Mini Book Reviews: The Island Home | Yours Cheerfully | All My Mothers | Unwell Women

The Island Home by Libby Page

I love Libby Page’s writing and this book was every bit as lovely as her previous novels! The Island Home follows two characters in alternating chapters – Lorna who left the island of Kip under a cloud when she was a teenager and has never been back; and Alice who is Lorna’s sister-in-law but the two women have never met. The two women have daughters the same age who have been chatting online and now Lorna is going back to Kip. This is a gorgeous novels that really explores family dynamics, female friendship and found family in an honest and believable way. Kip has a wonderful community and all the characters in this novel felt like real people and I now want to go there and meet them! This book has it’s darker moments but on the whole it’s a feel-good novel that really pulls at your heartstrings. I loved it and definitely recommend it!

Yours Cheerfully by AJ Pearce

This is the sequel to Dear Mrs Bird so we’re back with Emmie at Women’s Friend magazine in the months following the end of the previous novel. I loved this book, it was just as lovely as the first one and I got completely swept up in it. This time Emmie gets involved with a campaign to encourage more women into war work and I loved it. We see the strength of the women but also their vulnerabilities and how much harder life is made for them by bosses who think they should be the same as men and yet also keep their home and raise their children but with no support from anyone. I was glad Bunty was back in this novel as I adore her friendship with Emmie. This is such a lovely read and I recommend it!

All My Mothers by Joanna Glen

This novel is simply stunning! I loved Joanna Glen’s previous novel and this one is every bit as good, if not even better! All My Mothers follows Eva (sounds like ever not evil!) from being a young child and realising that there are gaps in her childhood photos and memories and she wants to know why. We see the lovely friend she makes on her first day of school and the way that girl’s family take Eva under their wing. I adored the book with the rainbow mothers and how this comes up time and again throughout the novel as Eva tries to work out who she is and where she comes from. It’s a novel about found family and how you can find real love and a real bond with people who aren’t blood relations, and that this is just as good. I was moved to tears more than once as I read this novel but I was completely swept away in Eva’s story and I just couldn’t put it down – I read it all in one sitting. I already want to go back and read it again! I highly recommend this one!

Unwell Women by Elinor Cleghorn

This is an incredibly powerful non-fiction book looking at the history of how women have been treated in western medicine over the centuries – it covers ancient Greece and medieval times right up to the present day. It’s such a fascinating book but also anger-inducing at the way women have suffered – and still suffer – due to the lack of research and understanding into female diseases and illnesses. I’m someone who has dealt with more than my fair share of doctors who have been very dismissive of me only for it to later turn out that they made a huge mistake that has cost me dearly in terms of health. This book really highlights how entrenched medicine has always been in maintaining something of a status quo but it also gives hope seeing the rise of female doctors, and male doctors who want to understand and further others’ understanding of female diseases. It’s a shocking read and one that will make you angry but it’s very comprehensive and well written and I definitely recommend it.

Mini Book Reviews: Fragile | Rock Paper Scissors | The Couple at No. 9 | 56 Days

Fragile by Sarah Hilary

I listened to this book on audio from NetGalley and I found it really engrossing. It follows Nell who has had a difficult childhood. She ended up in foster care but her foster mum was quite neglectful and left her and Joe to pretty much look after a younger child, Rosie, on their own. One day something terrible happens and Nell and Joe end up running away to London. Time has moved on a little when we first meet Nell and she is trying to find Joe but also to find somewhere to live and she ends up becoming a house keeper for Dr Wilder. This novel has an insidious sense of foreboding running through it – both in the present and as we slowly learn about the past – and I really enjoyed that element. This felt quite an intense book, I felt really invested in Nell’s story and finding out about her but at the same time it felt quite claustrophobic. I listened to this book in just two sittings though because I just wanted to know what was going to happen and how it was all going to end!

This book is out now!

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

I loved this book! Rock Paper Scissors follows Adam and Amelia in alternating chapters as they go on a mini break for their tenth wedding anniversary. Also interspersed throughout the novel are also letters to Adam from his wife. The couple are clearly not the happiest of couples and when they arrive at their destination it’s clear this is not the cosy escape and chance to reignite their love that each might have hoped. They’re staying in a converted church in the middle of nowhere, it’s snowing and isolated and a bit creepy. It’s clear from the start that something isn’t right but I couldn’t put my finger on what was going on. I had so many things running through my head about what might be happening and I was wrong every single time, which I loved! This book had me hooked from start to finish and I read it all in one sitting as I just couldn’t put it down! This is Alice Feeney at her best and I very much enjoyed this one. If you loved Sometimes I Lie then you’ll adore this!

This book is due to be published on 19th August.

The Couple at No. 9 by Claire Douglas

The premise of this novel gave me chills – Tom and Saffron, who is pregnant with their first baby, have moved into their dream home which she has inherited from her Grandmother. They’re in the middle of a renovation project when their builders find two skeletons buried in the back garden! Police begin investigating and it seems there might be a connection to Saffy’s grandma Rose. We also get chapters set in the past when Rose first moved to the cottage and slowly the two timelines build up a picture of all the people who have lived in this house and how any of them might be connected to the present day discovery. I found this novel really gripping, I loved both timelines and I couldn’t figure out what was going to happen. This novel kept me on my toes and I really enjoyed it!

This book is due to be published on 19th August.

56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard

This book is brilliant! It follows Ciara and Oliver who randomly meet one day and seem to click straight away. But then lockdown is announced and they decide to move in together for this period of time so that they can keep seeing each other. This is 56 days ago. In the present day we follow the police as a body has been found in an apartment and it’s the place this new couple were living! I was gripped from the very first pages of this novel and I devoured it as I just didn’t want to put it down. This is a novel that seems like it’s going one way and then the rug is pulled out from under you and I loved that. I was stunned by some of the reveals that come along and it had me unnerved that I hadn’t seen certain things coming. This is my favourite thriller of the year so far and I highly recommend it!

This book is due to be published on 19th August.

I received all four of these books from the publishers via NetGalley. All thoughts are my own.

Everything Happens For A Reason by Katie Allen | @OrendaBooks @KtAllenWriting

About the Book

Armed with one broken heart and a (borrowed) sausage dog, Rachel is on a mission to find out why her baby was born sleeping.

Because Everything Happens for a Reason…

Doesn’t it?

Mum-to-be Rachel did everything right, but it all went wrong. Her son, Luke, was stillborn and she finds herself on maternity leave without a baby, trying to make sense of her loss.

When a misguided well-wisher tells her that ‘everything happens for a reason’, she becomes obsessed with finding that reason, driven by grief and convinced that she is somehow to blame. She remembers that on the day she discovered her pregnancy, she’d stopped a man from jumping in front of a train, and she’s now certain that saving his life cost her the life of her son.

Desperate to find him, she enlists an unlikely ally in Lola, an Underground worker, and Lola’s seven-year-old daughter, and eventually tracks him down, with completely unexpected results…

Both a heart-wrenching portrait of grief and a gloriously uplifting and disarmingly funny story of a young woman’s determination, Everything Happens for a Reason is a bittersweet, life-affirming read and, quite simply, unforgettable.

My Thoughts

Everything Happens for a Reason follows Rachel as she tries to make sense of the loss of her baby. The novel takes the form of emails that she writes to an initially unnamed person. This was sparked by someone saying to her that everything happens for a reason and Rachel fixates on wanting to know what the reason was. She remembers that on the day she found out she was pregnant that she saved a man who was about to jump in front of a train and she decides to find him and see if he is the reason.

I knew I wanted to read this book as soon as I heard about it but I will admit that I was apprehensive about the subject matter – baby loss is not an easy subject to read about but this book is so beautifully written. Katie Allen writes with such honesty and sensitivity, she deftly balances humour and heartbreak. I’m so glad I picked this book up.

Rachel’s baby was stillborn and she is now understandably lost. She is on maternity leave but she has no baby. Her decision to search for the man whose life she saved gives her some purpose and fills her time. In the process of finding him she meets some other people who become so important in her life and I loved seeing their relationship build, it really was so lovely to read. I also enjoyed reading about the time Rachel spends with Ben, the man from the train, as she goes on his regular dog walks with him.

Nothing fully fills Rachel’s days as all she wants is her baby. She and her husband aren’t able to connect and communicate how they’re feeling to each other. There are times when it’s so apparent how much they still love each other but they can’t seem to find a way to show it. I can’t even imagine the pain of losing a baby, I have suffered a miscarriage at 12 weeks and I know that is in no way the same thing although it was incredible painful as it turned out to be my only ever chance of being a mum. I know how it feels to lose loved ones and how it rips your life apart and you are never the same afterwards. Katie Allen captures the feeling of being lost, of being unable to communicate your pain and grief to others, and of feeling so alone in such a heartrending way. I felt heartbroken for Rachel as I read her story.

There are lighter moments throughout this novel which balance Rachel’s pain. I loved reading about the dogs she gets to know through Ben’s work – they all felt so real to me and now I want a pet dog! Also the bonds that form between some of the people Rachel meets are really lovely – Lola and her fabulous daughter. The friendships are gorgeous and life-affirming.

I was curious how this novel would end and was hoping Rachel would find some peace and happiness again that would be long-lasting. I loved the way she found reasons to live and ways to enjoy life, even when she wasn’t looking to find this. Healing can take many forms and often comes from the things we least expect it to.

Everything Happens for a Reason is such a beautiful and moving novel, one that really resonated with me. I highly recommend it!

Many thanks to Orenda Books and Anne Cater for my copy of this book. All thoughts are my own.About the Author

About the Author

Everything Happens for a Reason is Katie’s first novel. She used to be a journalist and columnist at the Guardian and Observer, and started her career as a Reuters correspondent in Berlin and London. The events in Everything Happens for a Reason are fiction, but the premise is loosely autobiographical. Katie’s son, Finn, was stillborn in 2010, and her character’s experience of grief and being on maternity leave without a baby is based on her own. And yes, someone did say to her ‘Everything happens for a reason’.

Katie grew up in Warwickshire and now lives in South London with her husband, children, dog, cat and stick insects. When she’s not writing or walking children and dogs, Katie loves baking, playing the piano, reading news and wishing she had written other people’s brilliant novels.

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

Super Sick: Making Peace with Chronic Illness by Allison Alexander | @allisonexander

About the Book

Superheroes aren’t sick. 

They certainly don’t have chronic pain, sexual dysfunction, or diarrhea. After all, spandex suits and sudden bowel movements don’t mix. Do they? 

With raw sincerity and tongue-in-cheek humour, Alexander holds nothing back while discussing how to navigate doctors, dating, sex, friendships, faith, and embarrassing symptoms. Part memoir, part research, part pop culture analysis, Super Sick offers a friendly hand to anyone with chronic illness, a reminder that they aren’t alone and have much to offer the world.

With a new foreword, updated information, and bonus materials, this is a must-read for anyone who has—or knows someone who has—a chronic illness.

My Thoughts

Super Sick is a non-fiction book by chronic illness sufferer Allison Alexander. As soon as I heard about this book I knew I had to read it as I love the idea of a book about chronic illness being told through the lens of superheroes. I’m so glad I read this book because it really is excellent.

Each chapter starts with the story of a different hero and then that leads Allison to relate this to her own experiences of chronic illness. There is a real honesty in this book, Allison doesn’t hold back on what her life is like at times and how her illness affects her, but there is also a lot of humour and positivity. The balance is incredibly well done.

I suffer from chronic illness and pain, and I’m disabled so I was intrigued by this book and I found myself nodding my head in solidarity with Allison for some of her horrible experiences that I have also been through. I also found myself smiling wryly, also in solidarity, for the humour you have to find in the awkward experiences and also in the dealing with people who say the most inappropriate things. Like Allison, I have had to smile sweetly of often when someone suggests a new miracle cure (like they think I haven’t tried everything there is to try).

I love the way Allison explores the different issues that come up when a person is chronically ill. From the relief of diagnosis but then the comedown when you realise you can’t be easily fixed (if at all) and then have to find a way to live with what’s happened. In one chapter she looks at the three types of suffering as seen in buddhism and this was fascinating, it really spoke to how I am and made me think. She also explores the way women are so often dismissed when it comes to pain, and how we’re often expected to put up with more – this is also my experience. There is so much relief that comes when someone believes you but so much distress when you’re not taken seriously.

I highlighted quite a few passages as I was reading this book but my favourite is this one:

‘Suffering people can find meaning in life just the same. We lose again and again. And again. Forever. But we still choose to fight. If I consider myself this way, I am a superhero instead of a character relegated to the sidelines, even if I don’t feel very mighty.’

This is a brilliant book if you have a chronic illness yourself or if you have someone in your life who has. It’s also an excellent, informative book for everyone to read – it’s accessible and easy to read and it really gives a great insight into what it is like to live with a chronic illness. I highly recommend this book!

This Is How We Are Human by Louise Beech | @OrendaBooks @LouiseWriter @RandomTTours

About the Book

When the mother of an autistic young man hires a call girl to make him happy, three lives collide in unexpected and moving ways … changing everything. A devastatingly beautiful, rich and thought-provoking novel that will warm your heart.

Sebastian James Murphy is twenty years, six months and two days old. He loves swimming, fried eggs and Billy Ocean. Sebastian is autistic. And lonely. Veronica wants her son Sebastian to be happy … she wants the world to accept him for who he is. She is also thinking about paying a professional to give him what he desperately wants.

Violetta is a high-class escort, who steps out into the night thinking only of money. Of her nursing degree. Paying for her dad’s care. Getting through the dark.

When these three lives collide – intertwine in unexpected ways – everything changes. For everyone.

A topical and moving drama about a mother’s love for her son, about getting it wrong when we think we know what’s best, about the lengths we go to care for family … to survive … This Is How We Are Human is a searching, rich and thought-provoking novel with a emotional core that will warm and break your heart.

My Thoughts

This is How We Are Human was one of my most highly anticipated books of this year and I’m so happy to say that I completely and utterly adored it!

Sebastian is twenty years, six months and two days old, he’s autistic and he just wants to meet a woman and have sex. His mum Veronica is struggling with how best to support him, she just wants him to be happy and accepted. Violetta is an escort who is only doing this work to pay for her nursing degree and her father’s care.

This book is incredible! Louise Beech has this wonderful ability to put the reader in everyone’s shoes and to allow you to see a situation from all sides – we get to really understand and care about all three of these characters and to want them all to be happy. There is such sensitivity and beauty in this novel and Louise has taken such a delicate subject matter and handled it so deftly.

I really felt for all three characters. I could see how difficult it was for Sebastian, it broke my heart at times reading about his advances towards women and the reactions he got. I could see how great a mum Veronica is and how she just desperately wants to do the right thing for her son. She wants him to meet a nice girl and to be happy in his life but she knows that in the short term at least a sex worker might be the answer. She agonises over the morality of what she’s considering and then one day the answer seems to be right in front of her. Violetta is the character I most felt for, she is in a job that she doesn’t enjoy but she sees it as a means to an end. There is only her and she needs her dad to be properly looked after and his care is specialist and expensive. My heart was in my mouth at times reading about the situations she had to go through when at work and I just felt so sad for her.

This is a very thought-provoking novel, it explores so well the issues around different people’s needs and how best to meet those needs. There is also so much love and care and compassion running right through this novel, it’s such a moving story but it’s also funny and real and gives you hope.

The storytelling in this book is so beautiful and delicate. I loved seeing Violetta and Sebastian’s connection and how they built a friendship, I adored how Violetta did her best to show the real her and to not let this just be a transaction.

This Is How We Are Human is one of the most stunning books I’ve ever read – very real and heartbreaking at times but it’s funny and heartwarming and more than anything it is full of love. It’s such a beautiful novel that really does explore how we are human. I miss Sebastian, Veronica and Violetta so much, I keep thinking about them and wondering how they are. They are so real to me and I already want to go back and revisit their story all over again! This will, without doubt, be in my top books of 2021 and I highly, highly recommend it!

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

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

One Last Time by Helga Flatland | @OrendaBooks

About the Book

Anne’s life is rushing to an unexpected and untimely end. But her diagnosis of terminal cancer isn’t just a shock for her – and for her daughter Sigrid and granddaughter Mia – it shines a spotlight onto their fractured and uncomfortable relationships.

On a spur-of-the moment trip to France the three generations of women reveal harboured secrets, long-held frustrations and suppressed desires, and learn humbling and heartwarming lessons about how life should be lived when death is so close.

With all of Helga Flatland’s trademark humour, razor-sharp wit and deep empathy, One Last Time examines the great dramas that can be found in ordinary lives, asks the questions that matter to us all – and ultimately celebrates the resilience of the human spirit, in an exquisite, enchantingly beautiful novel that us to treasure and rethink … everything.

My Thoughts

Two years ago I read and reviewed A Modern Family by Helga Flatland and found a writer whose words resonated with me in such a powerful way. I knew I had to read anything of hers that I could so as soon as I heard about her new book One Last Time I immediately signed up for the blog tour and have been eagerly anticipating getting lost in Flatland’s writing all over again.

One Last Time is about three generations of women in a family told from the perspective of two of them. Anne is the matriarch who has struggled in her own life after her husband’s stroke at a young age. She wasn’t a perfect mother and her daughter Sigrid seems unable to move on from the perceived slights in her childhood. Mia is Sigrid’s daughter and while we don’t hear from her directly we see a lot of her in the novel. One Last Time opens with Anne being diagnosed with cancer and the fallout from that.

I adore the way Flatland captures the reality of family dynamics and the way she explores the fragility of memories. It’s heartbreaking at times how Sigrid reminds her mother of something not done in her childhood but then we see Anne’s viewpoint later on and realise what Sigrid doesn’t. We see behaviours echoing through the generations as Mia mirrors both Anne and Sigrid but neither sees themselves in her actions.

I did wonder if this book might be too hard for me to read as I lost my own mum to cancer a few years ago but actually Flatland has this remarkable ability to write about such a devastating topic but find a balance between the light and dark.

I found it hard to connect with Sigrid at times, she seems very detached and aloof but there are moments when you see her pain and heartbreak and your heart breaks with her. She clearly loves her mother but she wants an apology for her childhood, and yet she can’t articulate this. I remember the immediate aftermath of my mum’s terminal diagnosis and I had so much I wanted to say but it all got stuck in my throat and it was choking me. It seems like Sigrid feels a lot of that through the novel.

It was fascinating seeing Anne through Sigrid’s eyes and then hearing Anne’s perspectives but also seeing what Sigrid is like as a mother. It captures the reality of life so movingly – the way we can only see things from our own point of view and it’s near impossible to really get a sense of how it was for someone else, how hard it might have been for them. I found this aspect of the novel so poignant, and so relatable.

This is a novel that made me cry quite a few times. Flatland has captured so beautifully how women in a family relate to each other and what it is like to have the bottom fall out of your world when you learn you mother is dying. The novel is never depressing, never overwhelming – it’s just a beautiful, tender exploration of the grief that comes with approaching loss. I have to commend the translator Rosie Hedger too as this book never feels like a work in translation, it’s incredible!

One Last Time is my favourite novel of 2021 so far, I know it will be a novel that stays with me for a very long time to come. I highly recommend it!

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

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

Mini Book Reviews: Falling | Malibu Rising | Black Buck | The Killing Kind

Today I’m sharing some more mini reviews of books that I’ve read and loved recently. I got all four of these books via NetGalley and all of them were excellent reads.

Falling by T. J. Newman

This book was one of my most anticipated books of 2021 and so when my wish got granted on NetGalley on Friday I knew this had to be my next read, and it more than lived up to my expectations for it. Falling is your worst nightmare – a pilot is in mid-air when he finds out his family have been held hostage and he has to choose between his family’s lives and the lives of all 149 people on his airline! The novel gets going immediately and the pace doesn’t let up for a second all the way through! I literally didn’t put this book down once I started reading – the way it’s told from multiple perspectives meant I was always desperate to know what was happening to everyone else and so it was a case of just one more chapter, and one more etc until I turned the final page! I had some suspicions about the perpetrators of this crime but I didn’t work it all out and I love that it kept surprising me throughout. There are moments where you have to suspend disbelief but I didn’t mind that at all because by then I was so invested in the plot and I was fully onboard (no pun intended) for wherever this story was taking me! I highly recommend this one!

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I loved Daisy Jones and The Six was have been very keen to get my hands on this new book and I’m so happy to say that I also loved this one! Malibu Rising follows the Riva family over many years. In the first part we get to meet June and Mick and see how they fell in love an started a family, and in alternating chapters we see the four children as adults as they live their lives. During this part I was much more interested in learning more about June than anyone else, I wanted to know what happened to her. By the second half of the book as we catch up to the present in these character’s lives I was fully invested in this whole family. The dynamics between them was really interesting and I could identify with how each sibling views the others differently from how they view themselves, which makes for interesting interactions between them even as close as they are to each other. I mostly felt for Nina – she’s the eldest and has had to sacrifice so much for this family and she does it without ever begrudging it. The build up to the Riva annual party really ramps up in the second part of the novel and I was really tense wondering what was going to happen. I very much enjoyed all the different snippets we get as we hear from various people at the party. It builds a great picture of what is going on. The end of the book was a surprise but I loved it, it was the most perfect way to end this novel. I recommend adding this one to your summer reading piles!

The Killing Kind by Jane Casey

This is a standalone novel by Jane Casey and I’m so glad I picked it up. This book follows Ingrid, a barrister, who feels that she’s been stalked and she suspects the man behind it might be a man who’s case she defended a couple of years earlier. The novel moves back and forth in time so we find out more about this man, and also where Ingrid is now and what happened when he came looking for her before. It’s a real cat and mouse novel where you’re not sure who you can trust, there are even moments when you doubt Ingrid is telling the whole truth and I loved being kept on my toes. I found John Webster, the man Ingrid believes is stalking her fascinating. He is creepy and yet at the same time very earnest so it’s hard to weigh up what the story is with him. I did began to have my suspicions about what might be happening and I was right but even then there were twists in store. This was such a good read, I definitely recommend it. Now I really need to make time to start on Jane Casey’s series as I have quite a few of those books on my TBR and still haven’t ever picked the first one up!

Black Buck by Mateo by Askaripour

This novel is brilliant! It’s not my usual type of read as I’m not a big fan of satire but I am so glad I read this book, it’s so good! Darren is a young black man who lives with his mom and he works in Starbucks. He hates coffee but he’s good at his job. Then one day he’s offered a position at a big start up company and he can’t resist finding out more. The novel explores the issues around race in America and it was uncomfortable to read at times. Some of the things done to Buck, as he gets nicknamed because of his previous job, are truly awful but he keeps on sucking it up and showing it up determined to be the best and to make some serious money. The novel is set out like a manual for black people that white people are encouraged to also read, this is Buck telling you his story. There are moments that seemed unreal, and moments of real darkness balanced with some very funny scenes – it’s such a compelling novel and I found it really hard to put down. It’s a book that I’d like to re-read in the future, it’s one that’s really staying fresh in my mind. I highly recommend this one!

Broken by R.V. Biggs

About the Book

Scarred by a tragic past, eleven year old Jamie Walker chooses not to speak.

Consumed with jealous rage, Jimmy Gillespie is driven to violence.

And John Macintyre awakens from a vivid nightmare convinced he is going to kill.

Living high upon the Scottish hills, John and Sarah Macintyre enjoy a serene life until a televised news bulletin sends them on a desperate search for a missing child.

After finding the child and returning him safely to his parents, the Macintyres are approached by the local press, attracting both unexpected and unwanted attention.

But the aftermath of the media coverage changes the course of their lives forever, and events are set in motion that are joyful, heart breaking – and terrifying.

My Thoughts

I read and adored the first two books in this series (Song of the Robin and Reunion) and always hoped there would be a third novel so I was thrilled to discover book three – Broken and I’m so happy to say that I loved this one too.

Broken starts a while after Reunion ended and you get to catch up with Sarah, John and Claire. They are living in Scotland now and are making a life for themselves there after all the shocks and discoveries in the previous novel. I was so pleased to see this family settled and happy but life soon has plans for them.

Early in Broken a local child goes missing – a boy from Claire’s class at school. Claire senses where he might be and the family go looking for him. This leads to a lot of media attention, which inevitably brings bad news to the family’s door. A man who believes he has a claim on the family home turns up and he’s determined to take what he thinks is rightfully his!

Alongside this the Mcintyres are given the opportunity to help two traumatised children who need help and a loving home. Joseph and Jamie are great characters and I loved reading about them and how they began to settle in. It was especially interesting to read about Jamie and how Claire seemed to have an instant connection with him. I found this so intriguing and wondered if Jamie perhaps had some kind of gift himself that she could sense.

There is a lot more exploration of fate and destiny in this novel, as with the previous books, but this time we, along with John, Sarah and Claire themselves, learn more about how they tap into each other’s spiritual powers and connections and how these can be used. I found all of this fascinating and loved reading these parts of the novel. I think we all have a deeper connection with the people closest to us but John and Sarah have an even deeper connection that allows them to sense each other’s auras and to tap into this to know what is going on.

I’m always drawn to books that look at fate and destiny as it’s something I never really thought about or believed in but then the way I met my husband so soon after losing my mum has led so many people to say to me that they believe she sent him to me. It’s a lovely way to think and I do find it a comforting thought.

Broken felt a much faster paced novel than the previous two and has thriller elements alongside spirituality but it’s very much grounded in the real world in the present day. It still has a main focus of the Macintyre family and the way they are learning to live with their gifts and abilities. I read most of the book in one sitting as it’s such a page turner and I so badly wanted to know if the Mcintyres were all going to be okay in the end.

As always with R. V. Biggs’ writing, I felt such a strong connection to these characters and I feel sad to have finished the book and to have left them behind. I keep thinking of them and wondering how they are, which is always a sign of how much I connected to a book.

I think Broken could be read as a standalone but to get the most out of this beautiful, moving story you need to start with Song of the Robin. The series as a whole explores grief and loss, healing and recovery, and the way you can find a way through the darkest of times. There is magic running through the three novels that gave me such solace and I am so grateful to have discovered them and had the chance to read them. I adore these books! Broken is a brilliant addition to a stunning series and I can’t recommend it highly enough!

About the Author

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.

How to be Broken by Dr Emma Kavanagh

About the Book

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

If, you have found yourself:

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

Then this is the book for you.

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

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

Madam by Phoebe Wynne

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

The Final Chapter by Jerome Loubry

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

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

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

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

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

West of Jim Crow by Lynn M. Hudson

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

Perimenopause Power by Maisie Hill

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

This Party’s Dead by Erica Buist

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

One of Them by Musa Okwonga

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

That Was The Month That Was… April 2021!

Well, I can’t believe that April is over already! I really don’t know where the time is going these days. April was an okay month here. It was my husband’s birthday so we had a lovely day for that – we had a takeaway from our favourite Indian restaurant (our first takeaway in 14 months!) so that was a fabulous treat!

My weight loss is continuing, which I’m very happy about. I’ve now lost a total of 4 stone 8lb since September last year. It’s been pretty consistent although it’s now closer to 1lb a week rather than the 2lb it was in the first few months but I’m just happy that it’s still coming off. I’m calorie counting and while I never thought I’d be someone who calorie counted, it’s working perfectly for me so I’m sticking with it.

The main thing that happened in April was my reading mojo finally came back! It’s been a bumpy time with my reading ever since the first lockdown happened last year and I really miss books when I can’t read at my normal level. It’s been wonderful to finally get lost in one book after another. I’ve also discovered that having a set TBR seems to be the way to go at the moment, which is bizarre for me having always been a mood reader but I don’t care as long as I’m reading again! My plan at the moment is to read my way through my NetGalley shelf and it’s working. I now have twelve books on there (I got approved for a couple this week so had been down to ten) and my ratio is 98%. All of the books still to be read are published this year so I’m almost up to date!

Here are the books that I read in April:

Like a House on Fire by Caroline Hulse

Dead Head by C.J. Skuse

Truth be Told by Kia Abdullah

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi

The Split by Sharon Bolton

Her Last Holiday by C. L. Taylor

Boy Queen by George Lester

The Gin O’Clock Club by Rosie Blake

The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh

The Weekend by Charlotte Wood

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

Mountain Road, Late at Night by Alan Rossi

Space Hopper by Helen Fisher

Five Hundred Miles from You by Jenny Colgan

When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins

Hush Little Baby by Jane Isaac

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

Home Stretch by Graham Norton

Perfect Tunes by Emily Gould

Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

The Ends of the Earth by Abbie Greaves

That Night by Gillian McAllister

West of Jim Crow by Lynn M. Hudson

The End of Men by Christina Sweeney-Baird

How was your April? I’d love to know what you’ve been reading over the last month or so. 🙂

The Silent Friend by Diane Jeffrey | @dianefjeffrey @HQStories

About the Book

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mini Book Reviews: That Night | The Good Sister | Every Vow You Break | The Ends of the Earth

Today I’m sharing another selection of mini reviews of books that I’ve recently finished reading. All of these books are from NetGalley via the publisher as I’m still focusing on reading my way through my NetGalley shelf.

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

The Good Sister follows twin sisters Fern and Rose – Fern in the present and Rose in the past through her diary entries. The sisters have always been very close – Rose has protected Fern from their aggressive mother as they were growing up and still holds Fern close now in adulthood. Fern has sensory issues and Rose tries to keep her protected from the things that aggravate her. I really enjoyed this book and seeing the way the two women present themselves but also the undercurrent of tension that begins to creep into their relationship was fascinating. Something happened when they were children and Fern lives with the guilt and it stops her being able to form bonds with other people so she relies heavily on Rose. I adored reading Fern’s perspective – she’s so warm and genuine but refuses to do anything she doesn’t want to do. She’s such a brilliant character and when she meets Wally in the library where she works I was rooting for her to see how things might develop with him. This is a gripping novel that has moments of darkness balanced with a lot of light and I loved it. This is the first novel that I’ve read by Sally Hepworth but I now want to seek out everything she has ever written!

Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson

This novel follows Abigail as she is about to marry her fiance Bruce. They’ve had a whirlwind romance and everything has happened very quickly. At Abigail’s hen party she has a one night stand and when this man contacts her before the wedding she is fearful that her happy ever after might be about to fall apart! This premise drew me in right away and I couldn’t wait to read this book but I’m sorry to say that it just didn’t really work for me. I’ve read and loved the author’s previous novels but this one just lacked something for me. The plot does have twists in store and I didn’t see them coming, which I did like but the suspension of disbelief required was too much for me and I just couldn’t get invested. I also had issues with the way Abigail later describes her one night stand, it felt too obvious to me that this was a male author writing a female character and it really pulled me out of the story. This is a fast-paced read and I did finish it in a couple of sittings but it’s just not my favourite by the author.

The Ends of the Earth by Abbie Greaves

The Silent Treatment was one of my favourite books of last year so this new one by the author was on my highly anticipated list and I’m so happy to say that I very much enjoyed it. The Ends of the Earth follows Mary, who for seven years has stood at a railway station holding a sign saying ‘Come Home Jim’. The novel follows her in the present as we see what her life is like and how desperate she is to find Jim; it alternates with a timeline in the past when Mary and Jim first met and we get to see how they fell in love and made a life together. This is a beautiful novel that really draws you in. There is quite a focus on mental health, men’s mental health in particular, and this was so good to read about in a novel. There needs to be more awareness of this and more encouragement for men to be able to talk and this novel shows this without it ever feeling forced. The novel also follows a young journalist who meets Mary by chance and decides to try and help her find Jim. This novel had me under its spell very quickly and now I’ve finished it I keep wondering how the characters are now, which, for me, is always the sign of an excellent read. I recommend this one!

That Night by Gillian McAllister

I’ve read and very much enjoyed all of Gillian McAllister’s novels but this is her best one yet! I read the whole thing in two sittings and I loved it! That Night follows the three Plant siblings – Joe, Cathy and Frannie. They all live next door to each other, they work at the same vet practice and they own a holiday home in Verona together. One night whilst on holiday Frannie calls Cathy in the early house begging for her help. When she gets there Frannie is distraught, as is Joe who has also arrived, and a man appears to be dead! The novel follows each of the siblings along with Joe’s wife Lydia as we see their perspectives and how they each feel about the others. We also have a timeline in the present day but it’s not clear for a while who exactly this person is. This is such a gripping thriller that has you racing through the pages wanting to know how and why, wanting to make sense of what has happened and wondering what you would do in their shoes. It’s also a brilliant look at sibling relationships and how each relates to the other, and the jealousies and the feeling of being left out that can linger well into adulthood. This was such a brilliant thriller and I highly recommend it!

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

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

The Appeal by Janice Hallett

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

Hostage by Clare Mackintosh

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

When I Was Ten by Fiona Cummins

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

Dead Perfect by Noelle Holten

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

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

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

Home Stretch by Graham Norton

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

Perfect Tunes by Emily Gould

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

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone

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

Hush Little Baby by Jane Isaac

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

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

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

Hungry

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

The Weekend

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

Space Hopper

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

Five Hundred Miles From You

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

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

Dead Head by C. J. Skuse

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

Truth Be Told by Kia Abdullah

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

The Split by Sharon Bolton

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

Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam

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

Mini Book Reviews: No One is Talking About This | Like A House on Fire | Homecoming | Life in Pieces

Today I’m sharing another selection of mini book reviews of books I’ve read and enjoyed recently. I’m slowly getting my reading and blogging mojo back but in the meantime I hope you find some books you enjoy from these mini review posts.

Like a House on Fire by Caroline Hulse

I really enjoyed this novel – it’s both light-hearted and a very realistic portrayal of family dynamics! The novel follows a family as they are all about to come together in a murder mystery party organised by the mum. Stella and George and the central characters – they’ve both recently agreed to divorce and are living separately but Stella has yet to tell her parents so persuades George to go to the party with her and to pretend all is fine. Stella is the middle child – her older sister Helen is ‘perfect’. She’s married with two children and always does the right thing. Pete is the youngest and he is very wayward but can do no wrong in his mum’s eyes. I loved the dynamic between the three grown up children – it’s one I know and understand very well and the author captures it perfectly. The murder mystery party begins around halfway through the book and it’s just brilliantly written. I adored how the novel played out and the way the denouement comes about. This is such a fun read and I highly recommend it.

No One is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood

I listened to this on audiobook via NetGalley and I really enjoyed it. I finished it a while ago now and have been struggling with how to review it. I don’t really know how to express my thoughts on this one. It follows a woman who is obsessed with the Portal, her posts regularly go viral and she is famous within this social network. She thinks in social media soundbites and her life seems to revolve around what would make a good post and how best to express her thoughts online. She questions this life though and wonders about whether this life online is hell and is it going to be what we’re doing forever. Then one day she gets a text from her mum to say that something is very wrong. All of a sudden she has to confront real life and the potential for tragedy in her own family whilst still feeling very much under the influence of the Portal. The second half of the novel is her dealing with what has happened and the juxtaposition between the portal and the very real situation her family has to confront and cope with. I loved this novel, I found it very thought provoking and it’s one that I keep finding myself musing on. I think I’d like to buy myself a physical copy of the book so that I can read it again in print form as it feels like a book to be experienced in both forms. I definitely recommend this one, particularly if you find yourself obsessively scrolling through social media on a frequent basis!

Homecoming by Luan Goldie

Nightingale Point was one of my favourite books of last year so I was very highly anticipating Luan Goldie’s next book and I’m so happy to say that I very much enjoyed it. This novel follows three characters: Yvonne who has buried her demons and is trying so hard to move on with her life and to ignore her guilt. Kiama who has grown up without his mum and he desperately wants to know more about her. And Lewis, Kiama’s father, who just wants to protect his son and to keep him from the pain of the past. I loved Kiama and Yvonne in this novel and was intrigued at how she had been in his life when he was a young child but then lost touch with him over the last decade. The two end up going back to Kenya to try and resolve what happened in the past. I found this such a beautiful and moving novel. I could understand everyone’s point of view and so felt for all of the characters. The setting of London and Kenya were so vividly written that I felt I was right there along with Yvonne and Kiama. I just adored this novel and keep finding myself thinking about the characters and wondering how they are now. I recommend this one!

Life in Pieces by Dawn O’Porter

I’ve read and loved Dawn O’Porter’s novels so was keen to read her non-fiction book. I got a copy of this one from NetGalley and I read it a little while ago now. This is the author’s diary and blog posts from the first few months of the Covid-19 pandemic. I couldn’t read it when I first got it as it all felt too recent but when I finally did pick it up I quite enjoyed it. I like her writing style and could hear her voice in my head as I was reading. There are quite a few sections in the book that I could identify with and found very moving but some of it felt very self-indulgent and unaware of how other people might be feeling as they read her words. It was jarring at times as she complained about being stuck in her big house with her big garden. At the same time I think that the general fears around Covid and grief, and they way our priorities have changed throughout the pandemic and what we want in life has become much more apparent to all of us. These parts of the book I very much enjoyed and could identify with. Ultimately, this was a mixed bag but I did quite enjoy it for the most part.

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

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

The Girl in the Missing Poster by Barbara Copperthwaite

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

The Castaways by Lucy Clarke

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

The Festival by Sarah J. Naughton

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

Lockdown by Peter May

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

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

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

All the Lonely People by Mike Gayle

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

The Things We Left Unsaid by Emma Kennedy

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

Everything is Beautiful by Eleanor Ray

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

The Illustrated Child by Polly Crosby

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

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

About the Book

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

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

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

My Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author

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

The Twenty Seven Club by Lucy Nichol | @LucyENichol @RandomTTours

About the Book

It’s 1994. The music industry is mourning Kurt Cobain, Right Said Fred have re-emerged as an ‘ironic’ pop act and John Major is the country’s prime minister. Nothing is as it should be. 

Emma, a working-class rock music fan from Hull, with a penchant for a flaming Drambuie and a line of coke with her best mate Dave down The Angel, is troubled. 

Trev, her beloved whippet, has doggy IBS, and her job ordering bathroom supplies at the local caravan company is far from challenging. So when her dad, Tel, informs her that Kurt Cobain has killed himself aged 27, Emma is consumed with anxiety. 

Janis Joplin, Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix…why have so many rock musicians died aged 27? And will Emma be next to join The Twenty Seven Club?

My Thoughts

As soon as I read the blurb of The Twenty Seven Club I knew I had to read it, I knew it was going to be a ‘me’ book and I was absolutely right!

This book held so much nostalgia for me, it really captured the mid-90s and what it was like back then. I’m a bit younger than Emma, the main character, as I was 15 in 1994 but I could still identify with her so much. I remember the shock and devastation on finding out that Kurt Cobain had died (I was a huge Nirvana fan), and wondering why so many rock stars seemed to die aged 27.

I didn’t know when I picked the novel up that it was set in Hull and this was a brilliant surprise trip down memory lane for me. I lived in Hull for a while in my 20s and prior to that had grown up fairly near by. The references to Spiders night club brought back so many memories for me. I loved going there, some of the best nights out ended in Spiders and I still miss it now. Also the Adelphi, I loved going to gigs there. Oh and American chip spice – it’s never the same when you try it anywhere other than Hull!

Emma is a great character and I found it so easy to identify with her and the things that happened to her. I actually found myself laughing out loud at some of the moments in this novel and it’s rare for a novel to make me properly laugh like that. Emma is so well-rounded – I could certainly relate to her constant anxiety and over-thinking, her worrying about everything and never feeling quite sure of herself in a situation. I loved her fierce loyalty to her closest friend and her dad, she really cares for them and will do anything to keep them safe and make them happy.

I didn’t see where the novel was ultimately taking me but when I got to the end I was in tears because it all makes sense of why Emma is the way she is. It spoke to me personally as well because I have the similar fears for similar reasons and it made Emma all the more real to me.

The Twenty Seven Club has everything you could want in a novel – nostalgia; humour and warmth mixed with existential angst; and a protagonist who cares a lot and feels things deeply and is just so relatable. I adored this book more than I can say! I finished reading it a couple of weeks ago and I still keep thinking about Emma and wondering how she is now. I know she’s not real but she absolutely feels real when you read this book.

The Twenty Seven Club is my favourite read of 2021 so far and I already want to go back to the start and read it all over again. I’m so happy that I got to read this novel and I highly recommend it!

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley and Anne of Random Things Tours. All thoughts are my own.

About the Author

Lucy is a mental health campaigner and PR consultant, and a former columnist with Sarah Millican’s Standard Issue magazine.  She has written for The IndependentThe I PaperNME, Red Magazine, Den of Geek, Men’s Fitness, Metro and Huff Post.  Her first book, A Series of Unfortunate Stereotypes, a non-fiction mental health memoir, was published by Trigger in 2018. Lucy has worked with the media in PR and marketing for almost 20 years and has experienced Generalised Anxiety Disorder for even longer.  

The Twenty Seven Club is immediately available in paperback from Amazon. You can also sign up to Lucy’s author newsletter.

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

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

The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult

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

One by One by Ruth Ware

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

A Christmas Memory by Truman Capote

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

The Disappearing Act by Florence de Changy

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

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

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

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

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

True Story by Kate Reed Petty

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

Watch Over You by M. J. Ford

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

Precious You by Helen Monks Takhar

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

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

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

Because of You by Dawn French

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

The Sight of You by Holly Miller

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

When the Lights Go Out by Carys Bray

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

After the Silence by Louise O’Neill

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