After what has felt like the longest January of all time, we have finally muddled through to the end! It’s been a difficult start to the year, with a lockdown that feels like it has no end date and a lot of rain. It has, however provided us with a lot of fabulous books.
I’ve read more books than I think I ever have in a single month before. It’s been a busy old month with a lot of blog tours, and most importantly, a lot of five star reviews! I took part in seven blog tours, read fifteen books and reviewed thirteen of them. I also took part in my first ever cover reveal.
I don’t think it’s possible for me to pick a single book of the month – there have been some incredible reads. I’m going to have to opt for a top five! Here are my five star reviews, in chronological order; For When I’m Gone, The Push, Keeper, The Burning Girls and Everything is Beautiful. I could easily add all my four star reviews to this list as well, plus Victoria Park that I read last month (but reviewed this month). I think you get the gist that January has been a fantastic book month!
I’m hoping for February to be an equally fabulous but quieter month overall. I have less blog tours, have already read half of the books for those, and less review dates imminent. I’m hoping to be able to read some books from my own ever-growing to be read pile!
As always, a huge thank you to the publishers and authors who provided me with a gifted copy of a book in exchange for an honest review. You’ll find their details tagged in each individual blog post, linked above.
I will update this post with links to the rest of the reviews, as and when they’re posted.
Huge thanks to Alara and Headline for the opportunity to be part of this blog tour and for my copy of Shiver in exchange for an honest review.
They don’t know what I did. And I intend to keep it that way. How far would you go to win? Hyper-competitive people, mind games and a dangerous natural environment combine to make the must-read thriller of the year. Fans of Lucy Foley and Lisa Jewell will be gripped by spectacular debut novel Shiver.
When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can’t seem to let go.
The five friends haven’t seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don’t know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth.
In a deserted lodge high up a mountain, the secrets of the past are about to come to light.
Milla, Curtis, Brent, Heather and Dale, five once-upon-a-time friends who’ve lost touch after each being part of some terrible occurrences at a snowboarding resort. Ten years later all five return, having been invited via email. The first mystery occurs when they realise their email’s were not from who they thought… So what brought them there?
The book is told in a split-timeline manner; as present day and ten years ago. Seeing all five of the characters, plus others such as Saskia, as barely adults compared to present day is intriguing. How they’ve changed, or haven’t changed, how the incidents have affected their lives and the involvement they had versus their telling of the involvement is fascinating. Multiple perspectives told in a really well-done manner that doesn’t overwhelm you with chapters but still makes you feel a part of their experiences.
The five personalities really compliment each other well and I genuinely liked and disliked each character for many different reasons. I did found myself most drawn to Milla, however, as she’s a well rounded character with seemingly honest flaws and expectations.
Before reading Shiver, I had no prior knowledge of competitive snowboarding at all. I’ve never done any snow sports, so gaining an insight into snowboarding and competing was fascinating. All the technical terms and various jumps make the sport seem adrenaline-filled and exciting. I can definitely see why people are so drawn to it. I am a pretty big wimp these days so I can’t say I will be going to try out snowboarding anytime soon, but it was an exciting world to be involved in and live vicariously through the characters in the novel.
Allie Reynolds is a brilliant writer. Her descriptions are vivid and realistic. There a few encounters with certain characters which truly set me on edge. I could feel my heart starting to race and feel the anxiety, fear and other emotions of the characters. It was a brilliant, if scary, experience. It’s also written in a way that constantly leaves you wanting more. One chapter ends and you’re eager for the next instalment. It’s a true page-turner!
Shiver is a twisty, edge-of-your seat, gripping debut which I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s out now, published by Headline. You can purchase a copy using the link below (and also help support independent bookshops!)
I’m delighted to share a cover reveal with you today. Huge thanks to Vicky and Aria fiction for contacting me with this opportunity. Patience looks and sounds fantastic and I’m excited to share it with you!
If you were offered the chance to be ‘normal’ would you take it? Do we even know what ‘normal’ is?
The Willow family have been through a lot together. Louise has devoted her life to her family and raising her disabled daughter, Patience. Pete now works abroad, determined to provide more, even if it means seeing less of those he loves. And Eliza, in the shadow of her sister, has a ‘perfect’ life in London, striving to live up to her mother’s high standards.
Meanwhile, Patience lives her life quietly, watching and judging the world while she’s trapped in her own body. She laughs, she cries, she knows what she wants, but she can’t ever communicate this to those who make the decisions for her. Patience only wants a voice, but this is impossible.
When the opportunity to put Patience into a new gene therapy trial to cure her Rett syndrome becomes available, opinions are divided, and the family is torn.
The stakes are high, and they face tough decisions in the hunt for a normal life. But is normal worth it? What do we even consider normal? Is Patience about to find out…?
About the Author
Victoria Scott has been a journalist for more than two decades, working for a wide variety of outlets including the BBC, Al Jazeera, Time Out, Doha News and the Telegraph. Alongside her love of telling real-life stories, she has also always written fiction, penning plays, stories and poems ever since she first worked out how to use her parents’ electric typewriter.
When she’s not writing, Victoria enjoys running incredibly slowly, singing loudly, baking badly and travelling the world extensively.
Victoria is a Faber Academy graduate. She has a degree in English from King’s College, London and a Postgraduate Diploma in Broadcast Journalism from City University, London. She lives near London with her husband and two children, and works as a freelance journalist, media trainer and journalism tutor.
You can connect with Victoria on Facebook: @VictoriaScottJournalist, Twitter: @Toryscott and Instagram: victoriascottauthor.
Massive thanks to Georgia and Viking for the opportunity to be on the blog tour for Keeper and for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
He’s been looking in the windows again. Messing with cameras. Leaving notes. Supposed to be a refuge. But death got inside.
When Katie Straw’s body is pulled from the waters of the local suicide spot, the police decide it’s an open-and-shut case. A standard-issue female suicide.
But the residents of Widringham women’s refuge where Katie worked don’t agree. They say it’s murder.
Will you listen to them?
An addictive literary page-turner about a crime as shocking as it is commonplace, KEEPER will leave you reeling long after the final page is turned. ________________
Keeper is a fantastic thriller novel and I can’t believe that it’s a debut!
The book begins with ‘Then’ as Katie meets her boyfriend Jamie. It tells the story of their relationship from their initial meeting in a bar. Their relationship history is honest, raw and somewhat complicated. ‘Now’ is a combination of two things. The first, you learn of DS Whitworth and DC Brookes, the police officers working on the case of Katie Straw. The second is from the women’s refuge, where Katie worked. You are told histories and brief stories of the residents, you learn of conversations they each had with Katie and get a deeper insight into the woman who runs the refuge, Val.
I enjoyed this weaving through timelines and gaining snippets of information from each side. Learning of Katie before and after her death was insightful. The women at the refuge and their histories were fascinating, and I enjoyed learning of their backstories. They were a tough read at times and definitely not without emotion, but it made each character feel that bit more realistic and clear cut in my mind.
The two police officers, Whitworth and Brookes, make a great duo, with the younger Brookes balancing out the older Whitworth. Whitworth, close to retirement, says some out-of-turn remarks and Brookes opens his eyes to the modern day. They each learn from each other, and although are newly working together, appear to make a great team.
I won’t say which one, but there is a character in the novel that really riled me. I haven’t felt such strong negative emotions for a character in a very long time. Reading it, I wanted to swoop in and be a saviour. I definitely felt some strong emotions of anger and disgust. A sure example of Moor’s exceptional writing!
I don’t think I can fully articulate my thoughts on this but, the twist was AMAZING. I didn’t see it coming at all. It completely shocked me and was so cleverly interwoven. I have to admit it well and truly blew my mind, and made me want to re-read the novel! One of the best twists I’ve read in a very long time.
The novel’s primary focus is around domestic violence, with Katie working in a women’s refuge, and it has an incredible amount of links and information to follow at the end if you’re affected, know someone who is, or simply want to educate yourself. I think it’s amazing to be raising awareness of such an important topic in such an accessible, somewhat indirect way. I’m sure this will appeal to many and raise a lot of additional awareness.
A hard-hitting but incredibly clever book, with just the right amount of pace and an incredible twist. One I will not be forgetting about in a hurry. Highly recommend! Keeper is out now in paper back from Peguin Books U.K. and you can purchase it using the link below (& also help support independent bookstores!)
Massive thanks to Anne & Random Things Tours for the opportunity to be on this blog tour, and for a copy of The Mystery Shopper and the Hot Tub in exchange for an honest review!
Brooke’s a gorgeous young mum who lives in Essex. Her favourite things in life: 1. Her baby, Paige 2. Husband Dean 3. Chardonnay 4. Hot tubs 5. OK! magazine
All that’s missing is the hot tub. Brooke’s bored at home and wants financial independence, but mostly a hot tub and Dean’s a man with traditional values and he doesn’t want Brooke to work. She secretly takes a job at a nearby country house, meeting the incorrigible Lady Townsend. This unlikely friendship, plus some jaw-dropping events, helps Brooke realise that she’s capable of so much more than she thought. Dean is a devoted husband and father, and, knowing what Brooke wants most of all in life, he secretly takes up mystery shopping hoping to make some extra money to pay for it. And if he gets some peace and quiet whilst doing so, all the better. The elaborate web of lies they both weave results in numerous madcap situations, but can their deceit undermine the love that they have?
The Mystery Shopper and the Hot Tub is a laugh-out-loud novel. Brooke and Dean De’Ath are a pair of characters. A married couple that are as similar as they are different, they’re a stereotypical ‘Essex’ duo, with a one-year-old girl. Brooke is stay-at-home Mum who cares for her daughter, but dreams of bigger things. She gets a ‘secret’ job working in a country house for a Lady and is drawn in to a world that couldn’t be more different from her own. Dean is a call centre worker itching for a promotion, and a company car, and takes on mystery shopping for some time away from his family. They are a hilarious duo who favour parties with their friends, a more extravagant lifestyle and, it appears, hiding secrets from each other.
The book is split into chapters with subheadings which provide a bit of a sneak peak as to what you can expect in the chapter. These are nicely chronological and helpful as you have a rough guide as to what you’re going to see from the De’Ath’s. What follows is usually either a new segment in the story, or finishing off something you’re already aware of that’s part-way through. I liked this as it was different to other novels I’ve read previously, making it stand out, and it was nice to have a clearer idea of what to expect.
Field’s writing is clear, concise and, above all else, humorous. The book is a really lighthearted read. I loved laughing along with, and sometimes at, Brooke and Dean. Their shenanigans are really quite something. I feel like I say this a lot nowadays, but to read about every day life and the ‘old normal’ is refreshing and enjoyable. Envisioning a sense of normality through books is something I really cling on to these days!
The book finishes on a cliffhanger, which would usually be frustrating. In this instance, however, if you’re eager to find out more then Helen has kindly included a link at the end of the novel. If you follow it then you can read a bit more of Brooke and Dean’s story, continuing on from where this book finishes and a further few pages to appease the tension and prepare you for the next novel. I thought this was a nice addition to the book and very thoughtful of Helen.
The Mystery Shopper and the Hot Tub is a really humorous novel, with likeable characters and a strong storyline. It’s out now, published by In Jest, and you can buy it from Amazon in both eBook and paperback format.
Be sure to check out the other stops on the tour, you can find all the details in the banner below.
Thank you to Mike for sending me a copy of The Sharmanscopes Lockdown Special 2020 in exchange for an honest review.
The Sharmanscopes return after a six-year absence to save us from Lockdown! Concentrating on one week in Lockdown in the UK, you can check what each day’s Sharmanscope predicts for each of the twelve traditional stars of the zodiac. Maybe you will discover your lucky letter of the Greek alphabet, maybe you’ll decide that the Sharmanscopes are scarily accurate? Whatever happens, you can be assured of puns, chuckles, groans and predictions for life that only the Sharmanscopes can deliver!
The Sharmanscopes Lockdown Special 2020 is a collection of faux-horoscopes written by Mike. A week of ‘Sharmanscopes’ for each of the star signs, including ‘predictions’ as well as lucky items. Seven days and twelve horoscopes with roughly three ‘predictions’ per day. It is jam-packed, despite it’s shortness at only 65 pages!
The book is a collection of humorous, tongue-in-cheek puns and ‘dad jokes’. It’s a nice relief from the seriousness of the climate we currently find ourselves in and a stark contrast to the conditions that it was inspired/based around. There is a good deal of content that would no doubt be partially relatable to many, prior to the joke setting in, such as ‘You decide to clear out the loft today…’ This ensures it’s context is somewhat realistic to readers.
A short and easy read, that’s less about the context of ‘faux-horoscopes’ and more about chuckling at a collection of jokes.
The Sharmanscopes Lockdown Special 2020 is out now and you can purchase via Amazon for Kindle or Paperback.
Thank you to Antonia & Headline Books for sending me a proof copy of How The One Armed Sister Sweeps Her House in exchange for an honest review.
In Baxter’s Beach, Barbados, Lala’s grandmother Wilma tells the story of the one-armed sister, a cautionary tale about what happens to girls who disobey their mothers.
For Wilma, it’s the story of a wilful adventurer, who ignores the warnings of those around her, and suffers as a result.
When Lala grows up, she sees it offers hope – of life after losing a baby in the most terrible of circumstances and marrying the wrong man.
And Mira Whalen? It’s about keeping alive, trying to make sense of the fact that her husband has been murdered, and she didn’t get the chance to tell him that she loved him after all.
HOW THE ONE-ARMED SISTER SWEEPS HER HOUSE is the powerful, intense story of three marriages, and of a beautiful island paradise where, beyond the white sand beaches and the wealthy tourists, lies poverty, menacing violence and the story of the sacrifices some women make to survive.
How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is a book which is heavily focused around survival. Three women, in exceptionally different circumstances, all find themselves with a common denominator. The way the characters stories and lives, seemingly unrelated at first, are entwined and woven together is astounding. As you may have guessed from the synopsis, it’s fairly heavily focused around violence. It’s not overly graphic in it’s depictions, however, but it is a challenging read at times. I found it to be well portrayed, honest and emotive.
The book is told through multiple perspectives and timelines: Lala, Mrs Whalen, Martha, Wilma, Adan, Beckles and Tone. There are quite a number of characters in this novel and all of them are an integral part of the storyline. The primary focus, however, is Lala, along with Wilma and Mira. I was drawn to each of them for different reasons. They are all very contrasting characters but have a connection with one another, for numerous reasons which become clear as the novel progresses. I really enjoyed being a part of the story, despite it being a fairly emotional read.
It switches between dates but these are clearly written above each chapter. This is a great way of obtaining all the facts through the generations in this novel, whilst also painting the picture of the present day. The backstory was filled in well and I felt like I learnt more from the existing characters because of it.
Cherie Jones writes wonderfully and the pace of the writing is perfect. The repetition of phrases and words across sentences works really nicely. The descriptions are incredible and you can almost taste the salty sea water and feel Lala’s braid beads in your hands. Jones’ choice to include snippets of Bajan dialect was a special touch and I enjoyed feeling closer to their reality. It definitely added an additional layer to their personalities and extended them out as people.
The stark contrast between the rich tourists of Barbados with their big houses and their unlimited amounts of cash and the poor, vulnerable island residents is astounding. The difference in their lives and it’s focus is astonishing. It’s something which I had no real knowledge of and was a real lesson to have learnt.
The sadness you feel for the characters is real and heartbreaking. I can’t imagine a life which resembles how many of them suffered. How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House has left with many takeaway points, but I think the most important one is that it’s left me feeling even more grateful for my own situation.
How The One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House is a moving, exceptional debut that takes you on a journey. From the comfort of your home, it places you on a beach in Barbados and you follow numerous journeys along the way. I’d highly recommend it. It’s published today (21st January 2021) by Headline. You can purchase the book by clicking the link below (& also help to support independent bookshops!)
It’s my stop, and the last day, on the blog tour for First Day of My Life! Thank you to Annabelle for inviting me on the tour & sending a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
There are three sides to every story… It’s GCSE results day. Frankie’s best friend, Jojo, is missing. A baby has been stolen. And more than one person has been lying. Frankie’s determined to find out the truth and her ex-boyfriend Ram is the only person who can help her. But they’re both in for a shock… EVERYTHING is about to change.
Frankie and Jojo are best friends. It’s GCSE results day and Jojo is supposed to be at Frankie’s house so they can go and collect their results together, but she doesn’t show up. One for always being on time, Frankie finds this strange. Even more strange is that she isn’t answering her phone… A local baby named Olivia Sinclair goes missing, around the same time as Jojo disappeared. Frankie is determined to find out the truth, but with no other means of transport she enlists her ex-boyfriend Ram to help. Did her best friend steal a baby, or is their more to the story than meets the eye?
I have to admit, YA is a new genre to me. The synopsis instantly drew me in and I am glad I gave this book a chance, I thoroughly enjoyed it!
The three main characters, Frankie, Ram, Jojo are all ‘average’ teens. The bond between Frankie and Jojo is lovely and a true reflection of close friendship at sixteen years old. The ex- Ram, and Frankie’s struggle to get over him despite knowing they were a wrong fit is also an accurate reflection. Their lives feel very synonymous with typical teens and it’s a refreshing read, casting my mind back to my own teenage years. Although mine were not quite this interesting!
The book is primarily set in Nottingham which I loved. The mention of the ice rink was a complete throwback to my own teens, even down to the mention of the feet stench. It really does permeate the place! Being Midlands-based, I spent loads of time there when I was younger, visiting with my friends on weekends or school holidays. I also went to uni there for a while and it was nice to find somewhere familiar in a novel and be able to picture it in vivid detail!
The novel is told in 4 parts / 3 perspectives; Frankie, Jojo, Ram and a combined viewpoint end section. I enjoyed reading from each person’s point of view and also gathering their backstory from their perspective. It provided interesting all-round knowledge of the story and the use of different fonts for each was a nice touch too.
I felt the story and the novel itself were really quite emotive. The overarching theme of pregnancy permeated the novel. I felt it was dealt with in a brilliant manner, one which goes against stereotypes and makes things seem less ‘end of the world’ scary which was intelligent and reassuring. It was well portrayed but also sensitively addressed in all the places it needed to be.
There are a number of twists and shocking turns which were unexpected, but equally brilliant and well received. I love that point where you start to guess something just before it’s announced and you’re in complete shock. I had a few of those moments with this novel!
The writing was wholly accurate to life with a newborn baby. I got major nostalgia and was taken right back to the cry, feed, sleep cycle of early motherhood! The fact that the baby shared a birthday with my son just made me like the story even more.
If you fancy delving into your teenage years and reimagining your self in Frankie, Jojo or Ram’s shoes, whilst simultaneously grasping the explosive emotions and close friendships which go alongside this and the added pressure of a potential baby, I’d highly recommend Lisa’s novel.
First Day of My Life is published by David Fickling Books and is out now. You can purchase it using the link below (and also help independent bookshops!)
It’s my stop on the blog tour for Keep Walking, Rhona Beech by Kate Tough. Huge thanks to Love Books Tours for the chance to be a part of the tour and for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
When Rhona’s story comes to an end you will miss her. Her candid, raw, messy journey will make you laugh, cry and remember. Not a typical break-up book, it’s much more profound. Nothing has turned out quite how Rhona imagined: she’s been casually swapping one job for another while getting comfy in a long relationship which ends abruptly, and her efforts to adjust to that change are thrown by some unwelcome news…
Flawed, relatable Rhona Beech narrates this beautifully written, pacey satire about female friendship, heartbreak, career change, conceiving and illness, which will appeal to fans of Fleabag. Join her on a laugh (and cry) out loud search for meaning amongst the bars, offices and clinics of Glasgow.
Will her friendships survive the changes and challenges? Will SHE survive? At once funny and tender, Keep Walking, Rhona Beech is a clear-sighted look at a generation of women that was told they could have it all.
Keep Walking, Rhona Beech is a book that is extremely reflective of daily life, if not similar to your own then certainly is completely imaginable as someone you know, or even someone you don’t! Rhona is what you could class as a typical thirty-something woman. Grieving the ending of a relationship, going to work and trying to fill in the down-time with social activities with her close-knit friends, and the odd date. It was really refreshing to read about someone going about their daily life, especially during the current pandemic/lockdown situation that we all find ourselves in. Reading about Rhona casually popping out for coffee, going for dinner with friends and jumping on the subway, all little things we probably all used to take for granted, was a nice reminder of ‘before’ COVID.
The book is written in a way where the narrative flows between days and time, without any real knowledge of specifics. Some days last a few pages, other mere sentences. This is unusual and it’s different to anything I’ve read in that aspect. I usually struggle when books contain an ambiguous timeline but I felt it suited Rhona and the novel. I also found it a breath of fresh air in the sense I wasn’t invested in particular timelines or exactly what was happening when. There are, however, a couple of segments throughout the novel that are written in italics and I struggled to work out what they were. Sometimes they appeared to be dreams, other times memories and I feel like more clarity on that would have been helpful, but otherwise the narrative worked well.
Told in the first person, we are drawn straight into Rhona’s world from the first word. Rhona is an interesting character and we learn of her life and relationships. Her world consists of her best friends, parents and work colleagues (and at a later point, her cat!) Reading how these relationships change and alter through the course of the novel was interesting. I didn’t feel any particularly strong feelings towards Rhona but it’s hard not to have empathy with some of the things she deals with. She goes through some major life events and it’s nice to read of a character who is going through life and experiencing things. Not always good things but the reality of life is just that. Her personality definitely shifted and it was a nice to read about.
You can purchase Keep Walking, Rhona Beech using the link below (& also support independent bookshops!)
Thank you so much to Andrew + Rebecca for sending me a copy of For When I’m Gone in exchange for an honest review.
Because there’s never enough time to say goodbye…
Sylvia knows that she’s running out of time. Very soon, she will exist only in the memories of those who loved her most and the pieces of her life she’s left behind.
So she begins to write her husband a handbook for when she’s gone, somewhere to capture the small moments of ordinary, precious happiness in their married lives. From raising their wild, loving son, to what to give their gentle daughter on her eighteenth birthday – it’s everything she should have told him before it was too late.
But Sylvia also has a secret, one that she’s saved until the very last pages. And it’s a moment in her past that could change everything…
I was drawn to For When I’m Gone right from reading the synopsis. Reading about family life is so wholesome and the promise of a secret lured me in!
The book is told through two timelines and a perspective; Sylvia’s manual, then and now. It also finishes with ‘when’, so you could say there are actually three. I really enjoyed this split. That familiar, enticing feeling of finishing one section and needing to know what happened next was very present. Being equally drawn in by the following section really helped, however!
Sylvia’s manual is her voice, told prior to her passing. It’s kind of a ‘how to live without her’. I really like when there is a first person narrative for a character who isn’t directly present in the storyline, it’s nice to still be able to learn about them in their own words. The ‘then’ is the past. This starts right from Sylvia and Paul’s first meeting and Sylvia’s life, up until her passing. ‘Now’ is life as is, without her present. I really enjoyed being able to piece together the narrative over the course of the book and the split between first and third person was a perfect balance.
Rebecca is a wonderful writer. The whole of For When I’m gone is exceptionally emotive and beautifully written. The grief is so raw but the entirety of the book is so realistic. I found the characters actions to be true to life and perfectly balanced with those real emotions; guilt, denial, anger etc.
I really enjoyed Sylvia as a character and being part of her world. The way the book is written through timelines allows you to learn about Sylvia and Paul as a couple, and also Sylvia as an individual. It was lovely to be able to see the kind of people they were and how that altered across the decade.
The book is exceptionally thought provoking and has definitely had a lasting impact on me. I feel it’s important to make a conscious effort to spend more time in the moment and also less time on my phone or wishing time away to an event in the future. I think it’s easy to take things for granted or as a given but I really felt this book put that into perspective.
A highly emotional, heartbreaking but beautiful debut novel. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend!
For When I’m Gone is out now, published by Orion books. You can buy it using the link below (& also help support independent bookshops!)