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One of Us Is Lying by Karen M McManus - Review

Friday, November 29, 2019

Where did I get it? Amazon, I bought it. 

What's it about? Let me tell you this is one of the best YA books I've read in ages, I absolutely loved it. 

It's set near San Diego in California and is a contemporary YA novel. In it, five teenagers end up with detention with a teacher, Mr Avery. They're a bit of a motley crew - there's Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy, Simon and Nate. The five of them have their phones confiscated and are supposed to start an essay, but then a car accident outside distracts them. Simon, who is the owner of a gossip app about the school, drinks some water, and ends up writhing on the floor having suffered an allergic reaction. No EpiPen can be found, and despite paramedics' best efforts, Simon dies from the reaction.

It turns out his cup of water was laced with peanut oil, so police start looking for a murderer. It then further transpires that he was about to publish posts about Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy, and Nate, and that each one of them had a reason to want him dead. The four of them are suddenly in the spotlight and somehow unlikely friends - but one of them is lying. 

I guessed some of the twists and turns in the book, but that only added to my enjoyment of it. I thought it was a really fantastic book told from four points of view. 

Bronwyn is a super high achiever who wants to go to Yale. She lives with her parents and her sister Maeve, who I also loved. Cooper is a star baseball player who is getting attention from scouts. He can't let down his father, who is really into him being a major league player. He has a girlfriend, Keely, but he also has a secret he really doesn't want anyone to find out. 

Addy is a popular girl with a popular boyfriend, Jake. Everything looks perfect in her life, but her mum is a bit of a mess and her sister has moved out. Plus Jake dictates everything about Addy's life, like the clothes she wears and the parties they go to. Addy's secret is that she slept with a friend of Jake's over the summer, and feels really bad about it. 

Nate is the school misfit. He's on probation for selling drugs, although he's still doing it. He lives with his alcoholic father and his mum isn't around anymore. He and Bronwyn end up getting close, which I absolutely loved - he is a perfect brooding YA hero and I loved him. I think my favourite bits were Nate's bits, followed by Bronwyn's. 

Then there's Simon. Simon has tried hard for years to fit into the popular cliques at school, but has never quite managed it. He has this gossip app that doesn't spell people's names out specifically, but gives their initials. And the thing is, the gossip on there is never wrong. Each of the four of the suspects want to keep their secrets safe, and Simon has come up against each of them before. It's a real whodunnit!

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yeah, no spoilers though. I did see some criticism that there was some internalised homophobia here, and I don't quite agree. I think the person concerned is worried about how their family will react, which is totally a valid thing to worry about. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Bronwyn's family is Colombian, but it's not a main part of the story. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No I don't think so. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's not graphic and people always use protection. Again, I saw criticism saying that Addy is slut shamed, and while I agree that she is, it's other people's reactions to her. It's not her internal thoughts - she realises she has the right to have sex with anyone she likes. The author doesn't slut shame her, but characters in the school do, if that makes sense. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yeah, as Nate is a dealer. It's not graphic, but it is there. 

Is there any talk of death? Yep, obviously. Simon's death is quite graphic for sure. 

Are there swear words? A few, not many 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none. My only one really is that there are a couple of gaps sometimes when the book skips between different narrators. Gaps in the reader's knowledge and in time. But you can fill in those gaps so it's not a big deal. 

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Well, you see, I bought Karen's next book Two Can Keep A Secret, and I thought that was a sequel of this, so I thought I had better read this first. But it's not a sequel... But whatever. I'll read that one soon. 

What do I think of the cover? I prefer other covers to this one, but this was the Kindle one. 

What other books is it like? I thought it was a lot like A Good Girl's Guide to Murder. 

How many stars? Five out of five. Excellent, fun, intriguing book. 

Children of the Revolution by Peter Robinson - Review

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

When we were on holiday at the beginning of November I scrolled soooo far in my Kindle app on my tablet. I don't use my tablet for anything else except the Kindle app - not Twitter or Tumblr or Facebook or any of that. It's not the best tablet in the world, but it works fine as a Kindle. And while I don't buy many books via Amazon anymore, I've been using a Kindle since 2011 so I have loads of books on there.

I was scrolling trying to decide what I wanted to read. I ended up deleting quite a few books that I'd either started and given up on or that I didn't want to read anymore. It was a good clean up session! Anyway I came across this Peter Robinson book that I think I bought back in 2014. I needed something a bit easy to read like that, so started it.

I have read a lot of the DCI Banks books and I love that they're set in North Yorkshire. I found them years and years ago and got both my parents into them - which proves how long ago it was because my dad died in 2008. My mum recently, a year or just over, decided she would read all the Banks books in order. She's been enjoying them and I know she's read this one. I don't read them very often because they're kind of formulaic, but I thought I would as this one was just sat on my Kindle.

In this book, a sixty year old man is found dead near his home, near a disused railway line. He's been thrown from a footbridge in a scuffle, but there's five thousand pounds in his pocket, so he wasn't robbed. He has lived a hermit's life since being fired from his teaching post at the local college four years ago. No one seems to have had much of a grudge against him, but the police have to investigate and end up going back over the man's life to his university days and some time he spent in North America.

I liked the story and wanted to know what had happened to poor Gavin. I do like DCI Banks as a character, and I also like Annie and Winsome, part of his team, although I didn't think there was enough from either of their points of view in this book. I would give it a decent rating, it kept me gripped enough.

However, I did have a few problems with the book. The timelines, for one thing. It's supposed to be set in around the year that it was published, so around 2013/2014. But that means Banks has been in Eastvale since around 1988, and he was in his forties then, so he must surely be over the age for retirement now. And that's one of the points in the book - that he is nearing sixty (so those maths don't add up) and could be needing to retire soon. I get that it's difficult to end a series like this, but the time discrepancies are just annoying me by now.

Banks is offered the chance to gain promotion to superintendent, as long as he behaves himself and plays by the rules. Which of course, he doesn't. In fact, some people complain about him, and while I get that they're making trouble, it won't make his superiors feel any better about him.

Then there's a whole thing about why Gavin was fired from teaching - he was accused of sexual harassment by two students. The way that these young women and another are treated is pretty bad. The whole book seems to be rolling its eyes at the movement towards calling out sexual aggressors, and is trying to say that there are millions of false accusations - which isn't true. It seems obvious to me that the author is from a certain generation and was peeking through just a bit too much.

Then there's a bit where Annie and Gerry have a spat, and it was so ridiculously written I just laughed. It was not how women would really behave towards each other, I don't think, especially when they both work in a man's world like the police. It was ludicrous. And in the same vein, at the very end of the book Banks takes out a young woman that he met through the case. She is thirty six and beautiful - at one point he's ogling a picture of her in a bikini - and she for some reason agrees to a date with a man old enough to be her dad. This often happens throughout the series and it is just getting ridiculous now. It makes Banks come off like a sordid old man, and I don't like it.

This book was written in 2013, at which point all the above were already ridiculous and outdated ideas, and I'm just... A little bit past them now.

We'll see whether I read another Banks book. We'll see!

Cuckoo by Keren David - Review

Friday, November 22, 2019

Where did I get it? It was one of the first books I ever got on Netgalley, but it has shamefully taken me until now to read it. Many thanks go to Little Brown Books for letting me read it, though. 

What's it about? Jake is sixteen and an actor. He's been on Market Square, a popular soap, until a few months ago, when his character, Riley Elliott, was sent upstairs and not seen again. Jake has been auditioning for other parts but it's so far come to nothing. His dad, Neil, is determined to sort out what is happening with Riley and whether Jake will reprise the role, only Jake's agency isn't being very helpful. The family is running out of money and Jake is getting stressed about life. Add in that his brother is nonverbal and autistic and the family have to move makes Jake want to leave home, so he ends up staying with friends for a while. 

The book isn't told in a straightforward narrative like this, though. It's told as scripts of web episodes that Jake has made and put on to the internet. For some reason, Market Square has been cancelled, and people are blaming Jake for it. He's attempting to get his side of the story across by having some parts where he just talks to the camera, and other parts where he gets some of his fellow actors to act the parts of his parents, brother, friends. 

It's not the most in depth book, because it is told through scripts and web episodes, but I thought it was a unique way to tell a story and quite interesting. I felt bad for Jake and I wanted to know what had happened and how he would tell the story. I liked the inclusion of viewers' comments too, it showed how a lot of them just wanted the gossip and didn't care what had happened to Jake. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, as the above too, but none of these stories are told in much depth. They are there, though. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? I don't think so. 

Are there swear words? No. 

What criticisms do I have? Not many, really. I liked the format. It was a cute book to read on holiday. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes if you're a fan of the author. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I was scrolling for ages through the books on my Kindle app and I saw it and remembered I had wanted to read it. 

What do I think of the cover? It's very colourful and eye catching, so I like it. 

What other books is it like? Gosh, I can't think of any. 

How many stars? Seven out of ten. 

Cuckoo was published in August 2016. 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. 

Tree Surgery for Beginners by Parick Gale - Review

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

I picked this book up after I'd been to see Patrick in Sheffield as I wanted to read more of his stuff. I've loved the books of his I've read before, but this one didn't wow me on the same level. It took me nearly a week to read it, which is so slow for me especially as it's not even three hundred pages long.

So, the book is about a man called Lawrence. Somewhat of a loner as a kid, he has grown up to be a tree surgeon. He is the only child of a widowed mother, Dora. They live in Gloucestershire, although Dora is American. She came over when he was small, and then her brother Darius followed and is a father figure for Lawrence.

Lawrence is married to Bonnie, the daughter of a client of his. She is kind of way out of his league, but the two of them seem to have an okay marriage. They have a little girl, Lucy, who is three or four.

Lawrence and Bonnie have a fight after Lawrence accuses her of having an affair with an architect friend of hers, Craig. Bonnie falls and bangs her head. She then takes off with Lucy and her faqther, who has never liked Lawrence, registers her as a missing person. A body is then found in nearby woods, and Lawrence comes under suspicion.

Okay, so the book seemed to be going one way, only then the body isn't Bonnie, and Lawrence is released. He then ends up accompanying Darius on a cruise on the SS Paulina. Darius is a bridge expert and is there to teach others how to play. On the cruise, the two f them get close to brother and sister Reuben and Bee. Lawrence begins to enjoy himself despite himself, but makes plans to leave the cruise in Miami to go to Chicago to see Lucy. He also starts an affair with the ship's singer, Lala.

Things go awry for, like, the next two hundred pages. There's all kinds of weird happenings and coincidences and nothing ends up like you think. The narrative swaps places a few times which I found strange. I'm giving this four out of five but really it's more of a three and a half. Odd. Odd book.

Trip to Sylvia Plath's Grave

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Last month I was in Todmorden overnight with friends and on the Sunday we went to Hebden Bridge to look at all the lovely shops there. I had been reminded in the morning that it was Sylvia Plath's birthday, and I know that she is buried in Heptonstall, just above Hebden Bridge, in the graveyard of what was Ted Hughes' family church. The couple lived there for a time, I think. I am a big fan of Plath's work, so I suggested to my friends that we went to find her grave.

I know plenty of people who have visited Plath's grave but I've never done it myself. I had the notion that it was hard to walk to, but when I googled it, I saw that it really wasn't. The churchyard itself got full, so there's another cemetery just across the way, which is where Sylvia is buried. You can drive right up to the church, but it's a bit of a strange rutted lane that you have to drive down first.

We set off up the very steep hill to Heptonstall, taking it really slow. I really wouldn't like to drive up there in bad weather. You can walk up Church Lane from the middle of the village, but that would have been too much for me, so we drove around Hepton Drive and turned down the lane towards the church. We parked and went into the graveyard. I had read that there isn't explicit directions to Sylvia's grave, but that it was easy to find, and it is. There's a middle bit with memorial plaques to people who have been cremated, and she is just off that centre square. Her grave is filled with flowers and pens and little stones and, at this time of year, conkers.

It was beautiful to see her grave and I'm glad we bothered to. The graveyard is very peaceful and the grave is obviously well attended. I first read The Bell Jar when I was in my mid teens, around twenty years ago, and as a teenager who suffered from mental ill health it really resonated with me. I recommend it if you've never read it, but trigger warning for mental illness and suicidal ideation. I also love a lot of Plath's poetry. I have some of her journals, too.

The epitaph on her grave is from the Bhagavad Gita, which I really like. It meant a lot to me as both a reader and a writer to be there, I'm so glad we went.

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!


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