[Sticks and Stones] review

Sticks and Stones - Jo Jakeman

Title: Sticks and Stones
Author: Jo Jakeman
Publisher: Vintage publishing

[Synopsis]

How far would you go for revenge on your ex?

Imogen’s husband is a bad man. His ex-wife and his new mistress might have different perspectives but Imogen thinks she knows the truth. And now he’s given her an ultimatum: get out of the family home in the next fortnight or I’ll fight you for custody of our son.

In a moment of madness, Imogen does something unthinkable. Something that puts her in control. But how far will she go to protect her son and punish her husband? And what will happen when his ex and his girlfriend get tangled up in her plans?

Sticks and Stones is a deliciously twisting psychological thriller from an exciting new voice.

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[My Review]

This is a fast-paced enjoyable novel which centers around revenge. There isn’t a huge amount of the ‘unknown’ in this novel (although some circumstances from the past do come back into question, which did add a good dose of mystery to the story)  because you know how Imogen, Naomi and Ruby are involved; it’s more a case of following them as they try to work out the best way to deal with the tricky situation they’ve ended up in.

The characters in this novel really provoked some strong reactions in me. I empathised with Imogen and really warmed to her, and definitely became more fond of certain other characters. Philip, however, is another matter… such an awful, horrible person. I think you need to feel this way about him, though, to understand why Imogen does what she does.

There are some parts which feel perhaps a little too crazy, and at some points I did question whether anyone like Imogen would really do ‘that’, but I enjoyed reading Sticks and Stones; it’s a great debut novel and, in many ways, focuses as much on friendship and loyalty as the actual actions these women take against this horrible man, and I liked that. Instead of all-out-action, the plot highlights what desperation can do to someone, and how, as a shared feeling, it can unite even the most unlikeliest of allies.

[Rating: 3.5/5]

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

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Thanks for the ARC, I will update here with my blog URL

 

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Death in Dulwich [blog tour review]


Death in Dulwich

Today I’m reviewing the first in the London Murder Mysteries series, Death in Dulwich! Read on to find out more and see what I thought…


Title: Death in Dulwich
Author: Alice Castle
Series: The London Murder Mysteries series

[Synopsis]

Thirty-something single mum Beth Haldane is forced to become Dulwich’s answer to Miss Marple when she stumbles over a murder victim on her first day at work. To clear her name, Beth is plunged into a cozy mystery that’s a contemporary twist on Golden Age crime classics. But can she pull it off? She already has a bouncy young son, haughty cat, a fringe with a mind of its own and lots of bills to pay, as she struggles to keep up with the yummy mummies of SE21. Join Beth in #1 of the London Murder Mystery series, as she discovers the nastiest secrets can lurk in the nicest places.

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[My Review]

Death in Dulwich is a sweet, enjoyable read which makes a refreshing change from the darker, more violent crime novels I often read. It combines all the elements of a cozy mystery that you’d expect (if you’re not familiar with the term, I’ll attempt to sum up some of the sub-genre’s tropes for you: amateur sleuths; small, countryside or isolated settings; and a lack of real violence portrayed, or at least not explicitly – often if there is any, it’s inferred).

The characters in this novel make it such a fun read – protagonist Beth is very likable and seems really sweet; you’re rooting for her to figure it all out, even if she can seem a little naïve at times, along with her friend Katie – and even slightly condescending detective York is quite a pleasant character.

Of course, there are the ‘dark sheeps’ of the story too – I won’t give anything away, but going along for the journey with Beth makes for an enjoyable, surprisingly relaxing story! If you’re expecting a dark, shocking, and gritty read then this isn’t for you, but otherwise give this a go -– this looks to be the first in a promising new series which I’d like to read more of.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Rachel Gilbey for providing a e-copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.


[About the Author]

Before turning to crime, Alice Castle was a UK newspaper journalist for The Daily Express, The Times and The Daily Telegraph. Her first book, Hot Chocolate, set in Brussels and London, was a European hit and sold out in two weeks.

Death in Dulwich was published in September 2017 and has been a number one best-seller in the UK, US, Canada, France, Spain and Germany. A sequel, The Girl in the Gallery was published in December 2017 to critical acclaim. Calamity in Camberwell, the third book in the London Murder Mystery series, will be published this summer, with Homicide in Herne Hill due to follow in early 2019. Alice is currently working on the fifth London Murder Mystery adventure. Once again, it will feature Beth Haldane and DI Harry York.

Alice is also a mummy blogger and book reviewer via her website:
https://www.alicecastleauthor.com. Why not join her on Facebook and Twitter, too!


[Follow the Tour]

The London Murder Mysteries Full Tour Banner

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The Kiss Quotient [review]

The Kiss Quotient

Title: The Kiss Quotient
Author: Helen Hoang
Publisher: Corvus

[Synopsis]

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases–a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice–with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan–from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

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[My Review]

The Kiss Quotient is an easy read with some fun characters, and a fairly unique story. It’s had a LOT of coverage and praise so it’s obviously very well received, and though I did enjoy this read, I wasn’t blown away.

I really liked Stella as a character, particularly the fact that, as she has autism, she portrays someone who isn’t often featured in books: a female with autism. Now I think about it, I’ve read a lot of books featuring boys or men with autism (and hugely enjoyed them, don’t get me wrong) but not so many of the other gender. In that aspect I found this book really refreshing, and Stella was such an interesting character to read about.

I also really warmed to Michael Phan, though he felt a little more of a cliche to me. Perhaps he was just a little too perfect to feel realistic? Despite this, I can see why so many people feel he is such a great love interest – and he filled this role really well.

I think the plot itself just fell a little flat for me. I loved the different concept – that Stella, having not had any good sexual experiences, turns to a male escort to try and ‘coach’ her. However the rest just fell a bit flat for me and some parts felt a bit cheesy – I don’t know how else to explain it really.

This is definitely a fun read, with some great characters, but it wasn’t quite as good as I expected.

[Rating: 3/5]

Many thanks to Corvus 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_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

‘How a book I wrote as a kid turned into the Sentinel Trilogy’ – a guest post by @joshwinning! #blogtour

Splinter cover

Title: Splinter 
Author: Joshua Winning
Series: Sentinel Trilogy #3

Today I am pleased to have Joshua Winning on the blog, as part of the blog tour for his new novel, Splinter. He will be talking about the novel’s influence, which started out way back when he was just 15 years old! Read on to find out more…


[How a book I wrote as a kid turned into the Sentinel Trilogy]

I still have an early version of Sentinel hidden away in a box under my bed, like some sort of gremlin. I wrote it when I was 15. It was called Crystals Of Destiny (I can’t remember why) and it’s an adorable mess with a hand-drawn front cover, pencil illustrations, and a second half set in an alternate dimension.

Looking back at it now, it amazes me that something so very not-good eventually turned into this YA saga I’m so proud of. Writing the Sentinel Trilogy has been one of the toughest, most rewarding and exciting things I’ve ever done. It has allowed me to find my voice as a writer, and I’ve had great fun playing around with the things I love – talking cats, maniacal villains, queer heroes.

When book one, Sentinel, was published in 2014, I had worked for Total Film for six years, so I wasn’t new to writing – but I was new to the world of YA. I had no real idea what I was doing trying to write a book, other than having a burning need to tell this story about an underground society of demon hunters. I took a ‘suck it and see’ approach to writing, learning through trial and error. I felt my way through the dark, one chapter at a time, cutting and adding and moving around. And – yes – at times even throwing my writing toys out of the pram.

What’s funny is that some of the elements that really work in Sentinel were also in Crystals Of Destiny. The Crystals prologue involved a séance, and chapter one revolved around a train crash. Malika was also present, albeit in a less scary form.

Not that I’m not saying 15-year-old me was a genius, particularly when it came to Sam Wilkins, the lovable rifle-brandishing pensioner. He was originally meant to die around chapter nine (having safely delivered Nicholas to Jessica, he would be confronted and killed by the demon Diltraa). It’s a scene I never wrote, though, because the more I wrote Sam, the more I loved him. I imagined him as a sort of creaky Indiana Jones (hence the fedora) and I realised that killing him would destroy a really important part of the story. Sam is very much the heart of the Sentinel Trilogy.

In the end, it took me four years to complete the trilogy. Writing a book series is a Big Deal, and there were times I wondered what mad path I had stumbled down. Writers like Robin Jarvis, Jen Williams and Trudi Canavan deserve serious kudos for consistently delivering trilogies and making it look 1,000 times easier than it actually is.

Looking back over my trilogy now, I can see its strengths and weakness. For the most part I’m hugely proud of it. In particular, I’m glad it’s made up of three very distinct stories, each with their own unique texture. Sentinel is a body horror about grief; Ruins is a blockbuster about secrets; and Splinter is a post-apocalyptic drama about choice. Hopefully that makes for an fun ride.

Sometimes, I go through the box under my bed and take another look at Crystals Of Destiny, remembering the joy of writing as a kid. Now that I’m working on my sixth book(!), I try to picture young me in my bedroom, scribbling down the images in my head and excitedly figuring out the next plot twist. I’m reminded to write from a place of joy rather than frustration, and whenever I have a silly idea like throwing a talking cat into the mix, I do it. You never know what might come of it.

Sentinel and Ruins, the first two books in The Sentinel Trilogy, are currently just 99p on Kindle [buy here]. Splinter is out now [buy here].

Discover-banner1KINDLE


[Synopsis]

‘All who stand against us shall perish’

The critically acclaimed Sentinel Trilogy comes to a thrilling conclusion in this final instalment of the dark fantasy series.

The world is falling apart around Nicholas Hallow. Amid rumours that the Dark Prophets have returned, a deathly gloom pollutes England, unleashing a savage hoard of nightmare creatures. Fighting the tide of evil, Nicholas returns home to Cambridge, where an old ally helps him seek out the mysterious Skurkwife, who could help Nicholas stop Malika and the Prophets for good.

Meanwhile, Sam Wilkins unites the Sentinels against the forces of darkness, but with Jessica’s sanity slipping, and Isabel suspicious of her shadowy past, it’s a battle that could cost the Sentinels everything.


[About the Author]

Joshua Winning is an author and film journalist who writes for TOTAL FILM, SFX, GAY TIMES and RADIO TIMES. He has been on set with Kermit the Frog, devoured breakfast with zombies on The Walking Dead, and sat on the Iron Throne while visiting the Game Of Thrones set in Dublin. Jeff Goldblum once told him he looks a bit like Paul Bettany.

In 2018, Joshua’s YA thriller VICIOUS RUMER was published by Unbound. His dark fantasy series THE SENTINEL TRILOGY was published by Peridot Press, and he also co-wrote ’80s teen horror CAMP CARNAGE. In 2015, Joshua’s short story DEAD AIR appeared in SPEAK MY LANGUAGE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF GAY FICTION.


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You Were Made for This [review]

You Were Made For This

Title: You Were Made for This
Author: Michelle Sacks
Publisher: HQ

[Synopsis]

A bold, sharp, gripping debut about a couple whose perfect life in the Swedish countryside is not what it seems…

In an idyllic house in a Swedish wood, Merry and her husband are building their new dream life with their young baby, far away from events that overshadowed their old life in New York. And they’re happy, aren’t they? Blissfully, blissfully happy.

When Merry’s childhood friend Frances comes to stay, Frances barely recognises her old friend Merry, pureeing baby food, baking, living the Swedish dream. But little by little, cracks begin to show in her carefully constructed fairy tale. And Frances starts to see things others might miss. Dark and treacherous things.

And then a terrible tragedy unfolds…

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[My Review]

You Were Made For This has all the elements of a domestic thriller, which I often enjoy reading, and though it was slower-paced than I expected, I still found it an interesting read.

There are various disturbing, dark parts to this story and I found that for most of the novel I was in a state of rage with certain characters. I don’t want to give too much away but it very effectively highlights how ‘subtle’ pyschological abuse and control can be – it’s not always full on fights and slaps. Merry and Sam’s relationship is put under the microscope by Frances – supposedly Merry’s best friend – coming to stay, and you realise that here we have another very questionable character! No one in this novel is hugely likeable, but this adds to the allure of the story because you really feel like you’re delving into a world of dark thoughts and feelings – there are some twisted things going on, both in the characters’ minds and in reality.

The setting in Sweden was a bit of a welcome change from US and UK-based novels (not that there’s anything wrong with them, but it’s nice to read about somewhere completely different) and I really liked that there was an element of mystery, too – I won’t say what happens but I definitely swung between characters when trying to work out who was responsible. It made me doubt people and then restore my faith in them – and then doubt them again!

I really liked Michelle Sacks’s writing, though I felt some parts could have been shortened a little and the complete lack of speech marks sometimes made it harder to follow (though this also made the novel stand out more). However, I would still recommend this to anyone looking for a well-written domestic thriller.

[Rating: 3.5/5]

Many thanks to HQ 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_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

WWW Wednesday [18 July 2018]

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? 

You Were Made for This – Michelle Sacks
The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang
Believe Me – JP Delaney

What are you currently reading? 

Death in Dulwich

Death in Dulwich – Alice Castle

What will you read next?

In The Dark

In The Dark – Cara Hunter


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_BOOKS / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

 

Believe Me by JP Delaney [review]

Believe Me - JP Delaney

Title: Believe Me
Author: JP Delaney
Publisher: Quercus

[Synopsis]

A struggling actor, a Brit in America without a green card, Claire needs work and money to survive. Then she gets both. But nothing like she expected.

Claire agrees to become a decoy for a firm of divorce lawyers. Hired to entrap straying husbands, she must catch them on tape with their seductive propositions. The rules? Never hit on the mark directly. Make it clear you’re available, but he has to proposition you, not the other way around. The firm is after evidence, not coercion. The innocent have nothing to hide.

Then the game changes.

When the wife of one of Claire’s targets is violently murdered, the cops are sure the husband is to blame. Desperate to catch him before he kills again, they enlist Claire to lure him into a confession.

Claire can do this. She’s brilliant at assuming a voice and an identity. For a woman who’s mastered the art of manipulation, how difficult could it be to tempt a killer into a trap? But who is the decoy . . . and who is the prey?

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[My Review]

This struck me as very a very different novel to what I’d expected it to be. I thought it would be more of a formulaic thriller that fits right into the typical tropes of this genre, but it was quite a surprise when I started it, both in terms of the plot and the way it’s written.

The plot had more atmosphere and perhaps less ‘action’ than you’d normally expect from the thriller/ mystery genre, and it developed the characters more, with an added focus on the world of the honeytrapper mixed with police investigations and undercover work, which I found really interesting! There’s definitely slightly sexy overtones at times, just due to main character Claire’s work, but it doesn’t stray too far that way, always coming back to the predicament Claire is in. There are definitely twists and turns which kept me completely engrossed. Sure, there were a few parts which were less believable, but you’re here to be entertained, right?

Whether you love or hate Claire (or are somewhere in the middle, like me!), she’s certainly an interesting character and someone that makes you want to read more about her. I wanted to find out whether she is what she makes out to be, or whether she’s hiding more than we first thought – and I was pleased to see this explored throughout the book.

The format of the story is also a bit of a change from the usual read; some parts are written as if you’re reading a play, whilst others revert back to a slightly more standard ‘speak directly to the reader’ format, and I liked this mix – it gave the novel a fresher, unique feel.

I don’t want to give too much away about this novel but I will say that it has some dark themes and a good few twists along the way. Definitely give this a go if you fancy a slightly different, slick pyschological thriller.

[Rating: 4.5/5]

Many thanks to Quercus 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_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

The Dead Ex [review]

The Dead Ex

Title: The Dead Ex
Author: Jane Corry
Publisher: Penguin

[Synopsis]

‘I wish he’d just DIE.’

Vicki’s husband David once promised to love her in sickness and in health. But after a brutal attack left her suffering with epilepsy, he ran away with his mistress.

So when Vicki gets a call one day to say that he’s missing, her first thought is ‘good riddance’. But then the police find evidence suggesting that David is dead. And they think Vicki had something to do with it.

What really happened on the night of David’s disappearance?
And how can Vicki prove her innocence, when she’s not even sure of it herself?

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[My Review]

I really enjoyed Blood Sisters and My Husband’s Wife, both also by Jane Corry, so I was excited to read her newest releases, The Dead Ex. I wasn’t disappointed – this is another gripping read which kept me guessing and had plenty of twists and turns along the way.

The story switches from person to person a lot and sometimes I was unsure who was talking, but I do love stories that move away from just one perspective and show you the thoughts and feelings of additional characters; though I felt that at times it could have been bit clearer as to who is speaking, overally I still felt that this novel employed this technique really well, and it allowed me to really feel like I was getting into the heads of some of the characters,

Vicki is definitely an interesting character, shall we say – I personally loved her but there are definitely elements to her character which don’t seem quite ‘normal’ (or what most people would deem as normal, anyway). In fact, there are a wide range of characters which were great fun to read about.

There are some shocking parts to this novel, and some parts which are quite hard to read (and made me feel pretty angry) which added to the heightened sense of tension throughout. I loved that Jane Corry really plays with your mind, making you feel sure of one thing before suddenly changing it all up. This novel was also less of a thriller than I expected, with far more character development meaning it was a bit more of a slower read than I anticipated, but I personally really enjoyed this. I don’t want to give too much away but I definitely enjoyed The Dead Ex and feel it makes a welcome, if different, addition to Jane Corry’s selection of addictive novels.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to Penguin 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_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

The Life Lucy Knew [review]

The Life Lucy Knew

Title: The Life Lucy Knew
Author: Karma Brown
Publisher: HQ Digital

[Synopsis]

Lucy is about to discover everything she believes to be true about her life…isn’t.

After hitting her head, Lucy Sparks awakens in the hospital to a shocking revelation: the man she’s known and loved for years—the man she recently married—is not actually her husband. In fact, they broke up four years earlier and haven’t spoken since.
The happily-ever-after she remembers in vivid detail is what her doctors call a false memory: recollections Lucy’s mind made up to fill in the blanks from the coma.

Now she has no idea which memories she can trust and she must make a difficult choice about which life she wants to lead, and who she really is.

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[My Review]

The Life Lucy Knew is an interesting read which centers around a topic I always find really interesting: amnesia. Main protagonist Lucy wakes up from an accident believing her life to be very different to how it was when she had the accident, and we follow her as she tries to make sense of it all and coax her memory back.

I liked that this novel was fairly believable, as I wasn’t sure when I started it if we’d suddnely find out someone had done something awful to ‘trick’ her etc (like some other novels I’ve read on this kind of subject) bu, actually, the characters were pretty convincing and three-dimensional, and Lucy herself was likable (though at times her actions could be really frustrating… I suppose she is suffering with a head injury though so I can kind of let her off most of it!)

The pace is fairly steady and at times perhaps could have moved along at a bit quicker pace, but I liked Lucy’s attempts to try and rediscover the relationship between her and her husband (though she doesn’t remember them getting married) Matt.  The narrative jumps between present day and the time ‘before’ – though we’re sometimes unsure if these are memories Lucy remembers now, which therefore may not be very reliable anyway, or ‘true’ memories.

I don’t feel that this novel is anything hugely exciting or particularly different but it is a fun, quick read which would be ideal for the summer, or for when you fancy something enjoyable but relaxing.

[Rating: 3.5/5]

Many thanks to HQ Digital 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_BOOKS_ / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!

 

WWW Wednesday [11 July 2018]

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? 

The Life Lucy Knew – Karma Brown [review to follow soon]
The Dead Ex – Jane Corry [review to follow soon]
Last Time I Lied – Riley Sager [I was on the blog tour – here’s my review]

What are you currently reading? 

Believe Me - JP Delaney

Believe Me – JP Delaney

What will you read next?

You Were Made For This

Probably You Were Made For This – Michelle Sacks


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_BOOKS / GOODREADS LAURA / AND TWITTER @LAURANAZMDEH!