The Night She Died [review]

The Night She Died

Title: The Night She Died
Author: Jenny Blackhurst
Publisher: Headline

[Synopsis]

On her own wedding night, beautiful and complicated Evie White leaps off a cliff to her death.

What drove her to commit this terrible act? It’s left to her best friend and her husband to unravel the sinister mystery.

Following a twisted trail of clues leading to Evie’s darkest secrets, they begin to realize they never knew the real Evie at all.

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[My Review]

The Night She Died kept me guessing from the first to last page. Filled with mystery and memories, and opening with a real shocker of a scene (a bride jumps to her death on her wedding day, and her best friend seems to know much more about it than she’s letting on), I found myself completely hooked.

Now, there are some parts in this story where you may have to suspend your disblief for a little, but it’s an entertaining, intriguing read so I think it’s well worth it. The present-day story is mainly told from Rebecca’s perspective, who is dealing with the aftermath of Evie’s death and trying to comfort her husband Richard, but there are also a lot of flashbacks to Evie’s childhood and teenage years which slow unwrap the lead up to the wedding-day drama. I loved the sense of unease within its pages that come from not knowing who’s telling the whole truth, and there’s plenty of betrayal which makes for interesting reading, all the way through to the satisfying ending.

[Rating: 4/5]

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

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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 Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp [review]

The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp

Title: The Rise and Fall of Becky Sharp
Author: Sarra Manning
Publisher: HarperCollins

[Synopsis]

 Beautiful, brilliant, ruthless – nothing can stop Becky Sharp.

Determined to leave her poverty-stricken roots behind her, Becky Sharp is going to take every opportunity offered to her to climb to the top. Whether it’s using her new BFF Amelia Sedley to step up into the rarified world of London’s upper classes, or seducing society’s most eligible bachelors, Becky Sharp is destined for great things – at any cost..

From London to Paris and beyond, the world is there for Becky’s taking – even though some people are determined to stop her along the way…

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[My Review]

This is such a fun, humorous novel which is extremely relevant to today’s social-media, celebrity-obsessed world, but with an extra layer of bite – Becky is no silly airhead. She’s mean, conniving and completely harsh in her treatment of other people to get to where to wants to be… and I both hated and sort-of-loved-her for it!

This is one of those novels that are perfect for when you want something that’s easy to read but not too light and fluffy. The story joins Becky in her early adult life (she’s only early twenties though at times feels a lot older) as she’s just come out of the Big Brother House, of all places, and her sunsequent highs and lows…

I really enjoyed this modern twist on Vanity Fair (I didn’t realise this was based on that story until after I’d finished it) and thought that the author, Sarra Manning, did an excellent job of crafting Becky as a mostly-likeable bitch! I really liked her long-suffering friend Amelia, despite her timid personality and meekness, and thought the characters were really amusing to read about.

It’s a lot of fun and certainly kept me entertained as I raced through it!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to HarperCollinsfor providing a copy of this book 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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One Thousand Stars and You by Isabelle Broom [review]

One Thousand Stars And You

Title: One Thousand Stars and You
Author: Isabelle Broom
Publisher: Penguin UK

[Synopsis]

One spark will light up both their lives.

Alice is settling down. It might not be the adventurous life she once imagined, but more than anything she wants to make everyone happy – her steady boyfriend, her over-protective mother – even if it means a little part of her will always feel stifled.

Max is shaking things up. After a devastating injury, he is determined to prove himself. To find the man beyond the disability, to escape his smothering family and go on an adventure.

A trip to Sri Lanka is Alice’s last hurrah – her chance to throw herself into the heat, chaos and colour of a place thousands of miles from home.

It’s also the moment she meets Max.

Alice doesn’t know it yet, but her whole life is about to change.

Max doesn’t know it yet, but he’s the one who’s going to change it.

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[My Review]

One Thousand Stars and You is the first novel by Isabelle Broom that I’ve read and I really enjoyed it – I’m not one for really cheesy, over-the-top romance/ chick-lit (hate that word, sorry) but this managed to have a good dose of relationships, fun friendship and humour without being any of those offputting things…

The characters are great, and they’re a big part of what makes this book so enjoyable. Alice is likeable and sweet, and though at times she can perhaps come across a little naive, she makes a great protagonist. Her friends Maureen and Steph are vibrant, entertaining characters (though Maureen got on my nerves sometimes!) and Max seems like a great guy – kind, fair and brave considering everything he’s been through. It may be obvious from near the start that Max and Alice are going to hit it off, and there are various parts that are fairly predictable, but the story is lovely to read about anyway, so to me that doesn’t matter!

The setting for this book completely sucked me in – I’ve always wanted to go to Sri Lanka and I felt like I could really picture their trip, from the bustling streets and vibrant colours – Isabelle Broom manages to bring this amazing place to life for the reader. Definitely gave me travel envy (yes, this is fiction but still…!)

I really enjoyed One Thousand Stars and You, and would recommend it to anyone who fancies a light, entertaining but also quite emotional read. It’s touching, heartfelt and definitely has its funny moments!

[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.

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The Rules of Seeing [review]

The Rules of Seeing

Title: The Rules of Seeing
Author: Joe Heap
Publisher: HarperCollins

[Synopsis]

The Rules of Seeing follows the lives of two women whose paths cross at a time when they need each other most.

Nova, an interpreter for the Metropolitan police, has been blind from birth. When she undergoes surgery to restore her sight her journey is just beginning – she now has to face a world in full colour for the first time.

Kate, a successful architect and wife to Tony, is in hospital after a blow to the head. There, she meets Nova and what starts as a beautiful friendship soon turns into something more.

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[My Review]

I didn’t know what to expect with this read, but ended up absolutely loving it! The charaters are so likable; I compeltely fell in love with both main characters Nova and Kate, but particularly Nova – I mean, who wouldn’t?

The main themes in this novel felt so different and fresh, yet somehow the story felt so relatable despite not being exeperiences that I’ve necessarily had myself. I loved reading about Nova’s journey from being blind (from birth, so she’s never known anything else) to being able to see again. It was so interesting reading about how she dealt with learning to see again, with all these hurdles that I’d never thought about. I also thought Kate’s experience, with her husband (I don’t want to give too much detail away) was so gripping and emotional to read about. The characters all felt like real people, with some really surprising me with their actions, and I loved reading about them.

The main theme of this novel – learning to see, not just literally for Nova but also metaphorically for other people – is so wonderful to read about and, although the story certainly isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, I felt incredibly uplifted at the end. Brilliant reading!

[Rating: 5/5]

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

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Watching You [review]

Watching You

Title: Watching You
Author: Lisa Jewell
Publisher: Cornerstone

[Synopsis]

You’re back home after four years working abroad with a brand new husband in tow. You’re keen to find a place of your own. But for now, you’re living with your big brother, camped out in his spare bedroom. And then – quite unexpectedly – you meet the man next door.

He’s the head teacher of the local high school. He’s twice your age. And he’s devastatingly attractive. Soon you find you’re watching him. All the time. But what you don’t know is that someone is watching you. Or that what has started as an innocent crush is quickly turning into an obsession as dark as it is deadly.

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[My Review]

Watching You managed to be, for me anyway, many things at once – it had an air of mystery to it, but it also felt like it was very much about the relationships of certain characters, and why they felt the way they did.

There are some surprising and/ or important (albeit uncomfortable at times) themes included in this novel – from paedophilia and affairs to mental health and parent-child relationships. I felt that the plot itself was a really good read, although I can see what other reviewers mean when they feel that there’s too many characters. At times I admit I did get a bit confused as to who was who and how they related to other people. However, each character has their own interesting backstory and I really enjoyed reading about them all. What I probably enjoyed most about this novel, though, and what set it apart from other similar reads, is that it really surprised me in terms of who I as the reader – and also the characters in the book – was completely wrong about. You get so used to feeling suspicious of everyone in mystery/ suspense novels, but in Watching You, some people were actually a surprise – in a good way!

I’m going to leave this review here as I don’t want to spoil the story, but I definitely felt that this had less of a mystery ‘whodunnit’ feel to it than some of Lisa Jewell’s other novels – and, surprisingly (as someone who loves that element of mystery), I didn’t mind at all! I enjoyed watching the development of the characters and the bit of mystery was an added bonus! It perhaps wasn’t as much of a gripping, stay-up-all-night-reading-just-one-more-chapter book as some of her other reads, but I’d definitely still recommend it.

[Rating: 4/5]

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

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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.

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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.

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