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The Darkest Evening by Ann Cleeves - Review

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

I got this from the library in May. I had read the first chapter in a sneak preview in the back of The Long Call back in February and was intrigued, so I reserved the book at the library. I haven't read many of the Vera books, but I love the TV series so was keen to get stuck into this.

So, a couple of weeks before Christmas, Vera is driving home in the snow, when she takes a wrong turning. She's pretty sure the lights she can see are a village called Kirkhill, where there's a pub with rooms, so she reckons she'll take her chances there. However, she finds a car abandoned in the snow - with the door left wide open. She leaves her card, and then realises there's a baby in a car seat in the back. She takes the baby and heads towards the lights. When she gets closer, she realises they're not the lights of the village but are the lights of a big house called Brockburn. It's somewhere Vera knows well - it's where her father Hector grew up. His brother inherited the house and the money, and when she was younger Vera can remember visiting Crispin, his wife Harriet, and their daughter Juliet. Crispin is now dead, like Hector, and Juliet is married to Mark. They're having a dinner party when Vera turns up with the baby. 

She makes herself comfortable in the kitchen, but then there's a knock on the door. It's one of the estate's tenant farmers, and he's found a body in the snow. Vera and her team must then solve the murder, while dealing with Vera's estranged members of family, who are hiding something - but is it to do with the murder, or not.

I really liked the beginning of the book, but there was a bit in the middle that I felt was slow. But then the end picked up, and the very end was very atmospheric and almost gothic. I liked the book, I'm giving it four out of five. 

The Dinner Guest by B P Walter - Review

Saturday, June 26, 2021



I almost bought this book in Waterstones when I went recently, but I'm really glad I didn't. Instead I bought it on Kindle for 99p and I suppose it is worth 99p but not much more. It is one of those books full of posh people - in this case literal millionaires and aristocrats - where absolutely no one is sympathetic and you sort of wish they'd all died. 

So, at the beginning of the book, Charlie's husband Matt has been killed at dinner, and a woman called Rachel has immediately confessed to the murder. Charlie and his and Matt's adopted son Titus are taken to the police station to answer questions, and Charlie's mother swoops in too to look after them.

The book slips backwards and forwards in time, so we see almost a year ago, when Charlie and Rachel meet for the first time, and then how Matt invites her to join his book club. Charlie however thinks there's something strange about her from the off, and he doesn't want to be her friend. At the first book club, Charlie finds her in his and Matt's bedroom looking at photos on the dresser. Matt thinks Charlie is overreacting, but then when Charlie's mother meets Rachel she reacts strangely too. 

Half the narrative is from Charlie's point of view, both before and after Matt's death, and half is from Rachel's point of view, mostly before the murder. There's a couple of weird parts at the end from other people's point of view. There's a few bits where the police are suspicious of Rachel's story and motive for confessing to killing Matt - but did she? If not, who did?

There's a lot of bits about Charlie and Matt's relationship, and some of its origins. There's also a lot of stuff about Titus - who I did have some sympathy for, even though he is a dick - and how he began acting out before Matt's murder. Then there's loads of just superfluous information and people recounting conversations from fifteen years ago, which I absolutely hate. Everyone is very posh, except Rachel, who is from an estate in Bradford, just so we know how not posh she is, and everyone has a lot of money. They're all annoying and Matt deserved to get stabbed in my opinion. 

I'm giving this three out of five but really, don't bother. 

The Miseducation of Evie Epworth by Matson Taylor - Review

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

 



I had heard good things about this book and then on a recent trip to Saltburn, I went into an independent book shop there. I googled and saw it was there, and I'm really glad we went in because it was a cute little shop and I'm sure they appreciated the custom just as things were opening up. I bought a book about selkies and other sea myths for my friend Lucinda. It was an absolutely beautiful edition and it just spoke to me, so I spent the money and sent it as a present for no reason to her.

And I bought this for me. I had seen a couple of friends read it and I liked the premise, so I bought it. Then I picked it up only a few days later - partly because it was at the top of the pile of books next to the bed, and partly because I wanted to read it.

I have to say that it didn't altogether live up to my expectations. It felt a lot like something I'd read before, it felt quite formulaic, and I guessed quite a few of the twists. The end did save itself for me slightly, but it's really only a 3.5 for me. 

So, it's 1962 and Evie is sixteen and has just finished her O levels. She isn't sure what she wants to do with her life, or what kind of Woman she will be. Although she is sure she won't be the same type of woman as Christine. Evie lives with her dad Arthur, who was widowed when Evie was a very small baby. Christine is their housekeeper. She's only 8 years older than Evie. She's been moving in to the farmhouse where Evie and Arthur live for quite a while, and she has Plans. She and Arthur get engaged and all her focus shifts to the wedding and to getting what she wants out of life. She and Evie don't get along, and she is determined to get Evie to get a job in the local salon and get her out of the farmhouse for good. She is aided in this endeavour by her mother, Vera, who is always around, and Mrs Swithenbank, a friend of Vera's who has problems with her bowels.  

Evie is somewhat of a dreamer and a loner. She spends a lot of time at her neighbour's house, Mrs Scott-Pym. Mrs Scott-Pym knew her mother, which is a nice part of the book, and spends a lot of time baking. The two of them decide to do some Yorkshire magic on Christine, and Mrs Scott-Pym also tells Evie about her daughter, Caroline, from whom she is semi-estranged. 

I didn't have a problem with any of this stuff, but I did feel like the story was a bit hackneyed and overdone. Evie is obsessed with Adam Faith, but later hears "four nice boys from Liverpool", which seems a bit of a trite storyline for something set in 1962. There was also some language use that I didn't feel Yorkshire people would have used in 1962 - I'm from Yorkshire myself and even as a little girl in the 80s people thought 'okay' was too much of an Americanism and said 'alright' or similar instead. I feel like a better copy edit here - from someone older who was from Yorkshire - would have helped. 

I was going to give this three out of five, but I do feel like the ending saved it slightly. But, I didn't love the book and I wouldn't read something else by the author. 

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon - Review and Blog Tour

Saturday, June 19, 2021


(This is a proof copy)

Where did I get it? I signed up to the blog tour and then I was lucky enough to win a raffled proofy copy. It arrived and I had forgotten signing up for the tour, but I was very excited to get stuck in to it! I read The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola years and years ago. 


What's it about? Evie is a senior in high school. She lives with her mum and sister Danica. She used to love romance novels and used to believe in Happily Ever After, but ever since her parents split up and she discovered her dad was cheating on her mum, she's lost her faith in love. She donates all her books to a little free library, and as she does she meets a mysterious woman who insists she takes a book called Instructions for Dancing. 

The book seems to give Evie magical powers - when she sees a couple kiss she can see their entire relationship planned out, including when and how they will break up. This makes her believe in true love even less. She tells her friend Martin about her visions. 

The book contains the address for a dance studio not far from Evie's house, so, encouraged by her Martin, she goes along. There, she meets instructor Fifi, and X, a rock musician from New York who, fuelled by tragedy in his personal life, is determined to say yes to everything in life. Fifi wants Evie and X to dance together in an amateur competition. Evie does think X is beautiful and smart and funny, but she's determined to not fall in love. 

Plus she's still not talking to her dad, unwilling to forgive him. 

This is a lovely romantic book. Evie and X are completely loveable characters with complex lives. I liked Evie's friends too, even though we don't see as much of them as I'd have liked. I loved the setting and all the minor characters. I lounged in bed one Friday morning finishing this book because I absolutely loved it and I wanted to know what happened, and it was worth it. 


What age range is it for? 14+ I think 


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? There's a subplot with two queer characters, which I won't spoil but which I did like 


Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, I think the only white people are Martin and their friend Cassidy.  


Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 


Is there any sex stuff? Very brief mentions 


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


Is there any talk of death? Yes, and it was SO SAD. 


Are there swear words? A few, judiciously used 

 

What criticisms do I have? None. Not one. It's lovely 


Would I recommend the book? Yep yep yep! 

What do I think of the cover? It's lovely and vibrant! I would pick it up in a book shop 

 

What other books is it like? It reminded me of anything by Elizabeth Acevedo. 


How many stars? Five out of five 

 

Where is the book going now? I will probably lend it to my friend Lucinda! 

 

Instructions for Dancing is out now. I was given a free copy of the novel for review purposes but was not compensated in any other way for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

20/20 by Carl Goodman - Review and Blog Tour


Hello and welcome to my blog for my stop on the tour for 20/20 by Carl Goodman. If you've never been here before, please do click around and read my other reviews. I often read crime novels - seems to be a 2021 theme - so there's plenty to go at. 

I was intrigued by the premise of this story so signed up for the blog tour. The blurb reads as below:

Can you see a killer before it’s too late?

On the first day of her new job, D.I. Eva Harris is called to the scene of a brutal murder at the heart of Surrey society. A shocking crime by a meticulous killer – who escaped with the victim’s eyes.

With the body drained of blood and no forensic evidence left at the scene, Harris’ efforts to find the killer becomes desperate. But as her investigation is complicated by corruption at the heart of the police, she doesn’t know who to trust on her own team.

As the pressure mounts, Eva realises the murder is even more horrific than it seems, and her own dreadful history threatens to be drawn out with it…

A dark and compulsive detective novel, for fans of Chris Carter and M.W Craven.

So yes, Eva turns up for her first day at work, needing to do several things. She needs to impress her boss, Sutton, who isn't too happy to have such a young DI in her team, and her underlings - Jamie, Raj, and Becks. She manages to do this latter one quite well, which I really liked. She is also doing something that the reader isn't certain of to begin with. There's a senior officer called Hadley who has Eva in his pocket, because he knows her secrets. He wants to know who in her station is telling secrets to a drug kingpin in Eastern Europe. However, Eva is determined to get out from under him, which is a strong thread of the novel. 

Anyway, back to the murders. The first one, Irina Stepanov, is brutal and forensic. There's almost no evidence to show who could have done this. Eva and a uniformed officer go to try to look for the killer, and end up having a stand off with him in what is the first of several attempts on Eva's life throughout the book. The murdered woman had her eyes removed, and there are links in that with the murders of three students several years ago, which remain unsolved. 

Another woman is murdered, and the detectives go back over the suspects from the previous case. However Eva is convinced that the two cases are separated. She needs to convince Sutton of that, though. Then a third body is found - this time belonging to a middle aged man, someone in quite a different demographic to the previous two victims. What is the link between the three? Eva gets an anonymous text message which starts off a chain of events to find the link and expose the killer.

This is quite a gritty and gory book, which I personally liked, but I know others may feel differently to me. I felt like there was a bit too much middle, but I'm not sure what I could have cut. I also felt some of the characters' names were too similar to others - there's Harris, Hadley, and Harred, for example - which confused me at times. But I liked Eva and wanted her to survive and succeed. I would read something else with her as DI, especially in her work on cybercrime, and I'm giving this four and a half out of five! 

This is Carl's first book and I think it's great for a debut. Here's his bio:

Carl Goodman is from Surrey and 20/20 is his first crime thriller. It introduces Eva Harris, a newly promoted DI with a computer science background, thrown in at the deep end with an especially gruesome murder. Carl likes hard-hitting, contemporary stories with dark and unusual themes and is currently working on more DI Eva Harris novels.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Carl201010



Mirrorland by Carole Johnstone - Blog Tour and Review

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Hello! I am so happy to welcome you today to my blog for the tour for Mirrorland. If you haven't been here before, please click around and read some of my other reviews! 

I was intrigued by the premise of the book, which is an adult book and somewhat of a thriller. I found it utterly compelling and read it really quickly. It flips between the past and the present, and between fantasy and reality, leaving the reader quite confused but utterly immersed in the story.

At the beginning of the book, Catriona, known as Cat, is returning from California, where she's been leaving for twelve years, to Edinburgh, where she grew up. She is returning because her twin sister Ellice, known as El, has disappeared and is feared dead. Cat is certain she isn't dead - because she would know, wouldn't she? She would feel it. She's certain.

She returns to 36 Westeryk Road, which is the house she and El grew up in, alongside their mother and their grandpa. He was an ex Navy man and was often violent and unpredictable. This is obvious from the start of the book but the true extent of it isn't revelead until the end. 

El now lives in the house with her husband Ross, who, it turns out, was also a childhood friend of the twins and with whom Cat had a prior relationship. Ross has an alibi for El's disappearance but suspicion falls on him anyway. Cat isn't sure whether to trust him or not. She also meets two friends of El's, both of whom want news about her sister. 

El had a boat and was a proficient sailor, but no trace of her boat has been found. The police explain what tracking equipment has gone wrong on the boat, and also that the search will be scaled back. Cat starts to receive threatening cards, hand delivered to the house, and learns that El had received the same too. She learns that Ross and El's marriage was rocky, but she still isn't sure if Ross is a killer.

Then there's the house itself. The twins' mum told them fairy stories and fantasy stories, as well as reading them stories about escape, like Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. The girls also built up a rich fantasy world in their minds. Each bedroom is a whole world, including Bedroom 3 which they were never to go in. The girls were terrified of Bluebeard, and of the Tooth Fairy, who was scared of clowns. The house also has an under passage, which the girls imagined as their very own ship, with their very own crew, including Mouse. I was a little confused about the geography of the passage, so I hope I've got it right. It is accessed via a back staircase into the garden. 

Back in the present day, Cat begins to receive emails that could be from El, or could be from someone else, or... she's not sure. The emails give clues to Cat which unearth pages from El's diary from when the girls were small, when something happened when they were twelve which ended their first life. Cat is alternately in anguish for and angry with her sister. 

I liked Cat and wanted her to be okay. She's lived through a lot of trauma and has estranged herself from her sister for over a decade. I really wanted to know what had happened and liked the resolution of the book. I'm giving this four out of five. It's so creepy in parts and the house is a true gothic horror complete with ringing bells! 

What You Want to See by Kristen Lepionka - Review

Sunday, June 13, 2021

 



I read the first book in this series back in February, and liked it enough that I wanted to read the next two, too. But I didn't want to buy them, so I requested them from the library. I've actually had them since late March and have renewed them twice, but I finally got round to this in mid May. 

So the series concentrates on a private investigator called Roxane Weary. Her dad was a cop and he's recently died, and Roxane is in touch with his ex partner, Tom. She is basically an alcoholic and her family is a little bit messy. She lives alone and she's very independent and absolutely scared of nothing.

At the beginning of this book, she's spent her time surveilling a woman called Marin Strasser. Her fiance Arthur has hired Roxane because he thinks she's cheating on him. Roxane has mostly followed her doing shopping, but nothing else. Then Arthur's check bounces, and Roxane figures she'll just cut her losses. But THEN Marin gets shot dead, and Tom and another officer turn up at Roxane's door to check her alibi. She then visits Arthur, who tells her that Marin has cleaned him out of $75,000. He pays her in cash, but while she's at his print shop, there's a drive by shooting that leaves a young woman dead and Arthur injured. He's still very much in the frame for Marin's death, but Roxane is certain he's not guilty. 

She then follows several leads and finds out about Marin's previous life, uncovering quite a lot of fraud and quite a lot of leads over her death. I liked the mystery in this book and I liked how Roxane seemed to be getting herself together a bit. I'm giving this four out of five. I'll have to read the next one soon! 

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid - Review

Thursday, June 10, 2021


I had seen a lot of hype around this book, so when I was in Waterstones the other day (which was lovely, although being in Meadowhall when so much was shut was kind of sad) I bought it. It was on buy one get one half price which I always end up buying! 

So, at the beginning of this book, 25 year old Emira is out celebrating the birthday of one of her friends, when her employer, Alix Chamberlain, calls her. Emira is a sitter for Alix's eldest daughter, Briar. There's been some emergency at the Chamberlain house, and the police are on their way, and Alix doesn't want Briar to see them. So she asks Emira to take Briar quickly. Emira agrees, mostly needing the promise of double pay, and goes over, even though she's in her party dress and has had a couple of drinks (both she and Alix agree this is fine by the way, it's not a judgement!) Emira takes Briar to a local supermarket, where a security guard then stops her and asks if she - a black woman - has kidnapped the white child. Emira explains who she is, and eventually calls Briar's dad, Peter, to come and explain the situation. 

While all this is happening, a white man, Kelley, is filming the whole exchange between Emira and the security guard. He and Emira keep in touch, and Kelley wants her to take the video viral to point out how she was racially profiled while just doing her job. Emira refuses to do that, wanting to just move on with her life, but the two start dating. Kelley is a few years older than Emira, and has a lot of black friends. He lives a privileged life, which does cause friction between the two of them. 

Meanwhile, Alix is mortified by what happened to Emira and, suddenly aware of her white privilege, determines to make friends with Emira. Emira babysits three days a week so that Alix can go and do writing, which is her job. She is a blogger/influencer, who got famous writing letters in New York. She then had two babies in quick succession (Catherine is a few months old) and the family moved to Philadelphia. Alix feels out of the loop and past it, even though she's only in her early 30s. She has three friends back in New York that she relies on. She starts stalking Emira's phone, working out where she'll be and who with. She is just generally like a pushy white lady, but she comes off as a lot older than thirty three and a lot older than Emira. 

Emira's three friends all seem to be doing better than her, and she's got no idea what she wants to do for a living. She doesn't have much money, unlike her rich friend Shaunie. She feels pressure from her friends to get a 'real' job, and she needs better benefits than she currently has, but she adores Briar. Briar is painted as a bit of a weird kid, but she definitely really loves Emira. She strongly feels that she's not her mother's favourite, and that Catherine is, which does make Emira and the reader feel sorry for her. I actually think Briar is coded autistic, but that could just be me. 

Anyway, it turns out that Alix and Kelley used to date, in high school, and that they broke up in a very public way. Each of them has their own idea about what exactly happened between them, and honestly.... There's some grey area there. Neither of them is a particularly nice person, they both deserve bad things to happen to them on some level... and I wasn't very sympathetic to either of them in their break up. Alix has a lot of monetary privilege - although it's never explained what actually happened to her parents - and Kelley does fetishise black people and black culture. 

I like Emira. I wanted her to succeed. I thought the book was a bit protracted towards the end. I'm giving this a three and a half out of five. 

The Better Sister by Alafair Burke - Review

Monday, June 7, 2021

 


I got this book in my second box from A Box of Stories. I got a subscription that comes every 3 months, which is a good amount of time by me, and I got the mixed fiction box I think. Three of my four books this time had a bit of a crime vibe to them, but that's fine by me as I've been reading quite a lot of crime thrillers so far this year. I haven't heard of this book or author, but I was intrigued by the premise so I picked it up. 

Chloe is the prestigious editor of a women's magazine. She lives in New York with her husband Adam and son Ethan, and they have a second home out in the Hamptons. Adam is a lawyer, but he's fairly recently moved from being a state prosecutor to private practice. Chloe has done many feminist acts in her writing, and receives an award at the beginning of the book. However, the day after, Adam is found murdered in the East Hampton house, and there's evidence of a break in. Suspicion falls first on Chloe - who it turns out is having an affair with one of Adam's colleagues - and then Ethan.

However, the relationships aren't all that they appear. Chloe is Ethan's stepmother, and his biological mother is her own sister, Nicky. Nicky had a somewhat turbulent childhood and early adulthood, but seemed to settle down when Ethan was born. However, after one night when she endangered Ethan's life, Adam took Ethan and moved to NYC where he and Chloe started a relationship a few months later. Nicky has no contact with Ethan, and althought he calls Chloe Mom he does not she's not his biological mother. 

Chloe's parents are both dead and Nicky still lives in their house. But when she hears Adam has been murdered she quickly flies out to support both Chloe and Ethan. Chloe isn't thrilled about this, but feels she has no choice in the matter. 

I didn't mind the first galf of the book, but the second half got stupid and confusing. I didn't like the ending and the motive the person had for murdering Adam, and I thought there were way too many red herrings along the way. I sympathised with almost no one throughout the book, except maybe Ethan, and am giving this three out of five. 

Date Me Bryson Keller by Kevin Van Whye - Review

Thursday, June 3, 2021


Where did I get it?
I'd heard good things about it, and I saw on Twitter last November that it was 99p on Kindle, so I bought it then. I actually didn't realise it was so long ago until I just went to look at the order! 


What's it about? Kai Sheridan is 17 and a senior at a private high school in a town near LA in California. He lives with his parents and his sister Yazz, and the family is quite religious and somewhat conservative. Kai is gay, but he's not out to anyone in his life. 

He's at a New Year's Eve party with his best friends Priya and Donny, who are a couple, when top jock Bryson Keller gets dared to date a different person every week - whoever asks him out first thing at school on Monday morning. If he forfeits, he'll have to ride the school bus every day after spring break instead of driving his beloved Jeep. 

So for like eight weeks, this is what happens. Bryson gets asked out, he fake dates the girl all week, and then on Friday afternoon, they break up. Kai doesn't really pay too much attention because he's not in the popular circles, and because he has a crush on Isaac, who's in his drama class.

But then, one Monday, a whole load of things go wrong for Kai and Bryson, and they end up paired together for a drama project. Kai, frustrated, says "Date me, Bryson Keller!" There's nothing in the rules that says it has to be a girl to ask Bryson out, but because Kai is closeted still, they'll have to keep it secret. Bryson agrees. 

Then, by Wednesday, it seems like maybe Kai has feelings for Bryson - and that they are reciprocated. Bryson doesn't think he's gay, but he is figuring a few things out about himself - and he does like Kai. 

But what will happen when the week is over? And why are there some kids at school who just can't seem to leave them alone?

I liked this book and there's some really cute romantic bits. If I was fifteen I'd be swooning all over it! 

I will say there's some homophobic activity and language, and some violence, which I think need noting. 


What age range is it for? Thirteen plus 


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yep! Kai is, obviously, and I really loved how Bryson was working out his sexuality. 


Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, Kai is mixed race - his dad is Black and South African and his mum is White. 


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


Is there any sex stuff? No 


Are drugs mentioned or used? No 


Is there any talk of death? No 


Are there swear words? No I don't think so 

 

What criticisms do I have? For me as an adult I wanted something MORE from it, but I think I'm not being fair because I'm an adult. I know I'd have loved this book if I was a teenager. I'd probably be writing fic about it! 


Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely 


Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I had just heard good things about it and wanted to read it!
 

What do I think of the cover? It's cute! 

What other books is it like? I can't think of any specifically, but I like the fake dating trope 


How many stars? Four out of five.

 

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