You Don’t Know Me [review]

You Don't Know Me - Imran Mahmood

Title: You Don’t Know Me
Author: Imran Mahmood
Publisher: Michael Joseph UK

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[My Review]

You Don’t Know Me is a novel with a really interesting-sounding storyline but one which I unfortunately just didn’t get on with. The way the story told is unique – the defendant seems to have decided to represent himself and is giving his own closing speech at his trail. We hear the story of what led up to the shooting and murder that he’s on trial for as he tells the jury, often stopping to interact with them or comment on their reactions. I liked that this was a different method of storytelling and it meant that I was really interested at the beginning of the novel.

The story felt a little too long, and though there was plenty happening I felt that the narrative just dragged a little unfortunately. I suppose I expect there to be more of a ‘reveal’ as to what happened and why, but it felt like the narrative had a lot of detail that didn’t really tell me much or explain that much even about the defendant himself. I lost interest in the story around half way through and unfortunately didn’t find myself particularly intrigued, even in the last few pages with what is bound to be a rather controversial ending! The language is very informal, which in itself I have no problem with – however I did find it hard to stay focussed sometimes.

This is definitely something a little different but it just didn’t work for me and it failed to keep my interest. However I’ve seen lots of great reviews from others so it will like be a big success for some, just not for me.

[Rating: 2.5/5]

Many thanks to the publisher, Michael Joseph, for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

You Don’t Know Me is out in the UK on 27 June.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_STUFF_GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

Broken Branches [review] @MJonathanLee @hideawayfall

Broken branches - Jonathan Lee

Title: Broken Branches
Author: M.Jonathan Lee
Publisher: Hideaway Fall

[Synopsis]

‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

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[My Review]

So. This is quite a difficult review to write – or to know where to start writing it – because Broken Branches left me thinking it long after I’d finished it. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, so I’ll try to keep my review suitably vague…

The narrative focuses mainly on Ian and his life with wife Rachel and son Harry, though there are parts told from other perspectives too. Ian’s determined to trace his family history and find out more about this curse that’s supposedly afflicted his family for many generations. However we soon that his marriage seems to be crumbling away, with wife Rachel suffering from what seems to be severe depression and Ian seemingly too engrossed in his ‘research’ to really comprehend this properly…

In Broken Branches author M. Jonathan Lee manages to convey a rather eerie tone, with mysterious going-ons which remain thought-provoking and intriguing without being too ‘obvious’. There are also plenty of really ‘grounded, real-life’ sort of moments, where you feel like you could be reading a normal description of strained family life, before suddenly being faced with unexplained, often half-seen occurrences. I don’t generally tend to read any supernatural-style books, but this feels like  more than that; the whole story has a very Gothic feel to it, with elements of death, family, horror and relationships, without fitting too neatly into any one category, which is why I think I enjoyed it so much.

The theme of mental health is definitely prevalent, and I really liked the way that it makes you think about the subject and its effect on the people who have to deal with this.

At times the way the novel flicked between different time frames could be a little confusing, and I guessed part of the ending a while before I got to it, but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment – the way that the author slowly pulled the story together in front of me left me thinking about this novel long after I put it down.

Broken Branches is an atmospheric, intriguing read and a great first release from new independent publisher Hideaway Fall!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Hideaway Fall for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

Broken Branches is out in the UK on 27 July 2017 – pre-order your copy here.

Miss Christie Regrets [review]

Miss Christie Regrets

Title: Miss Christie Regrets
Author: Guy Fraser-Sampson
Publisher: Urbane Publications

[Synopsis]

The second in the Hampstead Murders series opens with a sudden death at an iconic local venue, which some of the team believe may be connected with an unsolved murder featuring Cold War betrayals worthy of George Smiley. It soon emerges that none other than Agatha Christie herself may be the key witness who is able to provide the missing link.

As with its bestselling predecessor, Death in Profile, the book develops the lives and loves of the team at ‘Hampstead Nick’. While the next phase of a complicated love triangle plays itself out, the protagonists, struggling to crack not one but two apparently insoluble murders, face issues of national security in working alongside Special Branch. On one level a classic whodunit, this quirky and intelligent read harks back not only to the world of Agatha Christie, but also to the Cold War thrillers of John Le Carre, making it a worthy successor to Death in Profile which was dubbed ‘a love letter to the detective novel’.

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[My Review]

I hugely enjoyed Miss Christie Regrets – it had all the elements of  a classic, golden-era whodunnit but with a modern setting, and this contrast, along with the slightly old fashioned language, was very unique and appealed to me.

The story is surprisingly pleasant to read, despite the inclusion of murder. I enjoyed every page really, with witty comments from those trying to solve the murder/ crimes within the novel’s pages, and plenty of good, ‘old fashioned’ detective work! This is certainly not one of the gritty, disturbing crime novels which are so prevalent at the moment (and which, don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy), but I felt like this was a breath of fresh air and something a little different. There are also plenty of references to classic detective stories by a range of authors, and I found myself noting down some of them to read as there were plenty which I’m a little embarrassed to say that I’d never really thought about reading before! The style of the story made me want to read more like that in the future, and I liked that Agatha Christie’s legacy was also included in the story.

The characters are likeable and well-rounded, with their own quirks and sleuthing habits, and some of their personal relationships are included too, but all without any element of cheesiness. They, and the story itself, are quite self-aware at times; for example at one point towards the end Willis says “Miss Christie regrets… it could almost be the title of a book, couldn’t it?”

This is a great detective novel for anyone wanting a change from gritty, harrowing crime novels or just something a little more light-hearted and pleasant to read. The characters, story and golden-era style, all set in the modern day, make it both unique and fun to read, and I really enjoyed it!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the author, Guy Fraser-Sampson, for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_STUFF_GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

 

 

WWW Wednesday [21 June 2017]

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted by Sam at Taking On a World of Words.

Visit her blog to take a look, and get involved too if you can, even if you don’t have a blog yourself – as she says, you can leave your answers in the post comments. I’d love to see your answers too!

The three W’s are:

    1. What have you finished reading?
    2. What are you currently reading?
    3. What will you read next?

What have you finished reading? 

If We Were Villains M.L.Rio [my review here]

Miss Christie RegretsGuy Fraser-Sampson [review to follow]

Broken BranchesJonathan M. Lee [review to follow]

You Don’t Know MeImran Mahmood [review to follow]

What are you currently reading? 

Mad (Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know Trilogy #1) – Chloe Esposito

Ginny Moon (audiobook) – Benjamin Ludwig

 

What will you read next?

Wilde Like Me - Louise Pentland

Wilde Like Me Louise Pentland

 

What have you been reading recently? Any exciting books you’re looking forward to reading next?

If you do your own version of this tag please let me know in the comments below, I’d love to read your answers too!

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_STUFF_GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

If We Were Villains [blog tour review]

If We Were Villains - ML Rio

Today I’m very excited to be a stop on the blog tour for If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio. Compared to Donna Tartt’s A Secret History, which in itself hugely intrigued me as I really love that novel, this looks set to be a great debut – read on to find out what I thought (warning – slightly rambly review coming up, as I felt there was so much to say about it!)


Title: If We Were Villains
Author: M.L. Rio
Publisher:  Titan Books



[Synopsis]

Oliver Marks has just served ten years for the murder of one of his closest friends – a murder he may or may not have committed. On the day he’s released, he’s greeted by the detective who put him in prison. Detective Colborne is retiring, but before he does, he wants to know what really happened ten years ago.

As a young actor studying Shakespeare at an elite arts conservatory, Oliver noticed that his talented classmates seem to play the same roles onstage and off – villain, hero, tyrant, temptress – though Oliver felt doomed to always be a secondary character in someone else’s story. But when the teachers change up the casting, a good-natured rivalry turns ugly, and the plays spill dangerously over into life.

When tragedy strikes, one of the seven friends is found dead. The rest face their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, and themselves, that they are blameless.


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[My Review]

If We Were Villains is a clever, beautifully written book which combines the old with the new, focusing on young students at a prestigious drama school studying and performing Shakespeare’s work. When one of their tightly knit group is killed, they start to – as Oliver puts it – “fall apart”. Was it really an accident, and if so, who killed them?

The story starts in the present day, often reverting back to this timeframe as the story continues, but also effectively draws the reader back to a time before this tragic occurrence. It shows us the lead up to the night when everything changed – and then beyond that night, as we learn how this has affected the group and gauge their reactions. It’s all told from Oliver’s point of view.

The narrative is split into acts and scenes, which is fitting for a book which includes so much Shakespeare. There were also various parts which lapsed into formatting just like a play, which I found really interesting and something a little different too. The writing is beautiful and the plot is really well crafted, making for an engaging read.

Despite having studied English Literature at university myself, the constant quoting from Shakespeare by the students did get a little annoying for me at times. It’s not that I don’t think drama students would slip lines into every speech – in fact, I’m sure they would – but it’s just that, for me, it sort of stopped the words flowing, and I had to look twice to work out what was being said. I think if there had been around half the quotes there was, I’d have found it easier to read. However I completely understand why these quotes were included, and it’s the characters who were throwing the quotes around in what felt like a really pretentious way, not the writing itself. I felt that many of the characters were rather selfish, very privileged students who often came across as having an over-inflated sense of self-worth. There were times when I really questioned Oliver and his friend’s reactions and thoughts on certain matters – there’s a rather selfish reaction I particularly remember, when Oliver learns that his sister’s eating disorder treatment means his parents can’t afford to pay for his college tuition anymore (though we have to remember that his dad was always against him studying drama instead of a more ‘solid’ subject such as law).

However, despite my irritation at the rather spoilt characters, I did really enjoy reading about their dramatic behaviour (they are drama students, after all!) and the fact that I didn’t particularly like them only made me more intrigued as to who had been involved in the mystery.

There’s plenty of both hinted and overt sexual tension, and the complex nature of human relationships (especially when you’ve all shared a common traumatic experience) is really interesting to read about. I loved the skilled writing of M.L. Rio and think this is a beautifully crafted debut – highly recommended.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Titan Books for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review, and for inviting me to be a part of the blog tour.


M L RioAbout The Author

M. L. Rio was born in Miami and raised in North Carolina by parents from California, and has never been able to satisfactorily answer the question, “Where are you from?” She spent most of her childhood in Middle Earth or Neverland or Wonderland, attended Hogwarts for a number of years, and eventually graduated from the real-life University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with degrees in English and dramatic art and a minor in creative writing. Storytelling has always been her specialty.

Find out more on her website.

Check out the other stops on the blog tour below:

IWWV_blog tour (1)

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_STUFF_GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

Goodreads Monday: Wilde Like Me

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners . To take part, you simply choose a random book from your TBR and show it off. Don’t forget to check out her blog and link back to Lauren’s Page Turners, and add your own links!


Today I’m going to pick a book I recently received from Readers First which is also on my Goodreads ‘to read’ list; I read the extract on the site and thought it was really funny so I’m really looking forward to reading it!

Wilde Like Me - Louise Pentland

Title: Wilde Like Me
Author:  Louise Pentland
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre

Publish date: 29 June 2017

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[Synopsis]

On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs.

Although she keeps her predictions to herself that day, they soon come to pass in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967. Caught up in the resistance, Alia’s brother disappears, while Alia and her husband move from Nablus to Kuwait City. Reluctantly they build a life, torn between needing to remember and learning to forget.

When Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait, Alia and her family yet again lose their home, their land, and their story as they know it. Scattering to Beirut, Paris and Boston, Alia’s children begin families of their own, once more navigating the burdens and blessings of beginning again.

Have you heard anything about this book, or have you got it on your TBR list? 

Don’t forget… follow me on: instagram @snazzy_stuff_goodreads Laura / and twitter @lauranazmdeh!

Shut Up and Cook [review]

Shut Up And Cook - Erica Reid

Title: Shut Up and Cook!
Author: Erica Reid
Publisher: BenBella Books

[Synopsis]

Say Goodbye to Your Excuses and Hello to Easy, Healthy Recipes

We all want to eat healthier and feel better, but we don’t always know where to start–and stepping into the kitchen can feel overwhelming.

Sound familiar? Shut Up and Cook! provides simple, healthy recipes for all lifestyles, dietary habits, and tastes.

After noticing how certain chemicals and ingredients were impacting her family’s energy and well-being, author Erica Reid realized prioritizing health begins in the kitchen. In Shut Up and Cook!, Erica–a healthy-living expert, mother, and wife to legendary music mogul LA Reid–shows you that creating nourishing meals can be inspiring and fun! Shut Up and Cook! features 101 healthy, everyday recipes with adaptations to suit your health needs that are easy for any level of experience including:

Rice-Free Cauliflower Sushi Rolls Chocolate Chip Cookies with Crispy Kale Game-Day Buffalo Chicken Wings Dairy-Free Challah Vanilla French Toast With the right tools and Erica by your side, you can cook wholesome, delicious food. Set aside the reasons why you can’t be healthier and shut up and cook!

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[My Review]

Shut Up and Cook is a vibrant book full of information and recipes designed to make healthy eating more understandable and less confusing. There’s so much information in the press today about what’s good or not to eat, but this book sticks to the useful info. There is quite a long introduction which I have to say I didn’t read all of – I skipped through to my favourite bits: the recipes!

The dishes themselves focus on combinations with options that are free of foods which can often cause allergies or upset in people. Some meats and animal products, such as poultry and fish, are included but there are plenty of vegetarian options too, and options without eggs, dairy etc.

Many of the recipes are easy to adapt and they’re mostly pretty simple and easy to follow, using many staples which you’re liked to have in your cupboard along with some generally easy to find fresh ingredients. The ‘load em up’ veggie stir fry, for example, is an easy weeknight dinner and there are some tasty desserts that look really delicious but also pretty healthy, which is always tricky to find. There’s a section on vegetable crisps which inspired me, as a huge crisp fan, to try some different variations, and some interesting spins on other classic dishes too, which I really liked.

I really liked the images in this book – not every recipe is shown as an image which is a shame, as I always like to see what the final dish should look like – but the ones that are included are really lovely, which makes flicking through it and noting down recipes that I’d like to try a far more enjoyable experience!

I imagine this would be perfect for someone just starting out in learning how to cook, or perhaps more specifically how to cook healthily. There’ll be plenty of options for every type of diet, whether you eat meat, dairy, eggs etc or not. I personally don’t have any issues with any types of foods, but it must be useful for those who do to have some other options without troublesome ingredients.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this book on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

Fierce Kingdom [review]

Fierce Kingdom - Gin Phillips

Title: Fierce Kingdom
Author: Gin Phillips
Publisher: Doubleday

[Synopsis]

Lincoln is a good boy. At the age of four, he is curious, clever and well behaved. He does as his mum says and knows what the rules are.

‘The rules are different today. The rules are that we hide and do not let the man with the gun find us.’

When an ordinary day at the zoo turns into a nightmare, Joan finds herself trapped with her beloved son. She must summon all her strength, find unexpected courage and protect Lincoln at all costs – even if it means crossing the line between right and wrong; between humanity and animal instinct.

It’s a line none of us would ever normally dream of crossing.

But sometimes the rules are different.

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[My Review]

Fierce Kingdom is a emotive, tense story which has elements of a thriller – the characters are trapped in a zoo after hours with gunmen who seem to be on a killing spree – but the similarities to a thriller stops there, I suppose. If you’re picking this novel up expecting a rollercoaster game of cat and mouse, I’d look elsewhere, because though we do follow Joan and her young son Lincoln as they try to avoid being killed, the story is more about Joan’s connection with her son Lincoln, and her desperate need to protect him above all else – and before the safety of herself or others. There are times when she has to make difficult decisions to try and secure her son’s safety, and the power of maternal love is really demonstrated throughout this novel. 

I found that the first half of the book (after we realise the attackers are in the zoo) is quite slow going, in that not a lot actually happens. Time passes as her and Lincoln hide, and they make some small movements to different hiding places, but there isn’t a huge amount of action, and at times it did drag a little, decreasing the tension that was created at the beginning. However, we learn a lot more about Joan and Lincoln, and here the emotional side of the story really comes into play – and powerfully so!

We learn more about their family life, Lincoln growing up, the struggles of being a mother, and Joan’s fiercely protective feelings towards Lincoln. There’s a limit to how much we find out about Kailynn or Mrs Powell, as we can only learn what they tell about themselves, but we find out more from their discussions and this is an interesting exploration of the way people react to these situations. It also draws attention to the fact that age doesn’t really mean a lot when you’re faced with gunmen – though the very young (Lincoln) are bound to be quite naive and helpless, Kailynn – at only 16 years old – is surprisingly strong and resilient, and Mrs Powell is much older in age, but is similarly hard and determined. Of course, Joan herself has her maternal instincts pushing her to protect them, if only for her son’s sake. I don’t have children myself but I can imagine whilst reading this novel how strong that feeling must be – and it must be even easier to identify with her if you have children yourself.

This is a fairly short book but it is impactful with plenty of tension. It’s got suspense, lots of beautifully written character development, and a good dose of originality – a great read!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Alison Barrow at Transworld Books for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

Fierce Kingdom is out on 15 June in hardback and ebook formats – view on Amazon here.

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_STUFF_GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

 

The Mayfly [review]

The Mayfly - James Hazel

Title: The Mayfly
Author: James Hazel
Publisher: Bonnier Zaffre

[Synopsis]

It’s happening again.

A mutilated body discovered in the woods.
A murderous plan conceived in the past.
A reckoning seventy years in the making . . .

Charlie Priest, ex-detective inspector turned London lawyer, is hired by influential entrepreneur Kenneth Ellinder to investigate the murder of his son. But Priest is no ordinary lawyer. Brilliant, yet flawed, this case will push him, and those closest to him, to the edge.

Priest traces the evidence back to the desperate last days of the Second World War. Buried in the ashes of the Holocaust is a secret so deadly its poison threatens to destroy the very heart of the establishment.
With more victims going missing, Priest realises that not everyone should be trusted. As he races to uncover the truth, can he prevent history from repeating itself?

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[My Review]

Fast paced, gritty, and full of intrigue, The Mayfly lived up to my high expectations and left me wanting more. It had my attention from page one and kept me devouring it until the very end.

The characters are well crafted – Charlie Priest is a great new protagonist, not your typical Detective. In fact, he’s not a Detective at all anymore – he used to be, but is now a lawyer. He’s brilliant, bold, and a bit of a maverick, making him a great character to read about. His assistant, Georgie, is a bit annoying at times but overall she’s rather likeable; she’s sweet and fairly naive but has the same brilliant knack for picking up on things that others (apart from Priest, of course) wouldn’t think to notice, and they work well together. Then there’s Priest’s family – a story in itself really!

I love the WW2 element in this. Well, I shouldn’t say ‘love’ as such, because it’s rather horrible and disturbing, but I found it very interesting nevertheless. I love reading and watching anything to do with World War 2, so this element definitely interested me. Kurt Schneider ( I couldn’t resists looking him up) seems to have been based on a real person, and the story seems – to me, anyway – really well researched.

The story moves along at a good pace without being too fast. The switching between different narratives, and indeed different time frames, can take a second to readjust to – who’s speaking, which country are we in, which year? – as is always the case with those kinds of narratives, but it’s easy enough to work out what’s happening despite lots of names and people cropping up!

I felt towards the end of the novel there was a little big more cheesiness included, particularly with some of the romantic relationships, which I didn’t like as much. However despite this I felt that James Hazel’s writing was really great. He uses just the right level of description, and I feel that The Mayfly is really well written – so I’d highly recommend this novel, and am eager to read future books in the series!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Readers First and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel, on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

The Mayfly is out 15 June!

DON’T FORGET… FOLLOW ME ON: INSTAGRAM @SNAZZY_STUFF_GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

Goodreads Monday: Salt Houses

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners . To take part, you simply choose a random book from your TBR and show it off. Don’t forget to check out her blog and link back to Lauren’s Page Turners, and add your own links!

Today I’m going to pick a book I stumbled across the other day, and thought it looks absolutely brilliant. It’s now on my Goodreads ‘to-read’ list (as it the point of this tag!) and I might suggest it as one of our book club titles.

salt houses hala alyan

Title: Salt Houses
Author:  Hara Alyan
Publisher: Hutchinson

Publish date: 2 May 2017

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[Synopsis]

On the eve of her daughter Alia’s wedding, Salma reads the girl’s future in a cup of coffee dregs.

Although she keeps her predictions to herself that day, they soon come to pass in the wake of the Six-Day War of 1967. Caught up in the resistance, Alia’s brother disappears, while Alia and her husband move from Nablus to Kuwait City. Reluctantly they build a life, torn between needing to remember and learning to forget.

When Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait, Alia and her family yet again lose their home, their land, and their story as they know it. Scattering to Beirut, Paris and Boston, Alia’s children begin families of their own, once more navigating the burdens and blessings of beginning again.

Have you heard anything about this book, or have you got it on your TBR list? 

Don’t forget… follow me on: instagram @snazzy_stuff_goodreads Laura / and twitter @lauranazmdeh!