Book Review: Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward | @_Annie_Ward @QuercusBooks #BeautifulBad

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About the Book

Maddie and Ian’s romance began with a chance encounter at a party overseas; he was serving in the British army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend, Jo. Now almost two decades later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America. But when a camping accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son, Charlie; and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.

From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, sixteen years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of a shocking crime.

 

My Thoughts

Beautiful Bad is the story of Maddie, a woman who met her husband when they both worked overseas and now they’re living in middle America with their young son Charlie. After an accident while camping Maddie seeks therapy and starts to explore her concerns about her husband. Slowly she reveals the story of their marriage.

This novel opens with a bang as a 911 call leads to detectives entering a house and finding blood and what looks like the aftermath of a struggle! The book then goes back and forth in time as we find out more about Maddie, Ian and Maddie’s best friend Jo; alongside short chapters showing what’s happening in the house as the police investigate.

From the moment I started reading this novel I just couldn’t put it down until I found out how it was all going to end. It grabs you from the beginning and the way it’s written moving back and forth in time means it’s near impossible to stop reading!

I didn’t really like any of the characters in this novel, they all have things about them that made me wonder if they had secrets or were as they appeared to be. I loved that about the novel though, it’s fascinating to read about people I don’t really like as I get an insight into what makes other people tick!

Beautiful Bad opens with a shocking scene and gradually fills in the back story until we’re back in the house and we find out what happened. I loved the reveals as they came, each one left me stunned and re-thinking what I’d previously thought was going on. Ultimately, I did have an idea how it might end and I was right… sort of! I say that because there was more to the reveal than I was ever expecting, and then the final chapter of the novel had me reeling, I didn’t see that part coming at all. I love when a book has shocks in store and this book definitely kept me on my toes! I highly recommend Beautiful Bad!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and for the invitation to be part of the social media splash. All thoughts are my own.

Beautiful Bad is out today and available here!

 

About the Author

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Annie Ward has a BA in English Lit from UCLA and a MFA in Screenwriting from the American Film Institute. Her first short screenplay, Strange Habit, starred Adam Scott and won awards at Aspen and Sundance Film Festivals. Ward lives in Kansas with her two sons and husband, who she met in the Balkans.

 

 

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Book Review: Welcome to the Heady Heights by David F. Ross | @dfr10 @orendabooks #HeadyHeights

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About the Book

Welcome to the Heady Heights

It’s the year punk rock was born, Concorde entered commercial service and a tiny Romanian gymnast changed the sport forever.

Archie Blunt is a man with big ideas. He just needs a break for them to be realised. In a bizarre brush with the light-entertainment business, Archie unwittingly saves the life of the UK’s top showbiz star, Hank ‘Heady’ Hendricks’, and now dreams of hitting the big-time as a Popular Music Impresario. Seizing the initiative, he creates a new singing group with five unruly working-class kids from Glasgow’s East End. Together, they make the finals of a televised Saturday-night talent show, and before they know it, fame and fortune beckon for Archie and The High Five. But there’s a complication; a trail of irate Glaswegian bookies, corrupt politicians and a determined Scottish WPC known as The Tank are all on his tail…

 

My Thoughts

I’ll be honest in starting this review and say that I don’t really know where to start with describing Welcome to the Heady Heights as it was so unlike anything I’ve read before but I can say that I absolutely loved it!

The novel follows Archie Blunt as he seems to go from one lot of trouble to another. He’s trying to look after his dad but he loses his job as a bus conductor and gets on the wrong side of people that he really shouldn’t have annoyed. The only thing that keeps him from being in serious trouble with some people is that he knows where the metaphorical bodies are buried. He’s not always the most likeable character and yet you can’t help rooting for him to succeed in life.

Archie finds a new job and discovers he’s to be a driver to Hank ‘Heady’ Hendricks. This leads to him unwittingly saving his life and finding himself in the position of being able to ask a favour. This then leads to Archie trying to put a band together to perform on Heady’s TV talent show and chaos ensues! I loved the process of Archie finding the members of his band and trying his struggle to get them to behave. The group trying to chose a name was so funny, it had me properly laughing to myself as I was reading it!

Glasgow is like a character in its own right throughout this novel. I’ve never been there but I could visualise it all so clearly and now feel like I know it so well. The use of Scottish dialect throughout the novel is also brilliant. I found myself reading the whole novel (not just speech) in a Scottish accent.

Welcome to the Heady Heights really does capture a point in time – when life was hard, people were struggling and women were still second-class citizens. The beauty in the novel is how it shows all sides of life. I felt so sorry for Barbara, the WPC, who is treated like a scivvy by her male colleagues, even the ones of similar rank but she is determined that she will achieve things within her career. No one makes it easy for her but she keeps going.

I loved how this book was set in the 70s and yet it felt like it was also gently mocking the modern era of reality TV and how it’s ended up being so fake and staged. It also made for uncomfortable reading at times as we see a group of men who all have their seedy secrets, some of those secrets being very disturbing and way worse than just seedy. These men aren’t named but the descriptions of the ones who aren’t main players in the novel are definitely recognisable. This is so much more of a commentary on how society has ended up where it is now than I was expecting but it made for such a fascinating read.

This is a novel that feels impossible to define but it’s utterly brilliant. It’s gritty and disturbing, it’s funny and poignant and just so readable! I found this hard to put down because I just couldn’t see how it was all going to turn out for Archie and I was desperate to find out! This is definitely an author I want to read more of and I’ve already bought a couple of his other books and I can’t wait to read them! I highly recommend Welcome to the Heady Heights!

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

Welcome to the Heady Heights is due to be published on 21 March and available to pre-order here.

 

About the Author

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David F. Ross was born in Glasgow in 1964 and has lived in Kilmarnock for over 30 years. He is a graduate of the Mackintosh School of Architecture at Glasgow School of Art, an architect by day, and a hilarious social media commentator, author and enabler by night. His debut novel The Last Days of Disco was shortlisted for the Authors Club Best First Novel Award, and received exceptional critical acclaim, as did the other two books in the Disco Days Trilogy: The Rise & Fall of the Miraculous Vespas and The Man Who Loved Islands. David lives in Ayrshire.

 

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Book Review: Sewing the Shadows Together by Alison Baillie | @alisonbailliex @Bloodhoundbook

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About the Book

More than thirty years after thirteen-year-old Shona McIver was raped and murdered in Portobello, the seaside suburb of Edinburgh, the crime still casts a shadow over the lives of her brother Tom and her best friend Sarah.

When modern DNA evidence reveals that the wrong man was convicted of the crime, the case is reopened. So who did kill Shona?

Soon Sarah and Tom find themselves caught up in the search for Shona’s murderer, and everyone is a suspect.

The foundations of Sarah’s perfect family life begin to crumble as she realises that nothing is as it appears.

 

My Thoughts

Sewing the Shadows Together is about Tom, whose younger sister Shona was raped and murdered when they were teenagers. He still carries the guilt of not being there to protect her and it haunts him in the present day many years later. Sarah was Shona’s best friend and she is also still haunted by the loss. Tom and Shona meet again at a school reunion and while Tom is back in Edinburgh they find out the man convicted of killing Shona has been cleared with modern DNA techniques.

This novel is set in the present day but those chapters are interspersed with recollections from the past in the lead up to, and aftermath of, Shona’s murder. I loved the story being told in this way as I wanted to see how everything would connect up. I had my suspicions about who had really killed Shona, and while I can sort of claim that I guessed right I would really be fibbing a little bit as I suspected a lot of the people in this book!

Tom is such a great character. His life has clearly been hugely affected by the death of his sister. He’s lost his ambition to achieve big things in life and instead has been floating along aimlessly seeing what happens. It definitely felt like his life would have been so different had his sister not died. I really felt for him because losing someone young, when you’re also still young, is profoundly affecting and it changes you. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to lose someone in such a horrific and traumatic way though.

I also really liked Sarah. I did feel that she is something of a doormat within her family – she puts up with a distracted husband, a domineering mother, and is somehow not up to speed with what is happening in her (grown up) children’s lives. She is always doing her best though and she really does care. I can see how she ended up as she is, it’s that juggling act of trying to keep everyone happy and it so often being at the expense of yourself. I was rooting for her and hoping that she would find some happiness for herself.

Apart from Tom and Sarah I didn’t particularly like anyone in this novel but I do so enjoy reading about unlikeable characters. It worked so well in this book as it gave a lot of potential suspects. Everyone in the novel is well-rounded and there is a complexity to the characters – no one seemed all bad or all good and so it made it harder to figure out whodunnit.

Ultimately, Sewing the Shadows Together is a brilliant crime novel. It has a depth to it and while the solving the crime is the central plot there are other things going on that add interest and make this book near impossible to put down! I bought this book when it was first published but didn’t read it until recently and I’m really kicking myself for leaving it so long. It is such a brilliant debut and I’ll definitely be looking out for more of Alison Baillie’s novels in the future!

Sewing the Shadows Together is gripping, engrossing and an all-round brilliant read! I highly recommend it!

I purchased my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Sewing the Shadows Together is out on 12 March and available here.

 

About the Author

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Alison Baillie was born in Scarborough of Scottish parents and lived in County Durham, Somerset and the Yorkshire Dales before going to university in Scotland. She then taught English in several Edinburgh secondary schools before moving to Switzerland where she still lives now. She’s taught English as a Foreign Language in Finland and Switzerland.

When she stopped teaching full-time, she fulfilled a life-time ambition and wrote Sewing the Shadows Together, a psychological suspense novel inspired in part by events when she was teaching in Scotland. She is fascinated by the way we are influenced by the events of our past and has now written a second novel, A Fractured Winter, set in Switzerland, Scotland and Yorkshire.

She has two sons and three grandchildren and is proud of their international roots, having a mixture of Scottish, Swiss, Polish and Finnish heritage. As well as spending time with them, she loves travelling, walking in the mountains and by the sea, reading and writing.

 

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Book Review: Past Life by Dominic Nolan | @NolanDom @headlinepg @annecater #RandomThingsTours #PastLife

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About the Book

Waking up beside the dead girl, she couldn’t remember anything.
Who she was. Who had taken her. How to escape.

Detective Abigail Boone has been missing for four days when she is finally found, confused and broken. Suffering retrograde amnesia, she is a stranger to her despairing husband and bewildered son.

Hopelessly lost in her own life, with no leads on her abduction, Boone’s only instinct is to revisit the case she was investigating when she vanished: the baffling disappearance of a young woman, Sarah Still.

Defying her family and the police, Boone obsessively follows a deadly trail to the darkest edges of human cruelty. But even if she finds Sarah, will Boone ever be the same again?

 

My Thoughts

Past Life is about Abigail Boone who is suffering from amnesia following a traumatic incident where she was abducted and held for days before being found. Doctors haven’t been able to treat her memory loss so now she’s just trying to pick up the pieces of her life and to move on as best she can. She’s lost her career in the police, and her relationship with her husband and son is floundering as she has no memories of either of them. Boone decides that the best thing she can do to find herself is to get back to trying to find the young woman she was searching for at the time she herself went missing.

Abigail Boone is such a brilliant character. She has her flaws – she’s stubborn, she doesn’t listen to advice and she throws herself into situations without really considering the consequences but I loved her fierce determination! She tries so hard but can’t seem to find a way through to her past and so focuses on the here and now and what she can do. I really admired this trait.

‘Identity can be proved with papers, but how do you prove self? How do you measure a person, seek evidence of what they might be? Only in the past, Boone concluded, and in that thing constructed by the past that we call a mind.’

Boone is trying to find Sarah Still, who has been missing for a long time now but Boone feels sure that she was on the right track to finding Sarah before she was attacked. This leads Boone to meet Roo, the woman she was held with, and I adored the relationship that grew between these two women. They are so different to each other and there is something of a language barrier at times but the way they overcame this and developed a respect for each other was so great to read about. The friendship they have, along with Boone’s friendship with Tess (a woman Boone helped while still in the police force and has kept in touch with), were the anchors that Boone needed in a time where she no longer connected with the people she was close to before.

I felt that Boone’s stubborn need to find Sarah, rather than being home and trying to connect with her family, perhaps came from the fact she now knows what it is to be missing. Boone is there but she’s not there; she doesn’t know who she was before and the only reference points she has are what other people have told her. Sarah is physically missing from her life but the person she left behind wants her back as much as Boone’s husband Jack and son Quin want Boone back.

This is a gritty novel, and it’s very dark in places but it’s so believable and it’s very well written. There is an air of melancholy that runs through the novel but it never feels depressing. The brilliant Boone, along with Tess and Roo, keep you hooked and I felt like I was right along with them throughout this story. I so badly wanted all of them to come out of it and be okay.

Past Life is such a brilliant and gripping crime thriller but it’s also an excellent exploration into what makes a person who they are. What is left to cling to when you’ve lost who you are, or when you’ve lost the person you love. There is so much depth in this book, and there were moments that felt so profound to me that I had to put it down for a few moments just to process what I was reading. My disability took my physical abilities from me so while I still know who I am, I can’t be who I was before so I felt something of an affinity with Boone. This book came to mean such a lot to me and I know it’s one that will stay with me. It’s very rare for me to connect so much to a crime thriller but Past Life is something special.

This is one of those really compelling books that you just can’t put down – I simply had to know how it was all going to turn out for Boone! She’s such a real, authentic character that I felt bereft when I turned the last page of this book. I still keep thinking about her and wondering how she’s getting on. This is a book that I won’t forget and I think Past Life may well make my best books of the year come the end of December! It’s gritty and gripping, thrilling and very difficult to put down… plus Boone will steal your heart! I highly recommend this book!

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

Past Life is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Dominic Nolan was born and raised in north London. PAST LIFE is his first novel.

 

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Book Review: Are You The F**king Doctor? by Dr. Liam Farrell | @drlfarrell @annecater #RandomThingsTours #IrishMed

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About the Book

‘General practice is the great unknown. We stand on the cusp of the beyond. Science takes us only so far, then the maps stop in the grey areas of intuition, imagination and feelings: here be dragons. Lurching from heart-breaking tragedy to high farce, we are the Renaissance men and women of medicine; our art is intangible. Anything can walk through our door…’

Family doctor, Irishman, musician, award-winning author, anarchist and recovering morphine addict, Liam became a columnist for the BMJ in 1994. He went on to write for many major publications, winning a series of prestigious awards; in 2005, he was the first doctor to win Columnist of the Year in the Periodical Publishers Association awards.

The book contains a selection of Liam’s best work, from his columns, blogs and short stories.Brilliantly funny, glittering with literary allusion and darkly wicked humour, this book is much more than a collection of stand-alone anecdotes and whimsical reflections, rather a compelling chronicle of the daily struggles – and personal costs – of a doctor at the coalface.

 

My Thoughts

Are You The F**king Doctor? is a collection of Dr Liam Farrell’s columns and blog posts from over a period of many years. The collection is comprised of the humorous and the moving, along with some short stories inspired by his experiences as a GP.

The opening of this book was unexpected as Farrell writes very openly and honestly about his becoming addicted to morphine, and his subsequent journey to getting off it. It initially seemed a little odd to me to open the book with this story but actually it was great to see such honesty right from the beginning and to have a real insight into the man behind the following chapters. As I got further into the book it felt that knowing the author’s own medical struggles meant I warmed to him as he wrote about his patients, especially the ones that somewhat tried his patience at times!

I loved the way that this book was full of humour and the way that Farrell uses humour to get his point across to his readers. The repeated references to the over-use of antibiotics, and to patients who seek antibiotics for every ailment they suffer from made a strong point, but it’s done in such a tongue-in-cheek way that it didn’t feel like being lectured to.

The pressures of being a GP are apparent throughout this book. It must be so frustrating to have such a short time for consultations and then to have that compounded by some worried well patients bringing a long list with them, while there are other patients that really do need more time and it just isn’t there. There is a piece that shows just how hard it is being a junior doctor in a hospital when Farrell was on duty in one department and called for a consult from another department. In a roundabout way he was told that he was doing both of those roles and to get on with it. The piece is written in a humorous way but it really did bring me up short to think of working under those pressures.

One of my favourite recollections in the book was the reference to his elderly aunt, who was rather difficult, and the Wii! I completely agree with the idea of putting Wiis in all old people’s homes – they are wonderful for giving people a fun way to gain better balance and strength. There is also an amusing moment when a patient reveals her new baby daughter’s name. It seems she’s unknowingly named her after a medication (although her husband may well have known)! This whole post made me giggle to myself!

I wasn’t expecting so many literary references when I started this book but I very much appreciated them. Many of the references I knew of but others I didn’t and it sent me off looking into them – it’s always brilliant when a book leads you to seek out further learning and insight.

Dr Liam Farrell really shows the other side of medicine – it gives such an insight for patients into what doctors have to deal with on a daily basis. This is such an engaging read and has something in it for everyone to enjoy and get something out of. It’s so honest, very amusing and downright brilliant! I definitely recommend it!

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

Are You The F**king Doctor? is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Dr Liam Farrell is from Rostrevor, Co Down, Ireland. He was a family doctor in Crossmaglen, Co Armagh, for 20 years, and is an award-winning writer and a seasoned broadcaster. He is married to Brid, and has three children Jack, Katie, and Grace.

He was a columnist for the British Medical Journal for 20 years and currently writes for GP, the leading newspaper for general practitioners in the UK. He has also been a columnist for the Lancet, the Journal of General Practice, the Belfast Telegraph and the Irish News. He wrote the entry on ‘Sex’ for The Oxford Companion to the Body.

On Twitter he curates #Irishmed, a weekly tweetchat on all things medical, which has a global following. He also co-curates #WritersWise, a regular tweetchat for writers, with novelist Sharon Thompson.
He was the medical columnist for the BBC Radio Ulster Evening Extra 1996-98; presented the series Health-Check for Ulster TV in 2002, and was medical consultant for both series of Country Practice in 2000 and 2002 for BBC Northern Ireland.

His awards include Columnist of the Year at Irish Medical Media Awards 2003, Periodical Publishers Association of Great Britain 2006 and Medical Journalist’s Society, London 2011, and Advancing Health through Media at the Zenith Global Healthcare Awards 2018.He was shortlisted for the Michael McLaverty Short Story Competition in 2008.

 

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Book Review: Last Ones Left Alive by Sarah Davis-Goff | @SarahDavisGoff @TinderPress @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Raised by her mother and Maeve on Slanbeg, an island off the west coast of Ireland, Orpen has a childhood of love and stories by the fireside. But the stories grow darker, and the training begins. Ireland has been devoured by a ravening menace known as the skrake, and though Slanbeg is safe for now, the women must always be ready to run, or to fight.

When Maeve is bitten, Orpen is faced with a dilemma: kill Maeve before her transformation is complete, or try to get help. So Orpen sets off, with Maeve in a wheelbarrow and her dog at her side, in the hope of finding other survivors, and a cure. It is a journey that will test Orpen to her limits, on which she will learn who she really is, who she really loves, and how to imagine a future in a world that ended before she was born.

 

My Thoughts

Last Ones Left Alive is the story of Orpen as she seeks to find a way to survive in the dystopian world she now lives in. She had been somewhat sheltered and protected from the skrake by her mother. Maeve made sure that Orpen knows how to fight, how to survive but Orpen has never had a need to put what she’s learnt into practice until now. Maeve has been bitten and Orpen has had to leave the safety of the only home she’s ever known and risk what is out there in the wider world.

This isn’t my usual kind of read but I absolutely loved it. Orpen is such a great character – she is so feisty and tenacious and I was rooting for her all the way through the book. She is so determined to survive and to find a way to thrive in this new world.

This novel is really bleak a lot of the time but never depressing because of Orpen’s strength. The dystopian landscape of Slanbeg is devastating, nothing is as it was before, and the fear of the mysterious skrake is ever present. I found the monstrous creatures terrifying, it certainly kept me on the edge of my seat whenever Orpen had to stop and rest for a while. Orpen has learnt how to kill though and she is fearless in her fight to survive, she will do whatever it takes to save herself.

Orpen is ultimately trying to find Phoenix City; she has heard her mum and Maeve whispering about it, and she’s read about it in snippets of papers she’s found when looking for food. This takes on an almost mythical feel in the book as Orpen struggles to find any reference on the road to this place.  The sense of isolation and loneliness, and also the frustration she feels at seemingly being so close and yet so far from her where she wants to get to is tangible.

I really connected with Orpen over the loss of her mother; it’s an awful thing to lose your mum, especially when you’re young. I did feel like there were parallels to the grieving process in the battle with the very real skrake. The way you can never feel okay when grief is still so raw because the moment you relax it hits you again with full force. Eventually you have to find peace with the loss and accept that you can’t have the person back, you have to learn to live without them. It felt as if Orpen’s journey was mirroring this experience and she was growing stronger and coping better as time moved on.

I loved the exploration of humanity throughout Last Ones Left Alive. Maeve has done what she can to teach Orpen how to survive – she’s taught her how to kill the Skrake and made sure she has skills in finding food and shelter but no one has taught Orpen about what it is to be truly alone, and how to hold on to who she is in the midst of being on her own. She becomes quite brittle and fierce in her approach to potentially meeting other survivors, it’s as if she’s forgotten how to build relationships. Some of it is the all-consuming focus on the basic need to survive but I think part of it is that she has learnt how to protect herself so well that she no longer knows how to let people in. I was rooting for her to survive but also to get to a place where she could find some happiness and peace.

Last Ones Left Alive is a book about the inherent desire to survive, but also to thrive in the environment we find ourselves in. It’s brutal and heartbreaking at times but it’s also beautiful and impossible to put down! I highly recommend this one!

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

Last Ones Left Alive is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Sarah Davis Goff

Sarah Davis-Goff was born and raised in Ireland. After going to college in the US and UK, she eventually returned, and now lives in Dublin. Last Ones Left Alive is her debut novel.

 

 

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Book Review: The Bridal Party by J. G. Murray | @JulianGylMurray @CorvusBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours #TheBridalParty

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About the Book

Sometimes friendship can be murder…

It’s the weekend of Clarisse’s bridal party, a trip the girls have all been looking forward to. Then, on the day of their flight, Tamsyn, the maid of honour, suddenly backs out. Upset and confused, they try to make the most of the stunning, isolated seaside house they find themselves in.

But, there is a surprise in store – Tamsyn has organised a murder mystery, a sinister game in which they must discover a killer in their midst. As tensions quickly boil over, it becomes clear to them all that there are some secrets that won’t stay buried…

 

My Thoughts

The Bridal Party is a novel about a group of women going on a weekend away together for a hen party. The group seems quite typical of a hen party where everyone has a relationship with the bride but they don’t all know each other as well as they know Clarisse. One of the hens drops out at the very last minute and all the other women are then going into the unknown as the woman who dropped out is the one who made all the plans. This is such a great set up for the novel and I knew I was going to enjoy it!

The house the women stay in is very isolated and feels quite creepy and unnerving so already there is tension but then they each go their rooms to unpack and the tension really begins to ramp up from there!

The novel is told mainly in the present but there are flashbacks throughout that slowly let you see how these women became friends and what tensions there have been between them in the past. Secrets begin to be unravelled and it gradually catches up with the present. It was brilliant how the past came into play and how the women who’d known each other longest initially stuck together, causing the distrust and uneasiness to further grow. Female friendships can be very like this, although this book is more extreme in how things end up.

The setting of the house is remote and we soon find out that there it has links to a sinister past. It was a creepy enough idea that the house was surrounded by woodland and in the middle of nowhere but finding out its past had me really on edge. I love how the history of the house played a part in the mystery weekend that was planned, and the way this builds as the novel goes on was brilliant!

I loved that this book had genuine surprises. I was expecting this to be similar to other thrillers where a group are effectively trapped in a creepy house together but there was more to it. There is a real sinister feel running through this book, it had me on edge a lot of the time wondering how on earth it was all going work out for the group.

I thought I knew how this book was going to end, and while I worked out some elements, for the most part it took me down a completely different path and I loved that! It’s rare for a book to shock me but this one absolutely did.

The Bridal Party is twisty, tense and gripping… and most importantly it has genuine shocks in store! I definitely recommend this book!

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

The Bridal Party is due to be published on 7th March and can be pre-ordered here.

 

About the Author

J G Murray Author Picture

J G Murray grew up in Cornwall and, after a spell selling chocolates in Brussels, qualified as an English teacher. Murray now lives, teaches and writes in London.

 

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

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Mini Book Reviews: Love, Fate, Loss and Possession!

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Today I’m sharing some more of my mini book reviews! I seem to be reading way faster than I can review at the moment so this seems a good way to get a few reviews posted before the pile grows any higher!

 

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The Trick to Time by Kit de Waal

I actually read this book late last year but I struggled to get my thoughts down into a coherent review. This is the first novel I’ve read by the author but it definitely won’t be the last. It follows Mona in two timelines: in the present she runs a business selling weighted dolls to help women deal with the loss of their babies, and in the past we see what made Mona the woman she is in the present. There is a lot of heartache in this novel but it’s the resilience that shone through for me. I’ve suffered a miscarriage myself and while I got over it as much as anyone can I still know how old my child would be now. I didn’t talk about it much at the time, I just picked myself up and got on with it. It feels like every woman going through such a loss needs a Mona in their lives. She knows pain too but she channels it into easing other women’s pain. I cried quite a lot reading this book but it was cathartic tears. This novel is such a special book, one I won’t ever forget. If you haven’t already read this novel then I urge you to, it’s beautiful and unforgettable!

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Dear Mrs Bird by A. J. Pearce

This is a gorgeous novel and I enjoyed every minute that I spent reading it. Emmy applies for a job on a newspaper but is shocked to find on her first day that she isn’t going to be a war correspondent but an assistant to the resident agony aunt. She overcomes her disappointment and finds that she wants to help the women who write in. The novel is set during WW2 so there are some sad moments but the novel on the whole is heartwarming and is such a comforting read. If you haven’t already read this then I recommend you grab a copy and read it asap!

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Ivy and Abe by Elizabeth Enfield

I completely and utterly fell in love with this book. I knew from the blurb that it was my kind of book as I have a fascination with the possibility of fate and whether there is a person that we’re destined to meet. Ivy and Abe follows the two protagonists throughout there lives but it’s presented in disconnected chapters where their meeting and the way things pan out for them has a different outcome. The wonderful thing though is that throughout the novel there is a thread that keeps coming up and you see in each story how it might have been different if only something had or hadn’t happened. It’s a beautiful novel and even though I read it right at the beginning of January, it’s still staying with me and I often find myself thinking about Ivy and Abe and wondering how they are, as if they were real people. I adored this novel and I highly recommend it!

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Someone Like Me by M. R. Carey

I have to start by saying that I don’t think describing this book as a thriller helped in my enjoyment of it as I was expecting a thriller – I hadn’t read anything by the author before so I believed I was getting what I told I was getting. However, this book is a thriller with supernatural, borderline-horror elements at times, which is not a genre I like to read. I will say that once I got to understand what I was reading I did come to enjoy it, it definitely had me gripped and it was hard to put down so on reflection I’m glad I (albeit somewhat unwittingly) gave this a go. Liz is struggling as she lives with her abusive husband and is trying to protect her children from seeing the worst of his behaviour. I did love the way Liz and Fran’s life became so entwined and blended, and the way one dominated the other’s personality was fascinating. I was engrossed and this kept me turning the pages as I just couldn’t see how the situation was going to be resolved. The ending was hugely satisfying and I would read more books by this author.

 

#BookReview | Waco: A Survivor’s Story by David Thibodeau (with Leon Whiteson and Aviva Layton)

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About the Book

Twenty-five years ago, the FBI staged a deadly raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. Texas. David Thibodeau survived to tell the story.
When he first met the man who called himself David Koresh, David Thibodeau was a drummer in a local a rock band. Though he had never been religious in the slightest, Thibodeau gradually became a follower and moved to the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. He remained there until April 19, 1993, when the compound was stormed and burned to the ground after a 51-day standoff with government authorities.

In this compelling account–now with an updated epilogue that revisits remaining survivors–Thibodeau explores why so many people came to believe that Koresh was divinely inspired. We meet the men, women, and children of Mt. Carmel. We get inside the day-to-day life of the community. We also understand Thibodeau’s brutally honest assessment of the United States government’s actions. The result is a memoir that reads like a thriller, with each page taking us closer to the eventual inferno.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted when the publicist for Waco: A Survivor’s Story contacted me to ask if I’d like to read this book as I’m fascinated by cults but didn’t know a huge amount about Waco.

Thidobeau is very honest in this book, which I appreciated but it does make for uncomfortable reading at times. The issue of Waco’s leader David Koresh abusing underage girls and the people around him being okay with this at the time is shocking. Thidobeau does explore his own feelings about this later on in the book though and I felt that this was a great insight into how a person can have power over others while they feel they are completely free thinking.

This is a memoir and as such we get the viewpoint of the person writing it so as I don’t know a huge amount about Waco it was hard for me to know how much of what Thidobeau said was absolute fact and how much was what he believed to be true. I know this is the case with all memoirs but I felt it more with this one. Having said that the way the authorities approached dealing with Waco was very shocking to read, it’s beyond me to understand how anyone would think it was okay to approach ending the siege in the way they did especially knowing there were still children inside the buildings.

I really liked that we get Thidobeau’s thoughts on the aftermath of Waco too. He tells of the arrests that were made of the people who survived and what happened to those people, and he talks of his own experiences. I can’t imagine what it must be like to begin to come to terms with what happened within a cult, that was a place that he had really believed in, and to start to re-build a new life.

Overall this book does give a really good insight into how people are drawn into cults like this one, and how they become convinced that what is happening within the the cult is okay and normal. I did find it a really interesting read, and feel I have a better understanding of what happened at Waco.

This is a gripping memoir and one that whilst obviously non-fiction it reads at the pace of a thriller. I read it in two sittings and it was a book I was thinking about in the time when I wasn’t reading it.

All in all I’m really glad that I read this book, and as with all good non-fiction it has made me want to go and read more about Waco in the future.

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

Waco: A Survivor’s Story is out now and available here.

#BookReview: Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce | @Harriet_Tyce @Wildfirebks @PublicityBooks @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise – she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…

Just one more night. Then I’ll end it.

Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle.

I did it. I killed him. I should be locked up.

Alison’s client doesn’t deny that she stabbed her husband – she wants to plead guilty. And yet something about her story is deeply amiss. Saving this woman may be the first step to Alison saving herself.

I’m watching you. I know what you’re doing.

But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything….

 

My Thoughts

I literally squealed with delight when a surprise copy of Blood Orange arrived at my house a couple of months ago. It was one of my most anticipated books for 2019 and I’m so thrilled to say that it was even better than I expected it to be (and I was expecting it to be amazing!).

Blood Orange is about Alison, a barrister who is rising through the ranks of her profession and has just been given her first murder case. She is married with a daughter and it seems she has it all. Alison isn’t happy though – she’s involved in a messy affair and she drinks too much. She wants to have it all but she can’t seem to get it all together.

I went into this novel expecting to dislike Alison but I actually found myself feeling sympathy for her from very early on in the book. She’s a complex character and I could see how she got herself into the situation she was in. She wanted to be ‘one of the boys’ at work so regularly goes out drinking with colleagues to try and further her career but somewhere along the line she lost her ability to say no to one more drink. Her affair is complicated, she doesn’t have control of the situation and the man she’s involved with is very aggressive in his treatment of her and she thinks she likes it.  Alison does have a toughness to her, along with a vulnerable side and I think this is why I felt for her. She’s not a victim, she has a voice and while she doesn’t always speak out when she might, you always know she’s capable of it. All of the characters in this book, Alison included, have traits that are really unlikeable but they’re all flawed in very human, and very believable ways, it made it all the more chilling to read about them.

Alison is working on defending a client for murder and this is her biggest case to date. I found it fascinating to read about Madeleine, the woman accused of murder, and to see the gradual unfolding of what happened and why. There are some parallels between Madeleine and Alison and it left me feeling increasingly unsettled about how easy it is to one day be one person in one situation and the next to have crossed a line that you can’t come back from. The scary thing about this book was the way it all happens in such a way that you can see how it could happen to anyone.

Blood Orange is a prescient novel for the #metoo era. It looks at issues around consent and where the line is between rough sex and rape. Whilst not the main storyline it’s something that does run through the novel and it’s so well done – it makes you think without it taking over the novel. It’s not just within the affair Alison is having, but also who that man is also seeing and within Alison’s marriage. There is a subtle line whereby her husband wants to help and support her but then sometimes he seems really quite cold towards her, it’s clearly complicated and something of a mess.

The novel opens with someone engaging in auto-erotic asphyxiation but we don’t know who the person is. As I was reading I would forget about the prologue and then certain things happened that had my brain ticking over wondering who it was. The ending of this novel was utterly shocking and I genuinely didn’t see it coming. I felt like I was watching a car crash in slow motion and was powerless to look away. It was such a perfect ending and was so fitting for this brilliant novel!

Blood Orange is such a compelling read – I found that I just couldn’t put it down once I started reading. It made me uncomfortable at times but in the way all the best books do, it unsettled me but I couldn’t stop reading for a second (and nor did I want to!). It’s a novel about toxic relationships, and people, and the tangled webs we weave and the way we become so entangled in them that eventually there may well be no way out. There is no doubt in my mind that Blood Orange will be in my best books of 2019, it’s a phenomenal debut and I already can’t wait to read whatever Harriet Tyce writes next! Go buy a copy of this book now, you won’t regret it!

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

Blood Orange is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Harriet Tyce Author Picture

Harriet Tyce is the author of Blood Orange, a psychological thriller due to be published by Wildfire in the UK and Grand Central Publishing in the US in February 2019.  It will also be published in a further eleven countries, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Slovakia and Spain.

She grew up in Edinburgh and studied English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford University before practising as a criminal barrister for the next decade.  After having children she left the Bar and has recently completed with distinction an MA in Creative Writing – Crime Fiction at the University of East Anglia. Blood Orange is her first novel.

 

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

Blood Orange Blog Tour Poster

 

#BookReview: My Last Lie by Ella Drummond | @drummondella1 @HeraBooks @BOTBSPublicity #MyLastLie

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About the Book

New beginnings. Old secrets.
Theo and Pilar. The perfect couple.

Successful, beautiful and very much in love.
Until a year ago – and the tragedy that nearly tore them apart.
When their baby died, a part of them died with him.
Now they’re trying to rebuild themselves, moving to a stunning house in rural Cornwall.
But someone knows all their secrets – and will stop at nothing to disturb their fragile peace.

Theo and Pilar are about to learn that you can try to hide – but you can never outrun your past.

 

My Thoughts

My Last Lie is a novel about Theo and Pilar, told from Pilar’s perspective. They’ve been through a terrible tragedy that led to Pilar having a breakdown and now they’ve moved to a new house in a new area and are trying to re-build their lives. There’s something unsettling about the house though, and Pilar begins to feel rattled by the situation.

My Last Lie opens with a car accident that leads to Pilar’s baby being stillborn. The novel then moves forward a year with Theo and Pilar moving in to their new home in Cornwall. They’re both clearly still trying to find a way through their grief, and Theo is protective over Pilar. I did find him a bit contradictory at times and couldn’t quite weigh him up – he seems a devoted husband but then he buys a house for his wife that she has never seen before and immediately tells her he has to be away over night once a week while his business gets sorted out and fully moved more locally. This is at a time when she’s still finding her feet and feeling vulnerable and alone so it seemed a bit unfair of him.

Pilar is clearly still very affected by the loss of their baby, and the time she spent in hospital recovering from the initial grief and trauma that she’s been through. I felt like I was right there with her in this big new house, it sounds like such a stunning house and yet it felt a bit unsettling. When odd little things begin to happen I wasn’t sure whether Pilar was an unreliable narrator due to everything she’s been through, whether Theo somehow secretly blamed her for losing their baby and was trying to gaslight her and make her think she was losing her mind, or whether someone had taken against this couple and wanted to scare them off. This made for a great, thrilling read as I could never quite make my mind up. The unease is there from the beginning but it slowly creeps up until the point when you feel like you’re holding your breath wondering how it’s all going to turn out!

My Last Lie is a novel that keeps you on your toes. The people in the village all have their own secrets and dramas, which made me wonder if any of them has a connection to Pilar and Theo and could wish them ill. There are also a few red herrings thrown in throughout the novel which keeps you guessing about what’s going on and I loved that.

I very much enjoyed this book, it kept me hooked all the way through. It’s a gripping, intriguing and thrilling read – I recommend it! I’m really looking forward to seeing what Ella Drummond writes next, I’ll definitely be first in the queue to buy it.

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

My Last Lie is out today and available here.

 

About the Author

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Ella Drummond recently signed a two-book deal with Hera Books. Her first psychological thriller, My Last Lie will be published in February 2019 and is available for pre-order now.

She lives with her husband on the island of Jersey and you can follow her on Twitter @drummondella1 and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EllaDrummondWrites/

 

 

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

20th FEB_ Nicki's Book Blog My Chestnut Reading Tree Nemesis Blog Rather Too Fond of Books 21st FEB_ Cheekypee Reads And Reviews Hooked From Page One Ginger Book Geek Novel Deelights 22nd FEB_ Jennifer - Tar Heel Re

#BookReview: All the Little Lies by Chris Curran | @Christi_Curran @KillerReads

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About the Book

After a lifetime of secrets how far would you go for the truth?

An unputdownable new psychological thriller, full of twists you won’t see coming, from Chris Curran.

Your whole life has been a lie…

One email is all it takes to turn Eve’s world upside down. It contains a picture of her true birth mother, Stella, and proves that Eve’s entire life with her adoptive parents has been a lie.

Now she must unravel the mystery of Stella’s dark past. But what Eve finds will force her to take enormous risks, which put her – and her new-born baby – in immediate danger…

 

My Thoughts

All the Little Lies is a thriller about Eve. She is married and heavily pregnant when she sees a newspaper article about a woman that she knows must be her birth mother. She has been raised by her adoptive parents but has never been told anything much about the woman who gave birth to her. This leads Eve to start asking questions and the life she thought she knew begins to unravel!

I’ve read and enjoyed Chris Curran’s previous novels but All the Little Lies is definitely her best yet! I was gripped from the opening chapter and was under this book’s spell all the way to the end! The novel is told from two perspectives – Eve in the present and Stella in the past. Some of the other characters feature in both time lines, which is great because you see what they’re telling Eve in the present but you also hear what Stella was going through and how they made her feel.

This novel is a slow-burn but the pacing is exactly right because you need time to see all the threads of the story and to see how things begin to fit together. It also gives you the sense of what Eve is going through – the way it can be slow to find information about something that happened a long time ago. I really felt like I was right along with her in the search for answers.

I loved how Eve’s story alternates with Stella’s and so you get a picture slowly forming of what happened. I felt so sorry for Stella. She had a difficult upbringing and when she finds herself pregnant, alone and short of money she struggles to see how she will cope with a baby. David part owns the gallery that shows some of Stella’s paintings and he offers her help. I think he always meant well but the way Stella’s story unfolds from here is initially heart-breaking and ultimately shocking!

As this novel goes along I became more and more distrustful of just about every character! I was questioning everyone’s motives and trying to work out who had things to gain or lose if Eve were to find out certain things. I did think Eve was too trusting of people at times but I could understand why; she was vulnerable and hurt and was looking for someone who would be completely honest with her. She desperately wants to believe that when she asks questions that people are telling her the honest truth. I was so sympathetic towards her and was hoping there would somehow be a happy ending for her.

The title, All The Little Lies, is one of the most perfect I’ve seen! I loved the way that all the little lies add up in this novel to be much bigger, life-altering lies. You can see how someone does something and justifies it at the time by telling themselves they’re doing it for the best of everyone involved. But then it leads to more lies and then more, and it spirals out of control into a huge lie of which there is no way out!

All The Little Lies is such a great thriller! It’s a brilliant story with great characters and a plot with twists and turns that have you reading just one more chapter (and one more, and one more… until you look up and find it’s 2am!) because you just have to know how it’s all going to work out for Eve. It’s gripping, engrossing and so hard to put down! I definitely recommend this book!

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

All the Little Lies is due to be published on 15th February and can be pre-ordered from here now.

I’ve previously reviewed Her Deadly Secret by Chris Curran

A previous guest post from Chris Curran – Crime Series or Standalone

 

About the Author

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All the Little Lies is Chris Curran’s fourth psychological thriller for Harper Collins Killer Reads. She lives in East Sussex and writes, standing up, in a room with no view. When inspiration falters she finds tea (Earl Grey, hot) and a bout of ironing are very therapeutic. In breaks between books she dusts, cooks, walks by the sea and reads – but mostly reads.

Find her at https://chriscurranauthor.com/

Twitter @Christi_Curran

Instagram: chriscurranwriter

 

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

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#BookReview: East of England by Eamonn Griffin | @eamonngriffin @unbound_digital #randomthingstours @annecater #EastOfEngland

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About the Book

Dan Matlock is out of jail. He’s got a choice. Stay or leave. Go back to where it all went wrong, or simply get out of the county. Disappear. Start again as someone else.

But it’s not as simple as that.

There’s the matter of the man he killed. It wasn’t murder, but even so. You tell that to the family. Especially when that family is the Mintons, who own half that’s profitable and two-thirds of what’s crooked between the Wolds and the coast. And who could have got to Matlock as easy as you like in prison, but who haven’t touched him. Not yet.

And like Matlock found out in prison, there’s no getting away from yourself, so what would the point be in not facing up to other people?

It’s time to go home.

 

My Thoughts

East of England follows Dan Matlock as he gets out of prison after serving two years for causing the death of a man. He’s expecting his dad to meet him but no one is waiting for him. What follows is Dan trying to track down his dad whilst also laying a trail so that the family that caused him to be locked up can find him, and that past can be put to rest once and for all!

This isn’t my normal type of read but I very much enjoyed this book, it was so hard to put down and I read it in a couple of sittings! Dan Matlock is such a great character, one that will stay with me. He’s so much more complex than I thought he was going to be and I really appreciated that. I loved how he’s seeking to avenge himself by whatever means necessary and yet he always makes sure to look after people who need looking after. He takes time with people who he sees are lonely, even when he doesn’t have the time to give.

We follow Dan over the course of a week as he gradually gets closer to the day when things from the past will have to be put right. He immediately gets work as a debt collector with an old mate Chris, and starts scoping out the Minton and Corrigan families so he can lay a trail for them to find him. There is a great creeping undertone of menace as this novel goes on, it’s unsettling because you know the situation will come to a head and it’s just a matter of when and how. The reveals when they come are shocking, and at times violent, but it’s all in keeping with the build up.

The novel is set in the present but we also get flashes of the past and what led to Dan been put in prison, and also some really moving stories of Dan with his dad. Gradually you get a fuller picture of who Dan is and how he ended up in the situation he’s in.

The sense of place in this novel was spot on. Griffin makes Lincolnshire feel like another character in this novel – the feel of the county was done in such a way that I felt I could see everywhere he describes, I could smell the seaside and the fish and chips. It brought the book alive for me and I got so lost in it that it was like watching a film.

East of England is dark and gritty novel, that has some really moving moments in amongst the heavier stuff. I found this book near impossible to put down, and am so thrilled to discover that a second book featuring Dan Matlock is planned! I definitely recommend this one.

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

East of England is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Eamonn Griffin Author Pic

Eamonn Griffin was born and raised in Lincolnshire, though these days he lives in north-east Wales.

He’s worked as a stonemason, a strawberry picker, in plastics factories (everything from packing those little bags for loose change you get from banks to production planning via transport manager via fork-lift driving), in agricultural and industrial laboratories, in a computer games shop, and latterly in further and higher education.

He’s taught and lectured in subjects as diverse as leisure and tourism, uniformed public services, English Studies, creative writing, film studies, TV and film production, and media theory. He doesn’t do any of that anymore. Instead he writes fulltime, either as a freelancer, or else on fiction.

Eamonn has a PhD in creative writing with the University of Lancaster, specialising in historical fiction, having previously completed both an MA in popular film and a BSc in sociology and politics via the Open University. He really likes biltong, and has recently returned to learning to play piano, something he abandoned when he was about seven and has regretted since.

 

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

East of England Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Senseless by Anna Lickley | @annal_writes @unbound_digital #Senseless #RandomThingsTours @annecater

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About the Book

Beth’s partner, Dan, inexplicably vanishes from her life and nine years later she is still struggling. In the intervening years, she has learnt British Sign Language (BSL) and got what she thought would be her dream job, supporting deaf students in college. However, she finds she still feels dissatisfied with just about everything: from working life to sex life, domestic life to social life, it’s as if the traumas of her past will forever mar her future.

Through her work, Beth meets a group of strong-minded, pragmatists who show her how they’ve adapted to challenges of having a disability.

Is Dan’s disappearance the primary source of Beth’s sadness? Can her new friends help to shift her perspective on dealing with life? Will learning BSL prove to be significant after all? And what really happened to Dan? The answers may be quite unexpected.

 

My Thoughts

Senseless is a novel about Beth, who has been through a lot in her life and is struggling to find her place. She works supporting deaf / blind students in college using BSL (British Sign Language) but the job isn’t as satisfying as she hoped – she’s always been asked to do things that aren’t part of her job, or is expected to be able to sign things at short short notice for a student and is frustrated that the student is missing out. Beth also has difficulties in her personal life – her partner Dan walked out on her a few years ago and she still doesn’t know why or even where he went and if he’s okay.

Senseless is  a novel told through the viewpoint of two characters, Sam and Beth, although it is more about Beth as her story is told in the present and the past. She has had a really tough time when she was younger and it’s something that she’s never really dealt with. You gradually get to find out and understand why Beth is the way she is, she has had a lot to cope with. She self-medicates with alcohol and sex. Beth really struggles emotionally through this novel with what she wants in life. She thought her job would bring her joy but things aren’t what she hoped for. I felt really sad for her, and was really hoping she would find contentment in her life. She’s a really likeable character and easy to identify with. Sam is another interesting character, I very much liked him and his attitude to life. He is a firefighter but hasn’t been feeling well. He wants to confide in his girlfriend but she doesn’t seem to notice that he’s struggling. Eventually he finds out what is wrong and his life is changed.

There is such great representation of disability in this novel, particularly what it’s like to be deaf but also other forms of disability such as MS and needing to use a wheelchair. I loved how Anna Lickley seamlessly raises awareness of disability throughout her novel but in such a way that you don’t feel there is an agenda. I’m disabled and use a wheelchair, so I could really identify with Sam in particular and how he felt about his increasing reliance on other people and on aids such as his wheelchair. I very much appreciated how he is such a well-rounded character and the mentions of his disability are only there when relevant and are only one part of him. I really identified with how it feels to be in a wheelchair and forever having to shout to converse with your partner or a friend, who is always behind you as they push you. This is one of the things that upsets me the most about my condition – I never get to be alongside my husband when we’re out together anymore.

‘… spoke into he air : it was weird having the person you were speaking to walking behind you.’

Anna Lickley really shows in Senseless what it is to lose a sense, or a part of your physical self to disability but also, and perhaps more importantly, how every other part of you is still the same as it ever was. Disabled people have relationships, have sex, want to socialise and do all of the same things as everyone else. I also loved the exploration of how society often sees disabled people as victims but it is so often not how we see ourselves. I’m incredibly stubborn and refuse to give in for example, and in this book the character with MS says if he has to be known as anything in relation to his condition it would to be a struggler rather than a sufferer, and I can empathise with that. The novel really draws together the way we all have our difficulties – be they a physical disability or the real unhappiness that Beth feels.

Beth ends up going on a weekend break to a horse-riding school for the disabled to act as a support worker to Paula who is deaf blind. The horse riding part of the book was so brilliant. It shows how there are times when everyone, no matter what is going on in their lives can find common ground. I really enjoyed seeing how everyone adapted and how it helped Beth to open herself up to the possibility of what life might have to offer her if she gives herself a chance.

Senseless is a novel for everyone – it’s a well-written book filled with really well-rounded characters. The exploration of how everyone is dis-abled in a way by whatever difficulty they have in life is fascinating. It’s not always easy for anyone and we all need to take more time to really see other people.

Senseless is such a brilliant read – it’s got a great storyline, with believable characters and you get completely invested in their lives. I laughed and I cried while reading this book, it really is a special novel and one that will stay with me. I found this hard to put down and will definitely be looking out for more of Anna Lickley’s writing in the future! I urge everyone to go buy a copy of Senseless and to read it asap!

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

Senseless is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Anna Lickley Author Picture

 

Anna Lickley’s adult life has been moulded by the challenges of adapting to disability. She was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2) in the 1990s and went deaf soon after, while at university. She then began to learn British Sign Language to help with communication and loved it immediately, becoming fluent enough to teach it.
In the last seven years, Anna’s vision has deteriorated and she is now registered deaf–blind. That and other health complications led her to stop working. Although sad to leave a job she loved, she is now relishing having more time to write and much of her writing is greatly influenced by her desire to share the realities of living with disability.

 

 

 

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

Senseless Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Spare Room by Dreda Say Mitchell | @DredaMitchell @BloodhoundBook

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About the Book

Home Is Where The Nightmare Is

Beautiful double room to let to single person

Lisa, a troubled young woman with a past, can’t believe her luck when she finds a beautiful room to rent in a large house. The live-in owners are a kind and welcoming couple. Everything is fine until she finds a suicide note hidden in her room. But when the couple insist this man didn’t exist and that Lisa is their first tenant, Lisa begins to doubt herself.

Compelled to undercover the secrets of the man who lived in the room before her, Lisa is alarmed when increasingly disturbing incidents start to happen. Someone doesn’t want Lisa to find out the truth.

As the four walls of this house and its secrets begin to close in on Lisa, she descends into a hellish hall of mirrors where she’s not sure what’s real and what’s not as she claws her way towards the truth…

Did this room already claim one victim?

Is it about to take another?

 

My Thoughts

Spare Room is a novel about Lisa, who on moving into the spare room of Jack and Martha’s home begins to notice disconcerting things. She finds a suicide note, seemingly written by a previous tenant, down the back of her bedside table. She’s also very suspicious of Jack, believing him to be trying to make her so uncomfortable that she’ll leave.

Wow, this book is fast-paced! It opens with a prologue where a man is about to take his own life, and then moves to Lisa coming to view a room in the house. I was gripped from the very beginning and I couldn’t put this book down.

Lisa is clearly troubled. Early on there are hints that she had an eating disorder when she was younger, and she has trouble making friends and forming romantic relationships. She has odd behaviours at bed time too, which made me really curious about what was going on with her. She quickly becomes certain that Jack is trying to frighten her but because we only see things from her point of view, I wasn’t sure how much was him being vile and how much was Lisa being paranoid. I loved the fact that Lisa isn’t always likeable in this book, it meant that while I felt sorry for her I could see that she does have potential to be very manipulative to get what she wants. It made her more real, she’s not just a stereotypical victim.

Lisa becomes increasingly fixated on finding out who lived in the spare room before her. Her need to know begins to encroach on her life, and all her thoughts come to revolve around what happened to him. The more she wonders about him the more she becomes suspicious of Jack and Martha. I couldn’t work out how it was all going to turn out for anyone.

I didn’t trust a single person in this book, it felt from the start like there are lots of secrets to be uncovered! Lisa’s parents seemed very odd to me, I couldn’t put my finger on why to start with but I just wasn’t sure of them. Jack and Martha are a strange couple, they have very strict rules for Lisa while she’s living in their house and they seem very cold to her. It seemed odd to rent out a room in your house to a stranger if you’re not comfortable with a stranger living in your house.

Spare Room was chilling at times, and while the weird happenings in the house Lisa moved in to were really unnerving, the most chilling thing for me was the lies people were prepared to tell in order to keep up the pretence of their own lives even if it does harm to others.

Spare Room is a really twisty (and twisted!) novel and I found it impossible to put down! I started it quite late at night and it was one of those ‘just one more chapter’ books where you end up staying up way past bedtime to finish it because you simply have to know how it’s all going to end! This was my first novel by Dreda Say Mitchell but it definitely won’t be my last!

Spare Room is gripping, dark, twisty and almost impossible to put down! I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Emma at Bloodhound Books for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Spare Room is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

dreda say mitchell

Dreda Say Mitchell is an award-winning, bestselling crime writer, broadcaster, campaigner, and journalist. Since her sixth book she has been co-writing with Tony Mason. She is the author of eleven novels, with her debut awarded The CWA’s John Creasey Dagger. She has been a frequent guest on television and radio including Question Time, BBC Breakfast, Newsnight, Victoria Derbyshire, The Stephen Nolan Show, Front Row and Woman’s Hour and numerous others. She has presented Radio 4’s Open Book. Dreda was named one of Britain’s 50 Remarkable Women by Lady Geek in association with Nokia. She was the 2011 chair of the Harrogate Crime Fiction Festival. Dreda and Tony’s work is currently in development for TV. She was born and raised in the East End of London where she continues to live.

Social Media Links:

Website: www.dredasaymitchell.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/DredaMitchell

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DredaSayMitchell

 

 

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#BookReview: The Six Loves of Billy Binns by Richard Lumsden | @LumsdenRich @TinderPress #RandomThingsTours @annecater #BillyBinns

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About the Book

At well over a hundred years old, Billy Binns believes he’s the oldest man in Europe and knows his days are numbered. But Billy has a final wish: he wants to remember what love feels like one last time.

As he looks back at the relationships that have coloured his life – and the events that shaped the century – he recalls a lifetime of hope and heartbreak.

This is the story of an ordinary man’s life, an enchanting novel which takes you on an epic yet intimate journey that will make you laugh, cry, and reflect on the universal turmoil of love.

 

My Thoughts

The Six Loves of Billy Binns is the story of 117 year old Billy as he begins to look back over his life, and the people he’s loved over the years. His life is nearing its end and he wonders whether he can truly remember the feeling of being in love one more time.

This novel is beautiful! I was immediately taken from the opening of the novel when Billy lists who his loves have been and a little about them. I really wanted to know more about these people and from that moment on I barely put the book down!

I loved the way that major events are touched upon in this novel as we move throughout Billy’s Life, it really brings it home just how old he is and how much life he has lived.

The loves in Billy’s life are often fleeting, and some – one in particular was heartbreaking – I had to put the book down for a moment while I composed myself as it did make me cry. There’s a real delicateness to the writing at times that really makes you pause, it’s stunning. It’s apparent that some of the difficult times in Billy’s life are things he has brought on himself but at the same time there’s an awareness that we were all young once and did silly things. He never meant the pain he sometimes caused to others.

Billy’s memories are interspersed with his life now in the old people’s home, and you can see how muddled he gets. He’s not always sure what is now and what was then, and he remembers things differently at different times. I found it really emotional seeing how Billy had clearly imagined other outcomes to get himself through the really difficult periods in his life, and now as an old man he muddles his real memories with the imagined stories. It was heartbreaking when I found myself smiling at a happy memory and then later realising what had actually happened, but in the end there was real solace in the fact that Billy remembered the imagined happy outcome over the most tragic loss. It was as if his forgetfulness was protecting him in the end, I found that so comforting.

I read this novel around the anniversary of my mum’s death and was worried it might be too much for me but actually it was a really good book to read. My mum never got to be even half Billy’s age but she had her share of heartbreak, and it makes me so sad to think of the loneliness she suffered from being divorced in the last years of her life. There was solace in reading Billy’s story though and the sense that in the end there is peace with who we are and how we ended up where we are.

I was expecting this novel to be a love story and it was, just not the way I was expecting. It was a very real story of love – it shows true love in all its complicated and messy ways. The person Billy loved the most was part of the relationship he messed up the most but the love he had for that person never wavered over the years. That is so true of how life can be. Even when you find the one it’s not always smooth sailing. I loved Billy’s ability to keep going though – even when things go wrong and he’s on his own dealing with loss and heartbreak he isn’t afraid to try again, to look for someone new.

The Six Loves of Billy Binns is a story of resilience; of finding a way to go on after the worst has happened. It’s a wonderful look at a very human man – one who has made mistakes but has learnt lessons from the people he’s loved and lost along the way. There is real beauty in this book and I adored it!

Many thanks to Anne of RandomThingsTours and Tinder Press for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Six Loves of Billy Binns is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Richard Lumsden has worked as an actor, writer and composer in television, film and theatre for 30 years. As an actor his films include Downhill, Sightseers, Sense & Sensibilityand The Darkest Hour, as well as numerous television shows and theatre productions. THE SIX LOVES OF BILLY BINNS is his first novel.

 

 

 

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#BookReview: The Suspect by Fiona Barton | @figbarton @TransworldBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

‘The police belonged to another world – the world they saw on the television or in the papers. Not theirs.’

When two eighteen-year-old girls go missing on their gap year in Thailand, their families are thrust into the international spotlight: desperate, bereft and frantic with worry.

Journalist Kate Waters always does everything she can to be first to the story, first with the exclusive, first to discover the truth – and this time is no exception. But she can’t help but think of her own son, who she hasn’t seen in two years, since he left home to go travelling. This time it’s personal.

And as the case of the missing girls unfolds, they will all find that even this far away, danger can lie closer to home than you might think . . .

 

My Thoughts

The Suspect is the story of two teenage girls who go missing on a gap year in Thailand. Their parents are desperate for news of them, and the police soon launch an investigation. In the meantime journalist Kate Waters is on the case trying to track the girls down too. This case feels somewhat personal to Kate as her son has also been travelling in Thailand for the last couple of years and only calls home very infrequently.

Kate Waters is back in The Suspect – she is one of my favourite characters in all the series / linked books that I’ve ever read. She is a force to be reckoned with whilst also having a softer side to her. I love her determined nature and her approach to following leads in a story, she always feels like a real person to me. In The Suspect we see more of the pressures of her personal life as her eldest son Jake is off travelling and she worries about him but also knows he’s an adult and has to be allowed his freedom. However, when the two teenage girls go missing in the same part of the world she has a gradually nagging feeling about her son.

We also get the perspective of Alex’s mum, and through her we see how Rosie’s parents are coping too. The anxiety and distress that the parents are in was palpable at times, while at others we see one of the parents covering up things that he has done which made me want to slap him at times!  We also get to see the detectives on the case and see how the police investigation into the disappearance is going. I was happy to see Bob Sparkes back in this book, he’s also such a great character!

Interspersed between these chapters we get to hear from one of the missing girls in the time leading up to their disappearance. Alex is much more reserved than the girl she’s travelling with and over time the tensions build and their friendship begins to crack. Rosie was a last minute replacement on this trip when Alex’s best friend pulled out and it’s clear that these two girls didn’t have much in common from the start. This adds to the sense of foreboding that something bad is going to happen.

Fiona Barton opens The Suspect with the parents’ anguish over these girls and then gradually through the different perspectives the blanks get filled in about what happened to the girls, and how the investigation into their disappearance is going. I love how we are thrown into the middle of the story in many ways and then have to work our way outwards along with Kate and the police to figure out what has happened.

The Suspect can be read as a standalone but I definitely recommend reading the previous two books first because you get to know Kate really well that way. In this third novel featuring her the case becomes much more personal, and I loved that I already knew her and so was completely invested in wanting her to be okay.This was a much more emotional read at times than I was expecting but I felt so involved in what was going on in this story, it was so believable.

The Suspect is Fiona Barton’s best book yet! I was engrossed from the opening chapters and I didn’t want to put it down for a minute! It’s one of those brilliant novels that gives you the time to get to know the characters whilst at the same time moving the plot along at such a pace that you just want to keep reading to know what’s going to happen. The pacing was absolutely spot on and this is such a brilliant read!

The Suspect is a suspenseful, gripping and heart-rending read! I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Bantam Press for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

The Suspect is due to be published on 24th January and is available to pre-order here.

 

About the Author

fiona barton author picture

Fiona Barton’s debut, The Widow, was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller and has been published in thirty-five countries and optioned for television. Her second novel, The Child, was a Sunday Times bestseller. Born in Cambridge, Fiona currently lives in south-west France. Previously, she was a senior writer at the Daily Mail, news editor at the Daily Telegraph, and chief reporter at the Mail on Sunday, where she won Reporter of the Year at the British Press Awards. While working as a journalist, Fiona reported on many high-profile criminal cases and she developed a fascination with watching those involved, their body language and verbal tics. Fiona interviewed people at the heart of these crimes, from the guilty to their families, as well as those on the periphery, and found it was those just outside the spotlight who interested her most . . .

 

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

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#BookReview: Into the Silent Sea by Claire Stibbe | @CMTStibbe @annecater #randomthingstours

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About the Book

Dangerous is one thing. Deadly is something else.

When Clodagh Shepherd’s curiosity gives way to obsession, her thoughts turn to revenge.

In the wake of her husband’s affair and subsequent disappearance, Clo makes an impulsive decision to befriend the beautiful stranger who has stolen her life. Answering an ad for a home help, she moves into the home of her husband’s mistress and is immediately drawn into the chilling reality behind the idyllic façade of Hamptons Life. Central to her terrifying nightmare is a deadly secret–a secret someone will kill to keep.

 

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, this thriller is non-stop! Clodagh and her husband Ryan split up after she discovered his affair, and in the wake of that Clo decides to apply for a housekeeper job at his mistress’ home!

At the very start of this novel it’s clear that Clo has been beaten by her husband and has been left feeling quite anxious about how he’s treated her and about his affair. She very quickly decides that she wants the upper hand and so begins her mission to find the woman he cheated with and to inveigle her way into her life. She also wants to know where her husband has gone and thinks this woman holds the answers she needs.

I did find the opening chapters a little difficult to get my head around as the pace of this novel ramps up really quickly and I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. But once Clo finds her husband’s mistress and decides to apply for a job in the same house I was utterly gripped!

Once Clo gets the job as home help the book really takes off. It’s clear right away that while Clo isn’t being honest about who she is that Marion is naturally wary of her. I felt like neither woman could be trusted and so begins something of a game of cat and mouse between them. It was fascinating to read how they were with each other because some female friendships start off with women being very distrustful of each other and in this novel that just seems to grow. There is an appearance of friendship but it doesn’t ever feel very real. I found myself utterly engrossed in the novel wanting to know how it could possibly end!

To heighten matters further Clo and Marion have a look of each other, and I could sense there would be increasing tensions around this – especially from Clo, who knows that Marion had an affair with her husband. It must be horrendous to be confronted with a younger version of yourself in that way. I did have some sympathy for Clo over this but I’ll be honest, it was short-lived!

There is also something very unsettling about the house Clo moves to, and it’s not just her relationship with Marion. The owner has a strict routine of when he’ll be there and what he expects of all of his staff. It felt very oppressive, even though it’s a beautiful house on the beach. There is an escalating claustrophobic feel to it and it really adds to the atmosphere.

There is a lot of paranoia throughout the book, and it unsettled me as I was reading – I couldn’t be sure of what was real. I loved this aspect of the book because it kept me on my toes, I could never get complacent about what I thought might happen. Clo seems to be in control at some moments but then not at others so I was never sure if she was to be trusted. There are twists and turns throughout this book and the end when it comes had me reeling!

Into the Silent Sea is a dark thriller and it definitely proves that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! It’s a real rollercoaster of a read – it’s unpredictable, gripping and thrilling! I recommend it!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Claire Stibbe for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Into the Silent Sea is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

claire stibbe author picture

Claire Stibbe is the author of the Detective Temeke Crime series – The 9th Hour, Night Eyes, Past Rites, Dead Cold, Easy Prey. Winner of the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards for crime mystery, silver medal winner of The Wishing Shelf Book Awards, her books have also been Amazon bestsellers, reaching the #1 spot in the top 100.

She is also a reporter for Stand True 4 Blue, which features a Nationwide Newsletter dedicated to law enforcement, a member and graduate of the Citizen Police & BSCO Sheriff’s Academy. A former journalist and magazine editor, she now lives in Utah with her husband and son.

These books provide donations towards the counseling of single mothers after suffering from domestic violence and post-traumatic stress.

Find out more about Claire at http://www.clairestibbe.com/

Twitter @CMTStibbe

Sign up to Claire Stibbe’s New Release Mailing List here: http://eepurl.com/bqCQhv

 

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The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and how the #konmari method changed my life! #MarieKondo #TidyingUp #SparkJoy

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I’ve been following the reactions on social media to Marie Kondo and her Tidying Up series on Netflix with interest recently. I did the KonMari method on my whole house last year and I can honestly say that it completely and utterly changed my life so I wanted to share my thoughts on it.

I’ve read so many books about de-cluttering and have always given the ideas a go, some have been more helpful than others but I always fell back into my old ways because I was doing a bit at a time, or one part of my home at a time. I re-read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up, and then read Spark Joy early last year and it struck a chord with me. I loved the idea of tackling all of a category (Clothes, books, papers, komono [all miscellaneous items] then sentimental) at once so the whole house was getting done. This is my story…

I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder (not so bad that you can’t get through the front door but definitely feeling powerless to throw things away without it being an ordeal). I grew up with a mum was very sentimental about things and so she would keep things she didn’t like because she loved the person who gave the item to her. She would also buy extras of things when they were on offer even when the cupboards were full to bursting. I ended up the same way. I have a very distinct memory from when I was really young thinking that I couldn’t get rid of my ornaments and soft toys because I wouldn’t have anything to fill my house with when I grew up. My poor mum put up with my books not only taking over my bedroom, but also the spare room and the landing between the two rooms. Even after I moved out I left a lot of stuff at her house and she never complained. We were as bad as each other for keeping things. It was so much a part of me to have every surface filled with ornaments and trinkets that I found empty shelves made me feel somewhat panicky.

When my mum died I was proud of myself for only keeping the belongings of hers that I genuinely loved and would use. To this day I still use her very best cutlery every single day, and I wear her jewellery. After we sold my mum’s house I moved in with my boyfriend and as I was moving to the other side of the country I could only take what would fit in the van we hired. I felt that this was a new start, a new me and I would do better.

I didn’t.

We bought our home a year later and I gradually filled it with stuff. I don’t know exactly how it happened because I’m not much of a shopper. I think I became someone who would buy a replacement for something that was worn out but then I’d keep both items for some reason. I think I used to keep things just in case! My poor husband is very minimal in his possessions and has never said a word about all the clutter everywhere but I don’t know how he put up with it.

I’ve had a lot of medical issues in the years we’ve been together and I think when you have hoarding tendencies illness can make it worse. I need to keep things I need close by me because I can’t walk more than a few steps, and I can’t carry anything but this would lead to a mountain of stuff next to my chair and my side of the bed because I would never put things away.

Anyway, last year I read Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy which led to me re-reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and these books just spoke to me. I could suddenly see that maybe I could make things different. On finishing those books I took every item of clothing I owned and piled it all on the bed. I had no concept of how much clothing I had and I was mortified by it all (It filled a 2.5 metre wide wardrobe and two chests of drawers). I’m housebound so I really didn’t need this many clothes. I had clothes that I’d not worn in years but kept because I’m sentimental (or because I might lose the weight, or I might gain some weight). Anyway, I got rid of about two thirds of my clothes that day!! I only kept the clothes I can wear now and that fitted me. I later emptied my clothes out of the wardrobe again when we got our new wardrobe delivered and got rid of even more clothes.

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These are the clothes I got rid of AFTER I’d already got rid of two thirds of my clothes! There is always more to get rid of it seems! 😉

Next I moved on to books, as recommended in the method. This was easier than I thought it would be because I’d got used to the idea of sparking joy and what mattered to me. Incidentally, sparking joy doesn’t just mean it makes you happy. I kept books that have made me weep when I read them because they matter deeply to me, and that’s what sparking joy means – keep only the things that matter to you. I got rid of about half of my books over the next few days.

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Some of the books that spark the most joy for me!

Up next was papers and this was hard work. I’m someone who keeps paperwork because I might need it some day. By this point I’d been following the method for a couple of weeks and knew I could get rid of a lot of papers but it was daunting having to sift through and look at everything so I didn’t actually throw away something important. I also scanned some documents that I needed to keep but didn’t need them taking up room in my file box. Now all my important papers are in one file box and not scattered in various boxes all over the house. The shredder is permanently plugged in and accessible so I can open my post and immediately get rid of junk or anything that I don’t need to keep or refer to again.

Komono was a scary category because it basically means everything that’s not clothes, books, papers or sentimental items! This part took me weeks to complete because I wanted to do it properly. It was also really hard because prior to starting KonMari my idea of having a sort out was buying pretty storage boxes and shoving all the stuff in them (out of sight, out of mind) but sorting through komono meant I had to face up to all that stuff. Some of my most sentimental items were wedged in boxes with general junk so I put those things to one side and got on with going through all of the other stuff. I ended up making myself a list of sub-categories and then putting stuff into corresponding boxes then working from there. It meant I could see how much I had of any one type of thing and it made it easier for me to get rid of all the excess. For example I had a load of stationary but I can’t physically write more than a few words any more so that all went to charity. I realised how much I’d stockpiled shower gel and shampoo etc so I kept all of that but organised it so I’d know when I finally needed to buy more.

The final category is Sentimental Items. This was a hard one to face sorting through but Marie Kondo insists you work through things in a set order (clothes, books, papers, komono and then sentimental items) so that by the time you get to the hardest things you have a much better sense of what’s important to you and you understand what really sparks joy. And even though it initially sounded so silly to me, it actually helped to mentally thank the items before I put them in the charity bags. I got rid of way more sentimental items than I expected to and I instantly felt better, like a weight was lifted off me. I’d finally given myself permission to not feel guilty and to stop holding onto things that don’t make me happy. I’d previously found it incredibly hard to get rid of things that my mum had given me because I knew that I’d never again have anything from her, but now I know that I had joy from those items and good memories and I don’t need to keep them if I don’t want to. Now my sentimental items are where I can see them and that brings me so much joy!

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This space in our living room used to have big shelves on it full of stuff. Now it’s light and I love seeing the space. (Excuse the terrible pic, I took it at night-time with my rubbish phone camera).

 

I think the hardest thing was getting my head around not sorting through what I would get rid of but coming at it from the angle of what I wanted to keep and then letting the rest go. Once I got used to that the method got easier and easier. Also the sparking joy thing was confusing at first because my vacuum cleaner sparks no joy but I soon got to grips with the fact that I could keep it because I like having clean floors and it’s my vacuum cleaner that allows me to have clean floors. I think once you get used to what sparking joy is and how it feels for you then you know what you need to keep and what you need to get rid of.

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(Every thing in this photo was got rid of… including the red armchair (it went to charity). We loved that chair but we never sat on it because it was always piled high with stuff. Once I’d finished de-cluttering we decided that we’d rather have the space than the chair so it went as well! This was our spare room that I filled with bags for charity or the tip… I didn’t get a photo when it was full. We got rid of things as soon as we had a car load but I reckon I could have filled the floor space in this room twenty or more times with the stuff I chucked out.)

I LOVE the vertical folding that Marie Kondo raves about. It’s amazing how much easier life is when you can see all of the tops in your drawer. I even fold my underwear and it’s a revelation! I will say that I found it hard to grasp what she meant in her descriptions of folding when I was reading the books but if you look on youtube there are loads of tutorial videos and it all makes sense once you see someone folding clothes her way.

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Vertical folding!

I also love the idea of using small boxes within drawers and cupboards to segment the space so things stay where they’re supposed to. I haven’t bought any boxes or containers for this – I’ve used Apple product boxes, shoe boxes etc. I find that the lids off boxes can be great to use as separators. Also if you have excess tupperware containers in your home – the ones you don’t need in the kitchen – can often be used in drawers to corral things. I definitely recommend using what you already have initially because you may find you don’t need to buy anything else.

Another tip while I’m on the subject is get things out of your house as soon as you can after you’ve decided you no longer want them. And don’t ever look in a bag or box once you’ve put stuff in there to be got rid of. It just makes you second guess yourself but if you’ve followed the method properly you already know that these are things you no longer want in your home.

I’m not in great health so going through the whole house took me a few months in the end but it was worth it. I finally finished in the summer last year and my house has stayed clutter-free ever since and is so easy to keep clean and tidy now. The KonMari influence hasn’t left me either – when I spot anything in my house that annoys me or that I don’t like anymore it goes straight in a box for the charity shop. I regularly look through my clothes and books and get rid of anything that no longer sparks joy. I’m not perfect but I feel like the stuff in our home is manageable now and tidying up is no longer an ordeal.

I’ve only watched one episode of  Tidying Up with Marie Kondo so far and I’m not sure that it really showed how the method works. The meme doing the rounds online about you only being allowed to keep 30 books is a myth! The rule that Marie Kondo has is that you only keep things that spark joy so when you go through your books, if a thousand of them genuinely spark joy and you have room to comfortably live with that many books then that is fine. So if you’ve been watching the show and are intrigued I would definitely recommend reading both of Marie Kondo’s books.

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This is just one of my post KonMari bookcases (I definitely still own more than thirty books!).

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These days space in my home matters to me more than hoarding stuff.

If you want to know if I have any regrets… I do have one! My one and only regret about doing the KonMari method is that I didn’t take any before photos! I got so swept up in just getting on with it that I forgot. I have noticed that when I look at photos from over the years that the background is always a mess, so that gives me a reminder of how far I’ve come. If you’re about to start sorting your home out I definitely recommend taking photos along the way!

(The photo on the left is an example of the background of a photo. The person didn’t want to be on my blog so I’ve cropped them out but you can still see the mountain of clutter in the shot. This was the room on a reasonably ‘tidy’ day, which shows how bad I was at my worst!).

 

 

I can honestly say that doing the KonMari method has changed my life. I feel so much happier and less stressed now our house isn’t crammed full of stuff. It’s so much easier to clean, and tidying up takes just a few minutes now. Our house feels so much bigger, and because I made so much space my husband was able to re-decorate our bedroom and living room last year so everywhere is much brighter now. In our bedroom we even have shelves with NOTHING on them and it feels so calming and peaceful! The old me would have seen an empty shelf and immediately put boxes full of stuff on them but not any more!

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My lovely EMPTY shelves! 

 

 

What was really lovely for me, and a moment when I knew I’d cracked my clutter issues, was after we’d taken a load of stuff to a local charity shop we were back in town and happened to pass this particular shop. The window display was predominantly my old belongings – there was a gorgeous skirt that I’d only worn once (because it was too hard for me to fasten it as my hands no longer work very well), a lovely dress (that I’d bought and worn to my mum’s funeral and then couldn’t bear to wear it again). There were shoes that I got rid of because I can only wear flat shoes that fit over my leg brace now. And some of my jewellery. My reaction to seeing it all in the window was genuinely that I knew someone was going to get a great bargain and a gorgeous item to wear, and the money would go to a charity close to my heart. There was no desire to go and buy all my stuff back, I was glad it was gone.

Marie Kondo’s method for tidying really has honestly changed my life and I am so grateful for it. It’s given me a new mindset and allowed me to let myself have a home I can enjoy. I’ve noticed that since completing the method that I approach everything from the standpoint of whether it makes me happy. My life generally has so much more joy in it now I’m not weighed down by stuff and guilt. I appreciate what I have so much more now and my home is a lovely place to be.

 

Have you watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo? Or read her books? What did you think? Are you tempted to start decluttering? I’d love to know what you think. 🙂

#BookReview: Ideal Angels by Robert Welbourn | @r_welbourn @unbound_digital @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Is it possible to keep secrets in the age of social media? When someone lives their entire life in the spotlight, what could they possibly hide from you? Ideal Angels explores just that. It s the story of one man, one woman, one week. They meet, fall in love, and never look back. Eloise s phone is never far away, furiously cataloguing their ups and downs. But there are always shadows, lurking just out of reach. The moments after the camera flashes, unseen, uncaptured. The threat of an inescapable doom. How much can one person change you? How much can one person be your downfall?

 

My Thoughts

Ideal Angels is about an unnamed protagonist who lives a normal, fairly underwhelming life going to work and coming home, spending a lot of his time alone. Then on a night out he meets Eloise and immediately feels a connection to her. They swap numbers and the next time they meet up things become intense very quickly. Eloise is obsessed with social media and records every little detail of their time together. He isn’t keen, he doesn’t use social media but he allows her to keep taking photos because he is infatuated with her.

I found myself swept up in Ideal Angels from the opening pages. It’s written in a stream of consciousness style a lot of the time so you very quickly get inside the narrator’s head and come to understand why he is the way he is. He maintains that he’s okay alone and doesn’t need anyone but he radiates loneliness. I worried for him when he met Eloise, it felt from the off that he was going to get his heart broken. She’s so vivacious and spontaneous and he just isn’t so I felt she would quickly pull away from him and he would be distraught. There is a sense of melancholy even in the happiness he has found, like he has the fear of it ending even as it’s just beginning. I think most of us can identify with that feeling – that moment when you know you’re in love with someone, and the realisation that you are so vulnerable now, so out there to be hurt.

I loved reading about these two falling in love over the week they spend together in this novel. There are moments of real joy and happiness, and I was rooting for it all to work out. The protagonist becomes more accepting of Eloise’s need to be sharing everything about their life online, yet is steadfast in his not wanting to be online himself. It’s as if he’s decided that as long as he’s not looking at her online profiles then it’s not like she’s really sharing every minute detail of their lives.

I can totally see how social media is an obsession for Eloise and why she needs to keep up her profile, and to play to her ‘friends’. We all want to be liked and these days having lots of twitter followers makes us feel part of things: validated. I first joined twitter almost ten years ago in the worst moments of my life, I was lonely and I had no one. There was always someone online to talk to, and it was such a friendly place back then. I still have friends now that I made back then, one of them became my husband! In the end twitter got too big, it was impossible to keep up and people were less and less chatty, it felt like shouting into a void. I tweeted less and less – I became much more like the protagonist in Ideal Angels, social media was something I was aware of but didn’t really participate in. It’s a double-edged sword – it can make you feel part of something, but it can also make you even more aware of how lonely and isolated you really are.

On a side note I loved the references to Hull in this book. I felt like I was right there with the protaganist and Eloise as he shows her where he grew up. I remember when the shopping centre stripped out all the interesting shops on the top floor and made into a cinema. And I spent many a night at the Welly back in the day. Perhaps it’s in part that I know those places but I really connected with how removed he felt that everything had changed. I guess we can all understand how sad it is to go back to a place from our past and find nothing is the same, we can’t keep things the same except in our memories. This seems like such a poignant moment for me, the realisation that the Eloises of this world are perhaps desperately trying to hold on to everything but it’s not possible to have that much control. Life moves on, things change. Social media isn’t always about people showing off to their followers, sometimes it’s trying to preserve something in order to feel like you have meaning.

In the end we come to see that both of these characters are struggling in their own ways. Eloise appears to be living a happy full life but really there’s no substance to the instagram side of her and she has insecurities underneath. As I came to see there were cracks under the surface I could see how these two people connected with each other so quickly and how they fell for each other.

From the very beginning of this novel I felt like I was going to get my heart broken by these characters, and this feeling lingered even in the happy moments. This novel is such a mirror of how life can be – it’s hard to live in the moment, and when you let yourself relax and be happy at the good life has brought you there can be such a sting in the tail.

This book is so prescient in the social media age we live in, and also with regards to its look at mental health. It’s a stunning novel and one that has really got under my skin, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since I finished reading. I loved the wry humour that runs through it, and also the beautiful way with words that Robert Welbourn has in his writing. And even though this novel broke my heart in the end, I completely and utterly fell in love with it. I can already say for sure that Ideal Angels will be one of my favourite books of 2019 because it’s such an incredible novel.

Ideal Angels is prescient, stunning and unforgettable! I highly recommend it!

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

Ideal Angels is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Robert Welbourn is Yorkshire born and bred – he’s lived there almost all his life, and now written a book set there. He’s had a passion for books as long as he can remember, and has been writing his whole life. His favourite authors are Bret Easton Ellis and Stephen King, and he cites Ellis as his number one influence.

He studied English Literature at Salford University, and this confirmed that he wanted to spend his life working with books. He currently works in marketing, but is hoping to spend his life telling stories.

Twitter@r_welbourn

 

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

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#BookReview: Only Child by Rhiannon Navin

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About the Book

We all went to school that Tuesday like normal. Not all of us came home.

When the unthinkable happens, six-year-old Zach is at school. Huddled in a cloakroom with his classmates and teacher, he is too young to understand that life will never be the same again.

Afterwards, the once close-knit community is left reeling. Zach’s dad retreats. His mum sets out to seek revenge. Zach, scared, lost and confused, disappears into his super-secret hideout to try to make sense of things. Nothing feels right – until he listens to his heart . . .

But can he remind the grown-ups how to love again?

 

My Thoughts

Only Child is about seven year old Zach and opens with him hiding in a cupboard at school with his teacher and classmates as gunshots ring out in the corridor. The police arrive and Zach is led to safety but we soon find out that his older brother was killed in the shooting. Zach is then left to try and make sense of what has happened and how to get through it.

Only Child has such a powerful opening chapter – the description, through a child’s eyes, of being huddled in a cupboard for safety was terrifying. It really made my heart race and I was hoping he would be okay. The book gradually moves towards being about how a family can ever begin to come to terms with losing a child in the way they did, but also how a young child can begin to get over such trauma.

It broke my heart when I, as an adult reader, could understand the minutiae of an argument but Zach had no concept other than that the adults around him were shouting and it was upsetting for him. It was horrible seeing him try to process his own grief while his parents were falling apart trying to work through their feelings. I can’t even imagine what it must be like but there were parts of this book that felt so visceral and real to me.

If I’m to be honest though I did struggle with this book having a child narrator at times as it did become repetitive in places – it was irritating how many times Zach tells us that someone ‘shook their head yes’. At other times it didn’t ring true that he was the age he was. We know he struggles with his reading and yet he can read the word sepulchre at the graveyard. These were small niggles though in a book that was otherwise very powerful and very moving.

Rhiannon Navin deals with this all-too-real subject with real sensitivity, and this is a powerful, gripping and very moving novel.

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

Only Child is out now and available here.

#BookReview: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

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About the Book

Everyone’s invited. Everyone’s a suspect.

Nine friends ring in the New Year in the remote Scottish Highlands.

As the curtain falls on another year, the celebrations begin.

The next 48 hours see the friends catching up, reminiscing over past stories, scratching old wounds. . . And guarding friendship-destroying secrets.

The clock has barely struck 12 when a broken body is found in the snow.

Not an accident – a murder among friends.

When a thick blizzard descends, the group are trapped.

No-one can get in. And no-one can get out.

Not even the killer.

 

My Thoughts

The Hunting Party has such a great premise – the idea of a group of old friends from university days going on holiday together along with their partners, and ending up stuck in a remote Scottish location due to the heavy snowfall is irresistible to me!

The Hunting Party is a little different from other novels that I’ve read with a similar premise in that we know from the start that one of the party has been murdered but we don’t know who. The novel goes back and forth in time across the whole weekend and gradually you start to have your suspicions about who might have been killed and who might be the killer. Part of me would have preferred to know who was killed so I could enjoy trying to work out who was most likely to want that person dead, but another part of me enjoyed being kept guessing about all of it. It meant I was suspicious of everyone, and also judging each of their actions more harshly than I otherwise might because I knew one of them would turn out to be a killer!

There are multiple characters in this book but it’s easy to keep track of them as they all have their own characteristics. None of them are particularly likeable but I can’t help but enjoy novels where no one is my type of person. It really works in this book as you see the events unfold and slowly work out who is dead and who might have killed them.

It always fascinates me to read novels where people are still friends with people they knew from school or university. We change so much in the years from uni to our late 20s and lives become so different so when a group is clinging on to what they once had it’s only going to be a recipe for trouble in a novel. I think friendships only truly survive if you continue to have solid things in common rather than trying to force it. The group in this book for the most part are definitely trying to recreate their youth and to recapture a bond that they once had.

This is a great novel to read at this time of year as the sense of cold and snow and isolation is perfect for winter. This is a new take on the locked room mystery and I recommend it for curling up on the sofa with a cup of hot chocolate and a blanket as the cold winter weather swirls around outside!

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

The Hunting Party is out now in ebook and is due for release in hardback on 24th January. Buy Link.

#BookReview: The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

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About the Book

ALICIA
Alicia Berenson writes a diary as a release, an outlet – and to prove to her beloved husband that everything is fine. She can’t bear the thought of worrying Gabriel, or causing him pain.

Until, late one evening, Alicia shoots Gabriel five times and then never speaks another word.

THEO
Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is convinced he can successfully treat Alicia, where all others have failed. Obsessed with investigating her crime, his discoveries suggest Alicia’s silence goes far deeper than he first thought.

And if she speaks, would he want to hear the truth?

 

My Thoughts

The Silent Patient is about Alicia who, seemingly out of nowhere, murders her husband, Gabriel. Before the murder they seemed like the perfect couple: she a successful artist and he a successful photographer. Now Gabriel is dead and Alicia is rendered mute, she’s held in a secure psychiatric unit and no one has been able to get through to her. The novel is narrated by Theo, a psychotherapist, who becomes convinced that he can treat Alicia and get her talking again.

The Silent Patient has been calling to me from my TBR ever since I was sent an ARC last year and I finally picked it up yesterday afternoon. I literally read it non-stop as it grabbed me from the opening chapter and kept me gripped right until the very end! Even after I finished reading I was still thinking about it!

This is a novel that is predominantly told from Theo’s perspective but it’s interspersed with Alicia’s journal entries. It’s a great way of telling this story as we find out more about Theo and then about Alicia, and you can see how he becomes fixated on helping her, you see that there are similarities between them. Theo speaks to a handful of people who knew Alicia before the murder and he begins to build up a picture of the person she was, and it gets you thinking about whether she really could have killed her husband and you also wonder about the why. Then you get Alicia’s perspective through her diary entries which has you second guessing what you’d previously thought.

I loved the different ways silence was looked at in this book – Alicia was literally silent in this novel but we see other ways in which people are sidelined in their own lives, who hide their history and who keep their pain locked away. There are many ways to be silenced and many ways of showing you are silenced and this runs through this novel. So many of us have things in our lives that we can’t or won’t talk about, and you see this all through The Silent Patient. If only people talked more then maybe damage wouldn’t be wrought upon damage throughout the years. But then it also made me think of how sometimes silence is the only thing left to someone who had been made a victim; how a person can find strength in their refusal to give others what they want – their story, their voice.

The Silent Patient kept me on my toes all the way through. Initially my brain was ticking away trying to work out what was going on as I was reading (and I had about four or five different theories but none of them quite fit) but I ended up so completely engrossed in the story that I was utterly stunned when the reveal happens! It’s not often that a novel grabs me to that degree and shocks me as much as this one so it deserves all of the praise!

There’s not a lot more I can say about The Silent Patient because it’s a book best read without knowing too much about it. I honestly can’t praise it highly enough though – it’s the perfect psychological thriller and I definitely recommend that you pre-order a copy now!

The Silent Patient is very clever, utterly twisted and downright brilliant!

 

Many thanks to Poppy at Orion for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

The Silent Patient is due to be published on 7th February in hardback and ebook and can be pre-ordered here.

BookReview: The Rumour by Lesley Kara #TheRumour

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About the Book

When single mum Joanna hears a rumour at the school gates, she never intends to pass it on. But one casual comment leads to another and now there’s no going back . . .

Rumour has it that a notorious child killer is living under a new identity, in their sleepy little town of Flinstead-on-Sea.

Sally McGowan was just ten years old when she stabbed little Robbie Harris to death forty-eight years ago – no photos of her exist since her release as a young woman.

So who is the supposedly reformed killer who now lives among them? How dangerous can one rumour become? And how far will Joanna go to protect her loved ones from harm, when she realizes what it is she’s unleashed?

 

My Thoughts

The Rumour is a novel about the damage that gossip can do, and also about whether people who’ve done a terrible thing as a child can ever be allowed to make a new start as an adult. This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2018 and I finally got to read it this week and it was everything I hoped it would be, and more!

I was gripped by The Rumour from the opening pages! It was unsettling to be reading, and sitting in judgement, of the women at the school gates gossiping about a rumour one of them had heard that child killer Sally McGowan was living in their midst whilst at the same time immediately wanting to know whether this was true or not! At heart there is maybe something in all of us that can’t resist salacious gossip and this book really plays to that.

The novel also explores very cleverly the repercussions of the gossip in the town too. A woman is falsely believed to be the killer and her life is left damaged by the rumour. Other women who are of a similar age as Sally McGowan are looked at with suspicion. It must be horrible to feel in danger when you’re innocent. It also made me think about what it must be like to have done something so awful as a child and to have served your time and to be deemed to be rehabilitated but then it’s always there. Even with a new identity the media, and the gossips, will never quite leave it alone.

I really liked Joanna in this novel, although I did find her a little naive at times, she was clearly someone who wanted to do the best for her son and to make a life for herself in this town they’ve recently moved to. She tries to make friends with some other mums in order to help her son make friends, which is how she ends up fuelling the gossip with her own take on the rumour.

Lesley Kara captures small town mentality so perfectly. I grew up in a smallish town where everyone knew everyone else’s business. Gossip was right around the town before the subject of the gossip would even know about it. I found it so claustrophobic as I got a bit older and I’m glad not to live there anymore. The Rumour really captures how gossip spreads in small towns, and also the reasons why people gossip. Often no harm is meant but that doesn’t mean no harm is caused.

The Rumour is full of red herrings, and this makes for such a rollercoaster of a read. I loved that when I thought I had it all worked out there was a sting in the tail. The Rumour is a brilliant, fast-paced and unputdownable novel and I’m already thinking that it is highly likely to be on my best books of 2019! It was that good!

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

The Rumour is out now and available here.

#BookReview: The Perfect Girlfriend by Karen Hamilton | @KJHAuthor @Wildfirebks @Bookish_Becky

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About the Book

Juliette loves Nate. She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back. She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

 

My Thoughts

I was very lucky to be sent an ARC of The Perfect Girlfriend last year but I didn’t manage to read it at the time. I finally picked it up yesterday and I read the whole novel in one sitting!

The Perfect Girlfriend is the story of Juliette. She has trained to be a flight attendant in order to keep a close eye on Nate, who is a pilot. Nate was Juliette’s boyfriend until he broke up with her six months ago but now Juliette is determined to prove to him that she is the perfect girlfriend and that he should be with her!

This novel has such a good premise and I was intrigued by it from the moment I first heard about it. The idea of someone going to such lengths as to train in a new career in order to try and get their ex back is worrying but a fantastic idea for a book! This is a real insight into the mind of a stalker, someone who is so obsessed by a previous lover that they simply can’t let go. They believe that what they want is what will make the other person happy and so pursue that life at all costs.

Juliette is a brilliant character. Initially I felt a little sorry for her, she’s clearly got issues but she’s had some really difficult times in her life so I was hoping she would get herself together. As the novel goes on she is harder and harder to like but impossible to stop reading about. She is increasingly unhinged as she steps up her campaign to get Nate back and there are moments when I was holding my breath hoping that all would be okay in the end. This is a novel that slowly builds the tension, it creeps up on you and before you know it you’re on the edge of your seat hoping that real life won’t interrupt your reading time!

The Perfect Girlfriend is fast-paced, creepy and impossible to put down – I recommend it! I’m already eagerly anticipating whatever Karen Hamilton writes next!

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

The Perfect Girlfriend is out today in paperback and available here.

#BookReview: The Story Keeper by Anna Mazzola | @Anna_Mazz @TinderPress @annecater

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About the Book

From the author of The Unseeing comes a sizzling period novel of folktales, disappearances and injustice set on the Isle of Skye, sure to appeal to readers of Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites or Beth Underdown’s The Witch Finder’s Sister.

Audrey Hart is on the Isle of Skye to collect the folk and fairy tales of the people and communities around her. It is 1857, and the Highland Clearances have left devastation and poverty and a community riven by fear. The crofters are suspicious and hostile to a stranger, claiming they no longer know their fireside stories.

Then Audrey discovers the body of a young girl washed up on the beach, and the crofters reveal that it is only a matter of weeks since another girl disappeared. They believe the girls are the victims of the restless dead: spirits who take the form of birds.

Initially, Audrey is sure the girls are being abducted, but as events accumulate she begins to wonder if something else is at work. Something which may be linked to the death of her own mother many years before.

 

My Thoughts

Audrey Hart is a young woman who has left London to travel to Skye to work collecting folk tales from the local area. Her late mother had also been interested in folklore and had traveled to areas nearby so she is also wanting to know more about her. She moves in with Mrs Buchanan, the lady who she’ll be collecting the tales for, and begins to settle in. Soon after her arrival she finds a body on the beach and from this point on real life begins to blur with the folklore for Audrey.

The Story Keeper is a fantastic novel. The writing is wonderful and so atmospheric. I felt the oppressive atmosphere in a small place where people are very insular and don’t want to share their lives and their stories with incomers.

Audrey is a great character. I was in awe of her travelling from London to Skye on her own in a time when this would have been a scary and courageous thing for a young woman to do alone. I felt for her at the lack of a mother in her life, I know what it’s like to lose your mum and could see how lost she was and how at the root of everything she was looking to find a sense of her mum somewhere. As Audrey began to get more and more drawn into the folklore and to see some of the happenings that the islanders spoke about I was really hoping that she was going to be okay. I was rooting for her to be able to make a home and a life, and to feel settled again.

There is so much mystery in this novel and I loved how it was possible to find yourself believing that there must be something in the folklore as the horrible things happening on the island were so similar to the stories, whilst at the same time the rational side of your brain is thinking that there must be another reason for the coincidences and odd happenings.

I got so absorbed in this novel and felt really jolted when real life brought me back to where I was. It’s not often that a novel captures me to that degree and it was wonderful to be so enthralled. The Story keeper is a brilliant, atmospheric and utterly gripping novel and I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Anne at Random Things Tours and the publisher for my copy of The Story Keeper and the invitation to be on the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Story Keeper is out now in hardback and ebook, and can be pre-ordered in paperback here.

 

About the Author

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Anna is a writer who, due to some fault of her parents, is drawn to peculiar and dark historical subjects. Her novels, which have been described as literary crime fiction or historical crime, explore the psychological and social impact of crime and injustice. Anna’s influences include Sarah Waters, Daphne Du Maurier, Shirley Jackson and Margaret Atwood.

 

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

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#BookReview: The Liar’s Girl by Catherine Ryan Howard @cathryanhoward @CorvusBooks #TheLiarsGirl @annecater

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About the Book

Her first love confessed to five murders.

The truth was so much worse.

Will Hurley, Dublin’s notorious Canal Killer, is in prison, ten years into a life sentence.

His ex-girlfriend, Alison, has built a new life abroad, putting her shattered past behind her.

Then the copycat killings start. Will holds the key to unlocking these crimes, but he’ll only talk to Alison. Can the killer be stopped before there’s another senseless murder? And after all these years, can Alison face the past – and the man – she’s worked so hard to forget?

 

My Thoughts

The Liar’s Girl is the story of Alison, who meets the love of her life at university but then her life spirals when her best friend is murdered and her boyfriend Will is arrested for the killing. The novel is told predominantly from Alison’s perspective in a dual timeline: in the past when she’s at Uni and in the present ten years later as she’s trying to build a life for herself. Things begin to unravel when a copycat killer is on the loose and the police want Alison to come back to Dublin to speak to Will about what he might know.

The Liar’s Girl opens with a scene that was so unnerving. A young woman comes round in a house, obviously in the aftermath of a small party or gathering of other young people. She’s clearly had a drink but she’s aware that something’s really not right. Then she sees something which chills her to the bone and she runs. My adrenaline was racing as I read it and I just knew this was going to be a brilliant read (and I was so right!).

I liked Alison from the start of this novel and felt such sympathy for her at all she had been through. It’s clearly damaged her and affected her ability to form relationships with men, and she never feels like she can be honest about knowing Will or Liz. It must be so difficult to feel you have to keep such secrets. You can see from the start that Alison and Liz had a complicated friendship that is so common in the teenage years. One is often more of a leader than the other, and that leaves the other to feel like they’re just following along without really knowing who they are. When Liz and Alison get to Uni and Alison meets her flatmate and then Will she begins to grow in confidence, but then the murders happen. All through the novel I was hoping Alison would find the strength to come to terms with all the complex emotions she’d buried from the past.

I did work out some aspects of how this novel would end, although I had my doubts about a couple of the characters before I settled on a theory, but this never spoiled my enjoyment of the book as I wanted to know why and how.

The Liar’s Girl had perfect pacing for me – it’s quite a slow-burn, allowing the reader to get to know Alison and letting the tension build up, while at the same time being such a fast read because once you start reading you just don’t want to put it down! The novel is predominantly about Alison and about how the murders are investigated but it’s interspersed with creepy moments from the killer’s perspective that definitely get the adrenaline going!

The Liar’s Girl is gripping, thrilling and impossible to put down! I read this in one sitting and absolutely loved it! I definitely recommend this one!

Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Corvus for my copy of The Liar’s Girl and my invitation to be on the blog tour.

The Liar’s Girl is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Catherine Ryan Howard was born in Cork, Ireland, in 1982. Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida, and most recently was a social media marketer for a major publisher. She is currently studying for a BA in English at Trinity College Dublin. Her debut novel Distress Signalswas published by Corvus in 2016 and was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger.

 

 

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

the liar's girl blog tour poster

Mini Crime and Thriller Book Reviews! #bookreview

I didn’t quite catch up on reviewing the books that I read in 2018 before the end of the year so here is another mini book review post 🙂

 

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A Noise Downstairs by Linwood Barclay

I’ve read and enjoyed a couple of Barclay’s previous novels but A Noise Downstairs is by far my favourite of his to date. It was creepy and unnerving, and even when I was on the edge of my seat I simply couldn’t put this book down because I had to know how it was going to end. I do enjoy books where the premise could be that there is someone setting someone up to think they’re going mad, or the person could actually be losing their grip on reality and this book does this so well.  I did find I had to suspend disbelief with some aspects of this novel but it didn’t make it any less enjoyable, and the end when it comes is shocking and disturbing. I definitely recommend it!

 

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The Mystery of Three Quarters by Sophie Hannah

This is the first of Sophie Hannah’s takes on Agatha Christie that I’ve read and I did really enjoy it. My favourite thing about Christie is the puzzle element, her novels don’t always feel grounded in reality for me but the puzzle is always brilliant and I think Hannah did a good job with this. This book’s mystery was one that I managed to figure out elements of but not the whole thing, something that’s rare for me with Poirot but I liked feeling like I had a chance of solving the crime. I’ll definitely be picking up more of Sophie Hannah’s Poirot books and I’m really looking forward to reading them.

 

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All the Hidden Truths by Claire Askew

This is a stunning novel about the aftermath of a college shooting. It follows three characters as they are forced to face up to what has happened in their community. One is the mother of the shooter, then there is the mother of the first girl to be shot, and the third is the detective in charge of the investigation. The novel actually starts the day before and the build up is so tense because you know what’s going to happen but you’re not sure how or when. The three viewpoints make this such a heartbreaking read as we learn more about these women and their lives, and how the devastation has affected them. I highly recommend this novel.

 

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Bluebird Bluebird by Attica Locke

This is a beautifully written but also devastating novel looking at a community dealing with the aftermath of two apparent murders – one of a black man and the other of a white woman. The racial tensions within the town play a large part in how each person views everyone else. It felt quite claustrophobic at times, like I was right there in the town and seeing this situation unfold with my own eyes. I found this book so unsettling, and yet really hard to put down. This is an excellent, prescient and really important read. I definitely need to read more of Attica Locke’s work this year.

#BookReview: Attend by West Camel | @west_camel @OrendaBooks @AnneCater #Attend

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About the Book

When Sam falls in love with Deptford thug Derek, and Anne’s best friend Kathleen takes her own life, they discover they are linked not just by a world of drugs and revenge; they also share the friendship of the uncanny and enigmatic Deborah.
Seamstress, sailor, story-teller and self-proclaimed centenarian immortal, Deborah slowly reveals to Anne and Sam her improbable, fantastical life, an exquisite history of hidden Deptford and, ultimately, the solution to their crises.

 

My Thoughts

Attend follows three characters – Deborah, Anne and Sam. Deborah is very old and is invisible to most people these days. Her story is told is mostly told in chapters about her younger years but she also tells her stories to those who listen. Anne is a recovering drug addict and is struggling to find where she fits in her life now she’s no longer using drugs. Sam is looking for something or someone, he also seems a bit lost.

Attend is a hard book to describe, it was such a different read for me but I can assure you that it’s a beautiful novel. Deborah’s story was fascinating; she has really been through a lot in her life and she just wants it to come to an end now. I felt sorry for Anne as she struggled to fit with her mother and daughter, it seems like now she’s clean no one has any faith in her that she will stay clean. I felt like this fed into Anne’s insecurities and it was as if she then didn’t have any faith or confidence in herself. Sam had a tragedy in his past and he’s not yet come to terms with what happened. He looks to hook up with men to try and ease his uneasiness but really he’s looking for someone to love him, to believe in him.

The cover of this book is so utterly perfect as this novel really is a story about how the threads of a person’s life become part of the tapestry of someone else’s life. Deborah is fixated on the fabric that she’s carried with her all of her life as it carries her story, the story of how she came to be. She shares these stories with Anne and with Sam and gradually you can see that those threads, those stories are seeping into them. They believe in Deborah and she keeps talking to them because they need these stories. They don’t know that they need them but they do, it’s these stories that will help heal them. It also made me think about the way our lives are interwoven with others, how we cross paths with people who mean nothing to us but somewhere down the line we end up connected to their life in some way.

I didn’t expect this to be a book that moved me but I actually shed tears at the end. This book defies genre in many ways but if a book can make you feel things then genre doesn’t matter because emotion is the mark of a wonderful novel. I don’t have the words to describe Attend other than to say it’s beautiful, incredible and unforgettable. I can’t wait to read whatever West Camel writes next!

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

Attend is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Born and bred in south London – and not the Somerset village with which he shares a name – West Camel worked as an editor in higher education and business before turning his attention to the arts and publishing.  He has worked as a book and arts journalist, and was editor at Dalkey Archive Press, where he edited the Best European Fiction 2015 anthology, before moving to new press Orenda Books just after its launch.  He currently combines his work as editor at Orenda with writing and editing a wide range of material for various arts organisations, including ghost-writing a New-Adult novel and editing The Rivetermagazine for the European Literature Network. He has also written several short scripts, which have been produced in London’s fringe theatres, and was longlisted for the Old Vic’s 12 playwrights project. Attend is his first novel.

 

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

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#BookReview: The Present by Charlotte Phillips

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About the Book

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me … one romantic Christmas you won’t forget.

When helping to clear out her beloved grandmother’s home, Lucy Jackson discovers twelve beautiful Christmas decorations hidden in the loft. As she discovers their heartbreaking story, a touching romance develops with the handsome gardener next door.

My Thoughts

The Present is about Lucy, who is in the middle of trying to clear her beloved Grandmother Olive’s house to ready it for sale. Olive has had a fall and is in hospital so Lucy wants to move her in with her and her partner. It’s close to Christmas and Lucy is busy with planning for the holidays and really struggling with going through Olive’s belongings as it’s bringing up so many memories of her own childhood.

This novel is everything I want in a Christmas story, it really is a beautiful read. I felt so moved by Lucy having to sort her Gran’s things out, and not having support from her partner. I know what it’s like to have to clear out a loved one’s home and it’s so hard to let their things go. The antique Christmas ornaments that she finds in a dark corner of the attic are described in such a way that I could really envisage them and was excited to follow Lucy’s journey to work out what meaning they held for her Gran.

Olive’s handyman Jack is busy fixing up the house and he ends up helping Lucy empty the attic and gets drawn into the mystery of the ornaments. It was so lovely that Lucy found someone who wanted to help her and took an interest in what she’d found as her boyfriend just seemed so cold and disinterested. I was rooting for Lucy to find happiness throughout this novel and really hoping she would find a way to hold on to her Gran’s house.

Both Jack and Lucy begin to feel more reflective about their own lives as they discover more about Olive’s past. They each carry sadness about the people they’ve lost and gradually seem to help each other by sharing memories as the novel goes on. I loved this aspect of the novel because it is how grief is, it catches up with you eventually and when you find someone who really understands it eventually helps ease some of the pain you carry. There is a real message in this book about remembering and finding a way to carry lost loved ones with you, it’s so beautiful.

This is a gorgeous novel is set in the lead up to Christmas and all the nostalgia of the ornaments and then the back story of Olive’s life makes for a lovely, heart-warming read at this time of year. I definitely recommend this book!

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

The Present is out now and available here.

About the Author

Writer of funny, sassy, sexy stories for Harlequin KISS/Mills & BOON ModernTempted and HarperImpulse.

Also mum to three kids and a mad dachshund and terrible housewife to a heroic husband who doesn’t notice he is living in a hovel. Loves her sofa, her SkyPlus, her Apple TV and her pyjamas.

#BookReview: No One Cancels Christmas by Zara Stoneley

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About the Book

It’s the most magical time of the year, and for travel agent Sarah it’s also the busiest! But this year one man threatens to ruin Christmas for Sarah’s customers – Mr Grinch, Will Armstrong.

The Shooting Star Mountain resort is a magical place, and Sarah has fond memories of Christmas here as a little girl. But as the resorts new owner, Will refuses to play snowball or to deck the halls with anything remotely resembling holly!

With customers complaining their Christmas is ruined, Sarah decides it’s up to her to convince gorgeous but Scroogey Will just how magical Christmas can be…

 

My Thoughts

No One Cancels Christmas is about travel agent Sarah who is sad to see complaints about her favourite Christmas holiday resort – The Shooting Star Mountain Resort and resolves to do something about it. The new owner, Will, seems to be be unwilling to listen to Sarah so she decides she has to do something herself to turn it around.

This book opens with Sarah sending a series of stroppy emails to Will, one by accident, and this was very amusing. I was keen to see what would happen when Sarah decides to go to the resort to confront Will in person.

This novel wasn’t as full-on festive as I was hoping it would be but there are Christmas things sprinkled throughout. Initially the resort is really sad and tired, there is no sign of Christmas being near but Sarah throws herself into bringing the holiday season to Shooting Star and as she begins to work her magic the Christmas spirit begins to shine through the pages.

I liked that there was more depth to this novel than it just being a Christmas romance. Sarah was abandoned by her parents at Shooting Star resort as a young child and ended up living with her aunt so she has unresolved pain to work through. Will has his demons too and gradually we find out exactly what happened to each of them.

All in all this was a lovely novel to read near Christmas and I would recommend it. It’s definitely fun and romantic, and there’s lots of snow!

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

No One Cancels Christmas is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Author Zara Stoneley has been writing stories for just about as long as she’s been reading them. She sold her first erotic novel in 2012. Her stories have featured on romance and erotic bestseller lists in the US and UK. Zara divides her time between a country cottage in the UK and a Barcelona apartment.

#BookReview: Odette by Jessica Duchen | @JessicaDuchen @Unbound_Digital @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #Odette

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About the Book

When a swan crashes through her window at the height of a winter storm, Mitzi Fairweather decides to nurse the injured bird back to health. At sunset, though, it becomes a human being.

This unexpected visitor is Odette, the swan princess – alone, in danger and adrift in 21st-century Britain, dependent on the kindness of strangers. Bird by day, woman by night, with no way to go home to Russia, she remains convinced that only a man’s vow of eternal love can break her spell.

Mitzi is determined to help Odette, but as the two try to hide the improbable truth, their web of deception grows increasingly tangled…

A contemporary twist on Swan LakeOdette asks – in the best tradition of fairy tales – whether against all the odds, hope, empathy and humanity can win the day.

 

My Thoughts

I loved reading fairytales as a child – I still have my huge works of Hans Christian Anderson and Brothers Grimm from childhood and I still love finding adaptations of my favourite fairytales so I was delighted to get the chance to read Odette by Jessica Duchen for the blog tour. I’m really pleased to say that I adored this novel!

Odette is the story of Mitzi, who one day during a storm has a swan fly in through her living room window. Mitzi seeks help for the swan and is determined to nurse it back to health but the next morning she discovers a young woman, Odette, in place of the swan. Odette is a swan princess trapped in this life of being a swan during the night and a woman during the day until she finds true love. Mitzi decides to let Odette live with her and is determined to help her.

I felt a connection to Mitzi very quickly in this novel. I know how it feels to be facing Christmas after losing a parent, and it’s hard. She misses her father terribly and doesn’t know how to even begin to work through her grief and to come to terms with him being gone. She is looking for something or someone to fill the void in her life and Odette seems to appear at just the right moment.

Odette and Mitzi help each other throughout this novel. Mitzi shows Odette what a normal life in the 21st century is like, and Odette gives some comfort and solace to a lonely Mitzi. The friendship that grows between them isn’t always straightforward but it’s believable and genuine and I wanted somehow for this to be enough for Odette to be able to stay.

Of course, this being based on the fairytale means there is a romantic interest or two, and there is also the bad guy that wants to stop Odette from finding love. I really enjoyed seeing Odette dating and learning about modern men. I have to be honest that I got so wrapped up in Odette’s new-found happiness with her friend and potential lover that I forgot to look out for the bad guy so when the reveal comes I wasn’t expecting to be who it was. It’s not often that I don’t spot things coming in a novel so this is testament to the wonderful writing!

This is a take on a fairytale but it’s also a very modern novel. Odette experiences trying to get a job and not understanding how things work because of the language barrier, and this is how it must be for refugees and newcomers to a country. I also loved the way that it looks at whether love between friends can be as fulfilling as romantic love. It really is a novel that can be taken in different ways and I really appreciated that.

Odette is a beautiful novel and is one that I think will make my top books of the year as I adored it. It’s been on my mind ever since I finished reading it and I know I will read it again in the future. I definitely recommend this book.

Odette is a beautiful, magical and moving novel, I loved it!

Many thanks to Unbound and Anne of RandomThingsTours for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Odette is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Jessica Duchen is an acclaimed author and journalist, specialising in words for, with and about music. Her work has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, plus numerous magazines around the world. Her first five novels have gathered a loyal fan-base and wide acclaim. Music plays a vital role in her books, and she frequently narrates concert versions of Alicia’s Gift, Hungarian Dancesand Ghost Variations.

Jessica is the librettist for the opera Silver Birchby Roxanna Panufnik, commissioned by Garsington Opera and shortlisted for a 2018 International Opera Award. Current projects include the libretto for a youth opera with composer Paul Fincham for Garsington 2019 (an updating of an Oscar Wilde fairy tale) and two large-scale choral works with Roxanna Panufnik.

She was born within the sound of Bow Bells, studied music at Cambridge and held editorial posts on several music magazines before going freelance to concentrate on writing. She edited a piano magazine for five years and was then classical music and ballet correspondent for The Independent from 2004-2016. Her output also includes plays, poetry, biographies of the composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Gabriel Fauré (published by Phaidon) and her popular classical music blog, JDCMB. She lives in London with her violinist husband and two cats. She enjoys playing the piano, cookery, long walks and obscure books about music.

 

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

Odette Blog Tour Poster

#BookReview: Bone Lines by Stephanie Bretherton | @BrethertonWords @Unbounders @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours #BoneLines

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About the Book

A young woman walks alone through a barren landscape in a time before history, a time of cataclysmic natural change. She is cold, hungry and with child but not without hope or resources. A skilful hunter, she draws on her intuitive understanding of how to stay alive… and knows that she must survive.

In present-day London, geneticist Dr Eloise Kluft wrestles with an ancient conundrum as she unravels the secrets of a momentous archaeological find. She is working at the forefront of contemporary science but is caught in the lonely time-lock of her own emotional past.

Bone Lines is the story of two women, separated by millennia yet bound by the web of life. A tale of love and survival – of courage and the quest for wisdom – it explores the nature of our species and asks what lies at the heart of being human.

Although partly set during a crucial era of human history 74,000 years ago, Bone Lines is very much a book for our times. Dealing with themes from genetics, climate change and migration to the yearning for meaning and the clash between faith and reason, it also paints an intimate portrait of two extraordinary characters. The book tackles some of the big questions but requires no prior or special knowledge of any of the subjects to enjoy.

Bone Lines stands alone as a novel but also marks the beginning of the intended ‘Children of Sarah’ series.

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to have the chance to read and review Bone Lines for the blog tour as it’s a book I’d seen and was curious about. I’m really pleased to say that I very much enjoyed it.

Bone Lines is set in two time lines. Eloise is geneticist in present day London and is going to be working on a skull that has been found, it’s a major archeological find and she knows this is going to be such important work. The novel also follows a woman 74,000 years ago. We see her give birth out in the open and then her struggles to keep herself and her child alive and well. The skull that Eloise is working with is named Sarah, and it’s apparent that this is the woman from the past.

I’ll be honest and say that initially I did find this novel a little hard to get into, I wasn’t sure where it was going and it’s so different from anything else that I’ve read in quite a while. A few chapters in though I felt it all began to make sense to me and I could see parallels between modern woman and the woman 74,000 years ago. At this point this book became compelling for me and I struggled to put it down.

Sarah clearly has a very difficult life, she is separated from her family and is unsure where exactly she is and whether she will ever encounter people she can join with again. She is terrified of anything happening to her child and is very protective. I felt such an emotional connection to Sarah. The way she honours the dead from her family, and the way she remembers her mother and longs for her after her child is born was incredibly moving. It really got to me in a way that I wasn’t expecting, I ignorantly assumed I wouldn’t really understand a woman who lived so long ago but this novel really made me think about how longing for our mothers, needing their support and protection at various times in our lives is such a universal human emotion. The book leaves you wondering if this innate feeling is genetic, or if it’s entirely just an emotional connection to the past.

Eloise is struggling with the issues that come with being a professional woman – ideas around having children, not having a husband etc that people often want to know about. She’s also working hard to discover if there’s a genetic link to suicide. She looks for answers about everything within science and is sure there are answers to be found. When she’s really finding it tough she starts writing letters to Charles Darwin, and while this might sound like a gimmick it actually really works within the book. It gave more insight into how Eloise thinks and feels and shows her ambition and why she strives in the way she does.

The further you get into the novel the more you see the parallels between the two women. The way they are both searching for a place to belong, a place where they fit in and feel safe. Sarah ponders on finding another group she can settle with, and Eloise seems to be looking for something that’s missing in her own life. It really opened my eyes to the universality of what humans are seeking, in spite of the circumstances of their life.

This is a beautifully written novel that explores science, evolution and emotion. It’s such an enjoyable read whilst also giving you something to think about. I’m so glad that I got the chance to read this, it feels like a book that will really stay with me. It’s made me want to read more about the period that Sarah was living and to understand how we got from there to here. I’m delighted to see that while this book stands on its own that a sequel is planned, I will definitely pre-order this book when it’s available!

A powerful, moving and fascinating novel!

Many thanks to the publisher and Anne at RandomThingsTours for my copy of the book. All thoughts are my own.

Bone Lines is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Stephanie Bretherton Author Pic

 

Who do you think you are? A daunting question for the debut author… but also one to inspire a genre-fluid novel based on the writer’s fascination for what makes humanity tick. Born in Hong Kong to expats from Liverpool (and something of a nomad ever since) Stephanie is now based in London, but manages her sanity by escaping to any kind of coast

Before returning to her first love of creative writing, Stephanie spent much of her youth pursuing alternative forms of storytelling, from stage to screen and media to marketing. For the past fifteen years Stephanie has run her own communications and copywriting company specialised in design, architecture and building. In the meantime an enduring love affair with words and the world of fiction has led her down many a wormhole on the written page, even if the day job confined such adventures to the weekends.

Drawn to what connects rather than separates, Stephanie is intrigued by the spaces between absolutes and opposites, between science and spirituality, nature and culture. This lifelong curiosity has been channelled most recently into her debut novel, Bone Lines. When not bothering Siri with note-taking for her next books and short stories, Stephanie can be found pottering about with poetry, or working out what worries/amuses her most in an opinion piece or an unwise social media post. Although, if she had more sense or opportunity she would be beachcombing, sailing, meditating or making a well-disguised cameo in the screen version of one of her stories. (Wishful thinking sometimes has its rewards?)

 

Website: http://www.stephaniebretherton.com/

Twitter : @BrethertonWords

Instagram: @brethertonwords2

 

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

Bone Lines 2 Blog Tour Poster

Mini Book Reviews | Feminism, Strong Women, Thrillers and Messed-Up Romance! #BookReview

I have some more mini book reviews to share with you all today! I’m slowly catching up now. 🙂

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Him by Clare Empson

This book was incredible, I read it months ago now and have put off reviewing it because it’s impossible to put into words what I thought of it. In the present day Catherine has elective mutism, something traumatic has happened to her and now she can’t speak. It’s heart-breaking knowing the pain she’s in, and the struggle she’s having while knowing she can’t articulate what she’s thinking. In the past, fifteen years previously we slowly get to see Catherine and Lucien’s story. Lucien is from a different walk of life to Catherine and spends his time with his friends being rather unlikeable. Catherine and Lucien had a passionate and fiery relationship. The book flicks between the past and the present and we see Catherine and Lucien’s perspectives. Gradually we begin to see why these two fell for each other and a sense of unease begins to build as to why Catherine has ended up unable to speak. The end when it comes is a shock and left me breathless. This is one of those books that is impossible to do justice to but it’s beautifully written, compelling and just brilliant. I highly recommend this on. I’m already looking forward to whatever Clare Empson writes next!

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The Dark Path / You Were Made For This by Michelle Sacks

I read this novel when it was called You Were Made For this but I believe it’s now been re-titled The Dark Path. I prefer the first title but the new one works too. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started this novel but it wasn’t what I got (and that’s a good thing!). It initially seems that Merry is the perfect mother to her young baby – she bakes, gardens and supports her husband whilst looking after their child. Sam is busy pursuing his film career from their new home in the woods in Sweden. Then Merry’s old friend Frank comes to stay and soon the cracks in the Merry and Sam’s marriage, and in each of their careful facades, begin to show. This book quickly feels dark, there’s so much tension simmering away and you just know something awful is going to happen but you don’t know what. I found this book really hard to put down and when I finished it it was lodged in my head for such a long time. I recommend this!

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Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

This book was really good, it was such an engrossing read and I still keep thinking about it and it’s weeks and weeks since I read it. This novel follows multiple women in a world were their reproductive rights have been stripped from them. Ro is a single woman who is desperate to be a mother, she can’t adopt because she’s not married and IVF is now illegal. One of Ro’s students is pregnant but doesn’t want to be; abortion is illegal so she’s desperate to find some way of getting rid of her baby. Gin is an outcast, who lives on the fringes of their society, she makes potions and natural remedies to help women but now the authorities are on a witch-hunt. This book is chilling to read at times, it feels very prescient and very possible. It’s a brilliant novel though, one that really makes you think as you learn more about the different perspectives and find out how these women are linked. This is a book I definitely recommend.

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Vox by Christine Dalcher

I’ve been so eager to read this novel, it’s such a fascinating concept. Pretty much over night women are rendered powerless – their bank accounts are frozen, their passports have been taken away and they all wear a bracelet which counts each of the 100 words they’re allowed to use per day. If they go over that, they are shocked with high volts of electricity. Jean is the main character in this novel. She’s struggling to discipline her sons when she can’t speak in a normal way; one son is beginning to see himself as more powerful and she doesn’t know what she can do. She’s also finding it really hard to help her young daughter to understand that she can’t speak even when she’s having a nightmare and frightened. For me, the first two thirds of this book were really good, I didn’t want to put it down and was keen to see how things were going to end up. Unfortunately the last third took away from the first part as even when women were sensing a chance to re-gain power, the men were still involved. I also struggled throughout the book with strange phrasing and metaphors that made no sense.  All in all this was an interesting read and I wouldn’t discourage people from reading it but it didn’t live up to my expectations.

Mini Crime and Thriller Book reviews! #bookreview

I’ve got some more mini reviews to share today! Hope you enjoy them.

 

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Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

I love Sarah Pinborough’s writing so was thrilled when I won a hardback copy of her latest book earlier this year. I finally got to read it a few weeks ago and enjoyed it. This is the story of Lisa, who is mum to a teenage daughter Ava. She’s very protective of her daughter and worries constantly about where she is and what she’s doing. The novel slowly ramps up the tension to the reveal as to why she’s so protective and then we see the past and present slowly begin to catch up to each other as the novel hurtles to its conclusion! This was a really good read but it’s not my favourite Pinborough novel. I loved Behind Her Eyes so much and this just didn’t quite live up to it. It’s still a great read about how the past catches up with us, and the lengths people will go to when they feel betrayed.

 

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Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

This is a brilliant thriller about a young woman, Geo. When Geo was 16 her best friend Angela disappeared without trace, and Geo knows something about that night but she’ll never tell. Calvin, Geo’s first love, has been revealed to be a serial killer, he’s escaped custody and is now on the run and more women are being murdered! This novel is so dark and twisty and I found it near impossible to put down. It’s fast-paced and kept me on my toes throughout.

 

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Toxic by Nicci Cloke

This is such a good novel about Hope who is excited to be going on holiday with some of her best mates – she’s been given honorary ‘lad’ status and couldn’t be happier. The first couple of days are everything she wishes for but then things take a darker turn at a party. Hope tries to kiss her ex and he rejects her, she then gets very drunk and the next thing she knows she’s waking up on a beach the following morning. The novel is told in three sections, each with a different narrator. The first is really fun and summery as we follow this group of friends on holiday. The second is when dealing with the fall out of what happened to each of them on the night of the big party. The final section looks at the aftermath and really deals with some tough issues. The novel as a whole is really good. It’s about mental health, toxic masculinity and how tough it is to be a teen. I recommend this one.

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Believe Me by JP Delaney

This is a novel about Claire, a British actress trying to make it in New York and ends up working as a honey trap to make ends meet. She then gets drawn into a plot to try and trap a man who is suspected of killing his wife. This book sounded so good and I was really looking forward to reading it but I struggled to get in to it. I ended up buying the audio book and while it worked better for me as on audio I did find the whole plot was just too over the top for me. It was a fun enough read but it’s not a book that will stay with me. I think that maybe this author just isn’t for me as I know others have really enjoyed it.

 

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Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

This is a really gripping read about a couple – Erin is a documentary filmmaker and Mark who is a banker – they’re about to be married but Mark has started being really moody. It turns out he’s in financial difficulties, while at the same time Erin’s career is going well as she’s gained access to a notorious gangster in prison and is going to be making a film about him. The couple tweak their wedding plans and manage to afford to still go on their dream honeymoon and that’s when life gets really complicated. This is a novel about moral dilemmas, and about trust. You do need to suspend disbelief at times but that doesn’t take away from the novel at all. This is such a gripping, fast-paced read, and one that I couldn’t stop thinking about whenever I wasn’t reading it. I’ll definitely be looking out for more books by this author!

 

#BookReview: Fukushima Dreams by Zelda Rhiando | @badzelda @unbound_digital @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Sachiko and her husband Harry live in a village on the North-east coast of Japan. They are both struggling to adapt to life as new parents to their infant son Tashi. In the aftermath of the tsunami, Sachiko wakes alone. Her family is missing. She begins a desperate search until radiation fallout from the Fukushima power plant forces her to leave the area. She moves to Tokyo, and a different life. Harry has fled to a refuge on an isolated mountain, abandoning his family. He lives there, haunted by guilt and hovering on the edge of sanity. Will they find each other and confront the question of their missing son?

 

My Thoughts

I’d not heard of Fukushima Dreams before I was offered a chance to read and review it for this blog tour but I am so very glad that it found its way to me. This is one of those really special novels that works its way into your heart and doesn’t leave, even after you’ve finished reading it.

Sachiko is caught up in a tsunami and when she wakes she is struggling to understand what has happened to her and where her husband and baby son are. She has survived and is alone in a crowded make-shift shelter. Unknown to her, her husband Harry fled their home during the initial earthquake and is sheltering in a hut on a mountain in the middle of nowhere.

I’ve struggled to write this review because Fukushima Dreams was so much more than I was expecting it to be and it’s taken hold of my thoughts and won’t let them go. This is such a beautiful, lyrical and almost dream-like novel. It’s a quiet story in many ways but it’s so powerful at the same time. It’s written in a way that you feel like you are right there with Sachiko as she struggles to comprehend what on earth has happened her and to her home.

The tsunami and the devastation it left in its wake are a large part of this novel but there is so much more to it too. We slowly come to find out that Sachiko is a new mum and has been struggling to bond with her baby. Her husband Harry was trying to write and was being driven to distraction by the baby’s constant crying and this young couple’s marriage was starting to fall apart. As a reader it’s clear that Sachiko has post-natal depression or something similar but within the novel they don’t seek medical help for her and she’s left feeling increasingly depressed and is isolating herself from the world. I felt such sympathy for her and was hoping that Harry would do something to help her but it seemed like he retreated into himself in order to work. I don’t think he understood that Sachiko couldn’t just snap out of it, and that she needed support.

As I was reading it felt like the tsunami, while clearly really happening, was also a metaphor for what happened to Sachiko when she had her baby. The fear, the confusion, the not knowing what to do or where to go, and finally the sheer overwhelming despair of ever finding normal again. And I also found that the way Harry deals with the earthquake by running away from his family and becoming so isolated on the mountain was like he was experiencing what Sachiko went through in her post-natal depression. The haze, the inability to think clearly and the sense of being so completely alone. There is real symmetry in the internal thought processes of the two characters and what is happening in the place they live. Everything has been in a state of chaos for a while and the tsunami compounds it all.

I was rooting for Sachiko to find out what happened to her husband and son, I can’t imagine what it must be like to experience a disaster on this scale and not know where your family are and if they survived. I wanted her to find some happiness. Seeing her journey as she begins to think about life again was so moving. The ending of this book is one that really makes you stop in your tracks though. I don’t want to say too much about what happens later in the novel because this really is a book to not know too much about before you read it. You need to pick it up and fall into the pages and experience this beautiful and heart-breaking novel yourself.

I finished reading Fukushima Dreams a few weeks ago now and I’ve since re-written this review quite a few times because I just can’t do it justice. It’s a simply incredible novel and I won’t ever forget it. Please just go get a copy and read it, it really is stunning!

A moving, lyrical novel about how people cope when the worst happens to them.

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

Fukushima Dreams is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Zelda Rhiando was born in Dublin and read English Literature at Cambridge. She lives in South London with her husband, two daughters and four cats, and is one of the founders of the Brixton BookJam. She is the author of two novels, Caposcripti and Fukushima Dreams.

 

Website: http://www.badzelda.com/

Twitter : @badzelda

 

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

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#BookReview: Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield @DianeSetterfie1 #PassTheStoryOn #OnceUponaRiver @AnneCater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

 

My Thoughts

I was beyond delighted when I was contacted about reading Once Upon A River as I read The Thirteenth Tale when it was first published and I adored it and I’ve been eagerly anticipating this new one from Diane Setterfield. I’m so happy to say that I fell in love with this novel!

Once Upon A River is a beautiful novel set along the river Thames. One night in The Swan Inn the storytellers are gathered when a mysterious man bursts in carrying what appears to be a puppet or a doll. It turns out to be a young girl and she is deemed to be dead from drowning. Later when the local nurse, Rita, checks on her she begins to breathe, which baffles everyone. The issue then becomes the need to find out who this girl is and where her parents are.

The mystery of the girl quickly spreads along the Thames and more than one family claim she belongs to them. She also becomes the subject of the storytellers and different versions of what might have happened her begin to be told.

My favourite character was Rita, the nurse and midwife, who looked after everyone within the community. I loved how she was so scientifically minded in a time when so many things weren’t understood and she didn’t have access to education. I also loved Daunt, the photographer. It was wonderful to read the process of taking photos in this time period and I felt I was right there looking over his shoulder.

Once Upon A River has a vast cast of characters, each one fully realised and becomes absolutely real as you’re reading. I loved the slower pace of this novel, it meanders like the river and the best way to read this book is to go at the pace it sets. I’m naturally quite a fast reader but this book was one I had to read slowly, I wanted to stay in this world for as long as I possibly could and I never wanted it to end. The writing is beautiful, the setting is so vivid and the characters felt like real people to me.

This is an epic novel and every single sentence is relevant to the plot so it’s a book to be savoured. The book moves between characters and gradually you see how each of their stories links to another’s story and the picture begins to come to life. Some of the people in this book are storytellers but it also felt like the novel itself is storytelling along with the story of the storytellers and it’s so beautiful.

It’s impossible for me to  do any kind of justice to this novel in my review but trust me, it’s a stunning book and I defy anyone not to enjoy it. I adored it and it’s absolutely going to be in my favourite books of this year, I can’t stop thinking about it and that’s always the mark of a wonderful book when it lingers in your mind long after you’ve finished reading it. It’s atmospheric, captivating and utterly beautiful!

Once Upon A River is out now in ebook and available to pre-order in hardback from here.

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

About the Author

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Diane Setterfield’s bestselling novel, The Thirteenth Tale was published in 38 countries, sold more than three million copies, and was made into a television drama scripted by Christopher Hampton, starring Olivia Colman and Vanessa Redgrave.

Her second novel was Bellman & Black, and her new novel is Once Upon a River. Born in rural Berkshire, she now lives near Oxford, by the Thames.

 

 

You can find the rest of the tour at these blogs:

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#BookReview: The Christmas Spirit by Susan Buchanan @Susan_Buchanan @rararesources

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About the Book

Christmas is coming, but not everyone is looking forward to it.

Rebecca has just been dumped and the prospect of spending the holiday period with her parents is less than appealing.

Eighty- two year old Stanley lost his beloved wife, Edie, to cancer. How will he cope with his first Christmas without her?

Jacob’s university degree hasn’t helped him get a job, and it looks like he’ll still be signing on come New Year.

Workaholic Meredith would rather spend December 25th at home alone with a ready meal and a DVD box set. Can anything make her embrace the spirit of the season?

The enigmatic Natalie Hope takes over the reins at the Sugar and Spice bakery and café in an attempt to spread some festive cheer and restore Christmas spirit, but will she succeed?

My Thoughts

The Christmas Spirit is a gorgeous festive novella. We meet Natalie who has come to run the local cake shop for the weeks leading up to Christmas, and there is definitely something magical and sparkly about her. In the town there are a handful of people who need Natalie’s help and she’s determined to sort their lives out.

Stanley was my favourite character in the book. He’s a lonely widower who’s lost without his wife. I was so hoping that he would find a purpose and some happiness. There is also Rebecca who is a meek character that can’t seem to stand up for herself. She works for Meredith who seems like an awful, uncaring woman. Then there’s Jacob, a recent graduate who can’t find a job even though he’s trying so hard.

Natalie is a fabulous character. She hits the ground running at the cake shop and is a whirlwind at baking. All the new cakes sounded amazing and my mouth was watering every time one was described! She quickly brings real warmth and heart to the cafe and makes time for all the customers. I feel like she worked her magic on everyone in the town, not just the four people she was there to help. 

The Christmas Spirit is set from the 1st December right up until Christmas so it’s full of festivity and sparkle. I loved this novella, it warmed my heart! I definitely recommend picking this up in the run up to Christmas!

I received a copy of this book from Rachel at Rara Resourses. All thoughts are my own.

The Christmas Spirit is out now and available here.

About the Author

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Susan Buchanan lives in Scotland with her husband and their two children. She is the author of four novels: Return of the Christmas Spirit, The Christmas Spirit, The Dating Game, and Sign of the Times. She is currently working on books five and six: The Proposal and Just One Day.

Susan is also a proofreader, editor and translator, and when not working, writing, or caring for her two delightful cherubs, loves reading, the theatre, quiz shows and eating out – not necessarily in that order!

Social Media Links

Facebook – www.facebook.com/susan.buchanan.author

Twitter – susan_buchanan

Blog – Sooz’s journal – www.susancbuchanan.blogspot.co.uk

Mini Thriller, Crime and Christmas #BookReviews

Today I’m sharing four more mini reviews as I continue on my quest to catch up before the end of the year!

 

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This is How It Ends by Eva Dolan

This was such a good read, and one of those books that really stays with you. It’s told from two perspectives and is told in such a unique way. It opens with a party and leads to a dead body in an empty flat. Molly and Ella are left trying to work out what to do. The novel is then told from Molly’s perspective going forwards to see what happens in the aftermath, and Ella’s story begins at this point and starts going backwards in time so we slowly get to find out how she came to be here. I was hooked on this really clever novel and I can’t recommend it highly enough! I actually finished reading it a while ago now but it’s still really fresh in my mind, which is always the mark of a fab novel!

 

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You Let Me In by Lucy Clarke

I’ve been a huge fan of Lucy Clarke ever since her first novel came out and I’m so pleased to say that You Let Me In lived up to my very high expectations! Elle is feeling increasingly unsettled in her home ever since she rented it out when she was away. She can’t put her finger on what’s wrong but something just doesn’t feel right. The tension in this book keeps ratcheting up to the point where you can’t be sure if Elle is having a breakdown, or if she is right to be worried and that someone is out to get her. There are a few people who may have it in for her and so you’re kept on your toes all the way through this novel. I was sure I had it all worked out but I was wrong and the reveal when it comes is shocking! I definitely recommend this one!

 

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The Present by DS Devlin

I do love a crime thriller set over Christmas time so I couldn’t resist grabbing this one recently. It starts off so well when Anna, a journalist, receives a gruesome gift at her home in the days following the murder of a man and kidnap of his wife. It’s believed to be the work of the serial killer dubbed Santa Killer who has been killing people at Christmas for a few years. After a kill he leaves ‘gifts’ for twelve days of Christmas at which point the kidnap victim is usually found dead. The first part of this book had me gripped and I couldn’t put it down but it did all fall away a bit as the book went on. The problem for me is that there was only really two suspects in the book so it soon became obvious who the killer is and I just got increasingly frustrated with how Anna couldn’t work it out. I did finish the book though and I would be interested to read what the author writes next.

 

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The Secrets You Hide by Kate Helm

This was a really good read too. Georgia is a courtroom artist who feels like she can see evil in people. She suffered a terrible trauma in her childhood and this has impacted her as an adult. She is forced to re-look at a conviction from early in her career and begins to question whether she might have helped put an innocent person in prison. The really fascinating thing about this thriller for me was the way it made me think about how I might look at a person and judge them. The novel really makes you question how often judgements are made when the person in question could be completely innocent. This is a thrilling novel that will keep you guessing right until the end, it’s such an engaging read and I recommend it!

#BookReview: It Started With Christmas by Jenny Hale

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About the Book

Holly McAdams loves spending the Christmas holidays at her family’s cozy cabin, with its little red door and twinkling lights, tucked in the snowy hills outside Nashville. But this year will be different. Someone unexpected is joining them…

After Holly and her beloved Nana struggle through a snow storm to reach the cabin, they discover gorgeous and wealthy Joseph Barnes, who has been renting the cabin for the last few weeks, is now snowed in. And it looks like he’ll be staying for the holidays.

Determined to make the best of the surprise situation, Holly tries to bring everyone together by baking delicious treats and decorating the cabin with plenty of festive sparkle. She finds herself growing close to handsome Joseph, who is unlike anyone she’s ever met before, even if Nana isn’t so keen on the dashing stranger with the mysterious past.

But charming and irresistible musician Rhett Burton is also back in town. Thrown into close proximity with the person who used to be her best friend and the man who broke her heart, Holly realizes it’s time to face her feelings and figure out what she really wants from her life. But to complicate things, both Joseph and Rhett have secrets to reveal…

Will Holly be able to find herself and the love she’s always dreamed of this Christmas?

 

My Thoughts

Holly is spending Christmas at her family’s cabin with her lovely Nana. This is the first Christmas they’ve spent there since Holly’s Papa died so it’s a difficult time for them and then when they arrive they discover a man there! Joe has been renting the cabin and due to the snow has had to stay on a bit longer. Holly and Joe are attracted to each other and the Holly’s old friend, the singer Rhett turns up and declares he still had feelings for her!

I’m going to be honest and say that this novel wasn’t as festive as I was hoping it would be. There is a build up to Christmas but then it felt like it was over in the blink of an eye. Having said that the beautiful romantic treasure hunt on Christmas morning was so gorgeous and really epitomised the festive spirit. Nana was a wonderful character and seeing her find her way through her grief to re-connect with the happy memories she has of her late husband was so moving.

I found the potential romance between Holly and Joe was really endearing. I really felt their connection and felt sad for Holly when it seemed it wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t warm to Rhett at all though and was hoping Holly wasn’t going to end up with him. It was in the balance for most of the novel how things would work out for her and I did enjoy the uncertainty around her romantic life.

All in all this was a sweet and romantic novel with hints of Christmas running through it. I do love Jenny Hale’s writing and will definitely look out for her Christmas novels in the future.

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

It Started with Christmas is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

When she graduated college, one of Jenny’s friends said “Look out for this one; she’s going to be an author one day”. Despite being an avid reader and a natural storyteller, it wasn’t until that very moment that the idea of writing novels occurred to her.

Sometimes our friends can see the things that we can’t. Whilst she didn’t start straight away, that comment sowed a seed and several years, two children and hundreds of thousands of words later, Jenny finished her first novel, Coming Home for Christmas, which became an instant bestseller.

#BookReview: In Bloom by C. J. Skuse @HQStories #InBloom

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About the Book

Darkly comic crime sequel to Sweetpea, following girl-next-door serial killer Rhiannon as she’s now caught between the urge to kill and her unborn baby stopping her.

If only they knew the real truth. It should be my face on those front pages. My headlines. I did those things, not him. I just want to stand on that doorstep and scream it: IT WAS ME. ME. ME. ME. ME!

Rhiannon Lewis has successfully fooled the world and framed her cheating fiancé Craig for the depraved and bloody killing spree she committed. She should be ecstatic that she’s free.

Except for one small problem. She’s pregnant with her ex lover’s child. The ex-lover she only recently chopped up and buried in her in-laws garden. And as much as Rhiannon wants to continue making her way through her kill lists, a small voice inside is trying to make her stop.

But can a killer’s urges ever really be curbed?

My Thoughts

In Bloom has been one of my most anticipated reads of 2018 as I loved the first book in this series, SweetPea (you can read my review of Sweet Pea here if you’d like to). I’m so happy to say that In Bloom absolutely lived up to my high expectations and I loved being back in Rhiannon’s world.

In Bloom picks up where SweetPea left off and it’s so good! Rhiannon has a body to deal with and is worried that the police might be at her door. She’s pregnant and her unborn baby seems to want to interfere with her urges to kill!

When I finished reading SweetPea I was so hoping that there would be more books about Rhiannon so I was thrilled when I found out about In Bloom. Rhiannon is such a brilliant, sarcastic character who doesn’t take any rubbish from anyone. I love that she still makes lists of all the things that annoy her, it makes it easy to identify with her and makes you feel like you could be friends with her… which really brings you up short when you remember that she’s a psychopathic serial killer! That is the beauty of this book though!

In this book Rhiannon is back in the media as the girlfriend of a serial killer (only we know that he’s been framed by her). She’s also living with his parents, who are looking forward to their grandchild arriving but there are secrets there too. Rhiannon can’t resist the urge to kill again and life is just really complicated for her. She always finds a way to deal with her problems though, albeit not a healthy or sane way but it works for her. There’s something so likeable about Rhiannon – it makes me feel so conflicted to say that but she is such a brilliant character!

In Bloom is definitely best read after Sweet Pea as you get so much more idea about her and what makes her tick. There are references to things that happened in Sweet Pea and it feels like this book is a definite continuation of Rhiannon’s story. Plus why would you want to miss out on the fun of knowing Rhiannon from the start?!

I loved In Bloom: It’s funny, dark and utterly brilliant – I definitely recommend it!

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

In Bloom is out now and available here.

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. 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 Mother of All Christmases by Milly Johnson @millyjohnson @simonschusterUK #ChristmasReads

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About the Book

Eve Glace – co-owner of the theme park Winterworld – is having a baby and her due date is a perfectly timed 25th December. And she’s decided that she and her husband Jacques should renew their wedding vows with all the pomp that was missing the first time. But growing problems at Winterworld keep distracting them …

Annie Pandoro and her husband Joe own a small Christmas cracker factory, and are well set up and happy together despite life never blessing them with a much-wanted child. But when Annie finds that the changes happening to her body aren’t typical of the menopause but pregnancy, her joy is uncontainable.

Palma Collins has agreed to act as a surrogate, hoping the money will get her out of the gutter in which she finds herself. But when the couple she is helping split up, is she going to be left carrying a baby she never intended to keep?

Annie, Palma and Eve all meet at the ‘Christmas Pudding Club’, a new directive started by a forward-thinking young doctor to help mums-to-be mingle and share their pregnancy journeys. Will this group help each other to find love, contentment and peace as Christmas approaches?

 

My Thoughts

I’m fully immersed in my Christmas reading now and my most recent festive read was The Mother of All Christmases by Milly Johnson!

This is a lovely novel following three women. Palma has agreed to act as a surrogate for a couple as she desperately needs money. She’s such a sweet young woman and all through the novel I was wanting life to work out for her. Annie runs a Christmas cracker factory with her husband. She’s in her late 40s and is living with the sadness that comes with having been unable to have a child and now seems to be starting the menopause. Eve owns Winterland, a Christmas theme park and finds herself pregnant and planning her vow renewal service for the festive season!

All three women were such great characters and I enjoyed reading about all of them. The peripheral characters were all so brilliant too – I especially loved Iris! Milly Johnson is so good at writing really believable characters, all of the people in this book felt real and that gave it such warmth.

This book isn’t set entirely at Christmas, it’s more the few months leading up to it but it does still feature a reasonable amount of the holiday period and Christmas planning. There are such gorgeous friendships formed in this book that it felt like it really embodied the Christmas spirit and I loved it!

This is a light-hearted read but it has some real heart-felt moments in it too. The sad moments are handled so sensitively and the real Yorkshire spirit that comes from some of the characters helps bring the novel back to being light, without ever dismissing the harder times. This is my new favourite Milly Johnson book, I very much enjoyed it! I definitely recommend this one!

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

The Mother of All Christmases is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Milly Johnson was born in Barnsley, raised in Barnsley and still lives in Barnsley – although she did study in Exeter for four years and emigrate to Haworth in West Yorkshire in the 1980s. She trained as an actress, teacher, an accountant, a Customer Services and Suggestion Scheme Manager as well as working in a variety of administrative posts for companies dealing with anything from antique furniture to plastic injection moulded poop scoops. Eventually she found a happy existence writing poems and jokes for the greetings card world – helping to kick off the hugely successful Purple Ronnie project – which she still does on a part time basis whilst penning her novels.

#BookReview: Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel by Karen King @karen_king @bookouture #ChristmasRead

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About the Book

Snowy rooftops, mulled wine, and a hot single dad. Not the Christmas Saffy wished for… but maybe the one she needs?

Twenty-nine year old Saffron Baxter knew her holiday plans didn’t stand a chance the moment her sister called to say she was stuck abroad with no hope of being home before Christmas. Saffy would just have to abandon thoughts of wild festive parties in the city and head down to remote Cornwall.

Because every year her sister hosts a huge Christmas meal for all the single parents in her village. And Saffy knows it’d break her heart to let them down.

Arriving as snow starts to fall over the thatched cottages of the little harbour town of Port Breok, she meets Logan – the tall, fair-haired, blue-eyed, devoted single dad who lives next door, with his adorable daughter Chloe. At first she thinks he might help her make Christmas Day extra-memorable, but he just seems convinced she’ll never manage – that she’s just a party girl who doesn’t care about Christmas, or anyone’s feelings.

Maybe he’s right. After all – she doesn’t want to settle down, she’s only there for a few days… But she’s still determined to do her sister proud with gorgeous decorations, the most beautiful real tree – complete with extra twinkly lights, and delicious mince pies. To make it a Christmas everyone will remember, especially little Chloe. Even if, when the mistletoe comes down, she knows she’ll probably never see Logan again…

 

My Thoughts

I couldn’t resist the fabulously festive cover of Snowy Hearts at the Lonely Hearts Hotel and I’m really happy to say that the novel more than lives up to the cover!

Saffy is an independent woman who enjoys her career and her social life and doesn’t have much spare time for family but when her sister Hannah calls to say she’s stuck abroad and needs Saffy to help her out, Saffy feels she can’t say no.  Hannah runs a big Christmas party for all the single parent families in her neighbourhood every year and now Saffy has to organise the whole thing!

Soon after arriving Saffy meets her sister’s neighbour Logan and his young daughter Chloe. There is a clear spark between Saffy and Logan but the path to true love never runs smoothly and these two keep missing the mark with each other. Saffy is determined to focus on the party planning and to show her sister that she is capable and can do it.

I very much enjoyed this book. It’s set pretty much entirely over the Christmas period so is really festive! It’s got snow and party planning, romance and misunderstandings and lots and lots of holiday fun. It’s gorgeous – just the absolute perfect book to curl up with on a cold, wintery day! I highly recommend adding this book to your Christmas reading plans!

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

Snowy Nights at the Lonely Hearts Hotel is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Karen King is a multi-published, award-winning author of romantic novels and children’s fiction. She has had four romance novels published to date, with another one due out next April, 120 children’s books, and several short stories in women’s magazines. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women  Writers and Journalists.

Mini Crime and Thriller #BookReviews!

I’m still trying to catch up with reviews so am going to continue on with my occasional series of mini book reviews. It’s stressing me out to know I’ve read these books a while ago but haven’t managed to review them so I just want to get caught up and then hopefully I can start keeping up from that point on! (Here’s hoping…!)

 

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Her Name Was Rose by Claire Allan

I was eagerly anticipating Claire Allan’s first thriller novel and I wasn’t disappointed! This is a book about Emily, who lets a stranger step out in front of her and the woman gets hits by a car and she dies. Emily can’t help but want to know more about Rose and begins looking her up on social media. She finds out that Rose had an amazing, perfect life and she begins to embed herself into the lives of those Rose left behind. The novel explores how the life people present to the outside IS not always the one they are really living. I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading Claire’s next thriller!

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The Reunion by Samantha Hayes

I’ve read and enjoyed previous novels by this author so was really looking forward to The Reunion and I’m pleased to say that it was a great read. The novel is set in past and present, which I always enjoy. Claire’s little sister went missing when she was in charge of her and now in the present the family is facing up to having to sell the family farm and are having a reunion of everyone who was there when Eleanor went missing. I was suspicious of everyone in this book. This group of people all have secrets and things they’re hiding – some more serious than others and so it makes for a great read as you wonder who it is that has the biggest secret of all! Ultimately, I did work out what had happened before the reveal comes but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book.

 

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The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn

The premise of this novel grabbed me right away. I know what it is to fear leaving the house and to therefore become a prisoner in your own home so I felt sure I was going to love this book. Anna has many issues and as such comes across as an unreliable narrator so when she sees something in the house opposite you can’t be sure if everything was as she said it was. The tension ratches up from this point on and you find yourself on the edge of your seat wondering how things are going to to turn out for Anna. This was a good read. I did work out what was going on quite early in the book so some of the suspense was then lacking for me but having said that there were still reveals to come that had my mind spinning. This was a good read and I’m looking forward to reading whatever the author publishes next!

 

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The Liar’s Room by Simon Lelic

This was such an interesting premise for a thriller as it’s set in one room between a therapist and her patient. I was intrigued from the start and was keen to see what was going to happen, and how. It started off really well as you get the sense there is more to this appointment than we know at first and the tension just builds and builds from there.  It’s a novel that really makes you think about the nature of right and wrong, and how nothing is ever black and white. It really makes you question your thoughts about each of the characters. It’s a good read and I recommend it!

 

#BookReview – Under the Wig: A Lawyer’s Stories of Murder, Guilt and Innocence by William Clegg QC @CanburyPress

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About the Book

How can you speak up for someone accused of a savage murder? Or sway a jury? Or get a judge to drop a case?

In this memoir, murder case lawyer William Clegg revisits his most intriguing trials, from the acquittal of Colin Stagg to the shooting of Jill Dando, to the man given life because of an earprint.

All the while he lays bare the secrets of his profession, from the rivalry among barristers to the nervous moments before a verdict comes back, and how our right to a fair trial is now at risk.

Under the Wig is for anyone who wants to know the reality of a murder trial.

My Thoughts

I really enjoy reading books about the law so when I spotted Under the Wig in the Read Now section of NetGalley recently I immediately downloaded it.

Under the Wig is the memoir of William Clegg QC and makes for a fascinating read. The book is told in alternating chapters where one chapter is about a famous case he has worked on and the other gradually tells his story of how he came to be a barrister.

William Clegg has worked on some very high profile cases and it was really interesting to hear about them from a defence barrister’s perspective. He gives his opinion on the outcome of each particular case in the course of a chapter and I really appreciated that. He covers cases such as the murder of Jill Dando, where he worked on Barry George’s appeal. We also get to see how it is for a barrister to work for a man who has confessed to manslaughter such as in the case of Vincent Tabak (who was convicted of murdering Joanna Yeates at Christmas 2010).

I was particularly interested in the chapter about legal aid. I was well aware of cuts in legal aid as it’s often been in the news but I didn’t know the impact it was having in real terms. It’s shocking to see how much funding has been cut and the potential this has for preventing people from accessing a good defence team.

I’ve definitely come away from this book with a little more understanding of some aspects of the law than I had before. It makes more sense to me now how some points of a case get dropped early on, and how different points are argued during a trial.

This is a gripping book – one that once you start reading you just don’t want to put down. The writing flows and it reads like a fiction book in the sense that it’s very accessible and holds your interest from start to finish. I really enjoyed Under the Wig and definitely recommend it!

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

Under the Wig is out now and available here.

#BookReview: Snowday by B R Maycock @BRMaycock #Snowday

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About the Book

Sometimes hot cocoa just isn’t enough to keep you warm in the snow…

Eloise is too busy juggling the chaos of three kids, an ever present ex-husband and a demanding boss to even remember the last time dating crossed her mind.

But as soft snow falls silently all around, romance twinkles with the flakes.

After being single for so long, Eloise suddenly has a lot of choices. Too many choices. Will anyone be worthy of melting the guard around her heart to let love in?

My Thoughts

At this time of year I can’t resist books with gorgeous snowy covers and Snowday definitely caught my eye with its festive cover! I’m so pleased to say that the novel itself totally lives up to the cover and I loved this book.

Eloise is recently separated from her husband and is struggling to juggle their three children and a full-time job. Her estranged husband loves the children but turns up randomly to see them making Eloise’s life even more stressful. He’s also in a new relationship and she’s not sure how she feels about that.

Over the course of the book we see the love Eloise has for her children and what a great mum she is. She clearly loves her family but just wishes her life was a little less hectic. Things become more interesting when she finds herself with two potential love interests and a neighbour across the road who seems to blow very hot and cold with his attitude towards her.

Eloise spends a lot of her time feeling utterly frazzled, trying to be everything to everyone. Her attempts at dating were very amusing. I don’t have children but I remember what it was like to be going on dates again after coming out of a long term relationship and I felt for her. She’s such a genuine and relatable character and I was rooting for her to find some happiness for herself.

I loved how as the novel heads towards Christmas, and Eloise is gradually making peace with the way her life has turned out, there is another surprise in store for her. This is a book that’s full of honesty about family life and break-ups and yet packed with humour and joy too.

Snowday is a really engaging, fun read that shows the reality of life but with a fab dose of humour too. It’s such a gorgeous, wintery read and I absolutely loved it! I highly recommend adding this to your festive reading lists.

Many thanks to Bernadette Maycock for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Snowday is out now and available here.

About the Author

Brmaycock

When Bernadette Maycock isn’t dreaming up vibrant leads for romantic comedies, she’s ingesting books for her blog (https://brmaycock.wordpress.com/), in particular chick lit (her first love!) books, romantic comedies and thrillers. She can also be found playing footie or watching Marvel, DC or Star Wars movies and cartoons in Co. Westmeath, Ireland with her brilliantly out there husband, Keith, and their four epic little men.

Her debut ‘It Started With A Snub’ and Christmas romantic comedy ‘Snowday’ are available now on Amazon, and Bernadette is currently working on a three part series about AbbeyGlen Village, whose luck is about to change …

#BookReview: The List That Changed My Life by Olivia Beirne @Olivia_Beirne @headlinepg #RandomThingsTours @annecater

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About the Book

Georgia loves wine, reality TV and sitting on the sofa after work. She does not love heights, looking at her bank account, going on dates, or activities that involve a sports bra. And she will never, ever take a risk.

That is, until her braver, bolder, big sister finds out that she won’t be able to tick off the things she wanted to do before turning thirty, and turns to Georgia to help her finish her list.

With the birthday just months away, Georgia suddenly has a deadline to learn to grab life with both hands. Could she be brave enough to take the leap, for her sister?

And how might her own life change if she did?

 

My Thoughts

I jumped at the chance to read The List That Changed My Life because it sounded like a real feel-good read – and it really is that but it’s so much more as well. I adored this book!

This book was so much more moving than I was expecting. I found the opening chapter of the book with Georgia’s sister Amy so heartbreaking. I’ve been through the battery of tests that she would have had to go through and it’s not fun. I don’t have the same illness but my condition causes very similar symptoms so I could really empathise with what she is going through. The relationship between the two sisters was gorgeous. I love how close they were, even when they were snapping at each other you could see it was out of love.

The list that changes Georgia’s life is written for her by Amy and initially it seems like Amy wants to inflict maximum panic on her sister as the list has some things on it that most people who aren’t daring would absolutely not want to do. Over the course of the novel it becomes apparent why Amy is challenging Georgia and I adored that she was doing this for her. My best friend, who sadly died when we were 20, used to push me out of my comfort zone all the time and I loved her for it. Even now, nearly twenty years on I can still hear her voice pushing me on when I have the fear and wonder whether I’m doing the right thing. The really lovely thing was that even though it was Georgia completing the list, it was helping Amy too. These two women are most definitely a team.

I really enjoyed the love interest in this book and how Georgia came to meet him. It was funny and believable and I was so hoping that things would work out for these two.

The List That Changed My Life is a beautiful read but it’s also a big reminder of how we should all push ourselves out of our comfort zones from time to time. It’s good to test our limits and to see what the big wide world can offer. This is a gorgeous life-affirming read that will make you laugh and cry, and ultimately will leave you feeling like making your own list to change your life! I loved this book and feel sure I’ll be re-reading it in the future so I definitely recommend it!

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

The List That Changed My Life is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Olivia Beirne

Olivia Beirne is a 26 year old writer, who previously worked in casting. She lives in Tulse Hill, London with her friends and their resident mouse and grew up in Buckinghamshire. This novel is a standalone debut and she is currently working on her second novel.

 

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

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#BookReview: Christmas Camp by Karen Schaler @KarenSchaler @PiatkusBooks #ChristmasCamp

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About the Book

Haley ‘the Grinch’ Hanson’s idea of the perfect Christmas is escaping into work and avoiding all the traditional distractions. Over the years, she’s sacrificed her personal life to climb the ladder at a prestigious advertising agency. Now she just needs to land a coveted Christmas toy company account to make partner. But first, her boss thinks she needs a holiday attitude adjustment, so he ships her off to Christmas Camp – a mountainside retreat promising to revitalise even the most determined Scrooge’s festive spirit.

Arriving reluctantly at the snowy inn, Haley meets the owner’s handsome son, Jeff, and feels an instant spark. Yet despite the attraction, she’s determined to ‘graduate’ camp as fast as possible so she can get back to work.

But it’s impossible to resist the charm of the season and soon even Haley starts to live in the moment, growing ever closer to Jeff. Although when he discovers she’s been conspiring with his dad to defeat Jeff’s plans for the future, it will take all the magic of Christmas to bring these two hearts together . . .

My Thoughts

I couldn’t resist looking at the Christmas novels on NetGalley recently and found myself downloading a few. Christmas Camp was the one that called to me the most due to the gorgeous, snowy cover and I’m so happy to say that the novel is every bit as fabulous as it looks!

Haley is a workaholic and is something of a grinch, she has zero Christmas spirit but is vying for a partnership in her firm and this means winning a lucrative toy campaign requiring lots of Christmas joy. Her boss decides that the things she needs is a week at Christmas Camp to find her Christmas spirit and Haley has no option but to go.

I loved this novel so much! It’s set in the week before Christmas and is full of festive spirit. I get so disappointed when a novel is marketed as a Christmas read but you really only get Christmas at the very end of the book but I’m so delighted that Christmas camp has all the Christmas you could possibly want from start to finish!

Haley is determined to get through the activities as quickly as possible each day so that she can return to her room to get on with her presentation but the adorable Max the dog has other ideas! He latches on to Haley right away and is determined to get her involved. I loved Max so much, he’s made me want to get a dog. He really is a character!

The Camp activities include things like making cookies, going sledging, cutting down a Christmas tree – everything you can think of that relates to celebrating Christmas. I’ve always adored the festive period and still I want to go to this Camp, it just sounds so magical and wonderful!

There is a potential romance in this book between Haley and the owner’s son but the path of true love doesn’t run smoothly for these two and I was never quite sure if they’d ever manage to get things worked out so they could be together. I enjoyed these parts of the novel but especially the way that it was more about Haley working out her own life and what she wanted rather than her bending her will to be what a man wanted her to be.

There is real heart in this book; it explores so many of the complicated emotions that always come with the festive time of year and does it in a way that is really genuine but also always uplifting. I shed a few tears reading this book but ultimately I finished it with a great big happy smile on my face!

Christmas Camp is a really festive, feel-good novel and I highly recommend it. This is going on my list of books that I’ll read again in future at this time of year!

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

Christmas Camp is out now and available here.

About the Author

Karen Schaler is a three-time Emmy Award–winning storyteller, author, screenwriter, journalist and national TV host. She has written original screenplays for Netflix and Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies. Her travels to more than sixty-five countries as the creator and host of Travel Therapy TV inspired Christmas Camp. All of Karen’s stories are uplifting, filled with heart and hope.

#BookReview: The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992 by Tina Brown

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About the Book

The Vanity Fair Diaries is the story of an Englishwoman barely out of her twenties who arrives in Manhattan on a mission. Summoned from London in hopes that she can save Condé Nast’s troubled new flagship Vanity Fair, Tina Brown is immediately plunged into the maelstrom of the competitive New York media world and the backstabbing rivalries at the court of the planet’s slickest, most glamour-focused magazine company. She survives the politics, the intrigue and the attempts to derail her by a simple stratagem: succeeding. In the face of rampant scepticism, she triumphantly reinvents a failing magazine.

Here are the inside stories of Vanity Fair scoops and covers that sold millions: the Reagan kiss, the meltdown of Princess Diana’s marriage to Prince Charles, the sensational Annie Leibovitz cover of a gloriously pregnant, naked Demi Moore. In the diary’s cinematic pages, the drama, comedy and struggle of running an ‘it’ magazine come to life. Brown’s Vanity Fair Diaries is also a woman’s journey, of making a home in a new country and of the deep bonds with her husband, their prematurely born son and their daughter.

My Thoughts

I grabbed The Vanity Fair Diaries from NetGalley when it was on read now almost a year ago but somehow I haven’t got around to reading it until now. I picked it up for non-fiction November  last week and it was an enjoyable read.

The book is Tina Brown’s personal diaries from 1983 when she got the job as editor of Vanity Fair magazine until she moved on in 1992.

There are parts of this book that I really enjoyed. I loved finding out more about what it’s like to edit a magazine and how difficult it can be getting the right cover image that represents the pieces inside the magazine.

Tina Brown movingly captures what it must have been like living in New York in the 1980s at the height of the AIDS crisis. She doesn’t write at length about it but the frequent mentions of people she knows who have been diagnosed, or who have died is really shocking. I can’t imagine what it must have been like to have lost so many people to one disease and in such a short amount of time.

The references to Donald Trump made for rueful reading, to know how he was thought of at various points during the 80s and now he’s president of the United States makes for interesting reading. There are other political figures referenced within the book that also make for interesting asides.

I also really enjoyed finding out more about how Brown juggled her work and her home life after she had her first child. She genuinely struggled to find balance and you can see her being pulled in two directions during her son’s early years. There is real honesty in these moments and it gave some balance to a book that is heavy on the celebrities and the gossip.

I think where I struggled a little with my enjoyment of the book is that, particularly in the earlier parts of the diary, I didn’t know who half of the people mentioned were. I kept putting the book down to look them up online. Once the book got to the later 80s and early 90s it was more my era and I knew who most of the people were and it became a much more fascinating read. This is down to my age though and not a fault of the book.

Overall I found this a really interesting and enjoyable book to dip in and out of and I do recommend it.

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

The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992 is out now and available here.

#BookReview: Bouncing Back with a Bang by Geraldine Ward @GWardAuthor @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

“Life is full of twists and turns, stops and starts. Living on a bizarre rollercoaster, Geraldine Ward is now bouncing back with a Bang.”

In a poetry collection that aims to to rock the senses and fill the reader with powerful imagery and heartfelt truth, Geraldine Ward’s mixture of critical and realistic social observation and humorous asides, will fully involve you in her journey of self discovery and take you on the ride of your life.

“Geraldine Ward’s poems take a slanted look at this world. They skilfully shine a light on those things we wish were different, the abuse we suffer or inflict.” – Reuben Woolley, Editor of “I am not a silent poet.”

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be offered the chance to read and review Bouncing Back With A Bang as I’m trying to get back into reading poetry and it’s wonderful to find new poems to explore.

Bouncing Back With A Bang is a lovely collection of poems that cover a wide variety of topics. Some are more whimsical, some require reading through a couple of times to give you time to ponder the meaning. Some are straightforward and easy to understand but none-the-less pack an emotional punch. It’s a collection about bouncing back after difficult times and so there’s something for everyone.

I adored Flower Fairy, it was whimsical and it really took me back to those days in childhood when anything seems possible.

‘A pocketful of promises in her heart.’

The poem that really got to me though was Taken, which is about the aftermath of a miscarriage. I’ve sadly been through it myself and though it was many years ago now I still know how old that child would be, and which milestones they’d be reaching. This poem captures so well and so poignantly those feelings of a child that never got to be.

I read this collection before reading about the author and all through the poems in the book I was thinking of how brilliant they would be read aloud, performed. I’ve now discovered that Geraldine Ward is a performance poet and I would love to see her live one day. I actually finished reading this book and then went back and read it again out loud and it really gave me a different take on the poems, it brought out more emotions in me with some of the writing than it had when I read in my head the first time around so I definitely recommend doing that.

Bouncing Back With A Bang is a powerful and emotional read, I highly recommend it.

Many thanks to Anne from Random Things Books for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.

Bouncing Back with a Bang is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Geraldine Ward is an author, mother and performance poet. Her publishing credits include children’s poetry and fiction, most recently ‘Mark’s Magic Farmyard and Other Stories’, a novella about mental health called ‘Caring for the Carer’ and ‘Now’ poetry to name but a few.

She has had individual poems published in literary magazines including ‘The Blue Nib’ edited by Shirley Bell, ‘I am not a silent poet’ edited by Reuben Woolley and ‘Writers Cafe Magazine’ edited by Marie Lightman.

In November 2017 she was one of only three poets appearing on a pre recorded podcast for BBC Radio 4 Front Row, describing her writing process for National Write a Novel Month.

Geraldine’s hobbies include playing piano, song writing and singing and learning the ukulele.

Website: http://www.geraldineward.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @GWardAuthor

 

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