How to be Broken by Dr Emma Kavanagh

About the Book

The past year has been ROUGH. It has pushed so many of us right to our absolute limits.

If, you have found yourself:

– Not being able to sleep 
– Wanting to cry all time 
– Being terrified of everything changing
– Trying to understand what has happened to the world

Then this is the book for you.

In 2020, while it seemed that the world was falling apart, psychologist Dr Emma Kavanagh began bringing together the psychological research on the impact of trauma, what it means, and what it does for us – the good and the bad. Within the psychological literature, she found important clues about why trauma and stress are not the life sentences they sometimes seem to be, and, most importantly, how they can often lead to growth beyond the despair.

This is a book about why it’s ok to struggle, why it’s ok to fall apart, and why it’s ok to be broken. Because, once we give ourselves permission to be broken, we can put the pieces back together. And we can come back, stronger than we were before.

My Thoughts

I saw this book on twitter on publication day and the title alone made me immediately one-click on my Kindle! I’m so glad that I spotted this book and that I read it as it has been exactly what I needed.

The book is short at 124 pages so it doesn’t feel overwhelming when you start it and the author writes in such a way that you can take in all the information even when your brain is feeling frazzled, which I really appreciated.

The book starts from the personal as Emma writes about how she felt as the pandemic approached our shores but then she widens out to look at examples from other things that have happened in the world and how our brains cause us to act in times of high stress and trauma.

I really connected to this book as, like Emma, I also have complex PTSD. I was very lucky that after suffering for more than twenty years I got treatment three years ago that finally gave me my life back. Unfortunately the pandemic has caused me to go backwards a bit as my coping strategies tend to be the ones I used to survive and this is so frustrating to me. This book has helped me better than anything else I’ve read to understand why this has happened and why it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

There is a section in the book where Emma talks about how people, when caught up in an horrendous situation, such as a fire in a nightclub, often panic and try to get out the door they came in through rather than looking for other exit but so does everyone else, which makes it harder for anyone to get out. However, people with ‘broken brains’ who perhaps have PTSD or anxiety often make sure they know where all of the doors are when they go anywhere. The first thing I do when I go anywhere is look for where the doors are, it’s instinctive in me and I never connected my need to do this with the behaviours that have come back during the pandemic. I already feel so much calmer now I understand that my ‘broken brain’ is actually just trying to keep me safe. I understand now what is happening in my head and I know I have got past it before so I know I can do it again. I’d never heard the term post-traumatic growth until I read this book but it makes total sense to me that we can go on to find positives after the darkness.

I also found it fascinating and useful to read about how we can get tunnel vision and fixate on an aspect of something but then our brains look for more information that confirm what we believe, and this causes us to not see the bigger picture anymore. I really recognised this in myself as I was reading it – my consumption of news relating to covid-19 definitely falls into this pattern. I’ve been making a point since reading How to be Broken of reading less news and making sure that when I do click on articles that I look for the positive ones or the ones that give a different perspective to what I usually focus on and I think this is really going to help me.

I think this is an invaluable book for everyone to read as the country is beginning to come out of lockdown, especially for people who feel uncertain and anxious about it. The book helps contextualise why we behave as we do and why we feel as we do – it makes you feel less alone with it all. I finished this book on Sunday and immediately felt able to put a plan in place for when my husband returns to work later this month – something that I’ve been very scared about for many reasons but now we have a plan that makes sense to both of us and I’m feeling much calmer and more in control.

I know this is a rambling review where I can’t put into words exactly how I feel about this book, I just want to urge everyone to read it. It’s a brilliant read and one that will soothe your anxious brain. I highly recommend this one!

Mini Book Reviews: The End of Men | Madam | The Final Chapter | All Boys Aren’t Blue

It’s time for another selection of mini reviews of books that I’ve read recently. These four books are from NetGalley and I enjoyed them all.

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

The End of Men opens with an A&E doctor realising that a virus is spreading through her department and she attempts to warn authorities. The novel then moves forward a day or two and then a few days at a time following a large cast of characters as we see how they react and cope with the virus and the implications it may have for their own lives. I was concerned this might be too much to read given that we’re living through a pandemic in the real world but actually I found it different enough that I enjoyed reading it. There are similarities to what we’re living through but there are differences too – in the novel women can carry the virus but it’s only males who die from it and only one in ten males are immune. We see people from all walks of life suffering through the pandemic and it’s heartbreaking the loss that people go through. I did find it hard to connect to any other characters in the book though – all the voices read the same to me and I kept having to flick back to the start of the chapter to see who I was with at the time. Also I understand that the focus of the novel was the virus but I felt that there wasn’t a lot of emotion in the early part of the book, it left me feeling a bit cold and disconnected from what was happening. Later on as time has moved on quite a lot there was more acknowledgement of loss and some moments really brought a lump to my throat. Overall, I did enjoy this novel – it was definitely compelling and I recommend it!

Madam by Phoebe Wynne

I was eagerly anticipating this novel as it seemed like it would be packed with all the things I love in a novel and I did enjoy it. Madam follows Rose Christie as she is recruited to teach Classics at the prestigious girls’s boarding school Caldonbrae Hall in Scotland. It soon becomes apparent that Rose is the first new teacher at the school in many years and there seems to be a lot of secrets being kept from her. The girls she teaches seem odd at times and the other members of staff are quite cold towards her. I found this novel suspenseful and I enjoyed getting lost within the pages. My only criticism is that it felt that some parts of the novel were too long and this detracted from what was happening in the novel for me. On the whole though I did enjoy this one – I thought it was unsettling at times and I loved that I didn’t know anymore than Rose did so I was right along with her as she tried to figure out what she had got herself into. This was an enjoyable read and I would recommend it.

The Final Chapter by Jerome Loubry

I’ve been so keen to read this book so when I got approved for it on NetGalley on Saturday I immediately started reading it and I read the whole thing in one sitting! The Final Chapter follows David, a famous writer, who one day receives a typed book in the post and it turns his world upside down. The pages he receives detail what happened in the summer of 1986 when a young girl he knew was murdered. It then turns out that his childhood best friend received the same book but with a different ending. David is determined to work out what the book is trying to tell him about that fateful summer. This novel is so fast-paced, with short chapters that make it impossible to put it down as you keep thinking that you’ll just read one more chapter! This novel grabbed me from the beginning and I was enthralled all the way to the end. It’s a book that doesn’t always add up but it’s such a fun ride and I loved every minute that I spent reading it. I recommend this one if you want an addictive, fast-paced and fun read.

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

This is such an emotional memoir aimed at younger readers but one that all ages will get something from. All Boys Aren’t Blue is Johnson’s story of growing up black and queer and he details his experiences of the things he went through and had to deal with. Through the book there is exploration of race, sexuality and gender, each handled so well and whilst not pulling any punches it is appropriate to its audience. I found this book heartbreaking at times; it’s horrendous to read what Johnson has been through in his life, but it’s also inspiring to read of the way he has come through their struggles and found peace in who he is. I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to everyone.

Mini Book Reviews: One of Them | This Party’s Dead | Perimenopause Power | West of Jim Crow #NonFiction

Today I have another selection of mini reviews to share. This time it’s four non-fiction books that I got through NetGalley. I found them all really interesting and have learnt a lot from them.

West of Jim Crow by Lynn M. Hudson

This is an incredibly eye-opening book that explores the effect of the Jim Crow laws across California predominantly in the early part of the twentieth century. It’s an academic book but still very readable. I’m so glad I picked it up and I learnt a lot from it. I know racism happens everywhere but I ignorantly believed that the worst race atrocities historically were in the southern states of America and had no real idea of what had happened in California. I found it hard to read at times, especially as a lot of my family lived in California for a long time and never have any of them talked about these issues and the idea they were blind to it is hard to rationalise. The book is set out in sections, each covering a different issue. There are the issues with segregation in schools and the local swimming pool; lynching; the Ku Klux Klan; and what happened in the town of Allenworth where black people tried to make a life for themselves. It’s also hard to read how laws that existed still didn’t offer any attempt at equality because the white people in power continued to act and interpret the law in the way they always had done. This is a book to read slowly, to really take in what you’re reading. It’s a book that I will be thinking about for a long time to come and I highly recommend it.

Perimenopause Power by Maisie Hill

I’ve been wanting to pick this book up for a while as I’m of an age where I need a better understanding of perimenopause. I’m glad I finally got around to it. The book is set out in distinct chapters which allows the reader to go straight to the section that they need information about and can go back and forth through the book. I read it from cover to cover as I wanted to see what the book was about overall but I think I would benefit from going back to certain chapters as and when I need more information. On the whole this book gave me a reasonable overview of what to expect but I felt there was a lot that I would ignore in here. There were parts that didn’t feel very grounded in science and so were a bit wishy washy and that’s not what I want in guidance, and some section felt overly long and not hugely relevant. Having said that, the sections on HRT and the different forms it comes in was very interesting. Also the advice to push with medical professionals if you don’t feel you’re being heard. I’m glad I read this one and I will refer back to some of it as and when the time comes.

This Party’s Dead by Erica Buist

This book grabbed my attention as soon as I saw the cover and the title and I’m so glad I picked it up. The author found herself unable to cope after the sudden death of her father-in-law to be; she didn’t feel she had a right to be in the depths of grief and yet couldn’t shake it off. In the end she decides to go to seven death festivals around the world to experience how other cultures deal with death to see if the way we deal (or don’t really deal) with death in Britain is hampering our ability to grieve. I found this book fascinating; I learnt so much about other cultures and it really made me think about the way we shut down talk of death in this country. I could identify with a lot of how Erica felt as I have similar fears but since my mum died I feel it’s much more important to talk openly about our wishes and what we want to happen when we’re gone. I enjoyed seeing Erica’s personal journey as she learnt new things on her travels and how she embraced all her new experiences even when they made her feel uncomfortable. This is a book that I would recommend to everyone. It’s hard to read at times but the mostly it’s inspiring and hopeful and it’s a chance to explore your own feelings around death.

One of Them by Musa Okwonga

One of Them is a fascinating memoir about what it was like as a young working class black boy to go to Eton. Okwonga is a brilliant writer and this book is so readable. It’s a very powerful book that explores racism and privilege but it’s also a personal memoir. I loved reading about what it took to get into Eton and what it was like to study there. Mostly this book was a very insightful look at race in Britain and what it feels like to be black and british. The author is a similar age to me and so it was shocking at times to read about how different his life was to mine just based on the colour of his skin. The fear he has at certain points in his life of people who he knows are looking at him as a young black man was palpable, and the way he was profiled by the police was shocking to read about. This is a book that will make you think but it’s so readable. I definitely want to read more writing by Musa Okwonga and will be going to look up his other books as soon as I’ve finished writing this post. I highly recommend this book, it’s one that I think everyone should read.

The Silent Friend by Diane Jeffrey | @dianefjeffrey @HQStories

About the Book

Tragedy brought them together. The truth will tear them apart.

It’s supposed to be Laura’s dream holiday: a trip to France with a group of friends to see their favourite band play live. But the holiday quickly turns to disaster, and Laura is left haunted by terrifying images from the worst night of her life.

When Laura finds an online support group for victims like her, she’s not convinced it will help. But then Sandrine replies to her message, and she seems to understand what Laura’s going through, in a way that no one else can.

Soon, Laura and Sandrine are sharing their deepest thoughts and feelings with each other. But one of them has a terrible secret – she isn’t who she says she is. And once the twisted truth is revealed, there’s no going back… 

My Thoughts

I’ve previously read The Guilty Mother by Diane Jeffrey and I loved it so I was highly anticipating reading her new one The Silent Friend and I’m so pleased to say that it lived up to all of my hopes for it!

I have to start by saying that this is one of those novels where it’s best to know no more than what it says in the synopsis. It does mean that as you get into the book and discover what it’s about it comes as something of a shock but it adds to the reading experience. My review will be vague so as not to spoil anything.

The novel follows two characters – Laura and Sandy – in alternating chapters; it also goes back and forth in time a little as the story builds. The novel opens with Laura struggling to come to terms with something that happened when she was on a holiday with a group of her friends. I really felt for Laura as while I haven’t experienced what she has been through I have suffered with similar feelings and emotions. Sandy has also had something terrible happen in her family and she decides to set up an online support group to try and help others who have been through similar. This is how she and Laura meet.

I felt sorry for both women, they had been through a lot and were struggling to figure out how to move on with their lives. We soon find out that one of them is not being honest about who she is though and this is where the tension really begins to heighten in the novel.

This novel has twists and turns, some I suspected were coming and others genuinely shocked me. It’s a domestic suspense novel that has thriller elements and it really keeps you on your toes. I had no idea what was coming and as I was reading it, my stomach was in a knot. The writing brings the drama to life in such a visceral way that it made me feel like I was right there along with the characters. It was hard to read at times but the writing is sensitive and that’s what made me keep turning the pages.

This is one of those books where I had to keep reminding myself to breathe. It’s not an easy read at times, and there were moments where I put the book down for a brief period before continuing but ultimately this is a really compelling read and a book that you just have to keep reading. I wanted to know how it was all going to end, I wanted to know where the characters were going to end up.

The Silent Friend is a very powerful novel that will take your breath away at times. It’s a book that will make you think and it’s one that will really stay with you. I recommend it!

Mini Book Reviews: The Appeal | Hostage | When I Was Ten | Dead Perfect

I’m sharing another selection of mini reviews today of books that I’ve read and enjoyed recently. These are all books that I got from NetGalley and I can recommend all of them.

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

This was such a fun read, different to anything I’ve read for a long while. We follow two law students as they’re given a file of documents relating to a murder and as the reader we get to see everything that they get given – emails, text messages, records of 999 calls and notes and slowly you piece together who everyone is and what it is that’s happened. We know from the start that someone has been murdered, and someone has been convicted of murder but we don’t know who. We also get told that not everyone is as they seem. This was so intriguing to me! When I first started reading I did think it was going to be hard to keep track of who was who as this novel has quite a large cast of characters but I found the voices are very distinct and once I got into the novel it was easy to follow what was happening. I did work out what had happened from the clues throughout but I had so much fun working it out that I would absolutely recommend this novel!

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh

I’m a real fan of Clare Mackintosh’s writing so have been keen to read this forthcoming novel of hers. Hostage follows flight attendant Mina as she is about to board a landmark 20 hour non-stop flight from London to Sydney. It also follows her husband Adam in alternating chapters. Once the flight takes off Mina starts seeing items of hers on board that she didn’t bring with her and chillingly it soon becomes apparent that there is someone on board intent on taking control of the plane. The build up to the hijacking was so good, I was really tense as I was reading and wondering what was going to happen and how it was all going to end. The latter part of the novel requires suspension of disbelief, which I was a little disappointed by, but at the same time by this point I was so invested in the characters that I was on the edge of my seat wanting to know how exactly it was going to end. There were some surprises for me in the novel and I love that I didn’t see how it was all going to ultimately end. This was a really gripping and thrilling novel, I recommend it.

When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins

This book was unputdownable for me – I read the whole novel in one sitting because I simply had to know how it was going to end! Twenty years ago a married couple were brutally murdered in their own home. One of their two daughters confessed to the crime and was sent to a young offenders unit. Now in the present day one sister is married with a child and the other is all over the news telling her story and looking for her sister. It’s not clear which sister is the murderer and the reveal was a shock but as this comes fairly early in the novel I was desperate to know more and what else was going on with this family. The novel is hard to read at times, especially the sections set in the past but it’s really well written and plotted so you can’t help but keep turning the pages. I found this such an engrossing novel. I’ve enjoyed all of Fiona Cummins’ novels that I’ve read so far but this one is definitely her best one yet! I highly recommend it!

Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten

This is the third novel in the DC Maggie Jamieson series and I’ve enjoyed them all. This book follows Maggie as she investigates a stalker who has escalated to murder and seems to be fixating on her colleague Dr Kate Moloney. The team are in a race against time to stop the killer striking again. We see a lot more of Maggie’s emotional side in this novel as she is very close to Kate and so is trying to be professional at work while being understandably hugely concerned for her friend’s welfare. I did spot who the killer was early on but I didn’t mind that I’d worked it out as it was plausible that the team didn’t spot them sooner so I was just rooting for them to figure it out. The murderer in this book is chilling in what he does when he kidnaps a woman, it really is the stuff of nightmares. I found this another gripping installment in the series and I can’t wait to see what’s next for Maggie and her team!

Mini Book Reviews: Home Stretch | Perfect Tunes | Dear Justyce | Hush Little Baby

Today I’m sharing another selection of mini reviews of books that I’ve read over the last week or so. I got all of these books from NetGalley and am now slowly catching up on my review books. This selection were all great reads and I recommend them!

Home Stretch by Graham Norton

This is such a stunning novel – I read it all in one sitting because I just didn’t want to put it down for a second. Home Stretch follows a small community in rural Ireland who are reeling from an horrific car crash that has killed three young people and seriously injured a fourth. Two young men escaped with no injuries. The ramifications are huge for the town as parents and siblings and friends try to come to terms with what happened. The novel starts in 1987 but goes back and forth in time up to 2019. We mainly follow Connor, a young gay man who was driving the car, and we see how much this has affected him and his family. The snippets we get from the other families affected by the accident are so moving. Norton really captures people’s thoughts in such a real way – there is a moment at one of the funeral’s when one mother is relieved that the wedding didn’t happen when she see’s what the bride’s mother is wearing at her daughter’s funeral and this felt so true to life. We all know these people in our own lives. There are twists and turns, and things that I didn’t see coming, but more than that this is a beautiful novel about finding your way in the world, and about how you find home again when the absolute worst thing has happened to you. I adored this book; it will absolutely be in my top books of this year! I highly recommend it!

Perfect Tunes by Emily Gould

This novel follows Laura as she moves to New York at the start of the new millenium. She dreams of making it as a singer/song writer but she is quite shy and always seems to be in her best friend’s shadow. One night she goes to see a band and meets the singer, Dylan, and her life begins to change in so many ways. She is besotted with Dylan, wanting to spend every second with him but life has other plans for her. The novel then moves quickly forward in time as we see Laura trying to navigate life with her teenage daughter. She still yearns to be a song writer but never seems to have time to sit and be creative. She’s not inspired anymore and is instead fully focused on her daughter and making ends meet. This is a novel about falling madly in love when you’re young, of having big dreams and feeling like they really might come true but then the reality of life and how we cope when we end up on a different path. Laura is a very passive character but I couldn’t help but root for her, I know what it is like to let life sweep you along because it’s easier than pushing forward for what you want. The end left me with mixed feelings but at the same time it was a perfect ending to Laura’s story. I really enjoyed this novel and I recommend it.

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

This is the companion novel to Dear Martin, which I read and loved last year. Each can be read as a standalone but I recommend reading them both in order. In Dear Justyce we follow Quan, who is in juvenile detention and we slowly get his back story. He knew Justyce when he was younger but their lives have taken very different roads. Justyce is doing well at college and Quan is imprisoned with no idea when he’ll ever see freedom again. He begins writing letters to Justyce and we gradually see how he ended up here. I found this such a moving novel, it’s really hard hitting at times with just how unjust the criminal justice system is and how rigged it is against non-white people. You can see as you read that Quan is a good person who just wanted better for his siblings but he had such a tough start in life and got caught up in things he couldn’t get out of. I loved how Justyce rallied support for Quan and how his group of friends are determined to make things right for him. This is a book that I know will stay with me. It’s such a powerful and stunning novel, it’s one that everyone should read.

Hush Little Baby by Jane Isaac

This novel follows DC Beth Chamberlain as she investigates the murder of a young baby whose body has been found on a building site. It is believed the baby could be Alicia Owens who has been missing for fifteen years so Beth has to go back through the case and to re-investigate everything. This is a mysterious novel which has you wondering where the baby had been kept for all the intervening years and who could have killed her, and why. Alicia’s mother, Marie, is quite a closed book but has re-married and had another child whereas her ex-husband hasn’t moved on at all and still isn’t coping too well. The wider family all seem like they might have secrets to hide and as the novel goes on things start to unravel. I enjoyed this book, it was the third in a series but the first one I’ve read and it works perfectly well as a standalone. I found the central mystery intriguing and was shocked when the reveal of who and how and why comes. I’d recommend this one if you like British crime fiction!

Mini Book Reviews: Hungry | Space Hopper | The Weekend | Five Hundred Miles From You

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

Hungry

I completely and utterly adored this book! Hungry is Grace Dent’s memoir and in it she details her life through with real emphasis on food. I’m just a little bit younger than Dent so a lot of her food memories are very similar to mine – the thrill of a Sara Lee Gateau as a very special treat is one such memory. I loved reading about her childhood in Carlisle, a place I know well, and her love for her family. There is so much love that shines out of these pages. Anyone who grew up in the north in the 70s and 80s will identify with this book so much. As Dent gets a little older and starts to move away from her family and to build a career for herself we see how she got into being a food critic and this was every bit as interesting as her childhood. There is sadness and worry along the way too as her dad starts to show signs of dementia and her mum suffers with ill health too but the way Dent and her siblings rally around was wonderful to read about. I can’t put into words just how much I loved this book, I enjoyed every single bit of it and I would recommend it to everyone. This will definitely be one of my top books of 2021, I’m certain of it!

The Weekend

This novel follows three older women who are returning to their friend Sylvie’s home to clear it out after her death. The four women had been friends for many years but there are secrets being kept and also the difficulties of how they’ve all changed over the years that all have to be dealt with over the course of one weekend. Jude is very self-controlled and likes everything to be just so. Wendy is more eccentric and goes with the flow so when she turns up with her elderly, incontinent dog Jude is horrified. Adele is an out of work actress who is on the brink of being homeless and can’t bring herself to tell her oldest friends of her latest plight. I loved the writing in this novel; it’s the first I’ve read by Charlotte Wood and it won’t be the last. I found it hard to warm to any of the characters at first but as the novel goes on and we see the vulnerabilities of the women I couldn’t help but feel sadness at what life had thrown at them. This is a melancholy, reflective novel but it still left me feeling hopeful. I enjoyed this novel and I recommend it!

Space Hopper

This novel follows Faye who is happily married with children but she still misses her mum who died when she was 8. One day she finds her old Space Hopper box in the attic and it transports her back to the 70s in the year or so before her mother died! There is so much I loved about this novel. I really connected with how much Faye was desperate to travel back to her mother as she missed her so much. I think anyone who has lost their parent would find it hard to resist having one more day with them, even when you realise you might sacrifice things in the present. I loved seeing Faye connect with her mum and getting to know her as an adult. It’s a novel where the time travel element doesn’t really make sense, even within the story, so I definitely had to suspend my disbelief but I was so invested in Faye and her desire to have more time with her mum that I was happy to do that. This novel was so soothing to me in the week when it should have been my mum’s 70th birthday and I’m so glad that I picked it up when I did. I recommend it.

Five Hundred Miles From You

This novel follows Lissa and Corman. Lissa lives in London and loves her job as a community nurse but when one day she witnesses a traumatic incident she struggles to cope and is offered a three-month job swap with Cormac. He lives in a remote Scottish village and loves his life as a nurse there. Over time Lissa and Cormac have to swap notes about patients and a bond starts to form. I loved reading about how each of them had to find their feet in a completely new place, and it was fun seeing their friends too and how they coped with the swap. I didn’t enjoy this as much as previous novels by the author but it was still a really fun read and I’m glad I read it. This book is the third in a series but can definitely be read a standalone. An enjoyable summer read!

Mini Book Reviews: Dead Head | Truth Be Told | The Split | Punching the Air

Dead Head by C. J. Skuse

This was one of my most anticipated books for this year and it more than lived up to my hopes for it! This is the third instalment in the SweetPea series and I loved this book. In Dead Head we are back with Rhiannon at a book launch and then the novel goes back in time and we find out what she has been up to since the last book. She is now on the run and trying to evade the authorities and she is on form! Her kill lists are absolutely brilliant, and yet again it’s disconcerting to find yourself nodding your head in agreement with some of her hates and then realising she is actually a serial killer and perhaps would kill people for these reasons. This is such a fun series though – it’s dark and at times gory but Rhiannon is one of the best fictional characters I’ve ever read about. I don’t want to say much more about this book as you really need to read the first two books first and I don’t want to risk spoiling anything. I do highly recommend this whole series though, it’s utterly brilliant!

Truth Be Told by Kia Abdullah

Truth Be Told book is an incredible read. In it we follow Kamran, a teenage boy who is the victim of rape by another boy at his boarding school. Kamran goes to see Zara Kaleel at a rape crisis centre and she agrees to help him. This is such a powerful novel that explores so many issues around rape and consent, race and gender, and the impact on the victim, but also the people around the victim when a rape accusation is made. It was very hard to read at times but the issues are handled really sensitively and in a way that is so believable. This is the second novel that features Zara but this novel does work as a standalone. I enjoyed the author’s previous book but this one is even better. I didn’t want to put this one down and now I’ve finished it I keep finding myself thinking about it. I highly recommend this one!

The Split by Sharon Bolton

I’m just finding my way out of a horrible reading slump and this book was exactly what I needed to remind me what it’s like to get completely lost in a great novel. The Split opens with the main character, Felicity, at work in Antarctica. She is on edge about a passenger cruise that is due to arrive and she decides to leave her station for a little while. The novel soon goes back in time to nine months earlier in Cambridge, which was a real jolt but I was soon absorbed in what was going on there. I had my suspicions about elements of what was going on but I didn’t see the whole picture until it was revealed to me. I was completely along for the ride with this one and that was the best way to read it. Felicity is struggling with absences and she finds herself in places without knowing how she got there, and she feels like someone has been in her home. She has to go and see a counsellor, Joe, and we follow his perspective too. My favourite character in the novel is Delilah, a police detective who is Joe’s mother. She does not suffer fools and always says what she thinks. This was a dark read at times but also such a fun novel to read. I definitely recommend it!

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam

This is a really powerful young adult novel told in verse and follows a young black man, Amal, as he is convicted of a brutal assault and sent to prison. Parts of drawings and scribbles are interspersed throughout the narrative, which really added to Amal’s story and to my understanding of who he is and how he expresses himself best. He’s clearly a boy who loves his family and wants to do well at school but he is, understandably and justifiably, angry at his art class teacher’s focus on white artists. One day he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time and while he isn’t entirely innocent, he didn’t do the thing he is convicted of. His anger and confusion is palpable, and I could feel the claustrophobia of the prison as if I was right there too. Over time we see the moments of hope that keep Amal going, and I loved the letters he gets from Zenobia. There are small acts of kindness, that come alongside the really dark moments, and it is those that make this book hopeful. It doesn’t shy away from racism and race issues, or the injustice suffered by the wrongly convicted but there is definitely some hope in there. This is a book that I would recommend to everyone.

Mini Book Reviews: The Girl in the Missing Poster | The Festival | The Castaways | Lockdown #Thrillers

It’s time for some more mini reviews today and this time it’s thrillers that I’ve read and enjoyed in recent weeks!

The Girl in the Missing Poster by Barbara Copperthwaite

This is the first novel by Barbara Copperthwaite that I’ve read and I can absolutely say that it won’t be my last. I loved this novel, it had my hooked from the very start and is one of those books that I was picking up every spare few minutes that I had. It follows Stella whose twin sister Leila disappeared after a family party and has never been found. Stella still looks for her sister and is always hiding from herself because she sees her sister every time she looks in the mirror. She agrees to take part in a Netflix documentary about Leila’s disappearance and I loved how transcripts of this programme are interspersed throughout the novel. I was intrigued from the start about this book and I loved that as we get to see viewers’ thoughts on the documentary people had theories that were the same as mine. I didn’t spot whodunnit or why and I loved that the ending when it came was so shocking to me. I’m not often surprised in a thriller so I love it when one gets me. I keep thinking about this novel and am quite envious of people who have yet to read it for the first time. I recommend this one!

The Castaways by Lucy Clarke

I love Lucy Clarke’s writing and have enjoyed all of her previous novel so I had very high hopes for this one and I’m so pleased to say that it more than lived up to them! This novel follows sisters Lori and Erin. They went on holiday together and one night had a row which led to Lori getting on a plane and Erin walking away. The plane disappears and Erin is left full of regret and a desperate need to know what happened to her sister. The novel follows Erin in the present and Lori a couple of years earlier and I loved this way of telling the story. It meant the reader was privy to more knowledge than the characters but it was still twisty and gripping. I had my suspicions about what had happened to Lori and while I was partly right there was so much more to this novel than I ever could have seen! I love the fierceness of Erin’s determination to find out what happened, and the single-mindedness she showed in trying to find out. I was rooting for her the whole way through. The love that was there between the sisters shines off the pages in the novel and I found that incredibly moving. I loved that this is a twisty mystery novel with real heart and love at its centre. I highly recommend this one!

The Festival by Sarah J. Naughton

I loved this novel! It follows four almost 40-year-old women who have been friends since school. Life is pulling them in different directions but as Lenny is about to turn 40 they decide to go back to the festival that they first went to together as teenagers 20 years ago. The first part of the novel lets us see who these women are and where they are in life and how they got there, then the second part is all about what happens at the festival. I really enjoyed the way the story unfolded and that I felt I really knew these women before the story got more action-packed. Everyone is carrying baggage and this spills out over the course of the weekend and the consequences of this end up being deadly. I had no idea who it was that would die and I didn’t spot who the killer was either. I found some moments in this book quite chilling and was on the edge of my seat. I very much enjoyed this book and I highly recommend it. I got my copy from NetGalley but the book will be available to buy this month.

Lockdown by Peter May

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley a while ago now but was hesitant to read it as as the subject of pandemic flu felt a little bit close to home. However, I finally picked it up recently and I’m really glad that I did. The flu pandemic is the backdrop to the story and it affects the way people behave but it’s not the main story. This is a novel about a horrendous crime that the main character is in a race against time to solve and the pandemic restrictions aren’t helping. I found this a really compelling story and one that I devoured in two sittings. I wasn’t expecting to be so gripped but I didn’t want to put the book down until I knew how it was going to be resolved. I enjoyed following D.I. Jack MacNeil as he tried to track down the killer but my favourite character was Amy. It was great to see some disability representation in this novel that was entirely believable and true to life. This was the first book by Peter May that I’ve read but I’ll definitely look out for more of his work in the future!

Mini Book Reviews: All the Lonely People | The Things We Left Unsaid | Everything is Beautiful | The Illustrated Child

I’m sharing another selection of mini reviews today of FOUR incredible novels that I’ve finished reading recently.

All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle

I’ve enjoyed all of the Mike Gayle novels that I’ve read to date but I think I have to say that All the Lonely People is my new favourite novel by him. I was invested in this novel and the characters from the opening pages and I was enthralled by the story from start to finish! This novel is about Hubert Bird, an older gentleman who has lost his wife and has become increasingly isolated. He speaks to his daughter on the phone every week but she lives in Australia. One day a young woman and her daughter knock at Hubert’s door as they’re looking to make friends as they’re new to the area and this sets in motion this beautiful and moving story. The novel goes back and forth in time between when Hubert first came to the UK and the racial abuse that he suffered. We see him meet and fall in love with his wife and how their lives were; and the present day where Hubert is alone and his world has become very small and he doesn’t know how to change it. The novel covers what it is to be a part of the Windrush Generation, grief, love and more than anything hope! I adored this book so much, it’s an incredible read and a book that we all need in our lives at the moment. I highly recommend this one!

The Things We Left Unsaid by Emma Kennedy

I adored this book, it’s one of those books that I never wanted to end! The Things We Left Unsaid follows Rachel in the present and her mum Eleanor in the past. The novel opens when Rachel has been jilted by her fiance only six weeks after her father’s death. Rachel is reeling and doesn’t know where to turn. In the alternating chapters we see Eleanor start her first term at Uni and find her independence for the first time. This novel is just so warm and inviting, I didn’t want to put it down once I started reading. I loved Eleanor’s timeline and all the people she met, but I was also invested in seeing what was going to happen to Rachel in the present. This is a beautiful novel and one that I still keep thinking about and it’s a couple of weeks since I finished reading it. I highly recommend it!

Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray

I received an audiobook of this one from NetGalley and I adored it! The novel follows Amy who is a hoarder, she struggles with the idea of letting go of any part of any of her collections. We find out early on in the story that her boyfriend upped and left her eleven years ago and Amy has never been able to find out where he went or why. Over the course of the novel we learn more about Amy’s past and how that has made her the way she is now. I loved seeing her deal with her new neighbours and having to cope with their inquisitive children. I could really identify with Amy at times, I’ve been someone who after difficult times have found my hoarding tendencies have returned and it took a long time for me to let go of all the stuff. I really felt for Amy and I was rooting for her the whole way through this beautiful novel. This is such a charming read and one that I never wanted to stop listening to. The narrator is Eilidh Beaton and her voice felt perfect for the character of Amy, she really added to my enjoyment of the novel. I recommend it!

The Illustrated Child by Polly Crosby

This novel is one that took a while to draw me in but once it did I just didn’t want to stop reading. It follows Romilly, a young child who is living with her father in a ramshackle home. They live quite an isolated existence that Romilly loves, her father makes things magical and encourages Romilly’s imagination. One day he writes a children’s book featuring Romilly and their life and suddenly there is a lot more attention on them and their home. As time goes by and Romilly gets older there starts to be more neglect and clearly there is something going on with her dad but it’s not apparent what for quite a while. The novel does become something different than I was expecting it to but there is something so moving and beautiful in the way this book is written that I just didn’t want to put it down. I recommend it!

Mini Book Reviews: The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer | Just Like The Other Girls | The Searcher | The Hidden Girls

My reading mojo is slowly returning, although still not back to normal, but my blogging mojo is still lagging behind so now I have lots of reviews to catch up with. Today I’m sharing mini reviews of books that I’ve read recently.

The Disappearance of Stephanie Mailer by Joel Dicker

I read and adored The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair when it was published so I had very high hopes for his new one and I’m so happy to say that the novel lived up to them. It’s quite a long book and I read it in just two sittings as I just didn’t ever want to put it down, I wanted to know what was going on in this small town. Back in 1994 four brutal murders happened, and the case was solved by a cop duo who have a 100% success rate. Only now 20 years later a journalist, Stephanie Mailer, has turned up and is certain that the cops missed something obvious at the crime scene. Now the detective from the 1994 murders is on the brink of retirement but can’t bear that he might have missed something so he goes back through the case to see if they did miss anything. The novel follows a large cast of characters and goes back and forth between 1994 and the present day, and we get the backgrounds of the main characters. I just loved everything about this book, I already feel like going back and reading it all again! I recommend this one.

Just Like the Other Girls by Claire Douglas

I’ve read and really enjoyed all of Claire Douglas’ previous novels so was keen to pick her new one up. I found this one every bit as gripping as her previous books and read it all in one day! The novel follows a young woman, Una, as she gets a job in an imposing house as a carer to an older lady, Elspeth. Una soon discovers that the previous two girls who had her job died in strange circumstances and so she is immediately suspicious and wants to know more. As is usually the case with this author’s novels, there are blind alleys and red herrings scattered throughout so it really keeps you on your toes and wondering who on earth the culprit is. The end was a shock to me, I had thought I’d figured it all out but I was wrong and I loved that I was. This is a fast-paced and gripping read, I recommend it!

The Searcher by Tana French

I’m a huge Tana French fan and have loved all of her previous novels so was keen to pick her new one up. The Searcher isn’t my favourite of French’s novels but I honestly think it’s a case of right book, wrong time though so I wanted to still share what it’s about on here. The novel follows Cal, a former Chicago cop who has moved to rural Ireland to start a new life. Once there he sets about renovating the house he has bought and he starts to meet people in the community. The relationship he forms with Trey was my favourite part of the book, their growing trust in each other which starts out with such wariness was lovely to read. There are also beautiful descriptions of the landscape, so much so that I could really visualise the setting and the weather to the point of feeling like I was there. The blurb of the novel reads as though this is a novel about Cal seeking out a missing young man but that isn’t really the focus and I think had I known that I might have had a better reading experience as I was expecting one thing and got another. Ultimately, this is a novel about small towns and the secrets buried there. I think I may try re-reading this another time as I really did want to love it.

The Hidden Girls by Rebecca Whitney

This novels follows Ruth, a new mother who is recovering from post-partum psychosis. She is still struggling and her husband is hesitant to leave her alone with their baby for very long. Ruth starts hearing screams in the night and seeing things happening down the road from her house and she calls the police. It soon becomes clear that Ruth has experienced this before so the reader is then wondering what is real and what is not. The premise of this novel really intrigued me but unfortunately I didn’t really gel with the book. I think it was me and not the book though so if it sounds interesting to you then it’s worth picking up a copy.

#BookReview: Bound Vanda Symon | @VandaSymon @OrendaBooks #Bound #SamShephard

About the Book

The passionate, young police officer Sam Shephard returns in
a taut, atmospheric and compelling police procedural, which sees her take matters into her own hands when the official investigation into the murder of a local businessman fails to add up…

The New Zealand city of Dunedin is rocked when a wealthy and apparently respectable businessman is murdered in his luxurious home while his wife is bound and gagged, and forced to watch. But when Detective Sam Shephard and her team start investigating the case, they discover that the victim had links with some dubious characters.

The case seems cut and dried, but Sam has other ideas. Weighed down by her dad’s terminal cancer diagnosis, and by complications in her relationship with Paul, she needs a distraction, and launches her own investigation. And when another murder throws the official case into chaos, it’s up to Sam to prove that the killer is someone no one could ever suspect.

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Vanda Symon’s writing so knew I was going to love this book and I was absolutely right! Bound is the fourth book in the Sam Shephard series and the books just keep getting better and better!

Bound opens with a shocking prologue – a home invasion where a man has been shot dead and his wife is tied up and seriously injured. The novel then follows Sam as she tries to figure out what on earth has led to this seemingly respectable businessman being killed in his own home.

I love Sam Shephard, she’s my favourite fictional detective and I adore following her as she solves crimes. In this novel we see some more of her personal life too, which I appreciated. She is much more vulnerable through parts of this novel and I found what she was going through very moving to read. Sam is good at putting on her work face though and whilst dealing with the things in her private life she continues to be focused on her job and solving this murder.

I had my suspicions about whodunnit and why but I was so wrong! I love when a crime novel wrong-foots me as it so rarely happens but this one got me and the ending was genuinely a shock to me. I’m already so keen to read book five in this series and see what happens next for Sam!

Bound is a brilliant crime novel and one that I keep finding myself thinking about. I highly recommend it (and the rest of the series if you haven’t already read the previous books)!

I received an ecopy of this book from the publisher. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author

Vanda Symon is a crime writer, TV presenter and radio host from Dunedin, New Zealand, and the chair of the Otago Southland branch of the New Zealand Society of Authors. The Sam Shephard series has climbed to number one on the New Zealand bestseller list, and has also been shortlisted for the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel and for the CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger. She currently lives in Dunedin, with her husband and two sons.

Mini Book Reviews: The Book of Two Ways | One by One | The Disappearing Act | A Christmas Memory

Today I’m sharing a new selection of mini reviews of books that I’ve enjoyed recently.

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

I generally really enjoy Jodi Picoult’s writing but it’s no secret that I struggled to get into this one. It follows Dawn, who after surviving a plane crash decides to go back to Egypt where she had studied years earlier. In her real life Dawn is happily married with a teenage daughter but now it seems she is unravelling and seeking something that even she is not sure of. I struggled with the opening chapters of the book as I felt I couldn’t connect to Dawn, or the other characters, and there was a lot of egyptology running through the pages. However, I am so glad I persevered as there was a moment when this book just really connected with me and from that point on I honestly couldn’t put it down. I was enthralled reading about Dawn’s work as a death doula and found these sections incredibly moving and heartfelt. I then was invested in knowing more about Dawn and how she got to where she was when we met her at the start of the book. I ended up very much enjoying this book and I would recommend it!

One by One by Ruth Ware

This novel follows a group of people who all work on the Snoop app (a music streaming service that allows you to listen to what someone else is listening to at the exact same time as them) as they arrive at their holiday chalet in Saint Antoine. The novel is narrated by Erin, who works at the chalet, and Liz, a former employee and now share-holder at Snoop. The group all seem to have strong personalities and it seemed from the start that there would be fireworks. No one predicted that there would be an avalanche that would isolate the group at the chalet with no means of contacting the outside world. And then a murder happens! I love a closed circle mystery and this one was a fun read. I did spot whodunnit very early on but it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the story as I wanted to know how and why! This was a good read on a cold winter’s day and I recommend it!

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

I started reading this short story collection around Christmas but then it languished part-read on my Kindle until I finally picked it back up recently. I do enjoy Capote’s writing but I did find this collection a mixed bag. There are six stories in the book – some entirely fiction and some autobiographical. I found that some stories were overly sentimental for me and I struggled to connect with them but I did enjoy a couple of the stories. I would say that while the stories are all set around Christmas that this could be read any time of year. I think I’m going to try re-reading this over Christmas at some point in the future as I think I might get more out of it on a second read.

The Disappearing Act by Florence de Changy

This is a fascinating and very well-researched non-fiction book looking at what might have happened to flight MH 370, which disappeared seemingly without trace in March 2014. The author is a journalist and she has closely followed the story from the very start. In the book we see that she has interviewed people from all walks of life – from the conspiracy theorists, to the politicians, to the eye witnesses and more to try and piece together what the most likely scenario is as to what happened to the plane. Some parts of this book felt a little bogged down in detail and I had to re-read sections to fully grasp them but other parts of the book had me completely engrossed and unable to put the book down. de Changy’s ultimate theories on what might have happened to the plane sound incredibly plausible and believable. It’s shocking that so many mistakes and mis-steps (and possible deliberate cover-ups) have meant the mystery of MH 370 might never be solved. This is a well written book and I recommend it.

Mini Book Reviews: The Thursday Murder Club | True Story | Watch Over You | Precious You

I’m sharing some more mine reviews today of books that I’ve read over the last couple of months.

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

This was one of my most anticipated books of last year so I was thrilled when I got a copy for Christmas and I devoured it in one sitting! Needless to say I completely and utterly loved it! The novel follows four people in a retirement village who meet up every Thursday to look at old murder cases to try and solve them. So when a murder happens to someone connected to their home they can’t resist investigating the case. I loved the wonderful mix of characters in this novel, and I just found it such an engaging and warm read. I already can’t wait for the next book in the series to be published!

True Story by Kate Reed Petty

I read this novel a couple of weeks ago now and to be honest I’m still not sure what I thought of it so this mini review is rather hard to write! The novel is billed as the story of the aftermath of a sexual assault and is told in different genres – the first part is correct but I’m not sure that the different genres were really that different from each other. Having said that I did read this novel in one sitting and was intrigued by the strange paths it took me down as it went along. True Story is about a teenage girl who may or may not have been sexually assaulted on her way home from a party. She can’t remember what happened but it hugely affects her that men could have done this to her when she wasn’t conscious. We also follows the young men involved and see the story from their side and what happens to them as a result. I must admit that I didn’t know where this novel was going and the ending initially left me feeling angry and confused but the more it sits with me the more I feel like it makes sense. I still don’t know whether I enjoyed this book or not but it’s staying with me and I kind of want to re-read it a year or so from now to see how I feel then.

Watch Over You by M. J. Ford

This is the third book in a series and as I had really enjoyed the first two books I was keen to read this one and I’m happy to say that I really enjoyed it. This novel follows DS Josie Masters as she attends a murder scene and discovers the deceased is a former colleague of hers. As she looks around the house she realises her friend must have had someone staying with him and now the police urgently need to find this person. And this is only the beginning, Josie needs to work fast to find the killer before they strike again. I found this novel really hard to put down. I loved that we follow Josie as she gets back to work following the birth of her baby, and we also follow the killer but we’re still trying to join the dots along with Josie and her team. This is fast-paced, gripping read and I recommend it! I can’t wait for the next book in the series!

Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar

This novel follows Katherine as she meets her new intern Lily. Initially Katherine likes Lily but soon doubts start to creep in but Katherine can’t put her finger on what is making her distrust Lily. Lily seems like a perfect young intern doing all she can to fit in and learn so no one wants to hear what Katherine thinks. What follows is a fascinating and disturbing novel about how far a rivalry can go and what one woman is prepared to do to destroy another. I couldn’t put this book down once I started it, I just had to know what was going to happen. There were moments where I wanted to look away but I couldn’t stop myself reading more. I recommend this one!

Mini Book Reviews: Because of You | The Sight of You | When the Lights Go Out | After the Silence

Today I’m sharing another selection of mini reviews of books that I’ve read and enjoyed recently. This time the selection is all novels and I thoroughly enjoyed all four of them!

Because of You by Dawn French

This is the first novel that I’ve read by Dawn French but it definitely won’t be the last as I completely and utterly adored it. It follows two women who both give birth on the same day but only one woman gets to take her baby home. The novel then follows each of the two women, and the child as she grows up, and we see what their lives have been like. I found this book so engrossing and I wanted to devour it but also to read it so slowly as I didn’t want it to ever end. I still keep thinking of the characters and wondering how they are. This was an emotional and beautiful novel and one I already want to read again!

The Sight of You by Holly Miller

This is a beautiful and moving novel that follows Callie as she tries to find a way through the grief of losing her best friend, and Joel who can’t allow himself to fall in love. When they meet there is an instant connection but both are wary for their own reasons. It turns out that Joel has premonition dreams and he can’t bear to fall in love with someone and risk dreaming about what might happen to them. I really enjoyed following Joel and Callie and felt invested in their relationship. The novel is a tear jerker but it’s also life-affirming and I recommend it!

When the Lights Go Out by Carys Bray

I’m a huge fan of Carys Bray’s writing so this has been one of my eagerly anticipated reads and I’m so pleased to say that it more than lived up to my hopes for it. This book follows Emma and her husband Chris. Emma wants to live a simple, happy life but Chris is obsessed with climate change and stockpiling for the end of days. Emma tries to be patient but it’s driving her mad, and Chris just can’t see beyond his own fears for what he believes is coming for them. The couple can’t communicate well with each other anymore and the situation becomes more and more tense. There is a sense of foreboding running right through this novel and so I knew something was going to happen but the ending was shocking. This is a brilliant novel that explores what it is to be married to someone with different ideals to yourself, and what happens when the ability to see each other’s point of view is lost. I loved this book and I recommend it!

After the Silence by Louise O’Neill

I was so keen to read this book as I loved Louise’s earlier novel Almost Love and I’m pleased to say that this one was every bit as good. This is billed as a thriller but for me it’s more an exploration of people in small towns, and relationships and what lengths people will go to to hide the truth when something terrible happens. The novel follows a cast of characters as a crime podcast is being made about the murder of a teenage girl ten years earlier. We slowly find out about the possible suspects and how the islanders view each other, and the suspicions that linger. For me, the novel really shows what it is like to be controlled by someone who has more power than you. There is a moment near the end of the novel that sent shivers down my spine as it explained coercive control better than anything I’ve ever read before. This is an excellent novel and I highly recommend it.

Mini Book Reviews: Keeper |The Phone Box at the Edge of the World | Tales From the Cafe | Writers and Lovers | Summer

Today I’m sharing another selection of mini book reviews. I read most of these books before my reading slump really took hold so am now trying to get back to blogging and catch up on my reviews.

Keeper by Jessica Moor

I’ve been in an awful reading slump recently but I kept thinking about this book so decided to pick it up and I’m so glad I did. I found this to be such a stunning read and I found it really hard to put down. The novel opens with Katie Shaw meeting a man in a nightclub, the storyline then splits into past and present as we learn what happened to Katie and how she got to where she is now. I found this to be such a powerful read with a really sensitive and realistic portrayal of the aftermath of domestic violence and stalking. I know how hard it is for women to access support and this book really explores so many angles to this. The story is compelling and it is such a page turner as well as it being eye-opening. I finished reading this book a while ago now and I still keep thinking about it. I’m currently trying to work out my favourite books of the year post and I’m sure this book will be on my list. I highly recommend it!

The Phone Box at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina

This novel is such a beautiful and moving read, I loved it. It follows Yui who lost her mum and her daughter in the tsunami. She discovers that there is a place where you can go and use a phone and talk to those you’ve lost and she decides to go there. While there she meets Takeshi and his young daughter who hasn’t spoken since her mum died. The novel follows both characters as they work through their pain and grief and as they try to find solace and a way to hold on to the past whilst also moving on. I found this book so hard to put down, it’s a novel that made me really tearful at times as I thought about that phone and how it must be to find some way of talking to those you’ve lost but ultimately I found this a really beautiful book and I very much enjoyed it.

Before the Coffee gets Cold: Tales from the Cafe by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

I got a copy of this book from NetGalley and I read it before reading the first book about the cafe but it worked fine as a standalone. This novel all takes place in a cafe in Japan but it’s not an ordinary cafe. There is a table and chair in the cafe and if you sit down there you can go back in time to meet up with someone from your past but you have to leave them before the coffee gets cold. I loved this book, it was really moving to read the back stories of the characters and to find out why they have come to the cafe and why they feel they need closure regarding the past. I hope to read more about this cafe in the future!

Writers and Lovers by Lily King

This novel follows Casey who is dealing with heartbreak over a break-up and the grief of losing her beloved mother. She is working as a waitress and also working on her novel, which has been a work in progress for quite a few years now but she never seems to finish it. Then she finds herself in the middle of a love triangle and is finally pushed to make a decision about what she wants from life. I really enjoyed this book. I picked it up after reading the blurb as Casey seemed like her life was in a similar place to mine when I was her age. Casey’s life gets way more complicated than mine ever did but I could really identify with the grief she had for her mum and the way this seems to impact on her decision making. I read this novel quite a while ago now and it hasn’t stayed with me as much as I thought it would but I did really enjoyed it and I would recommend it.

Summer by Ali Smith

I’ve read and loved the previous three novels in this seasonal quarter so had been eagerly anticipating Summer and I’m so pleased to say that I loved it every bit as much, if not even more, than the previous books. Summer is set during World War 2 and during the pandemic in 2020 and I found it incredible. It was strange to read about the pandemic while we’re still living through it but it never felt too much. I loved how characters from previous books in the quartet appear in Summer and it felt like it brought us full circle. I will miss this quartet now it’s completed but I think I would read all of the books again in the future, it will be interesting years down the line to look back and see how they feel then. I definitely recommend all four books but start at the beginning with Autumn.

Festive Mini Book Reviews! #Christmas

Today I’m sharing some mini book reviews of books that I’ve managed to read over the last few weeks. These ones are all quite festive or set at Christmas!

All About Us by Tom Ellen

This book is stunning and I very much enjoyed this one. I had an ARC from NetGalley but I bought the Audio book from Audible so I could listen to it. The novel is a retelling of A Christmas Carol and it really is a brilliant story. Ben is unhappy in his marriage and as Christmas is approaching he’s thinking about an old flame and what could have been. The novel then follows Ben as he gets thrown back to the past numerous times and discovers that his memories of how things happened were perhaps skewed or even inaccurate and while what he learns won’t change the future he can change himself and his approach to life. I adored this book, it kept me engrossed at a time when reading has been a struggle and I’m sure I’ll revisit it again in the future. I definitely recommend this one!

If Every Day Was Christmas by Donna Ashcroft

This is a lovely, warm-hearted novel that follows Meg who runs a Christmas shop in the Scottish village of Lockton and she loves the festive period. This year things begin to go awry as she deals with family dramas, and she finds herself drawn to a new man. I loved that there was a focus on a budding romance but also on the friendships between women in the village. I also really liked that no one knew who Tom was or what he had done for a living before he arrived in Lockton. It made for a fun read wondering when people would find out and how they would react! I did enjoy this novel, it was really cute and romantic and I would recommend it.

Tinsel by Sibeal Pounder

This is a really sweet middle grade novel about Blanche Claus and the idea that the story we all know about Santa is wrong! I found this such a lovely, escapist read and really enjoyed it. I would have adored this book when I was younger, it’s always fun to read an alternative origin story for Father Christmas and this one has lots of magic, adventures and twists and I would recommend it to anyone who has young children.

A Surprise Christmas Wedding by Phillipa Ashley

I got an audio version of this book from NetGalley and I really enjoyed listening to it. It follows Lottie who is working at Firholme, her dream job in the Lake District. One day she finds she has a last minute Christmas wedding to organise and the groom turns out to be the man who broke her heart! This is a lovely, feel-good read that I really enjoyed listening to over a couple of weeks. The setting is beautiful and the characters are well-rounded and believable. The audio narration by Laura Kirman really added to my enjoyment and I will look out for more books narrated by her in the future. I definitely recommend this one!

Christmas at Fireside Cabins by Jenny Hale

I’ve read and enjoyed other festive novels by this author so I was delighted when I was approved to read this one on NetGalley a few weeks ago. This novel follows Lila who struggles with Christmas ever since her Dad died but she has made a new family in her group of friends and every year they celebrate the festive season together. This year might be the last time as they’re all moving on with careers or relationships so it needs to be a good one. They end up at Fireside Cabins which is more dilapidated than advertised but they decide to stay as the owner is such a lovely lady. Lila finds herself attracted to the sullen coffee shop owner but he’s clearly troubled. I loved seeing how this group of friends got on and seeing how things developed. I really cared about Eleanor, the owner of the Cabins and was rooting for her to be okay. I recommend this one too!

#BookReview: Once Again by Catherine Wallace Hope | @catwallacehope @RandomTTours

About the Book

What if you had one chance to save someone you lost?

Isolated in the aftermath of tragedy, Erin Fullarton has felt barely alive since the loss of her young daughter, Korrie. She tries to mark the milestones her therapist suggests–like today, the 500th day without Korri–but moving through grief is like swimming against a dark current.

Her estranged husband, Zac, a brilliant astrophysicist, seems to be coping better. Lost in his work, he’s perfecting his model of a stunning cosmological phenomenon, one he predicts will occur today–an event so rare, it keeps him from being able to acknowledge Erin’s coinciding milestone.

But when Erin receives a phone call from her daughter’s school, the same call she received five hundred days earlier when Korrie was still alive, Erin realizes something is happening. Or happening again. Struggling to understand the sudden shifts in time, she pieces together that the phenomenon Zac is tracking may have presented her with the gift of a lifetime: the chance to save her daughter.

Unable to reach Zac or convince the authorities of what is happening, Erin is forced to find the answer on her own, Erin must battle to keep the past from repeating–or risk losing her daughter for good.

My Thoughts

I have to start this review by saying that this book is incredible and even though I read it in the midst of a reading slump I could not put it down! I finished reading this a couple of weeks ago now and I still keep thinking about it.

Once Again is the story of Erin whose 6 year old daughter died eighteen months ago. She is mired in grief and cannot come to terms with what happened. Erin had been happily married to her husband Zac and life was pretty good but now they’re so far apart and neither can see a way back. On the 500th day since Korrie died Zac, an astrophysicist, is working on a momentous project and it has far reaching implications.

On this horrible anniversary Erin receives a call from Korrie’s school asking her to come and collect her daughter, a call she should have taken on the day her daughter went missing but she didn’t. Now Erin realises that time is shifting and she needs to get hold of Zac to figure out what is going on.

I adored this book. It really captures what it is to be lost in grief and unable to see a way through it. Erin is really struggling and this is so believable and so beautifully written. As the novel unfolds we see what happened in the past the day Korrie disappeared, and why Erin missed a phone call that might have saved her daughter. We also see what seems to be time shifts in the present as Erin finds herself falling back to that fateful day. It’s not clear straight away if something is actually happening to Erin or if her mind is playing tricks on her. I was completely rooting for Erin and wanted her to be able to go back and to get to the school in time to save her daughter.

I had no idea how this novel was going to unfold or how it might end. I had my suspicions and I was completely wrong. I love that this novel kept me on my toes when it came to the action but that it held me under its spell when it came to the emotional impact.

Once Again is truly an incredible read. I read it in two sittings and ever since I finished reading it I keep finding myself thinking of Erin and wondering what is happening in her life now. It’s such a poignant novel but also action packed and fast-paced as we see Erin’s race against time, and the odds, to stop the past repeating itself. There really aren’t enough superlatives to describe how brilliant this novel is! I highly recommend it and I strongly urge you all to read it. It is for sure one of my favourite books of this year and I already want to go back and read it all again!

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

Come Again is out now and available here.

Gravity Well by Marc Rahe | @RandomTTours @RescuePress #GravityWell

About the Book

In Gravity Well, Marc Rahe’s incisive third collection, the poems beckon readers through an ever-shifting series of landscapes, drawing our gaze across a dynamic tableau—an octopus wearing a sweater, a white sky over the bridge we’re standing on, flowers pressed into a forgotten book—as a means of revealing the most particular thrills and anxieties of the human condition. Unafraid and unwavering, careful and concerned, Gravity Well propels its reader through the imagined apertures of the universe one striking image at a time, leaving us ocularly magnified in a world now seen anew. A singular voice in American poetry, Rahe deftly centers the body in relation to ailments such as love, decay, aging, friendship, and grief. His powerful, meditative plea is resounding: “Earth, turn me.”


My Thoughts

Gravity Well is a stunning poetry collection that flows through so many themes and emotions.

It opens with poems in the section entitled Waxing Crescent Waxing Gibbous and later follows the section Waning Gibbous Waning Crescent. I love the way there is light in the dark and dark in the light, it really gave me an insight into what the poems I was about to read may be.

There were quite a few poems that really stood out to me, and it felt like I had a connection to them. Previous Lives is one poem that I’ve already re-read quite a few times and each time I see something else in it. The references to the squares on a calendar alongside random memories and the title itself. It made me think of the day my beloved nan died and how it was her calendar that finally made what had happened sink in.

Birthday is another poem that really connected with me – I have a spinal cord injury so the line about numbness ‘Downriver from the forest in my neck’ took my breath away. And the way Rahe writes of trying to be helpful but ‘To look for change in my pockets meant having to look’ is a line that gave me a wry smile in recognition of that feeling.

A line that I just found stunning comes in the wonderful poem Fable of the Cephalopod, which is a description of a cough using octopus imagery: ‘I hear it barking up the wrong bronchial tree’.

One of my favourite poems in the whole collection is Stellar, which is a reflection of happy times. The lines ‘Uncanny when it’s raining and it’s sunny at the same time. / As if being in someone’s presence and feeling the presence of their ghost.’ Rahe captures that feeling so beautifully and it brought a lump to my throat as I read it.

I found Gravity Well to be a beautiful poetry collection that really rewards the reader who takes their time and re-reads it. I’ll be honest and say that on first reading I found some of the poems were beyond my understanding but on further re-reading they began to speak to me. Now this is a collection that I know I will come back to time and again as it feels it will keep giving more to me every time. I highly recommend this one!

Gravity Well is out now in paperback and available here.

The Stolen Sisters by Louise Jensen

About the Book

Sisterhood binds them. Trauma defines them. Will secrets tear them apart?

Leah’s perfect marriage isn’t what it seems but the biggest lie of all is that she’s learned to live with what happened all those years ago.Marie drinks a bit too much to help her forget. And Carly has never forgiven herself for not keeping them safe.
 
Twenty years ago The Sinclair Sisters were taken. But what came after their return was far worse. Can a family ever recover, especially when not everyone is telling the truth…?

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Louise Jensen’s writing so a new book from her is always exciting. I was so thrilled to get my hands on her new novel The Stolen Sisters and am really happy to say that it more than lived up to my very high hopes for it.

The novel starts twenty years ago with three sisters who are taken right outside their own home. It follows older sister Carly in the past, and one of the twins Leah in the present in alternating chapters. Gradually we learn what happened when they were taken and how they are all still affected by it in the present day.

I loved the back and forth in time but wondered how suspenseful a novel could be when we already know the girls all survived. Louise Jensen is a master of this kind of novel though and there is so much tension and so much to still be revealed.

I have to praise Louise for her sensitive and accurate portrayal of OCD through this novel. I suffer from this too and it manifests in similar ways to the character in the book so I really appreciated the way it was written about. I was rooting for all three of the sisters to find a way to move on from what happened to them, but especially for Leah to overcome her OCD.

I found this novel so compelling and gripping, it was a book that I found hard to put down and given the reading slump I keep finding myself in it was going to take an excellent book to hold my attention and this is that book! I highly recommend this one!

Many thanks to Louise Jensen and HQ for my e-copy of this book and my invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

The Stolen Sisters is due to be published on 1 October in ebook and paperback and is available to pre-order here.

A Year of Living Simply by Kate Humble | @RandomTTours

About the Book

If there is one thing that most of us aspire to, it is, simply, to be happy. And yet attaining happiness has become, it appears, anything but simple. Having stuff – The Latest, The Newest, The Best Yet – is all too often peddled as the sure fire route to happiness. So why then, in our consumer-driven society, is depression, stress and anxiety ever more common, affecting every strata of society and every age, even, worryingly, the very young? Why is it, when we have so much, that many of us still feel we are missing something and the rush of pleasure when we buy something new turns so quickly into a feeling of emptiness, or purposelessness, or guilt?

So what is the route to real, deep, long lasting happiness? Could it be that our lives have just become overly crowded, that we’ve lost sight of the things – the simple things – that give a sense of achievement, a feeling of joy or excitement? That make us happy. Do we need to take a step back, reprioritise? Do we need to make our lives more simple? 

Kate Humble’s fresh and frank exploration of a stripped-back approach to life is uplifting, engaging and inspiring – and will help us all find balance and happiness every day.

My Thoughts

A Year of Living Simply opens with Kate writing about the bereavements that she suffered quite close together and the realisation that she just need to re-connect with nature and to live a much simpler life. We follow her over a year as she meets with various people who are all living more simply and she takes inspiration and ideas from all of them.

I wanted to read this book as soon as I saw the title as it just feels with all the anxiety around world events at the moment that making life as simple as it can be is the way to go. A Year of Living Simply was written before the pandemic so isn’t about that but so much of what Kate writes about could be written about what a lot of us have learnt in recent months, about the things that really matter to us.

I knew I was going to love this book when I realised that what set Kate off on her journey was the loss of her father. I immediately identified with the urge to make changes in your life when you lost a parent, I was the same when my mum died. Kate starts by attempting to declutter cupboards in her house and I loved reading about that. As you may know I finally decluttered my house a couple of years ago and it has changed my life, it’s so much easier when you have less stuff.

Through the book Kate meets with people who build and live in self-sustaining eco homes, which was fascinating. The homes sound so beautiful and I could really imagine what they must be like to live in. She also meets a woman who set up a cafe that combines grabbing a coffee with having household items repaired, or being taught to repair your own belongings. This really was interesting and I wish there were more of these cafes around the country (and the world). I hate how much we throw away simply because we don’t know how to repair things or because it’s cheaper to buy a new one.

I loved reading about Kate’s attempts to start her own vegetable garden. I really appreciated that she shared her failures as well as successes, it made this book very down to earth. I have only attempted to grow vegetables once and it was a disaster as I had no real idea what I was doing. Kate has made me see that with a bit of research and persistence that I could get there if I tried again.

The book is written in such a way that feels so inclusive – it’s one woman’s journey to discover a simpler life but she absolutely brings you along with her. I loved that about it – Kate’s writing is really lovely.

A Year of Living Simply is a gorgeous book. It’s both soothing to read and also a book that will inspire you to think about how to make your own life simpler and to focus on the things that really matter to you. This book is perfect for anyone and I will definitely be buying copies for Christmas gifts this year! I highly recommend this one!

Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of this book and to Anne Cater for my blog tour invitation.

A Year of Living Simply is out now and available here.

Mini Book Reviews: Three | The Storm | Here Is The Beehive | Dead To Her

Today I’m sharing a selection of mini reviews for books that I’ve recently read.

Three by D. A. Mishani

I requested this audio book on whim from NetGalley as I was intrigued by the premise and I’m so glad I got to read this book. It follows three women – each of them initially seem unconnected but we soon find out that they have all have an encounter with the same man. Orna is a newly divorced single mother looking for a relationship, Emilia from Lativia who is looking to belong and to be more grounded and settled in her life, and Ella a mother of three who is returning to University now her three children are a bit older. The man is Gil and he’s not entirely honest when he tells us his story! The novel is told in three parts and each one twists what we thought we knew, it’s so brilliantly done. Three is brilliantly translated from the Israeli by Jessica Cohen. It’s such a compelling story, one I was gripped by from the very first few pages and I was spellbound by it. I didn’t expect it be what it was and I loved that it surprised me. The narration by Lucy Pearson was also excellent, I felt she really made the women’s voices distinct from each other and found the perfect tone for this book. This is the first novel I’ve read by this author and I definitely want to read more. I highly recommend this one!

The Storm by Amanda Jennings

This novel follows Hannah who appears to have a perfect marriage to Nathan. They have a teenage son and a lovely house in Cornwall. All is not as it seems though. Nathan is very controlling and Hannah has no freedom at all. She seems to view this as penance for something though and over the course of the novel we learn more about her. The story is told in the present day and in the past when Hannah was a teenager and we gradually find out more about how she got to where she is and why she stays with Nathan. I loved this book. It’s atmospheric, it’s tense and it’s very hard to put down. I read it in two sittings as I simply had to know what had happened to make Hannah the way she is and how the past had led up to the now. This is one of those slow burn novels that hits you right in the feels. I loved this one and I definitely recommend it!

Here is The Beehive by Sarah Crossan

This is a novel in verse about Ana. She is married and has been having an affair with Connor for three years. Connor is also married and when he tragically dies Ana is faced with Connor’s wife due to her work as a solicitor. This is a novel that explores the complexities of having an affair and the toll it takes on everyone’s life, but more so the heartbreak of losing the person you love but you not being able to openly grieve because he was never yours. This is a beautifully written book but I found it difficult to connect with. I think reading about grief at the moment is hard and this book captures Ana’s feelings so well that at times I had to look away. This is my issue though and not at all an issue with the book. This is one I would like to re-read at another time because I’m sure it’s one I’ll love. The writing is stunning and I would absolutely recommend it if you feel you’re in the right headspace to read it.

Dead to Her by Sarah Pinborough

This novels follows a wealthy group of friends in Savannah. Marcie was the youngest, newest wife when she married Jason but now their friend (and Jason’s boss) William has arrived home from Europe with a very young and very beautiful wife, which immediately unsettles the group. The writing in this book is so good, I felt the heat and the claustrophobia and the tension radiate off the page and this is what kept me reading. Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy the storyline as much as I normally do with Sarah Pinborough’s novels, it just felt like there wasn’t as much depth to it. The characters are quite similar to each other and all have similar horrible agendas, I wanted to understand more about them. There was enough in the writing to keep me reading to the end though and it was a fun read. I think maybe it was me that was the issue rather than the book.

All of these books are from NetGalley and all opinions are entirely my own.

Eight Detectives by Alex Pavesi

About the Book

There are rules for murder mysteries. There must be a victim. A suspect. A detective. The rest is just shuffling the sequence. Expanding the permutations. Grant McAllister, a professor of mathematics, once sat down and worked them all out – calculating the different orders and possibilities of a mystery into seven perfect detective stories he quietly published. But that was thirty years ago. Now Grant lives in seclusion on a remote Mediterranean island, counting the rest of his days.

Until Julia Hart, a sharp, ambitious editor knocks on his door. Julia wishes to republish his book, and together they must revisit those old stories: an author hiding from his past, and an editor, keen to understand it.

But there are things in the stories that don’t add up. Inconsistencies left by Grant that a sharp-eyed editor begins to suspect are more than mistakes. They may be clues, and Julia finds herself with a mystery of her own to solve.

My Thoughts

This is a book that I have been much anticipating and I’m so pleased to say that it absolutely lived up to my expectations!

Eight Detectives is different to anything I’ve read before. It follows Julia Hart, an editor for an independent publisher, who is staying with author Grant McAllister, a maths professor who many years ago wrote a short story collection to show how all murder mysteries are based on mathematic equations.

The novel was discombobulating in the beginning as you find yourself reading the first story in Grant’s collection. I was expecting to meet Julia first but I was delighted to be wrong-footed. The first story is engaging and intriguing, and a bit creepy – which sets the reader up for a brilliant novel. After each short story Julia and Grant discuss them and what she has noticed about them.

The short stories are very Agatha Christie-esque and all are set in the 1930s so if you like those then I think you’ll love this novel. The whole novel is a mystery and it all interconnects; it really is very clever and engaging. Julia Hart is a brilliant character, I loved following her in this book!

There is so much in this novel that I can’t write about as it’s definitely a book that works best by throwing yourself into it knowing very little. It really is such a clever, intriguing and ultimately very satisfying read. I highly recommend it!

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

Eight Detectives is out now and available here.

Mini Book Reviews: The Night Swim | The Holdout | The New Girl | Where We Belong

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

I previously read The Escape Room and enjoyed it so was keen to read the author’s new novel. This one follows Rachel who makes a true crime podcast, and her new season is following a rape trial in the town of Neapolis. We see Rachel’s investigation and also snippets of her podcast, which I enjoyed. Alongside this Rachel is getting letters from a young woman called Hannah, who wants Rachel to investigate the murder of her older sister 25 years ago. This book was one I enjoyed but I did find that the first half was more engrossing and intriguing to me. I saw where the book was going from halfway and I was so hoping for a twist and there wasn’t one. I would still recommend this one because it did keep me reading. I enjoyed following Hannah’s story and I would love to read more featuring Rachel and her podcast!

The Holdout by Graham Moore

This was the last book that I had on my NetGalley shelf from before this year and I’m kicking myself for not reading it sooner! This book was so much more than I thought it was going to be (and I already had thought it was going to be good)! The novel mainly follows Maya Searle, a lawyer in Los Angeles. Ten years ago she served on a jury and was responsible for persuading her eleven fellow jurors to return a verdict of Not Guilty in the trial where Bobby Nock stood accused of murdering his student. Now the past is back to haunt Maya when one of the jurors finds her and asks her to come to a reunion for a TV show. I loved that the main narrative is Maya’s but throughout the novel we hear from other members of the jury and find out their perspectives on the trial. There is a lot of discussion about race and the unconscious, and sometimes very overt, opinions we form on others. This was such a gripping book, one of those that is very hard to put down. I highly recommend it!

The New Girl by Harriet Walker

This novel follows Margot who is a fashion editor at a top magazine and is looking for someone to take over her job while she goes on maternity leave. Maggie gets the job and very early on it’s apparent that there is an envy, that quickly grows into jealousy and mistrust between them. We also learn about Margot’s friendship with Winnie, who she’s known since school. From the opening of the novel we know that someone dies so I was intrigued to know who died and if someone committed murder. This was an enjoyable novel but it wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought this book was meant to be a dark thriller but it wasn’t. It’s domestic fiction with a darkish side. I found it a slow read for the most part but it did become much more fast-paced for the last third and this part of the book did lift the book for me. I recommend this one if you like domestic dramas!

Where We Belong by Anstey Harris

This novel follows Cate and her son at a very unhappy time in their lives. They’re having to move from their home after the death of Cate’s husband Richard due to financial difficulties, and they’re moving to his family home – a place they’ve never been before. When they arrive it’s to a cold welcome and Cate feels so isolated and worried. Over the novel we learn more about the past and what happened in Richard’s life and how it was for him living in this great house. We begin to see Cate find her strength and her son begins to come into his own too. I loved seeing these two characters come to terms with everything that had happened and to see their growth. This is such a beautiful novel, my first by Anstey Harris but I definitely want to read more of her work now. I highly recommend this one!

Summerwater by Sarah Moss

About the Book

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#AudioBook Review: Under a Starry Sky by Laura Kemp

About the Book

One summer to change her life…

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Under a Starry Sky is out now and available here.

All My Lies Are True by Dorothy Koomson

About the Book

Verity is telling lies…
And that’s why she’s about to be arrested for attempted murder.

Serena has been lying for years. . .
And that may have driven her daughter, Verity, to do something unthinkable…

Poppy’s lies have come back to haunt her . . .
So will her quest for the truth hurt everyone she loves?

Everyone lies.
But whose lies are going to end in tragedy?

My Thoughts

I read and loved The Ice Cream Girls when it was first published so was excited to discover a sequel was coming out. I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed All My Lies Are True and it lived up to my expectations.

Serena and Poppy are the Ice Cream Girls and All My Lies Are True follows Serena’s daughter Verity and Poppy’s younger brother Logan. They meet up and between them decide to try and find out the truth about what happened all those years ago. They become more than friends but decide to hide this relationship from their loved ones.

One night something terrible happens at Verity’s flat and the repurcussions of this night are potentially be far-reaching. Verity finds herself a suspect and the truth begins to come out about her relationship with Logan and what they have been up to.

The novel also follows Poppy and Serena and we get to find out how their lives are now, and the impact the murder from years earlier has had on their lives. I loved catching up with them again and seeing how they were.

There are twists and turns as this novel progresses and definitely things I didn’t see coming! I love the way the story builds and you can sense things brewing but you don’t see the full impact of what’s coming until it happens. So many people have reasons to lie so I was never sure of who I could trust to be telling the truth! The title of this novel is sheer perfection! I like a novel that keeps me on my toes and this definitely did that!

My only slight negative in this review is that, at times, I found this book a little hard to follow on audiobook. It jumps around from character to character but also goes back and forth in time and there were moments as I was listening to this that I wasn’t sure at which point in time I was. For this reason I recommend listening to this book in big chunks in order to better keep track of what’s happening. I did love the multiple narrators: Adjoa Andoh, Julie Maisey, Luke Thompson, Maria Gbeleyi and Nicky Diss and they all sound distinct from each other so I did always know which character I was with. I already knew I loved Adjoa Andoh’s narration but I will now definitely look for more books narrated by the others in the future.

I think this novel would work as a standalone but The Ice Cream Girls is so good that I absolutely recommend reading it first.

I really enjoyed All My Lies Are True and I highly recommend it.

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

All My Lies Are True is out now and available here.

The Lost Love Song by Minnie Darke | @RandomTTours

About the Book

Arie and Diana were destined to be together.

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

But that’s not where the story ends…

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

There’s still a verse to come. 

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lost Love Song is out now and available here.

#BookReview: The Summer of Madness by Alexander Raphael

About the Book

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Summer of Madness is out now and available here.

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

About the Book

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How To Be An AntiRacist by Ibram X. Kendi

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

The Search Party by Simon Lelic

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

The Mothers by Sarah J. Naughton

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

How To Disappear by Gillian McAllister

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

The Switch by Beth O’Leary #AudioBook

About the Book

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

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

So they decide to try a two-month swap.

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Audio Book Review: Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall

About The Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell

About the Book

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#AudioBook Review: Come Again by Robert Webb

About the Book

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell

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

The Other Passenger by Louise Candlish

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

One Step Behind by Lauren North

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

Who Did You Tell? by Lesley Kara

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

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

About the Book

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Greatest of Enemies is out now and available here.

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

About the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Silent Treatment is out now and available here.

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

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

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

Heatstroke by Hazel Barkworth

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

Blurred Lines by Hannh Begbie

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

All the Lonely People by David Owen

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

The 24-Hour Cafe by Libby Page

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

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Old You by Louise Voss

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

While I Was Sleeping by Dani Atkins

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

Little Disasters by Sarah Vaughan

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

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the Time Comes by Adele O’Neill

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

You and Me, Always by Jill Mansell

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

Evening Primrose by Kopana Matlwa

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

Born Lippy: How To Do Female by Jo Brand

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

Mini Book Reviews: Living My Best Life | One Split Second | In Five Years | The Babysitter

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

Living My Best Life by Claire Frost

This is a lovely feel-good novel that follows two women in alternating chapters. Bell is struggling to move on after her long-term boyfriend dumps her. She keeps scrolling through social media and comparing other people’s perfect lives to her own. Millie is a single mum who is a successful instagram influencer and from the outside her life seems utterly perfect but the reality is she borrows the clothes she models and she filters everything to make it look sunnier and happier. Eventually the two women cross paths and find a friendship that enriches both of their lives. I found this a lovely summer read and really enjoyed it. I appreciated that both women were in their 30s, with Bell close to 40 and it felt I could really identify with them. I’d recommend this one if you are looking for a light, fun read for the summer.

One Split Second by Caroline Bond

This is a heartbreaking novel that follows five young people and their families in the aftermath of an horrific car accident. It opens with the accident and the parents all waiting to hear if their teenagers are alive or badly hurt and then follows the before and after as we see the fall out from that awful night. This was one of those books that I was thinking about whenever I wasn’t reading it. All of the characters felt real to me and I was absorbed in seeing how they all had different battles to face and how they all dealt with what had happened. This is a novel of resilience, of how people find their way through the darkest of times and eventually find a way to be okay in the new world they’ve found themselves in. I highly recommend this one!

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

I was intrigued to read this book after reading the blurb – Dannie has the most amazing night when her boyfriend finally proposes and she accepts but then later that night she has a dream of five years in the future when she’s living with a different man in a different apartment and it unnerves her. Then one day she meets that very man and it starts to unravel her life. I really enjoyed reading all about this and was really intrigued but the thing I loved most about this novel was the gorgeous friendship Dannie has with Bella. For me, they had the true love story and it was their story more than any other in this book that broke my heart and mended it again. It was so relatable and believable and I just adored it. It reminded me of my late best friend, Bella is so like her and it felt like I had her back for the time I was reading this novel. I read this book a few weeks ago now and it’s still swirling through my mind, I already want to go back and read it all over again. I can’t recommend this one highly enough!

The Babysitter by Phoebe Morgan

I read this book on the Pigeonhole app so I got one stave a day for ten days and this book was perfect for reading on there. Every time I reached the end of a stave I was practically counting the hours waiting for the next stave as I just had to know more! The Babysitter follows a cast of characters in the aftermath of Caroline Harvey being found murdered and the baby she was looking after has gone missing. The prime suspect is her married lover Callum but there is a whole list of people who have a potential motive. We follow the suspects and the police and it’s such a rollercoaster ride of a novel with twists and turns galore! I didn’t trust a single person in this book, I kept changing my mind about who could have done it and I only worked it out a few pages before it was actually revealed whodunit! I very much enjoyed this one and highly recommend it!

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

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

The Day We Met by Roxie Cooper

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

The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel

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

His and Hers by Alice Feeney

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

Funny Weather by Olivia Laing

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

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

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

Just My Luck by Adele Parks

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

The Catch by T. M. Logan

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

One Hundred and Fifty Two Days by Giles Paley-Phillips

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

A Dark Matter by Doug Johnstone

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo

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

 

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Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

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

 

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Made to be Broken by Rebecca Bradley

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

 

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An Almost Zero Waste Life by Megan Weldon

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

 

 

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

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

 

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The Recovery of Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel

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

 

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The Alibi Girl by C. J. Skuse

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

 

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The Guest List by Lucy Foley

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

 

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The Flight by Julie Clark

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

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

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

 

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Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano

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

 

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Rules for Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson

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

 

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When She Saw the Light by M. J. Cross

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

 

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I Want You Gone by Miranda Rijks

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