait to see what Gillian McAllister writes next.

This is an incredible debut that will have you staying up all night to find out what happens next. Don’t miss it! Everything but the Truth is due to be published on 9th March and can be pre-ordered here.

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

#BookReview: The Girl Before by JP Delaney

the-girl-before-by-jp-delaney

About the Book

Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.

Emma
Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

Jane
After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.

My Thoughts

I was really intrigued by the synopsis to this book and simply had to request it as soon as I spotted it on NetGalley. The initial sentence of the synopsis about making a list of all the possessions you consider essential to your life just made me want to read more!

This is such a fast-paced read, I flew through the first half of the book when I’d only intended to read a couple of chapters to decide whether this would be my next read. I love how the book is told in a dual timeline – the girl before Emma in the past and then Jane in the present day. It’s really well put together that we see Emma view the house and then we see Jane doing the same thing but each time we switch character the story advances a bit more and it really hooks you in. You want to know what happens to Emma and whether Jane will suffer the same fate.

The house in this book is a character in its own right, which was really interesting. I could picture the house so clearly and even though it sounded very cold and sterile the way Jane and Emma felt safe there made me intrigued. I’m not sure that I would have felt safe having every aspect of my home controlled by an app… having said that it did make me think about how much of my own home is wifi dependent.

A lot of the premise of this  book is down to control. The house is controlled by the owner, and therefore whoever lives there is at his mercy. There was elements of control in some of the romantic relationships the women were involved in. That was all great and I love the way the story hinged on control. The downside for me was the sex scenes; it all just felt a bit unnecessary. It actually seemed like Edward was written the way he was in a deliberate attempt to gain comparisons to Fifty Shades of Grey and it felt a bit gimmicky.

On the whole though this was a really good read. It did keep me hooked; you can’t beat a twisty thriller with unreliable narrators! I worked out what was going on before the characters did but I still wanted to keep reading to see exactly how it all panned out. I’d recommend this book to anyone who loves a fast-paced thriller.

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

The Girl Before is out now and available here.

#BookReview: Rattle by Fiona Cummins

9781509812288rattle-400x0x0

About the Book

He has planned well. He leads two lives. In one he’s just like anyone else. But in the other he is the caretaker of his family’s macabre museum.

Now the time has come to add to his collection. He is ready to feed his obsession, and he is on the hunt.

Jakey Frith and Clara Foyle have something in common. They have what he needs.

What begins is a terrifying cat-and-mouse game between the sinister collector, Jakey’s father and Etta Fitzroy, a troubled detective investigating a spate of abductions.

Set in London’s Blackheath, Rattle by Fiona Cummins explores the seam of darkness that runs through us all; the struggle between light and shadow, redemption and revenge.

It is a glimpse into the mind of a sinister psychopath. And it’s also a story about not giving up hope when it seems that all hope is already lost.

My Thoughts

I was nervous of requesting this book as I’m such a wimp and don’t like being scared. I’d started to see reviews around of it though and it was really drawing me to want to read the book and find out more. I’m so glad I got a copy as it’s such a brilliant read.

The bone collector is such a creepy character. He’s a tall, thin man who can make himself almost invisible in the way he blends in. The idea of him being like a scary character within a storybook, and then somehow seemingly coming to life around Jakey with strange nightmare-like unexplained happenings, but also in that he’s a real person is enough to send shivers down anyone’s spine. He exists in reality and has a life outside of the horror he’s committing. I think he’s one of the most psychopathic characters I’ve read in a really long time.

I love how the book starts off with you not being sure who the creepy man is. There is the story of a little girl Clara going missing, and alongside that the story of Jakey. At the stage where you don’t know how, or even if, the children are connected it leaves you feeling very unsettled. The pain that a family must go through when a child is missing is palpable in this novel, and that added to the building sense of horror as we, the reader, know what is happening to the child really ramps up the tension.

This book reminded me a little of Mo Hayder’s novels in the way the horror slowly creeps up on you and then leaves you feeling very, very unsettled and unnerved but unable to stop reading.

Rattle is dark and twisted and very, very creepy but I loved it. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys unnerving novels that creep up on you.

Rattle is due to be published on 26 January and is available to pre-order here.

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

#BookReview: Loving the Life Less Lived by @GailMitchell42 #blogtour @RedDoorBooks

9781910453261

About the Book

An essential companion for anyone dealing with mental illness.
Like many people, Gail Marie Mitchell battled with anxiety and depression for many years, finding it exhausting, stressful and demoralising at times.

Realising that this approach to her condition was futile, Gail chose a different approach: acceptance.

Taking control in this way removed some of the pressure and enabled Gail to focus on developing coping strategies, creating the tips and tools that are included in this empathetic and practical book.

Gail focuses on the positive aspects of her condition, showing how a person living with mental illness is so much more than the label that society puts on them. She found acceptance empowering, enabling her to live her life to the full. Perhaps not the life she had planned, but one that is happy and fulfilling and that she loves. She is Loving the Life Less Lived.

By sharing her experiences and describing what she learnt from them as well as the resulting coping strategies, Gail has created an essential companion for anyone dealing with mental illness and their family and friends.

My Thoughts

When I was offered the chance to read and review this book for the blog tour I agreed for two reasons. The first being that I want to read more non-fiction this year and it was nice to be offered a non-fiction book for review. The second and main reason though was because I have suffered with PTSD in the fairly recent past, and I had clinical depression many years ago so always feel like I can offer an insight into books about this illness.

Loving the Life Less Lived has two elements to it weaved together throughout the book.  The parts of the book that I enjoyed the most were the Toolbox ideas. Gail has compiled, in bitesize chunks, all the things that have helped her through her depression and anxiety over the years. Some are rooted in CBT and structured to help in recovering, others are hints and tips that will help sufferers who just need help to get through that day, or moment. I would recommend the toolbox sections to anyone who is suffering at the moment, and also to anyone who has a loved one who is going through depression and anxiety for ideas on how you can help support them.

The other part of the book is more of a memoir detailing Gail’s journey through her depression. This was harder to read, possibly because I’ve been through it and it reminded me of those dark days, but it does show the reality of what living with depression is like. Gail is incredibly honest throughout this book and I applaud that. She doesn’t sugarcoat how she felt in the situations life has thrown at her and I think it’s important to be open when writing a book like this.

Gail talks about the seemingly insurmountable goal her mum set her in giving her a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. Her mum told her that she would one day get herself better and to see the bridge in person, and this was at a time when Gail could barely leave her own house, but whilst that goal was too big to even contemplate Gail was able to work on much smaller steps that were on the way to potentially reaching the big goal. She talks about the gradual recovery from depression and then the relapses that followed but ultimately Gail does regain a level of mental health. So whilst this book doesn’t shy away from the dark depths of depression it does give a sense of hope. It’s important that books of this nature do paint a realistic picture but also that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.

As I wrote earlier, I would recommend this book to anyone who is going through depression and/or anxiety, or to anyone living with someone who has depression and/or anxiety, in particular for all of the Toolbox ideas.

Thank you to Red Door Publishing for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Loving the Life Less Lived is due to be published on 26 January and can be pre-order here

 

About the Author

gail-marie-mitchell

I’m a writer and I live with mental illness. Those two facts are the main motivation behind this website but they are only a small part of who I am and what my life is about.

I say I live with mental illness, I don’t suffer from it, I don’t battle with it (although for many years I did until I learnt the futility of the fight). I was first diagnosed with depression twenty five years ago and have been variously diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, generalised anxiety disorder and depression ever since.  At times I manage my condition well using a toolboxof resources that I have discovered and developed over my lifetime. At other times I crash and burn, I have left upwards of ten jobs due to my mental health issues and spent many months and years on and off of benefits, hiding in my house unable to face the world or complete even the most simple tasks.

I have always been a writer, maybe not published, maybe not successful, but since the earliest age I have written poems, stories and articles in an attempt to make sense of this confused and broken world we live in. This led me to write Loving the Life Less Lived.

That’s not all about me – I qualified as a Chartered Accountant, I have worked as a Secondary School Teacher, I am a member of Mensa I have travelled around Europe, the Middle East and North America. I have taught in the favelas of Brazil, I am married, I am a fairy Godmother I am so much more than a medical label given by psychiatrists and GPs. I am not cured – but I am at present relatively stable. I work as a bookkeeper/accountant, write in my spare time and enjoy life to the full. It isn’t the life I planned, it is The Life Less Lived and it is immeasurably more than I could ever have asked for or imagined. 

(Bio taken from the author’s website: lovingthelifelesslived.com

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

ltlll-blog-tour-poster

#BookReview: While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft

cover100130-medium

About the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BookReview: Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

her-every-fear-by-peter-swanson

About the Book

Growing up, Kate Priddy was always a bit neurotic, experiencing momentary bouts of anxiety that exploded into full-blown panic attacks after an ex-boyfriend kidnapped her and nearly ended her life. When Corbin Dell, a distant cousin in Boston, suggests the two temporarily swap apartments, Kate, an art student in London, agrees, hoping that time away in a new place will help her overcome the recent wreckage of her life.

Soon after her arrival at Corbin’s grand apartment on Beacon Hill, Kate makes a shocking discovery: his next-door neighbor, a young woman named Audrey Marshall, has been murdered. When the police question her about Corbin, a shaken Kate has few answers, and many questions of her own—curiosity that intensifies when she meets Alan Cherney, a handsome, quiet tenant who lives across the courtyard, in the apartment facing Audrey’s. Alan saw Corbin surreptitiously come and go from Audrey’s place, yet he’s denied knowing her. Then, Kate runs into a tearful man claiming to be the dead woman’s old boyfriend, who insists Corbin did the deed the night that he left for London.

When she reaches out to her cousin, he proclaims his innocence and calms her nerves–until she comes across disturbing objects hidden in the apartment and accidentally learns that Corbin is not where he says he is. Could Corbin be a killer? What about Alan? Kate finds herself drawn to this appealing man who seems so sincere, yet she isn’t sure. Jet-lagged and emotionally unstable, her imagination full of dark images caused by the terror of her past, Kate can barely trust herself, so how could she take the chance on a stranger she’s just met?

My Thoughts

I read and loved Peter Swanson’s The Kind Worth Killing when it first came out so when I heard about this new book I knew I had to read it as soon as I could possibly get my hands on a copy.

I have to admit here that whilst I love a good psychological thriller, I don’t like being scared! I’m such a wimp and there are certain things that set my nerves totally on edge. This book pushed all of those buttons for me and had me completely creeped out and I absolutely loved it! I couldn’t put this book down. I read the last third of it in bed late at night and I was so freaked out that if I wasn’t reading on my Kindle Voyage I may well have had to put it in the freezer (a la Joey in Friends) but at no point could I stop myself reading.

This book is not really a whodunnit, or even a whydunnit, it’s very much a howdunnit and it’s brilliantly done. I was literally on the edge of my seat on more than one occasion whilst reading this.

I loved how this book started off all quite normally with a house swap between two second cousins who had never met but their parents knew each other. Kate has been through terrible trauma a few years previously and this is her starting to spread her wings again to prove to herself that she can live a full life despite what happened to her. I’m fascinated by books where a character has suffered trauma as I’ve been through it myself so can say from experience that the way she is is very true and believable.

Corbin, Kate’s cousin, seems a little off from very early on and the story gradually builds up to why he seems off. From then on we’re left feeling very unsure about what his connection is to the murdered woman, who lives in the apartment next to him in Boston.

The story is told from a few viewpoints and at times we get part of the story from one character and then the same period of time is then narrated from someone else’s perspective. This was how the book creeped me out so much. The idea that you’re going about your life and feeling ok and safe but you have no idea what someone else is doing or where they are, even when they may well be very close by. Just the very idea of someone watching you when you have no idea that they’re there is enough to put anyone’s nerves on edge.

I finished reading this book in one day and I’m still thinking about it days later. I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who loves suspense thrillers, and to anyone who loves Hitchcock’s films (this book would make a great film!).

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

Her Every Fear is out now and available from: Book Depository (Her Every Fear)

#BookReview: Relativity by Antonia Hayes #BlogTour

9781472151704

About the Book

Ethan is a bright young boy obsessed with physics and astronomy who lives with his mother, Claire. Claire has been a wonderful parent to Ethan, but he’s becoming increasingly curious about his father’s absence in his life, wanting to fill in the gaps.

Claire’s life is centred on Ethan; she is fiercely protective of her talented, vulnerable son, and of her own feelings. When Ethan falls ill, tied to a tragic event from when he was a baby, Claire’s tightly held world is split open.

On the other side of the country, Mark is trying to forget about the events that tore his family apart. Then a sudden and unexpected call home forces him to confront his past, and the hole in his life that was once filled with his wife Claire and his son Ethan.

When Ethan secretly intercepts a letter from Mark to Claire, he unleashes long-suppressed forces that – like gravity – pull the three together again, testing the limits of love and forgiveness.

My Thoughts

Sometimes a book comes into your life at just the right time, and the very minute you start reading you find yourself completely and utterly swept away in it… Relativity is one of those books for me. It’s a beautiful and incredibly moving book about a young boy, Ethan, who is trying to understand the world around him and his family situation. His life is complicated – his dad left when he was four months old and he knows nothing about him. His mum is a wonderful mum but she won’t tell him about his dad, and Ethan is at that age where he wants to know more.

Running through the novel is a lot of astronomy and physics and it’s all so beautifully woven into the story. It’s like the universe is echoing what is happening to Ethan and his mum Claire throughout the novel, and it adds an extra dimension (no pun intended!) to the pain and struggle that they are going through.

Ethan had a brain injury as a young baby and he seems to have been unaffected by it as he’s got older but then one day he has a seizure out of nowhere and this is the catalyst to him finding out more about his past. It also leads to a belief within the medical profession that this injury may have made Ethan special and unique in the world. At the same time as this is going on, we get to know a bit more about Ethan’s father, Mark. Mark is back in the same city as Ethan and Claire as his father is dying, and this leads to Mark wanting to get back in contact with his son.

Relativity at its heart is a very moving novel about the way one split-second act can change the course of many people’s lives, it’s about the way we remember our pasts and about how we have to find to learn to live with the fall out when secrets and lies are revealed. This is a novel will break your heart but it will also mend it.

The characters in this book came to feel like real people to me and I was genuinely bereft to finish the book and leave them behind. I keep finding them swirling around in my mind and wondering how they are. I love when a novel has this power over me.

On a personal note, I’ve never hidden the fact that in the past I suffered from cPTSD and that whilst I consider myself recovered now, I do always have to be mindful of my specific triggers. This novel was one that I probably wouldn’t have read if I’d known that part of the story involved seizures, and when I got to the part of the book where Ethan collapsed I almost stopped reading to protect myself. However, I was already so involved in with these characters that I wanted to know what would happen in the end so I kept reading and I genuinely feel like this novel has mended another little bit of me that I thought would always be broken. There are some really difficult subjects dealt with in this novel and all of it is handled so well, so carefully, and yet never shies away from the realities.

I would recommend this novel to everyone. It has so much depth to it and is so engrossing, and is one of those books that stays with you long after you’ve finished reading. Please go read it!

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

Relativity is published in paperback today!

 

About the Author

hayes-antonia-credit-angelo-sgambati

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antonia Hayes, who grew up in Sydney and spent her twenties in Paris, currently lives in London with her husband and son. Relativity is her first novel.

#BookReview: Lies by TM Logan

lies-by-tm-logan

About the Book

WHAT IF YOUR WHOLE LIFE WAS BASED ON LIES? 

A gripping new psychological thriller of secrets and revenge.

When Joe Lynch sees his wife enter an underground car park in the middle of the day, he’s intrigued enough to follow her down.

And when he sees her in an angry altercation with family friend Ben, he naturally goes to her defence – and doesn’t for a minute believe the accusations Ben makes against her.

It’s pure misfortune that, just as the clash becomes violent and Ben is knocked unconscious, Joe’s son has an asthma attack, and Joe has to take him to safety.

My Thoughts

I was initially drawn to the cover of this book and then once I read the synopsis I knew it was one I had to read.

Lies is the story of an average man, who lives an average life and is perfectly happy with his lot. Then one day he sees his wife somewhere that she shouldn’t be and the story ramps up from there.

I did work out how this novel going to end part-way through, apart from one aspect of it, but it was actually really satisfying to be right and thinking back over the novel it did feel like all the clues were laid out for me to figure it all out. Sometimes thrillers have an ending that it’s impossible to work out and it can leave you feeling like it was just plucked from the ether but not this novel. It has a satisfying ending too, which I appreciated.

None of the characters in this book were particularly likeable but that really worked within the story because it meant that I really didn’t know who to trust throughout the novel.

I did find myself getting a bit annoyed at certain points in the novel where a character (no spoilers) seems quite tech-savvy in one moment and then in the next misses a really obvious thing that they could do, which would really help them. It took me out of the story a little when this happened but it’s possibly just me being picky and maybe the character just isn’t thinking logically due to the stress of the situation.

This is a novel that makes you think about the things you put out on social media, and whether you can ever really know a person just by what they write on their Facebook page. It also makes you think about the decisions you make and how things may have ended up completely different if you’d just not seen something, or reacted in a certain way. It highlights how those decisions we make in an instant can have such far-reaching consequences. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book.

This is a very fast-paced thriller. The story moves forward in every chapter and it never slows down for a second. It did have me hooked and wanting to know what was going to happen next. This isn’t a complex thriller but it is fun, quick read that I would recommend and I’m looking forward to reading whatever TM Logan publishes next.

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

Lies is due to be released in ebook format on 17 January, and in paperback on 4 May 2017.

#BookReview | Spider from Mars: My Life with David Bowie by Woody Woodmansey

spiders-from-mars-by-woody-woodmansey

About the Book

In January 2016, the unexpected death of David Bowie rocked the globe. For millions of people, he was an icon celebrated for his music, his film and theatrical roles, and his trendsetting influence on fashion and gender norms. But no one from her inner circle has told the story of how David Jones—a young folksinger, dancer, and aspiring mime—became one of the most influential artists of our time.
Drummer Woody Woodmansey is the last surviving member of Bowie’s band The Spiders from Mars which helped launch his Ziggy Stardust persona and made David Bowie a sensation.
In this first memoir to follow Bowie’s passing, Spider from Mars reveals what it was like to be at the white-hot center of a star’s self-creation. With never-before-told stories and never-before-seen photographs, Woodmansey offers details of the album sessions for The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, and Aladdin Sane: the four albums that made Bowie a cult figure. And, as fame beckoned by eventually consumed Bowie, Woodmansey recalls the wild tours, eccentric characters, and rock ‘n’ roll excess that eventually drove the band apart.
A vivid and unique evocation of a transformative musical era and the enigmatic, visionary musician at the center of it, with a foreword by legendary music producer Tony Visconti and an afterword from Def Leppard’s Joe Elliot, Spider from Mars is for everyone who values David Bowie, by one of the people who knew him best.

My Thoughts

I couldn’t resist requesting this book when it was available on NetGalley. I’m a huge David Bowie fan and love every era of his including Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars. Woody Woodmansey is from a place near where I’m originally from so I feel like I was aware of the Spiders from Mars from a really young age.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a real insight into Woody’s life and his time with the Spiders from Mars. It’s a candid look back over the years and it felt very open and honest. The way the Spiders came to be and how Woody end up a part of the band was really interesting. It’s obvious that there was a genuine camaraderie between the band and Bowie during their early days together, and I loved reading the stories. I enjoyed reading about David Bowie their recording process and how the songs came to be.

There are a lot of funny stories in this memoir too – the way the band felt when Bowie first suggested some of the more outrageous stage outfits is amusing. The ways they would wind each other up in the early days just shows how for a time they were just normal young men in a band trying to make it big. There is a real warmth in the way Woodmansey tells his story.

Bowie famously killed off Ziggy Stardust on stage at the Hammersmith Apollo on the last night of the tour, which came as a shock to the Spiders from Mars and Woodmansey gives his side of the story in this memoir. It obviously became quite tumultuous for everyone as David Bowie’s fame grew and the cracks began to show between him and the rest of the Spiders from Mars, which is plain to see was very painful for Woodmansey.

It’s incredibly moving to read about the deaths of members of the Spiders from Mars – Mick Ronson and later Trevor Bolder, and I hadn’t realised before that Woodmansey’s current band Holy Holy were on tour in America when the news broke that David Bowie had died. The chapter covering how he found out and his reflections on his friend were incredibly moving – it really did make me cry.

This memoir is about Woody Woodmansey looking back at his life and in particular his time in the Spiders from Mars, and David Bowie is a part of that but it’s very much Woodmansey’s life story. It’s another perspective on that incredible period of time in music. There are also some great photos in this book that I hadn’t seen before and I loved having the chance to see those.

After finishing the book I immediately had to listen to the albums from this period out of the Five Years vinyl boxset to really immerse myself, yet again, in the amazing music of David Bowie and the Spiders from Mars

I received a copy of the book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Spider from Mars: My Life with David Bowie is out now and available from all good book shops.

 

#BookReview: Everything You Told Me by Lucy Dawson

everything-you-told-me

About the Book

You went to bed at home, just like every other night.
You woke up in the back of a taxi, over 250 miles away.
You have no idea how you got there and no memory of the last ten hours.
You have no phone, no money; just a suicide note in your coat pocket, in your own writing.
You know you weren’t planning to kill yourself.
Your family and friends think you are lying.

Someone knows exactly what happened to you.
But they’re not telling…

My Thoughts

A few weeks ago I received a taxi receipt in the post with a note asking if I’d dropped it. I’ll be honest, it initially made my heart race especially when this receipt had my address on it and was for £400! I then suspected (and hoped!) that it might be marketing for a book so I took to twitter to try and find out more. I eventually discovered that it was a brilliant marketing campaign for a forthcoming book, Everything You Told Me. So by this point I was eagerly anticipating the book arriving so I could find out more!

Everything I Told You is a domestic tale with a psychological thriller angle and I raced through it. I am always intrigued by novels that have an element of memory loss, and I love books with an unreliable narrator – this book had both and I love the way it kept me on my toes.

Sally has no idea how she ended up in Cornwall but she is sure that someone tried to harm her. She has no proof but she soon begins to work out what she think has happened. The problem is that because she has no evidence the people around her just think she is very unwell and so no one believes her. Her family rally round to look after her thinking she is just struggling through lack of sleep and the stress and worry that goes with having a young baby.

I did work out what was going on in this book quite early on but I still enjoyed how the plot unfolded as I raced to the end to see if I was right in my theory. There was still a surprise or two at the end of this book for me, which I didn’t see coming and I’m not sure if it was possible to work out that it was going there but I still enjoyed the last twist.

I always enjoy Lucy Dawson’s novels. I find them very fast-paced, easy reads that keep me hooked all the way through. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys domestic fiction with a thriller edge to it.

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

Everything I Told You is out now and available from all good book shops!

#BookReview: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough #WtfThatEnding

behind-her-eyes-by-pinborough-sarah

About the Book

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to be brave louise beech

About the Book

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

louise-beech

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

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

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

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

Maria in the Moon will be released in 2017.

(Bio taken from Louise Beech’s website)

#BookReview The Easy Way Out by Steven Amsterdam

the-easy-way-out

About the Book

Evan’s job is to help people die. 

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

steven-amsterdam

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

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

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

#BookReview: No Virgin by Anne Cassidy

no-virgin-by-anne-cassidy

About the Book

My name is Stacey Woods and I was raped.

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

#BookReview: Autumn by Ali Smith

autumn-ali-smith

About the Book

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#BookReview: Her Husband’s Lover by Julia Crouch

her-husbands-lover-by-julia-crouch

About the Book

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

the-gift-by-louise-jensen

About the Book

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

louise-jensen

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

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

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

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

(Bio taken from Louise Jensen’s website)

 

#BookReview: Unf*ck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman

unfuck-your-habitat

About the book

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

the-girls-next-door

About the Book

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

About the Author

mel-sherratt

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

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

 

#BookReview: Because of You by Helen Fermont

hf-fc-because-of-you

About the Book

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

helene-fermont

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

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

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

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

you-will-not-have-my-hate-by-antoine-leiris

About the Book

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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