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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!

Christmas Present Books 2019

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Here's a post about the books I got for Christmas 2019! I got fewer books than normal, although I think that is partly because I did fewer Secret Santas than I've done in previous years.

I'm notoriously bad at reading books that I'm given for either Christmas or my birthday, even though I love them and often was to read them. So I've decided that this year, I will try to read all of these books before the end of January 2020. We'll see how I get on with this goal!

First of all, Lee's mum bought me this vegan cook book. I went vegetarian in January 2019 and she saw this and thought I'd like it. I certainly do like eating vegan, so I'm excited to get to some of these recipes!

My cousin and his wife bought me Call Down the Hawk and I'm excited to get to it after I loved The Raven King so much. I've heard so many good things about this

My friend Laura and I often buy each other books and this year she bought me three: the Catherine Dunne, the Rupert Thomson, and East by Meera Sodha, which is a vegetarian cookbook with recipes from all over Asia in it. I have made some of her recipes before and the book looks fantastic so I'm excited about it. I haven't read anything by the other authors so they're new to me which is always exciting. 

My friend Sam asked me if there was anything I wanted for Christmas so I said Elizabeth Acevedo's newest book as I really liked The Poet X. I have really high hopes for this!

And finally Lee bought me the only Detective Society book that I didn't already have, Mistletoe and Murder, back when we met Robin Stevens in Sheffield in December. I feel so happy to have a full collection now, I will be finding shelf space for them all to sit together in published date order!

All Out - The No Longer Secret Histories of Queer Teens, edited by Saundra Mitchell - Review

Friday, January 3, 2020

I got this book for my birthday in January from my BFF Lucinda, who is a children's librarian and is queer and who often combines the two in the books she reads. I was looking for something on my shelves and saw this, and realised that I hadn't yet read it. I find reading anthologies of short stories is really useful over the Christmas period when I don't have a lot of time to sit and read and am often tired at night, so I picked it up.

The premise is that each story features at least one queer protagonist from a different period in history. Queer people have always existed, but thanks to cruel and homophobic societies, it hasn't always been possible for people to be out. The authors included in this anthology are well known YA voices including Malinda Lo, Dahlia Adler, Elliot Wake, Alex Sanchez and Robin Talley. There are gay characters, lesbian characters, some trans characters, and even some asexual ones. As with all short story anthologies, there are some that the reader will connect with more than others thanks to their own histories and so on. I particularly enjoyed the stories of a deaf and queer Will Scarlet and a queer Robin Hood, and need a whole book of this immediately please! I enjoyed the stories about two girls mourning the death of Kurt Cobain in 1994, and I loved the story about an asexual girl who loved rollerskating. I liked all the stories; there weren't any that I disliked. 

It's a fantastic anthology for any reader, but especially for queer teenagers of all shades. 

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