The Thief on the Winged Horse by Kate Mascarenhas / Blog Tour

 

Publisher: Head of Zeus 54969993._sy475_

Publishing Date: 12th November 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Mystery, Sci – Fi & Fantasy

 

 

Synopsis:

A dazzling mixture of crime, romance, magic and myth from the acclaimed author of The Psychology of Time Travel.

The Kendrick family have been making world-famous dolls for over 200 years. But their dolls aren’t 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. Only a Kendrick could have committed this crime…

Rating: four-stars

Four sisters have formed in 1820 a company making dolls. But not your usual dolls, oh no, every single one of them has been given an enchantment, a specific feeling that the owner of the doll could feel when picking it up. The so – called sorcery (the laying of the enchantments) is a privilege that only those born in, or married into the Kendrick’s family possess, although now it’s a solely male privilege. 19 – year – old Persephone, a shop assistant, wishes with all her heart to be acknowledged and recognized as a doll maker and sorcerer – but she’s only allowed to work at the shop, processing orders. But then Larkin arrives – a stranger who claims not to be a stranger at all but a long – lost relative and they both start a friendship that could be to both their benefits. However, shortly after his arrival, the family’s most valuable doll, made in memory of one of the founding sisters, Jemima, is stolen. Rumours and suspicions start to spread through the Eyot. Who is the thief? One of their own? Or the legendary Thief on the Winged Horse?

It is not the genre that I usually read but after reading and absolutely, totally enjoying Kate Mascarenha’s debut novel „The Psychology of Time Travel“ I simply couldn’t say no to „The Thief on the Winged Horese“. I had great expectation from this book, that’s true, but I’m also happy to report that the expectations were met! So there.

The author can create brilliant characters, and no matter if you like them or not, you just want to keep reading about them, to get to know them, to see what’s going to happen. They all have colourful personalities – and names as well. Though, because of relatively many of them being introduced to us, I had a feeling they are a bit too superficial and also, because the plot itself was so strong, they dissolved a bit among the vivid and thrilling events. Nevertheless, there is enough information to get those unique figures and their motivations.

Kate Mascarenhas is also great at storytelling and cooking up the most intriguing plots. The whole secrecy and the doll making business were so intriguing and so refreshing and I kept forgetting that the story is set in the modern day Oxford, it was sometimes confusing to be honest because the atmosphere of this story and the whole idea were indicating at older times. There was simply something archaic in the story, I’m not sure what, the atmosphere? The magic? The doll making? The way the characters behaved and talked? Can’t tell you exactly what it was but the moments when they took their mobile phones or travelled by tube were brutally bringing me back to reality.

The ending, though, felt a bit too rushed and hasty for me, which is a shame really, I’d love the story to be folded more neatly. It is also a rather slow – burner, though with the beautiful and captivating writing it didn’t feel like that, and also the author kept her focus on the family’s personal problems, which added so much tension to this book. And, of course, me and my super – duper detective skills, I didn’t guess the thief. What I’d really, really like more is the magical side of things. I mean, they could infuse the dolls with all kinds of emotions, and that’s great. But – why? How come? Why this kind of magic? And why so little of this in the book? It felt a bit like an addition, like an after – thought while in fact the story was built around this magic. I did have a feeling that the subplot with the Thief on the Winged Horse is a little too underdeveloped and the end needed more fireworks, the potential was not capitalized compeltely but on the other hand the way the book was written, the world the author has created and the ability to bring the sense of place and situation is extremelly well.

„The Thief on the Winged Horse“ was a great mix of reality, fantasy and mystery. Very atmospheric and the Thief legend was fascinating. However, the author also touches about very present issues, such as domestic abuse, alcoholism, sexism and feminism, to name only a few. It sometimes gritted with the overwhelming feeling of magic but nevertheless, Kate Mascarenhas has written a refreshing, unique and imaginative story that I enjoyed immensely. Highly recommended!

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The Searcher by Tana French / Blog Tour

The Searcher by Tana French

Publisher: Viking/Penguin 52705106._sy475_

Publishing Date: 5th November 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 451

Genre: Mystery

 

 

Synopsis:

Retired detective Cal Hooper moves to a remote village in rural Ireland. His plans are to fix up the dilapidated cottage he’s bought, to walk the mountains, to put his old police instincts to bed forever.

Then a local boy appeals to him for help. His brother is missing, and no one in the village, least of all the police, seems to care. And once again, Cal feels that restless itch.

Something is wrong in this community, and he must find out what, even if it brings trouble to his door.

Rating: four-stars

An American ex – cop, Cal, looks to settle down for a peaceful life in rural Ireland, in an isolated place where he can keep to himself. The fact that the local people seem reluctant to accept him and see him as an outsider doesn’t bother him, actually he’s glad he can enjoy his peace and solitude. But soon he finds himself caught up in the disappearance of a local boy: Trey, brother of the missing boy, needs Cal’s help to find Brendan. Reluctantly, Cal finally agrees to help Trey, only he doesn’t know that he’s going to open many cans of worms which can result in destroying the locals’ peaceful lives – and they’re not happy with it.

In this very character – driven story the characters are superbly portrayed, with tons of depth and distinctive voices. They are rich and complex and even though they’re not easy to like and empathise with, there is something in them that will make you fall for them and accept them. They are full of flaws, some of them are good and some are not but all of them seem very real.Cal was a very interesting character, already the first few pages had me hooked and intrigued by him. I loved seeing him, a Chicago cop, in totally different environment to this he used to know, without everything he knew and had at his disposal and leaving him there totally alone – it was brilliant to read. He was hard working and honest, funny and kind.
Trey was much wiser than his 13 years but life has simply bulldozed him to be like this, leaving him without any support. He was attentive and honest, and more than anything he wanted to find his brother, and it was heart – breaking to see.
The dynamic between Cal and Trey was truly well written and their relationship developing between them was absolutely brilliant. I think that Cal was much more than friend to Trey, slowly becoming a father figure to him.

This small town of Ardnakelty was a character of its own, like a living and breathing person, or at least it felt like this to me. The author has drawn me to the descriptions of the life choices of the villagers, their relationships and struggles. The detailed descriptions of this part of rural Ireland were captivating and breath – takingly realistic.She also touches upon some current issues, skilfully weaving them into the plot. She writes about social media morality, or rather lack of it, or police shootings – hotspots of present human race.

This is my first Tana French’s book and I am in awe of her talent to write realistic, raw and intense story. „The Searcher“ was a dark mystery, a very impressive slow burner and you might grow weary at the beginning but be patient – it took me a long time to get through this book, it was a very slow – starter, but when you eventually settle to the flow of this story, you’re going to truly enjoy it and appreciate the slow pace. It was a character – driven mystery with a truly claustrophobic feel to it. It was complex and demanding concentration, unhurried mystery filled with secrets, thought – provoking one – man journey of also finding himself. Atmospheric and well – written, I will be checking Tara’s French previous books asap.

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The Pretenders by Agatha Zaza / Blog Tour

 

Publisher: Agora Books 55507499._sy475_

Publishing Date: 5th November 2020 (Kindle) / 3rd December 2020 (Paperback)

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 304

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 

 

Synopsis:

‘I’m perfectly happy lying to myself…If it means getting to stay with you.’

Jasper is ready to surprise his brother; Holly is ready to celebrate their engagement.

Anne tags along for fear of missing out, and John might just be going for another drink.

But Edmund and Ovidia had other plans for their Saturday.

Over the course of one day, these couples must own up to the secrets they’ve been hiding from one another and the lies they’ve been telling themselves. And face the devastating consequences.

Three couples. Two exes. One day. One reckoning.

In her debut novel, Agatha Zaza crafts a modern domestic tragedy simmering with betrayal and deceit.

Rating: four-stars

THE PRETENDERS 

Jasper and his fiance Holly and their two friends turn unexpectedly at his brother’s house to celebrate their recent engagement. Edmund clearly doesn’t expect them, as well as his girlfriend Ovidia – and as much as their visit is a surpise for Edward, the fact that he has a girlfriend at all is a surprise to guests. But nevertheless, hospitality wins and drinks are poured. However, the stilted atmosphere is palpable – why? How is this evening going to pan out? 

The story takes place over one Saturday and featuring six characters. As it often happens, when the number of the characters is rather large, I missed a bit more development in them. I couldn’t feel this special connection between me and them, couldn’t completely get into their heads, and it’s a shame, as there was so much potential. They were not all likeable and relatable, to be honest, and their relationships were complex and complicated, adding to the whole sense of mystery and intrigue. I adored how well the author has captured the tense atmosphere surrounding them, you could really cut it with a knife. 

Actually the book is written – please don’t get me wrong here – in a way that I would call undetached, simply relaying the events and not engaging too much with feelings and emotions. Now I think it was done intentionally, so that the readers can really focus on this what is important in this story, and after a while you will start to enjoy this cool, fresh approach to storytelling. 

It was a very slow – burn novel so you really must be patient, and some of the passages were, in my opinion, a bit overwritten, which led to the feeling that some of the bits in this story simply drag on. Also, I think that some descriptions were too over – dramatic and a bit overdone and as much as the jumping between the past and present slowly revealed all the secrets and shocks, for me it felt too chopped, sudden and confusig.   

Nevertheless, this is a story full of twists, turns and secrets as unlike as anything that I’ve had a pleasure to read before, and this is already a huge bonus, as it’s really not so easy to surprise me. Here, in this book, I quickly learnt to appreciate and like the unpredictability of the storyline. I didn’t have any idea what the author had up her sleeve and she could easily held my attention, even if the story was rather slowly paced and not too easy to read.

“The Pretenders“ is a challenging, unique and refreshing book where the author tells the story through conversations. Yes, you can tell it’s like one long stream of consciousness but it’s more the way she reveals all the secrets that makes the book so different and special. I think that it is a great debut novel, deep and making you think and for this only the book deserves to be applauded. It is admirable that the author, in her first novel, went for such difficult and demanding plot and touched upon real problems and created complex and intriguing characters. Recommended!

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The Windsor Knot by SJ Bennett

 

55545296._sy475_

Publisher: Zaffre

Publishing Date: 29th October 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 4320

Genre: Mystery

 

 

Synopsis:

On a perfect Spring morning at Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth II will enjoy a cup of tea, carry out all her royal duties . . . and solve a murder.

The first book in a highly original and delightfully clever crime series in which Queen Elizabeth II secretly solves crimes while carrying out her royal duties – now available to pre-order in hardback, eBook and audiobook.
______________________

The morning after a dinner party at Windsor Castle, eighty-nine-year-old Queen Elizabeth is shocked to discover that one of her guests has been found murdered in his room, with a rope around his neck.

When the police begin to suspect her loyal servants, Her Majesty knows they are looking in the wrong place.

For the Queen has been living an extraordinary double life ever since her coronation. Away from the public eye, she has a brilliant knack for solving crimes.

With her household’s happiness on the line, her secret must not get out. Can the Queen and her trusted secretary Rozie catch the killer, without getting caught themselves?

Miss Marple meets The Crown in The Windsor Knot, the first book in the ‘Her Majesty The Queen Investigates’ mystery series by SJ Bennett – for fans of The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman, Agatha Christie and M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin.

Rating: four-stars

Queen Elizabeth II is hosting one of her events at Windsor Castle, the so – called „dine and sleep“. Everything runs smoothly and the guests, including Sir David Attenborough and the Archbishop of Canterbury, are enjoying themselves. However, the next morning, a young Russian pianist Maksim Brodsky, the one who was entertaining the guests with piano playing, is found dead, in rather compromising position and circumstances. The MI5 and police are brought to investigate and quickly this what looked like a suicide turns into murder. As the investigations go, according to Queen, in wrong direction, she – enlisting the help of her private secretary, Rozie – decides to investigate herself. Rozie realises that it’s not the first time that Queen is playing a private investigator, that she has solved cases in the past and is surrounded by people who will gladly help her out again. But danger lurks around every corner – will they solve the murder before something wrong happens again?

The idea of this book is brilliant and I’ve immediately felt drawn to it, I’ve never thought that Her Majesty herself might be heading investigation for a murder that happened in her own place – I find it incredibly refreshing and original. Moreover, I’ve somehow missed the information that it’s the first book in the series that will feature Queen solving mysteries, and yay! That’s great, I’ll be for sure keeping my eyes peeled for the next book, as it was a very entertaining and promising start to the series.

There were many, many characters introduced to us in this book, I had a feeling that every single chapter is about a different character, and yes, it was confusing, but also it didn’t bother me so much because, let’s be honest, it was the Queen that kept the story running. I think she was brilliantly portrayed and hats off to the author for managing to pull it off in such a great way. Not so long ago I was complaining about a fictional book featuring real characters, that, in my opinion, didn’t have much to do with their precursors. Here, in „The Windsor Knot“, the Queen was written just like I imagine her to be and I loved this version of her. If she is like this – no idea, but I simply enjoyed her like this, in this romantic version of the monarchy. The Queen herself was warm, lovely, indulgent, wearing her „spring green“ outfits, going for rides, surrounded by her beloved corgis, so what’s not to love here, right?
I also adored the cameos of other Royal Family members, they were brilliant mentions, especially those of Prince Phillip, humorous and laid – back. But especially it was Rozie who was an outstanding character, I loved her, and my admiration to her grew even more after one action on the tube. You rule, Rozie!

My only complain is that there came a moment when the book started to feel repetitive, with the feeling of going round in circles, and it started to drag, making me feel a bit impatient. Please don’t get me wrong, I adored the descriptions of the behind – the – scenes activities, and the charm of the Queen was brilliantly captured, but the all the time changing characters were bothering me and I had a feeling this book could be much shorter and would do exactly as well with less characters and twists. Yes. Twists. I think the author has simply tried too much with her story and has overdone a little. Also, the book was rich with anecdotes about royal life that I loved but it also gave the impression that it tries to pull us away from the lack of plot, lack of events, and the murder didn’t feel as important, compared to the royal activities. Nevertheless, I enjoyed this story, and even though I didn’t solve the crime and I still can’t see the clues in the story, I enjoyed it as a relaxing, interesting and humorous read.

I loved the way this book was written. The author has a way with words, her descriptions are vivid, colourful and captivating and she also brilliantly captured the slightly more formal language of the protagonist. That doesn’t mean that the book feels stiff and full of official language, what I mean is SJ Bennet has found the happy medium for her descriptions and dialogues. The Queen speaks in a way I imagine her to speak, well – articulated and eloquent, and the other characters are on the more down – to – earth side, and the changes in styles are subtle and clear.

Altogether, „The Windsor Knot“ is a lovely and engaging cozy – crime with unusual main character, filled with humorous moments, a story that you have to read with a grain of salt, however who really knows what goes behind the palace walls, right? It was brilliantly British, warm and clever and while I might not have understood everything about the murder itself, as there were so many possibilities, red herrings and roads leading to nowhere and the wrapping up of the case a bit sudden, I still enjoyed it immensely. It’s a fun read, a lovely and much needed escape and I’m really looking forward to the future books in the series. Truly recommended!

Odd Bird by Lee Farnsworth / Blog Tour

 

Publisher: Farago 55458974._sy475_

Publishing Date: 15th October 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 320

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 

 

Synopsis:

Simon Selwood is an academic expert on the monogamous sexual behaviour of birds, but hopeless at finding human love. Then he meets Kim, and at last something is more important to him than ornithology.

Kim doesn’t give a hoot about birds. And at first she isn’t very interested in Simon either. Relying on what he has gleaned from observing the opportunistic pied flycatcher and other species, plus the unorthodox advice of old friend Phil, Simon sets out on a mission to discover love for himself.

But will he make the right choice?

Odd Bird takes a light-hearted look at the battle of the sexes, drawing on the surprising parallels between the courtship behaviours of humans and birds.

Rating: four-stars

„Odd Bird“ introduces us to Simon, an expert on the mating behaviour of birds. He knows everything there is to know about them, however, when it comes to human knowledge (not only on mating behaviour but overall), he is truly hopeless. His best friend Phil is always there for him, trying to guide him and help him in this complicated and complex maze of feelings and emotions. And then Simon meets Kim – but it seems that they can’t synchronise and when Simon is free, Kim is in relationship, and when Kim is free Simon is in Sweden meeting other women – will Simon ger over the break – up of his last relationship and finally find his happy – ever – after?

The book was filled with tons of scientific facts about birds –but, surprisingly, they were incredibly fascinating! There was a lot of information about birds in this book, guys, and it was really written in a sctientific way but it worked with the tone of the rest of the book and I really enjoyed those passages. And also Simon’s passion, wow, he truly liked what he did. However, I also think that the book could profit a bit with editing some of those info as there were moments that I felt like I was reading an ornithology book and not fiction, and also the romance aspect of the story felt a bit abandoned, having been forced to take a backseat.

The chapters were short and you already know that I love short chapters, as they make reading quicker and punchy – and yes, it was a quick read although the pace was rather on the slow side and there was not enough development. The writing style is very rich and eloquent but it probably is due to the fact that Simon was the narrator and that was his way of speaking. His descriptions and observations were pretty amusing and honest, with him analisying everyone and everything through his ornithologist’s perspective. He was not a very emotional person and lacked understanding of human behaviour so he might not be a character for everybody but I liked him and he made me smile, his quirky sense of humour has lightened up the story.

The thing that bothered me a bit ist hat I had a feeling that the author tried too much to make another Don from „Rosie’s“ books out of Simon, and there is only one Don, and truly – Simon didn’t need this. His voice was strong enough to carry the plot but he reminded me much too much of Don, sadly.

The author is a brilliant storyteller and he had a great idea for the book and it was an easy read, but there were some bumps, sadly. The romance element was too scientific and didn’t feel significant, and there were too many similarities to „The Rosie Project“, and there came a moment that Simon’s continuous comparisions of birds’ mating behaviour to those of humans’ started to feel repetitious and tired. Nevertheless, it was a light – hearted and amusing story with humorous moments that I truly enjoyed and with unexpected twists. Refreshing and unique, I can truly recommend this book to you.

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You Can Trust Me by Emma Rowley / Blog Tour

 

Publisher: Orion 55167543._sy475_

Publishing Date: 3rd September 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 368

Genre: Mystery & Thriller

Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

Synopsis:

You can trust me. But can I trust you? Olivia is the domestic goddess who has won millions of followers by sharing her picture-perfect life online. And now she’s releasing her tell-all autobiography. For professional ghostwriter Nicky it’s the biggest job of her career. But as she delves deeper into Olivia’s life, cracks begin to appear in the glamorous façade. From the strained relationship with her handsome husband, to murky details of a tragic family death in her childhood, the truth belies Olivia’s perfect public image. But why is Olivia so desperate to leave an old tragedy well alone? And how far will she go to keep Nicky from the truth?

Rating:four-stars

Olivia Hayes in an Instagram influencer with many followers. She’s also a wife and a mother, providing her fans with photos of her perfect life in the perfect Annersley House in Cheshire. Yes, she simply has it all. But does she? Nicky Wilson is a ghostwriter and her life is a mess. Hired to write Olivia’s book about life style, she stays at her house for a week so that she can interview Olivia. However, it seems that their views of a perfect book are different. While Olivia is not interested in sharing the private parts of her life, Nicky presses about her past that Olivia absolutely doesn’t want to talk about. Does Nicky know more than we suppose? Or maybe it’s Olivia that has something to hide?

The characters are well developed, even though they are not likeable. I think that Nicky was the one you feel the most sympathy to, though it has changed for me – her obsession started to annoy and irritate me, it seemed so odd and not natural and eventually she simply came across as rude and interfering. And I couldn’t understand why Nicky is pushing for the truth (if there was truth at all, that is) so much. How does she know so much? Where does it come from? Olivia is also relatively hard to warm to, with her being so controlling and reserved. She wanted to tell the story but on her terms and I don’t know, with Nicky pressing in one direction and Olivia in totally different it was somehow weird. To be honest, they are both rather unreliable narrators, you don’t know who you can trust but eventually you’re going to appreciate this fact – it made the book even more addictive!

It was such a relief where the tale switched to Olivia’s point of view. I enjoyed Nicky telling the story, even if there were some issues I had problems with, but there came a moment that I realised she can’t carry on by herself, so just imagine how relieved I was when I turned the page and have seen that it’s now Olivia’s time. Though I must admit that Olivia’s narration didn’t clear the things that irritated me so much, ie. why was Nicky pushing her so much to tell a story that she so cleraly didn’t want to tell. Olivia’s part focuses mostly on the „now“ and yes, I was already starting to worry that I won’t get what I’m looking for. However, slowly and painstakingly we are able to chew through the maze full of lies and secrets with our understanding of the situation growing and really, nothing is as it seems.

„You Can Trust Me“ had something addictive in it, I raced through it in two days and really didn’t want to put it down. The pace was maybe not too fast, but still, I had to know what has happened and what’s going to happen and kept turning page after page. The short chapters make the reading even more easier and dynamic and yes, the author has captured the atmosphere of tension and fear brilliantly – I was all the time prepared for something really, really bad to happen. I liked the author’s writing style, it was easy to follow and chatty, especially Nicky’s voice, there was something in it that made me feel as if she was talking directly to me. This is a complex, clever story where you might think you have everything worked out but it will quickly turn out that you are far, far away from the truth, a story full of twists and turns, that will keep you on your tenterhooks. I enjoyed it very much and will be checking Emma Rowley’s other books. Recommended!

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The Flip Side by James Bailey / Blog Tour

The Flip Side by James Bailey

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Publisher: Penguin

Publishing Date: 20th August 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 354

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Synopsis:

DIVE INTO THE LAUGH OUT LOUD ROMANTIC COMEDY OF THE YEAR!

One coin, one year and one new shot at love.

Josh thought he was doing everything right.

He found a girl. They adopted a rabbit. He finally found the perfect moment to propose.

She said no.

On the London Eye . . . On New Year’s Eve . . . Suspended 443ft in the air . . .

Now they’re awkwardly eating truffles and praying they’ll be back on the ground soon.

Realizing he can’t be trusted to make his own decisions, Josh decides to spend a year putting his faith in, well, fate.

From now on, every decision will be made by the flip of a coin. And maybe, just maybe, the coin will help him find the girl of his dreams.

After all, who says you can’t take a chance on love?

Hilarious, feel-good and uplifting. A romantic comedy perfect for anyone who has ever failed at love.

Fans of The Flat Share, Don’t You Forget About Me and Richard Curtis will LOVE this.

Rating:

four-stars


Josh is 28 years old and has just been dumped by his girlfriend after proposing to her on New Year’s Eve and now they’re trapped in the possibly the longest ride on the London Eye. Ouch. Not the best possible way to start a new year, right? Moreover, Josh has been working at Jade’s family business, and living in her flat, so now he’s not only girlfriendless, but also jobless and flatless. But he gets the rabbit that he gave Jade, back. Moving with his parents again is the only possibility right now. His best friends Jessie and Jake are determined to get Josh back in the dating game, however Josh, with his lack of faith in his own decisions and judgement, and despite his friends mocking him for this, decides to flip a 50p coin to make any decision for the next 12 months. What he doesn’t know is that this may change his life completely. But for better, or worse?

The story was filled with absolutely brilliant characters! Even though Josh was not the best well developed character in the world, I liked him from the very beginning. Yes, his lack of plan was irritating, and flipping the coin somehow takes the responsibility away, right, and I mean, he was almost 30 year old, ah, you can’t always live like Peter Pan but he was funny, down – to – earth and really good at heart, and the situations he put himself with flipping the coin were brilliantly hilarious. He was a relatable and likeable character and I really enjoyed the way his journey has been unfolding.
His friends Jessie and Jake were absolutely brilliant. They stood by Josh no matter what and it was so heart – warming to see. They were so loyal and supporting and I loved how invested they were in Josh’s search fort he Sunflower Girl.

This book was full of embarrassing moments, brilliant one – liners – just like comedy of errors and also a road trip with Jesus and probably one of the best dialogues ever that followed that trip. Even though there were moments that it looked like the author has tried too much, still I loved his sense of humour, so dry and sarcastic, totally right up my street – it was probably one of the strongest points of this book because, let’s be honest, Josh’s voice was not strong enough to carry this book alone and Lucy, well, there were too many ambiguities about her, and yes, some of the scenes were there only for the sake of being in the book, and I found some of the things and events simply over the top but those are details and I’m sure James’ next book will be more polished. He was lucky, Mr. Bailey, because he managed to grasp this crucial moment that the book stayed funny before it stopped being funny, he knew when to tone it down a bit.

The author has really well balanced the funny and the more poignant moments, I was surprised with the depth he has added to his novel. Still, it was not too overwhelming and altogether it was a light – hearted and easy book with a simple plot – but does the plot always have to be complax and complicated? Absolutely not, and I truly enjoyed the lightness of the tone. It made me wonder how it would be really flipping a coin when I’m not sure what to do, maybe I should try. It kept me glued to the pages and invested in the characters’ lives. It’s a book that will make you smile and feel so optimistic, it’s full of surprises and unpredictable – well, you never knew what the coin is going to say, right? Absolutely one of the funniest books I’ve read this year and I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for more frome James Bailey.

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Just Like the Other Girls by Claire Douglas

Just Like the Other Girls by Claire Douglas

 

Publisher: Penguin – Michael Joseph 49095574._sy475_

Publishing Date: 6th August 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 400

Genre: Mystery & Thrillers

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

The nail-biting new novel from Sunday Times bestseller Claire Douglas

CARER/COMPANION WANTED FOR ELDERLY LADY
* YOUNG FEMALE PREFERRED * COMPETITIVE SALARY *
* ROOM AND BOARD INCLUDED *

Una Richardson’s heart is broken after the death of her mother. Seeking a place to heal, she responds to an advertisement and steps into the rich, comforting world of Elspeth McKenzie.

But Elspeth’s home is not as safe as it seems.

Kathryn, her cold and bitter daughter, resents Una’s presence. But more disturbing is the realization that two girls had lived here before. Two girls who ended up dead.

Why won’t the McKenzies talk about them? What other secrets are locked inside this house? As the walls close in around her, Una starts to fear that she will end up just like the other girls . . .

Rating: four-stars

 

Una’s mother has recently passed away and her boyfriend betrayed her, so she feels very alone in the world. Fortunately, she still have her best friend Courtney. Looking for another direction in her life, Una applies to become a live – in carer for a 79 – year – old Elspeth Mackenzie. The money is really good and she’ll be living in a luxurious mansion. She’s really happy to get the job but quickly it turns out that Elspeth’s daughter, Kathryn, who doesn’t think Elspeth needs a carer at all, simply dislikes Una. Moreover, Una discovers that two girls that worked for Elspeth before her disappeared and they’re both dead. Coincidence? How safe is Una? After asking Courtney to help her investigate, they discover that there are many secrets hidden and lies told…

I liked how the author played with my mind. There came a moment that I stopped to believe any of the characters, really, you will start to suspect all of them, you won’t know who to trust. The plotting is done really, really well, it’s clever and it will make you think all the time, and the characters are all so different, full of secrets.

It is a story full of twists and turns and I truly liked the unexpectedness of it. Also, the author has brilliantly captured the atmosphere of unease and the tension of what’s going to happen and what can happen was palpable. The setting helped so much with creating the atmosphere of uncertainty, and the house itself was like another gloom character there, playing a huge role in the story. The writing style was really well rounded, full of the most detailed descriptions but they didn’t feel like interruption, and also I didn’t have a feeling they take me away from the main plot, which is a brilliant thing, not so easy to achieve and the pace was just spot – on, Claire Douglas really knows when to add another hint or red herring to speed up the action and when to slow it down a little. And no, I didn’t see it coming! The end took me completely by surprise. I must admit that perhaps I wasn’t SO shocked but still, I was surprised – though not really sure what to think about it.

I must admit that I didn’t feel so invested in the second part, with the different narrator – maybe it’s because I liked Una so much and then was also afraid what’s going to happen next? That I shouldn’t fall for Willow because something is going to happen? Not sure, but being totally honest, I felt much more invested in Una’s story. I liked her and I so wanted her to be happy. She was so kind and honest, there was nothing fake to her and it was so great to have such an open, easy character. Because the others were much more complex and they somehow had a darker side to them, or at least it felt like this. It was as if they had something to hide all the time, especially Elspeth and Kathryn – they were not so easy to like, blowing cold and hot, though I must admit that they developed throughout the story, or rather their stories developed, as the author gave us insight into their past which made me understand them much better and when they finally realised the mistakes they’ve been making. The background characters were colourfully diverse but all of them had their own personalities.

It was an interesting, gripping and captivating psychological thriller. Claire Douglas explored here not only a mystery, but she also delved deep into family dynamics and its complexity, adding tons of depth to the plot and making it even more thought – provoking. Interesting, captivating and like a breath of freh air, I truly recommend this book!

The Hidden Beach by Karen Swan

The Hidden Beach by Karen Swan

 

Publisher: Pan Macmillan 51057965._sy475_

Publishing Date: 9th July 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 328

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

From internationally bestselling author Karen Swan comes The Hidden Beach, an addictive story of heartbreak, loyalty and hope, set in the historic city of Stockholm and along the beautiful archipelagos of the Swedish coast.

In the oldest part of Stockholm, Bell Everhurst is working as a nanny for an affluent family. Hanna and Max Von Greyerz are parents to 7 year-old Linus, and 5-year old twins Ellinor and Tilde, and Bell has been with the family for over two years.

One early Spring morning, as she’s rushing out to take the children to school, she answers the phone – and everything changes. A woman from a clinic she’s never heard of asks her to pass on the message that Hanna’s husband is awake.

Bell is confused. She clearly just saw Max walking out of the house a few minutes earlier, but the woman mentioned Hanna by name . . .

When she gets hold of her employer, the truth is revealed: Hanna’s first husband fell into a coma seven years earlier, following an accident. But now he’s awake. And life is going to change for them all.

Rating: four-stars

 

Bell is 26 years old and works as a nanny for the Morget family in Stockholm – Hanna, her partner Max, twins Elise and Tilde and Linus. She’s happy with her job and she loves the children, often going above and beyond, working overtime. But it doesn’t bother her, and she can relax with her best friends. However, one day, this beautiful world is broken when Bell answers a phone call that Hanna’s husband had just awoken from coma. After 7 years. Only then the web of lies and secrets she’s lived in and didn’t know about starts to untangle and pull the family apart.

The characters have depth to them, and each of them have their own story to tell. I didn’t always understand their decisions and had conflicted opinions about them but this only made them so much more real for me. I loved Bell, she was easy – going but she also knew what she wants and her love for children was special, they really were in good hands, I think there wasn’t a thing she wouldn’t do for them to protect them and keep them safe.
Linus’s trauma and heartbreak in this book is incredibly well written and handled. His confusion, uncertainty, being torn was so brilliantly captured that you will really fell for this boy.
You can’t not like the characters, no matter what. Emil tried really much to be unlikeable but he was such a complex character and there was so much more to him than meets the eye. Maybe it’s not easy to warm to him immediately, but quickly you start to feel sorry for him, for all that has happened to him and seeing how much he has lost. I didn’t approve all his decisions, but I also understood that he has suffered a traumatic head injury and lost 7 years of his life – just imagine it, everything and everybody moving on and you staying at the same place as 7 years ago.
I didn’t know what to think about Hanna, she was like enigma to the end of the story. She seemed deceitful, don’t you think? Almost her every move and decision took me by surprise and no, I didn’t warm to her but I fell for her, and please just wait till the end with judging her.

As usual, the plot is complex and also filled with mysteries. The author brings the setting effortlessly to life again, showing us the beauty of Sweden in all its glory, with beautiful islands and traditions. Also, I always adore the career paths she chooses for her characters, they’re so different and refreshing.

Perhaps it wasn’t Karen Swan’s best offering, I missed this „something“ that makes her books always so outstanding, nevertheless she is one of the few authors on my auto – buy list and I’ll buy her new release any time, without reading a synopsis, because I know that no matter what, with or without this „something“, I am for a real treat, for a brilliant and thrilling roller – coaster journey filled with emotions, with a gorgeous setting, where you always think that the world is simply better and nicer. The book was slow in places and this is probably this what bothered me too much, as we very often are caught up in the descriptions of places, and as beautiful as they are, I wanted more action. Don’t get me wrong, I got my action, some of the events took my breath away, but the slow story – telling takes us away from the climax, from the adrenaline – rushed situations. Nevertheless, when something happens then it happens 100%, with the speed of Formula 1 car.

„The Hidden Beach“ was a captivating read exploring family dynamics, loss and grief, thought – provoking and evocative and you’ll be asking yourself all the time what would you do in the same situation and will be happy that you don’t have to decide. This is what I like in Karen Swan’s novel, that she’s not shy of writing about difficult and taboo things without judging them herself. The story is full of surprises and twists and often you simply don’t know what’s going to come, as the author takes you on a rollercoaster and heart – wrenching journey.
It was multi – layered and sometimes dark but it also felt real and genuine and discovering those long – buried secrets and seeing all the relationships, old and new, developing and unravelling was captivating and thrilling. The writing style just sweeps you on a journey and you don’t want to leave the characters’ world. It is another great read from Karen Swan, clever and complex and I truly recommend it to you.

The Bird in the Bamboo Cage by Hazel Gaynor / Blog Tour

The Bird in the Bamboo Cage by Hazel Gaynor

 

Publisher: Harper Collins 50799380._sy475_

Publishing Date: 20th August 2020

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 384

Genre: Historical Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Hardcover

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

When war imprisons them, only kindness will free them…

China, 1941. Elspeth Kent has fled an unhappy life in England for a teaching post at a missionary school in northern China. But when Japan declares war on the Allies and occupies the school, security and home comforts are replaced by privation, uncertainty and fear.
For ten-year-old Nancy Plummer and her school friends, now separated from their parents indefinitely, Miss Kent’s new Girl Guide patrol provides a precious reminder of home in a land where they are now the enemy.

Elspeth and her fellow teachers, and Nancy and her friends, need courage, friendship and fortitude as they pray for liberation. But worse is to come. Removed from the school, they face even greater uncertainty and danger at a Japanese internment camp, where cruelty and punishment reign.

Inspired by true events, this is an unforgettable read about a remarkable community faced with unimaginable hardship, and the life-changing bonds formed in a distant corner of a terrible war.

Rating: four-stars

 

Elspeth Kent has moved to China, trying to escape her own problems at home. She’s been enjoying teaching girls at Chefoo School but now it’s time to say goodbye, time for new challenges. However, she’s forced to change her plans and stay at Chefoo after Japan attacks Pearl Harbour and Japanese troops enter the school gates.
Nancy Plummer is a student at Chefoo School while her parents work as missionaries. She was looking forward to Christmas spent together with her family, however her parents had to change the plans. And now she’s a prisoner at her own school, with hers and her friends days about to change for much worse.
And so begins the six year nightmare, with relocating to interment camps, awful living conditions, brutal guards and situations worsen all the time. Will the war break them and their independence?

The absolute strength of this book lies in the story – telling and writing style. They’re both so gentle, touching and tugging direct at your heart – strings, you can’t stay indifferent to all the happenings and characters, you’ll quickly become invested in their lives. I felt like I was living and experiencing every moment together with the characters, such ist he strength of the writing.

The story alternates between two narrators, Nancy Plummer and Elspeth Kent, a student and a teacher, and as much as I loved hearing those two voices I think it is Elspeth that has stolen my heart completely, with her insights and story – telling. Nevertheless, those two sharp and distinctive points of view provided me with different perspectives of the same events, which was only so great.

It was a story about the power of friendship and resilience. The friendship in this book was developing all the time and growing between the characters, allowing them to share the anguish and dramas of the past (especially between Nancy and her fellow teacher Minnie) and the uncertainties of the future, helping to ease the pain of separation from their families between the students – it was all so well captured, so beautifully brought to us through the dialogues of the characters.

The story also shows the importance of the teachers who turned out to be so much more than only teachers. They found themselves thrust into roles they have never supposed to need to fullfill, into roles of parents, and they all passed this difficult exam of life with flying colours, often putting the children’s comfort and safety before their own. The author has more than once shown us that Elspeth, and other teachers, didn’t even realise how important they are to the children and how – uncionsciously perhaps – they helped the children to overcome the hardest of times. And they kept going because of the children.

The story touches upon many heavier issues, although there are also uplifting moments and there is the overwhelming feeling of hope, which, I think, is very important in such book because it could end a depressing and gloomy read – but it didn’t, as it is really filled with brighter moments, and those small acts of kindness and defiance were so much appreciated.

It is a beautiful story about courage, friendship, bravery and keeping strong. Usually books about World War II are set in Europe and consenquently we don’t know too much about the horrors of things in Asia, and Hazel Gaynor has decided to take us on a journey with British and American schoolchidren and their teachers in China, and I am thankful for this fact, and the bravery and courage of Chefoo teachers has kept my heart swelling with pride fort hem all.

The author has incredible way with words and she was able to capture everything the characters experienced. It is also crystal clear how well her research is – she doesn’t forget about a single detaill and she brings this sad history seamlessly alive. „The Bird in the Bamboo Cage“ is an evocative, captivating and compelling read that encompasses many feelings and emotions and it’s another gem from Hazel Gaynor – if you’re a fan a historical fiction, you simply can’t miss this beautiful novel. Highly recommended!

 

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