The Watcher [review]

the-watcher-by-ross-armstong

Title: The Watcher
Author: Ross Armstrong
Publisher: HarperCollins

[Synopsis]

The Girl on the Train meets Rear Window, The Watcher is an absolutely addictive and on trend commercial psychological suspense read, with a captivating unreliable narrator and some powerful narrative twists.

She’s watching you, but who’s watching her? Lily Gullick lives with her husband Aiden in a new-build flat opposite an estate which has been marked for demolition. A keen birdwatcher, she can’t help spying on her neighbours. Until one day Lily sees something suspicious through her binoculars and soon her elderly neighbour Jean is found dead. Lily, intrigued by the social divide in her local area as it becomes increasingly gentrified, knows that she has to act. But her interference is not going unnoticed, and as she starts to get close to the truth, her own life comes under threat.

But can Lily really trust everything she sees?

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[My Review]

The Watcher felt like something a little different, in terms of its writing style and interesting storyline. The story is told from the perspective of Lily, through her journal-style entries she’s writing to someone – we’re not sure who for most of the novel – and so we see her thoughts, feelings and actions in her own voice. This voice tells the story in quite an odd narrative style, using very short, often disjointed sentences, and though I know this is Lily’s voice, it really made me feel a bit bewildered at points. This really adds to the unsettling (and at times, downright bizarre!) style of the story!

I often felt like I was seeing things through an odd haze, but couldn’t put my finger on why. It just didn’t feel normal. To start with I didn’t really enjoy the confusion, but I became used to this abstract, unsettled kind of feeling as the novel went on. Without giving too much away, the end of the book makes you realise that almost everything is in this book is included for a reason, and I really liked how, at the end, you realise that a lot of what you thought you knew wasn’t quite right! These are often my favourite types of story.

I had no expectations or prior ideas of this book, having purposefully not read any reviews or coverage before starting it. I therefore found that I was really surprised and intrigued by various parts of the novel, and finished the book feeling like I’d read something that was different, whilst still having the element of suspense and mystery that I so enjoy in this kind of story. I did find it a little hard to grasp what was happening at some points, which slowed down my progress of the book, but if you feel the same then I say carry on reading, because it will become clearer (though, if you’re like me, you’ll probably still end it feeling somewhat confused!) Well worth a read though and full of suspense.

[Rating: 4/5]

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

The Watcher is published in the UK on the 29 December 2016.

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My top 20 books of 2016!

I found this really difficult to narrow it down to  ‘just’ 20, as I’ve had a great reading year and found some amazing new books that I’ve recommended to many people! But, narrow it down I did – so here are my top 20 of 2016 (though a few are actually out in early 2017, but I read them this year and I want to include them sooo….)

In no particular order:

The Girls Next Door (Detective Eden Berrisford #1) by Mel Sherratt // See my review here.
Dead Secret by Ava McCarthy //  See my review here.
No Longer Safe by A.J. Waines // See my review here.
The Girl In The Ice (DCI Erika Foster #1) by Robert Bryndza (and I’m going to be sneaky and include the second in the series, too – The Night Stalker!) // See my reviews here and here.
Missing, Presumed (DS Manon #1) by Susie Steiner // See my review here.


The Primrose Path by Rebecca Griffiths // See my review here.
The Narrow Bed (Spilling CID #10) by Sophie Hannah // See my review here.
The Missing Hours by Emma Kavanagh // See my review here.
My Name is Leon by Kit de Waal // See my review here.
The Girls by Emma Cline // See my review here.


The Empathy Problem by Gavin Extence // See my review here.
My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood // See my review here.
A Boy Made of Blocks by Keith Stuart // See my review here.
Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land // Review to follow shortly!
Relativity by Antonia Hayes (I’m excited to be part of the book tour, look out for my review on January 19th!)


The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse // See my review here.
All I Ever Wanted by Lucy Dillon // See my review here.
The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer // See my review here.
After You Die (DI Zigic and DS Ferreira #3) by Eva Dolan // See my review here.
The Widow by Fiona Barton // See my review here.

Here’s to another great reading year in 2017! Merry Christmas and Happy New year!

What have you read and loved this year?

Sheet Pan Suppers [review]

sheet-pan-suppers-molly-gilbert

Title: Sheet Pan Suppers: 120 recipes for simple, surprising, hands-off meals straight from the oven
Author: Molly Gilbert

[Synopsis]

It’s the one-pot meal reinvented, and what is sure to become every busy cook’s new favorite way of getting dinner on the table. It’s Sheet Pan Suppers—a breakthrough full-color cookbook with more than 120 recipes for complete meals, snacks, brunch, and even dessert, that require nothing more than a sheet pan, your oven, and Molly Gilbert’s inspired approach.

The virtue of cooking on a sheet pan is two-fold. First there’s the convenience of cooking everything together and having just one pan to clean up. Then there’s the cooking method—roasting, baking, or broiling—three techniques that intensify flavors; in other words, food tastes better when cooked on a sheet pan (move over, slow cooker). But the real genius here is Molly Gilbert’s fresh, sophisticated approach. There are easy dinners for weeknight meals—Chicken Legs with Fennel and Orange; Soy-Mustard Salmon and Broccoli; Roasted Pork Tenderloin with Squash, Apples, and Onions. Special occasion meals—Rack of Lamb with Herby Bread Crumbs and Buttered Carrots; Asparagus and Black Cod in Parchment. Meatless meals—Israeli Couscous-Stuffed Peppers. Plus surprise extras, including in-a-snap party snacks—Baked Brie and Strawberries, Corn and Crab Cakes with Yogurt Aioli; quick brunch dishes like Greens and Eggs and Ham, and Baked Apricot French Toast; and, of course, dessert—Stone Fruit Slab Pie, Halloween Candy S’mores.

Maximum ease, minimal cleanup, and mouthwatering recipes. In other words, a revelation that will change the way we cook.

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[My Review]

This is a simple but really nice recipe book, filled with a variety of recipes (120 in total), covering meat, fish and veggie dishes as well as appetisers and sweet dishes too! It’s definitely got dinner covered.

The recipes seem pretty easy to follow. There are some that are really simple, and aren’t particularly exciting in my opinion, but a few of them actually gave me some ideas for flavour combinations that I hadn’t thought of before.

The fact that you can make them all using one pan – nice and easy! There are different steps to most of the recipes, so you’ll need to get the timings right – ie. put one ingredient in first then prep the others, then stick those on the tray too, but that’s just a question of getting the timings right – and this recipe book takes care of that for you! Just follow the instructions (what else do would you do I suppose…) and you’ll be sorted,

I’ve tried a few out and have been pleased with the results; some I’ve modified a little but and have been really impressed with the simplicity and ease of the recipes in Sheet Pan Suppers. This would make a great gift for someone going off to uni, too (though check their Halls of Residence has an oven in first, as many don’t!). These recipes really save on washing up, too, which always pleases me!

[Rating: 4/5]

The Perfect Blend [review]

The Perfect Blend - Tess Masters

Title: The Perfect Blend
Author: Tess Masters
Publisher: Ten Speed Press


[Synopsis]

Online phenomenon The Blender Girl offers up 100 recipes for healthy living with tasty, crowd-pleasing dishes to help boost nutrition.

“The Perfect Blend “functions not only as a cookbook but also as a guide for how to lead a more vibrant and healthy life. Blogging powerhouse Tess Masters lays out a dozen healthy goals for readers, capitalizing on current trends such as gaining energy, boosting immunity, reducing inflammation, detoxing the body, and probiotic power. Then, using her fun, playful voice, Masters offers easy-to-follow recipes for smoothies, elixirs, snacks, salads, sides, soups, mains, and desserts that help get results fast. Including a guide to key ingredients, an extensive resources section, and optional nutritional boosters for each recipe, “The Perfect Blend” will help readers find their own perfect blend.

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[My Review]

This is a well put together and designed cookery/ lifestyle book, with great photos to accompany each recipe. The book focuses on healthy eating and healthy living, highlighting the recipes and ways of eating that can lead to this, and there’s a lot of interesting information from Tess Masters on this subject.

I enjoyed some of the more unique smoothie and soup recipes, and the protein section was great and gave me some really good ideas for less obvious sources of protein in meals. The satay skewers, mushroom and bean burgers and classic cheesecake recipes in particular look really tasty! Now I have a half-decent blender it’s nice to have some more ideas for what I can create using it! Plus, it’s great for gluten-free and vegan ideas, as well.

For those who want to learn a bit more about living a healthy lifestyle, this is definitely the book for you. There’s loads of information on why certain foods are so great for you and why others aren’t, so you can really try and understand rather than just being told to eat something.

I didn’t find a huge amount of recipes I was really dying to try, as a lot of it focuses on ways of living, as previously mentioned, but it’s a really nice book for someone trying to be a little healthier or to give to someone as a gift, as it’s really nicely put together and the photos are lovely!

[Rating: 3/5]

Many thanks to Ten Speed Press and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an unbiased and honest review.

WWW Wednesday [14 December 2016]

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!

It’s actually been months since I’ve last posted a WWW post, so I’ll pick a selection of books I’ve finished reading instead of listing every single one!

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?

You and Me, Always by Jill Mansell
All I Ever Wanted by Lucy Dillon
Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult
While You Were Sleeping by Kathryn Croft
Girl Unknown by Karen Perry
The Food Of Love by Amanda Prowse
The Beautiful Dead by Belinda Bauer
The Perfect Blend by Tess Masters
The Girls Next Door by Mel Sharratt
Nomad by Alan Partridge

What are you currently reading?

Little Deaths by Emma Flint
Relativity by Antonia Hayes (I’m part of the blog tour so my review will be up 19 January!)

What will you read next?

I’m not really sure – possibly:

The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Or one of the many other novels lining my shelves – finally got ahead with my Netgalley list so can read a few other books too! Hoping to get plenty of reading done over the Christmas break!


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!

Why not add me as a friend on Goodreads!

Viki Patis [Guest Blog: My Writing Space]

weltanschauung-cover

Title: Weltanschauung
Author: Vikki Patis


Vikki Patis is a writer and blogger at The Bandwagon, where she reviews books, interviews authors, and gives her opinions on a wide variety of topics, from feminism to fibromyalgia. She’s recently published a collection of short stories, Weltanschauung, and I’m excited to welcome her to the blog today to talk about her writing space!


[My Writing Space]

vikki-patis-author-photo“Writing can be tough. Many of us don’t have the luxury of being able to write full-time – we have day jobs, families, commitments, insistent cats – and so it can be difficult to just sit down and write. But you don’t just need a physical space; you also need mental space. You need to be able to shut everything out, all the distractions, the worries, and focus on your writing. As a graduate, and a blogger, I’m used to working to deadlines, and squeezing time to write around other commitments. But I’ve found that writing fiction doesn’t always work that way. You have to be in the right zone; it can’t be forced.

When I’m writing, I usually sit on the sofa, with a fresh cup of tea and my feet up. I sit at a desk all day at work, and like to be comfortable at home. Friday evenings are usually my most productive time; I don’t have to worry about being too tired, since I can (usually!) sleep in on Saturdays. Dealing with a chronic illness can make things even harder, and there was a time when I barely wrote at all. But writing is one of my few outlets, and I cherish being able to do it.

I get some of my best ideas while going through my day – in the car on the way to work, wandering around the supermarket, even in dreams! The idea for Bane, the final short story, came from a dream, after reading Joe Hill’s The Fireman. I dreamt that the world was on fire, and I’d been contacted by the government to be a Reviewer, which meant travelling around and reviewing the safety of various structures, meeting weird creatures along the way. It was creepy, and didn’t make a lot of sense, but the seed was planted.

Music is one thing I use to get me into the zone. My partner had given me the initial idea for Zombie, the first short story in Weltanschauung, but I just couldn’t find the way to write it. After a few frustrated attempts, I’d decided to step away for a while, when “Zombie” by The Cranberries came on the radio on my commute home. It was perfect. I got home, found the song on Amazon, and the story just flowed.

As Leigh Bardugo once told me, nothing is wasted. Everything is fodder. In Bane, the main character, Rachel, works for a medical supplies company, before hell breaks loose. All the conversations I’ve had with disgruntled or demanding customers informed some of the scenes I wrote in Bane. I try to view every interaction as a lesson, as something that may end up in a story. This outlook particularly helped when I worked crappy waitressing and cleaning jobs a few years ago!

Although I do need peace, quiet, and endless cups of tea, I don’t have a set ritual when it comes to writing. Usually, an idea hits, and I rip my laptop open, and just start writing. That’s not to say that what I write is any good, but it’s a start.”


Weltanschauung is available on Kindle and in paperback now. From 16th – 18th December 2016, Weltanschauung will be available for only 99p!

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For more information, join the Facebook event here.

Follow Vikki on Twitter: @VikkiPatis

The Beautiful Dead [review]

The Beautiful Dead - Belinda Bauer

Title: The Beautiful Dead
Author: Belinda Bauer
Publisher: Grove Atlantic

[Synopsis]

TV crime reporter Eve Singer’s career is flagging, but that starts to change when she covers a spate of bizarre murders—each one committed in public and advertised like an art exhibition. When the killer contacts Eve about her coverage of his crimes, she is suddenly on the inside of the biggest murder investigation of the decade. But as the killer becomes increasingly obsessed with her, Eve realizes there’s a thin line between inside information and becoming an accomplice to murder—possibly her own.

A seamlessly-plotted thriller that will keep readers breathless until the very end, The Beautiful Dead cements Belinda Bauer’s reputation as a master of heart-stopping suspense.

[My Review]

I’ve never read any of Belinda Bauer’s novels before, but have heard so much about how amazing she is – at the top of her game and leading the way in the crime genre. So, I was really excited to read her newest novel, The Beautiful Dead, and see if it is a winner.

It definitely is!

This novel features a serial killer, crime reporters and murder victims, which – let’s face it – have all been done before. But somehow Belinda Bauer has managed to make this feel completely new and fresh. It stands miles apart from some of the other novels in this genre which, in contrast, seem a little overdone and tired. I am so impressed with this novel, from the first page to the last.

I love the characters, particularly (of course!) Eve. She’s such a great, strong female lead and I really enjoyed reading about her and her lovely colleague Joe. They work so well together. The fact that Eve isn’t a policewoman, but instead a crime reporter for the local news, means that she doesn’t always have to follow the rule (and she certainly doesn’t!) She can go off-piste and not worry about following procedure, and pick up on things that the police might not. I love a well-written police procedural as much as any other novel, but this difference in the ‘usual’ occupation of the main character is a welcome and fresh change.

The story itself is fast moving and really ramps up the tension, without feeling overly dramatised. I love reading about serial killers (I am a big crime fan) and this one has buckets of suspense, which makes for a great read – and plenty of grit and gore at times. It even had a good dose of humour in there too – and all this without feeling over the top and ridiculous. All in all, that’s some impressive writing!

I feel that The Beautiful Dead is a fantastic read and a great introduction to Belinda Bauer’s work – I’ll definitively be reading more by her novels in the future!

[Rating: 5/5]

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

The Food of Love [review]

The Food of Love - Amanda Prowse

Title: The Food of Love
Author: Amanda Prowse
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing


I  am really happy to be an extra stop on the blog tour for this novel, which I enjoyed so much! Read on to see what I thought…

[Synopsis]

A loving mother. A perfect family. A shock wave that could shatter everything.

Freya Braithwaite knows she is lucky. Nineteen years of marriage to a man who still warms her soul and two beautiful teenage daughters to show for it: confident Charlotte and thoughtful Lexi. Her home is filled with love and laughter.

But when Lexi’s struggles with weight take control of her life, everything Freya once took for granted falls apart, leaving the whole family with a sense of helplessness that can only be confronted with understanding, unity and, above all, love.

In this compelling and heart-wrenching new work by bestselling author Amanda Prowse, one ordinary family tackles unexpected difficulties and discovers that love can find its way through life’s darkest moments.

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[My Review]

Amanda Prowse is an author I’ve heard a lot about but somehow I’ve never actually read any novels by her – until now. I hugely enjoyed The Food of Love; it was such a brilliant, thought-provoking novel that both terrified and completely absorbed me, making me want to read on even when there were some truly difficult parts to comprehend.

Focusing on the Braithwaite family’s struggle as the youngest daughter, Lexi, is diagnosed with anorexia, we experience the ups and downs with them all, from the time ‘before’, when everything was normal – or at least as far as the parents Freya and Lockie knew – and charting the demise of Lexi as she becomes more and more ill with this terrible mental health condition. They really seem like a ‘normal’ family, and Amanda Prowse presents everything in a really realistic, exaggerated way (or as far as I can tell, anyway, as someone who isn’t particularly experienced about this condition). Obviously anorexia is a condition that can be varying degrees of severity but in Lexi’s case, as someone who is very very ill, this novel showed how horrendous this illness really is -and potentially fatal.

Amanda Prowse enables the reader to really see how this affects everyone, not just Lexi – the whole family suffers and I felt for them all so much. I can’t even begin to imagine how awful it must be trying to cope with this in your family, and I hope with all my heart that I never have to. I felt frustrated with both Freya and Lockie at points, and with Lexi too, but ultimately everyone has different ways of dealing with things.

The Food of Love is written so well, with some scenes that horrified me and others where I felt the hopes of Freya, Lockie and Charlotte (their other daughter) with them.  This made it a truly powerful book which stayed with me long after I finished it – what a great read!

[Rating: 5/5]

Many thanks to Lake Union Publishing and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.