Sunday, 31 December 2017

My Top 20 of 2017

It's been another cracking year of reading for me with 182 books read and all of such high quality that this could quite easily have been a top 40.  I found it even more difficult to pick 20 top books this year as the standard has been so high, and LJ Ross took up 3 spots by releasing 3 brilliant books in 2017 and I couldn't leave any of them out.

After many hours of deliberation, you can see my top 20 of 2017 below in no particular order.  

Click on any image to (hopefully) go to my review with Amazon links for you to purchase any copies for yourself - I heartily recommend that you don't miss a single one of these books.

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High Force, Cragside and the stunning Dark Skies by LJ Ross are all guaranteed a spot in my best books of 2017.  It wouldn't be a Top 20 without an LJ Ross book in there and with the books coming so thick and fast, they'll be taking over the Top 20 before you know it!  The DCI Ryan series is a firm favourite of mine and if you haven't discovered it yet I urge you to do so right now!

All The Colours In Between by Eva Jordan - I was so looking forward to the sequel to the absolutely hilarious debut 183 Times A Year and Eva Jordan did not disappoint.  As much as I didn't want the story to end, I was delighted to see 'To Be Continued' at the end, giving us something to look forward to in 2018.
The Lighterman by Simon Michael – The Charles Holborne series is another firm favourite of mine.  This third instalment had me on the edge of my seat as Charles Holborne is sucked further into the seedy underbelly of London and into the cross hairs of The Krays.

The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse - Amanda Prowse is well known for writing emotional books straight from the heart and this one had me in floods of tears.  It is so beautifully written that the emotion positively flowed from the page and out of my eyes.  A stunning book that I will never forget.

The Detriment by David Videcette - he can't tell us the truth but he can tell us a story.  David Videcette made my jaw drop again in this brilliant sequel to The Theseus Paradox.

The Birthday That Changed Everything by Debbie Johnson - this was the most hilarious book I have ever read so it deserves a mention in my top books of 2017.  I mistook it as a bit of romantic chicklit from the cover but I have never laughed so much - it's the perfect feel good pick-me-up book.

Maria in the Moon by Louise Beech - Louise Beech is a stunning writer and I was left completely thunderstuck and speechless after reading this exquisite piece of fiction.  

The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis - the shock of the year award goes to Tina Seskis for her stomach clenchingly brilliant book.  This one is a must read for psychological thriller fans.

It has been an excellent year for debut fiction with no less than 10 debut authors making it into my Top 20:
Room 119 - The Whitby Trader by T.F. Lince – this is a book I am very excited about and I was honoured to be one of the first to read it.  I loved the whole storyline which I found emotional and thought-provoking; I think we'll be hearing a lot about this book in 2018.

Widdershins by Helen Steadman – one of my most recommended books last year, this is an immersive and compelling debut based on the actual events of the Newcastle witch trials.  It was so good I almost forgot to drink my cup of tea!

The Dry by Jane Harper – a breathtaking, outstanding and mesmeric debut that left me thirsty for more (groans ha ha).

A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart – a magnificent, flawless and breathtaking story that had me in floods of happy tears yet unable to put the book down.

Undercurrent by J.A. Baker – an absolutely scorching twisty debut that made me question everything I had read.

Deep Down Dead by Steph Broadribb – a fabulous fast-paced thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat and wouldn't let me put the book down.

Under The Cherry Tree by Lilac Mills – both heartwarming and heartbreaking, you'll laugh and you'll cry at this book which is practically perfect in every way
False Prophet by Richard Davis – a stonking fast-paced thriller, you'd better buckle up for this rollercoaster of a read.

Fortune's Wheel by Carolyn Hughes - intriguing, fascinating and surprisingly emotional historical fiction set during the time of the Black Death.

Veteran Avenue by Mark Pepper – a brilliant, thought-provoking novel that will stay with you long after turning the final page.

With very best wishes for a happy, healthy and book-filled 2018

Saturday, 30 December 2017

If She Did It - Jessica Treadway

What if you began to suspect your child of an unspeakable crime?

One night changed everything. A father murdered in his bed. A mother beaten almost to death. A daughter who claims she knew nothing about her boyfriend's murderous plans. But is she telling the truth?

Hanna can't remember the details of what happened that traumatic night, she barely survived the brutal assault that left her a widow. However, if she is to keep her husband's killer in jail, she knows she has to try. But Hanna hadn't realised that those memories may cause her to question everything she thought she knew about her daughter...

What did I think?

If She Did It is quite a quick read as you can't wait to find out what really happened on the night that Hanna's husband Joe was killed and Hanna was left for dead.  All the evidence points to Rud Petty, the boyfriend of Hanna's youngest daughter, Dawn, and Rud was convicted of the crime but the question on everyone's lips is how involved was Dawn?  Now that Rud has launched an appeal, with Hanna still unable to remember, there's every chance that Rud will be released.  Is he guilty or innocent?

A mother's natural instinct is to protect her daughter so perhaps Dawn was there that night (as it seems like EVERYONE thinks) and Hanna's brain is protecting her by not remembering something she doesn't want to know.  Dawn hasn't exactly had an easy life: cursed with a lazy eye she struggled to fit in at school and didn't even seem to fit into her own family.  Some of the things Dawn said as a child really pulled at my heartstrings as she seemed to identify herself as an outsider.  Hanna's life also hasn't been the bed of roses we are led to believe at the beginning, she has been nurturing a seed of guilt that has ended up sprouting into an overgrown weed.  Jessica Treadway really puts the Schutt family under the microscope as the reader gathers all the evidence and becomes judge and jury.

Great characters, although none that I actually liked, and a steady plot made this a slow-burning page turner; once you start it you can't read fast enough to find out If She Did It.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Friday, 29 December 2017

The Toymakers - Robert Dinsdale

Do you remember when you believed in magic?

It is 1917, and while war wages across Europe, in the heart of London, there is a place of hope and enchantment.

The Emporium sells toys that capture the imagination of children and adults alike: patchwork dogs that seem alive, toy boxes that are bigger on the inside, soldiers that can fight battles of their own. Into this family business comes young Cathy Wray, running away from a shameful past. The Emporium takes her in, makes her one of its own.

But Cathy is about to discover that the Emporium has secrets of its own…

What did I think?

I was immediately drawn to the striking cover of The Toymakers and decided to read this on the run up to Christmas to inject a little magic into my life.  I didn't expect to feel so emotional at the end but the power of Robert Dinsdale's writing clearly worked its way into my heart like a toy soldier scaling a battlement.  Don't be mistaken: this is not solely a magical feel-good story, it is mainly set during World War I so be prepared for loss and devastation but you can forget about it for a while when you enter Papa Jack's Emporium.

The Emporium is hidden away down a side street in London and you could easily walk past it, if you didn't know it was there.  This magical toy shop opens at first frost and closes as the first snowdrop flowers but in the short time it is open you can find every toy imaginable in its four walls, but even more toys that you could never have imagined.  Papa Jack and his sons, Kaspar and Emil, create all the toys themselves and there's quite a rivalry between the boys as to whose toys are the best.  

Cathy Wray is drawn to the Emporium after she sees an advert in the newspaper, just when she thought she could not escape her predicament.  So she runs away from home and starts a job in the Emporium, but when the first snowdrop flowers she has nowhere to go and hides in the wendy house in the Emporium.  Both brothers find her at different times and keep it a secret from each other as their rivalry extends to who will win Cathy's heart.  After the war, this intense rivalry threatens to be the downfall of the Emporium when Kaspar meddles with Emil's precious toy soldiers...the toy soldiers don't want to fight anymore and seem to have minds of their own.  Can the Emporium ever survive when Kaspar, Emil and thousands of toy soldiers are at loggerheads and Hitler's bombs are flying overhead? 

Let your imagination run wild and expect the unexpected in The Toymakers.  My imagination went into overdrive and I thought of those horrific Chucky movies as the toy soldiers were scuttling about all over the place.  I found it terribly heartbreaking as the horrors of the First World War were touched on and hoped the soldiers had somebody like Kaspar in the trenches with them to give them some comfort.

The Toymakers wasn't quite what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  The Emporium is painted in such glorious colour through the magical prose that I felt as if I was visiting it myself.  I think The Toymakers is a little like the Emporium itself, it's only going to be enjoyable to those who believe in magic but know that the big bad world is right outside the door.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Thursday, 28 December 2017

The Roanoke Girls - Amy Engel


The girls of the Roanoke family - beautiful, rich, mysterious - seem to have it all. But there's a dark truth about them that's never spoken. Either the girls run away... or they die.

Lane is one of the lucky ones. When she was fifteen, over one long, hot summer at her grandparents' estate in rural Kansas, she found out what it really means to be a Roanoke girl. Lane ran, far and fast. Until eleven years later, when her cousin Allegra goes missing - and Lane has no choice but to go back.

She is a Roanoke girl.

Is she strong enough to escape a second time?

What did I think?

I was aware before I read The Roanoke Girls that it may be an uncomfortable read, and it was but not to the degree that I expected; perhaps I have become hardened to shocking dark fiction.  I think some people will find it very difficult to read, but as a piece of fiction it was quite riveting.

When Lane's mother commits suicide she is sent to live with her grandparents' who she has never met, so you know there is some kind of family secret that caused the fracturing in the family.  Lane's cousin, Allegra, already lives with her grandparents and the pair form a natural bond, but things with Allegra aren't quite what they seem.  When Lane sees her family for what they really are she leaves Roanoke, never to return, until Allegra goes missing and she has no alternative but to go back.

As Lane uncovers the truth around Allegra's disappearance, be prepared for some very difficult reading.  Praise to Amy Engel for not being too graphic but it still made my skin crawl.  It's very difficult to talk about this book without giving anything away but I think of it as sort of a guilty pleasure.  I really enjoyed it but felt I shouldn't have, if you know what I mean?  You'll know what I mean if you've read it.

It's the darkest book I've read for a long time but it still defies you to have the courage to remove your eyes from the page.  I loved how what was going on was insinuated but when proof was revealed in front of my eyes I felt shock and disgust.  It just shows that seeing is believing!  Although the story is told from Lane's point of view, we mustn't forget Allegra: she is a true Roanoke girl and the thread that draws us into this fascinating story.

The Roanoke Girls is a story that will shock and horrify you, but it is so compelling that you can't tear your eyes from the page until the inevitable heart-breaking ending is revealed.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Deep Down Dead - Steph Broadribb

Lori Anderson is as tough as they come, managing to keep her career as a fearless Florida bounty hunter separate from her role as single mother to nine-year-old Dakota, who suffers from leukaemia. But when the hospital bills start to rack up, she has no choice but to take her daughter along on a job that will make her a fast buck. And that's when things start to go wrong. 

The fugitive she's assigned to haul back to court is none other than JT, Lori's former mentor - the man who taught her everything she knows … the man who also knows the secrets of her murky past. Not only is JT fighting a child exploitation racket operating out of one of Florida's biggest theme parks, Winter Wonderland, a place where 'bad things never happen', but he's also mixed up with the powerful Miami Mob. With two fearsome foes on their tails, just three days to get JT back to Florida, and her daughter to protect, Lori has her work cut out for her. When they're ambushed at a gas station, the stakes go from high to stratospheric, and things become personal. 

Breathtakingly fast-paced, both hard-boiled and heart-breaking, Deep Down Dead is a simply stunning debut. 

What did I think?

Deep Down Dead is one of those books that I saw a lot of excitement about on social media so I just had to pick up a copy for myself to see what all the fuss was about.  OMG!!  This book is simply brilliant.  I couldn't put it down and read it at such speed that I could feel my eyes zipping down the page before my brain had even got there.  If there was a book race, Steph Broadribb would win it - I bet this is a book that a lot of people would read in one sitting (I almost did).

Lori Anderson is a bounty hunter but she's had such a tough life that led her to this vocation.  I'll not go into it here as her back-story is a pivotal part of the story but Lori was trained by JT who she now has to track and bring in to jail.  With no sitter for her poorly 9 year old daughter, Dakota, Lori reluctantly has to take Dakota with her; the commission is just too good to refuse for what she sees as an easy pick up...but that's where she's wrong.  Boy, does she earn her fee.

I loved every single character in this book, even the mean ones.  They are so 3 dimensional that I felt as if they popped out of the pages like Princess Leia's holographic message stored in R2-D2's memory banks.  Lori, Dakota and JT go on such a journey that many times my eyes widened in surprise and I gasped in shock, yet I continued to race on through the book like my very life depended on it.  

Clear your decks, you will do nothing but read this book once you pick it up.  It really deserves something more than 5 stars to make it stand out from the rest, but you'll just have to take my word for it.  Believe me, you will not regret buying this book.  This is another one of those books that I should have reviewed in fewer words so you don't delay picking up a copy for yourself.  Deep Down Dead: you MUST read it, it's abso-flipping-lutely brilliant.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows - Marnie Riches

The third edge-of-your-seat thriller in the Georgina McKenzie series. Fans of Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbo won’t be able to put it down!

Europe is in the grip of an extreme Arctic blast and at the mercy of a killer, who leaves no trace. His weapons of choice are razor-sharp icicles. This is Jack Frost.

Now a fully qualified criminologist, Georgina McKenzie is called upon by the Dutch police to profile this cunning and brutal murderer. Are they looking for a hit man or a frenzied serial-killer? Could there be a link to a cold missing persons’ case that George had worked with Chief Inspector Paul van den Bergen – two abducted toddlers he could never quite give up on?

The hunt for Jack Frost sparks a dangerous, heart-rending journey through the toughest neighbourhoods in Europe, where refugees and Roma gypsies scratch a living on the edge of society. Walking into the dark, violent world of a trans-national trafficking ring, can George outrun death to shed light on two terrible mysteries?

What did I think?

The Girl Who Walked in the Shadows is book 3 in the George McKenzie series and I've been putting off reading it as I wanted to stretch out the series.  I thought this was the final instalment but I'm delighted to see that George McKenzie is returning in 2018 in The Girl Who Had No Fear.  Thinking this was the end of the series, I thought this was an amazing send-off for this gritty, edgy heroine we have come to know and love.

George returns to join forces with Dutch detective Paul Van den Bergen when a killer known as Jack Frost starts targeting people across Europe.  With perhaps the BEST murder weapon EVER, Jack Frost's victims appear to be random when in fact they are selected as chillingly as the weapon he uses.

What is so clever about this instalment is the dual storyline: the story of Piet and Gabi Deenan whose two beautiful blonde children disappeared from their own back garden.  With Gabi using her PR contacts to keep the case in the front of people's minds, the public turned on the Deenans and then Piet and Gabi turned on each other.  The only thing keeping them together is the search for their children and the secrets they now share...

After the events of The Girl Who Broke The Rules, I thought Van den Bergen would have finally accepted his feelings for George.  He might have done, had his daughter not announced her pregnancy.  Paul is about to become a grandfather and George is his daughter's age so you could feel the age gap rearing its head on every page as if it was a character in the story itself.  Age is just a number but Van den Bergen is one stubborn SOB; as stubborn as he is, George is nothing if not persistent.

I felt as if I got to know George's family more in this book and I loved how they all packed up and went with her to Amsterdam.  As much as I dislike George's mother, Letitia, I did feel sorry for her at times but she has finally got the attention she craves, just not in the way she wants it.

I really love this series; it's gritty, punchy, daring and fast-paced with a heroine who's tougher than old boots yet as comfortable in her own skin as an old pair of slippers.  I think this would make a brilliant TV series as a type of scandi-style police-procedural drama we often see on TV these days.  If we can't bring George to the big (or small) screen, you can bring her onto your kindle by clicking here and relive her jaw-dropping escapades over and over again.  These books are going on my must-read-again series list.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Bring Me Back - B A Paris

The Disappearance
Twelve years ago Finn’s girlfriend disappeared.
The Suspicion
He told the police the truth about that night.
Just not quite the whole truth.
The Fear
Now Finn has moved on.
But his past won’t stay buried…

What did I think?

I was one of the many readers excited to see a new B A Paris book being released; B A Paris is the queen of the cliffhanger chapter ending and she should really be known as B A 'Just One More Chapter' Paris.  The only problem with reading just one more chapter is that you get to a point where you might as well stay up and finish the whole book!  So start this one on a Friday night and you'll be all set for an up-all-night read-a-thon.

Finn isn't a character I warmed to at all, I just felt like he knew a lot more about Layla's disappearance that he's letting on.  I was also deeply suspicious of the way they met, he seemed to fall in love with her across a crowded tube station and I feared that he loved the idea of Layla more than he loved her.  When Layla goes missing on a holiday in France, Finn is naturally put under the spotlight.  He admits that he lied to the police, making the reader enter the speed-reading Olympics to find out the whole story.  My dislike for Finn continued as we find out that he is now engaged to Layla's sister, Ellen, which seemed like it was a bit too easy for him to just replace one with the other.  Finn becomes spooked when replicas of Layla's missing Russian doll start to appear...Finn knows they are replicas as he has the original one.  Then Finn gets an email from Layla...

This is another superb page-turner from B A Paris; although I did work some of it out, I still thought it was very well played out.  I think my intense dislike for Finn and identifying his shallowness made my brain go into overdrive and I could see all of the things he couldn't see.  I loved the ability to put Finn and Ellen's relationship under a microscope; a relationship that only started due to Layla's disappearance and is built on Finn's lies.  Ellen just wants to know that Finn loves her more than Layla, but does he?

I don't imagine that I will ever be disappointed by a B A Paris book: she is the queen of the cliffhanger chapter ending, the duchess of suspense and the master weaver of a tangled web of intrigue.  Prepare to be up all night reading this one!

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Monday, 25 December 2017

The Girl Who Saved Christmas - Matt Haig


If magic has a beginning, can it also have an end?

When Amelia wants a wish to come true she knows just the man to ask - Father Christmas.

But the magic she wants to believe in is starting to fade, and Father Christmas has more than impossible wishes to worry about. Upset elves, reindeer dropping out of the sky, angry trolls and the chance that Christmas might be cancelled.

But Amelia isn't just any ordinary girl. And - as Father Christmas is going to find out - if Christmas is going to be saved, he might not be able to do it alone . . .

What did I think?

It's the time of year that every adult looks forward to: when we can awaken our inner child and read a Matt Haig Christmas book.  I'm running a little behind with my Matt Haig Christmas series as The Girl Who Saved Christmas was released in 2016, following hot on the heels of the bestselling A Boy Called Christmas from 2015.  I treated myself to signed copies of both beautiful sparkly books.

So we return to the magical village of Elfhelm where Christmas is under threat, not just by the trolls who are planning an attack on the village but by the loss of hope.  Without hope, Father Christmas can't create his magic to deliver his presents to children all over the world and without magic, reindeer can't fly.  

Amelia is a chimney sweep in Victorian London who had enough hope the prior year for Father Christmas to fly all over the world.  This year though, Amelia finds herself in the workhouse and parted from her dear feline friend, Captain Soot.  Any hope Amelia once had has been extinguished like a candle flame by creepy Mr Creeper who owns the workhouse.  Father Christmas must find Amelia to bring hope back but will he find her in time to deliver all his presents or will Christmas be cancelled again?

I loved A Boy Called Christmas but I absolutely adored The Girl Who Saved Christmas.  As magical as the story is, it gives a glimpse into the poverty of Victorian Britain so you remember that you're not reading a fairytale - well, Father Christmas is real, so it's definitely not a fairy story.  I also have to say that the illustrations by Chris Mould are EXCEPTIONAL: I find his illustrations of the characters remind me of a Tim Burton film but his drawings of buildings are jawdroppingly magnificent.

I'm adding The Girl Who Saved Christmas to my must-read-every-Christmas list, along with A Boy Called Christmas.  Young or old, Matt Haig keeps the magic alive for those of us who believe in Father Christmas (and why wouldn't you?) and each and every one us can do our bit each year by wishing for the magic to happen.  Wishes really do come true...

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Big Twists Little Tales - Jessica Fairfax & Carol Walker

Twisted Tales is an unusual collection of short stories and poetry full to the brim of surprises which are wicked and witty, albeit black humour. They will take you down roads with twists and turns and bumps along the way. There are twenty five stories and poems including: Butterflies and Batwings; Soulmate; There’s something about Christmas; Henry; The Shrieking Woman and There will be cake, plus many more. For unexpected chills Jessica Fairfax and Carol Walker do not disappoint.

What did I think?

I love supporting local authors and this latest offering is a collection of short stories and poetry by Jessica Fairfax and Carol Walker.  What a kaleidoscope of writing this is - there's everything from laugh out loud humour to dark and twisty thrillers within this little gem of an anthology.

It's difficult to review a collection of short stories as you can't share a little of the story, but it would be absolutely impossible to share any of these stories as they are all so very eye-opening and unexpected.  As always, with a collection of short stories everyone will have their own favourites and that is the beauty of it.  The world would be boring indeed if we all liked the same things.

The first story, Temperature Rising, sets the bar with an explosion in the pit.  As the injured are taken to hospital, those who appear dead may actually still be alive!  What a horrific thought: it's akin to being buried alive and so very sad to think a living soul could be trapped within a failing body.  I'm showing my darker side by also mentioning the story called 'Leather versus Rubber' which sees a bickering couple making the trek across St Mary's Causeway in Whitley Bay with only one of them returning.  I loved the way the story built up to a crescendo, almost like a wave crashing against the shore.

As for the final story, wow just wow!  What a brilliant piece of marketing to give two endings to a story and ask the reader which one they preferred.  This brings the cover and the title of the book into play and again, I think many readers will differ over which ending they preferred.  For me, after a LOT of deliberation, it was ending two.  If you've read the book, do let me know which one you preferred.

A superb little collection of dark and disturbing short stories as twisty as a piglet's tale; there is something for everyone within Big Twists Little Tales.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Veteran Avenue - Mark Pepper

1978. On vacation from England, eight-year-old John Frears is befriended by a stranger in the Oregon wilderness and stolen away from his parents. After a bizarre hour spent in a log cabin, he is sent back with a picture of a young girl. 

2013. Since leaving the military, John Frears has been drifting, unable to settle. Then he gets word that a funeral is taking place in LA. Donnie Chester, fellow veteran of the first Gulf War, has been shot dead. He decides to head to the States to pay his respects then go sightseeing. It is a simple plan, in keeping with his life to date. 

But his life is about to become more complicated than he could ever imagine. The mysterious event from his past crashes into the present, and could mean the difference between life and death.

What did I think?

I've found it really difficult to write a review of Veteran Avenue: how do I write a review to show how brilliant it is without giving anything away?  I've deliberated over it far too long so I'm biting the bullet and attempting a no-spoiler review.

What is so clever about Veteran Avenue is how you take the main character of John to your heart straight away.  As an eight year-old he already feels unloved and invisible so when a stranger tempts him away from his parents, John is only too eager to follow.  This strange meeting will stay with John for the rest of his life and puts him on a path he doesn't even know he is following.  With fate pulling all the strings, John's destiny awaits.

Veteran Avenue is SO SO good.  I really wanted to do a review that would do it justice without releasing any spoilers, so I went for a minimalist approach.  This is a book that defies genre and will burst out of any box you try to put it in.  Whatever your usual genre, you will love Veteran Avenue as it has a bit of everything from the military to romance with a sprinkling of the unexpected.

I firmly believe that life is a journey and we are travelling down a path that is already mapped out for us.  John's life is certainly like that, nothing is left to chance and everything is meant to be.  Veteran Avenue is Thought-provoking with a capital 'T' and I am encouraging friends and family to read it so I can talk to them about it, as I am positively fit to burst being the only person in my circle to have read it.  Mark Pepper has written such an amazing book that it deserves to be sitting at the top of the charts for a long time to come.

If you're looking for something different to read: look no further!  I wholeheartedly recommend Veteran Avenue to readers of any genre.  It's a book that you will remember long after turning the final page; I know I will never forget it and it deserves every single one of the five stars I have awarded it.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Friday, 22 December 2017

Away for Christmas - Jan Ruth

Jonathan Jones has written a novel. Losing his job a few days before Christmas means the pressure is on for his book to become a bestseller, but when his partner drops her own bombshell, the festive holiday looks set to be a disaster.

When he's bequeathed a failing bookshop in their seaside town, it seems that some of his prayers have been answered, but his publishing company turn out to be not what they seem, and when his ex-wife suddenly declares her romantic intent, another Christmas looks set to be complicated.

Is everything lost, or can the true meaning of words, a dog called Frodo, and the sheer magic of Christmas be enough to save Jonathan's book, and his skin?

What did I think?

Just the thing to get us in the Christmas spirit is the latest novella from Jan Ruth, although the main character is more of a grinch than a jolly Santa Claus.  That's why I liked him!  I wasn't sure what to make of Jonathan Jones at first: he's an accountant who wants to swap numbers for letters and become an author.  His idea of keeping warm when it's cold outside is to wear two sweaters - give this guy my number, it's like looking into a mirror!

When Jonathan loses his job at the same time as his partner quits her job, it looks like Christmas isn't going to be much fun.  Add to this Jonathan's struggles with his publisher, who seem to forget he even exists, and even the coldest heart would start to feel sorry for him.  Things start to look up when he becomes the surprise new owner of a charming but neglected bookshop where he finally sheds his accountant skin and takes a few risks that could see all his dreams come true.

A book with books in it is always going to get a big thumbs up from me - it's definitely a book for booklovers.  I could virtually smell the books in Beachside Books and I knew it would be a place where I could spend hours browsing the shelves.  I loved Jonathan's dreams of becoming an author and taking risks which would be completely against his nature.  To see him evolve from an unhappy accountant to a much happier person at the end was well worth it.

Although it has Christmas in the title, it's not too Christmassy so you could definitely read Away for Christmas at any time of the year.  Whenever you read it, I know you will enjoy it as much as I did.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

Thursday, 21 December 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Girl I Used to Know - Faith Hogan

A beautiful, emotive and spell-binding story of two women who find friendship and second chances when they least expect it. Perfect for the fans of Patricia Scanlan.

Amanda King and Tess Cuffe are strangers who share the same Georgian house, but their lives couldn't be more different.

Amanda seems to have it all, absolute perfection. She projects all the accoutrements of a lady who lunches. Sadly, the reality is a soulless home, an unfaithful husband and a very lonely heart.

By comparison, in the basement flat, unwanted tenant Tess has spent a lifetime hiding and shutting her heart to love.

It takes a bossy doctor, a handsome gardener, a pushy teenager and an abandoned cat to show these two women that sometimes letting go is the first step to moving forward and new friendships can come from the most unlikely situations.

What did I think?

I admit to being a huge Faith Hogan fan so I couldn't wait to get my hands on her new book; she writes such emotive and compelling fiction with strong female characters who you think of as friends as the book goes on.  The Girl I Used to Know is so perfectly named as it describes the journey our two main characters are on.  In this case, both women must shed the masks they have worn for so long in order to find their very own girl they used to know.  

Amanda lives in a beautiful Georgian house and her life revolves around her husband and children.  Amanda gets quite a wake up call when she catches sight of her reflection in a window and doesn't recognise the person she sees.  With her husband spending more and more time 'at work', Amanda can spend some time reconnecting with the girl buried beneath the excess pounds.

Tess is a sitting tenant in Amanda's basement and the pair can barely say a civil word to each other.  Amanda always imagined that she would include the basement as part of her home but Tess has no intention of moving out.  With Tess getting older, she has no intention of popping her clogs too soon and making it easy for Amanda to get her hands on the basement flat.

When fate plays a hand and the two women find themselves spending time with each other, they find that the other isn't the person they thought she was.  Amanda appears to have had an easy life, being given everything she ever wanted and dreamed of, whereas life has not been kind to Tess leaving her bitter and unhappy.  They are each other's perfect medicine, along with a drop of whiskey and Matt the cat, of course.

I do love dual storyline books as you unravel the threads of a person's life to find out why and how they are the person they are now.  As prickly as she was, I warmed to Tess straight away and was pinning my colours to her mast in the fight with Amanda, who I found to be one of those personality-free first, I hasten to add.  Then I started to feel so sorry for Amanda as she hadn't done anything to deserve what she was going through, but my pity turned to triumph as Amanda the beautiful butterfly emerged from her comfy old chrysalis.

This is another amazing book by Faith Hogan, one that leaves your heart fit to burst but is actually so thought-provoking that you can't help but examine your own life to see if you can reveal your happier true self from years ago.  Pick it up today and maybe you will find the girl YOU used to know.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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About the author:

Faith Hogan was born in Ireland. She gained an Honours Degree in English Literature and Psychology from Dublin City University and a Postgraduate Degree from University College, Galway. She has worked as a fashion model, an event’s organiser and in the intellectual disability and mental health sector.

She was a winner in the 2014 Irish Writers Centre Novel Fair – an international competition for emerging writers.

Faith Hogan Contact:
Twitter (her favourite)

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