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A Convenient Marriage by Jeevani Charika - Blog Tour and Review

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Hello and welcome to my blog for this stop on the tour for A Convenient Marriage by Jeevani Charika. I am really thrilled to welcome you all to my blog! 

I liked the sound of this book and read it while I was on holiday last week. I like reading books about people from cultures different to mine, so I was excited to read about two Sri Lankan people.

The book takes place in a few different time periods. First of all, in 1995, we meet Chaya at university in Oxford. She has left her family in Sri Lanka to study in Oxford. She is the "clever one" between her and her sister, who is the "pretty one" and who is already married. She knows that her parents want her to settle down and get married when she's finished her degree. However, she meets Noah, a fellow student, and the two begin a relationship. Chaya really loves him, but she knows her family won't approve if she marries a white man, so eventually she has to break up with him.

In 2005, Chaya lives a somewhat spartan life. She has never got over losing Noah. She goes to work, she goes home to her tiny bedsit, she tries to keep her panic attacks at bay. Noah is visiting her university, so she goes to see him, and realises all that she's lost. On a trip home to Sri Lanka, she thinks that maybe it's time to let her parents introduce her to some eligible men with a view to marriage.

Meanwhile we meet Gimhana. Gim is a lawyer in London, although he's also from Sri Lanka. He is climbing the ladder at his law firm, although he's one of the only people of colour who work there. His colleague, Barry, tells him that he'll never be made partner if he isn't married because of the firm's family values. Gim is gay, and there are rumours about him at work. He is terrified to come out to his family, so he just has random hookups.

Chaya and Gim meet at a party and quite like each other. Over the next year, back in London, they become friends - Gim helps Chaya through a number of mental health crises. Then Gim has an idea - they could get married. It would be a marriage of convenience, they would never sleep together and are free to sleep with other people, although not to be in other relationships.

Next, we meet Chaya and Gim several years later when everything is about to unravel. They're both in their mid to late 30s and although they are friends, they are finding that their convenient marriage is becoming a hindrance.

I believe this is Jeevani's debut novel under her own name, but she has written under the name Rhoda Baxter previously. I would be really interested in reading more of her work as I liked her characterisation a lot. I'm giving this book four out of five!

Here's a little bit more information about the author:

Jeevani* writes multicultural women’s fiction. She was born in the South of England, but spent much of her childhood in Sri Lanka, with short forays to Nigeria and Micronesia, before returning to settle in Yorkshire. She studied Biochemistry and Microbiology at Oxford and ended up working in university technology transfer. All of this, it turned out, was excellent preparation for becoming a novelist.
She also writes romantic comedies under the name Rhoda Baxter. Her books have been shortlisted for the RoNA awards, the Love Stories awards and the Joan Hessayon award. She is a member of the UK Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Society of Authors.  
Jeevani loves all things science geeky. She also loves cake, crochet and playing with Lego. You can find out more about her (and get a free book by signing up to her newsletter) on her website.
(*Jeevani is pronounced ‘Jeev-uh-nee’. Or just call her Jeev) 
Social Media links
Twitter: @rhodabaxter, and @jeevanicharika  
Newsletter sign up (get a free story):

Left for Dead by Paul J. Teague - Blog Tour

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Hello and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Left For Dead by Paul J Teague. I'm really happy to be welcoming you all to my blog today.

I said I would join in with this tour because I was intrigued by the premise of the book. It's set in Morecambe, a place I know and really like. I'm really happy to be reading more books set in the north as I sometimes feel like we're lacking representation. I liked the book and the main characters of Charlotte and Will.

Please do check out the other stops on this tour!

Here's the blurb:

A return to the past. Two guilty secrets. A memory that won't stay buried ...

When Charlotte and Will Grayson return to the seaside resort where they met as teenagers, they hope it'll help to heal the wounds in their marriage.

But visiting the dilapidated holiday camp where their relationship began brings terrible memories back from the past.

The man who'd once made their lives hell has come back to find them - only, the last time they saw him, they'd left him for dead on the beach.

As the threats to their new life become more severe, Charlotte and Will discover that they were mistaken about what happened to Bruce Craven on that fateful night.

And now he's returned to finish off what was started thirty years ago.

Sometimes the past is best left alone 

Left for Dead is the first book in the Morecambe Bay Trilogy.

Book 2 is Circle of Lies and will be published on Monday 9th December 2019.

Book 3 is Truth Will Out and will be published on Monday 6th January 2020. 

And here's a little bit more information about the author:

Paul Teague writes thrillers, sci-fi and non-fiction books.

Writing as Paul J. Teague, he is the author of the Don’t Tell Meg trilogy as well as several standalones such as Dead of Night, Two Years After, Now You See Her (with Adam Nicholls) and So Many Lies.

His latest thriller trilogy is set in the coastal town of Morecambe in the UK.
Paul studied, lived and worked in Lancaster and Morecambe between 1983 and 1991 and the books draw from his personal experiences and knowledge of the area.

The first book – Left for Dead – is released in November 2019 and the follow-ups – Circle of Lies and Truth Will Out – will be published in December 2019 and January 2020 respectively.

Paul is a former teacher, DJ, waiter and BBC radio producer, presenter and journalist.
Thriller website:

The Secrets He Kept by Jackie Walsh - Blog Tour

Monday, November 11, 2019

I'm happy today to be joining in the blog tour for The Secrets He Kept by Jackie Walsh. Please do check out the other blogs on this tour!

This book is set in Ireland and is about Sally, a thirty-something year old mum. She's a hairdresser working all hours because her husband, Tom, lost a lot of money several years ago, money that she was saving to open her own salon. 

The couple have three children - Amber, who is fifteen, and three year old twins Aaron and Cian. Sally feels that Amber is pulling away from her. She's quite resentful of Tom, because he lost all her savings, but she excuses him of a lot of things because she loves him. 

One Saturday she's at work when a girl turns up and shows her a photo of her boyfriend, Kenny. Then she shows Sally a photo of Kenny and his dad. Sally can't believe her eyes - the man in the photo is her husband. But surely he can't have another child, can he? One that he has kept from Sally?

Thank you very much to Hera books for the opportunity to read this book. I was provided with an electronic copy of the book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for this post. 

Patrick Gale at Off the Shelf Festival

Thursday, November 7, 2019

You might not know that I am a huge fan of Patrick Gale, because I've never reviewed any of his books on here, but over the years I've read a few of them. Plus he wrote my favourite book of all time, Notes From An Exhibition. It's about an artist, Rachel Kelly, who is found dead in her studio, witha series of unfinished paintings around her. It's told through those paintings, and through them the reader learns all about Rachel's husband and four children, as well as her past and life. It's brilliantly done, and I love Rachel and the family. I first read the book over ten years ago, when my friend Amy, who is an artist herself, pushed it into my hands.

It's about madness, and family, and family madness, all of which are things I love in a book. I think it's so cleverly done, and I also really like how there are queer characters who are just incidentally queer - their relationships aren't pulled apart for the reader. I would really recommend it if you've never read it. My original copy went missing a few years ago but if I ever see it in a charity shop I always buy it because I like to have spare copies to hand to give away to friends.

I saw a few weeks ago that Patrick was appearing at Sheffield's Off the Shelf Festival so I asked my friend Sarah if she would come with me. She also really loves Notes From An Exhibition. We both read it before we knew each other, so bonded over it! Sarah agreed, so we bought tickets and then made plans to get together during the day before the evening event.

The whole day was just ridiculous. On the way to Sarah's, my car started overheating and I limped to hers, then phoned my breakdown people. The rain was awful and the breakdown people were later than they thought they would be. Then the garage the car was taken to couldn't help me, so I had to drive very carefully back to Sarah's where I just abandoned the car. The rain was apocalyptic and it was so dark, so we got Sarah's husband Tom to take us into town for the event. We made it! It was stressful, but we made it!

Patrick was in conversation with a lady asking him questions. He's very eloquent and talked at length about his books, about his most recent book Take Nothing With You, about surviving the Aids crisis, about his screenplays, about his characters, about his early life. I could've listened to him talk for ages, because it was really lovely. Apparently there's going to be a film of Notes From An Exhibition which excites me very much!

I bought a copy of Take Nothing With You and then we joined the signing queue. It didn't take long to get to us. I had six books with me and Patrick signed each one and I told him how much Notes means to me. He was really kind and gracious and it more than made up for the disastrous day!

Here's some photos:

There were quite a few people there

Firth Hall was a really lovely venue

And here are all my signed copies! I really want to read them all immediately!

Unpregnant by Jenni Hendriks and Ted Caplan - Review

Monday, November 4, 2019

Where did I get it? I bought it, I've had it on pre-order since January, can you believe?! I have been researching books about abortion because of something I want to write myself, and when I saw this book mentioned way back in January I ordered it immediately. 

What's it about? Veronica, known to her friend as Ronnie, has what appears to be a perfect life. She's about to be valedictorian, she has three lovely friends and a gorgeous boyfriend, Kevin. She has plans to go to Brown University in Rhode Island, many miles away from her home in Missouri. 

She is also pregnant. 

She does the test at school and ends up dropping it in the bathroom, where it lands at the feet of Bailey, Ronnie's old friend. The two girls were close in junior high, but Bailey's life turned a little chaotic and Ronnie stopped talking to her. Since then, Bailey has become the school outcast, the school loner. She teases Ronnie when she sees the test, saying that Ronnie's perfect life is over.

Ronnie doesn't feel she can tell her parents - her older sister had a baby young and her parents haven't really got over it. She decides to have an abortion, so she calls her local Planned Parenthood. They inform her that Missouri doesn't allow abortions for minors without parental consent, and Ronnie is only seventeen. The closest place that will give her a termination without her parents knowing is in Albuquerque, over a thousand miles away. 

Fortunately, Ronnie is supposed to head off to a cabin by a lake with her friends for the weekend to cram for finals, so she realises she can use that time to get Kevin to take her to New Mexico. However, this plan soon goes awry when it turns out Kevin has been keeping something from her. Ronnie is beginning to despair, but goes to ask Bailey for help. 

The two set off on the thousand mile trip involving cows, strippers, kidnapping a ferret, robbery, and putting a friendship back together. 

The book, despite its serious subject matter, is really funny in parts, and touching in others. It is political and doesn't apologise for that - it is scandalous that so many people have to travel so far for abortions in the US and in the UK and across the world. Safe access to abortion is a human right, in my opinion. It is also really, really good. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would read something else by the same authors. 

What age range is it for? 14+, I guess 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yeah but no spoilers. 

Are any main characters people of colour? No. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No. 

Is there any sex stuff? It isn't graphic. There's no graphic bits in the whole book. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No. 

Is there any talk of death? A little, not much 

Are there swear words? Almost none. 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none! I think it is a great example of contemporary YA. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes one hundred percent. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It arrived a couple of weeks back and was on the top of the pile. 

What do I think of the cover? It's so eye-catching isn't it!? I love it. 

What other books is it like? It's kind of the antithesis of Belly Up by Eva Darrows, I feel like they're a good pair of books. 

How many stars? Five out of five. 

Where is the book going now? I'm going to send it to my friend Janet as she said on Instagram she wanted to read it and we often share books!

See All the Stars by Kit Frick - Review

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Where did I get it? The library where I go to craft club. It just caught my eye. When I'd brought it home, I realised I had been granted the book on Netgalley, so many thanks to Simon and Schuster for that. I will leave a review on Netgalley even though I read the book in paper. 

What's it about? Ellory is a girl living in Pennsylvania with her parents. The book has a dual narrative, focussing on both her senior year of school and going back in time to the year previous when something terrible happened and Ellory ended up serving a two month suspension from school and now has to attend counselling. 

Ellory is best friends with three girls - Ret, Jenni, and Bex. Ret is the sun in their solar system and the others revolve around her. While they are friends, there's also an undercurrent of competition between the other three. Ret likes to play Ellory and Jenni off against each other. The four of them are somewhat outsiders, I think, although that's partly due to their own design. 

In the summer after her sophomore year, Ellory goes with Ret to Dave Franklyn's party. There, she meets Matthias, a friend of Dave's. The two of them start a relationship that continues throughout their junior year. But Matthias has his own demons. His family is falling apart and he keeps Ellory at arm's length, telling her it's for her own good. She tries really hard to integrate herself into his world by going to gigs with him, but they still never really get to the level she wants to get to. 

Meanwhile, in the present time, Ellory attends counselling and avoids everyone she ever knew at school by ducking through the halls and spending all her time in shop class working on her own art. It's obvious that she needs to make amends with her former friends, but it's not obvious why.

I found the beginning of the book a bit slow going. The drip drip of the past was going a bit too slow for me. But I liked Ellory and I loved the girls' friendships/frenemy thing, so I persevered, and that definitely paid off as I ended up really loving the book as a whole. I really liked the showing of the bad parts of teenage friendship, I loved how the girls interacted. For me, they felt very real - they are messy and fun and angry and they listened to music and painted their nails and borrowed each other's clothes. It rang really true for me. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No, which is something I would have liked to see. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Bex is, I think, but it's not an integral part of the novel. I thought it needed more Bex, actually. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I guess Ellory has some post-trauma stuff going on, but it's not too bad. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's somewhat graphic. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? They're mentioned, and I'll also mention that there's like a lot of alcohol use and abuse going on. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes. It's quite graphic, although not very long. 

Are there swear words? Maybe a couple, nothing too graphic. 

What criticisms do I have? As I said, I found the beginning a little bit too obtuse for me and I was getting frustrated. I worked out one of the twists, and once I had, the beginning looked a little bit better, but I didn't know that at the time of reading. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Library books have a finite time to be read don't they! 

What do I think of the cover? It's simple but effective. There's a few books with similar looks, I think, like Karen McManus' books. 

What other books is it like? It really reminded me of That's Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger. 

How many stars? I'm going to give it five out of five because it is really accomplished. 

Where is the book going now? Back to the library! 

See All the Stars was published on the 22nd of August 2019. I was provided with a free electronic copy of the book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for this post. 

Lie With Me by Sabine Durrant - Review

Sunday, October 27, 2019

I'm going to put this book into the crime fiction and thriller categories even though it doesn't really fit into either. But it's my blog and I want to, because I think it has a lot of hallmarks of both genres, so it's staying.

This book is the November choice for my book club and was chosen by Lynn, who has already read it and said that although it was a "bit soapy", she liked it and was keen for us to read it. I got it from the library - we're really lucky to have a librarian in our group who always makes sure that the readers groups items are available when they should be. Our book club started as a library readers group but even though we're no longer run by the library we're definitely still supported by them!

I haven't read anything by Sabine Durrant before, although I've read that she has written for both adults and teenagers. I would definitely read something else by her now.

Okay, so the protagonist of this book is Paul Morris. He is in his early forties and is basically a con man. He enjoyed some success as an author in his early twenties, but hasn't written anything very good since then. And he is a liar. He spends his time chancing his luck, borrowing and cadging money from friends, housesitting in a fancy Bloomsbury flat for an ex university friend, Alex. He also has a predilection for young women. On day he goes into a bookshop to try to chat up the shop girl there, and ends up bumping into someone else he knew from university, Andrew.

At university, Paul had a brief relationship with Andrew's sister Florrie. Andrew invites Paul to come over for a "kitchen supper" and Paul, aware of the free food and drink, agrees. While at Andrew and Tina's house, he meets Alice. Alice is a single mother after the death of her husband, and has three children. Paul starts up a relationship with Alice.

Alice and Andrew and Tina and all the kids have been going to the island of Pyros, in Greece, where Alice owns a house. By coincidence, Paul was there ten years ago and met up briefly with Andrew and co. It was the same night that a thirteen year old girl, Jasmine, went missing, and was never found. Alice, a lawyer, has taken on the case to try to find her, and everyone is feeling the pressure of it being the tenth anniversary. Paul doesn't remember too much about that night.

Alice invites Paul to go with the families to Greece and, unable to afford the direct flight, he heads out there via Munich and meets up at Alice's house. There, things just start to unravel and the whole of a twenty year history comes undone.

I found the book really interesting. It raises quite a lot of questions about blame and fault, which I think will come up in the book club discussion. There's quite a lot about free will and destiny and that kind of stuff. Paul is an utterly dislikeable person and makes a ton of mistakes, but I did feel sorry for him. I have a strong sense of justice and was outraged by the ending - I really wonder what anyone else thought of it and if you've read it please let me know!

In Bitter Chill by Sarah Ward - Review

Thursday, October 24, 2019

As you know, I've been reading quite a lot of crime fiction this year. It used to be all I read, about ten years ago, but then I went off it a bit. But in those ten years the genre has come on hugely and I've been enjoying finding new-to-me authors.

I was at Hathersage lido last month and on the drive there I thought, "I wonder if there's any crime fiction set in Derbyshire?" The Peak District is such a beautiful and picturesque place, exactly ripe for an undercurrent of threat and some murders to happen. I asked on Twitter, and my friend Janet told me that the DC Childs books are set in the Peaks. I bought this for a few quid on eBay and then picked it up just after it had arrived.

So, in 1978, two girls were abducted on the way to school. Rachel and Sophie were taken by a woman in a car, and Rachel later escaped from the car and was found wandering by a main road. She had come from the woods, but despite police searches, Sophie was never found. Rachel has managed to go on with her life and is now in her early forties and is a genealogist.

In 2015, Sophie's mum Yvonne is found dead in a hotel, an apparent suicide, on the anniversary of the girls' abduction. Thep olice treat is as suicide - but why now? Why did this year trip her up particularly? Why has she chosen now to die?

The detective in charge of the case is Francis Sadler, who's a pretty typical detective as they go in books. He gets his underlings, Palmer, who is about to get married, and Connie Childs, to look into the 1978 case to see if there's anything the police missed. However, before they can get stuck too much in, a woman is found murdered. She worked at the school Rachel and Sophie attended, and police treat the two cases as linked. Connie has to go over the whole past of the two girls to find out what happened.

I liked Sadler as a cop, and I liked Connie too - she's the main focus really. I liked Rachel's point of view too, although she's less easy to like as a character. I liked the mystery too, I didn't guess what had happened and liked the red herrings presents. I have bought the next two books in the series to read while I wait for a new Cara Hunter book to appear.

However. What stopped this from being a top rated read for me was the amount of fat hate I found on the pages. There's a constant chatter about Rachel's weight although she's all of a size fourteen, and Sadler at one point interviews a man who is extremely fat, poor, and "probably disabled". The way his body is talked about is extremely rude, and I think there are better ways of saying that someone is a terrible person than making them fat and poor. I felt like there was a lot of this throughout the book and it really bothered me.

I will read the next books, and I hope they're better in this respect than this one.

The Stolen Ones by Vanessa Curtis - Review

Monday, October 21, 2019

I really didn't like this book. I gave it one star on Goodreads (my profile is here, if you're interested and/or want to be friends). I usually give up with books, but I'd got quite far through this one in about half an hour, and I kind of wanted to know where it went, so I just kept reading. I wasn't even sure whether to write a negative review, but given the subject matter, I think it's appropriate. 

This review will include spoilers, so click away if that's not something you want to read. Trigger warning for holocaust literature, too. I bought this book because the premise of a post-World War Two Germany setting appealed to me. I really like books that look at what happened after some kind of huge event, and I thought this fitted in quite well. 

The book is set in Munich in 1956. Inge is nearly sixteen years old and lives with her parents in a nice house. She has a boyfriend, Wilf, who she has to keep secret from her parents because he is Jewish. Her parents have a photo of Hitler in their study, and while Inge doesn't know too much about the war, she knows that her dad was a "good German soldier". 

On her birthday, a letter arrives addressed to someone called Kasia. Inge's parents quickly hide it in her mother's bureau, but then a strange woman turns up at the door and tries to speak to Inge. Inge decides she has to get into the bureau, so she gets Wilf to come to the house to pick the lock (which is his job, it's fine, it's not just a random thing). 

She finds letters and discovers that she is really adopted from Poland, and her birth name is Kasia. The woman who has been at the door is her mother. Inge was stolen from Poland by the Nazis, which is evidenced by a dream that she often has. She sees the woman in the street, but ignores her. She mopes around for a bit before telling her parents that she knows she's adopted. 

She - extremely randomly - discovers that her birth mother is working as a cleaner in the house of one of Inge's schoolmates, Marta. So she goes to the house and demands to see her, instead of, like, waiting for the woman outside? I won't say anymore about the story, but Jeez. 

This book is just really badly written. There's soooo much telling and not showing. Time skips weirdly. Inge gets an idea in her head and then just goes with it, like when she ends up visiting Dachau just by writing to them to ask? She has Marta's mother help her, but it's never shown as to why that is? Inge decides to rely on her "intuition" and does a ton of stupid things because of that. 

Plus, Inge and Wilf are supposed to have been together for about three years, and everyone at their school knows about them, but her parents have never caught on about their relationship? Is that likely? She has him in their house and he regularly drives her home, but her parents have never caught them? Then there's Wilf himself. He's just.... you know that trope of the Sexy Lamp? That's basically what Wilf is here. We never get to see his personality. The pain over losing his mother during the Holocaust isn't addressed, it just exists in order for him to be Jewish in the story and for him to be kept secret from Inge's parents? I'm not happy with the use of literal genocide in this way. 

I did read the whole book, and it wasn't redeemed in any way. I'm glad there was no redeeming of actual Nazis, but equally, I didn't think the subject was dealt with appropriately. I'm giving this one star. 

The Red Umbrella by Christina Gonzalez - Review

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Where did I get it? I bought it off a few weeks ago. After I read The Liars of Mariposa Island, I was intrigued by Operation Pedro Pan, an operation which saw 14,000 children leave their families in Cuba during the revolution for relative safety in the United States. About half of them had families or friends in the States to live in, but the rest lived in camps or were fostered into families. I'd recommend reading up on what happened! 

What's it about? Lucia and her brother Frankie live with their parents in a small town in Cuba. It's 1961 and the revolution is rumbling along. Children are being recruited to the youth military, including Lucia's friend Ivette. 

Lucia is a typical fourteen year old - desperate to be grown up, wishing she could wear make up, and looking forward to her quinces in November. She loves Cuba and her parents, but doesn't really like the revolution. One day she and Frankie see some soldiers execute their dad's boss. Their parents aren't revolutionaries either, and rumours are starting to swirl around the family. 

Lucia's parents decide that she and Frankie will leave Cuba. They arrive in Florida and live in camps for a few months before they are taken to Nebraska to live with the Baxter family. Everything is wildly different in America, not least the snowy winter. They occasionally get to speak to their parents, but everything coming out of Cuba is scary and confusing. 

I started reading this book not realising it is really a middle grade novel. Lucia is fourteen but skews a bit younger, and that was annoying me until I noticed the cover says "for ages 8-12". That would explain it! Once I got into the middle grade mindset I enjoyed it a lot more. 

What age range is it for? Well, as above! 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, they're Cuban. Lucia and Frankie encounter some racism in the United States. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No, except for some mild trauma I guess. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? A little, it isn't overly graphic and I think it is well done within the context of the book and within a revolution. 

Are there swear words? No. 

What criticisms do I have? I thought it was quite simplistic even for a middle grade novel. But I do think it's a good book for portraying what life was like for kids who left Cuba under Operation Pedro Pan. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It was on the pile next to my bed! 

What do I think of the cover? I love it! I think it's really eye-catching. 

What other books is it like? The Liars of Mariposa Island for subject matter, obviously! 

How many stars? Four out of five. 

Where is the book going now? Well, unfortunately the book got a bit soaked on the edge of the bath, so I probably won't keep it!

All the Rage by Cara Hunter - Review

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

I started a couple of books at the beginning of October that I just couldn't get in to. One was about a bisexual black girl and I was really hoping to love it, but I couldn't gel with the story and gave up about fifty pages in. The next was a crime thriller set in Derbyshire that I was so-so about and would probably have finished, until the central character, a woman who kept going on about being a mother, talked about not pursuing a diagnosis of autism or ADHD for her son (who is heavily coded as such in the narrative) because she didn't want him to be "labelled". I stopped reading right there. I'm a fan of diagnoses and labels, what can I say. They're not bad things.

Anyway I decided to read Cara Hunter's new book which I got on Netgalley, so thanks to Penguin Random House for the opportunity to read this book. I received a free electronic copy of this book for review but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

You already know that I love the DI Adam Fawley books. I've read and enjoyed the first three and I think they're some of the best crime novels around at the moment. I have had a bit of a problem with some other thrillers that are just too gory, especially when dealing with the brutality of women. I'm thinking especially of the Peter James books, which I had to give up on. I've found Cara Hunter's books to not be so gory, although I will say that this one is probably the goriest so far.

I want to also say that there is a trans character in this book and I was a little bit apprehensive about how she would be treated. I was pleasantly surprised. There are some transphobic comments from a couple of people, but the character mostly has the police absolutely behind her and in particular has detective Erica Somer to rely on. I am happy that the character didn't get totally ripped to pieces and wasn't disbelieved.

So Adam Fawley is going through some anxiety with his wife Alex, with whom he is newly reconciled. There's an attack on a young woman, Faith, and there are some similarities with an old case, dubbed the Roadside Rapist by the press, which Adam was involved in and prosecuted. Adam is convinced that the crime has nothing to do with the Roadside Rapist, who is now serving a long prison sentence but who has always maintained his innocence.

Then another girl goes missing and there are even more similarities with the Roadside Rapist. Can they really have got the wrong man nearly twenty years ago?

There are a number of red herrings within the book, all of which I think worked well. Adam and Alex are going through some things after the death of their son (revealed in previous books) and Alex is suffering quite severe anxiety. There are other points of view from Adam's, told in the third person, and I liked the focus on the female detective, Everett and Somer, but I would have liked more of Gislingham and Quinn like in previous books.

I wasn't quite sure where the book was going to go - at one point I thought I'd worked it out, but I was really wrong! I liked it, I'm going to give it four out of five.

All the Rage by Cara Hunter will be published on January the 23rd, 2020.

Holding by Graham Norton - Review

Saturday, October 12, 2019

When I read Graham's second book in August, I knew I wanted to read his first one too. I got it on eBay a couple of weeks ago and picked it up straight away. I had heard it was a crime novel, so was intrigued to read it.

It is somewhat of a straight crime narrative, but with extra parts of a book that make it much more than just a crime novel. PJ Collins is a police officer in Duneen, a small town near Cork. He is the only officer there, and for the most part all he does is hand out parking tickets and that kind of thing. Then one day, builders from the new development up on a farm that used to belong to the Burke family find the bones of an adult male on the land, and all building work must stop.

The body is widely believed to be that of Tommy Burke, the son of the original owners, who disappeared over twenty years ago. It is said that he got on the bus to Cork and never returned, but the discovery of the body puts a new slant on things. PJ tries to get to the bottom of what happened, but detectives from Cork come down to help too. PJ and the SIO Dunne don't really get along.

At the time he disappeared, Tommy was engaged to Brid O'Riordan, now married to Anthony, and struggling with an alcohol addiction. She is desperately unhappy and is trying to repair her marriage. Tommy was also kind of seeing a girl called Evelyn, and the two girls had a spat in the street.

Evelyn is the youngest of the Ross girls, is now around 40, and lives with her sister Florence and Abigail. The family had a lot of tragedy when they were younger through the deaths of both their parents (I'll give a trigger warning for suicide here) and have ended up living together for years. The older sisters are protective of Evelyn and she feels like she's never got over Tommy rebuffal of her. The minute a body is found, she feels the weight of it come crashing back around her.

I enjoyed the book, I thought it was an interesting story and I liked the lives of the villagers portrayed. I really liked Evelyn and wanted her to be okay. I liked PJ, I liked the ending for him too.

There is a lot of negative talk about PJ's body. He is fat, and it is commented on again and again to a frustrating degree. We get it, you don't like fat people, cool story. I really disliked that part of the book.

I will say too that the point of view is all over the place within paragraphs in this book. For example, there's a bit which is clearly from Evelyn's point of view, but then there's a bit where it says "Evelyn looked as if --" as if someone else was observing her. It makes no sense and it happens quite a bit. You'd think an editor would have caught it, because I can't see a reason that it's done stylistically.

Overall, I'm giving it 3.5 out of five, I liked it but liked Graham's other book better. Maybe his next one will improve again!


Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky - Review

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

This book was the October choice for my book club, so I bought it on eBay for a few quid. As I've read the book, I've offered it to people in my book club so someone can borrow it. We often do that with books so that not everyone has to buy it, and I guess it cuts down on unnecessary purchasing of books. I'll be putting it in the post to Jane tomorrow!

Margaret chose this book; she often chooses small books that I end up loving, like Mother's Day by Graham Swift which I thought was brilliant. I have read Nemirovsky before, I read Suite Francaise about ten years ago and really liked it. So I was really looking forward to this one. If you don't know Nemirovsky, she was a Russian Jew who fled Russia after the revolution and settled in France, but never got citizenship. She converted to Roman Catholicism, although may have done that to try to escape the Nazis, but was deported to Auschwitz in 1942, where she was killed. She left behind several notebooks which contained beginnings of books, or notes and outlines, of which Fire in the Blood was one. It was published in 2007.

It's set in rural France, in the years leading up to World War II. It's set in the same village as Suite Francaise, actually, which I liked and found familiar. Sylvestre, also known as Silvio, is an old man, living in a small cabin in the forest, having sold off most of his family land in years gone by. He has some family - his cousin, Helene, and her husband Francois. They have a good, companionable marriage. Their daughter, Colette, is about to be married, to Jean. She worships her parents' relationship and wants the same for herself, but she and Jean are somewhat unmatched.

Helene's stepsister Cecile had an adopted daughter, Brigitte, who is married to a man many years older than her, who is dying. She had an unhappy childhood and married M. Declos to try to escape that. She is having an affair with a man called Marc.

As relationships unravel and time goes on, lots of secrets from the past come back, upsetting Silvio's measured life and changing everything about each character. I liked Silvio and felt quite sympathetic towards him. The depiction of French rural life, where everyone knows everyone's business and that of all their families, is brilliant. I liked how Silvio was an outsider while also being trapped in the milieu.

There are parts of this book that are really short, chapters cut off, time skips of a year or more, and I guess there's no way in knowing whether that's because Nemirovsky didn't get chance to complete the book, or whether she intended it that way. I liked it, I liked how the narrative galloped in such a way, but I do wonder how Nemirovsky would have felt over the book as a whole in its form now.

I can't wait to find out what everyone in my book club thought of it too. I really liked it and am giving it four out of five.

Jackpot by Nic Stone - Review

Monday, October 7, 2019

Where did I get it? Netgalley, many thanks to Simon & Schuster for the book! 

What's it about? Rico is seventeen and lives in Atlanta Georgia. She lives with her mum, Stacia, and her younger brother, Jaxon. The family struggles to make ends meet every
month. Rico works at a local gas station to make money to give to her mum for their bills. On Christmas Eve, Rico sells two lottery tickets to an old lady, for a jackpot of 312 million dollars. The lady gives her one of the tickets. When the numbers come up, Rico is convinced that the lady has a winning ticket and, to begin with, wants to find her to steal it from her. That amount of money would obviously be life changing for Rico's family.

She enlists the help of Zan Macklin, the richest boy in school, who she is sure can help her to hack the gas station's CCTV so she can see how the old lady arrived that night. The two begin to form a friendship through a ridiculous treasure hunt, and there's feelings between the two of them. She assumes Zan's life is free from all pressures, but though he is very privileged, he doesn't have a perfect life. Rico has never had much time for friends, but Zan's friends Jess and Ness warm to her too, and Rico has some lovely rites of passage throughout her last few months at school. 

This is one of those books where subjectively, I didn't love it, I would probably have given it three out of five. But objectively, I can see that there a lot of teens that would need this book, that will see themselves reflected in it, and I think that it's a good book in that way and deserves a higher score. It is different to Odd One Out, the last book by Nic that I read, but I don't think that's to its detriment. I do have a few criticisms, I'll get to those later.

Oh, there's also a few parts told from the point of view of inanimate objects. I thought these were good and added something to the book. They definitely told the reader something that we didn't know, and they were kind of cute. 

What age range is it for? 15+ I'm going to say

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes. Rico is mixed race - Stacia is mixed race and Rico's dad was Spanish although she's never met him. Zan is also part-Mexican, something which came across well I felt. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Not really, but I'll trigger warn for illness and mentions of addiction and abuse. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No I don't think so 

Is there any talk of death? Some, it's not graphic

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? Hmmm, ok. I found it hard to fathom Zan's motives at times. His privilege did annoy the shit out of me sometimes, too. I thought the romance was cute, but it was on a strange footing from the beginning. I also didn't understand why Rico had literally no friends, and I wish we had seen how she was at school. I genuinely think a lot of my criticisms are just because I'm 35 and white and British - the book isn't for me and doesn't need to be. I didn't hate it! I just had problems with it 

Would I recommend the book? Yes if the premise appeals 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I was on my Kindle and just scrolled to it. 

What do I think of the cover? It's cute! I like how Zan looks, it helped me to have a picture of him in my head. 

What other books is it like? I'm drawing a blank, sorry! 

How many stars? Four out of five. 

Jackpot will be published on the 15th of October 2019. I was given a free electronic copy of the novel but was not compensated in any other way for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 



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