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The Locked Room by Elly Griffiths - Review

Thursday, September 29, 2022

You know me, I love Elly Griffiths' books and always love when there's a new Ruth Galloway book coming out. I had to wait for this to come out in paperback though, which it did, in August. I picked it up soon after that! I'm aware that it's the penultimate Ruth book, the last one will be out next year! I also knew that this one was set in lockdown in 2020, which puts a whole new slant on things. 

At the beginning of the book it's early 2020 and no one is yet panicking about Covid-19. Ruth is clearing out some of her mum's stuff from her parents' house - her mum died five years previously and her dad, Arthur, is remarried to someone he met at church. Ruth finds old photos and so on, including a photo from 1963 of the cottage that Ruth now lives in. It's a photo with its neighbours, when the cottages painted pink, and the note on the back says Dawn 1963. But why would Jean have a photo of Ruth's cottage, somewhere that she always professed to hate? 

Meanwhile Nelson is investigating an unexpected death. It looks like a suicide, but the victim's bedroom door was locked from the outside. It doesn't feel right to Nelson, so he gets his team to start looking at other deaths where the victim was middle aged or older, and which have been recorded as suicides. They turn up a few, but can't find the link between them all... 

Ruth is called to a body in Tombland, near Norwich cathedral. She thinks it is mediaeval, and properly buried, but her students are obsessed with the idea that it might be a plague body, slung into a plague pit. Two of her students, Eileen and Joe, seem unhealthily obsessed with the body. Ruth also has a new next door neighbour, Zoe, who is a nurse. Lockdown hits, and Ruth is glad to not be alone on the saltmarshes with only Kate for company. Cathbad rises to the challenge of homeschooling the children, and starts doing Zoom yoga with Ruth and Kate and then Zoe too. 

Michelle is away in Blackpool with little George, and has been for weeks, meaning Nelson is by himself at home, so then he ends up staying at Ruth's, because of course. Then someone catches Covid and is extremely ill... I honestly thought this person would die. As a writer, if I was coming to the end of such a long series, I might start killing people off too.... 

I loved this book - it's odd to look back at what is such recent history but what feels like so long ago now. I am so looking forward to the last one, and am giving this five out of five.

The Amazing Edie Eckhart: The Big Trip by Rosie Jones - Review

Monday, September 26, 2022

As soon as I reviewed The Amazing Edie Eckhart back in July, someone told me that there was a sequel coming out, so I ordered it immediately. It arrived on the day it came out in mid August, and I picked it up nearly straight away. I'm so glad this is going to be a series - it really deserves to be. As a reminder, Edie has cerebral palsy and she's in Year 7 at high school. Author, comedian Rosie Jones, also has cerebral palsy. Edie lives in Bridlington with her mum, dad, and baby brother Louis.

At the beginning of the book it's Christmas, and then it's back to school. Edie gets given an English assignment where she must give a presentation about herself, where she answers the question 'Who am I?' But she ends up not completing the assignment because she isn't sure who she is! She is questioning herself, and that includes her relationship with Flora. Does she want to be Flora's girlfriend? If so, how should she ask her?

There's a half term drama trip, and Edie persuades her parents to let her go. She is a bit worried about how she'll get on, but she's determind to be independent. But the school ends up going with a different school, who have a very strict teacher, Mrs Hargreaves. She makes them get up at six am every morning to do a run before they start their drama workshops. She also tells Edie that she speaks too slowly to be given a speaking part in the end of week play, which really upsets Edie. She tries to tell Mr Murphy but can't. 

This experience sours Edie's feelings about drama club so she ends up not going after half term. She does spend lots of time with her friends, including Poppy, Georgia and Chloe, and of course Oscar. I love the friendships shown in these books - they're really cute and supportive. Then there's FLORA! We like her. I won't give any spoilers but I did love the book and am giving it four out of five. 

Heartstopper Vol 4 by Alice Oseman - Review

Friday, September 23, 2022

I read the last book (so far!) in the Heartstopper series back in August. I think this was my favourite so far and really cemented my love of the series. Charlie and Nick go through some rough stuff in this book which brings them closer together, but they also learn that they can't always fix what's wrong with each other. A valuable adult lesson! 

Charlie struggles with an eating disorder in this book, which began in Vol 3 and which comes to a head here. Most of this story is told in flashback by Nick, which worked well as it allowed Nick to sum things up and let the author avoid some things which may have been really triggering. Charlie spends time in hospital and Nick talks to his mum a lot about it. I liked this a lot. 

Nick also wants to come out to his dad, but struggles to see him as he lives in Paris. He visits, at the end of the book, and there's a brilliant bit where Nick does come out and there's all drama. In the meantime, there's more stuff at school of course, and a lot of cute bits. I'm giving this five out of five and now I really want Vol 5 to come quickly! 

The Family Upstairs by Lisa Jewell - Review

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

I have been seeing the sequel to this book, The Family Remains, absolutely all over the place, and my interest was piqued. I reserved both books at the library and currently I'm 9th in the queue for the sequel. But this one arrived and I quickly picked it up. It is really interesting and kept me turning the pages. I read Lisa Jewell way back in the day when I was at uni. I was quite a fan of 'chick lit' then and read her first few books. Then I hadn't thought about her again until I saw these two books, so I'm surprised she's turned to thrillers, but I was very willing to give it a go. And I'm glad I did!

The story has three separate strands. Firstly there is Libby, who is just turning twenty-five. This is pertinent, because she has been left a house in a trust set up by her parents, Henry and Martina Lamb. If neither her brother nor sister turned up before her birthday, the house got left to her. Libby lives in St Albans and enjoys her job, but it doesn't thrill her. Being left a house in Chelsea worth several million pounds will change her life beyond recognition. She is adopted and lost her adoptive father; she's quite self sufficient. Now she owns this ridiculously expensive house. She visits it a couple of times, and on the second occasion she is certain someone else is there. 

She googles the story and finds an extensive piece by a journalist called Miller Roe, which explains that three people were found dead in the house - Henry Lamb, Martina Lamb, and another man with the initials DT. There was a suicide note and the house looked very much like a cult had been living in it. The bodies had been there for around three days - but there was a baby, Libby, upstairs in a cot. She had been well looked after and clearly not abandoned three days before. Neighbours mentioned that there were teenage children living in the house - but where did they go to? 

The next strand of the story is Lucy. She is living in Nice with her two children, Marco and Stella. They are homeless because Lucy makes her living playing the fiddle to scrounge enough money together for a room in a house, but it's broken so she can't work. Marco mentions that he has seen his dad, Michael. Lucy was abused by Michael and hates him, but she knows she needs his help. She has to swallow her pride and go to him. She has a note in her phone saying "The baby is twenty-five" - will she travel back to London to find Libby?

Then the third strand is Henry Lamb, Henry and Martina's son. Brought up in the house and in the lap of luxury for the first ten years of his life, Henry documents the decline of the family and how Martina, Henry, and David ended up dead. The house turned into an abusive commune and Henry has been left quite damaged by what happened. David, his wife Sally, and their children Phin and Clemecy moved in, and everything declined.

I thought this was such a believable book - I liked how everything happened incrementally. I liked Libby and Lucy a lot, and was intrigued to find out what had happened to Henry and co. I am giving this four out of five. 

Arcadia Falls by Carol Goodman - Review

Sunday, September 18, 2022

So here's the thing about Carol Goodman: I love her. I read her first three books way back in the mid noughties and loved them. The Seduction of Water is one of my favourite books of all time, and I liked The Lake of Dead Languages and The Drowning Tree a lot too. I made both my parents read The Seduction of Water; I have a very clear memory of reading it while on holiday in Annecy in 2004. But where I had got the book from, I don't know! I know that my uni friend Katie and I shared a lot of books at that time. We had a cupboard in our shared house with books in, so it's possible I picked it up there. 

I read those three books and then I never read anything else by Carol Goodman. I can't explain why! But I had added some of them to my wishlist and recently when I needed to get free delivery, I added this to my basket. I picked it up soon after and although it's very dense, I very much enjoyed it. 

The thing about Carol Goodman's books is that they're always based in New England, usually in upstate New York or similar, and they always feature strong female characters, and there's always a lot of mythology and folklore involved. This one is no different. Our main character is Meg Rosenthal, who is in her mid to late thirties and who is driving to Arcadia Falls, an elite school in upstate New York, to be their new folklore teacher. With her is her sixteen year old daughter, Sally. Meg's husband Jude died less than a year ago. The two met while at art school, but Meg fell pregnant and dropped out, and Jude left art to work for Morgan Stanley and support the family. He had a heart attack and died the previous October, leaving debts that Meg didn't know they had. She has had to sell the huge McMansion they lived in and take any job she could. Hence Arcadia Falls.

She already knows of the school, because she is doing her PhD thesis on the fairy tales written by two of the school's founders, Vera Beecher and Lily Eberhardt. Vera was the benefactor of the school; the old buildings belonged to her family. Lily was her partner, and also the teller of some of the fairy tales, including one about a changeling girl which Meg used to read to Sally. Lily was also the muse of an artist called Virgil Nash; several of his paintings and his sculptures remain in the school. 

Meg and Sally arrive at the school in dense fog, and find their on campus cottage dusty and not cleaned. The severe dean, Ivy St Clare, admonishes two girls she sent to clean it. They are Chloe and Isabel and they have quite a rivalry going on. Isabel has been the May Day goddess in one of the pagan rituals the school enacts, and Chloe is about to take over from her. When the ritual happens, Isabel goes missing from the ridge above the school, which happens to be where Lily died in the late 1940s. 

Ivy St Clare gives Meg Vera's journals and books, to help with her thesis. Meg starts to uncover exactly what happened in the bohemian colony of artists in the twenties, thirties, and forties. 

I found the story intriguing and wanted to get to the end. I liked Meg a lot and I felt for her with the gap that had grown between her and Sally in the months since Jude's death. I guessed some of the twists but not others, which kept me interested. I'm giving this four out of five and I will definitely need to read the rest of Carol's books!

Heartstopper Vol 3 by Alice Oseman - Review

Friday, September 16, 2022

I was really excited to get to Vol 3 of Heartstopper because I don't know this part of the story! Vol 1 and 2 are what has been in the first series that has aired on Netflix, so this was all new. I loved it! First of all Nick's brother comes home from uni and he's kind of a dick towards Nick and Charlie, asking if Charlie has 'turned Nick gay'. Nick is clearly annoyed and very protective towards Charlie. 

They talk about coming out to other people, but decide not to. Charlie also wants to tell Tao about them, but can't seem to find the right time. Nick sits his GCSEs and then they both go on a school trip to Paris, with a bunch of other people. They share a room - but not a bed! - and start trying to have fun. But Nick's worried about trying to meet up with his dad, and Charlie's barely eating, which is worrying everyone. Charlie keeps trying to talk to Tao, too. And Tao is busy with Elle!

I loved the book, it was nice to see some story I didn't know and I loved the trip to Paris. I loved the queer teachers! I loved the slumber party and I loved that Nick and Charlie had some really deep chats. They're both also desperate to say 'I love you' to the other, which is just toooo cute. I'm giving this five out of five! 

The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths - Review

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

You know I love Elly Griffiths, I've read almost everything she's published under that name, and I've got three new books by her to get to too, which I'll do soon I promise! But I was intrigued when someone in my book club chose The Woman in Blue for us to read. I decided to reread it and I'm excited to see what everyone else thought about this book. I've said I will take my other books of Elly's if anyone would like to borrow them. I wonder if reading just one out of context will make sense to people? I also wonder if the person who chose the book has read the others in the series - unfortunately I can't ask her because she's dropped out of book club, but we decided to meet informally in August anyway to discuss this book.

So, last time I read this book I didn't give it a glowing review actually, but over the years since then I've remembered it as one I liked a lot, so I went into it with that mentality, and have only read my previous review after finishing the book, and I disagree with myself five years ago! I remembered the mystery of this book much more than some of the others, and I'm pleased to have had the chance to reread. 

At the beginning of the book Ruth is contacted by a woman she knew way back when, when she was an archaeology student. Hilary is now a Church of England priest, and she's been receiving some nasty letters about the place of women as priests. She's about to come to Norfolk to attend a course in Walsingham, a place of pilgrimage, and she wants to meet up with Ruth. Ruth is intrigued, but a little wary.

Meanwhile Cathbad is catsitting for a friend near St Simeon's Church when he sees a vision of a woman looking a lot like the Virgin Mary - wearing white and blue. He doesn't think anything of it until the body of a young woman is found the next morning. She was a patient at a local rehab clinic and is a model. She made a couple of friends there, one of whom quickly comes under suspicion. 

There's lots of suspects in this book, a lot of dodgy people, a whole bunch of red herrings. Nelson finds out about Michelle's affair with Tim, and I can't quite remember how that resolves itself, but he's also quite nasty to Ruth which I do not like! I loved the reread and am giving it five out of five. 

The Contract by J M Gulvin - Review

Saturday, September 10, 2022

So after I enjoyed The Long Count I had liked it enough that I put a hold on the next book in the series about Texas Ranger John Quarrie. It arrived pretty quickly (Barnsley libraries are really good!) so I picked it up soon after.

However, I really didn't like it as much as I liked The Long Count. My main issues is that there were far too many characters, lots of whom were law enforcement, and some of whom had very similar names. It meant I couldn't remember who was police and who wasn't, and who outranked who. There are local police and Texan colleagues and even federal police, and I found that all very confusing. 

So, John Q is called to a break in at a gun store where the owner was left beaten and he ends up chasing two people called Wiley and Henderson who did it, and ends up shooting Wiley dead. Then a man (I'm not clear on who he was/what his job was) turns up dead in a hotel room in Wichita Falls, and although it looks like he died of natural causes, John Q has an inkling there's more to it, and indeed, he has died from an overdose of a thyroid drug. Those drugs, it turns out, were stolen from the house of a woman called Gigi, who is a club singer, and who was having an affair with an investigator called Earl. Her relative Nana lives in a house given to her by a man called Rosslyn F Tobie, who is a lawyer but who is also running basically an organised crime syndicate. He employs his illegitimate son, Franklin, who poses as a cab driver when John Q arrives in New Orleans and proceeds to stalk John Q all over town. 

There's also some tie ins with real life, with what happened to John F Kennedy and so on. I didn't like this - I'm not conspiracy minded at all and it just annoyed me. 

I'm giving this three out of five stars and unfortunately I think this is where John Q and I part ways. I was hoping I'd have found a new crime series to read, but this one has put me off too much. 

Heartstopper Vol 2 by Alice Oseman - Review

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

I placed holds on all of the Heartstopper books at the library because I really wanted to read them, but they came in the wrong order so I've had Vol 3 out of the library for ages and keep getting overdue notices... but I had to get Vol 2 first and then read it! So I finally did! I knew that the first series of the TV show encompassed this book as well, so I wasn't surprised to see some of the storylines, including the lovely trip to the beach when Nick and Charlie have decided they're officially boyfriends. I loved that bit both on paper and on the TV! 

I liked seeing which bits were different, and why I thought certain editorial decisions had been making in putting the graphic novel on to the screen. I liked the fight between Nick and Harry, and I liked Tao because I just like Tao. I'm giving this five out of five because these are just such joyful books. 

Three Girls by Katie Clapham - Review

Monday, September 5, 2022

Where did I get it? I bought it at Northern YA Lit Fest and had it signed by Katie after I had listened to her panel. 

What's it about? It's about three girls - not surprisingly - called Lena, Minnie, and Alice. At the beginning of the book they're photographed for some publicity shots at their college, posed together as if they're friends, but in actuality they aren't. 

Alice has a couple of friends but no one she's very close to. She's very tall and decides to take up running. She uses an app which is a bit like Couch to 5k, and doesn't tell anyone about it. She has a crush on a boy in her art class and she loves her aunt and her baby sister. 

Lena is very sporty - her dad is a personal trainer and runs a running club - but she always seems to come in second place to Minnie. She is friends with three girls, the main one of whom is kind of a bitch and always trying to bring the others down. She calls Alice "Big Alice" and polices the others' food intake and stuff like that. Lena realises she has to move apart from these girls throughout the book.

Minnie is on the netball team and while she's friendly enough with the other girls on it, she doesn't exactly have a best friend. She's got her boyfriend, Daniel, so she spends a lot of time with him. She may get scouted to play netball at the county level, but then she breaks her shoulder and is out of the game for a while. This makes her reflect on her life and what she really finds important.

The three girls end up bonding over something which is both trivial and profound. The ending of the book is absolutely joyful and I really liked it. I liked all three girls and loved their character developments throughout the book 

What age range is it for? Thirteen plus, probably, there's really nothing salacious in it 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, Lena (and her dad I think?). 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Minnie gets injured but it's not told in a graphic way 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? No 

Are there swear words? No 


What criticisms do I have? Almost none - it's a really cute book! 

Would I recommend the book? Yes definitely 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I'm still determined to get through all the books I bought at the festival! 


What do I think of the cover? It's really cute, I love it. I also got a bookmark from Katie which is very cute too! 


What other books is it like? It reminded me of stuff by Sara Barnard, only aimed a tiny bit younger 

How many stars? Four out of five 


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

Destination Anywhere by Sara Barnard - Review

Friday, September 2, 2022

Where did I get it? I bought it at Northern YA Lit Fest in May and got it signed by Sara - we had a nice discussion and it was nice to meet her. 

What's it about? Peyton is seventeen years old and after some difficulties at college has decided to run away to Canada. Right at the beginning of the book she has emailed her parents and is on a flight to Vancouver. She arrives and checks into a hostel. Her parents are obviously angry but also worried about her, and want her to go home immediately. But she refuses.

Then in flashbacks we learnt what happened at college. While at school Peyton had literally no friends and was bullied mercilessly. So when she started sixth form she was determined to do better. She was determined to have friends, and in one class she ends up talking to Travis, Flick, and Eric. Flick and Eric are a couple and they have several friends from school that they're close with. Peyton becomes part of the gang and eventually starts going out with Travis, but the friendships are not exactly easy or happy ones. Peyton goes along with a lot of stuff that she's not happy with, but feels like she can't say no to, because she's so determined to keep her new friends. Everything goes terribly wrong, which happens only a few weeks before she heads off to Canada. This part of the story is told is bits and bobs throughout the book, which was a really good way of showing it and was a complete contrast to what was happening in Canda. 

Because, in Canada, Peyton is having adventures. She arrives with no real plan, but she quickly makes friends with some others staying at the hotel. They're Scottish lads Khalil and Beasey, a Russian guy whose name escapes me, a Germany girl called Maja, and two Swedes called Lars and Stefan. They all haven't met before (except the Swedes who are a couple, amd Khalil and Beasey who are travelling the world together) but they form a close bond and decide to travel to Vancouver Island together. They kind of mock Peyton for not having a plan, but she goes with them and has a good time. 

There's definite chemistry between her and Beasey, but after what happened with Travis Peyton is reluctant to get into another relationship. But he is very cute...

Oh and Peyton's grandfather just happens to live in Canada, and he's an artist like she is, but there's no way she'll go and see him, of course... 

Every time I read a book by Sara I look at it with different eyes than I do some books, and this is because I think my writing is quite similar to hers, and I look at what I would do with the story and characters. It's not a bad thing, I like doing this, and I think it was a massive compliment when my writing was compared to Sara's. We have similar set ups (for instance, Flick's family is poor and Peyton ends up paying for everything, which she later feels taken advantage of for) so I like to think critically about Sara's books. This one - I couldn't fault it. I loved Peyton and really felt for her, especially as I suffered bullying myself at school. I loved that she just took off and was determined to do things by herself. I loved the story and how it panned out. 

What age range is it for? 15+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Lars and Stefan, but it's not part of the story 

Are any main characters people of colour? Khalil, I'm guessing by the name, but it's not mentioned 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I think it's fair to say that Peyton has some post traumatic stress stuff going on 

Is there any sex stuff? No, it's very fade to black 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, definite trigger warning here 

Is there any talk of death? No but there is some violence 

Are there swear words? A few 


What criticisms do I have? Almost none. It took me a few chapters to get into it but once I did I really wanted to know what would happen 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, it's definitely one for fans of Sara's, but I'd also say it's a really accessible one if you haven't read anything by her before. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I am so determined to read all those books I bought in Preston so I started with this one! 


What do I think of the cover? It's cute, it's quite unlike any others of Sara's books though. It's also maybe not as easy breezy of a book as the cover would indicate 

How many stars? Four out of five. I enjoyed it. 


Where is the book going now? I'll keep it because it's signed, of course!


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