Monday, 19 April 2021

Review | A Bad Boy Stole My Bra by Lauren Price

Published by Ink Road on July 12, 2018

I got to this book a few years after it was published, originally I believe on Wattpad and then picked up by Ink Road. After a few darker reads, A Bad Boy Stole My Bra was just the tonic I needed – a pure, cute teenage read which was light-hearted but at the same time touched on some darker things which kept me hooked.

Riley and her mum are intrigued to discover they have new neighbours, but little did Riley know that just a little while later she would be introduced to the cute boy next door, Alec, during the night when as part of a dare, he is in her bedroom stealing her Mickey Mouse bra. This is where the fun and the pranks begin as Riley goes on a hunt to not only get her bra back but also to get her revenge on her annoying new neighbour. However, along the way she discovers that maybe there is more to Alec than meets the eye.

This was definitely a feel-good read from beginning to end. I loved the authenticity to the teenage characters. This book was written by a teenager and that helped bring the characters to life as they felt true and realistic. The representation of some of the high-school students here did have its stereotypes but at the same time all the characters seemed believable. Lauren Price balances the laid-back nature of some with the hormones and confusing feelings and dramas and stresses and anxieties and demons that get a grip of others’ self-esteem. I thought Riley and Alec were both well-rounded characters. Although we don’t get to know Alec quite as well, he is mysterious enough to be fascinated by but also real enough to care for and root for. I was all in to his and Riley’s slow-burning romance and fully invested in a hopefully happy ending to the story for them both.

Riley was an entertaining narrator to the book and as the reader it is easy to get lured into her messy thoughts and awkward moments. It’s clear early on that she has her secrets and she is not very forgiving to herself. She sees herself as a bit of a loner with only her best friend Violet on her side but further on you can tell that people do like her – maybe she just doesn’t like herself. I enjoyed getting to know her and also finding out what was making her pull back and hide things from the people she cared about.

Violet’s character was a joy and I would have liked to have seen more of her. There were many supporting characters here and I particularly liked some of Alec’s friends. This book could have been made longer and more well-rounded if we had got to know them more, but as side characters they did their job and kept every chapter fresh with plenty of laugh out loud moments throughout.

Overall, A Bad Boy Stole My Bra was an amusing and uplifting book with all the jokes and cheesy one-liners nicely contrasted with the angst and drama I love in a young adult novel. I would definitely recommend it for those looking for a sweet summer read.

Monday, 12 April 2021

Review | The Embalmer by Alison Belsham

Published by Trapeze on March 18, 2021

The Embalmer is the third book in Alison Belsham’s Tattoo Thief series. I must admit I chose to read this book pretty much solely based on the cover so initially I wasn’t aware that this was part of a series, let alone the final book in a trilogy. However, from the first few chapters it is clear that these are returning characters with a lot of history and a quick check shows that the story here follows that of The Tattoo Thief and Her Last Breath.

Any struggles I had keeping up with the links between the characters to begin with were quickly forgotten by just how intrigued I was by the creepy opening chapter and the twisted acts of the serial killer. Yes it was a bit jarring at first knowing I was missing out on some details but this was at no fault of the writing or the story itself as both were extremely fascinating and had this book lingering on my mind whenever I wasn’t reading it, so much so I got the novel confused with a crime series I had been watching on TV around the same time as I was picturing this book playing out in my head so much I actually thought I had been watching it. The Embalmer could be read as a standalone but really I would recommend starting from the first book in the series to get the full experience. It was seriously gripping and had me eager to read more from this author.

In the Embalmer, the series returns to the character of detective Francis Sullivan who receives a call out to Brighton’s Natural History Museum where he is presented with a freshly mummified body. The findings were enough to send a shiver down my spine and whilst the first victim’s fate was gruesome enough, things only got more disturbing with more jars of body parts leading to a truly edge-of-your-seat race against time to stop yet another life being taken.

The Embalmer also continued the story of Marni Mullins, who is caught in the middle of a battle between her ex-husband Thierry and his brother Paul, resulting in one of them losing their life and Marni being charged with their murder. It was evident Marni had been a vital character in previous books so it took me a little bit of time to get up to speed with her backstory, but I found it didn’t take too long before the author had me sympathising with her and rooting for things to work out for her.

Both threads to the story here intertwine satisfyingly, as Marni’s fate became just as important as the battle to put an end to the serial killer was. Each part of the book had good pace to it, enough to drag the reader in whilst catching them off guard with another sinister twist.

Sullivan’s character was perfect for a top crime series. He is flawed but also respected. He invests often too heavily in his cases but is good at his job. The strong characterisation of the detective made this book all the more engrossing but truthfully I found everything about this book had me engrossed. The Embalmer was bursting with originality and had a lingering graphic, gory edge to it that was truly compelling. Fast-paced and atmospheric, this was one eerie book that I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

Thursday, 11 March 2021

Review | Love is Crystal Clear by Joanna Cates

Published on December 10, 2020

Love is Crystal Clear is Joanna Cates debut novel and it is a refreshingly uplifting and romantic tale of self-discovery and second chances.

Henri is fifty-one and single, fifteen years after the breakup of her marriage when her husband had an affair. Danny’s relationship also ended in similar fashion when he uprooted his life only to discover his wife had been cheating on him and didn’t really love him at all. Both characters have been through enough heartache and have closed themselves off from love. But on a night out with friends, one day they meet, and sparks fly. Henri and Danny can’t stop thinking about each other. Could it be time for a second chance at love?

The beginning of the book gets the reader up to speed on the former love lives of the main characters and then in present day, initially for Henri in particular there is lots of talk about sex and little else. Early on the women in this book definitely seemed to have sex on the brain and I was looking for the story and for the romance, but Joanna Cates didn’t disappoint on this front as I grew to connect with the characters and see the depth to their feelings and how genuine they were.

The characters in Love is Crystal Clear are about to discover that life doesn’t stop when you hit the big five-oh. Henri and her friend Maggie may be going through the menopause but that doesn’t mean the end of their own stories. Joanna Cates writes about life for these women with honesty and humour. There’s plenty left for Henri and Maggie to discover including the pleasure of self-love and reinventing parts of their lives that their children and even partners had long forgotten existed for women of a certain age!

This book kept me entertained. It was fast-paced, saucy and heartfelt with likeable and engaging characters that were easy to root for and invest in their potential happy-ever-afters. I did feel that the book could have been longer as the fast pace meant at times things seemed a bit rushed when they could have been played out more. The quick pace did contribute to the feel-good vibes the book possessed but I felt like most of the obstacles for the characters happened fifteen years before the story began. For Henri and Danny there was definitely room for some more controversy in their blossoming relationship. A sweet romance always seemed on the cards, but I would have liked to have been questioning it a bit more with some drama along the way.

With that being said, it didn’t take away from how much I enjoyed this book. I really warmed to the characters as they allowed themselves to open up to new feelings and new experiences. Love is Crystal Clear had me reading with a smile on my face all the way through and I couldn’t wait to get to the end just to see how things would turn out for everybody. It does seem like there are possibilities of a follow up book in the future and I would 100% love to read more.

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Review | The Kindness Project by Sam Binnie

Published by Headline on March 4, 2021

The Kindness Project is a book that had me enticed simply by a quick read of the blurb. I love stories of kindness and I believe there is always time to be kind in life. The sound of the project set by Bea for her daughter had me intrigued and I was eager to read all about it. I loved the sound of The Kindness Project straight away and the book itself lived up to all my expectations and more. I could not stop reading.

We meet Alice as she is on her way to Polperran, a place she clearly would not be visiting under any other circumstances. Having just learnt about the death of her mum, Bea, Alice takes all her ill feelings with her to the picturesque Cornish village to tie up the loose ends at her mother’s home. In truth, it’s the last place Alice wants to be and it was evident from the start that she and Bea did not have a good relationship. Alice seems a bit bitter about things that have happened between them and instead of outwardly grieving after the death of her mum, she’s ready to hear her will and get her home emptied and then go back to her day-to-day life in Cambridge.

I found the exploration of the relationship-gone-wrong between Bea and Alice really fascinating. Bea may already be dead once the book begins but Sam Binnie truly brings her character to life through the letters Bea has written, through Alice’s memories and through the stories told by Bea’s friends and acquaintances in Polperran. It’s clear that Alice felt abandoned by her mum when she was a child, but it’s also clear that Alice doesn’t know quite so much about Bea in the years before she died. It was refreshing to learn, along with Alice, some things she wasn’t aware of about her mum as it gave more of a roundness to Bea’s character rather than the wholly negative views Alice has.

I generally love reading books that explore the relationship between mother and daughter. I had the best relationship with my mum, yet others are more complex and discovering the ins and outs of family connections always has me intrigued. One thing for certain was that Bea had had a big impact on the community within the Cornish town she lived in. A place where everybody knows everybody’s business, Bea had never been content with just knowing - she liked to get involved. This is something that doesn’t escape Alice as amongst her possessions in her will, Bea leaves her daughter a series of envelopes, containing The Kindness Project – a set of missions to undergo to help out the residents of Polperran.

I loved the sound of the project and I loved reading each letter Bea sent to Alice. In each letter, she opens up more and more and in turn, maybe it helped Alice open up a bit more too. The development in Alice’s character helped me warm to her a lot during the course of this book. When we meet her, she is a bit disinterested in anything Cornwall has to offer her. She likes to keep conversations short and avoids eye contact. Small talk is the enemy. But the more time she spends there, the more vocal she gets and the more similarities between her and Bea are on show – and I loved seeing her character grow.

One thing I adored about this book was that everybody had a story to tell. The characters had pure life to them and each of them kept me engrossed.

The power of kindness shone through the pages of this book. If all it takes is a moment to say good morning or a little helping hand for someone who knows what they want but doesn’t quite know how to get there, then why on earth not? Kindness is infectious, and Sam Binnie reinforces that throughout this lovely, touching, compelling novel. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book.

Preorder The Kindness Project here:

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