Book Review | The Path of Good Response by Steve Frogley

Huge thanks to Steve for sending me a copy of his book, The Path of Good Response, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

Do you value your mother’s health above peace in the Middle East? How about your career over global warming?

If a company runs the best graduate scheme in the world, then it can afford to be probing with its interview questions.

When Joe Massey is offered a role aboard Schelldhardt’s luxurious headquarters at sea, he discovers that the company mission is beyond anything he had ever imagined. Strange dreams disturb his sleep, and it soon becomes clear that nothing is quite as it seems.

Is he really the right man for the job? And if not, then why is he there at all?

Review

Joe Massey is offered a graduate job at sea with the Schelldhardt company. The job is everything you can dream of with luxury living quarters and a brilliant salary – including your student loan being paid off in full right at the start of employment! It’s all you’d ever want, but from the outset he becomes suspicious. Peculiar behaviour onboard, strange dreams and nightmares… Is everything really as good as it seems?

Where to start! This book has a complex and clever narrative, different to anything I’ve read before. It’s intriguing and smart and really makes you think about what you’d do for a dream job.

The Path of Good Response is told via two timelines. We follow Joe Massey right from the beginning in his interview with Schelldhardt. You can tell right from the offset it’s going to be an interesting ride, just by the way he has to navigate himself to the actual interview! The second timeline we follow Arnold Shendi, through some past experiences and also in the current day. The story is told really nicely through these two timelines, providing a full picture of the events and scenarios.

Almost the entire novel takes place aboard a ship, the Ananke, which I found an interesting take on a workplace. Being at sea for long stretches with colleagues and no connection to the outside world is intense. I can imagine it being something people would consider for the right price and it definitely provided an alternate backdrop to the usual office employment scenario.

Joe, as a central character was interesting. He was nicely portrayed as a ‘real’ person. A flawed individual, straight from university with realistic decisions and motives. I like characters who seem like people you’d meet in real life and he was exactly that, just an ordinary guy!

There was a couple of shocking moments for me, towards the end where everything comes together. I didn’t see them coming at all! The way the book and its context is linked together is really clever and I enjoyed it.

The Path of Good Response is out now, published by Vanguard Press. You can purchase the novel below (and also support independent bookshops!)

Bookshop.org

Note: This is an affiliate link. If you purchase via this link, I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Until next time,

Blog Tour | Create Your Own Calm by Meera Lee Patel

Today it’s my stop on the tour for the wonderful Create Your Own Calm: A Journal for Quieting Anxiety by Meera Lee Patel. Thank you to Love Books Tours for the blog tour invitation and for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

From the bestselling author of Start Where You Are, a beautifully illustrated journal for easing the everyday anxieties we all carry.

Feeling anxious, uncertain, overwhelmed? You’re not alone. In this empowering new tool for self-care, popular artist and author Meera Lee Patel presents a fresh approach to feeling better. Designed to help us better understand ourselves and dial down the everyday worries getting in our way, these thoughtful and beautifully illustrated journal pages are a safe space for reflection, self-acceptance, and the freedom to move forward with more clarity and joy.

Bringing together inspiring quotes from great thinkers and writers throughout history and engaging journal prompts and plenty of room to capture your thoughts, the book is a calming breath of fresh air and a quiet space to reflect and recharge in a hectic and uncertain world.

Review

Create Your Own Calm is a really beautiful book, both externally and internally. I definitely feel like it’s one of the few times when you are permitted to judge a book buy it’s cover, because you’d definitely want to choose this one!

The book begins with an introduction from Meera which I felt was a nice personal touch. It feels like she is speaking to you directly and she discusses anxiety in a very informative and easy to follow way. She makes you feel immediately less alone and discusses her own anxiety. Positivity really shines through and it definitely provides feelings of hope and comfort.

There are lovely quotes scattered throughout the pages and gorgeous illustrations that really add to the book. The leaves on the cover provide a feeling of calm and tranquility and are really only the tip of the iceberg. The images inside the pages with their colours and vibrancy are truly wonderful. Learning that Meera is a self-taught artist makes them even more special, it’s definitely clear that she has put so much time into the curation of Create Your Own Calm!

There are lots of exercises to complete to help ease and relieve anxiety. They can take as little or as long a time as you want them to. They are also a really mixed bag – some are writing based and others are drawing based. There are even some that involve simply circling options. Having the ability to mix things up and also having choices is really useful. Depending on your mood, or level of anxiety, you can pick something that you need to think about or something which is a bit easier, like the circling.

It’s nice to have the freedom to pick and choose which exercises to complete depending on your mood. Not having to follow a linear structure meant I could just open the book on a page and have a see if the exercise was something I felt would be beneficial to me on that day. If it wasn’t then I’d just simply find something else.

I really recommend Meera’s book to anyone, even if you don’t think you particularly suffer from anxiety. I think this year has been especially testing on us all. Coronavirus, lockdown’s, being apart from loved ones… All these things have taken their toll in different ways and I think anxiety is probably much more prevalent than it was at the start of 2020. This is a really nice way to redirect your thoughts, unwind your mind and take a few moments to yourself.

Create Your Own Calm is out now, published by Michael O’Mara Books. You can follow the link below to purchase (whilst also supporting independent bookshops!)

Bookshop.org

Note: This is an affiliate link. If you purchase via this link, I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Be sure to check out the rest of the tour dates, they’re running until 23rd December!

Until next time,

Book Review | Just A Small Town by Paul Linggood

Thank you to Paul Linggood for gifting me a copy of his novel Just A Small Town in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

A small town that could be anywhere: industry in decline, streets in decay, many have left, while those left behind take short-term joy in drugs.

Four young people are among the left behind.

Alex consumes heroine to escape his abusive father. Jim hides from guilt after the death of the friend he didn’t save. Chelsi’s brother killed a local boy, and ostracism pushes her towards a rival gang, prostitution and loneliness. Danny is a hustler but needs protection from the drug gang that supplies him.

Can any of them survive the addiction, gang life, isolation and manipulation?

Their small town could be anywhere.

Review

Alex, Jim, Chelsi & Danny are four young people, all mixed up in things that they shouldn’t be. Their stories are staggered across timelines and they are each involved in a number of negative events. Will each of them end up in a bad way, or is there light at the end of the tunnel?

As a word of warning there are challenging topics within this book and also a lot of swearing.

Just A Small Town felt like an interesting learning curve for me. Being somewhat naive, I had little idea about the severity of gangs and addiction to the extent covered in the storyline. I found the length of such goings on especially shocking and also the sacrifices that were made both intentionally and unintentionally.

The four characters worked well and I found them to be a great balance. Their ‘issues’ and perspectives were nicely dissimilar but also linked in some way which I found fascinating. I found myself with a lot of empathy for them, as although they were ‘bad’, it was obvious they were highly impacted by their upbringings. It was also good to have one character as a female and to provide an alternative angle to how women (girls) can get caught up in that world.

A chapter at a time is told by each of the characters which provides a broad overview of the goings on in the area that they live, and also how they are all intertwined. It’s fascinating to read, the sometimes unexpected, link and/or involvement between the characters and their respective problems.

I did have an issue with the timelines in the novel, as they were quite often confusing. The uncertainty around whether time had passed meant I found myself guessing from something that was said or mentioned in the description, instead of clarified directly. I think starting each chapter with either an age or year indicator may have helped with this and provided some clarity.

The ending was really unexpected, in a good way, as I feel like it did the storyline justice and also provided a resolution and a hint at hope in an otherwise dark story.

Hard-hitting and aggressive in nature, Just A Small Town really packs a punch. Definitely one for Crime lovers who like something a little different, and at only 180 pages it’s a fairly quick read.

You can buy the novel using the link below (& also support independent bookshops!)

Bookshops.org

Note: This is an affiliate link. If you purchase via this link, I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Until next time,

Book Review | One Day in December by Josie Silver

I don’t normally read ‘Christmas’ books but One Day In December by Josie Silver sounded like just the tonic for this year!

Synopsis

Laurie is pretty sure love at first sight doesn’t exist. After all, life isn’t a scene from the movies, is it? But then, through a misted-up bus window one freezing day, she sees a man she knows instantly is the one. Their eyes meet, there’s a moment of pure magic…and then her bus drives away. 

Laurie thinks she’ll never see the boy from the bus again. But at a party later that year, her best friend Sarah introduces her to the new love of her life. Who is, of course, the boy from the bus. 

Determined to let him go, Laurie gets on with her life. But what if fate has other plans?

Review

One December day, Laurie spots a man through the bus window. Their eyes meet and she’s sure she’s just found the one, but the bus drives away. She spends an entire year in pursuit of the unknown man. When she finally finds him, it’s at her Christmas party, on the arm of her best friend Sarah. The question is, does he recognise her and should she tell Sarah, or should she just forget about him and get on with her life?

One Day In December is told across nine years, beginning with Laurie & Sarah’s perspective and then adding Jack’s in to the mix once he’s ‘found’. I liked the way the story was told in this manner as it provided extra information from the relevant point of view. This was then, usually, flipped to another P.O.V. just at the moment you’d want it to be.

I really took to the characters. Laurie, Sarah and Jack were all brilliant but I think Laurie was my favourite. She was so easy to warm to, I really felt like I knew her and I really rooted for her through the entire book.

I loved the snippets of information we got across the almost-decade, life events and growing up with the characters. We started out with Laurie and Sarah just finishing uni, and by the end of the novel they were turning 30.

It was just the right amount of ‘Christmas’ in a book for me. Beginning just before Christmas meant it was set around Christmas, and was revisited over the years, but it wasn’t the sole focus.

One Day In December is an emotional rollercoaster of a novel. There are deaths, marriages, break ups and everything in between. This really provides the best mix of events and occurrences and is nicely reflective of such a lengthy time-span. The ability to feel like you’re growing with characters is special and I felt like you really got to know them. I liked the way the novel was written as it provided pivotal information, which was just enough but not too much so as to overwhelm.

I highly recommend One Day In December for a lovely, heartbreaking, emotional but equally heart warming read.

One Day In December is published by Penguin books & is out now. You can purchase the book below (and help support independent bookshops!)

Bookshop.org

Note: This is an affiliate link. If you purchase via this link, I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Until next time,

Book Review | The Game by Luca Veste

I haven’t read a Police Procedural in quite a long time, and when I discovered this was also a thriller-come-psychological-mystery I was instantly sold. Massive thanks to Jess Barratt for kindly sending me across a copy of The Game by Luca Veste in return for an honest review.

Synopsis

An edge-of-your-seat thriller that merges the twists of a psychological-mystery with the investigative layers of a procedural . . .

THEY KNOW WHAT YOU DID
You receive a call, an email, a text – someone knows your secret and they want to ruin you.

AND THEY’RE OUT FOR BLOOD
If you don’t do what they say, they’ll tell everyone what you’ve been hiding.
They will come after you, destroy you, and they aren’t afraid to kill.

IT’S TIME TO PLAY THE GAME

Review

Detective Constable Mark Flynn, alongside his DI and DC, is investigating missing teenager Emily Burns. They find blood but no body. Mark quickly becomes invested in the case and tangled in the web of confusion, trying to piece together what’s happening. Bodies, some kind of game, but will Mark get to the bottom of it before it’s too late?

The novel is told in two time lines – now and before. It begins with now – an interview which is named ‘first interview’ and then switches to before, where it begins with an online forum style post and information regarding player one and two. We then switch to Mark. There is also an after time line which occurs at the end!

I have to admit, at first, I was completely thrown and didn’t know what was going on with the first two sections. I think this can sometimes happen with books set in multiple timelines when they’re trying to create context and give you all the necessary background information. Looking back it does make perfect sense to me now and it’s all relevant context. I did come to like the layout and the drip feeding of information. I really enjoyed the moment when I realised what the context around the interviews meant just before it was revealed. I audibly gasped and had to take a moment!

I was really taken with Mark as a character, I thought he was brilliant and very realistic. Often police procedural novels seem to involve a somewhat rigid and closed-off protagonist but I enjoyed the fact we knew a little about Mark’s life outside of work from the beginning. This gave him a bit more personality and meant I immediately warmed to him.

The book was a real page turner and I definitely powered through the last 100 pages. I really wanted to see where it would end and I’m pleased it was an ending that felt true to the plot and, most importantly, made sense. There are a number of twisty points in the plot that I genuinely didn’t see coming which was brilliant! I really recommend this book if you are interested in crime reads and police procedural, but with a twist of psychology mystery/thriller. This is a real page turner!

The Game is out now and is published by Simon & Schuster. You can use the link below to buy the book (& also support local bookshops!)

Bookshop.org

Note: This is an affiliate link. If you purchase via this link, I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Until next time,

Blog Tour | The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton

It’s my stop on the paperback blog tour for The Last Wife by Karen Hamilton. Huge thanks to Rosie at Headline/Wildfire for the chance to be apart of this tour and for kindly sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

Synopsis

Two women. A dying wish. And a web of lies that will bring their world crashing down.

Nina and Marie were best friends-until Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before she died, Nina asked Marie to fulfill her final wishes.

But her mistake was in thinking Marie was someone she could trust.

What Nina didn’t know was that Marie always wanted her beautiful life, and that Marie has an agenda of her own. She’ll do anything to get what she wants.

Marie thinks she can keep her promise to her friend’s family on her own terms. But what she doesn’t know is that Nina was hiding explosive secrets of her own…

Review

Marie and Nina are best friends. After Nina is diagnosed with a terminal illness that causes her to pass away prematurely, she entrusts Marie with a few specific final wishes. Marie quickly entangles herself in Nina’s world, even more solidly than when she were alive. She begins to find out things about her friend that she didn’t know, discovering that she wasn’t the only one keeping secrets. Will Marie get what she wants and will Nina’s wishes be fulfilled?

The Last Wife definitely kept me engrossed in it’s pages and I was eager to find out what Nina’s secrets were. I knew it was going to be an intense read and I was definitely proven correct!

I enjoyed reading about Nina & Marie’s relationship from a different perspective. The fact that Nina had passed away before the book began provided a fresh interpretation which I don’t recall reading before. Hearing everything in a one- sided way which is then fleshed out by other characters is fascinating. Although friendship is the basis of the novel, it’s definitely not in the cutesy friendship bracelet kind of sense!

Karen has written a really fabulous character in Marie. To put it bluntly, when I was reading, at times, I actually felt like I was her! I was completely immersed in Marie’s world and her emotions. She’s a very intense character with lots of secrets and an overwhelming desire to get what she wants.

Throughout the novel Marie was receiving therapy. Although she didn’t openly talk about it with other characters, it was still good to read about. There were many mentions of her sessions and their discussions, and also her previous therapists. It felt as though Karen was trying to normalise therapy somewhat which was brilliant.

The Last Wife is one big tangled, explosive web. It’s clever, shocking and addictive and definitely one to check out if you’re a fan of psychological thrillers! All I can say is I wouldn’t want a friend like Marie…

The Last Wife is out in paperback tomorrow (10 December). You can buy it here (& also support local bookshops!)

Bookshop.org

Note: This is an affiliate link. If you purchase via this link, I’ll get a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour, which can all be found below!

Until next time,

Book Review | The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva

I was kindly gifted The Existence of Amy by Lana after being approached via my blog. The book’s narrative is based around mental health and this instantly drew me to wanting to read it. Thank you again Lana for gifting me your novel!

Synopsis

Amy has a normal life. That is, if you were to go by a definition of ‘no obvious indicators of peculiarity’, and you didn’t know her very well. She has good friends, a good job, a nice enough home. This normality, however, is precariously plastered on top of a different life. A life that is Amy’s real life. The only one her brain will let her lead. 

A fictional story that depicts the reality of mental illness behind a perception of normality.

Review

Amy lives alone but isn’t lonely, she has a good job and a number of friends at her workplace. Ed, Sally and Nathan, along with Ben are all sturdy friends featuring in her life. They encourage her to attend work socials, birthday drinks and even a work trip to Australia. Amy, however, struggles with a number of mental health related thoughts and issues which can go alongside these events, that each build up in her mind and become something far bigger. Will she soar or will her struggles get the better of her?

Amy is very captivating and reading of her experience with mental health was a real eye-opener in some aspects. Although she is a fictional character it was easy to believe her struggles and situation are real. I think it was also easy to feel her emotions and envisage them as happening to yourself or someone close to you.

I could really relate to elements of this novel, and some of Amy’s behaviour I recognised as behaviour I had exhibited in the past. I didn’t have the same conditions as she did but avoidance tactics and not wanting to ‘bother people’ with your problems are just a couple of examples. There’s also the feeling of embarrassment and not wanting to be honest with people. I completely resonated with that – I think it’s hard to feel ‘different’ and to admit you might be experiencing something that’s ‘not normal’. This is obviously far from true because so many people, 1 in 4 in fact, suffer from a form of mental illness and it’s much more common than many people think. It’s easy to believe at the time that you’re the only one going through something, so I think any fiction or literature based around the topic is welcomed.

This novel is very, although I believe not intentionally so, educational. I feel it would be brilliant for someone who has or is experiencing mental health issues and I think it could really help with the feelings of not being the only one experiencing something. I also think it would be especially useful for family or friends who want to learn more or read an example of what can go through people’s minds and ways that may or may not be helpful to support or assist. To be honest, anyone who has an interest in mental health could possibly learn a thing or two from this book!

Until next time,

Blog Tour | Banking On Murder by J.D. Whitelaw

Today it’s my stop on the Blog Tour for Banking On Murder by J.D. Whitelaw. Huge thanks to Meggy at Red Dog Press for my spot on the tour!

Synopsis

Martha Parker runs a small private detective agency in Glasgow with her two sisters, Helen and Geri. They specialise in catching cheating partners and those playing away from home. 

The Parkers are hired by the reclusive wife of a wealthy banker she suspects is breaking their vows, but when he shows up murdered, it’s up to Martha, Helen and Geri to prove the wife’s innocence in their most dangerous case yet.

Review

Martha, Helen & Geri are ‘The Parker Sisters’ and have recently set up their own detective agency. Up until now they’ve been dealing with affairs and small fry, until they’re contacted by Tracey, who’s interested in discovering the truth about her husband Gordon’s affair. The situation escalates and Gordon winds up dead and Tracey is accused of murdering him. Is she as innocent as she claims?

Martha, Helen & Geri are a fab trio of characters. I enjoyed their relationship, and watching their character traits blossom, especially towards each other. They effectively come as a package deal and are heavily involved in the business and each other’s lives which was nice to see. Their bickering and natural roles within their quite large age differences made way for a realistic and entertaining character relationship.

The Glasgow setting was interesting as I’ve never visited Scotland before. The small nods to the city landmarks and the River Clyde were nice touches and made it feel more of a realistic novel. In addition to this, it was also set at Christmas time but in fairly subtle manner. I found this nice as it added a little extra sparkle and made a nice external backdrop to the story.

Whitelaw’s writing creates vivid imagery, which is often associated with humour. I particularly enjoyed the image portrayed of the Parker sister’s shoved into a tiny cupboard, quickly and desperately hiding themselves from being caught being somewhere they shouldn’t!

Although a good book, the dialect didn’t always resonate with me. There were times when some of the language was, I felt, not something that would be said by the age of the character. This was especially true for Helen. There were some almost archaic terms that, as someone in their late twenties, I wouldn’t use so I don’t imagine someone at thirty would either.

The other thing I struggled with slightly was the limited number of characters. This made the novel easy to follow but also I found it limited the playing field and therefore left a small number of suspects. I found this made it easier for me to guess the plot line. I didn’t manage to guess the entirety of it, however, and so I was left with some elements of mystery which I enjoyed!

Overall I think this book is an enjoyable, light-hearted read and I would recommend it. I look forward to seeing where the Parker sister’s will be taken next!

Make sure to check out the rest of the stops on the tour, which you can find in the banner below.

Until next time,