Review | The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

One for anyone in need of an uplifting story. 4/5 stars.

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary

Thank you to Quercus Books and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

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.

My take:

This book serves up everything you’d expect from the blurb and cover, and sometimes it’s great to get exactly what you were hoping for.

Bibliotherapy is actually a thing, and this is the sort of story I would prescribe to anyone who needed cheering up. The Flatshare is a fabulous happy hug of a book in which dragons are slain and everything gets wrapped up nicely. If that sounds like the sort of uplifting read you need right now, I wouldn’t hesitate in seeking this book out.

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Review | Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

A deftly-handled tale about stories and storytellers. 4/5 stars.

Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Thank you to Random House UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can it be explained by science?

My take:

As the title gives away, Once Upon a River is a story about stories. I think the main reason it’s so successful as a good yarn is the effort that has gone into creating atmosphere. The author is particularly successful in conjouring up the damp, sometimes murky conditions of the riverside, which makes an evocative setting for scurrilous and possibly supernatural events. The use of the third person narrator also works very well as it’s in keeping with an oral narrative tradition which includes fairytales and myths.

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Review | The House on Half Moon Street by Alex Reeve

A solid series opener. 3/5 stars.

the house on half moon street by alex reeve

Thank you to Bloomsbury, Raven Books and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: The start of an enticing new historical series set in Victorian London; introducing Leo Stanhope: a transgender coroner’s assistant who must uncover a killer without risking his own future

Leo Stanhope. Avid chess player; assistant to a London coroner; in love with Maria; and hiding a very big secret.

For Leo was born Charlotte, the daughter of a respectable reverend. But knowing he was meant to be a man – despite the evidence of his body – and unable to cope with living a lie any longer, he fled his family home at just fifteen and has been living as Leo: his secret known to only a few trusted people. But then Maria is found dead and Leo is accused of her murder. Desperate to find her killer and under suspicion from all those around him, he stands to lose not just the woman he loves, but his freedom and, ultimately, his life.

My take:

I’m partial to stories set in the Victorian period, a mystery and original characters, and The House on Half Moon Street promised all three.

The descriptions of Victorian London are very successful. The details are excellent, and the passages which conjour up the dingier, fogbound parts of the city were particularly evocative.

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Review | The Last by Hanna Jameson

A gripping story let down by its final act. 4/5 stars.

The Last by Hanna Jameson

Thank you to Penguin UK and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Breaking: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington

Breaking: London hit, thousands feared dead

Breaking: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm

Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.

Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?

My take:

This is certainly an attention-grabbing scenario! You may read the blurb and think, “yeah, but how real will the story seem?” The answer? Scarily so. Maybe it’s because the narrator is a historian and attempting to record everything as factually as possible that makes the narrative feels very realistic. The reactions of all the characters to the end-of-the-world scenario are believable and as varied as they are. The hotel guests are an interesting mix of nationalities and personalities which makes for some dramatic clashes. Also, obviously, being cut off from the world with winter setting in and food supplies dwindling puts pressure on everyone that has to boil over in places.

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Review | Side by Side by Anita Kushwaha

A tough, moving story about learning to live with loss. 4/5 stars.

Side by Side by Anita Kushwaha_cover

Thank you to the author and Inanna Publications for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: Kavita Gupta is a woman in transition. When her troubled older brother, Sunil, disappears, she does everything in her power to find him, convinced that she can save him. Ten days later, the police arrive at her door to inform her that Sunil’s body has been found. Her world is devastated. She finds herself in crisis mode, trying to keep the pieces of her life from falling apart even more. As she tries to cope with her loss, the support system around her begins to unravel.

In the wake of tragedy, if a fresh start is possible for Kavita? Will she escape her problems and start over? Or will she face the challenges of rebuilding the life she already has? Side by Side is a story about loss, growth and the search for meaning in the wake of tragedy,

My take:

From reading the blurb, you’ll appreciate this isn’t an easy read. Side by Side is an unflinching look at loss and, more specifically, survivor’s guilt and the maelstrom of emotions experienced when losing a loved-one to suicide.

However, this is not a depressing book. The story is structured in three acts entitled Fall, Crawl and Rise. As this makes clear, while you’ll reach a point where things look rather bleak for the main character they do eventually start to get better. And although the story is tough, it is definitely worth sticking with, as it’s wonderful to see how Kavita grows through her darkest moments of grief and emerges stronger and wiser.

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Review | The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

An ambitious murder mystery. 3/5 stars.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Thank you to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for giving me an e-copy of this book.

The blurb: During the languid days of the Christmas break, a group of thirtysomething friends from Oxford meet to welcome in the New Year together, a tradition they began as students ten years ago. For this vacation, they’ve chosen an idyllic and isolated estate in the Scottish Highlands—the perfect place to get away and unwind by themselves.

They arrive on December 30th, just before a historic blizzard seals the lodge off from the outside world.

Two days later, on New Year’s Day, one of them is dead.

The trip began innocently enough: admiring the stunning if foreboding scenery, champagne in front of a crackling fire, and reminiscences about the past. But after a decade, the weight of secret resentments has grown too heavy for the group’s tenuous nostalgia to bear. Amid the boisterous revelry of New Year’s Eve, the cord holding them together snaps.

Now one of them is dead . . . and another of them did it.

Keep your friends close, the old adage goes. But just how close is too close?

My take:

I was excited to read this as it looked like an interesting combination of some classic murder mystery tropes with darker thriller elements. Perhaps I went in with inflated expectations because sadly I was left disappointed.

I appreciate that the author is trying to take a different approach to a classic murder mystery problem. Like many “closed suspect pool” mysteries, the story starts with the discovery of a body, leaving the characters and us to work out who the murderer is. The Hunting Party runs another mystery in parallel to the “whodunnit” by also keeping back who the victim is until confirming the identity of the deceased at about the 80% mark. Continue reading…

Review | The Other Wife by Juliet Bell

The Other Wife by Juliet Bell

Thank you to HQ Digital and NetGalley for providing me with an e-copy of this book.

The blurb:

Outback Australia, 1981

After a terrible childhood, Jane comes to Thornfield as nanny to the adorable Adele, watched over by the handsome and enigmatic Edward. Plain and inexperienced, Jane would never dream of being more than his hired help. But swept up in the dramatic beauty of the Outback, she finds herself dawn to Edward. And, to her surprise, he seems to return her feelings.

But Jane is not the first woman Edward has pledged to make mistress of Thornfield.

As a child, Betty was taken from her English home and sent for adoption in Australia. At first, no-one wanted her, deeming her hair too curly, and her skin too dark. Until the scheming Mr Mason sees a chance to use Betty to cement a relationship with the rich and powerful Rochester dynasty…

When Jane discovers Betty’s fate, will she still want to be the next Mrs Rochester?

My take:

Earlier this year I read and reviewed Juliet Bell’s first novel, The Heights, an excellent retelling of Wuthering Heights. I enjoyed seeing how the story worked when moved to the twentieth century, so was pleased to hear Juliet Bell’s next novel would be a reimagining of Jane Eyre, one of my all-time favourites. I was particularly intrigued when the blurb made it clear this was a radical shift from the original, moving the story over a hundred years closer to the present and thousands of miles away from its English setting.

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Review | Snowday by B. R. Maycock

 As the temperature drops outside, curl up with heart-warming novella. 4/5 stars.

Snowday by B. R Maycock cover

The blurb: Sometimes hot cocoa just isn’t enough to keep you warm in the snow…

Eloise is too busy juggling the chaos of three kids, an ever present ex-husband and a demanding boss to even remember the last time dating crossed her mind.

But as soft snow falls silently all around, romance twinkles with the flakes.

After being single for so long, Eloise suddenly has a lot of choices. Too many choices. Will anyone be worthy of melting the guard around her heart to let love in?

My take:

Whether you’re a fan of the festive season or dreading its approach, you have to admit that November is zipping past and December 25th will be here in a blink. So if you fancy reading something wintry to get you into the holiday mood or escape from the crush of Christmas advertising, B. R. Maycock’s new novella, Snowday, is for you.

This is a fun, heart-warming romance with a sympathetic main character. If you’ve ever had too much on your plate or struggled to juggle everything in your life, you’re sure to empathise with Eloise’s many dilemmas. I mean, who hasn’t resorted to making the kids/themselves dinner from a box from the freezer more often than they think they should?!

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Review | Love, Lies and Café au Lait by Lynn Forth

Bask in some winter sun with this charming holiday romance. 4/5 stars.

Love, Lies and Cafe au Lait by Lynn Forth cover

The blurb: When Annie Roberts has the chance to escape rainy Accrington for the glamour of sunny Nice, it seems like a dream come true, even if it does involve dog-sitting a pampered pooch for the winter.

But, once in France, despite trying to adopt a classy persona, Annie attracts the attention of all the wrong people: from Jacques, an attractive waiter, to Reen, a perma-tanned expat from the Costa del Sol. And just who is the charming Monsieur Xavier who is so keen to befriend her? Dare she enlist his help to solve the mystery left behind by her France-obsessed mother? Can Annie find her way through all the lies, intrigue and deception or is she just too nice for Nice?

My take:

Last year I was delighted to read and review Lynn Forth’s debut, Love in La La Land (click on the title for my review). I’m very pleased to report she’s back with her second novel: a story set slightly closer to home than the bright lights of LA. In Love, Lies and Cafe au Lait we follow the main character, Annie, to Nice as she takes a break from the greyness of her life in Manchester, propelled to the south of France by her more colourful friend, Sophie. If you can only dream of getting away to some winter sun, this novel has it in spades as we join Annie exploring the old town, trying to blend in with the locals at the market and finding a regular cafe where she can simply relax and soak up the atmosphere.

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Review | The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond #TheGoldenOrphans @GaryRaymond_ @parthianbooks#damppebblesblogtours @damppebbles

A short, sharp thriller which will keep you guessing. 4/5 stars.

The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond cover

Published by Parthian Books on 30th June 2018.

Hello everyone! I’m delighted to be one of today’s stop on the blog tour for The Golden Orphans by Gary Raymond. Thank you to Emma at damppebbles and the author for giving me the chance to read and review the book.

The blurb:

Within the dark heart of an abandoned city, on an island once torn by betrayal and war, lies a terrible secret…

Francis Benthem is a successful artist; he’s created a new life on an island in the sun. He works all night, painting the dreams of his mysterious Russian benefactor, Illy Prostakov. He writes letters to old friends and students back in cold, far away London. But now Francis Benthem is found dead. The funeral is planned and his old friend from art school arrives to finish what Benthem had started. The painting of dreams on a faraway island. But you can also paint nightmares and Illy has secrets of his own that are not ready for the light. Of promises made and broken, betrayal and murder…

The Golden Orphans offers a new twist on the literary thriller.

My take:

It’s been ages since I read a book when I honestly had no idea what to expect next. This was the greatest pleasure in reading The Golden Orphans which will keep you guessing the whole way through possibly because it refuses to fit neatly in any one genre: it’s part mystery, part thriller, and almost a coming of age story, if a character can “come of age” as part of a midlife crisis! Refreshingly, the author never gives into the temptation to over-explain, instead trusting the reader to keep up and not mind finding out exactly what’s going on at the same time as the main character.

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