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

mini reviews

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.

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

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Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Three missing women running out of time…

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

BLOG TOUR (3)

 

Containment by Vanda Symon | @OrendaBooks @VandaSymon @annecater

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Containment is out now in ebook and paperback here.

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Charlotte or Emily?’

‘Both.’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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One Little Mistake by Emma Curtis

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

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17 Church Row by James Carol

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

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Dare Me by Megan Abbott

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

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

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

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It’s A Wonderful Night by Jaimie Admans

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

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The Toymakers by Robert Dinsdale

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

The Fallout by Rebecca Thornton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Choice by Claire Wade #CTAS #JoinTheFray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

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Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.

It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.

It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.

It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.

In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. Told from the point of view of the people at the heart of it, from the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16 year old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption.

 

I love Rosamund Lupton’s writing so I was thrilled to get a copy of her forthcoming novel Three Hours. I have to be honest and say that I found this book very difficult to read, it’s such an intense subject matter but it is very well-written.

The novel starts off with a small explosion outside a school and from there we find out that there is at least one gunman inside part of the school. The police frantically try to work out what exactly is going on and who is behind this and what their motive is, and inside the school the teachers and students try to find safe places to hide.

The writing is so good that I felt really claustrophobic as the book went on, it was as if I was in the midst of this terror myself. I commend the writing but it meant I had to keep putting the book down because it was making me feel so anxious and tense.

There was a point about halfway through the book as we start to understand more about what is going on in the school and it felt more about trying to figure out who the perpetrator was and this is when the book became something I just couldn’t seem to put down. I was gripped by the investigation and by the way Lupton has woven real life shootings and terrorist attacks within her novel in such a sensitive way that it really made this story feel very real to me.

By the last section of the book I was on the edge of my seat wanting to know if everyone was going to survive this attack. I was convinced that the characters I’d come to really care about were not going to make it out alive and the tension was palpable as I was willing the police on to get to them in time. I was reading this last section right before bed and I couldn’t sleep for ages after I finished reading because of all the adrenaline.

Three Hours isn’t an easy read but it is a book worth reading. It’s a book that really gets under your skin and makes you think!

Three Hours is due to be published on 9th January and can be pre-ordered here.

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

Finding Christmas by Karen Schaler

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This year, Emmie can’t wait to share her favourite Christmas traditions with her boyfriend, Grant. So when his hectic work schedule has him more ‘bah humbug’ than ‘ho, ho, ho,’ Emmie creates a holiday-themed scavenger hunt to help him find his festive spirit.

But Emmie’s plan for a romantic mountaintop rendezvous backfires when a mix-up has the wrong guy showing up at Christmas Point. Sam, a bestselling mystery writer, thinks Emmie’s clever clues are from his agent, to help him get over his epic writer’s block. When the two come face-to-face, Emmie sees Sam only as the wrong guy, but Sam, intrigued by Emmie, decides to stay, hoping the small, enchanting town will help inspire a new book idea.

When Grant keeps getting delayed by work, he tells Emmie to start doing the special Christmas activities she planned without him. Emmie is disappointed, until Sam joins her and she starts wondering if the wrong guy is really Mr. Right.

With Christmas coming fast, Emmie will need the magic of the season to help steer her heart in the direction of true love . . .

 

I read Christmas Camp by Karen Schaler last year and really enjoyed it so I was delighted to discover a new book Finding Christmas this year and I loved it even more!

After reading a mixed bag of Christmas novels so far this year I’m delighted to say that Finding Christmas is jam-packed with Christmas!

Emmie is known as Miss Christmas as she absolutely loves the season. She starts her preparations early and she can’t resist adding more and more to her festive decor as Christmas draws near. Her boyfriend Grant is a workaholic though and he doesn’t really get Emmie’s love of Christmas. She decides to arrange a romantic Christmas break for them and she invites him along by setting up a scavenger hunt. Then there’s Sam, a mystery writer, who also loves Christmas but he’s struggling with writer’s block this year. So when his agent promises to help him and he gets given the first clue in a scavenger hunt he happily follows along!

Once Emmie is aware of the mix-up she gets hold of Grant and he promises to join her the next day but he keeps getting delayed by work. Sam is so embarrassed that he’s accidentally ended up in Christmas Point but he’s determined to enjoy it. So Sam and Emmie do some of the activities on Emmie’s list and they find that they have a lot in common!

Christmas Point is the ultimate festive town – there is snow and Christmas trees, hot chocolate and gingerbread. The Inn where Emmie stays is so well-described that I could completely envisage it all, it feels like somewhere I’ve been to. And I adored getting to know Dasher the dog, he was my favourite character in the book!

I really liked the way the characters in this book honoured their lost loved ones in the run up to Christmas. I know in my own life that I have things that I do each year in honour of my late mum. The scene in Finding Christmas with the snowmen brought tears to my eyes, it was so lovely.

My only slight criticism is that I didn’t like the promotion of Schaler’s other work towards the end of the novel, it took me out of the story somewhat. If I ignore that tiny element then I can honestly say that this book is a perfect read for anyone who wants a festive read that is truly all about Christmas. It really got me in the festive spirit and I adored it. Finding Christmas is Christmas personified and I very much enjoyed it. If you want a Christmas book that is full of festive spirit then this is the book for you! I recommend this one!

Finding Christmas is out now and available here.

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

Poetry for Christmas by Orna Ross | @ornaross @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Poetry for Christmas Front Cover

About the Book

This poetry book makes a perfect holiday gift or stocking filler.

Whether you’re marking the Christian Christmas, the Chinese Dongzhi, the Jewish Hannukah, the Hindi Makaraa Sankrānti, the Irish Meán Geimhridh, or any other mid-winter festival, the hibernal solstice is a celebration of rebirth and renewal.The ever-present potential for beginning anew, as signified by the return of light, is the theme of this chapbook. In it, you’ll find a poem for each of the twelve days of this season when the days start to get longer again, that will encourage you to rejoice, reflect and recharge.

Reconnect with the wonder of the world through the powerful pleasure of inspirational poetry.

 

My Thoughts

Poetry for Christmas is a wonderful collection of poems that is perfect for reading in winter. It celebrates the joys and reflects on the darker days in this season; it’s a lovely reminder that spring and renewal is just around the corner. It’s a book that gives you time to pause and relax in the busyness of the season.

Poetry for Christmas is set out in four sections: Rebirth, Renew, Reconnect, and Rejoice. I read through this collection all in one go as I like to get a sense of a poetry collection as a whole but then I went back and read each section in turn at different times to give myself a chance to really appreciate them and I’m so glad I did this.

I loved the opening poem Soaring as it perfectly encapsulates how the run-up to Christmas makes us all feel – the rushing around trying to get things done in the damp, dark days but it’s the reminder that the light will come again. There is a joy in seeing the Christmas lights and taking a moment to appreciate them but it’s also about the fact that the light of spring is just around the corner.

The poem that most affected me was Raindrop Spray. It’s about seeing things through the viewpoint of a loved one who is no longer here. I know that since my mum died that I make sure to take time for honouring her at this time of year because she loved Christmas and it’s not the same without her. Raindrop Spray spoke to that feeling for me, the way we can still see things as they saw them and in those moments it’s like they’re still here.

I also loved Christmas Rain and the way it shows how it helps to see things in a different light if you can. The seemingly never-ending grey rain, the endless consumerism of Christmas… but then the joy of the smell of the Christmas tree, and the rain that perhaps holds the promise of snow. This poem captures a lot of how we feel at this time of year and it leaves you with hope. A wonderful way to end a gorgeous collection of poetry.

I very much enjoyed Poetry for Christmas, and I think it is a book I will revisit. It’s a wonderful collection for everyone, it speaks to what this season is like and when I turned the final page I felt solace and calm and hopeful. This book would make a wonderful Christmas gift for a loved one, or a lovely treat for yourself. I highly recommend this one!

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

Poetry for Christmas is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Orna Ross Author pic

ORNA ROSS is an award-winning writer, an advocate for independent authors and other creative entrepreneurs, and “one of the 100 most influential people in publishing” [The Bookseller]. She writes novels, poems and nonfiction guides for creatives, and is Founder-Director of two popular online communities, the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and The Creativist Club. She lives in London and writes, publishes and teaches around the globe. When not writing, you’ll probably find her reading.

Website : http://www.ornaross.com/

Twitter : @ornaross

Author Page on Facebook

Instagram @ornaross

 

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

Poetry For Christmas BT Poster

It’s a Secret-Santa-off today as I review Love, Secret Santa by S. A. Domingo and The Secret Santa by Trish Harnetiaux!

Today I’m sharing mini reviews in the battle of the secret santas!

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The Secret Santa by Trish Harnetiaux

I love reading festive books in December and it’s always nice to mix up the romance with the crime fiction to keep it interesting! The Secret Santa is about secrets and murder in Aspen in the run up to Christmas! Real estate agent Claudine decides to combine the office secret santa with showing off a fabulous house to a pop star who is a potential buyer. It seems this house has a lot of history and someone in this group knows more than they’re letting on. I do love stories where a group of people come together and you know the past is going to catch up with them so this book was right up my street. I loved the snowy Aspen location and I enjoyed getting to know the characters. The secret santa game is done in such a way that it’s intense and people are clearly on edge as the gift giving goes along. The only thing for me was that I didn’t think the reader really had a chance at solving the whole mystery, it all felt a little out of nowhere but having said that there are more than one elements to the secret and the other reveals were brilliant. I enjoyed this book and will definitely look out for more by this author.

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Love, Secret Santa by S. A. Domingo

This book is set in a secondary school and follows Angel Green as she’s revising hard for her scholarship exam and also gets involved in organising the school Christmas fundraiser with her estranged friend Caspar. This school also has an annual secret santa so throughout the month of December everyone receives gifts from a person chosen at random. Angel’s gifts seem really quite meaningful and she’s incredibly curious about who might be behind them. As Angel and Caspar work together on the fundraiser they begin to remember how much fun they had together as children and wonder if they could be friends again but Caspar is flaky and often leaves Angel to deal with the fundraiser at the last minute. She is frustrated by this and can’t work out what is going on with him. I enjoyed this book, it’s an incredibly sweet YA novel set in the run up to Christmas. It reminded me of being a teen and the way you would have no idea if someone likes you or not, and you’re too scared to try and find out. It’s a nostalgic read and I’m really glad I read it.

When Stars Will Shine by Emma Mitchell | @emmamitchellfpr @BakerPromo #WhenStarsWillShine

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About the Book

When Stars Will Shine is a collection of short stories from your favourite authors who have come together to deliver you a Christmas read with a twist.

With true war tales that will break your heart, gritty Christmas crimes that will shake you to your core, and heart warming tales of love lost and found, this anthology has something for everyone. And, with every penny made being sent to support our troops, you can rest assured that you’re helping our heroes, one page at a time.

From authors such as Louise Jensen, Graham Smith, Malcolm Hollingdrake, Lucy Cameron, Val Portelli, and Alex Kane, you are in for one heck of a ride!

 

My Thoughts

I was delighted to be invited to take part in the blog tour for When Stars Will Shine compiled by Emma Mitchell. This is a short story collection from a wide range of authors and it’s such a brilliant read. All the proceeds from this book go to Help for Heroes.

I don’t read a lot of short story collections because I tend to find the stories get blurred together in my mind but When Stars Will Shine is packed with such excellent stories that they’ve genuinely all remained distinct in my mind. There is such a variety in the type of stories and that made this such an exciting collection to read, there really is something for everyone in this book.

The collection opens with a beautiful and poignant poem by 11 year old Megan Steer which sets the bar really high and every single story lives up to it. There are stories about redemption, about loss, about family and love. There are twists and surprises galore, it’s such a brilliant collection!

I can’t really pick a favourite story as I genuinely enjoyed them all but I will mention some of them briefly here:

The opening story is Frederick Snellgrove, Private 23208 by Rob Ashman is such a poignant and moving story. Likewise, Malcom Hollingdrake’s Died of Wounds is stunning and a real tear-jerker. I find stories from either of the World Wars heartbreaking – my lovely Nan lost her father in WW1 and her husband went missing presumed dead fighting in WW2. These two stories just got me in the gut and made me cry but it really does give you a sense of the loss and pain of the war but also a sense of hope that comes in the aftermath and in the generations that follow.

Believe by Mark Brownless is a really clever story. It begins as something that feels lovely and heart-warming and by the end my head was spinning. I love a story that can completely catch me off guard and this one certainly did that!

Mountain Dew by Paul T. Campbell is one of those perfect stories to read on a dark, cold night in the run up to Christmas, it had me gripped and I wasn’t sure how it was going to end. Excellent story!

Stewart Giles’ Free Time is such a well-written story. He has created a story that is so believable and scary to begin with and then it become even more horrifying as it goes along. I can’t stop thinking about this story and I now need to read more by this author!

I’m a huge fan of Louise Jensen‘s novels so was delighted to find a short story by her in this collection. Her story The Christmas Killer is brilliant! It appears to be a story about a lonely older man struggling to get through the festive period but it takes an unexpectedly dark turn!

Billy McLoughlin’s The Invitation is a gorgeous story about forgiveness, about finding people you’ve lost along the way and being able to move on from the past. This is a lovely story to read at this time of year and it’s one that is really staying with me.

Uncle Christmas by Val Portelli is such a heart-warming story, I adored this one. It shows how a small act of kindness can make a much bigger difference in life than you ever might imagine. A wonderful story for Christmas!

Jane Risdon’s Penance had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish. This is a creepy, sad story that I was gripped by. I had no idea where it was going or how it was going to end. I loved it!

The collection ends with Family Time by Graham Smith and this story was brilliant! It’s one of those stories where you’re not quite sure where it’s going, it feels a little sinister as if violence is just around the corner but nothing is quite as it seems. I felt emotional by the end. An excellent story for this time of year.

When Stars Will Shine is a phenomenal collection of short stories that also serves as a fabulous taster menu for discovering new authors. My wish list is now huge with books by all the authors in this collection as every single story is so good that I now want to read more by each and every one of them. I highly recommend this book, it’s one I know I’ll re-read in the years to come and it’s one I think everyone will enjoy!

 

Here is the full contents page for the book:

Fredrick Snellgrove, Private 23208 by Rob Ashman

Four Seasons by Robert Scragg

The Close Encounter by Gordon Bickerstaff

Believe by Mark Brownless

What Can Possibly Go Wrong? by Lucy Cameron

Mountain Dew by Paul T. Campbell

The Art of War and Peace by John Carson

A Gift for Christmas by Kris Egleton

Free Time by Stewart Giles

Died of Wounds by Malcolm Hollingdrake

The Christmas Killer by Louise Jensen

The Village Hotel by Alex Kane

A Present of Presence by HR Kemp

The Invitation by Billy McLaughlin

Brothers Forever by Paul Moore

Girl in a Red Shirt by Owen Mullen

Pivotal Moments by Anna Franklin Osborne

Uncle Christmas by Val Portelli

Time for a Barbeque by Carmen Radtke

Christmas Present by Lexi Rees

Inside Out by KA Richardson

Penance by Jane Risdon

New Year’s Resolution by Robert Scragg

Family Time by Graham Smith

 

Many thanks to Emma Mitchell for my copy of this book and the invitation to take part in the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

 

When Stars Will Shine is out now in paperback and ebook and is available here.

 

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

Blog Tour Week One NEW

Blog Tour Week Two NEW

Pushing Her Luck by B. R. Maycock | @BRMaycock

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About the Book

Holly Caulfield has won the Irish National Lottery and sets in motion a plan to save the village of Abbeyglen. But who would have thought that giving money away could be so difficult?

With a resident’s association that’s clamouring for more and more money, an old lady who’s decided that a dream cruise is in her grasp and a couple who may not want that dream wedding after all, Holly’s finding it hard to keep it together!

With a new love interest and an ex-husband hot on her heels, it’s up to Holly to figure out what can truly make her happy.

 

My Thoughts

I read and loved Snowday by B. R. Maycock last year so I was delighted to discover has has a new book out. I’m so happy to say that Pushing Her Luck more than lived up to my hopes for it!

Pushing Her Luck is set in a very small town called Abbeyglen and follows Holly. She works in the local shop so knows all the hopes and dreams of the locals. So when she wins the lottery she immediately decides to help out the people of her town. Unfortunately people don’t always do what you think they will and the locals who are given money have other ideas of what to spend it on!

Holly is such a big-hearted woman who really cares about people so when she wins the lottery she immediately thinks of all the good she can do with the money for the people in her town. She doesn’t think of herself for a second – her mind goes to the couple who haven’t been able to afford to get married, the woman who needs a new roof, the single mother who needs a home.

Holly enlists a financial advisor to help her with her quest to make people happy and there we meet John. He gets involved in keeping track of Holly’s spending and he gets to dish out the money to the lucky recipients as Holly wants to remain anonymous. Things start to get awkward when John realises that people aren’t spending the money on the things they were supposed to! Also, there is a slight complication as Holly is separated from her husband but not yet divorced, and she has a distant relationship with her parents. Life doesn’t run quite as smoothly as you might imagine after a huge lottery win!

Pushing Her Luck is a really wonderful novel. It looks at what it is to be a lottery winner and the way we all have dreams of what we’d do if we won but things don’t always work out the way you hope. Sometimes things have to go a bit awry in order for us to find out what we really wanted and needed in our lives and this novel is Holly’s journey to that place.

I completely and utterly fell in love with this novel and I can’t wait to read the sequel next year. I want to know what happens after the end of Pushing Her Luck and I really hope Holly has all of her wishes come true! She definitely won the biggest and best prize in this novel (and it’s not necessarily the lottery win!).

If you’re looking for a gorgeous feel-good read then look no further than Pushing Her Luck, I can’t recommend it highly enough! It’s out now as an ebook and it would make a wonderful gift to send to a loved one’s kindle this Christmas!

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

Pushing Her Luck is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Brmaycock

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

Her debut ‘It Started With A Snub’ and Christmas romantic comedy ‘Snowday’ are available now on Amazon, as is Pushing Her Luck, the first of a series about AbbeyGlen Village, whose luck is about to change …

She has one goal and that’s simply to make readers smile and/ or laugh (a splutter rates highest;)).

Connect with Bernadette 

BRMaycock’s book Blog  

Alice Teale is Missing by H. A. Linskey

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About the Book

As usual, seventeen-year-old Alice Teale walked out of school at the end of a bright spring day.

Except she’s not been seen since.

Alice was popular and well-liked, and her boyfriend, friends and family are desperate to find her.

But when the police start asking questions, it becomes clear that almost everyone has something to hide.

Detectives Beth Winter and Lucas Black don’t know which way to turn – but then they receive a disturbing package.

Pages from Alice’s precious diary.

Who could have sent them? And what have they done with Alice?

 

My Thoughts

I was thrilled when I was approved to read Alice Teale is Missing on NetGalley and I’m so pleased to say that it more than lived up to my expectations!

Alice Teale is Missing is a novel that looks at the disappearance of teenager Alice – she is seen leaving school one afternoon but then is never seen again. Her disappearance is being investigated by detectives Lucas Black and Beth Winter, and interspersed with chapters following the investigation we get to read snippets of Alice’s diary.

I loved how this story was told – it was great to see who Alice was and how she was feeling in the period leading up to her disappearance. It made her feel like a real person and I felt really invested in whether she would be found.

I also adored Black and Winter together, they made for such an interesting team and I loved the way they were new to working together and so sizing each other up whilst also working on the investigation. Black is the more senior detective and Winter respects that but she’s also not afraid to put forward her views. I’m really hoping that this book is the first in a series and that we might get another book with Black and Winter because they are my new favourite detective duo.

The investigation into Alice’s disappearance grows increasingly complex as Black and Winter interview witnesses and potential suspects. There are some unsavoury people connected to the school and you don’t know if this is a lead or if it’s a red herring.

I devoured Alice Teale is Missing in one sitting as I was so engrossed in the novel, and the writing is brilliant. I simply had to know what had happened to Alice and where she was. I will definitely be looking for more books by this author, and I highly recommend this book!

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

Alice Teale is Missing is out now in ebook format and available here. You can also pre-order the paperback at the same link.

Book Reviews: Do Not Feed the Bear | Body Tourists | Snowglobe | All the Water in the World

mini reviews

Today I’m sharing a selection of mini book reviews of books that I’ve read and loved recently!

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Do Not Feed the Bear by Rachel Elliott

This book was sent to me by the publisher and it was a total surprise but I am so glad I got this book. Do Not Feed The Bear is a quirky, moving and brilliant novel that follows free-runner Sydney. She never feels like she can be still in life ever since something awful happened in her family the summer she was ten. This is a novel that really shows what grief is like, what feeling like you don’t belong is like but also what it is to find people who love you. I cried quite a bit when I read this book but I also smiled a lot and when I turned the final page my takeaway feeling was solace. This is a stunning book and one that has stolen a piece of my heart. I adore it and I highly recommend it!

 

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Body Tourists by Jane Rogers

This is not my usual kind of read but I spotted it on SJHigbee’s blog and her post made me want to read it and I’m so glad I did. This is set in a future where a private clinic has pioneered a medical technique that enables people to be brought back to life by having their memory bank transferred into young people’s bodies for fourteen days at a time. It’s a chance for people to put things right, to say a proper goodbye to their loved ones. The story is told from multiple viewpoints – the people who are brought back, the people who agree to give up their body for a time and the people running the clinic. There is so much in this novel, it’s so moving to think of having the chance to spend time with a loved one again and to have one more conversation so that really got to me. The novel is also so much about the ethics of paying people to sacrifice their own body for two weeks, the secrecy surrounding what actually happens and the way the truth is buried if anything goes wrong. It really is such a thought-provoking novel and it’s one that I’m sure I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come. I recommend this one, and if you’re not sure it’s your type of book I urge you to give it a try.

 

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All the Water in the World by Karen Raney

This is a really moving novel told from dual perspectives – Maddy who is sixteen and has cancer, and her mum Eve. We hear from both of them in alternating chapters and it really is an exploration of coming to terms with loss and of trying to connect when things are going wrong. I really enjoyed that it fully explored both perspectives not just from the point of view of them as mother and daughter but also who they are as people. There is real honesty in this book and these two characters felt so real to me. This book really got me in the gut for so many reasons and it’s one that I keep finding myself thinking about. It’s tender, honest and stunning – I definitely recommend this book.

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Snowglobe by Amy Wilson

This is a gorgeous middle grade novel that follows 12 year old Clementine. Her mum disappeared when she was younger and now it’s just her and her dad. She one day finds a house and inside it’s full of snowglobes and people seem to be trapped inside them. This leads to Clem making huge discoveries about her lost mum, and herself. I don’t normally read fantasy but this is a lovely magical novel that I know I would have loved as a child. It’s a beautiful read that I’d recommend to everyone, it’s a perfect winter read to curl up with!

Home Truths by Tina Seskis

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About the Book

A strong marriage can cope with the unexpected. But can it survive the unimaginable?

American nanny Eleanor was never meant to meet Alex. But when she walks into his London police station to report a stalker, everything changes for them both. He’s convinced he can protect her from anything and anyone. She hopes her darkest days are behind her.

As they settle into their life together, two hundred miles away another young couple faces an uncertain future. Christie knows Paul is a decent man, but she can’t shake a clairvoyant’s warning: ‘Never trust your husband . . .’ When a work trip tests their bond, will she overcome her fears for the sake of her family?

Ten years later, both couples are still together, for better or worse. But as doubts and resentments begin bubbling steadily to the surface, all four of them start to question the choices they’ve made.

At least the secrets they all brought into their marriages are still well hidden.

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Tina Seskis’ writing so I was thrilled to get a copy of Home Truths and I’m really pleased to say that I loved it!

Home Truths opens with a young American woman, Eleanor, reporting a stalker to the police. The officer, Alex, who deals with her is immediately drawn to her and wants to look after her. We also follow a couple, Christie and Paul, who are really happy together but a visit to a psychic puts doubts in Christie’s mind and this comes to haunt her.

I did find the first couple of chapters a little difficult to get into but once I got into the flow of the writing I honestly couldn’t put this down and I read it all in one sitting! I love it when books feature multiple characters and I feel equally invested in finding out about all of them. It meant I enjoyed each chapter but was also keen to get back to the other characters and this made the book so gripping and fast-paced for me.

I found Home Truths to be an incisive portrayal of marriage and how one moment of not being open with your spouse can have ramifications that are further reaching than you can imagine. This is a thriller but it felt like a character study too – we see the day to day of these two couples’ lives and you really get to understand them but then the novel moves forward a few years and you see where they are now.

I loved the exploration of what makes a person who they are, and the way that each of the four main characters had things about them that made you question them. We know from early on that something bad happens in the book but I couldn’t for the life of me work out who was involved. I was mulling over several possibilities and whilst I got close with some of it I was wrong for the most part! I love when a book keeps me guessing all the way to the reveal.

I’ve really enjoyed all of Tina Seskis’ novels to date but I can definitely say that Home Truths is her best yet! I could not put this book down and even now I’m still thinking about it. I highly recommend this one!

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

Home Truths is out now and available here.

Book Reviews: Constellations | If I Forget You | Histories | The School Friend

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Today I’m sharing a selection of mini reviews of books I’ve read recently!

 

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Constellations by Sinead Gleason

I added this book to my TBR after reading one of the essays in a newspaper article. The one I read was probably the one that had the biggest emotional impact on me as its about the death of a close friend, and it’s incredibly moving. The moment when you get a phone call telling you that someone the same age as you, someone you love, has died is something that never leaves you. I also really connected with all the stories Sinead told about her medical battles over the years as I know what it is to have a lifetime of health struggles and to have to adapt to them. I smiled at the story of when Sinead was in a wheelchair as a teenager and was dreading how the other teens would react to her but the boys just immediately started messing about with her chair and made her feel so normal. I had that exact same experience at age 13 and to this day I think about it whenever I’m feeling self-conscious about my disability. I definitely identified with Sinead’s take on the pain scale, I had a wry smile on my face reading that as it’s so hard to explain to others how pain feels and how bad it is. This is a beautiful collection that takes you through what it is to be a woman and I very much enjoyed it. I recommend it!

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The School Friend by Alison James

This is the kind of thriller I’m always drawn to – a novel told in past and present about something that people did as children that has been kept secret until now! It seems Lucy has the perfect life – a happy marriage, a lovely house and good friends but all is not as it seems and she needs to get away. This leads her to being back in contact with her childhood best friend Adele. Adele has lived a tough life never having money or much stability so seems opposite to Lucy but the two share a secret about the death of a friend they had as pre-teens. This book gripped me from start to finish, it did require suspension of disbelief but that didn’t stop it being a really enjoyable read!

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Histories by Sam Guglani

This is a collection of interlinked short stories set in an NHS hospital. I loved the way you get to see from the perspectives of lots of different people in the hospital – the doctors and nurses, the cleaners, the patients and the receptionists. Each person had their own story to tell but in the background or on the periphery you see other people’s stories. Later you see some of the background from the perspective of the person involved and it feels like being really close to a story and then slowly pulling back from it to make a fuller picture. I really enjoyed this book and found it’s one that is really staying with me. I highly recommend it!

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If I Forget You by Thomas Christopher Greene

Thomas Christopher Greene wrote one of my favourite books – The Headmaster’s Wife so I’ve been really looking forward to reading this book. I’m pleased to say that I really enjoyed it. The novel is told in alternating chapters from Henry and Margot, and also in the past and the present. This couple met and dated at university but were forced apart and they moved on with their lives. Then one day Henry sees Margot in New York and he wants to talk to her, to know what happened in her life. The longing and the missed opportunities in this book makes it such a bittersweet read. I read this in one sitting and I keep thinking about Henry and Margot ever since I finished reading it. I definitely recommend this one!

 

Postscript by Cecelia Ahern

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About the Book

It’s been seven years since Holly Kennedy’s husband died – six since she read his final letter, urging Holly to find the courage to forge a new life.

She’s proud of all the ways in which she has grown and evolved. But when a group inspired by Gerry’s letters, calling themselves the PS, I Love You Club, approaches Holly asking for help, she finds herself drawn back into a world that she worked so hard to leave behind.

Reluctantly, Holly begins a relationship with the club, even as their friendship threatens to destroy the peace she believes she has achieved. As each of these people calls upon Holly to help them leave something meaningful behind for their loved ones, Holly will embark on a remarkable journey – one that will challenge her to ask whether embracing the future means betraying the past, and what it means to love someone forever…

 

My Thoughts

I bought and read PS. I Love You when it was first published and I adored it so I was delighted to hear a sequel was coming out. I wondered if it would capture the emotions that the first book did and I’m so pleased to say that it did, perhaps even more so!

Postscript is set seven years after the end of PS I Love you and Holly is doing well. Then one day she is invited to help with a group called the PS I Love You Club, which was inspired by the story of the letters that Holly received every month in the year after Gerry died. Holly is really unsure about it, she’s moved on and doesn’t want to go back to those feelings but at the same time she knows how the letters helped her and feels she should at least hear the club out.

The PS I Love You Club is a group of people who are all facing their own mortality and they want Holly to help them leave letters behind for their own loved ones. On attending a meeting Holly agrees to help and from then on we see her relationships with the individuals in this group build.

I loved this book, it explores grief and loss in so many ways but it’s done in a way that ultimately feels uplifting. Holly explores how she feels now about the letters Gerry left, and she ponders how he must have felt when he was writing them. We see how she uses her feelings to help others work through their own approaches to leaving something behind.

Postscript is a wonderful book – it will make you cry, it will make you hold you loved ones a bit tighter but it will also make you smile and it will ultimately leave you feeling uplifted. I’m so glad that I read this book, it’s definitely one of my favourites of this year and I recommend it!

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

Postscript is out now and available here.

One Christmas Night by Hayley Webster

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About the Book

Nine lives. One street. And a secret behind every door.

Christmas is ruined on Newbury Street, Norwich.

Presents have been going missing from resident’s homes. There are rumours going around that it’s one of their own who’s been stealing from the neighbours. Festive spirit is being replaced with suspicion and the inhabitants of Newbury Street don’t know who to trust. The police presence isn’t helping matters, especially when they all have something to hide.

But Christmas is a time for miracles… and if they open themselves up to hope and look out for each other, they might discover the biggest miracle of all.

 

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, I’ve just found my new favourite Christmas book in One Christmas Night! The novel follows nine people who all live in the same street, and each of them have their secrets! It’s almost Christmas and someone has been stealing presents and food from the residents’ homes and rumours abound that it’s someone who lives in their street.

There is a lot of suspicion and sadness in this book but the overwhelming takeaway from it is the sense of community and kindness that comes from darkness.

The novel opens on Christmas Eve with an unidentified person breaking into a home and gleefully stealing their gifts and food. It was horrible to think of someone doing this, especially at Christmas. We then get to meet the inhabitants of Newbury Street.

Poor Joanie has a dreadful shock early in the book and she was already feeling down. I really connected with her. She is struggling as it’s ten months since her beloved mum died, her dad is already in a new relationship and Joannie just wants to make Christmas how her mum made it. She’s frazzled and grieving. I remember my last Christmas with my mum when she was so ill, and the first one after she died. It’s never the same when you’ve lost someone important. I love how Joannie loves Christmas so much that she’s determined to keep going however hard it is. Hayley Webster captures life in such a beautiful way and her writing moved me to tears more than once as I read this book.

All the residents of Newbury Street know of each other but it’s a typical street in that some neighbours are friends, some know each other to say hello to and others are suspicious of each other. I loved how the owners of the local pub try to bring everyone together on Christmas Eve with a fundraiser.

The way the kinder residents of this street pull together and support each other made my heart sing. I turned the final page of this book and just felt such peace. This book has sadness and difficult times but it’s still the most gorgeous and festive novel. It’s full of forgiveness and finding solace, it’s about making new memories and finding ways to move on while still remembering what came before. It really does capture the spirit of Christmas and it really is the most beautiful book! I’ll definitely be re-reading it over Christmases to come! I can’t recommend it highly enough!

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

One Christmas Night is out now and available here.

The Assistant by S. K. Tremayne

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About the Book

She watches you constantly.
Newly divorced Jo is delighted to move into her best friend’s spare room almost rent-free. The high-tech luxury Camden flat is managed by a meticulous Home Assistant, called Electra, that takes care of the heating, the lights – and sometimes Jo even turns to her for company.

She knows all your secrets.
Until, late one night, Electra says one sentence that rips Jo’s fragile world in two: ‘I know what you did.’ And Jo is horrified. Because in her past she did do something terrible. Something unforgivable.

Now she wants to destroy you.
Only two other people in the whole world know Jo’s secret. And they would never tell anyone. Would they? As a fierce winter brings London to a standstill, Jo begins to understand that the Assistant on the shelf doesn’t just want to control Jo; it wants to destroy her.

 

My thoughts

I’ve previously read The Ice Twins by this author and that book really unnerved me but still I couldn’t resist grabbing a copy of The Assistant as the premise sounded so unique and so prescient. I’m so pleased to say that I loved this book!

The Assistant is all about Jo. She’s a freelance journalist and struggling to manage financially. She’s renting a room in a luxury apartment in London owned by her best friend Tabitha, the whole place is controlled by a Home Assistant called Electra. Tabitha spends a lot of time at her boyfriend’s house so Jo is often on her own in the apartment for large spans of time. One day Electra suddenly says ‘I know what you did’ and Jo’s life begins to spiral!

As someone who has voice controlled gadgets through my home this book was terrifying! It made me want to rip them all out and throw them away!! Jo is really unnerved but she wonders if she imagined it, or if she’s over tired but Electra doesn’t let it go. It becomes clear that Electra knows about Jo’s past and it seems determined that she’s going to pay.

I was engrossed in this book from start to finish, I read it in just two sittings because I simply had to know what was going on. We find out what happened to Jo in her past but you’re then wondering who would want to drag it all up now all these years later. There are people in Jo’s life that I was suspicious of all the way through the novel but I could never put my finger on who exactly could be behind the horror. Alongside this Jo is over-reliant on sleeping pills and she’s not always careful of the dose she takes so there is an element of wondering if what is happening is some kind of hallucination. I love that this book kept me guessing right the way to the end.

This is the first novel I’ve read where home assistant technology is a large part of the plot and I loved it. It was so different and terrifying because we all have technology in our homes that potentially could be used against us. I found this such a good read and I definitely recommend it!

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

The Assistant is due to be published in ebook on 29th November and can be pre-ordered here.

Magic Under the Mistletoe by Lucy Coleman | @LucyColemanauth @Aria_Fiction @rararesources

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About the Book

Christmas and romance are in the air…

It’s December 23rd and while everyone else is rushing home for the holidays, workaholic Leesa Oliver is dreading switching on her out-of-office for the festive season. And it seems her equally driven boss, Cary Anderson, isn’t relishing spending Christmas at his family’s country estate either.

So together, they draft an unexpected Christmas contract: They’ll spend half of the holidays with each other’s families, pretending to be a couple. Leesa knows the insufferably good-looking Cary will make her Christmas more bearable, but what happens after the last of the mince pies have been eaten…?

Leesa signed off on a sensible business agreement, but somewhere, amongst the fairy lights and carols something seems to have changed… It seems there might just be some magic under the mistletoe this Christmas!

 

My Thoughts

I was drawn to this book by the gorgeous festive cover and I’m really happy to say that the novel really lives up to it!

Magic Under the Mistletoe opens on 23rd December as Leesa is flying back to England to spend Christmas with her ex in-laws. The man she is working for, Cary, is on the same flight but whilst he’s up in first class, Leesa is crammed in economy and he keeps sending her more edits to do. As they finally land in England the snow is falling heavily and there’s no way for Leesa to get where she’s going right away so Cary offers to take her to his family’s home. Misunderstandings happen immediately when Cary’s grandmother assumes Leesa is his girlfriend and no one corrects her. This leads to Leesa and Cary forming a pact where they’ll pretend they’re together to help each other out over the holiday season!

This novel spans the course of a year but it opens with Christmas and it ends the following Christmas so there is a lot of the festive season in the book, which I loved. The year-long timespan gives space to really get to know Cary and Leesa, and they both have issues in their lives. There is some tough themes in the novel but they are handled really well and in a believable way. It’s cleverly handled because it grounds the book in reality but there is a real sense of fun and festivity throughout, and this is how real life is.

I loved Cary’s grandmother Cressida, she was adorable and I want to adopt her as my gran! She is desperate for both of her grandsons to be happy and loved but she’s never too interfering. I also loved the house she lives in – it’s a huge house but it sounded so cosy and warm. I could totally picture the huge Christmas tree in the hall and the decorations running throughout the house. It really made me feel festive as I was reading, and I already want to re-visit!

This is the first book I’ve read by Lucy Colman but it definitely won’t be the last! Magic Under the Mistletoe is a gorgeous, warm-hearted novel that will give you all of the Christmas feels! I recommend it!

Many thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for my copy of this book and the invitation to take part in the blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Magic Under the Mistletoe is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

From interior designer to author, Linn B. Halton – who also writes under the pen name of Lucy Coleman – says ‘it’s been a fantastic journey!’

Linn is the bestselling author of more than a dozen novels and is excited to be writing for both Aria Fiction (Head of Zeus) and Harper Impulse (Harper Collins); she’s represented by Sara Keane of the Keane Kataria Literary Agency.

When she’s not writing, or spending time with the family, she’s either upcycling furniture or working in the garden.

Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award; her novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards.

Living in Coed Duon in the Welsh Valleys with her ‘rock’, Lawrence, and gorgeous Bengal cat Ziggy, she freely admits she’s an eternal romantic.

Linn is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors. She writes feel-good, uplifting novels about life, love and relationships.

Website: https://linnbhalton.co.uk/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/LucyColemanAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LucyColemanAuth 

 

Giveaway to Win a Signed paperback copy of Snowflakes over Holly Cove and Christmas Pamper Pack. (UK only)

Mistletoe prize Rachel

Click here to enter the giveaway!

 

*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

 

 

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

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The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

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About the Book

The greatest love story is the one you least expect . . .

Alice is stifled, bored, and misunderstood.

So when she meets wealthy and handsome American, Bennett Van Cleve, she is quickly swept off her feet.

Marrying him and moving to America seems like a great adventure – but life as a newlywed in stuffy Baileyville, Kentucky, is not at all what she hoped for.

Until, that is, she responds to a call for volunteers to start a travelling library, surprising herself by saying yes, before her husband can say no . . .

Led by feisty and rebellious Margery O’Hare, this unlikely group of women travel far and wide on their mission to bring books and reading to those that need it, and Alice finally finds the freedom, friendship and love that she’s been looking for.

But not everyone approves of what they are doing, especially her new father-in-law. And when the town turns against them, will their belief in each other and their work be enough?

 

My Thoughts

The Giver of Stars is the perfect book for people who love reading! This is such a stunning novel following five women who were all leading very different lives and all get brought together to become part of a travelling library! It’s set in depression-era Kentucky and it does immediately transport you to this time and I got swept up in it right from the very start.

I have to admit that I’ve found some Jojo Moyes books just okay but others I have loved. My favourite up to reading this one was The Last Letter To Your Lover but The Giver of Stars has beaten it for me. I got completely swept up in the story of these women and I can’t stop thinking about them and the lives they led. I want to know more about the women who really did do this work and I loved when a book sparks off an interest in me.

The novel is all about this small group of women and we see the bonds that gradually form between them. It really feels like such an empowering book, I adored it. The travelling library is based in a township but the patrons all live out in the most rural of areas so the women go out on horses to deliver books to these families. They go out in all weathers all year round each on their own route and I found it so inspiring.

The Giver of Stars predominantly follows Alice who is newly married and expects to learn about life with her new husband but things aren’t right with him from the start. She looks for ways to make it work and to make things better but nothing seems to help so she throws herself increasingly into her work at the library trying to at least find satisfaction in her own life. I loved Alice, I was rooting for her the whole way through the novel.

I was thrilled to be approved for an ARC of this book from NetGalley but I decided to buy a copy of the audio book from Audible so that I could part-read and part-listen and this really worked well for this book. The audio is wonderful and really brought the book to life even more for me so I recommend it.

I so often say that historical fiction isn’t my favourite genre but then I read a book like this that I fall in love with and immediately want to re-read and it reminds me that there are books out there for everyone in all genres, we just have to find the right ones for us. I highly recommend this book!

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

The Giver of Stars is out now and available here.

How to be Human: The Manual by Ruby Wax with a Neuroscientist and a Monk #NonFiction #NonFictionNovember

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About the Book

It took us 4 billion years to evolve to where we are now. No question, anyone reading this has won the evolutionary Hunger Games by the fact you’re on all twos and not some fossil. This should make us all the happiest species alive – most of us aren’t, what’s gone wrong? We’ve started treating ourselves more like machines and less like humans. We’re so used to upgrading things like our iPhones: as soon as the new one comes out, we don’t think twice, we dump it. (Many people I know are now on iWife4 or iHusband8, the motto being, if it’s new, it’s better.)

We can’t stop the future from arriving, no matter what drugs we’re on. But even if nearly every part of us becomes robotic, we’ll still, fingers crossed, have our minds, which, hopefully, we’ll be able use for things like compassion, rather than chasing what’s ‘better’, and if we can do that we’re on the yellow brick road to happiness.

I wrote this book with a little help from a monk, who explains how the mind works, and also gives some mindfulness exercises, and a neuroscientist who explains what makes us ‘us’ in the brain. We answer every question you’ve ever had about: evolution, thoughts, emotions, the body, addictions, relationships, kids, the future and compassion. How to be Human is extremely funny, true and the only manual you’ll need to help you upgrade your mind as much as you’ve upgraded your iPhone.

 

My Thoughts

I’ve had this book on my TBR for quite a while now so I added it to my non-fiction November TBR and wanted to make sure I got to it this month. I actually ended up reading it in one sitting yesterday afternoon!

How to be Human is a really honest look at how the stress in our lives affects us and what we can do about it. Ruby Wax has written this book in conjunction with a neuroscientist and a monk so it really does give a really good perspective on how we can better understand and help ourselves.

The book is set out in chapters each covering a different topic from relationships to parenthood to forgiveness. We get an overview of the topic from Ruby and then a few pages of Ruby, the monk and the neuroscientist discussing the issue. These conversations are both funny and helpful, which I liked. It’s nice to read a book that has light-hearted take on a serious issue as it makes it easier to take in the information, especially if you’re struggling with your mental health at the time.

At the end of each chapter Ruby Wax refers you to chapter 11 where you get a whole corresponding section with various mindfulness and mediation exercises to help you with the thing you’re struggling with.

I’m going to be honest and say that I didn’t get as much out of this book as I’d hoped but that could be because I’m in a good mental health place these days and I’ve already discovered the huge benefits of regular mindfulness. I will say that the exercises in the back of the book are excellent – a lot of them are already a part of my daily mediation routine and I highly recommend them. Some are things you can do in the time it takes you to brush your teeth on a morning, and others requite a little longer but all will benefit your state of mind in time.

The chapter that I did find really helpful was the one at the end on forgiveness. Ruby Wax alludes to an awful relationship with her mother earlier in the book and in the forgiveness chapter she discovers more about her family in past generations. This journey and the subsequent conversation with the monk and the neuroscientist were illuminating for me. I struggle with forgiveness when someone has done something truly despicable but this book reminded me again that sometimes you have to forgive for your own sake but that doesn’t mean you have to have a relationship with the person who hurt you, or even tell them they’re forgiven. It’s an important reminder, and one we perhaps all need from time to time.

I would definitely recommend How to be Human particularly if you’re struggling with your mental health a little bit and want some really easy to follow guidance on why mindfulness can help and how to go about learning to do it.

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

How to be human is out now and available here.

Book Reviews: James Baldwin and the 1980s | Chase the Rainbow | Furious Hours | The Dark Side of the Mind

 

mini nonfiction reviews

Today I’m sharing a selection of mini book reviews of some recent non-fiction books that were excellent reads!

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James Baldwin and the 1980s by Joseph Vogel

This book took me a while to read but I’m so glad that I kept going with it because it’s a fascinating read. I’ve read a couple of James Baldwin’s well-known books but I didn’t know as much about him and the context of when he was writing as I thought I did. This book covers sexuality, racism and the AIDS crisis all in the context of the 1980s and the political agenda of the time. I was fascinated by the chapter on AIDS and the play that Baldwin wrote that has never been published. The author brought this play, and the themes Baldwin was exploring, to life for me so whilst I might never get a chance to see or read this play I have an understanding of the work now. I was also fascinated by the chapter that focused on the Atlanta child murders. I’d heard about these murders from watching Mindhunter on Netflix but didn’t know anymore about it than that so I was appalled to read more of the background and aftermath of this case. Baldwin was fascinated by the focus on race and sexuality during the case and had a lot to say about how the case was handled. I’ve now put Baldwin’s Evidence of Things Not Seen on my wish list and I think this will be the next book of his that I pick up. This is quite an academic book but it’s absolutely well worth a read, I recommend it!

 

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Chase the Rainbow by Poorna Bell

I’ve had this book on my TBR ever since it was first published but I finally picked it up recently and I’m so glad I did. This is Poorna Bell’s story of her husband’s depression and addiction, and sadly his eventual suicide. This is such an honest and moving book, it’s hard to read at times but it’s well-written and that kept me turning the pages. Poorna Bell is so open about what happened with her husband, but also her own feelings and how it affected her living with someone who was living with demons. She explores the aftermath of her husband’s death – both the immediate weeks and then some time later. The balance of seeing the time after as she begins to heal means this book shows the whole gamut of what it is to live through what she has. I recommend this book.

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The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes

I bought this book recently and put it on my Non-Fiction November TBR and I’m so glad I got to read it as it’s such a fascinating book. Kerry Daynes is a forensic psychologist and in this book she shares her stories from her very first work placement in a prison and throughout her career. She has worked with all kinds of people and this book is so interesting. You can sense her frustration when the system fails but also her satisfaction when a person is helped. Some of what Kerry has had to deal with is shocking and terrifying but you get a real sense of what day to day life is like in her job. She has worked in prisons, psychiatric hospitals, homes for vulnerable women and has also done some TV work and private practice. This is one of those non-fiction books that is almost like reading fiction in that it’s near impossible to put down once you start reading – I read it in just two sittings and really enjoyed it. I recommend it!

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Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

I picked this book up because of the mention of Harper Lee and I’m so glad I did. The book isn’t all about her, but the story being told is fascinating none-the-less. The book is in three sections – the first is about Willie Maxwell, a man who murdered members of his family in order to claim the life insurance he’d taken out on them. The second part focuses on Willie’s lawyer Tom Radney and later the lawyer of the man who killed Willie. The third part of the book is the trial and this is where Harper Lee comes into it. She followed the trial closely and took notes intending to write a book. This section is so interesting as we learn about her close friendship with Truman Capote and how her helping him with In Cold Blood led her to want to write her own book about a murder trial. The whole book is fascinating though because it’s such a bizarre story and I found I just couldn’t put it down. I recommend it!

The Undying by Anne Boyer #NonFiction #BookReview

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About the Book

Blending memoir with critique, an award-winning poet and essayist’s devastating exploration of sickness and health, cancer and the cancer industry, in the modern world

A week after her 41st birthday, Anne Boyer was diagnosed with highly aggressive triple-negative breast cancer. For a single mother living payslip to payslip, the condition was both a crisis and an initiation into new ideas about mortality and the gendered politics of illness.

In The Undying – at once her harrowing memoir of survival, and a 21st-century Illness as Metaphor – Boyer draws on sources from ancient Roman dream diarists to cancer vloggers to explore the experience of illness. She investigates the quackeries, casualties and ecological costs of cancer under capitalism, and dives into the long line of women writing about their own illnesses and deaths, among them Audre Lorde, Kathy Acker and Susan Sontag.

Genre-bending, devastating and profoundly humane, The Undying is an unmissably insightful meditation on cancer, the cancer industry and the sicknesses and glories of contemporary life.

 

My Thoughts

The Undying is an interesting book that blends memoir with an exploration of what it is to be a patient, and how the cancer industry is run.

I wanted to read this book because I’m drawn to books about illness and also having had loved ones die of cancer this book sounded like a really powerful read. I found this a hard book to read but it’s a fascinating read at the same time.

Anne Boyer was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was just 41 years old. She was a single mother at the time with no financial safety net so faced a very uncertain future. I don’t know a huge amount about health-care in America (I live in the UK) but I got such a real sense of how difficult navigating cancer-care there is.

Boyer also references the history of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment and looks at where we are now. It was horrifying to read of the studies that show doctors are, in some cases, over-diagnosing cancer. I knew that sometimes the protocol can be over-zealous but it seems there are times when what is happening is more than that.

I was interested to read Boyer’s thoughts around the evolution of the pink ribbon and breast cancer. Boyer gives the history of the ribbon, which I didn’t know (although I thought I did) and how it’s now being monopolised and seems to her to make breast cancer seem a light and fluffy thing rather than a very serious illness. I can understand her thoughts and feelings, especially when some places use the pink ribbon to sell things but only give the tiniest percentage of profits to charity.

‘Every person with a body should be given a guide to dying as soon as they are born.’

The parts of the book that most spoke to me though are about the language we use around cancer and I definitely echo Boyer’s thoughts. I can’t stand the phrase ‘lost the battle’, people I love have fought so hard to live and still died but it wasn’t for want of trying. Also, the idea that people have to be positive because it gives a better outcome which is not true. I’m a firm believer in being positive because it makes life easier if you can find light in the tunnel but I also believe that in the wake of a devastating diagnosis people have to be allowed to express all of their feelings. Suppressing them in order to appear positive is all about making it easier for the people around the patient and not for the patient themselves.

‘Cancer kills people, as does treatment, as  does lack of treatment, and what anyone feels or believes has nothing to do with it. I could hold every right idea, exhibit every virtue, do every good deed, and follow every institutional command and still die of cancer, or I could believe and do every wrong thing and still live.’

Boyer looks at all aspects of cancer – from how it affected her personally to how other patients differ in their opinion and approach, to the history of the disease and how it’s been viewed over the years, to how we view the patient. I cared for mum when she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and I found this book such a cathartic reading experience. So much of how I felt seeing how so-called friends stopped calling, and how family distanced themselves reflects how it was for my mum. Boyer is so honest about the things that hurt and infuriate and frustrate during the process of treatment and surgery. I felt like I had an even greater insight into what it is to face this disease after I finished this book.

I found The Undying to be a fascinating book and the writing is stunning so I’d absolutely recommend it but be mindful that it’s a tough read at times due to the nature of the subject matter. It’s one of those books that perhaps needs to find readers at the right moment for them.

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

The Undying is out now and available here.

I Carried a Watermelon: Dirty Dancing and Me by Katy Brand #NonFiction #BookReview

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About the Book

I Carried a Watermelon is a love story to Dirty Dancing. A warm, witty and accessible look at how Katy Brand’s life-long obsession with the film has influenced her own attitudes to sex, love, romance, rights and responsibilities.

It explores the legacy of the film, from pushing women’s stories to the forefront of commercial cinema, to its ‘Gold Standard’ depiction of abortion according to leading pro-choice campaigners, and its fresh and powerful take on the classic ‘coming of age’ story told from a naïve but idealistic 17-year-old girl’s point of view.

Part memoir based on a personal obsession, part homage to a monster hit and a work of genius, Katy will explore her own memories and experiences, and talk to other fans of the film, to examine its legacy as a piece of filmmaking with a social agenda that many miss on first viewing. One of the most celebrated and viewed films ever made is about to have the time of its life.

 

My Thoughts

I was thrilled to get a copy of I Carried a Watermelon as I’ve been a fan of Dirty Dancing ever since I first saw it when I was 11 – my cousin who’s 2 years older than me brought her video round to my house and I was mesmerised by what I saw. It turns out that Katy Brand is a similar age to me and was the same age when she first saw the film so I could really identify with her thoughts and feelings about the film so needless to say I adored this book!

Katy Brand takes us through her first experience of watching the film and how obsessed she quickly became with it. I could totally identify with her wanting to watch it over and over again but not being able to because she’d not recorded it. Also the pain of finally getting my own copy on video and it eventually getting chewed! She also explores the themes in the film and how it stands up to the test of time. There are some stories from behind the scenes, some of which I hadn’t known. Katy also visits the resort which was Kellermans and I loved these parts of the book, it felt like I was along on the trip and experiencing it all for myself!

I loved the way Katy Brand discusses how we see the women in Dirty Dancing and how our opinion of them changes as we grow older and I totally concur with what she says. The way as pre-teens we all wanted to be Baby and to have a holiday romance with Johnny but we didn’t really understand what happened with Penny or why it was such a big deal. Then you get a little older and you learn the fears of job insecurity and you understand what abortion is and suddenly it’s Penny you focus on as you watch; and now as 40 year olds we understand the older women such as Vivian and Baby’s mother a bit more.

I have a complicated relationship with Dirty Dancing, which I won’t go into here, but for years it was my favourite film, my go-to film when I needed cheering up. However, for a long time I lost all the happiness that the film used to bring me. In recent years I’ve slowly been getting that love back and this book has been the icing on the cake for that. I now want to grab some popcorn and get lost in Baby’s story all over again!

I Carried a Watermelon is a fabulous book for anyone who loves the film Dirty Dancing. I highly recommend it!

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

I Carried a Watermelon is out now and available here.

Nothing Important Happened Today by Will Carver | @OrendaBooks @Will_Carver @annecater

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About the Book

Nine suicides
One Cult
No leader

Nine people arrive one night on Chelsea Bridge. They’ve never met. But at the same time, they run, and leap to their deaths. Each of them received a letter in the post that morning, a pre-written suicide note, and a page containing only four words: Nothing important happened today.

That is how they knew they had been chosen to become a part of the People Of Choice: A mysterious suicide cult whose members have no knowledge of one another.

Thirty-two people on that train witness the event. Two of them will be next. By the morning, People Of Choice are appearing around the globe; it becomes a movement. A social media page that has lain dormant for four years suddenly has thousands of followers. The police are under pressure to find a link between the cult members, to locate a leader that does not seem to exist.

How do you stop a cult when nobody knows they are a member?

 

My Thoughts

I have to start this review by saying I have no idea how to write this review so apologies if this ends up being a ramble. Nothing Important Happened Today is like nothing I’ve ever read before and I don’t know how to write about it!

Nothing Important Happened Today opens with nine people who’ve never met before all arriving at about the same time on Chelsea Bridge, they put ropes around their necks and they jump to their deaths. We then find that they each received a letter in the post that morning telling them that Nothing Important Happened Today! This chilled me to the core but I simply had to know more so I kept reading.

The novel is told in short vignettes that gradually get pieced together to make up the whole story. We briefly see the lives of the nine who jumped, although we only know them by the numbers they’ve been assigned. This is clever because it means they’re the ‘everyman’ – they could be you or me or someone one you know. Interspersed with these stories we see an old man who seems obsessed with what happened on the bridge, we see a Detective who is on leave visiting his psychiatrist and wondering about the people on the bridge. We also get to see the lives of the poor 32 people on a train who witnessed the nine jump to their deaths and the impact it has on some of them.

The novel isn’t told from any one viewpoint but you feel like there is still an over-arching voice that is controlling what we learn and when we learn it. I felt like I was being pulled into something that I both wanted to look away from and wanted to know more about. I felt I was being manipulated by the person running the cult that isn’t a cult, and it really made me pause for thought about how cults come to be and how they draw people in.

This book isn’t an easy read for anyone. It gave me chills, it’s quite possibly the most disturbing book I’ve ever read. It plagued my mind when I wasn’t reading it and it affected my sleep but I would still absolutely say that it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year! It made me think more than any other book I’ve read this year, it’s still making me think now a couple of weeks after I finished reading it. You need to be in the right frame of mind to pick this book up but it’s absolutely a book worth reading. The insight into how we think of cults and how cults work was fascinating, the way it makes you think about everything in a slightly different light is brilliant.

I’ve lost people to suicide, and whilst I didn’t know the man there was a very public and horrific suicide attempt in my town recently that happened when I was reading this book, so this wasn’t the easiest of reads for me. I did have to keep putting it down and giving myself some space from it but I was always compelled to come back to it because it’s so well-written and it’s such a thought-provoking book.

Nothing Important Happened Today is a book that heavily features suicide but it’s not really about suicide, it’s about the way that society and social media has an affect on all of us. It’s about how people can be preyed upon when they’re vulnerable to it and therefore not aware of how someone is playing them. It’s about how we can find ourselves caught up in something awful and not even know we’re caught up in it until it’s too late. It’s also about the way we’ve become almost immune to horror because we see it all the time on social media and on the news channels. People are so quick to record everything on their phones and there’s always a rush to be the first person on social media talking about something horrible that’s happened. We forget that these things involve real people with loved ones. This book is makes such a powerful statement about modern society and it’s absolutely a wake-up call! This is a book for now, for our era and it’s a book that everyone should read.

Nothing Important Happened Today is so dark and disturbing, I feel like it’s really messed with my mind but it’s made its mark on me more than anything else I’ve read this year. This book is a future classic, mark my words! This book is a must-read and I highly recommend it!

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

Nothing Important Happened Today is out now in ebook and available for pre-order in print here.

 

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

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