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The Sisters by Claire Douglas - Review

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

I'm writing this review three weeks after I read this book and it was quite forgettable, so I'm struggling to remember what it was about. That's a shame, because I enjoyed the other two books I've read by Claire Douglas much more than I enjoyed this one. I'm writing this a few weeks after finishing the book and I'm struggling to remember much about it. 

Abi is a twin, who used to live with her sister and their friend. But her twin was killed in a car accident and Abi had a breakdown shortly afterwards and is only now managing to live independently. She has moved from London to Bath, near to where her parents are, and is living in a small flat by herself. She sees her sister everywhere, thinking she sees her all over town. But then she meets Bea, who really does have a resemblance to Abi and her twin. Bea invites Abi to an open house at the huge house Bea owns, and when she goes, Abi finds herself getting drawn into Bea's world. She also has a twin, Ben, and the two tell the story of how they tragically lost their parents when they were young, which is how they can afford such a huge house. 

Bea is a jewellery maker and the house has three other residents who are artists too. One moves out, and Bea asks Abi to move in. Abi's friend thinks it's a very bad idea, but Abi is desperate to prove that she's fine, and desperate to be liked, so she does. However, she has only been there a few days when strange things start to happen. Precious things of Abi's go missing, an expensive piece of jewellery that Bea made is stolen, and a dead bird appears on Abi's bed. The immediate suspect is Cass, who is a photographer, who is jealous of Abi and Bea's friendship. Or is it Bea, made jealous by Abi's flirting with her brother, Ben? Or is it Abi herself, trying to get everyone to pay attention to her?

I felt like the premise of this was good but it just wasn't quite pulled off for me. I'm giving this three out of five.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins-Reid - Review

Saturday, December 17, 2022

I had heard people raving about this after I read Daisy Jones & The Six recently, so I requested it at the library. As you can see, this is a Readers Group Item so the librarian had to override the system to allow me to borrow it, and I had to faithfully promise to take it back just a week or two later if at all possible. That was fine, I took it back a week later when I went to my weekly craft club at Penistone library. This is the good thing about cultivating a relationship with your local librarians though - they're willing to do stuff like this for you!

So in this book a young journalist called Monique is called to her boss's office to say that Evelyn Hugo wants to to give them an exclusive interview. Evelyn is a reclusive film star, and her stipulation is that Monique must do the interview. Monique is very much a junior so her boss is surprised, but wants the story so much that she's prepared to send Monique. So Monique ends up in Evelyn's Manhattan apartment to listen to her story. Evelyn has decided to auction off some of her world famous dresses for charity, so Monique assumes the interview will be about this. 

However, Evelyn tells Monique that instead, she wants to give Monique her entire life story, which Monique will then auction off to the highest bidder as a book, which will obviously make her millions. Monique isn't sure how to make this fly with her employers, but the two start talking anyway. 

Evelyn has indeed been married seven times. She was born in New York and lost her mother as a child, and married her first husband in order to escape her abusive father. She made her way to Hollywood and made friends with someone at a studio, Harry. With him, she became a star in the 1950s, and became world famous. She had an abusive relationship with a costar, Don. I can't remember all seven of her husbands but I was so intrigued by all of them and their stories. But then it turns out that the real love of Evelyn's life was someone entirely unexpected, and someone who she hurt very badly, without ever really meaning to. 

I loved this book, I thought it was so compelling and interestingly written. I'm giving it four out of five.

How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie - Review

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

I have seen so many people read this book, and then two of my friends did it for their work book club, so I thought I would finally get around to it. I requested it at the library and picked it up soon after. It's a really strange book and I'm not entirely if I liked it,  but I did find it very compelling. 

So the unlikely heroine of the book is Grace. At the beginning of the book she is in prison, serving time for a murder she didn't commit. However, she has committed six murders, so there's some irony that she's serving time for something she actually didn't do. She has started writing the story of what happened with the six murders she did commit, keeping her paper concealed from her cellmate Kelly. Grace is definitely not likeable, but she is captivating. 

She was brought up by her single mother, who then died when she was only around twelve, I think. (I'm writing this review quite a while after I read this book as I just haven't been able to get my brain into gear!) She first of all goes to live with her mum's friend, Helene, but then Helene wants to move back to France so Grace moves in with her friend Jimmy's family. She is loved and accepted there, but she's already decided that she needs to kill several members of her dad's family. 

She knows who her dad is - a self made millionaire called Simon. He is married and has a daughter just a little bit younger than Grace. He knows that Grace exists and has for her whole life, but wants nothing to do with her life. Grace's plan is to kill her cousin, her uncle, Simon's wife and daughter, and then Simon himself. She will be sure to make them all look like accidents, and then when everything has died down a bit, she will reveal herself as a biological relative and demand some of the money. She wants to set herself up for a better life than how she grew up. 

It's a brilliant plan, until she's accused of a murder she didn't commit and ends up inside. She's got an appeal pending, though, and a very good lawyer. It's obvious that there's a twist coming but I didn't at all see what it was. It was a good twist, but I felt the end of the book was a little bit rushed. I also think that it's obvious that Bella Mackie is a journalist primarily - while this doesn't make her a bad writer, it does make her write in a certain way. 

I'm giving this four out of five though, and I would read something else by her! 

The Railway Murders by J R Ellis - Review

Sunday, December 11, 2022

You know I love J R Ellis' series focussing on DCI Oldroyd, based in Harrogate, but which take place all over North Yorkshire. You can read my previous reviews here. I like crime fiction anyway, and I especially like these as they're set in places I know and love. I've read all the previous books so I had this one on pre-order on Kindle, meaning it arrived on my device the moment it was released! Perfect! My mum really likes this series and she reckons she liked this one as one of the best of the series. I enjoyed it enough. 

So the book takes places in Skipton, on a heritage railway a bit like the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway that exists in real life. It is being used for the filming of a film, and on the day of the murder, a heritage engine and train reverses up the track for around a mile, then comes back down the track, passing through a tunnel, so that it can be filmed arriving at the station. Daniel Hayward, one of the stars of the film, will then get out of the train compartment to greet his family on the platform. The film is Edwardian, so everyone is dressed up in period costume. The train goes up the track, pauses in the tunnel, and the crew start filming for it coming back. They are waiting for Daniel to get off the train, but when he doesn't, the crew realise that he has been murdered in the compartment. Thanks to the set up of the train, there's little chance that someone could have got in or out of the compartment while the train was moving, meaning it's a bit of a locked room mystery. 

The officer in charge in Skipton, Bob Craven, calls Oldroyd over from Harrogate to help him with the case. Most of the actors are staying in a posh hotel, with a spa and outdoor pool, so Oldroyd decides to stay there too and take his girlfriend Deborah with him. That way they can have food together in the evenings and he'll have someone to talk to. However, this may end up putting Deborah in danger...!

I liked the book, although there was less of Oldroyd's underlings Steph and Andy than I'd have liked. I did feel like the end came a bit quickly, but all in all this kept me reading. I'm giving it four out of five. 

Forever Home by Graham Norton - Review

Thursday, December 8, 2022

You know that I like Graham Norton's books - I've read all his previous ones, which you can find reviews for here - so I keep an eye on new books by him. I saw this one was coming out so I requested it from the library. I am so thankful for my library and the easy system and the friendly librarians! I am trying to not buy as many books so using the library is perfect for me. 

So in this book Carol is a fifty something year old teacher. She has one son, an adult, who lives in London I think? She herself lives in a small town in Cork. She is divorced and for the past ten years or so she's been in a relationship with Declan. He's quite a bit older than her and has two children, Killian and Sally. Carol started off as Sally's tutor, which is how she met Declan. His wife disappeared several years before Declan and Carol got together. No one quite sees what Carol saw in Declan, but they have had quite a happy relationship.

But Declan has developed dementia, and over a few years it has become clear that Carol can no longer look after him in their home. Carol loves the house - three storeys, with worn oak floors - and knows that Declan didn't want it ever to be sold. But when Declan goes into a home, Killian and Sally reveal that they own the home, under a power of attorney made by a friend of Carol's who's a lawyer. They have always disapproved of Carol's relationship with their father, but she is shocked. She then has to move back in with her aging parents. Her father is the owner of a chain of coffee shops, meaning the family has a lot of money. So when Killian and Sally put Declan's house up for sale, Carol's dad sets out to buy it for her. Her mum is deeply suspicious of the family as a whole and of Declan's ex wife also, so when Carol gets the house she joins Carol in starting to sort it out. 

Meanwhile Killian and his husband Colin have a comfortable but dull life. Killian is quite a terrible person so I felt like he got everything he deserved, but he's such a snot about everything. They are expecting a baby but Killian's heart isn't in it. 

Sally is thirty-something and lives a somewhat dull life. But with the sale of the house, opportunities are opening up to her as she now has money. She isn't sure what she wants to do, but she knows working as a canteen cook isn't it. I felt sorry for Sally - she has been a bit forgotten by everyone in her life. I also really liked Carol - she seemed very resilient. I don't think we got to know Declan very well, but that might have been intentional thanks to his illness. 

I liked the book and think Graham is really good at spinning a whole yarn. However, this didn't hit as well as some of his other books for me. I can't fully explain why. But I'm giving it four out of five anyway! 

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid - Review

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

I have heard so many people raving about this book, so when I saw it in a charity shop on a recent trip to Holmfirth for just £1.50 I snatched it up. Then I had a conversation with the woman in the baker's who said she had loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and that I should read that! I'm on it - I have reserved it at the library after a bit of a kerfuffle. 

Anyway I picked this up in mid November. People on Instragram raved about it, but a couple said that they had found the structure weird to get into. It's not told in typical narrative structure. Instead it's told in oral excerpts, in interviews with Daisy and the six members of the Six. It's a brilliant way to tell a novel, and even though I found it quite difficult to get into, once I had then I definitely liked it. It's interesting because you get different people's points of view straight away, and you get differing versions of what happened. That's always true in life - people have different versions of the truth, especially when recollecting events that happened years and years ago. I liked picking up on the inconsistencies between what people said.

So Daisy Jones is from LA, child to two parents who don't really care about her. She is a singer and has a friend who is also a singer, Simone. As she gets older Daisy gets a recording contract, but she's stuck doing covers. It's the early 70s and Daisy is fashionable and cool. She wants to sing her own songs, though. She is also a drug addict. She undeniably has talent, but as the book goes on she is losing it due to her addictions. 

The Six are a band headed by brothers Billy and Graham. I'm writing this a few weeks later and I can't remember the names of the rest of the band, sorry, but there's Karen who plays keyboards and two more brothers, one of whom is called Eddie. He gets more and more displeased with the band as the years pass. He and Billy often fight with each other. Billy has a girlfriend, Camila, who he later marries. As The Six start their first tour Camila is pregnant, and with that pressure, Billy goes a bit off the rails. 

Daisy and the band get put together by their label, and while Billy doesn't want her anywhere near his band, even he can't deny that together they make brilliant music. Their fame escalates, and Daisy joins the band. They have one brilliant album and then split up - but why? Here is why. Daisy and Billy are drawn together, even while they desperately try not to be. 

I enjoyed the book - I'm a big music fan so I love stories like this full of drama and intrigue. I know that the book was inspired by the interpersonal lives of Fleetwood Mac, and I think that shows. I am giving this four out of five.

Blood Orange by Harriet Tyce - Review

Saturday, December 3, 2022

I feel like this was was everywhere in 2019 when it came out, so I bought it but then immediately forgot about it. But then I was looking for something else on my shelves and remembered how much I wanted to read this, so pulled it out. I'm really glad I did - it's utterly compelling and full of twists, and I now want everyone I know to read it.

The main character is Alison, who is a lawyer in London (I don't fully understand the difference between a barrister and a solicitor - I think she's a barrister and works under solicitors). She is married to Carl, who lost hus job a few years ago and has retrained as a therapist. They have a little girl called Matilda, who's about six. Carl does most of the childcare as Alison works long hours. 

Part of this is the culture of law firms, which expect everyone to be out at night drinking a lot. Alison basically does have a problem with alcohol - she often drinks more than she intends to and ends up doing things she doesn't really want to do. She is having an affair with Patrick, who works for a different law firm to her. But he has also just given Alison her first murder case. She does worry about what exactly she has had to do to get the case, but she's excited for her first murder. She and Patrick go to meet the defendant, Madeline. She insists that she is guilty of murdering her husband, Edwin, but Alison feels there's more to the story and advises that Madeline doesn't plead guilty immediately. Alison manages to unearth abuse by Edwin, and Madeline's story becomes clearer.

Meanwhile, Alison is determined to be at home more and be a better mother. She realises there are massive problems within her and Carl's marriage, and she is trying to mend things. But then she's late to pick Matilda up - but didn't Carl say he was picking her up? Carl insists he said he had a late client, but Alison isn't sure... 

She's also determined to break things off with Patrick, but that's easier said than done because Patrick has a knack of getting his own way. She keeps getting drawn back into his web, until something shocking about him comes out...

I really liked the book, I liked Alison and wanted her to succeed. I reckoned Carl was a wrong 'un right from the beginning - he has such a creepy vibe! I loved the look at law firm culture and how easy it was to get carried away in that. I would definitely read something else by the same author and am giving this five out of five.

A Town Called Solace by Mary Lawson - Review

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

This was the November choice, chosen by Margarate who never steers us wrong. I'm writing this before the book club meets, but I think generally the reaction to the book will be positive. We'll see though!

There are three strands to the book, which is set in 1972. First of all there's Clara. She is eight years old and lives in Solace, Northern Ontario, with her parents and older sister Rose. Rose is sixteen and just before the beginning of the book she has run away. This has happened before but she's only ever been gone for a couple of nights, not for a week or more. Clara has decided to stand in the window watching for her sister until Rose returns home, which is why she sees the man move into Mrs Orchard's house next door. She watches intently, watching him move Mrs Orchard's possessions around. She has to keep going next door because she promised Mrs Orchard that she would look after her cat, Moses, until she comes out of hospital. 

The man is Liam, and the second strand of the story is his. He is in his late thirties and he's just split up with his wife, Fiona. They lived in Toronto. Liam has been left the house by Elizabeth Orchard, a woman from his childhood who he barely remembers. Liam is an accountant, but he's quite dissastisfied with his life and ends up working for the local joiner/handyman. Everyone in the small town knows that he's arrived. The local sheriff comes to talk to him about the missing girl, but Liam obviously knows nothing but realises that the family next door - and especially Clara - are fragile

The third strand is Elizabeth. She is in hospital, at the end of her life. She was only supposed to be in for a couple of weeks, hence her asking Clara to look after that cat, but it turns out that her heart is failing and there's nothing doctors can do about it. She is reminiscing about her past, her thoughts directed towards her late husband. She goes over how they met Liam's family and how they got so attached to him that she would then leave him the house and, when she dies, most of her money.

I liked the story about Rose and Clara's naivety about the situation. I really liked Liam, who really grew over the course of the book. I didn't love Elizabeth's storyline, and I felt it was a bit obvious where it was going. I'm giving this four out of five because I mostly really liked it.

Name Upon Name by Sheena Wilkinson - Review

Sunday, November 27, 2022

I bought this book in Ireland when I was there in 2016. I meant to get to it much sooner but forgot about it, but then something reminded me so I dug it out. I was not thrilled by this book so it took me ages to read even though it's so short. It's a shame because I think it could have been so much better. 

Helen is fourteen and lives in Belfast with her Catholic mother and Protestant father. She goes to church with her father. Her mother is often ill, and her dad's family are hostile towards her. It's 1916 and World War One has been raging for two years. Helen's cousin Sandy has been injured on the front line so has been at home while he recuperates, but he's about to go back. He then goes with Helen to visit her mother's family, including her cousins Nora and Michael.

Michael wants to go and join the British army, but his parents are dead set against it. They want an independent Ireland, and don't think he should be fighting for the British. Nora is antagonistic towards Helen, which has repercussions later on in the book. 

I gave this three out of five as it really just wasn't my thing.

The Family Remains by Lisa Jewell - Review

Friday, November 25, 2022

You know I read and enjoyed The Family Upstairs in August, and that I had reserved this, the sequel. It took a while to get to me from the library but once it had I picked it up immediately because I know there are other people waiting for the book in the system so I want to get it back as soon as possible. I was also intrigued to see what would happen in a sequel. I was not disappointed! This review contains spoilers for the first book, so proceed with caution!

There are three strands to this story, like the first one, but with different people. First of all we have Henry, the same as before. Henry is very selfish and traumatised from what happened to his family, but he's been somewhat settled for the last year since Lucy and the kids came to live in his flat. He loves them, even though they bring chaos to his carefully ordered life, and he loves Libby, who is still happily living in St Albans. At the end of the first book the family discovered that Phin was living on a game reserve in Botswana, and they all wanted to go and find him, but Henry discovers that he is actually in Chicago, and takes off to find him. When Lucy works out what he's done, he blocks her number and tries to avoid being found.

Linked to this strand of the story is Lucy and the kids, Marco and Stella. She is putting an offer in on a house in St Albans now that she has money from the sale of Cheyne Walk, but she lives in fear of being arrested for what she did to Michael, Marco's father and her ex husband. She and the kids follow Henry to Chicago to try to find him and Phin.

The second strand of the story is Rachel, who was Michael's second wife. We see her meet him, have a whirlwind romance, and read how everything goes wrong between them (he is abusive towards her and it's graphic, so be careful there). I can't say I LIKED this strand of story, but I did find it compelling. Michael is so horrible and keeps popping back up in her life even when they've split up. Rachel depends on her dad but is trying to make it on her own. She's quite spoilt but I liked her and her strand of story. Her life intertwines with Lucy's in France, which I loved. 

Finally there's Samuel, a detective inspector. Bones are found on the banks of the Thames and investigation finds that they are around twenty five years old but they have been in the river for only around a year. They turn out to be the bones of Birdie, who lived in Cheyne Walk with Lucy and Henry back in the day. Samuel therefore contacts Libby, who has to cover up a lot of things for her family.

This is a really satisfying book and compelling to read. I felt like it had a good ending BUT if there's a third one I won't complain. I'm giving this four out of five!

The Swimmer by Graham Norton - Review

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

I was looking on the library system for Graham's new book, Forever Home, and saw this one, which I haven't read. I wasn't expecting it to be such a small book - it's one of those short story things - but that was fine, I still really enjoyed the story and am giving it five out of five.

A woman called Helen lives in Bantry Bay in the south west of Ireland, in a house right on the coast. She lives with her sister, Margaret, who irritates her and upsets her peaceful retirement. One day, Helen is sitting in the coastal garden when a man passes her on his way to swim. He is carrying a distinctive carrier bag, and speaks briefly to Helen. She watches him swim for a while, and then she falls asleep. When she wakes up an hour later the carrier bag is still on the beach and Helen gets worried. She raises the alarm with the local barman, Pat, whose life isn't panning out exactly as he would have wanted.

Police are called and reckon the man has drowned. They identify him as Tom Shine. Margaret goes on the TV saying she spoke to the man, although that's a lie and only Helen did. Helen and Pat begin to get close, playing chess together in the pub. Then Helen goes up to Dublin and meets a familiar stranger...

This is a cute story, I liked it!

The Ministry of Unladylike Activity by Robin Stevens - Review

Sunday, November 20, 2022

So here we go with Robin Stevens' new series! When I met Robin in Sheffield in late 2019 she talked a bit about her new series, which is starring Hazel's youngest sister, May Wong. She asked one child if she knew what happened at the end of the 1930s in Europe - the answer to which of course is World War Two. So I wasn't surprised to start this book when May is aged nearly ten. She came over to England from Hong Kong in her first mystery, with her father and Rose, to drop Rose off at Deepdean. However war broke out and May and her father weren't able to return home. Instead, May has been taken to Deepdean too. She hates it. She escapes, going to see Hazel, and she manages to see something about the Ministry of Unladylike Activity in London. She heads there, where she meets Eric, who has solved crossword clues in order to get to the Ministry, and wants to become a spy. The door there is answered by Daisy, who tells them both to go away, but May also has information about someone giving information to the Nazis from a stately home near Coventry. 

May and Eric then present themselves as evacuees and manage to get themselves sent to Elysium Hall, where they meet the Verey family - old Mrs Verey, her current husband, and her five children from two marriages. Leonard was killed in the first world war, leaving Sidney, Neil, Hugh and her daughter. Her daughter has just lost her husband and moved back to the family home with her daughter Fionnuala, who is grieving very deeply for her dad. Her dad was Irish and the family toured the world in a theatre company, so Nuala is finding it hard to fit in with her English family. Her mum is grieving and is very not present in Nuala's life currently. 

May and Nuala instantly clash with each other, but eventually realise they need to work together, especially when a murder happens and they're pretty sure that it's been set up to look like an intruder. Eric is German and has had to leave all his family behind. May is missing Hong Kong deeply, and as I said Nuala is grieving for her dad and her old life. All three need each other in different ways - I liked how their friendships progressed through the book. 

This is a good first book in a new series - I look forward to seeing what happens next for the three of them. I loved the cameo from Daisy - up to her usual tricks - and wished we'd seen Hazel, but you can't have everything. I am giving this four out of five - when's the next one?! 

The Couple at Number 9 by Claire Douglas - Review

Thursday, November 17, 2022

I read and enjoyed The Girls Who Disappeared by Claire Douglas recently so I thought I would read other books by her, so I reserved this at the library. I liked it too so I will probably read something else by her in the future too. I do love placing holds at the library and have them conveniently arrive for me. It stops me buying so many books!

This one is about Saffy and Tom who have just moved into a house owned by Saffy's grandmother, Rose. Rose now has dementia and is living in a care home. Prior to that she lived in Bristol, so no one knew she owned this house in the Cotswolds. She passed ownership over to her daughter, Lorna, but Lorna lives in Spain with her boyfriend, so she has encouraged Saffy and Tom to move in. They are young, and pleased to be living in a house they own instead of having to pay rent. The house is a small cottage, and Saffy and Tom plan to extend to put a big kitchen on it. Saffy is also newly pregnant. Work has started on the extension when all building has to stop because a body is found. Police are called, and it turns out there are two bodies. No one has any idea who they are. 

Lorna arrives from Spain and realises that she remembers the cottage from when she was very little. She and Rose lived there for quite a few years. 

We also read Rose's point of view, told in letters to Lorna, from when she was small. She was on the run from Lorna's dad, and lived in a state of fear, hoping to avoid her past. She meets a woman called Daphne who quickly moves into the cottage with Rose and Lorna.

Meanwhile, a man called Theo falls out with his cold, unforgiving father. Theo's mother died falling down the stairs fourteen years ago when Theo was nineteen. His father is a doctor and the two have never really got on. Theo discovers a news article about the bodies found in Saffy's garden with a note saying 'find her'. But why would he know Rose or Saffy? I really liked how the two parts of the story came together. 

Rose's dementia means that she can't remember too much and she's confused and confusing in what she tells the police. I liked how this was dealt with.

Overall I'm giving this four out of five, I liked it and will get something else by the author soon!

The Haunting Season by various authors - Review

Monday, November 14, 2022

I heard of this book because my friend Janet posts some Kindle deals on Instagram every month, of books that are like a pound to buy. I don't always buy them, but this one piqued my interest so I spent 99p on it. It's still showing as 99p when I write this, so here's the link. I thought this would be a good book to read in October and I was right! I really enjoyed all the stories. 

I really enjoyed Kiran Millwood Hargrave's story which had echoes of The Yellow Wallpaper and which featured a woman who was about to give birth. I enjoyed the story about a woman fleeing an abusive husband with their child. And I liked the one set on the Jurassic Coast about a newly married man uncovering a prehistoric skeleton and believing it would make him famous. Those are the ones that stick out a couple of weeks after I read the book, but honestly I liked them all and would thoroughly recommend the book if you like gothic stories. I'm giving this four out of five.

Human Voices by Penelope Fitzgerald - Review

Friday, November 11, 2022

I can't remember where I heard of this book but there must have been a reason I heard of it, or someone recommended it to me. I requested it at the library in August, and it arrived while I was on holiday in France. The library keeps holds for two weeks before returning them, so I sent Lee to pick the book up on the day after we got back from holiday. I didn't get round to it until early October, though, by which time it was due back at the library. I tried to renew it, but the system told me the item had holds on it, so I couldnt. 

Now I actually find this impossible to believe, because of this:

This is the check out record at the front of the book, and as you'll see, the last time it was out before me was AUGUST 2000!!! I cannot believe that no one has requested it in twenty years and then two of us did at the same time?! I am pretty sure it had been in county reserves for that entire time, to be honest. Maybe it was just a bug in the system? It was weird and funny anyway!

So I can't remember why I wanted to read this, but I picked it up anyway. It reminded me of Transcription by Kate Atkinson. The characters are somewhat confusing and often referred to by their roles at the BBC - DPP  and RPD and other things like that. I had to keep reminding myself of who was who. Sam and Jeff are those two, are department heads who record sounds and programmes and other things for use at the BBC. They each have young assistants, Recorded Programme Assistants. Sam surrounds himself with young women so they will mostly care about his worries. The book is set in 1940 when bombs are raining down upon London. Violet is one of the RPAs and she becomes friendly with Lise, a new one, who then disappears. She later asks for a pass to be allowed to use the BBC's bunk room. 

The new RPA is Annie, from Birmingham, who has had an interesting life up to now. She soon falls in love with Sam. 

The book is quite short, and to the point. I liked the prose a lot, and the conversations between the RPAs. I did find it confusing in parts, but I'm glad I persevered with it as it was quite a departure for me. I'm giving it four out of five! 

Lily: A Tale of Revenge by Rose Tremain - Review

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

This book was the October choice for my book club so I bought it on eBay for just a few quid and picked it up in early October. I wasn't sure what to expect from it as I haven't read anything else by the author. It reminded me very much of The Five by Hallie Rubenhold as it's set in the Victorian era and other people in my book club said that too. 

Lily starts the book aged about seventeen, and she tells the reader immediately that she is a murderer. This did make me look at every character she encountered like 'is this who she killed? is this?!' so I thought that was an interesting way of starting a book. We go backwards and forwards in time from Lily now to her early childhood.

She was a foundling child, found in a park abandoned by her mother and left in a sack with a bag of hair in it as a token. She was found by a policeman, Sam Trench, and taken to Thomas Coram's foundling hospital. She was then fostered to a family in Suffolk, with loving parents and three older brothers. She had an idyllic early childhood there, but what she didn't realise is that aged six she would be taken back to the hospital in London and abandoned by her foster parents.

When she's there, she immediately comes up against Nurse Maud, who is cruel towards her and other children. Lily makes friends with another little girl with whom she shares a bed and the two of them escape the hospital but run into trouble and are soon dragged back there. 

As a teenager, Lily is apprenticed to a wigmaker called Belle who praises her eye for detail and becomes something of a mother figure towards Lily. She reckons she has information on Lily's real mother and Lily tries to find her. Meanwhile Sam, the officer who found her, and his wife come back into Lily's life and they want to be kind towards her to. To a point. I was totally on board with them until Sam turned totally creepy.

I liked the book, it was compelling and kept me reading. I liked Lily and wanted her to succeed and when the murder did occur I was completely on her side and felt it was justified. Some of us in the book group questioned whether the ending (which I won't spoil) was realistic or not, but I felt like she deserved some happiness! It was an interesting one to discuss and I'm giving it four out of five. 

Nothing More to Tell by Karen M McManus - Review

Saturday, November 5, 2022

You know I love Karen M McManus so I ordered this book as soon as I heard it was out, but I had to wait a while to read it because I was only reading ebooks in September. That was an interesting challenge - I did get my way through some Netgalley books which is always good. I did miss a paper book though, so I was thrilled to finally be able to pick this up. 

However, I don't feel like it lived up to Karen's previous books. I can't really explain why, but I'm writing this three weeks later and I feel like I can barely remember what it was about. I gave it four out of five stars, but I feel like it missed the mark a little bit for me. But here's what it's about:

Brynn used to live in a small town in New England and attended St Ambrose School. She had a favourite teacher, English teacher Mr Larkin. He was brutally murdered and found by three of Brynn's classmates - Tripp, who had been her friend until just before the murder, Shane, and Charlotte, who are a couple. The three of them are now at the top of the school's social pyramid, but Brynn reckons they're all hiding something about the day they found Mr Larkin. 

Brynn's family has been living in Chicago but has now moved back. Before moving, Brynn got into trouble at her old school on the newspaper, when someone posted dick pics under her name. She went viral and had to leave the paper. She is applying for an internship with a true crime podcaster and at her interview she pitches the idea of looking into Mr Larkin's murder. She gets the job and has to start looking into the case but in an undercover way. 

I didn't exactly warm to Brynn, but I can't explain why. She's a proper Nancy Drew type and a bit uptight. I liked her family and I'd have liked to see more of them. However, I would like to see Brynn again in a story if it came to it!

Tripp's point of view is given too. Tripp lives alone with his dad, who he barely sees or speaks to. His mother lives in Las Vegas, having left the family some years earlier, but then Tripp sees her and realises she's back in town. He works at a local bakery and is close to his boss there - I felt like she was a parental figure in his life which I really liked. 

I liked Charlotte as a villain - she has Brynn and keeps going up against her. I also really liked the ending and how everything came out, it was told in a good way. 

The Appeal by Janice Hallett - Review

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

I've heard quite a bit of buzz about this book and got intrigued so I bought it. I had heard that it's about a murder, and the reader can read between the lines and solve the murder. I didn't manage to do that, but I did pick up on some things which I was pleased about later. It's a really novel way to write a book as it's all told in emails/texts/other correspondence, and a lot of it is one sided, so you don't hear at all from certain people, but lots from others.

So there is a woman called Issy, who is a nurse, and who is in an amateur dramatics group called The Fairway Players in her spare time. A new woman called Sam has started working with her, and Issy encourages her and her husband Kel to join the theatre group as a way to make friends and get known in the area. They do join, and both get parts in the new play, and Issy offers to go through lines etc with them. She's a very clingy friend and it's hard to like her, even if I did feel sorry for her. 

Then there are the Haywoods. Martin is the group's director, and his wife Helen nearly always plays the leading lady in the shows. They have two grown up children, Paige and James. James and his wife Olivia are expecting twins. Paige has a little girl called Poppy, and she is diagnosed with a rare form of brain cancer. She begins chemo at a local hospital, under the auspices of a doctor whose name I can't remember. But she needs pioneering treatment from the United States, so the Haywoods begin fundraising for the £250,000 they need for the first round of treatment. Another of the theatre group, Sarah-Jane, heads up the fundraising campaigns. She has little time for Issy's clinginess, and wants the Haywoods to be left alone so they can all focus on Poppy.

However, several people are being very underhanded. Sam gets suspicious of the appeal, wondering if all the money is being used for Poppy and if Poppy even needs it at all. Poppy's doctor is already known to Sam, because Sam used to work with her brother on aid work in Africa, and something happened there that made Sam leave Africa. The doctor is now looking for her brother, while also telling Martin that she needs the money for Poppy's treatment immediately. There are also people trying to scam others. There's a lot of information!

The book starts with all the correspondence being given by a QC to two law students, Femi and Charlotte, with the information that a) someone is dead, b) someone is in custody for it and c) the QC doesn't believe this person committed the murder, and can Femi and Charlotte see who did commit it? He later adds some more info which I won't share but which does give the reader further insight into all the correspondents. We see Femi and Charlotte's conversations too, which steer the reader in certain directions. You don't find out who has died until over two thirds of the way through the book! 

I did like it a lot, I thought it was a really interesting way to write a book. I'm giving it four out of five and I'll definitely read Janice Hallett's other book soon! 

The Girls Who Disappeared by Claire Douglas - Review

Monday, October 31, 2022

I requested this book on Netgalley so thank you very much to Penguin Random House for granting this to me. I received an electronic copy of the book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. The book was published on the 15th of September so is available now.

I was intrigued by the premise of this book which is why I requested it. I haven't read anything else by Claire Douglas but I've heard a few people raving about The Couple at Number 9 so I might request that from the library. 

Right at the beginning of the book is a flashback. Olivia is eighteen and driving her friends Sally, Hetty, and Tamzin home from the club they've been to. They're driving down a road outside their town called Devil's Corridor when Olivia sees a man in a hood in the road, and swerves to avoid him. She crashes the car, and when she wakes up, she is trapped in the car by the steering column. But the girls are gone. Olivia is rescued by a man called Ralph, who is a bit of an oddball, and has to undergo surgery. But the girls she was with are never seen again.

Twenty years later a journalist called Jenna is heading to the town to record a podcast about the case. She is pretty sure Olivia won't talk to her but others will. The town is called Stafferbury and it's obviously loosely based on Avebury as it has some ancient standing stones in it, and there are plenty of rumours of strange happenings, especially on Devil's Corridor. Jenna finds it creepy the moment she arrives, when she meets Ralph Middleton herself. She is staying in a cabin in the woods and she's certain there's someone in the cabin next door, even though the cabins' owner says there isn't. She meets with an ex police officer and then a current officer, trying to get to the bottom of what happened that night twenty years ago. But someone isn't happy about this...

Meawhile we also get parts from Olivia's point of view. She is now thirty eight and living with her mother. The two of them run a stables together. She has a boyfriend, Wesley, who she has been with since before the accident. He wants them to move in together but Olivia has misgivings about this. He treats her like a child and is keeping secrets from her. Olivia has been left permanently injured by the accident and feels like she's had a bit of a stilted life. 

Meanwhile again, there are flashbacks to eight friends, led by Stace, going on holiday to Thailand to visit a friend of one of them. Things quickly go south. It's not obvious for ages how these parts of the book fit in with the rest, but I liked the reveal.

All in all I'm giving this four out of five as I enjoyed it!

What July Knew by Emily Koch - Review

Friday, October 28, 2022

I previously read and reviewed Keep Him Close by Emily Koch, so when I got an email from Penguin Random House offering me the chance to read her new book, I jumped at it. Thank you to Penguin Randon House for allowing me to read the book for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated for this post and all thoughts and opinions are my own. 

So, July lives by the seaside with her dad, Mick, her stepmother, Auntie Shell, and her stepsister, Sylvie, who is also in her class at school. It's July's tenth birthday, right at the end of the summer term, and the class is set a project over the summer to write something about a relative in their family. The teacher encourages July to write about her mum, who July barely remembers, and who died in a car crash on July's second birthday. July knows though that her dad will be angry if she does, because in ten years of her life she has only managed to learn eighteen things about her mum, things which she keeps written down in one of her Big Lists. She tries to decide on someone else, but then she gets a note that says 'your mum didn't die in a car crash'. July gets a bike for her birthday, from her mum's mum Yaya, which means she can go off and explore the place where she and her parents used to live. 

Things are not good at home. July's dad Mick is abusive towards her, telling her each time that he is teaching her a Lesson so that she learns how not to piss him off. The abuse is pretty bad, and gets worse throughout the book. Shelley lives on tenterhooks around him to try to keep the peace between him and July, meaning she blows hot and cold on July in a way that is sometimes confusing. Similar goes for Sylvie - at school the two girls barely speak, and often Sylvie seems to be Mick's favourite. But Sylvie does give July some information that sets her off on the trek to find out more about her mum.

The book is mostly set in 1995, in the middle of a heatwave, and that oppressive heat does hang over the whole book. There are also letters set later, which make the reader assume some things, which I liked a lot. One of my criticisms is that I think there were a few things which were anachronistic for 1995 - I was 11 that year so I remember it well and remember being almost July's age. My other criticism is that July and Sylvie skewed a little bit older than ten years old to me. I think if they had been twelve years old I would have found that much more believable. But neither of these things was a big deal because I really liked the book and was compelled to keep reading it. 

I'm giving this four out of five and am looking forward to what Emily writes next!

How to Be More Hedgehog by Anne-Marie Conway - Review

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

UCLAN Publishing are the brains behind Northern YA Lit Fest, so I've bought a few of their books when I've been at the festival, and am generally supportive of what they're publishing. So when How to Be More Hedgehog turned up on Netgalley I requested it immediately! The book was published on the 1st of September so is available now. I was provided with a free electronic copy of the book for review purposes  but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Lily is ten years old and lives with her mum and her older brother Dillon who is around thirteen. Their dad left the famiyl a few years ago and is now living in Scotland with his new partner, Abi. He is a park ranger in Loch Lomond and Abi is pregnant, which Lily is excited about. But Dillon isn't, and he hasn't spoken to their dad in quite a while. Lily's best friends are Mia, Leanne, and Sascha, but throughout the book their friendships change. At the beginning of term after Christmas Lily's class they have a new teacher, Mr Daley.

And this is where the problem is - Lily has a stammer. 'D' is one of her enemy letters that she often struggles with. She struggles to speak to him to introduce herself. She later writes to him about how she has enemy letters, which he interprets as a 'cry for help'. Lily is referred for speech therapy. Her mum mostly ignores her stammer, refusing to believe that it's much of a problem, and often cuts off Lily's sentences when she's struggling, which annoys her. 

Mia and Lily get put together to do a project about the environment. They choose plastic in the oceans to talk about, and have a brilliant idea about how to show what they're talking about. But Mia - who is often dismissive of Lily anyway - says she doesn't want Lily to do any of the presentation they have to do, because she is too worried about Lily's stammer. 

Dillon does something horrendous to Lily which unravels the rest of the book. I loved this part - it was a true betrayal and I liked how it got resolved and how it showed conflict between siblings. I loved how Lily came to know herself so much better, I liked how the book resolved itself. Being in Year 6 is tricky and I loved how that was shown, alongside all the stuff about friendships and growing up. This is an excellent middle grade book and I would thoroughly recommend it. 

The Bullet That Missed by Richard Osman - Review

Sunday, October 23, 2022

I have previously read and reviewed The Thursday Murder Club and The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman, so I picked up the third book not long after it came out. I don't love books by celebrity authors, but I do think Richard is a better writer than some. I did complain because in the first book there were 99 instance of the word 'agrees' within three hundred pages. You can just use the word said! Said is fine! It's more than fine! It was a tic that should have been edited out, but wasn't. However, that word is barely evident here which I'm really glad about. I do feel like the book is still ridiculously written - it's very tongue in cheek and while it is a 'cosy' mystery, that word barely encapsulates how twee it can be in parts. I rolled my eyes a lot.

And yet I found the book compelling and wanted to continue reading it, so it can't be all bad, can it? I will read the next one in the series too, we all know I will. So I'll shush.

The Thursday Murder Club is made up of four retirees who live in the same retirement complex. They are Elizabeth, an ex MI5 spy, Joyce, who's point of view we get in her diary entries, and who misses her late husband Gerry a lot, Ibrahim, a clinical psychologist, and Roy, who I love. They have been looking at the murder ten years previously of a news presenter called Bethany Waites. She was investigating a huge VAT fraud and seemed to be getting close to the ringleaders, when her car was driven off a cliff and she is presumably dead. Her co presenter, Mike Wagthorn, speaks to the group about her death. 

Meanwhile Elizabeth and her husband Stephen, who has dementia, which is a very sad part of the books, are kidnapped and taken to a house belonging to a tall Swedish man that Elizabeth nicknames The Viking. He says that he needs her to kill an ex KGB controller, Viktor something, and if she doesn't, he will kill Joyce. Elizabeth is obviously upset by this and doesn't entirely know what to do. 

Ibrahim goes to visit Connie Johnson in prison - she is the baddie in one of the earlier books and is now living a cushy life in prison, where she has all the warders under her control (I'm not sure how realistic this is, but there we go). Ibrahim asks her to speak to a woman called Heather, who is the only person who was prosecuted over the VAT fraud and is currently in prison. Connie does speak to her, but she is then found dead, having left a note where she said she needed help from Connie.

Then there's the police officers Chris and Donna. Donna has started seeing Bogdan, the odd job man at the retirement village. They are keeping it under wraps but everyone has guessed. Donna is happy about the relationship, which is quite cute. Chris is still seeing Donna's mother, Patrice, and he totally thinks that she has turned his life around. I actually find this quite annoying, but there we are. 

I thought the mystery had some good twists and turns. I liked Roy's friendship with notorious gangster Jack Mason. I guessed some of the twists but not others. I wonder who out of the new characters might make it into the fourth book. I'm giving this four out of five. 

The Miraculous Sweetmakers #1: The Frost Fair by Natasha Hastings - Blog Tour and Review

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Hello and welcome to my blog for my stop on the blog tour for The Miraculous Sweetmakers #1: The Frost Fair! It is a pleasure to weclome you to my blog. Thank you to The Write Reads and Harper Collins for having me along on the tour. 

I was intrigued by the premise of this book even though I don't often read fantasy. And I was right, because while the book is fantastical, it's also very rooted in the real world. I would definitely read the next in the series, it's a really cute middle grade book.

The book is set in 1683 and at the beginning Thomasina is nine years old and is out with her twin brother Arthur. Arthur suffers an asthma attack and sadly dies. Thomasina feels guilty because she was teasing him. We next see her four years later. Her father barely speaks to her, and he doesn't want her to be his apprentice in their sweet shop. Her mother doesn't speak to anyone, she just stays in bed all day. Thomasina leads a sad and lonely existence.

Then one day the Thames freezes over! (This really happened quite a few times!) Merchants start to make stalls on the ice, and Thomasina and her dad set up a stall to sell their gingerbread. Thomasina meets a girl called Anne, who is working in the apothecary. The Frost Fair is well attended and Thomasina and her dad sell out of their wares. 

One night, Thomasina gets a visit from a man called Inigo. He tells her that he can help - if she visits the Other Frost Fair four times, he can bring Arthur back from the dead. That's what Thomasina wants more than anything. Inigo conjures up a sea kelpie to prove his powers to her, and then he takes her to the Other Frost Fair. There, people are made of ice, dressed in silver and white, and magical beasts exist. and Father Winter presides over everything. Inigo must take Thomasina's memories of Arthur away from her, he assures her, to bring Arthur back. 

But then Thomasina meets someone else, and everything gets very confusing. I loved how the book unrolled, and all the different things that happened to Thomasina. I'm giving this four out of five, I really liked it!

The Other People by C J Tudor - Review

Monday, October 17, 2022

The Other People was published by Penguin in January 2020. I was provided with an electronic copy of the book for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I am just sorry that it took me so long to read this because I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I have heard of C J Tudor but never read anything by them, although I know my partner read and liked The Chalk Man. So I requested this, taking a bit of a chance, and I'm really glad I did, because I raced through it and was really intrigued throughout. I'm giving it four out of five and I would definitely read something else by the same author.

So at the beginning of the book, Gabe is travelling home to his wife, Jenny, and daughter, Izzy, when he gets stuck in traffic behind a car bearing lots of stickers on it. He's distracted, but suddenly a little girl appears in the back window. He is certain it is his daughter, Izzy, and he's certain that she says 'Daddy' and needs help. He then gets a phone call from the police to say that his wife and daughter have been murdered. 

We are then taken three years into the future to Gabe's life now. He lives in a camper van and spends his time driving up and down the motorways, looking for the car he saw that night, searching for his lost daughter. The police think he is crazy. Jenny's parents have very little to do with him, also telling him that he's mistaken in what he thinks he saw. But Gabe is determined, and he has help from a man called The Samaritan. The Samaritan calls and tells Gabe he has found the car from that night. 

Meanwhile, Fran and her daughter Alice are on the run. This has happened before, Fran is good at running. They're in a motorway services when Alice sees a mirror, and in it she sees the same thing she always sees - a girl. Alice falls asleep, like she always does, and when she wakes up, she has a tiny pebble in her hand. 

Then there's Katie, who works in the coffee shop at one of the services that Gabe often stops at. She's a single mum with two small children; her sister Lou looks after them overnight while Katie is working. Her family is fractured after the murder of her father. She hasn't spoken to her older sister in 9 years and her mum is an alcoholic. 

Then there's the girl who sleeps, who has a nurse called Miriam. Who is she, and who are The Other People?

I found this an intriguing thriller, it definitely kept me reading and guessing. I liked the supernatural element and thought it worked really well. 

Lost in the Jungle by Marja West and Jurgen Snoeren - Review

Saturday, October 15, 2022

This book is about two young women, Kris Kremers and Lisanne Froon, who went to Panama to work in a Spanish language school, and went for a hike on the 1st of April 2014. They didn't return, and a search party got underway a couple of days later. No trace was found of the women, but in June of that year their backpack was found, containing their phones and Lisanne's camera. Phone records showed that both phones had been used for several days after their disappearance, and on the camera were photos of the hike, where both girls seem fine on April 1st, but then there are a bunch of creepy photos taken a week later, in the dark. In August 2014 several bones were found which were found to belong to both Lisanne and Kris, but theories have obviously abounded ever since about what happened, why the hike went so wrong, and about if one or both of them survived until over a week later - hence why their phones were being switched on to try to connect to emergency services. It's one of those unsolved cases that the internet loves - and that's how I found it, back in 2018, down a Reddit rabbit hole. There was a really good series about the case on The Daily Beast but some of it seems to have now been deleted, but there's a decent round up here

So when I heard about this book I wasn't sure if I needed to read it, because I do know quite a lot about the case. But I decided to buy it anyway, partly to support the authors financially. I started reading it on holiday but got quite scared again (the nighttime photos are truly terrifying!) so put it down and read Dean Atta instead. However, I only had a little bit left, so I read the rest of it on holiday and on the plane on the way home, and finished it while on the plane. I think I did know about 70% of the book, but there was some info that was new to me, and it set the record straight on a few things for me, so that was good. The first part of the book has its problems with grammar, which can make it hard to read in places, but that seemed to improve in the second half. There was also a portion with the Panamanian head of the investigation. She was heavily criticised for 'bungling' the investigation, but I really appreciated hearing her side of the story and about how she was left permanently injured from her time searching for the girls. 

In all, I would say only read this if you already care about the case. I did, so I liked it. 

Only On the Weekends by Dean Atta - Review

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Where did I get it? I bought it on Amazon as a holiday treat for myself. As I was travelling by plane I only took my tablet so I thought I would buy this to read as I've heard good things about it and because I loved The Black Flamingo so much. 

What's it about? Mack is sixteen and gay, which everyone knows about him. His dad is a famous film director, and Mack's mum was an artist who died when Mack was only a few months old. Mack has two best friends, Femi, and Sim. The three of them spend a lot of time in Mack's den, playing video games and hanging out. Mack has a huge crush on the school's star basketball player, Karim, aka K. Mack is put with K's cousin, Maz, in home economics, and starts a friendship with her. He gets to know her, and K, and Maz's dad Uncle O, really well. Eventually he and K start a relationship, but as K isn't out to anyone, he asks Mack to keep it on the downlow. Mack agrees, but really he doesn't want to - he wants PDAs, he wants all the cuteness of being in a relationship. There's definite friction between the two of them and while I do sympathise with Mack (the heart wants what it wants!) I also felt for K and how he was trying to feel his way through life. 

Halfway through the novel something happens which uproots Mack's life, meaning he can only see K on the weekends (hence the name of the book). I won't give spoilers about exactly what happens because I liked the surprise, but I also really liked the romance in the second half and the way Mack really came out of his shell. 

This is a novel told in verse like The Black Flamingo, but it's also really long so I really felt like I was getting a really good look at the whole thing. It definitely didn't feel too short. 

I've read a few negative reviews of this book on Goodreads and I think most of them are missing the point that sixteen years olds can often make very very stupid decisions. Because they're sixteen! Their brains aren't fully formed yet! They want everything they want, and don't often think about consequences! I don't think you can criticise this book on the grounds that Mack is just a bit daft. Of course he is! Adult readers of YA really need to bear in mind sometimes that YA books just are not for them! 

I can't wait to see what Dean writes next - I think he writes really complex characters. I liked how in this book there was a juxtaposition between Mack and his financial privileges and his friends who were from much poorer backgrounds and who in many cases were living in difficult circumstances - I felt like that was nicely explored. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Of course! There's gay characters, ones who aren't quite sure who they are yet, bi characters, and a dreamy trans character... 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, most of them! 

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

Is there any sex stuff? A little, it's not graphic and it fits perfectly within the story. 

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

Is there any talk of death? A little bit about Mack's mum, but it's not graphic 

Are there swear words? A few 


What criticisms do I have? My only criticism is a spoiler so I'm not going to share it here

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I wanted to treat myself on holiday, as I said! 


What do I think of the cover? It's cute! I think I forgot to mention that Mack is also fat, which I think could have been indicated a little bit stronger in the artwork, but there we go 

How many stars? Four out five! 


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