Book Review – The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Tiffy and Leon share a flat

Tiffy and Leon share a bed

Tiffy and Leon have never met…

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they’re crazy, but it’s the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy’s at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven’t met yet, they’re about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window

Published In HB:- April 2019 /PB:- Coming March 2020 by Quercus

Man, was I late to the party with this one! Last Summer Beth O’Leary’s Debut novel, The Flatshare, was EVERYWHERE, receiving major love and glowing reviews that were hard to miss. But I only got around to reading my gorgeous copy recently, and oh my was the hype right. I fell completely in love with this quirky, funny and moving story

This is going to be a quick review because to be honest, a lot has already been said and I’m sure if you’ve yet to pick it up you’re already aware of it’s popularity. But if you’re still wondering about it, then I’d say go for it. Beth’s writing is warm, humorous, fresh and so engaging and her lead characters are beautifully endearing. The Flatshare is feel good fiction at its very best, and with the paperback out in March this year, essential holiday reading. I can’t wait to read the authors second novel, The Switch, coming April 2020

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Book Review – The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd

Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. It’s the only home he’s ever known.

Elissa has only just arrived. And she’ll do everything she can to escape.

When Elijah stumbles across thirteen-year-old Elissa, in the woods where her abductor is hiding her, he refuses to alert the police. Because in his twelve years, Elijah has never had a proper friend. And he doesn’t want Elissa to leave.

Not only that, Elijah knows how this can end. After all, Elissa isn’t the first girl he’s found inside the Memory Wood.

As her abductor’s behaviour grows more erratic, Elissa realises that outwitting strange, lonely Elijah is her only hope of survival. Their cat-and-mouse game of deception and betrayal will determine both their fates, and whether either of them will ever leave the Memory Wood . . .

The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd – Published 20th February 2020 by Bantam Press

It’s been a while since I’ve read an edge of your seat, breathtaking thriller and The Memory Wood by Sam Lloyd is certainly just that! It’s one of those books which have you frantically turning the pages to find out what’s going on, with a couple of unexpected and shocking twists to keep you firmly on your toes

It starts off like a typical child abduction/detective story, when 13 year old chess champion, Elissa is snatched while at a tournament. But then it takes a sinister, almost fairytale turn as the narrative switches between Elissa’s experience of captivity and the mysterious young boy Eilijah, who visits her in her jail. In fact Hansel and Gretal is made reference to quite regularly, and it’s this dark and creepy nod to fairytale and folklore that really appealed to me, making The Memory Wood so memorable

We also hear, in alternating chapters, from the detective in charge as she investigates this traumatic case while dealing with her own personal trauma. I didn’t feel I got to know her as well as I’d like to, and I’d love to find out more about her in further cases if any are planned. Elissa on the other hand was a breathtaking character and it was definitely interesting that the main focus of this book was on the victims experience. This brave, feisty girl will stick in my mind for a long time

The Memory Wood is one of those books that become impossible to put down once you get going – tearing myself away to go to work with only 50 pages to go was absolute torture! It’s shocking, sinister and really quite emotional, literally leaving me prickling at the neck at times or welling up with tears. This is definitely going to be one of THE thrillers of the year and one to look out for!

Thank you to the lovely people at Transworld for sending me this copy for review #gifted

Three Hours by Rosamund Lupton

The extraordinary new novel everyone is talking about from the Sunday Times best-selling author of Sister

Three hours is 180 minutes or 10,800 seconds.

It is a morning’s lessons, a dress rehearsal of Macbeth, a snowy trek through the woods.

It is an eternity waiting for news. Or a countdown to something terrible.

It is 180 minutes to discover who you will die for and what men will kill for.

In rural Somerset in the middle of a blizzard, the unthinkable happens: a school is under siege. Told from the point of view of the people at the heart of it, from the wounded headmaster in the library, unable to help his trapped pupils and staff, to teenage Hannah in love for the first time, to the parents gathering desperate for news, to the 16 year old Syrian refugee trying to rescue his little brother, to the police psychologist who must identify the gunmen, to the students taking refuge in the school theatre, all experience the most intense hours of their lives, where evil and terror are met by courage, love and redemption

Published January 9th 2020 by Viking Books

I read Three Hours back at the end of summer last year and so the fact it remains so vivid in my mind is a true indication of just how powerful this book is. Powerful, shocking and relevant – it isn’t always comfortable reading but it is essential reading

Telling the story of every parents worst nightmare, this book made my blood run cold at the sheer realness of it. The writing is brutally honest and stark – as a reader most naturally drawn to emotive prose I wasn’t sure at first and it took me a while to get used to. On reflection though this style made the book all the more chilling and poignant

Three Hours is an unforgettable book tackling important and current issues – prejudice, radicalisation, ignorance, isolation and mental health. It explores the weaknesses and frailties of human nature along with strength, bravery and endurance. It made me think, even now months later, from a multitude of angles. Not an easy read by any means, but one I’d recommend

Thank you to Viking Books and Netgalley for my advance copy.

Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Perfect for fans of Barbara Kingsolver and Karen Russell, Where the Crawdads Sing is at once an exquisite ode to the natural world, a heartbreaking coming-of-age story, and a surprising tale of possible murder. Owens reminds us that we are forever shaped by the children we once were, and that we are all subject to the beautiful and violent secrets that nature keeps.

Published HB: January 2019 & PB: December 2019 by Corsair, Little Brown Uk

Oh My. This book. It’s immediately leapt into my favourites of all time. I’d heard so much about it before I started, but still I was unprepared for how much I loved it

Where The Crawdads Sing tells the story of Kya. Born to an impoverished family in the marshes of North Carolina, she’s abandoned by everyone she knows and left to fend completely for herself in total isolation by the age of ten. Years later, the body of popular and handsome Chase Andrews is found, and the locals point the finger at the strange marsh girl…

I don’t know what I expected this book to be… it’s hard to define. Part crime, part coming of age and part deeply romantic, it was so much more than I expected. Right from the start, the author immerses the reader into Kya’s world with imagery and language that places you right there with her. It’s stunning

Kya’s life and experiences are extraordinary and so far away from my own, and yet still I became so connected to her that I too felt every heartache and hope she feels. I fell in love with this character – resourceful, intelligent and naive – she is so richly depicted, she becomes almost real and my heart ached and hoped alongside her

The marsh where Kya lives is also a character in its own right and despite never being anywhere like it, Owens magically transported me there with evocative descriptions, sounds and smells. The atmosphere she creates is truly exceptional

Where The Crawdads Sing is a beautiful book, raising questions of prejudice, human endurance and resilience and what it is to be isolated. Yet it’s a book brimming with hope and joy too. Kya’s story completely stole my heart and it’s a book I’ll be thinking about for a longtime to come

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Book Review – Bone China by Laura Purcell

Consumption has ravaged Louise Pinecroft’s family, leaving her and her father alone and heartbroken. But Dr Pinecroft has plans for a revolutionary experiment: convinced that sea air will prove to be the cure his wife and children needed, he arranges to house a group of prisoners suffering from the same disease in the cliffs beneath his new Cornish home. While he devotes himself to his controversial medical trials, Louise finds herself increasingly discomfited by the strange tales her new maid tells of the fairies that hunt the land, searching for those they can steal away to their realm.

Forty years later, Hester Why arrives at Morvoren House to take up a position as nurse to the now partially paralysed and almost entirely mute Miss Pinecroft. Hester has fled to Cornwall to try and escape her past, but surrounded by superstitious staff enacting bizarre rituals, she soon discovers that her new home may be just as dangerous as her last.

Published October 2019 by Raven Books UK

You know I’m a sucker for a pretty cover right? Well would you just look at this one. What an absolute beaut! There’s no way it wasn’t going to make it on my shelves.

WHY have I never read Laura Purcell’s books before! This creepy, gothic story was right up my street. A creepy old house, strange and eccentric characters, myth and folklore and a touch of the supernatural- Bone China ticked all the boxes ✅

I adored the atmospheric writing which richly evoked the isolated and wild setting and the sinister tension rippling throughout. I loved the myth and folklore littered throughout the pages. This is a perfect book for winter, demanding to be read with the curtains shut tight and the fire burning brightly.

Beautifully written and deliciously sinister and gothic, I enjoyed every unnerving and spine tingling moment of this book. 💙💙

 

Book Review:- The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey

The epic and long-awaited new romance from the author of Letters to the Lost, winner of the RNA Award.

Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing. Her life is a whirl of parties and drinking, pursued by the press and staying just the right side of scandal.

Lawrence Weston is a penniless painter who stumbles into Selina’s orbit one night and can never let her go.

Spanning two decades and a seismic shift in British history as World War II approaches, this is an epic novel of passion, heartache and loss.

Published May 2019 by Simon & Schuster UK

Ahhhh… my poor heart!! I’m still putting it back together even though it’s a couple of days since I finished reading this gorgeous, gorgeous book.

I’d heard over and over that this was a stunning book, and it’s indeed true. It’s set in two parts – the heady, post WW1 roaring twenties where Bright Young Thing, Selina Lennox and her friends are having the time of their lives and the more austere mid 1930s, where a young girl has found herself in the care of her distant and resentful Grandmother. With little else to do, she looks forward to the sporadic letters from her Mother which hold clues to a tragic love story and a secret from the past.

Oh My. What a heartbreaking story this is. It’s romantic, passionate and tragic – literally taking my breath away at times. It’s so beautifully evocative, that my 21st century surroundings faded into the background and I was transported to a world of glamour and glitz that felt as if it was being played out in front of my eyes, like an old fashioned Hollywood movie. The ill fated romance was exquisitely written, crackling with passion and tenderness which swept me away.

Spanning just over a decade between wars, in a time when boundaries and barriers are being tested and broken, The Glittering Hour deserves all the praise it gets. I absolutely adored it!

#BlogTour #BookReview – The Girl At The Window by Rowan Coleman (@rowancoleman @Eburypublishing @Annecater)

A house full of history is bound to have secrets…

‘Spine-tinglingly beautiful. Prepare to lose your heart’ Lisa Jewell

Ponden Hall is a centuries-old house on the Yorkshire moors, a magical place full of stories. It’s also where Trudy Heaton grew up. And where she ran away from…

Now, after the devastating loss of her husband, she is returning home with her young son, Will, who refuses to believe his father is dead.

While Trudy tries to do her best for her son, she must also attempt to build bridges with her eccentric mother. And then there is the Hall itself: fallen into disrepair but generations of lives and loves still echo in its shadows, sometimes even reaching out to the present…

A hauntingly beautiful story of love and hope, from the Sunday Times bestselling author of The Memory Book and The Summer of Impossible Things 

Published July 2019 by Ebury 

~ Review ~  

Now and then you get a little ‘reading moment’ – you know that feeling when everything is just absolutely right? I had that the other night while reading The Girl At The Window. After a very busy day at work, I was curled up on the sofa with a cosy blanket, candles flickering and rain lashing the windows and found myself completely captivated by this beautiful, spine-chilling book. It was pure, reading bliss.

The Girl At The Window is centered around Ponden Hall,  a centuries old house which has belonged to the same family since it was built and crackles with the ghosts and stories of the past. It’s also hosted famous guests, most notably Emily Bronte, and is home to the famous “Cathy window”  When Trudy returns home to Ponden following the disappearance and presumed death of her husband, she is faced with the realisation that her Mum has been unable to manage and the house is now in desperate need of repair. Trudy knows the ghosts of her ancestors have stories to tell, but when she uncovers journals during some renovation work, she is stunned at the story which unfolds and links three women over four hundred years.

Wow. Wow. Wow. What an absolute beauty of a book this is. I adored it, and as I was reading it, I became so absorbed by it that everything around me vanished and a couple of hours passed without even looking up. It has everything I love – ghosts, history and secrets – all centered around that gothic classic of an old house seeped in character and atmosphere. And what a house Ponden Hall is – it’s described so richly and vividly that not only could I imagine it but I could feel the crackling tension and charged atmosphere as the ghosts of Trudy’s ancestors fight to make their stories known.

I loved the connection to Emily Bronte and could feel through Rowan Coleman’s descriptions of the house and landscape how she would’ve been inspired by it. There’s ripples of Wuthering Heights to pick up throughout the book which I absolutely adored. I also loved the story of seventeenth-century Agnes, whose tragic story is heartbreaking and powerfully emotional. I thought the way the stories from the 17th, 19th and present centuries were linked through three women was very clever and I was invested in each of them strongly, feeling their emotions and heartache acutely through the author’s beautiful writing.

The Girl At The Window took over me completely while reading it. I was captivated from the beginning and adored every single page. It is a hauntingly beautiful story, which literally sent chills down my spine at times. Packed with atmosphere, emotion, history and romance – I can’t recommend it highly enough. Easily one of the best books I’ve read this year and one that I’d want to read again and again. Stunning.

(I read an advance proof courtesy the publisher)

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#BlogTour #Bookreview – Five Steps To Happy by Ella Dove (@Tr4cyF3nt0n @Trapezebooks)

Life can change in a heartbeat…

When struggling actress Heidi has a life-changing accident aged 32, her world falls apart. Stuck in hospital and unable to walk, her only companion is Maud, the elderly lady in the bed next to hers. Heidi misses her flatmate, her life, her freedom – surely 32 is too young to be an amputee?

But when Maud’s aloof but attractive grandson Jack pays a visit to the ward, Heidi realises that her life isn’t over just because it’s different. It might not look like the life she dreamed of, but it’s the one she’s got – and there’s a lot she still wants to tick off her bucket list. With Jack at her side, will Heidi take the first step back to happiness? Or is there one more surprise still in store…?

A feel-good read based on the inspiring true story of journalist Ella Dove. Sometimes all it takes is one small step… 

Published July 2019 by Trapeze (UK) 

~ Review ~  

Firstly, I have to apologise. I’m a couple of days late with my stop on the blog tour for this book due to a technical hitch. The book was worth the trouble though, as it’s a truly inspiring and heartwarming story which I thoroughly enjoyed reading.

Heidi is out jogging, when she trips and falls. Hours later she wakes in hospital to find she has had a leg amputated due to the severity of her injury. An out going and active woman, Heidi must relearn how to walk and build her confidence ready to face the real world again. But she is haunted by the man who saw her fall that day and didn’t stay to help her. If he had, could Heidi have avoided the situation she now finds herself in?

The most touching thing about this book is that it is based on the authors real life experiences. Who would ever have thought a fall while out jogging could have such life changing consequences? Five Steps to Happy explores the emotions and feelings experienced first hand by the author, making it extremely honest and raw at times. Heidi’s feelings of resentment  towards other patients in the rehab center who were there through lifestyle choices, her guilt at the pressure and effect on her family and friends and her anger towards the man who left her come straight from the heart and voice of experience.

Yet despite the awfulness of Heidi’s situation, this is an incredibly positive and uplifting book. Yes Heidi experiences grief at the loss of the person and future she expects, but she faces the path she now finds herself on with determination and strength. Life not be as she thought it was, but she is going to enjoy it with goals, achievements and challenges tackled head on.

Ella Dove writes with warmth and humour as well as honesty, and I’m really glad I got to read this book. Five Steps To Happy really is an inspiring book, and just shows that we should never take anything for granted because in an just an instant everything can change.  This is definitely a book I’d recommend and I guarantee you too will fall in love with Heidi.

(I read a finished copy which I bought after some technical hitches with my free netgally copy)

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#BlogTour #Bookreview – Expectation by Anna Hope (@annecater @DoubleDayUK) #ExpectationBook

Hannah, Cate and Lissa are young, vibrant and inseparable. Living on the edge of a common in East London, their shared world is ablaze with art and activism, romance and revelry – and the promise of everything to come. They are electric. They are the best of friends.

Ten years on, they are not where they hoped to be. Amidst flailing careers and faltering marriages, each hungers for what the others have. And each wrestles with the same question: what does it take to lead a meaningful life?

EXPECTATION is a novel of the highs and lows of friendship – how it can dip, dive and rise again. It is also about finding your way: as a mother, a daughter, a wife, a rebel. Most of all, it explores that liminal space between expectation and reality, the place – full of dreams, desires and pain – in which we all live our lives. 

Published July 11th 2019 by DoubleDay (UK)

~ Review ~  

As soon as I read the synopsis to this book, I wanted to read it. It felt familiar, like something I would very much relate to. Within a couple of pages I knew I was right.

Expectation tells the story of three friends, Hannah, Cate and Lissa and switches from their youth – when life is full of opportunity and promise, to their late thirties and early forties, where reality has turned out different to their dreams and expectations. We hear from each of three main characters in turn, as they face the disappointments of a struggling career, failed IVF and a marriage and family life that feels suffocating. And among all that, the changing dynamics of their friendship over the decades.

While I may not have had as an exciting and promising youth and twenties as these characters, I could definitely relate to some of their insecurities and disillusionment in the present. It’s strange how in youth, you are sure your wisdom and confidence will grow with age, yet at times I feel more uncertain and filled with self doubt now. I recognised this in the characters and was able to empathise strongly with them.

I really enjoyed reading the dynamics of the friendship. We all like the idea of friends for life, but I guess it’s true that we are different people at different times in our lives, and as the three women find, we might not end up being the person or living the life we thought we would be and relationships drift or grow apart. I loved reading about the time when the women lived together, at their peak and just enjoying life, it made me quite nostalgic.

The writing in this book is beautiful, and is definitely to be savoured. It evokes intense feelings of emotion at times, as we experience the heartaches and ups and downs alongside Hannah, Cate and Lissa. Expectation is a stunning portrayal of modern life and friendship – balancing reality with the high expectation we put on ourselves as we cross that point from youth to our middle age. It’s both nostalgic of the past and hopeful for the future. I really enjoyed this book and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it.

I read an advance proof copy courtesy of the publisher

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#BlogTour #BookReview – Train Man by Andrew Mulligan (@Annecater @ChattoBooks)

Michael is a broken man. He’s waiting for the 09.46 to Gloucester, so as to reach Crewe for 11.22: the platforms are long at Crewe, and he can walk easily into the path of a high-speed train to London. He’s planned it all: a net of tangerines (for when the refreshments trolley is cancelled), and a juice carton, full of neat whisky. To make identification swift, he has taped his last credit card to the inside of his shoe.

What Michael hasn’t factored in is a twelve-minute delay, which risks him missing his connection, and making new ones. He longs to silence the voices in his own head: ex-girlfriends, colleagues, and the memories from his schooldays, decades old. They all torment him. What Michael needs is somebody to listen.

A last, lonely journey becomes a lesson in the power of human connection, proving that no matter how bad things seem, it’s never too late to get back on track.

Journeys intersect. People find hope when and where they least expect it. A missed connection needn’t be a disaster: it could just save your life. 

Published July 4th 2019 by Chatto & Windus (UK)

~ Review ~   

When I was offered to read and review this book, it was theme of connections that appealed to me. I love the idea of twists of fate, chance encounters – however small- and the knock on effect they have. The optimist in me loves the idea of a small act of kindness changing someone’s day, week or life.

Train Man tells the story of Michael as he embarks on what he plans as his final journey. Michael feels he can’t go on, and the only solution is to take his own life. But as he travels towards his chosen destination, he is forced to reconsider thanks to small interactions he has on his way.

Michael’s story is pretty bleak as the reader is invited into his dark personal thoughts and memories. It took me a little while to get into, as the plot seems jumpy and fragmented to begin with as he skips between the now and his past. It’s a little tricky to keep track of until the style settles into itself and I became accustomed to it. But actually, it’s a pretty appropriate style for the character and conveys his jumbled and disturbed thought process perfectly. This isn’t a man who is thinking completely rationally and coherently after all.

After a couple of chapters I found myself really immersed in the story, and the host of characters introduced along the way. Don’t get me wrong – this is a pretty dark book at times with themes of sexual abuse, and isn’t always comfortable to read. But there’s humour and warmth in there too, with Andy Mulligan picking out characteristics and mannerisms representing every aspect of human nature from the cruel and selfish to the kind and compassionate, the ridiculously funny and silly to the down right heartbreak and sadness.

Train Man is a story of an innate need for human connection, and the surprising places it may come from if we open up. It doesn’t try and sugarcoat and romaticise – it’s brutal in its honesty and leaves the reader to ponder the resolution rather than spell it out for them at the end. A thought provoking book and one which I’ll remember and think about for quite a while.

(I read a copy courtesy of the publisher)

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