Thursday, 30 December 2021

Review | 'Tis The Season To Be Single by Laura Ziepe

Published by HQ Digital on October 3, 2018

‘Tis the Season to be Single by Laura Ziepe was a fun-filled and festive read – the story of three friends who, after various relationship woes, make a pact to be single at Christmas. But what is Christmas without a little kiss under the mistletoe?

The story centres around Rachel, Grace and Amber – three best friends working in the department store Tidemans. I loved the department store setting – it had a proper festive feel to it and unlike some other Christmas books, this one truly felt seasonal. With snowfall, decorations, presents, busy shops and family celebrations, festivities were etched on every page and I loved being able to feel the wintery season all the way through reading this book.

In ‘Tis the Season to be Single, we first meet Rachel as she is about to have an important conversation with her boyfriend, Mark. Whilst she thinks he might be about to propose to her, Mark has other ideas – he wants to break up with her. Seeking comfort in the form of her friend Bianca, Rachel suffers another kick in the teeth as she discovers Mark and Bianca have been having an affair.

At the same time, Grace has had enough. She can no longer cope with the laziness of her husband Simon, and really, when was the last time he made her feel loved or appreciated? She had spent all her time tidying up after him – there was no romance left. After ending things with him, she joins Rachel in being newly single for Christmas.

Amber returns from her holiday to find her best friends both single and fed up. Amber is no stranger to being single – commitment is not for her. However, when she hears the news that her lifelong best friend Jack is now engaged, something shifts in Amber. She feels unsettled and unhappy – could she be jealous that Jack has found love with somebody else?

Despite the issues all three women were going through, this was still quite the feel-good read with humour, romance and an honest and endearing friendship at its core. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the story. After recent breakups, it was hard to know whether Rachel, Grace and Amber were going to embrace being free and single on the run-up to Christmas or whether they were going to be down in the dumps over it. Laura Ziepe writes the enjoyable middle ground with a fresh and light-hearted story. Sure, there were times I wanted to shout at some of the characters, but mostly I liked seeing them going on dates and nights out and re-evaluating their lives.

From beginning to end, ‘Tis the Season to be Single kept me engrossed and I enjoyed every chapter. All three women had different and interesting stories and whilst the chapters alternated between the three of them, the friendship between them always shone for me. This was a lovely fast-paced and romantic read that kept me entertained throughout.

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.    

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Review | Forget My Name by J.S. Monroe

Published by Head of Zeus on October 1, 2018

Forget My Name was intriguing right from the opening chapter, in fact the first sentence, and straight away I was wrapped up in the mystery of a woman who couldn’t even remember her own name. Laura and Tony have recently bought a house together so the last thing they are expecting is a strange woman to turn up on their doorstep claiming they are in her home. Of course, they don’t believe her, especially given she has little memory of anything else, but she does remember the exact layout of their house… Would they live to regret letting her into their home?

Tony christens her Jemma with a J and Jemma’s character was truly fascinating. As she struggles to remember anything, she is a proper unreliable narrator and attempting to get to know her left me with more questions than answers. From reading the blurb of this book, I had an idea where I thought the story was going to go but J.S. Monroe surprised me with twists I wasn’t expecting and a plot that went to places I hadn’t imagined. This was a cleverly plotted and compelling book with a sinister edge to it that made each chapter more and more tense and suspenseful.

One thing I particular enjoyed about this book was the strong characterisation and how the author built up everything with vivid descriptions that made it so easy to picture the place and the event and as the reader I gained such clear images of everything that was happening which made it all the more chilling to read. I loved how the author brought everything to life and every chapter of this book played out like a movie in my head. Each character was interesting and full of personality so there was never a dull moment.

There was such a complex plot here that appeared so well researched, and it was extremely fascinating. Jemma was a true mystery in Forget My Name but there were plenty of sickening and thrilling aspects which gave the story an edge. I was captivated trying to work out the story of Jemma, and though further on I had my suspicions, I could never have guessed the depths to it and every single intricate detail had me mesmerised.

Although this book was captivating from the first page to the last, I do think that maybe the amount of twists and turns led to some coincidences which weren’t really necessary and made parts of the book more difficult to believe and buy into. If I thought too much about it, parts of it were probably too implausible for my liking, however for pure entertainment value, I let them slide as this was still a really engaging and engrossing story.

Forget My Name had me gripped and held my attention all the way through as I was dying to get to the bottom of the mystery. It was surprisingly haunting and truly entertaining. I will definitely be checking out other books by this author.

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.   

Monday, 6 September 2021

Review | Is This It? by Hannah Tovey

Published by Piatkus on July 22, 2021

Is This It by Hannah Tovey is the story of thirty-something Ivy and her attempts at getting her act together. Between holding down a job, dating and attempting to make time for all the people in her life, Ivy struggles to keep everything together and she is so easy to root for that I was hooked on this book right from the first chapter and I never wanted to put it down.

Ivy is queen of self-destruction and I loved her character. She’s honest and genuine and so easy to relate to. Constantly on a battle to balance her life, with friends, family, a new job and a potential new relationship, she struggles to keep everything on track and she often finds life quite overwhelming and I’m sure many readers will be understanding of her issues as she felt very life-like. She’s such a kind-hearted character and I really sympathised for her throughout as despite the things she was achieving, she never felt good enough or like she belonged, and I just wanted to shake her and stop her comparing herself to the people around her even though that trait is very easy for me to identify with.

It was only after I finished reading Is This It and looked for more books by the author, that I realised this is actually the second book that revolves around Ivy as The Education of Ivy Edwards was published last year. Of course I instantly bought this for my Kindle as I would love to hear more about Ivy and see the growth she goes on from the first book to the next. Although Is This It can easily be read as a standalone, knowing that there is another book makes sense as parts of Ivy’s past including her relationship breakdown with Jamie and Ivy’s reaction to that were hinted at but never fully explained and clearly this is why. I’m really looking forward to going back and reading the first book and would definitely be up for reading a follow up to Is This It too.

Hannah Tovey’s second novel is highly entertaining, quick-witted and a joy to read. One of my favourite parts of the book was Ivy’s relationship with her sister Anna. Though Is This It is the story of Ivy, Anna’s story is also a resonating one and I cared for her character. They had a proper sisterly relationship and you could see how much they loved each other in amongst the banter and the bickering. Of the weird and wonderful assortment of supporting characters in the book, Anna was my favourite, closely followed by Mr Reid and Scott.

One character I struggled with was Mia and at times I did find I wanted to skim through her parts in the book. Despite being Ivy’s best friend, I found her generally to be quite selfish and often she puts Ivy down for literally no reason and spends most of her time calling Ivy boring when she has work to do or doesn’t want to drink all night. Maybe some people would take that in a friend but I can’t see why. I found Ivy to be far too forgiving of Mia.

Despite this, there were so many redeeming qualities to this book that my overwhelming feeling when I’d finished reading it was just how much I loved it. There were so many ups and downs in the story that it really kept me on my toes, in hope of that happy ending for Ivy. It was often laugh-out-loud funny and I smiled my way through it. Hannah Tovey’s writing is so real and authentic and in Ivy she has crafted a perfectly imperfect protagonist. I personally would love to read more about Ivy in future books. 

Thanks to the publisher for the copy I won on Twitter - this was my honest review.   

Friday, 3 September 2021

Review | The Chateau by Catherine Cooper

Published by HarperCollins on September 2, 2021

When I got back into reading at the end of last year, there was one book in particular my social media feed was raving about – Catherine Cooper’s debut novel, The Chalet. Because of that I was very excited to hear about her next book and receive a copy to review for the blog tour. I had high expectations going into The Chateau and it did not let me down. This was a cleverly written and tension-filled thriller that had me absolutely hooked.

Aura and Nick have moved away from England to make a fresh start with their two young sons. They don’t talk about what happened back in England. Instead, they begin the new chapter of their lives with plans to renovate the huge, if slightly crumbly, chateau they have bought in France. Sure, it’s a lot of work but they have invited a film crew to come and stop with them to turn this new phase of their lives and their restoration of the chateau into a TV show. It is to be the perfect new start for them – but can renovating their new home really help paper over the cracks in their marriage?

The Chateau was unsettling right from the opening chapter and my sense of unease only grew the more I read. The storytelling was vivid and at times quite disturbing as a lot of the characters were quite outlandish and it was definitely entertaining reading about their antics. The way the author brings each scene to life had me enthralled as I could picture everything happening like I was actually there watching it unfold. The book is full of flawed characters of which most of them I didn’t like or trust and this made me even more invested in the story trying to work out who was behind some of the creepy stuff that was happening at the chateau. All the way through I had my suspicions but never knew the full story and I loved every single twist.

The book is so tightly plotted and perfectly paced with drama and tension filled chapters. I liked the variety of chapter lengths which kept the storytelling fresh and fast and was probably the reason why I raced through the book because it was so gripping. The book is split into parts and focused on different times and events so we could get the whole picture of the things in the past that Nick and Aura don’t want to dwell on. I much preferred this being told in parts than having each chapter alternate in timeframe as it meant I could fully sink my teeth into each part of the book and often I was so gripped by what I was reading that I was caught off-guard by a twist and so never truly knew what was coming next.

The Chateau is one of the best thrillers I’ve read in a long time. It’s dark and twisted with a killer ending and a story I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.   

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