Monday, 24 June 2019

Review | Bring Me Sunshine by Laura Kemp

Published by Orion on June 27, 2019


Bring Me Sunshine by Laura Kemp is a fresh, funny and uplifting novel - an ideal summer's read to put a big smile on your face. From the first chapter I knew I was going to love this book. It had such a refreshing feel to it with laugh-out-loud humour and characters that were crafted so well that I didn't need any time at all before I cared for their stories.

Charlotte Bold loves plans and structure and routine to her day. She lives for a quiet life. She's comfortable in London with her traffic updates radio job, her friends and her boyfriend and the safe knowledge of what she's having for tea that night. Any upheaval is a no-go. Except, when she is moved on from her job and pushed to apply for a new station, Sunshine FM in Wales, Charlotte's worst nightmare is presented to her. A fresh start means change - and change is scary.

Charlotte is maybe not the character you expect, as she lacks a lot of confidence for someone who works in radio. But I loved this about her as through the book, it's so easy to root for her to grow in confidence and fight through her anxieties. When Charlotte arrives in Wales, the author perfectly depicts the stark contract between there and London through Charlotte's eyes. The steamed up, rainy windows faded and the surprisingly beautiful pier is revealed, and maybe, despite the wet and windy weather, Mumbles doesn't seem so bad after all. Laura Kemp describes the seaside location beautifully and it sounds enticing and picturesque and an ideal setting for a sunshiney read.

There is a lot to like about this book. I really warmed to the characters, not just Charlotte, but the supporting characters too. One character I really liked was Del, who, whilst maybe known for not really being good at anything, was certainly good at stepping in to help make Charlotte feel comfortable in her first day presenting at Sunshine FM. Del contributed to a lot of the laugh-out-loud funny moments in this book for me, but as with all the main characters, there were also parts to his character and story that were thought-provoking and deeper than his on-surface humour appeared.

Whilst Charlotte struggles from the start of her time in Wales, with crippling nerves and fears and zero confidence and her London friends not around to help, working at Sunshine FM shows her that she is not alone. This book delivers new friends and second chances and a truly heartwarming story that kept me engaged throughout. Warm and witty, Bring Me Sunshine was an absolute joy to read.



Monday, 17 June 2019

Review | The Last Widow by Karin Slaughter

Published by HarperCollins on June 13, 2019


I've never read any books by Karin Slaughter before though she was always one of my mum's favourite authors and came highly recommended. I also don't really like to start reading in the middle of a series and The Last Widow is the ninth book in the Will Trent series. However, the blurb for this book sounded so compelling that I simply could not resist. It definitely did not disappoint and now I am eager to get my hands on all the earlier books.

At the beginning of this book we meet Michelle Spivey who is out shopping with her eleven year old daughter. When a van stops beside her daughter, Ashley is aware and runs away from any trouble however it is Michelle they are after and she is abducted, and nobody has a clue who by or where to. She simply vanishes. Honestly, the first chapter alone had me hook, line and sinker and I devoured the first 100-150 pages of this book on a near two hour train journey that flew by as I was so engrossed.

Slaughter's style of writing, her pacing, descriptions and characterisation build up the story brilliantly and had me engrossed as the events were made easy to picture and I was truly gripped. I had a bit of a niggle with a chunk of this book as, as we met different characters, there was a bit of repetition as we see scenes from both sides and therefore things like whole conversations were repeated. This meant, as the chapters alternated between different characters there was a lot of toing and froing back and forth which wasn't particular easy to keep up with although I can't say it stopped me in anyway from being fascinated by the events and eager to discover more. Later in the book I could also see why this had been done and thought that it added to a more-rounded storytelling which probably was vital with such in-depth, highly researched plotting.

A month after the abduction of Spivey, Will Trent and Sara Linton find themselves caught in the middle of it all and this leads to Sara also being abducted and held prisoner and Will heading undercover in the midst of what was a shocking yet scarily believable story that was truly riveting. I enjoyed getting to know Will and Sara as they were new to me and I found them quite fascinating for different reasons. With every chapter of The Last Widow, the tension soared and the short timeframe that the book is set over not only added to the urgency of the events in the book but also the urgency I had as I desperately turned the pages of this heart-pounding, dark political thriller which is one of the most disturbing books I have read in a long time.

The Last Widow is action-packed and pulsating and my perfect introduction to Karin Slaughter as now I want every single one of her other books. This was a truly intense read that never let up. I've never read a 450 page hardback so quickly before but I was so drawn into the story and the characters that I never wanted to stop reading despite some of the heart-stopping truths that were revealed. Now I can see why Karin Slaughter is so highly revered - The Last Widow is mindblowingly good.



Friday, 14 June 2019

Review | Somewhere Close to Happy by Lia Louis

Published by Trapeze on June 13, 2019


Somewhere Close to Happy gave me all the emotions! I'd heard great things about Lia Louis's debut novel and it did not disappoint. This book made me laugh and cry, cheer and despair and root for Lizzie and Roman all the way.

When we meet Lizzie, she is sad and confused. She has just received a letter dated December 4, 2005, from Roman, her old best friend, written twelve years ago on the day he disappeared from her life with no explanation. Straight away I was intrigued by the story of Lizzie and Roman and couldn't wait to discover more.

Lia Louis structures this novel beautifully, with chapters dated from 2005 to present day, and old messages between Lizzie and Roman in between chapters to really show their friendship and help the reader understand why this letter from Roman becomes so important to Lizzie. The way the author feeds us the backstory of Lizzie and Roman made it easy to see how they had made an impression on each other's lives and therefore made it easy to care for their characters and follow their story with ease, with a sense of hope for a happy ending for the two of them.

This is a truly tender book that has all the makings of heart-warming women's fiction but also draws upon feelings of grief, of pure, raw emotion and of mental health and anxiety, something which I wholeheartedly believe should be written about more in fiction. The author writes honestly and sensitively about mental health and this was, in a way, heartening to see as mental health issues affect so many men and women yet there can still be a stigma about it and talking about it. In Somewhere Close to Happy, as the chapters move back and forth between teenage Lizzie and adult Lizzie, she is open and honest about her struggles and about Roman's struggles and their friendship is moving and empowering.

Although Somewhere Close to Happy is a book about Lizzie and Roman and their compelling story, my favourite character in this book was probably Lizzie's best friend, Priscilla. Though she had her own troubles, she was such a joyous character and a great friend - loyal, kind, caring and supportive. She made me laugh throughout and I loved her friendship with Lizzie. All the characters in this book were interesting and memorable and because of this, whilst the author does justice to the story of Lizzie and Roman, she has also ensured that they aren't the only characters I'm thinking of now the book is sadly finished.

I could truly rave about Somewhere Close to Happy all day. It's such a thought-provoking, brilliant debut novel. I seriously cannot wait to read more from Lia Louis.




Saturday, 25 May 2019

Review | Sleep by C.L. Taylor

Published by Avon on April 4, 2019


C.L. Taylor never fails to deliver excellent thrillers with twists and turns that get under your skin. I know the moment I pick up one of her books that it's going to steal the rest of my day and that is perfectly fine when the book is as good as this one is.  Sleep is the best book I've read in ages.

When we meet Anna she has been involved in a car accident in which Anna was the only one to walk away, for the most part, psychically unscathed. Mentally, however, she is racked with guilt and struggling to sleep and constantly feels like someone is out to get her. The grief she feels has never made her feel so alone, and so, in a bid to escape from a world that now holds such bad memories for her, she moves to a remote Scottish island to work at the Bay View Hotel.

I loved the setting to this book. From the moment Anna sees the job advertisement to work in a secluded Scottish hotel, my eyes lit up at the thought of what this could mean for the book and it did not disappoint. The tense atmosphere and the isolation of staying somewhere stormy, with torrential rain, limited signal and wi-fi, a cut off from the rest of the world - this all made for a chilling and spine-tingling read that had me absolutely hooked. The way the author writes this setting is eerily good and the book was so readable for me because I had such a vivid picture and feel for the location and the claustrophobia within.

Another thing I loved about this book was the characters, especially the people staying at the hotel. Everybody has their secrets and honestly I trusted absolutely no-one, which made the mystery within this book even more gripping. Whether you guess the culprit rightly or wrongly, I found it difficult to read this book without changing my mind after every few chapters. I loved getting to know all the characters in this book and discovering the secrets they were trying so hard to keep.

Every book C.L. Taylor writes has a different feel about it to the last one and what I like is that, although I never know what is to come next, one thing that always remains is just how damn compelling every book is. Honestly from the second I picked this book up I wanted nothing more than to be left alone to devour it. Like Anna, sleep was not an option. I loved every single twist and turn in this thriller and the author once again doesn't let us down with another riveting, twisted novel.

Sleep is a book you're going to need to cancel all plans for. It is exceptionally gripping. I found it impossible to put down.



Friday, 24 May 2019

Review | My Mother's Daughter by Ann O'Loughlin

Published by Orion on May 16, 2019


I've been a big fan of Ann O'Loughlin ever since I read her debut novel The Ballroom Cafe back in 2015. Ann's books are emotional, moving and truly compelling and it is safe to say that her latest book, My Mother's Daughter, is no different.

At the beginning of the book, we meet two women who are going through some very tough times. In Ireland, we meet Margo. She is grieving after the death of her husband, Conor, and is crippled by loneliness. The one shining light in her life is her daughter, Elsa, but then a letter arrives and Margo is terrified that the contents may tear apart the lives of both her and Elsa.

In the USA, we meet Cassie. Cassie has just split up from Charles, her husband, who is refusing to pay for child support and is demanding a paternity test, leaving their daughter Tilly unhappily caught in the middle. For Cassie, the answer is obvious. She knows they were in love young and that Charles is 100% the father, so they get a paternity test done to prove this, except this one test sends Cassie and Tilly's lives into disarray.

Ann O'Loughlin never fails to produce thoroughly thought-provoking fiction and always creates realistic and authentic characters and from the moment I'd read the first couple of chapters and been introduced to Margo and Cassie, I knew that this was the case in My Mother's Daughter. Their stories are captivating and I absolutely loved reading how they intertwined. This story really brings home the love between a mother and her daughter and the unbreakable bonds between them and I really felt the warmth in the relationships between Margo and Elsa and Cassie and Tilly, despite the struggles life was throwing at them.

One thing I particularly loved about this book were the many themes delved into. Ann O'Loughlin is such an honest writer and her storytelling is so easy to become emotionally invested in. Ann's portrayal of grief, of mothers-and-daughters, of friendship and relationships, of all of these things is so genuine and encapsulating. In particular, for me, Margo's grief in this book is so believeable and I really felt for her because you can see how much losing her husband has affected her life. Living in the home she and Conor had loved so much, but living in it now without him, this has such an impact on Margo and how everything has changed yet around her it is exactly the same.

I had the odd little niggle with aspects to this book at times, such as the dialogue which I found sometimes didn't give justice to the scene. It's hard to explain without spoilers, but for me on occasions there were moments and scenes that were shocking or quite emotional but the dialogue didn't fully represent that. However, this is just a minor issue with a book that for the most part was wonderfully compelling and for me the best kind of books are the ones that make you think and My Mother's Daughter fit the bill quite beautifully.

Poignant and touching, the chapters vanished so quickly as I was reading My Mother's Daughter as I always wanted to know more and never could find the right time to put the book down. I read this in one afternoon as the writing flowed so effortlessly and the twists interweaved within the plot grabbed a hold of me until I simply had no other choice but to read to the end to see how things would turn out for Cassie and Margo and all the supporting characters who made this book so fascinating. They are not characters who are forgotten instantly when the last page is drawn - these characters and this story will stay with me for a long time.




Monday, 20 May 2019

Review | The Never Game by Jeffery Deaver

Published by HarperCollins on May 16, 2019


The Never Game is the first in a new series by Jeffery Deaver and so for anybody who doesn't like to begin in the middle of a series, or play catch up on a series with so many books to go back and read, this book is the perfect place to start and a fascinating introduction to the writing of Jeffery Deaver and the story of his new protagonist Colter Shaw. But be warned - whether you're new to Deaver's books or not, you'll be left wanting more.

When nineteen year old Sophie goes missing, her father is distraught. They'd had a fight that he regrets - all he wants is her home. He offers a hefty reward for anybody who can find her and this catches the attention of Colter Shaw, who specialises in finding missing people. Colter is intriguing from the start. The author expertly allows us to follow along with Shaw's thought processes and it is captivating watching him, steps ahead of the reader, working things out in his mind, finding clues, analysing them, following new leads to get the bottom of things before anybody else has even began.

The Never Game is a twisty and thrilling novel that had me engrossed from the very first chapter. The length of the chapters had me racing through the book and the twists and turns throughout ensured I couldn't turn the pages fast enough as I was dying to know what was going on. As the investigation picks up, there is an interesting video game theme to the whole case which wasn't like anything I'd read before and because of that, I found it hugely compelling. Every aspect to this book had me hooked and I was up in the middle of the night needing to finish this book as I couldn't get it out of my mind. The further into the book, the more complex it became and the more eager I became to reach the end of an exhilarating case, but as soon as I had finished I was desperate for book two in the series.

Shaw is a character I am looking forward to getting to know better in future books. The Never Game is a slow-burning but absorbing introduction to him and the bits we learn about him have me very interested to know more. There are aspects to his character and to his background and his family that have so many ways they can turn out that it is exciting to see where Deaver takes him next. Colter Shaw's series feels different in many ways to the author's Lincoln Rhyme and Kathryn Dance thrillers and has the author at his unpredictable best. I can't wait for more.





Friday, 17 May 2019

Review | Reader I Married Me by Sophie Tanner

Published by Trapeze on May 16, 2019


Reader I Married Me by Sophie Tanner is a warm and witty novel brimming with hope and positivity. I enjoyed reading this book a lot and picked it up any time I had a few minutes spare. The chapters were fast-paced and addictive and I smiled my way through this book.

When we meet Chloe Usher, she is feeling lucky in love, lucky to have found her soulmate, Ant. Though they're not at the kids stage, she's ready for what she feels is realistically the next step in their relationship - to get a house together. When you're with the right person, why not live together? Ant, however, has other ideas. He likes his space. And women who wear the kind of g-strings Chloe wouldn't be seen dead in.

Chloe's idea to marry herself was one of those drunken ones that got made public - there was no going back. But the madder the idea was, the more empowering a character Chloe became and this truly was a feel-good read that encourages self-care, putting yourself first and reaching out when you need help. What originally was an idea born in the bottom of a gin cocktail soon grew from strength to strength and Chloe's solo wedding had everyone intrigued.

This is a light-hearted read but one which is also thought-provoking as protagonist Chloe had some very valid beliefs about life and the importance of taking the time to learn who we are and grow to like who we are. It could have turned out like the often cringy or clich├ęd motivational quotes you see on Facebook or Instagram, but it didn't.  Chloe was a fab character - through her ups and downs she kept her spirit and her strength and she was an engaging character to follow and root for. She made me laugh a lot through the course of the book and I loved how whatever setback she faced, she'd always get back up and fight through it. Her voice was strong and compelling and made this book a joy to read.

One thing I particularly loved about this book was the brilliant cast of characters. Chloe truly was the hero of her own story but there was such a great group of supporting characters in this book with many who were still memorable when the book had finished and I'd began reading something else. Chloe's workmates, her best friend, the elderly woman she befriends - each one had their own little story which kept the book entertaining throughout.

Another thing I really liked about this book was just how fresh and relevant it felt. Chloe wanted to lose the stigma about being single. She wanted to lose the segregation between different generations. She couldn't stand homophobia. Chloe was judged all through this book by different people for her idea to marry herself, but she was such a determined, caring, likeable character that as the reader I couldn't help but join her on her journey and want that happy ending for her.

Reader I Married Me is a must-read book this summer. Take all your doubts about solo weddings into this book and let Chloe prove them wrong on every level. This book is about learning to love yourself, and Chloe Usher is 100% the best character to show you how.






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