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The Ballroom Cafe by Ann O'Loughlin - Review

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

I've had this book on my shelves since 2016. Recently Lee and I have been going through all the books again and I've tried to cull ones which I know I won't read. I feel bad - because books! - but I know it's for the best, and I'm going to donate them to a local charity which will sell them at a tombola to raise funds, so that's good.

Anyway as I've been going through the books, I've pulled out ones that I want to read soon. There's a huge pile next to my bed now! This was one of these. I can't remember where I first heard of it, but the premise appealed to me.

The book is set in Ireland in 2008. That confused me slightly, as it wasn't published until several years after that, which put the timelines out somewhat and made things confusing. Two sisters, Ella and Roberta, live in their crumbling family home, a huge mansion house on the edge of a small town where everyone knows everyone else's business. They are both elderly women, and they have not spoken to each other in decades. The house has huge loans on it and the bank are pressuring for repayment.

Ella decides to open a cafe in the house's ballroom. Roberta leaves scathing notes warning her against it, saying that she will bring scandal upon them all and open up old secrets. Ella leaves notes in reply ignorning her sister and saying that she has to make some money somehow.

A lady called Debbie turns up to the house one day. She is American, and after the recent death of her father she has discovered that she was adopted in Ireland. She and Ella become quick friends and Debbie helps to run the cafe. She goes to the convent to try to find answers about her mother, but comes up against closed doors and no answers. She takes to the radio to demand answers, and a dam breaks.

Meanwhile we get to know the tragedies Ella has been through in her life, and what happened between her and Roberta. The cafe is a success, mostly because the post mistress Muriel Hearty and other busybodies of the town are desperate to know what's going on.

I felt like there was a lot of the book that was pretty predictable, and there was just a lot of detail that wasn't needed. It's really oddly written too - totally overwritten and frothy in parts, especially in parts that are really sad and could have used a lighter, more sensitive touch. Then there's other parts that are just totally skated over when more detail is needed. It reads like a romance novel, but really isn't.

There's also quite graphic mention of two suicides, which I felt wasn't needed.

I'm giving this three out of five - despite really wanting to read it, I didn't find it my cup of tea at all.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power - Review

Monday, February 17, 2020

Where did I get it? Netgalley, so thank you very much to Pan Macmillan for giving me access. I was excited because I had heard so much about this book on Twitter. I actually had it on pre-order last year, but for some reason it got cancelled? I'm not sure if there was a delay in the book or something. But, I'm glad I've got to read it!

What's it about? Hetty is a pupil at a school on Raxter Island, an island off the coast of Maine. It's an all girls school, and the girls and two of their teachers are under quarantine. Eighteen months ago, the Tox spread among them. It is some kind of disease, but it affects each of them differently. Each girl gets "flare ups" of her own particular disease every now and then. There are just two teachers left - just the Headmistress and Miss Welch. Welch is in charge of Boat Shift, three girls who go to the island's pier to pick up food and other supplies from the Navy and Centre for Disease Control. Food and medical supplies are really scarce, and each day when Boat Shift comes back there's a fight for food. Girls die fairly frequently; from a full school there's only around sixty of them left. Plus the island itself has the Tox too - all the animals are wilder, all the plants are poisoned. Hetty has been part of Gun Shift until the start of the back, keeping watch all night with a shotgun to ward off bears and other wild animals. The school has no contact with the outside world. It is basically feral, every girl for herself. 

Hetty's best friend is Byatt, who she met on her first day years ago. Hetty's from a naval family and grew up on a base down in Virginia. Byatt is from Boston. They are also friends with Reese, although she is spiky and a little bit cold towards Hetty. Hetty lost the use of one of her eyes because of the Tox, when her eyelids fused together. Reese has glowing hair and a silver, scaly hand. Every girl is disabled in some way by the Tox, and as I said, they haven't all survived. 

I found the book compelling but it is very graphic and gory. There's a lot of disease, disability, gore, and blood. I think it's done well in context, but it may not be the right book for you. 

What age range is it for? 14+. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, but no spoilers. 

Are any main characters people of colour? If they are, it isn't mentioned. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes. There's a lot of pain, disability, post-traumatic stress, health uncertainty, and so on. It may be triggering. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, there's a really intense part with a drug, if you need more details on this please contact me. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, lots. 

Are there swear words? A couple.

What criticisms do I have? I enjoyed the book, but I didn't think it was complete enough. It reads to me very much like the first in a trilogy, and doesn't all together work as a standalone. There aren't enough answers. I wanted bigger showdowns with more answers; I wanted to know what happened to the main characters. Maybe it is going to have follow on books, and I would definitely read them, but I do think this needed to be different in order to stand by itself. That isn't to say it's bad, but it felt incomplete to me. 

Would I recommend the book? Despite my criticisms, yes! I think it is very compelling and I wanted to keep reading to see what happened. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I have heard rave reviews of it and wanted to see for myself. 

What do I think of the cover? I think it's nice, although maybe a little bit stylised - the reality of the Tox is much more gruesome and gory and I feel like the cover could have reflected this a bit more. 

What other books is it like? I've seen it described as We Were Liars (which I loved, but wanted to throw out of a window, and which I read before I started this blog) meets The Power. I guess that is a fair explanation of the book, but it doesn't quite get there. 

How many stars? Three out of five, although, if there is a follow on book, I may revisit that rating. We shall see!

Wilder Girls was published on 6th February 2020. 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. 

The Lantern Men by Elly Griffiths - Review

Friday, February 14, 2020

I requested this book on Netgalley because you know me, I'm a huge fan of Elly Griffiths' books and always like to read them straight away. So many thanks to Quercus books for granting me permission for this book. It is the newest in the Dt Ruth Galloway series and I love returning to Ruth, it always feels like a sit down with a friend.

The book starts a couple of years after the ending of the last book, The Stone Circle, when Ruth has moved to Cambridge to be a lecturer there. She is living with Kate, of course, and Frank, Ruth's boyfriend. Kind of. Ruth is quite reticent to call him that, and even though Frank is a really decent person, he doesn't really set Ruth's heart on fire or anything.

Nelson is still in Norfolk, but his daughters Laura and Rebecca now know that Kate is his daughter and Laura especially is keen to make her part of the family. Baby George is now two years old. Judy and Tanya are still on his team, but Cloughie has moved to Cambridge too to head up his own team, and Nelson really misses him.

Anyway, the previous summer, two bodies were discovered in the back garden of a woman called Chantal. Her boyfriend Ivor was arrested, thanks to forensic evidence on the bodies, and has been found guilty and is now awaiting sentencing. Nelson is convinced he also killed two other women, Nicola and Jenny. The forensic witness in the case was Ruth's ex-boss, Phil, but Ivor says he will talk to Nelson about where the other bodies are if Ruth goes to the prison with him and is the one to carry out the excavation.

Meanwhile the police go back over all the witnesses from before. Ivor lived on something like a commune for a while with a number of other people, one of whom turns out to be a new friend of Ruth's called Crissy. New things come to light and with the discovery of the second set of bones, there's a question mark over Ivor's guilt.

There's also the myth of the Lantern Men on the fens, about a light in the darkness that you follow and end up meeting a sticky end...

I liked the book, I liked Ruth removed from the Norfolk setting even though she ended up going back for the case. I understood why she couldn't quite settle with Frank, and I loved that Kate was a bit older and that her sisters knew about her. Nelson didn't do anything to annoy me, and even though I wouldn't say I liked Clough as a character particularly, I did feel like he was missing from the team and wanted him to come back! I would have liked more Cathbad, but I always say that because I love him so much. The bits he was in were great, though.

I'm sure we will see Ruth again, because the end of the book was very ambiguous. I do wonder what Elly has planned for the end of this series... I can't wait to see!

I was provided with an electronic copy of this book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Second Dad Summer by Benjamin Klas - Review

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Second Dad Summer will be published on the 5th of May 2020 by Red Chair Press/One Elm Books. They kindly granted me an ecopy of the book for review. I was not otherwise compensated for this post and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

I requested this book because I liked the premise: Jeremiah is a kid whose parents are divorced, and he spends every summer with his dad. His dad Al is bisexual, and has just moved into an apartment with his boyfriend, Michael. Jeremiah really doesn't like Michael or how hard he tries to be Jeremiah's friend. He especially doesn't like Michael's bike, which as a unicorn head and lots of streamers and glitter.

Jeremiah's apartment building also contains a grumpy old man called Mr Keeler, who is abusive towards Michael but Michael is kind to him anyway. It turns out that Mr Keeler is gay too, so I have to say I was surprised by the slurs that Mr Keeler throws at Michael. I can believe it would happen, but I would have liked a little bit more explanation about why Mr Keeler is like he is.

Jeremiah makes friends with a girl in a building opposite, a girl called Sage. She doesn't like Mr Keeler because he is very protective of the plants in front of the building, but through the book Jeremiah and Sage become friendly with him. Jeremiah also learns that maybe Michael isn't so bad after all.

This is a really cute chapter book. I think Jeremiah is around eleven or twelve years old, and I would say it is suitable for tweens aged nine to twelve. I liked the diversity within it, I liked how careful people were with each other and how many important conversations happened without the points being laboured.. I am giving this a very solid four out of five; I am looking forward to seeing what this author does next!

Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron - Review

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Where did I get it? My friend Lucinda bought it for me for my birthday and I decided to pick it up straight away because, along with my Christmas books, I want to read my birthday ones quickly instead of letting them languish on the bookshelf. 

What's it about? Brody is sixteen, gay, and lives in a tiny flat in Edinburgh with this mam, dad, older brother Jake and younger sister Keira. His dad is agoraphobic so can't work, his mum is a nurse and is working all shifts to try to make ends meet, but money is still really tight for the family. Brody feels invisible - Jake goes to a private school and is headed for Cambridge, so all their parents' attention goes to him. 

Brody is bullied by two girls at school, Leanne and Michelle. At the very beginning of the book, they've kidnapped his cat, Tinker Bell, and are teasing Brody. He (and Tink) are saved by a boy dangling out of a flat window. The boy is wearing huge blue wings, and he comes down to talk to Brody. His name is Nico and he invites Brody along to a meeting place at 11.21pm the following Thursday.

Brody sneaks out and heads there. He meets Nico and his friends Zahra and Kasia, and then something magical happens. A door opens up and when they pass through they're in a wonderful world called Everland. It's magic there, there's always something going on, there's markets to walk round, rivers, a library, parties to attend. There, Brody finally feels like he can be himself. He can drum with a band, he can wear costumes and make up. 

Kasia has experience of someone staying in Everland, and she warns Brody to be careful, to think about when he'll never come back again, but Brody is falling in love with Nico, his real life sucks, and Everland is so alluring...

I found this to be such a good book. I wasn't sure what I thought of it to begin with. I loved Everland, though. It sort of reminded me of the Enid Blyton books about the Magic Faraway Tree, where you were never sure what land would be at the top of the tree, and where you had limited time to leave, or get stuck. I'm not a big reader of fantasy but this was perfect - a contemporary setting with fantasy slipped in as if it was perfectly normal. I loved Brody a lot; I really felt for him and understood where he was coming from, but I also loved the cast of characters around too. I'm so glad Lucinda bought this for me because I probably wouldn't have picked it up for myself but I loved it. There's a lot about modern life, modern struggles, modern familes, but with this beautiful fantasy place - don't all struggling teens wish they had a place to escape to? 

What age range is it for? 13+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yeah, Brody is gay, although he's still closeted - except in Everland, and to his friend Megan. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, although it's not really a plot strand. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, Brody's dad is agoraphobic. I loved how this was portrayed: sensitively, realistically, painfully. Brody is often angry with his dad even though he knows it's not his fault, and I felt like this was incredibly well written and realistic. The reader understood why Dad was ill, and that he was ill and couldn't help it, but also felt for Brody too. I hope that makes sense - there's no shaming of Brody's dad being ill, it's understood that it's an illness like any other. Brody is very understanding, but does get frustrated sometimes, which is a symptom of every other shitty thing in his life. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No I don't think so, maybe a few mentions

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

Are there swear words? A few 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none. I loved the world this was set in, I loved Brody and his family. The only thing I would say is that I wish Brody had confided in adults more - but that's because I'm an adult, not a teenager, I'm sure!

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely. Even if you don't like fantasy, take a chance. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Like I said, I just wanted to read my birthday books soon! 

What do I think of the cover? It's cute isn't it! Pink and black is so eye catching, I love it! 

What other books is it like? It is for me like some unholy crossover of Alex in Wonderland and The Maze Runner (which I read before I started this blog). Obviously it's much less dystopian than The Maze Runner, but the existence of a world other than the one that the protagonist is in really seemed like it. Plus the door was only open once a week... it just had that vibe of this world and another, one which is unknown and confusing. 

How many stars? Five out of five. 

Where is the book going now? I will definitely keep it!

Big Girl Small Town by Michelle Gallen

Thursday, February 6, 2020

I saw this book while browsing Netgalley and was intrigued by the premise. I was granted access, and then I saw Nicola Coughlan, who plays Clare in Derry Girls, say that she was narrating the audiobook. I immediately put the book to the top of my mental to read list, and picked this up in the middle of January. I was away for my birthday and find it easier to read on my tablet while away on holiday.

The book is set in the early noughties and is about a young woman called Majella, who lives in a small town on the Northern Irish border with her ma, Nuala. Majella is clearly autistic, although not, as it's mentioned, diagnosed as such. She works in the chip shop in the small town, six days a week, alongside Marty. She gets free food when the shop shuts, she goes home, eats her food, deals with her drunken mother, and goes to bed. She and Marty sometimes have sex. She has lists of bad things - small talk, the flickering light in the shop - and lists of good things. She treats herself to a new duvet.

Her da disappeared quite a few years ago when Majella was a child, after the death of her uncle Bobby. Bobby was an IRA member and her dad never recovered, so disappeared. Her grandma lives on a farm up by the border, but at the beginning of the book she's been murdered. The book is in no way linear so we don't get really the story of what happened to her grandma, but we do understand how Majella feels about it and about her grandma.

Her mum is clearly an alcoholic and there's lots of stuff around this, which may be triggering for some readers. Majella doesn't seem to cope very well. She very much seems autistic and flicks her fingers and rocks as coping mechanisms. There's some sexual content and some graphic violence too.

I wouldn't say Majella is an altogether likeable character, but I did like her. I felt like I understood her, and I felt like she was sympathetic in her cloistered, claustrophobic life. The non-linear structure means that there were loads of things that I wanted to know still at the end of the book, but I quite liked that.

The styling of the novel is a bit odd and took me a while to get into. There's no speech marks, which will get it compared to Normal People by Sally Rooney, I'm sure, but speech is set out enough for you to understand who is speaking. There's also names not capitalised, and other words capitalised for apparently no reason, but I liked this and thought it added to who Majella is as a person. The book will be compared to Milkman by Anna Burns, which I personally truggled to get into, but I guess the comparison is fair especially given the subject matter and setting.

I'm giving this book four out of five - I really enjoyed it and am glad I read it! I hope the author does some more fantastic things in the future.

Big Girl Small Town is published by John Murray Press, so many thanks to them for granting me access to this book and giving me the chance to review it. The book will be published on the 20th of February 2020. I was given an ecopy of this book for review, but was not otherwise compensated. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Where did I get it? My BFF Sam bought it for me for Christmas, she said to let her know if there was anything particular I wanted and I said this. 

What's it about? Emoni is seventeen and in her last year of high school in Philadelphia. She has a lot going on in her life. She had a baby, Emma, better known as Babygirl, when she was fifteen. She lives with her grandmother, 'Buela (short for abuela, meaning grandma), as her mum died when she was born, and her dad, Julio, lives in Puerto Rico where he grew up. Babygirl has to start daycare because 'Buela wants to look after her less (which she's entitled to do!), at the same time that Emoni starts her senior year.

Emoni doesn't really trust boys since what happened with Babygirl's dad, Tyrone. So when there's a new boy at school, Malachi, she tries to keep him at arm's length. She tells him they're not even friends. She has enough going on in her life.

Emoni loves to cook. She was taught by 'Buela but she also has magic in her hands and cooks amazing dishes, especially dishes that remind 'Buela of living on the island. So when there's a new cooking elective at school, she really wants to do it. It also includes a trip to Spain, meaning Emoni will need to fundraise hard to have enough money to go. 

She starts the class - which Malachi is also in - and soon comes up against Chef Ayden because she keeps putting her own spin on dishes instead of following the instructions. Plus 'Buela is keeping her own secrets, and Emoni is trying to just make it through. 

The book encompasses an awful lot of time in Emoni's senior year, and a LOT happens. There's loads of lovely things, some difficult things, some heartbreaking things. I LOVED the book. I loved Emoni, I loved everything she had been through with her pregnancy, I loved how she dealt with Babygirl and Tyrone. I loved her BFF Angelica, who is gay and dating a girl called Laura (Emoni cooks for them!). I loved the school setting. I loved Malachi, who was just gorgeous. I loved 'Buela and everything she did for Emoni and Babygirl and also all the cooking the two women shared. I liked The Poet X, but I LOVED this. It was, for me, close to a perfect book. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Angelica is, I guess she's not a main focus of the book but I liked how she was just there. She's a fabulous friend. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yep! Nearly everyone! Emoni talks a lot about being Afro-Puerto Rican and what that means to her. Malachi is very dark skinned and asks Emoni about her ethnicity, which I really liked as a conversation. There's a lot about Puerto Rico that I didn't know, so I really enjoyed that. It's fab. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, there's quite a bit and I would say it is quite explicit

Are drugs mentioned or used? I think there might be a mention but that's it. 

Is there any talk of death? A little bit. Emoni's mother died in childbirth with her and this is described a little. 

Are there swear words? Yep. 

What criticisms do I have? Gosh almost none. There were a couple of times where I felt time skipped oddly, but I understood by the end that there was just so much to fit in, so it made sense. But it was a little jarring at times. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely. Acevedo is an author to definitely keep an eye on. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I'm still trying to read all my Christmas books straight away, and I actually finished this in the middle of January but have spaced my blog posts to now. 

What do I think of the cover? I love it! It's Emoni with her hair up ready to cook. 

What other books is it like? It's like The Poet X, but it's also like Belly Up by Eva Darrows which I also really liked. 

How many stars? Five out of five. Like I said, it's almost perfect. 

Where is the book going now? I will most definitely keep it!

Three Daughters of Eve by Elif Shafak - Review

Saturday, February 1, 2020

This book is for my book club, so I bought it off eBay over Christmas. I'm determined to attend more meetings this year and to persevere with the books so that I can talk about them, even if I don't particularly like them. The point of book club for me - apart from a social one - is very much to push me out of my comfort zone by making me read books that I wouldn't otherwise pick up. And this indeed is a book that I wouldn't have ever picked up.

Lynn had read this book before so this was her choice for January. It's about a woman called Peri and has a dual narrative set both now, in 2016, and in the past, in Peri's teens and early 20s.

In the 2016 narrative she is in her mid 30s, living in Istanbul where she grew up, and married to Adna. She is in the car with her daughter Deniz one evening, heading to a party, when her handbag is taken from the back of her car. She pulls up and sets off after the thieves. She confronts a tramp, who upends her bag and attacks her. Her daughter saves her and the two pick up some of her belongings, including a Polaroid photo of Peri, two other girls, and a man.

In the 2000 narrative, Peri is at university in Oxford. She has had a somewhat interesting chilhood in Istanbul, caught between her parents. Her mother is a devout Muslim, but her father is more secular. He smokes and drinks, and never prays. The two of them often fall out. Peri's older brother goes to prison for being a radical. Mensur, Peri's dad, makes plans for her to go to Oxford and she does. There she meets Shirin, an Iranian girl who thinks Muslim women should never wear hijab, and is encouraged by her to take a particular seminar taught by a man called Azur. It is about God, and Peri feels both the lure of talking about religion and of Azur himself.

In the class she also gets friendly with Mona, who wears hijab. She and Shirin are the other two girls in the photo with Peri and Azur. The September 11th hijackings happen which changes how the women are treated in Oxford.

Meanwhile back in 2016 Peri heads to a party held by her friends, although she feels like an outsider. Her friends are never written about by name but are called "the businessman", "the CEO" and so on. She borrows Adnan's phone to speak to her mother and ask for Shirin's number.

It's obvious there's some kind of scandal that happened back in 2002 in Oxford, but it's not clear what until very near the end. And honestly, I didn't think the pay off was worth it. It took me ages to get into the book - honestly I was about halfway through before I was really gripped - and then I felt there was a lot of beginning and not enough ending. I didn't like it very much even though I really liked Peri and understood where she was coming from religiously and ethically, even though I didn't fully understand her. I wouldn't say I loved the book, and I'll be interested to see what others thought of it. I'm giving it three out of five.

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens - Review

Thursday, January 30, 2020

I first read this back in 2016 on my Kindle, but I didn't own it in paper. I wanted to own all the Detective Society books in paper, so when we met Robin Stevens last month Lee bought this for me as a Christmas present. I really wanted to reread it as I remember it being the best of the series, and I didn't want to wait too long after Christmas, so I started this at the first weekend of January.

It is definitely my favourite of what is a fantastic series of books. Hazel and Daisy are spending Christmas in Cambridge with Daisy's brother, Bertie. He is a student at the fictional Maudlin college and lives on staircase 9 with a number of people, including Donald and Chummy Melling. The two are twins, and Donald, as the elder twin, is poised to inherit rather a lot of money on Christmas Day when he turns 21. A number of things have happened to him which make it look like Chummy is trying to get rid of him so that he can inherit the money himself.

Daisy and Hazel are staying at St Lucy's college with Daisy's great aunt, who is a professor. During the day they're supposed to be looked after by Amanda, a student, but she ditches them to rush around Cambridge on a mysterious errand, meaning Daisy and Hazel are free to watch the Melling brothers and try to unearth the mystery.

Their friends Alexander and George are also there. They met Alexander while on the Orient Express in a previous book, and he and Hazel have been writing to each other ever since. Hazel has a bit of a crush on Alexander, but it turns out he only has eyes for Daisy, who is very scornful about this. Meanwhile George turns out to have an Indian dad so even though he was born in Britain he sticks out in the same way that Hazel does, and the two bond over that. The boys have a detective society too, and the two groups work together to try to get to the bottom of what is going on and, later, who has committed a murder.

I love this book because Cambridge is described really vividly and beautifully throughout the book. You can really imagine yourself on staircase 9, or on the backs, or wandering through town when it's all decorated for Christmas. There's always a bit of a focus on food in these books, but nowhere is it better than in this book, where there's Christmas food everywhere and plenty of celebrations going on. It has such a lovely festive feel to it and I wanted both girls to enjoy themselves so much!

I thoroughly enjoyed my reread and am still giving this book five out of five.

Year in Review - 2019

Monday, January 27, 2020

How many books read in 2018?
107, although Goodreads had me on 105, I'm not sure what happened although it may be due to books I didn't finish? I had put my challenge at 60 books and way surpassed that. I think it might be the first time I've ever read over a hundred books in one year!

How many were on paper and how many electronic?
I read 49 paperbacks, 40 ebooks, and 18 hardbacks. That's way more hardbacks than I usually read! I think that's because I preordered some books, which turned out to be hardbacks, and because I read some books that were gifts. The ebooks I read were mostly from Netgalley, although I generally tried to request fewer books on there and tried to get to ones I was excited about relatively quickly. I think I did quite well with that actually. 

I read one graphic novel, which isn't something I'm usually into but I had had The Wicked + The Divine recommended to me. 

Fiction/Non-Fiction ratio?
I think I only read five non fiction books - a book about camping that I read first thing in 2019, Uncomfortable Labels by Laura Kate Dale, Happy Fat by Sofie Hagan, The (Other) F Word, and I Am I Am I Am by Maggie O'Farrell. I don't enjoy a lot of non-fiction, but I do like creative life writing like a lot of these are. 

Male/Female authors?
I read fourteen books by men this year and a further six that were either co-authored by men or had contributions from men in anthologies. This is actually more for me than last year by nearly 50%, and I think this is partly because I read more crime in 2019 which is often written by men. I think I said in my review that I was surprised when I learnt that S K Tremayne is a man!

I don't know that I read any nonbinary authors, but I maybe just don't know that they are. 

I read books by queer women and trans women and women of colour and disabled women, and any intersection thereof. A couple of the men I read were men of colour or queer men. 

Most books by a single author?
I read three books by Cara Hunter and I think that was the most.

Favourite book(s) read?
Oh gosh. I really enjoyed Jack of Hearts (And Other Parts) by L C Rosen, Early Birds by Laurie Graham, Dry by Neal and Jarrod Shusterman, The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell and The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. 

Least favourite?
I haven't finished a book that I didn't like in 2019, I gave up on books a lot sooner if I wasn't enjoying them. I don't review books that I don't finish very often, because I think it's mean to authors! 

Oldest book read?
I guess technically it was Fire in the Blood by Irene Nemirovsky, as the words were written before her death in 1942

Any of the Netgalley ones that aren't out yet. A friend of mine got into Netgalley in 2019 and really enjoyed all the digital copies she managed to secure! It is a great resource. 

Longest book title?
It's got to be The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee, hasn't it? 

Shortest title?
Pulp by Robin Talley. I had forgotten how much I liked that book actually. 

How many re-reads?
I honestly don't think I reread any books in 2019! It's not something I do a lot - there's so many new books to read!

Any in translation?
Not to my knowledge. 

How many of this year's books were from the library?
Ten! I kept a much better record of this in my bullet journal/catch all journal, on a page near my list of books. I requested a couple of books to come into my local library for me, which I find really useful. 

Here's to 2020's books! I've set my Goodreads challenge as eighty books, although I would like to surpass this. We'll see!

The Years That Followed by Catherine Dunne - Review

Saturday, January 25, 2020

This was the first of my Christmas books that I read. My friend bought me it and like I said, I didn't know the author but I was really intrigued by the blurb and started reading this really soon into the new year. It's a dual narrative told from the points of view of two women, Calista and Pilar, and the novel spans over thirty years in time from the 50s to the late 1980s.

At the beginning of the book, Calista is in her late thirties and is living in a secluded house in the Spanish countryside. It is 1989 and she's alone, having clearly survived some tragedies. She gets a phone call telling her that her ex husband, Alexandros, and his new wife, Sandra, are dead. She is the reason why - she hired a hitman to kill them. The novel takes us through the past thirty years of Calista's life, since she was a teenager in Dublin, growing up with a Spanish mother and Irish father. Her father is doing business with Alexandros' family, and he comes to visit.

He is around thirty at this point, and seduces Calista. She ends up pregnant and the two get married and head to Alexandros' native Cyprus, where they live with his parents Petros and Maroulla. Calista struggles to fit in with them and their rules and their culture, and she longs to be back in Dublin with her parents and brother. Their daughter Imogen is born and Alexandros starts being violent towards Calista. She lives on eggshells around him and makes plans to leave.

Meanwhile, Pilar is the youngest daughter of a poor family in the same Spanish countryside where Calista ends up decades later. It is the 1950s and Pilar wants more than staying on the family farm. With the help of her dying mother she escapes to Madrid, where she works hard and is helped by an old family friend, Senor Gomez. She meets Petros, Alexandros' father, and begins an affair with him.

In the 1980s she is the porteria of an apartment building that she also happens to own. She is the person who discovers the bodies of Alexandros and Sandra.

Calista and Pilar are linked almost from the beginning of the narrative, but they do not know that until the mid 1980s, and they don't understand the full links between them even then. I thought that was really brilliant, and I really enjoyed reading about both women and understanding how they came to be where they are by 1989. There are so many strands to this book and they're all woven together amazingly. I liked both women and loved seeing so much of their entire lives. The book is really compelling and I now want to press it into the hands of everyone I know! I may start with my mum.

I'm giving this a well deserved five out of five.

Criminal Actions by M A Comley Blog Tour

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

I'm really happy today to welcome you to my blog for this book tour! Please stay and have a look around at my other posts!

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Justice series, M A Comley who has sold over two and a half million copies worldwide to date.

In a position of trust...

What happens when that trust is broken?

Jacinda Meredith follows her boyfriend south from Scotland. After a few weeks she finds a dream job working as a nanny for Sadie and Leonard Knox. However, all is not as it seems.

DI Nelson and his partner are called to a murder scene which turns out to be both horrifying and perplexing.

Other cases soon come to light.

Does this mean Nelson has yet another serial Killer on his patch?

Other books in this series are:
Torn Apart
End Result
In Plain Sight
Double Jeopardy
Criminal Actions


This is the fifth book in the series but it can definitely be read as a standalone novel, which I liked. The beginning of the book is really disconcerting, seeming quite cosy, but then things take a dark turn. I found the book quite gruesome, and I'm used to reading crime novels. I liked the police involved especially DI Nelson (who I kept thinking of as DI Nelson from Elly Griffiths' novels, so I pictured them the same!). I would read something else by M A Comley.

Author Bio:

M A Comley is a KINDLE UNLIMITED ALL-STAR author as well as being a New York Times, USA Today, Amazon Top 20 bestselling author, she has topped the book charts on iBooks as a top 5 bestselling and reached #2 bestselling author on Barnes and Noble. Over two and a half million copies sold world wide. She’s a British author who moved to France in 2002, and that’s when she turned her hobby into a career. 
When she’s not writing crime novels as well as caring for her elderly mother, she’s either reading or going on long walks with her rescue pup Labrador, Dex.
Here is a list of her books, Cruel Justice, Impeding Justice, Final Justice, Foul Justice, Guaranteed Justice, Ultimate Justice, Virtual Justice, Hostile Justice, Tortured Justice, Rough Justice, Dubious Justice, Calculated Justice, Twisted Justice, Prime Justice, Heroic Justice, Shameful Justice, Immoral Justice and Overdue Justice. There are several novellas and short stories in the series too.
No Right To Kill, Killer Blow, The Dead Can’t Speak, Deluded and The Murder Pact in the DI Sara Ramsey series. 
Her other successful series are: The DI Sally Parker thriller series, which includes WRONG PLACE, NO HIDING PLACE, COLD CASE, Deadly encounter and Lost Innocence
The DI Kayli Bright Trilogy – The Missing Children, Killer on the Run, Hidden Agenda, Murderous Betrayal and Dying Breath. 
There are three books in the Intention series, Sole Intention, Grave Intention and Devious Intention.
Plus a couple of standalone novels – EVIL IN DISGUISE and FOREVER WATCHING YOU.
I’ve also penned a cozy mystery Private Investigator series – Murder at the Wedding, Murder at the Hotel and Murder by the Sea.
As well as co-authoring the Deception Series co-authored by fellow NY Times bestselling author, Linda S Prather Clever Deception, Tragic Deception and Sinful Deception.
You can follow M A Comley via:-
Twitter @Melcom1

The Perfect Mother Blog Tour

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Hello and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for The Perfect Mother by Caroline Mitchell! 
Please have a look around my blog and read some other posts!

I enjoyed the book although I thought it was slow to get going. I liked Roz and I liked her background, but I thought how she ended up in NYC was a bit contrived. I thought there was a lot of suspense but I wasn't sure how exactly the ending worked out for me. Still, I would read something else by the same author. 

She thought they wanted her baby. But they won’t stop there.
Roz is young, penniless and pregnant. All she wants is to be the perfect mother to her child, but the more she thinks about her own chaotic upbringing, the more certain she is that the best life for her baby is as far away as possible from her hometown in Ireland.
Determined to do the right thing, Roz joins an elite adoption service and can’t believe her luck. Within days she is jetting to New York to meet a celebrity power couple desperate for a child of their own. Sheridan and Daniel are wealthy and glamorous—everything Roz isn’t. Her baby will never go hungry, and will have every opportunity for the perfect life. But soon after Roz moves into their plush basement suite, she starts to suspect that something darker lurks beneath the glossy surface of their home.
When Roz discovers she isn’t the first person to move in with the couple, and that the previous woman has never been seen since, alarm bells start ringing. As the clock ticks down to her due date, Roz realises her unborn baby may be the only thing keeping her alive, and that despite her best intentions, she has walked them both into the perfect nightmare…

Author Bio:

An international #1 and New York Times, USA Today and Washington Post bestselling author, Caroline originates from Ireland and now lives with her family on the coast of Essex. A former police detective, Caroline has worked in CID and specialised in roles dealing with vulnerable victims, high-risk victims of domestic abuse, and serious sexual offences. She now writes full time, with over a million books sold.
As well as her crime series, Caroline also writes stand-alone psychological thrillers. The most recent, Silent Victim reached the Amazon number 1 spot in the UK, US and Australia and won first place as best psychological thriller in the US Reader’s Favourite Awards. Her previous thriller, Witness, was shortlisted for the International Thriller Awards in New York. She has also been shortlisted for ‘Best Procedural’ in the Killer Nashville awards. Her crime thriller, Truth And Lies recently became a No.1 New York Times best seller and has been optioned for TV. Her works have been translated worldwide and her book, The Silent Twin, has been converted as an interactive app in the Chapters Interactive game. 

The Understudy by B A Paris, Sophie Hannah, Clare Mackintosh and Holly Brown - Review

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

I bought this at The Book Vault in Barnsley in December and wanted to get to it quickly so I picked it up over Christmas. The front cover and blurb had appealed to me in the shop, and I was excited to read it.

It's about four women who are all mums of girls attending a prestigious staqge school in London. The women are Bronnie, Kendall, Carolyn, and Elise, and their daughters are Bel, Ruby, Jess, and Sadie. At the very beginning of the book all four women are sitting in the office of the headmaster, Adam, because a music box has been found in Jess' locker. It played her audition song Castle on a Cloud, and featured a mutilated ballet dancer, with one arm missing. Carolyn sees this as a clear threat against her daughter, especially given that the previous year Ruby bullied Jess. Carolyn wants Ruby expelled, but the girls are friends now. Adam smooths things over and asks the women to get the girls to look after a new student, Imogen.

They do this, but it becomes clear that something is wrong with Imogen. She always seems to be where she isn't supposed to be, and she gives Elise the creeps at a sleepover the girls have. She tells Bronnie one story about her life, and bad things seem to happen around her often. The women try to find out what is going on at the school.

The women aren't exactly friends, and their allegiances shift throughout the book. None of them are exactly likeable, and they all do really stupid things. I liked the beginning of the book but found the final third just didn't gel with me. The payoff wasn't worth it, to me.

The four authors write one of the women each. I'm not familiar with any of the authors except for Sophie Hannah who I read a few years ago, but I thought the women were written pretty well and differently from each other. I would have liked to see some more of the girls themselves, both with and without Imogen, but that might just be me.

As I say the ending didn't entirely work for me, so I'm giving this three out of five.

The Missing Letters of Mrs Bright by Beth Miller - Book Tour and Review

Saturday, January 11, 2020

I'm really happy today to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for The Missing Letters of Mrs Bright by Beth Miller. I was intrigued by the premise of this book so signed up for the tour. I read the book before Christmas and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The book is about a woman called Kay Bright and at the beginning of the book she leaves her husband, Richard. She has been married to him for nearly thirty years and they have two children together, Edward and Stella. Edward lives in Scotland with his wife and children but Stella has only just left the family home in London to move out to Romford in Essex. Richard owns a few stationery shops and Kay is the manager of one of them. Richard's shops have kept him away from the family for years and Kay has finally got to the end of her tether. She packs a few things, goes downstairs, gives her wedding ring to Richard, and leaves.

Firstly she goes to Bryn Glas, in Wales, a family friend's cottage that she has used a few times for holidays. Her best friend Rose comes to visit and the two start reminiscing about past times and about all the things they wanted to achieve in life. They climb Snowden together and then Kay decides to take off to Australia to see their mutual friend Bear, who emigrated there many years before.

Meanwhile there are chapters from Stella's point of view too. She's blindsided by the fact that her parents are splitting up, and ends up having to look after her dad back in London. She has been working with her friend Gabby, but the distance isn't helping her relationship with her boyfriend Theo and she isn't sure what's going on with them. She ends up going to a support group for adult children of divorced parents.

I liked the book and thought it had a warmth to it. There were some bits I didn't like - like I thought what happened with Theo was a bit daft. Edward's character wasn't as well developed as I would have liked. But mostly, I thought this was an interesting and compelling book and I would read something else by the same author. I liked Kay, I wanted her to succeed, and I understood a lot of the things she did even if I thought they were daft in parts!



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