Review: Christmas Spirit by Nicola May @nicolamay1 @rararesources

Amazon

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

It’s two days before Christmas – and Evie Harris finds herself both manless and jobless. After a chance encounter with handsome Greg (and egged on by her toy-boy-eating friend, Bea) she agrees to work at a homeless shelter on Christmas Day.
Striking up an unlikely friendship with homeless Yves, Evie begins an unwitting journey of spiritual awakening, all set against the sparkling winter backdrop of London landmarks. 
A New Year’s Eve revelation is on its way . . . but will it leave Evie with a happy heart, or will she allow the pre-Christmas past to dictate her future?

I’m so pleased to be one of the stops on the blog tour for Christmas Spirit today!

Review:

Well if you’re looking for a quick read to put you in a holiday frame of mind then this one is absolutely perfect! It’s a novella, so really fast paced but it still packed quite an emotional punch and left me feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

I adored both Evie and her best friend Bea, they’re complete opposites and make quite the pair. Evie is sweet and caring and down on her luck and then Bea is outrageous and wickedly funny, truly naughty she made me laugh so hard. Besides fun characters this had such great meaning about what’s truly important in life. Evie goes through a remarkable period of growth over the course of just a few days and it was sweet and heartwarming. Ideal Christmas read, totally recommended!

Christmas Spirit in three words: Festive, Hopeful and Heartwarming.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the author and Rachel for my review copy.

Review: Good Samaritans by Will Carver @will_carver @OrendaBooks #SixBottlesofBleach

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: November 15, 2018

Publisher: Orenda

Genre: Crime Fiction

Blurb:

One crossed wire, three dead bodies and six bottles of bleach

Seth Beauman can’t sleep. He stays up late, calling strangers from his phonebook, hoping to make a connection, while his wife, Maeve, sleeps upstairs. A crossed wire finds a suicidal Hadley Serf on the phone to Seth, thinking she is talking to The Samaritans.
But a seemingly harmless, late-night hobby turns into something more for Seth and for Hadley, and soon their late-night talks are turning into day-time meet-ups. And then this dysfunctional love story turns into something altogether darker, when Seth brings Hadley home…
And someone is watching…
Dark, sexy, dangerous and wildly readable, Good Samaritans marks the scorching return of one of crime fiction’s most exceptional voices.

I’m so thrilled to be one of the stops on the blog tour for Good Samaritans today!

Review:

Do you like dark, twisted and seriously messed up books? What about books that are fresh and like nothing you’ve ever read before? How about books that literally make you say WTF a thousand times? Friends, if you answered yes to any of these questions this book is for you!

The premise for this is amazing, you have Seth the insomniac who just wants someone to talk to, enter Hadley who needs someone to just listen and then finally the person who is watching…Creepy? Yes!! But so much more than just creepy, it’s provocative and edgy as well. It totally pushes the boundaries in the best possible way, I think dysfunctional is the best word for it, but even then, it doesn’t truly convey just how seriously screwed up this one is. Seriously, I felt dirty just reading it but I just could not stop, it was the very definition of gripping.

This not the book for a fragile reader, it’s bold and does not shy away from sex and graphic descriptions of violence, but if that doesn’t bother you this is a must read. I’ve never read anything quite like, it’s truly original and Carver completely blew me away. Some of the twists were so deranged I was shocked, but also in complete awe, this will most definitely be on my list of best books of 2018! (And this was book 267 for me so it really is a standout!)

Good Samaritans in three words: Edgy, Provocative and Twisted.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Who I Am by Sarah Simpson @sarahrsimpson

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: November 6, 2018

Publisher: Aria

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

I know everything about you 

And you know everything about me… except 

WHO I AM. 

Andi met Camilla at university. Instantly best friends, they shared everything together. Until their long-planned graduation celebration ends in tragedy… 

Years later, Andi is living a seemingly perfect life on the rugged Cornish Coast with her loving husband, happy children and dream home. Yet Andi is haunted by a secret she thought only she knew. 

Someone out there is bringing Andi’s deepest fears to life. And she knows there’s no escaping the past that has come back to haunt her… 

You trusted me with your secrets, you told me everything, you thought I was your best friend… but you have no idea WHO I AM. 

Gripping, unputdownable and packed with twists and turns from the first page to the very last, this stunning psychological thriller will make you question whether we can ever really trust the ones we love.

I’m so excited to be kicking off the blog tour for Who I Am today!

Review:

This was a true psychological thriller in that it had all the elements I crave in a dark read that will mess with my head. I feel like the psychological thriller label is often used on novels that are really more of a standard mystery/thriller but Who I Am is an excellent example of a what a true PT really is.

If you chose to add this to your TBR I want to advise you to pay close attention. There is quite a lot going on here; multiple narrators, and definitely the untrustworthy type, and it also jumps around from past to present. Each chapter is clearly labeled so it’s not confusing, but still this requires some focus in order to catch all the subtle nuances the author so deftly drops.

Andi and Camilla narrate the bulk of the book but there are also several chilling chapters from an unknown narrator that gave me goosebumps. I wouldn’t say either Andi or Camilla were likable characters but they were interesting and well drawn. Andi especially captivated me as she conveyed such a great sense of paranoia that made me uneasy. It also had that mounting sense of dread that I so love and the tension and pacing increases the further along you get. And of course there were some twists to be found and none that I saw coming, always so fun!

Who I Am in three words: Menacing, Dark and Intricate.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Excerpt: I Invited Her In by Adele Parks

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: February 5, 2019

Publisher: MIRA

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

Imagine the worst thing a friend could ever do.

This is worse.

When Mel receives an unexpected email from her oldest friend Abi, it brings back memories she thought she had buried forever. Their friendship belonged in the past. To those carefree days at university.

But Abi is in trouble and needs Mel’s help, and she wants a place to stay. Just for a few days, while she sorts things out. It’s the least Mel can do.

After all, friends look out for each other, don’t they?

I Invited Her In is a blistering tale of wanting what you can’t have, jealousy and revenge from Sunday Times bestseller Adele Parks.

I’m excited to be participating in the excerpt tour for I Invited Her In today! This one sounds so good, it’s definitely on my TBR.

Excerpt:

When I told Abi that I was pregnant, she was, obviously, all wide eyes and concerned. Shocked. Yes, I admit she was bubbling a bit with the drama of it all. That was not her fault—we were only nineteen and I didn’t know how to react appropriately, so how could I expect her to know? We were both a little giddy.

“How far on are you?” she asked.

“I think about two months.” I later discovered at that point I was officially ten weeks pregnant, because of the whole “calculate from the day you started your last period” thing, but that catch-all calculation never really washed with me because I knew the exact date I’d conceived.

Wednesday, the first week of the first term, my second year at university. Stupidly, I’d had unprotected sex right slap bang in the middle of my cycle. That—combined with my youth—meant that one transgression was enough. And even now, a lifetime on, I feel the need to say it wasn’t like I made a habit out of doing that sort of thing. In all my days, I’ve had irresponsible, unprotected sex precisely once.

“Then there’s still time. You could abort,” Abigail had said simply. She did not shy away from the word. We were young. The power, vulnerability and complexity of our sexuality was embryonic, but our feminist rights were forefront of our minds. My body, my choice, my right. A young, independent woman, I didn’t have to be saddled with the lifetime consequences of one night’s mistake.

There had been a girl on my course who’d had a scare in the first year. I’d been verbose about her right to choose and I’d been clear that I thought she should terminate the pregnancy, rather than her education. The girl in question had agreed; so had Abi and pretty much everyone who knew of the matter. She hadn’t been pregnant, though. So. Well, you know, talk is cheap, isn’t it?She’s the chief financial officer of one of the biggest international fast-moving consumer goods corporations now. I saw her pop up on Facebook a couple of years ago. CFO of an FMCG. I Googled the acronyms. She accepted my friend request, which was nice of her, but she rarely posts. Too busy, I suppose. Anyway, I digress.

I remember looking Abi in the eye and saying, “No. No, I can’t abort.”

“You’re going ahead with it?” Her eyes were big and unblinking.

“Yes.” It was the only thing I was certain of. I already loved the baby. It had taken me by surprise but it was a fact.

“And will you put it up for adoption or keep it?”

“I’m keeping my baby.” We both sort of had to suppress a shocked snigger at that, because it was impossible not to think of Madonna. That song came out when I was about five years old but it was iconic enough to be something that was sung in innocence throughout our childhoods. The tune hung, incongruously, in the air. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that the irony hit me: an anthem of my youth basically heralded the end to exactly that.

“OK then,” she said, “you’re keeping your baby.”

Abigail instantly accepted my decision to have my baby and that was a kindness. An unimaginably important and utterly unforgettable kindness. She didn’t argue that there were easier ways, that I had choices, the way many of my other friends subsequently did.

Nor did she suggest that I might be lucky and lose it, the way a guy in my tutorial later darkly muttered. I know he behaved like an arsehole because before I’d got pregnant, he’d once clumsily come on to me one night in the student bar. I was having none of it. I guess he had mixed feelings about me being knocked up, torn between, “Ha, serves the bitch, right” and “So, she does put out. Why not with me?” I tell you, there’s a lot of press about the wrath of a woman scorned, but men can be pretty vengeful, too.

 

Review: Just After Midnight by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: December 4, 2018

Publisher: Lake Union

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

No longer tolerating her husband’s borderline abuse, Faith escapes to her parents’ California beach house to plan her next move. She never dreamed her new chapter would involve befriending Sarah, a fourteen-year-old on the run from her father and reeling from her mother’s sudden and suspicious death.

While Sarah’s grandmother scrambles to get custody, Faith is charged with spiriting the girl away on a journey that will restore her hope: Sarah implores Faith to take her to Falkner’s Midnight Sun, the prized black mare that her father sold out from under her. Sarah shares an unbreakable bond with Midnight and can’t bear to be apart from her. Throughout the sweltering summer, as they follow Midnight from show to show, Sarah comes to terms with what she witnessed on the terrible night her mother died.

But the journey is far from over. Faith must learn the value of trusting her instincts—and realize that the key to her future, and Sarah’s, is in her hands.

Review:

I swear there is no other author who writes about unlikely friendships quite as authentically as CRH does, many of her novels showcase new relationships between a young person and someone older but each new book sheds light on various themes and issues making them unique. I don’t often use the term page turner in WF but her books really are, once you enter the world she creates it’s hard to step back into reality.

This follows Faith, a woman who just left her husband and Sarah a young teenager whose mother just died. All of CRH’s books are perfect for animal lovers, but if you love horses this is a must read. The entire book centers on Sarah’s magical relationship with her horse Midnight and it highlights the special bond between human and animal. It was really beautiful and as Faith helps Sarah through her grief and pain she finds her own inner strength that she didn’t even realize that she possessed.

This one gave me all the feels, it was an emotional read with plenty of highs and lows. Per usual, my faith in humanity was restored by the end. It’s full of memorable characters and amazing life lessons but it’s not so heavy as to be depressing. Another solid read from one of my favorite authors!

Just After Midnight in three words: Tender, Uplifting and Moving.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

October Wrap Up

Another wrap up and it feels like I just posted my September one?! I love this time of year, the lead up to the holidays is a bit magical but I know that means life will be insanely busy for the next few months too.

So I managed 22 books this month, I’m happy with that and feel like this will be the new norm for me going forward. How was your month?

The Dream Daughter: Breathtaking, Exquisite and Poignant.

The Lies We Told: Devious, Stunning and Captivating.

You Were Always Mine: Compelling, Vulnerable and Multifaceted.

The Night In Question: Taut, Pacey and Engrossing.

The Christmas Cafe at Seashell Cove: Enchanting, Festive and Adorable

Under My Skin: Wild, Unnerving and Unreliable

Our Little Lies: Dark, Devious and Impressive

The Stranger Game: Unusual, Smart and Deep.

The Amendement: Unusual, Amusing and Effortless.

In Harms Way: Smooth, Intriguing and Unexpected.

For Better and Worse: Binge-worthy, Addictive and Quick.

The Perfect Liar: Sophisticated, Deceptive and Unpredictable.

Fatal Promise: Meticulous, Nuanced and Gripping.

Lies Between Us: Deft, Complex and Tricky.

Evergreen Tidings From The Baumgartners: Humorous, Quirky and Sincere.

Trap: Exhilarating, Intense and Compelling.

The Girl They Left Behind: Emotional, Engrossing and Heartbreaking.

The Man She Married: Funny, Sweet and Quirky

Daughters of the Lake: Eerie, Atmospheric and Mesmerizing.

November Road was hard to sum up but I liked it!

Snowfall on Lighthouse Lane: Adorable, Charming and Effortless.

River Bodies: Subtle, Layered and Engrossing.

Review: The Craftsman by Sharon Bolton #HeWillComeForYou

Goodreads|Amazon US|Amazon UK

Release date: May 3, 2018

Publisher: Trapeze

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb: 

Catching him will make her career – and change her forever.

August, 1999

On the hottest day of the year, Assistant Commissioner Florence Lovelady attends the funeral of Larry Glassbrook, the convicted murderer she arrested thirty years earlier. A master carpenter and funeral director, Larry imprisoned his victims, alive, in the caskets he made himself. Clay effigies found entombed with their bodies suggested a motive beyond the worst human depravity.

June, 1969

13-year- old Patsy Wood has been missing for two days, the third teenager to disappear in as many months. New to the Lancashire police force and struggling to fit in, WPC Lovelady is sent to investigate an unlikely report from school children claiming to have heard a voice calling for help. A voice from deep within a recent grave.

August, 1999

As she tries to lay her ghosts to rest, Florence is drawn back to the Glassbrooks’ old house, in the shadow of Pendle Hill, where she once lodged with the family. She is chilled by the discovery of another effigy – one bearing a remarkable resemblance to herself. Is the killer still at large? Is Florence once again in terrible danger? Or, this time, could the fate in store be worse than even her darkest imaginings?

You may remember me raving about this book a few months ago and I’m resharing my review to celebrate paperback publication day!

Review: 

Last year Sharon Bolton had me raving about a book containing hot air balloons, nuns, human trafficking and peacocks, yes Dead Woman Walking took all of those elements and delivered a thriller the likes of which I’d never seen before. Until now. The Craftsman delves into witchcraft and clay effigies (think voodoo dolls) and has a supernatural undercurrent that normally wouldn’t work so well for me, but this? This was genius.

It’s starts in 1999 and Florence is attending the funeral of a killer she helped to catch back in 1969. It immediately jumps back to that time period and remains there until almost the end. Florence was exceptionally well developed, I loved seeing how she grew and matured between the late sixties and late nineties, she was such an interesting woman and the way she was mistreated as a female police officer at the start of her career was appalling but fascinating.

This was so immersive, the atmosphere was chilling and eerie and full of tension, both because of the missing teenagers and also because of the hostility that Florence experiences all because she’s a woman. The case was complex and kept me on my toes and the ending was outstanding, I never saw it coming! Bolton is at the top of her game, I can’t recommend this book and her work more, she’s a truly gifted author.

The Craftsman in three words: Intricate, Chilling and Dark. 

Overall rating: 5/5

Review: Dancing With the Sun by Kay Bratt

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: November 27, 2018

Publisher: Lake Union

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

When Sadie Harlan visits her daughter, Lauren, at her summer internship in Yosemite National Park, it seems like the perfect way to forget about her empty nest and failing marriage back home. But when the two women get lost on what’s meant to be a short hike, they suddenly find themselves fighting for their lives.

As they search for food, water, and civilization, they battle injury, exhaustion, and natural predators. Sadie, however, is assaulted by more than just the unforgiving elements. She lost her first child years earlier in a tragic accident, and in her sorrow, she’s pushed everyone away—including her husband. Now, Sadie must face her past through a journey of love, loss, and learning to forgive herself if she and Lauren are to stand a chance at getting out of Yosemite alive. Will a mother’s courage be enough to save them both?

Review:

I think one of my worst fears is being lost in the wilderness, I am so ill equipped as I’m not the outdoorsy type at all and I’m sure I would have a panic attack. Bratt taps into that fear in this novel and takes both the characters and the reader on an unforgettable journey that shook me to my core.

Sadie and Lauren share a typical mother and daughter bond, the kind where things aren’t always easy and there is plenty of strife. With Lauren in college now Sadie is feeling the loss of her child and Lauren is trying to break free, gain independence and grow into a mature adult. I felt so much empathy for Sadie as a mom, she just wants to protect her daughter and being lost in a national park makes this difficult to say the least. Both women were extremely well developed and both undergo a pretty serious transformation throughout the book which is always a pleasure to witness.

There were so many great themes here, it explored the love between a mother and daughter, loss, grief and how to find inner strength when you’re just beyond hope. It was so beautifully and was a true story of survival and relentless resilience in the face of extreme adversity.

Dancing With the Sun in three words: Inspired, Poignant and Emotional.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy

Review: River Bodies by Karen Katchur

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: November 1, 2018

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

In this dark, gripping mystery, a brutal murder unearths old secrets that should have stayed buried.

A body just turned up in the small town of Portland, Pennsylvania. The crime is eerily similar to a twenty-year-old cold case: another victim, brutally murdered, found in the Delaware River. Lead detective Parker Reed is intent on connecting the two murders, but the locals are on lockdown, revealing nothing.

The past meets the present when Becca Kingsley, who returns to Portland to be with her estranged but dying father, runs into Parker, her childhood love. As the daughter of the former police chief, Becca’s quickly drawn into the case. Coming home has brought something ominous to the surface – memories long buried, secrets best kept hidden. Becca starts questioning all her past relationships, including one with a man who’s watched over her for years. For the first time, she wonders if he’s more predator than protector.

In a small town where darkness hides in plain sight, the truth could change Becca’s life – or end it. 

Review:
Sometimes it’s nice to mix things up within a genre, so many times I’m craving a fast paced and exciting thriller with twists and turns galore and then other times I’m in the mood for a really well written slow burn, and River Bodies fits the bill perfectly. It’s funny because the pacing itself wasn’t even slow at all, but the writing style and the way the story unfolded was more subdued so it was almost a mix between the two. Either way it worked well for me and was an intriguing read.
This was character driven and really focused on the relationship between Becca and her estranged father, but also between Becca and her longtime boyfriend as well. Besides Becca you also hear from Parker giving it a subtle police procedural vibe and then John, a local outlaw who is part of a biker gang. All three were complicated and interesting and I just saw on Goodreads that this is the first book in a new series with the next installment set to be released next summer!
I’m a sucker for old cases and new ones colliding and there was plenty of that here. Throw in some fantastic and evocative writing and a tricky mystery and I was all in. Recommended for those looking for a rich, character driven story with a great setting and a few surprises along the way.
River Bodies in three words: Subtle, Layered and Engrossing.
Overall rating: 4/5
Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Snowfall on Lighthouse Lane by JoAnn Ross

Goodreads|Amazon

Release date: November 1, 2018

Publisher: HQN

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Lose yourself in the magic, charm and romance of Christmas in the Pacific Northwest as imagined in JoAnn Ross’s heartwarming Honeymoon Harbor series. 

Growing up on the wrong side of the tracks, Jolene Harper is forever indebted to the mother who encouraged her to fly—all the way to sunny LA and a world away from Honeymoon Harbor. Although Jolene vowed never to look back, returning home isn’t even a question when her mom faces a cancer scare. Which means running into Aiden Mannion all over town, the first boy she ever loved—and lost—and whom she can barely look in the eye.

Aiden’s black-sheep reputation may have diminished when he joined the marines, but everything he’s endured since has left him haunted. Back in Honeymoon Harbor to heal, he’s talked into the interim role of police chief, and the irony isn’t lost on the locals, least of all Aiden. But seeing Jolene after all these years is the unexpected breath of fresh air he’s been missing. He’s never forgotten her through all his tours, but he’s not sure anymore that he’s the man she deserves.

Despite the secret they left between them all those years ago, snow is starting to fall on their picturesque little town, making anything seem possible…maybe even a second chance at first love.

Review:
Does anyone else love holiday movies like the ones on the Hallmark Channel? If so, this book totally reminded me of one and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out it will eventually be a made for TV movie. And while it definitely features holiday magic it’s not necessarily a Christmas book, in fact it covers the month of November as well as December making it the perfect read for now.
This is the second in a series but I did not read the first book and had no issues starting here. It’s set in a town called Honeymoon Harbor which is full of charming and interesting characters and is also complete with a quaint little setting making it an ideal sweet read.
Jolene was a typical and extremely likable heroine who comes back home to visit her mom and Aiden is a typical swoon worthy hero who is back home and acting as the temporary chief of police. What was not typical about the both of them (and the supporting characters) was that they felt genuine and their budding romance was incredibly tender and sweet which was just what I was in the mood for when I picked this one up. If you like second chance romances give this a try!
Snowfall on Lighthouse Lane in three words: Adorable, Charming and Effortless.
Overall rating: 4/5
Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.