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.