Thursday, 28 February 2019

Close Enough to Touch - Colleen Oakley


One time a boy kissed me and I almost died...
And so begins the story of Jubilee Jenkins, a 28-year-old woman with a unique and debilitating medical condition - she's allergic to other humans. After a humiliating, near-death experience in high school, Jubilee has become reclusive in her adulthood, living the past nine years in the confines of the Victorian house her unaffectionate mother deeded to her when she ran off with a wealthy businessman. But now, her mother is dead, and without her financial support, Jubilee is forced to leave home and face the world - and the people in it - she's been hiding from.
One of those people is Eric Keegan, a man who just moved into town for work. With a daughter from his failed marriage no longer speaking to him, and a brilliant, if psychologically troubled, adopted son who believes he has untapped telekinetic powers, Eric's struggling to figure out how his life got so off course, and how to be the dad - and man - he wants so desperately to be. Then, one day, he meets a mysterious woman named Jubilee...


What did I think?

With a main character named Jubilee Jenkins, this book is definitely as quirky as it sounds, whilst also being seriously thought-provoking.  Imagine having an allergy to other people's skin and going through life without being touched, hugged or kissed?  Welcome to Jubilee's lonely world.

Trapped in her own house for fear of anaphylactic shock through contact with human skin cells, Jubilee exists but doesn't live.  The death of Jubilee's mother sets of a chain of events that will change her life, just when she least expects it.  Just stepping out of the house and into her car is a big thing for Jubilee and I loved how she expected the car to start after so many years sitting idle.  It is a visit to the gas station that sets Jubilee off onto a different path when she runs into an old schoolfriend; with kids being as cruel as they are, 'friend' is perhaps not the right term for Madison but I have to give her some respect as she certainly makes up for the actions of her youth.

Jubilee manages to get a job at the local library where she meets Eric through his equally quirky adopted son, Aja.  It is no surprise that Jubilee and Aja hit it off, which is good news for Eric as he seems completely lost where Aja is concerned.  Eric's relationship with his daughter, Ellie, has all but broken down and as much as I felt for him, I really just wanted him to get a grip and make things happen.  I wanted to shake him and tell him that he's never going to make it up with Ellie when he has moved miles away and taken Aja with him; he needs to talk to her face to face and show her what she means to him.

With an allergy as severe as Jubilee's, she is of great interest to the medical world.  I loved how Colleen Oakley 'makes it real' by including excerpts from articles about Jubilee in The New York Times.  I loved watching Jubilee's story unfold as she learns not only to live with her condition but simply to live.

Close Enough to Touch is an absolutely fascinating and heartfelt story.  It has a powerful message to never give up and to always look for solutions to the seemingly impossible.

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

My rating:


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Tuesday, 26 February 2019

All the Good Things - Clare Fisher


What if you did a very bad thing... but that wasn't the end of the story?
Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn't deserve ever to feel good again.
But her counsellor, Erika, won't give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby's head.
But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.
What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone - even a 100% bad person - deserve a chance to be good?

What did I think?

I've had All the Good Things on my TBR for far too long and I only picked it up by chance when I was looking for a book thin enough to fit in my bag for a long train journey.  I expected to read a handful of chapters then gaze out of the train window at the scenery whizzing by, but as soon as I picked up this book I was lost.  It's just as well the train terminated at my destination or I would have ended up somewhere completely unexpected as I turned the final page of this book.

The whole premise is breathtakingly simple as Beth, an inmate in a prison, lists all of the good things that have happened to her in her life.  Now, this might seem like an easy task to you or me, but to someone like Beth with her tragic life she has to dig a bit deeper to list her good things.  Always hovering in the background, as we read Beth's story, is the bad thing she has done.  It's not difficult to guess what it is, but as I got to know Beth, I hoped with all my heart that I was wrong.

Clare Fisher is a magnificent storyteller, creating a terribly flawed but completely believable character in Beth who I very easily began to care about.  I felt so emotionally involved in the ups and downs of Beth's story that I dreaded getting to the part that landed her in prison.  As if she could read my mind, Clare Fisher sprinkled a glimmer of hope and forgiveness into the story to help me cope with this awful but inevitable revelation.

I am completely flabbergasted that this is a debut novel; the writing is so polished and accomplished and Clare Fisher manages to make you feel everything that the main character of Beth is feeling.  It surprised me how emotional I found this book, although I didn't cry I felt as if I was experiencing all of Beth's emotions with her.  The characterisation is so multidimensional that Beth jumps from the page and she stayed with me long after I turned the final page.  All the Good Things is a completely stunning and entirely flawless debut.

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

My rating:

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Sunday, 24 February 2019

Past Life - Dominic Nolan


THE ONLY THING DETECTIVE ABIGAIL BOONE REMEMBERS...IS THE WORST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO HER.
Waking up beside the dead girl, she couldn't remember anything.
Who she was. Who had taken her. How to escape.
Detective Abigail Boone has been missing for four days when she is finally found, confused and broken. Suffering retrograde amnesia, she is a stranger to her despairing husband and bewildered son.
Hopelessly lost in her own life, with no leads on her abduction, Boone's only instinct is to revisit the case she was investigating when she vanished: the baffling disappearance of a young woman, Sarah Still.
Defying her family and the police, Boone obsessively follows a deadly trail to the darkest edges of human cruelty. But even if she finds Sarah, will Boone ever be the same again?

What did I think?

This book starts off racing at 100mph and doesn't let up for a second, so you'd better buckle up for this high-octane thrill ride.  Walk away now if you're squeamish, as the level of detail is often chilling and skin crawling but it just adds to the gritty atmosphere of the whole book.

I struggled with whether I liked Abigail Boone or not at first but she definitely grew on me.  When she wakes up with amnesia, surrounded by a family she doesn't know, she seems very indifferent to them and doesn't even care to get to know them.  I get that they are strangers to her but I couldn't understand how she doesn't even try.  Reading on, Abigail's character evolved at such a pace that I could clearly see her one track mind and dogged determination to solve the case of missing person, Sarah Still.  For Abigail, past and present, this is the one that got away and she won't rest until she finds out what happened to Sarah.

There are some very colourful characters in Past Life; I loved Boone's well named prickly colleague Barb, her friend Tess, who she knows from arresting her father and, last but definitely not least, her fellow captive Roo.  Such an array of strong female characters, who each made a lasting impression on me in their own right, just shows what a multi-layered story Dominic Nolan has written.

The whole Sarah Still investigation really intrigued me and I loved how this thread linked Boone's past and present lives.  Boone reminded me a bit of Jack Bauer in her single-mindedness and lack of fear for her own safety.  I had every confidence that she would get to the bottom of Sarah Still's disappearance, even if it killed her.  It certainly made my heart race and my palms sweat as I hitched a ride on Boone's highly dangerous rollercoaster of a journey.

Past Life is gripping and completely intense; once it grabs a hold of you, it refuses to let go.  I suspect (and hope) that this isn't the last we've heard of Abigail Boone.

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

My rating:


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Friday, 22 February 2019

BLOG TOUR: Time Will Tell - Eva Jordan

Eva Jordan's much-anticipated follow up to the bestselling `All The Colours In-Between'.

Writer, Lizzie Lemalf, and her loving but somewhat dysfunctional family are still grieving over the loss of a much-loved family member. Lizzie is doing her best to keep her family together but why does the recent death of a well-known celebrity have them all in a spin? The police suspect foul play; Lizzie and other family members suspect one another. 

Lizzie begins searching for answers only to find herself being dragged back to the past, to 1960's London to be exact, and to the former life of her father, that up until now she has never been privy to. Every family has its secrets but how can the past hold the key to a present day celebrity death? They say the past comes back to haunt you. Surely the truth will out? Maybe, but only time will tell...  


What did I think?

Eva Jordan’s books are so full of warmth and colour that you feel as if you’re catching up with an old friend who envelops you in a big hug on arrival.  I have absolutely adored, and frequently recommend, Eva’s books so I was delighted to be offered an early review copy of Time Will Tell that picks right up after the jaw dropping cliff-hanger ending of All The Colours In Between.

Our favourite blended family is back!  Time Will Tell is like two books in one as Lizzie’s story continues but we also get to read about her father, Salocin’s story and his extremely colourful past.  The story effortlessly switches between eras and I was as eager to learn of Salocin’s past as I was to find out what happened following the bombshell in the previous book.

I felt as if Eva Jordan’s very heart and soul is woven within the pages of this book as she tackles some emotional and difficult storylines with delicacy and poise.  As they overcame the hurdles of life, my heart went out to the Lamalf family and I laughed and cried along with them.   Nobody has ever extracted the essence of family as well as Eva Jordan and written the ups and downs of family life for us all to enjoy.  This book is an emotional triumph that went from my heart breaking with anguish one minute to smiling through my tears as the enviable strength of all of these characters overcame their own personal adversity. 

I really can’t rate them highly enough; you MUST pick up Eva Jordan’s books and invite the Lemalf family into your heart.  Eva Jordan’s sublime and honest writing has affected me so much that the Lemalf family have a permanent place in my heart and I love that I will just be able to turn the pages of a book when I inevitably find that I miss them.

Warm, witty, poignant and heartfelt Time Will Tell is the perfect finale to the Lemalf family story.

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

My rating:


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About the author:


Eva Jordan is a published writer of several short stories and Time Will Tell is her third novel. Eva lives in a small town in Cambridgeshire with partner Steve and three of our four children, who are a constant source of inspiration – they are all teenagers, need I say more! Eva’s career has been varied, including working in a Women’s Refuge and more recently at the city library. However, storytelling through the art of writing is her true passion.

Follow Eva on Twitter @EvaJordanWriter








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Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Absolute Proof - Peter James


Investigative reporter Ross Hunter nearly didn’t answer the phone call that would change his life – and possibly the world – for ever.
‘I’d just like to assure you I’m not a nutcase, Mr Hunter. My name is Dr Harry F. Cook. I know this is going to sound strange, but I’ve recently been given absolute proof of God’s existence – and I’ve been advised there is a writer, a respected journalist called Ross Hunter, who could help me to get taken seriously.’
What would it take to prove the existence of God? And what would be the consequences?
This question and its answer lie at the heart of Absolute Proof, an international thriller from bestselling author Peter James.
The false faith of a billionaire evangelist, the life’s work of a famous atheist, and the credibility of each of the world’s major religions are all under threat. If Ross Hunter can survive long enough to present the evidence . . .


What did I think?

As a lover of Egyptian history and mythology, I was immediately drawn to this book by the eye-catching hieroglyphs on the cover and I've also read a few of Peter James' Roy Grace series so I know that he is an excellent writer.  At over 500 pages, it's quite a chunky book with a complex plot and a lot of characters so it did take me longer than I expected to read it.

The whole premise of this book intrigued me: what would happen if proof of God's existence came to light and what lengths would some people  or organisations go to prevent this happening?  This is the question that Peter James explores in Absolute Proof which injects the thriller element into the story at just the right time to keep me interested.  As reporter Ross Hunter gathers the evidence to prove God's existence, it really did feel like there were lots of people out to stop him and I had no idea who he could trust.

I think I was a little guilty of my own hype as I expected to love this book but found it a little hard going in places, so I ended up liking but not loving it.  I'm glad I've read it but it's not a book I'd recommend and I think I'd rather stick with the amazing Roy Grace series.

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

My rating:


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Sunday, 17 February 2019

BLOG TOUR: All the Little Lies - Chris Curran


Your whole life has been a lie…
One email is all it takes to turn Eve’s world upside down. It contains a picture of her true birth mother, Stella, and proves that Eve’s entire life with her adoptive parents has been a lie.

Now she must unravel the mystery of Stella’s dark past. But what Eve finds will force her to take enormous risks, which put her – and her new-born baby – in immediate danger…


What did I think?

I always get a thrill when a novel is set in my native North East, so I was surprised and delighted when I was reading All the Little Lies as I had no idea that Chris Curran had part set her new novel in Gateshead and Newcastle.

Aside from the amazing location, All the Little Lies is such an intriguing story with Eve trying to find out more about her birth mother, Stella.  She knows her adoptive parents know more than they are letting on and I had a constant question mark over my head as I wondered just what they were trying to hide.  

As Eve digs into Stella's story, we are treated to flashbacks of Stella's life: from her meagre beginnings as a young child in Newcastle to fame as an artist before her life was tragically cut short.  I loved the tempestuous story of Stella and Maggie; best friends or frenemies as I liked to think of them because Maggie was so jealous of Stella's artistic talent and beauty.  I didn't trust Maggie one bit and when she invited Stella to stay with her in Italy, I knew it would all end in tears.

I love reading a fiction book and learning something I didn't know.  I was so surprised to read about an art installation in Gateshead's Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art that I was completely unaware of.  I have visited The Baltic on numerous occasions but I have always taken the supersonic glass lift to admire the views of the Newcastle Gateshead quayside on the way.  Thanks to Chris Curran, next time I visit I will be taking the stairs to experience Mark Wallinger's Heaven and Hell art installation of a staircase that appears to stretch to infinity.

All the Little Lies is not only gripping and intriguing but it has an added hint of danger as Eve's digging into Stella's past unearths secrets that somebody wants to keep well and truly buried.  Where lies are involved, you can always expect twists and turns aplenty and All the Little Lies certainly delivers in the surprising twists stakes, many of which I really didn't see coming.

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

My rating:


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About the author:

All the Little Lies is Chris Curran’s fourth psychological thriller for Harper Collins Killer Reads. She lives in East Sussex and writes, standing up, in a room with no view. When inspiration falters she finds tea (Earl Grey, hot) and a bout of ironing are very therapeutic. In breaks between books she dusts, cooks, walks by the sea and reads – but mostly reads.

Find her at:
Twitter @Christi_Curran  






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Saturday, 16 February 2019

BLOG TOUR: One Minute Later - Susan Lewis


You think your life is perfect.
You think your secrets are safe.
You think it’ll always be this way.
But your life can change in a heartbeat.
Brilliantly emotional, suspenseful and page-turning, One Minute Later is the stunning new novel from the Sunday Times bestselling author, Susan Lewis.
Susan Lewis – behind every secret lies a story.
The new novel from Sunday Times bestselling author, Susan Lewis.
With a high-flying job, a beautiful apartment and friends whose lives are as happy as her own, Vivienne Shager is living the dream. Then, on the afternoon of Vivi’s twenty-seventh birthday, one catastrophic minute changes everything.

Forced to move back to the small seaside town where she grew up, Vivi remembers the reasons she left. The secrets, lies and questions that now must be answered before it’s too late. But the answers lie in thirty years in the past…
Shelley Raynor’s family home, Deerwood Farm, has always been a special place until darkness strikes at its heart. When Vivi’s and Shelley’s worlds begin to entwine, it only takes a moment for the truth to unravel all of their lives.


What did I think?

I am both ashamed and delighted that this is my first Susan Lewis book; ashamed that this prolific author has written so many books that I have missed and delighted to have found her, better late than never.  I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of One Minute Later that came with instructions to make the origami heart on the front cover and I absolutely loved this thoughtful touch from the publisher, HarperCollins.

Vivienne has the world at her feet until her world stops spinning and her heart stops beating on her 27th Birthday.  Faced with an unimaginable prognosis, Vivienne feels completely helpless and exhausted but fate still has some of Vivienne's story to write.  I couldn't help but be totally in awe of Vivienne as she struggled with her condition but tried to keep a smile on her face.  Of course, there's nothing like a new man to put a smile on a woman's face and oh, wow love interest Josh fitted the bill perfectly.  With time running out for Vivienne, the pair made the most of every single second and I found their happiness completely infectious.  It reminded me that each day is precious and we should seize each day with both hands and live it to the best of our abilities.

Vivienne's story is very captivating and emotional, especially for those whose lives have been touched by the dreaded transplant list.  My family has experienced both sides of this story and I fought to hold back my tears as hopes were dashed at the last minute.  I suppose it is the thoughtlessness and laziness of youth (not that I can claim to be youthful anymore) that has caused me not to sign up to the donor register, as well as thinking I may have nothing to offer.  My eyes may be lasered, my heart made of stone and my liver pickled, but it is not for me to decide which of my organs are still viable and could save lives.  So after I finished reading Vivienne's story, I immediately told my family that I wished to donate my organs in the event of my premature death; mission accomplished, Susan Lewis!

I was fascinated by the Save9Lives campaign mentioned in the book, which is supported by Susan Lewis and founded by Jim Lynskey, who is also a character in the book but is very much a real and very inspirational person.  You can find out more about Save9Lives by clicking here and read Jim's story here.

One Minute Later is heartfelt and incredibly emotional with a very powerful and inspirational message at its heart (if you excuse the pun).  It's amazing to think that lives could actually be saved by readers of One Minute Later being inspired to sign up to the donor register and Susan Lewis deserves huge recognition for this.  One Minute Later won't necessarily change your life, but it could definitely change nine other lives.

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

My rating:


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Friday, 15 February 2019

The Foster Child - Jenny Blackhurst


When child psychologist Imogen Reid takes on the case of 11-year-old Ellie Atkinson, she refuses to listen to warnings that the girl is dangerous.
Ellie was the only survivor of a fire that killed her family. Imogen is convinced she's just a sad and angry child struggling to cope with her loss.
But Ellie's foster parents and teachers are starting to fear her. When she gets upset, bad things seem to happen. And as Imogen gets closer to Ellie, she may be putting herself in danger...


What did I think?

Having read everything she has published, I already love Jenny Blackhurst's books so I knew what I was letting myself in for when I picked up The Foster Child.  Jenny writes books that draw you in immediately and you simply can't put them down and The Foster Child is no different.  I positively whizzed through this with a few late nights of reading and I'm surprised I managed to sleep without nightmares as this creepy book well and truly got under my skin.

I love the two main characters of Imogen and Ellie, who are both damaged by less than perfect childhoods.  They have so much in common that it's no wonder that child psychologist, Imogen, is drawn to foster child, Ellie, when she is allocated her case.  It often felt like the whole town (creepily named Gaunt) was against 11 year old, Ellie; with children, mothers and teachers whispering in corners and branding her a witch.  Strange things do seem to happen when Ellie gets upset and, as much as I looked for a logical explanation, I did have the awful feeling that something supernatural was going on in Gaunt.

My mind was twisting itself into knots as I tried to explain how the bad things were happening.  Everything points towards Ellie having some kind of psychokinesis power but that's something that would only appear in an X-Men movie...isn't it?

This dark, disturbing and intensely creepy thriller will have you up all night, one way or another; you will either be unable to put it down or you will have nightmares!  The Foster Child is another cracking psychological thriller from the super-talented Jenny Blackhurst; you really don't want to miss this one or Ellie will really be mad...

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

My rating:


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Thursday, 14 February 2019

Ikigai & Other Japanese Words to Live By - Mari Fujimoto


Introducing and explaining some of the most poignant Japanese words, Ikigai is a lifestyle as well as a language book. From the wistful poetry of mono-no-aware, a word that asks us to recognize the bittersweet transience of all things, to the quiet harmony of wa, which knits together all of society’s structures, this book is an introduction to the intricacies and value of Japanese phrases and concepts. It hopes to inspire you to incorporate these words into your own lifestyle and adopt a more mindful attitude to life’s stresses, seeking meaning beyond materialism. 

In addition to over 40 ‘words to live by’, Ikigai features musings on the place of beauty, community, time and nature in Japanese thought, teaching mindfulness by way of compelling haikus, and illustrated by Michael Kenna’s reflective photography throughout.


What did I think?

When I think of Japanese people, a sea of serene and smiling faces comes to mind.  After reading Ikigai & other Japanese words to live by, I'm not surprised that they appear so happy and calm with such beautiful, meaningful words in their vocabulary.

The book is split into seven chapters: Harmony, Beauty, Nature, Mindfulness, Gratitude, Time and Respect, with a haiku (a 3 line Japanese poem) at the beginning of each chapter.  I've never been a poetry lover so these bite size poems are more my kind of thing and I rather surprisingly found myself lingering over the words and savouring their meaning.  Before we even get to the 'words to live by' there is a little essay on each chapter topic, however, this went completely over my head and I didn't really get it.  It might make more sense on the second reading, as I'm sure I'll be returning to this book for inspiration.

On to the words, which is the essence of the book.  My favourite section has to be 'Time' as I often say that time is something you never get back and particular moments in time cannot be repeated.  There's actually a Japanese phrase for this: 'Ichigo ichie' which means a once-in-a-lifetime encounter; a moment that cannot be repeated.  It's rather fitting for me (being a lifelong tea lover) that this phrase is attributed to renowned tea master Sen-no Rikyū and I'd already made a note to source some 'salty plum tea' that made my mouth water in the essay on gratitude.

I love black and white photography so I was completely spellbound by Michael Kenna's breathtaking images.  The images, coupled with the inspirational words and phrases, project an aura of calm and enlightenment, making Ikigai & other Japanese words to live by a book to savour and return to again and again.

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

My rating:


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Tuesday, 5 February 2019

When All is Said - Anne Griffin



'I'm here to remember - all that I have been and all that I will never be again.'
At the bar of a grand hotel in a small Irish town sits 84-year-old Maurice Hannigan. He's alone, as usual -though tonight is anything but. Pull up a stool and charge your glass, because Maurice is finally ready to tell his story.
Over the course of this evening, he will raise five toasts to the five people who have meant the most to him. Through these stories - of unspoken joy and regret, a secret tragedy kept hidden, a fierce love that never found its voice - the life of one man will be powerfully and poignantly laid bare.
Heart-breaking and heart-warming all at once, the voice of Maurice Hannigan will stay with you long after all is said.

What did I think?

Oh my goodness, what an absolutely breathtaking book; I could honestly have read several hundred more pages of Maurice's story that is so flawlessly written by Anne Griffin.  I simply couldn't put it down, despite knowing that I was hurtling towards an inevitably heartbreaking ending.

I initially thought of Maurice as a bit of a grumpy old man; he's a bit like a conker - rather prickly on the outside but with a smooth and polished heart.  As Maurice shares his story, by raising a glass to 5 people he has loved throughout his life, we get to know him inside and out.  I was actually very surprised to find, as the tears rolled down my face, that Maurice had burrowed his way into my heart, and not just because we share tastes where drinks are concerned.  So it was with both tears of sadness and joy that I turned the final page and paused to catch my breath, raising my own virtual glass to Maurice.

I am absolutely stunned that When All is Said is Anne Griffin's debut novel.  The writing is so vivid and multi-dimensional that I felt as if I was sitting at the bar listening to Maurice's story.  As a fan of Irish alcoholic beverages, I do admit to being intrigued to see what drink Maurice would choose next and I was tickled pink that he chose to have a drop of my favourite Irish Whiskey, Bushmills.  This is a story I will never forget and every time I have a drop of Guinness or Bushmills I will raise a toast to my old pal Maurice Hannigan.

Anne Griffin is a natural storyteller and I have no doubt that her beautiful and breathtaking debut, When All is Said, is destined to be a worldwide bestseller.  I heartily recommend this novel and even if you don't read it with a pint of Guinness or a drop of Bushmills you will still feel as if you're sitting at the bar with Maurice.  Sláinte!

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

My rating:


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