ARC REVIEW: The Twelve Dates of Christmas

“A man is like an optional extra: you should only take one on when it’s beneficial to do so. It’s like refraining for the fourth plate at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you have to have it.”

Why Did I Read This?

I was accepted to read an ARC of this book by NetGalley and I was thrilled because I had seen this book being posted about all over bookstagram so I knew I’d picked a good one. I requested this because as I’ve said in previous blog posts, Christmas-themed books are something I’ve never really read, and I wanted to try that out this year.

What Did I Think?

Well first things first, let me say if you’re wanting a great romantic, cheese-filled story…then The Twelve Dates of Christmas is one for you.

Love Actually. The Holiday. Who doesn’t love a good rom-com around Christmas time? The Twelve Dates of Christmas follows a young woman named Kate who has moved back to her hometown of Blexford, England from London. Following a recent break-up with a guy she had been with for over five years, Kate’s friend decides to sign her up to a dating agency that promises to help singles find love before the holidays. With twenty-three days until Christmas and twelve dates with twelve different men to go on, we follow Kate in her mission to find Mr. Right.

I told you it was cheesy! What I loved about this book was I warmed to Kate almost instantly and that allowed me to just sit back and relax into the story, enjoying and getting the chance to go on each date with her and imagine how cute and Christmassy it must have been. Without spoiling it for you, each date is…unique…in its own way and I loved watching every date unfold.

One thing that’s great when your single is the sheer amount of different dating experiences you get to ‘enjoy’ but now I’m in a committed, loving relationship, I could not imagine anything worse than having to go back out into the dating scene and deal with all the crap that comes with it. Fun as it may be, none of it compares to going on a date night with your partner.

I also loved Kate’s friendships and her amusing family. I loved how even though Kate had moved away from Blexford for quite some years, she was able to rekindle her old friendships and make them better than they ever were.

Although the storyline is completely obvious from reading about 30% of the book, I loved that it panned out the way it did, and it had such a cute and heart-warming end. Just what you need at Christmas time. A truly up-lifting read that has significantly improved my opinion of Christmas-related novels.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Published: 2020
# of Pages: 320
Genre: Comedy, Christmas
Trigger Warnings: Divorce, cheating, sex, stress, loneliness, death
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

ARC REVIEW: The Thief on the Winged Horse

“Happy is as happy does, my brother. If she dwelled on her misfortunes less, then less misfortune would befall her.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

I was kindly gifted an ARC of this book by Victoria at Head of Zeus and I took a chance on this one because fantasy is not my usual genre. The book is out now, and I read the book last month in the lead up to its publication.

What Did I Think?

As I just mentioned, fantasy isn’t my usual sort of thing, but I decided to push the boat out and try something different as the blurb sounded too good to miss…

‘The Kendrick family have been making world-famous dolls since the early 1800s. But their dolls are not coveted for the craftmanship alone. Each one has a specific emotion laid on it by its creator. A magic that can make you feel bucolic bliss or consuming paranoia at a single touch. Though founded by sisters, now only men may know the secrets of the workshop.

Persephone Kendrick longs to break tradition and learn the family craft, and when a handsome stranger arrives claiming doll-making talent and a blood tie to the Kendricks, she sees a chance to grasp all she desires.

But then, one night, the family’s most valuable doll is stolen. Only someone with knowledge of magic could have taken her.’

I really loved the concept of the book that combined doll making and magic. Doll making, in my opinion, is an old-fashioned art that isn’t done hardly as beautifully as it was in previous centuries. What Kate Mascarenhas does beautifully is take us back to a time where this art was celebrated and magically combines this with sorcery.

I loved the family history aspect to the story, and you can really tell how much thought must have gone into creating this community of doll-makers. Our main character, Persephone, is one I absolutely adored. I loved how strong-willed she was, but I also liked how the author made her naïve to her strength and the people around her, to make her growth more substantial.

A recurring theme throughout the book is women’s equality and I thought it was very clever of the author to raise awareness of gender inequality through the means of doll-making/magic. Obviously, the fact that dolls are women, but made by only men, highlights several issues that we can relate to in industries that exist today. Many of the male characters are sexist (some realising it and others not) and refuse to believe that women have the power, patience, and talent to create dolls or control magic.

“Those men don’t want to look at beauty. They want to look at something made for them, to confirm their desire is the most important thing in the world; they want their dolls like they want their women, a painted smile, no internal life of her own and you can blame her for your passions.”

Instead, the female characters within the book are only allowed to hold working positions such as household duties and retail. Persephone is no stranger to these inequalities and is determined to make everyone recognise her talent. Yet with an alcoholic father, and a mother who left her to make something of herself, it’s not easy for Persephone.

There were many uneasy characters in this book, and I loved how Kate made us believe that it could be any of them who stole the valuable doll.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and liked it more than I ever thought I would. My only issue was it took me a while to get into the book at the start is very slow to set the scene and provide the relevant background information. So understandably, the action doesn’t kick in for a while. Yet when the story does get going, it’s definitely one you wish you’d read sooner. 

The Thief on The Winged Horse

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published: 2020
Publisher: Head of Zeus
# of Pages: 400
Genre: Fantasy
Trigger Warnings: Alcoholism, robbery, family feuds, sexism
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

ARC REVIEW: The Heart Club

My last (but certainly not least) stop on the #12DaysOfClinkStreet is my review of The Heart Club by Tom Treasure. Suffering from a heart condition myself, I was extremely interested in this one when Clink Street Publishing offered me a gifted copy in exchange for a review.

The book was certainly more informative and serious than what I normally read but I was fascinated about the progress medical research and technological advances has been made since the 1940s. A perfect read if you’re looking for something more serious.

Last (but certainly not least) is my review of The Heart Club by Tom Treasure

Here’s the blurb:

Surgery on the heart was explicitly ruled out by the medical teaching of the 1940s.

A team of London doctors and scientists led by Russell Brock were determined to challenge and reverse that dogma. Together, they would help to change the history of heart surgery and the chances of survival for future patients. Brock, who had cared for the injured in London throughout the war, was poised to operate on the heart. The outstanding American surgeon Dwight Harken had trained under Brock at the Brompton. They later spent time together at a US army hospital, set in a cluster of huts in the English countryside in anticipation of the 1944 D-day landings. Brock watched Harken remove bullets and shrapnel from soldiers’ hearts and heard him speak at a 1945 meeting of British surgeons. Harken told them about operations on 134 soldiers, all of whom had survived. Coincidentally, wartime comrades in the allied forces medical services had built a bond between Guy’s and Johns Hopkins Hospital, funded by the Clothworkers’ Livery Company. This brought the surgeon Alfred Blalock to Guy’s in 1947 to perform and teach a new operation for children with fatal congenital heart disease. These were familiar at the time as ‘blue babies’ and the operations began to save their lives. With this tangible evidence from Harken and Blalock, Brock’s group — they called themselves a ‘club’ — set out to advance heart surgery.

Their work was meticulously chronicled in a rediscovered volume of minutes which form The Heart Club by cardiothoracic surgeon Tom Treasure. Many of the doctors who were members of the club were his teachers and mentors. To complete the story, three survivors, whose lives were saved by early heart operations, tell their life stories from being blue babies of the 1940s to the present.

The Heart Club is a remarkable account of the magic of medicine and the tenacity of surgical pioneers.

The Heart Club

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Published: 2017
Genre: Non-fiction
# of Pages: 312
Links: Goodreads, Amazon

ARC REVIEW: Olga’s Egg

My next stop on the #12DaysOfClinkStreet comes with a review of Olga’s Egg by Sophie Law. I picked this book to review from Clink Street Publishing because it looks gorgeous and it was something out of my comfort zone.

Next up is my review of Olga’s Egg by Sophie Law

Here’s the blurb:

When Fabergé specialist Assia Wynfield learns of the discovery of a long-lost Fabergé egg made for the Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna, daughter of the last Tsar of Russia, she appears to be the only person with misgivings. On travelling to St. Petersburg to see the egg, Assia moves among Russia’s new rich but finds herself pulled back into a family past she would rather forget. With news that a friend is missing, Assia starts to dig deeper. But does she really want the answers to the questions she is asking? Set in today’s glamorous world of Russian art with glimpses into the lives of the last Romanovs as their empire crumbled in the wake of the Russian Revolution, Olga’s Egg is an enthralling tale of love, family secrets and the artistic treasures that conceal them.

I really enjoyed this book and I thought the storytelling was magnificent. If you’re like me, you probably don’t have a clue of what a Fabergé egg is or how to say it properly. I loved how the book transported me into the depths of Russian culture and it was VERY obvious that the author had done her research.

A great read and now I want my own Fabergé egg too…

Olga’s Egg

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: Clink Street Publishing
Published:
2018
Genre:
Thriller
# of Pages:
314
Links:
Goodreads, Amazon

ARC REVIEW: Breathless

“I’m right here. We’re right here. I can’t tell you what the point of this is except that I’m so fucking happy I met you, and I can’t tell you what’s going to happen… But I do know that right now, in this moment, on this island, I’m where I’m supposed to be, and that’s with you.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

I was able to receive an ARC of this book through NetGalley and the reason I requested this book was because I had heard wonderful things about Jennifer Niven’s previous book, All The Bright Places. So I decided to give her new book Breathless a try to see what all the hype was about…

What Did I Think?

I read this book after reading quite a few dark, heavy and spooky reads and I hoped that this book would give me something light to read. I hadn’t realised that it was ‘young adult’ novel and I really loved the ‘coming of age’ element of this story. 

If you are unaware, Breathless follows Claudine Henry’s final summer before moving to college. But instead of spending this time with her friends, she and her mother head off to a remote island off the Georgia coast. There, amidst the wild beauty of the place, she meets the free-spirited Jeremiah Crew. Their chemistry is immediate and irresistible, and even though they both know that whatever they have can only last the summer, maybe one summer is enough…

What I really loved about this book is the story about how Claudine goes from hating the little remote island to loving it. It gave me flashback to when I used to go to a little Welsh island for the weekends with my grandparents and absolutely hate it until I grew older and it became a place of sanctuary and quietness. 

Claudine experiences the teenage dream of having a summer romance whilst staying on the island. This is where she meets the mysterious and island-hottie, Jeremiah Crew, who will make her experience on the island one she won’t forget. I also love the part that Jeremiah plays in the development of Claudine. We go from witnessing a very torn, emotionally distressed young girl to a girl comfortable in who she is and what she wants to be. 

Overall, I enjoyed it as it provided me with the getaway I needed (even if it was only fictional) but I feel like the ending was missing something…

Breathless

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Published: 2020
Publisher: Penguin
# of Pages: 400
Genre: Young Adult, Romance
Trigger Warnings: Separation, divorce, loneliness, sex
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

ARC REVIEW: The Woods

“TWO girls went in the woods…Only ONE came out.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

I was kindly gifted a copy of this book through a Twitter giveaway held by Rosanna Forte; an editor at Little Brown. The book itself even looks creepy, so I thought in the lead up to Halloween I’d get in the spooky mood…

What Did I Think?

First of all, I expected this book to be a thriller but what I didn’t expect was it to be a ghost story too. I personally think if you got the creators of ‘The Conjuring’ or ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ to make this book into a film, it would be genuinely terrifying. Ghosts surround the main character throughout the majority of the story, and some of the imagery it was creating in my very own head was phenomenal ‘keep-your-bedroom-light-on-whilst-you-sleep’ sort of stuff. 

The Woods follows protagonist Tess who is haunted by the death of her sister 10 years ago. It’s been 10 years since she’s left her hometown but upon her stepmother’s imminent death, she has to return to say her goodbyes but instead, has to relive the nightmare of that night all over again when a body is found at the empty house on the edge of the woods. The truth about that night needs to be revealed but for that to happen, Tess needs to return to the woods… 

All the reviews say that this book is ‘unputdownable’ and ‘utterly additive’ and they are right. I started this book at 8:30 pm one Wednesday evening and was up till 2 am still reading. I had to force myself to put down the book and get some sleep. I was also worried that going to sleep after reading this book would give me some pretty horrific dreams, so I made sure to watch something lighthearted and funny before eventually getting to sleep. 

I love a book that keeps you guessing and this book did exactly that. It made me feel uneasy about every single character in the book, second-guessing them all at some point…even our protagonist. Yet I think the defining element of this book is the imagery it creates. Everything is so descriptive, it was like I was actually watching the film in my head whilst reading. I could picture the house, the woods, each and every character so clearly, it was CREEPY. 

I would highly recommend you give this book a read but don’t blame me when you’re having nightmares…

The Woods

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Publisher: Sphere
Published: 2020
# of Pages: 385
Genre: Crime, Thriller, Horror
Trigger Warnings: Murder, child murder, bullying, depression, PTSD, insomnia, family death, paedophilia, child abuse, trauma, graphic scenes, Stockholm syndrome
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

ARC REVIEW: Salvation Station

“Who would savagely murder a pastor and innocent children, burying the evidence in the flower garden? Why? And most troubling, where was the mother?”

Why Did I Read This Book?

I was gifted a copy of Salvation Station in exchange for an honest review so thank you to Kathryn Schleich for sending a copy across to me. 

I received this book earlier this year and thought in the lead up to Halloween, it would be the perfect opportunity to sink my teeth into this one.

What Did I Think?

Salvation Station has everything a good crime thriller should have. Shocking moments? Check. Gripping storyline? Check. Short and quick chapter to keep the pace of the book quick? Check. 

If you haven’t heard about this book, it follows female police captain Linda Turner, who is haunted by the murders of two small children and their pastor father, and becomes obsessed with solving the harrowing case. She finds herself wrapped up in a mission to expose a fraudulent religious organization and an unrepentant killer. Whilst televangelist Reverend Williams is swept up in his newfound success and plans for his wedding, Captain Turner can only hope that she and her team will catch the Hansens’ cunning killer before more bodies surface.

I really loved that there were lots of entwining stories within this book as storylines like that really add to the tension. I also liked how the reader knew what the characters in the book didn’t and we are left to witness everything unfold…

However, I must note that I didn’t really agree with the final chapter as it focused on capital punishment. I know that capital punishment sparks a lot of debate and personally, this final chapter was probably the most shocking thing about the book. I personally don’t think this chapter was needed but maybe you will think differently? 

Overall a fantastic crime thriller that really had me gripped and I would strongly recommend this book if you’re looking for a quick and exciting read.

Salvation Station

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Publisher: She Writes Press
Published: 2020
# of Pages: 311
Genre: Crime thriller
Trigger Warnings: Murder, graphic scenes, psychological abuse, capital punishment, death
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

ARC REVIEW: The Education of Ivy Edwards

“You know that feeling where you feel like you should be doing better but then one day you realise that maybe you’re exactly where you should be.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

This ARC was sent to me by Hachette and I couldn’t believe my luck when it arrived and it was such a beautiful book! I’m really enjoying these millennial fiction books at the minute because they are so relevant and show that young people don’t have it easy.

What Did I Think?

The comedic elements in this story were comedy GOLD! Hannah Tovey’s humour is second to none there were numerous times during the book where I literally laughed out loud.

The Education of Ivy Edwards follows the story of a thirty-one-year-old who’s fiance breaks up with her unexpectedly one day and her whole life as she knows it turns upside down. She has to learn how to be single and find her happiness again. Her only saving grace is that she has a job (albeit it is one where she works for an absolute psycho) and she has friends that love to party so she can basically drink away her sorrows.

Ivy’s mother is one of the funniest characters I’ve ever read and maybe that is because she reminds me of my mum at times. Ivy’s mother over-dramatically reacts to the smallest of inconveniences and doesn’t seem to care that both her daughters are struggling with the bumps in the road that life keeps throwing them.

There were some moments in which I found quite random and didn’t seem to add to the story and some of the characters in the book, like her sister and her friends were unbearable but overall, I really enjoyed this fantastic and funny story. I particularly loved reading Ivy’s journey to self-love and acceptance and her story definitely showed that adult life can be HARD and it’s OK to go off the rails sometimes.

The Education of Ivy Edwards

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Published: 2020
Publisher: Piatkus (An Imprint of Little Brown Book Group)
# of Pages: 324
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Comedy
Trigger Warnings: Drug and alcohol abuse, breakups, depression, sexual scenes, death, grief
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

ARC REVIEW: Never Say No

“Sometimes saying no to one thing can help you say yes to another.”

Why Did I Read This Book?

I requested this book on NetGalley because it looked funny and a great easy read. And I’m happy to report it was EXACTLY that…

What Did I Think?

Hailey has always been told she can have it all. And saying yes to every opportunity that comes her way seems like the obvious way to make sure she gets it. This novel explores the danger of stretching yourself too much and how you can’t please everyone. 

A number of times throughout the book, I questioned whether I actually liked the main character or not. She went through some hard times and I could relate to how she worked hard to be accepted at work but her personal and social life had to suffer to make it work. 

Sometimes I saw her as selfish and self-centred and if I’m honest, downright stupid in some situations. I loved how the author explored the reasons why the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this story and it really reminded me of Suits/Devil Wears Prada. Although there were moments of seriousness, I enjoyed the easy-to-read chapters and the humour. I read it in one day and I would definitely recommend this as a great summer read!

“Maybe monogamy didn’t limit you to one person but a thousand different versions of them; everything they are and the promise of all they are yet to be, all wrapped up in one.”

Never Say No

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Publisher: Bookouture
Published: 2020
# of Pages: 301
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Women’s Fiction
Trigger Warnings: Adultery, stress
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells

ARC REVIEW: The Black Kids

Why Did I Read This Book?

I requested this book because it coincided with all the protests happening here in the UK and in America. I had seen it everywhere on Twitter and so when I saw it advertised on NetGalley I had to request it.

What Did I Think?

The Black Kids is a coming-of-age debut novel by Christina Hammonds Reed which explores race, class, and violence as well as the importance of being true to yourself. 

One of the reviews I read of this book stated that ‘it should be essential reading for the classroom’ and I definitely agree with that statement. It is set during the 1992 LA uprisings which I shamefully had to research whilst reading the book. What I hadn’t realised is that in 1992, there was uproar in LA after a trial jury acquitted four officers of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for using excessive force in the arrest and beating of Rodney King, which had been videotaped and widely viewed in TV broadcasts. I found it extremely moving that it is evidently clear that history always seems to repeat itself, especially when it comes to racism and inequality. 

Throughout the book, we follow the life of Ashley Bennet in the midst of the riots. I really liked the character but she came across very weak and tried to please everyone, which we know never works. I found it interesting that Ashley doesn’t feel like she can relate to the other black students or other black people int the community because of her families wealth and her upbringing. Christina Hammonds Reed does a great job of helping readers to understand that everyone is different. Not all white people are the same, and neither are all black people. 

I also think that the author does a great job of exploring how it is sometimes difficult for young people to fully understand what is happening in the news. Once you are a certain age, are you expected to hold your own opinion of events or do you just turn a blind eye and leave it for the adult to sort out. 

There are a lot of contrasts within this story and I really enjoyed these clever little moments. Overall, the main story really hit home as only a few months ago, we were protesting and rioting about a similar event in America. I think it is important to educate people on events like this because they are always sadly reoccurring. 

“Everyone thinks the riots are only about Rodney, but they are not. They are also about Latasha. Latasha was a black girl my age in Los Angeles. She went into a liquor store to buy orange juice, and the Korean woman at the counter thought she was stealing. She wasn’t. They got into a fight and as Latasha tried to walk away, the woman at the counter shot her in the back of the head. Over orange juice. Her killer got nothing. The judge said the killer was the real victim. Rodney got brutally beaten on videotape. Nothing. No justice. No peace.”

The Black Kids

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s UK
Published: 2020
# of Pages: 368
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction,
Trigger Warnings: Violence, riots, racism, police brutality, bullying
Links: Goodreads, Amazon, Blackwells