The Craft Room by @daveholwill [blog tour review] @rararesources

NewCraftRoom

Today I’m on the blog tour for The Craft Room by Dave Holwill with a review!

Title: The Craft Room
Author: Dave Holwill

[Synopsis]

Sylvia Blackwell is tired. Her grandchildren are being kept away from her, and the expected inheritance that might finally get her middle-aged son to move out has failed to materialise – thanks to her mother’s cat. It is becoming increasingly difficult to remain composed. On a romantic clifftop walk for her 47th Wedding Anniversary, an unexpected opportunity leads to a momentous decision that will irretrievably change the course of her life.

The Craft Room is a darkly comic tale of sex, crepe paper, murder and knitting in a sleepy Devon town, with a ‘truly original’ premise and genuinely jaw-dropping moments. What would you do if unexpectedly freed from bondage you never knew you were in? How would your children cope? How far would you go to protect them from an uncomfortable truth?

You can only push a grandmother so far…

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[My Review]

The Craft Room is funny, twisted and a really great read! It’s packed with entertaining characters (Sylvia is such fun to read about!) and ridiculous-but-amusing occurances.

The plot is perfect for when you just fancy something light hearted but at the same time pretty dark and twisted… it’s definitely packed with black humour and Dave Holwill threads some satisfyingly subtle, surprising moments into this wacky story.

In many ways it couldn’t be more normal – Sylvia is a grandmother whose life has become dull and uninspiring with her irritating husband and dependent adult son, and often she fantasises about what life would be like if she was free of the shackles of her husband. Until one day it all comes within her grasp… cue plenty of ”accidental deaths”, havoc and naughtiness, all delivered to the reader in a comical and unpredictable package! Definitely recommended.

I received a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.

Buy The Craft Room on Amazon here.

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[About the Author]

AuthorHeadShot

Dave Holwill was born in Guildford in 1977 and quickly decided that he preferred the Westcountry – moving to Devon in 1983 (with some input from his parents).
After an expensive (and possibly wasted) education there, he has worked variously as a postman, a framer, and a print department manager (though if you are the only person in the department then can you really be called a manager?) all whilst continuing to play in every kind of band imaginable on most instruments you can think of.

His debut novel, Weekend Rockstars, was published in August 2016 to favourable reviews and his second The Craft Room (a very dark comedy concerning death through misadventure) came out in August 2017. He is currently in editing hell with the third.

Follow Dave on social media:
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Twitter 
Goodreads 
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[The Blog Tour]

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The Stranger Upstairs

The Stranger Upstairs [blog tour review]

Today I’m excited to be a part of the blog tour for Melanie Raabe’s new novel, The Stranger Upstairs!

The Stranger Upstairs

Title: The Stranger Upstairs
Author: Melanie Raabe
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

[Synopsis]

He calls himself your husband. But you’re the only one who knows the truth.

Several years ago, your husband, and the father of your young son, disappeared. Since then, you’ve dreamt of his return; railed against him for leaving you alone; grieved for your marriage; and, finally, vowed to move on.

One morning, the phone rings. When you answer, a voice at the other end tells you your husband’s on a plane bound for home, and that you’ll see him tomorrow. You’ve imagined this reunion countless times. Of course you have. But nothing has prepared you for the reality. For the moment you realise you don’t know this man.

Because he isn’t your husband; he’s a complete stranger — and he’s coming home with you. Even worse, he seems to know about something very bad you once did — something no one else could possibly know about . . . Could they?

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[My Review]

The Stranger Upstairs is an atmospheric psychological thriller which effectively builds the tension right from the first page; I was really intrigued by Sarah’s story and wanted to know what had really happened throughout the whole novel. There were so many interesting conflicts which made me think one way or another about Sarah’s long-lost husband ‘Philip’ – or the man who seems to be pretending to be him – and made me flit between various theories on why this person would behave that way (none of which ended up being right, I should say!)

The novel is written in a way that encourages you to keep reading just one more chapter – the sentences are short, snappy and to the point (no long, flowing descriptions) and I generally like that when it comes to this genre; it keeps the book gripping and exciting. The chapters themselves are also fairly short, and we begin to see some chapters from the perspective of ‘the stranger’, not just Sarah, which adds even more confusion and sneakiness to the story’s many secrets and ‘hidden truths’.

I’m not sure exactly how I feel about the conclusion – in some ways I was hoping for something else, perhaps because – due to the long build-up – I thought it would end a certain way, but in many ways I feel it was just right: just the right level of surprise, just the right level of drama… and that very last page left me feeling really satisfied, which is all I can ask for in a psychological thriller!

[Rating: 4/5]

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


[About the author]

Melanie Raabe grew up in Thuringia, Germany, and attended the Ruhr University Bochum, where she specialized in media studies and literature. After graduating, she moved to Cologne to work as a journalist by day and secretly write books by night. Her novel, The Trap, won the Stuttgarter Krimipreis (Stuttgart Crime Prize) for best crime debut of the year.


[Follow the Tour]

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While I Was Sleeping [review]

While I Was Sleeping

Title: While I Was Sleeping
Author: Dani Atkins
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK

[Synopsis]

I don’t remember what happened or what has changed.

I can still hear your voices but you can’t seem to hear me.

I was about to be married and had everything to look forward to.

Now I have to find a way back – to you, to our family, to us.

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[My Review]

I can just about see through puffed up eyes to write this review… While I Was Sleeping is a hugely emotional, cry-your-eyes-out type of novel – the sort I haven’t read for a while. Dani Atkins has managed to pull together some of the hardest, heartbreaking situations into an entertaining, thoughtful and at times (okay, almost all the time) incredibly sad novel.

I have read This Love, also by Dani Atkins [read my review], and hugely enjoyed it, plus heard brilliant things about Fractured, so I was expecting big things from this one, and it certainly lived up to my high expecations!

I started off reading While I Was Sleeping firmly on one ‘team’ (you’ll know what I mean when you read this, but as the synopsis is so vague I don’t want to give too much away here), but as time went on I found I felt empathy for pretty much every main character. I found it incredibly difficult to read about poor Maddie’s pain and anguish, and a few times thought I didn’t know if I wanted to continue reading because the horrible situation she’s in made me feel really sad ☹️ however I’m so glad I carried on!

Nothing is black and white about this novel; Atkins manages to make you almost experience, deeply, the way each character feels, before presenting a different side to the ‘story’, and each person has their own flaws and positives. The result is that I cared about everyone, even people I thought at the start I’d not be able to empathise with.

This book is very likely to make you cry, and think far too much about how you’d feel in each person’s situation (leading to more crying). The characters are all very relatable, and any slight cheesiness (of which there isn’t much, I’m pleased to say) is definitely allowed due to the subject matter!

I should also point out that there are some uplifting parts too, so it’s not all doom and gloom, and it offered me a welcome break from crime and thriller novels. While I Was Sleeping so full of heart and emotion that I couldn’t help being drawn in, and I’m sure most people will feel very similar.


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

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The Liar's Room

The Liar’s Room [blog tour review]

The Liar's Room

Today I’m VERY excited to bring you a review for The Liar’s Room, the new release from Simon Lelic!

Title: The Liar’s Room
Author: Simon Lelic
Publisher: Viking

[Synopsis]

ONE ROOM. TWO LIARS. NO WAY OUT…

Susanna Fenton has a secret. Fourteen years ago she left her identity behind, reinventing herself as a counsellor and starting a new life. It was the only way to keep her daughter safe.

But everything changes when Adam Geraghty walks into her office. She’s never met this young man before – so why does she feel like she knows him?

Then Adam starts to tell her about a girl. A girl he wants to hurt.

And Susanna realises she was wrong. 
She doesn’t know him. 
BUT HE KNOWS HER.
AND THE GIRL HE PLANS TO HURT IS HER DAUGHTER…

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[My Review]

The bar was set very high by Simon Lelic’s first novel, The House [read my review here], and I’m very happy to report that The Liar’s Room, though a fairly different read, is just as gripping!

This story centers around one location really, in that it’s all about counsellor Susanna and her client Adam, who seems to know too much about Susanna’s ‘previous life’ that she’s tried so hard to keep a secret. Adam bring a level of threat to Susanna’s daughter, Emily, and she’s desperate to stop the awful events that Adam has already put in motion, seemingly to punish her – but why?

Part of the enjoyment of this story is that you don’t really know what’s going on but, through flashbacks from Susanna’s past, as well as extracts from her daughter’s diaries, we slowly begin to find out more and more about what happened with Susanna’s son Jake. I found myself really wanting to find out what had happened with Jake, and the awful occurances that took place many years ago – this is the main storyline really, as everything taking place in the present day (in Susanna’s office) is all about finding out what happened before, what Adam has done to Emily, and why Adam is so angry. This one main setting creates a surprisingly claustrophobic atmopshere.

There are twists and surprises in this novel which I really enjoyed reading, and it made me really think about how I’d feel in a similar situation. Themes of responsibility and guilt are prevalent, as well as some shocking and disturbing parts which are difficult to read but made me even more invested in the story.

I liked the way Simon Lelic crafted the characters, making them believable enough but also incredibly interesting and flawed; they felt like they could be real people, and in addition to this the storyline itself felt fresh and different to others in this genre. I would really recommend this gripping read.


Many thanks to Penguin Books for providing an arc of this novel on which I wrote an honest and unbiased review.

[About the Author]

Simon Lelic

Simon Lelic was born in 1976 and has worked as a journalist in the UK and currently runs his own business in Brighton, England, where he lives with his wife and two sons.

Simon’s latest novel, The Liar’s Room, is available now in the UK, and will be released soon in the US. His previous novel, The House, was a BBC Radio 2 Book Club choice.

[Follow the Tour]

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[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

 

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.

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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.

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The Man Who Didn’t Call [review]

The Man Who Didn't Call

Title: The Man Who Didn’t Call
Author: Rosie Walsh
Publisher: Pan Macmillan

[Synopsis]

Imagine you meet a man, spend six glorious days together, and fall in love. And it’s mutual: you’ve never been so certain of anything.

So when he leaves for a long-booked holiday and promises to call from the airport, you have no cause to doubt him.
But he doesn’t call.

Your friends tell you to forget him, but you know they’re wrong: something must have happened; there must be a reason for his silence.

What do you do when you finally discover you’re right? That there is a reason — and that reason is the one thing you didn’t share with each other?

The truth.

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[My Review]

I didn’t expect this novel to be so emotional – I’d assumed it would be more of a light and fluffy read, perhaps partly due to the cover, but once I started reading I realised that this is a truly gripping, absorbing and really well crafted.

The characters are believable and convincing, with main protagonist Sarah coming across as a likable and someone who doesn’t fit into a typical ‘category’ of person. She isn’t someone who’d usually become so obsessed over a one-week ‘fling’, but as we hear it all from her point of view, we’re right there with her and we have the chance to understand why she feels the way she does about Eddie.

I read this book in almost one solid sitting, and really wanted to know why Eddie had suddenly disappeared from Sarah’s life. I swung from hating him to suddenly feeling confused, and though I guessed part of what had happened, this wasn’t at all the actual correct conslusion, which I felt really satisfied with.

There’s so much more to this story than just your average contemporary romance/ ‘chick-lit’-style read; it’s so much deeper than that. There are some truly emotional parts and some real surprises along the way.

Rosie Walsh has written a fantastic debut here, mixing elements of romance and relationships with modern-life dating and the many ways grief can take a hold of someones life. It’s punchy, emotional, and heartwrenching – an absorbing read!

[Rating: 5/5]

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

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Love Will Tear Us Apart [review]

Love-Will-Tear-Us-Apart-Cover.jpg

Title: Love Will Tear Us Apart
Author: Holly Seddon
Publisher: Atlantic Books

[Synopsis]

Fearing eternal singledom, childhood friends Kate and Paul make the age-old vow that if they don’t find love by thirty, they will marry each other.

Years later, with the deadline of their 30th birthdays approaching, the unlikely couple decide to keep their teenage promise. After all, they are such good friends. Surely that’s enough to make a marriage?

Now, on the eve of their 10th wedding anniversary, they will discover that love between men and women is more complex, and more precarious, than they could ever have imagined. As Kate struggles with a secret that reaches far into their past, will the couple’s vow become the very thing that threatens their future?

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[My Review]

This is the first novel I’ve read by Holly Seddon, and I think this is why I expected something else when starting this novel – I thought it would be more mystery / pyschological thriller for the sole reason that someone else I know had really recommended Try Not To Breathe, which seems to have more of a suspense/ mystery element to it. However, I found that Love Will tear Us Apart is far more of a character-driven, thoughtful and moving story and I really loved it!

The characters, and the way you follow them from their younger days right through to adulthood, is what makes this novel so absorbing. I loved reading about Paul and Kate, plus their very different but interesting respective families. No character is perfect; they each have their faults but, unlike many novels which feature relationships in them, that doesn’t mean that, as the reader, you can instantly tell ‘well things won’t work out this or that way’ because they’re not this black-or-white ‘good or bad’ person. People are, of course, more complex in actualist, and never more so than how they’re portrayed here. Kate took a while for me to like her, and same with Paul, but I felt like I truly got to know them as the story spans many years. I sped through this novel and didn’t want it to end!

The narrative stretches over many years, and there are seperate timelines that show us Kate’s (and Paul’s) younger life, their time growing up and starting a career, and adulthood, plus a seperate ‘present’ storyline that follows them and their family in the present day. We learn all about their lives, both together and apart, and the many different forms that love can come in.

I suppose there is a small element of mystery throughout the book, as we wonder from the beginning what announcement or discussion Kate wants to bring up on her and Paul’s 10 year wedding anniversary. I did find myself intrigued to know what this was, and in the first quarter of the book I kind of wanted the story to stay in the present narrative so I could find out what it could be. Soon, though, I was just as invested in the past storylines as the present.

The plot, despite having various happier moments, felt quite sad at times and poignant – I cried a good few times, and I know when that happens that a story has completely sucked me in. I would definitely recommend Love Will Tear Us Apart and will certainly be adding her other novels to my reading list!

[Rating: 5/5]

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

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The Brighton Mermaid [review]

The Brighton Mermaid

Title: The Brighton Mermaid
Author: Dorothy Koomson
Publisher: Century

[Synopsis]

Brighton Beach, 1993: Teenagers Nell and Jude find the body of a young woman and when no one comes to claim her, she becomes known as the Brighton Mermaid. Nell is still struggling to move on when, three weeks later, Jude disappears.

Twenty-five years on, Nell quits her job to find out who the Brighton Mermaid really was – and what happened to her best friend that summer.

But as Nell edges closer to the truth, dangerous things start to happen. Someone seems to be watching her every move, and soon she starts to wonder who in her life she can actually trust…

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[My Review]

I am a huge fan of Dorothy Koomson, having loved the other novels I’ve read by her (including The Ice Cream Girls [my review here] and The Friend [my review here]), so I was incredibly excited to get the chance to read her newest release, The Brighton Mermaid. The premise sounded really interesting and I knew I’d be treated to Koomson’s excellent writing.

I wasn’t disappointed – once again, readers can enjoy some brilliantly convincing characters (people you can actually imagine meeting in real life) and an intriguing, just-one-more-page plot, as well as the great location of Brighton.

I really enjoyed reading about Nell and the two key narratives: one focussing on her time as a child – before, during, and after the discover of the mysterous murdered woman and the disappearance of her her best friend, Jude) – and one set in the present day, as Nell deals with her past and tries to work out who could be watching, following and slowly torementing her…

The narrative is fast-paced and kept me wanting to read on, and I love the element of mystery interwoven with topics around family, friendship and secrets. There’s a mix of emotions, with some quite disturbing themes cropping up alongside slightly more light-hearted parts. I loved the sense of time and place that Koomson always creates so well – I may only have been a very small child at the time this was set but I could picture myself there, in the early 1990’s, right there with Jude and Nell as they made their horrifying discovery.

Another addictive release from this brilliant author – definitely recommended!

[Rating: 5/5]

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

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