Friday 12 April 2024

Game On - Matt Cain

Toddington FC defender Tom Horrocks is never happier than when he's on the football pitch, but when it comes to love, he's hiding a big secret. Worried about his young daughter and sick father - and with his team finally in the Premier League - he avoids all media.

Journalist Cosmo Roberts wants to change the world, so is angry when he's sent to a quiet northern town to cover a sport he sees as anti-gay. Then something about Tom catches his eye.

Cosmo hates football. Tom hates journalists.

Perhaps this time they've both met their match.

What did I think?

I picked up Game On by Matt Cain one afternoon and couldn’t put it down until I’d finished. 

What a cracking Quick Reads book it is and I absolutely loved the main characters of Tom and Cosmo. There’s a huge message in the book to be true to yourself and put your own happiness first once in a while. 

It’s also a great book for football fans, especially long suffering fans who can only dream of their team playing in the Premier League. I may support such a team but Toddington FC have certainly scored a place in my heart; not only do they play in my favourite colour of purple but they do something else that put a smile on my face.

You can pick up a copy of this fabulous book for just £1 or read it for free at your local library.

I received a gifted copy to read and review and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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About Quick Reads:

Quick Reads plays a vital role in addressing the UK's adult literacy crisis, engaging the one in three adults who do not regularly read for pleasure and the one in six adults who find reading difficult. Since the programme launched in 2006, over 5.3 million Quick Reads have been distributed with over 6.14 million registered library loans.

The titles are available for just £1 at bookshops and are free to borrow from libraries. They are used across the country in colleges, prisons, trade unions, hospitals, and adult learning organisations.

The six titles announced on 11 April 2024 will also be gifted as part of World Book Night 2024, The Reading Agency's annual drive to create a nation of readers. With the support of this year's publishers, copies of the books will be given away to organisations including care homes, youth centres, homelessness centre, prisons, hospitals and other organisations through public library partners.

Karen Napier, CEO, The Reading Agency, said: 'We are incredibly excited as we unveil the remarkable line-up of authors collaborating with Quick Reads to publish a bitesize book for 2024 - and we thank them and all the publishers for their support to this life-changing programme. We would also like to extend heartfelt gratitude to Jojo Moyes for the generous donation in 2020-2022 which helped to shape the future of the initiative. This year we are proudly supported by Penguin Random House and Hachette who have contributed funding to the programme We will be celebrating Quick Reads as part of World Book Night 2024 in our continued mission to bring high quality, fun and accessible books to a wider audience to discover the transformative power of reading.'

Saturday 6 April 2024

Husbands: Love and Lies in La-La Land - Mo Fanning

In Hollywood, every pavement star tells a story. Not all of them shine.

Wannabe actor Kyle Macdonald is down on his luck. Working as a supply teacher in an inner-city Birmingham school, he's single again at 28, and sleeping in his childhood bedroom beneath a 'Hard Candy' Madonna poster.

He gets a call claiming he drunkenly married top Hollywood director Aaron Biedermeier in Vegas six years ago. Rather than panic, he sees a golden ticket to fame and the life he's always fantasised about.

But the glamorous veneer of Los Angeles - non-stop sunshine, celebrity actors and exclusive hotel suites - starts to crack, revealing a darker, corrupt underbelly to La-La Land. Kyle digs deeper into his so-called husband's past, unearthing disturbing allegations of abuse and underage sex parties.

With the help of Biedermeier's fiancé, actor Noah Winters, he embarks on a cross-country race to unravel the mystery and expose the truth - finding love along the way.

What did I think?

I am so pleased that I picked up Husbands by Mo Fanning as I absolutely loved it.  Once I picked it up I couldn't put it down and wished I'd started it earlier in the day as I was furious that I had to put it down to go to sleep.  

Husbands touches on some serious subjects that completely broke my heart as these things really happened to lots of young actors but Mo Fanning writes respectfully and sensitively whilst still highlighting these issues.  The story itself is very entertaining and it's filled with dark humour that made me laugh out loud.

Most of my laughs came from the main character Kyle, or 'Kyle, man!' as I referred to him in my head every time he did something stupid (so pretty much all the time).  Only Kyle could drunk marry a Hollywood director in Las Vegas, go home to Birmingham (England) and completely forget about it.  Kyle, man!  Your acting dreams could have come true!   

So telling his parents he's off to Manchester (Kyle, man!), Kyle jumps on a plane and dives into the shark infested waters of LA LA Land.  Thank goodness he told his friend Milly where he was going - she deserves a medal for trying to keep him out of trouble.  What follows is an adventure-filled road trip with Kyle's husband's new fiancé to discover the truth about what actually happened in Vegas.

Hugely entertaining, dark and addictive, Husbands is as bingeworthy as a Netflix series and is surely destined to make it on to our screens in the future.  I loved the beginning, the middle and the end - very highly recommended.

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

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Wednesday 3 April 2024

BLOG TOUR: Maya's Laws of Love - Alina Khawaja

Maya Mirza is so convinced she’s unlucky in love and life that she’s come up with a list of laws to explain it. Most importantly…

* Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

But that’s about to change. Maya’s headed to Pakistan for an arranged marriage with a handsome, successful doctor who ticks all the right boxes. First comes marriage, then comes love  – she’s sure of it. Except…

* Trips are never smooth sailing.

From the start, Maya's journey is riddled with disaster, and the cynical lawyer seated next to her on the plane isn’t helping. Until a storm leaves them stranded in Switzerland, and she and Sarfaraz become unlikely travel companions. And maybe something more…

* When you think you’re lucky, think again.

Before long, Maya’s wondering whether she’s just experienced the ultimate in misfortune – finally meeting the right man a few days before she has to marry someone else. 

What did I think?

Oh my goodness, Maya's Laws of Love is one of the most romantic books I have ever read.  This is proper swoony romance that makes your heart race and your breath catch and I loved every minute of it.

Maya believes that she is cursed so she sets up her own list of laws that start with Murphy's Law (Anything that can go wrong will go wrong) so she's always prepared for disappointment and bad luck.  Maya's laws are brought to life in an often comical fashion when she travels from Canada to Pakistan to get married and almost every obstacle is put in her way to try to prevent her from getting to her wedding on time.  One such obstacle is the man that Maya sits next to on the plane, a man with beautiful dark eyes that you can lose yourself in, a man who is not her fiancé.

I really enjoyed reading about a different culture and I found the customs and events of the wedding celebration fascinating.  I love how it's all woven into the story and it creates so many memorable moments in Maya's story.  Maya has such a strong voice and it shines through in Alina Khawaja's colourful writing.  I can totally see this wonderful book being made into a Netflix show (please pick this one up, Netflix!). 

Sweet, charming and surprisingly funny, Maya's Laws of Love is a must read for romance readers or anyone looking for something different and entertaining to read.  I absolutely adored it and I wanted to read it again the moment I finished it as I didn't want this gorgeous story to end.  Very highly recommended.

I received an ARC to read and review for the blog tour and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Monday 1 April 2024

Maybe It's About Time - Neil Boss

Two people trapped in their different worlds. One by wealth and one by poverty. Twenty years working for The Firm has given Marcus Barlow everything he wants but has taken his soul in return. Finding a way to leave has become an obsession.

Claire Halford’s life hits rock bottom when she is caught stealing food from Tesco Express. Left alone by her husband with two small children and an STI, her suicide music is starting to play louder in her head.

A chance meeting brings them together. As a mystery virus from China starts to run riot across the country, their world’s collide and they find they have more in common than they knew.

Set in the early months of 2020, Maybe It’s About Time is a story about the difficulty of changing lives for the better. Starting as a funny and satirical view of the egocentric world of professional services, it gives way to a heart-warming story of an unlikely friendship that rejuvenates Marcus and Claire, giving them both hope for a better future.

What did I think?

Maybe It's About Time is a poignant and powerful novel set during the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020.  Although I'm sure none of us will ever forget this horrific time, it is brought back to life in a haunting and sensitive way through Neil Boss' carefully crafted writing.  Each chapter ends with the date and this simple but powerful sentence felt like a death knell; it gives me goose bumps just thinking about it now.

Marcus and Claire live completely different lives.  Marcus and has family want for nothing as Marcus has a well paid job in the city; a job that Marcus hates.  Claire's husband left her with two young children and her benefits don't provide enough money to feed them.  The stark contrast between wealth and poverty is disturbing but very sobering to read.  I feel incredibly fortunate that I've never had to worry about putting food on the table.

Marcus's work life really resonated with me as I was guilty of living to work rather than working to live in my last job.  I think if you've ever worked in an office you will appreciate Marcus's chapters more as I found it very entertaining.  I'm glad I wasn't working during the pandemic as I would have never got any work done for all the Zoom calls.

There are some very funny moments in the book that had me laughing out loud and the humour is very well balanced as it doesn't detract from the seriousness of the pandemic situation.  Even though I had an idea what was going to happen, it still brought a tear to my eye at the end.  There are a few unresolved parts of the story that have left it open for a sequel and I can't wait to read what happens next.

Haunting, emotive and compelling, I laughed and I cried whilst reading this beautifully written book.  It's an important and powerful novel that everyone should read and I really can't recommend it highly enough. 

I received a gifted paperback for the Love Books Tours readalong and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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Saturday 30 March 2024

BLOG TOUR: Murder on the Dancefloor (The Bad Girls Detective Agency Book 2) - Katie Marsh

They DID promise her a killer hen weekend...

Jeanie’s getting married, and – despite her completely impossible four sisters – her best friends Clio and Amber are determined to give her a bachelorette weekend to remember. They’re in matching pink T-shirts and the drinks are flowing...

But the night turns out to be unforgettable for all the wrong reasons when a girl turns up dead on the dancefloor. And – even though she’s a stranger – she is wearing one of Jeanie’s hen T-shirts.

Who is she? And why are the police convinced that the hens are involved? Can the newly-formed Bad Girls Detective Agency solve the murder? And in time to get Jeanie up the aisle?

Unputdownable mystery set on the English coast – perfect for fans of The Thursday Murder Club, Bad Sisters and How to Kill Your Family.

What did I think?

Although I haven't read the first book in The Bad Girls Detective Agency series, How Not To Murder Your Ex, I really want to after reading Murder on the Dancefloor.  It's not necessary to have read the first book as I really enjoyed meeting this colourful group of girls and I felt that I got to know them over the course of the book.

Jeanie's hen party takes a sinister turn when a body is found in the nightclub where they are partying.  Jeanie is with her mother (who spends the evening reading her kindle), her quirky sisters (who could be an alternative to the Spice Girls) and her friends (who form The Bad Girls Detective Agency).  An investigation soon begins that puts Jeanie's wedding at risk.

This is a really fun crime caper that is very entertaining and would make a great TV series.  I had my suspicions about who the murderer was but there are a lot of threads to untangle before the big reveal.  I loved how everything came together at the end in a very satisfying conclusion.

Entertaining, fun and captivating, Murder on the Dancefloor is a heartwarming cosy mystery with friendship and family at its heart.  I loved it and will definitely be reading the first book in  the series to find out more about this wonderful group of friends.

I received a digital ARC to read and review for the blog tour and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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About the author:
Katie wrote romantic fiction before turning to crime. Her debut novel was a World Book Night pick and her books are published in ten languages.

She lives in the English countryside and loves strong coffee and pretending to be in charge of her children. ‘How Not to Murder your Ex’, the first in her Bad Girls Detective Agency series is out now, published by Boldwood Books. The next instalment, 'Murder on the Dancefloor,' follows in March 2024.

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Tuesday 26 March 2024

Never Forgive You - Hilly Barmby

A glamorous French wedding 

Arriving at the station with her boyfriend Davey MacGregor and his twin sisters, Ailsa and Juliette, Hetty, a thriller book addict, picks up on family tension. But that’s natural before a big wedding, isn’t it? Hetty feels out of her depth. The family are wealthy and well- educated, whereas she is a council house girl. Davey’s cousin Isabelle is to marry Jean- Jacques, a French right-wing politician, in the family chateau. 

A fairy-tale event 

Ailsa is hesitant about coming back to France. Eight years ago, something happened that nearly destroyed the family. But that was dealt with, wasn’t it? Hetty has secrets of her own that she doesn’t want known. Ailsa is drawn back into the past. What, exactly, did happen? The expensive wedding is everything it should be, except when the groom is taken ill. The revellers carry on, but something is seriously wrong. 

Then things start to unravel 

The relationships between the family members fracture and secrets from the past start coming to the surface, with murderous results… Who is telling the truth? Who is out for revenge?

What did I think?

As you can tell from the fabulous cover, Never Forgive You is a dark and disturbing novel and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I loved the setting of a French wedding in a village where the MacGregors are clearly not welcome.  Something clearly happened in the past and I couldn't read fast enough to find out what it was.

It's evident from the start that this is one heck of a dysfunctional family but the true extent is not revealed until near the end.  I had my virtual running shoes on when I was reading and I read the book in two sittings as I couldn't put it down until I had discovered all of the secrets.

The family aren't terribly welcoming to Davey MacGregor's girlfriend Hetty and my blood was boiling as I read chapters from their point of view and found out what they really thought about Hetty.  Just who do they think they are?  With skeletons in their closet tapping on the door to get out, they really shouldn't be acting so aloof.

Compelling, dark and disturbing, Never Forgive You is a page-turning thriller that incensed and entertained me.  Revenge is indeed a dish that is best served cold.

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

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Wednesday 20 March 2024

BLOG TOUR: Crow Moon (A Martha Strangeways Investigation Book 1) - Suzy Aspley

When the crow moon rises, the darkness is unleashed...

Martha Strangeways is struggling to find purpose in her life, after giving up her career as an investigative reporter when her young twins died in a house fire.

Overwhelmed by guilt and grief, her life changes when she stumbles across the body of a missing teenager – a tragedy that turns even more sinister when a poem about crows is discovered inked onto his back...

When another teenager goes missing in the remote landscape, Martha is drawn into the investigation, teaming up with DI Derek Summers, as malevolent rumours begin to spread and paranoia grows.

As darkness descends on the village of Strathbran, it soon becomes clear that no one is safe, including Martha...

What did I think?

What a cracking debut!  It's as haunting and creepy inside as it is out.  This is one book where I would say please DO judge this book by its cover: just look at that creepy hourglass of black sand turning into a murder of crows.  This is the first book in a new crime series starring investigative reporter Martha Strangeways and it's an absolute belter.

I loved Martha Strangeways; she has such a tragic backstory and, even though she's not currently working, she's a tenacious reporter.  Martha can't help but be drawn into the investigation after she finds the body of her son's friend and when another one of Dougie's schoolfriends goes missing it becomes very personal as every sign points to Dougie being next.

As well as the gripping present day storyline, the chapters are interspersed with excerpts from a Book of Shadows.  These excerpts are heartbreaking as they are written by a woman trapped in an abusive marriage with her young son.  Both timelines are linked by the 'Feannag Dhubh', a poem written about crows and a woman executed for being a witch.

The writing is sublime as Suzy Aspley's wonderful words paint a dark and dangerous landscape that I could easily visualise in my head.  There's a hint of the supernatural that sent shivers down my spine and I couldn't read fast enough to discover all of the secrets the book had in store for me.

Hauntingly atmospheric, tense and creepy, Crow Moon is an outstanding debut from an exciting new voice in crime fiction.  It's a fantastic start to a new series and I can't wait to read book two.  A very highly recommended read.

I received a digital ARC to read and review for the blog tour and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

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About the author:
Originally from the north-east of England, former journalist Suzy Aspley has lived in Scotland for almost thirty years. She writes crime and short stories, often inspired by the strange things she sees in the landscape around her. She won Bloody Scotland’s Pitch Perfect in 2019 with the original idea for her debut novel and was shortlisted for the Capital Crime New Voices Award. In 2020, she was mentored by Jo Dickinson as part of the Hachette future bookshelf initiative. Crow Moon was also longlisted for the Caledonia Novel Award. She’s currently working on the second book in the series, and when she’s not writing, she’s either got her nose buried in a book, or is outside with her dogs dreaming up more dark stories. She lives in Stirlingshire with her family.

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