Review: He Will Be Mine by Kirsty Greenwood

He Will Be Mine

If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that I am a huge fan of Kirsty Greenwood. Her previous book Big Sexy Love was one of my top reads in 2017 and I’ve been actively trying to foist it on pretty much everyone I’ve ever met. I was therefore very excited/nervous when I heard there was a new book coming. Could it possibly live up to expectations?

Well yes it did. He Will Be Mine, is an absolutely hilarious story about following your heart, believing in the fantasy and going after what you want. It’s touching, it’s romantic and it’s a whole lot crazy. Basically it’s the perfect bit of escapism. I loved it.


THE BLURB

The brand new full-length standalone romantic comedy from the bestselling author of Big Sexy Love!

Nora Tucker is an admin assistant from a tiny English village.

Gary Montgomery is Hollywood’s hottest new star.

After seeing him on the silver screen, Nora believes that Gary is her soulmate, her one true love, the man she’s supposed to grow old and wrinkly with. She knows it sounds nuts, she knows it’s completely crazy. But sometimes love is crazy, right?

Only… how on earth is this Plain Jane introvert supposed to get to Los Angeles, infiltrate Gary’s inner circle AND convince him that they’re meant to be? Throwing herself into this mission might be a tall order but it means Nora can stop thinking about that one awful day, two years ago, when everything in her life fell apart…

With the help of a sunny Californian weather girl, a super hot but super grumpy script writer, and a very passionate Adam Levine tribute act, Nora is about to try the impossible and let fate decide her future…


Thoughts

As a long time fan of Kirsty Greenwood the wait for a new book by her has been almost unbearably long but He Will Be Mine was definitely worth waiting for. It’s laugh out loud funny, a whole lot crazy and pretty much the perfect bit of escapism for these difficult times. I read the whole thing more or less in one sitting as I just couldn’t put it down.

The premise of this book is pretty unusual, 20 something woman working as a virtual admin assistant in a small village in England decides a famous Hollywood actor is her soul mate and heads off to LA to convince him of that fact. It sounds completely unbelievable and a bit nuts, but somehow Greenwood makes it work. Yes there are some ridiculous scenes and possibly a few too many convenient coincidences but they’re so funny it’s easy to just go with it and enjoy the ride.

Main character Nora Tucker is surprisingly relatable for a crazy stalker and there’s something very likeable about her. Her somewhat hermit lifestyle, working from home, staying in reading romance novels and eating junk at the start of the story is probably very relatable to many of us living in lockdown right now and I could definitely see myself in her. There are tragic reasons why Nora lives the way she does and I really felt for her. I will admit to struggling a little with the “famous actor is my soulmate” thing but other than that she seems like a normal, nice and down to earth person. And while her trip to LA is for a slightly crazy reason I loved the way it opened her up, gave her new experiences and led to some self discovery.

Her adventures in LA are absolutely wonderful and often had me laughing out loud or cringing with embarrassment for her. I loved the way the city is portrayed in the story. I’ve never been but the author really brought it to life and made me want to book tickets to go immediately. I also loved the different characters Nora meets along the way. Some have bigger parts than others and some are on the quirky side but all of them are memorable. It was also fantastic to catch up with a couple of characters from one of Greenwood’s previous books and there’s a cameo from an actual famous Hollywood actor in there too that made me giggle.

I loved that as well as the chapters from Nora’s pov we also got to hear Gary’s side of the story. I loved the similarities between them, the near misses and how his chapters often mirrored hers. It kept me wondering if maybe, just maybe they were in fact meant to be and it wasn’t all in Nora’s imagination. It’s definitely a story that keeps you guessing and there are more than a few unexpected twists along the way.

As always Greenwood’s writing is wonderful, the story is pacy and full of humour and heart. If you can’t tell by now I absolutely adored it and am seriously considering reading it again. I just hope we don’t have to wait so long for her next book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Review: Anxious People by Fredrik Backman

Anxious People

Anxious People has all of the things I love about a Fredrik Backman book. Wonderful writing, memorable characters and a lot of emotion and depth. However I have to confess to being a little disappointed by it. It may just have been poor timing on my part but there was something that didn’t quite work for me. I still enjoyed it but I didn’t love it.


The Blurb

A poignant, charming novel about a crime that never took place, a would-be bank robber who disappears into thin air, and eight extremely anxious strangers who find they have more in common than they ever imagined

Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunt down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix up their own marriage. There’s a wealthy banker who has been too busy making money to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an eighty-seven-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.

Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them—the bank robber included—desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in a motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.

Humorous, compassionate, and wise, Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope—the things that save us, even in the most anxious of times.


My Thoughts

Unpopular opinion time, I didn’t love this book. I didn’t dislike it either but as a huge fan of Backman it was definitely disappointing.

It may have been a case of wrong book at the wrong time (it probably wasn’t the brightest idea to read a book titled “Anxious People” at the height of a global pandemic) but many of the things I usually love in Backman’s writing I seemed to find a little bit irritating. There’s a lot of foreshadowing and the narrator talking directly to the reader, telling us what the story is about and isn’t about, what’s important and what’s not. I have to admit to wanting them to just get on with the story but I was in a fairly impatient and irritated mood so that’s on me. I also struggled a little with the multiple points of view and jumps back and forward in time. I think I was expecting more of a straight story so it threw me off a bit when I got something completely different. I found it difficult to keep track of characters and how the various storylines linked together. I lost focus and found my concentration wandering.

Despite these niggles though there is a lot to like in the book. There’s a wonderful mix of different and quirky characters and I absolutely loved the way they developed over the course of the story. There’s a real depth to them and many of them are not what they first seem. It definitely highlights the theme that you can’t judge people based on appearances and you never really know what struggles other people are facing. I also loved the way the author played around with my own unconscious biases and expectations. I had more than one ah! moment when I realised I had made completely wrong assumptions based on my own preconceived notions.

Backman’s writing is as brilliant as always with lots of humour, great dialogue and some poignant and heartfelt moments (yes I cried). I wasn’t entirely sold on the switches from police interview to narrative as I found the change in style jarring but I did love the interview chapters. I felt like they brought the story to life. I probably would have preferred it if the story was told a little more simply and had more of a focus on one series of events rather than jumping around as it felt a little muddled to me.

Overall however it is still a good read and one I’d recommend to any Backman fans.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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

Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

Title: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

Author: Abbi Waxman

Genre: Contemporary

Pages: 351

Source: Bought

My Rating: 3 stars


The Blurb

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.


Thoughts

Unpopular opinion time, I didn’t love this book. I mean, I wanted to and based on the synopsis and all of the glowing reviews I was pretty positive going in that I would but it just didn’t work for me. It may just be a case of poor timing, I was in a grumpy mood, but I found myself becoming increasingly irritated by it and the more I read the more irritated I got.

In theory it should have been the perfect read for me, quirky characters, a bookshop setting, lots of literary and pop culture references, a cat and a little bit of romance. And there was definitely a lot to like but there was something about the writing style and the tone of the story which rubbed me up the wrong way from the very start. Yes the characters are quirky and eccentric but it feels like it’s trying too hard. I think it’s supposed to be funny but it wasn’t really my sense of humour so I found it a bit dull and by the end was left wondering what the point of it was.

I guess it’s supposed to be about Nina’s development from anxious introvert to someone who puts themselves out there with other people but to be honest I never really bought the anxious introvert thing so it didn’t seem like there was much development. If I’m being brutally honest I didn’t even like Nina that much. Anxious and introverted just seemed to mean rude, inconsiderate and judgemental (there’s some serious book snobbery). Someone who has a wide circle of friends, is out every night of the week and seems to like being at the centre of things doesn’t sound very introverted or shy to me and she had no problem standing up for herself or speaking her mind. I expected much more of a loner, not a social butterfly.

The story itself did have promise. Nina discovers she has a whole family she didn’t know about and meets them while simultaneously getting to know quiz team rival Tom who is inexplicably (she’s nothing but horrible to him) interested in her. If there had been a little more depth or emotion I think it could have been a really good story but the tone remains upbeat and quirky throughout which I think sort of spoiled things.

The switches in perspective from one paragraph to the next also confused me. The majority of the story is from Nina’s pov but every so often it’d switch to Tom or one of the other characters, usually in the middle of a chapter with no indication. It’d take me a few seconds to figure out what’d happened by which time we’d be back to Nina.

I’m also not sure I saw the point of cat Phil other than to go all out on the stereotype of bookish spinster with cat. And having Nina imagining what he was saying just seemed silly, like pretty much most of the things she imagined.

As for the romance, it felt a little tacked on and lacklustre. There wasn’t any real chemistry between them and she was so rude to Tom I honestly couldn’t see why he bothered.

There were a few nice moments, I liked a couple of the secondary characters and I do love a book with lots of literary references but I’m afraid on the whole it was a bit of a disappointment.

Review: Dark Waters by G.R. Halliday

Dark Waters (Monica Kennedy #2)

Dark Waters, the second book in the DI Monica Kennedy series by G.R. Halliday, is possibly even better than it’s predecessor. It’s darker, more gruesome and very atmospheric. The Scottish Highland setting was yet again the highlight of the story for me, with the sense of remoteness and isolation making for a truly chilling and tension filled read.

While this is the second book in a series it could easily be read as a standalone. There are some references to the events in From the Shadows and you’ll have missed a little of the character background but this is very much it’s own story.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

THREE MISTAKES. TWO MURDERS. ONE MORE VICTIM TO GO . . .

Annabelle loves to drive. It helps her escape her world, her past. Speeding on a mountain road in the Scottish Highlands, she sees a little girl step out in front of her. She swerves to avoid her. The next thing Annabelle remembers is waking up in a dark, damp room. A voice from the corner of the room says ‘The Doctor will see you now’.

Scott is camping in the woodlands in the Scottish Highlands – but in the middle of the night, he hears something outside his tent. When he goes out to have a look, a little girl is standing among the trees, staring right at him. Scott is never seen again.

When a dismembered body is discovered, DI Monica Kennedy gets called to the scene immediately. After six months away from the Serious Crimes team, they need her back on board.

As Monica searches for the murderer, another body is found. Monica knows the signs . . . She’s on the hunt for a serial killer.


MY THOUGHTS

I knew when I read the first book, From the Shadows, that this series had real promise so as soon as this the sequel appeared on NetGalley I couldn’t resist requesting immediately and I was not disappointed. Halliday has kept all that made From the Shadows such a great read and come up with something even better.

The story picks up a few months after the events of the first book with DI Monica Kennedy and the rest of the team still trying to come to terms with everything that happened. When a dismembered body is found however Monica is called to the scene and finds herself back on the hunt for another serial killer. At the same time it seems there may be something or someone hunting unsuspecting tourists who wander into remote areas alone.

It’s an incredibly dark and creepy read with a few moments which could easily come from a horror film, think Deliverance or Wrong Turn. I do love a creepy tale but even I found myself checking all of the doors and windows in my house to make sure no one could get in. I wouldn’t describe it as a fast paced or action packed read but there’s a real tension to the story that makes it very difficult to put down.

Main character, Monica Kennedy makes for an intriguing main character. I wouldn’t necessarily describe her as likeable or relatable but there’s something about her determination to get to the truth and her love for her daughter you can’t help but admire. In this outing we also get a little more of her backstory, her relationship with her parents and her father in particular seems to be on her mind a lot. It feels like there’s some real character development and I found myself wanting to know more about her.

I also very much enjoyed the sections from the point of view of kidnap victim Annabelle. Her fear at her captivity and the mystery around where she is and what is going to happen to her makes for compelling reading. I did have my doubts around whether I liked her at the start, she seems quite superficial, but I found myself really admiring her and rooting for her. She has such determination to escape and to survive no matter what.

The real highlight of this story was for me however the setting. The beauty and the wildness of the Scottish Highlands are used to full effect by Halliday. There’s a sense of isolation and remoteness that adds to the dark and chilling atmosphere. I loved the use of the small and insular communities who live by their own laws and don’t welcome strangers. There’s no technology, no internet or social media and barely any phone signal. In some ways it sounds like the perfect escape from the modern world but if you’re alone and need help it’s terrifying.

Similar to my thoughts on the first book though I do feel like Dark Waters would benefit from a few lighter moments to balance out the darkness. I can understand why the author decided to keep the tone the same throughout, there’s not really a lot to laugh about in kidnapping and murder, but it’s just so unrelentingly dark. Even when Monica is spending time with her family or when she’s in the car with Crawford there’s no lightness and I think it really needed it.

I also would have liked a little more background on Crawford, Fisher and the new member of the investigative team. We do find out a little more on Fisher this time around but it’s not quite enough to make him feel like a fully rounded character. I felt like we got to know more around victim Annabelle.

Despite these minor niggles though I thought this was a great read and one I’d recommend to anyone looking for a dark and atmospheric murder mystery.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. This has in no way influenced my review.

Review: The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

The Happy Ever After Playlist
The Happy Ever After Playlist
by Abby Jimenez turned out to be the feel good read I really needed. Laugh out loud funny, a little sad but completely adorable I sat down and read the whole thing in one go, smiling the whole time.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

Two years after losing her fiancé, Sloan Monroe still can’t seem to get her life back on track. But one trouble-making pup with a “take me home” look in his eyes is about to change everything. With her new pet by her side, Sloan finally starts to feel more like herself. Then, after weeks of unanswered texts, Tucker’s owner reaches out. He’s a musician on tour in Australia. And bottom line: He wants Tucker back.

Well, Sloan’s not about to give up her dog without a fight. But what if this Jason guy really loves Tucker? As their flirty texts turn into long calls, Sloan can’t deny a connection. Jason is hot and nice and funny. There’s no telling what could happen when they meet in person. The question is: With his music career on the rise, how long will Jason really stick around? And is it possible for Sloan to survive another heartbreak?


MY THOUGHTS

This was very possibly a case of right book at the right time but I don’t care. I loved it and read the whole thing in one Saturday morning with the biggest smile on my face.

I had no idea when I started it that it was a sequel to The Friend Zone but while the author does recommend you read them in order the fact that I hadn’t made absolutely no difference to my enjoyment of this story. Would I have gotten more depth from knowing more of the characters’ backstory? Maybe, but it works perfectly well as a standalone.

From the very start when main character Sloan rescues dog Tucker this story is just ridiculously adorable. I loved each and every character and I adored the relationships between them. Sloan and Jason are so cute together. I loved the banter between them, especially before they meet in person. There’s a lot of teasing and flirting and sooo much chemistry. They seem to have an instant connection but unlike a lot of insta loves this one feels believable and real.

I liked Sloan a lot as a character, she’s kind, funny and tough, but Jason is swoon-worthy book boyfriend material. You could maybe argue that he’s a little too perfect or too good to be true (he’s sensitive, patient, generous, charming, funny and gorgeous) but I was more than happy to just go with it.

There was a lot to like in the secondary characters as well. I really want Kristen and Josh as my best friends, they were absolutely hilarious and sound like they’d be a lot of fun but I loved how they were always there for Sloan. They tease her, embarrass and push her but it’s clear they would do anything to protect her and want her to be happy.  The highlight of the story for me though was dog Tucker. He was a real character, stealing more or less every scene he was in.

The writing is wonderful, witty, fun and packed full of emotion. It made me stupidly happy reading it and I found myself smiling a lot. There are a few sad moments, Sloan is grieving and the new relationship is not all smooth sailing, but while I did shed a couple of tears it is an upbeat and positive story.

I also loved the song titles at the start of each chapter and yes I did listen to the play list as I was reading. Music seems to have become a much bigger part of my life during lockdown, it’s picked me up, calmed me, kept me motivated and helped me let off steam so listening to the tracks while reading really added to the whole experience (and I’ve fallen in love with a few of the tracks).

As you have probably guessed I loved pretty much everything about this story and I highly recommend to anyone looking for a bit of light relief.

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

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

Review: Family for Beginners by Sarah Morgan

Family For BeginnersIf you’re looking for some gentle escapism this summer I don’t think you can go too far wrong with Sarah Morgan’s Family For Beginners. With a story about love, blended families and grief it’s a bit of an emotional read but has the usual warmth I’ve come to expect. It may not be my favourite book from the author but I do think a lot of people will love it.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

New York florist Flora Donovan is living the dream, but her bubbly optimism hides a secret. She’s lonely. Orphaned as a child, she’s never felt like she’s belonged anywhere…until she meets Jack Parker. He’s the first man to ever really see her, and it’s life changing.

Teenager Izzy Parker is holding it together by her fingertips. Since her mother passed away a year ago, looking after her dad and little sister is the only thing that makes Izzy feel safe. Discovering her father has a new girlfriend is her worst nightmare – she is not in the market for a replacement mom. Then, her father invites Flora on their summer vacation….

Flora’s heart aches for Izzy, but she badly wants her relationship with Jack to work. As the summer unfolds, Flora must push her own boundaries to discover parts of herself she never knew existed – and to find the family she’s always wanted.


MY THOUGHTS

I’m a big fan of Sarah Morgan’s writing and always enjoy her books but I’m afraid this one didn’t quite hit the mark for me. It has the same wonderful and warm writing I’ve come to expect from the author, well rounded characters and a real sense of place but I just didn’t get on with the story or main character Flora. It may simply be a case of the wrong book at the wrong time but I didn’t fly through this in the way I usually do with Morgan’s books.

Over her last few books, the author has been gradually moving away from the romance and into much more relationship and family type stories and Family for Beginners takes us further along that route. There’s very little in the way of romance in this story with the focus on florist Flora who so desperately wants to find a place where she belongs, a family who will accept her. After her mother died when she was young, Flora was raised by a cold and distant aunt who made it perfectly clear she wasn’t wanted and was an inconvenience. When she meets Jack Parker, recently widowed and father to two girls, she thinks she’s found somewhere she could belong.

Unfortunately Jack’s eldest daughter Izzy is not so keen on Flora coming into their lives and trying to fix everything. She’s barely keeping it together as it is so is determined to see the back of Flora. When Jack invites Flora to come with the family on a trip to the Lake District, Izzy is not happy and neither is Claire, the family friend they will be staying with. Secrets come to light and Flora discovers more about Jack (and herself) but will there be a happily ever after?

There is a lot to like in this story, I loved the lake district setting, I loved how well rounded and real the characters felt, the relationships between them and the way they developed over the course of the story. Morgan’s writing is as always wonderful and there’s a lot of emotion in those pages. I suspect if you love reading stories about families and family relationships you’ll really enjoy this book.

Unfortunately however I found myself becoming frustrated and annoyed with it and I’m afraid it was mostly down to Flora. She is exactly the kind of character I hate reading and I just found it so difficult to relate to her. I could understand the why behind how she is and I could empathize with her but I just found her endless positivity and optimism annoying. She’s a people pleaser who tries to fix everything which is pretty much the antithesis of me. She does develop over the story but I spent a lot of my time reading this book wanting to shake her and tell her to stop trying so damn hard all of the time.

It probably didn’t help that I couldn’t see the attraction in Jack as there wasn’t a lot of time spent in developing the relationship between them. Their first dates happen off the page and they’re never really alone together. As a result there’s no spark or chemistry between them making it hard to see why Flora was so desperate for the relationship to work. Flora seems to feel sorry for him and seems more attracted to the idea of rescuing him and finding a ready made family. As for Jack, he never feels fully present in the story and I had no real sense of who he is. He’s closed off, distant and completely oblivious to the feelings of those around him. Flora keeps saying how much he sees her but I didn’t feel like he showed it in the story. Maybe though it’s just because we never get his pov.

Izzy, whose pov we do get was actually the most likeable of the characters to me. She’s an absolute mess of emotions, anger, guilt, sadness, but she felt believable and relateable. She’s grieving her mother, dealing with a lot of changes in her life and hiding a huge secret. I really felt for her throughout the story, even when she was being kind of horrible.

I did think the author did a brilliant job throughout the story of portraying the different ways people deal with loss and how the loss of her mother still affects Flora many years later. This does make it a little bit darker than some of Morgan’s other books but there are moments of light in there too to balance it out nicely. I may have shed one or two tears but I did find myself smiling in places too and I very much enjoyed the conclusion.

Overall I think a lot of people will love this story but there were a few too many things that I found annoying or frustrating for it to be a favourite.

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

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

Review: The Switch by Beth O’Leary

The SwitchWarm and funny, The Switch by Beth O’Leary is the kind of uplifting book I think we all need just now. The storyline may feel a little familiar but I loved the sense of community, family, friendship and love that runs throughout. I highly recommend to anyone looking for a feelgood read.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

Eileen is sick of being 79.
Leena’s tired of life in her twenties.
Maybe it’s time they swapped places…

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.

Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?


MY THOUGHTS

As a massive fan of O’Leary’s debut, The Flatshare, I was ridiculously excited to get my hands on an advance copy of her new book The Switch. Unfortunately however while I did very much enjoy it, I’m not sure it quite lived up to expectations (although to be fair these were probably unreasonably high).

The story is great, the characters are likeable and it’s warm and funny and incredibly sweet. It’s pretty much a big hug in book form. However while I more or less devoured the whole thing in an afternoon, I feel it’s missing that special something to lift it from a great read to a stand out one and I have a horrible feeling that in a few weeks I’ll have forgotten all about it.

It may be that I’ve been overdosing on romcoms and contemporaries lately (they’re pretty much the only genres I can focus on right now) but I felt The Switch was a little lacking in originality. The story seemed a bit too familiar and I’ve read more than one book where different generations of women discover they have something to learn from each other.

I did love the characters and the way they developed over the course of the story. Also really loved how many older characters had starring roles. Eileen in particular was a joy to read and I thought the author did a wonderful job of portraying an older person whose body may be slowing down but whose determination and passions are as strong as ever. I loved her adventurous spirit but I also loved how she created a community everywhere she went and how protective she is of those she cares about.

Leena took a little longer to grow on me. I could certainly relate to her but I think it’s safe to say she’s a bit of a mess at the start of the story and she’s keeping a lot bottled up inside which makes her come across as uptight. I found her inability to stop and relax frustrating, I mean, who complains about being given a couple of months paid leave (and I don’t mean because you’ve been furloughed and can’t go anywhere or see anyone). She does however develop quite nicely over the course of the story and I grew to really like her.

I also loved the relationships within the novel, the friendships old and new (some of which are unlikely) and also the romance. There are quite a few sparks flying and while it is a little predictable I was happy to go along for the ride.

I maybe would’ve preferred less secondary characters so they could be developed a bit further but each and every one does have a role in the story and they do all feel authentic if a bit eccentric at times.

Overall a great read that’s perfect for a lazy day or when you’re in need of a bit of cheering up.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. This has in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review: The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

The Turn of the Key
The Turn of the Key
may be the first book I’ve read by Ruth Ware but it definitely won’t be the last. I loved Ware’s writing style and the dark and sinister atmosphere she created and somehow managed to maintain throughout. It’s a gripping read that kept me compulsively turning those pages until the very end.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

When she stumbles across the advert, she’s looking for something else completely. But it seems like too good an opportunity to miss: a live-in nanny position, with a staggeringly generous salary. And when Rowan arrives at Heatherbrae House, she is smitten by the luxurious ‘smart’ home fitted out with all modern conveniences, by the beautiful Scottish Highlands, and by this picture-perfect family.

What she doesn’t know is that she’s stepping into a nightmare – one that will end with a child dead and her in a cell awaiting trial for murder.

She knows she’s made mistakes. But, she maintains, she’s not guilty – at least not of murder. Which means someone else is.


MY THOUGHTS

The Turn of the Key is an addictive read based loosely on The Turn of the Screw, with the main character Rowan hired as live in nanny to four children. What initially seems like a dream job, however soon becomes a nightmare as she’s left alone to look after the children for weeks in a house with a bit of a dark history, spooky goings on and more than a few secrets. It’s not long before one of the children ends up dead and Rowan gets the blame despite her protestations of innocence.

It’s a genuinely creepy read at times and I loved the way the author built up the tension, revealing little hints and throwing in the odd twist along the way. I very much enjoyed the way the story was told in the form of letters from Rowan to a potential barrister. I’m not sure it felt wholly convincing as a letter but I did love the conversational style to it.

I thought the characters were for the most part well developed and intriguing and I loved how little by little more is revealed about Rowan’s past as the story unfolds. I’m not sure I would describe her as likeable or nice, she’s the typical unreliable narrator so you can’t really trust her, but I certainly felt some empathy for her by the end. The other characters are a little more mysterious and there were a couple in particular whose motivations I’m not sure I ever fully understood. It does however work within a story that keeps you guessing who dunnit so I can’t complain too much.

The real highlight for me however was the atmosphere which is dark and sinister throughout. I loved the Scottish Highland setting and the sense of remoteness and isolation it created. I also loved the use of technology, it’s a smart home with all of the latest gadgets, to give a classic story a much more contemporary feel.

If I had one complaint, it would probably be the ending. I’m not going to say much about it so no spoilers, but it felt a little rushed and unsatisfying to me. Possibly that may be what the author intended but given the build up I would have liked a little bit more.

Overall though I thought this was a great read and one I’d recommend to anyone looking for a slightly creepy who dunnit.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review: Strangers by C.L. Taylor

Strangers by C.L. Taylor
I think Strangers could possibly be my favourite book yet from C.L. Taylor. Despite featuring three seemingly unconnected storylines, the tension never lets up throughout and I found myself unable to put it down.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

Ursula, Gareth and Alice have never met before.

Ursula thinks she killed the love of her life.
Gareth’s been receiving strange postcards.
And Alice is being stalked.

None of them are used to relying on others – but when the three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide, there’s only one thing for it: they have to stick together. Otherwise, one of them will die.

Three strangers, two secrets, one terrifying evening.


MY REVIEW

I think this could possibly be Taylor’s best book yet. I absolutely loved it from the very first page to the very last.

With three different, seemingly disconnected, stories this shouldn’t have worked for me but somehow it did. I usually have problems with multiple povs, there’s almost always one story that I prefer to the others but here I found myself fully engaged with all three.

Annie is a single parent and manager of a fashion store in the Mead shopping centre. At her adult daughter’s encouragement she’s trying to put herself out there and meet someone new but while she does find a guy she likes there’s someone out there who doesn’t want them to get together.

Gareth is a middle aged security guard at the shopping centre who cares for his elderly mother who has dementia. He discovers his mother is receiving postcards from his father who disappeared and was presumed dead 20 years ago. Could he still be alive or is someone trying to take advantage of his mum.

Ursula is a bit of a loner. She blames herself for her fiancé’s death. She works as a courier and lives with a friend until they discover she’s been stealing from them. When they throw her out she’s desperate enough to rent a room from a rather odd guy, who won’t tell her what’s in the basement and insists the radio be kept on at all times.

Add to this rumours in the background of a serial killer responsible for the disappearance of several men in the area and you’ve got a truly gripping read.

I was completely addicted to each of the three stories and I thought the author did a brilliant job of balancing them. Annie, Gareth and even Ursula were very sympathetic characters and they felt very real and relateable. With so much going on in the story you would have thought there wouldn’t be much room to develop the secondary characters or the relationships between them but this wasn’t the case at all as the author took the time to make each and every character well rounded and believable.

It was however the plot that was the star for me. The tension never lets up for an instant and there are some truly creepy moments that had me wanting to hide under the duvet. It also keeps you guessing throughout and I genuinely had no idea where it was going or how the stories would eventually come together. When they finally do merge it lives up to all expectations and the ending is spot on.

Overall, this was a brilliant read and one I’d recommend to anyone who loves a good thriller.

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

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review: Mirage by Somaiya Daud

Mirage (Mirage, #1)
Mirage
by Somaiya Daud is probably not the most original story but there’s definitely something magical and unique about Daud’s writing and the world she creates. I found it an engaging read and am already looking forward to the sequel.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon.

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place.

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancé, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection…because one wrong move could lead to her death.


MY THOUGHTS

I have to confess I’ve been a little bit down on YA fantasy and sci fi lately so despite receiving an advance copy of this from NetGalley I kept putting off reading it. I thought it’d be the same story I’d read a million times before however, while there are a lot of similarities to other stories, there is definitely something special about this and it was not at all what I was expecting.

I should probably have read the synopsis properly before picking this book up as I had no idea it was sci fi. From the cover I thought maybe some kind of Moroccan inspired fantasy, I did not anticipate intergalactic travel and droids but actually despite these elements this book reads much more like fantasy. It may just be the magic of Daud’s writing (there’s no magic in the story), the beautiful and vivid descriptions, the romance and the intrigue but this never felt like sci fi and I was perfectly happy with that.

The story is a familiar one, main character Amani is taken away from her home and family by the Vathek (an alien race who have invaded and colonized her home world) and held captive within the palace. She bears an uncanny resemblance to the cruel and unpopular Princess Maram so is tasked with acting as her double. Terrified and with no other option Amani has to learn how to be Princess Maram so convincingly that not even the Princess’s family, friends or fiance can tell the difference.

This isn’t a fast paced or action packed story but a slower paced character driven story and I liked that a lot. We follow Amani as she’s taken from everything she knows and loves and forced into a strange and violent world where one mistake could mean her death. It’s an engaging read and Amani is very easy to like. She admits herself that she’s a bit of a dreamer and it is her faith and belief in her people’s religion and mythology that gives her the hope that she can get through anything. She’s not physically strong, she has no special powers or abilities but she still shows bravery and a determination to overcome all of the challenges thrown her way. I’m sure this will make her incredibly relateable to a lot of people.

I also loved how her character develops over the course of the story. Forced to pretend to be someone completely different she starts to question herself, she feels like she’s losing herself in the character she’s pretending to be and has to fight to hang on to what makes her unique, finding a strength she didn’t know she had.

There is as is compulsory in all YA novels a romance, this time a forbidden one between Amani and Princess Miram’s fiance Idris, and I very much enjoyed how it slowly developed. It’s not insta love but instead a connection forged through similar histories and an understanding or each other. Idris was not my favourite character, he comes across a little weak and naive but I did like how they were together.

The star of the story was however Maram. I love a good villain and Maram fits the bill perfectly. She starts out seemingly nasty, vindictive and cruel but she’s much more complex than first appearances would suggest. As we find out more of her background and she softens a little I found myself feeling some sympathy for her. She’s very isolated and alone, desperate to prove herself a worthy heir to her cruel father’s empire by the only means she knows how. She’s unpredictable and it’s impossible to tell how she’ll react in any situation.

I also absolutely adored the world the author created, the descriptions make everything feel vivid and rich and I loved how the mythology was woven into the story. There are some heavy themes running throughout, oppression, colonialism, the stripping away of heritage and tradition and I thought the author handled them well.

As the first book in a series I thought it was pretty much perfect and I look forward to book two.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This has not influenced my review

My rating: 4 of 5 stars