Shiver by Allie Reynolds Book Review

When Milla is invited to a reunion in the French Alps resort that saw the peak of her snowboarding career, she drops everything to go. While she would rather forget the events of that winter, the invitation comes from Curtis, the one person she can’t seem to let go. The five friends haven’t seen each other for ten years, since the disappearance of the beautiful and enigmatic Saskia. But when an icebreaker game turns menacing, they realise they don’t know who has really gathered them there and how far they will go to find the truth. In a deserted lodge high up a mountain, the secrets of the past are about to come to light. 

Rating 5/5  

10 years ago, Milla, Curtis, his sister Saskia, Dale, Heather and Brent met and spent their winter in Le Rocher training in the lead up to a snowboard competition. Ultimately it ended in disaster when Saskia disappeared, and another competitor was left paralysed changing their lives forever. 10 years on they have also been sent invites to spend the weekend at the resort following Saskia being declared dead. Shortly after arriving, they realise they have been lured there under false pretences and find themselves cut off, with no way of leaving the resort. Suspicious soon turns to each other as accusations fly about what really happened that winter. As sinister clues emerge that bring into question what really happened to Saskia, the group find themselves struggling to survive the elements and each other. The question is who has brought them there and what really happened to Saskia all those years ago. Told in dual timeline from Millas viewpoint, we follow the events leading up to the disappearance and the present-day threat they face.

This book was fantastic, and it really did surpass my expectations. The premise intrigued me because not only do we have a mystery we also have some of my favourite tropes in the setting and set up. We have a snowy, isolated setting where the main characters are stranded and cut off. I just love this set up for a thriller or horror and this book used that setting really well. Everything that happened to the characters was as a result and every choice they had to make, made sense in the context of the setting. Often, they had no other choice but to do silly dangerous things that under normal circumstances they would not do. This somehow made the story feel so much more believable. I think this kind of set up is quite classic in a thriller, but this felt quite new and fresh.

In the past timeline the setting is used in a slightly different way. We follow these young people who meet whilst snowboard training and I really enjoyed how much the story featured the snowboarding aspect. I have never skied or snowboarded, but I have always wanted to try. I really enjoyed learning about the sport and the competitive aspect of it. There were lots of references to different snowboarding tricks and techniques that I didn’t really follow. I found myself looking up pictures and videos online which I always enjoy when I am reading. However, if you aren’t familiar with the sport and don’t want to be looking things up, you may get lost with some of what the characters talk about. It left me wanting to read more books that feature snowboarding and skiing as a subject, but I since struggled to find many.

I also really liked the angsty drama that we followed in the past events. We have a level of quite new adult goings on in terms of people bed hopping and various relationships playing out. However, we also have a slightly more toxic level that Saskia brings, especially in her relationship with Milla. It’s this that steers the story with rest of the drama playing out around it. Saskia was a great villain; She had that mix of being brutally cruel but intoxicating. Milla couldn’t help but want to compete with her but also be friends with her. This led to some frustrating moments as a reader because despite Saskias dangerous games Milla always seemed to let her guard down and underestimate her. It was such an interesting relationship with both Milla and Saskia being such intriguing characters.

Both timelines were so compelling especially in the later third of the story. I always enjoy the dual timeline narrative and I found I was equally invested in both stories. I couldn’t wait to finish one section so I could return to the other. It’s definitely a book that’s easy to fly through and makes you say, ‘just one more chapter’.
There present day setting, and story was also done constructed so well. As I mentioned I found the actions of the characters plausible and could see them making bad decisions as they felt they had no choice. I loved watching the group implode, question everything and the secrets pour out. I didn’t predict the ending, I suspected everyone but equally couldn’t see how it could be any of them. Even down to the last few chapter’s I had no idea how it would end. I also found it so creepy and atmospheric. One of the most surprising parts to me that there was coupling I really got behind. I wouldn’t call it a romance but there was this constantly simmering relationship where you never knew if those involved could trust each other.

This book was such a compelling mystery with a real thrilling element. The setting was perfect, there were so many twists and turns in both timelines as well as so much to depth to the characters and relationships. I just couldn’t put it down and thoroughly recommend it to any mystery/thriller lovers and a great way to start my reading year.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher Headline for providing me with a copy of this book for review.

Shipped by Angie Hockman Book Review

Two arch-rivals. One promotion. Can they resist falling for one another in paradise? Marketing manager Henley Evans barely has time for herself, let alone family, friends, or dating. But when she’s shortlisted for her dream promotion, the sacrifices finally seem worth it. If only Graeme Crawford-Collins, the remote social media manager/bane of her existence, wasn’t also up for the position. Although they’ve never met in person, their epic email battles are the stuff of office legend. The task: draft a proposal on how to boost bookings in the Galápagos. The catch? They have to go on a company cruise…together. But when they meet on the ship, Henley is shocked to discover that the real Graeme is nothing like she imagined – and the line between loathing and liking is thinner than a postcard. With her career dreams in sight and a growing attraction to the competition, Henley begins questioning her life choices. Because what’s the point of working all the time if you never actually live?

Rating 5/5

Ever since Graeme Crawford (Cracker) Collins stole Henley’s idea at work she has disliked him. Both working for Seaquest, a cruise company in the marketing department, they find themselves pitted against each other for a promotion. Graeme works remotely so he and Henley have never met until they are both sent on a cruise to the Galápagos Islands. Tasked with finding new way to promote the cruise they end up spending more and more time together sharing the beauty of the islands. Soon they are getting on great with an attraction between them obvious but, how log can it last when they are both vying for the converted position at work.

I just loved this book! It featured so many things that I like to see in books and that I would put on my top tropes list. Let’s begin with what initially drew me to this book, the setting and that the characters spend the vast majority of the book on a cruise ship. I love books about travel and simple eat up contemporaries that heavily feature travel. That paired with fact it was set on a cruise ship, I just knew I had to read it and would love it. I don’t know why I have come to enjoy book set on cruise ships so much but in the last year I have come to adore them. This book featured a cruise around the Galápagos Islands, which I didn’t really know much about prior to reading this. However, as I often find with travel stories I was left feeling desperate to research more about the islands and in particular the wildlife found on them. This book was jam packed with luscious descriptions of the landscape, the sights and animals our characters seeing. We got to go along for the ride as we watched Henley and Graeme experience these amazing sights. I just love following characters who are loving and appreciating the setting and we get to live vicariously through them. We saw the characters hiking, snorkelling, meeting giant tortoise and baby seals. I just wanted to jump into the book and see the places for myself.

There are two main strands to this story, Henley’s journey with herself and he journey with Graeme, all against a stunning backdrop. I must admit I was a little miffed at the start because I assumed there would be a romance between Henley and Graeme. However, Henley paints such an awful picture of him at the start I couldn’t see how they would become romantically involved. I was firmly on team Henley in thinking if Graeme took credit for her work then he couldn’t be a very nice guy. We soon learn though, all may not have been how it seemed. In fact within the first few pages of meeting Graeme I loved him. He was cheeky, challenged Henley but in a friendly sort of way. The more we saw him, the more I liked him, he came across as such a warm, compassionate guy. He really made no bones about developing feelings for Henley. I think he’s the sort of character that comes the end of the year I will look back and remember him because he was so lovely. Watching them spend time enjoying the islands whist they got to know and fell for each other was a total joy to watch.

Henley also goes on a real journey in herself too. We meet her at the start as a career minded, women who feels she constantly has to prove herself in a world of men. Shes a workaholic and because of this her personal life has suffered. During a conversation Graeme asked Henley why she wants the promotion they are competing for and you can tell how passionate Graeme is about his job. Whereas Henley’s reasons are much more pragmatic. I felt this gave such a great insight to her as a character and her mind set at the start of the book. By the end of the book we see a rather different Henley and I loved her development. She was still determined and career driven but she had discovered the importance of Graeme in her life, rediscovered a relationship with her sister Walsh who accompanies her on the cruise and she had learnt the value of friends. We get the pleasure of seeing all the step along the Way that change Henley’s path and it was great to watch. By the end not only had she balanced her life, she’s found a passion and had taken down the bad guys.

Something I didn’t expect from this story was the underline messages it carried. A big part of Henley’s transformation focused on her discovering the wildlife that inhabits the Galápagos Islands. It’s this that leads to a big idea for her and ultimately drives the end of the story. It really championed conservation work on the islands and just served to show people what they have to offer. It felt very current and relevant with a message about protecting nature, our planet and appreciating wildlife without it seeming like it was trying to teach us something. The was an unexpected but rather beautiful part of the story.

I just adored this book and ultimately finished it feeling so happy. I adored the setting and the underline messages that came from it. I loved Henley’s changing relationship with her sister and friends. The romance with Graeme was top notch in its enemies to friends to lovers dynastic. It was just perfect and a book I could see myself re-reading at the some point, probably when I am on holiday.

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher Headline Eternal for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Christmas at Holiday House by RaeAnne Thayne Book Review

Abby Powell needs a fresh start for herself and her son. Agreeing to nurse her best friend’s grandmother is the perfect escape. Abby knows her friend’s grandmother, Winnie, lives in a gorgeous sprawling Victorian mansion, Holiday House, in an historic Colorado ski town. What better place to create the perfect Christmas for her son. As soon as she arrives in the charming town, Silver Bells, Abby falls in love with Winnie. She is less enamored with Winnie’s grandson, Ethan Lancaster as it becomes immediately clear that he doesn’t want her there. But also clear is that Winnie doesn’t need medical care. She does need Abby’s help, though. In just under three weeks, Holiday House will open to the public for a week of Christmas tours, and the entire house needs to be decorated. Amidst the epic festive task, Abby and Ethan grow closer. But can Abby fall in love when she’s leaving right after Christmas? Underneath the Christmas lights Abby must decide if a Christmas at Holiday House has given her everything she needs for Christmas … and forever.

Rating 4/5

Following the death of her husband a couple of years ago nurse Abby is looking for a fresh start. With a new job and a move to Texas in the new year Abby agrees to help out friend Lucy over Christmas. Lucy’s grandmother has had a fall and needs some help before Lucy’s bother Ethan puts her into an assisted living residence. Abby agrees to spend Christmas in the small town of Silver Bells Colorado at the family’s grand house. Abby and young son Christopher get a frosty reception from Ethan, but it isn’t long before both seem to be thawing his exterior. Grandmother Winnie is surprisingly well considering her accident and calls on Abby to instead help her get the house ready for a number of charity Christmas tours she is hosting. As Christmas approaches both Ethan and Winnie find themselves more and more taken with Abby and Christopher. However, they know their time with them will be short lived as they will be gone in the new year.

This book really was a great ball of festive fun. Firstly, it was just so Christmassy. Its set in a small town in Colorado at the Christmas so its oozing cosy town vibes. The snow is falling, and the Lancaster family Abby is working for are opening a new ski resort which she and Christopher get a chance to try. The book starts around Thanksgiving with Abby and the Lancaster’s hosting a big festive meal for their friends and family. We then follow Abby as she preps the house for Christmas and helps with the tours. There is also a gingerbread competition and Ethan takes her Christopher tubing. There is just a whole host of Christmas fun! It all came together to give this book such a warm cosy festive feel.

This book is also filled with a whole host of lovely characters. From sweet Abby, to her adorable son, to the slightly cautious Ethan who soon relaxes, to independent Winnie. Even the more side characters like Lucy and Jose were great…I wonder if they may be in for a story of their own? It was just a lovely cast of characters. The way the family opened their house to friends was just so sweet and added to that cosy small-town vibe.

This book is another one that I believe would make a great Hallmark Movie. It had all the ingredients to be the perfect festive treat and it was indeed. It was so fun, so Christmassy and perfect for the approaching festive season.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher Mills and Boon for providing me with a copy of this book for review.

One Family Christmas by Bella Osborne


A big family. A whole lot of secrets. A Christmas to remember…This year, Lottie is hosting one last big family Christmas at the home she grew up in – just like her Nana would have wanted. But when her relatives descend on the old manor house, Lottie gets more than she bargained for. Every family has its secrets, but in this family, everybody has one! So, between cooking a Christmas dinner, keeping tensions at bay and a stray dog out of mischief, she has plenty on her plate (and not just misshapen sausage rolls and a frozen turkey). And then her first love shows up – nine years after he walked out of her life. Can Lottie make their last family Christmas one to remember… for the right reasons?

Rating 3.5/5

Lotty has always loved a big Collins family Christmas hosted by her grandma at the old manor house. This year is a little different as her grandma is no longer with them. Lotty has convinced her family to gather for one more family Christmas before the house is sold. However, like many families they have secrets a plenty and as they gather chaos ensues.

This was such a fun book. It reminded me of one of my family chaotic Christmas’s but elevated by 10. This story had a large very different cast of character and I loved them. They all had such a good dynamic, with them all complimenting each other so well. We have Lotty who was feeling the pressure of hosting Christmas. We also have her brother Zac and girlfriend Emily, both of which are acting oddly. Then there’s Lotty and Zac’s mum Angie and her toy boy Scott who, made me laugh of several occasions. Lotty’s uncle Dan and his family get a shock on Christmas day that completely upends their family. Also thrown into the mix was Lotty’s ex Ben who has returned from America after leaving her years ago. Of course, Christmas is never complete without some animals, children and unexpected guests. It was a big list of ingredients that could have become muddled and had too much going on, but it didn’t. It was really well balanced and although it was a little crazy it never felt over the top or unconvincing.

I really enjoy that there was lots of humour and funny moments included. They balanced out what could have been quite a sad and emotional book because of the family losing the head of the family. As mentioned Lotty’s mum Angie and her younger boyfriend gave us many laughs as does Lotty’s niece Jessie. The addition of rather naughty dog also added lots of funny moments too.This book offered such cosy festive vibes. It has so many of my favourite element I like in books, especially at Christmas. Its set over the three days of Christmas, it involves a big family coming together and it follows the weird and wonderful things that only seem to happen when families gather together. One of my favourite parts was watching the family’s annual traditions. From the star present to the village duck race to the stocking game, they were all so much fun. I could just so easily envision this large family spread over this big house decorated for Christmas. It made me feel so warm,cosy and festive.

Overall, this book was a lot of fun. It was funny but also quite sad at times. The cast of characters were great as were their antics and secrets playing out. I loved Lotty, our main character and her desire to keep her grandmothers Christmas and traditions alive. It would be perfect to read over the Christmas period especially If your family, like mine are a tad crazy. It’s nice to know other families (even fictional ones) are the same.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher Avon Books UK for providing me with a copy of this book for review.

The Twelve Dogs of Christmas by Lizzie Shane Book Review

Pine Hollow has everything Ally Gilmore could wish for in a holiday break: gently falling snow in a charming small town and time with her family. Then she learns some Grinch has pulled the funding for her family’s rescue shelter, and now she has only four weeks to find new homes for a dozen dogs! But when she confronts her Scroogey councilman nemesis, Ally finds he’s far more reasonable – and handsome – than she ever expected. As the guardian of his dog-obsessed ten-year-old niece, Ben West doesn’t have time to build a cuddly reputation. But he does feel guilty about the shelter closing. So he proposes a truce with Ally, agreeing to help her adopt out the pups. As the two spend more time together, the town’s gossip is spreading faster than Santa’s sleigh on Christmas Eve. And soon Ben is hoping he can convince Ally that Pine Hollow is her home for the holidays…and the whole year through.

Rating 5/5

When Ally grandmother injuries herself she returns to the small tower of Pine Hallow to spend Christmas. There she plans to take care of her grandma and help her grandparents run their dog shelter. However, she is distraught to learn the local council are withdrawing funding for the shelter which will result in its closure. Tasked with finding homes for the twelve dogs before Christmas she confronts notoriously grumpy councilman Ben. However, she’s surprised to learn Ben is not only guardian to his delightful 10-year-old niece Astrid but is actually quite nice. He offers to help her find homes for the remaining dogs. As they spend more time together, they are undeniably drawn to each other, but Ben is determined that he doesn’t have room in his life for romance. Whilst Ally knows her time in Pine Hollow will soon come to an end. A dog isn’t just for the holidays but will Ally and Ben find the same could be said for romance.

I don’t think this book could have been anymore perfect for me if I had given the author a list of my perfect Christmas book tropes and she had written a book based on it. It has so many elements that I just love in Christmas books. Small town, dogs, snow with people being snowed in, Christmas shows and festive events, a community coming together, lots of romance and friendship. It just hit the mark in so many ways.
One of my favourite parts of this book and probably the thing that drew me to it most was the dogs! I, like many people love dogs, I have two of my own, so this was such a draw. We met a whole host of dogs; they have all been given over to the shelter so many of them have quirks that meant finding their human may be a little harder. My particular favourites were Harry, an escape artist and faithful friends Fred and Ginger who needed to be adopted together. My two dogs had to be adopted as a pair, so the little companions really tugged at my heart.

This book also had an amazing cast of Characters. Ally, our main character was lovely. Unfortunately, her parents had passed away so her only relatives were her grandparents. Books where characters have strong relationships with their grandparents always connect with me as I was raised by my grandparents. I also loved how Ally found her place in Pine Hollow. Until coming there she’d always been a little lost and i thought it was great how this small town worked its magic on her. We also had Ben, who had a bit of reputation as the council’s scrooge as it was often down to him to make the tough decisions no one else wanted to. However, Ally quickly discovers he isn’t as bad as he appears when he offered to help her find homes for all of the dogs. He uses his council connections to get the dogs featured in the towns Christmas shows and newsletter. Ally grew to get to know him and see the side that others rarely did. Astrid and her friend Kimber were adorable and their dedication to volunteering at the shelter was so sweet. When Bens parents are introduced, they were also nice characters and were especially friendly towards Ally. Essentially every character in this book was so adorable. It had the perfect cast!

The atmosphere created in this story was incredible. I feel this book was crying out to be made into a Hallmark movie, it would just be the perfect fit. The town of Pine Hollow emitted such a cosy Christmas atmosphere. It was a small town where everyone knew everyone which I always find quite entertaining. Its jam packed with Christmas events, there were parades, school shows and Christmas fairs. I love books that feature Christmas events that make you feel festive and involve the whole town coming together. In this book these particular events came with the added ingredient of dogs making them all the better. Despite the small town being a hive of gossip the people who lived there come together when needed. When Ally and her grandparents became snowed in (another extremely cosy event in itself) the town came together to help. The scenes at Ally’s grandparents’ house were some of my favourites. I could feel the warmth of the house coming through the pages! It was one of the cosiest Christmas books I have read in a long time.

Now, lets discuss the romance because we know that’s at the heart of this story. Ally and Ben got off to a shaky start when she quite literally bumped into him in town. She then discovered he was part of the reason the funding for the dog shelter was withdrawn. However, he surprised her with his offer to help rehome the dogs. This led to them inevitably spending time together and the eventual development of feelings. We saw them doing the cutest and most festive things like photographing the dogs for the newsletter and baking brownies. Ally just seemed to bring out the best in Ben and they made a great team. Of course, the path to love never does run smoothly and they faced some problems along the way. This was my only slight critique of this book, because at times it felt the reiteration as to why they couldn’t be together was a little repetitive. I could have merrily bumped their heads together to make them realise their reservations were unfounded. Bens reluctance stemmed from his desire to do the best by Astrid and he didn’t believe he could do that whilst having a girlfriend. Luckily there are lots of people around to steer them in the right direction. I feel Ben grew a lot in this story as a whole and learns a lot about himself whilst Ally finds her new home and they really help each other with this.

I really cannot recommend this book enough. It needs to be made into a Hallmark movie and every lover of romance and dogs need to read it. Its so cosy, so Christmassy, so filled with love and togetherness that i defy anyone to read it and not melt. It’s a definite favourite of the year and the Christmas books I still have to read will have to amazing to beat this one.

Thank you to the publisher Headline Eternal and Netgalley for providing me with a copy of this book for review.

The Deep by Alma Katsu Book Review

The Deep Deaths and disappearances have plagued the vast liner from the moment she began her maiden voyage on 10 April 1912. Four days later, caught in what feels like an eerie, unsettling twilight zone, some passengers – including millionaire Madeleine Astor and maid Annie Hebbley – are convinced that something sinister is afoot. And then disaster strikes.

Four years later and the world is at war. Having survived that fateful night, Annie is now a nurse on board the Titanic’s sister ship, the Britannic, now refitted as a hospital ship. And she is about to realise that those demons from her past and the terrors of that doomed voyage have not finished with her yet . . .

Rating 3/5

Told in a duel timeline we follow the experiences of Annie Hebbley, a chamber maid on the Titanic’s during its maiden voyage in 1912, looking after the first-class passengers. She was also one of the few survivors on the fateful night when the ship went down. It is now 1916 and we re-join Annie who is now a nurse upon the HMS Britannic, Titanic’s sister ship, helping those wounded in war. We follow the story as she recalls the events in the run up to the sinking of the ship. Here we learn someone died whilst onboard and numerous dark sprits seemed to plague the guests and events that took place. In 1916 Annie is left questioning if those sprits really did exist and if so, are they haunting the Britannic in the same way.

This was an extremely interesting story! It’s the sort of book I cannot say I adored but, it was so different to anything I have read before and that made it quite special. I think it’s a book that will stand out at the end of the year and I will be able to remember lots of details from it as its so unique. The story switches between the two different years until you discover how the two timelines interlink. I really enjoyed the parts of this book set in 1912. I have always been fascinated by the Titanic disaster particularly the events that happened on board the night it sank. It may be a little morbid, but I find it so interesting learning how different people react in such disastrous situations and the lives and stories behind those people onboard, even those that are fictional accounts.

I really enjoyed following Annie’s story as well as those of the other passengers on the ship. There were certainly some complex characters and relationships going on. It was great getting to know what I think were some really unlikable characters. I loved following their stories of love and deception, I particularly liked d the relationship between Les and Da. I could definitely see the parallels from the film version of the Titanic which were a tad cheesy, but I love a bit of cheese, so I didn’t mind that there were some similarities. I just really enjoyed going along for the ride and watching the drama play out amount the passengers. It was probably my favourite part of the book.

I thought this book would be split equally between the two-time periods but, we definitely saw a more detailed account from the events on the Titanic. Whilst 1916 pulls the events together, we see more from 1912. However, I really enjoyed what we did see of 1916. I always have liked stories set in wartime and really enjoy reading from the perspective of doctors and nurses so I could have happily enjoyed more of that.

It is at this point that things slipped a little for me. I think I could have enjoyed reading this book much more if it were just historical fiction, but it does tip into the realms of supernatural. I knew this before reading it so was quite intrigued to see how this would be woven into the story. Whilst following the events from 1912 there are some spooky happenings with talk of possession and sprits on the ship. There is a death and various people have some odd experiences and encounters that leave your questioning if there is a supernatural afoot causing them. In the 1916 part of this story and the area of the supernatural is further explored along with that of folk law. I found this part of the story confusing If I am honest, I’m not sure if it was just me but I felt I lost some stiches along the way. By the end I understood the logic and story behind the outcome, but I didn’t necessarily like it. I would say this book is worth checking out if you want something historical for the stories of the passengers alone. However, it you are not a fan of speculative fiction and prefer explanation’s to stories grounded in science you may not enjoy some aspects of this book.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book for an honest review.

Diary of a Confused Feminist by Kate Weston Book Review

15-year-old Kat wants to do GOOD FEMINISM, although she’s not always sure what that means. She also wants to be a writer, get together with Hot Josh (is this a feminist ambition?), win at her coursework and not make a TOTAL EMBARRASSMENT of herself at all times. But the path to true feminism is filled with mortifying incidents, muddling moments and Instagram hell. And it doesn’t help that Hot Josh is just, well, properly, distractingly hot. And when everything at school starts to get a bit too much, Kat knows she’s lost her way, and the only way forward is to ask for help …

Rating 4.5/5

Kat is 15, entering year 11 of school and along with her friends Sam and Millie she is determined to be the perfect feminist and play her part in making a difference to the world. However, being a feminist is a struggle, especially when your friends start dating guys and you cannot get hot Josh to notice you – but a feminist shouldn’t need a man right? Or your having awful thoughts about awful Trudy – feminists shouldn’t have awful thoughts about other women, right? During her first term of year 11 we follow Kat as her life starts to spiral in ways, she didn’t expect and her perceptions about what it means to be a feminist are challenged.

I saw this book on Netgalley and requested it on a bit of a whim. The synopsis gave me vibes similar to those of the Emma Nash series by Chloe Seager and the Truly Awkward series by Beth Garrod. I assumed this book would be a combination of those with a little bit of Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu thrown in. However, the story took such an unexpected twist into the relms of Sara Bernard books with its exploration of mental health and I simply adored it.

The book begins in a very lighthearted way with Kat and her friends making a slightly failed attempt at supporting the #metoo #timesup movement. Things do not go to plan and the act of activism ends up looking like a rally support for fello student creepy Tim. This funny incident gave such an insight into how funny this book would be. I found it hilarious, I was laughing out loud and taking pictures of funny paragraphs and sending them to a friend encouraging her to read it. It really was one of the funniest books I have read this year. It also set the tone for the rest of the story where big issues were being addressed but the humor masked it and that seems to reflect Kat experiences.

We quickly see that despite starting the school year feeling positive, with the support of her friends and big plans things start to unravel for Kat. She has a couple of embarrassing experiences, then her friends Millie and Sam get boyfriends leaving her feeling pushed out. She also goes through some changes in her life that came with being 15 and has some horrible encounters with terrible Trudy, the school bully. All these small things quickly begin to mount up for Kat and before she knows it her mental health is spiraling out of control. I thought the way this book depicted this spiral was fantastic. It felt to real in how it portrayed these small things slowing mounting to become bigger issues. We also get to read Kats internal thoughts and I connected with these parts so much. We see her worry about small everyday things and read her thought process as they get darker and descend into irrational places. We then see the outward impact these thoughts have on her. I just thought the whole topic was handled sensitively, accurately and mirrored feeling and experiences I have had myself.

I think the way the book displayed the potential outcomes of these thoughts was great.  It showed, although it may be hard to do, how sharing and asking for help can make a big difference. The reactions from Kat’s family and friends were lovely. It showed there is no quick fix to these problems but by simply sharing with someone it can make such a difference to the situation, again something I have experiences myself and it’s a really nice message to take away.

I also really enjoyed how Kat discovered that being a feminist may be quite difference to what she initially though. She learns that you can be a feminist but still envy your friends, still desire a boyfriend/girlfriend and still have some uncharitable thoughts about people if they are really mean! You can also care what you look like and want to feel your attractive for other people but more importantly for yourself. It just showed that its ok to do those things and they do not make you any less of a feminist for doing so.

I just adored this book and really felt it was something quite special. I think its something teens could really benefit from reading but equally anyone could read and enjoy it. If you are looking for something funny but hard hitting and impactful this book delivers that.

If you like this book, I also think you would like Beauty Broken Things by Sara Bernard and Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu and vice versa.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for proving a copy of this book for review.

Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams Book Review

Braden Mack thinks reading romance novels makes him an expert in love, but he’ll soon discover that real life is better than fiction. Liv Papandreas has a dream job as a sous chef at Nashville’s hottest restaurant. Too bad the celebrity chef owner is less than charming behind kitchen doors. After she catches him harassing a young hostess, she confronts him and gets fired. Liv vows revenge, but she’ll need assistance to take on the powerful chef. Unfortunately, that means turning to Braden Mack. When Liv’s blackballed from the restaurant scene, the charismatic nightclub entrepreneur offers to help expose her ex-boss, but she is suspicious of his motives. This is a job for the Bromance Book Club. Inspired by the romantic suspense novel they’re reading, the book club assists Liv in setting up a sting operation to take down the chef. But they’re just as eager to help Mack figure out the way to Liv’s heart…even though she’s determined to squelch the sparks between them before she gets burned.

It’s a bad day at the office when pastry chef live drops $1000 cupcake into a customers lap. She then discovers her boss, celebrity chef Royce sexually harassing another member of staff. Live stand up to him and suddenly finds a self out of a job and blacklisted from every kitchen in town. Unfortunately for her she finds the one person she can confide in is Brandon Mac, local nightclub owner and all around playboy. Brandon, recipient of said cupcake is partially to blame for Liv being fired so seem determined to help her. However the more time we spent together the more the sexual tension builds and it’s not long before feelings become involved.

I was extremely hesitant to read this book and debated not reading it at all. Book one focused on Thea and husband Gavin and I hated both the characters of Liv and Brandon who feature in this book. Brandon was conveyed as a real jack the lad, constantly making lots of silly comments and It felt little try hard and juvenile. Liv was also so negative and a constant thorn in Thea and Gavin’s relationship for quite selfish reasons. I just couldn’t see how I could read a whole book focusing on them. However I felt like I was reading a book about two very different people than we met in book one and I found I really liked both of them. I had seen so many reviews from people not liking this book wh had loved book one but I think I prefered this book a little bit more.

I love the characters of Mack and Liv. As mentioned we see traces of the Liv we saw in book one, she sassy confident and not afraid to speak her mind. She wholeheartedly and bravely goes after what she believes in. you also see Mack with the book club and he too shows his slightly Ladish side joking around with the boys. However both of them seemed to be watered down version of themselves and that was for the better. It felt like we as readers immediately saw a different side to both of them, a side that they showed each other. i did find both had a traits that irritated me. For Liv it was how many times she ‘faked gagged’ and for Brandon it was how many times he ‘flipped someone off’. They are two phrases I could merrily never read again.

I once again really enjoyed the book club element of the story. I was surprised that this book didn’t have scenes from the story they were reading. Book one had huge extracts from the book they were reading but it felt like the book they were reading in this one was less prevalent. The club itself seemed more important in their coming together to support Mack. I love the way they all bound together to help him. I also really liked the new addition of Noah. the next book in the series centres of his story so I am really looking forward to reading that.

I also really liked Liv’s relationship with Rosie, her landlady. Live lives on Rosie’s farm in an apartment above her garage. They have such a loving relationship, more like mother and daughter. It’s so sweet knowing Thea and Liv did not have the best parental relationships. Rosie also have a handyman called Hop. I loved how protective he was of Liv, they were both like surrogate parents to her. It was also quite funny when Mack tried to bring Hop into the club.

This book covered some dark topics, darker than the first book. From sexual harassment to domestic violence it didn’t shy away. The one thing I did dislike was how Liv reacted to Mack when she discovered something about this past. I thought she was unfair and quite judgmental. Although she realised her flaws quickly, I didn’t think she handled it well.

Overall I found this book so enjoyable, I loved how the romance played out. I thought Liv’s strong character was fantastic and Mack’s protectiveness towards her was sweeet. Not everyone appreciates an alpha male hero but I love it in a romance. I am just adoringthis series and cannot wait to read the next book.

Eight Perfect Murders by Peter Swanson Book Review

Years ago, bookseller and mystery aficionado Malcolm Kershaw compiled a list of the genre’s most unsolvable murders, those that are almost impossible to crack–which he titled “Eight Perfect Murders”–chosen from among the best of the best including Agatha Christie’s A. B. C. Murders, Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train, Ira Levin’s Death Trap, A. A. Milne’s Red House Mystery, Anthony Berkeley Cox’s Malice Aforethought, James M. Cain’s Double Indemnity, John D. Macdonald’s The Drowner, and Donna Tartt’s A Secret History. But no one is more surprised than Mal, now the owner of the Old Devils Bookstore in Boston, when an FBI agent comes knocking on his door one snowy day in February. She’s looking for information about a series of unsolved murders that look eerily similar to the killings on Mal’s old list. And the FBI agent isn’t the only one interested in this bookseller who spends almost every night at home reading. The killer is out there, watching his every move–a diabolical threat who knows way too much about Mal’s personal history, especially the secrets he’s never told anyone, even his recently deceased wife. To protect himself, Mal begins looking into possible suspects . . . and sees a killer in everyone around him. But Mal doesn’t count on the investigation leaving a trail of death in its wake. Suddenly, a series of shocking twists leaves more victims dead–and the noose around Mal’s neck grows so tight he might never escape.

Rating 4/5

Many years ago when starting his career as a bookseller Malcolm Mackay wrote a blog post. It listed eight fictional books that involve creative and clever murder plots, the eight perfect murders. Years later Malcolm, now an owner of a Boston bookshop is approached by an FBI agent. She believes that post is the connection to a string of murders and that someone is recreating the deaths in his blog post.

I was very hesitant to read this book. The premise sounded great but I’ve had heard a lot of reviewers saying it was quite boring. I then saw Jess from Read By Jess on YouTube rated it five stars and this immediately bumped up on my TV are. I feel Jess doesn’t give out for or five stars willy-nilly so I was confident it would be good if she had read it five stars. I’m pleased to say it was a really terrific thriller.

My favourite part of this book was obviously how much books were discussed. I love books about books and this one is a real celebration of classic mystery and crime novels. These are genres that are really celebrated when reading books about other books so it was a nice novel approach. Some of the books mentioned i recognised and Some I hadn’t heard of. However, there is a good enough description of the books and the murders that feature that it doesn’t matter if you know the stories and the twists. Obviously if you haven’t read the novels and want to this book will spoil them for you. I just loved how it really celebrated the crime genre and I thought the whole concept for a thriller was great. I also found this quite a cosy thriller, in the same way I find Agatha Christie’s crimes rather cosy. It actually was quite dark in story but the talking of books and the setting of the bookshop made it feel very cosy.

I thought the whole plot was very clever and intricate. I didn’t consider that the killer may have been talking to Malcolm specifically but rather he was a crime enthusiast. I found how the plot wove together very clever and unexpected We learnt lots about Malcolm that I didn’t expect and these were things that were revealed overtime, not all in one big reveal at the end. I honestly suspected every character in this book at one time or another and felt there was a plausible way it could have been all of them. Which I think is a sign of a good mystery. I certainly did not predict the ending so that also added to my enjoyment.

Overall I would say this was a solid thriller that I read it on a on a Sunday afternoon. It made me feel cosy and also surprised and left me wanting to read some classic cosy crime books.

The Christmas Killer by Alex Pine Book Review

DI James Walker is ready for a quiet family Christmas in the sleepy village of Kirkby Abbey. But when he opens an early Christmas present left on his doorstep, he soon realises it is no gift. Inside is a gruesome surprise, and a promise – twelve days, twelve murders. Not long after, the first body is found, half frozen in the snow. As the blizzards descend, panic spreads through the remote Cumbrian village – there’s a killer amongst them, and with eleven more victims to go, anyone could be next…. Can James stop the killer before they strike again?

Rating 4/5

DI James Walker has recently transferred from the busy London police force to the sleepy village of Kirkby Abbey in Cumbria; expecting a much slower pace of life with less danger. However, his first Christmas is upended when he receives a nasty gift threatening that over of 12 nights, 12 people will die. As the bodies begin appearing its up to James and his team to work against the clock and figure out who the perpetrator is. However, this is no easy tasks as the village of Kirkby Abbey is littered with secrets and a huge snowstorm is moving in threatening to holt the investigation.

I found this a really enjoyable book, It wasn’t perfect but it was very good. Let’s begin by saying I called the killer within the first couple of chapters, I just knew! I’m not sure if I have read too many crime novels, the author wanted to drop the hints early so the reader knew who it was or if it was just a little obvious and clique. Either way I guess correctly! That led to many moments of frustration when the police weren’t going after the right person but, it did make for a good story.

This book really walked the line between being a really quaint with almost Agatha Christie vibes mixed with something a little darker. The fact it was set in a small quaint village with a limited group of characters really gave it a cosy mystery feel. However, the actual crimes were dark and graphic so that offered a real contrast and for me it was a combination that really worked. Also, rather oddly I found this book quite Christmasy! I know it’s called The Christmas Killer but I wasn’t expecting festive vibes from a murder story. The small village teamed with the run up to Christmas and the approaching snowstorm come together to give it an earie festive feel. I loved the approaching bad weather and the threat of snow. There is nothing like a storm to isolate people with a killer on the loose to build a creepy atmosphere.

I liked the main character of James, he was actually really nice! It was so refreshing too read about a detective who wasn’t middle aged, divorced and plagued with baggage. James is in fact married to Annie and they have a strong relationship. I liked how open and honest they were with each other. James would talk to Annie in the evening about the investigation and use her as a sounding board. They just seemed to have a real easy-going happy relationship which I found really fresh for a detective book.

Despite my predicting the killer I was still so invested in the story. I was happy watching the plot unfold and see who the next victim would be. As I mentioned Kirkby Abbey has a lot of secrets and it was interesting watching all the little side stories unfold and these came out. My only other criticism of this story was at times the pacing felt a little off. It got off to quite a slow start and then felt like the investigation meandered at times with James and him team just interviewing the same people and getting nowhere. It made the stakes feel lower somehow and just wasn’t as action packed as I am used to. We were also well into 90% of the book and they hadn’t really made any headway with the investigation so the ending did seem a little rushed.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. I did predict the killer but that didn’t hinder my enjoyment too much. I think I would have liked it if the investigation was a little more procedural with some more evidence being found to lead the investigation. It did feel the outcome was more a stroke of luck rather than the police following the clues. However, I loved the atmosphere and the feeling of the cosy, small town, Christmas whilst isolated vibes. I also really liked our main character and the lovely relationship he had with his wife. I will definitely be reading more from this series should more books be written.                           

Thank you to Netgalley and Avon Books for providing me with a copy of this book for review.