Review: The Dead Romantics by Ashley Posten

Hi lovely people

As it’s spooky season it seems like the perfect time to post my review of The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston. I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of this via NetGalley and actually read it back in July of this year (safe to say I’m a little bit behind on posting reviews) however I feel like this is more of an autumn read anyway and I think is perfect for anyone looking for a ghost story that’s more romance than spook fest.


So what’s the story….

Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.

When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.

For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.

Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.

Romance is most certainly dead… but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.

A disillusioned millennial ghostwriter who, quite literally, has some ghosts of her own, has to find her way back home in this sparkling adult debut from national bestselling author Ashley Poston.


My thoughts…

While I was extremely excited about this book, I have to confess that having now finished it I’m a little unsure what I think about it. I guess overall I did enjoy it, it has the quirky premise I love, some funny and emotional moments and is quite sweet. However, I found my attention occasionally wandering while I was reading, particularly at the start, and it was only really at the end I found myself fully engaged in the story.

It’s possibly a personal taste thing rather than an issue with the writing itself but I found it a little too heavy on the narrative and descriptions in the first part of the book. My brain does not like lots of descriptions (they go in, then straight back out and I remember nothing) so detail on character appearance and setting is lost on me and I have a tendency to lose focus. Skip the descriptions and give me lots of action and dialogue and I’m a happy reader.

Anyway, once I got past the bit at the beginning it becomes a much more enjoyable story. I’m sure I saw a synopsis or review saying it was like the movie Ghost but for me it was probably more a combination of The Sixth Sense and, one of my favourite films, Just Like Heaven. Main character Florence Day, is a ghostwriter for a famous romance author who has the ability to see ghosts. Having had a really bad break up, she believes love is dead which is not great when you’re on a deadline to write the big ending of a romance novel and your new hot editor refuses to give you an extension. When tragedy strikes and she has to return home to the town she fled 10 years ago she gets a bit of a surprise when the ghost who turns up on the doorstep of her family’s funeral parlour is that of her editor.

For the most part I did find Florence pretty likeable. Given her unique ability she is a little bit different and I do like a quirky and different character. I did at times feel like this quirkiness was played up a little too much in the story and certain aspects of her personality seemed a little contradictory which made it difficult to really understand her. Ghostly editor and love interest Benji was much easier to like. He has his own baggage but generally seems a lot more straightforward which was nice.

I really liked the relationship that developed between them. It’s a bit of a slow burn, probably necessarily so given he’s a ghost, which is definitely a plus and I thought they complemented each other perfectly. I will say however that I didn’t feel any real spark between them, and the spice is fairly minimal (although I guess that’s also ghost related).

The highlights of this story for me though were Florence’s other relationships and the way she develops over the course of the novel. I really enjoyed reading the sections with her family and the relationships between Florence and her siblings in particular. I also loved that Florence’s family ran the local funeral home and were very much at the heart of the community. I thought the way that affected their lives and view of death was incredibly well portrayed by the author. It definitely brings a different perspective to things.

This is an emotional read at times but there are quite a few funny moments too and it never gets too heavy. The overall feel of the book is hopeful and uplifting rather than a sob fest. Yes, I did shed a few tears here and there (although not at the parts you may expect) but I also laughed out loud.

Overall an enjoyable read that I’d recommend to anyone.

Thanks to Netgalley and publisher giving me the opportunity to read an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

October TBR

Hello lovely people,

I can’t believe it’s October already, this year seems to be flying past (or maybe I’m just getting old). I always love this time of year, yes it seems to be permanently cold and dark outside but it’s the perfect season for curling up inside with a good book. The beginning of October also marks the start of spooky season and I’m really looking forward to some creepy reads this month.


First up I have some recent physical book purchases that I’m really excited about. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen is one that I’ve been seeing all over booktok in the last couple of months. I have a feeling it’s more of a romance than a spooky read despite one of the main characters working in an undertakers but it has all of the tropes I love. It sounds like a supernatural You’ve Got Mail and I need something a little bit light and fluffy.

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean actually came in last month’s Illumicrate box. I’ve already read a few pages from a library copy and really liked the writing style. It sounds very unique and I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. I’ve also heard a lot of good things about Juniper and Thorn by Ava Reid although to be honest I’m a fan of historic gothic horror so will give any book in that genre a read.

I also have a few e-ARCs from NetGalley I’ve been saving for October (OK I haven’t been saving them I just haven’t gotten to them yet). I was a big fan of C.A. Fletcher’s A Boy and his Dog at the End of the World so as soon as I saw a new book from him, Dead Water, I couldn’t resist requesting. I have to admit CJ Cooke’s The Ghost Woods and The Butcher and the Wren by Alaina Urquhart were impulse requests.

I’m not sure it counts as a “spooky” read but it has the word spells in the title so I’m counting it. I loved Adrienne Young’s Fable duology so have high hopes for Spells For Forgetting. I also have probably too high expectations for Catherine Ryan Howard’s Run Time. I went on a bit of a Ryan Howard binge read last year so I’ve been not very patiently waiting on something new from her.

Stone Blind will be the first book I’ve read by Natalie Haynes despite the fact I already own more than one of her other books. There seem to be a whole lot of Greek mythology books around at the moment but I don’t think I’ve come across any that tell Medusa’s story. There was a brief mention of her in Ariadne which was enough to suggest that she is more than the monster she’s presented to be. I’m looking forward to reading her story.


Given my inability to stick to a TBR and how crazy I know work is going to be over the next couple of months I’m going to leave it at 9 books. There’s a strong possibility I’ll wander off or do some substitutions (my full TBR is out of control so I have lots of options) but hopefully I’ll manage the majority of them.

Have you read any of these? Are there any you’d recommend I move to the top of my list?

Let me know below

Bloody Scotland: 2022 McIlvanney Prize Finalist Blog Tour – Extract from Liam McIlvanney’s The Heretic

Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the Bloody Scotland McIlvanney Prize blog tour with an extract from The Heretic by Liam McIlvanney, one of the four books shortlisted for the award this year.

Those who follow this blog will know that Bloody Scotland, Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival, is one of my favourite bookish events of the year. I’m a big fan of crime fiction so it’s a great opportunity to see lots of my favourite authors and it’s always a really relaxed and fun atmosphere. This year is Bloody Scotland’s 10th Anniversary so it should be extra special with events over four days from the 15th to the 18th September and, if you can’t make it to Stirling (or like me haven’t figured out how to attend multiple panels at the same time), almost everything is available to watch online with a digital pass. Details of all events and tickets can be found on the website – here

One of the first events as always is the award of the McIlvanney prize which recognises excellence in Scottish crime writing. This year’s finalists are

  • Liam McIlvanney – The Heretic (HarperCollins)
  • Alan Parks – May God Forgive (Canongate)
  • Ambrose Parry – A Corruption of Blood (Canongate)
  • Louise Welsh – The Second Cut (Canongate)

Today I’m fortunate to be able to share an extract from The Heretic by Liam McIlvanney. This is the sequel to The Quaker which won the McIlvanney prize way back in 2018. I read this book almost a year ago and loved it. It’s dark and gritty Scottish Noir at its finest, with a complex plot and brilliant writing which brings both the characters and the setting to life.


The Heretic by Liam McIlvanney

Synopsis

Glasgow 1975

A deadly fire
An arson attack on a Glasgow warehouse causes the deaths of a young mother and child. Police suspect it’s the latest act in a brutal gang warfare that’s tearing the city apart – one that DI Duncan McCormack has been tasked with stopping.

A brutal murder
Five years ago he was walking on water as the cop who tracked down a notorious serial killer. But he made powerful enemies and when a mutilated body is found in a Tradeston slum, McCormack is assigned a case that no one wants. The dead man is wearing a masonic ring, though, and Duncan realizes the victim is not the down-and-out his boss had first assumed.

A catastrophic explosion
As McCormack looks into both crimes, the investigations are disrupted by a shocking event. A bomb rips through a pub packed with people – and a cop is killed in the blast. The cases are stacking up and with one of his own unit now dead, McCormack is in the firing line.

But he’s starting to see a thread – one that connects all three attacks…


Extract

Duncan McCormack was running. Like a man possessed, like a man with the Furies at his heels. Up Hyndland Road past the parish church, then down Novar Drive with the big chimney of Gartnavel Hospital rearing up over the tenements.

Left down Lauderdale Gardens with his breath pegging in ragged gasps, his knees jolting. Past the bowling club with its perfect square of turf, its green-and-white timbered pavilion, and round into Queensborough Gardens before cutting sharp left down a lane between tenement blocks. He never entered this lane without thinking of that other lane, the one in Battlefield where they found the Quaker’s first victim.

Bursting out onto Clarence Drive he heard, too late, the mosquito drone of an electric milk float that braked to miss him – chink and rattle of bottles and crates, muffled curse of the driver – and McCormack raised his hand in apology before sprinting off past Hyndland Academy, looping round a leafy crescent of villas and back onto Partickhill Road.

He stopped at the junction with Gardner Street and checked his watch. Twenty-seven minutes and twenty seconds. He had shaved nearly a minute off his time in the past two weeks.

He planted his hands on his knees and bent over, sucking lungfuls of air, feeling the blood pool in his face and head, sweat spotting the pavement. Finally he straightened up and took it in.

The view.

The best view in the city, the view that made the run worth­while. The sandstone canyon of Gardner Street dropped away like a ski-jump. The city’s steepest street. Down at the foot of the hill was the early traffic on Dumbarton Road. If you raised your eyes you could see the river and the cranes and the green hills of Ayrshire down to the south.

The South.

If you kept going, down past the Borders and Yorkshire and the English Midlands and Oxfordshire, you would reach the grey spreading stain of London. And Peckham. And the little brick house with the wooden gate on Marsden Road. And the stone-flagged path to the green front door with the cracked pane of stained glass and maybe a head bobbing into view behind the glass, a head with curly brown hair above green eyes, eyes that crinkled at the corners when the mouth creased in a smile.

Fuck it. Stop. He turned away from the view. Lifted the hem of his T-shirt and wiped his face with it, the breeze chilling his sweat-slick ribs. He set off down Gardner Street, turned left onto Caird Drive. There was no point thinking about that. Brown hair. Green eyes. No point thinking about what you’d lost. Think about what you still had to find. What you’d come back to find. The job was to find Walter Maitland. This was how he thought of it. Not nailing Maitland or catching Maitland. Finding Maitland.

In one sense, finding Walter Maitland was easy. He lived in a big house in Bearsden. You could march up his driveway and knock on his door. But finding Walter Maitland in his crimes? That was the challenge. McCormack thought of all the malfeasance in the city – drugs, protection, gambling, girls – stretching in all directions like a dark labyrinth. And the beast who prowled it, the Glasgow Minotaur, was Walter Stuart Maitland. McCormack had been stalking its corridors for months, turning down its dog-legs and dead ends, doubling back on himself. No nearer, it seemed, to the beast at its heart.

He was climbing the short flight of steps to number 43 when a car door opened.

‘Sir!’

McCormack whipped round. ‘DC Nicol?’ He made a show of scanning the street. ‘People will talk. Parked outside the boss’s flat at seven in the morning?’

She smiled tightly, looked at her watch. ‘Twenty past, sir.’

‘What’s the word, then, Detective? What’s happened?’

She was standing beside the car now. ‘A murder, sir. Down Crawford Street. A man. Haddow’s assigned it to us. You were on the way, so I thought I’d stop.’

‘OK. Look, come up to the flat, have a quick cup of tea. I’ll get changed.’

Nicol checked her watch. McCormack rested his hands on his hips. ‘He’ll still be dead in fifteen minutes, Nicol. Come on.’

She locked the car. He led the way up the stairs, conscious now of his sweat, his laboured breathing, shaking loose his bunch of keys.

‘Sorry, it’s right at the top.’

‘It always is, sir.’ McCormack nodded. It was true. ‘Every call-out. Fourth bloody floor. Why does nothing happen at ground level in this city? It’s as if crime rises, like the bloody heat.’


About the Author

Liam McIlvanney was born in Scotland and studied at the universities of Glasgow and Oxford. He has written for numerous publications, including the London Review of Books, the Times Literary Supplement and the Guardian. His debut, Burns the Radical, won the Saltire First Book Award. His second novel, Where the Dead Men Go, won the 2014 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best New Zealand Crime Novel. His novel, The Quaker, won the 2018 McIlvanney Prize for the Scottish Crime Book of the Year. He is Stuart Professor of Scottish Studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He lives in Dunedin with his wife and four sons


The tour continues…

Summer TBR: 20 Books of Summer 2022

Hello lovely people,

I hope you’re all doing well. It seems like forever since I posted so apologies for my latest disappearing act. I seem to appear every 3 months with a seasonal TBR then disappear again. Things have however calmed down a little at work, I’m reading a lot more, taking part in challenges and have a few ideas for posts so hopefully I’ll start posting (or just floating around the blogosphere) a lot more.

For a little bit of extra motivation I’ve decided to try and combine my Summer TBR with the 20 Books of Summer challenge, hosted by Cath at 746 books. It seems like a fun, relatively low pressure way to knock some books off the TBR mountain over the summer months and I’m hoping that by posting regular updates it’ll force encourage me to be a lot more active here.

This will be my first time participating so of course I’m being overly ambitious and aiming for the full monty (there are options for 10 or 15 books). I’m also putting a bit of a twist on it and aiming for 20 books from my physical TBR. I’ve been buying sooo many books lately (I blame the special editions and sprayed edges) and have a couple of book subscriptions on the go so I had a lot of books to choose from. Narrowing it down to 20 was not easy and I suspect there may be some substitutions along the way but at the moment this is my list.

Hopefully I’ve got a really good mix of different books on the list and there are a couple I am very excited about so I’m sure I’ll be able to find something to fit my mood (I’m v much a mood reader). Have you read any of these or are there any you’re looking forward to reading yourself? Let me know in the comments below.

Ali x

Spring TBR

Hello lovely people,

It’s the first day of March, the sun is shining and everything is starting to seem a little bit brighter so I think it’s time for a Spring TBR post. I’ve been working a lot of hours over the last couple of months so I’ve not had a lot of time (or focus) for reading but I’ve been doing quite a lot of book buying. I’ve also picked up a few ARCs that I’m really looking forward to and have been venturing more and more onto Book-tok which has added a LOT of interesting books to my TBR mountain.


ARCs

Lets kick off with the ARCs, I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on a few of my most anticipated reads.

  • The Atlas Six by Olivia Blake – I’ve seen this talked about a lot on book-tok, so given I’ve been taking pretty much any recommendation I see on there I thought why not and pre ordered it. Then it appeared on Netgalley so I requested it there too and my request was granted. Anyway, there’s a competition, magic, a library, sounds fab.
  • Mad About You by Mhairi McFarlane – McFarlane is an autobuy author for me. I absolutely adore her books, they tend to be marketed as rom-coms or chick lit but I don’t think this captures all that they are. There is so much depth and emotion and they have a tendency to deal with some difficult themes. Previous book Just Last Night had me in bits with how it dealt with grief and friendship. I was hoping this would be a little more cheerful but I’ve already heard people saying they were sobbing so I shall have tissues at the ready.
  • First Born by Will Dean – I really feel like I should get up to speed on Dean’s back catalogue. I’ve only read his previous standalone, Last Thing to Burn, but it was absolutely brilliant. It probably had one of the most vile and disgusting villain’s that I think I’ve ever read and it made for gripping reading. I have a feeling that First Born will be the same, it has twins, mystery, death and secrets. I am very excited.
  • Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough – It’s been a while since I’ve read anything by Pinborough, possibly Behind Her Eyes, but I do love her writing and she knows how to write a great thriller so this should be good.

Book Subscriptions

Because I clearly don’t have enough books to read… ahem… I started a couple of monthly book subscriptions at the end of last year. One is a Bert’s books debut fiction subscription and the other is Illumicrate. I’ve had book subscriptions before and had to give them up as I was always falling behind so this year I set myself the goal of reading the month’s book within a month of actually receiving it.

  • The Leviathan by Rosie Andrews – I have accidentally ended up with two copies of this as I spied it in the bookstore and couldn’t resist buying it (I had a voucher), then a second copy arrived through the door as February’s Bert’s Books pick. I guess it does mean I really want to read it, I love the sound of a story that combines fantasy, gothic and historical.
  • A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross – This just arrived from Illumicrate today and was a bit of a surprise but I’m kind of tempted to read right away. I loved Rebecca Ross’ previous series and having read the synopsis it sounds really good. It’s the first adult fantasy from the author which I take to mean “contains spice” plus it has the enemies forced to work together thing which is one of my fave tropes.
  • Little Thieves by Margaret Owen – I received this in November (I think) but haven’t quite gotten around to reading as yet. I was on a Zodiac Academy / Plated Prisoner binge read so was OD-ing on fantasy. I’ve also been a little off YA fantasy but this is a retelling so I will almost definitely read it and love it.
  • This Woven Kingdom by Tahereh Mafi – I’m a little on the fence about reading this as it’s the first in a trilogy. It does sound good but I’ve been trying to wait till all of the books in a series (or most) are out before diving in. It’s highly likely if they’re not I’ll never finish the series.

Recent Purchases

Waterstones half price hardback sale was a bit of a killer for me. I bought more books than I should have considering the number of books I already own but have yet to read. I’ve also discovered that I am completely unable to resist a book with a sprayed or stencilled edge, something I am pretty sure the publishers have now realised. If a book has a pretty cover and a stencilled edge, I’ll buy it, probably without even checking what it’s about.

  • The Twyford Code by Janice Hallett – Hallett’s debut book The Appeal was one of those happy discoveries for me last year. It was one I’d seen a few people rave about but only got around to picking up when it was chosen as a Bloody Scotland bookclub read. I borrowed from the library, thought I’ll read a few pages see what it’s like and of course ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting. Needless to say as soon as I finished I pre ordered The Twyford Code. One of the things I loved about The Appeal was the unusual format and as far as I can tell Hallett has done something similar with this one. I do love a book with an unusual format and the reviews I’ve read so far have all been positive.
  • The Christie Affair by Nina De Gramont – This is one I picked in large part due to the stencilled edges. I am loving mysteries and thillers at the moment so that was a big draw and I do like the idea of this book, a reimagining of what happened during those 11 days when Agatha Christie went missing.
  • Ariadne by Jennifer Saint – I absolutely love mythology and have heard a lot of good things about this (I’ve also heard a few not so great things but I’m opting to ignore them and judge for myself).
  • Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune – I literally only read The House in the Cerulean Sea a couple of weeks ago but it was love at first page. There was something so warm and happy about the writing. I was feeling very stressed and a bit anxious and it was the hug in book form I really needed. From what I’ve heard Under the Whispering Door could be a little sadder and will no doubt make me cry but I don’t care.

Audiobooks

I’m managing to get out and about a bit more so I’ve been really enjoying having a book in my ear when I’m driving or out for a walk. It still seems to take me a while to get through them so I tend to be selective in my picks but there seem to be lots of really intriguing ones being published at the mo.

  • The Maid by Nita Prose – There’s been a LOT of buzz around this book and yep I have totally fallen for it. It has a mystery at the centre of it but also a very unique sounding main character. I’m always on the lookout for books that are a little bit different so this is just the kind of story I’m looking for. Here’s hoping it lives up to expectations.
  • Again, Rachel by Marian Keyes – I have to confess I’d lost some of the love for Marian Keyes’ books recently. I will always love her early books about the Walsh family but I have found her more recent novels a bit of a struggle. That was, until I listened to her last book, Grown Ups, on audio and really enjoyed it. Keyes narrates it herself and is somehow good at it, something not all authors are. Again, Rachel therefore has double appeal to me having both Keyes as narrator and featuring the Walsh family.
  • The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley – This is actually a similar one to Marian Keyes, I read and enjoyed The Hunting Party but didn’t love it and then I listened to The Guest List on audio and it was so much better. The narration somehow brought the characters to life in a way that reading it somehow failed to do. As I had a couple of audible credits I thought The Paris Apartment would be a good shout.
  • The No-Show by Beth O’Leary – I listened to O’Leary’s previous book The Road Trip on audio last year and really enjoyed it so I think I’m probably also going to go for her new book in the same format.

So that’s my spring reading plans. I am also doing a team reading challenge at the moment so fully anticipate it pushing me into new and unusual directions but hopefully I’ve left myself enough space to squeeze in whatever I need to.

Have you read any of these? Should I push any to the top of my list?

Let me know below

Autumn TBR

Hello all,

I’m back. I apologise for being MIA yet again and I would promise I’m sticking around but I can’t honestly say I won’t disappear again. Working from home is really not conducive to blogging. The last thing I want to do after a long day/week sitting in my house in front of a laptop is spend my evenings/weekends sitting in my house in front of a laptop. I will however endeavour to post a bit more than once every three months.

Anyway, having failed miserably at both blogging and reading the books on my summer TBR (I read 4 of 16) I’m back to try yet again with an Autumn (Fall for those of you in the US) TBR. Autumn is my absolute favourite time of the year. I’m a big fan of jumpers, boots and keeping cosy indoors with a good book. I always look forward to October in particular and picking up those chilling and creepy novels I’ve been saving up for spooky season. Needless to say you can expect a few books with ghosts, witches and maybe the odd vampire in the list that follows.


Bookshelf books

I am unable to resist a pretty cover or a signed special edition so despite the huge number of books I own and have yet to read I’ve picked up quite a few new books in the last few weeks. It’s not my fault, they shouldn’t be releasing so many tempting books all at the same time although I have to admit my visit to Bloody Scotland last weekend and new signed fiction subscription at Bert’s Books probably haven’t helped.

  • Hyde by Craig Russell – Winner of Crime Book of the year at Bloody Scotland this is a book that I’ve been tempted to pick up for a while. I don’t typically go for historical fiction but I loved his previous book The Devil Aspect and I can never resist a book inspired by a classic or fairytale.
  • Horseman by Christina Henry – Another “inspired by” story, this time based on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Henry is an autobuy author for me. If she writes it, I’ll read it. It’s also a very pretty book with red sprayed edges.
  • Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff – I pre-ordered a copy of this months ago and am very excited/scared to get stuck in. It is mahoosive which is slightly off putting but early reviews have all been raving about it so I’ll probably dive in soon.
  • Five Minds by Guy Morpuss – This is the September book from Bert’s Books and while I hadn’t heard of it before it landed on my doormat I am very excited to read it (I think it’s going to be up first of all the books on this list). It’s a mix of science fiction and murder mystery with a really unique premise (and I love a unique premise) of five minds inhabiting one body.
  • Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber – Technically hasn’t arrived yet but I pre-ordered a few months ago so should be here soon. I was a big fan of the author’s Caraval series and this seems to be set in the same world so has been one of my most anticipated books

ARCS

I still have rather a lot of ARCs sitting waiting to read, some of which are not exactly ARCs anymore as the book has been out for a while.

  • Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney – I really should have read this by now. I’m a big fan of Feeney’s books and it sounds like a great story.
  • The Doll by Yrsa Sigurdardottir – This will be my first venture into this author’s work. I can never resist a creepy doll story so I’m hoping this lives up to expectations
  • The Hawthorne Legacy by Jennifer Lynne Barnes – I really liked The Inheritance Games, it did have the obligatory love triangle but the mystery side of it was great, so I’ve been keeping an eye out for the sequel.
  • The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles – I have somewhat mixed feelings on this one. I loved A Gentleman in Moscow but it was very character driven and slow. I suspect this may be similar so I’ll probably need to be in the right mood for it.
  • Opal Country by Chris Hammer – This will also be a new author to me but I’ve heard a lot of great things about his books and have loved the other Australian crime fiction I’ve read so I’m looking forward to it.

Backlist books

I have a ridiculous number of books sitting on my kindle unread so I decided to move some into an Autumn TBR folder in the hope it’d be less overwhelming. I ended up with 40 books!! Even I am not delusional enough to think I’m going to read 40 books in the next couple of months (I average 1 or 2 books a week) so these are the ones I think are the most likely.

  • The Creak on the Stairs by Eva Björg Ægisdóttir – I bought this on a bit of a whim. It sounded quite creepy and I like translated fiction so fingers crossed.
  • Dark Matter by Michelle Paver – Everyone seems to rave over this book so I think it’s finally time to read it and see if it lives up to the hype.
  • My Best Friends Exorcism by Grady Hendrix – I read The Final Girl’s Support Group a month or so ago and really enjoyed it so I’m planning to work through the author’s backlist starting with this one. I’m a child of the 80s so I love books set in that time period, am looking forward to lots of references.
  • House of Hollow by Krystal Sutherland – I bought this a while back and, like many of the books I’ve bought, have been meaning to read it for a while. It’s been picked as a book of the month in one of my Goodreads groups though so that should give me the push I’ve been needing to finally read it.
  • Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia – Another book I bought a while back based on all of the rave reviews. I do love a bit of a gothic horror and this sounds very similar to another book I read last year and really loved.
  • Perfectly Preventable Deaths by Deirdre Sullivan – An author I follow on Twitter was raving about this book so I bought it (it really doesn’t take much to convince me to buy a book). I do absolutely love the cover and I believe there’s a sequel coming out soon so…

Audiobooks

Finally, I have a few audio books lined up on audible.

  • The Road Trip by Beth O’Leary – This was actually on my Summer TBR but I have now downloaded it onto my phone so it’s absolutely definitely (well maybe) going to be up soon
  • On Her Majesty’s Secret Service by Ian Fleming – This is a bit of a cheat as I’m around halfway through it already. It’s a little bit dated (the portrayal of women is not great) but David Tennant narrates so that’s making up for any shortfalls in the story.
  • Traitor’s Blade by Sebastien de Castell – I had quite a few audible credits so used them to pick up the first three books in this series on the recommendation of someone on Goodreads. I’ve heard the narrator is excellent so here’s hoping the series is too.

I suspect I’m being a little overly optimistic with this list and I can pretty much guarantee I’ll wander off (it’s a little light on romance) but I am hoping I can read the majority of the books on this list (or at least do better than I did with my summer TBR). Hopefully I’ll also manage to get caught up on some reviews and manage to blog a bit more frequently.

Have you read any of these? Any recommendations on where I should start? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Reading

Ax

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2021

Hello lovely people,

I haven’t done a Top Ten Tuesday post in a while but had been already planning a post on this weeks topic, my Most Anticipated Releases for the Second Half of 2021, so I actually got myself organised and converted my scrawled list of books into an actual post.

I have to confess I’ve been a little bit wary of doing another most anticipated list as it seems to be the kiss of death for the books I include. I think around half of the books on my previous list turned out to be something of a disappointment. I didn’t hate them, they just didn’t live up to expectations. Anyway, I’m giving it another go with a list of twelve books I’m fairly confident I’ll enjoy.


  • A Good Day for Chardonnay (Sunshine Vicram #2) by Darynda Jones – Darynda Jones’ books are like drugs to me, they are so addictive. I didn’t love the first book in this new series as much as I hoped (I spent too much time comparing to the Charley Davidson books) but I do still have high hopes that book 2 will push the story on.
  • Isn’t It Bromantic? (Bromance Bookclub #4) by Lyssa Kay Adams – I am loving this series about a group of guys trying to fix their relationships by reading romance novels. Can’t wait to read the Russian’s story particularly as it sounds like a fake relationship / friends to lovers kind of a story.
  • The Heart Principle (The Kiss Quotient #3) by Helen Hoang – Another series I’ve been loving. Not sure what it says about me but I have a definite affinity to romcoms with autistic characters.
  • Here’s To Us (What If It’s Us #2) by Adam Silvera and Becky Albertalli – I will read anything Silvera or Albertalli write and I think What If It’s Us was one of my favourite books of 2018 (wow how has it been 3 years between books). I love
  • Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Saenz – I was pretty surprised when I heard there was a sequel but I am here for it. I very much enjoyed the first book and am keen to catch up with the characters
  • Aurora’s End (Aurora Cycle #3) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff – I need to know how it ends. I just hope the answer is not in the title.
  • Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer – Another author I love, I’ve read her contemporary novels and her fantasy and every single one has been wonderful. I think Kemmerer is not on my auto buy author list.
  • Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber – The author’s Caraval series had a bit of a shaky start but I feel like each book Garber writes is better than the previous so I have high hopes for Once Upon A Broken Heart. It doesn’t hurt that it’s about one of my favourite characters, Jacks, from the series.
  • Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff – I’ve somehow ended up pre ordering two copies of this (a Waterstones one and a Goldsboro edition) so I think we can safely say I really want to read it. I do love a vampire novel and Jay Kristoff is a brilliant writer so yeah *crosses fingers*
  • 56 Days by Catherine Ryan Howard – I seem to be buying into the hype on this one as I can’t really remember what it’s about, have never read anything by the author before and yet have heard so many good things about it I can’t wait to get my mitts on it.
  • The Dark Remains by William McIlvanney and Ian Rankin – It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything by Ian Rankin and I feel like I haven’t been reading much in the way of police procedurals so this fits the bill.
  • The Rabbit Factor by Antti Tuomainen – I do love the author’s writing but have to confess that cover is probably what’s drawing me to this book the most. I don’t even really care what it’s about.

So that’s twelve of the books I’m most looking forward to over the remainder of 2021. Are any of these on your most anticipated list? Is there a book that should be on this list (I’m positive I’ve missed something)? Please leave links and comments.

Happy Reading

Ax

Summer TBR

Hello all,

I hope you’re all doing well, or as well as can be expected. I know I’ve been MIA yet again but work got busy and I’ve been finding it really difficult to balance everything. Add to that a laptop that’s probably nearing the end of its life and yep, blogging has definitely fallen by the wayside.

Anyway, I’ve had a week off work (a rare occurrence), so am determined to do this thang, starting with a Summer TBR. I do love a TBR post as it fills me with the optimism that I have some goals and a plan. My full TBR list is significantly bigger than this but I’ve tried to pull out a nice mix of genres and authors from the books at the top of my list. I will no doubt deviate (what can I say, I’m a mood reader) but this gives me a good starting point.


Book Club Books

I’ve somehow ended up in about four different book clubs which I have to confess is not going great in terms of me actually getting to all of the books I’m supposed to be reading for them. I do try however to prioritise the books for my RL work book club. This month’s read is Scabby Queen which I started around a week ago but parked because I wasn’t in the right mood and was losing focus. I will however pick it up again soon as I think it may turn out to be one I love. The Midnight Library and The End of Men are on our list of future picks and are ones I’ve been looking forward to reading so I may try to get a head start on them.


ARCS

I have soooo many ARCs, someone seriously needs to shut off my request button on Netgalley. I’ve not done too badly in terms of reading a lot of them but I am very behind in reviews. I think I probably need to make an effort to read as many as possible (and get those reviews written) over the next few months and I suspect I’ll pick up whichever appeals at that particular moment but the following are some recent approvals that I’m pretty excited about.


Bookshelf/Backlist

As there’s not a huge amount to spend money on at the moment I have been doing quite a bit of book shopping. All those special/signed editions have been calling to me. As a result I’ve got a little bit of a backlog of books I’ve bought but not had a chance to read as yet. I also have a few books I’ve been putting off reading till the full series is available (I’m looking at you King of Scars) so hoping to pick them up too.


Audiobooks

Finally, I have a few audio books lined up on audible. The inclusion of Project Hail Mary is possibly a bit of a cheat as I’ve already started it but it’s pretty long so will probably take me till the end of the month to finish it. I do love sci fi stories on audio for some reason.


So that’s my list. I’m pretty excited about it. There are soooo many good books around at the moment, I just hope I manage to read them all.

Have you read any of these? Any recommendations on where I should start? Let me know in the comments.

Happy Reading

Ax

Favourite Reads of 2020

Hello lovely people,

I know, I know, I’m a little bit late posting my list of favourite reads but I have to confess that I did not do very well with tracking or reviewing books last year so figuring out what I’d actually read during the year took a little bit of investigating. There are very possibly some great books missing for which I can only apologise but these are the ones that, looking back over my year, were the standouts.


RomCom / Contemporary

I read a LOT of romcom and contemporary novels in 2020, at one point it was pretty much the only kind of book I could even remotely focus on, and I discovered some truly brilliant stories.

  • The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez – This was one of those stories that made me laugh and cry but most of all it made me smile. It just made me happy. Is it perfect? Probably not. Is it a book I’ll read again? Absolutely! (review)
  • He Will Be Mine by Kirsty Greenwood – This story of a virtual admin assistant from a small town in England who decides that her soulmate is a famous Hollywood actor is absolutely ridiculous but such good fun and packed full of laughs. It’s the perfect bit of escapism. (review)
  • Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert – I read and loved both of the Brown Sister books during 2020 but the first one Get A Life, Chloe Brown marginally pipped Take a Hint, Dani Brown as my favourite. I think there was just something about Chloe I found that little bit more relatable (not entirely sure what this says about me) and I loved the relationship between her and Red.

More RomCom / Contemporary

  • The Roommate by Rosie Danan – This was one of those random NetGalley picks that turned out to be such a brilliant read. It’s funny, it’s steamy, there is a lot of chemistry between the leads but it also has a more serious and deeper side to it.
  • Don’t You Forget About Me by Mhairi McFarlane – Another book with hidden depths. It’s laugh out loud funny in places but it also deals with some more serious issues. McFarlane’s writing is wonderful and she creates people and places that feel incredibly real.
  • Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall – I’d read a lot of rave reviews of this so it was one I had high expectations for and it did not disappoint. I do love an opposites/enemies to lovers kind of a story and this was just what I needed.

Contemporary / Literary

  • The Shelf by Helly Acton – I read a few reality TV themed books during the year but this story about a woman dumped by her boyfriend live on TV before being thrown into a house with a group of women to learn how to be a better wife/girlfriend and get off The Shelf, was definitely the standout. I loved how it played on the stereotypes and while it sometimes ventured a little too far, I liked the message behind it. It also had quite a few moments that made me laugh
  • Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid – I wasn’t wholly convinced I’d get on with this book, it seemed a little too serious for 2020, but I ended up loving it. I loved how real and identifiable the characters are and I liked how it covered a lot of issues around race from the perspective of different women.
  • My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite – This was a really quick and easy read but it was an addictive one and not at all what I was expecting. The style is unusual, jumping around in time and place, with short chapters but it really worked for me. I’m not sure I liked the ending but other than that it was brilliant.

Thriller / Mystery

I read very few mystery or thrillers this year as I didn’t have the focus for them but there were a few that had me completely hooked.

  • The Last Thing to Burn by Will Dean – Technically this was published in January 21 but I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advance copy so read it in 2020. Given the subject I probably can’t describe it as enjoyable but it’s dark, disturbing and full of tension. It’s one of those books that’s completely unique and impossible to put down. Will Dean’s writing is just brilliant and I plan on working through his back list this year.
  • I Am Dust by Louise Beech – Part ghost story, part murder mystery and part historical, this book absolutely blew me away. It’s emotional, a little bit creepy and full of twists and turns.
  • The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware – My first book by Ware and I loved it. Loosely based on The Turn of the Screw it’s an atmospheric read that I found genuinely creepy at times. I’m not generally a fan of the unreliable narrator trope (it’s been done to death) but in this it worked incredibly well and I loved all of the little reveals along the way.

SciFi / Fantasy

  • Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff – I finally finished the Illuminae Files and while I loved all three books I think Gemina was my favourite. There were a few too many characters in Obsidio for me and an awful lot going on. I absolutely loved Nik from the start. I wasn’t as keen on Hanna but she really grew on me and I loved the relationship/banter between them.
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas – I think I may be the last reader on the planet to pick up the ACOTAR series but I make a point never to read different series by the same author at the same time and I’ve been stuck at the final ToG book for two years. Anyway, I finally decided to stop waiting and start reading and binge read all three books in this series in a week. Again I absolutely loved the series but I think book 2 was my favourite. I wasn’t really buying the romance in book 1 and book 3 was a little drawn out.
  • All Systems Red by Martha Wells – I’ve had the Murderbot Diaries on my wishlist for a while so as soon as the price came down a bit (why is this series so expensive?) I snapped it up and read immediately. It lived up to and possibly exceeded expectations.

Non Fiction Audiobooks

My craving for the real in 2020 led to me picking up some books I’d never otherwise have given a second look in any other year and I discovered that actually I kind of like listening to non fiction on audio.

  • Ayoade on Top by Richard Ayoade – Richard Ayoade takes a deep dive into Gwyneth Paltrow film View From the Top. It’s the most ridiculous idea and subject for a book but it’s also possibly the funniest thing I’ve ever listened to. I was literally crying I was laughing so much.
  • Quite by Claudia Winkleman – I quite like TV presenter Claudia Winkleman so I couldn’t resist her first venture into writing. I’m not entirely sure how to describe this, there are some anecdotes about her life but it’s not really a memoir as such. It’s more her opinions and advice on living your best life. It’s funny, it’s insightful and there was one chapter that made me cry.
  • Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes – I have to admit to knowing next to nothing about Shonda Rhimes before picking up this book. The only thing I did know was that she was behind a lot of my favourite TV shows. I did however find her surprisingly relatable and found this story about her pushing herself out of her comfort zone and saying yes uplifting and motivating.

So those were some of my favourite reads of last year. I am absolutely positive I have missed something off the list and will no doubt think of it later but so be it. Have you read any of these? What did you think? Are there any similar books you’d recommend I pick up in 2021? Let me know in the comments below.

Happy Reading

Ax

Review: The Island by C.L. Taylor

The Island by C.L. Taylor

The Island is Taylor’s second YA story and it’s an action packed and exciting read that I found pretty much impossible to put down. Mixing survival story and thriller it’s full of twists and turns that kept me guessing throughout. If you’re looking for a little bit of escapism (and something to make you feel better about staying safe at home), I highly recommend.


The Blurb

Welcome to The Island.
Where your worst fears are about to come true…

It was supposed to be the perfect holiday: a week-long trip for six teenage friends on a remote tropical island.

But when their guide dies of a stroke leaving them stranded, the trip of a lifetime quickly turns into a nightmare.

Because someone on the island knows each of the group’s worst fears. And one by one, they’re coming true.

Seven days in paradise. A deadly secret.

Who will make it off the island alive?


My Thoughts

Like just about every book of Taylor’s I’ve read so far I absolutely devoured this. Started reading on Friday evening and had it finished by Saturday morning, I did not want to put it down.

Taylor knows how to create a gripping read and this, her second foray into YA, is no exception. It’s a fairly classic premise, group of teens take a trip to an uninhabited island, bad things happen and there’s no help and no escape. But who is behind it? Is it one of the six or could someone else be on the island with them?

It’s an exciting read and I loved the way it kept you guessing. I’m pretty sure I suspected everyone at some point or another and had more than a few theories as to what was going on.

The story is told almost entirely from the point of view of two of the characters, Jessie and Danny, although there are a couple of chapters from other povs. I really liked getting different perspectives on events, I think it added to the mystery.

In terms of the characters, they make for an eclectic group. They’re not exactly friends, their parents are connected through an antenatal group, but they have a lot of history. They’ve holidayed together every year since they were born. But, how well do you ever really know anyone and a few of them have secrets and traumas.

Jessie and Danny are probably the most well developed characters and I loved how Jessie in particular grew and changed over the course of the story. I’m not sure I would necessarily say any of them were especially likeable but Jessie was probably the most relatable of the group. With the exception of Jessie I did feel like the girls of the group were a little under developed and I would have liked to see more of Honor and especially Meg. I didn’t really get much of a sense of them and therefore didn’t feel invested in them.

If I’m being a nitpick I think it was a bit light considering some of the issues covered (grief, self harm, toxic relationship) but I guess it’s a thriller so more depth would have slowed things down. I also felt like the balance was slightly off between the survival and the mystery/thriller elements. The setting of the Thai Island was brilliant and I feel like the author could have made a little more of it. There seemed no real danger to them from being stranded there for a week.

Taylors writing is as always great and it’s a fast paced, page turner of a book. I’m old enough to be one of the parents so I can’t really comment on how accurately it portrays a group of teenagers on holiday (I’ll leave that to an actual teenager) but it all felt pretty realistic to me.

Overall an addictive and exciting read that’s perfect to escape into for a few hours.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Thanks to netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review.