The Importance of Being Aisling [review]

The Importance of Being Aisling

Title: The Importance of Being Aisling
Authors: Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen
Series: OMGWACA
Publisher: Penguin

[Synopsis]

You can take the small-town girl out of the big city – but can you take the big city out of the girl?

Job. Flat. Boyfriend. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Aisling (seems) to be winning at life. But life has other ideas.

Fired. Homeless. Dumped. Tick. Tick. Tick.

When everything comes crashing down around her, moving back in with her mam seems like a disaster.

But might returning to her roots provide the answers Aisling’s looking for?

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[My Review]

The Importance of Being Aisling is a welcome return to the world of Aisling and friends, as she deals with some significant life changes and plenty of other challenges thrown at her. I don’t want to give too much away, but there are some hilarious moments (as always with Aisling) and some slightly more emotional parts than the last book, as well.

I love Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen’s writing in this series; the characters are just brilliant (and if you have Irish family, friends or similar, I’ve no doubt that you’d find it even more entertaining, as I’m sure many of the references would resonate more with you) and the storyline is entertaining, fun and at times very comical. Some parts are silly but it’s great fun to read, and Aisling is a brilliantly entertaining character and one I’d happily read more about, so here’s hoping there’s many more books to come in this series!

[Rating: 4/5]

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

The Importance of Being Aisling is out in ebook format now.

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The Cactus by Sarah Haywood [review]

The Cactus

Title: The Cactus
Author: Sarah Haywood
Publisher: John Murray Press

[Synopsis]

IT’S NEVER TOO LATE TO BLOOM

People aren’t sure what to make of Susan Green—a prickly independent woman, who has everything just the way she wants it and who certainly has no need for messy emotional relationships.

Family and colleagues find her standoffish and hard to understand, but Susan makes perfect sense to herself, and that’s all she needs.

At forty-five, she thinks her life is perfect, as long as she avoids her feckless brother, Edward—a safe distance away in Birmingham. She has a London flat which is ideal for one; a job that suits her passion for logic; and a personal arrangement providing cultural and other, more intimate, benefits.

Yet suddenly faced with the loss of her mother and, implausibly, with the possibility of becoming a mother herself, Susan’s greatest fear is being realised: she is losing control.

When she discovers that her mother’s will inexplicably favours her brother, Susan sets out to prove that Edward and his equally feckless friend Rob somehow coerced this dubious outcome. But when problems closer to home become increasingly hard to ignore, she finds help in the most unlikely of places.

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[My Review]

The Catus is a brilliant read, following main character Susan who is so interesting to read about. She is a very independent, confident person who has firm beliefs and a fairly unique way of interacting with other people. We see,  throughout this novel, some of the reasons for the way she behaves around people, and although at first I couldn’t imagine ever wanting to spend a significant amount of time with her, by the end of the book I could really appreciate what a quirky, interesting character she is. What you see is what you get with Susan; she’s unapologetically stuck in her ways and will change for no-one (or so it seems), and I loved that about her!

The story follows Susan as she deals with the discovery that, at 45 and having never wanted children, she is pregnant. This comes soon after the death of her mother, and some tricky news regarding the will, and is generally a time when life seems to be testing her a little…

The story that follows is heartwarming, a little sad at times, but most definitely a wonderful read. Sarah Haywood has moulded some brilliant characters, from Susan herself and her lovely neighbour Kate, to her (extremely unlikable, but very interesting) brother Edward and his brilliantly unique friend Rob – I loved reading about them all! They seemed to jump off the pages at me and I only wish this novel had been longer, because I could happily have read twice, three times as many pages.

Oddly enough, Susan refers to her mother as ‘mom’ instead of the more commonly-used (in England) ‘mum’ – not sure if that’s another quirk of Susan’s but it did make me check whether the author is from (she is British) and in doing this I saw Sarah’s Goodreads Author page that she is actually writing a second novel at the moment – yay! I’ll be first in the queue.

[Rating: 5/5]

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

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The Adults by @CarolineHulse1 [review]

The Adults

Title: The Adults
Author: Caroline Hulse
Publisher: Orion

[Synopsis]

Meet The Adults

Claire and Matt are divorced but decide what’s best for their daughter Scarlett is to have a ‘normal’ family Christmas. They can’t agree on whose idea it was, or who said they should bring their new partners. But someone did – and it’s too late to pull the plug.

Claire brings her new boyfriend Patrick, a seemingly eligible Iron-Man-in-Waiting. Matt brings the new love of his life Alex, funny, smart, and extremely patient. Scarlett, their daughter, brings her imaginary friend Posey. He’s a rabbit. Together the five (or six?) of them grit their teeth over Organized Fun activities, drinking a little too much after bed-time, oversharing classified secrets about their pasts and, before you know it, their holiday is a powder keg that ends – where this story starts – with a tearful, frightened, call to the police…

But what happened? They said they’d all be adults about this…

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[My Review]

I absolutely loved how The Adults makes you feel like you’re right there on holiday with this dysfunctional family, as they try to muddle their way through an awkward, too-close-for-comfort family holiday in somewhere that I imagine to be like Centerparcs, but SO Christmas-themed-it-hurts! Think a LOT of forced ‘magical festive fun’ for the whole family to ‘enjoy’… except things are falling apart fast!

From reading the very first page I assumed this would be moresort of a mystery story, where the reader can piece together what happened to the ‘male’ who needs an ambulance in the first scene. However, it’s much more about the family drama and relationships between the characters – though the ’emergency incident’ does play a big part, of course – and I was compeltely fine with that. I didn’t at all mind the lack of focus on the mystery (for once) because the story is so entertaining and fun to read.

Caroline Hulse has a way of making you feel like you could be reading about so many ‘normal’ families who are doing their best to spend Christmas (an often-fraught time  of year, in terms of family, at the best of times) together for the sake of little Scarlett (who I have to say, I kind of disliked, despite her only being a child!).

I’d really recommend this funny read; it’s got some mystery in there to keep you hooked and I loved the funny (and fraught) dynamics between the characters – so entertaining!

[Rating: 4/5]

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

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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:
Facebook
Twitter 
Goodreads 
Blog


[The Blog Tour]

The Craft Room Full Banner

 

 

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]

The Stranger Upstairs tour cardv2new

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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]

Blog 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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