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.   

Wednesday 1 September 2021

Review | The Mix-Up by Holly McCulloch

Published by Transworld on June 24, 2021

I loved the sound of The Mix Up from the first moment I heard about it and couldn’t resist buying a copy. It definitely did not disappoint! More than just an eye-catching cover and an enticing blurb, this heartfelt romantic comedy was touching and empowering and entertaining from start to finish.

Paige is a wedding cake baker, and despite not being much of a romantic, she enjoys her job – at least when she gets to bake creative cakes and not a particular kind of design that is wanted by her jerk of an ex-boyfriend Chris and his wife-to-be. As her finances aren’t great, Paige agrees to bake a cake for the happy couple – at a high fee, of course. But being back in contact with her ex makes Paige stressed and confused, and in need of a distraction from this, she attends the party of her friend in search of a one-night-stand. When her friend tells her to head for the guy in the black top, she does exactly that, only there’s two guys in black tops… so has she picked the right one?

I enjoyed the fun concept to the story and can I just say that yes she absolutely picked her hook-up right because Noah was just a dream! I loved his character from the moment we met him and really I wanted to hear nothing more of Paige’s ex because that would waste valuable Noah time and it would have been a travesty. Paige does not want a relationship, just something casual, and short-term, yet Noah is more romantic and would like something more settled. Paige knows she needs to set him straight but despite her original plan, she does enjoy spending time with him. The Mix-Up sees her battling with her own insecurities as she tries to work out what she really wants.

I found Paige a likeable protagonist, if not one I wanted to shake a fair few times. She goes back and forth a lot and never seems to be able to stick to a decision but then it would be unfair to judge as that is pretty relatable. She is confident on the outside but more insecure than she would like to let on and I felt for her. One thing I really did enjoy was her friendship with Sara as they both could level with each other and support each other through everything, despite their different stages in life.

The overall plot in Holly McCulloch’s second novel (the first has since made its way onto my wishlist) is warm and witty yet affirming at the same time. Despite some harder subjects, such as Paige’s strained relationship with her mother, this book had me smiling the whole way through and I was incapable of putting it down yet at the same time reluctant to see it come to an end.

Towards the end of the book, I kept thinking we were running out of pages to resolve everything and in fact some things, which seemed quite major parts of the book at times, were left unresolved. When I thought about it, I wasn’t sure if I minded that they weren’t all settled. I don’t know if it’s because really I just wanted to read more of Noah or because maybe it was fun to get away from the typical feeling that books need to tie up all loose ends come the end, but I think I preferred it this way. The uncertainty just seemed to fit with Paige – she was one of those characters that deserved a happy ending yet I kind of feel like there would always be another drama on the horizon for her and you know I would be there to read it if there was!

Both moving and funny, The Mix-Up was a joy to read with a romance I just couldn’t get enough of.

Monday 30 August 2021

Review | The Thin Place by C D Major

Published by Thomas & Mercer on April 15, 2021

The Thin Place was a spooky and absorbing read that I found utterly captivating. I was sold straight away by the simplistic yet evocative cover and the intriguing blurb but I didn’t quite expect just how much the story would consume me. At times quite intense and emotional, I was transfixed by the premise of Overtoun and eager to follow Ava on her investigation of something so fascinating. I was gripped and wanted to spend every moment I had reading the book. Even after I finished, I had more questions about the eerie and enthralling mystery within.

The book is told from the perspective of three characters over different timeframes. In present day, we meet Ava, a journalist who is investigating the Overtoun estate and the haunting bridge which has seen many dogs jump to their deaths. In 1929, we hear Marion’s story. A young woman who is neglected by her new husband and struggling through the heartbreak of miscarriage after miscarriage. In 1949, we meet Constance, a young girl who is locked away by her mother, forced to see several doctors after being told she is very sick, always afraid that one day she might not appear as ill as her mother tells her she is.

Each thread to this story was mesmerising and often quite disturbing. I was so absorbed in learning about all three characters and seeing how their storylines intertwined.

Constance’s story was particularly unsettling, and I could feel her dread and overwhelming loneliness seeping off the pages. Her relationship with her mother seemed deeply unnerving and I was intrigued to see how the story would play out.

Marion’s perspective was quite sad to read – seeing how she progressed from the hope of a new relationship to the despair and then reluctant acceptance of losing so many babies, and also how numbly she accepted the abandonment of her husband.

Ava’s part in the book helped bring each strand together and the things she discovered about Overtoun sent chills down my spine. Ava and her partner Fraser are expecting their first baby and whilst Ava’s family struggle with how much her job seems to be taking over for her and how distracted she is from her own life whilst she focuses on uncovering more about Overtoun, for me as the reader it was easy to see how she did this as I felt the exact same fascination with the place.

I found The Thin Place to be a really atmospheric read, quite claustrophobic in its storytelling in a way that grabbed my attention just as strongly as Overtoun pulled Ava into its mystery. The sense of a story that needed telling, Ava is obsessed with the estate and the bridge, and in turn as the reader this left me dying to learn more about a place that was shrouded in darkness, hidden away to the extent that anybody who knew about it would rather not speak of it.

A sign of a good historical read for me is one that has me researching long after I’ve turned the final page and since finishing the book and reading the interesting author’s note that followed, I have spent many hours searching for real-life stories about the supposed dog suicide bridge as C D Major’s phenomenally well-researched novel has had me compelled to learn even more.

The Thin Place was a truly creepy and beguiling gothic thriller with a satisfyingly chilling ending.

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

Thursday 26 August 2021

Review | The Anniversary by Laura Marshall

Published by Sphere on August 5, 2021

The Anniversary is Laura Marshall’s third novel and just as I have come to expect by this author, it was a cleverly written, compelling read with a chilling premise and suspenseful execution. This was possibly more of a slowburner than Laura’s previous books as the drama takes a bit longer to unfold, but every chapter kept me reading on and had me intrigued and enthralled, eager to learn the truth.

On the 15th of June 1994, Travis Banks went on a killing spree in Hartstead, shooting dead eleven people before turning the gun on himself. There’s been a lot of rumours about the reasons why Banks did this, and lots of unanswered questions. Did he have an accomplice? Were the victims as random as they seemed? 25 years later, the anniversary of this horrific event is approaching, and when a journalist is writing an article on the impact tragedies like this have on a town, new things come to light that put Cassie Colman, daughter to Banks’ final victim, on edge. Everything she thought she knew about that day is unravelling in front of her, and as Cassie strives to learn the truth, is she putting lives at risk by doing so?

The concept of The Anniversary is fascinating and the author’s storytelling made it so engrossing. Whilst the main story is set in present day, there are chapters that go back to the day each of the killer’s victims die, and, as unsettling as it was seeing their final moments, I loved hearing their stories, learning briefly about their lives and what had led them to the day that they would be tragically taken from the world.

In the present day, Cassie becomes embroiled in the journalist’s research into the shooting, which presents more questions than answers. Cassie was four on the day it all happened and has never really questioned the small bits she does know about the shooting. However, her curiosities get the better of her and soon she is obsessed with learning more, finding that each new discovery makes her addiction to learning the truth grow. It was easy to see how Cassie could get so wrapped up in the case as, as the reader, I felt exactly the same way. It was such a gripping concept and I had no clue how to piece any of it together so therefore found myself hanging on the author’s every word.

This book was full of well-drawn characters, but what I particular loved was how this was a thriller with real heart – the characters here weren’t made simply to be hated but instead each one had a story and their own struggles and whilst there was a fixation with working out which ones could be trusted, there was also the side of me that wanted to learn more about all of their lives to help me understand each one better.

Cassie had enough going on in her own life before the journalist got in touch. Between her struggles of being a single mother to Amy to morally battling with how to best care for her mum who has dementia, Laura Marshall writes in such a refreshingly honest way about motherhood and all its challenges. Cassie is finding it hard to cope with both a demanding baby and a mother who has days where she does not even recognise her daughter, and each strand of motherhood is written with a gritty honesty that I’m sure many people could relate to even if some of the thoughts Cassie has are not that easy to admit to.

It didn’t take me long to become really invested in every aspect of The Anniversary with chapters that insisted I had to keep on reading and I begrudged every time I had to put the book down. Throughout the course of the novel I was suspicious of everyone except maybe who I should have suspected the most, and I loved that I was always kept guessing and left wondering what if?. I would highly recommend this book.

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

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