Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Review | One Kiss Before Christmas by Emma Jackson

Published by Orion Dash on November 2, 2020


It might seem a bit late (or a lot early) to be reading a Christmas book in January but since where I live has been fully lacking in snow but full of gloomy, rainy weather, I thought it was the perfect time to tuck into a festive feel-good read and One Kiss Before Christmas by Emma Jackson fit the bill perfectly.

Ashleigh is spending her winter months working as an elf at a local Christmas farm. You can tell straight away she is a little lost in life. She’s struggling for money, struggling in her relationship with her mum and living with her Nan is more stressful than she’d like. Olivier is also at a crossroads in his life. He loves to cook, and working at a restaurant in Paris with his dad should be everything he wants from his career but he never gets to cook the food he likes and ends up spending his time following his dad’s orders whilst sacrificing the things he would actually like to do.

When he returns to Brighton for Christmas, everything changes for Ashleigh. There is history between them, and attraction. I loved getting to know both Ash and Olivier. The story is told in alternating chapters between the two of them and they are both interesting characters who have room to grow throughout the pages of this book and it was really enjoyable to read. I loved the blossoming feelings between the two of them and the will-they-won’t-they feel to the romance. There were so many unspoken words and this kept me reading on eager to see if we could get a happily ever after.

There was plenty of other things to like about this book such as exploring the backdrop of Brighton. The author made this seaside resort seem so enticing. I wanted a walk on the pier. Also enticing was the sound of the chocolate shop ran by Olivier’s mum. This is not a book to be read with an empty stomach. There was a lovely Christmassy feel to this book all the way through. The author built up such a vivid picture of the season with all the lights and decorations. The story isn’t massively festive but just enough to deliver a warm and uplifting atmosphere for the reader.

One of my favourite parts of this book was all the supporting characters and their side stories. There was a good amount of depth to them and seeing their stories explored was almost as entertaining as the main story. As there were a lot of characters, not everything was going to be tied up perfectly, but at the same time, it didn’t need to be either.

One Kiss Before Christmas was a lovely escapist read, a sweet book ideal for a lazy afternoon’s reading curled up in front of the fire.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Review | Circle of Doubt by Tracy Buchanan

Published by Lake Union Publishing on January 5, 2021


Circle of Doubt is the first book I have read by Tracy Buchanan and she had me glued to my Kindle with all the tension and twists and turns in Forest Grove. As soon as I realised there was another book which was set in the same place (Wall of Silence), I had to buy it as from the first chapter of this book I was fully engrossed and made every excuse to sit and read all day. Forest Grove is home to a bitchy community with plenty of animosity and backstabbing and where rumours spread like wildfire. This made for such a fun read with plenty of drama and unpredictability.

Emma, Dele and their adopted ten-year-old daughter Isla are on surface the perfect little family. But the arrival of a new family in Forest Grove sends Emma’s suspicions into overdrive. There is just something about Tatjana Belafonte that unsettles Emma. From the way she looks just like Isla’s birth mother to the uncomfortable pace she seems to grow attached to Isla at, Emma simply cannot trust her and does her best to find out just who Tatjana really is.

Along the way, Emma’s obsession sees her doubting herself and as Tatjana grows ever-present in her life, cracks soon begin to form within Emma’s perfect little family. I loved the intrigue behind many of the characters in this book. From the main characters to the mean girl vibes the school mums gave off, there were so many people I had my doubts about and couldn’t trust and this contributed perfectly to the unease throughout. I’d love to see Tracy Buchanan explore more of these characters in future books as there were hints at their lives and personalities during this book but there is obviously room for much more development in future books I hope.

Circle of Doubt is definitely a book much better to be read than discussed in a review, as its fast pace means there is too much to spoil by talking about it and the book is really worth reading for yourself. I will say that the way Emma narrates her side of the story is so believable that I felt like I had it all figured out very early on but the story became more suspenseful with every chapter and later on in the book I was second guessing myself and enjoying every little revelation because for the most part I didn’t see them coming.

I obsessed over this book and raced through it, only stopping for the odd what just happened break to take it all in. It was truly gripping and I am definitely looking forward to going back and reading the first book so I can continue my fix of Forest Grove.

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Review | A Thousand Roads Home by Carmel Harrington

Published by Harper Collins on October 18, 2018


A Thousand Roads Home combined everything I love about a Carmel Harrington novel – heart, soul, and an emotional and thought-provoking story that didn’t leave after the final page was turned.

The book centers around Ruth and Tom. Ruth is a single mother to ten-year-old DJ and we meet Ruth as she is struggling to make ends meet, and soon she and her son are made homeless and in hunt of emergency accommodation. Tom, on the other hand, is used to homelessness. He has been sleeping rough on a park bench for a very long time, along with his beloved dog Bette Davis.

From very early on there are hints as to how and why Ruth and Tom’s lives may meet and I was fascinated by any links there could be between the two characters as we learn more about them. Both characters were interesting and had things about them that they found better left unsaid. Their moving stories were unveiled beautifully and had me thoroughly absorbed in the book.

The story is told in alternating chapters from both Ruth and Tom’s perspective, past and present. Both characters have had experiences in their past that have contributed to the struggles they are facing in the current day and the similarities between Ruth and Tom is highlighted by the way they are both viewed by strangers and passers-by. They are both judged cruelly at times – Tom is homeless and therefore is judged to have a drink problem or a gambling problem, and Ruth’s straight talking means she is taken to be rude as she tends to say what she thinks even if it could have been worded better. She’s shy and doesn’t overshare her feelings, and the people who meet her can take this the wrong way. However, for the reader, it is difficult to miss the kindness she has and I couldn’t help but feel for her and the way she was misunderstood by people through no fault of her own.

Carmel Harrington writes with real honesty. She explores homelessness and the dangers homeless people can face with depth and sincerity. Whilst she does not evade the harsh realities of life without a roof over your head, that didn’t mean the book was lacking the moments of light this author is so good at. There were many beautiful sentiments and moments to put a smile on this readers face, especially within the characters and friendships at the Silver Sands Lodge.

A Thousand Roads Home is a truly touching novel, beautifully written, frank yet enjoyable. A book that is ever hopeful and one that leaves a powerful lasting message.

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

Review | Don't Get Involved by F J Curlew

Published on October 6, 2019


Don't Get Involved is the second book I have read by F J Curlew having enjoyed her last novel, Dan Knew, back in 2017. As much as I liked Dan Knew, Don't Get Involved grabbed my attention more and I found it very difficult to put down, reading it in one sitting. It's a dark and often tense novel, written in a manner that I found very involving with short and snappy sentences charged with detail that drew me right in to the culture of Kyiv.

The narrative is told in alternating seasons, to begin with split between Summer and Winter. In the Winter, we meet the street kids, Dima, Sasha and Alyona, and we meet Leonid, the hitman who is after them. Having found a bag full of cocaine, the street kids don't know what to do with it but when they are discovered and Dima feels the threat of the people looking for them, they head on the run, where life is only going to get even more dangerous for the three of them. In the Summer, we meet Nadia who has arrived in Ukraine for her own secretive reasons and who wants to help, but doesn't know what she is getting herself into. She meets the mysterious Artem, who seems very protective of her straight away and they grow closer. Their story is another fascinating aspect to the novel.

One thing I particularly loved about Don't Get Involved was the way the author described every setting to build up such a vivid picture in my mind so I could picture every moment with ease. The author writes very atmospherically and her depiction of Ukraine came to life on the pages thanks to an illustrative writing style that made the bars, the food, the sights and the pure tension shine through. I found myself so engrossed in not only the stories of the street kids and Nadia, but also the Ukraine setting and the danger lurking within the streets.

This book was very tense! As danger grew close, the book stole my breath at times as I was lured in to a level where I was that engrossed in the book I was forgetting to breathe. I found it very compelling. The lives of Dima, Sasha and Alyona were fascinating, the struggles they were going through but also the choices they had made and just their feelings towards their safety and looking after each other. The love they shared was pure but also dangerous, as trying to protect each other's lives whilst not getting caught was a challenge. The bond between them was interesting and I found that the author developed each of their characters well during the course of the novel. Dima was more of the leader, and I suppose the main character, but it didn't stop me learning about and growing to care for the others.

Nadia's part to the book I really enjoyed. I was eager to learn more about her and the past that had drawn her to Ukraine. I was also very wary of Artem from the beginning and found it compelling seeing their friendship grow. Nadia's part in this book seemed, to begin with, quite contrasting with the street kids and a little bit like it didn't belong, which was at times confusing until the compassion she shows shone through and her role became clear. There was some light to the shade in Don't Get Involved, often through the chapters Nadia was involved in, and though this was at times an incredibly dark novel, it wasn't too grim.

Overall I was hooked on Don't Get Involved. It's the first book I have read in a while after a bad reading slump but it has definitely brought back my interest in reading whilst also setting a high bar for future books.




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