REVIEW: Insatiable

“When I come, it’s like falling into a bottomless black hole. I’m so overwhelmed by pure sensation that I feel nothing. But this time, it’s pure white light. I’ve been shot into a galaxy of luminous, trailing stars.”

What Did I Think?

So…same old story, I saw A LOT of excitement for this book and without a second thought, I bought the book because I wanted a peice of the action!

The blurb makes it sounds deliciously dirty and naughty but I was left wanting so much more. Don’t get me wrong some of the scenes are RAUNCHY and ridiculously sexy, but I felt like it was a bit ‘tame’ on that front.

However, sex aside, one thing I did enjoy about this book was the exploration of relationship dynamics. We have so many different types of relationships going on in this book and it was refreshing/interesting to see how dating/love/sex have changed in modern times. Daisy Buchanan perfectly sums up this feeling that ‘there should be more to life than this’ and hence why our narrator/protagonist goes searching for more and more…

Overall, I enjoyed it but I wasn’t overly blown away by it. It might just me but I WANTED MORE. It did spark very interesting questions about modern dating/relationships though which was really fun!

Insatiable

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Sphere
Published: 2021
No. Pages: 337
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Trigger Warnings: Sex, Group Sex, Psychological Abuse, Guilt, Broken Marriage, Miscarriage, Depression
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells 

ARC REVIEW: Nick

Happy Publication Day to NICK by Michael Farris Smith!

2021 marks the 125th anniversary of F.Scott Fitzgerald and to celebrate his lifetime and work, Michael Farris Smith has given voice to one of the most famous unreliable narrators of all time…Nick Carraway.

Giving him his own story, NICK tells the tale of the man before Gatsby, breathing life into a character that is famous for being on the side lines.

Before Nick Carraway moved to West Egg and into Gatsby’s world,  he was at the centre of a very different story – one taking  place along the trenches and deep within the tunnels of  World War I. Floundering in the wake of the destruction he  witnessed first-hand, Nick embarks on a redemptive journey  that takes him from a whirlwind Paris romance – doomed  from the very beginning – to the dizzying frenzy of New  Orleans, rife with its own flavour of debauchery and violence.

As you all know, I’m a huge lover of classics and The Great Gatsby has to be one of my favourite books because in just over 200 pages, the most incredible story takes place. In NICK, the story is just as exciting and was the perfect escapism I needed. Very different from The Great Gatsby, NICK is a far more focused on the violence and lawlessness of pre-prohibition America, and provides a stunning depiction of life post-WW1. With compelling characters and a sense of uneasiness, this book beautifully and cyclically provides a real understanding of the loss and guilt caused by war.

By the end, I was ready to read The Great Gatsby for the one millionth time! Thank you to No Exit Press for approving my advanced copy on NetGalley.

Get your copy now from Amazon and Waterstones!

ARC REVIEW (& EXTRACT): Daughters of Night

What Did I Think?

I would have never considered myself a lover of historical crime fiction but here I am, having read two of Laura Shepherd Robinson’s books now and I think it’s slowly becoming one of my favourite genres.

And that is well and truly a result of LSR’s descriptive narratives and how she slowly builds tension, drama and suspense throughout her books.

‘Daughters of Night’ isn’t really a sequel as such to her first book ‘Blood and Sugar’ but it does include similar characters, the main one being Caroline Corsham.

After witnessing the brutal murder of a local/well-known sex worker whilst in the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, she sets herself on a mission to hunt down the murderer and get justice. Yet along the way, she finds herself getting mixed up in all sorts of deception and deciet and finds herself in very treacherous water…

This books is THICC but one that I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Each chapter gives just enough for you to keep you wanting more. I think my guess on ‘who done it’ changed about 15 times haha.

I am really enjoying this genre and I think if you already love historical fiction, I think you should try historical crime fiction. I definitely don’t think you’ll be disappointed with ‘Daughters of Night’ anyway!

Extract

Chapter One

In the wrong hands a secret is a weapon.

Caroline Corsham was alive to the danger, to the vulnerability of her position – she had thought of little else since last night’s disaster. Yet now that the truth was known – her secret guessed, the blade honed sharp – what choice did she have left, except to believe? A last roll of the dice. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. These banalities spurred her on. God grant me courage.

Taking a ginger comfit from her enamelled pillbox, Caro slipped it into her mouth, her nausea rising. Muslin, lace and brocade hemmed her in on every side; jewelled buttons flashing on embroidered waistcoats; pastel shades of periwig and kid glove; silver buckles glinting in the light of a thousand beeswax candles that filled the domed roof of the Rotunda with their honeyed scent. It was the opening night of Jacobus Agnetti’s exhibition of classical scenes, and half of London society had turned out for the wretched man. Distractedly, she greeted people she knew: allies of her husband in the House of Commons; clients of the Craven Bank; rival beauties, solicitous matrons, admiring gentlemen. Their laughter was shrill, pink faces merged in a smear of complacency. They smile to bare their teeth, before they rip you apart.

REVIEW: Luster

Ahh the book that EVERYONE seems to have read/reviewed. I have to admit when I saw all the hype around this book, I couldn’t resist an impulse buy and I had to bump it up a few places in my TBR too 👀😂

OK, I read this a few weekends ago but it’s taken me some time to process my thoughts and feelings and decide how I really feel about this book.

All in all, I really enjoyed it. It gave me ‘Boy Parts’ vibes (if you’ve not read that then what are you waiting for?!?) and it made me realise that I really enjoy reading about problematic narrators and sexual relationships. 👀

If you don’t know, Luster is about a young woman (Edie) who starts seeing an older white man named Eric. Eric is married and has an adopted black daughter, but it seems that his wife has agreed to a sort of open relationship and knows about Eric and Edie’s ‘relationship’ (if you can call it that). Edie then starts living with Eric and his family and the dynamic is just STRANGE.

There are a lot of racy scenes in this book, but overall I found myself feeling really sorry for Edie and the circumstances she found herself in. It’s like she thought so little of herself that she allowed Eric and other people around her to just use her as and when they pleased. I found myself wanting to just shake her and tell her she deserved SO much better. Yet, I suppose the circumstances she found herself in where a result of the questionable decisions she made.

Did I enjoy this book? YES!! Can I tell you why? No 😂 I think it’s just one of them books that when you read it, you’ll understand what I mean. I wasn’t overcome with emotion and the story moves at a slow and steady pace, but the writing and descriptions are phenomenal and Raven Leilani is a true delight to read. I can’t wait to see what she brings out next 👀

Luster

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Picador
Published: 2021
No. Pages: 240
Genre: Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Sex, abuse, polygamy, racism, inappropriate workplace behaviour
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells 

Richard and Judy Book Club: Winter Collection

So I’m coming at you again with the latest Richard and Judy Book Club picks. These books are for the Winter 2021 collection and I’m not kidding when I say I want to read every single one of these! They all look like they are the perfect thrillers to sink your teeth into and will definitely keep you busy this season.

Don’t forget that the Richard and Judy podcast explores each individual book and includes author Q&As, so if you decide to read any of these, be sure to check out the episode where Richard and Judy discuss them!

The Other Passenger – Louise Candlish

A gripping thriller full of twists and breathtaking suspense.  Jamie and Clare own a beautiful house in a prosperous London street.  Their much younger friends Kit and Melia can only dream of ever buying a house of their own.  The envy, avarice and sexual tension between them lead to murder.  But which one is the killer?  A brilliantly atmospheric read.

Rules for Perfect Murders – Peter Swanson

Seemingly disconnected murders that can’t be solved. Until the penny drops. They all weirdly echo killings described in world-famous mystery novels, authored by the likes of Agatha Christie, Patricia Highsmith, and Donna Tartt. So, are they in fact connected? Peter Swanson has written a hugely enjoyable, spine-chilling romp of a murder-mystery.

The Glass House – Eve Chase

This is a beautifully-written story. Eve Chase has something of the poet in her: her descriptions of a remote manor house nestling in an ancient forest are worth reading for themselves. But the plot of The Glass House is utterly absorbing in its own right – a foundling baby girl left out there in the woods; then a dead body discovered in the grounds… a wonderful, romantic, compelling mystery.

The Memory Wood – Sam Lloyd

An unforgettably chilling psychological thriller.  12 year-old Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember.  He has no friends.  So, when he finds 13 year-old Elissa abducted and imprisoned in his creepy but beloved Wood, he’s so lonely that he wants to keep her there.  Disturbing, unsettling, and compulsive.

Haven’t They Grown – Sophie Hannah

A great, quirky and addictive read.  What would you think if you bumped into an old friend and her children were 5 and 3, the same age they were when you last saw them 12 years ago?  Beth decides to find out, and the result is this complex and intriguing psychological thriller, full of astonishing twists.  A terrific, intelligent and classy story.

Just My Luck – Adele Parks

Play the lottery. Pay your stakes. But spread the cost and shorten the odds – bet with a group of friends. That means sharing any winnings – which is at the heart of Adele Parks’s cracking story. What if when the big numbers actually come up, only one couple in a syndicate of three believes they should keep all the money (eighteen million pounds of it)? A rich tale of greed and revenge.  

See I wasn’t lying when I said these all look INCREDIBLE. Most of them have been added to my TBR…do any interest you?

Monthly Wrap-Up: January

We are more than one month into 2021 and let’s be honest, we were expecting more weren’t we? We were hoping that a new year would be the end of the pandemic and the start of our ‘normal’ lives again. But instead, it’s been HARD. This lockdown in the UK has arguably been one of the worst. January always tends to be a difficult month anyway, but throw a national lockdown in there with no set dates/timelines in place for us coming out…yeah, thank God I’ve had my books with me.

I’ve noticed that I can get through one book every week, mostly reading in the evenings. I usually finish a book on a Friday night and pick my next one over the weekend. At the minute, my weekends aren’t busy, so I literally spend my days getting excited for the next book.

So let’s take a look at the books I read this month…

“Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives–or to find strength in a very long one.”

Being over 500 pages, it took me longer than usual to read but like everyone had told me, it was an easy read. 

If you don’t know what The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is about, then you’re in for a treat. The book follows a young woman named Adeline LaRue who, in 1714, unintentionally makes a deal with the devil in a desperate act to not marry the man her parents have found for her. The deal? That she will live forever but never be remembered. The moment someone turns away from her, she is instantly forgotten and can’t even write her own name. 

So we follow Addie throughout her 300 years of living in a kind of Forest Gump-style story that places Addie in some of the most important events in history. Yet in 2014, everything begins to change when Addie meets a mysterious man in a bookshop who remembers her… 

Although it took me ages to get through it, it felt a proper journey that I was on with Addie herself. I loved watching her live through decades of history and how she watched the world change before her. I also found it fascinating to see how she learned to worm her way out of sticky situations. 

However, as much as I loved the story, towards the end I felt like the story ended up being something else; more of a love story that felt like it was kind of thrown in at the last minute. I thought it could have easily been half the size it was. Had she focused more on the love story from the start, it would have felt more authentic.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Titan Books
Published: 2020
No. Pages: 560
Genre: Fantasy
Trigger Warnings: Abusive relationship, Alcohol abuse, Assault (physical and sexual), Death, Depression, Drugs, Prostitution, Sexism, Suicide (attempted), War
Links: GoodreadsAmazonBlackwells

“Category one is they can’t stomach the idea of a female colleague and nothing you do will change their minds. Category three is those that are supportive. Category two is the odd one. They tolerate you, but it’s because they’ve decided you’re an honorary man.”

From the start of the book, we follow Hillary in her law school years and in her early 20s where she meets and dates the infamous Bill Clinton. We see their relationship grow and begin to learn about Bill Clinton’s behaviour in his rise to political fame. Yet instead of marrying him and living a life of anxiety/worry, she decides to leave when she gets the opportunity and lead her own life. 

Hillary not only has to prove why she’s good enough to run the country, she also has to fight against the sexist beliefs instilled into generations of American voters. Not only does she have to behave more like a man so she can be heard by those around her, she also has to prove why she is a ‘good’ woman despite not being married or having children. The two consistently contradict each other throughout the book, with Hillary being referred to as ‘more like a man than a woman’ and having her relationship with Bill Clinton always discussed instead of her beliefs/policies. Even as a reader, you can feel the frustration and tiring effect it has on Hillary and her campaign. People don’t take her seriously because she’s either too manly or too womanly. She can’t do right from wrong. 

No matter your political stance, Rodham is a story about one woman’s rise to political fame/success in a world that ‘isn’t meant for women.’ Yet Hillary’s determination and dedication to continue on the path to get what she wants is probably one of the most encouraging parts to the story, even if it’s fictional. Oh, and the chapters featuring Donald Trump will give you a great giggle too.

Rodham

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Doubleday
Published: 2020
No. Pages: 421
Genre: Fiction, Political
Trigger Warnings: Sexism, sexual harassment, sexual abuse
Links: GoodreadsAmazonBlackwells

“I am glad it cannot happen twice, the fever of first love. For it is a fever, and a burden, too, whatever the poets say.”

I had never heard of this classic until a few months ago when the new Netflix film sparked a huge influx in readers. I actually watched the film before reading and was shocked to see so many differences in the timeline of events in the film compared to the book.

The book starts off a bit slow and it took me a while to get used to the pace and the narrator. But once I was a few chapters in, I was hooked. I found the narrator’s style to be VERY (perhaps TOO) descriptive at times but I loved the details of every event.

If you’re unsure what the book is about, a young woman (our narrator) meets the affluent and popular Maxim de Winter whilst in Monte Carlo working as a kind of PA to an unbearable woman. Events transpire and Maxim and our narrator end up getting married and subsequently move back to Maxim’s grand mansion, Manderley. However, the house is riddled with the presence of Maxim’s late wife, Rebecca and our narrator must learn how to familiarise herself in a house and life that isn’t hers. Yet when a dead body is found at the bottom of the sea close to Manderley, it washes up a whole different side to Rebecca’s story…

After finishing the book, it suddenly dawned on me how superb an author Daphne de Maurier is. The way she writes constantly puts the reader on edge and guides the reader to think one way, before brutally switching everything on its head. The constant references to the pungent smell of rhododendrons beautifully illustrates how Rebbeca’s influence is overwhelmingly hard to escape for our narrator.

A truly magnificent book that is as entertaining and relevant today as it would have been when it was released in August 1938.

Rebecca

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Virago
Published: 2015 (1938)
No. Pages: 428
Genre: Classic Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Death, murder, sex, incest, unrequited love
Links: GoodreadsAmazonBlackwells

“We are still precious even with our flaws: they are part of what makes you.”

I understood the essay to be about mental health and nourishing yourself rather than beating yourself up when you feel sad/down. What I really liked about this one was that the author is extremely honest about her experience with mental health and mental health within her family. She writes this beautiful narrative about how it’s ok to ask for help and includes lots of helpful things to remember when things feel like they are too much.

I certainly feel (and have seen a lot of you talking about) that we are all struggling a little bit at the minute and it definitely feels like lockdown 3.0 has hit differently.

Break The Glass

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Publisher: Books That Matter
Published: 2021
No. Pages: 16
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Trigger Warnings: Suicide, mental health, depression, anxiety, breakdown
Links: Goodreads

“You know the worst thing about a man hitting you? Ain’t the hurt. It’s that in that instant you realise the truth of what it is to be a woman. That it doesn’t matter how smart you are, how much better at arguing. It’s when you realise they can always shut you up with a fist. Just like that.”

This was my local book club read and to be fair, this book has been lurking around my TBR for quite some time now. I actually attempted to read it back in Jan 2020 but wasn’t in the right frame of mind. I was then incredibly lucky to be involved with the press release for the paperback edition back in summer 2020 and NOW I’ve finally read it 😂

Now I know a lot of you that have read it, didn’t love it and you couldn’t get into it and I would agree with you. The first few chapters aren’t gripping and I found that I struggled to become interested in the story. But I managed to persevere and THEN I WAS HOOKED.

About 10 chapters in I realised that I was enjoying the story and forming quite a close connection with the two leading female protagonists, Margery and Alice.

The book for me was refreshing in the way that it gave a new narrative to a time period where women were often silenced and treated unfairly. Although Margery and Alice still experience unfair treatment from the patriarchal society around them, the story highlights the power of sisterhood and friendship.

I also love books that highlight the importance of books/reading and I loved Jojo Moyes’ narrative on how books were changing the lives of hundreds of rural/poor communities!

Overall, not the best book I’ve ever read but the imagery and characters were divine, and hit home a powerful message about sticking together.

The Giver of Stars

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Publisher: Penguin
Published: 2020
No. Pages: 448
Genre: Historical Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Racism, sexism, domestic abuse
Links: GoodreadsAmazonBlackwells

“Because there are men who are an answer to a biological imperative, whom I chew and swallow, and there are men I hold in my mouth until they dissolve.”

Ahh the book that EVERYONE seems to have read/reviewed. I have to admit when I saw all the hype around this book, I couldn’t resist an impulse buy and I had to bump it up a few places in my TBR too. I read this last weekend and it’s taken me some time to process my thoughts and feelings and decide how I really feel about this book.

All in all I really enjoyed it. It gave me Boy Parts vibes (if you’ve not read that then what are you waiting for?!?) and it made me realise that I really enjoy reading about problematic narrators and sexual relationships.

If you don’t know, Luster is about a young woman (Edie) who starts seeing an older white man named Eric. Eric is married and has an adopted black daughter, but it seems that his wife has agreed to a sort of open relationship and knows about Eric and Edie’s ‘relationship’ (if you can call it that). Edie then starts living with Eric and his family and the dynamic is just STRANGE.

There are a lot of racy scenes in this book, but overall I found myself feeling really sorry for Edie and the circumstances she found herself in. It’s like she thought so little of herself that she allowed Eric and other people around her to just use her as and when they pleased. I found myself wanting to just shake her and tell her she deserved SO much better. Yet, I suppose the circumstances she found herself in where a result of the questionable decisions she made.

Did I enjoy this book? YES!! Can I tell you why? No…I think it’s just one of them books that when you read it, you’ll understand what I mean. I wasn’t overcome with emotion and the story moves at a slow and steady pace, but the writing and descriptions are phenomenal and Raven Leilani is a true delight to read. I can’t wait to see what she brings out next.

Luster

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Picador
Published: 2021
Genre: Contemporary fiction
# of Pages: 227
Trigger Warnings: Sex, psychological abuse, BDSM, open relationships, adoption, racism
Links: GoodreadsAmazonBlackwells

My February TBR is filled with a number of ARCs this month that I want to get ticked off before their publication date. I’m also reading Swing Time with Molly’s Book Club and Jane Eyre with my own book club, Let’s Get Classical.

BLOG TOUR: The Burning Girls

I’m lucky enough to be joining the blog tour today to celebrate the release of the highly anticipated book, The Burning Girls by C.J. Tudor. C.J Tudor is best known for her dark, thrilling novels such as ‘The Chalk Man’ which hit the shelves back in 2018.

Her new release, The Burning Girls is just as dark and just as thrilling as expected, but also cleverly plays upon years of Sussex history and tradition…

Five hundred years ago in a place named Chapel Croft, eight protestant martyrs were burned at the stake. Thirty years ago, two teenage girls disappeared without a trace. And two months ago, the vicar of the local parish killed himself.

Reverend Jack Brooks, a single parent with a fourteen-year-old daughter and a heavy conscience, arrives in the village hoping to make a fresh start and find some peace. Instead, Jack finds a town mired in secrecy and a strange welcome package: an old exorcism kit.

The more she and her daughter Flo get acquainted with the town and its strange denizens, the deeper they are drawn into their rifts, mysteries, and suspicions. And when Flo is troubled by strange sightings in the old chapel, it becomes apparent that there are ghosts here that refuse to be laid to rest.

But uncovering the truth can be deadly in a village where everyone has something to protect, everyone has links with the village’s bloody past, and no one trusts an outsider.

What Did I Think?

As you know by now, there is nothing that excites me more than a devilish thriller that I can sink my teeth into and The Burning Girls was just that. I had to forcefully tear myself away from the pages and I can easily see how some may devour this book in one sitting.

I absolutely adored C.J Tudor’s writing. She let us grow close to the protagonists but made sure we didn’t trust any of them. The character development is so effortless, I didn’t realise it was happening until the very end.

The pace of the book was also phenomenal. The short, quick chapters were just enough to entice you in, and then brutally leave you hanging. I love to work out the plot/culprit whilst I’m reading, and I loved that every chapter gives you a hint of a clue but still leaves you itching to know more…

Although the book is quite dark and gruesome in some parts, the writing is impeccable and personally, I think it is everything you want from a thriller. Quick chapters. Short sentences. Unnerving scenes. Unpredictable characters.

I thoroughly enjoyed it and I’m so glad that it was my first book thriller of 2021. I loved it that much that I actually texted my best friend, telling her to grab a copy so we could discuss. Definitely one to add to your TBR if you love an edge-of-your-seat thriller dipped in history.

At Home With The Four Indies Book Event

I also had the pleasure in attending the At Home With The Four Indies book event in which C.J Tudor herself, along with Will Dean, discussed their new releases.

C.J. Tudor spoke about her inspiration from the book stemming from her recent move to Sussex, where she stumbled across the traditions of a local town, Lewes. It is the tradition in Lewes to hold bonfires in remembrance of the Protestants who were burnt there. Upon hearing about this tradition and landing herself in a part of the UK that just screamed American Gothic, she was inspired to write a folk horror/thriller that plays upon this bloody and macabre history.

I always find it fascinating to hear the author speak about how they came to write the book and listening to C.J Tudor discuss her inspiration for The Burning Girls just made it SO much more interesting when I came to read it.

If you do decide to read it, I hope you love it as much as I did. It definitely did NOT disappoint.

The Burning Girls

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin)
Published: 2021
Genre: Thriller, Horror
# of Pages: 400
Trigger Warnings: Murder, death, suicide, abuse, child abuse, blood, homelessness, sexual abuse
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

As always, thank you to Gaby Young, Michael Joesph and C.J Tudor for letting me be part of the blog tour for this spectacular novel.

My Favourite Bookstagrammers Pick My 2021 TBR

One of favourite things about Bookstagram is the community feel. That you can literally start a conversation with people from across the world about a book you’re both reading or have read. It’s been an absolute life-saver, especially during those furlough days last summer.

So to celebrate the fantastic Bookstagram community and support we give each other, I’ve asked 12 of my favourite Bookstagrammers to pick a book to feature on my 2021 TBR! Thankfully, they picked some of the books I’ve been wanting to read for quite a while now and there’s a great range of different books to keep me occupied in what looks like yet another year of lockdowns.

So without further ado, let’s get started!

Georgia Reads Books: The Mountains Sing

Georgia is one of my faves purely because she has two dachshunds and a gorgeous cat called Max. She also lives in Brighton and is always making me so jealous of being by the sea every day. She has a great taste in book (obviously) and she picked The Mountains Sing for me!

The Mountains Sing tells an enveloping, multigenerational tale of the Tran family, set against the backdrop of the Viet Nam War. Tran Dieu Lan, who was born in 1920, was forced to flee her family farm with her six children during the Land Reform as the Communist government rose in the North. Years later in Hà Noi, her young granddaughter, Hương, comes of age as her parents and uncles head off down the Ho Chí Minh Trail to fight in a conflict that will tear not just her beloved country but her family apart.

Vivid, gripping, and steeped in the language and traditions of Viet Nam, The Mountains Sing brings to life the human costs of this conflict from the point of view of the Vietnamese people themselves, while showing us the true power of kindness and hope. This is celebrated Vietnamese poet Nguyen Phan Que Mai’s first novel in English.

Eva’s Book Corner: My Best Friend’s Exorcism

I’d say that Eva is the Queen of Bookstagram! Her pictures are fantastic and always bring a smile to my face. She actually once had a Bookstagram photoshoot whilst jumping out of plane… She absolutely LOVES horror and dark thrillers and when she was reading My Best Friend’s Exorcism it looked fantastic, so I was unbelievably happy when she picked this one for me. I also have Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires which is supposed to be just as good!

Abby and Gretchen have been best friends since fifth grade, when they bonded over a shared love of E.T., roller-skating parties, and scratch-and-sniff stickers. But when they arrive at high school, things change. Gretchen begins to act….different. And as the strange coincidences and bizarre behaviour start to pile up, Abby realises there’s only one possible explanation: Gretchen, her favourite person in the world, has a demon living inside her. And Abby is not about to let anyone or anything come between her and her best friend. With help from some unlikely allies, Abby embarks on a quest to save Gretchen. But is their friendship powerful enough to beat the devil?

Double Booked: Twisted

Me and Jess found each other through a mutual friend and couldn’t believe how many people we both knew when we started talking. She’s a fellow Mancunian (which is always a great thing) and we have VERY similar reading tastes too. When she picked a Steve Cavanagh book for me, I was so unbelievably happy because Fifty Fifty was INCREDIBLE and Twisted looks just as good.

BEFORE YOU READ THIS BOOK
I WANT YOU TO KNOW THREE THINGS:

1. The police are looking to charge me with murder.
2. No one knows who I am. Or how I did it.
3. If you think you’ve found me. I’m coming for you next.

After you’ve read this book, you’ll know: the truth is far more twisted…

Molly’s Book Club: Rodham

Molly is a beautiful soul inside and out. She reads some incredible books and is definitely the go-to Bookstagrammer if you’re searching for some feminist, women-empowered book recommendations. When she read Rodham earlier last year, I remember being so intrigued so couldn’t wait to read this one.

In the real world, Hillary followed Bill back to Arkansas, and he proposed several times; although she said no more than once, as we all know, she eventually accepted and became Hillary Clinton.

But in Curtis Sittenfeld’s powerfully imagined tour-de-force of fiction, Hillary takes a different road. Feeling doubt about the prospective marriage, she endures their devastating breakup and leaves Arkansas. Over the next four decades, she blazes her own trail—one that unfolds in public as well as in private, that involves crossing paths again (and again) with Bill Clinton, that raises questions about the tradeoffs all of us must make in building a life.

Rodham was my January book and if you’d like to read my review, you can find it here!

Read With Ro: Long Way Down

Ronah is a little Scottish beauty! She is always reading and sharing her knowledge and insight into being a University student in the midst of a pandemic. She has incredible taste in books and I was so intrigued when she picked this graphic novel of me. I’ve never read a graphic novel before and the synopsis sounds SO GOOD…

Will’s brother Shawn was just murdered. And Will knows the rules. No crying. No snitching. Revenge. That’s where Will’s now heading, with that gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, the gun that was his brother’s gun. He gets on the elevator, seventh floor, stoked. He knows who he’s after. Or does he? As the elevator stops on the sixth floor, on comes Buck. Buck, Will finds out, is who gave Shawn the gun before Will took the gun. Buck tells Will to check that the gun is even loaded. And that’s when Will sees that one bullet is missing. And the only one who could have fired Shawn’s gun was Shawn. Huh. Will didn’t know that Shawn had ever actually USED his gun. Bigger huh. BUCK IS DEAD. But Buck’s in the elevator?

Just as Will’s trying to think this through, the door to the next floor opens. A teenage girl gets on, waves away the smoke from Dead Buck’s cigarette. Will doesn’t know her, but she knew him. Knew. When they were eight. And stray bullets had cut through the playground, and Will had tried to cover her, but she was hit anyway, and so what she wants to know, on that fifth floor elevator stop, is, what if Will, Will with the gun shoved in the back waistband of his jeans, MISSES.

Veronkia’s Volumes & The Bibliomaniacxo: The Vanishing Half

Veronika and Charley are two of my favourite Bookstagrammers that have been there ever since I created my account. We are always sharing new insight into what we’ve learnt about Bookstagram tips etc and their pictures are truly stunning!

I am also a rep for Charley’s new business The Biblio Book Shop and by using my discount code STUCKINTHEBOOK1 you can get 10% off any order.

Anyway, I’ve wanted to read The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett for a while now so when both of these fabulous ladies picked this book for me, I was OVER THE MOON!

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing.

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

A Bookish Scientist: Thirteen

Jen is probably one of the most loveliest and cleverest people I think I’ve ever met. We actually used to work together back in our Cath Kidston days! She has the best taste in books and her Science Saturdays were the highlights of my lockdown weekends. She picked Steve Cavanagh’s other book, Th1rt3en, I was thrilled (pardon the pun haha). This book, out of all of Steve’s book, is the one I’ve been waiting to read for some time now!

The serial killer isn’t on trial. He’s on the jury…

They were Hollywood’s hottest power couple. They had the world at their feet. Now one of them is dead and Hollywood star Robert Solomon is charged with the brutal murder of his beautiful wife. This is the celebrity murder trial of the century and the defence want one man on their team: con artist turned lawyer Eddie Flynn.

All the evidence points to Robert’s guilt, but as the trial begins a series of sinister incidents in the court room start to raise doubts in Eddie’s mind. What if there’s more than one actor in the courtroom?

Words, Wine and Wit Book Club: City of Girls

Jemma runs her own book club and her Bookstagram feed is truly beautiful. She takes beautiful Bookstagram pictures and creates gorgeous templates for anyone to us. She is also just the loveliest person too and I was so delighted when she picked City of Girls because I’ve been wanting to read this one for so long. It looks so boujie and I feel like it matches Jemma so much haha!

In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves – and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.

Now ninety-five years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life – and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it.

Dear Katherine Anne: The Hate U Give

Katherine is a the definition of entrepreneur. She is currently studying for her Masters AND also runs her very successful bookish shop From Katherine Anne which features some incredible pins, bookmarks and stationary all made from her own designs.

Katherine picked The Hate U Give for me and told me it was one of her favourite books of 2020 so I have high hopes for this one…

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

Drafted Dreams: The Thursday Murder Club

Lucy is one of my closest friends and this Welsh beauty was also my housemate at University. We have very similar tastes in books, so when she was reading The Thursday Murder Club and she loved it, I was hoping she’d pick this one for me!

In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes; together they call themselves The Thursday Murder Club. Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim and Ron might be pushing eighty but they still have a few tricks up their sleeves.

When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club suddenly find themselves in the middle of their first live case. As the bodies begin to pile up, can our unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?

Read Em and Weep: A Court of Thorns and Roses

Me and Em are constantly loving and reacting to each other’s Bookstagram stories and Em’s pictures/aesthetic is honestly beautiful. When I asked her to recommend a book for me, she couldn’t stress enough how much she was surprised by A Court of Thorns and Roses so now I’m ridiculously excited to delve into this one.

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

Book Club and Chill: Cold Sunflowers

The support I get from Samantha is unlike no other. I held my first ever Instagram Live with Samantha where we had a Q&A on our favourite books and hobbies. She runs her own book club too and some of the books picked are so thought-provoking and gripping.

Cold Sunflowers is one of Samantha’s favourite books so I couldn’t believe my luck when she picked this one for me!

It’s 1972. Raymond Mann is seventeen. He is fearful of life and can’t get off buses. He says his prayers every night and spends too much time in his room.

He meets Ernest Gardiner, a gentleman in his seventies who’s become tired of living and misses the days of chivalry and honour. Together they discover a love of sunflowers and stars, and help each other learn to love the world.
Ernest recounts his experiences of 1917 war-torn France where he served as a photographer in the trenches … of his first love, Mira, and how his life was saved by his friend Bill, a hardened soldier.
But all is not as it seems, and there is one more secret that will change Raymond’s life for ever.

So that’s my 2021 TBR and I have to say, my favourite Bookstagrammers have done VERY well with their picks. Let’s see what this year has to offer!

What’s on your 2021 TBR?

Richard and Judy Book Club: Christmas

As you know I’m a HUGE fan of the Richard and Judy Book Club at WH Smith and they always seem to pick some of the best/popular books before they become popular.

I managed to get my hands on the Christmas collection and it features some very intriguing books. What I love most about Richard and Judy books is that they feature lots of added goodies at the back such as book club discussion questions and author Q&As. Their podcast often features author interviews too which, once you’ve read the book, is a great listen.

Here were the books featured in the Christmas collection:

Mum & Dad – Joanne Trollope

It’s been twenty-five years since Gus and Monica left England to start a new life in Spain, building a vineyard and wine business from the ground up. However, when Gus suffers a stroke and their idyllic Mediterranean life is thrown into upheaval, it’s left to their three grown-up children in London to step in…

Sebastian is busy running his company with his wife, Anna, who’s never quite seen eye-to-eye with her mother-in-law.

Katie, a successful solicitor in the City, is distracted by the problems with her long-term partner, Nic, and the secretive lives of their three daughters.

And Jake, ever the easy-going optimist, is determined to convince his new wife, Bella, that moving to Spain with their eighteen-month-old would be a good idea.

As the children descend on the vineyard, it becomes clear that each has their own idea of how best to handle their mum and dad, as well as the family business. But as long-simmering resentments rise to the surface and tensions reach breaking point, can the family ties prove strong enough to keep them together?

A Conspiracy of Bones – Kathy Reichs

It’s sweltering in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Temperance Brennan, still recovering from neurosurgery following an aneurysm, is battling nightmares, migraines, and what she thinks might be hallucinations when she receives a series of mysterious text messages, each containing a new picture of a corpse that is missing its face and hands. Immediately, she’s anxious to know who the dead man is, and why the images were sent to her.

An identified corpse soon turns up, only partly answering her questions.

To win answers to the others, including the man’s identity, she must go rogue, working mostly outside the system. That’s because Tempe’s new boss holds a fierce grudge against her and is determined to keep her out of the case. Tempe bulls forward anyway, even as she begins questioning her instincts. But the clues she discovers are disturbing and confusing. Was the faceless man a spy? A trafficker? A target for assassination by the government? And why was he carrying the name of a child missing for almost a decade?

With help from a number of law enforcement associates including her Montreal beau Andrew Ryan and the always-ready-with-a-smart-quip, ex-homicide investigator Skinny Slidell, and utilising new cutting-edge forensic methods, Tempe draws closer to the astonishing truth.But the more she uncovers, the darker and more twisted the picture becomes…

Away With the Penguins – Hazel Prior

Veronica McCreedy lives in a mansion by the sea. She loves a nice cup of Darjeeling tea whilst watching a good wildlife documentary. And she’s never seen without her ruby-red lipstick.

Although these days Veronica is rarely seen by anyone because, at 85, her days are spent mostly at home, alone.

She can be found either collecting litter from the beach (‘people who litter the countryside should be shot’), trying to locate her glasses (‘someone must have moved them’) or shouting
instructions to her assistant, Eileen (‘Eileen, door!’).

Veronica doesn’t have family or friends nearby. Not that she knows about, anyway . . . And she has no idea where she’s going to leave her considerable wealth when she dies.

Shadowplay – Joseph O’Connor

1878- The Lyceum Theatre, London. Three extraordinary people begin their life together, a life that will be full of drama, transformation, passionate and painful devotion to art and to one another. Henry Irving, the Chief, is the volcanic leading man and impresario; Ellen Terry is the most lauded and desired actress of her generation, outspoken and generous of heart; and ever following along behind them in the shadows is the unremarkable theatre manager, Bram Stoker.

Fresh from life in Dublin as a clerk, Bram may seem the least colourful of the trio but he is wrestling with dark demons in a new city, in a new marriage, and with his own literary aspirations. As he walks the London streets at night, streets haunted by the Ripper and the gossip which swirls around his friend Oscar Wilde, he finds new inspiration.

But the Chief is determined that nothing will get in the way of his manager’s devotion to the Lyceum and to himself. And both men are enchanted by the beauty and boldness of the elusive Ellen. This exceptional novel explores the complexities of love that stands dangerously outside social convention, the restlessness of creativity, and the experiences that led to Dracula, the most iconic supernatural tale of all time.

The Split – Sharon Bolton

Two years ago Felicity Lloyd desperately signed up for an extended research trip working on the remote island of South Georgia.

It was her only way to escape. And now he’s coming for her.

Freddie Lloyd has just got out of prison for murder and is on his way to where Felicity is hiding.

And this time, he won’t stop until he finds her. Because no matter how far you run, some secrets will always catch up with you…

Silver Sparrow – Tayari Jones

Set in a middle-class neighbourhood in Atlanta in the 1980s, the novel revolves around James Witherspoon’s families– the public one and the secret one. When the daughters from each family meet and form a friendship, only one of them knows they are sisters. It is a relationship destined to explode when secrets are revealed and illusions shattered. As Jones explores the backstories of her rich and flawed characters, she also reveals the joy, and the destruction, they brought to each other’s lives.

At the heart of it all are the two girls whose lives are at stake, and like the best writers, Jones portrays the fragility of her characers with raw authenticity as they seek love, demand attention, and try to imagine themselves as women.

Richard and Judy’s Book Club Christmas Collection 2020

REVIEW: Rodham

“Category one is they can’t stomach the idea of a female colleague and nothing you do will change their minds. Category three is those that are supportive. Category two is the odd one. They tolerate you, but it’s because they’ve decided you’re an honorary man.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

I decided to read this book because I saw a lot of people sing its praises earlier last year and it was recommended to me by Molly at Molly’s Book Club.

What Did I Think?

So before buying this book, I had no idea that it was about Hillary Clinton IF she had never married Bill (making her Hillary Rodham of course). It is a fantastic fictional twist on history and one that I wish may have happened. 

From the start of the book, we follow Hillary in her law school years and in her early 20s where she meets and dates the infamous Bill Clinton. We see their relationship grow and begin to learn about Bill Clinton’s behaviour in his rise to political fame. Yet instead of marrying him and living a life of anxiety/worry, she decides to leave when she gets the opportunity and lead her own life. 

We follow her throughout her campaigns to become the President of the United States and how her life changes due to her decision to leave her life with Bill behind. What I loved most about the book was Sittenfield’s commentary on women’s inequality, not just in politics but in all aspects of life; parenthood, teaching, media. 

Hillary not only has to prove why she’s good enough to run the country, she also has to fight against the sexist beliefs instilled into generations of American voters. Not only does she have to behave more like a man so she can be heard by those around her, she also has to prove why she is a ‘good’ woman despite not being married or having children. The two consistently contradict each other throughout the book, with Hillary being referred to as ‘more like a man than a woman’ and having her relationship with Bill Clinton always discussed instead of her beliefs/policies. Even as a reader, you can feel the frustration and tiring effect it has on Hillary and her campaign. People don’t take her seriously because she’s either too manly or too womanly. She can’t do right from wrong. 

No matter your political stance, Rodham is a story about one woman’s rise to political fame/success in a world that ‘isn’t meant for women.’ Yet Hillary’s determination and dedication to continue on the path to get what she wants is probably one of the most encouraging parts to the story, even if it’s fictional. Oh, and the chapters featuring Donald Trump will give you a great giggle too.

Rodham

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Doubleday
Published: 2020
No. Pages: 421
Genre: Fiction, Political
Trigger Warnings: Sexism, sexual harassment, sexual abuse
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells