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.

Non-Fiction November Round-Up and Mini Book Reviews!

Today I wanted to write a post to wrap-up my Non-Fiction November as I had such a lovely reading month. I didn’t fully stick to my planned TBR but I managed to read a lot of non-fiction and I enjoyed everything I read. Some books I’ve already reviewed so will link back to those and the others I will briefly review in this post.

Chase the Rainbow by Poorna Bell

This book had been on my TBR for quite a while so I wanted to make sure I got to it in November and I’m really glad I did. My review is here.

Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division by Peter Hook

I’ve had this book on my TBR ever since it was published so I’m really glad I finally picked it up. I really enjoyed reading this and found it so interesting. I’m a huge Joy Division fan so already knew a lot about the band but I still learnt things in this book that I didn’t know before. Peter Hook is so open in this book and it was really interesting to see Ian Curtis through his bandmate’s eyes, it gave a different perspective. I already have Peter Hook’s second memoir so I’m looking forward to reading it soon.

Gotta Get Theroux This: My Life and Strange Times on Television by Louis Theroux

I love Louis Theroux’s documentaries on TV, I find his approach so different and engaging and he really brings so much out of his subjects. I was really keen to read this book so when I saw it on my library’s audio book app I immediately downloaded it. This book covers his life and how he got into TV. He takes you through his work and the different TV shows he’s made, along with his reflections as he looks back. There was quite a bit about Jimmy Savile, which I found really interesting. Louis narrates the audio book himself so I definitely recommend this format.

I Carried A Watermelon: Dirty Dancing and Me by Katy Brand

I only got this book after I’d made my TBR list for non-fiction November but I couldn’t resist reading it as soon as I got it. I loved this one and have reviewed it here.

The Undying: A Meditation on Modern Illness by Anne Boyer

This is another ARC that I wanted to make sure I got to in November. It was a tough read because of the subject matter but it’s very well-written and it made me think. My review is here.

My Autobiography by David Jason

I’m a real fan of David Jason, I’ve watched and loved so many series that he’s been in over the years (in particular Only Fools and Horses, and A Touch of Frost) so I was really keen to finally read his autobiography. This was such a fun read learning about his life and how he got into showbusiness. He has so many great stories from over the years – some hilarious and some very moving, and I very much enjoyed reading all of them. I recommend this book if you’re a fan, it’s such a good read.

The Dark Side of the Mind by Kerry Daynes

I bought this book a few weeks ago and have been so keen to read it. I’m so glad I picked it up as it’s such a good read. I’ve reviewed it here.

Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class by Owen Jones

I’m not a fan of Owen Jones at all so I’m not sure how I came to own a copy of this book but I’m really glad that I decided to take a chance on it as it was a really interesting look at the working class.

The Death of a President by William Manchester

I’ve wanted to read this book for ages so when I finally bought the audio book a few months ago I knew I had to put it on my TBR for nonfiction November. This book covers the brief period before JFK was assassinated and then the days afterwards. It’s a really comprehensive look at what happened and how people reacted to it. I already knew a lot of what was in this book but there were still things that I didn’t know. It’s a fascinating book and I recommend it.

James Baldwin and the 1980s by Joseph Vogel

This book has been on my TBR for a couple of years as I’ve felt intimidated by it. I’m so pleased that I finally read it though as it was so interesting and it’s sparked off my interest in some other books as I want to know more. My review is here.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I bought the audio book of this and I’m so glad I did as it was a joy to listen to. I really enjoyed learning more about Michelle Obama and the life she has lived. It was fascinating to read about how her life was before she met Obama, to hear how she grew up and what her family was like. I then loved hearing the story of how she and Obama met and discovering how she felt about him getting into politics, also how it was for her and their daughters once he became president. This is a really open and honest memoir and I loved it!

Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly by Jim DeRogatis

I spotted this book on my library’s audio book app and immediately downloaded it. I hadn’t heard of the book before but I was intrigued to read it and I’m glad I did. This is an incredible piece of writing that is very well researched and put together. The journalist has followed the stories around R. Kelly for many years and eventually decided to put a book together. He interviews so many people, including R. Kelly’s accusers and the result is a brilliant expose. This isn’t always an easy book to read because of the subject matter but if you’re at all interested in this case I recommend it.

Logical Family: A Memoir by Armistead Maupin

I bought this book on kindle when it was first published but I ended up listening to the audio book during the month. I adored it as it’s read by Armistead Maupin himself so it was a lovely experience to hear him tell his own story. This is such a fascinating memoir of a life well-lived. He talks of how he was inspired to create some of the characters in Tales of the City, he shares about his upbringing and all the loss he experienced during the AIDS crisis. There is humour and sadness, and it’s just a wonderful memoir.

How To Be Human: A Manual by Ruby Wax

This is another book that I wanted to make sure to get to in November and I found it a good read. My review is here.

The Heretics by Will Storr

I found this book on my library audio book service so downloaded it on a whim and I’m glad I did. This wasn’t as in depth on any of the subjects covered as I was expecting but it was still such an engaging book. I enjoyed it.

The Five by Hallie Rubenhold

This book is such an incredible read and one I’m so pleased I read. I’m in awe of how much work and research must have gone into this book as the author put together a biography of each of these five women. It’s all about their lives, rather than about who killed them and it really made them real to me. I found this such a moving read and I felt so emotional about each of the women, I won’t ever forget them. This is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read this year and I’ll be recommending it to everyone.

Constellations by Sinead Gleason

I really enjoyed this essay collection and got a lot so much out of reading it. My review is here if you’d like to know more.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

I read Oranges are not the Only Fruit many years ago but despite buying this memoir when it was published I had never got to read it. I’m so glad I spotted it on my library’s audio book app as it meant I could listen to the author read it to me. This is such an interesting and moving book, one that really made me think as I was reading it. There is such honesty in the book and I’m so glad I finally read it.

Dopesick by Beth Macy

This is such an important book and one I’m so glad I read but it was a tough read. I’ve been interested in the rise of the opioid epidemic for a few years now but even so this book was still so eye-opening to me. Macy gives the stats and the politics but she also really focuses on the personal giving us the stories of people from all walks of life who have ended up addicted to opioids in one form or another. This book made me angry at how people are being failed by the system but it was also incredibly moving, I felt so emotional as I got to the end. This is not an easy read but it’s a book I highly recommend.

Bowie’s Bookshelf by John O’Connell

I’m a huge David Bowie fan so was very keen to read this book. It’s a really enjoyable book about the one hundred books that David Bowie considered the most influential. It’s a real mix of books and it’s fascinating to learn more about the ones I haven’t read yet (quite a few are now on my wish list now!). There is a list of all the books at the start so you get an overview of the titles. Then you get each title with a short essay about the book and what Bowie liked about it or what he took from it. At the end the author suggests a song or two that would work well with the book and I really liked that element. It made me take time to sit and think about the books and Bowie’s music and the influence that he took from what he was reading. Some of the links seems somewhat tenuous but others I knew of and it was interesting to get more understanding of them. I also have to mention how fab it was to see that the author thinks Tin Machine may get proper recognition one of these days – I’ve always thought they were under-rated and I love both of the Tin Machine albums. I definitely recommend this book to fans of David Bowie but I think readers in general who are looking to find some new books to read would also enjoy this.

 

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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Rewind by Catherine Ryan Howard

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About the Book

PLAY
Andrew, the manager of Shanamore Holiday Cottages, watches his only guest via a hidden camera in her room. One night the unthinkable happens: a shadowy figure emerges onscreen, kills her and destroys the camera. But who is the murderer? How did they know about the camera? And how will Andrew live with himself?

PAUSE
Natalie wishes she’d stayed at home as soon as she arrives in the wintry isolation of Shanamore. There’s something creepy about the manager. She wants to leave, but she can’t – not until she’s found what she’s looking for…

REWIND
This is an explosive story about a murder caught on camera. You’ve already missed the start. To get the full picture you must rewind the tape and play it through to the end, no matter how shocking…

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Catherine Ryan Howard, and particularly loved her previous novel The Liar’s Girl, and can happily say that Rewind is her best yet! The premise of Rewind is brilliant and the book absolutely delivers!

Rewind has a really interesting set up with each chapter being Pause, Rewind, Fast Forward or Stop and this is brilliant because it really helps you know where you are in a story that jumps around a little, as well as making for more intrigue.

Andrew manages Shanamore Holiday Cottages and has a creepy obsession with watching his female guests through a hidden camera in their bedroom. This was so unnerving to me and has made me never want to stay in an Air BnB ever again!

Natalie is a young married woman who has a level of fame and is well-known on social media. One day she disappears and no one has any idea where she might have gone.

Audrey is a young reporter who is desperate for a proper story to work on so that she can make her name as a journalist. She gets a chance to write a brief piece on Natalie and this leads to her being pulled into find where she is and what has happened to her.

I loved this book! It has such a terrifying opening and from that moment on I didn’t put the book down once and read it all in one sitting! All the characters are so believable and I was so scared about Audrey ending up at Shanamore Cottages and what might happened to her. I was also really intrigued by what could have happened to Natalie – as we delve further into her story it becomes apparent, as is so often the case, that her social media doesn’t show the whole truth about her life and perhaps she wasn’t as happy as she appeared to be. I went back and forth on what could have happened to her and if Shanamore Cottage played it’s part or if there was more to the story with her husband.

The way the book the moves back and forward in time really adds to the building suspense throughout as whilst you know where you are in time, you get so engrossed in the story that you can’t quite piece together who was where and when. You have to know the past in order to understand the present, and as you fast forward to the future you being to see how the previous section slots in. The moments when you pause really do lead to head spinning moments that make you question everything you read up to this point. It’s so good and so well-written!

This is such a brilliant novel for the modern age looking at the negative side of social media and the way readily available cameras make it so easy for voyeurs and obsessives to track their victims. This book is disturbing, thrilling and impossible to put down. I highly recommend it!

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

Rewind is out now and available here.

Full Disclosure by Camryn Garrett

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About the Book

In a community that isn’t always understanding, an HIV-positive teen must navigate fear, disclosure, and radical self-acceptance when she falls in love–and lust–for the first time. Powerful and uplifting, Full Disclosure will speak to fans of Angie Thomas and Nicola Yoon.

Simone Garcia-Hampton is starting over at a new school, and this time things will be different. She’s making real friends, making a name for herself as student director of Rent, and making a play for Miles, the guy who makes her melt every time he walks into a room. The last thing she wants is for word to get out that she’s HIV-positive, because last time . . . well, last time things got ugly.

Keeping her viral load under control is easy, but keeping her diagnosis under wraps is not so simple. As Simone and Miles start going out for real–shy kisses escalating into much more–she feels an uneasiness that goes beyond butterflies. She knows she has to tell him that she’s positive, especially if sex is a possibility, but she’s terrified of how he’ll react! And then she finds an anonymous note in her locker: I know you have HIV. You have until Thanksgiving to stop hanging out with Miles. Or everyone else will know too.

Simone’s first instinct is to protect her secret at all costs, but as she gains a deeper understanding of the prejudice and fear in her community, she begins to wonder if the only way to rise above is to face the haters head-on…

 

My Thoughts

Full Disclosure is a brilliant novel about what it is to be a teenager living with HIV. Simone contracted HIV from her birth mother so she has lived her whole life with it. She takes her antiretroviral medication every day and she goes for regular check-ups at the hospital. She lives her with two dads and now she’s at the age where she might start dating they’re concerned about how she will deal with that along with HIV. Simone has already had to move schools when everyone found out about her medical status and her dads understandably want to protect her.

This is such a brilliant book that really explores what it must be like to have had a diagnosis your whole life and to have managed it well, only to reach an age where you’re thinking of boyfriends and perhaps becoming sexually active and all of a sudden it’s an issue you have to confront. Simone worries about how she would tell a boy, and if it would put them off her. She worries at which stage of a relationship she would have to start the conversation. I loved that she comes across as really mature in many ways but also as an ordinary teenage girl who fancies boys and hangs around with her friends.

Simone is shocked to find out that the boy she fancies likes her back and they end up going on a date. Her friends are so happy for her until she starts putting him first and they feel left out and let down. So Simone is dealing with all of this when she gets a note threaten to expose her medical status if she doesn’t break up with her boyfriend. She has no idea who could have written it but it sends her into a tailspin and she doesn’t know who she can trust or who she can turn to.

I loved this book, it’s so well-written and it’s full of diversity. The characters are diverse but none feel like they are there for the sake of diversity, all are there and we learn about them in a very matter of fact way – just like in real life. I really appreciated that there aren’t any token characters, there is just a mix of people as in any social group.

Full Disclosure is a book for everyone, it really brings awareness about living with HIV in such a believable way. This book impacted me in a similar way to The Hate U Give, it’s a great read that makes you think and it stays with you after you’ve read it.

 

I wrote a post pairing fiction books with non-fiction this week and I included Full Disclosure so if you’d like to find more books about HIV please read my post here.

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

Full Disclosure is out now and available here.

Violet by SJI Holliday | @SJIHolliday @OrendaBooks @annecater

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About the Book

Carrie’s best friend has an accident and can no longer make the round-the-world trip they’d planned together, so Carrie decides to go it alone.

Violet is also travelling alone, after splitting up with her boyfriend in Thailand. She is also desperate for a ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express, but there is nothing available.

When the two women meet in a Beijing Hotel, Carrie makes the impulsive decision to invite Violet to take her best friend’s place.

Thrown together in a strange country, and the cramped cabin of the train, the women soon form a bond. But as the journey continues, through Mongolia and into Russia, things start to unravel – because one of these women is not who she claims to be…

 

My Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of SJI Holliday’s writing, in particular her previous novel The Lingering, but I have to say that Violet is absolutely her best book yet! I read the whole thing in one sitting, I got completely and utterly engrossed in it!

We meet Violet as she’s alone outside a train station in Thailand, she’s been dumped by her boyfriend and she needs a train ticket on the Trans-Siberian Express. Carrie is also travelling alone as her best friend broke her ankle right before they were due to leave and Carrie decided to go on her own. She still has Laura’s ticket and as luck would have it she bumps into Violet and the two get drunk together and realise they could take then next part of the trip with each other. So far, so good!

The novel is told from Violet’s perspective but we do get to see some of Carrie’s thoughts in the form of emails she sends home, predominantly to her best friend Laura. This makes it really interesting as we get to see how they really feel about each other. At the same time I was never sure how honest they were being, either to themselves or to other people!

I soon noticed that there was something off about Violet, a sense that she isn’t completely honest about who she is and this got me interested. At the same time I wasn’t entirely sure about Carrie either. It’s great to start off a novel like this though because I didn’t know who I could trust and I certainly didn’t know if one of them had just made a huge mistake in joining forces with the other.

‘I’m from Nottingham,’ I say, laughing. I throw a peanut in the air and catch it in my mouth. I’ve not idea where that came from. The city, or the peanut trick.

[…]

‘Would you believe […] I’m quite good at accents, actually.’ She throws a peanut and tries to catch it, but it goes way wide of the mark. She swears under her breath, but she’s grinning. ‘Oh damn it,’ she says in a good approximation of my accent. She’s right. She’s a decent mimic.

It soon becomes clear that Carrie is vivacious and outgoing, she likes to get to know other travellers on the train but Violet is much more reserved and had been hoping that she and Carrie could spend time alone together. This leads to tensions between the girls and the dynamic starts to get really interesting. It’s really clever because, in my experience, women are always weighing each other up at the beginning of a friendship so there are things here that seem off but could just be the two women being perfectly normal and keeping their guards up. Yet there is a sense that there is more to the undercurrent between these two women!

Neither girl is particularly likeable, which is perfect in this novel as it adds to you feeling wary of both of them and it makes it harder to work out who is not who she says she is. I loved how they initially both seem so friendly with each other but you soon start to see the cracks appear. Carrie wonders if she was wrong to let Violet travel with her. Violet wonders if Carrie really likes her and if she’d be better off moving on alone. It slowly becomes apparent that these two are more like frenemies than friends! You can sense the cat and mouse game but you can’t ever put your finger on who is in which role… or even if they’re chasing each other first one way and then the other.

This book kept me on my toes right the way to the end. There is a moment when I smugly had it all worked out, I could see what was going on and I knew how it was going to go. And then BAM, I was so completely and utterly wrong! I love it when a book goes a different way to what I was expecting, it doesn’t happen often so when it does it’s hugely satisfying. Violet is an incredible psychological thriller, the best I’ve read this year! It’s dark, disturbing and utterly impossible to put down! I highly recommend it!

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

Violet is out now in ebook and available for pre-order in paperback here.

 

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

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So Lucky by Dawn O’Porter

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About the Book

IS ANYONE’S LIFE . . .

Beth shows that women really can have it all.
Ruby lives life by her own rules.
And then there’s Lauren, living the dream.

AS PERFECT AS IT LOOKS?

Beth hasn’t had sex in a year.
Ruby feels like she’s failing.
Lauren’s happiness is fake news.

And it just takes one shocking event to make the truth come tumbling out…

 

My Thoughts

I’ve loved all of Dawn O’Porter’s novels to date, especially The Cows, and So Lucky is another brilliant read!

So Lucky follows three women: Beth who has a new baby but is very unhappy in her marriage, Ruby who feels she needs to keep her entire body covered at all times, and Lauren who we mainly see through her Instagram posts and seems to have a perfect sparkly life.

I read So Lucky in one sitting as once I started reading it I just didn’t want to put it down. Dawn O’Porter is so good at capturing what it is to be a woman in the modern age and the pressure we all feel to conform to society’s norms. There is a sense that women should be perfect – we should remove all of our body hair and be smiley and happy at all times. Life just isn’t like that!

Beth is besotted with her young baby but she also loves her career so she’s back at working planning Lauren’s wedding but she’s also pumping breast milk and trying to be a good wife. Her husband has had no interest in sex ever since she got pregnant and Beth just wants to feel desired. She’s also having to deal with her interfering mother-in-law who her husband seems to always defer to. I felt really sorry for Beth, it’s so difficult to be in a relationship where your partner won’t discuss issues. My ex was awful for sweeping everything under the carpet and pretending nothing was wrong, it makes for such stress in the home.

Ruby is separated from her husband but she’s cordial with him because they have a three year old daughter, Bonnie. I really felt for Ruby, she had a difficult time as a child and she can’t seem to relate to her own child now. She also has a secret that means she feels she has to keep her body covered at all times. Her attempting to get a wax with her child in the room was so tense and I wanted to climb through the pages and help Ruby.

It was brilliant to read a novel like this where the women are close to my own age. I still have so many insecurities as a 40 year old but it’s not always represented in novels as much as it is for younger women. It felt like Beth represented the not being allowed to be who you are and to talk openly about what you want in life, and Ruby represented all the body issues that women have. They were both such real women to me though and I could see myself, and women I know, in both of them.

Lauren is a younger woman on the verge of marrying the man of her dreams. We get to know her through her instagram posts that are full of inspirational hashtags and often sponsored. She seems to have a perfect life. As the novel progresses we find out that Beth is Lauren’s wedding planner, and Ruby is going to work on the wedding photos so through them we get to meet Lauren in real life, and it seems all is not quite as glossy as it seems on her Instagram. She has an over-bearing mother and fears that her fiance might be attracted to other women. It really showed how social media allows us to give the impression that our lives are so perfect but the reality is that everyone has their insecurities and their problems but we forget that sometimes and think we’re the only one.

I love how real all three women felt in this novel, and how we gradually get to know why they are the way they are and we see how they try to accommodate for what they see as their inadequacies. There are some utterly mortifying moments in the novel, which were toe-curling in the embarrassment factor but I loved that because life is like this. Things often aren’t as we might imagine them to be!

Ultimately, I found this a really relatable, moving novel that also saw the funny side of things too. I very much enjoyed this book and I already can’t wait to read Dawn O’Porter’s next book! I highly recommend this one!

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

So Lucky is out now and available here.

Book reviews: Platform Seven | The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr | The Music Shop | Trying

 

 

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

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Platform Seven by Louise Doughty

I did receive an ARC of this from NetGalley but I ended up listening to the audio book version from my local library. I absolutely loved this book, I was listening to it at every chance I got. The novel opens with the spirit of a woman lingering in a train station watching people and noticing the ones who seems drawn to Platform Seven – she feels a connection to them. As the novel goes on we go back in time and we see Lisa in the period before her death and find out what happened to her and why she is still haunting the station. I found this book so beautiful, it is stunningly written and I was completely invested in Lisa’s story. It took me to places that I wasn’t expecting and it explores some very prescient issues in our society today. I think this is my favourite of the books I’ve read by Louise Doughty to date and I highly recommend it.

 

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The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce

I love Rachel Joyce’s writing so I’m ashamed that The Music Shop languished on my shelf for so long before I picked it up. However, I am delighted to say that when I did pick it up I adored it! It opens in the 1980s and we meet Frank who runs a record shop. He has a gift for finding his customers the exact record they need even if it’s not the one they were initially looking for. Records are being ousted by CDs though and Frank refuses to sell them in his shop. One day a woman faints outside his shop and he assists her. Later she returns wanting him to teach her about music. There is a real connection between the two but each of them fight it. We gradually learn why over the course of the novel. This book is beautiful, it has its really sad moments but overall it made me feel so happy. I think this is a book that I will re-read in the future when I’m in need of a feel-good read. I recommend it!

 

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The Seven Imperfect Rules of Elvira Carr by Frances Maynard

This is another lovely book! Elvira is in her 20s and lives with her mother. She lives by strict rules and routines and everything is fine if she can stick to them. One day her mum collapses and is hospitalised and Elvira suddenly has to cope with huge changes and upheaval. I loved Elvira! She struggles to understand some of society’s norms but she learns how to use a computer and begins to seek out some new rules. Things don’t always go to plan and she makes mistakes but her heart is always in the right place. There is sadness and loneliness running through the novel but there is also so much good. I loved seeing the world through Elvira’s eyes and I was rooting for her to be okay on her own. This is such an uplifting novel and I recommend it.

 

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Trying by Emily Phillips

I was drawn to this book by the stunning cover – I love the colours and the floral design, and how it’s only when you look again that you see the female reproductive system in there! Unfortunately, I have quite mixed feelings about the novel. The book follows Olivia and her husband Felix as they try to have a baby together. They have been trying for a while and now sex is mechanical and they aren’t as close as they used to be. There are some very funny moments in this novel, the very beginning had my cringing and giggling in equal measure! I empathised with Olivia about the seemingly endless baby-related posts all over social media, it feels overwhelming at times. I don’t know why this book didn’t fully click with me, it just didn’t. I still recommend it though if you like humorous reads with some emotional moments about modern life!

Stand Against Injustice by Michelle Diskin Bates | @Michelle_Diskin @malcomdown @LoveBooksGroup

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About the Book

On April 26, 1999, BBC TV presenter Jill Dando was murdered outside her home in London. Barry George was convicted and imprisoned for the murder but was later acquitted after an appeal and retrial. Stand Against Injustice is the powerful memoir of the sister of Barry George.

For the first time, Michelle Diskin tells her story, the human side and truth behind one of recent history’s most high profile and damaging miscarriages of justice whose life is inextricably interwoven in the drama, the trauma, the conspiracy and the fight for justice. A self-confessed “ordinary housewife,” Diskin’s voice weaves the personal everyday struggles that bring depth, color, and passion into what is an extraordinary account.

A troubled childhood weighted with overbearing responsibility, fear and insecurity, depression, and the challenges of marriage and adult relationships, Diskin’s life has never been easy. However, the one constant in her life – her faith in God – underpins and provides the foundation upon which she now stands – against injustice.

 

My Thoughts

I remember the news breaking about the murder of Jill Dando, it was so shocking and hard to believe. I’ve read news articles and seen documentaries about the case over the years but have never really thought about just how hard it must be for the victim of a wrongful conviction (or their close family). Stand Against Injustice is a book that gives such eye-opening insight into this and I am so glad that I got to read it.

Stand Against Injustice is written by Michelle Diskin Bates, the sister of Barry George who was wrongfully convicted of killing TV presenter Jill Dando. Michelle writes so candidly of the time period from when her brother was arrested right up to the present day. I very much appreciated her honesty and how she shares the rawness of what she, and her family, all went through. It can’t have been easy for Michelle to relive all that they have been through, and are still going through, but this is such an important book and is a story that needs to be heard.

I’ve read quite a lot of non-fiction books that focus on crime but I had no idea that when someone has their conviction quashed and is then re-tried and found not guilty, as in Barry George’s case, it isn’t necessarily considered a miscarriage of justice and therefore no compensation is awarded. It made me so angry to read how little support he has had from the state to re-build his life, had he not had Michelle and other family around him, you’re left wondering what would have happened to him.

It’s horrendous how the media treated Michelle and her family. To read of the way the media hounded her mum, and the way they made up such awful stories about Barry’s behaviour after he was released is shocking.

This wasn’t an easy read because it’s just awful to read of something like this happening to an innocent man. Stand Against Injustice is so well-written though and really does give a real insight into what it was like to go through such an horrendous ordeal. Michelle describes how harrowing it was going through her first prison visit to see Barry. She takes you through the court case and how frightening and intimidating elements of the process were. All the way through to the conviction being quashed but even that day Michelle, Barry and their family weren’t able to quietly celebrate the moment together. This book made me so angry at how they were all treated but I’m so glad that I read it because I feel I have so much more knowledge of the system and how things can go wrong than I had before. I read a lot of true crime books but this is the first book I’ve read that gives me this perspective – it’s really made me think and in future I will go into my crime reading (or documentary watching) with a much greater understanding of what it is to be in Michelle’s, and Barry’s, shoes. I highly recommend this book to everyone, it’s a definite must read!

Many thanks to Kelly of Love Books Group for my copy of this book and my invitation to take part in this blog tour. All thoughts are my own.

Stand Against Injustice is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

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Mother of three, campaigner for justice and Committed Christian.

Michelle campaigned for eight years for the release of her disabled brother, Barry George, after he was wrongly convicted in 2001, for the high profile murder of BBC television presenter, Jill Dando. Mr George was acquitted in 2007 and sent for re-trial in 2008. He was found not guilty, by unanimous jury verdict on 1st August 2008.

Born in Fulham, London in 1955, Michelle lived in West London until 1973. She then moved to Cork, Ireland, where she lived until 2012, with her three adult children. Michelle’s first husband, Patrick, died unexpectedly in 2007 after a short illness, but, with God’s grace, she is now married again, to Peter, who supports her in her Miscarriage of Justice (MOJ) activities. They are both committed Christians, who worship at a Baptist church in Northamptonshire, taking on many responsibilities within the fellowship.

Retired now, Michelle always worked outside of the home in various industries, and at all levels from cleaner to management. Her ethos being: do the job to the best of your abilities, as a service to others, regardless of the task. She has trained as an Image Consultant and most recently, as a weight loss consultant.

Since her brother’s wrongful incarceration, she has become a public speaker at Miscarriage of Justice conferences across the UK, and has also been a guest speaker at the Spiritual Health Weekends for women, run by Nancy Goudie. Also a guest lecturer at University College Cork and Portsmouth University to Law students interested in Miscarriage of Justice. Also attending APPGs on miscarriage of justice in Parliament.

Michelle is still in touch with many families of the wrongly convicted, including those convicted under Joint Enterprise. She also has connections with various MOJ organisations, e.g. Mojo Scotland, The Innocence Project in UK Universities, and a variety of legal representatives and released victims of MOJ.
She is interested in the refusal of the Judiciary to pay compensation under section 133., ‘Not innocent enough’ or ‘A jury, properly directed, could have convicted’, both of which still affect her brother.

 

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

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One Week ‘Til Christmas by Belinda Missen| @belinda_missen @rararesources

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About the Book

Two people. One chance meeting. Seven days to Christmas.

Isobel Bennett is waiting for the number 11 bus when a man quite literally falls into her lap. Snow is falling, Christmas lights are twinkling, and a gorgeous man with dark brown hair has just slipped on ice and is now pressed against Isobel.

Isobel knows she’s not imagining the chemistry between them. But then his ride arrives and, embarrassed, he beats a hasty retreat, murmuring apologies – and Isobel realises only too late that she didn’t manage to catch his name…

When she runs into him again the next morning, she decides it’s fate.

It’s a second chance for Isobel and Tom – but there’s only one week until she’s leaving London for good. Seven days of enjoying all the festive delights the city has to offer: ice-skating at Somerset House, mulled wine on the Southbank, Christmas shopping at Liberty.

There’s magic in the air and mistletoe in the trees – but what will happen when the week is over?

 

My Thoughts

I’ve been so looking forward to reading One Week ‘Til Christmas ever since I first saw the gorgeous festive cover and I’m really happy to be able to say that the novel absolutely lives up to it!

One Week ‘Til Christmas follows travel journalist Isobel as she arrives in London for a short holiday. As she waits for a bus to her friend’s house a random stranger runs into her and there is definitely some sparks between the two! Both go on their way and that seems to be that but then there is another random meeting the next day and it seems to be fate!

This is such a gorgeous novella set in London in the week leading up to Christmas. It has romance and snow, Christmas markets, ice skating and lots of lovely-sounding food! Everything is described so beautifully that I feel like I have been to all of the places in this book.

The romance in this book is a total whirlwind! Tom and Isobel spend a lot of time together in the few short days that Isobel is in London but their romance felt completely believable to me, I got completely swept up in it. I love how they spend so much time walking around London landmarks, and seeing all the Christmassy sights whilst talking about their lives and hopes and dreams. It felt very romantic and so possible.

One Week ‘Til Christmas is a gorgeous read that will really get you in the festive spirit! I adored this book and I will definitely re-read it over Christmases to come. I recommend this one!

Many thanks to Rachel of Rachel’s Random Resources for my copy of this book and for my blog tour invitation.

One Week ‘Til Christmas is published today and available here.

 

About the Author

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Author and sometimes foodie, Belinda is a ridiculous romantic who met her husband after being set up by a friend two states away.

Residing in country Victoria, surrounded by books, cat-fur, and half-eaten cake, Belinda divides her days between writing rom-coms, baking, and indulging her love of comic books.

Social Media Links –

www.belindamissen.com

facebook.com/BelindaMissen

twitter.com/belinda_missen

Instagram @belinda_missen

 

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

 

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Book Reviews: Almost Love | How To Say Goodbye | The Other Half of Augusta Hope | Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel

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Today I’m sharing some more of my mini book reviews of books that I’ve read and loved recently.

 

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Almost Love by Louise O’Neill

Almost Love is such a powerful novel, it’s one of the best portrayals of how a person can lose themselves in the midst of a destructive relationship. It follows Sarah in the before when she meets Matthew, an older man, and gets into a sexual relationship with him. This is alternated with Sarah a couple of years in the future when she’s living with a different man in a committed relationship. Sarah falls for Matthew very quickly, she has feelings for him and she wants to be with him. Matthew wants something else from Sarah and she makes herself into the person he wants. He does things she doesn’t like but she can’t say no because she wants to be perfect for him even when she’s hurt by him. I found this so hard to read because I could absolutely see my younger self in her. I think a lot of women will be able to. It’s obvious he will never give her what she wants but she believes this will change. Somewhat inevitably she begins to self-destruct. The pain and hurt from this relationship is something she carries with her, it’s damaged her. She then hurts others without meaning too because her self-worth is so low. Sarah isn’t always likeable in this novel but she is relatable. This is a novel that I haven’t stopped thinking about since I read it. It was a tough read at times but it’s absolutely worth reading!

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How to Say Goodbye by Katy Colins

This is a wonderful novel that I very much enjoyed. It follows Grace Salmon. She works at a funeral parlour and she goes above and beyond in giving her clients the very best send off. She spends her time researching the deceased so she can make each funeral service personal and special. Grace seems quite a lonely person, she’s so focused on her job. One day she sets up a group for people to come and ask a funeral organiser questions and while the first group isn’t as busy as she’d hoped, she does begin to make connections with people who all have something in common. Grace begins to talk about her own life and you start to really understand who she is and why she is so conscientious in her job. This is such a brilliant novel – it’s a fun, light read whilst exploring loss in a very real way. It’s such a talent to mix the two and I was so impressed with this book. I cried whilst reading it but I also laughed out loud. I can’t wait to read more of Katy Colins’ writing. I highly recommend this book!

 

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The Other Half of Augusta Hope by Joanna Glen

This is a beautiful novel! Augusta Hope is such a relatable character and I was rooting for her from the beginning of this novel all the way through. Augusta grows up with her twin sister Julia, but in between the chapters on their lives the novel also follows Parfait who lives in another part of the world and seems unconnected to the two sisters at first. This novel is all about finding the strength to get through the darkest of times, about accepting who you are in the wake of tragedy and finding happiness and contentment again. I don’t have enough superlatives to describe how stunning this book is, it really has made such an impact on me and I think it’s a book I will read again in the future. I particularly loved its exploration of fate, coincidence – about how in the aftermath of things we go over and over them and wonder if we could have known, could have acted differently. In the end it’s a novel about forgiving yourself for the things you couldn’t have known, couldn’t have changed. It made me cry, it made me smile and in the end I just felt really content. I highly recommend this book!

 

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Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel by Ruth Hogan

I loved Ruth Hogan’s first novel The Keeper of Lost Things so am delighted to say that this book lives up to it. This book follows Tilda in two timelines – we see her as a child as she’s struggling to understand the loss of her father and her struggling mother. This alternates with Tilda as an adult in the present now interested in re-visiting her past in the wake of her mother’s death. I really enjoyed this book, it’s very much character driven and you really get to understand Tilda and why she is the way she is. Through the novel we’re introduced to a wonderful cast of characters including the fabulous Queenie Malone! This book is a really emotional read at times but it’s also fun and beautiful… and there are plenty of surprises along the way too! It really captures life and I adored it. I recommend this one!

 

 

 

 

The Christmas Wish List by Heidi Swain | @Heidi_Swain @TeamBATC #TheChristmasWishList

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About the Book

After being let go from her job in a swanky hotel just weeks before Christmas, Hattie is feeling lost. Even more so when her high-flying boyfriend announces he’s landed his dream job in Abu Dhabi and asks her to move with him. Luckily, Hattie’s long-time friend Dolly is on hand to help and invites Hattie to spend one last holiday in the small, festive town of Wynbridge, determined to give her a Christmas to remember . . .

Upon Hattie’s arrival, holiday preparations are in full swing. But for Hattie, whose Christmas cheer has long since run out, it’ll take more than mince pies and mistletoe to open her heart to the season once more. Relishing the task of reigniting Hattie’s Christmas spirit, Dolly suggests they create a wish list of all the things the season can offer, and with the helpful hands of Wynbridge’s resident handyman, Beamish, Hattie finds her frosty exterior is starting to thaw.

As Wynbridge prepares for its most spectacular Christmas yet, will Hattie leave snowy England behind for life in a sunnier clime, or will she in fact realise that her heart’s desire lies much closer to home?

 

My Thoughts

I was so excited to find that I’d recently won a copy of The Christmas Wish List in a giveaway and I just knew it had to be my first festive read of the year. I’m really happy that this is how I kicked off my festive reading because this book is simply gorgeous!

We follow Hattie as she is unexpectedly made redundant from her job at a swanky hotel, she wasn’t expecting it. And then her boyfriend announces that he has just been offered his dream job in Abu Dhabi and wants her to go with him! This all seems like perfect timing and the chance for a brand new start for Hattie but she’s just feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed with all that’s happening. So she decides to take up her old friend Dolly’s invitation to stay with her in the gorgeous village Wynbridge.

As soon as Hattie arrives in Wynbridge she begins to relax, and I could feel the weight falling from my own shoulders as I felt I was right there with her. Dolly is such a wonderful character – she’s shrewd and she can see Hattie isn’t happy but she doesn’t push her to talk about it. Instead she suggests that the two of them make a Christmas wish list of all the things they want to do in the run up to the festive season. Hattie isn’t all that bothered about Christmas ever since she fell out with her parents a few years earlier but she feels she should join in for Dolly’s sake. Dolly enlists Beamish, a very handsome school caretaker, to help with some of the items on the wish list and there is a definite attraction between him and Hattie!

This book is full of love and joy as we get nearer to Christmas but it’s not all smooth-sailing for Hattie. She inevitably has to work out how she really feels about Beamish, and more importantly how she feels about her boyfriend. She begins to realise that she perhaps wasn’t as happy as she thought she was and that things need to change.

There are some really heartfelt moments in this novel and they did make me cry a little bit. They brought back memories of things in my own life from years past but it was lovely as it made me recall some of the happiest of memories.

I adored this book! It’s the perfect novel to curl up with in the period leading up to Christmas as this is the time spanned in the book. As the residents of Wynbridge begin their Christmas preparations, it starts to feel a little magical and then you find yourself completely swept away in all the wonderful, heart-warming things that Hattie and Dolly, and Beamish, are ticking off their wish list. Before you know it your heart is bursting with festive feelings and you’ll be wanting to put your Christmas decorations up (even though it’s only October)!

The Christmas Wish List is a very special festive book, one that has stolen a piece of my heart. It is firmly going on my shelf of treasured Christmas books that I try to read every year. I highly recommend this one – it’s truly gorgeous!

Many thanks to Simon and Schuster for my copy of this book and for my blog tour invitation. All thoughts are my own.

The Christmas Wish List is out now and available here.

 

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

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Book Reviews: The Wayward Girls | The Silent Ones | The Last | The July Girls

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Today I’m back with some more mini book reviews of some thrillers I’ve read in recent weeks!

 

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The Wayward Girls by Amanda Mason

This is a novel that I was both desperate to read and majorly apprehensive about as I’m a total wimp when it comes to haunted house stories! I am so glad that I picked this one up though as it was such a good read and I read it all in one sitting! It follows sisters Loo and Bee in 1976 who live in the middle of nowhere in a ramshackle house that seems to have quite a few people coming and going. It alternates with the present day as we follow Lucy going back to her childhood home with a group who are investigating paranormal activity! I was gripped by this novel from the very beginning even though it did give me chills at times with the creepiness! I was so intrigued about what was going on in this house, especially as I grew up in a house that seemed to be haunted. I went back and forth about what I though might be happening in this novel – whether it was ghosts or if someone was playing mind games on the family. The conclusion when it comes is so utterly perfect, I loved it. It has made this a book that is really staying with me and I whole-heartedly recommend it!

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The Silent Ones by K. L. Slater

I listened to The Apartment by this author a few months ago and really enjoyed it so I was looking forward to reading this book. I’m pleased to say it lived up to my hopes for it. The Silent Ones follows the immediate aftermath of an elderly lady being assaulted in her own home and two ten year old girls being arrested on suspicion of the attack. Neither girl will speak about what happened. The two girls are cousins and have grown up very close with their mums being sisters. The family dynamics are fascinating and tense as this book progresses. The parents of the sisters side with one over the other and we gradually find out what has happened in the past. Alongside this the two cousins begin to talk about what happened. The tension builds to such a level in this book that I was on the edge of my seat waiting to see how everything was going to unfold. I really enjoyed this book and absolutely recommend it!

 

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The Last by Hanna Jameson

I was thrilled to be sent a copy of this book for review and I’m ashamed at how long it’s been on my TBR. I had a paperback but I downloaded the audio book from my library and part-read and part-listened to it. I found the premise of this book so intriguing – twenty people in a hotel in an isolated location when nuclear war causes large swathes of the world’s population to be wiped out. Then a body is found in the hotel and it’s clear that one of the guests is a murderer! I found this book gripping enough that I read it in just a couple of sittings but I did feel that it was a bit too meandering at times and that the tension wasn’t maintained throughout. It just lacked something, but because I thought it was building to one ending it kept me turning the pages. Unfortunately the ending wasn’t what I thought it might have been and it was a little disappointing.  As I said before though it did keep me turning the pages so I can say I did really like the writing style and I will definitely look out for another book by this author.

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The July Girls by Phoebe Locke

This was my first Phoebe Locke book but it definitely won’t be my last as it was such a brilliant read! This is a thriller that is set to the backdrop of the 7/7 bombings in London. Every year on this date a woman has gone missing and so far only one body has been found. Ten year old Addie begins to have suspicions of her father when he comes home covered in blood. She begins to look into things and it’s fascinating to see this story unfold from her perspective because due to her young age she doesn’t always grasp what she’s finding out. As she gets a bit older we see her navigate life with only her older sister to rely on and things aren’t easy. The mystery at the heart of this novel gradually unravels and the pace ramps up. I was holding my breath during parts of the book as it built towards its conclusion. It’s a brilliant crime thriller and I loved it. I highly recommend this one!

The Accidental Love Letter by Olivia Beirne | @Olivia_Beirne @headlinepg @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

What would you do if you received a love letter that wasn’t meant for you?

Bea used to feel confident, outgoing and fun, but she’s not sure where that person went.

Over the last few months, she’s found herself becoming reclusive and withdrawn. And despite living with her two best friends, she’s never felt lonelier. To make things worse, she’s become so dependent on her daily routine, she’s started to slip out of everyone else’s.

But when a mysterious battered envelope covered in stars lands on her doormat, Bea wonders if she could find the courage to open it.

It isn’t addressed to her, but it could be… if you squinted…

 

My Thoughts

I read and loved Olivia Beirne’s previous novel The List That Changed My Life last year so I was beyond excited to be invited to read and review her new book The Accidental Love Letter. I’m so happy to say that I loved it too!

The Accidental Love Letter follows Bea, who seems to be leading quite a lonely life. She lives with two friends but they’re each in relationships so are often not home. She works for a newspaper but never gets to write the stories she wants to write and she doesn’t connect with her colleagues. Bea likes making lists that plan out her days to the minute, and she seems quite anxious to have her time filled.

I really connected to Bea in this novel. I make lists in my head to plan out my time, particularly when I’m feeling anxious as it makes me feel like I have some control back. I also had my suspicions about the phone calls Bea makes quite often, and this brought a lump to my throat as I have also done this. I was rooting for Bea to find something for herself that would make her happy. So when one day out of the blue she receives a letter to her home addressed to B she is excited. She does wonder if the letter is really meant for her but she is so needing something in her life that she can’t resist opening it, after all it could be meant for her.

Bea ends up completely out of her comfort zone but in the process she finds new friends and a potential story that she can write the newspaper. She isn’t completely honest though and this niggles away at the back of her mind but she ignores it. I was wondering how on earth things were going to work out for Bea, but the whole time I was totally rooting for her.

I love that Olivia Beirne writes these feel-good novels that have real depth to them, along with characters that are so real. I wanted to climb into this book to be Bea’s friend! I also love how I go into Olivia’s books feeling that they’re likely to have a happy ending but also knowing that she will take me to the ending in a way that I absolutely don’t expect and can’t quite predict. Her writing is just wonderful and she is fast-becoming one of my must-read authors!

The Accidental Love Letter is a gorgeous, life-affirming novel that will give you all the feels! I adored this book – I read it in one sitting over the course of an afternoon and it was the most wonderful escapism, it felt like a real treat to myself. Don’t miss out on this book!

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

The Accidental Love Letter is out now as an ebook & audio book available here.

 

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

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The Family by Louise Jensen

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About the Book

Laura is grieving after the sudden death of her husband. Struggling to cope emotionally and financially, Laura is grateful when a local community, Oak Leaf Organics, offer her and her 17-year-old daughter Tilly a home.

But as Laura and Tilly settle into life with their new ‘family’, sinister things begin to happen. When one of the community dies in suspicious circumstances Laura wants to leave but Tilly, enthralled by the charismatic leader, Alex, refuses to go.

Desperately searching for a way to save her daughter, Laura uncovers a horrifying secret but Alex and his family aren’t the only ones with something to hide. Just as Laura has been digging into their past, they’ve been digging into hers and she discovers the terrifying reason they invited her and Tilly in, and why they’ll never let them leave…

 

My Thoughts

I’m such a huge fan of Louise Jensen’s novels and her new one, The Family, is no exception!

The Family is about Laura and her teenage daughter Tilly. Laura’s husband has recently died leaving her grieving and in serious financial difficulties. One day a woman offers Laura help via Oak Leaf Organics and Laura and Tilly are soon drawn into a community that is very difficult to leave!

I can never resist novels about cults, there is something about them that just draws me in. I love the way Louise Jensen set this novel up so that it made total sense how Laura, a level headed woman, would get drawn in. There is a sense of unease for the reader as Laura meets charismatic leader Alex but it is so plausible how Laura doesn’t see him the way we do.

I also loved the way this was about so much more than the cult. It’s such an in-depth look at mother daughter relationships, and how a relationship can be close and yet there is still secrets. It’s natural for a teenager to want to pull away from their mum so I could see things from Tilly’s point of view, but I could also see how Laura still felt they were as close as ever.

The pacing of The Family is spot on! It starts off as a slow-burn which is perfect as it allows you to get to know Laura and Tilly before their lives become so complicated. The pace soon begins to ramp up though as they settle into their new home and the plot becomes so gripping that the book is then impossible to put down!

There are twists and turns along the way in this novel, which I loved, and there are definitely things that happen that I didn’t see coming. I thought I had this book worked out and then the rug was well and truly pulled from under me. It’s a rare thing for me not to fully work out a mystery so kudos to Louise Jensen for keeping me on my toes with The Family!

I loved this book! Louise Jensen is a writer that goes from strength to strength and The Family is her best book yet. I highly recommend it!

 

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

The Family is out now and available here.

 

I’ve previously read, loved and reviewed the following books by Louise Jensen:

The Sister

The Gift

The Surrogate

The Date

The Guilty Mother by Diane Jeffrey @dianefjeffrey

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About the Book

She says she’s innocent.

WOULD YOU BELIEVE HER?

2013

Melissa Slade had it all: beauty, money, a successful husband and beautiful twin babies. But, in the blink of an eye, her perfect life became a nightmare – when she found herself on trial for the murder of her little girls.

PRESENT DAY

Jonathan Hunt covered the original Slade Babies’ case for the local newspaper. Now that new evidence has come to light, Jon’s boss wants him back on the story to uncover the truth.

With Melissa’s appeal date looming, time is running out. And, as Jon gets drawn deeper into a case he’d wanted to forget, he starts to question Melissa’s guilt.

Is Melissa manipulating Jon or telling him the truth? Is she a murderer, or the victim of a miscarriage of justice?

And if Melissa Slade is innocent, what really happened to Ellie and Amber Slade?

 

My Thoughts

I wanted to read The Guilty Mother as soon as I saw the cover, it really caught my eye and I’m really pleased to say that the novel more than lives up to it.

Melissa is in prison for killing her twin daughters and her appeal is about to be heard. Her first husband Simon, with whom she has a teenage son Calum is convinced she is innocent and is fighting for justice. Melissa’s second husband, the father of her twins, isn’t so convinced. Jonathan works for the local newspaper and along with Kelly, a young woman who is still learning in the journalism world, is tasked with looking into Melissa’s case.

I very much enjoyed this novel, it had me gripped from start to finish. I found reading about Melissa’s experience as a new mother to twins really believable. I can only imagine how exhausting it must be and how different it must have been to when she had her son years previously. Michael is very unsympathetic to Melissa, he misses the high achieving wife that Melissa was before and seems to make no allowances for how much life has changed since they decided to start a family together. This set up is so good in a novel though because it made me suspicious of Michael because it seems he would rather have his old wife back than have to deal with how she is now. It also made me wonder whether Melissa could have harmed her babies due to how fatigued and unsupported she was in the midst of her low mood and struggle.

It was great to have the journalist’s perspective too as we get to take a step back from being inside Melissa’s life and see it from an outsider’s point of view. Jonathan has had real sadness in his own life and as a father to two boys he can’t see how anyone would harm their own children. I enjoyed learning more about him and seeing how he tried to separate his own life experiences from Melissa’s. In Jonathan’s office is a new team member to the newspaper, Kelly, and she ends up being Jonathan’s side-kick. I loved Kelly, she’s clearly a bit green but in some ways that allows her to see things that Jonathan doesn’t see and she brings so much to his story (and to the novel).

Diane Jeffrey is an excellent writer – she explores Melissa’s story with such sensitivity whilst also keeping the novel thrilling so that you find yourself reading at every possible opportunity in order to find out what the truth was. There are twists and turns along the way and things I didn’t see coming… and the ending is brilliant!

The Guilty Mother is a novel that keeps you on your toes all the way through! I kept changing my mind about whether Melissa was guilty, and also changing my mind about who else might have done it. The story is so engrossing and impossible to put down! This is the first novel that I’ve read by Diane Jeffrey but it absolutely won’t be the last, I’m intending to buy everything she’s ever written now! I highly recommend this book!

The Guilty Mother is out now and available here

 

#BookReviews: The Carer | How It Was | Still Lives | The Water Cure

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Here are some more reviews of books that I’ve read recently:

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How It Was by Janet Ellis

I read and really enjoyed Janet Ellis’ debut novel The Butcher’s Hook so I was very keen to read her new book. It’s different to her first book but I still very much enjoyed it. It follows Marian, who is sitting in hospital next to her dying husband. She reads him old cards that she’s found and slowly falls into recollections of their lives together. The novel meanders and it can be a little hard to follow at times as you try to work out what point you are at in Marian’s life but I realised that I had to let myself just go where it was taking me and it became easier to follow the timeline then. Marion has had such heartbreak in her life, and the way she had to hide her intense grief for someone earlier in her life was stunningly written. I felt like I was right there with Marion and could feel all of her emotions. Later as she has to deal with her teenage daughter and all the complex emotions that this entails again gave me such empathy for her. She’s a flawed person but it’s impossible not to feel for her. I enjoyed this book but it’s only now that a little time has passed and I find myself still thinking about it that I can see just how good a book it is. I definitely recommend this one!

 

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Still Lives by Maria Hummell

This is a novel that I really wanted to read and yet didn’t pick up for ages after I got it. I think maybe on some level I knew I had to be in the exact right mood for it, and I’m so glad I waited because when I finally picked it up I read it in just two sittings! It follows Maggie who works for an art gallery and is working on the opening of a huge show of work by the new girlfriend of her ex-boyfriend. Kim Lord, the artist, has created a series of pictures where she has controversially painted her own image into the infamous murder scenes of women like Nicole Brown Simpson. Kim disappears on opening night and this leads to people analysing her paintings looking for a deeper message about where she might be. Maggie who already carries a lot of pain and regret becomes further melancholy and reflective about what might have happened. I adored this book – the message running through it about how murdered women are fetishised by the media is really well done and really makes you think. There is so much in this book alongside the mystery element and I really enjoyed it. I already want to read this book again so I definitely recommend it!

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The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

This novel follows three sisters who are brought up in an abusive, claustrophobic situation on an isolated island. We hear from each of them as well as their joint voice as they describe their world. It’s clearly a really difficult life but it’s never really explained where they are or why they’re there. I wasn’t sure if this was a dystopian novel or a post-apocalyptic one, or if the whole thing was a metaphor. It’s a feminist novel but it felt quite surface level to me and I was always kept at quite a distance so couldn’t connect with the characters. I have to say though that the writing is beautiful and it is this that kept me reading to the end. Overall I’m still not really sure what I think about this novel but I did enjoy the writing enough to want to read more by the author.

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The Carer by Deborah Moggach

I’m a big fan of this author’s novels so was thrilled to finally get a copy of The Carer and I’m really happy to say that I loved it. It follows two adult children – Phoebe and Robert – as they deal with their father James’ growing care needs and his relationship with his new carer Mandy. Phoebe seems to bear the brunt of organising their dad’s care and she resents how little Robert does. Robert feels very put upon in life generally and wishes the world would leave him alone so he can write his novel in peace. Mandy is jolly and fun and brings out a lighter side of James which increasingly concerns Phoebe and Robert but they can’t openly complain because this is what Mandy is there for. The family dynamics explored in this novel are so spot on for how life is that I kept smiling, or nodding my head as I recognised people in my own life in the characters at various points in the novel. This is such an engaging read that I keep thinking about ever since I finished reading. I will definitely re-read this book in the future. The Carer is a novel that I’m sure will resonate with a lot of people and I whole-heartedly recommend it!

#BookReviews: Forget Me Not | The Evidence Against You | Through the Wall | I Confess

 

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Here are some more mini reviews of books I’ve been reading recently! This post is a bit of a mixed bag with two books that I loved and two that I thought were okay.

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Forget Me Not by Claire Allan

I have to be honest here and say that this book became a must read for me entirely based on this brilliant cover! As soon as I saw it I had to grab a copy and read it right away. I’m so pleased to say that the novel lives up to the great cover and I very much enjoyed this crime thriller. It follows the discovery of the body of a young woman who has been murdered. The novel is told from the viewpoints of Elizabeth, who found the dead woman, and Rachel, the murdered woman’s best friend. Both woman have a lot in their own lives and so when the murder happens their nerves are brought to breaking point. I loved both strands of the novel and was keen to see how it was all going to turn out. I was thrilled that I was kept guessing until the reveal happened as it’s not very often that I can’t put the pieces together in a crime novel. I did have my suspicions and I was close but I didn’t get it figured out. Huge kudos to Claire Allan for keeping me on my toes! I loved this book, it’s Claire’s best thriller to date and I highly recommend it!

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The Evidence Against You by Gillian McAllister

I’ve read all of Gillian McAllister’s novels as they’ve been published and she has gone from strength to strength, she is now one of my auto-buy authors! This novel follows Izzy whose father has been in prison for murdering her mother and now he’s about to be released, and is claiming that he’s innocent! I loved Izzy, she’s such a believable and real character and I was rooting for her the whole way through this book. The loss of her mum when she was a teenager has really affected her life and she’s never really being able to escape from the tragedy. She’s even living her mum’s life in re-opening the restaurant that her mother owned. I loved seeing Izzy’s tentative steps towards having a relationship with her dad and was really hoping he was being honest with her. I was gripped the whole way through the book and I kept changing my mind about whether I thought her dad was being truthful or not. There were surprises in store in this book, which was great! I keep thinking of Izzy and wondering how she’s doing now. I highly recommend this book!

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Through the Wall by Caroline Corcoran

I was eagerly anticipating this novel but now I’ve read it I’m still not absolutely sure what I thought of it. It follows two women – Lexie who lives with her boyfriend Tom, and Harriet who lives on her own. They live next door to each other in an apartment block and they share a wall. I loved the early part of this book as we learn more about each of these women and see what they think of each other based on what they’ve heard through the wall. Each seems to think the other has a happier life, which I thought was really interesting to read about. As the novel went on though it required more and more suspension of disbelief and I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I had been. I was expecting it to go in a particular direction and when it didn’t I felt deflated. Perhaps this is much more a reflection on me than the book though. I’d still recommend it if you like novels about obsession!

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I Confess by Alex Barclay

This book is about a couple who’ve bought and renovated an old convent and have now invited old school friends to stay to celebrate one of their birthdays. The house is in a remote location and it’s a dark, stormy night so it feels like these friends are somewhat marooned in this house so when a body is found it’s terrifying to know they are all stuck there with a murderer. This is a fast-paced thriller that is full of secrets and lies and then all of the reveals and fallout. There aren’t many likeable characters in the novel and the only person that was likeable didn’t feel fleshed out enough for me, which was a little disappointing. I Confess does require a suspension of disbelief but that makes this more enjoyable as even though it’s a murder thriller it feels like escapism. This isn’t my favourite book in the genre but having said that I did read it in one sitting so it definitely held my attention all the way through.

#BookReviews: Dirty Little Secrets | Never Have I Ever | Call Me A Liar | Our Kind of Cruelty

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Here are a new selection of my thoughts on four more of the books that I’ve read in recent months!

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Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain

This book was brilliant! I picked it up one afternoon and I literally didn’t stop reading until I’d turned the final page! It follows seven residents in a gated community in the aftermath of one of the neighbours being found dead. The neighbours seem like they’d be close-knit and yet Olive had been dead for three months before anyone realised! The novel follows each of these characters as we get to know their back stories and how well they know each other. They all have their own secrets and things they don’t want to come out but the investigation into the murder means everything has to come out into the open. This novel kept me on my toes all the way through. I couldn’t make my mind up who was most likely to have harmed Olive and what I eventually settled on was completely wrong! The end when it comes is shocking and deeply unsettling but it’s also such a satisfying end to the book. I loved this one and I’m now so keen to read more by Jo Spain! I definitely recommend this book!

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Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson

I was really looking forward to reading this book and it was such a satisfying read. It follows Amy Whey who seems to have the perfect life, and she seems to be quite a perfect person. She lets her friend Charlotte host a book club in her house and one night a new neighbour, Roux, turns up and really shakes this group up by suggesting they play never have I ever and work back to revealing the worst thing they’ve ever done. Amy is immediately nervous and it’s apparent that she has skeletons in her closet. The novel then becomes a cat and mouse game as Amy and Roux try to outwit each other. I’m going to be honest here and say that while I was really drawn in by the opening to this book I did struggle with picking it back up whenever I’d put it down. Having said that there is a point about halfway through where it grabbed me and I read from there to the end in one sitting. It’s a clever thriller and something a bit different so I recommend it.

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Call Me A Liar by Colette McBeth

I really enjoy Colette McBeth’s writing so was thrilled to pick up her latest thriller. This book follows a group of work colleagues who are sent on a retreat. It soon becomes clear that this group all have secrets to hide and the pressure of being together in this enforced setting is going to cause cracks to show in people’s facades. We get to hear from each of the characters and this makes for a really gripping read as we begin to see how each of them think. This is such a tense read and you’re never quite sure of who to trust or what it might be that is really going on. It reached a point where I felt like I was trapped in this nightmare retreat with these people and unable to see a way back to the life I had before and I loved that about it.  This is such a twisty read and one that is really hard to put down once you’ve started reading.

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Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall

This book is such a gripping read that I read in one sitting! It follows Mike who is in love with Verity. They had a very intense relationship and loved playing a game called Crave on nights out. Crave involved Verity getting into a situation with a random man and when she gives the signal Mike swoops in and rescues her. So now that Verity has broken up with Mike and is moving on with her life he is certain that this is just an escalation of Crave and is determined to win her back. This look at obsession is so compelling and disturbing. It was fascinating being in Mike’s head and seeing how he sees things, and sometime I felt like I was on his side but there were moments when I thought of Verity and was shocked at myself that I hadn’t considered her feelings. This book is such an incredible look at control in relationships and how what one person sees as blurred lines another sees as terrifying. This book is one I still think about now and it’s weeks since I read it. It’s one I already want to read again and I definitely recommend it.

#BookReviews: When I Lost You | Those People | The Honeymoon | The Dangerous Kind

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Here is another selection of reviews of books that I read and enjoyed over the summer this year! I’m slowly catching up on reviewing all of the books that I read now!

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When I Lost You by Merilyn Davies

This is a novel that I was so keen to read and I’m really pleased to say that it lived up to my expectations. This is a novel that centres around an infant’s death, and the pathologist who believes the baby was murdered by one of her parents then begins receiving threatening letters. The novel is told in two timelines and looks at two teenagers who are in the care system, and in the present is the case looking at the murdered baby. I found this one of those novels that I just couldn’t put down, it had me hooked all the way through. I had my suspicions at various points in the novel but it was only a little while before the reveal that I finally put everything together. This novel is a mix of police procedural and thriller and it’s such a gripping and engaging read. I’m really happy to see that this is actually going to be the first book in the series as I loved the detectives and I can’t wait to read more!

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Those People by Louise Candlish

I love Louise Candlish’s writing so this book was a real treat! You know from the start that something bad has happened on this street but you don’t know exactly what or who to. The novel then follows interviews and the perspectives from each of the neighbours and you gradually learn what has led to the awful incident that has happened. I loved this book! It takes place on a lovely, quiet street where everyone is friendly and considerate of each other. Then a new couple move in and they are selfish and seem determined to do what they want when they want no matter what. I loved how this novel made me really dislike the new couple at first (don’t we all live in fear of nightmare neighbours moving in next door?!) but as the novel went on I did feel there were times when the antagonising behaviour came from all sides and people were escalating things without realising what they were doing. This is a novel that kept me guessing and it definitely had shocks in store. I read this novel in one sitting as I just didn’t want to put it down until I knew how it was all going to turn out. I definitely recommend this one!

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The Honeymoon by Rona Halsall

I’ll be honest here and say that the stunning cover is what initially drew me to this book! I’m happy to say that the contents did live up to it though. The Honeymoon follows Chloe as she sets off on her honeymoon with her new husband Dan. She finds out at the airport that they’re not going where she thought they were going which makes her anxious but she trusts her husband so off they go! We then find out that Chloe has only known Dan a very short time and perhaps doesn’t know him as well as she thought she did! I loved this as a set up for a novel and was intrigued about Dan from the start. Poor Chloe has no idea what awaits her on this honeymoon and she soon finds herself in a nightmare situation. I was rooting for her to find a way to get through things because I really liked her. Me and my husband pretty much moved in together as soon as we met so I know what it’s like to fall in love and move at lightning speed in a relationship so I was totally with Chloe even when I was anxious about some of the decisions she made. This was a fun, gripping and very fast-paced novel, and I’ll definitely be looking out for Rona Halsall’s other books in the future!

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The Dangerous Kind by Deborah O’Connor

I had to get my hands on a copy of this novel as soon as I first heard about it as the premise is so intriguing to me. The novel is about whether it’s possible to foresee whether someone would go on to commit violent crimes by looking at convicted criminals’ pasts, and that is so fascinating! The book sees the host of a podcast looking into this when one day a woman comes into the office begging for help to find her missing friend. The book then goes back and forth in time, and explores really difficult issues such as grooming and sexual exploitation. It’s such a well written book that keeps you reading even when you might want to look away. I found this book near impossible to put down as it was just so engaging and thought-provoking. I definitely want to read more by this author and I absolutely recommend this book!

#BookReview: Fiona and the Whale by Hannah Lynn | @HMLynnauthor @rararesources

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About the Book 

With her personal life on the rocks, it’s going to take a whale sized miracle to keep her afloat.

 Event planner Fiona Reeves did not have her husband’s sudden departure on her schedule. However, she’s certain that it’s only a hiccup and he’ll be back in no time, begging for forgiveness. Fortunately there’s a distraction of mammoth proportions swimming in the River Thames. 

 Absorbed by the story of Martha the sperm whale, Fiona attempts to carry on life as usual as she awaits her husband’s return. However, nothing can prepare her for the dramatic turn of events that throws her life into ever greater turmoil. The road ahead has many paths and for Fiona it’s time to sink or swim.

 Fiona and the Whale is a poignant and often hilarious contemporary fiction novel. If you enjoy topical tales, second chances and a little bit of romance, you’ll love this new book from the Kindle Storyteller Award Winner, Hannah Lynn.

 

My Thoughts

I’ve previously read one of Hannah Lynn’s other novels (The Afterlife of Walter Augustus) and adored it so I was delighted to get the chance to read her newest book Fiona and the Whale.

Fiona and the Whale is about a 40-something woman whose husband leaves her on the very day they wave their only son off to University. Fiona is convinced it’s all just a blip and that her husband will be back. In the days following she is struggling to fill her days and leaves the TV on 24/7, which is where she hears about a sperm whale that has got stranded in the Thames. Fiona becomes fixated on Martha the whale’s plight and this leads to many new paths opening up that Fiona couldn’t even have imagined beforehand!

I loved this book – from the opening pages I just knew this was going to be a ‘me’ book and it absolutely was! Fiona is a great character, she is so believable from the start and although some of the things she did annoyed me it never stopped me rooting for her because she was so real.

The plight of Martha was heart-breaking to read about but I really appreciated how Hannah Lynn used the story of the whale to highlight the issues of what we’re doing to our oceans and our planet with our use of plastics. This novel really made me pause for thought on more than one occasion but Lynn manages to really make a powerful point without it ever feeling like you’re being preached to. She kept me in the story and on Fiona’s side the entire time, which is a real skill when you’re showing the reality of these issues. I will think of Martha the whale next time I pick something up that’s wrapped in plastic when it doesn’t need to be and I’m sure this will help me to make better choices where I can.

I also loved the issues with food waste was tackled too. I’ve been guilty of going by use-by dates even on things like vegetables in the past because I didn’t trust my own judgement to know when things were past using. Now I know better and I do better. I could totally understand Fiona’s attitude to The Dumpster Dive cafe at first, although I’d have been a little more tactful! I loved how she learnt about what leads to food being thrown away by supermarkets, and as a result I learnt some things I didn’t know either.

Along with the issues being tackled in the novel we see how Fiona deals with her husband leaving her, and how she gradually becomes more reliant on herself and starts to find happiness on her own terms. It doesn’t happen overnight but you see her slowly starting to shine again. I adored her tenacity and spirit as she began fighting for what she believed in instead of being stuck in what she had lost. I also really enjoyed her relationship with her best friend and the way they are with each other. It was so refreshing to see such a real and honest portrayal of female friendship with the ups and downs that can come with one person making big life changes out of the blue.

Fiona and the Whale is a gorgeous quirky novel, one that really feels like it’s grounded in reality but with that little bit of Hannah Lynn magic sprinkled through it. I was really moved by some of the turns this story took, and also genuinely laughing out loud at other parts of it. I completely and utterly loved this book and I highly recommend it!

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

Fiona and the Whale is out now and available here.

 

About the author

Fiona and the Wale Hannah Lynn

Hannah Lynn is an award-winning novelist. Publishing her first book, Amendments – a dark, dystopian speculative fiction novel, in 2015, she has since gone on to write The Afterlife of Walter Augustus, a contemporary fiction novel with a supernatural twist – which won the 2018 Kindle Storyteller Award and the Gold Medal for Best Adult Fiction ebook at this year’s IPPY Awards – and the delightfully funny and poignant Peas and Carrots series.

While she freely moves between genres, her novels are recognisable for their character driven stories and wonderfully vivid description.

She is currently working on a YA Vampire series and a reimaging of a classic Greek myth.

Born in 1984, Hannah grew up in the Cotswolds, UK. After graduating from university, she spent ten years as a teacher of physics, first in the UK and then around Asia. It was during this time, inspired by the imaginations of the young people she taught, she began writing short stories for children, and later adult fiction Now as a teacher, writer, wife and mother, she is currently living in the Austrian Alps.

For up-to-date news and access to exclusive promotions follow her on

Facebook: HannahLynnAuthor

Twitter @HMLynnauthor

Goodreads: Hannah_M_Lynn

Bookbub: hannah-lynn

 

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

Fiona and the Whale Full Tour Banner

#BookReviews: Then She Vanishes | Miracle Creek | Clear My Name | The Poison Garden

mini reviews

Here is another selection of reviews of the books I’ve been reading over the summer!

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Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas

I’m such a big fan of Claire Douglas’ novels and so was really looking forward to this one – I can honestly say that it’s her best yet! Heather and Jess were best friends as teenagers until the night Heather’s sister Flora disappeared. Now Jess is accused of murder and Heather has come back to find out what has happened. This book has such great and believable characters, plus a plot that has you reading just one more chapter (and then one more and one more) until you turn the final page. It’s such an in-depth book that you want to know more about the characters but the storyline is so twisty that you find you can’t stop reading until you know how it’s all going to turn out. I loved this book and keep finding myself thinking about it and wondering how the characters are now. I definitely recommend this one!

 

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Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

This is a book that I picked up on a whim and I’m so glad I did as it’s such an excellent novel. This is a book that hinges around an horrific incident at the Miracle Submarine (a pressurised chamber that allegedly helps treat autism and infertility). It’s partly a courtroom drama but it’s also a character study following multiple people in the lead up to and fallout from the accident. You really get into the mindset of everyone and why they have done the things they did, and how they feel in the aftermath. I found this such an engrossing novel – one that I wanted to read slowly… but also quickly to know what happened. The writing it stunning and I can’t wait to read more from this author in the future! This is a book that has really stayed with me and I think it’s one that I will re-read.

 

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Clear My Name by Paula Daly

I’m such a fan of Paula Daly and have loved all her books to date and this new one is no exception! The novel follows Tess who works for Innocence UK as she looks into the possible wrongful conviction of Carrie – a woman convicted of killing her husband’s mistress. Carrie says she didn’t do it and Tess is determined to find the truth. This book really tense at times and is a definite page turner! I went back and forth over whether I thought Carrie was innocent, and I was suspicious of other people who perhaps had a motive for murder but I was never sure. This is a thought-provoking novel and one that you’ll be thinking about long after you’ve turned the last page! Clear My Name is a novel that kept me on my toes and I very much enjoyed it!

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The Poison Garden by Alex Marwood

Alex Marwood is another of my favourite authors so this book was one of my most anticipated for this year. I was thrilled when I finally got hold of a copy and am happy to say that it lived up to all my expectations! The way this book opens is so disturbing and visceral but it really sets up the story that is to follow in such a way that you don’t want to stop reading. The novel follows multiple characters and goes back and forth in time gradually building up a picture of what led to the novel’s opening but also what happened afterwards. It’s a slower-paced thriller which works perfectly as you find that you want to get to know these characters and how they became who they are. Alex Marwood’s novels always unsettle me and leave me pondering on things and this book is no different, I love how she keeps me enthralled even when I want to look the other way. Her writing is so dark and brilliant, I love it! I highly recommend this book!

#BookReviews: The Wave | The First Time Lauren Pailing Died | I Spy | The Most Difficult Thing

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I’m back with some more mini book reviews today as I continue in my attempts to catch up on reviewing the books that I’ve read over the summer months!

 

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The Wave by Virginia Moffatt

I was really drawn to the premise of this book – the idea of a tsunami heading towards the Cornish coast leaving the people there with no real chance of escaping it is chilling but also an intriguing set up for a novel. I found this book really hard to put down. I really liked most of the characters and there were some really moving moments within the story. I did find it a little jarring at times though as I didn’t believe that people who have chosen to spend their final hours on the beach enjoying their last moments of life would then end up debating politics. It seems to me that in that situation people would be more likely to be either in quiet reflection or bonding with others as they talked about their lives – their happiest moments and their regrets. As I said before though I still found this a compelling book that I didn’t want to put down and even though we know how the story is going to end for these characters, I still spent the whole book hoping it would be different for them. I’ll definitely look out for more from this author in the future.

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The First Time Lauren Pailing Died by Alyson Rudd

This is such a fascinating novel that follows Lauren Pailing through multiple alternate lives. Each time she dies a new life begins for the people that loved her. So the further into the book you get the more strands of each version of Lauren’s life are being followed. It may sound complicated but it was actually really easy to follow each life as it quickly becomes clear where you are in each particular strand. In each of Lauren’s lives a man has disappeared and she is convinced that she needs to find him. In time versions of Lauren begin to have memories of a life she didn’t live but another version of her did and this is where the novel got really interesting for me, I loved the way the author explored how other versions of us might still be a part of us on some level. The novel explores themes of relationships, grief and parenting in such a sensitive way. This is such a stunning novel and one that has really stayed with me since I read it. I’m already excited to read whatever Alyson Rudd writes next!

 

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The Most Difficult Thing by Charlotte Philby

This is such a good novel full of intrigue and suspense! It’s part spy novel, part thriller and part family drama and this made for such a great read.  On the surface Anna is successful in her career at a magazine, she’s happily married and adores her three-year old twins but all is not quite as it seems. Her life is on the verge of unravelling and slowly we get to see who she really is but also who the people around her really are. It becomes something of a cat and mouse but you’re not always sure who the good guys are. I found this such a compelling read that was hard to put down. The ending was so brilliant and perfect in my opinion but I also feel it might divide readers! I recommend it!

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I Spy by Claire Kendal

This is another really good spy novel that I enjoyed over the summer. Holly has always wanted to be a spy but when she gets the interview she fails and has to reassess what she’s going to do with her life. Then one day she has a random encounter with a woman and child that sends Holly’s thoughts spiralling. The novel goes back and forth in time and you gradually get to understand who Holly is and what this woman has to do with her life. This is a book that takes genuinely unexpected turns at times and it kept me gripped from start to finish. I’m a fan of Claire Kendal’s previous novels but this one is now my favourite of hers. It’s such a great read and I recommend it!

 

 

Fiction #BookReviews: If Only I Could Tell You | Matilda | Daisy Jones and the Six | The Flatshare

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Today I’m sharing a few more reviews of books that I’ve read and loved over the summer months!

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Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I received an eARC of this book from NetGalley but after reading reviews of the book I decided I wanted to listen to the audio book as I read so I bought the audio. This is such a brilliant novel and I loved it! It’s the story of a band called The Six in the 1970s and all the ups and downs that comes with making it big. Things become even more complicated for the band when Daisy Jones joins them. The dynamics between the band members is fascinating and it all felt so real! I loved how the book is told in snippets from interviews, which meant that we see each person’s view point and how memories differ from each perspective. Some people want to be seen in the best light, to be the hero and this shows through. Others play down the part they played, seemingly wanting to be a little more distant. This book was so good that by the end it felt like I’d read about a real band and I wanted to look up their music and to listen to it! It’s the mark of a great novel when you completely forget that this isn’t a true story. I highly recommend this book, I am sure it will be in my favourite books of the year list!

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The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

This is another wonderful novel that I very much enjoyed. The story is told from the viewpoints of both Tiffy and Leon – they flat share but they’ve never met! This premise sold me on the book and I’m so pleased to say that the novel lived up to that premise. I love how these two people communicated through a chain of post it notes, and how they gradually came to know each other so well before they ever met. There is more depth to this novel than I was expecting, and some difficult issues are dealt with. It made it all feel more real to me though and I appreciated that. This is such a gorgeous novel and it’s another one that I highly recommend.

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If Only I Could Tell You by Hannah Beckerman

I was eagerly anticipating this novel as I adored the author’s debut and I’m so happy to say that this was everything I hoped it would be. It’s the story of Audrey and her two adult daughters. Something happened when the two sisters were on the cusp of being teenagers and it’s completely pulled the family apart. Jess can’t forgive Lily and as a result won’t let her daughter see Lily’s daughter, and Audrey never gets to have all of her family together in one place. As the secrets of the past are slowly revealed I was just so sad that this family had allowed the inability to speak openly at the time had caused such a long rift. I can understand it though because when you fall out with a family member, the longer it goes on the harder it is to ever get things back. I thought this was such a beautiful novel and it did make me cry – they were cathartic tears though and ultimately this book gave me hope. I adored it and recommend it!

 

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Matilda by Roald Dahl

I was a little too old for this book when it first came out but I had loved other Roald Dahl books as I was growing up (Danny the Champion of the World was my favourite back then!). So when my baby brother was old enough to have this read to him, there was no way anyone else was getting the chance but me (this was almost 30 years ago now)! I’m so glad I made time to re-read it recently as I loved it as much as I ever did. Matilda is such a brilliant character, one you root for all the way through the book. I remember getting absorbed in my very own copy of Oliver Twist when I was 9 and while I was nowhere near as precocious as Matilda I could identify with the way adults didn’t believe I could read at that level on my own. I loved the humour in this book, Roald Dahl had such a talent for capturing children’s imaginations but also making his books fun for adults to (re-)read too. I adore this book and now want to re-read my whole Roald Dahl collection!

 

 

Thriller #BookReviews: It Ends With You | As Long As We Both Shall Live | Twisted | The Confessions of Frannie Langton

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

 

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It Ends With You by S. K. Wright

I had an ARC of this from NetGalley and I’m ashamed that it languished on my shelf for as long as it did, especially as that now I’ve read it I can say it was such a brilliant read! This is a thriller following the murder of a teenager named Eva. She was a popular girl and it seems like the mostly likely suspect is her boyfriend Luke. The novel follows six characters as we look at what led up to the murder. The narrative is woven in such a way that your belief in who is innocent and who might be guilty keeps changing, it seems like more than one person had a motive. This is such a clever and engaging thriller that I devoured in one sitting! I highly recommend it and I can’t wait to see what S. K. Wright writes next!

 

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As Long As We Both Shall Live by JoAnn Chaney

This is a thriller that really grabbed me in the opening chapters! It follows Matt whose first wife was died in suspicious circumstances of which Matt was cleared. Now in the present day he’s married to his second wife but she has a fall from a cliff on holiday and now a detective is on Matt’s tail. There were elements of this novel that I really enjoyed but ultimately it wasn’t very believable and the characters just weren’t fleshed out enough for me. I don’t mind unlikeable characters but they have to be real to me and they just weren’t. I did enjoy how twisty and fast-paced this novel was though so if you’re looking for a speedy thriller this might be the one for you.

 

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Twisted by Steve Cavanagh

This is a novel where the title says it all, it is so twisted! This is a novel where you can’t trust anyone or anything and everything you think is true really might not be as you think it is. I sped through this book because I simply had to know what was going on and how it was all going to turn out. You really should go into this book without knowing anything much about it so I’m keeping this very short and vague but trust me this is such a brilliant and fun rollercoaster of a thriller and I highly recommend it!

 

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The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins

This is a really interesting novel that has strong themes around how voices are silenced, and also how women are treated in this time period. I found some parts of the book were so good that I just couldn’t put the book down but other parts were much slower that meant I needed to stop and take a break from it. I’ve found that whilst I didn’t enjoy this book quite as much as I’d hoped I would when I read it it, I keep finding myself thinking of Frannie in the weeks since I finished reading. This is a book that took a little time to make a mark on me but ultimately it has done so. It’s a really good historical fiction read and I can see why so many people love it.

 

Fiction Mini Reviews: Louis and Louise, Something To Tell You, The BookShop of the Broken Hearted, and Ghost Wall!

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Today I’m sharing yet more mini reviews of books I’ve read over the summer months.

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Louis and Louise by Julie Cohen

This is such an incredible book and I loved every single minute that I spent reading it. In the book a baby is born to a couple but in one chapter the baby is a boy – Louis, and in the other chapter the baby is a girl – Louise. We then see each of their lives alternating through the novel and it’s fascinating to see how similar their lives would have been a times, and how vastly different at other times. There is one chapter part-way through the novel where the male and female versions of this person merge and it is so incredibly moving. I loved the exploration of what it is to be female or male, the different things that are expected and the different way men and women see and feel things. I also adored the idea of fate that runs through the novel, the way that some things are perhaps pre-ordained for us no matter our gender or sexuality. I adored this book, and even though it’s now weeks since I read it I still find myself thinking about. I think this will be one of my books of the year so I highly recommend it!

 

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Something To Tell You by Lucy Diamond

I do love Lucy Diamond novels and this one was such a gorgeous read! Frankie’s mum recently died and she left behind a letter for her daughter. On reading it Frankie discovers the truth about her birth and who her father is. She decides to go and see him and walks right into the middle of a Mortimer family gathering. From there we follow Frankie as she tries to make a connection with her father and other family members. We also hear from other Mortimers and see how their lives are and how they feel about Frankie. Things aren’t always plain-sailing and there are some real heart-rending moments in this book but on the whole it’s a feel-good read and I very much enjoyed it!

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The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted by Robert Hillman

This is a beautiful, slow-burn novel following Tom Hope. His wife Trudy has left him taking her son Peter with her. Peter isn’t Tom’s biological son but he’s raised him and he thinks of him as his own and so is devastated to lose him. Meanwhile there’s a newcomer to the town, Hannah and she is opening a book shop. The locals are intrigued, and Tom can’t resist stopping by. He and Hannah form a bond and slowly we learn each of their histories and what has made them the way they are. Hannah’s story is incredibly moving, I wasn’t expecting it but it really did make me feel emotional. This is one of those books that slowly gets under your skin, and after you finish reading it you’ll find you can’t stop thinking abouit. I really did love this one!

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Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

This is a stunning novella, and one that I still keep thinking about. It follows Silvie who is staying at an Iron Age reconstruction in the middle of nowhere with her mum and anthropologist father. There are moments where we see what happened to an iron age girl that are visceral and heart-breaking. We then see that whilst Silvie doesn’t face the same savage life as that girl, the pain and lack of understanding that teenagers go through perhaps is such as it ever was. The writing in this book is beautiful, there is so much said in so few words. It’s a book that still goes through my mind and it’s weeks since I read it. I think it’s a book that I will re-read in the future. I recommend it!

Mystery & Thriller Mini Reviews: The Wych Elm, The Hiding Game, The Holiday, and Take It Back!

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On my blog today I’m sharing another selection of mini reviews of some mystery and thriller books that I’ve read and enjoyed over the past few months!

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The Wych Elm by Tana French

I’m a huge fan of Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series so I was intrigued to read this standalone novel. I did have an ARC of this but due to not being well I bought the audio book, and I highly recommend it. The narrator of the audio is so perfect for the book! The Wych Elm is one of those books that grabs you from the beginning and then gradually weaves its spell around you! Toby is brutally attacked in his home and whilst recovering goes to stay at his family’s ancestral home with his Uncle Hugo, who has a brain tumour and needs some help around the house. One day a skull is discovered inside a tree in the garden and this leads to secrets and lies being revealed, cover-ups attempted and a family left reeling by what they discover. I loved this book and already want to re-read it. I highly recommend this one!

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The Hiding Game by Louise Phillips

This is an intriguing and interesting thriller that follows Heather, a defence attorney, as she goes back to her home town to defend a teenage nanny who is accused of causing the death of the baby in her charge. I enjoyed following Heather and learning more about her life – her mother was murdered when she was a child and she’s never really been able to move on from it. I did struggle with the novel a little though as there are a lot of characters and it was difficult to keep them separate from each other at times. For the most part this book did have me gripped though and I was definitely keen to find out whodunnit in both the timelines. I love that it kept me guessing right to the end!

 

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The Holiday by T. M. Logan

I do love a thriller novel that involves groups of old friends going away together and seeing how things unfold in that situation so the premise of The Holiday ticked all my boxes and I’m really happy to say that it lived up to all my expectations! Kate and her family are on holiday in a beautiful holiday home with three of her oldest friends and their husbands and children. Early on the holiday she discovers some texts on her husband’s phone that make her doubt his honesty and from there on the novel grips you as you wonder if he could be cheating with one of the other women in the villa. It turns out there are more secrets amongst this group of friends, which makes this such a fast-paced, gripping page-turner. I didn’t see where this was going so I loved being surprised by how it all turns out. I definitely recommend this book!

 

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Take It Back by Kia Abdullah

This is a legal thriller that is very prescient for our times. Jodie is a sixteen year old girl with neurofibromatosis and she claims to have been sexually assaulted by four muslim boys. This is written in such a way that when you read Jodie’s story you absolutely believe her but then when you read the perspectives of the four boys you believe them. The novel follows the legal case but also the way the community deals with the accusations. This book certainly makes you think and would make a good book club read as it brings up lots of issues that would make for interesting discussions. It didn’t quite hit the mark for me, it just felt like something didn’t quite sit right with me and I can’t even put my finger on what that was. I did enjoy it though and I would recommend it. I’m looking forward to reading whatever Kia Abdullah writes next.

Non-Fiction Mini Reviews: Forgiveness is Really Strange, Hard Pushed, Ask Me His Name, How To Treat People, and What Dementia Teaches Us About Love!

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Today I’m continuing with my series of mini reviews and am sharing my thoughts on a selection of non-fiction books that I’ve read over the summer.

 

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Forgiveness is Really Strange by Masi Noor and Marina Cantacuzino (Illustrated by Sophie Standing)

This is a short graphic non-fiction book that is such an incredible read. I’ve read it twice now and each time it has given me something that I needed from it. It explores the idea of forgiveness in a way I haven’t seen before – I think the short paragraphs and the beautiful illustrations really made me think and ponder. It left me with a sense that forgiving yourself is just as important as forgiving others. I recommend this book to everyone but in particular for people who have experience trauma at the hands of another and needs an easy to grasp book that can help with understanding the nature of forgiveness.

 

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Hard Pushed by Leah Hazard

This is a book by a midwife about being a midwife in an NHS hospital and it was such an interesting and insightful read. You get such a real sense of how it is to work in hospitals, how much is expected and how short-staffed they are. What I loved about this book is the way Leah Hazard really made me feel like I was seeing her work life through her eyes. Midwives are often present for a part of someone’s story but never get to see how it turned out, and so some of the stories in this book don’t have a patient’s full story. I thought this might be frustrating but it wasn’t, I was just so in the moment with the midwife. This is a really good read and I recommend it.

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Ask Me His Name by Elle Wright

This book is incredibly moving. Elle Wright has written so openly and honestly about her experience of being pregnant and then giving birth to her beautiful baby boy, Teddy, who only lived for three days. Initially I wasn’t sure this book was for me as the writing style was very chatty but once I got into the first chapter I was engrossed in Elle’s story. I can’t even imagine what it is to go through what she has. I’ve experienced miscarriage and knowing I won’t ever have a child but that is incomparable to what Elle and her husband have been through. I loved how honest she is about how she felt along the way and also how she gives such straightforward advice on what to say if someone you love is going through the loss of a baby. I also love the way she honours Teddy and continues to encourage others to speak to her about him. I have such admiration for her. This is such a moving book to read but I’m glad I read it and I recommend it.

 

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How To Treat People by Molly Case

This book is different to what I was expecting – it’s part memoir and part science. Molly Case talks about her own life, and her work life as a nurse but interspersed with those chapters are more scientific chapters about particular medical issues or the history of a condition. I have to be honest and say that while I appreciated this book it just wasn’t fully for me. I do recommend it though because it is well written and very interesting.

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What Dementia Teaches Us About Love by Nicci Gerrard

This book is such a stunning and heart-breaking read but one that everyone should pick up and read. Nicci Gerrard takes us through the stages of her father’s dementia – from the early stages right through to death. She is so honest about his symptoms and how it affected her and the rest of their family. We need to talk about about these things and this book is such a brilliant opening to starting this discussion with your own family.  I lost my mum to cancer but part of that was a brain tumour that caused her to lose who she was and who I was so I have some sense of what it must be like to have a loved one with dementia. It’s so hard to lose someone in slow motion. I remember as a child my mum had an elderly aunt who had dementia and how distressed she found it every time she visited. This was in a time when no one really talked about it and that just always makes it worse when you can’t talk and don’t know anyone else who’s experienced it. This is why we need books like this. There are facts and figures about dementia throughout the book, as well as stories from other sufferers and their families. It’s all woven together in such a way that even though it’s harrowing to think about you just don’t want to put the book down. I highly recommend this one.

Thriller Mini Reviews: Do Not Disturb, On My Life, I Know You Know, and A Nearly Normal Family!

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As I said in my mini reviews blog post yesterday I’m on a mission to catch up with reviewing all of the ARCS I’ve read over the summer so here are four more!

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Do Not Disturb by Claire Douglas

I’ve read a couple of Claire Douglas books this year and I really do love her writing. Do Not Disturb follows a family who have bought a run down guest house in Wales and decide to do it up and re-open. The locals aren’t happy and there is a sense that something bad happened in the house years before. The tension is there from the very start of this novel as the opening scene is shocking and then we go back a few weeks to find out what led up to it. In amongst all the stress of renovating Kirsty’s estranged cousin turns up with her daughter and it’s clear from the off that something has happened and that once they were close but not anymore. Whilst this isn’t my favourite novel by the author, it was still such an engrossing and fast-paced read that I just didn’t want to put down!

 

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On My Life by Angela Clarke

This book was so intense and such a brilliant read! Jenna has a perfect life with her fiance but then one day she finds his teenage daughter murdered in their home and her life begins to unravel. The evidence is pointing at Jenna and she can’t explain her way out of it. The scenes when she is being taken for questioning and her seeing her jail cell for the first time were so visceral, I felt like I was right there with her. The writing really does bring you into the prison along with Jenna and it’s intense. This is such a good book though as we see how Jenna copes, alongside her fight to clear her name. I definitely recommend this book, it’s so good!

 

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I Know You Know by Gilly Macmillan

I Know You Know follows Cody Swift who is making a podcast looking to find out the truth behind the murders of his two best friends when they were ten years old. A man was convicted of the crime but he has died in prison and Cody is not convinced the police had the right man. We get to read the podcast transcripts but also we follow the parents of the two boys who were killed. I’ll be honest and say that I struggled a little with this book as I was reading it so I bought the audio book to listen while I was reading and that made it a much better experience for me. It’s an emotional book at times and it has its twists and turns. I do love Gilly Macmillan’s writing and I’m looking forward to reading whatever she publishes next.

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A Nearly Normal Family by M. T. Edvardsson

The premise of this novel intrigued me right away – the idea of there being a murder and then following the daughter who’s accused, her father and then her mother sounded so good. I did enjoy this book but all the way through I felt like I was being kept at a distance and couldn’t quite connect to it as much as I wanted to. That said, it is an engrossing story that makes you want to keep turning the pages to find out what happened.

Mini Reviews of Thrillers: The Child Finder, Whistle in the Dark, I Did It For Us, and The Au Pair!

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I’ve been reading so much recently and have been focusing mainly on review books as I want to catch up as much as I can before the end of the year. I haven’t felt much like writing reviews though so as a result I now have a backlog of 45 (yes forty-five! Eeek!) reviews to write up. So I’ve decided to do a series of mini reviews otherwise I might never get these reviews posted!

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The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld

This is such an engrossing and atmospheric read. It follows Naomi, who is a child finder – she is called in when the police have got nowhere in their search and she takes up the reins. She’s trying to find a child called Madison and is sure she is alive, and as the search goes on Naomi feels an increasing connection to the missing girl. This book was on my TBR for way longer than it should have been but once I finally picked it up I couldn’t put it down. It’s such a brilliant novel and one I won’t forget!

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Whistle in the Dark by Emma Healey

This is one of those books where I expected it to be one thing and it actually was different to what I thought I was going to get, but this was absolutely not a bad thing. I very much appreciated this book and I got so much more out of it than I was expecting. Jen’s teenage daughter went missing, and was found alive but she refuses to talk about where she’s been or what happened to her. This is so much more about how it feels to be clamouring around in the dark trying to understand what is going on in your teenager’s head. Lana has depression and she isn’t able to communicate how she feels with her mum. I suffered a lot when I was in my teens so could see things from Lana’s point of view, but it was really emotional for me to see it from Jen’s perspective and to have more of an insight into how frightening and heartbreaking it must be to see your child suffering in this way. This book was such a brilliant read and one that will stay with me.

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I Did It For Us by Alison Bruce

I had an ARC of this book from NetGalley but I decided to buy the audio book to listen to. I really enjoyed this on audio and found it so hard to put down, I was listening every chance I had. It follows Emily whose life has fallen apart after she accused her husband’s best friend of rape. She moves away to start a new life but finds it hard to settle in her apartment. Then one day a family move in and she befriends the single mum, Joanne. She then begins to worry about Joanne’s new boyfriend and whether he is all he appears to be. Emily is an unreliable narrator and I could never completely trust what she was thinking, she seems quite paranoid at times. This kept me on my toes though and whilst I worked out some of the reveal before it happened, there were still shocks in store!

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The Au Pair by Emma Rous

This was another engrossing read! Seraphine and her twin brother Danny were only a few hours old when their mother died by suicide. Now in the present day the twins’ father has died and when Seraphine is going through his things she finds a photo of her mother with one baby. This sends her on a quest to find out which of them was the baby in the photo and what happened back then. This novel is told in alternate narratives with the other perspective being the nanny Laura who worked for the Mayes’ family before the twins were born. I did find this a compelling read and was fascinated by the story and what could possibly have happened. The ending when it comes is shocking but more than that it’s incredibly moving. I really enjoyed this book and look forward to seeing what Emma Rous writes next!

My 20 Books of Summer Wrap-Up!

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The 20 Books of Summer reading challenge has now ended and I’m so happy to say that, for the first time ever, I read all of the books on my planned TBR! Woo Hoo! I’ve always managed to read at least 20 books over the summer but I have never, ever managed to stick to my planned list. I picked 20 physical books this time so it was an even bigger challenge for me so I really am proud of myself for completing it. I didn’t get around to reviewing the books I read but I do intend to review at least some of them soon.

Before I go any further, a huge thank you to Cathy at 746 Books for running this challenge. I really do love taking part each year.

Here are the books I read over the summer (in the order I read them).

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames

The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Lyrebird by Cecelia Ahern

Normal People by Sally Rooney

Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor

A Question of Trust by Penny Vincenzi

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

The July Girls by Phoebe Locke

Still Lives by Maria Hummell

Take Me In by Sabine Durrant

Inhuman Resources by Pierre LeMaitre

The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith

After the Eclipse by Sarah Perry

The Word for Woman is Wilderness by Abi Andrews

Histories by Sam Guglani

We Own the Sky by Luke Allnutt

A Keeper by Graham Norton

Nevermoor #1: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend

Take Courage: Anne Bronte and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis

 

I have to say that I enjoyed every single book that was on my summer TBR, which is really something! I think if I was pushed to pick my favourites I would have to say that my favourite two novels were The Goldfinch and The Trouble With Goats and Sheep, and my two favourite non-fiction books were After the Eclipse and Take Courage. It was bittersweet reading A Question of Trust with it being the final book by Penny Vincenzi but I enjoyed it so much that I now want to make time to re-read some of her other novels.

The page count for my 20 books came to 7597, which is no surprise really considering how long The Goldfinch is and A Question of Trust is pretty huge too!

The fact that this year I made time to read my planned summer TBR as well as the other books that I needed to read (books for review and blog tour books) meant I was successful at completing this TBR. I’ve never done well with TBRs – I’m one of those people that absolutely loves planning what I’m going to read, and then the minute the challenge starts I want to read everything but what’s on my list! This time I planned it better and I feel so satisfied at getting to books that had been on my TBR bookcase for quite a while. I had a couple of books on my list that I’ve put off because they felt like they might be more difficult reads (like The Word for Woman is Wilderness for example) but I found I enjoyed them so much. It reminded me that I perhaps need to make a seasonal TBR to remind me of the books that I want to read but am intimidated by.

This year’s 20 Books of Summer has been absolutely wonderful and I already can’t wait for the next one! How did your summer reading go? Did you take part in the challenge? I hope you read some amazing books. 🙂

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Review: Reunion by R. V. Biggs | @RVBiggs @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Reunion Cover Picture

About the Book

One random, violent act is enough to change Sarah Macintyre’s life forever.

Left unsettled, and yearning for a new beginning, Sarah is unsure of what to do with her life. But one day she discovers an anonymous letter hidden amidst a pile of unopened mail.

The note, however, contains nothing more than a confusing riddle.

Intrigued and excited, Sarah’s hunger for a new life compels her to search for the author to understand the puzzle and solve the mystery.

Embarking on a journey that will shape the rest of her life and that of her family, Sarah uncovers a past of which she had no knowledge, a present she must find a path through, and a future filled with intense grief and utmost joy.

 

My Thoughts

Earlier this year I read and fell in love with Song of the Robin, the first book in the Sarah McIntyre series, so I was delighted to be offered the chance to read the follow up book. Song of the Robin is one of those really special books that has made its mark on me and I’m so happy to say that I also completely and utterly adored Reunion!

Reunion picks up right after the end of Song of the Robin. Sarah is still struggling with the assault that happened in the previous book, she feels fear about it but she’s also still having strange symptoms. She feels anxious and worried but can’t seem to express to her loved ones what exactly is happening to her. Then one day she receives a strange letter in the post and this leads to Sarah uncovering some secrets and some answers!

I loved this novel, I was under its spell from the opening page until after I turned the final page. Sarah is such a great character and I constantly root for her to be well and to be happy again. I had such a connection to Song of the Robin because of the way grief is explored, it really struck a chord with me, and whilst Reunion moves on from that story the way lost loved ones are spoke of in this book was so wonderful.

This novel follows Sarah and her family for the most part but it also has short chapters from a time in the 1700s as we follow a young woman trying to survive and avenge the trauma that has been inflicted on her family. It’s not clear initially what this has to do with the main plot but it soon begins to come clear and I loved the way we get to put it all together. The atmosphere in this book is wonderful, there is such a sense of time and place, and the people are all so real and believable.

I loved seeing more of Sarah’s friendship with Rachel, they are two women who clearly have such a strong bond. Their relationship is so true to life – the way that sometimes you can’t even tell the people closest to you how you’re feeling and they can sense you holding back but you can’t break through the walls. You get to see more of Rachel in this book and to understand why she is the way she is. I wasn’t expecting the cause of her pain to be what it was but it was so believable and my heart broke for her.

There is loss and pain in this book, things that moved me to tears at times but the overriding feel is one of healing – both physically and emotionally, but it’s also about the act of healing and this is so beautiful.

I love the way the author explores fate and destiny in this book, I’m really drawn to stories about these things. I never used to believe in fate but in my own life, a few years ago, over the course of five months the very worst thing happened to me and then the very best thing happened to me. So many people have said that perhaps it was my late mum who made sure my husband arrived in my life when he did and I take so much comfort from the thought of that. Reunion looks at how the past continues to run through us and it explores how those we’ve lost are never really gone.

There is a mystery running through this book that had me utterly fascinated. I was trying to figure out what was going on along with Sarah and her family, and was utterly gripped by the way the story unfolds in this book. It’s such a great story, and told so brilliantly.

I don’t want to say too much more because future readers should read this book as I did, without knowing too much about it going into it so you get to experience the stunning journey these characters go on for yourself.

I don’t really have the words to describe how much I loved this book (and the previous one). It’s one of those times where I connected with it so much and it now means such a lot to me and I just can’t do it any kind of justice. The first book in the series made my top books of 2019 so far list back at the end of June and I can say for sure that Reunion will be on my favourite books list at the end of the year! Song of the Robin was cathartic and comforting for me, and Reunion was incredibly moving and healing. R. V. Biggs writes such stunning and special novels – I can’t wait to read whatever he publishes next. I highly recommend this series of books, they really are so different and so beautiful.

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.

Reunion is out now and available here.

I’ve previously reviewed the first book in this series, Song of the Robinhere.

 

About the Author

R V Biggs Author Photo

R V Biggs lives in a small ex-mining village near Wolverhampton, England, with his wife Julie, and Mags the black lab. He has four grown up children and six grandchildren.

Walking with the dog is a favorite pastime and much of the story line for his first novel was developed during these lengthy outings.

Robert worked for 35 years in telecommunications but changed career paths to a managerial supporting role within a local Mental Health NHS trust. It was during the period between these roles that the concept for Song of the Robin was born.

Robert is a firm believer that destiny and co-incidence exist hand in hand and this conviction extends to his writing. He has a passion for holistic well-being and after first-hand experience of the potential healing powers of Reiki, a form of energy therapy, took a Reiki level 1 training course to heighten his spiritual awareness. Robert’s experiences in these areas helped conceive the ideas that led to Song of the Robin and its sequel Reunion, novels with central themes of fate, love and the strength of family. His writing however is not fantasy but is set in modern times involving real people living real lives.

Twitter @RVBiggs

 

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

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Review: The Apartment by K. L. Slater | @KimLSlater @audibleuk

THE APARTMENT

About the Book

They say every cloud has a silver lining….

When Freya Miller is struck by tragedy, losing her husband and her home within a short time, she is burdened with many worries. The main one being where she and her five-year old daughter, Skye, are going to live. A chance meeting with the charismatic Dr Marsden changes all that. He offers the young mother the most amazing opportunity: an apartment at one of London’s most exclusive addresses for a fraction of the market rental cost. It’s an offer Freya simply can’t refuse. Within a couple of weeks, Freya and Skye are moving into Adder House and meeting the other welcoming residents. They very quickly feel part of the family.

But just when Freya truly believes all her problems are history, a series of strange, unexplained occurrences begin. It leaves Freya with the unshakeable feeling that even when their apartment door is securely locked, she and her daughter are not alone. Freya thought she’d left all her troubles behind her yet she soon realises there are problems here that are far more terrifying than before.

For behind the doors of Adder House, everything is most definitely not as it seems.

Old secrets refuse to stay buried, and someone is determined to keep a terrible past very much alive.

 

My Thoughts

The Apartment is such an unsettling novel that follows Freya and her young daughter Skye. Freya is dealing with losing her husband and is trying to get life back on track for the sake of her daughter so when she’s offered a wonderful apartment for a fraction of the rent you’d expect it to cost she jumps at the chance. Things are perhaps not all they seem though!

I loved this audio book! I was on edge from the beginning of this book – the way that Dr Marsden approaches Freya seemingly out of nowhere to offer her this amazing apartment at low rent set my nerves jangling! It seems way too good to be true and I would have run a mile! Having said that I have never found myself in Freya’s situation and I could absolutely see why she accepted this offer. She has a young child and nowhere to call home, and this apartment is perfect and in a great location for them. I really liked Freya and Skye from the off and was really rooting for them to be okay.

There is a real uneasiness in the apartment block, something just doesn’t feel right as you’re reading but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was. Each of the other occupants seem a little unusual, even though they are perfectly pleasant to Freya, but then that can happen when you move somewhere new and don’t know anyone. I certainly couldn’t work out what was going on or who was going to turn out to be the bad guy, The Apartment certainly kept me on my toes.

I was pleased for Freya when a young family moves into the apartment block and she becomes friendly with them. It seems like she might finally be feeling at home and that things might be all going to work out fine. Unfortunately for Freya the slightly unnerving things that have been happening ever since she moved in slowly begin to ramp up and she doesn’t know where to turn. I really felt for her because her two closest friends had been suspicious of her moving into this apartment but she went ahead anyway and is then left feeling like she can’t tell them that they may have been right.

The tension is there in The Apartment from the beginning and it slowly ratchets up in a way that is so unnerving. Then there is a point when things begin to move at a pace and I was on the edge of my seat listening and hoping that nothing bad was going to happen to Freya or Skye. It was so tense that I was holding my breath! The reveals when they come are shocking, I had my suspicions about some of the people and some of the situations but I couldn’t have imagined the entirety of what the apartment was all about. The fact that it’s based on a true story just adds to the already heightened tension that grows throughout.

Tuppence Middleton is such a great narrator and really made all the character’s voices distinctive and added to the growing sense of tension that grows throughout the novel. I’ll definitely look out for more audiobooks narrated by her in the future.

The Apartment is incredibly tense, unnerving and unputdownable! I was listening to this book in every spare minute that I had because I simply had to know what was happening and if Freya and Skye were going to be alright! I highly recommend this audiobook!

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

The Apartment is out now as an audiobook and is available here.

About the Author

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Kim is the million-copy best-selling author of eight standalone psychological crime thrillers. At the age of 40 Kim went back to university and now holds an MA in Creative Writing. Kim is a full-time writer and lives with her husband in Nottingham. She enjoys traveling, eating out, is an avid film fan and most of all, she loves reading across genres.

 

 

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Review: Blood Song by Johana Gustawsson | @JoGustawsson @OrendaBooks @annecater

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About the Book

Spain, 1938: The country is wracked by civil war, and as Valencia falls to Franco’s brutal dictatorship, Republican Therese witnesses the murders of her family. Captured and sent to the notorious Las Ventas women’s prison, Therese gives birth to a daughter who is forcibly taken from her.

Falkenberg, Sweden, 2016: A wealthy family is found savagely murdered in their luxurious home. Discovering that her parents have been slaughtered, Aliénor Lindbergh, a new recruit to the UK’s Scotland Yard, rushes back to Sweden and finds her hometown rocked by the massacre.

Profiler Emily Roy joins forces with Aliénor and soon finds herself on the trail of a monstrous and prolific killer. Little does she realise that this killer is about to change the life of her colleague, true-crime writer Alexis Castells. Joining forces once again, Roy and Castells’ investigation takes them from the Swedish fertility clinics of the present day back to the terror of Franco’s rule, and the horrifying events that took place in Spanish orphanages under its rule.

 

My Thoughts

Blood Song is the third novel in the Roy and Castells series (the first is Block 46 and the second is Keeper) and I have to say that this is a crime/noir series that goes from strength to strength. I still find myself thinking about the first book, and now we have the third one and it is every bit as good (if not even better if that’s possible!).

Blood Song is told in two timelines: it’s predominantly set in the present where a wealthy family has been brutally murdered but we also follow a timeline in 1938 Spain where a family are taken by force during the civil war, and this leads to horrendous trauma that has repercussions down the years.

This is such a compelling and engrossing novel and I keep thinking about it. The scenes set in 1938 Spain are so real, they have left their mark on me to the point that I feel the want to learn more about what happened during the civil war. I love when I read a novel and it leads me to want to learn more detail about something and Blood Song has definitely done that. Johana Gustawsson has taken real historical events in all three novels in this series and has fictionalised them whilst leaving in the important details to give readers a very real sense of a harrowing time in history.

The brutal murder of the family of Emily Roy’s team member Aliénor was harrowing to read about. I was really disturbed by one of the murders in particular, it was all too real but never gratuitous. The detail is necessary and that becomes apparent as the novel progresses. I loved learning so much more about Aliénor in Blood Song. I feel like the previous two novels have given readers so much more understanding of Emily Roy and Alexis Castells, and as Aliénor has become an increasingly important part of the team it was great to know more about her. It was awful to learn about her in such sad circumstances but it’s given me so much more of a sense of who she is and now I just want to protect her from anything that might happen in future novels!

I loved the way the bond between Roy and Castells is strengthened in Blood Song, and the way they work together to support Aliénor and to find out who is responsible for the murder of her family.  It’s so empowering to see three strong women – who each have their flaws and difficulties but use them to solve crime, to gain insight into other people – shine through in these novels. These women are some of my favourite characters in crime/noir fiction now, and this series is right up there with my most favourite ever crime/noir series.

Blood Song is a dark, harrowing and shocking novel but also one that you just can’t (don’t want to and shouldn’t) look away from. The writing is so good, as is the brilliant translation by David Warriner. You get a real sense of the location and the languages in this novel even though it’s entirely translated into English, which is no mean feat. I loved Blood Song and I already can’t wait for the next book in the series!

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

Blood Song is out now in ebook and available for pre-order in paperback here.

 

About the Author

Johana Gustawsson

Born in Marseille, France, and with a degree in Political Science, Johana Gustawsson has worked as a journalist for the French and Spanish press and television. Her critically acclaimed Roy & Castells series, including Block 46, Keeper and, soon to be published, Blood Song, has won the Plume d’Argent, Balai de la découverte, Balai d’Or and Prix Marseillais du Polar awards, and is now published in nineteen countries. A TV adaptation is currently underway in a French, Swedish and UK co-production. Johana lives in London with her Swedish husband and their three sons.

 

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Review: Truth Hurts by Rebecca Reid | @RebeccaCNReid @TransworldBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Poppy has a secret. 
Drew has nothing to hide.

Theirs was a whirlwind romance.

And when Drew, caught up in the moment, suggests that he and Poppy don’t tell each other anything about their past lives, that they live only for the here and now, for the future they are building together, Poppy jumps at the chance for a fresh start.

But it doesn’t take long for Poppy to see that this is a two-way deal. Drew is hiding something from her. And Poppy suddenly has no idea who the man she has married really is, or what he might be capable of.

Poppy has a secret. 
Drew has nothing to hide. 
Drew is lying.
Which is more dangerous, a secret or a lie?

 

My Thoughts

Oh my goodness, I loved loved loved Rebecca Reid’s previous novel Perfect Liars but Truth Hurts is even better! I literally didn’t put this book down once I started reading it – it was just impossible to!

Truth Hurts follows Poppy who is sacked from her job as an au pair late at night and she ends up in a bar wondering what on earth she’s going to do next. She gets talking to Drew and they have such a great connection and end up going home together. Drew is a mysterious and handsome man and Poppy can’t believe how lucky she is to have met him. Their romance is a whirlwind and within a month they decide to get married. Drew then suggests that they make this the beginning and that they never talk about anything in their lives prior to when they met. Poppy has a secret that she can never tell and so she agrees.

I was on edge from the moment Poppy met Drew because he seemed too good to be true but at the same time I know what it is to meet Mr Right and to fall in love very quickly so I got swept up in their story. Alarm bells did ring when he surprises Poppy with a home he’s bought for them but I could absolutely see why Poppy didn’t hear those alarm bells.

I love the idea of a romantic relationship where one partner has a secret and the other is lying and yet they have agreed never to discuss the past. It’s such a great idea for a thriller and it made this book so different to other thrillers that I’ve read before. I tried to imagine agreeing to something like this and I just can’t but at the same time I absolutely believed in Poppy and why she agreed to it.

The house that Drew buys for them to live in was the third character in this novel (and in their marriage!) and I loved this element. I could really envisage this house and could feel all the creepy things that Poppy could sense. It’s not a haunted house story but the house is definitely metaphorically haunted by what happened there before Poppy and Drew moved in. It’s a creaky old house – it’s draughty, dark and dingy and for Poppy who is home alone a lot it begins to play on her mind that there is something sinister about it.

The truths in this book were shocking when they were revealed, I genuinely didn’t guess the secret or the lie. It’s so rare for a novel to keep me guessing until all is revealed so kudos to this one for that! I love how we get little bits of the past throughout the novel, which just heightens the tension and teases the possibilities of what might have happened.

Truth Hurts is a novel that had me literally on the edge of my seat and I just had to keep reading one more chapter (and one more until I was turning the final page very late at night!). I absolutely loved this book – it’s a real page turner and genuinely thrilling! Rebecca Reid is right up there now with my favourite thriller authors and I already can’t wait to read whatever she writes next! I highly recommend this one, it’s brilliant!

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

Truth Hurts is out now in ebook and is due to be published in paperback on 23 January 2020 and is available here.

 

About the Author

Rebecca Reid Author Pic

Rebecca is a freelance journalist. She is a columnist for the Telegraph Women’s section, works for Metro Online and has written for Marie Claire, the Guardian, the Saturday Telegraph, the Independent, Stylist, Glamour, the iPaper, the Guardian, Indy100, LOOK and the New Statesmen amongst others.

Rebecca is a regular contributor to Sky News and ITV’s This Morning as well as appearing on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, LBC, BBC News 24 and the BBC World Service to discuss her work.

She graduated from Royal Holloway’s Creative Writing MA in 2015 and Perfect Liars is her debut novel.

Rebecca lives in North London with her husband.

 

 

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

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Review: In The Absence of Miracles by Michael J. Malone | @michaelJmalone1 @OrendaBooks @annecater

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About the Book

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit, and revise his childhood.
For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

 

My Thoughts

I finished reading In the Absence of Miracles a couple of weeks ago now and my review has been part-written ever since because I just don’t have the words to describe how this book made me feel. It was my first Michael J. Malone book but it absolutely definitely won’t be the last (I’ve already bought a couple of his other novels to read soon!).

In the Absence of Miracles follows John who is tasked with sorting out his mum’s belongings and getting her house, the house he grew up in, ready for sale. His mum recently had a bad stroke and is now in nursing home so thing needs to be sorted as there are care home bills to be paid. One day John finds a photo that he can’t quite make sense of and the repercussions of his quest to find the truth are devastating.

I picked this book up one afternoon intending to read a couple of chapters and the next thing I knew it was a few hours later and I was turning the final page. It’s a book that pulls you in from the very start with the mysterious photo and John’s journey to find the truth keeps you in its thrall to the very end (and beyond… it’s a novel that won’t yield its grip on me!).

There is so much I want to say about this book but at the same time I want readers to have the same experience of reading this book without knowing too much (in the way that I got to read it). I will say that Michael J. Malone’s exploration of finding out painful truths about your family’s history, of uncovering long buried hurt and harm is incredibly visceral and moving. I could really identify with parts of John’s story and I could see things in him that he couldn’t yet see in himself and this gave the novel so much tension that at times I was aware I was holding my breath.

In the early chapters of the book I felt such a connection to John and felt so sorry for him having to cope with his mother’s sudden stroke and then having to go through all of her things. I cared for my mum during her final illness and had to clear her house after her death and it’s such a hard thing to do. It’s exhausting, and your brain doesn’t seem to function properly anymore. I can’t imagine that whilst going through all of this finding a box of things that don’t fit with your memories of your family at all, and suddenly you have a million questions and no one to ask them of.

John is someone that struggles with expressing his emotions. He keeps his girlfriend at a remove and as patient as she is he just can’t bring himself to fully embrace the possibility of opening up to her and building a future together. I really felt for him because he clearly loves her but he just can’t let his guard down, as if he doesn’t want to risk being hurt. I was willing John on throughout this book as I wanted him to be truly happy but I was on edge the whole time that the truth was going to damage him beyond all repair.

There is such a lot in this novel, it really packs an emotional punch but everything that happens is necessary. I found the writing incredibly intense during the more emotional scenes and it was like nothing I’ve read before.  Not a word is wasted in this book and I’m in awe of it. I don’t think I’ve ever read a domestic noir that has made me feel so many emotions – I cried reading this book, I felt angry at times and I mostly just wanted to reach into the pages and somehow make things different than they were.

In the Absence of Miracles is such a dark, disturbing and emotional novel but one that you just can’t put down. It looks at an issue that we so often turn away from in society but Malone tackles it in such a sensitive way without shying away from the reality of how people are affected. This is brave and stunning novel – one that everyone should read.

As I said at the start of this rambling review I’ve already bought some of the author’s other books and I can’t wait to read them. I’ll definitely be first in the queue to buy whatever he writes next. This book has jumped right into my top books of this year list, I highly recommend it!

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

In the Absence of Miracles is out now in ebook or available in paperback for pre-order here.

 

About the Author

thumbnail_Michael Malone

Michael Malone is a prize-winning poet and author who was born and brought up in the heart of Burns’ country. He has published over 200 poems in literary magazines throughout the UK, including New Writing Scotland, Poetry Scotland and MarkingsBlood Tears, his bestselling debut novel won the Pitlochry Prize from the Scottish Association of Writers. Other published work includes: Carnegie’s Call; A Taste for Malice; The Guillotine Choice; Beyond the Rage; The Bad Samaritanand Dog Fight. His psychological thriller, A Suitable Lie, was a number-one bestseller, and the critically acclaimed House of Spines and After He Died soon followed suit. A former Regional Sales Manager (Faber & Faber) he has also worked as an IFA and a bookseller. Michael lives in Ayr.

 

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

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Review: Shelf Life by Livia Franchini | @LivFranchini @DoubledayUK @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Shelf Life Cover

About the Book

Ruth is thirty years old. She works as a nurse in a care home and her fiancé has just broken up with her. The only thing she has left of him is their shopping list for the upcoming week.

And so she uses that list to tell her story. Starting with six eggs, and working through spaghetti and strawberries, and apples and tea bags, Ruth discovers that her identity has been crafted from the people she serves; her patients, her friends, and, most of all, her partner of ten years. Without him, she needs to find out – with conditioner and single cream and a lot of sugar – who she is when she stands alone.

 

My Thoughts

Shelf Life is a fascinating novel that follows Ruth who is coming to terms with her fiance breaking up with her. She finds a shopping list that is the only thing left of him in their home and the novel then is told in chapters headed by each item on the list.

I loved this book. I found it was quite a meandering novel and it begged to be read slowly. I’m naturally a fast reader but I really enjoyed the fact that this book made me slow down, it made me want to take it all in and to take time to ponder what I had read.

Ruth is blindsided by her fiance deciding to end their long term relationship. She is mid-way through washing up when Neil announces that it’s over. I really felt for Ruth, I know what it’s like to have to re-evaluate life after a break up as it happened to me at the same age. It’s like a rug has been pulled from under you and suddenly you’re not sure who you are anymore, or how you relate to other people in your life.

Shelf Life is predominantly told from Ruth’s perspective but we get the occasional chapter from Neil. It’s interesting to see how Ruth feels about herself and her life, and how she related herself to Neil. Neil’s chapters are increasingly uncomfortable to read though as you get a slow realisation that he’s not the man Ruth thought he was. He inserts himself into women’s lives and seems to become the man they think they need.

There is also an occasional chapter from Alanna. This is a girl that Ruth was at school with, and later at nursing college. They then end up working together at the same care home. I found Alanna a character that I couldn’t quite work out. I got the feeling that she had been quite antagonistic through school, perhaps being part of the popular gang that Ruth was on the outside of. She seems to care about Ruth now they’re adults but I was on edge reading her perspective as I felt sure she was setting Ruth up for something. As time went on I came to quite like her but I never one hundred per cent felt sure of her. I loved this aspect of the novel though because that’s how it is in life, you can never be sure of another person’s motives even if you have known them a long time and especially if they’ve always just been on the edge of your life.

Shelf Life really captures life, and it does it in all its glory – there is humour and heartbreak all mixed in together. There are some moments in this novel that made me cringe because the descriptions are so real, and we’ve all been there, but that’s the beauty of this novel. It takes a great writer to really capture how life is and Livia Franchini is an incredible writer!

Shelf Life is a novel that I very much enjoyed as I was reading it and I’ve found that my love for it has grown even more since I finished it. I find myself thinking about it, and about Ruth, and relating it to my own life and it just won’t let go of me. It really is a novel that has so much depth and so many layers to it, some that only become apparent when you give yourself the space to ponder on it. I adored this book and I highly recommend it!

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

Shelf Life is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Livia Franchini Author Picture

 

Livia Franchini is a writer and translator from Tuscany, Italy, whose work has been published in numerous publications and anthologies. She has translated Michael Donaghy, Sam Riviere and James Tiptree Jr. among many others. In 2018, she was one of the inaugural writers-in-residence for the Connecting Emerging Literary Artist project, funded by Creative Europe. She lives in London, where she is completing a PhD in experimental women’s writing at Goldsmiths.

 

 

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Review: Meditation for Children by Shelley Wilson | @ShelleyWilson72 @BHCPressBooks @annecater #RandomThingsTours

Meditation For Children Cover

About the Book

Author and meditation tutor Shelley Wilson takes you on a magical journey to a calm and happy place that you and your child will love.

Children of all ages can learn and enjoy the benefits of meditation.

Designed to help access creative abilities through relaxation and imagination, these stories help develop the necessary tools needed at a young age for lifelong healthy habits of managing stress and anxiety while also improving learning skills.

Meditation for Children is a simple way to introduce children to mindfulness through guided visualization. Includes a handy reference guide and instructions.

 

My Thoughts

Meditation for Children is a wonderful book that parents can share with their children to help them relax and come to enjoy meditation as part of their everyday lives.

I don’t have children but I am someone who very much enjoys mindfulness and mediation so I was fascinated to read this book.

I very much enjoyed reading Meditation for Children, it’s a lovely book and I loved the way Shelley Wilson has made it a wonderful story book that can be enjoyed as such but has left space to imagine and to take some breaths to relax and to slow down. I can absolutely see how this is the perfect way to introduce a younger child to the idea of meditating, which as they grow can be such a great tool to help them cope with the stresses that go with growing up, going through school etc.

The book opens with a how to guide that explains how meditation can be helpful and also suggests ways to use the book and how to incorporate meditating into your and your child’s lives. There are then ten very short stories (that each take under 5 minutes to read aloud) that are fabulous and really help you visualise the world being described. Each story is accompanied with gorgeous illustrations that are vivid and bright and really give a sense of the world you’re about to travel in to. They all follow a similar idea of closing your eyes, slowly breathing in and out and then imagining the story that is being read to you. This is great as it will help a child know that this is a special story and as they grow older they will understand how to use the tools that meditation gives us – being able to relax and unwind.

I very much enjoyed this book and love how it makes coming to meditation easy for children but it’s clearly been properly researched and will definitely create a helpful skill that a child can use throughout their life. I can see echoes of how I was taught to meditate as an adult, and how I use it in my life now so it’s absolutely going to be a fantastic resource for children and their parents. Meditation for Children is a book that I wish I had when I was a child. Knowing how much meditation helps me in my every day life now I feel sure it would have been just as beneficial when I was younger. I highly recommend this book if you have young children in your life, it really is an invaluable book for helping your child to relax and find inner calm.

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

Meditation for Children is out now and available here.

 

About the Author

Shelley Wilson Author Picture

 

Shelley Wilson is an award-winning motivational blogger, speaker, meditation tutor, Reiki master, and author. Her multi-award winning motivational and personal development blog has received several awards and has been named a Top 10 UK Personal Development Blog. She resides in Solihull, West Midlands, UK, where she lives with her three teenagers.

 

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Review: Head Shot Victoria Nixon | @VictoriaNixon_ @annecater @Unbounders #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

A girl from a Yorkshire mining town is barely thirteen when her father kills himself – her brother finds him dying. At sixteen she’s spotted by a rock star and becomes an international Vogue model. Seven years later her brother kills himself in her New York apartment and her mother dies too. With no family left, her life is now one of extreme choices. Fifty years later, Victoria confronts her past and takes her readers on an unflinching voyage through her experiences as a model and beyond. Speaking frankly about loss, love, friendship and ambition, Head Shot is a book of inspiration and purpose. Packed with astonishing images by the photographers Victoria worked with, and the defiant fashions she wore throughout her career, it also bears witness to a time of unparalleled cultural energy and invention; it’s a story in which bags and shoes can, and do, sit right next to life and death.

 

My Thoughts

Head Shot is an incredible memoir; Victoria Nixon so honestly and openly looks back on her life and career. I finished reading this book a few days ago now and am still trying to find the words for this review.

My main reason for wanting to read this book was because the Victoria Nixon lost her mum at a similar age that I was when I lost my mum and I find myself drawn to books where people explore how they cope with losing their mother whilst in their 20s. The book that I got gave me what I was expecting but so much more besides.

Victoria Nixon takes us through how she came to be a model, you get to hear of the photographers she has worked with and other models she has got to know. I loved hearing about the stars of the day that she came into contact with – such as Brian Eno! There is no name-dropping in this book, all the stories Victoria shares feel a real part of her life story and so come up in an organic way. She never seemed to be affected by the showbiz life but seemed to just be enjoying her life and working hard to be a success.

It was heartbreaking to read of her father’s death when she was only a young teenager. I can’t imagine the pain of that and how it affects a person. Victoria shares her emotions and how it led to her life becoming what it did. I very much appreciated how sensitively and honestly she looks back at her father’s death, you can see how much she loved him. Sadly for Victoria she also lost her brother to suicide when she was in her 20s. This was an incredibly moving part of the book to read. The struggles Nick had had and the way his family had tried so hard to help him were very moving to read about. Victoria doesn’t shy away from discussing mental health in her book, she clearly cares very deeply about the subject.

The loss of her mother also when she was in her 20s was a shock for her and it changed how she felt about her life. I can really identify with this. I think when you’re very close to a parent and you lose them when you’re at a stage in life of being independent but also knowing that you can always go home if you need to, it’s very hard. I have such admiration for how Victoria dealt with her grief, and how she coped with all the pain life has thrown at her. She doesn’t dwell, she reflects on things but she always knew she had to pick herself up and keep going. I found her such an inspiring person to read about.

I very much enjoyed learning about the modelling industry in the 60s and 70s. I’m not really into fashion but it was fascinating to read about what it was like to be a model, and to hear about the not-so-glamourous side of things. Nixon is clearly a very driven and determined woman and she continued to push through during the difficult times. There are lighter moments throughout the book too, moments that will make you giggle and some stories that might make you raise an eyebrow.

There are photos throughout this book and I loved seeing them. They relate to stories Nixon has shared and it really brought the book to life. I love hearing the back story to an image and so this was a joy to have in this book.

Head Shot is such an incredible memoir! It’s a stunning and candid look back at a life that will leave you feeling inspired. Victoria Nixon’s passion and determination shines through and I’m so glad I got to read about her life. I loved this book so much, it’s one of the best memoirs I’ve read! I very highly recommend this!

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

Head Shot is out now in hardback and available here. The ebook is due for release on 15 August and can be pre-ordered at the same link.

 

About the Author

Victoria-Nixon-Author-pic

Victoria Nixon was eighteen when she was discovered by Helmut Newton, who photographed her for Vogue . This launched her international modelling career, which led to her being named the Daily Mail ’s ‘Face of 1968’.

After modelling, she went on to become an award-winning advertising copywriter, television producer and magazine editor. In the 1990s she opened the first deli in the UK to ban plastic packaging, and in 2002 her first book, ‘Supermodels’ Beauty Secrets‘ , was published, followed by ‘Supermodels’ Diet Secrets‘ in 2004. She is cofounder and managing director of a company which designs and manufactures humanitarian aid products used worldwide

Links-http://www.victorianixon.com/

Twitter @VictoriaNixon_

 

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

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Review: Gone by Leona Deakin | @LeonaDeakin1 @annecater #RandomThingsTours

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About the Book

Four strangers are missing. Left at their last-known locations are birthday cards that read:

YOUR GIFT IS THE GAME.
DARE TO PLAY?

The police aren’t worried – it’s just a game. But the families are frantic. As psychologist and private detective Dr Augusta Bloom delves into the lives of the missing people, she finds something that binds them all.

And that something makes them very dangerous indeed.

As more disappearances are reported and new birthday cards uncovered, Dr Bloom races to unravel the mystery and find the missing people.

But what if, this time, they are the ones she should fear?

 

My Thoughts

I couldn’t resist this book when I read the blurb, it sounded so intriguing and I’m so glad I picked it up! Gone is a novel about four strangers who have all disappeared after receiving a card asking them if they dare to play. Psychologist Dr Augusta Bloom and ex detective Marcus Jameson are tasked with looking into one of the missing people and find that things are more serious and involved than they ever could have imagined!

Gone is such a good psychological thriller and is something a bit different. I loved following Augusta and getting her psychological insights into what might be going on. I was also really intrigued as we meet some of the families of the missing people. I couldn’t work out what they could possibly have in common so felt like I was tailing the investigation and trying to figure it all out.

I loved how prescient this novel is with the way it looks at how the game these strangers were invited to play might have been set up. It explores the idea of how people can use quizzes on social media that people fill in to find out what cartoon character they’d be (for example) can be put together with other easily discovered info on the same sites to see who would be a perfect target for this game. I’ve always been really suspicious of quizzes on FB and this book proves I’m right to be! I’m definitely not going near them now!

I loved the exploration of who the type of person behind the game might be, and also who the people who were invited to play the game were underneath. I’ve always been fascinated by psychology and this book is so much about what makes a person tick, what makes someone do the things they do. It was brilliant to see psychological ideas applied to the missing people and then as the book went on to wonder about those traits in other characters. It made for such a good read!

It turns out that nothing is quite as it seems in this novel and there is so much more underneath the surface than you see at first. I found it quite a slow-burn to begin with but this was perfect because it allowed me to be curious about what was going on before I was pulled right in to a novel that becomes an unputdownable rollercoaster of a read!

This was such a fascinating psychological thriller and I very much enjoyed it! I’m already looking forward to reading more from Leona Deakin (and also hoping we might get more about Dr Augusta Bloom in the future…!). I recommend this one!

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

Gone is out now in ebook here and also available for pre-order in paperback here.

 

 

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

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